Thanksgiving Wines with a New England Twist

Wine was served at the first Thanksgiving.

This was a post I wrote a number of years ago. I’ve updated it to keep it fresh. People look every year for some guidance or validation of their Thanksgiving wine choices. Really, the most important thing is to serve wine you like. There are so many competing flavors during this meal that no one wine will cover all the bases. So, in updating this post this year I’ve gathered the opinions of people from all different aspects of the wine industry because everyone contributes a different perspective. For example, In Eric Asimov’s New York Times column Wines of the Times, The Four Rules of Thanksgiving Wine, his advice is common sense and meant to put you at ease that your wine choices will in no way ruin the Thanksgiving meal.

Some six months ago I met Dianne Carter and starting working for New England Uncorked, a wine broker in New Hampshire with a niche specifically offering wines from New England and the Northeast. These wines are placed in over 100 shops and restaurants in New Hampshire. Dianne’s personal choice for her Thanksgiving meal is the Jonathan Edwards Gewurztraminer. If you really stop to think about it what could be more complimentary to a Thanksgiving meal than wines from the region where our Thanksgiving celebration originates? With vineyards close to Plymouth, MA like Westport Rivers, whose wines have been served at the White House we’ve got some real pedigree here. I am very proud of the ever increasingly improved quality of many wines coming out of the New England states. The climate here isn’t always the easiest to work with so these grapes don’t just grow by themselves. They may need more stewardship in the field sometimes than west coast wines. Many owners are still first generation farmers who have converted to wine from some other crop, so the there is still a very laid back culture here. Vineyards grow whatever vinifera vines they can support and many of the hybrid grapes bred to withstand the harsh New England winters. Why not look for a new grape to try this year? In Europe, practical wine and food pairing guidance has been, If it grows together it goes together. There’s no reason that wouldn’t apply here as well. (See my recommendations below.)

Another great resource for all wine related questions is Wine Folly, especially her post, 7 Great Wines for Thanksgiving. (http://winefolly.com/update/8-great-thanksgiving-wines-2016/) Madeline Puckette is a certified sommelier with a best-selling, award-winning book and blog. Her style of education is presented in a most approachable and fun way. Her advice is always right on the money too.

Makers Table by Meg Houston Maker,  an award-winning food, wine, and culture writer based in New England has a wonderful list of American wine suggestions for your Thanksgiving table. See her article, Fifty Thanksgiving Wines for details and serving tips.

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 is 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.

The Whites

Sauvignon Blanc – a crisp white wine known for its herbaceous flavors. It complements a savory stuffing particularly well.

Jonathan Edwards NV Sauvignon Blanc (North Stonington, CT) – Bright peach, tropical fruit, and floral aromas yield to a crisp and zesty finish. This dry SB is fermented at cool temperatures to retain its liveliness in the glass and aged in stainless steel for 6 months before bottling.

Chardonnay – one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. It is made in a wide range of styles from fresh and fruity to buttery oaked expressions

Breakwater Vineyards (Owl’s Head, ME) – Made with grapes from Long Island, NY. Soft. Round. Toasty. Full of citrus and green apple. Fermented in French Oak

Mill River Naked Chardonnay (Rowley, MA) – Cold-fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks, the grape exposes itself to a more natural state. Full-bodied with aromas of lemon zest and pear.

Heron Hill Unoaked Chardonnay (Hammondsport, NY)  – Bright and elegantly structured with citrus aromas, subtle minerality, and tropical notes of banana and melon.

Riesling – this white wine can be bracing and bone dry to sweet and dessert styles. Extremely food friendly, particularly with spicy dishes.

Heron Hill Dry Riesling (Hammondsport, NY)  – Four Different lots in the Finger Lakes were selected, then fermented separately and blended together before bottling. Aromas of grapefruit and limestone lead to notes of melon and tropical fruit on the palate. Pale in color, yet refined with ample body. Flavors of lime and orange blossom linger nicely on the finish. *Wine Spectator – 85 Pts *Wine Enthusiast – 90 Pts

Heron Hill Semi-Dry Riesling (Hammondsport, NY) – A forward, flattering style, with red and yellow apple fruit flavors backed by honeysuckle notes. The open-knit finish is just juicy enough to hold interest. *Wine Spectator – 86 Pts

Westport Rivers Riesling (Westport Rivers, MA) – Our very popular white shows beautifully. Vibrantly tropical fruit with sweet tamarind, quince and tangerine aroma. Awash with lively citrus on the palate and a deliciously tart finish. Medium bodied and off-dry.

Cayuga – this French-American hybrid grape makes a medium to full-bodied with good structure and some residual sugar that makes it sweet. Great on its own or with light appetizers, or spicy dishes.

Shelburne Vineyard Cayuga White (Shelburne, VT) –  A blend of mainly Cayuga with a bit of Chardonnay and Riesling. We’ve created this wine to be a light, dry style. It is bright and refreshing with notes of fresh citrus and a mouth-watering, crisp finish.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Cayuga (Goshen, CT) – A crisp, clear, refreshing wine. Fruity taste, grapefruit, melon, and peach. A wine that stands on its own. Aged in stainless steel. 100% Connecticut Grown. Its delicate fruity character is great with appetizers, seafood or poultry.

Louise Swenson – a cultivar of amateur botanist Elmer Swenson, named for his wife

Shelburne Vineyard Louise Swenson (Shelburne, VT) – Made from grapes grown on our McCabe’s Brook Vineyard in Shelburne Vermont. The aroma is soft and savory. This dry white wine has subtle notes of tropical fruits, clean acidity, and a stony minerality.

The Reds

Beaujolais – a light, fruity red wine from the Gamay grape that goes very well with turkey and all of the fixings. It is like the cranberry sauce to the turkey! The tradition of serving a Beaujolais has something to do with the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of every November, a week before Thanksgiving in the U.S. This fruity wine is supposed to be drunk while young and fresh. For a greater depth of flavor and structure select one of the many Beaujolais Villages wines.

Pinot Noir – this red wine is a very versatile and traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. It is easy going enough to complement just about any flavor you can throw at it. Elegant, and plays well with others.

Pali Wine Company Pinot Noirs (Lompoc, CA) – run from the super-premium with accompanying accolades to the super delicious Riviera, Summit, and Huntington wines selling in the sweet spot under $20

Big Fire Oregon Pinot Noir (McMinnville, OR) – a personal perennial favorite on our table. Maria Stuart describes their standard Big Fire PN as a great Tuesday night wine with fresh bright red plum, cranberry, and round ripe cherry with some hazelnut toast. Their Autograph PN is a Saturday night or special celebration wine, deeply layered with ginger, bay leaf, anise, and sweet red plum and cherry. They also make single vineyard Pinots that highlight the terroirs of each specific site.

Left Coast Cellars Latitude 45 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Rickreall, OR) – All Dijon clone, is a tightly wound, substantial effort, with youthful, tart raspberry fruit. It’s compact and complex, showing the balance and depth to age nicely.

Breakwater Vineyards Pinot Noir (Owl’s Head, ME) – Earthy, yet not old and stuffy. Aged in French and Hungarian Oak.

Westport Rivers Pinot Noir Rose (Westport Rivers, MA) – The current bottling has wonderful balance, truly a gem. Lush cherry aroma and vibrant acidity with a long pleasing finish.

McCall’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Long Island, NY) – Balancing dark cherry with nuanced aromas of strawberry and spice, this Pinot Noir was carefully hand harvested from our sustainable vineyard. The vintage shows a nice concentration of fruit with a touch of crisp tannin. Barrel aging in French oak contributes notes of vanilla and toast leading to a well-structured, elegant finish.

Zinfandel – a medium to fuller bodied red wine that has a balancing effect on many traditional side dishes. This would be a great pick for those looking for a heartier wine with deeper flavors. Jammy fruits, spice and berries. Widely grown in California, often with fairly high abv (14 – 16%).

Verde Sole Zinfandel (Sierra foothills, CA) – The 2011 vintage is a soft, ripe wine with brambly wild cherry aromas, and notes of raspberry, cocoa, and tea. Blended with Petite Sirah, Syrah, and a touch of Grenache. 14.3% alcohol. This wine is terrific with grilled meats, roasted turkey, manchego cheese, pizza, and pasta with red sauce.

Jonathan Edwards Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi, CA) – This Zin was harvested on 100-year-old vines. Super jammy with great fruit and spice. Great for grilling, pasta, roasted turkey, or Thanksgiving side dishes like grilled or roasted root vegetables.

Syrah/Shiraz – another red wine that picks up the intensity and flavor, yet graciously handles the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The peppery notes will accent a flavorful helping of stuffing as well as both the white and dark turkey meats. For a special palate-pleasing treat seek out a dry sparkling Syrah.

Cabernet Franc – traditionally one of the Bordeaux blending grapes, in the United States it is favored as a varietal along the east coast and in parts of Washington state. A wine with plenty of peppery spice, and less tannic than its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, it makes a fine companion to many Thanksgiving flavors.

Jonathan Edwards Cabernet Franc (North Stonington, CT) – Estate grown, one year of barrel aging highlights the cherry/blackberry fruit flavors and adds some vanilla highlights but keeps the tannins on the finish soft.

Heron Hill Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc (Hammondsport, NY) – This wine was aged in American oak & French oak barrels for approximately 18 months. First aromas of cranberry and sour cherry, then notes of blackberry and licorice on the palate. The wine is nicely balanced with soft tannins and hints or baking spices on the finish. *Wine Spectator – 86 Pts *Wine Enthusiast – 89 Pts

Marquette – one of the original Minnesota Hardy grapes developed to withstand the shorter growing season and harsher winters in the northern tier of the United States, this wine is a suitable alternative to Pinot Noir. Similar in taste profile with cherry and bramble fruits, smooth tannins, and a zippy acidity it makes an excellent food wine.

Shelburne Vineyards Marquette – Vermont grown and produced, Marquette is the leading red for our region. The nose is herbaceous and fresh with undertones of oak. It is lively with notes of black cherries, spice and soft tannins with a complex, lingering finish. The wine is oak aged sur-lee for 8 months and bottled unfiltered.

Sparkling – Always a perfect accompaniment, especially with salty foods and foods with unusual texture- like the mashed potatoes or dishes with higher fat content (turkey gravy?) Can’t go wrong if you bring this wine as a guest.

Westport Rivers 2006 Westport Brut “RJR” (Westport Rivers, MA) – This stunning sparkler has been served in 3 White Houses and raved about by both national and international press. Produced from a blend of about 70% Pinot Noir with the remainder Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Meunier. It spent over four years in tirage, was disgorged about eight months before release and has a dosage of 0.8%. Won a blind tasting against Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot at the Boston Wine Riot in 2012. Bright golden yellow color. Aromas of toasty brioche, peach marmalade and lemon curd with a crisp, dryish light-to-medium body and tart, mouthwatering roasted citrus, green apple skin and mineral accents on the finish. Very vintage Champagne-like.

Dessert Wines – Sometimes a good dessert wine is a sweet finishing touch to the meal, as with an ice wine (made from grapes left on the vine after regular harvest to concentrate the sugars), Ice Cider, or Hungarian Tokaij, or Italian Vin Santo or Piccolit, or a Trokenbeerenauslese Riesling from Germany, or even a Moscato D’Asti or Bracquetto D’Acqui if you like the bubbles. Don’t overlook the dessert wine as a choice because you think they are all syrupy sweet. Many wines in this category are very fine and elegant expressions of their grape variety. Continuing on there are fortified (wines with additional alcohol added, raising the final alcohol by volume) ports, sherry, vermouth. Be bold and try something new.

Newhall Farm Ice Cider (Vermont) – 100% Newhall Farm estate grown apples are concentrated by using natural Northern Vermont winter temperatures. No sugar, coloring, alcohol, or flavorings are added. A selective blend of organic heirloom, dessert, and wild apple ripples with a fresh crispness and hint of late harvest honey, rounding out spice and acidity to a lingering finish. International double gold award winner!

Shelburne Vineyard – Duet Vidal Blanc Ice Wine (Shelburne, VT) Vermont grown Ice Wine is made from both Vidal Blanc and Arctic Riesling grapes picked below 15 ̊ Fahrenheit when the sugar and juice in the grapes are concentrated and the water is frozen. This traditional process produces a luscious dessert wine. The bouquet is an alluring combination of sweet and spicy aromas. The flavors burst with notes of baked peaches, pears, and apples while the texture is smooth and decadent. A rich, lingering finish leaves your palate satisfied.

Pillitteri VQA Vidal Icewine Premium Level 2015 (Ontario, Canada) – A stellar Icewine encompasses fantastic aromas of floral notes, honey, candied orange peel, peach, and apricot. You’ll find intense flavors of pineapple, lychee, and honey on your palate, as well as a voluptuous texture, balancing acidity and a long finish.

Pillitteri VQA Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine Reserve 2012 (Ontario, Canada) – This wine has a medium ruby hue in the glass. The nose exhibits nuances of raspberries, cranberry cocktail, and lime zest. The high acidity is even evident on the nose making one’s mouth water almost instantly. The palate explodes with flavors of fresh raspberry pie, cherries in syrup, violets and vanilla bean. The mouth-feel is deliciously sweet and intense, but the natural acidity acts as a backbone creating impeccable balance and length on the palate.

Savage Oakes Blueberry Pi (Union, ME) – made from 100% Maine grown wild blueberries. A dessert wine made from our own hand-raked, wild blueberries. Like the juices of a fresh blueberry pie this wine is loaded with sweet blueberry flavor. Residual sugar – 8%. 17% alcohol by volume.

The Digestifs

A digestif is an alcoholic drink served after the meal to aid in digestion. Growing up in an Italian household where it was common to eat until bursting after the main meal everyone would wander to neutral spots in a food haze while my mother laid out the coffee and a parade of liqueurs, cordials, brandies, Port, and desserts. Many different cultures take pride in that last to be offered quaff. At any given time we could have out Drambuie, Amaretto, Kahlua, a vintage Port, Grappa, Amaro, Cognac, Limoncello, Vermouth, Grand Marnier, and others. Some, especially the herbal bitters (Amaro) actually do aid in digestion.

In our house, we have the tradition of going around the table to say something we are thankful for. Sometimes the year has been a struggle but we always have something to be thankful for. I wish you, and those you celebrate with all the blessings of the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, and Cheers!

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Meet the People and Places of New England Wine

Subscribers may remember that a few months ago I started working at New England Uncorked, a specialty wine importer and distributor. Our portfolio focuses heavily on wines from the New England states, eastern Canada, and New York state. We just launched our blog in the hopes of giving people more information and education on why New England wines are worth a try. So click the link, check out the blog, hopefully subscribe, and leave a comment. Let us know what you want to know more about.

http://www.newenglanduncorked.com/single-post/2017/09/05/Great-Wine-from-the-Northeast-Meet-Our-People-and-Places

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Finger Lakes Wine Festival 2017

#FLXWINEFEST

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So, it’ll be another year that I’ll miss the wacky wine hijinks at the annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Perhaps you can make it. There’s a lot going on, so plan accordingly.

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Held each year at Watkins Glen International Speedway, this event has been selected by the American Bus Association as one of North America’s Top 100 Events several years running. The fun gets underway July 14, 15, and 16. This is the 21st year of the festival, and is sponsored by Yancey’s Fancy Artisan Cheese.

finger-lakes-wine-fest-feat togaThe fun begins with a Launch of the Lakes Toga party where Bacchus blesses the festival and crowns a king and queen.

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There will be breakfasts and banquets, sipping and seminars, fireworks and food, as over 90 participating wineries pour their hearts out for your appreciation.

There is a full slate of live music and performances including a local favorite of mine, Virgil Cain. There will be craft vendors, wines for sale, and you can even take a pace car ride around the famous track! Tickets start at $50, with a special $25 ticket for designated drivers, and are available by calling 866.461.7223 or at www.flwinefest.com.

For more information about the hundreds of things to do, people to see, and places to stay and dine visit my friends at the Finger Lakes Wine Country.

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

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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!

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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).

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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.

 

Cheers,

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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

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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.

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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

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Cheers to life!

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Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Three

Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Three

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ravines

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.

RavinesTasting

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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

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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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