Sunday, November 29, 2009


Lately, the Hudson Valley has been garnering a lot of great ink, and deservedly so. First, Michael and Yancey Migliore's Whitecliff Vineyards received a rave review from the Wall Street Journal. But there's also been lot's of other people either discovering or re-discovering the great quality, artisanal wines and spirits being crafted in the valley.

ARRIVE magazine (December) did a wonderful piece on Brotherhood Winery, available now on all Amtrak trains in the North East.

EDIBLE HUDSON VALLEY (Fall issue)highlighted Harvest Spirits and Core Vodka, as well as many of the cool new concoctions they are coming up with.

THE VALLEY TABLE (December- February) highlighted the successes of the distillers of the Hudson Valley - Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery (brandies and eau d'vie); Tuthilltown Distillers (whiskey, bourbon, rye); and Harvest Spirits (apple vodka; apple jack). And the magazine also did a nice profile of Ben Feder, formerly of Clinton Vineyards, who recently passed way. And they also did a nice write up of Hudson-Chatham's Empire 2007.

EDIBLE MANHATTAN (Nov/Dec) highlighted Hudson-Chatham Winery's 2007 Baco Noir Reserve.

(Sorry for the shameless self-promotion)

There's lots of good things going on in the Valley.

Friday, November 27, 2009


So, here's the second recommendation from our recent sojourn to visit my brother-in-law - Snow Farm Winery 07 Estate Leon Millot.

First off, I'm a little late to this party. Snow Farm Winery has already been mentioned in such prestigious pubications as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler magazine, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Hartford Courant, and Edible Green Mountains just to name a few. They've lso been featured on the local CBS affiliate WCAX.

Molly and Harrison Lebowitz say, "We're often asked if we are the owners. Actually, the bank is the owner, but they're letting us play here for the next twenty years, or so."

Patrick Barrelet is the winemaker, with a degree in oeneology from the University of Dijon, in Burgundy, France. Assistant winemaker is Abraham Jakobus Burger Badenhorst also has the same degree, but it and he hail from Stellenbosch, South Africa. And Mel is the queen of the tasting room. She runs a friendly and appealing tasting bar.

Vermont’s first commercial grape vineyard has been “aging” nicely for 13 years. The winery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tours and tastings, but it’s best experienced in concert with live music outdoors on Thursday evenings. Weather permitting, Snow Farm brings in popular local acts such as Sandra Wright, Jenni Johnson and the Phil Abair Band to complement the sunset. The area’s spectacular Island Ice Cream is also available. The flavors reflect whatever’s being harvested locally that week.

The '07 Estate Leon Millot has won a Silver Medal at the 2008 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition.

The wine is rich, red, deep, with a touch of oak. A smooth, medium boddied red. Very drinkable. A great table wine beautiful to stand up to any kind of poultry, pork, pasta, or stew. A realy treasure. Easilly one of the best Leon Millot's I've ever had. And it's estate!!!!

Snow Farm Winery
190 West Shore Road, South Hero, VT, 05486

Run don't walk...a great find for the holidays!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


So, we were on the road to Vermont to visit to my brother-in-law Robin Hoover, the chef at the Alchemist over in Waterbury, to see him for a little pre-Thanksgiving Day celebrating. But the road was long and winding. And for a second time Dawson, our son, insisted we stop at a gas station. We pulled into a Gulf Station, and Dominique insisted I accompany him in.

With a Arggggh and Umpfff, I got out of the van, packed solid with food, dog, bedding, cases of wine, and what not, and enteed the mini-mart. What I thought would hold milk and bread, etc. was in fact a package store. And they had local wines. My favorite!

So I bought six bottles of local wine before Dawson could get the key, use the facilities, and make it back with the key to the manager. Boom!

So we get to Robin’s house and unpack the 1,000 things in the car, and we make for the doors. Fifteen minutes later, cheeses, breads, and other exotic food stuffs.

And out I pull a bottle of Big Red Barn from Boyden Valley Winery.

The winery is owned by David and Linda Boyden. Located in a restored 1875 carriage barn on our family farm, the Boyden Valley Winery is steeped in the culture and agricultural heritage of Vermont’s Green Mountains. From 8000 grapevines and 100 acres of maple trees, lovingly tended by our family for four generations, we craft wines that feature only the finest locally grown fruit from the loamy soils of the Lamoille River Valley. The care with which we’ve nurtured the Boyden Farm for 100 years lends itself to traditional winemaking techniques, producing wines clean to the palate and balanced.

Vermont’s signature barns make a statement, and this one is no exception. Big Barn Red is their most popular table wine. Made from Frontenac grapes resilient enough to stand up to the cold, Big Barn Red is a bold, well-balanced wine similar to a Bordeaux with high tannin and overtones of black raspberries and black currant.

It was deep, dark, and well balanced. A nice nose, with lots of raspberry, the wine had lots of dark fruit up front, and a nice smooth finish. A really, really pleasant surprise. I was really happy I’d bought two bottles of that! One goes into the cellar!

A great find and a wonderful big red table wine. Very, very nice.

Something to be thankful for!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


What if you took pictures of all the dogs of all the wineries in New York State and made it a book? Well, Andrea Jacoby and Marjorie Adams took the photos, and Elaine Riordan told their stories, and now it really is a book.

And it's a great book, featuring the hounds of the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and central New York.

Cinder and Chief of Hudson-Chatham Winery

Sullivan of Glorie Farm Winery

Abby of Millbrook

Stonewall of Warwick Valley Winery

This is a great and fun book. Perfect for the New York Wine Region lover in your life!
Perfect for the holidays!
Available now at all participating wineries.


So, we had a New York State Pinot Noir throw down on Sunday night. David Jackson, Sales Director at Hudson-Chatham Winery, and director of Ripertoli Wine Adventures, and is a wine educator, and his wife Kathy had just come back from a trip to the Finger Lakes and then Ashville, North Carolina. And David was crowing about his new find (via Lenndevours) of Heart and Hands Winery’s Pinot Noir.

I too had been drawn to a new Pinot, I had been intrigued by, Rooster Hill. Now David and I are avid New York wine fans, as are our respective spouses, Kathy and Dominique. I was curious about his wine, and he was curious about mine. We got together Sunday, and decided to have a tasting – Rooster Hill and Heart and Hands. Kathy made a stew. We had some hearty fresh-baked bread from a local artisanal baker, and off we went.

Now, I must preface this by saying that my two favorite New York state Pinot Noirs are by Jamesport in Long Island and Oak Summit, in the Hudson Valley. So I was eager to see what these two had in store for us.

Rooster Hill is owned by Amy and David Hoffman. Their goal is to offer a Tuscan-inspired experience on Lake Keuka in the Finger Lakes. Visitors all seem to love the Tuscan-inspired tasting that affords tremendous views of sloping vineyards and a vista offering the lake’s beauty as well. “Producing wines of character and temperament, where you can distinguish all the most genuine and delicate scents of their land is at the core of our philosophy.”

Hearts and Hands is owned by Tom and Susan Higgins. Tom is a graduate of Hazllit 1852 Vineyyards, and Zachy’s Wine & Liquor in NYC. “Heart & Hands Wine Company is located in a serene setting overlooking the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. We are committed to producing cool-climate wines which authentically express the unique character of the Finger Lakes. Our production is quite small - currently under 800 cases, which allows for an intense focus on quality. Our intent is to produce food-friendly wines, and we offer several wines crafted from Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes for your enjoyment.”

So, both have a commitment to quality and terroir. This was going to be interesting. David texted Lenn about our impromptu showdown, as it were.

We drank the two wines side by side in identical glasses. We decided we would taste before the meal, and then do another tasting during the meal to see how they matched up during the meal with food.

It was apparent right from the beginning that these were two completely different styled Pinot Noirs. Rooster Hill was lighter and more of a dark garnet color, and Heart and Hands was darker, deeper in color.

On the nose, in the beginning, the Rooster Hill 2007 Estate Pinot Noir seemed more obvious or pronounced. Rooster Hill offered deep cherry and strawberry flavors on the nose and tongue. Touches of caramel and coffee were also hinted at as promised. It was a lovely, chewy red wine with expressively soft tannins as advertised. This was an excellent Pinot with tremendous character and a beautiful nose.

The Heart and Hands was a different experience all together. Firstly, rather than the traditional plastic/foil capsule and cork, Heart and Hands’s packaging was incredible. It was sealed in a deep red wax, and there was no cork. Instead, Heart and Hands uses VinoSeal closure which is a glass stopper, ringed in a plastic seal which acts as a sealing gasket. Great packaging! Loved it!

Where the Rooster Hill was estate, the Heart and Hands was not. The Heart & Hands 2007 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown by Sawmill Creek Vineyard on Seneca Lake within New York’s Finger Lakes Viticultural Area. The nose was not immediately apparent when we first opened the bottle and poured the wine. But it did become more pronounced as we let it swirl around in the glass. It was big and deep and dark, deep reds and purples, and I was surprised they had such tremendous color extraction with only 11 days of fermentation. We gave it a little extra time. Then there were aromas of black cherry, blackberry and coffee. It was a much deeper wine. It reminded me of several California Pinots when I smelled it again. David and Kathy and Dominique agreed. Kathy noted that some nutmeg and/or cinnamon flavors were in there. And Dominique agreed.

There is no question, that if you like a Robert Parker, California-styled fruit bomb, Heart Hands is your wine. And I do like those kinds of wines. I would easily put it up against almost anything except a Kistler Pinot Noir or a Clos D’Tart – save that, the Heart and Hands, as a single wine, is a huge, big, beautiful, deep pinot. Wow!

There were 146 cases of Heart in Hands, and the maximum number bottles allowed per person by the winery is six, which if you buy six, come in a wooden case.

The two wines were not indeed comparable. They were totally different, and we all liked them both very much!

But then things got intense. Now the question was, how would the Oak Summit fare against these two wines? Or even the Jamesport? I was about to bring up one of each to the tasting, but the group objected. One would be enough. Thus, being Valley people, bring it on. So up came John Bruno’s Oak Summit 2007 Pinot Noir.

John’s wine was excellent as I had recalled. Stylistically, as a wine it was somewhere between the two other styles. It offered the pronounced strawberry of Rooster Hill and the deeper, darker fruits of the Heart & Hands. Tremendous!

Kathy ladled out the stew, with nice chunks of piping hot beef, slices of orange carrot, and small diced potatoes, along with onion and celery. It has been cooking all day long. The aromas were intoxicating.

We all dug in for a few minutes to cleanse our palates and fill ourselves with sustenance. The bread was dipped in the hit, steaming bowls, and the aromas filled our large country kitchen.

Now came the tasting with food. All three were excellent with the meal. The Rooster Hill and Oak Summit was an excellent accompaniment. They complimented the food beautifully. To me, the Heart & Hands was too big, and was mismatched with the food. I think I would prefer some grilled meat with it. Grilled pork. Even steak. A grilled Portobello mushroom. Tom and Susan suggest beef bourguignon. Mmmmmm.

And of course they all go great with turkey!!!! Especially around the holidays!

Regardless, here is a list of the best Pinot Noirs on the East Coast…and I would put them up against anything….

Heart in Hands
Oak Summit
Rooster Hill
Dr. Konstantin Frank
McGregor Vineyards

David Jackson

Monday, November 23, 2009


The other night I came home, and surprisingly, I was early for a change. It was a nice moment. Dominique asked me to grill pork chops, while she made homemade macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli.

We decided to go down to the cellar and find something to go along with the evening’s repast. I opened a bottle of Blue Mountain Blue Heron Meritage 2005.

I poured two glasses. Dominique sipped hers as she continued making the meal, and I sipped mine standing over the grill, wine glass in hand, watching the flames dance. The sun had already set, and there was a slight chill in the air. But the fire was warm, and the crackling, sizzling meat kept my attention easily.

I remember I had my first bottle of Blue Mountain back in the late 1990s, I think it was 1998. And met them at the Pennsylvania wine festival in 1999.

Joe and Vickie planted their first vines in 1986 in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, in New Tripoli, PA. They planted 5 acres of French Hybrid varietals, including Chambourcin, Vignoles, and Vidal Blanc. In 1988 they established another 5 acres, planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. And they continued planting more grapes on their 50 existing acres.

In Fall 1997, Blue Mountain Vineyards purchased a parcel of land that carries with it a significant historical background dating back to pre-Revolutionary War. In fact, the land has been accepted in the National Register of Historical Places! Spring of 1998 Joe and Vickie planted 20 acres of mostly vinifera grapes with the addition of Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Riesling vines. The winery's plan is to continue to plant vineyards over the next few years, which will bring the total acreage to 100 acres. In the Spring of 2007 they constructed a winemaking facility and have established a new winery - Leaser Lake Vineyards!

Today, they have their main tastingroom in the Lehigh Valley as well as four winery extension tasting rooms: Coventry Mall, Willow Grove, Hershey, and Reading. I have watched with wonder and amazement and envy as they have grown their business.

But they have improved their winemaking as well. And the Blue Mountain Blue Heron 2005 is a testament to fine winemaking in Pennsylvania. This Red Meritage® (it is an official Meritage) is an estate wine made from 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Merlot grapes. The free run of these grapes were fermented separately, blended together, and aged in new French oak barrels for 9 months.

It is a big, deep red, with lots of tannin and fruit and acid. Not quite a Parker fruit bomb, but a beautifully structured wine. Nice hints of vanilla, dark raspberry, plums, and some cassis.

It was a beautiful wine that definitely got better and the evening went on.

We sat down, as I proudly placed my offering for the meal at the table. I took a photo of the moment. Dylan and Dawson laughed at me.

“What are you taking a picture for of dinner?!”

Dominique and I toasted each other and dug in. The meal was incredible. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and zesty, and she gave me some of the burnt edges (which I love). And the pork was lean and tender and juicy. And the wine was incredible.
A wonderful meal and a great wine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Island Wine Country by Jane Taylor Starwood and Bruce Curtis Is A Great Holiday Present

Firstly, I am way behind the curve. But I can't think of a better time to make up for lost ground. If you love long Island wine, or know someone who is a fan, then you need to run, not walk, to your nearest books store and buy Long Island Wine Country: Award-Winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons by Jane Taylor Starwood with photographs by Bruce Curtis and with a fabulous introduction by Louisa Hargrave (co-founder of Long Island's first vineyard and winery).

This book takes readers to each of the area’s more than forty producers, telling the colorful stories of the wines and the people who make them.

There are well over 3,000 acres on Long Island’s beautiful East End that have been planted with vinifera wine grape varieties over the last three decades. Add to that the recent praise for wine producers like Bedell Cellars, The Lenz Winery, Raphael, and Wölffer Estate Vineyards (among numerous others) from sources like the New York Times, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate, and it’s not difficult to see why the New York Times, in a feature on Long Island wines, captioned a photo with the words, “Who needs Bordeaux? A tasting of wines from the East End.”
Starwood is the editor of Long Island Wine Press magazine, so you know she had entre' with the winemakes, owners, and other winery personnel. The writing is very good, and the stories are great. And veteran photographer Bruce Curtis's shoots one beautiful vista after another. A stunning work!

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Three Forks; First edition (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762748397
ISBN-13: 978-0762748396
Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 8.6 x 0.9 inches

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Michael Migliore always had a fascination with wine. Both his German and Italian grandfathers made wine at home. It was on their dinner table every night. In 1975, Michael bought a small amount of land in the Hudson Valley. He graduated in 1978 from a SUNY, New Paltz, graduate program, where he studied organic chemistry. In that same year, he took a job at IBMwhere he was trained as a semiconductor engineer. However, the call of the farm was strong, and began planting vines in 1979.

Today, he is the owner, with his wife, Yancey, of Whitecliff Vineyards. He is also the President of the Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Association. Recently, Whitecliff was reviewed very favorably by the Wall Street Journal.

“I wanted to do some farming, and this area was historically a grape-growing region supplying New York City,” Michael has explained. “You don't have to be a physical organic chemist to be a winemaker, but it certainly helps.”

In the first few years, their production was around 500 cases a year. Now they are one of the leading wineries in the Hudson Valley. Here’s a quick interview with Mike, on where the Valley has been and where it’s going. And a selection of the best in category wines of the Hudson Valley.

What is the biggest challenge facing wine in your valley today?
The biggest challenge facing the region is acceptance. Acceptance of the region as a quality wine region and destination.

What is the difference between wine in your Region from ten years ago to today?
Quality. and diversity. There is much more quality vinifera wine than there was 10 years ago. Millbrook winery led the way and Today those high standards are evident in much of the wine produced in the valley. Where do you think wine in your region will be 10 years from now?
Ten years from now, I think the valley will be known for quality wines of uniform style and consistancy. And I think the valley will be a major wine and food destination, like Napa Valley or the Willamette valley in Oregon. There will be one Hudson Valley not several trails. I think there are a lot of similarities with the Hudson Valley and the Hunter Valley outside Sydney, Australia. The Hunter Valley is a fertile growing region just outside a major city. Our Valleys have a lot in common.

What’s the trend in wine in your region that has surprised you the most in the last two-to-five years?
In the last two-to-fives years, in my consulting business, I have seen a number of people from Texas and California, for example, who want to establish facilities here in the Hudson Valley. They want to establish production, grape growing, hotels, bars, restaurants, etc. These are total destination type places. Land in the Hudson Valley is cheap compared to Napa and it’s in close proximity to New York City. Winemakers in the valley are buying grapes from around the state because there are not enough grape growers producing wine grapes for the wineries in the region.

Is there a new trend you expect to see in the next two-to-three years?
I see an increase of 10% in the number of wineries in the next two-to-three years. But I also see increase in overall production in the valley. I can count four new properties in production now. The number of wineries will continue to increase. Some people come here wanting to open wineries. Others are open to growing and selling grapes in the near term. I also see the valley getting a repution as the nations hand crafted distillate center because of the innovative work coming out of Tuttletown , Warwick, Stoutridge and others.

As a wine maker last five years, I have seen a lot of improvements. One is a complete catalog of yeasts that are tuned into the grape varietals I deal with here in the valley. All of that was not available 20 or even 10 years ago. Low temperture fermenting yeasts are now available to us. With all the improvements, we now have the ability to better capture the capabilities of the grapes. There is also the recognition of new yeasts that require different nutriative values to keep them going, but offer new ways to express the fruit. There are new stemmer crushers that gently handle fruit and allow whole cluster fermentations.

Michael with Bob Barrow of Brotherhood

How big a part do festivals and farm markets play in your state‘s wine distribution?
We do farmers’ markets more and more every year. It’s important in terms of revenue, but it’s also promotion. We don’t bring all our wines. It’s like a teaser. We hand out a discount card tothe customers. We want to draw them into the tastingroom.

Festivals are great. Some are more costly to do and so are less profitable. But they are a great tool to spread the word.

Wine sales are increasing. I was worried with the recession. But people are staying home more, entertaining at home more. They are into all things local, especially for entertaining at home. They’re buying more and more of our wines at stores, farm markets, and wineries. And they are buying quality wines. And there are more and better quality wines made in the valley now available. I think the wine competition is evidence of that. The quality comes up every year, and people are getting it. We also work to bring Cornell educators down into the valley to educate our wine people. As a result the wines are better. I taste wines that are less oxidative, have lower acidity, and greater expression of fruit.

I think were are a great producing area. I think we have to stay on tract and message and get the best fruit producers to start growing more wine grape varieties. There are some gorgeous sites. If we can get some of those folks growing wine grapes you’ll see even better quality wines across the board. In the valley, you can grow vinifera and you can get a really good price. It’s viable business. Right now the best fruit growers have the right sites; good land, theknowledge, the equipment, and the workforce. They have it all. And when they start growing vinifera, then you will see even better wines in the valley.
My apologies to Michael, as this interview was supposed to have run much earlier. CDV

Lenz Merlot 2000 - Elegant and Powerful

There is nothing tougher than moving a wine cellar. After eight years of having my cellar in New Jersey, we decided to move it up-state to the farm in Ghent, NY. It's too grueling, afraid you'll smash a bottle here and there. And of course, lugging all that wine, more than 50 cases in my instance, is back breaking. And hen of course, reconstituting it up state was another challenge.

On the other hand, when you move your cellar there are a few surprises, as you find bottles you have long forgot about. Some are pleasant. Others are...well...disappointmens...why did I save that? Why did I buy that? Oooops, that can't be good anymore....and the like.

So the other night we decided to stay home and make dinner. Dominique had bought some thick cut pork chops and so we had a simple meal of grilled pork rubbed with lots of pepper and kosher salt, Spanish yellow rice, and steamed broccoli and butter.

It had been a hard day on the farm, working outside in the rain. We had been soaked through to the bone. And it was cold and gray and gross. So the smell of the simmering rice and the smell of the steamed broccoli helped to ward off the cold. And of course it was time to go to the basement, and try something different.

Well, unfortunately, the first thing I brought, a relatively expensive California Merlot from 1999 didn't make it. Maybe it was the cork. Maybe it was the wine. We'll never know. But it was not good any more. A real disappointment.

So, back down to the cellar I went. This time I pulled out a Lenz Merlot from 2000. The wine poured nicely into the glass. As my grilled pork beckoned, with smoke rising from the meat, we examined the garnet colored wine. It smelled beautifully of cherries and vanilla and some darker fruits. And it tasted wonderful. Some dried cherry. Again, a slightly darker berry flavor. Nice oak and tannins. Balanced fruit and oak. It was mature and elegant. A nice dry, smooth finish. Just, excellent.
Lenz came through....dependable as always.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fox Hill Meadery Turning Heads

Fox Hill Meadery is located in Western North Carolina. They started production in 2008.

According to a roving reporter, Nicole McConville, of Lark Books, In Ashville, if you are looking for meads with great balance and flavor, you must got to Fox Hill! They are a small, family run business and they pride ourselves on one thing: QUALITY.

"Fox Hill brews five different styles and produces about eight hundred cases per year. The Blackberry Honey Wine (the feds won't accept the name mead if it has fruit) was slightly sweet and was reminiscent of a local Muscadine or straight berry wine. The fruit meads are also called Melomel," wrote Keith Dalbeck, in the magazine The Bold Lief, in May 2009. "The Ginger Apricot was a wakeup call — think kicked up Pad Thai to accompany this sweet spicy cool quaff. Jason's Spiced Mead, infused with cinnamon, allspice and orange peel would be great for a Holiday treat; you could heat it a little on a cold night. Spiced Mead is also known as Methegline, Old Welsh for medicine. It makes sense."

"Fox Hill makes two traditional Meads; the regular is light and semi-sweet but the Special Reserve is the charmer. Most serious beer and wine drinkers would find something to get their teeth into with this dark, chewy, just off-dry sipper made with Pennsylvania buckwheat honey," continued Dalbeck. "All of the others are made with local tulip poplar honey. (If anyone knows a source for local buckwheat honey let Russ know — he prefers to use local honey and helps support efforts to protect the honeybee population)."

Nicole said the gammut was very, very good. But the clear winner was their classic mead.

Their Traditional Mead is made from multiple honey varieties and is aged with oak. The resulting mead is wonderfully complex! The alcohol content is 13% and the mead is semi-sweet.

They recommend the mead to be served at cellar temperature (around 50 to 60 degrees F). I prefer it slightly colder, like I like all my white wines.

They've won a lot of awards, and I trust Nicole. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I hear it all the time – as a wine taster and a winemaker – don’t grow hybrids, don’t make hybrid wines, don’t drink hybrid wines. Concentrate on the noble grapes. Pardon my French, but, Bullshit!

My favorite grape is a relatively new hybrid, “the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Its popularity is often attributed to its ease of cultivation - the grapes have thick skins and the vines are hardy and resistant to rot and frost - and to its consistent presentation of structure and flavors which express the typical character of the variety. Familiarity and ease of pronunciation have helped to sell [wine from this grape] to consumers, even when from unfamiliar wine regions. Its widespread popularity has also contributed to criticism of the grape as a "colonizer" that takes over wine regions at the expense of native grape varieties.”

That sounds a lot like a pitch from Cornell or Minnesota we hear every winter at the trade shows and agricultural extension courses. And can you imagine selling this varietal in the 1700s and 1800s. “Try it, Sire. It’s something a little different. It’s called a hybrid, your highness.” Yeah, right. Still it took our ‘Little Engine That Could’ almost 200 years to catch on.

Of course, we’re talking about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cab Sav makes an excellent wine. I myself have paid more money than I care to admit, for a single bottle of the stuff, handled by the right people. I’m a sucker for those big Robert Parker fruit bombs. Oh that I only had enough money to buy a case or two or Harlan or a high end Shafer Hillside Select. There is nothing better than a bottle of Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow! Of course, I love Amarone as well, so my big wine credentials are solid.

But what I am tired of hearing about is all this noble rot! I have heard from customers in the tasting room and from liquor store owners – ‘Forget the hybrids, kid, people don’t know what they are, they never heard of them. Concentrate on the big wines.’ For the record I am 46 years of age. Cabernet Sauvignon is not a Noble Grape – it is not a Titan. It is a hybrid. A mutt! And what’s wrong with being a mutt? Is there anything more American than a mutt?

What’s my point? Don’t get hung up on the name. I love Baco Noir and Chelois. I’ve recently fallen in love with a series of old, discarded hybrids, and other heirloom varietals. As a burgeoning region, New York cannot make a Cakebread nor a Harlan nor a Shafer. We don’t have enough dry hot sunny days to get the grapes to that concentrated level. But we can make an excellent Cab Sav (witness Richard Olsen-Harbich’s 90 from Wine Spectator for his 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon). Burgeoning wine regions have to find their signature grape.

There is definitely a hybrid bias out there. How many Baco Noirs are reviewed by the New York Times? When’s the last time The Wall Street Journal wrote up a Chancellor? Has your local store segmented out all the Chambourcin for you yet? A good wine is a good wine. Magazines and stores fear hybrids like Dracula. And so do wine drinkers. It’s still a hand-sell to get wine drinkers to try Chelois. Once they try it, they love it.

And I don’t want to hear that “foxy” crap. More French – bullshit! Winemakers who are inexperienced with their grapes, or who are inept, make foxy wines. Bad wines are bad wines. Yell "Tripe!" and move on to the next wine. Don't tar and feather the grape! I’ve tasted clunkers all over the world including France, Italy, and Chile (non in Spain, by the way). Some hybrid wines do not benefit from extended time on the skins. Baco gets to tasting like a Firestone tire. DeChaunac tastes like Lavoris. Chambourcin can taste like a light Cabernet Franc…or an inescapable nightmare. Foxiness means there’s a mistake in the winemaker’s process. And another question - Why is foxiness unacceptable when the grassiness or lead pencil in Cab Franc is desirable? You like lead pencil? I’ll buy you a box of No. 2’s for your birthday. Like grassy? Next time I cut the lawn I’ll call you. Me? I’d like a little well-handled fruit with my meal.

Kevin Zraly, the great wine educator, author of “The Windows on the World Wine Course” says that we are currently living in the Golden Age of Wine. Wine has never been more widely made, nor in such quantity nor quality. What better time to try new grapes? I whole heartedly agree!

Have you ever tasted Benmarl’s Baco Noir? Warwick Valley’s Black Dirt? Stoutridge’s Chancellor?

So next time your out at the store, why don’t you take a chance, shun that one hybrid (it who's name shall not be mentioned - that 'colonizer') and give one of those OTHER hybrids try? And have a nice glass of wine.

Clinton Vineyards Seyval Blanc
Brotherhood Winery Chelois
Four JGs Chambourcin Riserva
Clove Hill Chancellor
Horton’s Norton
Crooked Lake Winery Chancellor
Chaddsford Chambourcin
Chrysalis Vineyards Norton
Basignani Marisa
Hopewell Valley Chambourcin
Unionville Chambourcin

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dezel's Vine Spot - An Excellent Viginia Wine Blog

Dezel Quillen is an engineer in the technology industry. He is also the writer and photographer for Vine Spot wine blog, a wine blog about the tasting, appreciation, education, and enjoyment of wine. But more importantly, while his reviews are well thought out and well written, it's one of the most complete blogs on Virginia wines, with links to many of the best wineries in Virginia.

Now, I also have to confess, that Dezel and I also share an affinity for the same exceptional movies: In Cold Blood; The Defiant Ones; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Cool Hand Luke;
Seven; In the Heat of the Night; Oliver Twist; Cat on a hot tin roof; and Sideways.

Dezel's alright.

Seriously, he's got some very well thought out reviews. Check it out:

Roanoke Times Reports on Six Wineries About to Open in Southwest Virginia

Southwest Va. vintners hope winery takes root November 9, 2009 - 8:20am
By JEFF STURGEON The Roanoke Times

CHILDRESS, Va. (AP) - Rik and Melissa Obiso are living proof that wine is taking root in Montgomery County.

Out their back door, the buds have set on the grape vines for Eclipse Winery, which is not yet in production but on its way.

The Montgomery County couple is one of several with ambitions to make wine.
Right now, winery maps list no wineries in Montgomery County, even though Virginia has a burgeoning wine industry.

In 2008, the state produced 370,340 cases of wine with an estimated retail value of $74 million. There are an estimated 150 wineries in operation and more getting off the ground all the time, according to the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office.

There are six wineries in Southwest Virginia. In the next few years, that bunch will grow.
David and Allison Dunkenberger are building a tank room and grape pressing area in Ironto, where they have planted 2,500 vines. The couple _ he has a background in information technology and she is a physical therapist _ expect to sell their first bottles of wine in 2011, David Dunkenberger said.

Meanwhile, the owners of Maison Beliveau, a bed-and-breakfast and event center in the Catawba Valley, have planted 800 vines on their property to support a future winery. Yvan Beliveau directs the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Joyce Beliveau, who has a master's degree in counseling and leadership experience, is running Maison Beliveau. The launch of their winery is several years out.

For the Obisos, the Eclipse Winery project represents a professional and recreational diversion from day jobs in which he is a biosciences consultant and she is an architect.

They expect the business to produce income someday and, hope it'll be a lot of fun _ not to mention a tourist draw and enhancement to area property values.

Read the whole article at:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

New Hampshire Business Review Interviews

(Photo by Cindy Kibbe)
Amy Labelle, right, and her husband Cesar operate LaBelle Winery in Amherst, which currently offers 16 different kinds of wine.

Q&A with: Winemaker Amy LaBelle
By Cindy Kibbe
Friday, October 23, 2009
New Hampshire Business Review

Autumn is a busy time for most winemakers, but it's an even busier time of year for LaBelle Winery in Amherst as it begins production of not only grape wine, but wines made from apple, blueberry, raspberry and even jalapeno peppers.This autumn is especially hectic as winemaker Amy LaBelle, 38, who still puts in hours as a corporate attorney at Fidelity Investments in Merrimack, along with her husband Cesar Arboleda, 37 — LaBelle Winery's business manager and a former IT professional — and son Jackson, 2, welcome newborn son Lucas into the winemaking business.

Q. How did you get your start in the winemaking business?
A. In 2001, after I graduated from law school, I was on vacation that summer in Nova Scotia and took a side-trip to a winery that was making blueberry wine. I looked around this tiny little place and said, “Oh my gosh! I think that I'm supposed to be doing this.”When I got home, I purchased many books about how to make wine and I read them all. By the end of August, I made my first batch of blueberry wine in my little brownstone in Boston.During that year, I made many gallons of wine — I made apple, I made cranberry.

Q. When did you start commercial production?
A. 2005 was our first commercial season. For most of the first two seasons, we partnered with Alyson's Orchard in Walpole. We made tons of apple wine that year — 400 gallons. 2007 was the first year we made wine here [in Amherst]. Now we're up to just under 3,000 gallons. That's actually mid-size for a New Hampshire winery. It's very small on a world scale.We currently have 16 flavors out. That's a lot to manage for a small winery.

Q. How does New Hampshire's state-run liquor operation affect your distribution plans?
A. The Liquor Commission here is kind of interesting. They carry us in 12 of their stores, but they make that decision. The winery association has been working with the commission trying to get a little more exposure in the stores and a little better shelf placement.I think the one thing that will really make the difference is customer pull-through when they start requesting our wines at the liquor stores that don't carry some of our other kinds.

Q. How does a new winery get into a grocery store like Hannaford or Shaw's?
A. That's really hard. For us, it certainly involves decisions on how we want to be perceived, what stores we think match up with our marketing and our branding.Thus far, we haven't wanted to be in grocery stores because we've been focusing on more of the boutique stores. That's not to say we won't expand out further as our customer base gets bigger.It also is a factor of capacity and production. You cannot run out.

Read more of Amy's Interview at:

Erie Ties-News Says Wine Industry is Boon to Local Economy

Wine a boon to Erie County economy
21 wineries take part in sold-out trail event

"This is our first time here," Reismeier said. "It's beautiful -- and the wine's really good."
She and her husband, Mark Reismeier, drove from Altoona to stay with her cousin, Cindy Bihlajama, in Conneaut, Ohio, for the weekend.

The highlight of the trip was Saturday's tour of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail.

The trail was well-trod Saturday.

Twenty-one wineries took part in Harvest Wine Weekend, stretching from Silver Creek, N.Y., to North East.

The 500 tickets for this weekend's event sold out, though there are still some tickets available for a similar Harvest Wine Weekend on Saturday and Nov. 15.
The event's success underscores the importance of the economic effect of the wineries to the region, said Bob Mazza, the owner of Mazza Vineyards and the vice president of the Wine Trail association.

A study released in 2007 by the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association showed 150,000 tons or more of grapes are grown on 30,000 acres of vineyards in Chautauqua County and Erie County each year. The farms and "grape-related production activities" -- such as wineries -- supported nearly 2,000 jobs and contributed $340 million to the economies of the two counties in 2004.

Those numbers make a statement about the importance of agri-tourism to the region, Mazza said.

"Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Pennsylvania, and tourism is No. 2," Mazza said. "We're uniquely positioned for both of those."
Couples and friends from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, wandered through Heritage Wine Cellars in a matter of 20 minutes Saturday, joined by people from closer locales, such as Erie and Jamestown, N.Y.

Business during official wine-tour weekends doubles, said John Fisher, of Heritage Wineries.

"There's a lot to do to get ready for these weekends, but it's worth it," he said as another cheerful couple made their way into the winery.
It's not just the wineries that benefit from heavy use of the trail.
Grape Arbor Bed and Breakfast's eight rooms were sold out Saturday night.

It's common for visitors who are on the trail to stay the night at the North East bed-and-breakfast, owner Dave Hauser said.

"Obviously it provides a very significant part of our business," he said. "It's a main draw for people to come and visit us."

KARA MURPHY can be reached at 870-1858 or by e-mail.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sakonnet Vineyards' Petite White Continues to Impress

Sakonnet Vineyards' Petite White (Southeastern New England Appellation) was awarded a gold medal with a rating of 92 and was designated one of the Top 10 White Wines for $15 and under at the 2009 World Value Wine Challenge in August. Petite White was also the only white wine named "Exceptional Value," $15 and under, by the Beverage Testing Institute, which conducts the challenge.

Earlier this summer, the Petite White won "Chairman's Best of Class" at the 2009 Long Beach Grand Cru, held in California. From the 1,600 wines entered, Sakonnet's Petite White was among only 50 wines to get the "Chairman's Best of Class" designation at this international wine challenge.

Winemaker Elaine Bernier combined the vineyards' 2007 Vidal Blanc and the 2007 Gewurztraminer to create this award-winning blend.

The winery on Main Road in Little Compton, R.I., can be contacted at (401) 635-8486 or It is a member of the Coastal Wine Trail.

Joanna McQuillan Weeks is food editor of The Standard-Times. Contact her at

Taken from:
Cranberry contestants recruited
A Slice of Life
October 28, 2009 12:00 AM
The Standard Times

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Tasting the Winemaker's Vision
OCTOBER 30, 2009
Wall Street Journal

One of the things we've most enjoyed about visiting wineries over the years is the opportunity to taste the winemaker's vision. Having several wines to taste through gives us a pretty clear window into his or her passion. There emerges, over a few sips, a prevailing arc that spans the entire production, from reds to whites. It's almost like a fingerprint, distinctive and telling.
We recently had the pleasure of cramming two parents' weekends into one weekend at our daughters' colleges. After kissing Zoë goodbye on her forehead—Dottie on her tippy toes—and reminding her to use her hand sanitizer, we loaded the car for the drive home with a couple of stops in mind along the way. After watching the entire growing season of apples along our route through New York's Hudson Valley, we wanted to buy some, fresh off the trees. Our second goal was to visit one of the valley's wineries, 10-year-old, 3,200-case Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery, whose lyrical white wine we'd been served recently at an elegant little restaurant.

The winery and tasting room are in a pretty spot, set amid the owners' 70 acres, with a beautiful view of the Shawangunk cliffs. White-netted vines lined the way, protecting late-ripening grapes from predators. A guy in a cap, who turned out to be winemaker Michael Migliore, who owns the winery with his wife, Yancey Stanforth-Migliore, waved us into a parking spot and then disappeared. Inside, for a fee, we chose six wines to share: Awosting White, the winery's most popular wine, an off-dry blend of Seyval Blanc and Vignoles; three of its estate-grown red wines (Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc); Sky Island Red, a Bordeaux blend; and a fifth red, Redtail, a light, sweet blend.

The white was pleasant and interesting, but the estate-grown reds really rang our bells. They were elegant, focused, true to their varietal type and ripe, not an easy feat for so cold a region. What struck us so, though, was the consistent vision of the wines. Though they were white and red and ranged from dry to sweet, they had a restraint to them, a vision in which everything—including the winemaker—took a back seat to the fruit itself. And the fruit was delightfully pure and real. There was nothing showy about the wines. They just tasted good, offering a kind of relaxed gracefulness and easy balance that would make them good on the dinner table.

We left with a bottle each of our favorites, the Pinot Noir ($19.95) and the Cabernet Franc ($20.95), and immediately went home and tried them with lamb chops. Wines often taste better at the winery for many reasons, including the scenery, but these were even more impressive with food. Each was varietal in its own way—the Pinot was hauntingly earthy, the Cab Franc was sharper, more focused—but the vision of both as food wines was true.