Madeo enjoys the fruits of his labor

October 19, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Winemaker Pete Madeo really did call on people to stomp the grapes for his latest round of chardonnay.

Up until a couple of years ago, the "stomping" was done by a machine, said Madeo, 59, who spends his spare time making wine. But just as wine drinking can act as a social lubricant, so can wine making. So why not round up a group of friends to stomp the grapes?

"It was just on a lark," Madeo said the day he and a group of friends met with The Herald-Mail to talk wine after lunch.

"Let's get them down here crushing grapes," Madeo said, pointing to his friends.

Madeo is a former human resources manager and a former member of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's board. He lives in eastern Washington County with his wife, Chris, a social worker.


Madeo has been making homemade wine since 1991. He's set up shop in a renovated stone barn on his 10 acres of land.

Madeo comes from an Italian family. His father and grandfather, who emigrated to New York City from Italy, used to talk about wine making when Madeo was a boy.

Today, Madeo makes roughly 125 cases of homemade wines a year.

By now, much of the grapes for this recipe have been plucked. Still, Madeo offers a recipe to share with Herald-Mail readers. It's a recipe you can hold on to for next year's growing season, he said.

Q&A with Pete Madeo

Your father talked about it, your grandfather talked about it. Had you ever seen them do it? Were you familiar at all with the process?

No, no. Only through them talking. I never witnessed it. I never saw it.

So how was it different when you did it?

The first time I did it, I used the guys down in Frederick (The Flying Barrel) because I was living in Frederick at the time, and I started with a kit. And then I started growing grapes in my backyard and made some really good white wine for a couple of years. It really surprised me.

What kind of grapes?

Those were Riesling grapes, (and) they only grow a couple years before they start picking up some sort of disease or something. So then I went up to my cousin's in Philadelphia and got in with a guy in Philly who gave me some equipment; grape crushers, things like that. He talked to me about making wine and I spent some time with him making wine.

So he kind of showed you the ropes.

Right. That's it. And that was cousin Bill and Mike. And then we started down here crushing.

So you guys really stomp the grapes?

I've got the pictures.

I'm wondering, as far as the type of wine you make, is there a particular one you specialize in?

I actually like the Riesling very much. It's nice (and) light. I lived in Germany for five years, and it was Riesling that I just liked. That and basic table wines.

Really, what you make at home can rival what you buy at the store?

I would say that that is true given that you have good sanitation and good technique and good grapes. Sometimes, it just turns to vinegar and sometimes it just doesn't taste good at all. It depends on your skill.

Any way to pre-empt bad wine?

Make sure that they wash their feet before they stomp the grapes (laughing). No, I think it's more attention to detail. It's making sure you don't contaminate it. Making sure you check your wine periodically.

As far as wine-food pairings, do those matter as much any more?

That's beyond my pay grade - how's that? I don't care. Actually, it goes good with cheese.

Red table wine

72 pounds zinfandel grapes
72 pounds alicante grapes
72 pounds cabernet sauvignon grapes
15 grams wine yeast

Crush and destem the grapes. Add the yeast and let the crushed grapes sit in a covered vat for 7 to 10 days, stirring once a day.

Press the grapes and put the liquid into a carboy (a 5-gallon container with a fermentation lock). Let it ferment.

After 30 days, siphon off the liquid and put into a second carboy. Let that sit and ferment for another six weeks.

Siphon the liquid into a third carboy and let it finish fermenting for two to three months.

Sample the wine, and if it has not spoiled or turned to vinegar, bottle it. Store the bottles on their sides for six to 12 months. The wine is generally mature after a year, though some people might want to drink it sooner than that.

For wine-making supplies and advice, visit the the Cracked Cork in Funkstown or the Flying Barrel in Frederick, Md.

Yields about 75 bottles.

- Pete Madeo

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