Here's my brief analysis of the 5 home pages which don't use Flash (from the entire list in my original post). You might think that they all benefit from that choice, but even non-Flash sites can be less-than-effective for their visitors.
Although the Acorn Winery home page doesn't use Flash, it still suffers from a problem. Yes, it's a lovely picture of a grape cluster, but regardless of their goal on arrival, a visitor must click to proceed to a page where they can actually move toward their specific goal. The "Pick a grape to Enter" (arranged vertically to maximize reading difficulty) also adds to visitor confusion: does it matter which grape I pick? The entire Acorn visitor experience would be improved by removing this page.
On the Conn Valley site, there are mostly-obvious links to click for site visitors, regardless of whether they are immediate buyers (alas, Winestore is not quite as obvious to a buyer as Buy Wine), browsers seeking more information, potential resellers (Trade), or people who want to tell a story about this winery (Press - does that mean recent press coverage, or information for the media?). The main issue with this home page is that it's hard to tell if anything has changed recently.
While Bucklin's site resembles Conn Valley in its simplicity (and it has the advantage of showing what most people consider your winery's identity: the image of your bottle and label), the links to the left don't provide much of a "scent" for buyers, the trade, or the media (there's lots to browse, though). Which link do I click if I want to buy this wine (even if I can't buy it online)? Bucklin gets points, however, for making their newsletter signup obvious (although it would be nice to understand what I get if I do).
The Mirassou brand is now owned by E. & J. Gallo, and so its home page has the "you must be smart enough to figure out what year a 21-year-old would have been born in" approach to responsible drinking. If you arrive on this page, are you impressed by Gallo's corporate social responsibility, or irritated at having to fill out 3 boxes and click Enter? Even Gallo's own age-check page is less intrusive, with no boxes to fill out.
Lynmar used to have a Flash-based "movie" on their home page, which played a slide show of images. You can see the commented-out code if you do a View Source on their Web page. Now you simply get a different static image from that slide show every time you hit Refresh. The appearance of Lymar's home page changes each time you visit it (up to a point), but it's merely slight-of-hand, not true freshness.
Although the Lynmar site was one of our "Top Ten Winery Web Sites of 2005" (#1, in fact), the lack of Flash didn't influence that score (in fact, Flash doesn't appear as part of our rating system). Regardless, this home page would be more visitor-effective if they hadn't buried the Buy Wine link in a drop-down menu (which one?!)
BOTTOM LINE: Visitors come with a already goal in mind. The first page they see should make it clear where to click next to get closer to their goal. Sites which impose an intervening page run a real risk of immediately losing visitors to the Back button. Lynmar and Conn Valley do a better job of preserving a visitor's "momentum" than Bucklin, which in turn, does it better than Acorn and Mirassou.
(Note: the first page a visitor sees may not be the home page if they came from a search engine.)
Tomorrow, come back to see my comments on the sites with home pages that use Flash. In the meantime, feel free to add your comments.