The Milea Heritage Grape Project

I was pleasantly surprised recently to hear from my friend and mentor Steve Casscles. Steve is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of the Heritage and hybrid grapes of the eastern United States.He is well-known in the wine community for his articles, lectures, Grapes of the Hudson Valley and other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada book, and his Cedar Cliff vineyard where he cultivates over 110 Heritage grape varieties along with his own hybrids. Steve has taken a new position at Milea Estate Vineyard where he and the winemakers there have just launched the Heritage Grape Project. Steve and his colleagues are taking on the important task of identifying and promoting the production of wine from Heritage wine grape varieties and those developed during the 19th century in the Hudson Valley and Boston’s North Shore.

At Milea, they are also consider, at least for the Hudson Valley, that certain French-American Hybrids should be considered as Heritage grape varieties for the Milea Heritage Grape Project. This is because their introduction to the Hudson Valley in the mid-1950s by grape pioneer Philip Wagner, and his local proteges such as Everett Crosby, Mark & Dene Miller, Ben Feder, William Wetmore, Richard Eldridge, Cesar Baeza, and others fostered an explosion in the number of wineries in the area that made quality wine from these Heritage French-American hybrids. These Heritage grapes include, Baco Noir, Chelois, Leon Millot, Foch, Burdin, Le Colonel, and Chambourcin (reds) and for the whites Seyval Blanc, Vidal, Vignoles, and Verdelet.

With the effects of climate change already being felt here on the East Coast and throughout the wine growing regions of the world, the time to begin implementing long range solutions has arrived. The key to the future success of countless vintners globally may lay in these forgotten grape varieties whose adaptability could provide the answer to the dilemma of climate change in our vineyards. 

After Steve’s foreword on the goals of the Milea Heritage Project on http://www.hudsonvalleyheritagewines.com. I asked Steve to tell us about his vision and objectives for the project.

The goals of this project are to re-introduce to a national and international audience the significant contributions that the Hudson Valley has made to American horticulture and to encourage the cultivation of these heritage varieties to produce superior wines. Coupled with this effort to bring back these heritage grape varieties is the desire to promote the cultivation of such grapes because they can be grown in an environmentally sustainable manner. Steve Casscles

First, I am honored by Rich’s comments and posting about our exciting new project at Milea Estate Vineyards. I think you will soon hear more of our work to identify and promote heritage grape varieties, be they French-American hybrids, Hudson Valley or North Shore bred grape varieties of the 19th century, or new chance seedling grape varieties that we are working with to make quality wine. These quality wines will be made in a manner that is acceptable to the marketplace and which are highly fungus disease resistant, winter and summer tolerant of cold and heat, can roll with the punches that Mother Nature seems to be throwing at our growers, and are consistently productive, even in the most challenging of years. We will be posting information on our Project’s progress, and very much relying on Richard and his wonderful blog to post this information as well.  Be well.  

Thank you Steve for the kind words and for sharing this timely information with us. The Milea Heritage Grape Project is beginning its mission at a pivotal time for viticulture. It is critical to the success of this undertaking that its important message be heard and understood by the people who are most affected by the issue it seeks to address. I am including this link to the Milea Heritage Grape Project’s email sign up form at the bottom of their contact page so you can to receive news and updates from the project http://www.hudsonvalleyheritagewines.com/contact-us Please sign up. Thank you.

Photo Credit: Hudson Valley Heritage Wines

DeChaunac Anyone?

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

     If you have ever tasted or even heard of DeChaunac you probably have been to the Northeastern U.S., Nova Scotia or Ontario, Canada. DeChaunac is a French-American hybrid red wine grape developed by legendary French hybridizer Albert Seibel (1844-1935). This grape is also known as Seibel 9549 and is believed to be a cross between Seibel 5163 and Siebel 793. It was named after Ontario, Canada wine industry pioneer Adhemar de Chaunac, but in a strange twist of fate, may not be bottled as a varietal under Canada’s VQA system.

     When you first see DeChaunac your eyes will deceive you. After seeing this wines very dark and inky color in your glass you will be surprised by the light to medium body of such a dark wine. In my opinion a well-made DeChaunac will have a solid structure to carry complex flavors of black and red cherries, blackberry and prune with a bit of a musty nose.

     This wine can be blended with other wine to impart an “aged” characteristic but the blend must be kept at or below 7% or it can through the wine off according to J. Stephen Casscels, author of “Wine Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada”http://flintminepress.com

    Now that we have explored the heritage of the DeChaunac wine grape and discussed the wines made from it you might be curious about how it tastes. DeChaunac is not produced as widely as it once was but with a little research you can still find some excellent product.  Here are two examples of how a wine made from the same variety of grapes in different styles can yield wines with similar but unique characteristics. The following are two fine Pennsylvania grown and made DeChaunac.

Ripepi DeChaunac: Dry oak-aged red wine made in a Chianti-style with medium body displaying flavors of black fruit complemented by velvety tannins and a lingering finish.    

Ripepi Winery 93 Van Voorhis Lane  Monongahela, Pa http://ripepiwine.com

Narcisi 2015 DeChaunac: Slightly sweet medium-bodied wine with flavors of oranges, plum and cherries. Balanced acidity and a tart finish

Narcisi Winery 4578 Gibsonia Road  Gibsonia, Pa http://narcisiwinery.com

 

 

 

Cool Climate Grapes

     When I was in Monongahela, Pa recently I visited my friends at the Ripepi Winery & Vineyard. I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit because Rich Ripepi and Pete Abvulovic had just unpacked their new Hanna Total Acid and Ph machine for the lab and were setting it up. Rich said the vineyard had come though the winter in great shape. Today turned grape book1out to be my lucky day because Rich had a book he thought I would enjoy reading. Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada by J. Stephen Casscles. It is a comprehensive work covering every aspect of propagating cool climate wine grapes in the northern U.S. and Canada.

He approaches the subject from an expert’s point of view drawing upon his lifetime of experience in the Hudson Valley of New York. This publication can be viewed as the most in-depth account of the history of  hybridization of cool climate grapevines ever published. Casscles has cataloged the genetic heritage of an amazing number of hybridized grapes by the person or organization that developed them. I think you will be surprised to learn where the genetic material of your favorite grapes came from and why they exhibit the characteristics they do. You may also be disappointed to find out that there is no such thing as a pure strain of grape. The truth is they all have genes from other strains in their genetic profile. To prove this fact Casscles uses the example of the “pure” Chardonnay grape. Chardonnay is a combination of a Pinot

Title Page Signed by J. Stephen Casseles

Title Page Signed by J. Stephen Casscles

Noir clone and the bulk white wine/table grape Gouais Blanc.

This book is a must read for anyone growing or wanting to grow wine grapes in a cool climate region of North America. It provides the reader with an immense amount of information and has references to almost any information resource you may need. If you are looking for a handbook/field guide/reference publication for cool climate grapes this is the book for you.

Published by:  Flint Mine Press     http://www.flintminepress.com