Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Two-stop' wine dinner draws 55

Regional wineries have their own shares of war stories about getting local restaurants to carry their wines. Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum, where
Brandywine Prime in Chadds Ford, Pa., not only carries a number of local wines but operates in concert with a few of them on events.

One occurred last Saturday with the third annual Barrel Tasting and Dinner that Brandywine Prime sponsored along with
Chaddsford Winery. Restaurant GM Michael Majewski told me by phone that 55 attended. “That’s awesome," he said. "That's a great turnout for a wine dinner."

Costing $65 per person, the event started with hors d’oeuvres and wine out of the winery, then moved to the restaurant for dinner paired with Chadds Ford’s wines. Majewski said this is the second time they’ve followed the same “two-stop” script, and it’s not one they’re likely to change. “It seems to be a real popular thing, Majewski said, adding he’s planning to maintain a schedule where these are held twice a year.

“I think we’ll do it again in the spring and probably in the fall,” he said. “The fall works out well because they get to taste fermenting wine, and then the spring works out because the fermented wine is finished and racked off, and you get to taste it in a little bit different stage. If you come both times, you get to see a little bit of then and now. But even if you don’t, to taste fermenting wine, that’s pretty cool.

They go to the winery, taste out of the barrel . . . then we they come back to the restaurant and we finish the dinner there. This dinner. I made warm cider with apple spice wine that [Eric Miller] makes [at Chadds Ford]. Then I splashed it with a little bit of Wild Turkey. We had a little bourbon pumpkin pie and that was a big hit.”

What helps the Brandywine Prime-Chaddsford Winery pairing is their proximity; they’re only a couple of miles away. Majewski wouldn’t rule out trying the same idea with another winery, say, when Brad Galer reopens Folly Hill in another year or so. Otherwise, the distance from winery to restaurant eliminates many of the others on the
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail.

“We could do it at Penns Woods, but he doesn’t have that winery up and running yet,” Majewski said. “It’s gotta be someplace close, because if you’re in the car for more than 10 of 15 minutes, it kind of loses something.”

Three Beaujolais tastings set for tomorrow

I had mentioned in a previous post about the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its release Thursday of the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau. The significance of tomorrow is that Beaujolais Nouveau Day is celebrated internationally the third Thursday in November, marking the debut of the first wine made from the annual harvest of Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It will sell for $13.99 in stores across the state.

As part of the release, public tastings of the Beaujolais along with hors d'oeuvres will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow will be held at the following locations:

East region of Pennsylvania:
Sofitel, 120 South 17th Street, Philadelphia

Central region of Pennsylvania:
Harrisburg Hilton
One North Second Street

West region of Pennsylvania:
The Renaissance Hotel
107 Sixth Street

Fall Tour: Blue Mountain Vineyards/Winery

Caught up to Vickie Greff of
Blue Mountain Vineyards & Winery in New Tripoli, Pa., yesterday and she was coming up for air after what’s becoming one of the busiest weekends on the winery’s calendar.

For one, they were welcoming visitors for Nouveau Weekend, one of a number of events that members of the
Lehigh Valley Wine Trail hold throughout the year. Not only did they release their first new wine from the 2008 crop0, but they paired it Saturday with Cranberry Glazed Chicken. In addition, March Madness 2009 Passports went on sale at all nine wine trail wineries. Those cost $30 apiece and are limited in quantity. The trail uses the holidays as a pitch to visitors to buy them and give them away as stocking stuffers. Those passports can be used any weekend in March to sample wine and food pairings at any of the nine wineries on the trail and also receive a complimentary wine trail gift, which this year is a Prodyne Vino Gondola two-bottle wine bucket. This black wine bucket is embossed in gold with the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail logo and the names of all the wineries. These can be picked up in March at the winery where folks buy their passports.

On top of all that, Greff said that they held their fifth annual German Night celebration on Saturday night. For $18.50 a person, attendees get to dine on authentic German food, music and dancing, and leave with a souvenir glass.

Otherwise, they are reveling at what has been up to now a good business year. Sales have been steady, she said, and the events have been well-attended. The designation of the Lehigh Valley trail as an
American Viticulture Area in April enhanced the reputation of all the wineries. That has helped Blue Mountain and others forge new relationships with restaurants that have in the past only carried wines from outside the region. Now, the official AVA designation has turned some heads. Still, she admitted, it’s a fight for recognition and respect that hasn’t ended. Trying to pitch Blue Mountain in particular and local wines in general remains a challenge, something they are forced to squeeze into their schedules amid a number of other priorities.

Still, with the winery 23 years old and going strong, and with a wine trail that gives added support, she and husband Joe are counting their blessings and looking ahead to 2009 with a great deal of expectation.

Oh, what’s on the horizon? Two more Sundays of the Fall Foliage Tastings, from 2 to 5 p.m., and then the ninth annual Christmas Wine Tasting, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Fall Tour: Mount Felix Winery

Mary and Peter Ianniello only have had Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery open for less than two months. Located in Havre de Grace, Md., in what they term on their site as the Birthplace of American Viticulture, the couple just sent out the winery’s first e-letter a few days ago.

That included the link to their new Web site, which is a dramatic improvement on what they used before. With the vineyards and winery as part of a bigger estate, the new site features photos of the rooms in the manor house, loads of info on the vineyards and the
wines, a link to John Adlum, the Father of American Viticulture, and key words to other pertinent information.

Peter had written by e-mail a few weeks ago that they’ve been quite satisfied with their volume and the interest in their winery. They also feature a link to retail outlets around them, more than 15 strong, which are carrying their wines. I always preferred the wineries that included the price on the wine list, but certainly in this region those are in the minority.

Still, nice to see progress, evidenced by the correspondence and the upgraded site. One thing that always adds some flavor is the background of the family and the winery. In this case, Peter explains that this idea took root as he was growing up, listening to grandfathers Luigi and Giulio talk about wine and how it became such an important aspect of their family. “I recall fond memories,” he writes, “of passionate debates filed with laughter when arguments ensued over what tasted better, Grandpa’s jug wine or Uncle’s vintage Barolo.

What will I try when I eventually swing by? Well, there’s neither the jug wine nor the Barolo. But the Chambourcin, called Adlum’s First, would work just as well for me. A full-bodied red, they describe it as possessing complex flavors of dark cherries, spices and smoke.

Pretty much open full time, the winery welcomes visitors from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and Fridays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.