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When people think of Las Vegas, they think of gambling and poker tournaments. At present, tens of thousands of players from around the world are currently playing at the World Series of Poker. You can bet that very few of them have ever thought of Las Vegas as a prime location for making wine. As it turns out, one of the fastest growing wineries in the US is located just on the outskirts of Las Vegas in Pahrump.
The Pahrump Valley Winery has been in business since 1990 and in that time, they have had a history that sounds like it came out of a fairy tale. The very first batch of grapes planted in 1990 were actually destroyed by wild horses and it was two years before another crop was attempted.
Fortunately, since that time the addition of both a fence and the recent developments in the Pahrump area have kept the wild horses at bay and the Bill and Gretchen Loken have went on to produce some of the best wine in the area. The big secret to their success is not any type of fancy technology, but partnerships with other vineyards in the state.
The climate of Nevada only allows certain grapes to grow in certain areas. For example, the best climate for red grapes is in the Pahrump area. That is why the Pahrump vineyard has produced the largest crop of red grapes in the state's history. The partnership with other state vineyards allowed them to expand beyond offering only Zinfadel and offer Cabernet Sauvignon, Frontenac, and Merlot.
Locals to Las Vegas knew of the rising vineyard and one of the Vegas locals just so happened to also work for several Chinese companies overseas. Once she discovered the Pahrump Valley Winery, Linda Wong brokered a deal with her companies that will see several fine restaurants in China offer wines from the Pahrump Valley Winery.
While Vegas may be known more for poker and blackjack, they may soon be known for fine wine thanks in large part to the Pahrump Valley Winery. The Lokens have proven that with hard work and the right partners, even the barren climate of Nevada can be used to produce fine wine.
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
I keep trying to retire the "Tasting Table" series, but my recently chaotic day job along with the all-consuming reality of an infant and a 5-year old have once again reminded me that no matter how obsessed I am with local wines, beers etc. and this website -- it's still a hobby. Add to that the fact that we'll be cutting over to our new site design and platform soon (maybe even next week) and Tasting Table remains a valuable tool. I'd like to start things off at the new site fresh. Tasting Table will not be a part of the new NYCR, but it will be here. At least one more time.
As always, these are wines that crossed the NYCR tasting table at some point recently but for one reason or another, will not be reviewed in standalone posts. The notes are more or less straight from my notebook.
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2009 Riewurz ($18): Blend of 60% gewurzt, 40% riesling. Gingery nose with rose petals, grapefruit and lime. Medium-light body that starts out very gewurzt-y but finish is all riesling. Good balance, but lacks a bit of focus. Unique and tasty. Long finish of apple, peach and lime.
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2010 Dry Riesling ($16): Green apple, sweet lime and a little fennel frond on the nose. Feather light palate with more apple-lime flavors with notes of peach, fennel and slate. Good acidity and a dry finish that lingers gently.
Billsboro Winery 2010 Pinot Gris ($17): Grapefruit, citrus blossom and sweet apricot on a medium-light nose. Candied lemon leads the way with peach and light floral flavors beneath. Show a little of the RS (1.2%) on mid-palate but mostly dry on the finish. Good acidity but somewhat short finish.
Billsboro Winery 2010 Riesling ($16): Tangerine, grapefruit and pineapple on the nose. Grapefruit and orange peel flavors on the palate with slightly tropical hints. Shows RS (2.3%) but isn't cloying. Citrusy acidity brings balance. Somewhat showy style.
Grapes of Roth 2005 Merlot ($50): Nose of licorice, black cherry, leaf tobacco and pencil shavings/graphite. Ripe but not jammy, showing mixed cherry/cherry pit and tobacco flavors. Medium bodied with medium-intense tannins that are well integrated. Graphite/rocky finish that is long and shows a bit of dried herb as well.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Casscles Vineyard Reserve Baco Noir ($24): Sour cherry, cranberry, toasty oak, black pepper and vanilla on the nose. Medium body with lively acidity. Crunchy red fruit with black pepper and earth. Juice mid-palate but perhaps a bit short on the finish.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Field Stone Baco Noir ($30): Dark fruit -- black cherry and plum -- with mustard seed, violets and curry spice. Soft and lush with forward fruit, low tannins and just enough acidity. Plum, juicy and fruity. Long finish with subtle vanilla character.
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2010 Round Rock Riesling ($20): Minerally, slate-y nose with hints of yellow apple, lemon balm and tonic water. Generous palate with solid focus. Citrus and herbs mingle with pear and light peach flavors. Light RS brings weight. A bit more acidity would elevate.
Millbrook Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc ($18): Plum, blackberry, vanilla, dried leaves and brown spices on the nose. Medium body with plum and blackberry fruit flavors. Medium tannins that are well incorporated. Finish is of medium length with a hint of toasted, slightly bitter oak.
Millbrook Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir ($18): Nose of macerated strawberries, black cherry and button mushroom. Toasty, bitter oak a bit too heavy on top of dark, intense cherry flavors and big, dry tannins.
Millbrook Vineyards 2010 Tocai Friulano ($16): Clementines, persimmon, melon and peach aromas on a very fruity nose. Melange of peach, orange, lemon and pear on the palate. Fresh acidity that lingers. Simple and fruity, but also quite tasty.
Palaia Vineyards 2007 Traminette ($15): Very floral on the nose with slightly foxy aromas I don't usually find in traminette. One-note floral flavors with a bit of RS and not enough acidity. Ends up being soft and a bit watery on the finish.
Pindar Vineyards 2010 Viognier ($25): The nose shows just-cut melon, honeysuckle, spiced peach tea and subtle nuttiness. Sweet melon, spice and honeysuckle on the palate with a squirt of juicy citrus and spiced nuts. Very ripe on the mid-palate and the oak is restrained. Finish is a bit hot, but a note of hay is interesting at the end.
Raphael 2010 First Label Sauvignon Blanc ($26): Lemon, green apple and kiwi fruit aromas with honey and blanched almond notes. Fuller bodied and very citrusy. Bit lean on flavor but good balance. Slight saline quality to finish, that turns just a bit bitter.
Red Tail Ridge Winery 2010 Semi-Sweet Riesling ($14): Apricot -- fresh and dried -- with hints of mango and lime on the nose. Friendly style with gobs of sweet, juicy fruit -- apricot, peach and pineapple. Rich mid-palate but nice cut of acidity on the finish to bring just enough focus. Finish is pretty long.
Roanoke Vineyards 2010 "The Wild" Chardonnay ($20): Light vanilla over top of peach, apple and high-toned herbs. Medium body with butterscotch and ripe, juicy fruit. Medium-long finish with nice acidity and balance. Appetite-whetting finisih with pineapple and Asian pear notes.
Sherwood House Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay ($30): Pure pear aromas accented by vanilla, toasty oak and roasted hazelnuts. Round, opulent palate with nice, integrated acidity to keep it balanced. Pear and toffee flavors lead into more nuts and vanilla. Long finish with crisp apple and a bit of lemon zest at the very end.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($41): Blueberry and cassis aromas mingle with notes of smoked meat, chicory coffee and dark chocolate. Hefty and slightly hot (15.4%) on the palate, showing fruit that edges on over-ripe but holds on, with chocolate, coffee and oak notes. Ripe, slightly edgy tannins provide structure. After a few hours open, a pretty minty note emerges.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2010 Haven ($36): 84% sauvignon blanc with 16% semillon. Complex nose of melon, fig, nutty oak, dried apricot and golden raisin. Rich and dry on the palate, it shows dried fruit and nut flavors layered on top of melon and peach. A bit more acidity would help enliven the palate.
Wolffer Estate Vineyards 2008 "Caya" Cabernet Franc ($40): Cherries, tobacco, sweet cedar and green peppercorn aromas lead into medium-light body with similar flavors with caramel added. Lacks fruit just a bit, but well made.
Zugibe Vineyards 2008 Dry Riesling ($13): Citrus and petrol aromas dominate. Not big on flavor -- again mostly citrus and petrol. Dry with very good acidity and focus. Right on the edge of the "citrus water" style of dry riesling.
Zugibe Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Riesling ($22): Honey, botrytis and pineapple on the nose. Shows its RS, but finishes nearly dry. Very botrytis driven with secondary flavors of apricot, peach and pineapple. Long finish with orange and spice. Want a bit more acid and perhaps a bit mature for a 2009, but delicious.
Zugibe Vineyards 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling ($13): Nose shows citrus and apricot with hints of petrol. Palate is peachy but not intense, with light layers of lime and honey. Off-dry with good-no-great acidity.
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
The May shipment of the Empire State Cellars Wine Club won't ship for a few weeks, but from now on, we're going to announce the selecitons at least a few weeks beforehand. That way, if you're not already a member but want the wines, you'll have time to join!
If you're not familiar with the club, you can learn more here.
Channing Daughters Winery 2010 Scuttlhole Chardonnay: I prefer my chardonnay unadorned and clean -- usually the less oak the better. Winemaker Chris Tracy makes an array of chardonnays, but this one is my favorites -- all steel with ample fruit, a minerally vein and juicy acidity.
Medolla Vineyards 2007 Merlot: You may not know this one-wine winery, but Medolla is a name to know when it comes to value merlot on Long Island. Pure and expressive, this merlot is ripe, but not too ripe, showing restrained oak and good length with gently grippy tannins.
"Getting to Know New York" Wines
Lieb Family Cellars 2010 10th Anniversary Pinot Blanc: Complex with layers of almond, white pepper and candied orange peel sprinkled over juicy pears, this wine -- made for the first time to celebrate the winery's 10th anniversary -- balances richness with juicy acidity, resulting in a beautiful mouthfeel.
Lenz Winery 2007 Estate Selection Merlot: Eric Fry's winemaking is decidedly low-tech, and that hands-off approach lets this wine shine. Plump and juicy -- with little noticeable oak -- this is a wine that over-delivers with it's aromas and of red and black cherry, plums and a bit of blueberry compote.
"New York Wine Trail" Wines
Paumanok Vineyards 2011 Chenin Blanc: The Massoud family has a cult following for this wine, one that expresses vintage variation as much as any on Long Island. While the 2010 was rich with sweet tropical fruit, this edition is more citrusy and saline with hints of melon. Local oysters dream about this wine.
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards 2010 Syrah: Think Rhone rather than Australia with this wine from Niagara. Though young -- an hour or two in a decanter, or a few years in your cellar wouldn't hurt -- it shows beautiful, rich fruit, peppery spice and the kind of heft you want to heartier meals.
Anthony Road Wine Company 2009 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling: Really only available in the Anthony Road tasting room, we were able to procure a small parcel of this pure, complex and lengthy riesling that is absolutely delicious today but will reward those patient enough to cellar it. Simply stunning.
The Grapes of Roth 2005 Merlot: Veteran winemaker Roman Roth's personal label built its reputation on merlot. This elegant, nuanced merlot comes from Sam McCullough's vineyard and features cherry, licorice, tobacco, subtle dried herbs and graphite aromas and flavors. Again -- you can drink it today or park it in your cellar.
If you haven't signed up for the club yet, fear not. You can still get in on this first shipment. Email Katherine Jaeger, Manager of Wine Clubs, at email@example.com and she will take good care of you. And remember, you can customize your club to include just red or whites wines too if you'd like.
Photo courtesy of Shinn Estate Vineyards
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
The organizers of TasteCamp are gearing up for an exciting weekend of wine discovery that will bring some 40 bloggers and writers from all over the United States and Canada to Loudoun County and Northern Virginia, May 4-6, 2012. The program for the weekend has steadily taking shape over the past few weeks, with some great additions to the three-day experience now confirmed.
A Great Finish at Linden
The weekend’s final vineyard visit, on Sunday morning, will almost be worth the trip in itself: Linden Vineyards. As Jancis Robinson put it in a recent article in the Financial Times: "A key figure in raising standards in Virginia grape growing... and winemaking has been Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, whose wines have been exceptional almost from when he started in the 1980s." It’s an honor that Jim Law agreed to host the TasteCamp group and provide a true idea of what Virginia is capable of.
Vineyard walks at Fabbioli and Tranquility
Vineyard walks – a great opportunity to understand where the wines of a region are coming from – have always been an essential part of TasteCamp. This year’s program features two walks that will showcase some of the most interesting grape growing spots in Northern Virginia.
On Saturday morning, TasteCamp participants will get to know another solid example of Northern Virginia wine, Fabbioli Cellars. Winemaker Doug Fabbioli will be showing the group around his vineyards and winery, where he produces Bordeaux varieties, but also sangiovese and tannat, as well as a selection of fruit wines.
On Saturday afternoon, the group will visit Tranquility Vineyard, a 7-acre property in Purcellville that provides fruit for several local producers. Ben Renshaw, winemaker/owner of 8 Chains North winery, will lead the group on a vineyard walk and tasting.
Grand tastings at Boxwood and Tarara
TasteCamp will also offer a wider-ranging look at the diversity of Virginia wines, thanks to two grand tastings presented at Boxwood Winery (Friday) and Tarara Winery (Saturday). Some of
the best producers in Virginia have confirmed their presence, including Blenheim, Barboursville,
Hume, Ankida, Veritas and Corcoran.
There are still spots open for the grand tastings. Wineries interested in participating should contact Frank Morgan or Lenn Thompson.
A laid-back Southern-style BYO
The always-fun BYO dinner, a Saturday night tradition at TasteCamp, will benefit from a laid- back, relaxed, Southern-style setting and menu. Organized in collaboration with Visit Loudoun, the dinner will take place at a great location, North Gate Vineyard, with catering by Smokin Willy, a well-known Virginia BBQ provider. All at a very nice price, too!
Essential Virginia partners
TasteCamp is also proud to count on several other great partners, starting with three host wineries: Breaux Vineyards, Boxwood Winery and Tarara Winery. Two key regional organizations are also on board: The Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office (Virginia Wine) and the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association (Visit Loudoun) who are offering logistical, financial and/or transportation support.
TasteCampers will be staying at the National Conference Center, in Leesburg, Virginia, a conveniently-located facility that is offering a special rate for event participants.
The concept for TasteCamp, created in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, executive editor of the New York Cork Report, is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them, to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.
Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world would love to get their wines in front of new audiences, but it can be a challenge. With TasteCamp, the new audience comes to them.
This is not a junket — attendees pay their own travel expenses, including their hotel rooms and meals. Through generous sponsors, some meals may be deeply discounted.
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
With so many communication channels at our finger tips these days (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.) it feels like I'm discussing local wines with people almost constantly.
It's fun, but I've noticed something recently -- great vintages can cause an interesting side effect. The other, 'non-great' vintages can very easily be looked down upon or ignored altogehter.
2007 and 2010 were among the best vintages ever for Long Island. We all know that by now. But, because many 2007 reds have come and gone, and 2010 reds are trickling into the marketplace, it's almost like 2008 and 2009 didn't happen.
Don't make that mistake. The 2008 and 2009 growing years both presented their own unique challenges to local growers and winemakers, but most years do. And any region's best producers will make quality wine consistently in even the more challenging vintages.
Take this Shinn Estate Vineyards 2008 Nine Barrels Reserve Merlot ($43) for instance. Following the ripe 2007 year, many consider 2008 to be underripe. Not so.
The nose is dominated by dark fruit -- think blackberry, cassis and black cherry -- chocolate and toasty oak. There is a peppery edge too, but it's black pepper, not green.
That spicy, peppery quality is even more pronouned on the medium-bodied palate, layered with fruit flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry. The oak is a bit too evident for me right now -- in a raw, barrel sort of way -- but given the slightly chewy tannins, this wine has a chance to develop and integrate over the next several years. Showing decent length now, the finish is a bit bacony as well.
Looking at my tasting notebook, the last thing I wrote for this wine was "Definitely re-taste in a year." Of course, knowing how rabid Shinn's fans are, I may not get to do that unless I buy it now.
Producer: Shinn Estate Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
(3 out of 5, Very good/Recommended)
By Tom Kane, Lake Erie Correspondent
The importance of a first impression; as a new contributor, I understand it all too well…
Will I be interesting, will I be informative, amusing, witty and knowledgeable…will I run out of adjectives?
The first impression of the Lake Erie Wine Country is, brace yourself, grapes! (So much for interesting, witty and amusing.)
A rather obvious statement I know, but this area is often referred to as the “Grape Belt.” The most common grape grown is Concord, a native variety that is most typically found sweetened and preserved and laying on top of your peanut butter in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.Hundreds of thousands of tons of Concord are grown in the region and most of them are sold off to become grape jelly.
The wine trail is located in the southwestern corner of New York State, a short drive from Buffalo, extending into Pennsylvania. The Great Lakes appellation extends as far as Ohio. For the record, the wine trail was formerly known as the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, (shuh-taw-kwuh), is an Iroquois/Seneca word that translates to “where the fish are taken out”, or more loosely, fish lake.
Why am I bringing this up? It obviously has nothing to do with wine.
These lakes have a cooling effect in the summer and more importantly a warming effect in the winter, helping to extend and moderate the growing season and protect the grapes.
In Lake Erie wine country, there are some lovely and wonderful wines to be had, along with friendly, and on occasion, colorful winemakers who will gladly chat with you about their pride and joy.
Most of the wineries take advantage of the native grapes, Vitis labrusca such as Concord, Niagara, Delaware, Isabella, Ives and Catawba to make some very interesting and fun wines. Don’t be put off by the abundance of wines made from the native grapes, I say embrace them.
You can also find some lovely fruit wines, made from apples, cherries or blueberries, which are wholly or partially from fruit other than grapes, although a few are grape based with fruit added. Yes, the wines from the native grapes and the fruit wines do tend to be on the sweeter side, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t tasty.
The bottom line -- drinking wine should be a fun, pleasant experience. Here’s some fun and intriguing wines to be found along the trail:
Merritt Estate Winery: Two wines that come to mind that cover all the seasons, Sangria Wine Slush, (technically a pre-mix concentrate to make a frozen drink), for the spring and summer, this is the one and only time I will ever recommend adding ice to wine, pour it in a blender, add ice and viola. If you’ve ever been to the Taste of Buffalo, the largest two day food festival in the United States, you’ll be familiar with this. Mereo is the second wine, a sweet mulled wine that is perfect for the cool fall evenings and blustery winter nights. Heat the bottle, or a mug, on a coffee cup warmer and wow, does it give you that comfortable, Norman Rockwell feeling of hearth and home.
Johnson Estate Winery: The oldest, exclusively estate winery in New York State, whose tasting room just underwent a beautiful remodel. I'd recommend Golden Sparkles, a bright and fruity, sparkling Traminette, made in the traditional European method. Also GrapeàGranate – A wine made from Niagara grapes and blended with pomegranate juice. Definitely a fun summer wine. This is winery that I stop at every time I’m on the trail, if you’re lucky to be there when Mary and Nancy are pouring; you’re in for a treat.
Willow Creek Winery: Chautauqua Chocolate and Chocolate Temptations, two dessert wines with flavors of dark chocolate and fruit that truly stand out for you chocolate lovers.
Of course not everyone’s palate enjoys a sweeter-style wine, but never fear, the French-American hybrid varieties like Seyval, Vidal, Chambourcin, Chancellor, and Marechal Foch, which are typically dry in style can also be found throughout the trail.
The wineries do produce wines from classic European grapes such as riesling, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon -- all of which grow quite well there.
This is only just a glimpse into some of the exotic and I’ll say it again, fun wines to be found along the wine trail. There are rieslings to be had, Noirets, cabernet sauvignon, seyval blancs and tomato wines to experience. Yes, you read that right.
There are 23 wineries that belong to the Lake Erie Wine Country trail, 14 of which are in New York. You can easily skip over the border into Pennsylvania, no passport required, but of course there’s a toll if you’re traveling on the 90 Thruway, where you can find another nine wineries in close proximity in Pennsylvania.
On a closing note, if you’ve ever had the desire to make your own wine, you have to stop at Walker’s Fruit Farm in Forestville. They have a large variety of juice, from vinifera to fruit wines and all the supplies and instructions, even if you’re a novice. My wife and I, as novices in making wine, have made a number of batches over the years, if I can do it, you most certainly can too.
Winemaker Matt Spacarelli sends this picture of baco noir bud break in Benmarl Winery's 50-year old estate baco vineyard.
By Mark Tichenor, Rochester Beer Correspondent
Craft breweries make their bones by marketing big, unique beers to big, unique individuals. High alcohol levels, forceful flavors and innovative ingredients put many great brews on the map, but remain the characteristics of a niche product.
Most of the “great” American beers are a bit much for the casual beer drinker to have out on the porch with the sun beating down. Conversely, most “mainstream” craft beer styles, brown and pale ales come to mind, bore hardcore beer lovers to death. It’s hard for a brewer to win.
Three Heads Brewing, however, thinks they’ve found the perfect formula, and it is “The Common Man.”
Brewery co-owner Geoff Dale describes it as the beer that will unite the craft beer lover and casual drinker. Time will tell if he’s right, but it only takes one sip to discover that the Heads are onto something extraordinary. The Common Man blends an audacious idea with an “everyman” sensibility, yet with enough aggression to keep each sip extremely interesting.
When Dale told me the beer was a California Common I was skeptical. The style originated in mid-19th century San Francisco, where brewers, out of necessity due to lack of refrigeration, had to ferment lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures. The prime example is the astoundingly milquetoast Anchor Steam Beer, and other breweries’ attempts to jazz up the style either come off bogus, like a Ford Pinto with a hood-scoop, or revel in the nasty off-flavors that are possible when this volatile method of fermentation goes horribly, terribly wrong. Damned if 3 Heads, however, didn’t pull it off.
The Common Man is a great beer. It is a superlative beer, and will serve as my primary summer refresher. And I’m not just saying that just because Dale drove me around on the launch day pub crawl and bought me a poop-ton of it.
The beer pours a deep golden color, with no trace of thinness, nor any dark hues that would lead a casual craft beer drinker to question its refreshment potential. Slightly aromatic, the beer presents a bit of plum and raspberry in the nose with a definite hop prickle. It pours enticingly, bubbly with a creamy head that pillows above the rim of the glass.
It takes a bit of self-discipline to keep a sip of this beer from turning into a gulp. The light body does not come at the expense of character. It’s a mix of uncomplicated malt and light fruit hints that mix together extremely well, creating a powerful flavor that easily recedes from the taste buds, with a lingering hint of blackberry on the exhale.
The Common Man finishes with a Kölsch-like hop snap. It doesn’t bludgeon you with a ton of bitterness or bury you in grapefruit. Just a wave of gentle herbal bitterness that doesn’t need to do anything more than serve as a lead-in to the next sip.
At 5.5% alcohol by volume, The Common Man can fit into the common appetite. It’s 3 Heads’ lowest-alcohol beer to date, and, while a touch on the strong side for a session beer, remains friendly enough to encourage the enjoyment of more than one.
There’s no doubt that The Common Man will have to overcome some prejudicial notions about gravity and alcoholic strength to be accepted by the big-beer community, but it’s worthy of consideration among the greats. As for everyday beer drinkers, this is the brew that will turn your light beer -swilling cousin on to craft brewing.
If The Common Man were slightly less awesome, it might go the way of your typical summer seasonal, faded by August and possibly re-released at the same time next year. As it is, I think this beer could become the next New Belgium Fat Tire. It’s that good, and that accessible.
In that respect, there’s nothing common about it.
Producer: 3 Heads Brewing Company
Style: California Common Lager
Stemware: straight pint
Price: $8/22 oz.
(5 out of 5 | Extraordinary, Can't Recommend it More)
The wine tastings at Standing Stone Vineyards are hardly typical, but then again, owner and winemaker Marti Macinski isn’t your average wine industry professional. A former lawyer with a degree in piano performance and philosophy, Macinski purchased the winery with her husband Tom in 1991; they’ve been making wine since 1993.
On April 1, Standing Stone conducted a vertical gewurztraminer tasting, featuring six wines from their library: 1995, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2008 and the recently-released 2009.
With 9 of us seated in the main tasting room around a low picnic table outfitted in a white tablecloth, it felt more like an intimate gathering of friends than a strict and serious tasting.
“I just want to begin by stating that yes, we are wine geeks.’” Macinski started. “But our customers are, too, so I think that works.” She went on to explain that, unlike traditional tastings that focus solely on the wine at hand, we would be pairing food from the recently James Beard Award-nominated Dano’s Heuriger down the road. “I know that’s kind of quirky, but as soon as you take a sip of this wine, you’ll say ‘Ooh! I want a sausage! And some cheese!’ You’ll see. Pretend you’re in Alsace for the purpose of this tasting.”
Plates were passed of Dano’s signature cream cheese-based spread, olive bread, sausages and cabbage strudel. As we helped ourselves, Macinski began passing bottles in the order of ascending year, instructing us to pour a “one-ish ounce” taste for ourselves.
“The bottles are still dusty. I was going to clean them but then thought ‘No! It’s authentic!’” She dissolved into sheepish laughter after revealing the ‘96 cork a palmful of pieces that had crumbled during extraction.
The oldest three vintages were closed with natural cork - and all suffered the fate of the ’96 - but the ‘06, ‘08 an made use of a Nomacorc, and the ’09 made use of a technical cork. The technical cork is favored by Standing Stone because they believe most of their customers purchase wine for immediate consumption. “This number will shock you, but 98% of wine purchases are consumed within 24 hours,” Macinski said. “Knowing that, we didn’t want our customers to have to deal with broken natural corks.” Still, Macinski worries that the Nomacorc is allowing excessive air into the bottle, rapidly speeding the natural aging process.
Tasters were encouraged to sip at their own pace -- in whatever order they desired -- as Macinski discussed the finer points of the grape.
Macinski likes her Gewurztraminers big and bold, and that’s how Standing Stone makes them.
The grapes sit for a quick stint (24 to 96 hours, on average) with their skins, a move that doesn’t necessarily impart tannic structure, as with reds, but lends a bit more heft and body to the wine. “It gives it a certain ‘Gewurz-ness,’” Macinski explained with a shrug of her shoulders and another laugh.
I started with the 2009, a pale straw color in the glass with an orange blossom nose. “It has potential,” I wrote in my notes as Macinski alluded to as much. “It’s just not Gewurztraminer yet,” she said with a dreamy sigh. “Though this did get a nod from Wine Spectator as the daily pick on March 29.”
The 2008 was a huge lesson in contrast, the color of liquid gold with a nose that revealed so much musk I wrote “POW!” in my notes. It’s their current vintage, and after a “classically normal” growing year with plenty of sun, a fine and honest representation of Standing Stone’s distinctive style.
The 2006 was lush on the mid-palate, veering toward fat. While the rest of the older vintages we tasted were aging nicely, Macinski offered some simple advice. “Take it from a winemaker: drink this soon. It’s good.”
The 1997, a surprising and attractive lemon-lime color, was well-rounded and full, with qualities of cilantro and lime that cut through the richness, as well as lingering hints of cardamom. It was, by far, my favorite wine of the evening and paired extraordinarily well with the buttery pastry-encased cabbage strudel.
The 1996, a musty, heavier sample with an oily mouthfeel was revealed as Macinski’s favorite (though only after I asked).
The 1995 was largely considered by our group to be a bit past its prime, but I liked its austere and elegant qualities coupled with a perfume-packed nose.
The connective thread between all six vintages -- if there is one -- seemed most easily defined as a persistent pleasantly bitter edge (think Campari, rather than undressed dandelion greens) that was reminiscent of both fennel and grapefruit; a bit of a puzzle in an otherwise full and lusty white wine.
“That’s our region; it’s what we do. We have a great ‘green’ quality to this grape. Why not embrace the green?” Macinski said.
I tend to avoid organized wine tastings on account of a strong aversion to (and admittedly unfair generalization of them as) exercises in snobbery. But Standing Stone is doing something right with theirs. “We don’t just sit and drink,” said Macinski as the afternoon wrapped up. “We sit and eat and drink and talk.”
By Julia Burke, Beer Editor
Selecting a beer called “Hop Manna” is about as close as I’ve come in years to celebrating Passover/Easter, but it had been too long since I’d had a Shmaltz Brewing Company (Saratoga Springs, NY, and San Francisco) brew and I was feeling particularly like a chosen person.
Hop Manna is a new IPA brewed with Citra, Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Crystal hops and dry hopped with Centennial, Citra, and Cascade. It’s the brewery’s first single IPA, released last year in four test batches and in distribution for the first time this year.
It’s got a beautiful hop nose: fresh, with orange peel and tangerine notes and just a little bit of pine. I was expecting more of a potpourri-like dried-flower thing going on but it’s much more alive than that, and very enticing.
The midpalate is crisp and delicate; Citra hops are dominant but the whole sip experience is very restrained and pleasant. Wheat and Vienna malt are included in the malt profile and, I think, add to the light, delicate, smooth character of the palate. It’s only a touch sweet, just a drizzle of honey on this hop salad, and the finish is balanced and clean.
It did seem a little short but I found it to fill out as the beer warmed.
Where this could have gone way over-the-top, it manages to be a very deft study in hop blending. It’s only 6.8% ABV and definitely not your sticky hop bomb, but it’s a really enjoyable spring ale and and a great pairing for a salad of roast vegetables, olives, and grilled potatoes.
Producer: Shmaltz Brewing Company
Stemware: 10 oz. goblet
Price: $8/22 oz.
(3.5 out of 5 | Very Good, Recommended to Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)
Assistant vineyard manager Eric Anderson snapped this picture in Macari Vineyards' merlot vineyard this morning.
Well, I’m once again the midst of my annual month-long break from alcohol –– but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy a trip to Finger Lakes wine country.
In need of a road trip and eager to take advantage of Wednesday’s lovely weather, I hopped in the car and headed to Keuka Lake for a long overdue visit. (Note: to the tasting room servers’ credit, I didn’t get a single stare or snide comment when I asked for a spit bucket, which I’ve heard can be a problem at many wineries. I thus managed to taste responsibly and maintain my detox.)
My first stop was Hunt Country Vineyards, where I finally got to meet marketing/PR manager Andy Marshall in person after months (years?) of tweeting back and forth. I enjoyed several of the wines, including the semi-dry Pearl and Valvin Muscat, which showed the right floral notes and balance to make me start craving South Asian cuisine, and the nutty, spicy cream sherry, which begged for awesome after-dinner cheese and dried fruit. But most of all I enjoyed talking with Andy –– we’re like-minded on an amazing number of topics and I always love getting his thoughtful opinion –– while his gigantic Bernese mountain dog, Pax, sat on my feet.
On Andy’s recommendation I enjoyed a massive vegan sandwich at Medley’s Cafe in Prattsburgh (for the first time in my life onlookers actually suggested that I “take pictures of it and post it somewhere” –– which of course I did) and then headed to Hammondsport for a visit to Heron Hill Winery. With the stunning view of Keuka Lake to keep me company I enjoyed several of the wines but, as always, it was this winery’s riesling lineup that blew me away.
I went home with a bottle of 2009 Ingle Vineyard Riesling, which at about 2.5 % RS balances the acidity of that cool vintage deftly and is just starting to throw out a little petrol. That bottle won’t last long in my fridge once this “detox” is done.
My next stop was Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, and perhaps I’m out of the wine loop after the past year in the “office job” world, but I didn’t expect to see gruner veltliner on the list! I enjoyed its delicate minerality and appreciated seeing the variety in this region; I’ve always thought more people should try it in New York.
My server recommended the 2010 Pinot Gris next, and he didn’t steer me wrong –– it was full, earthy, woodsy, and a real change from the other whites I’d tried that day in its dry-but-ripe character. I don’t often find pinot gris I enjoy but I always want to taste it out of curiosity, and I had to buy a bottle of this one.
Now that I have a more flexible work schedule I hope to make several trips to my neighboring wine regions this summer, but this was an inspiring start to the season. And I now have four fantastic Finger Lakes bottles to enjoy as soon as my teetotaling month is up... if I can wait that long!
We are excited to pair Paumanok wines with the delicious Hamptons French bistro fare that chef Jason Weiner prepares at Almond.
Wines served will include some of Paumanok's most popular, including chenin blanc and one of Paumanok's top red wines, the 2007 Assemblage.
The meal will conclude with Paumanok's 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, nearly sold out and recently served at The White House.
Paumanok Wine Dinner at Almond
Thursday, April 19, 2012, 7 p.m.
Asparagus and Leek Vinaigrette
pecorino toscano, green goddess dressing
PAUMANOK 2011 SAUVIGNON BLANC
baby artichokes, casino butter, basil toast
PAUMANOK 2011 CHENIN BLANC
Leg of Lamb
fava beans, chickpeas, baby carrots, wilted rocket, thyme jus
PAUMANOK 2007 ASSEMBLAGE
ginger creme fraiche, rhubarb syrup
PAUMANOK 2009 LATE HARVEST SAUVIGNON BLANC
$65 per person (plus tax and gratuity).
Call (631) 537-5665 for reservations.
Photo courtesy of Shinn Estate Vineyards
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
What was mere speculation and conjecture just a few weeks ago is now a reality on the North Fork.
Shinn Estate Vineyards' David Page sent me this photo this morning of bud break in their estate merlot vineyard, marking what appears to be the earliest bud break Long Island wine country has ever seen. The grape-growing process is a marathon, not a sprint, but the North Fork is certainly out of the gate early.
Now local growers get to stress over nighttime low temperatures for the next month or so, hoping to avoid crippling frosts that could decimate their crops.
Hopefully we'll get some more bud break pictures from across the state as it happens. Stay tuned.
By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor
As a cheese geek I am continually preoccupied with the age-old question that plagues the majority of the cheese obsessed here in New York and elsewhere: “What makes the better cheese pairing? Wine or Beer?”
I am clearly not alone in this as a sold-out crowd was on hand at the Artisanal Cheese wine and beer pairing event this past weekend, hosted by Peconic Bay Winery.
Working with The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck, and Greenport Harbor Brewing, the staff at Peconic Bay chose four cheeses and subsequently paired them with complementary beer and wine. It was a pretty perfect setup. Each taster was given the opportunity to taste in a controlled setting with the winemaker, brewmaster, and cheesemonger on hand to answer any related questions.
For those of you who were not able to attend, here are the pairings:
Madeline – Sprout Creek Farm, NY
Black Duck Porter
La Barrique Chardonnay
Ossau Iraty – Pyrenees, France
Goot Essa Cheddar – Millheim, PA
Gorgonzola Dolce – Lombardi, Italy
Acting as emcee for the event, I focused on guiding people through the elements of tasting, discussing the primary philosophy behind beverage pairing with cheese, and generally keeping questions and discussions moving along.
A key success factor for something like this is the educational value that attendees have come to expect. The multitude of questions ranging from cheese storage to beverage tasting temperatures indicated to me that this crowd was here to explore and learn.
As far as the pairings are concerned, all were successful to some degree in that there weren’t any distinct “clashes.” I have said before and I will say again, I believe that beer is a better pairing with cheese in that it is more forgiving due to the carbonation. Generally, pairing beer with cheese is more about balance, whereas pairing wine with cheese revolves around highlighting complementing and contrasting flavor profiles. When wine and cheese works together it absolutely sings. When it doesn’t, you can tell immediately, much in the same way as to when a bottle of wine is “corked.” There is a metallic, tin can clash on your tongue. No singing here…
The pairing of the day for me, surprisingly enough, was the Goot Essa cheddar with the Nautique Rouge. When I saw this duo on the list, I had immediate reservations. Cheddar and red wine is a difficult pairing due to levels of acidity. If the acidity and funkiness from the cheddar overwhelms the acidity and fruit from the wine, the pairing is out of balance.
The young and juicy fruit from the Nautique Rouge blended perfectly with the smooth and mildly earthy paste. I would have thought that the beer would stand out as a hoppy beer with cheddar is my favorite pairing by far. This pairing was so enjoyable, that I brought a couple bottles of the Nautique Rouge back with me to experiment.
Overall, a great time was had by all. Events like this make pairing cheese with wine and/or beer more approachable, especially for those who would like to try it at home.
The most important lesson to take away is this: It’s not rocket science. We are talking about cheese, beer and wine. Traditional pairings are recommendations, but by no means a gospel. If you like a particular cheese and beer/wine together, then that is a good pairing for you. Write down the ones you like (and don’t like) and go from there. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
I look forward to future events such as this as they provide a stage for local producers to celebrate their craft and share with the local community.
By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor
Our son Rhys was about 16 hours old when he tasted his first wine -- roughly a quarter of a drop of Champagne, sucked off the end of my pinky -- in our hospital room. Our family toasted his arrival, and I attempted to plant a tiny seed that might someday germinate into true appreciation of wine.
There is a difference, of course, between wine appreciation and alcohol consumption. I've been thinking about how I'll approach the subject when Rhys grows in age and maturity. Lenn and Nena Thompson have offered my wife and me a nice blueprint for guiding kids toward a love of food, and food includes wine. There is no perfect formula for raising a child who grows to loathe fast food and admire Chinon. But in this new parent's mind, one thing is certain: The forbidden fruit mentality surrounding alcohol in this country is not doing kids or parents any favors.
Ask yourself why anyone would want to drink any amount of Natty Ice, let alone 60 ounces of it in under an hour. It's awful, watery stuff, but for college (and often younger) students, it's a vessel for alcohol. And the key in that context is consumption, quickly. It's not about appreciating what they're drinking.
According to statistics cited by the website Empowering Parents, the average age that boys take their first drink of alcohol is now 11. For girls, it's 13. The authors on the website view this number with great alarm. Better, they say, to find a way to keep alcohol away from kids. After all, when kids take their first drink, they're that much closer to binge drinking!
But why do we have to make that assumption? Yes, kids will party, and kids will experiment. I don't think any kind of parenting can absolutely guarantee that a child will never binge drink even once. As a parent, I will make mistakes. As a son, I deeply respected my mother, but on occasion I broke the rules.
However, the notion that a child's first taste of alcohol must be delayed as long as possible seems counterproductive. I remember living on Mill Street at Ohio University my junior year, a street often referred to as Party Street. At a Thursday night kegger, an acquaintance told me something along the lines of, "My parents were SO strict in high school, but they can't stop me now!"
Our kids grow up, and yet when it comes to alcohol, so often we treat teenagers like toddlers. No taste, no way, no how. It can't be that surprising that college becomes a time to rebel or let loose. The shackles are off. It's a dangerous truth for many, many kids.
That's not to say that introducing a child to agriculture at a young age will guarantee that they only ever want a glass of riesling, not beer, and only one glass, not two (or three, or five). We'll aim to make sure Rhys understands the many benefits of real, local food. We'll demonstrate why wine is a kind of food to appreciate in moderation. We realize he might end up loving wine, or he might never come to embrace it. That's fine, either way. But we will not tell him that it's wrong to taste it, or understand it, or try to appreciate it -- even before a legal age of consumption. He will not be polishing off Cote-Rotie with us into the late hours when he's 12. But neither will he be led to believe that drinking automatically means binge drinking.
Parents, I'm new to this endeavor. I will fail often. I welcome your ideas on how to approach this subject with kids.