Learning about wine is a never-ending process for consumer and winemaker alike. Just when you think you know what to expect, BAM a drought or heavy rains or a fire, changes things.  None the less, as winemaker you must combine the necessary skill-set with the unexpected event to achieve yet another preferred vintage for the consumer.  That is, if you want to be successful.

Last week myself and other Nebraska winemaker members of the industry were able to interact with one of the country’s foremost wine consultants, Denise Gardner of PA.  Denise is a Pennsylvania native, who gained her knowledge through the FFA program, science fairs, internships in France and California, a B.S. in Food Science from Penn State University, and a M.S. in Food Science and Technology from Virginia Tech University.  Denise acted as Sensory Scientist, leading wine industry sensory trials, evaluating new products used to make wine, and learning A LOT about the California wine industry.  She returned to her home state as the Penn State Extension Enologist.  Now, she offers her skill set as a consulting service for those seeking to improve their wines.

Our Nebraska Grape and Winery Association, engaged Ms. Gardner to conduct 7 webinars to help Nebraska winemakers refine their winemaking skills and eliminate what she considered sensory flaws and offer essential tools and knowledge to raise Nebraska’s overall wine quality to new levels.  While the first 3 webinars could be considered basic by many, each were essential topics to make consistent quality, routine.  Besides, there are always 1 or 2 tips that can and should be gleaned from a skilled presentation.  Even if it just reinforces you foundational understanding.

A couple years ago, the Nebraska Wine Industry, (NWI) engaged DG Consulting to evaluate winery selected wines and which were submitted to the Iowa State lab for chemical analysis and the same bottled wines were sent to Denise for sensory analysis.  Gardner provide individual analysis to each winery and complied a list of things the NWI could work to improve collectively.

April’s workshop for Nebraska winemakers was a bit more technical, and included the topic of YAN (Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen).  Granted as a consumer you really don’t much care about the YAN measurement as long as the finished product carries a rating in the 90’s and is Gold Medal quality. 

As winemaker, understanding YAN’s importance to yeast health and a solid fermentation can mean the difference of salvaging a flawed vintage or procuring yet another set of Gold awards for a great Nebraska wine.  That has to be our goal, “Always Improving, Always Better.”  

So, as I wrap up the filtering and bottling process on the 2022 vintage of Miletta Vista wines, I’m looking ahead to producing even better wines in 2023.