Grape Expectations, a Henderson company, teaches collectives including offices and social groups the art of winemaking.
The result is a team-building and bonding experience that ends with a vintage souvenir — wine made in a relaxed, fun-loving environment. Past winemakers have included fraternal organizations, team-building groups, businesses and food-and-beverage industry members.
It takes about 756 pounds of grapes to make one 53-gallon barrel of wine. So Grape Expectations has handpicked grapes shipped in from California's North Coast and Central Coast viticultural districts. Winemakers execute winemaking's four-step process — crushing, pressing, racking and bottling. Individual processes take about an hour, though they're spread across the nine-month winemaking season.
Winemakers, guided by Grape Expectations' expert staff, can choose to create a blend or single varietal. Some veteran winemakers have produced esoteric blends such as Prisoner, the famed wine from the Orrin Swift Winery in Napa, California, which includes percentages of five or six grape varietals. Other winemakers have chosen to create single varietals, such as a merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, grenache, syrah, mourvedre, zinfandel or pinot noir.
During crushing, winemakers will load grapes into Grape Expectations' state-of-the-art equipment for crushing and destemming. Crushed grapes, called "must," will go into a tank to ferment. A week later, during pressing, participants will return to use a hydraulic press to squeeze juice from the "must". The fermented juice, which is now wine, goes into an oak barrel to age.
A few months later, winemakers will return for racking. Sediment "lees" are removed from the barrel and the wine is reintroduced into the barrel to continue aging. Months later comes the final session, bottling. Winemakers, aided by a gravity-filler, will load their wine into sterilized bottles for corking and shrink wrapping.
Total yield is 20 cases, 240 bottles of handmade wine (average cost is $185 per case/$15.42 per bottle).
Because winemaking's cost is based on barrel usage, it doesn't matter whether the winemaker works alone or with colleagues, family or friends. Half of the total $3,700 payment is due at sign-up; half is due at pressing.
Winemakers will leave with their wine, but also their memories. Soon, they'll also be able to enjoy tastings and the ambiance of a wine lounge. Vegas Valley Winery will create a tasting bar and wine lounge adjacent to the wine school. The winery should be open in September.
"We don't look at this as a business, but rather as a community of like-minded people who enjoy wine and want to learn as much as they can about wine and winemaking," says Grape Expectations/Nevada School of Winemaking co-owner Patty Peters. "Wine brings our customers in, it's the wine, atmosphere and socialization that keep them coming back, year after year."
About Grape Expectations:
Grape Expectations is at 7360 Eastgate Road Suite 125 in Henderson.
Visit grapeexpectationslasvegas.com or call 702-806-3383 for information. The harvest is fast approaching, so winemakers need to sign up by Aug. 31 to be part of this year's winemaking season.