Interview: Ulrike Platter, Director Castel Sallegg (Alto Adige, Italy)

Castel Sallegg is a family-run firm of winegrowers located in Caldaro, Alto Adige (Italy) that is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the winemaking culture of the region. With a storied history and a tradition of commitment to excellence, the von Kuenburg family has ensured the production of quality wines from Castel Sallegg for over a century. While the winemaking team has great pride in its past they are focused on the future and the challenges that must be navigated to maintain its high standards in all phases of the operation. 

For answers about how they are addressing these problems and what we should know about Castel Sallegg, I asked its Director Ulrike Platter to share her thoughts with my readers and me.

1. The wines of Alto Adige are famous for being able to express their terroir. What methods and technologies does Castel Sallegg employ to ensure this “Sense of place” is preserved in your wines?

“Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.”Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.

The Alps form a protective barrier against cold winds from the north, while the southerly Ora wind from Lake Garda has a mild Mediterranean influence. Our wines benefit from the cool downslope winds coming off the Mendola Mountains. The vines flourish here thanks to an average of 1,800 hours of sunshine per year and average temperatures of almost 17 degrees Celsius during the vegetation period.

The family-owned vineyards are located in 3 historical vineyards in Caldaro:

✓ Preyhof / vineyard Prey: 550 m above sea level and situated in the Caldaro district of Paese di Mezzo.

✓ Leisenhof / vineyard Leisenpuiten: 500 m above sea level. Central location in the village of Caldaro.

✓ Seehof/vineyard VIGNA Bischofsleiten, vineyard Nussleiten: 230 – 280 m above sea level. San Giuseppe al Lago, Caldaro.

Due to the vineyards, which range from 230-550 m above sea level, Castel Sallegg identifies the best conditions for each grape variety and tries to make optimum use of this diversity.

Best practice: Our VIGNA Bischofsleiten Lago di Caldaro scelto classico superiore DOC: VIGNA (What is a Grand Cru for the French is a VIGNA for the Italians and for us South Tyroleans.) guarantees our customers that the grapes for this wine come 100% from this vineyard. In order to preserve these 50-year-old vines, the vines that fall out due to age, illness, etc., will be replanted with our own clones.

The goal is to produce top-quality wines in harmony with the terroir we have.”

2. With Alto Adige containing so many different microclimates and growing conditions in its vineyards, have the vineyard managers noticed any changes as a result of climate change? If they have, what can you tell us about them and how are you planning for your future vineyard management? 

“Our vineyard manager noticed the changes, especially this year, which was hot and dry. Since Castel Sallegg is more of a red wine winery (we produce 58% of red wines) and we often had difficulties in the past years, with the red grapes, such as Lagrein, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon fully ripening, so 2022 was a great year for us.

In addition, 80% of our vines are 30-50 years old, which means that the roots are growing very deep to get enough water for themselves even in a very hot season. These vines are stable.

Problems can be seen in younger plants or new plants.

For this purpose, we invested in a project for the next few years, which will digitize needs-based irrigation. This means that the humidity of the soil is measured by soil sensors and the vines in different places were partially watered by a targeted system.

Since we have some vineyards on a slope and the vines get less water at the top by draining and the vines at the foot get more water we can irrigate more targeted and water-saving.

We have also noticed increased hail in recent years. For this reason, we will place our most important vineyards under hail nets in the next 2-3 years.”

Thank you to Ulrike for sharing her time and down-to-earth expertise in the mindset and operations at Castel Sallegg.

My review of the 2019 Castel Sallegg Lagrein will be posted soon.

All images Photo Credit: Castel Sallegg

Interview: Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist Erste+Neue Alto Adige Region, Northern Italy & Review: E+N Pinot Nero 2021

Erste+Neue is the product of the 1986 merger of two wineries that began in the early part of the twentieth century. Erste Kellerei and Neue Kellerei combined to form Erste+Neue. The two wineries moved forward as one with a commitment and determination to stay on the cutting edge of alpine winemaking. 

In 2018, Erste+Neue was awarded the prestigious international seal for sustainable viticulture by FAIR’N GREEN. The goals and standards of FAIR’N GREEN mirror the same deeply ingrained beliefs that guide the winemaking culture at Erste+Neue. Sustainability, protecting the environment, biodiversity, natural viticulture, and the protection of natural resources are the guiding principles that drive all decisions made at Erste+Neue. 

The wines of the Alto Adige Region are famous for being terroir-driven and their bias to a specific area of the region. I was curious to hear how the vineyard managers and winemakers at Erste +Neue balance the demands of preserving and integrating the “terroir” factor into their wines while balancing the needs of the local ecosystem with the standards of producing world-class grapes and wine consistently. 

Seeking answers to these questions and others, I posed them directly to a leading viticulture professional and Chief Enologist at Erste+Neue, Andrea Moser. The following is our interview published in his own words.

How does Erste+Neue approach the unique challenges that making wine in the Alto Adige present while still being able to produce the highest quality wines that display a “sense of place?

“Facing the challenges of climate change is becoming increasingly important in every wine-growing region of the globe, and in South Tyrol, too, it is no different.”

However, Alto Adige and specifically our area are at a great benefit with respect to this issue, in fact, our orographic situation is very particular. The vineyards start in fact with the red varieties at about 230 m.a.s.l. and arrive in just a few kilometers to elevations of about 700 m.a.s.l. where the white varieties find excellent ripening conditions. This large elevation range, combined with a constant south-to-north wind “the Garda Hour” and strong temperature fluctuations between day and night due to the mountains surrounding us (Mendola range), allows us to consistently obtain high qualities on both red and white grape varieties.

Ripe but fresh and elegant reds and whites with low pH, good acidity, crisp and fresh that perfectly embody the spirit of our territory and our vineyards located in the middle of the Alps.”

How has being FAIR’N GREEN certified complemented your winemaking practices and philosophy in both the vineyard and cellar?

“For us, sustainability and especially respect for the environment has always been a key point to consider during our work from vineyard to bottle.

Since we have been working with Fair&Green we have made this commitment measurable and have strived to improve our efficiency and sustainability a little more each year.

In the first year of certification, we scored 68 percent while we are now at 82 percent on the scale that verifies, measures, and evaluates our degree of environmental commitment. Today, having reached the fifth year of certification, we have made many steps forward, such as completely eliminating some synthetic molecules for the phytosanitary defense of the vines, eliminating chemical weeding by 92%, increasing the areas under green manure thus increasing biodiversity in the field, and introducing sexual confusion in the vineyard to combat certain types of harmful insects. All our wines can be considered vegan since we have not used any clarifiers of animal origin for several years now, only yeast derivatives. By now, all the facilities for the production of cold, compressed air and nitrogen are equipped with energy recovery to produce hot water. We have equipped ourselves with photovoltaic panels that can provide us with about 40 percent of the energy we use.

In terms of packaging, the biggest step has been taken by eliminating bottles that are too heavy. In fact, we have gone from 700/750-gram bottles to 500-gram bottles, reducing our CO2 footprint by a third.

The road to true all-around sustainability is still a long one, but we are very committed and determined to get there as soon as possible.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Klammer, Sales Director of Erste+Neue for his support because without it this article would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist of Erste+Neue for his time and candid insights into the ideology behind the winemaking mindset at E+N. I found his comments about how the culture at E+N and the environment are intertwined extremely informative because I hold a degree in nature conservation. The following is my review of Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021.

Pinot Nero is known internationally as Pinot Noir. Pinot Nero is an early-ripening grape with a thick skin that has the reputation for being a “Heartbreak Grape” variety because it requires a great deal of care in the vineyard thus making it difficult to produce a successful harvest consistently. 

Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021 is a sophisticated well-made wine that can be purchased at a very fair price. This Pinot Nero is ruby red in the glass and opens with the aromas of cherry & faint raspberry that is followed by the prominent flavor of cherries on the palate while smooth tannins and lively acidity are borne on the medium body of this wine. The finish is lengthy and agreeable.

CIAO! Stanley Tucci

CNN has canceled Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy and all of its original programming. But all is not lost because I heard Stanley tell Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that he was exploring the possibility of reviving the show on another network, whether it be broadcast, cable, or streaming. This was more than just a travel show that featured the traditional tourist attractions, and scenic vistas of the Italian countryside and coastline. This production had that special feeling one gets when traveling with a friend who knows all the best spots and interesting locals that really allows you to immerse yourself into the culture of each region you visit. Tagging along with Stanley Tucci I experienced the Italy that only Stanley could show me with his adventurous palate, wry smile, and that all-knowing look of his.

When I heard CNN wouldn’t be renewing a new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy I got that same feeling you get when the plane lifts off the runway on your return home from a great vacation. You know that feeling of joy in the memories you made but a hint of sadness because there was more to see and do.

With that said, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see Italy through Stanley’s eyes. If you are wondering where he went here’s a recap. Season One: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Tuscany, Milan, and Sicily. Season Two: Venice, Liguria, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Umbria, London, and Calabria.

Luckily for anyone who may have missed any or all of the episodes they are available through a number of media outlets that can be easily found with an internet search. If you have a cable subscription you can access all of the Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy episodes from both seasons for free by going to go.CNN.com/vod (http://go.cnn.com/vod) and find Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, click on it, and log in using your cable provider when prompted. I have found the Microsoft Edge browser works better for this site than Mozilla does for streaming its content.

All that is left to say now is Grazie di tutto, Stanley! 

Photos Credit: CNN Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

My Latest Michiganuncorked.com Article

I invite you to read my latest article “Field of Dreams” which was just published by michiganuncorked.com. It is about starting a vineyard and winery from scratch. It can be viewed by going to their website and clicking the “Read all about it” link under the “Winter Collaboration” heading. It will take you to their flip-page magazine https://issuu.com/userg123/docs/mu_-_winter_2022. It begins on page 8 or scroll down the page below the viewer window and it is also featured as an individual story just click on it. I hope you enjoy it. 

I wouldn’t have been able to write this story without the help of three successful winemakers that somehow found time to share their priceless advice on this subject. To Jim Baker Chateau Niagara, Jean Manspeaker, former owner of Briar Valley Vineyards & Winery, and Dan Matthies Chateau Fontaíne, I am truly grateful for your kindness and generosity. 

Frescobali Remole Toscana Rosso 2020

Frescobaldi Remole Toscana Rosso 2020

This Toscana is produced in Tuscany, Italy. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a lighter wine than many of the more complex and pricey Toscana bottlings from Tuscany.

Frescobali Rèmole Toscana Rosso 2020 is a balanced wine with its “middle of the road” approach when it comes to body, acidity, and flavor profile. With an approachable 12.5% ABV and bewitching scarlet red color in the glass, the faint aroma of berries leads you into the muted flavors of cherry and raspberry on your palate. It pairs well with lean red meat and pasta dishes with red sauce. Priced at less than $10 it is an excellent choice for a “weekday wine”

Days of Wine and Cheeses: Finale

Parmigiano-Reggiano is called by some “The finest cheese in the world.” Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in Italy from raw cow milk under strict adherence to a prescribed procedure. To harden the young cheese’s rind, it is left in brine for three weeks or more before being allowed to age from twelve months to three years. A wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano weighs eighty-five pounds and goes from an ivory paste color when young to an amber gold when mature. Don’t cut this cheese, use a blunt knife that will break it into chunks thus preserving its signature texture. You will need a medium to full-bodied red to pair with this cheese. Brunello di Montalcino, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel would be a great pairing.

Original Blue is a raw cow milk aged blue cheese made by the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and is the only blue cheese made in California. The morning milk is taken directly from the milking parlor to the cheesemaker where it is cultured, coagulated with rennet, and inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti. As the cheese ages, it develops the characteristic blue-gray veins that give blue cheese its name and distinctive taste. Pair a French Pinot Gris or dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes of New York. I have also found Champagne is an excellent pairing because it cleanses your palate. 

Manchego is Spain’s most famous cheese. It is made from raw or pasteurized sheep milk but most of Manchego today is made on an industrial scale using pasteurized sheep milk. You can find year-old Manchego at cheese shops in the U.S.  This aged version of Manchego has a firm dry interior that is ivory to light yellow in color. It is best served with something sweet to contrast its tangy salty bite. Quince paste is usually served as the sweet accompaniment. Manchego pairs well with a Rioja from its homeland of Spain. Think tapas on a beautiful evening in Barcelona when selecting a wine.   

I hope you enjoyed my posts on pairing wine and cheese as much as I enjoyed writing them. Cheers!

Photo Credit: Gourmetfoodstore.com, PointReyesCheese.com, and almagourmet.com

Review: Ménage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020

A few posts ago I wrote about mass-produced and widely distributed wines. To prove I just don’t “Talk the talk but walk the walk” I bought a bottle of Mènage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020 to review. This is one of the offerings from the immensely popular Ménage à Trois label of  Folie à Deux. Ménage à Trois is a St. Helena California winery. Mènage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020 is a blend of separately fermented Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Petite Sirah with a light oak flavor from the time it spent in French and American oak. “Silk” Soft Red Blend is a ruby red color in the glass with muted floral aromas followed by flavors of cherry and spice with both medium body and acidity. If you like a sweet light-bodied wine this wine is NOT for you. If you like a big California Cab this wine is NOT for you. If you want a red wine that is right down the middle in its body, fruit flavors, acidity, and economy priced then this wine is one you should take a close look at. I paired it with grilled steak and it was an acceptable match. I purchased it for $13.99 in Pennsylvania but it can usually be found for around $10-$15. http://menageatroiswines.com  

Review: Saperica 1st Annual Saperavi Festival Finger Lakes

On May 14, 2022, an event took place in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York that was a landmark moment in the history of Saperavi, not only for the future direction of Saperavi in the northeastern U.S. but for all of North America. While Saperavi has been on a steadily ascending arc for several years this gathering of Saperavi winemakers, growers, and enthusiasts will prove to be the catalyst that fuels Saperavi’s meteoric rise into the conscience of the American wine lovers.

Saperica http://saperica.org, the nonprofit founded by Lasha Tsatava and Erika Frey, held its inaugural Saperavi Festival at the iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery overlooking Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York. The one-day event was a sellout with more than three hundred guests enjoying winetastings and delicious traditional Georgian cuisine prepared by Chama Mama, a Georgian-themed restaurant from New York City. The trade and media portion of the festival drew over fifty participants that were greeted with opening remarks from Fred Frank and Saperica co-founder Erika Frey. Keynote speaker Lado Uzunashvili delivered a live virtual presentation on the importance of Saperavi that was followed by guest speaker Darra Goldstein (Flavors of Georgia). Both presentations can be viewed on Saperica’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUb_6pPRupQ Closing remarks were presented by Saperica co-founder Lasha Tsatava with a special thank you to Meaghan Frank for her tireless efforts to make the Festival a resounding success.

I ask some of the contributors to share thoughts and impressions about the festivities and their vision for Saperavi in North America.

Lasha Tsatava, Director @ Boston Sommelier Society and co-founder of Saperica Inc.

When we first started to tell the story of Saperavi and its connection to Georgian culture and the history of wine, we saw how people’s eyes lit up and we wanted to grow that feeling in FLX and beyond. At the Saperavi Festival’s Trade & Media event, I made it clear in the closing remarks, that our organization’s goals are, as a minimum, to make Saperavi a premier red grape variety in the Finger Lakes region and the ultimate goal is to build a Georgian Cultural Center with Marani (Georgian traditional cellar with qvevris) in Finger Lakes, NY. The 1st annual Saperavi Festival has reconfirmed the sensibility of these goals.

Fred Frank, President, and CEO of Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, grandson of wine legend Dr. Konstantin Frank & Meaghan Frank’s father

We were honored to host this first Saperavi Festival at our historic winery. I am sure Konstantin was looking down from the heavens with pride to see all the attention and acceptance that his beloved Saperavi was receiving from the hundreds in attendance. Konstantin was the first to plant Saperavi in the United States in the late 1950s in his vineyard above Keuka Lake. He was a big fan of this variety for its historic pedigree originating in Georgia and believed it would have a great future in the Eastern United States. Saperavi vines are cold hardy and the wines are of high quality with deep color. We look forward to the next Saperavi Festival and continued acceptance of this historic grape variety.  

Jim Baker, owner/winemaker of Chateau Niagara Winery, located on the Niagara Lake Plain, Newfane New York

My thoughts on the festival are quite positive. The media section contained two presentations featuring my good friend Lado Uzunashvili, and Darra Goldstein. Lado is an old friend and did a great overview of Saperavi in Georgia and the world, including history and all sorts of technical information on the grape in several world locations. He did a comparison of our winery and a Georgian location. Darra Goldstein presented a history of Georgian food and culture. Food was served up from Chamma Mama, a Georgian restaurant in NYC. It was truly a Georgian feast. We got to taste wines from a number of American and Georgian producers. It was surprising how well we held our own against some stunning Georgian producers. The afternoon consisted of more Georgian feasting and public tastings of wine. All in all a great celebration of Saperavi and Georgian culture.

Phil Plummer, Head winemaker at all three Martin Family Wineries in the Finger Lakes.

I attended the festival, but mostly on the technical/trade end of the schedule. I can’t speak to marketing impact and the like, but the viticultural and enological information shared in the trade sessions was really compelling. Saperavi is a very exciting grape variety for us in the Finger Lakes, but I think winemakers should be excited about this one on a global level, too. Saperavi exists at the intersection of past, present, and future winemaking. As one of the earliest-cultivated grape varieties, working with Saperavi gives winemakers an opportunity to connect to the past–walking in the footsteps of the countless generations of winemakers who came before us. At present, Saperavi’s unique versatility allows winemakers to experiment, making wines in a widening array of styles. Looking forward, Saperavi’s resilience and versatility position it as a grape variety to embrace in the wake of a changing climate. As a blending component or varietal, Saperavi rarely disappoints. From a culinary standpoint, its rich phenolic profile, bright acid, and unmistakable aromatics present exciting opportunities for wine and food pairing, particularly with the Georgian cuisine available at the festival.

Erika Frye, co-founder of Saperica Inc., CS, CWE & Diploma WSET

When I started discovering Saperavi in the Finger Lakes several years ago, I could feel that there was something special about this grape variety in this region.  There is a buzz that surrounds Saperavi which started off whisper-like but has now grown into a conversation that cannot be ignored.  The 1st annual Saperavi Festival came at just the right time to give this grape variety a clear voice to tell the story of its past, present, and future.  It comes at a time when Saperavi plantings are increasing in the Finger Lakes region.  We hope that these new producers will be able to use the Saperica organization and the Saperavi Festival as resources to find information about the Saperavi grape variety, learn about its Georgian heritage and connect with other Saperavi producers.

The most exciting thing about the festival for me was the ability to build connections.  We had a great partnership between the three festival hosts – Saperica, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and Chama Mama.  An impressive group of wine producers and wine importers were present from both the USA and Georgia.  Two experts in their fields shared their knowledge of Saperavi winemaking and Georgian cuisine.  Most importantly, there were about 250 festival attendees who were connecting with the wines, the food, the environment, and the people.  When I was able to stop for a moment and survey the amazing crowd of people who had come together to celebrate Saperavi, that is what made me feel truly proud – proud of the community that we are starting to build and what we will all be able to accomplish together in the future.

John McGregor, Vice President of McGregor Vineyard

The Saperavi Festival was a great introduction to Saperavi for many.  Its Georgian roots were presented wonderfully!  McGregor Vineyard was the sole producer of Saperavi in the United States for decades. Now the Finger Lakes is home to numerous Saperavi producers, and more are sure to come in the near future. This festival really felt like a validation of my late father, Bob McGregor’s steadfast belief that Saperavi was perfectly suited to grow in the Finger Lakes and could make some of the region’s finest and most respected wines.

Bryanna Cramer, Assistant Winemaker Standing Stone Vineyards

I felt like the event was a huge success for the region, seeing as it was the first annual and it sold out and had additional tickets added on. It felt like the overall vibe was excitement about the variety as well as a general curiosity about its potential here in the FLX. It was really beneficial to have vendors pouring various Saperavi from Georgia to have as a reference, as well as Georgians giving their genuine feedback on the wines being made here in the Finger Lakes. I think they were pleasantly surprised by the quality and authenticity that can be achieved. From the customer perspective, I think the majority are still discovering the variety, its characteristics, and its history but I see that as an opportunity to continue educating not only at events like this but also on-site at Standing Stone and the other wineries working with Saperavi. 

This event and those all involved proved that Saperavi has progressed from being viewed as a grape variety with the potential to make outstanding varietal wine here in North America to being acknowledged as a proven producer of high-quality wine in various styles. Saperavi will continue to evolve as new winemakers add their interpretations of how it can be made and the newly planted Saperavi vineyards come into production expressing the terroir of their increasingly diverse geographic locations.

Congratulations to everyone involved in Saperica’s Saperavi Festival in the Finger Lakes on its successful endeavor to gather Saperavi lovers and promote this ancient grape. A special thank you to Lasha, Erika, Fred, Phil, John, Bryanna, and Jim for taking the time to share their thoughts and insights about Saperavi.

Photos Courtesy: Saperica Inc.

More Wine For Less $$$

When I’m asked what is a good wine to buy I always ask what wine they like to drink? When they tell me their favorite wine I say “Then that’s a good wine for you.” This sounds very non-committal but I tell them this because a wine is only a good wine if you enjoy drinking it not because someone tells you it is a good wine but you don’t like it. Not enjoying a wine deemed a shining example of winemaking is not a judgment of your wine quality preferences but a measure of personal taste. The idea that a “processed” wine, you may remember as an “industrial” wine, can actually be enjoyed by millions of wine drinkers has sparked spirited discussions among wine lovers.

These widely distributed wines have to be mass-produced to accommodate the logistics of supplying every retail outlet that offers them for sale. Benefitting from the economy of scale wine conglomerates are able to make these wines readily available at affordable prices and in a mindboggling array of choices. This type of wine is produced in facilities that resemble an oil refinery more often than the small family-run wineries we are accustomed to visiting.

Marketing of wine is a complex procedure that relays on what a consumer is willing to pay for a product as opposed to its quality and production cost, take note that we are back to the perception of what is a good wine and who determines it. Most of the brands I am referring to fall into the $8-$25 range where the completion for sales is fierce. When you look at the bottles in this price range at the store it is easy to be fooled into thinking each is from an individually owned winery but the truth is that they are divisions of a handful of large corporations. E & J Gallo Winery has over 100 unique brands, you will be surprised to see just how many of their brands you recognize but didn’t associate with it. It is virtually impossible for a small winery to compete in this area of the wine market.

The corporations make the decisions on which of their brands are marketed to each consumer demographic and it is carefully produced to satisfy as many of the qualities that group of wine drinkers is looking for in their wine purchase. Depending on how and to whom the wine will be sold ultimately determines its ad campaign and if it gets put in a bottle, jug, box, can, or keg, well you get the picture. Due to certain unknown factors in these decisions, it is possible to find some very drinkable wines at bargain prices. The reason may be the vintages are better than expected and there are limited distribution channels to handle the excess wine. Just like those late-night TV commercials for warehouse furniture stores that tout the “Everything must go” pitch, winemakers often end up with more wine than they can sell. That is why you often find name-brand wines on the shelves of deep-discount retailers.

Just as the economy of scale can have a huge influence on the way wine is produced the clout of buying power has an enormous effect on how wine is sold. I live in Pennsylvania where the government controls all alcohol sales. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (P.L.C.B.) maintains a network of retail stores statewide and offers online sales through its website. The P.L.C.B. is the largest purchaser of wine in the United States and this gives them immense leverage when negotiating deals. The P.L.C.B. uses its Chairman’s Selection program to offer customers an ever-changing lineup of interesting wines at a discounted price. Wine is like any other product, in that getting it on sale is no bargain unless the quality is there. Doing your homework before you go wine shopping can be very helpful when you are cruising the aisles looking for a “GOOD” wine. Happy Hunting!

Photos Courtesy: Vivino.com

Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill Harvest Update

I recently checked in with Dr. Rick Lynn at Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill in Mount Pleasant Pennsylvania to see what was happening at his winery and vineyards. 

Greendance is home to one of the three young Saperavi plantings in Western Pa. and I was eager to hear how his young vines were progressing. Rick told me: 

“We had some early to mid-season powdery mildew on only the Saperavi and on none of others that included Kerner, Riesling, and Cab Franc, I personally used the same spray program on all and they were all in the same location.   This reduced the Saperavi crop but the plants recovered and ended the year appearing healthy. There was not a large enough quantity to make a reasonable sized batch. We had about 40# of Cab Franc with good ripening stats as were the Kerner numbers.”

I am patiently awaiting next year’s Saperavi harvest that will hopefully provide ample fruit to produce Greendance’s first vintage of Saperavi. I am also curious how Rick will be able to integrate Saperavi’s signature acidity and dark color into his wine making style to yield new and completely unique blends. 

Unlike the humans that tend to them, grape vines can’t contract Covid19 they only respond to the influences of their environment. I asked Rick to share his thoughts on this year’s harvest:

“Our overall hybrid harvest this year, as for everyone else, was exceptional and in the range of 15T. We had 2T+ of Petite Pearl and 3T+ of Frontenac Gris/Frontenac Blanc. Our farm red blend is Frontenac and Chambourcin and there were plenty of them.  Our wine for American grape lovers is Niagara softened with Louise Swensen and Aldamiina.

I addressed the recent stretch of sub-zero temperatures that had overspread the region and he had this assessment:

“Concerning of course but only for the trial vinifera planting and not the hybrids. This is a better test year for their graft and bud survival. The advantage this year is a gradual but full opportunity for deep dormancy and then steady cold to keep them there up to this point and probably at least for the next 2 weeks.” 

Every year has its own challenges and 2021 was no different but winemakers always find a way to meet those challenges and craft wines that express the very best each year has to offer. I look forward to tasting the 2021 releases from Rick and his team at Greendance Winery. For more information about Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill  please visit http://www.greendancewinery.com Photos Courtesy: Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill