Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twin Brook scheduled Souper weekend

As I mentioned last week, January seems to be soups and wines month. Here's another event that just got on the schedule at Twin Brook Winery in The Gap, Pa.

Souper Saturday/Sunday
Jan. 24 & 25
Football playoffs are over & you need to reenergize before the Super Bowl!

Take a break from your busy schedule. We’ll have tempting soups & stew in fresh bread bowls available for sale. Taste our wines. Enjoy a glass of wine with you soup or stew.
Pick up your favorite wines for the Super Bowl.

Eyes turn to Md. legislature later this month

We reported already on some of the news that appeared in the January e-letter of the
Maryland Wine Association. Here are a couple of other items that were included.

Budgets. Maryland wine/grape industry suffered a blow in late 2008 when funds in the Wine & Grape Promotion Fund were eliminated due to State budget cuts. The funds were to be granted to farmers to plant vineyards throughout the state.

The Maryland General Assembly's 2009 legislative session begins on January 14. Each year, the two committees that hear alcohol bills are asked by industry groups and citizens to revise Maryland's antiquated alcohol laws. We'll keep you updated on the issues that affect the Maryland wine industry and how you can help support Maryland's growing vineyards and wineries.

Chien: A lot of progress, a ways to go

Mark Chien might laugh reading the suggestion that he's the rock star of the regional wine industry.

Still, it's not far from the truth. He's well known. Respected. And his audience continues to grow as the membership expands and seeks out his advice. These days Chien carries a wine barrel's size cachet as he continues his work as the wine grape extension agent for Penn State Cooperative Extension, a job he has held since 1999. Of all the names that pop up during chats with winemakers across the central and eastern part of the state, none matches the frequency that his spills into the conversation.

I probably should have called him months ago, but the attention has been spent primarily on the individual wineries and wine trails rather than those who are part of the bigger picture. Appropriately, Chien will be the primary speaker when the Pennsylvania Wine Society holds its Wine Excellence Awards on Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Harrisburg Hilton on 2nd Street. That mid-afternoon event, which is $40 for non-members, will include tastings of the state's top 10 wines and a chance to meet and hear those winemakers.

You talk to someone as knowledgeable as Chien and try to figure out where to begin the questioning. With a limited amount of time, and much of that spent on introductions, I tossed one question his way: How good can this region be?

"There are only now people who are starting to press the region for quality," he said, "and I would say that I usually approach it from a viticultural standpoint, so viticulturally I think it can probably be the best region in the eastern North America just because we're sort of, how should I say it, we’re not as cold as the Finger Lakes and we’re not as warm as Charlottesville [Va.].

"It's just a matter of finding the best sites, which I think are down in Adams and York County. I don't pretend to hide the fact that I think those are the best areas to grow grapes. Hauser Estate will be probably the first example of what that area can do. Allegro certainly has demonstated that York County has great potential. And we have some new places like Galer, like Karamoor Estate. I think we have great potential if we find out where the best sites are and we apply the viticulture technology that produces great wines elsewhere. It’s jst no big secret that all the knowledge and ideas are out there, we just have to find the best places to apply them. So I think all those south slopes that are currently covered unfortunately with apples and peaches . . . and that’s to take nothing away from the Finger Lakes. We’ll never grow Riesling as well as the Finger Lakes. I think we can probably grow Bordeaux varieties better than Long Island. But we haven't put it to the test yet.

"It’s been 10 years since I’ve been here and we’ve made tremendous progress, but we’re still nowhere near. It will be another 10 years at least before the best wines pop out. I think Black Ankle, is right now, as far as the eastern United States, is probably the best example outside of Long Island of serious wine growing, of trying to test where the outer limits are of quality. And they’re so new that it’s impossible to use them as an example."

Sugarloaf celebrating tasting room, inauguration

A lot of folks will be toasting Brack Obama and his new administration over the coming days, including several wineries in Maryland. Saw an e-letter come out from Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in southern Maryland yesterday promoting its planned activities around the event.

Next weekend, Jan. 17-20, it's planning a tasting room grand-opening dedication and presidential inauguration from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During that celebration, they’ll feature wine tastings and tours of the winery, sales on selected wines, hot soup, cheese platters, hors d'oeuvres, bottle engraving and entertainment.

Visitors are invited Tuesday, Jan. 20, to watch the presidential inauguration on the winery's big-screen TV while enjoying a glass of wine. Commemorative inauguration flags will be available for sale.