Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Books on East Coast Wine

Bordeaux and Burgundy and Champagne have spawned an entire industry of writers and books on the subject. First the French and then the English have fawned over these regions, literally, for more than a century and half. Later came Italy. Now, California draws down some considerable ink of its own..
But what of the East Coast? Recently, there has been a massive outpouring of ink splashed about on pages singing the praises of the men and women who toil so hard in the fields to create that amazing, captivating, intoxicating (in more ways than one) elixir…wine.
The best of these is Summer in a Glass, a tremendous book filled with the kind of stories that make any wine region even more romantic and heroic than anyone can imagine. And the writing is superb. What makes Summer so wonderful is that it is about the people and the wine. Don’t tell me about the wine…tell me the story behind the wine. While the only fault of John Hartsock's wonderful Seasons of a Finger Lakes Winery was to come out in the same season...a wonderful book.
The Vineyard by Louisa Hargrave to me is exceptionally well written, and a truly important book. Very rarely do you get such an intimate portrait of a wine family and the founding of an entire wine region!

Then next to me would be Richard Leahy’s Book Beyond Jefferson’s Vines for its combination of history and future think. I love the two Hudson Valley entries. Although hard to find, they are both incredibly well worth reading. The High Tor story is not so well known today, but an important story in its time. To read it and then Mark Miller’s memoir back to back is to get a sense of the valley and of a period that few people know or understand today.
Regardless, there is now a canon of wine books about east coast wine. And a worthy one at that. Of course, New York dominates…but Virginia is not far behind. A great group of books that will give you a tremendous opportunity to understand one of the fastest growing wine countries in North America!

It is a rich and entertaining list. One that deserves reading. One to be proud of.

SUMMER IN A GLASS by Evan Dawson, Introduction by James Molesworth
How did a brilliant German winemaker end up in a small region in upstate New York after leaving his family in the middle of a harvest night? How did a Danish-born winemaker lose his family’s wine estate in southern France, only to see his career revived in the Finger Lakes? Why are they here? How did they get here? And what is the world learning about the land they now inhabit?
These are the fascinating questions that permeate the wine in New York’s Finger Lakes region, and journalist Evan Dawson provides thrilling answers in Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes. After spending two years on the road, in the cellars, and in the vineyards with these talented men and women, Dawson tells their deeply personal stories in a way that stitches the new, emerging story of the region together. Some of the winemakers had to overcome family tragedy; others found love or returned home to follow their hearts. This is a wine book without focusing too heavily on the wine. Readers will feel personally connected to these growers and producers, all while absorbing the story of a region’s wines without ever encountering too much technical information.

Wines from the Finger Lakes are earning the world’s attention. This page-turner demonstrates why the attention is richly deserved. The end result might leave readers curious to open a Finger Lakes Riesling… or even seek out the region itself, which is transformed by its best winemakers into the very definition of summer in a glass.
Evan Dawson is the Managing Editor and Finger Lakes Editor of the New York Cork Report, the two-time winner of the award for Best Single-Subject Wine Blog. He writes several pieces weekly for NYCR. His day job is morning anchor of 13 WHAM News This Morning in Rochester, NY, broadcasting on the ABC affiliate (as well as the local CW channel). His on-air duties also include reporting on politics and public policy.

THE VINEYARD by Louisa Hargrave
An exceptionally wonderful tale of Louisa and Alex Hargrave's establishing of the first vineyard in Long Island. Especially with the shadow of the region’s 40th Anniversary hovering over the landscape, this book could not be any more important! In 1973, against the advice of experts and the experience of history, Louisa Hargrave and her husband, Alex, bought a run-down 1680-vintage potato farm on Long Island’s North Fork and planted ten thousand European wine grapes. Having begun her grape- growing adventure with the arrogance of youth and the assumption that she and her husband could figure it all out themselves, she was both humbled and transformed by the land, by her children, and by the generosity of those who helped along the way. At once wry and heartwarming, this is an odyssey as much about spirit and the connection to place as it is about the simple pleasures of a new wine.

BEYOND JEFFERSON’S VINES by Richard Leahy, Introduction by Dave McIntyre
For 30 years, Thomas Jefferson grew grapes in his Monticello vineyards in hopes of producing fine wine --but to no avail. Today that has completely changed. Virginia wine now has a reputation as some of the best in America, with increasing sales and more wineries (nearly 200) welcoming an ever-larger number of visitors. Richard Leahy, a former editor for Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, has written the essential book on Virginia wine, covering its history, interviews with the state's top winemakers, and updates on the latest industry developments.
Richard Leahy is a wine writer and consultant who has been reporting on the wines of Virginia and Eastern North America since 1986. He works with numerous wineries in Virginia and along the East Coast and has been writing for the wine industry since 1986. He became well-known in the Eastern wine industry as East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, and is the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000), a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s  American Wine Guide, and assisted Steve DeLong on his recent Wine Tasting Notebook. Mr. Leahy is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, professional organization of leading wine journalists based in the U.K. Richard was the Executive Director of the Virginia Wine Experience in London in May 2007. The event was timed to coordinate with the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement and was a huge success — as written in an account in the Financial Times of London on 9/1/2007. Richard coordinates the conference program for the Eastern Winery Exposition, a major wine industry trade show for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern wine industries that takes place in Lancaster, PA annually in early March.

A tale of high art and design as well as hard work and sweat, as famous illustrator takes on farming in the Hudson Valley and establishes one of the signature wineries and a winemaking dynasty. In 1957, Mark and Dene Miller purchased a vineyard in Marlboro, New York, overlooking the majestic Hudson River and the distant Berkshires. They really only wanted a few acres of vines, from which they hoped to produce a few cases of wine for themselves and their friends. Yet out of that small dream grew something much more ambitious: the revitalization not only of America's oldest known vineyard but of the entire Hudson Valley winemaking industry. Told with charm and humor and illustrated with Mark Miller's own handsome drawings, Wine--A Gentleman's Game offers a great deal of practical information on grape cultivation and winemaking. Perhaps more importantly, however, their story, and the story of Benmarl Winery, also nurtures the hope lurking in many of us that, with the proper amount of courage and determination, we could do the same.
A noted illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, Mark Miller founded Benmarl Winery in 1957 on the site of a vineyard established by the early American viticulturist Andrew J. Caywood. In addition to winning many awards for his wines, Miller and Benmarl were at the forefront of the small farm winery movement in New York and played a leading role in securing passage of the state's Farm Winery Act of 1976, which reduced the annual licensing fee and also expanded allowable retail sales at wineries. Miller died in 2008.

THE VINTAGE YEARS: The Saga of High Tor Vineyards by Everett Crosby
This is a wonderful book about Everett S. Crosby's exploits in building the most famous winery east of the Rockies from 1950 to 1971. Excellent.
High Tor Vineyards merit favorable references in all our leading wine guides like Schoonmaker's Encyclopedia and Alec Waugh's Wines and Spirits (which lauds High Tot's ""very pleasant"" white and ""delicious"" rose). Behind every good wine is a story, and it is difficult to imagine a more felicitous one than Crosby's account of how he and his wife first became interested in viniculture, the early efforts which commenced in the Crosbys' Manhattan apartment, the eventual purchase of about 80 acres in the Hudson Valley at the foot of the Catskills which became High Tot Vineyards, the slow but satisfying growth of the enterprise, the continuous learning process about the science of winemaking, the experimentation with European hybrids, the pleasures of individualism in an age of mass production (the High Tor output has never been large), the minor irritants like wine critics who use such terms as ""Ropey. . . has good legs. . . tears readily"" (""Do these words mean anything to you?"" asks Crosby. ""They sure as hell mean nothing to me""), the famous High Tot vintage parties which had to be terminated in 1960 because the gate-crashers got out of hand, the encounters with the bureaucratic State Liquor Authority and the IRS, and finally sale of the vineyards in 1971 after eighteen years as quality producers. Crosby concludes with a few dry remarks on winos, the wine business' pricing structure, and that ""pervading evil"" -- government interference. Like the wine, the story has character. –Kirkus Review, 1973
LONG ISLAND WINE COUNTRY: Award-Winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons by Jane Taylor Starwood, Bruce Curtis (Photographer) with a Foreword by Louisa Hargrave
If you love Long Island wine, or know someone who is a fan, then you need to run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore and buy Long Island Wine Country: Award-Winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons, by Jane Taylor Starwood ,with photographs by Bruce Curtis and with a fabulous introduction by Louisa Hargrave (co-founder of Long Island's first vineyard and winery).
This book takes readers to each of the area’s more than forty producers, telling the colorful stories of the wines and the people who make them.
There are well over 3,000 acres on Long Island’s beautiful East End that have been planted with vinifera wine grape varieties over the last three decades. Add to that the recent praise for wine producers like Bedell Cellars, The Lenz Winery, Raphael, and Wolffer Estate Vineyards (among numerous others) from sources like the New York Times, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate, and it’s not difficult to see why the New York Times, in a feature on Long Island wines, captioned a photo with the words, “Who needs Bordeaux? A tasting of wines from the East End.”
Starwood is the editor of Long Island Wine Press magazine, so you know she had entre' with the winemakers, owners, and other winery personnel. The writing is very good, and the stories are great. And veteran photographer Bruce Curtis shoots one beautiful vista after another. A stunning work!
In 1998, Gary and Rosemary Barletta purchased seven acres of land on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. Descending to the west from the state route that runs along on the ridge overlooking the lake, the land was fertile, rich with shalestone and limestone bedrock, and exposed to moderating air currents from the lake. It was the perfect place to establish a vineyard, and the Barlettas immediately began to plant their vines and build the winery about which they had dreamed for years.
The Barlettas' story, as John C. Hartsock tells it, is a window onto the world of contemporary craft winemaking, from the harsh realities of business plans, vineyard pests, and brutal weather to the excitement of producing the first vintage, greeting enthusiastic visitors on a vineyard tour, and winning a gold medal from the American Wine Society for a Cabernet Franc. Above all, Seasons of a Finger Lakes Winery describes the connection forged among the vintner, the vine, and terroir. This ancient bond, when tended across the cycle of seasons, results in excellent wines and the satisfaction, on the part of the winemaker and the wine enthusiast, of tasting a perfect harvest in a single glass.

Today, Long Point Winery sits on seventy-two acres (eight of which are under cultivation with vinifera grapes) and produces sixteen varieties of wine, a number of which are estate wines made from grapes grown on their property. With interest in winemaking continuing to grow, the Barlettas' experience of making award-winning wines offers both practical advice for anyone running (or thinking of running) their own winery, whether in the Finger Lakes or elsewhere, as well as insights into the challenges and joys of pursuing a dream.
A HISTORY OF VIRGINIA WINES: From Grapes to Glass by Walker Elliott Rowe
Go beyond the bottle and step inside the minds- and vines- of Virginia's burgeoning wine industry in this groundbreaking volume. Join grape grower and industry insider Walker Elliott Rowe as he guides you through some of the top vineyards and wineries in the Old Dominion. Rowe explores the minds of pioneering winemakers and vineyard owners, stitches together an account of the wine industry's foundation in Virginia, from Jamestown to Jefferson to Barboursville, and uncovers the fascinating missing chapter in Virginia wine history. As the Philip Carter Winery's motto explains, 'Before there was Jefferson, there was Carter.'
Rowe goes behind the scenes to interview migrant workers who toil daily in the vineyards, makes the rounds in Richmond with an industry lobbyist and talks shop with winemakers on the science and techniques that have helped put the Virginia wine industry on the map. Also included are twenty-four stunning color photographs from professional photographer Jonathan Timmes and a foreword by noted wine journalist Richard Leahy.
Walker Elliott Rowe is a freelance writer and hobby wine grape grower living in Rappahannock County, Virginia. His wine writings have appeared in Wine Business Monthly, Richmond Times Dispatch, Wine and Cuisine, The Virginia Wine Guide, The Virginia Wine Gazette, and The Rappahannock News. Rowe has spent the last three years visiting the vineyards in and around Virginia; attending seminars, meetings and training; planted his own Bordeaux, Rhône Valley, and American hybrid wine grapes; and worked for 6 months at Horton Vineyards with Mexican migrant workers to understand the craft of the winemaker and grape grower. Born in South Carolina and widely read, Walker Elliott Rowe has an understanding of the culture of the South and weaves anecdotes of the Civil War and Southern idiosyncrasies into his narrative style of writing. He now lives in Santiago, Chile.
This is a wonderful literary stroll through Virginia wine country. An enchanting little tome, and well worth your taking the time to dip into it and sip like a fine Virginia chardonnay.
There is a gold rush underway in Virginia. But the treasure under pursuit is not a precious metal. Rather it is a fruit, a golden-colored grape known by the odd-sounding name Viognier" (pronounced vee-yon-nay). From Leesburg in the north down to Roanoke in the south, dot-com millionaires, celebrities, retired civil servants, and apple farmers are turning fallow pastures and orchards into row after row of European fine wine grapes.
Dave Matthews, Governor Mark Warner, Patricia Kluge, and the son of the late owner of the Washington Redskins all have broken ground on vineyards and wineries in the Charlottesville region and beyond. Leading the way almost 30 years ago, Italy’s largest winegrape growers and vintners, the Zonin family, bought the hallowed ground of the Barboursville ruins and planted the first large-scale vineyard of strictly European grapes in Virginia. Their success has inspired legions of followers.

PENNSYLVANIA WINE: A History by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
From the banks of the Delaware River to the shores of Lake Erie, the fields and hillsides of Pennsylvania are home to a rich tradition of winemaking. Though both William Penn and Benjamin Franklin advocated for the production of wine, it was not until 1787 that Pierre Legaux founded the first commercial vineyard in the state and the nation. Veteran wine journalists Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee offer more than just a taste of the complex story of the Pennsylvania wine industry--from the discovery of the Alexander grape and the boom of Erie County wineries in the nineteenth century to the challenges of Prohibition and the first farm wineries that opened in the 1970s. Join Cattell and McKee as they explore the Keystone State's distinct wine regions and tap the cask on their robust history. You will not find more intelligent, knowledgeable writers on eastern wines than these two. A rare gem!
Cattell is among the most important writers of East Coast wine. With journalist Lee Miller, Cattell founded Wine East magazine (now part of Wines & Vines), and later, Linda Jones McGee who became Cattell’s Wine East partner. Wine writer David Falcheck wrote: A lifetime member of the American Wine Society, he received that group’s coveted Award of Merit in 1991,  an honor shared by luminaries such as Robert Mondavi, Mike Grgich, and Kent Rosenblum.  In 1986, he received the Vinifera Perpetual Monteith Trophy, as impressive as it sounds.

A HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT WINE: Vineyard in Your Backyard by Eric D. Lehman  and Amy Nawrocki
As a former son of Connecticut, I am pre-disposed to like this book. Wine has been meticulously crafted in Connecticut ever since colonists discovered wild grapes growing on their land. At first glance, the New England climate appears inhospitable for this fastidious fruit, but a number of varieties thrive here, including pinot gris, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cayuga white and st. croix. These carefully cultivated grapes have produced wines of unique characteristics and surprising quality. Join local wine enthusiasts Eric D. Lehman and Amy Nawrocki as they explore the intricacies of the region s local blends, the vintners who craft them and the people who taste them.
This is a great little book (only a very readable 128 pages). Lehmann and Nawrocki affably tell the history of wine in the state, and interview numerous people in the bargain. A truly wonderful little tome, filled with all the interesting anecdotes one might expect.
MARYLAND WINE: A Full-Bodied History by Regina McCarthy
The roots of Maryland winemaking are surprisingly deep. The state's first known vines were planted in 1648, and a later Marylander, John Adlum, established his place as the father of American viticulture. In the twentieth century, post-Prohibition pioneers like Philip Wagner and Ham Mowbray nurtured a new crop of daring and innovative winemakers who have made the state an up-and-coming wine region. Author Regina Mc Carthy travels through the red tobacco barns of southern Maryland and the breezy vineyards of the Eastern Shore all the way to the Piedmont Plateau and the cool mountain cellars of the west in search of the state s finest wines and their stories. Join Mc Carthy as she traces over 350 years of the remarkable and robust history of Maryland wines.
Regina Mc Carthy has been working with the local wine industry since 2009, specifically as the marketing coordinator for the Maryland Wineries Association. A native Marylander, she loves the local food and wine culture of the Free State and has a passion for both cooking and entertaining. Regina graduated from Towson University with her degree in mass communication with a focus on public relations. She has written articles for various publications, including Reader's Digest: North American Wine Routes: A Travel Guide of Wines and Vines from Napa to Nova Scotia. Working with the owners and staff of all the Maryland wineries on a day-to-day basis has not only prepared her for the documentation of this local history but also adds to her quality of life. Regina enjoys the many characters and the varied personalities who make up the local wine scene and appreciates their dedication to the land and hope for the future of the Maryland wine industry.

NEW JERSEY WINE: A Remarkable History by Sal Westrich
The finely aged story of New Jersey wine is older than the United States itself. As early as 1767, the colony's wines were garnering awards from London's Royal Society of the Arts. The vineyards continued to grow through some of the country's most turbulent times. In 1864, at the height of the Civil War, Renault Winery was founded, and it continues to operate today. While Prohibition nearly destroyed the industry, in 1933, the founding of Tomasello's Winery in Hammonton helped revive it. In 1980, only seven wineries were in operation, but by 2011, the state boasted over thirty-four--many of which are winning awards in some of the world's most respected wine competitions. So grab a glass and join winemaking expert Sal Westrich as he tracks the history of New Jersey wine, accompanied by photos by John Muth.

Wagner is a special person. He was a reporter and then editor of the Baltimore Sun and established Boordy Vineyards outside of Baltimore, Maryland. He wrote seveal great books. The first is about making wine, and the other is about establishing vineyards. These were powerful books in their day, and there are few eastcoast winemakers who are about 35-40 years of age who don't know who Wagner was and how important his influence was on generations of winemakers. Very influential.
Wagner remains important for several simple factors: 1. Wagner established and championed the use of French American hybrids in a period when no one else grew vinifera, and thus truly establishing a nascent wine industry on the east coast. 2. Wagner was instrumental in helping to educated generations of winemakers, especially on the east coast, but around the country as well. 3. As increases in winemaking knowledge continue, and winemakers look for alternative grapes to help add distinctiveness to their lines and regions, hybrids are making a comeback. Witness Leon Millot being named best red table wine of 2012 in New York state!
THE WILD VINE: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine by Todd Kliman
It’s not about east coast wine, per se, but it does prominently profile a number of east coast winemakers. A rich romp through untold American history featuring fabulous characters, The Wild Vine is the tale of a little-known American grape that rocked the fine-wine world of the nineteenth century and is poised to do so again today.
Author Todd Kliman sets out on an epic quest to unravel the mystery behind Norton, a grape used to make a Missouri wine that claimed a prestigious gold medal at an international exhibition in Vienna in 1873. At a time when the vineyards of France were being ravaged by phylloxera, this grape seemed to promise a bright future for a truly American brand of wine-making, earthy and wild. And then Norton all but vanished. What happened?
The narrative begins more than a hundred years before California wines were thought to have put America on the map as a wine-making nation and weaves together the lives of a fascinating cast of renegades. We encounter the suicidal Dr. Daniel Norton, tinkering in his experimental garden in 1820s Richmond, Virginia. Half on purpose and half by chance, he creates a hybrid grape that can withstand the harsh New World climate and produce good, drinkable wine, thus succeeding where so many others had failed so fantastically before, from the Jamestown colonists to Thomas Jefferson himself. Thanks to an influential Long Island, New York, seed catalog, the grape moves west, where it is picked up in Missouri by German immigrants who craft the historic 1873 bottling. Prohibition sees these vineyards burned to the ground by government order, but bootleggers keep the grape alive in hidden backwoods plots. Generations later, retired Air Force pilot Dennis Horton, who grew up playing in the abandoned wine caves of the very winery that produced the 1873 Norton, brings cuttings of the grape back home to Virginia. Here, dot-com-millionaire-turned-vintner Jenni McCloud, on an improbable journey of her own, becomes Norton’s ultimate champion, deciding, against all odds, to stake her entire reputation on the outsider grape.
Brilliant and provocative, The Wild Vine shares with readers a great American secret, resuscitating the Norton grape and its elusive, inky drink and forever changing the way we look at wine, America, and long-cherished notions of identity and reinvention.
Todd Kliman is the food and wine editor and restaurant critic of The Washingtonian. He won a James Beard Award in 2005 for his writing.

THE WINEMAKER’S APPRENTICE by Eric Miller, Introduction by Kevin Zraly
The son also rises! Eric Miller, founder with his wife Lee, of Chaddsford Winery, is one of the best winemakers on the east coast, and was a force in placing Pennsylvania on the east coast wine map. He certainly pushed hardest making quality wines in the Keystone state for many years. His book is not about Pennsylvania wine, per se, but deserve mention, if Philip Wagner does. And he is the son of Mark Miller, of Benmarl, whose book is listed above.
In Eric Miller's new book, readers get behind-the-scenes access to the wine world’s masters of the craft, as well as a guide to the techniques that made them so successful.
Now, this isn't a step-by-step, ...For Dummies style guide to making wine. It doesn't have formulas and ratios, etc. So you still need something like Philip Wagner's book Grapes into Wine or From Vines to Wines to make wine properly. But you shouldn't waste one iota of time without first reading Eric Miller's new book. It is an instant classic on the subject of winemaking, and is easily the most current, up-to-date catalogue of all the discussions going on between the world's winemakers today.
Miller, who has spent a life time in wine, first at his father's side making wine in the old Caywood vineyards at Benmarl Winery, and then later on at his own Chaddsford Winery along with his wife Lee, gives advice about the art and process of winemaking, from where to plant grapes to what grapes to plant to what you can expect to achieve in the final product. Most fascinating are his many interviews with winemakers from the United States, France, Italy, South Africa, Chile, and Germany. It's not just Miller's take on things, but he garners incredible opinions and advice from winemakers the world over. These master craftsmen relate their stories and share their understanding about selecting sites and planting vineyards, about harvesting and processing grapes, about cellar work and aging wines, about how to make critical decisions and how to avoid problems.
The book is a star studded affair, chock-a-block with fascinating interviews with people like vineyard manager and consultant Lucie Morton, Peter Gago of Penfolds, Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros, Adam Lee of Siduri Winery, Johannes Selbach of Weingut Sellbach-Oster, Gary Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards, Aurelio Montes from Montes Vineyards, Pauline Vauthler, of Chateau Ausone, Richard Harbich-Olsen from Bedell Cellars, and many, many more.
Eric Miller is one of the most important winemakers on the East Coast. Chaddsford has grown to become Pennsylvania’s largest winery, and Eric Miller is among a handful of East Coast United States winemakers who have achieved national acclaim and recognition. His wines have been called “enchanting” and “perfect” by Gourmet, and have been featured in Food & Wine, The New York Times, Decanter, and many other prestigious wine and food publications.
If you like wine, and want to know more about it, buy this book. If you think you might want to be a home winemaker, buy this book. If you are thinking of getting in the wine business in anyway, from owning a small boutique winery, or becoming a sommelier, or becoming a wine sales person. You need to own this book. Wonderful!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wine Enthusiast: LI Among Ten Best Wine Destinations! (NY)

Wine Enthusiast Magazine: Long Island Among 10 Best Wine Destinations
By Kathy Kim on January 9, 2013
Long Island
Move over Napa and Tuscany. Wine Enthusiast magazine has ranked Long Island as one of the ‘10 Best Wine Travel Destination for 2013’ alongside regions such as Rioja, Spain and Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil.

The honor comes as The New York Wine and Grape Foundation has been celebrating the fact that last year 48 New York wines were rated 90 or above by the three major wine consumer magazines — Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits.

“It’s a unique amalgam of metropolitan influences against a core of hearty, agricultural tradition,” Wine Enthusiast wrote of LI wine country’s allure, where more than 50 wineries dot the North Fork and the Hamptons. East End vintners have perfected the craft of making aromatic wines rich with flavor.

LI’s wineries offer a profusion of Merlot, Chardonnays and sparkling wines, among other varieties. Oenophiles mostly flock to the wine trail to sample the latest offerings during summer and the fall harvest season.

Among the local favorites are Lenz Winery in Peconic, the second-oldest winery, Martha Clara’s Vineyards in Riverhead, one of the most recognizable names, and Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehamton, which prides themselves on “artisanal experimentation.”

Read at:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sheldrake BLK 3 Pinot Noir 2010 (NY)

Recently I was up in the Finger Lakes, and I tried a bunch of wines, but the one that has burned itself into my brain was Sheldrake Pinot Noir Block Three 2010.

Winegrower & General Manager Bob Madill's team has basically turned a hat trick with this wine. It's spectacular. I have always loved their Gamay Noir, but this new wine is a revelation!

This 100% Pinot Noir was hand harvested . It was aged in older French oak barrels, for 11 months where it underwent 100% malolactic fermentation. The yield from the vineyard was approx. 1.5 tons an acre. They made roughly fifty cases.

The wine is medium light ruby. Very pretty translucent red...but a nice color red (not pinkish) more garnet. Bright red cherry and hints of raspberry come through. Beautiful. Touches of vanilla and tea. The fruit gives this wine great mouthfeel, with wonderful acidity that keeps the fruit fresh and vibrant, with a lovely balance of soft tannins. A hint of spices and a whiff of leather.

  This is a fantastic new Pinot Noir and one of my instant new favorites!!!

Berkshire Bourbon Whiskey (MA)

OK, so lately I've been on a bourbon kick. I've been trying a lot of them. And I've been hanging out with Clay Risen, a whiskey expert, trying hooch from all around the country, along with his editors! It's been a lot of fun.

But of course, I pride myself on drinking local. Not that I don't imbibe wines, beers, and spirits from such far off lands as Kentucky, but I try to keep it local. Thus, when I started to get my local bourbon jones goin' I decided to try some Berkshire Bourbon Whiskey. Especially since it's right over the state line from where I live!

The corn used for this spirit is grown two miles from the distillery itself. It's done in small batches, is finely cut, and aged in American white oak. It's got a wonderful smokey quality to it. And it has hints of sweetness in the nose, with a whiff of Cap'n'Crunch....but that's a good thing with bourbon!

The sweetness and the cereal come through. It's very, very nice, and goes down real easy...not too much of a burn at all.

Fantastic straight or on ice! Also perfect to make for an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan!!!

Great job to the folks at Berkshire Distilling!!!

Napa Valley Register: Duckhorn Files Suit Against Duck Walk

Duckhorn asks N.Y. winery to modify label and Napa Valley Register     
January 24, 2013 6:56 pm  • 
Napa Valley Register
Duckhorn Wine Co. of St. Helena has filed a lawsuit against a New York winery over its duck labels, alleging breach of contract.

The Napa Valley winery accuses Duck Walk Vineyards Inc. of Long Island, N.Y., of failing to indicate its geographic location on its bottles’ front labels, leading to consumer confusion, according to the complaint filed Jan. 15 in Napa County Superior Court.

In 2003, the two companies settled a trademark suit in federal court after Duck Walk agreed to a number of restrictions, including placing the wine’s place of origin on the New York bottles’ front label, according to court documents. Under the settlement, Duck Walk also agreed not to produce and/or bottle more than 84,000 gallons of wine with the word “Duck” or pictures of ducks on the label unless they’re part of the corporate name “Duck Walk Vineyards Inc.”

According to Duckhorn’s 11-page complaint, “Under the settlement agreement, Duck Walk has limited ability to produce wine with duck images on the labels, and production and the geographic distribution of those duck labeled wines is also limited. The agreement explicitly requires Duck Walk to place certain geographic designation on their wine labels so that the consumer looking at the wine can clearly and readily distinguish the Duck Walk New York wines from Duckhorn’s famous California wines.”

“They have not honored their agreement,” Henry Bunsow, a San Francisco attorney who represents Duckhorn Wine, said of the 2003 federal settlement.

But lawyers for Duck Walk said their client has complied with the rules and that Duckhorn do not own the word “duck.”

“They can sue us all they want. They won’t win,” said Steven Schlesinger, of Garden City, N.Y., one of the attorneys who represents Duck Walk. “We just agreed we were Duck Walk,” he said, referring to the federal settlement.

Duckhorn, which has not specified monetary damages in its complaint, said it wants Duck Walk to stop selling wines without the labeling agreed upon in 2003. The company also wants Duck Walk Vineyards to stop selling 50 percent of its wine production outside New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Duckhorn Vineyards, founded in 1976, sells wines throughout the United States and 40 countries overseas, with its least costly wines priced slightly under $20. It owns vineyards throughout the Anderson and Napa valleys. Duckhorn’s duck-themed wines include Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration and Decoy, according to the court documents.

According to Duck Walk’s website, the company sells a wide range of wines, including dessert wines, sparkling wines and red and whites blends with prices that start under $10. The company owns about 1,000 acres in the Hamptons, Schlesinger said.

A hearing is scheduled for June 25.

Read the whole thing at:

South Jersey Times Highlights Local Wineries (NJ)

Wagonhouse Winery owner Dan Brown pours a glass of wine in the tasting room at his winery in Swedesboro. (Staff photo by Calista Condo)

South Jersey wineries offer samples in wine tasting rooms By Kelly Roncace/South Jersey Times on January 04, 2013 at 12:05 PM, updated January 04, 2013 at 12:06 PM

South Jersey has been known for its tomatoes for centuries. However, another crop has popped up recently and its popularity is soaring. Grapes are the crop, but the wines made from those sweet little berries is changing the social scene of the area. Many local vineyards throughout the South Jersey area, have opened up wine-tasting rooms where visitors can sample these Garden State vintages in order to choose a favorite.

The wine tasting room at Heritage Vineyards in Harrison Township is open seven days a week and offers samplings of wines made on the premises. Tiffany Bowman, manager of Heritage’s wine bar, said a tasting room is a place to try new things.

“It’s a place where wine is available, not only for purchase, but also to sample before-hand,” Bowman said. “Or even if you’re not looking to buy, you can come in to see what the wine is like.”

In Heritage’s tasting room, there are complimentary wines to try, but also samples of their more rare vintages for purchase.

“We have a handful of wines that are complimentary and we also have a menu of some of our limited production wines you can purchase,” Bowman said. “Some customers do one or the other, or both. We encourage our customers to stay and have a glass of wine after their tasting.”

Aimee Friedrich, manager at Auburn Road Winery in Pilesgrove, said said their tasting room is a space where “you can come try the different wines and hang out.”

Both Heritage and Auburn Road offer guests an ounce of a particular wine to try.

“We don’t spit here,” Friedrich said. “We pour an ounce of each wine and you can sip it and pour the rest out, or drink it all.” Heritage also offers guests an ounce of wine to try. “We pour a one-ounce sample,” Bowman said. “The customer is free to consume it all or spit it out. We do have spitoons on the bar, but most people just end up drinking it because it’s such a small amount.” Bowman said the increased popularity of local wineries could be due to “agritourism.”

“Our climate is ideal conditions for grape growing,” she said. “People are starting to recognize that you can find a fine wine in New Jersey.” And wine tasting isn’t the only activity local wineries offer.

“We have dinner every Friday night,” Friedrich said of Auburn Road Vineyards. “It’s a full, sit-down dinner with a different menu each week.” Auburn Road also offers live music every Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. and tours of the facility every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

During the summer months — between mid-spring and early fall — Heritage hosts outdoor concerts every weekend. “Our menu is available every day and we have monthly events except for in December and January,” Bowman said. “We have a lot of regulars who come in every couple weeks to just have a glass of wine.”

* Heritage Vineyards is located at 480 Mullica Hill Road (Rt. 322) in Mullica Hill. Hours are Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 856-589-4474 or visit

* Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery is located at 117 Sharptown Auburn Road in Pilesgrove. Hours are Monday and Tuesday noon to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 856-769-WINE or visit

Other local wineries with tasting rooms include:

* Wagonhouse Winery is located at 1401 Route 45 in Swedesboro, at the corner of Marl Road. Tasting room hours are Thursday and Friday noon to 5 p.m. for complimentary tastings, and Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. with tastings for $5. For more information, call 609-780-8019 or visit

* Bellview Winery is located at 150 Atlantic Street in Landisville. Tasting room hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and tastings cost $5 for eight tastes. For more information, call 856-697-7172 or visit

* Coda Rossa Winery is located at 1526 Dutch Mill Road in Franklinville. Hours are Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 856-697-9463 or visit

* DiBella Winery is located at 229 Davidson Road in Woolwich Township. Tasting Tent hours are Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 609-221-6201 or visit

* Monroeville Vineyard and Winery is located at 314 Richwood Road in Monroeville. Hours are Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 856-521-0523 or visit

* Southwind Vineyard is located at 385 Lebanon Road in Millville. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday noon to 6 p.m. For more information, call 856-364-9690 or visit

* Swansea Vineyards is located at 860 Main Street in Shiloh. Tasting room hours are Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Tastings Monday through Friday are by appointment only. For more information, call 856-453-5778 or visit

Contact Kelly Roncace at 856-845-3300 or

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Damiani Vineyards Continues to Produce Great Wines

Damiani is one of my go to wineries in the Finger Lakes. They make a lovely mix of dry whites and reds, as well as a few semi-dry wines. The wines are always lovely, offering a combination of good fruit and complexity. They tend to be old world styled, but they are also uniquely their own.

Located in Burdett, New York, on the eastern shores of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY, Damiani Wine Cellars is the product of tandem winemaker Lou Damiani and grape grower Phil Davis. Together, Lou and Phil nurture over 23 acres of Vinifera vines that surround the winery and tasting room. Phil and Lou spent their days growing up as neighbors on the very land they farm today, giving them both an intuitive understanding of the capabilities of the land.

Phil’s family goes way back in the history of farming the “Banana Belt” in Hector. Phil’s father was a grape-grower 40 years ago for Taylor and Great Western Wineries. In 1996, Lou planted his first vinifera vines. Phil followed the next season.  Today, each manages his own vineyard, supplying 23 acres of grapes to the business for its winemaking. Taken as a whole, the two properties produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, and a few French-American hybrids.

Recently, I tried two of their wines.

2011 Pinot Grigio is a light dry white wine, with lots of stone fruits like pear and apple and melon.

2009 Meritage is a classic Bordeaux-styled dry red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Aged in oak this wine has big, big fruit up front, with nice acid and solid tannins that give he wine a lovely mouthfeel. Dark mixed berry with raspberry, cherry, and cassis all coming through with hints of vanilla and spices. Hints of leather and cassis, as well as a lovely whisp of dried dark fruit.

I really liked both of these wines. Terrific stuff.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Finger Lakes Daily News Dr. Andrew C. Rice Dies - Late Winemaker a Key in Figure Lakes History

"I was proud to know him and call him friend...I think that it's important for us to remember that the Finger Lakes wine industry didn't begin in 1976. There is a rich history of people and wineries that we should always honor." Tim benedict, VP of Winemaking at Hazlitt Red Cat Cellars (Thanks for photo)

I couldn't agree more with Tim. - C. DeVito

Dr. Andrew C. Rice
Finger Lakes Daily News
1/18/2013 6:41:29 AM

PENN YAN - Dr. Andrew C. Rice, age 88, passed away peacefully on Wednesday (January 16, 2013), with loving family at his side.

Calling hours will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday (January 19) at Weldon Funeral Home. Funeral will be held at the First United Methodist Church on Sunday (January 20) at 1:45 p.m. A private burial will be in Lakeview Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to a charity of your choice .
We are all richer for having known Andy; he will be greatly missed.

He was born in Lewisburg, Penn. to Dr. John and Ruth Rice, and attended Bucknell University. He served his country in the Army during WWII and received two purple hearts. He met Elaine Weger, the love of his life, at a USO dance at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, where she was a USO hostess. Their love affair continued for more than 65 years, and has been an inspiration to their family and friends. Andy received his doctorate in microbiology from Cornell University in 1953, and ultimately retired from the Taylor Wine Company as Vice President of Production. 

He was an active member of the "American Society of Enologists," the " American Society for Enology and Viticulture," the "American Wine Society" and received many awards and honors as a scientist, winemaker, and educator. He received the "Silver Beaver Award" for his distinguished service in the Boy Scouts of America. He was also a very active member of the Penn Yan United Methodist church for many years, serving as trustee and in many other capacities. Family and faith were of the utmost importance to him. Andy was well-loved and respected in his community, always ready to help others and known for his wonderful laugh, kind words, and positive outlook.

Andy is survived by his beloved Elaine; their five children, their spouses, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and a sister, Martha Reed of Lewisburg, Penn. His children are Judy Stewart of Clay, N.Y., Jan Lounsberry of Penn Yan; Hal Rice of Troy, Ill., Howie Rice of Wausau, Wis., and Pahl Rice of Jewett City, Conn.
Friends may sign the guestbook at

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I have to admit it…my hairline is receding, my waistline is expanding, my eyesight is going, my memory is gone, there is one less step in my gait, my first real girlfriend is a grandmother, my mother is now older than my grandmother was, and I most of my cultural references are lost on the younger staff where I work.

I’m getting old. But don’t let that fool ya. I’m still the same little kid inside. I’m still willing to make a fool of myself on the turn the flip of a coin. I’m still full of piss and vinegar. I can still make a fist and make it hurt. I can still lift cases of wine on my own, I still have hair on my head and all my own teeth….at least for now. My wife thinks I’m still useful (but more “in the way”, than actually useful, if you know what I mean). And I still have an eye for a well turned heel, though most of them tend to be dating my sons these days.

I’m not dead, just in mid-life.

And at this wonderful stage, I am lucky enough to have a wine cellar. Not just a closet or a small set of shelves under the stairs, but a full-fledged, spider-web and dust covered wine cellar. I have been drinking and collecting wine for more than 20 years. And seriously hoarding wine since I got married. And as I stare at the abyss which is 50 years old, I step into the wine cellar like a strange time machine. A land of bottles, and capsules, and labels, as good as any memory trick I have ever heard of, and I am transported through the ages of my life like a movie.

Like a diary, I can read the chapters of my life in the shelves. Relive mistakes and triumphs, re-experience sadness or contentment. I see now the folly and exuberance of youth, and the rare and brief exercises in better judgment. From a rambunctious young lad to an older man, whose passions and tastes are simpler and more restrained.

Some bottles that might be unimportant, or maybe even repugnant, to some wine writers or experts, are near and dear to me. Others, touted by experts and journalists alike, which I spent months or years acquiring, seem less important today. Wine has an emotional attachment for me. I am not a collector in the truest sense. I do not buy solely for quality or long term storage or investment. I buy for taste. I buy for memories. I buy it because it was something of the moment. Wine itself is a summer of flickering sunlight, caught in the prism of the grape’s skin, and transposed, and captured…literally time in a bottle. For those who do not see this, I am reminded of the painter who tried to paint a building brick-for-brick and was labeled blind by his fellow artists. Just because someone paints, doesn’t make it art. Wine is about friends, family, lovers, food, and shared memories. Every wine person I know has these kinds of bottles in their collection.

There is the DiGrazia Autumn Spice. This is a white wine made from pumpkins and flavored with slight amounts of allspice and clove. This is still a special wine for me. I remember like it was yesterday, driving through the Litchfield hills for the first time, in my parent’s old convertible, a baby blue Skylark, with white leather interior and white rag top. The warm summer wind blowing through my hair as we wound up the roads, with an old girlfriend and an old high school buddy. The wine was lovely, crisp and clean. I bought three or four bottles, and poured it for Thanksgiving two years in a row when my family had cheese and nuts before the dessert came. My father made a corkscrewed face and grimaced, but my mother and aunts loved it! I enjoyed it too.

This DiGrazia wine was one of the most important finds in my life time. My family drank a lot of wine. Wine was present at dinner every night. Not copious amounts, but at least one glass by each adult. Also, this was one of my first personal finds, outside the confines of my parents buying patterns of Bolla, Mondavi, and others. I had discovered this wine. And of course, it was one of the first wineries I had ever visited and had drank the wines. It was where wine not only became part of a memory, but spoke of a place as well.

As a teenager I had ridden by Cream Ridge Winery in Allentown, New Jersey, on my ten speed dozens of times, on lengthy bike rides I made at that time in my life. My Breaking Free period, as it were. But it was not the first one I tasted. That happened on the Connecticut wine trail, where I tasted the offerings of DiGrazia, Haight, and Hopkins. Visits to these wineries are still buried deep within my memory, and inspired a life time of interest in east coast winemaking.

There is a Taurino Salice Salentino. Salice Salentino is a small town and commune in the southern part of Apulia, Italy, in the Salento area. It is bounded with the province of Taranto to the northwest and the province of Brindisi to the north. It’s a wonderful light dry red wine, with bright ripe cherry, nice acidity and medium tannins. A great light Italian red. I had a half case of that under my bed in college. While many of my friends were drinking beer (I had my share of pitchers) I tended already to be drinking wine instead. I courted older women, and poured them inexpensive champagne. I thought I was Richard Gere then, but looking back I think I was more Johnny Stechinno.

One of my other favorite wines of the period was Hunt Country Red. I think I liked it as much for the label as he wine. I had bought it first at Union Square while I had my first job in New York City. Later I would buy it at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn at Prospect Park after a long morning’s walk with mdog and friends. I’d also buy milk in glass bottles from Ronnybrook. This was one of my first New York wines, and was one of the only serious dry red wines from the state in the market at the time that could be found in the city. It was an important bottle for me.

My first great wine – Mouton Rothchild. I started out drinking the 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983 vintages. I used to collect them with a paycheck here and a pay check there. I remember I drank a half a dozen of them in a two week period one time, thinking the go-go 80s were a period which would last forever. Instead we drank the last few bottles of my first full case when we were flat broke, and could not afford cheaper bottles, and said, “Oh, well, what the hell, at least we have wine…I’ll buy more later on, when we have money again.” Today I hold on to them like they were stitched to my fingers…especially my 1982…which calls to me like a child locked in the cellar. Every time I come down I check it to see if it is still there, still safe.

And who could forget Chateauneuf de Pape? My first date with my wife. I had eaten garlic for lunch, and was walking to Central Park where we would have bread and wine and cheese before going to a reading by Paul Auster of Mr. Vertigo. I stopped at a kiosk and bought a roll of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers, and chomped an entire package only minutes from the park in a vain attempt to hide my lunch time transgression. There she was, in a quiet corner of the park, on a gorgeous September day, with a blanket spread out with an apple, grapes, cheese, and bottle of the magical elixir from Avignon. I popped the cork as we smiled at one another, they way people in love do. I poured us both a glass and we sipped. She closed her eyes, and said, “Mmmmmm.” I was entranced. “It’s really good,” she purred. I felt like Albert Brooks. Actually the experience was awful. With all the Wint-O-Green in my mouth, the wine tasted like Lavoris mouthwash. I didn’t dare disappoint her. I smiled and said, “Mmmmm, yes,” and did my best to try to hide my grimace in a smile. But it began a long love affair with the wine that has lasted ever since.

There’s my great discovery of California – Cakebread and Niebaum Coppola. I remember going to the Coppola ranch in the mid-1980s, when they didn’t have a tastingroom, looking for a single bottle of the then elusive wine, only to be told to vacate the property before I was arrested. It never occurred to me that the family living there (the actual Coppolas?!) might view me as a possible stalker. “I just want a bottle of wine…” I begged. A hand pointed back up the driveway I had come down was the only response. Today I have several estate wines I bought there in the 1990s.

And of course I recall the great delight in finding the first great Cabernet Sauvignon of my life – Cakebread – still among my favorites. I remember as a young man being stunned and disappointed then to find out Jack Cakebread actually owned an autobody shop, and that held had held onto it for many decades. Why, I pondered, if you owned Cakebread, would you do anything else? Why would you screw around with an autobody shop of all things?! Today, and older and wise man, I am horrified he ever closed the shop, as if one could ever trust a winery to deliver enough of a profit to live on. It was a time when I discovered Clod Du Val, Duckhorn, and Chateau Montelena.

I remember tasting my first Turley zinfandel, as I stare at a half dozen bottles. I remember going to the famous Wilkinson Spa and having a mud-bath, being buried alive in a clawfoot tub full of what seemed like boiling peat moss, and being thoroughly amazed and horrified by the whole process. On another trip I remember rewarding myself and my wife with a fabulous meal at the Wappo Grill with a bottle of Turley. I remember it being so hard to find in New York and New Jersey, that I would order bottles in restaurants whenever it appeared on the list, and ask the waiters not to open the bottle “just yet.” And then spiriting away the wine in my wife’s handbag before any damage could be done to my prize.

Those were the prize years of a young collector. My cellar still has many slots devoted to a slew of similar type wines like Kistler (Pinot and Chardonnay), Hanzell, Bond, Williams-Selyam, Sin Qua Non, Palhmeyer, and others. These were the ziegiest of big California wines with their heavy extraction and big alcohol. I bought in like everyone else. The fruit bombs. I was in it up to my ears. Still am!

It was also a time when I began remembering some of the great wine meals of my life time. A salmon and caviar lunch at Domaine Chandon with a vertical tasting of their sparkling wines. Dinner at Tre Vigne. Dinner at Rubicon where we met the legendary Master Sommelier Larry Stone. A fantastic lunch with Peter Kaminsky at Artisanal and a bottle of Plunigy-Montrachet. Dinner with Matt Kramer in LA with west coast Sauvignon Blancs and assorted oysters, tasting how different wines tasted with different oysters. Steak and Bordeaux with Kevin Zraly. And of course dinners with friends…New Years Eve dinners of 13 or 14 people with six courses. And a monthly wine dinner in Lambertville at the Hamilton Grill by the Delaware River with good friends. Sipping different experimental grapes with winemaker Steve Casscles or new releases with Richard Olsen-Harbich. Each experience taught me something I didn’t know about wine before.

There was the time I went to my first private tasting in Napa, when I rolled up to Michel Schlumberger, and pressed the buzzer at the gate. I was asked if I was with the Smith party for the 2pm tasting, and I lied, and said yes, only to be treated to my first California Petite Syrah. Wow!

The CVNE Crianza 1994 gathered dust only until recently. It was a souvenir from my first trip to Rioja. I remember driving through the winding hills of Rioja after racing across the brown flat plains that bridge the Pyrennees and Logrono.  I pressed my mother-in-law’s old Citroen, with her in the back seat and my wife in the front, dying to get to Rioja before they somehow ran out of wine. We were on a small, winding road, and suddenly came up behind a truck full of Spaniards and about what today I realize was about 3-4 tons of dark purple grapes practically over-flowing the side of the large ancient truck. We tailed the rickety bucket of bolts, which putted along at 15 or 20 miles an hour, rattling up and down, as the weary Spaniards hung onto the wooden posts that held in their prize. They smiled and waved at us (more my young, beautiful wife, I think than me or my mother-in-law) as we followed them. How enchanting we all thought, as the sun began to set. How beautiful. Until we realized it was the next five miles, and there was no getting around them.

I found the bottles of Rioja so many years later, gathering dust in our basement. How had we forgotten it? Crianza is a young wine meant to be drunk within a year or two of its release. When we drank it 14 years later, it was still bright and delicious, with cherry and nice tannins. This is when I began to discover the allure of European wines. Rioja’s Tempranillos have held sway over me like the sirens tortured Odysseus.

Chile was another one of our extensive trips. Our most value prize from that trip wasn’t a bottle of wine (though I brought home four cases) but a speeding ticket we received three weeks later, with a photograph if us arguing as we raced through a red light. That and a bill for $75 charged to my American Express for the penalty. We had white glove, 4-star service in Santiago, and watched the Sopranos in Spanish on cable in a hotel in Colchagua. We visited the red brick cellars of Cousino Macul holding wax candles for light (built before the American Civil War) like in an old Vincent Price movie. We drank red wine with red sauce fish stews in the old train station turned town market, and toured the Maipo and Aconcogua valleys driving from city to city and drinking big red wines like Coca Colas. I remember the wide open beaches of Vina Delmar and the hilly little city of Valpariso (where we also most made a wrong turn and drove off down a 100 foot cliff). My bottles of Montes, Almaviva, Casa Lapostolle, Los Vascos, Laura Hartwig, and numerous others remind me of those days.

And of course, we also went up into the Andes, only a mile or two from the Argentine border, and went to a hot spring region only open in late summer and early fall when the river beds run dry after the snows have melted, and the springs were exposed. The stars were so many and so close it seemed like you could touch them. My favorite Malbecs remind me of this moment.

And of course there are my wines from the east coast. Merlots and Chardonnays from Long Island. Red blends and Viogniers from Virginia. Lovely vidals from Sakonnet, Greenvale, Hopkins, and others. Sparkling wines from Sakonnet and Westport Rivers. Chambourcins from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Baco Noir from the Hudson Valley. Our trip through the Brandywine, or visits to Maryland, and our constant afternoon drives through New Jersey. And of course one of my favorites – Bartlett’s Estate Dry Blueberry Oak Aged from Maine – one of the most surprising finds in a life time (so far) in wine. Experimenting and keeping and keeping an opened mind.

As I have gotten older, I have become more mature in my tastes. I like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I do not seek out chocolate or super sugary things. And I have come to like Burgundy and by extension, Pinot Noir. Give me a bottle of wine with 11 to 13 percent alcohol, with flavor of bright red cherry or medium cherry, with some vanilla and spice, or a light to medium bodied Italian, and I am very happy. Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, Nuits St. George, Burgougne, Cotie Rotie, New York Cab Franc and Merlot, Oregon and Hudson Valley Pinot and Baco Noirs, the list goes on and on. I like brighter whites, like Viognier from Virginia, Sauvignon Blanc from Long Island, and Riesling from the Finger Lakes. These are the new loves of an older man. I am reminded of my late grandfather who traded in his beloved, bounding beagles for a pointer who would hold on point until he could catch up. Or Sam the Lion who returns to the fishless fishing hole in The Last Picture Show, more content to reminisce than fish.

And of course there are always regrets. That I didn’t buy more first growth Bordeaux at reasonable prices before the prices escalated to beyond affordability. I still thank the Lord that I was able to drink dozens of them back in the day. I regret having left a couple chateauneufs and amarone’s go to long. I regret letting a dozen whites I’ve kept too long. There are bottles I wasted on the wrong friends, or the wrong women. There are friends and women I should have poured more generously for. More quiet moments I should have shared with my dogs. More importantly, there are those who have passed away that I look back on and wished I had shared more bottles with.

And of course there’s the realization that I need to drink a little more and collect a little less. I’m not afraid of dying. And I’m not a morbid person. I ain’t dying anytime soon. But one does realize that there’s only so much one can consume or accumulate. He who dies with the most wine in his cellar doesn’t win! As a young man I didn’t understand that. I bought with abandon, zeal. I would come home, having stopped at my favorite wine haunts, and leave the bottles in the car. Then later that evening, or sometime during the weekend, I would transfer my prizes down into the basement, before I could be found out by my wife. I would pay for the bottles in cash sometimes, so she would not see my debit or credit purchases reflected in the statements, lest she would know how much of our money I was “squandering” (her word) on wine.

But I am not asking for sympathy. I have a lot to look forward to. I have a shitload of wine yet to drink. I have many friends left to invite and drink with. There’s Sauterne’s and ports yet to be had. First growths to be plucked. Steaks grilled to match with those Cabernet Sauvignons. And there’s more and more Pinot Noir to discover. There's wines of Hungary and the Dalmatian Coast...and still more on the horizon.

The fun part of wine for me is the people I shared it with along the way. Family, friends, old girlfriends, my wife, winemakers, and other wine enthusiasts. There is nothing better than opening up a great bottle of wine for those who really appreciate it. Sometimes it’s a $15 or $20 bottle. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes it’s more. But it’s about understanding where it came from, the history f the grape and the vineyard. The point of view of the winemaker. The techniques they used to make the wine. And it’s about people. You meet so many damned interesting people who like wine. And it’s what makes it fun. I’m a wine geek. I admit it. And I love it!

So here, I am, with a cellar full of wine (not all of it for the ages), and a lot of good friends (I am blessed). And in the end, that’s what wine is really all about. Friends. Who wants to drink wine with people they don’t like? To my friends, new and old, gone and not yet met, I say, thank you for putting up with me, I am an admitted ass, and you’re welcome to share my wine. When shall we meet again next and share another bottle? Let the boatman wait on the shores of the Styx whittle away the hours a long time. To everyone else who doesn’t care about me or wine, including the Grim Reaper, I will rely on the sage wisdom of Alan Arkin, “Argo fuck yourself!”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

4JGs Outer Coastal Plain Chambourcin 2007

4JGs is one of my favorite New Jersey producers. Located in Colts Neck, it's a picturesque setting, with great wines. These folks know how to make wonderful wines. Dominique was making one of her most famous dishes - Pumpkin Pasta which is made with unsweetened pumpkin puree, lots of garlic, hot Italian sausage and lots of pepper. And we were in the mood for a sturdy red. Chambourcin is a late-ripening French Hybrid grape ideally suited for Eastern wine growing regions. It produces a wine with intense purple color and spicy, herbal flavors. Chambourcin's generous, full flavours of blackberry, nutmeg and herbs make it excellent for dishes that would traditionally be partnered by red wine: beef, lamb, and red-sauced pasta. It seemed like it would be the perfect accompaniment. First we nibbled on some Parmesan cheese. And then I opened the wine.
The 4JGs Outer Coastal Plain Chambourcin started off with big whiffs of a dark berry cobbled and with whiff of cherry, mocha, and other spices. It's deep red-purple color was gorgeous. Aged in oak, the wine had a smoothness one would expect from a big red. There was good fruit up front, nice acidity and decent tannins. This is a good, complex, big red. Truly a red worth seeking out. Wonderful!