By Mansfield Frazier
A few years back when I announced we were establishing Château Hough, a vineyard in our very own neighborhood, my good friend Councilman Mike Polensek chuckled and asked, “What are you going to make, Mansfield, Ripple or Mad Dog 20/20?”
Ha-ha … good one Mike.
Now, if I were of thinner skin I would have taken offense at a white dude making such a comment, seeming to denigrate our efforts by comparing them to the cheap wines made by other white folks and widely distributed in poor and black communities for decades.
The reason I didn’t take offense is because, despite public perception, African-Americans as a race consume far less alcohol per capita than virtually any other demographic group, except Jews. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Nonetheless, the wine Polensek made sport of — our first-year Traminette (grown right here in Hough) just — in the first time we entered a judging — won the Second Place ribbon in the prestigious Geauga County Fair … the oldest fair in the State of Ohio. And it was up against some stiff competition.
Now I could say, “Up yours, Mike!” but I sincerely believe he really didn’t mean to be offensive, and besides, I’m far too much of a gentleman to write that … or did I just write it in a backhanded manner? My bad.
Whatever. Mike is far too thick-skinned to take offense. I’m sure he can take it just as well as he can dish it out … that’s what I like about him. Even when he once said to me, “I’m so damn sick and tired of all this race crap!” he didn’t take offense when I retorted, “Mike, you just think white folks are tired of it, just try being black, we’re really, really tired of it, and guess what, we didn’t start it, and we don’t perpetuate it … it’s you white folks who are doing that.” But, alas, I digress.
This is about wines, and now award-winning wine at that: Our Traminette. Wine judging is truly color-blind; no one knows who made it … and I doubt the judges would want to take the ribbon back once they found out the grapes were grown in Hough. Would they?
But anyway, my wife was so proud she insisted we drop a bottle off at Mayor Jackson’s house. When she approached the police vehicle parked out front I yelled out to the officer that I thought she might be a terrorist. He laughed. But, again, I digress.
The winning of this award is truly a collaborative effort. Four years ago I admittedly knew little about vineyards or winemaking … but what I did know was there are a whole bunch of goodhearted people — white, black, whatever — that will freely lend their knowledge, expertise and efforts to what they believe is a worthy effort. The list of people I have to thank for winning this ribbon is so long assuredly I would leave someone off, so I’ll just say thanks to all of them … but especially to Mike Caldwell and Tom Radu.
These two white cats operate the North Coast Wine Club, and for a number of years now they’ve been showing folks how — with a bit of effort — they can enjoy $40 bottles of wine every night with dinner for ten and twelve bucks a pop; all it takes is a little sweat equity.
They’ve been very generous in teaching my dudes (some of them straight out of prison) the finer points of winemaking … and the ribbon speaks for itself.
Our next step is to solicit investors. Please don’t consider this to be a prospectus, as I certainly don’t care to run afoul of the SEC or any other governmental agency. But ever since Château Hough was featured in Oprah’s “O” Magazine last year our phone began ringing off the hook with calls from retailers wanting to carry our wines. Now, with the winning of this award we’re ready to accommodate the marketplace.
We’re now confident enough to take the next step and establish a for-profit winery to go with the non-profit vineyard … plus establishing about a dozen additional inner-city vineyards so that we can fill the demand for our unique wines.
Shelves in the wine section of every outlet are filled to overflowing with a very good selection of fine product, but none have a trope — a back story — similar to ours: Inner-city, award-winning wines … made by dudes fresh out of prison. Let me see anyone top that shit.
Who knows, maybe even Mike Polensek might want to invest in such an obvious winner, even if it isn’t Ripple or Mad Dog 20/20.
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.