Categories: Schenectady County
Lucy Jessen knows where to turn when she’s ready to buy wine supplies.
The Delaware County resident spent more than $400 Tuesday, loading her SUV with 60 gallons of red wine grapes from a small warehouse off Guilderland Avenue in the Bellevue neighborhood, where there is not even a street sign for Hegeman Street.
Jessen was stocking up on juice for the year, something she has done for the last seven years at Pede Bros.
Lots of home winemakers find their way to the more than 40-year-old business at 1042 Hegeman St., in September and October, when Capital Region retailers offer various types of wine grapes and juices.
“We buy it now and it will probably be gone within the year,” Jessen said.
The aroma of fermented grapes in her basement will fill her entire house — a not so pleasant smell — but worthwhile for the delicious wine that comes from it, she said.
Father and son Mario and Nico DiCristofaro of Rotterdam were also at Pede Bros. buying a dozen cases of wine grapes, half merlot and the other half malvoise varieties.
“If you price it out, it comes out to $6 to $7 a bottle. It’s cheaper in the long run,” said Mario DiCristofaro.
Pede Bros. has been importing sweet California wine grapes for 20 years, according to owner Romolo Pede.
Pede has a close relationship with his customers, many of whom depend on him to make recommendations on what new grapes and juices to try or wine making equipment to purchase.
“Making wine was my hobby in Italy,” he said. The business specializes in its own brand of specialty-made pastas and has a retail store, Pede Brothers Italian Specialty Foods, at 582 Duanesburg Road in Rotterdam.
Romolo Pede’s daughter AnnMarie McCarthy said, “A lot of people buy the pails of juice — within 45 days the juice is done.”
She said the grapes cost less this year, due to lower fuel prices, but, “When people enjoy something, they don’t care what the cost is.”
Making wine from grapes requires an upfront investment of $100 to $400 for grinders, pressers and special canisters.
“A lot of people go in together on it so it’s less of an investment,” McCarthy said.
Though Pede Bros. imports wine grapes from California, there are New York-based wine grape growers, including some right in the Capital Region.
Karen Gardy, marketing director for Goold Orchards in Castleton-on-Hudson, said the farm’s Brookview Station Winery insulates it from the peaks and valleys of agricultural income.
The winery, which opened three years ago Tuesday, already has a selection of apple, pear, blended fruit, strawberry, cherry and peach wines, and it will have grape wine in a couple of years, Gardy said.
“We actually put in five acres of port-wine grapes. We certainly won’t have anything on those vines for a couple of years,” Gardy said. “We just planted this year.”
Cornell Cooperative Extension recently issued a crop report on New York wine grapes.
“Harvest activity is starting to gear up with early wine varieties and opening of the Niagara and Concord harvest by major processors,” Editor Tim Martinson said in the report.
The spring frost may have harmed some crops, but growers in the Hudson Valley are saying the crop has been slow to ripen.
“No freezing weather is predicted in the next two weeks and even though grapes are behind in development, fall conditions for ripening look good,” the report said.