Thursday, December 31, 2009

A toast to 2010

Happy New Year, all. Will get at it again in the new year.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Waltz extends its hours over next two weeks

Expect to start to see various wineries extending their hours, partly because of the business lost during this weekend and partly because of the proximity to the holidays.

Saw Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, Pa., did a shout-out overnight via e-mail to its customers on the extra hours it plans to be open the next two weeks. The schedule includes 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday of this weekend and next week, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday.

Closed obviously on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jeferies unique but not alone in terms of regional eateries wanting to serve regional wines

Had no luck Friday finding out when John J. Jeffries Restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., is scheduling its next food and wine pairing dinner. But there's no question that the restaurant located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel will be having more, featuring foodstuffs from local providers and regional wineries such as Chaddsford and Pinnacle Ridge. The pairings are a bargain, featuring multiple courses matched up with either local wines or beers at an agreeable cost. And someone from the featured winery or brewery will be represented to offer insight into how each wine was made.

This all leads into a subject the Pennsylvania Winery Association president Sam Landis and I had several months ago about the difficulty regional wineries have had getting their product into area restaurants. Indeed, he mentioned some local research that was being completed on the subject, something I need to try and obtain.

Landis noted that the PWA (and he could just as well had been talking about the winery run by his folks, Vyncrest Vineyards & Winery in Breinigsville, Pa.,) has put that initiative on hold for certainly the near term. Some eateries, such as Jeffries, don't need to be sold on carrying local wines. But those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Landis called it an uphill battle. "The only restaurants we've had success with are the ones that have actually solicited us and wanted to have a local presence," he said. "But to go the other directions, to try and convince restaurants to carry your wine espeically now with the economy. They're going to pick 7 or 8 dollar bottles of wine and sell them for 30 [dollars]. and they're going to go for name recognation. It's something we've consciously put on the back burner here. If it happens, it happens."

Chaddsford has probably had more success than any other winery in the region in placing its wines in local eateries. Co-owner Lee Miller said in a recent phone conversation that they have in a sense gotten out of the business of trying to push their wines into restaurants.

She said during the time period when they were focused on that aspect of their business, they "hired a sales manager and several salesmen, we put them out on the road and . . . knocked down doors and they sold a lot of wine. But the problem for us was that it was very expensive to have four people on the payroll, with cars and expense accounts, since they are traveling all over selling wines. And then the second part, there's such turnover. Restaurants change constantly. The managers change, the sommeliers change, the beverage manager changes and we found that we were placing things and then two months later they'd change and they'd want something different."

Plus they would require plenty of support such as printing menus and providing small wine glasses and training the wait staff. In other words, lots of promotional materials. "It was a very expensive proposition," she said, "and on a business level, we said, you know what, this isn't getting us anywhere. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars in staffing costs and we dont have that much wine and we're running out of things ,so we just decided we weren't going to pursue it on that level.

"It's not that we weren't successful at it. If you do it right, and this is what these other wineries don't realize, you have to do it RIGHT. Big wineries have staffs and they go out and sell. When you're a one-man show . . . you can't expect to do it, because that's a service industry, so you've got to be out there every week, and most wineries right now don't have the staff to do it. If you have it, you know, we were very successful at doing it. We had every restaurant in Philadelphia using our wines, but they have come to expect because most restaurants buy from wholesalers who have a staff who is out there every week because those salespeople are living on commission. So they're in there, they're taking samples, they're having dinner, they're talking, they're sitting at the bar, and most small wineries don't have the have the staff to do that."

Instead, she said, they're quite content to work with restaurants such as Jeffries and nearby Brandywine Prime and the White Dog in Philly that WANT their product. "And they come to you and they say, 'I really want to use local products,' and then you work out a program with them. And we're happier to do that, because Eric and I can do that. So right now we're concentrating on people who want the wine, who want to work with us, who know that we're different . . . we decided we like it better that way. So I'm not disappointed. I think there are a lot of restaurants that are realizing that local is good and that are adding some local wines to their menus. But right now we have maybe 50 wine accounts where at one time we used to have 400 all across the state."

Crossing Vineyards list two Riedel workshops, wine and chocolate pairing

Crossing Vineyards & Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa., will toast the holidays with a tasting workshop Dec. 27 (and Jan. 24), featuring four of its premium wines served in Riedel Crystal specifically designed for each varietal. It also will offer a wine and chocolate pairing workshop Jan. 3. Included below some specifics, and you can learn more about other Crossing events and its wines at this link.

Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, and Jan. 24, 2010

Riedel Crystal Wine-Tasting Workshop, In 90-minute class, sample premium wines in Riedel Vinum glasses, analyzing taste difference using various shapes and sizes of stemware. 2 p.m. starting time both days. Crossing Vineyards & Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, PA. Cost: $99, includes Riedel sampling kit with four glasses. Anyone purchasing Riedel stemware will receive 50 percent off a second item. Information and reservations: 215-493-6500, ext. 19 or

Sunday, Jan. 3

How Sweet It Is: Pairing Wine & Chocolate, Tips on enjoying wine and chocolate together, presented by Eric Cavatore, sommelier at Crossing Vineyards and Winery; 2 p.m., Jan. 3, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, Pa. Cost: $35, includes samples, learning materials and the Lindt Chocolate bar of the participant’s choice. Information and reservations: 215-493-6500, ext. 19 or

Call ahead before you made any winery visits throughout the region this weekend

Based on my conversations with some wineries around the region, if you can get out and are tending to visit one later this afternoon or tomorrow, call ahead. Some never opened, others opened and then closed early. Saw where Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Md., closed on what was its Customer Appreciation Weekend and wasn't exactly sure if it would reopen on Sunday. Check the Web site. Once it does reopen, it will extend its 21 percent off sale through Christmas Eve. The winery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fiore's Customer Appreciation Weekend still a go

Customer Appreciation Weekend is still on at Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Md. Just got off the phone with them, one of a number of calls they're received today about the event, which is scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday.

Should the predicted storm for the winery to close, then expect to find that information on the winery Web site and on its Facebook page. Also expect Fiore, as well as many of the other regional wineries, to probably extend their sales past the present deadlines.

Admission to Fiore is free, where the winery will serve light refreshments and Rose Fiore's fresh-baked Italian cookies. All cases of Fiore wine, solid or mixed, will be 21 percent off . The winery will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 on Sunday.

Lehigh Valley wineries list invididual schedules

Been AWOL for a week trying to stay afloat with my other job, so I apologize. Most obvious subject heading into this final weekend before Christmas is the bad timing of this prdicted snowsotrm for wineries trying to unload product and gifts before the holiday.

With that in mind, let me post a couple of e-letter that I received about activities at several wineries over the next week or so.

Courtesy of PR ace Courtney Romain, here's the listings of what the wineries on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail in eastern Pennsylvania have planned.

  • AmorĂ© Vineyards: The warmed Spiced Apple is always a special holiday treat. A cinnamon stick makes it even more festive. The brave and bold enjoy it with apple pie. Open daily until Christmas.
  • Blue Mountain Vineyards is offering a new release of its Sparkling Peach ($19.50). It is a semi-sweet sparkling wine produced with succulent peaches and alive with sparkling bubbles. Blue Mountain also offers an Adopt a Vine Program for that wine lover who has everything on your gift list. Purchase a vine and receive a certificate explaining the program to present to the recipient. The first year they receive a plaque to be placed on their vine and for five years thereafter they will receive a specially labeled bottle of wine for the varietals you have chosen. The winery will be open Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery: Share the grape of the Lehigh Valley, Chambourcin, with friends and family this holiday season. Clover Hill makes two styles of Chambourcin: 2008 Chambourcin ($14.99) is a dry, oak-aged medium body red with rich, luscious berry flavors and a warm toasty oak. The Turtle Rock Red is a lighter, fruiter version of the Chambourcin made in stainless steel tanks with just a hint of residual sugar. Celebrate the holidays with local flavor! Open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery: The winery suggests custom labeled wines as a great gift; an extensive collection of artwork with your personalized message for a flat fee of $10, plus cost of the wine. Minimum order is a case (12 bottles). Through January 3, 2010, Galen Glen will be open Sunday through Friday noon -5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Also open Christmas Eve 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed: Christmas Day and New Years Day.
  • Pinnacle Ridge offers great gift baskets for holiday giving. Choose your wine, wine accessories and gourmet foods and create your own special gift for that special someone. The winery is open Sunday through Friday (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) from noon- 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Open until 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve for those last minute wine and gift purchases!
  • Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery’s Spiced Winter Red ($9.99 a bottle), a seasonal holiday wine, is reminiscent of a German Gluwein, which can be served warm with Christmas cookies or fruitcake. Spiced Winter Red is available in a three pack, specially priced for December at $25.00. Starting Thursday, December 17, the winery is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., until Christmas Eve (open 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.). Closed Christmas Day, then open December 26 - 29, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., December 31 open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Basignani holiday open house Saturday/Sunday; among a number being held around the region

Safe to say that wineries across the region want one thing this weekend, and that's good weather for their holiday open houses. Some, such as Basignani Winery in Sparks, Md., held their first of two weekends last Saturday and Sunday and spent a lot of time, well, maybe sipping their own wine as the snow fell outside their windows. Lynne Basignani said by phone a few minutes ago that all they want are some crowds this weekend after the weather kept a lot of people indoors last weekend.

Basignani will hold Part 2 of its annual open house from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $8 per person, which covers a tasting glass that visitors can take with them, wine tastings and food such as bread, cheeses and Christmas cookies. Lynne said they served hot mulled wine last weekend made out of Marisa, what the winery terms its version of a Beaujolais with a little more structure. The fruity mix includes a blend of Foch, Chambourcin and Chancellor grapes.

At least give Piccolo, the winery's newest offering, a try. Tasted it after harvesting in October and really liked it. The red table wine pairs equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and sells for $11.99/bottle. Works superbly with any kind of pasta or a beef or steak dish.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sand Castle opens TASTE, unveils 2 new wines

Two recent wine releases and a new store have the folks at Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, Pa., buzzing. A suburban Philly winery that's a member of the Bucks County Wine Trail, it recently came out with a 2006 Pinot Noir and a 2004 Chardonnay Classic. About the Pinot Noir, general sales manager Peter Ricci said was tasting "very good, good fruit, with raspberry flavors to it. Pinot Noir is hot, that's just a given in the marketplace." It's selling for $30/bottle.

The 2004 Chard hardly sounds like a new release, but it emerges from three years aging in French oak. "It has really nice flavors of vanilla and almonds and caramel. You really pick up the French oak in the wine," Ricci said. That's available at $17/bottle. Three years in a barrel is probably as long as any winery in the region ages its Chard.

Ricci said the winery's new retail store, called TASTE, is located in a former Starbucks shop at the Valley Square Shopping Center, 711 Easton Road, in Warrington, Pa. You can purchase wine there, but that's just part of what Ricci called selling a gourmet experience that includes wine-related gift items, a coffee bar, a wine bar, an imported olive oil and balsamic vinegar bar, gourmet cheeses and gourmet foods. Samples are scattered throughout the shop, giving customers a chance to try things before they purchase them. Hence, the name of the shop. The hours at TASTE are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

This isn't the winery's first attempt at an off-site retail outlet. Last year it tried a kiosk at a mall in Lower Bucks County that Ricci said "worked reasonably well" for awhile. The economy took some of the initial burst away, and so did the mall insisting that the kiosk be opened when the mall was. During the holiday season, that could mean as early as sunrise. "Well, how many people are going to buy wine at 6 o'clock in the morning?" Ricci asked. "We didn't lose money last year, but it just simply wasn't worth all the time and effort we had to put into it."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking for a wine job? You could start by attending Thursday class at Philly's Wine School

So many people these days are making decisions about their lives and careers, whether out of necessity or simply out of unhappiness or fear about what the future holds. This morning at the Harrisburg-Patriot News we talked about covering a midday job fair at the Giant Center in Hershey, which turned out drawing around 500.

Within that context was the blurb I saw on the holiday e-letter from the Wine School of Philadelphia, 2006 Fairmount Ave., which I've blogged about in the past and have its Web site linked to my blog. School founder Keith Wallace wrote about a one-hour talk and wine tasting he's planning tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 10) on how to get into the wine industry. Cost for a workshop that Wallace has entitled Becoming the Next Robert Parker is $18, primarily to cover the expenses for the wine.

Wallace said this idea is an extension of the one-on-one discussions he's already having with his students at the nine-year-old school, helping them not only decide what they want to do but finding the route to get there. He said a number of those students have gone on to successful career as either a winemaker or the owner of a company that has a connection to wine. "You're not going to make great money," he said, "but you can have a decent living and actually be able to enjoy life and be your own boss. And in this economy, why not do what you love?" So, he continued, he'll talk on Thursday about how to scout out these potential jobs and find a niche.

And those opportunities to make money do exist, he noted, although at one point breaking into a laugh and noting "not in wine education, by the way. Most of the money I make comes from a lot of the other things I do on the side." He noted that while the wine industry as a whole is hugely regulated, "it's like the Wild West. It's highly regulated, but state by state there are no clear dominant leaders, except in distribution, but it's a place . . . that you can really start something and ramp up very quickly, to the point of actually becoming a national figure, or at least a regional figure and turning that into a company."

Showtime is 6 p.m. Thursday at the school, which offers an A to Z of classes from 101s to more specialized education experiences such as Napa Valley & Beyond and Winter Cooking and Wine Class. Even saw a special wine and food arrangement that Wallace is cooking up with Luca Garutti, the chef at nearby L'Oca Bistro. That four-course dinner and Italian wine class is on the calendar for Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. Cost is $52 per person, taxes and tip not included.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kreutz Creek unveils 'best ever' Holiday Wassail

Missed the chance to pull several items off the e-letter for Kreutz Creek Vineyards in West Grove, Pa., before the start of the weekend. Still, several things apply through the end of the year.

Owner Jim Kirkpatrick noted that "another year comes to an end but before we look toward 2010, we still have a full month of events for 2009. We just released our new Holiday Wassail and it's the best one I've ever made. I fermented pumpkin and apples in the Niagara and added spices like cinnamon and cloves. We serve it warm in a crock pot but it's delicious served chilled as well. Stop by for a sample and check out our holiday decorations. Read on to see what's happening in both West Chester and the winery in West Grove for the rest of 2009."

Kirkpatrick wrote that the winery will hold its Holiday Wine Sale through the month: 10 percent off bottles and 20 percent off cases of 12. The winery is planning to be open the weekend after Christmas, Dec. 26-27 and the weekend after New Year's on Jan. 2-3.

As for its tasting room in West Chester, here's the entertainment schedule for the rest of the month:

Friday, 12/11 – The Al Moretti Jazz Duo
Saturday, 12/12 – Jazz by Aniya

Friday, 12/18 – Latin Guitar by Brad Rau
Saturday, 12/19 – Jazz and Swing by Swing Set
Friday, 12/25 – Closed
Saturday, 12/26 – Jazz Vocals by Unstuck in Time

The BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) facility will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24 and Friday, Dec. 25 and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

About that virtual tasting idea ... give Morris Zwick a call if you're interested in participating

Chatted with owner and winemaker Morris Zwick of Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Md., more than a week ago about a number of subjects, including the virtual tasting he'd like to try sometime this month.

Using a software called
talkshoe, it would allow folks to interact with Zwick as they are all tasting the same wine. He said he's been a participant on a show for amateur winemakers that originates in the Pittsburgh area; that show sometimes goes as long as an hour and a half and involves a number of different folks dialed in to the site.

He's hoping to even get a dozen or so involved in the first attempt, go between a half-hour and 45 minutes, and then build it from there. His goal is to arrange the virtual tasting for mid-December.

"You know, even only have 10, 11, 12 people, I'd be perfectly happy with that," he said. "I think it's the kind of thing where people have got to try it and see it work, then they'll tell other people. Eventually, I can see also bringing people on to the show, maybe bring Kevin Atticks from the Maryland Wine Association or people from other wineries in Maryland . . . and so it would be a way to promote not only Terrapin Station Winery but other Maryland wines in general."

For those not familiar with Terrapin Station, it's the only producer of boxes wines that I know of in the region and it's distributing now through more than 60 outlets in Maryland. Zwick figures he'll just start with one wine, maybe their 2008 Cabernet Franc, one of two ones that Terrapin Station recently released. "Then they'll dial in at the appropriate time and while they're trying it, we're trying it, and people can ask questions," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to ask what we did with it and what some of the stats were like . . . gives them an opportunity to ask some of those specific questions and on top of that we can talk about why this vintage is the the way it is. For example, this [2008] vintage is a 14 percent alcohol wine, which is pretty high for the East Coast. It was a hot, hot August, September; we really got the sugars up and we decided instead of trying to [drop] it down we'd just take advantage of the situation and see what we got as long as we were down below, what's the magic number there, 14.5, and see what we get."

If you're interested in participating in this first virtual tasting that I'm aware of in the region, drop the Web site an e-mail or call 410.398.1875. The wine should list around $23 for a 1.5-liter box; obviously, the the equivalent of the two .750 ml. bottles that you're probably used to buying in your favorite state store or shop.

Zwick noted the one other thing he likes about talkshoe is that the program can be recorded. So if you miss it, you can still sample the wine later and read the comments. This idea, he said, just supplements the other ways of getting the word out: store tastings and festivals, to name a couple. "Our challenge is all about evangelism and getting people to try the stuff," he said. "Once they do, they're fine with it."

Stopped in Hershey, but bypassed the chocolate

Working on a story for a publication that took me Friday to the tasting room at Cullari Vineyards & Winery in Hershey. It's just one of many buildiungs that pop up along Route 422 between Harrisburg and Annville, where I've been teaching as an adjunct at Lebanon Valley College. Probably ridden by it 25 times and finally had a chance to nose around the comfy surroundings.

Owner Salvatore Cullari, who formally taught at LVC and served as head of the psychology department there, has a bar set up on the main floor where he handles most of his tastings. The room is open Thursdays through Sundays. A few steps lead up to a small dining room where Cullari can hold parties; indeed, he and his brother were getting set up for one yesterday.

Cullari hails from Calabria in Italy and talks about having been associated with wine-making since he was a kid. His 25-acre lot in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., holds two vineyards with around a dozen types of grape, including Zinfandel, Barbera and Sangiovese.

While admittedly someone who favors dry reds, his wine list caters some to those who prefer their wine with some sweetness. His biggest seller, called White on White, is a blend of white grapes that has the aroma of Traminette. I also sample something he calls Pomegranate Splash, a tasty sipper that blends some whites and pomegranate juice. And I sampled a few of his red blends, all with good structure and flush with color and aroma and -- much to my satisfaction -- generally priced in the $10 to $15 range.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hauser Estate readies for two firsts: winermaker's dinner and debut of reserve Chardonnay

I'd be remiss not to apologize to folks for not having the time to post interviews, etc. School ended yesterday but work has been crazy. So some of what I'll post over the next couple of days has been sitting on my recorder and in my notepad for weeks.

Caught up with the delightful Michelle Oakes, the winemaker at Hauser Estate Winery west of Gettysburg, Pa., on Thursday to talk about the winery's first Christmas dinner. That's scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at the gorgeous winery that overlooks the Adams County countryside for miles. You can make reservations by calling 717.334.4888 or visiting the Web site.

The four-course dinner will be catered by Accomac Catering of Wrightsville, Pa., and feature Oakes as the MC, so to speak, as the winemakers are wont to do at these events. She said she's looking forward to it.

"I'll present each of wines with the courses and we'll talk a little bit about the wines, how they were made, a little bit about how they go with the food there," she said, "and also some holiday planning . . . helping people kind of figure what wines go well with what they’re doing." By capping the size of the group at 50 and putting more people at fewer tables, Oakes she she hopes that will help prompt more interaction and discussion about the wines.

One wine that Oakes will get a chance to unveil will be Hauser Estate's first reserve, a Chardonnay, which will be paired with the first course, a cream of asparagus soup topped with crab. This Chardonnay is a mix of what Oakes called short-term barrel-aged and long-term barrel-ages, so anywhere from six to 10 months. It has been in the bottle since August and could be available for sale as early as Friday, depending on whether some new labels arrive in time. Otherwise, figure to be able to pick it up sometime over the next couple of weeks.

Oakes said it's fine now, but . . . "I think it’s really going to blossom a year from now. It’s going to be phenomenal. Right now it’s very . . . crisp, a little bit of sweet oak kind of character to it, but it's very crisp, clean mineral right up front right now, and it’s getting more of that kind of chewiness coming back to it."

And in a year?

"I think it’s going to get richer and fuller, it’s going to take on more of that creamy, nutty type character," she said. "But right now it’s just got a real nice freshness to it, so I think it’s a nice wine either way, depending on what kind of style you like. But I think it’s going to get a lot more depth with time on it."

Several reserve reds are scheduled to be released after the holidays. "I'm really excited about the cabs," she said. "They're really shaping up to be nice wines in the bottle."

Cost of the winermaker's dinner is $59.95, and it also will include the Cabernet Franc Rose, the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, all made out of the 2008 vintage. As all this is going on, Oakes is starting to get a look at the 2009 grapes that have come in from her suppliers. No one will confuse this vintage with the one two years ago, the best of the decade, but Oakes said in some cases she's seeing better fruit than what came in last year.

"Honestly, I've heard a lot of doomsday theories on it," she said of the '09 vintage. "I think for the people who really stuck with it and just said, I’m going to stick to my fundamentals and the things I know .. I think those people are going to fare well.

"There’s certain things you can’t do about a year that’s less than perfect," she continued, "but we had a long harvest at least, so if you let it hang, it came around. The people who got worried and pulled it off early are the people I think who are going to have a lot of trouble. It was a gamble, but if you took the gamble, I think it paid off."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lower Manhattan event scheduled for Sunday

Must have a dozen posts to get done and way too much other work. So let me try to put the other work on the back burner for two days and catch up before we reach the weekend. Been having this one since Monday. Here are two items I liked out of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation newsletter:

CITY WINERY in lower Manhattan will be the scene of our “Uncork New York—Sip, Savor & Shop” tasting next Sunday afternoon [Dec. 6], with 38 wineries, over a dozen food producers, and four restaurants providing samples for locavores. Besides tasting, attendees can actually buy the wines and foods on the spot, a great way to stock up for the holidays.

Friday’s Wall St. Journal included a nice mention of the event, which is also being promoted in Time Out New York and through other means. Tickets are only $45, and are available at

“WINES, WITH NOTES OF M.B.A.” is the headline of a New York Times Business Section article today by Kathryn Jones on the growth of the wine industry stimulated by people from other businesses pursuing a second career.

The piece also features a great photo of Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, owners of Red Tail Ridge Winery on Seneca Lake, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified winery in the Finger Lakes. Nancy’s Ph.D in genetics and years of experience in enology and viticulture research at Gallo, combined with Mike’s M.B.A. and experience in the heavy equipment and construction industries, brought a unique set of knowledge and skills to creating a new vineyard and winery literally from the ground up.

Of the 58 New York wineries that have opened in the past three years, virtually all are owned by people from other walks of life, as opposed to the immediate post-Farm Winery Act (1976) wineries which were all owned by grape growers whose traditional markets (large wineries) had dried up.

A similar trend is occurring in different parts of the country, and in most cases there is virtually no attrition (failure), largely because most new entrants do their homework and create sound business plans. In New York, for example, we offer a sophisticated web-based site selection system (, and on our own web site ( legal and regulatory information, a comparison of different types of licenses, and basic resources for business planning.

In today’s economy, few industries are growing and contributing as much value-added benefit as the wine industry, which in New York State generates over $3.4 billion annually in economic activity. Public officials would be wise to keep this in mind as they shape budgets and policy initiatives.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Serpent Ridge offering food/wine pairing Dec. 11

Couple of quick notes out of Serpent Ridge Vineyard, a Maryland winery located in Westminster that opened this summer.
It's opened Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offers a mix of primarily dry whites and dry reds. Four already have been honored in several Maryland and out-of-state competitions. The most decorated is their Vintner's Cabernet, which is 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 35 percent Cabernet Franc. That earned golds in the Indy International and Winemaker Choice competitions, and a silver in the 2009 Maryland Governor's Cup competition. All told owner Karen and Grag Lambrecht produce six wines, including a rose.
They will be closing from Dec. 23 to Jan. 22, 2010, one of the few wineries I've seen in the region that will shut its doors after the Christmas rush.
Before then, on Friday, Dec. 11, the winery will hold a holiday hors d'oeuvres and wine pairings. The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. and cost $35 per person. Chef Greg Hutsell from L'ecole Culinaire School of Cooking will prepare several dishes and be on hand to answer questions about preparing what he makes at home. There will be six hors d'oeuvres paired with three Serpent Ridge wines. Reservations are required. Call 410.848.6511.
One final note our of their most recent e-letter: "As many of you know, we are a true artisan style winery and everything is done by hand - including our bottling. There will be multiple opportunities to be part of this exciting process over the next few months and if you would like to volunteer, please email our winemaker, Greg at with your contact info."

Talking a little Mischief and 20 percent sale at Pennsylvania winery called Black Walnut

Should you get in the vicinity of Chester County, east of the Gap around the point where Route 30 turns into an elevated four-lane highway, steer down Lincoln Highway and stop in to Black Walnut Winery. A member of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, Black Walnut now has its facility open for business. Nose around the 200-year-old renovated bank barn, and give the wines a try. It's a winery owned by two couples -- Val and Lance Castle and Karen and Jack Kuhn -- that's similar to a few others around the region in that it imports all of its grapes.

Was reminded of the winery, which officially opened in August, when we opened a bottle of their wine last night called Mischief. It's a medium-bodied to full-bodied white that blends their 2006 Pinot Gris and 2007 Chardonnay. Dry, with some hints of oak and the distinct smell of citrus. We just sampled enough to sip and enjoy, but it would have gone well earlier with the mix of vegetables, salad and shrimp we had out on a platter.

Black Walnut is open four days a week, from noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Also worth mentioning: As of Black Friday the winery launched its 20 percent off sale on all of its inventory that will last through the end of the year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A sale worth sampling: Manatawny marks down 2006 Meritage by 30 percent

Like the looks of a Meritage sale that's currently under way at Manatawny Creek Winery in Douglassville, Pa. Owner/winemaker Joanne Levengood makes a line of wines that represent the region and state very well. Always like to mention that it's the only place I've visited where we were offered the entire line to taste (not sure if that has changed) at no charge (I'm very sure THAT hasn't changed), both winery staples that are about as common as a Pennsylvania screwtop. In other words, good luck finding more than a handful of others that provide so much when you walk into the tasting room, in addition to the snacks they place on their bar.

Levengood reported in her December e-letter early Friday that she has around five cases left of the Meritage, something you can drink now or store for a few years down in your cellar. This 2006 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot and normally sells for $21.95, on the lower end of the price scale when you compare it to other Meritages in the region. She's pushing it out the door by taking 30 percent off, knocking the price down to 16 dollars and change. Once those cases are sold, she'll roll out the 2007 vintage at the regular price.

Their Pinot Noir also is on sale, marked down 10 percent off the $14.95 price. As Levengood noted in her e-letter, this wine is aged in French oak and should be bound for your lips rather than your cellar. "This is not a wine for aging," she wrote. "It is wonderful with Christmas turkey -- we had some with our Thanksgiving turkey this year and it was a fabulous match."

More and more winemakers are using their e-letters or blogs or Facebook to chime in with answers to basic wine and wine pairing questions. This is Levengood's take on how to match up with holiday foods: "Which wine should you serve with your holiday dinner? Anyone who has ever been in our tasting room knows the answer to that question – serve what you like! The subjectivity of wine applies to wine pairing as well. Having said that, however, there are a few simple things to keep in mind. Don’t overpower the food with the wine and vice versa. If you are serving a turkey breast with a light glazing, serve it with a lighter wine like Pinot Grigio. If you are serving turkey with a full-flavored, hearty gravy, you may want to try an oaked Chardonnay. The addition of a sweet cranberry sauce may call for a wine with some sweetness to it, like a Riesling. Everyone thinks about white wine pairing well with turkey or ham, but a lighter-bodied red like Pinot Noir can work really well too. I very much like the idea of setting the table with two wine glasses at each place so everyone can try two different wines with each course. Different wines really make the food taste different!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Allegro's Bridge hits all the high notes

One of the wines I featured in the Jan-Feb issue of In Central Pennsylvania magazine, published by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, is Allegro Vineyard's Bridge. It's a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that ages for 22 months in French oak barrels and then is bottled unrefined and unfiltered.

Opened another bottle Wednesday to go with a pre Thanksgiving Day meal (in other words, the day you sit around with family and sample a few wines) and it was very, very good. Wonderful fragrance and color with just the right amount of tannins, it's something you could pair with any number of foods or simply savor as you're sitting around talking.

Carl Helrich, the winemaker and owner of the winery in The Brogue, in southcentral Pennsylvania, had e-mailed me about the history of the name at the time I was writing the story. It served as a bridge, he wrote, between the Cadenzas of former owner John Crouch and the ones Helrich was producing. You could call Cadenza, also a Bordeaux-stlye blend, the previer member of the Allegro line.

"In 2006, I felt that the wine wasn't quite Cadenza quality, but much better than our regular bottling," he said. "I brought back the name in 2006, and we bottled a 2007 as well. We may have one from 2009. We'll see."

It's selling at $27 a bottle. Definitely worth the investment. Helrich had noted that he felt this present vintage for sale (2006) would peak in 2011 and could be cellared as late as 2016 to 2018.

To Carl and wife Kris and all the other supporters and readers of this blog, Happy Thanksgiving and the many, many blessings this holiday brings.

Terrapin Station considers virtual wine tasting

Let me post this and then try and hook up with the folks from Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Md., over the next few days to find out the story behind the story. Already one of the more innovative wineries in the mid-Atlantic area with its support of the Terrapin Institute and its line of boxed wines, owners Janet and Morris Zwick want to try a virtual wine tasting if they can find enough interested parties. Here's how it would work, based on what's in their e-letter.

We are considering holding a virtual, online tasting using the capabilities of Talk Shoe.

This is how it would work:

1. We would announce the date for the tasting and the wine(s) that would be tasted.

2. You would acquire the wines for the tasting so that you can taste along with the event.

3. We would set up a Talk Shoe show that you would log into.

4. During the show, we would taste and talk about a wine or wines while everyone online tried them along with us.

5. During the show you could ask or post questions or comments.

We would like to give it a try, but of course don't want to log in and listen to (virtual) crickets chirping. Therefore, please let us know what you think by answering the poll we have on our Facebook fan page or send us a note
here. If there is enough interest, we'll announce a date and give it a whirl.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fiore serving dessert on Friday and multi-course Christmas meal on Dec. 5

Two notes from Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Md., less than a half-hour drive from I-83 and the Pennsylvania communities of Shrewsbury and Stewartstown.

The winery will be open Friday and is inviting visitors to pack a lunch and park themselves anytime between 1 and 4 p.m. Fiore Winery will provide trhe dessert and offer a 21 percent discount on all wine case purchases. While you are there, try and taste some of the Fiore wines that have received awards over the past several years, including the Proprietor's Reserve Chambourcin and the Chardonnay. And, in general, you'll find them priced moderately.

Like other regional wineries, Fiore is planning a Christmas meal from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Live music will be provided by the local duo Chalk Dust. Menu by Panache Fine Catering. Each course is served and paired with Fiore wines. Reservations are requested for the event, which will cost $65 per person.

Here's what you can expect to eat and drink:

Hors d'oeuvres: Antipastotable of cheeses, vegetables, dips, and spreads, with artisan breads, crackers,pita, crostini

Apple-lucious, Sangiovese

Seated Dinner: Butternutsquash ravioli with sage, rye, and cream.

Pinot Grigio

Baked salmon with roasted pepper sauce and spinach orzo.


Spice beef round with roasted green beans and grape tomato.

Proprietors Reserve Chambourcin

Seasonal salad with fruit, nuts, and cheese, vinaigrette.

Vidal Blanc

Christmas pudding with hard sauce.

Maryland Merlot

Two bits of news from Mt. Felix: pumpkin wine for sale and open Thanksgiving

Saw where Mary and Peter Ianniello, the owners of Mt. Felix Vineyard & Winery in Havre de Grace, have released a pumpkin wine. Called Terra Maria, the tasting notes mention hints of cinnamon and spice with a long finish of sweet pumpkin. As far as the background of the name, Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (known to the English as John Cabot) discovered for England the route to the Chesapeake and North America in 1497. A century later English settlers arrived in "Terra Mariae," or "Mary's Land," named in honor of their queen, Henrietta Marie. These settlers, the story goes, relied upon the pumpkin, a native food relished for its flavor and versatility.

I've never tried pumpkin wine, but doubt that I will have a shot at a taste of this release, which is selling for $12.99. An e-letter sent Wednesday referenced a limited supply and not much left. So I'll wait for the batch next fall, if they choose to make it again.

Weekend hours: open til 8 today, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

While new Maryland winery opens this weekend, two others to try a dual barrel tasting promotion

Maryland wine honcho Kevin Atticks (OK, he's officially the executive director of the Maryland Wine Association) noted by phone today that the state's newest winery will open this weekend. Harford Vineyard in Forest Hill will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, and the same times during the next three weekends in December.

Expect to be able to taste and purchase five wines (all white at this point), including blush, Sweet Harmony (a semisweet white blend), Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Assuming the process here will be similar to other wineries opening up, such as Logan's View in Loganville, Pa., with the whites available to tasting and purchase the first six to 10 months and then reds also for sale thereafter.

The Web site notes that grapes were first planted on the 20-acre farm in 2003, with the wine facility opening two years later and now the winery opening for business.

Meanwhile, there are usually several highlights on the monthly newsletter coming out of Woodhall Wine Cellars in Parkton, Md., and this year is no exception.

Already posted info on the library wine dinner on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the winery. In addition, the winery will be teaming in a unique event with nearby Galloping Goose Vineyards in Hampstead on Dec. 5-6. Called a Point-to-Point Barrel Tasting, visitors can start at either winery between noon and 5 p.m. and taste at least two yet-to-be-bottled wines. Then they'll get a full glass of wine and complimentary hors d'oeuvre, then bring their glass along with them to the other winery for a similar offering. The cost, including the souvenir glass, is $15 per person.

One other bit of knowledge that everyone wants to know two days before Thanksgiving is what kind of wine to serve with dinner. Woodhall's strongest suggestion out of its line: it light reds such as Sangiovese Rose and Pinot Noir.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A big splash: York trail's Nouveau event overflows tasting room at Naylor Wine Cellars

Dick Naylor said he looked at the 50 or so folks who visited his winery in Stewartstown on Friday and wasn't quite sure what the rest of the first Uncork York Wine Just Off The Vine promotion would bring. Turned out to be almost more than he could handle.

Naylor said they thought maybe 150 or 200 would stop by Saturday to taste his 2009 vintage wines. Instead, they wound up doubling that. "It was phenomenal," he said by phone Monday afternoon, confirming just by his tone that this likely will be an annual event for the trail. "We had over 350 people in here on Saturday. It was just nonstop. What happened, there were so many people we took care of them as far as the tasting [out of the barrel] was concerned, but when it got into the tasting room there were just so many people that they couldn't get up to the bar to buy wine, and a lot of them left."

Saturday alone he said they sold close to 14 cases, and almost 40 of those bottles were the Naylor Port, produced from the Chambourcin grape. Ten wineries on the trail participated int he event; the cost to stop by all and taste the Nouveau wine was $10 per person.

The Stewartstown winery had another 155 or so on Sunday, plus 54 to their winemaker's dinner. All of which left Naylor knowing that they have some work to do in the tasting room before the trail's next big event, Tour de Tanks, in March 2010.

"I told my son-in-law, I said, where we have the wine supplies at the end, we're going to have to knock that wall out," he recalled. "I told him that three weeks ago. In March, when we had this thing, we lost a lot of business because people [couldn't find a path to the bar] and get waited on. I wish I had knocked the thing out last week so we would have had the room available Saturday."

Not only is Wine Just Off The Vine behind Naylor now, but so is the Wines of the World community education course that he taught in conjunction with Penn State Harrisburg. It ran on Thursday afternoons over a period of six weeks. The finale almost two weeks ago featured wines of the East Coast. Naylor said he served a mango wine from Key West, Fla., a cranberry wine from New Jersey, and wines from Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Maryland (Boordy and Fiore).

Paris walk yields off-street surprise

People head to Paris to, among other things, drink the wine and not necessarily see the vineyards. But seeing the vineyard, singular in this case, was one of the highlights for me earlier this month. It's an out-of-the-way plot that sits a few blocks from Sacre-Coeur on the meandering walk down to the marketplace in Montmartre.

We just sort of happened by it; as it turned out about a month after the annual festival called Fete des Vendanges that takes place in early October. A vineyard called Clos Montmartre, it's the lone working vineyard in Paris. Those vines cover 1500 square meters and produce 27 varietals, filling about 1500 half-liter bottles. Generally those are sold to raise money for charities.

For more, check out this extended story on the vineyard that I borrowed the info from. What I provided are the couple of photos I've attached, taken the end of the first week of November.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Waltz Vineyards' next release will be the first for a new semi-dry white blend called Fusion

A couple of things out of Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, a new Pennsylvania winery that I haven't been bashful about calling one of my favorites since it opened earlier this year.

One, they're able to ship UPS now, so anyone ordering wine can have it on their table in a day or two. Meanwhile, the winery is expanding its hours beginning Monday, opening its doors six days a week through the end of the year except for Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. They'll be open noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Co-owner Kim Waltz said Friday that they have been maintaining a schedule of being open three days a week, but "if there's any month we should probably be more available, it's December. So, we're going to give that a shot."

Waltz noted she and husband Jan have bottled a number of wines, but none have been released as yet. They offer a line of six dry wines -- two whites, three reds and a rose, ranging in price from $18 (Baron Steigel Rose) to $36 (their Cherry Hill Merlot, really what I'd consider their signature wine) to $42 (Crow Woods Cabernet). The first one they plan to release, as early as this weekend, will be the seventh wine in their line. It's a semi-dry white called Fusion that will sell for $18.

"It's three whites blended together and a little more sweetness than we normally do on our other wines," Kim said. The blend is 50 percent Semillon and 25 percent each of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. "It's really nice. It's got a little punch to it; it's about 13 percent [alcohol]. It's interesting, you know, there are still a lot of people that really like a lot of sweetness in their line. So we stayed with the semi-dry and didn't get too, too sweet, but for us it tastes sweet. . . . But I think it will be a nice one here, especially going into the holidays, because it's capturing the audience that really would rather have a little sweetness."

Expect the others to be released right around the start of the new year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Among the wine-food dinners on regional calendar, Woodhall has its set for Dec. 10

I assume the many wine dinners held around the region are profitable, or they wouldn't be quite so plentiful. Just about every winery in the region that I cover in Pennsylvania and Maryland holds a wine and food pairing at some point during the year. Some hold more than a few.

One I spotted in my trawl through the various Web sites is set for Thursday, Dec. 10, at Woodhall Wine Cellars in Parkton, Md., minutes off I-83 at 17912 York Road in Baltimore County, just north of the Gunpowder River. It's a seven-course meal that will run from 5 to 9 p.m. and include wines from Woodhall's library. The cost is $65 per person, and does NOT include tax and gratuities. There's also a restaurant on the premises called Patricia Della, which is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Reservations are required.

Here's the menu:

1st course: rosette of salmon with verte sauce
2nd course: crab bisque
3rd course: seared duck breast over couscous with rose of merlot reduction
4th course: warm carpachio
5th course: double lamb chop with persillade crust
6th course: 3 cheese tray
7th course: pumpkin bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream

For more information, call 410.357.5078. Woodhall is one of the older wineries in the state with a knowledgeable staff, headed up by owners Al Copp and Chris Lang and tasting room manager Debbie Morris. Chris Kent is the winemaking consultant.

Every weekend Woodhall features two separate and different special tasting experiences:

1. Vintners Reserve Wine Tasting: Kent has selected seven of the winery's finest wines (all black labels) for an exclusive comparative tasting experience. Three of these wines will be tasted against barrel samples of the same wine. Participants will be able to learn the difference between various wine varieties and different vintages, as well as have an opportunity to sample the "Best of Woodhall." The tasting will be conducted by one of the staff well versed and involved in the winemaking process. Tasting fee: $15

2. Comparative Barrel Tasting Tour: Participants have an opportunity to compare five current vintage wines to the 2008 barreled wine of the same variety under the guidance of a staff member knowledgeable and involved in the winemaking process. Tasting fee: $15

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wine Off The Vine opens Friday and continues through Sunday at 10 midstate wineries

What the Uncork York trail is calling Wine Off The Vine, another name for Nouveau Weekend, will begin Friday and continue through Sunday at 10 wineries in midstate Pennsylvania.

Tickets are $10 to taste wine made from freshly harvested grapes at any of the participating wineries. There might be some minor variation, but the wineries are expected to be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can buy those at any of the wineries involved, although note according to the Web site that a $1 processing fee will be assessed per ticket for anyone who used a credit card to purchase them.

A number of winemaker dinners are being held in conjunction with the event. PR coordinator extraordinaire Alison Smolinski noted in a Wednesday e-mail that the Allegro Vineyard's dinner in the Commonwealth Room at the Yorktowne Hotel in York this weekend is sold out. That's a total of 70 seats that will be filled for the food and drink, the latter produced by winemaker and owner Carl Helrich.