Thursday, December 29, 2016

Before New Year's Eve, check out 'Toasts & Crumbs'

We're just about at the big moment, that countdown when we usher in yet another New Year. And you, of course, would like to be the star of the show by offering the perfect toast.

The only problem: You don't know one. Luckily, I do. In fact, I have an entire website of them, called "Toasts & Crumbs." (The subtitle is, "When Words Fail You, Try These.")

A couple of examples:

"Always remember to forget
The troubles that pass away. 
But never forget to remember 
The blessings that come each day."


"May all your troubles
during the coming year 
be as short-lived
as your New Year's resolutions." 

Just go here for the full archive.
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Are you ready for the Big Night?

New Year's Eve is nearly upon us. Did you view my recent "15 Days of Holiday Drinks" series published just before Christmas? If not, here are links to each of the recipes in enough time for you to shop for any ingredients not in your home collection or, for the professional bartenders and pub owners among you, in time to make one of these your special of the night.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Finger Lakes group to amp up Riesling push in 2017

Finger Lakes Times
GENEVA -- The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance in 2017 is adding targeted initiatives and a presence in new markets -- including sommelier panel tastings -- to raise the profile of what has become a world-renowned wine region.

The annual Riesling Camp, scheduled for April, is expected to double in size and attract 16 to 20 wine professionals next year, said the Alliance. The three-day invitation-only workshop is designed to identify, educate and orient Finger Lakes brand ambassadors in key markets, particularly New York City.

The organization’s Riesling Rally, slated for mid-summer, will gather together member wineries that have committed to participating in Riesling Month activities planned for September. Riesling Rally introduces the annual September program with a tasting event hosted at a member winery.
Go here for the full story.

Adirondack Brewery owner creating 'craft beverage campus'

Architect's rendering of multi-phase campus development
What is a "craft beverage campus"?

It's a project created by the owner of the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. The multi-phase development of a parcel adjacent to the existing Lake George facility would include "a winery and a beverage incubator that will serve as a regional food and beverage education center through partnerships with SUNY Adirondack, Schenectady County Community College and Paul Smiths College to coordinate and integrate craft beverage academic programs, further career opportunities and expand year-round tourism in the Village of Lake George," says a state grant announcement.

John Carr has received a $325,000 Empire State Development grant for the Route 9 project. He envisions the campus as a place to continue brewing and bottling his beer, offer college and other classes on brewing beer and cider, winemaking, and distilling, and also would have facilities to sell the beverages.

Carr has been active in efforts to help make Lake George more of a year-round visitor attraction. He sees his campus as furthering that effort, although additional funding is needed for his project. In addition, partnerships with the aforementioned colleges need to be formalized.

Ed Bartholomew, president of the Warren County EDC, told the Post-Star he and his group had been working with Carr for several years, and added he is glad the project got state grant money.

"I think John is fulfilling a life-long dream for himself, and his persistence will bring new people into Warren County and Lake George," Bartholomew said. "I think what John is creating is a destination, not only for craft brewing, but for wine and distilling."

Carr told the newspaper the first step will be to talk to various schools about the educational component. "This is a big-picture, long-term project. The important thing is the better products New York produces, the more we can sell on a national level."

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Giant, and tasty, workplace present for Christmas

Vernon and Louis XIII
Olivier Vernon has made quite an impact in his first season with the New York Giants, starring at defensive end with a season-long string of excellent games. For Christmas, he made an extra impact on teammates and coaches.

Vernon purchased personalized $3,000 bottles of Louis XIII Cognac for each of his teammates and coaches, along with additional members of the organization, according to

Is that a big deal financially? Well, there are 75 players on the Giants' roster, 20 members of the coaching staff and the other team staffers and executives who received gifts from Vernon, so we're talking a gift list in the $300,000 range. Yes, his five-year contract gives him $85 million, but still ...

Vernon had each individual bottle engraved with the recipient’s name and the package included two matching champagne glasses. Each was accompanied by a card that said, “I wanted to thank you for welcoming me to the Giants family and wish you a happy holiday season.”

The Louis XIII brandy, which dates to 1874, is sold in limited editions and packaged in individually numbered crystal decanters that weigh 11 pounds.

6 things you (probably) didn't know about Cognac

Saturday, December 24, 2016

NYS alcohol producers niche keeps on expanding

Here's the final count for New York State adult beverage production in 2016. Bear in mind some companies fit into more than one of these categories.
• There are 418 wineries and farm wineries.

• Those wineries have 82 branch offices/satellite stores.

• Wine now is produced in 59 of the state's 62 counties.

• There are more than 300 breweries.

• There are more than 100 craft distillers, and the number of farm distilleries has nearly doubled in the past two years.

• There are 75 cider producers. 
Since 2011, the number of farm-based alcohol beverage manufacturers has increased by 188%, bringing the total number of wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries using New York-grown ingredients to 591.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Spending doesn't equate to being top wine drinking nations

Q: Which country spends the most per capita every year on wine?

A: According to a new British study, it's ... no, not France; no, not Italy; no, not Spain. It's Switzerland.

The Swiss spend about $625 a year on wine, according to the UK relocation company MoveHub that compared wine consumption data globally with the price of the average bottle of wine.

No. 2 was the Cayman Islands at $562, followed by the Falkland Islands, a British protectorate off Argentina; the Caribbean island-nation of Aruba, and Norfolk Island, a tiny spot in the Pacific Ocean owned by Australia. A very odd collection indeed.

But, you may ask, what about all those European nations with a centuries-long tradition of wine consumption? Well, the closest to Switzerland in terms of spending is Iceland at $345. Well, then we're talking a different sort of analysis.

In France, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, believe it or not, wine drinkers spend only about $127 per person per year. The twist is that the countries traditionally regarded as the biggest wine consumers pay much less on-average per bottle. For example, an average bottle of wine in Switzerland retails for about $11.50 a bottle compared to about $7.25 in Austria, $8 in the UK, and $8.60 in Sweden, according to the comparison site

In addition, the per-capita consumption also throws another clinker into the mix. According to research from Forbes, the Swiss are only No. 7 among European countries both large and small. Check out the accompanying chart for details.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Raising a glass to Cooperstown Beverage Trail's visitors

Here's something to work into your 2017-18 travel plans. The Cooperstown Beverage Trail is offering a souvenir tasting glass glass to anyone who uses this form to collect stamps at each of its eight members.

The offer has very few strings attached. One coupon per over-21 person, one glass per person, no purchase necessary anywhere, and gift glasses available through April 2018 as long as supplies last.

If you need to find a copy of the form that will download better on your particular printer, you can find it online. That page also shows a variety of other freebies.

The Cooperstown Beverage Trail offers a mix of wine, beer, spirits and cider makers on a very manageable 37-mile route through Otsego County in  Central New York. Member businessess:
• Brewery Ommegang
• Bear Pond Winery
• Cooperstown Brewing Company
• Cooperstown Distillery
• Pail Shop Vineyards
• Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard
• Rustic Ridge Winery
• Butternuts Beer & Ale

Pricing special for Ice Wine & Culinary Festival

Here's a two-month heads-up about a very special event. I'm providing a long lead time for those across the state who may need it to make arrangements to be in the Rochester area in February.

The event is the annual New York Ice Wine & Culinary Festival being hosted at Casa Larga Vineyards & Winery on Saturday, February 11.

The day will include ice wine tastings, wine and craft beer tastings, ice wine seminars, ice wine-infused food, vineyard horse-drawn wagon rides, vendors, and live music. Tickets are $55 in advance, $65 the day of the event. A special package of two tickets for $100 is available until December 31. (Use coupon code ICEWINE17 online or call the wine shop at 585-223-4210 to purchase tickets.)

The winery dates to 1974 when Italian immigrant Andrew Colaruotolo planted the first two acres of vines. The first harvest came in 1978, producing Casa Larga's first vintage. Over the years its portfolio grew to include ice wines that met with critical and commercial. Its most recent, introduced at this year's festival, is a 2010 Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Blanc Barrel Aged Ice Wine. It is aged 19 months in French acacia wood barrels (19.7% RS), and retails for $59.99 for the 375ml bottle.

Casa Larga operations are overseen by John Colaruotolo, son of the late founder. Matt Cassavaugh is the head winemaker.

Casa Larga is located at  2287 Turk Hill Road in Fairport, Monroe County.

A mulled wine lesson from the North Country

Virtually everyone has heard the term "mulled wine." Very few, I suspect, have actually tasted it, and even fewer know how to make it.

Alina Walentowicz, the Clifton Park native who is the public relations specialist at the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, a division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, rounded up one surefire recipe from a member winery of the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail.


from Nancy Vesco
Vesco Ridge Vineyards
4 bags Olde Tradition mulling spices
4 cups steamed apple cider or apple juice
1 bottle Vesco Farm Truck Red wine
1/4 cup honey
Several cinnamon sticks
Orange slices 
Steeps the mulling spices in the steamed (not boiling!) cider or apple juice, then mixes in the whole bottle of red wine. Once the spiced mixture has steeped for 3 to 5 minutes, add one-quarter cup of  honey, garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices and serve.

(Nancy's favorite cider to use for this drink comes from nearby Chazy Orchards, home of the world’s largest Macintosh apple orchard. Both businesses are located in West Chazy, Clinton County.)

What goes with Cayuga Lake? Bacon!

Bacon on your cheesburger? Check.
Bacon on your egg sandwich? Check.
Bacon dipped in maple syrup and brown sugar? Check.
Bacon and peanut butter on an English muffin? Check.

And to all those other "bacon and ... " recipes you may enjoy, check, check, check and check.

Now, let's get serious.

How about "wine, bacon, bacon, bacon"? That's what is being promised at the 3rd annual "Bacon On the Lakein," always a real stretch for a title but always a great idea for a winter's-end blowout involving all 16 member wineries of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m to 5 p.m. each day of the weekend of March 18-19 at the Knapp Winery & Vineyard, 2770 Ernsberger Road in Romulus. The wineries will be offering a variety of bacon-centric items to pair with their wines. Plus, there are numerous big-prize offerings planned as part of the event and at individual wineries leading up to it. Ticket and other information is available online.

Trail members:
  • Americana Vineyards
  • Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Cellars
  • Buttonwood Grove Winery
  • Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery
  • Goose Watch Winery
  • Hosmer Winery
  • Knapp Winery
  • Long Point Winery
  • Lucas Vineyards
  • Montezuma Winery
  • Six Mile Creek Vineyard
  • Swedish Hill Winery
  • Thirsty Owl Wine Company
  • Toro Run Winery
  • Treleaven
  • Varick Winery & Vineyard

Monday, December 19, 2016

15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 9)

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-2-58-28-amNOTE: Because this cocktail contains wine, I thought I'd share it on this blog. To see the entire series -- which today posted Day 12's selection -- simply go to my Dowd On Drinks blog.

• Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

This is a very cool party cocktail. Be sure to add the remaining grapes at the very last minute, advise the editors of “1001 Cocktails” where I found the recipe, “then watch them liven up your drink as they jump around, making even more bubbles.”  


Pink Champagne or other pink sparkling wine 
5 or 6 red or black grapes 
Splash of mandarin liqueur 
Fresh ice

Put aside two grapes. Crush or muddle the others in a small bowl to let the juice flow. Add ice and liqueur, stir well, then strain into a chilled Champagne goblet. Top up with Champagne. Cut the remaining grapes in half, remove the seeds, then add them to the glass just as you're ready to serve and enjoy the show.

Imbibeable Cartoonery

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Notes On Napkins returning in January

-- From Bill Dowd

After a layoff of 10 months to devote research and writing time to some other projects, my food-and-restaurant blog Notes On Napkins will be coming back in January 2017, right after the holiday bustle has receded.

It will resume being an informative companion to Dowd On Drinks and Dowd's New York Wine Notebook, occasionally with a little bit of crossover between the blogs when dealing with topics involving both food and drink, but mostly dealing with their specialty topics.

Both will continue to concentrate on New York's Greater Capital Region (and a slice of western New England), but won't hesitate to go farther afield when something interesting comes up,

As always, your participation is welcomed. That includes submitting comments on posts, or sending along news of special events, menu changes, major staff changes, openings and -- sometimes regrettably -- closings, and other news tidbits. If you put this email address -- -- in your contact list right now you'll be all set to participate.

Meanwhile, a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year to all. Looking forward to getting back together with you in 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bottom line, bad weather didn't ruin NY's grape harvest

A snowy Finger Lakes grape harvest (Rochester D&C photo)
From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 
The persistent drought and heat of the summer made for a worrisome growing season for Finger Lakes area grape growers, but in the end, wine drinkers will likely enjoy some delicious wines made from 2016 grapes.

Now that nearly all of the grapes have been harvested, crushed and pressed, most winemakers are excited about what they have fermenting in barrels and tanks. During the summer and fall, most of New York experienced the state’s worst drought since the U.S. Drought Monitor began weekly reporting in January 2000. In addition, it was the second-warmest season since Cornell started keeping records in the 1970s ... .

In the end, the harvest varied significantly from place to place. "What happens on one site can be very different from what happens on another site," said Chris Gerling, extension association for enology at Cornell University. Each winery was impacted by whether the area had a well-timed, pop-up thunderstorm and whether the soil in that area retained moisture. Other factors included how the site had been managed, and any accumulated effects from the previous years' weather.
Go here for the full story and a video of late harvesting in the snow.

Wine & Grape Foundation head shares parting thoughts

Jim  Trezise always has something up his sleeve.
• When an organization is more than 30 years old and has had only one president during that period, it is only natural to wonder what direction it will take under new top leadership. That is the case with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, created in 1985 with Jim Trezise as its head. He will step away from that post on January 1, although playing a role in helping his successor Sam Filler ease into the job at the organization's offices in Canandaigua. Trezise shared his parting thoughts in what he calls the "transition edition" of his weekly newsletter The Wine Press, and addressed a few questions he has received since announcing the impending change about a year ago.

Sam Filler
By Jim Trezise

On January 1, 2017, some positive changes will occur in the grape and wine industry, both in New York State and nationally.

Sam Filler will officially become executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and I will become president of WineAmerica, the national organization of American wineries based in Washington, DC. Both changes have been long-planned and thoroughly discussed to ensure a smooth transition.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo noted at the most recent [wine, beer and spirits] Summit, his father, the late former Governor Mario Cuomo and I created the Foundation in 1985 during a time of economic crisis in the New York grape and wine industry. So, I feel it's sort of like my 31-year-old child, and I want to see it continue to grow another 31 years.

When I notified the Foundation Board of Directors more than a year ago of my desire to find a successor so it could continue well into the future, we conducted a formal search which resulted in Sam's selection. However, I also want to finish up some special projects, and to make sure Sam is well oriented, so I will remain president until March 31 and spend the first three months of the year helping get him up to speed. I'll also continue writing The Wine Press for a couple more months.

I am fully confident that Sam will do a great job and take the Foundation to the next level. We currently have a great board, a fabulous staff, financial stability, and widespread respect which, in combination, set the stage for a bright future.

For the past four years, Sam has been director of industry development for the craft beverage sector within Empire State Development. In that capacity, he has come to know the industries well in terms of structure, marketing, laws and regulations, and also has managed $3 million in grants for promoting New York craft beverages. He also is a participant in the superb LEAD NY program which grooms future leaders in agriculture.

WineAmerica is a vital organization for American wineries, especially at a time of major transition in Washington. It coordinates grassroots public policy advocacy to protect and enhance the business climate for wine. Excise tax reform, immigration reform, music licensing, trade policy, research funding, and export promotion are just a sampling of the many issues affecting wineries.

With a totally new administration taking office in January, and the many uncertainties that brings, WineAmerica's role is more important than ever. I've served on the executive committee of its board of directors for more than 20 years, and have worked closely with staff members Tara Good (director of operations) and Michael Kaiser (director of public affairs). As its president, I look forward to assisting their excellent efforts to build WineAmerica and its ability to represent the American wine industry. WineAmerica also has retained an excellent government affairs firm, Meyers & Associates, to make our case with the new administration and Congress.

I also will continue running the International Riesling Foundation, judging in major wine competitions, and remaining engaged in the wine industry in other ways -- all from my home on Keuka Lake, with travel as necessary to fulfill those functions.

Over the past year, many friends have congratulated me on my "retirement," which I genuinely appreciate. However, the "R" word is just not part of my vocabulary, but the "T" word -- transition -- is. In fact, I'll probably be busier than ever, fortunately with all of my activity still in the wine industry which I love. And I'll never stop promoting New York wines.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

HV winemaker/author making Rensselaer appearance

Stephen Casscles, a winemaker and author of "Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada," will be visiting the Homebrew Emporium in Rensselaer on Saturday for a book selling/signing and wine tasting.

In addition, Casscles will be available from 2 to 6 p.m. to talk about winemaking, and will have several wines from the Hudson-Chatham Winery for sampling.

Casscles plys his winemaking trade at both Hudson-Chatham and his own boutique operation in Middle Hope. If you're looking for a stocking stuffer for a wine lover this season, I can recommend his book highly. You can check out my review of it by clicking here.

The Homebrew Emporium is located 470 North Greenbush Road (Route 4) in  Rensselaer. Phone: 283-7094.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

'Makers and Masters Classic' beer, wine judging date set

Earlier this year, a half-dozen winemakers and a half-dozen brewers from the Finger Lakes got together to judge each others' products. After analyzing the results of that get-together, they have decided to do it again. So, circle March 4, 2017, on your calendar.

That's when the 2nd annual Makers and Masters Classic will be held at Lakewood Vineyards. Last February, the inaugural event saw 48 beers and 62 wines entered in the event -- the brewers judging the wines, the winemakers judging the brews -- and a good-sized crowd came out to enjoy what Lakewood's Chris Stamp says "began as a highly controlled professional scientific enquiry [that] quickly spiraled into something much more fun."

No word yet on how many entries will be up for judging and public sampling this time, but you can check with Lakewood at (607) 535-9252 or (877) 535-9252 for information and ticket availability. Tickets will go on sale online, but they're not up as of today.

Lakewood Vineyards is located at 4024 State Route 14, Watkins Glen. Click here for directions.

Monday, December 12, 2016

400,000 bottles destroyed in Italy sabotage

The historic Conte Vistarino winery

From The Telegraph, UK
An act of sparkling wine skullduggery in northern Italy has left Europe with [the equivalent of] 400,000 fewer bottles of bubbly.

Vandals broke into the centuries-old grounds of the Conte Vistarino winery in the middle of the night and drained refrigerated steel tanks where Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and other white varieties from the 2016 harvest were maturing. ...

Employees arrived at work at the winery in the Lombardy hills south of Pavia last week to find the grounds soaked in grape juice and skins. The raid, first reported in the Corriere della Sera on Saturday, wiped out an estimated $532,000 (U.S.) worth of wine at the 2,500-acre estate, where the family has hosted the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret.

The saboteurs did not other damage to the estate and did not steal anything from the property, suggesting it was a deliberate act of spite.
Go here for the full story.

About that winery 'distilling grant' -- it's sort of wrong

When it was announced last week that the Thousand Islands Winery had received a federal grant it would use to expand its distilling operation, many people in the state's wine industry were surprised, probably because it doesn't have a distilling component.

Yes, the winery does sell products produced by the Dark Island Spirits distillery, and in turn it sells Thousand Islands wines. (Both businesses are located in Alexandria Bay.) But, as it turns out, a $250,000 grant to the winery will be used solely to support its current business.

The confusion was caused by -- of all things -- a government error. In making the distribution announcement of nearly $2.3 million  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Value-Added Producer Grant program, the purpose of the Thousand Islands grant was juxtaposed with a similar grant to Mazza Chautauqua Cellars / Five & 20 Spirits in Westfield, Chatauqua County. That combination distillery/brewery is the first such entity in the state.

The Mazza business itself is a study in growth. It began when two Italian immigrants founded a small winery in Pennsylvania, near the border with New York, then continually expanded over the years to today's multiple locations in the two states -- all in what is known as Lake Erie Wine Country -- and multiple alcoholic beverage enterprises. You can see an interesting online slideshow that describes the entire journey.

Meanwhile, Scott R. Collins, acting state director for USDA Rural Development, said the  Thousand Islands Winery’s grant will be used to expand the winery’s advertising and branding, as well as to help offset the costs of general operations.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Newbie's Guide To Holiday Champagne

Flash forward to December 26. There you sit, in your latest ugly Christmas sweater that already has a splotch of holiday gravy on the front, wondering how to avoid looking like a schlub when you uncork the Champagne you’ve been assigned to purchase for the next family inquisition commonly known as New Year’s Eve.

You like your bubbly, of course, if it says Bud Lite on the label. What do you know about that frou-frou French stuff, and who wants to spend that kind of money on something that tickles your nose and tastes sour anyway?

Well, if you know Champagne is French, you may be further ahead than you realized. The rest is a simple matter of getting educated. Quickly. So, sit up straight and pay attention.

True Champagne comes from the Champagne region in the northeastern part of France which jealously protects the name “Champagne” worldwide. That’s why the phrases “Champagne style” and “methode champenoise” appear on a lot of non-French labels. Legally they can't call their stuff by that name. (See how much you’ve learned already?)

Champagne doesn’t taste sour. Crappy Champagne does. However, it does have quite a range from tart to sweet. There is something called “liqueur d’expedition” -- no, it's not a booze run -- that is used to top off bottles after the sediment has been removed. Because it contains varying amounts of sugar and some reserve wine, the sweetness of the finished product will vary and determines the style of the Champagne.

The most common style is Brut (there is an Extra or Ultra Brut, but you’ll rarely see it, especially in the U.S. ). Brut has 0 to 15 grams of sugar per liter. Then comes Extra Sec with 12-20 grams, Sec at 17-35, Demi Sec at 35-50, and Doux at more than 50 and also extremely rare. You’re usually dealing with Brut style in this country, and it’s a versatile wine for meals, desserts or just quaffing.

Champagne prices range all over the place, such as $15-$22 for a palatable low-end wine to $30-$60 for the better ones without having to sell your first-born to pay for even more expensive ones. My favorites among the affordable French imports are Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (about $40 for the non-vintage) and Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut ($30) -- although both brands have some higher-priced styles. Chateau Frank 2011 Blanc de Blancs ($30) from the Finger Lakes and Sparkling Pointe 2014 Brut ($29) from Long Island's North Fork are among the better “methode champenoise” New York State domestics.

Don't be fooled by the artistry of some labels. What should determine the price is what’s in the bottle. A non-vintage wine, usually denoted by the letters NV on the label instead of a vintage year, is a blend from several different years. Vintage wines are produced from a single year. Most Champagne houses will designate a vintage only if they think the grape crop from that year was special. Otherwise, they blend their product to meet a certain standard. Vintages usually are more expensive and less available.

Some of the other top-tier French Champagne houses are Taittinger, Moet et Chandon, Bollinger, Cristal, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon. The French-owned Roederer Estate winery in California also produces some nice bubblies.

Champagnes do not have to be golden, as the movies would have you believe. There are Champagnes ranging in color from nearly white to deep gold to rosé or bright pink. It all depends on the manufacturing process.

There are Champagnes made entirely from black grapes (blanc de noir) such as pinot noir and pinot meunier and Champagnes made entirely from white grapes (blanc de blanc) such as chardonnay. The rosé wines are made by allowing a little more contact with the red grape skins than usual or, in a few cases, even introducing a touch of red wine to the process.

Champagne is best served, in my view, as cold as you can get it without putting it in the freezer, although that obviously is strictly a matter of individual taste. The coldness helps maintain the bubbles after opening.

And, speaking of opening, a bad job of doing that can ruin the whole thing. Just keep a few things in mind:
• Remove the wire cage and foil covering the cork.

• Point the bottle away from everyone, including yourself. It is under tremendous pressure, so it can be a dangerous missile.

• Put a dish towel over the top of the bottle and, with your hand under the towel, grasp the cork firmly.

• Hold the cork steady and turn the bottle. The cork will slowly disengage.

• When the cork comes out, keep the towel over the bottle opening for a moment to preserve the gas and the Champagne. Don't think you have to let the cork and a geyser of wine fly in the air as you've seen in the movies. It's dangerous, and it wastes wine.

• Pour into Champagne flutes. Yes, the shape of the glass does affect the dispersement of bubbles. And, for heaven's sake, do NOT use plastic cups or flutes! If you don 't have any, or enough, glass flutes, they don 't cost much to rent from a party supply store. Or, you can even tell your guests to bring their own as a fun thing.
• Garnishes? OK, if you must, but keep them simple. A sliced strawberry; a frozen, notched white grape; a thin slice of starfruit (kiwi); a small piece of rock candy, etc. 
That's about it. You're welcome. And, Happy New Year!

Propane storage vs. wine health debate goes to Albany

Vinnie Aliperti
From the Finger Lakes Times
ALBANY -- Two Genevans and a Seneca County elected official were among those speaking at Wednesday’s protest in Albany of Crestwood Midstream LLC’s plan to store up to 40 million gallons of liquid propane in underground salt caverns on the southwest shore of Seneca Lake in Reading, Schuyler County.

The three were among a group of Finger Lakes vineyard owners, business owners, union members, elected officials and residents in the state capitol to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to deny Crestwood a permit for its project, pending since 2009.

“The New York wine industry is flourishing, producing some of the finest wines in the state and nation,” said Vinny Aliperti, co-owner of Billsboro Winery in Geneva, winner of the 2016 Governor’s Cup wine of the year award [in the New York Wine & Food Classic competition].

“Gov. Cuomo’s continued support of our industry is appreciated and essential. We are confident that the governor will reject Crestwood’s dangerous gas storage plan because it will endanger our lake, harm tourism and threaten the wine and grape industry, which generates hundred of millions of dollars in state and local taxes annually.”
However, that's only one side of the debate. Go here for the full story.

Friday, December 9, 2016

You heard it through the Grapevine: NY drinks best

When you visit a place with a name like The Grapevine Cafe, you sort of expect it to pay attention to its wine list. In the case of the Johnson City (Broome County) establishment of that name it does, and Finger Lakes winemakers should be happy about it.

Rita Moelder, owner of the cafe that opened in August but just had its grand opening in October in the space formerly occupied by Kudo's Tavern, has a New York State-centric point of view when it comes to her alcoholic beverage menu,

"All of our wines are New York State wines -- all of which are Finger Lakes wines," she said in an interview with pressconnects,com. "We have beers from local breweries like Binghamton Brewing Company, Water Street Brewing Company, .Galaxy Brewing Company, Southern Tier Brewing Company, and we want to add an Owego brewery, too."

The Grapevine Cafe is located at 220 Main Street in ,Johnson City. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: (607) 729-1000.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hunt Country sharing sales with Catskill Mountainkeeper

A Finger Lakes winery plans to give 10% of all holiday sales of its Wine Provisions portfolio to the environmental non-profit organization Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Hunt Country Vineyards, whose ownership has long been involved in sustainable practices and environmental issues such as fracking, designated Wine Provisions as three special collections it has put together – Dry, Sweet, or Winemaker's Choice.

“You can’t make great wines without clean air, clean water, and healthy soil,” says Suzanne Hunt, president of HuntGreen LLC and daughter of winery founders Art and Joyce Hunt. “We can do our part on our farm, but we also need the help of partners. Giving 10% of Wine Provision sales is a great way to support one of many partners who are helping to accelerate the transition to clean energy across the state.”  

According to its literature, over the past decade Mountainkeeper has worked to oppose such activities in New York State’s wild areas and open spaces as hydrofracking, unsustainable development projects, and actions it deems harmful to fossil fuel infrastructure. It also has worked to help build ecotourism, supported farmers, and stood beside local businesses and communities to build a stronger sustainable economic future.

“The Hunt family – who were great Mountainkeeper partners in the fight to secure New York State’s fracking ban – is setting a powerful example of how to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and positively impact the local community and economy,” says Wes Gillingham, Mountainkeeper's co- founder and program director.

Hunt Country Vineyards is located at 4021 Italy Hill Road in Branchport, Yates County, on Seneca Lake. Phone: 800-946-3289.

New World cooking up NY-centric wine dinner

New World Home Cooking
And, the winner for longest descriptive title of a restaurant dinner goes to ... New World Home Cooking!

Owners Ric Orlando and Liz Corrado have come up with this doozy: "Farm and Vineyard to Cart to Table -- An American Dim Sum Style Wine and Food Pairing Dinner."

The New York-centric wine and food event will be held at the Saugerties restaurant beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, December 16. Reservations, which may be made online or by calling 845-246-0900, are $75 per person.

As Chef Orlando explains it, "Imagine bottles of New York wines on your table that best represent the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes 'farm vineyard' style paired with a series of local ingredient based small plates carted to your table on dim sum style."

The wines will be from Dr. Frank, Millbrook, Silver Thread, Whitecllff, and Hunt Country. The foods will come from Kilcoyne Farm, Campanelli’s, SUNY Cobleskill, Story Farms, Sunfrost Farms, R&G Cheese, Wright Farm, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, Maynard’s Orchards, RSK Farm, Sorbello Farm, Taliaferro Farm, Poughkeepsie Indoor Farm, Wiltbank Mushrooms, and Hudson Valley Duck.

The menu:

Copp Island oysters, raw and BBQ with Bloody Mary butter
Hubbard squash hummus “chip and dip”
Sunchoke silk and oyster mushrooms Endive, smoked walnuts, Ewe’s Blue, and pears
Luscious potato latkes, chipotle apple sauce, duck cracklin's
Arctic char Swedish meatball, creme fraiche, caraway
Adirondack blue potatoes, pickled trout, homegrown horseradish
Turkey neck and biscuits, cider gravy
Chicken “cassoulet,” chicken sausage, pork belly
Steak tartare “poke”
Beef and noodles, marrow broth, famous Hanoi style Riesling poached pear, bay leaf
Apple crumble, chevre ice cream

New World Home Cooking is located at 1411 Route 212 in the Ulster County community.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to throw a holiday party, responsibly

An Edinburgh bartender at work (Photo: Bill Dowd)
• From the Dowd On Drinks archives

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) expends a lot of effort in educating the public about responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Here is the latest list of its “tips for hosting a responsible cocktail party.”

1. Designate a bartender who can serve your guests and keep an eye on how much everyone is drinking. The Federal Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

 2. Remember, alcohol is alcohol. It is important to understand that a standard serving of regular beer (12 ounces), wine (5 ounces) and spirits (a cocktail with 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits) each contains the same amount of alcohol.

3. Make sure you provide food to complement your cocktails. Consider food pairings to enhance the flavor of your chosen cocktails. Examples: fresh seafood and breads accentuate vodka cocktails; spiced and smoked meats and cheeses complement bourbon and Scotch whiskies; and fruit enhances rum and tequila flavors.

4. Make available non-alcoholic beverages for your guests. Create festive non-alcohol punch for those guests who choose not to drink alcohol.

 5. Make sure your guests have a safe way home either through a designated driver or a taxi. Have local taxi service numbers available for your guest.Pay attention in advance to companies that sponsor free rides during holidays and keep those numbers handy.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy Repeal Day!

One of many Repeal parties across America on December 5, 1933
In case you hadn't realized it, today is a very special day for people involved in any fashion with adult beverages. It's Repeal Day. Specifically, the 83rd anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

In addition to widespread celebration, there's even a lineup of websites devoted to this wonderful piece of American history that overturned 13 years of misguided foolishness.

So, open a beer, pour some wine, or mix a cocktail and enjoy browsing through these sites:

Prohibition Facts & Summary
The Volstead Act
Prohibition In the United States
Repeal Day
The Lady Silvia
Prohibition: Unintended Consequences

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shawangunk Trail wineries create pasta dishes

Looking for some hearty cold-weather pasta dishes? A trio of Hudson Valley wineries that are members of the Shawangunk Wine Trail have put together selections they are sharing with the public that pair well with both wines and ciders.


Says co-owner Jeremy Kidde of Warwick Valley Winery and Black Dirt Distillery:,  “We are pairing this dish with our Doc’s Original hard apple cider. The cider is a great companion to traditional pub fare such as mac and cheese and even better when the mac and cheese is made with black truffle oil. The effervescence and natural acidity of the cider works to cleanse the palate between bites of this rich, cheesy and savory dish.” Credit: Chef Johnny Castrovillari.

8 ounces elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup diced shallots
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup Warwick Valley Winery Chardonnay
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
10 ounces Fontina cheese (grated)
3 ounces Gruyere cheese (grated)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese (grated)
3 tablespoon black truffle butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Black winter truffle oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350F.  In large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni to al dente (about 7 minutes). Strain and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan. While the macaroni is cooking, in a separate pot, sweat garlic, shallots and bay leaf. When ready, add Chardonnay and reduce (about 10 minutes). Melt the butter in pot and whisk in the flour. Continue to cook over low heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Turn off the heat and add 3/4 of the aged fontina and all of the other cheeses. Season with salt and black pepper and fold in macaroni. Top with remaining Fontina. Melt the black truffle butter in a sauté pan and toss bread crumbs and chives to coat. Top the macaroni with bread crumb mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes. Finish with a few drops of black truffle oil and serve.


Says MaryEllen Glorie, “We use a little wine in the salad dressing, which adds a touch of sweetness and brightness in flavor. Some wine in the salad plus some of the same wine in the glass equals a delicious pairing.” They pair the dish with Glorie Farm Winery’s Jumpin Jazz wine.

16-ounce package elbow macaroni, cooked and cooled
1 pound center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 Romaine lettuce heart, shredded
2-to 10-ounce package grape tomatoes
1 cup Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Glorie Jumpin Jazz wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup dressing. In a large bowl, combine macaroni, bacon, scallions and main portion of dressing, stirring gently to coat. Chill until ready to serve. Immediately prior to serving, slice grape tomatoes in half. Add lettuce, tomatoes and reserved dressing to salad; stir gently to coat.


Says Tiffany Robibero, “The pasta is light and fresh, which complements our crisp dry Riesling.”

1/2 cup olive oil
3 to 4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 container grape tomatoes
1 container drained bocconcini (egg-sized mozzarella)
1 pound mini rigatoni pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a container with the minced garlic and let sit overnight; do not refrigerate. Boil the rigatoni. When done, put olive oil mixture in a large bowl and mix until all the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, toss in washed grape tomatoes, bocconcini and mix. Finish with the fresh chopped parsley and basil. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Champagne and sparklers at North Fork grand tasting

Some New York State wineries include sparkling wines in their portfolios. But, it is rare to find an establishment that set out from Day 1 to be primarily that sort of winery.

That is what makes the Long Island operation Sparkling Pointe Winery so unusual. From the time Cynthia and Tom Rosicki set out to join the wineries on the crowded North Fork more than a dozen years ago,  they wanted to produce their version of Champagne -- methode champenoise, as the non-French version of the bubbly is called. So, they hired international winemaker Gilles Martin, who had worked with a major French Champagne house, and away they went.

For those unfamiliar with Sparkling Pointe's products or how they compare to more internationally known labels, the 6th annual Tête Du Cuvée Grand Tasting could be an excellent introduction. The event, set for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, January 21, will offer visitors Champagnes from the French houses Roederer, Tattinger, Dom Ruinart and Henri Billiott, and sparkling wines from the California wineries Domaine Carneros and Brewer Clifton, from Italy's Ca' Del Bosco and, of course, Sparkling Pointe.

Tickets, priced at $125, are available online. Sparkling Pointe is located at 39750 County Road 48 in Southold. Phone: (631) 765-0200.

Trio of NYS wineries gets $250K fed expansion grants

Three New York State wineries are then recipients of quarter-million-dollar federal grants to help expand their businesses. And, not all of the money will be limited to wine-related efforts.

The $250,000 grants each from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program, and the uses to which they will be put:

Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, Lockport, Niagara County, will expand sales of its Rosebud label wines;

Vizcarra Family Vineyard, Gasport, Niagara County, will expand sales and promotion of its cold hardy wine products.

•  Thousand Islands Winery, Alexandria Bay, Jefferson County, will expand sales and promotion of rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey products.

VAPG, administered by the USDA Rural Development office, exists to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based value-added products, and to expand markets and increase financial returns to agricultural producers. The goals of the program are generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income.

Two types of grants are available: (1) Planning Grant: To facilitate economic planning activities to determine the viability of a value-added venture, and may include costs for an independent feasibility study and development of a marketing and business plan. (2) Working Capital Grant: For operational costs directly related to the processing and/or marketing of the value-added product. Eligible working capital expenses include processing costs, marketing and advertising expenses, and some inventory and salary expenses directly related to a value-added project. Grant funds cannot be used to purchase property or construct facilities, or to purchase equipment.

Thirsty Owl stars in an unusual wine competition

Thirsty Owl Wine Company's 2015 Diamond wine was the star among New York State entries in the recent Grand Harvest Awards competition in Santga Rosa, CA.

The Cayuga Lake winery's entry earned a Gold medal, Best of Class, and Best of Finger Lakes AVA at the recent Grand Harvest Awards in California. Other Gold medals went to Belhurst Castle Winery's Neptune and its 2013 Manitou Meritage, Hunt Country Vineyards' 2015 Vignoles, Swedish Hill Winery's Blanc de Blanc, and Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery's 2015 Dry Riesling.

The Thirsty Owl entry, which retails for $9.95, is a white wine with a sweet finish (5.6% residual sugar) and the flavor and aroma of fresh fruit. It has proven very popular among wine judges, taking Double Gold and Best In Class at the 2015 Long Beach Grand Cru, a Double Gold in the 2015 Grand Harvest, and Golds at the Los Angeles International, Riverside International, and Eastern International.

The Grand Harvest Awards is a bit different than most such industry competitions. Its judging is based on "a group of vineyards or even vines from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir faire, which contribute to give the specific personality to the wine."

In other competitions, this factor is ignored. At the Harvest Challenge, judges taste wines with other wines of the same appellation. Thus, with cross-regional competition removed, the inherent quality of wines can be seen without the influences that sometimes eclipse even a wine of very high quality.

Beyond the determination of medals, the Harvest Challenge affords its winners a unique selling proposition -- its region ranked against its competitors

Go here for the full list of awards, which includes some for additional New York State wineries.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wine cocktails evening at Adirondack Winery

Wine and cocktails are two different things, right? Not necessarily.

The Adirondack Winery is planning a "WINE 101: Wine Cocktails" night to introduce attendees to specialty wine-based cocktails created for the holiday season. The event is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, December 17.

Tickets are $30 each, and include a tasting flight, light food spread, guided instruction, recipe book, and mini-bottle of wine.

The Adirondack Winery tasting room is located at 285 Canada Street, Lake George Phone: 668-9463.

SLA loses a round in Empire Wine shipping case

regulation-iconThe Colonie company Empire Wine & Liquor has won a major round in its battle with the State Liquor Authority (SLA).

The Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Empire Wine can subpoena SLA staff in a contest between the state's contention that Empire has been shipping wine to consumers in 16 states that do not allow such sales and the company contends that state regulations previously had allowed such sales.

Empire, which is trying to protect its license from revocation, has been trying to subpoena SLA General Counsel Jacqueline Flug, Director of Enforcement Noel Colon, Public Affairs Director William Crowley and Deputy Commissioner of Licensing Kerry O'Brien. It told the court it wants to question the officials about the SLA's policy on out-of-state sales, saying that the agency had not previously objected to such transactions.

Empire is located in the Northway Shopping Center in Central Avenue opposite Colonie Center.

Curious for more? These other sites have all the information on this blog PLUS additional info and links pertinent to their specialty topics:

Capital Region Brew Trail
Dowd On Drinks Facebook version