MOUNT CARMEL - A Mount Carmel businessman is hoping to revitalize the tradition of homemade winemaking in the area by providing necessary tools for the process and giving an inside track on the tricks of the trade.

Art Catino, owner of Catino's Italian Specialities, Mount Carmel, recently expanded his business with the creation of Catino Vino, which will supply wine kits that will turn even a novice vino enthusiast into a creator of delicious homemade wine.

It's something, according to Catino, that had been done for many years in the area, back when the railroads ran into town.

"Back in the day, most area winemakers would go to their local produce market and ask about grapes which, at the time, came in by railroad car to the area," Catino said. "After the railroad stopped running, the grapes were tougher to get."

Soon, wineries in California figured out it would be easier for them to press and strain the juice themselves and ship it in six-gallon buckets across the country rather than ship the actual grapes. Catino realized this and began making plans for the wine business.

"In my wife's family, there are some great wine makers who taught me and now I want to share that knowledge with everyone," Catino said. "It's something that anyone can do with a minimal amount of equipment."

Currently, Catino Vino has over 30 varieties of California grape juice available for wine making. In October, juice from Italy will be available, in both red and white varieties. The price for the juice ranges from $50 to $60, but each bucket will yield between 28 to 30 750-mL bottles of wine.

The process is simple, Catino says, the juice is brought up to room temperature and placed in a six-gallon glass bottle, called a carboy, or a 14-gallon demijohn vessel, with a packet of yeast added to help with fermentation. Fermentation is the process that converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol. After a period of time, the wine is siphoned into another carboy and "racked," or put on their sides, to eliminate any impurities.

"There is so much you can do with wine, there are some people that add oak, to give it the flavor of being aged in oak barrels rather than the glass jugs," Catino said.

After about three to six months, the wine is ready to be bottled and corked.

So why California grapes and not local varieties like those used by local wineries?

"The Pennsylvania grapes are good, but there is something in the soil in California that isn't in Pennsylvania," Catino said. "California juice has more natural sugar than Pennsylvania juice does, they will start to ferment by themselves."

While Catino says that most wines are dry, there are those, "the 10-percenters" as Catino calls them, that prefer a fruitier wine. Catino Vino has them covered with the availability of Island Mist wine kits, in flavors like Strawberry White Zinfindel and Raspberry Pomegranate.

"These kits use a concentrated juice that already has the yeast in it, so that wine can be ready in about four weeks," the owner said. "The kits are basically fool proof."

For those that aren't sure about what kind of wine they would like to make, Catino offers tastings from his personal wine cellar.

"Right now, I'm getting ready for the Bloomsburg Fair, but after that, I hope to have a wine-making class here, where a customer will purchase a wine kit then come down to the cellar where I will explain how to make the wine. Once they see how easy it is, they could advance their skills by buying a barrel of juice to make a full-bodied wine," Catino said.

Catino Vino is also promoting his new business venture with his sponsorship of the Kulpmont Knights of Columbus Wine Festival, set for Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Holy Angels Picnic Grounds. Catino's business will be there along with about a dozen area wineries, including Benigna's Creek, Eagle Rock, Shade Mountain, Spyglass Ridge, and more. The event will include refreshments outside of wine, food and live entertainment.

Catino hopes the wine festival atmosphere will inspire some to take a crack at making their own batch.

"Someone with a minimal amount of equipment and the knowledge can make their own wine for about $2 a bottle and they know what is being put into it," Catino said. "You see wine on the shelves with sulfates in them and some people are allergic to them. When you make your own wine, you know what you are getting and putting into it."

More information can be found at his website, www.catinos.com.