glass wine thief

glass wine thief

Uzi wanted a wine thief for Christmas.  A fancy hand-blown glass wine thief to replace the plastic one he’s had for the last six years.  The theory is that if wine tastes better in a fancy wine glass, like a Reidel, maybe it will also taste better from a classy glass thief. 

Ever tried to track down a wine thief?  Conjures up images of empty wine bottles strewn along a trail of red footprints, doesn’t it?  No, a wine thief is a tool used to draw out small amounts of wine from a barrel for tasting.  Lucky for me there happens to be a Berkeley business that makes hand-blown glass objects and tools for labs…including wine thieves.

Regarding his theory, the glass wine thief may not affect the flavors and aromas of the wine like the shape of a wine glass will do, but it does enhance the barrel sampling process:  it shows off the color of the wine and it just looks great.  Uzi shall never have to taste a barrel-drawn sample of our wine from a plastic utensil again. Just don’t drop it on the concrete floor! 


continued from Crawl Space, Part 2

It was a holiday, Memorial Day.  No construction crews were due to work today on the nano-winery we were building below our house.  No alarm clocks were set for school or work.  But small children don’t usually need loud noises to wake up early and we are thanking our lucky stars (at least this once!) that this morning was no exception in our house. At 7:15 that morning our kids (then 7 and 5) came in our bedroom saying they heard noises in the wall.  There were ghosts in the wall, they said.  Like good parents we sent them away telling them it was a holiday; there’s no school, there are no ghosts, go back to sleep, we said.  They left us and let us go back to sleep, but they weren’t buying our parental half-hearted reassurances.  This time when they called to me from the living room I detected true fright in their voices.  We leapt to the living room and sure enough heard startlingly loud and frequent creaks.  Then we saw the cracks in the wall around the fireplace.  We ran outside around the side of the house near the chimney where construction was taking place and much to our horror saw our brick and mortar chimney pulling away from our house.  With each creak, the chimney separated a little farther.  One small piece of wood at the top was pretty much holding the chimney to our house.  

We really hated to bother our architect/contractor on a holiday but did.  He was at our house in no time, along with a fire truck, his work crew and evacuation orders for our next door neighbors.  After this, things get a little hazy.  I think I was in shock. We were told to quickly move any valuables away from the fireplace inside and pack some things in case our house became inhabitable.  


chimney bricks in the old basement, before


Chimney bricks, after


Thankfully, the crew managed to bring down the chimney in a controlled manner.  Nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged.  We did have to add a new fireplace, fireplace surround and chimney to our remodeling list.  And next time I may just speak up when something doesn’t look right.

In the end, our tiny, back-breaking crawl space was converted to this fabulous place to make wine with (full-size) friends and family…

no more chimney

brick chimney was where the window is now

bottling the 07 Merlot

at work in the new cellar bottling the 07 Merlot

A month or so ago, I wrote about where and how we started making wine.  

little people at work

basement before

As you can see from the pictures in the Crawl Space post, full grown adults just could not stand up in there. Our hobby required the help of shorter members of our family.  After three years of this nonsense, Uzi hatched a plan. 

In a crafty way, Uzi suggested we remodel the bathroom–make wife happy–and while we’re at it, expand the basement for additional “storage”–make husband happy.  Before I had even said yes, he began drawing up plans for a full-blown wine making operation downstairs.  He studied optimal floor plans for wineries, he devised lists of winery requirements (such as a floor drain, stainless steel double sink for washing, hot and cold water hoses for barrel rinsing) and he reminded me of what a beautiful bathroom we would soon have.

Before we could stop ourselves, we had hired our tried and true design/build team, Levitch Associates.  

The plan to expand the basement/crawl space involved a major excavation dig below our house all by hand. The workers dug like gophers.  They filled up and hauled away dumpster after dumpster of dirt. 

men digging

men digging










dirt pile

dirt pile

Our house was shored up with a couple of 2x4s in the giant void of space above which we walked, we ate, we slept, we lived.  

excavation efforts

excavation efforts

I expressed my uncertainty of the strength and integrity of what looked like toothpicks holding up our house.  Just look at that photo, wouldn’t you?  But my husband convinced me they knew what they were doing.  If only someone had listened to me…

to be continued…