Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Newspaper Column: Wines I've Been Drinking Lately

As Grape Sense nears the start of its fifth year, it's time to return to the staple of any good wine column and recommend a few wines.

People always ask, 'What are you drinking lately?' So, here is a column on five easy-to-find wines that are all priced under $16. All five are light-bodied wines perfect for late summer evening dinners. 

Burgan's 2010 Albarino - A great summer wine is a bit of an understatement with this $12.99 bottle from Spain. Albarino is a summer white wine with hints of lemon, nice minerality, floral characteristics and a beautiful freshness missing from way too many white wines. This wine has consistently scored around 90 points from the major wine critics. This wine is widely available at or near the price above. Serve this by itself, with appetizers or white fish and it will be a hit!

Graffigna 2010 Malbec Reserve - Even though many gravitate to white and Rose' wines in the summer, meat off the grill deserves good red wine. An outstanding choice - even for those grilled steaks is Argentinian Malbec. The Graffigna really delivers bang for the buck for around $11-$12. The Graffigna is frankly lighter than most Malbecs making it a perfect summer wine with steak or even pork. You'll get the typical beautiful dark berry flavors with a hint of vanilla. This is about as good as a $12 bottle of wine can ever get. 

Gerard Bertrand 2008 Minervois Syrah/Carignan - Here is another light bodied wine with a world-class pedigree. Bertrand is a much heralded Southern France winemaker who turns out several different wines under $15. But you will have to make it to a wine shop to find his wines. The Minervois region seems to always produce well-rounded and smooth-bodied wines. This is delightfully light-drinking wine than can use 10 minutes in the fridge - a very light chill - before serving. If you can't find this one pick up any of the Bertrand wines and give one a try. This Minervois region wine is probably the lightest but the winery consistently delivers very balanced and drinkable red wine.

Clayhouse Adobe Pink - No summer wine column can go without a Rose' wine recommendation. It's a Grape Sense mission to spread the word on the delightful dry Rose' wines. French Provence Rose' and Pinot Noir Rose from California and Oregon fill the wine rack. But the Paso Robles Clayhouse label delivers consistently good red and whites. The Rose' has done well with wine critics scoring around 90 points. This wine has a little bigger flavor than the French wines but it's a nice blend of Rhone varietals Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, and Syrah. You get really drinkable wine with Clayhouse Adobe for $14. Be crazy, live dangerously and try this with bold flavored fish or a salad.

Ravenswood 2010 Napa Valley Zinfandel - Ravenswood is a name many will have seen in wine shops and grocery stores. They've been around a long time because they consistenly deliver good wine. The Napa Zin has big fruit with a balance and finish any red wine drinker will appreciate for the $15.99 price point. Ravenswood has a basic bottling that turns up in many grocery stores that's also quite palatable for even less. Give that wine an hour or two in a decanter and it delivers for the cost.

All five wines are widely distributed in the U.S

 Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gur-Arieh on Winemaking Style, Sierra Foothills

As an old editor I can recall always urging young reporters to gather more material than needed to write a particular story. The longer you’re in the business you learn to multi-purpose an interview as well. This post is an example. I interviewed Chaim Gur-Arieh about his wine delivery system for restaurants and published that column to my 18 newspapers a couple of weeks ago. (That column is posted below.)

Chain Gur-Arieh visiting Indy
But I also talked with the colorful creator of Capt'n Crunch about his win emaking philosophy and other topics. Often times I’ll enter an interview with three or four topics in mind for different pieces I might write.

Gur- Arieh is a colorful, enthusiastic man who’s led a very full life. He got into wine when he met his wife.

“My wife was a ballet dancer and she introduced me to wine,” the Turkey native explained. “I really didn’t know much about whine except what I learned in school. I had a Ph.D in food science, biochemistry engineering.  But all of that is very much involved in winemaking. I met her and we started tasting wine and I got intrigued. This drew me in, and I am a very passionate type of a guy, so I developed a passion for this.”

Though the passions have changed throughout his career, Chaim and his wife have been together 41 years. It was about 12 years ago he left food sciences and  opened G.C. Gur Arie winery in California's Sierra Foothills.

Here is a video of Chaim talking about the Sierra Foothills - a region even most wine lovers may not be familiar with. You will have to excuse the camera bobble at the beginning of the vid - oops!

“I like wines that you can sip and be able to drink and enjoy even without food,” he said. “I like a wine that is fruit forward. I also like some attributes of an old world wine. I don’t like a lot of alcohol in my wine. I like my wines not to be astringent at all. I like a wine, that when I release it, it’s drinkable.

“I like a wine that has elegance. Before I started making wine, I wrote a profile for the wines I wanted to create and I had a guy I was working with, a consultant and veteran winemaker. We’d get together and drink many different wines from different winemakers. I told him what I liked and I developed a protocol over years.

“There are few things I do in the vineyard, but I’m very meticulous. I like my fruit to ripen evenly and that takes a lot of effort. I like to harvest the fruit when it’s ripe. I don’t look at numbers or sugar levels. I look at how it feels in my mouth.”

Throughout the interview at Pure Eatery in Indy’s Fountain square, Chaim used the word “fussy” a lot when describing how he does things in the winery. So, I teased him a bit about his use of the word.

“Some people tell me don’t be so fussy, be more relaxed. Be relaxed man. Qell, I’m very relaxed. But I like to pay attention to detail. You can’t commit too many sins with wine. You  commit a sin with wine it will show.

“I know these wines are good. They have a lot of depth, a lot of complexity but mainly they don’t have flaws. You can make a wine depending on the grapes, time and effort you want to spend in cellar but at least you should be able to make a wine that is flawless. But making a wine that is flawless takes a lot of effort and  a lot of people don’t want to make the effort.”

The winery produces about 15,000 cases of wine annually and Gur-Arieh knows he needs to produce more to make it more profitable. But he likes making wine the ‘fussy’ way which isn’t inexpensive.

I tasted his Syrah and Zinfandel at the Indy restaurant. Both wines perfectly matched the description of his winemaking style - big, soft fruit and a very understated finish that is good for sipping or with food.

The wines are available throughout Indiana.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Innovator Trying to Change Restaurant Wine

EDITOR'S NOTE: After posting my most recent newspaper column I realized I had not posted the one before it. Hey, 100 columns and that's the first time! But here is great story about really good wine and a better restaurant delivery system for our favorite beverage. This column was released to my 18 newspaper Aug. 1

As a life-long creator, innovator, and food scientist, Chaim Gur-Arieh has always sought out new products and better ways of delivering products to customers.

It might be a natural progression that after opening a winery, C.G. Di Arie, in 1998 that he would focus on wine delivery. Small production wineries like Di Arie often rely on restaurant sales. Gur-Arieh found an industry rife with inefficiencies he’s now trying to change.

“To me making wine is easy, quite easy,” he said during a recent Indianapolis visit. “I’ve been in the food business for 35 years, on product development side. I make wine but I’ve got to sell it. Selling it is more of a challenge.

Chaim drawing a pour of Syrah from Pure Eatery in Indy.
“I sell a restaurant a case of wine, it goes onto the wine list but they may have another 100 wines. So I may sell them a case every three months. But the wines that sell the most are the wines by the glass and my wines are little more expensive than most wines by the glass. My wines retail at $18-$35 a bottle”

So Gur-Arieh wanted to develop cost efficiency for the winery and the retailer. “When you open a bottle of wine by the glass, you have a preservation problem. If you don’t sell the bottle, and a bottle is four to five glasses of wine or you don’t sell it that day, it loses quality.”

So Gur-Arieh penchant for development and innovation took over and launched his wine by the tap delivery system. Essentially the system is not unlike others boxed-wine delivery systems. It has wine vacuum sealed in a plastic bag, inside a cardboard “keg” with a draw tap for a restaurant bar or serving area. He developed the seal between the tap and bag which makes his product different than others.

He has the system in place in three Indiana restaurants, including Pure Eatery in Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood. He has three in Chicago and four in California. But this man doesn’t think small. He hopes to have the system in place in up to 100 restaurants this year and 500 establishments by the end of 2014.

“I can put a quality wine in a keg,” Gur-Arieh said. “I think the retailer has to change his thought process. Right now they want to charge the cost of a glass, same as cost of a bottle. They open a bottle and don’t know if they’re going to cover their cost. They have to change their mentality; they have to think of more modest margins. This system eliminates the risk.”

The Turkey native guarantees his wine for a year until each keg is opened. He extends the warranty for 60 days once each “keg” has been tapped.

Gur-Arieh’s winery is in the Sierra Foothills region of California. He produces a variety of wines including Sauv Blanc, Verdelho, Roussane, Zinfandel, Syrah, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and a number of blends. His winemaking philosophy is for very drinkable fruit-forward wines with great balance and low acidity and tannins. He also thinks it’s important to keep his wines’ alcohol levels in check. A taste of his Syrah and Zinfandel from the keg’s tap mirrored the description.

It’s important to include a little bit of Gur-Arieh’s background as a food product developer. You may or may not have ever tried his wines but the odds are very high you’ve tasted other products he has brought to market. He’s best known as the man behind Cap’n Crunch Cereal but also helped bring Hidden Valley Ranch and Power Bars to market.

C.G. Arie Wines are distributed in Indiana by World ofWines, Indianapolis.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Indiana Wines Wins Competition's Top Honor

A gold medal here or a silver medal there boosts wine sales. Some wine enthusiasts dismiss medals under the ‘too many competitions to count’ excuse.

But one Indiana winery just picked off an historic honor that was unprecedented. River City Winery, New Albany, won the best wine of the Indy International Wine Competition with its 2011 Vignoles.
“This is huge,” owner/winemaker Gary Humphrey said. “This is just not Indiana. Nobody from the Midwest has ever won that honor.”

Now, before you dismiss an Indiana wine competition please note the annual contest is the third biggest in the U.S. and draws 2,600 entries from 41 states and 14 different countries. It was quite the historic moment for Humphrey and Indiana wine.

Vignoles is a hybrid grape grown widely in Indiana, Missouri, and other states. It is often used for dessert wines but also makes a nice semi-sweet wine. It often has hints of peach, pear, or apricot on the palate.

“This was first time we’ve done Vignoles so we nailed it,” Humphrey said. “We didn’t manipulate it very much in the vineyard at all. Actually the birds almost got it and we were in the vineyard picking within two hours of seeing that.

“Once it got into the cellar, we really pushed the envelope keeping it cold and doing very cold fermentations and arresting the fermentation. That keeps all that fruit flavor in there. Halfway through the fermentation I had nothing but a grin. I knew we’d have a wonderful wine if we didn’t screw it up. We spent the next few months trying not to screw up. Once fermentation was complete, that wine was excellent.”

Humphrey with his 20011 Vignoles
Before you go out looking for Humphrey’s Vignoles it’s important to note he doesn’t distribute his wines. He makes more than 3,000 cases a year for his River City Winery and Restaurant in downtown New Albany along the Ohio River. The business opened in the spring of 2009.

“We don’t distribute and we have no plans to distribute,” Humphrey said. “We’re not in the bulk industry. We’re not going to make 20,000 cases to make a profit. We’re trying to keep it small with most of our batches under 500 gallons. We try to experiment and work different tanks, yeasts, strategies, see what works and what doesn’t. Then we blend or don’t blend and then make our changes for the next year.”

The 2011 Vignoles is a lovely wine with a hint of sweetness (2.5 percent residual sugar). Probably the most unique characteristic of the wine beyond the fruits mentioned above is a hint of banana. That surprised Humphrey during the tasting process until Purdue’s Professor of Horticulture Bruce Bordelon said that can be a trait of some Vignole wines.

What jumps out of the glass is remarkable freshness and extremely well-defined balance. The wine sells at the winery for $28. 

Humphrey has no plans to significantly increase his production. His restaurant has become a popular spot in New Albany behind the work of Executive Chef Nicholas Davis. The next door building has been acquired for expansion of the winery and restaurant.

Humphrey also makes two outstanding Chardonel wines, one barrel aged and the other aged in stainless steel. Even his obligatory Concord offering is significantly different getting aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels.

 Selling only from his business and in a restaurant setting allows River City to charge a bit more per bottle. You can buy wines to take home.

Next time someone bad mouths Indiana wine, they just don’t know the facts.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Difference in Medals, Magazine Critic Points

For the states not on the west coast a wine competition medal can move bottles of wine out the door. But it’s a little different story for the big boys out west.

I’ve written in recent days about River City Winery’s incredible win for best overall wine at the Indy Wine Competition – the first ever for an Indiana or Midwest winery. That’s going to help Gary Humphrey sell wine. He knows it too. He jumped the price the minute he got back to New Albany.
While that may seem like capitalizing to some consumers, so what? You believe the great California or Oregon wine producers don’t bump their prices or the next vintage if they get 95 points from a publication like Wine Spectator? Sure they do!
Dan Crank, Willamette Valley winemaker

I’ve guest judged at the Indy Wine Competition several times and again this year. One of the judges on my panel was Willamette Valley Vineyards winemaker Dan Shank. Dan was funny, extremely knowledgable and anxiouis to share his insights and opinions. Just my kind of guy!

He had some great insights in how professional judge such competitons.

“The first thing is to figure out if there are any flaws in the wine,” he explained. “There are some pretty obvious things that can happen  to wine . Winemakers can go down the wrong path and those wines are flawed. So we’re going to dock those wines. Then we want to reward things that are very varietal specific,;if you capture the essence of a varietal then we want to reward you and give you a gold medal.

“It’s not whether you like the varietal or not. We had rhubarb wines and maybe you don’t like rhubarb, but it tasted like rhubarb. They did their jobs so you want to reward that.”

And while Dan enjoys judging these competitions, he admits the medals are more important in some areas of the country than others.

“That’s true, there’s a lot more competition and a lot more people have been doing the same varietal for a long time on the coast.  So the magazines and periodicals become a little more important to sell our wines. That’s a whole different game because those guys when they rate wine they don’t taste them blind so there’s a lot more to that dance. There is marketing and presence in the industry to consider.

Here in the Midwest a ribbon from a prestigious competition like the Indy Wine Competition can really help you out and help drive sales. But for me to take a ribbon home to Oregon from the Indy Wine competition, it’s not as big a selling point. We’re looking for the affirmation of the periodicals.”
But Dan confirms what I’ve heard for years – medals mean sales. Jim  Butler, at Butler Winery near Bloomington, told me that after he won best varietal for his Rose a couple of years ago, that it was gone in a hurry. And that included three price hikes!

Medals mean sales and affirmation of a good product. Don’t overlook awards when you visit a winery but don’t take them as a guarantee either.

 Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Indy Champion Vignoles Isn't River City's Only Gem

New Albany, In. - Indiana wine as a whole, and River City Winery in particular, made some real history last week. Gary Humphrey was the first-ever Hoosier winemaker to produce the Indianapolis International Wine Competition's top wine.

River City 2011 Vignoles was judged the best glass of wine out of 2,600 entries from 41 states and 14 countries. Indiana has had a variety win before when Butler Winery claimed the top Rose, but never the best over-all wine in the competition.

For one thick-headed day I tried to figure out how to visit the winery and snatch a bottle of the prize winner. It took most of the day for the fog to clear and remember I had business in Kentucky Tuesday and could easily come back through New Albany to River City Winery and Restaurant.

Humprhey pouring his wines
I have to admit, though River City has been around for about three years, I had seen the name but knew little about it. Humphrey has a unique business model - his winery tasting room is also a full-service, chef-driven restaurant. He does not have any distribution though he does participate in some wine festivals. If you want a bottle of that award winner, you can only get it in New Albany.

That approach allows him to do a couple of things. First, he can charge a bit more per bottle in a restaurant setting than most wineries can charge in a tasting room. But he also doesn't have any ambition to become a major player state wide, he just wants to make great wine.

Humphrey also honors the community's history on his labels and in helping lead a downtown revival. I'm going to be writing my newspaper column about River City this week.

Chef Davis' crabcakes! Yummy!
But the Vignoles was something really interesting. I tasted, tasted again and had a glass with some incredible crab cakes. It has a remarkable freshness you just seldom get from any wine. That had to catch the judges' eyes. It also had this quirky little hint of banana - yes, banana - that really set it apart from other Vignoles. Now, it has 2.5 percent residual sugar. Some wine lovers will find it a tad on the sweet side. It's not Frosted Flakes sweet, nor traditional Concord grape sweet, but it is sweeter than a lot of wines. But that said, it was a beautifully crafted wine.

The wine retails for $28 a bottle. Humprhey admitted he learned from others that such a win might be a once-in-a-life-time thing. So he did what almost every big winner always does, he bumped the price pretty good. Let's just say the wine was under $20 before last week. I certainly can't find anything wrong with that!

Gary, who maintains his job as a New Albany police officer, recently purchased an adjoining building and has started renovations to expand the kitchen, dining area and add private meeting rooms. The location is downtown with beautiful exposed brick walls and tremendous grub. The winery is in the basement.

Pizza like this Feta/Spinach one has become a signature dish

At one point, Gary disappeared and came back with Executive Chef Nick Davis. Davis is a local who graduated from Louisville's Sullivan Culinary School. The 23-year-old head chef buys local ingredients and has all sorts of ideas he'd like to try when he gets a bigger kitchen.

I had the best crabcakes I've ever had in land-locked Indiana. Davis added a wonderful bed of corn, black-eyed peas, herbs, and a hint of cayenne for a real kick.

The Vignoles isn't Gary's only interesting wine by a long shot. He's working to perfect Riesling he buys from Kentucky and admits his red wine "program" isn't quite where he wants it yet. He did pour a traditional Bordeaux blend that was "okay" to my palate but showed tremendous potential if he can find a consistent source for Cab, Cab Franc, and Malbec.

As most wine folks know Hoosiers like sweet wines. There is hardly an Indiana winery that doesn't make a sweet Concord wine. Gary makes one too but he takes the wine and ages it in Kentucky Bourbon barrels for a unique finish. It weighs in at 7.5 percent residual sugar but tastes like much less. It is truly unique.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I will get an update online in the next few days about all of Indiana's winners from the Indy competition. Oliver Winery won the Governor's Cup for most wins and title of Winery of the Year. We'll break down the other awards soon.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Monday, August 6, 2012

Great Little Video About Indiana Wine

I stumbled across this video today while doing my morning run through Facebook postings. It's pretty good stuff. I have to say after visiting five Indiana wineries in the last few weeks that quality has never been better.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Indiana's Biggest, Oldest Winery Still Evolving

BLOOMINGTON, In. - It's a bit of an old adage that as businesses age adaption to changing times can determine continued success. No one can accuse Indiana's oldest and biggest winery of resting on it's size or laurels.

Great Indiana limestone, landscaping which leads to tasting room.
Oliver Winery's name is synonymous with Indiana wine. IU Law Professor Dr. Bill Oliver is one of the "fathers" of the Indiana wine industry. In a certain age bracket, author included, many probably remember Camelot Mead as one of their first ever tastes of wine.

After four years of wine writing I finally made my way to Oliver winery Friday to interview Bill Oliver, the founder's son, for a story on Indiana wine I'm doing for Palate Press.

Too many Hoosiers only know Oliver for its sales powerhouse Oliver Soft Red and Soft White. Indeed, you can go in many supermarkets, Wal-Marts, and other such places and find pallets or stacks of their famous sweet wines.

But Oliver has always had a lot more to offer. Now they have an entire line of very well made traditional varieties under the Creekbend label. They've also jumped into the cider craze with delightfully refreshing fruit-flavored ciders.

Oh, and Camelot Mead - or honey wine - is still around. It's clean and crisp and they've added a flavored line of honey wines as well. I was anticipating not liking those because of a pre-conceived notion of sweetness and Oliver. I loved the honey wines and the cider. They were some of the most refereshing beverages I've tasted in a long time.

Bill Oliver during our walk/ride through the vineyards.
My time with Bill Oliver was very productive. And I'll save most of that material for the Palate Press story or other writing efforts afterwards. I've toured a lot of wineries in recent years but was really impressed with Oliver's state of the art winery capable of producing more than 400,000 cases annually.

A real treat for me - educationally and as a wine enthusiast, was hopping in the car and driving over to the Oliver Vineyards. Bill and I jumped into a golf cart and rode around the 50 acres of vineyard. He showed me how the weather has stressed some vines and not others, how some varieties like Traminette thrive in the dry and heat and how Chambourcin has struggled.

We tasted grapes! Verasion (or ripening) is not quite complete but close. The grapes are formed but a few weeks from full ripeness. The Pinot Grigo tasted absolutely awesome right off the vine.

I tell wine friends all of the time that a good winery tour will really aid your understanding of wine. A good vineyard tour takes the education to a master's course. Wine makers love to tell you that great wine is made in the vineyard and not the winery.

A few quick notes on the wines I tasted. I started with a 2010 Viognier. I'm a so-so fan of the grape but liked Oliver's interpretation that gets stainless steel fermentation. The wine was not as floral on the nose as many and lighter on the palate. It was delightful at $14 a bottle.

I also liked the Creekbend Chambourcin Rose. Indiana's best Rose wines, to for my palate, come from the Cambourcin grape. This one has a few drops of traditional white wines but had the hint of strawberry that most good Rose wines show. For $12, it's among the better choices in Indiana Rose.

The always-busy Oliver tasting room
For those who only think of Oliver's sweet wines, the skeptics should get a taste of the 2009 Shiraz Reserve. I loved the oak-aged Syrah for its dark coffee, chocolate, and vanilla hints. It reminded me of a Rhone Syrah, done in a much lighter style than most traditional American Syrah wines. It sells for $22. Oliver is also one of those wineries really getting Chambourcin right. It's light on the palate with some characteristics of Pinot Noir but a spicier finish. The 2010 Chambourcin sells for $22 and well worth trying.

I'm generally not a fan of things like cider and honey wine. But now I willingly admit tasting the honey wines and ciders might have been the best part of the tasting room visit.

I sampled the Camelot Mead and the Peach-flavored version. I just loved the peach. It tasted and smelled like a fresh peach off the tree. It was really refreshing.

I was "convinced" to try the ciders and just loved them. A local artist came up with great humorous art work for the aluminum bottles. I tried the raspberry Beanblossom hard cider and enjoyed the freshness and effervesence,

I think sometimes Oliver is overlooked because of its longevity and those grocery store sweet wines. If you're one of those folks, you're making a mistake. They really make something for everyone.You might not like Soft Red and Soft White but if you like well made reds, specialty wines, crisp and light white wines -- take a drive to Bloomington.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Friday, August 3, 2012

Indy Wine Competition Always Learning Experience

Staging area for 2,600 different wines

 A few years back someone in Jeanette Merritt's office, probably Jeanette, had a great marketing/PR idea. The Indiana Wine and Grape Council, along with Purdue University, hosts the biggest wine competition in the United States outside of California.

Ann Miller and Todd Ranier between flights
Several years ago they started inviting "guest judges" to join a tasting panel for a few hours. The guest judges were bloggers, wine writers, foodies, and such. The guests taste right along with the judges and offer their opinions from no medal, bronze, silver or gold awards. But the guest's vote doesn't count.

I have done this several times now and besides great fun, learn a lot each time. Thursday at Purdue's Memorial Union building I sat down at a judging table with Donna Adams, Winzerwald Winery, Indiana, Todd Ranier, Kahn's Fine Wines, Ann Miller, St. James Winery, Missouri, and Don Crank, winemaker at Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Donna was our table's lead taster.
I was there for two hours and tasted through five flights of wines with the judging panel. The judges are only told the variety, vintage, and residual sugar of the wines place in front of them. The Thursday morning flights were American White Blends, Red Blends, Traminette, Chambourcin, and Vidal Blanc.

Judges rank the wines based on clarity, color, aroma, taste, aftertaste, and then overall opinion. Most flights range from five glasses up to 12-14. Let's just say you learn how to taste wine and spit often in this game.

We had wines we hated, loved, and simply confused us. I like the experience because I learn so much. Crank makes wines at one of the Willamette Valley's premier wineries and geeked us out several times even talking about a process or machine with "scorpion" in its name. Four pair of eyes were glazed over during that discussion.

Crank offered up plenty of technical expertise
But Dan also had the best line of the day I sent out via social media. We were talking about start up Indiana wineries and whether anyone hired professional help. Donna Adams shared one story of a start up which hired winemaking pro from U.C. Davis on a one-year contract to teach them all they needed to know.

"The wine business is very expensive but knowledge is a good thing to spend yr money on," Don said. Ranier quickly suggested that was social media wisdom so I Tweeted and updatded. I wish more Indiana wineries heeded Crank's advice.

I also have some comments from Crank about these wine competitions versus magazine point ratings. I'll get that up in the next day or so.

The other thing I seek when attending this event is affirmation, not that I'm right in agreeing on a medal but do I taste, see, and smell the same things as the judging pros? Everyone is going to like different things whether you've ever judged wines or not. For the most part, I was right on this year and largely awarding the same level medal as the other judges. That gives me a little more confidence when recommending what I think is a well-made wine - whether it suits my palate or not.

Some numbers to ponder: 2,600 wines entered this year (up 200), 41 U.S. States, 14 countries. The competition started in 1992 with 454 entries. The contest was held for years at the state fairgrounds but moved to Purdue in 2010.

Jeanette will have the winners tallied and out in a press release very soon. I comb it for Indiana winners and other wines of interest.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com