Home brewing for wine lovers

Personal winery lets you make four perfectly fermented cases of wine at home

Hammacher Schlemmer

I'll never forget the first time I saw alcohol being brewed in a home. I was in college and arrived at my friend's house to find a plastic barrel with tubes poking out of it in the middle of the kitchen floor.

"It's a home brew kit!" He shouted from the other room, possibly intuiting the puzzled look on my face from the opposite side of the wall. "You use it to make your own beer!" From that day forward, everyone who visited the home brew house got to sample the latest flavor.

Outside of home beer brewing and the bootleg bathtub moonshine that you hear about on television, I've always assumed that the creation of beer, wine, and spirits should be left to the professionals. So, I was surprised to learn that there are consumer devices like this personal winery available on the market. The Oenophile's Personal Winery, available from Hammacher Schlemmer, vinifies four cases of wine at a time in its chamber. It also comes with software that, when hooked up to a PC, lets you automatically graph and monitor the fermentation, Brix (grape sugar level), and temperature.

The process starts with frozen grapes, shipped to your house after being picked in Napa Valley. The Personal Winery cold-soaks the grapes, presses them, and ferments them for 6 months to 12 months, depending on your tastes. The machine lets you know when you should press the grape skins, and the instructions that come with the software guide you through creating wines of all different types and flavors.

Costing just shy of $6,000, it's a gadget that's meant only for serious wine lovers. But if you or anyone you know is longing to graduate from your plastic home brewing kit, at least now you know where to look.

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