Monday, October 31, 2016

Tierce, the original NY co-op wine, to debut latest version

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-02-30-pm-1I recently wrote about a cooperative effort among five Long Island wineries to create their first rosé merlot. But, that co-op effort was predated by 12 years by the annual creation of a Finger Lakes co-op wine named Tierce. And, its latest iteration is about to be unveiled.

The 2014 Tierce Dry Riesling will be unveiled at Fox Run Vineyards on Saturday, November 12, at a 7 to 9 p.m. event to be presided over by former lieutenant governor Bob Duffy who now is president of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Tierce achieved its greatest notoriety in January 2013 when it was the only white wine served at President Barack Obama's inaugural luncheon. (In a public relations coup for the state, a merlot from Long Island's Bedell Cellars was the only red served.)

Tierce usually is described as "3 vineyards, 3 winemakers, 1 wine," referring to the collaboration among Finger Lakes winemakers -- Peter Bell of Fox Run, Peter Becraft of Anthony Road), and Kelby Russell of Red Newt. Each made batches of dry Riesling from different vineyards, then put them through a series of taste trials to determine the final blend made up of equal parts from each winery.

In an interesting twist, guests at the debut will get to taste the three individual components before sampling the final 2014 Tierce blend which will retail at $30 per bottle. Tickets, priced at $45 per person, are available online. Fox Run Vineyards is located at 670 State Route 14 in Penn Yan, on the west shore of Seneca Lake.

Monday, October 24, 2016

3 NY wineries score big in Tasters Guild judging

A trio of New York State wineries each scored a pair of double gold medals in the recent 21st annual Tasters Guild Consumer Wine Judging.

• In the International Judging category, two Schulze Vineyards ice wines took double golds (a unanimous vote of the tasting panel) -- its 2012 Block Three and its 2012 Vidal Blanc; and the same awards went to Treleaven's 2013 Cabernet Franc Estate and its 2014 Wobbly Rock. Double golds also went to Chateau LaFayette Reneau's 2014 Dry Riesling, Coyote Moon Vineyards' 2014 Fire Boat White, Lakewood Vineyards' 2014 Borealis, Tree Hugger Sangria NV, and Wagner Vineyards 2013 Riesling Select.

• In the Consumer Judging category, Lakewood Vineyards took double golds for its 2015 Riesling and its 2015 Glaciovinum. Double golds also went to Belhurst Winery's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Black Willow 2015 Diamond

Go here for the full International category results and here for the full Consumer category results.

Long Island group creating its first rosé merlot

Long Island's only cooperative wine organization has created its first rosé merlot, but don't get too excited. It won't be on the market until spring 2017.

Merliance Rosé is a project of the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA), a cooperative effort of five Long Island wineries -- Martha Clara Vineyards, Raphael Vineyard & Winery, T'Jara Vineyards, Wolffer Estate Vineyards, and McCall Wines.

Unlike the red wine LIMA has been making, the rosé is being made from a single clone of the merlot grape, with all the grapes hand-picked and crushed on the same day, October 4. When it comes to market, it will be sold through the LIMA members' wine clubs at a price to be announced closer to that time.

Although Long Island vineyards have a wide range of grapes, their merlot acreage is approximately 700 acres, which represents 30% of the region's overall vineyard acreage, making it the most widely planted wine grape on the Long Island.

Merlot, French for "little blackbird,” is believed to have been developed from a variation on the name Merle in Bordeaux patois. Notes LIMA, "It is not certain whether the name reflected a comparison to the color of the birds or a testament to the fact that blackbirds in Bordeaux love feasting on this luscious grape variety. Either way, the use of the name merlot has only been found in the literature since the last 200 years. A report in 1784 referred to merlot as one of the better libournais blending varieties. We can trace the origins of merlot varietal back to the 1st Century in France, but merlot as the noble Bordeaux varietal standing on its own doesn’t appear in the literature until the 1800s."

The first merlot plantings on Long Island's North Fork were in 1974.

NY Riesling winners in Australia not all Finger Lakes

Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world to get some accolades. That was the case of a number of New York State entries in the recent Canberra International Riesling Competition (CIRC) in Australia.

Red Newt Cellars' 2013 Finger Lakes Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling was rated at 96 points and "Best American Riesling." The sane winery also scored a silver medal with its 2013 The Knoll Lahoma Vineyards Riesling, and scored 93 points.

Other New York gold medal entries:
  • Martha Clara Vineyards' 2014 Long Island Estate Reserve Riesling (96)
  • Brotherhood's 2014 Finger Lakes Late Harvest Riesling (95)
  • Sheldrake Point's 2013 Finger Lakes Reserve Dry Riesling (95)
All of which is interesting, in that the Finger Lakes winemakers consider Riesling their signature wine but two of the four New York winners were not from that area. Martha Clara is a Long Island winery, and Brotherhood is in the Hudson Valley.

The 17th annual competition covered more than 500 wines from eight countries. The "Best of Show" was Australia's Ferngrove 2016 Off-Dry Riesilng Limited Release, with the "Best Dry Riesling" going to Bird in Hand 2016 Riesling, also from Australia, and the "Best Sweet Riesling" awarded to Germany's Weingut Georg Muller Stiftung 2015 Hattenheimer Hassel Riesling Trockenbeerenausele VDP.GROSSE LAGE.

Go here for the full competition results.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Global wine grape production down

Black rot on grape cluster
Even though U.S. wine production is at an all-time high, all reports from around New York State tell us that, while this year's grape harvest should be one of great quality, it will not be one of great quantity.

Blame it on erratic weather, particularly the long drought in the western part of the state. And, we are not alone. The International Organization of Vine and Wine is projecting global wine production at least 5% below last year's harvest.

For example, French growers are expecting a four-year low, down about 12% from last year. Perhaps the hardest-hit wine regions are in Argentina where rot and fungal outbreaks attributed to El Niño weather patterns abound.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: 'Wines of the Finger Lakes' works

burford-bookWINES OF THE FINGER LAKES, by Peter Burford. Burford Books Inc., Ithaca, NY. $18.95. Paperback. 192 pages, illustrated.

In his publishing career, Peter Burford of Burford Books Inc. in Ithaca estimates, he has published "thousands" of books. On Saturday, he'll be officially releasing another -- the first he personally has written.

"Wines of the Finger Lakes" is an ambitious undertaking. Packed as the region is with wineries of all sizes, a variety of terroirs, and a mix of farmers-turned-winemakers, winemaking as a second career, and second- and third-generation winemakers maintaining traditions, it is not an easy place to explain to the uninitiated.

Burford, who humbly says he is neither wine writer nor wine expert, takes on the self-assigned task with a good mix of approaches. In a redundantly-titled initial chapter, "First Beginnings," he describes how winemaking came to the Finger Lakes in the person of young Episcopal clergyman William P. Bostwick who, in the early 1830s in Hammpondsport, planted Catawba and Isabella grapes to use as the source of sacramental wines. He goes on to delineate the growth from those first plantings to today's abundance when the Finger Lakes is the largest wine-producing area in a state that has grown to become the country's No. 3 wine producer, behind California and Washington.

In between, readers will find the stories of the early major companies such as Pleasant Valley, Taylor, Urbana and Widmer's, profiles of more than 50 current wineries both old and new; succinct explanations of the principal grapes grown in the region and the wines produced from them; even "A (Very) Short Course In Making Wine."

While the history and the explanatory chapters make for informative reading, it is in the profiles of the individual wineries that we strike gold. Many are filled with interesting tidbits about the ventures and the adventurers.

For example, that a logger and a Cornell University staffer collaborated on what became Damiani Vineyard and began producing wine just a dozen years ago. That Chateau Lafayette Reneau, founded more than three decades ago and named for founder Bob Reno's grandfather, will be keeping its independent identity under new ownership despite Bob's passing in 2013. That some vines at Atwater Estates Vineyards planted in the 1920s still are producing wine-quality grapes. That Ruth Lucas convinced husband Bill to give up his career as a tugboat captain and move to Cayuga Lake in the 1970s to found Lucas Vineyards, the first vineyard on the shore of that lake.That when the Peterson family, owners of the Swedish Hill and Goose Watch wineries, bought the Finger Lakes Champagne House in 2005, they renamed it Penguin Bay Winery as a nod to their financial support of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, and particularly the Humboldt penguins exhibit there.

These personal touches and many others show the extent to which Burford researched his topic. This book is an excellent reference tome that should be added to your collection, or simply read as a pleasant way to learn more about a region of natural wonders.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why you like certain wines and cheeses together

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-31-39-pmThe pairing of wines and cheeses is an ages-old culinary practice in many parts of the world. But, wines also go with so many other edibles -- chocolates, charcuterie, nuts, olives ... Why wine and cheese?

A study published in this month's issue of the Journal of Food Science says researchers used a new sensory evaluation method that helped them find that consuming cheese while drinking wine impacted the description and preference of different wines.

In other words, eating cheese may increase how much someone likes the wine they are drinking.

The study was conducted in a country where wine and cheese have long reigned supreme -- in France -- at its Center for Taste and Feeding Behavior, using residents of the city of Dijon who identified themselves as frequent consumers of wines and cheeses. They evaluated four wines (Pacherenc, Sancerre, Bourgogne and Madiran) to show how perception and liking of wine change after cheese intake over several sips, generally in a manner and amount typical of common practice.

"Thanks to our research, we learned that the duration of the perception of astringency of a certain wine could be reduced after having cheese and that the four evaluated cheeses had the same effect. In short, when having a plate of assorted cheeses, the wine will probably taste better no matter which one they choose," lead author Mara V. Galmarini explained.

According to, subjects were given a list of sensations to indicate what caught their attention (called the "dominant sensation") as they consumed the wine over three consecutive sips and after they swallowed. After the wines were initially evaluated, the task was repeated, but with a piece of cheese eaten between sips. Four different cheeses (Epoisses, Comté, Roquefort, Crottin de Chavignol) were sampled over different sessions with each wine.

"Results showed that cheese consumption had an impact on the description for all wines, and impacted preference for most. None of the four cheeses included in the study had a negative impact on wine preference. Liking of each wine was increased or remained the same after cheese intake. In both red wines (Bourgogne and Madiran), the four cheeses decreased the duration of dominance of astringency and increased that of red fruits aroma. In the sweet white (Pacherenc), the duration of dominance of sweetness was not changed by cheese intake, but in the white dry wine, cheeses had an impact on the main aroma.

"According to the authors, the sensory method developed in their work can help build better understanding of how the perception of one product is changed when consumed in combination with another. This information can help food brands communicate their products' characteristics, thus improving consumers' experiences."

Syracuse Wine & Chocolate Festival gets a makeover

Anyone who attended last fall's Wine & Chocolate Festival at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse probably wouldn't give it a good review.

A crowd of about 4,000, roughly double any previous crowd, showed up, surprising organizers and resulting in long lines and a shortage of wine and chocolate, not a good thing for a festival that is named for the two items and for which people pay in advance to taste.

Organizers of this year's event, scheduled for November 26, promise a lot of changes. One of the most obvious will be splitting it into two sessions for better crowd management -- 2 to 5 and 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to each session will be limited to about 1,500 people. And, the event will return to the Fairgrounds' Horticulture Building, smaller than the Exhibit Center where it was held for one year, but a building with a better layout for such festivals.

This is one of a series of Wine & Chocolate Festivals held around the state. Next up are dates in Binghamton (December 3), Buffalo (January 28, 2017), Albany (March 18), Utica (April 29), and Watertown (July 22).

The Syracuse area festival will feature dozens of vendors offering wine, chocolate, plus spirits and other foods, plus cooking demonstrations. The ticket price includes unlimited samplings of wine and a visit to the chocolate fountain. Other items are available for purchase. Bottles of wine are available for purchase, and the fest donates $1 from each sale to the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. Tickets are now available online.

The Fairgrounds are located at 581 State Fair Boulevard, immediately adjacent to Route 690 just west of Syracuse. Directions are available online.

'Dry Red Event' returning to Ventosa Vineyards

If dry red wines are your thing, head to Ventosa Vineyards for the 3rd annual Dry Red Event scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, November 18. This year, visitors will see an expansion of the food offerings, wines from seven different Finger Lakes producers, plus live music.

Guests will be able to sample three dry red wines from each participating winery along with one tapas food pairing at each station. Rather than a dinner-style event, this will be a casual strolling one, with a different tapas-sized item served with each winery. All featured wines will be available for sale by the glass and bottle.

Tickets, priced at $5 or $35 for wine club members, are available online, or by calling Danielle at Ventosa at  (315) 719-0000.

Participating wineries:
• Damiani Wine Cellars
• Hector Wine Company
• McGregor Vineyards
• Shaw Vineyards
• Standing Stone Vineyards
• Ventosa Vineyards
• Zugibe Vineyards
The tapas menu will include lamb chops, duck confit, smoked salmon, mushroom risotto, caramelized onion tart, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, bacon-wrapped dates, bruschetta, and a charcuterie bar. Vegetarian and gluten-free menu items also will be available.

Ventosa Vineyards is located at 3440 Route 96A in Geneva, Ontario County.

State's newest winery rolling out its products

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-1-42-34-pmIt's always interesting to sample the wares of a new winery. That will be possible on Saturday at the inaugural Altamont Fall Fest, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Village Community Room at 115 Main Street in the Albany County community.

(The possibility of inclement weather precipitated a move from Orsini Park, the original venue.)

Adult visitors who missed the wines' July debut will be able to try the dry apple wine and ice cider produced by Meadowdale Winery -- the state's newest winery, located at 32 Fryer Lane on the Black Creek Farm, as its entry into the state's burgeoning farm winery segment. They also will find food samplings from a variety of artisans, plus crafts vendors and live music.

Meadowdale's wine and cider products debuted in July at the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Summer Festival and nearby Indian Ladder Farms' 100th anniversary. In the works is a "birch wine," made from a 1736 recipe using birch tree sap.

The current wine is a light bodied, golden product made from local apples, and sells for $12 a bottle. The ice cider, described as "Montreal style," also is made from apples -- plenty of 'em. It takes four times more apples to make a barrel of it than it does to make a barrel of standard hard cider. It's bottled at 14% alcohol by volume, and sells for $15.

The winery and the farm have been a relatively under-the-radar effort, so far. It's an ecological-friendly operation -- solar powered; all products grown only with fertilizers and pest controls approved for organic farming; and, recognized by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York for its sustainable practices.

The farm is the site of a Dutch barn from the original Fryer family homestead of the 1700s. According to the farm website history, "Over time, the Fryer Farm transitioned from a diverse self- sustaining farm to a fruit orchard and was eventually dedicated to milk production. In the early 1990's, after centuries in one ownership, the remaining lands of the Fryer Farm were subdivided and sold. After decades of lying fallow, a small portion of the original Fryer estate is now being revived as a member supported farm producing maple syrup and wholesome fresh fruits and vegetables now called Black Creek Farm."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Constellation divests Canadian wine division

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-1-49-29-pmConstellation Brands, the Victor, NY-based international beverage corporation, has sold its Canadian wine business for $1.03 billion Canadian (about $785 million U.S.).

The sale includes such Canadian wine brands such as Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, a variety of wineries, vineyards, offices, facilities, and Wine Rack brand retail stores. Constellation retains ownership of Black Velvet Whisky and its production facility in Alberta Province.

This is the second major deal for Constellation this fall. It recently announced the purchase of High West Distillery, a Utah company that produces a range of whiskeys. And, it recently acquired a minority stake in Bardstown Bourbon Company, one of the biggest new U.S whiskey distilleries.

“With the acquisition of High West and the opportunity to work with Bardstown Bourbon Company, we are strategically advancing our spirits business with access to high-quality supply and state-of the-art production capabilities,” said Constellation CEO Robert Sands.

Constellation's vast holdings include numerous popular brands, including Woodbridge, Mark West, Clos du Bois, Manischewitz, Robert Mondavi and Ruffino wines; Svedka Vodka, and Modelo and Corona beers.

In explaining the decision to sell its Canadian wine division, Sands said, “In April, we announced plans to explore an initial public offering (IPO) for a portion of our Canadian wine business as part of our strategy to focus on premium, high margin and high growth brands. [Instead] we seized the opportunity to sell the entire business in a value-enhancing transaction when it presented itself. The Canadian wine business is the leader in the Canadian wine market and is a long-term growth opportunity."

The purchaser is the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wine, water, fuel wars in Finger Lakes


• From PRI: Public Radio International

With the glut of natural gas from the fracking boom, the energy industry is digging deep for new ways to store it. 

There already are more than 400 underground storage facilities across the U.S. in places such as old mines and depleted aquifers. But still more storage is needed, and now some residents and businesses in the Finger Lakes area of New York have found themselves tangled in a long-term standoff with Crestwood Equity Partners, which owns a vast underground storage facility in the region.

More than 100 wineries, distilleries, and breweries are nestled in and around the Finger Lakes area. Their business pours brews (and dollars) into one of the area’s major industries: tourism, which is worth $3 billion annually and employs close to 60,000 people in the region. ...

Some people who live and work around Finger Lakes are concerned about a big thing affecting their business -- namely, a proposal to store fuels below Seneca Lake, the region’s largest lake. In 2009, the company that’s now Crestwood Equity Partners submitted plans, currently under consideration by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, to store propane, butane and natural gas in the salt caverns deep beneath Seneca Lake.

Go here for the full story.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Drought effect on NYS grape crop uncertain

Vineyard at Glenora Wine Cellars
A vineyard at Glenora Wine Cellars
From The Associated Press

Grape harvests are underway at vineyards in the Northeast where unusually dry warm weather this summer was ideal for growing grapes. But, in parts of New York and southern New England where drought struck, some growers are seeing decreasing yields.

New York, the country's third largest wine producer, was hit hard by drought in the Finger Lakes wine region. Gene Pierce, owner of Glenora Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake, said his and other vineyards are seeing smaller crop yields, ranging from a 10% decline to as much as 30 to 40%. ... But it's too early to tell how the dry weather will affect the quality of the crop. ...

Dry conditions also tend to mean fewer crop diseases than a humid summer, said Tim Martinson, senior associate for viticulture at Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. He predicted grape harvests will likely be smaller for some growers. But "What's there is going to be really good stuff," Martinson said.

Go here for the full story.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Why you need to take a look at Buffalo

• From Wine Enthusiast magazine 

Tucked between New York’s Finger Lakes wine country to the east and Canada’s Niagara Escarpment to the west, Buffalo is an under-the-radar destination for people in the know. Many compare it to the nearby culinary hub of Pittsburgh, but its edginess and proximity to grape-growing regions makes it more of an East Coast version of Oakland, CA.

The lakefront city hit a rough patch after its industrial heyday, but Buffalo’s stunning turn-of-the-century architecture was never torn down, and the cost of living and doing business stayed within reach. Now the old buildings are being revived for new ventures like restaurants, distilleries, breweries and wine bars. 

Go here for the full story.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vineyard and winery in planning stages for Staten Island

Staten Island seen from Brooklyn
via Verrazano Narrows Bridge
New York State wine watchers are fond of pointing out that there now are wineries in virtually every county making wines from New York grapes. Except maybe Richmond. Now, that is going to be remedied.

A prominent businessman on Staten Island (officially called Richmond County) has revealed plans to produce wine from grapes grown on the island, utilizing imported vines.

“Forty percent of the population is Italian on Staten Island. We drink a lot of wine here,” Richard Nicotra, owner of The Nicotra Group, a major developer, said in an interview with CBS2. “We are sophisticated, educated, classy people.”

Staten Island is the third largest of New York City's five boroughs, but has the smallest population. The vineyard idea is part of Nicotra's planned $20 million office complex in Bloomfield on the island's West Shore, where he will develop a vineyard on a two-acre site and on the roof of the building.

“We are going to transport a vineyard from Tuscany to Staten Island,” making wine that will be  “probably a little bitter, probably a little bold, like all the people here.”

Plans call for doing the first planting next summer, part of a two-year project. Nicotra said all profits will benefit various Staten Island charities.

The to-be-named project will not be the county's first winery, however. The Staten Island Winery, founded and owned by winemaker Bob Rando, makes wine from grapes he purchases from California growers. It is located at 106 Wakefield Avenue #A. Phone: 718-494-9463. Rando also is the winemaker at the Boston Winery in Boston, MA. In addition, small-scale winemaking is done with purchased grapes at the Vino Divino School of Wine, 42 Industrial Loop. Phone: 718-227-9463.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Direct-ship wine gets test case in Pennsylvania

regulationHere's a scenario: You were on vacation in France or Italy and found this quaint little winery that has been in the same family for generations and produces some tasty varieties, so you plan to order some of the wines directly from them when you get home. Forget it.

Here's another: You're planning a wine and cheese party and want to make it a genuine European theme. The cheese part is easy. Anything you can't find at your local shops can be ordered online and shipped directly to you. The wine part? That's a different story.

In the U.S., it isn't legal for foreign makers to directly ship alcoholic products to individual consumers. You can order foods, clothing, books, jewelry, techie items ... almost anything you'd like. But, alcoholic beverages have to go through a U.S. importer who -- after adding its own profit to the price -- sells to your local wine and spirits purveyor who -- after adding yet more to the price -- sells it to you.

Now, however, under a new law that took effect this summer and vastly changed the rules on sale of alcohol in previously uber-stodgy Pennsylvania, that may change. Among other things, what commonly is called Act 39 not only got rid of Pennsylvania's prohibition on direct wine shipments, it allows any winery, foreign or domestic, to apply for direct shipping permits.

Currently, more than 460 U.S. wineries quickly filed while no foreign wineries have, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. But it's only a matter of time until wineries in Europe, South America, Australia or elsewhere will want to increase their market in places where consumers would be happy to skip the expensive layering.

And, it wouldn't be a major leap of imagination to think that alcohol regulators and politicians in New York and other states will be keeping a close watch on Pennsylvania's experience as what is, de facto, the test case for everyone.

Trib Total Media, which operates in the Pittsburgh area, has a very thorough analysis of the situation. Go here to read it.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fjord Vineyards dominates HV competition results

Ever hear of Fjord Vineyards? I suspect you soon will.

The Hudson Valley's newest brand, located at Benmarl Winery in Marlboro, Ulster County, was named "Winery of the Year" in the recent Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition.

On the way to taking that title, Fjord also won "Best of Show," "Best White Wine," and "Best Overall Hudson Valley Wine," all for its 2015 Albarino.

Albarino is a variety of white wine grape grown primarily in Galicia in northwest Spain and  Monção and Melgaço in northwest Portugal, where it is used to make varietal white wines. It is believed that the grape was brought to those regions in the 12th Century by Cluny Abbey monks from France's Burgundy region. While Albarino wine is produced in several places in California, I believe the Fjord grapes are the only Albarino plantings in the state.

Other "Best of" winners in the competition, sponsored by the Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association during the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival:
• Brotherhood Winery "B" Sparkling Rosé
• Robibero Family Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc
• Clinton Vineyards 2015 Rosée
• Christopher Jacobs Winery Appleoosa
• Millbrook Vineyards & Winery Late Harvest Riesling
• Brotherhood Winery Rebel Reserve Cider
• Dennings Point Distillery Beacon Bourbon
Go here and scroll down for all the medal results in the event, limited to wineries in the Hudson Valley AVA.