American Humor: Foraging Wild Country Grapes to Make Homemade Wine

American Humor: The last laugh column shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS submitted American humor. Author Don Mitchell shares a story about foraging wild country grapes to make homemade wine.

| July/August 1985

The Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS submitted American humor with our readers. The author shares a story about foraging wild country grapes to make homemade wine. 

American Humor: Foraging Wild Country Grapes to Make Homemade Wine

Well sir, it's high summer here in Plumtree Crossin', an' we've been smack in the middle of our annual heat wave. The of reprobates down to the Gen'ral Store is movin' a tad slower than usual, too. Fact is, them fellers ain't been up to much but sittin' on they duffs an' sippin" dandelion wine (it bein' too hot to tangle with somethin' as potent as Purvis Jacobs' moonshine). With things so danged slow around here, I'm tickled to be able to bring you a story from up north a bit. The followin' tale—reprinted courtesy of Yankee Books—was taken from Moving UpCountry (copyrighted in 1984 by its author, Don Mitchell). 

Near my bathtub hangs a photograph of Robert E. Lee's wine cellar: a musty and capacious and inviting room for tippling in his Arlington, Virginia, home. Scores of cobwebbed bottles line the cool brick walls, and casks and kegs of what look like homebrewed potables are arrayed along a counter. A fruit press and wooden stools stand near a three-legged table; plainly, one could spend some time here. "Not the sort of storage space," the photo caption reads, "likely to be found in today's house or apartment."

No? I clipped that photo from The New York Times Magazine and tacked it to the bathroom wall while I was in the throes of the barn conversion project. Barns enclose a great deal of space, much of it of questionable value on account of low beams and massive framing members. What better use for a fourteen-by-six-foot corner rife with architectural booby traps than as a place to lay down wine?

As built, my ample cellar would doubtless have accommodated fifty-odd cases of wine—but I never dreamed of purchasing the stuff on such a scale. Rather, I would make wine, following a time-honored homesteading tradition. Simple matter of growing some grapes and fermenting them. Absolutely legal, too—Congress, in its wisdom, grants all heads of households the right to make two hundred gallons of wine per year. That's Jeffersonian democracy in action!

I decided to embark upon wine making as an activity befitting a dedicated and maturing citizen-farmer. Not a matter of brew today, imbibe tomorrow, wine required time: months of fermentation, years of aging. Success at wine making would symbolize adulthood, sober acceptance of delayed gratification, and refined values.

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