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Old 07-10-2005, 10:19 PM
Garrison Hilliard
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Default $10 wines toast of the town

$10 wines toast of the town
Not on a champagne budget? Local experts suggest best reds and whites with good

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

Sarah Boat became interested in wine in her early 20s, primarily because she was
into cooking.

"If you're bothering to make dinner," the Glendale woman says, "wine completes
the meal. It's another flavor."

That said, "I started with some pretty horrible stuff - that awful pink stuff,
white zinfandel," recalls Boat, 41, a student at the Chase College of Law at
Northern Kentucky University. "I quickly moved out of that."

These days, her taste is more refined - she prefers sauvignon blanc and
riesling. She typically spends $12 to $17 a bottle but would prefer to spend

"I don't have a lot of money to spend on wine," she says.

It was with people such as Boat in mind that The Enquirer set out to discover
the best wines available locally for $10 or less.

Experts at five local wine shops were asked to recommend two reds and two
whites. In blind tastings, I sampled all 20 wines. My goal was to narrow the
choices into a "Top 10 List of the Best Wines for $10 or Less."

I didn't expect any of the wines in this price range to prove extraordinary.

The best-tasting wines tend to take more time or effort to produce - which means
wineries incur greater expenses in making them. That cost is passed on to the

Still, this taste test demonstrates that there are some very good wines
available in the $10 range.

Each of the local experts nominated at least one wine that I judged to be among
the Top 10. Sometimes the quality of the wines was so similar I had to split
hairs to rank them. That was especially true of the whites, which I consider the
best values. Some of the reds were too fruity - not as well structured as more
expensive ones.

Guy Discepoli, owner and manager of the Piazza Discepoli wine shop in College
Hill, nominated both the white wine and the red wine that I judged the best of
each category.

"I tried to choose wines that had a nice balance," Discepoli says. "I don't like
wines that are real oaky. I don't like wines that are real fruity. I try to pick
wines that I think the average consumer will enjoy with a meal."

The most intriguing of the whites was his 2004 Blue Fish Riesling from Germany.
It was the only riesling nominated.

"I think riesling is extremely under-appreciated," Discepoli says. "They can be
absolutely wonderful wines. The Blue Fish is a little bit of a different style
of riesling. The wine is a little dryer and not as crisp or acidic. I think it's
a beautiful wine."

He also had high hopes for the red wine I judged best, a 2003 Santa Ema
Carmenère from Chile. This red is made from another varietal that tends to be

"Carmenère is a grape that's only planted in Chile," Discepoli says. "It was
originally a Bordeaux grape" from France. "Right now, it's a great bargain."

Such "bargain wines don't always come from the same place year after year,"
Discepoli says. "Wines get discovered, and the prices go up. Or the economics of
the country change, and the wines are no longer good values."

While Discepoli thinks a lot of good wines are priced around $10, he
acknowledges that it's getting harder to find them.

But "that's the most exciting part," he says. "Discovering those great wines
that are under-priced."



The following wines were each judged "very good" by Rebecca Goodman. To avoid
bias, the wines were opened and poured out of her sight.


1. Blue Fish Riesling 2004 ($9.99)
2. Basa Blanco 2004 ($9.99)
3. Las Brisas Blanco 2004 ($9.99)
4. J&F Lurton Pinot Gris 2004 ($7.99)
5. Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($8.99)


1. Santa Ema Carmenère 2003 ($8.99)
2. Pelican by Laurence Feraud 2003 ($8.99)
3. Leasingham Magnus Shiraz-Cabernet 2001 ($9.99)
4. Equis Viñas Viejas 2003 ($7.99)
5. Calina Carmenère 2002 ($8.99)


A recent Gallup Poll found that 39 percent of the 63 percent of American adults
who drink alcohol prefer wine. Beer drinkers account for 36 percent. (The poll's
margin of error was 4 percent, so statistically it was a dead heat.)

The preference for wine has increased dramatically, the poll indicates,
increasing by 6 percentage points over the prior year.

Wine is especially popular with women: Nearly 50 percent of those polled said
they prefer it. But wine is also increasingly popular among men, with 25 percent
saying it's their beverage of choice - up from 16 percent in 1992.

While women buy an estimated 77 percent of wine sold in America, several wine
shops in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky report about half their
clients are men - and they spend more.

Each wine was sampled in a separate crystal glass. For the reds, Spiegleau
"Connoisseur Balloon" stemware was used; for the whites, Spiegleau "Connoisseur
White Wine" stemware was used. Purchased at Cost Plus World Market ($6.99
apiece), these were made in the village of Spiegleau, which is in Germany's
Bavarian Forest

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Old 03-01-2006, 09:56 AM posted to,,,rec.crafts.winemaking
Garrison Hilliard
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Default Family winery off to big start

Family winery off to big start
StoneBrook is cranking

By Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writer

CAMP SPRINGS - For five years, Dennis Walter had grown wine grapes in his
vineyards. But only last month did he and his family produce and bottle their
first vidal blanc wine.

"Finally, we're to the point of making it," Walter said the afternoon of Dec. 17
as he held the first bottle of the sweet vidal blanc ever to wear his StoneBrook
Winery label. "We're really excited about the vidal, because it's our first
estate wine."

In June, he and wife Bonnie opened the winery down Vineyard Lane from their
house, and the family started crafting several boutique fruit wines - blueberry,
blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, peach and pear - with help from 20-year
winemaker Terry Shumrick of Hyde Park.

But the vidal was the first whose fruit - grapes - had ripened on the family's
hillside vineyards, and therefore the family's first "estate wine."

Walter hopes it's the start of something big - part of Northern Kentucky's
growing vine and wine industry, which proponents hope can generate money some
area farmers used to earn by growing tobacco.

Sunlight streamed through a cellar door into the cold workroom where two of the
couple's grown children, and their spouses, made up the production line, along
with Shumrick.

Walter fondly reminisced about his family's winter hog-slaughtering gatherings
of his youth.

"It was a gathering just like this," he said. "Everybody got together, worked
together, and had a good time. And you got the job done."

The work moves pretty quickly, thanks to a gravity-driven bottling system that
automatically fills bottles with 750 ml of white wine.

A cork-inserting machine is used next, and foil caps are shrink-wrapped around
bottle tops using table-mounted heat guns.

"We can do probably 40 cases an hour when we get cranking," Walter said.

In recent years, smaller wine-making equipment has been manufactured, making it
easier for smaller producers to make wine.

"Just a little bit of equipment nowadays, you can get the quality that you
want," Shumrick said.

The process

"We picked the grapes in the middle of September," Walter said.

"And of course, we pick them when the sugar level is where we want it, and when
the pH level is where we want it."

Grapes are crushed at the winery, in a machine that drops the pulp out the
bottom, and drops the stems out the back. The pulp next goes into a press that
holds 500 pounds at a time, and the hydraulic pump presses out the juice. Sulfur
dioxide is added to kill the natural yeast in the grapes.

The grape juice is pumped to a cool room, where it sits for a day. After that,
"we come back and add the yeast that we want for the taste and how we want it to
turn out."

The wine ferments from September until late November, when the winemakers
rough-filter it and stop the fermentation. It then sits in the cool room three
weeks to "cold stabilize."

"And now, today we fine-filtered it, which takes out all the sediment that still
would be left, and we've added sorbate and (sulfur dioxide) so there's no
secondary fermentation that'll occur in the bottles," Walter said.

Last spring, the Kentucky Vintners & Grape Growers Association estimated about
12,000 new grape vines were planted across Northern Kentucky, about doubling
what was already planted.

For this spring, the association alone has ordered 5,000 more vines on behalf of
its members, said the association's new president, Tricia Houston. Others may
have ordered on their own.

Houston has grown grapes for four years. The owner of The Cat's Meow Vineyard
near Napoleon said she plans to open a restaurant and winery next spring across
Ky. 35 from Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and will plant 1,200 vines there.

Her association's overall goal is to help Northern Kentucky's wine industry as a
whole, and foster an agritourism industry.

"We're where Virginia was 10 years ago, and Virginia has a pretty good wine
industry at the moment," Walter said.

While StoneBrook's fruit wines sell in clear bottles, the white vidal blanc
comes in blue. Next season, Walter plans to make red wine.

"We did a lot of research" about bottle color, he said. "It's a selling point.
Sometimes people just gravitate to that blue bottle. They may not even know the
wine, but they'll say, 'Give me the blue bottle.' "

Not sold in stores

All StoneBrook's fruit wines except pear are available at County Market in
Alexandria. The vidal won't be sold in stores this year because the family is
making only 125 cases (300 gallons) this season, and "I'm afraid we're not going
to have enough to last us till next year," Walter said.

The winery offers monthly dinners with grilled steak and chicken, usually on the
second Saturday of each month. This month's will be 6:30-10 p.m. Jan. 7. Even
before the family bottled the vidal, which sells for $13, people who sampled it
during early-December tank tastings wanted to buy it, Walter said.

Next year, he plans to boost production.

"We're going to wind up buying vidal (grapes) from a lot of these new growers
that are going in now," Walter said. "We want to do some reds next year, and
this fall, we'll probably be buying that from local growers."

Shumrick, who used to make wine at Chateau Pomije in New Alsace, Ind., describes
the taste he and the Walter family are targeting:

"We try to make wines that are characteristically true to what we're trying to
make," Shumrick said. "If it's a strawberry, we want it to taste just exactly
like a strawberry. Not watered down or overpowering, but I mean what that fruit

Walter said his overall goal is to build a farm-based business for the family.

"I want to bring the kids back to the farm, and give them the opportunity to
make some money for it," Walter said. "So this is just the beginning."


(Photos at site)

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