the last bite
Remembering family winemaking traditions
By Greg Lucchese
When I was a young child, my entire family—parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins—would go Lawton, MI, and pick grapes on a Saturday. I have many fond memories of this experience with all of our families working together to pick the grapes before sitting down to a festive picnic feast prepared by my grandma, mom and aunts.
My family has been part of the American winemaking tradition since my grandparents emigrated here from Volturara Appula, Italy, in 1928. The tradition began with my Grandpa Lucchese and other Italian families who lived in the Mason and Harrison streets area in Elkhart. My dad and his four brothers grew up helping my grandpa and passed the tradition down to my generation and my children’s generation. My dad and his brothers continue to make wine, as do my brothers, sisters, cousins, our children and our grandchildren.
Today our grapes come from California, so the process has changed a bit, as we don’t actually do the picking of the grapes anymore. It takes several weekends of work in October to get the grapes crushed and the juice extracted and put into barrels to start the fermentation process. It is also the signal that last year’s labor of love is now ready for sampling. Our process has evolved over the years and now includes numerous friends who join in and make their own wine as well.
There is tremendous pride from all who make wine. Each winemaker thinks theirs is the best! All the hard work is savored with drinking a glass of homemade wine. It is a time for celebration of family and friends. For me, it still conjures up memories of my childhood and the celebration of making wine as a family. Salute!
Greg Lucchese is part of the family who started Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant in Elkhart, IN. His sons Zach and David own Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub while his daughter, Kristen, is a nurse at Riley Children’s Hospital. He and his wife, Ann, enjoy good food and sharing the wine they make each fall with family and friends.