Thursday, December 31, 2009

A toast to 2010

Happy New Year, all. Will get at it again in the new year.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Waltz extends its hours over next two weeks

Expect to start to see various wineries extending their hours, partly because of the business lost during this weekend and partly because of the proximity to the holidays.

Saw Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, Pa., did a shout-out overnight via e-mail to its customers on the extra hours it plans to be open the next two weeks. The schedule includes 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday of this weekend and next week, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday.

Closed obviously on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jeferies unique but not alone in terms of regional eateries wanting to serve regional wines

Had no luck Friday finding out when John J. Jeffries Restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., is scheduling its next food and wine pairing dinner. But there's no question that the restaurant located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel will be having more, featuring foodstuffs from local providers and regional wineries such as Chaddsford and Pinnacle Ridge. The pairings are a bargain, featuring multiple courses matched up with either local wines or beers at an agreeable cost. And someone from the featured winery or brewery will be represented to offer insight into how each wine was made.

This all leads into a subject the Pennsylvania Winery Association president Sam Landis and I had several months ago about the difficulty regional wineries have had getting their product into area restaurants. Indeed, he mentioned some local research that was being completed on the subject, something I need to try and obtain.

Landis noted that the PWA (and he could just as well had been talking about the winery run by his folks, Vyncrest Vineyards & Winery in Breinigsville, Pa.,) has put that initiative on hold for certainly the near term. Some eateries, such as Jeffries, don't need to be sold on carrying local wines. But those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Landis called it an uphill battle. "The only restaurants we've had success with are the ones that have actually solicited us and wanted to have a local presence," he said. "But to go the other directions, to try and convince restaurants to carry your wine espeically now with the economy. They're going to pick 7 or 8 dollar bottles of wine and sell them for 30 [dollars]. and they're going to go for name recognation. It's something we've consciously put on the back burner here. If it happens, it happens."

Chaddsford has probably had more success than any other winery in the region in placing its wines in local eateries. Co-owner Lee Miller said in a recent phone conversation that they have in a sense gotten out of the business of trying to push their wines into restaurants.

She said during the time period when they were focused on that aspect of their business, they "hired a sales manager and several salesmen, we put them out on the road and . . . knocked down doors and they sold a lot of wine. But the problem for us was that it was very expensive to have four people on the payroll, with cars and expense accounts, since they are traveling all over selling wines. And then the second part, there's such turnover. Restaurants change constantly. The managers change, the sommeliers change, the beverage manager changes and we found that we were placing things and then two months later they'd change and they'd want something different."

Plus they would require plenty of support such as printing menus and providing small wine glasses and training the wait staff. In other words, lots of promotional materials. "It was a very expensive proposition," she said, "and on a business level, we said, you know what, this isn't getting us anywhere. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars in staffing costs and we dont have that much wine and we're running out of things ,so we just decided we weren't going to pursue it on that level.

"It's not that we weren't successful at it. If you do it right, and this is what these other wineries don't realize, you have to do it RIGHT. Big wineries have staffs and they go out and sell. When you're a one-man show . . . you can't expect to do it, because that's a service industry, so you've got to be out there every week, and most wineries right now don't have the staff to do it. If you have it, you know, we were very successful at doing it. We had every restaurant in Philadelphia using our wines, but they have come to expect because most restaurants buy from wholesalers who have a staff who is out there every week because those salespeople are living on commission. So they're in there, they're taking samples, they're having dinner, they're talking, they're sitting at the bar, and most small wineries don't have the have the staff to do that."

Instead, she said, they're quite content to work with restaurants such as Jeffries and nearby Brandywine Prime and the White Dog in Philly that WANT their product. "And they come to you and they say, 'I really want to use local products,' and then you work out a program with them. And we're happier to do that, because Eric and I can do that. So right now we're concentrating on people who want the wine, who want to work with us, who know that we're different . . . we decided we like it better that way. So I'm not disappointed. I think there are a lot of restaurants that are realizing that local is good and that are adding some local wines to their menus. But right now we have maybe 50 wine accounts where at one time we used to have 400 all across the state."

Crossing Vineyards list two Riedel workshops, wine and chocolate pairing

Crossing Vineyards & Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa., will toast the holidays with a tasting workshop Dec. 27 (and Jan. 24), featuring four of its premium wines served in Riedel Crystal specifically designed for each varietal. It also will offer a wine and chocolate pairing workshop Jan. 3. Included below some specifics, and you can learn more about other Crossing events and its wines at this link.

Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, and Jan. 24, 2010

Riedel Crystal Wine-Tasting Workshop, In 90-minute class, sample premium wines in Riedel Vinum glasses, analyzing taste difference using various shapes and sizes of stemware. 2 p.m. starting time both days. Crossing Vineyards & Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, PA. Cost: $99, includes Riedel sampling kit with four glasses. Anyone purchasing Riedel stemware will receive 50 percent off a second item. Information and reservations: 215-493-6500, ext. 19 or

Sunday, Jan. 3

How Sweet It Is: Pairing Wine & Chocolate, Tips on enjoying wine and chocolate together, presented by Eric Cavatore, sommelier at Crossing Vineyards and Winery; 2 p.m., Jan. 3, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, Pa. Cost: $35, includes samples, learning materials and the Lindt Chocolate bar of the participant’s choice. Information and reservations: 215-493-6500, ext. 19 or

Call ahead before you made any winery visits throughout the region this weekend

Based on my conversations with some wineries around the region, if you can get out and are tending to visit one later this afternoon or tomorrow, call ahead. Some never opened, others opened and then closed early. Saw where Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Md., closed on what was its Customer Appreciation Weekend and wasn't exactly sure if it would reopen on Sunday. Check the Web site. Once it does reopen, it will extend its 21 percent off sale through Christmas Eve. The winery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fiore's Customer Appreciation Weekend still a go

Customer Appreciation Weekend is still on at Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Md. Just got off the phone with them, one of a number of calls they're received today about the event, which is scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday.

Should the predicted storm for the winery to close, then expect to find that information on the winery Web site and on its Facebook page. Also expect Fiore, as well as many of the other regional wineries, to probably extend their sales past the present deadlines.

Admission to Fiore is free, where the winery will serve light refreshments and Rose Fiore's fresh-baked Italian cookies. All cases of Fiore wine, solid or mixed, will be 21 percent off . The winery will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 on Sunday.

Lehigh Valley wineries list invididual schedules

Been AWOL for a week trying to stay afloat with my other job, so I apologize. Most obvious subject heading into this final weekend before Christmas is the bad timing of this prdicted snowsotrm for wineries trying to unload product and gifts before the holiday.

With that in mind, let me post a couple of e-letter that I received about activities at several wineries over the next week or so.

Courtesy of PR ace Courtney Romain, here's the listings of what the wineries on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail in eastern Pennsylvania have planned.

  • AmorĂ© Vineyards: The warmed Spiced Apple is always a special holiday treat. A cinnamon stick makes it even more festive. The brave and bold enjoy it with apple pie. Open daily until Christmas.
  • Blue Mountain Vineyards is offering a new release of its Sparkling Peach ($19.50). It is a semi-sweet sparkling wine produced with succulent peaches and alive with sparkling bubbles. Blue Mountain also offers an Adopt a Vine Program for that wine lover who has everything on your gift list. Purchase a vine and receive a certificate explaining the program to present to the recipient. The first year they receive a plaque to be placed on their vine and for five years thereafter they will receive a specially labeled bottle of wine for the varietals you have chosen. The winery will be open Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery: Share the grape of the Lehigh Valley, Chambourcin, with friends and family this holiday season. Clover Hill makes two styles of Chambourcin: 2008 Chambourcin ($14.99) is a dry, oak-aged medium body red with rich, luscious berry flavors and a warm toasty oak. The Turtle Rock Red is a lighter, fruiter version of the Chambourcin made in stainless steel tanks with just a hint of residual sugar. Celebrate the holidays with local flavor! Open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery: The winery suggests custom labeled wines as a great gift; an extensive collection of artwork with your personalized message for a flat fee of $10, plus cost of the wine. Minimum order is a case (12 bottles). Through January 3, 2010, Galen Glen will be open Sunday through Friday noon -5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Also open Christmas Eve 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed: Christmas Day and New Years Day.
  • Pinnacle Ridge offers great gift baskets for holiday giving. Choose your wine, wine accessories and gourmet foods and create your own special gift for that special someone. The winery is open Sunday through Friday (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) from noon- 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Open until 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve for those last minute wine and gift purchases!
  • Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery’s Spiced Winter Red ($9.99 a bottle), a seasonal holiday wine, is reminiscent of a German Gluwein, which can be served warm with Christmas cookies or fruitcake. Spiced Winter Red is available in a three pack, specially priced for December at $25.00. Starting Thursday, December 17, the winery is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., until Christmas Eve (open 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.). Closed Christmas Day, then open December 26 - 29, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., December 31 open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Basignani holiday open house Saturday/Sunday; among a number being held around the region

Safe to say that wineries across the region want one thing this weekend, and that's good weather for their holiday open houses. Some, such as Basignani Winery in Sparks, Md., held their first of two weekends last Saturday and Sunday and spent a lot of time, well, maybe sipping their own wine as the snow fell outside their windows. Lynne Basignani said by phone a few minutes ago that all they want are some crowds this weekend after the weather kept a lot of people indoors last weekend.

Basignani will hold Part 2 of its annual open house from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $8 per person, which covers a tasting glass that visitors can take with them, wine tastings and food such as bread, cheeses and Christmas cookies. Lynne said they served hot mulled wine last weekend made out of Marisa, what the winery terms its version of a Beaujolais with a little more structure. The fruity mix includes a blend of Foch, Chambourcin and Chancellor grapes.

At least give Piccolo, the winery's newest offering, a try. Tasted it after harvesting in October and really liked it. The red table wine pairs equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and sells for $11.99/bottle. Works superbly with any kind of pasta or a beef or steak dish.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sand Castle opens TASTE, unveils 2 new wines

Two recent wine releases and a new store have the folks at Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, Pa., buzzing. A suburban Philly winery that's a member of the Bucks County Wine Trail, it recently came out with a 2006 Pinot Noir and a 2004 Chardonnay Classic. About the Pinot Noir, general sales manager Peter Ricci said was tasting "very good, good fruit, with raspberry flavors to it. Pinot Noir is hot, that's just a given in the marketplace." It's selling for $30/bottle.

The 2004 Chard hardly sounds like a new release, but it emerges from three years aging in French oak. "It has really nice flavors of vanilla and almonds and caramel. You really pick up the French oak in the wine," Ricci said. That's available at $17/bottle. Three years in a barrel is probably as long as any winery in the region ages its Chard.

Ricci said the winery's new retail store, called TASTE, is located in a former Starbucks shop at the Valley Square Shopping Center, 711 Easton Road, in Warrington, Pa. You can purchase wine there, but that's just part of what Ricci called selling a gourmet experience that includes wine-related gift items, a coffee bar, a wine bar, an imported olive oil and balsamic vinegar bar, gourmet cheeses and gourmet foods. Samples are scattered throughout the shop, giving customers a chance to try things before they purchase them. Hence, the name of the shop. The hours at TASTE are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

This isn't the winery's first attempt at an off-site retail outlet. Last year it tried a kiosk at a mall in Lower Bucks County that Ricci said "worked reasonably well" for awhile. The economy took some of the initial burst away, and so did the mall insisting that the kiosk be opened when the mall was. During the holiday season, that could mean as early as sunrise. "Well, how many people are going to buy wine at 6 o'clock in the morning?" Ricci asked. "We didn't lose money last year, but it just simply wasn't worth all the time and effort we had to put into it."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking for a wine job? You could start by attending Thursday class at Philly's Wine School

So many people these days are making decisions about their lives and careers, whether out of necessity or simply out of unhappiness or fear about what the future holds. This morning at the Harrisburg-Patriot News we talked about covering a midday job fair at the Giant Center in Hershey, which turned out drawing around 500.

Within that context was the blurb I saw on the holiday e-letter from the Wine School of Philadelphia, 2006 Fairmount Ave., which I've blogged about in the past and have its Web site linked to my blog. School founder Keith Wallace wrote about a one-hour talk and wine tasting he's planning tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 10) on how to get into the wine industry. Cost for a workshop that Wallace has entitled Becoming the Next Robert Parker is $18, primarily to cover the expenses for the wine.

Wallace said this idea is an extension of the one-on-one discussions he's already having with his students at the nine-year-old school, helping them not only decide what they want to do but finding the route to get there. He said a number of those students have gone on to successful career as either a winemaker or the owner of a company that has a connection to wine. "You're not going to make great money," he said, "but you can have a decent living and actually be able to enjoy life and be your own boss. And in this economy, why not do what you love?" So, he continued, he'll talk on Thursday about how to scout out these potential jobs and find a niche.

And those opportunities to make money do exist, he noted, although at one point breaking into a laugh and noting "not in wine education, by the way. Most of the money I make comes from a lot of the other things I do on the side." He noted that while the wine industry as a whole is hugely regulated, "it's like the Wild West. It's highly regulated, but state by state there are no clear dominant leaders, except in distribution, but it's a place . . . that you can really start something and ramp up very quickly, to the point of actually becoming a national figure, or at least a regional figure and turning that into a company."

Showtime is 6 p.m. Thursday at the school, which offers an A to Z of classes from 101s to more specialized education experiences such as Napa Valley & Beyond and Winter Cooking and Wine Class. Even saw a special wine and food arrangement that Wallace is cooking up with Luca Garutti, the chef at nearby L'Oca Bistro. That four-course dinner and Italian wine class is on the calendar for Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. Cost is $52 per person, taxes and tip not included.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kreutz Creek unveils 'best ever' Holiday Wassail

Missed the chance to pull several items off the e-letter for Kreutz Creek Vineyards in West Grove, Pa., before the start of the weekend. Still, several things apply through the end of the year.

Owner Jim Kirkpatrick noted that "another year comes to an end but before we look toward 2010, we still have a full month of events for 2009. We just released our new Holiday Wassail and it's the best one I've ever made. I fermented pumpkin and apples in the Niagara and added spices like cinnamon and cloves. We serve it warm in a crock pot but it's delicious served chilled as well. Stop by for a sample and check out our holiday decorations. Read on to see what's happening in both West Chester and the winery in West Grove for the rest of 2009."

Kirkpatrick wrote that the winery will hold its Holiday Wine Sale through the month: 10 percent off bottles and 20 percent off cases of 12. The winery is planning to be open the weekend after Christmas, Dec. 26-27 and the weekend after New Year's on Jan. 2-3.

As for its tasting room in West Chester, here's the entertainment schedule for the rest of the month:

Friday, 12/11 – The Al Moretti Jazz Duo
Saturday, 12/12 – Jazz by Aniya

Friday, 12/18 – Latin Guitar by Brad Rau
Saturday, 12/19 – Jazz and Swing by Swing Set
Friday, 12/25 – Closed
Saturday, 12/26 – Jazz Vocals by Unstuck in Time

The BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) facility will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24 and Friday, Dec. 25 and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

About that virtual tasting idea ... give Morris Zwick a call if you're interested in participating

Chatted with owner and winemaker Morris Zwick of Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Md., more than a week ago about a number of subjects, including the virtual tasting he'd like to try sometime this month.

Using a software called
talkshoe, it would allow folks to interact with Zwick as they are all tasting the same wine. He said he's been a participant on a show for amateur winemakers that originates in the Pittsburgh area; that show sometimes goes as long as an hour and a half and involves a number of different folks dialed in to the site.

He's hoping to even get a dozen or so involved in the first attempt, go between a half-hour and 45 minutes, and then build it from there. His goal is to arrange the virtual tasting for mid-December.

"You know, even only have 10, 11, 12 people, I'd be perfectly happy with that," he said. "I think it's the kind of thing where people have got to try it and see it work, then they'll tell other people. Eventually, I can see also bringing people on to the show, maybe bring Kevin Atticks from the Maryland Wine Association or people from other wineries in Maryland . . . and so it would be a way to promote not only Terrapin Station Winery but other Maryland wines in general."

For those not familiar with Terrapin Station, it's the only producer of boxes wines that I know of in the region and it's distributing now through more than 60 outlets in Maryland. Zwick figures he'll just start with one wine, maybe their 2008 Cabernet Franc, one of two ones that Terrapin Station recently released. "Then they'll dial in at the appropriate time and while they're trying it, we're trying it, and people can ask questions," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to ask what we did with it and what some of the stats were like . . . gives them an opportunity to ask some of those specific questions and on top of that we can talk about why this vintage is the the way it is. For example, this [2008] vintage is a 14 percent alcohol wine, which is pretty high for the East Coast. It was a hot, hot August, September; we really got the sugars up and we decided instead of trying to [drop] it down we'd just take advantage of the situation and see what we got as long as we were down below, what's the magic number there, 14.5, and see what we get."

If you're interested in participating in this first virtual tasting that I'm aware of in the region, drop the Web site an e-mail or call 410.398.1875. The wine should list around $23 for a 1.5-liter box; obviously, the the equivalent of the two .750 ml. bottles that you're probably used to buying in your favorite state store or shop.

Zwick noted the one other thing he likes about talkshoe is that the program can be recorded. So if you miss it, you can still sample the wine later and read the comments. This idea, he said, just supplements the other ways of getting the word out: store tastings and festivals, to name a couple. "Our challenge is all about evangelism and getting people to try the stuff," he said. "Once they do, they're fine with it."

Stopped in Hershey, but bypassed the chocolate

Working on a story for a publication that took me Friday to the tasting room at Cullari Vineyards & Winery in Hershey. It's just one of many buildiungs that pop up along Route 422 between Harrisburg and Annville, where I've been teaching as an adjunct at Lebanon Valley College. Probably ridden by it 25 times and finally had a chance to nose around the comfy surroundings.

Owner Salvatore Cullari, who formally taught at LVC and served as head of the psychology department there, has a bar set up on the main floor where he handles most of his tastings. The room is open Thursdays through Sundays. A few steps lead up to a small dining room where Cullari can hold parties; indeed, he and his brother were getting set up for one yesterday.

Cullari hails from Calabria in Italy and talks about having been associated with wine-making since he was a kid. His 25-acre lot in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., holds two vineyards with around a dozen types of grape, including Zinfandel, Barbera and Sangiovese.

While admittedly someone who favors dry reds, his wine list caters some to those who prefer their wine with some sweetness. His biggest seller, called White on White, is a blend of white grapes that has the aroma of Traminette. I also sample something he calls Pomegranate Splash, a tasty sipper that blends some whites and pomegranate juice. And I sampled a few of his red blends, all with good structure and flush with color and aroma and -- much to my satisfaction -- generally priced in the $10 to $15 range.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hauser Estate readies for two firsts: winermaker's dinner and debut of reserve Chardonnay

I'd be remiss not to apologize to folks for not having the time to post interviews, etc. School ended yesterday but work has been crazy. So some of what I'll post over the next couple of days has been sitting on my recorder and in my notepad for weeks.

Caught up with the delightful Michelle Oakes, the winemaker at Hauser Estate Winery west of Gettysburg, Pa., on Thursday to talk about the winery's first Christmas dinner. That's scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at the gorgeous winery that overlooks the Adams County countryside for miles. You can make reservations by calling 717.334.4888 or visiting the Web site.

The four-course dinner will be catered by Accomac Catering of Wrightsville, Pa., and feature Oakes as the MC, so to speak, as the winemakers are wont to do at these events. She said she's looking forward to it.

"I'll present each of wines with the courses and we'll talk a little bit about the wines, how they were made, a little bit about how they go with the food there," she said, "and also some holiday planning . . . helping people kind of figure what wines go well with what they’re doing." By capping the size of the group at 50 and putting more people at fewer tables, Oakes she she hopes that will help prompt more interaction and discussion about the wines.

One wine that Oakes will get a chance to unveil will be Hauser Estate's first reserve, a Chardonnay, which will be paired with the first course, a cream of asparagus soup topped with crab. This Chardonnay is a mix of what Oakes called short-term barrel-aged and long-term barrel-ages, so anywhere from six to 10 months. It has been in the bottle since August and could be available for sale as early as Friday, depending on whether some new labels arrive in time. Otherwise, figure to be able to pick it up sometime over the next couple of weeks.

Oakes said it's fine now, but . . . "I think it’s really going to blossom a year from now. It’s going to be phenomenal. Right now it’s very . . . crisp, a little bit of sweet oak kind of character to it, but it's very crisp, clean mineral right up front right now, and it’s getting more of that kind of chewiness coming back to it."

And in a year?

"I think it’s going to get richer and fuller, it’s going to take on more of that creamy, nutty type character," she said. "But right now it’s just got a real nice freshness to it, so I think it’s a nice wine either way, depending on what kind of style you like. But I think it’s going to get a lot more depth with time on it."

Several reserve reds are scheduled to be released after the holidays. "I'm really excited about the cabs," she said. "They're really shaping up to be nice wines in the bottle."

Cost of the winermaker's dinner is $59.95, and it also will include the Cabernet Franc Rose, the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, all made out of the 2008 vintage. As all this is going on, Oakes is starting to get a look at the 2009 grapes that have come in from her suppliers. No one will confuse this vintage with the one two years ago, the best of the decade, but Oakes said in some cases she's seeing better fruit than what came in last year.

"Honestly, I've heard a lot of doomsday theories on it," she said of the '09 vintage. "I think for the people who really stuck with it and just said, I’m going to stick to my fundamentals and the things I know .. I think those people are going to fare well.

"There’s certain things you can’t do about a year that’s less than perfect," she continued, "but we had a long harvest at least, so if you let it hang, it came around. The people who got worried and pulled it off early are the people I think who are going to have a lot of trouble. It was a gamble, but if you took the gamble, I think it paid off."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lower Manhattan event scheduled for Sunday

Must have a dozen posts to get done and way too much other work. So let me try to put the other work on the back burner for two days and catch up before we reach the weekend. Been having this one since Monday. Here are two items I liked out of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation newsletter:

CITY WINERY in lower Manhattan will be the scene of our “Uncork New York—Sip, Savor & Shop” tasting next Sunday afternoon [Dec. 6], with 38 wineries, over a dozen food producers, and four restaurants providing samples for locavores. Besides tasting, attendees can actually buy the wines and foods on the spot, a great way to stock up for the holidays.

Friday’s Wall St. Journal included a nice mention of the event, which is also being promoted in Time Out New York and through other means. Tickets are only $45, and are available at

“WINES, WITH NOTES OF M.B.A.” is the headline of a New York Times Business Section article today by Kathryn Jones on the growth of the wine industry stimulated by people from other businesses pursuing a second career.

The piece also features a great photo of Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, owners of Red Tail Ridge Winery on Seneca Lake, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified winery in the Finger Lakes. Nancy’s Ph.D in genetics and years of experience in enology and viticulture research at Gallo, combined with Mike’s M.B.A. and experience in the heavy equipment and construction industries, brought a unique set of knowledge and skills to creating a new vineyard and winery literally from the ground up.

Of the 58 New York wineries that have opened in the past three years, virtually all are owned by people from other walks of life, as opposed to the immediate post-Farm Winery Act (1976) wineries which were all owned by grape growers whose traditional markets (large wineries) had dried up.

A similar trend is occurring in different parts of the country, and in most cases there is virtually no attrition (failure), largely because most new entrants do their homework and create sound business plans. In New York, for example, we offer a sophisticated web-based site selection system (, and on our own web site ( legal and regulatory information, a comparison of different types of licenses, and basic resources for business planning.

In today’s economy, few industries are growing and contributing as much value-added benefit as the wine industry, which in New York State generates over $3.4 billion annually in economic activity. Public officials would be wise to keep this in mind as they shape budgets and policy initiatives.