Tom Messier turned his Mesa home into a winery.

Four-foot-tall metal buckets line his living room. A humidifier and two wooden barrels, covered by a plastic sheet, occupy a corner of his kitchen. Stacks of red, white and fruit wines in glass jugs decorate his spare room.

Messier belongs to AZ WineMakers, a community of Arizona at-home winemakers who enjoy making wine and creating custom blends. He hopes to someday turn his hobby into a business.

“I think there’s over 100 members, and we get together and talk about wine, we drink some wine, and compare notes,” Messier said.

Arizona’s wine industry attracts in-state and out-of-state tourists, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Arizona Office of Tourism. Its economic impact was nearly $57 million in 2017.

Messier and his wife, Teresa, have been making wine at home for six years and plan to parlay that operation into a full-time winery.

Their favorite part of the winemaking process is experimenting with flavors and fruits, including orange spice and banana.

“It’s an adventure, trying to figure it out how to make this better, or how to make it at all,” Tom Messier said.

Louis Maconi, another hobbyist member of AZ WineMakers, makes wine in his Chandler apartment.

As a child, he helped his grandfather make wine in the basement.

While on a cruise seven years ago, Maconi was enthralled at a day trip that took him into a cellar filled with barrels of wine.

“The smell is what got me,’ Maconi said. “It reminded me of my basement growing up, and at that time I thought, ‘I have to be more involved with this somehow.’”

Maconi ferments wine at home at least 28 days a month. The fermenting process can take from one month to several months.

“I like the romance of it,” he said. “I think it’s fun and I think it’s a part of me that I can share with my friends and my loved ones.” Wine hobbyists are not allowed to sell their products.

Unlike Messier, Maconi is happy to keep his hobby just a fun endeavor.

Messier is coordinating awards for an Arizona Emerging Winemakers contest – open only to non-commercial winemakers – in April at Yavapai College in Prescott.


Story by LINDSAY ROBERTS, Cronkite News