Wine making at Aldabella –Heard It On The Grapevine–What’s up, What’s hot, Ventura County’s Local Wineries


From Grapes to Wine…A lot of work and a lot of time for wine lovers at Aldabella

By Raven West

Wine makers, Gregg, Madeline, Rich and Jennifer

Wine makers, Gregg, Madeline, Rich and Jennifer

As anyone in the wine making business knows, crushing grapes to make wine has come a very long way from Lucille Ball’s hilarious grape stomping scene, and for wine enthusiasts, processing their precious grapes is no laughing matter.

Just ask Jennifer and Rich Swank and Madeline and Gregg Smith who brought 1,150 pounds of grapes from Paso Robles and Lodi to Aldabella Custom Crush Winery and Storage in Westlake Village, where they will be transformed, over the next two years, into their signature wine.

“Gregg left Thousand Oaks at five this morning to pick the grapes from the vineyard in Paso,” Jennifer said. “And he made it back here to meet with Norm at four this afternoon where we’ll start to process them into our wine.”’

Having produced their wine for their own consumption, the Swanks and the Smiths decided it was time to go commercial. They’ve all been wine enthusiasts for a number of years and are members of The Cellarmasters Home Wine Club of Los Angeles.

“The club was founded in 1973,” Jennifer explained. “It’s primarily an organization of home winemakers and wine enthusiasts who are dedicated to promoting the culture and hobby of amateur wine making. Our wines were so good, we wanted to share them with more people, so here we are.”

Watching the process from the beginning is quite extraordinary. Everything is hands-on. Ardabella’s wine maker Norm Stafford drove the forklift that transported the container of grapes from the customer’s truck into the winery. Once the container was positioned properly, he washed each part of the equipment and then manually moved each part into place, ready to process the just picked fruit.

The grapes were deposited into mechanical stemmer and flow out onto the vibrating sorting table where Jennifer, Madeline, Gregg and Rich painstakingly sort the grapes by hand. Every aspect of the wine making process is carefully overseen by the staff at Aldabella and the owners of the grapes. Every month or so, the wine will be sampled by the wine makers until its perfect.

Although the process was fairly quick, the wait for the final product will be the hardest part. And at Ardabella no one had to remove their shoes!

The Wine Making Process:






































Raven West

Raven West


Named in the TOP 50 Authors by

Raven West is a free-lance writer and published author who has lived in Ventura County for more than twenty years. She has an extensive knowledge of local wineries from Thousand Oaks to Ojai and will be covering special events which take place at the tasting rooms throughout the year.


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