Wine, Blue Ribbons and the County Fair

Reader Contribution by Jane M
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A major passion in my life, and has been for many years, are county fairs. I am lucky enough to have a marvelous one in our community, and I look forward to it every July; entering as many classes as I am able and selecting something each year that will be a challenge.

Two years ago they offered a wine competition and I was very intrigued. Not so much for the really awesome ribbons and medals they were awarding, but for my ego. You see, wine making is a long-time tradition in my husband’s family. His dad was known for his homebrew. Grandpa made wine from peony flowers, dandelions and rhubarb to name a few. His brother was more of a bathtub gin type, and we have a cousin in Chicago who is knocking it out of the park with his beers. My husband has turned out some fine examples also but not in a long time.

How proud we were of our first attempt at bottling pear wine, grown in the front yard.

So this was my chance to show the world that I could help carry on the tradition. Luck was on my side that fall while attending the Mother Earth Festival in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. I noticed a class offered on making wine from your garden. Here was my chance. I took copious notes, bought a book and headed home. I had several things going for me. One was the large pear tree in the front yard and a husband excited to get back into the swing of wine making.

It turned out to be quite a fun process. The equipment wasn’t that expensive and all of it can be used for years. Three-gallon glass jugs, bottle brushes, yeast, siphons and tubing, were all very inexpensive to purchase. We had several shops in our area that carried everything we needed and plenty of advice.

We also happened to have a cider press which made the work load a little easier. But the excitement of watching those first bubbles appear after adding yeast! Then patiently waiting for the chance to rack your wine, the process of moving it from one jug to another. Finally filling your bottles and corking them. It’s almost as much fun as picking your first tomato of the year. But let’s not forget that now the whole family needs to agree on a name for the wine and design a label. That was as hard as chopping the pears.

After five months, it was all said and done, and our entry was ready for judging. Selecting what I thought was the perfect bottle, placing the label on three times to make sure it was centered correctly, we were off. Not really sure if we entered in the right class or not, just keeping our fingers crossed. Waiting until the next day to get the results of the judging was tough.

That was hard to do, but we were so excited when we turned the corner. But it was all worth it and to find not only a blue ribbon on our bottle of Perky Pear, but a rosette for Best in Show. Now we are hooked and ready to try our hand at some different wines for 2015. And that rosette has a very special place on the mantle, and I am watching that pear tree really close.

I can’t say that I know all about making wine or really if it wasn’t all just plain luck. But it was a better option for all those pears. I wonder if I could make wine out of all these cucumbers.

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