Mar 142013
 
DLW Conference

Photo Credit: Christian Schiller

The morning program is set for the fifth annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland on April 13, 2013.

The conference will open for registration at 8:00 am with light refreshments and a continental breakfast. The following sessions will begin at 9:00 am.

Session 1

9:00 am – 9:45 am

Creating Maryland’s Wine Identity

The history of Maryland wine from the 1940s to the present, which grapes grow well here and where, and what styles of wine are prospering.

Moderator: Richard Leahy, author, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines.

Panelists: Marguerite Thomas, author, Touring East Coast Wine Country; Robert Deford, owner, Boordy Vineyards; Dr. Joe Fiola, Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Maryland.

 

Session 2

10:00 am – 10:45 am

Drinking Local

Does locavore mean locapour? Do Marylanders appreciate their home-grown wine, and if not, how to get the message out.

Moderator: Dave McIntyre, Washington Post wine columnist, Drink Local Wine co-founder.

Panelists: Jerry Pellegrino, chef, Waterfront Kitchen; Jade Ostner, Director of Events, Maryland Wineries Association; Al Spoler, co-host, Cellar Notes/Radio Kitchen, WYPR Radio.

 

Session 3

11:00 – 11:45 am

Maryland’s New Guard

Who is setting the quality standard for Maryland wine today? What new grapes, trends or wine regions will we be following in the years to come?

Moderator: Kevin Atticks, executive director, Maryland Wineries Association.

Panelists: Ed Boyce, founder, Black Ankle Vineyards; Tom Shelton, owner and winemaker, Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery; Dave Collins, co-owner, Big Cork Vineyards.

An elegant lunch using fresh, local Maryland ingredients paired with select Maryland wines will follow the morning sessions.

Registration for the full conference is $125 and includes a continental breakfast; entry to all sessions; lunch with paired tasting of Maryland wine; and the Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off. Tickets are also available for the Grand Tasting only for $40.

To attend the conference, you may visit http://www.marylandwine.org/dlwc13 to register and find out more information.

Mar 052013
 

Drink Maryland WineI’ve been involved in Drink Local Wine since it’s inception several years ago, and am now President of the Board of Directors.

Drink Local Wine is an organization founded on the principal that there are great wines to be found everywhere, not just in the best known regions. A non-profit organization, the DLW mission is to promote the wines of these lesser known regions throughout the United States and Canada.  The brainchild of Washington Post writer Dave McIntyre and Jeff Siegel, who writes the Wine Curmudgeon blog, the organization holds two major events each year — a conference spotlighting regional wine and Regional Wine Week.

DLW will hold its fifth annual conference in about six weeks in Baltimore, focusing on Maryland wine. The state’s industry is one of the fastest growing in the country, and its 61 wineries are almost 50 percent more than in 2010.

The state’s four growing regions allow it to produce a variety of wines, including the classic European varietals but also some that are distinctly New World in style. The Maryland Winery Association is the conference’s primary sponsor.

Panels of speakers will discuss the winemaking region’s history, challenges, trends and more in three (possibly four) morning seminars. Then an elegant lunch with local ingredients will be paired with select Maryland wines.

In the afternoon, we taste through the state’s portfolio of wines and report our findings to the world via the unique feature of DLW conferences, the Grand Tasting and Twitter Taste-Off. Over 20 of Maryland’s most award-winning wineries will be participating in the fifth annual Twitter Taste-off at The Warehouse at Camden Yards. It’s a chance to sip, tweet, and tell the world about Maryland wine. Participants will taste a wide variety of Maryland’s most desired wines, and report their experiences to the world.

Tickets are on sale for the conference; you may register by visiting the DLW page on the Maryland Wine Association website.

The conference will take place on April 13th at the Tremont Suites Hotel in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. You can find more information here.

 

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Nov 022012
 
Indigenous cosmopolitan: Prosecco Superiore goes “glocal”

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

Passing the microphone to moderator Luciano Ferraro, the reason behind Prosecco’s popularity became clear. Ferraro shared that his wife had described the wine as “’light, fruity and beautiful’” and further explained that his wife doesn’t even like wine. American journalist, Alan Tardi, concurred, saying that it was fresh, pleasant, low in alcohol, well priced and very versatile; in sum, it was “Italy in a bottle.”

As evidence of the wine’s success, Professor Vasco Boatto presented data, which showed significant growth of Prosecco (both Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG) in value and volume. Figures from 2011 showed the product’s growth to be up 63% in value and 48% in volume, in the U.S. alone.

But, Tardi also mentioned that even though Americans have embraced Prosecco with open arms, they do not fully appreciate the territory where it comes from. He added that there is still work to be done in differentiating Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG for American consumers.

Speaking to the theme of this year’s Vino in Villa event – Indigenous cosmopolitan—Enrico Finzi, president of Astraricerche, discussed globalization 2.0. While globalization 1.0 has created a homogeneity worldwide (think Coke or McDonalds), this new phase ushers in the opportunity to be “glocal.” Accordingly, globalization and local do not have to be at odds with one another. Rather, local traditions are being revived and exported out of their local territory while maintaining quality, providing a wider audience for these products, a “plurality of access.”

Building on this theme, the tasting event featured international cuisine from Japan and Russia and the main dinner paired Prosecco Superiore with food from one of Denmark’s top restaurants- Restaurant Kvægtorvet di Odense in Fionia. From the fjord shrimp with pickled cucumber and rye grains with pea purée to the roasted loin and fresh strawberries, the Prosecco Superiore rose to the occasion in each case. Proving that two seemingly disparate, artisan products – Danish food (almost all of the ingredients were brought in for the dinner) and an Italian wine – could find such synergy at the table.

Jun 152012
 
Virginia Vineyards

View from the top of Tranquility Vineyards, operated by 8 Chains North.

California is the de facto king (or queen) of U.S. wine regions, if by no other measurement than the sheer volume of wine the state produces and the quantity of wineries producing it. It is not, however, the nations only, nor is it the oldest wine region (commercially speaking). Long before the Mondavis, Beringers, and Sebastianis made California wine famous on the West Coast, there had been may attempts (and a few successes) at making wine on the East Coast.

The history of winemaking east of the Mississippi finds it’s origin in early colonial times. Thomas Jefferson was an acknowledged francophile and loved French wines. It’s well documented that he tried to plant his own vineyards at Monticello, but ultimately proved unsuccessful at the attempt. There were several reason, not least of which was the then unknown presence of Phylloxera in that particular part of the country.  Jefferson was not the only one to experiment with growing wine grapes in Virginia. As author Todd Kliman points out in his book The Wild Vine, Dr. Daniel Norton was ultimately successful at hybridizing grapes that could produce commercially viable wines. Since then, as a wine producing area, Virginia has proven to be an area where a little bit of luck and hard work can really pay off. Richard Leahy, in his recent book Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, documents the successes (and failures) of Virginia wine producers quite extensively.

Boxwood Winery

Boxwood Winery is one of the better producers of quality wines in Virginia.

So it was, this spring I found myself in the company of several dozen wine writers and bloggers at the 2012 edition of Taste Camp East in Northern Virginia, experiencing the region for myself. This had not been my first adventure to the area on a wine visit, but I was impressed none-the-less. They are making some really fine wine in Virginia. Like any region, there are hits and misses (Don’t let anyone try to tell you that all California wine producers are good). But, as a group, the quality of Virginia wines is good and continues to improve. My personal observation is that the area excels in producing distinctive wines from Viognier and Cabernet Franc, but they also make good wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, and Petit Manseng.

I was fortunate enough to have tasted over 100 different wines from Virginia. Of those, below are examples (in alphabetical order by winery) I felt were worth sharing. I’ve included very brief tasting notes with each, which definitely would not pass a WSET exam, but accurately reflect my thoughts at the time.

  • 8 Chains North 2008 Furnace Mountain Red – coffee, blackberry, smoke, balanced acid, med+ tannin, long, good
  • 8 Chains North 2009 Furnace Mountain Red – red fruit, talc, oak, chocolate, med body, elevated acid, very good
  • Ankida Ridge 2010 Chardonnay – Fresh, barrel aged, some vanilla but mostly apple, full body, finishes flat, good
  • Ankida Ridge 2010 Pinot Noir – classic, underbrush, cherry cola, ripe tannins, long, very good
  • Annefield Vineyards 2010 Viognier – sweet-tart candy, off-dry, good
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2010 Viognier – perfume, phenolic, sweet mouth, full body, but great acid, very good
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2002 Viognier – caramel, oxidized, fish sauce, lively, long finish, good
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc – bell pepper, leather, brett(horse), good fruit concentration, firm tannin, good
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon – blakberry, cola, sassafras, good fruit concentration, good acid, long, very good
  • Boxwood Winery 2011 Rose – bright, fresh, great salmon color, a bit lean, but refreshing, good
  • Boxwood Winery 2007 Topiary – nice savory age character, chocolate, black olive, shiitake, black plum, nice depth, long finish, very good+
  • Boxwood Winery 2007 Boxwood- blackberry, earth, chocolate, dark cherry, decent mid-plate, dusty tannins, good length, very good
  • Boxwood Winery 2010 Trellis – deep berry, intense fruit character, a bit warm, long finish, very good
  • Boxwood Winery 2010 Topiary – earth, savory, smoky, good body, very good
  • Boxwood Winery 2010 Boxwood – fruit, firm, blackberry, spice, firm tannin, long, very good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2010 Viognier – honey, smoke, sweet entry, some RS, a bit bitter on finish, fresh, good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2010 Jennifer’s Jambalaya – floral, fruit salad, fresh, lively, very good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2002 Reserve Merlot – cigar box, soy, savory, tobacco, great body, balanced acidity, long, outstanding
  • Breaux Vineyards 2011 Rose – strawberry, cherry, some sweetness, finishes dry, good acid, good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve – deep color, black cherry, green bean, pencil lead, high extraction, a bit sweet, good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – cola, black cherry, cocoa, artichoke, hay, full body, high alc, better balanced than Franc, long, very good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2001 Nebbiolo – tar, roses, pencil shavings, crisp acid, soft tannins, cherry cola, long, very good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2002 Nebbilo – chocolate, cherries, cola, soy, leather, pepper, fuller body, soft tannins, balanced acid, medium, very good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2005 Nebbiolo – black pepper!, cola, cherry, leather, firm tannins, crisp acid, medium-long, good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2007 Nebbiolo (barrel sample) – wood shavings, cherries, cola, spicy, full body, high tannin, high acid, good
  • Breaux Vineyards 2006 Soleil – apricot, lanolin, honey, beeswax, sweet, nutty, good acid, long, outstanding
  • Corcoran Vineyards 2010 Apple Wine – apples, cinnamon, off dry, unique, very good
  • Corcoran Vineyards 2010 Amber Creek Chamborcin – cherry, leather, tart, good
  • Corcoran Vineyards 2009 Hunters Run Red – earthy, plum, good acid, firm tannins, good
  • Corcoran Vineyards 2008 Cello – lemonade, full body, sweet, very good
  • Gadino Cellars 2011 Pinot Grigio – fresh, slight floral, apple, crisp, dry, good
  • Gadino Cellars 2010 Cabernet Franc – boysenberry, blackberry, cola, nice structure, great acid, very good
  • Gadino Cellars 2009 Petit Verdot – dark berry, granite, good fruit conc, good acid, very good
  • Glass House Winery 2010 Viongier – tropical, strong phenolics, good acid, full body, good
  • Glass House Winery 2011 Pinot Gris – fruity, refreshing, great acid, long length, very good
  • Glass House Winery 2010 Barbera – Brett, dried berry, earth, savory, cherry, good
  • Glass House Twenty-first NV red wine – soil, nice fruit and acid, raisin on finish, good
  • Hume Vineyards 2011 Seyval Blanc – refreshing, grassy, gooseberry, good acid, dry, good
  • Hume Vineyards 2011 Viognier – fruit, refreshing, good acid, very good
  • Pearmund Cellars 2011 Petit Manseng – baked bread, vinous, sweet mouth, good acid, some phenolic, good
  • Pearmund Cellars 2009 Ameritage – savory, red berry, leather, good
  • Philip Carter Winery 2010 Chardonnay – fresh, citrus, refreshing, bright, very good
  • Philip Carter Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc – red cherry, cola, tart cherry, needs time, good
  • Philip Carter Winery 2010 Meritage – plum, mint, cola, full body, good acid, med tannins, med finish, good+
  • Rappahannock Cellars 2011 Viognier – peach, sweet mouth, good acid, very good
  • Rappahannock Cellars 2009 Meritage – Red berry, pronounced, great concentration, great acid, long, very good
  • Rappahannock Cellars 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve – big, bold, rich, red berry, warm, dark berry on finish, long, very good
  • Stinson Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – fresh, lively, lemon, lime, ice acid, fresh finish, very good
  • Stinson Vineyards 2010 Rose – earthy, smokey, strawberry, good avid, lacking some fruit on palate, good
  • Stinson Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc – chocolate, cherry, tobacco, sweet entry, vanilla, bell pepper, pepper, very good
  • Stinson Vineyards 2010 Meritage – black cherry, tobacco, cola, root beer, firm tannin, good acid, long, very good
  • Tarara Winery 2011 Petit Mansang – pineapple, lime, phenolic extrat, some RS, good
  • Tarara Winery 2011 Boneyard White – green, lean, lemon, lime, off dry, good
  • Tarara Winery 2010 Leap XII – chocolate, cola, spice, pepper, tobacco, leather, full body, ripe tannin, long, very good
  • Tarara Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc – sassafras, blackberry, bell pepper, chocolate, vanilla, smoke, med-plus body, very good
  • Tarara Winery 2010 Boneyard Red- cherry, leather, dry, firm tannin, good
  • Veritas Vineyard & Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – gooseberry, lime, great fruit conc, some sweetness, very good+
  • Veritas Vineyard & Winery 2011 Viognier – tropical, apple, full body, good acid, especially on finish, refreshing, very good
  • Veritas Vineyard & Winery 2010 Vintners Reserve Meritage – bell pepper, red berry, spice, good avid, ripe tannin, long, very good
  • Veritas Vineyard & Winery 2010 Petit Verdot – earth, blackberry, plum, good acid, long, very good
  • Vint Hill Craft Winery 2010 Rose – chambercin, light, refreshing, sweet mouth, great acid, lovely, very good+
  • Vint Hill 2009 Chambourone – Amarone from Chambercin – raisin, full body, deep flavor, firm tannin, long, interesting
  • White Hall Vineyards 2011 Viognier – fresh, lively, floral, good phenolics, good body, decent acid, good
  • White Hall Vineyards 2010 Petite Verdot – smoky, dark berry, good fruit concentration, good acid, and long finish, very good

I suppose the true measurement of any wine region is whether or not one would go out of their way to seek out these wines. Would I? Definitely! Being that I live in California wine country, it’s unlikely that I will be able to find these wines on a local store shelf just yet, but many are available for purchase online. So, next time you are thinking of trying something new, reach for a bottle of wine from Virginia.

May 252012
 

At last month’s Drink Local Wine Conference in Denver, a debate arose about whether being ‘local’ is enough merit for consumers to drink regional wines. After all, some among us go out of our way to buy local produce and meats from farmers’ markets and fruits stands. So, why not purchase local wines as well?

Now, just so we are on the same page, local wine is, as the Washington Post’s Dave McIntyre says, “wine from around here, wherever ‘here’ is.” For example, if you live in Michigan, wines from the state of Michigan would be local to you.

So, what was the crux of the argument? Some claimed that being local should be enough for consumers to purchase and support regional wines. Others argued that local wines should be held to the same standard as wines from more established areas such as California or France, and if they weren’t, that they were inherently inferior. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Based on my experience with local wines over the past several years, there are great wines being made all over the United States. But, there is also a fair amount of bad wine as well. Should people drink crappy wine, just because it is local? No. Nor should they expect a Cabernet Sauvignon from Virginia to taste like one from Napa Valley. The growing conditions and winemaking preferences are too different for that to make sense.

So, to regional winemakers I say, “get out and taste wines that aren’t yours or your immediate neighbors’.” How do you know that your wines are commercially viable/competitive if you don’t know what others are doing? To consumers I say, “get out and try something new.” Buy a wine from your area. If it’s poor quality, oh well, you are richer for the experience. Even better, let the producer know. If it’s good, however, you’ve just discovered a gem that few of us in the rest of the country have access to. Isn’t that worth something?