Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Law 3450 - NYWGF - Vineyard Planting Loan Program - Good News for Growers?

Creates the vineyard planting loan program and makes an appropriation therefor; provides that the program is to be run by the New York wine/grape foundation; provides that the program shall involve the planting of vineyards, the purchasing of vines and the purchasing of vineyard equipment and supplies; specifies that the program does not include the purchase or lease of tractors, trucks or winemaking equipment.

2011-2012 Regular Sessions
January 25, 2011
-- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A. BRENNAN, RUSSELL, SALADINO, TITONE,
WEISENBERG -- read once and referred to the Committee on Agriculture
AN ACT relating to the creation of the vineyard planting loan program
and making an appropriation therefor
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
bly, do enact as follows:

1 Section 1. Vineyard planting loan program. 1. Notwithstanding the
2 provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the New York
3 wine/grape foundation shall undertake to provide financial assistance to
4 rural land owners for the planting of grapes and development of wineries
5 in the state of New York.

6 2. For purposes of this section, and notwithstanding any provision of
7 law to the contrary, as used in this section:
8 (a) "Rural land owner" shall mean a person who engages in grape manu-
9 facturing and/or the production and processing of wine, grapes or grape
10 products or desires to engage in farming of grape manufacturing and/or
11 the production and processing of wine, grapes or grape products in the
12 state.
13 (b) "Lender" shall mean any state or federally-chartered savings bank,
14 savings and loan association, state or federally-chartered savings banks
15 and savings and loan associations, farm credit system institution, or
16 state or federally-chartered commercial banks or trust companies author-
17 ized to do business in this state.

18 3. The foundation is hereby authorized to enter into any contract,
19 financing or loan agreement, or other instrument in connection with a
20 loan made by a lender to a rural land owner for purposes of this
21 section.

22 4. (a) In order to effectuate the purposes of this section, the foun-
23 dation may extend credit to or on behalf of a rural land owner for the
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
[ ] is old law to be omitted.
A. 3450 2
1 planting of vineyards, the purchasing of vines and the purchasing of
2 vineyard equipment and supplies.
3 (b) Credit shall not be extended to rural land owners for the purchase
4 or lease of tractors, trucks or winemaking equipment.

5 5. (a) In connection with the issuance of any bond or note issued in
6 connection with or for the vineyard planting loan program, the founda-
7 tion may fix and collect any fees and charges, including but not limit-
8 ed to reimbursement of all costs of financing incurred by the founda-
9 tion, as the corporation shall determine to be reasonable.
10 (b) Interest rates charged to the rural land owner by the foundation
11 shall be less than the amount that is being charged by commercial lend-
12 ers.

13 6. In connection with the extension of credit and the issuance of a
14 bond or note to a rural land owner as provided in this section, a rural
15 land owner shall submit to the foundation an application for the exten-
16 sion of credit or a loan. The foundation may deny such application for
17 any reason it deems appropriate in the public interest.

18 7. All assets and liabilities created through the issuance of bonds or
19 notes under this section shall be separate from all other assets and
20 liabilities of the foundation. The foundation shall have no moral or
21 legal obligation or liability to any rural land owner or other person
22 under this section except as expressly provided by written contract. No
23 funds in the vineyard planting loan program may be commingled with any
24 other funds of the foundation.

25 8. (a) The foundation shall promulgate regulations, developed in
26 consultation with the commissioner of agriculture and markets, for the
27 purpose of carrying out its responsibilities under this section, includ-
28 ing establishing the criteria and standards for evaluating and criteria
29 for eligibility of rural land owners to be financed by the vineyard
30 planting loan program.
31 (b) The foundation shall consult with the commissioner of agriculture
32 and markets regarding promotion of the loan program and agriculturally
33 related questions regarding the program or applications.
34 § 2. The sum of three million dollars ($3,000,000), or so much thereof
35 as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated to the New York wine/grape
36 foundation in consultation and coordination with the commissioner of
37 agriculture and markets out of any moneys in the state treasury in the
38 general fund to the credit of the state purposes account not otherwise
39 appropriated, for carrying out the provisions of this act. Such sum
40 shall be payable on the audit and warrant of the state comptroller on
41 vouchers certified or approved by the commissioner of agriculture and
42 markets, or his or her duly designated representative in the manner
43 provided by law. No expenditure shall be made from this appropriation
44 until a certificate of approval of availability shall have been issued
45 by the director of the budget and filed with the state comptroller and a
46 copy filed with the chairperson of the senate finance committee and the
47 chairperson of the assembly ways and means committee. Such certificate
48 may be amended from time to time by the director of the budget and a
49 copy of each such amendment shall be filed with the state comptroller,
50 the chairperson of the senate finance committee and the chairperson of
51 the assembly ways and means committee.
52 § 3. This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after
53 it shall have become a law.

Castello di Borghese Cabernet Franc 2006

I cannot tell a lie, it's been quite some time since I was last at Castello di Borghese.

This of course started out as the Hargrave Vineyard, the oldest vineyard on Long Island.
Since 1999, the first vineyard on the North Fork has been in the creative hands of Prince Marco and Princess Ann Marie Borghese, who promptly renamed it Castello di Borghese -- Castle of the Borgheses. The 2003 season marked the 30th anniversary of this founding vineyard of the Long Island wine industry. Ann Marie and Marco continue to apply new levels of energy, watching the vineyard evolve graciously under their stewardship.

The new owners have expanded the vineyard in Long Island, redesigned the tasting room and set up a cafe-like seating area, one indoors and another outdoors, to allow people a greater degree of relaxation when tasting the ever-expanding selection of Castello di Borghese wines.

Just last night I shared with friends the Castello di Borghese Cabernet Franc 2006. Their Cab Franc is a medium-bodied, Loire-style red. Indeed, it's somehwat more like a deep Pinot noir. There's bright cherry up front. And then there's black pepper, ground spices, blackberries and a grounding earthiness as promised. The wine is aged in vintage European oak barrels.
Very, very nice!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


YESTERDAY, I went to Albany today to sound out about a dozen or so Assemblymen and Senators, as well as with Governor Cuomo's staff, to discuss spending more money on New York wine instead of less.

I did this as a furtherance of my essay "It's Time We Had a Conversation" to discuss why the legislature couldn't give New York wineries more money. My argument was the same as it was in that essay - the NY state wine industry, under Jim Trezise's tutelage, grew tremendously. But the NY wine industry is still grossly under supported, especially in the face of such well armed competitors as Italy, France, Spain, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and such states as Washington, Orgeon, and Virginia.

In fact, it was the Virginia model I used specifically, to ask for additional funds - suggesting that the money come from something like I Love New York to establish a New York Wine Council to augment the NYWGF. We praised the NYWGF. I suggested that the NYWGF was under funded, and that they recieve additional funds, but that a new entity, who's sole charge was to brand New York Wine, be established to promote New York Wine. I suggested it it should be a separate entity, but that Jim Trezise should very much be involved in it, and that there should be cross synergy between it and the NYWGF. Not one person I met with yesterday thought the idea was a bad one, but admittedly, fiscal concerns this year especially, make this a tough discussion.

It is only a plan, a suggestion, a beginning. I am not sure in these tough economic times it is feasible. But New York wine, as it has grown and mtured, now remains an "an undeveloped oyster," a great econmoic engine, in New York's arsenal. It is time to begin that conversation.

I am sure the idea will morph and change as the conversation widens, but we thought if we didn't push, then nothing would happen.

I don't know much about politics; the arena makes me uncomfortable. But I hoped more voices might help force a bigger conversation, and help get the support our industry needs to move forward in a competitive way.

To that end, the following wineries support this "white paper."
Amici Vineyards
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
Benmarl Winery
Black Willow Winery
Brookview Station Winery
Brotherhood Winery
Eagle Crest Vineyards
Eveningside Vineyards
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards
Hudson-Chatham Winery
Palaia Vineyards
Shaw Vineyards
Victorianbourg Wine Estate
Whitecliff Vineyard
The Winery at Marjim Manor


With all sincereity and good intentions,

Carlo DeVito, Hudson-Chatham Winery


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
State Capitol
Albany, New York

January 24, 2011

Dear Governor Cuomo,

As you know, the New York wine industry is responsible for more than 30,000 jobs in New York State and accounts for more than $3.5 billion annually to the state from wine sales and wine tourism. For the better part of 20 years, the industry has managed to achieve this remarkable success with little significant support from State government, especially compared to other states.

I recognize, and applaud, the support the State has provided the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. We believe this organization can and should continue to play an important role in guiding new start-up wineries, and providing leadership on the important agricultural issues vineyards face. But we believe the time has come for a new entity, the New York Wine Council, to lead a State-supported promotional effort to support New York wines.

New Yorkers clearly enjoy their wine – New York ranks 2nd among states for wine consumption -- but too often they select wines from out of state or from other countries. When you consider that States like California, Oregon, Washington, and even Virginia, spend millions to promote their wines, it’s no surprise. Yet, New York winemakers are producing award-winning wines that can compete with any in the world. Unfortunately, New Yorkers simply don’t know it.

A powerful promotional campaign can help drive more New Yorkers to select New York wines, which in turn will drive more jobs and revenues for our State. If we can increase consumer demand for New York wines, we can set off a chain reaction that will lift the entire industry. That’s why we hope you will include our proposal for a dedicated, sustained promotional campaign in your Executive Budget.

At a time when locally produced products are gaining traction with New Yorkers, we believe common sense and good economic policy demand an investment in this job-creating industry. Thank you in advance for helping our businesses take the next step toward creating more jobs for New Yorkers.


Carlo DeVito, Hudson-Chatham Winery

Support for a
New York State Wines Initiative

Business groups and wineries in New York have been working together to create an opportunity for the State to generate sales tax revenue along with the potential of new jobs within the wine industry. To accomplish this, we are seeking funding for the creation of a New York Wine Council, to be housed under the I Love New York tourism promotion.

This Council would have sole responsibility of creating brand recognition for New York wines and would consist of an Executive Director, an assistant and a Board comprised of two retailers, two restaurateurs, four representatives from wineries, and the Director of the NYWGF. They would receive no compensation other than reimbursement for expenses. The Council would work independently from the NYS Wine and Grape Foundation, who does a great job promoting agriculture and grape growing. The NY Wine Council would be charged with branding New York wines in New York City – an area that has yet to be properly developed.

The Council would promote New York wines in concert with the tourism industry, wineries, retailers and restaurants. For every dollar spent on branding, the State would benefit from tourism, giving each dollar a double impact on New York’s economy. New York can model other states, like Virgina, that have successfully marketed and branded wines, which boosts sales, brings in revenues to the State and enhances production and sale of its own state resources.

New York State is number two in the country in wine consumption and the third largest producer of wine in the United States — behind only California and Washington— but falls far short of other states in supporting this important industry. The state provided just over $700,000 for the Wine and Grape Foundation and only $34,000 for marketing in the 2010 budget.

California on the other hand spent more than $1.5 million on print campaigns alone and another $4.1 million on TV advertising. Even Virginia, which ranks fourth in wine production, outspends New York to promote its homegrown wines $4.5 to $1, though their industry is less than one-third the size. This also does not include the other world wide producers of wine that spend million of dollars promoting their wines in the New York market – countries like Italy, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, etc. What New York needs is a strong backing and the funding to create a promotional campaign to educate New Yorkers as to the quality and benefits of supporting New York’s wineries. Currently the wine industry is lacking the necessary resources to make this happen.

For years, the wine industry has been the fastest growing part of New York's two largest economic sectors of agriculture and tourism. New wineries are sprouting around the state, investments are growing and visits by tourists and wine lovers have increased by 21 percent since 2003, despite the recession, and record gasoline prices. The Finger Lakes region, with 104 wineries, has the largest share of wineries. Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Lake Erie region are considered the other centers of the industry. More wineries have opened around the state since 2000 than in the previous 170 years, according to a New York Wine and Grape Foundation survey. And the expansion is unabated.

The New York grape, grape juice, and wine industries contributed over $3.76 billion in economic benefits to the economy of New York State in 2008, according to a study conducted by the Napa Valley-based Stonebridge Research Group LLC. This is an increase of over 10% from the $3.4 billion documented in an identical 2004 study. The new study also shows that out-of-state wines sold in New York contributed an additional $3.26 billion, for a total economic benefit to the State of $7.02 billion from the grape and wine industries.

Relevant highlights of the study include:

· $508 million New York winery sales (vs. $420 million)
· $376.5 million in wine-related tourism expenditures (vs. $312 million)
· 4.98 million wine related tourists (vs. 4.14 million)
· $455 million in State and local taxes paid (vs. $427 million) including $230 million from the New York sector and $225 million from out of state wines
· Charitable contributions $8.6 million

The Stonebridge Research study is complemented by another study released in October which shows industry growth over the past 25 years since the Foundation was created. The long-term study, conducted by New York Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), measured growth in areas such as the number of wineries, total production, tourism, and similar indices.

Among the highlights of the NASS study:

· The number of new wineries in the 2000 decade exceeded the total created in the previous 170 years, with many in nontraditional regions of the state.
· Tourist visits to New York wineries in 2008 approached 5 million, up 21% from 2003, despite record high gas prices and a recession.
· Of 169 responding wineries, 124 made investments during 2006-2008 averaging nearly $400,000.
· Commercial wineries paid an average of $1,788,300 in federal and state taxes (excise and sales), with farm wineries averaging $34,600.

These numbers clearly show positive benefits from the wine industry in many areas of the economy. The growth of the industry is due largely to a productive partnership between the public and private sectors in concert with the recognition by New York's public officials on the state and federal levels that the wine industry plays a vital role in agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. Enlightened public policy along with much-needed financial support will tremendously help expand our economic contribution.

One need only compare data from other states to see how much the New York State wine industry is underfunded:

Wineries: 135
Total budget: $4.5 million ($1.5 from agriculture / $3 from tourism)

Wineries: 125
Total budget: $1 million

New York
Wineries: 273
Total budget: $750,000

· It draws tourism to the many wine regions – Erie, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Long Island and Niagara
· Bring’s Out of State Dollars into NY economy - It draws into New York out-of-state tourists from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts consistently
· More Taxable Revenues -The tourists buy wine at the wineries, where the state makes a double gain on sales – through excise taxes and retail sales taxes
· Extra sales - Tourists also spend money on lodging, food, miscellaneous
· More job - As wineries grow, they hire more people

There are numerous competing wine trade commissions in New York City:
Washington Wine Commission
Oregon Wine Commissions, c
Bodegas de Argentina
Australian Wine Bureau
Chilean Government Trade Office
China Wines Information
French Wine Associations
Bordeaux Wine Bureau
Burgundy Wine Association
Champagne Association
German Wine Information Bureau
Italian Trade Commission - Wine & Food Center
Italian Wine & Food Institute
Mexican Wines (Vino Mex)
New Zealand Trade Development Board
Portuguese Trade Commission
South African Wine
Wines from Spain
Vibrant Rioja

All of these organizations either have offices in or are represented by public relations firms that have offices in New York City. These organizations are concerned with branding their product. To do that they host dinners, they host regional tastings (that court media, sommeliers, wine store owners), court the media, and help promote their region’s wine in this market, as well as in the rest of the country. The Italians even have two offices – one in New York City, the other in Los Angeles.

New York City is a target rich environment, with the major wine and food magazines being located there, as well as major newspapers such as the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and several major retailers including Astor Wines, Sherry-Lehmann, Morrel’s, Zachy’s and others that other smaller stores look to for leadership. Also, New York City has the largest concentration of leading restaurants on the east coast. Wine store-owners, sommeliers, restaurant owners, caterers, and chefs attend tastings and dinners to find new wines to sell and pair with their foods.

New York Wine on the other hand has no representation in New York City.
New York Wine has no branding arm that engages the media in New York City on a consistent basis.
New York Wine hosts no tastings for the media or liquor stores or restaurants in New York City.
New York Wine is not a part of the I Love New York campaign.

What we need is a presence in New York City to compete. We need it to be a part of I Love New York because instead of fragmenting the message between the regions, it would offer one, easy to deliver message – I LOVE NEW YORK WINE

We need a multi-layered approach. We need to appeal to writers, press, an internet, appeal to retailers, and appeal direct to consumers.

1. Appeal to writers, press, and internet:
Professional Tastings for Stores and Restaurant Owners and Press
Winemaker/press dinners 3 per year in NYC, 1 in Albany, 1 in Buffalo
Give tours to wine writers of different wine countries
Host wine bloggers conference

2. Appeal to retailers:
Seasonal Programs That Appeal to Retailers with Coordinated Advertising and Publicity
April (pre-sales in Mar)
November (pre-sales Oct)
5 point discount for five cases or more per winery…promotion includes
mandatory 5 New York specific in-store tasting events per promotion
Professional Tastings for Stores and Restaurant Owners and Press
2 in NYC – spring (Mar) and (Oct)
1 Albany (Oct)
1 Buffalo (Oct)
1 Westchester (Oct)

3. Appeal direct to consumers
New website – more dynamic – like Maryland’s or Virginia’s
Sponsor Tasting Classes at New School, Learning Annex, etc.
More signage on roads and highways to increase tourism
In Virginia, First Lady has adopted wine industry as her cause…Ms Lee would be perfect
Advertising – print and internet
Wine Festivals

4. Educate/Entice Wineries
extra - 3 point discount for five cases or more per winery (participating wineries would get some tax rebate from the state)
Provide Marketing Materials
bottle tags, shelf talkers, table toppers or posters, that help them
push their brand and the state’s message. Also provide templates
to fill out that work, that carry the state’s wine logo.
Provide Sales and Marketing Template complete with pricing and discounts,
and production margins to make them more profitable

5. Establish New I LOVE NEW YORK WINE Branding in NYC Office
Establish state employees separate from NYWGF OR hire an agency to run a I LOVE NEW YORK WINE Branding Campaign, that would be in the NYC area to cater to wine writers, magazines, bloggers, host wine dinners, etc.

6. Identify Market Outside NY State
Target Other Cities to create new markets for NY wines outside the state’s borders…chose targets close to home base to hopefully increase product awareness and help induce tourism
o Boston, MA
o Springfield, MA
o Montpelier, VT
o Hartford, CT
o Trenton, NJ
o Portland, ME
o Philadelphia, PA o Nashua, NH

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the Hudson Valley the New Burgundy?

(Today, my guest writer is none other than Carlo DeVito, co-owner of the Hudson-Chatham Winery. I write this in full disclosure, because some of the viewpoints included here are from my viewpoints as a news source, but also as a participant in the wine industry as a maker and purveyor. I truly try to keep these two roles as separate as possible, but in this instance they are so married together, so inter-connected, that the separation of these strings of thought cannot be un-wound in my small mind. I beg your indulgence.)

Now before you tell me whoa! No one is ever going to mistake the Taconic Parkway for the charming back roads of Burgundy. No one on the Hudson River has a charming barque and a rakishly tilted baret. Where’s the baguette?

However, few regions can boast such an absolutely gorgeous valley. Few regions can boast as many wonderful little wineries, as many creameries and CSAs, as the Hudson Valley. And we not only have hundreds of exceptional restaurants, but the CIA to boot. The Valley is a food and wine mecca like nowhere else in New York state or the east coast.

But more than this, the best wines, especially the reds, seem, more and more, to be from the Burgundian tradition. Recently, the New York Cork Report chose the following wines for their Best Wines of the Year from the Hudson Valley.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2009 Baco Noir Reserve
Millbrook Winery 2008 Block Five East Pinot Noir
Oak Summit Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir

Add to these, some of the other better wines these fine gentlemen missed, such as:

Benmarl Baco Noir
Whitecliff Gamay Noir
Brimstone Hill Vin de Rouge
Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vine
Brotherhood Pinot Noir
Warwick Valley Black Dirt
Millbrook Pinot Noir

All these wines, made from Hudson Valley fruit, start to paint a picture of red wines of a Burgundian tradition. It seems to me that currently the Valley seems to be finding its true identity. And these wines are excellent wines and of great value. I have talked to several growers, and I can tell you that myself and others are leaning towards plantings of Gamay Noir, more Baco Noir, and more Pinot Noir.

I am not suggesting that these are the only good red wines in the Valley. I like almost everything Cereghino-Smith makes, but they are an anomaly, in that they are not growers (that doesn’t mean I hold anything against them, I love their wines). I like Millbrook’s Cabernet Franc. I like a lot of other reds. But if one is looking to find out what the terroir of the Valley is, it is to make soft, approachable reds. These are eventually the reds I believe that will help forge the identity of the valley as separate and distinct.

Personally, I always dreamed of making a big Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. A Robert Parker fruitbomb par excellence. But in order to make the best red wine the land itself will give you, you have to bend your back a little, or you will miss it.

From the time since Stuyvesant ruled the sate with all the powers of a supreme ruler, people in the Hudson Valley have struggled to make Bordeaux styled wines. And some of the best wines in the Valley right now are made with grapes from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Nothing wrong with that. I drink a lot of them.

But people outside the Valley, who are asking for Hudson Valley fruit in the bottle, are talking about our most approachable reds. These seem to be the ones breaking through. People are doing a double take and saying, “Wow!”

If one needs to examine the successes of the Valley one needs to look no further than the little rock walls and hedgerows of the Hudson Valley. Have a nice wedge of Hudson Red or a little button of Coach Fresh Chevre or a square of Old Chatham Sheepherding Camembert, some fresh hardy bread from Our Daily Bred in Chatham, an apple from any one of the Valley’s apple farms like Golden Harvest or Goold’s Orchards, and a bottle of soft red wines above and see why the future of the Hudson Valley lies somewhere near the Cote-d’Or.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alba Vineyard Old Mill Red

The historic barn in Milford, New Jersey that now houses Alba Vineyards winery and tasting room, as well as the Musconetcong Art Gallery, was built in 1805. Within the old stone walls, the aroma of fermenting and aging wine fills the air. The character of the limestone walls and old oak beam framing has not been lost with the installation of modern equipment; in fact, the new lighting system serves to reveal the inherent beauty of the stonework as never before.

“Old Mill Red” is Alba Vineyards standard table wine. The idea was to create a good, solid everyday red. After many years of experimentation, their winemaker has developed just the right blend for their Old Mill Red.

The wine is a blended of several different completed wines. It is made up mostly of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, but there are also small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine is made seperately, and then aged seperately as well - until the final blend. The wine is then matured in small American white oak from the Ozarks of Missouri for 8-10 months.

This was a wonderful surprise. The wine is a medium-to-dark plum-ish red. It has cherry on the nose and had a whiff of vanilla on the nose. There's lots of cherry here. Mostly dark cherry, but there is some small amount of bright cherry as well. A hint of plum also. The wine has wonderful fruit up front. ery approachable and with low-tannins.

This is a wonderful, inexpensive red table wine. Dry and delicious. Congrats!

Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Whiskey

"In an age of drink defined by sleek bars with house-infused vodkas and incessant techno beats, it can be difficult to comprehend a spirit that last enjoyed broad popularity back when the Ziegfeld Follies was the hottest show around. Fragrant and robust, with a character like a ragtime record played on an old Victrola, rye whiskey is a bottled anachronism. But more than 80 years after Prohibition ended rye’s moment in the spotlight, the preferred whiskey of the saloon era is re-emerging," wrote Paul Clarke in Imbibe magazine in a story called The Comeback Kid.

In the United States, "rye whiskey" is, by law, made from a mash of at least 51% rye. (The other ingredients of the mash are usually corn and malted barley.) It is distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, and aged in charred, new oak barrels. The whiskey must be put into such barrels at not more than 125 (U.S.) proof. Rye whiskey that has been so aged for at least 2 years may be further designated as "straight", as in "straight rye whiskey".

Rye whiskey was the prevalent whiskey of the northeastern states, especially New York, Pennsylvannia and Maryland, but largely disappeared after Prohibition. A few brands survived. Rye is currently undergoing a small but growing revival in the United States.
Until Prohibition New York was known for its rye whiskey. This feisty spirit was the basis for the legendary Manhattan cocktail, made famous by Jenny Churchill (Winston’s Mum). Rye had not been produced in New York for over 80 years, but Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey signals the return of the quintessential New York Whiskey. Their rye is made from whole grain rye one batch at a time. It is not the blended rye whiskey your parents used to mix with soda. This is honest rye whiskey.

Before Prohibition more than 1,000 farm distillers produced alcohol from New York grains and fruits. Tuthilltown distillers are bringing back traditional batch-distilled spirits.

For 220 years Tuthilltown Gristmill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, used waterpower to render local grains to flour. It is located in Gardiner, New York, just outside of New Paltz. In 2001 Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired the property and with the help of partner Brian Lee, they converted one of the mill granaries to a micro-distillery.The partners worked tirelessly to teach themselves the craft of small-batch distillation while navigating the legal and administrative aspects of building the company.

Two and a half years later Tuthilltown Spirits produced their first batches of vodka from scraps they collected at a local apple slicing plant. Now the distillers use fresh cider from nearby orchards. Production includes vodkas, bourbon, whiskeys, rum, eau de vie, brandy, and infusions.

In 2007 Gable Erenzo, joined the team and the distillery sent off the first international shipment to Paris. The team has continued to grow with the addition of Joel Elder, Jared Powers, and Nick Stoughton to the production team. Cathy Erenzo has come on board to manage compliance and administration. The Tuthilltown Spirits Team brings the craft of small batch spirits distilling back to New York.

Hudson Manhattan Rye is bottled at 92 proof. It is fruity, floral and smooth, with a recognizable rye edge that leaves no doubt the origin of the spirit. Each bottle is hand filled, capped, waxed and numbered.

I poured this spirit into a snifter. I love snifters, especially when I am tasting spirits or ports for the first time. Big carmel flavors, big whiffs of maple. Not as full bodied and flavorful or sweet as bourbon, but defintely a bolder flavor than single malts, this Rye has a distinctive flavor.
The other thign I did, was after the first glas, I went outside, broke up three icecicles and put them in my snifter, and had my second taste on ice. Also great!

Cornelius Applejack from Harvest Spirits

The Harvest Spirits, located at Golden Harvest Farm (a thrid generation farm located in Valatie, NY), is a small and artful distillery. Though it can only distill 100 gallons at a time, it is flexible and precise enough to create some of the country's very best vodka, eau de vie, and apple jack..

While the distillery focuses primarily on vodka, their distilling equipment can produce virtually any kind of liquor, from gin and whiskey to exotics like cacha├ža, agave spirits and medicinal bitters.

One of the things they make is Cornelius Applejack. As they like to say, "This is not your father's apple jack."

Since colonial times, traditional applejack was made by freezing barrels of hard cider during the long winter months, then tapping and removing the alcoholic center. This was a powerful and harsh liquor, since it concentrated all of the alcohols — both good and bad. Since we carefully distill Cornelius Applejack 3 times, their version offers a smoother, more satisfying take on this American classic.

Carefully distilled and rested in premium bourbon barrels, Cornelius Applejack is made from 100% Hudson Valley apples, homegrown on their 200 acre family fruit farm. Each bottle is made from over 60 lbs. of fresh apples grown steps from our distillery.

I poured some in front of the fireplace last night. We had company over, and we had the fireplace lit, and blankets over us, as we talked and caught up with old friend. I poured sme Cornelius in a brandy snifter for aptimum effect. It smelled lke fresh poured cide with alcohol. But you could also smell a hint of the bourbon and a whiff of maple. It's a light, golden spirit, mellow and smooth.

Very, very nice.

Les Trois Emme Kiyo's Sparkling Wine

Eleanor & Ray Heald wrote in Appelation America, on November 25, 2008, "It started as an idea in 2002, and one year later, that idea became incorporated as Les Trois Emme Winery. Owners
Mary Jane and Wayne Eline developed a wine interest while they were living and working in Virginia for most of the1990s. The couple decided that when Wayne retired in 1999, they’d grow a few grapes and make wine in the basement of their home, located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Only 125 vines were planted in 2000. The Elines' children thought that this was the grandest idea. They could help with the vineyard and winemaking." The winery is located in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.

"In 2001, decisions were made to plant 500 additional vines in the sandstone soil. The additional 1,500 planted vines became a greater wine volume than the 200 gallons allowed by an amateur winemaking license. The Eline kids suggested that a small winery would accommodate the ensuing 2003 grape harvest. And here’s the real kicker: Mary Jane realized that Wayne was bored with retirement. He wanted to go back to work."

But it isn't fun and games at Les Trois Emme - it is for the guests, but the Eline's take it very seriously. They're making great wine.

The other night Dominique and I had guests over and we wanted to pour a sparkling wine. We decided to open the Les Trois Emme Kiyo's Sparkling Wine. The wine is a off-dry or semi-sweet sparkling wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It's really wonderful. The nose is big and fruity, with hints of yeast and vanilla. And the wine itself explodes with fruit up front. Lot's of green apple and kiwi. But it's well balanced, and had just enough acidity to really show a wonderful side of sparkling wines. Very much like a Prosecco.

We all clinked glasses in front of the fireplace, and ate local cheese (Old Chatham Sheepherding Kinderhook Creek and Twin Maple Farm Hudson Red). It was a great time, and we all enjoyed the wine. It was a great way to start the evening.

Congrats to Wayne and Mary Jane.

Linganore Mountain White

Linganore Winecellars (which also produces another line wines called Berrywine Plantations) is a family operated vineyard and winery nestled on 230 acres of picturesque rolling countryside, 4.5 miles northeast of historic New Market, Maryland. Linganore is one of the most popular, largest, and best selling of Maryland wines. They have been a part of Maryland's wine landscape for a long time. They do maninly semi-sweet grape and fruit wines. They are located in Mt. Airy, Maryland.

The winery was first established by Jack and Lucille Aellen in 1971, and they sold their first wines in 1976. In 1977, they hosted Maryland’s first wine festival. They introduced semi-sweet grape wines which were an off shoot of their German-Swiss winemaking heritage. By the early ‘80s, the winemaking responsibilities were taken over by Jack and Lucille’s son Anthony. Also in the early ‘80s, new experimental grape varieties from the grape breeding program at Cornell University were planted in test plots in their vineyards. The success of many of these new hybrids has been shown in expanded acreage and dedication to winery production.

By 1997, expansion was in the works again with the addition of a new 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse and bottling facility which moved this part of the production out of the original dairy barn where the winery operation remained. In 1999, expansion was in the works again with the addition of a 6,000 sq. ft. state of the art tank room and processing facility. This addition increased their capacity to over 100,000 gallons with enough expansion room to take them to close to 200,000 as they grew.
Linganore Mountan White is a semi-sweet white made from different native (and some hyrbid) grapes. Judging from the taste there's probably some Diamond and some Niagara. It's finished semi-sweet, with aproximately 6% residual sugar. But there's just enough acid on this wine to give it a really great flavor to offset the sweetness - so it's not syrupy or deathly sweet. Instead it's got a fragrant nose and would be great for sipping, or with fruit and cheese or with chips and nachos.

This is not a serious wine, for laying down. There's no oak, or reserve here. It's a fun drinking wine. It's a great picnic wine. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Bellview Lemberger 2005

I have written about Bellview Winery before. The are in the heart of south Jersey. Bellview was a long-time dream of owners Jim and Nancy Quarella. Jim, a successful fourth-generation farmer, learned a love of winemaking as a young man.

The winery is located on the same farm that Jim's great-grandfather, Angelo Quarella, purchased in 1914 after immigrating from Italy. He named his farm Bellview. Originally just the 20-acre plot on which the winery now sits, the farm has expanded to over 150 acres, 35 of which are planted in vineyards. The renovated building that is today's winery houses Angelo's original wine cellar where, for decades, Quarellas have made their wines.

Now I have tasted a number of Lembergers and have not been impressed. I know they are in fashion up in the Finger Lakes, but I ave not come around to any of them.

Now, on the other hand, the only Lemberger I did like was a New Jersey winery's -Laurita Lemberger from Laurita Winery. Where I thiught a number of New York Lemberges were thin and watery (my opinion), and had a kind of raspberry jello after taste, the Laurita was big and sensual.

So it was with great curiosity that I reached for the Bellview Lemberger. Domeinique had made a lovely pot roast dinner. This is always a treat for me. I grew up in an Italian household. Sunday was almost always pasta. Maybe there was chicken cutlets or veal, but never pot roast. I think my mother made poot roast like three or four times in her whole life. Call me a loser, but to me, pot roast is a special treat.

Anyway, the house was filled with the smell of carmelizing onions, other roasted vegetables, and the smell of cooking meat. Mmmmm.

Out came the Bellview Lemberger 2005. It was a nice medium garnet color. It had an aroma of cherries and raspberries and a hint of plum. The flavor up front was powerful, with bright cherries and bright raspberries, with a nice touch of acidity, and smooth, medium tannins. It defintely left a pop in your mouth. Dominique and I clinked glasses, and the boys dug into the pot roast. I finally dug into my meal. Wow! And the Lemberger was big enough and strong enough t stand up to the meal. The wine was really lovely.

The Lembergers from New Jersey seems to be much bigger, much riper, and much deeper than their up-state New York brethern. I have found them to be more lucious and full bodied. I think the New Jersey climate, with it's extra two to three weeks of warm weather has just enough extra time to give this grape what it needs to really flourish in the Garden State.
I remain curious.

Fox Meadow Merlot 2007

Fox Meadow is a realtively new winery. Owners Dan and Cheryl Mortland opened their tasting room in May 2006.

Five years ago Dan and Cheryl visited the area, and fell in love with Northern Virginia. They visited some of the local wineries and realized that great wines can be crafted there. After an exhausting search they found the parcel of land which is now known as Fox Meadow Vineyards. Fox Meadow was once part of Freezeland Orchards, which was almost 100 years old.

Once “discovering” the site, Dan and Cheryl enlisted some of the finest professionals in the region to consult with to develop Fox Meadow Vineyards. They have attempted to craft great wines using traditional wine making skills and processes. hey make classic dry reds like Cabernet Franc and Syrah and fruity whites like Pinot Grigio.

In December of 2010, the Fox Meadow Vineyard 2009 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay won "Best White Wine" in the 2010 Wines of the South Wine Competition. The '08 Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Le Renard Rouge, and Reserve Barrel Fermented Chardonnay all won Silver Medals.

So a week ago, I made vodka penne with hot Italian sausage with fresh peas. I was very excited. It was very exciting. I had made the sauce from scratch and the smell of it filled the house for hours.

Out came the Fox Meadow Merlot 2007. This was a dark garnet colored red wine. On the nose we both got Damsom plums, blackberries, and raspberries came through with a whiff of vanilla. The Damsom and raspberry come through as well as a hint of slate. A rich, dry, complex red, with nice fruit and solid acids, and nice but not over-powering tannins. Elegant.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Today, the New York Wine Guy connected some very important logistical dots. If he's right, and he may well be, it will spell the end for small wineries around the state. A shake out will begin to happen before the end of the year.

You can read his blog at:

In it Wine Guy reasons that 1. Cuomo tapped Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy for his Lt. Governor. Duffy is from Rochester and understands the value of the wine industry. And he's been tapped to help rebuild the upstate economy, which may position the wine industry to benefit from Cuomo’s economic plans. 2. Cuomo appointed the pater familias of Wegman's, Danny Wegman, to the Upstate Business Council. Conveniently, this council is headed by friend, Bob Duffy. According to Wine Guy, it’s a safe bet that this council will eventually address the issue of wine sales in grocery stores.

Where my fellow blogger is wrong, is that he thinks "it would mean a significant revenue boost for New York wineries. A greater emphasis on the wine industry in Albany would be nice, but selling wine in grocery stores is a start." And I am sorry, but that's bullshit.

An emphasis on growing the wineries is a great idea. Where's some tourism dollars? Where's the funding that wineries in Maryland and Virginia, and other states are getting to promote their wine industries and tourism?

Now, I've played many games on the playground, and I know the old rubric, of "Money talks, and bullshit walks," But this is too much.

Name which wineries will actually score big?

I can tell you who: The five largest wineries in the state, one of which will be Canadaigua, then it will be California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina. I used to live next to a Wegmans. They sold four or five NY state wines, and then the rest were everything else - from Cakebread and rare French Bordeaux's and Burgundies to Yellow Tail and Franzia. I've had someone tell me fromone of these larger wineries that with my own winery I could probably sell a couple of deli's that I couldn't get in before. Gee thanks!
Where's the revenue boost? Wegaman's will get a sweetheart deal on taxes, and pay into the coffers, and a number of smaller, ill equipped wine stores will bite the dust. When the small stores faulter, the small wineries will faulter as well. It's only the big store chains that will make something happen.

The reason the wineries haven't helped make this deal happen yet is pure and simple - in the main it won;t help the NY wineries, or they would already have gotten it done. Out of the more than 300 wineries in NY state, Wegman's has only ever carried five or six. What happens to the other 294? Apparently the governor doesn't care?

I hope this isn't true, but it seems to me that the wineries and the liquor stores better call their local congressmen fast, and voice objection to this kind of politics.

I say to Duffy and Cuomo, let's have a meeting. Let's have a discussion? Ask a few dozen winery owners to the state capital. Let's see what they say.

I say to the wineries - better get off your hands, or someone will chop them off for you.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Peconic Bay Winery Strikes Deal in China

This is really cool news, and actually it's great news for New York State! This story was carried in Newsday! Great job Jim Silver an the folks at Peconic Bay!

Peconic Bay Winery strikes deal in China
January 3, 2011 7:53 AM By JAMES BERNSTEIN
Photo credit: Randee Daddona Winemaker Greg Gove, left, and general manager James Silver of Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue are in the wine storage barn to check on inventory of select wines that will be sold to to China. (Dec. 30, 2010)

Long Island wineries are cracking the Chinese market in a much bigger way these days.
After years of trying to interest the Chinese in Long Island wine, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue and some other East End vineyards have succeeded in selling some of their products to an importer, the Beijing New Long Island Co., in Beijing.

The importer was actually formed in the offices of Peconic Bay during a visit earlier this year by Jing Li, who heads Beijing New Long Island. According to James Silver, Peconic Bay's general manager, Jing visited New York State seeking to import wine to the People's Republic. Silver said he told her that her company would stand out better with a high-end brand.

"We met for hours and hours," Silver said. "I tried to guide her to other wineries" on the Island. Silver said even as they spoke, he doubted any deal would happen because he had been trying for years to interest other Chinese importers, without success.

But this time, a deal was struck. Since July, Silver said, Peconic Bay has sold 1,300 bottles to China of its Nautique and Peconic Bay red products. He said the sale is worth about $19,000. Peconic Bay sells about 11,000 cases of wine annually. Silver said he expects to do more business with the Chinese.

Read the rest at: