My husband used to say "if my [Italian!] grandfather could make good wine in his basement in New York, how hard can it be?"
ernie in berkeley gives a good description of the process. Wine making is not difficult, just messy and you need a bit of room. And it is a ton of fun, or in our case a quarter ton! We picked the grapes when we made wine for the first time last year. So far it tastes great and will end up costing about $5 a bottle when we add up cost of carboys, plastic tubing, crusher/stemmer and press rental, bottles, yeast, sulfur, and so on. Of course the price will go down each year as we accumulate equipment. Grapes were free (winemaker friend, second crop cabernet grapes).
First attempt to post pictures - here are photos from 2005
I love this quote from Angelo Pellegrini in Lean Years, Happy Years:
"Grow your own; cook your own; make your own wine. Such is the threefold imperative."
I've been making wine for nine years now, and it's tremendously rewarding and a lot of fun.
Here's what it's like. In September, the pinot grower emails to say that they're picking next Sunday, and you drive up to the Sonoma coast and bring back 300 pounds of fragrant, sweet grapes. You crush them, sprinkle a few packets of Burgundy yeast and some nutrient, and in a day you have a big foaming mass of fermentation, which you punch down three times a day for ten days or so. Using a hand press, you squeeze the "must" into glass carboys, and after a day you siphon, "rack", it off the sediment. The fermentation and pressing gives your back yard a heady and seductive aroma as the leaves are turning red and yellow.
A few weeks later, the zinfandel comes in, shipped to the local winemaking store, and you repeat the process, and again when the Rhone varietals come in.
And then for the most part you just let it be, with three or four additional rackings, until it's time to bottle the next August. You hunker down with your bottling wand and fill them in the course of a weekend, clean everything up and you're ready for the next crush.
Results can be from excellent to so-so. A lot depends on the grape sources, the sugar levels, the skin contact time, and you tend to get better at it as you gain more experience. Expense? $300 of pinot grapes made 80 bottles of bright, fruity wine with a touch of earth and spice-box. You won't find a better bottle of pinot at seven times the price.
And I'm not even Italian.