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Vineyard teaches how to make wine, not like ‘Lucy,’ in Peconic

Tucked in just off Route 107 in Hicksville

Tucked in just off Route 107 in Hicksville is an quirky winery called Wine-u-design that lets you do just that! Group of friends or family are invited to come in and make their own barrel of wine based on their choices of grapes, length of fermentation, tannin, oak, all the way down to customizing the labels you put on your final product. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

Learning to make wine has become a passion — and an annual tradition — for John and Theresa Arini of East Setauket.

For the past five years, John, 58, and Theresa, 56, have signed up for the Vine to Wine program at Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard in Peconic, usually joining four to eight other wine lovers. On a half-dozen trips to the winery throughout the year, with winemaker Anthony Sannino as their guide, they help pick, bundle, press, bottle, and, of course, taste copious amounts of the fruit of the vine.

“You’re making your own wine with the help of a professional winemaker, who teaches about the regions where the wines come from and what makes them have different flavors,” John Arini says.

“They don’t work us too hard,” Arini says, adding, “just enough to learn and be involved in the product.” Besides a viticulture education, members take home cases of the reds, whites and rosés they’ve had a hand in producing. Arini estimates that each bottle costs $10 to $15 compared to the $20 to $40 he would pay at the wine store.

Ready for total immersion, wine country-style? Here are three different winemaking programs that stock your wine racks with the results of your toils.


Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, 1375 Peconic Lane, Peconic

BEGINS October

INFO 631-734-8282,

DETAILS The program functions as a co-op. Membership costs $5,000 per barrel, which produces 275 bottles of wine, or $3,000 for a half share, which yields 138 bottles.

Anthony and Lisa Sannino’s program is perhaps best known for its harvest festival “I Love Lucy” contest, recreating Lucille Ball’s famous grape-stomping scene, but in general “there’s no glitz and glamour,” Lisa says.

“You’re actually in a vineyard and a winemaking facility, learning about viticulture, maintaining the vines and winter pruning.” She adds, “they also learn about blending wines.” The vintage fun includes a Pizza and Pruning Party with homemade pies, and a wine-blending class with Anthony Sannino. When it’s over, you’ll take home enough red for a bacchanal.


156 Engineers Dr., Hicksville


INFO 516-939-9463,

DETAILS $275 for two people to make 12 bottles of wine with custom labels. A private barrel, which costs $3,450-$10,000, yields 240 bottles and can be shared by up to 10 people.

Although WineUdesign is located in Nassau County, it offers all you need to make wine, except an adjacent vineyard. Instead, grapes are imported from around the world. The upcoming session is using fruit imported from Chile, says Vincenzo Saulle, the self-taught winemaker.

Customers choose the blend of grapes they want to turn into wine, and visit four times in 11 months. They process grapes through crushing machines, press the fermented young wine and transfer it to a barrel for aging. At midseason, the wine is tasted “to ensure it is progressing in a direction that is suitable to their taste,” Saulle says. The last session is devoted to sanitizing, filling and corking bottles.


WHEN July 11-14 this year; May 4-7 and July 10-13, 2017

INFO 631-495-9744,

DETAILS $1,299/person includes three nights lodging for two, tastings, transportation during wine camp, meals and a case of wine (rates available for single students).

Campers visit up to nine wineries, learning to taste wine like a connoisseur, working with vineyard owners and winemakers, and learning the process in wine cellars and vineyards.

“It’s a hands-on experience about the North Fork and what we do out here,” says Darolyn Augusta, program manager.

This year is the program’s 10th anniversary, and, with 750 alumni, the camp tends to fill up fast.

“Most of the wine camps book a year in advance,” Augusta says. At press time, a few spaces were open for this summer’s edition.

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