Piece of Work

     If you are anything like me you love a good bargain. That is exactly what I found recently when I was browsing the “Chairman’s Selection” offerings in my local P.L.C.B. store. El Esteco Don David Reserve Malbec Calchaqui Valley 2016 was on sale for $9.99. Quite the bargain when you consider it has received a 91 point rating from James Suckling (June 2017) and 90 points and a “Smart Buy” from Wine Spectator (February 2018) plus several medals at international competitions.

This medium-bodied 100% Malbec displays flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum with an oak undertone, all in a well-structured wine. Surprisingly smooth tannins and a finish with a hint of chocolate rounds out this high altitude Argentinian Malbec.

Available at http://finewineandgoodspirits.com Product code 000078904 or in select stores. Check for store availability on website.

Rockin’ Down the Highway

     Just off Exit 146 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the foot of the Allegheny mountains lays the little town of Bedford. Nothing along the quaint business district in the center of town would give you any clue that something extraordinary is happening at 107 E. Pitt Street. That is the address of the tasting room for Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery, one of the best wineries in Pennsylvania. You might think that’s only my opinion of their classic European-style vinifera wines but I have a second opinion from someone with creditability greater than my own, Mr. James Suckling! Yes, you heard right, that James Suckling the world-famous wine critic.

     At a recent tasting of more than 800 non-West Coast wines Mr. Suckling gave Briar Valley Chardonnay 2016

Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay 2016

a score of 92 points calling it “Concentrated and fresh, this is an elegant cool-climate Chardonnay with bright lemon and herbal notes. Very long mineral finish.” Quite a coup for Tod & Jean Manspeaker owners/wine makers at B.V. Mr. Suckling went on to award B.V. Lemberger 2016 an 89 point score and B.V. Cabernet Franc 2016 87 points. These two Reds are among my favorite Pennsylvania wines. It is easy to see why Tod & Jean have recently expanded their winery with a new production facility because when you make wine this good you will need extra capacity.

You can find these wines and all the other quality wines that Briar Valley offers at their tasting room in Bedford, Pa, online at http://briarvalleywinery.com or at many fine dining restaurants around the state.

One Way Or Another

     Riesling has long been a stalwart for anyone frantically searching a wine list to pick a bottle that would pair well with everyone’s dinner. Riesling is hard to beat when you need a versatile food-friendly wine that can be easily found in styles ranging from sweet to bone-dry. In the past this varietal has labored under the misconception that the lower-quality sweet offerings that filled store shelves was the best this grape had to offer. This

Riesling Grapes

view of Riesling has begun to change as world-class Riesling are being added to restaurant wine lists, websites and store shelves worldwide.

     Riesling is a cool climate grape that has excels in rocky soils, like the ones found in the Rhine Valley and Mosel Region of Germany and the Alsace region of Northern France for centuries. Wine makers in the Columbia Valley of Washington, the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York have found great success with their Riesling vineyards. All three regions produce very good Riesling, each with its own special personality that is sure to please any wine lovers palate.

You could make a strong case that Riesling with its many incarnations is the most food-friendly of all wines, either red or white. It is the safe choice when following the rules for white wine by pairing it with seafood, chicken and salads. My favorite twist is to pair a sweet Riesling with spicy Mexican, Chinese or Thai cuisine. The extra sweetness cuts through the heat to give balance to your meal.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Dry: Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2016. (From a legendary FLX winery that received a Robert Parker Wine Advocate 90pt rating)

Off-Dry: Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling (A trendy favorite with a Wine Spectator 89pts)

Sweet: Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Riesling 2016 (Wine Spectator 87 pts and a bargain at $10.00 or less)

Conceito Contraste Tinto 2014

     Conceito Contraste Tinto 2014 is one of the Fine Portuguese wines from small family owned producers that is being offered by Silver Coast Imports. This Douro Valley old vine field red blend sports surprisingly firm tannins with red berry, plum and spice flavors showing nicely through mild oak undertone. 70% is oak barrel aged for 18 months. It was rated 89 pts by Robert Parker and 87 by Wine Enthusiast. Great to drink now and I see it continuing to improve in coming years.

http://silvercoastimports.com   email: cbento@silvercoastimports.com  267-236-4248

Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill

     It was a beautiful evening as we drove down the access road past row after row of

Photo Courtesy: Sand Hill Berries

manicured vines clinging to trellis on our way to Greendance Winery. We were driving through Sand Hill, a fruit and berry farm that is home to Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill. After parking in a nicely mowed field we were drawn to the winery by the music drifting through the trees. 

A crowd was lounging at tables spread throughout the patio area and it was easy to see why there was ongoing construction of an extended seating area to accommodate the ever-growing gatherings. 

Sand Hill was purchased in 1982 by Rick & Susan Lynn and Rob & Amy Schilling. When Rob asked if we would like to tour the facilities we gladly accepted. As we passed through different areas Rob described what function they served and some insight into the plans for the operation.

Tastings are free with the opportunity to do a tasting of all their premium wines for only $5. The Greendance premium wines are made from high quality grapes sourced from a grower in Eastern Pennsylvania. They are so particular about only using the highest quality Pennsylvania grown grapes in their premium wine that when the grapes are ready to pick they will sometimes send their own crews to harvest them.

Sweet wines are always the favorites at Pennsylvania wineries and it is no different at Greendance. Their Isabella is a blush that is on the sweeter side but is light in both body and alcohol. The soft and balanced structure of Isabella makes this easy drinking wine the perfect choice for a relaxing evening on the patio with friends. For the curious Greendance Winery has plenty of wine options for you to explore. The selections run the spectrum from red, white, sweet, dry, Rosé, blush, blends, Port, fruit and sparklers. An interesting new offering at the wine shop is Tango Red, a Greendance favorite, now being sold in a box.

Greendance Winery has a no outside food or alcohol policy but as my Australian friends say “No worries mate”because they have an excellent walk-up restaurant and a separate

Photo Courtesy: Greendance Winery

window that serves ice cream and desserts that are made on-site.

Sand Hill Berries and Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill are at 304 Deer Field Road Mount Pleasant, Pa. For more information please visit their websites.  http://sandhillberries.com  and  http://greendancewinery.com

 

New York City Wine & Food Festival 2018

     Tickets are now on sale for the 11th Annual Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival. The festival runs from Thursday October 14th, 2018 thru Sunday October 14th, 2018 at various event venues throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased at a discount in packages that group several events together over the length of the festival or individually to suit your own preferences. Last year the 10th Annual NYCWFF saw 47,000 guests celebrate the joy of food and wine with celebrities from every corner of the food world and this year’s line up looks even more exciting. The roster of over 80 events and numerous personalities appearing is simply to long to report here. I suggest going to http://nycwff.org to review the dates and times of all the events to construct a plan for your visit. It would be beneficial to click on “Personalities” and scroll through the lengthly list to see if your favorites will be appearing and plan accordingly.

If you can’t find the answers to your question on the website here are some other information options. General information: info@nycwff.org    Ticket questions: 800-764-8773.  Social media: @nycwff  on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Travel Tips: Finger Lakes Wine Region New York (FLX)

     For any wine lover the chance to take a short getaway to a wine region and enjoy all that it has to offer is something that is impossible to resist. So my question to you is “What are you waiting for?” Here is your opportunity to start planning a fun trip with that someone special or a lively outing with a group of friends and family.

My favorite wine region to visit in the northeastern U.S. is the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York (FLX). It is easily accessible to visitors from both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., as well as the Canadian provinces located just north of the Great Lakes.

The popularity of this area has grown exponentially over the past few years. Even with this growth the region has retained its charm and welcoming spirit. Even with this growth the region has retained its charm and welcoming spirit. While the wineries, vineyards and breweries remain the big draw one must not overlook the spectacular beauty of the eleven  Finger Lakes. Deep and ice-cold these lakes were carved out by glaciers approximately two million years ago. The countryside around the lakes is mostly rural and seems to be an endless session of family farms. Adding to the rustic atmosphere of the area are the numerous small family run businesses that run the gambit from artisanal cheese shops, handmade craft stores and Amish country markets. Always remember to show courtesy when you encounter a horse-drawn buggy on the roadways and please be respectful by not photographing members of the Amish community.

I have included a few suggestions to get you started on your FLX adventure. The real fun begins when you start exploring “Lake Country” because you will be making treasured memories as you discover your own favorite spots along the way. “Cheers and Happy Hunting.”

The two things that are essential for a successful visit to the FLX are a GPS and a plan. Since there are no bridges across any of the Finger Lakes you will be driving around the perimeter stopping at wineries as you pass them. Seneca Lake is 38 miles long, making it a 76 miles round trip. This is why it is advantageous to line up your stops in the order you come to them as you circle the lake. I am only going to say this once “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The Hampton Inn in Penn Yan is a new hotel on the northern shore of Keuka Lake. We have stayed there and I we always ask for a room on a higher floor overlooking the lake. It is a good location to begin your tour of the wineries of Seneca & Keuka Lakes.

The East side of Keuka Lake:

McGregor Vineyards is the home of John McGregor and his FLX cult wine Black Russian Red, the winner of a Grand Silver medal at the Saperavi World Prize in Tbilisi, Georgia. Ravines Wine Cellars is a landmark winery. Weis Vineyards was Limeberry Winery before a former Dr. Frank winemaker bought it and began making European-style wine. Schedule some time to look around Hammondsport ,it’s a nice little town. The scenic views from on top of the hill going up the west side of Keuka Lake are spectacular. Heron Hill Winery and Bully Hill Winery both have fantastic views from their cafés. Dr Frank’s Winery is a must stop when visiting the Finger Lakes. This is where Dr. Konstantin Frank started the Vinifera movement that changed the Finger Lakes wine industry. Dr. Frank’s grandson Fred and great granddaughter Megan run the operation. We had the pleasure to visit with Fred last summer. Fred is a genuinely nice man and if you see him please tell him Rich wpawinepirate said “Hi”.

Starting at Watkin Glen and going up the west side of Seneca Lake on Rte. 14 we have always stopped at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards. I think they are a premier Riesling producer. Fox Run Vineyard and Café is a mainstay on the western shore. Belhurst Castle is a landmark that is also an interesting winery, restaurant and hotel.

Coming back down the East side of Seneca Lake from Geneva. Ventosa Vineyard & Café is a beautiful Italian themed winery and café. 3 Brothers Wineries and Warhorse Brewing has three wineries and a brewery on the same property. Boundary Breaks Winery is a newer winery with good Riesling and nice lake views in the middle of several vineyards. It’s a little out of the way so bring your GPS. Lamoreaux Landing Winery has a great view from its tasting room. Wagner Vineyards and Winery, Brewery, Gift Shop and Restaurant is one of the best known FLX wineries. Standing Stone Winery makes excellent Riesling, Ice Wine and Sapravi. It was purchased by Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards last year and has just released their 2017 vintages. Finger Lakes Distilling produces spirits. The vodka and Grappa are favorites of mine. They also have a large vertical still that is worth seeing. Red Newt Winery is a classic FLX winery and café.

My recommendations:

Whites: Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and Chardonnay

Reds: Cab Franc, Saperavi and Lemberger

Sparklers: Dr. Frank’s Chateau Frank offerings

del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo is an exciting evening after a day of wine tasting.

 

 

 

      

Courtyard Winery 2015 Chambourcin

Courtyard Winery 2015 Chambourcin

     As we approached Northeast, Pa. during our recent visit to the Lake Erie Wine Region we were greeted by the obligatory downpour. Luckily, it was brief and by the time we pulled into the parking lot of Courtyard Winery the skies had already begun to clear. I had never been to Courtyard and was eager to taste their wines. The tasting room was very well designed with two bars, one for sweet and the other for dry. The classically styled wine library is decorated with wine barrels and the walls are covered by racks of archived wines. 

After tasting several of their dry Reds I decided on a wine that would be a perfect complement to picnic fare, Courtyard 2015 Chambourcin. This wine is barrel aged to help reduce the naturally high acidity of this grape. Courtyard 2015 Chambourcin is an easy drinking wine with red fruit flavors, light tannins and a smooth finish. Chambourcin pairs well with grilled meats or pasta with red sauce. The bright acidity and lighter body makes this Pa. Lake Erie wine similar to Pinot Noir in structure.

     Lake Erie Wine Country stretches almost 50 miles along the southern shore of Lake Erie between Harborcreek, Pennsylvania and Silver Creek, New York. On your drive you will pass through the largest grape-growing territory outside of California and the 23 wineries that call it home.        http://lakeeriewinecountry.org

Wine Library at Courtyard Winery

Wine Library at Courtyard Winery

2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon

     Occasionally someone will ask me for my thoughts on a wine pairing for a dinner party or a casual evening of grilling in the backyard with friends. I would always make the same mistake of only thinking about pairing the wine to the menu and budget. The problem with that approach is that I was overlooking the most important part of the equation, the guests themselves. 

I now consider who will be attending first before trying to choose a wine that will satisfy the criteria of both food pairing and budget. It is difficult to completely concentrate on the wine at these gatherings because there are so many distractions. With that thought in mind I attempt to please the most people I can by “Painting with a broad brush, using bold strokes”.

     J. Lohr is one of California’s more dependable large, mid-priced producers and one of my favorite go to wineries in situations like these. The 2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon is a solid choice in the settings I have described. 2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine that is not elegant but has enough character to fulfill the expectations of your guest. It is an easy drinking Cab from Paso Robles with mellow oak, medium tannins and cherry/blackberry flavors that evolve into a lingering fruit finish which is very typical of a Paso Robles Cabernet. Pricing in the $15-$20 range makes it an outstanding value for a wine of this quality. If you can’t find it in your area you should have little problem substituting another J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cab vintage as a replacement to fit your needs.

Are you planning a party and want to serve something new? J. Lohr can help with free recipe booklets which include wine pairings that you can download and print. Go to http://jlohr.com  click: “life”, then click: “entertaining”.

If you are feeling adventurous and have a few extra dollars to spend you might want to explore J. Lohr’s artisan Cabernet Sauvignon label “Hilltop”. Hilltop is a bigger Cab with a slightly higher price of $35. Like all J.Lohr wines it displays the benefits gained from J. Lohr practicing Bordeaux winegrowing techniques in their Central California Coast vineyards.

Food & Wine Festival Venice, Italy

     The inaugural Venice Food & Wine Festival will be held May 3-6, 2018 at the J.W. Marriott Venice Resort & Spa in Venice, Italy.  Exquisite grounds and private-island (Isola delle Rose) ambience provide the perfect backdrop for

Main Entrance J.W. Marriott Photo Courtesy: J.W. Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

guests to indulge their epicurean curiosities with cooking demos, tastings and culinary-themed events while interacting with celebrity chefs. Notable names from the world of food, wine and spirits will guide attendees on unforgettable adventures. Among the internationally-renowned collection of chefs scheduled to appear are: Giancarlo Perbellini, Melissa Kelly, Scott Conant, Jonathan Waxman, Anthony Giglio and T.P. Fetherston, to name a few. 

Photo Courtesy J.W. Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

Tickets and accommodation packages are available at jwvenicefoodandwine.com now thru February 9, 2018 via an exclusive pre-sale to American Express card members before going on open sale.

If you are contemplating a visit to Venice this would be a unique opportunity to experience the luxurious J.W. Marriott Venice Resort and Spa with its Michelin-starred Dopolavoro restaurant, Sapori Cooking Academy and yes, resort-grown olive oil. Access to the heart of Venetian culture with all of its Old World treasures and local Vento traditions is only a short boat ride away. 

Photo Courtesy J.W. Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

 #jwveniceFW    #jwtreatment