Statewide honors for Fresno winemaker

FRESNO, Calif.

It was produced by amateur winemaker David Carlson. Carlson wanted to prove a quality homemade wine could be produced in Fresno, a long way from the wine country.

A decade ago he started growing his own grapes and crushing his own wine.

Ribbons hang proudly in Carlson's cooled wine room in Old Fig Garden. But a Petite Sirah stood out among 12-hundred wines at Cal Expo and won a double gold medal.

Carlson recalled comments made by a commercial winemaker serving as a judge. "Not only do I like your wine, I would buy your wine so that to me shows that obviously I did something right."

The award-winning wine is called "3 Pairs" for a reason. Carlson explained, "It's taken me three pairs of boots working in my vineyard to actually get to a point where I could produce grapes good enough to create that wine."

Carlson's humble vineyard covers just a third of an acre in his backyard. He grows five varieties including zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.

Carlson uses netting to keep the birds away and shade to protect his crop from the intense sun. "My problem here is getting the grapes ripe without burning them to a crisp or turning them into raisins."

Over the last decade Carlson has learned how to become a winemaker. He uses a refractometer to test his grapes' sweetness. "Typically for us you want to have the grape between 23-and-25 percent sugar."

During harvest he invites friends over for dinner and puts them to work. "Give them a clipper and a bucket. Send them to a row and say, go for it."

Of course they're rewarded with wine for their hard work. Carlson crushes the grapes at home and has about 300 gallons of wine stored in oak barrels.

One of his goals was to produce a wine as good as those he buys at the store. "Actually I would say some of them are better. No question about it."

David Carlson's ultimate goal is to turn his backyard hobby into a business venture. He enjoys what he does in his spare time so much he wants to be a commercial winemaker.

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