For Charles and Ursula Massoud, owners of Paumanok Vineyard, in Long Island, N.Y., the big moment had arrived.
For years, conventional wisdom held that the best American wines came from California. But now every state has its local wineries. There are more than 20 in Long Island alone, coming on strong after a winemaking history of only three decades.
On a recent visit, Charles Massoud showed CBS News Sunday Morning Contributors John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal, how a small vineyard makes award-winning wines.
"You know, wine making is actually a farming activity," Charles says. "You know, because winemaking is about growing high quality fruit. The riper the fruit, the better the wine. And, if you have very ripe fruit, leave it alone. It's going to turn into wine. Your job is not to make mistakes."
The winemaker says he take his cue from the weather to tell a good vintage wine.
"If you have that kind of summer that is warm and sunny, the latter part being dry, typically your fruit is going to be clean and ripe as it can be," Charles explains. "The quality of the vintage is as good as the quality of the grapes from which you're going to be making the wine."
So, the riper the fruit, the better the vintage is going to be – making Mother Nature an important part of making good wine.
During the six-month growing season, the vines can grow more than an inch a day. And then, it's tasting, testing and timing.
The grape is right to pick when it leaches color rather easily. The grape's sweetness is also observed. If the aroma and the flavor are important to a wine, those elements are observed, too.
This season, the Massouds have grown eight varieties of grapes. They will bottle 15 different kinds of wine.
"The differences, really, between the wines start [at the cabernet sauvignon]," Charles says. "The Merlot is soft and fruity. The Cab is rich and thick. So, a great vintage is really liquid sunshine. That, I think is the best way to describe a great vintage."
While they still pick a few grapes by hand, a mechanical harvester picks most, insuring that they are all processed at their freshest.
Work on the vineyard is a family affair, and all three of the Massoud's sons share the workload. A ton of grapes yields about 170 gallons of juice. Each acre of grapes yields about 135 cases of wine, but that's only if all goes well.
The Massouds' bottles say "estate bottled," which means they grow their own grapes, make their own wine and bottle it on the premises.
But, the wine business is still risky.
"We have to assume that one year we're not going to be able to harvest," Charles explains. "We have to know that we can survive one season where we have no income. At the same time, weather is our best partner."
Tasting a good wine is like savoring the essence of autumn. And all over America, winemakers are drinking a toast to Mother Nature.
John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter's wine recommendations:
Under $20: Napa Ridge, Clos du Bois, Erath, David Bruce and Echelon.
Over $20: Look for Miner, Morgan, Archery Summit, Sterling, Acacia, Au Bon Climat, Beringer "Stanly Ranch" and Cambria.