Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Afternoon in Tuscany to benefit HART

HART, Homeless Animal Rescue Team, is a no-kill animal rescue/support group that takes in and rehomes stray, abused, and unwanted dogs and cats. To raise funds for their efforts, HART is hosting "A Day In Tuscany" at Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane, VA on July 12, 2009. 

Enjoy the beautiful property, remarkable wines, and the company of animal lovers. A $25 donation ($35 at the door) includes a tasting of 11 wines and an array of Italian-inspired food and desserts. Visit HART's website for further details and to purchase tickets. 

2009 Wine in the Woods

On May 17th I attended the 2009 Wine in the Woods festival held in Columbia Maryland. I had two motives, one to try wines produced by the half dozen and more new wineries and two, to volunteer for one of these new wineries: Terrapin Station Winery.

Terrapin Station is located just north of Elkton, close to the Delaware and Pennsylvania borders. Morris and Janet Zwick first planted grapes years ago to supply his home winemaking obsession - why use a kit. While planning to go commercial, they planted a larger vineyard in 2003 at Janet's family farm, which is now the estate vineyard for the winery. In late 2007, the first commercial wines were ready for sale. Terrapin Station Winery is unique in that proceeds from wine sales are donated to support the Diamondback Terrapin. In fact Morris and Janet Zwick bring several of these turtles to these events in order to education the public how their environment is threatened. Another negative consequence from factory farming. The other factor that makes this winery unique is that they sell their wine in 1.5 liter boxes. They skipped entirely over the closure debate (cork or twist off) and went right to the box. And this delivery vessel has its benefits. The wine stays fresher much longer after opening as compared to the traditional bottle and the box is easy to transport on boats, picnics, the beach - you name it. Plus it holds the equivalent of two bottles of wine. The downside: overcoming the stigma associated with box wines and having to constantly explain to consumers that the price is equivalent to purchasing two bottles of wine.

I started the day by helping the Zwick's setup their tent - primarily by hanging the banners. Fortunately I'm comfortable on a swaying ladder. Since my shift didn't start until 2:00, I was able to listen a little to Charles "Big Daddy" Stallings before venturing to the tasting area. The first winery I stopped at was Serpent Ridge Vineyard after reading a blog post that morning raving about their wines. The winery is located near Westminster and produces vinifera wines including an estate Vintner's Cabernet and Basilisk - both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. They were nice full bodied wines, very smooth at the tail - drinkable now. However, my favorite was their Albarino; maybe because its a variety you don't see very often.

I then hit several in row, Far Eastern Shore Winery, Legends Vineyard, Bordeleau Winery, Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery, Dove Valley Vineyard & Winery, and Mount Felix Vineyards & Winery. Far Eastern Shore Winery was interesting since they produce grape based wine, blended with fruit. I was expecting a selection of sicking sweet wines, but that wasn't the case. Even though the wines were made with about 5% residual sugar, they didn't taste that sweet. I learned that Legends Vineyard has made a home in Cal Ripkin's neighboring ballpark and even has a special brand served only at the stadium. This winery makes wine in a range of styles, but I liked their dry reds (Meritage and Cabernet Sauvignon) and their Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. Bordeleau Winery was a nice surprise; they have two good dry reds in their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and a nice Chardonnay. With a few exceptions, I never really cared much for Maryland Cab, but that's slowly changing. Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery also produces a decent Cab as well as a several Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Interesting that they don't produce a Meritage blend. I also liked their semi-sweet Muscato - always a sucker for the muscat grape. When I visit Terrapin Station, a side trip to Dove Valley Vineyard & Winery will be added to the itinerary. Maybe during their Dog Days festival. They make a nice Vignoles and I liked their Dove Valley Red. The final winery I visited was Mount Felix Vineyards & Winery and I'm sure they had a good day. This winery produces mostly semi-sweet to sweet wines and of course I liked the Concord in their Annapolis Red. I guess it reminds me of my son's infancy; but there's a place for the concord and niagra grapes in my taste buds. In sum, nice wines, but they have a ways to go before reaching two of the best: Black Ankle Vineyards and Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard.

After chowing on some Jamaican cabbage and beans\rice I headed back to Terrapin Station for my scheduled shift. Since the wines are sold in boxes, they have an interesting pouring methods. The wine is first poured into a small plastic cup attached to each box, then poured into the wine glass. It took several spilt pours until I became accustomed to the routine - pour into cup, then into glass. At today's festival the winery was pouring their complete portfolio, two dry reds, a dry white and an array of semi-sweet wines. I liked the dry wines, the Vidal Blanc, Syrah, and Cecil Red (Cabernet Franc \ Syrah blend). In fact the Vidal Blanc was one of the nicest dry versions of this varietal I've tasted in a while. However, other than the other volunteers, I was practically the only one this day. It was a sweet wine crowd. The first words out of 90% of the attendees was "What do you have that's sweet?" Fortunately Terrapin Station makes wine targeted to this audience. Of the semi-sweet wines, their Traminette Reserve was my favorite. It has the aroma and spicy finish associated with its parent, Gerwurztraminer and this version was made at about 2% R.S. I made every sweet wine drinker start with this wine. Then it was the semi-sweet Vidal, the Cayuga White, and for a closer the Five Rivers Rosé. These last three were the big sellers of the day; although my lectures on the pleasing aspects of Traminette and Gerwurztraminer won over a few souls. The frustrating part of pouring was listening to, but not being able to watch jazz guitarist Carl Filipiak and the apparent apathy of the attendees. This later may be just a result of my anal obsession with grape varieties, but no one seemed to care that the Five Rivers Rosé was produced from St. Vincent and that Terrapin Station was one of the few east coast wineries to plant this grape. No one seemed to care that the Cayuga grape was developed at Cornell or the lineage of Vidal Blanc. Instead, they just wanted to see how the wine tasted; I guess I need to get back to basics.

Volunteering for Terrapin Station was a great experience. I really appreciate the planning and level of effort that the winery proprietors must undertake in order to stock a tent. I had really started to take this for granted. I encourage everyone to contact your favorite wineries to volunteer your services. My only suggestion is to schedule an early shift; breaking down a tent is much more difficult than setting it up. More photos of this event are located at the WineCompass Facebook page or at Compass Tours.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery

We received a press release from Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery stating that the winery plans to re-open this Memorial Weekend and it reminded us of the devastation inflicted by the 2008 Easter frost. The frost damaged vineyards from North Carolina through the Midwest into Missouri. During that weekend, Kinkead Ridge lost 90% of their white grapes. For a winery that produces wine from primarily estate grown fruit, its no surprise that they had to close the winery last summer. This press release is also a helpful reminder to support our local wineries - so, go out and drink local wine.

Full press release:

"Owners Ron Barrett and Nancy Bentley will re-open Kinkead Ridge winery to the public on Memorial Day weekend, May 23 and May 25, for the release of the 2008 white wines: Viognier/Roussanne, Revelation, Riesling and Traminette. The winery will also be open on summer Saturdays through Labor Day weekend, when Kinkead Ridge will release its 2007 red wines. The winery was closed last summer due to an Easter frost that decimated 90% of the white wine grapes. Also available is the 2006 River Village Cellars Cabernet Franc, which won a silver medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Kinkead Ridge recently purchased a building in downtown Ripley, with the hope of turning it into a tasting room when Ohio passes the necessary legislation. Until then, the winery will continue to welcome the public to the winery at 904 Hamburg Street, 3 blocks behind McDonalds, east of downtown. See for details.

Southern Ohio is now home to several wineries, including Harmony Hill in Bethel, and other wineries will open within the next year, including Renascent Vineyards in Georgetown."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Review: "California Wine for Dummies"

We recently received a copy of California Wine For Dummies and after reading it, found that it is a great resource for both novices and self proclaimed experts. Part I introduces California wines to the reader by briefly describing the history of wine making in the state, the wine regions, the grape varieties used, and how to decipher the label. These topics are worthwhile for the reader particularly during the discussion regarding the differences between "varieties" and "varietals" as well as "estate bottled"and "estate grown".

However, parts II through IV were the useful for us. Instead of focusing on the wine region, the authors focus on each grape variety and then discuss in which regions they are grown and how they differ depending upon that region. Particularly why wines made from the same grape may differ depending on the temperature variation between regions. They also list their favorite wines made from each variety as well as why wineries may blend certain grapes. Great information.

In between they offer interesting information such as Wente Vineyards Estate Winery being the first vineyard to plant Chardonnay in California and why Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are blended. And not only do they discuss the major grapes (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel), but they discuss other grapes such as Petite Sirah, all the Rhone varieties, the other Bordeaux grapes, Tempranillo, Tannat, and even Napa Gamay (Valdiguie). Sparkling and dessert wines are also included. It was nice to see that
Ridge Vineyards was noted a few times particularly how they blend their Zinfandel as well as our favorite Petite Sirah from Foppiano Vineyards.

This book would also serve as a nice companion on a wine touring trip to California. The authors discuss some of the towns in the major regions, suggest places to stay and wineries to visit. The final chapters actually discuss what to expect when visiting a California tasting room and special attractions and excursions.

Like we said previously, we highly recommend this book from novices to self proclaimed experts. Its also an easy read. One of us finished the book during a 2 1/2 hour plane ride and the other during a short afternoon on the beach. We will also be seeking out the earlier release: Wine For DummiesWine For Dummies

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery, St. Leonard, MD

Last week we received this press release that Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery is now open to the public and selling their wines:

In 2001, business partners Mark Flemming and John Behun purchased 22 acres of farmland in St. Leonard, Maryland, with the goal of establishing the first commercial vineyards in the scenic Calvert County countryside. At the time, there were fewer than 30 wineries in the state, and only five in Southern Maryland. With the help of their families and friends, these new entrepreneurs put their love of wine to good use, planting Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery's first vinifera vines in 2002. The name Perigeaux refers to the ancient walled town in the Dordogne region of Southwest France near Bordeaux. The town is famous for its pate and flocks of geese, hence the origin of the white goose on the Perigeaux label. The Dordogne region is known for its idyllic countryside and famous vin-de-pays (wine of the country.) After leaving the active duty Air Force in the early 1990s, Mark spent time at a farm winery in Tocane-St Apres near Perigeaux in the Dordogne.

Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery specializes in making hand-crafted wines in small lots, with production, fermenting, aging, and bottling all carefully supervised by John, the winemaster. All grapes used for Perigeaux's award-winning wines are grown at the St. Leonard vineyards. The winemaster's methods are in the natural vin-de-pays tradition of southwestern France, which leads the owners to take great care of the grapes, and to make the wine as authentic to the Chesapeake Bay and Calvert County areas as possible. When you taste wine from Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery, you experience the ripe fullness of the grapes and power of the sun in Southern Maryland.

Reflecting the range of the winemaster and the tastes of the region, the winery has crafted three distinct styles of wine, under three different labels. "Perigeaux Vineyards" wine is drawn from the premium signature and reserve vintages. The "Mackall Road" label was developed for wines crafted without fining and minimal filtering to be natural and authentic to the grape varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. "Patuxent River" wines have a lighter, fresher feel and include specialty and sweeter varieties.

The 2005 harvest produced the vineyard's first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc wines. In 2008, Perigeaux's first commercial vintage (from the 2006 harvest) was released, and the winery also added Pinot Gris and Muscato to its offerings. The winery plans to release its Zinfandel and an Italian-style blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Fall of 2009.

All of the attention to detail and hard work recently paid off with several regional and national awards. In 2008, Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery was recognized by the American Wine Society with three bronze medals for its Cabernet Sauvignon, under all three of the vineyard's labels. The Best of Appellation tastings in Napa, California recognized the vineyard's Chardonnay and Merlot with silver medals. Also in 2008, the Maryland Governor's Cup and Winemaster's Choice Competitions resulted in silver and bronze medals for the vineyard's Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

Perigeaux Vineyard & Winery, which is located off of Route 4 in St. Leonard, MD (about 45 minutes south of Washington, DC and 15 minutes north of Solomons Island), is open for visitors from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon-5 p.m. on Sundays, by appointment. They will be represented at several upcoming wine festivals and events: "Wine in the Woods" (May 16-17); "Great Grapes" (June 13-14), the "Maryland Wine Festival" (September 19-20), and the "Riverside Wine Festival" (October 3-4). Please visit or call 410-586-2710 for more information on the vineyard's wines, upcoming events, directions, or to contact the owners.