Saturday, November 06, 2010

God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise: Time Is Now for East Coast Wineries - 10 Reasons East Coast Wines Will Shine in Coming Year

I know people must be tired of me bad mouthing New York wine right now. It's not that I am down on New York wines, I think they are better than they have ever been. I'm just down on the New York state legislature for not backing one of its best industries (can you name five growing industries in New York aside from NY wine?). And I am mad at winemakers who can't seem to find a common cause, even when it's sitting right in front of them. It makes me angry.

But I am here today to tell you that Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, "Good times are coming!" I am telling you now that great things are about to happen! I am here to tell you that the promise land is around the corner. And you better be ready, or you will miss heaven!

The 2010 growing season on the east coast is one of the best in more than two decades. From Virginia to Long Island to Pennsylvania to Connecticut and Rhode Island, winemakers harvested happily and early! The Brix were high, and the grapes were sweet!

"So what?" you say? Ah, ha! 2009 is one of the worst growing years California has seen in two decades. Now, I am not rejoicing in that. I love my Kistler, and my Turley, and my Cakebread and my Chappallet and my Patz & Hall as much as the next guy. Buy 2010 is going to be a glorious vintage in the east. It will be the high watermark of east coast wines for a generation.

Now is the time for the East Coast to rise up, and stake it's claim. Lenn Thompson wrote that East Coast wineries need to stake their claim with their own Terrior. This vintage is a golden opportunity to see where we are.

Here are 10 reasons why East Coast wines are near taking their rightful place on the world wine stage:

1. East Coast had a great winemaking season in 2010 and the 2009 vintage, a tough one, has shone pretty well so far. The 2010 vintage will be one for the ages. Yet another sign of the rising tide of quality on the East Coast.

2. I'm tired of hearing about all the star power California and other wine regions have. East Coast has it's own star winemakers like Richard Olsen-Harbich (Bedell), Eric Fry (Lenz), Roman Roth (Wolffer), Russell Hearn (PWG), Tom Higgins (Heart & Hands), Eric Miller (Chaddsford), Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards), Adam McTaggart (Boxwood), Luca Paschina (Barboursville), Cameron Stark (Unionville), Andy Reagan (Jefferson); Bob Bartlett (Barrtlett Estate), and many others. Apologies. there's many more...can't list them all. I put this list of people up against anyone. This is my East Coast Wineries Justice League.

3. Better winemaking know-how and knowledge across the board from Virginia all the way to Maine are better than ever. Period. Not even a discussion.

4. Some fabulous wines: Heart & Hands and Oak Summit Pinot Noirs; Lenz, Raphael, Wolffer, Pellegrini, and Bedell Merlots; Paumanoak's Chenin Blanc; Barboursville's Octagon, Nebbiolo, and Barbera; Jefferson Vineyards Viognier, Chardonnay Reserve, and Meritage; Chaddsford's Merican and Chambourcin Seven Valleys; J. Maki Winery Blanc de Blanc; Hopewell Valley's Chambourcin; Unionville's Pheasant Hill Chardonnay; Sakonnet's Fume Vidal; the Rieslings and Gewurztraminers of the Finger Lakes (like Dr. Frank, Hermann J. Wiemer, Standing Stone, Tierce, Red Newt, Billsboro, White Springs Winery, and many many more); Millbrook Block Five Pinot Noir; and many, many more.

5. Even if the New York legislature still doesn't get it, Virginia, Maryland, and a number of other wines states do. More money will be spent in 2010 to promote east coast winemaking than ever before.

6. Great marketing people. In the past, the east coast had inexperienced wine professionals promoting their wines (and in some cases no one), but now there are a maturing crop of wine professionals who have the funds to create demand and drive more wine into consumers hands, like Morgan McLaughlin of the Finger Lakes; Kevin Atticks of Maryland; Richard Leahy and Annette Ringwood Boyd of Virginia; the people who created the Maine Winery Guild; and of course Jim Trezise (who is currently over-matched by his demands and severely under-funded by the state - and who could use some help).

7. Better packaging. More than ever before, East Coast Wines are looking great! 15 years ago, when I first started really following East Coast wineries, the labels were just something short of horrific!!!! Awful, ugly, cheap, and badly designed. Embarassing. But today, East Coast wineries packaging is more than up to snuff. Packages like Chaddsfords handsome Merican and Chambourcin Seven Valleys; Heart and Hands and Millbrook's Block Five Pinot Noirs; many bottles form Long Island's Wolffer, Raphael, and Bedell Cellars; Jefferson Vineyards; Barboursville Vineyards; Bartlett Estates; Unionville Vineyards; and many others look right at home against any wine from any country.

8. It's Local! This is one of the biggest boosts East Coast wineries have ever had. And it's more important than ever. Consumers want to support local. A little state pride is a good thing. Local dirt tastes better. It tastes and smells like home. It's unique.

9. Quality. The over all quality is better than ever. I can't tell you enough how wine quality has improved over the last 15 years. Part of this has to do with a better understanding of chemistry, but more importantly, the wines are better made, with more oeniological understanding, and many are truly cellar worthy.

10. The east coast has great, dedicated bloggers, starting with Lenn Thompson and the gang at New York Cork Report; your truly, East Coast Wineries; a slew of great Viriginia blogs including Virginia Wine Time, Virginia Wine In My Pocket, Virginia Wine Dogs Blog, and My Vine Spot among others; Vinotrip; The Wine Classroom, The Hudson Valley Wine Goddess, and many, many others. These dedicated men and women are the engine that help promote and celebrate the many things going on in and around local wine.

BONUS 11! And the biggest reason is? Taste! East coast wines have never tasted so good! And now, with a vintage like 2010 under their belts, East Coast wineries are in fact second to none. Will some of the wine regions continue to evolve? Will new varieties inevitably rise up? Yes, yes, and yes, I say again. But for now, this is as good as it's been - and it's only going to get better. No more apologies. No excuses. We have great wine, come and drink!