Friday, March 26, 2010

Flowers and signs

We got a lot done this week. Joe and Chuck prepared the fields for planting, disking and running ditches and taking care of farm jobs.

Laura's been busy in the office making sure we have everything we need here. She also talked to the county about getting our signs approved. Apparently we need to have a contract for their production before the county will let us apply for a permit. We're fortunate that Laura has her attention (and patience) focused on that.

On Tuesday we had a landscaper look at the property and make some recommendations. It’s exciting to think about what else we can plant here! Maybe some crape myrtle or forsythia bushes?

The winery production area is full of pallets of bottles. Monday is the big day (our first bottling line!) and though there are plenty of things to be nervous about, we're trying to hold onto positive energy. We'll be bottling all day Monday and Tuesday so friends, neighbors, and blog readers are welcome to stop by and see how it's going!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Liquor license approved!

Whew! Another week has flown by. The sun came out on Tuesday so we spent the bulk of our time in the new vineyard. Just a few more rows to lay out (out of 68 total) and then the focus will be on driving posts.

We received good news on Monday when the Liquor Board approved our liquor license. We are now officially allowed to sell wine!

Chloe and Richard went to St. Michael's Winery on Tuesday to check out their bottling process. Mark Emon, one of the owners there, gave us a full tour and explained what we need to have for our own set-up. We'll be bottling on March 29, 30, 31 and on April 12, 13, 14. It's a complex procedure but if everything runs smoothly we'll end up with many beautiful bottles of wine. Come check it out if you're interested!

Laura met with several members of the Dorchester Retired Teachers Association to help organize their annual fundraiser. They're having a Wine Tasting Soirée here at Layton's Chance on June 18th, 7-10pm, to raise money for a scholarship fund that benefits Dorchester County high school students who pursue education careers. It's going to be a wonderful event, and we're really happy to have this as the first privately hosted event at the winery (although everyone is welcome to attend! Contact Barbara Bailey at 443-880-0746 to buy tickets!)

And finally, we have to announce that our new telephone has been installed. The new numbers are (410) 228-1205 for the office, and (410) 228-1210 for faxes. Everything seems to work well and we're ready to take your calls!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wineries Unlimited

It's been beautiful all week, and we were finally able to get some work done in the new vineyard. We used the new laser to lay out straight rows and mark out the trellis posts. Then George, and later Chuck, manned the tractor while Richard drove in the posts. It's not only the nice weather that we need to take advantage of but the relative dryness of the field. If the field is too wet, the tractor will leave ruts that can collect water and harbor pests or disease that could harm the grapes.

Aside from Joe, everyone who wasn't working in the vineyard was at the Valley Forge Convention Center in Pennsylvania. The 4-day Wineries Unlimited conference and trade show held information sessions for new wineries, and shared new ideas from experts about wine industry issues. So many vendors were there that it was hard to know where to start, but everyone was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. It was incredible to see how many different products were relevant and useful to wineries, from bird netting to networking software to tote bags.

One thing we agreed upon was the desire to have local artists display products in our tasting room. We'll need table settings, wall art, cheese boards, and more, so if anyone is interested or knows someone with artistic talent interested in promoting their wares, please get in touch! Email or call 410-228-1205.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Moving week

Things are definitely moving around here. We're so happy to have Joe and Laura back, and as you can see in this picture, they're happy to be back. Much happier than they were on their cruise, where they spent two long and dreary weeks exploring the wild volcanic landscapes of Hawaii, complete with wild chickens and Rainbow trees.

But seriously, they're back just in time to join in the hustle and bustle of March.

The wines have all been filtered and are looking lovely and clear, not to mention that their flavors have developed nicely. We will filter once more before bottling but otherwise they are ready to go!

Mark Hubbard, a local carpenter, began installing the bar in the tasting room. He is building it from red oak which will will nicely suit the rustic barn decor. We also had a visit from some friends at the Maryland Small Business Development Center. They were positive about what we have so far, and they shared some advice for setting up the tasting room and retail area.

The office is in a transitional, yet workable stage. Joe has spent most of the past two days sorting and organizing folders and setting up the filing system. Laura has been running around taking care of all the important details- buying trashcans and soap for the bathrooms, printing checks, organizing the Farm Bureau banquet, bringing in office supplies, and helping Joe with the big move. Earlier today she exclaimed how excited she was for a "vacation" next week, at the 4 day Wineries Unlimited conference and trade show!

We received the equipment for the catering room and installed the sink and drain as required by the health department. The microwave and coffeemaker have been tested and function fine (as long as you bring filters!).

We're headed to Oxon Hill tomorrow for the Maryland Wineries Association and Maryland Grape Growers Association conference, and I'm definitely looking forward to meeting and talking to people from other wineries!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Purifying the wines

So we made it to March. The snow is mostly melted and the sun is starting to dry out the vineyard and the fields. Nellie, our neighbor, is pruning grapevines outside now, bundled up tightly against the wind.

Last week was a very successful week in the winery. We removed the Bentonite, then added cream of tarter and dropped the temperature on the Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, and the Rosé. This cold storage process is designed to stabilize the wine and prevent the deposition of crystals in wine when it's chilled. Finding tiny crystals at the bottom of your wine bottle is a commonly recognized wine flaw. They aren't harmful, calcium tartrate or potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar), substances which originate from the grapes and settle when the wine becomes supersaturated at low temperatures, but it's best to get them out before bottling.

After putting the wines through cold storage, they are ready to be filtered! The process can take a mere 1 1/2 hours like the Concord, or over 6 hours for the Chambourcin. Either way, the finished products are beautifully clear wines, ready for bottling.

The Traminette will be filtered this week and everything is on track for our bottling date on March 29th. Come and join us if you want to see how it goes- I'm pretty curious myself!