Shop is wine lovers' dream come true

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By Amanda Hensley


The News-Democrat

Owners Harold and Jami Olminsky believe a winery should be an educational opportunity for wine lovers and those who want to learn about wine.

Their advice? Try all the wines you can. Don’t write off one type of wine based on one brand. Always ask questions.

Newcomers to Carroll County, the Olminsky’s moved here two years ago from Northeast Ohio. They opened their winery, Shandio Valley, at 108 Court St., Carrollton, in April.

The name combine’s their daughter’s first name, Shandi, with her last initial.

The couple began making their own wine as a hobby 10 years ago. They were wine lovers who visited the many wineries in Ohio and Pennsylvania. One day, they found a pamphlet about making wine at home, and decided to give it a try.

They started small, making five or six small batches at a time. Today, they are making 80-100 gallons a year to sell in their store.

“It was a hobby that got out of control basically,” Harold explained.

They describe their method of winemaking as “small and pretty low tech.”  Market research, he said, consisted of having a party every September with family and friends, and determining the favorite wines by counting the number of empty bottles.

Low-tech and rudimentary as their processes might be, their work resulted in medal wins in amateur wine competitions.

When the couple entered their first wine and received a couple of gold medals, they realized, “we can make pretty good wine,” Jami said.

Now that they’ve moved up to the commercial level and are competing with professionals, they are still bringing in awards. Shandio won two bronze medals at the Indy International Wine Competition in June for their Bear’s Blush and Riesling.

Getting started

The couple decided to open a shop with a personly, family owned feel – like the small wineries they loved to visit.

Business so far has been fair, Harold said. “The people coming in are finding stuff they like and are buying.”

Wineries depend a lot on tourism, but he said he hopes high gas prices may convince locals to stay close to home – and try the local wines.

Shandio sells six wines made from five different grape varieties, using grapes bought from Northern California vineyards.

As for recipes, Olminsky said they are making a lot of it up as they go. Of course, as amateurs, he said, it was no big deal to dump a few gallons of wine if it didn’t work out. With 150-gallon tanks and the time it takes before the wine is ready, the process is a bit more daunting. But they are still experimenting until they find that perfect taste.

The most important thing about making a great wine, according to Harold, is to start with the best quality juice you can. His philosophy is to not manipulate the natural flavor of the grapes, but rather to bring out the best within the grape during fermentation.

Harold said he will be ordering about 2 to 2.5 tons of seven grape varieties in late August to start up a couple of new wines – and redo favorites – for the spring. He plans to try making some sweeter wines this time around.

For those interested in making their own wine, he said there is plenty of information on the Internet, as well as books that can help. But he advises patience, because winemaking involves a lot of trial and error.

Harold says he doesn’t know everything about wine and he hasn’t met anyone in the business who does.

“Everyone tells you something different,” he said. “I do it on my own and figure out if it works,” and he advises newcomers to do the same. But don’t forget: “It’s all based on taste. It’s gotta taste good.”


a great wine

Harold said there were three important factors to a great wine: “Color is really the first thing you see. Second is the aroma and third is the taste.”

And tasting wine has three steps. The first step involves the front of your tongue and will be your initial reaction to the wine and its acidity and flavor. The second is the mid-pallet, where the taste will flatten in your mouth and lastly the after taste that the wine leaves when you swallow.

Tasting is “how you learn about wine,” he said. “It’s a tough job, and somebody’s gotta drink it.”

In addition to the wines, which sell for $10 to $12 a bottle, Shandio sells winemaking kits for $70 to $80, complete with everything you need, including glasses.

He also sells grape juice to make about 6 gallons of wine, or two and a half cases, for $50. They also sell Kentucky Food products, including cheeses, pretzels and jams.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Jami said of having their own wine business. “It was something we always talked about doing but we were like ‘can we really do this?’ It’s kind of like living your dream.”

For more information, call Shandio Valley Winery (502) 732-4744, or visit www.shandiovalleywinery.com.