Hands-On at Harvest 2014


"My" row, on the right

“My” row, on the right

Last Sunday was a truly special experience for me. You may recall my entry from last September when I stumbled upon the Cayuga harvest at a local winery, White Silo. Well, I did indeed follow up on a volunteering opportunity with their winemaker early last month, and on Sunday I had the privilege to participate in the harvest activities.  It was not only a barrel-load of fun, but highly educational.

Cayuga is a Cornell-engineered cold-climate resistant white grape that is therefore highly successful in the Northeastern United States. While this winery deals primarily in fruit wines, they do produce a few traditional grape wines. The Cayuga here is the main production, with smaller quantities of Marquette and Frontenac (also cold-hardy engineered hybrid grapes – these from the University of Minnesota), for their red. We stuck with harvesting the Cayuga on this day. All in all there were 7 rows of the grape, and I managed to fill 3 bins when I completed my row – about 250 lbs worth. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working out there picking grapes. I grew up doing a lot of yard work as part of my household chores, and as much as I moaned about it then, I clearly developed an appreciation for working the land. And seeing as hiking and skiing are two of my favorite activities, I am without a doubt an outdoor guy. So even after four hours in the blazing sun with swarms of bees, spiders and stinging nettle in my midst, and just a cap and a little sunblock as shelter, you heard nothing but laughter from me as I traded stories with all the pickers.

After picking, we moved to the de-stemming and crushing process. Some more nice photos of this process and equipment, as well as the winery itself, can be seen in the original post. I enjoyed loading the de-stemmer and transferring the free run juice and pressed juice (all blended here – no 1st and 2nd wines just yet) into the tank. We netted about 1,250 lbs of grapes, producing about 90 gallons of wine. We wisely set up in the shade for this portion of the afternoon and it took about 3 rounds of pressing with a nice lunch break in-between and a glass of their delicious dry rhubarb wine.

The de-stemmer at work

The de-stemmer at work

I spent the rest of the afternoon with the winemakers doing the acidity and pH tests as well as calculating, activating and acclimating the yeast to then add to the tank and get things going. This really took me back to my chemistry days, as we created solutions, and used beakers and pipettes to very accurately measure the acidity level. It was fascinating – I don’t think I ever enjoyed chemistry as much. The pH test was done by a simple device that saves some time, and a calibrated scale measured the right proportion of yeast. I enjoyed stirring the must while adding the final ingredients and we sealed the tank.

As my reward I got to take home a few of my favorite bottles, including their “Upland Pastures Dry White” which I watched them harvest and press last year. This is the wine I helped create the next vintage for today. This weekend I will be back in the area for another overnight hike and am going to stop in to see how fermentation is going. Stay tuned!

International Grenache Day 2014: Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Borsao Garnacha 2012

Sorry for getting this in so late folks, but it was a work day, and it was the good kind of busy! So no history lesson today but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to plug a tasty varietal like Grenache/Garnacha! Today’s choice is a bold, rich example from Aragon, Spain and bearing the proud seal of the Campo de Borja D.O. region. This wine is a fairly young, tasty fruit bomb — yet teeming with the complexity I love from this grape. All sorts of great aromas pop from the nose of the dark, confectious wine in my glass. It does not need a single thing to compliment it, yet it compliments so much. Lush, concentrated black fruit melds with cherry, leather, and a spicy vanilla note. It is really seductive.

On the palate the cherry and blackberry continue to pop as does that nice spice note but this is super smooth. The tannin and acid you want in there with the fruit in a balanced wine are there, without being too much. It is about as smooth as can be. I am enjoying it with some rustic Kalamata olive crackers and fig spread, and will polish it off with some seared filet mignon and sauteed escarole with olive oil and garlic. My mouth was watering for the meal my wife told me she was preparing, but this wine got a head start and gave me way more than I was expecting right out of the gate. It’s going to be a great night.

At the local wine shop, this wine was priced at a ridiculous value – $9 a bottle, with a high recommendation on quality.  And was he ever right. It is delicious, go try one! Wish I had more than one but at least I know I can afford it! Wine-Searcher has it at many places even cheaper. Nice to know you can still find a knockout wine for a great value.

International Cabernet Day: Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

I Love Cabernet

I Love Cabernet

Happy International Cabernet Day!

This is one of my more frequently enjoyed varieties, and I’m always happy to enjoy it with friends and family, or even alone, if I must. I saved a doozy for the occasion. My sister and I are both enjoying the wine very much, but given the pedigree of its terroir I can’t say I’m surprised. And without a doubt, 2012 was a stellar vintage in the region. They’re saying it might be the best vintage here since 1976. While we’ve all opened something before that had a better reputation than presentation, this one does not. I got it through a special at wineaccess.com.

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Sueño Profundo 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa is very much about the family wineries. The first commercial winery to make its roots in the area was that of Charles Krug (now owned by the Mondavi family) and more than a century later — and a short unfortunate stint known as prohibition — the region is still dominated by family-run wineries with decades or more of wine-making under their belts. Inglenook (now owned by Francis Ford Coppola), Beaulieu vineyards (France’s Latour family) and Beringer are just a few others of the families you might recognize who make wine in the region. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the region many years ago, riding on the Napa Valley wine train and a dinner and tasting at Markham in St Helena. I hope to get back there soon on business.

Stag’s Leap is one of the notable appellations (or AVAs), consisting of 19 wineries and vineyards, their own growers’ association and a reputation for exceptional Cabernet. There is no better example of that than Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars taking best Cabernet at the 1976 Judgement of Paris, that put California wine on the map for good. While this wine is not from that vineyard nor does it snag the prices of some of the wines from the region, it is an elegant, expressive, and delicious Cabernet that did not disappoint nor did it break the bank. A perfect pick, if you ask me.

The wine pours a deep purple in the glass, with notes of tobacco, blackberry, cassis and subtle well-integrated oak on the nose. On the palate, bright notes of succulent blackberries continue to dominate, with good acidity and balanced tannin and a lingering finish. Everything in the right place, and it should only continue to age well. However it is worth noting that I had only one bottle, so it won’t get the opportunity! Rest assured, I will be buying more, if there’s any left. This wine clearly demonstrates the success of the 2012 vintage, and Napa (and Stag Leap’s) best.

There are around 500 wineries in Napa now, all working to further the fine reputation of the area and its grapes as well as supporting its own local community through charity fundraisers and programs. After seeing much of the damage in the area from the recent earthquake last weekend, I hope the 2014 vintage pulls through alright. With such a tight community, I feel confident they will. Go pick up a nice bottle and help your favorite Napa producers at the same time.


Anthony Nappa Frizzante 2013

Anthony Nappa Frizzante Sparkling Wine 2013

Anthony Nappa Frizzante Sparkling Wine 2013- It’s so hot today even the bottle is sweating!

It’s hot. It’s humid. I want something light and refreshing that will cool me off and relax me, not that I’m that un-relaxed. Enter Anthony Nappa’s sparkling Frizzante. A member of their wine club, this was a new one that came in our latest shipment that we haven’t seen until now. I’m sure you’ve read about Anthony Nappa in the blog before. He’s the creator of the Winemaker’s Studio on the North Fork of Long Island. I’m a fan of many of their wines, and was pleased to receive another I haven’t yet tried. I don’t drink sparkling wine regularly, as it goes to my head a bit quickly. But right now, it fits the bill, and is tasty with some cheese and crackers.

It is a blend of Pinot Noir (78%), Riesling (10%) and Gewürztraminer (12%). It’s made by a secondary fermentation in bottle and aged on the lees to add depth and body like a Champagne. It’s not filtered so does give a slightly cloudy appearance but keeping on the lees is to it’s benefit. It’s dry but has many of the aromas you’d expect in the Riesling and Gewürz like flowers, peach, and apricot and these continue on the palate. It goes for $20 and can be easily found in the NYC metro area. Bottoms up!

Celebrating the 4th with Sangria and Wine

Jonata the Pairing GS 2010

Jonata the Pairing GS 2010

Though the actual 4th of July was far too rainy thanks to our friend Hurricane Arthur, by July 5th the sun was shining, and the grill and fire pit were ready to go. We whipped up a lovely sangria for the occasion, and homemade chimichurri for the grilled steak. For the red wine, I needed something that would also please my father. He’s quite particular but I was confident this great wine will do the trick. Purchased from Last Bottle Wines,  Jonata The Paring GS 2010 is a red blend from Santa Barbara County, California. I believe I paid $25 a bottle, of which I bought three. It is a Bordeaux-inspired blend, the 2010 being made up of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Sangiovese, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Syrah.  This blend varies from year to year, and sometimes includes other grapes like Grenache. It’s aged in a combination of new (55%) and neutral (45%) French oak for 22 months. For this vintage there were just 4,685 cases produced. They also make a white blend. It is made from the vineyard blocks that are younger or don’t fit the style of the highly prized Jonata wines, in Ballard Canyon in Santa Ynez by winemaker Matt Dees. They are made in the spirit of experimentation and the joy of winemaking at heart.

Nassau Valley Vineyards True Blue Blueberry Wine

Nassau Valley Vineyards “True Blue” Blueberry Wine

In the glass, it pours a deep ruby — it is too young for any rim variation. On the nose: ripe, concentrated and jammy plum and redcurrant. There is a pepper spice from the Syrah and discernable hints of oak, but the fruit overpowers it. On the palate, mouthfilling and fruit everywhere. I picked up the Sangiovese more in the finish with its cherry notes popping out and lingering a while.  The great news is dad loved it too! There should be a rating scale just for him, forget Parker!  At 15% abv, its no lightweight, and a juicy steak was a great pairing.

For our sangria, we used a bottle of Delaware’s Nassau Valley Vineyards “True Blue” Blueberry Wine. We visited this vineyard a few years back, and while its a very tasty and interesting wine on its own, I thought it would be just about perfect for sangria. With the addition of some fresh blueberries, peaches and sparkling lemonade we had a winner. It was very refreshing — the sweetness really worked here. Happy birthday, America! More info on the Pairing here. You can find it around the same price at wine searcher.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

This is a very special wine from my collection that I open today for a very special reason. This was a wine I intended to keep many more years, and share with a new friend and colleague, Jon. We visited Bordeaux together in 2012 on a work trip, and visited Pichon. While we actually visited the brothers’ chateau across the street – Baron de Pichon Longueville, the two chateaux straddle the same stretch of road through the heart of Pauillac, and from my tasting today, the terroir and style of the sisters’ Ch Comtesse de Lalande is a beauty of equal nature. 2006 is aged enough to enjoy, though I have no doubt it would only become exponentially elegant with age. And there’s always more, when I have the money. I had wanted to try theirs as well on the trip, and its close enough for me in regards to the Pichon Baron to drink in tribute for this reflective occasion. That day our group toured the vineyards that stretched on for what seemed like eternity, observed the famous gravelly soils of the region at the roots of the vines, toured the winery, had lunch with the winemaker, negociant and winery manager (drinking plenty of Pichon and their sultry Sauternes the Ch Suduiraut) and then tasted through a vertical of these amazing Bordeaux. While the prices weren’t really easily affordable, I’ve had my eye on these wines at a few local retailers ever since, just in case. And I was lucky enough to receive this bottle for Christmas from my wife and father-in-law.

During this outing, and the rest of the chateaux we visited in Bordeaux, Jon and I became close friends with a strong bond over wine, and later, the Tottenham Hot Spurs who we’d go see together a year later in London. Despite being separated by the Atlantic, we talked regularly about wines, particularly Bordeaux, for which he was a huge fan and collector. We continued to share our love for wine and talked about when we would drink this, and many other of our prized bottles together. And I was doing everything I could to get him a position on my team in the American office so we could one day work together doing what we love.  We spoke up to the last, until I received the unexpected tragic news of his passing just over a week ago while on vacation. It has been a rough go. But I knew one thing for sure, that I would open this bottle as soon as I returned home, and pay tribute to his memory.  Price and maturity were no longer giving me pause – this is a celebration of his life and our friendship and bond over wine.

The color is deep purple with some color variation on the rim from the age. On the nose, developing elegant black fruit abounds, with notes of perfume and spicy French oak, of course! On the palate, while still young, it is an incredibly supple wine with a perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acid which will all mellow in time. The body is of medium weight and it has a nice finish for its age. An excellent wine by any standard, and worthy of such an occasion. I will be pairing it with some steak shortly to much success I have no doubt.



North Fork, Old and New

North Fork Long Island Wines

North Fork Long Island Wines

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went back to the North Fork of Long Island to celebrate another anniversary. We tried a new B&B just outside the seaside town of Greenport which we became enamored with on previous visits. We stopped at some favorites wineries we’ve visited since we began exploring the region, and ventured out to some new wineries on the scene. Without going into too much repeat detail on visits already documented on this blog, I will name drop the old favorites we re-visited:

Croteaux (home to nothing but great rosés), Lieb Cellars (for some more Bridge Lane Chardonnay-natch), One Woman (great Grüner Veltliner) and ordered some of our favorite Anthony Nappa wines while dining at Noah’s in Greenport and A-mano in Mattituck.

And now on to the new!

Kontokosta Winery

Kontokosta Winery

The first stop was Kontokosta, started by brothers Michael and Constantine Kontokosta. Owners of local inns in Greenport and Aqueboque, the brothers took an interest in winemaking as a result of the locale and, I would assume, their Greek backround. The first vines were planted between 2002 and 2004 with the first wines produced in 2006. With no formal winemaking training, the first wines and the art of winemaking was taught to Michael by Peconic Bay founder and Ackerly Vineyards’ Ray Blum until his passing in 2007. Eric Fry from Lenz helped with the next few vintages at his winery, and Gilles Martin of Sparkling Pointe is currently winemaking consultant and assisted on the 2012 vintage. They sell some of their fruit to other local wineries, and some of the wines are made from the fruit of other local vineyards (including a tribute to Ray Blum from Ackerly Pond), rounding out a nice current line of 8 wines.

It is a stunning state-of-the-art winery replete with modern architecture and sound-side views.There is no detail missing here. The winery building is made with 90% recycled steel and wood and is powered by a giant windmill on the property, with an energy and environmental award to show for it. It is elegant and high-class yet surrounded by beautiful vineyards and a short walk to the northern coast of Long Island with commanding views of Connecticut across the sound.

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

The rosé and the Cabernet Sauvignon were favorites of mine and I brought one of each home and enjoyed them recently.  Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc won Best of Class and Double Gold at the International East Meets West Wine Challenge. We enjoyed that one as well. While Chardonnay shows well in the region, they specialize in Loire grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc which also do well here and they do not make a Chardonnay.  If you want their wines, you will have to go to the winery to purchase them.

After a visit to Croteaux, we also made it to Duck Walk North, the other Duck Walk being on the South Fork. We enjoyed many of their wines but the most interesting to me was the Pinot Meunier. This you may know as one of the three grapes used in the production of Champagne and other fine sparkling wines. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the others, and in varying combinations including just the red grapes (blanc de noir) or just Chardonnay (blanc de blanc). Pinot Meunier is a grape I’ve never had on its own before, and you know I can’t resist a new wine experience. It pours out a bright ruby red of medium body. Blackberry, bramble and oak fill the nose and continue on the palate. The tannins were firm but not harsh. A pleasant red wine and a fortunate discovery, as no one else on the east coast makes a Pinot Meunier on its own.

Goose at the Old Field

Goose at the Old Field

Next stop was The Old Field. We tried the first day we were there but they weren’t open (weekends only it turns out) so we were pleased when we tried again that it was open and went in for a visit. This is really an old farm, and is still occupied by numerous chickens, turkeys, and a curious goose, who enjoyed staring at us through the tasting barn window as we tasted through their wines poured by our host and family winemaker Perry. Maybe the goose is a Cabernet Franc fan? We enjoyed their wines and the conversation with Perry and some other customers who we saw earlier in the day at Croteaux.

There was none of the Pinot Noir to be had that day but we did enjoy the wines we tasted, particularly the Cacklin’ rosé, Cabernet Franc and Commander Perry Merlot. This winery’s vines go right down to the water and a private beach, and the space is available for weddings. The property’s documented history goes back to the 1600s and has been in the family’s ownership for 95 years. The first vines were planted there in 1974 and bio-dynamic and organic practices are used, with the chickens providing extra natural fertilizer as well as eggs. Everything is done by hand, from harvesting to labeling each bottle.

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

We finished the weekend with a visit to Martha Clara Vineyards, owned and operated by the Entenmanns, just across from their family farm. This potato farm was purchased in 1978 to raise thoroughbreds after Robert Entenmann sold off the family bakery business.  In 1995 he caught on to the local vinifera craze and began planting what would become 100 acres of vines.  He named it after his mother, Martha Clara Entenmann.

The tasting room was a beautiful building adorned with large scale classic movie posters, several tasting tables, a private tasting room for events, a gift shop and a large gathering space for snacking while enjoying newly purchased wines. Also to note is all their wines were on tap! They have a new winemaker and the wines were definitely showing well. I was pleased to find the Pinot Noir more developed and ripe than many from the region, and bought myself a bottle. And the nose on that Pinot pleased as well, so you know I was happy.