Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My First Vintage

This is my friend Frank or "Frankie" as we called him. He is responsible for my first soiree into wine making. He was a kind and gentile old man, that loved to work in his yard, tend his gardens and share a glass of wine with friends. His special vintage was dandelion wine and this was the first wine I ever made.

We would venture off into the countryside in search of fields, that have not been sprayed with herbicides, and full of dandelions. Frankie instructed me to pick only the yellow flowers and place them in a basket. No stems, because the stems would make the wine bitter.
This old timer knew how to forage. The flowers would be used for the making of wine and the green leaves  were collected and taken home to be sauted with a little olive oil and garlic to be enjoyed with crusty Italian bread, some provolone Cheese and of course a glass of wine.

We would pick two bushels of flowers. When we returned home, the flowers would be washed and the wine making process would begin. After washing the flowers they were placed into four large crocks and approximately ten gallons of hot water was poured over flowers. Next yeast was prepared and poured into the mix along with five pounds of sugar to each crock... and the fermentation begins. This is where one learns how to be patient. The fermentation process takes weeks, the mixture will ferment and bubble, the yeast converting the sugar to alcohol.

 Waiting is the hardest thing in the wine making process for a first time wine maker. You're excited and want to sample the fruits of your labor. I couldn't stand the anticipation any  longer, so after four weeks, I sampled the wine. "It was delicious".  The fermentation process was complete, "so I thought". I siphoned the wine into bottles and corked them.

Two weeks later explosions ripped through the cellar. It seems the fermentation was not finished and the pressure built up to the point of no return inside the corked bottles . Eighteen bottle ruptured sending wine and glass shards across the cellar. I approached the remaining 38 bottles with the caution of a bomb squad technician and uncorked them. The wine was poured back into the clean crocks and allow to complete the fermentation process. Four weeks later the bubbling stopped and now the wine was ready to be bottle.

If the explosion never happen I would not have come up with a proper name for this wine. Since it is dandelion wine and the explosion so severe...I named the wine Roar of the Lion.
Frankie past later that year, so every year on his birthday, I uncork a bottle of this wine and toast his memory. Sadly, I only have five bottles of this vintage left.
So to Frankie and all of you out there...Salute! May he smile down from heaven on us all.


  1. Thank you for this post about your friend and your roaring wine. Here's to old friends and dandelion wine. Love the name. I can remember my great Aunt's canning exploding in the basement. Yes, it is very loud.

  2. what a great story... I think that learning from the older generations and carrying on their traditions after they are gone are great ways to honor them and keep a part of them alive.

    To Frankie and many more fields of dandelions to come!

  3. ah, to patience, and to frankie! cheers!