My name is Carlo DeVito, and I am the author of East Coast Wineries: A Complete Guide from Maine to Virginia published by Rutgers University Press. This blog is dedicated to primarily east coast wines and wineries including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. It will also feature products and information from other regions.
And he appeared in the same issue, under a separate article about Oz Clarke, who returned to his old neighborhood, Long Island, when he visited back in the Fall, and went to visit none-other-than, you guessed it, Richard Olsen-Harbich.
Why was he lavished with all this praise - well, my belief (and many others as well) is that Richard Olsen-Harbich is the most talented wine maker on the east coast.
He is an incredible talent. He is technically talented at the bench work in the lab. He understands what's going on in the vineyard, and good fruit in his hands is like a good brush in the hand of a masterpainter. And he loves to play on the cutting edge, constantly pushing the envelope of winemaking, experimenting with wild yeasts, natural fermentations, and other fun ideas.
Where's Richard Olsen-Harbich? Luckilly, he's on the east coast!
Upstairs, I was pleased to see a beat-up, dog-eared copy of WOODSTOCK: Three Days That Rocked the World, Edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury with a foreword by Martin Scorsese on one of the tables in her tasting room, since it was published by Sterling Publishing Company. It might seem silly to point that out, but it's not. It's an important point about Palaia Vineyards - they were into Woodstock and classic rock. Peace signs and tie-dye are ubiquitous in the tastingroom, which is a part of who Jan and Joe are. And they love music.
The tastingroom is beautifully appointed. The walls of the tasting room say "old barn," but the style of the room is much more sophisticated than that. The room is festooned with antique furniture and shelves all of which feature their wines.
OK, the wines.
But first a note about the labels. They are very fun. Each label features a vintage photo that date as far back as the 1800’s on both sides of their family, but sometimes they sneak a modern one in there just for fun. The photos are on display at the winery along the stairway entrance to the tasting room.
The first wine I had was a Merlot 2005. The wine was incredible. It was a light-to-medium bodied red, with a nice medium-to-deep color. There was a lot of bright raspberry and vanilla on the nose, and both came through on the palate. Great fruit, with nice acidity and smooth tannins. It was very lovely, almost Burgundian in style. Wonderful!
The second wine I had was the Cabernet Franc 2006. The wine was a beautiful bright red in the glass. Here, there was bright cherry on the nose, with a whiff of vanilla. Again, beautiful light fruit up front, bright , bright sour cherry, almost like a Pinot Noir. But with the classic touch of pepper so common to Cab franc, it finished smooth, with medium acidity and soft but persistent tannins. Again, very, very nice.
The last one I tried was their Lemberger 2006. I am not a fan of Lemberger. I have had a slew of New York Lembergers and I have not been overwhelmed. The Lemberger I have liked best was down from New Jersey where their number of hot sunny days made the difference for me. Many NY state Lembergers are made into blends, but Palaia's is straight 100% estate grown Lemberger. So I tried Jan's Lemberger with some trepidation. Palaia's wine had a deeper color, with a nose that was a big hit of bright sour cherry. There was a touch of smokiness to it. But the fruit was bright and fresh. This was in actuality a nice, soft wine. The nice thing about Palaia's version of this grape was that the fruit was there, but it wasn't overpowering. Again, it was in the realm of a light-to-medium Pinot Noir. Many Lembergers are high in acidity with tannins of varying degrees. This had a nice combination of acidity and tannins. There was great mouthfeel on this wine. It finished smooth and evenly. A wonderful wine. Instantly my favorite New York state Lemberger!
Palaia is a fun place to visit. They have two large rooms off the tasting room - one is a banquet room, and the other is an enclosed, heated porch where often feature musical guests.