Honestly, I can't remember the cabernet sauvignon which took top honors, but the announcement of the group's favorite sauvignon blanc raised eyebrows and brought a loud cheer from the crowd. The winner?
No, not wine from Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, California, but Anderson Winery in Hamilton County, Ohio. This very small operation cranked out a white that trumped a collection from all over the world. So, what's the story of this little winery that could?
Anderson Winery is the brainchild of Larry Brokamp, a Cincinnati lawyer, and his wife Kelly. I asked Larry how they got started:
"I started making wine about 8 years ago after my wife and I drove up the Northern California coast and came back down through Napa. We also spent some time in Calistoga.
"When our first daughter, Ella, was born, we passed out our bottles of wine with labels reading 'Celebrating the Birth of Ella Marie Brokamp' with her picture and birth date along with weight, length, etc. Everyone was impressed with the wine and labels.
'My wife had the idea of selling custom labeled wine for special occasions and I looked into licensing requirements because you can't sell wine without a manufacturers license. After about a year and a half of research we figured out how to do it and have always enjoyed it."
They only produce two wines -- the aforementioned sauvignon blanc and a sangiovese-based red. The custom labels are produced to the order of the customer, and are quite nicely done, as you can see here:
Since they make such small quantities of the wines, they don't market to stores and restaurants. Their sales are largely either Internet-based or done through word of mouth. Larry said that the most they've made in a year is about 40 cases. Larry said that he'd like to spend more time on his winemaking, but raising their three kids and running his law practice keeps him too busy to focus on expanding the business too much.
How do the wines taste? Both wines are, by design, simple, straightforward quaffers. Larry said that his goal is to produce "something that most everyone can drink so it can be served at functions such as weddings where there are usually both [regular] wine drinkers and non-wine drinkers."
The award-winning sauvignon blanc is definitely done in an American style -- acidic, but not overly so, with some very pleasant melon and green apple flavors and a mildly tart finish. It's quite popular, and as of the writing of this article, the white was currently sold out. However, there is more in the pipeline.
The red is very "soft." It's quite light (only 12% alcohol) and fruity. The tannins are extremely light -- almost nonexistent, actually. It reminds me a bit of a Beaujolais, right down to the fact that it's best with a slight chill on it. The Sweet Partner in Crime and I had the bottle on a warm summer evening and it was a good, basic wine to just sip on, relax, and watch the neighborhood go by.
Both wines sell for $12/bottle, which includes the labeling.
I've tried a number of wines from "make your own label" places and have found most of them to be barely palatable. Larry and Kelly's wines are a fairly large level above most of those. If you're in the market for some interesting wine-based gifts or if you've got a party to plan, you won't need to look much further than Wooster Pike in Cincinnati.
For more information, check out their website (http://www.andersonwinery.com) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org