Friday, April 18, 2014

Millstone Ciders - Big Things Are Going on in Monkton (MD)

What?! What is it with all of these cidermakers?! What? What?
So I was walking the floor of the Grand Tasting on the final day of Taste Camp 2013 held in Baltimore, Maryland, in a conference room overlooking Camden Yards, with Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report. And like many of the other attendees we stumbled upon Millstone. The cool part was that they were a different kind of producer. They made meade and cider. Normally I am not such a big meade guy, but there are some very good ones out there these days. These folks are in Monkton, MD. The place is run by Curt Sherrer and his son Kyle.
Millstone uses only heirloom apples. Good cider apples may not make great table apples as they can be extremely acidic, tannic, some to the point of being unpalatable. Not only are these guys using heirlooms, but they are also doing some cutting edge stuff. And they take it very seriously.
"Most of the apples we work with are American heirloom varietals, as early Americans typically cultivated specific apple varietals more for hard cider than eating (averaging 52 gallons of cider consumption annually per capita). Unfortunately with the rise of monoculture these varietals are grown by only the most passionate orchardists committed to preserving our countries unique apple bio-diversity. When creating our blends we group our cider apples into four main types according to the nature of their flavor components. A truly complex and well balanced cider takes blending to create just the right balance"
Sweets -  Contain high sugar levels which encourage fermentation and raise the final alcohol content.
Sharps -  High in acidity and add tartness to the cider
Bitters - High in tannins, adding the bitter and astringent ‘bite’ to the cider.
Aromatics-  Have strong bouquet, creating the nose of the cider
The Winesap was a cider made with raw honey. I was a little suspicious at first. I've had plenty of bad ones of these. But instead of the mustiness you can sometimes get from a meade, this was all apple, with a hint of honey and complexity that kept this from being something sweet and gooey, to complex and elegant. Hard to describe it really, only to say that it was like a nice, well cellared white wine. A nice citrus angle played up well here, leaving a hint of Meyer Lemon. There's some carbonation going on here. The wine is bottle conditioned. This isn't semi-sweet cider to swill. This is a fine wine. I point that out as painfully as possible, because these guys are making an artisan product that needs to be appreciated. This isn't apple juice with a shot of booze in it. Someone hand-crafted this stuff. It's beautiful. It's not to be had with burgers or with nachos, but to be served with dinner, fish, especially poultry, especially roasted chicken or chicken paillard. And maybe a nice salad? Lovely wine.
This guys approach meade like winemakers approach wine. They vinify it and they treat it with wood. Their single barrel dry hopped mead is crafted from bittering chinook hops and raw clover honey.  Robust and full flavored nectar bottled unfiltered, preserving the purity of its ingredients. The wine is hazy, and scented with hops. But boy, was it different and it was good! Very complex, without being too funky. We both really enjoyed this.

Ciderberry was a real show stopper. This an oak aged cider, made from Rome Beauty and Stayman Winesap an then they add raspberry wine pressed straight from the farm and blended with that oak aged cider. Fruity and tart, the acidity keeps this wine honest, and makes it into a lovely rose' styled wine instead of a funky, sweet blush. A complex wine.

Overall, a very good impression was made. And some excellent wines. This is a cidery and meadery to look out for. Big things are going on in Monkton. Who knew?

Nice write up from another blogger more at:



We meet at a website noted for knowledge, in a Valley noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

The vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension. No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come. Brewing has grown at a breathtaking pace. So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Hudson, this State of New York, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will this challenge be.   Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of brewing. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it.  We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people.  We choose to brew a Blonde Imperial Stout. We choose to brew a Blonde Imperial Stout in this year and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.  To be sure, we are behind, (BrewDog Abstrakt already stands tall in Europe) and we will be behind for some time in the brewing of a Blonde Imperial Stout. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this year, New York brewers shall make up and move ahead.  Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he wanted to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."  When President John F. Kennedy was asked why we were going to the moon, he said, "Because it is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."  I put it this way - a Blonde Imperial Stout is there, and we are going to brew it! Because there is hope and honor and knowledge to be gained and new discoveries to be unfolded.


Qualifications and Rules
1. A minimum of one barrel must be brewed, bottled, and labeled for sale. Growlers of any size do not count. It must be available for sale at retail brewed, bottled, and labeled.
2. Must generate a sufficient sudsy head as a traditional Imperial Stout
3. Must exhibit on the nose the roasty, chocolate, and malty aromas of a traditional Imperial Stout
4. Must exhibit the flavors consistent with those mentioned above.
5. Must ensure at least a 9% ABV
6. Must exhibit the mouthfeel of an Imperial Stout
7. It must have a state approved label
8. It must be yellow to gold in color.
9. The brewer must be licensed in the state of New York.
10. This offer ends at 11:59PM, December 31, 2014

A bottle must be shipped to me. First one to serve their beer to me that matches the conditions above wins. I must taste it for the winner to take the prize. No exceptions. I may be contacted through the Hudson-Chatham Winery.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Luckett Vineyards (Nova Scotia, CA)

Jeff Pinhey is a Nova Scotia wine geek, and a smart one at that. It was he who brought three bottles of Luckett Vineyards wines to the Quebec Taste Camp 2013. He is from Nova Scotia. Jeff is an Associate Member of Canadian Association Professional Sommeliers and has been a Board Member for 8 years.  He is one of the senior BJCP Beer Judges in Canada, and also has significant wine judging experience. An avid traveler, he is adding at least one new wine region every year to his experience. When not tasting beer or wine, Jeff works as a Professional Environmental Engineer. He is on the National Board of Directors of the Stanley Thompson Society and sits on Halifax's Downtown Design Review Committee. 
So, why am I writing about Jeff and about Luckett? ell, I was at the Montreal Taste Camp last year and we had a winemaker's dinner. And as we sat there sampling bottles, left and right, these three babies drew my eye. And so I made sure to taste each one. And they were fantastic! So even though Nova Scotia's not my normal realm, I felt compelled to write about these fantastic wines! I was compelled to research about them online. Apparently, they have a phone booth in their vineyard, which is obviously very distinctive. According to their website, and by other people's agreement, Crisp maritime breezes, legendary ocean tides and brilliant sunshine meet to create an outstanding terroir on a hillside overlooking the magnificent Gaspereau Valley. Luckett Vineyards captures the magic of Nova Scotia’s distinctive character through wines that truly are worth phoning home about.  
Pete Luckett is a name synonymous with fine fare in Nova Scotia.  His culinary explorations began as a stall owner in Nottingham, England, and led him around the world before he chose to settle in the Maritimes. Here he formed one of Atlantic Canada’s best known and loved brands: Pete’s Frootique.  Three award winning stores and countless well-fed customers later, Pete has kept close to his roots as the charming grocer and energetic personality.  Always looking with an entrepreneurial eye towards new adventures, he sees the vineyard as a true calling. A fun fact about Pete? He did a stint as a Queen’s Guard but wasn’t able to keep from chatting up the tourists.  He still has the hat.

Mike Mainguy, Executive Winemaker is indeed the Main Guy for all things wine at the winery.  He brings a well-rounded knowledge obtained from areas with similar growing conditions.  A Nova Scotian at heart, he has extensive winemaking experiences in the Niagara region and right there in their own backyard, spending a year at Gaspereau Winery. 

Marcel Kolb, Vineyard Manager. Don’t let the accent fool you.  Marcel’s background in wine is as French as his prized bottle ofChâteauneuf-du-Pape. Growing up in Switzerland,  he learned growing techniques from the precision masters and has parlayed that knowledge into getting the most out of our unique Nova Scotian terroir.  Just a glance at our meticulous rows of vines is enough to see that Marcel is serious about growing grapes. Marcel is an avid follower of Metallica. Word on the street is that he joined them for a stint as their drummer.


L’Acadie Blanc is Nova Scotia’s most talked about grape. Briefly aged in Hungarian Oak to develop a hint of vanilla, this wine has a complex structure and crisp, refreshing notes. My notes reflect very much the same experience. Nice acidity which gave the fruit its length and a great refreshing quality.
L'Acadie 2011 was reviewed by Natalie McClean, she wrote, "Crisp and clean and refreshing with bright lemon-lime notes." A very elegant, light, bright white with wonderful complexity and a nice lingering flavor. Fabulous!

OK, so I was impressed by the L'Acadie, so now I had to try their Muscat 2012. It pours with a decidedly yellow-ish tint, but very clearly has a hint of pink to it. Big, beautiful nose! Floral with hints of lavender as promised. Citrusy with hints of lychee as well. A hint of the tropical. A gorgeous white wine. A dash of sweetness here, but with enough acidity that is very well-balanced. Very sexy.

OK, so now I had to try the red. I was very curious! Triumphe 2012 was the next big surprise! This medium-bodied, dry red, aged in French oak, had impressive dark red fruit, of a dark berry stewed quality to it, including dark cherry, dark raspberry, and hints of cassis and vanilla...and a hint of mocha.  Triumphe is easy-drinking with a pleasing complexity that never leaves you on hold. A very beautifully balanced red. I was super impressed. These people are far up north, and a red wine with this kind of depth is no small feat! Extremely well done.