The traditional methods: Crushing the grapes with Lenny B

Lenny ‘B’ Busciglio (photo by Dion Ogust)

In Nelson Shultis’s former lumber mill on Wittenberg Road, Lenny ‘B’ Busciglio is making wine, using the basic fermentation method that Shultis taught him when Busciglio was 13 years old. Known to locals as a purveyor of smoked fish and honey — also products he learned about from Shultis — Busciglio has recently started the Woodstock Winery, producing red wine in small batches, made without the addition of sulfites, sugar, or clarifiers.

“I’m always inventing things,” says Busciglio, “always coming up with new ideas,” from honeycomb art to special drumsticks for Levon Helm. Now he has applied his ingenuity to improving the process and product of winemaking.

“I can’t drink most red wine — I get heartburn because they make it more acid to prevent spoilage, which I’m not doing,” notes Busciglio. He also gets headaches from sulfites. He won’t reveal the process he invented to avoid adding sulfites, used almost universally as a preservative for wines — yet he says that even without sulfites and heightened acidity, his wines keep their flavor for weeks after opening.

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He feeds fermentation with honey instead of sugar, and he clarifies the wine by storing it at cold temperatures so he doesn’t have to add gelatin, an animal product used commercially. And he adds oxygen to the wine to speed the aging process. It also makes the product slightly bubbly and gives it what he describes as “a delightful, up, refreshing feeling.”

Local restaurants and liquor stores are beginning to purchase his wine, and he sells it at his Wittenberg Road shop and at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market in Woodstock.

In the yard behind Busciglio’s house is a piece of farm equipment — a potato planter that was once pulled by horses. He plans to hook it to a tractor and grow potatoes so he can make potato wine. He’s also begun to produce a white wine based on apples, with a slightly higher alcohol content than the apple cider Shultis taught him and his dad to make.

Four years ago, Busciglio bought the former lumber mill, located next door to his shop. The building where trees were once sliced into boards now contains vats of fermenting grapes, 55-gallon drums of wine, and a walk-in cooler that Busciglio built for $1500, using materials he gleaned here and there instead of going the traditional construction route, which would have cost, he figures, $10,000.

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