Journal Gazette, Dan and Krista Stockman, May 21 2005
No sour grapes for
It was June 30, 2001, and Pam Satek - a self-described "eternal
pessimist" - was nervous. The winery she and her husband, Larry, had
been dreaming about for years was about to open, and she was worried no
one would show up.
Larry, the eternal optimist, reassured her. If no one shows up, he said,
we'll just go pass out brochures at the nearby outlet mall and drum up
''That first day we were swamped," Pam said. "We were just so absolutely
swamped it was unbelievable." They were so swamped they sold the entire
year's worth of wine in 19 days, despite not knowing how to operate the
cash register or the credit card reader on that hectic first day.
Four years later, Satek Winery (it rhymes with "attic") in Fremont is
still selling out of its award-winning wines, even though they sell it
only at the winery - no restaurants, no stores. This year's crop
included 21 wines, but only 13 are left.
The first couple of years, Larry kept his job and commuted from Chicago
to the winery on weekends. Now, he's a full-time winemaker, churning out
13,000 gallons of wine from a building designed for 10,000 gallons.
Some of the equipment still dates to Larry's days as an amateur
winemaker, but last year, Satek nearly won the Governor's Cup at the
prestigious Indy International Wine Competition, which goes to the
Indiana winery that wins the most medals during the contest.
The winery was an instant success, attracting people off the tollway and
nearby tourist attractions from the moment it opened. The Sateks didn't
even have directions up from the highway to the winery, just a big sign
on the building that said "Winery." But people saw the sign and somehow
found their way.
Once there, people fell in love with the wines - so much so for some
that they never left. All the employeesat Satek came in as customers.
The secret to their success is making fabulous, friendly wines.
Part of what makes them so wonderful is blending. By law, if a wine is
to be called, say, zinfandel, at least 75 percent of the grapes
must be zinfandel. But the other 25 percent is up to the winemaker, and
Larry uses that to his full advantage.
"Our employees are faced with the terrible task of coming in to work and
having 10 blends to taste," he said.
As part of the blind tasting - remember, Larry holds a Ph.D. in
chemistry, so his scientific method is inscrutable - an unblended wine
is always included, but it has never been chosen.
Another reason they taste so good is because his reds have soft tannins
and his whites are fruity.
Those soft tannins can make a wine - even one that's bone dry - taste
like it's got a tiny streak of sweetness running through it.
Wine marketers call this style "approachable" or "new world," and when
it's overdone it can make a wine with structure and heft into one that's
just soft and flabby. Larry's are just soft enough to take the hard
edges off a big red wine and make it lush.
Those reds are Larry's favorite. He is most proud of his DeChaunac, a
hybrid that won gold at Indy last summer. When they pulled out a bottle
they had stashed away (it's sold out), we could see why: It had
incredible depth and layers of flavors.
One of Satek's newest wines - Perfect Ending, a sweet, white dessert
wine with just a hint of bubbles - hadn't even been released
the day we visited. As we tasted the luscious wine, a customer stopped
by hoping it was for sale. He went away disappointed
because the labels hadn't arrived yet, but Larry promised the wine would
be released soon. We suspect this one will join the blackberry and
raspberry wines, which each sell out every year and have waiting lists.