Robert Goodman makes wine because it is his passion, taking grapes and turning them into what he calls ‘nectar,’ bottles of aged concoctions that are sold all over the world.
After trying a few swigs of swill in high school, Goodman joined a wine-tasting group, in his early 20s in the 1970s.
“It wasn’t about taste back then, it was about having fun,” Goodman recalled from his winery tucked away in the forests of Fickle Hill. “We were fancy professionals, and we all thought we knew what we were doing.”
A Humboldt County resident for 27 years, Goodman could take his wine barrels anywhere in the world, but chose the North Coast as the perfect setting for he and his wife Brenna to raise their three children.
And while he may not have known what he was doing back then, Goodman has known for quite a while now, the secrets of good wine-making, particularly where and how to start.
His start was in his garage.
Any homeowner looking to create wine in an area usually reserved for cars, might take heed to Goodman’s experience and advice.
“Read a book about making wine, then go volunteer at a winery during the fall,” Goodman suggested, adding, “Read the book while you’re sober.”
Goodman suggests joining up with other wine enthusiasts, as he did, to approach home wine-making, versus being the lone grape warrior, reaping wrath and vinegar in the garage.
Goodman has all the equipment he needs now, but for those just starting out, he recommends renting equipment, with the closest source being Santa Rosa, or being part of a co-operative that purchases presses and barrels and bottles and tubes and everything else required to earn the right to produce your very own label.
Garage wine-makers should be in the red and not try to be chardonnay chefs right out of the blocks.
“A red cabernet is easier,” Goodman suggested. “Red wine hides your flaws,” he added, probably not implying that the consumption of alcohol would diminish someone’s character faults.
“Get excellent grapes,” Goodman said about the main ingredient that he estimates would be about $100 a ton for a new wine connoisseur.
Goodman currently works with five vineyards and pays anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 a ton for his grapes.
A master of a house who is not yet a wine master would be smart to put down $100 for the first batch of grapes, less they spend $2,000 and end up with a drink that could peal paint or clean a windshield, versus offering a fragrant bouquet at the dinner table.
“It is all taste-driven,” Goodman said recently, while taking a peak inside a barrel holding a 2004 cabernet that will be priced at $50 a bottle. “Make your own decisions all along the way and be true to yourself.”
While you may not be able to turn your first $100 investment into bottles of wine that sell for twice as much, you might enjoy creating your own label. And if it all goes bad, just tell your neighbors you’re making vinegar in your garage.