Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Fiola and The Western Maryland Research and Education Foundation

One of my favorite things about Wineries Unlimited is meeting people I've never met before, or spending time with people I've never had the chance to meet before. And some times drinking their wine.

This is not the first time I've written about Joe. He is a very important person in the Maryland viticultural landscape. He's a grape and fruit guy. But unlike a lot of University Extension guys (not all), Joe likes to make good wine from the grapes he's growing. And like Three Dog Night says, "I helped him drink his wine. He sure had some mighty fine wine."

Joy to the world.

The Maryland Grape Research and Fruit Statewide Extension and research programs in viticulture, enology, and tree and small fruits are being created and implemented at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center by Dr. Joseph A. Fiola, Viticulture and Small Fruit Specialist. Dr. Fiola holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Cook College, an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He has been with Maryland Cooperative Extension since 2001.

Dr. Fiola has over 20 years of academic and industry experience in research and extension in viticulture and enology. He organizes annual events such as: Regional Beginners' Grape Growing Workshop; Regional Winter Fruit Meeting; Summer Orchard Tour; Field Days; and Twilight Meetings and Tours. Joe oversees Cultivar Testing, Pest Control and Vineyard Nutrition and Enology.

It's his enology work I am most concerned with here. Small batch enological studies are conducted on the new grape varieties to determine their wine quality. Also, research has been conducted into understanding annual vintage variability, as well as utilizing various enological tools to make the best wine possible with each specific "vintage" of grapes. Vinified products from Dr. Fiola's new grape variety research have won awards in the American Wine Society's (AWS) International Competition. Experiments with cryo-concentration for “ice” wines from grapes and apples are being conducted.

Joe is a busy man. But while I was at Wineries Unlimited, I tasted three of his wines. I tried the 2007 Pinot Gris; 2007 54 36 33 New Russian Hybrid; and the 2007 Cabernet Clonal Reserve.

The Pinot Gris was light, citrusy, clean, bright, and very drinkable. The New Russian Hybrid was an off dry white wine with a touch of sweetness and a bright fruity nose. And the Cabernet Sauvignon was incredible, medium bodied red, with raspberries, plum, and vanilla. Impressive. Like to know more about this clone.

They were really exceptional wines. Of all the wines I've tried of extension winemakers, his are consistently the best.

And that's great for all of us!