Making wine at home uncorks custom blends

PHOENIX – Tom Messier turned his Mesa home into a winery.

Four-foot-tall metal buckets line his living room. A humidifier and two wooden barrels, covered by a plastic sheet, occupy a corner of his kitchen. Stacks of red, white and fruit wines in glass jugs decorate his spare room.

Messier belongs to AZ WineMakers, a community of Arizona at-home winemakers who create custom blends. He hopes to someday turn his hobby into a business.

“I think there’s over 100 members, and we get together and talk about wine, we drink some wine, and compare notes,” Messier said.

Arizona’s wine industry attracts in-state and out-of-state tourists, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Arizona Office of Tourism. Its economic impact was nearly $57 million in 2017.

Louis Marconi drinks some of the wine he recently concocted. Wines made in the home can’t be sold but can be shared with family and friends. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

Messier and his wife, Teresa, have been making wine at home for six years and plan to parlay that operation into a full-time winery.

Their favorite part of the winemaking process is experimenting with flavors and fruits, including orange spice and banana.

“It’s an adventure, trying to figure it out how to make this better, or how to make it at all,” Tom Messier said.

Louis Maconi, another hobbyist member of AZ WineMakers, makes wine in his Chandler apartment.

As a child, he helped his grandfather make wine in the basement.

While on a cruise seven years ago, Maconi was enthralled at a day trip that took him into a cellar filled with barrels of wine.

“The smell is what got me,’ Maconi said. “It reminded me of my basement growing up, and at that time I thought, ‘I have to be more involved with this somehow.'”

Maconi ferments wine at home at least 28 days a month. The fermenting process can take from one month to several months.

“I like the romance of it,” he said. “I think it’s fun and I think it’s a part of me that I can share with my friends and my loved ones.” Wine hobbyists are not allowed to sell their products.

Unlike Messier, Maconi is happy to keep his hobby just a fun endeavor.

Messier is coordinating awards for an Arizona Emerging Winemakers contest – open only to non-commercial winemakers – in April at Yavapai College in Prescott.

Louis Marconi, of Chandler, started to make his own small batches of wine after he visited a wine cellar on a cruise. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

Louis Marconi makes wine at his Chandler home. A thick grape-juice concentrate is an essential component of the wine he makes using a kit. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

Tap water in Phoenix contains chlorine, which hobbyist winemaker Louis Marconi said doesn’t make good wine. To remove it, he leaves large bowls of water sitting out overnight for the chlorine to "gas off" before adding the water to the mixture. (Photo by Jenna Miller/ Cronkite News)

Hobbyist winemaker Louis Marconi also adds powders to his wine, each with a specific purpose: bentonite clay to remove impurities, oak sawdust to add character and yeast to consume sugar, which creates alcohol as a byproduct. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

The wine must be carefully weighed and measured, Marconi said. That allows him to detect small changes in sugar and alcohol content after fermentation. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

After all the ingredients for wine are mixed, Louis Marconi must carefully control its exposure. He tightly sealed the container, but will open it for a short time daily to allow the yeast the right amount of air. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

The wine batch will be be done in about 28 days, hobbyist winemaker Louis Marconi said. Once its done, complete, Marconi will bottle and cork the wine. Corks are heated in boiling water so they can can easily be inserted into a bottle. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

Wine hobbyist Louis Maconi has personalized labels for his homemade wine. He said he buys a lot of wine and believes his homemade product is better than some commercial wines. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

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