Huber Restaurant changes Starlight

Huber’s Orchard and Winery has always been one of my favorite day trips. The trip was never complete without a stop at Joe Huber’s restaurant, featuring some of the best commercial friend chicken ever!

So the news was a big shock, and initially confusing, when it was announced this week the restaurant will be auctioned off later this year.

There was a certain amount of confusion in Indy media about the sale. It seemed to get straightened out as the day wore on today. The wildly popular and successful Huber Orchard and Winery continues in business as always. It’s the restaurant going up for sale.

The New Albany News and Tribune has a good story up online tonight. A big thanks to a former protege’ Jason Thomas for sharing his paper’s latest update.


Closing down column after 10 years

When grape-sense-logoGrape Sense debuted as a newspaper column in the fall of 2007, I never had any idea or hopes that it would run more than 10 years and result in over 250 columns.

The column has been responsible for meeting all sorts of people in the wine community. But, more important to me, it also has introduced me to wine enthusiasts in each of the communities where the column is published in the newspaper or on a website.

Today will be the last regular Grape Sense wine column. I will be offering the newspapers that carried Grape Sense occasional columns on Indiana wineries, holidays and other times when people are looking to read about wine.

It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas or a lack of motivation to continue the column. It feels more like the column has simply run its course.

I want to write good pieces about Indiana wine in a more thoughtful way. I want to offer suggestions at the holiday and season changes that make sense for you regardless of your budget.

Grape Sense has always been about education or helping you make wine decisions beyond your normal comfort zones.

I hope many of the Grape Sense newspapers will continue to carry the features.

This column was largely responsible in the early years for trips to Mendocino and Paso Robles to learn about wine making and vineyard practices. I was part of three press trips to France in 2012 which never would have happened without the newspaper column.

At one point the column reached 23 newspapers with circulation in excess of 350,000 Hoosier, Illinois, and southern Michigan homes. The core group has been with me for a long time. I started with the Crawfordsville Journal-Review and Frankfort Times – newspapers I had worked at during my long print career. I loved knowing wine lovers in Marion, Anderson, Terre Haute, Seymour, New Albany, Monticello, Columbia City and many more enjoyed reading about wine.

I hope I can continue to provide occasional stories worth your time and trouble.

In the end it’s about increasing your wine enjoyment, at a price you can afford, and drinking wines you like. I hope we’ve helped a few people achieve that goal.

Any time you have a wine question I’m happy to answer for you.

I hope you see Grape Sense back in your community for several years to come; it just won’t be on a regular schedule.

Thanks for reading Grape Sense!

Lots of new good eats in Indy


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indianapolis continues to be a food hotbed and even if you only get into the capital city a time or two a year there is something for everyone. And lots of new places to try out.

grape-sense-logoBeholder, the brainchild of Milktooth super chef Jonathan Brooks, is now open and wowing local upscale diners. Brooks has been lauded by Food & Wine magazine, Eater magazine, and mentioned in many other national food publications. Food scene people know Brooks.

His newest venture is something of a gambler’s visit to Indy’s old eastside just beyond the entertainment and restaurant laden Mass Ave. Beholder sit on 10th St., near historic Woodruff Place’s Victorian homes. Brooks is risking name, reputation and a lot of dollars that Beholder can become a destination restaurant that will draw people to the sometimes seamy east side. The immediate neighborhood is changing in the area, and a big thanks goes to Beholder.


Chef Jonathan Brooks

The restaurant has a modern ubran décor and an eclectic menu which can change day to day. Brooks takes his diners on an amazing array of tastes and textures throughout the meal. My dining partner and I enjoyed eggplant tartar, rye pasta with chicken liver pate’, pork tenderloin slices with pickled onion, BBQ octopus and more Since a year or so ago Grape Sense has occasionally delved into food and even Indy-area restaurants.. It was amazing – even some of the things we didn’t think we’d like!

Two glasses of bubbles, two appetizers, one medium plate, two glasses of wine, two entrée, and one dessert came to $185. That’s certainly a high-end price but within the range of dinner for two, with wine, at other top Indy dining spots. Beholder sets a very high bar.

There are lots of other new things to try. The big news of early summers was the arrival of Kimball Musk’s two new Indy dining spots – the more upscale Hedge Row on Mass Ave and Next door at College and 46th. Must is known not just as the brother of Tesla founder Elon Musk but as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

His business focuses on community, local ingredients, and even bringing affordable foods to food islands like the College Avenue location.

Fried Chicken seems to be new again, often with a hint of spice, Martha Hoover’s food empire just keeps growing. The woman known for the fabulous, and nationally recognized, breakfast at her flagship Café Patachou is all in with her son on fried chicken. Crispy Bird is the small restaurant just off Pennsylvania Ave at 49th.

Another chicken-serving hot spot is The Eagle on Mass Ave. Eagle’s chicken comes out each time tasting like it’s freshly fried and with a hint of spice. Beer is a big deal at the Eagle so the combination draws mature diners and lots of young patrons. It has a youthful vibe that makes it simple fun to enjoy the dish grandma used to do so well.

Rose’ sales madness continues


, ,

As a wine columnist, there is always news pouring into the inbox. Some topics spark an entire column idea while others are worthy of note to anyone interested in wine.

grape-sense-logoIt seems like stories about Rose’ sales flood my inbox on a weekly basis. The statistics are mind boggling to the point of disbelief. For example, rose’ sales make up just 1.5 percent of the U.S. wine market. But sales increased 53 percent in volume during 2016-2017. Nothing increases 53 percent in any business in such a short period of time!

And despite its popularity there are still misconceptions. Go into any wine specialty shop and look at the rose’ display. Rose is most often made from Pinot Noir in the U.S. Still it’s not hard to find Rose made from almost any grape grown in the vineyards. In Indiana, for instance, Chambourcin red grapes can make a great Rose. Some Hoosier wineries will use sweeter grapes to make a sweet rose’. That grape is often Catawba.


Lots of Rose’ styles to choose from.

But sweetness is where a bit of the confusion begins. There are wine novices who immediately think sweet when they see pink. If a wine shop display has 15 rose’ wines then probably 15 of them are in a dry style. White zinfandel, which is usually pink, is the genesis of the misconception.

Still, even in dry rose’ sales there are a variety of styles. Rose’ made from grapes like sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Malbec, Syrah and any number of other grapes can have a much bigger mouth feel than a light rose’ from Provence.

French rose’, arguably the world’s finest, has a huge range of styles. Tavel, from the Rhone Valley, is usually made from grenache. Yet, it’s not terribly unusual to find a Rose’ based on Syrah for a bigger flavor.

Traditional Provence rose’ is usually made from grenache, cinsault, and mourvèdre. Provence rose’ has become the standard. They are the light summer drinkers you see at the beach, on street side cafes, and increasingly at home picnics.

Arguably, Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel fueled the rose’ rush. It has a mouthwatering flavor and texture. It hit U.S. shores in the mid-teens and now is often found around $20-$25. Whispering Angel sales have exploded in the U.S. There was a great headline in Vinepair, a wine news publication, that read “It went from Provence to Nantucket to Everywhere.”

Rose sales were concentrated on the coast but now have saturated the country. Just how popular is Whispering Angel in the U.S.? The wine debuted in 2017 in domestic markets. In 10 years, 2007-2017, sales increased 40,000 percent.

Your local wine shop will have the best Rose’ selection. Try the rose’ wines of Provence but experiment. Try the mineral-driven rose’ wines of France’s Loire Valley, a personal favorite. And, there are plenty of rose’ of pinot noir wines from U.S. producers.

Rose’ goes great with a salad, charcuterie, and fish.

Think pink this summer.

Join Howard Oct. 9-13 in Oregon


, , ,

Spend three days tasting the wines of the Willamette Valley, plus one day visiting the beautiful Columbia River Gorge with lunch in Hood River.

Inn_Event Center

Youngsberg Hill Inn, McMinnville

Our trip starts with your arrival Tuesday, Oct. 9, with a hotel booked in your name in Portland. We’ll visit wineries, the Columbia River Gorge, and wrap up Saturday night back in Portland.

Included: Portland Hotel Tuesday and Saturday, luxury B&B in the valley, ground transportation, tasting fees, and all meals Wednesday morning through Saturday lunch.


Taste with the winemakers

Transportation to/from Portland is not included.

HH’s Oregon Trip or write Howard at for a brochure.

The deadline is just days away. Join us for an incredible wine trip in the Willamette Valley.

Help wine retailers help you



It can be intimidating for some to walk into a retail wine shop with hundreds of bottles and a price range of $7 to $300. Even a small shop may have 500 to 700 different labels of red and white wines.

grape-sense-logoYou may not know the technical terms or understand the strange wine-speak used by dedicated winos. You may not even know what you like or want to try. That’s all okay if you’re in a shop where retail consultants have a patient ear and ask good questions.

Be prepared to work with retail wine sales people and you’re much more likely to walk away with a bottle you’ll enjoy. There are things you can do to help that retail sales person find you a great bottle of wine at all price points.

IMG_1186First, think just a little about what you like. Do you like your reds big and bold or light on the palate? Do you prefer whites with a big mouthfeel, smooth and rich? Or do you prefer clean and crisp white wines and flavors?

Talking about flavors is a good start in any store. The other question you’re going to get is “what are you prepared to spend?” That is where you need to be honest and don’t inflate your answer, and spend more, than you are really prepared to pay for a bottle of wine.

Upselling is as common in a wine shop as a clothing retailer trying to sell you socks after buying a shirt or blouse. A retail shop is there to make money and upselling is quite common. Be firm if not convinced the more expensive bottle will really suit your tastes and pocketbook.

Now that I have personal retail experience I like to find a customer the price point they are looking for and then, more often than not, suggest another bottle at a lower price and a bottle which costs more than they were originally seeking. More expensive wines are better for lots of reasons. But one of the bigger stories, perhaps untold, is the increasing quality of inexpensive wine. Quality continues to improve as more people enjoy wine with dinner and recreationally.

Some wine people, retail and writers, get hung up on the ‘hints of cherry and underlying flavors of black currants” and other such descriptors. Ask the wine retailer is it bold or light in flavor? Would they describe the wine as acidic – which can be a good or bad thing.

Remember almost all shops will offer a discount for quantity purchases. A 10 percent discount is not uncommon for a six or 12 bottle purchase, which will of course vary from store to store.

Then obviously take advantage of tasting events. The more you taste wine the better chance you have of finding wines you will enjoy.

It’s summer time so get to your wine retailer and stock up on whites, rose’ and don’t forget the bubbles!

Tips for smaller wineries to compete


, ,

For the past two Grape Sense columns, the focus has been on a handful of small production Oregon wineries. This column wraps up the in-depth look at how they face marketing challenges against the big operations moving into the Willamette Valley. There are also some brief comments about their wine and how to buy their products.

grape-sense-logoCarl Giavanti is a winery publicist working in the valley with these ‘little guys’ assisting them in carving out a niche.

“I think the real story in Willamette Valley (and other small regions nationally) is that 85 percent of the wineries produce less than 5,000 cases,” Giavanti has written. “It’s micro production by any measure. They have only survived because of so called “Premiumization” and the recent fascination with the region. What will happen when the next economic downturn occurs, and as the distribution consolidation continues, or as vineyard and winery acquisitions accelerate (which is happening at a rapid pace right now)? Are there business parallels between what is happening in Willamette Valley and any other burgeoning American industry? Is large always destined to win? Is there a “Manifest Destiny” for these small craft producers?”

Carl_Headshot2Giavanti is a guy good at answering his own questions. There is no questioning its tough for these winemakers to clear their shelves at the end of each season. But smart marketing positioning and taking advantage of earned media seem to be the most direct route for the smaller winery’s success.

“It’s no secret there are generally lots of wineries in most wine regions,” Giavanti points out. “There are over 9,000 wineries in the U.S, and due to consolidation by the largest distributors, I estimate only 700 distribution companies, and they focus on large family or corporate winery groups, high profit margins and primarily order taking. The small production winery simply cannot compete.”

Boiling down Giavanti’s recommendations can be oversimplified to having a good story to tell and knowing your product niche. He tells the winery owners to: 1) build your own unique brand, have a strong authentic winery voice that clearly states how you are different, unique and what you promise to consumers 2) do media outreach, either direct or with a media relations consultant. Get your name, your stories and your wines out there! And 3) sell your wine direct to consumer. You’ll have the highest margins (even after marketing costs), enjoy the greatest loyalty and have the most fun!”

That’s pretty good advice for any small business.

The Wines

One of the remarkable things about the Willamette Valley is the overall quality of the wine and the five producers included in this story are no exception. Those making Chardonnay are learning quickly and producing Burgundian style – soft and rich – white wines. Ghost Hill makes a fabulous white Pinot Noir at an incredible low price.

Pinot Noir is the calling card for Alloro VineyardLenne’ EstateGhost HillVidon Vineyard and Youngberg Hill. The wines are slightly different in style which is one of the most interesting things about Oregon Pinot for real wine enthusiasts. All have varying levels of critical acclaim. Space does not allow for individual reviews but ordering six bottles of wine from any of the wineries will be well worth your Pinot investment. The wines average around $40-$50 a bottle. With price creep really taking hold in Oregon, these wines are a value buy. Contact the wineries directly through their easy-to-find website to place an order. And yes, they can ship to Indiana. For more specific recommendations, contact me at

And anytime you visit a wine region, remember the little guys!

For More

Go to the Grape Sense website at and look for a post with the headline “More from Boutique Oregon Wineries.” There are tips on aging Pinot, and background and philosophy on winemaking.


More from boutique Oregon winemakers


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Good journalism and writing always demands more sourcing than you can use in a single story. I’ve always tried to conduct as wide-ranging interviews as much as possible with the forum or time constraints of the opportunity.

I did email interviews with the boutique Oregon winemakers I’ve written about in recent weeks. But I also have a great deal of material that didn’t make it into any of the columns.

So here is one long – very long – blog post with some of the highlights from each interview. I thought these were valid and interesting points that didn’t necessarily fit into the stories I wrote. I’m going to present it as concisely as possible in a Q&A format. I included everyone’s answer about aging their Pinot Noir, admittedly a personal interest.

Ghost Hill Cellars

Interviewee Mike Bayliss, owner

The only winery of this group that makes a white Pinot Noir. Why do they make this wine and how has the market reacted?


Drenda and Mike Bayliss

“We wanted to expand the wines we sell in the tasting room. At the time, all that we had planted was Pinot Noir grapes. The Pinot Blanc was suggested to us by a friend who is a French winemaker, who said that half of the French Champagne is made with Pinot Noir Blanc from the youngest planting of Pinot Noir grapes. Our winemaker suggested instead of aging it in oak to use stainless steel to give it a bright crispness to the finish. It’s been very well received in our tasting room and has been well acknowledged by many reviews.”

What is the ageability of Oregon Pinot Noir?

“It depends on the vintage but as an average 8-10 years – plus. Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is always drinkable upon release and especially with local foods.”

What is background of winery?

“The Bayliss Family has been stewards in this corner of the Willamette Valley since 1906. We’re on 240 acres of beautiful rolling hills made up of sedimentary Willakenzie soils … very rewarding for Pinot Noir grapes. We started planting our vineyard in 1999, after we quit farming 200 head of cattle and putting up 250 tons of hay, farming oaks, wheat, and grass hays.”

Alloro Vineyards

Interviewee: Tom Fitzpatrick, winemaker and general manager

Speak about the growing broad appeal of Oregon Chardonnay:

Alloro Winery, Chehalem Mountain AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Alloro Vineyards

“I think the appeal of Oregon Chard is the classic ‘cool climate’ profile our wines have. We have just the right climate for this style of Chardonnay, which allow the wines to retain all the subtle and wonderfully complex aromas and flavors, rendered on the almost perfect, complementary frame. These are wines that truly express the terroir and offer up a spectrum of flavors associated with the sites they come from.

“Our style is a wine with a classic cool climate profile with all the wonderful elements that come with barrel fermentation and extended lees contact. This focus and approach delivers a wine with moderate alcohol, bright acidity, a mineral core, fresh pear fruit, and flor aromas. It’s complemented by the barrel fermentation and less contact that bring more fullness and roundness to the palate along with notes of biscuit and baking spices.”


Tom Fitzpatric

Your vineyard is in the northern-most part of the valley. Why is it unique?

“Alloro is a single vineyard site on Laurel Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. This is a very unique site with a very distinctive personality. My primary focus is to assure the wines capture the distinct personality of this site as they’re expressed in each vintage. I do this by capturing what I call “purity of flavor.” I want the flavors of these wines to be the direct, unencumbered flavor derived from this fruit. There is a very long list of things we do but in a nutshell we undertake activities that mitigate compromise to the integrity of the fruit and undertake activities that mitigate unwanted outside influence on the wines’ flavor. Once in barrel my wines are moved only one time prior to bottling. All movements are either via gravity or with the use of inert gas, all under the protection of inert gas to protect from oxygen exposure. They are bottled after about 11-12 months to capture and retain the richness and purity of fruit and then bottle aged for about one year before the release.”

What is your Pinot’s ageability?

“Our wines see very little oxygen and are handled to retain fruit purity. I believe this dramatically increases their ageability. In general, my wines typically take 2-3 years to blossom and then drink wonderfully for a subsequent 8-plus years.”

Lenne Estate

Interviewee: Steve Lutz, owner

You have a unique vineyard site, explain whys it’s different.

“We farm the vineyard primarily organically but I am not certified organic nor wish to be. I like the flexibility of being able to use other tools if we get into a year with high disease pressure. The way it is going with the weather and early vintages we haven’t had to turn to a commercial fungicide since 2011. We generally just use organic compounds and micronutrients in the vineyard. Our farming is dictated by the year in terms of how we manage the canopy and that is a changing landscape with these warmer evintages.


Steve Lutz

“In the winery we are straight forward unless we get into an unusual vintage. We generally destem and don’t use any whole clusters though I am thinking about playing with it a little this year but it would be totally dictated by the vintage and how developed the stems are. But generally we destem, cold soak and inoculate with yeast. We press before fermentation ends then don’t expose the wine to much oxygen after that unless we have a reduction issue. We sterile filter all our wines and the wines spend 10-11 months in French Oak about 35 percent of which is new.”

When is the best time to drink your Pinot Noir?

“I think the best time to drink most of our vintages is at 10 years out from the vintage. Some vintages take longer and some it is hard to predict their peak. We only started producing in 2004 and so far none of them have oxidized. I think the 2006 wines are at their peak or just past it now for instance. That was a warmer vintage.”

Youngberg Hill

Interviewee: Wayne Bailey, owner and winemaker

Inn_Event Center

Youngberg Inn and event center

Let’s start with your Chardonnay:

“My background in Chardonnay began in Burgundy.  I tried for several years to purchase fruit but never found the quality. So we grafted over half of our Aspen Block of Pinot Gris in 2014 and 2015 is our first vintage. My style is that of Burgundy, fermented in barrels (once used) to have the influence of oak but not be oaky. I want to emulate Montrachet.”

How do you describe your approach to Pinot Noir?

“Pinot is the most transparent of any varietal, so my job is to be as light handed in the winery as possible to let that sense of place and vintage shine. That is why making wines from the fruit on our hill is so much fun.  We have three distinct soils on our hill, elevations from 500 to 800 feet, and different slopes and orientations. As a result, we make distinctly different wines from each of those distinct ‘terroirs.’ ”

What is the ageability of your Pinot Noir?

“We believe they can age for 20-years plus.”

Interviewee: Don Hagge, owner


Don Hagge

I have interviewed Don Hagge on several occasions over the years.  I did not ask him a lot in my email interviews like I did the other winemakers. But here are a couple of blog posts and stories featuring the colorful Hagge, wine maker, farmer, student of Burgundy, and NASA engineer.

My visit with Don.

First time meeting Don Hagge

Investors not all bad for small wineries


, , , , , , , , , , ,

Small Oregon wine producers have been leery of huge corporate investment in the Willamette Valley. But they also see a benefit for their strongest sales outlet.

grape-sense-logoThe investments from big producers like Kendall- Jackson and Louis Jadot makes competing for shelf space, distribution, and marketing opportunities difficult. But the big budgets also help bring more visitors to Oregon wineries. Real oenophiles love finding small, boutique producers when visiting any wine region.

“Being small and getting our wines out there in the market is our biggest hurdle,” said Mike Bayliss owner of Ghost Hill Cellars. “We’re seeing more competition from the bigger well-funded wineries, who make wine with volume and less expense and have more market dollars.”

Steve Lutz

Steve Lutz, Lenne Estate

Steve Lutz, owner at Lenne Estate, watched as Kendall-Jackson purchased Willikenzie Estate which is across the road from his small production winery. “I think that will bring more people to our location so I can’t complain,” Lutz said.

Wayne Bailey, who owns a beautiful inn and winery near McMinnville, Youngberg Hill, echoes the concept that big dollars bring more visitors. “It’s very exciting to have the big boys spending big marketing dollars on our region,” he said. “That awareness can only help all of us. Most wine tourists will tell you they prefer to discover small wineries that they are not familiar with (when visiting).”

Tom Fitzpatrick, winemaker and general manager at Alloro Vineyards, says the big producers have pushed Oregon Pinot Noir to the world stage. “This is tremendously beneficial for all of us,” he said. “This has created more crowding of Oregon wine in the sales pipeline. The hope is that the attention and the spotlight is widening the pipeline. In general, I look at it this way, the attention and dollars are coming because we have something truly great here. It was just a matter of time before this was discovered. Things that are truly great can’t remain a secret forever.”

Vidon Vineyards owner Don Hagge has struggled with distributors and selling all of his annual production. “I hope to get there in about a year or two,” Hagge said. “I have about two years of inventory counting unbottled wine.

“But I’m not concerned about big money much. There’s a market for wines from boutique operations that aren’t ‘factory wines.’ We have to exploit that big time, particularly with direct-to-consumer sales.”

Wineries realize the biggest margin, therefore profit, when distribution and retail sales are eliminated. A bottle of wine sold in the tasting room is all profit.

Mike & Drenda Baylis

Mike and Drenda Bayliss

The burgeoning success of all Oregon Pinot producers can lead to some of the smaller winery owners reconsidering their business model.

“Our production used to be much higher, around 1,500 cases,” Bayliss said. “Willamette Valley Pinot Noir fruit has become quite valuable so for the recent vintages we decided to sell the majority of our fruit.”

In 2017, Ghost Hill was down from 1,500 cases to 360 cases.

But there remains a strong market to explore the smaller wineries. Readers can google the wineries in this column and order directly from these small Oregon wine producers. There will be one more column focusing on the challenges and a bit about the wines.

Small guys face distribution squeeze


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

When big companies invade boutique wine country with much bigger marketing budgets and resources, the little guy can feel squeezed out. Or, creative marketing and a changed paradigm could lead to more success.

grape-sense-logoOregon’s Willamette Valley has seen explosive growth in recent years in small and large wineries. But big investment from major players has an impact on the smaller wineries distribution and maybe even production.

In recent years Kendall-Jackson has purchased Willamette Valley vineyards: Penner-Ash, Willakenzie, Gran Moraine and Zena Crown. French icon Louis Jardot has bought in along with Chateau St. Michelle from Washington and Foley Wines from California. There are quite a few others.

As the quality of Oregon Pinot Noir continues to gain critical and consumer accolades, more small wineries are disappearing, and others are strategizing to find and hold market share. The bigger brands eat up the shelf space and dominate distributor’s selling efforts.

“We primarily sell out of our tasting room though we do distribute a small amount of wine in Colorado, Maryland and Illinois,” said Steve Lutz, owner of Lenne Estate near Yamhill, OR. Lenne produces about 1,600 cases of wine annually. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to find any distribution for small producers and not a very effective way to sell anymore.”


Don Hagge

Some winery owners have simply given up or cut back on efforts to lure a distributor.

“I’m resigned to finding and working with a couple of distributors in niche markets to sell about half of my wine,” said Don Hagge, Vidon Vineyards. Vidon also produces around 2,000 cases annually. “We’re rolling out a new online system (called VinAlliance) this year that might help us and a few other small wineries.”

Hagge hopes the new alliance will allow consumers to buy wines almost like a wine club but from several different wineries on a regular basis.zpat

These small wineries depend on direct to consumer (DTC) sales for their success. “We had distributors in more than 20 states but last year scaled back to six,” Alloro Winemaker and General Manager Tom Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not difficult finding a distributor but it is difficult finding a distributor who can generate adequate sales. But they have their own businesses to profitably run just like us. Building brand awareness and recognition for a small unrecognized producer, in a crowded space, is expensive. Most distributors don’t seem to be able to do this.”

Alloro is the biggest of this group of winemakers at a modest 2,550 cases.

Experience, Fitzpatrick said, has told him that direct to consumer sales will probably always be 80 percent of his business.

Family Portrait

Wayne Bailey

Everyone has a website, and some are exploring the partnering options like Vidon. The challenge is to get a brand in front of the consumer. “Most of our wine is sold through our tasting room, wine club, and events,” said Youngberg Hill winemaker Wayne Bailey.  “Online sales are a big opportunity, but the current challenge is figuring out how to best reach potential customers or let them know you even exist. Even though you can ship to consumers in most states now, it is a very expensive and time-consuming process to gain and maintain the ability to ship into each individual state; making it almost impossible for small wineries to justify.”

The smallest of this winery group is Ghost Hill Cellars which produces less than 400 cases. Marketing is complex for such a small operation. “We have distributors who work with small producers but still even that is difficult,” said Ghost Hill owner Mike Bayliss. “We do online sales and a seasonal tasting room (April to November). Although we sell a good amount of our annual production we’re moving toward selling more grapes and making less wine.”

The upside of the investment by the wine world’s bigger players is additional attention. We’ll look closer at that benefit and at these winery’s wines in future columns.

Note: The next Grape Sense column keeps the focus on wine marketing and these small wineries.