Star Grocery owner Pasquale Amantea (right) and longtime customer Angelo Pellizzari welcomed a load of California grapes and juice this week at the store’s location in the Gulch.

Star Grocery owner Pasquale Amantea (right) and longtime customer Angelo Pellizzari welcomed a load of California grapes and juice this week at the store’s location in the Gulch.

Grapes abound in the Gulch

Wait no longer; Pasquale Amantea of Star Grocery says the grapes are in.

If you love wine, you’ve probably been waiting for the annual grape sale at the Star Grocery.

Wait no longer; Pasquale Amantea says the grapes are in.

The shop-owner of Star Grocery began stacking up an order of grapes on Tuesday for longtime customers such as Angelo Pellizzari, reminiscing about the annual grape sale that has become something of an institution in the community.

The ongoing sale brings hundreds of pounds of Californian grapes into the waiting kitchens and caskets for connoisseurs and vintners of the Italian infused Gulch area.

Not only is Pellizarri a dedicated customer and friend of over 40 years, he is as nostalgic and passionate about the sale as Amantea describes it.

His eyes softened after hearing Amantea discussing the next shipment of grapes due for arrival, and remembered the countless hours he spent helping Amantea unload grape shipments.

“That was before they had machines,” Pellizarri added with a chuckle. “Now they have forklifts and don’t need any help.”

A chilled warehouse a few yards down from Star Grocery is filled to the brim with viticulture gadgets and supplies for the popular event.

Several glass carboys are propped up against the walls, and boxes of Californian grapes are stacked up in the cooler in groups of 10, while several pails of juice are strategically placed on the opposite side of the overgrown refrigerator.

Although Amantea added that grape sales have steadily been declining, largely due to the aging demographic he caters to, many customers are opting to make wine from juice instead of grapes.

“It’s easier with juice because all you need are glass carboys, or demi-john’s, and that’s it,” he said.  “When you make it from grapes, you have to have the crusher, the destemmer and the press—it takes up a lot of room but the end result is much better with grapes, of course, you get a much heavier, full bodied wine.”

Amantea concludes that it’s an easy job to unload grape shipments now, and thanks to developments in technology, it only takes about an hour to complete (instead of five).

Customers are required to place orders in advance, and then pick them up upon their arrival.

“The sale started (last) weekend, on the 22nd, and the grape (sales) will probably go on for another two weeks,” Amantea said. “And after that we do more of the wine juices until mid-October or late-October, and sometimes it even goes into November.”

But when asked what his favourite part of wine season was, he smiled impishly and replied, “when it’s all over with and I can make my own wine and I’ve got time to relax and enjoy it.”

Normally Star Grocery is only open from Tuesday until Saturday, but during wine season it’s open during Sundays and Mondays too, with varying hours each day.

Call 250-364-1824 to place an order or stop in the Gulch at 328 Rossland Ave. to pick up grapes this weekend.

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