Friday, March 27, 2009

Winemaking finding itself in more homes

If more people are inquiring about what it takes to start a winery, as was discussed at the Pennsylvania Wine Association conference in Penn State on Tuesday, then is the same increase in interest being shown in home-winemaking?

Or, is there any juice to the feeling that this passion for winemaking is getting legs? The answer, apparently, is yes. At least that's what John Kramb has seen at Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, Pa., since they began selling the equipment and kits and offering classes a year ago.

"We did the home winemaking classes to get people over the fear of flying sort of thing," he said by phone on Thursday. "We've had anywhere from 10 to 20 people in a class." The next one is scheduled for May 10. The cost is $25. "I take them step by step with our kit wines; here's how you do this, here's how you do this, here's how you do this, and there's a little bit of hands-on to that. And then they say, 'This isn't so scary after all.'"

The response has been high enough to convince Kramb to find a supplier who can help the winery expand its collection of equipment and kits. That equipment, Kramb said, is hardware that only needs to be purchased once as long as people take care of it. In the kits are the grape concentrate and other additive needed to make wine, generally around 5 gallons. Together they equipment and kits cost around $200.

Kramb said he sells higher-end kits, but generally steers newcomers away from those until they complete a class and try some of the basic ones. Students, he said, are attentive in these classes, which last more than an hour and less than two. "They ask good questions," Kramb said. "I change my instruction a little based on if i start seeing the same questions repeated. Our goal is to get people to where they're comfortable making their own wine."

It should be noted that this is the final weekend for Tour de Tanks, and by all indications this fourth annual event that allows passport holders to visit nine wineries has been by far the most successful.

"It has been incredible," Kramb said, then switching to his typical dry humor, "I attribute that to two things. Evidently there's some sort of economic downtown going on. We are not participating personally, but people are more motivated to do things locally. The other reason for us is that [before this year] we were the only winery this far west. Now there are three, and people are more inclined to take the trip out here."

Kramb couldn't provide specific numbers, only an anecdote. "I can tell you this, and this is just coming from memory. The second Saturday of the Tour de Tanks is usually the busiest day of the whole thing, and we had 100 more people than we did the previous year, and that's significant. And the other days have reflected that."

MBBWL trying to rally support at O's opener

Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, sent out an e-mail that spent more time looking ahead than behind. Disappointed but undaunted, work already is under way to move Maryland among the states that allow for direct shipping. But that battle will run over the next 11 months. In the meantime, here's what Borden sent out.

1, Well, it is official: the House of Delegates
Economic Matters Committee officially killed HB1262, the direct wine shipping bill, last night. Though you could look at this as another defeat, I am really optimistic about the progress we made this year towards gaining passage in 2010. The Committee engaged this issue like they have not before, and we are very appreciative of all of our supporters in the House and Senate for this initiative. Please be sure to thank your elected officials who co-sponsored the bills (here’s a link to find yours: this year and make sure they know you expect them to do the same next year too.

2, What better sign of spring than a new Baltimore Orioles season, and we’d like to send you and a friend to
opening day Monday, April 6th. We were just approved to hand out 50,000 flyers to the stadium-goers, and we need 50 volunteers to cover the crowd. The game starts at 4:05 p.m., so the time commitment would be 1 to 4:30 p.m. Once the game starts and the crowds entering Oriole Park start to subside, we will hold a raffle among our volunteers to win two tickets to go inside the gates. Please let me know via e-mail (aborden at as soon as possible if you are able to help out, and please pray for good weather!

3, To get ready for 2010, WE NEED YOUR MONEY AND TIME! We have so far raised almost $3,000 from many of you, and we thank those who have already contributed. To be able to get out the word to more Marylanders, we unfortunately need more money. Even $10 or $20 helps us to print up more flyers and send out more emails. Please click
here to donate: We are also in need of more volunteers to do simple things like calling members to update their contact information or coordinating volunteer wine tastings. Drop me a line if you have a couple of hours or more, and we will definitely be able to put you to good work.

4, We held our first critical wine tasting a couple of weeks ago and want to report back. Thanks to the following wineries for generously donating their wines for critical evaluation. Remember: Though some of these wines may be available in Maryland retailers or restaurants, none of them can legally be directly shipped to you in Maryland due to current restrictions.

St. Michael’s Winery 2007 Maryland Merlot
Though rooting for the home team, many found this wine to be a little “too light” in many respects. The color was “light red” to “reddish brown” with a “slight fruit” or “light spice” nose. The wine’s “light body” and “dryness” in texture and taste left some reviewers wondering “where did it go?” Perhaps the wine “possibly needs time?”

Wente Vineyards 2006 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon
This “dark” and “garnet” red wine was “very good” and made people “happy to drink it.” Its fruity aroma – “red fruit in my face” – and full body were good initial signs. The taste was “dry” and “spicy” with “slight fruit” like currant. The wine’s “medium to long finish” led some to say it was “approachable” and “I’d buy a case.”

Bridgeview Blue Moon 2005 Cabernet Merlot Blend
The tasting’s most popular selection – “nice balance” – was “garnet” with an “orange/brown” undertone in color. The “musty coffee” with a hint of “cassis” bouquet complemented the “velvety smooth” texture of the wine. “Lots of red fruit” and “sweetness on the back of the tongue” stayed with our panel for a “medium” length finish. Perfect for “late night sipping.”

Please get in touch if you too would like to help critically evaluate wines for MBBWL. Hope to see you at the game!