Jul 30, 2014
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Celebration of Piedmont's Homemade Wines

You may not find them on the market, but you can sample them Friday night when the Piedmont Center for Arts hosts its first "Judgment of Piedmont" – a tasting and competition featuring wines produced by Piedmonters.

Celebration of Piedmont's Homemade Wines

The spirit of Dionysius will hold sway at the Piedmont Center for the Arts Friday night when the city's first " Judgment of Piedmont" will feature a tasting of local homemade wines.

"This just seemed like a good time to have a celebration of wine and spring," said Center for the Arts founder Nancy Lehrkind.

It'll also be an opportunity to sample wines with names like "Grand Vin de Garage," which is made by Jack Sorenson and his partners.

"This was my husband's idea, Tom," said Lehrkind. She said her husband, inspired by the Judgment of Paris, got the idea to have a Judgment of Piedmont at the Center for the Arts even before the center was completed.

"My husband's the idea man," she said. "I'm the doer."

The Friday event takes place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The $10 admission includes tastings of wines by a number of Piedmont residents, as well as cheeses, pizza, grapes and other food. Music will be performed by a trio of Cal grad students on piano, bass and sax, Lehrkind said.

The local homemade wines, all red, will also be judged by local connoisseurs Alan Vogl and Joe Ezinger. Commercial white wines also will be available among the refreshments.

Among the wines in the tasting will be those that bear the Rosebank Cellars label, named after the two streets – Rose and Greenbank avenues – that are home to the half dozen families that make up the four-decade-old cooperative that makes the wine.

Asked how she became involved in the Rosebank cooperative, Tina Bochoff joked, "My husband (Bill) had a truck and a strong back." She said they joined the group when they moved to Piedmont in 1996.

The group buys a ton of grapes each year – typically Cabernet, Syrah and Sangiovese – from a Sonoma vineyard and brings them back to one of the member's homes, where they turn the fruit into wine.

After running the grapes through a masher, the first couple of weeks are devoted to the "punch down," where the skins that float to the surface are periodically pushed back down with a device that "looks like a huge potato masher," Bocheff said. 

The Rosebank wines aren't sold commercially but are given away as gifts or donations, she said.

Asked what draws her to homemade winemaking, she said "love of good wine" and "the community-building aspect of it."

She said Rosebank will be offering its 2009 Syrah on Friday.

Robert Hendrickson said he and his partners also don't selll their wine, made from between one and two tons of grapes, mostly Zinfandel, from a 12-acre vineyard on Franklin Canyon Road near Martinez in Contra Costa County.

Hendrickson has his own label for his share, "Franklin Canyon Estates, Hendrickson Cellars," printed on office-supply Avery labels with a photo of the vineyard taken by his wife.

"We do everything from de-stemming and crushing, to fermenting to bottling, except for actually picking the grapes," he said.

Asked what first drew him to the enterprise, Hendrickson said, "I did it mostly to give away as Christmas presents to people."

Hendrickson said he has another commitment that prevents him from attending the Friday night winetasting but that his Zinfandel will be there.

The Judgment of Piedmont event follows last October's successful "Piedmont Artisanal Brewing Competition" featuring local homemade beer at the Center for the Arts.

Lehrkind said she hopes to make both the beer-tasting and wine-tasting annual affairs in the fall and spring respectively.

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