Sunday, March 31, 2019

Subversive Malting & Brewing (NY)

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Subversive Malting & Brewing is a malthouse & brewery located on an old apple farm in New York State’s Hudson Valley. Subversive focuses on raw materials. While thy source yeasts from a variety of labs, they purchase grain and hops exclusively from their farming neighbors in New York State, and they malt those grains themselves. In fact, Subversive has been in business for sometime operating exclusively as a malting house, selling to other brewers in the region.


The malting house is located in Columbia county, and is currently not open to the public.

The company was founded by Zane Coffey and Max Henry Oceano, who were both raised in the Upper Hudson Valley, and immediately envisioned it as the home for Subversive when the initial business concept was formed. Zane had found a passion for home brewing while living in the Pacific Northwest, and brought that passion and some rudimentary equipment back East in the Fall of 2013. A hobby quickly turned into an obsession, and the Subversive boys entered the Ithaca College Business Plan Competition in April 2015. While they took the win (And $25,000 in prize money!), it took another 4 years of gaining industry experience, buying and building equipment, and scrimping and saving to open the doors!

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Recently, though, Subversive opened a tasting room on Main Street, in Catskill, NY. The Beer Cafe is located at 414 Main Street, where they feature a rotating offering of our own beers, and a small menu of finger-foods, including rustic toast by the local Catskill Baking Company. Outside food is always allowed. 

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Zane tends to be the guy who stays are the production facility overseeing operations. Max tends to be the man behind the bar, and running the cafe, though both do their share of grunt work.

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A map showing where they get all their ingredients from. Very cool.

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Head Brewer Max, and friend Mariquita Reese (brewer at Captain Lawrence Brewing)

I love Subversive. One of the new wave of farm brewers making LOCAL beer from local ingredients. And because they started off as a malting house. Great beers Enjoyed several of their drafts. Catskill is growing as a destination. If you are making Catskill a stop on your agenda, then you cant say you've been there unless you stop at Subversive.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Chateau Chantal Pinot Gris Proprietor's Reserve 2016(MI)

I first tasted Chateau Chantal at a tasting of Michigan wines hosted in Washington DC last year. I was again lucky enough to taste a few bottles this year at the Eastern Winery Exposition 2019 in Syracuse, NY. 

Chateau Chantal was not incorporated until 1991, its history began in December 1983, when Robert and Nadine Begin formed Begin Orchards and purchased 60 acres of cherry orchards on the estate property.  The Begin family, Robert, Nadine and daughter Marie-Chantal, opened the doors of friendly hospitality in 1993 upon the completion of a French style three room B&B, winery and vineyard estates. As of July 2003, the B&B’s circle of friends has grown considerably when a 15,000 square foot expansion increased the total units available to eleven. Located on a 65-acre estate on Old Mission Peninsula, with views of East and West Grand Traverse Bays, and Power Island. They produce Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and other varietals.

Chateau Chantal Pinot Gris Proprietor's Reserve 2016 is an amazing wine. The grapes were picked at 22.4 Brix  at harvest. The wine experienced sur lee aging with monthly bâtonnage  in oak barrels. It went through full malolactic fermentation and monthly bâtonnage stirrings.

The result is a big mouthful of tropical fruit with green apple, ripe pear, honey, and apricot and peach and a hint of pineapple. This was a very, very special wine. Terrific mouthfeel and super finish, with nice acidity and long, long lingering fruit. Amazing. A big white wine, but refined and complex! Absolutely lovely!

Very exciting!

A Real Compliment: VaLa Vineyards Silk 2010 Bottle no: 3494 (PA)

So I got a call from some fellow winemakers, Ken Hardcastle, Bob Manley, and Chuck Lawrence from Hermit Woods Winery in New Hampshire. They wanted to stop by and do a tasting of my wines. Of course, I cajolled them into staying and then I went down into my wine cellar. I wanted to pull up a few really good wines to impress them with. When you're with wine people, you want to show off a little...and who better to share good wine with, than people who will actually appreciate it? Always fun to have wine people over!

So I pulled out a 2000 Bordeaux, a lovely Cabernet Franc from Califonria, and for my show stopper VaLa Silk 2010 from Avondale, PA. I did it because Vala is always an eye-opener.

Chatter started. Ooos and ahhhs for all the wines ensued. But something funny happened. Even though it was the lightest wine by far on the table, the VaLa Silk 2010 was the first that was gone. Everyone kept going back to that bottle.

Anthony Vietri is one of the most talented winemakers not just on the east coast, but I would dare say the US. Tucked into his little corner of the world, he just grows Italian varietals and makes small batches of incredibly good wine.

So her was essentially a rose-styled red, a rosato, if you will. And it was eight years old at that. It had lush cherry, ripe and deep, with floral hints as well as red cassis and raspberry, but all grounded and layered with light touches of wood and smoke. An incredibly complex and layered wine, with hints of cranberry as well. Lovely fruit and acidity. Smooth and easy drinking. Absolutely fantastic!

But the real thing was this - four wine makers in a room all agreed...the best wine on the table among some very, very good wines. Now that's a REAL compliment!

Great job Anthony!

Brilliant! Early Mountain Petillant Naturel (Malvasia) 2018 (VA)

So, at Eastern Winery Exposition 2019 in Syracuse I had the opportunity to try a unique wine - Early Mountain Vineyards Petillant Natureal (Malvasia) 2018. Early Mountain Vineyards is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was oriiginally owned by Revolutionary War veteran Lieutenant Joseph Early, who served under General George Washington at Valley Forge. In 2005, Jess and Sharon Sweely planted the first vineyards on the property. Jean Case and her husband, Steve, purchased the property in 2010 and, after some renovations, re-opened it under the Early Mountain brand in 2012. 

In 2015, Early Mountain expanded its acreage to include Quaker Run Vineyard, 14 miles north of the Early Mountain estate in Madison County. That year, Early Mountain increased its acreage of classic Bordeaux-type varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot and added new varietals including Malvasia Bianca, Sauvignon Blanc, and Tannat.

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Ben Jordan oversees all aspects of winemaking, vineyards and production at Early Mountain. A native Virginian who began his winemaking career in Sonoma County, Ben previously held the position of GM and Winemaker with Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Malvasia is from a group of wine grape varieties grown historically in the Mediterranean region, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and the island of Madeira. There are red and white Malvasia. It is now grown in a number of other regions. The grape was traditionally used almost exclusively for a sweet variety of Madeira. But there have been a small cadre of quality wines being made by smaller producers.

But I'd never had a sparkling Malvasia before, so I was intrigued.

Early Mountain Vineyards Pettilant Naturel 2018 was made from a white Malvasia grape. The nose exploded with peach cobbler, there were also notes of apricots and white currants and a hint of honey. The wine had big mouth feel, lovely fine bubbles, and a wonderful finish with a hint of zip to keep the wine refreshing rather than cloying. A lovely, lovely pet nat. Very pretty and very easy to drink.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Schulze Cuvee Reserve Sparkling Brut is Amazing! (NY)

Recently, while at the Eastern Winery Exposition 2019 in Syracuse, NY, I had the occasion to run into a bottle of Schulze Cuvee Reserve Sparkling Brute. Shulze has a way with bubbles, and has fast become one of the top sparkling producers on the east coast, joining the ranks of Sparkling Pointe, Goose Watch, Glenora, and Thibaut-Jannison.

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Tyler Finley and Shaun Finely are making some terrific sparkling wines out there in Burt, NY, in the western part of the state, just below lake Ontario. The family owned winery began as a grower for Great Western back in 1971. The finally opened a winery in 2007!

The Schulze Schulze Cuvee Reserve Sparkling Brute is a blanc de blanc. Hand harvested. The wine delivers like a great champagne, with a bready nose, crisp pear, fresh apple, hints of tropical fruits, a delicate touch of toast and vanilla. A truly lovely, refined sparkler. Great job to the Finely brothers!!

Bet The Farm Winery Sparkles! (NY)

The story of this winery is charming. According to Nancy, it came from a conversation in one of those moments when  Nancy had cold feet about entering the wine business. Her husband, Kit (a well-known veteran in the New York wine industry) assured her with the words, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you. You can bet the farm on it.” The words stuck with her and Kit has kept his promise. His help in the shop, in the winery, and with marketing ideas have been invaluable. During 2012 he left his long-time position at another Finger Lakes winery to lead their staff full time at their "Big blue" winery up in Trumansburg, NY.

Now you have to know that Kit Kalf is one of the legendary characters (in a very good way) of the Finger Lakes wine making mafia. He has spent decades in the business, making and promoting New York state wine. Lcukily, I recently caught up with Kit and Nancy at the Eastern Winery Exposition 2019 in Syracuse on Kit's birthday weekend. I tried a pair of their wines.

The first of their wines I tried was the Bet the Farm Traminette 2017. It was a lively wine that smellled and tasted like a beautifully made and layered Gewurtraminer. A big floral nose, with hints of tropical fruits and fresh apple, pine apple, and a nice dose of citrus at the end. I loved it.

But the absolute kicker was the Bet the Farm Brut Gamay 2015! A lovely strawberry cobbler of a wine, with a nose of fresh bread and wild strawberries, as well as some other lovely notes of lime and cream, with a thousand lovely little bubbles. A tremendous sparkler with so much flavor and great mouthfeel! Absolutely fantastic!

Mancy and Kit, these were terrific wines! Bet the Farm sparkles!!!!

Achtung! Ferrante Gruner and Gewurtz Shine! (OH)

Gruner Veltliner - GRV - Signature Series

Let me start off by saying this....I love Nicholas Ferrante. There are a lot of lovely people in the wine business. But there are some more lovely than others. Nick is a good guy. And, he's a wonderful winemaker. 

Ferrante Winery is a family run business, and is located in the Grand River Valley in Ohio. He is a member of the Ohio Hall of Fame and was named the Ohio Winemaker of Year award by the Ohio Grape Industries at the Ohio Wine and Grape Short Course in Columbus, Ohio. 

According the the Ohio Hall fo Fame, "Nicholas Ferrante, a third generation winemaker for Ferrante Winery in Harpersfield, is regarded as one of the state's most respected winemakers...He has generously given of his time, serving on the Ohio Grape Industries Committees and on its research subcommittees. He has been a supporter and collaborator of research and innovation, be it through our universities or in his support or the Grand River Valley initiative or the creation of Pairings Wine and Culinary Experience. He has also been a speaker at nearly every major industry conference in the country."

He's also a terribly nice fellow. I recently saw him at the Eastern Wineries Exposition 2019 in Syracuse, NY. I was lucky enough to try two recent vintages of his wines.

Gruner Veltliner - GRV - Signature Series

The Ferrante Gruner 2017 was bright crisp and aromatic with green apple and a bouquet of tropical fruits. Lovely, minerally, and with a zippy ending, the wines was a classic version of what a Gruner Veltliner should be. Lovely!

The Ferrante Gewurz 2017 was even better. Now, let me say first, Gewurztraminer is among my top three favorite white wines. This had a lovely, floral and tropical fruit nose, with lovely green apple in the middle, and a pineapple, grapfruit finish that was sensational. A terrific, terrific wine!

Conrats Nick. Terrific stuff!

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Amazing Dr. Konstantin Frank Sauvignon Blanc 2017!! (NY)

I just came from the Eastern Winery Exposition 2019 in Syracuse. Aside from spending money, and attending classes, I tasted a great many wines. Without question, the one that stood out far and above at the show was the Dr. Konstantin Frank Sauvignon Blanc 2017.

Now. my first thought was...Sauvignon Blanc in the Finger Lakes? Yes, they are growing it there and the wines showed beautifully. The panel I attended showed three lovely east coast Sauvignon Blancs, two of which were from the Finger Lakes. General Manager, Meghan Frank, presented the wine for Dr. Frank's.

Interestingly, the wine was a blend of Volz Vineyard fruit and fruit grown at the ever impressive Sawmill Creek vineyard. The grapes came in at approximately 20 brix. Apparently, what was even more impressive was the winery decided to cold soak the grapes for 12 hours. Now, it's not uncommon for wineries to cold soak fruit, but it's usually red grapes that recieve that treatment, to improve color and mouthfeel. This was an interesting idea for a Finger Lakes white. The free run and press fractions were mixed together. So the wine was all in. There were four days of cold settling. The wine was further kept cold for one week after racking, and stirred every two days to increase mouthfeel by stirring up fine lees. That's a lot of fine wine making.

The gamble paid off. The wine had an impressive bouquet, and the mouthfeel was out of the world. While we have come to expect lean, crisp east coast whites, this was a full-bodied wine, with tremendous mouthfeel, complexity, and balance.

Simply put, it was one of the best white wines I have tasted from the east coast, and would be a standout in any region around the world. An exceptional wine that deserves to be tasted. If you're not trying it, your missing something.

Excellent. Exceptional. Impressive. Congrats to the winemaking team at Dr. Konstantin Frank!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Lovely Decade: Stone Mountain Vineyard Twelve Barrels Meritage (VA)

Jim and Deanna Gephart are the owners of Stone Mountain Vineyard. Jim and Deanna came to Virginia from the West Coast in 2011 to finish out their federal government careers.  Never anticipating that they would fall in love with Virginia and want to stay after retirement. Jim was a veteran and retired federal law enforcement officer, and Deanna was a retired US Public Health Service Officer. Neither knew anything about starting or running a winery.

The winery is located in the Monticello AVA in Virginia.

Stone Mountain Vineyards Twelve Barrel Meritage is a non-vintage blend of 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petite Verdot, and 16% Merlot. Twelve Barrels Meritage is their signature Bordeaux style blend that only uses their best grapes from multiple vintages to produce a Meritage produced in batch sizes of 12 barrels. 

I bought this wine at least 10 years ago, so figure that was 2010 or so. And the wine must be a blend of 2007 and 2008 vintages I can only assume. Or thereabouts.

Cherry and eucalyptus pop out of the glass, as well as dark and bright raspberry, and plum. They also flow across the palate. A hint of cedar and cocoa. Nice spice and black pepper give way to a vanilla/toast moment, followed by lingering fruit. 

I bought this wine a decade ago. That's a lot of time sitting in my cellar. This was a fabulous wine that stood the test of time. A lovely decade.

Great stuff Jim and Deanna! Congrats!

Sharpe Hill Dry Riesling 2016 and Cabernet Franc 2013: Fantastic! (CT)

Sharpe Hill Vineyards is a quality wine producer located in Pomfret, Connecticut not far from the Rhode Island border. It's closer to Providence, than it is to Stonnington, but still feels the residual effects of the kindly Long Island Sound and the big shoulders of the northern Atlantic.

I love Howard Bursen, the winemaker of Sharpe Hill. He's a terrific winemaker and a very personalble man who loves to swap stories and winemaking experience, information, and tips. He has been at Sharpe HIll for more than 25 years. He's a long time member of the Finger Lakes Winemaking Mafia (including friends Peter Bell and Dave Whiting). I tasted two of Howard's wines in the last six months and meant to write about them sometime ago.

The Sharpe Hill Dry Riesling Vineyard Reserve 2016 was exquisite! Light, with a massive floral nose filled with honeysuckle, apricot, pineapple, and other tropical notes. It had a slight hint of petrol, and finished dry and lingered beautifully. Such an impressive wine.

The Sharpe Hill Cabernet Franc Vineyard Reserve 2013 was a classic medium bodied Cabernet Franc. The wine was the color of garnet, with notes of cherry and raspberry, and hints of cocoa, vanilla, and lots of spice. A hint of herbaceousness, but also lots, and lots of red fruit. A terrific finish, where the cherry lingered after the black pepper faded.

Howard and his staff continue to produce fantastic wines. Tremendous stuff.

Asylum Ginger Zap Vodka - Cocktail Heaven (CT)

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Asylumn Distilling is located in Bridgeport, CT, and is the brainchild of Robert and Bridget Schulten. Robert is in charge of distilling, and Bridget is sales and marketing.

Rob Schulten - Distiller & Educator  Bridget Schulten - Sales & Events

According to Robert, "It's all about making the most interesting flavors possible using locally grown corn to create craft, small-batch bold taste spirit sensations... Many people don't know what real flavors are, but I'd like to introduce everyone to artisanal flavors, flavors that only come from the best that nature has to offer...Asylum Distillery never adds sugar, always uses non-GMO corn and will never introduce a product you can make better yourself at home.  Since our start in 2014,  we try to live up to our motto, "Distilling the spirit of Connecticut"."


I first spotted Asylum Ginger Zap in the state store in New Hampshire. I took a shot. I always like to support local.

Asylum Ginger Zap is an infusion of ginger root in vodka. It's a big, bold flavored vodka. A big honest dose of ginger. I don;t normally like flavored vodkas or whiskies. Not ususally what I like. But I took an instant liking to this idea. And knowing Asylum, I also knew the stuff would be legit - both in its inspiration at the creation level, and in its execution.

Perfect for mixed drinks, especially with the warm weather approaching soon! Makes a great G&T!!! Fantastic Cranberry Ginger Mule! A super cocktail ingredient with an honest, interesting twist!

Great stuff!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bloomberg Raves About Eastern Wines and Unique Grapes

relates to The Bastard Children of Wine Are Ready for Your Glass

Recently, Bloomberg ran an article on unique grapes gaining popularity in American wine, especially on the east coast. Here is that article and a link....

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The Bastard Children of Wine Are Ready for Your Glass
Purists may shun hybrid grapes, but from Vermont to Quebec and even in Europe, modern oenophiles are wising up. Here’s what to drink.
By Elin McCoy
March 12, 2019, 3:01 PM EDT

Thanks to a crop of renegade, pioneering winemakers making stellar wines in New York, Vermont, Minnesota, famously frigid Quebec, and even Portugal, hybrid grapes are beginning to get the respect they deserve.

For decades, snob drinkers turned up their noses at the wines made from them as too funky, going so far as to describe their taste and smell as akin to animal fur. I have to admit I was one of them.

But recently I tasted a lusciously rich, fruit-packed, amarone-style red made from frontenac grapes grown in Vermont, and a subtle, savory, zingy white from Quebec made from La Crescent. Both grapes were developed at the University of Minnesota to withstand super-cold winters yet make wines with great flavor.

“Serious interest in wines from hybrids is quite a recent phenomenon,” says master sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier, managing partner for New York bistro Racines, who has several on her list. “Thanks to a new generation of hybrids and new producers growing for quality, not quantity, tastes are changing.”

Hybrid grapes, according to Matt Clark, an assistant professor in the department of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota, are crosses between the European vine, vitis vinifera, and various native wild American species such as vitis labrusca.

They started in late 19th century France because phylloxera, a bug that eats the roots of European grape vines, was killing off the country’s vineyards and native American roots proved resistant to it. Grafting vinifera vines onto American rootstock was a way to preserve familiar grapes like pinot noir. Eventually, in the 20th century, planting new vineyards of hybrids was banned, with government pamphlets insisting wine from them was proven to cause madness. (Additionally, French law prohibits using hybrids in any wines with appellation names.)

Later the Eastern U.S. embraced them because they could survive icy winters, but many of the wines had simple jelly-jar flavors unappealing to serious wine drinkers.

Now, University of Minnesota and Cornell are coming up with new, improved hybrids, with better “juice characteristics,” helped by recent DNA research. “It takes 15 to 20 years from the time we identify the parent grapes to licensing vines to be planted commercially,” says Clark of the product development. Minnesota’s latest is a white, Itasca, now in test plots around the U.S.

Deirdre Heekin and her husband, Caleb Barber, of La Garagista farm and winery in Vermont, who grow several hybrids organically and biodynamically, are among the new producers whose wines have made a splash in New York and London. They make as many as 15 wines, including several sparkling pét-nats. Still, prejudice against these wines remains.

“When we started in 2010, hybrids were vino non grata to buyers,” says Heekin, “so we took the varietal name off the labels and just asked sommeliers to taste.” She’s convinced the interest in Italy’s native grapes primed people for being more open to hybrids. Her wines inspired Lepeltier to start her own pét-nat project, Chepika, with hybrids, with Finger Lakes winemaker Nathan Kendall. Their first vintage was 2016.

In the Hudson Valley, Carlo DeVito, who founded Hudson-Chatham winery in 2006, has had big success with baco noir. “Typically wineries make a sweet red from it,” he says. “But I thought, What will happen if we treat it like merlot or cabernet? And it ended up great.” He now makes four different cuvées.

More hybrids are in your future. Their disease resistance, which means fewer chemicals needed in the vineyards, is one reason France approved several new ones last year. The University of Minnesota is actively working to get marquette into Germany and France.

It’s a whole new world of wine flavors, with dozens of promising hybrids. Here are my picks of those with the most potential right now.

relates to The Bastard Children of Wine Are Ready for Your Glass
Source: Vendor
Delaware: This native American grape, once famed for spicy sparkling wines, has a tangled past that involves vinifera. Besides the U.S., it’s also grown in Japan.

2017 Chepika Delaware PetNat ($28)
This refreshing, frothy pét-nat from organic Delaware grapes is clear, not cloudy, with crisp layered flavors of green apple and lemon with a mineral edge.

relates to The Bastard Children of Wine Are Ready for Your Glass
Source: Vendors
La Crescent: This University of Minnesota cold-hardy white variety is a cross of muscat and other hybrids. You find it in Quebec, Minnesota, and Vermont, and it also makes a delicious pét-nat.

2017 Pinard et Filles Frangine ($57)
This intriguing, subtle white has mineral and earth aromas and green apple flavors. It was my favorite example from the La Crescent grape.

Traminette: Highly versatile, this cross between aromatic gewurztraminer and a French-American hybrid makes both dry and sweet wines, but the best I’ve tasted are dry. It’s like gewurz without the oily, viscous texture.

2017 Fox Run Vineyards Traminette ($15)
Fresh, bright, and delicate, this fun, refreshing Finger Lakes summer white has exotic aromas of lychee and spicy apricot flavors.

Vidal blanc: It thrives all over Ontario (think ice wine), and is even planted in Sweden and also used to make very fruity dry whites.

2017 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine ($53, half bottle)
Honeysuckle and candied orange peel aromas and lush, sweet flavors of honey and butterscotch make this a luscious dessert wine.

Vignoles: This cross between a white French-American hybrid and pinot noir is widely planted in the Finger Lakes and the Midwest and reminds me of a combo of riesling and sauvignon blanc. It can also make a subtle, complex late-harvest sweet wine.

2015 Keuka Lake Vineyards Gently Dry Vignoles ($17)
B​​​​rimming with aromas of white flowers, this Finger Lakes white is crisp, clean, and zingy, just the thing you want to drink at the beach.

Baco Noir: This French-American hybrid is a signature red grape in the Hudson Valley. Its flavors are like a midpoint between pinot noir and cabernet, but poorly made examples taste weedy and bitter.

2015 Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Reserve Casscles Vineyard ($26)
The New York state winery makes several very good reds from this grape. This cuvée has complex black cherry, smoky, savory flavors, high acidity, and delicate but rich textures.

Frontenac: Both white and red French-American hybrids are behind this University of Minnesota grape. Introduced in 1996, it’s widely planted in the Hudson Valley, Vermont, and the Midwest.

2016 La Garagista Loups-Garoux ($45)
Dark, intense, and smooth, this Vermont red is spicy, rich, and full-bodied, with a tart edge. It’s made ripasso-style like amarone, from a mix of fresh and dried grapes.

Isabella: An older cross between vitis labrusca and some unidentified European variety, this grape can withstand tropical conditions, which is why it’s planted on Bali and in India as well as Portugal’s Azores.

2016 Azores Wine Company Isabella a Proibida ($36)
This wine has a wild, exotic character, with rich cherryish flavors, an earthy, iron tang, and salty acidity. The name is obscured on the label because the grape is officially prohibited in the European Union.

Marquette: Introduced in 2006 by the University of Minnesota, this red is high in acidity, low in tannin, and reminds me of gamay. It’s the red hybrid that most impressed me.

2016 La Garagista Damejeanne ($45)
Bright, floral, spicy, and power-packed with fruit and flavor, this Vermont red has some gamay character but a richer personality.

2017 Pinard & Filles Frangin ($57)
This lighter-bodied, thirst-quenching Quebec blend of marquette and frontenac gris (a mutant of frontenac) has elegant sour cherry and raspberry fruit flavors.

Eastern Wineries Exposition Begins March 19-21, 2019

I have been attending EWE since it began. And I am going again this year. I'll be blogging about the wines I taste, and I'll be blogging about the various seminars I love going to EWE. I discover new things at the trade show, reorder things at the trade show, trade ideas and information with other winemakers, and discover new grapes, winemaking styles, vineyard techniques, and more. And I'll see a lot of friends. It will be informative and fun.

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Now in its 8th year, EWE is the largest winery/vineyard event held east of the Pacific states. Your members will have the opportunity to meet with nearly 240 exhibiting companies; attend workshop & conference sessions covering all aspects of the winery and vineyard business, presented by leaders in their fields; network with 1,000+ other industry professionals; and attend the numerous social & networking events. The benefits of attendance are plentiful! And for the 3rd year, the License to Steal wine marketing conference will be held in conjunction with EWE. NYWGF Members and Hudson Valley Wine Country members SAVE 10%. The discount code for members is 19NYWG

Finger Lakes Wine Community Rallies for Fundraising Event for Tim Moore of Inspire Moore Wine

I, like many others, have been a bg fan of Timothy Moore and his wife Diane and their wines at Inspire Moore Winery. He's a good guy, with an easy smile, and he's helped a lot of people in the industry.

We recently learned that Tim Moore is once again fighting cancer. His wife, Dianna, shared "Tim’s melanoma has returned, in the form of brain metastasis, and while he has started a medication to help fight this thing, in the two week he’s been on it he has had some serious digression. He’s slowly lost his speech and the movement on the right side of his body. We aren’t sure what is going on, but fear the tumors growing despite the medications." Tim received an enormous amount of support from the industry during his last fight with cancer, and the people closest to him have asked that the community comes together again for Tim.

On May 26th a fundraising event will be held in the Finger Lakes. They will be offering wine and beer as part of the admission/tickets. Anyone interested in donating wine to this event, please contact Michael Johnson at Hudmoo at

To donate to their GoFundMe site:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Drinking History: High Tor Virgin Cherry (c. 1981) (NY)

I am a big fan of High Tor Vineyards of Rockland County, NY...a long closed iconic New York state winery once located on the Hudson River. The winery was owned by a quirky man named Everette Summer Crosby. He'd written for stage, radio, and screen, but decided he liked winemaking best. He made High Tor Vineyards a name that was known nationally. His winery was not only notable in the Hudson Valley but as a shining example of New York state wine. He appeared in the New York Times, and elsewhere in the media. Along with Mark Miller, he helped raise the level of winemaking and acknowledgement in the Hudson Valley. Indeed, Miller often sounded out ideas, tips, tricks, and conferred with Crosby on a regular basis. 

Crosby himself wrote an entertaining book, The Vintage Years. Still a very fun read...and apparently little has changed in the wine game almost 80 years later.

New York economist Christopher Wells bought the winery and continued to make wine into the mid-1980s, but never achieved the success Crosby had there. Well stretched out into fruit and dessert wines while he owned the place, and was featured in 1985 in New York magazine.

Doug Croll, known as the tolerant taster was the person who drank this wine. Apaprently, someone found it in their cellar and ulled it out at a tasting party. The amused Croll posted it. "Enjoyed an old Rockland County dessert wine. No vintage but it was full brown in color..." I was in shock! I immediately pestered the poor poster, known as Toleranttaster.

"It was served at a wine club I am in," wrote Croll. "And it was actually still drinking well."

Today, High Tor is a park enjoyed by thousands each year. The winery and vineyard are long gone. 

Still, Croll was drinking a wine that was easily 24 years old. Possibly 25 years old. And it had held up. So interesting what you'll find at a dinner party.

To read more about High Tor:

Sugar Loaf Mountain Comus 2011 (MD)

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Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard opened its doors in 2006. It has been a highly regarded quality producer ever since. I first discovered them at the Drink Local conference in Maryland hosted by Dave McIntyre and co-hosted by The Cork Report's Lenn Thompson. It was a pleasant surprise to find as I was searching around the basement for something to go with a fresh pasta dish I was making.

The vines are grown in the  unique microclimate at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. The winery’s 22 acres of vines are French vinifera clones grafted on American rootstock and were carefully selected by world-renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton. They currently grow five white varieties and five red varieties. The grapes are hand-picked, cold-soaked, cold-fermented and aged in stainless steel or French oak barrels.

The winery currently produces Chardonnay, Unoaked Chardonnay, Viognier, Penelope (dry white blend), and Siren(off-dry white blend). Their red list includes Cabernet Franc, plus their signature Bordeaux-style blends: Comus and EVOE!, Petite Merlot, Petitie Verdot,

The team consists of new owner Emily Yang, the winemaker Manolo Gomez, the Vineyard Manager: Julio Rivas, Jeffrey Lund managing the tasting room, along with Tasting Room Assistant Manager Dominique Forsman.

Comus is a traditional Meritage-styled wine, featuring a largely Merlot, with a nice quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon helping to round out the first 50% or so, with the balance being Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. The wine was agd approximately 18 months in new French oak.

I first had the wine at Drink Local event back some years ago, but kept a bottle in the cellar to wait and see what happened. The other day, we had a big plate of pasta and decided to check it out. Being an older vintage, I did not know what to expect. Afterall, the wine was eight years old. My children were still in middle school when I bough this (One's a chef now, and the other one is a salesman). It seemed a lifetime ago!

I had nothing to fear. Cherry exploded out of the glass! It was big ripe cherry, dark and fresh. With notes of cocoa, mocha, plum and blueberry and cranberry. Hints of cedar and toast and black pepper. The wine was fresh and vibrant. The finish was terrific, with a nice acidity followed by a lasting bright cherry-ish flavor. Amazing. A terrific wine and a lovely surprise.

If you like fine wine, you will LOVE Sugarloaf Mountain COMUS!!!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Rebirth and Growth: Coppersea Bonticou Crag Straight Rye Malt Whisky (NY)

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Coppersea is one of the quieter distilleries in the Hudson Valley. They tend to make their stuff, show up at events and farmers markets, and let their spirits do the talking. For a long time, their production was small, mostly Raw Rye, and they held a cult status among Hudson Valley spirits collectors.

The distillery was founded by Angus MacDonald. He passed away and the distillery was reborn. But they kept his basic message which was excellent ingredients, and they must be local...all local.

Christopher Briar Williams is Chief Distiller & Blender / Orchardist. According to the website, "Williams conceives and develops Coppersea’s spirit expressions, manages general distillery operations and represents the brand in the market. He initiated Coppersea’s floor malting, mashing and distilling techniques and is responsible for barrel management, blending and overall quality. He also oversees Coppersea’s pear orchard....Christopher honed his skills as a brewer and distiller in the Chicago area at Metropolitan Brewing and Few Spirits. Prior to that, he spent several years working on farms in the Hudson Valley. He was a founding board member of the New York State Distillers Guild. Christopher holds a BA in American studies from the George Washington University. He is an avid backpacker and spends much of his free time in the Catskills backcounty."

Williams is backed up in the distillery operations by Kerry Beyer and Patrick Franco and Brad Nagle. Michael Kintslick is CEO.

In the last year or so, Coppersea repackaged their whole line, and introduced some new spirits. I like Coppersea's new look, and expanded production (they can now be found much more readily on bar shelves than say four or five years ago). They are all about local, and use only local ingredients. They do their own malting and use New York oak to age their spirits, making the spirits truly local.

Coppersea’s Whiskies include Excelsior Bourbon (aged in New York oak), Bonticou Crag Straight Single Malt Rye, and Big Angus Green Malt.

The Coppersea Excelsior Bourbon is made from 100% New York grains and aged in New York oak, making it a truly local bourbon. It has a mash bill of 60% corn, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley. It's smooth and easy drinking, with notes of  sweet corn, cereal, caramel, chocolate, apricots, and cherries. A nice dose of vanilla too. Very nice!

According to their website, Coppersea Big Angus "is an oak-aged single malt whisky made with 100 percent unkilned, or “green” two-row barley malt. Typically, malted grain is kiln-dried after the germination process to generate nutty flavors and aromas and to make it non-perishable for storage and shipping. Since Coppersea is one of the rare distilleries in the world to malt its grain in-house, we are able to use the fresh green malt immediately, preserving the earthy, herbaceous qualities that are lost in kilning. Coppersea Distilling is proud to bring this ancient, all-but-lost style of whisky back into the world. Big Angus honors the memory of Coppersea’s founding Master Distiller, Angus MacDonald." The spirits are aged in 1 year in 2nd year used barrels. As promised in the tasting notes, the fresh hay, lemongrass, and fig come through loud and clear. The caramel and spices are also lovely.

The last is the CopperseaBonticou Crag Straight Single Malt Rye. Bonticou Crag takes its name from the peak overlooking the distillery's farm. Bonticou Crag Straight Single Malt Rye is made from 100% Hudson Valley rye from their own and neighboring farms. They malt the rye themselves, kiln it to a light toast, and mash in open-top wood fermenters. As with all Coppersea spirits, they distill twice in direct-fired alembic stills. So, it's 100% Hudson Valley rye that's then aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Caramel, cinnamon, exotic spices, and lots of black pepper and gingersnap come through. Very, very lovely.

Love the repackaging and love the lastest series of whiskies!

My Newest Piece for THE CORK REPORT: Vineyard Designate: Pheasant Hill Vineyard (New Jersey)

The Cork Report

This is my newest piece for THE CORK REPORT. The idea is to showcase some of the best and most important vineyards sites on the East Coast and Midwest. We’re calling this new series “Vineyard Designate.”

Pheasant Hill Vineyard (credit: Unionville Vineyards)

Pheasant Hill Vineyard, which is owned and managed by Unionville Vineyards, currently has one of the largest and most celebrated blocks of chardonnay in the state, as well as blocks of pinot noir, syrah, viognier, and mourvedre.

It’s that chardonnay that has garnered the most praise.

The vineyard is located on the southern edge of the Sourland Mountains and is planted on a southern exposure, on a 12% south facing slope with a neutral ph, well-drained soil, over sandstone, shale, and clay. In short, an ideal location. The chardonnay comprises one whole block by itself.

The Pheasant Hill site was first planted in 1999 when friends and family helped Unionville’s managing partner Bob Wilson plant the first chardonnay vines on a south-facing field located below the Hunt House. A Johnson & Johnson executive for most of the 1990s, Wilson’s goal was to develop a vineyard, in his retirement, that would produce best possible wines. He had traveled extensively during his career, places like Europe, South Africa, Australia, and California, and in all these places he’d fallen in love with quality wines.

As fate would have it, he was not retired long. But fortunately, he was long enough to plant this unique vineyard site.