Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00
With the help of friends, one local man is turning his harvest of grapes into wine. Robert Shapiro, a resident of Sands Point, recently showed the Port Washington News the art of crushing grapes by foot and explained the intricate details of how to make homemade wine and grape juice.
Mr. Shapiro said that he learned about growing grapes and making wine when he lived in South Africa. Basically, the process is to pick the grapes, crush the grapes, cook the crushed grapes, and strain them to remove the stems, skins, and seeds. Mr. Shapiro said that they always pick the grapes at this time of year and that they always crush the grapes by foot. Cooking the crushed grapes destroys bacteria and prevents it from spoiling. To strain the grapes, Mr. Shapiro uses a press that he made out of wood. Yeast and sugar are added to the juice and it eventually ferments into wine.
Several people, all friends of Mr. Shapiro, showed up throughout the day to help with the process of picking the grapes, crushing the grapes, and cooking the crushed grapes. In particular, two boys, Anthony Cardello and Matthew Cardello, came to the vineyard to help, along with their grandfather, Joe Cardello. The family helped Mr. Shapiro from sunrise to sundown with breaks in between for snacks and lunch, and the boys also got to cool off by going swimming in the pool. Anthony, age 9, and Matthew, age 5, were happy to help and were excited to learn about growing and crushing grapes – they will also receive grape juice for their hard work. Additionally, Brandon and Ashton Sax came over to help out, particularly with moving the large pots and barrels of crushed grapes and juice, which were quite heavy.
There are about a dozen rows of grape vines on Mr. Shapiro’s property in Sands Point, which makes for a small vineyard. The grapes are of the concord variety, since they grow more easily in this climate. Mr. Shapiro wraps netting around the vines to prevent animals such as birds and raccoons from getting into the grapes and eating them. The vines are a few years old, as Mr. Shapiro starting growing the grapes when he purchased the property several years ago. This property is a little over 160 years old and has significant historical value for the Village of Sands Point. The home was originally owned by Quakers, known as the Mott family, who played an important role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.