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October 7, 2011     Post-Gazette
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October 7, 2011

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POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 7, 2011 Page13 Babb onno by Jobm Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance It was the beginning of October, and one Saturday morning at about 5:00 am, there was a knock at the kitchen door. Dad woke up first and answered it. It was Grandpa Christoforo, and he was standing there holding a sprig of three grapes. They were not grapes to be eaten. They were wine grapes and the gesture indicated that it was time to make the wine. Dad shook the cobwebs from his head, invited Grandpa in and then woke me up. Even though I was just a kid, I knew from experience that we were to help my paternal grandfather carry on an an- nual Italian tradition, even in America. Before attempting a new batch of wine, Grandpa emp- tied his barrels by filling doz- ens of gallon jugs and an assortment of whiskey bottles he had stored in his cellar for just this purpose. Now that his barrels were empty, cleaned and ready to go, it was time. He had purchased a shipment of imported grapes. I don't re- member if they were from France or Italy, but remem- bering his attitudes, I be- lieve he would only use Ital- ian grapes. They would have come in on a freighter from Europe and he would have gone to whichever, Boston pier the ship docked at and bought enough crates of grapes to make about fifty gallons of wine, both red and some white. Dad made breakfast for me, but Grandpa only had a cup of coffee while periodically looking at his pocket watch (which I still have in a domed glass display container). When we were done, we headed to my grandfather's Chelsea Street home and Grandpa's wine cellar. Dad and I uncrated Grandpa's grapes with tools that Grandpa had made just for this type of operation. When enough of the boxes were open, we filled the cy- lindrical wine press to crusl~ them into juice and pulp. The wheel shaped lid was lowered onto the contents of the vat and the screw mechanism was turned to lower the disc shaped cover downward and the grapes began to be crushed. Neither Dad nor I said anything. We just followed Grandpa's orders. He was the master vintner and that was that. A siphon was used to remove the juice, letting the dark red liquid flow into one of many barrels that would, over time, allow fermenta- tion. Scooping out some of the crushed grapes, my grandfather then directed us to fill the press with more grapes and the process was repeated. This went on and on until all of the grapes had been crushed and the liquid siphoned into the casks. Grandpa added something to each cask, possibly sugar to accelerate the fermenta- tion process, I'm not sure. He then adjusted little gad- gets that he placed inside the holes atop the barrels. He next pointed to them and told me that they would tell ,,hi.m, when the grapes had fermented into wine. Just then, I heard footsteps coming down the cellar stairs. It was my uncle Jim. Jim Dell0 Russ0 was Dad's sister Mary's husband. He and my aunt had married after dim wa~ discharged from the Navy after World War II. He was there to claim the crushed grapes due to the fact he wanted to make grappa with them. Grappa is an after dinner licquor that, if made right, would grow hair on your tearing eyes, Jqappy Columbus ay CENTRO ATvwrrk SCOLASTICIIE ITALIANE C.A.S.IT. INC. MARIA GIOCONDA MOTTA, M.ED. C~SUAN OF rue BOARD 27 WATER STREET, UNIT 102 B, WAKEFIELD, MA Omcz 781.224.0532 Happy Columbus Day The Agency for all your Insurance Coverages q,r,, me AUTO HOMEOWNERS TENANTS COMMERCIAL Experience makes the difference SPECIALIST in RESTAURANT and BUSINESS POLICIES CALL TODAY FOR YOUR QUOTE 617-523-3456 - Fax 617-723-9212 1 Longfellow- Place Suite 2322 - Boston, MA 02114 Conveniently located with Free Parking WWW.BOSTONPOST( ;AZETTE.COM and he knew how to make it that strong. I think he added in pure grain alcohol to boost the octane, but I'm not sure. We would repeat the wine making process with the boxes of white grapes that Grandpa had purchased. When I asked him why the white grapes, he responded with, "Durante l'estate, beviamo solamente vino bianco, capisce?," (During the summer, we only drink white wine, understand?) I shrugged my young shoul- ders and then watched as Dad, Uncle Jim and Grandpa repeated the siphoning pro- cess with the white liquid heading for the few empty barrels that my grandfather saved for white wine. Once they had finished, Uncle Jim asked Dad to help him make anisette, one of his special- ties. They mixed anise fla- voring with food coloring and alcohol and poured the liquid into five gallon containers that were lined up in a cor- ner of Grandpa's cellar. I didn't know what they were doing, but I liked the colors, green, blue, yellow, violet, pink and clear. Years later, traveling around the world, I would discover that many dultures, not just Italian, enjoyed a similar drink. Ouzo for Greeks, Udda for Christian Arabs, Arak for Turks, Raki for Armenians, Aqua vit for northern Euro- pean and Scandanavians countries, and so forth around the Euro-pean and Middle Eastern world. They must have picked up the recipe from the Roman~ a couple of thousand years ago, who knows ... The next day, the East Bos- ton Knights of Columbus had a father and son Mass at the Holy Redeemer Church near Maverick Square. Dad asked me to accompany him as this was a semiannual event that Dad enjoyed. I usually attended Mass at the Sacred Heart Church, which was our parish, but the K of C was a big deal for Dad and I couldn't and wouldn't say no. 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