Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flying Fish - The Exit Series: Great Beer! Great Idea! Real Local!

I owe Joshua M. Bernstein, Josh Morvos, and Josh Woods for getting me back on track with quality ales. I started out as a home brewer, so I am beholdin' to 'em. I'll only cover local brews here from time to's time.

This is local as local beer gets. AND IT'S GREAT BEER TO BOOT! Flying Fish did a Belgian-style beer series in 750ml bottles (traditional Burgundian wine style they use for some French/Belgian beers). Each beer in the series is named for an exit on the New Jersey Turnpike. And one or more of the ingredients come from that area near that particular exit. I think Elizabeth exit might be last. (OK, NJ exit jokes over now?)

The Exit Series™ of beers is a multi-year brewing experiment to brew a series of beers as diverse as the great state of New Jersey. These big beers–in size as well as flavor–will celebrate each exit of the state-long artery that connects us. Each beer will focus on a unique aspect of an individual exit. The beers have been featured on NPR!

Exit 4 Mount Laurel Township
An American Trippel kicked off the Exit Series. This inspired Belgian-style Trippel has a hazy golden hue and the aroma of citrus with hints of banana and clove.
In 1682, William Evans brought his family over from Wales. Evans bought 300 acres of land at the “site of the Mount,” the hill which would later be known as Mount Laurel.
In 1698 the Evans family gave the Society of Friends an acre of land. On that land they built the Friends Meeting House, which the oldest meeting house in the country and still in use today.
The Township of Berlin was established via legislation on April 11, 1910. On April 26, 1927, the Borough of Berlin seceded from the Township.

For the first release, they chose Exit 4--right up the street from the Flying Fish brewery. Because they were one of the first craft brewers to embrace Belgian-style beers, they've chosen as our representative beer, a Belgian trippel finished with plenty of American hops.
This inspired Belgian-style Trippel has a hazy golden hue and the aroma of citrus with hints of banana and clove. Predominant Belgian malt flavors give way to a subdued bitterness in the finish. Bottle conditioned, this beer will develop as it ages.

Exit 1 Carneys Point Township
The Southern gateway to the state from Delaware. Also, home of professional wrestler Dirty Dennis Allen, so keep your Joisey comments to yourself!
The area now known as Carneys Point was first bought by a Quaker, John Fenwick, from the Lenni Lenape tribe for 2 ankers of rum, 8 knives, and 3 pairs of scissors.
In 1725, the area around Helm’s Cove was bought by two Irish immigrants, Thomas Carney and William Summerill, who established an estate. However, the area was not officially named Carneys Point Township until it was voted on in 1976. It was changed from Upper Penn’s Neck Township.
According to legend, in July 1820 Colonel Robert G. Johnson ate a tomato in front of a horrified crowd, proving that they were not poisonous and introducing one of the area’s most important crops.
In 1891, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company bought the 200 acre Carney estate. In the 1960’s DuPont Chamber Works was the largest chemical factory in the world.

The third stop on the multi-year trip to explore New Jersey through its beer and culture takes us to Exit 1.
The southwest bayshore has been supplying oysters to Americans since colonial times. Until the 1950s, hundreds of millions of oysters were harvested annually. Now, thanks to efforts by many organizations, the oyster is coming back.
Oysters and stout had long been associated in the UK, but the tradition was gradually lost. Exit 1, an “export style” stout brewed with oysters, celebrates this tasty combination. The creamy flavor of English chocolate and roasted malts harmonizes with minerals from the oyster shells. Irish ale yeast adds a bit of fruitiness and a dry crispness. This rich stout is perfect for cool weather–and especially delicious when paired with a few Jersey oysters on the half shell.
Learn more about oyster restoration near Exit 1:
Beer brewed with oysters. Alcohol 7.5% by Vol.

For our second release, we chose Exit 11 - the crossroads of New Jersey. So we brewed a beer that celebrates a confluence of styles. We looked to Germany and its refreshing wheat beers, but used a classic English ale yeast. A trio of Pacific Northwest hops chime in to create at 6.2% abv beer that’s quenching, yet has a bit of a bite. Exit 11 is brewed with 50% Belgian pale malt and 50% white wheat. It’s hopped with Columbus, Palisade and Amarillo hops. We then dry hop it with more than a pound per barrel of Amarillo hops for a bouquet reminiscent of tangerines and apricots.
There are only 1,000 cases of 750ml bottles available and they start shipping this week. Once they're gone, they're gone.
Great series. Great look! Great beer! Just awesome. Find some and enjoy!

I Got the Last Lehigh Valley Nouveau!

Holy Toledo, Batman! I missed the Lehigh Valley Nouveau Wine Weekend!

The nine family-owned wineries of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail proudly introduced their first vintages from this fall’s harvest during the annual Nouveau Weekend event on Saturday, Nov. 15 and 16.

"Nouveau" is the French word for "new" and in wine making it applies to a specific style of wine produced just weeks after harvest. Nouveau typically is a red wine that goes through a rapid fermentation. This style of winemaking produces an aromatic, fruity, soft wine with vivid colors that are delicious and ready to drink shortly after harvest. These Nouveau wines can age for several years, however they are meant to be drank while young and at the height of flavor.

The wine trail members also had special food items available for purchase at the events. Some weekend food and drink highlights included:

• AmorĂ© Vineyards & Winery, Nazareth – featured new releases of Chambourcin Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay along with Goot Essa cheeses.

• Big Creek Vineyard and Winery, Kresgeville – turned back the clock, releasing a traditional style of Nouveau, made with Gamay Beaujolais, along with a seasonal spiced apple wine for the holidays.

• Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellars, LTD., New Tripoli – paired their 2008 Nouveau with cranberry glazed chicken. Also their Mountain Spice wine was heated and served with pumpkin spice cake.

• Sorrenti Cherry Valley Vineyards, Saylorsburg - paired "Mary's Marinated Mushrooms” with DeChaunac Wine.

• Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery, Breinigsville – featured the new release of Turtle Rock Red. They were joined by Breakaway Farms of Manheim, Pa. who sampled and sold their 100 percent organic and chemical free cheeses and meats.

• Franklin Hills Vineyards, Bangor – paired their wine with a delicious sampling of roast turkey, stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce.

• Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, Andreas – warmed up with Chambourcin mulled wine tasted with Vinkaka (wine cake) made using our Barrel 29, a Chambourcin port-style dessert wine.

• Pinnacle Ridge, Kutztown –sampled a taste of Austria. Their NuVo follows the Austrian tradition of Heuriger wines. This freshly fermented white wine of the new harvest is offered in the taverns surrounding Vienna. They will be pairing the winery’s white NuVo with Austrian goulash and tiny homemade dumplings.

• Vynecrest Winery, Breinigsville – released its first vintage of the 2008 season, a Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau wine. They paired it with caramelized onion herb & cheese focaccia bread.

What a great event. Make a New Years resolution to tatse these great wines, and make sure to mark it in your 2010 calendar (November 21 & 22) so you don't miss it next year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Visit to Reading Station and Blue Mountain Tasting Room

So for the holidays, Dom and I decided to take the boys to Camden to the New Jersey state aquarium. And from there we decided to go to the Reading Terminal. While we were there we ate Philly cheesesteaks (all three variations.....American cheese, Provalone, and Cheese Whiz).

We shopped the stalls, and ate fresh baked cookies, drank organic eggnog, and sampled other locally grown and artisanal products.

And then we went to Blue Mountain tastingroom and had some wine!

I tried the Chambourcin, the Merlot, and the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Chambourcin was very good. The Merlot was a light bodied Merlot, but tasy, with vanilla and light hints of cherry. And the Sauvignon Blanc was a medium bodied dry red wine with lots of big fruit, oak and nce acidity. Good job!

And of course I got the last bottle of nouveau!
Great job!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Best Lemberger on the East Coast is at Laurita in New Jersey

Laurita is a big winery. It was built to become a banquet mecca for central New Jerseyans, as well as become a real driver of quality wine in New Jersey. The commitment is there. The buzz about Laurita from the start has been good. It's big, beautiful, impressive, and the investment is obvious. From the planting of the grapes to the choosing of a vineyard manager and winemaker, the operation is top flight.

Laurita Winery, located in the Outer Coastal Plain American Viticultural Area (AVA) in central New Jersey, is dedicated to creating wines that derive as much character from the fruit as possible. As responsible stewards of the land, we devote ourselves to the intensive care of the vines and grapes when thinning and pruning, hand harvesting and processing. During the wine production stage, we are committed to preserving the fruit as the heart of the wine.

Production at Laurita Vineyards focuses on making wines from grapes that are recognized and accepted worldwide, concentrating on the Vinifera, the classic European noble varieties. From 1998 through 2000, the first 20 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot were planted; and in 2002, the second 20 acres of vineyards received the cuttings for the Pinot Gris, Lemberger, Chambourcin, Norton and Zweigelt. In the interest of research and experimentation, five acres have been set aside for growing grapes that, contrary to popular belief, may not fare so well in the New Jersey soil and climate.

The vineyard manager and winemaker is Nicolaas J. Opdam. Nick entered the wine industry thirty-four years ago as a chemist with Canada's leading winery where he quickly rose to the position of assistant winemaker. Being trained initially in the production of sherries, ports and sparkling wines, Nick was able to develop a desire and experience with the noble varieties such as cabernet and chardonnay as the the industry switched to premium table wines.

As a member of the the Canadian Society of Oenologist & Viticulture, and as past President of the Canadian Society of Oenologists & Viticulture, Nick's reputation for quality drew the attention of wineries in the United States. Nick is currently a member of the American Vintners Association and the American Society of Enologists & Viticulture, as well as the New Jersey Garden State Wine Growers Association, of which he is a past president.

Dominique and I arrived. The boys were with us, rolling their eyes. "Not another winery!" they shouted in unison. "So stay in the car," I shrugged. They followed shortly after as usual.

Dominique and I marveled at the large buildings, the grand and impressive banquet facilities, the large shop, and multiple tasting bars, an the two roaring fireplaces. Then it was off to the tasting bar.

The naked Chardonnay and Pinot Gris were both very nice, light, refreshing, and drinkable. The Merlot was light-to-medium bodied, but with enough character and flavors to be taken seriously.

But I was curious about the Chambourcin and Lemberger. And was I ever impressed.

The Chambourcin was lovely and delicious. It was big and bold and flavorful. In New Jersey, alongside Hopwell Valley Vineyards and Silver Decoy, Laurita's stood strong. Some of the best Chambourcins in America right now are being made in New Jersey. End of story. I dare anyone to throw down with those three Chambourcins, and see how they fare. They prove that winemakers, when they spend the right amount of care and handling, can take a hybrid where their forebearers could not. The winemaking skills now exist on the east coast to establish some of these wineries and regions beyond how they are perceived now! These are the cutting edge Chambourcins on the east coast.

The other stunner was the Lemberger. Now, I have tasted many of the most popular Lembergers from the Finger Lakes. Many are light, delicate, and flavorful wines. You can see a style emerging. But this Lemberger is where everyone else wants Lemberger to go in New York, but have not yet achieved. This Lemberger was big and round and deep in color and full of flavor. Red and black currants pounded you on the nose, followed by bright cherry and red currant. An explosive wine, brimming with flavors and smells I have never seen a Lemberger exude before! This is the best Lemberger I have tasted in any of my travels any where. And I can now see what so many winemakers are trying to capture. Opdam has done a tremendous job with this grape. Sensational. This is what everyone else is dreaming of accomplishing. Opdam is already there. This is to Lemberger what Heart & Hands is to Pinot Noir!

If you want to see the future of these two hybrids, you need to get yourself down to Laurita, and see what Opdam and Laurita Vineyards are doing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jerram Vineyards Vespers Late Harvest Vignoles

Jerram Vineyards is located on Hill Town Road in New Hartford, Connecticut. They opened their doors in 1998.

James Jerram runs the vineyards and winery with his wife, who runs a gardening supply. This allows the couple to combine their favorite hobbies, and cuts their commute down to a stroll in the back yard! As James explained, “I do this because I like to do this.” It’s a labour of love, and the love shines through in the way he talks about his vines and wines.

James is no newcomer to winemaking in Connecticut. He began the winery in 1982 with a planting of Marechal Foch. Unfortunately, weather in New England is rarely cooperative. He lost 100 vines outright during a winter storm, and another 100 died the following year, giving grapes as they went. In the late ’80s he added in Seyval and Vignoles, and soon Villard de Blanc and Chambourcin followed. His love of growing goes beyond grapes – his vineyards deliberately curl around an old Bartlett Pear tree which he loves. He has even made pear wine from the fruit!

One of their most popular wines is Vespers. Vespers is a late harvest Vignoles. Smooth, silky, with touches of apricot and honey, this is a classic dessert wine. Great for cheese or dessert.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's that time of year....and we're not talking the Holidays! Wineries Unlimited is not that far away. And Ricard Leahy just announced that the accomplished Mr. Andy Beckstoffer will be the keynote giver at this year's events. Somethign ver much to look forward to!

See you in March at Valley Forge!

Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards

Wineries Unlimited is proud to announce that Andy Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards will be featured speaker at this year’s keynote lunch on March 10.

Andy is the most highly regarded independent wine-grape grower in Northern California.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Beckstoffer garnered a BS in engineering at Virginia Tech and an MBA at Dartmouth. As president of Beckstoffer Vineyards, his empire stretches through the North Coast counties of Napa, Mendocino and Lake. As a visionary, Beckstoffer was responsible for planting 500 acres of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the early 1970s, a remarkable feat considering only 682 existed in 1969. As a 33-year-old entrepreneur, he devised a 1973 leveraged buyout of a vineyard company and 1,200 acres of land in Napa and Mendocino with an investment of only $7,500 in cash.

His many accomplishments include founding the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association (NVGGA) in 1975, and introducing the modern-era practice of pricing a ton of grapes on the future bottle price (i.e. bottle price times 100 equals the cost of a ton of grapes). The NVGGA presented him with its first “Grower of the Year” award in 2006 while in 2007, the Napa County Farm Bureau named him “Agriculturist of Year” and he received the first-ever “U.S. Congressional Wine Caucus Commendation”.
The keynote lunch has limited seating so early registration is strongly suggested.
Beckstoffer also joins several outstanding Eastern grape growers during the panel discussion “Extreme Viticulture: What It Takes to Get Top Dollar” later that day.
To read more, go to:

“A History of Virginia Wines: From Grapes to Glass” by Walker Elliott Rowe

The following is a review of Walker Elliott Rowe's A History of Virginia Wines. Rowe is one of the two best experts on Virginia wines, the other being Richard Leahy, who wrote the introduction to this fine volume. Rowe has a previous Virginia wine book to his credit, called Wandering Through Virginia's Vineyards. Rowe is a good writer and he doesn't miss a trick. Excellent stuff. Great holiday or birthday present for the local wine lover in your life.

Book focuses on Virginia wine history
By Joe Tennis
Media General News Service
Lynchburg News and Advocate
Published: December 10, 2009

Thomas Jefferson did more than draft the Declaration of Independence.

He founded the University of Virginia. He served as the country’s third president. And he ended up with his face on the nickel and the ever-rare $2 bill.

Rowe's previous book.

At home, I keep a $2 bill inside a glass imprinted with the logo of the old Dye’s Vineyards, a winery once located in Russell County, Va.

Thomas Jefferson had much to do with promoting the early wine industry of Virginia. In turn, Ken Dye – the founder and former owner of Dye’s Vineyards – had much to do with launching the wine industry of Southwest Virginia: Dye first planted grapes at the foot of Big A Mountain in 1989 and later operated a winery that remained open for a decade.

As for Jefferson, writes author Walker Elliott Rowe, "Any book on Virginia wines and vineyards must include an essay on Thomas Jefferson, for the former president and author of the Declaration of Independence is the most famous grape grower in Virginia."

Still, Jefferson never made any wine at his famous home, Monticello, according to Rowe. But the president did spend a great portion of his civil service salary on his wine cellar, Rowe writes in the newly released “A History of Virginia Wines: From Grapes to Glass” (The History Press, $19.99).

Jefferson also, as a farmer, hoped that French grapes could be grown in Virginia. So he imported a grape grower from Italy plus 30 assistants to set up a vineyard at Monticello.

That did not work, Rowe writes: “His dream to produce his own claret withered like so many raisins.“

Rowe’s book profiles vineyards in Virginia, stepping inside the minds and vines of wineries in Williamsburg and Barboursville. He also focuses a chapter on migrant farm workers in Virginia – and their importance to maintaining vineyards.

In recent years, Virginia wines have come a long way, Rowe writes, noting: “One longtime Virginia grape grower quips that fifteen years ago, the Virginia Wine of the Month Club was simply a mechanism to distribute bad wine.“

The successful industry of today can be traced to the dreams of Jefferson and the determination of ladies like Elizabeth Furness.

At age 75, Furness founded Piedmont Vineyards at Middlesburg, Va., in 1973, turning her dairy farm into a vinifera grape vineyard.

Furness had grown up in France, and, for inspiration, she relied simply on a memory of what she had seen as a child to organize her vineyard. Later, in 1978, to help make a claim that she was the first in Virginia to sell vinifera grape wine, Furness sold seven bottles to a wine shop in Washington, D.C.

And then? She repurchased all of that wine for her own wine cellar. The buyback did not matter. Rowe writes Furness was still recognized by the governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture – just for that agricultural feat.

JOE TENNIS is a features writer for the Herald Courier. He may be reached at (276) 791-0704 or
original article:

or go to the book's blog at:

Benmarl 2008 Cabernet Franc Hudson River Region

I am a big fan of Benmarl in the Hudson Valley. Kristop Brown and Matt Specarelli, and the entire SPecarelli family, are working wonders, taking an old line name in the Hudson Valley and turning it into one of the very forward thinking, modern wineries in the Valley. It's a special place, where special things are going on.

I recently saw Matt Specarelli at the City Winery event, and tried some of their wines.
Here's Matt with Paul from Whitecliff

One of the nicest surprises of the day was their 2008 Cabernet Franc Hudson River Region. Really nice nose. None of the grassiness you sometimes get from a Cab Franc. This had a nice deep, purple color. Big nose. Touch of plum and vanilla. Bright and dark chaerry on the tongue. Smooth, dry, delicious finish!
A wonderful, wonderful wine!!!!

Shaw Vineyard 2006 Riesling

I'm a big fan of Shaw Vineyard in the Finger Lakes. And at the recent City Winery event, I had the lucky chance to try the 2006 Riesling.
Their 2005 Dry Riesling scored an 88 from Wine Spectator. So you know they know what they're doing when it comes to Riesling.
The 2006 Riesling was delicious! Light, crisp, lots of green apple. Hint of sweetness. Excellent!

Scarola Merlot of Long Island

Scarola Vineyards is a small Long Island wine producer dedicated to honoring and sustaining a family tradition begun generations ago in Bari, Italy, a port city on the Adriatic Sea where Frank Scarola's ancestors toiled as farmers and winemakers. In 1947, Frank's father came from Bari to the United States. Over sixty years later, inspired by his family's traditions, Frank is fulfilling his dream of producing delicious wines from grapes grown on the beautiful North Fork of Long Island, a European-style growing region blessed with microclimates and soils ideal for winegrowing.

Frank's wines are handcrafted. Scarola makes only 500 cases a year. And for every job at the winery, there is a Scarola manning the position. It is a family affair. Roman Roth is the consultant winemaker, who works with Frank to make the wines. I'm a huge fan of Roman's, as are many people. Their Merlot is special. The 2005 'Masseria' Merlot has been a huge critical success. Look at the awards.

2008 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition – Silver Medal
2008 Florida State Fair – Bronze Medal2008 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirit Competition – Silver Medal
2008 New York Food & Wine Classic – Silver Medal
2008 Wine Lovers International of Tasters Guild – Silver Medal
2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – Silver Medal

This is a nice deep wine with dark color, and big, beautiful nose. Aromas and flavors of bright black cherry, blackberry and plum come through as promised.

A wonderful find and definitely worth searching out! Congrats to all the Scarolas!!!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sherwood House Chardonnay 2004

Now, generally speaking, I like bright, brisk, clear, crisp chardonnays, more like Sauvingnon Blancs than near the buttery sur lees types. Give minerals. Give me rocks! But I make a few exceptions...and one of them is Sherwood House Chardonnay.

I have Sherwood House to my most finicky Francofile friends, who turn up their noses at US chardonnays. And I have not yet had one who wasn't completely taken aback and wholly surprised by the wonderful delicacy of Sherwood House's Chardonnay.

AT City Winery I thought I'd go see if I liked their chardonnay as much as I used to. And there was no question of it. It's lightly oaked, and smooth and tastey. There's still lots of fresh fruit, nice balance. I pined for food to go with it. But it was lovely in-and-of-itself!

Established in l996, Sherwood House Vineyards has been committed to the production of world class wines using only estate-grown vinifera grapes. Owners Dr. Charles Smithen and wife Barbara believe that producing fine wine is a combination of passion and patience, handcrafting their wines using traditional methods combined with the latest scientific techniques.

"There's very little nature and man can do in true harmony," says Dr. Smithen. "A vineyard is one of those things. Making wine requires both science and art to excel. Anyone can learn the science. But it's the art, the near-intuitive understanding, the smell, sense, and feel, that makes the difference."

There is a difference indeed.

Onabay Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006

Onabay Vineyards is among the East End’s newer wine producers. It rose on family farmland; 19 acres are planted with wine grapes, primarily , and . The vines date to 1991.

Onabay has no winery. The wines are made at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck, like many other wonderful wines in Long Island.

The Anderson family is committed to the artisanal wines of Onabay Vineyards. Proud of their stewardship of the land, they appreciate the extraordinary natural beauty and bounty of the North Fork, and its culture of great wine, cuisine, and people.

Brad Anderson is committed to producing high quality vintages with the help of Bruce Schneider, international wine consultant, and Steve Mudd, veteran North Fork viticulturist. Francesca Anderson is a renowned botanical artist. Her drawings of herons appear on the front labels. Daughter, Mia C. Anderson's poems also grace the labels. She is a published poet of natural history themes and the environment.

Chiara Anderson Edmands oversees the marketing of Onabay Vineyards. She and her husband, Ben, delight in pairing wine with the delicious bounty of the North Fork.

I met Chiara at the City Winery event Uncork New York, where she was friendly and chatty, and decided to taste the Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006. The Andersons were inspired by the Blanc de Blancs Champagnes of the Cote des Blancs region. The wine is 100% Chardonnay. The wine is made by the traditional method, with a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. It benefits from contact with the lees that allow the acidity of the wine to soften just enough to achieve an elegant balance. The very modest level of sugar in the dosage that is added back during disgorgement ensures that the wine remains crisp and refreshing on the palate.

As promised, the aromas of green apples, lemon verbena, and honey blossoms come through. On the palate, pear and apple fills the mouth. The wine is crisp and refreshing. It has a touch of citrus on the end.

This was a lovely bubbly. Really very nice. And one likes the sense of family involved in Onabay. A lovely product, just right for the holidays, Valentine's day, or any day! A great wine for special occasions....or a night you want to make a special occasion. Great job, Andersons!

Raphael Tavola 2007

Raphael is one of the first growths of the east coast. There is no question they are among the highest choir of angels in the wine firmament on the eastern seaboard. They have been praised by Wine Spectator and lauded by the New York Times.

Now, Raphael has come out with a lovely new table wine called La Tavola. It's only $12.95 and marks Raphael's entry into the more easilly affordable red wine market with a medium bodied red that great for food and entertaining. A lovely, everyday kind of wine priced very affordably for the averge consumer.

2007 La Tavola
The 2007 vintage was one of the finest ever experienced on the North Fork. Hot sunny days and with clear blue skies seemed to be the norm for most days. Low levels of rainfall and humidity throughout the season made for almost perfect growing conditions. The high levels of solar radiation along with cooler weather in the late summer and fall allowed for great concentration of flavor, color and extract along with wonderful retention of aromatics in the fruit.

Tasting Notes (from Raphael)
Great, handcrafted wine at a great price marks the debut of Raphael’s 2007 La Tavola. Meaning “The Table” in Italian, this wine was made for everyday enjoyment and is a regular feature on our mealtime table. The wine is made from mostly younger vines and reflects a blend of the three of the most important red wine varieties on the North Fork. La Tavola is fruity and soft, and retains classic elegance reflecting the extreme ripeness of the vintage. The Merlot provides velvety ripe tannins and dense mouth feel while the Malbec adds an exotic and earthy touch. The Cabernet Franc rounds out the blend with its typical saline minerality and firm acidity which lifts the flavors, adding to a pleasant long finish. This wine outclasses most wines in its price category and is one of the North Fork’s great wine values from an outstanding vintage.

I rarely look at the tasting notes before I drink a wine. I don;t want to be lead. I want to taste what I find. However, the notes are acurrate, and that's why I reprinted them here.

This is a lovely table wine. This is the kind of wine you buy a case of at the holidays and impress your friends with all the way through. And then buy another case in January and savor through the winter. Fabulous wine. Fabulous price. Fabulous winery. Raphael once again proves why it is one of the premiere wineries on the east coast!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

White Spring Estate Farm Winery Serendipity

Winemaker Derek Wilbur of White Spring Estate Winery. Derek is easilly one of my favorite winemakers in the Finger Lakes. I especially like his whites. One I had never tried before was yet another fun new wine. A real crowd pleaser.

Serendipity is a semi-sweet light white blend.A semi-sweet white wine with grapefruit flavors and a slight berry aroma. Finishes very crisp and clean. A blend of Gewurztraminer, Cayuga White and Isabella. Residual Sugar: 3.3%
Serendipity is a wonderful wine. Great acidity balances the flavor and the sweetess. A really, really nice wine. Great for the holidays, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Fourth of July!


At the Harvest Festival 2009 in Albany, NY. I met Mike DiCrecenzo of Altamont Vienyard.

I tried their Leon Millot. It was a very nice, medium bodied red. A very nice red table wine and a new winery in the Northern Hudson Valley. A nice new find! 12 miles east of Albany!

Here's an interview they did which I've reprinted here. They also make jams from the fruits they grow on the farm.

Altamont Vineyard & Winery
Q&A with Deborah Larned, Louis DiCrescenzo, and Mike DiCrescenzo

Where are you located?
We are located at 3001 Furbeck Road, Altamont, NY 12009. Take Settles Hill Road to Furbeck Road. Approximately 12 miles west from the end of I-87 on route 20, We are very close to Altamont Orchards.

What year did your business start?
We started reestablishing the vineyard and remodeling the winery in December of 2006. The vineyard had seen better days but we had faith that the vines were still fruitful and the location was one of a kind. In 2008, we formed Altamont Vineyard and Winery, focusing on the local supply of grapes and wines. Since that time, we have produced approximately 30 tons of grapes and roughly 1200 cases of wine to be sold. We are very lucky to be able to represent the local community and Albany County as it’s first and only vineyard and winery. We have found our neighbors appreciate seeing the vineyard being managed after many years sitting unattended.

What kind of wines do you sell?
We produce and bottle wines made from hybrid grapes grown on the premises. The grapes planted have been developed to sustain the cold-harsh winters and wet-humid summers. Vines were planted starting in 1981 to 1996 as experiments by Larry Grossi, who opened Larry’s Vineyard and Farm Winery in 1988. We have a white wine resembling a Riesling called Edelweiss, which Larry also made and is still very popular, and St. Pepin, a cold-hearty grape variety developed at the University of Minnesota by Elmer Swenson. We also have a Cabernet-style red called Passione, a blend of DeChaunac and St. Croix; a Burgundy-style red called Leon Millot; two sweet wines, Elefante and Spider’s Rose; two types of Cayuga White one of which is oak aged and Patience, a blend of white wine grapes featuring citrus and herbaceous tones.

Are all the wines made from grapes grown at your vineyard?
This year all our wines are made from grapes grown in our vineyard. We are currently working with Wagner Farms, a vineyard in Seneca Lake, to create more varieties for next year. We are in the process of making Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Riesling. We have the red grapes hand-picked and white grapes mechanically picked, crushed and pressed for the highest quality.

Do you offer tastings and tours?
We offer free tastings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday noon to 5 pm or by appointment. Vineyard tours will start in May and winery tours are available by appointment.

When are you open?
The store is open Friday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

What are some of your biggest challenges?
We are at the mercy of Mother Nature, which is a huge challenge, especially as we try to reestablish a decades old vineyard to the health it should be. There are 23 different grape varieties in our vineyard, which all require a different kind of care. We’re a small operation with a limited budget. There are only three of us, so we all work long hours and depend on our friends and family, especially during harvest season.

What makes you keep at it?
Love of the land and it’s challenges. Living so close to nature and watching the vines grow each year makes it very rewarding. And to taste the wines evolve over the winter is quite fulfilling. Looking forward to see the reaction when patrons taste wines grown, produced, and bottled in their hometown. We invite you to taste our passion and visit before the holidays. Wine makes a great gift and being locally produced adds to the flavor.

Altamont Vineyard & Winery, LLC
Deborah Crawford
3001 Furbeck Road
Altamont, NY 12009355-8100

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Winery at Marjim Manor

OK, so I have to admit, that I do not spend a lot of time reviewing wines from the Niagara or Erie regions. It's hard. It's on the other side of the state, and I rarely get out there...once in the last 20 it's hard. I might find the wines at a wine festival every once in a while. But that's about it.
So I was thrilled that I found The Winery at Marjim Manor at the City Winery event, where I tasted their wines. Margo Sue Bittner owns the winery. The winery is an old, 9,500 square foot mansion, which at one time served as a convent. Today is large catering hall and winery, complete with rentable rooms for ceremonies, dinner parties, and weddings. It even has ghosts!
The Winery at Marjim manor is located in Western New York's fruit belt. This W.O.W. (Woman Owned Winery) is owned by Margo Sue Bittner. The Marjim name comes from a blending of her first name with that of her husband, Jim. It is a name they created 25 years ago when they began dairy farming.

The Winery is a truly a family affair: Margo Bittner is president; the winemaker is her son, Kevin Bittner; her daughter, Janet Bittner assists with sales and marketing; and the fruit comes from Singer Farms, located about a quarter mile down the road where Margo’s husband Jim, is a partner.

I tasted two wines:
Cranberry Crescendo - a cranberry confection. It was sweet without being overbearing. The cranberry flavor definitely comes through. A nice wine!
Legacy - was one of the talks of the show!!!!! It's a dry currant wine. It has a big sour taste because it made from 100% currants. 12% alcohol. And a huge, huge currant flavor! Something very different. I would personally serve it with almost anything grilled...or conversely, with chocolate desserts, which it would compliment beautifully. But no mistaking, this is a dry wine. Fascinating.

This is Shoe and Roy the winery cats.

Get on over to Marjim Manor. And try their more than dozen-and-a-half wines!