Friday, June 28, 2013

The United Grapes of America - South Dakota - Valiant Vineyards Wild Grape Wine

One of the most interesting wines I sampled at this Spring's Wine American Congressional Reception, was the Wild Grape Wine from South Dakota's Valiant Vineyards Winery. As the name suggests, the wine is produced from wild grapes - ative vitis riparia (riverbank grape) that grow along the Dakota's rivers and streamsBeing native grapes, they are innately very cold-hardy and disease resistant. During the reception, proprietor Eldon Nygaard informed me that his property is located on the Vermillion River which is a tributary of the mighty Missouri River and that Lewis & Clark camped on his site. Looking at a map, one sees the influences left by the explorers, particularly the Lewis and Clark Lake and Recereation Area not far away.

The United Grapes of America The United Grapes of America
Valiant Vineyards Winery is South Dakota's first post-prohibition winery, and like compatriots inother states, Nygaard helped draft South Dakota's Farm Winery Act in 1996. The Wild Grape Wine itself is quite good, somewhat jammy as are many native grapes, but with a chocolate texture and a smooth tail. And the wine has international appeal. Nygaard showed me pictures of the wine on display in Paris wine shops selling for over 70 Euro. You don't have to pay that much in dollars - it's closer to $30 domestically. I hope my paths cross with the Wild Grape Wine one day in the future. Cheers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

North American Wine Roads - New Jersey - Cape May

This past weekend we spent a couple days in the seaside Victorian laced community of Cape May and found a plethora of local wine and beer options courtesy of theCompass mobile app - and our hotel bar at the Inn of Cape May. They were pouring an IPA from the Cape May Brewing Company, whose operations are located near the small airport just outside of town. And we found other CMBC offerings at various restaurants around town - particularly their Pale Ale. Along with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery from across the bay and an occasional Flying Fish Brewing Company, there was enough local craft beer options to satisfy my tastes.

Moving to wine, it seems most of the area wineries specialize in the standard Bordeaux varieties as well as in emphasis on several Italian varieties. For instance, if arriving from the Lewes ferry, check out  Turdo Vineyards & Winery, located in North Cape May, and produces single varietal Barbara, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo, and Nero D'Avola. Yes, Nero D'Avola - one of only two wineries to produce wine from this Sicilian grape. Cape May Winery is also situated close to the ferry terminal and maintains a large portfolio within four brands - including an Albarino and Pinot Noir.

If arriving from the North, you have three options to choose from:Jessie Creek Winery, Natali Vineyards, or Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery. Natali showcases several more Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo and Dolcetto as well as the Spanish Tempranillo. Hawk Haven offers a range of wine from Gewurztraminer and Viognier to a few Bordeaux blends.

Finally, any trip to Cape May must include a visit to the Cape May Lighthouse and close by is
Willow Creek Winery. They too produce an interesting collection of wines including a seafood friendly Malvaisia Bianca and Sauvignon Blanc.  As you can see, a pretty good choice of drink local wine and beer options in Cape May, New Jersey.  Cheers

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cleveland's Beer Culture Rocks

This past weekend we traveled to Cleveland to watch the Nationals play the Indians and to experience the Cleveland beer scene via theCompass app. And let me tell you, the beers in Cleveland rock.  Each bar we visited had at lease one local brewery on tap and many had more. Then we traveled to the Ohio City neighborhood to experience the epicenter of Cleveland's craft beer world. Why, because within two blocks, three breweries are operating including the mighty Great Lakes Brewing Company.  We started our visit to Ohio City quite smaller, at the Nano Brew Cleveland, which serves a long list of beer some made in house, some made at their sister brewery, Market Garden Brewery, and others from across the U.S. Since we walked to the area, I cooled down with a light Kolsch - refreshing with just a hint of hops. I then moved deeper with the Market Garden Citramax - and IPA loaded with organic Citra hops. This was another clean and refreshing beer - even with the higher IPU - easy to drink. The crew at Nano Brew also enjoy biking and even provide a tune-up station inside the pub. We need one of these in NOVA.

We overstayed our visit and had to rush a couple blocks to meet our Great Lakes tour - a tour I've been anticipating ever since the brewery expanded into the DC market. Their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is a fixture in our refrigerator. Plus, the brewery is celebrating their 25th anniversary - opening September 6, 1988 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway. The main fact that we took away from the tour is expect the beer to be fresh. They don't pasteurize their beer, nor leave much in the warehouse - so once the beer is bottled or kegged - it moves quickly into distribution channels. And if you want to enjoy the freshest beer, hit the brewpub where they offer rotating pub exclusive brews like the Wit's End, Milk Stout, or the Glockenspiel. The brewery is a logistical achievement considering that trucks filled with grain arrive every two days to fill the silos as they brew 125,000 barrels annually. That's impressive. We look forward to toasting the brewery on their birthday in September.

Despite getting closer to game time, we had to continue on to Market Garden Brewery and Distillery and found the first disappointment. Even though distillery is part of their name, and in planning, they have not yet received the proper legal permission to commence distilling. However, in addition to their many beers, they also offer several micro-spirits from Ohioan producers - such as Apple Jack from Tomsfoolery and bourbon from Woodstone Creek. But this visit was all about the Urban Garden Saison - where they really nailed this farmhouse ale - and Wallace Tavern Scotch Ale. The latter is malty - but not sweet - and another nailed style. And as a bonus suggestion - pair this with the Scottish Egg.

Our Cleveland brew experience did not end in Ohio City. Progressive Stadium carries the complete Great Lakes year long collection, with one stand dispensing from the bottom up. Just don't be careless and accidentally release the magnet. Cheers to Cleveland.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Learning About the Piedmont Region During #winestudio

After covering Croatian wines last month, #winestudio moved into northwest Italy and the Piedmont region (#winestudio is a Twitter series hosted by Bill Eyer of The Cuvee Corner wine blog and Tina & Guy from Protocol Wine Studio). This past Monday we sampled three wines from the Piedmont courtesy of Stefano Poggi, Batasiolo Ambassador in the United States and Beni di Batasiolo. And, boy, did these wines impress. The first was the Barbera d’Alba Sovrana DOC ($20), -  the Sovereign - paying tribute to the 1st royal couple of Italy. And this is a classy wine - not your California in your face Barbara - but gentle, with a silky raspberry core and soft tannins.

We then turned to Nebbiolo (little fog) starting with the  Barbaresco DOCG 100% Nebbiolo ($30). By statute, a Barbaresco must be aged at least one year in oak, and interestingly, this wine was fermented in stainless steel before moving to a year in oak and then another year aging in the bottle. The result is a bigger wine, more earthy, with dark, dark cherry flavor and tannins that creeps up the palette. This is a savory wine and I wanted to savor each drop and not move on to the next. But #winestudio had other ideas.

The final wine was the grandest, a Barolo. I learned that all Barolos are sourced from Nebbiolo grown in the Langhe hills and must be aged three years with two of these three in oak. Barolo Riservas must be aged 5 years before release. The nose on this Barolo started with a spicy mulled wine character then transitioned to black fruit - blackberries and plums - as opposed to the red fruits from the previous two. The mid-palette is firm with meaty tannins that slowly dissipate providing a very drinkable, hearty wine. Thank you #winestudio.