StoneGait’s Retirement Plan

Stonegait’s property was a horse farm and the current facility literally was a horse barn, so the “Gait” and other references are about horses.  In fact, one of their staff recalls boarding her horse at the property and now works there.  The place has gone a transformation from horse barn to large entertainment center.  The wines are all estate with the exception of imports from Yakima valley and Sierra foothill where they buy the grapes and process it themselves.

We had the privilege to spend well over 1.5-2 hours with the owner and co-winemaker, Donna.  She and her spouse have been farming and making wine for decades and this property is their “retirement plan”. 

Owner Donna and Stonegait teammember

Opening just 1.5 year ago, it’s obvious the large facility is a lot of work, staff running everywhere and tons of space to handle many guests.  I joked “it seems the idea of retiring working in a very busy winemaking facility is not exactly retiring” however, she says they loves it.

I learned that Donna learned how to make wine from both:

  • Ed Trebets at Urban Vitner (I’ve blogged about him before.  He was the winemaker at Grand River Cellars till branching on his own, and also is a chemistry professor).  Ed has helped her with learning winemaking specifics and has provided on-call assistance to manage wine making challenges.  Ed provided advice to make the Marquette.
  • Arnie Estererand, who passed away recently, was someone she had the privilege and opportunity to learn old-age winemaking approaches.  Markko is the oldest and original vineyard in Ohio and Donna values those lessons.  That prompted us to go visit Markko in Conneaut because, even though the winemaker is no longer with us, the wine still remains.

Summer Rein 2018, the 2nd year estate Chardonnay.  They ‘reined it in’ attempting to bring down the sugar to zero.  Donna says the wine “didn’t want to go to zero, it liked 3% and had to force it to 0%”.   Very nice dry white wine with citrusy flavors.

Reserve chardonnay. Lemon curd flavors with sweetness despite being dry.  Resting helped reduce the acidic edge.  We thought it’d be a great pairing with sharp cheese.  This is a good option for a sweet wine and non-sweet wine drinkers to share a bottle. $24. 

Rkatsiseli, which in Russian literally means “red stem” and supposedly the oldest grape known to man according to Dr Frank in Finger Lakes.  It’s a popular dry white wine in Eastern Europe.  The wine is unique, bright and acidic and fruity.  Tom bought one to try it.

Marquette—2017 was a good year and this also helped produce this unique red grape.  To tone down the powerful fruit, they allowed full malolactic acid (ML) which helped to take the edge off this extremely potent, tannic and high acid grape varietals.  Then they added light toasting flavors with French oak staves (Donna doesn’t like barrels, so she just uses staves of barrels instead, and removes or adds them until she gets the flavors she likes).   Donna says this wine suffers originally from an unpleasant “nose’ so toned it down with Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Stall 14 from 2018 is Marquette without oak or efforts to mellow.  It has very bright cherry, flavorful and big wine and many like it.  $18.50

American Reserve Cabernet.  They call this one “American” which means that they blended other wine with their Grand River fruit, which is allowed as long as 75% is Grand River.  They added some 2017 Merlot from Yakima Valley, Washington.  This wine has NO malolactic acid and no oak, with 14.5% alcohol.  I noticed a little spiciness and Donna said it is because they also added 5% Syrah which brought a peppery spice addition.   $29.00.  We liked it and got some.

Tempernillo, California imported grapes.  Matured in stainless steel and added flavoring with oak staves, giving the wine only a sight influence of wood.  With very little oak influences detected, there were bright flavors of red raspberry and racy acidity.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with the winemaker and learn what they are doing to produce the wines, so much better than just sipping them and determining if liked or lot.  We bought four bottles, taking home all the reserve and potent reds, even the unique grapes, to experiment eating with them.  It will be fun to return ad enjoy the open expansive patio on a future sunny day.

I could ‘retire’ this way!


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