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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Rhones Finding a Home in Arizona

May 15th, 2018 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

A recent article in Wines and Vines magazine asks the question, which grape varieties grow best in the extreme conditions of Arizona? Several, it turns out, not least among them many Rhône varieties. At the recent Hospice du Rhône event held April 27-28 in Paso Robles, two winemakers from the state shared their perspectives on pioneering in inclement weather, uncharted soils and nascent wine laws and distribution channels. Wine writer and critic Jeb Dunnuck interviewed Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks based in southern Arizona’s Sonoita and Willcox AVAs, and Maynard Keenan of Caduceus Cellars, based in northern Arizona’s Verde Valley. The theme was high elevation wines, referring to the fact that most of Arizona’s wineries produce wines with grapes grown between 3,500 to 5,500 feet above sea level. The state is home to 86 wineries according to the Wines Vines Analytics winery database. A nascent industry Bostock explained how Arizona’s wine industry launched when the first commercial vines were planted in 1982. “Sonoita was the first to become an AVA, Willcox came later, and Verde Valley might be the next,” he said, listing the state’s three primary growing regions. For Dos Cabeza WineWorks’ two southern-Arizona properties, Cimarron Vineyard in Willcox and Pronghorn Vineyard in Sonoita, rainfall hovers around 12 inches annually, “and most comes right at the end of ripening and going into harvest,” Bostock said. He also described the impact of summer monsoons on the vines. “Half of that twelve inches comes during monsoon season,” he said. “A lot of people perceive that heat and dryness are the problem [in Arizona], but it’s really hail, water, and extreme cold.” Of his first taste of Arizona wine, Bostock said, “It was an epiphany. It was as good as anything else I’d had but it tasted different, and that was exciting to me: to be around when a place figures out what it tastes like.”. Bostock added another challenge: that of evolving laws in a state that has not historically had a wine industry. “The laws weren’t written to allow us to do what we want to do,” he said. “Arizona is open to other winemaking markets, but it’s laid some prohibitive laws to production.” He said state legislators recently closed internet sales of alcohol between the hours of 2 A.M. and 6 A.M., as they do for brick-and-mortar bars. State law also prohibits corkage, “so our wine fans can’t bring bottles to their restaurant,” Bostock said. As such, half of Dos Cabezas sales take place in the tasting room. “We have a small band of enthusiastic consumers, but we still battle image all the time.” Keenan and Bostock both see winegrowing in Arizona as a long game, played with an eye to the future, generations ahead. “I used to think we’d plant vines and make wine,” said Bostock, laughing. “Now I feel more like Moses: if I can get my kids there, I can see the promise land from here. It’s going to take time. We want to figure out what works as quickly as possible, and the only way you can find out what works is by sticking it in the ground and making wine from it.” Keenan concurs. “A lot us in Arizona are puzzling to figure this out. We won’t see the end of the rainbow on this, so we’re setting it up for our grandkids to see. I’m swinging for the fence on many levels.” Click here to see the full line of Stainless Steel Winemaking Barrels from Skolnik.

Solutions to Smoke Taint

April 10th, 2018 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

A recent article in the Sonoma-Index Tribune detailed the search for solutions to smoke taint after the recent Northern California wild fires. The international pursuit of ways to predict how much smoke from a wildfire will end up in finished wine and what to do about it got a boost when the dark clouds of particles pumped out by the massive North Bay fires in October descended on an experimental vineyard in Napa Valley. Australian researchers had done extensive studies of a number of years on the interplay between smoke in the air and unpleasant “ashtray” smells and flavors in the bottle, and such work continues Down Under. Knowledge has increased about the number of culprit compounds to test for — now seven, up from two — but how tests on grapes and on wine over time will predict “smoke taint” and how that relates to winery fixes remains to be solved. As the Business Journal reported in November as samples of possibly tainted wine were flooding into commercial wine labs, a big challenge in such testing is the chemical markers associated with the off odors and flavors travel come in two forms: nonvolatile precursors and volatile compounds consumers can detect. The nonvolatiles bond to sugars in the grape juice and get released gradually during fermentation into the volatile, or free, form. Commercial labs have precision in detecting levels of the nonvolatile and volatile chemicals, but the meaning of those levels in predicting taint isn’t well-known. And insurance companies have been using varying levels in determining claims for crop insurance. Check out our full line of stainless steel wine barrel.

Coopers Hawk Announces New 125,000 Square Foot Winery Outside of Chicago

March 13th, 2018 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, a lifestyle brand that was ranked as the 34th largest winery in the US by Wine Business Monthly in its annual ranking this year, is pleased to announce the successful expansion and relocation of its winery to Woodridge, Illinois. The state-of-the-art winery, located at 9016 Murphy Road, is nearly triple the size of its former facilities and is designed to keep pace with the company’s rapid growth and 300,000-member-and-growing Wine Club while maintaining stringent standards for quality.“The winery is the lifeblood of the Cooper’s Hawk experience,” says Tim McEnery, Cooper’s Hawk CEO and Founder. “While the new facility was designed to increase capacity, our primary focus is to maintain our hands-on approach to winemaking as we grow. This expansion enhances our ability to serve Wine Club members and guests by enabling continuous innovation while supporting collaborative Wine of the Month initiatives with the world’s leading vineyards, winemakers and culinary taste-makers.

The 125,000-square-foot winery supports an initial production capacity of approximately 685,000 cases, with significant room to grow, and includes a 60,000-square-foot warehouse that can store approximately 300,000 cases. The company’s wine output has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last three years, and has more than doubled since the former facility opened in Countryside Illinois in 2010. The increased demand is owing to the opening of 30 restaurants in eight states over a span of 12 years, coupled with the related expansion of its Wine Club, which is the largest in the US. When McEnery opened his first restaurant in in Orland Park, Illinois in 2005, the winery was located in the lower level of the venue. Cooper’s Hawk Winery ferments and ages wine from some of the best vineyards across the globe, which enables restaurant guests and Wine Club members to try classic domestic varietals, as well as those from countries like Chile, Argentina, France and Italy — all at a reasonable price point. In addition to producing nearly 50 varietals, the winery produces twelve unique Wines of the Month every single year. Cooper’s Hawk has won over 400 wine awards, including various Platinum, Double Gold, Gold, and “Best of Show” awards in numerous national and international wine competitions. Not far from Cooper’s Hawk, check out the Stainless Steel Wine Barrels at Skolnik!

Winemakers Share Mechanization Experiences

February 13th, 2018 by Jason Snow

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In the most recent edition of Wines and Vines, we learn that the availability of labor is a problem that’s going to continue, according to Keith Striegler, who moderated a session about winemaker experiences with vineyard mechanization during the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Striegler, grower outreach specialist for E. & J. Gallo Winery, noted in his introduction that more vineyard operations and practices are being mechanized, and mechanized pruning, shoot thinning and leaf removal change vineyard appearance. “When you make a change in the vineyard,” he said, “you have to have a buy-in by the winemakers in the winery, or you won’t get very far.” He then introduced the four panelists, who came from different regions and grow grapes for wines with different price points. Andrew Meggitt, winemaker, vineyard manager and co-owner of St. James Winery in St. James, Mo., discussed how St. James got into mechanization. When Meggitt first arrived at St. James from New Zealand in 2002, the winery produced 60,000 cases. Today, it is the largest winery in Missouri, farming 185 acres and producing 250,000 cases, with 65% of the grapes grown on St. James’ property. The winery plans to plant an additional 55 acres this year and another 50 acres in the two succeeding years. St. James Winery began a mechanization experiment in 2004 that lasted until 2009 using side-by-side rows in a block of Chardonel grapes. Meggitt reported that initially they found some variation in the fruit, but in 2010, the vineyard crew began doing a follow-up by hand to the mechanized pruning. “That cleaned up and opened up the canopy,” he said. “The ripening zone is more even.” In 2012, the winery made the decision to convert their entire vineyard property to mechanization for four reasons: lack of labor, increased efficiency, improved fruit quality and improved fruit consistency. “We couldn’t find labor,” Meggitt stated. “Mechanization improved the timing of vineyard operations—for pruning, bud rubbing, hedging, leaf removal, shoot thinning and positioning, cluster thinning and harvesting. Our spray bill dropped 30%, because we were getting light into the canopy, and that helped with the presence of all the diseases.” All the grapes used by the winery—whether grown in Missouri, Arkansas or Michigan—are grown in mechanically manipulated vineyards. “We’re growing flavors in the vineyard and producing higher margin wines, but we’re still learning how to do this. We’ll improve. Technology will improve,” Meggitt said. “We’ve improved the bottom line for the vineyard; that wasn’t our goal, but it helps.” Check out our full line of stainless steel wine barrels.