Location: Giant Oaks Winery production facility in an undisclosed location in Bethel Park and the Giant Oaks Winery tasting room in Finleyville
Featured guest: Lou Siyufy, owner and winemaker at Giant Oaks Winery
3 things that surprised me:
1. Lou used to work in the telecommunications business building cellphone towers, but he always loved wine. When he realized how many bottles he was going through every year, he figured he could save money if he started making his own wine. He started with one 6-gallon glass jar and his operation expanded from there. A few years back, Lou retired from telecommunications and went into winemaking full time.
2. Lou doesn’t grow his own grapes — he orders most of them from Lodi, California. Initially, he flew out there to establish relationships with vineyards, and now he stays in constant contact with the growers. Once the grapes have reached the correct sugar level, they’re picked, chilled, placed in a refrigerated truck and driven to Bethel Park. In May, Lou gets shipments of grapes from vineyards in South America as well.
3. It takes a month of grape processing before the immature wine reaches a barrel. Once it’s in the barrel, Lou tastes it every month until it’s ready to be bottled. Some barrels have been aging in his facility for three years. Attached to every barrel is a notecard scrawled with various notes keeping track of the developing wine.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: I was shocked to learn that every barrel loses a bottle-worth of wine every month to evaporation. To help slow that process, Lou hoses down the outside of barrels every day and keeps the facility at 60 degrees all year long with a humidity of 60%.