Sunday, August 30, 2009

Legends Vineyard expanding its reach despite absence of a tasting room

Talked to Carrie and Ashby Everhart sometime last summer about their new venture called Legends Vineyard in Churchville, Harford County, Md.

Suffice to say they have encountered their share of obstacles in getting a tasting room done. Currently you can purchase their wine in restaurants and shops in 12 Maryland counties, but completing that home where folks can stop and taste their wines remains out of their reach. Carrie wrote by e-mail on Saturday: "Still no progress on the tasting room. We have focused mainly on new accounts to try and make it work. We are in nearly 200 locations and are continuing to grow. The highlight account would be Ripken Stadium, which features all of Legends Vineyard’s wines. We have consulted an attorney for our options on the tasting room and he thinks we could get it done. But we would be looking at another 20K for fees and filings over the next 2 years."

So they celebrate the other victories, such as word a day or two ago from the Association of Maryland Wineries that they placed in several categories in the 2009 Governor's Cup competition. Those results will be announced officially on Tuesday; hoping to have them to post a day earlier. Carrie wrote that the winery picked up seven medals in the competition, including "gold medals for our Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris, silver medals for our Vidal Blanc and Daylight White, and bronze medals for our Chardonnay and Midnight Red."

This winery and many others across the state are planning to participate in the 26th Maryland Wine Festival on Saturday, Sept., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, the 20th, from noon to 6 p.m., at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bottled mud? Well, if it keeps raining . . .

Rob Deford of Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Md., called the 2009 vintage one that “will separate the good grape growers from the less good one.” In terms of vintages, most everyone is holding their breath after another round of rain over the region the past 24 hours. Maybe a dry September will save it, but there seems no end to this succession of tropical rains that have become such a predominant part of this summer.

Pennsylvania’s statewide grape educator noted in his e-letter earlier this week that the grapes are beginning to turn in color, going through veraison en route to harvest. “By most measures in many parts of the state it has been a challenging vintage so far,” Mark Chein wrote, “beginning with freeze events is some areas, frost and then what seems like interminable rain and cool conditions, poor fruit set and complicated disease issues. The forecast is not encouraging. About the only thing to do now is continue to scout and treat for diseases as necessary and manage the canopy. This will be a "winemaker's vintage" but it's still up to the grower to do the best possible job in the vineyard to bring in clean and ripe-as-possible grapes.

“I have little doubt that fruit will ripen at lower brix this year so tasting for flavor maturity will be important as well as the timing of harvest,” he continued. “Acids will be higher and pH lower, always a challenge in the cellar to achieve balance in wines. There is endless debate about how long to wait after a significant rain event before picking. My experience is to wait as long as possible. If you can take 2 steps forward and one back you are still gaining flavors, when it's one step forward and 2 back, it's time to pull the fruit. Winemakers should be intimately involved in these decisions. If you are a wine maker and you are not in your vineyards in a vintage like this you are compromising the quality of your wines.”

The region is two years removed from one of its best-ever vintages; indeed, it would be pretty hard to go wrong with a 2007 dry red from the various wineries in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Deford said that “if anything, if I were laying money on it, this is the year for whites. It has been cooler, which usually favors the fruity aspects of the grapes. They don’t get cooked out, and we have found that actually the whites are a bit better in a challenging year like this.”

You might remember reading here last year that a renegade hailstorm moved down the estate vineyard that Chaddsford Winery has in Elverson, Chester County. Co-owner Lee Miller said the other day, “We did recover very well,” she said. “We had no lasting damage in the vines. So we’re very happy about that,” she added, starting to laugh, “though we may not get a vintage this year either." Rain has hit southeastern Pennsylvania especially hard all summer. " It’s so hard when Mother Nature kind of has a different plan for you," she said. "I was talking to somebody at a real nice New York winery earlier today and she said the same thing. She said, “Ah, man, our vineyards are just a wreck.' But, you know, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Chein noted in his e-letter that “picking will be complicated. I hope you can figure out how to pick around the rot and unripe fruit. Of course, sorting grapes in the field and on the crush pad will help enormously this year. In wet years everyone has to work harder and spend more money just to achieve good wines. If you don't put forth the extra effort mediocrity will be achieved. If conditions are wet be very aware of safety issues with people and equipment in the field together, slipping and sliding, it can be very dangerous. Of course, I'm saying all of this just so the sun will start shining for the next 6 weeks and force me to eat my words. Wouldn't that be a pleasant outcome?”

Lee Miller noted those working in her vineyards and others in the surrounding area are “just trying to keep things from rotting to death” because of all the recent rains. And that was BEFORE the new round that swept in Friday.

All one can do, she noted, is keep hoping the rain stops, keep working hard and, well, maintain your sense of humor. “[Husband] Eric said [to me earlier today], ‘Well, I’m thinking of just giving up. We’re spending a fortune trying to keep these grapes sprayed and rotting. What would you think if we just took the whole vineyard and made Sangria? Then I could just let it go, whatever happens,” Lee said, laughing as she recounted the story. “[He said], ‘We’ll just make 80,000 gallons of Sangria.’

“I said, ‘You better just go take a break today.”

Two very different award-winning Rieslings are being sold at Boordy Vineyards

As Maryland wineries await word on the results of the 2009 Governor’s Cup, it seemed like the appropriate time to check in with owner Rob Deford at Boordy Vineyards in northeastern Baltimore County to talk about his two top finishers in the recent 2009 Winemasters Choice Awards competition.

His 2007 Riesling won a best of class in the off-dry division and his 2008 Riesling was among the gold medal winners. Two wines with the same word in the name and grape in the bottle, but two made distinctly different. Both are available for sale at the winery.

That 2007 vintage is called Eisling, what the winery calls its sweet Riesling reserve.
It’s described as “the nectar of Riesling grapes with aromas of honeysuckle and ripe melon. Seductively sweet and full bodied. The crowning touch to a gourmet meal.”

By phone the other day, Deford called is a “faux ice wine that we make where we give nature a helping hand by putting the grapes in a walk-in cooler. I would never promote it as a true ice wine. I have huge respect for those. It’s a Riesling-based wine; 100 percent Riesling. We press the juice of and freeze it and thaw only the first third to 40 percent and ferment that, so you get a nectar in the thawing process.”

That leads to a wine with 11 percent sugar and 10 percent alcohol and very high acidity, “so it’s actually remarkably in balance so it doesn’t feel cloying but it’s definitely a dessert wine.”

The other is what Deford called ”a straight Riesling. The standard Riesling is a classically cold fermented Riesling . . . with just wonderful Riesling characteristics. I love the Riesling grape. I might have told you before that we tried growing it for 18 years. These are not wines made from our fruit, we import the fruit."

Deford called that attempt at nurturing the grape a fairly honest try that just never had a chance of succeeding. "Riesling needs to be grown in a place where the graph of sunlight is very, very different, the northern latitudes."

Still, that hasn't stopped them from importing it. “I love the wine,” he said, “and enjoy working with it. Unfortunately, we can’t grow it.”

Three other quick mentions. What the Hydes, Md. winery terms its sustainable Happy Hour will continue on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. through Sept. 10; the last of its Saturday night concerts series (from 5:45 to 9:45) will be tonight and next week, Sept. 5; and its Autumn Wine Fest will run during Sundays in October. For more, click on this link.

Manatawny Creek's cherry wine back on shelf

The cherry wine is back in stock again at Manatawny Creek in Douglassville, Pa. Winemaker and owner Joanne Levengood sent out an e-blast Friday announcing that the wine, a semi-sweet fruit wine made with sour cherries, is back in stock. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6. And if you've never been there, go, just to taste what's a delicious line of wines at one of the few wineries left in the region that doesn't charge for tastings. The winery number is 610.689.9804.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Brown's Orchards set to open winery

It sounds like York County's next winery is about to open.

What will be called Logan's View Winery should be opening in the next few weeks at Brown's Orchards & Farm Market in Loganville, Pa. According to a story on the farm market Web site from earlier this year, the tasting room and winery would be located on Yellow Church Road, just a few miles west of the highly successful market that pulls in customers from all over southern York County and Maryland.

That story also noted that seven acres of grapes were planted on Brown’s farm, just a half mile from the market, in April 2008. The winery was expected to begin by selling fruit wines and white varietals at Brown’s Farm Market in 2009, with red varietals to become available during the fall of 2010.

There's a pretty good chance that the UnCork York Wine Trail's next member will be this winery that opens near the farm market. Tamanend Winery in Lancaster recently became the 13th member of the wine trail.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Md. e-letter features winemaking school

Quick note on a winemaking school featured in the last Association of Maryland Wineries newsletter. Tin Lizzie Wineworks is located in Howard County and run by Dave Zuchero, who earned his degree in Microbiology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and then continued his studies at UC-Davis, where he was a member of the first graduating winemaking class.

“After gaining all of this winemaking knowledge, I wanted to bring it to Maryland,” Zuchero said. "There are other winemaking schools on the east coast, but it is still a relatively new concept here.”

Just click here to read the rest.

Expecting results of the 2009 Maryland Governor's Cup any time. And when I see them, you'll see them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Waltz Vineyards looking forward to excellent yield as vineyard manages to evade severe storms

The next five weeks holds the key to the quality of the 2009 vintage. A dry, warm September and all that rain from the spring and summer becomes a distant memory. Well, except for all the aches and pains that still linger from the extra work that the rain necessitates.

One winemaker who says he's been fortunate enough to dodge most of the intense storms is Jan Waltz, at Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, Pa., a new winery and already one of my favorites. They've built a lovely tasting room and the wines (from the Chardonnay through their signature Merlot to their high-end Cabernet Sauvignon) are all worth a taste.

Stopped Monday to grab a bottle for a shoot we're planning at the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and while there had a chance to barrel taste the 2008 Merlot and 2008 Cab. Both are rounding nicely into shape.

Waltz said that even a rainstorm last Friday that dumped more than 2 inches of rain didn't set back the vineyard because it had enough dryness to absorb what fell. "We could see it all [heavier rain and haul that fell in Lancaster and surrounding communities] from here, but we missed it," he said. "The rain either follows the valley or follows the mountain, so most of the time it goes around us. We're on track for a good year."

Waltz said he expects an exceptional yield out of his Cabernet Sauvignon. "I think this is going to be a great Cab year, because [it's] further ahead than what we normally are."

Business, he said, has been picking up steadily since the spring opening, even on Thursdays and Fridays. The tasting room is open noon to 5 p.m. those two days and Saturdays. To handle the crowds and the parties, they've added a hire, and could add another once they expand their hours to Wednesday and perhaps Tuesday. They are planning to be open holidays, including Labor Day in another couple of weeks.

Though not part of a wine trail per se, Waltz said he's seeing visitors who are making up their own wine trail, doing a circuit that includes Nissley, Tamanend and Mt. Hope along with Waltz Vineyards. And other wineries in the Harrisburg area and north and east along the Berks County Wine Trail are within an hour's drive.

Paradocx teaming with Schmidt's Tree Farm to put on wine, harvest festival into November

Don't have the time to put together the extensive events list that I once did, and frankly I'd like to get away from targeting the events too much and just concentrate on the wine. Still, as I see these releases move, I don't mind posting them and giving them some additional exposure.

This one comes from Paradocx Vineyard, a member of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, and Schmidts’ Tree Farm, which are teaming this fall to offer the public an “A-MAIZE-ing Wine & Harvest Adventure.” It's what they are calling a one-of-a-kind opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled, memorable outing with friends and family, all while supporting local agriculture.

Every Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29 through Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the two parties will put on an array of activities on Paradocx Vineyard’s 100-acre farm in Landenberg, Pa., featuring 15 varieties of premium estate grown wine available for purchase by the glass or bottle, a five-acre corn maze, a “pick-your-own pumpkin patch,” hayrides through the vineyard, a pedal car track, children’s wagon train, reindeer antler toss, pumpkin sling shot and pumpkin bowling. On select weekends throughout the fall, the releases adds, guests can enjoy live music and food from local caterers.

Admission fee is $10. No admission fee for children under 3 years of age. Pumpkins are sold by weight. Wine tastings and wine by the glass can be purchased for $7.

For more, call 610.274.8560 or e-mail Paradocx's signature in terms of publicity has been its two wines in a decorated "paint can," the equivalent of four bottles of wine. Barn Red and Pail Pink each go for $40.99.

Finally, I'm starting to see more wineries take a shot at producing a periodic blog like this one on the Paradocx site. With their time stretched and frayed, winemakers and staff usually have these on the bottom of their list. But with marketing taking a number of forms these days, even a blog that comes out once in awhile can serve a winery well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New head of Pa. wine association, like many others, awaiting passage of state budget

Sam Landis is a 1998 bachelor of arts graduate of Williams College who rejoined the family business at Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in 2002 after working in California for E&J Gallo. Sam assists his parents (Jan and John) in the winemaking, is involved in promotion and as of April became the president of the Pennsylvania Wine Association, stepping in for Bob Mazza. It's a two-year term.

Spoke with Sam by phone last week and have been remiss in not getting the interview transcribed and up on line. I ask him to name a couple of his initiatives, and not surprisingly the first one was connected to the budget impasse in Harrisburg.

"We got a line item of $240,000 last year, which is more than we’ve ever had in the past," he said, "and we were able to do a lot of initiatives with marketing that we’ve never done before. Also, with getting some help politically with some consultants in Harrisburg . . . so we’re now pushing to hopefully get that reinstated. Right now, the budget has been zeroed out with any sort of dollars toward the wine industry, so we’re pushing hard to keep fighting to get those dollars for us. It may not be the full 240 we got last year, but even half [we'd be happy with] just to keep us going. . . . It looks like that’s not going to be settled until September or October, which is the latest we heard. So that’s the big thing right now we’re really focused on . . . is just working funds for us for the next fiscal year."

Landis said the industry recently conducted a state-of-the-union report to, among other things, gather numbers that show how much money you're generating for the state. "We had it done in 2005 and our overall economic impact for the state of Pennsylvania, this was the multiplier effects, was $661 million. We just got the draft done for 2007 and it's $2.35 billion. So it’s a huge increase, and this is something we use as a political tool to go to Harrisburg and say, “I understand you’ve gotta make tough decisions in cutting things right now, but if you look multiplier effects of how many jobs, wages paid, revenue, taxes paid, I mean, we’re paying $252 million in taxes based on how much we wine we sell from a winery standpoint. We’re putting money back into the state with agriculture and tourism, so we’re just looking to use these numbers to show that we’re one of the industries that needs to be backed, even if it's in these hard times."

There's more, which I'll post either later today or on Monday.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Vietri on Va La's La Prima Donna: 'Our initial goal was to create a white wine with some richness and complexity'

If you've read this blog you know the respect I have for Anthony Vietri and the work he and his staff are doing at Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pa., as far as I'm concerned a must-see of wineries in suburban Philly. Asked Anthony on Friday what was going on in the cellar and he said that they just bottled the 2008 La Prima Donna, the 2008 Zafferano, and our 2008 Silk. All will be released at different times next spring, he noted.

I asked about La Prima Donna, a distinctive blend of grapes you mostly haven't heard of: Malvasia bianco, friuliano, viognier, pinot grigio and petit manseng. Wine writer/critic Roger Morris and esteemed foodie/critic Craig LeBan of the Philly Inquirer have put their stamp of approval on the wine. Wrtoe Morris, for Sommelier Magazine: “La Prima Donna…is perhaps the best east coast table wine that I have ever tasted — a beautiful blossom of aromas, exotic and spicy flavors of green figs, nectarines, with a crisp finish.” And LeBan wrote: “A flamboyant, showy white, with layers of aromatic grapes…that dance exotic on the palate.”

I asked Vietri to shoot me an e-mail with his thoughts about what he has tried to do with that blend and wine, and he sent me the following: "I actually first got the notion of wanting to create this wine when I was living with a family of fishermen in Campagne," he said. "I had made white wines with my family since I was a boy, but I wanted to do something different. The wines of that coastal region inspired me, and I wanted to take their ideas a few steps further. When we started this vineyard our initial goal was to create a white wine with some richness and complexity, and to have those elements come strictly from the grapes themselves, and without the aid of oak, so that the wine would directly translate our vineyard to the glass. When we taste it we smile and say 'that's our vineyard.' It is a horribly antiquated way to look at things, but it is now in its now in its ninth version, believe it or not."

Basics of terroir given just desserts at Chaddford Winery site

Want a superb explanation of terroir, which describes the land and climate of where grapes are grown and has a huge impact on the uniqueness of wines? Then click on to this 101 at the Chaddsford Winery site, where winemaker and co-owner Eric Miller has assembled enough to give even novices an understanding of what the most important word in the wine language is all about.

Terrapin Station excited about bronze in first foray into international competition

Some odds and ends on an oppressive Saturday:

Maryland's Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton is understandably proud for earning a bronze medal for its 2008 Cayuga in the Lone Star International Wine Competition. "We wanted to see how our wines would do against international competition," said the release. "The Lone Star competition liked our 2008 Cayuga, which makes sense since it appears to be the favorite wine of the 2008 vintage so far.

Two new red wines that will be released in the coming weeks from 2008: Terrapin Station's Shiraz and Cabernet Franc, according to its most recent e-letter. "The Shiraz is a fruit forward wine that we think folks will really enjoy as a pleasantly fruity, easy to drink red.The Cabernet Franc is a full-bodied red that boasts an unusually high alcohol (for an East Coast wine) of just over 14%. Both of these reds represent an evolution in our winemaking, and we think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Terrapin Station is unique for two things: its Terrapin Institute and its wines in a box.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Uncork York plans Nouveau weekend event

The Uncork York Wine Trail that stretches from the western part of Lancaster to Gettysburg and up to Harrisburg has decided that its spring event was so successful that it would try one in the fall, after harvest time, similar to what the Bucks County Wine Trail members do.

They're calling it the Wine Just Off The Vine weekend, schedule for Friday, Nov. 20, through Sunday, Nov. 22. That's the weekend before Thanksgiving. Tickets are $10 per person for the event, which will start at 11 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. at the 10 participating wineries.

It's one of those rare chances to leave the tasting room and head into the winery and/or cellar to take a quick lesson in how grapes are transformed into juice and what they go through on the way to the bottle. Awaiting visitors at the end is a taste of the Nouveau wine, an easy-sipping fruit-forward liquid that brings a special appreciation when you realize that it came from grapes that were still hanging on the vine three to six weeks ago.

York County tourism is developing this with the same strategy as it does for Uncork York in the spring, incorporating packages that include area restaurants, hotels and bed anbd breakfasts. For more, click on this link, call 888.858.9675, or contact one of the participating wine trail members, including:

Adams County Winery
Allegro Vineyards
Cullari Vineyards
Four Springs Winery
Moon Dancer Vineyard & Winery
Naylor Wine Cellars
Reid's Orchard & Winery
Seven Valleys Vineyard & Winery
Tamanend Winery
West Hanover Winery

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kreutz Creek Winery plans wine-bottling day on Labor Day Monday

A look at what the last wine-bottling day looked like, a photo courtesy of the winery.

Two of my favorite people in the industry -- Carole and Jim Kirkpatrick -- of Kreutz Creek Winery in West Grove, Pa., will be holding another wine bottling day on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 7. But it's not all work. You'll get to learn more about the wine-making process and at the same time bond with others who are there. It's one of several unique events they're holding this year at Kreutz Creek, including a vine-planting day in the spring and a grape stomp in the fall. Basically they'll go from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the wine bottling If you're interested for something different on what's generally a pretty slow day on the calendar, call Carole at 610.869.4412.

Brandywine Valley Wine Trail switching to a holiday open house for its December celebration

Hearing there won't be a Brandywine Valley Wine Trail vintners dinner this fall is disappointing but understandable. It's a lot of work and has to be costly, considering that the wineries involved not only provided the wine served at dinner but poured far more during an hour-plus time frame that preceded the dinner, as folks arrived and hors d'oeuvres were being served. All of this took place amid the spectacular backdrop that Longwood Gardens offers.

Instead, the wine trail this year will hold a holiday open house on the weekend of Dec. 5-6, according to communications chair Karen Cline. She noted that the trail is "doing an open house this year as a coordinated event to bring attention to the idea of gifting wine for Christmas---local/regional wines in particular. I don’t have all the particulars yet from each winery but so far, I see a trend of no tasting fees and wine pricing specials. Stargazers is introducing some new wines. Festive holiday atmospheres, including music and holiday sweets, will be the standard."

More details will be forthcoming on that and the annual Harvest Festival, scheduled for the last weekend in September and the first weekend in October. That will include a grape stomp at Kreutz Creek Vineyards in West Grove, something you're beginning to see at more wineries around the region..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tales from a Mason-Dixon Summit and a smattering of other wine news from the region

What's nice after corresponding with someone for as long as I have with Kevin Atticks, the director of the Association of Maryland Wineries and a fellow professor, is finally sitting down over lunch and some good wine. Had that chance earlier today, at Pomodoro's Italian Restaurant just off I-83 in York. We needed two tables to accommodate the plates of food, a chiller to place a bottle of the 2008 Bordeleau Pinot Grigio (a 2009 Winemakers Choice Best of Show) that he brought, and a spot for the 2007 Pinnacle Ridge Chambourcin (Best of Show at the 2009 Farm Show) that I brought along. Great meal. Great wine. Not a whole lotta news to come out of it, except that Atticks expects next year to be one that sees a number of new wineries open in his state.

He's also expecting results of the Governor's Cup to be announced Friday, which many wineries across the state are eager to see. We'll post those as soon as wwe get them. Competition was held Sunday at Loyola College, where Atticks teaches. Just as a refresher, here are the results from last year's competition.

Afterward, we took a quick spin to the Allegro Vineyards store and both bought a bottle of Trio, a unique collaboration that includes grapes from Allegro, Manatawny Creek and Pinnacle Ridge for a blend that includes Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Will report back on what we both thought of the wine, one that Allegro winemaker and owner Carl Helrick termed as "an off-the-wall idea has matured into an imminently drinkable and ageable wine.”

Helrich continued in a release: “2007 was a wonderful vintage, producing some of the best wines of this decade.” The three wineries thought it would be an interesting concept to take the best of what they did and blend it together. He added, “It turned out the blend is about as different as we are."

The juice aged for approximately 18 months at each winery and then was blended at Manatawny Creek. Helrich described the result as a fruit-forward wine with tame oak and very supple tannins. “This is a wine that should deliver numerous years of drinking pleasure, as long as you’re one of the lucky few who is able to get it before it's gone,” he said. Each winery contributed just four barrels toward the effort, supplies are limited.

Finally, since I mentioned the Maryland contest, I saw where New York State release results of its Governor's Cup. Since awards are one way to judge the quality of a winery and its product, you're welcome to peruse this news release and the accompanying list. Cheers.

Governor's Cup release:

Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes won the coveted “Governor’s Cup” trophy at the 2009 New York Wine & Food Classic competition, held on August 17 & 18 at the Glen Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen, NY. The “Winery of the Year” award went to Sheldrake Point Vineyards, another Finger Lakes winery.

The elegant Governor’s Cup, a large silver chalice, recognizes the “Best of Show” or top prize of all 805 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 805 New York wines and spirits from the Long Island, Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Niagara Escarpment, Lake Erie, and other regions of New York State. The Anthony Road 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling was also voted Best White Wine, Best Riesling and Best Medium Dry Riesling on its way to the ultimate award. Sheldrake Point Vineyards received 1 Double Gold, 2 Gold, 4 Silver, and 1 Bronze awards on its way to that honor.

A “Specialty Wine Champion” award was added last year to recognize consistent quality among the increasing number of wines made from fruits other than grapes, or honey. The 2009 winner was Montezuma Winery with 1 Double Gold, and 4 Silver awards.

The awards were based on blind tastings by 24 expert judges—6 from California, 12 from New York, and 6 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 24 judges for Best of Category and Governor’s Cup awards.

Celebrating its 24th year, the Classic is organized by Teresa Knapp of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and is open to all 258 New York wineries from all regions. In 2009, a total of 26 Double Gold, 71 Gold, 266 Silver, and 279 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 Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling for Best White, Miles Wine Cellars NV Wisteria for Best Blush, Swedish Hill Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc for Best Red, Sheldrake Point Vineyards 2008 Late Harvest Riesling for Best Dessert Wine and Earle Estate Meadery NV Pear Mead for Best Specialty Wine.

The “Best of Class” awards for different varietals or proprietary blends, which were tasted off for “Best of Category” awards, went to Sherwood House 2007 Oregon Road Chardonnay for Best Chardonnay, Keuka Spring Vineyards 2008 Gewurztraminer for Best Gewurztraminer, Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling for Best Riesling, Belhurst Estate Winery 2008 for Best Dry Riesling, Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi Dry Riesling for Best Medium Dry Riesling, Billsboro Winery 2008 Riesling for Best Medium Sweet Riesling, Martha Clara Vineyards 2008 SO VIN ON BLONK for Best Sauvignon Blanc, Billsboro Winery 2008 Pinot Gris for Best Pinot Gris, Highland Cellars 2007 Cayuga White for Best Cayuga White, Knapp Winery NV Pasta White for Best Seyval, Goose Watch Winery 2008 Traminette for Best Traminette, Keuka Spring Vineyards NV Celebrate for Best Hybrid White Blend, Honeymoon Trail Winery NV Diamond for Best Diamond, Lakewood Vineyards 2008 Niagara for Best Niagara, Lucas Vineyards 2008 Captain’s Belle for Best Hybrid Blush, Miles Wine Cellars NV Wisteria for Best Native Blush, Glenora Wine Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mason Vineyards for Best Cabernet Sauvignon, Fox Run Vineyards 2007 Merlot for Best Merlot, Swedish Hill Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc for Best Cabernet Franc, Damiani Wine Cellars 2007 Meritage for Best Vinifera Red Blend, Swedish Hill Winery NV Viking Red for Best Hybrid Red Blend, Earle Estates Meadery NV Pear Mead for Best Mead, XXX for Best Fruit Wine, Sheldrake Point Vineyards 2008 Late Harvest Riesling for Late Harvest Wine, and Casa Larga Vineyards 2006 Fiori Delle Stella Vidal Ice Wine for Best Ice Wine.

The following wines were awarded Double Gold medals: Anthony Road Wine Company 2006 Tierce, Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling, Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Semi-Sweet Riesling, Atwater Estate Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc, Billsboro Winery 2008 Riesling, Billsboro Winery 2008 Pinot Gris, Cascata Winery 2008 Regatta Red, Dr. Konstanin Frank Wine Cellars 2007 Reserve Gewurztraminer, Earle Estates Meadery NV Pear Mead, Fox Run Vineyards 2007 Merlot, Goose Watch Winery 2008 Traminette, Highland Cellars 2007 Cayuga White, Honeymoon Trail Winery NV Apple, Keuka Lake Vineyards 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling, Keuka Spring Vineyards 2008 Gewurztraminer, Keuka Spring Vineyards NV Celebrate, Knapp Winery NV Pasta White, Knapp Winery NV Prism Lucas Vineyards 2008 Captain’s Belle, Montezuma Winery NV Cranberry Bog, Rock Stream Vineyards NV Grappa, Rooster Hill Vineyards 2008 Estate Semi-Dry Riesling, Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2007 Riesling, Sherwood House Vineyards 2007 Oregon Road Chardonnay, Shinn Estate Vineyards 2006 Ultra Brut, Young Sommer Winery NV Cherry Breeze.

The following wines were awarded Gold medals: Americana Vineyards NV Crystal Lake, Atwater Estate Vineyards 2008 Riesling, Atwater Estate Vineyards 2008 Gew├╝rztraminer, Belhurst Estate Winery 2008 Dry Riesling, Bet The Farm Winery 2008 Village White, Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery NV Holiday Spiced Wine, Casa Larga Vineyards 2006 Fiora Delle StellaVidal Ice Wine, Castello di Borghese Vineyard 2008 Riesling, Chateau LaFayette Reneau 2008 Late Harvest Riesling, Damiani Wine Cellars 2007 Merlot Barrel Select, Damiani Wine Cellars 2007 Meritage, Duck Walk Vineyards 2007Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Eagle Crest Vineyards NV On-no-lee, Earle Estates Meadery NV Autumn Harvest, Earle Estates Meadery NV Apple Enchantment, Fox Run Vineyards 2008 Reserve Riesling, Fruit Yard Winery NV Natural Plum Wine, Fulkerson Winery 2007 Riesling Traminette, Glenora Wine Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mason Vineyard and 2008 Meritage; Goose Watch Winery 2008 Diamond, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2008 Homestead Reserve Riesling, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris, Heart & Hands Wine Company 2007 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir, Honeymoon Trail Winery NV Diamond and NV Honeymoon Sweet; Hosmer Winery 2008 Dry Riesling and 2008 Seyval; Imagine Moore 2008 Love Riesling, Keuka Lake Vineyards 2008 Dry Riesling, King Ferry Winery 2007 Treleaven Meritage, Lakewood Vineyards 2008 Niagara, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2007 Chardonnay Reserve, Liberty Vineyards & Winery NV Fredonia, Lucas Vineyards 2007Cabernet Franc, Magpie Farms NV Legendry Magpie Honey Mead, Martha Clara Vineyards 2008 SO VIN YON BLONK, Miles Wine Cellars NV Wisteria, Peconic Bay Winery 2006 Riesling, Pellegrini Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay, Pellegrini Vineyards 2005 Merlot, Penguin Bay Winery 2008 Surfside Chardonnay, Pindar Vineyards 2007 Johannisberg Riesling, Red Newt Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc Red Newt Cellars 2007 Merlot, Rooster Hill Vineyards 2008 Semi-Sweet Riesling, Scarola Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc, Schwenk Wine Cellars NV Lake Breeze White, Sheldrake Point Vineyard NV Ice Apple Splash and 2008 Late Harvest Riesling; Sherwood House Vineyards 2004 Blanc de Blanc, Shinn Estate Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc, Standing Stone Vineyards 2008 Vidal Ice, Stoutridge Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Franc / Noiret, Swedish Hill Winery NV Naturel, 2008 Dry Riesling, NV Viking White, NV Viking Red, and 2007 Cabernet Franc; Thirsty Owl Wine Company 2008 Dry Riesling, 2008 Pinot Gris, 2008 Diamond, and 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir; Torrey Ridge Winery NV Summer Delight, Ventosa Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris, Ventosa Vineyards 2007Cabernet Franc, Villa Bellangelo 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling, Wagner Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay Reserve, 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling, and 2007 Meritage; Young Sommer Winery NV Traminette, Semi-Dry.

Complete results of the 2009 Classic will soon be posted under “New York Gold” at, which also includes Gold medal New York wines from other major competitions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday loop through Maryland hits Mount Felix and Woodhall wineries

From Mount Felix: What's left of the delicious plate of figs and cheese and a shot of the tasting room.

Spent part of Sunday afternoon visiting Mary and Peter Ianniello at their new Mount Felix Winery in Havre de Grace. Haze cheated us out of the sharp view of the distant Chesapeake Bay, which sits beyond the property, including the vineyard, and makes for a scenic backdrop off the large patio that sits off the house and a stroll from the tasting room.
Originally from northern New York, the couple and their three children have called the 9,000-square-foot Mount Felix Manor -- which dates back to the 1830s -- home since the early part of this decade. They have Chambourcin and Foch vines in the ground; they hope to plant more over the next couple of years, including Traminette. Getting signs out on I-95 at their exit (89, Md. Route 155) has to help their exposure; so will getting a sign put along Rt. 155 at the end of their driveway. It's an easy one to miss the first time through, as we found out yesterday. The winery is less than a mile from the exit, located on the right side of the road.

It's probably one of the smaller operations you'll come across in terms of parking and the size of the tasting room, which you can see in the picture above. But it's cozy inside, with plenty of small personal touches on the wall and counters. Mount Felix is producing a line of nine wines, from dry white (Matilda's Devotion) to dry red (Adlum's First) to semi-sweet and sweet red and white. Our hosts went the extra mile, taking figs off a tree they planted when they moved in and cutting those up on a plate with some chunks of sharp cheese. Loved it. That fig tree is so big it looks like it's been there for 20 years, and the fruit is fantastic. We stayed until a wave of visitors arrived, packing the tasting room. All of the wine's names, by the way, relate to the historical significance of the area where the winery sits.

So we took the couple of bottles we purchased and headed north and west back to York Road, where Woodhall Wine Cellars sits. That's the winery that has helped cultivate our passion for regional wines; there are no friendlier folks in the business than the gang at Woodhall, where they have been turning out bottles of wine since the mid-1980s. That would make it one of the oldest wineries in the state. A five-minute drive off I-83, it's in a far more rustic setting than what you'll find at today's newer wineries. But there's room to stretch out and taste wines in the main tasting room and out on a covered back porch, where we got comfy yesterday. You should have no trouble finiding something you like there; I didn't specifically count the wines available for tasting that were listed on their chalkboard, but it's gotta be at least 25, including some delicious reserve wines.

This is a winery that until recently had a vineyard on the hill next store; safe to say at this point it's dormant. Winemaker Chris Kent said Sunday they'll likely replant at some point in 2010 or 2011. But they've done fine sourcing in the grapes and producing the extensive line of wines; we walked away with a couple cases that we ordered back in the winter during barrel tasting. Well, that's not the only thing we stopped for. A glass of wine out on the back porch hit the spot. Others were streaming in and out to pick up wine they had ordered; in the middle of it all was a party of about a dozen working through some Woodhall wines with a few plates of appetizers. Unfortunately, we couldn't manage an invitation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sand Castle Winery prepares to open new store

Most of the regional wineries use monthly e-letter to provide cursory updates. Having subscribed to 30 or more of them, they allow me to catch up on the latest news and events for so many wineries that I will eventually visit, but it might be months before I get there. Sand Castle Winery is located in Erwinna, in Bucks County, a member of the Bucks County Wine Trail. They do their share of traveling, including out toward central Pennsylvania. Indeed, there probably will be no better time for me to try their wines than at the Lancaster Wine and Music Festival next weekend or at the Gettysburg Wine & Music Festival on Sept. 12-13.

Their e-letter notes that they have closed their store in Conshohocken in Viggiano’s "because the restaurant was sold and the new owner has a liquor license. Our new store will be open soon at 711 Easton Road Valley Square Shopping Center Warrington, PA. The name of the store is aste” Sand Castle Winery’s Gourmet Experience. The store with its convenient location will be selling many gourmet products such as Flavored Olive Oils, Balsamic Vinegars, Di Bruno Bros. cheeses along with many other items. The opening is targeted before Labor Day. Please look at our website for details. 215 343 4528"

Some wineries use their Web sites or e-letters to give readers a hint of what's going on in the vineyard. No one does it with more extravagance and passion than Eric Miller at Chaddsford Winery, but others such as the folks at Sand Castle devote at least a paragraph in their e-letter to address the progress of their grapes.

"Against all odds the grapes are actually ripening," they write. "Pinot Noir is changing color
and all other varieties are slowly growing into mature sized clusters. We still do not know what is going to happen during harvest and what the quality will be like. Every harvest quality is decided by the last two weeks before the harvest. If we are going to have a quality grape the angels will have to turn the water off pretty soon."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Maryland wineries workshop concludes with runaway victory in tasting of Bordeaux blends

You might have had trouble reaching folks at some of Maryland's wineries earlier this week, and it had nothing to do with trying to squeeze in some last-minute tanning time at the beach.

The executive director of the Association of Maryland Wineries said that the organization held a winemaking seminar Monday and Tuesday in Annapolis. According to Kevin Atticks, Monday was spent learning about detecting/fixing/preventing wine flaws and Tuesday included a tasting of the best Mid-Atlantic Bordeaux style blends, hosted by out-of-state winemaking consultants. The lineup was:

Childress 2005 Meritage
Elk Run 2007 Cab Franc
Sugarloaf Mountain 2007 Comus Reserve
Linden Hardscrabble 2006
Octagon 2005
Chaddsford Cab Sauv 2006
Chateau O'Brien 2007 Meritage (Barrel Sample)
Michael Shaps 2007 Cab Franc
Pollock 2007 Cab Franc
Serpent Ridge 2007 Vintner's Reserve
Black Ankle 2007 Crumbling Rock

Atticks noted that all were brown-bagged and tasted blind by the group (about 50 people). In this case, the four Maryland wines turned out to be the four favorites.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Black Ankle, Dionysus' Kitchens to hold second wine and food pairing on Sunday afternoon

Noticed that Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland's Frederick County is starting the practice (like several wineries around the region) of monthly wine and food dinners. Teaming with chef Paul Dongarra of Dionysus' Kitchens, the pasta and wine pairings are scheduled the third Sunday of every month. The one this Sunday, the 16th, will be the second one, beginning at 5 p.m.

Winery co-founder Sarah O'Herron said by phone that the relationship began when Dongarra tasted several of Black Ankle's wines and, not surprisngly, fell in love with them. So the Catonsville, Md., caterer approached Sarah and partner Ed Boyce about teaming his foodstufs made of locally grown products with their superb wines.

Depending on the weather, the meal will take place either in the tasting room or (on a sunny afternoon) move outside onto the spacious grounds, where more people can be accommodated. The cost is $30 per person, and $8 for a kids' plate.

Kids can try the adult's menu or opt for what might be my choice, Chef Paul's family's favorite macaroni and cheese. Advance reservations are required. For more information or reservations, contact Melissa Schulte: or 619-203-8230, or click here to buy your tickets online.

As for the menu, here's what it looks like:

Roasted Peppers with Corn and Cantaloupe Salsa
Pasta with Tomato Eggplant Cream Sauce
Plate of Artisan Cheeses with Peach Chutney

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Black Walnut's spacious bank barn becomes Pennsylvania's newest winery

Congrats to Val and Lance Castle and Karen and Jack Kuhn, whose longtime dream of opening a winery was realized on July 31 when Black Walnut Winery in Chester County opened its doors. The couples go back to 2001 when they first started winemaking; several years later they took the first steps toward transitioning their passion into a business.
Overcoming a number of hurdles the past year, and still with some work to do, the renovated (almost) 200-year-old bank barn opened for business a little more than a week ago. It's worth the trip out Route 30 (about 2 miles from where two-lane Route 30 turns into an elevated bypass and heads toward Downingtown and King of Prussia) to see what they've done and try the wines. By the way, if you're headed east of Route 30, stay on the business route. You'll find the winery on the right-hand side about 2 miles after passing a Wawa and crossing Route 10.

From the wide-planked flooring to the gorgeous high ceilings, you'll spend the first few minutes just wandering around the top floor and marveling at how they've converted what some called the oldest antique shop in America into the home of Pennsylvania's newest winery. A member of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, expect it to open officially Labor Day weekend or the weekend after. But already on Friday afternoon, as we were finishing up our tastings, several parties were funneling into the place. The winery itself is located below the tasting room. Tasting hours are noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

No grapes are grown on the premises, all are brought in from other vineyards, primarily from other members of the trail. Tastings are $6 to try any seven of the six whites and five reds that the winery has bottled. We wound up carrying away a bottle of Mischief ($18), a blend of 2008 Pinot Gris and 2007 Chardonnay that we found interesting and worthy of a spot in our wine refrigerator. And, frankly, we liked the doggone name.
And there were other to savor. Wine writer Roger Morris, who has earned the title of expert when it comes to the wines of the Brandywine Valley, included Black Walnut's Blanc Franc ($16) on his third annual News Journal Case of the Brandywine. The Black Walnut's owners describe this 2007 wine as made of grapes "harvested two weeks before the other Cabernet Franc grapes, crushed and pressed within 24 hours after crush to limit the contact between juice and red skins. The result is a white wine with soft fruity flavors and with about 1 1/2 percent residual sugar, a soft sweet finish."
In short, congrats to the state's newest winery. Here's to a long and fruitful future of producing good wines.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pinnacle Ridge's Knapp: 'We have sacrificed terroir to make a better wine'

Wrote the other day about the collaborative wine called Trio that has been produced by three Pennsylvania wineries. Just to supplement what was in that post, here's some additional explanation that appeared in the newsletter produced by Pinnacle Ridge, a gem of a winery that sits in the shadow of Route 78 about a half-hour's drive west of Allentown.


WINEMAKERS and FRIENDS, Brad Knapp (from Pinnacle Ridge Winery,) Carl Helrich (from
Allegro Winery in Brogue) and Joanne Levengood (from Manatawny Creek Winery in Douglassville) are three of the finest winemakers in the state of Pennsylvania. How good are they? Between the three of them, they walked away with SIX out of the BEST TEN wines selected by the judges at the Seventh Annual Wine Excellence Awards. (Affectionally known as "Oscar Night.") Cabernets, Merlots, and Meritage; the best vinifera wines are entered in this competition run by the PENNSYLVANIA WINE SOCIETY, a 22 year old organization.

According to legend, about six years ago, Brad contacted Joanne and Carl and suggested that they get together to review each others wines. The response was positive. Since that time, the three winemakers meet twice a year, bringing tank and barrel samples of wine aging in their cellars, prior to bottling. They taste similar wines from each of their cellars, side-by-side and critique and discuss how the fruit was grown and the wines were made.

During one of the tasting sessions, our fabulous trio was reviewing barrel samples of red wines from the 2007 vintage. The concept of producing a wine in COLLABERATION came up. The idea was kicked around for about a year and finally, our friends came up with a new wine: TRIO.

Each winemaker contributed four barrels to the final blend; twelve barrels total. Manatawny Creek brought Merlot and Syrah, Allegro brought Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and Pinnacle Ridge brought Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The wines were aged at the individual wineries in Hungarian, Pennsylvania, and French oak barrels and blended before bottling.

Brad, Joanne, and Carl created the TRIO blend from the best of the very excellent 2007 vintage. Come taste and find out what all the excitement is about!

I haven't tasted it yet, so if my co-workers look around for me late next week and can't find me, here's a clue: I'll be on my way to one of the wineries to try it out. I asked Pinnacle Ridge winermaker and owner Brad Knapp about the significance of this unique marriage and he, as usual, got back to me by e-mail in a couple of hours. Here's what he had to say:

"I guess the way I look at Trio is that it is a "best of the best" effort," he wrote. "Joanne, Carl and I have been tasting each other's wine in a constructively critical environment for around six years. We get together twice a year to evaluate barrel and tank samples (and some bottled examples as well). The goal being to get different viewpoints on wines that we believe are problematic or exemplary or ordinary. It is always good to get as many informed opinions as possible when making decisions on how to handle a particular wine. Additionally we learn from each other just because we are sitting down and talking for hours (marketing, production, viticulture etc.). 2007 was a fabulous vintage and this was seen as we looked at each other's barrel samples from 07. We stumbled across this idea about doing a collaborative wine during one of our tasting sessions. We then each brought what we felt were the best from each of our cellars and started blending. That's how we came up with the syrah, merlot, cabernet franc blend. In my opinion blended wines are nearly always better than a singular wine. Blends can mean the same variety from different vineyards or different varieties, different years etc. So Trio is definitely not a terrior purist wine since it blends three different vineyards together. We have sacrificed terrior to make a better wine."

Six Maryland wineries receive awards in recent Atlantic Seaboard competition

When you're out and about this summer and fall looking for good Maryland wines, you can head to some of these wineries that recently were recognized in the fifth annual Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. What I don't know is which wineries entered and how many wines they submitted for competition. But here are the award-winners, the news courtesy of Maryland Wine Association executive director Kevin Atticks and his staff.

The winning entries included: Black Ankle Vineyards, Elk Run Vineyards, Bordeleau Vineyards, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Basignani Winery, and Heimbuch Estate Vineyards. All together, Maryland wineries received multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals, along with a best of category award.

Best of Category
Syrah/Shiraz: 2007 Leaf-Stone Syrah by Black Ankle Vineyards
Gold Medal Winners

2007 Leaf-Stone Syrah by Black Ankle Vineyards
2008 Gewurztraminer by Elk Run Vineyards

Silver Medal Winners
2007 Crumbling Rock by Black Ankle Vineyards
2007 Rolling Hills by Black Ankle Vineyards
2008 Viognier by Black Ankle Vineyards
2006 Merlot by Bordeleau Vineyards
2007 Merlot by Elk Run Vineyards
2007 Riesling by Elk Run Vineyards
2007 Chardonnay by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
2007 Comus by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc by Sugarloaf Vineyard
2007 Reserve Comus by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Bronze Medal Winners
2007 Chardonnay by Basignani Winery
2005 Reserve Lorenzino by Basignani Winery
2008 Albarino by Black Ankle Vineyards
2008 Chardonnay by Black Ankle
2008 Pinot Grigio by Bordeleau Vineyards
2007 Thanksgiving Farm Meritage by Heimbuch Estate Vineyards
2007 Cabernet Franc by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
2008 Pinot Grigio by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
2006 Reserve Chardonnay by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rain adding extra layer of work to Pennsylvania growing season, especially in the southeast part

One of the main cogs in the wine wheel in Pennsylvania is Mark Chein, the state's wine grape educator or, as I just like to call him, our grape Yoda. He's always been easy for me to track down, he loves talking about growing grapes and wines, and despite my being a novice has never talked down to me. Plus, the guy gets around, between seminars and just popping in on wineries. His monthly newsletters are full of news (I only wish he'd decide to continue editorializing a bit; Mark, MISS YOUR 2 CENTS). So thought it worth sharing his assessment on the growing season. From the standpoint of being a sports editor, I've seen it as a wet spring and summer, with games being postponed every other day. Reading his take on conditions, what I've seen from my office is what he has seen trudging around multiple vineyards. Might be a bit technical for some of you not in the business of growing grapes, but the message comes through loud and clear, and it should give you more of an appreciation of what these folks go through every year. Here's an excerpt.

"As we close in on veraison the weather becomes an even more important concern to wine growers and so far, at least in SE PA, the signs are not encouraging. Heavy showers persist in the region. One vineyard in Chester County reported almost 5" of rain over the weekend - hardly suitable grape ripening conditions and it exacerbates vine vigor and disease problems that are already on the margin of control in many vineyards. Dry conditions will help to slow vegetative growth and focus the vine's attention on fruit ripening. Admittedly we have very little say about this and can only hope that the current weather pattern of regular showers in SE PA will change. It has complicated the disease situation immensely. Growers have sprayed up to a dozen times by now and made 3-4 hedging passes to keep the canopies under control. Leaves look pretty ragged, as they would much later in the season with a tough, brittle texture and beat-up appearance. Fruit set was highly variable so yield estimating is a challenge. Continued aggressive canopy management will also help - hedging when necessary, leaf and/or lateral removal, even shoot positioning. Under these conditions, more aggressive leaf removal on both sides of the vine can be justified, although sunburn is a risk if a heat spike occurs. The additional aeration and spray penetration will help mitigate disease. Removing ill-positioned, unripe and powdery mildew-affected clusters after veraison will help. Adjusting crop load in a season like this is a tricky affair. With this kind of late season vine vigor, the fruit is an energy sink that helps to moderate shoot growth to some extent. So if crop can be left on, even past the normal lag phase thinning period, it would be helpful in controlling vigor. However, if harvest is going to be late and challenging, overcropping vines is the last thing a grower wants to do. Wine quality is still the key goal and finding just the right balance between amount of foliage and fruit is the key to success. It is an extremely challenging year. Dry (moisture and humidity) weather will be the best antidote for this vintage. All we can hope for is a change in the jet stream. But get ready for a challenging harvest."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Three Pennsylvania wineries blend talents into new wine called Trio

Thanks to those who have written to say they miss these entries and the evolution of this post. Time to get it started again, albeit with shorter posts, a little more on the wine and winemakers and less on the events, and with plans by the end of the month to be Twittering on a regular basis.

So what have I missed?

1, A co-op by
Allegro, Manatawny Creek and Pinnacle Ridge that has produced a wine call Trio. Blended with grapes from 2007, it combines Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah and was aged for approximately 18 months, then blended at Manatawny Creek. You couldn't ask for a marriage of three better Pennsylvania wineries, two members of ther Berks County Wine Trail and the other (allegro) a member of Uncork York! and part of the reinvigorated Mason-Dixon Wine Trail. “What started as just an off-the-wall idea has matured into an imminently drinkable and ageable wine,” Allegro owner/winemaker Carl Helrich said in a press release. I hope to talk to all three winemakers sometime this week, “2007 was a wonderful vintage, producing some of the best wines of this decade.” The three wineries thought it would be an interesting concept to take the best of what they did and blend it together. Said Helrich, “It turned out the blend is about as different as we are.”

2, One of my favorite new wineries,
Serpent Ridge in Westminster, Md., recently trumpeted a gold medal for its 2007 Vintner's Cabernet in the Indy International Wine Competition.That competition included more than 3,000 commercial entries from 12 countries and 39 states. We are proud to have achieved such a wonderful achievement with one of our first releases. Their tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Find a table outside and plan to relax and enjoy the view for an hour or two.

3, The
Virginia Wine Association recently added a new look to its Web site and introduced a monthly newsletter that includes a list of events, pairing tips and wine education opportunities.

4, Finally, nice to finally have a chance to meet and dine with spokesperson Jennifer Eckinger of the
Pennsylvania Wine Association, which continues to add a handful of new wineries to its list every year.