Sunday, March 22, 2009

Micro-Winery Update

Brad Post:

This post builds on what I last wrote about inching a step closer toward establishing a micro-winery. Since last time, we have spoken with city officials about starting a "basement" winery and learned what we need to do to make that happen -- basically, we need to have our neighbors sign-off indicating whether they are okay or not with us making wine here (i.e., to let them know how much noise/smell they can expect). We also spoke with our state wine licensing person who indicated obtaining local/county approval is the step most aspiring winemakers in Iowa tend to overlook -- an expensive mistake, she tells me.

Over the weekend we attended the Iowa Wine Growers Association annual conference and met with vendors and some industry people. Everything from crusher/destemmers to closures were available for us to look over and take samples. We also had a chance to talk with a couple of insurance-type folks - things you might not initially think of when planning a winery (e.g., workers compensation and bonding). The list of things to consider seems to continually grow! We are fortunate as we have already made inroads with many industry leaders who are very willing to share their knowledge with us.

Here is a list of things we need/want to acquire by this fall: 1) crusher/destemmer (we have a good lead on a used one), 2) press, 3) pump, 4) plate/frame filter (might be able to use this as a pump too), 5) tanks (have just secured several used tanks - yay!), 6) bottle filler. This doesn't even include finishing the licensing requirements and then next year about this time...bottles, labels, closures. Yikes!

Just yesterday my brother and I were talking about a winery, in Maryland, whose representative approached the restaurant he works with (restaurant 213) bringing along 11 or so different types of wine. He indicated the rep. should have brought the 2 good wines they make and leave the 9 remaining ones behind. This leads to my question....we are going to be producing very small batches of wine, on the order of 200-400 gallons per year (1000-2000 bottles), so should an aspiring winery make the wine we like (that might sell out) or cater to the demands of the Iowa wine drinking public (who tends to like their wine on the sweeter side)?

At present we are leaning toward producing two different reds (midwestern grown grapes - varietal undecided) and use them in a variety of ways. If you have any comments, particularly related to the business-side of things, we'd welcome your thoughts.

Happy Tastings!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An inch closer...

Brad Post:

Some random thoughts...

1. Perhaps you've heard of the small, handcrafted winemaking businesses often known as "boutique" wineries? If boutique are small wineries, then we are on our way to advancing the idea of a micro-winery. Yesterday marked a first of many small milestones to come as we advance our ideas into reality and launch our own micro-winery. We received confirmation from the Iowa Secretary of State and are excited to get the process moving in higher gear. Now comes more and more and more paperwork from the myriad of federal and state agencies positioned to stake claim to their share of tax dollars. Concurrently, we'll continue to develop our winemaking skills, purchase expensive equipment, and plan for our first big crush. A little excited, a little nervous, and very ready to make some headway!

2. Sulfur Dioxide Workshop. Last weekend we attended an all day workshop all about SO2 - the sulfite you read about on your bottles. We were hosted by the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers Association and spent Saturday testing all sorts of wine for Free SO2 using three testing procedures: Iodine, Titretes (a brand), and Aeration-Oxidation. Sulfur Dioxide serves a couple of purposes: antimicrobial (inhibits the growth of critters that can damage wine) and antioxidant (helps minimze the damage due to oxygen). Our enology instructor emphasized keeping oxygen at bay through the use of inert gas (i.e., Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon Dioxide) in the headspace of our tanks rather than relying on SO2 (whose utility in antioxidation is becoming more questionable).

3. Mystery Shoppers. Presented research findings to a small group of very interested MVGGA winery owners last weekend. Our project involved using 31 mystery shoppers who posed as winery visitors and conducted 74 assessments of 15 wineries last summer. We learned some very interesting things about the experiences visitors report wanting/receiving; tasting room experiences; and major influences on purchase behaviors.

Happy tastings!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

James Beard Foundation

Terry Post:

We received a call from a representative of the James Beard Foundation two weeks ago inviting the Chef to prepare a dinner at the James Beard house in New York City on the 16th of May.

For the foodies who read this: this is a huge deal. On the plus side, being nominated (yes there is a nomination and review process) is an honor and not all those who are nominated accept the invitation. The dinners at the James Beard house are a primary fundraiser for the activities of the James Beard Foundation.

We have not yet settled on a menu, and therefore have not settled on the wine selections with which to pair the meal. One thing is certain: the Chef will stick to dishes with which he has confidence and experience. This is not the time to experiment with something new. We will settle the menu over the next two weeks.

The Chef is confident. I am scared &^%$less about the prospect of selecting wines for such a high-fallutin' gathering of foodies and food critics.

And, of course, everything has to be done within a budget.

I'll post again once we settle on the menu and then again after I pick the wines. Pray for me!

~ Terry