What is your winemaking story?
When and how did you get involved in the hobby?
I started making both wine and beer in January of 2002. Started with wine kits, and then quickly graduated to Fresh Grape Juice in the Fall of 2002. Being from Detroit area, I searched for local fresh grape juice. Not being able to find any, I set my sights on Canada and found a place called Erie Shore Vineyards. I was only a 20 minute drive after crossing the Ambassador Bridge. I bought 5 gallon buckets of freshly-pressed Baco Noir, Vidal and Riesling. They turned out great. Especially the Baco Noir, which was like drinking a meal. It was very bold. So, I went back for more the following season (2003). The price per bucket went up, but I bought the juice anyway. I went back there the next season (2004) and was really surprised that the price went up significantly. Five buckets cost me $300+. That was when I decided to continue my search in the U.S.A.
I found a place in Detroit called California Wine Grapes Company, and bought a bucket of juice from them. They were not friendly people. Actually, rather nasty to the customers. Guess that comes with being the only place in town to purchase buckets of grape juice. Because of this, I continued my search to find another place.
It is now the fall of 2005, and I found a place near Youngstown, Ohio called Luva Bella Juice Company. It was 4 hours away. After talking to a bunch of guys in my homebrewing club (I joined a brewing club in 2002, called The Pontiac Brew Tribe), I took the trip to get 20 buckets. We split the cost of fuel amongst the 20 buckets. I did this for the Spring (Chilean Juice) and Fall (California and Italian Juice) for the next couple years. The owner of the place, Frank, kept telling me he needed someone to start a business in Michigan selling his juice. In 2007, my wife and I decided to give it a try. So, we created a company (Macomb Vintner Supply LLC) and started taking orders that Fall. We sold exactly 300 buckets of grape juice out of my garage. The business rapidly expanded. Two years later, in the Fall of 2009, we had to find somewhere else since the garage could not handle the quantities, and the subdivision rules "forbid" running a business out of the house. I cut a deal with a friend who had a building and paid him to use it on a few certain weekends of the year. He went out of business in 2012, so I had to get my own building. We are now up to 5+ truck loads of grape juice each year selling both buckets and drums. This includes both Spring and Fall. Customers are home winemakers, wineries, meaderies and breweries.
What was your first setup like and what is your current setup like?
First set-up was as basic as one could get.
Current set-up is more sophisticated (I am an electrical/computer engineer by trade). It includes enolmatic bottle filler, pneumatic corker (modified italian floor corker), stainless VV tank, etc. Not much to really automate with wine, but you should see the automation on the beer brewing set-up.
How many batches have you done?
I lost count.
Where has the hobby taken you?
My wife and I are opening a winery. It is located in Sterling Heights, Michigan (a northern burb of Detroit). Name of the winery is: Buon Amici Winery, and should be fully operational by April 2017
I believe the achievements made in my life are by the grace of God, and treating the customers with the respect they deserve.