There are many images that come to mind when thinking about taking a day trip to Cape Cod.

Quaint, antique shops, a hot cup of chowder, and a quiet stroll on the beach are all reminiscent of a winter-time trip to Cape Cod.

When planning your next off season trip, you may want to add “wine tasting at an award winning winery” to your list of favo­rite things to do on ole Cape Cod.

Located at 527 North Main St. (not to be confused with Route 28 Main Street) in Harwich, The First Crush Winery is an unexpected, hidden gem, and I do mean “hidden.”

Following instructions from a trusty GPS, you will drive into the Olde De­pot, a small industrial park, and would think you made a wrong turn.

Upon closer inspection, the plain, industrial building is just a camouflage for the warm and inviting winery that is nestled in­side.

A mixture of antique wine making devices, beau­tiful wooden wine barrels, and state of the art wine making equipment welcomes you to the First Crush Wi­nery.

The First Crush Winery was established in 2012 by retired Cape Cod eye doctor, Frank Puzio.

Besides his degree in the medical field, Puzio also holds a bachelor degree in chemistry. Puzio’s education mixed with his passion for fine wine has created the perfect storm for this unusual Cape Cod winery.

Besides the unconventional location of this winery, this winery stands apart from other New Eng­land wineries because of it’s unusual co-operative program.

The COOP program of­fers optional, hands-on training in the art of finer wine making, as well as offering a discounted price on the wine that members help produce.

Members are welcome to participate in one, or all aspects of wine making, such as the crush process (crushing of the grapes), fermentation, rack­ing, and bottling.

Although participation in winemaking is not re­quired to become a member, members that choose to participate also enjoy the pride they feel when serving wine to their friends and family that they personally helped produce.

Currently, over 600 COOP members enjoy the discounted prices, comra­de­ry, and enology education that membership offers. They are also invited to participate in winery so­cial events.

Quarterly, social events are held at the winery to thank COOP members and to invite prospective new members to learn more about the winery and the COOP.

Because of the high price of land on Cape Cod, a short New England grow­ing season, and the lack of mineral-rich volcanic soils needed to grow grapes for fine wines, First Crush does not have their own, onsite vineyard.

First Crush has created relationships with North­ern California growers that border the Napa Val­ley, who deliver their product to the east coast within four days of harvest, ensuring the highest quality product possible.

It takes about one full year to create a bottle of wine, but it is well worth the wait.

First Crush offers nine different types of fine wines, including two cranberry-raisin hybrid wines made with locally grown Cape Cod cranberries.

This small New England winery sells approximately 55 thousand bottles of wine a year, and in a re­cent San Francisco Inter­national Wine Competi­tion, they earned several gold and silver medals.

Winter hours for the winery are Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The winery offers wine tastings at $15 a person. This includes a complimentary cheese plate to snack on while you sample different wines. No re­servations are required for tastings, unless you have a group, then it is suggested to call ahead first.

Wine can also be purchased onsite by the glass, bottle or case.

If you are interested in joining the COOP, but would like to try a bottle of their wine without making a trip to the winery, you can purchase a bottle a little closer to home.

First Crush is a member of the Massachusetts Wine Association, and you can find their wines in the Massachusetts Wine Asso­ciation wine store in the Boston Public Market lo­cated at Haymarket Square in Boston.

This winter, in order to spend a perfect January evening by the fire, first take a leisurely drive to Harwich.

A winter day trip to Cape Cod is a breeze, as there is little to no traffic. The same can be said for snow amounts on the Cape, as they usually get less snow than the Merrimack Val­ley area.

Enjoy a fun and informative trip by day, and good conversation and a fine bottle of wine that night.

For more information on becoming a Coop member of the First Crush winery, visit www.firstcrushwinery.com.

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