A Family Tradition of Wine Making
Growing up I was never really a wine guy. Maybe it was from lack of being introduced to it or that was just a thing my Mom enjoyed around the holidays? But back in 1996 my Grandma and Grandpa Dahl approached me to see if I would complete the win batches they had started and if I wanted to take over the tradition? I wasn’t really interested in consuming it, but I didn’t want to see their Harco Mogen wine efforts go to waste with the 5 gallons they had prepared. So, I took on the challenge with new education background in wine making. I assumed, how hard can it be you have grapes, juice then wine and you bottle. Boy was I wrong on so many levels that I would learn with each batch. I also discovered from my Grand parents that my Great Grandpa Ted, a towering Swedish man that I vaguely remember when I was small, had brewed beer and wine during the Depression. A local German gentleman had taught him his methods of brewing. I’m certain we had more brewers in the family back in Sweden, but little is known about the Dahl family before they ended up in Peoria, Illinois. The 5 gallons of wine that I was given in a glass carboy with a balloon on top had to be transported from Harco, Illinois to Fruitland, Missouri in my Jeep without it tipping over! Once I arrived home with the wine and wine making and bottling gear, I enlisted Dave Clevidence to help me stabilize, bottle and cork this wine. The first mistake we made was not soaking the corks long enough, so they were soft enough to be inserted into the bottles. Our second mistake was consuming some of the potent wine while we were bottling. The third obstacle was attempting to use a handheld corker that was prone to shooting wine bottles off the table instead of inserting the corks. Being college graduates neither of us did the math on how many bottles it would require for a 5-gallon carboy and a 1-gallon side batch. For anyway contemplating this that amount typically takes 32 bottles unless you are using splits, smaller bottles or magnums. Somehow, with much of it on the floor and on us, we did accomplish bottling most of the wine. Once we had used all of the wine bottles my grandparents provided and I had around the house we moved on to beer bottles (as the one pictured) and any other glass vessel that would hold wine. Dave and I still laugh about this experience from long ago in my A Frame house. Fast forward to 24 years later and I am still brewing wine. I make the Communion wine for the church we attend here in Nashville, TN and I also make extra batches for friends and family. I currently have a batch of Watermelon brewing and a fun batch of Mead like the Vikings once drank. I don’t know if my daughter will take on wine brewing or not, but I have had fun teaching my methods to others. Producer Jimmy came by my house so we could make a Christmas batch for him to give as gifts. He enjoyed it so much that he is now a home brewer as well and I’m glad I could pass along the hobby. I have made over 21 different kinds of wine over the years from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay, Pomegranate, Plum, Pineapple, Blue Berry and many others. Since I make it myself, I can’t sell it, but I do share with friends and family that enjoy it. I have fun with the names and labels too. At some point I hope to take some of Grandpa Ted’s recipes and make them as well. Carrying on a family tradition is fun and interesting and like so many things in life I’m always trying to get better at it. It is a good feeling to create something that you can’t put a price on that was handed down to me by family. From these humble beginnings I have become a Wine Guy now too.