For sure, there are a umber of winemakers in New York state who make a wide array of wines. The ranks are chok-a-block. It is a daunting and usually thankless task. The old rub, according to Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells, is that there are "no medals for trying." And wine writers are hard markers.
Thursday, July 09, 2020
Be that as it may, we are here today to give some well-deserved attention to one such individual - Phil Plummer. Having started out as a cellar rat in February 2010, Phil has risen up the ranks and is now not just the winemaker for Montezuma, but for Fossenvue Vineyards and Idol Ridge Winery as well. More importantly, in the last 12 months, more than a handful of wines have begun to turn the heads of wine writers that hitherto before might have passed up tastings for showier, more well-renown wineries or winemakers. But Phil Plummer has changed all that.
With his unassuming manner, and his obvious passion for wine and winemaking, he has but out numerous quality bottlings under the three wineries. And he now must be considered one of the real up-and-coming winemakers in the Finger Lakes. Here's a smattering of the wines Phil has recently released that are worthy of serious attention.
Idol Ridge Gewurztraminer 2018 has the most wonderful nose. I love Gewurztraminer, but it seems to me that fewer and fewer wineries are using their Gewurztraminer for blends rather than varietal bottlings. Gewurztraminer has always been a hand sell in the wine business. Most owners would say you need to pour a bottle to sell one in the tasting room. The problem being that winemakers and wine writers love the stuff. This was no exception. This had an explosive nose full of tropical fruits and exotic floral frangrances. Everything a Gewurz should small like. The wine itself was a lovely, bright, wine, with lots of green apple and slate, and finished with a big, succulent spritz of grapefruit. Wonderful!
Fossenvue Eighteen Forty-Eight Diamond 2018 (Seven of Seven Series) was a Petillant Naturel made from Diamond. Diamond is not a normal choice for a Pet Nat. Diamond is a big, over the top, floral and usually sweet white, made for popular consumption. A picnic or back porch sipper, as the old adage goes. The nose, exploded with a nose of grape pie - a grapeiness usually associated with Diamond, but with an accompanying hint of yeast and bread. The wine was slightly sweet, but had a lovely fullness about it and lovely consistent bubbles. A straight forward wine, lovely for brunches, celebrations, and for all our enjoyment. A lovely, reasonably priced Pet Nat. Certainly worth enjoying!
His quartet of Roses this season were a very solid roundup of differing styles. The Idol Ridge Dry Rose 2017 was bright, with nice notes of hand-picked strawberries, orange blossoms and melon. The Fossenvue Revisionist 3 Rose Cuvée de Pression 2018 (my favorite among them) was a rosé assembled using various press fractions from red and sparkling wine production; Saignée and Taille. The idea was that they combined the different fractions. The result was a lovely wine layered with fresh fruit and with a back bone of more complex, classic classic wine. Montezuma Hope Dry Rose was again a very quaff-able dry rose with strawberry, pink grapefruit, lychee and a hint of lime. (ps. a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Hope for Heather organization towards funding for ovarian cancer awareness, research, and local support.) And the Idol Ridge Pet Nat Cabernet Franc a sparkling sersion of Cab Franc complete with fresh strawberries and bright young cherries, with yeast, with a bubbly, zippy ending.
Recently I have been tasting a small cadre of lovely Saperavis. I think it's one of the grapes winemakers should be working with. It makes a big dark wine. with lots of body. Idol Ridge Winery Saperavi 2018 was a delicious red wine, with big fruit and lots of juicy acidity. It's a lovely medium-bodied, smooth quaff-able red. Very pretty!
In these wines, Phil is showing a enological dexterity that is unusual making quality wines in numerous styles for three different houses. As I said, there are several who do it, but not in the way that its turning heads like he's doing it.
Great job Phil!
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Glorie is one of the larger grape growers in the Hudson River Region AVA and supplies a number of neighboring wineries with Hudson River Region fruit. “We are ecstatic to have found buyers Dan and Jacqui Heavens,” former owner Doug Glorie told me. “They have the desire and the will to carry on the success and tradition we have created here at Glorie Farm and Winery. We know they will be successful.”
This farm has been productive for many generations. Previously known as Stoneside Farm, the Glorie have been growing 20 acres of fruit including peaches, nectarines, pears, apples, quince, black currants, and – of course – wine grapes. Doug planted his first grape vines in 1983.
Doug left his engineering job in the mid-1990s, and became a full-time farmer and winemaker. Glorie Farm has 15 grape varieties in the ground, including hybrids, chardonnay, riesling and cabernet franc. The winery also made a great move in hiring traveling winemaker Kristop Brown, who has turned out some incredibly well-received estate cabernet franc wines, as well as others.
“We are thrilled about this opportunity!” said Jacqui Heavens. “We hope to continue to build on the legacy that Doug and MaryEllen created here: a beautiful, authentic place with a focus on high-quality estate fruit and wine. We are hard at work and can’t wait to share this experience with our guests.”
Glorie’s recent sampling of their Cabernet Francs impressed numerous enthusiasts (especially their barrel samples for their future vintages) in a recent Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition tasting last May.
As I wrote for Inside.com, the Hudson Valley has been the historic heart of New York's winemaking industry. But in the last decade its reputation for quality wines has improved greatly, making it a region on the come. At a recent tasting of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition, Glorie Farm Winery's two barrel samples (two separate vineyard blocks) drew some of the highest praise from all around.
Glorie's well-known winemaker Kristop Brown is known to be one of the better winemakers in the valley (he also formerly made wine in Walla Walla). New owners Dan and Jacqui Heavens have decided to sell the two vineyard blocks separately (originally there was the thought to blend the two into one). It was too much fun tasting the two blocks side-by-side. Hence, the winery is releasing Glorie Farm Cabernet Franc West - 2018 and Glorie Farm East - 2018.
The East - 2018 is made from newer vines, and the flavor is all bright red cherry like a fresh cherry pie. Big red fruit and a lovely, lip-smacking finish that clings to the palate for a long time. The West - 2018 comes from a much older block. The flavors are dark cherry and dark raspberry, hints of mocha, graphite, and prune. It's deep, multi-layered, and luscious. It's sex in a glass! This is what wine geekdom is all about. Too much fun to pass up!
Congrats to all!
Sunday, April 26, 2020
I bought these two bottles of Boordy Vineyards wine at the Drink Local Wine/Taste Camp in Maryland in 2017. It seems like a life time ago but I do remember it incredibly fondly. These wines are both from the Landmark Series, which is the winery's premiere expression of their terroir and the winemaking art, as well as about land stewardship.
Boordy founder Philip Wagner made his name and reputation growing Baco Noir, but Rob Deford steered the company in a new direction with the turn of the century. It turns out it was an impressive move. Rob and his family and their operation have been a leader in the Mid-Atlantic wine scene for many years. This was a big step. He turned Boordy into one of the most serious wine producers in the region. And indeed, they are a regional powerhouse.
According to Boordy, Tom Burns is the head winemaker. He spent 20 years managing our vineyards in addition to making our wines, so the critical connection between the vineyard and winery is in his DNA. In 2011 Tom was joined by José Real, whose analytical skills were honed working in his family’s wine laboratory in Jerez, Spain. Steve Blais, from the consulting firm of Michele Rolland in Bordeaux, provides a global perspective on their work. Son Phineas, Rob and Julie manage the winery. This team is strong and deep.
Boordy South Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 was harvested Between October 14 and the 21st of 2014. The wine is 75% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Syrah, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was aged 16 months in new Freanch oak (45%) and older oak (55%). They produced 575 cases. This was an impressive wine, which led with a lot of dark and medium ripe cherry, hints of red raspberry, and plum, with notes of graphite and vanilla. The fruit was strong on the first sip, but the mid palate was smooth and silky, with a lasting flavor. This was an impressive, impressive wine!
Next was the Boordy South Mountain Red 2015 is a Bordeaux/Meritage-style blend of 60% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Syrah, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. It's 100% Maryland grown and was harvest between October 18-29, 2015. The wine starts of with a love stew of red fruit, including ripe cherry, fresh raspberry, cassis, and plum. The front is all fruit, but the middle swirls with notes of cedar, leather, and undeniable earthiness and bramble, with hints of spice. The come the ample tannins. And a lovely finish of red fruit that lingers. A supple, complex, and well balanced wine. Each sip is an opportunity to continue to explore its many intricacies. Wonderful. Easily could have laid down another 5 years. Ashamed I opened it so soon. Sad I don't have another bottle!
The Landmark Series has been a significant success and is testament to Deford, his team, and their commitment to serious, quality wine...and to their leadership in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Everyone knows I love Mike Fiore. He's the last young lion left from the original wave of winery owners dating back to Ham Mowbrey and the like. I've been a fan of his Chambourcin and his Sangiovese. And his spirits, like the barrel aged Grappa Reserve and the Maryland Rye. Now the grand old lion, Mike's grandson Tony is the everyday helms man, and doing a great job!
This bottle of Fiore Rose Sangiovese/Moscato was a lovely surprise from the Maryland winemaker. It was a nose full of bright cherry and fresh strawberry...with the cherry lingering a long, long time. There were lovely notes of tropical fruits and hints of lime, but with a lovely creaminess and a lovely finish. Don't just take my word for it, the wine won Gold Medal & Best in Class: Rose’ – 2019 Maryland Governor’s Cup Competition!
Great job Tony and Mike!
I tasted these wines on November 2019 at a tasting of Virginia wines with the New York Wine Media Guild in New York City. In the room were some of the most experienced wine drinkers and writers in New York City among them Kevin Zraly himself.
According to the website, "Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Early Mountain sits on land with a deep and rich history. The first landowner of the property was Revolutionary War veteran Lieutenant Joseph Early, who served under General George Washington at Valley Forge...
In 2005, Jess and Sharon Sweely planted the first vineyards on the property. Jean Case and her husband, Steve, purchased the property in 2010 and, after some renovations, re-opened it under the Early Mountain brand in 2012.
"In 2015, Early Mountain expanded its acreage to include Quaker Run Vineyard, 14 miles north of the Early Mountain estate in Madison County. That year, Early Mountain increased its acreage of classic Bordeaux-type varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot and added new varietals including Malvasia Bianca, Sauvignon Blanc, and Tannat."
I've been writing about Early Mountain since 2014, and their wines have only gotten better and better, especially with the Cases at the helm!
The first wine I tasted was the Early Mountain Eluvium 2017. It is a blend of 72% Merlot, 26% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aging / Cellaring: The wine was aged 17 months in French barrique, 40% new and then a year in bottle prior to release. According to the winemaker's notes, "Quaker Run Merlot stars in Eluvium, grown in both the West and East Blocks on the slope. From some of our oldest vines, this Merlot contributes density and aromatic purity; presence and persistence with fine grain tannin. Petit Verdot in the blend contributes structure, depth, and power. We return to a lower percentages of PV, with the power of the vintage, and good yields across the board."
The nose pulses with the scent of stewed dark fruits, blackberry, black cherry, plum, and cassis. These come across on the palate as well. Followed by cedar, vanilla, and black tea. This is a well structured wine, with lots of layers, and tons of lingering fruit. An incredible red wine.
Early Mountain Vineyards Rise 2015 is the launch of their new luxury wine, crafted in the style of a Bordeaux grand vin. RISE blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat from the winery’s flagship Quaker Run vineyard.
to create this elegant and age-worthy wine.
Jean Case commented, “Right from the start at Early Mountain, we dreamed of producing a wine that could stand side by side with the great wines of the world. Our 2015 vintage was the first to offer us that opportunity, proving that patience pays. RISE is an expression of our dedication to quality and excellence, and a reflection of our talented winemaking team including our winemaker, Ben Jordan, and our wine consultant, Paul Hobbs. It is with great pleasure that we now share this special wine with the world.”
“Having worked with Jean and the Early Mountain team since the beginning, I’ve been proud to be part of this incredible journey,” said Hobbs. “RISE showcases both the essence of the Quaker Run vineyard, as well as Ben and the team’s focus and dedication; it demonstrates that Virginia has taken its place amongst the great regions of the world.”
Early Mountain Vineyards Rise 2015 delivers! This is a big, big world competition styled wine, with gintat bowlfuls of big fruit up front - dark cherry, prune, cassis, lekvar, dark raspberry. There are also notes of cedar, toast, leather, as well as a hint of lingering dark vanilla. The wine opens with that big fruit statement, settles into a lovely smoothness, before ending with a lovely touch of tea and black pepper. One savors the dark fruit for more than a full 60 seconds later. An immensely accomplished wine.
To say the least, I was super impressed. And a room full of skeptical and well seasoned palates were also impressed as well. A fantastic job! Looking forward to more from Early Mountain!
Friday, April 24, 2020
A 14-year old bottle of Rkatsitelli? Was I insane? I figured it would taste like sherry. I shrugged my shoulders. At least I would open up some room in my over crowded cellar. What the hell. It was #openlocalwine Saturday, March 28, 2020. I was opening bottles and tasting with friend Bryan Van Deusen. I had nothing to lose. If the wine was no good, I would sadly bow my head and pour it down the drain, dejected. Another case of a star left behind, like the aged starlet in Sunset Boulevard. I felt kinda bad I'd left this one by accident.
Assuredly, let me tell, such was not the case.
According to Wikiperdia, "This ancient vinifera originates in Georgia and is one of the oldest grape varieties. In Georgia, clay vessels were found with seeds of Rkatsiteli grapes which date back to 3000 BC. Rkatsiteli was popular in the Soviet Union prior to its fall and at one point was responsible for more the 18% of all Soviet wine production. There it was used to make everything from table wine to liqueurs to Sherry-like fortified wine. Prior to President Gorbachev's vine pull scheme, it was possibly the world's most widely planted white wine grape.
In Kakheti it was particularly known for its sweet dessert wines fashioned in the same manner as port wine. There were many attempts to create a sparkling wine from the grape but its naturally high alcohol levels prevented it from being much of a success. The grape is mostly planted in its ancestral home of Georgia though there are still sizable plantings in other Eastern European countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
The Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkastiteli 2006 from the Finger Lakes was more than ready for it's star turn!
The wine was a deep gold. A big whiff of honeydew, honeysuckle, dried apricots, and peach wafted out if the glass. There were also a hint of sherry like notes. Dates. Nuts. But the wine itself was fantastic. It was all fruit up front, with a few semi-sweet/off-dry notes. But it ended with a tremendous lemony kick that gave it terrific zip. The final result was a big mouthfeel wine, with lots of grip, layers, and structure. It was absolutely fantastic!
A 14 year old Rkatsiteli and it was absolutely spectacular. And it was definitely ready for its close-up! Fantastic!
In late March of 2020 I was hungry. Real hungry. I wanted to go to a restaurant, but instead I sent and got take out, because in March of 2020 you couldn;t eat in a restaurant. One of things I wanted most was Fried Calamari. I just can't make that at home. So I ordered from one of my favorite restaurants, La Conca D'Oro in Catskill, NY.
I brought it home and I couldn't wait to dig into it. But I needed something to accompany it. I went to the fridge where I had six bottles of white chilling. The answer was immediate - Albarino! Not just any Albarino, but New York, Hudson Valley, Albarino!
I chose Fjord Vineyards Albarino 2016. I opened up the friend calamari first, squirted some fresh lemon all over it, and took a big, whopping mouth full. Oh my God, it was amazing. I loved the fresh tasting seafood, the saltiness of the hot friend batter, and the tartness of the fresh lemon.
Now, I needed some wine. Peach and apple blossoms are met with hints of orange blossom and a lovely citrusy ending. OH MY, that was a big splash of cold wine. I was instantly reminded of Hemingway...
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
This was a wonderful wine. One of the best white wines in the state. I absolutely loved it. Great job Matt and Casey at Fjord!
Working Dog Winery was originally named Silver Decoy. Sometime back, they changed their name. But this bottle dates back to the original name. On March 28, Saturday, I was looking for a bottle or two to choose for #openlocalwine day. I was looking for another wine, when, I suddenly pulled this bottle, and I laughed, and said, "Well, I'll be damned."
I've been going to Working Dog since they first opened. I was there for their 10 year anniversary, and I'll go back again. Mark Carduner and his partners have been making terrific wines for almost two decades, and they continue to get better! I decided immediately this trumped my other choice.
Bryan Van Deusen, the General Manager at Hudson-Chatham Winery, and a good friend, tasted with me at a safe distance.
I was worried I'd let it sit too long. After all, it was a 13 year old bottle of wine. And it was Chambourcin (one of my favorites, when done well), not Cabernet Sauvignon. Be that as it may, I took a deep breath and popped the cork.
The reward was instant! The Working Dog Chambourcin 2007 held up beautifully! A big dark red with lots of dark cherry, cranberry, prune, and hint of mocha and vanilla. How big chewy red. It was amazing. Could have easily left it down in the cellar for another 2-4 years. Fantastic!
Great job Mark and company. It was absolutely the right bottle of wine to choose. The funny thing is? I can't even remember what the other wine was I was looking for!
Now, get your ass to Working Dog!
The Upper Hudson Wine Trail has been gaining more and more notice. And I've been following a number of the wineries up there. One of the ones I've been most curious about but have not been able to get to, was Fossil Stone Vineyard.
Michael and Kelly Spiak own Fossil Stone Vineyards. Fossil Stone has been making wines for a while now they’re on the Upper Hudson wine trail. I went there sometime last year curious about what they were doing. The Fossil Stone Vineyards is located on an historic farm est. circa 1802 just 5 miles North of Saratoga Springs, in Greenfield Center, NY. They grow LaCrescent, Marquette, and Traminette.
The author with Michael Spiak
In 1802, Eliju Wing settled a 150-acre farm in Greenfield NY raising horses. Today, this historic farm, The Fossil Stone Vineyards, still stands as evidence of the hard work and persistence of our courageous forefathers. In the spirit of preservation, its current owners, Michael and Kelly...still farm those very fields. Although horses still remain, a new crop has risen from the loamy soil, GRAPES! After years of traveling and visiting vineyards all over the world, Michael has discovered a passion for growing grapes. The inspiration for our name comes from stone turned from the fields containing fossils left behind by Blue Green Algae.
The impressive thing about Fossil Stone is this: they are small and all the wines are handcrafted and they are all about quality. Micheal and Kelly had a hard time getting out of the gate with building issues for their tasting room. But 2020 despite the pandemic should be their breakout year.
The two wines I tasted while I were there were excellent examples of quality wines. My understanding is that their new rose is also of that type.
The Fossil Stone Marquette 2017 was an impressive first step for this winery. A big with of blueberry cobbler wife’s out of the glass on first meeting the wine. There's also blackberry and bramble berry, as well as slight hints of mineral notes and leather. A lovely finish of plum and vanilla lasts on the palate. A very, very impressive wine! Really good!
The Fossil Stone LaCrescent 2016 explodes with notes of oranges and lemons, apricot, pineapple, and hints of muscat. This is a big beautiful white wine. Tremendous!
Since I tasted there, Fossil Stone has also released a Fossil Stone Rose. Dying to try it!
Fossil Stone is a very impressive small quality producer. All done by hand. They are the real deal. Like the garagista vibe? This is your place. Absolutely loved it!
Monday, April 20, 2020
“Nostrovia” is the English mispronunciation of the Russian word, "Na Zdorovie", meaning "cheers". Nostrovia is now used as English slang for “let's get drunk” and as a common drinking toast. And there is a lot to toast about with this wine.
According to McGregor's website, "Winery founders Bob & Marge McGregor are pioneers of growing vinifera wine grapes in the northeast. In the 1970s Bob was searching for red varieties that could not only withstand the often brutal winter climate of the Finger Lakes, but were also disease resistant and able to consistently produce quality wine. In 1978, Dr. John McGrew of USDA in Beltsville, Maryland gave Bob scion wood of a number of grape varieties originally imported from Leningrad by Dr. Konstantin Frank in the late 1950s. Two of the varieties, Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni are what are now collectively known as “Black Russian Red.” We began planting these vines in the spring of 1980.
"Saperavi is an ancient wine making grape (vitis vinifera) that is primarily grown and produced in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Georgians make a variety of Saperavi styles, ranging from wines meant to consume young to wine that matures for 50 or more years in the bottle.
"There are only a few vineyards growing Saperavi in the United States, and until somewhat recently McGregor Vineyard was the only winery among them to produce this variety into a commercially sold wine. McGregor Vineyard has enjoyed a lot of success with this grape, and a handful of other Finger Lakes wineries are now themselves working with Saperavi. In recent years Saperavi has trended globally, being called "the black wine" by fans.
"The Sereksiya Charni grape (vitis vinifera) is even more unusual than Saperavi and is grown around the Black and Caspian Seas in Ukraine, Armenia, and Romania. As far as we know we are the only producers of a wine from this variety in the Western Hemisphere.
"Each of these varieties was produced and sold individually by McGregor Vineyard in the 1980s. However, Bob McGregor recognized that blending them together might produce an even more interesting wine than what they expressed individually. He was much happier with this new blend, and 1991 saw the very first vintage of Black Russian Red. Fewer than 100 cases were produced, which quickly sold out. The 1991 vintage is continuing to develop and even today remains a truly exquisite wine."
Saperavi literarily mean in Georgian, "paint, dye" which is said to come from its intensive dark-red color. Saperavi red wine has been produced since 1886. Saperavi grapes produce substantial deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging (perhaps up to fifty years). Saperavi is a hardy variety, known for its ability to handle extremely cold weather; and is popular for growing in high altitude and inland regions. Saperavi wines have won numerous international wine competitions.
"The less common Sereksiya Charni (sereksiya chernaya) of Moldovan and Romanian origin, is grown throughout the Caucasus and Balkans. It makes for red wines typified by deep color, high acidity and a prominent fruity element," wrote Arthur Z. Przebinda for Palate Press.
For the Black Russian Red 2012, McGregor's notes say: "Two separate parcels of estate grown Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni are blended together in this vintage of Black Russian Red. A total of 2.51 tons of fruit were harvested from the first parcel on September 27, 2012. These grapes had 23 brix natural sugar, 1.05 TA and 3.21 pH. They were crushed, inoculated with yeast and fermented for eight days at 68-80 degrees and went through complete malolactic fermentation. In the second parcel, 2.68 tons of grapes were harvested by hand on October 8, 2012.
"These grapes had 24.4 brix natural sugar, 0.98 TA and 3.26 pH. They were then crushed, inoculated with a different yeast strain from that used with the first parcel and fermented for 10 days at 68-82 degrees. This also went through complete malolactic fermentation. The two wines were blended together and transferred into eight new American oak barrels and six neutral American oak barrels. The wine was aged for 30 months then transferred to stainless steel where it was egg white fined, cold stabilized and then filtered. It was bottled on July 22, 2015. The finished wine has 0.72 TA, 3.58 pH, 0.5% residual sugar and 13% alcohol. 227 cases were produced.
Says winemaker John McGregor, "I cannot say enough good things about this vintage. It’s truly outstanding! The wine, as expected, is dark and gorgeous in the glass. Aromas of ripe blackberry, sweet coconut and black tea rise from the glass and are also present on the palate. There are also suggestions of elderberry, cranberry and black currant but the fruit is currently still hiding a bit in the background. The wine is soft, rich and palate filling and the smooth tannins create a very long lingering finish. This wine has a great future ahead of it, but is incredibly approachable right now, let the wine breathe for at least a few hours prior to enjoying. Easily enjoyable now through 2022."
McGregor Black Russian Red 2012 exhibited dark cassis, the elderberry, and cranberry all come through as John promised in this deep purple elixir. There was also damson plum and a hint of prune. The fruit was big and powerful up front. The mouthfeel was big, and surprisingly smooth. There's a nice balance of tannins and fruit. There was also great complexity. The wine was a delicious as it was chewy. The wine was spectacular. John said it would be good to 2022? It's 2020 and it's still peaking!
Fantastic wine, John!
Sunday, April 19, 2020
On March 28, 2020 there was an event, originally aimed at East Coast wine aficionados, originating between wine folks from New York (Lenn Thompson), Michigan (Gina Certa Shay), and Virginia (Frank Morgan). Even Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post joined in to promote the event.
The idea was open a bottle of local wine to show support of the local wine community during the pandemic. The event was a huge success! Just on Instagram, there were more than 2,100 posts over the course of 24 hours or so (with even more on Facebook and Twitter). In fact, even west coast wine folks eventually joined the fray, hosting their own local bottles.
"Wow. This past Saturday was the first-ever “Open That Bottle of Local Wine Night” and I think I can speak for my Cork Report colleague Gina Shay when I say that it exceeded every expectation."
I opened several bottles to celebrate the day. And of course, I was a horse's ass. I started early. Not to garner attention, but I had too many bottles to go through.
The first bottle I opened was a Land of Nod Bianca 2010 from Goshen, Connecticut, maybe 30 minutes from my house. I had reviewed the wine eight years previously, writing, "The first I started off with was the Bianca. This is quite simply one of the nicest white wines in New England, and can give any white form the east coast, including New York and Virginia a run for it's money. Very aromatic with pears and exotic spices on the nose, with lovely fruit and a good solid dose of acidity. It's light, bright and refreshing. An absolutely elegant wine. Fantastic!"
I had cellared the wine, but never intended to let it go that long. I was in shock when I had found it earlier in the week and slated to try it some time soon. The #openlocalwine event seemed like the right opportunity. Admittedly, I had several back up bottles. I wasn't sure it would be good anymore. I uncorked the bottle and then tentatively put my nose near the opening, afraid I might get a big whiff of sherry or worse, vinegar. It would have served me right.
Instead, the wine was as fresh as ever! The color was a tad darker. Pear and a lovely deep red apple bounded out of the glass. The nose was a little more intensified. More dried apricot and dried pineapple came through. The wine was succulent and sexy. It was fantastic! Wow!"
Great job to winemaker and owner William P. Adam! It was the right wine to start that Saturday off with!
"I just want to thank each and every one...who took part. It was so much fun to scroll through my various social channels Saturday night, seeing what everyone was drinking. I tried to comment on, like and share as many posts as I could. The local wine community isn’t about just New York or Virginia or Michigan. It’s all of us. Together. Saturday night proved that," concluded Thompson.
Now, I have spent a lot of time in Maine and New Hampshire over the last decade and discovered some wonderful stuff. Chief among them was experiencing the wonderful whiskies and potables of Tamworth Distilling! I first found them at the New Hampshire State Liquor store on 95 going up to Maine. I would buy bottles of local whiskies, and bring them to the office for after hours tastings. I was so proud of myself for discovering Tamworth, but the folks in the office (many of whom lived in NH) all knew Tamworth already, They seemed to be a local favorite...and a well kept secret.
Tamworth seems to have gained a lot of attention for it's indefatigable spirit as well as their drinkable one. Their theme is, "small batch, scratch made spirit."
According to Tamworth, "Since the turn of the 20th century, Tamworth, New Hampshire has been a haven for artists, writers, thinkers and innovators – from Henry James and e.e. Cummings to President Cleveland. Our 250 gallon copper still was custom built by Vendome in Kentucky, and outfitted with a brandy helmet, whiskey column, gin basket, and rectifying column. These components give us the versatility to produce a variety of different products, and change batches with the seasons.
Unlike many producers of craft spirits, we distill our own neutral grain spirit base (rather than purchasing it from an industrial producer) from local organic corn, organic rye, and malt. All of our grains are sourced from farms within a ~150 mile radius during the harvest season, and milled in-house. Tamworth’s water comes from the Ossipee Stratified Aquifer, one of the purest sources on the East Coast.
In the Spring of 2017, Tamworth released their second aged whiskey: William Whipple’s Straight Winter Wheat Whiskey. According to Tamworth, "The name honors William Whipple, the representative from New Hampshire who signed the Declaration of Independence. Only 230 bottles were made available at our distillery...This particular mash bill is composed of 75% organic red wheat, 5% caramel wheat, 5% chocolate wheat, and 15% malted barley." (45% ABV; 90 Proof). Aged two years in oak.
This was an impressive whiskey. Now, I am a sucker for a wheated whiskey anyway. But this was special. Dark cocoa and wheat berries and molassas brown bread waft out of the glass. There's a slight smokiness, but the corn and wheat make this an incredibly smooth dram. Grade B maple and spice notes also accompany. A fantastic whiskey!
Old Hampshire Blended Applejack is a riff on classic old New Hampshire, colonial spirits. Tamworth starts with a blend of 100% grown and pressed New Hampshire Apples (including Crispin, Cortland, Macintosh, and Honeycrisp varietals) that are then fermented with wine yeast. Following the initial stages, the cider is then twice distilled in an alembic still before it’s finished with a two year charred barrel aging process. 945% ABV; 90 Proof).
Applejack is one of those plentiful bastard children of the liquor world - a brandy aged in whiskey casks. But this definitely tasted like a overly bourbon. The caramel color come across on the palate first thing. Hints of vanilla and cinnamon and spice dominate, as well as brown sugar and a long lingering smoothness. If you closed your eyes, you would have thought it was just a really smooth bourbon without the cereal notes. Lovely!!!
Chocorua Straight Rye Whiskey however, is the absolute star of the show. The whiskey is named for Mount Chocorua which is a 3,490 ft (1,060 m) mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range. According to Wikipedia, "Although the mountain is not outstanding for its elevation, it is very rugged and has excellent views of the surrounding lakes, mountains, and forests. Mount Chocorua's bare summit can be seen from almost every direction and identified from many points throughout central New Hampshire and western Maine. Many hiking trails ascend the mountain. Scenic Chocorua Lake lies directly to the south.
The Chocorua legend tells of a Native American prophet or chief, Chocorua, who is supposed to have lived near the mountain at the dawn of white settlement, although no authentic records of his life are known to exist. The usual story—much of it drawn from a short work of fiction by Lydia Maria Child—is that in about 1720 Chocorua was on friendly terms with settlers and in particular the Campbell family that had a home in the valley now called Tamworth. Chocorua was called away and left his son in the care of the Campbell family. The boy found and drank a poison that Mr. Campbell had made to eliminate troublesome foxes, and Chocorua returned to find his son had died. Chocorua, distraught with grief, pledged revenge on the family. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Campbell returned home one afternoon to find his wife and children had been slain. Campbell suspected Chocorua and pursued him up the mountain. Chocorua was wounded by a shot from Campbell's rifle and, uttering a curse upon the white settlers, he leaped from the summit to his death."
There are several literary versions this event. One is "Chocorua's Curse", by Lydia Maria Child, contained in The Token (1830). Another later source is John T. B. Mudge, The White Mountains: Names, Places & Legends.
Tamworth chose to reprint the poem Chocorua by Richard Salter Storrs Andros (1838) on the entire label. Quite fascinating. (The label is shot on all three sides. Click on each photo to enlarge and read the whole poem.)
Chocorua Straight Rye Whiskey is a straight rye whiskey, made from a single crop of organic rye grain from Maine distilled in the sour mash style. It openes up with hints of deep cherry and vanilla. There are hints of cereal and notes of brown bread and brown sugar before a big kicj of black pepper and a final slap of ginger bread. There are other hints of wood and other slight spices. This is easilly one of the better ryes made on the east coast and I would put this up against anything from Kentucky or Tennessee. This is a world class whiskey. Absolutely astounding. I keep pouring it and pouring it, not realizing how many times my companions and I kept drinking from the same bottle. I wanted to try it in a cocktail, but it seemed such a waste of fine whiskey. A touch of ice (maybe one cube) was fine. But that was as much as I wanted to do to this fine, fine whiskey. Astounding!
Tamworth Distilling is easily one of the best distilleries in New England. It used to be a well kept secret, but word is getting out. Now, you know. Get your hands on this stuff ASAP!
Saturday, April 18, 2020
I had been in Kennebunkport, Maine all week working with a client, and had the opportunity to leave early one Friday. I called my trustly and likewise thirsty friend Rich Srsich and we agreed to meet at Willow Spring Vineyards, as one of a few stops on my way home, the other namely being dinner somewhere with Rich as well, before the long ride home.
Located in Haverhill, Massachusetts, not farm from Lowell, MA and New Hampshire border, it was an easy stop along the way. Willow Spring Vineyards is a family-owned winery and the people, grapes, and environment that make up the land is what they call home. They also feature a wedding venue and event space, accommodating up to 99 guests, which is a popular local venue.
According to their website, "In December 2000 Jim and Cindy [Parker] first purchased the Willow Spring farm. They originally planned on having the 18th century barn at the center of the land registered as a historic property, but within two weeks of purchasing the farm received a letter from the city that the barn was condemned. Plans scuttled, the family began to disassemble the dilapidated barn, preserving the gorgeous 18th century wood for an eventual re-build. Then began the seven year-long project to clear the land, plant our first vines, and in 2007 officially become Willow Spring Vineyards, LLC"
Rich and I met Jim as we were walking in. Jim worked for the city of Haverhill for 30 plus years, retiring in 2016. Restoring the barn and tending the grapes is truly a labor of love for Jim. Walking into the barn you can find Jim working on some project or another, whether inside or out. He was funny as hell and affable as could be. The perfect greeter.
The Willow Spring Vineyards Vignoles was easily my favorite. Made from Massachusetts grapes, this wine had all the earmarks of a very good Vignoles. The wine started with powerful notes of tropical fruits, pineapple, melon, honeysuckle and a wonderful lemon-lime finish. An off-dry white with lots of flavor and a lovely zippy ending. The wine was an absolute hit. A wonderful, fun white. Very, very good!
Willow Spring Vidal Blanc was my other favorite. A lovely light-bodied dry white with wonderful notes orange blossom, peach, and apple, with a touch of citrus fruits at the end. A sophisticated sipper for sure. A very elegant, layered, and balanced white wine.
The winery also had some taps, so Rich and I availed ourselves of several tastes of that too! A great place to stop in. Beautiful surroundings, a lovely, friendly staff, and good wine and beer.
This indeed was a lovely surprise on my way home.
Last year I had the good fortune to go to Jones Family Farms Winery. I'd first seen/tasted Jones at one of the Connecticut Wine Festivals over the years. But I was driving across Connecticut, coming from the Hudson Valley, to see my mother for her birthday. We were celebrating in Southport. And I thought to myself, why not kill two birds with one stone, and finally visit the Jones Winery.
It was a beautiful August morning. The portents of fall were showing themselves, as the air was dry and warm. The foliage of the trees was dark green, and there was little morning dew.
Jones Family Farms is nestled in the White Hills of Shelton, Connecticut. The winery is just a part of a much larger complex of farms and buildings. The site is a sprawling complex with its 19th century dairy barn and homestead farmhouse. There are several signs including The Homestead Farm, Jones Winery, Harvest Kitchen, and Christmas Barnyard.
The farmers of this 400-acre working farm harvest numerous seasonal crops. They have just under 200 acres of Christmas trees, 15 acres of strawberries, 15 acres of blueberries, and 25 acres of pumpkins, gourds and squash. The Jones farmers harvest these crops from three different farm locations known as the Homestead Farm, the Valley Farm, and Pumpkinseed Hill. The farm also manages 50 acres of hay land and 50 acres of woodlots. And they have more than ten acres of grapes are in production for the farm's winery.
The first person you see on a Sunday when you walk in (if you're lucky) is "Farmer Tom", the ubiquitous web presence, who is real life is farm manager Tom Harbinson.
Philip Jamison Jones, sixth generation farmer at Jones Family Farms, is responsible for establishing the vineyard in 1999 at the Pumpkinseed Hill location. A graduate of Cornell University, with a degree in plant study, Jamie has combined his rich farming heritage and expertise in plant science to create this strong, thriving Connecticut vineyard. In addition to traditional grape wines, Jamie creates distinctive fruit wines that showcase the wonderful tastes and aromas of delicious, sun-ripened berries. Jamie manages the care of 30 acres of blueberries and strawberries at the farm, making wonderful fruit dessert wines, including Connecticut-grown apples, pears and black currants.
In 2008 Jamie welcomed to the winemaking team well-known winemaker Larry McCulloch. Larry, formerly of Chamard Vineyards, is a graduate of The Ohio State University horticulture program. His background includes working at Benmarl Vineyards in New York before helping to build Chamard Vineyards. Larry brings 25 years of experience, both in the vineyard and in winemaking. The highly talented collaboration of Jamie Jones and Larry McCulloch is a definite recipe for advancing Jones Winery to the next level.
Jones Winery Pinot Gris Vintner's Select 2016 was incredible. According to Jones notes, "Our climate is similar to northern France so our Alsatian-style Pinot Gris is richer and fuller than a typical Italian Pinot Grigio." This is an estate wine. The wine is cold fermented in stainless steel for 7-9 months and is made from 100% Jones Family Farms vineyards fruit: 90% Pinot Gris, 10% Muscat Ottonel. Wonderful nose of melons and tropical fruit lead to beautiful smoothness and a dry, crisp zippy finish. Layers and layers of fruit and magic. Lovely blanace between fruit and acidity. Crisp. Refreshing. A very, very lovely Pinot Grois. Head turning! The 2017 has since been released.
Jones Winery Muscat Ottonel is made from 100% Jones Family Farms Muscat Ottonel grapes. This lovely dry wine was cold fermented in stainless steel for 7-9 months. The wine has delicate, floral aromas. Notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom, tropical fruits and honey and dried apricot are also head-spinningly present. Stunning!
Jones Farms Whimsical White is dry, aromatic, sparkling white wine. This wine is a blend of 50% the offspring of Riesling & Cayuga White grapes (a yet-unnamed hybrid developed by Cornell University) grown 100% in Jones Family Farms vineyards. It is blended with 50% Vidal Blanc. The wine is cold-fermented in stainless steel for 7-9 months and is carbonated and bottled using the "Charmant" method.
Right from the first whiff, you know that Jones Farms Whimsical White is in fact a winner! White peach, tropical fruits, and honey are all strong on the nose and across the palate. Light and delicate. With just a hint of pink citrus pop at the end which gives it integrity. This is an absolutely wonderful sparkling wine. Bought several bottles of this.
Jones Farms have been producing for 400 years. But the wine, which is a relatively new addition (15-20 years?) is astounding success. I though these three whites could compete anywhere on the east coast...anywhere in the US. I was dazzled. Jones Farms Winery is another great quality producer as Connecticut has. Fabulous wines. Go and find out yourself!