Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blue Mountain icewine takes some sting off heat

It’s mid-evening and still feeling like a blast furnace when you take a step out the door. That’s the perfect cue to begin a discussion on icewine, an ultraweet specialty that a few wineries in the region produce, including up at Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellar in New Tripoli, Pa. The winery is a member of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.

Blue Mountain’s icewine was just bottled, and owner Vicki Greff said that the demand for their nectar has kept her ear glued to the receiver ever since. “We’ve had it less than a week, and I’ve already sold several cases just at our stores with people making reservations,” she said. “I spent the whole evening the other night at our Coventry Mall store just calling people that were on the list. ‘I want eight bottles, I want five bottles, I want three bottles.' It’s the kind of thing that it’s very, very popular and high in demand.”

Blue Mountain imports its juice from Canada. Greff said that her husband Joe, the winemaker, adds his own touch to the production on the icewine, which sells for $44.50 for a small bottle. “I’m not a sweet wine person,” Vicki said, “but our icewine is very special. My husband uses a certain yeast, it almost has a little bit of dryness in the finish. Like a lot of icewines are all honey. Ours has a lot of apricot in the finish, so when you have it the way I was telling you, it’s just excellent.”

She suggested a variation on what’s generally considered a dessert wine. “How I love it is not even with dessert,” she said. “You can have it as a dessert wine. Some people rave about it over ice cream, and it is very good over ice cream. I’ve heard of an ice wine martini, and I’ve also done desserts with it, done it with some sort of pear and put some Gorgonzola cheese in it, and then like walnuts on top and then bake it in the oven kind of thing. But how I love ice wine is very cold, in the proper glass, an aperitif, and I love it with a very strong blue cheese, bosc pears, very crisp, very cold, and I like to take walnuts and put some nutmeg and cinnamon and cayenne and put them in the oven with a little olive oil, and toss them in the olive oil and just bake them off a little bit, and then just chomp on that for dessert, and that is my dessert. I love it.

“And that’s actually [what we’ll serve with it] if we ever [have it for a tasting]. We can’t do the pears because they get all brown, but we do the walnuts and the blue cheese, and we’re kind of known for that.”

Certain about what would accompany the icewine, Vicki was less certain about whether they’ll even put the 2007 vintage out to be tasted. “The demand is so high and we go through it so fast that we’re not sure what we’re going to do yet, whether or not we’re going to taste it," she said. "We’re just kind of kicking it around, how much we’ve already run through just form people reserving it. The stores are already calling in for replenishment. So it’s like, ‘OK, maybe we won’t taste it.' We don’t want to be out before the word really gets out there. If we do, we’ll have to charge $3 a taste, but you know what, people will pay it. But that’s what we’re going to have to charge.”

Black Ankle pushes opening back a month or so

We've written at length about Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy, Md., a winery that has made a lot of news despite not even opening its doors to the public as yet. As one who checks as many Web sites as possible of wineries throughout the region, I noticed this note on the Black Ankle home page that I wanted to share with you:

"Our Tasting Room Construction is progressing steadily, but not quite as fast as we had hoped. Although we had hoped to be open by late July, our current best estimate for when we will be able to open our doors for sales and tastings, is mid-August. We will post opening days and hours here once we have them! If you would like to be notified by email when we open, and receive our occasional updates and news please join our Friends of Black Ankle email list."