Monday, September 26, 2016

New cold hardy grape varieties set for Northern NY

Growers show off their cold hardy grapes.
WILLSBORO -- The cold-hardy grape variety research nursery in Northern New York at is getting a makeover.
With new funding from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program that helped establish the nursery at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm [here in Essex County in 2005], old vines have been removed, the soil is being refreshed, and new varieties of grapes have been carefully selected for planting in 2017. ...
A list of 21 potential varieties for the new planting at the Willsboro farm was identified through a survey of Northern New York grape growers, the leaders of the highly respected Cornell-Geneva Station and University of Minnesota grape breeding programs, and private grape breeders. Cornell University Horticulture professor Tim Martinson and Anna Wallis of the Eastern New York Commercial Horticultural Program will determine the final planting based on the availability of plant material in the spring of 2017.
In 2015, the old vines at the Willsboro farm were removed with the exception of the Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac gris, and La Crescent varieties that have proven to be suited to the NNY climate and soils. Those plantings will continue to produce grapes for wine production research by Cornell University.
Go here for more details.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oneida County winery adds farm-to-table bistro

Villa Verona Vineyard has lengthened its name, adding "& Bistro" to bring attention to its newest venture.

The Central New York winery has officially opened an on-premises farm-to-table restaurant featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and starters such as a daily selection of charcuterie and New York State cheeses, and 13 house wines.The kitchen is run by executive chef Micah McKamie, who has put together an imaginative lunch and dinner menu. All sauces, dressings and desserts are made on premises.

The Villa Verona Vineyard & Bistro is located at 4914 State Route 365 in Verona, Oneida County, about 1.7 miles from the Turning Stone Resort Casino. Phone: 315-367-0459. Bistro hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Dr. Frank wine dinner at Forno Bistro

Screen shot 2016-09-22 at 1.15.44 PMForno Bistro is planning a wine dinner that will be a matter of Finger Lakes meets Saratoga Springs.

Executive chef Ryan McCormick will create a five-course dinner paired with wines from the Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars collection. The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday, October 24. Reservations, which are required, are $82.55 each, which includes all fees, and may be made online.
The menu:

1st Course: New England Oysters on the half shell paired with Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli.
2nd course: Housemade fennel sausage, white wine grapes, fresh herbs, white balsamic, paired with Dr. Frank Guervertztraminer.
3rd Course: Thin crust pizza, tomato sauce, wild mushrooms, mozzarella, pecorino, paired with Dr. Frank Pinot Noir.
4th Course: Black Angus slider with black truffle, aged NY cheddar, truffle aioli, toasted brioche, paired with Dr. Frank Cabernet Franc.
5th Course: Warm apple turnover, vanilla gelato, caramel sauce, paired with Chateau Frank Celebre Riesling.

Forno Bistro is located at 541 Broadway in Saratoga. Phone: 581-2401.

Keuka Spring's wines taking on a brand new look

The new look (with old look in the inset)
Keuka Spring Vineyards recently was named "Winery of the Year" in the New York Wine & Food Classic competition, but that doesn't mean it is resting on its laurels.

The winery is in the process of introducing a new logo and new labels for its wines. Right now in the tasting room, Clara's Red, 2015 Gewurztraminer, 2015 Semi Sweet Riesling, and 2015 Dry Rosé bear the new look. 

As co-owner Jeanne Wiltberger explains the decision, "As a team, we worked for several months to create an updated and exciting, forward-thinking yet approachable look and feel. We wanted an elegant look that conveys the excellence and quality of wine that is always inside the bottle.

"Signed by the Wiltberger family, the label highlights the beauty of grape-growing in our area, mentions blending tradition with innovation, and talks about creating wines to love and share year after year. We kept the unique shape of Keuka Lake in the label, as Keuka Lake is part of our identity, and something you can identify with, too."

In the August competition for New York State wines, Keuka Spring racked up enough double gold, gold, silver, and bronze medals to be named the top winery. Its "best of" category wins included Best White (2015 Gewürztraminer), Best Gewürztraminer (2015 Gewürztraminer), Best Dry Riesling (2015 Humphreys Vineyard Riesling, Single Vineyard Series), Best Medium Sweet Riesling (2015 Semi Sweet Riesling), Best Overall Riesling (2015 Semi Sweet Riesling), and Best Vinifera/Hybrid White Blend (Celebrate).

Keuka Spring Vineyards is located on the east side of Keuka Lake at 243 East Lake Road (Route 54), Penn Yan. Phone: (315) 536-3147.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Empire Merchants hits deposed CEO with lawsuit

Screen shot 2016-09-21 at 6.11.57 PM

From the Shanken News Daily
Exclusive: Empire Merchants, New York’s biggest spirits and wine distributor, has fired CEO Lloyd Sobel and filed suit against co-owner Charlie Merinoff, claiming in federal court that the two men -- and others, including Breakthru Beverage CEO Greg Baird -- defrauded the company through their involvement in an interstate smuggling scheme.

The Brooklyn-based Empire is co-owned by the Merinoff/Drucker family and the Magliocco family. According to the complaint Empire filed in U.S. District Court in New York earlier today, Charlie Merinoff took part in an illegal scheme to smuggle spirits products from Maryland to New York, where they were sold by local retailers. 

With excise taxes on liquor nearly five times higher in New York than Maryland, the complaint contends that Reliable Churchill, the Maryland division of the Charmer-Sunbelt Group that the Merinoff family controlled, and retailers in both New York and Maryland deprived New York of millions of dollars of tax revenue through this illicit activity, which supposedly started in 2008 and continued until recently.

Earlier this year, Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC), the country’s second-largest spirits and wine distributor, was indicted in federal court in Maryland for what the U.S. attorney there alleges were similar activities. RNDC is frequently mentioned in Empire’s complaint, but not named as a defendant.

Go here for the full story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

CIA hosting HV craft beverage conference

Screen shot 2016-09-20 at 4.26.34 PMRegistration is now open for the 4th annual Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit, scheduled for October 4 at the Culinary Institute of America.

The event, intended for those working in the industry, will feature a lineup of discussions related to the craft beverage industry’s current climate, and future opportunities in the Hudson Valley region. Of course, participants will be able to sample a variety of beers, wines, spirits and ciders.

Charles Merinoff, principal founder and co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group and a 35-year veteran of the beverage distribution industry, will be the keynote speaker. The conference will begin at noon at the CIA's Marriott Pavilion. Seating is limited and advance registration, available online, is required.

The CIA is located at 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, near Route 9.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Breaking down the NY Wine & Food Classic field

Screen shot 2016-09-19 at 4.53.49 PMThe largest competition exclusively for New York State wines is the annual New York Wine & Food Classic, held every August.

While it is widely respected in most circles, some poo-pooh its results by saying it is a Finger Lakes-centric event and not truly representative of the state's many regions and styles.

An analysis of this year's event tends to support that dissenting viewpoint. According to the sponsor itself, the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, here's the breakdown of the 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the state:

• Finger Lakes -- 476 (49.2%)
• Long Island -- 245 (25.3%)
• Hudson River Region -- 63 (6.5%)
• Lake Erie -- 57 (5.9%)
• Niagara Escarpment -- 1 (less than 1%)
• All Other Regions -- 126 (13.0%)

So, while it is true that virtually half the entries reviewed in the 30th annual event by the judges came from Finger Lakes wineries, "These numbers generally reflect the relative production levels of the various regions, but also the propensity to enter competitions," says Jim Trezise, president of the Foundation, who will be retiring from that position at the end of the year.

"Since not all New York wineries enter and there are a lot more New York wines, a direct extrapolation is not possible. But, the numbers do reflect some clear trends," he said. "In terms of labeling by AVAs which also have sub-appellations, wines labeled 'North Fork of Long Island' (229) dominated, with only 15 labeled 'Long Island' and one 'Hamptons-Long Island.' By contrast, wineries in the Finger Lakes are far more likely to use that designation (406) than 'Seneca Lake' (27) or 'Cayuga Lake' (13), reflecting the general belief that 'Finger Lakes' is the far more recognized 'brand' among consumers and the trade."

All that said, what did we see overall? White wines dominated with 442 entries (49.7%), then red wines (297, or 33.4%), followed by a huge drop-off to dessert wines (62, or 7%), blush/rosé (52, or 5.8%), and sparkling (36, or 4%).

Riesling, regarded as the signature grape of the Finger Lakes, had the most entries with 133 -- 47 Dry, 45 Medium Dry, 21 Medium Sweet, and 9 Sweet. Chardonnay was the second largest category with 83), 47 of them oaked and 36 unoaked.

Red vinifera varietal wines were dominated by Cabernet Franc (63) followed by Merlot (44), Cabernet Sauvignon (30), Pinot Noir (22), and Lemberger (9). The vinifera red blend category was strong, with 54; and vinifera blush/rosé had 39, showing a continuing increase in production of that type of wine.

Go here if you missed my posting showing the top award winners from this year's competition.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Watertown wine bar to spotlight NYS wines

The Franklin Building
Can a wine bar spotlighting New York State wines survive as a business venture? That's what we'll find out when the first wine bar in Watertown opens later this year.

Kevin Hoover and April M. Walley are planning the Downtown Local Lounge in a storefront in the historic Franklin Building. It also will offer locally made cheeses, breads and oils in an atmosphere made cozy by the presence of loveseats, bistro tables and chairs, and a fireplace.

“It’s time to focus on our regional and New York wines,” Hoover told the Watertown Daily Times. “We really have some very good wines. The Finger Lakes has some world-class wines.” Hoover himself has been a successful amateur winemaker over the years, winning 17 medals in the Great New York State Fair Wine Competition.

The Franklin Building was constructed in 1920 by the YWCA, and once was known as The Franklin Arcade. The renovated structure now has five storefront spaces. The 1,140-square-foot wine bar space on the Franklin Street side of the building most recently housed the Legal Docs by Me business. The changeover is being helped along by a $22,500 startup loan from the Watertown Local Development Corp.’s Revolving Loan Fund. The partners plan to apply for a state wine and liquor license this month.

The Downtown Local Lounge won't be the only beverage purveyor in the neighborhood. Vigilante Yoga, a yoga studio and juice bar/cafe, soon will open in the nearby Lincoln Building on Public Square.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wine festival coming up at Bethel Woods

More than 40 vendors have been lined up for the 5th annual Wine Festival at Bethel Woods, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, October 1.

The emphasis will be on New York State wines, wine products, and specialty foods. The event is limited to persons 21 and older, including designated drivers. Advance tickets, priced at $20 per person, are available online. On the day of the event, the price is $25 at the gate.

The 28 prticipating winemakers and distillers:
  • Adirondack Winery
  • Americana Vineyards and Winery 
  • Anthony Road Wine Company 
  • Baldwin Vineyards 
  • Benmarl Winery 
  • Brimstone Hill Vineyard 
  • Brotherhood 
  • Casa Larga Vineyards 
  • Cereghino Smith 
  • Crooked Lake Winery 
  • Eagle Crest Vineyards 
  • Fjord Vineyards 
  • Fulkerson Winery 
  • Glorie Farm Winery 
  • Heron Hill Winery 
  • Hetta Glogg 
  • Hudson-Chatham Winery 
  • Inspire Moore Winery 
  • Lakeland Winery 
  • Ledge Rock Hill Winery 
  • Miles Wine Cellars 
  • Pazdar Winery 
  • Rasta Ranch Vineyards 
  • Robibero Winery 
  • Three Brothers Winery 
  • Tousey Winery 
  • Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery 
  • Whitecliff Vineyard 
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is located at 200 Hurd Road in Bethel, Sullivan County.

New law evens cideries' playing field

Inside the Nine Pin Ciderworks
Inside Nine Pin Ciderworks

"The Greeks and Romans mastered the art of cider making. When Romans invaded England around 55 B.C., they found that cider was already being enjoyed by the locals there. By that time, apple trees had long ago migrated from forests around Kazakhstan and were well established across Europe and Asia. It was in southern England, France, and Spain that the technique of fermenting -- and later distilling -- the fruit was perfected. Evidence of this ancient art can be found in the European countryside today, where large circular apple grinding stones used to crush the fruit are still half buried in the fields."
-- Amy Stewart, "The History of Cider Making"

Although in the early United States cider was a popular everyday beverage, over the years what we call "hard" cider to distinguish it from the non-alcoholic version virtually disappeared. However, in recent years it has made a strong comeback, in New York State helped immeasureably by changes in alcoholic beverage laws and the fact that the state is second only to Washington in apple growing.

But, enticing the public to visit cideries for tasting and purchasing has been a bit difficult. That should change because of a new piece of legislation signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. It allows farm cideries to serve not only cider but wine, beer and spirits by the glass. Before that move, farm cideries were required to apply for separate farm brewery, winery, or distillery licenses to be able to serve such beverages by the glass. Whereas a cidery could sell beer, wine, and spirits by the bottle for retail, a consumer could not consume by the glass.

The new law was pushed in the state Legislature by Senator George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany.

"As New York's farm beverage industry continues to grow, it's important to do everything we can to encourage further expansion of this important piece of our economy," Amedore said. "Allowing farm cideries to offer other New York State-produced beers, wines, and spirits by the glass encourages cross promotion of all the great products New York State has to offer, and will help strengthen the growing craft beverage industry."

Alejandro Peral, founder and owner of Albany's Nine Pin Ciderworks, the state's first farm cidery, said, “This bill creates parity among the various farm based licensees and supports the growth of the value added products produced by them. We will now be able to serve other New York farm based beverages to our customers in our tasting room just as those farm wineries and breweries are able to serve cider to their customers.”

"As a coalition of craft beverage producers [we] thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Amedore, and Assembly Member Fahy for their leadership to make regulations easier for farm-based producers to promote New York-made beverages. As a distiller and small business owner myself, this continues the state's commitment to building the farm-based craft alcohol sector," said John Curtin of Albany Distilling Company and president of the Capital Craft Beverage Trail Association.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Channeling 'Lucy' on The Hill at Muza

Lucille Ball in the iconic episode
Lucille Ball in the iconic episode
Back in 1956, an episode of "I Love Lucy" showed Lucille Ball stomping grapes in a vat while on vacation in Italy.

It became an iconic moment in television history, one that the folks at The Hill at Muza hopes will resonate 60 years later when they recreate it.

The event, called "An I Love Lucy Vineyard Grape Stomp," is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, September 22, at the Troy venue located in the multi-tiered beer garden space behind the restaurant Muza. It's part of an evening at which the venue's fall wine list will be unveiled, and guests will be invited to participate in a grape stomp and speed tasting.

Wooden barrels will be filled with Zinfandel, Cabernet and Marquette grapes from the Musto Wine Grape Company of Connecticut and Amorici Vineyards, located nearby on the border of Rensselaer and Washington counties.

"This is going to be just like that classic grape stomping scene, with people squishing around on grapes in big wooden vats, making funny faces, laughing and getting messy," said Tim Tyrrell, a partner in the business with owner Adam Siemiginowski whose family owns the restaurant Muza. And, the "speed tasting"? Tyrrell says "It's like speed dating, but with wine, where you go on a mini-date with each wine on our list."

In addition to the Lucy event, The Hill at Muza will be open for its normal 4 to 11 p.m. hours. The entrance to the venue is at 379 Congress Street.

As to the "I Love Lucy" episode, called "Lucy's Italian Movie," it can be seen on You Tube. If you want to show off your trivia skills, ask people who the 4-foot-10 actress was playing in the vat opposite the 5-foot-7 Lucy. (Answer: She was Teresa Tirelli D'Amico, who was born in 1907 in a section of Austria-Hungary that now is part of Croatia, and died in 1989 in Northridge, CA.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wölffer Estate winemaker creates a gin mill

Roman Roth is branching out. The winemaker/partner at the noted  Wölffer Estate Vineyard earned a degree in distilling and enology in Germany more than two decades ago, but the distilling part of that skillset has taken a backseat to his winemaking efforts -- until now.

Roth has come up with Wölffer Pink Gin, which uses Wölffer Estate Rosé wine as the base. The main flavoring comes from juniper berries hand-picked on the Long Island estate. The rest of the flavoring bouquet includes anise, fennel, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and mint.

Roth utilizes a copper pot still from the German manufacturer Christian Carl, distilling at a slow pace since this is just a minor part of the Wölffer business. The pink color of the gin comes from a small amount of grape skin extract.

"Using our rosé wine as the base gives us a clear advantage over grain-based gins," Roth says. "The aroma is much more playful and fruit-driven, and because of our strict and more generous cuts, we have a fine gin!"

Incidentally, don't confuse this gin with the drink called Pink Gin, an English concoction consisting of Plymouth gin, a dash of dark red Angostura bitters that provides the pinkish look, and a lemon rind garnish.

Wölffer Pink Gin is available from the winery boutique and at retailers around the East End at a suggested price of $34.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard is located at 139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, in the Hamptons area. Phone: (631) 537-5106.

What they'll be drinking at NY Farm Day in DC

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will again help show off her home state's agricultural abundance for movers and shakers in Washington, DC, at the 13th annual "New York Farm Day" next week.

The tasting event is set for Wednesday in the Senate's Kennedy Caucus Room for a wide range of people -- senators, representatives, members of the Senate Committe on Agriculture and the Congressional Wine Caucus, legislative chiefs of staff, agricultural specialists in Congress and the administration, members of the Washington media, and top area restaurants and wine shops.

Farming is a $38.4 billion industry vital to New York's economy, according to a recent economic impact study commissioned by Farm Credit East, a sponsor of the event. About 23% of the State's land area, or 7 million acres, is covered by 36,000 family farms. New York ranks high among the major agricultural states in America -- No. 1 in yogurt, No. 2 in apples, No. 2 in maple syrup, No. 3 in grapes, grape juice and wine, No. 4 in dairy, and No. 4 in pears.

The event is generally organized according to the state's major wine-producing regions -- Long Island, Brooklyn and New York City, the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Niagara and Erie areas, and the North Country.

Here is the lineup of beverages to be available for sampling:

Long Island Wines -- Bedell Cellars, Coffee Pot Cellars, Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard, Kontokosta Winery, Lieb Cellars, Macari Vineyards, Martha Clara Vineyards, McCall Wines, Osprey's Dominion Vineyards, One Woman Wines & Vineyards, Palmer Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Raphael Vineyards, Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, Suhru Wines, Wolffer Estate Vineyard.

Distilled Spirits -- Black Squirrel Distillery, Dark Island Spirits, Lockhouse Distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits, and Van Brunt Stillhouse.

Hudson Valley Wines -- Benmarl Winery, Brotherhood Winery, Clinton Vineyards, Millbrook Winery, Robibero Family Vineyards, Stoutridge Vineyard, Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery.

Non-Alcoholic Juices -- Red Jacket Orchards Black & Blue Stomp (black currant and blueberry juice), Apricot Stomp, Tart Cherry Stomp; National Grape Cooperative/Welch's Red and White Sparkling Grape Juice.

Finger Lakes Wines -- Fulkerson Winery, Goose Watch Winery, Hosmer Winery, Knapp Winery, Lakewood Vineyards, Red Newt Cellars, Wagner Vineyards.

Craft Ciders -- Brooklyn Cider House, Descendant Cider Company, Embark Craft Ciderworks, Good Life Cider, Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider, Nine Pin Ciderworks.

Wines of Lake Erie and Other Regions -- 21 Brix Winery, Johnson Estate Winery, and Liberty Vineyards & Winery (Lake Erie region); Coyote Moon Vineyards and Tug Hill Vineyards (North Country); Leonard Oakes Estate Winery (Niagara region); Brooklyn Oenology (New York City).

Dessert & Ice Wines -- Casa Larga Vineyards, Fox Run Vineyards, Johnson Estate Winey, Lakewood Vineyards, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Osprey's Dominion Vineyards, Penguin Bay Winery, Sheldrake Point Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company.

Finger Lakes Wines -- Anthony Road Winery, Billsboro Winery, Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Fox Run Vineyards, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Treleaven by King Ferry, Ventosa Vineyards.

Beer -- Empire Brewing Company's Slo' Mo IPA, Skinny Atlas Light, Two Dragons, White Aphro.

Latest statewide grape harvest report is out

While our statewide grape harvest is just under way and we'll have to wait for the overall reports on its quantity and quality, New York Agricultural Statistics (NASS) looked at 2015 relative to the four previous years. Here are the findings, as shared by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

Total grape acreage has remained steady at 37,000 acres, which means that variations in production are due to weather. Starting with 2011, the yield (tons) per acre and total production were: 5.08 and 188,000; 3.29 and 115,000; 5.57 and 206,000; 5.08 and 188,000; and, in 2015, 3.92 and 145,000. Prices paid per ton of grapes were inversely related to production levels, ranging from $373 in big years to $466 in lean years.

Table grapes (fresh fruit available only in the fall) account for less than 2% of total production (2,000 tons priced at $1,500 per ton, for a $3 million total value). While the price may look great, they are far more expensive to produce, harvest, and market than grapes processed into wine or grape juice.

Of the 143,000 tons processed, 35,000 (24%) went for wine at an average price per ton of $797, with 108,000 used for grape juice at $238 per ton.  The total value of all grapes grown in New York for all uses was $53,599,000, compared with $69,350,000 last year and $75,327,000 in 2013.

In other words, 2015 was a relatively lean year, though the quality was generally great. And, in
short, the New York State grape industry has three distinctly different segments -- table grapes, grape juice, and wine -- but what they all have in common is the vagaries of nature.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

State's grape harvest is under way

A work in progress at Hudson-Chatham Winery.
It's that time of year again. Grape harvest in New York State.

For the most part, the reports of quality are quite positive, and the quantity isn't bad either. And, as always, hope springs eternal for winery owners.

Here's one example, just posted on Facebook by Carlo DeVito of the Hudson-Chatham Winery today (go here for a series of photos from that venue):

"So far the quantity is up slightly. But more importantly we have been thrilled with the quality/taste level if the grapes thus far. Wonderful deep rich flavors. A long one til they mature as wines. But early indicators are extremely good! Thrilled."

Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest begins Saturday

Event poster by Ann Elizabeth Schlegel
Poster by Ann Elizabeth Schlegel
  If your taste runs toward Hudson Valley wines, or if you're not familiar with them but would like to be, this weekend is perfect for you.

The annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. Most of the 50 wine booths will represent wineries from the Hudson Valley, but some will be staffed by wineries from elsewhere in the state as well as by wine vendors representing a wide variety of sources.

Among a varierty of demonstrations and panels, Debbie Gioquindo, a member of the American Society of Wine Educators and author of the new book “Hudson Valley Uncorked,” will be leading three seminars:


"Cake Ball and Wine Pairing," learning to pair wines with desserts.


"Hudson Valley Signature Grape, Cabernet Franc," featuring a discussion on the grape that has been selected to be the region's signature wine and some of its producers.

"Wine & Cheese Pairing," featuring Gioquindo and "The Cheese Lady," Debbie Decker from Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie.

Full event details, schedule, and ticketing information are available on the event website. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds complex is located at 6550 Spring Brook Avenue in Rhinebeck. Phone: (845) 876-4000.

Saratoga Wine & Food (plus cars) begins Friday

Screen shot 2016-09-08 at 3.25.02 PMJust when things had calmed down with the end of the thoroughbred racing season, Saratoga Springs is gearing up for another big event -- the 16th annual Saratoga Wine & Food Festival and Concours D’Elegance, set for this Friday through Sunday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).

The gala event, a fundraiser for SPAC's Children's Education Program, combines local chefs' handiwork and cooking demonstrations with domestic and imported wines, and a classic auto show. Among the headliners will be Food Network personalities Anne Burrell and Marc Murphy, Spike TV’s Josh Capon, and top sommelier Joshua Wesson.

As a companion event, the Saratoga Automobile Museum will present a show of luxury collector cars including classes of Shelby Cobra, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and more. All the details, schedule and ticketing information are available on the event website.

SPAC and the auto museum are located just off Broadway (Route 9) in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

21 Brix throwing itself a birthday bash

21 Brix's Ella
One of Chautauqua County's younger wineries will hold its own birthday bash this Saturday.

21 Brix Winery, which this month marks its fifth year in existence, will party from noon to 5 p.m., with live music from Chelsea and Friends from 1 to 4. The Black Market food truck will be setting up outside from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., followed by Ted’s Hot Dogs on the premises from 2:30 to 4:30. Wine samplings, craft beers, slushies and more will be available as well.

The winery was founded by Kris Jordan at 6654 West Main Road in Portland, between the vineyards and cherry orchards of Olde Chautauqua Farms, owned by his parents. The entrance landmark is a lifesized pink elephant named Ella.

21 Brix is one of 23 members of Lake Erie Wine Country, formerly known as the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, is on the south shore of the lake in New York and Pennsylvania.

Keuka Lake Wine Trail harvest fest coming up

Screen shot 2016-09-08 at 2.10.04 PMThe Keuka Wine Trail's annual multi-venue Harvest Celebration of Food & Wine is set for the September 17-18 weekend.

Visitors will be able to begin their tour of the trail's member wineries at any of the trail's member wineries, where they will receive a souvenir wine glass and be able to sample up to four house wines as well as local dishes utilizing seasonal produce at each stop.

The current individual winery menus, with additions to be announced on the trail's website:

• Hunt Country Vineyards -- Joyce's Chili-on-the-Go (vegan), corn bread made with Italy Hill Produce organic cornmeal, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

• Vineyard View Winery -- sausage, apple and squash medley in sage and brown butter sauce

• Keuka Spring Vineyards -- harvest vegetable pasta toss, baguette slices, apple crisp

• McGregor Vineyard -- chicken sausage harvest stew, butter and herb bread, blueberry thumbprint cookie

In addition to those venues, other trail members are Heron Hill Winery, Ravines Wine Cellars, and Point of the Bluff Vineyards. Tickets, available online, include designated driver admissions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

'Brunch bill' goes into effect today

Legislation SmallThe timing seemed fitting when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the latest amendment to the state's alcoholic beverage control laws this morning. After all, the package of changes has been nicknamed the "brunch bill."

The change, the latest in a steady stream of modernizations of the laws under Cuomo's administration, immediately allows restaurants and bars to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, two hours earlier than previously allowed. In addition, such businesses outside New York City will be able to apply for 12 permits per year to sell alcohol as early as 8 a.m.

Also going into effect because of the signing: permission for the sale of wine in growlers, allowing liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags, and cutting more red tape for craft alcohol producers and sellers.

 “After more than 80 years, it’s about time to bring the rules governing the sale of alcohol in line with the demands of our customers,” Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association, said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and SLA Chairman (Vincent) Bradley we can now accommodate our guests who want a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with their brunch or a draft beer while watching their favorite football team — European or NFL. This is good news for small businesses all across New York State.”

Expansion project completed at Millbrook Vineyards

From top: Tasting Room,
Reserve Tasting Room, Taproom
Construction on an addition to the main building at Millbrook Vineyards & Winery was completed in time for a soft opening over the Labor Day weekend. Here is a rundown of the changes:

• The Tasting Room now has a more open concept that will allow for more tasting sessions and more accommodations for group events of various sizes.

• The Reserve Tasting Room is offering in-depth explorations of five of Millbrook's premier wine selections from the upper tier of its portfolio, including estate and vineyard designates, in an upscale private room with dark wood contrasting with bright Corian counters.

• The new Vineyard Taproom & Terrace allows visitors to stay away from the bustle of the Tasting Room while enjoying a glass of wine and views of the estate, in a space featuring a fireplace, couches, high top tables, and a connecting outdoor terrace.

Merrill Malouf has been hired as the new tasting room director. She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in management and retail merchandising, and was a member of the inaugural class of the Culinary Institute of America’s Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program in California. She then worked in several California wineries before returning to the Hudson Valley.

Millbrook has several autumn events on the schedule: wine and cheese tastings with Tim Gonzales on Saturday, September 17 and October 1; the 26th annual Harvest Party featuring chef Peter Kelly of Xavier's, Restaurant X, Freelance Café, and Xavier's X20 on Saturday, October 22, and the 2016 Grand Portfolio Wine Tasting on Saturday, December 3.

Millbrook is located at 26 Wing Road in Millbrook, Dutchess County. Phone: (845) 677-8383.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hunt Country's Vignoles story worth retelling

Screen shot 2016-09-06 at 3.27.45 PMSometimes a product has been around for so long it might be taken for granted and its back story ignored. Take the Vignoles wine produced by Hunt Country Vineyards near Keuka Lake. This particular item in a familiar blue bottle has been around for more than 30 years, with owners Art and Joyce Hunt making their first such plantings on three acres.

"They were actually field grafted on to Concord roots," says Art. "It was the first time field grafting had ever been done successfully in the cold Northeast."

Working with Tom Zabadal, who then was the senior Cornell University grape specialist, Art helped pioneer the technique. The first attempts were made with Seyval grapes, but the next year they took the best grafting techniques from those trials and moved down the hill to the Vignoles. Vignoles grow especially well in the cool micro-climate around Keuka Lake and the soils on the farm. The 2014 vintage, a blend of grapes from their South and Main vineyards, produced the natural combination of acidity and sweetness endemic to a high-quality Vignoles.

"When you have it with the right food, it's to die for," says Art. And, Joyce adds, "It's a really good combination with a snack like horseradish cheese. There's also a recipe I've been meaning to try again -- a fried rice with chicken, curry, coconut and pineapple -- that is great with the Vignoles."

The Hunts' iconic estate-grown Vignoles wine is available at $11.99 per bottle. The grape also was used to make a 2013 Late Harvest Vignoles that now is available at a discounted price of $15.99 for a 375ml bottle.

Incidentally, the vineyard's on-premises cafe this week switched to fall hours -- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through early October. It also will have a special menu on certain weekends as part of autumn events at the farm, such as the 27th annual Hunt Country Harvest Festival scheduled for the weekend of October 1-2.

Hunt Country Vineyards is located at 4021 Italy Hill Road (County Road 32) in Branchport, Yates County. Phone: (315) 595-2812 and (800) 946-3289.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Ontario lifts ban on wine in grocery stores

Legislation SmallNew Yorkers still cannot purchase wine in grocery stores as can be done in a majority of other states, but those living near the 445-mile-long border with Canada's Ontario province will be looking thirstily in that direction on October 28.

That is the date provincial Finance Minister Charles Sousa has announced as the first day on which wines will be available on the shelves of at least 70 grocery stores, the next wave of Premier Kathleen Wynne's liberalization of the province's restrictive laws on selling beer and wine.

 Last December, six-packs of beer first became available in supermarkets. By 2025, 300 of Ontario's 1,500 grocery stores will be selling wine and 450 will stock beer. Spirits will remain the exclusive purview of the 650-outlet government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which will continue to sell beer and wine as well.