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Jun 16

Guest Post Op-Ed: A Little Bit of Legislature

This guest post is from Nancy Bentley, co-owner of Kinkead Ridge Winery in Ripley, OH.

An editorial note: I try very hard as a blogger to stay apolitical. However, I do not require this of my guest bloggers. Nancy’s post expresses her personal feelings about some legislative issues affecting agriculture in Ohio and is a legitimate Opinion piece. I invite you to express your own feelings about the legislature in the comments or by contacting Nancy.

– M


It makes me laugh how the Wall Street Journal continually posts ads from the state of Ohio suggesting what a great state Ohio is to start a business. In 1999, we relocated from a highly successful vineyard operation in Oregon, in order to prove that great wines could be made in southern Ohio and to revitalize the area with new wineries for agritourism. We personally mentored at least five new wineries, and continue to help more.

I would like to describe several current situations regarding the Ohio Department of Agriculture and wineries, and then two other situations that reflect how they are hurting small farmers. To put finances in perspective: The Ohio wine and grape industry released its 2008 economic impact report, which finds that Ohio’s grape and wine industry has a significant impact of more than $580 million on the state’s economy.
Highlights of the report include:

  • In 2008, the Ohio wine and grape industry had an economic impact of $582.8 million.
  • The Ohio grape and wine industry employed more than 4,000 people in 2008, providing a payroll of $124.2 million.
  • The Ohio grape and wine industry contributed an estimated $62 million back in state, local and federal tax revenue.

Situation #1: Given the fact that the Ohio wine industry contributes so much money to the economy, we are appalled at the latest overreach by the Ohio Department of Agriculture bureaucracy. There is a law on the books that allows them to inspect wineries as food production facilities, something that neither California, Oregon or other huge wine producing states do. Only wineries that wholesale their wine are subject to this annual inspection, which wineries will be charged an annual fee for, ranging from $50 to $300. Wineries that only sell retail will not be inspected. I have actually been in a winery in Ohio that only sold at retail that had dog turds on the floor. Wholesale warehouses that store wine may not be inspected (follow the distributor lobby money).

Nothing harmful to humans can live in wine. We actually had an ODA person suggest that we wash the grapes to eliminate insects, a laughable comment. There was a suggestion to use bleach to clean up black mold, a product that is well known to cause TCA taint in wine. Our only avenue for change is to change the law to exempt wineries. In the meantime, inadequately trained, probably highly paid registered sanitarians will be hitting the road and generating travel expenses to make sure that wineries have hairnets in the building. The maximum amount of money these fees could generate for the state would be $30,000, and it will be much less than that.

The claim is to protect the public, but there are no plans to take samples of wines for testing of any kind, and wineries are already highly regulated by the federal government (TTB) and local health organizations. This is just bureaucratic bloat and a waste of taxpayer money.

We cannot get a straight answer as to what part of the regulatory code will be enforced. On a conference call, I was basically told that wineries could be inspected with different criteria. And imagine if your winery is inspected in January, when everything is cleaned up, or at crush, when bees, fruit flies, etc. fill the winery.

Situation #2. We have been making Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Viognier/Roussanne and Petit Verdot for 10 years. In general these wines are in the 12%-13% alcohol range. A fine vintage from 2008 pushed them all over 14% alcohol. The federal government approves all wine labels. For free. The state of Ohio rubber stamps such labels, at an initial fee of $50 per label. Because these wines went over 14%, I was required to submit “New Label Registrations” and write a check for $250 to the state.

Situation #3: It goes beyond wineries. Last year, Harmony Hill Vineyards had a wonderful farmers market. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has now said that if you want to sell your eggs or meat at a Farmers Market, a cooler with blue ice is no longer good enough to store your food for a couple of hours. “Mechanical refrigeration” is required. So that means you load up a refrigeration, hope you can plug it in somewhere, transfer your food in the cooler, load it in the fridge, and reverse for the trip home.

We use farm fresh eggs in fining, and needed 6 dozen eggs from a small egg producer in Ripley. She is NOT allowed to deliver the eggs to us, a few miles away. We had to pick them up.

Situation #4: The Fizzleville Fair in Adams County has made home made ice cream for over 30 years. Apparently that will no longer be allowed.

So, in summary, this is a bureaucracy out of control. We need new leaders who will get out of the way and let Ohio small business do what they do best without excessive and stupid regulations. Ohio is hurting and driving small business out of Ohio, not encouraging it.

- Nancy Bentley

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 2:30 am in Current Affairs, Guest Writers, Legislation, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jun 14

Be Our Guest

By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to San Diego … then Pennsylvania … then DC … then Walla Walla and Seattle. Hopefully while we’re in Seattle and Walla Walla, we’ll get some posts in from the Wine Bloggers Conference. No promises though.

However, so that you still get information on a regular basis, I’ve lined up a group of guest bloggers. They’ve already given me their posts (so that I don’t have any surprises) and they are scheduled and ready to go. For the times Kevin and I are gone, you’ll be hearing from our friends and colleagues, both locally and in other exciting cities.

I hope you enjoy their insight! They’ll be bringing you different perspectives based on their locations, jobs, and interests.

You’ll be hearing from

Kevin will also be chiming in while I’m on the business portion of the trips.

Thanks, and “see” you in July!

Cheers!
Michelle

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Guest Writers, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)
Oct 28

Wine Shop Wednesday: A Month in Business

This is one of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.

As we come to the conclusion of our first full month in business and enter our sixth week of operation, our store has had a week of ups and downs.

Last week we had tow special tastings, both with winery principals. Our Tuesday tasting went very well and was well attended (for the short notice and considering we are new), while our Thursday event was a great chance to get to know Brent Shortridge better, but Jan and I were basically the only ones there. The lesson from these two events, do not assume anything. I had thought Tuesday would be the dud and clearly I was wrong.

That aside, we still had our best week yet! We had a number of people venture in on Saturday to sample from the dozen or so bottles that were open. Sales throughout the week were strong; all in all it was an encouraging week.

That said I am still slogging through the checks of inventory and pricing in our POS system and our Quickbooks is not yet integrated with the POS system. Aggravation levels are diminishing as more aspects of the business run smoothly and I think we will be in good shape by the time that the holidays get into over drive.

As I said with my last post none of this would be possible without the customers who have both found us for the first time and those who I have known for years. When this business is a success, I can claim some credit, but more will go to our customers, my wife, and all of the others who have helped to get this store off of the ground.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 10:50 am in Guest Writers, Wine Shop Wednesday, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments ()
Oct 21

Wine Shop Wednesday: Opening Glitches

This is the one of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David’s posts will appear on Wednesdays.

We finally got the store open to the public and made our first sale. It should be great and we should be able to relax and just sell wine, right? Not so fast! There were a few glitches upon opening.

We opened our door with a fancy point-of-sale (POS) computerized register that turned out to be non-operational. That means no inventory control, no fancy receipts, no tracking customer sales history. This made life harder since much of the wine sold in the first several weeks was not tracked and I only noticed sales after several bottles of a wine had been sold. Although this was a major headache and somewhat embarrassing, it was not the only glitch at opening.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com
We had been so busy just getting the store set up that we hadn’t remembered simple things like bags for our customers to carry the wine home. We also had not done anything about wine accessories. It took about a week after opening for me to find a source for the bags, and then another week or so before I got the wine accessories ordered. But the store was finally beginning to reflect what I’d envisioned.

What more could we have to worry about? Now we can sit back and sell wine! Well, now that we have our working POS system, we still have to proof the nearly seven hundred listings to correct any mistakes in the transfer of data and put in pricing where it was left out. We also have a weekly task of selecting the theme of the Friday wine tasting, the complementary food, and then getting the whole thing in place on Friday. It is a lot of work and yes, some of the tasks will remain as part of our weekly list of tasks, but eventually it will become easier as it becomes part of our routine.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
Glitches aside, I have been pleasantly surprised with the response of the neighborhood surrounding our store. We have made sales every day we have been open and better than half of those have been to new customers. We have even had new repeat customers. All of this in just three weeks! Are we making money yet? Certainly not, but we do have decent cash flow for a brand-new business. Under the circumstances (economy and new business), we are doing better than anyone would have expected.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have patronized  our new venture and encourage those who love interesting wines to come and check us out.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:13 am in Guest Writers, Wine Shop Wednesday, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments ()
Oct 07

Wine Shop Wednesday: Stocking and Shelving

This is the one several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.

In my last post, I stopped right as we had applied for our license and had started contacting wine distributors.

The fun was really beginning. We were tasting wine in preparation for stocking the store. I had already ordered our wine racks and since they had been delayed by several weeks, I figured we would be delayed in getting things going. Well, we got the liquor license in the mail just a couple of weeks after the final hoop had been jumped, surprise!

The racks are still not here we have just begun sampling wine. The holiday season is still several months away, so no sweat. We also needed to come up with a logo, cards and a sign. We had decided on a name: the building sits right across the street from Mt Washington’s iconic art deco water tower, so of course we should call our store Water Tower Fine Wines. We contacted a graphic designer, who proposed several concepts and we gave our input. It took three more visits and three weeks until they finally produced the drawing that I had asked for after the first meeting. We had our logo and business card design.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com The fun part was actually anything but … I am not saying that sampling all of those wines was not fun, in fact, that part was great. The hard part was the the decisions I had to make. After all, I couldn't buy every wine I liked! The obvious reason, money, was a factor, but space was also a major piece of the puzzle. I had planned to open with 400-500 wines, and I really tried to stay within that number, but there were just too many good wines out there and some of the distributors got to me after I had already filled the bulk of my slots. I could not help myself, I had to buy more. The remaining distributors got fewer orders and yes there are wines I wanted to buy, but did not. I hope to bring some of them in the future. Even with a little self restraint, I still ended up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 wines.

I ordered the wines and set the deliveries for the week before we planned to open. I figured this would be plenty of time. Wrong. We had scheduled to host a fundraiser at our house the Sunday before we were to open. Just a little more pressure, no problem.

The deliveries were a special joy all to themselves. I had ordered three bottles of each wine selected, so there were many split cases with three bottles of four different wines each. Each and every bottle needs to be checked in and at least one of the distributors could not seem to get all three bottles of the same wine in one case! At least when this wine came in the salesman came in and helped check the wine in.

Once all the wine was in the store, we had to hand price every bottle, plan out the racks and place the wines. I had rack space for about 480 different wines and almost seven hundred different wines. So I had to run out and get metal racks to hold the overflow. We were working to get wines shelved until we opened our doors and actually had four cases still not priced or on display.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
During our first week being open, we have had multiple sales each day even though we have done no promotion. Our computerized cash register and inventory system is still at least a week away from being installed, but we have been able limp along with a cash register left by the previous owners. This has a lot of work, more than I anticipated at the outset.  Having to select a large number of wines at once to stock a store is difficult. I ended up caving to my desire to have a lot of neat wines and thus have more wine in the store than I had intended. Hopefully our customers appreciate the unique selection.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Guest Writers, Wine Shop Wednesday, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments (3)

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