From the vine to the glass
When you think of wine, you probably think about it in a bottle. You probably don't think about the process it takes to make it.
And as Tawnya Bach and Dave Pylant discovered, there's more to it than just crushing some grapes.
VIDEO: The wine-making process from start to finish
In Oronogo, Mo., 67 rows of grapes cover six acres of land at Keltoi Winery and Vineyard. Eight different varieties of grapes, five reds and three whites, help make an estimated 2,000 gallons of wine each year.
"13 years ago or so, we bought the land, and we started putting an acre in at a time, and it just kind of fell together," Erv Langan, owner of Keltoi, said.
"Did anybody tell you that you're crazy to be trying this?" Pylant asked.
"My wife. All the time, especially early on. This is a hobby that's really gotten out of hand," Langan said.
Langan spends a lot of time doing the leg-work in the vineyard picking the grapes.
"How do you tell if the grape is ready and ripe to be picked? These have a little yellow in them, so that's good?" Bach asked.
"These are all ripe to pick right here," Langan said.
The entire process may start on the vine, but it doesn't end there. It's only the beginning.
"You'll see in there what Andrew does, is on the white grapes, we take those, we go in there, we crush those. We got that new crusher we're proud of. It will take 400 lbs at a time," Langan said.
Andrew Pennington is Keltoi's head winemaker.
"When did you first become interested in wine-making?" Bach asked.
"Back when I was a junior in college working down at the Missouri Southern Alumni Association as a student employee. I really loved growing grapes, and I just wound up inside one day, doing some chemistry work in the back. Always loved wine, and one thing lead to the next, and I was at the right place at the right time I guess," Pennington said.
Pennington says a great wine starts with de-stemming the grapes and pumping the juice and skins in to a large tank where they sit for 24 hours without any alcoholic fermentation.
After that first day, yeast is added, and the primary fermentation process begins.
After sitting for two to three weeks to let the yeast activate, the concoction is tested before it moves on to the next stage.
The mixture is then tested for its concentration of acids and sugars, something which requires a bit of mathematics and chemistry.
Once everything checks out, the skins and juice are poured into a press where they are separated.
"This is all nice and clean. Sanitation is the most important thing, so the buckets have been food-grade sanitized," Pennington said.
The juice is then pumped into another tank for secondary fermentation.
"After a year, sometimes two years, depending on the variety, then it goes to this side of the room, and these are my polishing tanks. So this is kind of active wine or wine that's just about to be done," Pennington said.
"You talked about having everything really sanitary. How important is it?" Bach asked.
"It is dramatically important. You can go years on aging a premium vintage, and if you barrel sample it with a dirty pipette, or you get in a rush and don't want to clean your bottler that day, you can potentially ruin that years and years of labor," Pennington said.
"And the sad thing is -- you don't find that out until two years down the road, " Bach said.
"Down the drain it goes, and that is a sad sight to see," Pennington said.
As soon as it has finished aging, the wine is filtered, transferred to another tank and bottled.
"How about wine in the box?" Pylant asked.
"Uh, I drank a lot of wine in the box in the past, but I don't think we'll go there. We'll just have it in bottles, and we'll keep corks," Langan said.
Tour the winery
"Do you do tours?" Pylant asked.
"Yes we do. We have people come back all the time that will go back, and we'll show them the winery back there. We'll take them out there in the vineyard and show them that, cause that's sort of the education process about what we are about out here," Langan said.
Keltoi Winery is located at 17705 County Road 260, Oronogo, Mo., 64855 and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
If you're driving from Joplin, take 171 Hwy. At Mo-Kan Dragway, go East on M Hwy. for five miles. At County Road 260, go North 7/10 of a mile. The vineyard will be on your left.
If you're driving from Pittsburg, go east on 171 Hwy. At Mo-Kan Dragway, go left on M Hwy. 5 miles to County Road 260. Turn left. The vineyard will be approx. 7/10 of a mile on the left.
The vineyard vs. Mother Nature
"Just like any farmer, you're subject to the weather," Pylant said.
"Oh yes, and we have been victims in some sense," Langan said.
VIDEO: How agriculture affects the crop
"When we had that terrible freeze here a few years back, when it got down 16 below zero here one night, we lost about 3/5 of the vineyard. In fact, every one of these rows right through here all were dead. And thank goodness we had suckers that came up, and we were able to salvage most of the vineyard," Langan said.
It's not just the temperature. The amount of rain also affects the crop.
"The last couple of years have been really dry," Bach said.
"Yes," Langan said.
"Besides this last July. But what has that done to the quality of the grapes?" Bach asked.
"Great sugar level or what we call pre-level. The acid level was really good in there. The only problem was, is that we just didn't produce enough juice. We had a lot of rain to develop the grapes early on, but there was just never enough of that juice in later. So we probably lost 50% of the juice," Langan said.
Mother Nature's role extends beyond the weather.
Keltoi is fighting insects, birds and disease, which are eating and destroying the grapes.
"Those birds are about a smart as they get. If you put those owls up there, they'll sit on top of them. We use to put up wire, or fish line, running up down there. They'll sit on that fish line. Little things with noise, discs flying around, nothing," Langan said.
The only thing the vineyard can do is replant and wait.
"When you plant vines, when you first plant them, you don't get a crop right away?" Bach asked.
"No. Your first year of planting your vine, you have it in a vineyard. You usually put a growth tube around it, something to help it grow straight up to the cordon or catch wire, and that first year, you are just trying to make your plant straight and healthy. Then, you are going to keep maintenance to that plant as it grows, keep watering it, keep fertilizing it for the next four years. At the fourth to fifth year, you will start seeing a fruit set, and that's when you can finally pick your grapes," Pennington said.
"When you are looking at putting your first vine in the ground, it is exciting, but you are not going to see a wine out of that grape for at least six years," Pennington said.
Pennington says a good quality grape comes from good growing conditions and the proper vine in the right place.
Expanding the sales market
At Keltoi Winery in Oronogo, Missouri, owner Erv Langan says his business does very little advertising and relies heavily on word of mouth.
"You guys stay pretty busy year round? Or is there sort of an off-season?" Pylant asked.
"You know, normally, I would tell you, Dave, that, in the past, our Januarys/Februarys were very slow. We had some of the best days we ever had this last year in January/February, but the best sales days, without functions, you know, weddings or receptions or whatever. We'll have the fires going in here, the fireplace outside, and we were just packing people in," Langan said.
VIDEO: The sales and distribution of Missouri wine
But Keltoi's head winemaker, Andrew Pennington, says he sees a peak in business during the fall and spring, because those seasons correlate with the harvest and processing months.
Keltoi's wine is sold at places other than its retail outlet. It's also supplied to several area businesses, including Caldone's restaurant in Joplin and at Pistol Creek in Carthage.
"Why don't you sell it to more places?" Bach asked.
"It really is a volume issue. We try to keep our quality as high as possible and keep our quantity up. Sometimes more is not better," Pennington said. "You really have to support your retail outlet before you can do expansion, but that's why we are planning more vineyards and growing more grapes. It's a slow process."
At White Rose Winery in Carthage, Missouri, owner James O'Haro says his establishment is fairly busy all year long.
O'Haro sets a yearly goal to produce 5,000 gallons of wine, which he says translates to 25,000 bottles or 2,000 cases.
That may sound like a lot, but to expand sales beyond the winery, that's not the case.
"One of the problems that wineries have, especially small wineries like ours are, is that the major distributors want two or three thousand cases, and you know, that for us is a maximum production," O'Haro said.
O'Haro says, because of that demand from major distributors, he only sells his wine at White Rose in Carthage.
WEB EXTRA: VIDEO: Choosing a White Rose name: Lady in Red
"The small wineries have a great problem in marketing. They are pretty much driven to expand their own sales through generating their own business and their own marketing rather than go through a distributor," O'Haro said.
One marketing tool O'Haro is utilizing is a wine club. He says it's non-contractual just mutual trust.
"They tell me they are going to, over the course of a year, consume a certain amount of wine, and so they get a discount based on that," O'Haro said.
WEB EXTRA: VIDEO: Join the club
O'Haro says that's helpful.
"They may only drink a bottle of wine a month, but that's still a bottle of wine a month that you know is regularly going to go to somebody," O'Haro said.
A fine line between wine drinking and wine tasting
"What is the proper way to taste wine?" Bach asked.
VIDEO: How to taste wine like the pros
"We would simply pour under an ounce poor. We have just looked at the color of the wine. We're going to swirl it around, and we're going to tilt the glass down. I'm going to look through the edge of that, and I want to make sure that wine is not brown or it's not an off color," Pennington said.
"I want to see the nice rim of that nice and dark. I should not be able to see through the center of a red wine, and of course, from there, if you are doing a formal tasting in a lab sense or technical group meeting, you would spin it," Pennington said.
"We call this volotizing the eschers, which is a fancy term for breaking out the aeromatics, and then a big, big, big waft would come out of that," Pennington said.
"Then, once you have wafted it, the fun part. You get to put a little under your tongue and air it back. So just the, and always the spit. It looks kind of nasty, but why you do that is, when you taste wine after wine, if you really drink all the wine, it becomes really great all of a sudden," Pennington said.
"So, I'm still actually tasting that wine. I'm looking for that wine. It's still in my mouth. I aerated it. I got both of my noses going, and I felt the wine, and I can still feel that wine in my mouth, so that means it's a good, rich, full wine," Pennington said.
"So, when you go wine tasting, you should drink and spit each one, and once you have selected the one you like, then you can actually consume," Bach said.
"Little bitty sips. Be moderate. It's okay, but if you're looking at buying a wine selection or buying a big lot of wine, I would recommend the taste and spit. That way, you are not masked by the little bit of tipsiness that occurs when consuming a large amount of wine," Pennington said.
"So there is a fine line between going out wine drinking and wine tasting," Bach said.
"Yes," Pennington said. "Sometimes, wine buying is different from wine tasting, so just go out and have fun. I tell people to do what they feel comfortable with. If they want to drink it, that's what it's there for, but if they just want to taste and spit, that's fine too."
WEB EXTRA: Choosing the name of wine
Keltoi's owner, Erv Langan, talks about how he chooses the name of a wine.
"Some of your wines have interesting names. Can you tell us any of the stories behind how these wines got their names?" Pylant asked.
VIDEO: Choosing a Keltoi name: Nine Ladies, Bitty Early
"A lot of times it takes a whole lot of wine that you are drinking when you got a batch back there before you can come up with the name of them. I have a dear friend at a particular university that I worked around with that is broke all the time because he had eight wives. We named a wine "Nine Ladies" because we are hoping this guy doesn't have a ninth wife, because he's had some bad habits," Langan said.
"We have a wine, "Bitty Early," very famous lady in Irish history and a lot of us look at Bitty as what the French look at Nostradamus. She had the ability to make predictions and to see the future and the past," Langan said.
WEB EXTRA: Playing mad scientist; Growing a wine region
"When did you first become interested in wine-making?" Bach asked.
VIDEO: Andrew Pennington talks about his former title of youngest head winemaker in Missouri
"Back when I was a junior in college working down at the Missouri Southern Alumni Association as a student employee, I just ran into Erv Langan, and he gave me a summer job trimming his vines, and I found out that I loved botany. I knew I loved botany for a long time, and I really loved growing grapes. I just wound up inside one day, doing some chemistry work in the back," Pennington said.
"Then, all of a sudden, you became the youngest head wine maker in the state of Missouri," Bach said.
"I was. I was just fresh off being 21. I just turned 22 a couple weeks after I got my official appointment. I was just not even out of college yet with my biology degree.Yet, he lets me in the back to make over 2,000 gallons of wine to test out for the next few years," Pennington said.
"When you were the youngest wine maker in the state of Missouri, how did that feel?" Bach asked.
"I was still in college and telling people that I was the head wine maker, and they almost didn't believe me until I got a business card, or I would walk into wine tasting events, and I would try to get carded as being a taster or pourer. It was kind of an interesting experience, and everyone thought my father made the wine, or Erv was my father, and we had to explain to people that was not it," Pennington said.
"How do you feel about experimenting with new types?" Bach asked.
"In my personal cellar at home, I make all of these different vintages with different yeast or different strands of different grapes and different blends of things. That's really where it's at - having fun and playing little mad scientist," Pennington said.
"It's kind of interesting when you do experiment with a new variety or new blend, make a new wine, you have to wait a couple years to get the true results of it," Bach said.
"You really do. It's really hard." Pennington said.
"So you are an example of someone who truly does take his work home with him," Bach said.
"I really do take my work home with me. I am banned from talking about grapes or wine at the dinner table," Pennington said.
"You have more than just a cellar at home, right?" Bach asked.
"I have everything from a mead, which is fermented honey. I made wine this year out of elderberries. I have wine out of blackberries, different blends of grapes," Pennington said.
"And you grow your own grapes as well," Bach said.
"I do. Me and my brother actually just finished a four acre vineyard planting, and that was just this last season, so we were able to pull a couple hundred pounds off of our grapes that we had planted five years ago. Now, I'm finally getting to see my first wine," Pennington said.
"What do you have plans for out in the future?" Bach asked.
"To turn this region into a wine region. Southwest Missouri has a lot of prime agricultural land that would support great vineyards and to just turn this southwest corner of Missouri into the next Herman or the next Napa County in the next 20 years," Pennington said.
WEB EXTRA: The Missouri Wine Passport Program
"What is the Missouri Wine Passport Program?" Bach asked.
VIDEO: Discover Missouri wines
"The Missouri Wine Passport is a combination of 130 different wineries in the state of Missouri that the Missouri Wine & Grape Board have got together and made a passport," Pennington said.
"Basically, they just put a book together that gives all the information about what wines they have, where they're at, the hours of each winery, and you go around to each winery, and you get a little passport stamp and a passport, and it is kind of a fun little way to see where you have gone, and then they give you little prizes, too, after you get so many wineries completed," Pennington said.
To learn more about the Missouri Wine Passport program, visit http://www.missouriwine.org/
WEB EXTRA: White Rose Winery
"There is a long story behind this," James O'Haro, owner of White Rose Winery, told us when we asked how the winery got its name.
"We took a trip to Ireland, but one of things we discovered there was a poem, 'The White Rose.' Years later, when we were back here, about the second day we lived here, I guess, we were coming in the drive, and we got to where the sun was hitting the house in the morning," O'Haro said. "It was white limestone, and Jan said, 'We've got our White Rose.'"
O'Haro says he started making wine back in 1962.
"I went to work for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. I designed a lot of spacecraft, satellites, and one of the guys I worked with, his family had immigrated from Northern Italy, where they had vineyards and wineries. It was a big family," O'Haro said.
"They invited us out to spend Thanksgiving with their family, and everybody showed up with wine. It was all good," O'Haro said. "I think because I liked their wine, they liked me. So over a period of years, the whole family took turns teaching me the art of wine making the way they made wine in Northern Italy."
"Being a little bit of a scientist, I taught myself the science end, but I never made more than two barrels at a time," O'Haro said. "I still make it the same way, but now, it is 80 barrels at a time."
Not only is White Rose a winery, it's also a bed and breakfast.
"We moved in on the 8th of Oct. of 1998, and as we are unpacking, Jan told me that she had told some of the ladies in town that she would put the house on the Christmas tour list, which was the 8th of December," O'Haro said. "The house had never been open to the public, so I was pretty unhappy at that time, but after it was over with, I was very happy."
"We did two years work in two months, and that Christmas, as we're talking, Jan reminded me that when we were young, we had talked about maybe doing a bed and breakfast when we retire," O'Haro said.
"St. Patricks' Day of 1999, we opened a B&B, and I planted a vineyard that spring," O'Haro said. "Here we are. Now, the restaurant part of it, we have always been into gourmet cooking and food, and through our lives, we have kind of traveled the Earth on our stomach."
"One good restaurant to another and things like that, and we had done a lot of gourmet cooking," O'Haro said. "There were a lot of things that we couldn't find to eat that we liked, so we decided we would add the restaurant to the B&B."
"Breakfast is provided with the overnight stay, but we also started a lunch menu and then a dinner menu," O'Haro said. "Lunch and dinner are only served by reservation."
"It's too much of a hassle to try to be open for a fairly large amount of people all the time, because you have trouble with help, and sometimes you are overstaffed, and sometimes you are understaffed, so we went to a reservation-only system where we can make sure we bring in enough people to take care of whoever we are going to have," O'Haro said.
"Our menu is pretty diverse," O'Haro said.
"We have Irish crab cakes and  chicken, garlic and herb crusted pork roast, a ribeye, bangers and mash [another Irish dish], and seafood and chicken fettuccine, and good desserts," O'Haro said.
White Rose Winery and Bed & Breakfast is located at 13001 Journey Rd., Carthage, MO.