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Hartford Produce Company Catering To Winemakers This Time Of Year

JEFFREY B. COHEN

October 22, 2009

HARTFORD - Chilean grapes arrive in the spring, after the Southern Hemisphere's warmth. But this time of year, when home winemakers come and stick their fingers through the crates to grab a taste of the goods, it's mostly red wine grapes from California and Italy alicante, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, black muscat, syrah, sangiovese.

Here at M&M Produce, fathers and sons, wives and husbands and groups of friends spend a couple of mornings each season buying grapes they will spend months turning into their own wine.

They dodge hand trucks and weave around towers of grape boxes stacked six high as refrigerator trucks hum. M&M is a year-round operation, but for six weeks each fall it goes all-grape.

Some people come for the wine-making equipment corkers, presses, barrels. Some buy grapes to crush and press at home, while others take a shortcut and just buy juice. Some worry over whether to add additives, others don't.

Arlinda Costa had finished loading a pickup truck with a giant plastic bucket and pails of white grape juice when a friend and fellow winemaker, Cez Planner, came to ask if he could help. It was early on a recent Saturday morning and they were ready to leave the regional produce market to crush 100 boxes of grapes when their other wine-making partner, Manny Fernandez, came back from dropping $6,000 on their group hobby.

The threesome all looked struck when asked why they spend so much time and money, as though there could be a bad reason to make 60 gallons of wine. Each.

Costa likes wine, he likes making wine and he likes making wine with friends.

"He's a Polish guy," he said, standing on the loading dock and pointing down to Planner, his way of saying that this is a cross-cultural affair.

"I learned from Portuguese guys," Planner said, returning the favor. "I'd teach them how to make vodka, but they don't want to know. They'd rather drink wine."

They make their wine low in alcohol, Planner says, the kind that's good for casual drinking, not for getting drunk.

Still, the daylong crushings and pressings and bottlings make some things unavoidable.

"Good thing we do it two or three times a year," Fernandez said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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