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

Days of Wine And Cheeses Part 2

Miles and Lillian Cahn bought an abandoned dairy farm north of New York City in the early 1980’s. Two years later they sold Coach Leatherware and became full-time goat farmers. A curious turn of events for the Cahans but a blessing for the cheese world. Coach Farm makes several kinds of goat cheese, both fresh and aged but is best known for its Green Peppercorn Cone. Green Peppercorn Cone is a bloomy rind pasteurized goat milk cheese with a soft interior that is impregnated with fresh green peppercorns. Bloomy rind cheeses ripen from the outside in as the cheese develops. Coach Farm Green Peppercorn Cone is soft, off-white, and creamy with flavors of pepper and lemon curd. 

Since this is a delicate cheese it calls for a light, crisp and clean wine that won’t dominate your palate. A couple of good choices are a dry Rosé like Chateau ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé 2020 or a dry Traminette from the Hudson Valley of New York, as they say, “What grows together goes together”. I asked Russell Moss, General Manager at Milea Family Wines Staatsburg, New York if he thought their 2021 Milea Estate Traminette would pair well with this cheese. Russ said, “The 2021 Traminette will pair excellently with the cheese. The spicy character of the wine will compliment the peppercorn well and the fat in the cheese will harmonize with the structure of the wine.” www.mileaestatevineyard.com 

When you talk about cheese from the American Heartland you must feature a cheese from Wisconsin and that cheese is Pleasant Ridge Reserve from the Uplands Cheese Company. http://www.uplandscheese.com

Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made in a style of French alpine cheese. It is a rarity among American cheese because it is made with unpasteurized milk from a single herd of cows only during pasture season. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made to very exacting standards so if the pasture conditions produce milk that doesn’t meet the cheesemakers’ expectations no cheese is made and the milk is sold. Pleasant Ridge Reserve has a hard thin rind over a smooth firm golden body with savory nutty flavors and light saltiness that lingers on your tongue.

Pleasant Valley Reserve has enough character to pair well with a Gruner Veltliner or Chateau Niagara DuMonde 2021, a Chardonnay/Riesling blend from the Niagara Plain near Lake Ontario in New York. http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com If you are looking to try a red any Cune (CVNE) Gran Reserva is an intriguing option.

My next post will be on a pair of popular types of cheese and the wine I serve with them.

Days of Wine and Cheeses

You may have surmised from the name of this blog and my social media handle (wpawinepirate) that I am a Jimmy Buffett fan, a Parrothead, if you will. I have been a member of the Phlock for a long time, making some good friends and beautiful memories along the way. Jimmy’s lyrics “Warm summer breezes and French wine and cheeses” from his song “He went to Paris” was the inspiration for a series of posts I will be writing about wine and cheese pairing

I will never forget the first time I tasted Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam. It was at their shop in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Mt. Tam is a triple cream bloomy rind American recipe cheese made from pasteurized organic pasture-based cow milk that is produced by farm partners using sustainable farming practices. Mt. Tam is made in Marin County near San Francisco, as if you had any doubt it was a California product after that lead-in. Cowgirl Creamery describes their Mt. Tam as “At room temperature, features a dense fudgy core enveloped in an evolving pudgy creamline.” This cheese is both creamy and buttery but also displays earthy flavors. http://cowgirlcreamery.com Mt. Tam pairs well with sparklers like Prosecco and Cava or a California Chardonnay that will cleanse your palate. Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Brut or Trefethen Family Vineyards 2018 Chardonnay Oak Hill District Napa Valley work nicely with Mt. Tam.

Staying on the coast of California, my next cheese is Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove Chevre in rural Humboldt County. Humboldt Fog is a unique soft-ripened goat cheese. It is made from high-quality goat milk sourced from local farms. This is a pasteurized goat milk cheese. The quality of the milk used in the making of Humboldt Fog is reflected in its clean and balanced flavors while muted acidity and salt levels prevent the potent goaty taste that turns some people off to goat cheese. http://cypressgrovecheese.com Enjoy Humboldt Fog with the iconic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Cloudy Bay, or Sokol Blosser Redland Cuvee Estate Willamette Valley 2018, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir from Oregon.           

I will be exploring cheeses from America’s Heartland and the East Coast in my next post.                                  

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!

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  

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

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.

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

 

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