Thursday, March 26, 2020

Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night

Frank Morgan at DrinkWhatYouLike has been working overtime supporting the Virginia wine industry during the CV pandemic - primarily using his VAWineChat platform for nightly webinars featuring Virginia winemakers. Last week he suggested an Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night for Saturday, March 28th where consumers share on social media (using #vawinenight) a specific Virginia wine and why they selected it. A great idea borrowed from Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher's Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). And on a separate thread, Lenn Thompson and Gina Shea of The Cork Report were organizing a Drink Local Night stressing east coast and midwestern wineries -- the same concept just using the #openlocalwine hashtag.

Please participate in these campaigns, and in addition, raise a glass to toast Juanita Swedenburg, one of driving forces behind the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision forcing states to allow shipping from out-of-state wineries.  "The court’s decision resolved a longstanding conflict between a state’s right to regulate the sale and use of wines and liquors, as outlined in the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which ended Prohibition, and the Constitution’s commerce clause, which limits a state’s ability to erect economic barriers against goods shipped from beyond its borders" (NY Times).

The plaintiffs were a combined lawsuit from wine collector Eleanor Heald and others against Michigan and Swedenburg's (and other out-of-state winemakers) lawsuit against New York state. At the time, Swedenburg and her husband were the proprietors of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg, Virginia and a founding member of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association which is now the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA).  In her multiple fights leading to the Supreme Court, Swedenburg benefited from the services of the public interest law firm, Institute for Justice, to handle her cases. And "on May 16, 2005, in a 5-to-4 vote on an action brought by Mrs. Swedenburg and others, the Supreme Court overturned laws in New York and Michigan that discriminated against out-of-state wineries that wanted to ship directly to consumers’ homes" (NY Times).

Wineries across the United States are implementing special shipping rates for online purchases so please support these efforts as much as possible.  The Cork Report has a list here, including several wineries from Michigan and New York - who also profit from interstate wine sales.

And as a side note, Swedenburg Estate Vineyard is now Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, known regionally for its sparkling wine program.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Distilleries Helping in a Crisis: Converting Alcohol to Hand Sanitizer Gel

After Italy, Spain is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus and like most countries, their supply of cleaning solutions and sanitizers are being depleted. To help alleviate this problem our friends at González Byass have converted their three production facilities (Chinchón (Madrid), Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) and Bodega Las Copas in Tomelloso (Ciudad Real)) to manufacture and supply sanitary alcohol and hydro-alcoholic gel across Spain. Another famous producer, Bacardi, has begun distribution of over half a million 10-ounce hand sanitizer units to local communities, focusing initially on USPS workers, firefighters, police, and its own employees and contractors (Shanken News).

Closer to home, smaller American craft distillers are also diverting spirits production to hand sanitizers. Initially, distilleries were required to get explicit permission from both the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this week they both waived these restrictions as long as distillers use the recipe outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO):  ethanol (80%, volume/volume) or isopropyl alcohol (75%, v/v), glycerol (1.45% v/v), hydrogen peroxide (0.125% v/v) and sterile distilled water or boiled cold water.

Here is a sample of distillers participating in this endeavor.

According to this WKYT story, Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. is using their surplus alcohol supply, and chemistry knowledge to produce hand sanitizer that they are providing free to Lexington city hall.  "It's been denatured so it’s not safe to drink and we surely don't want anyone to try that, its' also got hydrogen peroxide and some glycerol, a little thickening agent," said Mark Coffman, Master Distiller.

In Clarksville, Tennessee, Old Glory Distilling Company switched from whiskey to a 96 percent ethanol hand sanitizer, and founder Matt Cunningham thanks one of their suppliers, Long Vue Farms who is supplying the corn for the distilling process. (

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that "A number of our distillers from across the state are now, instead of producing alcohol, they're producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the local communities". Scott Jendrek, owner of Patapsco Distilling Company said they will be using a World Health Organization's recipe that "..starts with ethanol,.. then you add glycerin, hydrogen peroxide water and you mix it up," Jendrek said. (WBalTV).  Twin Valley Distillers in Rockville and Lyon Distilling Company are two more distilleries aiding in this effort. This ABC3340 article also has a nice write-up of Twin Valley's founder Eduardo Zúñiga.

In Colorado, Spirit Hound Distillers is leading the effort (TheKnow) along with J&L Distilling Company and Talnua Distillery, whose co-founder and current President of the Colorado Distillers Guild says, "This is all still developing and we will see many more distilleries jumping on board with the production of hand sanitizer."

In Atlanta, Georgia Old 4th Distillery is distributing a house-made hand sanitizer to emergency personnel (CBS46) and Ann Arbor Distilling Company is in on the action. According to tasting room manager Danielle Berridge, they are using the neutral spirit they use in their gin. “It’s actually made from local corn. And then we’ve got some aloe gel in there and a little bit of veggie glycerin. And then we also add water to it to bring it down to, I believe, 70%.” (Michigan Radio).

Eight Oaks Craft Distillers (Pennsylvania) has temporarily shifted their distillation process from spirits to hand sanitizer in order to support our community, hospitals, assisted living homes, and beyond (more info here). Revivalist Spirits is another distillery from the Quaker state manufacturing sanitizer which owners Scott and Don Avellino are providing to healthcare professionals (Cision).

Durham Distillery (North Carolina) will be donating their solution to hospitality colleagues.

In Hawaii, Ko'olau Distillery is shifting production to begin supplying hand sanitizer for critical services (press release).

We will be updating this list as we discover more participants - in the meantime - stay healthy. Cheers.

Update (3/24/2020): There is no need to update this list as it appears most craft distilleries are transitioning to manufacturing hand sanitizer. Find your local distiller at either or theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

Update (4/2/2020): Apparently, the FDA and gov't regulations are hindering distillery's ability to manufacture hand sanitizer without destroying their existing equipment via Reason Magazine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Over the Ridge from Napa - Berryessa Gap Vineyards

As I mentioned in a previous post concerning Scattered Peaks, winemaker Nicole Salengo also attended our wine dinner at Officina and introduced us to her Winters, California based winery: Berryessa Gap Vineyards.

The winery sprang from Martinez Orchards, a grapevine rootstock nursery started in 1969 by Dan Martinez, Sr., father of the current owners of Berryessa Gap, and winemaker and wine historian Ernest Peninou. Thus the Martinez family has a strong grasp of the microclimate within their western corner of Yolo County, located off Route 128 between the town of Winters and the Vaca Mountains - with Napa County on the western side of the ridge.

The Berryessa estate - Coble Ranch vineyard -- planted along the eastern ridge of the Vaca Mountains and benefits from a climate that resembles the hot and dry conditions of Mediterranean climates. In addition, the eastern-facing slopes provide well-draining soils and are situated near an Alluvial Fan or gap in the range where cooling breezes blow through -- enhancing the grapes' acidity.  This interesting micro-climate allows Berryessa Gap to plant a wide assortment of grape varieties such as Durif (Petite Sirah), Tempranillo, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Barbera, Malbec, Albarino, Verdejo, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Nicole Salengo related these and other facts during our wine dinner. She was born in Vermont and studied Geology in a New York college where she also worked at famed Belgium styled producer Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown). That started her down the craft beverage path and when a family member offered her an opportunity to stay in Davis California, she proceeded to enroll in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology -- earning a winemaker's certificate. After a short stint in an air-testing lab (while taking chemistry classes at night), Salengo was hired at a wine shop that specialized in rare wines. Mark West, of Mark West Wines, was a frequent customer and offered Salengo a quid pro quo. He would teach her how to make wine if she worked for him full time.  A new career commenced.

In 2013, she was hired by Berryessa Gap where her primary goal is to highlight the particular terroir at Coble Ranch -- each individual year.  In this regard, Salengo introduced us to 2016 and 2019 through a rosé, a white, and a red wine. These wines were fresh, well made, and priced for most budgets.

2019 Yolo County Rosé ($19)
This rosé was just recently bottled and is a blend of Grenache, Primitivo, and Barbera -- and technically its a Primitivo clone which Salengo states "provides more nuanced elegance". The grapes were harvested early, keeping sugar levels moderate, in order to produce a low ABV wine. There's a distinct depth to the wine with layers of light red fruit. Very nice.

2019 Yolo County Verdejo ($23)
Salengo and Berryessa Gap love Spanish grape varieties and, in fact, in 2013 Berryessa Gap was the original filer to the then TTP equivalent for having Verdejo designated as an approved grape varietal. This wine is an excellent tribute to Rueda as it displays abundant aromatics transitioning to a creamy lemon core, herbaceous, and finishing with fresh acidity.

2016 Yolo County Petite Sirah ($28)
The 2016 Petite Sirah is a field blend that Berryessa Gap modeled after vineyards in France as well as closer to home, Ridge Vineyards - Lytton Springs brand. The actual blend consists of 85% Durif, 10% Primitivo, and 5% Peloursin and the grapes were also whole berry co-fermented. Durif and Petite Sirah are basically synonyms; the grape was originally called Durif after Dr. Francois Durif, who discovered a natural crossing from the cross-pollination of Syrah and Peloursin. For this wine, the naturally high tannins in Petite Sirah are muted by the whole berry fermentation which allows the black cherry character to lead. Expect spices and earthiness as well as refreshing acidity held together with the remaining firm tannins. Delicious.  Berryessa Gap also produces a 100% Durif, which is labeled Durif, which comes from a block at Coble Ranch which is entirely Durif.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Extreme Viticulture: Combating the Spotted Lanternfly

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Agriculture is at the heart of the wine industry and every wine region faces some type of peril. On the east coast, the newest threat is an invasive species native to China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam: the Spotted Lanternfly (also surfacing on the west coast as well).

According to Dr. Joe Fiola, of the University of Maryland Extension, the "pest was first detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania and was accidentally imported from China through a shipment of decorative stone. The pest quickly spread and has decimated vineyards in southeastern Pennsylvania and has the capacity to inflict major damage to hop fields and hardwoods as well. Dr. Joe says the pest has spread into Maryland's Cecil and Harford Counties, West Virginia, and in Winchester Virginia at a stone and block company site. Here is how the University of Maryland Extension describes the damaged inflicted by the Spotted Lanternfly:
Both nymphs (immatures) and adults of spotted lanternfly cause damage when they feed, sucking sap from stems and leaves. This can reduce photosynthesis, weaken the plant, and eventually contribute to the plant’s death. Additionally, spotted lanternfly feeding creates a sugary substance called honeydew. This honeydew, in addition to being attractive to ants, wasps, and other insects, is readily colonized by sooty mold, which can cause parts of the plants to become blackened and look unsightly.

So how do vineyard managers fight the pest, particularly when there are no known natural enemies for biological control? Dean Scott of Pennsylvania's Bergeist Vineyard is fighting the pest through spraying and the Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech recommends a set of insecticides (E=Excellent, G=Good). They recommend the Pyrethroids - Brigade (bifenthrin) (E) and Mustang Maxx (zetacypermethrin) (G) and the Neonicotinoids - Actara (thiamethoxam) (E), Scorpion (dinotefuran) (E), and Admire Pro (imidacloprid) (G).

At the Vineyards At Dodon, in Anne Arundel County Maryland, the winery has taken preemptive measures according to Director of Client Services Regina McCarthy starting with removing several Tree-of-heavens (Ailanthus altissima) - a deciduous tree native to China, that the Spotted Lanternfly is particularly attracted to lay eggs on.

As a consumer, the best support you could provide is to continue to, or start to, imbibe local wines. At some point, you may become personally affected as these pests invade your backyards. At that moment you become the predator.  Here's how to identify the pest courtesy of Penn State Extension.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Dinner with Joel Aiken and Scattered Peaks 2017 Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon

Scattered Peaks is a relatively new Napa Valley brand created by Derek Benham who is leveraging long-time Napa winemaker Joel Aiken to "curate" exemplary Napa Valley Cabernet. The first two vintages featured a Napa Valley wine blended from three vineyards scattered through the AVA. In 2017 Aiken continued that tradition but also introduced a Small Lot version derived from two select Napa vineyards.

During a short east coast tour, Aiken visited D.C. and briefed several media influencers on the Scattered Peaks brand -- all over a delicious meal at Officina at the Wharf. Aiken related that the brand's name is derived from Benham's love of surfing and extreme skiing - helicopter skiing. That's intuitive with skiing, but with surfing, Benham refers to the waves between the best rides as scattered peaks.

Another anecdote Aiken relayed was that because of the Scattered Peaks brand name, Benham preferred sourcing exclusively from mountain-grown fruit. Instead, Aiken suggested a vineyard in Rutherford that he had discovered during his twenty years overseeing the winemaking at Beaulieu Vineyard.  This Morisoli Vineyards is located on the valley floor on the Western Rutherford Bench but experiences excellent drainage from the alluvial gravelly soils and cooling late afternoon shade as the mountains block the setting sun.

Fruit from this vineyard provides structure and firm tannins for the new Scattered Peaks Small Lot 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and is joined by fruit from the Sage Ridge Vineyards that provides intensity and depth. This vineyard is located at a higher altitude on the eastern hills of Napa south of Howell Mountain. The shale and clay soils reduce vigor to produce smaller berries enhancing complexity and intensity. The result is a luscious wine, layers of dark fruit with fleshy depth and finishing firmly with structure and a lingering finale.

Aiken also poured the Scattered Peaks 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) - a continuation of the brand's two other vintages of this wine that is sourced from three vineyards scattered throughout the Napa Valley. First, however, this is a plush wine, dark fruit enveloped with black licorice, sometimes chocolate, sometimes coffee, sometimes, dusty. Like the Small Lot, this is 100% Cabernet and includes a dose of Rutherford fruit - this time 21% from the Round Pond vineyard. A majority of the grapes, however, come from Usibelli Vineyards in the Pope Valley - located in eastern Napa and separated from the rest of Napa by the Howell Mountains. During the summer, the Pope Valley is warmer than most of Napa during the day but enjoys a large diurnal shift during the cool nights. The remaining fruit is sourced from the Gordon Valley, situated in the far southeastern corner of Napa Valley where the surrounding hills provide a similar landscape as Rutherford - just perhaps a little on the cooler side.

Aiken also wanted to demonstrate the age-worthiness of Napa Cabernet so he graciously poured two ten+-year-old wines from the Rutherford Bench and from his days at Beaulieu Vineyard. When originally released, these wines were part of the Maestro Collection -- a series designed to celebrate Beaulieu's first winemaker André Tchelistcheff - the Maestro - and who Georges de Latour first met in 1938.  The first wine was the 2006 BV Beaulieu No 1 Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the second the 2008 Beaulieu Vineyard Ranch No 1 Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine was still fresh, plenty of acids and still velvety with firm tannins.

Note: The dinner was also hosted by Berryessa Gap Vineyards where winemaker Nicole Salengo introduced us to this winery. Expect a post next week on these delicious wines. And special thanks to Officina for excellent service and courses.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

IPAs and Braggots at The Farm Brewery at Broad Run

We recently visited The Farm Brewery at Broad Run, a Northern Virginia farm brewery located just west of Haymarket and home to an apiary, raspberry & blueberry fields, a hop yard, and a small vineyard. Plus lots of chickens. The brewery is spacious with plenty of tables, a small stage, a kitchen, food trucks, and dog-friendly. There's also a fishing pond in the rear. The Farm Brewery also provides a large portfolio of beer (and a few wines) with plenty of diversity of styles.  Here's a sampling of the beers we tried and as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to all your craft beverage destinations.

Mom's Raspberry Kolsh - this is a lighter interesting beer because its sweet and tart up front but dry and lingering on the tail.

Hop Harvest Pale Ale - brewed using Copper Fox malt and estate Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, & Centennial hops. It's grassy and citrus, balanced and delicious.

Trop the Bomb NE IPA- lactose, tangerine, and soursop puree and Azacca, El Dorado, & Cascade hops. True to their descriptor, an explosive bomb of tropical flavor.

Hazy Dayz of Winter Pineapple Express NE IPA - dry-hopped with Eureka, Chinook, and Nugget hops which are toned down by the fruit. Very nice.

Hops N' Hammers IPA - a collaboration with JTired Woodworking aged in wood chips. The pinewood character provides a distinct contrast to the malt and Cascade & Chinook hops. Adding some Pineapple Express subdues the pine and lengthened the finish.

Viking Braggot - this honey beer is brewed using 420 pounds of honey. It's chewy with spices and just tad of honey. High abv and my favorite.

Three Hens-Belgian Porter - a Belgian Poorter style using Belgian yeast which provides a bit of the spice inherent to a Saison with soft milk chocolate rounding out the finish.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Lost Boy Cider - Virginia's First Urban Cidery

This weekend we leveraged a Four Mile Run fishing trip into a visit to Alexandria's Lost Boy Cider. Tristan Wright recently opened Virginia's first urban cidery using apples sourced from Glaize Orchard - a four-generation grower located outside Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. This is the epicenter for Northern Virginia apple growing with Frederick County hosting its own Apple Trail. Wright also hired David Briun, a respected cider and winemaker, who leverages his experience from the Eden Ice Cider Company and Bellwether Cider & Wine to produce a wide portfolio of ciders - a dozen to be precise.

Many of these ciders are co-fermented with various fruit, peppers, botanicals, spices, and hops. But our focus was on the dry side of the house specifically the Comeback Kid, Gold Digger, Barrel Aged, and Andre the Giant - Petillant Naturel Cider.

The Comeback Kid is made from a blend of table apples -- Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Stayman, and Fuji -- a blend that remains the same throughout the year. Biun states that they work with David (Glaize Orchard) "to customize our picking schedule, storage, and pressing strategy so we can have a consistent blend throughout the year".   The cider itself is solid - dry, more tart than you would expect from these apples, a creamy texture, and finishing with refreshing acids.  For the Barrel Aged, Biun ages the Comeback Kid for 4 months in used bourbon barrels creating a softer cider where the bourbon shows itself on the tail. Unfortunately, the fresh acidity and tartness dissipate during this process.

The Gold Digger is a blend of Golden Delicious and Rhode Island Greening -- and American heirloom apple variety dating back to the 17th century and most often used for apple pie. But at Lost Boy, this non-pollinating apple has found a suitable mate to produce a dry, mildly tart cider with a full apple core. I think my favorite of the foursome.

Finally, the Andre the Giant is a Pét-Nat (Petillant Naturel) Cider, a sparkling cider, where the cider is bottled before completing its primary fermentation. Carbonation occurs in the bottle as carbon dioxide is produced naturally when the yeast consumes the remaining sugars.  This is a vibrant offering, light, and flavorful.

Lost Boy's tasting room is spacious with room for kids, dogs,  and yoga mats. A food truck was parked outside and a pizza party inside testified that visitors can byof.  And make sure you inspect the tasting bar itself, a physical specimen repurposed from a fallen maple tree.

As for future offerings, a Cyser is on deck and Biun says they are "starting to branch out for some more limited release ciders focusing on trying to capture the essence of different orchards. We have started conversations with Diane Flynt at Foggy Ridge Cider as well as Claire Whelan at Longview Orchard to source orchard/field blends for some projects next harvest". Sounds enticing

And as always theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to all your cider needs. Cheers.