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

Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine 2019

When Jim Baker started his winery he didn’t set out to just make good wine but to make great wine in a traditional French style not only for New York but for anywhere.He has been doing just that since the beginning at his Chateau Niagara Winery with his award-winning wines featuring his signature Cabernet Franc. Sometimes you have to explore an avenue of innovation when it presents itself in the form of an interesting twist on a classic Italian wine making style. Jim developed an entirely new method of wine making that he uses to produce his Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine. Riesling Rosine is a totally new take on Riesling that has to be tasted to be understood. Jim uses a modified appassimento method that he invented to dry his Riesling grapes to the point of them becoming raisins, hence the name Rosine. He chose the name with a tip of the hat because it sounded Italian but is the German word for raisin. 

Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine 2019 is an off-dry Riesling with bright acidity and balanced sugar that produces a creamy mouthfeel that I found to be surprising for a Riesling. The flavors start with citrus but shift to tropical fruit as a result of botrytris doing its thing during the drying process. You can purchase Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine and other Chateau Niagara wines online at http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com

Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020

Jim Baker is a visionary when it comes to the wine he makes at his Chateau Niagara Winery located on the Niagara Plain near Lake Ontario in Newfane New York. Jim isn’t afraid to think outside the box or even outside of North America when it comes to the grapes he grows, styles of wine he makes or even the techniques he uses in the cellar. Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 is a perfect example of a blend of two well-known white grape varieties that yield a surprising unique wine when they are made using centuries-old methods from the fabled cradle of wine making. 

Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Riesling with a R.S. of nominally 0 and an A.B.V. of 12%. Everything from how this wine is made, to the fascinating character these two highly stylized grapes yield when blended together using a process almost exclusively reserved for red grapes is far from the common place. Du Monde 2020 must be tasted to be understood but don’t wait because only twenty three cases were made. I asked Jim to explain how he makes Du Monde so we can appreciate the nuances of his wine.

“Du Monde is a wine made as a Georgian style white. These wines are traditionally skin fermented in clay amphora called qvervi for long periods of time. We did not use a qvervi, but we did a long skin maceration of eight weeks. This is similar to red wine making technique and results in a wine with many red wine characteristics such as deep color of amber rather than red. The skin tannins and phenols that give a sense of drinking a red wine, with a white wine finish. Our Du Monde is a 50/50 blend of Riesling and Chardonnay making a unique and promising blend. The combination yields a certain spiciness that is not apparent in either grape variety. This results in Du Monde pairing fantastic with all sorts of Mexican food.”

It would be correct to say this wine is a simple 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Riesling but that is a much too simple description. It would be better to use the analogy of two perfectly matched dance partners where neither one outshines the other so you can enjoy their performance in its entirety. Chateau Niagara Du Monde 2020 opens with notes of candied fruit leading into flavors of melon and tropical fruit followed by a medium finish with a tinge of lemon peel. This wine is perfectly balanced and displays a deep amber color in the glass. 

All of Jim Baker’s wines can be purchased online at http://chateauniagarawinery.com and by visiting or calling the winery at 2466 West Creek Road Newfane NY 716-778-7888

Time After Time

You might be familiar with the name Meiomi from its immensely popular Pinot Noir, That Pinot has the dubious honor of being deemed “drinkable” in the controversial 2/4/2019 New York Times article by Eric Asimov titled “Supermarket wines are poured, and worlds collide.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/dining/drinks/wine-school-grocery-store-wines.amp.html In his article Mr. Asimov named three “processed” wines, as he called them, to show the divide between how the consumption of wine is viewed between two distinctly different groups of consumers. He used Apothic Red Blend, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and The Prisoner as examples of wine manufactured and marketed to the masses as an industrial product while another smaller group of wine consumers are targeted by the producers of wine that is made in small batches and is an artisanal agricultural product. He also mentions a third even smaller group of wine drinkers who can appreciate and move between both groups. I am a member of that group. While I can enjoy wine from both of Eric Asimov’s groups, I must be careful when recommending a bottle that is in limited distribution making sure it can be found in traditional distribution channels. 

Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 is widely distributed and is very affordable with a price tag under $20. This California Chardonnay is made to check as many of the boxes that Chardonnay drinkers are looking for as possible. It is a blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, and Monterey County. Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks and underwent 100% malolactic fermentation before being aged with French oak. This is not a bone-dry California Chardonnay but has a little sweetness to it, along with flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla followed by a buttery finish.

Meiomi Chardonnay is a crowd-pleaser because it is made to appeal to the broadest range of tastes while maintaining consistency from year to year. If you are planning a gathering where the majority of your guests are casual wine drinkers, I think serving a popular mass produced wine is a wise choice. It is better to be throwing out empty wine bottles than to be pouring half-full glasses of wine down the drain. 

Savage Wines Release 2021

Savage Wines of Salt River, Cape Town South Africa has just announced the 2021 Release of their premium wines. South Africa has a diverse and intriguing offering of wine that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. The legendary Duncan Savage is one of the elite winemakers that are writing a new chapter of winemaking in South Africa with bold and refreshing interpretations of classic South African grape varieties. I am truly appreciative and humbled by this personal note Duncan included as a foreword for me and my readers. Thank you, Duncan.🙏. 

“My path and that of Savage Wines has been shaped by all the incredible people I’ve met along the way. Richard Rocca is one of those people. Rich took an interest in what we were up to long before many others noticed and we’ve had contact every year since. Thanks for all the encouragement and feedback Rich!”

This year’s release is made up of wines from the 2020 vintage with one 2019 in the form of the Savage Red.

2020 offered a fairly moderate growing season with many of the vineyard parcels returning to almost normal crop levels with the exception of Savage White. We see a welcome return of ‘Never Been Asked To Dance’ and ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ to the range, two great examples of Chenin across a spectrum of styles.

The harvest ran pretty smoothly with good ferments and beautiful fruit-forward aromas, all was on track for a pretty normal end to the season. Covid unfortunately arrived and a lot of uncertainty lay ahead for all of us in the wine industry due to the lockdown restrictions. As a result, many of the 2020s spent more time on skins than usual.

The irony is that adversity often brings out the best. We have planned longer skin contact for years and it was Covid that forced our hand. The Reds offer all the perfume one expects from the varieties with a touch more grip and precision. Elegance and purity however remain the cornerstone of our wine philosophy and this year’s release is no exception. While accessible now, the range will deliver for many years to come, ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ in particular is in no hurry.

Thanks very much for your continued support, wherever you are in the world!

All releases are listed below. Please scroll down to view.

Scroll down to see all of this year’s releases

United States – Broadbent Selections broadbent.com United Kingdom- swig.co.uk Japan- raffinewine.com Australia- paramountliquor.com.au Canada- (Ontario) lcbo.com (Quebec) saq.com Hong Kong wineimpala.com

Winemaker Duncan Savage

All Photos Courtesy: Savage Wines

Tips For Choosing Wine From A Wine List

If you lack confidence when ordering wine from a restaurant’s wine list you are not alone. You should never be intimidated by wine because wine should be fun and an opportunity to learn. Keep it simple and don’t get caught up in what you don’t know but have an open mind to any interesting suggestions that are offered. While many people fall back on the same old selections or point to a bottle and hope for the best, you can do better with a little preparation. Here are a few tips I learned from a sommelier that will help them find you the best wine for your dining experience.

First and foremost, be honest and engaging when asked about your preferences. Tell them the body and style you like because a restaurant invests a lot of money to have a sommelier help you make the wine selection process more enjoyable so take advantage of their knowledge. Here’s a tip that will get the best wine available for the price you want to pay. Simply point to a bottle on the list with the price you are willing to pay and say “I have had (wine name) before but I would like to try something different”. This will let the somm know what you are willing to spend and they can guide you to a bottle in that price range. After you make your selection the somm will retrieve your bottle from the cellar and open it tableside. They will present the cork to you but this is purely ceremonial and there is no need for you to either touch or smell it. Next, they will pour a small sample for you to taste. This sample is for you to check for flaws not to see if you like the wine. If it is acceptable give them a small nod and they will begin serving your dining companions with you being served last. One last tip, during your initial exchange ask your sommelier if there are any wines they are excited about. This allows them to share hidden gems now that they know you share their love of wine.  

Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com

Far From The Shallow

Let’s play a game. Close your eyes and imagine your favorite Italian winemaking region. Next, conjure up images of its beautiful landscapes, vineyards, and signature architecture. Finally, remember how wonderfully the wine reflects its terroir and expresses the true characteristics of the land. Now, open your eyes and tell me was it Alto Adige? No, then let me tell you about this spectacularly grand alpine province which includes parts of the Dolomites and is also known as South Tyrol. This enchanting Italian wine region is nestled between Switzerland to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria to the east.

 Alto Adige is home to Elena Walch wine estate. The Elena Walch wine estate is among the elite of Italian

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wine producers and has been the standard-bearer for quality and innovation under the guidance of Elena Walch and now her daughters Julia and Karoline. The estate’s philosophy toward winemaking has always been defined by its dedication to the land and terroir. Elena Walch wines are a direct expression of their soil, climate, and care in the vineyard. The disciplines of sustainability and care for the land are strictly adhered to and passed down to future generations. Julia and Karoline Walch have steadily advanced and evolved the viewpoint of their mother since taking over as General Managers of the estate in 2015. 

I recently had the opportunity to ask Karoline Walch about how they are carrying on that commitment to excellence and how you can taste it in their wines.

Elena Walch wines have always been faithful to the ideology of respecting the land and the environment so your wines are a direct reflection of the terroir. How do you see your commitment to that principle manifest itself in your wines?

Since the beginning, my mother wanted to produce wines that are a true reflection of a single site. Our two most important single vineyards are the Vigna Castel Ringberg and the Vigna Kastelaz, both very distinct and unique sites. With a combination of limestone soils and its microclimate given the lake influence, the vineyard Vigna Castel Ringberg is farmed sustainably to best adapt to the characteristics of the site. It is finally the salinity and depth that distinguishes it from many other wines within that category. The Vigna Kastelaz, on the other hand, is one of the very few vineyards facing completely South, and hence, benefitting from very sunny and dry growing conditions. Not only, it is extremely steep and due to its proximity to the Mendola mountain ridge, the temperature fluctuations are huge. This allows us to develop the primary aromas to the full spectrum, yet retaining the acidity. Not surprisingly, this is our icon site for Gewürztraminer. Finally, to further highlight the importance of those two vineyards, since 2014 our wines that grow on those two sites, carry the prestigious denomination of Vigna –  It is an additional mention of a smaller geographical origin and designs the smallest historical/geographical unit of a vineyard. Every single Vigna must be officially admitted and registered within the regional government. It expresses the ultimate thought of terroir philosophy with the idea of a parcel wine from an exact plot and hence having a historical or traditional name.

How does your state-of-the-art fermentation cellar help you in accentuating all the unique terroirs of your diverse vineyard sites?

Our estate’s philosophy is inherently connected to terroir – the idea that the wines are an individual expression of the vineyard’s soil, climate, and cultivation. We start with quality in the vineyard, but the way the grapes are handled at the winery is an important step in how the finished wine expresses its sense of place. Our new, high-tech cellar allows us to be flexible and adjust to the requirements of both single vineyards and individual varieties. 

With the new cellar, there are three important changes: the option between whole-berry or whole-bunch fermentation; the strict use of gravity to process the grapes as gently as possible; and four different points of quality control before the grapes reach the fermentation tanks. The aim is to create wines that have more structure, more fruit, and soft, supple tannins with great aging potential while being more elegant and refined at the same time. KW

Elena Walch set sail into uncharted waters when she built her winery on the idea of producing the highest quality wines that are terroir-driven and sustainably grown. Her daughters, Julia and Karoline, are continuing the journey she started but are always adding their own contemporary interpretation to their winemaking.

We can talk about how Elena Walch wines express their terroir and how producing wine sustainably can be tasted and experienced in a tangible way but it is impossible to truly understand what Elena Walch wines are like without tasting them for yourself. I feel quite confident that after reading Karoline Walch’s perspective on how she approaches making wine that you have a desire to taste her wine just to see for yourself why it is so special. The only question that remains is which one to try first. Luckily for us, Elena Walch wines are superior wines so you can’t make a mistake. Since Alto Adige is the northernmost region in Italy the Germanic grape varieties tend to be prevalent but that is to be expected since it is so close to Germany that 70% of its population speak German while only 25% speak Italian. Elena Walch is known for its white wine, which includes their popular Gewürztraminer and “Beyond The Clouds” but their reds are also top-notch.

When I explore a wine region I am always curious about the wine made from its indigenous grape IMG_3843_Originalvarieties. When I looked at Alto Adige, Schiava caught my eye. Schiava is an indigenous grape varietal often associated with the region. Schiava typically produces an aromatic light but acidic red wine that is highly versatile when it comes to food pairings. Elena Walch Schiava is a solid choice because it ranks high in quality and taste for this varietal. Elena Walch Schiava 2019 has a cranberry color, mild tannins, and bright acidity with flavors of red fruit and Schiava’s signature tinge of bitter almond on the finish. It is best when served between 60-65ͦ F/16-18ͦ C. This wine pairs well with Mediterranean fare and pasta. 

Elena Walch wine estate is only one of the extraordinary wineries in the Alto Adige region of Italy that are

eager to share their enchanting culture and remarkable wines with you.  

Photo Credit: Elena Walch

Till We Meet Again

Isabella Grapes Photo Courtesy: Double-A Vineyards

In my last post, I explored the idea that you didn’t need to try wine from far away places to experience something new. There are plenty of grape varieties that were commonly found on kitchen tables and being made into everyday wines have fallen out of favor for a myriad of reasons can provide an interesting distraction from the predictable narrative of today’s offerings.

Isabella is a Vitis labrusca grape that was once prized for it’s ability to produce fruit that was marketable as table grapes, juice, and grapes for winemaking. Isabella is a large round grape with dark purple skin and a green-yellow flesh that is easily separated from its skin.

In many European countries, Isabella is still banned from being grown and it is illegal to make wine from its grapes. The importation of Isabella vines from North America was widely blamed for the phylloxera plague that ravaged vineyards across Europe in the mid-1800s. Despite it being outlawed in many European countries Isabella can still be found in vineyards and being made into various styles of wine, especially in Italy where the sweet dessert wine Fragolino is very popular. Isabella’s reputation as a desperado has necessitated it being known by more than fifty aliases. Those names range from Alexander and Fragola to Moschostaphylo and Kerkyraios but no matter what name you have known Isabella by it always displays that trademark “foxy” flavor that Vitis labrusca grapes are known for.

Homeward Bound

If you have followed this blog you know that I’m fascinated by uncommon wine grapes and where they are being grown by innovative vintners. I usually write about grapes that originated in other parts of the world but today I’m writing about a grape that was developed in the United States and is widely planted in my home state of Pennsylvania.

Traminette was created in 1965 at the University of Illinois by crossing the Vitis vinifera grape Gewürztraminer and the French-American hybrid grape Joannes Seyve 23.416. It was originally created as a white table grape but was then found to possess qualities that make it favorable for making wine. The result was a grape with a complex flavor profile, good productivity, resistance to cold temperatures, and versatility in the cellar. Traminette produces a straw-colored wine that has an enticing floral aroma and flavors of apricot, honey, and to a lesser extent, tropical fruit. I had the pleasure of tasting Traminette juice as it flowed from the press at Ripepi Wnery & Vineyard Monongahela, PA. It was bright and had a depth of sweetness with a flavor that is hard to describe. Traminette is most often made in a dry to off-dry style. I like both styles but prefer the off-dry wine when enjoying a day at the winery with my friends.

Traminette can be found throughout Pennsylvania but is most heavily concentrated in the southeastern and northcentral regions.

Australian & South African Winemakers Need Your Help

Winemakers in Australia and South Africa are facing a crisis. Australia is embroiled in a trade dispute with China in which China has halted the purchase of Australian barley, most beef, seafood, coal, and yes,wine. By early December 2020 Australian wineries had lost 1.2 billion in sales. South Africa has banned all alcohol sales as it battles a resurgence of Covid-19. You can help by buying a bottle or two of Australian and South African wine when you visit your wine shop. This is a perfect opportunity to revisit an old favorite from these countries or explore something new, either way it’s a win/win situation.