Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Delaplane Cellars (VA) A Serious Winery

OK, so I am always happy to be surprised. And this was one occassion where I was more than pleasantly surprised.

At the second Grand Tasting of TasteCamp 2012 I ran across the table for Deleplane Cellars. Delaplane Cellars is nestled on Lost Mountain, overlooking the Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley. Delaplane Cellars began in the late 1990's as a simple dream of Jim and Betsy Dolphin to create fine wine in Virginia. All of their wines are made from authentic Virginia winegrapes. Their goal is to craft delicious single vineyard wines that reflect the unique terroir of each vineyard site. "To accomplish this, our winemaking philosophy is simply that less is more. Less intervention by the winemaker results in more authentic flavor and more memorable wine in the bottle," says Delaplane's literature.

Dominick Fioresi is the Vineyard Manager and Cellarmaster. Dominick joined the winery as Vineyard Manager and Cellarmaster in April 2011. He has completed a two year apprenticeship program at Linden Vineyards, Linden, VA, under the tutelage of Jim Law, widely regarded as the premier vigneron in Virginia. Prior to joining Linden, Dominick completed the two and a half year viticulture and enology certification program at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, VA. He also worked the 2008 harvest and crush at Domaine Dubl'ere in Burgundy, France.

As Vineyard Manager, Dominick is responsible for overseeing the vineyard operations at Delaplane’s seven acre, 11,000 vine estate vineyard as well as its expansion to 10 acres in 2012 and 2013. In addition, he is the winery’s liaison with the seven other growers who either lease a portion of their vineyard or sell grapes to Delaplane Cellars. As Cellarmaster, Dominick assists the winemaker and owner Jim Dolphin.

OK, enough of that. What I can tell you is that from tasting three wines, that Delaplane is a very serious winery. They are looking to make the absolutely best quality wines they can.

I'll start of with 2011 Petite Mensang. It was fabulous. Big opulent nose, with honey and lots of tropical fruits. Wow! And on the palate I got pears, apples and pineapples. With bright acidity but not too much, this had a nice refreshing mouthfeel. An absolutely lovely wine! Fantastic!

But it wasn't my favorite....? Because the reds were even better.

The 2007 Shirland Syrah was a big chewy red wine. A dark red/purple, this had all the makings of a wonderufl wine. Big, deep, dark berries on the nose with vanilla and spices. But there's barnyard in them thar hills...the good kind. This was one big cup of coffee. Big fruity nose but with a nice soft smoky bacon behind it. Impressive.

The last was also just incredible. The 2008 Williams Gap was so impressive. I've been waiting to write this review just because I couldn't wait to relive the moment and gush about the wine online! This is a Bordeaux-style blend including Cabernet Franc (33%), Merlot (17%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), and Petite Verdor (17%). The wines were vinted separately and then cellared in 33% new and 67% neutral French oak barrels for 22 months.

The result is nothing short of a amazing. There's dark cherry, tomato, vanilla, spices, blood....this is as complex a wine as I have tasted in Virginia. A Big, big wine. A serious wine to thoroughly be considered and examined. I wanted a charred steak immediatel with this wine. An achievement!

Congratulations to Jim and Betsy Dolphin. Just marvelous!

(p.s. didn't have my camera with me, so I borrowed some pictures off the web....couldn't find a photo of the 2008, so I've taken the liberty of posting a 2009 instead....)

Rockbridge DeChiel Reserve 2007 Cab Franc (VA)

Shepherd Rouse, along with his wife Jane Millott-Rouse, are the owners of Rockbridge Vineyard. Shep’s Virginia heritage dates back to the 17th century and Jane is from Carmel, California. Shep is a graduate of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, with a degree in Geology/Biology and holds a Master’s Degree in Enology from the University of California at Davis.

Bitten by the allure of wine while in Germany in the 1970’s, Shep fell in love with wine and the wine lifestyle. In 1988, Shep and Jane found the perfect site in northern Rockbridge County at 2,000 foot elevation and near two busy interstate highways.

The vineyard has now grown to 17 acres and is complemented with grapes from other top-quality growers from neighboring Virginia counties. Shep grows a mix of vinifera, hybrid, and native grapes. The goal? To make well-crafted, affordable wines.

Rockbridge wines have won numerous medals over the years including Best in Show in the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Best in Show in Town Point Competition and twice winner of the coveted Virginia Governor’s Cup.

I had my first Rockbridge wine while at the Eastern Wineries Expo 2012. It was an eye-opener.

This is a substantial wine. Shep and company do intensive leaf pulling and cluster thinning during the growing year to insure quality and flavor. The color was a dark garnet colored wine. This Cabernet Franc Reserve was aged 27 months prior to bottling. Big dark cherry nose, with hints of plum and other bramble fruit, with a hint of spice to it. A touch of cedar possibly? And a nice whiff of vanilla. The wine finishes bone dry, with nice acidity, and great mouthfeel. Tannins are nice, but not overwhelming, and the fruit stays on the palate a long time.

But don't just take my word for it that this wine is a winner....look at these results!

2010 Virginia State Fair | Silver
2011 Finger Lakes Competition | Gold
2010 Atlantic Seaboard | Silver
2010 Virginia Governor's Cup | Silver
2011 Virginia Governor's Cup | Silver
2012 Virginia Governor's Cup | Silver

Indeed, it is in fact a real winner! Congrats Shep and Jane!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Richard Leahy Fantastic Interviewed on Wine Radio

Richard Leahy, author of Beyond Jefferson's Vines, appeared on The wine radio!

Here's an interview he did on Wine Radio just recently! Very cool, very interesting!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stratus Red 2007 - One of the Best Wines in North America (Niagara Penninsula, Canada)

I haven’t covered enough Canadian wine. This comes from the fact that I haven’t been traveling to Canada near as much as I was even seven years ago. But I remain a true and constant fan of the wines. I must first claim ignorance. I am an accidental traveler in that country, and have yet to spend a real trip there, combing through the wine country, and enjoying the many vineyards I know are there.

While at Eastern Wineries Expo 2012, I ran across a wine and winemaker I have no idea existed….onyl to find out he was already considered a national treasure, and the wine a monumental Canadian wine. Talk about feeling stupid.

Stratus is considered one of the great wines of Canada, even though it is relatively new. And it has a sustainability mission statement that also bubbles it up to the top.

"The wine we grow is dependent on the health of the land on which it is grown. We farm our vineyard and guide our winemaking as though our children's future depends on it. Each vintage bottled is a reflection of this ongoing commitment." - Environmental Mission Statement

The winery is a building designed to make premium wine. A facility where almost every piece of equipment can be reconfigured in response to the demands of winemaking. Even equipment as basic as the table where the grapes from their vineyard are sorted by hand can be set up in more than 17 different ways. A four-storey tank elevator helps them move wine without pumping, which can introduce air and compromise flavors. Instead, their wine flows naturally, through gravity, from stainless steel or oak fermenters into carefully selected French oak barrels, where it will age under the care of the cellar master.

Then, there’s the winemaker. J-L (Jean-Laurent) Groux is a native of France's Loire Valley who learned his craft in the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. And while he venerates the traditions of winemaking, he won't be bound by them. Instead, J-L is open to fresh ideas and to establishing what he calls "new traditions." So, at Stratus you'll find many new approaches to grape-growing and winemaking. Judged by the age-old standard of "what works best," these innovations help J-L pursue a very traditional goal – outstanding, age-worthy wines that capture the essence of vintage and vineyard.

At EWE 2012 the tone when discussing JL was one of great warmth, and tremendous respect. Known as one of Niagara’s winemaking pioneers, J-L brought his vision of creating premium New World wines through the Old World art of assemblage to Stratus. Using the vineyard as his palette, he creates complexity through diversity by blending several grape varieties into one layered and richly textured wine.

Stratus grows 11 varieties of red wine grapes in its vineyard: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tannat and Tempranillo. This diversity gives J-L a wide range of choices options for crafting a signature Stratus Red.

The wine I had was the Stratus 2007 Red. The grapes were harvested from October 13 - November 13, 2007. The average brix at Harvest: 22.9°. 644 days in French Oak - 88% New, 10% one year old, 2% two year old oak barrels. The final wine is 13.5% alcohol.
After a rigourous sorting removes any imperfect berries, red varieties at Stratus free fall into classic Burgundian oak fermenters. There, they ferment and rest for four to six weeks. This extended soak gently extracts maximum character and color from the grapes.

According to JL’s notes, “The hot, dry vintage of 2007 is a hallmark for the Niagara Peninsula. The vintage was ideal for the art of assemblage as each varietal was able to show signature typicity. Predominately Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, other varieties were included to lift the body and nose. The result is a concentrated, complex and ageworthy wine that expresses the diversity of our vineyard.”

“Fruit from the Stratus Vineyard was allowed to mature into the fall before being harvested based on tasting for optimum maturity. Each cluster was picked by hand, followed by an intensive whole- cluster sorting in the winery. All fruit was then destemmed and individual berry sorting was done before crushing and falling into tank for fermentation. After an extended post-fermentation maceration, the wine was gently basket-pressed into new and older barrels originating from numerous French forests, from selected coopers. The wine was then allowed to mature on the lees in barrel; and individual barrels were selected by tasting after almost two full years for the best balance, intensity, and varietal character. After 593 days in barrel, the wines were blended and bottled by gravity,” he continued.

The wine was easily one of the best red wines, made not only on the east coast, but in North America. It was incredible. Big, dark, and impressive up front with its colors, but it’s nose was floral with big dark juicy berries, hints of cassis, vanilla, mocha, and lakvar. The wine itself was big and chewy, and delicious. Prune, plum, cassis were all evident. But it was also more elegant than that! It had a finesse and elegance to it that were astonishing. But don’t just believe me….

"The first red to reach a full 5 star rating during the writing of this edition. Deep and brilliant garnet hue to the rim; full, rich nose with top notes of banana and cherry. Lush but not opulent texture—clean, not lean—somewhere between satin and velvet. Fabulous depth and richness of ripe fruit flavours, with black cherry and plum dominating early, and balancing hints of apple skin in the end palate. Tremendously complex and already delicious, this one’s worth holding back for several years. Not cheap but exceptionally good value. Drink now to 2025.”
5 stars out of 5
- Konrad Ejbich, A Pocket Guide to Ontario Wines, Wineries, Vineyards & Vines

“Before all other wines are made at Stratus this is the wine they focus on first and foremost, so says winemaker JL Groux – (stamped it, no erasies). About this wine JL has two things to say: 1) “I am confident that this is a great wine.”; and 2) “this is the Stratus Red with the least amount of varieties in it: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and some Gamay” – he says this referring back to the other Stratus reds he has made in the past. This wine is a delicious addition to the Stratus portfolio; a wine with really good complexity, fruit, barrel notes, spice, tannins and acidity – there’s also vanilla, cinnamon and lovely red fruit on the finish. My notes finish with two words: ‘Sweet’ and ‘Supple’. JL is confident that this is a “great wine” – I’m confident in giving it 4½ stars and telling you “you’ll like it” and also to lie it down for some ageing – 7-10 years will do nicely. Release is expected Winter 2010.
Rating: ****½
- Michael Pinkus, Ontario Wine Review, June 2010

For Canadians, all I can say is, you’re just damn lucky! For Americans, it’s not easy to find Stratus, but it is possible for your local store to order. Get it! Buy it now. It’s a bargain at the price you’ll pay, and its wine you can drink now or cellar for the next 10 years. A work of art!

Martin Farm Winery Opens in Templeton, MA

New England Wine Gazette featured Martin Farm Winery in Templeton, Massachusetts in it's most recent issue.

Former guidance counselor Thomas Martin, a Rutgers grade, who hailed from Georgia, settled in Templton, MA. He has a small orchard wherein he grows only non-grape fruits. All of Martin's wines are made from these fruits, in small, micro-batches.

They have a tasting room inTempleton, and the wines can sometimes be found at The Old 78 Farm Fall Festival.

Tastingroom phone number is: 978 939-8758

New England Wine Gazette Features New Winery: Paradise Hills Vineyard

Paradise Hills is located in Hamden, CT. They opened May 1, 2012.

Marguerite Barrett, a contributing writer, wrote in Vino, on July 14, 2011 in an article entitled, "The Wines of Paradise Hills Vineyard."

When I first arrived at Paradise Hills Saturday afternoon, the place was hopping – the bar was full of people at various stages of their tasting and a few others were milling around admiring the building and the grounds while waiting for a spot at the bar. Being in no rush, I just hung back watching the action and listening to the stories being told by the members of the Ruggerio family as they poured the tastings.

But this also gave me the chance to spend a few minutes with Paradise Hills’ winemaker, Margaret Ruggerio, something which I don’t often get a chance to do because I so often visit wineries on the weekend, and the traffic levels usually preclude a leisurely conversation. But whether I called attention to myself by taking pictures or furiously scribbling notes or whether if not pouring, the family just mingles through the room greeting guests, the end result was a very pleasant 10 minutes chatting with Margaret Ruggerio while waiting for space to open up at the bar.

In addition to talking about the history of the vineyards and the winery as well as her own background, Margaret also talked about her approach to winemaking – in particular her focus on making each of the wines distinct. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of this claim; I’ve heard this from other wineries and winemakers, and while wines each have their own character, so often you’ll find a winery producing several wines using the same base grape, and so while there are distinctions, I wouldn’t have said they were distinct. But with Paradise Hills’ wines, Margaret Ruggerio was not exaggerating.

Visit their website:

A Visit to The Land of Nod Winery (CT)

The Land of Nod is a far away fictious place, like Honalee in Peter Yarrow's classic, Puff the Magic Dragon, or Barrie's island in Peter Pan. It is a place hard to get to, that bannishes the cares of the everyday world. The name of the winery comes from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem for children.

The Land of Nod
by Robert Louis Stevenson

From Breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do--
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

The Land of Nod Winery is located in the rolling hills and lanes of East Cannan, CT, in the state's northwest corner, only a stone's throw from New York and Massachusetts state borders.

The Farm in a Bicentennial Farm. The same family must own the farm for at least 100 (Century Farm) or 200 (Bicentennial Farm) consecutive years. A family member must live on the farm on a permanent basis; and the farm must consist of at least 10 acres of the original holding, OR gross more than $1,000 annually from the sale of farm products. It tells you something about where you are.

The farm keeps sheep. And the winery sells skeins of wool yarn for knitting in lots of colors. Photos of the sheep abound.

On to the wines!

The first I started off with was the Bianca. Ths is quite simply one of the nicest white wines in New England, and can give any white form the east coast, including New York and Virginia a run for it's money. Very aromatic with pears and exotic spices on the nose, with lovely fruit and a good solid dose of acidity. It's light, bright and refreshing. An absolutely elegant wine. Fantastic!

The next was the rose'. This was a shock. The wine was absolutely lovely, with hints of pears and raspberry. In fact the winery takes the Bianca, and tinges it with raspberry wine. But if I poured a glass of it for you and din;t tell you, you wouldn't have known it. The wine had a beautiful nose, nice acidity, and tremendous flavor. A nice, refreshing rose'. As good as any rose' I've had from the east coast. Tremendous.

This was followed by a raspberry wine, made from 100% raspberries. Not a heavy wine, more like a rosato in color. Light, with good acidity. A lovely picnic wine. Not too sweet at all, in fact it had very little sugar in it at all. Very nice.

Ironmaster Reserve was the next wine. This was a dark red, dry wine made with equal parts St. Croix, Marquette, and Corot Noir, aged in local oak! A huge white oak had fallen in their farm, they had it milled into staves and aged them, and then brought the wood down to Jim Beam, to have them made into oak barrels.The only Connecticut winery to use local oak barrels. Very cool. The wine was dark, dry, and red, and very palatable. It had a lot of fruit on the nose, with a nice dry finish.

Blueberry-Raspberry Medley is the first of the semi-sweet wines. It's basically a semi-sweet blush, and is one of the winery's most popular wines. In the time I was there, every customer bought at least one bottle of it in their order.

The other wine I'll write about is the Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine. Now, I know what ou're thinking, because I wrinkled my nose as well. But this is one of the wines that The Land of Nod is known for. People come from miles around just to try it. And here's the shocker - it was wonderful! It's a raspberry wine with (and I am guessing heres) some kind of essecence of chocolate. When you smell the glass (and the wine is only a dark pink wine) you are overwhelmed by the smell of raspberry and chocolate. It smells like a fruit-filled bon-bon. It smells like a box of chocolate covered fruit. The taste on the other hand was fascinating. This is a full out, sweet dessert bomb. I nice, lucious, unctious, full-bodied dessert wine. Tremendous acidity, which keeps the wine honest, and keeps it from becoming overbearing. The wine itself is an absolute treat! A unique experience. Absolutely meant to go with chocolate desserts, or just to sip by itelf. Incredible.

The tastingroom is small, but in the summer, there is a tent outside where people can buy a glass, and enjoy it outside on a nice summer's day. It seemed a popular idea when I got there. For such a small, out-of-the-way winery, the tasting bar continually turned over a new crowd every half hour. They are obviously making something poeple like.

Now, your visit done, you must stop by the Beckley Furnace. The Beckley Blast Furnace was one of three blast furnaces in operation along Lower Road and the Blackberry River in East Canaan during the period 1832-1923.

Beckley Furnace was built in 1847 by John Adam Beckley, great-grandson of Esquire Samuel Forbes and grandson of John Adam, Jr., the founders of the Forbes & Adam Iron Company. It was acquired by the Barnum & Richardson Company in 1858. Beckley Furnace (also known as "East Canaan #2" during the Barnum and Richardson years) produced pig iron until the winter of 1918-19.

Constructed of locally quarried marble, the furnace was originally thirty-two feet in height and thirty feet square at the base. Later, after it was acquired by the Barnum Richardson Company, the height was raised to forty feet making it one of the largest of forty-three blast furnaces in the Salisbury Iron District.

The blast furnace is all that remains of an entire foundry. And it is absolutely fascinating.

The Land of Nod is a small little winery, but it's history and it's environs make for a wonderful little trip out of time...and thus, it is indeed The Land of Nod.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Little Region That Could - Hudson Valley Takes Home 30 Medals from NY State Fair 2012 Wine Competition

The results of the New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition are in, and the Hudson Valley took home 30 medals! We are thrilled. Second highest medal count after the wineries from the Finger Lakes. Not bad for a small little region like us. Congratulations to all the winners in the valley!!!

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Baco Noir Casscels Vineyard Double Gold
Whitecliff Vineyard 2011 Traminette Gold

Baldwin Vineyards NV Embers Silver
Brimstone Hill Vineyard 2010 NYS Cabernet Franc Silver
Brimstone Hill Vineyard 2008 Vin Rouge Superior Silver
Brookview Station Winery NV The Porter's Port - Black Cherry Port Silver
Brotherhood Winery NV Brotherhood Cabernet Sauvignon Silver
Brotherhood Winery NV Sweet Lolly White Silver
Brotherhood Winery NV Sweet Lolly Red Silver
Brotherhood Winery NV Blanc de blancs Silver
El Paso Winery Inc. 2012 New York State Dusty Barn Silver
Hudson-Chatham Winery NV Paperbirch Cassis Silver
Hudson-Chatham Winery NV Paperbirch Raspberry Fine Ruby Silver
Palaia Vineyards NV Irene Silver
Tousey Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc Silver
Tousey Winery 2010 Queen of Clormont Silver
Whitecliff Vineyard 2011 Riesling Silver
Whitecliff Vineyard NV Red Trail Silver

Brimstone Hill Vineyard 2010 Hudson River Region Noiret Bronze
Brookview Station Winery NV The Conductor's Cassis - Black Current Bronze
Brookview Station Winery NV Whistle Stop White Semi Dry White Bronze
Brotherhood Winery NV Brotherhood Dry Riesling Bronze
Brotherhood Winery NV Brotherhood Riesling Bronze
Brotherhood Winery NV Brotherhood Pinot Noir Bronze
El Paso Winery Inc. 2011 NYS Merlot Bronze
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Chelois Casscles Vineyard Bronze
Oak Summit Vineyard 2010 Oak Summit Pinot Noir Bronze
Palaia Vineyards 2007 Merlot Bronze
Palaia Vineyards 2008 Cab Franc Bronze
Palaia Vineyards NV Mead Honey Wine Bronze
Tousey Winery 2010 Pinto Noir Bronze

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Steven Kolpan Raves About Hudson Valley Pinot Noir!

James Beard award winning wine expert Steven Kolpan recently wrote an article in the June-August 2012 issue of Valley Table magazine entitled "Warm Wheather Reds: Chill Out," extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir from around the world.

In the article Kolpan recommended wines form the Hudson Valley:

"For a good local/aternative choice, look for Hudson Valley Pinot Noir produced by Millbrook, Robibero, Oak Summitt, Bashakill; Chelois from Hudson-Chatham, Genoa produced by Cereghino-Smith."

Great news for those buying Hudson Valley wine this summer and all year round!

Read more at:

and congrats to publishers Jerry and Janet!

The Zweigelt Project

The Zweigelt Project is an experiment which began in 2008 – by neophyte grape growers Bob Bedford and Linda Pierro, publishers of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine; and Paula Cereghino and Fred Smith of Cereghino Smith, award-winning Hudson Valley artisanal winemakers – to answer a simple question:

Can Zweigelt be successfully grown and produced in the Hudson Valley?

Why Zweigelt?

Well, Zweigelt is one of Austria’s most widely-planted red grape varieties– a crossing of the more well-known Blaufrankish and St. Laurent. It is widely grown throughout Austria, where it was developed – it has high yields, is adaptable to cold-weather conditions and is relatively resistant to disease. And importantly, it buds late, and ripens early – just perfect for the limited growing season in the Hudson Valley. The result is a full-flavored and well-structured grape that produces light to medium-bodied wines, with deep red color, gentle tannins, and spicy, red plum/red cherry and black pepper tastes, with a Barbera-like acidity. Because almost three-quarters of Austria’s total wine production is consumed locally, very little Zweigelt makes its way to the U.S. We think that’s a shame.

Why here, Why now?

1) We live, breathe and work in the Hudson Valley. 2) The climate here resembles that of some of the regions in Austria where Zweigelt is grown and thrives. 3) The first crop of Zweigelt from our vines planted in 2008 in our experimental vineyard in Greene County produced an unexpected and promising harvest in 2010, and 4) Cereghino Smith crafted a luscious fruit-forward, low-tannin, small-batch wine from these grapes that we know we want more of, and we think you’ll love. But more on that later.

What is the Zweigelt Project?

Was the 2010 harvest a fluke? Will our vines continue to thrive in the Hudson Valley, and produce healthy yields? Does the wine have aging ability?

We invite you to follow our progress in the vineyard and in the wine cellar, watch as we toil to plant more vines, grow and harvest the grapes, and craft and bottle our own Hudson Valley Zweigelt wine. And with the dearth of information available this side of the world, there’ll be a lot of experimenting going on. In between all the hard work, we’ll share photos, stories and tasting notes as we delve further into the mysterious, little-known Zweigelt grape and the potential of growing and producing Zweigelt here in the Hudson Valley, and in the U.S.

And that, simply, is the Zweigelt Project.

Read more at:

Farmhouse Select Original '91 from Woodchuck (VT)

Woodchuck Hard Cider is at it again. They've expanded their line of craft cider. Last November saw the debut of the Farmhouse Select Hard Cider Series. Farmhouse Select is a small batch artisanal line, featured in a 750ml corked bottle.

The first of the Farmhouse Select Series is called Original ’91. It is crafted exclusively with Vermont apples. The Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC – makers of Woodchuck Hard Cider – reached an agreement with Shoreham based Champlain Orchards to custom press a weekly shipment of sweet cider from locally grown apples.

"This agreement with Champlain Orchards, an orchard that also calls Addison County home, reinforces the strong commitment we have to our home state,” said Bret Williams, President and CEO of the Vermont Hard Cider Company. “We source only the highest quality ingredients for our cider, and Vermont apples are some of the best in the world.”

For local fruit growers the relationship brings additional business and helps to fully utilize their crop, which can often be damaged by severe weather.

“When frozen rain or hail hits and cuts the apple, the price we can get for a bushel devalues from $28 to $4,” said Bill Suhr, owner of Champlain Orchards. “With a commitment like this from Vermont Hard Cider, our full apple crop will be utilized.”

Original ’91 is a throwback to our early days in cider making from their Proctorsville, Vermont garage. The year was 1991.

“We have grown considerably since those early days,” said Williams. “But we strive to remain as locally rooted as we can.”

“We can grow apples in Vermont and the hard cider is being made in Vermont. It’s just good business,” said Suhr. “Vermont Hard Cider Company is paying a premium, but the trickle-down effect on the local economy is the pay off. It’s walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”

A new bottling line has been dedicated exclusively to the Farmhouse Select Series. At 6.9% alcohol by volume (ABV), Original ’91 has a suggested retail price of $10.99 per bottle, with year-round availability in major markets across the United States, including Vermont.

I found this one in my local beer store, in Hudson, NY. This was in fact an artisanal styled cider. Not as fizzy as regular Woodchuck, and an absolutely distinct flavor all it's own. Had it will a burrito and a salad of local greens. Very, very nice!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

BensBrew Keeping Biere (NY)

A friend of mine, Byran Van Dusen, brought me a jug of BensBrew "K" from the Schenectady Farmer's Market.

BENsBREW began in Saratoga Springs, New York, when a microbiology student discovered his life's passion: making great beer. According to Ben's website, "Like many early-stage relationships, it involved a lot of experimentation, some self-discovery, and more than one explosion — but he soon realized that making beer was one of the loves of his life (the other one's named Sarah; he married her in 2010). Ben graduated and moved to New York City to do a Ph.D in genetics, but he couldn't get beer off his mind. So he quit — and set up shop on the site of an old dairy in Garrattsville, New York (the 100-acre plot around the brewery is still an active farm to this day).
BENsBREW is what happens when a scientist by training becomes a farmer-brewer by vocation. Which is why the same three things go into every single batch of BENsBREW: malt, hops and love."

BensBrew brews at Butternuts Brewery in Garrattsville, New York. Butternuts is also home to Pork Slap and other great beers, but each batch of BENsBREW is made by hand by Ben himself. The Brewery is on the site of an old dairy farm (there are still chickens out back), and so Ben and his crew make sure to employ ingredients and techniques that are true to the farmhouse culture (pun intended) that inspires BENsBREW. They use direct-fired kettles and an open-fermentation process that lend their beer unmistakable character and natural complexity.

There are two beers they currently make.....I got The Keeping Biere.

This is a farmhosue styled beer, originally brewed by farmers making beer that would keep throughout the winter. Each batch is made by hand. This version is a malt-forward brown ale — the natural sweetness of the malt balanced by a surprising dryness and earthiness in the yeast and the hops.

This was a delicious beer. Lots of flavor and exceptional to drink. Loved it!

WhistlePig Whiskey (VT)

I was at a whiskey tasting the other night. And after a round of tastings, one of the writers said, "OK, now, let's pull out the good stuff." And what they pulled out was a bottle Whiistlepig Whiskey.

WhistlePig Whiskey is located on one of the oldest farms in Vermont. Cultivation began there in the early 19th century in what was then known as the hamlet Shaksboro. Steam engines replaced the lifeblood of the town – a grist and lumber mill powered by the Lemon Fair River - which still meanders through farm - and the town slowly dissipated until vanishing entirely in the 1930’s. The farm remained in operation until 2006 when it was purchased and renamed by WhistlePig’s founder Raj Peter Bhakta. WhistlePig Farm is being lovingly restored, a slow and painstaking process, in order to ensure that we produce the finest rye whiskey in the world.

WhistlePig’s Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell, a luminary in the world of whiskey, is one of the nation’s preeminent master distillers. Before joining WhistlePig, Dave spent 14 years as Maker's Mark Master Distiller in Loretto, Kentucky. However, he has since joined the WhistlePig team in order to create what he regards as his magnum opus: WhistlePig 100% Straight Rye Whiskey.

This 10yr old Straight Rye Whiskey was awarded by Wine Enthusiast its "highest ever" rating for rye whiskey at 96 pts.

This was a fantastic whiskey, with lots of wood and beautiful perfume-y nose. Absolutely gorgeous. Fantastic!!!!

Honora 2010 St. Croix (VT)

We were in Manchester Center, Vermont, when we came upoin a small sign for Honora Winery. There, in the center of that quaint town, Honora had opened up a beautiful new tastingroom.

Patricia A. Farrington, CEO has been collecting and making wine for many years. She recalls times of making wine with her family growing up and developed a love for the process. So when it was time to name the business it was only fitting to choose a family name. Patricia’s great-grandmother’s name was Honor, Latin translation … Honora.

In 1993 she decided to move out of the hustle and bustle of city life and find a location in the small Vermont town of West Halifax. The first focus was to build the estate on the 200 acre farm and then to focus on the vineyard.

Because of the climates in Vermont, Honora is focusing on cold-weather varietals. Mostly the ones developed and researched by the late Elmer Swenson. We are growing a mix of both red and white varietals. They grow Frontenac, Sabrevois, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch and Prairie Star. In the spring of 2006 they also began experimenting with some vinifra including Gewutztraminer, Pinot Noir and Muscat. As of January 2010 they have approximately 10,000 vines planted on 11 acres with future plans to increase. Their first harvest was in September of 2008.

They also make wine using fruit from California and Washington State, but are currently focusing on the Paso Robles region.

Their first tasting room and retail location opened in May of 2009, located a few miles away from the vineyard in Jacksonville, VT. In August 2009 they opened our Halifax property to the public for weddings, events and tours. They opened a second retail location opened August 1, 2011 in Manchester Center, VT adjacent to the Equinox Resort property.

The tastingroom we were in was absolutely lovely, evoking a period in New England's history that we oft associate with it, but don't always get a chance to see. The ceilings were high, the archecture was was a great space.

So we decided to try some wine...
Now, generally as a rule, I don't review the California fruit wines, but I must tell you that the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2010 Albrino were both very, very pretty! And that the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was beautifully perfumy, with a flavor like jam in a jar! Fantastic! And that the 2010 Syrah was very, very nice, with a good finish!

But now its time to talk about the only estate wine we had from this relatively nw winery: 2010 St. Croix.

This is another Elmer Swenson grape. According to the Iowa state department of agriculture, "This hybrid grape cultivar was produced in 1983 by Elmer Swenson, a pioneering grape breeder who introduced a number of new cultivars that are hardy in the Upper Midwest. It was introduced by the University of Minnesota.

"St. Croix vines are vigorous and produce medium sized, somewhat loose clusters of grapes. It has moderate to good disease resistance, and is hardy to -28°F or better.

"St. Croix grapes produce medium to full bodied, dry, deep red wines with low tannins, good fruity aromas, and have currant and other dried fruit flavor aspects. Production often employs oak barrel ageing to add even more complexity to the wine’s bouquet and flavors."

The 2010 St. Croix was a lovely dark red, purple wine. It was made in a sort of Bordeaux-style, with rasperberry, blackberry, and a hint of cassis, which was rounded out by hints of saddle elather and spice. A passing whiff of vanilla. On the palate the berries came through, with big fruit up front, nice acidity, and solid tannins. A big, thick, rich red dry wine, perfect for charred steaks, grilled mushrooms, blackened anything. Great for roasted meats!

A very nice dry red table wine. Congrats to Patricia Harrington and to vineyard manager and assistant winemaker Janice Stuart!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Truth About Veritas Vineyards (VA)

I first got turned onto Veritas when I had a bottle of it at Dave McIntyre's house in suburban Maryland. It was among the east coast wines he was most eager to pour for me. And I was excite to try it. As usual, Dave was right about the wine, and I was impressed. So I was especially thrilled to see them at the first Grand Tasting of TasteCamp 2012!

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

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

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

Obviously, their name derives from the Roman historian Pliny the Elder's observation: “In Vino Veritas” ~ “In Wine There Is Truth,” they believe that the truth in our wine is in their grapes.

Patricia takes responsibility for the year-round cultivation and care of the vines. Youngest daughter Chloe graduated from the University of Virginia and joined the family to manage our weddings and special events and now also manages the tastingroom.

Veritas has three main vineyards: Veritas (the namesake vineyard), Ivy Creek, and Veritas Top Meadow.

Now for the tasting notes....

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - This was a big, aromatic fruit bomb! An exotic nose that exploded out the of the glass. Citrus, exotic tropical fruits. Gooseberry and passion fruit came through as promised. This light, crisp dry white was incredibly refreshing and fantastic.

Viognier 2011 - I was excited to taste this wine, since this is the one I first tried with Dave M. One can only guess that this comes from the Wingfield and Ivy Creek vineyards. Another fruit bomb of a nose, with orange-blossom, peaches, and apricot all coming through as promised. I love Vignonier, and this one has become one of my favorites. Apricot, and mango come across clearly with whisps of ornage and something spicy. A light, delicious white dry wine with beautiful fruit and incredible youth, vitality, and a delicateness I cannot describe. A fantastic wine. One of my favorite Virginia wines.

VR 2010
The Veritas VR 2009 was selected as one of the Governor's 12 at the 2012 Virginia Governor's Cup Wine Competition. The Veritas VR 2010 is a blend of different grapes. A lovely garnet color, with big lush fruit up front. Dark stewed berries up front with low acids and medium-to-low tannins. Whiffs of vanilla and mocha. This is a beautiful, easy drinking red wine. Wonderful!

Petite Verdot 2010 Paul Shaeffer 4th Edition
Again, I am a big Petite Verdot freak. It's one of the reasons I love Virginia. This wine comes from the Veritas Vineyard, comes from the Wingfield and Hodson vineyard blocks of the Veritas vineyard. 2010 Petit Verdot “Paul Shaffer 4th Edition” is made using 100% Petit Verdot. Small lot fermented. Punched down several times daily through fermentation and once a day during extended maceration helping to extract deeper color and soft tannins. 100% ML fermentation. Unfiltered and unfined. 14 months of aging in French oak barrels. This wine too had a big, exotic nose with violets and dark stewed berries on the nose. Smelled like a flowery dark cobbler. On the palate it delivered plum, blackberries, currants, and finished with a little black pepper and vanilla. I thought this was one of the truly star wines I drank the entire TasteCamp 2012. An absolutely steps forward right away.

In Vino Vertitas? There is truth in wine? You want the truth? You can;t handle the truth! Here it is: After tasting a much larger portion of the line-up, I can now see whay Dave McIntyre was so excited. This winery is trying to be one of the best wineries in the entire state. And a case can now be made that they are among the top ten for sure. And their wines are consistently good across the whole range. Absolutely stellar stuff. These are wines you have to start drinking. That's the truth!

Fantastic job, Hodson family! Great job to Emily Pelton and her dad....wonderful stuff. Incredible!