Saturday, December 15, 2012

December Midway


So its mid-December, its 40+ degrees, and we are back to concentrating on wine-making rather than parking!  It was quite a hit to lose 100% of our parking the first week of November and on through December 10, but it’s nice to know if you raise a lot of noise you can get some reaction.  Our state representatives and the Governor’s office all pressed INDOT to revisit their decision to remove ALL parking in front of the winery. Unfortunately, the Town Board recommended using the south side of the street for parking to INDOT, in consideration of a part-time funeral home east of us that has one to three services a month! We have hundreds of people every week, but they get parking on their side of the street.  But as mentioned, its time for us to move on and get back to making wine rather than fighting “city hall”.
 
We did a new bottling of our two Niagara grape wines, JALAPA and FAIRMOUNT, and feel these are much better wines then their prior batches. 2011 was the oddest batch of Niagara juice we have ever seen; it tasted fine, looked good scientifically, but turned out fair at best.  I worked on the barrels remaining and got them cleared up visually and tuned up, taste-wise.  See what you think next time in.

The Nouveau-style wine, EEL RIVER, is making lots of new friends. This off-dry red wine made with Indiana-grown 2012 Leon Millot grapes turned out much better than expected for is youth.  Our port-style, RIVERWALK, is also a great wine according to tasters.

We will be open every day except the 25th through the end of December, January 1 we go back to our winter-spring schedule of weekends only, 1-6 pm.  It still surprises me how many people do not know we can be open on Sundays and sell carry-out wine.  Please tell a friend, Sundays can be very slow in the depths of winter!

The only disappointments I have had this 2011 vintage ares the Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc wines have not been ready to make an appearance. I guess that will make their arrival in 2013 something to look forward to!

Please note our final 2012 Wine Nite will be December 22nd, 6-9 pm.  If you have not made a Wine Nite, they are full of fun, surprises and lots of people talking and drinking wine.  I suspect this one might be a bit quieter as it hits on a holiday weekend, so if you are free, come out and join us and we will have fun together!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Nouveau


I am excited!  I am too busy!  I am mad!  I am confused!  These few words sum up this time of year and you have seen me write the winery business is not about money, it’s about the lifestyle of being your own boss and making something people really like.
Yes, the parking situation is an irritant, but we have seen some movement in the form of more information and response from our state representatives. Thanks to all you who have written asking our politicians to help us solve this problem.  One comment was to the effect that one email represents 1000 peoples’ opinion, so your emails do carry weight.

The wines from 2011 are still coming on and we will roll out our 2012 “nouveau”  on Black Friday, this is our second Indiana-grown new vintage wine. Last Thursday was the international Nouveau Beaujolais release, the famous first release of the new vintage. Our grape is a French hybrid called Leon Millot and we were happy to find a small crop from a little vineyard north of Fort Wayne, near Leo.  We brought the totes home, ran the grapes through our new crusher-destemmer, and started a fermentation that ran almost six weeks. Then we drained off the fresh free-run wine and pressed the skins. We racked the wine twice and found it was clarifying nicely and (surprise) even tasted pretty good!

Traditionally, nouveau-style wines are served slightly chilled, are dry with no sweetness, and  taste just “OK”. I think our new wine tastes better then “OK”, but on Black Friday and as long as one barrel lasts, you can make your own determination!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Black Friday at the Winery

For the past few years we have enjoyed sleeping in on the Friday when many folks are getting up at very early hours and going shopping after stuffing themselves with turkey and the fixins. But we must not sleep all day...

So we decided this year we will open at 11.00 am and offer $1 cash rebates on every bottle of wine you buy until 1:00 pm.

We will release our 2011 vintage port-style wine RIVERWALK on this super shopping day. There will be very limited quantities available of this special release.

We hope to also offer you an Indiana grown and Indiana made special "Noveau-style" wine on this day, as well. That assumes the wine is ready and turns out good! (Pretty sure it will!)

This same day we will be open late, until 9:00 pm and be holding our November "WINE NITE"!! These extra special evenings include some special surprises so much fun even I do not know what all of them will be!

I would be not doing my job if I did not remind all of you we have some great GIFT BASKETS priced from $25-$50 on hand. On this Black Friday my lovely wife will be on hand to make any custom gift baskets needed, or adjustments to existing baskets, and offer advice on putting your own gift baskets together. This is a one-day special service, so let's keep her busy all day!!

Parking Eliminated in front of Winery!



On Wednesday, November 7, INDOT came into Converse and installed No Parking signs up and down SR 18. This includes right in front of the Winery, eliminating all of our parking within a two block radius. This will force our customers to walk quite a distance to get to our business.

We have received no response to our inquiries as to WHY this action was taken as of Friday. We have written the Govenor and our state representatives.

In the ten years we have been here, there have been only two property-damage accidents and NO personal injury accidents as a result of on-street parking at the winery.

We believe this action will cost us between 25% and 50% of our drop-in business over the next few months and more beyond.

Please email our state representative/senator at the following addresses and express your concern as to this unreasonable restriction on our business. Please cut-n-paste these email addresses into your email.


s18@in.gov


h32@in.gov
spacer (1K)Thanks for your continued support!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Weather & Wine


It’s been a weird summer weather wise, I know we all agree, and I am asked often how it will affect the grape crop. I listen to smarter people than myself regarding this frankly, because while I have a great deal of interest in the outcome of the crop, since I am not a vineyard owner. So I do not have the experience of year-in-year-out growing grapes and seeing them develop.
That said, I do have more experience than the average person, so I guess its reasonable to ask me the question.  As I said, I listen to smart people about this and I am hearing two stories.  The first is the heat and drought will give us intense flavors but not much quantity due to smaller berries.  Now there’s been a wet August, which might help this for some kinds of grapes and hurt those with a longer growing season. So some good news, some bad. Got that?

Second line I hear is after the warm spring, followed by a late frost in some areas, the crop was diminished and the drought did not help it at all. This late rain is washing away any advantage in flavor intensity we might have gained, it’s a bad year.
 
Me, I am waiting for the grapes.  Let’s let the grapes tell us what they been up to, what they have given us to work with. I suspect we’ll see some great grapes this year and some fair ones.  We don’t buy bad grapes, so no problem there!
So it’s the end of summer and as you “regulars” know, we start rolling out the new vintage wines about now.  The first few are out, hope you’ve tried them, but if not, here’s some notes on them:
 
WILDCAT CREEK WHITE: This label has been a favorite for the past few years, a dry, fruity, white wine made with Vidal grapes from Michigan.  This past year we had some problems finding good Vidal, so we bought some Muscato juice to fill in the gap. No, WCW is not a Muscato, that one is still coming. But we did find some Cayuga White, blended in the last of the Vidal from 2010 and that’s the new WCW. The early reviews are good, see what you think.
 
SWEET SALAMONIE: Now, a few years ago we ran a very sweet white wine based on Cayuga White and it was a winner and I am happy to tell you its back!  We bottled a test batch and it sold out, so we bottled a full batch and its going good too!  It will go well on the Cheesecake Festival, its that sweet.

ROANN: Last fall I made a small batch of blueberry wine and frankly, I was not too fond of it.  But there were some customers who loved it! So I again made a SMALL batch of our 2011 blueberry wine, blended in a little Gew├╝rztraminer to balance the taste, now you see what you think.

PERU PEACH: The big surprise for the summer was how well people liked our latest peach wine.  Our naturally-made fruit wines do have unique flavors, but a lot of folks like this one.
We have two dry reds, a Malbec and a Zinfindel coming out soon. An off-dry Sauvignon Blanc is about ready and I have my hands in a different take on Riesling, but that one is still in the works.  I have been asked about our port-style wine, RIVERWALK, and yes, we have a new batch coming. Getting pretty close!

FREE CHEESCAKE FESTIVAL: What does wine have to do with cheesecake? You can sip wine while you eat it, of course, but for us it’s the biggest event of the year! We bring in 10-15 commercially-made cheesecakes; you taste them; then vote on your favorite!  Oh, and try some wine while you are here!  September 15, 1-6 pm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tasting Plus 2012 Event Schedule

So wine, like life, goes on. Not a deep thought but certainly one filled with truth. I see wines I really love selling out and walk downstairs to the winery and look at the barrels and ask myself, “Can I do it again?” Gladly, with ten years of commercial winemaking under the belt I know the answer is “Yes!” Every year brings different wines with different flavors and, as the old saying goes, “You can’t make all the people happy all the time.”

Yesterday I had a nice group of four people do a tasting and they raved about most all the wine and bought a case. My next group of five had three in it that hated every wine I poured for them, but the other two liked several and bought what they liked. That’s the way it is and its really one reason I love the whole winery concept. Try before you buy and buy what you really like. Now it’s true a number of wineries have started charging for tasting, typically $2 to $5 dollars, although I have heard as high as $10!! I know some charge to offset the cost of tasting, some to discourage non-buyers, and others because they just do not like to wash glasses, they sell you a glass for the tasting. We’ll stick to free tasting here tho’….

We’ve got our summer free-event schedule complete. June 16th is the Strawberry Festival; we’ll introduce a new strawberry wine and offer fresh strawberries and toppings. July 21 will be our ninth annual Chocolate Anniversary with gourmet chocolate and lots of fun. August 18 starts Cheese Days, parting wine with free samples. Our Cheesecake Festival is September 15 and it’s our Big Event, so come early to sample some great desserts.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cold Weather and Free Events

So we had hot spring weather, then we had several days of frosty weather and the result was not good. Although, we will not know exactly how badly the frost damaged the Indiana grapes are for several months. We hope its not too bad, but we still might get some good results from the late budding varieties.

We have some good stuff scheduled here at the winery:

First the next Wine Nite is Saturday, April 21, 6-9 pm. Stop in and join us for wine tasting, have a glass of wine, and meet some new friends.

Our biggest event of the Spring is our Open House, where we open the winery up and invite all to join us for free tours on the half-hour, some special surprises, and a lot of fun, Come on out Saturday, May 5,from 1-6 pm, we’ll show you our unique methods for making wine and answer your wine questions.

As we move into Summer, watch here and the newsletter for details on our Big FREE Events every month, including July’s HUGE Chocolate Festival and always popular, September’s Cheesecake Festival.

More to come…

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter & Wine

I am loving this so-called “winter weather” and it is having an effect on the grape crop for this year. Warmer winter weather can cause the buds to begin to develop early and if there is a late frost, it can destroy the crop fairly easily. So as the daffodils push through and bloom, thinking its April, we hope the grapes keep their heads down and we have no heavy frosts to come.

The Wine Nite this past weekend was a Big Success! We had a houseful of wine drinkers, the music was loud, and the talking was furious. A couple who had never been to a wine night and knew no one there remarked, “These people are extremely friendly, we sat down and they just drew us into their conversation!” Its true, when a group of Wine Club members get together, they like to talk and don’t care who they talk to!

We were also gratified to have several customers comment on how much they appreciated the Wine Nites as an opportunity for them to get in to buy wine, after their usual work times. The Wine Nite idea was a result of comments like this, but I must admit, they’ve turned into a monthly party as much as anything!

At Wine Nite, we introduced the new EEL RIVER semi-sweet red wine, made with Pinot Noir, and the response was quite favorable. I have been getting some grief about a few of the fruit wines we have run out of, so we are THINKING about starting a new batch of all the fruit wines; that's THINKING! We’ll keep you up to date as to the thought process as it progresses…

What is good news is how the 2011 wines are progressing, especially the Foch we use for the dry red, HANGING ROCK, and the semi-sweet SWAYZEE. We hope to have these in the bottle by mid March.

We expect to have the dates for the March and April Wine Nites and free seminars out pretty soon, as well as the May Spring Open House, first of the Big Events for 2012. Keep a watch here for details!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

So You Want To Make Wine, Huh?

So, it’s about an hour before The Big Game and business has been very slow in the winery. Typical for a Big Game day, so wine drinkers do like football? Apparently…

I spent the weekend working on the new semi-sweet red wine that’s replacing the old EEL RIVER, made with Cab Franc, with different taste using Pinot Noir. Its hard to get the great flavor of a dry red wine in a semi-sweet, but I think we might have a winner here. I will knock out a test batch in the next week or so and offer it at the next WINE NITE!

Oh, I should mention our next WINE NITE is Saturday, February 18, 6-9pm. For those of you new to the blog, a Wine Nite is where we stay open till 9 instead of 6 pm; we play music loud, and people talk even louder, and the last few have been very busy!

The next free seminar is being held on Sunday, February 26, 4:30-6 pm; the topic is: HOME WINEMAKING BASICS. The program will discuss the ins-and-outs of making your own wine and mistakes to avoid. We’ll talk costs, where you can buy stuff, and how bad might your first batch be? Send an email with HOME WINEMAKING in the topic line and reserve your spot; only 20 spots open, so do not wait too long! oakhillwinery@yahoo.com

The free seminar for March will be “Midwest Wine Destinations – planning a winery getaway” and April will feature “Starting Your Own Winery” for those of you with a spare few hundred thousand to toss around! Watch here for scheduling!

May's Spring Open House planning is underway! This big event draws hundreds in to see our modest winemaking set-up and a fun Q&A with the winemaker himself. There will be some fun too, so again, watch the blog for more information!

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Year, New Wine?

I spend more time in the tasting room in the winter and early spring. Yes, its because business is slower this time of year and I am cheap about having help in with little to do. Oh, and I like to reconnect with customers and get feedback on the wine.

I tend to piddle with wine left over from the prior vintage while things are slower. This sometimes gets me kudos and sometimes gets me trashed. I am in the process of bottling a new dry white wine using the Indiana Seyval Blanc. I love a crisp, clean, simple Seyval and our MISSISSINEWA WHITE has been in our line since 2003. But I have been monkeying with it and we'll see if I get trashed or kudo'ed!?

The sweet wine lovers can look forward to February when I hope to offer the new versions of SWEET SALAMONIE and WATERTOWER, both white wines that come close to pegging the sweet-o-meter. As I wrap these up, I start tweaking a new semi-sweet red and trying to get the new vintage Foch wines ready to bottle.

Tomorrow is our January Wine Nite and as I sit here typing the snow is piling up, but the weatherpersons are promising it will break in the morning and clear up for the day. I just hope we can get the people in here for Wine Nite, I think its fun and i get to sell a little wine!

We kick off our free seminars on the 29th with a wine basics class for those who want to know more about the wine world. We'll talk about wine names, types, appellations, regions, and descriptors. We only have room for 20 to 25 people for these little workshops, so sign up soon if you want to attend!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

“Help, my dining room is full of gift baskets!”


So I got yelled at recently by a customer who said, "I have been waiting two months for your blog on the dining room full of gift baskets thing, what happened?"

Ok, fair enough, but its not all that funny when its happening. Every year my wife takes on the task of making ALOT of gift baskets for the winery. Its a lot of work, of course, because she is picky about what she puts into the baskets and how they are put together.

Begining in around July, she starts looking for baskets and stuff to put in them, although I have seen her sneak bags full of items in throughout the year with the explanation, "There was a closeout!". These items are socked away in our guest bedroom (thus no overnite house guests September thru December) and brought out in early October for assembly.

From that point on, the dining room in the center of our home is piled high and full of grass bedding, baskets of all shapes and sizes, ribbon, plastic wrap, and do-hickies to jazz up the baskets.

Oh, plus candy and snacks too. See, I have been known to snack on my way through the dining room and this results often in me getting yelled at for eating the basket goodies. True enough, but first of all, I see it as compensation for the inconvenience and secondarily, she should factor in my "grazing" as I have done this for years!

At times, its a real obstacle course walking through the house as the piles spill into the walkway or path through the dining room. This huge "mess" casues another interesting development: my wife does prefers to not have any visitors see her home looking "this way". I say, we will explain what this pile of stuff is and they will understand. Uh, no! We greet family and other personal visitors in the winery instead of our home and we take them out to eat instead of offering my wife's great home cooking.

This is one of the many sacrifices one makes for owning a small winery. I guess its a fairly small one in the greater scheme of things, losing a dining room while gaining a winery. Maybe we could add on to the winery? Hummmmm???

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Good Deed



So my wife and I took off for the weekend at the first of the year, a few days to rest and recharge after the demanding holiday season.

While we we gone, the area experienced some very high winds that broke our swinging sign, snapping off one side and causing the sign to swing about on the one hook.

This could have very easily allowed our (expensive!) sign to bash itself to pieces against the sign post.

But someone came and unhooked the other side and left it laying by our stairs. We have patched the sign back together and it is once again back in place.

THANK YOU! To this anonymous Samaritan(s) who went to considerable trouble to do this Good Deed. It almost restores one's faith in humanity!