Sunday, July 29, 2018
Sherwood House was always among my favorite producers. recently, a friend came to visit, and we ventured into the cellar to find something to try. Low and behold, out of nowhere, I found a bottle for Sherwood House Cabernet Franc 2003 from the North Fork of Long Island.
Sherwood House was the love-child of Dr. Smithen and his wife Barbara. He has since passed on, but Barbara is still the Doyen of the Sherwood House brand which now shares it's home with the Hound's Tree label and her new partners.
But this was the old wine. A 2003 vintage. It was now 2018. How would a 15 year old bottle of Cabernet Franc hold up? Eric Fry, of Lenz, and Gilles Martin of Palmer Vineyards and Sparkling Pointe, both used to make the wines for this house. I wasn't sure who made this wine. However, as far back as 2003 I was a massive fan of his Sherwood House chardonnay, which I often provided to my Kistler/Pahlmeyer drinking friends, much to their astonishment. The reception was always shock and excitement!
We popped the cork with much apprehension. But our fears were soon replaced by excitement. Afraid I might find nuances of mold, mushrooms, or worse (due to MY poor cellaring - not Eric's lack of wine making), were were instead greeted with a big burst of dark cherry and dark raspberry and only a slight, slight hint of fallen leaves or tomato (the harbingers of much older wines). The fruit was still vibrant and impressive. With hints of vanilla, cassis, cedar, and graphite all still present. The layers and complexity of the wine continued to amaze as we sipped the wine on it's own and with food.
I always love to pull out an old bottle and see if it has aged well. You of course get duds from time to time (from all over the world), but this bottle was absolutely a gift!!! Always so excited when an east coast wine can age this well. Just continues to show the promise of the region.....still always exciting!
According to grape historian and expert, and winemaker, Stephen J. Casscles:
Noiret is a relatively new hybrid grape variety used in red wine production, offering another red wine varietal option for cold climate grape growers. It is becoming more widely planted in New York state, and is just now beginning to be seen in commercially available wines here and on the East Coast.
NOIRET WAS DEVELOPED (and named and trademarked) by Cornell University at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. A cross of NY 65.0467.08 (NY 33277 x Chancellor) and Steuben, Noiret has been available for testing since 1994, but wasn’t officially released until July 2006. Released along with Corot Noir, the two were the first of Cornell’s red wine grape varieties adapted specifically for grape growing regions in the Northeast.
Noiret’s genetic makeup is somewhat complex, and consists of 65 percent labrusca hybrids and other varieties native to the northeastern region of North America. Its ancestry includes such early popular varieties like Diamond, Catawba, Iona, and Concord.
* * *
The breeders at Cornell note that Noiret wines are “richly colored” and have overtones of “green and black pepper along with raspberry, blackberry, and some mint aromas.” Noiret has a “fine” tannin structure that is complete from the front to the back of the palate. The good tannin structure, and the absence of any hybrid aromas, strongly distinguish Noiret from other red French-American hybrid grapes.
Noiret’s color can be a dark ruby red with purple hues that is also suitable for Port production. The Steuben lineage of Noiret is evidenced by its “tootie-fruity” cherry and strawberry fruit tastes that can be traced to its high percentage labrusca heritage. When made well, Noiret can have a good, medium-bodied tannin structure that supports its fruit of choke cherries, blueberries, black raspberries, cooked plums and grape juice. While the nose can be muted, its structure might best be described as being flinty and metallic, with the spice of black pepper and wood resin. Because of its distinct black pepper character it has been compared to Petite Syrah and Pinot Noir.
I cannot lie, I have often thought of Noiret of the most Frankenstein of Cornell's breeding program. Did I say I didn't like Noiret? Vigorous. Disease resistant. Good crop. Awful wine.
Now, Frank and Karen Graessle own Clearview Vineyards. It's a wonderful winery in the southern Hudson Valley. They make a very nice Seyval Blanc and a very nice Cabernet Franc. But they are keeping a big secret there....they make one of the best Noiret wines I have ever tasted.
Now, I am not exaggerating. On two different occasions, I tasted both the Clearview Noiret 2015 and Clearview Noiret 2016. Both are 100% estate grown fruit. Both were aged in oak.
In May of last year I wrote of the Clearview Vineyards Noiret 2016 I wrote, "Noiret, never one of my favorite hybrids, also showed extremely well. I see it as a blender, but Clearview Vineyards made a believer out of me!" It had just been bottled.
Then this June 2018, I tried the wine again at the Bounty of the Hudson Wine Festival. It had improved! The Clearview Noiret 2016 was a big, big wine, with lots of dark cherry, dark cassis, and black pepper. And it's spent some time in oak. It had structure, color, complexity, and balance. It was the best Noiret I can remember having.
Hats off to Frank and Karen. Great stuff!
Friday, July 27, 2018
Franco and Paschina: A Dynamic Duo for 20 Years Shows in Barboursville Octagon 2006 Simply Amazing (VA)
Among my favorite wine world duos, none is better perhaps, than that of Fernando Franco viticulturalist and Luca Paschina winemaker at the famed Barboursville Vineyards.
Fernando Franco, Barboursville's viticulturalist, graduated in 1980 with a degree in plant physiology from the Escuela Nacional de Agricoltura Robeoto Quinones in El Salvador. Mr. Franco has been involved in Virginia viticulture for more than three decades, starting in 1982 at Rapidan River Vineyards, which later became part of Prince Michel Vineyards. During the 1990s, he managed the vines at Leducq Vineyards in Napa Valley, and in 1998, he joined Barboursville and was tasked with the job of expanding the vineyard from 80 to 182 acres.
Fernando was named the 2015 “Grower of the Year” by the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA).
“Since he joined Barboursville in 1998, the vineyards he manages have produced two Governor’s Cup winners,” said VVA President Tom Kelly. “This year alone, wines from those vineyards collected three gold medals in the Governor’s Cup competition.”
Mr. Kelly added that wines made from grapevines managed by Mr. Franco have taken platinum, double gold, or best of show medals in the San Francisco International, Monticello, and San Diego competitions. They also made Barboursville one of two vineyards to have achieved the highest score of any Virginia wine in Wine Spectator magazine. Mr. Kelly added that Mr. Franco’s contributions to the VVA had been especially distinctive. He is a past president of the VVA, and he hosted the association’s summer technical meeting last year.
“Fernando really went out of his way to give our members insight into some of the advanced techniques that Barboursville is using in its vineyards,” said Mr. Kelly. “We were especially interested in the extent to which Barboursville has taken advantage of mechanization, which is an issue that is increasingly important for Virginia vineyard managers. Fernando was a great teacher, and he spent the day patiently answering questions for all of us.”
His first job was as Assistant winemaker at Luigi Bosca E Figli Winery, Canelli, Italy, where his father was the head winemaker. In 1990 he was brought in at Barboursville. He's had a string of successful vintages, and is among the foremost winemakers on the east coast.
Recently, Luca was inducted into the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. The Order of Merit is the highest distinction in occupations “that reflect honor on Italy and its people, in cultural pursuits, the economy, public service, the military, philanthropy or humanitarian activities.”
The two have formed a power house team for almost two decades now. Recently I opened up a long cellared Barboursville Octagon 2006 with fellow wine writer Lenn Thompson of the CorkReport. We were both immediately impressed. Octagon is a Meritage-styled blend. In those era vintages, Octagon usually consisted of approximately 70% Merlot, bolstered by 25% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in combination, and a small single digit contribution of Cabernet Sauvignon. Octagon releases are usually about three years behind the current date, so the 2006 was released in 2009.
Octagon is the biggest and best expression of red wine this house has to offer, and is therefore a great rubric to judge Franco and Paschina by. If this is the way Barboursville is to be judged, life will be good to the Zonin Family, owners of Barboursville, for years to come. And it's a great statement about Virginia wine - where it's been and where it's going.
The attack is an impressive one. Vanilla, plum, cherry, cedar, and spice hover above the glass of garnet/ruby colored wine that is beautiful to behold. There was a lot of dark fruit and spices on the nose as well. Dark cherry, dark raspberry, blackberry, and cassis all came to the fore. There was also the slight presence of falling leaves and dust, signaling that we had opened it at just the right time, though it was possible it might have been able to last longer. But I thought it was the perfect time. The tannins and acidity were still present, but there was a complexity and silkiness only time could have provided. The fruit and acidity and tannins however were still vibrant enough however. The wine had not be cowed by time.
The result was an incredible glass of wine with body, flavor, and texture, with balance and elegance, to spare. It was heavenly.
The first doff of the cap goes to Franco and Paschina. It was a work of art. It showed what two talented men could produce in concert. Secondly, it was a huge strike for Virginia wine, and ultimately East Coast wine. This wine not only withstood the test of time, but improved by it, and heralded great things for the future.
Steve DiFrancesco is the Winemaker for Glenora Wine Cellars. Steve earned his degree in Biology from Stetson University and has since enjoyed 39 harvests in the Finger Lakes, plus one in Chile. Steve is a very friendly, out going, and personable. He loves to talk 'shop', and has an everyman demeanor that makes everyone comfortable with him.
But don't let that charming, easy-going personality stuff fool ya. Steve is an exceptional winemaker with extensive knowledge. Steve has a very special pedigree in wine making. You see, Steve started his winemaking career in the late 1970s, working with Guy DeVaux and the great Charles Fournier at Gold Seal Vineyards and their excellent sparkling wines. While at Gold Seal, Steve did critical research on secondary fermentations that was later applied to mainstream production. He experimented with the production of sparkling wines using unique grape varieties, as well.
Steve became the assistant winemaker at Glenora in the late 1980s as part of an ambitious expansion program with an emphasis on Sparkling Wines. In 1995, Steve was promoted to head winemaker. Riesling is at the forefront of production for Steve, along with other aromatic white vinifera wines, sparkling wines, and barrel aged red wines.
So, recently, while I was at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival 2018, I stopped by the Glenora booth for a tasting. I had meant to get up to Glenora to visit winemaker Steve DiFrancesco, but my plans got shot to hell. So I thought a quick visit to the booth might yield something, even if it lacked his gregarious company.
The first wine I tasted was the Glenora Brut Sparkling Wine NV. Steve keeps meticulous notes on many of this wines. This wine was a blend of 78% Cayuga from Tom Hunt, grown on the West Side of Cayuga Lake) and 22% Glenora Farms estate Chardonnay grown on the West Side of Seneca Lake. Glenora produces approximately 700 cases a year of this wine. A classic nose of bread-y yeast wafts out of the glass, followed by a lovely peach cobbler transition to green apple and pear. The wine ends with a nice amount of acidity balanced by a slightly prosecco style. A wonderufl, flavorful sparkling wine for all occasions. Beautifully balanced. Lovely!
There were two flavored sparklers, Peach Spumante and Raspberry Spumante. These two are extremely popular in the Glenora tasting room, and are perfect for cocktails such as mimosa's and other sparkling wine cocktails. Real crowd pleasers.
My instant favortie was the Glenora Bubbly Series. Glenora and Steve use the Force Carbonation Process to their (and our) benefit with this series of clever wines! According to the website, "The bubbles in our Bubbly Series are created by using a force carbonation system. Once fermentation is completed, the wine is filtered and put into a specialized tank that can hold pressure, which is needed for the addition of CO2. CO2 is added via a special carbonation “stone,” which diffuses the CO2 into very tiny bubbles. This process takes about 3 days. The wine is then bottled with a special filler that retains the CO2, then is labeled."
I loved the Glenora Bubbly Riesling and the Glenora Bubbly Cayuga. And I've had separately the Bubbly Muscato! I love these wines! All are in the prosecco style. All are highly aromatic and all have just enough acidity to keep it an honest product. These wines are great for sipping or for large gatherings with friends and family, or for a romantic but not expensive evening. Fabulous with cheese and fruit, great sippers, so much fun. They are easy enough for patio get togethers and well crafted and elegant enough for the holidays. I can't rave enough about these fun, enjoyable, gulp-able sparkling wines!!!
Steve DiFrancesco has done a great job with this sparkling wine list, and I can't say enough good thing about it!
Thursday, July 26, 2018
I like Lamoreaux Landing. They have a wonderful, delicate touch with their elegant whites, which are always impressive. But I have to admit, I have been drawn to their reds in the past as well. Founder Mark Wagner, and winemaker Colin Grant, are putting out some very nice wines.
I have long been a fan of the 42 North their exceptional white wine, and their layered 76 West red blend. But I recently tasted the Lamoreaux Landing T23 Unoaked Cabernet Franc 2017. This 100% estate fruit dry red is chock-a-block with dry cranberries, bright and dark cherry, and a hint of apricot and orange zest. The tannins add complexity and the acidity helps the fruit linger along time. It's an impressive, fruit forward Cabernet Franc. Its the kind of Cabernet Franc I think more wineries in the Finger Lakes should be doing. An absolutely wonderful wine.
So I was at the Finger Lakes Wines Festival 2018...as a vendor, pouring and selling wine in the sweltering heat. And as usual, once the final horn blares at 5pm on Sunday evening I, like all the other vendors, let out a cheer, and began dismantling our booth, and scurrying like busy little rats trying to get out of the crowded campground, exhausted, dehydrated, and flush with new found cash (most of it gone through Square).
As we were packing up in a decidedly Walking Dead zombie kind-of-way, I was accosted by a man packing the van next to our truck. He looked oddly familiar to me. I wasn't sure, somnambulistic as I was. But his voice woke me out of my slumber. It was none other than Peter Weis of Weis Vineyards. Peter is an incredibly talented wine maker who's had his doors open little more than a year, but his impact has been huge! He's making fabulous wines, which have instantly put him and his winery at the forefront of the conversation about quality wine in the Finger Lakes and New York State. Peter is out going and a terribly nice guy!
Peter suggested I should try some of his wines before we left for the weekend. He had a few open bottles, so why not? So we sat on the bumper of his van, and started drinking his wines, one after the other. At first it was a little odd, but after one magical sip of his first wine, I could not have been more happy.
The first thing I tried in the back of the van was the Weis Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2017. A big floral nose, a big dose of green apple and tropical fruits, and a spritzy ending of lemon zest and grapefruit. Excellent! Wow!
The Weis Vineyards Dry Rose 2017 was strawberry and kiwi and tropical notes, with a flourish of key lime at the end. Refreshing and wonderful!
The Weis Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2017 was a lovely wine with tropical notes, lots of green apple and young pear with notes of citrus on the end. Very, very drinkable. I really liked this wine...a lot!
Easily one of my favorites was Weis Vineyards Perle 2017. According to wikipedia, "Perle is a white German wine grape planted primarily in Franconia. The grape is a crossing of Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau. As a varietal, Perle produces highly aromatic wines." Peter's wine followed suit and was true to form. Highly aromatic, with a lovely, floral nose, this was an exceptional white wine. I loved this!
I love Peter's white wines, but I wasn't sure what to expect from his reds. This Weis Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2016 was a big, dark red, with dark plum, dark cherry, dark raspberry eye opener with lots going on and a big dry finish. Instantly one of the best Cab Francs in the region. A lovely, lovely dry red.
I was instantly leery of the Weis Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a big, powerful red, with lovely dark cherry and cassis. I was afraid it would be under-ripe, considering the region, but in fact it was an impressive dark red wine, with a lot of character and layers. An impressive entry and imminently drinkable!!!
Peter Weis's wine continue to impress and I really am looking forward to following him over the next few years. His first two vintages show immense promise, and if he holds true to form, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the next three to five years. I look forward to drinking in nicer places with him...but I doubt we can have more fun. LOL.
In the meantime...buy the wine! It's terrific!
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
I often see Zorvino Vineyards wines at the New Hampshire state liquor store. Knowing nothing about the wines or winery, I was hesitant. But just the other day, I was presented with the unique opportunity to visit with them just recently. I was a lovely visit!
Zorvino Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery..Jim and Cheryl Zanello purchased the 80 acre lot in Sandown, NH in 2000 after retiring. 4 years later Zorvino Vineyards was established. The “Zor” in Zorvino comes from the original family name Zorzanello and “Vino” which means wine.
In the first years, 150 cold climate vines, mostly hybrids, were planted. To date, there are roughly 2000 vines on site. The bulk of their grapes are brought in from Italy, California and South America. However, they do have several estate wines. They are known for their “off dry” fruit wines, blends and unusual 100% fruit or vegetable wines such as Pumpkin, Beet and Rhubarb.
Zorvino has a popular wedding venue. According to the website: "The barn like structure was never built with the intention of becoming a function facility. The post and beam design appealed to many visitors and its rustic elegance led to many requests for special events and weddings. This is how the journey into hosting weddings and special events began. The wood work, tasting tables and most of the creative details were thought up and implemented by hand by Jim Zanello utilizing wood from the property. The combination of the beautifully landscaped grounds, rustic ambiance and large variety of wines has not only made this a perfect place for a wine tasting or a wedding but a successful venture as well."
I tasted the whole line of wines at Zorvino. They could not have been more welcoming and more accommodating. I tasted the Skinny Guinea Red and Tempranillo were both made from California sourced fruit. Both were very very tasty. However, in keeping with the mission of this blog, I'll be sticking more closely with those made with estate or New Hampshire grown fruit.
The first and easily most impressive wine was the Zorvino LaCrescent is the winery's second release of their estate New Hampshire grown fruit. A fabulous bright example of the variety. A big nose full of tropical fruit and floral notes ends with a big citrus pop. Only sold in small 375 ml bottles, but well worth it. A very good sign yet again that the Minnesota varieties will do wonders in New England.
Zorvino Sundown's Finest Niagara is made with estate, New Hampshire grown fruit. This was a classic, clean, semi-sweet Niagara with the classic nose and a good finish. Very pretty fruit. Well made! Delicious!
The next wine was the Zorvino Vineyards MapleZ Maple Apple Wine. Now, I have to admit, I was leery of trying this. I like apple wines very much. But the maple aspect of it kinda scared me. Fear not! Nice bright apples, with a lovely Granny Smith taste and acidity. Made with local heirloom apples and sweetened with local New Hampshire syrup. Actually a very lovely, semi-sweet white wine. Very pretty. Perfect for your Thanksgiving table. New England in a bottle!
The Zorvino CranbreeZ was a big surprise. This light red wine was made with Massachusetts grown cranberries. Yes, it had a touch of sugar, but this was a big tart wine, so the sugar balanced out the wine. A lovely, lovely fruit wine. Impressive.
Zorvino Harvest Blush 2017 was a limited bottling that was released June 29, 3018. The wine is made from three of their estate grapes grown on the property. The blend includes Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and La Crescent. This wonderful rose' is an absolute crowd pleaser.
Zorvino Vineyards Blizzard is an estate ice wine made in super small quantity. The winery produces the winery once a year, and keeps its grape blend a secret. Big notes of honey, apricot, and tropical notes finishes with lovely acidity and sweetness. Delicious! Perfect for cheese plates or with creme brulee'.
I was surprised by the quality of the wine overall! And the estate and New Hampshire fruit showed great promise. Would love to see them increase the over all production of estate and state grown fruit, as the estate wines were very impressive. However, they're doing just fine without my advice. Over all, it was a lovely place to visit. An incredible accomplishment! Congrats to Jim and Cheryl and the many people who make this place possible. Oh, and by the way, the wines are damned good!
The first thing you gotta know, is that even though I was introduced to him in writing and in person, several times I called Mike Appolo "Joe". Don't ask me why. Before I even drank a few drops, I was Mr. Malaprop. And it continued later. Oy! His name is Mike.....and I am an idiot, for those of you who don't already know.
I met with Mike (and the tasting room manager Ann) at Appolo Vineyards on a glorious Friday afternoon. Mike has spent a lifetime in the Air Force. While stationed in Europe, he fell in love with wine. The seed was planted, and he was smitten. He came back to the US, moved around a bit, and then took a job in the private sector in the New Hampshire region.
According to Mike, "I really believe that wine is grown, not made...I believe the winemaker reveals the wine in the same way a sculptor reveals the statue. Most wineries in the United states are first generation businesses. Only a very few pioneers have passed the torch on to the next generation of winemakers. The ones who have figured out the best grapes to grow are truly pioneers. They have tried many and figured out that one or two grapes that are best defined by their specific terroir. They have focused on growing them the best way they can. I have used this spirit growing new grapes in New Hampshire, our home. We re-energized this 200+ year old farm with new life. Grapes like Brianna - complemented by the granite soils and hot summers, but able to withstand the coldest winters - produces wonderful wines. I believe this is one of those region defining grapes. We've only begun to explore the different ways of making wine with this grape and others."
Appolo makes wines with New Hampshire and estate fruit. But like most New Hampshire wineries, he has to outsource a portion of his fruit. Much of it is from other states. In a tip-o-the-cap to Mike, he might have gone further afield, but most of the grapes are from either Rhode Island, Massachusetts or New York (Hudson Valley). I give extra marks for trying to stay close to home.
The first wine that impressed was the Appolo Vineyards New Hampshire Brianna Reserve 2017. The Appolo Brianna 2017 was made from Rhode Island grapes and very nice. But the Brianna Reserve 2017 was made from estate fruit. It was big, bold, and full of flavor. a big white wine that I would easily serve for Thanksgiving Dinner. A very very good white wine.
China Girl is a dry Rose' made from 100% Chambourcin grown in the Hudson Valley. Truly, it was a very, very nice dry rose. The Muse was also made from 100% Chambourcin from the same Hudson Valley source, but instead this was a big, dark, deep dry red! One of the better straight up Chambourcins I have had recently. Very nice!
Dragon Fly Red New Hampshire 2017 is a big dry red made from 55% Marquette, 36% Marechal Foche, and 8% Frontenanc. A big dark earthy red, with big fruit up front - dark cherries, blackberry, cassis. Brambly and chewy, this wine had deep, deep flavor that lasted a good long time. Very impressive. I liked this a lot. A lot!
Flat out, one of the most impressive wines on a very solid list was the M Sparkling Rose' made from 60% Chambourcin from Hudson Valley, NY, and 40% New Hampshire Frontenac Gris. Mike makes the wine, but it's bottled at Flagg Hill, using their sparkling bottle operation. The flavor was tremendous. A bread-y nose, strawberry, peaches, and cranberry came through. A lovely, lovely wine. A fabulous dry sparkler!
Appolo Blushing Bride is made from 100% estate fruit. Made in small quantity (originally for his daughter's wedding) it is a semi-sweet rose' with a nose exploding with raspberries, nectarines, and green apple. The Blushing Bride 2016 (which sold out) won a Gold Medal at the Indy International Wine Competition 2017. A solid semi-sweet crowd pleaser.
The next wine was the Appolo Bridesmaid New Hampshire 2017 was made from 100% New Hampshire grapes, 72% Frontenac Gris, 19% Prairie Star, and 9% Louise Swenson. Bridesmaid was a light, sweet white with floral and honey notes, was accompanied by lemons and limes and apricot. The Bridesmaid 2016 was also a medal winner at The Big E Wine Competition 2017. Very nice as well.
Last wine was the Sonrisa, a dessert wine, was made from 55% Seyval Blanc from the HV, and 45% from Orange Muscat from California. A lovely, lovely wine. Very impressive.
Most impressive, Mike had deals every where. When I brought up the subject of collaborative efforts, he smiled patiently as I blathered on. He has three collaborative projects going with local New Hampshire breweries. He's making wines for specialty customers. He's got jams in his tasting room made from tree fruits on his property. Mike is waaaay ahead of most people, even though Appolo is not the biggest vineyard you've ever been to. But the spirit here is big.
Mike Appolo is no ordinary Joe. He's a smart guy with a dry sense of humor. He is a man who is making some very nice wines in New England, and he's growing in every direction. And it's all done by hand. How can you not like this place? You need to go to Appolo Vineyards!!!