Stream Cliff Farm Winery, seasonal opening weekend

This past weekend was Stream Cliff Farm Winery‘s opening celebration for both their winery and their tearoom. The farm closes for the winter and opens back up in the spring to capitalize on the best seasons for its business. For the opening weekend, the farm had specials on their wines and plants for visitors.

Betty Manning, owner of the farm, took a few minutes to show visitors the newly decorated cellar room.

The space had previously been used to store wines and merchandise, but the winery decided to open up the space for more dining. In the summer, the room will also be used for music and events.

Enjoy the following tour of the Commiskey, Ind. winery.


Musings on jobs in the wine industry

As a student not far from graduation, I often think about jobs. I ran across the following tweet when searching for #wine, so I checked it out.

Even though it was first tweeted back in September, this tweet still shows up in a search because people are still talking about it and retweeting it. I think it’s still a popular topic because many people don’t think of the wine industry in a traditional business manner.

Instead, the industry is faced in a more recreational light. Wine, along with the wineries and vineyards who produce wine and grapes, are romanticized by the general public. When one usually thinks of enjoying a glass of wine, they think of doing so while relaxing by a gently roaring fire, while enjoying a candlelight dinner or during a stop at a small California winery. Wine can and is enjoyed during those situations, but it’s also enjoyed while eating leftovers and watching a Redbox.

But how do people make a wine that appeals to such a variety of people? Well, there’s a number of people involved. First, it starts out with the grape grower or a viticulturist. Then in larger wineries, there are interns or other workers who work to crush and destem the grapes. In smaller wineries, these duties might also belong to the actual winemaker, who has several other duties as well. Once again, depending on the size of the winery, a wine maker could also qualify as an enologist or a vintner.

There’s also a label designer, which now is more commonly housed under a winery’s marketing department, along with communication professionals who help with public relations and promoting the wines. If the winery has a tasting room, then there are also tasting room associates that help customers with their tasting experiences. And of course, there are the owners, Chief Executive Officers, Chief Financial Officers, financial advisers and more. Those jobs don’t even take into consideration jobs not directly related to wineries, but still involved in the industry like a sommelier or wine columnists and bloggers whose jobs are also devoted to wine.

As I hope you can see from my thoughts, the wine industry is more than just bottles on the shelf. There are a number of people that contribute to the final product, and just like any other business, jobs for people with a variety of degrees and experience.

Thoughts on Riesling wines from students

Monday night during my wine appreciation class, we had the chance to taste three Riesling wines. Since Riesling is Germany’s most famous grape variety, two of the wines were from regions in Germany. The first wine was a 2010 Geil Becht Rosengarten Riesling, the second a 2010 Selbach Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling and the third was a 2010 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Herrenweg from France.

I enjoyed all three wines, and I thought it was a great opportunity to compare wines made from the same variety of grapes and the from grapes harvested in the same year. Quite a few of my classmates had thoughts on the wines as well. (Note: First names are used because I had requests from two students to do so and I wanted the style to be consistent.)

“Our first wine was the best of the three Rieslings in my opinion because it tasted the sweetest and didn’t taste acidic,” said Eric, a senior in electrical engineering. Alicia, a junior in agricultural communication, agreed, saying, “The first wine was by far my favorite – it was sweet and fruity.”  I agreed with both that our first taste of the night was delicious, but I thought it had a tart, green apple mouthfeel with a mineral aftertaste.

Our first wine of the night.

Our first wine of the night.

I thought the first wine was going to be my favorite taste of the night until I took a sip of the Selbach. It was served slightly chilled and I thought it also had a sweet, apple taste. Rob, a senior German exchange student, disagreed a little on the flavor, but also enjoyed the wine. “I smelled peach and apple, and it tasted acidic,” he said of the Selbach. “But I really liked it because of the contradictions. It was fruity, but also dry.” Jiangyi, a senior in psychology, agreed, saying, “I loved it.”

wine two

The second taste of the night.

“I liked the second wine the best because it smelled pretty good. It smelled fruity and sweet, but it tasted a little dry. I didn’t like the label because it didn’t do the wine justice, but the green bottle was nice,” said Fatim, a senior in hospitality and tourism management.

And the third wine, while adequate, did not rate a top spot on peoples’ lists compared to the other two. The Ehrhart wine was the most astringent taste of the night. Brian, a senior pre-medicine student, said, “It’s okay, but I would prefer the others or red wine more. It makes my mouth water a bit and it’s acidic.”

third wine

Our third and last wine had the prettiest label in my opinion.

Another student liked the aroma of the third wine the best, but the tste left something to be desired. “The smells reminded me of summer – apple, pear and some kind of flower,” said Taylor, a senior in nursing. “But it was too dry for me, I like sweet wines.”

Before taking this class, I would have definitely agreed with Taylor in preferring sweet wines. But being able to taste a little bit of a number of different wines has expanded my palette. I still like sweet, fruity wines, but I also can appreciate drier, more subtle wines.

Stream Cliff Farm Winery opens for the season

Stream Cliff Farm Winery opens for their 2013 season today, kicking off a miniature, weeklong celebration. From now until April 7, as a part of the winery opening and their customer appreciation days, the farm will offer specials on wines and plants. To celebrate the opening day, the winery will offer a free sample of strawberry wine punch made with their Bareback wine. New this season, they will also have their wine cellar room open to the public. They will have the room open today and the next few days so that guests can get a sneak peek at the newly renovated location that can be rented for parties, events and meetings.

The winery is open for warm season hours – now until Oct. 20 – Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. The winery is located in southeastern Indiana, at 8225 South County Road 90 West, Commiskey, Ind.

Stream Cliff offers 18-20 wines per season, most with a horse or historic name. Red wines they offer include the Running Horse Red, a Merlot; Thunderhoof, a Cabernet Franc; and Rawhide, Pinot Noir. Some whites on their list include the Spotted Horse, a Riesling, and Golden Gallop, Sauginon blanc. They also offer several fruit wines including blackberry, raspberry, apple, peach and cranberry.

The winery sits in an old blacksmith shop at the Stream Cliff Herb Farm. The farm has a rich history, and claims to be Indiana’s oldest herb farm. In addition to the winery, there is a tea room and garden on location for visitors to purchase meals or plants. The winery is unique from others in Indiana because workers try to pair their wines with various herbs for a unique flavor experience. They also offer cooking classes throughout the season to help pair wines with food and learn about recipes that use both wine and herbs.

Wine by the glass

When ordering wine at a restaurant, customers usually have two options: by the bottle, or by the glass. If dining alone, with a small number of people or simply trying out a new wine, customers will usually choose to buy a glass. But is that truly the better option? That’s a good question. If it’s a popular wine for the restaurant and a diner falls into one of the previous three categories, then yes, buying a wine by the glass is a smart option.

Madeline Puckette explored the problem of buying wine by the glass and said buying a glass is not always the cheapest route to go. Customers should consider markup and know that an open wine spoils quickly. If a glass of rare wine is purchased on a Monday night, a diner on Wednesday night may receive a glass from that same bottle. The freshness of the wine will be compromised and as such, the flavor cannot be experienced to its fullest. According to Puckett, buying a popular wine is the safest route to take when buying by the glass.

What are the most popular wines by the glass? Puckett says at a steakhouse, order a red wine. At a French restaurant, stick with the French wines. Restaurant Sciences did a study on 10 million wine samples from across the United States on by the glass wine consumption. Based mostly on price, the study found that the best overall values for wine by the glass were Pinot Grigio (the Italian comparable to Pinot Gris-thanks winegetter for your note) and Zinfandel. The study also found that the most popular wines by the glass were Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, white and red choices, respectively. So the next time you’re perusing a wine list at a restaurant, keep these thoughts in mind before placing your order for a glass of wine.

Market experts say authenticity is key to wine-selling strategies

In this recent Bloomberg article, writer Ryan Flinn brings together a few marketing ideas from business and wine experts that were shared at a wine-business panel at Bloomberg’s San Francisco bureau Monday. First, he points a key audience that those in the wine industry should be paying attention to: the millenial generation, or those born in the 1980s and 1990s who are considered “Generation Y.” Knowing your audience is one of the first steps in an effective marketing strategy, and describing that audience, along with their needs and wants, will help decide the direction of the marketing campaign.

As the article’s headline reads, “Authenticity key to wooing younger wine consumers, Price says,” this audience wants to feel a connection to a brand and know that brand enough to trust that they are who they say they are. In other words, the company or business needs to be transparent, and authentic.

Generation Y doesn’t want to find out bad news about a company on the Internet or from their friends on social media first, they want to hear it straight from the source. If a winery had a bad year and a less than pleasing vintage, then buyers want to know that up-front. They don’t want to find that out by surprise when drinking a bottle of wine or hear from a wine expert that the wine isn’t up to par. They want to hear about troubles (and good things as well) from the brand – they don’t want a bunch of sales or gimmicks.

In this modern day of rampant social media use, people – namely your audience – will find out if your company is not being true to its brand or its the way the company describes itself. As William Price, co-founder of buyout firm TPG Capital and chairman of Vincraft Group, says, “Just trying to be sure what you stand for is true in every aspect in your business, all the way from where you contact people to how you make your wine, how you grow your grapes.”

It’s that simple. Do what you say you do, and people will trust you brand and company – and in this case, your wine.

Songs about wine

Music helps people relax, get in a mood and it helps some people think. I was listening to one of my all-time favorite songs the other day, which just so happens to be No. 1 on this list and I thought (not for the first time) that the song was about more than just wine. The songs in this post may be about wine, or they may have “wine” in the lyrics. Here’s a few of my favorite wine songs:

  1. Dust on the Bottle” – David Lee Murphy. Ol’ Creole might have had a flair for homemade wine, but Murphy’s lyrics make the song for me. 
  2. Hotel California” – The Eagles. Yes, this song does talk about wine. Check out these lyrics: So I called up the Captain, “Please bring me my wine,” He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine” and later, “The pink champagne on ice”
  3. Strawberry Wine” – Deanna Carter. This song is about wine and love, what a coincidence – wine is often linked to a romantic evening nowadays.
  4. Don’t Know Why” – Norah Jones. Her heart is “drenched in wine” – dare I say she was drunk on love when writing this song?
  5. Watermelon Crawl” – Tracy Byrd. Lyrics: Well we got a hundred gallons of sweet red wine, Made from the biggest watermelons on the vine, Help yourself to some but obey the law, If you drink don’t drive do the watermelon crawl

And here’s some other songs I found that I didn’t realize were about wine or had wine in the lyrics:

  • What’s Your Name” – Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lyrics: Well, the police said we can’t drink in the bar, What a shame, Won’t you come upstairs girl, and have a drink of champagne
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones. The opening verse: Well, I saw her today at the reception, a glass of wine in her hand and later in the song, And I saw her today at the reception, in her glass was a bleeding man
  • Brandy” – The Looking Glass. Lyrics: They say “Brandy, fetch another round,” she serves them whiskey and wine
  • Settlin’” – Sugarland. Lyrics: With some good red wine and my brand new shoes, Gonna dance a blue streak around my living room
  • Lady Marmalade” – Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and Lil’ Kim. Lyrics: Boy drank all that Magnolia wine and We drink wine with diamonds in the glass
  • Just One More” – George Jones. Lyrics: Well, one more drink of wine, then if you’re still on my mind, one drink, just one more and then another
  • Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks. Lyrics: Too much wine and too much song, wonder how I get along
  • Half a Mile Away” – Billy Joel. Lyrics: Little Geo is a friend of mine, we get some money and we buy a cheap wine, sit on the corner and have a holiday
  • Honky Cat” – Elton John. Lyrics: It’s like trying to drink whiskey from a bottle of wine
  • Livin’ the Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin. Lyrics: She never drinks the water and makes you order French Champagne

What are some of your favorite songs that are either about wine or have wine in the lyrics?

What does “terroir” mean?

Terroir (pronounced ter-wah) is a term used when describing agricultural products, especially drinks such as wine and coffee, in relation to where their inputs originated. For wine, terroir describes the climate, geography and even the geology of the place where grapes were grown. Easy Food and Wine offers a nice backgrounding on terroir and its relationship with wine.

Wine experts often differentiate wines with a specific terroir when grown in different vineyards in the same area. Bottlenotes asked several wine experts to share their views on terroir in their Daily Sip, an online wine newsletter. Here are three very different definitions:

  • “Terroir is a cause and effect relationship between soil components and wine flavors for which no other explanation seems possible.” -Terry Theise, Wine Importer
  • “#Terroir is a meme.” -Katherine Cole, Author of Voodoo Vintners
  • “Terroir is the idea of a holistic place and its translation into the medium of wine.” –James Tidwell, Master Sommelier and Beverage Manager, Four Seasons Resort and Club, Dallas, Texas.

Wine-themed events to enjoy while I’m on spring break

Next week I will not be posting because I will be on spring break. However, I stopped by Wildcat Creek Winery in Lafayette, Ind., so I could give you some ideas of things to do while I’m not posting.

Owners Rick and Kathy Black opened Wildcat Creek in December 2008, but Rick started making wines a couple of years earlier. The winery now offers free wine tastings and tours, indoor and outdoor seating, periodic food and wine pairings and assistance in planning special occasions.

The winery's tasting room is inside a circa 1900 farmhouse.

The winery’s tasting room is inside a circa 1900 farmhouse.

Tasting room associate Brenna Staton started working for the winery last fall and often prepares the wines for tastings throughout the week. The winery is open every day of the week.

Brenna Staton, tasting room associate at Wildcat Creek Winery, often serves free wine to customers.

Brenna Staton, tasting room associate at Wildcat Creek Winery, often serves free wine to customers.

During a tasting, customers can pick up to five wines for their complimentary tasting. And as an extra treat, the winery also gives its visitors a free sample of their Aunt Minnie’s Cherry Tree wine. Since its opening, the winery has gained recognition for its 11 wines.

So if you have a free afternoon, I would definitely recommend checking out this local winery.

Here’s some other things to keep in mind over the next week or so:

  • Remember my post about Chateau de Pique winery a few weeks back? Well, Living Social just debuted a wine tasting deal good at any of their tasting locations.
  • Chateau de Thomas has a variety of events planned for March 11-17, including a wine class, a movie showing and live entertainment.
  • Check out one of Indiana’s many wineries, most of which offer free wine tastings.


Interesting read

I recently came across an online article that said that wine criticism is changing. According to writer David White, wine experts and critics are becoming less relevant to wine consumers. He argues that the wine industry itself is losing some of its stature and appeal because everyday consumers are sharing their ideas and recommendations via a variety of social media outlets. In fact, White says, “Consumers are supposed to decide what to drink based on the advice of prominent wine critics — not mere amateurs.”

And to a point, I understand where he’s coming from. Traditional wine critics such as Robert Parker who used a numerical, 100-point system to rate wines seem to be fading. More and more people are relying on recommendations from blogs (such as this one), Twitter posts and websites such as CellarTracker to find a new wine to try. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I agree with one of White’s last thoughts in the article: “Today’s wine drinkers are an adventurous bunch, confident in their own palates and willing to trust the advice of their trusted networks.”

This sentence perfectly describes my perspective on wine. I think as a wine consumer, you should be adventurous and try wines that are out of your comfort zone in regards to what you’ve tasted previously. I place more trust in my own palate than I do a recommendation from a faceless wine critic giving a wine a score from 1-100. That’s not to say the wine industry doesn’t need wine critics. I think most wine critics are experts in their field and the industry needs that expertise when comparing or judging wines, vineyards and vintages. And there’s still a segment of the population that will turn to the advice of a wine critic instead of plucking a bottle off a shelf because it looks interesting or they read about it on a blog.

But I think globally, people are turning to more personable sources as their first resort, rather than “experts.” Wine critics and experts should take note – they could become more relevant and popular if they lost some of their jargon and spoke the same language as the everyday wine consumer. That’s just my opinion on the matter…what’s yours?