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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Perry, Cocktails, & the Cider Industry with New Hampshire's Farnum Hill Ciders

August's #WineStudio sessions concludes tonight with more tasting and information regarding the cider industry in general and New Hampshire's Farnum Hill Ciders in particular. My previous post focused on the cider house's origins and philosophy.  Last week, the focus was on cocktails and the industry in general with several cider houses and #tastemakers participating.

Farnum Hill and Protocal Wine Studio offer a list of cider based cocktails included the Snakebite (50-50 blend of cider and beer) and  the Happy Apple (run and cider). Darlene Hayes (@allintocider) offers another recipe:

Kegging Cider
You don't see much kegged cider because most retailers and wholesalers expect the kegged cider to be priced similar to beer. Only the mass produced ciders have the economics of scale to price at that level. Plus these massed produced ciders are mostly likely made from concentrated juice, not freshly pressed.

Ciders with alcohol over 7% must be packaged in metric (375, 500, 750 ml) formats which are then taxed like wine and carry a higher tax rate. This Diane Flynt (@FoggyRidgeCider) mentioned that Virginia grown is always above 7% thanks to the warmer temperatures. Unless the cider is diluted, they must be packaged accordingly. Cider makers are hoping the CIDER Act changes this formula.

Perry is cider made from special pear cultivars that are higher in tannins and acids as compared to common pears and even cider apples.  Because of these tannins, the pear pomace is usually left to on its own as in wine maceration. During this time a secondary malolactic fermentation may result where the harsher malic acids are converted to softer lactic acids.

Farnum Hill Ciders

Farnum Hill Extra Dry Perry ($15, 7.2%) - yeasty and stone fruit nose and less tart than the previous apple ciders. A degree of funk, tannins, and easy acids. This is a special cider.

Farnum Hill Semi Dry ($15, 7.4%) - subtle sweetness which intermingle with the acids for a richer and deeper flavor profile. There's plenty of apple and citrus, both lemon and tangerine, with a touch of honey. Glad we saved the best for last.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

2015 Wine Bloggers Conference Live Wine Blogging - Whites

I always look forward to the madness known as the Live Wine Blogging. For 50 minutes, winemakers rotate around the room, stopping at a different table to describe their winery and wines in 5 minute increments. Within that time, the participants post their thoughts using their preferred social media channel. Mine was Twitter. I anticipated scores of Riesling at the white wine version of this event, but in general, winemakers chose to showcase other varietal wines such as Traminette, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Vidal Ice Wines. The 2014 Boundary Breaks #239 Dry Riesling was my overall favorite followed by a tasty Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Blanc de Blanc.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bus to Boat on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail During #WBC15

How many wine trails are there where you can ride a boat straight to a winery's dock? According to boat captain, Captain Skip Stamberger of Water to Wine Tours, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the only trail in the world that provides that option. It's hard to validate that claim, but for those of us who participated in the post-conference excursion, we experienced a leisurely boat ride from the Thirsty Owl Wine Company dock to Goose Watch Winery.

In 1983 the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail was the first wine trail established in NY State and currently consists of 16 wineries. When looking at the map, Cayuga Lake is represented as the index finger to the east of Seneca Lake. Ithaca is located on the southern shore and Seneca Falls on the northern end with the wineries dispersed on either shore. There's also a brewery, cider house and a few distilleries.

Our bus left Corning accompanied by Hosmer Winery winemaker Aaron Roisen and Lucas Vineyards winemaker Jeff Houck. Inexplicably, at least to us spoiled bloggers, they forgot to bring wine to share; but our friends from Cider Brothers came packed with William Tell Cider - a wine like cider produced using three strains of yeast and containing 15% Pinot Grigio. With our plastic glasses filled, we listened as Rosien and Houck gave an overview of the wine trail and their respective operations.

Cayuga Lake from Goose Watch Winery
When we arrived at Thirsty Owl, half the group departed the bus with the remainder continuing to Goose Watch.  There were eight wineries at each location and after tasting in one location we were transported past the vineyards to the lake where our boats awaited for our 15 trip to the second winery.  At least it was only that long for those of us on the faster boat.

  Goose Watch Winery 
There were several standouts in both groups starting with the cider from Bellwether Hard Cider. The Barton family started out as cider makers and eventually transitioned to wine, so its no surprise their ciders impressed several of us. Long live King Baldwin. The Hosmer selection was also solid as where the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Toro Run Winery. Their labels are also something special. A pleasant surprise was the Baco Noir from Americana Vineyards and Winery. The all stainless steel process creates a fruit friendly lighter wine.  Sadly I had to race through the Lucas selection which was unfortunate because their Cab Franc and Riesling were worth relishing longer. My favorite of the day probably goes to the Knapp Vineyards & Winery Rose, blend of predominantly Cab Franc with a lesser amount of Pinot Noir.

Knapp Winery
Our excursion was far from over as we were transported the short distance to Knapp where a gourmet dinner awaited us. Plus more wine, cider and spirits, the latter courtesy of Knapp featuring Limoncello and a Cucumber Vodka. All where quite smooth and tasty. Being rather fatigued a chose the Bellwether Lord Scudmore, a sparkling cider from Northern Spy apples. Dinner was informative as I shared a table with Knapp winemaker Steve DiFrancesco and Quebec blogger Gigi Bissonnette as they discussed vineyard practices in Quebec and Prince Edward County. Looking forward to a future visit to those regions very soon. But back to our subject matter.

The food on this excursion was fantastic, starting with the cheese plates donated from members of the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. Yes, there is such an organization.  And our dinner at Knapp featured three area chefs who provided a very delicious and diverse array of food. The brisket over miniature pancakes opened my eyes to unorthodox pairings. Here's the entire menu as provided by the wine trail:
Chef John McNabb of Knapp Vineyard Restaurant served Smoked beef brisket with johnny cakes and Hoisin Poblano, Limoncello Chimichurri an Cabernet & Caramelized Onion demi sauces accompanied by fingerling potato and quinoa salads. Also served were the Calabacitas with corn tortilla ships, Cayuga Caviar and sour cream. The chocolate chunk cookie to go was also provided courtesy of Chef John.

Chef Lindsay of Crystal Lake Café at Americana Vineyards offered a house-made sausage, pan-fried chicken and deviled eggs. Jennifer, the resident baker, provided the baguette during the tasting session and the lemon bars and pecan squares for dessert.

Chef Scott of The Bistro at Thirsty Owl Wine Co. served smoked pulled pork with coleslaw and barbeque beans. Scott also provided the Peanut Butter Corn Flake cookie.
Cheers to the wineries on Cayuga Lake and in the Finger Lakes in general. Check out theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App to make future trips to the area easier to plan.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Intriguing Virginia Wine Festival Alert: Epicurience Virginia 2015

For those interested in local wine and food, you will want to check out Epicurience Virginia, a multi-day festival culminating with a grand tasting on September 5th. This final event occurs at Morven Park in Leesburg and offers both an early entry VIP ticket ($145) as well as a reasonable general admission ticket ($85). At face value you may not think this price is reasonable, but wait until you read the details.

General Admission Tickets
  1. There will be forty exhibitors providing Virginia wine and food samples. 
  2. The event features local chefs Chris Edwards from Salamander Resort & Spa, Jason Lage from Market Table Bistro, and Bonnie Moore from Willowsford. Each will provide cooking demonstrations throughout the day. 
  3. Live music throughout the event from Justin Trawick, Todd Wright, Andrew Tufano, Tommy Gann, Bruce Parker, and Dusty Roads
  4. Virginia wine education programs featuring individual sessions on Get to Know Virginia Chardonnays, Virginia Dark Horses (Petit Manseng, Tannat, Albariño), Think Pink: Virginia Rosés, and Virginia's Native Grape: Norton
  5. **Ultimate Winemaker Experience: team up with Loudoun Winemakers for a Speed Blending Competition! Winemakers and participants will have 30 minutes to sample blending components and complete their blend entry. The last 30 minutes will be used to judge and announce the three finalist for the session. You must purchase admission into the event before entering the random drawing of participants. Click here to be selected.
VIP Tickets
  1. All of the above
  2. Exclusive Beer Tasting featuring never released, limited production beers from Lost Rhino Brewing Company
  3. Epicurience Virginia Wine Blend Sneak Peek: get a sneak peek of the 2013 Epicurience Virginia Red Wine Blend created from wines by Bluemont Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, Sunset Hills Vineyards and Tarara Winery.
  4. Cocktail Samplings
  5. Chef Joy's VIP Tasting
  6. Premier Wine Tastings from Stone Tower Winery
Now that sounds like an informative and entertaining outing. Visit Loudoun can recommend lodging options and take a look at the theCompass mobile app to find wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cider houses in the area. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Random Tweets From the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference

Here's a quick tabulation of what I saw tweeted during the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Informational Tweets

Fun Tweets

Did I Tweet That Out Loud?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Hampshire's Farnum Hill Ciders Leads the Resurgence in Hard Cider

August's #WineStudio session moves from wine to hard cider featuring New Hampshire's Farnum Hill Ciders. The cider house is owned and operated by Steve Wood and Louisa Spencer and has been a leader in the resurgence of quality dry hard cider. The fruit is grown at Poverty Lane Orchards which Steve purchased in 1984 and expanded in 1998. The orchard's terrain provides similar benefits as a grape vineyard. The downward slope allows cold air to escape to the neighboring Connecticut River; whereas the rocky, mineral-rich soil and short growing season produces intenser aromas and flavors. Initially planted with Macintosh apples, Poverty Lane Orchards now consists of over 100 apple varieties that fall within four types: bittersweets (hi-tannin, hi-sugar), bittersharps (hi-tannin, hi-acid), sweets, and sharps (acid). When fermenting the apples, Farnum Hill utilizes neutral Champagne yeast that  does not overwhelm the apple character. And the final ciders are generally a blend of multiple apple varieties in order to produce the best acid/bitter balance, complexity, fruit, and astringency.The only sugar added is for dosage.

Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider ($15, 7.5%) - tart apple & yeasty nose; almost chewy apple texture changing to orange blossom honey; extremely dry; lingering finish - light tannins & effervescence.

Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider ($15, 6.5%) - bittersweet varieties blended with Spitz and other acidic apples. The cider is tart, slight sweetness, funky palate; full mouth feel; long lemon finish.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Still Enough Summer for Joya Sangria

I drank plenty of Sangria in my younger years, one reason was having lively Spanish neighbors. Thus I was very keen on revisiting the style when contacted by Joya Sangria and sent samples of their white and red Spanish Sangria. Both wines are made from 100% Spanish grape varieties from the Castilla-La Mancha region, weigh in at 13% ABV and retail for $12.99. The Joya White Sangria is comprised of 100% Airén grapes, the most widely planted grape in Spain. This sangria starts with a tropical nose followed by serious tropical fruit flavors (passion & guava fruit) and finishes with plenty of acids. Not as sweet as expected and quite tasty both straight and mixed with ice and fruit. The Joya Red Sangria is made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Bobal grapes, with Tempranillo and Bobal the second and third most planted variety in Spain. This wine starts with a similar tropical nose, but that's where the similarity with the white ends as it gives way to a more tannic and sweeter wine. There's also a tad of artificial flavors that come through - not sure if that is real or my imagination. Of the two, I definitely prefer the white - summer is not over yet. Cheers. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Brewery & Distillery Venture in Pittsburgh

It was time for another Nationals road trip, once again, Pittsburgh's PNC Park was our destination in hopes of quality baseball and beer. While driving towards the city, theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App informed me of several brewery options in the suburbs with Full Pint Brewing Company the closest. This is a hop head's paradise, plenty of strong IPAs - even a session version. But give me the White Lightening, a Belgium Wit, that's spicy and refreshing.

Our group had a rendezvous setup at the Rivertowne Pour House for a late lunch and beer. Rivertowne has an expansive beer selection and you can find their cans (brewed at Rivertowne Brewing Export, PA) throughout the region. I stuck with samples of their low abv beers - knowing it was going to be a long day and night. A few favorites were the Babbling Blonde, Czech-Mate Pilsner, and the Home Game West Coast Common Lager. The one exception to the low abv rule was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Baltic Porter, a high gravity porter aged in used bourbon barrels. Hot, but also creamy with soft vanilla notes.

Pittsburgh is a tailgating town, and even for a night game it starts early; cars started rolling in at 11:00 am - the same time some of the bars opened. My favorite Pittsburgh beers were from Draai Laag Brewing Company, where a couple are available at the The Beer Market. This brewery specializes in unique Belgian inspired ales, many of these sours - which nails my current flavor profile. One of these is the R2 Koelschip, an American Wild Ale style beer, perhaps not as wild as the name suggests but still some funk, brett, and mildly tart. But my go to beer was the Geestelijke Farmhouse Ale, on draft, and first fermented using open spontaneous fermentation. The wild yeast strain was later determined to be the Wild Angels strain. This beer is yeasty, tart, with a lemon profile. Next visit to Pittsburgh, I'm hitting this brewery first.

Uber is a great transportation medium for visiting city breweries and it served as well on this day. Four trips cost about $25 total, with the first leg taking us to Roundabout Brewery. A bartender at the Beer Market had recommended this brewery since they don't sell outside of their tap room and have a New Zealand flair - particularly the meat pies. I tried to remain in the low ABV range and choose the Berliner Weisse and Kolsh. The later was quite unique with the use of Lemon Drop hops adding a more citrusy component to the otherwise very clean beer. Their Berliner Weisse nailed the style: tart, light and refreshing with more lemon citrus. My companions went with the IPAs with the Pacific Ring IPA their favorite - brewed with Cascade and new Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.

Out next destination was Church Brew Works, and this is a destination, in addition to be a brewery and restaurant. It is located in a 100+ year old former St. John the Baptist Church, a historical building where they kept most of the original interior and exterior intact. It is quite impressive, particularly the stained glass windows, spirals, and altar. And since our group consisted entirely of Catholics, a must visit. The brewery's Celestial Gold Pilsner and Pious Monk Dunkel are available throughout the city and at PNC Park, and showcase the German styled leaning of this operation. The hop head in our group went with the Thunder Hop IPA, brewed with nearly 3lbs of Australian Galaxy and American Chinook per barrel of beer. For me, it was another Berliner Weisse, this one still citrus but more of a grapefruit flavor than lemon.

Our final stop was the highly recommenced Wigle Whiskey. It seems that everyone we talked to praised this distillery, so off to the Strip District for us. The distillery is named after Phillip Wigle, who "defended his right to distill in a tussle with a tax collector. He unwittingly helped spark the Whiskey Rebellion, which pitted Pennsylvania distillers against George Washington's troops". As the story suggests, they specialize in whiskey, in particular, rye whiskey using Pennsylvania grown Monongahela Rye. There is also plenty of experimenting occurring at Wigle with the whiskey aged in different oak barrels such as Apple Wood, Cherry, and Maple. Tastings are conducted through various flights of 1 ounce pours of four spirits; and we went with the Aged and Experimental flights. The Aged Spirits flight consisted of the Organic Allegheny Wheat Whiskey, Organic Monongahela Rye Whiskey, Organic Barrel-Rested Ginever, and Barleywine Barrel-Rested Ginever. We definitely preferred the whiskey over the gin, with the rye slightly ahead of the wheat. For the Experimental flight, we sampled the Organic Wheat Whiskey Finished with Maple Wood, Wry Rebellion Whiskey, Four Grain Whiskey, and another version of the Barleywine Barrel-Rested Ginever. The Wry Rebellion was a favorite with the spirit based on a lower rye mash and finishing in a once-used Wild Turkey Bourbon barrel. This is a very smooth whiskey, full of honey and vanilla notes. The Maple Wood was also quite nice - with a slightly sweeter profile. The recommendations were correct, Wigle is a must visit.

Cheers to Pittsburgh breweries and distilleries.

Monday, August 3, 2015

#VirtualVines Featuring Old York Cellars What Exit White, Red, & Blush (Rosé)

Last week Old York Cellars featured their What Exit Wines brand through another #VirtualVines Twitter tasting. One aspect about this brand is that a percentage of sales go to various charities and once again this tasting focused on Hometown Heroes - a very worthy recipient. For the #VirtualVines tasting, I received three wines as samples, a White, Red, & Blush (Rosé) and Old York donated $1 per tweet to the charity.

We started with the Down the Shore Exit Only White ($16); a blend of Chenin Blanc and Cayuga. An old world-new world wine. This creates a soft wine, with loads of apple flavors (thanks to the Cayuga), and finishes with decent acids. The Hometown Heroes Rosé ($22) is a blend of  Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon and weighs in at only 1% residual sugar. The wine starts with a subtle strawberry raspberry aroma; with plenty of red fruit. It finishes with prevalent acids although not as high as the white. Winemaker Scott Gares tried a dozen different blends to get the color and flavor profile he preferred. The Cabernet was the winner in this endeavor with the grapes lightly pressed - no saignee. And remember, for every Honetown Heroe wine purchased, $5 is donated to that charity.  The final wine was the Greetings from New Jersy Red ($18), an interesting blend of 40% Barbera, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a summer red, so serve slightly chilled. There's sour cherries throughout and with the acidity, it's quite refreshing. Cheers to New Jersey wine and Old York Cellars. theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App can help you plan a visit.

Friday, July 31, 2015

#WineStudio Crossing the Andes From Viña Montes to Kaiken Wines

The first half of July's #WineStudio chat focused on Aurelio Montes Sr. and his popular Chilean winery Viña Montes. The second half of the month continued with the same family but segued to his son Aurelio Jr. and the family's venture into Argentina through Kaiken Wines. Their "aim was to make great wines by combining the exceptional conditions of the Mendoza region with the talents of professionals from Argentina and Chile". The Kaiken name refers to this crossing of the Andes as does the Caiquen birds every migratory season. The winery was established in 2001, growing from two wines to five separate brands today. Our tasting focused on two of these brands, the Terroir Series and the Kaiken Ultra.

With the 2015 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontés ($17, 13.5%), the winery focuses on the Salta wine region - one of the highest in the world. We are talking about 4,500 feet above sea level. Aurelio Jr. mentioned that working at such extreme altitudes presents challenges every year, but the specific location, the Cafayate Valley, has 320 sunny days per year and a large nightly diurnal temperature swing. The vines for Torrontés are over 80 years old but this wine is fresh with a powerful aroma of flowers, apricots and nuts. It then transitions to a velvety creamy mid-palate, finishing with plenty of acids and a hint of saline. Many of us likened it to a Virginia Viognier, although this Torrontés has way more acidity. A fabulous wine.

We returned to Kaiken's Mendoza roots with the 2012 Kaiken Ultra Malbec ($24, 14.5%). The region is not as elevated as Salta, but still pretty hefty at 2,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level. The region accounts for almost 2/3 of Argentina's wine production and was that county's first appellation. Like the Torrontés, this Malbec has plenty of fresh acids that mingle with the red cherry, tobacco, and spicy flavors. There's also plenty of tannins, I got scolded for mentioning that the wine crippled the tongue - but the lively acids alleviate most of the puckering. This one should go down into the cellar - but it's definitely drinkable now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From St. Francis to DOGC: Umbria's Sagrantino di Montefalco

In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi and several disciples traveled to Palestine in order to preach to the Christian forces and to evangelize the infidels. His group traveled throughout the region, from Syrah to Egypt -- where his famous audience with the Sultan occurred. Some believe that he returned to his native Umbria with a previously unknown grape variety to produce sacramental wine. The grape was Sagrantino, derived from the Latin  “Sacer” or Sacred, and in fact, was cultivated by monks to produce a raisin wine for religious rites. Perhaps, the grape variety didn't originate in Italy from St. Francis himself, but by Franciscan monks returning from Turkey, another theory. Regardless, Sagrantino is now considered an indigenous Italian grape and is found only around the hilltop town of Montefalco.

Image courtesy of VinePair
Whereas Umbria is central to Italy, Montefalco is centrally located within Umbria. Wine production is an inherit part of the region's culture and wine making even occurred within the medieval city walls. As early as the16th century authorities had established wine making rules protecting vineyards and wine making, with one of these laws establishing the earliest possible harvest date.  However, over time, Sagrantino and wine making in general dwindled to where the grape almost completely disappeared. A few wine producers persisted and a renaissance erupted in the 1970s leading to a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) label in 1979, followed by a more esteemed Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) label in 1992. Interestingly, Sagrantino vines were still growing within the Montefalco city walls and after scientific analysis, several vines are considered to be 200-300 years old. 
Montefalco  DOC and DOCG Requirements
On July 7th, 2015 the Montefalco Consortium issues a press release announcing a change to the Montefalco Rosso DOC regulations.

Montefalco Rosso DOC
Previous composition: 60-70% Sangiovese, 10-15% Sagrantino, 15-30% other authorized varietals.
New composition: 60-80% Sangiovese and 10-25% Sagrantino.
Aging: minimum 18 months, with no oak requirements

Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG
Composition: 100% Sagrantino.
Aging: minimum  30 months, with at least 12 months in oak.

Two of these producers reinvigorating wine making in Montefalco were Guido Guardigli and the Antonelli family. In the early 1990s, during a trip to the region, Guardigli was inspired by the potential of both the territory and signature grape. After purchasing the property, he planted what would eventually become 15 hectares of vines as well as built a new state of the art winery. He named his venture, Perticaia - old Umbrian for plow. Those 15 hectares of vineyards are almost half planted with Sagrantino, a quarter with Sangiovese, and the remainder in Colorino, Trebbiano Spoletino, and Grechetto.

The Antonelli family have been farming in Spoleto, just north of the village of Montefalco, since1881 when  Francesco Antonelli purchased the San Marco de Corticellis estate (once owned by the Bishopric of Spoleto).  In 1979 the family starting bottling and selling its wine and in 1986 5th generation Filippo Antonelli took the helm. From 1996 to 2006 he was president of the “Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco” and also manages a second family wine estate, Castello di Torre in Pietra. Currently the Antonelli estate contains 40 hectares of planted vines, predominately Sagrantino (some 30 years old) and Sangiovese, with smaller plantings of Montepulciano, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. White wine grapes are represented by Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletin.

This August, the Montefalco Wine Consortium is participating in the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference with a program titled “Discover Sagrantino, Umbria’s Signature Wine”. In order to promote the region, the group organized a twitter campaign and selected several bloggers at random to receive samples. I was one of these fortunate souls and received the two wines below. My first impression is that Sagrantino is inherently tannic; in fact, I later learned, it is one of the most tannic varieties in the world. Thus, decanting is mandatory. Yet, these tannins are chewy and blend seamlessly with the wine's mineral character and acids. And like a majority of Old World wines, Sagrantino is meant to be consumed with food, try these ragu and gnocchi recipes

Perticaia  Montefalco Rosso DOC 2011  (12% ABV) - Sangiovese 70%; Sagrantino 15%; Colorino 15%. Aged 18 months with 12 months in stainless steel and 6 months in the bottle. Starts with a cranberry aroma, which leads to a dry medium bodied wines with noticeable chewy leather tannins.

Antonelli Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 (14% ABV) - Sagrantino 100%. Full bodied; dark fruit on the nose; jammy blackberries, minerals and depth, acids and very persistent chewy tannins. Persistent even after almost five additional years in the bottle. Begs for game or sausages.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ballparks & Brews: Harrisburg Senators & Zeroday Brewing Company

This past week we enjoyed more Minor League baseball with moon bounces, Monkey Rodeo, and Pennsylvania beer at the Harrisburg Senators Metro Bank Park. Although it's $2 Coors night on Thursdays, I found myself gravitating to the Appalachian Brewing Company beers located in the right field food court. Look for the Hershey signs. The Mountain Lager is a solid, refreshing beer. Troegs Brewing is also available at this stand as well as a couple others on the upper left field beer stands.

Now, if you'll looking for a good spot to tailgate before or after the game, I recommend Zeroday Brewing Company, located only a couple miles across the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg's Midtown district. theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile Application can provide directions. The brewery opened this year, just in time for the 2015 season and brews a wide selection of beer from blondes to dark stouts.By far my favorite beer was the ROYGBIV Midtown Funk - a limited release Saison with plenty of funky depth which tastes more like a wine than beer. The Cheap Date is a solid blonde whereas the Dolce Vita (Chocolate & Hazelnut Sweet Stout) is nutella in a glass. For those who prefer wine or cider, the brewery offers local options from Knob Hall Winery and The Vineyard at Hershey's Weiser Orchards Honeycrisp Cider. Cheers to #pabeer and minor league baseball.

Update: the post was updated to include Zeroday Brewing. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge: Norfolk - O'Connor Brewing Co. (#23) & Smartmouth Brewing Co (#24)

While returning from the Outre Banks, we decided to spend the night in Norfolk, with the Virginia Zoo in one mind; the #VABreweryChallenge in the other. The Zoo is rather impression, primarily from it's botanical gardens, as our the two breweries we visited afterwards. Both are in located in the same proximity in the Ghent and Chelsea neighborhoods which made travel between the two very easy with theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator. O'Connor Brewing Co. is the larger and older of the two; with owner/brewer Kevin O'Connor learning the brewing and wholesale side of the trade at St. George Brewing Company and Specialty Beverage. I've been a long time fan of their El Guapo Agave India Pale Ale as I've been able to aquire a bottle here and there. Just enough agave to make it interesting. For a summer ale, the Green Can is a solid light bodied ale; as is the Norfolk Canyon Pale Ale - the medium hops provide a mellow finish. For a stronger beer and a bit of history try the Great Dismal Black IPA - I remember riding on the outskirts along Route 17 long ago. 

Smartmouth Brewing Co opened two years after O'Connor in 2012 in the Chelsea neighborhood. The brewery hits a range of styles from German to Belgium to American and the first I saw was a low 2.5 % abv Berliner Weisse. Tart and refreshing. On the other side of the spectrum was the Hive Mind Barrel-Aged Honey Saison. Aged in used Chardonnay barrels, the beer has a creamy texture, with a slight sweet spot balanced by some spice. Quite nice. For the less adventurist, the Safety Dance Pilsner is slightly hoppy and refreshing and the hops head will like the Bandwagon 4.0 IPA single hopped with El Dorado. They joined the bandwagon. Well played Smartmouth. Cheers.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Milwaukee, Still the Beer Capital of the World -> Thanks to Craft Beer

With a rich brewing history as the home of Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz, Milwaukee is often sited as the Beer Capital of the World. Whereas some of these giants still remain in different forms, it's the city's craft beer movement that helps maintain that exalted title. During a recent trip to the Brew City, I visited several craft breweries and saw how the Pedal Tavern was making trips to various establishments easy for consumers. No need for theCompass while pedaling these moving bars.

Our first stop was to the Milwaukee Ale House, the satellite brewpub of the city's oldest micro brewery, Milwaukee Brewing Company. Located adjacent to the Milwaukee River and the Riverwalk, this pub brews several of the house beers onsite and offers numerous guest beers - this week Surly Brewing Company was in the house. Obviously I had to go with that brand's Todd The Axe Man IPA, but also sampled several of the MBC beers that were quite nice like the Increase WheatAnti Matter (Imperial Schwarzbier), Snake Oil (Coffee Stout), and . No need to worry about ABV on this trip - no driving. Throughout the weekend, my go to beer at restaurants was the readily available Outboard (Cream Ale).

The second stop during the trip was to Brenner Brewing Company, where I had first sampled their Bacon Bomb Rauchbier at SAVOR a week earlier. I love this beer, smoky, but not overly so with a light body. On the other extreme, their Summer Blonde was nice as was the Butterfly Farts Saison. My favorite was their Oak Aged Anxious, a Porter aged in oak. Smooth, some heat, complex flavors. This was also our introduction to the pedal tavern, as several groups migrated in and out of Brenner during out visit. Wonder if they pedal back to our hotel?

The Milwaukee Brewing Company's main facility is located only a few blocks from Brenner, but unfortunately that hour's tasting was sold out. Tours are conducted on the hour and is quite the experience. For $10, you get a tour and unlimited beer for that hour; no wonder tickets fly fast. Fortunately however, the Central Standard Craft Distillery is located within the brewery and not only pours several MCB beers, but offers samples of their three spirits. I started with the Vodka, 100% Rye which gives a slight, slight spice character to this otherwise smooth spirit. Smooth, as in zero burn. I enjoyed their Gin, more than most because they go easy on the juniper and instead there's more of a floral, even slight tropical profile. Finally, there's the White Whiskey, with a predominately oat mash bill and aged in uncharred and unused oak.  This one, does have some bite, but also sweet, complex flavors. Also, look out for their Bourbons currently aging; expect a young 6 months version as well as a maturer 2 year version.

The final noteworthy stop was to Lakefront Brewery, a highly recommended establishment also on the Milwaukee River. Their outside area is a peaceful setting to enjoy their beers, particularly when the German style bier hall is crowded. Their IPA was everyone's favorite, with the Extended Play Session IPA not far behind. The Riverwest Stein (American Amber\Red Lager) was smooth with a strong sweet, malty profile. A nice selection of beers.

On the not so nice beers on the trip were a couple from Leinenkugel's 10th Street Brewery. The stadium was selling some form of overly malted beer trying to pass as an IPA, and the Shandy, well, I'll leave that one alone. There was also a Rock Bottom Brewery near our hotel and their beer was in the minor leagues as compared the others. But these were the exceptions, not the rule. Milwaukee is still running as the "Beer Capital of the World". Cheers.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#WineStudio Online Session XXVI – An Exposé of Viña Montes and Dry Farming

July's weekly #WineStudio chat focuses on the popular Chilean winery Viña Montes; specifically their sustainability program and their venture into Argentina with the Kaiken brand. Montes has been operating since 1988 (founded by Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre, and Pedro Grand) and soon became the "benchmark for premium Chilean wines".

Eventually the owners determined that a more sustainable farming approach was needed and designed a vineyard management program to satisfy this desire. The program consists of five primary goals or areas:  Integrated Management, Maintaining Plant Cover, Less Water Use, Composting, and Use of Grazing Animals. The most discussed area was the winery's ability to decrease water consumption by dry farming - basically letting mother nature water the vines through rain instead of costly and energy intensive irrigation systems. Obviously, dry farming is most advantageous on soils with high water retention. Montes states that "we have decreased water consumption by 25% in Marchigüe and 10% in Apalta—a savings equivalent to the amount of water used by 3,200 families each year".  An added bonus is that the lower yields more clearly express the terrior of the area as the vines dig ever deeper to find more sources of water.

For the first part of this session we received two wines from Montes that represented the North-South axis of Chile. The Carmenère was grown on the above mentioned "Dry Farming" philosophy and includes a designation on the label.

Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($14, 12.5%) - grapes harvested from the northern Leyda Valley, located just 8 kilometers from the Pacific, and area with abundant winter rainfall, with the vines planted in granite and clay soils. Because of judicious canopy management, the grapes were harvested in early spring, which in Chile translates to late February. The result is a fantastic wine, particularly for us acid lovers. There is abundant stone and tropical fruits, some mint and lemongrass, and plenty of acids.

Montes Alpha Carmenère 2012 ($20, 14.5%) - 90% of Carmenère & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - grapes harvested from the El Arcángel Marchigüe estate, located at the western end of Colchagua Valley, in a more southern locale. The site is further east as well, 18 kilometers from the coast, with clay soils, and a cooler climate enabling later ripening. After fermenting, the wine was aged 12 months in French oak. My first suggestion is to decant. Then enjoy the cherry pepper aroma; dense, dusty, smoky blackberries and dark chocolate; and definite tannic finish. An excellent example of Carmenère.

Monday, July 20, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge #22 Big Ugly Brewing Company

So far the coolest spot we've visited for the #VABreweryChallenge has to be Big Ugly Brewing Company. The brewery is located off Battlefield Blvd, just south of Chesapeake, on the route to the Outer Banks; a perfect growler filling station. That was our purpose as we spent the night in Chesapeake on our way to Ocracoke and visited during Thirsty Thursday trivia night. Upon arriving its hard not to notice the unique benches out front or the retrofitted Big Ugly mobile and once inside the motorcycle seats, van seating area, and wall decor. Pretty much worth the trip in itself. But also, the beer is rather tasty; particularly when I can start off with the Steady As She Gose. This gose is different, brewed with a dash of pepper in addition to the expected salt to provide a little heat and spice. The Sunbeam Blonde was a table favorite as was the Ghost Rider Porter. For a clean hoppy bear try the Mango IPA. I can guarantee another stop next year during the drive to the beach. And for history buffs, the Battle of Great Bridge park is only minutes away. Learn about the first land battle of the Revolutionary War in Virginia. Cheers.