Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Virginia Wine Chat - Virginia Governor's Case Wines - Part 1

The 2020 Virginia Governor's Cup Competition is currently being judged and the results will be released next month, so the 2019 Case Club Awardees are taking a final victory lap appearing in Frank Morgan's Virginia Wine Chat.  The specific chat actually involves two sessions with the first held January 12th at Horton Vineyards, the reigning Governor's Cup winner for their 2016 Petit Manseng. Shannon Horton, daughter of founder Dennis Horton, represented the winery and was joined by two winemakers - Ben Jordan of Early Mountain Vineyards and Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards.  Their presence provided participants the opportunity to present questions on a range of topics particularly on the nature of Virginia Petit Manseng and the methodology behind blending trials.

The three presenters described the merits of Petit Manseng with Shannon Horton describing her loose clusters which provide an easier opportunity for the grapes to dry during humid weather. Horton also mentioned the grape's versatility with the inherent acids allowing a multitude of styles along the sweetness scale. And Ben Jordan mentioned how Petit Manseng is not a thirsty grape with respect to late-season rains. Growers do not need to fear grape degradation with Petit Manseng as she won't quaff the late summer or autumn rains and become bloated. According to Jordan, that is useful since other grapes could be harvested before the rains and Petit Mansen left for afterward.

As a response to my question regarding the methodology behind blending trials, the Early Mountain team responded via twitter.   To paraphrase, they develop ideas during fermentation and in January assemble trial blends (w/o actually blending). In the spring, they revisit the original ideas and blend again (different varieties, oak treatments). The goal is to finish the trials by the next harvest. I hope consumers appreciate the time and methodological nature involved when crafting your favorite blended wines.

The second session of the 2019 Virginia Case Club Wines continues on #WineChat this Thursday,  January 16th at 7:30pm ET. Hope to see you online. Cheers

Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng 2016 ($25)
The wine maintains the grape's inherent bright tropical characters and provides a newly discovered depth and weight.

Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc ($31.99)
Luscious, full-bodied, velvety, finishing with lifting acids and firm tannins. The wine is also devoid of the inherent green vegetal character and while receiving some oak, not overly so.

King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plain ($69.95)
Beautiful wine, fresh and velvety red fruit, mint and leather, and integrated tannins.

King Family Vineyards 2016 Meritage ($36)
Big chewy wine, dark fruit, some tobacco, solid acids, and firm tannins.

Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Eluvium ($39.99)
Great mouthfeel, dark bold fruit with some spice, leading to a light and dusty tannins. Thank you acids.

Paradise Springs Winery 2015 Meritage ($49)
Gripping leather surrounded by blackberries and baking spices. Long, lingering finish.

Monday, January 6, 2020

River Outpost Brewing - the Hudson Valley's Entertainment Center

River Outpost Brewing may be the most entertaining family venture brewery in the U.S. This New York brewery features about a dozen craft beers, a kitchen, an adventure park with a rock-climbing wall and rope course, and a full-throttled gaming area including virtual reality stations. There's also plenty of live music and big-screen televisions - making this as much an adult escape. As for the beer, the Beast-Club Porter is delicious. Its development is reminiscent of the stories where porters would grab a quick beer by combining a portion from each tap. In this case, the porter is a 50/50 blend of their Basic Beast and Dub-Cub, the former a stout brewed with pumpkin, spices, vanilla, coffee, and milk sugar and the later a rather interesting English Brown Ale on its own. The Toad Alley ESB is an extra special bitter that also nails the English pub-style - and goes down quite smoothly. Finally, the Haze BAE is a New England styled IPA that is brewed with NY grown oats - and with lots of citrus and pineapple and not over the top with hop characters. Cheers.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery - The Everything Store for Craft Beverages

Francesco Ciummo is a pioneer - yes they still exist. He learned how to graft vines at 17, moved to Belgium at 20 to work as a coal miner, then emigrated to Venezuela and learned the auto body trade. In 1961, at 26 years old, he came to the United States eventually purchasing a body shop in Bergenfield, NJ. Ciummo retired at 55, and soon afterward purchased 135 acres in Warwick, NY where he planted a vineyard. He opened Demarest Hill Winery in 1998 then started tinkering in other craft beverages such as distilled products in 2006 and hard cider more recently. Not satisfied with a limited portfolio, Ciummo has explored the boundaries of wine, spirits, vinegar, and flavorings currently offering over 90 distinct products for sale - 33 of which are distilled spirits and liquors.

During a Christmas Break visit, we sampled many of these offerings with a keen interest in the unique distilled products. For instance, Ciummo distills a rather tasty Clear Grappa but also sells versions augmented with honey, raisins, or figs. He follows a similar pattern with grape brandy, selling versions aged in Cherry Tree wood and our favorite the Triple Tree Plus Brandy ($22) – aged from maple, oak, apple, cherry and cedar trees from his property. I also enjoyed the Dandelion Brandy ($22) distilled with a dandelion flower mash and serves as a suitable digestif. The Sherry is suggestive of Jerez and the Tropical Liquore - a version of the Dominican drink "Mamajuana" is a blend of rum, red wine, and honey aged in the bottle with tree bark and herbs. And his fruit brandies, Cherry and Peach are sweet - but loaded with flavor.

As for wine, a majority of the products are on the sweeter scale but there are several dry offerings that are pleasant. The estate Dry Aurora - a white hybrid grape variety produced by Albert Seibel - is complex and interesting. And the off-dry Riesling comes across drier as the acids enable a crisp and clean finish. For reds, the Bacchus Noir made from Baco Noir was our favorite followed by the Warwick Black Pearl and Warwick Red Deer composed of De Chaunac and Marechal Foch respectively. For a final, try the Apple Cider and Rum ($14) which is only 2% alcohol but provides a delicious and deep apple flavor.