Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New York Wines Bring Home California Gold!

NEW YORK GOLD was recently found in southern California at Jerry Mead’s New World International Wine Competition, with the Peterson family’s winery trio leading the charge with Best of Class/Double Gold for Penguin Bay Tuxedo White, Double Gold for Penguin Bay 2007 Riesling, and Gold medals for Penguin Bay Percussion, Goose Watch Pinot Noir, and Swedish Hill 2007 Excelcia.

Congrats to all the folks at Swedish Hill.

Pindar Vineyards 2007 Riesling from the North Fork of Long Island also got a Gold, and New York wineries received many Silver and Bronze medals as well.

Wine Spectator's James Molesworth Awards to Scores of 90 or Better to Herman J. Wiemer

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard received great reviews by The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth with a 91 for the 2007 Dry Riesling (Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard), a 90 for the 2007 Dry Riesling (Magdalena Vineyard), and 89 each for the 2007 Riesling Dry Reserve, and 2007 Riesling Late Harvest.

Congrats to all the folks at Hermann J. Wiemer!

Monday, March 16, 2009

LaBelle Winery - New Hampshire - Wins Best Winery - 2008 Big E

Big E awards are under reported by this blogger, but one does need to step up and take notice every once in a while.

I humbly submit my apologies to my childhood home region (having been raise largely in Connecticut).

But here's a tip of the the hat to a new winery - LaBelle Winery of New Hampshire.

LaBelle Winery is situated atop Chestnut Hill in Amherst, New Hampshire. "We... hope to demystify the winemaking process through educational opportunities, both hands on and through seminars," sates the website. "Our wines reflect the orchard spirit and are made with grapes and other fruits all grown New Hampshire or New England. The fruits are picked at their peak and then pressed and fermented the same day, resulting in an exceptionally fresh, balanced wine. While fermenting at very low temperatures to retain the fruity qualities, we pay close attention to our acid and residual sugar balance. The results: fresh, crisp, fruity wine that reflects closely its original fruit and that is easy to enjoy with friends and family."

At the Big E They walked away with these medals:
Jalapeño Pepper Wine *SILVER MEDAL WINNER*
Spicy Fresh Bold...Made from local jalapeño peppers, this wine is excellent in salsas, marinades, dips, guacamole, dressings, fajitas and especially good as a vodka substitute a Bloody Mary! This wine is very hot and spicy so drink at your own risk!

Decadent Bold Addictive...Be prepared to challenge your preconceptions of fruit wine ! This sinfully good wine is sweet but not cloying, intense but soft. The texture is clean, medium-bodied, and ripe, with seductive aromas of fresh raspberries. This wine smells as good as it tastes. Excellent with chocolate, fresh fruit and cheese, or cheesecake, or simply sip as dessert itself. Drink at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Crisp Sweet-Tart Fresh...This refreshing wine is the perfect balance of light sweetness and tart cranberry. Made from 100% New England cranberries, this wine’s brilliant red color and bright flavor entice, while the flavor compliments a wide variety of food pairings. Especially good with traditional holiday meals, this easy to drink wine is also wonderful at all friendly gatherings served by itself, slightly chilled.

I haven't yet had any of their wine, but they deserve props, as they held off many other, better established wineries in the region.

Let's go explore, people!

Wineries Unlimited - A Success for 2009

Having gone, traveled, digested both food and wine - and information, I am trying to see what I saw. A few notes:

1. Tasted some great wines. Jefferson Vineyards, always a solid winery, has continued to surprise over the last few years. Their chardonnay and viongier are some of the best the east coast has to offer. And their reds are nice too! Really taking a big step forward as one of the better programs on the east coast.

2. Cautious optimism was the theme of he show. Most wineries had a good to very good year last year. And liquor sales are up. People are being cautious with their money, but everyone is slightly optimistic.

3. Sustainability was the key word. Tim Martinson and Karen Ross both spoke on the subject. Tim Martinson is Senior Extension Associate with the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, where he leads the Statewide Viticulture Extension Program. Since 1996, Karen Ross has been president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). CAWG's mission is to improve the profitability of its members and the reputation of California wine through unified, proactive grower advocacy of sound public policies, research and education programs, and best business and environmental practices. She also serves as Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America.

4. The boxed wine packaging booth rarely saw a lag in interest. Places like Terrapin Station and others have inspired some winemakers to inquire as to the machinery and equipment necessary. In the end, it is a great way o separate promotional wines from the higher end product for medium-to-large east coast wineries. This has never been more true for the bigger New York wineries, who are confronting grocery store possibilities, whether they want them or not.

5. Marquette was the buzz word grape of the show. But personally, I liked the Frontenac Gris much, much better. Both from Minnesota. Looks like Minnesota is currently grabbing a lot of the headlines for its hybrids over other university programs.

6. The Mason-Dixon Line might become one of the next most exciting wine regions on the east coast. Wineries in Pennsylvania and Maryland are popping up throughout there. It could be something very interesting to watch five or six years from now, if trends in better winemaking escalate and growth in the region continues.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

People, People, People at Wineries Unlimited

We saw a lot of people at Wineries Unlimited. From the famous to the not so famous. But for the folks who were there you would hear it was a hard working show. Other faces included Art Hunt, Richard Olsen-Harbich, Steve Mudd, Doug Glorie, Michael Migliore, and numerous other folks. Here's a few I did record.

Dick Naylor, Naylor Vineyards and Naylor Packaging

Peter Bell, winemaker, Fox Run Vineyards

Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge

Karen Ross, Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America

Kevin Atticks, Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association

Dr. Randy Worobo, Cornell University

Dr. Anna Katharine Mansfield, Cornell University

Tony Trigo of Clermont Vineyards, Hudson Valley

Peter Hemstad od St. Croix, Minnesota

Jason Grizzanti of Warwick Valley Vineyards, Hudson Valley

The famed wine writer and publisher Hudson Cattel and Wine Appreciation Guild owner Elliott Mackey

Mike Fiori, Fiori Vineyards, Maryland

Carlo DeVito, editor, East Coast Wineries

Woodhall Cabernet Franc

Woodhall was established in 1983 as a boutique family winery dedicated to producing fine table wine for the Mid-Atlantic region from Maryland. Steady growth throughout the years has expanded the line of wines from an initial offering of five varieties to today's standard offering of twelve varieties, plus several limited-quantity speciality wines available seasonally.

At the recent Wineries Unlimited, I was listening to Karen Ross, who since 1996 has been president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). As we were eating our lunch and sipping some red wine with the meat dish, I tasted something wonderful, and looked for the bottle on the table. It was the Woodhall Cabernet Franc 2007.

It's a light-bodied, dry, red wine, blended in the "chinon" style. It's soft and luscious as promised. Nice low key hints of cherry. Nice finish. Very nice!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Truro Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2006

Truro Vineyards pioneered the art of maritime grape growing on the Cape, and their vinifera vineyard produces wine with intense flavor and lush varietal character. They open our doors each season to wine lovers from around the world who visit the tasting room and gift shop in our carefully restored 1830's farmhouse.

The Roberts family dreamed of owning and operating a vineyard together for years. Dave Roberts spent more than 40 years in the fine wine and spirits industry, 20 as the CEO of the multi-state distribution giant United Liquors. When he retired from that position in 2006, he and his family became even more determined to make that dream come true, and they acquired the winery in March of 2007.

The family will be hands-on owners with Dave and his wife Kathy Roberts as the general managers. Their son David Roberts Jr.-formerly a successful brewer in Atlanta, GA-will assist with vineyard management and winemaking, working alongside Matyas Vogel, a wine maker at Truro Vineyards since 2004. Daughter-in-law Amy Roberts is responsible for finance and administration. Daughter Kristen Roberts is in charge of sales and marketing and, and another daughter, Stephanie Roberts Hartung, a professor at Suffolk University Law School, is also an owner.

The Roberts family's plan for Truro Vineyards is simultaneously practical and visionary. It's important for the new owners to maintain the success the winery has enjoyed for the past 15 years as a landmark on the seaswept easternmost end of Cape Cod. Every summer, thousands of wine lovers tour the vineyard and winery to enjoy both the educational and the tasting experience. Thanks to modern wine making technologies available almost for the first time, there are plans to reach beyond the estate grapes, to make expressive, individualistic wines from some of America's finest wine regions.

2006 Truro Vineyards Cabernet Franc is $15.99. The winemakers are Matyas Vogel/David Roberts Jr. It's 100% Cabernet Franc. The grapes were handpicked, crushed and fermented in open vats in the traditional Loire style. Prolonged skin contact for optimal color, flavor and tannin extraction. The wine was barrel aged 20 months in American oak. Alcohol 12.5%

According to the Tasting Notes read, "Cabernet Franc is the signature varietal of Truro Vineyards. Open vat fermentation, extended maceration and 18 months barrel aging all contribute to rich varietal fruit flavors and herbal tannins. This tasty dry red wine is best served with beef, pork and varied roasted dishes."

I was pleasantly surprised. The winery has been so popular for a kong time for very drinkable, summery, light, sweet and semi-sweet wines. So I approached this Cabernet Franc with some trepidation. But my fears were soon allayed. t had lots of fresh fruit up front, with cherries, both light and dark, and some pronounced vanilla. Nice tannins and structure. A very serious, drinkable Cabernet Franc!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Steve Mudd-Richard Olsen-Harbich Sighting

This is a rare sighting...A close-up shot of Richard Olsen-Harbich (of Raphael fame...as well as many other accomplishments) and Steve Mudd of Mudd Vineyards (of Long Island vineyard management fame) out on the town at Wineries Unlimited, accompanied by friend Phil, who also works with Steve. Not too many up-close pictures of these guys on the web, especially Mudd. Here you go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. Croix Vineyards Port from Minnesota

Founded in 1992, Saint Croix Vineyards has grown to become one of Minnesota's largest and best known wineries. Owners Paul Quast and Peter Hemstad invite you to stop out, try our wines, and take a stroll through our picturesque vineyards. Our rustic tasting room in a restored century-old barn is open each year from mid-April to December 31st and is located just west of scenic Stillwater.

Peter Hemstad

One of the things that was pointed out to me by Dr. Anna Katherine Mansfield (formerly of Minnesota, now of Cornell) was their deep Frontenac port. This rich wine was aged in oak barrels and exhibits notes of chocolate, vanilla, cherry, and cranberry. Sold in our tasting room and select retailers and restaurants. It was worth a try. And wow! A big, deep port. Lots of cassis. Lots of acidity. Big and flavorful. A wonderful, wonderful wine.

Plymouth Winery Raspberry

The Plymouth Winery specializes in intensely-flavored fruit and grape wines, ranging from Apple and Cranberry to Syrah and Raspberry. Their grape wines are traditionally crafted using wild yeasts, which allows them to minimize the types and amounts additives (sulfites) typically utilized to control the fermentation process and to stabilize the wine. Their grape wines are cold-stabilized during the New England winter. Locally grown cranberries are used to make their signature Cranberry Wine and Cranberry Blush. Their grape wines are made with both New York and California varietals.

Massachusetts based winemaker and owner, Linda Shumway, has won four medals in the last two years. Award-winning wines include a Chardonnay blend, Raspberry, Blueberry, and Blackberry. Linda was a multi-medal winner at the Big E state fair!

I tried the Gold Medal Winner Raspberry. I was worried it might be too cloyingly sweet. But it was not as sweet as I thought, with lots of fresh fruit and acidity to balance out such a big, flavorful wine, with a rich berry taste. Great to use for a kir or kir royale. Nice job!


Nimble Hill Vidal Riesling 2007

The Winery is owned by Gary and Ellie Toczko and is the definition of a "family" winery. The Toczko’s have four children, daughter Mya, and triplets, Maggie, Haley (daughters), and Jacob (son). The family also includes Jillian, a golden retriever that likes to eat grape skins and help in the vineyard. Gary and Ellie opened the winery to have a business where they can work with and alongside their family, whether it be tending vines, crushing grapes, making wine, or minding the tasting room in Tunkhannock.

Gary Toczko, Owner

The varieties currently planted at Nimble Hill are, Edelweiss, St. Croix, Landot Noir, and Riesling. There are plans to plant additional acreage of Riesling and other varieties, such as Vidal and Lemberger.

The 2007 Nimble Hill Vidal Riesling is a wonderful wine. 80% Vidal Blanc and 20% Riesling results in a clean crisp white wine. Refreshing. Delicious. A real winner and a nice blend!

Grovedale Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Grovedale is a brand new winery located in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. It is owned by Kim and Jeff Homer.

Winemaker Jeff

Grovedale Winery, just opened in September 2008. The winery has five acres of vines and 10 varieties of wine. This winery offers many different flavors and styles of wines. From dry wines to sweet wines they have it all.

The winery is also home to one of the biggest winery's in Northeast Pennsylvania know as the Wyalusing Valley Wine Festival. This festival offers wine tasting food and dancing with over thirteen winery's from Northeast Pennsylvania showing up. At the winery they also feature art by local artists.

The Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was a big surprise to me. There are more and more wineries opening up along the Mason-Dixon line, and it is slowly becoming a very solid wine region. This Cab showed beautifully. Lots of dark fruit. Nice acidity. Good tannins. A big, fruity wine, with lots of depth, and a nice,dry finish. Very nice.

Congratulations Kim and Jeff.

For directions:

p.s. special thanks to Brie for allowing me to borrow her photos to promote her aunt and uncle's winery!

Baren Ridge Touriga

After almost 30 years in management at Philip Morris—several of those spent in Europe and the Middle East—John and Shelby Higgs decided it was time to come home to the Shenandoah Valley. Growing up on the apple orchard that his grandfather purchased in 1934, John dreamed of far-away places, but as his children grew and his family’s farm became overgrown with weeds, John began to think of returning home. Living in Switzerland exposed him to European wines and the centuries-old traditions of grape growing and winemaking.

Located on the family’s former apple orchard, Barren Ridge Vineyards is now home to Augusta County’s premier winery. John and Shelby Higgs converted their old apple barn into a state-of-the-art winery, preserving the original structure and wood beams.

I was introduced to this wine by Richard Leahy. The 2007 Touriga won a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Atlantic Seaboard Competition and at the 2009 Virginia Governor's Cup. The grapes were harvested on September 28, 2007. And the winery produced 235 cases.
Release Date: April 2008. The winery's notes: "This rich, full bodied red is round and velvety with bright cherry and currant. Perfect served with steaks and bold enough to compliment rich dishes such as steak au poivre or osso buco."

Bartholomew Broadbent wrote in Forbes magazine: "Touriga nacional is a common grape in Portugal, both for port and dry reds. Broadbent tried this particular wine when making selections for an "America versus the best from elsewhere" tasting, and was "blown away" by this touriga from Virginia. "An attractive smoky nose, it had great length and was delicious. And only 13%. Bravo!"

Yes, yes, and yes, to all of the above! A big, deep, brooding wine. Touriga? What an interesting choice. Deep, dark fruits. Not too much tannin. Big mouthfeel. And well done. A very impressive wine.

Barrel Oak Cabernet Franc

According to their website, "In 2006 Sharon and Brian Roeder moved to the Blue Ridge foothills on the rural side of Northern Virginia. There, working closely with their trusted yet loopy Golden Retriever, Barley, they have initiated their diabolical plot to wean all from their “crack-berries” and extraordinarily long commutes by providing them with idyllic and pastoral tranquility in the cooling foothills of the Piedmont Mountains. Spreading their joyful and grapey evil far and wide, they have created a veritable den of wine pleasures designed to trap everyone under the spell of their extraordinary patio views and whimsically-built winery. The wine ain’t that bad either."

Sharon and Brian Roeder

The estate-grown varieties include Traminette, Seyval Blanc, Merlot, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. They also have Virginia grapes from some of the finest surrounding vineyards from which they make Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.

The Cabernet Franc is what concerns us here. I tasted this wine with three different winemakers all of whom were impressed. Big,deep flavors from this wine were impressive. Dark fruits. Touches of cassis. Nice oak ad tannins. Very, very impressive showing. A very, very nice wine.


Foggy Ridge Hard Cider

According to their wehsite, Malus domestica, the cultivated apple, has always intertwined with human life. The Romans brought the domestic apple to England; colonists took cultivated apples to America as early as 1623. In colonial America fermented cider was the drink of choice. John Adams attributed his health and long life to a tankard of cider before breakfast. Thomas Jefferson was famous for the champagne-like cider he created from the Virginia Hewe's Crab. Up until the early 20th century most rural root cellars held a cask or two of "Sunday Cider".

Chuck and Diane Flynt in a rare moment of repose.

At Foggy Ridge Cider they aim to revive the artisan cidermaking tradition. They harvest ripe apples from our three orchards and craft small batches of carefully selected cider blends. Each season is different, and our ciders vary from year to year. The cidermaker is intimately involved in all aspects of the orchard and Cider House from grafting and pruning to picking and blending.

The hard cider is very much like taking big bite out of a crisp apple. There's lots fo bright apple fruit, lots of wonderful acidity, and the final product finihses with dry, champagne style sparkling wine. A very fine, bright sparkling wines. Excellent!

Jefferson Vineyards Viogier, Pinot Gris, and Meritage

So, first table I stopped at tonight was Virgina. Gee, I wonder how you could tell.

Three fabulous wines here: Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Meritage.

In 2008 I raved about the Viongier. How could I not rave about it again? Especially when it's just as aromatic and just as fabulous. Awesome! As far as I am concerned, the ultimate Viogier.

Pinot Gris
Melons and lemon peel on the nose, followed by bright, polished acidity carrying flavors of the same, as well as honeysuckle and grapefruit. An elegant wine! Really fine. Also won Double Gold, International Eastern Wine Competition 2008 and Silver Medals, including the Finger Lakes International, Monticello Cup, Lodi Wine Awards, Atlantic Seaboard and Tasters Guild International Wine Competition.

Last but not least is the Meritage red. Vintage 2007. The 2006 edition of this wine was 37% Cabernet France, 30% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Produced from just less than 25% of the total red wine harvest, the 2006 Meritage balanced intense, sweet, palate-saturating red and black fruits with a delicacy rarely found in Bordeaux blends. I am assuming that the 2007 edition worked as hard, if not in the same exact amounts, to achieve it's incredible taste. The 2007 was absolutely as good as it's predecessor. Touches of cassis, espresso and chocolates can be found. Nice tannins and acid make for a balanced wine. Won Gold Medal at Tasters Guild International Wine Competition and Silver Medals at Finger Lakes International, Indy International, Atlantic Seaboard and San Diego International Wine Competitions.

Wineries Unlimited Welcome Reception 2009

Well, if ever regionality stood fast, it hopefully wasn't represented in the Independence Ballroom at the Valley Forge Convention Center this night. The ballroom was packed with fast disappearing canepes and hundreds of bottles echoing with the sounds of corks popping.

From deep reds to light sweet ights, from ports, to dry, elegant whites, wines were being poured from the Carolinas to New England. We discovered soem fun new wines...and me some great people.

Let the tasting begin!


So I came to the Philadelphia/Valley Forge area to attend Wineries Unlimited. While in town, I stopped by the King of Prussia Mall. I had to make a stop for my day job (a store visit to a customer), and to stop at Clover Hill. This well known Pennsylvania winery has had a maall destination for little over nine years. And I've been coming here since 2002, on and off, and so I decided to stop by.

The store was choc-a-bloc with wine knick-knacks and other sundry items. It is a handsome and well maintained store. I have seen it during the holiday season - it's enough to give any winery owner incredible pangs of envy.

But what of the wine?

Well, I was on a personal mission of my own, but decided to try a few things, and be open minded. I tried the Niagra, a wine not unknown to me. It was classic, with that big, grapey smell, and fresh fruit flavor. Hand squeezed grapes in a glass. Very nice. I also tried a DeChanauc. It was a deep purpley red, finished semi-sweet. I am not a big sweet red drinker, but I had my reasons. In all, it wasn't bad, and I could see why it might be a popular wine.

But the biggest and mosst pleasant surprise were the 2005 Chambourcin and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. The chambourcin was delicious. A sophisticated light-to-medium bodied, dry red wine. Nice cherry notes. A touch of vanilla. A dry finish. Very smooth.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was not of the California ilk. But it was lovely nonetheless. It also exhibited touches of vanilla and beautiful ruby color. A nice touch of tannin. A medium-bodied dry red wine. A very good food wine.

I bought two bottles of the Chambourcin (a very impressive version of the grape), and headed off to find the nearet Spencers (after all, I am at mall).