One late September afternoon in 1991 at about 5pm, my father walked into the house with a bushel of white
grapes from the two vines in the back of our yard that covered the wooden arbor next to the garden. He plunked them down on
the floor next to the laundry room and said, "Someone should do something with these."
I stared at the overflowing bushel of green-looking grapes and leaves and some parts of vines sticking out and felt
that I had some strange obligation to those grapes. At the time, I was home from New York having just shut down a
business I had started with a friend called American Fortune (a mens sport shirt company), and had lots of time on my
hands. That year (1991), I was 25 years old and wondering what I would do next with my career. Would I go back to
working as a television producer, start a new business, join the Peace Corp I just didnt know.
In 1991, the economy was not very strong. In fact, we were still in what had been a very long recession one that was,
at least for my generation, a virtual depression.
As I sat staring at the full bushel of grapes my father had brought in it all seemed to be strangely tangible. I should
do something with these grapes. What did I have to lose? These grapes were not reliant on the economy or the success
of the American car industry. These grapes would yield a real product one that would provide joy and inspire sharing
and people getting together. I imagined the juice from the grapes, the bottles, the vineyard I would eventually own...I read
every word of, Wine--a gentleman's game: the adventures of an amateur winemaker turned professional (Mark Miller, 1984)
and numerous other books on the subject.
That was the dream as I stared at that bushel of grapes. I realized then just how much wine-making could inspire those dreams.
Winemaking could be something I could do for life because of the infinite challenges of turning a product of nature into a
human enjoyment, while still respecting and reflecting that given to us by nature. I realized that winemaking was something
where one could author his or her own story, all captured in the grapes and eventual wine. Wine also had longevity and that
seemed like another good reason to make it. The bottles I would produce would provide markers in time where people could
reflect on their lives as they sipped or thought about what was happening in their lives during a particular vintage.
I knew that each year of winemaking would be filled with challenges as in any year of living and there would be the
same need for patience, faith, and knowledge to overcome those challenges. "Just imagine all of the things that could go
wrong!" I thought. But that was a good thing. At 25, I did know that nothing good came easily and this surely would not
but that if I could do it successfully there would be a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
I then realized it was satisfaction
that I might have truly been after. In a world which, at the time, was filled with uncertainty and ambitions cut short by the
remnants of the Cold War, it was satisfaction that I truly wanted. I wanted to create great wine. Something that represented
everything far and above what even the greatest wealth could buy. It would be more than wine. This was the currency I would
create for my own life. It would keep me alive and hopeful of the future. At last I had something to look forward to.
1991. The grapes used made a good balance. We made an Emerald Riesling that year which had crisp characteristics (which we
brought out in the fermentation by keeping it cool), and the body was slightly bolstered by a blend of other white grapes. The
end result of our first year was a very good wine.
Today, the ideals that shaped our first vintage are as strong as ever.
-Anthony Piccione, owner, winemaker THE NEIGHBORHOOD CELLAR
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