ASPEN HILL WINE & CHEESE SHOPPE, 13745 Connecticut Avenue, Wheaton. 460-3300.

BLYTHE VINEYARDS, Box 389, La Plata, Maryland 20646. 301/934-4047. Order equipment by mail or phone.

THE CELLAR, 10314 Main Street, Fairfax. 591-4668.

SIMPLEX OF USA, Box 12276, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412. 612/522-0500. Order by mail or phone.

WINE-CRAFT, 3707 Valley Hill Drive, Randalistown, Maryland 21133, 301/655-0529. Order by mail or phone.

WINE HOBBY, Box 396, Hagerstown 21740. 301/797-8070. Order by mail or phone.

WINE HOBBY SHOP, 36 Market Space Mall, Annapolis, 301/268-3317.

Deep iin a musty cellar below an old stone house on a grassy hillside, Treville Lawrence swirls wine in a glass goblet.

He holds it before a light, admiring its delicate golden glow, and then puts his nose to the glass and takes a hearty sniff.

Chateau de Lawrence, 1978. A vintage year.

Like most great vintners, Lawrence spends hours talking about the virtues of his Rieslings, Chardonnays and Pinots Noirs. His vineyard has 400 of the finest vines money can buy, and his private vintage rivals that of the great commercial European wineries.

But unlike most great vintners, Lawrence does not live in the rolling hills of France. He does not have a historic vineyard in the old country. And his winemaking craft is not something that's been passed down through several generations.

His huge stone home is just 40 miles west of Washington, near The Plains, and his vineyard is on a rocky Virginia hillside. And he and his family have been fermenting grapes for a mere 12 years.

But Lawrence makes a fine vintage: Cabernet Sauvignon. Gewurztraminer. And excellent French Bordeaux.

"The secret," says Lawrence, sipping a glass of Pinot Chardonnay, 1978, "is getting the right grapes.

"If you don't have good grapes, you can't make a good wine. We have the vinifera species. They're the best - the kind used in Europe."

Lawrence's vinifera vines - of which he has seven varieties - are among the first successfully grown in this country. And his home vineyard is a part of a growing hobby that he hopes will soon become widespread in this country as it has in Europe.

For just a few dollars and an hour or so a week, Lawrence says, anyone can make his own Zinfandel, Riesling or Gamay Beaujolais. And, he says, you can make a $10 bottle of wine for as little as 15 to 20 cents.

Lawrence and his family make about 600 to 800 bottles of wine a year. They have it for lunch, dinner and whenever friends drop by.

"Man has been drinking wine for thousands of years," says Lawrence, every inch the connoisseur as he sits next to a fireplace in his study wearing an embroidered shirt, tan slacks and black high-top shoes.

"Our ancestors have been drinking wine so long that it has become a part of our body chemistry. And according to doctors, it gives us certains that the body needs and allows you to digest food more efficiently."

Lawrence has been drinking wine ever since the State Department sent him to Europe, where he worked as a public-affairs officer.

"In Europe they serve good wines with every meal, and they aren't very expensive," says Lawrence, 64, who retired seven years ago.

"When we came back from our last assignment, after enjoying good low-cost wines abroad, we wished we had the same thing here. But imported wines are so expensive, and you simplt can't get the best wines from American wineries."

Lawrence was told that vinifera grapes could not be successfully grown in America. But he was desperate: Once you've had a good Pinot Noir, who wants Gallo Mountain Red?

Finally Lawrence heard about Konstantin Frank, in New York, who was experimenting with a new fungicide to allow vinifera grapes to grow on the continent. Lawrence bought 300 plants for $2.50 apiece from Frank and planted them on a rocky hillside next to his home. He also bought 100 French Hybrid vines, a lower-quality plant that had already proved successful.

That was 12 years ago. Today his vines produce close to 200 gallons of wine a year - the legal limit for a household of two or more adults. And his wine cellar, which he has added under his house, is loaded with bottles of his successes.

"When I started this," Lawrence says, looking out over his massive vineyard, "I didn't know anything except how to grow lettuce and tomatoes.

"But it isn't that hard.Anybody can do it. There's nothing complicated. Once the vines are up, it's very easy.

"And the vines are easy to grow. You can grow them almost anywhere just so there's room for their roots to grow deep and you spray them regularly. We have a longer growing season here than they do in Europe, so they actually grow better here. Every year is a vintage year."

Lawrence's vintage, which he makes in his cellar every September, whetted his taste so that in 1971 he decided to form a club, the Vinifera Wine Growers Association, and publish a magazine, the Vinifera Wine Growers Journal.

He now has 800 members around the country, about 75 of whom have vineyards in Virginia.

And August 25 he's putting on his fourth annual Wine Festival, which includes a grape-stomping contest, a tour of five home vineyards and a picnic with homemade wine samples.

In his spare time, Lawrence even put together a 192-page book called "Jefferson and Wine," about Thomas Jefferson's love for the gold nectar, his favorite wines, letters he wrote about wines and his tasting vocabulary.

T.J., says Lawrence, used the terms "strength," "flavor," "higher flavored," "weakness," "color," "dry," "pretty strong," and "light" to describe his wines. Bourdeaux wines had the best "flavor," but Jefferson found they were too difficult to transport back to the States.

Lawrence likes the "flavor" of almost all the wines he's made so far, and says that in his 12 years he's had only one bad batch. "That's because we left some soda in a bottle once, and the wine came out tasting like soda."

Lawrence pours himself a glass of Gewurztraminer. Chateau de Lawrence, 1978. He takes a sip and awishes it around in his mouth, admiring the flavor, body and aroma.

"Most people don't realise how easy this is," says Lawrence, taking another sip. "It's such a nice diversion. There are few things as rewarding as making your own wine."

Except drinking it.


If you're looking for a few vinifera vines for your backyard, Lawrence says his Vinifera Wine Growers Association can help you track them down.

The vines, which sell for about $2 to $2.50 each, usually take four years to mature and bear a full load of winemaking grapes.

The association also gives advice on caring for vines and making wine. For more information, write the association at Box 172, The Plains, Virginia 22171 or phone 709/754-8564.

If you don't have room to grow your own grapes, Lawrence also has information on various vineyards that have grapes for sale. The Blythe Vineyards in La Plata, Maryland, have 40 varieties including some viniferas for 30 cents a pound (pick your own). They're usually available through most of August, September and October.

An easier but more expensive method is to buy grape concentrates, available at most winemaking supply stores for $4 to $7 per gallon of wine. Wines made from concentrates, however, are generally of a slightly lower quality.

In addition to grapes you'll also need about $25 to $50 worth of equipment to get started, including a grape crusher, a large bucket for fermenting, a second container with an airlock, a siphon hose, corks, bottles and a corking machine.

The process takes about a year from start to finish, but little regular supervision of the fermenting and aging process is necessary.

Techniques vary depending on the type of grape and desired final product. Detailed instructions and recipes are available from several books and winemaking equipment-suppliers at the following shops: CAPTION: A SAMPLE OF RIPENING PINOT NOIR GRAPES, AND TREVILLE LAWRENCE SAMPLING LAST YEAR'S VINTAGE. By Margaret Thomas.