Monday, August 06, 2018

Big Flavor at Big Cork Vineyards! (MD)


So I went to Big Cork Vineyards in April of 2018 for a grand tasting of Mid-Atlantic/East Coast wines. But I was also especially exited because I am a big fan of Big Cork.




Big Cork broke ground in May 2011. On 24 undulating acres in Pleasant Valley, Md., they planted 13 varietals, making BCV the second largest vineyard in Washington County. The tasting room is a large, airy, roomy, modern tasting room with a big helping of fine wine and exceptional small foods and snacks. There is a comittment to wine here....there's no soft selling it.

 Artist Scott Gunderson's cork rendering of Big Cork Vineyards 
master winemaker and head of operations Dave Collins.

The actual Dave Collins

Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland, master winemaker and head of operations is Dave Collins. He's an experienced winemaker, a veteran of many harvests. Dave Collins Vice President of Operations & Master Winemaker has a degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech and more than 30 years of winemaking experience, Collins has been lauded for helping establish Northern Virginia as a premier destination for wine lovers. Previously with Breaux Vineyards, Dave’s wines have garnered hundreds of awards, including Best in Class Merlot and the Virginia Jefferson Cup for Viognier. At Big Cork, Dave oversees the growth and production of 24 acres and 13 varietals. He is at Big Cork to push the boundaries of what can be made on the east coast and is always pushing himself to make better wine. And largely, he succeeds.



2017 Russian Kiss

Big Cork Russian Kiss 2017 is a white blend of Russian and Serbian bred varieties, such as SK77-53, SK77-10-69, and XIV 186 and 62% Muscat. The grapes first made their way to the Mid-West back about 30 years ago. According to Collins, Joe Fiola., “The Small Fruit Specialist here in Maryland made me aware of them. I decided to send several thousand off for grafting in California in 2014.  We now have 2.5 acres of the Russian varieties planted.” Fiola is with Western Maryland University and one of the best academics/extension folks on the east coast.

I first tasted Joe Fiols's Soviet grapes in June of 2013 at a Maryland wine conference co-sponsored by The Cork Report's TasteCamp and Local Wine an organization then spearheaded by Dave McIntyre. But in three subsequent tasting's of Collins' Russian Kiss, I have fallen in love with the wine. Tremendously floral, the nose explodes of of the glass of this exciting white wine. I love this wine, and have bought multiple bottles on each time I have had the wine. Spectacular wine to drink, and a great achievement for Maryland. A great showing of how the university extension experts can help grow the local wine industry. Congrats to Marylanders, Joe and Dave, and to Maryland wine on the whole. A triumph!


I am effusive about Big Cork's whites, but they have endeared themselves to many fine wine drinkers by virtue of their incredible reds. 

Big Cork Vineyards Barbera 2015 is made from 100%  estate grown Barbera grapes. Barbera is most famously grown in  Piedmonte, Italy. The grapes are hand picked. They are chilled overnight. The wine in matured for approximately 18 months, in a combination of new and older French and American oak barrels for 18 months. The resulting wine is rich in dark and bright cherry, bramble berry, and has hints of wood and spice. An earthy red, it has excellent structure, and a fabulous finish. One of my favorite Big Cork reds.


Big Cork Nebbiolo 2015 was just as impressive. 100% estate grown, this grape, made famous by the Italians, cherries, raspberries, tobacco, and earth all come through in this medium-bodied dry red. Lovely fruit keeps on lingering. Lovely, complex with lots of layers.


If you are looking for a big, heavy, opaque Chilean/Argentinian Malbec, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a lovely, jammy, medium-bodied wine with finesse, elegance, and complexity, you will love Big Cork Malbec 2016. The wine starts of it's attack with blackberry and plum jam, and follows up with violets, earth, and spice. The tannins are soft, as you would expect, and the flavor lingers a nice long time. A delicious soft red, with ample fruit and luscious finish. 


Yet again, I am amazed by Big Cork and their wines. Wines get better and better each year. And I am always amazed at the multitude of flavors and the quality of the wines. Congrats to all!

Not only one of the best wineries in Maryland but one of the better ones on the east coast!

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Seeing Red is Believing at Hector Wine Company (NY)


Jason Hazlitt and Justin Boyette are the co-owners of Hector Wine Company. According to wine writer Adrian Jacquin, "When you talk about Hector Wine Company, it’s essential to have Sawmill Creek Vineyard in the same sentence. Most of HWC’s wine is from (the growers at) Sawmill Creek Vineyard. They really are tied at the hip. In fact, Jason Hazlitt, co-owner of Hector Wine Company, and his extended family have owned the Sawmill Creek land since 1852." Though none of the labels have an single vineyard designate on them.   


I have tasted a line of Hector's wines twice in the last 12 months. Once last July 2017 at their tasting room and then again this last July 2018 at the Finger Lakes wine festival at Watkins Glen where I met briefly Justin Boyette. Alexandra Bond and Justin Boyette are the winemakers at Hector. Justin also makes wines at Forge Cellars. The tasting room was roomy and comfortable.


Justin Boyette



The first thing I tried was the Hector Gewurztraminer Seneca Lake 2015. It had a terrific tropical nose, with lots of apricot and green apple and a floral twist. The flavors were all tropical fruit, green apple, and a sizeable grapefruit, lemon pop at the end. Lovely!


The Hector Sauvignon Blanc Seneca Lake 2016 Was a big citrus bomb from the nose to the final finish. A lovely nose of bright green apple, lemon and orange zest, and a big green apple/lemon finish. A really nice clean white.


The Hector Riesling Seneca Lake 2015 had a lovely nose with tropical notes and green apple, but also had a feint hint of petrol Lots of great acidity came across the nose. A really, really impressive Riesling.



Without question, both times, my favorite wine at both tastings was the Hector Essence. I tried both the Hector Essence 2014 and the Essence 2015. Essence is a full bodied Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. All grapes are handpicked and hand-sorted and each barrel is carefully selected for a perfectly balanced blend. They've been releasing this blend since 2010, when Syrah was one of the original components. By 2013 it was the classic components we know today blended into thirds. The Syrah is now a separate wine. Essence is one of the winery's most popular offerings, and it's easy now to see why.

The Hector Essence Seneca Lake 2014 is a lovely wine of cherry, raspberry, cassis, with hints of vanilla and spice. Medium bodied stewed berries are at the front of the attack, with hints of earth and spice, this is a lovely wine. A good, solid, impressive red wine. One of my favorite blends of the region. The Hector 2015, I felt, had bigger fruit, a more impressive lead off, with a combination of light and dark fruit.Big cherry, stewed black berries, and cassis. I felt the tannins were slightly more pronounced, and the middle carried through better. The finish was also impressive with good acidity and lovely lingering flavors. There were layers to both wines, but the 2015, for me, had a much longer lasting lingering affect. The flavors just kept coming through. Really really impressive.


The Hector Syrah Seneca Lake 2016 was my second favorite wine, and could easily challenge for best on their list.It had a lovely, jammy profile up front with plumb and cassis and dark cherry. Really really lovely flavors up front. The tannins were solid but not over powering, and the after taste, with a hint of cassis and spice, lasted long after I swallowed each gulp. A very impressive wine.


Bond and Boyette fermented this unfined and unfiltered Hector Cabernet Franc with indigenous yeast and aged it in large format oak barrels. The result is a lovely, medium bodied red wine brimmimng with cherries (bright and dark) an with lovely traces of spice and earth.is bright and elegant with earthy undertones, and a slight touch of graphite. Very nice.


The Hector Cabernet Sauvignon Seneca Lake 2015 was a wonderful surprise. The flavors were bigger and more well rounded than I was expecting. A big dose of blackberry, cherry, raspberry, and cassis all swirled in th front on the nose and palate. Big tannins took over the middle, and the acidity was just enough to finish the wine and make this bottle mouthwatering.

In the end, though the whites were nice, I was seeing (and buying) red at Hector Wine Company. And that was a good thing! You will too! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sherwood House Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Franc - Amazing! (NY)


Sherwood House was always among my favorite producers. recently, a friend came to visit, and we ventured into the cellar to find something to try. Low and behold, out of nowhere, I found a bottle for Sherwood House Cabernet Franc 2003 from the North Fork of Long Island.

Sherwood House was the love-child of Dr. Smithen and his wife Barbara. He has since passed on, but Barbara is still the Doyen of the Sherwood House brand which now shares it's home with the Hound's Tree label and her new partners.

But this was the old wine. A 2003 vintage. It was now 2018. How would a 15 year old bottle of Cabernet Franc hold up? Eric Fry, of Lenz, and Gilles Martin of Palmer Vineyards and Sparkling Pointe, both used to make the wines for this house. I wasn't sure who made this wine. However, as far back as 2003 I was a massive fan of his Sherwood House chardonnay, which I often provided to my Kistler/Pahlmeyer drinking friends, much to their astonishment. The reception was always shock and excitement!

We popped the cork with much apprehension. But our fears were soon replaced by excitement. Afraid I might find nuances of mold, mushrooms, or worse (due to MY poor cellaring - not Eric's lack of wine making), were were instead greeted with a big burst of dark cherry and dark raspberry and only a slight, slight hint of fallen leaves or tomato (the harbingers of much older wines). The fruit was still vibrant and impressive. With hints of vanilla, cassis, cedar, and graphite all still present. The layers and complexity of the wine continued to amaze as we sipped the wine on it's own and with food.

I always love to pull out an old bottle and see if it has aged well. You of course get duds from time to time (from all over the world), but this bottle was absolutely a gift!!! Always so excited when an east coast wine can age this well. Just continues to show the promise of the region.....still always exciting!

Absolutely impressive!!!!