Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why are “Sulfites” in Our Wines?

Just like an old can, Sulfites have been kicked around by lots of people for a very long time. It’s been kicked up the hill, down the hill and through the valley. It’s been dented, scratched and bent. Yet, through it all, Sulfites have weathered the abuse and stood with us. There must be more to the Sulfite story than we’ve been told.

Of all the questions that we hear at Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery, the question that’s most often asked concerns, ”Added Sulfites” in our wines.

So, come on, put on your can kickin’ boots and walk a ways with me through the vineyard. I do my best talking when I’m walking among the grapes. The fact is, this is where our Sulfite story begins!

See those plump black skinned grapes over there on the left? Just look at those luscious golden skinned grapes over there on the right! Remember how delightful those red and white wines tasted?       

Well, if it wasn’t for the “Sulfites” contained in the skins of those grapes, we would not have this memory. Yep, Sulfites are contained Naturally in the skins of All grapes everywhere in the world! We have a legion of grapes and a plethora of fine wine memories, due in large part, to these natural sulfites.

Grapes are packed with lots of great stuff, anti-oxidant, natural sugars and carbohydrates. Besides us, there are lots of other things that like to eat grapes. Lurking on the skins of our grapes are tiny microscopic organisms that would love to take a bite out of our delicious black and golden gems. The barrier that keeps them at bay is, you guessed it, those natural sulfites.  

So, why do we add ‘additional’ sulfites to our wines? Don’t sulfites give me a headache?   

First, let me say that we have been adding extra Sulfites to our wines for ‘hundreds’ of years! Most people think that adding Sulfites is a recent thing…It’s NOT.

The reason that we add additional Sulfites to our wines is, quite simply, to protect our health. Many of those same bacteria and other organisms that would like to eat our grapes would just love to get into our wines and make us sick.

Most other foods we treat with UHT (Ultra High Temp) to kill these bad bugs. UHT just won’t work with wine. Please consider what the effect of UHT would be on our wine.

First, UHT would destroy much of the “taste, flavor & bouquet’ of the wine.

Second, UHT would remove most of the alcohol from our wine. We all know what happens to the alcohol in our wine when we cook with it. The alcohol dissipates.

Third, the ‘color’ of our wine would be forever changed.

So, until something better comes down the pike, we will continue to add some additional Sulfites to our wines.

Please note, if your favorite wine is produced in the U.S.A. the Sulfites added to your wine are regulated by three Federal Agencies…the BATF, USDA and the FDA. According to the rules, wines can contain anywhere from 10 parts per million to approx. 385 parts per million. Please, please, don’t get hung up on these numbers. They are pretty low! Those cheese and crackers that we eat with our wine can contain anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 parts per million!

Finally, the question about sulfites and headaches??

Unless you’re asthmatic, sulfites are probably NOT the villain.  In America, approx. 5% of our population is asthmatic. About 1% of that 5% are sensitive to sulfites. The rest of us are not sensitive, at all! If, however, you are still convinced that your headaches are being caused by your wine, my suggestion would be to switch to an “Unfiltered” wine!  Since Unfiltered wines are NOT filtered in any way, there’s no reason to add “Hints & Notes” to the wine.  

Our Sulfite story has come to an end. It’s time to pick up our can, dust it off and put it back on the shelf.

Until next time………”Salute and Happy Days” 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Thanksgiving Wine

“My Thanksgiving Wine”

With this BLOG we’re going to talk about our favorite… “Thanksgiving Wine”! 

Our favorite wine for Thanksgiving is NOT made from grapes. It’s made from another fabulous fruit that hangs in profusion from stately trees. It comes in many magical colors, from reds to greens to colors mixed and in-betweens. Its taste can be sweet or quite tart. It can be eaten right off the tree, sliced into slices and baked into a marvelous pie, crushed and mashed into a delightful sauce, squeezed into a fresh cider or made into a……”World-Class Wine”!

This versatile and delicious fruit is, of course the….”APPLE”!



For generations upon generations, we have relished the taste, flavor and bouquet of our ‘Thanksgiving Apple Wine’! All wine, of course, is meant to be shared and to be enjoyed in social settings. What setting could be more enjoyable than the gathering together of friends and family for “Thanksgiving”!

I remember a particular Thanksgiving where my mother made a small mistake. Perhaps it was the mild confusion of laying out the bounty of the Thanksgiving table or having to referee a bout between my two younger siblings, but, regardless, the mistake was made. Instead of pouring my usual Thanksgiving glass of fresh apple cider (which, by the way, I loved) she poured into my glass the ‘Thanksgiving Wine’ that was meant for my grandmother. Our tradition was to wait until everyone was seated and the prayer was said. Then, everyone would raise their glasses in a toast of thanksgiving and clink them together. Then, drink down their festive drink and proceed to enjoying the Thanksgiving meal. Well, as it turned out, this was my best Thanksgiving…EVER! As I raised my glass to my lips and tasted my ‘Apple Cider’, I realized that a small mistake had been made. There was actually ‘Thanksgiving Apple Wine’ in my glass!! I looked around the table and no one was looking at me. Everyone was just talking and enjoying themselves. I took another sip (just to be sure that it wasn’t my imagination)…It wasn’t! Now, I have to tell you, this was NOT a large glass. It was a small toasting glass. There couldn’t have been more than three or four sips. What was I to do??

The answer came quickly. My grandmother asked my mother if she could have ‘another’ glass of that fabulous “Thanksgiving Apple Wine”. My grandmother raised her glass, as in a toast, towards me. As we clinked our glasses together, my grandmother….smiled knowingly.

Even though my grandmother has been gone for a long time, and my mother never made this same mistake again, this Thanksgiving still ranks as my best Thanksgiving…Ever.

So, if you want to experience your best Thanksgiving…ever… it’s my suggestion that you forget the grape wine for a day. Instead, bring out the ’Apple Wine’ and bring back a tradition!


Just a word of caution, however, check out your grandmothers smile!!

Salute and Happy Days!


If you have any comments or questions on this Blog or suggestions for future Blogs, please email me at BunkerHillVine@aol.com

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Container is the Best for Bulk Storing & Aging of Wine?

What Container is the Best for Bulk Storing & Aging of Wine?

Since the art of wine making began thousands of years ago, we have used a multitude of containers for storing and aging our wines. There was a time when animal skins and clay/earthen amphora were the containers of choice. Some of the greatest cultures of ancient civilization (the Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, etc.) would have produced world-class wines using these basic of storage containers. We know that they were world-class, because we have examined the residue inside the wine containers from many ancient tombs and shipwrecks. Through the ages, we have sought better and more affordable types of wine storage containers. In the middle-ages, as Europe became the focal point of grape growing and wine production, the classic oak wine barrel became the wine storage container of choice. Oak was plentiful and could be easily manufactured into wine barrels. Of course, at this time, any environmental concerns were non-existent. Then came the industrial age. The late 19th and early 20th century heralded the dawn of newer and innovative wine storage materials and manufacturing techniques. Hand-blown glass demijohns and steel storage tanks entered the scene. The glass demijohn was the better choice, but it was expensive and somewhat difficult to produce. The steel storage tanks were cheap and easily manufactured, but had a major downside…they ‘Rusted’. Rust and wine just don’t go well together. Soon, however, science and industry combined their efforts and developed ’stainless steel’ wine storage tanks. Because it can be cleaned and reused and because it lasts a very long time, Stainless steel is still used today by most factory wineries.
This brings us to the present time. Today, most wineries are using one of the following three containers for bulk wine storage…”Oak, Stainless Steel or Glass Carboys”.

From an environmental aspect, oak is the worst choice. Oak trees can live for hundreds of years and can remove and tie up huge quantities of carbon from our atmosphere. According to scientists around the world, excess carbon is a prime suspect in global warming. Additionally, oak trees provide welcome shade for us and a home for an infinite variety of birds, squirrels and other wildlife. One of the biggest downsides of oak barrels is that they have a very limited lifespan. Because oak is porous it cannot be cleaned and sanitized properly. At some point most will end their lives as planters at a lawn and garden store. If a winery is committed to the taste of oak, they can use oak chips instead to flavor their wine. By the way, new oak barrels are extremely expensive (300 ~ 600 US dollars each). Guess who pays this cost?

Stainless steel tanks are a much better choice than oak for bulk storage of wine. Stainless steel tanks are easily manufactured. Although they won’t last forever, they will last a very long time. At the end of their lifespan, they can be melted and recycled. Throughout their usable life, they can be cleaned and sanitized and reused over and over. Because of the alloys used to create the stainless steel, some small amount of leaching can occur into the wines. Overall, stainless steel is my second best choice for bulk wine storage.

This leads us to my #1 choice! Glass is, by far, the best material for the long-term storing of wine!
Glass can be reused “FOREVER”! Glass can be easily cleaned and sanitized! However, the biggest reason that glass gets my thumbs up is that glass is…”INERT”! Glass does NOT affect the taste of the wine that’s stored in it! If your goal is to produce world class wines and to retain the full taste, flavor & bouquet of the grape or fruit, glass is the ONLY choice! Please consider when we go to the store or winery and buy a bottle of wine, 99% of the time our wine package is made from glass! What would you think of a winery that offered its wine in only ‘Oak’ or ‘Stainless Steel’ bottles?

So, the choices are clear! Bulk Oak wine storage gets…2 thumbs down. Bulk Stainless Steel wine storage gets…1 ½ thumbs up! Bulk Glass wine storage gets…2 thumbs up!!
Made the right way…’Unfiltered’…Wine is a marvelous product. Wine aged in glass…is the best that it can be!!

Salute and Happy Days!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Florida Grape Harvest

The Florida Grape Harvest!

When the heat of central Florida reaches 100+ degrees and the afternoon thunderstorms boil with dark clouds and bolts of lightning, an annual spectacle, that few see, unfolds across our landscape. Beginning about the end of July and continuing until about October the “Florida Grape Harvest” is underway!

With colors of black, gold and red, these sweet and fragrant orbs of grapes glisten in our Florida sun. Listen closely, can you hear the ‘thump...thump...thump’ as the grapes are picked and dropped into the picking bucket? Each day the grapes become fuller and riper and sweeter. What begins as a trickle of grapes will soon become a full and raging river of grapes. Over and over the same refrain is played…Pick, thump, carry, wash, crush, ferment!
Day after day, week after week the flow of grapes continues. Even after the sun sets and the moon rises, the grape march continues. The processing of the days harvest must not stop! Only after every bucket of grapes is secure in the fermenting room can we rest.

Tomorrow morning comes early for the grape grower and the grape picker. The first rays of sunlight reveals a multitude of busy hands reaching in and out of the grape vines. Another day is dawning and the music of the Florida grape picker, again, fills the air…’thump…thump…thump’!
Then, one day in early October, the ‘thumping’ stops. Other than the cooing of a pair of Mourning Dove, the morning air is still and silent. The grape pickers have gone. The grape vines are still lush and green, but the grapes are missing from this Florida landscape. The Florida Grape Harvest has ended.
So, was all the hard work and long days and nights worth the effort? Well, we’ll not know for sure until YOU sample the wines…a year from now! Your words, your facial expressions, your eyes will tell us if we have earned your accolades. We consider YOU the judge. If YOU are happy and pleased with our wines, then we have done our work well.
So, come visit our vineyard and winery and take a peek behind the scenes. Remember, you’re the captain, you’re the supreme judge and your opinion does matter! You can visit our web site at www.bunkerhillvineyard.com.
Salute & Happy Days!
If you have any comments or questions on this Blog or suggestions for future Blogs, please email me at BunkerHillVine@aol.com   


Sunday, September 9, 2012

How the World’s Best Wines are Made

How the World’s Best Wines are Made

and….. fallen trees are memorialized!

After a recent afternoon thunderstorm, I discovered a large tree had fallen behind our house. It had, obviously, been dead for a very long time, as it was mostly lacking any bark and most of the limbs had rotted away. However, it was still massive. It had to have weighed several tons. My first thought was about the huge task that lay before me. It was going to take several hours with a chainsaw to clean this mess up.


Then, as a bolt of lightning from heaven... it came to me!

The same hidden force that caused this beast of a tree to fall to the ground was the same force that has clarified our wines for hundreds of years! Slowly, relentlessly, 24 hours a day, the “Force of Gravity” worked its magic. Gravity never stopped pulling the tiniest particle of the grape or fruit to the bottom of the wine barrel.

Those wine artists of years gone by, understood this silent miracle. All they had to do was to be patient…and…wait! For a year or more they waited. As each day passed, their excitement grew. Then, finally, the day of celebration arrived! With their wine thief in hand, they drew out a small amount of the wine and slowly released it into their wine goblet. Raising the goblet to their nose, they smelled the fragrance of the grape. It was a good, pure and refreshing smell! Next, came the color of the wine. It was bright, clear and vibrant! Now the moment of the greatest anticipation…the ‘First Taste’! Raising the goblet slowly to the lips, the fate was sealed. The ‘Taste’…’Flavor’ and ‘Bouquet’ of the wine rang out loud and clear. With the wine artists care, and the restive hand of gravity, another fabulous vintage of wine was born! 


The story that I have just told, is true! This story has been repeated by wine artists for most of our human existence. It is the story of the finest wines in the world. It is the story of our collective heritage. It is the story of…”UNFILTERED WINES”!!

So, as an informed consumer, you are now empowered to judge and select a perfect bottle of wine! All that you need to look for is the word on the wine label…”UNFILTERED”!

If you need further info or encouragement, please feel free to contact me or stop by our vineyard and winery. All that we produce are…Unfiltered Wines!

(PS: I’ve postponed cutting up the fallen tree. After writing this Blog, I’m thinking of turning it into a memorial. However, I should tell you, my wife thinks…otherwise!)

Thank You…’Salute and Happy Days’!

If you have any comments or questions on this Blog or suggestions for future Blogs, please email me at BunkerHillVine@aol.com.

“Florida Wines” a wine blog by...The Green Winer

“Florida Wines”

A Wine Blog by…

The Green Winer

On this first Wine Blog in TownTaster, I thought that it might be appropriate to talk about…”Florida Wines”!

When we think of Florida, we usually think about beautiful white sand beaches, gorgeous warm weather, bountiful sunshine and delicious Florida oranges. Yes, every one of those is a true and accurate description of Florida. In the minds of most Floridians and tourists alike, Florida is defined by each of those fabulous assets. When we think of wines, however, we rarely think of Florida produced wines. It is my prediction, that in the future, Florida produced wines will be added to that list of defining assets.

What makes me say that? Well, quite simply, we now have the grape varieties that will, and do, thrive in our environment.  My wife (Lenora) and I own and operate a “Certified Florida Farm” vineyard and winery located in eastern Manatee County (Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery  www.bunkerhillvineyard.com  ). We grow a variety of grape known as “Muscadine”. Its heritage is native to the southeast United States and it IS a fabulous grape. In order to survive and prosper in our hot and humid environment, nature endowed this grape with one of the thickest skins of any grape in the world. As it turns out, that thick skin is an asset that’s almost unbelievable. It has 40 times the anti-oxidants and 7 times the resveratrol of any grape in the world! When you make a wine with this grape, you’ve got a wine with ‘World-Class’ potential!

Every type of wine that we currently enjoy can be made from varieties of this grape. Reds, Whites, Rose’, Blush and even Sparkling wines are being made by Florida wineries.

Currently, there are approx. 33 Florida Farm Wineries within the State of Florida. To obtain a list of these Florida wineries, go to the “Florida Department of agriculture and Consumer Services” web site at http://www.florida-agriculture.com/consumers/wineries.htm

A recent action by our Florida legislature will do much to encourage the growth of our Florida wine industry. By changing the rules to include sustainable agriculture (nature produced grapes, fruits and berries) and Florida grown fruits and vegetables, more environmentally conscience wineries will enter the Florida wine scene. The result should be more and more diverse wines for us to enjoy.

So, in the future, when you’re thinking about wine, please consider Florida Wines.

Thank you’salute and happy days’!

 If you have any comments or questions on this Blog or suggestions for future Blogs, please email me at BunkerHillVine@aol.com.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

ALL BHV Wines are..."Vegan/Vegetarian Approved"!

With this Blog, we're going to talk about..."Vegan/Vegetarian Approved Wines"!
Most everyone is aware that ALL of the wines that we create at BHV are "UNFILTERED" Wines. They are "NEVER" filtered in any way! This enables us to retain all the 'Taste, Flavor and Bouquet' of the grape and the fruit. We are proud of this distinction and display "Unfiltered' on the front label of every bottle of wine that we make. As we know, wineries that Filter their wines Never tell us that their wines are 'Filtered'.

So, why should we care if our wines are 'Unfiltered' or 'Filtered'?
Well, we should care very much.
There is a very clear distinction between the makers of 'Unfiltered' and 'Filtered' wines. The makers of most 'Filtered' wines blend their wines for consistency of color and filter their wines for clarity (clearness). Then, after the filtering process, most add "Hints" and "Notes" of various flavors to their wines. The 'Stuff' that most makers of 'Filtered' wines use to filter their wines are called "Fining Agents".
Below, for the first time, we are going to list some of these 'Fining Agents'. The first list are Fining Agents that are commonly used. The second list of Fining Agents are the alternatives that could/should be used and are animal friendly.

These are the "Fining Agents" that are commonly used:
* Dried Blood Powder
* Egg Whites
* Animal Albumin
* Casein & Potassium Caseinate (Milk Proteins)
* Gelatin (Derived from Bones)
* Isinglass (Derived from the Swim Bladders of Fish)
* Chitin/Chitosan (Derived from the Shells of Crabs or Lobsters)

These are the "Fining Agents" that could/should be used:
* Carbon
* Bentonite Clay
* Kaolin Clay
* Plant Casein
* Silica Gel
* Vegetable Plaques

Since wineries that Filter their wines never tell us that their wines are Filtered, there is no easy way to tell which list of Fining Agents that they are using.
So, as you can see, there is a very clear distinction between how "Unfiltered" wines are created and how "Filtered" wines are made. If you are a "Vegan/Vegetarian" or a patron of fine wines, your choice is simple. "Unfiltered" wines are Always..."Vegan/Vegetarian " approved and, should be, the first choice for us all!
Thank You....

Salute and Happy Days.....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Goals..."Our Celebration of Difference"!

With a new year just beginning, we felt that it was important to lay out our goals for the upcoming year!
The biggest goal that we want to convey to you this year is..."Our Celebration of Difference"!!
Now those might seem like fancy $2.00 words, but their meaning is quite simple. This year, we will try to do a better job of drawing the lines of distinction between ourselves at BHV and the factory wineries.
One of the biggest differences is how we view 'Wine Making'. We view 'Wine Making' as an..."ART"! When you take that approach to Wine Making, the entire game is transformed!
Another radical concept that we embrace and will talk more about in the future is the goal of creating wines to be the best that they can be! This means focusing on the uniqueness of the fruits that goes into making our wines. That's why we use only..."Whole Fresh Fruits" (never just juices and concentrates)!
What is retained in our wines is more important to us than what factory wineries take out. This year, you should expect us to talk more about all the good stuff that is in our unfiltered wines. One component that comes to mind is 'Natural Fruit Pectin'. If you get a chance, you might want to check this one out for yourself. If you're like us, you will question why any winery would want to remove this fabulous and natural ingredient from their wine!
One more topic that we are passionate about is supporting Florida agriculture! Depending on the time of the year, Florida agriculture and Tourism can swap places between the first and second most important industries in our state! Whenever we use and support Florida grown produce, we are helping retain and grow Florida jobs! Not only are "ALL" of our grape wines created from grapes that we grow and nurture, but our fruit wines are mostly made from Florida grown fruits!
Lastly (but surely not least), we need to talk a whole lot more about 'Recycling Wine Bottles'! By returning your empty wine bottles to us for recycling, you are making a huge and positive impact on our environment.
Starting January, 2012, we will be adding an entire New section  to our BHV web site. From now on, we will begin recording the number of empty wine bottles, corks and sealing wax that you return to us for recycling. It's important to us that you get the recognition that you deserve!
Well, that's probably enough for now. We sincerely appreciate your help and support! So, until we meet again...........

.....Salute and Happy Days!