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The Herald Republican, The Star and The News Sun
Sunday, September 27, 2009
By Cindy Bevington
VIVA LA VINO!
Satek Winery goes retail with Vine2Wine sales
 

More grapes. Bigger tanks. Bigger buildings and now, a new market for the fruits of the vines of Steuben County's Satek Winery, which this month announced it was uncorking an expansion with a subsidiary company, Vine2Wine.

The goal of the secondary business is to distribute Satek wines to select retail stores and restaurants, Satek owners Larry and Pam Satek said. After being in the planning process for several months while they worked out the details of licensing and other legalities, Vine2Wine made its debut Sept. 17 at Dave's Lake Shack, just west of the winery's home base near Fremont.

"I've been asking Larry for four or five years when we could do this," said Dave Ellis, Lake Shack owner. "When I bought this place seven years ago, what we had wasn't much more than a couple of over-the- counter wines in gallon bottles, and I really wanted to offer more and better wines. And now that we can offer Satek, it's really great.

"Of course, people know the winery is over there, and that they can go there to get wine or do a wine-tasting on their own, but once they know we carry it here, too, I think my clientele will like it, that they can sit down and have some Satek right here with a meal."

For the first Vine2Wine night, Satek marketing manager Fred Barnes brought a selection of seven wines for Lake Shack customers to taste, including the company's top seller, 101 Lakes Red, as well as their Mango Mania, which has quickly become their second best-selling wine.

Ellis said he planned to start with an order for three or four of the wines.

"But of course, once people know we carry Satek, they may ask for other varieties which we could order, so I don't know where we'll end up," Ellis said.

For the Sateks, the new business is a continuation of a good-luck story that has outdone itself, even in the face of a down economy. While much of the industry worldwide has reported sagging sales, Satek has been beating the odds in both sales and recognition: In June Satek won 22 medals in the Indy International Wine Competition, including two golds in a competition that included 3,200 competitors.

It was the sixth time in its eight-year history that Satek won multiple golds.

"We are bucking the trend," Larry Satek said. "The wine business has been down in general, or maybe slightly. But we've enjoyed an increase in sales over the last 12 months - they are up significantly."

Area restaurants

Other restaurants and retail stores have been just as persistent as Ellis in requests for Satek wines, Larry Satek said, with at least two more already onboard and several waiting in the wings for a final OK.

"Caruso's Catering Service has signed on, and Joseph Decuis bought some for a special event," he said. "And we're working with some others, including a big chain restaurant, but I'm not ready to tell who they are yet."

So far, distribution areas for Vine2Wine extend only as far as Steuben, DeKalb and Allen counties. But, like the winery, Vine2Wme will expand with demand.

"More grapes. Bigger tanks. Bigger buildings," said Pam Satek, who professes to being more of a silent "tasting" partner than an active participant in the business.

"We'll just grow as the market goes, and try to keep a good head on our shoulders and not let the growth carry us away."

Satek started in 1992 as a commercial vineyard selling grapes to other Indiana wineries. Larry and Pam broke ground for the on-site winery seven years later, and opened in 2001 with Pam, Larry and one part-time employee.

The winery now grows eight acres of grapes and employs 17 full- or part-time workers who pick grapes or are involved in the bottling process.

Around 700 bottles of wine can be assembled in an hour, which is equal to 500 gallons of wine.

Originally designed for a 10,000-gallon capacity, Satek produced 13,000 gallons in the past year. Increased sales has made it necessary to purchase grapes from other growers. With the addition of Vme2Wine, the Sateks anticipate producing 25,000 to 30,000 gallons every year.

'The most important thing is we have had a lot of people who have said they'd like to get our wines both in restaurants and in stores, but we had to get the license to do it first," Larry Satek said. "Very likely we will have some liquor stores that will stock a few, too.

"We are committed to giving what the market wants. It may take a year to grow it (a new grape for a new wine or more grapes for existing wines) but we will do it."