Monday, February 2, 2009

No better ad for soon-to-open Waltz winery

I wanted to post this first, as a prelude to the news that Jan and Kim Waltz will be opening their Manheim, Pa., winery in a couple of weeks. Jan has established himself as a master in the vineyard, and a number of wineries that have bought his grapes during the past decade or so will vouch for that. I remember seeing an extremely positive reference to the Waltz vineyard and a review of his soon-to-be-sold in a recent newsletter by Mark Chien, the well-respected statewide Viticulture Extension Educator, and I thought it would be worth sharing before posting Jan's thoughts on the reasons for moving from supplier to more of a dual role in the wine community.

Chien wrote in his December e-letter:

"Many of you are familiar with the vineyard of Jan and Kim Waltz in Manheim, either having attended a viticulture workshop there or purchasing their outstanding grapes. Jan has always dabbled in wine making and he is one of those persons whose amateur wines are often better than many commercial wines. There is no surprise here since the vineyard is one of the most meticulously maintained anywhere. It is easy to connect the quality dots in this case … great fruit can yield great wines. There is a reason I use it as my default teaching vineyards so growers, especially new ones, can soak in the vision of what a fine vineyard looks like and get exposed to Jan’s knowledge. It was inevitable but Jan and Kim have built a beautiful winery and tasting room on the property. It’s not quite done yet but wine was made there this vintage.

"I had a chance to taste the 2007 and 2008 wines and they are remarkable. Jan had a vision of Sauvignon Blanc growing where Merlot also excelled and has planted it along with Semillon. The sauvy is a shining example of the versatility of what this variety can do, from the absolute fruit forward New Zealand version to the more restrained, creamier, nutty, barrel fermented white Bordeaux or California style. While I’m not a big chard fan in general I think we can do very fine Chardonnay in SE PA and I might have to change my tune. Jan’s blend of three Dijon clones, stainless steel and barrel fermented versions were both incredibly fruit-driven wines with pure flavors of honey, apple, citrus, full and rich in the mouth, these are truly reminiscent of Pouilly-Fuisse, especially the barrel wine with its toast and smoke. Sauvy and Chard both appear to be well suited for our region but they are both rot prone so they need great viticulture to succeed consistently. I guess we are just a white wine region.

"That is, until I taste his reds. The 2007 estate Merlot is deep in color and full in body with layers of dark fruit flavors, great structure and balance. Merlot is a fruity red that, I believe, needs blending to add complexity. That is a practice that I think we can improve upon, maybe by getting some help from outside. Jan’s could easily stand alone as a varietal but I think it could be even better with some Cabernet Sauvignon for structure, Cab Franc for that herbal note and Petit Verdot for rusticity, but I don’t know how to do it. His Cabernet Sauvignon is a surprise and delight. This block took it hard in the shins during the ‘04 freeze but they have brought it back and the 2008 is nice and ripe but with that savory quality that Jim Law describes in his reds and a character of Bordeaux. No one will mistake it for a cult Napa cab, but who would want to anyway? This is a foodie’s wine and it had me thinking of what to pair it with. Okay, well, by now you know I wear my palate on my sleeve when it comes to the Waltzes. These wines couldn’t happen to a nicer and more deserving family."

Pinnacle Ridge loses a wall, gains some space

Received my first e-letter today from Pinnacle Ridge Winery in Kutztown, Pa. There was mix of past and future, including a report on the winery's recent recognition from both the Farm Show and the Pennsylvania Wine Society. And proprietors Brad and Christy added some details on what's ahead, a Valentine's weekend celebration, as you can read below.

Saturday February 14th (10AM to 5PM)
Sunday February 15th (Noon to 5PM)

Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away, so it is not too soon to plan for this special day. The Berks County Wine Trail Annual Chocolate and Wine Weekend is a great way to celebrate this special holiday. All eight wineries on the BCWT offer a FREE CHOCOLATE AND WINE food pairing. Pinnacle Ridge will be serving CHOCOLATE SACHER TORTE. Sacher Torte is a famous Viennese desert served in many a cozy cafĂ© in Austria and throughout Europe. This delicious chocolate torte is covered with a rich chocolate glaze. To top it off, we drizzle our torte with warm apricot preserves! We are pairing our Sacher Torte with our 2007 LATE HARVEST VIDAL BLANC. Our “love”-ly staff always gets into the spirit of this romantic holiday. We look forward to seeing you!

There was this bit of news on renovations in the tasting room:

In the past, perhaps some of our customers have had to wait to be served during busy weekends and special events. Brad and Christy have taken the plunge and contracted their favorite contractor, Jim Robertson, to remove the eastern wall in the tasting room and install a NEW BAR! PINNACLE RIDGE tasting room will now have 30% MORE BAR SPACE! Demolition has been completed.
The removal of the wall increases the visibility of the wine production area, which contains over one hundred American, French and Hungarian OAK BARRELS (lovingly imparting their fine flavors into our Dry Reds and Chardonnay). The tasting room has still retained its charming, rustic and intimate feel. We will have more staff and more bar space to serve our customers better!

2008 Chambourcin Rose
2008 Quaff

And my personal favorite, a "first-hand" report from the vineyard:

Bud: Poor Bud! He’s (she’s) really cold. Temperatures pushed down near zero degrees the last few weeks and poor bud has to stand out in an open field. How do grapevines responds to these cold temperatures? Will they die? How cold does it have to be before damage/death occurs?
Grapevines are a Mediterranean plant and do display negative reactions to cold temperatures. The first sign of excessive cold weather is the death of the buds, which hold the promise of the upcoming shoots and fruit. If bud damage occurs during a winter temperature event then fewer shoots and fruit occur the following growing season. The next step of winter damage is when the wood of the trunk or arms is damaged. In this case the wood experiences damage to the extent that nutrients and water can no longer flow and, consequently, everything downstream of the damaged part of the vine dies.
The ability of a grapevine to withstand cold temperatures depends on a number of factors. Vine variety is a very significant factor. Some varieties are more cold tolerant than others. For example, the native American varieties ( Concord, Niagra, Delaware) are very cold tolerant. The so-called French-American hybrids are variable in their winter hardiness. Some like Seyval Blanc, Foch, and Leon Millot can grow in places like Wisconsin and Minnesota successfully whereas others like Chambourcin are more winter tender. The most tender varieties belong to the traditional European grapes (vitis vinifera). Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc have reputations of being very cold hardy and one can see these varieties being grown in cooler areas such as the Finger Lakes in New York state and parts of New England. Other varieties such as Zinfandel are considered more winter tender and one rarely sees them growing on the East Coast whereas they are grown in more mild climates such as California and Italy.
Another significant (but often overlooked) factor in vine hardiness is vine health. Just as with people, grapevines in good health can tolerate more exposure to the elements than vines in poor health. If vines are over cropped, diseased, or mistreated then they will be more prone to winter injury than healthy vines. We don’t expect any significant winter injury to our vines at this point in time. So keep your finger crossed for warmer weather.

From Gettysburg, these cliff notes

The "Gettysburg sector" of the region has made several announcements the past couple of days. Hauser Estate Winery in Biglerville said it is teaming up with a marketing and advertising firm in Gettysburg called 3rd Idea to update its Web site and provide some promotion pop. The winery opened last summer. Right now, the winery is holding events on the last Fridays each month called Candle Light Friday, where it has food for purchase and wine and live music. In addition, it is planning a Valentine's Day event on Saturday, Feb. 14, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. that will include warm food and music and, of course, Hauser Estate's wines.

A few miles away, at
Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, the folks there just posted information on a cooking with wine class that will feature chef Evan Shipley preparing several dishes using many of Adams County's wines. That's schedule for Friday evening, Feb. 13, at the winery's shop, 25 Chambersburg St., Gettysburg. The cost is $40 per person and reservations are required in person or by telephone at 717.334.4631. The next day, the winery will have a wine and chocolate pairing at the same location. Those new events are in additon to a wine appreciation cost at the winery this Saturday night, Feb. 7 ($35/person, nd includes a tour of the operation and a light meal), and a wine home-making course at the winery on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 22 ($25/person). Reservations and advance payment for the latter event are required. In addition, these new releases are available for sale:

John's Old Barrel Chardonnay: An exquisite, smooth, smoky Chardonnay. A special one-time release with only 200 bottles made! $24.98
Seducente: A medium-bodied, dry red wine. A perfect balance of flavor and character collide in this estate bottled wine. $17.98
Fireside Memories: A semi-sweet blush wine with notes of cranberry and cherry. A perfect wine for any occasion. $14.98