Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Michael Broadbent Raves About Virginia Wine

I want to thank Christopher Parker for sending me the following article by Michael Broadbent. I made it a separate piece, but it certainly forwards Christopher's claims that Virginia wines are building an important reputation over in the UK. I am tardy in posting this, since he raved about Virginia wines in the August 209 issue of Decanter magazine. But it rings true today eve more loudly than when it first appeared. Because it now appears that Virginia wines are moving forward.

Both Michael Broadbent and Oz Clarke have raved about recent Virginian vintages. And sales continue to clime, small, but steady. Time is on Parker's side.

But this piece by Broadbent is all you need to know about the quality and growing reputation of Virginia wines.

Christopher Parker is The UK's Greatest Purveyor of Virginia Wines

Christopher Parker is a unique individual. He is a trailblazer. He is a wine importer, but he has one very unique region - Virginia. Christopher Parker is Founder & Managing Director of New Horizon Wines Ltd. He believes in Virginia wine with all his heart, and is carrying that message and passion back to his native UK, where he is spreading the word like Paul on horseback!

He and I recently caught up with one another via an email exchange. Though I wish it could have been more, with the holiday season, etc. I thought it would be best to just go with what we had.

Christopher has taken a small idea, and now in two-and-a-half years he has helped expand Virginia's reputation in the UK. Christopher is, in short, a visionary. Who knows where this will lead, but it can only lead to better things. It already has!

"I established my company specifically to build the international market for wines of Virginia. I am from the UK and moved to Virginia 21 years ago. I came here for business reasons and discovered wineries - who knew!!," Christopher wrote me.

"I established an import company in the UK to create the channel to market for Virginia wines and have a growing network of merchants there selling Virginia wines.

"My prior businesses have been in technology and software, but I have always loved wine, the art and science of winemaking, and the rich and positive lifestyle associated with it. My decision to create New Horizon Wines evolved over a few years. Having worked with winemakers in Virginia and tasted wines from many wineries over many vintages, I sensed a significant shift and upward trend in quality. It was as if, after 40 years of experimentation, trial & error, and deliberate steps taken by some wineries, everything was coming together. It was visible to me about 7 years ago.

"It was at that time I started to think about the possibilities. It was not until 2006 that I seriously started to form the strategy for creating the international market for Virginia wines. I sold my software company in 2007 and New Horizon Wines was born in 2008.

"I launched at the 2009 London International Wine Fair with winemakers from across the State of Virginia presenting their wines in London. This summer I organized and coordinated the wine events for the Governor McDonnell's Trade Mission, including briefing Oz Clarke to prepare for his guest appearance at the Fortnum & Mason event in London," related Christopher.

Winemakers included, Barboursville Vineyards – Luca Paschina; Veramar Vineyards – Justin Bogaty, Winemaker; Veritas Winery & Vineyards - Andrew & Patricia Hodson; White Hall Vineyards – Tony & Edie Champ, Owner; Breaux Vineyards – Chris Blosser, General Manager; Corcoran Vineyards - Jim Corcoran, Winemaker; Pearmund Cellars – Chris Pearmund, Owner and Williamsburg Winery – Matthew Meyer, Winemaker.

"Most recently I initiated and coordinated a visit by the Circle of Wine Writers to visit Virginia. I encouraged the support from the Virginia Wine Marketing Board and had the pleasure of working with Richard Leahy who worked with us to organize the wine tasting events."

New Horizon Wines Ltd.
72, New Bond Street
London, W1S 1RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7528 217 249

and you can find his blog at:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

John Grover Talks about New York Pinot Gris

I get John Grover's wine email newsletter. He's always finding great wines. He's a real enthusiast. I recently asked him if I could reprint a recent letter because it featured Finger Lakes wines. Here it is....several good picks, and a great recipe.

Well, it is starting to get colder here in the North East. And, naturally, the mind of every country boy wanders off to where? Warm comfort food, of course. This month we offer a quick and simple recipe that matches well with several wines of the Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) persuasion.

The Pinot Gris grape produces wine in different styles around the world. In Alsace, France it is generally medium bodied with a floral bouquet and a bit of spice and fruit in the taste. In Germany, its local name is Rulander and tends to be a bit sweeter and more full bodied. And, of course from Italy, most of what we Americans see is lighter, crisp and more acidic. These differences are generated mainly by location, climate, soil and the various traditions and styles of winemaking.

The Pinot Gris produced in the U.S., or more particularly Oregon and New York’s Finger Lakes is more in the Alsatian style. The 2008 Pinot Gris from Hunt Country Vineyards of Keuka Lake is an elegant wine with a floral nose and pronounced fruit in the mouth with the taste of white table grapes and pears. It is well balanced with little noticeable acidity. It can be bought for $16 a bottle at the winery. Other Finger Lakes producers making fine Pinot Gris include the Lakewood, Hosmer and Dr. Konstantin Frank wineries. More broadly available are the excellent Pinot Gris wines from Oregon, including those from Willamette Valley Vineyards, King Estate and A to Z wineries.

The second wine highlighted is the 2009 Kris Pinot Grigio from the Della Venezie region of Northern Italy. While many of the less expensive Pinot Grigio’s from Italy can be called at best “nondescript”, this wine has a distinctive citrus nose with a rich taste of lime, melon and perhaps a hint of honey. It has a distinct acidity that creates a rich pucker of tartness that dances around the mouth. This wine is widely marketed for between $11 to $13 a bottle. Other Italian producers making excellent but reasonably affordable Pinot Grigio include Peter Zemmer and Alois Lageder.

Tortellini and Spinach in Parmesan Broth (found on the Epicurious website and originally published in Gourmet magazine, April, 2006 )

1 (1/3 pound) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano with rind
6 cups chicken stock
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh parsley, tied together
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup tortellini (24 to 36)
4 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves (3 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips

Cut rind off cheese. Combine rind, stock, garlic, parsley, and oil in a 3-quart pot, then simmer gently, partially covered, 30 minutes. Discard parsley and rind and season broth with salt.
Add tortellini and simmer, partially covered, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and simmer, uncovered, 1 minute. Divide among 4 soup plates, then shave cheese over soup to taste. I would suggest serving this soup with a nice crusty peasant bread.

John Grover is a member of Mensa of Northeastern New York. He lives with his wife Sharon in the Hudson Valley of New York.

VaLa Harvest Was a Very Good Year for VaLa Vineyards in Pennsylvania

I am posting this about a month late, so my apologies to the folks at Va La Vineyards, in Pennsylvania. I can't help it, but I love this winery and their wines. Exquisite stuff. And I like the way they do things. They do things right.

Harvest 2010 at Va La.
by Anthony Vetri
My family and I farm a small hill of about 6.73 acres in Chester County. We produce from 500 to 700 cases annually. This vintage marked just our tenth commercial harvest which we have experience of from this site, so we do not have any deep conclusions to draw from our time here as of yet. Statistically, the summer of 2010 was the warmest in our region's history, with nearby Philadelphia recording 55 days of 90 degree temperatures. The soil of our site remained deeply dry through early October.

Our methods are somewhat simplistic; all vines are dry-farmed, harvesting is done by hand, and the bins transported by lawn mower and trailer directly across the field for sorting and crushing. During the first week of September, we began harvesting the southeastern slope of our hill for the varieties that go into our single white wine. Harvest of reds began in the darker soils on September 11, and was completed on October 10. By this time we had accumulated over 4000 Growing Degree Days since March 15. In comparison, last vintage we began harvest on October 10 and completed it on November 11.

Some miscellaneous observations from our hill:
Fruit Set was dangerously efficient this year, with well-packed clusters that would have suffered rot stress in a wetter year. However clusters in general were under our ten year average for this site, and berry size was reduced in almost all clones and varieties. Seed scores were excellent throughout the vineyard. Canes lignified almost fully by mid July. First leaf senescence was noted on September 24, about 17 days ahead of schedule. Incidence of rot and mildew was of course low, but bunch stem necrosis was actually higher than normal in the northeast areas of the hill. (We hypothesize this was due to declination, reduced spraying, as well as heavy reliance on low impact materials.) Berry shrivel was common place. Robin, Starling, and Yellow Jacket predation were elevated and intense, as was Brown Stink Bug presence. Lady bugs and Japanese beetles were a relative no show.

Fermentations are now nearly completed in the winery. We are readying the wines for barrel. Over all, we view the quality of the 2010 harvest as having potential for us to be surpass the previous quality vintages of 05, 07, and 02.

Anthony and family
Va La.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Linden Claret 2008 and Pollack Merlot 2008

So, while I was down in Virginia, one night I had to dine alone. Ah well, it's one of the hardships of traveling for business by yourself. While I was in Charlotte, I went to the old historical district, wherein they have a lovely downtown, outdoor mall, complete with cobblestones, etc. In the mall there are many nice restaurants, but I was only there for one - Siips Wine and Champagne Bar.

The bar was lovely inside, but more importantly, you could order a wide number of wines by the glass, in both 3oz and 6oz pours. And they had some Virginia wines on the list! I had some exquisite bruschetta, a plate of escargot, and a main course of braised porkchops.

As it turned out I had a number of wines from which to choose, which was fun. But in the end, I chose the final two wines I tasted based on the winemakers themselves - Jim Law and David Pollack. Law is known as a fastidious winemaker and a touch of a curmudgeon. Pollack is an experienced California winemaker, who with his wife, chose Virginia as his newest project.

Linden Vineyards is located in Northern Virginia, in Warren County, in the town of Linden.
The winery sits on a high mountain ridge surrounded by vineyards. They grow grapes at four different sites on the Blue Ridge. They are located on the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia only one hour from Washington D.C., but it seems like a million miles. They specialize in small lots of single vineyard Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and red Bordeaux blends. Jim Law, winemaker and owner says, "We are respectful of the unique character and personality of each of our vineyard sites. " Law is a fastidious winemaker who keeps and publishes copious notes, and one also gets the hint he might be a bit of a wine-wise curmudgeon. Regardless, his attention to detail results in some incredible wines.
The Linden Claret 2008 is a blend of 38% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. 80% of the grapes come from Hardscrabble Vineyard in Farquier County, 10% from Avenius Vineyard in Warren County, and 10% from Boisseau Vineyard in Warren County. The wine was aged in older French, American, and Hungarian oak. They made 522 cases.
The wine was an elegant, medium-bodied Bordeaux blend. It had lots of big red flavors up front like cherry, cassis, with hints of mocha and espresso. The wine has great acidity, deep fruit, nice tannins, and is extremely well balanced, and smooth. It was an excellent accompaniment to the meal.

The next wine I had was a Pollack Vineyards Merlot 2008. Unlike Linden, Pollack is relatively new. Pollak Vineyards is a small family-owned winery founded in 2003 with the purchase of a 98-acre farm just west of Charlottesville, Virginia. Today they have 26 acres of French vinifera planted with the intent of making estate grown wine that has the finesse and balance of the traditional French varietals. Margo and David Pollack opened their doors to the public in 2008. Their wines have been an immediate success with critics and consumers.

David is the winemaker. For David, this venture drew upon his experience in the late 1970s with vineyards along the Russian River in Sonoma and then his establishment of one of the first wineries in the now famous Carneros region of the Napa Valley. In Virginia, the Pollaks saw the potential to create great wines from well-sited and meticulously maintained vineyards. They sought the experience of other vintners and growers to seek an ideal site and then applied the best agricultural and winemaking practices.

The 2008 Merlot comes from the original 10 acre block and the Smuggler vineyard. The grapes were harvested mid-September 2008, and were cold soaked before fermentation in micro lots and subjected to extended maceration, which results in the deep color and extraction of flavor and tannins. Cooperage was 45% new French oak and 55% used to neutral for 14 months.
This medium-bodied, garnet colored wine delivers dark cherry and chocolate that come through as promised. But there are also hints of dark raspberries and a touch of dark plums, and a whiff of vanilla and some spices on the pallet. Great acidity. Nice tannins. A well balanced and fabulous wine.
These were two gorgeous wines, with great fruit up front and beautiful finishes. Incredible reds.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Wonderful Reds From Horton Vineyards

Wine lover and entrepreneur Dennis Horton began his wine making venture with a small home vineyard in Madison County, Virginia in 1983. It did not take him long to realize that, although the Virginia summers were warm enough to ripen almost any grape variety, the humid conditions favored growing grapes with thicker skins and loose clusters. In 1988, Dennis and longtime business partner Joan Bieda acquired 55 acres for the beginning of Horton Vineyards. The task of establishing the vineyard was given to Dennis' wife Sharon. Together, they have made history.

While I traveled the Monticello Wine Trail, I made sure to stop at Horton, one of the most famous of Virginia's wineries. Most recently Dennis was featured in the very successful book, Wild Vines, the story of the Norton grape.

The tasting room was large, bright, and airy. And filled with people.

Horton Vineyards is proud to re-introduce the famous Norton wine, the original Virginia Claret. Norton is a native Virginia grape that produced the internationally prize winning clarets of the Monticello Wine Company of Charlottesville in the late 1800's. Horton's Norton has a dark, rich color. It also has a hugely intense, fruity aroma of plums and tart cherries. This spicy, aromatic red is aged in oak for 14 months. Absolutely a wine for game, sausage, spicy and robust stews, and grilled meats. Really something unique and different.

Tannat is originally known for making big, tannic wines in the Madiran in southwest France. I cannot lie, I have not had the chance to enjoy one of these wines, so I cannot compare Norton's version to the original. That said, Horton's Tannat a big, rich, full bodied, dry red wine. It's got big, deep fruits up front, with plums, prunes, and dark cherry, and hints of leather and spice. A lovely, lovely big deep red.

Of course I am saving the best for last. Dionysus is made from Touriga Nacional, uually grown on the Iberian Penninsula. This has big deep fruit up front. As promised, the dried dark cherries, damson plums and mocha aromas some through, with whiff of vanilla and smoke. The deep red wine has a nice dry finnish, with some pop, but more a smooth, soft finish.
Sometimes, when one is traveling, the wine tastes great in the tastingroom, but when opens a bottle at home, the wine seems lacking. With this, Dominique made large, thick pork chops smoothered in a spicey barbecue sauce, along with fresh cut green beans and Spanish yellow rice. The wine stood up to the spicy sauce beautifully, and for the fist time in a long time, we finished the entire bottle between us. Exquisite.

Monday, November 15, 2010

30 New York Wineries at New Amsterdam Market, Sunday, December 5, 2010

The following wineries will take part in the largest New York sate wine tasting of the year, which will take place on Sunday, December 5, 2010 at New Amsterdam Market.

Damiani Wine Cellars
Hudson-Chatham Winery
Heron Hill Winery
Fox Run Vineyards
Imagine Moore Winery
Eagle Crest Vineyards
Benmarl Winery
Robibero Family Vineyards
Wolffer Estate
Brooklyn Winery
Chateau LaFayette Reneau
Cascade Mountain Winery
City Winery
Wagner Vineyards
Buttonwood Grove Winery
Vetter Vineyards Winery
Macari Vineyards
Sheldrake Point Vineyard
Spring Lake Winery
7 Vines
Bella Vita Vineyard
Scarola Vineyards
Waters Crest Winery
Mattebella Vineyards
Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery
Palmer Vineyards
Martha Clara Vineyards
Long Island Meadery
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars

New York Wines at Grand Army Plaza December 4, 2010

On Saturday, December 4, 2010 seven New York wineries will be tasting and selling their wares at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market to help New Yorkers celebrate the Holiday Season with a little more Empire State flair!

Brooklyn Winery

Chateau LaFayette Reneau

Eagle Crest Vineyards

Fox Run Vineyards

Hudson-Chatham Winery

Imagine Moore Winery

Wolffer Estate

It should be a lot of fun! Come on down to Grand Army Plaza and taste the fun!

Hey, New York WIne - Got Milk? Cotton? Pork?

This year marks the 4oth Anniversary of the Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives campaign. This was the first commodity campaign. NPR just did a story about it, and I think it's a great learning lesson for the New York wine industry. Consider this report from NPR about the cotton campaign.

Jennifer Collins: Back in the 70s, cotton had a problem....Synthetic fibers were moving in on cotton's territory. They were easy to care for, and cotton needed to be starched and ironed. Plus, polyester had this guy making it look good.
James Brown singing: Get up, get on up. Get up, get on up.
Cotton needed to fight back. So a group of growers and importers created Cotton Incorporated. The organization took a tiny cut of every bale of the fiber bought or sold in the U.S. It hired a team of ad execs. And it launched a PR assault at a time when branding a commodity was virtually unheard of.

Mike Stevens trades cotton futures. Mike Stevens: "There were people, I can recall, people back in the early 70s were very very skeptical of paying this organization to do something."

Jennifer Collins: But they came around. As part of the multi-million dollar campaign, Cotton Inc. created a logo, it sponsored the '76 Olympics and enlisted celebrities like Barbara Walters to build its image.

In short, Cotton set the standard for building a commodity brand. One of the other famous branding efforts were Pork: The Other White Meat and Got Milk?

Or, consider the Pork campaign....

"Pork. The Other White Meat." is an advertising slogan developed by advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987 for the National Pork Board. The campaign is paid for using a checkoff fee (tax) collected from the initial sale of all pigs and pork products, including imports. The program's television ad campaign began on March 2, 1987, with a series of advertisements that pitched pork as a white meat alternative to chicken or turkey, offering entrees such as cordon bleu, kabobs and pork à l'orange. The $7 million budget contrasted to the $30 million spent primarily on network television ads for the "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" campaign from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and the $112 million spent on ads for branded chickens.

This is the kind of branding New York wine needs. However, it's not going to come from the state. And New York winery owners better come to the party as soon as possible. Because this is what is wrong with New York wine. I recently met a winery owner who complained about the "New York wine" concept. He believed in regional branding. That is fool's gold. We are stronger together than we are separately. It's the kind of isolationism that has helped keep NY wine in the closet. Tell me where regionalism has gotten us so far? We need to band together and brand together. These national branding campaigns are an excellent vehicle to help raise public awareness. All we need to do is brand in New York state.

But these campaigns were not paid for by a state or federal government. They were created when a group of farmers and producers got together and decided to pool their money, and combat competitive products or negative perceptions about their products. Gee, what does that sound like?

New York Retailors Make Holiday Push for New York State Wine

Jeff Saunders and Tom Edwards have done a great job making a holiday push to inspire their fellow retailors to promote New York wine. At a recent round table at the Marriott Courtyard in Elmhurst, Queens, at a tasting of New York wines for local retailors from Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, the two unfurled the first of more than 1,000 posters with the tagline: Give a New York Wine This Holiday Season.

The poster is a crowd pleaser. It's been distributed to more than 1,000 New York state wine and liquor stores. It's a shame they didn't print more, because the wineries would have loved it for their tastingrooms as well. If you want one, click the URL below, and see if there are any left.


And in the mean time, follow the message!!! Give New York Wine This Holiday Season!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nautique Wines from the North Fork of Long Island - Perfect for the Holidays!

I first tasted a bottle of Nautique at the Long Island wine tasting in April or May of this year at Astor Wines and Spirits. I was remiss for not writing about it then. Now, I am admittedly a little behind. Nautique was released in August. So my apologies, first to the folks at Peconic Bay. However, it's still plenty of time before the holidays. And this line, which captures the nautical spirit of life on Long Island, are perfectly priced and delicious for use on your holiday table and at holiday get togethers! Great for large dinner parties, family get togethers, or circling the television during a late fall sporting event (like any time the Giants or Jets beat up on somebody!).

Nautique is a new line of table wines priced aggressively, packaged beautifully, and most importantly made with great tasting wines!!!!

Peconic Bay Winery, recognized for producing great wines on the North Fork of Long Island. Winery General Manager Jim Silver states, “Nautique is a new way forward for us. Here is a brand that permits us creativity in blending, and flexibility in wine making, while providing the consumer an exciting new style of wine. It is a crisp, aromatic, light and fresh style that is in keeping with the modern consumer’s tastes, and all at the right price.”

“The Nautique line allows me unlimited freedom as far as blending and creativity is concerned”, states Peconic Bay Winemaker Greg Gove. “Esprit de Blanc will enable me to explore the synergistic effects of combining a variety of aromatic white grapes. Esprit de Rosé gives me an opportunity to make Rosés that rival those of the Provence region, and the Esprit de Rouge allows me the freedom to employ a variety of maceration and extraction techniques coupled with judicious blending of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

“This release marks a sudden departure from the straight path usually pursued by wineries in this region. Here is a conscious attempt to produce wine that inspires the consumer to find pleasurable experiences outside of the conventions of varietal” states Jim Silver.

Silver continues, “The bottle and label are a fresh new design – a spirited interpretation of the nautical themes derived from this wonderful place, the North Fork of Long Island. The vertical label is a boat’s sail – quite a common sight along the shores here – and the heavy, wide-base tapered bottle demonstrates solidity, stability, and confidence. It’s just beautiful.”

So it was with a great thrill, that Dominique and I decided we were going to have a Nautique inspired wine dinner. It's November in the Hudson Valley, so the days grow dark fast, and the kitchen takes on a whole new meaning in the fall. The room filled up with warm light, we had jazz music on as the kids bustled about and the dog's nails click-clacked across the linoleum floor. The warm glow of the kitchen, with it's fall buzz of industry, was set off against the last vestiges of night, and the bare branches of late autumn.

We started off with a butternut squash soup, and the Nautique Esprit de Blanc. The soup was hot and creamy, seasoned just beautifully with kosher salt, pepper, and a sprig of rosemary and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The Blanc is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. It's aromas were fabulous, with hints of lemon, green apple, peach, and grapefruit. It's a bright, clean, fresh wine, with wonderful fruit upfront, great acidity, and a nice, long lasting finish for a white. Refreshing and wonderful. I could not help but think that I would have rally loved it with almost any kind of shellfish or seafood as well. I was drooling for clams or oysters, but the soup itself was rich and wonderful , and the wine was a tremendous compliment.

Next was roast chicken, rubber with lemon and butter, and sprinkled liberally with pepper and salt. We had stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Along side this, we placed the Rouge. The Nautique Esprit de Rouge is a blend of 95% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. This is a medium bodied red, with wonderful aromas of raspberry, dark, dark cherry, and a touch of plum. There are hints of cedar and vanilla. I took my first bite of the chicken and tasted the stuffing alongside of it. I swallowed. Then I brought up the glass to my lips. The fruit exploded in my mouth. But at the same time, the acidity and light tannins brought the fruit into line, and the whole of the wine was a tremendous mouthfeel. Flavors swirled. And there was a nice, long finish, with great balance, and not to big a tannin, but just enough. Smooth and friendly, this is one of the best table wines I've had in a while. Affordably priced, his was a lovely, lovely wine.

According to Peconic Bay, "Nautique Esprit de Rosé was enjoyable to produce. The subtleties produced by fermenting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes without their skins created challenging blending options. The result is a fresh, lively, food-friendly summertime wine that works anytime of the year. A bright pink salmon color is a testament to the pristine flavors, higher than average natural acidity and crisp red fruit character. Strawberry and pink grapefruit aromas give way to a complex arrangement of berry, white peach and citrus flavors."

If you are looking to buy a case of something for the holidays, the Blanc and the Rouge are a great, great buy. I would buy a mixed cases to start with - six of each, and know it will impress everyone with the cool, sleek packaging, and the great tasting wine....and let them think I spent a fortune!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Great Retailing Suggestions for New York Wine Retailors (and other wine retailors from all states) from Jim Silver of Peconic Bay

Recently I went to a winery/wine retailor roundtable. Many people spoke. Lots of good ideas were mentioned. The roundtable was sponsored by the Last Store on Main Street Coalition and the Retailors Association, and the two main agents were Tom from Fox and Hound Wines and Spirits in New Paltz, and Jeff Saunders. I have to give credit to these two men. They are doing everything they can try try and bring the wineries and the stores together. Obviously, they have their own motivations, however, they also have the bigger picture in mind. They understand that the stores and the wienries need each other, no matter how difficult either side can seem to be.

But I saw someone there who didn't speak up, who I deeply respect - Jim Silver of Peconic Bay Winery. I think Jim is one of the classiest managers in the New York wine trade, so I sought him out for some ideas.

More than many who wanted big, multi channels funds, and big, long term programs, he had some simple ideas that are easy to implement now and would really add some zing to holiday sales for both the wineries and the stores. Jim was specifically talking about New York, but actually his message would work just as well down in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or some other regions.

"I’d like to see a guidebook for retailers on what simple steps they can take today to sell more wine. It can be called “You Can’t Outsource Local Wine, a guide to keeping our business local,” said Silver.

I thought this was a great idea! Consider this the booklet you've been waiting for! And these are some suggestions stores can do today!

1) Move two NY (or two local wines) wines from the shelf to the cold box.

2) Take the five slowest French wines you have, close them out, and replace them with five new NY wines.

3) Swap out your Australian section with your NY section (Australian sections always seem to have better placement, but the wines have slowed).

4) Put up a sign and remind your sales people that says “Buying local wines protects jobs, protects farmland, and provides tax revenues that keep taxes lower.”

5) Pick a Thanksgiving wine from NY and recommend it to your customers, one white, one red, and one rose.

6) Include NY in your holiday baskets.

7) Pick two new NY wines and CASE-STACK them on the floor next to Yellow Tail, Cavit or DuBeouf.

8) Ask for in-store tastings from NY winery reps and owners through the holidays. They will be happy to help out at this time of year!

The nice part of Jim's suggestions is this can all be done right now, and if a percentage of the Metro Associates members did this, the impact would be huge.

As usual, great job, Jim! Simplicity is its own elegance.

Talking Virginia Wine with the Washington Post's Dave McIntyre

Dave McIntyre is one of the most interesting wine voices in wine today. What makes him so attractive to Washington Post readers, is that Dave can talk about French Bordeaux and Claifornia Cabernet Sauvignon with the best of them, but he also loves local wines, and has consistently fed his reader's desires to know more about the local wines of the region, especially Maryland (his home state) and Virginia. That makes his unique among most national newspaper wine writers.

Many wine critics and writers tend to specialize, or at least lean toward the more high stakes games (the big houses in the big regions). But Dave, while he knows, undertsands, and appreciates those, is also fascinated by local wines.
Of course, not everyone wants to hear about east coast wineries (can you say losers?). After a recent jag on Maryland and Virginia wineries, Dave confided on his blog, "My October series about Virginia and Maryland wines received praise from several readers, but also some complaints. One reader accused me of "pandering" to local winemakers and urged me to stick to writing about French wines, which he said provide better value at about 30% less in price. "Why buy inferior wines because they are local?" this reader asked. Of course, I never suggested anyone should buy an inferior wine simply because it is local. I merely said we should no longer assume a wine is inferior simply because it is local."

But the following is why I like Dave McIntyre, which comes from a Washington Post article:

"Why am I jazzed about local wines? Because the best of them are thrilling. Be it a petit verdot from Virginia, a blanc de bois from Texas, a Colorado Gewurztraminer, a Missouri Norton or a pinot blanc from Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula, the best wine is expressive of the place and year it is grown and the ever-improving craft of the winemaker. That's true of no other beverage."

"If you're not willing to splurge - and miss - once in a while, you can sit out this revolution. You'll do just fine drinking French wine, and I will be right there with you most of the time. But I will still be trying to persuade you to try something new."

Consider this post a nod in the positive column for featuring some local wines,
Dave. Bravo!!!

Dave and Lilly are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are kind, gracious, and very friendly. Dave is a freelance wine and food writer, and he is also the wine writer for the Washington Post. He also has a wine website called Dave McIntyre's WineLine, you can click through here:

Dave's writing is insightful and fun. Always informative, but never didactic or snobbish, Dave is a joy to read. I had the incredible opportunity to have dinner with Dave, and his lovely wife Lilly, and their adorable daughter, when I was coming back from Virginia. The theme of the dinner was Virginia wine. Unfortunately, I was late to dinner, because I had no idea about I-495 traffic in the region, especially around commute time, which I raced into the teeth of, apparently. It took me almost an hour to get through 11 miles of road. It was excruciating. I was an hour late for dinner. Dave was amused. Later, they both admitted, they never, ever take that road. Ugh! Boy did I need a drink.

I had a trunk full of Virginia wines, but Dave said no, he'd pull up a few from his cellar. And boy was I glad he did.

The first thing Dave poured me was a Veritas Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

Veritas Winery, based in Afton, Virginia, is a family business owned by Andrew and Patricia Hodson, which they opened in June 2002. With the help of their daughter Emily, the winemaker, they have succeeded in consistently producing a range of complex and elegant wines. The winery is located just off I-64 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Emily Pelton

Veritas makes high quality wines. They use almost exclusively vitis vinifera vines with the exception of one French hybrid. Their philosophy is to make wine with the classic, old-style principles of Viticulture and Vinification, at the same time using state of the art technology to capture varietal and regional character. Wine-making is the domain of Andrew and daughter Emily, who are committed to capturing the varietal character of the grapes.

It was amazing! It was bright, crisp, and clean, with a light whiff of melon, some floral notes, and a hint of tangerine. I am not usually a white wine drinker, but this was amazing. I had the wine with two local cheeses Dave and Lilly had served with the wine. A semi-soft rind cheese, and a goat cheese with a hint of ash. I would have drank the whole bottle, except for the fact that we had to move nto the actual meal, which would require different wines.

Together Dave and Lilly had made a smashing dinner. Thick cut pork chops, pan fried to perfection along with beautifully chopped squares of butter nut squash and broiled and seasoned cauliflower. Incredible!

The next wine was a Chester Gap Merlot 2008. A spicy Merlot with lots of lucious raspberry. I nice long lasting finish with lots of fruit, nice acidity, and good mouthfeel. Chester Gap Cellars are at the northern tip of beautiful Rappahannock County, enjoying not only stunning views from the Cellar’s open-air tasting patio but truly great, hand-crafted wines. At over 1,000 feet elevation but conveniently located just off of Route 522, near Front Royal and I-66, the Cellars is a unique winery. Owned by Bernd Jung, the have estate-grown Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other innovative blends. High elevation, an eastern exposure, well-drained rocky soils, nearly frost-free conditions, and cooler summer days and nights all add up to grapes that can ”hang” in the vineyard until optimal ripeness is achieved. Chest Gap Cellars is doing something right.

Next we sampled a Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2008 Petit Verdot is fast becoming one of Virginia’s rising stars. It seems well suited for the Virginia climate and soil. This was a very dark, aromatic red. And apparently of very small production.There's some floral notes on the nose of this wine, and a hint of vanilla which one assumes comes form the French Oak this wine spent eighteen months in. Michael Shaps makes some excellent wines, and this is one of his best.

Next was the Glenn Manor Hodder Hill 2007 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 7 % Cabernet Franc. This was a fascinating wine, filled with dark blackberries, cassis and cedar. A touch of saddle? This was a full-bodied, concentrated, complex deep red, with great acidity, nice tannins. A tremendous wine. Glen Mannor Hodder HIll is located in on the west slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, around 1,100 feet above sea level. This planting consists of 4.3 acres of 4 to 12 year old vines growing in deep and well drained soils. This is made by winemaker Jeff White. Fabulous!

Anna Rae married Alpheus Lee White and the portion of her parent's farm in Front Royal that Anna Rae inherited is where the vineyards and winery are now established. The Whites have three sons and together own the winery business. It is managed and operated by their youngest son, Jeffrey Raymond White, who developed an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines while working for a nearby Virginia winery. He established our original vineyards in 1995 and envisioned what is today Glen Manor Vineyards. This was a tremendous wine, and just really, really impressive.
Dave talked about Virginia wines, and how the industry there had really exploded, and how the wines had absolutely grown in quality with the region. There are more than 180 of the wineries, but his knowledge of each of them was surprising. And his respect for many of them was impressive.
The evening wore on, and it was a school night. I had kept their 10-year old daughter up, who dined with us. She was incredibly cute, and not impresed at all by our wine talk. Her attitude and funny tid bits about wine reminded me of my sons, who are "so over" wine. I could have spent hours with Dave and Lilly talking about Virginia wines, but, unfortunately it was time to go.

BTW, the dinner proved another point, that Dave's reader had been corrected yet again. The wines tasted absolutely fantastic. Local wine won out this time.

Lunch and Tasting With Richard Leahy at Barboursville Vineyards

When one wants to really learn about Virginia wine, the first person they need to speak with is Richard Leahy. Richard has been involved in Virginia wine for well more than 15 years. As the East Cost editor of Vineyard & Winery Management and the organizer of Wineries Unlimited for more than a decade, Richard is in touch with many people.

These days he is the organizer of the extreme viticulture trade show which will be taking place up Minnesota or Michigan as I understand it next year. He's also doing some writing and editing for other folks, and has several other irons in the fires, as they say. As I said, Richard knows a lot of people.

I caught up with Richard at Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards just last week. Barboursville is easily one of the best wineries on the entire east coast. Certainly a First Growth caliber wine program. The winemaker, Luca Paschina, and the owner, Gianni Zonin (of Zonin winery fame) bring their old world knowledge to this new world winery. And of course, with Assistant winemaker Francesco Baravalle's help, their work has resulted in a tremendous success.
Luca Paschina

Richard went on to hold forth rapsodically about the explosion of the Virginia wine industry, and he could think of few places that would show all the best Virginia had to offer than Palladio Restaurant. There are now more than 180 wineries in Virginia, and the number would pop again in 2011. He was also quick to chime up their successes from national to internation acclaim in competitions, Virginia wines have continued to show well outside the state. And the state's economy is booming, because the state government has seen fit to partner with the wineries in an effort to help boost tourism - and business is good. Folks from Maryland, Washington, DC, Virgina, New Jersey, and other surrounding states, are making Virginia Wine Country a favorite culinary choice for mid-Atlantic tourism.

Of course we ordered a fabulous luncheon at the majestic winery, with the old Barboursville mansion ruins just down the road, and the opulent tasting room next door. The food was delectable, and of course, all made from local vegetables and produce. The dining room was a cross between French country and Italian rustica, with a touch of old time, hunt country Virginia. In short, the room was beautiful. And strangely in line with the winery's themes - they make Italian and French style wines. One can feel the old world influences everywhere, but with a real statement of Virginia as their home. That in short is Barboursville, where they take their heritage and their wine heritage seriously.

The first wine we had with our lunch was a 2002 Viognier. Viognier is one of Virginia's premiere white wine grapes, and Barboursville's version of it is among the very best. This wine had aged beautifully. It is almost a golden color, with heavy toes of melon, lots of floral bouquets, and a lusciousness that made the mouth water. Smelling it, you thought it might be sweet. On the contrary. Though the wine had obviously colored somewhat over he year (Viogniers usually being very light in color), the freshness of the fruit was still incredibly vibrant. An exceptional wine, proving hat Viogniers, especially Virginia Viogniers, are incredibly vibrant and long lasting. The wine was brilliant!

Next came the main courses, and out came two stunning wines - 2002 Cabernet Franc and a 2004 Octagon, two of Barboursville's best reds. These were both library wines, since Richard is a known commodity. The Cabernet Franc was easily, hands down, simply, the best Cabernet Franc I have ever drank. It had lots of stewed dark fruits, dark cherries, dark raspberries, and hints of vanilla. It was medium to deep red wine, with a fabulous color that hadn't dared yet to brown in the least. The fruit and the acidity were incredible. Sometimes with Cab Franc there is an herbaceousness, a weediness, that overwhelms the wine. Not here. No hint of weediness at all. A slight touch of pencil shaving...but only a hint. It was a stunning wine.

On the other hand, the Octagon was also a stunner. This wine, however, based on the concept of a Bordeaux style Meritage, this wine was mind blowing. If one closed their eyes, and smelled, and tasted the wine, their was no way you were going to tell me that this wasn't a first or second growth Bordeaux wine. There was the Bordelaise smell of cellar, of old oak, of age and time, and of stewed dark fruits - stewed plums and prunes, deep cherry, dark raspberry, a hint of mocha, and a whiff of leather or saddle. It had a big powerful whollop of fruit to lead off the attack, and then a big long finish with a fair amount of acidity an a nice dry pop at the end. Not too much of a pop, more of a subtle pop. Just enough to let you know it was there, like a boxers stinging jab, not a right handed round house. In short, it was one of the most elegant red wines I have had on the east coast. Absolutely incredible.

Richard and I later also did a tasting at the tasting bar.

The Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot Grigio were both light, crisp, and refreshing. Exceptional accompaniments to fish, poultry, and fresh vegetable dishes. Great citrus notes and beautiful noses. Really wonderful wines.

The Chardonnay Reserve, not usually one of my favorites (I prefer naked chardonnays) has just the right blend of oak and fresh fruit, so as your are not chewing on oak when you drink it, but rather there is a hint of vanilla, and a complexity of fruit that make it a classic Burgundian-style chardonnay, but in the best sense, and with a delicacy and flair that is rare in the US. Exceptional.

Of course, then there were my favorites - the three Italian grapes - Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Sangiovese. These were incredible as well. The 2007 Barbera is one of my favorite examples of this grape in the world. It is a confection of raspberries and cherries in a glass, with hints of earth and vanilla. Again, if you closed your eyes, there is no way you would guess anything other than an Italian wine. And an excellent example of one at that. Next was the 2008 Sangiovese (which also has small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot), which was also an absolute knock-out. With plums and cherries, and a dash of smoke this wine is a deep, dark winner. Last but not least is the Nebbiolo, a tremendous 100% varietal with strong hints of forest floor, tobacco, earth, raspberry and dark cherry. And incredibly complex wine which absolutely soared.

There is no question that Barboursville Vineyards not only shines as one of the best wineries on the east coast, but certainly in the United States. With classic old world style, but harnessing their new world terrior, Barboursville is one of the absolute flagship wineries in the United States, bar none. If you like east coast wines, or if you just like great wine, then you will miss a tremendous experience, if you don't taste Barboursville before you die.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Have Seen the Future of East Coast Wine - It's Virginia!

I just spent three glorious days roaming the highways and byways of the Monticello Trail in Virginia, and met with many people and tasted many wines. And I am here to tell you that Virginia is going to surpass New York, and become the number one wine destination on the east coast in the next five years.

I have already told you the reasons why Virginia will eclipse New York in my post on October 21, 2010.

But I will tell you this....after tasting almost 100 wines in the last week, I was most impressed.

I am going on a Virginia bender for a while. I loved Virginia when I went down their almost 10 years ago, but the state is exploding now with wineries opening up seemingly every day. Hard not to be impressed.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise: Time Is Now for East Coast Wineries - 10 Reasons East Coast Wines Will Shine in Coming Year

I know people must be tired of me bad mouthing New York wine right now. It's not that I am down on New York wines, I think they are better than they have ever been. I'm just down on the New York state legislature for not backing one of its best industries (can you name five growing industries in New York aside from NY wine?). And I am mad at winemakers who can't seem to find a common cause, even when it's sitting right in front of them. It makes me angry.

But I am here today to tell you that Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, "Good times are coming!" I am telling you now that great things are about to happen! I am here to tell you that the promise land is around the corner. And you better be ready, or you will miss heaven!

The 2010 growing season on the east coast is one of the best in more than two decades. From Virginia to Long Island to Pennsylvania to Connecticut and Rhode Island, winemakers harvested happily and early! The Brix were high, and the grapes were sweet!

"So what?" you say? Ah, ha! 2009 is one of the worst growing years California has seen in two decades. Now, I am not rejoicing in that. I love my Kistler, and my Turley, and my Cakebread and my Chappallet and my Patz & Hall as much as the next guy. Buy 2010 is going to be a glorious vintage in the east. It will be the high watermark of east coast wines for a generation.

Now is the time for the East Coast to rise up, and stake it's claim. Lenn Thompson wrote that East Coast wineries need to stake their claim with their own Terrior. This vintage is a golden opportunity to see where we are.

Here are 10 reasons why East Coast wines are near taking their rightful place on the world wine stage:

1. East Coast had a great winemaking season in 2010 and the 2009 vintage, a tough one, has shone pretty well so far. The 2010 vintage will be one for the ages. Yet another sign of the rising tide of quality on the East Coast.

2. I'm tired of hearing about all the star power California and other wine regions have. East Coast has it's own star winemakers like Richard Olsen-Harbich (Bedell), Eric Fry (Lenz), Roman Roth (Wolffer), Russell Hearn (PWG), Tom Higgins (Heart & Hands), Eric Miller (Chaddsford), Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards), Adam McTaggart (Boxwood), Luca Paschina (Barboursville), Cameron Stark (Unionville), Andy Reagan (Jefferson); Bob Bartlett (Barrtlett Estate), and many others. Apologies. there's many more...can't list them all. I put this list of people up against anyone. This is my East Coast Wineries Justice League.

3. Better winemaking know-how and knowledge across the board from Virginia all the way to Maine are better than ever. Period. Not even a discussion.

4. Some fabulous wines: Heart & Hands and Oak Summit Pinot Noirs; Lenz, Raphael, Wolffer, Pellegrini, and Bedell Merlots; Paumanoak's Chenin Blanc; Barboursville's Octagon, Nebbiolo, and Barbera; Jefferson Vineyards Viognier, Chardonnay Reserve, and Meritage; Chaddsford's Merican and Chambourcin Seven Valleys; J. Maki Winery Blanc de Blanc; Hopewell Valley's Chambourcin; Unionville's Pheasant Hill Chardonnay; Sakonnet's Fume Vidal; the Rieslings and Gewurztraminers of the Finger Lakes (like Dr. Frank, Hermann J. Wiemer, Standing Stone, Tierce, Red Newt, Billsboro, White Springs Winery, and many many more); Millbrook Block Five Pinot Noir; and many, many more.

5. Even if the New York legislature still doesn't get it, Virginia, Maryland, and a number of other wines states do. More money will be spent in 2010 to promote east coast winemaking than ever before.

6. Great marketing people. In the past, the east coast had inexperienced wine professionals promoting their wines (and in some cases no one), but now there are a maturing crop of wine professionals who have the funds to create demand and drive more wine into consumers hands, like Morgan McLaughlin of the Finger Lakes; Kevin Atticks of Maryland; Richard Leahy and Annette Ringwood Boyd of Virginia; the people who created the Maine Winery Guild; and of course Jim Trezise (who is currently over-matched by his demands and severely under-funded by the state - and who could use some help).

7. Better packaging. More than ever before, East Coast Wines are looking great! 15 years ago, when I first started really following East Coast wineries, the labels were just something short of horrific!!!! Awful, ugly, cheap, and badly designed. Embarassing. But today, East Coast wineries packaging is more than up to snuff. Packages like Chaddsfords handsome Merican and Chambourcin Seven Valleys; Heart and Hands and Millbrook's Block Five Pinot Noirs; many bottles form Long Island's Wolffer, Raphael, and Bedell Cellars; Jefferson Vineyards; Barboursville Vineyards; Bartlett Estates; Unionville Vineyards; and many others look right at home against any wine from any country.

8. It's Local! This is one of the biggest boosts East Coast wineries have ever had. And it's more important than ever. Consumers want to support local. A little state pride is a good thing. Local dirt tastes better. It tastes and smells like home. It's unique.

9. Quality. The over all quality is better than ever. I can't tell you enough how wine quality has improved over the last 15 years. Part of this has to do with a better understanding of chemistry, but more importantly, the wines are better made, with more oeniological understanding, and many are truly cellar worthy.

10. The east coast has great, dedicated bloggers, starting with Lenn Thompson and the gang at New York Cork Report; your truly, East Coast Wineries; a slew of great Viriginia blogs including Virginia Wine Time, Virginia Wine In My Pocket, Virginia Wine Dogs Blog, and My Vine Spot among others; Vinotrip; The Wine Classroom, The Hudson Valley Wine Goddess, and many, many others. These dedicated men and women are the engine that help promote and celebrate the many things going on in and around local wine.

BONUS 11! And the biggest reason is? Taste! East coast wines have never tasted so good! And now, with a vintage like 2010 under their belts, East Coast wineries are in fact second to none. Will some of the wine regions continue to evolve? Will new varieties inevitably rise up? Yes, yes, and yes, I say again. But for now, this is as good as it's been - and it's only going to get better. No more apologies. No excuses. We have great wine, come and drink!