Friday, September 24, 2010

Rappahannock Cellars’ Anniversary!

Rappahannock Cellars’ Anniversary!
September 25 & 26, 2010
10 Vintage Years 2000 – 2010

Saturday, September 25
Hank Gorecki 2pm to 5pm

Sunday, September 26
Marie Miller Noon to 3pm

Recognizing the promise in Virginia wines, the Delmare family moved their family’s winery from California to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Virginia. With careful tending of the vineyard and exacting knowledge of the cellar, they strove to create rich, supple, and elegant wines, dedicated to the winegrower’s art.

"We came to Virginia with west coast experience that few others possessed here, but quickly realized the uniqueness of the Mid-Atlantic growing environment. Virginia has taught us plenty, and we hope we’ve given back a little too. Our 75 acre farm now consists of 20 acres of vineyard, including new varietals such as Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Norton, and others. With over 11 years of Virginia grape growing experience, we now are for the first time removing grapes and replanting vines more suitable to the specific micro-environment of each individual vineyard block. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful vineyard site with sandy-loam soils (which grapes love,) and characteristics which help to deter frost, winter injury, and disease. Our vineyards supply about 2/3 of the grapes necessary for our boutique 6,500 case production, and so we have found other high quality vineyards to lease. In that process, we’ve nurtured long term relationships with like minded growers…they are those that share our passion, and settle only for the best. Tom Kelly oversees all our vineyard operations and consults with our grower partners to assure that our winemaker, Jason Burrus, only receives the highest quality grapes to craft into some of Virginia’s (and dare we say the world’s) highest quality wines," says John Delmare, the family patriarch. "It’s humbling for me to look back over the past 20 years of our family’s wine experience and see the fruits of our labor. Our Virginia winery began producing wine over 10 years ago, where we have strived to create not just good wine, but fantastic wine."

In 2010 Rappahanock garnered the following awards, testament to their incredible rate of quality production:

◦2007 Meritage, Gold – 2010 Indy International Wine Competition
◦2009 Viognier, Gold – 2010 Indy International Wine Competition
◦2009 Noblesse Viognier, Gold – 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
◦2008 Norton, Double Gold/Best of Class – 2010 Indy International Wine Competition, Gold – 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
◦2007 Virginia Red Dessert Wine, Gold – 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
◦2007 Cabernet Franc, Gold, 2010 Grand Harvest Awards

And produce fantastic wines they have.

I love Rappahanock Chardonnay! It is a unrepentant declaration of love. They ferment in stainless steel and they age the wine in French oak for five months. The result is a lean, crisp fresh light white wine, with touches of green apple and kiwi. There's also a hint of toasty oak an a certain creaminess. But a lovely balanced wine, with wonderful fruit and a nice clean finish. A wonderful chardonnay!

Their Viognier is one of my absolute favorites from anywhere! This viognier has a wonderful flowery nose, but also a touch of oak. The exotic aromas give way to a slight toastiness form the wine's contact with French oak. A lovely, lovely wine!

And their reds, in the last ten years have matured in an incredible way. Their Norton is an exeptional example of the varietal, big and deep and spicy! And their Cabernet Franc is lovely!

I recently pulled out an older vintage Chardonnay, afraid it might have perished in the dak recesses of my wine cellar. I chilled it, and then uncorked it, with feint hope of it's having lasted. I was most defintely surprised. The fruit was still there. The green apple and vanilla were still there. An absolutely astonishing accomplishment.

When I first read about the Delmares, I thought to myself, "who in their right mind would move from California to Virginia? Are they nuts?" But I stand absolutely corrected! Fabulous! Looking forward to the next ten years!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New York Wines Shine at Winebow Tasting in NYC Shows

Yesterday and today were the Winebow Distributors tastings in New York City. Winebow's portfolio of imports and domestic distribution is one of the best in the country. And for anyone who's a fan of wine, few experiences will exceed something like this.
According to Winebow's website, "Winebow’s mission is to be the premier U.S. importer and distributor of an international portfolio of premium quality fine wine, spirits and sake — all with an emphasis on education.At Winebow, we are committed to bringing the best representations of products from global regions to market. As a result, Winebow’s extensive portfolio of premium wines, spirits and sakes from around the world is unsurpassed in terms of quality and selection."

"Headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, Winebow is a thriving business with more than 400 employees, including a sizeable national sales force. Winebow’s continued success has been driven by a winning combination of extremely high quality products and one of the most well educated groups of professionals in the industry. As a testament to our success, Winebow has grown its revenue every year since our founding in 1980 – an uninterrupted 28 year accomplishment."

It was a thrill. I met dozens of winemakers and owners from around the world.

Anthony Truchard from Truchard Vineyards.

Deborah Barnard and her lovely daughter of Barnard Griffin.

Christophe Hedges of Hedges Family Estate.

Tor Kenward from Tor Kenward Family Wines wines.

Another was the breathtakingly beautiful Nadia Zenato of Zenato, whose wines were as lovely as she.

But of course my heart belongs to the east coast. And so I was happy to see several stellar standouts.

The incomparable Peggy Lauber was there representing Wolffer Estates.

The ever friendly and laudable Scott Koster of Millbrook Vineyards.

And one of the great women of New York wine Lisa Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars.

All three wineries held their own in a sea of California, Oregon, and Washington state wines, as well as being awash in incredible array of European offerings. It was a fun show, and I was thrilled that these three high quality wines were representing the Empire State. Great job, guys!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wagonhoue WInery Blueberry Table Wine from New Jersey

Wagonhouse WInery is a family owned vineyard and winery in the heart of South Jersey. Tastings available daily at Grasso Girls Farm Market located at 353 Wolfert Station Road, Mullica Hill, NJ 08062.

Dan & Heather Brown own Wagonhouse Winery. While earning his degree in Agriculture (Plant and Soil Science) from the University of Delaware, Dan remained very active with the family farm. The Browns have been farming in New Jersey since the late 1800s. After graduation, he continued to work with his uncle to expand the hay and straw retail business and a custom farming business as well. In 2001 he moved on to and continues to work for the Gloucester County Soil Conservation District as an Agricultural Resource Specialist. The dream of opening a winery began when Dan started making wine for personal consumption in 1998.

Heather and Dan married in September 2003 and their son, Dallas Haddon Brown was born the following year. In the mean time Wagonhouse Winery, LLC was established and Dan and Heather found themselves working toward a goal that they had only dreamt of previously. As the vineyard continued to grow, so did their family. Dawson Pierce Brown was born January 10, 2007.

The Browns story is a personal one. It's about their story together, and about how the Browns chnaged around the model that their farming operation was based on, like some other farmers in the region, like the Heritage family. The culmination of Dan and Heather's backgrounds and the guidance and support of fellow wineries has allowed them to produce quality wines. Each bottle has had their individual care from planting and nurturing the vines, to crushing and fermenting the fruit, and finally bottling and labeling the wine.

Dominique and the family and I had been driving around New Jersey during the summer, when I begged Dominique to visit the Grasso Sisters Farm Stand so that we could taste some Wagonhouse Wine. We were in a rush, so I had to buy a bottle on the blind. The Blueberry wine has twice won awards, and so I took a shot. Dominique was not impressed with my selection.

Now, to say I am not the hugest fan of dark sweet wines other than ports, is an understatement. I am not usually a fruit wine drinker, though I know of several I like very much. But semi-sweet reds is not the field I play in at all. Nor Dominique.

According to the Browns, "The best fruit makes the best wine, so what better place to pick blueberries than the blueberry capitol of the world, Hammonton, NJ. Fermented dry and then lightly sweetened, off-dry to semi-sweet, this is a wine drinkers fruit wine."

Suffice to say, I bought it, brought it home, and promptly forgot about it. Then the other night, we had company and Dominique brought out a slew of fruit wines for after dinner enjoyment. And there was the Wagonhouse Blueberry Table Wine.

With some trepidation, I opened the bottle and poured a taste for my guests and myself. There was big blueberry on the nose, almost like bluebbery pie. A sip, and I was pleased. It was a light-tomedium red wine that tasted of blueberries. Blue berries are very hard to get across. But this was different. A wonderful, wonderful wine. A nice surprise. And the Brown's were's a wine drinker's fruit wine. Not too sweet. Not cloying. Didn't taste like bad cough medicine, but like a well made semi-sweet wine. Very good!

Try some!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Millbrook Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc - Fantastic!

On Friday, I went down to Millbrook Vineyards, in Millbrook, New York. There I saw General Manager, David Bova and winemaker John Graziano. John was hard at work. He was driving a fork left, directing people around the crush pad, as the fruit sat silent in long rows of large crates, waiting for the process to get to them.

The harvest was on. He had chardonnay on the crush pad, in large pallet size containers filled with harvested grapes, from bright green or champagne amber, and lots of juice oozing out from the ripened fruit.

Out in the vineyard, more chardonnay continued to hang, as well as beautifully manicured Cabernet Franc. David and John said they had steeled themselves, and that they would let the fruit hang as long as possible, as this was just too good a year to walk away from.

Once inside, John was busy adding up the math, calculating the brix levels of the chardonnay he was pressing. The readings were good, and John was very happy.

It’s always a treat to go to Millbrook, as it is one of the most picturesque wineries you will ever visit, tucked into the rolling hills of back country Dutchess County.

I took home with me several bottles. Actually more, but I didn’t tell my wife how much I actually brought back. I just quickly hid them in the cellar.

One of the first things I wanted to open, and so did Dominique, was the Millbrook Cabernet Franc. I had recently tried it at the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival a few weeks back. I had been thrilled with it then, and thought I might spring it on some guests and we’d have some fun.

This is not a 100% Cabernet Franc, which doesn’t bother me in the least. This 2008 Cab Franc was blended with 18% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose came across with lots of red raspberry and cherry with a touch of damson plum jam, and some hints of both vanilla and cocoa. It was earthier than I expected. It was a deep, rich, incredible wine. Something that really does stand out above the rest. A wine for the Hudson Valley to be proud of.

I served the wine to my guests, which included Steve Casscles, the winemaker at Hudson-Chatham, and other guests. We were all immediately enamored of the wine. That’s why Millbrook is the class of the Hudson Valley. We ate it with big hot helpings of freshly baked lasagna and large helpings of freshly made Gnocchi in Bolognese sauce, and some rustic local artisanal bread. A wonderful wine! Run, drive fast, fly…but get there, and put some of this on your table…and in your cellar as well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Heritage Station Vineyard Experience in New Jersey

I first tasted Heritage Station at Wineries Unlimited, and was duly impressed. This past August, while vacationing in New Jersey, and visiting the New Jersey shore, Dominique and I and the boys went and visited Heritage Station. We wanted to see it for ourselves.

Heritage Station is owned and operated by Bill, Penni and Richard Heritage. These three individuals are 5 th and 6 th generation farmers with an unrelenting passion for making great wine.

Established in 2001, this is one of the most well respected wineries in the state of New Jersey. Almost all of our wines have received medals and recognition for their outstanding quality. They make an excellent, exceptional Chambourcin. Their 2005 Chambourcin won the N.J.Governor’s Cup for one of the best red wines in the State.

The winery and vineyard sit on 100 acres of farm land. They have approximately 20 acres of vineyards and the rest is made up apples, peaches and pears left over from the previous generation.

The tasting room was large, airy and contained and outdoor fresh fruit and vegetables stand. Inside was a lovely counter filled with baked goods, and another refrigerated case filled the local and imported cheeses.

Then we went to the tasting bar.

Vinter's Reserve Chardonnay
This wine was a wonderful surprise. According to the Heritages, "New Jersey ’s 2007 growing season was near perfect for grapevines. Top-quality chardonnay grapes from Heritage Vineyards were barrel fermented, a procedure that produces some of the world’s greatest white wines from Burgundy & California . Secondary malolactic fermentation added further richness & complexity." The ripe pear, lemon custard & fig tart flavors all come through as promised. Cream, and toasted vanilla also come through. The finish is long, rich & buttery smooth as advertised. I have to tell you, this was a real wow of a taste.

Jersey White
This was another shocker. It's got to be one of their most popular wines. An inexpensive, semi-sweet bright, crisp white. Nice amunt of acidty balances out the sweetness, so the sweetness isn;t a burden. Peaches and crisp red apples come through on this light, white blend. A great sipping wine. Really, really nice. Refreshing! Dominique loved this, so you know it's good.

As much as we liked the whites, it's the reds where Heritage Station absolutely shone bright.

Steel Rails Red
This was a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Francand Merlot. It was aged in new oak barrels. Touches of plum and light cherry are rounded with a hint of vanillan and touch of espresso. This was a really, really lovely red table wine. An instant winner. Dominique liked this one too! Great job!

2007 Cabernet Franc
This is a limited production wine. Their Cabernet Franc is blended with 10% Merlot. It's a wonderful, spicey red, and finishes with a nice light touch of lead pencil and pepper.
WORLD WINE CHAMPIONSHIPS AWARD: Silver Medal Rating: 88 Points (Highly-Recommended)

2007 Chambourcin
Chambourcin is hot in the Middle Atlantic states. Andd this one is a doosie! This is a big, dense red/purple wine. Lots of deep plum a touch of prune, nice dark cherry flavors all come through. Nice balance of fruit and oak. Fabulous finish. A classic red, elegant and refined. One of the best Chambourcin's on the east coast!!
GRAND HARVEST AWARD: Silver Medal Rating: 90 Points (Highly-Recommended)
Afterwards, we went to a restaurant named Tosca. They served Heritage Station wines, so I ordered Four Cheese Gnocchi, and had it with the Heritage Station Merlot. Dominique and I were thrilled, and te afternoon could not have ended better!
A great experience!!!!

Shelburne Vineyards Cayuga White 2009 and Artisanal Cheeses From Vermont

My esteemed brother-in-law, Robin Hoover, of The Alchemist, in Waterbury, Vermont came to visit just not too long ago. We were very happy to see him. He had come to help with some work on our farm, and he had come baring gifts. How much can one ask of his own brother-in-law? As thes kinds of things go, Robin is a very good dude, and he is welcome any time.

"I come bearing gifts," boasted Robin. And so I took the bait and asked what, he just chickle and told me I'd see.

What I saw was fantastic. He brought a plate of exceptional Vermont artisanal cheeses and hand baked bread. It was mouthwatering. There were five cheeses. I can name three of them only, as I lost the other labels. Sorry, my idiocy shows through every once in a while.

Von Trapp Cellars Ona. Very nice soft, rind cheese, somewhat like a Tome. Vermont Creamery Double-Cream Cremont, a mixture of cow's milk and goat's milk. Wonderful. And Lazy Lady Farm La Roche, a fabulous fresh goat cheese. There was also a creamy, delicious blue cheese, and a wonderful Vermont cheddar. All served with fresh, handmade baked Vermont bread.

And of course my imaginative brother-in-law brought Shelburne Vineyards Cayuga White 2009. And of course we chilled it.

Located on the shores of Lake Champlain, in Shelburne, Vermont, Shelburne Vineyards sates on their website: "From vine to glass, we strive to make the finest quality wine from Northern Varietal Grapes grown right here on our vineyards and regionally sourced from other Northern growers. With a lush Vermont landscape as its backdrop, our state of the art winery and tasting room sits nestled among the vines." Shelburne has a good reputation and is among the most widely distributed wineries in the state.

The white wine was chilled and ready to stand up to the cheeses. It was a most excellent companion to this cheese plate. The Cuyuga was blended wih touch of chardonnay and riesling. The wine was dry and crisp. It had lovely, citrusy notes up front, which made it extremely refreshing with the cheese. This is an excellent white table wine. It won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Big E wine awards.

It was a great nite, and after a long day on the farm, the adults were very happy with the wine and the cheese. A lovely expereince. I recommend it highly!!!!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Cisco Brewing Indie Pale Ale

Cisco Brewing is part of a triple threat operation at Nantucket Vineyards, Cisco Brewing, and Triple Eight Distillery. Cisco Brewing does some very nice, high end brews. They used to only be available in wine bottle sizes, but now they also sell the beers in large beer bottles.

According to their website, "Located in the pastoral heart of Nantucket on the way to Cisco Beach , Nantucket Vineyard was established in 1981 by Dean and Melissa Long. Next year marks the 25 th anniversary of our vineyard and we hope you'll join us in person to celebrate this special occasion." The cool part about these folks is that they also distill spiritis and make beer. They're the classic "triple threat." "Part of the mission along the way has been to educate consumers about the production process involved – now islanders and visitors alike have had their consciousness expanded in regard to our fine hand-made libations."
The building complex at Cisco Brewing/Nantucket Vineyards/Triple Eight Distillery is a popular Nantucket destination. I really enjoyed this beer. It was a light, golden colored ale. Very refreshing. It was pungent with hops, yet easy to drink. It went great with our meal, and it went down easy.

Here's another review I found of the beer online.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


So last night, we had two sets of friends for dinner. Bob abd Linda from Hudson Valley Wine magazine and Steve and Lilly Casscles. Steve is the winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery (with which I am affiliated, in full disclosure here). And my wife Dominique. We all took turns tasting all the grapes.

The fun part of the evening was the grape tasting. Bob had put in a number of experimental plants, vines, in at his property. And we were here to taste the grapes. In order to find out what worked well at his place, he planted a large cross section. Now, here in the third year, were the results. He wanted us to taste the results, and wanted thoughts from Steve, who is both a grower and a winemaker. It being harvest time, this was a perfect time for such an endeavor.

We used a refractometer to gauge the sweetness of the grapes. They are measured in degrees. The word of sweetness calibration is Brix. The optimum measurement would be somewhere between 21 and 25 Brix. Many of Bob's grapes were in the high teens and low twenties. He had done alright!

The most fascinating thing to me was that in some grapes, you could see how the wine got it's flavor from the grape. You could actually taste the connection. It seemed much easier to identify those flavors with the white grapes, as opposed to the red grapes, which go through much longer maturation processes, and get enhanced with wood and extraction.

Most of the grapes were hybrids. There were a few vinifera.

Here were the tasting notes on the grapes.

White Wine Grapes:
Riesling - No surprise, I thought these were the best. They are the small unlabeled bunch on the tray. You could taste the wine in the grapes. There was no mistaking what these were.

Muscat - Delicious. There were actually two different muscats. They were sweet with big round flavors. Very fun. Again I could taste the wine in the grape.

Traminette - These were nice. Not bad. I'm not a Traminette fan.

Out in the vineyard we tried some Seyval Blanc. The difference between 19 Brix and 24 Brix was night and day. The higher grossing berries were an amber color, and were almost too sweet to eat like table grapes. The ones at 19 BrIx had more acidity and were a light, yellow-green.

Red Wine Grapes:
Chelois - This was one of my favorite. The grapes were very tasty, and you again could taste the wine. The most obvious connection from the grape to the wine in the red set.

Baco Noir - Honestly, a bit of a disappointment, as a novice. The grapes didn't taste all that great, and I could not taste the wine that matched to the juice I was tasting. Perplexing, since Baco is among my favorite wines.

Zwiegelt - Great tasting grapes. Big and velvety juice. I think this has a real opportunity to make an impct here in the north east. A really nice surprise.

Foch - Marchel Foch is one of my favorite hybrids. It's a great blender, and a wonderful middle wine. The grapes were very tasty, but I couldn't taste the wine in them. The grapes would make fine table grapes, except they were so small.

Chambourcin - Long time backseat hybrid has stepped out in a bold way in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Chambourcin is now coming on like a load of bricks. There are many good Chambourcins out there right now - one such outstanding example is Hopewell Valley Vineyards. Good tasting grape. The grapes had a big, jammy flavor, and you could taste the wine in the grape.

We went out into the vineyard, and tasted Chancellor. It ranged from 17 Brix to 24 Brix. Again, the difference in taste was amazing, although in the red grapes showed little color difference, after the true color has least with Chancellor.

Steve led the conversation, and he and Bob were quite animated in their discussion. Also, I was sidelined, having to attend the grill, as the meat sizzled and charred. Everyone was surprised at their own reactions, except Steve, who's been growing grapes for more than 20 years.

Overall, a wonderful experiment. And a great way to educate wine lovers. We'll do this again next year. More wineries should do this as educational events for their best customers around harvest time. A very enlightening experience.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Queens County Farm Musem Merlot 2007 and Adriance 2006

Did you know they were growing and making wine in Queens? Well of course you did, because I told you they were growing grapes a year or two ago. I wrote about it because Alice Wise, the Cornell Extension expert on Long Island, introduced Gary Mitchell, the Farm Museum Director of Operations at the Queens County Farm Museum in New York City, to me then.

The Queens County Farm Museum's history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland and is the only working historical farm in the City. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard and herb garden.

Well, they released their first vintage in April, and the news went everywhere.

The New York Daily News reported, "Now New Yorkers can finally get a sip. The Farm Museum will debut the first of the 900 cases it has yielded so far at a wine auction inside their barn on May 18. They'll unveil their 2006 Adriance Blend, a mix of Cabernet Franc and other grapes, as well as a 2006 Merlot and a 2007 Chardonnay."

Cindy Yan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Not exactly the new Napa, but the Queens County Farm Museum in New York City uncorked its first bottles of wine from its vineyards on Sunday. Wines include Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown on a 1.5-acre property in Floral Park, Queens. A state wine official confirmed that the County Farm Museum is the only commercial grape grower in New York City."

But I wasn't able to get my hands on a bottle until now. Gary, and his lovely young bride Tina (and their two absolutely gorgeous twin toddlers) came to visit the Columbia County Fair this week. Gary is one of the most interesting people you will ever meet. Worked in Hollywood, but he's also been a professor at several universities. He's worked theater on Broadway and road companies. He is one of the best read people you will ever meet. But he also loves working the farm in Queens, and talks about it with verve and passion. He was telling us how he's entering the Corn Maze Season very soon at the farm, which is a major attraction. He's a regular guy, and a lot of fun! And Tina teaches at two colleges as well, including Bard! Quite the couple! We love them!

The grapes are grown on the farm museum property, and then Gary trucks them down to Premium Wine Group, where Long Island winemaker extraordinaire, Russel Hearn, turned the museum's bounty in to liquid gold.

The first thing we opened was the Merlot 2007. I thought it wonderful. A classic Long Island style Merlot, with dark cherry and mature raspberries where waved over with a hint of vanilla. Tea and mocaha also came through. An excellent balance of fruit, acids, and tannins. A great wine.

More intriguing to me was the 2006 Adriance. This is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a few other classic varieties thrown in. This is more a Bordeaux-like blend. I thought this was incredible. Big ripe plums, cherries, raspberries, a touch of prune, and even some pencil shavings (courtesy of the Cab Franc). This was a great wine. It begged for steak, which we were more than happy to comply with.

At a very large picnic table, Dominique and I and Gary and Tina sat down, and ate fresh upstate New York corn, accompanied by these blood red, fresh tomatoes form the Farm Museum, with some local greens, and two big grilled steaks. We washed it all down with these two, very fine wines. Great stuff.

Congrts to Russell! And congrats to Gary and the whole staff at the farm!

Read more:

Read the full New York Daily News piece here: