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Slate Run Vineyard Refines Classic Wine Production Techniques

Walker Evans Walker Evans Slate Run Vineyard Refines Classic Wine Production Techniques
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Keith Pritchard has been making wine for over 30 years, making Slate Run one of the older operations in Central Ohio. The winery at Slate Run will celebrate 20 years next year, and Keith and Leslie Pritchard have seen plenty of challenges and opportunities along the way.

We spoke recently with Keith to find out more about their business, and to find out why new regulations are threatening the centuries-old techniques that are utilized at Slate Run. Our full Q&A can be found below:

Columbus Underground is celebrating Wine Week with features on local wineries, wine shops, wine bars and more! This series is brought to you by Ohio Wines!

Q: First, can you tell us a bit about the history of your winery and vineyard?

A: We opened Slate Run Vineyard for sales in February of 1997, started making wine as amateur in 1981 and started planting grapes in 1985. Started expanding the vineyard in 1989, and by 1993 had to decide to cut back the vineyard or go to the next step. After issues with cold weather, government red tape, building, and printing we finally opened in 1997. I built our Weinhaus facility for functions and meetings in 2005. It will hold up to about 125 people.

Q: What types of wines are you best known for?

A: I pretty much make grape wines of many types. Our best selling are two  sweet Labrusca-based wines. We also make four dry white wines and five dry red wines. We make two semidry German style wines and a late harvested botrytis affected Vignoles. We only make one fruit wine; a semi-dry Apple made from half Gold Rush apples and a quarter each of Winesap and Gold Delicious.

Q: Are all of your grapes grown on site in your vineyard?

A: I grow all my own grapes except for the Concord portion of my sweet red wine (Rurban Red). I grow about 60 varieties of Vinifera (European species), Hybrids from Europe and the US, and labrusca (Niagara). Additionally, the apples for my food-friendly apple wine come from Hugus Orchard near West Rushville (East of Lancaster). The apples and the concord (currently from Valley Vineyards) are the only fruit I buy. I am 100% Ohio on the fruit .

Q: What would you say is unique about your winery’s processes?

A: Pretty much everything is unique from how I grow the grapes to how I make the wines. I am pretty much a traditional-style winemaker and employ methods not used by anyone else in Ohio. Many of the wines I make are more European in style and do not conform to the formula for wines made in a quick-to-market style that is popular and generally promulgated and promoted by most.

Q: What do you think of the Ohio wine industry in general right now?

A: It’s growing at this time, and I generally try to help anyone and do not feel the need to denigrate different business models of types of wineries. I would like to see more growers, but it is a tough life in Ohio.

Q: What types of events do you host in your Weinhaus?

A: My business model is simple, as I am a winegrower first and have a tasting/gift room. The Weinhaus facility is available for rental for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, business functions, etc. We do not have a restaurant, nor do we give tours.

Q: Are your wines available in any stores in Central Ohio, or just at the winery?

A: Slate Run Vineyard wines are currently available only at the winery at this time. I, along with some other wineries, are in disagreement with the Ohio Department of Agriculture licensing and inspecting wineries as food processing facilities if we distribute. We have a website explaining this and urge people to support Ohio Senate Bill 32 at www.FreeTheWineries.com. This regulation is duplicate regulation as well as unnecessary and an infringement on the principles I hold as a winemaker, as well as potentially dangerous to the methods and ways I wish to make wine, which has proven to be safe for thousands of years of history.

My view is contrary to the belief that wine is food. My belief is that wine is the opposite of food. Everything that goes in to a wine is not really present in the same general form or quantity as what goes in the bottle. Unlike food, you are not after the mixture of ingredients, you are wanting the growth medium and the waste products of the process. The juice, the yeast and any other components are not in the wine in the end, nor in the same form. Even the acids can be changed or fermented to another acid in some cases, or partially removed in the processing. Needless to say, wine has a natural purification process like no other that makes it a safe product as well as alcohol content that will kill human pathogens, especially at the low pH of wine. Even old wine or wine going bad is not unsafe to drink.

Q: Anything else we should know about about Slate Run?

A: Slate Run Vineyard is open for tasting and sales Monday thru Saturday from 1pm to 7pm. We are set amidst the vineyards for a laid back, casual visit.

More information can be found online at www.SlateRunWine.com.

Photo via Slate Run Wine.

From July 8th to July 14th, Columbus Underground is Celebrating Wine Week, brought to you by Ohio Wines! Ohio has a long and proud agricultural history, and the wine industry is a significant part of it. Since the 1830s, vineyards have thrived from the Ohio River Valley to the Lake Erie islands. Ohio is now home to more than 160 wineries. Ohio winemakers and Ohio consumers have discovered the unique influence Ohio’s soils and climate have on the creation of fine wines.

We invite you to use “Ohio Wines Love at First Sip” at www.tasteohiowines.com to learn more about Ohio’s fruit of the vine. Whether it’s a local institution or a charming boutique winery, we think you’ll agree that Ohio wines are “Love at First Sip.”

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