Saturday, December 5, 2009

About that virtual tasting idea ... give Morris Zwick a call if you're interested in participating

Chatted with owner and winemaker Morris Zwick of Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Md., more than a week ago about a number of subjects, including the virtual tasting he'd like to try sometime this month.

Using a software called
talkshoe, it would allow folks to interact with Zwick as they are all tasting the same wine. He said he's been a participant on a show for amateur winemakers that originates in the Pittsburgh area; that show sometimes goes as long as an hour and a half and involves a number of different folks dialed in to the site.

He's hoping to even get a dozen or so involved in the first attempt, go between a half-hour and 45 minutes, and then build it from there. His goal is to arrange the virtual tasting for mid-December.

"You know, even only have 10, 11, 12 people, I'd be perfectly happy with that," he said. "I think it's the kind of thing where people have got to try it and see it work, then they'll tell other people. Eventually, I can see also bringing people on to the show, maybe bring Kevin Atticks from the Maryland Wine Association or people from other wineries in Maryland . . . and so it would be a way to promote not only Terrapin Station Winery but other Maryland wines in general."

For those not familiar with Terrapin Station, it's the only producer of boxes wines that I know of in the region and it's distributing now through more than 60 outlets in Maryland. Zwick figures he'll just start with one wine, maybe their 2008 Cabernet Franc, one of two ones that Terrapin Station recently released. "Then they'll dial in at the appropriate time and while they're trying it, we're trying it, and people can ask questions," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to ask what we did with it and what some of the stats were like . . . gives them an opportunity to ask some of those specific questions and on top of that we can talk about why this vintage is the the way it is. For example, this [2008] vintage is a 14 percent alcohol wine, which is pretty high for the East Coast. It was a hot, hot August, September; we really got the sugars up and we decided instead of trying to [drop] it down we'd just take advantage of the situation and see what we got as long as we were down below, what's the magic number there, 14.5, and see what we get."

If you're interested in participating in this first virtual tasting that I'm aware of in the region, drop the Web site an e-mail or call 410.398.1875. The wine should list around $23 for a 1.5-liter box; obviously, the the equivalent of the two .750 ml. bottles that you're probably used to buying in your favorite state store or shop.

Zwick noted the one other thing he likes about talkshoe is that the program can be recorded. So if you miss it, you can still sample the wine later and read the comments. This idea, he said, just supplements the other ways of getting the word out: store tastings and festivals, to name a couple. "Our challenge is all about evangelism and getting people to try the stuff," he said. "Once they do, they're fine with it."

Stopped in Hershey, but bypassed the chocolate

Working on a story for a publication that took me Friday to the tasting room at Cullari Vineyards & Winery in Hershey. It's just one of many buildiungs that pop up along Route 422 between Harrisburg and Annville, where I've been teaching as an adjunct at Lebanon Valley College. Probably ridden by it 25 times and finally had a chance to nose around the comfy surroundings.

Owner Salvatore Cullari, who formally taught at LVC and served as head of the psychology department there, has a bar set up on the main floor where he handles most of his tastings. The room is open Thursdays through Sundays. A few steps lead up to a small dining room where Cullari can hold parties; indeed, he and his brother were getting set up for one yesterday.

Cullari hails from Calabria in Italy and talks about having been associated with wine-making since he was a kid. His 25-acre lot in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., holds two vineyards with around a dozen types of grape, including Zinfandel, Barbera and Sangiovese.

While admittedly someone who favors dry reds, his wine list caters some to those who prefer their wine with some sweetness. His biggest seller, called White on White, is a blend of white grapes that has the aroma of Traminette. I also sample something he calls Pomegranate Splash, a tasty sipper that blends some whites and pomegranate juice. And I sampled a few of his red blends, all with good structure and flush with color and aroma and -- much to my satisfaction -- generally priced in the $10 to $15 range.