Friday, June 07, 2013

Joe Fiola Proves Once Again Why He Is One of the Most Important Wine Profs on the East Coast!

I have previously written about Joe Fiola, "Without question Joe is the winemaking-est of all the Wine Profs. Bruce [Zoecklein] too makes wines, but not in the same way Joe does. Joe has for years been making wines form anything from apples and honey to grape wines. He’s very friendly about sharing his wines, and has spent years experimenting with wines, flavors, and winemaking effects. At any wine conference, Joe speaks on winemaking usually, and has brought samples and examples of what he’s trying to tell winemakers about, giving them samples to understand those differences, and the results. He speaks everywhere, and his wines are available to anyone to taste. Joe’s results are always very practical in application, and fairly easy to execute. Jovial and friendly, Joe has worked with everyone from Fiore Vineyards to Black Ankle, and is one of the people who have helped establish wine in Maryland." That still stands.

But at a recent Drink Local Wine 2013 conference, for the first time, really, many east coast wine bloggers and writers saw the undeniable value of Fiola and his abilities.While my view of Joe was impeded by one Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, it was wonderful to see several of the people around me go from quizzical as to why Joe was presenting to absolutely astounded by what he had put forth. 
Lenn was so impressed, he wrote of Joe's presentation: "One of my favorite parts of the entire conference was tasting six “experiemental” wines grown and made by Dr. Joe Fiola from University of Maryland. While we tasted things like Barbera and Teroldego, this wine was a standout for me. Made with a couple un-named hybrids from Soviet Russia, the crackling natural acidity balanced gentle residual sugar and, as  I told Dr. Fiola later, it tasted “Like Traminette, without sucking.”  He agreed."

Dr. Fiola poured three pairs of wines; two whites, two reds, and two dessert wines, made from grapes (or new processing styles) he has been conducting research trials with that he believes perform well in various regions of Maryland. The varieties tasted were planted at the four UMD regional research vineyards – the western mountains, the Southern Shore, and 2 sites on the Eastern Shore.  This provided the best varietal/environment pairing opportunities that need to be tested and exploited for each unique region. At the conference, Joe spoke about regional grapes, and his goal of finding other region's grapes that would also work well in his.
“Local varieties have been growing in those areas for hundreds, maybe thousands of years,” he explained. “Year in year out, they get ripe. Year in year out, winemakers can control production. Those areas know how to grow the grapes; they know how to make good wine. And it’s the local grapes that are the best. [Winemakers] aren’t going to grow Cabernet Sauvignon all over Italy because people know the name!” Fiola told David White who was writing for Palate Press.

Fiola went on to compare southern Italy’s climate to southern Maryland’s. Yet he acknowledged the temptation to focus on well-known varieties.

“Trying to convince a Maryland winery that has to worry about marketing to people who can barely pronounce Chardonnay to sell Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro, Sagrantino?” he asked, naming three esoteric varieties from Italy. “That presents a challenge,” he conceded.

That aid, I all to wine. This white wine, grown at Golden Run Vineyards had a lovely, floral nose, with hints of roses, and orange blossoms. The taste was citrusy with a delicious grapefruit quality. Really wonderful. What was it made of, it was made of four different white grapes grown on Maryland's eastern shores, and included Verdelho, Albarino, Marsanne, and Colombard. These grapes grow traditionally in different parts of the world, but combined here for a lovely, lovely wine.

There were two whites. The Diamondback White 2009 was the second wine, and it was an absolute knock out. This had an incredibly beautiful nose - very floral, some rose, lychee, gooseberry, tropical fruit, very perfumey, very pretty. Definitely Alsatian in style. A tad austere, but beautiful fruit and nice, bright acidity. Citrusy. A wonderful wine. The blend of grapes? Soviet-era hybrids!!!!! Fantastic! Amazing!

Maryland Barbera? This was a blend of three Barbera clones grown in western Maryland. This was a fantastic red made from the 2010 vintage (one of the best vintages of the last 10 or 20 years). The reserve had undergone an oak treatment. Big fruit, cherry and dried cherries, vanilla, really impressive with nice acidity and good tannins. Fiola pointed out that Slack had also planted Barbera for future use.
Dr. Fiola also grows Teroldego at his WMREC vineyards. Both wines were big and deep, and varietaly correct.  Fiola was emphatic that these grapes can be grown in this region. His bottles prove him correct. I thought Teroldego was especially impactful. Chocolate, cocoa, and prune all came across on the nose, while prune and cassis and dark cherry all came across on the palate. Fantastic!

These two dessert wines were very nice. The first Linae ice, had big orange blossom nose to it. ,In the Apple Ice Wine Fiola pointed out that apples, which are very abundant in the region, made a great dessert wine.
 Joe Fiola is the secret weapon of Maryland wine. I've been saying it for a while. It's nice to see him get some of the recognition he truly deserves. Kudos to Dave McIntyre and the Board of DLW 2013, and especially to Richard Leahy who I also know is a big fan of Dr. Fiola. Great job!
 Previous piece about Dr. Joseph Fiola:
David White piece on DLW and Fiola:
Lenn Thompson, of the New York Cork Report: