Photo courtesy of Anthony Road Wine Company
This picture definitely shows full-on bud break -- but only in wild vines that associate winemaker Peter Becraft says "grow everywhere" around Anthony Road and are probably vitis riparia.
This picture definitely shows full-on bud break -- but only in wild vines that associate winemaker Peter Becraft says "grow everywhere" around Anthony Road and are probably vitis riparia.
By Tom Mansell, Science Editor
Tonight at 7 p.m., at Ithaca geek haven Pixel Lounge, a unique and interesting gathering of ideas will occur.
According to the website...
IGNITE ITHACA is a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea–and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd. Run by local volunteers who are connected through the global IGNITE network, IGNITE is a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections.
Some of the scheduled talks include:
I'll be giving a 5-minute talk on appreciating wine science and some of the biases that we can encounter when enjoying and purchasing wine, with a heavy shout out to New York State wine, of course.
Once the event's over, I'll try to get a video of the talk up on here.
If you're in Ithaca, come to Pixel at 7 to have your mind blown by all kinds of crazy Ithacan ideas.
By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Despite my lack of a good picture of one, today I'm happy to announce our New York Cork Club selections for April: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard 2008 Dry Riesling and Pellegrini Vineyards 2005 Merlot.
If you read this site, you've probably already our review of the Wiemer so I won't go into the notes again. The Pellegrini review will be published next week, but needless to say, I like it quite a bit to include it in the club.
Not familiar with the New York Cork Club?
You can read about it, but the quick and dirty of it is that we've partnered with BacchusWineOnline.com to build a wine club that features only wines made in New York -- making more accessible to people around the country.
Over the years, we've chosen wines from each of the state's four major wine regions and continue to seek out the most interesting, most unique and smallest-lot wines -- many of which you can't get your hands on outside of a winery's tasting room.
You can sign up for a month or for a year and cancel at any time. And while the price varies from month-to-month depending on the wines selected, we always keep it under $60 and often far less.
Interesting in signing up? You can do so on the Bacchus website.
I don't write about it as often here on NYCR as I used to (or maybe should) but the Wine Blogging Wednesday train continues on, with next week's edition marking the 68th virtual wine tasting.
The theme is Got Gamay? and it's being hosted by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like, a blog with a decided drink local slant (Virginia wines).
There's very little gamay grown in New York, and what is grown and made here isn't all that interesting to me, so I'll likely be looking to two of my favorite non-NY regions: Beaujolais and the Loire Valley.
In fact, I think I know what my wine will be already, but you'll have to come back next week to hear about it.
Want to join in the fun? Frank lays out the rules nicely:
"Stop by your local wine shop – pick up a bottle or two of Gamay-based wine, drink it, think about it, stare at it, and share your thoughts about it in written form. If you’re new to the wonderful world of Gamay, look for wines from your region first. If you’re unable to find a local Gamay, search out imports from Lynch and Dressner. If you’re a Gamay fan, please try a new one that you’ve never had before – especially one that’s rare and/or quirky.
Then, on or before Wednesday, April 21 write about your Gamay tasting experience and post it on your blog, or in the comments section here. Since we are an all-inclusive group, I encourage you to participate even if you don’t have a blog. You can email me your tasting notes, and I’ll include them in the WBW 68 roundup."
WBW can be a lot of fun and I'm curious to see what people come up with.
Here are some wines that have crossed the NYCR tasting table over the past couple of weeks but won't be reviewed as standalone posts. For this edition, we welcome some fruit (non-grape that is) wines for the first time. There will be more coverage of that category going forward as well.
Brookview Station Winery NV Oh What Pear!, Hudson River Valley ($16): Light nose of under-ripe pear and pear cider. Medium bodied with a lightly oily texture on the mid-palate, it's a little sugary at first but finishes fairly clean. Subtle pear skin note brings a little complexity. A little hot on the finish at 13% abv. Rating: (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Brookview Station Winery NV Pomona, Hudson River Valley ($15): Blend of pear and apple. Semi-sweet and tastes more like pear than apple. Simple and understated fruit with a light bitterness that actually brings some interest. A little hot on the finish again. Rating: (2 out of 5 | Average)
Heron Hill Winery 2005 Ingle Vineyards Chardonnay, Finger Lakes ($15): Appley on the nose with subtle vanilla, spice and sweet corn. Medium weight with ripe apple and nice spice -- but a bitter, raw oak note as well. Rating: (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Fox Run Vineyards 2007 Reserve Chardonnay, Finger Lakes ($13): Lots of toasty oak on the nose with brown spice and apple beneath. Oak is a bit raw, but nice creaminess on the mid-palate. Roasted apple, baking spice and vanilla flavors. Dry, citrusy acid on a short finish. Rating: (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Frost Cuvee, Finger Lakes ($12): Extremely light, almost-neutral nose with a subtle hint of citrus and gewurz spice/rose. Light on the palate too, with a bit more roundness on the mid-palate. Good acidity frames austere sweet lime and pineapple flavors, with a little of that gewurzt character too. Rating: (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Johnson Estate 2007 "Feelings Creek" Riesling, New York ($12): Honey, canned peaches and canned corn on the nose with a unique supermarket cheddar note as well. Over-ripe and canned peach fruit flavors layered with honey and canned corn. Just off-dry on the mid-palate, but plenty of acidity. A little grapefruit on a short finish. Rating: (1.5 out of 5 | Not Recommended-to-Average)
Martha Clara Vineyards 2007 Merlot, North Fork of Long Island ($18): Nice aromas of raspberry and plum with subtle earthiness and understated spice and cocoa powder notes. The palate closely matches the nose with red fruit and spice accented by earthy dried leaves and just a little chocolate character. Medium bodied with medium tannins. Nice in the not-very-crowded under-$20 category. Rating: (3 out of 5 | Recommended)
Martha Clara Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir, North Fork of Long Island ($30): Oak dominates the nose -- vanilla, spice and smoke. Some chocolate-covered-cherries and cranberries beneath. Heavy dose of oak on the palate as well, but a silky mouthfeel bright cherry and cranberry flavors push through the oak. Finish is medium-long. Supple, round tannins. A little woodsy/earthy on the finish. Rating: (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Martha Clara Vineyards 2007 Syrah, North Fork of Long Island ($23): Black cherry, flowers, caramel and oak on the nose. Much less oaky on the palate. Shows dark fruit, subtle spice and beautiful mouthfeel. Soft to the point of maybe needing a bit more structure. Medium finish. (2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good)
Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2007 Luckstone Red, Finger Lakes ($12): Red cherry and strawberry jam on the nose. There is some marjoram here too, with hints of vanilla/oak and something faintly metallic too. Medium-light body with juicy, crunchy red fruit flavors with layers of violets and herbs. Not-great balance because of high acid and almost no tannins. Short. Rating: (2 out of 5 | Average)
It's all too easy get caught up things like varietal typicity, age-worthiness and a wine's ability to taste fresh several days after being uncorked.
Fact is, unique blends are just that -- unique, not wrong or odd. A wine doesn't always have to evolve and improve in our cellars for 20+ years in order to be good.
Not every wine has to be mind-blowing or awe-inspiring. Sometimes, wine need only be satisfying and delicious.
Take Channing Daughters Winery 2008 Due Uve ($20) for example. It's 68% merlot and 32% syrah -- not a typical blend -- all from the North Fork. I wouldn't recommend holding it longer than a year... but I would recommend you check it out.
The nose is earthy and meaty with juicy dark fruit, lightly grilled herbs and a lightly sprinkling of black pepper spice.
Medium bodied and fresh, the black pepper spice is a bit more pronounced on the palate, layered with ripe black cherry, cured meat and subtle herb character and mushroomy earthiness.
One one hand, it's fruity and juicy but on the other it's got this great savory/umami side to it. All with low tannins and crunchy, rustic acidity.
As with many of winemaker Christopher Tracy's wines, it shines brightest at the dinner table, where it was just about perfect with an assortment of grilled sausages and vegetables.
Producer: Channing Daughters Winery
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
Production: 227 cases
Rating: (3 out of 5 | Recommended)
By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photo courtesy of Keuka Spring Vineyards
In a previous life, Sheldrake Point Vineyard general manager Bob Madill was undoubtedly a drill sergeant. "Give me 20. Down. Now."
In this incarnation, he drills a regional philosophy into the minds of his colleagues and customers. "Aromatic. White. Wines." It carries the rhythmic punch of machine gun fire.
The challenge, of course, is that while grapes like gewurztraminer and gruner veltliner might perform at a world-class level in the Finger Lakes, most customers remain far more familiar with the ubiquitous merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Wine producers will have to change the drinking and purchasing habits to take riesling's siblings to the mainstream.
They hope it is already happening with gewurztraminer.
"The conditions are perfect here for gewurztraminer," says Mark Wiltberger, winemaker at Keuka Spring Vineyards on Keuka Lake, which produces 400 cases of the aromatic white annually. "I think it's possible to find characteristics in a glass of Finger Lakes gewurz that they might not see in other places."
Advocates like the Wiltberger family and Madill have tried to make progress with customers in the tasting room, but Wiltberger says most people are still unfamiliar with the variety when they stop by. "What is interesting is that customers don't know gewurztraminer, but they love it when they taste it," he says.
That's true when it's made well. For the uninitiated, gewurztraminer tends to bring strong doses of lychee, spices, and floral character. When it's flabby, it can be distressingly similar to potpourri air freshener or -- the dreaded comparison -- Grandma's perfume. When it's right, it can be a rocking and complex white, like the exotic fruits got loose and invaded the spice cupboard.
But even when tasters like it, they might not seek it out again.
"They can't pronounce it, so it's a challenge to get them to remember it," Wiltberger explains. But he notes optimistically, "More people ask for it now than in previous years."
Wiltberger says that at Keuka Spring, cooler years have brought out more pronounced fruit flavors. "The ideal conditions are cool weather and a long season, without too much rain near harvest," he explains. "2007 was, of course, warmer, and the wine was good. But in 2008 the cooler temperatures brought out very spectacular lychee flavors." He says 2009 -- an almost exceptionally cool year -- is showing similar character as it approaches bottling this spring.
Even with a blitz of consumer education, gewurztraminer is certain to remain a polarizing wine. The exotic profile so celebrated by some is simply strange to others. But given the plantings in the Finger Lakes -- there is far more riesling than gewurztraminer -- it's a wine that should sell out when it's made well.
Of course, a little more education can't hurt. If you're wondering, it's "guh-VURTZ" - rhymes with hurts, and the snappier versions deliver much more pleasure than pain.
Tonight, in conjunction with Finger Lakes Wine Country, the NYCR will co-host a Twitter tasting of four Finger Lakes gewurztraminers, including those from Keuka Spring and Sheldrake Point. You can either join us on Finger Lakes Wine Country Taste Live page, follow the #FLXwine Twitter hashtag or, if you're in the Finger Lakes, join us at Red Newt Cellars and Bistro that evening to enjoy the wines too. $10 per person. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
Aren't most dessert wines bottled in 375 ml bottles rather than 750? I think it was my wife Nena who actually asked "Is this a dessert wine?" as general manager Oskar Bynke poured the 2007 of this wine for us.
No, it's not dessert wine. But the grapes that go into it are harvested later than most of their other riesling. "Late Harvest" is more akin to Spatlese at Wiemer. In some ways, they are using the descriptor more accurately than most I think.
That 2007 was sweeter than the others, but balanced. We brought some home with us.
This Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard 2008 Riesling Late Harvest ($23) might be even a bit sweeter (5.9% RS) but it also shows even better balance -- though people who are too cool for "sweet" riesling might not appreciate it as much.
Big and sweet on the nose, ripe peach, dried apple, sweet, almost Sprite-like lemon-lime and honey aromas display just how ripe the grapes were allowed to get (26.7 brix) before harvest.
Broad and mouth-filling, flavors of honeyed peach and citrus coat the palate, along with definite sweetness. But just before it gets too sweet, the acidity steps forward on the mid-palate, cutting through that sugar and leading into lengthy finish that features a bright citrusy, zesty end note.
Given the sugar level and the acidity, this seems like a wine primed for many years of evolution and development in the bottle as well.
Producer: Hermann J. Wiemer
AVA: Finger Lakes
Rating: (4 out of 5 | Delicious, Distinctive )
Here's just a sampling of what our editors are drinking, another all-wine edition:
This was the choice of our guest-of-honor at dinner in Rochester this weekend. I don't typically seek out Australian wine, so I was at least curious.
Strangely, there is very little in this wine that smells or tastes like a beverage made from grapes. To say that it tastes like chocolate is to say that McDonald's french fries taste like salt.
This wine is so overwhelmed with milk chocolate that I thought I was drinking a candy bar. I suppose some maraschino cherry made a cameo, but by that point the message was clear.
It had me wondering, though: Which forms of oak are more likely to bring that heavy chocolate, compared to the toasty vanilla that is also so often prevalent?
It seems to vary. I welcome any theories here.
Tom Mansell: San Pietro 2007 Lagrein, Alto Adige
This wine distinguished itself amongst a flight of whites and a flight of reds from the Tre Venezie at the Cayuga Chapter meeting of the American Wine Society.
It's fruit forward, yet complex with dark berries, black cherries, and a hint of citrus.
The oak influence is subtle (aged in 50 hectoltire casks)... much more so than the small cask, Slovenian oak regime of some of the other reds we enjoyed.
It maintains an acidity that keeps the finish going. A great value at $15. If you're looking to add a new grape variety to your list, check out this Lagrein.
Ten wines were poured during the Channing Daughters wine dinner I attended at Per Se last week, but the one I wanted to call out for WWD is yet another of winemaker Christopher Tracy's unique wines -- Pazzo, which means "mad" or "crazy" in Italian.
I have known about this wine for a little while, first smelling it at TasteCamp about a year ago.
In a nutshell, it started as a 2004 merlot that was hand-harvested and crushed by foot in small one-ton bins. The wine was fermented dry, then fortified to 18% alcohol with neutral grape spirits and put outside in barrels for five years -- somewhat mimicking the process employed for traditional Madeira -- minus the boats and cross-ocean trips.
Before bottling, they added a bit of fresh, sweet merlot juice to get it up to 1.6% RS.
Is it Maderia? No, but it's reminiscent of it in its nutty, oxidized qualities. It's also surprisingly lithe and delicate. Just barely sweet, there are clear hints -- most dried cherry and cranberry notes -- that this is made from merlot.
Very unique, interesting wine. Of course experimentation isn't anything new to Tracy. Oh, and they only bottled half of the wine sitting outside. The other half will be bottled after another five years exposed to the elements.
By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
It hasn't been publicized as well as you'd think (partially because people who are going -- like me -- haven't posted about it much) but I'm really looking forward to attending the Drink Local Wine 2010 Conference next weekend (April 24-25) in Virginia wine country.
As you know, the NYCR has long been championing the idea of drinking wine, no matter where local is for you, so conferences like this are right in our sweet spot. Rumor has it that the conference may come to New York sometime soon and you can bet that we'll be involved in the planning and programming.
For 2010, we'll be involved as well as I'm heading down and will be speaking on a panel "Social Media: How Regional Wineries Can Get the Word Out," moderated by Michael Wangbicker DWS, CWE with Jennifer Breaux Blosser of Breaux Vineyards and Jeff Siegel of the Wine Curmudgeon joining me on the panel. It should make for an interesting discussion. I'm sure they invited me because they know I have strong feelings about how regional wineries could be marketing themselves better.
While I'm down there, I'll also be hanging out with members of what I like to refer to as the Virginia Wine Mafia, namely Frank Morgan, Dezel Quinlan, John Witherspoon and Brian Kirby. They've requested some New York juice -- specifically some Long Island merlot, Long Island cab franc, Finger Lakes riesling and Finger Lakes ice wine. I will, of course, be granting those wishes.
I'll also be visiting some Virginia wineries on my own (or with some of these guys) before the conference kicks off. It will be fun to explore a region I know very little about.
You can definitely expect a report after I get back.
Video courtesy of Terroir
This video is a little long, and definitely not rated G, but we think it's a lot of fun and shows just how excited these wine-loving folks at Terroir are about having a Finger Lakes riesling on tap. Yes, on tap.
Southbrook's LEED certified winery and biodynamic vineyards in Niagara on the Lake, ON.
by Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Region Editor
If you read this column with any regularity, what I’m about to write will be nothing new. But it’s certainly worth repeating: In only ten short years the Niagara Wine Region USA has come a long way. With thirteen wineries open and several more in the works, the region’s future as a wine destination seems more and more likely. The potential for quality reds, whites, roses and dessert wines has never been more apparent.
But as much as good as I think the current vintages are, to get a sense of the long-term potential of the region, you have to make the short trip across the border into the Niagara Peninsula.
With more than twenty years of growing and making vinifera wines in the history books, the Ontario wine industry offers a glimpse into what New York’s Niagara wine industry might look like -- and more importantly, taste like -- in the future.
So in the name of research, last week I grabbed my passport and set out to hit a few wineries I’d never visited.
First stop was Southbrook Vineyards, Canada’s first biodynamic certified estate. I couldn’t help being impressed by their LEED platinum-certified winery and tasting room pavilion. There’s obviously been a huge investment in their 60-acre farm, which is dotted with wind turbines to combat frosts and winter kill.
Overall, I found their wines to be elegant and restrained. The Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($18) was yet another fine example of the potential of the grape in both regions, and their Poetica Chardonnay 2007 ($50) made another case for why Niagara chardonnay should be taken seriously.
But the one wine that I just had to bring home was their 2007 Whimsy Cabernet Franc ($35). In a vintage where many winemakers tried to make a big red with significant oak influence, this wine didn’t strive for that. With fresh blackberry, cherry and pepper aromas, this one retains everything I like about cab franc without sacrificing its lively acidity in such a warm vintage.
I would have normally avoided Jackson Triggs Winery but that day I stopped because I heard they now pour Le Clos Jordanne wines since they are both owned by the same company. If you haven’t heard of it, the winery is a joint venture between Vincor and Boisset, with a focus on making terrior-driven chardonnay and pinot noir on the Niagara Peninsula. They do not have their own tasting room and the wines aren’t readily available on this side of the border.
Of the estate vineyard sites Le Clos Jordanne uses, the best grapes go into their Le Grande Clos wine, the stuff that doesn’t make it into that goes into the single vineyard wines, and the rest that doesn’t cut it goes into its Village labeled wines. Each batch is vinified the same way using wild yeasts and long ferments. I’d heard great things about these wines but hadn’t tasted them until this trip.
My focus was on tasting their pinot noir and they were pouring their 2006 lineup. Knowing it wasn’t an ideal season for thin-skined grapes, I was impressed by each pinot I tried. The 2006 Village ($25) was perfectly racy and delicate with bright cherry fruit. The Claystone Terrace Vineyard ($40) wine was similar, yet had firmer tannins with a chalky finish. Le Grand Clos ($80) was what it should be, the best of the lineup, with a fuller mouthfeel darker fruit profile and a lasting finish.
My last stop was Lailey Vineyards just off the Niagara River. With a somewhat modest tasting room for Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lailey served up some bold wines including syrah, pinot noir and some crisp whites.
Their unoaked Chardonnay 2008 was just what I was looking for in a white with melon and peach aromas combining with a crisp yet still smooth body. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was solid as were both 2008 Pinot Noirs poured. The lineup was consistent from top to bottom but my favorite by far was the 2008 Syrah.
From what I’ve read it seems that the Niagara River appellation receives the most heat units due to its proximity to the gorge and river. As the cooler air sinks down into the lower elevation at water level, warm air rises and provides beneficial circulation. It’s here where syrah is given the best chance to ripen to show its dark fruit profile and a meatiness that is in line with northern Rhone. The 2008 I tasted was just that style with dark blackberry fruit, black pepper and aromas consistent with good salami.
The contrast in size, investment and history of the two regions couldn’t be any more obvious but every time I get over to Ontario I’m impressed by the similarities in flavor profile and quality, especially the pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet franc. The potential for grapes like syrah and sauvignon blanc is also convincing.
We can learn a lot from Ontario’s wine industry. The overall consistency of quality from each winery to the next is staggering but ultimately I’m finding our best wines can hang with their best wines and that’s no coincidence.
Is this picture bud break? I'm not sure -- I always think of bud break as when full, immature leaves separate from the bud and unfurl. By that definition, this would be bud swell, but it barely matters -- the 2010 growing season is underway in New York.
Yesterday, I stopped at Roanoke Vineyards on the North Fork and their vines looked much the same... the buds were extremely swollen but I didn't see any separation. I've heard that Shinn Estate Vineyards and Benmarl Winery have experienced official break, but I have yet to see any pictures.
New York growers -- please send us pictures of budbreak in your vineyards. We'll post anything we get.
Obviously this is an early start to the growing season, but all the news isn't bad. If there isn't a frost event this spring, 2010 could be a long growing season, which could mean added ripeness.
But, there's a lot that can happen between now and harvest. Stay tuned.
Story and photo by Jim Silver, General Manager, Peconic Bay Winery
I have been around the wine business long enough (22 years) to have seen many wine trends and fashions played out in the public arena: Australia's incredible rise and stunning fall; Germany's reawakening; France’s fall from grace; pinot grigio’s leap from obscurity to most popular import from Europe; California wines at 12.5% and now at 15.5% alcohol.
There are others of course, but today's topic is that curious
love-hate relationship some of us have with chardonnay.
When I was a young tenderfoot in the wine business, I was fascinated by the obscure. New wine enthusiasts often are: They love the “undiscovered” grape varieties, and the tiny producers in tiny villages off the beaten track that produce tiny quantities of wine you've never heard of. These discoveries were always undervalued and marvelous. There is no denying how entertaining this sort of discovery is, especially if you remember that it wasn’t too long ago that viognier, albariño, grüner veltliner, malbec and carmenere were all but unknown outside of their hometowns.
And then there’s chardonnay.
Oh! The noble chardonnay! A duchess from
Burgundy, champion white wine of the West, and the true darling of the
1980s and 1990s. Yet chardonnay seem so “five minutes
ago,” like an Oldsmobile or Polaroid camera. Certainly the golden sweet, oaky,
ultra-richness of many chardonnays seems out of date to us today. A
sudden change in our desire for this style of wine seems to have had
consequences for the unfortunate grape that made all of these Reagan-era
Chardonnay, along with its tenderer sister riesling, is the best white wine grape in the world to survive, thrive, adapt and relate back to its master the terroir of the place in which it grows.
In Chablis for example, chardonnay sets its roots into ancient oyster shell beds and reads back
purity and minerality like no other wine in the world. Chardonnay here
the gray cloudy sky and cold stone cellars of the winery like a mirror
stands pale in the glass -- structured, stiff, with a subtle nose and
long flavors -- and capable of astonishing longevity.
And still, chardonnay manages to grow almost anywhere it wants, faithfully reporting on the weather and winemaking to the taster. On the opposite side of the earth, Australian chardonnay returns the inimitably sun-baked warmth and red stone soils of that country. Whether on the coast of Sonoma, the cool Casablanca slopes, the white hillsides of Champagne, or the sandy bayside vineyards of Cutchogue, this grape is a capable actress. All the while, its amazing versatility and consistent success protects the considerable investment made by the owners of these vineyards.
The twisting of chardonnay's reputation began there -- in the economics. The early 1990s wave of high production wines made from high yielding vineyards thwarted the grape's notoriety but did make money for the wineries that needed to fill large bottles for large markets at small prices.
fondness for this wine has not waned -- not one bit -- in all of that
time. Backlash to its incredible world-wide popularity was inevitable
beginning “pre-Internet” with the abhorrent ABC people (Anything
But Chardonnay) and later, the rise of the Web provided a new outlet for
the chardonnay hater, and lover of the obscure.
Before the rise of blogs, the tiny group of wine writers in print was largely protective of chardonnay and its good name. Today, there are literally thousands of people blogging about wine, the vast majority of who have a wonderfully bloated estimation of the relevance of their opinions.
it's probably easy for the new wine enthusiast to attack an easy and
target like chardonnay but I take issue when the high yield,
mega-production chardonnays are lumped together with real classics! It's
bigotry! Who in their right mind, of even the ABC types, would turn away
Meursault or Montrachet, a Pahlmeyer, a Planeta, or a Taittinger Comte
Champagne simply because it was made with the chardonnay grape?
Working alongside Long Island Chardonnay experts -- Greg Gove, winemaker, and Charlie Hargrave, winegrower -- has already renewed my great enthusiasm for this variety, as the grape displays such depth of character, and remarkable complexity and longevity at Peconic Bay Winery.
What I have learned about New York State chardonnays is that we consistently fail when we try to be something we are not, and frequently succeed where the terroir (and acidity and fruit) is allowed to shine through.
To the ABC crowd, I say, “Why not Chardonnay?” Rediscover a classic -- and find room in your collection for one of the earth’s greatest messengers.
I grew up in tiny Ellenville, New York and while it is a great little town with lots of local attractions, it is not exactly a booming metropolis. Despite being a small town, there is a group of passionate craft beer drinkers who tour the country to visit breweries, drink from a world class beer lists, and most importantly homebrew.
When the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1919, prohibition banned the sale of alcohol but also made homebrewing illegal. When prohibition was lifted in 1933 with the passing of the 21st Amendment, there was no language included in regard to homebrewing.
Finally, in 1978 President Carter signed H.R. 1337 which created an exemption from taxation for beer brewed at home for personal use.
With the federal law being so vague, most states have written their own laws, however New York has has no legislation regarding brewing at home.
New York State statute, Chapter 3-B, Article 8, § 100 states that “No person shall manufacture for sale or sell at wholesale or retail any alcoholic beverage within the state without obtaining the appropriate license therefore required by chapter.”
With no legal language actually banning homebrewing in New York, quite a few people have been brewing beer at home for years.
One of those people is writer Tod Westlake. Over the last few months Tod has organized a group of people, including me, to get together to brew beer.
About a month ago, we gathered early on a lazy Sunday morning and brewed our first batch of beer together. Two weeks later we bottled it and have just recently decided to crack it open.
Ellenville Brewing Company's (we are not an official brewery) Pale Ale is meant to be an easy drinking, restrained Pale Ale that adheres to style guidelines. The label was designed by local artist Roger Baker.
Our little homebrewed pale ale poured a cloudy, golden orange color with a thin, white head. The aroma is fruity with some pale malt. The body is smooth and easy drinking with fruit notes and and some faint hops underneath. The finish leaves a light dryness on the palate.
Overall, this first time brew is on its way to being a very nice homebrew. Ellenville Pale Ale was brewed to fit style guidelines and be a session beer. It needs a little more carbonation and some hops on the finish but I think Tod and the crew are up to something here.
A full write up is coming next week, but last night I was lucky enough to be a guest of Channing Daughters Winery at Per Se in Manhattan for their latest "American Table" dinner featuring Channing Daughters wines.
I'll get into this more in the forthcoming post, but in many ways, this was a historic moment for New York -- and really East Coast -- wines. It's a big deal that a restaurant of this caliber chose to showcase winemaker Christopher Tracy's wines with its sophisticated, artfully prepared food.
I'm glad I was able to be a part of the event, and that I'll be able to tell you about it as well.
By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Okay, that's a lie. I could survive drinking only wines from New York -- there are enough wines in enough styles to suit just about anything on my dinner table and for just about any situation, but there are a great many quality wines being made throughout America (and abroad of course).
With that in mind, I've agreed to take part in Tweet & Taste Michigan next Tuesday night, organized by Shannon and Cortney Casey of Michigan by the Bottle and featuring three wines from Shady Lane Cellars.
Similar to the NYCR's TasteNY project (which is coming back soon, by the way) and the Taste Live tastings we've been hosting for Finger Lakes Wine Country, Tweet & Taste Michigan (TTMI) is a way for regional wineries to reach wine lovers who are active in social media. Shannon and Casey have done a nice job branding their own edition and I'm excited to be taking part.
In a nutshell, we'll be tasting three wines from Shady Lane: 2008 Dry Riesling, 2008 Blue Franc (Blaufrankisch) and 2007 Pinot Noir, live on Twitter next Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
All participants will use the #ttmi hashtag to mark the event's Tweets.
By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
A few news items from New York wine country this week.
Hudson River Valley
Hudson Valley Wine Country Announces Passport Program
The “Hudson Valley Wine Country Summer Passport Ticket." offers holders free complimentary wine tasting at 14 Hudson Valley Wineries between June 1 and August 31, 2010.
The cost is $30 per ticket.
According to Debbie Gioquindo, director of the Hudson Valley Wine Country promotional organization “Since Hudson Valley Wine Country extends from just south of Albany to 60 miles north of New York City, having the summer to explore the wineries and vineyards will give you to opportunity to visit at your leisure and you won’t feel rushed to do it in one day.”
The wineries participating are: Adair Vineyards, Applewood Winery, Baldwin Vineyards, Benmarl Winery, Brimstone Hill Vineyards, Brotherhood Winery, Clinton Vineyards, Glorie Farm Winery, Hudson-Chatham Winery, Millbrook Winery, Palaia Vineyards, Stoutridge Vineyard, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery and Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery.
Tickets can be purchased from the Hudson Valley Wine Country website until May 31.
Local Robin Epperson Hired as New Assistant Winemaker at Martha Clara
Martha Clara Vineyards has a new assistant winemaker -- Robin Epperson. Epperson grew up on the North Fork, graduating from Mattituck high school in 1999. She moved to Virginia for college, receiving a bachelors degree in biology, with an eye towards medical school. She returned home to study for her MCATs, getting a temporary job at Premium Wine Group during harvest that turned into six years there, most recently as the lab director.
She starts at Martha Clara on Monday and will be helping winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez in the cellar because he's taken on the role as director of operations for the winery in addition to his winemaking duties. "I will be overseeing the overall direction of the vineyard in conjunction with the Entenmanns and the general manager. Robin will oversee the day-to-day stuff at Premium that I have been pulled away from," said Micieli-Martinez.
Shinn Estate Going for 'Ganic
As you may have read in Newsday this week, Shinn Estate Vineyards, well known for their sustainable vineyard practices, has begun the three-year process to become certified organic.
No small feat in a cool, humid region, the certification would be the first on the East End. If successul, Shinn will be able to add "Made with Organic Grapes" to their wine labels.
The wines themselves won't labeled organic because of the addition of sulfites at bottling.
Hermann J. Wiemer is what I call an "any vintage" winery.
What I mean is that, regardless of the conditions throughout the growing season, this is a winery that can be counted on for good wines. They truly do the best with what Mother Nature gives, even if she doesn't give much.
Making good wines even in lesser years is a testament to co-owner and winemaker Fred Merwarth's talents and attention to detail.
So what happens in good years, like 2008 for Finger Lakes rieslings?
Wines like this one happen.
This Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Dry Riesling ($17.50) is Wiemer's 'regular' dry bottling, but it's anything but ordinary.
The nose erupts with classic Finger Lakes character -- bright lime, Kaffir lime leaf, lemon zest and grapefruit aromas with an undercurrent of wet slate minerality.
In a mouth-watering, Kabinett style, the palate is dry (.8% RS) with electric acidity that is both balanced and integrated. Lime flavors drive the palate with white grapefruit and slightly less minerality than the nose might indicate. There is also a distinct flavor that reminds me of the candy shell on sugar-coated almonds.
This wine shows great length and has a bright-but-smooth finish, begging for another sip -- as well as a place on the lunch or dinner table.
Producer: Hermann J. Wiemer
AVA: Finger Lakes
Rating: (4 out of 5 | Delicious, Distinctive )
Look for a post on the future of malbec on the North Fork soon. It's been a long time coming and this Martha Clara Vineyards 2007 Malbec ($24) is the last bit of inspiration I needed to finally write it.
Once a major component in the wines of Bordeaux, this large, fairly easy-to-ripen black grape is now best known in Argentina, where it is most often bottled varietally.
It’s also a big player (along with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot) in Meritage and
other blended red wines in the United States, Australia and South Africa.
That means that several of Long Island's wineries grow it for their Meritage-style reds, which often feature small amounts of malbec -- typically from 1 - 7%. It's rare to see it bottled on it's own, but based on those that are available Malbec's potential seems boundless on the North Fork.
But more on that soon. Let's get back to this wine.
The nose is rich, almost brooding in its dark fruit character that leans towards berry compote, showing ripe blueberry, blackberry and black plum fruit aromas mingling with subtle spice, violets, mint-menthol and an interesting woodsy earthiness.
Youthful on the palate, the blueberry compote character carries over with a bit more spice, some vanilla joining the party and earthiness that reminds me of black tea on the end of a medium-long finish. The tannins are still grippy, providing nice structure along with light acidity.
Producer: Martha Clara Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
Rating: (3.5 out of 5 | Very good-to-Delicious)
We've had a good wine-filled run, but it was only a matter of time before beer worked its way back into "What We Drank."
As always, this is what our editors and contributors are drinking.
Just when I was ready to give up on South African beer, I noticed something new on the shelves at the local supermarket: cute jug bottles, Red Stripe style, from Shongweni Brewery in KwaZulu Natal, an eastern South African province. I immediately snatched up a bottle of each style.All were delicious, but the Robson's West Coast Ale, described as a "California-style" lager, really hit the spot. I'll argue the problems with labeling a beer "West Coast" another day; this time I was interested in how a South African brewery would emulate what's perceived to be a "California" style.
The first thing I noticed was the gorgeous russet-brown color of the beer -- a far cry from the golden hue of most craft lagers. All Shongweni's brews in their Robson's Real Ale line are bottle-conditioned, creating sediment and a lovely cloudy element to the appearance as well as bready, fruity esters on the nose and palate.
Unless you've been a beer geek overseas, like me, you simply cannot grasp what it's like for a beer lover to go over two months without a beer of this caliber and then to open one, pour it into a glass, swirl up the lees at the bottom, and then pour them in a spiral shape over the head of the beer. (Yes, I drink the lees, and if that's wrong I don't want to be right. I always remind my bar patrons that it's a complete source of vitamin B complex.)
The beer was beautifully balanced, with fruity yeast and hazelnuts on the nose, a nuttiness to the midpalate, and lovely layers of hops resulting from four separate additions of Cascade and Northern Brewer -- normally in the U.S. "West Coast" means "we hopped the sh*t out of this one!", but this is one smooth brew.
Great lacing and good head retention helped the beer keep its sexy till the end. Thanks to Shongweni for ending my craft-beer celibacy period in style.This bottle, along with four other Finger Lakes pinots, survived for a few days after last Wednesday's Taste Live event. As a result, we've been able to pour some of the strongest local pinots for a variety of friends and family.I'm encouraged. The pinots are improving, and they're improving because the conversation has reached a new level. If you're not on Twitter, you missed the chance to follow -- and join -- the conversation with Finger Lakes winemakers who were talking about what it takes to make stellar pinot noir. We went over oak, yields, site, sorting, stems and more.
That doesn't mean there's one simple answer for making great pinot. Have you ever met two winemakers who choose to do things exactly the same? I haven't. But the thoughtful conversations leads everyone to think more about their own practices, and what can be improved.
That's what a collaborative ethos can do for a region. It doesn't mean all of the wines will taste the same; it means the stronger practices will become more common, and the wines will improve while showing diversity. It's nice to see that starting to happen with pinot.
I had never heard of Founders Brewing Company until a couple weeks ago when a beer geek mailing list I'm on blew up with hype about this Michigan brewery finally coming to New York (they had never been distributed here previously).
I responded to the thread and asked the local beer gurus "What's the big deal here with Founders?" The replies were enthusiastic and can be summed up in the last one I received "Of all their beers, even the worst is better than most craft beers."
That's high praise from this group, so I was anxious to try some, which I got to do last week at Rattle n Hum in Manhattan.
First I had a glass of their imperial IPA, Double Trouble. I drink a lot of IPA and I thought this was outstanding -- one of the best DIPAs I've had. Hoppy as hoppy can be, it was still balanced, which is the key to success with this style.
Then I moved on to this Kentucky Breakfast Stout, know among beer lovers as KBS.
Brewed with coffee and chocolate -- then aged in bourbon barrels for a full year -- this is a big (11.25 abv), complex beer that clearly is meant as breakfast, not for along side breakfast. All the flavors you'd expect are there -- chocolate, dark roast coffee and bourbon...lots of bourbon -- but also some cola/root beer notes and subtle smokiness. It was a bit sweeter than I typically want in my stout, but it was well balanced. One of the most interesting, layered beers I've ever tasted.
If there was a Facebook page honoring spring, summer, autumn and winter I’d surely be a fan. I live for seasonal sports, seasonal holidays, seasonal clothes and I most definitely look forward to seasonal beers.
So far this spring I’ve already had quite a few seasonal brews. My favorites have been Kolsch-style beers from Otter Creek and Stoudt’s as well as Sierra Nevada’s Glissade. I wasn’t a big fan of the Anchor Bock but I did put down a few cases of Genesee Bock before my local store sold out of it.
Having been tempted by a friend to try a maibock style, I was ready and willing to give this Victory St. Boisterous Hellerbock a go.
To be honest I didn’t know that this was ultimately in the style of maibock until some Googling at home. I was sold completely at the store because it was a seasonal Victory product.
The aromas of sweet caramel and apricot are balanced nicely by hops. On the palate, full and round with delicate carbonation. Although at first there is a case for this being a sweet beer, by the finish it dries out enough to make me think I need to buy more. Although high in alcohol, it isn’t out of balance.
Great stuff and by the reaction of the German down the road, it is true to its roots as a maibock style.
Tom Mansell: Galen Glen Stone Cellar Grüner Veltliner NV (Lehigh Valley, PA)
I went home to Schuylkill County for Easter and decided to drink really local. Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery is located in Andreas, in eastern Schuylkill County, and is part of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.
This wine reminds me of Kiwi sauvignon blanc at first with its grapefruit and bell pepper notes. Crisp acidity helped it pair well with the traditional ham (as well as halupkis, kielbasi and other coal region favorites).
On the finish it reveals its true Grüner nature, the classic white pepper mingling well with other grassy aromas.
It's a solid effort and I was happy to see such a wine representing my home turf. It's also nice to see people experimenting with Grüner Veltliner, which I stubbornly refuse to refer to as "Gru Vee."
By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Hot on the heels of an extremely successful pinot noir event last week, the fourth in a series of Finger Lakes-themed Taste Live events will take place next week on Wednesday, on April 14 at 8 p.m. ET. I'll be moderating again on behalf of Finger Lakes Wine Country (FLWC).
For April's event, we'll be comparing four Finger Lakes-made Gewurztraminers:
Riesling gets all of the attention in the Finger Lakes, but it's far from the only aromatic white that excels in the region. This promises to be yet another interesting, maybe even surprising, tasting for people who haven't tasted Finger Lakes Gewurztraminer before.
Want to join the fun? You can buy this month's TasteLive pack and join us on Twitter next week. Use the #FLXwine hashtag.