Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking the Fall and All

As the first crisp notes of Fall whirl around us, we start to think about years ago, things past, and nostalgia often sets in. This is not bad, especially for those of us over 45 years of age, as we have so much to remember and ponder over.

For me, the last ten years of starting a winery has many fond memories and lessons learned. But the point of matter is I have never seen a better year for grapes here in Indiana. What I am wondering is, 2009 was a tremendous year for apples and we are introducing this weekend the new vintage of both KOKOMO CIDER and INDIANA APPLE, unquestionably the best batch of apple wines I have ever made. So how will 2010 be?

So, in a few weeks I will head out to see the Hainlens at the orchard just outside of Converse to order the 2010 apple juice we will turn into next year’s apple wine. The late summer has been very dry. Will that cause a more intense flavor in the apple? Or did the heat keep the fruit from maturing and the lack of rain allow the acids to be out of balance with the sweetness? Only time will tell…

A few weeks ago we did a loop around Jackson, Michigan and hit four of the wineries on the Pioneer Wine Trail as a kind of scouting trip for a possible bus tour up there. The first stop was SLEEPING BEAR winery, right on I-94, in what was formerly a tasting room outlet for St Julian’s Winery based in Paw Paw. They are new and just have an initial offering of wines, but had some winners that were very good. Now, they take what some will call a “cutsy” approach to wine, using cartoon characters on their labels, but the wine stands up well. The 2009 Vignoles and the Cab Franc were both very tasty.

Next stop was SAND HILL CRANE vineyards and they had a huge tasting list and insisted we try every one! They had a superb 2006 dry Traminette; a Sassy Rose’ made with dry Cab Franc; and the Vignoles Pyment, just kissed by a dash of Michigan honey, all were excellent choices.

In the small town of Tecumseh, we found PENTAMERE winery, saying they are an “urban” winery. Located in a historic building with an open wine-making area with elevated walkway for tours, I’d say they are right, in a small-town kinda-way. I want to highlight their Morningstar, made with Seyval Blanc and Pinot Gris, plus their Michigan Cherry, a semi-dry wine I thought said “cherry” without messing the thought up!

Our last stop for the day was the very popular CHERRY CREEK CELLARS, the busiest winery we visited. Being a red wine drinker, I loved their Pinot Noir, but the people with me approved strongly of their wines named Jazz, a red wine and raspberry (!!!) blend; and a off-dry red, La Mia Famiglia. It took some time to get in and out of their small, brick school-house, tasting room, but the wine was worth it.

We missed the other four due to time constraints, but will plan on going up to see what else the area wineries’ offer. I have been asked before about a Michigan winery tour, but we generally go out in March (too early to go north) and August, a much nicer time to visit Michigan. So we’ll talk and see what we can put together for the Summer 2010 Bus Tour. We have tentatively set SE Indiana as out 2011 Spring Winery Bus Tour destination, returning to Madison and the surrounding countryside. If you’d like to get email notices iof our bus tours, send us an email with the subject line BUS TOURS and we will get you a notice when available.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Winners and winners???

Ok, we had 19 amateur entries in the contest this past weekend and now the Cheesecake winners are known: TOP PRIZE goes to CHERYL YOUNG for her Pina Colada, yum!

First runner up was MARK SILER’s Pecan & Carmel creation;
Second runner-up - MARLA LINES for her New York Style with Red Raspberry Sauce.

I tell you folks, I did not taste a bad one in the bunch and how you can say one is better then another. THANK YOU to all the entrants, we had a very busy day at the winery for the Cheesecake Festival and I believe a good time was had by all!

The COMMERCIAL division was won by SAM’s CLUB, but I forgot to see whose cheesecake they entered on their behalf, so I’ll get you the who and what of the winner very soon!

With our biggest event of the year over, what’s do we have to look forward to in the months to come? As mentioned previously, on October 2 we will release two new versions of our apple wine. First is the ever popular KOKOMO CIDER and we will have it hot & spiced for you to try, as well as chilled. What we are all excited about is the new INDIANA APPLE, an off-dry apple wine that several people have said is the best apple wine they have ever tasted. I felt that’s a bit strong to say about a barrel sample, but we were sipping some of this at the Festival, nicely chilled, and I will say its better then I expected.

We have a little of the 2008 Indiana Apple left, just a few cases. We are blowing it out at $5 a bottle while its lasts!!! A good dry apple wine that is excellent for cooking, sipping, or makes an fabulous spritzer (add 1/3 ginger ale).

In an upcoming blog, I will review our visit to the Pioneer Wine Trail near Jackson, Michigan, where we found some very good wines, well worth the drive up there for.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I got behind!

Sorry! I have gotten behind on my blog updates, primarily due to the CHEESECAKE festival (Saturday, September 18, 1-6 pm), plus we are having website problems that have eaten up a lot of time trying to fix. I want to get started on the TWO wine tours we have been on in the past few weeks. Let's do one at a time:

First, the 2010 Summer Bus Tour went very well! Everyone showed up on time to get on the bus (7 am is early on a Saturday) and we did not lose anyone along the way. But how did it go?

Our first stop was Oliver Winery and the folks there opened up a bit early to accommodate us and we had a great time! Half went on tour of their impressive production facilities; the other half did a tasting. The results were quite surprising, in my view. Too often the “Big O” gets forgotten in the search for great wine, we think of Oliver as the “sweet wine” winery. But in truth they knocked us out with the variety and consistency of their wines, not to mention very nice tastes. A lot of wine was bought and not much was sweet, don’t miss Oliver’s next time you are in the neighborhood.

A few minutes away we visited Butler Winery’s winery & vineyard and found another great selection of wines. I think Jim has a real style to his wines and his vineyard was gorgeous.

The next stop was lunch, but the next winery was Carousel, right on the highway as we headed south towards New Albany. I found some reds there I really liked and a Pinot Gris my wife found very tasty.

Our last stop was in New Albany’s River City Winery, where we found more (repetitive?) great wines and a very nice dinner as well. If you visit the winery, come for food too!

Our stay at the Hampton Inn went well and all were ready for a Sunday morning tasting at Turtle Run Winery. Jim, the owner, looked a bit ill to me and he admitted he had went to bed at 2 am and got up about 5 am to be ready for us. Why? Because harvest was running well ahead of schedule due to our hot weather! Jim is one of the most entertaining and informative winemakers I know and the group of 44 wine “tourers” all agreed. For the first time, we were running behind schedule because everyone wanted some Turtle Run Wine. We wound our way through the scenic countryside to BEST Vineyards where we enjoyed the view from the deck while tasting excellent wine from this newer winery. The Chardonnell was wonderful…

We headed north and hit Chateau DePique where everyone was impressed with the wedding chapel as well as their wines. We hit Buck Creek, a winery the group had specifically asked if we could visit again and the gang there kept us moving towards dinner at a local buffet.

We made it home a bit after 9 pm and everyone scattered for home. The wife and I both agreed the trip went very well and we look forward to next spring’s winery bus tour. I think we need to return to Madison, its been two years and there are some new wineries down that way that need checking out…