INDEPENDENCE, La (WGNO)– More than 1,200 wineries in California produce 90 percent of the wine in the country. Technically any fruit can be made into wine.

Miles away from the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma is a place that uses Louisiana strawberries to make one of the most unique wines around. Since 1994, Amato’s winery has made fruit wine in Louisiana.

Henry Amato is the owner and says, “I never remember not making wine. In this area, we always had strawberries and at the end of the year we had wine.”

Amato’s Winery is a family business that makes all types of fruit wine throughout the year, from peach, cranberry, muscadine, orange, and blackberry. They also have a vineyard of Louisiana muscadine grapes. However, one of the most popular wines they make is strawberry wine.

They collect strawberries from farmers throughout the state. Twelve pounds of berries produce one gallon of wine. During the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, there a lot of bottles go home with the visitors.

“It’s probably going to be about eight to nine hundred cases of wine in Ponchatoula for the Strawberry Festival,” says Henry Amato.

The process of making strawberry wine varies slightly when compared to making traditional grape wine. Strawberries are put into large holding containers and mashed and held to ferment. The skin contact with the fruit releases the tannins, similar to the way red wine is made.

Wooden paddles are used to check the color, as yeast and sugar go into the mash. After a few days, the color and sweetness is telling that it is ready to be strained, bottled, and aged for about a year and a half.

Henry Amato says one of his favorite times of the year is in April and he hopes to continue and inspire future winemakers for generations to come. Head over to the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, Rouses, and other local vendors to try some Amato’s wine.

You can catch the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, sponsored by WGNO on Friday, April 14 beginning at 12 p.m. The event runs through Sunday.

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