A New Winery Shares The Fruits of Labor

Dr. Frank D. Puzio poses proudly while his first batch of wine ages under the moniker First Crush Winery.

Sam Houghton - Dr. Frank D. Puzio poses proudly while his first batch of wine ages under the moniker First Crush Winery.

The inaugural Cape Cod Food & Wine Festival will take place on June 8 at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds; of the local wineries offering samples of their wines, one Cape-based winery is so new, it has yet to sell a bottle.

There are the Cape Cod Winery in Hatchville and Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod in Truro, both of which will be present at the festival, but a third winery on Cape Cod has recently opened and popped up on the radar of wine connoisseurs—First Crush Winery, an operation running out of Harwich with strong ties to the local community and boasting a swelling fan base. Now in its second year, First Crush is approaching its first batch of wine, just in time for the festival.

Frank D. Puzio, an optometrist for more than 30 years with offices in both Harwich and Dennis, is the originator of First Crush, a man whose family lineage has been rooted in making wines: his uncle and grandfather were both basement winemakers and his mother, he said, was known to crush grapes with her feet to make her own.

An Inaugural Tasting

Cape Cod Food & Wine Festival kicks off June 8 at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds | Route 151 | East Falmouth

Two tasting periods throughout the day take place from noon to 4 PM and 5 to 9 PM and allow guests to taste over 50 local (including First Crush), regional and international wines | Food trucks from 25 local vendors will be in attendance offering samples | Tickets are $65 in advance and $80 on-site | To purchase, visit capecodfoodwine.com



But what had started as an at-home operation, and not a small one at that, First Crush has grown with friends’ friends continuously asking for Dr. Puzio’s wine to the point that, nearing retirement and while one of his sons has started working in his optometry practice, Dr. Puzio has put more time into his wine and has taken it to a new level.

His new industrial space in Harwich, purchased in April of last year, has been outfitted with sizable stainless steel wine tanks, big crushing and juicing machines, wooden oak barrels, a cooling room, humidity controls, and other components. It is a workspace—while still humble in the light of commercial winemaking—with big ambitions. And while the start-up costs and the seemingly tireless work that has been done to get the operation off the ground may seem daunting, Dr. Puzio stresses he is not alone.

First Crush, he said, works similar to the way a farm would work with a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. The difference, though, is that while a CSA will drop off its produce with little explanation or hindsight into the farming process, First Crush allows for full, hands-on involvement. Supporters, who range from family members to newly acquired friends, help in every aspect of the winemaking procedure, from unloading and juicing grapes to the ever-so-important process of cleaning. The group will gather quarterly for social hours to sip various wines or to hear a lesson on, for instance, bottling or any other component in the winemaking arena, hear from guest speakers, or listen to music. A big event is when the grapes first arrive and members gather to juice them. It is a messy day, the winemaker said, but a fun one.

There are over 200 members who will meet for these various occasions. Membership requires a minimum of reserving two cases of wine at what starts at $180 per case and decreases depending on amounts reserved. Members can reserve a full oak barrel if they wish.

The grapes used for First Crush wines come from the Suison Valley in California, which borders on the esteemed Napa Valley. Dr. Puzio explains that at a greatly reduced price, he receives basically the same quality of grape as those grown in Napa country. He is opposed to growing his own because of the time restraint. He can use better grapes from California without the exhaustive farming process. For his Three Sip Cran and the Cran Blanc wines, dry-picked Cape Cod cranberries from Harwich are used.

Both of these varieties will be available for the tasting. Other First Crush wines will be the Fusion, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec; Viszinary [sic], a combination of Primitivo Zinfandel and Petite Sarah; and the Star Spangled, a Sauvignon Blanc. To become a First Crush member, visit firstcrushwinery.com or call 508-737-6867 and speak with Frank Puzio.  


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