On the job.
Winemaker, Nashoba Valley Winery, 100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton
Resident of: Fitchburg
Born in: Weymouth
Time in job: 2 years
Describe your job.
"I help pick the grapes, I process the fruit to turn it into alcohol, filter, and package the wines."
Making wines sounds like a fun job. What's the hard part?
"The hard part is healthy fermentation. It's about management, it's constant monitoring of the fruits. You can actually see the fermentation happening. I do lab tests every day. If the yeast is happy and healthy, that's the skill part."
How did you get into this line of work?
"My background was a home brewer. I make wines and beer at home, mostly as a hobby. I apprenticed my way in. My wife stumbled across an ad on Craigslist for a winemaker's assistant at Nashoba. I had been in the masonry business before the economy took a downturn and had been keeping my options open. I decided to jump on it. It was a huge risk (to change careers), but I'm so happy I did."
How did you learn the new trade?
"I started off scrubbing tanks and worked my way up. The production crew here is basically the winemaker and assistant. I eventually learned by doing."
Do you have an excellent sense of taste and smell?
"I do. It is super important. It is something you can learn, though. In the beginning, I could taste something and know I didn't like it, but I didn't know why."
How much wine does Nashoba produce in a year?
"It depends; every year is different. I'm going to have bottled roughly 8,000 cases of wine since March. It's fair to say, it will be about 10,000 cases this year."
What are the most popular wines at Nashoba Valley Winery?
"Cranberry-apple and strawberry-rhubarb, by far."
How did you learn to make those wines?
"I'm working off of recipes for those. The grape wines are a different animal. We grow Lemberger, St. Croix, chardonnay, vignoles and cabernet franc grapes here. Winemaking for grapes is constantly changing, depending on the grapes."
What are your hours?
"Sunup to sundown, but it will ease down in the winter. It's never 9 to 5."
Since being a winemaker was not your first trade, what do you think of it after the first couple of years?
"I've fallen in love with winemaking. You absolutely have to. On its best day, it's frustrating. But it is different every single day."
What is the best part of being a winemaker?
"Getting paid to do what I did as a hobby for a long time. It can't get much better than that."
The worst part of the job?
"The worst part of the job is really the mess. Processing 20,000 pounds of pears is two hours of cleaning."
Do you still make wine at home?
"Yes. The last one I made is onion wine, which is mostly for cooking. That's what we're giving out for Christmas this year. My wife will do a gift basket. She did a pineapple wine and we'll probably give one of each."
Compiled by reporter Linda Bock
CUTLINE: K.C. Kelly, winemaker for Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, stands in the tank room. The graduated cylinder full of white wine early in the fermentation process contains a hydrometer to measure the density of the liquid and thus its sugar content.
PHOTOG: JOHN FERRARONE