Wednesday, May 27, 2009

hot weather, good grapes

We took a nice trip up into Michigan for the holiday weekend and we happy to see many new acres of grapes being planted in the southwest portion of the state. Due to the Lake Effect on this region, this area produces very fine white wine grapes like Riesling, Traminette, Vidal, and Chardonnel.

We stopped at a local Michigan winery I had not been to for a long time and were surprised they limited tastings to five samples, yet offered more then two dozen wines. The hostess suggested we share the one ounce pours between us to spread our tastings a bit wider, yet I thought they should drop to 1/2 ounce tastes and give us ten choices.

The hostess said the limit was the owner's policy, not the law. I think its a bad idea myself, I will hesitate to return to that winery knowing I can only try five wines on a given day. I am not courting a free wine buzz, I just think the winery is limiting its sales and hurting return business with such a severe limitation.

Where should you draw the line? Its a fair question, many wineries allow open tasting, some limit it to flights of six to eight wines, a few even have started charging for as few as six tastes. The other consideration is inebriation, how much wine can we serve a customer reasonably at a taste test? I'd like to know what you think, either email me at or place a comment here (click "comment" below) as to what you think.

Next time we'll address the issue of paid tastings specifically, so be thinking about what your stand on this hot issue is...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ok, there it is now...

When last we talked, there was a question about to be or not to be. Well, we still don't know for sure where we are, but there are a couple of things we do know. First, we did bottle a small sample batch of the dry Vidal and it is a big hit, we called it Pipe Creek Falls and it was well received over the weekend. The dry Riesling, Iron Bridge, was also introduced and described as a good light wine, easy on the mouth.

I had a new barrel sample of our RiverWalk, a dry red made from Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin, that I offered to a few of the Wine Club members for their comments. They said it was good, better then the last batch (you love to hear that) and one test-taster said it was the best wine we had ever made! I guess I'll have to bottle some of that pretty soon.

We have made some small changes in the tasting room recently. We picked up an antique nine-foot oak bench and used it to expand our seating area by about a third. While it has never been our intent to operate a bar in the traditional sense, we have found we are getting more repeat business from folks who like to share a bottle onsite and hang out for an hour, enjoying the atmosphere our little winery has to offer. The Wine Club folks also seem to enjoy the seating area, we see some of these people almost every week!

As we approach the summer season, we look forward to our hours expanding from the present "weekends-only" to a full seven day schedule (1-6 pm) starting June 1. We have our three regulars returning and we are on the lookout for a "weekender" who would work a few (2-3) days each month on Saturdays or Sundays. We need someone with an reasonably open schedule, can work with us through December 31, and is good with people. let us know if you are that person! -

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To be or not to be...

I really like dry Rieslings. I try to get a trip into the Michigan southwest and northwest wine countries every year to see what they got new each year. The last couple of years I have stretched the wine-grape budget some and bought a bit of Riesling we could have it in our line-up, even for a few months. We make some as an off-dry, or maybe more of a semi-sweet, somewhere in there sweetness wise. We make some in a dry style and its has been boffo the last few years.

This year I am quite happy with how the semi-sweet is turning out, but less happy with the dry. But mine is only one opinion, I ask my guinea pigs (?) what they think and they say, "Its greeat!" (sorry Tony). So I am going to bottle a little of the dry this week and let the customers feedback whether they like it too.

We will also be releasing a dry Vidal in the next few weeks, its is only nine months old, but seems to be coming along very nicely. A few test-tasters think I should blend it into a semi-sweet due to the nice fruit it shows in the mouth, but I cannot decide.

Another good example is our new (and last) batch of 2007 Bordermen, our cranberry blend wine. I was working alone in the winery, making it up following my recipe for the blend and when I was done, it did not taste right. I messed with it some more, no better. It was darker and tarter then is was supposed to be. I adjusted the sweetness to try to get a balance of the flavor, could not get it right.

It was getting late and I was tired, so I started from scratch, just as if what I now had was what I had to work with, -since it was! I tweaked it a bit and tasted it again, it seemed better. Then the wife came home, I offered her a taste and she said, "Humm, not the same as the last batch, what did you do different?" Duh! If I knew that, --well you know. So I went ahead and bottled some and everyone said "This is great!", so I guess sometimes it just happens and sometimes you make it happen. This the last of the 2007, i takes a good year or more for the cranberry to be ready, so we'll be without Bordermen for a while once the present stock is depleted.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Son of Snarkey Comments

OK, so earlier we heard about the evil Story Inn...

Wait, I think it was the evil anonymous commenter, not the Story Inn that was evil, whatever. The gist of the story was Story's advertising "nearly all" of Indiana wineries were going to be at the Story Wine Fair, while in reality about half were actually there. A correction needs to be made also, this year the Inn charged the wineries $100 each to participate, last year it was free.

The result? Great weather and a tremendous turn out made this years fair a huge success by most reports. "Most" you say? Well, as with all things the comments are both good and bad. Some wineries reported near sell-outs on the sweet wines they'd brought along, others reported very modest sales, although it seemed that was in the dryer wines that sales were less impressive.

One complaint I heard from one winery was Story was selling beer onsite. They do have a bar in the restaurant, but the impression (not fact) was they had an outside place selling beer, more or less in competition with the wineries selling wine. That ticked some people off.

The only complaint I heard from any attendee was, "There was alot of people there!", and that's a hard thing to complain about. The 2009 Story Wine Fair was a success and those who were not happy can choose not to attend next year, winery or wine drinker alike.

I do hope Story will be a bit more truthful in their marketing efforts in 2010, they got a good thing going on and there is no reason to muck it up with such inaccurate advertising, honking off people who should be helping them promote the event.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

irked over oil

Ok, I recognize this is a wine-related blog, but give me a minute to get this out of my system.

Oil prices went up roughly ten percent Monday-Tuesday of this week. Every gas station raised their prices more then ten percent by end of the day Tuesday.

Yet CNN reports: "The nation's stockpiles of crude are at their highest levels since 1990, while demand for oil is down nearly 11% to its lowest level since 1999."

Does this make sense to anyone? Its should because this constant price changes allow gasoline suppliers to make alot of money when they can raise the price of on-hand product they paid alot less for. What really galls me is they all do it at once, which shows there has to be some form of communication between the gasoline companies, thats not right!

OK, I am done now, thanks!

More wine news in the near future...

Friday, May 1, 2009

a rose by any other name

Its been about eight years ago since we first started talking about wine label names. I had spent hours considering what to call the wines and I had wandered numerous stores and wineries considering what worked best. One choice is to use a simple varietal name, like "Seyval Blanc" or "Niagara"; yet this seemed a little uninspired to me. Plus, if I changed what grapes I chose to use or could get, I'd have some unusable labels.

Fanciful names have caught on big in recent years, some using "impolite" words or slang terms to catch a shoppers interest. We do not sell our wines anywhere but at the winery, did not plan to distribute to stores or restaurants, so pure "shelf appeal" was not a consideration. But yet, I wanted a name our customers could relate to.

I began to make a list, Ii wanted 24 names to start with. I realized by using generic names I could use almost any label for almost any wine. So went the list, cool sounding names like "Zenith" (OK, not a a TV?); "Fraternity"; "Wistful" (descriptive?); and so on. Within a month I had my 24 names and we went on with making wine, re-habbing the carriage house, and developing marketing plans.

At some point, someone said, "How about "Converse" for a wine name?"; "Nah, that's a tennis shoe...", then my mind started thinking about other local names that did work, maybe, just maybe...;

So we decided to go forward, using local names of towns, points of interest, and Indiana rivers as our wine names. Its was one of the best ideas we had, yes, "we", because when I started asking friends and family, they are said "YES!" and made a few suggestions, some of which I actually used.

To use a label name, you have to get it approved by the federal government. One amusing point here is the government does not charge anything for wine label applications and approvals. How they missed that one, I have no idea. Some names are zapped because someone else is already using it, although there must be some latitude, possibly by location, since I have seen duplicate names before.

I am working up some new names for wines in years to come, if you'd like to make a suggestion, send it to us here at the winery by email or postal carrier, we don't pay anything but I'll slap a label on a white t-shirt and give it to you if we use your idea! So generous...