Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Autumn Lake Estate Barrel Reserve Albarino 2018

While at Eastern Winery Exposition 2020 in Lancaster, PA, I got a chance to taste the new Albarino from Autumn Lake Winery. 

Located in Gloucester county, Williamstown, Autumn Lake Winery was established in 2012 with the ambition of being an all estate winery. Their goal was always to be a quality producer. Grown above the lakes where little else can flourish, all of their vines enjoy a view of the water. It provides cold weather moderation and warm weather breezes, perfect for slow and steady ripening. Mark Hernandez is the owner/winemaker.

The Autumn Lake Albarino 2018 was grown in the Outer Coastal Plain. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged in French oak barrels for 6 months This incredibly lovely white wine exploded with notes of honeydew and orange peel and other exotic fruits. Green apple and lemon hit the palate followed by a zippy finish green apple and lemon. Bright, refreshing, and delicious. A very very exceptional version of the varietal wine. Very impressive.

Mark and company - Congrats on a fantastic wine!

Ethereal: Fox Run Chardonnay Kaiser Vineyard 2018 (NY)

Peter Bell has outdone himself. For those of you who don't know, Peter Bell is the winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards. He's are erudite as Gore Vidal, and has a sense of humor like Buck Henry. Oh, and he plays banjo like Steve Martin. He happens to also be a terrific winemaker and mentor to it seems like almost anyone making wine in the northeast. Ever self-effacing, Bell gives a nod to Fox Run Assistant Winemaker Lindsey VanKeuren.

I tasted this wine at the Eastern Winery Exposition 2020 in Lancaster, PA. 

First, let me geek out, and say how happy I they made this a vineyard designate wine. Truly the sign of confidence (in the vineyard and the winemaker), pride, and quality. This used to be called the Chardonnay Reserve. Nice, but a tad plainsong. However, nothing plainsong about Fox Run Chardonnay Reserve 2017 (it got a 90 from Wine & Spirit magazine). I prefer single vineyard designate because it is a stronger statement. 

The Doyle Family Vineyard, sourced for previous vintages, is located on the east side of Seneca Lake and is one of the oldest plantings of the grape in New York State. The wine has traditionally had a touch of some other grape, Traminette in the past.

Fox Run Chardonnay Kaiser Vineyard 2018 is ethereal. It starts of with notes of tropical fruits and a big whollop of pear and bright green apple. Notes of lemon and vanilla and honeysuckle pervade. And the wine finishes with hints of mineral and a long, long bright citrus finish. Elegant. Bright. Complex. A whirlwind of smells and tastes, but all harmonic. Almost like Haydn's Water Music. A brilliant, brilliant wine. Exceptional!

Congrats to winemaker Peter Bell and owner Scott Osborn!

Fossenvue Queen's Castle Assemblage 2018 (NY)

I was introduced to Fossenvue by Phil Plummer, who has been with the company almost twenty years, starting out as a cellar rat, and working his way up to making the wines for Montezuma, Idol Ridge, and now Fossenvue. I met him at Eastern Wineries Exposition 2020.

Phil Plummer |

The Martin family has been in the wine business since 1999. Today, they own three wineries, two distilleries and a satellite tasting room. They started on Cayuga Lake with Montezuma Winery & Hidden Marsh Distillery and then opened a tasting room in Old Forge, NY. Recently they expanded to Seneca Lake with their neighbor, Idol Ridge Winery & Alder Creek Distillery. Even more recently,  they established Fossenvue Winery, previously known as Kings Garden Vineyards.

According to their website, "Fossenvue Winery’s name is based on the women’s suffrage campsite in Lodi, NY but bases its brand and wines off the Martin family’s roots. The Martin’s began their journey as beekeepers when they decided to dabble into wine-making with traditional mead. Throughout the years they have created a variety of honey wines as well as fruit wines, traditional grape wines and more. Our winery not only ties us back to the Martin’s history but also a piece of history from Lodi. Fossenvue, also known as “Queens Castle”, is a camp located in Lodi that was originally created by women for recreation, meetings and games. Within this camp hung the message, 'kindle friendship'".

Fossenvue Queen's Castle Assemblage 2018 is a blend of Saperavi, Cabernet Franc, and Lemberger. It has a lovely ripe cherry attach of fresh cherry and dark cherry with a hint of dark sour cherry to boot. Hints of raspberry, spice, licorice, bramble, cedar and a lovely vanilla finish. It has hints of violets and blueberry. Lots of layer, beautiful balance, and wonderfully complex. It is a medium-to-big bodied wine, like a fine Rhone or light Neuf de Pape. It almost had an Italian feel to it. A wonderful, wonderful wine. Very expressive. Finely made and extremely well finished. A fabulous red wine from the Finger Lakes.

Congrats to Phil and the Martin family.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Eastern Winery Exposition 2020 - A Who's Who of East Coast Winemaking

David Falcheck of the American Wine Society and 
Richard Leahy of the Eastern Winery Exposition.

Despite the impending Coronavirus doom that was first spreading on the west coast, it seemed like the Eastcoast Winery Exposition 2020 was the last gasp before many went home to face quarentines in their home regions. Despite that, the EWE 2020 was a major success. The classes were widely attended, and there were few if any cancellations by attendees or vendors. To all reports, the conference was a success.

One this for sure, there was a who's who of eastern winery personalities here in Lancaster for this important three day event.

Seferino Cotzojay winemaker of White Horse Vineyards

Steve Casscles, grape historian, 
and winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery

Damien Blanchon, winemaker Afton Mountain Vineyards

 Phil Plummer, winemaker at Montezuma Winery and Dave Falcheck, AWS

Steve Defrancesco, winemaker Glenora Wine Cellars

Carlo DeVito, Eastcoast Wineries and Hudson-Chatham Winery
and Steve Defrancesco of Glenora Winery
Chris Pearmund, winemaker at Pearmud Cellars

Tiffany Farrell, winemaker at Haak Vineyards

Conor Quilty winemaker at Unionville Vineyards

John Cifelli general manager at Unionville Vineyards 

Marty Cook of Marty on Wine

Gary Pavalis, Rutgers University

Mark Carduner of Working Dog Vineyards

Erik Heritage, vineyard management and 
Bill Heritage, owner Heritage Vineyards

Suzy Hayes and Doug Miles of Miles Wine Cellars

Phil from Montezuma and the winemaking and marketing staff 
of Hermit Woods Winery Ken Hardcastle, Chuck Lawrence, and Bob Manley

Danny Klein, American Wine Society

Robin Swan Shreeves, the Courier-Post and Wine and Wonder

Samuel Centeno, Brotherhood Winery

Doug Fabiloi of Fabioli Vineyards and
Mike Fiore of Fiore Vineyards and Distilling 

Todd Wueker of Hawk Haven Vineyards

Robin Swan Shreeves, Terri Newman-Hyde 
and Kathy Lang Wiedemann 

Nancy Parker Wilson and Bill Wilson of Greenvale Vineyards

Tara Good of WineAmerica
and Dave Falcheck of AWS

Steve Defrancesco

Tim Benedict of  Hazlitt Wine Cellars

Kathy Lang Wiedemann of Vinuous Musings

Chuck Difasi, Jenni Ann Mignarri 
and Bob Mignarri of Eastern Wineries Exposition

Vineyard expert Lucy Morton, 
Bob Deford and wife Julie of Boordy Vineyards

Phineas Deford of Boordy

Julie and Bob Deford and Nancy Parker

Joe Fiola, University of Western Maryland

Joe Fiola, Michael Kaiser of WineAmerica, and 
Christine Wells Vrooman of Ankida Ridge Vineyards

Lucie Morton and Michael Kaiser

Richard Leahy, Marcia Gulino, and Chuck Difasi

Steve Shaw, of Shaw Vineyards

Steve Casscles

Tony and Mike Fiore
Fiore Winery and Distillery

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sexy, Sultry: Shelburne Vineyards Iapetus Subduction 2017 (VA)

Ethan Joseph has made a name for himself becoming the winemaker at Shelburne Vineyards. He grew up on Mt. Lake, a small area in northern NJ. He grew to love water and the great outdoors. This eventually led him to the shores of Lake Champlain and the University of Vermont, where he pursued a degree in water resources, and subsequently discovered a passion for winegrowing.

He started at Shelburne early in 2008, and became obsessed with the science, art, and mystery of wine. In almost 11 full years of self-education and first-hand experience he has grown immensely. He was also fortunate enough to have the full backing and support of Shelburne's owners Ken and Gail Albert. With this kind of backing, and passion, Ethan has made huge strides, and can now be counted among New England's best wine makers. 

Shelburne Vineyard Iapetus Subduction Marquette McCabe’s Brook 2017 was excellent.

According to Shelbourne, the Marquette for this wine is grown on two of their three vineyard sites, planted in 2008 at McCabe’s Brook and in 2010 at Mt Philo. Vines are trained to a hi-wire system on 10’x8’ and 9’x6’ spacing. Both sites have a slightly western aspect and north-south row orientation which allow for maximum sunlight and exposure to prevailing winds. Soils are deep, well drained, sandy/stony loams formed in both glacial till derived from limestone, calcareous shale, schist, and quartzite and on sandy deltas, beaches and terraces that are underlain by medium-textured lacustrine deposits. 

Again, according to the website, "The majority of the grapes for this wine head to tank destemmed and uncrushed, with 10% left as whole cluster and additional stems added back. Maceration was eighty-six days, after which the must was pressed, and racked into oak barrels within twenty-four hours. MLF was induced but not completed. The wine aged sur lie in barrels of various ages for a total of eight months with battonage performed weekly for the first three and half months. Once blended, the wine settled in a stainless steel tank for an additional two months before bottling. This vintage also has the addition of a 4% blend of several other red varieties."

This is really extracted stuff. Lots of whole berries and carbonic masceration lend a fruitiness to the wine.And a softness. Medium cherries and raspberries and plum come across. It's soft and approachable. With lovely layers.Ends with leather, black pepper, and the fruit lingers a nice long time. This is a sexy, sultry red wine. A classy, sophisticated wine.

A beautiful, well cared for wine, using everythign at his disposal to make an intense but balanced and complex wine.

Ethan has really done something special with the Iapetus stable of wines. The Iapetus wines are some of the best in all of New England. 

My previous story on Iapetus:

Courtyard Chardonel Sidehill Road Overlook Vineyard 2018 (PA)

I first tasted this wine at the Eastern Winery Exposition 2020, in Lancaster, PA.

Randy and Laura Graham are the owners of Courtyard Winery. Randy's great grandparents packed baskets of fresh-picked grapes and sent them to New York City by railcar from North East. Laura’s grandparents were also fruit farmers who settled in the Bay Area of California. They met in California, but moved to the town of North East, Pennsylvania where the environment was also more to their liking for starting a family.

In 2007 after years of growing and selling grapes and making wine at home, they decided to add a winery to their 125 acre vineyard farming operation. Today, there are over 30 varieties of grapes grown on 10,000 acres of vineyards in North East, Pennsylvania. 

Courtyard Chardonel Sidehill Road Overlook Vineyard 2018 is made with Chardonel, a grape variety developed by Cornell University. In essence, it is a cross between Seyval Blanc and Chardonel. 

According to Wikipedia, "It is distinguished by its superior wine quality combined with high productivity and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent Chardonnay. The vine is vigorous and productive, producing green grapes with large clusters." 

This wine was a lovely surprise. As with any relatively new grape, it usually takes almost a decade for good wines to consistently derive from that fruit. (The same was good for Traminette as well). It starts of with lovely tropical notes as well as green apple and ripe pear. A ;lovely, bright middle, and a refreshing acidity that makes it quite lovely. A terrific wine, and one of the best Chardonnel's I have had. Really shows you the possibilities of this grape.

Great job to the folks at Courtyard Winery.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Terrific! Heritage Chambourcin Burn Pile Vineyard 2012 (NJ)

Image may contain: drink

For those of you who don't now, I am a big fan of Chambourcin and Baco Noir. Too many wineries buy into the old saw that these are inferior grapes. Snobs. People of lesser understanding. In order to prove this, they back sweeten the wines, and make sweet, inexpensive reds that are aimed for popular consumption...and are usually not very good.

But recently, winemakers are giving the grapes better treatment, and voila! the wines are impressive. Sean Camninos at William Heritage Vineyards has made a lovely Chambourcin that is most impressive as a dry table wine. (Side note, I think Chambourcin makes great ports and solid nouveau too!)

William Heritage has skyrocketed in reputation over the last five years to become one of the best wineries in the state. Recently, I pulled out of my cellar a William Heritage Chambourcin Estate 2012 that I must have bought about five years ago, when I did a story about them in Edible New Jersey.

Heritage uses their Chambourcin in several wines, mostly blends as well as a small bottling of this varietal juggernaut. The William Heritage Chambourcin 2012 was superb! The grapes are estate grown, from the Burn Pile Vineyard.  "There’s always a blend or two, but there is a varietal each year. The single vineyard “burnpile” site is really unique," said Sean.

It starts of with a big dark red stewed fruit attack. Dark stewed cherries, raspberries, and plums all blend together in am impressive statement. Notes of slate, mocha, and spice eventually give way to toast and vanilla. A lovely dry wine with big fruit and lovely tannins. Complex  Well balanced.  It offers new layers with each sip.

One of the better Chambourcins available today. An impressive wine that will be a terrific surprise to you guests...even the snobs.

Good wine is good wine. And Sean Caminos is make terrific wines.

Congrats to all those at William Heritage!

Two Wonderful Wines From Elmaro Vineyard (WI)

I first tasted Elmaro Vineyard at Eastern Winery Exposition 2020 in Lancaster, PA just less than a month ago.

Elmaro Vineyard features a white pine on the label. The one featured on the label has been on the property about twice as long as the owners' family. The vineyard site was homesteaded in the 1850’s, and the Elmaro tree is estimated at being 300 years old. Elmaro is family owned and run, they planted their first vines in the spring of 2006.

There are five owners of Elmaro. Lynita Docken, Mark Delaney, Todd and Laura Roessler, and Cameron Delaney. 

Lynita May Docken was one of three women master plumbers in Wisconsin. When she discovered the University of Minnesota grape hybrids she was hooked. She planted Marquette. In 2010, she completed her enology (study of winemaking) certificate from the University of California – Davis. 

Mark Edward Delaney has farmed since he was a boy. He and his dad, Robert, planted soybeans as their first crop on the family homestead. The old farmhouse foundation sat underneath an over 300 year old white pine tree in the middle of the eighty aches of sandy loam that started as Mark’s great-great-great-grandparents’ dream. Mark and his parents continued to farm this land and up to 1400 acres more every season since he was a boy. They formed Elmaro Farms Incorporated and the name equally represents them in the first two letters of each of their names: Elaine, Mark, and Robert. Then came the grapes…Mark sold almost every piece of farming equipment he owned March 15, 2010 and turned it over to start a winery. He said, “I accomplished my dream of farming. It’s time to help someone else achieve theirs.” He managed the vineyard and any other task put before him till this spring when he decided to take a little more time for himself. 

Elmaro Marquette 2017 is aged in American and French oak for two years. It is a medium bodied red with notes of fresh cherries, raspberries, and a big note of plum with hints of vanilla. The wine is complex and well balanced. a Lovely, lovely wine!

Elmaro Edelweiss is a varietal wine. 

According to Wikipedia, "Edelweiss is a very winter-hardy wine grape variety, pale green in color, derived from crossing the Minnesota 78 and Ontario grapes. It was developed by Elmer Swenson in 1980 in cooperation with the University of Minnesota. The clusters are large and rather loose, weighing a pound or more. Early picking of the grape is essential for making a wine. Should Edelweiss not be harvested early, the completely ripe Vitis labrusca flavoring becomes too strong for the palate of most. Edelweiss was first developed as a table grape. This variety bears the Minnesota winters...Edelweiss has strong resistance to grape disease and fungus and can tolerate negative thirty-five degree temperatures."

Elmaro Edelweiss is a light bodied crisp semi-sweet white. Edelweiss has notes of fresh pineapple and pear. Lovely tropical fruit and sweetness are balanced by a nice acidity, so this is a delicious wine, but also very refreshing. 

Lovely pair from Elmaro!