Saturday, October 31, 2009

Manatawny puts Meritage on sale for November

It's called Manatawny Creek Winery for a simple reason: the winery sits alongside the Manatawny Creek in central Pennsylvania, sporting a mailing address of Amityville. Manatawny is a native American term that the winery's Web site means: "Where we meet to drink." Well, I'll take their word for it.

Our one visit with another couple lasted a couple of hours, what with the snacks to nosh and the many wines that owner and winemaker Joeanne Levengood produces. I found my share of dry reds and whites to savor; and if you don't like those the line runs from sparkling to fruit to sweet to several end-of-the-evening beverages that will rock you quietly to sleep.

Levengood's newsletters are always a mix of tasting room sales and vineyard education, definitely worth sharing. They'll have their 2006 Meritage reduced by 30 percent for November, with an additional case discount. Perhaps a sign of what's going on today, this is the first time that the Meritage has ever been on sale. Meritage is a dry, oak-aged, red blend of the Bordeaux varieties that includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

Manatawny's annual wine and soup day is scheduled for next Saturday, the 7th. A beef and vegetable soup (and vegetable soup alone for the veg-heads) will be on the menu and paired with Chambourcin.

Levengood noted in her e-letter that rain has curtailed plans to use volunteers to pick, similar to a number of other wineries throughout the region. "This Saturday looks like a washout again," she wrote, "so it looks like the remaining grapes will get picked on weekdays. Sorry to everyone who wanted to help us pick on the weekends this year! It was so odd how it rained (or rain was predicted) on almost all of the weekends this fall."

And then there's my favorite part, the question of the month. Can wine bottles be reused.

Levengood: "We get lots of people wondering if they should bring back their empty wine bottles for us to reuse. We cannot do that because wine bottles need to be sterile when bottling. The bottles arrive to us from the manufacturing plant in a sterile condition, because very high temperatures are used to make glass wine bottles. The amount of time and energy required to sterilize a used wine bottle is prohibitive for us. So what should you do with your empty wine bottles? Give them to your home winemaking buddies. Or if you’re creative, check out the web for all kinds of ideas including wind chimes, candles, pourers and even cutting in half to make drinking glasses. And if you’re not creative or drink a lot of wine like we do, put your empty wine bottles in the recycle bin to get reused elsewhere."

Friday, October 30, 2009

For Allegro owner, another 'Christmas' behind him

I took it as a compliment knowing I had a little bit to do with owner and winemaker Carl Helrich's blog on his Allegro Vineyards Web site. He was the first winemaker I interviewed when I started this blog, and we have continued to talk off and on since then, sometimes for publication and other times just to catch up.

A couple months ago he rolled out the blog and provided his followers, including me, with lots of insight. His newest one was posted earlier this week at the end of harvest, what he calls the "best time of year. Think of it as Christmas," he adds a bit later.

What's fun about Carl is that he's not much for fluff; neither with his wines nor his comments. You know where you stand. and the blog reads that way, too: direct, lots of passion squeezing between the lines. "I will admit it makes me tired some," he writes later on in his post. "OK, a lot. I'm 39, and this is my 12th harvest. Not a lot, yet. But I can tell a difference. I still wake up early, too excited to sleep, but I can't go go go like I used to. Ray--my assistant winemaker--is starting to show it, too. When he first showed up here in his late 20s, he used to help with harvest then head to the bars. Now, four years later, it's been a few weeks since he's done that. We all get older, but the feelings for this only get stronger."

Two other things to mention about Allegro, located in The Brogue in southcentral Pennsylvania. A member of the Uncork York! trail, he will be participating in the trail's first Nouveau Weekend (or what they are calling New Wine Off The Vine) on Nov. 20-22. It will feature 10 of Uncork's wineries, including Allegro, which will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person and will include tours of the cellar and tastings, plus many of the wineries will pair with local restaurants for a wine and food extravaganza from Nov. 19-22.

In addition, Allegro's Bridge will be one of the wines features in my next Vintages column for In Central Pennsylvania magazine. A 2006 vintage, it's a Bordeaux-style Merlot blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. He wrote in an e-mail that the wine, which sells for $27, pairs well with beef dishes and should hit its prime in 2011 (although you can certainly open it now). And if you're in a cellaring mood, he said it should keep its life anoter eight or nine years beyond its prime.

As for the name, Helrich wrote that "it was created initially in 2001 as a "bridge" between John Crouch's Cadenzas and mine. The 2001 Bridge was really nice, but not quite a Cadenza. In 2006, I felt that the wine wasn't quite Cadenza quality, but much better than our regular bottling. I brought back the name in 2006, and we bottled a 2007 as well. We may have one from 2009 . . . we'll see."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Encore: Piccolo back on Basignani shelves

Always like to hear the stories about how wines that aren't named after a grape or region are named. Generally there's a good story there to tell, and that's the case with Piccolo, produced by Basignani Winery in Sparks, Md., about a 12-minute ride off I-83 just north of Towson.

I'm planning to use that as one of the featured wines in Vintages, something I've started writing for In Central Pennsylvania magazine, which is published by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

Piccolo is a medium-bodied 50-50 red blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that's heavy on fruit and light on tannins. It could handle any type of meat dish, and also partner quite well with anything pasta. Had it down at Basignani during the eye-popping post-picking lunch that Lynne puts on, and you couldn't have asked for anything nicer to go with the lasagna and complementary dishes she served. Gotta also like the cost, at $11.75.

Asked Lynne by e-mail how the wine got its name and got an answer along with a bit of a history lesson.

"Originally we made this wine about 8 years ago, because we had a really bad vintage (1996) and didn't want to sell our Cabernet as Cabernet because of the reputation that we had built up with that wine," she wrote. "So we decided to 'declassify' the wine, sell it cheaper, and come up with a different name. At the time Boordy had a wine they called 'Petit Cabernet,' meaning a lighter Cabernet, of course, actually meaning 'little' Cabernet. We decided to 'borrow' the name from them, but use the Italian version of little, which is 'piccolo.' We made several vintages of Piccolo over the years. It actually developed quite a following. We haven't made it for several years, but Bert decided to release one this year. We already had a ready public that was familiar with it and would be thrilled to see it again. Probably more information than you wanted or needed, but there it is. In short, it means 'Little' Cabernet."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For those vested in growth of regional wine, DrinkLocalWine a site for sore eyes

It's already a few weeks ago since the second Regional Wine Week, where bloggers from places other than the West Coast chimed in on wines and wineries in their region. All the content was linked to this DrinkLocalWine site.

Co-founder Dave McIntyre, who writes on wines on a blog called
wineline, responded to an e-mail Tuesday morning about how it went by saying that that had more people involved this year and from more states. "We are thrilled to have some coverage of Michigan, more coverage of North Carolina and Georgia," he wrote. "We also have tremendous interest from Texas bloggers, many of whom attended our first conference in Dallas in August."

The founders noted on their site that they welcomed more contributors to Regional Wine Week despite the economy, which has taken out some members of the mainstream media as well as other independent bloggers.

"So this year's output was as welcome as it was unexpected," they wrote. "But it shouldn't have been. We, more than anyone, should know that regional wine is an accepted, full-fledged member of the wine community. That people -- a lot of people -- want to write about it should not be surprising."

And next year's, the third annual, already is tentatively planned for Oct. 9-16. Planning also is under way on a second conference. The first one earlier this year was held in Texas, in believe. Next year's seems targeted for a location in northern Virginia during the weekend of April 24-25.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Va La's Vietri: 'No predictions of doom or diamonds for either color of wine yet'

Checked in with Anthony Vietri at Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pa., for his early assessment of his harvest. Summed up, it's a little too early to tell.

"As far as the harvest to date," he wrote, "I can't speak for anyone else's experiences, as I have not really spoken to anyone else about their experience, but I will say that it has been highly unusual vintage for us here on the little hill. Whites are looking strangely good, for what we are looking for here. The jury is still out on the reds for us; I make no predictions of doom or diamonds for either color of wine yet. "

Two items of interest off his Web site.

1, Their local friends, Andrea’s Best of Italy, are now offering bagged lunches for the Va La Nation. Each little sack of goodness includes a side, a bottled water, and authentic bag for $10 (US). All selections are dolphin-free. So if you feel like taking a little lunch at the vineyard after your tasting, you can pick up a bag on your way out to visit. Menu, directions, and info

2, The Brandywine Book of Food features recipes, chefs, and winemakers of the Brandywine. (And yes, that's their little vineyard on the front cover). A special book signing will take place from noon to 4:01 p.m. on Nov. 14-15. Authors Roger Morris, Cathleen L. Ryan and photographer Ella Morris will be in the Galleria to celebrate the premier of their beautiful new book The Brandywine Book of Food. According to the site, the advance buzz promises this book to be a defining image of the Valley for years to come. "They will be available for these two days only to sign copies, answer questions, poke with sticks, or just stare at and whisper," the site says.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2 days and counting to Sand Castle's store opening

How 'bout some news you can use out of Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, in suburban Philly. A member of the Bucks County Wine Trail, the winery's latest e-letter noted that it will be opening its new store called Taste this Saturday, Oct. 24. Hours that day will be noon to 6 p.m. Among the items for sale will be Sand Castle wines and olive oil, and cheese, chocolates and gourmet food from local producers.

Haven't had any of their wines yet. The distinctive mix of 12 wines using four varietals -- Riesling, Chardonnary, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir -- are certainly priced well. It's an interesting mix, with many of the wines having a vintage from the early part of the decade back to 1999. I do like how they pair up foods on the wine list located on their site. Very helpful.

As for this year, the difficult harvest is almost finished, with only Cabernet Sauvignon left on the vine. The e-letter noted (lamented) that it was "the worst year for rain and weeds. Despite it, the quality of the grapes are great. The amount is about one third of the normal harvest, but we are grateful for what we got."

PWA 'very happy' with line in new state budget

A couple of points from a phone chat late Tuesday afternoon with an elated Sam Landis, the assistant winemaker and marketing director at Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in eastern Pennsylvania. The president of the Pennsylvania Winery Association had several reasons to be so cheery: the harvest is finished, the Phillies are one out away from the World Series, and the association over the last few days figured out that the budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010 WILL include $160,000 in funding. There was a time a couple of months ago where the PWA wondered if there wold be any money at all coming its way.

"We're very happy with that," he said. "In this economic climate, there were a number of projects that were completely cut out, so for us to . . . last year we got $240,000, but for us to still get a sizeable amount really kind of speaks to the fact that they look to our industry as pretty solid and pretty stable. This will definitely keep us going with all of our projects and all of our different balls in the air. We have a couple other grants we've been given as well, so we're feeling pretty good about the way it turned out."

One of the initiatives that will continue is Libation Vacation, funded by a $75,000 grant, that encourages bloggers to spread the word about Pennsylvania wineries by enticing them out to any of the state's 11 wine trails. Among the other programs that Landis and PWA are working on:

* In discussion with Penn State about filling the post of state oenologist, a post that was vacated several years ago. Right now that leaves wine grape educator Mark Chien as the primary resource for anything to do with grapes and grape-growing in Pennsylvania. Not a bad position to be in at all, but a second body with comparable knowledge would help all concerned.

* Talking with Harrisburg Area Community College "to put together classes for vineyards and wineries. We should have more something definitive," he said, "at least by the end of the year if not early 2010, getting some programs to go with HACC."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's the law now: Maryland's St. Mary's County opens door for wineries to open

Maryland wine's biggest supporter checked in around dinner time today by phone with news that St. Mary's County in southern Maryland had only hours before adopted zoning regulations to allow wineries. Association of Maryland Wineries executive director Kevin Atticks said that will allow a few to open over the next 12 months.

Outside of that, the festival season ended last weekend at Salisbury, where Atticks said around 2500 people came out amid torrential rains Saturday and chilly temperatures on Sunday.

We talked about some of the events being held at Maryland wienries, including the upcoming wine and food pairing at Black Ankle in Mt. Airy. Atticks noted that Elk Run, only a cow chip's toss away from Black Ankle, had what he called an amazing dinner on Oct. 13 as part of their harvest celebration. That one featured Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and a five-course meal prepared by chef Bryne Voltaggio of Volt Restaurant in Frederick. I didn't ask Attick if he had heard how many attended; the cost was $165 per person, including tax and gratuity. That's by far the most expensive pairing I've written about in this blog, but the menu had a little bit of everything and contained local products and meats.

Among the events on Elk Run's list for the next couple months are a champange release on Sunday, Nov. 15, and an open house from noon to 4 p.m on Dec. 5-6.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Black Ankle's events for fall include unique family photo day at the winery

Of the many activities planned at Maryland's Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy over the next month and a half include the following:

* Saturday, Oct. 24, a walk-along with co-owner Sarah O'Herron through the vineyard and winery in what's called "Winemaker for a Day," ending with a tasting paired up with cheeses, $30

* Sunday, Nov. 8, 2 to 5 p.m., a competition featuring Black Ankle's new Leaf Stone Syrah vs. seven others picked by Maryland wine merchants, with appetizers and a tour, $75

* Sunday, Nov. 15, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., pasta and wine dinner, three courses, one of what has now become a wine and food series that's held every third Sunday at the winery, $35/adults/$8 kids
* Friday, Nov. 27, TBA, an interesting promotion I've never seen at a winery in these parts before: family photo day at the winery, where photographer Liz Hough will take pictures that you could use on your holiday cards or, well, as your personal screen saver; e-mail for pricing and times

Another one to Cross(ing) off the list

Clockwise from top: one of several tasting bars in the winery, dessert awaits a knife; and a shot of the tasting room/winery from the walkway that leads in from the parking lot.

Finally made it to Crossing Vineyards & Winery on Sunday, where a steady stream of visitors were heading up the steps and across the landscaped path to the cozy tasting room during the hour and a half we were there. It's a striking juxtoposition, the parking lot and tasting room and new warehouse sitting there, vineyards stretching as far as you can see to one side with a housing development pressing in from the other. All in all, a gorgeous setting amid the changing leaves in rural Bucks County, about 7 miles south of New Hope.

Folks were heading in for a dummies class that started around 2. Others were there tasting at one of two tables set up back in the winery itself. It was the winery's sixth birthday party, so a four-piece band was playing in one spot and a sheet cake was awaiting a few candles and a knife in another spot. Crossing Vineyard & Winery's standard tasting is 12 wines for $8, an assortment of whites and reds and what they call their original series. The one out of the latter that was opened on Sunday was Wild Berry, a delectable blend that would work well as a summer sipper and quite well on, say, a scoop or two of ice cream. Got a chance to sample their recent award winners in the Sommelier Challenge held in San Diego: the 2007 Merlot, its grapes are imported from Waltz Vineyards over in Manheim, Pa., by the way; their 2007 Cabernet Franc, really what amounts to their signature wine; and their '07 Viognier. All excellent choices among many that we sampled.

Price range, by the way, is $12 for the blush and $13 for a few of the other fruit and berry wines, into the low $20 for their award-winning reds, topping off at 28 bucks for the Pinot Noir Reserve and Cabernet Franc Reserve.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crossing celebrating birthday, awards

There's a party atmosphere at Crossing Vineyards in Washington Crossing, Pa., these days, and only part of its has to do with this weekend's sixth anniversary party. The Bucks County winery, founded by the Carroll family, will lure a who's who of local and state government officials and folks from the wine industry for a ribbon-cutting on a new energy-efficient warehouse. Meanwhile, there will be tastings, live music and a chance to enter a drawing for tickets to a Nov. 14 wine and food pairing sit-down as the birthday party runs today and tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m.

Actually, the toasting began a few weeks ago when word came back on the results from the Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition that took place in San Diego on the last weekend in September. Of all the wines entered, 49 made it to the final round of voting for best of show in five broad categories -- sparkling, red, white, rose and fortified. All wines put forward by the judges for the best-of-show vote were elevated from gold to platinum. And when the final assessment was made, Crossing Vineyards' Merlot 2006 earned a platinum medal, Cabernet Franc 2006 scored a gold and the Viognier 2007 took a silver. That's half of the total number that Crossing entered.

Christine Carroll, who directs PR and marketing for the winery, said there was a particular appeal to entering that competition. "It was sommeliers from the country's top restaurants," she said. "And we thought, this would be fun. This is not really a wine judge, per se, but this is someone who's on the front line, selling wine, knowing what people are liking, and they're not with their head in the clouds so much. So we thought, this might be good, and this might be a real taste test of where we stand because it's not an academic who's cutting us slack but it's the guy who's selling it who's judging it."

Crossing's Cab Franc has won the lion's share of awards since the winery opened in 2003, so the gold medal simply added another trinket to the winery's trophy case. But the showings of the Merlot ("a sleeper") and Viognier ("a very elegant wine") did catch them a bit by surprise.
A nice pleasant surprise. "The platinum means that it won a gold medal and that any wine that was being considered for best of show was granted a platinum medal," Carroll said. "There were five best of show medals . . . so we would have been running with [California's] Cakebread [Cellars] for the best red in this competition."

I haven't tasted the wines yet, but hoping to tomorrow. Still, what I have seen is their list of events, from workshops and seminars to wine and food pairings to other events done in conjunction with the Bucks County Wine Trail. Carroll said there's a reason that Crossing ranks among the top two or three in the region, along with Chaddsford, in activities. "Here's the reason we do it," she said. "And it's not always about Pennsylvania wines. We're doing a new class this fall called Italian Wines. That is because people hold the Pennsylvania thing against us, they don't know what they're talking about, they've never tasted Pennsylvania wines. So they'll say, 'I don't like Pennsylvania wine.' Oh, well, whose wine have your tried? 'Well, I've never really tried it, but i don't like it.' Or 'I like California Cabernet.' Well, that's good, that's a start. Have you ever tried a Cabernet from Pennsylvania? 'Oh, no, I don't like a Cabernet from Pennsylvania.' Would you try. 'No, no, no, I don't need to try it because I already know what I like.' So this is what we're faced with. So I think with more . . . I think it's like when a person goes to college, her mind opens up. Educaton opens people's minds. And it's the same with wine as it is with anyone else. So we're trying to get people off the defensive. We're trying to get them on to the open-minded. And we'll always throw one of our wines in and we'll identify it. We're not sneaky. We don't even do a blind tasting. We'll say, 'Here's a Crossing Vineyards Viognier' if we're doing Rhone varietals. Try it. Tell us what you think about it in comparison.

"It's pretty ballsy, I'll give you that. But, again, we're a young winery and we want to get better. And if they hate us, we're going to get better next year, because we're going to figure it out next year."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Allegro's Helrich: Maybe all my fears about the vintage will be for naught

Get wet these past couple of days? Or were you shoveling? It already feels like winter and it's only mid-October, this coming on the heels of what has been a spring through fall where the heavens have opened up more often than not. Sunny and dry? Hmmm. Trying to remember when.

That has put a lot of regional winemakers on the verge of a conniption. Carl Helrich of Allegro Vineyards down in The Brogue, in southcentral Pennsylvania, had a doom-and-gloom blog entry a few weeks ago. With the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon still hanging on the vines and the temperature parked around 40 degrees and rain pounding on the window, you'd think he was starting to panic. Instead, talking by telephone late yesterday afternoon, he sounded anything but anxious.

"The grapes are out there, I'm sure they're sucking up water," said Helrich, whose winery's extensive line of more than 30 wines leans fairly heavily toward dry reds and ranges in price from $11 to $35 (for the Cadenza, a Bordeaux blend). "But if we get a good week here of no rain, like they are calling for next week, all that [water] will work its way out again. Throughout all this . . . there's going to be some physiological development of the flavors and stuff in those berries. I'm a firm believer, we've gotta let that stuff hang to the bitter end. I've picked in November before, so if you have to do that, you do that."

Persistent rain like this year's can squeeze all the life out of a vintage, but Helrich's encouraged by the fact that there were still enough summer days where the temperature reached into the high 80s, "which is optimal for flavor development and color development. We had that throughout this summer. I've been preparing for the worst and preparing for the worst and I've haven't seen it yet in the tanks or the bins. That's the amazing thing. The whites are real nice, the aeromatics are just amazing on them. And the reds, we've got mostly just Merlot in right now, and the color's great . . . everything is coming together. All my stressing out for the last three months might have been for, worrying's not good for anything and I think I spent a lot of extra energy worrying about things that I didn't need to worry about."

Make way for newest Maryland winery: Galloping Goose to start welcoming visitors in 2 weeks

Some people spend a summers visiting all the baseball stadiums in the country, or all the minor-league parks in their area.

Me? I keep a scorecard that allows me to record how many wineries I can visit in a year, and I see where another one will be put into play later on this month.

Galloping Goose Vineyards in Hampstead, Md., notes on its Web site that it will give visitors a first peek at the premises from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, and Sunday, Nov. 1. There will be wine tastings, light fare and winery tours, along with a barrel tasting of wine that will be released next year. Some of you might already have tasted wines from the northern Carroll County producer when you attended the Maryland Wine Festival. And maybe you tasted so many wines that day that they all blended together.

The winery is located on 27 acres of rolling countryside. Directions from I-83 seem simple: Get off at Mt. Carmel Road, then head toward Hampstead. Travel 6 miles to the light at Falls Road. Turn right onto Falls Road and then left onto Brick Store Road. Take that to the second road on the left, which is Maple Grove Road. You'll see the vineyards on the right.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rose sales 'blooming' nicely at Hauser Estate

Winemaker Michelle Oakes welcomes several visitors to the winery during the 2009 Tour de Tanks in March.
Wrote a day or two ago about Seattle native and Cornell educated Michelle Oakes, who joined the then soon-to-open Hauser Estate Winery in Pennsylvania's Adams County in the late spring of 2008. That winery is now open and pulling visitors to its hilltop spot overlooking the rolling terrain that borders Gettysburg's Civil War battlefield. If you're visiting Hanover or Gettysburg, or driving through the area on Route 30 or Route 15, it's a stop you need to make.

Oakes was asked if the sales of any one wine that Hauser Estate produces has surprised her.
Yes, she answered, there was one, the
Cabernet Franc Rose.

"I guess one I personally wouldn't to be shocked by, but just based on what people usually prefer I'm shocked by, is the sales on the rose," she said. "Rose is a hard sell. It's one of those wines that just based on its repuation is a hard sell. You're dry wine drinkers think blush when they see it and they think it's sweet, and your blush drinkers assume it's going to be sweet as well. So when you put a Rose on the market your blush drinkers get excited about a wine that they're probably not going to care for much and your red wine drinkers don't want to touch it.

"But the rose has been really well received. I think initally it was getting the people to try it, and then the word kind of spread that it's not a blush style; it's actually a fairly heavy rose, it's got a lot of earthiness to it. It was actually on the skins a little bit longer than you usually would do a rose."

Given the winemaker's background in food, the obvious followup was a question about pairing. In her mind, it matches up with almost anything.

"Rose is a great food-pairing wine because you can do it with lighter fare, but if it's a heavier rose it will still hold up to some heavier dishes," she said. "I mean, it comes about perfect when you're thinking things like pork or chicken in a heavier sauce, where you're like, I could go white but if I wanted red, it's a good crossover. I always say rose is a good picnic wine."

Also a good wine for a feast, such as Thanksgiving, where you're likely to see it recomended as one of the perfect wines to place around the food-laden table. Oakes agreed, noting that "it doesn't overshadow your turkey but it holds up to your gravy and your stuffing, all those things."

Wines & Vines updates readers on Md. fight

The head of the organization pushing to allow direct shipping of wine in Maryland noted in a Thursday e-mail that the publication Wines & Vines just published a story documenting the fight. Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, told that magazine that "our goal is to get a majoity of members in both the House and the Senate to co-sponsor the legislation,” Borden said. “We have worked with legislative services to draft our legislation so that when it goes to the committee, the members will debate the merit of the bill, and not become immersed in technicalities.”

The article noted that the showdown will come during the period between Jan. 12 and April 12, covering the 90-day period each winter and early spring that the Maryland General Assembly meets. You've been following this initiative on my blog for almost a year now and read much of what was in the article. Still, here's a link to the Wines & Vines story.

Pennsylvania study: Impact of industry has risen 31 percent over the last three years

What better time than Regional Wine Week for the state of Pennsylvania to tout the findings of a study commissioned by the state's Wine Marketing Research Board (PWMRB), which found that the total impact of the wine industry at ore than $870 million in 2007. That's the last year that data was available.

The last such study was done three years ago, which found an impact of $661 million based on the figures from 2005. This year's results represent a 31 percent increase. Economic impact is measured in total revenue from tourism, wine sales, taxes, and employee wages.

According to a release from the Pennsylvania Winery Association, wine production is also up by more than 13 percent over 2005 totals with 920,000 gallons produced in 2007. That ranks the state seventh among the country's top wine makers. The Commonwealth was previously ranked eighth in wine production.

The study confirmed that Pennsylvania’s wineries are growing in number – from 104 wineries in 2005 to 114 wineries in 2007 – but it also showed an increase in winery output. Although 71 wineries are classified as small, producing less than 5,000 gallons annually, the number of wineries producing 20,000 or more gallons has doubled since 2005 to include 14 wineries throughout the state. Though these larger wineries represent just 12 percent of the Pennsylvania winery industry, their production represents 59 percent of the state’s total wine output.

Here are a few other facts:

* Pennsylvania’s grape juice industry, fueled by the 140-plus vineyards that serve the wine industry, has an impact on the state economy totaling $1.48 billion.

* In 2007, the Pennsylvania wine industry contributed $252.5 million in taxes to the state and collected $179.6 million in tourism expenditures.

* Wine, winegrapes and related industries account for 5,286 jobs in Pennsylvania, with an associated payroll in excess of $210 million.

Tourism and Pennsylvania winery income is expected to rise in 2009 as the PWA continues to work with the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism on a marketing campaign designed to boost tourism to state wineries and wine trails.

I'll add that no one from the association is ready to say just how much the state will fund its planned activities in 2010. That figure is expected to be released in the next few weeks as more becomes known on the specificis of the recently passed state budget.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Serpent Ridge seeks hands to help harvest

A shot of the outside of the tasting room on opening day in April, and one of the bar inside the tasting room with owner Greg and Karen Lambrecht (background) serving up samples.
Serpent Ridge Vineyards in Westminster, Md., is a case of another recent start-up that has impressed from the get-go. Its Vintners Cabernet won gold at the Indy International and Winemaster Choice competitions and a silver in the state's Governor's Cup competition. A red blend called Basilisk took a gold in the Governor's Cup contest and its Albarino took a silver in the Governor's Cup and a gold in the Winemaster Choice.

All better than you'd expect out of a winery that opened only a few months ago.

Saw where the winery is planning its harvest for Saturday, Oct. 24, and is looking for volunteers. If you are interested in helping, call them at 410.848.6511 to find out more.

It also reports that its first food and wine dinner done in conjunction with L'Ecole Culinaire School of Cooking was so successful that it's already planning another for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13. The cost is $75 /person. Call the above number for reservations for the event, which will be limited to 20 guests. Rumor has it, the latest e-mail said, that the winemaker will be pouring a few samples of the 2008 Cabernet.

What's on the menu? See below.

First Course
Maryland Seafood Chowder with Rockfish, Crab, and Shrimp
Seyval Blanc

Second Course
Onion Pie with Firefly Farms Blue Cheese, Country Ham and Walnuts

Third Course
Pan Seared Salmon Medallions with Blended Chicken Liver Sauce
and Braised Collard Green

Fourth Course
Turkey Roulade stuffed with Oyster and Country Sausage Dressing with Sweet
Potato Puree and Giblet Gravy
Grenache Rose

Fifth Course
Chocolate-Ginger Truffle Tart with Pear Caramel Sauce
Vintner’s Cabernet

It's a season of contrasts for winermakes: loads of work blended with a splash of patience

Sneaked in a phoner last Wednesday with the lovely and talented winemaker of Hauser Estate Winery, one of Pennsylvania's start-ups this year. It's a winery with as much upside as the hill it sits on, offering a stunning view of the surrounding countryside that stretches almost to the Civil War battlefield. Michelle Oakes was looking forward to maybe her first day off in three weeks this past Saturday. Hey, it gets that way September through November, so you can't be in the business and gripe about it. "Well, you can complain, but nobody wants to hear it anymore," she said, breaking into a laugh.

Any break she got on the weekend was going to be short-lived, with Merlot grapes arriving Sunday to be processed. Once a field for apples in Adams County, west of Gettysburg, now supports vines bearing, among others, Vidal and Chambourcin grapes. Fall is the transition season for wineries, with juice in the barrels and tanks getting bottled to make room for the new grapes either coming in from the field or other suppliers.

Oakes said she was expecting to do a lot of bottling over the coming week: Pinot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. "Those will probably sit in the bottle a couple of months before I release them," she said. "I'd like to release them before Christmas," but it depends on how much they settle after undergoing the jarring process of being transferred from where they've been sitting for a good part of the past year.

At the same time she's nurturing the reserve reds that will age some more before seeing the light of day. We tasted several -- the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Meritage -- when we stopped last March during Tour de Tanks. They were yummy then. So how does Oakes keep from just emptying the barrels and getting those out, too?

She starting laughing. "It's the one thing in the world that I'm patient about," she said. "No one would ever tell you I'm a patient person, but I'm patient with wine. That's about it. I'm sure other people would tell you they wished I were more patient about other things."

It's too crazy now, frankly, to do anything with them, with all the other requirements of the job, including an occasional blog entry on the Hauser Estate site. By January, she said, they'd probably be ready to bottle, with this winery's first full line of reserved wines ready by Tour de Tanks in March 2010 or maybe a few weeks afterward.

So how will she know when they're ready to sell?

"You really don't," she responded. "When I say they'll be released, it me being optimistic." She noted that the Reserve Chardonnay was bottled a month ago and that ideally it would be ready for the holiday season. She related a recent conversation she had with her boss. "My boss was asking me, 'oh, well, we'll have it for Christmas hopefully?' [I said] I want to have it for Thanksgiving, but it all depends on what it does in bottle. I said all I can do is walk by it and inspire it that it wants to be turkey wine, but beyond that I have no control. The power of positive thinking. Some things just react to bottling differently than others and you never really know how it will be, how long it will take to come back together in bottle."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This weekend's activities run gamut from grape stomp to wine trail celebration

This is a busy weekend coming up for winery-based activities in the Pennsylvania-Maryland region. One is what's now become the annual grape stomp down at Sugarloaf Mountain Winery in Dickinson, Md., on the way to Washington D.C. Activities will run Saturday and sunday from noon to 5, with everything from music to tours to tastings and, of course, the stomp, with prizes awarded to the fastest (and most accomplished) on their feet. Love the photo I've attached on here of the toddler in the barrel; borrowed it off their Web site. Online advance tickets are $12; they will be $15 at the gate.

Across the Mason-Dixon Line in Pennsylvania will be the celebration of the harvest on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, an event called Chambourcin Weekend. All nine wineries will feature special tastings and food pairings, entertainment, seminars and more. You can hit the trail site for specifics. Expect things to commence Saturday at 10 a.m. and running until 5 p.m., with maybe a little more room to move around on Sunday once the NFL kicks off. Wineries that day are scheduled to be open from noon until 5 o'clock.

Down the road a bit will be the sixth anniversary bash at Crossing Vineyards & Winery. There's a new building dedication on Saturday, in addition to tastings and a birthday drawing that can win you two free tickets to a wine and food dinner on Nov. 14.

These are just a taste of what's going on. You can do a wider search by stopping by the Web sites of the Association of Maryland Wineries or the Pennsylvania Winery Association and clicking on the individual winery sites.

Dry spell offers ray of hope for vintage

You've seen some of the correspondence from Pennsylvania wine grape educator Mark Chien to his many clients regarding issues in the vineyard. His assessment a month ago was that the persistent rain, particularly in the southeast part of the state, could really make this harvest and vintage tough to salvage. His update sounded more optimistic, as the spigot has been tightened, at least over the past couple of weeks.

He writes: "I'm always delighted to have to eat my words even though it happens more requently that I would care to admit. The rain has not abated entirely but certainly lessened around the region recently and that means that grapes are hanging on and, well, sort of ripening. A lot of growers are calling me asking me when they should harvest their grapes. The simple answer is that I can't decide from my office. But there are some pretty standard guidelines for determining grape maturity, even in a crazy vintage like this one. I'm really encouraged by positive reports about fruit quality from Long Island, the Finger Lakes and Virginia.

"Once again, if you minded your viticultural Ps and Qs during the growing season, now is when you reap the rewards. It wasn't easy. Frost could be in our future and that may force some harvest decisions, but as long as the fruit is clean and not being picked clean by birds, deer, raccoons, etc. it will probably benefit from some 'hang time' even if the temperatures are in the 50s. I have heard of beautiful Chambourcin on the vines but they have a way to go. It's still a low sugar year but that doesn't mean it has to be low flavor. The numbers are a bit wacky and wine makers will have their palates and imaginations tested but hopefully the wines will find a good balance by springtime. Just about any maturity index but sugar should be used as a guide this year. pH will hold more sway as an indicator of physiological ripeness. Acids will almost always be on the high side.

"Flavors are the most important wine quality indicators. For reds, skin and seed tannins are critical and in this cool and extended season may be quite well resolved. Other indices such as seed and stem color (brown is better) and the onset of shelling of berries are all signs of ripeness. The best thing to do is to spend time in the vineyard with someone who really understands the nature of ripe fruit and knows how to balance these traits with other conditions that influence a picking decision. Tasting berries is such a refined skill. I always tasted juice samples after an overnight settle for color, texture, acid, sweetness, balance and flavors.

"It really makes a big difference where your vineyard is located this year. Some area got a lot less rain than others this summer. Yields are completely unpredictable. A grower told me about a block of Seyval that normally yields 8 tons and this year they only got one. My sense is that most of the grapes will come off in the next week or two, except on Long Island, of course, where they like to harvest in the morning and then enjoy their Thanksgiving feast.

Locavore program scheduled at Chaddsford on Thursday has to be put on back burner

I had intended to tout the "Lessons from a Locavore" that co-owner/winemaker Eric Miller had planned at Chaddsford Winery on Thursday night, Oct. 15, but learned today that the event has been postponed. Just not enough folks signing up, Lee Miller wrote by e-mail earlier today. She noted that there was a lot of interest in the concept, but it appears the sour economy might have made this event a casualty.

"This is a bad season for classes," she wrote. "Most of ours, and others I hear about, have not been fully subscribed."

Attendees were being charged $40 for the two-hour program. Miller had invited four four local food growers -- fourth-generation mushroom grower Anthony Ianni, Green Meadow Farms' Glen Brendle, cheese producer Sue Miller from Birchrun Hill Farms, and beef-producer Buckrun Farms -- to discuss what they do and pair their foodstuffs with the wines of Chaddsford. It was also to include a plate for each attendee made up by
Pace One Restaurant & Country Inn.

Instead, this one gets put off for another time. Still, lots of other activities are scheduled at Chaddsford, featuring everything from reserve tastings to Spiced Apple Sundays during October to a "Taste of Pennsylvania" wine and food dinner at the
Tom Quick Inn in Milford, Pa., on Oct. 30. For more on the events planned at Chaddsford, click on the Web site.

Southcentral Pa. winery, vineyard both for sale

Been following the progress of a winery for sale in southcentral Pennsylvania, called Seven Valleys. Been up for over a year, with the asking price for the 79-acre lot and boutique winery at $2.3 million. You can find out more on the property at this link.

Meanwhile, Pa. grape educator Mark Chien sent out an e-mail on Monday that another southcentral Pennsylvania property, called the Stewart vineyard in Stewartstown, Pa., is on the market. The asking price for the 22-acre lot, including the vineyards and buildings, is $475,000. Chien noted that the property, located at 14110 Clark Road, "has an excellent
reputation and have been selling grapes to some of the best wineries in the state for many years." Serious inquiries should be directed to Susan Anderson at 410.925.1618.

See more information below.


22 acres of rolling farmland with an established 5-acre vinifera vineyard, historic 1884 farmhouse in excellent condition, large barn dating to the 1830’s, also in excellent condition, and outbuildings. A nearly 2-acre building lot overlooking the vineyard is included. The vineyard produces some of the premier wine grapes in the state of Pennsylvania.

The property includes 2 lots. “Lot 1” is vineyard, house, barn and outbuildings and is approximately 20 acres. “Lot 5” is the building lot with about 1.45 acres overlooking the vineyard plus .5 acres for driveway access.

Vineyard: Established in 1993 as Stewart Vineyard by Nelson and Susan Anderson Stewart, the vineyard includes a front lot of 3 acres planted as 1.75 acres of Cabernet Franc, and .75 acres each of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard is currently under the operation of Allegro Winery. A rear vineyard of just under 2 acres was planted in 1997 and contains 1 acre of Cabernet Franc, .5 acre of Merlot and .25 acre of Chardonnay. This vineyard is farmed by property owner Susan Anderson. The vineyard is planted on 3309 rootstock at 10x5 spacing. Average annual yield is approximately 12 tons.

House: Built in 1884, this 4 level 1800 square foot home has been fully renovated and well maintained.

Lower level: walkout to backyard patio, family room, historic stone fireplace, laundry room, ½ bath. 1st level: kitchen , sitting room and dining room, all with original wood floors, and porch.

First level: Kitchen, sitting room dining room, porch

2nd level: full bath and master bedroom

Top level: In attic – two-room guest room or office. Large closet plus storage space.


· New roof 2009

· Updated septic 2008 and 2009

· Modern electric (circuit breaker box) and plumbing (pvc and copper pipes)

· Well pump installed 2006

· Efficient ETS Heating units in kitchen/sitting room and on lower level

· Nearly all rooms of house renovated – repainted, floors refinished, plaster repaired or replaced, electric updated – since 1997.

· Energy efficient 50 gallon hot water heater

Barn: Historic building dating from establishment of farm in approximately 1830. Beautiful log construction with stone foundation. Lower basement level was winemaking area. Has cement floor with drain, ceiling insulation, electric including 220v. Upper level is divided into 3 areas: office/wine storage area, open equipment central storage area with garage door, and a partitioned 3rd area which was begun as an apartment unit but not finished.

Attic level of barn has storage on 2 ends, accessed by steps or ladder.

Additional features of property: In addition to the house and barn, the 22 acres includes vineyard, large yard, woods and creek. Also 2 original out-buildings: the original house, dated to the 1830’s still stands on the property and is structurally stable but unoccupied and unfinished. (3 floors of 20x20 ft). Also standing and stable is the smokehouse.


Regional Wine Week off and running

Before I begin my cycle for the week, let me remind my followers that this is Regional Wine Week, with somewhere around 50 bloggers from around the country writing all week about wines and wineries in their region.

To access their blogs, just click on this link.

For those of you visiting mine for the first time, I use it to introduce folks to the wines, wineries and winemakers of the Pennsylvania-Maryland region, probably 70 or more all told now. And, like a lot of areas, continuing to grow annually in size and scope.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Limoncello, grappa add some spirit to diverse wine list at Fiore Winery

Some glimpses of the Fiori landscape: clockwise from top, the bottles of grappa for sale at $25/bottle, one of Fiore's stills, and the dining room in the process of being set up for a reception.
Paid a visit to Fiore Winery and Distillery in Pylesville, Md., on Sunday. It's one of the oldest in the region, dating back to an opening in 1986. It's around 10 miles from the Pennsylvania-Maryland line, easy accessible via several back-woods scenic roads from York and Lancaster to the north and Baltimore to the south. Probably about 20 minutes, give or take a couple, off the Shrewsbury exit of I-83.

My only disappointment was not getting to meet Mike Fiore, the owner/winemaker and someone I've talked to several times on the phone.

Tastings are $2 per person for a flight of six wines, and a vast majority of them were opened. There were a few exceptions: the Prosecco wasn't; neither was the Caronte, a special blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that's made only in years where the winemaker feels he's had an optimal season. 2007 was as good a season as it gets, and that's the vintage he's selling now for $25.99/bottle, one I brought home and will rest in the cellar for the next 5 to 10 years. Fiore began making and selling limoncello this year, that distinctive chilled Italian liquor that's magic on the tummy after a multi-course meal. He's charging $3 for a taste, partly to bring in some income to purchase a new still. I attached a photo of one of his old stills that sits in the corner of a building that also houses several of his holding tanks on another part of the property.

Fiore -- a member of the Piedmont Wine Trail -- sells more than 25 dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet and sparkling wines in addition to the limoncello and grappa, a far more potent Italian "digestive" elixir.

It grows all of the grapes for its red wines on the property, in addition to Chardonnay grapes that you can see from the driveway that leads to the tasting room. The 2007 vintage of those grapes made an award-winning batch of juice that was recognized as a gold-medal winner and best of class for white wine at the recently announced 2009 Governor's Cup competition.

That black-topped roadway that leads into the winery off Maryland Route 136 was a busy entrance during the middle part of Sunday afternoon, as the third wedding of the weekend at the winery was just wrapping up and heading into Fiore's dining area for the reception.