Friday, December 4, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in a year?

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

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

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

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

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

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