Participation is encouraged at Water 2 Wine, a retail winery with two Central Austin locations.
All 80-plus wines sold at Water2Wine are made in-house, and customers can also make their own, said owner Chris Flynn, who operates the Water 2 Wine headquarters on West Anderson Lane.
Flynn’s location celebrates its 10-year anniversary in October, but the Water 2 Wine concept started in 2003 in San Antonio. Prior to that, Flynn said there are very few, if any, examples nationally of a winery that gives customers a hands-on winemaking experience outside of a vineyard.
“We try to make it fun for the customer,” said Flynn, who took over ownership in 2013. The South Lamar Boulevard location also added a new owner, Letishia Finley, in May.
Customers receive five free wine tastings per visit to better learn their tastes. Before Flynn became the store’s owner, he worked with Manager Jenny Westhoff, who was hired shortly after the North Austin store opened, to bottle his first batch of wine. A batch makes 28 to 30 bottles and typically takes up to two months.
“We were all customers before being employees,” Westhoff said.
She said she became interested in Water 2 Wine after learning its wine has less sulfites and histamines, which often cause headaches and congestion.
The hands-on approach at Water 2 Wine helps make wine less daunting, she said. The store also hosts classes and private parties for its monthly wine club members to help make wine more approachable, Westhoff said.
How to make wine without the vineyard
Step 1—Water 2 Wine uses reverse osmosis-filtered water to ensure the purest water in each wine bottle, which are all made in-house. Owner Chris Flynn buys grape juice concentrate—usually called “must”—from 13 countries to produce the 80-plus varieties of wine he sells.
Step 2—All wine ingredients, including the must and yeast, are poured into a 6-gallon fermentor where the batch stays for the next 25 days. The fermentor allows carbon dioxide to escape without letting any air inside the container. Oak chips are sometimes added to replicate the taste of the wine being stored in a wooden barrel for one year, Manager Jenny Westhoff said.
Step 3—Fermentation takes one to two weeks to complete. Next, the batch is siphoned into a secondary fermentor to remove deposits of dead yeast called “lees.” Enough yeast remains in the must to continue fermenting the batch for another week or two. The entire process takes about three weeks, Westhoff said.
Step 4—The wine is next stabilized, or de-gassed, to remove any remaining carbon dioxide. If not properly stabilized, the batch risks holding too much pressure to be bottled later in the process. Some preservatives and fining agents are also added during this step to clarify the wine, Flynn said.
Step 5—The last steps help further ensure the wine looks as clear as possible. A three-week process called “racking” helps siphon more lees out of the wine batch, and the wine is next filtered before being bottled, which customers can do on-site. Flynn recommends customers make a party out of the bottling process.