, Salem, MA


July 25, 2012

Through the grapevine


Selling isn’t easy, either. Shipping alcohol involves complex state and federal regulations.

“We sell a lot of our stuff locally,” she says.

Richard Adelman of 300-year-old Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield has that in mind as he celebrates a new state law allowing wineries to sell their products at farmers markets.

“People have been really happy to have us there,” he says.

On what was once a farm stretching for hundreds of acres, he raises grapes on only 10 acres, producing 1,000 cases of wine, 12 bottles to a case, each year.

Working with his brother Dave and sister Judy, along with lots of volunteers, he first planted grapes in 1995. He isn’t growing rich, however. Adelman’s primary job is teaching sociology and economics at North Shore Community College.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says of the winery. “A huge amount of work. We start at the end of March. We start pruning.”

Some grapes have to be cut away so the rest will thrive. Which to abandon is one among dozens of difficult decision that farmers must make each season, Adelman explains. “You try to get the grapes to grow the way you want them to grow.”

He also produces fruit wines — strawberry, blueberry, cranberry — all becoming increasingly popular. “Cold, hardy grapes,” designed to be as tough as the people who live here, go into his regular wines, which are created in a traditional wood press.

Despite his passion for wine-making, Adelman admits he’s not a big drinker. The fun for him is the process and the people.

“I like the people part of it,” he says.

That’s a contrast to a lot of winemakers who were drawn by their affection for the product. But Adelman laughs that he was warned early on, “If you like it too much, it could be a problem.”

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