Sweet memories

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Parents and children from the Spangdahlem Homeschooling Group recently conducted a field trip to a local Mosel winery in Osann-Monzel where they helped the vintner and learned how to make apple cider.

About 20 children from the Spangdahlem Homeschooling Group attended the trip to the Sailer-Cipolla winery, helped collect apples and learned how to make apple juice. On a previous trip to the winery, the group learned how to pick grapes and how grape juice is made.

When the children first arrived, they could find hundreds of apples - green and red - piled up in front of them. The youngest child visiting was four months old and the oldest was 18. With a little help from their parents, some children collected the apples one by one into buckets that were handed to the vintner on the back of a trailer.

The vintner then poured the apples into a wooden mill, or masher, that grinds the fruit before it goes into a press.

Tristan Burtcher, a homeschooling child, enjoyed helping the vintner and learning the different steps of making apple cider.

"It's a long process to do all the apples," Tristan said, as he moved the apple mash evenly onto the bottom of the trailer with a pitchfork.

He and his school -mates were able to watch vintner Cipolla transfer the mash with a large hose from the trailer into the press that crushed all the juice out of it. Finally the vintner determined the amount of sugar in the juice, which is measured in "Oechsle," and he seemed content.

"Today we made about one ton of apples, which makes about 450 liters of apple cider" Cipolla explained. "The kids shoveled them all and put them into buckets."

The vintner explained that this year has been an exceptional year for juice, but there weren't that many apples. "Anything that has a pit in the middle, such as peaches, pears, cherries and plums was fantastic this year," he said.

"It is educational for the children to see the different steps of making apple cider," the vintner said.

"I learned lots of stuff today," Kaylynn Burtcher, said. "I learned how the apples turn brown because of oxidizing."

The children and their parents tasted the apple cider they helped produce during the visit.

"Apples are my second favorite fruit and the cider tastes very delicious and natural," Kaylynn expressed.

Brother Tristan was also happy with the final product he helped make. "The apple cider is very, very good," he said proudly.

From the juice that is not used, vintners typically make apple wine that is locally known as "Viez". The sweet apple cider is stored in giant barrels in a wine cellar until it ferments, according to the vintner. "Viez" is a traditional alcoholic beverage, predominantly consumed in the Mosel and Eifel areas, he said.

"If we take the mash that is left over and we let it ferment again, it becomes Schnaps" vintner Cipolla explained.

The Spangdahlem Homeschooling Group field trip ended with a 20-minute tractor ride through the vintner's fruit gardens, passing by apple trees and free-running geese and chicken. The children expressed the fun they had with their friends and families at the winery.

According to Sheri Leseberg, homeschooling mother of four children, the trip to the local winery has been a great experience and a good opportunity for the homeschooling children to get out and see something new.

"The Spangdahlem Homeschooling group regularly conducts field trips, such as a visit to the butterfly gardens in Grevenmacher and a visit to the Luxembourg Caves," she said.

Groups, like the Spangdahlem Homeschooling Group, are always welcome at the Sailer-Cipolla winery.

"For me it is always fun when the children visit us at the winery and if I can teach them interesting things about my job as a vintner," Cipolla expressed with a smile. "Visitors, like the Spangdahlem Homeschooling Group children, are always welcome." he said.

The experience of helping a local vintner with his duties and tasting the sweet and fresh apple cider they helped make will possibly remain a sweet and lasting memory for many of the children who came.