Published November 08, 2012
PASO ROBLES, Calif. – Looking for a different tour through wine country? Why not make your own wine.
First Crush in Paso Robles, Calif. takes visitors beyond the tasting room and lets you create custom made wine from start to finish.
"We came out to get the whole experience of wine making from beginning to end," said visitor Ron Pierce.
Wine lovers go to the heart of Central Coast California vineyards during harvest season to get a unique wine making experience by beginning their journey in a vineyard picking grapes bottle.
"We wanted to learn what's involved, we wanted to learn how to do it from the dust up," said Bill Reuter.
First Crush is owned and operated by Becky and her husband Lowell Zelinski, who has his Ph.D. in viticulture. They started the Harvest Crush Encounter in 2008, after they documented their entire wine making experience. The process fascinated their friends and family so much that the Zelinski's decided they wanted to show others how to do it.
"We find with a lot of people who gotten into wine for a few years and have been to a lot of tasting rooms (they) wanted to see what other components there are in wine making," said Zelinski.
The wine lovers weekend getaway can cost between $325 and $720 per person and includes a view into the full process of winemaking and your own custom label which you can bottle yourself.
After a couple hours gathering grapes in the vineyard, visitors have a picnic in the vineyard with a special food and wine pairings created by a local chef in the region.
"It's worth the experience and worth the weekend. You have great food, and wine, and great company," said visitor Bill Reuter.
After lunch, the group travels out of the vineyard to learn about sorting grapes and how the fruit becomes wine.
"It's amazing! I never realized how much goes in to making wine. Sorting the leaves, and the raisins, so much goes into it. It's really impressive, " said Summer Dolieslager who took the trip to learn more about the process.
One of the highlights for many is the chance to get their feet wet and go back to the roots of wine making by stomping out grapes.
"The big thing is stomping grapes. There's no doubt about it," said newbie wine maker Richard Houck.
At the end of the trip, visitors get a chance to bottle and create their own special custom made wine.
"We have classes on the local area and the soil in the area, types of grapes we grow, and classes on corks and barrels and bottles, yeast, everything," said Lowell Zelinski.
They can choose from a variety of templates for their label to make it extra special.
"I have a nice wine cellar that holds a 180 bottles of wine and I'm excited to get my own thing in there," said Houck.
The wine won't be ready for four to five months. But the longer you wait the better tasting the blend.
"I'm not drinking them, since I've worked very hard for them. Maybe at the children's wedding one day," said Dolieslager.