Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In With the New...

As we begin our eighth year in business, we look forward to new things and old things alike, with enthusiasm. Any business must constantly evolve to survive, it must remake itself every so often to progress and mature its market. Yet we also want to keep that which has made us a success, the tone and tenor of our business, along with the familiar products our customers have come to like and buy again and again.

New things include our wines made with vinifera, or European heritage grapes. For years we have concentrated on native grapes because of their lower cost. The poor economy and a “grape glut” have depressed prices to the point we have been able to buy some of these premium quality grapes at reasonable prices. We hope to be able to continue to offer these, but who knows what the future holds for grape prices?

Other new things include our widening of our wine selection, at present over 20 different wines both sweet and dry. We tried a honey wine in 2009 and expanded our fruit wines as well. One point is that we have seen dry wine sales increase markedly in 2009 and this is a good thing. Dry wines are healthier and pair better with food then the sweet wines. I also think this represents our core customers’ tastes maturing and moving into a greater amount of dry wine purchases.

We are considering the possibility of expand our facility in 2010, its at the “how much will it cost” stage at this point, but our increasing sales volume is making it hard for us to squeeze the wine we need to stock into the space we have now. We thought about a move to another building in Converse quite seriously, but it seems the dollars and cents for adding on to the carriage house just makes more sense, if you see the pun there.

New wine labels debuted in 2009, the first that did not feature 19th century artwork. The one you might have seen is OLD BEN, which honors the stuffed steer that has been displayed in Kokomo for many years. The other label features a picture of the 1930-era water tower that had been a Converse landmark and trademark. We like labels with a local connection and when we introduce WATERTOWER in 2010 as a semi-sweet Gewurztraminer wine , we think both locals and visitor will like it.

What else will 2010 bring? Keep your eye here and we will do our best to keep you up to date. Keep in mind that starting January 1, we will be open only SATURDAY and SUNDAY until June 1, 1-6pm as always. See you in the tasting room!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

News & Views?

I just had a nice email from a customer who has some time off over the next week or so and asked about spending some time in the winery. I pointed out we are fairly busy during the Dec 26 to Jan 3 time frame, but there is always a few seats open in our sitting area. We offer wine by the glass plus our hot spiced cider (10% alcohol) and cheeses with salami and crackers. We allow snacks to be brought in as well, often there is a pretty good spread from table to table, I have been known to graze through myself from time-to-time, saves my wife making me lunch.

Business continues to be good, as expected. There seems to be a strong motivation to give gifts from local sources this year in particular. One customer said she always buys her friend a nice Merlot wine, but this year she is buying one of our red wines because there is a “story” she can tell about the wine. I appreciate customer who get-it that way, our naturally made wines are different and be made locally does make the unique.

I can recall vividly the moment, before we were open, we were discussing wine names and the thought of naming a few wines for local places of interest blossomed into naming all the wines for Hoosier towns and landmarks. I truly believe that is the a key part of our success, making a local winery truly local through the wines’ names.

I should mention the emails regarding blueberry have been mostly positive and we expect to have such a wine fairly soon, probably post-holiday-time. I have been able to just keep up with our present wine list, keeping enough bottled of what we have in stock.

I am sorry to say we have run out of MEAD MARION, our sweet honey wine, and it will be awhile before we have any more. We use local honey and make it naturally (of course) so it takes a long time to mature. I see we are almost out of an old favorite, PERU PEACH, which is over seven years old and the last of the start-up stock of wines we had when we opened. It took the wine three years to mature and I hesitate to start any wine that takes such a long time to become drinkable again. I have thought about a peach juice and white grape blend though, so we’ll see how that turns out next year.

I want to mention how much I appreciate the emails and public comments here on the blog over the past six months. I was told its takes about two years to firmly establish a blog’s readership, but I look at the blog simply as an extension of our website. A place for more information and insight into our business and winemaking philosophy. I do not imagine our blog will ever be what is called a “Big Read” in the world of blogging, bit we hope it does give you some more useful information and background on us.

See you in the winery!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Let it snow, a little? -Nah!

The Guy does not like wine. The question is, then, “What is he doing in a winery?” You can’t really ask that though, so we all just smiled and said, “Would you like to taste some?” Oddly he said “Yes!” Then he leaves with a case of wine for himself and as gifts. The question still hangs in front of me, why did he stop in a winery if he does not like wine?

Actually we get a lot of “Guys” who walk in the door, usually being towed by a wife or girlfriend,,who explain they do not like wine then end up liking at least one they try of our 20+ choices. I wonder why they start out saying they do not like wine?

I suspect what they mean is, “I have never tasted a wine I liked very much” which makes good sense. I also have the person who afterwards admits they were intimidated by the whole “wine experience” thing.

I know what they mean. I went to a fancy dinner a number of years ago and there were four forks, three knives, and two spoons next to my plate. I first thought there had been a mistake, but then I saw everyone had that many. Clearly I was out of my depth, so I watched a gentleman across the table from me and followed his lead on what to eat with which utensil. I never did use the fourth fork though, I understood the salad and dessert fork concept OK, but did they want me to use one fork for my meat and another for veggies? I am still a little lost, but how many fancy dinners do I eat at, huh?

Here we are, two-thirds the way through December and I have not keeled over yet, but we are working hard. The blueberry is still not ready and our new semi-sweet WATERTOWER has not made an appearance yet. Keep in mind after January 1 we go back to being open WEEKENDS ONLY until June 1. We are open Dec 24 and Dec 31 until 6 pm if you need anything!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just Peachy! Or is it Blueberry?

So I have this nice little batch of blueberry wine I have been messing with, but I wonder, does anyone really like blueberry wine?

Very few people ask for it. They ask for blackberry, raspberry, cherry, even elderberry. So why make a wine few have asked for? Because its good!

For the past seven years we have featured PERU PEACH on our wine list and, like blueberry, it is not a wine asked for by a majority of visitors. Yet it has sold quite consistently over those years, especially in the summer when the thick, peachy flavor is quite refreshing on a hot day.

After this batch is gone, I do not expect to make any more. Why? Frankly I found the wine takes years to become viable and drinkable using our method of natural production. So if you really like PERU PEACH, stop in and get some right away!

But this is about the blueberry, what do you think? Will blueberry sell? Will people like a blueberry wine? I guess we could bottle a little and find out. What do you think? Click on “comment” below and leave your thoughts or send us an email at oakhillwinery@yahoo.com.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trying to catch up!

The madness continues! I have a cramp in my right hand (cue violins) from all the corking over the past weeks. We got 340 gallons of Niagara juice last week, refitted our fermentation tanks, cleaned up generally and found (!) a barrel of Vidal we thought we were out of. Yes, it is possible to “lose” a barrel or in this case, mis-label it as something else. But that means we have another batch of WINDFALL, the marvelous, barely sweet Vidal wine so many of you enjoy.

I had tries to put off the delivery of the juice I mentioned, but the supplier was going to ding us with a storage fee if we did not get it in before January 1. So Saturday was shot messing with it and Sunday I just kept corking. A new batch of SWEETSER is in the tasting room, this blush wine is a bit more what I had in mind then the last batch, less sweet and more tangy I think.

The gift baskets and boxes continue to march out the door, I get more emails and calls asking us to ship wine, but we are not able to do that under present laws without a special permit. We decided the demand is too low and costs too high to be worth while, sorry! The lady from New Jersey will just have to vacation here next year, I guess.

In between sales rushes and bottling, we are talking about what’s going to happen in 2010. The new wine is in the tank, with a few exceptions, so we are looking at a possible addition to the building and some improvements to our seating area, a tweaking of the wine club too? If you have any suggestions, let us know. More heads have better thoughts then fewer heads, you know! oakhillwinery@yahoo.com

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lazy or Busy?

OK, so its been a while since I posted, but if you’ve been at the winery, you know why. December is truly a CRAZY MONTH for us and we do our best to keep our head above water, glub, glub, glub…

First, we did introduce the new Riesling as Sweet Salamonie this past week. This 2008 batch has a nice flavor, is 100% naturally sweet, but not too sweet! It is a tad young, less then six months since fermentation, but we feel the flavor makes up for its youth very nicely.

We are still beating (metaphor) on the Gew├╝rztraminer we started at the same time, we hope to get it out next week if it comes along as planned. This will be the aforementioned WATERTOWER semi-sweet wine; I love the spicy taste it has over the Riesling wines, a nice alternative.

The apple wine continues to ferment slowly, as expected. I am watching it closely so we do not lose the active yeast working on due to low temp’s. Yeast likes it over 65-degrees but I like the winery at about 62, so it’s a balancing act. Plus I have always felt low temperatures produce fruity tasting wines. Next week we will start a batch of Niagara juice on its way to wine-dom.

The holiday gift sales are going well, the wife has caught up as of today on her gift baskets, but every weekend we see a bunch fly out the door, so its like shoveling sand in the desert, it does not end until January!

The new red wines have found a good niche in our tasting list, by popular demand we bottled more of the OLD BEN Shiraz and will probably do the same for the WABASH VALLEY RED Pinot Noir. I think the Cab Franc will continue to improve with aging, maybe by next summer.

Be patient with me on posts here this month, I will try to keep up a weekly schedule, but as goes the business, so goes the blog. I guess it could be worse, not being so busy I could blog, huh?

Got a wine or winery related question? Send it to oakhillwinery@yahoo.com and we’ll address it here possible.