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Microwinery Takes Root In Basement

Winemakers David Gaetani, David Camden and Jay DeCianno add grapes to the crusher-destemmer as DeCianno's daughter Gina wheels in more.
Winemakers David Gaetani, David Camden and Jay DeCianno add grapes to the crusher-destemmer as DeCianno's daughter Gina wheels in more. (Photos By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Val Cavalheri
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, September 20, 2007

When Jay DeCianno takes you on a tour of his winery, you'll first have to pass through his living room, say hello to his wife and daughters and probably pet the dog.

But when you reach the basement, the signs of serious winemaking are hard to miss: steel tanks, crushers, ultramodern bottling equipment and ruby red bottles of aging wine. It's almost enough to make you forget that this is South Riding, about as far away as you can get from rolling hills of sun-kissed vines.

DeCianno's basement houses what's known in the trade as an urban microwinery. Instead of growing their own grapes, these wineries truck in grapes from other regions to produce handcrafted wines in limited quantities.

Quattro Goombas Winery, the company launched by DeCianno and his two business partners, celebrated the commercial release of its first wines with a tasting Sunday at a local store. It was not only a milestone for their business but the fulfillment of a plan that had aged slowly over many relaxed dinner-table conversations.

They met almost by accident. DeCianno, 48, David Camden, 44, and David Gaetani, 50, each had a daughter on a local swim team. The three men discovered that they shared an Italian background, and friendly talks soon led to big dinners among their families.

Things might have simply continued in that vein if Gaetani hadn't decided one day to bring a bottle of wine that his brother-in-law had made. As the three talked about how the wine could have been improved, they realized they had more in common than their Italian heritage. They also shared a family tradition of winemaking.

DeCianno's and Gaetani's grandfathers had made wine in Italy. Camden said he, too, had winemaking in his blood, although the ingredients in his father's wine were Virginia berries rather than Italian grapes.

That conversation in summer 2005 led them to consider making some wine "just for family and friends." DeCianno volunteered his basement, and after comparing their winemaking notes and taking on another friend, Brian Girardi, they spent a few hundred dollars apiece to buy some kegs and enough grapes to make 40 gallons.

Their dinners continued, but now each one was scheduled around that week's winemaking.

One evening, after a tasting revealed they were on to something really good, Camden gave birth to their name. "This is great. This is us -- the Quattro Goombas!" he said, coming up with a phrase that is Italian slang for "four friends."

Before long, they noticed that their wine was starting to get rave reviews from people outside their immediate families. "They told us, 'You should think about doing this seriously,' and we started to think about doing it seriously," DeCianno said.

He made an unrelated business trip to the West Coast in late 2005. While he was there, he read a story about some urban microwineries and visited them. When he returned, DeCianno introduced the concept to his associates as "something we can do here in Virginia."


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