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I grew up in a one-horse town in New York. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Brooklyn? I say that because we didn’t have many horses in Brooklyn. We did have a lot of Italians. My mother was from Sicily and my father had a butcher shop in the neighborhood. Like all good Italians, the whole family lived together — grandparents downstairs, my parents, two brothers, my sister and me upstairs, a little wine cellar all the way at the bottom. Starting when I was 7 or 8, I made wine down there with my grandfather.
It wasn’t very good. That was because they would crush all the grapes and the stems together. Grape stems are very bitter. They would put it in a barrel, then they would just take a gallon out every time they needed it. I mean, open up a bottle of wine and leave it on your counter for two months and see what it tastes like. When the air hits it, it’s not going to taste too good.
Fast forward to about 30 years ago and my brother runs into a distant cousin when he’s living in Rhode Island. With us, it could be a 50th cousin 200 times removed, it’s still your cousin. This guy showed us how to actually make wine, and over the years we have perfected it. Nowadays, every other year, we go to my brother’s house in New Jersey and get a huge delivery of grapes from California. Everybody brings their kids so we can all be together, it's a big family event.
Starting when I was 7 or 8, I made wine down there with my grandfather.
We don’t use our feet to crush the grapes, despite what people think. No one wants those purple toes. Nah, we use a machine that crushes and destems the grapes. Next we put the grapes in these vats with yeast and let it ferment for a week, then press to get the juice out. The juice goes into the oak barrels for three or four months. We then take the wine out of the barrels and remove the the yeast and sediment that settled to the bottom, put the wine back in the barrel to sit for 5 months and finally take it out to bottle. Bottling is the best part because you get to drink it. We don’t put sulfites in it, so it lasts about three years. These days, we make three different kinds. Everyone in the family gets a case, and we gift it to close friends too. I send it to a lab to get it tested for alcohol, sugar, acidity. I’ve got it all charted out, like any good engineer. I dunno if the memory fades, but it seems every year it seems to get better.
What do we call it? Fratelli Roma. My father’s butcher shop in Queens was called the Roma Meat Market. And “fratelli” is Italian for brothers. Plus when I was a kid in Brooklyn, Roma was my alias when I got into trouble. Who did that? Oh, that was Steve Roma.
Steve Tafone has come a long way from that one-horse town. His title may be Vice President of Engineering, but around here he's known as our MEP fixer — he travels the country helping Suffolk teams troubleshoot mechanical, electrical, and plumbing projects. Steve's wife asked for a dance on a cruise dancefloor- they haven't stopped dancing since. Together they have two children and recently welcomed their third grandchild.
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