Duane Rieder is best known for his award-winning photography. But in the cellar of Engine House #25, in Lawrenceville, is another of Rieder's passions: wine.
"I'm no fucking homebrewer," Rieder says. Indeed, a visit into his cellar -- which houses scores of wine barrels -- makes it clear that "micro-vintner" would be a better description.
Rieder began winemaking on a much smaller scale, taking part in the Italian-American tradition of making table wine for household use. But he found the craft so satisfying that he's turned it into an artisanal operation.
Rieder honed his skills by talking to winemakers while doing commercial photo shoots in California. He imports grapes directly from California growers, presses them in a vintage wine press, and ages the brew in oak barrels, some of which come from Western Pennsylvania's Keystone Cooperage.
"We don't do anything the exact way any one of those [California] guys do it," Rieder says. "We kinda do it the way it works in this building."
The California winemakers are "impressed that we're making wine in Pittsburgh," Rieder says. Rieder's wines are indeed impressive. The Cabernet Sauvignon was a standout: Although it had been in the bottle for less than a year, it already possessed complex fruit flavors, and the tannins were not overwhelming. It's drinkable today, though it would also stand up to several years of aging. If nobody told you otherwise, you might think the wine came from Napa or Bordeaux.
Thanks to a "Limited Wineries" license granted by the state's Liquor Control Board, Rieder now sells his wines. (Would-be buyers can contact 412-621-2125 or www.eh25.com.) Already, his customers include some local movers and shakers; several private-reserve barrels are marked with uniform numbers worn by the city's elite athletes.
Rieder has larger aspirations still: "We're trying to figure out how to evolve this," he says. "Still keep it small, and have this feel to it, but make it just a little bit bigger."