39-year-old Andrew Carini, wine is in his blood. Four years after
relocating to California to work in the restaurant industry, the Port
Washington native started Carini Wine in 2000. Today, the self-taught
winemaker sells his wines for $50 to $75 per bottle.
But Carini says
that winemaking has been a family affair for generations. His Sicilian
ancestors brought the craft with them when they immigrated to the
United States. His great-grandfather, Giacomo Castiglone, was one of
the first importers of fine wines in Milwaukee in the 1940s. And both
his grandfather, Joseph Carini, and father, Steve Carini, dabbled in
west, Carini worked as a chef at the Port Hotel and Smith Brothers
Seafood Restaurant. It was while working at Folie Douce in Arcata,
Calif., that Carini became serious about wine.
the hospitality industry, I developed an appreciation for wine,"
A year after he
began working at Folie Douce, owners Les and Lisa Behrens sold the
restaurant to focus on their winery, Behrens & Hitchcock. Soon
after, Carini began studying under his former boss.
From there, the
self-trained Carini went on to study under other California
winemakers, often for no pay and up to 90 hours per week.
were very willing to mentor me and take me under their wing,"
says Carini. When he wasnít working, Carini devoured books about
father, Steve, says that his son also was heavily influenced by Martin
Ray, a legendary California winemaker from the 1930s to the early
1970s. So taken with the famous vintner, Carini even named his first
son Martin in the manís honor.
style was to add as little as possible to his wines," says Steve
Carini. Carini Wine adopted the Old World tradition as part of its own
operation is about as low tech as they come," says Carini.
"Everything is done by hand by me or my wife."
this two-person operation, that means everything from picking up the
grapes from area vineyards after theyíve been harvested, to crushing
the grapes and punching them down, to bottling and labeling the wine,
to office work, fulfilling orders and maintaining the wineryís
Off the grid
started making wine in Napa Valley, but in 2004 he moved the winery 5
miles north to a former logging community near Hayfork, Calif.
being away from the hustle and bustle," says Carini, who lives
with his wife, Shawnee, and their five children in a small house just
steps away from the 30-by-40-foot stone building that serves as the
Carini Wine cellar. Inside are the French oak barrels filled with
fermenting varietal wines made from merlot, cabernet and pinot noir
Although he once
aspired to own his own vineyard, Carini ultimately decided to leave
the business of grape growing to others. He has long-term contracts
with several vineyards, including Alder Springs Ranch in Mendocino
County, Kenefick Ranch in Calistoga, Fortuna Vineyard and Skellinger
Vineyard in Oakfield, and St. Helena Cabernet Vineyard in St. Helena.
my own grapes gives me the freedom to experiment," Carini
explains. "It gives me a lot more flexibility."
With an intent
to craft wine that is completely distinct from other wines, Cariniís
winemaking style is hands-off. Adhering to an Old World process,
Carini makes his wines as the fruit comes to him. "Other than
yeast and minimal sulfur dioxide, Carini says nothing is added. That
means no watering down, acidification, enzymes or color enhancers. Nor
is anything taken away in the form of centrifuging, fining or
explains that once the grapes arrive at the winery, theyíre
destemmed and sorted into 300-gallon fermenters where they soak as
part of a cold maceration process for several days. After the
inoculation, fermentation lasts 10 to 14 days. The grapes are punched
down by hand two to six times per day depending on the wine variety.
When the wine approaches dryness, itís pressed from its skins and
seeds straight into the French oak barrels. There, the wine ages from
six to 100 months, again depending on the wine variety.
"All of our
wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined and are typically aged in the
bottle for a year before theyíre released," Carini explains.
With no formal
training, Carini says that most of his winemaking decisions are based
on sensory evaluation and intuition as opposed to laboratory analysis
have a degree in oenology or viticulture," says Carini. "I
spend endless hours evaluating wines, and I admit sometimes there have
been absurd amounts of trial and error."
primarily makes cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. Made from high-end
grapes, these wines are available at upscale restaurants in Los
Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Carini Wine also does a steady
mail order business.
Of all its
wines, Carini Wine has probably received the most attention for its
Dubakella pinot noir. The Dubakella label is derived from the tallest
mountain visible from the Carinisí winery. Dubakella is a Wintu (a
local Native American tribe) word for "black rock."
He says the
little-known wine-growing region has been largely overlooked by
large-scale grape growers due to the areaís rugged terrain and
remoteness. As a result, pinotphiles have dubbed it a "great
pinot noir from an unexpected place."
himself is reluctant to choose a favorite wine. "Itís hard for
me to choose one over the other," he says. "Theyíre all my
He explains that
if he didnít like a wine himself, he wouldnít sell it under his
label. "Ultimately, we strive to make wines that we love to drink
and share with others," says Carini.
introduce his wines to his hometown, Carini hooked up with family
friend Mark McCormick in 2012. With an extensive background in the
food and beverage distribution industry, McCormick suggested that
Carini develop an entry-level wine that supermarkets and liquor stores
would carry. As a result, Carini Wine introduced its Alicante Bouschet
A2B wine in 2013. Unlike Cariniís other wines, A2B is produced with
zero wood (no oak and no cork).
fermented and aged for nine months in stainless steel to allow the
Alicante Bouschet to shine through unobstructed," explains Carini.
He says he chose
Alicante Bouschet for several reasons. "Grenache is its dad, and
I love Grenache," he explains.
But Carini also
loves Alicante Bouschetís backstory. Until the 1960s, Alicante was
the workhorse of the California grape industry. The thick-skinned
grapes traveled well, and every fall thousands of railcars were loaded
up with the varietal and shipped to the East Coast (from point A to
point B, which is how Carini derived the name A2B). In recent years
though, most vineyards have replaced Alicante Bouschet in favor of
chardonnay and cabernet.
acreage is declining every year and the majority of what remains is
blended into anonymity, but I think itís a worthwhile fruit."
Today, A2B wine
is available at Ottoís Wine & Spirits stores throughout the
Milwaukee area and Trigís, a grocery store chain in northern
Wisconsin. In addition, several notable Milwaukee restaurants such as
c.1880, Bacchus and BKC Story Hill have begun featuring Carini Wine.
With Carini Wineís
presence firmly grounded in Wisconsin, Carini and McCormick are now
looking to expand south into the Illinois market.
that making a great wine is easier for him than marketing it. Although
he once preferred to rely on mail order sales, Carini understands the
need to work with distributors to help continue building the Carini
Wine brand. "Iíve had to transform from the guy behind the
label to the person selling it," says Carini. "Itís been a
learning experience, to say the least." M