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 Ripasso 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.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc but sometimes want a wine with a little more body and complexity then you should try Grüner Veltliner. Grüner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria and has evolved almost entirely as the result of natural hybridization over time in the region. It is a white Vitis vinifera grape also called Grûner Mushateller but is better known by the colloquial name “Grūner”. Grüner Veltliner is a versatile grape that can be made into a wide variety of wines ranging from light and easy-drinking to rich and packed with varietal character. Grüner vines have medium-sized leaves with 5-7 lobes. It’s grape clusters are medium to very large conical clusters of medium density with round or oval greenish-yellow berries. These vines have adapted perfectly to the wet mineral-rich loess and loam soils of the lower vineyard sites near the Danube River. The lots higher up the hill are planted with Riesling. The rocky soils of these sites force the Riesling to struggle to survive but result in a wine that has concentrated flavors and complex taste profile. This farming practice utilizes the attributes of the land and yields the best grapes possible from the prevailing conditions. Although the largest plantings of Grüne Veltliner are in Austria and surrounding countries it has been dispersed throughout many of the wine regions of the world. While most Austrian Grüners are dry, full-bodied and acidic with flavors of citrus fruit, spice, and white pepper you can easily find others that are weightier with a more structured body that requires years to reach maturity in the bottle.
If you haven’t tasted Grüne Veltliner and you’re curious about where to start I would suggest trying a few from Austria first then expand your search to
The United States and Italy to find good Grūner at very reasonable prices. Here are a
few to get you started on your journey.
AUSTRIA: Singing Grūner Veltliner 2017 Niederösterreich, Austria or Domane Krems Grüner Veltliner 2018 Kremstal, Austria
With Thanksgiving only a few days away the question of what wine to serve at dinner looms as large as the Garfield balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Over the years the traditional menu for this holiday has evolved for many but the problem of what wine pairs well with everything remains. The answer is that no single wine pairs well with everything. The solution: Buy several different wines and buy more than enough of each without going over your budget. My advice is the same as it would be if you were going bowling, ” Just roll it down the middle”. Here are four suggestions that will certainly score you some points with your friends and family this holiday season.
Loosen Dr. L. Riesling is a great introductory German Riesling from Mosel. It’s not
too dry or too sweet classic style means this low alcohol (8.5%) Riesling pairs well with a Thanksgiving dinner and @ around $13 it won’t “Break the bank”.
Leonard Kreusch-Zeller Schwarze Katz Riesling. This is a very approachable Riesling from a legendary German producer in the Mosel river village of Zell. Fruity, crisp and easy to drink. You can find it for around $10 a bottle so stock up
South Shore Gruner Veltliner is an excellent
Pennsylvania Lake Erie Wine Country wine. Fresh aromas and bright acidity make this a very food-friendly wine and a bargain at around $13.
Breitenbach Cranberry wine is both sweet and tart. This wine is always a hit especially with your guests that usually don’t drink wine. These seasonal
offerings can be a little hard to find but worth the extra effort. You should be able to find one of these seasonal wines in the $15-$20 range.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and may the good things of life be yours in abundance, not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the coming year.
You may have heard the term “Bottle Shock” and didn’t know what it is or what causes it. Bottle shock refers to a condition when wine exhibits symptoms from getting too much air mixed into it in a very short time. When this happens the wine will lack character in all respects.
This condition normally affects wine during the bottling process. Bottling is the most common cause of bottle shock because wine can easily absorb more oxygen than normal while being moved to a bottle and become saturated. Rough handling of bottled wine can also result in bottle shock because shaking the bottle can also mix air into the wine.
The good news is that bottle shock is temporary. After a few weeks of rest the ill effects will subside leaving the wine to not only recover but develop into a more complete
wine than it was before the extra oxygen was introduced. The reason for this fortuitous transformation is that wine needs oxygen to age but it needs it added very slowly. Natural corks are perfectly suited to do this because air can penetrate them in such minuscule amounts that the oxygen can be gradually absorbed by the wine and not be overwhelmed by it causing the aging process to get out of balance.
If you are patient with a bottle you think is suffering from bottle shock you will be rewarded for your patience with a wine that is better than it was before it got “SHOCKED”
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.
The 2015 Seven Springs Wine Festival will be held August 28th through the 30th at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort Champion, Pa. With paid admission you can enjoy complimentary tastings from 31 Pennsylvania wineries with your free souvenir wine glass along with wine-themed seminars, live musical entertainment and other interesting attractions. A 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday night session has been added this year in addition to the regular 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. hours on Saturday and Sunday. More information and the option to buy tickets can be found at the Seven Springs Resort website. www.7springs.com/events/wine-festival/
I talked with Chuck Zaleski of Fero Vineyards & Winery in Lewisburg, Pa recently and got the inside story on “What’s New” at his winery. When I asked about the 2014 harvest his voice filled with pride and excitement saying it was a record year in both quality and quantity. The harvest was so good that he even sold some grapes this year. It is a good thing that his vineyards are producing extraordinarily well because Chuck was planning on sales growth of 20% last year but it came in at 30%. This year he will hold growth to 20% because his focus is always on the quality of the wine being maintained and improved. Fero is the only producing Saperavi vineyard in Pennsylvania and Chuck’s plan is to double his acreage of Saperavi grapes as soon as he can acquire the vines.
Fero will be adding three new sweet wines to the menu this year. The apple, cherry and peach wines will be made from the same Grüner Veltliner grapes grown in their vineyard that produced a Double Gold medal winner at the 2015 Pa. Farm Show. Chuck makes great sweet wines but his real passion is for his excellent dry wines. The judges at the 2015 Pa. Farm Show awarded Fero Vineyards & Winery 8 medals, they are: Double Gold: Grüner Veltliner , Gold: Pinot Gris, 3 Silver: Reisling, Pinot Noir and Saperavi and 3 Bronze.
This year’s fund- raising schedule is nearly full with only a very few dates still available. New this year will be the Wine-N-Mile on May 29th. This event is similar to a Beer-N-Mile where runners race a figure 8 course through the vineyard stopping at six stations to drink 2 ounces of wine at each. After the race guests are invited to stay for live music and the summer “Happy Hour” kickoff.
If you would like more information about Fero Vineyards & Winery wine or events visit www.ferovineyards.com or call 570-568-0846