Man makes grape seed oil of vineyard leftovers

 Oil is valuable because of its high smoke point and popularity

By Carol Thompson
Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Grapes from Chateau Grand Traverse go through an extra step this season as they travel from vine to compost pile.

The grapes are plucked and pressed and the juice heads toward fermenting tanks, just like it has since the winery launched in the 1970s.

But there’s another step this year for the leftover skins and seeds, or pomace. Christoph Milz will step in to intercept the leftover material and use it to make another product — grape seed oil, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Milz, who owns Traverse City-based Pressmeister Oils, will make grape seed oil from Chateau Grand Traverse grapes.

Winery president Eddie O’Keefe said wine and oil are a natural fit. Sniffing and swilling a spoonful of Milz’s cold-pressed oil is like whiffing and sipping a nice wine, and both are made from grapes.

“Wine is considered the ultimate value-added agricultural product,” O’Keefe said. “To take it one step further to produce oil is a wonderful thing.”

Milz uses machinery he made to clean and press the grapes after Chateau Grand Traverse’s winemakers squeeze out the juice. He’ll then take the dried seeds back to his press and make varietal oils, such as Chardonnay and Pinot noir.

“You can actually taste the difference,” Milz said. “The red grapes taste different than white grapes, and even within the white grapes you taste a difference.”

It’s not easy to squeeze oil from a tough, drop-sized grape seed. The small brown seeds are hard and don’t contain much oil compared to nuts and other seeds, but the oil is valuable, thanks to its high smoke point and popularity.

Grape seeds aren’t Milz’s only local experiment. He took his equipment to Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay to intercept the cidery’s Macintosh apple pomace after cider makers gathered the juice.

He’ll press the seeds to make apple seed oil to send to restaurants around the country, such as Alinea in Chicago.

The apple seed oil is more about Milz’s curiosity and passion than a business move.

“We want to make this,” he said. “We’re convinced that it’s good. We’re excited about it. We want to have it and we know people will buy it.”

Tandem Ciders co-owner Dan Young said apple pomace usually gets composted or churned into local corn fields, and giving it to Milz instead makes sense for the Suttons Bay business.

Young tried an apple seed oil sample last year.

“It was really good,” he said. “It’s a little bitter, it’s a little fragrant. It has dimension.”

Milz said he plans to experiment making a new oil from a local product every year.

Making locally sourced oil isn’t so easy. Milz used black walnut oil as an example. He makes it with out-of-state nuts, even though customers with black walnut trees offer to give theirs away.

But Milz isn’t prepared to hull, shell and dry those walnuts himself, and there’s nobody nearby who does it.

“If we want these local things we need to develop this whole infrastructure,” Milz said. “This is what the grape seed project is about. It’s very exciting that we have this collaboration.”

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