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CIAO holds winemaking class in Silver Creek

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Steve Spears of Dunkirk Homebrew Supplies shared his expertise on home winemaking with a crowd of over 20 guests at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Silver Creek.

SILVER CREEK — Seeking new members, the Chautauqua Italian American Organization (CIAO) tried to think outside the box with a recent community activity.

But instead, it’s what was inside the box that got everyone’s attention.

Steve Spears, owner of Dunkirk Homebrew Supplies, was welcomed by CIAO to teach a class on making homemade wine, including a lecture and a demonstration of a do-it-yourself wine kit out of a box.

Spears originally began home brewing wine and beer as a hobby, but it has transformed into a business where he sells the equipment necessary to do so.

“I wanted something to do when I retired,” Spears said. “… I found that I’m a good resource for individuals that want to make wine or beer.”

Shari Mullen is shown assisting with a homemade wine kit at a winemaking class taught by Steve Spears, of Dunkirk Homebrew Supplies, recently in Silver Creek.

Slightly over 20 people were in attendance for Spears’ recent presentation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

“We dropped to a summer picnic and a Christmas dinner and we were losing members, so we figured we would start doing things different. I thought we had a good turnout,” said Sam Crisanti, CIAO President, who organized the event. “Since we started this, we’ve picked up four to six new people to join our organization, so we’re going to keep it going.”

Spears spoke about various processes in his lecture, including fermentation, acidity levels, and bottling. Spears also shared stories of his own experiences and described the different kinds of equipment to use while homemaking wine or beer.

“Winemaking is steps: it’s the initial pressing of grapes, the initial fermentation process, the transfer process, the aging process, the bottling process, and then you have the pulling a cork and have a sip process — which is the most fun part about it,” Spears told the audience.

Spears explained each step of making wine at home in detail, then demonstrated how to use a pre-made winemaking kit you can purchase in stores for beginners. Members of the audience assisted in the demonstration of the winemaking kit. The wine they helped make will be bottled at a later date for them all to enjoy.

“I thought it was interesting,” said Nance Ortolano, who noted she worked at a winery in the past.

Ortolano, who serves as CIAO Secretary, went into the class with an interest in making wine from scratch herself. After the extensive lecture, she acknowledged it is much more likely she will buy a do-it-yourself kit, rather than do the entire process on her own.

“I’m glad we did it. It brought a lot of people here and it made you more appreciative of the process of winemaking,” Ortolano said.

Spears said he hopes events like this help foster an interest in home brewing like he has.

“I just want to increase their knowledge of winemaking and how fun it can be. It’s a great hobby,” Spears said.

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