Peace, Love and Fizzy Wine

During a recent mid-winter afternoon visit to Bella Terra Vineyards in Hunker, PA. I had the pleasure of talking with owner Jay Bell during one of the rare times when his trendy winery wasn’t bustling with activity. Jay walked behind the bar and over to a row of taps where he grabbed a brightly colored pull and filled a glass with his latest offering Hunker Hippie. The catchy name brought a smile to my face as did the bubbling wine in my glass and the thought process behind it. Hunker Hippie is a lower alcohol carbonated light red wine with 6% ABV and a hint of blackberry.

Jay and his team used a Piquette-style of winemaking to utilize the same grapes that were used to make several of BTV’s full-bodied wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Barbera grapes from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, California were re-passed and made into a light red wine that is the base wine for their Rosé Cider and Harvest Rosê Cider. This year Jay reserved 130 gallons of that wine to make his initial offering of Hunker Hippie. Hunker Hippie is the perfect wine for a warm summer day at the winery when you want to drink a refreshing light wine that won’t fill you up. It is on tap now by the glass but is also available in a growler at a great price. If you’re curious about Hunker Hippie don’t wait until summer to try it because this first batch is going fast.

First Cut is the Deepest

When I arrived at the farm on Deer Field Road in Mount Pleasant, PA

Beautiful & productive vines like these are the result of careful pruning. Photo courtesy of Greendance Winery

that Sand Hill Berries and Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill both call home, the windchill was hovering near O° and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Rick Lynn had invited me to his vineyard to show me how he uses the VPS (Vertical Shoot Pruning) technique to prune his Marquette vines. Vintners prune their grape vines every year to make them more productive and to control how the vine develops during the growing season. The trimming is done during the winter when the vines are dormant. Pruning is a cold and labor intensive job that is essential to the success of the current year’s crop but is also necessary for the training and development of the vines for the future. Rick demonstrated how last year’s growth is removed and two of the best canes are left to be bent and attached to the trellis wire. The vine shoots that grow from the cane that was tied to the lower trellis wire are then trained to grow upward by having them attach themselves to catch wires above the cordon wire (lowest wire). The vines proceed to grow upward in a vertical curtain with the fruiting zone below the canopy. On the day we were pruning a lot of old growth had to be removed because Marquette vines are known for their vigorous growth. Greendance uses the VSP method on all of their vines except the American varieties (Vitis labrusca).

VSP pruning is the most common pruning method for cool-climate wine grapes but it is by no means the only one. Rick and I discussed some new ideas for managing vines in the field. I found the practice of planting vines very close together, about two feet apart, then pruning every vine back to one cane and tying down that cane to the right one year then doing the same the next year but tying the one cane to the left and continuing to alternate direction every year.

Another intriguing idea is “Wild Tail” pruning. Wild tail pruning leaves all the buds on the lateral cane that is tied to the cordon wire so the end buds develop first and delays the budding of the lower buds to protect them from a late frost. After all danger of frost has pasted you walk the vineyard and clip off all the “Wild Tails” back to the number of buds you want on each lateral. I am extremely curious to see if these methods would be successful in a cool-climate vineyard.

The goal of my visit was two-fold and with the first part completed we now turn our attention to the second part, Greendance’s planting of Petite Pearl. If you haven’t heard of the Petite Pearl wine grape you’re not alone. This hybrid grape from renowned Minnesota grape breeder Tom Plocher is just beginning to take root in Minnesota, Wisconsin and across the Midwest where it’s cold tolerance is greatly appreciated. I will be posting about my barrel tasting of Greendance Petite Pearl soon.

 

Saperavi World Prize 2017 Results

Photo Courtesy: Hvino News

The results are in from the inaugural Saperavi World Prize 2017 wine competition in Tibilis, Georgia. There were entries from seven countries and several continents with the most samples being submitted by Australian wineries. The three Grand Prize winners were awarded either a gold, silver or bronze miniature “azarpeshas“, the ancient Georgian drinking cup. Congratulations to the winners and all the participants of the 2017 SapPrize.

     Tastings were held on December 15th in Tibilisi, Georgia at the headquarters of the International Chamber of Commerce. The competition is open to producers outside of Georgia who make wine from the Saperavi grape. Entry is free and judging is conducted by an international jury of wine experts. This event was not conceived to be solely a wine contest but to become a forum for wine makers to interact and forge new relationships where they could share information and experiences to advance the understanding and quality of Saperavi wine worldwide.

 

SapPrize Grand Prize winners received miniature “azarpeshas”

It is always challenging to plan an award ceremony of this significance. The SapPrize award presentation had to be rescheduled when the American Ambassador couldn’t attend because of the “Shutdown” of the U.S. government due to the budget bill failing to be approved.

     Grand Prize Gold: Cirami Estate 2015 Saperavi from Australia. “The Gold Azarphesha” was presented to David Kereselidze, Director of Department of Asia, Africa, Australia and Pacific Rim of Georgian Embassy in Australia, he will present it to the winner in Canberra. Cirami Estate isn’t a winery but a non-profit organization called “Riverland Vine Improvement Committee”.

     Grand Prize Silver: McGregor Vineyard Black Russian Red 2010 Saperavi from the U.S.A. “The Silver Azarpesha” was presented to Elizabeth Rood, Charge d’ Affaire at U.S. Embassy. The Embassy will deliver the award to winner John McGregor in the U.S.A. John McGregor commented ” We are so honored to receive such recognition. We planted these grapes in 1980 and were the first commercial producer in the United States. It is wonderful to see confirmation of my father’s belief that Saperavi could grow in New York and make world-class wine”. John also won Silver for his 2011 Black Russian Red and 

John McGregor holds two bottles of his award winning Black Russian Red Saperavi

Bronze for his Black Russian Red 2013 Barrel Reserve.

Grand Prize Bronze: Lagyl Arba Saperavi 2013 from Kazakhistan. “The Bronze Azarpesha” was presented to Gulmira Sultanali, Charge d’ Affaires of Kazah Embassy.

Congratulations to Jim and Kathy Baker owners/wine makers at Chateau Niagara in Newfane, New York for being awarded Bronze for their Chateau Niagara Kagor 2016 made with Saperavi  from their vineyard.                   

I would like to say “Thank You’ to Inge Olsson of Hvino News for including me in the SapPrize and I enjoyed working with you on this project.  For more information on the Saperavi World Prize and a list of all the participating wineries go to  sapprize.hvino.com           

Grand Gold Prize winner Cirami Estate Saperavi 2015 from Australia

Elizabeth Rood, Charged d’ Affaire of U.S. Embassy accepts Grand Silver Prize for McGregor Vineyard

 

Ain’t That America

     As my wife and I were enjoying a leisurely stroll down Pitt St. in Bedford, Pa on a beautiful autumn day in October when we happened upon Tod Manspeaker. Tod was standing outside of his tasting room taking in the sights and sounds of the 2016 Bedford Fall Foilage Festival. Tod was as friendly and hospitable as I have always found him to be and he invited us in for a tasting of his Briar Valley Vineyard wine.

Tod lead us through a tasting of some of his wines starting with the 2014 Lemberger that was just bottled the previous day. This wine showed solid red fruit flavors and a nice finish. B.V. Lemberger 2014 should round-out and be in great shape by the time summer arrives and you find yourself pouring it for your guests to complement those burgers, steaks and ribs hot off the grill.

B.V. Chardonnay 2011 is a crisp, straw-colored wine with traditional Chardonnay flavors of apple with a citrus note. This is a perfect pick for when you have friends over and want a light but delicious wine to pair with a platter of soft cheese and fruit, both fresh and dried. Consider including unusual options on your platter, like fresh figs, goat cheese, dried cranberries, apricots and one of my favorites, dates.

     The 2014 B.V. Cab Franc had the most complex taste profile of the wines we tasted that day and I liked it a lot. This wine had plenty of aroma and was full of cherry and berry flavors. Don’t be afraid to serve this with heartier fare because its true colors will always shine through.

     We have had several bottles of B.V. Riesling spanning several vintages so our expectations were high for the 2015 and we were not disappointed. B.V. Riesling 2015 has fresh acidity and flavors of stone fruit and citrus on the mid-palate carried in a light body with a touch of slate mineralality on the finish. Because Riesling is such a food-friendly wine you can enjoy it alone by the glass or pair it with just about anything you find on your plate. We poured the B.V. 2014 on Thanksgiving and it went well with the turkey and most of the side dishes.

You can find these fine wines at the Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery tasting room at 107 E. Pitt St Bedford Pa, as we did, or online at http://BriarValleyWinery.com   1126162134-1