Because a man (or woman) can't live on local wine alone, join me in welcoming Donavan Hall to the LENNDEVOURS team. A Rocky Point, NY resident, Donavan is going to be covering the under-appreciated local beers of Long Island and New York State.
Think about your favorite food – roast duck, filet mignon, foie gras – whatever it is. Would you want to eat that food for every meal, day in and day out?
Chances are you wouldn’t, no matter how much you love it.
So it should come as no surprise that winemakers, who often taste dozens of wines every single day, don’t always drink the same wines when they are “off the clock.” In fact, most agree that drinking only their own wine is a bad idea.
We asked several local winemakers and winery owners what they drink when they are away from the winery. The answers are as diverse as the respondents’ backgrounds and goals.
Friday night (more on that in a moment) I smoked my first pork shoulder. I bought a 9 lb. picnic shoulder not knowing that most pit master prefer the "butt" portion of the shoulder to the picnic.
But (pun intended) I had what I had...and it turned out delicious.
I started by trimming off quite a bit of fat (not all of it mind you) and the skin on the lower portion of the roast. I don't have a scale that goes high enough to weigh this size roast, but I'm guessing I took at least a pound or two off of the bone-in piece of meat.
I know...you're still waiting for Fabulous Favorites Festival (WBW/IMBB) roundup. It's coming this week, believe me. Alberto and I are working on it...stay tuned.
In the mean time, I'm happy to announce Wine Blogging Wednesday #22, hosted by Tim Elliot of Winecast. On June 14, Tim wants us to find/taste/review a red wine. Simple enough, right? But here's the catch -- it needs to be a low-alcohol red, 12.5% ABV or lower.
Now, as a resident of a cool climate wine region, I'm not going to have any problems finding a wine that fits the bill. But this should be a very interesting exercise for many of you -- especially you zinfandel fans out there.
...what is going on in the kitchen. And when the beagle wants to know something, you best tell him.
Seriously, he's a tough dog. He'll mess you up.
(Okay, so maybe he won't. Maybe we've never even heard him growl, let alone seen him bite anyone. Maybe he's a big softy who likes nothing more than to cuddle with Nena on the couch every night. He still wants to knw what is going on in the kitchen -- so just tell him, okay?)
Merlot is clearly the king of Long Island wine. Sometimes it’s the only grape we hear about. It’s the most planted variety and, in the hands of the best winemakers, consistently leads to many of the region’s best wines. But what else is out here on the East End?
Sure, there’s a bay full of chardonnay, made in any number of different styles, and there’s cabernet franc, the often-dismissed variety of Bordeaux. But the wines that too often get lost in the tasting shuffle are the delectable dessert wines. Think you don’t like dessert wines because they are too sweet/heavy/syrupy/high in alcohol? Not so fast. There are world-class dessert wines made right in your backyard that aren’t any of those things. You need only look for them.
And on occasion you really do need to look for them. Because dessert wines can be expensive, up to $50 or more for a 375ml bottle, many wineries don’t pour them in their tasting rooms as part of the usual flight, if at all. But, if you ask, and there is a bottle open behind the tasting bar, you just might get lucky.
Most of Long Island’s best after dinner sippers are made in the style of ice wine or Eiswein, a style of wine that originated in 18th century Germany. In traditional Eiswein, grapes are left on the vines until the first deep frost. When wine grapes freeze, the water is trapped as ice, leaving concentrated nectar that is intensely sweet and flavorful. Most Long Island wines aren’t truly ice wines because the grapes are picked when ripe (typically long before they freeze) and then frozen in commercial freezers before being made into wine.
So which wines are Long Island’s best dessert wines?
In June, the are starting with their Wine Discovery Series, which will provides students with a solid foundation in the basics of grape growing, wine making and tasting technique and can serve as a great first step before you head out to the local wineries. Class tastings will focus on either a variety of wine styles or on component tasting (sweet vs. dry, acid, tannin).
The first class "Vine to Wine" will explore the full production cycle. It covers grape growing and important factors that affect wine production as well as wine production itself. Students will be guided through a tasting of five wines of differing styles and types.
I've been emailing with Jared for weeks (months) now and we're just trying to find a time to meet over a glass (or two...or ten) of wine. He and I seem to share a lot of the same goals for the local wine scene, along with Pittsburgh Steelers fandom.
And, both Jared and Tracy have started their own blogs:
Look for more here soon as I get to know them both more. I know that they are preparing to plant their own educational vineyard on the property, and I can certainly see some dual Grand Cru-LENNDEVOURS projects in the future.
All of their June classes are 50% and I know for a fact that they have a few seats left. Sign up today.
For the first course of our Old Home + Fresh WineStormhoek wine dinner, my mother in law, known as MIL, cooked up a delicious, flavorful goat cheese tart to pair with Stormhoek's equally delicous 2005 Sauvignon Blanc.
First, the recipe for the tart:
MIL's Goat Cheese Tart
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board Kosher salt 13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water 3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4
shallots) 10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese
(recommended: Montrachet} 1 cup heavy cream 3 extra-large
eggs 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves 1/8 teaspoon freshly
ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor
fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter
into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of
peas. With the machine running, add the ice water all at once and process until
the dough becomes crumbly. Don't overprocess. Dump the dough out on a floured
board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate
for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit it into a
9-inch tart pan with a removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off
the excess dough. Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter
side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20
minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all
over with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the
remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low
heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the
food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4
teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended. Scatter the cooked
shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over
the shallots to fill the shell (if the shell has shrunk, there may be leftover
filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the
top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room
Next, the wine...which, of the four Stormhoek wines I served with dinner, was probably my second favorite. The wine's balance was impressive...medium-light body, crisp but not overpowering acidity and flavors of ripe citrus with just a little herbal quality. I've been told that the wine will retail for around $10 and at that price it's really a great value. I'd definitely drink it again...especially with this goat cheese tart.
For at least six months (okay, more like a year) I've been knocking around the idea of putting together a party for my readers and friends both inside and interested in the Long Island wine industry.
Every time I focus on it, however, I find myself wondering "Would anyone actually come? Does anyone really care?"
So, rather than knock myself out...I figured I'd just ask.
I'm thinking this party would happen on a weekend sometime just before, during or just after grape harvest (think October-ish time frame), out on the East End (either at a winery or at a B&B), with catered food, local wines and a whole lot of fun.
It's hard to say at this point what it would cost per person...but it'll be as affordable as possible while still being tasty (no plonk allowed).
Who's with me? Leave a comment to let me know if you'd come.
Baco Noir a variety I don't know all that much about, is leading to some good wine from that area, particularly one from Peller Estates. Jay, a Long Island native, believes in drinking local I think...and you all know how I feel about that.
It highlights what one North Fork winery, Paumanok Vineyards, is doing with their chardonnay program. You are all well aware of my love affair with low-to-no oak chardonnay, but I was reminded of an important lesson with these wines. Oak isn't always a bad thing.
Macari Vineyards 2004 Estate Chardonnay ($15) is a lean, crisp white made 100% in stainless steel tanks. Still a bit tight, it takes vigorous swirling to coaxe faint citrus and just-ripe pear aromas from the glass.
Fresh and clean in the mouth, the flavors are a little on the simple side, but are nicely balanced by acidity and minerality. A tart, kiwi-flavored finish is a highlight.
If this wine were $10 or even $12 it would be a nice summer sipper because it's so refreshing and easy drinking, but at $15 I expect more.
When Alberto and I decided to team up for WBW #21 and IMBB #26, I had aspirations of doing a five- or six-course tasting menu with our favorite foods with our favorites wines.
As happens way too often for my liking, a hectic real life forced me to scale back severely. Instead of multiple wines and courses, I'm offering one wine with one dish. But, this combination more than makes up for the lack of quantity with quality.
Almost immediately upon announcing the event, I wanted Nena to pick the wine or wines we would pair with food. I should have known that when I asked her to pick at least one favorite wine that my small stash (two bottles) of Wolffer Estate 2003 Late Harvest Chardonnay was in danger.
Right I was...and now we're down to just one bottle. And just so you know, Nena, that bottle is not being opened for at least another five years. Got it?
On to the event and pairing.
Nena loves this wine with good reason, it is a rich, alluring gold in the glass, with intense aromas and flavors of peaches, apricots and burnt sugar. Succulent and sweet, it's balanced extremely well with acidity that makes me think this wine will age and improve for years to come. At one point, we had six or seven bottles of the stuff...and despite our best efforts, the stash has dwindled.
Personally, I enjoy this wine by itself...it's a delicious sipping wine after a meal or with cheese. But, that isn't the point of the Fabulous Favorites Festival...so, we tried something new -- Grilled Pound Cake with Grilled Peaches.
As I announced a few weeks ago, I'm going to be making my own wine at Raphael this fall -- from a 25-vine row of cabernet franc grapes.
With all the dreary weather we've been having lately, I rescheduled my appointment last weekend to visit "my" vines. Hopefully I'll be able to check them out over Memorial Day weekend.
But, a local vineyard manager (who used to manage Raphael's vineyards), Ben Sisson sent me an email yesterday that served as a reminder as to just how busy I'd be if I were truly managing those vines:
How’s life as a vigneron? Did you have a good budbreak? Have you sprayed yet? What did you use? Have you suckered yet? How about shoot thinning, did you begin that yet? What kind of crop load are you anticipating? Are you going to thin pre- or post-bloom? Is this rain having any impact on your mangement decisions, or causing labor issues?
Just kidding around, but wanted you to get an idea of what a vineyard manager needs to be thinking about, after all we all know (repeat after me) “The wine is made in the vineyard”
I think it's easy to forget just how intricate and complicated growing grapes can be...especially in cooler climates.
I do hope to do some vineyard work this summer...but it's hard to do any truly meaningful work without being in the fields every single day.
Not well at all. It was tremendously oversold, lots of people were turned away at the door and apparently even if you got in, the food was gone almost immediately and it was too backed to move. Then, to top it all off, I've heard that the fire department shut down the event.
I've sent several emails to the organizers, Shoreline Beverage, trying to get an official statement and asking how I can direct people about getting refunds. As soon as I hear anything, I'll pass it along.
It's really a shame. There were some great breweries in attendance and it was for a great cause. I guess they just got in over their head in terms of planning an event of this size. There's really no excuse for turning people away at the door who have bought tickets way in advance.
Hopefully next year, if they do it again, they'll either sell far fewer tickets or find a bigger venue.
I tasted three different chardonnays from Paumanok Vineyards yesterday for a story I was working on. One was 100% steel fermented -- fresh, crisp and refereshing. It was what I expected. The other two were barrel fermented, and while both had nice acidity and avoided overuse of oak, one wine truly stood out.
Fermented in new French oak barrels, Paumanok 2004 Grand Vintage Chardonnay ($30) actually has me questioning my own chardonnay preferences. In fact, it may be the best chardonnay I've tasted from the North Fork in years. There are winemakers in Burgundy who wish they could make a wine like this.
Winemaker Charles Massoud only makes Grand Vintage bottlings in the best years from the best fruit, and this is only the third GV chardonnay in Paumanok's history (1995 and 2000 were the others). The nose is rich and ripe with pineapple and mandarin orange aromas accented by toasted coconut. Expertly balanced with medium body and a creamy-yet-fresh mouthfeel, the intense flavors closely match the nose with a elongated, elegant finish. Outstanding, and as a 2004 still pretty young. I expect this one to develop and improve over the next few years.
It's important to remember...we shouldn't blame the tools (oak barrels), but the artisans (winemakers). When used judiciously, oak influence leads to wines like this one.
It’s not quite beach season yet here on Long Island, but it’s probably on a lot of peoples' minds. And, Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack has released three wines that belong on the beach — and at your next BBQ.
As you have probably noticed, Long Island wine’s “sweet spot” in terms of price-for-quality tends to be in the $20+ realm. Unfortunately, that turns a lot of wine drinkers off (silly, silly people), but one of my favorite wines for less than $15 has long been Wolffer’s simple-but-tasty La Ferme Martin Chardonnay ($14). My first bottle from the newly released 2004 vintage surprised me — the oak influence seemed much more apparent than past vintages — not a good thing in my book. Had one of our favorite summer “house” wines lost its decidedly East Coast style?
Perhaps it was just my palate that day or that individual bottle, but upon opening a second bottle a few days later, my fears were allayed. The nose was fresh with ripe pears and citrus with only a sprinkling of oak inflection. Refreshingly light but ripe, this is a fruit-driven summer sipper with abundant pear and apple flavors accented by a squeeze of lime. For $14 (and you can find it for as little as $10 at some wine shops) this is a great pool- or ocean-side wine that offers nicely balanced fruit and acidity. It also went nicely with the parmesan-sweet pea risotto cakes Nena and I enjoyed last week.
Despite what our friends in California might lead you to believe, rose wines, also known as “blush” in some circles, needn’t (and I’d argue shouldn’t) be sweet and syrupy like their ubiquitous white zinfandel. Wolffer Estate 2005 Rose ($14) is made in a dry style but is sure to appeal to white zin and more serious wine drinkers alike. More salmon-orange than pink, the nose reminds me of fresh picked peaches and red cherries. Made with 48% merlot, 39% chardonnay, 7.8% cabernet franc and 5.2% cabernet sauvignon, it’s fuller on the palate than I prefer, but fine acidity and a gentle zing of CO2 bring balance. Flavors similar to the nose — peach and cherry — are joined by a discernable lime character on the finish that makes this wine a good pair for Caribbean or even lighter Mexican fare. Fish tacos anyone?
If you’re looking for a more serious summer wine to enjoy at your next dinner party, see if you can get your hands on a bottle or two of Wolffer Estate 2005 Pinot Gris ($24). Winemaker Roman Roth only made 253 cases of this delightful white from grapes grown on the North Fork, so get some while it lasts. The fresh nose is redolent of honeydew melon, blanched almonds, lemon zest and flowers. With a slightly glycerin mouthfeel, this wine brings together citrus, melon nutty flavors with excellent acidity and minerality on the finish. Serve this white with grilled fish, pork or pasta with alfredo-walnut sauce.
The pinot gris was the real star here and if it ages anything like the 2004 bottling did, I'd hold onto it for a year or so. I recently drank a bottle of the 2004 and it was much much better with the added year in bottle.
Don't forget, the Fabulous Favorites Festival is this Friday. This blog event, bringing Is My Blog Burning and Wine Blogging Wednesday together for the first time, is sure to be a lot of fun for everyone.
Originally I had planned on doing an entire tasting menu of favorites, but we may just focus on a couple favorites instead.
It's official: LENNDEVOURS is invading the Bay Area.
Everyone's favorite Long Island wine blogger will be on the left coast from Wednesday, June 21 to Wednesday, June 28. And Nena is joining me for the second half of the trip (once the work portion is complete).
I'll be in all-day conferences Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but Nena arrives aturday and we're going to celebrate our one-year anniversary a little early and enjoy the Bay Area bounty.
Our plan is to stay in Frisco until Tuesday morning, when we plan to check out, get a rental car and drive up to Sonoma for some wine tasting (thanks to Derrick and Jathan for their recommendations) with an over-night stay amongst the vines.
But, I'll be free every day of the conference after 5:00 p.m. and then Sunday and Monday. Any recommendations for things to see? Places to eat/drink?
And, of course, I hope to see/meet as many of you crazy Bay Area bloggers as possible.