Sunday, July 22, 2007

Newport Vineyards Shines in Rhode Island

Newport Vineyard’s 2006 Pinot Grigio was recently selected as the 2007 Best Rhode Island wine and earned a Silver medal in the Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition. Winning wines will participate in various venues during the 2007 Big E, Sept. 14 through 30.

Virginia Named as One of Five Up-and-Coming Wine Destinations in the World

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Travel + Leisure's wine and spirits editor cites state's wineries, authentic cuisine and accommodations as factors that make Virginia the only American destination named.

Virginia is one of the top five new wine travel destinations in the world, according to the July issue of Travel + Leisure magazine. Virginia was the only American region to be featured in the Wine-Lover's Guide: 5 Wine Regions to Visit Now article, highlighting some of globe's hottest new wine destinations.

Written by Bruce Schoenfeld, the magazine's wine editor and former contributing editor for Wine Spectator, the article features Virginia, as well as regions in the renowned wine-producing countries of Italy, Spain, Chile and New Zealand, as five new destinations for travelers who are passionate about wine, food and new experiences.

"If you're a wine lover, you are going to love going to Virginia's wineries," said Bruce Schoenfeld, wine and spirits editor of Travel + Leisure. "It's not just the wineries but also new restaurants, B&Bs and inns that make Virginia such a great destination. Virginia is democratizing the wine experience -- anyone can go to a Virginia winery and feel comfortable while trying exciting wines."

Schoenfeld's article highlights Virginia's largest wine regions in Central and Northern Virginia. Barboursville Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, and Linden Vineyards are featured as wineries to visit. Boar's Head Inn, 1804 Inn & Vineyard Cottage, Grandale Farm Restaurant, Inn at Little Washington, and Palladio are touted as cuisine and accommodation destinations.

"This article captures the essence of wine travel in Virginia," said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. "Our wineries stretch across the state and are surrounded by unique places to enjoy local cuisine and excellent lodging choices. Virginia is one of the only wine destinations that offers a kayak trip to a winery or combines bluegrass with wine tastings. It's these unique experiences that are drawing more and more wine lovers to Virginia."

Virginia is home to 130 wineries and is fifth in the nation for number of wine producers. Wine tourism is so big that the state designates October as Virginia Wine Month each year and celebrates with special events, tastings and tours. Virginia's picturesque wine trails make visiting wineries easy and fun. Virginia wineries that are open to the public are marked from the road with a designated Virginia Wine Tour road sign.

Summer is an excellent time to visit Virginia wineries for tastings and special events. In August alone there are more than 50 concerts, special tastings and celebrations at Virginia wineries across the state including the Beach Party Wine Festival at James River Cellars just north of Richmond, Blackberry Days Wine Festival at Tarara Winery in Northern Virginia, or the Black Dog Wine and Music Festival at Chateau Morrisette in Southwest Virginia.

For more information about Virginia's wineries and to start planning a visit, go to or call 1-800-932-5827 to request a 2007 Virginia Travel Guide.

Pindar and Fox Run Star at New York State Fair

Pindar Vineyards 2005 Johannisberg Riesling Ice Wine from Long Island took “Best of Show” honors at the recent New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. The Best of Category Awards went to Fox Run 2006 Riesling (white wine), Knapp 2005 Cabernet Franc (red), Chateau Frank 2000 Blanc de Noirs (sparkling), Torrey Ridge Scarlet Red (fruit),Atwater 2005 Celsius Chardonnay (dessert—shared with Pindar’s Ice Wine), Penguin Bay 2006 Rosé of Chamourcin (rosé/blush), and Goose Watch Classic Cream Sherry (fortified). All of the Best of Category were “Double Gold” medal winners, joined by Fox Run 2005 Dry Riesling, Glenora 2006 Pinot Blanc, Goose Watch Diamond, Knapp Superstition, Ospreys Dominion 2006 Gewurztraminer, Rooster Hill 2006 Traminette, Ventosa 2004 Merlot and 2003/2005 Pinot Noir.

Los Angeles Times Lauds Long Island Wines

Long Island wines recently got some nice press in the Los Angeles Times, where a tasting panel explored some wines of a few “other” states— Arizona , New York , and Texas —that often received high marks. The New York selection was all from Long Island , which is best known for Merlot and Chardonnay, but the panel was particularly struck with Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Among the panels favorite Long Island wines were three from Wolffer Estate, two each from Lenz and Paumanok, and one each from Channing Daughters, Jamesport, and Shinn Estate.

All Hail Essence From Eve's Cidery

In Canada there is a new type of cider they've been drinking for some time - iced cider. It is an ice wine made from apples and it is stupendous. I have reviewed one of them before.

But now, for the first time, an American winery is now making ice cider - Eve's Cidery, in Ithaca, New York. An it is an excellent iced cider.

Eve's Cidery is a small orchard and cidery nestled in the hills of the Finger Lakes region of New York State. They produe excellent ciders made with traditional cider apple varieties of English, French, and American origin.

According to Eve's, "At Eve’s Cidery we strive to be part of the small but growing bunch of artisan cider makers who are reviving this essential orchardists craft by producing beverages from distinct varieties and allowing for expression of vintage and terrior....Essence is an ice cider or intensified cider. We make it by allowing late harvest juice to freeze partially. As the juice freezes the water is separated out and the remaining juice is concentrated with high brix and intense flavors. Although ice ciders are wildly popular in Quebec and other parts of Canada, the Bureau of Alcohol in this country doesn’t have an ice cider category, yet."

Kathie Williams wrote in the Ithaca Journal, "Owner and operator of Eve's Cidery, the area's newest winery, Autumn Stoscheck, also an employee of Littletree Orchards and former agricultural student at Cornell University, said that while the business is not part of the orchards, she has had the idea of a cidery for several years."

"Every orchardist tends to have a barrel of hard cider in the back," Stoscheck said.

"She traveled to England where cider is a beverage category. While there, Stoscheck visited several cideries, took a class in processing cider and got so inspired that she cane back and decided she wanted to open her own cidery. Since the various ciders include alcohol, she also had to apply for a state liquor license, a process which took a year," wrote Williams.

As promised Essence delivers honey, caramel, apricot jam and juicy apples. And it is wonderfully tart. This ice cider is impressive as dessert itself. It also goes great with numerous things, like Stilton cheese and some apples, a creme brulee, biscotti or homemade cinnamon doughnuts.

Dominique and I were entertaining some guests in up state New York. The sun was out and the weather was beautiful. We made kabobs with organic beef bred and grown around the corner from our farm, skewered with onion, pepper, and organic mushrooms. We also had fresh Jersey (the tomatoes not yet being ready).

Afterwards, Dom served a raspberry-blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The dessert was superb, as the warm sn shone down upon us. And the wine went wonderfully.

I bought my bottle from a young woman at the Union Square Farmer's Market. You can buy one at he following places.

Sparrow's Fine Wines

Ithaca Farmers Market

Savoy Restaurant

Just a Taste Wine & Tapas Bar

The ABC Cafe

Applewood Restaurant

Gramercy Tavern

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Visit to The New York Wine & Culinary Center

"The New York Wine & Culinary Center is designed to engage, excite and inspire the people of New York State and the world in a celebration of New York wine and food. The Center is an educational and experiential gateway to New York State's incredible wine, food and culinary industries," states the introductory material to the center's webpage.

They are right.

I recently went to the center with Pam Horn of Sterling Publishng and Peter Briggs of the George Eastman House...both friends.

We went to the tasting room where we delighted in many different wines. Each of us tried different tasting menus and single glasses. Our affable pourer was Luke.

The center is rich and lush. The tasting room is breathtaking, the gift shops attractive, the theather beautiful, the view superb, and the food excellent. And there's a state of the art kitchen where you and 20 of your closest friends can whip up a storm in the ultimate dream kitchen, assisted by experienced chefs.

At the end of the night, me and my two guests were much pleased by our foray into the New York wine world. Each of us had some favorite glasses among the many wines we tatsed. Here are a few, in no particular order:

Millbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Millbrook Vineyards Merlot
White Springs Savignon Blanc
Glenora WIne Cellars Pinot Blanc
Sherwood House Chardonnay
Sheldrake Point Pinot noir
Goose Watch Lemberger
Raphael Merlot
Ravines Wine Cellars Meritage

If you go to the Finger Lakes and you don't visit the center, you're doing yourself an injustice!

New York Wine & Culinary Center
800 South Main Street
Canandaigua New York 14424
Tel (585) 394-7070 | Fax (585) 394-3037

Call for hours or dinner reservations.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Case of Brandywine

A divine dozen – from the vine
Judges based their decisions not on the 'best,' but on a group that 'best represented' region
BY ROGER MORRIS, Special to The News Journal

Wine writer Roger Morris tastes one of the 70 wines sampled during the compiling of The Case of Brandywine. (Buy photo)

The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO

Tom Hudson, owner of Domaine Hudson, tries a white wine.
If you had to choose 12 bottles -- a case of wine -- that best represented the quality and diversity of the wines made by the Brandywine region's seven wineries, what would they be?

Judges Nina Sygnecki, manager of the Wine and Spirit Co. of Greenville, and Tom Hudson, owner of Domaine Hudson's Wine Bar & Eatery in Wilmington, and I set out recently to do just that for the First News Journal Case of the Brandywine.

The results?

After first tasting 50 wines from the region's seven wineries, we started filling our 2007 Case of the Brandywine with a crisp sparkling wine, then added a pinot grigio, viognier, three chardonnays and a multi-varietal blend to complete the whites. For reds, we chose a lighter, food-friendly spicy blend, threw in a cabernet franc and finished with two proprietary blends made from Italian grape varieties. Oh yes, we did save room for dessert -- a moderately sweet muscat with lots of floral notes.

The total cost of the 2007 case is $289, an average of about $24 a bottle.

During the course of a year, local wineries produce at least 75 (most likely more) wines, some of which are seasonal, such as nouveau wines, and some of which quickly sell out. So we asked the winemakers to submit current releases that are available in their winery tasting rooms and outlets this summer, and the result was the 50 wines the judges tasted over a 90-minute period one recent morning.

As individual tastes vary, including those of the judges, our task was not to choose the "best" wines, but wines that we all could agree showed the area's quality and diversity. And we added another 14 "Bonus Bottles" that were given consideration for inclusion in the case. We did not consider prices in our sniffing, slurping and spitting.

Three wineries each had three bottles each in the case. Chaddsford Winery in Chadds Ford, Pa., the oldest producer in the region, was represented by its 2005 "Philip Roth" chardonnay, the 2005 Proprietor's Reserve red blend and the 2005 Rubino blend of Italian red varieties. Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pa., contributed its 2006 "Zafferano" pinot grigio, 2006 "La Prima Donna" white blend and its 2005 "Siranetta" syrah-dominated red blend. Pardocx Vineyard of Landenberg, Pa., also had three wines -- the 2005 "Old Stone" chardonnay, the 2005 viognier and the 2005 PDX muscat ottonel white dessert wine.

The remaining three wines were from Stargazers Vineyard, near Coatesville, Pa., which had two, and Kreutz Creek Vineyards in West Grove, Pa., with one entry. Stargazers' wines were a nonvintage brut traditional sparkling wine and a 2004 cabernet franc. Kreutz Creek rounded out the 12 with a 2004 chardonnay.

Folly Hill Vineyards of Longwood, Pa., was at somewhat of a disadvantage, as it only makes two wines, and its well-received chardonnay, most likely a Case contender, was already sold out and thus not eligible. Twin Brook Winery of Gap, Pa., was represented by two Bonus Bottle selections.

Both Sygnecki and Hudson said there were two or three of the wines that they would like to add to their inventory, although they did express concern that the prices may not always make some of the local wines competitive with those from other regions. But as many local wines are made in commercially small quantities -- fewer than 100 cases each for Va La's three winners -- they sell primarily to local fans who usually buy in the wineries' tasting rooms.

Hudson argued for including three chardonnays in the case. "If that's what the area can grow best, then that's what we should pick."

Sygnecki noted that some wineries had five to six white wines plus five to six reds. "You wonder if they should concentrate on fewer wines of higher quality," she said, but noted the region is young enough as a wine producer that it might still have to figure out what grapes make the best wines.

It also became clear during the post-tasting discussions that Va La proprietor Anthony Vietri's two white wines that went into the basket were very complex and enjoyable, while Chaddsford's proprietor Eric Miller made several notable reds.

All agreed that there seemed to be a "house style" to the Chaddsford reds -- ripe but not lush fruit, good balance, and noticeable, yet smooth, tannins.

Twin Brook and Kreutz Creek had some entries that were in the off-dry or lightly sweet style or that were made from very fragrant native American grapes. None made the case, yet some did make the Bonus Bottles categories. The judgment was that they were fairly well-made, yet not distinctive enough to be included.

The judges also noted that, chardonnay aside, many of the most interesting whites and reds were blends and not single varieties, which speaks well of the winemaking skills of the local vintners. As vineyards mature, single-variety or varietal wines often come into their own.

"I was pleased to find that the region makes a very nice sparkling wine," Sygnecki observed of the Stargazers bubbly, and the judges also thought the few dessert wines represented showed good flavor and balance.

There are no legal geographic appellations for the Brandywine region -- all are categorized simply as Pennsylvania wines -- and not all the wineries are strictly in the Brandywine River basin. But the term Brandywine region does reflect the popular description of the southern Chester County area.

All of the wineries in competition, except Stargazers, are part of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail (, which serves as the regional winery promotion and events council.

Chaddsford is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and Stargazers its 10th. The other five regional wineries have all begun production since 2000 or, in the case of Twin Brook, restructured during that period.

The Panel of Judges

ROGER MORRIS, whose Fine Wine column appears each Wednesday in The News Journal, has been writing about wine for almost 40 years and contributes regularly to magazines such as Saveur, Intermezzo, Beverage Media, Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier News and Drinks.

NINA SYGNECKI is manager of The Wine and Spirit Co. of Greenville. Sygnecki selects and purchases all the wine and spirits with the help of "my right arm," Mike Crayton. "I keep my staff involved," she says. "If they can't get behind something, they can't sell it."

TOM HUDSON is the owner of Domaine Hudson wine bar and eatery in Wilmington. He tastes and purchases all the wines for the restaurant and also runs its award-winning cheese program, where it has partnered with Artisanal Cheese of New York City.

Bonus Bottles: 2007 Case of the Brandywine

Other notable wines that caught the judges' attention include:

CHADDSFORD : 2005 "Naked" chardonnay, 2005 "Miller Estate" chardonnay, 2005 "Miller Estate" chambourcin, 2002 Merican red blend.

KREUTZ CREEK: 2005 steuben, nonvintage ruby "K" port.

PARADOCX: 2005 PDX "Haywagon" chardonnay, 2004 PDX reserve chardonnay, 2005 Fruit 52 "Yield" red wine, 2004 Fruit 52 "Merge" red blend.

TWIN BROOK: 2006 "Clocktower" traminette, 2005 "Mt. Vernon" reserve chardonnay.

VA LA: 2006 "Silk" red blend, 2004 "Black Label" nebbiolo.

Dr. Frank and Others Find New York Gold in Michigan

New York Gold was found in Michigan at the recent Great Lakes Wine Competition, where Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars dominated the medals with a Double Gold (2005 Cabernet Sauvignon) and 5 Golds (2000 Blanc de Blanc, 2005 Cabernet Franc, 2006 Gewurztraminer, 2006 Pinot Gris, and 2006 Dry Riesling). Wagner Vineyards also earned Double Gold for its 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling, and Gold medals went to Fulkerson 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Hazlitt White Stag and 2005 Pinot Noir, Hunt Country 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling and 2006 Vignoles, Keuka Spring 2005 Riesling, and Lamoreaux Landing 2006 Gewurztraminer. In the 2007 Northeast Big E Gold Wine Competition, Hazlitt led the New York charge with a Double Gold for White Cat (voted Best New York and Best Grape Wine) and Golds for White Stag and 2006 Riesling. Pazdar also got a Double Gold for Hot Sin and Gold for Summer’s Ecstasy; Dr. Frank got Double Gold for 2006 Rkatsiteli and Gold for 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling; and Hunt Country got Gold for its 2006 Vignoles.

Profiles of Maryland WInemakers Fred Wilson and Carl DiManno

Fred Wilson, Elk Run Vineyards
Mt. Airy is home to some of the state's most historic wineries, but also, one of the most award-winning winemakers in Maryland wine history. Elk Run Vineyards' Fred Wilson pursued an education in engineering before entering a 30-year career in the field as a naval architect with the U.S. Navy. Fred always had an interrest in wine, but he found this interest growing into a new career in the early '80s. Fred studied winemaking in France, Germany and in New York's famed Vinifera Wine Cellars under the instruction of Dr. Konstantine Frank – one of American wine's luminaries.

In 1983, Fred Wilson took the plunge and opened Elk Run Vineyards with his wife Carol. Continuing his engineering career, Fred remained director of the Naval Science Assistance Program with the US Navy until 1994, when he officially "retired" into the wine business.

Since then, Fred has won the Maryland Governor's Cup three times, and has won many gold and silver medals in international wine competitions. He has served as Maryland Wineries Association president and continues to be heavily involved in helping to grow the industry.

While focusing on growing quality fruit, Elk Run Vineyards has also pioneered certain grape varieties in Maryland, including Pinot Noir, Malbec and Gewurztraminer.

Carl DiManno, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
In 1997, Carl DiManno left Shell Oil in Louisiana to join Chevron Chemical in Northern California. While living in Oakland, Carl was “bitten” by the wine bug, often spending three weekends a month in the wine country. Soon after, he began to explore ways to get into the industry. These appear to include buying a vineyard, working up from the bottom as a “cellar rat” or going back to school. After careful review, Carl opted to pursue a Masters degree from the University of California at Davis (UCD).

While at Davis, Carl studied winemaking and conducted his research on the impact of micro-oxidation on the sensory characteristics of red wine. During the harvest of 2002, at Artesa Vineyards and Winery, under the tutelage of noted winemaker Don van Staaveren. His other winery experiences included DeSante Wines and Vine Cliff along with providing technical expertise to Winesecrets, a Napa based wine technology company.

As native east coasters, Carl and his wife Erin wanted to move “home.” In 2004, Carl started at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard as vineyard manager. At the end of 2004, Carl began designing the winery and he served as winemaker for subsequent harvests. Carl remains active on the research side of the industry, reviewing grant proposals for American Vineyard Foundation and Viticultural Consortium – East and retains a small ownership stake in Winesecrets.