“From Russia with Love” Dr. Frank Cuvee d’ Amour 2014

 

     On a beautiful day in early June, my wife and I found ourselves standing at

View from Dr. Frank Wine Cellars Hammondsport, New York

the tasting bar of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, New York taking in the spectacular view of Keuka Lake. We were led through a tasting of Dr. Frank wines by someone who knows them better than anyone, none other than Fred Frank, grandson of the legendary Dr. Konstantin Frank. After sampling several excellent Dr. Frank wines that included a few fabulous “Sparklers” Fred walked across the room holding a bottle and said to me “I know you like to try the different wines” as he held it up to show me the label, “Cuvée d’ Amour 2014.

Cuvée d’ Amour is made from the fruit of the vitis Amurensis grape. Dr. Konstantin Frank was familiar with this extremely cold-hardy grape and brought it to the FLX from Russia. This grape species is native to the Asian Continent where it is known as the Amur grape in Russia and Shan Pu Tao in China.

The first thing I noticed as Fred poured the wine into my glass was its dark red color. Cuvée d’ Amour 2014 is a flavorful full-bodied red with bright acidity that fits nicely within its well-defined structure leading to what Dr. Frank aptly describes as a “Crisp finish reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux or Borolo.” I would lean towards the Bordeaux but it also has characteristic hints of several wines but they aren’t prominent enough to mention.

If you want to indulge your curiosity for something unique I would suggest trying Cuvée d’ Amour 2014. It is available online at http://drfrankwines.com or at their tasting room in Hammondsport, New York for $29.99.

Russia and China have invested a considerable amount of time and money into the development of vitis Amurensis. This grape has a long list of positive traits that makes it highly desirable in that region of the world. It is probably the most cold-hardy vitis grape at -30°C but while that fact is impressive this grape also has a strong resistance to disease including powdery mildew, white rot, grapevine anthracuose and black pox. Since it has no distinctive aroma it provides a “Blank Canvas” that will not disturb the aroma profile of varieties that it is being hybridized with.

The story life story of Dr. Konstantin Frank is a fascinating one and has been recounted by author Tom Russ in his book “Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank”. Fred Frank generously gifted a signed copy to me during our visit and I am very grateful for his kind gesture. You can purchase it on Amazon.com  

 

“Saperavi World Prize” Competition

     I recently received an interesting email from Inge Olsson at http://news.hvino.com  , an online publication covering Georgia, Russia and promoting Georgian wines. Hvino News is in Tbilisl, Georgia and under the auspices of the publishing house Hvino News with the support of Georgia’s National Wine Agency is organizing the first “Saperavi World Prize“. Entry into the competition is free and open to all Saperavi producers in the world except the ones in Georgia. Inge told me the reasoning is that there are over 300 wineries in Georgia and nearly all of them use Saperavi. Since entry is free they would receive hundreds of Saperavi samples from the Georgian producers.. The few foreign entries would be out numbered, so their chances of winning would be very low. Georgia already has a national contest and the intent of the “Saperavi World Prize” was to create an international competition that would build communication with Georgia, not to position Georgia as a rival. They are currently exploring proposals to solve this.

     The tasting will be in Georgia where the entries will be presented to an international panel of judges. When I posted this article I knew that 19 producers had submitted samples. All 13 Australian producers have entered but they will not have an easy road to victory because New Zealand, Russia, U.S.A. and 3 former Soviet states are also planning to take home the “Saperavi World Prize”.

If you want more information on entering a sample or to provide coverage of this event please contact Inge Olsson via email at    I.Olsson@hvino.com     Saperavi World Prize press http://sapprize.hvino.com

Interview: Duncan Savage, Savage Wines, South Africa

As winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards Western Cape, South Africa Duncan Savage crafted Cape Point’s signature white, Isliedh. Isliedh was critically acclaimed not only in South Africa but globally. This recognition catapulted Duncan upon the world stage and onto the radar of wine critics far beyond his native South Africa. Duncan has left Cape Point to pursue his dream of owning his own winery, aptly named Savage Wines.

I have found Duncan to be genuinely friendly and eager to share his passion for his new venture. When I approached him with an interview request he graciously accepted and responded with candid insight into his journey as a winemaker past, present and future. He confidently answered all the questions I posed to him. Covering the subjects of how he sources his grapes, what grape characteristics he seeks and his favorite wine grapes plus a description of his winemaking style were seamlessly blended with his personal commentary. Duncan covered all these inquiries plus much more in his honest and straight – forward reply. I decided that I couldn’t tell Duncan’s story better than he had himself. The following is my interview with Duncan Savage of Savage Wines in its entirety and verbatim.

Going on my own was the plan from day 1, I just did it a little later than intended. My initial plan was to do so at the age of 35 which to a certain extent I did as my brand was in the market.

I finally took the plunge last year at the age of 38. The time was essential to get the brand up and running. The reality is that if one starts from scratch without money in this industry it’s a very tough scenario. I would have been able to do so had I been single and prepared to rough it, but with kids that need to go to school etc. I needed time. We have no investors involved which I’m really happy with as it’s our family name and is really important to us.

As a result the plan was to lease cellar space, vineyards and purchase other fruit. We kicked off the 2017 vintage in a rented space with some mates with a 3 year plan to put together a home for the brand. A brand needs a home if it’s to be a serious player in the long term. I got a call from a mate in the end of Jan. who had decided to sell his place which was crazy as I’ve always loved his set up! It’s an urban winery in Salt River alongside Woodstock in Cape Town and absolutely epic! I grew up 10 minutes down the road from the place! My 3 year plan became a 1 week plan and a mad scramble to raise some cash…

The challenge with the whole thing is to commit. Is an urban winery what we want, isn’t there a farm option, trucking of grapes into the city etc. The reality is that had we bought a farm we would have continued to buy grapes from the 13 different growers we source from and have done so from the beginning. We have an established style and vision and we don’t want to mess with it. Sourcing fruit is sustainable if one has the relationships in place and is prepared to pay for the good stuff. Farming is tough and growers need to be able to sustain these old parcels that crop next to nothing. Growers that have been on their land for generations also have a deep understanding of terroir, even if the don’t make wine themselves. It’s an understanding of the land that Joe wine guy can’t expect to develop in the short term. 

I cut my teeth on maritime vineyards and always have liked the freshness one gets from such sites. We have always favoured the maritime or high altitude options and 4 of the 6 Syrah sites I work with have a view of the ocean. Many of the others might not have the view but get klapped by the prevailing SE wind off the cold Atlantic due their proximity. These elements and farmers mould what we do, the rest is basically early picking and gentle handling in the winery. I’m in the business of selling wine, if my wines were 15+ alcohol I’m not selling 2 bottles in a restaurant or drinking it myself. I want people to finish the bottle and be thirsty for more wine, whether it’s one of mine or one of my mates.

In SA, we have a warm climate conducive to many different varieties. I’m a big fan of the likes of Syrah and Cinsault as there is not real green flavour pressure, one can pick nice and early which is awesome. We are going to see more of an influence from Portuguese varieties like Touriga Nacional going forward, some good things happening already. I’m a massive fan of Burgundy and the Northern Rhone, love the finesse and elegance in many of these wines!

Our philosophy is very much finesse and elegance, wines that are not trying to take center stage. Wine is a part of life and needs to fit in rather than dominate. We want Savage Wines to become a fixture on the SA and world wine scene and that’s why we are investing all we have back into the business and industry. This is a not job, its what we do whether we were loaded or not, it’s our life. We will continue style wise as we have begun but will be introducing new wines into the range as we find awesome parcels where the results are what would drink and enjoy ourselves. The Savage story is just in the introduction, I’m not sure how it’s going to end but we are going to have a good time in between.” 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Duncan Savage the winemaker, the visionary and the man. It isn’t often that we get to have a front row seat as the curtain rises on a new winery. We usually arrive late and rely on the comments of those who were there before us. Here is a rare opportunity to watch and taste a brand evolve from it inception. As for me, I’m going to settle into my seat with my glass in hand to see and taste how this show plays out.

http://Savagewines.com  E-mail: info@savagewines.com     Tel. +27 21 785 4019

 

Duncan Savage

The World’s Largest Saperavi Tasting

Saperavi Grapes

My research into the Saperavi grape has allowed me to meet many interesting and informative people. Among this group that I can happily call my friends is Dan Traucki. Dan is a wine journalist from Morphett Vale, South Australia who writes for many publications while also publishing his own website and wine blog http://wineassist.com.au   He explores the world of wine grapes with a special focus on the lesser known varieties. This shared curiosity led to us exchanging our thoughts on the Saperavi grape and its potential to yield a superior red wine in three widely separated wine regions around the globe. Dan began to collect samples from Georgia, Russia (the region where wine making is believed to have originated), Australia with it budding Saperavi producers and the Finger Lakes Region of New York, USA that is emerging as the standard for “New World” Saperavi. By February of this year Dan had gathered 33 samples from these three regions for his historic tasting which was probably the largest and most diverse ever conducted. This is the article he wrote for WBM Australia’s Wine Business Magazine. WBM_Saperavi-Sensational_Mar-Apr17  (This is a graphic-rich article and my take a few seconds to load as a .pdf file so please be patient. It will be worth the short wait!

Ain’t That America

     As my wife and I were enjoying a leisurely stroll down Pitt St. in Bedford, Pa on a beautiful autumn day in October when we happened upon Tod Manspeaker. Tod was standing outside of his tasting room taking in the sights and sounds of the 2016 Bedford Fall Foilage Festival. Tod was as friendly and hospitable as I have always found him to be and he invited us in for a tasting of his Briar Valley Vineyard wine.

Tod lead us through a tasting of some of his wines starting with the 2014 Lemberger that was just bottled the previous day. This wine showed solid red fruit flavors and a nice finish. B.V. Lemberger 2014 should round-out and be in great shape by the time summer arrives and you find yourself pouring it for your guests to complement those burgers, steaks and ribs hot off the grill.

B.V. Chardonnay 2011 is a crisp, straw-colored wine with traditional Chardonnay flavors of apple with a citrus note. This is a perfect pick for when you have friends over and want a light but delicious wine to pair with a platter of soft cheese and fruit, both fresh and dried. Consider including unusual options on your platter, like fresh figs, goat cheese, dried cranberries, apricots and one of my favorites, dates.

     The 2014 B.V. Cab Franc had the most complex taste profile of the wines we tasted that day and I liked it a lot. This wine had plenty of aroma and was full of cherry and berry flavors. Don’t be afraid to serve this with heartier fare because its true colors will always shine through.

     We have had several bottles of B.V. Riesling spanning several vintages so our expectations were high for the 2015 and we were not disappointed. B.V. Riesling 2015 has fresh acidity and flavors of stone fruit and citrus on the mid-palate carried in a light body with a touch of slate mineralality on the finish. Because Riesling is such a food-friendly wine you can enjoy it alone by the glass or pair it with just about anything you find on your plate. We poured the B.V. 2014 on Thanksgiving and it went well with the turkey and most of the side dishes.

You can find these fine wines at the Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery tasting room at 107 E. Pitt St Bedford Pa, as we did, or online at http://BriarValleyWinery.com   1126162134-1

Niagara Peninsula Ontario Canada

     My wife and I visited the Niagara Peninsula Wine Country of Ontario, Canada in September during their harvest. We stayed in the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake which sits on the shore of Lake Ontario where the Niagara River enters the lake. There are numerous wineries and vineyards in the area, which makes having a plan essential to maximizing your time and enjoyment while touring the region.  Our plan included the well know wineries of Trius, Stratus, Jackson-Triggs, Two Sisters, Peller, Konzelmann and Rief.

This area is definitely a cool climate grape growing region. The wineries and vineyards are among the most beautiful we have ever visited. We tasted at all the wineries that I mentioned and found the wine, even though well made, to be lean and lacking complexity. The varietals displayed crisp acidity, a light body and short finish. I was looking forward to trying their blends or should I say “Assemblage”, but found the same characteristics I found in the varietals predictably repeated in these wines both red and white. It’s not surprising the wine would exhibit these taste profiles simply because those are the traits you expect from cool climate grapes. After giving it some thought I believe that even with reduced yields the grapes couldn’t ripen fully and develop the complexity they needed. The 2016 Harvest may be different because it was a very hot dry growing season which put stress on the vines while the sunshine warmed the berries ripening them more fully.

     Many of the estates have excellent fine dining restaurants. They focus on fresh farm to table ingredients that really makes a big difference in the quality of your meal. We had dinner at the outstanding Kitchen 76 restaurant at the Two Sisters Vineyards. The view from our table was amazing, it afforded us a stunning view of the vineyards that were full of fruit waiting to be gathered. A long lane leads you through the Two Sisters vineyard to the large château that houses their tasting room, restaurant and other facilities.

     We had a wonderful time on our trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Niagara Peninsula and would recommend it. If you are traveling there from the U.S. there are some things you need to consider before you go. Be sure to have a valid passport, check with your cell phone carrier for an international plan when you are there (roaming fees are insanely expensive ), most credit cards charge a fee every time you charge so get some Canadian bills for pocket cash, most GPS won’t work after you cross the border, ask about the laws that pertain to bringing back alcohol and be truthful about it because the border guards don’t like cheaters. 

     If you do some preparation you can relax and enjoy your time in the Niagara Peninsula.  

    

View from Kitchen 76 Restaurant @ Two Sisters Vineyard

View from Kitchen 76 Restaurant @ Two Sisters Vineyard

      

Two Sisters Vineyards view from River Bend

Two Sisters Vineyards view from River Bend

Guest Post

    When Anatoli Levine invited me to write a guest post about Saperavi for his blog talk-a-vino.com I thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce this fascinating red grape to wine lovers that probably never have of it. With that in mind I happily accepted Anatoli’s generous offer and started organizing years of information that I had acquired from the winemakers and vintners that are the vanguard for this grapes accent in the wine community. The finished product was published two days ago and I have been very pleased on how well it has been received. I invite you to read the article and have included a link to the http://talk-a-vino.com/2016/11/02/desperately-seeking-saperavi blog where it is being featured.  While you are on the site please take advantage of the opportunity to browse the other posts that you will find there. I think you will be glad you did. Thanks!

DeChaunac Anyone?

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

     If you have ever tasted or even heard of DeChaunac you probably have been to the Northeastern U.S., Nova Scotia or Ontario, Canada. DeChaunac is a French-American hybrid red wine grape developed by legendary French hybridizer Albert Seibel (1844-1935). This grape is also known as Seibel 9549 and is believed to be a cross between Seibel 5163 and Siebel 793. It was named after Ontario, Canada wine industry pioneer Adhemar de Chaunac, but in a strange twist of fate, may not be bottled as a varietal under Canada’s VQA system.

     When you first see DeChaunac your eyes will deceive you. After seeing this wines very dark and inky color in your glass you will be surprised by the light to medium body of such a dark wine. In my opinion a well-made DeChaunac will have a solid structure to carry complex flavors of black and red cherries, blackberry and prune with a bit of a musty nose.

     This wine can be blended with other wine to impart an “aged” characteristic but the blend must be kept at or below 7% or it can through the wine off according to J. Stephen Casscels, author of “Wine Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada”http://flintminepress.com

    Now that we have explored the heritage of the DeChaunac wine grape and discussed the wines made from it you might be curious about how it tastes. DeChaunac is not produced as widely as it once was but with a little research you can still find some excellent product.  Here are two examples of how a wine made from the same variety of grapes in different styles can yield wines with similar but unique characteristics. The following are two fine Pennsylvania grown and made DeChaunac.

Ripepi DeChaunac: Dry oak-aged red wine made in a Chianti-style with medium body displaying flavors of black fruit complemented by velvety tannins and a lingering finish.    

Ripepi Winery 93 Van Voorhis Lane  Monongahela, Pa http://ripepiwine.com

Narcisi 2015 DeChaunac: Slightly sweet medium-bodied wine with flavors of oranges, plum and cherries. Balanced acidity and a tart finish

Narcisi Winery 4578 Gibsonia Road  Gibsonia, Pa http://narcisiwinery.com

 

 

 

From The Beginning

     I have been told great wine is made in the vineyard. I believe this to be true because no matter how good a winemaker is there is only so much they can do in the winery to improve a wine made from average grapes. There are a myriad of factors effecting grape quality in a vineyard but it all starts with the vine. Virtually all wine grapes in the U.S., with the exception of those grown in Washington state, are grown on grafted vines. Grafted vines have Phylloxera resistant rootstock with scions of a varietal wine grape grafted to it. Phylloxera is a tiny aphid-like insect that feeds on the roots of the Vitis vinifera grape.

In the not-so-distant past the world’s wine vineyards were devastated by this pest but it isn’t the only threat to the vines. There is a long list of disease, fungus, mold and pests of all shapes and sizes that can damage a vineyard. Dagger and Rootknot are caused by Nematodes (microscopic worms) and are a common problem in the eastern U.S. but their threat can be lessened by choosing the correct rootstock for your situation. Because there are so many factors to consider when choosing a vine for your site it is important to evaluate the characteristic of each rootstock to match it to the needs of your vineyard. The 3309c rootstock is the most widely used rootstock in the eastern U.S. and it can be said that eastern viticulture is built on it.

     In Washington they grow grapes on own rooted vines that makes them susceptible to Phylloxera, although Phylloxera has never been reported there.  The advantage of own rooted vines is that if they are damaged they can regrow from the roots while if a grafted vine is damaged below the graft it has to be replaced or regrafted. A study comparing grapes grown on own rooted vs. grafted vines showed for all practical purposes there was no difference in the quality of fruit produced.

     The Grafted Grapevine Nursery in Clifton Springs, NY was started in 1957 by Herman and Ute Amberg while Herman was working for Dr. N. Shaulis at Cornell University’s Geneva Experimental Station. They specialize primary in one year old bench-grafts but a few varieties are available as own rooted. While looking for Saperavi vines I had the pleasure to correspond with Herman and Ute’s son and Operations Manager Eric. The following is an excerpt from an email Eric sent me in response to my questions about the availability of grafted Saperavi vines and his opinion on a planting density plan for Saperavi.

     “We will be propagating extra Saperavi this year to compensate for its sudden surge in interest. Regarding the planting density for Saperavi. The number of vines is a factor of row spacing and vine density within the row. Row spacing is based more on your equipment than the vine’s need. The standard spacing in most of the eastern half of the country is 9 feet. Density within the row is based more on the vines vigor and training system. We have found that a 7 foot spacing works well. Therefore 691 vines/acre would be appropriate.”

     We sometimes forget just how much thought, effort, cash investment and yes, good luck goes into a great bottle of wine.  Contact info:  graftedgrapevines.com 

Grapevine Pricing Charting: Courtesy of Grafted Grapevine Nursery

Grapevine Pricing Charting: Courtesy of Grafted Grapevine Nursery