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Millbrook Winery
Photograph: Courtesy Millbrook Winery Millbrook Winery

So you want to be a winemaker

A new six-week crash course at Millbrook Winery gives oenophiles the chance to cultivate their own signature vintages.

By Chris Schonberger
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Many wine lovers, beaten down by the relentless pace of NYC life, have fantasized about escaping to Provence or Napa to roll up their sleeves and work the vineyards, experiencing firsthand the ancient ritual of turning grapes into vino. To help you realize that dream without all the Eat, Pray, Love drama that it would inevitably entail, Millbrook Winery—a Hudson Valley outfit that blazed the trail for New York viniculture when it opened in 1984—is launching its first Winegrowing Boot Camp, custom-made for urban oenophiles. Starting on April 14 and continuing for five more Saturdays throughout the growing season, you’ll toil under the guidance of veteran winemaker John Graziano as you cultivate your own plot of tocai friulano grapes, a Northern Italian varietal that Millbrook uses to make aromatic, lightly citrusy whites. Each outing to the vineyard will include hands-on tasks—pruning vines, harvesting fruit, crushing the grapes into fermentable juice—plus on-the-fly tutorials from Graziano, who will school you on everything from tannic structure to which varietals grow best in the local soil. Throughout the series, participants will have plenty of opportunities to toast their hard work, including two complimentary meals at the Vineyard Grille, an Italian-themed launch party for Millbrook’s 2011 tocai friulano (May 19) and a four-course Harvest Party Luncheon (October 13) prepared by Food Network star Jehangir Mehta. After a final trip to the vineyard for bottling (March 16, 2013), you’ll walk away with a case of your own custom-labeled vino—you’ll have plenty of stories to tell when you pop the cork, but you’ll also still have your day job. Millbrook Winery, 26 Wing Rd, Millbrook, NY (800-662-9463, ext 11). Sign up at millbrookwine.com and enter the code “TONY” at checkout. Sessions: Apr 14; May 19; June 2; July 14; Oct 13; Mar 16, 2013. Travel: Metro-North to Poughkeepsie; the winery will provide transportation to and from the station for an additional fee. $750, with transportation $850.

Cheap wine tours and classes

SAT 7, SUN 8 Brooklyn Winery tours
Every weekend, this Kings County outfit opens its doors to the public for a behind-the-scenes look at how the magic happens. Three times a day, visitors can see the Harvest Room (the main winemaking is done here) and the Barrel Room (where the vino is aged), before sampling one of the newly introduced house wines. FREE213 North 8th St between Driggs Ave and Roebling St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-763-1506, bkwinery.com). Sat, Sun 2, 3, 4pm.

MON 9 Wine 101 at City Winery
High rollers can blend their own signature-label vino at this urban winery (packages begin at $6,000 for a barrel). But for something more budget-friendly, sign up for frequent classes, including this guided tasting of the Soho spot’s best house-made reds. Gather in the private cellar dining room as head winemaker David Lecomte explains how the proprietary pours—including the 2010 Pinot Noir California and 2010 New York Cab—made it from the vineyard to your glass. 155 Varick St at Vandam St (212-608-0555, ext 714). 6:30–8pm; $70.

APR 25 Brooklyn Oenology Q&A Roundtable
At this informal monthly get-together, guests can pick the brain of winemaker Alie Shaper while sipping six in-state vinos (previous examples include BOE’s 2008 Motley Cru and Red Newt Cellars’ 2008 “Curry Creek Vineyard” pinot gris). You’ll learn about the winery’s fiercely local mission, which includes using all–New York grapes and featuring the work of Brooklyn artists on its labels. 209 Wythe Ave between North 3rd and 4th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-1259). 7–8:30pm; $25.

Red Hook Winery tours
Oenophiles can arrange customized tours of this innovative waterfront winery, which sources its varietals from the Finger Lakes and Long Island’s North Fork. You’ll get a chance to check out the winemaking facilities before settling into the tasting room for sips from its catalog, including unreleased wines that are currently aging in barrels. Pier 41, 175 Van Dyke St at Ferris St, Red Hook, Brooklyn (347-689-2431). Reservations required. From $12 per person.

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