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Wine by design: Making your own vino

In the final stage of the 11-month process

In the final stage of the 11-month process of winemaking at Hicksville's wineUdesign, customers wash and sanitize their bottles, which must dry on a bottle tree before being filled with wine. (Sept. 22, 2011) Credit: Nancy Borowick

Franco Zitoli is busily opening boxes of green wine bottles to be washed, filled and corked. Nearly a year after Zitoli, his family and friends gathered at wineUdesign, a winemaking facility that opened last year in Hicksville, the men have returned "to get rewarded for all of the hard work that we did," he says. The reward? Their own cases of vino.

And the work -- creating no-fuss wine from start (picking out the grapes) to finish (designing bottle labels) at wineUdesign -- is a far cry from harvesting and stomping grapes at his grandfather's vineyard back in Puglia, Italy.

"It's just a fun project, something to do after work," says Zitoli, 61, of Massapequa. "It brings back memories."

That's "fermentertainment," says wineUdesign owners Vincenzo Saulle and Gianni Fabrizi, who say their facility is the only of its kind in Long Island.

"We don't want people just thinking that they're coming in here to just make wine," says Fabrizi. "It's about enjoying yourself, come out with your friends. . . . You're learning something new, that maybe you didn't know before, and at the end you walk away with wine that you made."

How it works

Winemaking takes 11 months start to finish. Patrons can only order grapes twice a year: in October for varieties grown in Northern Hemisphere locales such as California, Italy and France; and in May for grapes harvested from the likes of Chile, Australia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere.

To figure out their preferences, customers begin by sampling from 25 varietals, from merlo