Satek, Stroh make a fine pear

February 12th, 2018

By Amy Oberlin | KPC Media - The Herald Republican

Stroh fruit in Satek wine is nothing new.

The two local businesses’ long-standing partnership has produced award-winning apple wine.

What’s new is pear wine.

G.W. Stroh Orchard, 2620 N. S.R. 827, has been in operation since 1982. Satek started as a commercial vineyard in 1992; the winery at 6208 N. Van Guilder Road opened in June 2001.

The Autumn Classic debuted in 2011, featuring a blend of Stroh apples.

New fruit

“I’m loving how pears work,” said Satek winemaker Shane Christ. “This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve never made pear wine before.”

On Groundhog’s Day, Gary Stroh crushed 28 bushels of pears stored since the fall harvest. While they were beginning to show their age, the ripe green fruit held up well in the winter.

Christ said there are benefits to cold juicing. Friday morning, as the pears bounced down a rustic red metal chute toward a grinder, it was around 12 degrees.

Award winners

Inside Stroh’s barn, warmed by a fiercely glowing space heater, work went quickly. The Satek crew brought two 55-gallon drums to collect juice after layers of pulverized pears were wrapped in cloth on racks then hydraulically pressed.

Starting with about 100 gallons of pure, fresh, ice-cold Potomac pear juice, Satek expects to release 40 to 50 cases of its premier pear wine.

“This is a realization of a passion project for Shane,” said Jason Satek. “Our apple wines have won so many awards.”

The Autumn Classic took gold at the 2014 Indy International Wine Competition among other notable recognition. It rated double gold in 2016 for Best Fruit Wine at Drink Outside the Grape, an international contest for fruit wines, meads, ciders and fruit brandies.

Last year, Christ presented at a conference in Syracuse, New York, on the apple wine process.

Organic outreach

The Satek-Stroh partnership caught the attention of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network. Its director, Janet Katz, watched the pear press.

Katz wants to encourage collaboration and marketing that shines a light on the little known natural treasures in our back yard.

“It increases the value of local food,” said Katz, who holds masters degrees in organic chemistry and sustainable food systems. Katz delighted in Christ’s discussion of his wine-making plans and peering into a refractometer to gauge the juice’s sweetness. The pear juice registered 12 on the brix scale.

Friday afternoon at the winery, the Satek team prepared for fermentation by stabilizing the chemistry of the juice and sugar in a stainless steel tank then transferring it to oak wine barrels imported from France.

Expected release date is May 1.

“People come in and ask for the wine that came from Gary Stroh’s apples,” said Christ. “My guess is they will come in and ask for the wine from Gary Stroh’s pears.”

Katz said partnerships like Satek and Stroh’s are a perfect example of how a local food network can grow. NILFN covers 11 counties in northeastern Indiana, promoting demand and supply of fresh, home-produced fare.

The project started with a regional steering committee formed in October 2016.

“We’re launching,” said Katz with enthusiasm. There is outreach on social media and NILFN will be involved in a food forum in March at IPFW.

Tours being planned

The organization’s focuses include establishing a regional food hub and encouraging collaboration and networking.

“We’re just so proud to do it,” said Katz. “I think people are really interested.”

Farm tours, food tours and other activities are being planned.

Katz said the presence of abundant and varied local food can create a “quality of place” to draw and retain a dynamic social and business culture. According to a 2016 Purdue Extension article, if Indiana families spent 10 percent of their at-home household food budget on locally grown and produced food, an average of $458 a year, it would generate over $1 billion in economic activity in Indiana.

More about the NILFN is at neifood.org.