NORTH ADAMS — For North County residents Glen and Cheryl DeMarsico, it all started about nine years ago with Cheryl's love of wine and a DIY wine-making kit.
"Cheryl likes berry wines, so we said, 'Let's try making some for fun.' We got a kit and made it — it was too sweet," Glen DeMarsico said while capping bottles of hard cider at DeMarsico's Wine Cellar in the Norad Mill on Roberts Drive. "For our next adventure, we decided we were going to try making it from scratch."
The couple visited wineries and bookstores, and found a book with recipes. "We tried a few out and found a process we liked," DeMarsico said, adding that the process remains the same, but the recipes are different. "Some recipes have the berries in a concentrated juice fermenting, others use the whole berries that are fermented in a vat. We liked the vat process. The flavor, taste and color [of the wine] is more intense."
Their first made-from-scratch wine was a blueberry wine. "It was terrible," DeMarsico admitted. "It wasn't what we wanted it to be."
They tried making it again, adding "different things" and "it came out better, but still not where we wanted it."
"I think it was batch five, when we agreed it was good," he said, adding he and Cheryl prefer drier wines. They entered the blueberry wine in a competition in Connecticut and, to their surprise, took home a silver medal. The wine, called Blueberry Nights, remains the flagship wine of the cellar.
At that time, the couple did all of their experimenting in the basement of their home. "We would make about six gallons at a time and distribute it out, but it was too dry for our friends."
Their next experiment was a blueberry and raspberry wine. "It's more raspberry than blueberry; 75 percent raspberry, 25 percent blueberry. We kind of knew what we were doing, and got it right on the first batch," DeMarsico said. The wine, Ali's Wine, is another of the wine cellar's regular offerings.
Once they had perfected Ali's Wine, they tried adding another berry — strawberries — to the mixture, and Jazzy's Wine was born. "We made it dry at first. Now that we're in the commercial market, we have to make it sweeter, so after fermenting we add more berry flavor to it." DeMarsico explained that adding juice makes the whole batch sweeter, as does adding berries to the mixture during the fermenting process.
DeMarsico checks the sweetness of the wine regularly with a hydrometer, which tells how much sugar is in the mix. As the wine ferments, it becomes drier, due to the yeast "eating" the sugar. He typically checks the wine mixture before adding yeast, after a week of fermenting to see if fermentation has stopped and periodically after that. "There is no time frame to when it's ready. It's ready whenever the hydrometer says it is."
The DeMarsicos continued to produce wine in their basement until 2016. They became licensed and were producing four wines — Blueberry Nights, Ali's Wine and Jazzy's Wine, in addition to a seasonal wine, a tropical wine or a pumpkin wine. They moved the wine-making business to the basement of Grazie restaurant on Marshall Street in late 2016.
"We were wholesale only — at Vins et Viandes (V&V) in North Adams, and Val's and O'Geary's package stores in Adams. There was no tasting room and we weren't open to the public," DeMarsico said, adding they were producing 150 gallons of wine in a small 300-square-foot space.
"We had a five-year plan, but after 18 months at Grazie, we said 'Let's take a look at where we are.' We wanted our own space and a tasting room."
DeMarsico was working at a firm in the Norad Mill at the time (both he and Cheryl still work full-time jobs in addition to the running winery) and approached owner David Moresi, who was in the process of renovating the former textile mill. "We looked at the space we wanted and crunched the numbers. We were able to do it in one and a half years instead of five years. We had to take the chance."
They moved into their space overlooking the Berkshire Hills in February 2018. The winery now offers 12 wines and five hard ciders. However, that number may vary. "We say, 'Let's try this' and it becomes a hit," DeMarsico said.
The winery has recently begun producing mead. "It's not popular around here and we're trying to introduce it to this area," DeMarsico said. "It's an acquired taste and it definitely tastes like honey — so if you don't like honey, you won't like mead." The DeMarsico's mead, semi-sweet and with strawberries or blueberries added, is made in small batches of 18 gallons, which is equal to six to eight cases. It is only available at the tasting room.
The tasting room, which can accommodate 50 people, is open 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Beginning in July, the hours will be expanded to 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Patrons can buy three 2-ounce glasses of wine in a wine flight, a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, hard cider or a glass or pitcher of strawberry or peach sangria. For nibbling, pre-packaged cheese, salami and pepperoni are available. There is also entertainment, "when the artists are available," DeMarsico said.
On June 22, the wine cellar will hold a Sangria Saturday with entertainment by Jessica Wilson. Sangria will be $5 a glass, along with discounted prices on pitchers of sangria. "There are sangria specials any time we have entertainment," DeMarsico said.
The wine cellar also hosts many special events, including a paint and sip night, cupcake and wine pairing, candle-making workshop and a jewelry-making workshop. The events are held on Friday nights; for a schedule, visit DeMarsico Wine Cellars on Facebook. The tasting room also may be rented for the day or after hours small private events, such as bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties or small parties.
What does the future have in store for DeMarsico's Wine Cellar?
"We're taking it day by day, month by month," DeMarsico said. "We're growing. There's room to put in bigger tanks, and we just added a dry moscato and a sweet Riesling. It's going to be an interesting next year — next five years. We would like to do it full-time. North Adams is growing — and we're in a prime location."