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Friday, January 30, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge - #2: Mad Fox Brewing Company, Falls Church

Our second stop in this year's #VABreweryChallenge was a short trip to Mad Fox Brewing Company. Readers may be familiar with the MyJoogTV episode filmed at this brewpub and its proximity to the W&OD bike trail. This day, Mad Fox had a full menu of beers available which included three cask offerings. One of these was a delicious St. Swithin’s E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter) - and English ale brewed with English Pale and Crystal malts and lightly hopped with the English First Gold hop varietal. Also on cask was the Mason's Dark Mild - at 3.3% ABV - a perfect lunch beer. It's medium-dark, mostly sweet with a light hop finish. My clear favorite during this visit was the Cabernet Funk, a Saison that is dry-hopped with Citra hops and then aged in used Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Barrels. This is a complex beer; spicy dirty, with a touch of tannins. And only 6.0% ABV. I'll probably return soon for their 5th Annual Barleywine Festival (February 21-22). Cheers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learning About Turkish Wine with Vinorai Wines on #WineChat

This past Wednesday, #WineChat  featured the Turkish wines from importer Vinorai Wines. During the hour chat we learned several facts about the wine industry in Turkey such as DNA analysis shows that grape seeds were domesticated in Anatolia as far back as 9000 BC. Whereas Turkey accounts for only 2% of total world wine production, they are the 6th largest grape grower. There are four major  grape growing regions: Anatolia, Thrace, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean being the biggest. Anatolia produces wine from mostly the indigenous varieties such as Emir, Narince,  Öküzgözü, and Boğazkere. They remaining regions have a more Mediterranean climate and specialize in international varieties, although the indigenous planting are increasing.

During the evening, I sipped on the Selection Narince - Emir 2011 from Kavaklidere Winery. Several of this winery's wines are available locally at Cenan's Bakery in Vienna, VA.  The winery is one of the largest in Turkey and is located in Anatolia. The Narince and Emir grapes were harvested from vineyards in Tokat and Cappadocia. After fermentation, the wine was aged eight months in French oak. The result is a wine with a big aroma, a creamsicle texture, green apple and lemon flavor, and decent acids on the finish. And quite the value at $12.  That should be an incentive to check out Turkish wine. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#DrinkLocal Options for #Beer & #Wine for Super Bowl XLIX

It's time to move past the Packer's late game meltdown and #deflategate and start concentrating on what's most important for Seahawks and Patriots fans heading to Phoenix for Super Bowl XLIX. What are the options for drinking local?  And there are plenty, The Phoenix are is home to over 20 craft breweries in addition to  one winery and one distillery. I've never had a chance to sample any, so please let me know your favorites. Here's what's listed on theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator and

Perch Pub and Brewery: 480-773-7688
SanTan Brewing: 480-917-8700

Arizona Wilderness Brewing: 480-284-9863
Dubina Brewing Company: 623-412-7770

Desert Eagle Brewing Company: 480-656-2662

Freak'N Brewing Company: 623-738-5804

Bold Barley Brewing: 602-978-0007
Mother Bunch Brewing: 602-368-3580
North Mountain Brewing Company: 602-861-5999
O.H.S.O. Eatery + NanoBrewery: 602-955-0358
Old World Brewery: 623-581-3359
The Phoenix Ale Brewery: 602-275-5049
Sonoran Brewing: 602-510-8996
Sun Up Brewery: 602-279-8909
Uncle Bear’s Brewhouse Grill: 480-961-2374

Arizona Distilling Co: 602-391-3889
Bad Water Brewing: 480-659-9225
Fate Brewing Company: 480-994-1275
Papago Brewing Co.: 480-425-7439
Scottsdale Beer Company: 480-219-1844
Su Vino Winery: 480-994-8466

Arizona Distilling Co: 602-391-3889
Huss Brewing Company: 480-264-7611
Sleepy Dog Brewing Company: 480-967-5476

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who's Up For A 2015 DC, MD, & VA Brewery Challenge

While enjoying a tulip of Tripel at Lost Rhino Brewing Co. on Saturday, my friend Chris and I heard about  someone who visited all 100 Virginia breweries in 2014 (#vabrewerychallenge).  Not afraid of a challenge, we committed ourselves to accomplish the same feat in 2015, with me raising the bar to visit the eleven breweries in the District (#dcbrewerychallenge) as well as the 60 or so in Maryland (#mdbrewerychallenge). As expected, we will be using theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator to navigate to these establishments. And I can image that Uber will be utilized often.

Thus #1 for the #vabrewerychallenge is Lost Rhino Brewing Co., located in Ashburn Virginia. Most should be familiar with their year round Face Plant, Rhino Chaser, and New River; but i tend toward the seasonal's - like the Tripel and brown ale styled porter - Why Nut?  With decent food and live music on weekends, what's not to like.

On Sunday I began the #dcbrewerychallenge at Atlas Brew Works, located in northeast near the National Arboretum. I was one of the first visitors, but by the time I had finished a sampler, the tasting bar was two deep. Atlas was the 4th craft brewery that has recently opened in DC and I was familiar with the brewery since their District Common and 1500 South Cap Lager are available at Nationals games. But three of their specialty brews hit home for me. First was the Rowdy Rye, I'm always in the search for rye, and this had a some edgy spices to balance the sweet malt. Next was the Pumpernickle Stout that includes some rye and molasssas - ingredients for pumpernickle bread. There is some sweetness to this beer as well but also some creaminess and spice. The final beer, the Town & Country, is outstanding. It's their Belgian Saison aged nine months in used red wine barrels. This process creates a complex beer - with many wine characteristics such as a strong cherry aroma and some tannins on the tail. Can't wait to share this one with my wine friends.

Brewery #2for the #dcbrewerychallenge is Bardo Brewpub, located less than a mile from Atlas. Pay attention, because if you miss the brewery, you need to travel several blocks to retrace. Bill Stewart initially starting brewing beer with Bardo Rodeo in Arlington Virginia in 1993-4 and at the time it was the largest brewpub in the country. His brother Andrew helped manage the brewpub. Eventually that location closed and the Stewart family renovated the current location and opened Bardo Brewery in 2013. They have an enormous outside seating area and a good sized indoor facility which was half full on this visit. There were ten beers on tap, but once I saw the Bubba's Sour mash, I knew what direction I was headed. This is a tasty sour, black in color, tart in flavor, unfiltered for added complexity. 

 Check back for our next challenge stops. Cheers. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Steven Kent Winery, Protocol #WineStudio, and #Wine Credentials

The January theme at Protocol #WineStudio is Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction and to help sip our way through the discussion, samples of Steven Kent Winery to several participants. The winery started in 1996 with the goal of producing world class Cabernet in the Livermore Valley. Bordeaux grape varieties have been planted in the valley since the 1880's and many believe it's "climate and soils match those of Bordeaux’s left bank of the Gironde".  And Steven Kent Winery is all about Bordeaux - producing wine from all five red varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The winery was also a perfect match for discussing wine credentials as they have a well educated tasting staff. The winery trains every employee on the Livermore Valley section of the California Wine Appellation Specialist® (CWAS) program from the San Francisco Wine School. And a full 90% of the staff continued with the entire program. That's impressive.

For the #WineStudio twitter event, we tasted the 2011 Small-Lot Petit Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard ($50, 14.3% abv) and the 2011 Livermore Vally Cabernet Sauvignon ($48, 13.5% abv). The Ghielmetti Vineyard was planted by the Ghielmetti family in 2001-2002 and hosts vines from 10 different grape varieties. According to Tracey Hoff - VP Sales & Marketing, Petit Verdot thrives in the vineyard's gravelly soil, warm days, and cool evenings. Six barrels were chosen for the small-lot PV and the results are quite impressive. The 2011 Small-Lot Petit Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard starts off big, and I mean big, on the nose with dark fruit and tobacco leading to a complex mixture of blackberries, dirt, chocolate and some vanilla at the tail. Quite often, 100% Petit Verdot can be one dimensional - plowing straight ahead - but not the Steven Kent. This wine has depth and character.

The 2011 Livermore Vally Cabernet Sauvignon is also a well structured wine with the help of 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot & 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged 2 years in a combination of new and used French & American Oak. Being an acid hound, my first impression was the racy acidity, but there's also plenty on the nose - most likely an assist from the PV.  The wine has more of a cherry undertone with similar notes of chocolate and vanilla as the Small-Lot Petit Verdot. And the finish is spicier on the sweeter side with more cinnamon than pepper. A solid wine.

And catch the last night of #WineStudio's Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction on Tuesday January 27th to learn about the San Francisco Wine School's programs on French Wine Scholar (FWS), Italian Wine Professional (IWP), and the above mentioned California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS)® program. Cheers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Tasting of Four Napa Valley Wines from Ca’ Momi

Just in time for the Christmas holiday, Ca'Momi Winery sent me four wines from their Napa Valley establishment. "House of Momi" honors the three owners Italian heritage, specifically, the name of the family house in Italy's Veneto region.  The winery offers a few brands with the fruit sourced from the estate in Carneros or throughout Napa Valley. I received a shipment of their Passion brand, consisting of Merlot,  Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. They also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon in this series.

My first thought was that it will be intriguing to sample Napa Valley Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. And they both were tasty with the 2013 Zinfandel ($26) focusing on blackberry and spice and the 2013 Pinot Noir ($26) dark cherry. Both are fruit forward, easy drinking, with a shadow of tannins at the tail. Nice wines, but I would prefer other California regions with these varieties.  The 2013 Chardonnay ($22) was a more typical Napa Valley wine with a big citrus fruit flavor, with vanilla and butterscotch in the mid-palette, and a but of spice at the finish. Good acidity as well. For those who enjoy a little oak, but not over the top, this is for you. My favorite was the 2013 Merlot ($22). There's plenty going on in this wine starting with the cherry leather aroma, gummy berry flavor, dirt texture, pepper, and big tannins on the tail. Nicely done.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business

Kentucky Education Television (KET) in partnership with the The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries and  Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) have released a one hour documentary titled Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business.  The documentary is streamed here and is quite informative.  It captures an oral history of several of the leading families in the Kentucky bourbon industry as well as documenting the entire whiskey process. These families include the Beams at  The Jim Beam® Distillery and Heaven Hill Distilleries; the Russells at Wild Turkey; the Samuels at Maker's Mark Distillery; the players behind the Brown-Forman Early Times Distillery; Master Distiller Jim Rutledge at Four Roses Distillery; and Master Distiller William Pratt at Michter’s Distillery, LLC.

You will also need to read this critique by Chuck Cowdery on a few major missing players: Sazerac's Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle, & Elmer T. Lee. Regardless, the documentary is highly recommended for those interested in all things bourbon.

Update: The Buffalo Trace Oral History Project includes several videos of the families not included in the KET video also hosted through the The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Angel's Envy - Is Bourbon Aged in Port Casks Still Legally Bourbon?

I recently received a bottle of the Angel's Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Port Finish - which is almost as nice as their Cask Strength. For those unfamiliar with the brand, it was started by the late Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson and his son Wes. Henderson helped develop several major bourbon brands such as Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel and is an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon is produced using the legal requirements for Bourbon - over 51% corn, aged in new charred American Oak, as well as meeting a few proof requirements. It is entitled to be labeled Straight since it has aged more than four years, in this case at least six years. But then the whiskey is aged between three to six months in used 60-gallon ruby port barrels made from French oak. The result is a complex whiskey: vanilla, toasty honey, candied citrus, and plenty of nutty character. But, with this final finish - can the product be legally labeled a Bourbon?  Any ideas out there?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning about Wines of Southwest France (Fronton & Cahors) on #Winechat

The last two weeks of #WineChat featured a discussion of the Wines of Southwest France - "a lush, hilly wine region that occupies the corner bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains on the south. The region is home to a string of more than two dozen winemaking appellations whose producers are united by a passion for place. Some of the world’s great grape varieties originated here and many of the area’s lesser-known varieties are grown nowhere else." 

One wine grape that originated there was Malbec, specifically from the sub-region of Cahors; another Negrette, from Fronton.  For the second week I was sent samples of each from Chambers Street, the Cosse Maisonneuve 2009 Cahors Le Combal (13.5% ABV,  $19.99) and Colombière 2010 Fronton Bellouguet (13.5% ABV, $15.99).

Cahors, is located due north of Toulouse, and the birthplace of the Malbec grape and is known locally as Cot or Auxerrois.  AOC regulations in Cahors stipulates that Malbec must comprise at least 70% of all blends with Merlot and Tannat rounding out the rest. These are black wines, dark and chewy as perfected illustrated by the Cosse Maisonneuve 2009 Cahors Le Combal. This is a fantastic wine, cassis and stewed plum on the aroma, with deep chewy tannins. And I mean chewy and made from organic grapes.

Fronton is also located north of Toulouse, just not as far north and is home to Négrette, where at least 40% must be included in a final blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Fer and Gamay are the other grapes permitted. The Colombière 2010 Fronton Bellouguet is a funky wine, where the aroma is sweet anise - very gin like - followed by dark fruit flavors with a nice transition into a juicy tannic finish. Another fantastic wine.

This is one wine region I'll continue to explore. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who Makes Trader Joe's La Ferme Julien?

You may have seen two La Ferme Julien wines on sale at Trader Joe's at the enticing price of $5.99. At that price I purchased one of each and went home to research. The wines are produced by Famille Perrin, the same family that owns the famous Château de Beaucastel that produces Châteauneuf-du-Pape in southern Rhône. You may be familiar with estate since it is the co founder with Robert Haas of Paso Robles' Tablas Creek Vineyard.  In 1978 Jean Pierre Perrin and François Perrin took over management of the estate from their father Jacques Perrin and soon introduced La Vieille Ferme - an inexpensive Côtes du Rhône - that quickly became very popular. Look for the chicken on the label. Trade Joe's recognized this trend and contracted with Famille Perrin to create a private label version - the goat version.

The two wines are blends of four southern Rhône varieties. The grapes for the La Ferme Julien Blanc are sourced from the Côtes du Luberon and consist of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Vermentino. Not exactly your household names. The wine starts with stone fruit aromas, leading to a citric flavor - both lemon and grapefruit. It starts nicely, but then falls flat at the finish because of a lack in acids and vibrancy. The La Ferme Julien Rouge is comprised of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault sourced from the Côtes de Ventoux. Both Ventoux and Luberon are located in the extremely southeast region of the Rhône leading to Provence. This is a simple wine, the term "rustic" is used quite often as a descriptor, and is very easy on the palette. Nothing exciting about either wine, but at $6, you get what you pay for.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Music, Shaw, & Right Proper Brewing Company

 Planning for a night out at the 930 Club, DC9, or Howard Theatre in Washington DC's Shaw neighborhood? Then head out a little early to sample some delicious beer and food from Right Proper Brewing Company. This past week before attending Centro-matic's farewell tour at DC9, I stopped in for dinner and a couple beers. The beauty of these beers start with their low ABV levels; no one wants too much alcohol before watching a show. Or maybe so. In any case, despite these low ABVs, the beer are diverse and flavorful. I started with the farmhouse radler Kodachrome Dream(ing) - a sour tart, creamy, and citrus collaboration with Michael Tonsmeire - The Mad Fermentationist. Love the sours.Being an Uncle Tupelo and alt-country fan, I had to order the No Depression country alt - a solid offering.  I need this in the can for road trips. I had time for one more which had to be the Haxan porter - a dark chocolate, creamy, slightly bitter treat. A versatile beer - breakfast or dessert. There's plenty of good music on the horizon so I envision many return visits to Right Proper. Cheers. Need directions? Check out theCompass.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Laphroaig Quarter Cask and Triple Wood plus a Square Foot of Islay

This spring, I was reintroduced to the smoky peat flavor of Laphroaig Scotch Whisky at the Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor and have settled into a long term relationship. At that time I sampled from their Quarter Cask and Triple Wood, both with distinct and varying degrees of smoke, sweetness, and spice. These two whiskies follow the same production and maturation process. After the malt is smoked with dried peat, mashed and distilled, the whisky starts aging in American Oak (retired Bourbon barrels). The second maturation occurs in even smaller Quarter Casks. At this point, the whiskey bound for the Triple Wood undergoes a final maturation in large European Oak Oloroso Sherry Casks. The Quarter Cask is very Laphroag-ish with plenty of iodine and smoked peat, even some seaweed, on the nose and body. And the maturation process induces some major vanilla and sticky honey which is more evident with a few drops of water. On the other hand, the Triple Wood is a different Beast. The Oloroso Sherry Casks tones down the iodine and peat with even more smoky, syrupy, and nutty vanilla honey. The peat comes back slightly with water, but the Triple Wood is all about the wood: nuts, vanilla, and honey. Initially I favored the Quarter Cask, but lately I'm all about the Triple Wood and its smoky jam. And this Christmas I'll be looking to add some more square footage to my lifetime lease on Islay. Cheers.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Another New Brewery in Ocean City, Maryland: Assawoman Bay Brewing Company

Ocean City Maryland has a growing craft beer scene and the newest entrant is Assawoman Bay Brewing Company, located in the 45th Street Village. For those unfamiliar with this Maryland beach community, Assawoman Bay is the lagoon that separates the Ocean City peninsula with the Delmarva mainland and the name comes from the Algonquian Indians who originally lived here. This weekend the brewery itself was closed, but the beers were available next door at their sister location: the 45th Street Taphouse.  Over lunch, I sampled through the brewery's eight offerings ranging from the Bayside Blonde to the Commodore Decatur Black IPA. This IPA was one of my favorites, with a creamy, toasted malt flavor finishing with dark chocolate bitterness. It also provides a historical lesson, being named for local Naval hero Stephen Decatur. Another favorite was the spicy Red Head Rye Ale, Angry Clown Brown Ale, and Sunsationale Belgium Pale Ale.  Well done and, as always, theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery app can guide your there. Cheers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Old York Cellars #VirtualVines - Dry Riesling & Malbec

Last week Old York Cellars hosted another Virtual Wines video tasting with wine maker Scott Gares and Sommelier Laurin Dorman. While a wine dinner was being served at the winery, Gares and Dorman gave an overview of two of the wineries latest releases, the 2013 Dry Riesling ($17, 1% RS, 13.0% ABV) and 2013 Malbec ($17, 13.8% ABV). I was fortunate enough to receive a sample so that I could participate as well. We started with the riesling where the tasting notes suggest: a dry, crisp white with hints of stonefruit and red delicious apple. Pair with your favorite sushi roll. Gares used R2 yeast to provide more apple and cream characters and I definitely noticed a tart, creamy honeycrisp flavor. Gares also talked about how the wine was harvested and fermented to retain acids, but that was one aspect my specific bottle lacked. The wine fell flat at the finish. I need to try another. And as with the case with all Old York Cellars wines, Dorman suggests a chocolate pairing, for the Riesling milk chocolate with 30% cocoa.

Turning to the Malbec, the tasting notes read "this medium bodied red has luscious red fruit flavors and silky, smooth finish. Pair with your favorite burger". Gares said the grapes were harvested at 24 brix which equates to a higher ph and lower acids. He spent two weeks pumping over and pushing down the fermenting juice and skins until the wine acquired the color and flavor he targeted. The wine was then aged in American oak. The result? There's a lot to love about this wine starting with the character, fruit forward, approachable, soft tannins, and a hint of spices. I also detect some cedar leather in both the aroma and palette. Finally, you have to like the low alcohol (13.8%) and the suggested chocolate pairing is smooth dark at 50-60% cocoa. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the beauty. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lodi, Old-Vine Zinfandel, and Oak Ridge Winery Old Zin Vines

The Lodi AVA is located in California's Central Valley - east of San Francisco Bay and west of the Sierra Nevada foothills.  It's Mediterranean climate of hot days and cool nights (maritime breezes) creates a conducive environment for wine grapes - particularly Lodi's signature grape: Zinfandel. And usually old-vine zinfandel. Old vine? Some of these vines are 120 years old, gnarly, with very small yields.  The Historic Vineyard Society, documents older vineyards in the interest of preservation and defines old vines or historic vines as:
        • Currently productive vines
        • Vines planted no later than 1960
        • At least one third of vines traceable to the original planting date

One Lodi winery producing old-vine zinfandel is also the region's oldest continually operating producer, Oak Ridge Winery. The was founded in 1934 as a winemaking cooperative of local grape growers. In 2001, Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds purchased the winery and retained many aspects of the historical property - for instance the building for Lodi's first tasting room.  Today the produces several brands including its signature Old Zin Vines (“OZV”).  The wine is made from grapes harvested from 50-100 year old zinfandel vines spread throughout the winery's various estate vineyards. Juice from certain lots are aged in various toast levels, whereas some are aged in stainless steel.  The lots are then blended together that is intended to be bright and fruity while retaining richness and depth.

Last week I received a sample of the “OZV” which comes in at 13.95% ABV and retails in the low teen. Like that price point. The wine starts with red fruit and tobacco on the nose, followed by chewy candied raspberry flavor, and finishing rather nicely (decent acids).  This is a rather nice everyday wine, both in the palette and financially. And according to the winery's locator - available in most states. Cheers to that.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cider Week Quiz: Which U.S. state hosts the most hard cider producers?

With apple season in full swing, hard cider is experiencing a seasonal renaissance with increased exposure from consumers, the media, and online tastings (#winestudio). Plus, Cider week starts November 14th in both Virginia and the Hudson Valley -- where consumers can learn more about the beverage through special tastings and events.

Hard cider is produced in 33 states and six Canadian provinces, and I recently learned that Quebec hosts the largest number of cider producers in North America with 53. This number includes both wineries and cideries as well as distilleries that distill hard cider.  So which U.S. state hosts the largest number of hard cider producers? and theCompass Mobile Application don't tell the full story, since they are limited to establishment's with tasting rooms. Care to guess?  I'll release the answer and source on Friday. Cheers.

Which state hosts the most hard cider producers?
New York
Please Specify:
Poll Maker

Friday Update: According to the Cider Guide website there are 29 cider producers in Oregon, 30 in Michigan and California, 33 in Washington, and 39 in New York state.  Many of these are in the Hudson Valley where Cider Week begins today. Cider Week VA also starts today highlight the Commonwealth's nine operating cideries. Cheers to that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TasteCamp: The Hudson River Region AVA

Benmarl Winery & Vineyard
Millbrook Vineyards
View from Glorie Farm Winery

Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery

Although my first posts concerning TasteCamp focused on cider and spirits, the Hudson Valley wine industry was the primary focal point of the trip. During the weekend, I probably tasted close to 75 New York wines, with about half  Hudson River Region (HRR) designated. Leading up to the weekend, I gained a better knowledge and appreciation of the Hudson Valley by participating in a #WineStudio series focusing on the region. For instance, the Hudson Valley is home to the oldest continually operating winery in the U.S. (Brotherhood America's Oldest Winery) as well as the oldest continually used vineyard, now part of  Benmarl Winery & Vineyard. Wine making did not return to the Hudson in a commercial sense, post prohibition, until the Farm Winery Bill was passed in 1976. The drivers of that project were John Dyson - the State Commissioner of Agriculture - and owner of Millbrook Vineyards & Winery and John Miller of Benmarl. By utilizing estate grown grapes (amended two years later to allow any NY grapes), New York wineries received lower taxes, the ability to sell directly to consumers, and to self-distribute. And as importantly, it encouraged the retention and growth of vineyards. Thus, the New York wine industry owes its current renaissance to two pioneers in the Hudson.

In most cold climate regions, French-Hybrids usually dominate and in the HRR, Seyval is a leading white grape. Before this weekend I think the only Seyval I tasted that left an impression was from Linden Vineyards. In most other cases they were just average nondescript wines. However, I tasted several tasty Hudson Valley Seyvals - starting with Clinton Vineyards - who not only, only produce wine from Seyval, but they also produce champagne methodoise versions. These were quite nice, citrus and effervescent. Hudson-Chatham Winery and Glorie Farm Winery both featured Seyval that were dry, light, fruit forward, with a lemon-citrus and acidic finish. And the Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery White Awosting is a very tasty blend of Vignoles and Seyval Blanc. Another benefit of these Seyval wines are their low price points, $15 on average.

But, let's talk Hudson River Region vinifera. Starting with whites, I tasted several nice Rieslings over the weekend, with most produced from fruit sourced from the Finger Lakes. The exception was Tousey Winery, where we were provided a vertical tasting of their 2011 to 2013 Estate Grown Hudson River Rieslings. These wines were fantastic, each different, but showcasing the stone fruits and acidity inherent and American Riesling. Owners Kimberly and Ben Peacock have an interesting story as well, agreeing to take over operations while visiting from Europe. It also helps that Peter Bell, of Fox Run Vineyards, is a consultant. Millbrook Vineyards & Winery also produces a HRR Riesling in their Dry Riesling Proprietor's Special Reserve -- another solid wine. Millbrook also produces a very respectable chardonnay, as well as one of my favorites of the weekend - the 2013 Proprietor’s Special Reserve Tocai Friulano. Simply delicious. And talking about trendsetters; Millbrook has been growing Tocai Friulano since 1985.

Moving to red wines, the Hudson River Region appears to be a bright sport for Cabernet Franc and Baco Noir. Once again Millbrook Vineyards & Winery provided our party with a solid offering in their Proprietor’s Special Reserve Cabernet Franc. This was followed by the Glorie Farm Winery estate Cabernet Franc - which quickly became a TasteCamp favorite. And count Tousey Winery as another winery producing a solid cab franc. While driving around the Marlboro area the day after TasteCamp, I stumbled upon newly opened Brunel and Rafael Winery. Check out their Hudson River Region Cabernet Franc. My favorite goes to Benmarl's 2012 Ridge Road Estate Cabernet Franc. This is the bomb. One of the best wines of the weekend.

Our host for TasteCamp was the proprietor of Hudson-Chatham Winery, Carlo Devito. Carlo planned the entire weekend, which included a lunch tasting of area wines and ciders at his winery - all this in the middle of harvest. While his winemaker Stephen Casscles & crew crushed grapes, Carlo also opened his entire portfolio for us to sample. And this included several Baco Noirs, Carlo's most famous wines. There are not many producers of this hybrid anymore, but Hudson-Chatham specializes in Baco Noir as we sampled four vineyard designate wines. The estate vineyard at Hudson-Chatham,  North Creek Vineyard, has four year old vines growing in Block 3 - hence the Block 3 North Creek Vineyard Baco Noir. The also produce theCasscles Middle Hope Baco Noir  from a vineyard Casscles planted while in high school. What foresight. My favorite two were from Mason Place Vineyard, the  Field Stone Baco - Old Stones & Old Vines - Mason Place Vineyard and the Old Vines Mason Place Vineyard. This last wine is outstanding, the grapes harvested from 60 year old vines.

There were also several other reds to praise, in particular, the Hudson-Chatham Winery Chelois, Clearview Vineyard Noiret, and Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery Reserve Gamay Noir. First, who in the U.S. even produces a Chelois outside of Hudson-Chatham. Second, its a killer wine.  The Clearview Noiret was easily the best I've ever tasted from this Cornell bred grape. And the Whitecliff Gamay Noir was simply spectacular.

There are many other wines I know I am omitting, but I'm trying to be brief. Tastecamp was a great education and experience. Looking forward to returning soon, hopefully a tour of the southern Shawangunk Wine Trail. Cheers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

While in Hershey: Tröegs Brewery

Seems like we've been visiting Hershey, Pennsylvania quite often in the past year, and why not, with the zoo, chocolate factory, and amusement park. And Tröegs Brewery is always on the agenda. Hard to believe the brewery is almost 20 years old; first operating in Harrisburg and moving to the new location in the fall of 2011. Not only does the Hershey plant host the brewing and bottling operations, but it also includes a large taproom-snack bar; gift shop, and a self-guided tour area. The latter works for families with kids since visitors must be 21 for the guided tours. My son had a blast watching the bottling of Mad Elf Ale, running back and forth following a particular bottle of beer as it was cleaned, filled, capped, labelled, and boxed. And he sat quietly watching the quality control mechanism reject bottles after capping. 

 The taproom provides an opportunity to taste or consume any variety of available beers. But, it's the food menu that sets it apart - talking gourmet food. There's cheeses, venison, seared foie gras, beef marrow bones, crispy pork belly, "poutine" hand-cut fries in turkey neck gravy, charcuterie house-cured meats, duck confit, beef short rib pot roast. You get the picture. And the grilled cheese and tröegswurst were delicious. As for the beer, we took the low alcohol approach with their everyday Dreamweaver Wheat and Sunshine Pils. Both solid representations of their styles.

And when ready to leave, the gift shop offers Tröegs beer for the road as well as company swag. Stock up - particularly with my favorite: Troegenator Double Bock. Cheers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

W&OD Bike Trail: Old Ox Brewery

Yesterday I had a free afternoon so I battled major headwinds to visit Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, Virginia. It had been since my last visit and the brewery has settled in nicely. With the new sign on the bike path there's really no need to depend on theCompass and there was constant traffic from the W&OD path to the brewery. Many of these riders camped in the brewing area in front of the projection screen -- watching football; I think I need to return for a Redskins game. There was also a larger selection of beer with the Golden Ox Belgium Golden Ale (6.5% abv) and Alpha Ox Session IPA (4.5% abv) now accompanied with the Black Ox Rye Porter (6.0% abv), The Oxorcist Pumpkin Brown Ale (6.0% abv), and the Saison d'Ox French Farmhouse Ale (5.7% abv). This farmhouse ale is fantastic, it's refreshing after a bike ride with orange flavors and subtle spices on the tail. Nicely done. I also enjoyed the rye porter; there was symmetry between the rye spice and chocolate notes with a slightly hoppy finish. Looking forward to a brewery - brewery ride when Caboose Brewing Company opens later this year. Cheers and safe riding.