Welcome to our latest CIAP newsletter. I recently caught up with my very good friend Warner DeJulio and asked him to share a little bit about his interest in wine making. Here are some questions and answers from our conversation. By the way, we are featuring his winemaking this coming Saturday night at a wine tasting event. Hope you can make it!
What made you get interested in wine making?
One day an Italian friend of mine in the neighborhood asked if I wanted to come make wine with him. That first year we went through the whole process the old fashioned way! We had about 30 bottles each to share with our friends and family. When I told my dad about it he told me that he used to make wine with his dad. After seeing the happiness and joy that sharing wine and its process with each other, I was hooked!
Tell me a little bit about the history of your wine making?
I started making wine with a Sicilian friend mine named Gianluca DiMaggio around 2011. We started out in his garage and basement the old fashioned way. After that first vintage and seeing people enjoy what we’ve created I was hooked. The next year I made wine again. My friends brother Franco wanted to start serving the wine to his customers in his small Italian restaurant. This is where I began investigating how to do this legally! I started visiting wineries in southern Michigan to learn more.
On one of the trips I met a student of an Enology program offered online made up of professors and winemakers from some of the best Enology programs and Wineries in the country. I quickly signed up and started taking classes to start getting “serious” about winemaking! Good wine grapes are expensive so I went to school! I started to dive into a world of craft winemaking with some great mentors who have guided me along the way. The winemaking process is both technical and artisanal. Finding the right balance is art. Finding this balance and the desire to share the experience with others is what drove us to continue making wine today!
What kinds of wine do you make?
Currently we make unique red and rosé blends primarily from grape varietals including Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We plan on expanding into select white varietals.
What are your favorite types of wines and why?
Personally I enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Carmenere based reds. Some may say that I enjoy more oak than most but like with everything in winemaking , “it depends”! I like to drink whites and roses just the same according to my mood. Being 1/2 Greek we love to drink our Rosé! With that said I still enjoy trying new wines and styles especially if they are unique weather by winemaking style or blend.
What makes Italian wines some of the best in the world?
Italian wines come from some of the oldest vineyards in the world. The soil and environment ( "terroir” ) is very unique in different parts of the country. Italy has many different types of growing regions attributing to a multitude of different flavor compounds and complexities because of its different terrain. The cooler northern climate of northern Italy vs the warmer coastal parts of southern regions of Italy is an example.
What types of wines will we be tasting at the upcoming wine tasting event?
We will be tasting some of the 2015 red blends that we used to create our 2016 wines. These pre-production batches were our original “canvas” to determine what we made in. 2016!
What have you learned over the years by making wine?
Patience and that life is a learning process. Learn to be humble and the wine will follow you. I owe everything I’ve learned to the others that wanted to share. Again, I believe wine is all about sharing on many different levels.
What do envision as your future in wine making?
My future will be about helping others. Wine is a vehicle for sharing a smile, conversation, love, happiness, feelings and emotions. I hope that this project will help others come back to sharing life experiences one on one with each other. With that said I hope to share these experiences with whomever wants to learn. We always need help around the cellar and are eager to teach!
Salvatore J. Sciacca is the Executive Director and Founder of the CIAP organization. He is an active member of the Italian American community in Chicago.