Q & A Red Blend – How well do you know your wine?


How well do you know your wines? How about a wine with wine trivia right on the label? The Ron Rubin Family of Wines has created a good wine in a fun package. Q & A is a California red blend of merlot, ruby cabernet, cabernet sauvignon, and petit syrah. I’m a fan of red blends of all sorts – Bordeaux (duh!), Australian GSM’s and Rhones, blend masters like Dave Phinney’s Orin Swift. I’ve been drinking this wine for months and plan to continue drinking it through the summer, with friends, at cookouts, and in my air-conditioned livingroom!

The label is not just cute. It’s interactive. It features a series of 12 sets of beginner wine knowledge questions and answers. I received my first bottle as a sample, courtesy of Diaz Communications  (Thanks, Jo!) and I know I won’t be the only one (wine geek) who goes back to the wine shop looking for the other labels. I’ve seen four of the twelve. Some of the questions are very basic but there are a few more challenging. The questions were compiled by the faculty of the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute. Play along! It’s fun, and you may even learn something!


Sorry. No answers. You’ll have to get your own bottle of Q & A Red Blend

The juice isn’t too shabby either. This medium-bodied wine is dark red, with purplish tinges influenced by the petit syrah. It hits the palate boldly, with dark cherry, blueberry, blackberry, and a little vanilla and spice. In a Bordeaux style, with structured tannins, it has a lingering finish. It was a great accompaniment to my grilled ribeye. The total wine experience is what does it for me. I found this wine locally for $15. It’s nice to be attracted to a wine on the shelf that isn’t trying to grab me with a cute critter label. (Go ahead, send me comments of good wine with a cute critter label).


Ron Rubin wines are made using sustainable practices. They are a Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley in California.


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Now bringing you the best wines of the northeast


WiningWays is up and at it again! Now bringing you the best wines of the northeast!

I’ve been inactive for a while on my blog as well as in my life. I had knee replacement about 18 months ago and it seems I hadn’t gotten myself back in gear. With other health issues setting a number of lifestyle changes in motion, I’ve struggled at how to incorporate my wine life into my new reality. This isn’t a blog about me but I am coming back to my blogging, and shifting my focus. Oh, and a major site overhaul is long overdue.

Going forward I will write about my favorite pairings. Wine and food, wine and friends, wine and experiences, and wine travels. Sometimes the food will be healthy and clean, and sometimes the food will be oh so delicious but to be enjoyed in smaller portions than I have indulged myself in the past. I have great friends in the wine industry who will sample me from time to time. I love creating tasting events for friends. It has been a good way for me to amplify the value of those samples. The group is diverse and so is the wine knowledge. I’ve got some new wine products and wines to write about, so stay tuned. New kinds of packaging and preservation are always interesting. There are some new wine regions trending this year. Last year everyone was all over Georgian wines as the oldest known wine producing region in the world, and their method of production is still unique thousands of years later!

I’ve been working from my home office since the knee surgery so I started dog boarding. The passive income is a bonus while providing pre-screened puppy playdates for my dog Lucy. You can see lots of Lucy at my Room to Roam Facebook page. This summer I’m thinking of hosting a Pinot and Puppies playdate with all the puppy parents whose dogs I’ve hosted this past year. I think it will be more fun than standing around in the dog park while your pooch goes off and socializes.

It has been interesting during this particular phase of my life, having left the corporate work world. I now derive a substantially smaller income from multiple sources. There is certainly a lot of room for growth and improvement but it has made me feel more connected to what I do and the outcome than any job I ever had. For most of my adult life, it was considered a good thing if you could multi-task. I think the enlightenment of the 21st century thus far is that notion doesn’t work. I can hear that song, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…”. Maybe you can multitask well. I used to think I could. I practice mindfulness now. I want to mono-task well. I want to be able to focus rather than juggle.




Just as I was retreating from my wine life a new wine person came into it. It has re-invigorated me and I am excited to have a purpose in wine again. Dianne Carter started New England Uncorked, LLC in 2012 after her own wine epiphany on an anniversary trip in Connecticut. More about Dianne in another post. New England Uncorked is a wholesale distributor/importer of regional wines of New England and the northeast. It has a mission I can passionately get behind.

Our vision is to educate about the offerings within our reach. Good wine is not limited to specific regions or countries. Good wines can be found in places where you would not expect to find them.  Our goal is simple… we are committed to introducing to you the fabulous wines of our region.

Dianne Carter/CEO New England Uncorked, LLC

It aligns perfectly with my own interests in #ShopSmall #ShopLocal #FarmtoTable and #SlowFood. She has done the hard work to get these wines on menus and in shops and to get some buzz going. I will be helping with that too. I look forward to featuring those wines here from time to time.



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Anna de Codorníu Announces SHARE Partnership

Many casual wine drinkers are unaware of how much the wine world actually does for and gives to charities. I think it is in their nature on several levels. Winemakers are about producing a product that is supposed to enhance an occasion and add a little happiness to your life. They are also at their core farmers, stewards of the land. I believe most take that responsibility very seriously. Many like to give back because they are people who enjoy what they do and they like to share.


Anna de Codorníu Announces SHARE Partnership

Spain’s #1 Sparkling Wine to Support Leading Network for

Women Facing Breast and Ovarian Cancers


Anna de Codorníu, Spain’s leading, premium sparkling wine, has announced a partnership with SHARE, a national organization that provides informed peer support, empowerment and educational resources to women affected by breast and ovarian cancers. The partnership encompasses a significant charitable contribution by Anna de Codorníu, a nationwide retail display program, and a creative “Message on a Bottle” consumer engagement campaign. Anna de Codorníu Brut and Brut Rosé will also be served at SHARE’s 12th Annual Second Helping of Life, an annual benefit featuring New York’s top women chefs.

“Anna de Codorníu is proud to stand with SHARE in their mission to help women facing breast and ovarian cancers. Our company is committed to getting the word out so that more people can benefit from the hope and guidance SHARE has delivered to so many communities for almost 40 years,” says Melanie Pyne, Brand Director of the Spanish Wine Portfolio at Aveníu Brands.

SHARE’s Executive Director, Jacqueline Reinhard says, “Women facing cancer need support, hope and communal ties, which become a source of strength, fulfillment and healing. SHARE has a powerful mission that Anna de Codorníu can embrace to help us reach wider audiences.” SHARE operates the #1 support helpline for those suffering from or affected by breast and ovarian cancers, available in 15 languages, including Spanish-speaking women. Staffed by survivors, SHARE also offers grassroots survivor-led outreach programs in under-served communities.

Anna de Codorníu will encourage consumers to engage with SHARE through the Message on a Bottle campaign encouraging consumers to write their messages of hope on the Anna bottle and connect with #SHAREANNA on social media. In-store displays and bottles will prominently feature information about SHARE, to access their services and become more involved. On September 21, Anna de Codorníu Brut and Brut Rosé will be served at the 12th Annual A Second Helping of Life benefit in New York City, featuring top chefs such as April Bloomfield, Anita Lo and Christina Tosi. (www.sharebenefit.org)

“It’s an honor for Anna de Codorníu to step up to this key partner role for such a worthy organization,” says Pyne. “We hope to inspire others to become involved so that SHARE is able to help even more women at this critical point in their lives.”

 About SHARE

SHARE’s mission is to create and sustain a supportive network and community of women affected by breast and ovarian cancers. SHARE brings these women, their families and friends together with others who have experienced breast and ovarian cancers, and provides participants with the opportunity to receive and exchange information, support, strength and hope. SHARE offers online webinars and Talk Radio educational programs with leading medical experts and cutting edge information about research and treatment. SHARE’s work focuses on empowerment, education and advocacy to bring about better health care, an improved quality of life, and a cure for these diseases. SHARE’s programs annually touch over 32,000 women affected by breast and ovarian cancers. (www.sharecancersupport.org)

About Anna de Codorníu

Cordorníu is a Spanish producer with a pedigree going back to the 17th century, and a top producer of Spain’s sparkling wine, known as Cava, for the region in the northeast corner of the country. The wine is named for the wife of the viticulturist Miquel Raventós, whose family has grown this wine since the mid 1600’s. It is a romantic homage all by itself. Josep Raventós, a descendant of Anna’s was the first winemaker to use Chardonnay grown in the Penedès region of Cava and master the “Méthode Traditionelle” which put Cava on the world’s wine map. Earlier this year I had an opportunity to review these wines.

Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé NV

Let’s start with the unique packaging. The bottle is swathed in pink with a pink and silver foil capsule so it makes a beautiful presentation. The wine is a brut rosé made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The abv is 11.5%. At a $15 price point this is right in the sweet spot and a great value for the money. It has it all, inside and out. The wine is a beautiful strawberry color with substantial mousse (bubbles, or head in beer parlance) on the first pour. Strawberry and red bramble fruits on the nose with some cherry on the palate. You might think to see it in the glass that it will be sweet but it is rather well-balanced. Since the pleasure of wine for me is always in the experience, I enjoyed it during the Blizzard of 2015. As almost three feet of snow fell in the northeastern United States on January 27th Suzanne and I celebrated finally learning how to use our new snow blower, in our new house, and toasted the nice neighbor who cleared our long driveway with his pick-up truck and snow plow. We earned it. Delightful with fresh strawberries, light appetizers, your imagination, and of course, your Sweetheart.

Anna de Cordorniu

Anna de Codorníu Brut NV

This wine is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada, one of the three traditional Cava grapes (along with Macabeu and Xarel·lo). It is 11.5% ABV and priced the same as the rosé. This wine has lush tropical and citrus flavors, a persistent mousse with a never-ending, delightful proliferation of tiny bubbles (no need to queue up Don Ho) to entertain in the glass as well as on the palate.

Both of these wines, originally given to me as media samples, offer a lot for the price point. They make a great house gift if invited to dinner. Either would make a great date night wine, and are very appropriate for your special occasion. If you are looking for a great sparkler without breaking the bank then you will not be disappointed with an Anna.

Don’t forget to look for the special packaging during October to help support project SHARE by writing a Message on a Bottle and posting it on Twitter with the hashtag #SHAREANNA


Cheers to life!

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Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Three

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Three

Keuka Lake map

This was my one solid day to power through the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. I didn’t want to mess around so we started out early. Our first stop was at the place Suzanne was looking forward to the entire trip, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar. Any serious excursion to the region should include a trip to this vineyard. Very few people alive would dispute that Dr. Konstantin Frank was the father of vinifera wine in the Finger Lakes. A Ukranian immigrant fleeing World War II for a better life, Dr. Frank would end up in the Finger Lakes of New York and convince the region’s grape growers that fine wine vinifera grapes could withstand the harsh winters. His story is quite interesting and his beliefs were not quickly adopted by everyone. He was a man of conviction and confidence. He was successful.

DrFrank book

We didn’t spend as much time here as I would have thought but that was probably because it is the one winery with which we were both most familiar. We bought Semi-Dry Riesling, Dry Riesling, Old Vines Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Dry Rosé, Chateau Frank Celebré Sparkling Rosé, Chateau Frank 2008 Blanc de Noirs, Rkatsateli. Until recently this had been the only Russian wine grape I had tasted.



Next we were on our way to Heron Hill Winery.  Nicolette was our pourer.

HeronHill Pourer

We enjoyed the 2012 Dry Riesling and the 2012 Semi Dry Riesling as well as the 2012 Pinot Noir. Here we decided to pace ourselves and linger at their lovely café for a light lunch.

Heron Hill Snack

I didn’t want to leave the Hammondsport area without first checking out another of the, let’s say, founding wineries of the region, Bully Hill. This is a colorful place to visit on so many levels as well as a raucous history for such a laid back part of the world.

Bully Hill Winery is the second winery operated by founder Walter S. Taylor. Walter’s grandfather founded Taylor Wine Company, which was at one time so large in New York that it purchased the Pleasant Valley Wine Company, producers of Great Western Champagne, the champagne adults drank while I was growing up. In New York I don’t even recall seeing  “other” champagnes on the market. Pleasant Valley Wine Company’s famous pedigree is that it is known as “Bonded Winery No 1” in state and federal districts, as these things were being kept an eye on prior to Prohibition. So the tumultuous history of Walter S. Taylor and Pleasant Valley Wine Company begins after his grandfather brings him into the company as an Executive Vice President. There are many sides of this story and I will not pretend to be able to represent them here. According to Bully Hill’s website Walter had issues and discontent with the quality of the wines being made bearing his family name. Pleasant Valley history records it a different way. Locals all have their own opinions. It could be like the Finger Lakes version of the Hatfields and McCoys, without the shooting. Nevertheless, Walter goes on to found Bully Hill in 1972 on the same property that his grandfather founded the original Taylor Wine Company.

Just a little more to add to the tangled web of a story – Gold Seal, owned by Urbana Wine Company survived Prohibition as Bonded Winery No 2. Like Pleasant Valley they made sacramental wine and managed to sell medicinal wine for a market of alcohol by prescription that became a popular workaround the law during Prohibition. This is what a medical prescription for wine looked like.


During this post-Prohibition time period Gold Seal hired a successive number of champagne makers from the best houses in Champagne. Their main focus was making quality American Champagne. This was long before the now accepted convention of not using the word “Champagne” to describe the beverage if it was not actually produced in the Champagne region of France. Pleasant Valley eventually got a sort of special dispensation, as the first American winegrowers to produce sparkling wines from vinifera grapes. It is generally accepted for them to call their wines champagne.  Eventually Charles Fournier, winemaker at Maison Veuve Clicquot, a man passionate about the future of vinifera grapes in the Finger Lakes meets up with a man as passionate as he is about vinifera, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and the rest is history. Pleasant Valley and Urbana (Gold Seal) eventually get picked up by investors, Coca Cola being one of the early experimenters with an alcohol division to augment their soft drinks market. It didn’t work out. Dr. Frank goes on to start his own venture.

You’ll notice from wine association marketing, tourist information, etc. that Bully Hill doesn’t necessarily play well with their neighbors. I don’t mean that as they don’t have friends in the region. They just prefer to go their own way. You see this right away when you visit the tasting room. They make fun, easy to drink wines that don’t take themselves too seriously. They see wine as something to enjoy and enhance life, not something to puzzle and struggle for words to define. I visited specifically because I feel their sense of place in the region. They were there doing it before most others. They are still there doing it while many others have come and gone. We bought a 1.5 liter Growers Chardonnay, Verdelet Dry, and their Meat Market Dry Table wine.

Verdelet bottle

Bully Hill Red

Verdelet is a French Hybrid grape, one of many grown in the region developed by the famous French hybridist Albert Seibel. New grapes were being developed to withstand severe fluctuations in weather, and the new grape epidemic sweeping the world around the turn of the century, Phylloxera. Walter S. Taylor, like many of his peers adopted these grape varieties because they were more reliable than vinifera. There is still a strong culture of support for the local hybrids. Bully Hill makes Verdelet as a single varietal. It is a pleasant wine with medium acidity, some stone fruit, but lacks the depth and complexity of the more famous vinifera Riesling.


Keeping to our pace, next stop was  Ravines Wine Cellars. Suzanne opted for their decadent Hedonist Chocolate & Wine Pairing, pairing wines with chocolate and truffles, specially created for Ravines by Hedonist Artisan Chocolates of Rochester, NY. At Ravines we bought the 2012 Chardonnay because Suzanne likes her Chard oaky and this one hit the mark.


Surprisingly we maintained a pretty good pace with our schedule and did not feel rushed anywhere we went. We had an evening event to attend so we had just one more winery for the day. So we swung back down from Keuka Lake and back up the west side of Seneca.  Yes, five wineries in one day is a lot, but as I said earlier, this was my one day to hit this wine trail. I wanted to make the most of it. We visited Anthony Road Winery. They are the only winery I’ve seen in the region that pays tribute to the glacial history that made the region a special place to grow grapes. Their Devonian White and Devonian Red is a homage to the geological period of the Paleozoic Era that left behind so many defining characteristics of the region . This is a time in evolutionary history when the glaciers have retreated, temperatures are warming and forests, creatures, and wildlife are springing up.  We bought the 2012 Semi Dry Riesling.

Anthony Road


From there we were ready to relax for the rest of the evening. Our next stop was the FLX Wienery. This is perhaps the funkiest little eatery in the region.  Christopher Bates, award-winning  Master Sommelier, chef, and winemaker opened what looks like a very unassuming hot dog stand in Dundee on Rte 14. His menu is a mix of interesting hot dog combinations, accompaniments made from the freshest locally sourced ingredients, shakes, and deserts. Many people don’t know that hot dogs and Riesling pair well together (just as sausage does). Chris’ hot dogs are on steroids with choices like the State Fair with peppers and onions, American cheese, smoked ketchup, and mushrooms. His bread and butter pickles and pickled corn relish are insanely addictive. His shakes include mouth-watering combos like salted caramel and pretzel, or bacon and brown sugar. His sweets menu includes deep fried Almond Joy, and roasted homemade honey (yeah, I don’t know how he does that either). His wine list is not particularly Finger Lakes oriented but he does bottle his own wine, Elements, which he serves on tap, showing his love of the Finger Lakes. He had worked in Europe for many years until he and his wife Isabel came back to his hometown region.

On the night we visited he was hosting his first pig roast at the Wienery. We arrived in time to see him take the pig from the pit and begin to carve. There were picnic tables and yard games like ladder ball and corn hole. Mostly locals trickled in and Laury Poland arrived and introduced us to several winemakers who had stopped by. It was like being at a family picnic. This was where we met the tall, handsome, dimpled Chris Missick (whom we meet up with again later  in the week) of Villa Bellangelo . He stopped at our table to chat and pour some of his own wine that he brought in a pouch. We felt like we were locals. It was a great evening. The food and wine just kept coming. I can’t say enough good things about the people and their infectious positive energy and enthusiasm. It’s such a feel good place. Being from New York (city) Nathan’s is top dog in the hot dog world. The Flx Wienery is in its own category of goodness. We returned to our hotel exhausted but with what Suzanne calls “happy belly” and slept well that night.

Chris Bates

Pig Roast

Summer 2014 270

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day One

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Two

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Wining For a Good Cause – The Jimmy Fund

Dana Farber logo


Raise Your Glass for Jimmy presented by the

Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston


Beer and wine tasting event is Friday, Oct. 2


The sixth annual Raise Your Glass for Jimmy presented by the Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston will take place 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2at the Battery Wharf Hotel in Boston. All proceeds support adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Admission to the event includes a wide variety of beers and wines to taste from August West Wines, Blue Hills Brewery, Boston Bottle, Gordon’s Fine Wines and Liquors, Mayflower Brewery, Medusa Brewery, M.S. Walker, Plymouth Bay Winery, and Wormtown Brewery. The event also includes hors d’oeuvres, live music, and a silent auction.


Tickets are $75 per person, and early bird pricing is available with two tickets for $125 if purchased before Sept. 21. The first 150 guests at the door will receive a $25 gift certificate from Tresca. For more information, visit www.jimmyfund.org/raise-your-glass.


About The Jimmy Fund

The Jimmy Fund (www.JimmyFund.org) solely supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. The Jimmy Fund is the official charity of the Boston Red Sox, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the Variety Children’s Charity of New England. Since 1948, the generosity of millions of people has helped the Jimmy Fund save countless lives and reduce the burden of cancer for patients and families worldwide. Follow the Jimmy Fund on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thejimmyfund and on Twitter: @TheJimmyFund.


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Finger Lakes – #WBC15


During the third week of August almost 300 wine bloggers from around the U.S. converged on the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York (what NYC’ers call anything north of the city). They were there for the eighth annual Wine Bloggers Conference. They experienced and learned what I have already known about this gem of the eastern U.S. wine world. The best way to describe it is to say that whether you are a grape grower, cheese maker, glass blower, farmer, or race car driver there is community here amongst these diverse groups and the conviviality and fellowship of the locals is palpable. Those words, already over-used by the bloggers’ recent visit, are still the best words.

Last year I spent a week immersed in everything I could possibly experience there so at this year’s conference I felt I could do more living in the moment. Bloggers being bloggers, especially when travelling in packs, and on a mission are actually funny to watch as an outsider. IMG_7108 They can easily be recognized by their ability to talk, taste, and juggle phones, tablets, notebooks, glasses, cameras, and food, all while moving in groups. It’s remarkable to see all the tasting and chewing, photo snapping and note taking all going on simultaneously. This is how wine bloggers experience living in the moment. From all of the other posts I’ve seen so far each perspective someone shares adds to the whole and shows the conference and the region from a different angle. All of this documentation conveys that this is a pretty awesome place. At any time of year there is something special to experience.


My fellow bloggers spent three days in seminars and on field excursions. They learned that there are actually 11 Finger Lakes. The deep gouges in the earth that resemble fingers and are easily identifiable on any state map of New York were formed during the retreat of the last glacial ice sheet. Seneca Lake, the deepest at 630’ is actually below sea level. The lakes are a major contributing factor to the region’s ability to grow splendid vinifera grapes. In this part of the world terroir is a concept that varies from place to place in the closest proximity. Glacial till and terminal moraines (the tail end debris left behind by glacial retreat) have provided over 13 different soil types from clay to shale, to limestone, all of which affect the grapes grown. Add in the influence of the lakes and you’ve got the secret sauce for great wine. Most vineyards produce a variety of styles. Riesling is without a doubt the signature grape of the region but everyone was impressed with the quality of the non-vinifera hybrids, and I think the quality of the reds improve year over year. Depending upon the side of which lake and what soil type you have on your plot, maybe even a block or row, you’ll get a different outcome. All part of the fun, and sometimes heartbreak, of growing grapes for wine.


The homemade condiments were so good I was eating rye whiskey mustard by the spoonful.

Farm to Table dining is not a special occasion here. Local people have strong ties to the natural resources for all it provides. Great livestock and produce farms contribute to the menus of most local restaurants and Finger Lakes wines figure prominently on many wine lists. The wine bloggers learned how each winemaker experiments with their own special geography.  They have a willingness to try new things and they collaborate as well with each other. This is one place that truly espouses the concept of all ships being lifted on a rising tide. They help each other through hardships, and they celebrate when one of them gets a feature in a wine magazine or receives a high point rating by a credible source.


Sunset at Wagner’s Vineyard

The secret is getting out. The Finger Lakes can give you the same wine travel experience as any west coast region, and often in a more laid back way, and for a lot less money. This is a place where I would say you could have a value luxury vacation. By that I mean I can visit, enjoy great vistas, dining experiences, world class wines, and have enough money left over to fill my car with wine for the way home. Yes. I am fortunate enough to live within driving distance.

We'll talk about this another time.

We’ll talk about this another time.

As for what I got out of the conference this year I need to thank the people who provided me with the experiences that make wine enthusiasm such a rewarding personal interest. Alan Wright and Beth Peluse of Zephyr Adventures listened to post conference feedback from prior years and put together a great agenda and pre and post excursions. Many people arrived early and/or stayed longer. Zephyr also produces the Wine Tourism Conference and offers citizen bloggers a 50% discount to attend. They also specialize in experiencial travel adventures.


Thank you for getting Karen MacNeil as Keynote speaker. Hers was the first wine book I bought when I became more seriously interested in wine. I enjoyed other Keynotes such as Jancis Robinson but Karen MacNeil was the first person I felt really spoke to us rather than over us. I loved hearing her tell her back story.


Laury Poland, President Finger Lakes Wine Country

Next I have to give kudos galore to my friend Laury Poland and her team Christina Roberts, Teresa Degarmo, and Melissa Buck from Finger Lakes Wine Country for all of the work they put in to make this event happen. Laury, a bundle of never-waning energy, had only recently arrived in the region the year before and took up the project with vigor from the start. Thanks Laury for introducing me to some amazing people I will never forget. Kim Thompson of the Corning Museum of Glass lead small groups of bloggers on a special tour of the new Contemporary Wing of an already spectacular museum. This is no ordinary, look at curated things hanging on walls museum. This is a dynamic, destination, mind-blowing, interactive museum experience not to be missed if in the area. Kim, you did a wonderful thing for me and I Thank You most heartily.It made my visit most memorable. IMG_7110


Summer 2014 114

Julie Caplan, Program Director of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance presented us with Finger Lakes and Riesling – A Love Story


Thanks Stephanie Miller of Corning’s Gaffer District for the great opening night reception, and to Cassandra Harrington of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.

I realize I haven’t really said a word about the vineyards and wineries. There’s just too much to write in one post. I thought I should say Thank You first. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we packed into three days.

To fellow bloggers who may read this in passing – every year, after the conference, and then again during the planning for the next conference there is all of the bitching and moaning buzz. Sure most hotels think they can handle our wifi needs. Most of the people associated with the conference who are not with Zephyr Adventures plan and work for a long time to give us the best experience of their region that they can. So if there are negative comments I say just this – where else can an amateur or citizen blogger get all that we get for only $95? Even the swag was pretty good this year.  I could never complain. I think the folks in #Lodi are already getting the agenda ready for #WBC16

From my trip last year:

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day One

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Two



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Red Bubbles for Valentine’s Day

Many people believe Valentine’s Day is no more than a Hallmark card holiday, invented by the greeting card and confections industries. There is some real history to the sentiments of the day. The infographic below (attribute: History Channel) lays it out.

Click image to see in hi res

Click image to see in hi res

The celebration of love each February 14th we call Valentine’s Day is rooted in both Christian and ancient Roman beliefs.  At least three Catholic saints are named Valentine, or Valentinus. The most popular story is about a priest in the third century CE who defied the Roman decree against soldiers marrying. Of course in order to become a saint in the Catholic religion a miracle must be attributed to the person and such was the case with Valentinus. He is purported to have healed his jailer’s sick daughter.

The saint’s day is still on the calendar of many Christian denominations. The day as an expression of love goes back to the 16th century CE and the act of exchanging gifts was popularized during the 18th century. Heart-shaped chocolates and hand-written notes were the gifts most often given. With the rise of the mass-produced greeting card industry in the latter 19th century our modern tradition has prevailed.

Wine is a perfect accompaniment to flowers, chocolates, greeting cards, or all of the above. Sparkling wine is most recommended.

This year I have a lovely suggestion to top my list. Full disclosure: this wine was sent to me as a sample. If you know my policy you know that I accept samples but do not promise to post reviews or write negative reviews. If I do not a like a sample I prefer to communicate directly with the sender before panning their product publicly.

Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé NV.

Cordorníu is a Spanish producer with a pedigree going back to the 17th century, and a top producer of Spain’s sparkling wine, known as Cava, for the region in the northeast corner of the country. The wine is named for the wife of the viticulturist Miquel Raventós, whose family has grown this wine since the mid 1600’s. It is a romantic homage all by itself. Josep Raventós, a descendant of Anna’s was the first winemaker to use Chardonnay grown in the Penedès region of Cava and master the “Méthode Traditionelle” which put Cava on the world’s wine map.

Let’s start with the unique packaging. The bottle is swathed in pink with a pink and silver foil capsule so it makes a beautiful presentation. The wine is a brut rosé made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The abv is 11.5%. At a $15 price point this is right in the sweet spot and a great value for the money. It has it all, inside and out. The wine is a beautiful strawberry color with substantial mousse (bubbles, or head in beer parlance) on the first pour. Strawberry and red bramble fruits on the nose with some cherry on the palate. You might think to see it in the glass that it will be sweet but it is rather well-balanced. Since the pleasure of wine for me is always in the experience, I enjoyed it during the Blizzard of 2015. As almost three feet of snow fell in the northeastern United States on January 27th Suzanne and I celebrated finally learning how to use our new snow blower, in our new house, and toasted the nice neighbor who cleared our long driveway with his pick-up truck and snow plow. We earned it. Delightful with fresh strawberries, light appetizers, your imagination, and of course, your Valentine.

Anna de Cordorniu


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Not the Same Old White Wines

My Boston Wine Expo Guest Blog:

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Thanksgiving Wines

Still valid, though now I would add Chile’s Carmenere to the list, especially if you like a little peppery spice. Once thought to be a Chilean varietal of Merlot called Tinto, recent DNA testing has proven it to be the lost Bordeaux blender. Carmenere iin Chile arrived vefore the European Phylloxera epidemic and therefore did not require its rootstock to be grafted in order to prevent the dreaded louse that has killed thousands of vines.


Tis the season…

Americans consume more wine on Thanksgiving day than any other day of the year. If you have any interest in wine at all you will start to notice, much the same way Christmas decorations start going up in stores around the end of September, that everyone who has any opinion about wine will share their tips for choosing a good wine for your Thanksgiving celebration. So here are mine.

People often don’t realize that with all the many and varied side dishes served with the traditional turkey (not to mention all of the non-traditional hams, lasagnas, turducken, tofurky, and such), matching your wine to the meal is not so easy. Food pairing basics match the dominant flavors, how heavy the meal is, etc. Do you prefer red or white? The list below goes from crisp whites to reds, and includes dessert wines and digestifs.

Sauvignon Blanc –…

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Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Two

Before the start of day two I did forget to mention some of the other wines we tasted at Fox Run Vineyards.

Arctic Fox – Cayuga grape, refreshing, leaning towards the sweet side. Not a complex wine. Enjoyable citrus and stone fruit.

Dry Riesling 2011 – Great minerality, acidity, lemony citrus

2013 Rosé of Lemberger – the only way I really enjoy Lemberger. Known as Blaufränkisch in Germany this grape is usually tannic and has herbal and spice characteristics. Fox Run’s rose shows it off to its finest advantage.

2012 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger blend – too herbal and woodsy for my taste. I have tasted these wines throughout the northeast and I have not found one I truly like but that is no reflection on Fox Run. Many people love this red blend.

Here is a little bit of information on the signature grape that is the pride of the Finger Lakes. Riesling is a grape varietal unique among its other noble cousins. It is more adept at absorbing the mineral characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. All grapes, all plant life for that matter is endowed with whatever it is able to glean from its soil and other climate conditions – that which the French have termed terroir. Riesling grows, and can be vinified, in vast array of styles from bracingly acidic and bone dry to cloyingly sweet. It is naturally high in acid, which lends itself to a better ageability than most other white wines. This acidity, combined with a particular year’s sun exposure, rain, diurnal temperature variations, and length of the growing season determine the ultimate crispness or sweetness of the final product in the bottle. Oh, and let’s not forget the winemaker’s contribution. The grape is a powerhouse but the winemaker still has to be the puppet master.

This grape, perhaps more than any other captures the concept of terroir and shows us that wine is a living thing made more on the vine than by any craft or manipulation of the winemaker. It is always the case that good wine starts and ends in the field but most other grapes have the capacity to be shaped by the vintner’s hand more than the Riesling grape. Riesling tells you in any particular year how it will express itself. It is one of the noble grapes ( a term widely recognized as meaning grapes of the highest quality and lineage, not hybrids), intensely aromatic, and its flavor profile stretches from citrus and tropical fruits to stone fruits and of course the minerals it picks up from the soil. It is an amazingly versatile grape from all aspects – in the field, in the barrel, on the palate, and makes one of the most food-friendly wines in the world. The bracing acidity of a dry Riesling makes your mouth water. A semi-dry Riesling usually exhibits the talents of balancing that acidity along a sliding scale of sweetness.

There is now an internationally recognized scale to tell you on the bottle the level of dry/sweet. It is called the IRF scale for the International Riesling Foundation. Without getting into the technical it has been agreed where the ratio between pH, residual sugar, and acid fall along the scale. It is up to the individual winemaker to determine where they set their wine on the scale. For more information on the IRF scale visit www.drinkriesling.com/tastescale .

irf riesling scale

Dessert styles do not need any other accompaniment. They can be as satisfying as a fine French Sauternes or Canadian Ice Wine. Growers, especially those who see themselves as farmers first, love Riesling’s ability to express its sense of place. On the world stage connoisseurs know the difference between an Alsatian and German Riesling. While growing in many great wine-producing regions of the world only the Finger Lakes, and Washington state are recognized as stand-outs in the United States. During a visit to the Finger Lakes one can sample every possible expression of the grape.

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Two

We began our day by taking a short ride over to downtown Corning and the office of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association to meet virtual friends in person. Any trip to Finger Lakes Wine Country should be planned using the resources they provide. The website even has a trip planner (which I used). They have a great smart phone app, and if you get on their email list you can stay informed year round of all of the events (and there are a lot) going on. They produce a beautiful guidebook for those who prefer something in print. I use all of the above. It was great meeting Stephanie Jarvis, their Program Manager. She has been the main voice of #FlxWineCountry on Twitter, and organizer of the Riesling Hour and other events celebrating the yearly vintage release. We also met Laury Poland, President, a great bundle of energy that you just don’t get when you communicate digitally. I showed her my printout of the events we planned to attend that I had downloaded from their website. She noted that she was attending nearly all of my choices as well. Together with Ginny, Teresa, and Christina they do amazing work trumpeting the virtues of a visit to this region. They gave us some very helpful tips on how to make the most of the visit. We would see Laury later on in our stay.

Their office is located in the Gaffer District of Corning, which is also known as the “Crystal City”. Corning was developed as a company town of the Corning Glass Works. The Gaffer district has a lot to see and do from shops for foodies and wineaux, to glass art galleries and museums. Our next stop was the Corning Museum of Glass. I can’t say enough about what a wonderful museum this is. It is almost inaccurate to call it a museum. Its mission statement puts it most succinctly: To Tell the World about Glass by engaging, educating, and inspiring visitors and the community through the art, history, and science of glass. You can spend an entire day in this place. There is the history, interactive exhibits, flame demonstrations, hot glass blowing, innovations for home and industrial uses and gallery after gallery filled with the jaw-dropping products of creative glass artists . It goes on and on.

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Summer 2014 110Summer 2014 096They even allow you to make something of your own. We made an appointment to make a blown glass ornament for the next day. Didn’t we do a good job?


The combo admission ticket allows you to visit the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. I was thrilled to see original Frederic Remington bronze work, and a rifle from the Revolutionary period that was made in Lowell, MA, near where I live today. This museum seemed a little oddly placed. Who expects to see a large collection of art depicting the American West in Upstate New York? Visit their website to learn more.

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After lunch at the Market Street Brewing Company and Restaurant, where yes, beer was consumed, we drove up the eastern shore of Seneca Lake to Wagner Vineyards in Lodi. The Wagners are no newcomers to the area. With over 50 years of grape growing experience they’ve had some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We did spend some time in their tasting room, in their beautiful eight-sided building but we were there for the live entertainment and dinner. We each do our own tasting and then share so we get to taste just about everything they are pouring. Wagner also brews beers but I was itching to get to the wines. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to taste Wagner’s Riesling for at least the last four years so I know the quality is as good as it gets. It was a treat to taste some of their other wines. Outside of their Riesling and Chardonnay Wagner favors hybrid grapes, especially for their Alta B blends (named for Bill Wagner’s mother Alta Button Wagner). Our favorites:

2012 Caywood East Vineyard Dry Riesling – crisp, citrus, stone fruit, and mineral palate. Mouth-watering, lingering finish.

2012 Semi-Dry Riesling – peaches and pineapples sums this one up. Such a great sipper.

2012 Bottle Fermented Sparkling Riesling – a brut style, 90% Riesling from their oldest block, 10% Pinot Noir.

2012 Cayuga White – sweet but crisp. My wife’s choice and the one we chose to open for the concert.

After the tasting we exited to the large deck overlooking the vineyards. We chose a picnic table right in the middle and as the band was setting up we saw children playing down by the vines, and someone setting up what turned out to be a drone.

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The entertainment was part of Wagner’s Fridays on the Deck Series and that night The Destination, a 9 piece dance band was packing in the locals. We ultimately shared our picnic table with an older couple, and a man who had a 1.5 liter bottle of the Alta B Blush, which he freely shared. Everyone seemed to know everyone.

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While we did see a lot more of that swigging out of the bottle there was a lot of beer being drunk as well. The Wagner’s operate a restaurant, The Ginny Lee, and while closed, they had set up a dinner choice of chicken or fish. We walked through the line and each got the chicken dinner. Home-style food, and lots of it. This is how to do a summer night. The band played a full range of swing, funk, R&B, and Latin rhythms that made it impossible to sit still. At some point before it got too dark the band leader told us to turn around and wave (with all of our fingers). We were on camera. That drone was flying out far and wide taking photographs and video for the band’s website. There was one older (and by that I mean old) couple that had the moves. They danced all night. It was fun to watch. During the band’s break between sets we reluctantly chose to leave. Staying meant we would have more to drink (with all that wine sharing going on) and we already had a 45 minute ride back down to Watkins Glen. They were just opening up a pizza window as we were leaving too. Day Three will be all about the wine.

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day One

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