Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is it REALLY a "wonderland"?

The cold weather has rolled in and although its technically still “Autumn” it sure feels like WINTER to me! Of course, here at the Winery we are in the full force gale of the gift buying season. The big sellers are certainly the sweet fruit wines we introduced last month. I’ll spend this weekend making sure we have plenty in stock of the cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry.

Next Saturday, December 17, we will hold our next WINE NITE! From 6-9 pm we will remain open and have a good stock of wine for you to buy as gifts or drink yourself! There might be music and a little dancing, if we have a bit to drink first!

Gift baskets are always a big item this time of year. My lovely wife spends hours putting nice collections together for a wide variety of price ranges. We had been talking this summer with how hard it has been to keep basket prices starting under $20, yet when she brought the first 20 baskets out, she still managed to have a good group at $19.95!! With a single bottle of wine priced from $10.99 to $12.99, you can buy that bottle wrapped in a gift basket for just a few dollars more!

Wines coming down the track include the Riesling/Gewurztraminer blend we call WATERTOWER, a very sweet white wine we hope to have anytime now; a dry white wine with a nice French-Oak taste will be out in February using the popular Seyval Blanc wine we call MISSISSINEWA WHITE as a basis; and yes, I am still playing with a peach wine, something we have not offered in several years, patience!

So while we are in the midst of our busiest season, we look forward to the cold winter in some sense, to its end and the coming of spring. Keep in mind the winter also brings (as of Jan 1) a change in our hours. We are only open Saturday and Sunday 1-6 pm for five months during winter and spring. However, we do offer free 90-minute seminars throughout the winter and spring, so watch here for dates

Hope to see you in the winery soon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday nights not so black...

So a customer asked me why most wineries are not open later and I said, “It has been my experience few people come to buy wine after 6 pm.” During the first few years we were open, we tried being open every Friday until 9 pm and the result was I got a lot of work done, but not too many people stopped in to taste wine.

That said, we had fun on our “Friday Wine Night” last weekend with a good turnout and good feedback on the event. So I guess we’ll try a Wine Night in December and maybe a few more through the cold, dark, winter!

We are getting on track for our Black Friday event as well. We have been bottling fruit wines and have our special release wine, RIVERWALK, ready for tasting on Friday. We will be working the winery ourselves all weekend, so stop on in and say “Hi” and take a few bottles of wine home!

I have had a few emails about wine that pairs well with turkey, for obvious reasons. I suggest MISSISSINEWA WHITE for our dry wine lovers and WINDFALL for the semi-sweet wine drinkers. We recently tweaked the WINDFALL and I am extremely pleased with the result, so stop in and try the new version of this fruit wine.

Next time, we’ll talk about my wife’s life this time of year, entitled “Help, my dining room is full of gift baskets!”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Whats New & Exciting?

So we are now hip-deep into the busy season at the winery and yet, are having fun! What’s happening and what is new? Read on…

We have started the roll out of the new sweet wines including our cranberry and blackberry already on the shelf. Coming soon is the raspberry and the cherry, blueberry may be a while yet! A new version of our sweet Gewurztraminer is in the works too, watch here and the website for updates. If you have not tried the new IRON BRIDGE, a semi-sweet Riesling, you need too! The buttery finish is making it very popular.

Dry wines? Yes, the latest Chambourcin looks great and tastes better and the superb Shiraz still sells very well, new batches of both in the tasting room! Piddling with a dry Riesling made with Johannesburg Riesling grapes that has a nice light flavor, I am. It is a nice counterpoint to the new Pinot Grigio we introduced last month and YES I do have some Seyval Blanc getting oaked, but I think it will still be after the new year before we will get excited about bottling it.

Special Events? There are TWO in the near future: Our first FRIDAY WINE NITE will be Friday, November 18th from 7pm to 9 pm (?) and is open to all. Wait, what is a “Friday Wine Night”? We will be open later (we normally close at 6) and will serve wine, but will have limited tasting available and there will be music, maybe dancing, and weather permitting, a fire pit in the wine garden. Oh yes, the Winemaker himself will be your host, so stop in and have a glass (or a bottle) and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Second special event: BLACK FRIDAY! Friday, November 25 we will open at 11 am and will offer special deals until 1 pm. Then we will be open regular hours 1-6 pm for your shopping convenience. Wait, there is going to be a SPECIAL RELEASE that day; a wine unlike any the Oak Hill Winery has ever offered! So special it is a very small release quantity-wise. Stop in and rest from your weary sale shopping here and we will rub your feet (not!) and polish your credit cards (no way), while listening to your shopping adventure stories! See you there!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September Update

A couple of weeks ago we held our 9th annual Cheesecake Festival and I’d like to say “thanks” to the 500+ people who turned out. Now if you’ve been to the winery, you might ask how we fit 500+ people into our small tasting room? Thankfully, they did not all come at once! But a steady stream of cheesecake-eaters and wine-tasters made their way here and waited, patiently, for their turn to taste.

This made for the biggest day for both customers and sales in our history and, at the end of the day, feet up, and the stock room depleted, that felt pretty good. Thanks!

Moving forward, we are releasing the 2010 KOKOMO CIDER, our sweet apple wine, on October 1 and I know many look forward to tasting each year’s offering. The last few years we have addressed the problem of “acidity” in apple juice by increasing the tartness through non-chemical means. Apple wine tends to taste “flat” without some acid, thin and watery. So you will detect a slight tart taste to this new batch.

Of course, many customers make our apple wine hot, adding spices like cinnamon to it to enhance the flavor. This is truly become a fall tradition and it finds its way into parties, tail-gating, and a few thermos bottles.

The next event for the year is our Fall Open House on Saturday, October 15, 1-6pm. We open up the wine-making area and conduct 20-minute tours, discussing how we make our wines naturally and the wine business in general. There will be fun, snacks, and informative talk and its all free, like our wine-tasting, with tours on the half hour.

The new 2010 vintage is in full swing with several new wines coming out very soon! Our Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and the 2010 Riesling wines are coming out pretty soon, so watch this space for more information. TEASER: We will be having a BLACK FRIDAY special event for 2011, keep watching!

Monday, August 22, 2011

To taste or not to taste

I have been surprised at the number of wineries both in and out of state who have chosen to begin charging for wine tasting and/or severely limit the number of tastes you may try when visiting. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you would be well aware I am not in favor of paid or limited tastings. I do respect the right of other winemakers to run their business as they see fit.

So why do I revisit this issue? Back in the latter part of June we had a nice little group of ten individuals stop in on a Saturday for a tasting. All went well and they wrapped up their visit sharing a few bottles of wine. As I spoke to them, I asked what brought them to our winery? One of the ladies spoke up quite loudly, “We saw on your website you did not charge for tasting. A lot of wineries want $5 or more per person!” I had to smile as the ten people left with over two cases of wine.

This past Sunday we had a car club stop by as part of a scheduled tour of the area. I received an email today thanking us for the hospitality and commenting on the fact that we were willing to let them try all our wines, which led them to buying wines they would not have typically purchased based purely on sweetness level.

We had planned to hold another winery bus tour this summer, but ran into a problem with the area we wanted to go. Four of the nine wineries we wanted to tour informed us they wanted $5 to $8 a person for group tasting; Five of the wineries informed us we could try six or eight wines only. When these matters were discussed within the bus tour committee, it was determined to cancel the trip and do more research for next spring’s trip so as to avoid this problem.

I would like to hear from you your opinions, feelings, and the effect, if any, that the paid or limited tasting policies have had on your wine buying. It is NOT my intent to start a movement or build a case to convince other wineries to change their policies. We just want to know what you think. Send your thoughts to with the subject line “paid tasting” and I will later print some excerpts from your comments.

And always remember, we offer free winetasting, because at the Oak Hill Winery, the proof is in the tasting!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cheese and Cheesecake

So the summer is hot and the wine is chilled and how can it get better? Our CHEESE DAYS are in full swing! This offers you, the taster, to try not only our wines but some great cheese along with them. “YOU’re just trying to sell me cheese!” you cry. “No” says I, we sell a little cheese its true, but the purpose of CHEESE DAYS is to show you how certain wines go with certain cheeses and how some DO NOT go together. Buy your cheese wherever you like, but we just want you to appreciate wine PLUS cheese.

I am pleased to announce we have set the date for the annual FREE CHEESECAKE FESTIVAL: Saturday, September 17, 1-6pm. This is not an attempt to get you to pair cheesecake with wine, though you can. We love cheesecake, you love cheesecake, we love feeding you cheesecake. So we gather ten commercially made cheesecakes and let you VOTE on which one is the best.

No, no, no, we do not sell cheesecake -but we know before you try the cheesecake, you might try some of our wine too! What a gimmick! Come over and have free samples of some great cheesecakes and some free winetasting too!

In other new, the fruit wines have been coming along slowly and we expect them to be in production sometime in September. Our new cranberry, BORDERMEN, is out and very tasty, but the blackberry and raspberry are slowly “ripening”, so to speak.

We hope to have an announcement soon for those of you who like to dance a little bit. We’ve been working on a “Friday Wine Nite Dance” program for the fall. What does it mean? How much wine does it take to get you to dance? When will it happen? Coming soon…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

new vintage

So over the few months we have been watching the 2010 wines mature and we have been patient. Now we begin to see the reults. First we've had the dry red VAN BUREN made with Indiana grown Chambourcin grapes on the shelf for several months. We just sent SWEETSER, one of our best selling wines, to the tasting room. This semi-sweet whire is made with Catawba grapes and has yielded another nice wine.

The new BORDERMEN is now out. This cranberry-white wine blend is a nice semi-sweet that has been popular as a fall favorite. This includes the 2010 Niagara as a base. The Niagara is ready to be bottles as JALAPA, a dry white, and as FAIRMOUNT, a very sweet wine. Both should turn up within a few weeks

I like to see the early new vintage wines, they tend to be alittle cloudy and have a bit of sediment, pretty normal for naturally-made wines like ours. We continue to work towards making better wine, but aging is the best method for clarifying. I am patient, but it takes many months to fully clarify some wines due to their make-up. I have a Sav' Blanc that cleared up in four months. But things like that are what makes winemaking interesting...

FREE CHEESE DAYS are coming, August 13 and end when we sample five pounds of Indiana-made cheese ALL UP! hope to see you then!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ok, I am back!

So in the recent past a lot has gone on. “What is that?” you might ask. First, we had a great Bread-baking contest and a record-breaking Chocolate festival! But that’s in the past, what’s really new?

We have been waiting many months for the return of a very popular wine, SWEETSER, made with Ohio-grown Catawba grapes. This semi-sweet wine has a unique flavor and every year we look forward to the new crop to see what characteristics it will show us. Some years the levels of tartness are very high and in some years it’s a bit mellower. The 2010 vintage leans towards mellow, but it still has that distinct sweet-tart tast wine everytimee our customer love.

The new Sweetser has another characteristic common to our naturally made wines, it has a tendency to have a bit of sediment in the bottle. We have found that when the wine ages to more then one year in the barrel, it tends to have much less sediment. As we have improved at winemaking, we have learned non-chemical means to clear our wines and reduce the sediment that occurs after bottling. But nothing replaces a bit more aging to help improve the LOOK of our wine.

Now that addresses an important point about our wine. We do not typically bottle a wine until its flavor stabilizes, so a customer tastes the wine and it stays pretty much the same for at least six months in their own wine “cellar”. But do we hold a great tasting wine until its appearance stabilizes as well? Our response is a firm “no” and the story of Sweetser is a good example.

I have had a few regular customers kid me that many of our wines are as clear and clean as any commercial wine and they ask, “Have you sold-out?” suggesting we were making wines just like everyone else. I always reply negatively, just getting better at wine making!

So, though we’d like a perfectly clear and sediment-free we hope you’ll stop in and add your comments to theirs as well! wine everytime, but you can’t always wait for the natural made wines to get that way. Those who have tasted the new Sweetser have said very nice things about it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June is a Fun Month

Oh a slow Sunday it is. We survived the hailstorm last night and the wind did not blow anything away. We’ve been busy here, got the new semi-sweet red out, EEL RIVER, made with Cab Franc grapes and I am pleased with it. Watching the 2010 wines mature, had a little barrel tasting last night so I can gauge other people’s reactions to the new wines as they come to life, flavor wise. A few are close, several are a long way from being all they can be, but that’s typical at this stage in the game. August-September is prime time for new wines generally. We’ll see what’s going on soon enough.

If you check the website ( you’ll see the schedule for free events is up through August. We are still working on the September Cheesecake Festival date, keep an eye out. Next Saturday, June 11 is the Bread Baking Contest, always fun with bread AND wine. The 8th business anniversary party and Gourmet Chocolate Festival is July 16th, that’s a biggie. Offer people free chocolate AND wine and they come out of the wood work. Then we kick off Indiana Cheese Days on August 13th. Basically we buy ten pounds of Indiana Cheese and give free samples as long as it lasts, usually a few days.

We are working on a late summer winery bus tour and we hope to have news VERY soon. We keep running into wineries that want to charge us for bringing them 44 wine buyers, like $5 to $10 per person! I recognize that paid tastings are becoming common in many wine regions, but this is driving me nuts. We typically buy ten cases of wine per stop, more or less. I would LOVE for someone to bring me a ten case sale in a 90 minute window any day. Oh well, we move forward…

Come on by next Saturday and vote for your favorite bread! We need bread-eating judges!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Its a little after 9 am on Saturday and I have been working since 6:30 am getting set up for the open house today. Its a big job since we rarely open the winemaking area to the public, its small and we just do not have the space to walk people through for tours on a regular basis. But a couple of times a year we do open up to show people our unique natural method of making wine.

We put up our brite red canopy to call attention to the place and set up some chairs downstairs. Last year we had alot of people show up for this event and we have added extra staff to help out.

My only regret is we are out of our semi-sweet reds right now, the popular SWAYZEE and a new wine, EEL RIVER, should be bottled soon. The new version of FAIRMOUNT has proved popular, using a white grape blend I developed to mimic (not too closely) the fruity Niagara grape wine we have used in the past for this wine. We exect the 2010 vintage of FAIRMOUNT to be with us in mid-summer, but the substitution is not too bad...

Watch here for the upcoming BREAD BAKING CONTEST in June; its a great time for both bread baker and bread eaters here at the Oak Hill Winery and, like all special events, its free!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Windy Sunny Day

Hey Wine Fans! All is good as I sit here in the winery. Well, not good, “good” would be a full house of wine drinkers, but HEY! Its Sunday and us Hoosier folk do not think you can buy wine on Sunday. Ok, some of us know…

I am piled high with blue barrels. We get some of our juice in blue barrels and I have been stacking them up higher and higher and, well, it’s time to get rid of some. So if you’re looking for a heavy –duty trash can; a colorful rainbarrel, or something to store big stuff in, try one of our slightly used wine-juice barrels for $15; or two for $25: or five for $60.

I see the sunshine as I look out the winery windows, but the wind is blowing and its kinda rough outside. Inside I have been working on the next free seminar on winemaking next Sunday. Yes, I know its easter for some folks, but last year we were closed on that Sunday and I got complaints, so we will be here and we’re having a free winemaking seminar. Oh, I said that already…

On May 7 we will have our annual Spring Open House, something we started a few years ago and people seem to like a lot. We open up the winemaking area for tours every half hour and last year I was swamped! We usually have a snacks and run a few specials on wine stuff. We also do a little advertising and that seems to bring in the people. Come buy and say hi!

New wines? We have intro’ed a fair number in the past few months, but I am playing with a semi sweet red to add to the list. Keep an eye here, I let you know.

This summer we’ve got the great lineup of special events, see the last blog for details and mark your calendars now! We’ll get dates for the July-Aug-Sept festivities pretty soon. And another winery bus tour???

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011 Calendar of Events Part One

I have been promising a schedule of upcoming events, so here we go!

Sunday, March 27th at 4:30 pm: PLANNING A WINERY WEEKEND; a 90 minute seminar for those who would like to visit a group of wineries in one of the following regions: Southern Indiana; Southeast Michigan; Southwest Michigan; Northwest Michigan; Missouri River Valley; and the Finger Lakes Region of New York. This will offer advice on where to go, how to plan your trip, and what pitfalls to watch for once you are there.

Sunday, April 24th at 4:30 pm: WINEMAKING - AT HOME & IN THE WINERY; a 90-minute seminar for those who want specifics on small and large scale winemaking with a focus on questions the audience has on any related topic. Both beginners in home and commercial winemaking are welcome.

Saturday, May 7th, 1- 6 pm: OPEN HOUSE AT THE WINERY; Free tours in the winemaking “cellar” with Q&A by the winemaker every 30 minutes; free winetasting with music and snacks.

Saturday, June 11th, 1-6 pm: ANNUAL BREAD-BAKING CONTEST; Enter your best home-made bread for a shot at glory & prizes and come help us pick the best commercially-made bread by tasting and voting on your favorite. Bread and wine make a great combination!

Watch here for more on: July’s free CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL; August’s INDIANA CHEESE TASTING; and the Big Event of the Year, September’s CHEESECAKE FESTIVAL!

All the events we have at the Oak Hill Winery are FREE and we hope you’ll come join us for fun and a little wine too!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cleanliness is next to...

One of the ongoing jobs at the winery is tank and barrel cleaning. I handle the majority of the icky, scrubbing, scouring, de-gunking jobs in this category. But on occasion I do ask for help.

We had another load of juice coming in and I was getting all the empty containers ready to transfer the new stuff in for fermenting. But one of the big tanks had a stain I could not get out through regular means. I soaked, pressured-washed, and scrubbed with a long handled brush and mop, but could not get it gone.

Now, these tanks are about 6-feet high, 31-inches around, with a 15-inch lid, so I was doing all I could. But then I thought about my wife’s much lesser size (and girth!) and asked if she would help out. Of course she would!

So I took off the lid and she crawled right in! With her close up view, she was able to get more pressure on the crud and with about 30 minutes, it was back to its sparkling clean state.

So while I often get the credit for what the wine tastes like, my lovely wife is always willing to chip in and do her part when a job is too big (or I am, in this case, too big) for me to handle.

If you have not been by, we have LOTS of new wines in stock and the popular BUNKER HILL is selling well, as expected. A new wine WHITEWATER we tested the last few week has won a place in our regular line-up. So come by and see us!

March 27, free 90-minute seminar, PLANNING A WINE GETAWAY, is now able to be booked. Limited to 20 people, send in your reservation today! Next month’s topic: MAKING WINE AT HOME AND IN THE WINERY. Watch here for details.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Too Much Wine! Is it Possible?

The winemaking continues! As the new 2010 Concord, Niagara, and Catawba wrap up fermenting, we have the new fancy grapes coming in. We will have 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Shiraz being shipped in from cold storage and beginning to ferment within the next week. These will be ready for (we hope) next fall when we head into the busy season.

Space is a big problem this time of year in the winery. We have more wine in barrels and bottles than ever before. The 2009 is still in house, now selling, and the new 2010 wines are resting, awaiting their turn “at bat”, so to speak.

We get asked about tours a good bit and we generally explain the cellar is not really set up for tours. We do have a spring open house every May, when we do open the cellar for a peak as to our naturally-made wine methods. Watch both here and the website for more information.

March will be the month of planning for spring and summer trips, so we will offer a FREE 90-minute seminar on planning a winery get-away. Where to go? What to look for? What else is there to do? We will offer tips on wine tour trips to Indiana, Michigan, New York, Missouri, and more. Whether you want to go for a day or a week, we’ll talk about destinations for wine lovers. This fun-filled (we’ll be drinking, of course) gather is Sunday, March 27th at 4:30 pm; email us your reservation with SEMINAR and the date to reserve your spot.

Is there a wine-themed seminar you’d like to attend? Send us an email at and we’ll consider it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Greetings all! I have returned in the new year with energy and enthusiasm and I will try to post more often. I (we) crashed after the holidays, as planned and did little work in the winery, other than a few days of working the tasting room and watching the wine-making area, we call the cellar. No its not below ground, that’s just what you call it!

So we got the 2010 juice for our popular American grapes, Concord, Niagara, and Catawba in and got it fermenting nicely. Occasionally I would look over the 2009 stuff I started late to see if it was progressing and around Feb 1, I noted, by gum, it was! As I racked from tank to tank I saw clarity and flavor had matured nicely, so last weekend we dropped our best selling BUNKER HILL and the popular semi-sweet white WINDFALL back into the tasting list. Soon we expect to reintroduce WILDCAT CREEK WHITE, SWAYZEE, and HANGING ROCK to the list as well. If you know these wines, I think you will be happy, but if you do not, stop in for a sample and we think you will like them.

Our free seminars have kicked off and the next on is Feb 27th at 4:30 pm, 90-minutes of wine appreciation information for those who want to know more about wine. What is an appellation, an AOC, a rhone compared to a burgundy compared to a Barbera?? We will discuss all those wine-geek bits of stuff and more. But if you want to come, you MUST reserve a spot as we will limit it to 20 folks.

Next month we will discuss planning that wine tour weekend, where to go, what to see, how far to travel??? Hope to see you there for wine fun again soon!