Finger Lakes Saperavi Festival May 14, 2022

The wine made from Saperavi grapes being grown in the eastern United States has been a secret shared by a small but growing group of wine lovers. It isn’t a secret anymore as Saperavi plantings have aggressively expanded throughout the East Coast. As a varietal or in any of its unique blends Saperavi is gaining fans and increasing its vineyard acreage as forward-thinking winemakers join a movement to explore the possibilities this ancient grape from the “Far side of the world” has to offer.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Lasha Tsatava the Georgian Gastronomy Ambassador, Director @ Boston Sommelier Society, and co-founder of the non-profit Saperica about its upcoming Saperavi Festival in the New York Finger Lakes on Saturday, May 14th, 2022 at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 9683 Middle Rd Hammondsport, NY.

My first question to Lasha was concerning what activities and attractions would be available to festival guests? Lasha told me that the entertaining and educational slate of attractions focuses on the food, wine, and culture of Georgia including:

  • Walkaround tasting of Saperavi & Rkatsiteli wines from the country of Georgia, the Finger Lakes of New York and beyond
  • Authentic Georgian cuisine created by Chama Mama restaurant from New York City (food included in ticket price)
  • Cooking demonstrations and educational seminars
  • Saperavi festival swag

My next question was why he and Erika Frey decided to start their nonprofit SAPERICA and what their mission was? Their reason for starting: SAPERICA saperica.org

“Saperavi has been growing in Finger Lakes, NY for about 50 years now. 

It’s a traditional grape variety for the region but not many people know about it.

Since June 2021, Erika and I had several trips to FLX and we would visit Saperavi and Rkatsiteli producers to learn more about them and discover their stories and their future plans with these grape varieties. At the same time, we were introducing the idea that these grape varieties have tremendous history and culture behind them including Georgian gastronomy. Every time we discussed these ideas with producers, people’s eyes lit up with excitement and there was a feeling that we needed to take the next step. So we did!” Their reason for starting Saperica and their mission statement complement each other perfectly!

http://SAPERICA.org mission statement: To promote Saperavi and other Georgian grape varieties along with Georgian gastronomy and culture in the Finger Lakes, NY, and around the U.S., by organizing and facilitating educational seminars and exchange programs between the regions, for wine and culinary professionals, and enthusiasts.

Lasha and Erika have worked closely with Meaghan Frank (Dr. Konstantin Frank’s great-granddaughter) of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery and her team on this festival and prior events called “Finger Lakes Meet Georgia Experience”. These events were held conducted in a fully immersive environment where Erika, Lasha, and Meaghan educated, interacted, and guided their guests through the history and culture of Georgian wine before leading them back to the 1886 Reserve Tasting Room at the Frank Winery for a paired food and wine experience. One of the attendees told Lasha “This is why we fly to France and Italy to have experiences like this”

The first annual Saperavi Festival in the Finger Lakes will be held on Saturday, May 14th, 2022 from 2PM-5PM EDT at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 9683 Middle Rd Hammondsport NY. Tickets can be purchased at http://eventbrite.com or click this link to go to the event page https://www.eventbrite.com/e/saperavi-festival-tickets-274172135237

The following photos are of a previous “Finger Lakes Meet Georgia Experience” at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery when Lasha and Erika collaborated with Meaghan and her team to highlight and explore the food, wine, and culture of Georgia.

Chateau Niagara Saperavi Express 2020

Chateau Niagara Saperavi Express 2020 checks all the boxes for what you would expect from a “New World” Saperavi and then some. Jim Baker extracts every bit of color and flavor from his estate grown Saperavi grapes by adding extra enzymes and processes in the making of his Chateau Niagara Saperavi Express. The first thing that catches your attention about Saperavi Express is it’s incredibly deep and dark color. Big in body, especially for a cool climate red wine, it displays Saperavi’s signature acidity along with flavors of plum, black currants, and black pepper complemented by supple tannins through a medium finish. I tasted it again the next day and it had opened up nicely. 

Saperavi can trace its origins back to 6000 B.C., so when you drink Saperavi you are joining a long line of wine lovers. If anyone doubts your rightful place in that line just show them your purple tongue. http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com

Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020

Jim Baker is a visionary when it comes to the wine he makes at his Chateau Niagara Winery located on the Niagara Plain near Lake Ontario in Newfane New York. Jim isn’t afraid to think outside the box or even outside of North America when it comes to the grapes he grows, styles of wine he makes or even the techniques he uses in the cellar. Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 is a perfect example of a blend of two well-known white grape varieties that yield a surprising unique wine when they are made using centuries-old methods from the fabled cradle of wine making. 

Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Riesling with a R.S. of nominally 0 and an A.B.V. of 12%. Everything from how this wine is made, to the fascinating character these two highly stylized grapes yield when blended together using a process almost exclusively reserved for red grapes is far from the common place. Du Monde 2020 must be tasted to be understood but don’t wait because only twenty three cases were made. I asked Jim to explain how he makes Du Monde so we can appreciate the nuances of his wine.

“Du Monde is a wine made as a Georgian style white. These wines are traditionally skin fermented in clay amphora called qvervi for long periods of time. We did not use a qvervi, but we did a long skin maceration of eight weeks. This is similar to red wine making technique and results in a wine with many red wine characteristics such as deep color of amber rather than red. The skin tannins and phenols that give a sense of drinking a red wine, with a white wine finish. Our Du Monde is a 50/50 blend of Riesling and Chardonnay making a unique and promising blend. The combination yields a certain spiciness that is not apparent in either grape variety. This results in Du Monde pairing fantastic with all sorts of Mexican food.”

It would be correct to say this wine is a simple 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Riesling but that is a much too simple description. It would be better to use the analogy of two perfectly matched dance partners where neither one outshines the other so you can enjoy their performance in its entirety. Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 opens with notes of candied fruit leading into flavors of melon and tropical fruit followed by a medium finish with a tinge of lemon peel. This wine is perfectly balanced and displays a deep amber color in the glass. 

All of Jim Baker’s wines can be purchased online at http://chateauniagarawinery.com and by visiting or calling the winery at 2466 West Creek Road Newfane NY 716-778-7888

Time After Time

You might be familiar with the name Meiomi from its immensely popular Pinot Noir, That Pinot has the dubious honor of being deemed “drinkable” in the controversial 2/4/2019 New York Times article by Eric Asimov titled “Supermarket wines are poured, and worlds collide.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/dining/drinks/wine-school-grocery-store-wines.amp.html In his article Mr. Asimov named three “processed” wines, as he called them, to show the divide between how the consumption of wine is viewed between two distinctly different groups of consumers. He used Apothic Red Blend, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and The Prisoner as examples of wine manufactured and marketed to the masses as an industrial product while another smaller group of wine consumers are targeted by the producers of wine that is made in small batches and is an artisanal agricultural product. He also mentions a third even smaller group of wine drinkers who can appreciate and move between both groups. I am a member of that group. While I can enjoy wine from both of Eric Asimov’s groups, I must be careful when recommending a bottle that is in limited distribution making sure it can be found in traditional distribution channels. 

Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 is widely distributed and is very affordable with a price tag under $20. This California Chardonnay is made to check as many of the boxes that Chardonnay drinkers are looking for as possible. It is a blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, and Monterey County. Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks and underwent 100% malolactic fermentation before being aged with French oak. This is not a bone-dry California Chardonnay but has a little sweetness to it, along with flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla followed by a buttery finish.

Meiomi Chardonnay is a crowd-pleaser because it is made to appeal to the broadest range of tastes while maintaining consistency from year to year. If you are planning a gathering where the majority of your guests are casual wine drinkers, I think serving a popular mass produced wine is a wise choice. It is better to be throwing out empty wine bottles than to be pouring half-full glasses of wine down the drain. 

Watching V is for Vino Wine Show

Have you seen the wine and travel show V is for Vino? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend that you add it to your must see list. This show isn’t just about the wine and winemakers of a region but is an immersive experience into how the food, wine, and culture of a region are all intertwined. V is for Vino delivers it’s viewers several options to interact with the show. It offers the wines featured in each episode for sale so you can be drinking them along with the host as you watch. You can also become a member of the VINO VIP CLUB for exclusive perks, like early access to new episodes, virtual tastings with the host, and discounts on wine plus much more. V is for Vino has plenty of entertaining and informative content making it perfect for both the novice and seasoned wine lover. 

I recently had the opportunity to ask the show’s host/creator Vince Anter to tell my readers about his wine journey and the story of V is for Vino. I want to thank Vince for taking the time from his busy schedule to work with me on this project. 

My name is Vince and I’m a certified sommelier and the producer and host of the wine and travel show V is for Vino. Each episode, I host the show in a new wine region, so wine lovers can really be transported to where their wine is made! You learn about the place, the grapes, meet a local winemaker, and learn how to cook dishes from a local chef that pair perfectly with the wine featured in the episode. We also always try to explore as much of the local culture as we can, and meet people who can really tell the story of the places we visit. For instance, in the Finger Lakes we went ice fishing , and in Mexico we went to the local seafood market in downtown Ensenada. Wine is as much about the place and people around it as it is the beverage itself, and the goal of the show was always to capture that. Then, you can actually buy the wine from the episode on our website. I tell people it’s like the Anthony Bourdain of wine: and you can actually drink the wine along with us! 

I started the show in 2016. I had come out to LA in 2010 to be a rock star, but as it turns out, a lot of other people had the same idea. During the 5 years spent pursuing music, I paid my way through gigs with bar and restaurant jobs and discovered a love for wine. I spent a year becoming a certified sommelier, which was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done; it involved many textbooks and flashcards. I decided I wanted to find a way for people to learn and understand more about the wine in their glass without having to pick up a book. And thus, V is for Vino was born. Video content is everywhere now, and I knew the timing was right for a video-based wine company. I’ve always been a fan of Alton Brown, Anthony Bourdain and Dinner’s, Drive-ins and Dives, so I decided to model my own show as a hybrid of the three. I knew I could host the show myself, as I was used to being in the spotlight from my days with my band, and I learned how to interact with all walks of life from my time bartending. Plus, I’ve always loved teaching, so this whole idea came very naturally to me.

So many people put their heart and soul into their wine and cooking, and it’s so awesome to be able to tell their stories. I think we’re unique in the sense that no one is getting as in-depth into the stories behind the wine as we are. And, we’re even turning non-wine lovers into fans: I try to break down topics plain and simple so that everyone can enjoy wine! Wine isn’t this mystical beverage that only snobs can understand and I think, I’m helping contribute to busting those perceptions! People often say that show helped them learn more about wine than years tasting in tasting rooms, and that’s always one of the best compliments I can receive; I want wine to be as accessible as any other beverage out there!  

We’re currently filming season 4 of the show, and most of our upcoming episodes are in Europe, which has been a blast. It should come out by May 2022. The best way to see the first 3 seasons is on https://visforvino.com/ for free! They can also be seen on Amazon Prime (paid), Roku, and YouTube. One of the best parts of the show is you can purchase the wines from the episodes at https://visforvino.com/buy-wine so you can order before you watch, and drink with us as we taste the wines on the show! We also have a virtual VINO VIP CLUB that has a TON of benefits, including behind the scenes content, full length interviews, raffles and giveaways, virtual tastings and events, and discounts on wine! It’s only $5 and really helps you get more out of the show; we work hard to over-deliver on value for our VIP members! https://visforvino.com/vino-vip-club/  Cheers, and I hope you enjoy the show! -Vince 

All photos courtesy: V is for Vino

Food Truck Wine Pairings

 

After reading an article recently about pairing wine with food truck fare I suddenly realized the perfect synergy that food trucks have with the wineries they visit. The eclectic menu items provided by the ever-changing food truck line up at wineries offer a unique opportunity to experiment with wine and food pairings that is simply impossible to achieve in a brick and mortar restaurant.

The following suggestions are only a starting point so I urge you to be creative when composing your pairings. The mind-boggling variety of food choices offered by these vendors provide winery goers an exciting range of dishes and cuisine to explore.

Every item will be accompanied by a Pennsylvania-made wine and one that is widely available and value-priced because remember you are being served your food through a window of a food truck.

BBQ & Grilled Meats: Without question these are the menu items on which the food truck industry was built. When you order from these trucks you need a wine with some backbone to stand up to the flavors of grilled meat, smoke, and sauce. These two bottles fit the bill nicely.

Fero Vineyards & Winery Estate Lemberger http://ferovineyards.com or Zuccardi Q Malbec

Pierogies: This Polish specialty is a comfort food favorite in Western Pennsylvania. Pierogies are most commonly filled with either potato, sauerkraut, or cheese but they can be filled with any number of unusual stuffings. A sweet option to the traditional savory ones is Prune Lekvar. A testament to how beloved pierogies are in the fabric of the community is that the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pierogie race at every home game. I suggest pairing them with South Shore Wine Company Grűner Veltliner http://enjoymazza.com or Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewűrztraminer

Pizza: You can get anything from an authentic Neapolitan pie to the latest trendy gourmet creations seen on Instagram from a food truck these days. High temperature brick ovens have become the norm in food trucks so it calls for an equally impressive wine to complete your pizza adventure. Try Ripepi Winery & Vineyard Zinfandel http://ripepiwine.com or Menage-A-Trios Pinot Noir

Tacos: A mainstay of the food truck culture on the West Coast, taco trucks have developed a loyal following in Pennsylvania. When it comes to variety and originality you can always find something good at taco truck. I recommend selecting a Rosé or Blush. Consider these wines when doing your pairings. Greendance Isabella http://greendancewinery.com or Château ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé

Mac & Cheese: These trucks have filled a niche that has blossomed into one that provides choices not found in the mainstream trucks. When you have the chance please try some of what they are serving up because I think you will be happy you did. My wine picks here would be Narcisi Riesling http://narcisiwinery.com and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Chicken: Chicken is a blank canvas for the chefs in a food truck. They paint masterpieces using broad strokes of flavor and style. To keep up with their always evolving flavor palates you must pair them with wines that can handle a broad spectrum of spices and preparation methods. These wines are well-suited for that challenge. Winslow Winery Vidal Blanc http://winslowwinery.com and Bogle Vineyards Merlot

Seafood: Seafood themed food trucks offer more than just fish sandwiches. They run the gambit from lobster rolls to sushi. While not as numerous as other cuisine focused trucks, when you find one it will likely be a memorable alternative to standard food truck grub. These two wines are sure to please. Bella Terra Chardonnay http://bellaterravineyards.com and Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio

My last word to you about pairing wine with any food, not just food truck food, is to trust your instincts because you just can’t make a mistake. So get out there and get the most out of what the wine world has to offer.

I Regret Nothing!

After seeing how well a couple of my posts on Instagram (@rich_wpawinepirate_ ) were received I realized a lot of people were just as curious as I was about the wine they sell on QVC. I posted a bottle pix of Kevin O’Leary’s Malbec and Rosé. Like me, everyone had seen his wines being presented and wondered after listening to him hype the virtues of his wine if they might be an interesting wine to try. I know all too well the risks of buying “processed wines” as they are now being called. You might remember them as “industrial wine.” With that being said, this type of wine is widely distributed, readily available, and enjoyed by millions.

I ordered the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Malbec Argentina 2020 and the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Rosé Vintage 2019, to be exact. O’Leary wine is sold as groupings or as three bottles of a single variety. The wine arrived promptly, well-packed, and cost about $15 a bottle when purchased from QVC.

The Malbec has a light/medium body and wasn’t overly dry with “middle of the road” acidity. This wine is best suited for an evening of grilling on the deck with family and friends. Rosé was my favorite. It is a very drinkable wine with a lighter body and a touch of sweetness. The most noticeable feature of this Rosé is its inviting vivid color. Kevin mentioned in his sales pitch that it is a blend of seven grape varieties and you can taste that because no one variety stands out, it is truly a blend.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try some of “Mr. Wonderful” wine I would suggest starting with his Rosé. It is not a serious wine and can be enjoyed either alone as you relax at the end of the day or paired with lighter fare on a picnic in the country. You don’t have to over think these wines.

Till We Meet Again

Isabella Grapes Photo Courtesy: Double-A Vineyards

In my last post, I explored the idea that you didn’t need to try wine from far away places to experience something new. There are plenty of grape varieties that were commonly found on kitchen tables and being made into everyday wines have fallen out of favor for a myriad of reasons can provide an interesting distraction from the predictable narrative of today’s offerings.

Isabella is a Vitis labrusca grape that was once prized for it’s ability to produce fruit that was marketable as table grapes, juice, and grapes for winemaking. Isabella is a large round grape with dark purple skin and a green-yellow flesh that is easily separated from its skin.

In many European countries, Isabella is still banned from being grown and it is illegal to make wine from its grapes. The importation of Isabella vines from North America was widely blamed for the phylloxera plague that ravaged vineyards across Europe in the mid-1800s. Despite it being outlawed in many European countries Isabella can still be found in vineyards and being made into various styles of wine, especially in Italy where the sweet dessert wine Fragolino is very popular. Isabella’s reputation as a desperado has necessitated it being known by more than fifty aliases. Those names range from Alexander and Fragola to Moschostaphylo and Kerkyraios but no matter what name you have known Isabella by it always displays that trademark “foxy” flavor that Vitis labrusca grapes are known for.

Australian & South African Winemakers Need Your Help

Winemakers in Australia and South Africa are facing a crisis. Australia is embroiled in a trade dispute with China in which China has halted the purchase of Australian barley, most beef, seafood, coal, and yes,wine. By early December 2020 Australian wineries had lost 1.2 billion in sales. South Africa has banned all alcohol sales as it battles a resurgence of Covid-19. You can help by buying a bottle or two of Australian and South African wine when you visit your wine shop. This is a perfect opportunity to revisit an old favorite from these countries or explore something new, either way it’s a win/win situation.

                                                                       


 

Invitation To My Latest Article

I would like to invite you to view my latest article that was just published on The Vintner Project website vintnerproject.com It is a candid look at the Saperavi being grown and made in the State of New York. It includes intimate and insightful commentary from four legendary N.Y. winemakers, Fred Frank, President of Dr. Frank’s Wine, son of Willy Frank and grandson of Dr. Konstantin Frank, John McGregor, Vice-President of McGregor Vineyard and son of the founder Bob McGregor, Martha (Marti) Macinski, the founder and former owner of Standing Stone Vineyards, and Jim Baker, the founder, owner, and winemaker of Chateau Niagara Winery. This piece offers a truly unique perspective into the mystique of American Saperavi like never before. A “must” read for anyone interested in the future of emerging winegrapes in North America. Photos Courtesy: Dr. Frank Winery, McGregor Vineyard, and Chateau Niagara Winery. If you like the article please share. Link to article: https://vintnerproject.com/wine/saperavi-the-next-cult-grape/

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