Monday, July 6, 2020

St. Augustine: A Craft Beverage Destination

For two decades now, while driving to South Florida, we have been inclined to include a detour into St. Augustine to visit the historical sights such as the Old Town, the Spanish Quarter, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lighthouse, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.  These visits also included a stop at the city's only craft beverage establishment - San Sebastian Winery - as we had become fans of their Blanc Du Bois and Port styled wines. They also provided an excellent tour of their facilities as well as a rooftop pavilion with satisfying glasses of white sangria.

In the past few years, other craft beverage outlets joined San Sebastian along the Trolley Tour Route such as St. Augustine Distillery - situated only a couple blocks away in the Historic FP&L Ice Plant (the first commercial enterprise to produce block ice in Florida over 100 years ago). The distillery is a business collaborative of 28 local entrepreneurs who utilize local sugar cane, wheat, corn, and citrus to produce whiskey, rum, vodka, and gin. They also contacted the world’s leading distilling experts to assist in crafting the spirits recipe and local bartenders on drafting recommended cocktails. They also emulated San Sebastian's tour design and provide one of the most insightful free walking tours of a distillery. Each station includes a free cocktail sample and the museum provides a history of block ice production as well as a legality neutral history of distilling in The Sunshine State.

For this trip, we intentionally targeted the distillery in order to purchase a bottle of their Port Finished Bourbon ($80, 102 proof).  This whiskey starts as their Florida Double Cask Bourbon which is made from a mash bill of 60% regional corn, 22% malted barley, and 18% regional wheat that is then finished in used San Sebastian Port barrels. For both the Florida Double Cask and Port Finished bourbons, distiller Lucas Smith worked closely with the late Dave Pickerell on the first blends and barrel selection as well as the final proof. Interestingly, the Florida Double Cask weighs in at on odd 93.8 proof as that was the proof that all "blenders" agreed upon.  The Double Cask refers to the use of initial 25-gallon barrels in which the spirit was then transferred to seasoned 53-gallon casks in order to slow the maturation process. The result is a phenomenon whiskey
and with the additional Port finishing imparts a slight sherry profile along with the raisins and cinnamon.

We also left with a bottle of the Pot Distilled Rum ($45, 90 proof) and the Florida Cane Vodka ($28, 80 proof). The rum is produced from regional sugarcane syrups and molasses and aged in used St. Augustine bourbon barrels. The spirit is straw-colored with a surprising coconut and baking spices profile. There's a mild dose of heat but the finish is very smooth and clean. The vodka is pot distilled from 100% Florida-farmed sugar. This provides a subtle molasses character with a clean finish.  The Florida Mule was its primary purpose and here are several other recommended cocktails:

•  2 ounces Pot Distilled Rum
•  1 ounce honey syrup
•  1 ounce lime juice
•  few dashes of bitters
Garnish with orange peel.

The Lolita
•  1.5 ounces Florida Cane Vodka
•  0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
•  0.5 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
•  0.5 st. germaine
•  0.25 ounce simple syrup
•  3 dashes of peychauds bitters
Garnish with a grapefruit peel.
•  2 ounces Pot Distilled Rum
•  0.75 ounce lime juice
•  0.75 ounce simple syrup
•  10 leaves of fresh mint
•  top with soda water
Garnish with fresh mint.
The Florida Mule
•  1.5 ounces Florida Cane Vodka
•  1.5 ounces ginger-lime simple syrup
•  Top with soda water
Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Classic Vodka Collins
•  2 ounces Florida Cane Vodka
•  1 ounces simple syrup
•  1 ounces lemon juice
•  Top with soda water
Garnish with a lemon peel

During this visit, we also stopped into two of the four craft breweries that have surfaced in the last couple of years. Ancient City Taphouse is located next to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine and the two standouts were the Castillo Coconut Porter and Brazilian Pepper Tree Honey IPA.  Old Coast Ales is located a short walk or drive over the Matanzas River and we walked out with crowlers of Salt Run Gose and the Hopper 2.0 N.E. IPA. Both nice beach beers.  Another solid beer is the Dog Rose Brewing Co. Palace Pale Ale which I had with lunch at the A1A Ale Works Restaurant & Taproom where Dog Rose owner and brewer, Doug Murr, used to brew. And finally, Bog Brewing Company and City Gate Spirits will have to wait until our return visit to America's oldest city.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Michigan Blaufrankisch

"Blaufrankisch is a variety that has shown it can not just grow well here, but can also make stylistically unique wines that can stand out on a broader stage. It's a wine that is exciting to introduce to people as it opens up a different definition to them of what a great red wine can be", Drew Perry, winemaker at Aurora Cellars
Blaufränkisch was the prized red grape in the Austro-Hungarian Empire having originated in Lower Styria, now part of Slovenia, and planted across the Carpathian Basin. Its name translates to 'Blue Frankish' or perhaps 'Blue Francs' based on either the blue coats or currency used by Napoleon’s troops after their conquest of Vienna. Blaufränkisch's offspring, Zweigelt, is the largest planted red grape in Austria whereas Blaufränkisch is centered in Burgenland - just across the border from Hungary and the Magyar plantings of Kékfrankos. From this Capital of Kékfrankos near Sopron, the grape spread where it is now the most planted red grape variety in Hungary -- Szekszard and Villany in particular. In Germany, Blaufränkisch is known as Lemberger most likely from the Lower Styria town of Lemberg pri Šmarju where the grape was apparently export to Deutschland.

In the United States, the grape is labeled either Lemberger or Blaufränkisch, with the later adopted in Michigan.  In the Great Lake state, Blaufränkisch is planted primarily in the northern wine regions of the Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula - regions suitable for this late-ripening and cold-tolerant grape. Aurora Cellars has four acres planted in this last peninsula, the first three planted in 2007. According to Perry, the grape requires a long ripening season because "it tends to stall a bit at the end" and proper canopy management encourages early skin development and provides airflow that reduces disease pressure.  One result of this process is the Aurora Cellars 2016 Leelanau Peninsula Blaufrankisch ($34)  - aged 18 months in  French oak.  Like its Central European counterparts, this wine provided distinct black pepper notes upfront and a spicier pepper profile in the tail accompanied by a proper mouthfeel.  On the other hand, its fruit profile was dominated by blueberries as opposed to red or black cherries usually associated with Central Europe Blaufränkisch.  Nicely done.

Before Perry became the winemaker at Aurora, he was the assistant winemaker to Brian Ulbrich at Left Foot Charley. This winery grows Blaufränkisch at their Benzie vineyard (located on Lake Michigan) and at a new vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula, in addition to sourcing from other small family-owned vineyards.  Ulbrich believes that the grape is well-suited for Michigan because it’s relatively winter hardy. With bud break arriving early and its late ripening, assuming no spring frost, then the grape has a long season to ripen. In the case of the Left Foot Charley 2018 Blaufränkisch ($22) - a blend from both the two vineyards mentioned above - this means a brighter fruit-forward profile showing juicy red cherries and developing structure.  Little spice on the front end and finish leaving a refreshing and friendly wine.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Puerto Rico Distillery: Providing Maryland with Clandestine Pitorro Rum

Pitorro is Puerto Rican moonshine -- and not of the corn whiskey persuasion that we are familiar with within the United States. It is, in fact, an artisan rum produced by distilling sugar cane and traditionally cured with fruit and buried for several months.  This process helps to balance the high alcohol volume.  And Puerto Rico's unofficial national spirit is now available in the Old Line State courtesy of Frederick's Puerto Rico Distillery

The distillery is led by the father-daughter team of Angel and Crystal Rivera and focuses on an unflavored pitorro weighing in at 100 proof.  This spirit is distilled from sugarcane molasses and has a funky character that seems to transcend other Caribbean moonshines -- thinking particularly of Hammond from Nevis. They are also currently aging batches infused with coconut, pineapple,
almond, coffee, and passion fruit that should be available later this year.

For now, the best use of the pitorro rum is in cocktails and the funkiness livens any concoction. A mojito is the top choice, but also consider with any fruit juice or with equal parts grapefruit juice and ginger beer. It is addicting.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Lockdown Cocktails - A Recap

During the COVID lockdown, I replaced my normal routine of simply pouring a neat glass of my favorite spirit and instead became more creative by mixing various cocktails using ingredients that were already available. This process including replacing some ingredients with equivalents such as tonic water with seltzer or simple sugar with dissolved honey. The cocktail recipes were posted on Instagram but with the lockdowns slowly easing the series will most likely be discontinued and thus recaptured in this post.

Tonight's #lockdowncocktail is a salute to Route 15 from Frederick MD to Harrisburg PA. The #cocktail contains a base of equal parts grapefruit juice and Appalachian Ginger Beer then augmented with a large shot (or two) of Puerto Rico Distillery Clandestino Pitorro Diaspora Rum and a dash or two of Tenth Ward Smoked Corn Whiskey for added aroma.  I will discuss the Clandestino in the near future, but for now, it's a style of moonshine that dates to 1797 and still an integral part of Puerto Rican culture.

Tonight's #lockdowncocktails are dueling recipes based on a post the week from the Wizard of Whiskey we followed his recipe using grapefruit tonic, Left Foot Charley 2017 Dry Riesling, and for gin, the Barr Hill Gin from Vermont's Caledonia Spirits and made from honey. Completely refreshing and the Riesling creates a creamy body and tamps down the botanicals.  On the other hand, when replacing the Riesling with the 12 Corners Vineyards 2017 Traminette, the botanicals burst forward in conjunction with the wine's aromatics. Combining the two creates a happy medium.

Tonight's #LockdownCocktail is The Bishop, a rum - red wine cocktail that comes from the 1935 printing of "The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book" by A.S. Crockett. I used Cotton and Reed Sherried Cask Strength Rum and its honeyed nut character blended well with the 12 Corners Vineyards River Stone Red wine. The wine is a unique blend of five grape varieties leading with Chancellor and Chambourcin then rounding out with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its quite pleasant, fruit-forward berry flavors with a velvety texture, and a chewy smooth finish. 

3 ounces Cotton & Reed Sherried Cask Strength Rum ($50)
1 ounce 12 Corners River Stone Red wine ($14)
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1/2 lime (juice of)

The Cotton & Reed Sherried Cask Strength Rum starts out as White Rum ($29) made from Lousiana grown raw cane syrup and blackstrap molasses (6,000 pounds per batch) and fermented with a Rhum Agricole yeast strain and a Chenin Blanc yeast strain. The rum is then aged in used bourbon barrels just like their Mellow Gold Rum ($29). Afterward, the aging rum is transferred to PX Sherry seasoned casks where PX refers to Pedro Ximénez grapes aged in a solera system where the grape brandy undergoes oxidative aging for an Oloroso.

Today's #lockdowncocktail is the Horsefeather, a Kansas City favorite that legend says originated in nearby Lawrence, Kansas. It's related to the Moscow Mule trading the bourbon for J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey ($40), Appalachian Ginger Beer, squeeze of lemon, and using the equivalent of Angostura bitters - Peychaud's Aperitivo. The cocktail sizzles in the mouth with a long spicy tail. And that's the last drop of an amazing whiskey where the corn, malted, and rye mash was fermented then aged in part in 15 year Oloroso sherry casks.

1.5 oz J. Rieger Whiskey
4 oz ginger beer
4-5 dashes Angostura bitters
1 squeeze of lemon

Here's a refreshing cocktail suggested by Golden Moon Distillery using their single varietal Grappa (2 oz), lime juice (1 oz), and simple syrup (3/4 oz). The grappa is made using chardonnay pomace from Bookcliff Vineyards. The cocktail is truly refreshing, any grappa sharpness is mediated by the lime juice and syrup. Cheers.

Tonight's #lockdowncocktail is based on an Italian recipe using grappa, cocoa liqueur, and coffee served in a martini glass as a dessert cocktail. I used my mead glass and combined equal parts Springfield Manor grappa and Blacksnake Meadery Red Queen Coffee Mead with a dash of FloraLuna Apothecary Cayenne bitters. Perhaps my favorite so far.

Another lockdown cocktail using existing spirits. This unnamed drink is 2 parts River Hill Spirits bourbon, .5 parts Golden Moon Distillery  Kummel, .5 parts honey water, and a dash of bitters. The Kummel and honey tame the heat, and the bourbon blends in with the caraway liqueur.

Cocktails with miniatures. Last night I discovered that Grappa Nonino Amaro is a great partner with Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey and FloraLuna Apothecary Orange bitters. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc, the pale-skinned Pinot mutation that shares a genetic fingerprint with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, is favored in cold climate regions such as the Alto Adige region of Italy (Pinot Bianco), Alsace in northeast France, Baden and Pfalz in Germany (Weissburgunder), Niederosterreich and Burgenland in Austria (Weisser Burgunder), Canada's Okanagan Valley, and in Michigan.  The grape itself is quite versatile where globally it is used in the production of still, sparkling, and sweet dessert wines and in general produces a medium to full-bodied style of wine with apple and almond characters and finishing with abundant acidity. Oak treatments are possible but often overwhelm and mute the mineral and smoky characteristics.

In Michigan, Pinot Blanc thrives in the cool conditions and sandy soils of the Old Mission Peninsula AVA where Lake Michigan creates a very favorable grape growing environment. The “lake effect” snow protects the vines in the winter from freezing temperatures and provides a diurnal change in temperatures during the summer. Think refreshing acidity which is the case for the Left Foot Charley Old Mission Peninsula Michigan Pinot Blanc ($18).  This wine also features green apple and pear flavors along with racy saline and a round mouthfeel. Left Foot Charley also produces a single vineyard Pinot Blanc, the 2017 Island View Vineyard Pinot Blanc ($25) which is Michigan's oldest Pinot Blanc planting dating back to 1995. Cheers.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Szekszard Kadarka

Kadarka is the Hungarian equivalent to Pinot Noir, both in the glass and in the vineyard.  Once planted, Kadarka vines are temperamental - and like Pinot susceptible to grey rot and requires constant attention.  The most ideal environment for Kadarka is one with long hot summers that extend into the fall that not only allow late-ripening grapes to slowly evolve but also reduce the frequency of spring and autumn frosts. Szekszard, located in southern Hungary, is one such region.

The rolling hills of Szekszard are Hungary's most fertile agricultural region and enjoy both a Continental and Mediterranean climate. These dual climates provide a long growing season and the many valleys provide distinct micro-climates. During the summer, days can be stifling hot whereas the nights are fresh and cold. The soil is mostly loose loess particles that allow the vine's roots to dig deep in search of water.

Out of the bottle Szekszard Kadarka tastes similar to Pinot Noir but particularly of Hungary. It's generally light-medium bodied but extremely savory with noticeable texture. The sour cherry flavor mimics meggy - Hungarian sour cherries favored in cold soups and desserts.  What's most interesting is that Kadarka is not indigenous to the Magyar state and is thought to have originated near Lake Scutari on the Montenegro-Albanian border when the Turkish variety Papazkarasi was crossed with local Serbian variety Skadarsko.  This grape was brought to southern Hungary at the end of the 17th century by Serbian refugees encouraged to repopulate after years of Ottoman rule. And soon afterward, Hungarians adopted the grape as their own.

One example of excellent Szekszard Kadarka comes from Taste Hungary - Péter Vida Bonsai Oregtokes Kadarka 2017 ($20). It is produced from over hundred-year-old, gnarly-looking vines that a Japanese visitor likened to a Bonsai tree.  “Often you literally have to kneel in front of the rootstocks to prune them as these are ancient bush-trained vines,” winery founder Péter Vida said. “The image on the label – a mix of a Bonsai tree and an old vine – aims to convey the sense that the wisdom of the plant is bigger than that of humans even if it is diminutive in size.”

This is a delicious wine, light-medium bodied with a sour cherry dominance followed by slight spice and dirt. Expect a layer of texture and lifting acidity.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Drinking Through Family History: Toms Brook, Virginia and North Mountain Vineyard

In the early 1740s two brothers, Charles and George Hottel, traveled a well-known route among German immigrants from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After finding available farmland at the foot of North Moutain at the headwaters of Toms Brook, they returned to Lancaster to lead their father Johannes Hodel (John Hottel) and other family members including their sister Barbara Anna, and her husband, George Keller back to the valley. Upon settling in the Shenandoah, they received land grants from Lord Fairfax, ending a twenty-plus year journey from Alsheim-Gronau Germany. In between, the family had arrived in Philadelphia, initially settled in Lancaster where Barbara Anna met and married Hans Georg Keller, a fellow emigrant from Germany who arrived in Philadelphia one month after the Hottels.

At Toms Brook, located northwest of Woodstock, George Keller would rise in esteem as a churchman and eventually being named by Governor Dunmore as one of the first eight Justices of the Peace in Dunmore (now Shenandoah) County. Their daughter Ann Keller married Henry Fravel, the son of Swiss immigrants, and whose family farm was ten miles away from the Kellers. In 1786 Elizabeth Fravel (the daughter of Ann and Henry Fravel) married Johannes Huber - another descendent of German immigrants and the great-grandfather of my grandfather's mother, Cora Agnes Hoover.

These early settlers are buried in various cemeteries in the area with John Hottel's grave marker now unknown in the old Keller Cemetary. However, his descendants erected a new memorial in the cemetery that was dedicated on September 11, 1982 -- 250 years to the day when the Hottel family arrived in America. That same year North Mountain Vineyard was established, most likely on land once farmed by one of these relatives. In fact, the winery is located on Swartz Road, a family name that married into the Hottel line and whose descendent circled back to the Kellers through a descendent of Henry and Ann (Keller) Fravel. Today the winery grows several cold-climate grapes such as Riesling, a grape the Hottels, Kellers, and Hubers would have recognized from their Rhine homeland. They might even recognize the European styled architecture of the winery.

North Mountain's estate vineyard is planted in primarily silty loam soils with the newer Sonnenberg Vineyard, located in the eastern half, and dominated by layers of sandstone. This vineyard is planted with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, and Riesling.  The original western vineyard is distinguished by a layer of limestone and includes Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

During the partial re-opening of Virginia wineries, we stopped by North Mountain for curbside pickup for the 2017 Riesling ($25),  Grüner Veltliner ($24), and 2017 Zweigelt Rosé ($24). We will be opening these wines during the next few weeks and posting updates with the tasting notes. In the meanwhile here are the winery's notes for the Riesling and Zweigelt. The Grüner appears to be a non-vintage blend from multiple vineyards within the Shenandoah Valley AVA. Cheers.

2017 Riesling ($25)
100% Riesling grown on the west-facing slope of Sonnenberg, our hill behind the winery building. Peaches, pear, and apple on the nose, palate, and finish. A subtle minerality lingers throughout.

2017 Zweigelt Rosé ($24)
Our Winery, nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, presents this refreshing rosé wine with hints of pomegranate, zesty citrus, and ripe strawberries. Zweigelt is a native to Austria and was created in the 1920s by Professor Fritz Zweigelt, by crossing Blaufränkisch with St. Laurent.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Žilavka of Medjugorje

The Mediterranean climate that attracts viticulture in Croatia's coastal regions do not end at the Adriatic but extend into Herzegovina -- the southern region within Bosnia-Herzegovina. Grapes have been cultivated in this region for at least a millennium, with vineyards planted in limestone soils from the coast to the city of Mostar. Žilavka is the predominant white grape that flourishes even during drought conditions.

St. James Cathedral
The grape is noted for its abundant acidity and sugar concentration providing the potential for high alcohol levels, two traits that influence its use in brandy distilling. As a single varietal wine, Žilavka provides an interesting nutty, sometimes pine-ish, character. Wineries often enhance the body with barrique oak aging, which doesn't dissuade from the nutty aspect of the wine. We found a couple of these styles in Mostar, but our most memorable was an unoaked version from a store in Medjugorje - the famous pilgrimage site.  The bottle was purchased from a market near St. James Cathedral and the clerk told us it was his family's label - translated "Homemade dry white wine".  The wine was dry, only 12% alcohol, and greenish with noticeable pine notes - made me think of Vermentino.  Looking forward to our next visit. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A COVID-19 American Craft Beer Week

American Craft Beer Week (May 11-17) is the annual nationwide celebration of small and independent U.S. craft breweries. Join the celebration and support independent brewery businesses by giving the gift of craft beer through delivery of beer, beer-to-go, gift cards or merchandise,

In more joyous times, American Craft Beer Week would entail various celebrations at beer bars, restaurants, and breweries with consumers able to sample a wide array of craft-brewed beer. That was before COVID-19 and the nationwide shutdown that has disabled, not only craft breweries, but also the restaurants and retail outlets which were once strong outlets of the craft beer supply chain.

The Brewers Association (BA) is the membership organization dedicated to promoting and protecting small and independent craft brewers in the United States. The BA defines a craft brewer as small, traditional, and independent -- features which make these establishments particularly vulnerable during this pandemic. Many of these small brewers rely completely on tasting room sales and do not have the distribution arrangements for a wider audience. They are also independent and not partly or wholly owned by large conglomerates that have the cash reserve or financial ties to weather the crisis.

In normal economic times, there is creative destruction within the industry where a certain number of breweries will open and a smaller number closing their doors. However, with challenging profit margins, even in the best of times, many of our favorite breweries may not survive without our focused assistance. has published a Nationwide List of To-Go Beer Options by Breweries and for this week (and beyond) are asking consumers for their support. If you are ill or an at-risk individual, you should avoid going out, but consider purchasing a gift card or searching for local breweries providing delivery services. If you are healthy, take advantage of curbside beer service.  With our help craft breweries will ride this, and any future, COVID-19 storms.

Follow: #GiveCraftBeer and #SeekTheSeal


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Welschriesling, Grasevina, Olaszrizling, Riesling Italico, Laski Rizling

St. Donat Kopaszhegy
Olaszrizling 2018
The most widely planted grape variety in Croatia (Grasevina). The most widely planted grape variety in Hungary (Olaszrizling). And prevalent in Austria, Northern Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia where the grape is known by even more names: Welschriesling, Riesling Italico, Ryzlink vlašský, Welsch Rizling, Riesling Italico, and Laski Rizling.

Grasevina in a market in Split
In many cases, particularly in Croatia and Hungary, the wines are rather pedestrian, light and neutral, where they are favored in boxes, jugs, or as the base for the Hungarian wine spritzer: fröccs. However, in a particular microclimate with volcanic soils or in specific environments these wines find a more complex expression. In the latter case, the grapes form noble rot botrytis among the humid vineyards surrounding Lake Neusiedl Austria leading to more depth and fullness. And in the stratovolcanic chain within the cooler continental climate in Slavonia, Croatia or the volcanic basalt soils of Somló and Lake Balaton Hungary, the wines show even greater depth.

In the specific case surrounding Lake Balaton, Olaszrizling wines generally show complex minerality as they receive a boost of minerality and saltiness due to the basalt bedrock which releases minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium into the soils. These wines also provide a roundness that balances the grape's inherent acidity.

One such example is the St. Donat Kopaszhegy Olaszrizling 2018 ($21) available in the U.S. via Taste Hungary. This wine comes from a single vineyard Kopaszhegy (Bald Hill) on the Tihany peninsula in the Balatonfüred-Csopak wine region located on the northeastern shore of Lake Balaton (the largest lake in central Europe). And in this region, the wines are traditionally sold using the name of the hill, with each having its own character.  This wine is fermented spontaneously without inoculating with yeast and bottled naturally without clarifying and filtering.  It starts with a brief, initial impression of neutrality only because the sense of fruit is outweighed by a hefty dose of minerality that is sustained throughout.  The wine also provides roundness and depth that blends with the fresh acids - too complex to be used in fröccs. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Drinking Through Family History: Woodstock, Virginia

My mother's father's maternal line flows forth from the Shenandoah Valley in an area ranging from Strasburg to Edinburg and dominated by names like Hoover, Smoot, Gochenour, Grandstaff, Keller, and Hottel. These families were mostly German, Swiss, and Dutch immigrants arriving in the colonies at Philadelphia, then migrating to York and Lancaster, before finally settling in what is now Shenandoah County. They were a mixture of Mennonites and Lutherans, primarily farmers, who received their initial land grants from Lord Fairfax.

One of these immigrants was Hans Wilhelm Huber who along with his wife Anna Margaretha, emigrated from Germany and arrived in Philadelphia in 1736. A dozen years later the Hubers settled near the North Fork around Woodstock Virginia after an initial residency in Lebanon PA. Their son, Johannes Huber (John Hoover), married Elizabeth Fravel, whose family lineage arrived in the valley a couple generations earlier and included the Keller and Hottel families. The next two generations of Hoovers were farmers with the last male in my line, Perry Monroe Hoover, marrying Mary Jane Smoot -- bringing Gochenours and Grandstaffs into our mix. The Hoover, Smoot, and Gochenour farms were located very close to Woodstock, where many of these ancestors are buried.

These families participated in the growth of Woodstock starting with its original charter in 1761 - making it the 4th oldest town in Virginia - and on land which George Washington had surveyed in his youth and who sponsored the charter in Virginia's House of Burgesses. The town became the county seat of Shenandoah County with Thomas Jefferson designing the original courthouse that is the oldest courthouse still in use west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Clerk of the Circuit Court Thomas Marshall, father of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, was one of the first judges to utilize the courthouse. Ardent revolutionaries, the community contributed soldiers to the 8th Virginia Regiment that saw action in Saratoga among many other battles, and suffered through Valley Forge. During the Civil War, the community was generally reluctant to participate in the southern cause, being religiously opposed to slavery, but a few members enlisted or were conscripted into the Company F (the Muhlenberg Rifles) of the 10th Virginia Infantry as well as Company C of the 33rd Virginia Infantry -- part of the Stonewall Brigade.

Today, Woodstock Brewhouse is located near in the center of town, near the historic courthouse. The brewery opened four years ago after renovating the Casey Jones Work-Clothes Company factory - which operated from 1925 through the early 1940s. You are familiar with this company through its Wrangler brand which rose to national prominence after the company and brand where purchased by the Blue Bell Overall Company in 1943. The brewery commemorates this history through its Casey Jones Vanilla Porter as well as the nearby North Fork of the Shenandoah River with the North Fork Golden Ale and Seven Bender American Pale Ale. These last two are your hydration beers during local hiking and fishing excursions.

And when fishing or visiting the seven bends of the North Fork, venture over the one-lane bridge or the swinging walking bridge to Muse Vineyards. The winery rests on the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the vineyards planted with a mixture of Bordeaux and Rhone grapes close to the river. In 2003 Robert Muse and Sally Cowal purchased an abandoned vineyard that formed the base for Muse and later purchased a 200-year-old Mennonite farm adjacent to their property which allowed them to expand to thirty acres of vines. The soil for the various vineyards are quite distinct, with the blocks closer to the river dominated by silt loam alluvium and the vineyards closer to the mountains containing rocky red clay soils. Since its inception, the winery has gained a very favorable reputation for its Clio ($35-ish) Bordeaux-style red wine and Thalia ($24) Rhone-style white wine. We concur completely.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Croatian Tribidrag (Crljenak Kaštelanski, Pribidrag, Kratošija) aka Zinfandel

"When I came to America in August 1958, I saw vineyards around Chateau Souverain and I was interested to know which grapes were grown there. They told me Cabernet Franc from France and Zinfandel, but no-one knows where those grapes came from.  .... These Zinfandel grapes reminded me of the Plavic Mali grapes from my homeland in Croatia. ... I contacted Dr. Carole Meredith to tell her that I believed Zinfandel, Italian Primitivo, and Croatian Plavic Mali were the same grape. "  Miljenko "Mike" Grgich addressing the First International Conference on the Tribidrag Variety
Grgich's instincts were close. The idea that California Zinfandel was equivalent to Italian Primitivo was also proposed by UC Davis professor Austin Goheen and Wade Wolfe in the 1960s. Goheen visually inspected Primitivo from Puglia (Southern Italy) and considered them identical whereas Wolfe used isozyme analysis to strengthen that hypothesis. But it wasn't until 1995, after three years of DNA analysis, when Dr. Carole Meredith, Professor at UC Davis, concluded that Zinfandel and Primitivo were, in fact, the same grape variety.

Courtesy of Rizman Winery
Based on Grgich's recommendation, Dr. Meredith then traveled to Croatia in 1998 and,  working with Dr. Edi Maletić and Dr. Ivan Pejić, collected 150 Plavic Mali samples. Returning to UC Davis for testing the results were negative, close, but not identical. Dr. Meredith concluded that either Zinfandel or Plavic Mali was the parent of the other but couldn't determine the parental direction. Dr. Maletić and Dr. Pejić continued the search in Dalmatia, often walking row after row in small family vineyards. Eventually, they sent Dr. Meredith samples of an obscure variety called Crljenak Kastelanski that they had collected near Kastel. Actually two sets of samples with the second being an exact match. And more research showed that Plavic Mali was the offspring. Fortunately for our pronunciation, the Crljenak Kastelanski grape was also called Tribidrag and the oldest name used in Croatian literature dated to the 15th century. Thus Croatia is the ancient homeland for California Zinfandel. (One and the same? – Zinfandel, Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski and Kratošija)

Well, not so fast my friend. Croatia's southern neighbor Montenegro claims that distinction based on the Montenegrin autochthonous grape Kratosija which is genetically identical to Tribidrag. Montenegrin wine enthusiast Vlado Nikaljević presents an intriguing argument that the grapes provided to the Vienna World Fair that eventually became the foundation for California Zinfandel came from Montenegro and "Venetian archives show that the Statute of the Venetian Budva mentions Kratošija 60 years before the Tribidrag references". (Montenegro - the True Homeland of Zinfandel)

Thus, Zinfandel's homeland is - to be continued....

In the meantime, a second wave has taken Croatian Tribidrag to California. Ridge Vineyards, among other California wineries,  planted Croatian selections in their Lytton Springs vineyard. They will label wine from these grapes Croatian Zinfandel since the TTB doesn’t recognize Zinfandel and Tribidrag as synonyms. Expect an update on these wines soon.

This evening I just finished sipping a Dalmatian made Croatian Tribidrag - the 2016 Rizman Winery Tribidrag ($45) - available for purchase through Croatian Premium Wine Imports. The wine includes 15% Tempranillo and is sourced from the winery's organic vineyards in the Komarna winegrowing area between Split and Dubrovnik. The south-facing slopes are steep and comprised of limestone soils. The result is a chalky old world styled wine with linear fruit, approachable and chewy tannins, and lengthy acids.
The Ridge Lytton Springs Tribidrag apparently has a similar structure -- particularly the strong acidity.

During this CV pandemic, Croatian Premium Wine Imports is conducting weekly Wednesday night virtual chats and this Rizman is the focus on the chat for tomorrow April 15th. (Funny when I wrote that final date, I immediately panicked about my taxes.)  Hope to see you online at 8pm ET. Cheers.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Rioja Viura or Macabeo Elsewhere in Spain

DOC Rioja is primarily red wine centric, however, on the white wine side of the house, Viura has supplanted Malvasia as the most widely planted white grape variety.  Elsewhere in Spain, the grape is called Macabeo, but Rioja vintners are especially keen because of its high levels of antioxidant resveratrol monomers. This brings it a little closer to a red wine grape and barrel aging as the higher percentage of resveratrol equates to higher resistance to oxidation. And barrel aging inevitably results in higher exposure to oxygen. In the vineyard, there are risks; Viura is susceptible to disease and in particular to downy mildew and grey rot.

In the winery, Viura is very versatile and can be vinified into multiple styles from still or sparkling, dry or sweet, or steel or barrel fermented. The wines are generally fresh with floral and white fruit aromatics using stainless steel fermentation and more weighted and nutty when oak treatments are used.

If you want to try a Viura wine then you should start with Monopole, the oldest white wine brand in Spain, and first produced by CVNE in 1915. The current vintage is the Monopole 2019 White Rioja ($15) where only free-run juice was fermented in order to maintain the inherent fruit and floral aromatics. This also creates a freshness that is consistent from start to finish weaving through surprising layers of depth.

Disclosure: We received samples from CVNE in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Crossing the Ponte Romano de Éntoma to Virgen del Galir Godello

Ponte Romano de Éntoma
via Camino de Santiago
The Ponte Romano de Éntoma -- a stone bridge over the Rio Galir in the village of Éntoma and built by the Romans over two thousand years ago. It is even still usable today for pilgrims on the Camino Invierno de Santiago's winter route.  The bridge was constructed most likely to facilitate the transportation of gold from the encompassing Valdeorras (“Valley of Gold”) region. This area is located in southeastern Galacia and not to be confused with the coastal Rias Baixas. Gold mining eventually transitioned to slate once that precious metal had been extracted - but the Romans left an additional legacy: vineyards. And possibly the first vines planted in Galacia.

As Galicia's most inland region, Valdeorras has a predominantly continental climate, experiencing warm summers, cold winters, and mild autumns and springs, although the Atlantic Ocean to the west also exerts an influence ( And as a result of natural cross-breeding or mutations, the autochthonous grape variety Godello emerged as a dominant white grape. Yet, in the 19th century, most vineyards in Valdeorras suffered from multiple pests - most voraciously by phylloxera. In the 20th century, vineyards rebounded. The Valdeorras DO was created in 1945 and 25 years later Godello was reintroduced on a large scale - becoming the signature grape of the appellation.

More recently, in the 21st century, the Rioja powerhouse CVNE purchased the Virgen del Galir, a noted winery in Valdeorras located just outside of the village of Éntoma. The winery owns 20 hectares of high altitude vineyards planted at 30% inclination and with soil composed of decomposed slate. Since the winery's inception in 2002, Godello has been a major attraction - like the 2018 Pagos del Galir Godello ($21). The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and then rest on their lees for four months which helps provide a silky elegance. The wine also features characteristics of lemons, minerality, and fresh acidity. An excellent option.

Disclosure: We received samples from CVNE in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Stay Connected with Virtual Chats During the CV Lockdown

We are living in interesting times, unable to frequent our favorite craft beverage establishments or explore various regions.  Fortunately, wine, beer, and liquor stores are considered essential services and combined with discounted shipping rates are supplying our beverage needs. In order to stay connected with existing customers and to seek new consumers, craft beverage producers, importers, and retail shops are conducting virtual tastings.  The chats that I have participated in have been extremely informative, even when not indulging in the targeted beverage. And if you cannot participate live, most of these tastings are available via playback - so enjoy at your leisure. Here is a short list of sessions where I have either participated or received an email notification. Cheers.

On Tuesday nights at 8pm EST, Mirena and Win Burke have been hosting a Croatian Wine Chat at Croatian Premium Wine Imports which feature wines from the Komarna Appellation. In the first two episodes, they have interviewed Decanter judge and Croatian sommelier Siniša Lasan as well as winemakers Josip Volarević and Marko Suman. Each week they will focus on one or two wines in their portfolio available at their Online Store.

Similarly, Taste Hungary, which normally provides a quarterly wine club, has augmented that service with weekly virtual chats on Saturday evenings at 7pm EST. This coming Saturday, April 4th owner Gábor Bánfalvi is presenting Wines from Tokaj with future chats featuring Wines from Eger and Wines from the Heumann Winery in Villány. The wines for these tastings are available as part of various mixed 6-Packs, with free delivery on purchases of 6 bottles or more in the DC metro area, within 40 miles of DC (use promo code: DMV-FREE). They are also providing free delivery on the first shipment of a Wine Club subscription (use promo code: DMV-FREE1) and $10 shipping to all other states (except Alaska), for purchases of 6 bottles or more.

Several wine producers are also conducting virtual chats. In Virginia, Early Mountain Vineyards hosts several virtual presentations such as Friday, April 3rds Vineyard Tour with Dustin Wade, Vineyard Manager at 3:30pm EST.  Through their online store, they are offering free shipping for any orders of 3+ bottles -- combined with a 10% discount for any 6+ bottle order.  In Santa Barbara County, California, Solminer Wine Company is hosting weekly Saturday afternoon Taste Together virtual chats (3:30pm EST). Also in California, on Sunday afternoons (4pm PST) Kendall-Jackson's Winemaster Randy Ullom leads a tasting and discussion of their wines alongside various culinary pairings.

For distilleries, Seattle's Westland Distillery is hosting a tasting experience featuring their core whiskeys (American Oak, Sherry Wood, and Peated) starting Friday, April 3rd at 4pm PST. In Iowa, Mississippi River Distilling Co. is allowing consumers to plan their own virtual tasting with the distillery offering cocktail recipes and on the night of the tasting, they’ll walk the guests through the distillery.

For cideries, Richmond's Blue Bee Cider hosts their FireCider Chat Virtual Tastings on Thursday evenings at 7pm EST which should be very engaging to consumers not familiar with the cider industry or heirloom cider apples.

And continuing with the Commonwealth, let's not forget Frank Morgan's Virtual Virginia Wine Chats which we mentioned in Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night. The Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night on March 28th received more than 4,000 views.

Retail outlets are also using the virtual mode of communication. In DC, the popular wine store DCanter - A Wine Boutique is hosting Friday evening Sips -- virtual wine classes at 6pm EST that "tackle a different wine topic that you can easily follow along at home with or without wine".

Update (4/2/2020) - Paso Robles Wine Country has compiled a list of twenty Virtual Experiences within their appellation. The same is true for the Idaho Wine Commission (pdf).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night

Frank Morgan at DrinkWhatYouLike has been working overtime supporting the Virginia wine industry during the CV pandemic - primarily using his VAWineChat platform for nightly webinars featuring Virginia winemakers. Last week he suggested an Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night for Saturday, March 28th where consumers share on social media (using #vawinenight) a specific Virginia wine and why they selected it. A great idea borrowed from Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher's Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). And on a separate thread, Lenn Thompson and Gina Shea of The Cork Report were organizing a Drink Local Night stressing east coast and midwestern wineries -- the same concept just using the #openlocalwine hashtag.

Please participate in these campaigns, and in addition, raise a glass to toast Juanita Swedenburg, one of driving forces behind the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision forcing states to allow shipping from out-of-state wineries.  "The court’s decision resolved a longstanding conflict between a state’s right to regulate the sale and use of wines and liquors, as outlined in the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which ended Prohibition, and the Constitution’s commerce clause, which limits a state’s ability to erect economic barriers against goods shipped from beyond its borders" (NY Times).

The plaintiffs were a combined lawsuit from wine collector Eleanor Heald and others against Michigan and Swedenburg's (and other out-of-state winemakers) lawsuit against New York state. At the time, Swedenburg and her husband were the proprietors of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg, Virginia and a founding member of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association which is now the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA).  In her multiple fights leading to the Supreme Court, Swedenburg benefited from the services of the public interest law firm, Institute for Justice, to handle her cases. And "on May 16, 2005, in a 5-to-4 vote on an action brought by Mrs. Swedenburg and others, the Supreme Court overturned laws in New York and Michigan that discriminated against out-of-state wineries that wanted to ship directly to consumers’ homes" (NY Times).

Wineries across the United States are implementing special shipping rates for online purchases so please support these efforts as much as possible.  The Cork Report has a list here, including several wineries from Michigan and New York - who also profit from interstate wine sales.

And as a side note, Swedenburg Estate Vineyard is now Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, known regionally for its sparkling wine program.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Distilleries Helping in a Crisis: Converting Alcohol to Hand Sanitizer Gel

After Italy, Spain is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus and like most countries, their supply of cleaning solutions and sanitizers are being depleted. To help alleviate this problem our friends at González Byass have converted their three production facilities (Chinchón (Madrid), Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) and Bodega Las Copas in Tomelloso (Ciudad Real)) to manufacture and supply sanitary alcohol and hydro-alcoholic gel across Spain. Another famous producer, Bacardi, has begun distribution of over half a million 10-ounce hand sanitizer units to local communities, focusing initially on USPS workers, firefighters, police, and its own employees and contractors (Shanken News).

Closer to home, smaller American craft distillers are also diverting spirits production to hand sanitizers. Initially, distilleries were required to get explicit permission from both the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this week they both waived these restrictions as long as distillers use the recipe outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO):  ethanol (80%, volume/volume) or isopropyl alcohol (75%, v/v), glycerol (1.45% v/v), hydrogen peroxide (0.125% v/v) and sterile distilled water or boiled cold water.

Here is a sample of distillers participating in this endeavor.

According to this WKYT story, Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. is using their surplus alcohol supply, and chemistry knowledge to produce hand sanitizer that they are providing free to Lexington city hall.  "It's been denatured so it’s not safe to drink and we surely don't want anyone to try that, its' also got hydrogen peroxide and some glycerol, a little thickening agent," said Mark Coffman, Master Distiller.

In Clarksville, Tennessee, Old Glory Distilling Company switched from whiskey to a 96 percent ethanol hand sanitizer, and founder Matt Cunningham thanks one of their suppliers, Long Vue Farms who is supplying the corn for the distilling process. (

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that "A number of our distillers from across the state are now, instead of producing alcohol, they're producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the local communities". Scott Jendrek, owner of Patapsco Distilling Company said they will be using a World Health Organization's recipe that "..starts with ethanol,.. then you add glycerin, hydrogen peroxide water and you mix it up," Jendrek said. (WBalTV).  Twin Valley Distillers in Rockville and Lyon Distilling Company are two more distilleries aiding in this effort. This ABC3340 article also has a nice write-up of Twin Valley's founder Eduardo Zúñiga.

In Colorado, Spirit Hound Distillers is leading the effort (TheKnow) along with J&L Distilling Company and Talnua Distillery, whose co-founder and current President of the Colorado Distillers Guild says, "This is all still developing and we will see many more distilleries jumping on board with the production of hand sanitizer."

In Atlanta, Georgia Old 4th Distillery is distributing a house-made hand sanitizer to emergency personnel (CBS46) and Ann Arbor Distilling Company is in on the action. According to tasting room manager Danielle Berridge, they are using the neutral spirit they use in their gin. “It’s actually made from local corn. And then we’ve got some aloe gel in there and a little bit of veggie glycerin. And then we also add water to it to bring it down to, I believe, 70%.” (Michigan Radio).

Eight Oaks Craft Distillers (Pennsylvania) has temporarily shifted their distillation process from spirits to hand sanitizer in order to support our community, hospitals, assisted living homes, and beyond (more info here). Revivalist Spirits is another distillery from the Quaker state manufacturing sanitizer which owners Scott and Don Avellino are providing to healthcare professionals (Cision).

Durham Distillery (North Carolina) will be donating their solution to hospitality colleagues.

In Hawaii, Ko'olau Distillery is shifting production to begin supplying hand sanitizer for critical services (press release).

We will be updating this list as we discover more participants - in the meantime - stay healthy. Cheers.

Update (3/24/2020): There is no need to update this list as it appears most craft distilleries are transitioning to manufacturing hand sanitizer. Find your local distiller at either or theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

Update (4/2/2020): Apparently, the FDA and gov't regulations are hindering distillery's ability to manufacture hand sanitizer without destroying their existing equipment via Reason Magazine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Over the Ridge from Napa - Berryessa Gap Vineyards

As I mentioned in a previous post concerning Scattered Peaks, winemaker Nicole Salengo also attended our wine dinner at Officina and introduced us to her Winters, California based winery: Berryessa Gap Vineyards.

The winery sprang from Martinez Orchards, a grapevine rootstock nursery started in 1969 by Dan Martinez, Sr., father of the current owners of Berryessa Gap, and winemaker and wine historian Ernest Peninou. Thus the Martinez family has a strong grasp of the microclimate within their western corner of Yolo County, located off Route 128 between the town of Winters and the Vaca Mountains - with Napa County on the western side of the ridge.

The Berryessa estate - Coble Ranch vineyard -- planted along the eastern ridge of the Vaca Mountains and benefits from a climate that resembles the hot and dry conditions of Mediterranean climates. In addition, the eastern-facing slopes provide well-draining soils and are situated near an Alluvial Fan or gap in the range where cooling breezes blow through -- enhancing the grapes' acidity.  This interesting micro-climate allows Berryessa Gap to plant a wide assortment of grape varieties such as Durif (Petite Sirah), Tempranillo, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Barbera, Malbec, Albarino, Verdejo, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Nicole Salengo related these and other facts during our wine dinner. She was born in Vermont and studied Geology in a New York college where she also worked at famed Belgium styled producer Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown). That started her down the craft beverage path and when a family member offered her an opportunity to stay in Davis California, she proceeded to enroll in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology -- earning a winemaker's certificate. After a short stint in an air-testing lab (while taking chemistry classes at night), Salengo was hired at a wine shop that specialized in rare wines. Mark West, of Mark West Wines, was a frequent customer and offered Salengo a quid pro quo. He would teach her how to make wine if she worked for him full time.  A new career commenced.

In 2013, she was hired by Berryessa Gap where her primary goal is to highlight the particular terroir at Coble Ranch -- each individual year.  In this regard, Salengo introduced us to 2016 and 2019 through a rosé, a white, and a red wine. These wines were fresh, well made, and priced for most budgets.

2019 Yolo County Rosé ($19)
This rosé was just recently bottled and is a blend of Grenache, Primitivo, and Barbera -- and technically its a Primitivo clone which Salengo states "provides more nuanced elegance". The grapes were harvested early, keeping sugar levels moderate, in order to produce a low ABV wine. There's a distinct depth to the wine with layers of light red fruit. Very nice.

2019 Yolo County Verdejo ($23)
Salengo and Berryessa Gap love Spanish grape varieties and, in fact, in 2013 Berryessa Gap was the original filer to the then TTP equivalent for having Verdejo designated as an approved grape varietal. This wine is an excellent tribute to Rueda as it displays abundant aromatics transitioning to a creamy lemon core, herbaceous, and finishing with fresh acidity.

2016 Yolo County Petite Sirah ($28)
The 2016 Petite Sirah is a field blend that Berryessa Gap modeled after vineyards in France as well as closer to home, Ridge Vineyards - Lytton Springs brand. The actual blend consists of 85% Durif, 10% Primitivo, and 5% Peloursin and the grapes were also whole berry co-fermented. Durif and Petite Sirah are basically synonyms; the grape was originally called Durif after Dr. Francois Durif, who discovered a natural crossing from the cross-pollination of Syrah and Peloursin. For this wine, the naturally high tannins in Petite Sirah are muted by the whole berry fermentation which allows the black cherry character to lead. Expect spices and earthiness as well as refreshing acidity held together with the remaining firm tannins. Delicious.  Berryessa Gap also produces a 100% Durif, which is labeled Durif, which comes from a block at Coble Ranch which is entirely Durif.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Extreme Viticulture: Combating the Spotted Lanternfly

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Agriculture is at the heart of the wine industry and every wine region faces some type of peril. On the east coast, the newest threat is an invasive species native to China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam: the Spotted Lanternfly (also surfacing on the west coast as well).

According to Dr. Joe Fiola, of the University of Maryland Extension, the "pest was first detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania and was accidentally imported from China through a shipment of decorative stone. The pest quickly spread and has decimated vineyards in southeastern Pennsylvania and has the capacity to inflict major damage to hop fields and hardwoods as well. Dr. Joe says the pest has spread into Maryland's Cecil and Harford Counties, West Virginia, and in Winchester Virginia at a stone and block company site. Here is how the University of Maryland Extension describes the damaged inflicted by the Spotted Lanternfly:
Both nymphs (immatures) and adults of spotted lanternfly cause damage when they feed, sucking sap from stems and leaves. This can reduce photosynthesis, weaken the plant, and eventually contribute to the plant’s death. Additionally, spotted lanternfly feeding creates a sugary substance called honeydew. This honeydew, in addition to being attractive to ants, wasps, and other insects, is readily colonized by sooty mold, which can cause parts of the plants to become blackened and look unsightly.

So how do vineyard managers fight the pest, particularly when there are no known natural enemies for biological control? Dean Scott of Pennsylvania's Bergeist Vineyard is fighting the pest through spraying and the Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech recommends a set of insecticides (E=Excellent, G=Good). They recommend the Pyrethroids - Brigade (bifenthrin) (E) and Mustang Maxx (zetacypermethrin) (G) and the Neonicotinoids - Actara (thiamethoxam) (E), Scorpion (dinotefuran) (E), and Admire Pro (imidacloprid) (G).

At the Vineyards At Dodon, in Anne Arundel County Maryland, the winery has taken preemptive measures according to Director of Client Services Regina McCarthy starting with removing several Tree-of-heavens (Ailanthus altissima) - a deciduous tree native to China, that the Spotted Lanternfly is particularly attracted to lay eggs on.

As a consumer, the best support you could provide is to continue to, or start to, imbibe local wines. At some point, you may become personally affected as these pests invade your backyards. At that moment you become the predator.  Here's how to identify the pest courtesy of Penn State Extension.