Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hudson Valley Best Of: Congrats to Kristop Brown, Clinton and Baldwin Vineyards, and Local Distillers!

Congrats to Kristop Brown, Clinton and Baldwin Vineyards, Orange County distillery, Black Dirt Distillery(Warwick Valley Winery), Hudson Valley Distillers and Tuthilltown Distillers.

Monday, November 16, 2015

WINES OF VERMONT by Todd Trzaskos is Fantatsic!

Vermont wine has arrived. end of story. The avalanche began with Deirdre Heekin and la Garagista and Chris Granstom and Lincoln Peak, along with such wineries as Shelburne Vineyard, Eden Ice Ciders, and Boyden Valley Winery, as well as popular favorites such as Flag Hill, Snow Farm and Putney Mountain have all made Vermont wine, not just respectable, but down right collectible. 

The flap copy says it all: "Vermont's extreme climate may not seem ideal for wine production, but industry pioneers are proving otherwise. For nearly half a century, local winemakers developed distinctive fermentation techniques and adopted select crops to withstand icy winters. In 1970, Frank Jedlicka used traditional recipes to make wine with apples, maple and honey. North River and Grand View followed with other orchard and berry fruits. Harrison Lebowitz planted French hybrid grapes on a Lake Champlain island in the 1990s, and soon Vermont hosted some of America's first true cold-climate vineyards. Fresh tastes and resurrected flavors now symbolize the Green Mountain States ripening wine industry."
Today la garagista is almost a Unicorn wine (borrowing a phrase from my friend Lenn Thompson), hunted by wine writers throughout the country. And for those who think that Virginia and New York have cornered the east coast market, listen up: Chris Granstrom's Lincoln Peak Marquette is among the best red wines made on the east coast!
For anyone looking for a California-style red made on the east coast, look no further than Lincoln Peak Marquette. If you want a big, California Syrah, you don't need to burn all that fossil fuel to bring it east. You need to get your ass up to Vermont and drink a deep, Syrah-styled wine at 14.5% alcohol that has fruit and acidity and complexity and balance. A fantastic bottle of wine no matter where you think it's from.
photo courtesy New York Cork Report
The book is written by Todd Trzaskos. Todd Trzaskos is a member of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council, Adirondack Coast Wine Association and Champlain Valley International Wine Trail Advisory Board. He runs and produces content at and covers winemaking in the North Country as a contributing editor for the
Todd is a friend of mine, and a stellar wine grower and maker in his own rite. This book is an exceptional step forward for the Vermont wine industry and proof of what is going on in the North country.
Along with Deirdre Heekin's An Unlikely Vineyard, there is ample evidence of wonderful winemaking going on up there in the Green Mountains!
Filled with history, fun facts, great stories, and exceptional understanding of the process and the industry, this is a must have book!!! And a fantastic addition to the burgeoning canon of east coast wine books. The Vermont industry are lucky to count such eloquent cheerleaders Heekin and Trzaskos amongst them!
Review of An Unlikely Vineyard

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Palaia Celebrates Major Rebranding

Last night, Palaia Vineyards unveiled the complete package to their customers - and complete and total logo and label rebrand. Jan and husband Joe have made Palaia Vineyards into a dynamic hot spot, fun for wine lovers during the day, and  a music hot spot at night. Last night was the final culmination of months and months of work, as Palaia celebrated the rebranding of its website, it's logo, and the complete line of wines.

Jan and Joe have long been a staple of the Hudson Valley wine scene.

I like the redesign. It's simple, clever, and really fits with the aesthetic brought about by Jan and Joe.  They love live music, and have combined their passions - wine and music  - into a lifestyle. The branding reflects this. It's fun, bright, and makes their logo easy to identify them and their product. It's a very fun, vibrant, and colorful redesign. Very slick!
Jan was quick to give credit for the overall design concept and rebranding to Colleen Mairead Hughes, former head of marketing at Brotherhood, who was instrumental and helping shape the new branding. Wrote Jan on her Facebook page, "Fantastic...Easy to work with and worth every penny. Wonderful job Colleen...." (photo courtesy of Jan's FB page).

There were three wines I really liked. Pearl Power (n homage, one must assume to Janis Joplin) is an off dry white that was aromatic and fun. Nice bright acidity with only a touch of sugar. An easy drinking light white. Loved it!

Zappa Franc was my favorite. Jan and Joe have always had a way with Cab Franc, and this one was no different. A combination of older and newer wines (two vintages) made for a medium bodied cherry bomb with lots of layers. Soft, chewy, vibrant with fruit. A lovely, lovely wine.

Not much for semi-sweet wines, I always try to keep an opened min. I wasn't dis appointed here. The Moon Blossom was bright, sweet, but had a tangy acidity that kept the wine immensely honest. East to drink A real sipper. Great for turkey day and hams for those who cook those during the holiday season. Lovely.

As I said, Palaia Vineyards is a fantastic place. A fun stop on the wine trail for their wine, They are also a get nightlife destination after the sun goes down. They have the main tasting room, they have the sound stage which is called the Sweet Clover Room and another event space called the Treehouse. All three rooms were packed to the gills last night. And the larking lot was a forest of cars! Free tastings, free food, and three live bands made the day a huge draw, and a major success!

I wish more wineries on the east coast would take a look at the way Palaia rebranded (even if the look isn't your thing, still, they way they went about it). It was very smart and will absolutely help recast them for the next generation! The logo is easily identifiable, and is reinforced on every bottle.

Craig Thomas, operations manager, the everything man, at Palaia Vineyards. If there's an event, at the winery or at a festival, you will see Craig. He is as ubiquitous as their logo. A super nice guy who gets things done!

Great night celebrating a great job! Congrats to Jan, Joe, Craig, and Colleen and everyone at Palaia Vineyards.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

THE GRAPES OF THE HUDSON VALLEY by J. Stephen Casscles is Brilliant!

OK, there are two things I need to say before anything else: 1. J. Stephen Casscles is a friend of mine. He is a brilliant winemaker. We have worked eight vintages together. And I have had an absolute ball working with him on all of them. 2. Grapes of the Hudson Valley is a mish-mash of a book (which I will elucidate on later) but is also one of the most important books for winemakers and grape growers (for anyone not stationed in California – no matter where you make wine) published in more than half a century!
Alright, now that that is dispensed with, I can get into the nitty gritty of this book.
First, who in the hell is J. Stephen Casscles? First and foremost he has worked on many of the bills that have made a difference in the wine, beers, and spirits industry in New York state for more than a generation. Quietly, and behind the scenes, he has possibly been one of the most influential people in the industry for years.
He is also a talented winemaker, having made wine as a young man at Benmarl under the tutelage of Eric Miller (of Benmarl Winery and Chaddsford Winery fame – himself a published and influential winemaker with one of the more impressive winemaking trees on the east coast). Stephen’s Baco Noirs have consistently been among the highest rated wines for that varietal in North America. He's also made some of the most outstanding wines in New York state according to reviews and scores from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, Snooth, The Village Voice, Sommelier Journal, Edible Manhattan, Forbes magazine, and other publications.
And for many years he was easily the most knowledgeable wine historian in the Hudson Valley.
Now, the book, GRAPES OF THE HUDSON VALLEYY is a mish-mash of a book, because it is really two brilliant books pressed together. Firstly, the book has a wonderful history of grape growing and winemaking in the Hudson Valley. Secondly, it’s information on hybrid grapes, heirloom varieties, cold climate varieties, and grape and winemaking information is second to none. It is partially a fantastic reader. Partially it is the single best book on hybrid and cold climate grapes available today.
As far as the Hudson Valley is concerned, there is more information here than any other single source. A fascinating history of grape growing in the region which reaches back to the 1600s, which makes the valley the birthplace of American wine. 
For years the region was among the biggest grape growing regions on the east coast (along with Vineland, NJ), and in the country. Hundreds of thousands of tons were shipped down river from as far up as Catskill, down to the city, feeding a hungry population and a solid cadre of home winemakers.
Did you know that Hudson Valley’s many famous hybridizers have produced more than 75 new grape varieties to the grape catalog? And the one thing Stephen didn’t share in the book is that he has introduced a number of his own.
On the other side, this book has all the intricate growing information and winemaking information to make excellent wines from many of these grapes, including the classic French-American hybrids and the currently popular Minnesota (Elmer Swenson) varieties.
Both sections of this book are brilliant. And as such, this book is a rare treasure, a well written narrative that also includes serious technical information not available anywhere else.
If you grow grapes, make wine, or consider yourself knowledgeable about wine, then you absolutely need this book! End of conversation!
p.s. the book has received some excellent reviews from others as well.  Here’s a link to a few….

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wolffer: A Book Signing With Eileen Duffy and an Amazing Private Tasting With Roman Roth

Last month Eileen Duffy signed copies of her book at Wolffer Estate winery. It was a delightful day. Great weather. So much fun. And a bevy of popular wine country folks were in attendance.

Steve Bedney of A Vintner's Tale was there, with friend Patricia Olstad

Wolffer Rose' 2014 was spectacular, with strawberry and bright cherry on the nose, and a lovely lime finish! Fantastic!

Wolffer winemaker Roman Roth was also on hand, and he signed numerous books.

Eileen was there signing her book BEHIND THE BOTTLE published by Cider Mill Press, a celebration of the quality wine movement on Long Island, in which Wolffer has always been a leader.

Roman was signing the books as well, in the chapter where he is featured!


Summer in a bottle is a different rose from their normal one. Tropical fruits, strawberries, peaches, leave off this light, bright, citrusy wine! Light, fun, this is a lovely, love wine!!!

Love the estate rose'!!!! Always one of my favorites!!!!
I loved the Sagaponack Red 2012! Absolutely wonderful!!! Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blended expertly by Roman. A very complex wine with dark cherry, bramble berry and cassis. A great finish. A lovely, lovely red.

Then a treat! A special barrel tasting with Roman in the wine cellars underneath Wolffer! This was special. I have to say, as a result of this tasting, it confirmed for me two things: Roman Roth is the winemaker we all think he is. He is a superstar! And secondly, the 2014 vintage will be one of the most spectacular vintages in New York state history!

The Wolffer 2014 Chardonnay reserve was brilliant! Melon. Green apple. Floral. Delicate! Amazing!!!!

First was a barrel sample of the Cabernet Franc 2014. Absolutely astonishing. Dark ripe cherry. Gorgeous layers even still so young. Amazing.

Wolffer Estate Merlot 2014. Spectacular! Big cherry Cassis Vanilla. Great tannins. Again, a spectacular wine. The promise is so exciting!

Grapes of Roth 2014. Another astonishing wine!!!! Huge! Big cherries, prunes, plums, and dark red raspberry. We were all astonished!

Last but not least was a library wine. Claletto 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is an Amarone-styled red wine, using the Italian technique of raisining the grapes before crushing, producing a heavy, sweet wine that is then vinified into a big, dark, brooding red. This edition of Claletto, which they only do during special vintages, was among the most spectacular red wines I have ever ha on the island! Simply overwhelming. Prune. Lekvar. Cherry. Cassis. Red currant. All coupled with layers of dried fruit, fallen leaves, and a gorgeous, luxurious finish! Amazing!! Incredible!!

My tasting also confirmed another thing for me. Wolffer will continue to be a leader making great wine on the east coast, maintaining its position as one of the major producers of quality wine in the United States.