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 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

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!

Watching V is for Vino Wine Show

Have you seen the wine and travel show V is for Vino? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend that you add it to your must see list. This show isn’t just about the wine and winemakers of a region but is an immersive experience into how the food, wine, and culture of a region are all intertwined. V is for Vino delivers it’s viewers several options to interact with the show. It offers the wines featured in each episode for sale so you can be drinking them along with the host as you watch. You can also become a member of the VINO VIP CLUB for exclusive perks, like early access to new episodes, virtual tastings with the host, and discounts on wine plus much more. V is for Vino has plenty of entertaining and informative content making it perfect for both the novice and seasoned wine lover. 

I recently had the opportunity to ask the show’s host/creator Vince Anter to tell my readers about his wine journey and the story of V is for Vino. I want to thank Vince for taking the time from his busy schedule to work with me on this project. 

My name is Vince and I’m a certified sommelier and the producer and host of the wine and travel show V is for Vino. Each episode, I host the show in a new wine region, so wine lovers can really be transported to where their wine is made! You learn about the place, the grapes, meet a local winemaker, and learn how to cook dishes from a local chef that pair perfectly with the wine featured in the episode. We also always try to explore as much of the local culture as we can, and meet people who can really tell the story of the places we visit. For instance, in the Finger Lakes we went ice fishing , and in Mexico we went to the local seafood market in downtown Ensenada. Wine is as much about the place and people around it as it is the beverage itself, and the goal of the show was always to capture that. Then, you can actually buy the wine from the episode on our website. I tell people it’s like the Anthony Bourdain of wine: and you can actually drink the wine along with us! 

I started the show in 2016. I had come out to LA in 2010 to be a rock star, but as it turns out, a lot of other people had the same idea. During the 5 years spent pursuing music, I paid my way through gigs with bar and restaurant jobs and discovered a love for wine. I spent a year becoming a certified sommelier, which was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done; it involved many textbooks and flashcards. I decided I wanted to find a way for people to learn and understand more about the wine in their glass without having to pick up a book. And thus, V is for Vino was born. Video content is everywhere now, and I knew the timing was right for a video-based wine company. I’ve always been a fan of Alton Brown, Anthony Bourdain and Dinner’s, Drive-ins and Dives, so I decided to model my own show as a hybrid of the three. I knew I could host the show myself, as I was used to being in the spotlight from my days with my band, and I learned how to interact with all walks of life from my time bartending. Plus, I’ve always loved teaching, so this whole idea came very naturally to me.

So many people put their heart and soul into their wine and cooking, and it’s so awesome to be able to tell their stories. I think we’re unique in the sense that no one is getting as in-depth into the stories behind the wine as we are. And, we’re even turning non-wine lovers into fans: I try to break down topics plain and simple so that everyone can enjoy wine! Wine isn’t this mystical beverage that only snobs can understand and I think, I’m helping contribute to busting those perceptions! People often say that show helped them learn more about wine than years tasting in tasting rooms, and that’s always one of the best compliments I can receive; I want wine to be as accessible as any other beverage out there!  

We’re currently filming season 4 of the show, and most of our upcoming episodes are in Europe, which has been a blast. It should come out by May 2022. The best way to see the first 3 seasons is on https://visforvino.com/ for free! They can also be seen on Amazon Prime (paid), Roku, and YouTube. One of the best parts of the show is you can purchase the wines from the episodes at https://visforvino.com/buy-wine so you can order before you watch, and drink with us as we taste the wines on the show! We also have a virtual VINO VIP CLUB that has a TON of benefits, including behind the scenes content, full length interviews, raffles and giveaways, virtual tastings and events, and discounts on wine! It’s only $5 and really helps you get more out of the show; we work hard to over-deliver on value for our VIP members! https://visforvino.com/vino-vip-club/  Cheers, and I hope you enjoy the show! -Vince 

All photos courtesy: V is for Vino

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

Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019

Spanish wines offer some of the best values that you can find in the market today. Good quality and well priced Spanish wine can be found in both red and white if you do some research and are open to try something new. Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019 is a perfect example of a very drinkable Spanish wine that is both widely distributed and very inexpensive. This red is certainly worth trying when you consider that it can be purchased for around $10 a bottle.

Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019 is made in Rioja, Spain. Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape variety in Spain but is not produced as a varietal often. Tempranillo is commonly used as a blending grape due to its neutral profile and ability to enhance the wines it is blended with. This wine is a balanced lighter red wine with no single dominating characteristic but that is not to say it doesn’t have enough structure, acidity, and flavor to be enjoyable. This Tempranillo pairs with tapas, grilled chicken, charcuterie, and of course Pizza.

There is no need for overkill when picking a wine for a meal or event. I try to match the type of wine with the type of event, meal, or group of friends and family I will be sharing it with.

Food Truck Wine Pairings

 

After reading an article recently about pairing wine with food truck fare I suddenly realized the perfect synergy that food trucks have with the wineries they visit. The eclectic menu items provided by the ever-changing food truck line up at wineries offer a unique opportunity to experiment with wine and food pairings that is simply impossible to achieve in a brick and mortar restaurant.

The following suggestions are only a starting point so I urge you to be creative when composing your pairings. The mind-boggling variety of food choices offered by these vendors provide winery goers an exciting range of dishes and cuisine to explore.

Every item will be accompanied by a Pennsylvania-made wine and one that is widely available and value-priced because remember you are being served your food through a window of a food truck.

BBQ & Grilled Meats: Without question these are the menu items on which the food truck industry was built. When you order from these trucks you need a wine with some backbone to stand up to the flavors of grilled meat, smoke, and sauce. These two bottles fit the bill nicely.

Fero Vineyards & Winery Estate Lemberger http://ferovineyards.com or Zuccardi Q Malbec

Pierogies: This Polish specialty is a comfort food favorite in Western Pennsylvania. Pierogies are most commonly filled with either potato, sauerkraut, or cheese but they can be filled with any number of unusual stuffings. A sweet option to the traditional savory ones is Prune Lekvar. A testament to how beloved pierogies are in the fabric of the community is that the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pierogie race at every home game. I suggest pairing them with South Shore Wine Company Grűner Veltliner http://enjoymazza.com or Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewűrztraminer

Pizza: You can get anything from an authentic Neapolitan pie to the latest trendy gourmet creations seen on Instagram from a food truck these days. High temperature brick ovens have become the norm in food trucks so it calls for an equally impressive wine to complete your pizza adventure. Try Ripepi Winery & Vineyard Zinfandel http://ripepiwine.com or Menage-A-Trios Pinot Noir

Tacos: A mainstay of the food truck culture on the West Coast, taco trucks have developed a loyal following in Pennsylvania. When it comes to variety and originality you can always find something good at taco truck. I recommend selecting a Rosé or Blush. Consider these wines when doing your pairings. Greendance Isabella http://greendancewinery.com or Château ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé

Mac & Cheese: These trucks have filled a niche that has blossomed into one that provides choices not found in the mainstream trucks. When you have the chance please try some of what they are serving up because I think you will be happy you did. My wine picks here would be Narcisi Riesling http://narcisiwinery.com and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Chicken: Chicken is a blank canvas for the chefs in a food truck. They paint masterpieces using broad strokes of flavor and style. To keep up with their always evolving flavor palates you must pair them with wines that can handle a broad spectrum of spices and preparation methods. These wines are well-suited for that challenge. Winslow Winery Vidal Blanc http://winslowwinery.com and Bogle Vineyards Merlot

Seafood: Seafood themed food trucks offer more than just fish sandwiches. They run the gambit from lobster rolls to sushi. While not as numerous as other cuisine focused trucks, when you find one it will likely be a memorable alternative to standard food truck grub. These two wines are sure to please. Bella Terra Chardonnay http://bellaterravineyards.com and Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio

My last word to you about pairing wine with any food, not just food truck food, is to trust your instincts because you just can’t make a mistake. So get out there and get the most out of what the wine world has to offer.

I Regret Nothing!

After seeing how well a couple of my posts on Instagram (@rich_wpawinepirate_ ) were received I realized a lot of people were just as curious as I was about the wine they sell on QVC. I posted a bottle pix of Kevin O’Leary’s Malbec and Rosé. Like me, everyone had seen his wines being presented and wondered after listening to him hype the virtues of his wine if they might be an interesting wine to try. I know all too well the risks of buying “processed wines” as they are now being called. You might remember them as “industrial wine.” With that being said, this type of wine is widely distributed, readily available, and enjoyed by millions.

I ordered the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Malbec Argentina 2020 and the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Rosé Vintage 2019, to be exact. O’Leary wine is sold as groupings or as three bottles of a single variety. The wine arrived promptly, well-packed, and cost about $15 a bottle when purchased from QVC.

The Malbec has a light/medium body and wasn’t overly dry with “middle of the road” acidity. This wine is best suited for an evening of grilling on the deck with family and friends. Rosé was my favorite. It is a very drinkable wine with a lighter body and a touch of sweetness. The most noticeable feature of this Rosé is its inviting vivid color. Kevin mentioned in his sales pitch that it is a blend of seven grape varieties and you can taste that because no one variety stands out, it is truly a blend.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try some of “Mr. Wonderful” wine I would suggest starting with his Rosé. It is not a serious wine and can be enjoyed either alone as you relax at the end of the day or paired with lighter fare on a picnic in the country. You don’t have to over think these wines.

Take Me To Church

Kagor is traditionally a fortified dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi, and other varieties of red grapes in the coastal area surrounding the Black Sea. Kagor was originally made for the Russian Orthodox Church as a sacramental wine. Finding American-made Kagor can be very challenging and finding a well-made one is like finding the proverbial “Needle in a haystack”.

Jim Baker owner/winemaker at Chateau Niagara is making an award-winning Kagor from his estate-grown Saperavi. When I say award-winning, I mean that Jim brought home a medal for his Kagor from the prestigious Saperavi World Prize competition held in the Black Sea city of Tbilisi, Georgia plus numerous other awards. While Jim doesn’t fortify his Kagor, he does ferment it up to 15% ABV.

Opening the bottle is just the beginning of enjoying your Chateau Niagara Kagor, there is a method to tasting this unusual and extraordinary wine. I could attempt to explain it but I think there is no one better suited for the job than Jim Baker, so here is how to experience all that Chateau Niagara Kagor has to offer in Jim’s own words.

“Take a taste and swirl around once or twice in your mouth, coating all the taste buds and then stop. Let the wine take over. It will take you a journey, with flavors rising and falling. You want to go until they stop changing, and for most people it’s more than a minute. After that take a bite of a good chocolate truffle and when that is partially melted, taste the wine again, swallowing both together. They effect will be almost immediate with a burst of cherry cordial flavors.”

I asked Jim why he decided to grow grape varieties that are associated with Eastern Europe and make classic Eastern European wines from them. Here is what he said:

“We decided to make the Kagor as part of our Eastern European wine series. We discovered a number of little know Eastern European wines that we thought were pretty cool, and would allow us a little niche to specialize in. This includes a Hungarian Bulls Blood, our Saperavi, a Georgian style skin-fermented Riesling Chardonnay blend called Du Monde, and our Kagor. We planted a new Romanian grape last fall called Feteasca Neagra, but we will be calling it by the way cooler English translation of “Black Maiden”!”

Chateau Niagara will be doubling the size of their Saperavi vineyard to just over an acre of this versatile grape.

If you are interested in trying Jim’s Kagor or any of his other wines they can be found on his website http://chateauniagarawinery.com or by visiting the winery at 2466 West Creek Rood Newfane, NY. Please call before visiting. (716) 778-7888

Kagor 2017 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery
Saperavi Rose 2019 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery
Saperavi 2018 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery

Review: Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Nature

This cuvée subscribes to the belief that the essence of the three Champenois grape varieties lies in the soul

Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Nature

of Champagne. Billecart-Salmon has chosen to accentuate the character of the Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes by adding no sugar to the dosage. Since its inception in 1818, Billecart-Salmon has always been known for its patience when it comes to making Champagne and Brut Nature is a beneficiary of that dedication to excellence. Billecart-Salmon Brut Nature is a blend of ten vintages that span 2006-2016. It spends 42 months on its lees before undergoing three weeks of cold settling.   

Brut Nature opens with a mix of yeast and floral notes. You can’t build a good Champagne without a good structure to support it and this Champagne has a solid one that boasts an alluring pale yellow color and streams of fine bubbles that add a sense of sophistication to your glass. On the palate, flavors of apple and citrus are carried on a very dry medium body enhanced by bright acidity. The finish is proportional and refreshing. I believe this Champagne shows best when enjoyed in a pairing, especially a pairing with seafood. B-S Brut Nature’s acidity brings out the flavor of any seafood and its 12% ABV allows it to be easily paired. My suggested pairings would include sushi, ceviche, shellfish, and any preparation of fish. The finish on B-S Brut Nature is very dry and cleansing, allowing it to freshen your palate throughout your meal. A no sugar added dosage Champagne is not for everyone but if you try it in a situation that allows it to shine it may be just what you have been looking for.

Photo Credit: Billecart-Salmon Champagne