Tag Archives: Missouri wine

Norton Adventures: Jowler Creek Harvest

25 Sep

Norton is one of the last grapes to be harvested in the Midwest. Below are pictures from the September 15 Norton grape harvest and crush at Jowler Creek Vineyard, near Platte City in Missouri. Winemaker Jason Gerke said it was a lighter yield than last year – but the fruit looked very good. Up close, the Norton grapes appeared very similar to blueberries and tasted very nice, but full of pips. The hard work coincided with the launch of Jowler’s 2010 Chambourcin vintage which was enjoyed by this Midwest Wine Press reporter and family at picnic tables near the tasting room. Jowler is one of the few vineyards in Missouri that is run according to sustainable practices – including using Babydoll sheep to trim the grass around the vines. Jason’s wife and co-winemaker, Colleen, was recently interviewed on Kansas City Public Television in a program focusing on Midwest wines and why they aren’t on more local restaurant wine lists.

See related story:  KCPT Public TV Airing Missouri Wine Blind Tasting
The morning's harvest: Norton grapes on their way to be crushed

The morning’s harvest: Norton grapes on their way to be crushed

Jowler helpers prepare to pour crates of Norton grapes into the crusher using a tractor.

Jowler Creek winemakers, Jason and Colleen Gerke watch as Norton grapes unload into the crusher.

The Norton grape crush

This article was first published in Midwest Wine Press

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Bottle Shock Redux: Missouri Wines Triumph in Blind Tasting

22 Jun

In yesterday night’s regional wine special and blind tasting on ‘The Local Show’ on Kansas City Public Television (KCPT), Belvoir Winery’s Plumeria and Stone Hill’s 2008 Norton received the most points in their white and red blind tasting sections.  What a great result! Both sections included competition from well respected Californian – Rodney Strong Vineyards – or awarded French wine makers – Baron Rothschild and Gerard Bertrand.  The ‘wild card’ randomly chosen wine – $3 chuck from Trader Joe’s – was cause for a bit of giggling and the five blind tasters from Belvoir customer Lucinda to former football star Eddie were chatty and articulate about he wines and their scoring.  Show hosts Nick Haines and Randy Mason lucidly knitted the show together and wine expert Doug Frost provided engaging commentary and explanation as to what was going on as the wine tasters responded and scored the various wines.  Emily Ghertner and Eric Mater produced the show with flair and calm (a good combination!)  and the editing job was great.  It was a lot of fun and hopefully helped to squeeze out some of the stigma against local wines and show that Midwest wines can rub shoulders with the best!  Hopefully we can have another round some time.

Here are the full points scores and wine descriptions courtesy of KCPT:

THE WHITES

A Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Bordeaux, France
THE WINE: Mouton Cadet Blanc, 2007 – $12.99 retail

From one of France’s legendary and most well known winemakers, a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (40%), Semillon (50%) and Muscadelle (10%)

Total Score: 10

B Belvoir Winery, Liberty, Missouri
THE WINE: Plumeria – a blend of Traminette, Vignoles and Seyval – $18 at the winery

The wine is named after the owner, Dr John Bean’s, late wife’s favorite flower. The winery is located in an impressive Jacobethan Revival style building that was a former orphanage for the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Total Score: 21

C Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery, Basehor, Kansas
THE WINE: Seyval, Kansas Table Wine – $12.95 at winery and retail (only available in Kansas)

Holy-Field is a father and daughter team – Les and Michelle Meyer – who pride themselves on their canine ambassadors who feature on some of the wine labels. The dogs are: Vinnie, Bacchus, Corkie and Sinbad

Total Score: 17

D Charles Shaw Winery, Napa and Sonoma, California
THE WINE: Chardonnay, 2010 – $2.99 at Trader Joe’s grocery store

The wine is affectionately known as ‘two buck chuck’

Total Score: 11

E Chateau Ste Michelle, Washington State
THE WINE: Chardonnay, 2010, – $12.99 retail

A respected wine making region of the US. This winemaker is often in grocery stores and on restaurant wine lists in Kansas City.

Total Score: 18

THE REDS

A Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
THE WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $17.99 retail

A California Sonoma red that is often seen in Kansas City grocery stores, liquor stores on on restaurant wine lists.

Total Score: 11

Jowler Creek, Platte County, Missouri
THE WINE: Chambourcin, 2010 – $19 at the winery and retail

Jowler Creek emphasize their sustainable vineyard practices. They use Olde English Babydoll sheep to control grass and weed growth.

Total Score: 4

C Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, Missouri
THE WINE: Norton, 2008 – $18.99 at the winery and retail

Stone Hill is Missouri’s second biggest winemaker producing 260,000 gallons of wine in 2011. They’ve been making Norton for decades. A Stone Hill Norton is thought to have won the prestigious award for best red wine “of all nations” at an international competition in Vienna in 1873.

Total Score: 21.5

D Gerard Bertrand, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup, Narbonne (Languedoc-Roussillon region, on the coast, south of Marseille) France
THE WINE: Grand Terroir, 2005 – $16.99

European Winery of the Year for 2012 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s annual Wine Star Awards. Wine Spectator magazine’s ‘Best Value Winery From France’ in 2008.

Total Score: 14

E Charles Shaw Winery, Napa and Sonoma, California
THE WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 – $2.99 at Trader Joe’s grocery store

The wine is affectionately known as ‘two buck chuck’

Total Score: 20

Missouri’s Les Bourgeois Vineyards Profile

8 Mar

This article is also posted at Midwest Wine Press

CEO of Les Bourgeois, Curtis Bourgeois

In 1974, Curtis and Martha Bourgeois bought a fifteen acre property on which Stephen, the fourth and youngest son, planted the first vines.  When these three acres of Chambourcin grapes produced a 5 ton harvest and 500 gallons of wine, the family decided to covert a hobby into a wine making enterprise.

Today, Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport is the third biggest wine producer in Missouri, making about 135,000 gallons per year.

“We were looking for a family business that we all could participate in,” says Curtis, Curtis Sr. and Martha’s oldest son, who was pursuing a television career in New York when he came home to join the enterprise. The younger Curtis is now the CEO of Les Bourgeois.  Together with his father, he oversees the daily operation of the winery, bringing in the whole family when big decisions need to be made.

The winery’s expansion has been ongoing. By 1991, the family had its own wine making equipment and bottling facility.  In 1994, a restaurant was designed by architect son, Stephen.  In 1998, an adjacent 180 acre property was purchased, and this year the family finished a two year project to construct a new production facility.  “2011 was our first crush in it,” says Curtis, “and it allows us to double our capacity and prepare for the future.”  Currently 30% of production comes from 35 acres under vines at Les Bourgeois and the rest from grapes brought in from local growers.

This year they’re starting construction of a brewery in the space left by the old winery to house their new venture: beer.  “We’re trying to look for new revenue streams,” says Curtis. “The Midwest is still behind as far as craft beer development, so we see some opportunities there.  We also see the beer demographics as being different from the wine demographics, so we’re hoping to pull a different customer base.”  Visitors will also have the novel experience  of seeing wine and beer making processes in the same location.

But wine is very much the primary business, and Curtis says the winery’s future involves two things. “We’re trying to expand the wines that we can make on a larger scale and selling the higher end, small lots on the property only.  This gives people another reason to come to the winery.”   The larger scale wines are generally sweet and include those made with the native American Concord and Catawba grapes.  The higher end, “Collectors Series” wines include locally grown varieties like the Norton and Vignoles as well as imported Cabernet, Shiraz, and Merlot grapes.

Curtis says the quality of one of their higher end wines, the Norton, has improved in recent years thanks to implementation of a version of a French technique called saignee.  Saignee is a method of bleeding off the juice after crushing the grapes and is used to make Rose and also to reduce the liquid content of the very juicy Zinfandel grape.  The technique was introduced at Les Bourgeois by

Les Bourgeois winemaker, Jacob Holman, testing Vignoles blends

winemaker Jacob Holman, originally from Moberly, Missouri.  Jacob learnt his winemaking skills on the job at Les Bourgeois and at a number of smaller Missouri wineries.  He calls his version of saignee  ”reverse bleed-off” because his objective is actually the opposite of Zinfandel makers. In other words, Jake wants to make the Norton more, not less, juicy.  “What Jake does is take a certain percentage of the Norton grape, and he actually squeezes it just for the liquid.  Then we add the liquid back into the body mass, so it gives it a much higher liquid to mass ratio and through that a cleaner fermentation.” Curtis says. “This increase in the liquid content of the Norton juice helps overcome fermentation issues caused by this grape’s high solids to liquid ratio. Through that we get a much cleaner, much more interesting, higher quality product.”

The use of winemaking techniques like reverse bleed-off that have helped improve the quality of wines, coupled with the growth of the Missouri wine industry, have transformed the way people regard the industry here compared to ten years ago, according to Curtis. “The business is now something that everyone recognizes as an important part of the economy and a viable concept for alternative agriculture, especially ag and ag tourism.”  Another change in the last decade is the increased cooperation in research and development through the universities and the State of Missouri.  Les Bourgeois, for example, works directly with the University of Missouri in Columbia.  “We have a pipeline for talent that is homegrown,” says Curtis.  Most of the wine expertise in Missouri used to come from outside the State, from California, Australia and South Africa, and Curtis says that talent didn’t always stay in Missouri for very long.  Today, there are degrees in food science and viticulture at agriculture schools which have created a new generation of Missourian winemakers who may be more likely to hang around.  “That’s how you keep a sustainable industry going,” says Curtis.  “It’s made a big difference for the industry and for us also.”

Norton vines at Les Bourgeois Vineyards

Even with these changes in the industry, plus the big expansion of its winery capacity, the improvements in quality and the move into craft beers, Les Bourgeois is content to distribute its wine in the Midwest.  “We see ourselves being a regional based winery. When you’re our size you couldn’t really fill that pipeline (other regional and overseas markets) very readily so we see ourselves staying close to home,” he says. “The regional wine business is growing, so basically we just want to keep expanding as the pool gets bigger, and that doesn’t necessarily mean exporting much further than contiguous states.”

Midwest Wine Appearing in More Top Restaurants

21 Feb

The author of this article is Mary Mihaly of Midwest Wine Press (MWP), based in Chicago.  MWP is the first business publication dedicated entirely to the art and business of winemaking in the Midwestern United States.  The editor of MWP is Mark Ganchiff, whose stated goal is to help winery owners, grape growers and cellar masters be more effective and profitable. The story first appeared in Midwest Wine Press in December and provides a positive tonic to, as well as supporting, the dark findings revealed in the blog posting “Wine Lists of Shame”.

Salt of the Earth Rustic American Eatery and Bakery in Fennville, Michigan has a dozen Michigan labels on its wine list. The event was an upscale food expo in Cleveland. I was pouring wine samples; the fellow pouring at the next table owned an award-winning winery in northeast Ohio. Our conversation turned to restaurant wine lists—specifically, why don’t we see more local wines listed?

“Beats me,” he said, “and it makes no sense. They talk about using local produce, local meats, farm-to-table everything—and they carry wines from France, California, everyplace but Ohio.”

His point is valid: why don’t more restaurants carry regional Midwest wine—and more importantly, how can regional wineries get onto their wine lists?

“I suspect it’s probably a little more expensive, takes a little more legwork to carry regional wines,” says Jon Trasky, general manager of The State Room Restaurant and Lounge in East Lansing, Michigan. His 17-page wine list features dozens of Michigan wines; they show up in nearly every category from Riesling to rosé. Trasky concedes that as part of the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center at Michigan State University, it follows that he would carry Michigan wines.Still, he has a choice, and he sees buying local as good business: “What’s good for Michigan is good for us,” he says. “We live here, so we want to do all we can to support Michigan businesses.”

Every restaurant and winery owner we interviewed agreed on the chief reason for carrying a local wine: because it tastes as good as wines from the “major” wine regions. “That’s the biggest factor for us,” says Nolan Cleary, beverage manager for Lola Bistro in Cleveland, one of several restaurants owned by Michael Symon, TV’s “Iron Chef” and star of  ”The Chew.”  “For us, quality is a big motivator; we’re not going to bring in local products if they’re inferior.”

For Cleary, carrying local wines was serendipitous. An owner of Laurello Vineyards in Geneva, Ohio is a regular at Lola and brought in some Vidal ice wine for Cleary to taste. It landed on the wine list. The other winery whose wines Cleary serves—Harpersfield Winery, also in Geneva—is on the wine list because, according to Harpersfield owner Patty Ribic, the Iron Chef himself “heard the buzz” and visited the winery.

“We’re a very small producer, just 3,000 gallons. Since we only use our own grapes, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.  There’s a finite amount so we watch where our wine goes and I guess that impressed [Symon],” Ribic recalls.  Symon’s bar manager called, they met, and as a result, Lola Bistro became Ribic’s only restaurant outlet.

Farmhouse Tavern, one of Chicago’s newest hot spots (open just 10 weeks at this writing and pictured on the homepage), is trying a more inclusive tactic, offering wines from throughout the Midwest. “All of our sparkling wine is from Michigan,” says Robert Diaz, manager, “and we carry wines from Indiana, and even a Riesling and Pinot Noir from Firelands Winery in Ohio.”  Wine selection,  he says, can be easy.  “Put together some reds and whites from Argentina, Australia, and France, and your customers will be reasonably happy. But if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to seek out the smaller players, offer something different.”

Taste is Diaz’s top priority, and he speculates that perhaps more restaurants don’t offer local wines “because a lot of the root-stock in the Midwest isn’t old,” he says. “Europe and California have been growing grapes for a very long time, and older vines sometimes make better wine.”

Michigan wines “sort of fly under the radar,” says Mark Schrock, owner of Salt of the Earth in Fennville, Michigan, “but we produce some of the finest Riesling out there.” One of the most expensive wines on his wine list—“Shou,” a Bordeaux-style blend from Wyncroft Winery—is a Michigan wine with limited production. “You feel like the winemaker has examined every grape when you drink it, it’s that well crafted,” Schrock says. “If you want to be on a good wine list, quality is everything.”

Carey Amigoni, whose family owns Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City, agrees. “There’s no question,” she says, “a Cab Franc is a Cab Franc. If you make a pretty good one, people will want it.”

That view is echoed by the Wine Business Institute, which surveyed sommeliers of 74 restaurants in 2009. The results were unanimous: 100 percent ranked “tasting good” as the top factor in selecting wines for their lists. Nearly 98 percent ranked “matches with food menu” as the second priority, followed closely by “competitive price fit” and “balance of varieties.” Sixty-two percent said they prefer to buy locally—a bit surprising, since relatively few high-end restaurants offer regional wines—and only 35 percent said they would list a particular wine to maximize profits. Zero respondents said they relied on a supplier’s recommendations in buying wine.

Marketing, however, is critical to getting on wine lists, especially for small wineries. “Usually, a small distributor will do a good job for small wineries,” Carey Amigoni says, “where with a big distributor, the small wineries sort of disappear.” Amigoni likes her distributor, but she sometimes accompanies him on calls to new restaurants: “You have to go with them, personalize it, enjoy the wine with the bar manager, help sell it.”

That means talking up anything that would appeal to customers. If your wine is certified organic or Biodynamic, mention that to the bar manager. If Justin Timberlake or Bette Midler ordered a glass, or if it was fermented in barrels made of a special wood, that’s worth a mention. Anything that helps create a memorable experience for the customer will help sell your wine.

Megan Zander, bar manager at Blue Bird Bistro in Kansas City, offers wines by Amigoni as well as locally brewed beers and liquor from a local distillery. “Everything’s of the highest quality,” she says, “but we also want to talk to the winery owner and other producers. It’s about building relationships—you have to be as passionate about your wine as we are about our restaurant.”

Patty Ribic agrees: “Let’s face it, there are a million wineries out there. You have to have passion for your wine—put out a product you’re proud of.”

As for the future, Mark Schrock believes, “more and more, `local’ translates to sales,” he says. “Our guests are asking for it—but you’ve got to bring your best stuff.”

“I think you’re going to see people take notice of local wines over the next 10 years,” Robert Diaz predicts. “Wineries should start now, creating and developing relationships with restaurants and restaurant groups, and good things will happen.

“Get into a few good restaurants and people will start noticing—and buying—your wine.”

Reprinted with permission of  Midwest Wine Press.


Midwest Wine Conference: Missouri’s First Mobile Bottling Trailer

17 Feb

In the foyer of the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference, to the right of the registration desk, there was a large, white vehicle that looked to me like an ambulance.  It was ready for action with its back door open and I could see a man inside, who I assumed was a medic, probably checking heart monitors and other instruments.   I know health care in this country is expensive and problematic so I thought to myself, “This is great! At least this conference is concerned about peoples’ health – they even have an ambulance standing by in case people get a bit too excited about the free bar.”  I realized my mistaken assumption a bit later when Danene Beedle from Missouri Wines told me that the vehicle I’d seen in the foyer was in fact a brand new, mobile bottling trailer belonging to Old Woolam Custom Bottling  – the first bottling operation of its kind in Missouri.

Brent Baker's mobile bottling trailer

Brent Baker, the man inside the vehicle, turned out to be the head bottler (rather than a medic).  He said their service is for wineries that don’t have their own bottling machinery. “We can run about 1200 bottles an hour and that is filling, corking, capsuling and labeling.  So we have empty bottles after the rinse go into the machine, they get filled and when they come out they’re complete and ready to sell.”  Brent says their operation can save winery owners a lot of time. “When you’ve got to bottle, you can spend a full day doing 150 to 200 cases by hand, when we can do about 600 in a day”, he says, “and so they can focus more on perfecting the craft of making wine, going out and doing sales and marketing and self-distribution.”

Brent’s business is a Missouri first, but he said mobile bottling is widespread across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and also California, where there are about 100 mobile bottlers and many of the wineries, even the larger ones, prefer this method to either having their own machinery or sending their grape juice away to be bottled. “Mobile bottling is very big in California, Washington, Oregon and becoming very big in Virginia, New York and Texas”, he says.  “It’s becoming a really big thing because the cost factor of buying a fully automated bottling line is cost prohibitive and, in a lot of cases, you may only run it two weeks out of the year.  They can be anything from $50,000 to several hundred thousand to install.”  It’s also quicker than sending the grape juice away to be bottled and ensures it gets into bottles as quickly as possible.  “It’s very high quality, the fill height is perfect, the cork depth is perfect every time, the label, it  just makes a really professional product,” adds Brent.

The high-tech insides of Brent's bottling trailer

The mobile bottling machine can even do screw caps, although Brent estimates screw cap bottles still only cap about 20% of wine bottles in the USA.   As you probably know, in Australia and New Zealand screw caps, even for quality wine, are very popular and my Australian dad – who’s a big wine drinker – is a big fan of them.  There’s interesting further reading on the history of the screw cap and the pros and cons versus the cork and other bottle-sealing devices here and here.

For anyone who’s had the opportunity, it’s always fun to watch a bottling process in operation: the upright bottles like soldiers clunking along, the corks being squashed in, the conveyor belts going this way and that.  In this BBC News  report about how climate change is effecting Spain’s wines (from my former life as a Madrid correspondent), at the end of the video there are some neat shots of the bottling operation in Penedes, Catalonia, of Miguel Torres, one of the world’s biggest winemakers. Of course, there are big bottling plants like the Torres winery and then there are much smaller mobile operations like Brent’s.  Comparing the two and their difference in size and flexibility reminded me of the US Army compared to the Navy Seals, or perhaps a real train (here’s one leaving Kansas City’s Union Station) compared to a model train (here are some model train sets inside Union Station, annual event).  That’s what it felt like anyway, when I contemplated the much bigger, factory style bottling operations as I stood inside Brent’s high tech, shiny, mobile bottling trailer.  Here’s a video of Brent’s trailer in action.

Brent Baker of Old Woolam Custom Bottling

Brent has long been connected with the art of putting alcoholic beverages into bottles.  He used to own a brewery and for the last decade has worked at a number of wineries, helping them with their bottling processes, often by hand.  Brent can remember being taken to Stone Hill Winery as a kid, where his parents’ friends, Jim and Betty Held, were renovating the buildings and reviving what is now one of Missouri’s most respected wineries.  It could help explain why he’s a patriot for Missouri wines.  “There’s always been good wine in Missouri,” he says.  “The thing about the Missouri wine industry is that sometimes it gets poo pooed by California and other states, but we’ve got some very good varietals in Missouri and a lot of really good winemakers who are trying different things – even pumpkin wines.  Kansas is growing, Iowa’s growing, Illinois is growing, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky. It’s pretty amazing what we’re doing here in Middle America.”  And Brent’s mobile bottling trailer is ready to help things along.

The author, Danny, is an Australian gun for hire who’s just moved to the Midwest from Spain via San Francisco.  Apart from being a wine lover, he’s a former BBC News reporter and a history documentary maker. If you need videos for your website to tell the unique stories about you and your winery, its people and history, highlighting your quality wines and awards, please get in touch.  Or if your winery’s website or blog is languishing without any content, and needs articles or blog entries, also get in touch.  I can also set up your internet social media for you, from websites to Twitter. Email danjwood@hotmail.com or call 816 863 2496

Midwest Wine Conference: The Grape Chemist Part I

15 Feb

Rich DeScenzo is a microbiologist with ETS Laboratories in St Helena, California and a grape chemistry expert.  Rich has spent a decade researching grape genomics (examining the DNA sequences of grapes) molecular diagnostic methods and fermentation.  I was attracted to the ETS booth on the trade show not by Dr DeScenzo’s scientific pedigree, but instead by a large plastic scorpion, the mascot for one of their diagnostic technologies.   As he poked the scorpion, Rich told me that ETS is the biggest independent wine laboratory in the United States with about 45 employees who do the microbiological analysis for almost 90% of the domestic wine industry.  Their aim is to prevent microbial spoilage at the grape, bottling or beyond stages of the wine production chain, what Rich describes as “full spectrum analysis.”  The good doctor was lively and entertaining as he explained the microbiological problems that can occur during the wine making process.  Here’s the first part of our conversation.

Richard DeScenzo, Microbiology Group Leader, ETS Laboratories

Danny: So if I’m a Midwest grape called the Norton and I’m not tasting too great…?

Rich:  I’ve just tasted two very nice Nortons thank you! One had a little bit of Brettanomyces in it, but not bad.  I tasted one yesterday too that had a little of what I might call a microbial funk in it.

Danny: Is that what produces that inside of an artichoke can taste?

Rich:  Well there are lots of different ones.   I’m the microbiologist so I’m very tuned into microbial spoilage and that’s what we focus on trying to help people prevent and we have all the diagnostic tools.  I gave a talk yesterday (Friday 10th February) at 830am, it was the first talk early in the morning…

Danny: Nice to get it out-of-the-way?

Rich: Yeah, yeah! There were about 30 people and they came for a microbiology talk.  Historically people have looked at microbiology as regards the wine industry as a forensics tool, in other words, if something goes wrong you call the microbiologist, for example  if the wine starts smelling.  We have the tools now that we can prevent spoilage because we can detect the organisms long before they spoil the wine.  Overall I’ve tasted a number of wines here and I was very pleasantly surprised at some very nice wines.  There are some that have some problems but it doesn’t matter if it’s a Norton or a Cabernet from Napa, you still have problems in the wine.

Danny:  So people come to you when they have a problem but are you able to tinker with things in the wine?

Rich: We’re able to tell them what caused the problem.  If we catch it before it’s a problem that’s really the power we have and what we’re seeing is a gradual shift in the industry towards pre-emptive screening instead of forensic analysis.  Now with the chemistry side, the chemistry is the standard, you need to follow things, you need to know, where are my sugar levels? Is sugar dropping? Is all the sugar gone?  Is my fermentation complete?  Or malolactic fermentation, is it complete?  That type of thing.  There’s a great deal of science behind this and what’s interesting, really interesting, is that people who want to have the fewest touches on the wine, the very purest, minimal impact, those are the people who benefit most from having all the information.  If you’re one of the large manufacturers and you’re adding lots of SO2 and you filter and then you sterile filter in bottling, maybe you don’t need to know as much, because it’s more like an industrial wine production, but for the folks who are really trying to do as little as possible then the more technology they use and the more helpful it is.

Danny: Is there a typical problem that wineries just starting out come to you with?

Rich:  I think the biggest problems early on revolve around sanitation, and not sanitation in a way that there is anything that could possibly harm anyone, but sanitation and not understanding the difference between say cleaning something and then sterilizing or sanitizing it.  So a lot of times they end up making a wine which is a nice wine and then they go to the bottle and some microbes, bacteria or yeast get into the bottle and they spoil the wine.  That’s what we’ve had a lot of comments about  in the context that, maybe in the first few years a winery doesn’t have a lot of natural microbial inhabitants, but over time you start building up these populations in your winery, your house strains, and then you can get bugs in there that can cause a problem in the wine.

Danny: Gosh!

Rich: And so that’s probably for the startups, other than the basics people need to know.  Invariably they start having problems with microbial spoilage, that’s usually the big one, either that or oxidation, that’s the other big issue.

Danny:  Can there be a fine line between the job a microbiologist like you and the task of a winemaker?

Rich: No! We’re completely different.  For winemakers, their job is to keep the right microbes in and keep the bad ones out, but there’s so much more to it all in the decisions during the process, like when to harvest the grapes, how to manage the canopies, what crop load on the grapes, what yeast they select, what bacteria, what oak, what toast level.  These are decisions they make along the way and we don’t really influence any of that, what we do is work specifically on the chemistry of the wine and then prevent microbial spoilage.

This is the first part of a two-part interview.  In the second – and arguably more interesting part – Rich gives his views on Midwest wines and the future of the industry.  Part II will be posted very soon.