One of the fondest memories I have of my dad is of his winemaking . As with most Italians who arrived in Montreal straight off the boat, one of the treasures my dad and uncles took with them from the Old World was the art of making wine. Vino. I’m not sure if all Italians made their wine heavy and strong, but it seemed to be de rigueur in our circle of family and friends. So much so that the women needed to add 7-Up or mineral water to their wine, whereas us youngsters would add a few drops to our 7-Up, just enough to flavour our drink and give it a purplish hue. Oh, how pretty it looked! Yes indeed, we were introduced to wine at a young age. It wasn’t a daily event mind you, mostly during holiday celebrations or festive occasions.
Every autumn, come September and October, trainloads of grapes would come rolling into Montreal from California. Red grapes. White grapes. Yummy grapes! My dad made both red and white wine. The men would take turns going to each other’s homes and lend a hand with this arduous task. One night in my dad’s garage. The next night in my Uncle Tony’s. The night after that, my Uncle Silvester’s. And I can proudly say that I played a pivotal role in helping my dad make his wine. Not just with the extraction of the deep-red droplets through the wine press. Oak barrels were used to ferment the grapes in for about one week to 10 days. They were just over 3 feet/95 cm tall, making it difficult to reach the bottom of the barrel. My dad would lay the barrel on the floor and I would crawl into it and scrape the bottom of the barrel. The fumes were remarkably intoxicating, and after scraping the bottom of 5 barrels, off I went to bed where I would be out like a light!
My fondest memory of my dad’s wine was during strawberry season. He made the loveliest strawberries in wine. I just LOVED it! It was an elixir for me and I still LOVE it to this day! Although my daughters did not have the opportunity of meeting my dad nor of tasting his wine infused with 7-Up, I wanted them to have a taste of his favourite strawberry treat. Vino e fragole.
Strawberries in Wine
Cut the strawberries in half, or quarter them if they’re big. In a bowl, add the strawberries and sugar to your liking, perhaps a tablespoon per cup of strawberries. Add your favourite red wine, enough to just cover the strawberries. It’s essential that you use a good quality wine as you do end up drinking it in the end.
Taste it and adjust the amount of sugar. It does get slightly sweeter as they macerate. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours. The longer, the better! For adults, I like to serve them in wine glasses so that any left-over wine can be easily slurped. Buonissimo!