Grape sellers market to at-home vintners
Family members work seven days a week to supply California's finest from a six-week harvest.
DETROIT -- Close to the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit Produce Terminal, California Wine Grapes Co. sells more than 20 truckloads of wine grapes, each containing 1,042 boxes of grapes from the six-week harvest season.
Family members work seven days a week to meet demand, according to Rachele Pracilio, the third-generation owner of the firm. Inside their 10,000-square-foot warehouse and retail space, California Wine Grapes sells 16 types of reds, 13 kinds of whites, along with premium juice from Italy and a variety of California specialties. The fruit of the vines have an alcohol potential of up to 14 percent after fermentation.
"We're fascinated to see all the young people streaming in to continue their family wine-making tradition," Pracilio said. "Our niche is teaching people how to make preservative-free wine because the sulfites in commercial wines often give you the headaches and hangovers."
The company was started by the Paglialungo family in the 1950s. Son Tony and wife Stella Paglialungo joined in the 1960s and Rachele and Giuseppe Pracilio took over in the 21st century.
California Wine Grapes invited more than 300 frequent customers to its warehouse recently for Italian music, fresh-made pasta, espresso and wine-making demonstrations to celebrate the harvest season. A 6-gallon carboy jug of fermented wine will become 30 bottles of vino for family celebrations and gifts. Rachele Pracilio creates personalized labels for bottles upon request.
Among the vendors at the open house, Jeff Rostomily of Delta Packing Co. in Lodi, Calif., displayed maps of growing fields in northern California and professed to potential customers that the 2007 grapes are among the best in recent history.
"Lots of cold nights, warm days. We expect a vintage year for our grapes," Rostomily said. His firm deals exclusively with California Wine Grapes. "They know the quality of their grapes."
Michigan's wine, grapes and grape juice products and related industries produced nearly $790 million of total economic value to the state of Michigan in 2005, according to the Web site of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry, .a target="new" href="http://www.michiganwines.com".www.michiganwines.com .
Grape sellers market to at-home vintners.
Wine-making equipment and wine juice sales sustain California Wine Grapes beyond its intense harvest crush of sales. They retail oak casks from Tennessee, demijohn jugs in several sizes from Italy and an array of sweeteners, corks, recipe books, crushing machines and fermenting aides from all over America in a spacious showroom.
A variety of small chambers and nooks hold places to crush, ferment and bottle the grapes upon customer request and provide lessons during the process which takes several months to reach fruition.
"We know our wines," says Giuseppe Pracilio, who proudly displays pictures of himself as a toddler wandering through his family vineyard in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Today he and Rachele carefully inspect the Valdepina, Zinfandel, Malaga and Viognier grapes for quality and freshness.
"You can't go wrong on price or quality," says Eric Grassel of Macomb Township who has bought grapes and grape juice for five years. "If a batch turns sour my wife cooks with it. If it is great, the family loves it."
The company is led by Rachele Pracilio and Master Wine Maker Giuseppe Pracilio.
Source: The Detroit News
Author: Maureen McDonald is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
Hours: Mon-Friday: 9 AM to 4:30 PM Saturday: 9 AM to 2:00 PM
Harvest Season Hours: Mon-Sunday 8 AM to 5 PM
The warehouse is open Sundays only during harvest season.