Toasting the New Year with Ruffino Prosecco

We rang in the New Year not with a French Champagne made in the Méthode Champenoise but an Italian Prosecco. The prosecco was the affordability priced (under $15) Ruffino Prosecco. Ruffino is best known for their hugely popular Chianti but they also make a very enjoyable prosecco. 

Light yellow in the glass with more than adequate effervescent small bubbles and the flavor of fresh grapefruit. It is not overly dry and with an 11% ABV Ruffino Prosecco is a good option when planning any event from a brunch to a celebratory toast, as we did. 

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. 

IL Burchino Toscana 2015

Tenuta di Burchino IL Burchino Toscana 2015 is a red blend of 85% Sangiovese 10% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Merlot from the hills of Pisa in Tuscany, Italy. 

James Suckling gave it 92 points saying it was “Perfumed with dark fruits, orange blossoms, and cherries following through to a medium body. Integrated tannins and just a hint of vanilla. Long and linear.” 

Quoted initially at $40 it is now available at P.L.C.B. stores in Pennsylvania as a “Chairman’s Selection” for $12.99. This is a bargain price for a wine of this quality. IL Burchino Toscana 2015 pairs perfectly with grilled red meat and pasta in a red sauce.

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: Bogle Merlot 2018

Are you looking for an “Everyday” Merlot that won’t break the bank? An “Everyday” wine is one that is dependable, has an excellent quality-to-price ratio, pairs well with your favorite foods, can be easily found, and most of all one you enjoy drinking. Bogle Merlot 2018 checks all of these boxes and is very popular because it does. 

Bogle Merlot 2018 is a California Merlot from the Clarksburg Region. It has flavors of black fruit, vanilla, and oak with balanced acidity and approachable tannins. Bogle ages all of its red wines in oak barrels for twelve months. This practice is a rarity for a producer of this scale. I purchased my bottle for $12.99 at a Pennsylvania P.L.C.B. store but you can find it for less from other sources. Its 13.5 A.B.V. gives this Red a little “Jump” so be careful it can fool you. Just sayin!

The Wine Writers’ Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley registration is now open

Registration is open for The Wine Writers’ Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley.  It will be a virtual event from August 8-10, 2022. The theme for 2022 is “The Changing Landscape of Wine Media”. Registration will be open through July 31st and admission is free with registration. 

The symposium format will feature keynotes, panels, and roundtables. It will explore the subject of technical versus creative writing. Get expert advice on the practical skills of how to conduct an interview and accurately analyze data. The topics of monetization and ethics will be discussed to address the reality of a steady decline in full-time wine writing jobs.

This event will focus on individuals who have displayed a commitment to wine writing. They are encouraging anyone that has been published to register. This means if you have had an article, column, work of criticism, blog entry, book chapter or selection, or screenplay/script published they would like you to attend the symposium. Unlike past requirements, this year your submission will not be reviewed for quality but will be subject to having its authenticity verified.  

I attended the symposium last year and gained invaluable insight into what editors are looking for when they choose an article for publication. Their candid remarks and advice to writers helped me tailor my pitches to afford me the best opportunity to be considered for publication. The lineup of domestic and international speakers gave me an insider’s view of the ever-changing landscape of the wine writing community and improved my ability to successfully navigate and function in it. After the symposium ended I received links to the videos of each day so I could review attended sessions or watch any session I may have missed. Here’s a link to The Wine Writers’ Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley registration page http://winewriterssymposium.org Photo Courtesy: winewriterssymposium.org

Finger Lakes Saperavi Festival May 14, 2022

The wine made from Saperavi grapes being grown in the eastern United States has been a secret shared by a small but growing group of wine lovers. It isn’t a secret anymore as Saperavi plantings have aggressively expanded throughout the East Coast. As a varietal or in any of its unique blends Saperavi is gaining fans and increasing its vineyard acreage as forward-thinking winemakers join a movement to explore the possibilities this ancient grape from the “Far side of the world” has to offer.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Lasha Tsatava the Georgian Gastronomy Ambassador, Director @ Boston Sommelier Society, and co-founder of the non-profit Saperica about its upcoming Saperavi Festival in the New York Finger Lakes on Saturday, May 14th, 2022 at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 9683 Middle Rd Hammondsport, NY.

My first question to Lasha was concerning what activities and attractions would be available to festival guests? Lasha told me that the entertaining and educational slate of attractions focuses on the food, wine, and culture of Georgia including:

  • Walkaround tasting of Saperavi & Rkatsiteli wines from the country of Georgia, the Finger Lakes of New York and beyond
  • Authentic Georgian cuisine created by Chama Mama restaurant from New York City (food included in ticket price)
  • Cooking demonstrations and educational seminars
  • Saperavi festival swag

My next question was why he and Erika Frey decided to start their nonprofit SAPERICA and what their mission was? Their reason for starting: SAPERICA saperica.org

“Saperavi has been growing in Finger Lakes, NY for about 50 years now. 

It’s a traditional grape variety for the region but not many people know about it.

Since June 2021, Erika and I had several trips to FLX and we would visit Saperavi and Rkatsiteli producers to learn more about them and discover their stories and their future plans with these grape varieties. At the same time, we were introducing the idea that these grape varieties have tremendous history and culture behind them including Georgian gastronomy. Every time we discussed these ideas with producers, people’s eyes lit up with excitement and there was a feeling that we needed to take the next step. So we did!” Their reason for starting Saperica and their mission statement complement each other perfectly!

http://SAPERICA.org mission statement: To promote Saperavi and other Georgian grape varieties along with Georgian gastronomy and culture in the Finger Lakes, NY, and around the U.S., by organizing and facilitating educational seminars and exchange programs between the regions, for wine and culinary professionals, and enthusiasts.

Lasha and Erika have worked closely with Meaghan Frank (Dr. Konstantin Frank’s great-granddaughter) of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery and her team on this festival and prior events called “Finger Lakes Meet Georgia Experience”. These events were held conducted in a fully immersive environment where Erika, Lasha, and Meaghan educated, interacted, and guided their guests through the history and culture of Georgian wine before leading them back to the 1886 Reserve Tasting Room at the Frank Winery for a paired food and wine experience. One of the attendees told Lasha “This is why we fly to France and Italy to have experiences like this”

The first annual Saperavi Festival in the Finger Lakes will be held on Saturday, May 14th, 2022 from 2PM-5PM EDT at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 9683 Middle Rd Hammondsport NY. Tickets can be purchased at http://eventbrite.com or click this link to go to the event page https://www.eventbrite.com/e/saperavi-festival-tickets-274172135237

The following photos are of a previous “Finger Lakes Meet Georgia Experience” at the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery when Lasha and Erika collaborated with Meaghan and her team to highlight and explore the food, wine, and culture of Georgia.

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 Bulls Blood 2019

Have you heard of Egri Bikavér? It is more commonly known as Bulls Blood. Egri Bikavér or Bulls Blood is the traditional dry red wine of the northern Hungary region of Eger. It is a controlled blend that must use at least three of the seventeen grape varieties that are permitted in the making of Bulls Blood. Bulls Blood is steeped in legend that dates back to a 16th century battle in which Hungarian forces were victorious over Ottoman forces.

Bulls Blood being made in North America is not easily found but one exactly like the one-of-a-kind Chateau Niagara Bulls Blood would be impossible because, to my knowledge it is the only one made with a blend of Blaufrankish (Lemberger), Cabernet Franc, and the Hungarian red grape Turan (Agria). Turan is a teinturier grape, meaning like Saperavi and Chambourcin it has pigment in both its skin and pulp making for a richly colored juice when pressed. Jim Baker got his Turan as clippings for his vineyard in Newfane New York by chance when a West Coast vintner included them in a shipment of Saperavi clippings and as they say “The rest is history”.

Chateau Niagara Bulls Blood 2019 is a deeply colored dry red wine blend that has a medium body with notes of smoke and flavors of dark berries. It has more than ample acidity to give it complexity. Each grape in the blend contributes something special to the finished wine. Cab Franc supplies the fruit while Lemberger adds the smoke then Turan provides the fire. I suggest decanting it and to consider adding some to your cellar to age for a few years.

This wine as well as others from Jim Baker’s award-winning Chateau Niagara Winery are are available online at http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com

 

Ensenada, Mexico’s Napa Valley

V is for Vino host Vince Anter enjoys a toast to the wine of Ensenada. Photo Credit: V is for Vino

Ensenada is often called the Napa Valley of Mexico for good reason. This region has been growing grapes and producing wine for hundreds of years. The renaissance of the area began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the commercial production of wine began to expand so quickly that it now boasts over one hundred wineries. When we talk about Ensenada, Mexico we are including the City of Ensenada, the major winery/vineyard area of Valle De Guadalupe, and several grape growing areas just to the south. Ensenada is less than a two hour drive from San Diego in the Mexican State of Baja California. I would strongly suggest you take the advice of the travel show V is for Vino host Vince Anter and use a tour company, local tour guide or go with someone familiar with the area until you feel comfortable enough to visit by yourself. 

Ensenada wineries offer you the opportunity to experience a wide selection of wine that is not available anywhere else in the world. The vintners are still trying to identify which grapes are the best match for their terrior. In the vineyards around Ensenada you can find the white wine grapes: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the red wine grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Zinfandel. These red grapes all make big red wines because of the warm dry climate. Surprisingly, the one grape that is emerging as the region’s signature grape is Nebbbiolo. Yes, the Italian wine grape from Tuscany, Italy. The Nebbiolo that is made in Mexico is a completely different wine than is made from the same Nebbiolo grape in Italy. Since there are no commissions or governing bodies restricting winemakers there they are free to experiment with different production methods and make unusual blends that are exclusive to the region. Blends of Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo/Sangiovese, and Tempranillo/Syrah are common.

If you are interested in learning more about the food and wine culture of the Ensenada region I invite you to watch the wine and travel show V is for Vino Episode 2 Season 3 Ensenada Valle De Guadalupe Mexico. You can view all of the episodes from the first three seasons for free at http://visforvino.com, Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTube, Facebook Watch or Instagram. Here’s a link to the V is for Vino Ensenada episode. http://visforvino.com/ensenada-mexico Host/Producer Vince Anter gives you an insider’s look into the How. What, and Where when planning a trip to Mexico’s premier wine region. Salud!