Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dave McIntyre Picks His Favorite Wines of 2011

I am and remain a huge fan of Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post. Great 2011 rear view mirror look into local wine.

The Best Regional Wines of 2011
Posted on December 30, 2011
by Dave McIntyre

The blahblahsphere is rife with posts about the best wines of the year, so I thought I’d offer my favorite “Regional Wines of 2011” – these are wines that thrilled me this year, and yes, I may have graded them somewhat on a curve because they are “from around here, wherever here happens to be.” Many of them are from Virginia, because that’s the region I taste most often; but I do feel this prominence demonstrates that Virginia wines are reaching a quality level to justify the state’s inclusion in the phrase, “Wine Country.” Here’s my case of Regional Wine for 2011:

#12: Barboursville Vineyards Petit Verdot 2008, Virginia. When I visited Barboursville in 2007, I asked winemaker Luca Paschina what he thought of the trend toward Petit Verdot in Virginia. He dismissed it with a comment along the lines of, “There’s a reason they use it as a blending wine in Bordeaux.” When I reminded him of this after he won a Gold Medal for his 2008 PV in the Governor’s Cup competition a year ago, he more or less shrugged and sent me a sample. Wow. This was dense and rich, tightly focused, showing the aromatic qualities of the grape but keeping it well-grounded and impressively structured. I wish I had a case of this to enjoy over the next decade.

#11: Virginia sparkling wine. This is a category endorsement, as every year I continue to be impressed with the quality of fizz bubbling up in Virginia. Scintilla, a slightly off-dry sparkler from Veritas Vineyards; Kluge Estate/Trump Winery’s line of sparklers; and of course Thibaut-Janisson are leading the way.

“This is the type of wine I love to discover when traveling – something I’m not likely to find anywhere else. It’s everything that ‘regional wine’ and ‘drink local’ are all about.”

#10: Montelle Winery 2010 Dry Vignoles, Missouri. When held its annual bloggers conference in Saint Louis, I expected to taste a bunch of good Missouri Norton, and I did – but it was the Vignoles from several wineries that blew me away. This was my favorite – a richly fruity white wine from a French-American hybrid grape that quite frankly matches vinifera in quality. If you’re ever in Missouri, do not pass up a chance to try it.

#9: Linden Vineyards Late Harvest Petit Manseng 2008, Virginia. I’m a big fan of Jim Law’s wines at Linden, and I could have named several to this list. I am also a big fan of Petit Manseng in Virginia, and could think of more than a few to represent the grape (the Horton 2008 dry Petit Manseng, and Chester Gap’s stellar rendition, for instance). But this honeyed late-harvest version, intense and concentrated with great acidity and focus to balance the sugar, is the one that I kept thinking about this year.

These wines were nice - the Montepulciano was even better.

#8: Slack, Montepulciano 2010, Maryland. This was a new winery for me, part of Maryland’s impressive growth in recent years. Slack specializes in Italian varieties and has a couple of nice Barberas, but the Montepulciano charmed me most – light and silky with bright fruit and a delightful finish.

#7: Glen Manor Vineyards, Hodder Hill Red 2008, Virginia. Jeff White’s second vintage of his flagship wine continues to show Virginia’s strength in single-vineyard, Bordeaux-styled red blends. His 2010 wines from newer plantings on steeper slopes are on my can’t-wait-to-taste list.

#6: Red Newt Cellars, Dry Riesling 2008, Finger Lakes, New York. I love New York Riesling, and Red Newt is consistently one of my favorites. I celebrated early this year when Red Newt wines gained distribution in the DC area, and I mourned last summer when Debra Whiting, co-owner and chef at Red Newt Bistro, died in a car accident. I opened this bottle in her honor at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

#5: Boxwood Winery, Topiary, 2007. When I led a tasting of local wines last June at the DC Park Hyatt’s Masters of Food & Wine event, the Boxwood Topiary 2007 was the last wine on the list. What a way to end the evening! I loved this wine when it was released two years ago to much fanfare, but it has hit full stride, with lots of smoky black fruit aromas and plummy flavors with a finish that just won’t quit.

#4: Black Ankle Vineyards, Slate, Maryland. This red blend won the 2011 Maryland Governor’s Cup for Black Ankle, this winery’s third in four years. I loved it not just because it was rich, dark and elegant, but because of how it demonstrated the experimental, pioneer aspect of local wine. Proprietors Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron had a few barrels of their stellar 2007 reds that just weren’t performing well, so they set them aside in the winery and forgot about them for a couple years. Early this year, they decided to blend them with some remaining 2008 and 2009 wines and produce this terrific winner. Here’s a toast to ungainly adolescents maturing and realizing their full potential.

#3: Ankida Ridge, Pinot Noir 2010, Virginia. The Old Dominion is not supposed to be Pinot Noir country. Most wineries gave up on it and grafted over the vines long ago, though a few stalwarts remain, with mixed results. Ankida Ridge, near Amherst, north of Lynchburg, is “boutique” to the extreme, with only about 2.5 acres of vineyards (about to expanded, but not by much.) What makes it special is the altitude, the steep slope, the soils, the Burgundian clones on proper rootstock, and the extreme dense spacing in the vineyard. Rigorous viticulture, in other words, that makes it unnecessary to pull magic tricks in the winery. (For more on this, see wine #1, below.) This is an intriguing, even exciting wine just because it exists; but it is delicious and will be fun to follow in coming vintages.

#2: Cedar Creek Estate Winery, Ehrenfelser 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. I purchased this wine on vacation in Vancouver at a store that sells only wine from BC. I’d never heard of the grape, a cross of Riesling and Sylvaner, but I was charmed by its delightful apricot and peach fruit and impressive complexity. This is the type of wine I love to discover when traveling – something I’m not likely to find anywhere else. It’s everything that “regional wine” and “drink local” are all about.

#1: RdV Vineyards, RdV 2008. Rutger de Vink and his showcase winery in Fauquier County exploded onto the Virginia wine scene in March, with extraordinary reviews and some controversy, given its $88 price tag. But the skeptics – at least some of them – tried the wine and many were won over. This is an uncompromising effort to make world-class wine in Virginia, and it’s off to a rip-roaring start.

Post Script: There were also some wines I tasted in 2011 that are not yet on the market, but should be released sometime in 2012. Two of these I’m especially eager to taste in their final form: In Maryland, Boordy Vineyards Landmark Series reds from 2010 show tremendous promise, the fruit of Rob Deford’s extensive replanting effort over the past five or six years. And in Virginia, Luke and Toni Kilyk will be releasing their first estate wines from Granite Heights winery near Opal. These wines, also from 2010, were terrific when I tasted them in October. You can go now (by appointment) for some of their very nice wines from purchased grapes, and their honey is delicious, too.

Read more at:

Howard Goldberg Talks Satellite Rooms in NY State in the New York Times

Long Island Vines
Tasting Rooms, Far Away
Published: December 30, 2011

One Long Island vintner has joined the numbers of those with tasting rooms at locations away from the wineries, and another is planning to open such a satellite as well.

Peconic Bay Winery, in Cutchogue, opened Empire State Cellars, its second sales outlet, in November in the Tanger Outlet Center, a Riverhead mall. It also sells its wines at its tasting room in Cutchogue.

Roanoke Vineyards, a Riverhead boutique winery, has plans for a second shop this year, an owner, Richard Pisacano, said in an e-mail; it will be in Mattituck. “Our main tasting room may eventually be open to our wine club members only,” he added.

Producers holding farm winery licenses, as most Long Island wineries do, can establish up to five tasting outlets in addition to the one at the winery, James Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, a trade association, said in an e-mail.

There are 54 satellite stores statewide, and applications for two more are pending at the State Liquor Authority, Mr. Trezise said. Such stores can carry only New York wines made exclusively from the state’s grapes.

Empire State Cellars was created for several reasons, James Silver, Peconic Bay’s general manager, said in an e-mail. He cited a “need to represent the state’s produce to a large audience” and “the timing and strength of the locavore movement.” The new shop, he added, “was a good business model, having no competition.”

The shop is not dominated by any one region, Mr. Silver said. There are about 150 Long Island wines and about 150 from the Finger Lakes, with the rest being from the Hudson Valley, the Thousand Islands, the Niagara Escarpment and elsewhere.

It stocks nearly 500 labels and includes “every varietal you can think of,” he added.

Also on Long Island, Duck Walk Vineyards, Macari Vineyards, Pindar Vineyards and Sherwood House Vineyards all have second tasting locations where they sell their products.

Read more at:

Patriot News Highlights Allegro Winery and Pennsylvania Wine Awards 2012

Allegro places four in Pennsylvania Wine Society's top 20
Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 5:41 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 6:10 PM
By PAUL VIGNA, The Patriot-News

The Pennsylvania Wine Society has released its 10 finalists for its 10th judging of Pennsylvania wines, an event that always gets its annual list of activities under way. Recognition, including the naming of the best wine, will start at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Harrisburg Hilton. You can find out more information here, including how to get tickets.

Denise Gardner, the state's new enologist, will be the guest speaker.

A couple of quick observations before showing the list, which includes the top 10 and 10 more honorable mention. Three of the 20 are Chambourcin, supporting what some in the region have said about the French-American hybrid's potential to be made consistently into award-winning wine here.

Also, Allegro's Carl Helrich placed four wines in the top 20, all of them Bordeaux blends (Cadenza and Bridge). Allegro is a central Pennsylvania staple and one of the oldest wineries in the state. Crossing Vineyards, from over at Washington Crossing near the Delaware River, placed two in the top 10 (a Cab-Merlot blend and a 2008 Merlot) and one in the second 10 (Chambourcin).

Vynecrest, from the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, and Berks County's Manatawny Creek also placed two finalists.

Here a link to the lists and some chatter about the event, or you can just look below (the lists are in alphabetical order)

Allegro Winery & Vineyards Cadenza 2007

Allegro Winery & Vineyards Cadenza 2008

Crossing Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008

Crossing Vineyards and Winery Merlot 2008

Galen Glen Winery Cabernet Franc Lehigh Valley 2009

Manatawny Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Manatawny Creek Winery Syrah 2008

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Ice Wine Riesling Lake Erie 2008

Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery Chambourcin Estate Lehigh Valley 2010

Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Franc Estate Lehigh Valley 2010

Read more and see more recommended wines at:

Wine Enthusiast, News Advance (Lynchburgh, VA) Praise Lovingston Winery

Lovingston Winery receives high praise from Wine Enthusiast
By: Katrina Koerting Lynchburg News and Advance
Published: December 28, 2011 Updated: December 28, 2011 - 7:43 AM

Lovingston Winery recently joined the ranks of wineries in France, Napa Valley and Italy with the caliber of its wine making.

The Lovingston 2008 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve received a score of 89 in the December issue of Wine Enthusiast, a magazine that reviews thousands of wines around the world. This is the highest score a Virginia winery has received from the magazine. (A dessert wine from Virginia received an 88 about seven years ago.)

“What it shows is we can produce world-class wines here,” said Ed Puckett, the owner of Lovingston Winery.

The point scale ranges from 1 to 100. The magazine generally only reviews a wine that received an 80 or higher. A score of 80-84 is good, 85-89 is very good and 90 or above is outstanding, said Puckett. Vintners submit two bottles they want to be reviewed and professional wine tasters grade the wine based on aroma and taste.

Maureen Kelly, director of economic development and tourism for Nelson, said she thinks this will increase tourism in the county.

“This rating celebrates the quality of wines from Nelson County wineries and adds one more reason to visit all there is to do on the “sunrise side” of the Blue Ridge,” she said. “Wine enthusiasts look to these ratings to help plan their visit to new wineries and revisit favorite places.”

Seven other wines from the winery have been reviewed by the magazine over the years with all receiving scores in the mid-80s.

Puckett said he is looking forward to the scores for the wine from the 2010 harvest because 2010 had the best growing climate he has seen since he started the winery.

Located on Freshwater Cove Lane off U.S. 29, the winery offers eight varieties of wine, ranging a Merlot at $13.95 to a Pinotage at $24.95. There are six red options and two white with the vintages ranging from 2006 to 2010. The winery produces about 2,000 cases, or 24,000 bottles, of wine each year.

The Merlot is made in the largest quantity because the winery has three acres of those vines.

“They’re like my children,” he said. “I like them all.”

About 90 percent of the wine is made from the 8.5 acres of grapes on the property. Six types of grapes grown at the vineyard, but Puckett hopes to add more. The winery will sometimes buy grapes from other wineries if needed, Puckett said.

The first grapes were planted in 2003, the first harvest was in 2005 and the first vintage was sold in 2007.

Puckett said that the densely planted vineyards set his winery apart from others. There are 1,200 vines per acre, and the standard practice is to have 600-700 vines per acre. He said he grows the vines so close together because by limiting the amount of fruit the vines can produce, the vines will put the energy into improving the quality of the fruit that can grow in the space.

Another difference is that the vineyard has tall trellises for the grapes to grow on, which lets more leaves have access to the sun, thus allowing more sugar to be made in the grapes from photosynthesis.

The taller trellises also allow the wind to travel through the vineyard better, keeping it dry and preventing the grapes from growing mildew. Lovingston Winery’s trellises are 10 feet tall, about two to four feet taller than the average trellises, said Puckett.

The winery staff consists of Puckett, his wife Janet and two winemakers, Riaan Rossouw from South Africa and Puckett’s daughter, Stephanie Wright.

“We grow what we like and we hope other people like it too,” Puckett said.

The business plan for the winery is to sell to stores and restaurants along the East Coast and submit samples to wine magazines to be reviewed. Their wine is already sold in 150 restaurants and stores in Virginia, Maryland, Washington. West Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The wine is also sold to individuals in about 20 states online. About 60 percent of the sales are in Virginia, Puckett said.

“We wanted to become an eastern winery with sales in Virginia and along the East Coast,” he said. “In order to do that we have to build our reputation.”

Read more at:

Today Show Showcases American Wines, New York, Virginia Shine!

James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine, recently wrote about his top food trends for 2012. Among them wre that American wines, other than California, would emerge. He was interviewed by Matt Lauer interviewed Oseland on the TODAY SHOW.

Special congrats to Barboursville (VA) and Dr. Konstantin Frank (NY) and also to Ray Len (NC).

Wrote Oseland:
American terroir will move beyond California California produces some of the best wines in the entire world. Over the years it has become known especially as a place that produces incredible, friendly, super-flavorful jammy reds and oaky whites. But the trend in 2011 was the state’s amazing, subtle wines that are produced in a more classically European vein, like the un-oaky and superdelicious LIOCO chardonnay, or the strawberry-scented Gris de Cigare from Bonny Doon (a real bargain at $15 a bottle).

All the success of California wines has left little room in the conversation for the wines of the rest of America. In 2012, that’s going to change. The wine-growing and wine-making regions of Virginia, North Carolina, the north shore of Long Island and the Finger Lakes in upstate New York are coming into their own and creating wines that are, in certain cases, just as good as wines coming out of California. To wit: the exquisite Dr. Frank’s Riesling from the Finger Lakes region is a fruity, floral delight, and the Texas Tempranillo from Pedernales Cellars in the Texas Hill Country is one of the most drinkable wines available today.

Master sommelier Alpana Singh shares some yummy American wines from states we don’t normally associate with top vintage. Here are her picks from Illinois, New York, Minnesota and Virginia. Bottoms up!

White wines
Blue Sky Vineyard's 2010 Vignoles
From: Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois
Price: $18

Red Newts Cellars 2010 "Circle" Riesling
From: Scenic Finger Lakes Region In Upstate New York
Price: $12.95

Keswick Vineyards 2009 Viognier Reserve
From: Historic 400-acre Edgewood Estate in Keswick, Virginia
Price: $21.95

St. Croix Vineyards 2009 La Crescent Desert
From: Stillwater, Minnesota
Price: $32.95

Red wines:
Prairie State Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc
From: Historic Downtown Genoa, Illinois
Price: $21.49

Bedell Cellars 2007 Bedell Musee
From: North Fork Of Long Island, New York
Price: $75

Hinterland Vineyards 2009 Marquette Reserve
From: Clara City, Minnesota
Price: $18.95

Barboursville Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot Reserve
From: Barboursville, Virginia
Price: $32

Read selections at:


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boxwood Winery (VA) an Incredible Experience

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of touring several wineries with Virginia wine expert Richard Leahy who's working on a new book entitled BEYOND JEFFERSON'S VINES. I have toured with Richard before. Few people know the terroir of the state like he does. And few know the people who make it all happen in every phase than Richard. Wherever you go with Richard, doors open easily.

He insisted on this trip I see Boxwood Winery among others. I was happy to do so. The 2007 Boxwood had recieved an 88 from Wine Spectatpr for their first release. Luck? I think not! I had blogged about it then, and was happy to tag along now.

"I am convinced that with today's viticultural knowledge and winemaking techniques Virginia can produce a premium wine as good as anywhere," states Boxwood Winery owner John Kent Cooke.

The sixteen acre vineyard was planned and planted by rebowned Virginia viticulturalist Lucie Morton. Before planting the vineyards, Morton established weather stations all around the property, to guage the microclimates before decideding what grapes where. Morton worked with Purdue University Professor of Enology Richard Vine. Both worked with Hugh Newell Jacobsen, the well known architect, to advise on building a state of the art winery.

Cooke brought famed French "flying winemaker" Stéphane Derenoncourt to consult with Boxwood's winemaker Adam McTaggart. Stéphane Derenoncourt is a world renowned French vigneron working as a consultant for numerous estates in Bordeaux and other wine producers world wide, with his wife Christine Derenoncourt runs Vignerons Consultants and owns Domaine de l'A in the Côtes de Castillon and Derenoncourt California in Napa Valley. He is entirely self-taught.

A Normandy steel mill worker's son, Derenoncourt was born in Dunkirk in 1963.The start of his career in viticulture began when he arrived as a hitch-hiker in Fronsac in 1982, and worked several harvests before he found employment at Château Fronsac in 1985. After two years working at various vineyards, he began working in the cellar at Château La Fleur Cailleau. In 1990, Derenoncourt was offered a position at the Corre-Macquin family’s cellar at the Château Pavie-Macquin vineyard, and in 1996 was hired as a winemaker by Stephan von Neipperg to his estates, including Château Canon-la-Gaffelière and the "super cuvée" La Mondotte.

Derenoncourt began as a consultant in 1997, and in 1999 he and his wife started their own consultancy company, Vignerons Consultants. Derenoncourt and his team now works with a populous portfolio of estates in Bordeaux and elsewhere, including Domaine de Chevalier, Clos Fourtet, Clos de l'Oratoire and chateaux Pavie-Macquin, Canon-la-Gaffelière, La Gaffelière, Petit Village, Smith Haut Lafitte, Brown, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Rol Valentin, Prieuré-Lichine and Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse. In June 2008, Derenoncourt and Vignerons Consultants was hired by Francis Ford Coppola to work on the Napa Valley property Rubicon Estate Winery. Other Derenoncourt projects abroad include engagements in Italy, Austria, Spain, Turkey, China, India, in Syria with Domaine de Bargylus, and in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon with Château Marsyas.

The goal of Boxwood is only to produce 5,000 cases. But of Bordeaux quality wine. It was fortuitous that Adam McTaggart was kind enough to stay late one Tuesday evening to give Richard and I the tour. We could not have asked for nor gotten a better guide. Adam is a graduate of Brock University in Ontario, Canada with degrees in Biology, Viticulture and Enology. He's a great guy, very knowledgable, but friendly and engaging as well. And you could see he was meticulous as we walked around the winery.

The entrance is enough to let you know that people have spent a lot of time and money on this estate winery. The drive way is impeccably manicured and the winery itself looks like a jewel box - a cross between colonia fieldstone, modern farmhouse, and modern industrial.

The stainless steel topped tasting bar sits in the middle of the foyer. Three walls of the room are giant glass panes that show the stone and stainless steel in other rooms.

The first thing we saw was the barrel room. The barrel room is beautifully designed in large rings of circles of oak barrels. More about this room later.

Then there was the tank room. It was incredibly modern and well designed. With six or seven large stainless steel tanks, standing talk like soldiers on eitherside of a large hall. It was immaculate. Even the floor was epoxied, swept, and washied for maximum cleanliness. It looked more like a Madison Avenue shop thank a tank room, it was so pretty in it's design and maintanence.

Even the winemaking equipment was clean and put away for the winter.

Next, we went back to the barrel - for tasting.

Adam then put Richard and I through our paces. At Boxwood they grow only classic Bordeaux grapes - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petitte Verdot. We tasted many of the 2010s right from the barrels. There was not one that would not pass on it's own, but that is not the way at Boxwood. The Cab Francs showed inclredibly with fruits ranging from bright raspberry to dark stewed fruits. The Merlots ranged from bright cherry to dark raspberry/cherry. The Petitte Verdots were dark and round. And the Malbec was incredibly jammy and bursting full of fruit flavor. All of the wines exhibited tremendous fruit, and were surprisingly round for such young wines. We tasted at least eight or nine single block wines from barrels. This barrel tasting is a sure sign of the winery's ascension in the coming years, and confirms for me that 2010 will in fact be a vintage to remember.

One wine in the tank was Boxwood's newest wine. Primarily Malbec with small amounts of other wines. It was big and jammy, with the aromas of prune, dark cherry, and raspberry, and a hint of vanilla. This wine tasted almost like Michele Rolland's Clos de Siete! It was fantatstic!

The two bottled wines we tried were the Topiary 2009 and the Boxwood 2009. The Topiary is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. Both the Topiary and Boxwood show the hand of Delencourt. This are rich, Bordeaux styled-wines. Age, fresh fruit, and dusty leaves combine in both wines to absolutely floor the taster. The Malbec gives this wine just enough jamminess and fruit, while the austere Franc and Merlot give it the sophistaction one expects from a classic Bordeaux wine.

Boxwood 2009 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. This dark purple-red wine gives off a nose of blackberry, cassis, and dried cherry. There's also a pinch of saddle leather or autmn leaves. This is a lovely concentrated wine. Still, more French in inspiration no matter the California color. This is a wonderful wine, with low acids, huge fruit, and low-to-medium tannins. Incredible!!!

Boxwood Winery is one of the class vineyards and wineries on the Virginia landscape, and it's reputation will only soar over the next two years! They will beamong the pace setters for Virginia and east coast wines for the next two years to come.

They do things small, focused, and precisely.Everything they do - they do well. It's awesome.

Don't miss the excitement. Try some or visit today!

Empire State Cellars Now Open at Tanger Mall

Empire State Cellars is an exclusively New York State wine-focused tasting room and wine and spirits merchant. They opened at Tanger Center, Tanger 1, Riverhead, NY on 11/4/11.

As a New Yorker, I still miss Vintage New York which was the first exclusively New York wine store. But they have been shuttered for years. This is an exciting new venue, which features all the great wines of the great state of New York.

Jim Silver, general manager of Peconic Bay Winery, made this venture happen.

By featuring wines from across New York, Empire State Cellars, Silver hopes, will help the wine regions within the state. "What New York lacks is a certain unity in the way we market ourselves," Silver said. "I think this store is a small contribution, helping the way we market ourselves at least in the wine industry."

Speaking of Vinatge New York, Silver said, "I thought the other stores were a little ahead of their time. The timing is good now for a New York wine store. A lot of people are turning toward local food, local products, local wine. Interest has never been higher."

A wine store at the Tanger Outlet Mall has never been attempted, at the Riverhead location or any other Tanger Outlet location, according to Silver. He acknowledged that an outlet mall may seem like an unlikely place to find a wine store but said that "folks at Tanger are really enjoying the experiment themselves."

The Riverhead Tanger Outlet Mall sees around five million cars a year and nearly 14 million people. Silver says that number is 10 times more than the number of people who make the extra ten-mile drive into Long Island wine country. Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, thinks that a trip to Empire State Cellars might change some of these people's minds.

"The traffic at Tanger is fantastic, but a lot of those people may not venture past Tanger…If they like the wine at Empire State Cellars, they might travel further east and visit the vineyards," Bate said.

Silver believes that despite the lack of people who make the drive into Long Island's wine country, the correlation between the average wine consumer and the average outlet shopper is high.

"I looked at the demographics of the Tanger customer, and they coincide beautifully with wine buyers. Outlet shoppers are nearly 80 percent women and between 70-80 percent of wine purchases are made by women," Silver explained. "Also, if you look at the income demographics for outlet mall shoppers, they are much higher than you might expect and that makes a lot of sense for a wine shop as well because typically we’re talking about a higher level income demographic."

At Empire State Cellars, Tanger customers have the unique opportunity to taste and purchase wine and spirits from Lake Erie, the Finger Lakes, Niagara, Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands, the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, Hudson Valley, Central New York, Long Island and even the urban wineries of New York City.

“We have the best of bottled New York,” says Polly Brown, Director of Cellar Operations & Marketing. “We are excited to be able to present a comprehensive Empire State wine experience to consumers. At our vintner partners’ discretion, we also hope to include vertical collections, older vintages and limited or rare bottlings along with the finest of their current releases.”

This is without question the largest showcase for New York wine in the state or anywhere. A tremendous opportunity for both the winemakers to discover new customers, and the customers to disciver fabulous new and local wines.

They also have a great selection of New York state spirits as well, including Tuthilltown, Harvest Spirits, and Finger Lakes Distilling.

Congratulations to Jim. Congrats and good luck to
Polly and her staff. I am a huge fan! This is an absolutely MUST GO destination!

308 Tanger Mall Drive (Tanger 1, next to food court)
Riverhead, NY 11901
Phone 631-369-3080
Mon - Sat: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Sun: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chamard Merlot 2006

I have been going to wineries a long time on the east coast. And one of the dominant ones in Connecticut has always been Chamard. It was started as a quality winery from the very begining, no picnic wines here. And it's pretty much stayed that way.

Established in 1983, with the present winery building finished in 1988, Chamard Vineyards is among the most beautiful of New England wineries. The 40-acre property boasts 20 acres of established vines that benefit from being only two miles north of, and influenced by the moderating temperatures of, Long Island Sound.

Combining his love of nature and his interest in genetics, Dr. Rothberg purchased the leading vineyard in Connecticut to push the frontiers of winemaking. Originally Incorporated in 1983 by the Chairman and CEO of Tiffany and CO., Dr. Rothberg found in Chamard vineyards a foundation of grace and elegance that would form the basis for even finer wines.

The first vines were planted in the spring of 1984, a 5.5 acre vineyard consisting primarily of Chardonnay with a small quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. From 1986 through 1992 the remaining acreage was prepared and planted, for a combined total of 20 acres. In the summer of 1988, the winery was constructed and Chamard became a licensed farm winery. The first wine, a 1988 Chardonnay was released for sale in November of 1989. Current production is 6,000 cases annually.

They've got a relatively new staff at Chamard these days. Two notables incude their successful marketing manager and their winemaker.

Jeff grew up in Westfield, NY, the “concord grape juice capital.” He studied viticulture at Cornell and has been Chamard’s Wine Maker for 2 and a half years. Jeff’s goal is to make Chamard a leader in the Northeast wine industry and to produce and serve the best wine possible.

After Rothberg purchased the vineyards in 2006, he hired on Bridget Riordan as the Director of Sales and Brand Management. Bridget originally from Syracuse, attended Boston University where she earned a B.S in Hotel and Food Administration and Business. She was hired by Rothberg to evolve Chamard vineyards into a Connecticut destination.

So recently, while visiting my parents in Connecticut, I had to run into a liquor store- what are the chances of that. And right up front there was a display of several local wines. You could have pushed me over with a feather - Connecticut wine shop owners have not traditionally been strong advocates for local wine.

There on the shelf was the 2006 Merlot. So I bought a bottle much to my wife's dismay ("Really? We don;t have enough wine already?") And we were off. Just a day or two ago we decided to give the merlot a go. It had a beautiful translucent ruby color. The wine is 75% Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with small amounts of Petite Verdot and Pinot Noir. The wine was aged for 18 month in American oak. It was bottled in 2008.

On the nose there were dried cherries, vanilla, and a hint of liquorice? or some spiciness. On the tongue it has a wash of bright sour cherry. This is a light- to medium bodied Merlot. It is easy drinking with solid acids, but not heavy on the tannin....just enough. Light, bright and clean sour cherry flavor with good acidity. A nice, more European styled Merlot. Very quaffable. Great with food.

Congrats to the folks at Chamard.

Visit them at:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jamesport Melange de Trois 2004

Jamesport has always made some very nice wines. I was early on a fan of their Pinot Noir and some of their dessert wines. And not unsurprisingly, I was also a fan because they, like myself, had been German Shorthair Pointer owners as well.

Jamesport Vineyards is a father-son collaboration that began in 1981 at Early Rising Farm in Cutchogue, New York, making Jamesport Vineyards one of the North Fork's oldest vineyards. Sixty acres of pristine vineyards are located here, with the majority of plantings include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

In 1986,Ron Goerler Sr. acquired the 150-year-old barn that houses the winery and tasting room Drawing on our exceptional Cutchogue Vineyards fruit supply as well as the talents of his son, Ron Jr., he started Jamesport Vineyards in 1989. It's grown substantially since then.

Recently I went down to my cellar and pulled up something not quite old, but relatively middle-aged. The wine itself is now seven years old. I am constantly trying to see how east coast wines age. And the news is increasingly on the good side.

The 2004 Melange de Trois is a blend of 41% cabernet sauvignon, 31% merlot, & 28% cabernet franc. It has an explosive nose of blackberry and cassis along with a hint of fallen leaves or tobacco. There's also a whiff of vanilla. This tastes and smells like an old-world, Bordeaux styled wine. Medium in body, it's delicious flavors of raspberry, cherry, and dark brambly fruit, give way to do an excellent long finish ... very nice. A very, very good wine.

Jamesport continues to distinguish itself. Bravo!

Meet Cereghino-Smith Winemakers at CIA January 12, 2012

Meet the Winemaker: Cereghino Smith Winery
Thursday, January 12 @ 6 p.m.
Course No. 800–MTW
In the tradition of the Old World négociants, the winemakers at Cereghino Smith select and source grapes from small estate growers in both California and New York to create bold, full-bodied wines that are filtered by time and gravity. Paula Cereghino and Fred Smith were inspired by renegade winemakers like the Super Tuscan producers of Italy and the Rhône Rangers of the West Coast—including Joseph Cereghino, Paula's grandfather. After the presentation and tasting at the Danny Kaye Theatre, you'll enjoy a delicious meal designed to highlight Cereghino
Smith wines at the American Bounty Restaurant. $65.

Dog Fish Head Brewing Does Tasting Dinner at CIA March 28, 2012

Dogfish Head Brewery Presents...
Wednesday, March 28 @ 6 p.m.
Course No. 820–Dogfish Head
Known as "the first state's first brewpub" when it opened in 1995, the ales produced by Dogfish Head Brewing have since developed a huge following outside Delaware's borders. Join us at the Danny Kaye Theatre to sample these brews and learn what makes them so special. Then enjoy a hearty dinner at the American Bounty Restaurant, where each course will be paired with a special beer. $55.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jim Trezise Recaps the Year in New York Wine 2011

Jim Trezise is the head of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, and I occassionally repeat articles form his industry e-zine Wine Press. Herein, I repeat, in it's entirety, Jim's notes on the wine year in New York state in 2011.

December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays! 2011 has been a very good year, and 2012 promises some exciting developments. This will likely be the final Wine Press this year, so I wish you a wonderful holiday season.

Dear Friends,

As the year winds down and we prepare to greet 2012, I want to wish you a safe, warm, and joyous holiday season regardless of what you celebrate and where you are.

Wine is a wonderful, magical creation of the "soil, sun, rain, and the hands of Man", but the real magic is in the people--grape growers, winery owners, juice producers, members of the trade, and the consumers who allow us to exist. This time of year lets us to slow down a bit and savor the treasure of our many friendships in this wonderful grape and wine community.

Today the days start getting longer as we move toward a new year with new challenges and opportunities. By working together, we can even turn the challenges into opportunities--and we will.

May the wind be at your back, and the wine be on your table.


2011--Another Very Good Year
Every year has its unique mix of good and bad, ups and downs, disappointments and pleasant surprises, and certainly 2011 fits right in, but on balance it turned out to be yet another very good year.

The 2011 harvest varied greatly by region and grape variety, but in general turned out to be bountiful and with quality ranging from good to great. Most of the weather patterns leading up to harvest seemed to promise another perfect year like 2010, but in most regions untimely rains complicated the harvest.

Happily, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee skirted Long Island, but unfortunately devastated the Hudson Valley region, including some vineyards, and also decreased tourism during a key season. Those storms never made it far enough west to reach the Finger Lakes, but the region still suffered from plenty of untimely rains during different periods of harvest, with some fruit lost to rot. The north country's Thousand Islands and the far western Lake Erie region seemed to make out the best overall, with the Concords for grape juice (2/3rds of New York's total grape crop) superb in both quality and quantity.

In short, in most regions 2011 was a "winemaker's year" in the sense of testing their agility in dodging the raindrops and their ability in the cellar to create the best quality wines possible. Those whom I've talked with have been generally upbeat on the outlook for the wines, which will begin to be released in a few months.

Meanwhile, the winery tasting rooms have generally stayed busy and the wine trail events largely sold out, according to reports during a recent meeting of wine trail representatives from throughout the state. Once again, the exact patterns varied by location in terms of which seasons were slow or busy, sales per visitor, and other variables, but overall the wine lovers kept coming and leaving some money behind.

The five million tourist visits to wineries this year also brought lots of business and benefits to transportation companies, lodging facilities, restaurants, gift shops, and the State and local governments which reap the benefits through sales taxes. Happily, our new Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed his understanding and appreciation of wine country tourism as an economic engine, so hopefully we will continue receiving State funding to support the wine trails and related programs.

After all, wine-related tourism expenditures top $365 million, and the State and local taxes paid exceed $230. Wine country is a gold mine for the State of New York.

New York--A Gold Mine of Fine Wines
Once again in 2011, New York wineries won a ton of medals at major international wine competitions around the country and world--in fact, 537 Gold, 128 Double Gold, and 113 "Best of Class" and above accolades--not to mention far more than 1,000 Silver and Bronze medals as well. The Gold and above awards are featured under the "New York Gold" section of, and are searchable by varietal or competition. Some of the 2011 highlights:

o Belhurst Estate Winery 2009 Dry Riesling, Best of Show White Wine, San Diego International Wine Competition

o Belhurst Estate Winery 2010 Dry Rose, Best Rose/Blush, NexGen Wine Competition

o Coyote Moon Vineyards 2009 Naked Chardonnay, Best Chardonnay, New York World Wine & Spirits Competition

o Coyote Moon Vineyards River Run Rose, Best Rose, New York World Wine & Spirits Competition AND Long Beach Grand Cru

o Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2009 Dry Gewurztraminer, Sweepstates White Wine, Riverside International Wine Competition

o Heron Hill Winery 2008 Vidal Blanc Late harvest, Best Dessert Wine, Monterey International Wine Competition

o Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Winery of the Year, New York Wine & Food Classic

o Martha Clara Vineyards 2010 Riesling Estate Reserve, Best of Show Wine, Atlantic Seabord Competition

o Martha Clara Vineyards 2009 Riesling, Governor's Cup Trophy, New York Wine & Food Classic

o Niagara Landing Wine Cellars 2008 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Best Dessert Wine, NexGen Wine Competition

o Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2010 Riesling Ice Wine, Best American Riesling, Canberra International Riesling Challenge

o Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2010 Gewurztraminder, Best of Show White Wine, Sommelier Challenge

o Zugibe Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Riesling, Best Riesling, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

There were also dozens of New York wines rated 90 or above by major consumer publications, and some great reviews in top publications including:

o Ravines 2009 Dry Riesling selected as the best white wine for Thanksgiving by the New York Times tasting panel, and its 2008 Cabernet Franc recommended by the Boston Globe for that same meal

o Hermann J. Wiemer Gewurztraminer featured on Martha Stewart's Thanksgiving Special

o Paumanok Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling named one of the "Luxury Dozen 2011" wines in the world by the Wall St. Journal online

o Red Newt Cellars and Hermann J. Wiemer ranked among the Top 100 wineries in the world by Wine & Spirits magazine

o Heart & Hands Winery featured on The Early Show

o Long Island wines featured prominently by the Wall St. Journal

o Finger Lakes Riesling featured on the "VineTalk" national PBS series, and also rated the most popular segment among viewers

These medals, scores, and mentions have combined to expand the quality reputation of New York wines around the world. The wineries which not only produce them, but also ENTER them, are helping all of New York and its wine regions.

Winery Growth Accelerates--Again
316 and counting is the number of licensed wine producers in New York state at the end of this year, with six more licenses pending. In addition, there are 54 satellite stores with 2 more pending.

Most impressive, the 20 new wineries are spread across 15 different counties from Chautauqua (Lake Erie region) to Suffolk (Long Island) and even Kings (Brooklyn). Here are the newcomers, listed by country alphabetically:

The Apple Station Winery (Cayuga), 21 Brix Winery (Chautauqua), North Star Vineyard (Clinton), Venditti Vineyards (Jefferson), Red Hook Winery (Kings), Harvest Moon Cidery (Madison), A Gust of Sun, Midnight Run Wine Cellars, and Long Cliff Vineyard & Winery (all Niagara), Raymor Estate Cellars (Ontario), Saratoga Lake Winery (Saratoga), Kymar Farm Winery & Distillery (Schoharie), Eremita Winery (Seneca), Deep Root Vineyard and Lime Berry Winery (both Steuben), Mattebella Vineyards (Suffolk), Woodstock Winery (Ulster), Monello, New Vines Bed & Breakfast, and Point of the Bluff Vineyard (all Yates).

Among the seven new satellite stores is Empire State Cellars at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Riverhead (Long Island) which is featuring hundreds of New York wines from throughout the state. Other new stores include Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard and The Winemaker Studio by Anthony Nappa Wines (both Suffolk as well), The Champlain Wine Company (Clinton), Swedish Hill Winery (Saratoga), Sheldrake Point Vineyard (Schuyler), and Magnus Ridge Winery (Yates). A 2011 law intiated by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, sponsored by Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Bill Magee, has made it simpler for farm wineries to open satellite stores, so I expect even more to open in 2012.

From 2001 to 2011, 198 new wineries have opened--far more than in the previous 180 years--and in just seven years from 2005-2011, the 152 new wineries exceeded the total from the prior 20 years, essentially quadrupling the growth rate. Each new winery means new investment, new jobs, new tourists, and new taxes for the State of New York, which already benefits from more than $3.76 billion annually of economic activity generated by our industry.

The challenge now is to "grow the market" at a greater rate than winery growth so that the new wineries aren't cannibalizing the market share (tourists and sales) of the pioneering wineries that got everything started in the first place.

New Horizons for Research

A vital part of our industry's success has been the world-class research conducted by Cornell University scientists and communicated to the industry by Cooperative Extension professionals.

Maintaining a comprehensive research program has become an increasing challenge as traditional public funding sources disappear, such as the long-time Viticulture Consortium money from the federal government. But thanks to the strong support of Senators Cathy Young and Patty Ritchie, joined by Assemblyman Bill Magee, we were able to get State matching funds to continue supporting the core grape and wine program involving 20 individual projects.

In addition, Cornell researchers Tim Martinson and Bruce Reisch have each won major grants to study cold climate grape varieties and grape breeding, respectively, which will bring benefits to the New York wine industry.

Finally, the National Grape and Wine Initiative has become a major new resource for New York and our colleagues nationwide in terms of defining strategic research priorities and finding financial support. For the past two years, Anthony Road Winery's John Martini has chaired the Board (on which I also serve), and NGWI President Jean-Mari Peltier has done a magnificent job coordinating with federal government partners on research priorities. This gives us new hope during a time of extreme fiscal austerity.

A Glimpse Ahead

2012 is full of promise, from the 2011 vintage wines that continue to develop, to an exciting promotion in New York City, and a new generation populating the grape and wine industry.

This past year was an unusual one in most winegrowing parts of North America from coast to coast, with our colleagues in California, Oregon and Washington citing challenging conditions including the lateness of the harvest, but ultimately ending up quite bullish about the potential for the wines. That mirrors the situation in most New York regions, and we'll know in a few months how the wines will be.

We have been quietly planning a promotion in New York City for the first three months of 2012 involving 38 wineries from various regions. The program will include market research, visits by New York City wine writers and sommeliers to the major wine regions, a multi-day visit to the City by participating wineries, advertising, and much more.

Perhaps most exciting is what I have found out in response to the Wine Press of a couple weeks ago--that there is an enormous number of young people who are either becoming very involved in the family business (vineyard or winery) or entering it from the outside. I hope and expect to have a comprehensive list of these people, where they are, and what they do, right after the New Year.

Their presence gives us great hope for the future of our industry.

- Jim Trezise, New York Wine a Grape Foundation

Dave McIntyre and Black Ankle Slate (MD)

So, the other night I met Washington Post wine columnist and wine blogger Dave McIntyre out for dinner in Silver Springs, Maryland. Just a couple of web friends sharing some bottles of local wines. A super nice guy.

While Virginia wine is more and more the subject these days, I asked Dave about wine in his own home state of Maryland. He said there were more good things going on in the state that most people realizeed. He talked of revitalized wineries, new wineries, and about John Case and his impact on the local wine landscape.

But more than anything, he insisted that the Black Ankle Slate was a wine well worth its price tag. He said it was a wine that could hold its own. Who was I to disbelieve? So we opened a bottle.

Black Ankle burst onto the scene in 2008 when it won the Governor's Cup, and then repeated in 2009 with the same wine (Crumbling Rock). But in 2011 it won with it's newest wine, Slate.

Black Ankle Vineyards is biodynamic. They make sprays made from herbs, compost, elemental minerals, etc. which discourage pests without throwing off the ecological balance in the vineyard. They rely on chemical intervention only when absolutely necessary. They have also made the decision to farm with the principles of Biodynamics, the original Organic farming movement which was founded by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's. Biodynamics adds several dimensions to work on the farm: working as much as possible by the rhythms of the moon, planets and seasons; a strong emphasis on biodiversity; a goal of self-sufficiency (or as close as possible) for the farm as a whole; and a belief that their farm is a system of interrelated organisms, so that what happens in any one place affects the entire farm.

Since they purchased the property in May of 2002, they have made and applied compost in place of chemical fertilizers and they have never used herbicides of any kind. They use 100% biodiesel fuel to power their tractors. Although they are not yet able to farm 100% organically, they are optimistic that they will get there before too long.

While the farm operation awaits achieving an organic nirvana, the wines have sped ahead. Slate is an excellent example of that. Black Ankle has quickly established itself as one of the leaders of the quality movement in Maryland wine. Black Ankle Vineyards is" dedicated to making wines of place — wines that express the unique flavors and atmosphere of the land on which they are grown."

Slate is a unique blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 22% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. It is a blend of wine drawn primarily from their 2007 and 2008 vintages, with a bit of 2010 blended in for balance and freshness. The nose is a complex stew of dried plum, raspberry, blackberry, mixed in with a hint of cassis. There are other spices as well, including black and white pepper.

The wine is complex with different aromas and flavors coming through in every sip. The fruit is bold and big upfront, but the acidity is low, and the tannins are only medium, making this a smooth, elegant, immensely drinkable wine.

I was absolutely floored. This was as good as anything I'd recently tasted in Virginia and/or New York especially.

This is a wonderful wine, and I owe it to Dave McIntyre for making me try it!

Thanks Dave! And congrats to the folks at Black Ankle!

Winery Bill Needs One More Push to Pass the Assembly

Right now you have an extraordinary opportunity to save the wineries of New Jersey from a catastrophic shutdown and, at the same time, make it easier for yourself to purchase our wine without traveling great distances.

In the next few days, members of the NJ Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee will decide whether to release a bill for the entire assembly to vote on whether our wineries can ship wine inside and outside the state. The bill, A4436, heads to the Assembly next month. We are hoping for a committee vote on Jan. 5 and a full Assembly vote on Jan. 9. Consequently, time is running short.

Below you will find the names and contact information for those assembly representatives critical to making sure the bill gets out of committee and onto the assembly floor for a vote. Failure to move the bill from committee into the assembly floor for a positive vote could shut down our industry, closing tasting rooms and sales of our wines. Approval will allow small wineries inside and outside the state to ship to you. A lot of us have worked very hard to establish our businesses and a reputation in New Jersey for making fine wines. We need our legislators in the NJ Assembly to understand this. You can help tremendously.

Please look at the following assembly representatives’ names and areas they represent and reach out to them today, knowing our success will be your success as well. Thank you.

- Ollie Tomasello, Chairman, Garden State Wine Growers Association

Chairman John Burzichelli (D-3)
(856) 251-9801

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20)
(908) 624-0880

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28)
(973) 450-0484

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-12)
(732) 866-1695

Assemblyman Vincent Polistina (R-2)
(609) 677-8266

Happy Holidays Wines in NJ

Colts Neck, NJ

Holiday Hours
Now thru Sunday, December 18th, Four JG's will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Come celebrate the holiday season with us!

Pilesgrove, NJ

Saturday December 31 - Second Annual New Year's Eve For People Who Can't Stay Up Late! Celebrate New Years on Rio time (two hours behind us at 10 PM!) and be in bed by midnight! Join Larry, Captain America, Esteban and the Dudes and the rest of the Ain't Got No (Paying) Gig on New Year's Eve Band (you know who you are...) for a great (and early) night of dinner and music. Reservations Required! For more details, visit our website at or call 856-769-WINE.

Franklinville, NJ

Friday Night Movie at the Vineyard
Admission: Free
Every Friday starting at 7:00 pm
Come enjoy a relaxing evening at our vineyard with a glass of wine, popcorn and a movie. Wine for sale by the bottle or the Glass! Check our website for movie schedule and updates.
New Hours for Tasting Room - Friday 5:00-9:00. Saturday and Sunday 12:00-5:00

Rio Grande, NJ

Hawk Haven Happy Hour
3:00 to 5:00 pm Daily
From 3 to 5 pm everyday, it's Hawk Haven Happy Hour. Enjoy a glass of your favorite Hawk Haven Wine for only $4. Bring a snack along with you or purchase one from our wine shop. Wines are also available by the bottle. Show your New Jersey Teachers pay stub and receive your complimentary Hawk Haven Wine Glass (valued at $5.).

Pennington, NJ

Music and Wine Fridays
Every Friday Night
6:00 to 9:00 pm
Admission: Free
Live Music
December 23: Eric Dabb playing jazz
December 30: Hopewell Valley Vineyards' Jazz Ensemble playing jazz
Wine by glass or bottle and brick oven pizza available for purchase.

Music and Wine Saturdays
6:00 to 9:00 pm
Admission: Free
Live Music
Wine by glass or bottle available for purchase. Brick oven pizza available for purchase.

New Egypt, NJ

Sunday Brunch at Laurita Winery
Every Sunday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Join us at Laurita Winery for our Sunday Brunch by Branches Catering. Click here to view the Sunday Brunch Menu (varies slightly each week). Email reservation requests to or call 732-542-5050

Blue Anchor, NJ

Wine Down Fridays
Noon to 6:00 pm
We feature $5 glasses of wine along with relaxing music to help end your week. Every Friday until closing.

Finesville, NJ

December to Remember
All month
Noon to 5:00 pm
Admission: $5 includes wine tasting, souvenir glass, appetizers
Visit the Villa to sample our delicious, handcrafted European style wines paired with delectable appetizers from our newly released cookbook. Sample our Felize Navidad mulled wine and get bottles to treat your holiday guests to this south-of-the-border surprise! Impress your boss, employees and family with a gift of Villa Milagro wines for the holidays. We will be open Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; closed Christmas and New Year’s days. See details at


I discovered the artistry of Chris Pearmund earlier this year when I bought a bottle of his wine in a Richmond liquor store while visiting Richmond on business. I was floored. Again, the great state of Virginia called my namme, so this time I decided to explore for myself Pearmund's series of wineries.

Pearmund is involved as the winemaker at three different wineries: The Winery at La Grange; Vint Hill Craft Winery; and Pearmund Cellars.

Chris explained to Virginia wine blogger John Haggarty how he got involved in wine.
"I worked at Clyde’s in Tysons Corner in the ’80s as their wine specialist and managed both the front and back operations of many other restaurants. I loved the concept of creating food with quality ingredients. The same concept applies to winemaking. I wanted to make myself more marketable by earning stripes in both the food and wine business. However, the restaurant industry is a daily repetitive grind while winemaking revolves around an annual production cycle. It’s hard to get burned out in the wine industry. There’s simply more variety, longer vision and less repetition. Once I entered the wine industry, I never looked back."

Today, he is a wine impressario.

Pearmund Cellars
I started with Pearmund Vineyards. Pearmund Vineyards is one of the closest wineries nearest Washington, DC, which is why I chose it first. Established in 1976 it originally hosted nine different grape varieties. Today they stick to chardonnay on the property, as they are the most successful grapes to grow with respect to this terroir. They have 15 acres and 11,000 vines of Chardonnay, cultivars or clones of Chardonnay to help increase the complexity of their wine. They also source from the premier vineyards of Virginia that specialize in one particular grape variety.

The winery is a classic looking winery, with a very large, open, spacious tastingroom, equipped when neccessary to hold a lot of people, but set up in the off hours with a large tasting bar, a check out counter, and a sitting area complete with small tables and chairs, a sofa, comfortable chairs, and a fireplace.

From the tastingroom, the barrel room can be view through a large set of glass doors. It is large, neat, and orderly, and lit by beautiful chandeliers. Impressive.

2010 Petite Manseng - I have found a new love. Petite Manseng is a grape primarily grown in southern France. The grape is grown primarily in the Languedoc, Jurançon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh but has recently drawn interest in New World wine regions like California, Virginia and Australia. It seems to be follwong the path of Viognier. This is a distinctive dry, white wine with rich aromas of candied fruit, lemongrass, pineapple, spice and honey. This nose, much like Viognier, really explodes from the mouth of the glass. Again, like Viongier, the drinker might think the wine will be sweet, but instead is met with a ight, brisk, refreshing, clean, dry, white wine. Very, very pretty. A sensational wine. Loved it! Fantatstic!

2009 Viognier - My old love, whom I am still very much attached to - Virginia Viognier. This is a nice Viongier, with a love nose pear and ripe apple and honeysuckle slowly froth out of the glass. 100% malolactic fermentation

The reds were all gorgeous. Smooth and drinkable. Soft tannins. Really pretty.

2009 Merlot - Big fruit with a soft finnish. The grapes are from Silver Creek Orchards. On the nose there were dark cherries and dried cherries. A hint of vanilla. Some earth. Saddle leather. The fruit was big up front on the tasting, with soft tannins and low acidity. Really very nice.

2009 Cab Franc - For a true description of this wine, you'll have to refer to my post from April 2011. But that was 2008, this is 2009. But the profile is generally the same. A fruit bomb of a wine, this is one of the most expressive Cab Francs I have ever had. The tradition at Winery at La Grange continues. Dark raspberry, white pepper, and a hint of pencil shavings all on the nose. Dark raspberries and a hint of stewed dark fruit, with a beautiful mouth feel - again, low tannins, low acidity, big fruit. Incredible. Possibly one of the best red wines of the east coast.

2009 Armitage - This is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot. A lovely meritage-style wine. Excellent.

2009 Petitte Verdot - I love Petitte Verdot, so this was an easy one. Big, big berry profile - all dark. Lush. Intense. A dark, purple-ish wine. Nice tannins. Big flavor. Wonderful!

The Winery at La Grange

The winery itself is an incredible and unique venue. La Grange is a restored three and a half story red brick manor house built in the 1790s. With huge doorways and fireplaces in everyroom, the winery is a gorgeous labrynth of little cozy rooms, complete with arm chairs, sofas, and piles of board games. The Winery at La Grange is Prince William County's premier winery nestled at the foot of Bull Run Mountain.

In September 2006, it opened as a winery, thanks to an investment group led by Pearmund. With 5,500 new Cabernet Sauvignon vines and a new winery building, the winery is set to make its mark. Total production is about 4,000 cases and includes Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Norton and Merlot. The winery also produces Meritage (a Bordeaux-style blend), a sparkling wine, and port.

A path beset with greens on either side leads back to the winery and the barrel room. Gorgeous!

The tank room.
A few wine highlights from La Grange:

2009 Viognier - Again, one of my favorites. The grapes come from Hollins Farm. Made in Hungarian Oak, this highly aromatic elixir, was made in stainless steel, and then aged for six months in French Oak. Honeysuckle and lychee come fruit, also apricot and honey. But make no mistake. This ia a very lovely whie wine.

2010 Norton - Kline wrote Wild Vines, about the history of the Norton grape. This wine would amuse him. The grapes are a combination of Missouri Norton 77% and Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon 23%. Big, rich, and intense. A lot of spice. Not as gamey as many pure Norton's. A very nice wine, which shows this native rape can do somehting with a touch of blending. My favorite Norton! Very nice.

2009 Meritage - A melange of Cab Sav, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petitte Verdot, this is a wonderful deep red wine made 1/2 in American Oak and 1/2 in French Oak. This is a very well made Bordeaux-styled blend with plum and raspberry, and hints of dusty autumn leaves. Excellent.

General's Battlefield Red - Malbec, Cab Sav., Petitte Verdot, Tannat and Chambourcin. This is a wonderful, big, deep, hearty wine with incredible and intense flavors. It has been aged over a year in Virginia oak barrels made from trees grown just a few miles away from the winery on the historic site of the battles of Manassas. An absolute winner.

2008 Tannat - This is one of the biggest surprises of the visit. Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape". It is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and in Italy's Puglia region where it is used as a blending grape. In the US state of Virginia, there are small experimental plantings of the vine. These grapes come from a vineyard/farm named Honah Lee. This is a dark red wine with intense color and flavor. Its got huge dark flavors of deep respberry and cassis, with relatively low acids, and nice, classically structured tannins. An intense wine. I really liked this. A wonderful surprise!!!

2009 Snort - Possibly one of the best ports available on the east coast today. 23% Cab Sav and 75% Norton. The Solera system of blending 3 vintages (45% 2006, 45% 2007, 10% 2008) produces multiple layers of flavor, texture and depth. A lovely, lovely port, with big flavors, but not too sweet. Fantastic. Will age beautifully for at least 5 to 10 years.

Alas, I could not go to Vine Hill because it was not open while I was down there. Vint Hill Craft Winery was founded in 2009 by Pearmund and a group of savvy business executives and wine enthusiasts. These industry leaders are spearheading this exciting new concept in personalized winemaking; ensuring quality, success and sustainability. The unique state of the art “green” winery is located in historic barns at Vint Hill Farms Station, VA. The barn facility was once a secure listening station used by the U.S. Government from the early 1940s through the late 1990s.

Many ‘custom crush’ wineries focus on vineyards. At Vint Hill Craft Winery the process starts with, and is dedicated to, the art and craft of winemaking. The customers include thos who want to make wine for themselves, be it fruit from Virginia, or California or anywhere else. Some folks grow grapes, and want ot make wine from grapes grown on their land. Other want to buy grapes and make wines for their own restaurants or store. Other come to Vint Hill to get an education in winemaking. It's a unique business model.

Pearmund makes consistent, quality wine, with unique flavor profiles, and exceptional invention. And the customer expereince is always key, and unique as well. Chris has created a fascinating world of wine. And we're living in it. Ain't it great!

Winery at La Grange 2008 Cab Franc review and Pearmund profile:

John Haggarty interview: