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