Wednesday, May 29, 2019
I love what Benmarl Winery is doing these days. They were once the bastion of hybrid wines, and old fashioned packaging. But, today, they are being adventurous with their wines, both as winemakers and in their packaging choices. They are rocking it. General Manager Michael Spaccarelli Jr and Laura Cypress as Winemaker (with Matt Spaccarelli) have driven the program to new heights. I recently tasted their wines at the NY Drinks NY conference last month with Lenn Thompson and Mikhail Lipyanskiy at the Rainbow Room in NYC. I was impressed...more vinifera and across the the line with the overall quality, complexity, flavors, and balance.
Benmarl Seyval Blanc Estate Grown 2018 was light, lively, bright, and fun. Great zippy acidity. Fabulous food wine. Lots of green apple, lemon and lime zest. One of the best Seyvals I have ever had.
Benmarl Dry Rose' New York 2018 is a lovely, soft rose with hints of bright fresh strawberries and lime. Easy drinking, with lovely tropical highlights, very easy quaffer.
Benmarl Baco Noir Rose Estate Grown 2018 was a big bright sour cherry bomb of a rose, with lovely tropical notes, and a big citrus bomb ending, with the cherry lingering. Wonderful
Benmarl Baco Noir Estate 2018 was, as expected, an impressive wine. Dark notes of ripe black cherry, with hints of pomegranate, cassis, and hints of vanilla and white pepper. Cherry flavor lingers in a beautiful way.
Cabernet Franc 2018 was a lovely mix of stewed dark berries, with some petrol and weedy notes, covered over with pencil shavings, lavender, blueberry,, and vanilla. Complex, rich, and beautifully sound, it was an impressive red wine. LOVE!
I love the fact that Benmarl has taken on an extra edgy look with thier new canned wine program. Not just rose, but their crowd pleasing Slate Hill Red and their Chardonnay are also available in tall boy cans as well.
Great job Michael and Laura!
Friday, May 17, 2019
These days August Deimel looms large over the Finger Lakes. His name is popping up everywhere. He is by turns impish, funny, emphatic, playful, cajoling, intellectual, and clever. One can be somewhat reminded of Tom Hulce's portrayal of Mozart in Amadeus. Truth be told, he is the boy genius grown up. And the comparison with Mozart isn't that far off. This young winemaker from Keuka Spring Vineyard is playing his sweetest music in his most recent release of wines, and his compositions ranges from soft and pretty, to playful, to majestic.
According to his company biography: A polymath, raconteur, intellectual-at-large, bon vivant, and Steelers fan, August Deimel came to winemaking the usual way: accidentally. Having studied the Great Books at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM he followed the well-trod path of liberal arts majors into retail sales, taking a job at a wine shop in Baltimore, MD. His passion for wine quickly took him on a whirlwind tour of the wine industry, selling wine for a distributor in Washington, DC
and working a harvest for Goldeneye Winery in Philo, CA. Of course, all of this was done
while exploring careers in the theatre and politics as well. But eventually decisions must be
made, and in 2010 August concluded that winemaking was his first and greatest passion and it
was time to commit to a path. He crossed the Rubicon (or was it the Susquehanna?) to attend
Cornell University where he received his Master’s degree, studying Enology in the Department of Food Science and Technology.
The many faces of August Deimel
(Terriorist; East Coast Wineries; Twitter; Keuka Springs Vineyards)
After graduate school, he took up the position of winemaker at Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, PA where he produced some nice wines while achieving immortal infamy for appearing in a series of promotional videos on YouTube (Yes, Virginia, acting classes can pay off!) But his time in the Finger Lakes while at Cornell left an indelible impression. Unable to resist its pull, he returned to the region like a swallow to Capistrano in the spring of 2012. He took up the winemaking duties at Keuka Spring Vineyards,assembled a crack team and, with the dedicated leadership of the Wiltberger family, set out to create the benchmark wines for America’s next great wine region.
(Keuka Springs Vineyards)
His first Riesling promptly won the 2013 Governor’s Cup for the best wine in New York State and in 2016 Wine and Spirits Magazine declared Keuka Spring one of its Value Brands of the Year. In addition to his winemaking duties, August is doing his part to develop the next generation of wine professionals in the region by teaching enology at Finger Lakes Community College. He is a proud resident of the great city of Geneva, NY.
A pretty interesting resume. But the musical reference still sticks. At Keuka Spring's tastings at NY Drinks NY this last March, Deimel played some of his greatest hits, a lineup as nuanced as any concerto, and his wines have both melody, beat, and are memorable. The first two wines led off like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. These were big, loud, aromatic bombshells.
Keuka Spring Gewurztraminer Dynamite Vineyard 2017 was an explosion! The fruit was harvested from the Dynamite Vineyard in October of 2017 and bottled in March of 2018. The nose burst out of the rim of the glass. Layers of lychee, roses, and pineapple dominate the nose, with slight whiffs of apricot, peach, and honeysuckle. The wine is light and layered, with much complexity, and a lovely grapefruit ending. Spectacular. Easily one of the best Gewurztraminers on the east coast!
Keuka Spring Gewurztraminer 2016 was another fabulous wine. This wine is no longer available, but the wine was spectacular as well. Again lychee and pineapple dominate the nose, but a little less aggressively than the Dynamite Vineyard. There are softer floral notes, lovely hints of peach and apricot, with a lovely citrusy ending. Another notable Gewurztraminer, notable unto itself. Again, one of the better ones on the east coast.
The Keuka Spring Riesling Humphreys Vineyard 2017 was another lovely wine. This was an already accomplished wine. It earned 91 pts. from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Humphreys Vineyard, located on Seneca Lake, is meticulously managed by Harry Humphreys. According to Keuka Spring, "Its unique east-west orientation creates clean and delicious fruit and consistently balanced and intense Rieslings." This dry Riesling started with lovely green apple, with hints of peach, apricot, and some lovely tropical notes. Also whiffs of petrol. It ended with a lovely, citrus-y ending, notes of orange and lemon zest, and hints of grapefruit. Absolutely lovely!!!
The Keuka Spring Riesling 2017 was also memorable. It earned a score of 90pts. from Wine Enthusiast. This light, affable "off-dry" Riesling delivered fresh cut white peach, Granny Smith apple, and lovely tropical and floral notes. It was layered and complex. An absolutely lovely wine!
The Keuka Spring Dry Rose 2018 was wonderful! Deimel used the saignée process to bleed juice from the red grapes right after crushing to limit tannin extraction. They then fermented
particular sub-lots of juice in neutral barrels with simultaneous malolactic to round out the texture and add richness. It is a blend of Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 30% is barrel rested. Strawberry and bright cherry pulse out of the glass, with hints of tropical fruits. A lovely wine ensues, with light green apple, fresh pear, and lovely cherry and strawberry flavors as well. A hint of lime and then a creamy finish with cherry lingering. Wonderful!
Keuka Spring Lemberger 2016 (god, I wished they called it Blaufrankisch) is a blend of grapes from Keuka Spring Vineyards and Anthony Road Wine Company. The wine was fermented 100% in bins with delayed sequential malolactic fermentation, followed by aging in FlexTanks. The idea is to produce a fruit forward presentation, deeper than Pinot Noir, edging somewhere towards a Loire Cab Franc or a lovely French-styled Syrah. Easily one of the best Lembergers I have tried of late. Lovely big cherries....bright and dark, ripe and young. Smooth middle with a lovely finish. Fabulous, fabulous Blaufrankisch! Very reminiscent of the more accomplished European versions of this grape. Fantastic!
Keuka Spring Vignoles 2017 was the absolute finisher! I LOVE Vignoles. And August Deimel's Vignoles was absolutely as beautiful and classic version of this wine as I have ever tasted. Amazing. Vignoles is an aromatic and luxurious grape developed by J.F. Ravat originally named Ravat 51 in 1930. 15% to 20% of the Vignoles grapes in this 2017 vintage was nicely botrytisized. They then fermented 85% of the juice in tanks, and 15% in neutral barrels to round out the A big spoonful of passion fruit jam launches the nose of this wine. Plums, orange zest, and lemon peel also waft through. As well as apricot and honey. The BEST Vignoles I have ever tasted!
There's no question, at Keuka Spring, August Deimel is hitting all the right notes, and is putting on quite a performance.
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Keswick Vineyards is family owned and operated small farm winery located in the heart of Virginia wine country just east of Charlottesville, Virginia, and is part of the highly acclaimed Monticello Wine Trail. They have produced a number of wonderful wines.
Keswick Vineyards Trevilliam Red Wine 2008 is a wine made by Keswick Vineyards in Virginia, using grapes from Yakima Valley, Washington. The wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Franc and
38% Cabernet Sauvignon, that was crushed on-site, with the must being pumped over twice a day for 14 days before being transferred to neutral barrels for aging.
I bought the wine a long time ago, but only recently pulled it from the cellar. As one might expect I was worried about it not having aged well. But those thoughts disappeared quickly. The wine smelled great and looked terrific.
Keswick Vineyards Trevillian Red Wine Meritage 2008 starts off with a lovely garnet color. Cherry, ripe and dark, comes across the nose as well as cassis and dark raspberry. There are notes of mocha and smoke and a hint of earthiness. Also some lovely hints of vanilla.
A terrific wine that stood the test of time. Absolutely lovely!
Congrats to the staff at Keswick Vineyards!
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard opened its doors in 2006. It has been a highly regarded quality producer ever since. I first discovered them at the Drink Local conference in Maryland hosted by Dave McIntyre and co-hosted by The Cork Report's Lenn Thompson. It was a pleasant surprise to find as I was searching around the basement for something to go with a fresh pasta dish I was making.
The vines are grown in the unique microclimate at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. The winery’s 22 acres of vines are French vinifera clones grafted on American rootstock and were carefully selected by world-renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton. They currently grow five white varieties and five red varieties. The grapes are hand-picked, cold-soaked, cold-fermented and aged in stainless steel or French oak barrels.
The winery currently produces Chardonnay, Unoaked Chardonnay, Viognier, Penelope (dry white blend), and Siren(off-dry white blend). Their red list includes Cabernet Franc, plus their signature Bordeaux-style blends: Comus and EVOE!, Petite Merlot, Petitie Verdot,
The team consists of new owner Emily Yang, the winemaker Manolo Gomez, the Vineyard Manager: Julio Rivas, Jeffrey Lund managing the tasting room, along with Tasting Room Assistant Manager Dominique Forsman.
The Sugarloaf Mountain Viognier 2015 was lovely. Peach, tangerine, apricot, and sweet apple and pear come off the nose. Hints of other tropical fruits also abound. The wine is off-dry. There's a hint of sweetness, but there's also some lovely zippy acidity which makes the whole wine come alive. Really, really pretty wine!
Sunday, May 05, 2019
From The Ground Brewery is a New York State Farm Brewery that is committed to using New York State grown ingredients. The majority of the barley used is grown onsite at Migliorelli Farm. They source many of their hops from farms in New York State.
Migliorelli Farm is the home of From The Ground Brewery. The brewery sits in the middle of a 100 acre orchard on Migliorelli Farm. Ken Migliorelli and his family are the third generation of Migliorellis that work the farm. They offer a huge variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the Hudson Valley Region.
According to the website, "Jakob Cirell is the brewer and founder of From The Ground Brewery. He grew up in the woods of central Maine with his mom, dad, 4 sisters, and brother. His parents built their small farm house off the grid. Given his dad didn’t like the taste of water run through a pipe, he made sure to not install a hand pump for running water. And so, at 10 years of age, Jakob began hauling the family’s daily lot of water, one 5 gallon bucket at a time from a well a ¼ mile away. He learned to cook on a wood stove and studied at night by kerosene lamp. This way of life took root in him and shaped his ideals for the design of everyday life. At 18, he left home for college at the University of Maine, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, he soon moved to New York City to work as a mechanical engineer and then later as a brewer. After eight years of city life, he decided to move upstate and start a family.
Jakob dreamed up From The Ground Brewery, but it took lucky collaborations with a host of interesting people to extend his dream’s reach into reality. The majority of From The Ground Brewery’s raw ingredients are grown and processed within a 5-mile radius, and within this beer microcosm, he is creating a spirit of community. Throughout his study and immersion into advanced technology and living, he has never forgotten the joys of simplicity and the occasional hard work required to achieve it. Here is a picture of him with his eyes closed."
I've had a number of their beers! The Farmhouse Red Ale, the American Pale Ale, Bar and Chain Stout, To Be Or Not To Be Golden Honey Ale, and the Hudson Farmhouse Ale. All are excellent in flavor, concept and execution. The Red Ale is especially memorable since there are few quality Red Ales out there. Malty but with a lovely hoppy back bone, it's a wonderful beer. Also love the Pale Ale and Stout especially! And the To Be...is a lovely summer beer for me. Tremendous stuff!
From the Ground Brewing is growing in many ways. Sales are growing. The beer is a local popular favorite, with a budding reputation. But, up until now, From the Ground Brewing has operated a small micro-brewery from a barn near Migliorelli farm. However, now, a proper tasting room is emerging in Dutchess county. I recently visited Jakob to seeing it growing. From the Ground Brewing is building a unique three season tasting room. The building is being made out of a 40 foot steel shipping container. Incredibly clever!
There are a number of great quality local breweries popping up all over the Hudson Valley. But I have a real soft spot for From the Gorund Brewing. I like their premise. I like that they are linked to one of the most respected local farms in the region. And I like Jakob and his vision. Most of all, I LOVE the beer! Excited to see this project blossom!
All Turis wines (as they are labeled) are 100% estate grown. They make mostly Italian varietal wines such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Sangiovese, among others. Their Italian varietals are among the best on the east coast. So when I saw a Pinot Noir on their list, I got one asap. But I put it in my cellar and then lost track of it. Admittedly, I drank my Italian varietals first.
Turdo Pinot Noir Cape May County 2010 was a lovely , light-styled Pinot Noir with lovely aromas of cherry and raspberry. Lovely, light color. Hints of vanilla and spice. Very, very quaffable. Lovely little wine.
Reminds me, I need to get down there soon!
I pulled this dusty old bottle from my cellar one night while having dinner with friends. I am a fan of the Outer Coastal Plain and Tomasello produces more than 45 wines of varying types. Most notable among them are their Palmaris label, a line of fine, quality wines. This wine was from a different series, but still one of a quality line of wines.
Tomasello Winery is a winery located in Hammonton in Atlantic County, New Jersey, and is the second-oldest active winery in the state. Their first vineyard was planted in 1888. The winery opened its doors to the public in 1933. Tomasello is one of the largest winegrowers in New Jersey. Tomasello operates outlet stores in six New Jersey towns – Chester, Freehold, Lambertville, Smithville, Cranford, and Wyckoff. Jack and Charlie Tomasello are the 3rd Generation of Tomasellos to grow, make, and sell wine.
They have 70 acres of grapes under vine, and produce 65,000 cases of wine per year. While the winery is in Hammonton, most of the grapes are grown on three vineyards in the neighboring Winslow Township in Camden County. Among the grapes they grow include, Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Catawba, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Colombard, Concord, De Chaunac, Landot noir, Merlot, Muscat blanc, Niagara, Petit Verdot, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Sangiovese, Seyval blanc, Syrah, Vidal blanc, and others.
The winery's vineyards are part of the Outer Coastal Plain, a very significant AVA on the east coast.
This Tomasello Sangiovese 2011 is an estate wine. The must was fermented to dryness with a yeast strain isolated from a Languedoc terroir. It was then aged 2nd year American oak casks.Young This Sangiovese had lovely notes of strawberry, sour cherry, and spice, with a hint of fallen leaves. Lovely tannins and nice acidity kept this wine fresh and drinkable. I thought I might have kept the wine too long, but instead, the wine was still solid, with lovely color, and tremendous flavor. Complex. Layered. Balanced. A terrific wine that stood its time in the cellar!
Great job Jack, Charlie, and to all the staff at Tomasello!
Friday, May 03, 2019
Kareem Massoud once said in an interview with Grape Collective, "As far as our philosophy with winemaking, it's very simple. Like many producers around the world, as winemakers we view ourselves as custodians of what we got from Mother Nature. I believe it was Galileo who said, "Wine is bottled sunshine." You get this gift from nature, and we've worked very hard with Mother Nature, as my father likes to say, "Winemaking is less of an art, and more of a partnership with Mother Nature. Unfortunately, she's the senior partner." When you get this fruit that you've been given from a wonderful season, it's your job as the winemaker, your fundamental responsibility, to preserve it, and keep it protected, and get it into the bottle without any diminishment of what characteristics it had to begin with, and to just guide it along its path. Very minimalist approach, and in fact we have a whole range of wines that we call 'minimalist.' In general even for our mainstay Paumanok labels, the winemaking approach is a minimalist approach."
This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I have always liked and respected his wines. Now, I must amend that. I LOVE his wines!
I saw Kareem at the recent NY Drinks NY at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. In the time I have covered wine I've seen Kareem go from a young, untested winemaker, to one of the better winemakers in New York state, who's stature is certainly growing well beyond the state's borders. He has gone from journeyman to spokesman, and his maturation as a technician and as an artist has been impressive. As a young winemaker he was always well-informed, involved, confident, and competent, composing wonderful wines, but his mastery across the range of his wines is now fully evident and on display.
While at the event, along with many other tasters, I tasted through the Paumanok line. The whites were spectacular, as always. Sooooo delicate, restrained, yet powerful.
Paumanok Chenin Blanc 2018 was wonderful. Paumanok has always had a way with Chenin Blanc. Many industry experts agree, such as Eric Asimov, who wrote in the New York Times, ""Year in and year out, this is one of the best American chenin blancs around...Paumanok's from the North Fork of Long Island stands out as delicious on almost any scale you choose." Eric remain right. Their Chenin Blanc is always stand out, and would be a star wine no matter what region it came from.
The 2018 Chenin Blanc is a lively mix of melon, honeydew, pineapple, and grapefruit. A wonderful acidity tying the entire wine into a nice bow. Elegant and complex, well balanced, and as tasty as it is aromatic. As lovely a varietal wine of this type produced in any region. This is a world class wine!
The Paumanoak Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is another world beater. Kareem it seems also has a way with Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc is a glass full of rocks, seashells, and lemons. A mineral-y fruit bomb if you will, filled with citrus zest to spare. Light and delicate, it has a wonderful mouth feel, and a zippy freshness that makes it gulpable....but don't...it deserves to be savored. Every bit as good as the legendary New Zealand or Australian Sav Blancs. This wine locks arms with the Chenin Blanc, instantly raising the game of Paumanok to a world beater for quality white wines. If this were being made in a bigger, more notable region (Napa or somewhere else) it would be considered cult-worthy). Outstanding!
The Paumanok Dry Rose 2018 is a unique and creative blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 40$ Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot, and 7% Merlot...worthy of a Bordeaux-styled blend. The wine bursts forth with a big dose of strawberries stewing in light wine. Cranberry, apple, and lime also come through. Lovely!
For me the biggest surprise was the Paumanok Cabernet Franc 2015. Kareem has always produced good, solid Cab Franc but this newest version was easily the best IMHO. It was a big stewed bowl of dried cherries and dark red cassis. Beautifully complex with wonderful fruit, and well balanced tannins, and a lovely finish, where beyond the black tea of the tannins, the dried cherries and cassis lingered...truly a lovely, lovely wine, and one of may favorite Cabernet Francs of the entire New York tasting.
Paumanok Assemblage 2014 was a Meritage-styled wine, consisting of 50% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petite Verdot. Assemblage has always been among my favorites of the Paumanok line. And this one does not disappoint. Aged in a combination of new and older oak for more than a year-and-a-half, this wine delivers in all the ways that one suspects. This is a big wine filled with dark cherry, dark raspberry, cranberry, and hints of mocha and vanilla, with spice and a hint of earthiness. A big, chewy red wine...and as always, impressive.
A HUGE congrats to Kareem and his staff. A great showing by one of the North Fork's best producers! Great stuff!
In March I went to the Eastern Winery Exposition 2019. On the Tuesday night, after the Grand Tasting, I joined several industry colleagues for dinner.With me were Michael Kaiser of the American, Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications and Marketing, Gina Certa Shay of Cadus North America, Emi Beth Project & Marketing Director at Michigan Wine Collaborative, and David Falchek of the American Wine Society among others. I apologize if I forgot anyone.
We had a lovely dinner at A Mano in downtown Syracuse. David and Michael led the way to the restaurant.
The Lamoreaux Landing Riesling Semi-Dry 2017 was very special. Though it had a certain amount of sweetness, it had a biting acidity that more than stood up the the residual sugar. Fabulous green apple, lemon, lime, and honeysuckle along with a nice minerality made this an outstanding wine. The flavor on this wine happily lingered on the palate long after it was sipped. A very impressive offering.
Chris Stamp's Lakewood Vineyard Dry Riesling 2017 was also impressive. A blend of 100% Riesling from five different vineyards showed the complexity you might expect. Again, a large does of green apple and honeysuckle were complimented by a giant citrus bath of orange blossom, lemon rind, and dominated by fresh lime. A lovely minerality was topped by a bright, zippy ending. A balanced, complex wine, with tremendous flavor.
The food at A Mano was tremendous. From the cocktails, to the salami plate, to the main courses, and beyond it was delicious. And the atmosphere was convivial. The entire presentation finished second only to my companions. A terrific evening made all the more enjoyable by two exceptional wines from the Finger Lakes.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Thirsty Owl Wine Company has won many awards over the years. They are a well known producer in the Finger Lakes. But a recent tasting at NY Drinks NY was an absolute eye opener!
First off, they've got a lovely new repackaging going on. Cleaner, more sophisticated. Really attractive. A terrific new rebranding! This may have been happening for some time, but it was the first I'd seen of it. My fellow tasters included.
Shawn Kime is the winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Thirsty Owl. Shawn has been with Thirsty Owl since opening their doors 16 years ago, and he’s been making Thirsty Owl’s signature wines ever since. Originally from Romulus, NY, he attended and has degrees from Morrisville College and Cornell University. Since the age of 14, Shawn has spent most of his life working in agriculture, and got his start in the winemaking industry spending two years working for one of the earliest Finger Lakes Vinifera growers.
“As a Finger Lakes native, I am proud of the fact that we are producing cool climate varietals that are on par with any region in the world. We are subject to seasonal variation here, and I like the fact that we have the opportunity to embrace those variables. Every Vintage is, and will be, different. Our goal is to make changes in the vineyard and winemaking based on the year to produce wines that not only reflect our region but the growing season. I can recall what the weather was like from every year when I think about the wine we made. I don’t think winemakers from California or Australia can say the same thing. My favorite thing about my job? Change. It’s never the same thing from one week to the next. Winemaking and grape growing are very seasonal and cyclical in nature.”
Shawn has done a terrific job at Thirsty Owl, and has had some good backing. I feel that this recent tasting shows a winemaker coming into his own as a master. He has gone from making big, consumer friendly, big selling wines, of a more refined sensibility. That's not a backhanded compliment. Shawn made some stellar wines in his lifetime. But this newest tasting showed a refined, restrained, artufl new winemaker, who has really come into his own as a top maker.
Thirsty Owl Riesling 2017 was lovely. All the right notes for a Riesling to hit. Lovely tropical notes. Lots of green apple. And wonderful acidity. Wonderfully balanced. Complex. Refreshing. Beautiful!
Thirsty Owl Diamond 2017 was as solid as ever. Shawn has always had a way with Diamond. They make the best Diamond in the business. This had layers of lovely fruit notes, and a terrific finish. Fabulous....as always!
Congrats to Shawn, and GM Jon Cupp! And the staff! Terrific stuff from Thirsty Owl!!!!!