Sunday, April 22, 2018

VaLa Vineyards Continues to Impress - Everyone! (PA)

So I was traveling to Washington DC with a good friend of mine, David Falcheck, and we decided on planning our trip to stop somewhere along the way and visit a winery or two. David is the Executive Director at American Wine Society. He had never been to one of my favorite haunts - VaLa Vineyards! I texted the incredibly gifted Anthony Vietri, and asked him if we could stop by, since it was a day they were normally closed. He was incredibly gracious as always!

Anthony is a growing figure on the east coast wine scene. He is hermit like, in that he rarely eaves the confines of his vineyards at VaLa, in southern Pennsylvania, and he rarely travels outside of his large family circle. Yet, he is a gardener and viticulturalist extraordinare! All of Anthony's wines are blends, and almost all are Northern Italian varieties.

Anthony's family has been in the United States for more than a century, and his roots are on display at the winery. 

The first wine we tasted with local cheese and honey was the amber-hued 2013 La Prima Donna white wine. It comes in at a whopping 14.4% alcohol, and you barely taste the alcohol. It is a blend of tocai, malvasia bianca, fiano, pinot grigio, petit manseng. This rich, layered, textured white wine has dried apricot and peaches, fresh apple, and hints of pineapple an tropical fruits. The vines are 18 years old, and the wine is aged 17 months on the skins (sulle bucce in Italian, i.e sur lies). It's done in small batches, then blended, and was bottle aged for 10 months before release. An incredible wine.

The next wine was the 2015 SILK with an alcohol of 14.5%. Silk is a dark rosato made from corvina veronese, barbera, nebbiolo, carmine, petit verdot, etc. It is the color of a dark rose or a light pinot noir. It is filled with flavor and richness usually not accustomed to the category. Bright raspberry, cherry, and fresh blackberry offset lovely notes of cedar and dark wood. Lovely for tuna steak, poultry, pork chops or salad, this is the perfect lunch wine. This wine is what lazy afternoons in summer were made for. Wonderful. 

The 2015 VaLa Castana is a blend medium bodied red, a resulting blend of Barbera, Carmine, and Petit Verdot, etc. It is an immensely impressive wine with a combination of light and dark fruit. Highlights include young raspberries and bing cherry, alternating with a brambly dark blackberry, tinged with wood and vanilla. An impressive red wine for any region, Castana is among my favorites.

Anthony was very generous and treated us to a bowlful of his mother's sauce. OMG was this incredible. With the cheese and the light pasta and the wine, it felt like a sunny day in Tuscany!

The Farmer VaLa himself.

Then came the grandaddy of all east coast wine, Mahogany. It is hard to prepare someone for what their first taste of Mahogany will be. If there was a First Growth classification of the east coast, VaLa Mahogany would asbolutely be on it! This 2015 VaLa Mahogany did not disappoint. This rich wine, dar in color, with notes of dark cherry, dark raspberry and bramble, is the reuslting blend of malvasia nera, barbera, sagrantino, carmine, lagrein, charbono, teroldego, petit verdot. This wine is absoluetly one of the best Italian reds you will ever drink! Astounding!  

As you can imagine, David was an immediate convert. Anyone I have ever sent there usually is.

Always sad to leave VaLa, but always satisfied and thrilled at the experience! YOU MUST GO TO VaLa!

Wiggly Bridge Small Barrel Bourbon - A Little Taste of Kentucky, from Maine! (ME)

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Wiggly Bridge Small Barrel Bourbon is one of my favorite bourbons. And hint, hint, it's not from Kentucky - it made in Maine!

I've been drinking Wiggly Bridge for almost a year now. I've drank Scotches, bourbons, Tennessee whiskies - and I am here to tell you that Wiggly bridge is making some righteous hootch in York, Maine. And that their bourbon stands apar - and together made with anything other bourbon you'll have.

The business is own by David Woods and David Woods Jr. Wiggly Bridge Distillery is family owned and operated. David Woods has always been self-employed, an has owned a hand full of business ventures. When he’s not distilling or stopping in at the other businesses, David enjoys spending time with his kids and six grandchildren.

Young David Woods (aka "Little David") has been part of the family business since a young age, and he is a jack of all trades. David is a self-taught welder who makes coppers stills.

Wiggly bridge is a small batch distillery committed to making quality stuff. They make a white whiskey, a small barrel bourbon, small barrel rum, a white rum, a vodka and a small batch dry gin. Their lineup is solid throughout.

But the bourbon to me shines through! It starts off with sweet corn, cereal, caramel and honey, oak, and dried fruit (dates, figs, apple and pear), and has hints of sweet tobacco and a lovely vanilla touch.

Who knew? It's a little taste of Kentucky in York, Maine! This is a wonderful whiskey! Buy it!!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

White Horse Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2016 (NJ)

Seferino Cotzojay is the winemaker at White Horse Winery and is one of the nicest and most sincere winemakers I know. And when I saw a chance to taste one of his wines, I was thrilled to do so. While at the Eastern Wineries Exposition, I happened across a bottle of his newest White Horse Chardonnay. I don;t usually review anything that says American on it. That means it's outta state fruit. I don;t mind if its east coast fruit....say if a New Jersey winery uses New York, or Pennsylvania or Maryland or even Virginia fruit. I am less generous when it's California, Washington, or Oregon. I have nothing against those states. They make great wines. But I am not a proponent of east coast wineries using west coast fruit - unless you're doing it like Jonathan Edwards who identifies where each wine comes from, and who makes estate wines on both coasts. The grapes herein are from Lodi, a reputable region. Regardless, I am a big enough fan of Serefino's to allow this one time transgression here at the paltry blog, for he tells me estate wines are due any second!

WhiteHorse is run by the father and son team Brok Vinton and his son B.J. Owner Brock Vinton is a successful real estate developer, who, after his service in the US Navy, he began to explore the fine wines of France, with a particular interest in Burgundy and Bordeaux in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s He began exploring the wider world of wine after that and had visited many of the major wine growing regions, and became a particular fan of California's many regions.

According to the website, "In 2012 he tasted wines from New Jersey for the first time. Based upon his experience with fine wines, he realized the potential for making wines in New Jersey which could compare favorably with anything from Europe and California. This led to his 2013 purchase of 40 acres near Hammonton, in Camden county.  He and his son B.J. have built a complete modern wine making facility, initially planting 18 acres of grapes. Currently 19 acres have been planted in 10 different grape varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Albarino...) .  Having acquired additional land, they plan to ultimately have vineyards covering 60 acres." 

Brock J. Vinton II​ also known as B.J. as a young man had wanted to start a boutique wine importing business.  At the age of 16, he worked in the vineyards and cellars in Cognac, France.   He later studied in Bordeaux and worked in Beaujolais. He completed an undergraduate thesis on the future of the micro-brewing segment of the brewing industry.  After college he went to work in manufacturing R&D, eventually started an engineering company and among other projects developed and patented a wind turbine.   

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Seferino Cotzojay, a Guatemalan native, started his winemaking career on the eastern end of Long Island, NY, one of the country’s top growing regions. Working with several different winemakers, Seferino quickly learned the complex nuances of the winemaking process.  His passion and dedication to his craft soon made him the Assistant Winemaker at Bedell Cellars, an award winning winery whose wines have been served in The White House. With his more than 10 years of experience in the winemaking industry, we are pleased to announce that Mr. Cotzojay is bringing his unique combination of old and new world style wine making to White Horse Winery. Seferino has been featured in several publications including the Wall Street Journal.  

I found this bottle on one of the table during the awards dinner and was quite thrilled! This White Horse Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2016 was much more reflective of the east coast thn the west coast. It had a lovely, light flavor to it, more red apple than green apple, none the less, it's acidity was still east coast pop! It had some nice mineral flavors that complimented the big tropical notes that one might expect, especially pineapple, melon, and citrus. A lovely creamy finish to a nice light, drinkable Chardonnay.

Huge fan of Seferino's. His arrival in the taste instantly places him in the top five of winemakers due to his track record. And it could mean huge things for this small wine producing state. I and can't wait to taste the soon to be released estate wines from this exciting new quality producer in New Jersey!

Very exciting an interesting. Keeping my eyes on the lookout!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Vox Vineti: Excellence in Pennsylvania (PA)

In March I stopped by a new winery n Pennsylvania - Vox Vineti in Christiiana, Pennsylvania. I was heading down to Lancaster, and decided to make a few stops. My good friend Paul Vigna had suggested I call Ed Lazzerini and make a pit stop there. It was a little out of the way....but it was well worth the trip!

Ed is a successful businessman who wants to turn his passion for great wine into a real live thing. Like the ancient sculptor Pygmalion who kissed his ivory statue Galatea, and brought her to life, Ed and his wife have sculpted the land, and brought forth art! Vox Vineti means "voice of the vineyard" in Latin.

Ed is now out to make the most ubiquitous wine in Pennsylvania, they want to make the best wine in Pennsylvania, then one the east coast, then the country, then the world. An admirable goal. Many are called...but few succeed in this quest.They intend to make only estate wine from their own Sauvingon Blanc, Semillion, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec plus a bit of Carmenere. They also planted Nebbiolo and Barbera. 5 acres at 2,000+ vines per acre (0.8m x 2m spacing and 0.9 x 1.8 m spacing). That's a lot of vines. Their soils are composed of fractured schist, sandy loam and quartz.

"Customers with a broader wine drinking background are frequently surprised that our wines remind them of many they've enjoyed while traveling in Europe," Lazzerini told a local paper. "What stuns just about everyone who comes through our cellar door is how rocky our vineyard soils are; most people can't believe anything would grow in them. But it's precisely this extremely low-vigor, schist-laden soil, which differentiates our vineyard from most other currently planted sites in the Mid-Atlantic region. Thanks largely to all that rock, we're able to produce compelling wines on a consistent basis."

Vox Venti Galloping Cat Discantus 2016 is a fabulous rose made from 50% Barbera, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Nebbiolo. It's a result of slow, cool fermentation in neutral French oak barrels. This was an incredible wine!!!!! Big strawberries, limes, cream, but tropical fruit notes as well, all followed by a citrusy, dry finish. Absolutely wonderful!

Vox Veneti Galloping Cat Polyphony 2012 is a bend made up of 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 1% Carménère. The wine was made using a stainless steel fermentation, and went through a malolactic fermentation in oak. The wine was then matured for 15 months in barrel (60% new French oak, 40% neutral French oak). It was bottled unfined and unfiltered. 4 barrels were produced. The wine was exceptional. Big notes of dark cherry and cassis were followed by mocha and cocoa, with notes of vanilla. The fruit lingers on the palate for a long, long times. A terrific red.

I also tried a tank sample of Vox Veneti Galloping Cat Polyphony 2015 is a blend made up mostly of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with Petit Verdot and Malbec playing a supporting roles, and a touch of Carménère. Again, big dark fruit, with layers of dark cherry, cranberry, cassis, and other stewed fruits. Very, very impressive!

I tried a barrel sample of the winery's Cabernet Franc 2016. Again, very, very impressive. "This is a long-term philosophy which applies primarily to red wines: time in bottle allows them to integrate. There's really no way to speed up this process without using additional intervention in the cellar, which is emphatically not part of our philosophy. It takes patience to grow, vinify, age, and enjoy compelling wines. Vintage conditions play a role here as well in terms of creating exceptions to this strategy...some wines don't require longer-term aging before they can be enjoyed [i.e. most white and rose wines, and to a lesser extent some reds]," Ed told the local press.

The barrel sample of the Petite Verdot 2016 was also quite impressive. Big and lucious and deep, this was also incredibly impressive.

"A wine's textures, flavors and aromas fluctuate throughout its lifetime.  Once in bottle, there are typically points in time along an "integration continuum" when a wine simply smells, tastes and feels balanced when you drink it.  Wines can also gain complexity with time:  primary fruitiness, tannins, and acidity begin to share the stage with all sorts of amazing flavors and aromas [mushrooms, leather, tar, roses, chocolate, herbs, etc]. We've observed this with our own 2012 vintage now that it's been in bottle for three years."

The verdict in in. Vox Veneti has certainly made a great first step! This small, high quality boutique winery is impressive right out of the gate. And the futures I tasted in the barrels and the tanks were also incredible. A huge addition to Pennsylvania and east coast wine making.  Congrats to Ed and his wife.