Monday, April 30, 2018

Best of New England Wine Competition Announces 2018 Results

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The second annual Best of New England Wine Competition took place here on April 25th, with six judges including grape and fruit wine and cider and mead specialists, tasting dozens of entries from New England states resulting in 42 medals; two Double Gold, nine Gold, 13 Silver and 17 Bronze medals.

The competition took place in Charlottesville, VA to ensure judges would not recognize the wines. Judges were: Dr. Joseph Fiola, an enologist and Small Fruit Specialist at the University of Western Maryland; Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, NH; Christine Iezzi of Country Vintner, a mid-Atlantic wine distributor; Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, a leading Virginia winemaker; and Todd Trazkos of Vermont Wine Media.

Best of Category awards were as follows:

·       Best Sparkling Wine: Shelburne Vineyards (VT) “Celestial Louise” NV;
·       Best White Wine: Sharpe Hill Vineyards (CT) Dry Riesling 2016;
·       Best Red Wine: Shelburne Vineyards (VT) Marquette Reserve 2015;
·       Best Rosέ Wine: Copper Beech Winery (NH) Massabesic Rosέ;
·       Best Dessert Wine: Snow Farm Winery (VT) Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2016;
·        Best Fruit Wine: Sunset Meadow Vineyards (CT) SMV Enchanted Apple
·       Best Cider: Hermit Woods Winery (NH) Hermit’s Blue Cider
·       Best Specialty Wine: Hermit Woods Winery (NH) Deep Blue Reserve

Best of State awards went to the following: for Connecticut, Sunset Meadow Vineyards for their “SMV Enchanted Apple”; for Maine, Winterport Winery for their “Crackling Cranberry”; for New Hampshire, Hermit Woods Winery for their “Petite Blue”; for Rhode Island, Greenvale Vineyards for their 2012 Cabernet Franc; and for Vermont, Shelburne Vineyards for their Marquette Reserve 2015 (there was no “Best of State” qualifier for Massachusetts).

The Best of New England Wine Competition is dedicated to showcasing the best of 100% New England grape and fruit wines, mead, cider and eaux-de-vie, as being of high quality, diverse, food-friendly in the Old World style and worthy of pairing with fine New England-sourced cuisine. Complete competition results are posted at

Forge Cellars - Elegant Wines in the Finger Lakes (NY)

Forge Cellars in the Finger Lakes released their first vintage in 2011. The impresive trio that produces the wines includes Louis Barruol, Rick Rainey and Justin Boyette.

Barroul is the famous winemaker. "Louis comes from a winemaking tradition of 14 generations.  His family has been located at their historic property in the village of Gigondas in the Southern Rhone Valley of France since 1570.  Louis grew up among the vines and took over the estate from his dad in 1992, proceeding to improve quality and grow a vigneron-negociant arm of the business.  Chateau de St. Cosme is now regarded as the benchmark of wine quality in Gigondas."

Rainy is in charge of the Vineyards and General Manager - "Originally a Florida boy, Rick came to the Finger Lakes by way of Philadelphia twenty years ago with the aim of owning a winery.  During the past nearly two decades, he has been selling and buying wine (mostly French) for an international, fine wine distributor-importer.  With Forge Cellars, it seems that Rick has finally come full circle and gotten to dig his hands into the dirt."

Justin Boyette is the steady hand that oversees winemaking on a day-to-day basis. "Winemaker, Steady Hand - Justin works diligently with Louis to make the Forge wines, handling all day-to-day winemaking and élevage with Assistant Winemaker, Alexandra.  He is the co-owner of another winery on the east side of Seneca Lake called Hector Wine Company and before that, held winemaking positions at Red Newt Cellars, Atwater Estate Vineyards and Poplar Ridge Vineyards."

I tried the wines at the Hector Wine Company while I was in the Finger Lakes last. I had heard a lot about them. Great reviews for their Pinot Noirs, Rieslings, etc. They've even released some oak aged Rielsings. You have to like what you hear about Forge Cellars.

THE ALLIES, THE FRIENDS, THE UNITED ONES. - This is small batch fermentation and winemaking at it's boutique best. According to the owners, "Every year Les Alliés evolves naturally by “uncovering” itself. Our indigenous yeast fermentations proceed very slowly. It’s not in spring, but in the summer after the vintage that we are finally able to move toward bottling the wines. Once fermentations are complete, our team begins diligently tasting through our barrels and tanks, giving each a detailed rating and review, and writing personal tasting notes.  When we talk about small batch and individualized fermentations, we really mean it — hundreds of separate, small French barriques from 15 individual vineyards, each with its own story and personality. Along the way, we decide that some very special barrels are stand-outs, and by consensus, the most exceptional of our Rieslings and Pinots.  This is the consensus that makes up Les Alliés — the allies, the partners, the united ones. We don’t “make” Les Alliés, we discover it together, and it’s an easy decision because it tells us what it wants to be."

I tried the Forge Les Allies Riesling 2014. the grapes for this wine come from the east side of Seneca Lake. This is a bog, flowery expression of riesling bursting with tropical fruit, Lychee, and passionfruit and green apple and hints of petrol. A lovely, refreshing white with zippy acidity and impressive structure. The flavor of this wine lingers on the palate for some time.

Then I tasted the Forge Cellars Les Allies Pinot Noir 2014. The grapes are from the east side of Seneca Lake. Stewed plums and blackberries come through as promised as well as hints of lavender, blueberry, and a lot of spice and black pepper. There is an earthiness that comes about....bramble? This is an elegant, complex, impressive wine. Really, an amazing Pinot Noir.

I am absolutely late to this party. These folks have been gathering up accolades and plaudits all over the place from Wine Spectator to the Cork Report. Barroul, Rainy and Boyette have crafted an  absolutely exquisite line of fine quality wines!

Lucky Hare Brewing Company in Hector is Hoppin! (NY)

The Lucky Hare Brewing Company opened on May 20th, 2016 in Hector, NY in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country. The owners had their 100 year old barn converted into a 3 barrel brewery outfitted with all Stout Tanks and Kettles. Annual  production is approximately 350 barrels of beer. Lucky Hare corporate president is Richard Thiel. Head brewer and company vice president is Ian Conboy, Thiel's stepson.

"Ian put every penny he had into the company," Thiel told Will Cleveland of the Democrat & Chronicle.

"You have to consider not only the business but other people’s feelings," Conboy said. "If we were strangers or friends who got together to start a business, it would be easier to say, ‘That’s a dumb idea.’

The brewery recently was approved for a grant to expand it's operations. So the business after about 2 years id doing well!

I went with several friends, including my long time drinking companion Rich Srsich. I had the Cezanne, their sour beer. We had one each, the Millennial Falcon, the Blonde Moment, and the Two Can Sam. All the beers were good. 

Two Can Slam / Pale Wheat (5.5% ABV / 24 IBUs) is a citrusy ale with notes of lemongrass, and passion fruit. It's a hoppy, white wheat ale that's pretty damn good. The other I recall fondly was the Millenial Falcon / DIPA  (8.6% ABV / 101.8 IBUs) a/k/a Falcon Punch x2 is made with Maris Otter and Flaked Oats. This is a dry hoppped ale that explodes with grass note all over the place. Super refreshing.