Craig Haarmeyer of Sacramento's Revolution
Wines is a relative newcomer who traded an
IT job for his position as winemaker

His eyelids droop like vines that have seen too much sun, though since 2 a.m. he hasn't seen much other than the bottling line and barrels inside Revolution Wines' new midtown facility.

"I'm exhausted, but I crossed a big thing off my checklist last night," said Haarmeyer, alluding to the bottling project. "It's a great feeling."

Haarmeyer is extra- amped because of the double-gold medal he's picking up tonight at Grape & Gourmet, the annual food and wine extravaganza at the Sacramento Convention Center.

A port wine that he produced for Revolution Wines – his first effort as head winemaker – earned 98 points and best of class, Lodi appellation.

"It's unbelievable," said Haarmeyer. "I mean, I came out of nowhere."

A year ago, Haarmeyer was a full-time cubicle dweller working in computer tech support. It was just a job, the kind that helped pay his way through graduate school at California State University, Sacramento, where he received a master's degree in art.

Haarmeyer always preferred creating with his hands – sculpting marble or painting with oils, for instance – instead of cranking out computer code. Now, he almost pinches himself that he's making wine for a living, especially such award winners as the port and a 2009 chenin blanc that earned bronze at this year's State Fair.

"I expect to wake up one day and be back in my cubicle," said Haarmeyer.

So here's the 44-year-old Haarmeyer on a recent afternoon, wearing a Ben Davis work shirt, tattoos that run the length of his forearms and jeans with holes in the pockets. Call it the winemakers' version of business casual.

Revolution Wines is moving its winery to 28th and S streets, with a grand opening planned for Aug. 1. There's plenty of work, including bottling more than 550 gallons of 2008 Zinfandel.

"All I have is my back and my palate, and those two things are essential," said Haarmeyer.

Haarmeyer grew up in South Land Park to a family that worked in the hospitality business, and was no stranger to wine tasting rooms.

In 2000 he helped out during crush season at Harbor Winery, a former winery in West Sacramento. He laid fairly low – Harbor's founder, Charles Myers, said by phone that he could recall Haarmeyer only by name – but soaked up all he could about wine making.

"I threw my back into it," said Haarmeyer. "I helped out and fed the crusher and stemmer. But it was there I realized that winemaking was something both enjoyable and attainable."

But he still had to juggle it with the IT job. Haarmeyer had known Joe Genshlea Jr. and his wife, Gina, the owners of Revolution Wines, for years and offered his services. Haarmeyer had taken some winemaking courses through UC Davis, but his experience was mostly hands-on.

The Genshleas were happy to have him on board.

"With his backgrounds in art and IT, he's actually very well-suited," said Gina Genshlea. "Half of winemaking is artistic expression and creating something you enjoy. The other half is scientific."

Haarmeyer was soon working 70 hours per week: 40 at his IT job, plus 30 at Revolution Wines.

Haarmeyer agreed to make a barrel of port for Revolution Wines. He hadn't always been a fan of port and sweet wines, but he liked the process of making them.

"It's a nice break from how delicate you have to be with table wines," Haarmeyer said. "Halfway through, you kill the yeast, so you don't have to worry about yeast spoilage. But it's important to get all the flavor and color out of it."

Haarmeyer labeled his wine the St. Rey 2008 Sacramento County Single Quinta Ruby Port, which showed deep flavors of berries and cigar box.

"Craig headed this whole port project and ended up in double gold," said Genshlea.

Now the pressure's on to see how well Haarmeyer will hold up for future vintages. What about the chances of striking double gold again?

"I've seen it go both ways," said G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, chief judge of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. "I know people who've won double gold their first time out and never did it again and others who went on to make great things all the time.

"It's no doubt an impressive feat. I can't wait to see what (Haarmeyer's) wine looks and tastes like, and see if I agree with the judges."

For now, surrounded by barrels and fermenting tanks, it's time for Haarmeyer to tackle his next task. The work of winemaking, it seems, never ends.

"It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge," Haarmeyer said. "Tomorrow I'll start racking the whites, and do some fining and filtering. I'm pretty much living here. It's good times."

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