Sunday, August 31, 2008

At Buckingham Valley, it's all hands on deck

Catching up to winery proprietors is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Harvest season will begin, in general, next weekend and continue until around the middle of October. It’s not quite that they’re setting up cots in the vineyards, but some days it might feel like that.

Jerry Forest and his family at
Buckingham Valley Vineyards in Buckingham, Pa., have been going through this ritual longer than just about anyone in the region. They planted five acres in 1966. A few years later, the winery was in operation. Today, they have 12 varieties of grapes planted over 20 acres of the 40-acre farm. So, go ahead, figure out how many bunches of grapes they’ve taken off the vine since their dream became a reality.

“Sure, its exciting,” he said a few days ago, responding to a question about the harvest. “It’s a lot of fun. And well, it’s damn hard work physically, but it’s just so rewarding that we enjoy it.”

The length of the season, he said, depends on a variety of factors, including “the year, the grapes the whole bit. It can be very variable. Nut what happens is, we have 150, 200 tons of grapes out there. And when they come ripe, when the PH and the acid and the color and the sugar are all in balance, we run out and pick ‘em. So we have to be ready almost any day for that five-week period. And in our case we also buy a lot of grapes from other vineyards, so a guy will show up here on a Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening with 10 tons of grapes and we’ve got to be ready to process them. Most of the other vineyards pick with volunteer labor, bicycle clubs and Boy Scouts and whatever they can find. In our case, we machine harvest. . . . We’re able to pick four to six tons an hour with one person picking, and that’s usually my son Jon, and we bring them in from the vineyard within minutes; sometime within five minutes of being picked the grapes are being processed because the vineyards are all around our house. We don’t take any machine-picked fruit from anywhere other than our place.”

Their harvest push really starts in July and August, as they bottle much of last year’s harvest to make room for this year. “That’s what we’re doing right now. We just bottled 2500 gallons of wine yesterday and today because we have to empty the tanks and make room for the new harvest. So everything we picked last year and even the year before, some of the reds, are now being put in bottles over the next couple of days or weeks. We have about 80,000 gallons in stainless storage tanks and by next week mot of them will be emptied, cleaned and readied for the new harvest.”

Forest noted that during the first decade or two of operation “we used to have 30 or 40 pickers out there, and they would pick all days long and we would gather up the grapes in the afternoon and we’d press way into the night.” Advancements in the process, and he said they’re using their sixth generation of a wine press, have considerably shortened the day. “Now we pick from 8 a.m. until 10 or 11, we press from noon to 3, and then we clean up and have dinner and we’re all done,” he said. “It’s totally different, a much more relaxed way of harvesting.”

Getting through harvest doesn’t necessarily mean that the work ends for Jerry, wife Kathy, and sons Jon, Kevin and Chris. Jerry said they’re spending time moving the wine from tank to tank, then making the Nouveau (a young, semi-dry red) and Nouvelle (a young, semi-dry white) that are bottled right before Thanksgiving and continue to be sold through what’s always a busy holiday season. “So January first or January second, we take a deep breath and we lay back a little,” Jerry said. “We traditionally over many years used to close in January and February, but we can’t do that anymore because [our clientele nowadays] expect us to be here. So now we’re open 12 months a year. We take off Mondays only. We go out to lunch on Monday.”

Nissley hit the mark with its finale

We like to sit far from the stage and just people watch. Two of these pictures show a long view of the wooded vista at around 6:30, an hour before the concert. The 30th anniversary Seyval Blanc, generally one we'll pass over in favor of the Vidal Blanc, went perfect with the snacks that we brought along. And we also opened a bottled of the Vidal, which never disappoints for two drinkers who much prefer their wine dry. Finally, a look at the stage once the sun fled the scene.
The concert that wasn't originally scheduled did all right for itself. Nissley Vineyards & Winery has originally planned just eight concerts as part of the 26th annual Music in the Vineyards series, but what owner Judy Nissley called popular demand prompted her to added a ninth event last night.

The weather, humid and cloudy all day, broke as if on cue, clearing and cooling by the time the band Flashback With Donna Mark made its Nissley debut ay 7:30. Not sure what others thought, but I'd bring them back in a heartbeat and the large crowd dancing on stage and out on the grounds would seem to support that view. They played a mix of music before the break, then stuck with the '70s for the second part of their show.

It was a small crowd compared to, say, last week. But Nissley, who hadn't planned the normal amount of advertising for this one, had said she would be happy with a more intimate group, the smaller numbers allowing for more room to dance. And that's pretty much how it unfolded. Now, it's on to harvest.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

East Coast eateries generally ignore local wines

Wrote Terry Sullivan of Wine Trail Traveler recently and asked how much he and his wife Kathy were finding regional wineries carried on local restaurant wine lists during their trips across the country. He responded this way:

We are in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region of the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, and the restaurants here do a good job carrying wines fromthe local wineries. I'd say at least half of the wine list. The restaurants in Colorado, also do a good job, with three to sometimes more than ten Colorado wines on the list.

The East Coast of the United States is a disappointment though. We did find a restaurant in Skaneateles, New York, that had a couple of wines from the Finger Lakes, but it was only two, and there are near a hundred wineries there. We did stumble into an Applebees in Front Royal, Virginia, that had local wines in display casesas well as at the bar.

I think that the closer you are to big cities the less chance you'll see local wine. Outside the cities in the country you'll have a better chance.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Event Grapevine: Aug. 29-31, Sept. 1

Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival
Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford, Pa.
Noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Admission: $20/person, includes wine tastings, souvenir wine glass, and concerts.
Foods available from Pace One Restaurant, or bring your own picnic. No other alcoholic beverages permitted on grounds.

Lee Miller was driving when I reached her by phone last night, so she wasn’t certain how many years this event has been held. Might be 14, maybe 15 years. What she did know is that it’s an event that has become a tradition for a lot of people.

“They’ve got it on their calendars; they know it’s going on and they [know that they] are going to come out,” said Miller, co-owner of Chaddsford Winery.
“Some people come out for a couple days. It’s a great event, provided we get the weather.”

That seems likely for the assortment of end-of-the-summer events at wineries throughout the region, from Naylor to Nissley and Boordy to Twin Brook. Well, once we get through today and tomorrow morning anyhow, as a cold front is forecast to sweep through by midafternoon Saturday.

While Labor Day is accepted as the final weekend to head to the beach, Miller said that’s not necessarily on everyone’s agenda, particularly now that gas is parked well above $3 a gallon and seemingly headed higher over the next couple of days because of bad weather forecast for the Gulf of Mexico.

“You know, one of the things we found over the years is that the people who comes are the ones who kind of want to stay away from the shore,” she said. “Maybe it’s too long a drive, too many people, too many teenagers, and they’re really happy just to have something entertaining to do where they don’t have to drive. Now with everyone worried about gas, we’re in kind of that ‘staycation’ mode where people just kind of stay home and say, ‘Let’s go out to the winery for the day, it’ll be a nice day off.’”

are scheduled there all three days from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Miller said they’re expecting between 1,000 and 1,500 attendees per day. “That’s really all we can handle,” she added, noting they limit the amount of publicity they do “because we couldn’t handle 5,000 people. Fifteen hundred for us is a lot. We can do it well and we can do it comfortably. So it makes it kind of a big event, but it’s not like the Maryland Jazz Festival.

“And I think what people like about it is the low-key nature. You come, you find a spot on the grass. You put your blanket out. You can park for the day and you can bring your own food, so people can do it pretty inexpensively. We do provide a food tent, but it doesn’t matter to us if people go there or not. We’re just as happy if they bring their own stuff.”
Adams County Winery, Ortanna: Free summer concert, Saturday. 1 to 5 p.m., food and wine available, bring along a lawn chair and blanket, music by the Skyla Burrell Blues Band,

Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: Sangria Sunday wine tasting ($$), Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Labor Day Jazz Festival ($$), noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and Monday; reserve tastings ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m.,

Country Creek Winery, Telford: Barn and yard sale, Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music Friday (6 to 9 p.m.) and Saturday (noon to 3 p.m.); second annual Moon Dancer Folk Festival ($$), Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m.,

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: “Summer Sounds” outdoor concert series ($$), Friday, 8 to 11 p.m., music by Big Wheeley & The Whitewalls; Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m., music by Sentimental Journey,

Nissley Vineyard & Winery Estate, Bainbridge: Music in the Vineyards 2008 ($$), Saturday, 7:30 to 10 p.m., music by Flashback with Donna Mark,

Twin Brook Winery, Gap: Gazebo Concert Series ($$), Saturday evening, 6:30 to 9:30; music by Mr. Z & The Nightshift,

Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery, Breinigsville: Summer Tours With the Winemaker ($$), Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., about 1 ½ hours long,


Boordy Vineyards, Hydes: Summer Concert Series ($$), Saturday, 7 to 9:30 p.m.; gates open at 5:30 and there’s a dance instruction session at 6:30,

Other MARYLAND winery events can be found at
this link and VIRGINIA events at this link.


43rd annual Polish American Festival, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.,
click on this link

($$) – Admission charge

Wine Spectator updates on Pa. legislation

We've reported on the current legislation in Pennsylvania regarding direct shipping, which would allow the state's Liquor Control Board to become the middleman, at a fee, of course. Other papers around the state have done the same. A friend of the blog sent me this story out of Wine Spectator that includes comments from the head of the Pennsylvania Winery Association and from the sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Paul Costa.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hail wipes out Chaddford's '08 crop

Several winery proprietors have talked about harvest being their favorite time of the year, the climax to a long year spent pruning, training and planning. That goes for Lee and Chris Miller, the proprietors of Chaddsford Winery. Only this year they will be sitting on the sideline wondering what him them.

Asked earlier tonight how soon after this weekend’s Labor Day Jazz Festival at the winery that they will be picking, Lee said simply that they won’t be picking in their vineyard this year. “That we’re not picking means we have no grapes.”

Hail that fell as part of a vicious system that moved through Eastern Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago wiped out their vineyard in
Elverson, located a little less than an hour’s drive northwest of the winery. The storm destroyed what’s called the Miller Estate Vineyard, which Lee said provides close to 40 percent of what they make.

“We’re still kind of in shock,” she said, “because what we make from our vineyard are the high-end wines . . . our
Due Rossi, our Merican, our Miller Estate Chardonnay [and] Miller Estate Pinot Noir, and those are all gone for this year.”

While the area as a whole got hit pretty hard, Lee said the hail damage seemed restricted to their patch of ground. “It was pretty isolated,” she said. “There’s a vineyard just on the other side of the hill, maybe a half-mile from us that did not get hit. It was a huge storm, there was a lot of damage, a lot of hail. They were talking about hail like golf balls. We were at the beach, it was either two or three weeks ago. It was a Sunday night and it came in and sliced up everything. What wasn’t literally damaged by the hail we had to go through the next two weeks, and we just picked it and dropped it on the ground because we had to get it off. The leaves were all shredded and so the vines couldn’t support a crop anymore without the leaves and the fruit was starting to rot, so we had to throw it all away.”

They’ve seen their share of bad weather, Lee said, since opening their winery in 1982. Today it produces around 30,000 cases annually. But nothing to this extent. In fact, she said that state viniculturalist Mark Chien called it the worst damage to a vineyard that he has ever seen, either on this coast or the West Coast.

They wrote up a note about the loss that will be placed on their Web site over the next couple days, and it wasn’t easy. It’s a loss that touches the entire Chaddsford family, from the Millers to a staff that include vineyard manager Brent Mihalcik. “It’s so personal to him,” she said. “He’s been in this vineyard for probably close to 20 years and it’s, you know, they’re his babies. He took it really, really hard.”

As did they. “Eric wrote up this little report about it and he was talking in there about how sad it is to wait. It’s almost like having a baby. You’re nurturing this all year and you get to harvest and you have all your plans made and you decided what you’re going to do and what wines you’re going to make and all of a sudden it’s gone. And you have to wait another year to get a chance again.

“It’s just this vintage. Obviously from a customer standpoint, most people won’t notice any difference,” she said. “We’ll adjust our inventory, we’re buying more grapes from other people, we’ll make some different wines this year. But the people who really follow Chaddsford for those things from that particular vineyard will know there is nothing in ’08."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At Fiore, Sangiovese making itself at home

Talking to Mike Fiore the other day time-warped me back in my grandparents’ kitchen in south Philly; the thick accent, the joy for everything food and wine, the zest for life.

He’s a native of Italy, a former vineyard owner there, who arrived in the Baltimore area in 1962 and met his wife within the year, according to the Fiore Winery Web site. They bought a small farm in northern Harford County in 1975 and, while he worked his day as a technician at the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, they slowly let the idea of planting a vineyard ferment. In 1986 they opened the winery, and it has grown from producing 1,500 gallons to more than 35,000 gallons. It makes 21 wines, including Prosecco, an Italian off-dry light sparkling wine that could find itself on your table for more occasions than holidays.

So it didn’t take much prompting for our discussion to wander to the subject of Italy, which I visited for the first time in January and Fiore heads back to annually. “Italy has come a long way when it comes to food,” he said. “I notice that around me the whole world eats Italian food now, even some of our French neighbors. From what I find [they] consume more Italian food than French food. My response is that it took a long time, but you finally got smart. Wait until you get addicted to Italian wine.”

That would include the Sangiovese, the primary grape for the Chianti and Chianti Classico of Tuscany and one that is bringing Fiore much delight. The
winery is selling its 2006 Sangiovese now; the grapes from last year’s harvest probably won’t see a bottle until later on next year. “I want to give it a little more time inside those barrels to pick up some more wood,” he said. Not as long as the Chambourcin or Cabernet Sauvignon. “But the style of Sangiovese I want to make, I like a nice, crispy, fruity-style Sangiovese [that] has a lot of Italian flavor in it.”

It’s the first bottle of the varietal that they’ve bottled. In the past, after what Fiore called “exceptional years,” that Sangiovese has found itself as the primary grape in a blend called Caronte that also includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. “The last time we made it was 2002,” he said. “We haven’t made it for a while because actually it wasn’t that we didn’t have exceptional years, but I didn’t have enough Sangiovese to do it.”

They grow about 2 acres of the
grape, one of the few locations in Maryland that does. “The more we make it in Maryland the more we’ll realize what the Sangiovese is going to be like,” he said, optimistic that others will follow his lead. While admittedly a grape that's finicky and easy to bruise, Fiore said he's encouraged by the strategy adopted the past two years of lightening the bunches to allow the remaining grapes more room to develop. “The ‘06 we didn’t drop too much of it but I thought we needed a little more body to [the wine], so the ‘07 we dropped a little bit more and the 08 we’re dropping it down to a little less than three tons per acre, and you can really see a difference in the structure of those grapes and an improvement in the quality.”

Several days ago I posted a short about how much I liked the
Sasyr, a blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. It's not a marriage you'll find at Fiore's winery. And he didn't mind saying so. “Syrah takes over, like a big bully with a weaker kid. However, that’s not what I’m after. Maybe it’s the Italian pride of me that makes me do that . . . I wanted the Sangiovese to stand up on its own two feet.”

Allegro returns happy from Seven Springs

The early returns are giving the annual Wine & Food Festival at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, held this past weekend, a thumbs-up.

Carl Helrich of
Allegro Vineyards in The Brogue, Pa., sounded in an e-mail like he was happy he had made the trip."Seven Springs is the second largest festival in PA," he wrote. "It was well attended this year, although I don't know official figures. We had our best year ever. I do think they added on a couple wineries this year."

Helrich was correct about the bump in wineries, from 23 to 25. Spokesperson Melissa Cullin said that they moved a couple things around, allowing for a larger tent and consequently a couple more wineries. Only Pennsylvania wineries are invited, although the crowds for the festival that also includes arts and crafts, live entertainment and gourmet foods generally come in from a four-state area.

Cullen said the Resort does not release attendance figures. She did send a list of the wineries that attended, which follows:

Adams County Winery, Ortanna,
Allegro Vineyards, Brogue,
Arrowhead Wine Cellars, North East,
Benigna’s Creek Vineyard & Wwinery, Klingerstown,
Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellars, New Tripoli,
Chaddsford Winery, Chadds Ford,
Christian W. Klay Winery, Chalk Hill,
Clover Hill Winery, Breinigsville,
Flickerwood Wine Cellars, Kane,
Franklin Hill Winery, Bangor,
Glades Pike Winery, Somerset,
Heritage Wine Cellars, North East,
Laurel Mountain Winery, Falls Creek,
Long Trout Winery, Auburn,
Mazza Vineyards, North East,
Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, Centre Hall,
Oak Springs Winery, Altoona,
Penn Shore Vineyards, North East,
Presque Isle Wine Cellars, North East,
Raspberry Acres, Blairsville
Sand Castle Winery, Erwinna,
Shade Mountain Winery, Middleburg,
Starr Hill Vineyard & Winery, Curwensville,
Vynecrest Winery, Breinigsville,
Winery at Wilcox, Wilcox,

Wycombe seeking pickers for harvest

Wycombe Vineyards in Furlong, Pa., just north of Philly, is looking for grape pickers for three weekends in the fall, beginning with Sept. 6-7. Many of the details are covered at this spot on their site.

As someone who has picked at Basignani Winery in Maryland for the past four years, I'd recommend trying to work any of the regional wineries during this year's harvest and see how you like it. Not all wineries use volunteers, but more do than you probably realize. It can be hard work, especially on a warm autumn day, but there's an element of fellowship nd plenty of exercise that comes out of it, and the morning or early afternoon usually is capped with one of the world's best sights: a picnic spread and uncorked bottles of wine. You go home a little giddy frankly.

Wineries generally have the tools if you don't, but most will tell you to bring along garden shears, kitchen scissors and/or gloves if you have them.

Fairmount Ensemble to end Crossing series

Performing with the Fairmount Chamber Ensemble are, clockwise, from upper right: Jean Luise Shook, violinist; Dane Anderson, cellist; Beth Dzwil, violist; and Taia Harlos, violinist.

I'd like to get to the point where this site not only introduces you to the winermakes and acquaints you with the region's wines, but is a go-to spot for all events related to wine. That said, here's new on the final summer concert series event at Crossing Vineyards & Winery:

Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa. will wrap up its fifth “Summer Under the Stars” concert series on Friday, Sept. 12, with a Latin sound, courtesy of the Fairmount Chamber Ensemble.

The 7 p.m. concert will be held rain or shine on the grounds of the 200-year-old estate at 1853 Wrightstown Road.

Fairmount, which formed in 1994 in response to requests for a large ensemble to accompany Philadelphia- area choirs, has performed works such as Handel’s “Messiah,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and Mozart’s “Requiem.” The group, featuring cellist Dane Anderson, violist Beth Dzwil, and violinists Taia Harlos and Jean Luise Shook, will switch it up with a program of Latin music, beginning with the classical melodies of Latin composers and ending with the some Latin dance fun.

Along with the music, Crossing offers concert-goers its award winning wines by the bottle or glass and cheese, plus picnic suppers. The carte du jour will be open-faced toasted French bread with marinated sliced steak, roasted garlic spread, crumbled blue cheese and balsamic caramelized red onions. Also, baby arugula salad with toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese and lemon vinaigrette. Dessert is homemade dark chocolate éclairs, served with coffee or tea.

Sponsored by Haldeman Auto Dealerships, tickets are $10; picnic suppers are $30, plus tax and gratuity, and reservations must be made in advance. No outside beverages are permitted. Guests are asked to bring lawn chairs. Seating is provided for those purchasing picnic suppers. Tickets and picnic suppers may be ordered by calling 215.493.6500, ext. 19 or purchased online at the Web site. You can also find directions to the winery there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

School bells' ringing at Crossing Vineyards

So we’ve written a lot about the grapes that are picked and the wine that’s made and the events that make a winery feel like home. But some also have turned their farm into a campus, offering classes on a variety of subjects related to wine.

Owner Chris Carroll of Crossing Vineyards & Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa., sent out the list for fall the other day. Temple U, where I teach as an adjunct, would be impressed.

And, like Temple, the winery has a satellite campus; it recently opened that in East Falls. Classes run the gamut, from the basic 101s that introduce students to all things wine to a few upper-level courses. All are taught by an experienced staff that deep roots in Philly’s wine and food community.

Carroll wrote in an e-mail that the makeup of the attendees is as diverse as the classes offered.

“The people who sign up for our classes represent a real mix of ages,” she wrote. “Some Sundays at Dummies, we'll have lots of ‘Millenials’ and ‘Boomers.’ We're a little light on the ‘Gen-Xers,’ who are probably too committed with family and don't have much free time. We see a pretty even mix of men and women. Couples often take classes together.”

Classes start soon after Labor Day at East Falls and at the winery, in what’s called The Wine Institute. One series returning is called Wine 101, which is broken down into six topics and held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Monday starting on Sept. 8. These include an introduction to wine and the types of wine, instruction on storing, serving and tasting red and white wines, and then pairing wine with food. In this case, classes can be taken individually for $30 or as a complete course for $150.

Others back in the Institute’s
curriculum are Wine Tasting for Dummies once a month on a Sunday afternoon, a one-hour workshop in November called the Wine List Survival Guide, and a wine and wellness class entitled Eat Drink and Be Healthy that’s also set for November. Wine Tasting: Old World vs. New World is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2. Marika Vida-Arnold, sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, is planning what the winery’s release is calling “a fun, fast-paced hour of information on classic European wines and their casual New World counterparts. She will emphasize their differences in taste and style and explain how to pair them with food.” And, the best news as far as I’m concerned, I can still get into work in time to handle all assignments for the Eagles at Seattle game, which begins at 4:15. Hey, that’s for anyone out there not paying attention.

As you might expect, Crossing Vineyards wines are used in every class and there’s an emphasis on acquainting students with what’s around here rather than on the Left Coast. “We deliberately don't offer courses on California,” Carroll wrote. “Most people are more familiar with California than any other wine region. They think wine is synonymous with California, even more so than France or Italy. We want to do new and different classes, wines they might not get elsewhere. We feature CVW wine in every class we give; so we are educating on East Coast wines all the time and illustrating through our quality product that award winning wines can be produced in Pennsylvania.”

All suggestions for new classes are considered, she added. And, in fact, two are making their debut on Crossing Vineyard’s “main campus.” One is a wine and chocolate pairing course – Pairing Wine and Chocolate: How Sweet It Is -- featuring Lindt of Switzerland. Crossing Vineyards’ sommelier Eric Cavatore and Stacey Glynn-Brady, Manager of Lindt of Switzerland at Palmer Square in Princeton, N.J., will explain how both chocolate and wine are made and will offer advice on how to enjoy them together. This one costs $30 to attend.

The other is a French Wine for Beginners course that will target the varietals and appellations of Burgundy.

“We have an Italian Wine for Beginners class on the fire,” Carroll wrote, responding to a question about what else is planned, “[and] a Wine and Cheese Pairing Class, as we have recently opened a Wine and Cheese Shop in the Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs.”

Joining regulars Cavatore, Wine for Dummies instructor Tom Carroll Sr. and Vida-Arnold are Collin Flatt, wine writer for, a Philadelphia-centric food magazine/blog. Flatt holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Temple, has trained at the Wine School of Philadelphia and then broadened that education with extensive wine travel and study in Italy.

He’ll teach three courses at The Marketplace at East Falls, 3747 Ridge Ave. They include:

Wine Tasting for Dummies, $25, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 26, 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 9, 2 p.m.
The ABCs of Wine Tasting, $20, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m.
Wine List Survival Guide, $20, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2 p.m.

Uncle Matt uncovers a few bargains

As someone who likes to provide a bit of content per day, I feel like I've been struggling the past few weeks. Sigh. The real job always gets in the way. While I put together a local story to post in about an hour, here's a column from author Matt Kramer, a Portland, Ore., wine critic who contributes to the Oregonian. It ran earlier this month.

In it, Kramer offers his suggestions on some reds and whites to buy that provide a lot of BANG for the buck.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

'G' fits Galen Glen's needs to a 'T'

If you follow these postings you read that the Traminette has been the best seller in the early going for Terrapin Station Winery in extreme northeastern Maryland, near the town of Elkton. Seeing Traminette on the list at Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery prompted me to ask proprietor Sarah Troxell how that wine is rolling off the shelf there. It’s rolling, all right, down the hill and out of sight.

“Our Traminette sells very well, but there’s good news and bad news about that,” she said the other day. “The good news is that we planted
Gewurztraminer as a replacement and will have our first commercial harvest [with it] this fall. The bad news is that the grower we were purchasing the Traminette from sold his property and the new owner is putting a tremendous house on it, ripped out vineyards. It’s a 6,000 square-foot house, so a lot of vineyard came out.

“We were very uncertain as to what would happen with the Traminette, so [that] will fall off our wine list as we sell out of this vintage and be replaced with Gewurztraminer, grown right here. We had a small amount last year and we blended that into the Traminette, just a couple percent, but we’re really excited. It’s going to be a beautiful crop, and we’re hoping to a real true Germanic Gewurztraminer coming next year.”

Troxell called Traminette the “easier-to-grow version of Gewurztraminer.” But that’s only if you have the grapes. They weren’t sure what they’d have once that house went up and the vines came down. “We just decided to take the bull by the horns and try the harder-to-grow one,” she said. “It seems to be doing well here. They’re four-year-old vines this year and we should get close to a commercial harvest. So, we’re really excited; looking forward to it.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Galen Glen: A taste of Austria, Germany

You can tell the region where Sarah and Galen Troxell have their farm and
winery by the wines on their list. There’s Riesling and Traminette, Auslese and Gruner Veltliner, and then there’s that dessert wine with the long name that starts with a B.

Beerenauslese?” Sarah asked after I fumbled with the name. “It’s a dessert wine, a preview to the ice wine. We just released our ice wine this past weekend. It’s sweeter than late harvest. The grapes were picked cold, but not frozen. We actually for the ice wine follow true Canadian etiquette. We pick and press bbelow 17, the fruit is frozen. We pick as cold as 2 degrees. Last year it wasn’t quite that cold, but it’s a very rich, sweet ice wine.

“We also do Alsace, which I again that Germanic stock fermentation, it’s a blend of all things grown here. Big fragrance. It’s called Erin’s Alsace [pronounced AL-slay-sa]. Beautiful bouquet, but more of a table wine. There again, not late harvest, but one step backward closer to the table wine. A big, fragrant white. Semisweet.”

One wine that won’t be on the list after this year is the
Traminette. That’s because the producer decided to tear out most of their vines to provide the space for a big house.
So the Gruner Veltliner, still in its infancy in the Troxell’s vineyard, will make a greater impact after this harvest and those to come.

“It’s a big Austrian white wine, huge bouquet,” Sarah said. “The finish is dry. I don’t even know if there 10 vineyards that grow it in this part of the country. That and our Riesling are probably two of our most famous whites. They both have the classic big Germanic fragrance and the Riesling is finished half dry without fermentation and the Gruner is dry.”

Both, she said, are crisp whites that can stand a year or so wait before opening. Or you can be impatient and pour a day after purchase. Maybe all that depends on what you are planning for dinner. “The Riesling,” she said, responding to a question about what foods go well with both, “with pork or some lightly [seasoned] Old Bay shrimp. The Gruner is a little heavier taste. That you can do with more light meats, sausage, also pork, turkey, all sorts of poultry, heavier seafoods as well. It has a little bigger taste so it can stand up to more foodwise.”

Sausage would figure to be on a lot of menus in the vicinity of the hill in northeast Pennsylvania where the Troxells grow their grapes. Asked what trends she has seen in tastes recently, Sarah said: “I probably think they are drinking a little more red. We’re slowly transitioning from a very fruit-driven Germanic area to dryer wines. It’s a slow process. These people are very comfortable with fruit, so to get them to try dryer wines [takes some time].”

What won’t take much time is the transition to harvest. Troxell said all winemakers in this region can hope for at this point is a close approximation of last year, when there was no rain to speak of through the entire harvest.

“I mean, we live in Pennsylvania. There are hurricanes normally that time of the year,” she said, “and we didn’t really have any. It’s the first time in all the years we’ve been picking that you could pick any day you wanted. We didn’t have to worry about some potential storm and are we going to get inches of rain and will it change the flavor profile or dilute the sweetness. . . . We just picked when we decided it was time.”

This weekend they're putting on sale their holiday raspberry, what they call their fall wine release. In an area where they sell a lot of fruit, this is the only fruit wine that Galen Glen sells, "so when it's release it arrives with huge fanfare," Troxell said. On the horizon is harvest, and she didn't have to wait more than a moment to answer a question about where it ranks among the
full cycle of events in the vineyard? Top of the list, she said. “How can you not? You do all the work to get here so then when it arrives . . . it’s truly something to look forward to.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

SaSyr opened . . . and gone

Received a bottle of SaSyr as a gift recently and just opened it. Produced in Tuscany, it's a 60-40 blend of Sangiovese and Syrah that's exceptionally smooth and just envelops your mouth with a big kiss of fruit. Again, prefer to stick to writing about the regional wines, but this one was so good and the blend was so unique that I wanted to share it.

The Event Grapevine: Aug. 23-24

Call this weekend the calm before the storm, as the event calendar is dotted with the conclusion of the summer concert series but certainly not overloaded. That changes next week with a number of Labor Day festivals and then revs up with the beginning of harvest season.

The sixth annual
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail will be held on two weekends for the first time: Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4-5. Both weekends will include the festivities you’d expect to find at what amounts to the granddaddy of events on the annual wine trail calendar: tastings, concerts, picnics, hayrides, vineyard tours, art exhibits and other special activities. A list of activities will be posted closer to the event.Harvest Fest Passports are $25 and can be purchased online at BVWT member wineries. You can also leave your name and number at 610.444.3842 or 866.390.4367 (toll free). This Passport entitles the holder to one tasting at each winery during Harvest Fest. If you are unable to visit all the BVWT members during the Harvest Festival, the passport can be used through Dec. 30.

That said, here’s what set for this weekend:

Adams County Winery, Ortanna: Free summer concert, Saturday. 1 to 5 p.m., food and wine available, bring along a lawn chair and blanket,
Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: Sangria Sunday wine tasting ($$), Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Reserve Tasting ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m.,

Crossing Vineyards & Winery, Washington Crossing: Wine Tasting for Singles ($$), Friday, 7 p.m.; Summer Concert Series ($$), Friday, 7 p.m.,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music Friday (6 to 9 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday (2 to 5 p.m.); Summer Concert series Saturday (7 to 10 p.m.) ($$),

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: “Summer Sounds” outdoor concert series ($$), Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m.,

Nissley Vineyard & Winery Estate, Bainbridge: Music in the Vineyards 2008 ($$), Saturday, 7:30 to 10 p.m., music by JumpStreet,

Paradocx Vineyards, Landenberg: Debut of Barrel Wine Tasting Dinner at the winery ($$), teaming up with Brandywine Prime Seafood & Chops; call 610.388.808 for reservations,

Twin Brook Winery, Gap: Gazebo Concert Series ($$), Saturday evening, 6:30 to 9:30; music by Lil Ragu Band,

Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery, Breinigsville: Summer Tours With the Winemaker ($$), Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., about 1 ½ hours long, ttp://


Boordy Vineyards, Hydes: Summer Concert Series ($$), Saturday, 7 to 9:30 p.m.; gates open at 5:30 and there’s a dance instruction session at 6:30,

Other MARYLAND winery events can be found at this link and VIRGINIA events at this link.


Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Seven Springs, Pa.:
Wine & Food Festival ($$), Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.

($$) – Admission charge

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New line has Woodhall toasting its good fortune

Reserve wines aren’t anything new for
Woodhall Wine Cellars in Parkton, Md. I have about a dozen of them stashed away in my cellar and wine refrigerator (the Vidal Blanc) along with several bottles from the library sale they hold late in the fall that clears out some of their older stock. One that I purchased last year, a 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon, was just "shouting" at me to uncork it. So I did. It hadn’t lost any of its structure or taste, and it was fun as hell opening a bottle of wine with grapes that were growing while I was still working my first job out of school.

Anyway, Woodhall has bolstered its reserve line with a series that they are calling Vintner’s Prestige and offering for tastings every weekend. All of them have co-owner Al Copp and winemaker Chris Kent beaming.

“People have really come on to them,” Copp said yesterday. “We do a tasting at the winery where you can do all six [wines in the line] for $10 and we find that people are impressed enough that they buy mixed cases when they go home.”

It’s a group that’s anchored by a 2005 Copernica Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the fifth time that a harvest produced a Cab grape superior enough to be given the status of reserve. They date as far back as 1991, with the others coming out in 1995, 1997 and 2002. Similarly, Parkton Prestige has its roots in the early ’90s and is back in the line. It’s a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70 percent), Merlot (25 percent), and Cabernet Franc (5 percent). Joining the group of reds are the 2007 Barbera and 2007 Merlot. Both were big hits at the barrel tasting in the spring and were recently bottled.

“I am really happy with the Merlot,” Kopp said. “It’s the best Merlot we’ve ever made and we think that it’s one of the better East Coast Merlots.”

Kopp said this batch of Merlot grapes was grown at Jubilee Farm in St. Mary’s County, in southern Maryland, and that the best might turn out to be the last in terms of using that distributor. “We’ve been using them for three years. We knew when we started that they were going to start a winery, but they weren’t ready yet. They needed an outlet for their grapes, so we were working with them. [Now they’ve] decided to do the winery, so we won’t be getting their grapes this year, so the Merlot may be a one-time shot. The Barbera, we have another source on the Eastern Shore that we’re going to get some from this year.”

Completing the reserve series is what they’re calling a Golden Run Reserve Vidal Blanc (“It’s an illustration of a Vidal Blanc that has a lot more character than a lot of the Vidal you see on the market,” Kopp said) and a late-harvest Vignoles, “which we think is a pretty nice dessert wine.”

Two more wines – a 2007 Cabernet Franc and another Cabernet Sauvignon – seemed destined for a reserve label. It’s a line that sells for you’d probably consider moderately priced, and definitely at the high end of the 20 or so wines that Woodhall offers.

“Our wines start at probably 12, 13 dollars in the store, then we go 13 to 18 or so, and then there’s this line,” Kopp said. “The [reserve line] are all 25 [dollars] to 30 [dollars]. I think Copernica is 30 dollars at the winery. We didn’t feel we wanted to go any higher than that until we understand what the market thinks of these wines.”

Available at the winery, Kopp said he’s starting to pitch the line to selected stores. “It’s not for all stores,” he added. “It’s pretty pricey wine. You’ve got to have a top shelf that they can go on, or nearly top shelf.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Swedish Hill earns NY's '08 Governors Cup

This release arrived today following completion of the 2008 New York Wine & Food Classic judging:

New Paltz, New York, AUGUST 20—Swedish Hill Winery from the Finger Lakes won the coveted “Governor’s Cup” trophy at the 2008 New York Wine & Food Classic competition, held on August 19 & 20 at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. The “Winery of the Year” award also went to Swedish Hill Winery.

The elegant Governor’s Cup, a large silver chalice, recognizes the “Best of Show” or top prize of all 775 entries in the Classic, known as “The Oscars” of New York wine. The “Winery of the Year” award is presented to the winery with the best overall showing based on the level and number of awards in relation to entries.

This year’s competition included 775 New York wines from the Long Island, Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Niagara Escarpment, Lake Erie, and other regions of New York State. The 2007 Vidal Blanc was also voted Best White Wine, and Best Vidal Blanc on its way to the ultimate award. Swedish Hill Winery received 2 Double Gold, 2 Gold, 11 Silver, and 7 Bronze awards on its way to that honor.

A new “Specialty Wine Champion” award was added this year to recognize consistent quality among the increasing number of wines made from fruits other than grapes, or honey. The 2008 winner was Earle Estates Meadery, with 1 Gold, 2 Silver, and 5 Bronze awards.

The awards were based on blind tastings by 25 expert judges—7 from California, 11 from New York, and 7 from other states. Judges included prominent wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Four-judge panels determined the initial awards, with top-scoring wines evaluated by all 25 judges for Best of Category and Governor’s Cup awards.

Celebrating its 23rd year, the Classic is organized by Teresa Knapp of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and is open to all 242 New York wineries from all regions. In 2008, a total of 14 Double Gold, 62 Gold, 198 Silver, and 266 Bronze medals were awarded. In addition, “Best of Category” and “Best of Class” designations were awarded to wines rated as the finest in various areas. Double Gold medals require unanimity among a panel’s judges that a wine deserves a Gold medal, whereas Gold medals require a majority vote.

The “Best of Category” awards, all eligible for the Governor’s Cup, went to Swedish Hill Winery NV Spumante Blush for Best Sparkling wine, Swedish Hill Winery 2007 Vidal Blanc for Best White wine, Anthony Road Wine Company 2007 Dry Rosé for Best Blush or Rosé wine, Bedell Cellars 2006 Musée for Best Red wine, Earle Estates Meadery Creamy Apricot for Best Specialty wine, and Casa Larga Vineyards 2005 Fiori Vidal Ice Wine for Best Dessert wine.

The “Best of Class” awards for different varietals or proprietary blends, which were tasted off for “Best of Category” awards, went to Swedish Hill Vineyards Spumante Blush wine for Best Native Sparkling wine, Lakewood Vineyards 2007 Dry Riesling for Best Dry Riesling wine, Hosmer 2007 Riesling for Best Semi-Dry Riesling wine, Paumanok Vineyards 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling for Best Semi-Sweet Riesling, Castello di Borghese Vineyard 2006 Chardonnay for Best Chardonnay wine, Macari Vineyards & Winery 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Katharine’s Field for Best Sauvignon Blanc, McGregor Vineyard 2007 Rkatsiteli-Sereksiya,Estate Grown for Best White Vinifera Blend, Whitecliff Vineyards 2007 Traminette for Best Traminette, Swedish Hill Winery 2007 Vidal Blanc for Best Vidal Blanc, Rooster Hill Vineyards 2007 Silver Pencil for Best White Hybrid Blend, Arbor Hill Grapery 2007 Vergennes for Best Other Native White Varietal, Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars Liquid Wisdom for Best Niagara, Anthony Road Wine Company 2007 Dry Rosé for Best Blush or Rosé, Torrey Ridge Winery Blue Sapphire for Best Concord, Barrington Cellars Baco Noir for Best Baco Noir, Swedish Hill Winery Viking Red for Best Red Hybrid Blend, Red Newt Cellars 2005 Cabernet Franc for Best Cabernet Franc, Osprey’s Dominion 2005 Reserve Merlot for Best Merlot, Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled for Best Cabernet Sauvignon, Bedell Cellars 2006 Musée for Best Red Vinifera Blend, Earle Estates Meadery Creamy Apricot for Best Mead, Heron Hill Winery 2006 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc for Best Late Harvest wine, and Casa Larga Vineyards 2005 Fiori Vidal Ice Wine for Best Ice Wine.

Complete results of the 2008 Classic will soon be posted under “New York Gold” at, which also includes Gold medal New York wines from other major competitions.


Mollie Battenhouse, DWS
Wine Director & Educator, International Wine Center, New York, New York

Dan Berger
Wine Journalist and Publisher, Santa Rosa, California

Shannon Brock
Wine Coordinator, New York Wine & Culinary Center, Canandaigua, New York

Rory Callahan
President, Wine & Food Associates, New York, New York

Co-Publisher, Wine East, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Rene Chazottes
Wine Director, Maitre Sommelier, The Pacific Club, Newport Beach, California

Jim Clarke,
Wine Writer and Director, MEGU, New York, New York

Mike Dunne
Food Editor, Wine Columnist and Restaurant Critic, The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California

Traci Dutton
Director of Education, Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, California

Ziggy Eschliman
Ziggy, “The Wine Gal,” Wine Country Radio, Sonoma, California

Doug Frost, M.W., M.S.
Wine Writer and Educator, Prairie Village, Kansas

LorraineHems, CS, CWE
Lecturer of Wine Studies, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY &
Instructor, New York Wine & Culinary Center, Canandaigua, New York

Fred LeBrun
Columnist, Albany Times Union, Albany, New York

Ann Littlefield
Direct Wine Marketing Brand Champion, Napa, California

Bill Mahoney
Wine Manager, Premium Wine & Spirits, Williamsville, New York

Ann Miller
Marketing Specialist, Missouri Wine & Grape Board, Jefferson City, Missouri

Bert Miller
Food & Beverage Director, Long Island Marriott, Uniondale, New York

Jerry Pellegrino
Chef/Owner, CORKS & & Abacrombie Fine Foods, Baltimore, Maryland

Mike Riley
Regional Manager/Buyer Wine and Spirits, Wegmans East Coast Region, Princeton, New Jersey

Coke Roth
Wine Consultant & Attorney, Kennewick, Washington

Jerry Shriver
Writer, USA Today, New York, New York

Sandra Silfven
Wine Writer, Detroit News, Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Bob Small
Director of Hospitality, Collins School of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly University &
Director, Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, Pomona, California

Eric White
Wine Consultant & Store Manager, The Winery, New York, New York

Kevin Zraly
Wine Educator & Author, New York, New York

Crossing Vineyards offering intro course

Posting for those living around Philly and looking for a Wine 101 course this fall:

For anyone who doesn’t know chardonnay from cabernet, the difference between francs and blancs and, worse, what not to serve with fish and fowl, Crossing Vineyards & Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa. is offering a six-session course, taught by its French sommelier, Eric Cavatore (right), designed to answer basic and not-so-basic wine questions. The details are as follows:
An Introduction to Wine, 1st in six-course series on wine, 6:30 -8:30 p.m., Sept. 8, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, Pa. Cost: $30 per course, $150 for series. Includes behind-the-scene access to winery during crush and harvest and wine-tasting. Future dates: Sept. 15, 22, 29, Oct. 6, 13. Course listings and info: 215-493-6500, ext. 19 or at the Web site.

At Galen Glen, a chance to warm up to rose

It was a bottling day yesterday at Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery in northeast Pennsylvania, so I snagged proprietor Sarah Troxell between tasks and sneaked in a brief phone conversation that will provide the fodder for a couple of postings.

Depending on your tastes, you could be jumping for joy at the raspberry wine that was emerging yesterday from the end of the bottling line. “We just got fresh raspberries so we take one of our white wines and blend in raspberry juice as a sweetner,” says Troxell, who directs the winery along husband Galen. "So it's our winter sort of dessert offering." A family farm that according to their Web site is “nestled between the Appalachian and Mahoning mountains,” they’ve been going full bore since planting their first two acres of vines in May 1995. It's a member of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.

She admits that while other wines on their list rev up her taste buds and palate more than this particular offering, “we live in a Pennsylvania German area, so fruit is big. We don’t do any fruit wines. [This] is a wine with fruit juice added, I call it the faux fruit wine. So, living here, it’s very popular.”

There was a time I’d avoid anything that wasn’t dry, but that’s changing. Exhibit A is that peach wine from Georgia that my wife and I opened last week and then wrote about. Skeptical, we were won over in one sip. And I've had my share of rose alongside the array of foods placed down on the Thanksgiving table.

Galen Glen makes several roses. One is called Win Gris, a dry rose that Troxell says has sold out this season. They plan on making more after this coming harvest. “And then we do a semi sweet and a sweet, more what I’d call blushes; they’re more fruity and fragrant. In the summer, those combined with whites do really well. We’ve had such a [demand]. We didn’t think our dry rose would be as popular as it was.”

Troxell says she sees roses in America gaining popularity, although still lagging behind the large following they have in Europe, particularly the dry roses. In general, she says, it’s a wine that looks far more comfy in the summer atop a blanket spread out under a grove of trees than alongside a midwinter fire. It's definitely picnic friendly.

"The Win Gris we do with our dry red wine grapes, whereas our [semi sweet] Noah’s Blush and [sweet] Galah are made with Steuben grapes, which are big fragrant hybrids, so if you’ve looking for a little dryer tasting [wine] we have something a little more serious and then the other funs are just fun, summery, sort of big bouquet.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Linganore event targets event-planners

A majority of the wineries in the region schedule events at the site, from wine trail functions that mark the changing wine calendar, to summer concerts. Then there's the smaller percentage that rolls out the red carpet for family and business functions such as weddings and meetings. That includes Linganore Winecellars-Berrywine Plantations, which has scheduled an open house and tour from noon to 5 p.m. this Sunday.

Events coordinator Vania Jacobs said this is the second one the winery has held this year. One during the spring drew 150, and this one already has around 110 people signed up. A third one is in the works for this fall or winter.

It's too early to gauge the success of the event side of the business, at least looking at a bottom line. But Jacobs said the winery has 53 events booked already this year with that number surely to rise before the calendar reads 2009. Those include everything from birthdays to bridal showers and reunions to concerts.

Jacobs said the idea of an open house isn't a unique one. "It's my background," she said earlier today. "If you want to promote something, you do an open house. So it's just innate for me to do something like that."

And she's doing more, having already implemented new programs such as a Mothers Day brunch, a Murder Mystery Weekend and now this open house. "We also intend to do a Ladies Day Out so they can be pampered and whatnot," she said.

The open house will feature more than a dozen vendors on the premises to answer questions. In addition to giving folks a look-see, the hosts will provide samples from their bottles and a taste of what the food vendors bring along. Anyone interested is asked to respond by Friday. Linganore is a 230-acre farm, 60 of those devoted to the vineyard, that makes a very large footprint among several wineries that call Mt. Airy, Md., home.

Another argument for boxing wine

On the heels of yesterday’s post on the boxed wine at Maryland’s Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Md., I found this op-ed piece that ran in Sunday’s New York Times on the merits of packaging wine in boxes and bags rather than glass bottles.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Looks like Sept. for Black Ankle opening

Noticed that the long-awaited opening of Black Ankle Winery has been pushed back until early September, according to its Web site. That's no surprise considering that Ed Boyce and Sarah O'Herron have tried to use as many building materials from their farm as possible, such as the maple ceiling boards (in the photo) that will make up part of the interior of the tasting room at the winery's Mt. Airy, Md., location.

An out-of-the-box approach at Terrapin Station

Morris Zwick said earlier today that consumers almost unanimously have applauded the boxed wine that sets Terrapin Station Winery apart from any other producer in the region.

“There’s the rare person who just sort of snorts at boxed wine,” Zwick said, “but for the most part it’s been very positive and, especially from the public, they seem a lot more receptive to it. Particularly younger people, they love it. The issue we’ve had more is with the retail stores that kind of look at it and ‘[Ugh], boxed wine. I don’t know about whether we’ll be able to sell it, that sort of thing.’”

Currently they are selling eight wines in the unique cube, which holds a bag filled with 1.5 liters of wine, essentially two bottles worth. Zwick said that they use all of the grapes they grow on their 46-acre farm, filling in the holes with purchases from a few other producers in-state. A potential deal with a provider in California could further diversify their list before the year is out.

Buyers would recognize several of the varietals that carry the Terrapin Station wrapping, so to speak: Merlot, Shiraz and Vidal Blanc. But what they’ve torn open the most is
Traminette, a relation to that white with a bite, Gewurztraminer. “That’s been our best seller, by far,” Zwick said. “And it’s a grape that the general public isn’t that familiar with. But we sold out of it in the first five weeks. Once people had a chance to try it, they loved it. We still have people asking for it.”

Their farm is located in the proximity of Elkton in extreme northeastern Maryland, close enough to be able to drop-kick one of their boxes over the Mason-Dixon Line over I-95 as it heads toward Philly. If you don’t catch them at one of the festivals that have run Morris, his wife Janet and three kids in circles since the spring, you can find their wines at several shops in Cecil and Montgomery counties. At some point they plan to convert the early 18th century barn located on the property into a combo tasting room/gift shop/event space.

No matter how much folks like their wines, however, it’s the container that probably will leave the biggest impression. Zwick, who made a number of family sojourns to Italy as he was growing up, called the traditional glass bottles and corks “sort of an anachronism. Really, the association of that and fine wine is more fixated in the United States than anywhere else.”

Corks, in his mind, leave too much to chance. “If you’re a winemaker, you’re trying to convince somebody to buy your wine, and let’s say 6 percent of them through no fault of your own [drink a bottle where the integrity is compromised]. They just assume the wine is bad, so they’ll never go buy it again. I just feel that is incredibly self-defeating.”

Screw caps didn’t make much financial sense because of the inability to find a bottling line that they could lease. That left the boxes, which are lighter to ship and easier to store a far greater friend to the environment. “I’ve heard figures that say hundred of thousands of tons of carbon goes up in the sky in the transportation of wine from California to the East Coast, just because it’s in glass,” he said.

While there remain a few creases to iron out, they’ve been delighted with the route they’ve chosen (produced by
Scholle) and the reaction to it. Kevin Atticks, the director of the Maryland Wine Association, said recently that folks attending a festival earlier this summer were raving about concept. Zwick added that there are more compelling reasons for people in their back yard to change traditions.

“It’s got so many nice features to it,” he said. “We’re at the top of the bay and we have a lot of boaters around us. It’s perfect for boating with; the waves won’t tip it over and cause a problem. It won’t break and shatter glass everywhere. And you don’t have to guzzle down a liter and a half of wine all at once. You can drink it over a period of weeks. It’s just like a baby bottle; the bag collapses around the product. We puff nitrogen in when it’s getting filled. And so it stays in good shape, the oxygen egress is actually quite low. So all of those factors really appealed to us.”

And they’re likely not done experimenting. Zwick said he could see a day when they follow the lead of
Wolf Blass wine in Canada and offer a .750ml container made out of lightweight polyethelene terephthalate, known as PET, rather than glass. In fact, a story on the Pennsylvania Wine Association site noted that Eagle Rock Winery in Sullivan County has started to bottle its wines in the plastic bottles.

“I checked with the
Ball Corporation several years ago and they weren’t selling them yet and I couldn’t find an in-country manufacturer for the bottles,” Zwick said. “But I knew that Ball would get there eventually. They’ve done .375s [ml] for awhile, and they do the smaller bottles for the airlines and stuff like that.”

And he has no doubt that those will be as popular as the cubes have been.

“I just want to emphasize that the issue is not been with consumers,” he said. “They generally seem to like the packaging once they understand there are two bottles of wine in that box. The issue has been more with the retail chain because [at this point] they just don’t know how to deal with it.”

Some good, bad vine-brations

Two quickies before I head off to work. Wrote Bert Basignani at BasignaniWinery in Maryland's north Baltimore County a few days ago asking how the vineyard was holding up through this summer. His response? "Things here are pretty good. A lot of rain early when we needed it, but not too much now. A pretty good growing season so far but a lot cooler than last year." No doubt that winery owners from Virginia north will be watching the tropical system move up from Florida through the week. Current Projections at the National Hurricane Center show what's left of the storm to be located in western North Carolina by Saturday.

Another month and a half and my wife and I will be down there picking for the fourth straight year. You can pick there on various Saturday mornings through late September and October. It all wraps up with a homemade lunch and some fruits from the vineyard just after the noon hour. No one puts out a better spread to celebrate the harvest than the lovely Lynne Basignani.

Also, many in the Philly area saw
this story in Sunday's Inquirer on the latest hearings for House Bill 2165, the latest bit of legal fallout since a federal judge in 2005 ruled against the state's ban on direct-to-consumer shipments. This new bill would limit direct shipping to wineries that produce 80,000 gallons or less per year. No one we've talked to in this state's wine industry is happy about the bill, including Bob Mazza, the president of the Pennsylvania Winery Association, who talked about the subject in a post a couple of months ago. The most recent hearing was held at Paradocx Vineyards in Chester County.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A few bottles of this one headed north

So the biggest hurdle that Anthony Vietri of Va La Vineyards in Avondale will have with this second batch of a white blend called Fioretti that he’s just finished bottling? It won’t be selling out of it, since he figures he’s making only about 70 cases of it, a little more than the first batch they made. “This one is longer aged and has a slightly different blend to it,” he said the other day. The difference is very small. We [first] wanted to kind of trickle it out and see what the response was and it was very strong. So we felt a bit more confident to actually go to the second batch.”

Probably the most vexing problem is getting a batch into his uncle’s hands in New York. Fioretti means little flowers, Vietri explained, “and that refers to the varietals that are in it. It also refers to my uncle, whose name is Fioretti, just kind of a tip of the hat to him.”

The blend features mostly Viognier, but also contains elements of
Toccai, Petit Manseng and [Hungarian] Bianca. “It’s kind of an unusual blend,” he said. “It’s designed in our lineup to go with mostly white sauces, cream dishes including mushrooms and a white sauce, if you’re doing that kind of thing.”

It’s served, he added, around 50, not too chilled or it will subdue the aromas and flavor of the Viognier. There are similarities to La Prima Donna, another white Va La blend. “This one would be fatter because it has a higher percentage of Viognier, less of the pronounced aromatics that Prima Donna has,” Vietri said. “It has aromatics . . . but is in a different style. It’s hard to describe.

“The idea with this was a Rhone white. So we wanted to have some fatness but still have some acidity, so when you serve it with the dishes that I was talking about, including risotto, which I should have mentioned before, that it has the ability to stand up to them.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Event Grapevine: Aug. 15-21

Scenes from the 2007 Wine, Jazz & Art Festival at Fiori Winery in Pylesville, Md. The event, this year being the 19th annual, will be held at Fiori from noon to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Even those of you who are regulars of the Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate might not realize that the series, now in its 26th year and expected to end next weekend, instead will continue for another week and end when it’s supposed to, on Labor Day weekend.

“It just didn’t feel right to quit on Aug. 23,” Judy Nissley, the winery’s proprietor, said this afternoon, noting that some years the last concert didn’t end until the first weekend in September. The winery for years had started on July 4th weekend and continued through Labor Day weekend, but Nissley said earlier this summer in an interview that it was difficult getting help on those holiday weekends and that they were reducing the number of concerts from 10 to eight. Well, make that nine. The last one will take place on Aug. 30 and feature the area band
Flashback headlined by singer Donna Mark.

Nissley noted that they’re not planning heavy advertising for this subbed-in show, so while it might draw a bit smaller crowd that might please the regulars who will have a little more room to dance than they normally do.

No doubt that whoever shows up will be bringing in everything from tables and tablecloths to candelabra and flowers. And loads of food. Nissley, whose winery is celebrating its 30th year in business, noted in an interview earlier this summer that the fancy silverware crowd, and those are my words, began to evolve this popular central Pennsylvania event about 10 years ago. Now it’s a show just to arrive early and watch the rest of the crowd file through the tent and head for a vacant spot on the grass; it takes some groups 5 to 10 minutes to finish setting up and uncork their first couple bottles.

“I think part of the reason they do that,” she said then, “is that we try to make an upscale presentation, and by that I mean, the band area is sort of rustic, the whole thing is a little rustic, but we . . . used to chill our wines in a big trough, which was a cattle feeding trough -- we still use it on big nights -- but we installed refrigerators and put them in cabinets that look antique, hoping they look that way, and that’s just one example. So that when people [come up for their wine] we don’t say, ‘Here’s a bottle, here’s some ice cubes,’ [instead] they get a chilled bottle of wine.”

They’ve made other improvements, she said, such as replacing the gravel in the archway with flagstone and laying macadam on the parking lot.

“So it gradually took on a better look,” she said. “It gradually became increasingly upscale. We also charge, not an expensive admission, but, it is $15 per person, so the people who are willing to spend that are probably . . . let me phrase that a different way. People in their 50s and 60s, especially the women in that age group, they like to be pampered, and if there’s not going to be anyone there to pamper them, they pamper themselves, and I really do think that’s a lot of what that candelabra is. They want to feel like . . . they're in a nice place.

“They are in a nice place but they want to embellish their experience.”



Adams County Winery, Ortanna: Free summer concert, Saturday. 1 to 5 p.m., food and wine available, bring along a lawn chair and blanket,

Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: Sangria Sunday wine tasting ($$), Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Fridays of Gary Day fund-raiser, Monday, 6 to 8 p.m.,

Boyd’s Cardinal Hollow, North Wales: Concert on Saturday, 5 to 8 p.m.,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Reserve Tasting ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m.; Thursday, the 21st, 7 to 9 p.m., “Look What We Dug Out of the Cellar!” with Chaddsford Wine Educator Melanie Chadwick, Melanie and winemaker Eric Miller went into the cellar to dig out a memory trip of Chaddsford’s best vintages. See what Eric has chosen, and how some of his favorites have held up to the test of time. $30/person; reservations at 610.388.6221.,

Crossing Vineyards & Winery, Washington Crossing: Wine Tasting for Singles ($$), Friday, 7 p.m.; Summer Concert Series ($$), Friday, 7 p.m.

Kreutz Creek Vineyards, West Grove: Summer Outdoor Concert & Slushyville ($$), Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m., Jimmy Buffet style music by Pelican Brief,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons; Summer Concert series Saturday night ($$),

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: “Summer Sounds” outdoor concert series ($$), Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m.,

Nissley Vineyard & Winery Estate, Bainbridge: Music in the Vineyards 2008 ($$), Saturday, 7:30 to 10 p.m., music by the Headliners,

Paradocx Vineyards, Landenberg: Summer Concert Series ($$), Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.

Twin Brook Winery, Gap: Gazebo Concert Series ($$), Saturday evening, 6:30 to 9:30,

Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery, Breinigsville: Summer Tours With the Winemaker ($$), Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., about 1 ½ hours long,

MARYLAND winery events can be found at
this link and VIRGINIA events at this link.

($$) – Admission charge