East Shore Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010 and Traminette 2011

East Shore Vineyards

East Shore Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010

Being a January baby and raised a skier and snowboarder since age 3,  my birthday consists of an annual family trip to the majestic Green Mountains of Vermont. Typically included are a gourmet meal, family time on the slopes, and a visit to the Vermont Country Store on the way out. If I could ski or snowboard professionally for a living, I would do it in a heartbeat. Both of my brothers were racers and even when that ended, our family traditions never did, and now our kids share the same traditions. In addition to the mountain time, a new tradition of late as a grown-up who loves wine is that I always make sure to pick up some ESV wines and Cabot cheddar (and many other culinary treats) when we visit the Vermont Country Store.  I have had their fantastic Vidal Ice Wine in the past, and this time picked up their 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2011 Traminette, a hardy Gewürztraminer hybrid that does well in the cold inherent to these parts of the country. They are located on the Grande Isle in the middle of Lake Champlaign situated between Vermont and New York State.

East Shore Vineyards Traminette 2011

East Shore Vineyards Traminette 2011

The 2010 Cabernet Franc is a medium-bodied, fruit-forward and well-balanced wine. It also has medium acidity, tannin and length with red and black fruit and spice notes both on the nose and palate. I paired it with the Cabot horseradish cheddar, a rich and pleasurable local treat. Unsurprisingly, they paired perfectly.

The 2011 Traminette had a slight fizz that I didn’t expect, but didn’t dislike. Slightly off dry, it had a crisp acidity and honeysuckle, rose petal and lavendar notes on the nose as well as the palate like its big cousin Gewürztraminer. There were also some slight tropical fruit notes on the palette. The body was well-rounded and this would be a lovely summer sipper with seafood or poultry. The fruit is sourced in neighboring New York where this hardy hybrid also thrives in the cold.

Their vineyards are sustainable and all the wines locally produced.  Though they lost all their vines in a hailstorm years back and had to source fruit and juice for a while, the vineyards are again thriving and the results are delicious! They have a partnership with Shelburne Vineyard to share winery equipment and are saving up to open their own winery in the future. You can buy the wines at many locations in Vermont, all listed on their website. At $18 each these were worthy and affordable.

Visit the tasting room at

East Shore Vineyards

28 Church Street, Burlington VT 05401


Cooking with Blueberry “Champagne”

Renault Winery Blueberry "Champagne"

Renault Winery Blueberry “Champagne”

I first mentioned Renault Winery and Resort’s NV Blueberry “Champagne” last summer when I paid a visit on my way home from Atlantic City – a mere 20 miles away or so. That entry is here.  New Jersey is known for excellent and abundant blueberry crops and hence this spin on sparkling wine was born. It is made by the Charmat (tank) method associated with larger bulk sparkling wine, but what’s nice about this one is it’s not overly sweet and the bubbles are fine enough for it to not taste inexpensive or give you a headache. The 100% blueberry juice is added before the fermentation, not after, so it is fully integrated and convincingly so. The blueberry is present, but not overwhelming. Fruit-sweetened wines can be sickeningly sweet in my opinion, especially when consumed in large amounts. But this one is not, as I learned yet again while enjoying the ‘leftovers’ of the bottle in the cooking process. Cooking you say? Yes…

The suggestion was made at the winery that one could make pancakes by replacing the liquid (water) in the batter with the blueberry sparkling wine. They provided a recipe but in fact we misplaced it so we looked up a similar one which gave us the crucial clue we needed. We then added a few other spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon to our base of Bisquick pancake mix, as the original batch needed a little added sweetness. It turns out that you can also find their recipe on page 63 of the “Wine City Cookbook,” a collection of local recipes from Egg Harbor City, New Jersey where the winery is located. The area became a booming wine region almost from the get-go, as vines too were cultivated here with much success starting in the mid 1800’s. This winery was one of the originals in the area, if not THE original (I’ve found many wineries make a claim to fame of being the first winery or vineyard in a given state or country, so I take it with a grain of salt.) It was started in 1864 by French ex-pat Louis Renault who made his first successful sparkling wine here in 1870 after a short stint in California. Renault fled France in 1855 to start his own vineyard in the USA when Phylloxera was ravaging most of the vines in Europe.

Blueberry "Champagne" pancakes

Blueberry “Champagne” pancakes

As if the smell of the pancakes wasn’t enticing enough, the wonderful added aroma of cooking blueberry champagne wafted throughout my home. To be fair, my wife did the cooking here so that I could tell you all about it. It was a real crowd-pleaser for the whole family. Said my sister-in-law “I didn’t think blueberry champagne pancakes would taste much different but they really do.”  I would say the only thing missing in our attempt was the addition of actual blueberries but I’m sure that was in their recipe, and will be in ours next time.  At $16.99 a bottle, its easy to try yourself. You can buy it on site or in a few local retailers. It also won a silver medal at the 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine competition.  Also worth mentioning again, is their amazing wine glass and historical artifact museum on the premises.

Visit them at

Renault Winery, Resort and Golf
72 North Bremen Avenue,
Egg Harbor City,
New Jersey 08215
(609) 965-2111

Graphic Image Wine Dossier and Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

The holidays were good to me, wine-wise. Not only did I drink a bunch of fantastic wines, but I got lots of great stocking stuffers. Today I’m going to talk about the label saver kit and my new wine dossier.

The label maker works great, if you have a standard size label, and you’re not expecting a perfect peel from the bottle. I was at first. But when I realized the label itself was removed fully intact, who cares that the back of it was still stuck to the empty bottle? The concept is simple: you peel off about 90% of the adhesive from the backing, save for a small tab at the end that is used to remove it. You then apply the exposed adhesive side to the label and bottle and use a hard object (they suggested the back of a spoon, which I used) to smooth out air bubbles and make full contact with the label and bottle. Then you use the tab end to peel it off, your label (hopefully) included.  I had originally tried it out on a different bottle but the label wrapped around fully with the exception of a small area in the back. In that case perhaps you can score the label with a knife and ruler to get a clean result. Will certainly try that tonight. I want to keep that label.

Graphic Image's Leather Wine Dossier

Graphic Image’s Leather Wine Dossier

It’s funny because the beautiful wine dossier my wife got me has its own page on how to remove wine labels for placement within its pages –the traditional hot water and dish soap technique. I have always had mixed results with that method, probably because some producers use stronger adhesives than others depending on their budgets. And maybe some impatience on my part, too. But the label savers worked.They are from Wine Enthusiast and retail at a mere $6.50 for a set of 10.

The task having been successful, I then trimmed the surrounding area of the label to fit it in the page of my beautiful red leather-covered wine dossier. It is divided by wine type – reds, whites, rosé, sparkling  and liquors – each with its own tab. On the left of each page is where you place the label, and rate the quality in the checkboxes below. On the right, you write your notes and pertinent information.  Though they need to be succinct to fit, that can be a good thing. There is also a section outlining all the wine types, varietals, and associated grapes and regions of note for the newbie. Frankly it can’t hurt anyone, newbie or expert or in-between, to have that to refer to regularly and refresh every now and then.

Inside the Wine Dossier

Inside the Wine Dossier

The wine dossier is from Graphic Image and costs $95 and is available at many online retailers. While that’s not cheap, neither is the product. And if you love wine that much, having a place to record and preserve your favorites in style is worth the money. And it’s something, like a fine wine, that you will enjoy more if you spend a little more.

Favorites of 2012

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc

Happy new year!  I am looking forward to another great year in wine. I was thinking over the last week or two about how I wanted to wrap up the inaugural year of this blog. I can do a wrap-up of all my favorite wines of the year, as many do. But I’ve already written about them in detail on this blog, so that would just be repetitive. So I will tell you about a few more that I really enjoyed over the holidays, and then will link you back to my other favorites I reviewed this year…

Cabernet Franc and I met for the first time in 2012. It quickly became one of my favorite wines, and I will kick things off with a few I’m fond of.

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes) was something I found in our new wine mega-store (I have to admit they have an impressive inventory including many fine wines now on my wish list).  They have a nice selection of local wines including Finger Lakes, North Fork, Hudson Valley and Connecticut wines. I wanted to try a Finger Lakes red, as I will be experimenting with making one of my own, and I don’t think I’ve had one yet. It was a really nice wine. It had a nice bright ruby color and the nose was enticingly smoky and spicy and bursting with red and black berry aromas. The tannins were soft and the acidity was bright but nicely balanced with the tannins and body. A lingering spicy fruit finish made this a new favorite.

Bedell 2011 Cabernet Franc

This was one of those Cab Francs I had for the first time in March on my inaugural North Fork visit that made me fall in love with the variety.  It was a ruby color of medium intensity. On the nose were blackberry and currant and a little ‘farmyard’. The palette echoed the rich black fruit and currant, with the addition of a spicy earthy flavor. The body and finish were about a medium.

Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes

Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes

I also grew quickly fond of fine Sauternes. Usually I don’t have a major sweet tooth (unless peanut butter is involved) but the quality of this wine is so high that its really hard not to enjoy it. I had the amazing Château Suduiraut 2005 Sauternes at Château Pichon Longueville in Bordeaux in October, and another from our range over thanksgiving that was very nice. But I picked up one at the wine shop that day for Christmas that was delicious.

Château Doisy-Vedrines 2009 is a nice example of Sauternes. It was in the $25 range for a half-bottle, which is average for this wine.  The body was nice and round, and the sweetness was pronounced as expected yet not cloying and overly sweet. Everything was nicely balanced and I enjoyed it over a few occasions last week, in most cases as a luxurious nightcap. Also, I can’t really have more than one a day, as its too much sweetness for me (well except for Château Suduiraut)  and this is not a table wine . One wants to take their time to enjoy sipping this one.

Some other 2012 Favorites from this year in my blog:

Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Paumanok Assemblage 2007

One Woman Vineyards Gruner Veltliner

Château Pichon-Longueville Pauillac 2009/2010 and Château Suduiraut Sauternes 2005

Land of Nod Chocolate Raspberry dessert wine

Bodegas Carrau Tannat 2000, Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Lenz Blanc de Noir 2008

Bedell First Crush (red) 2010

Hope your holidays were joyful, and here’s to 2013!