California grapes arrive in Elkhart, kicking off winemaking season
Some Elkhart Italians call this the best time of year, not the holiday season.
The mornings are crisp. The gardens are mostly done. The grapes have arrived to make wine.
Dominic and Sarita Cataldo have ordered grapes from northern California for a number of years on behalf of other winemakers in the area. You never know quite when they’ll arrive, but when they do, the Cataldos call and you go to get the grapes.
Two semi-trailers brought the grapes from California this year, though there are fewer than some years, Sarita said. Customers started arriving Monday to load trucks with crates of grapes.
In driveways and garages, they’ll crush the grapes. If they want red wine, they’ll let the skins and stems sit in the wine for several days to add tannins and color. If they’re going for white, they’ll remove those immediately.
After crushing, they’ll press the juice and start it in demijohns to start its fermentation process.
Every few months, winemakers usually rack the wine to remove some of the sediment.
After at least eight months, or perhaps a year, the wine will go into bottles for consumption. Some winemakers store their wine in oak barrels purchased from distillers.
Dominic Cataldo also crushes and presses some of the grapes into juice, which winemakers who don’t do their own crushing can use as a base for their wines.
Next summer, as they do every year, the group will get together again to share their homemade wines, paired with lots of food and festivity — and place orders for next year’s grapes.