Guest Post: New York State’s Hudson River Region AVA

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Today we have a post from JoAnn DeGaglia, CSW, CS. JoAnn takes us on a journey to New York’s Hudson River Valley and the Hudson River Region AVA.

Eleven thousand years ago the entire northeast coast of the United States, including New York State, was covered by a two-mile-thick sheet of ice known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet. As the glacier melted and receded, it reshaped the land beneath into the beautiful landscape we know today of hills, mountains, and complex, varied soils—a perfect place for grapes, vines, and fruit cultivation.

Part of this landscape includes the Hudson River—one of the great waterways of North America. The Hudson River runs 315 miles from its source at Lake Tear in the Clouds, located in Adirondack Park. The river runs north to south and eventually drains into the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and Jersey City. It is the river’s moderating effect on the area’s continental climate (thanks to tidal flow and winds that sweep upriver from the Atlantic) as well as the “river effect” that makes it possible to grow grapes at all in the Hudson River Valley.

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The Hudson River Region AVA (established July 1982) covers an area that extends roughly within the confines of the river valley proper and it includes all or some of several counties: Columbia, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. The AVA encompasses 224,000 acres, with about 450 acres planted to wine grapes among 49+ bonded wineries.

The Brotherhood Winery is the oldest winery in the area and the oldest continuously operating winery in the United States. The winery’s earliest first vineyard was planted by William Cornell in 1845 in Ulster County and still exists as part of the Benmarl Winery (located in Marlboro).

The wine making industry in the Hudson Valley has survived war, revolution, blights, extremely challenging weather, and prohibition. This AVA is a survivor and one of the most innovative and diverse areas of viniferous cultivation in the Northeast. The Valley has been known for making great white wines like Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling as well as award winning Sparkling wines.

Much time and effort has gone into finding a Hudson Valley signature red grape. Doug and Mary Ellen Glorie of Glorie Farm Winery, along with Linda Piero and Bob Bedford of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine have established the “Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition” which is a group of Hudson Valley grape growers, winery owners, winemakers, and supporters that are committed to establishing a Cabernet Franc brand identity for the Hudson River Region.

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Hudson River Valley Cabernet Franc is appreciated for its mouthwatering savory, bell pepper-like flavors and medium to high acidity. Cabernet Franc is typically lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that adds finesse and lends a peppery perfume when blended with more robust grapes as it is done in Bordeaux.

Given the climate and soil here in our Hudson Valley, it comes as no surprise that Cabernet Franc has emerged as heir apparent for red wine greatness. It’s even been confirmed by science, at Highland, New York’s Hudson Valley Research Lab—a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting research and development for growers in the Hudson Valley. In 2008 Senator William J. Larkin helped to secure funds for the lab to plant a one-acre vineyard with 27 varieties of grapes with the purpose of learning what really grows best in the area. Through these trials, Peter Jentsch, a Research Entomologist and Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator, found that Cabernet Franc kept emerging as the stand out variety.

Cabernet Franc has a significant number of clones which gives growers a range of choices and allows winemakers the ability to combine clonal varieties in order to add complexity to their finished wine—giving each winemaker the ability to truly create their own style of wine using Cabernet Franc.

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Recently, the Hudson River Valley has exploded with wineries, distilleries, breweries, and the production of (Hard) Apple Ciders. In our colonial period, apple orchards were plentiful and easier to obtain than grains. As a result, hard cider quickly became one of America’s most popular beverages. The Hudson River Valley area offer great food, beautiful scenery, and delicious local beverages—so it is a great time to visit…and if you already live here, get out and Uncork New York!

JoAnn DeGaglia, CSW, CS teaches wine appreciation classes all over the New York, including the Hudson River Valley. JoAnn’s writings may be found on Facebook on the “The Wine Lovers Journey through the World of Wine” page.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

It’s Official: Twelve Cava de Paraje Calificado Zones Announced!

Photo via: http://www.docava.es/en/gallery/ii-excellence-cava-awards/

Photo via: http://www.docava.es/en/gallery/ii-excellence-cava-awards/

Update—November 22, 2017: Of the 12 estates originally listed, only 9 passed the final quality control process and will be producing Cava de Paraja Calificado this year. The 9 estates are: Argicola Casa Sala, Alta Alella, Cordoníu, Gramona, Juvé Y Camps, Recardo, Sabaté i Coca, Torelló, and Vins el Cep. 

Last week, on July 13, 2017, Isabel García Tejerina —the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Fishing, Food and the Environment—announced the first 12 zones to have earned the designation of Cava de Paraje Calificado (Qualified Estate [Zone] of Cava).

The first 12 designated zones and the anticipated wines are as follows. It is a bit confusing as the name of the zone is sometimes/sometimes not the same as the proposed name of the wine, but we’ve tried to make it clear. In any case, the name of the zone is listed first (and highlighted in bold), followed by the name(s) of the wines, and then the producer.  Links are provided for all the producers.

  • Torelló Zone, the name of the wines are Gran Torelló and 225—produced by Can Martí de Baix
  • Turó d’en Mota Zone, the name of the wine is Turó d’en Mota—produced by Recardo
  • Serrall del Vell Zone, the name of the wine is Serral del Vell— produced by Recardo  
  • Vallcierera Zone, the name of the wine is Mirgin—produced by Alta Alella  
  • La Capella Zone, the name of the wine is La Capella—produced by Juvé & Camps
  • Can Sala Zone, the name of the wine is Casa Sala—produced by Agrícola Casa Sala/Freixenet
  • La Pleta Zone, the name of the wine is La Pleta—produced by Codorníu
  • El Tros Nou Zone, the name of the wine is El Tros Nou—produced Codorníu
  • La Fideuera Zone, the name of the wine is La Fideuera—produced by Codorníu
  • Claror Zone, the name of the wine is Can Prats—produced by Vins el Cep
  • Font de Jui Zone, the name of the wines are Enoteca, Cellar Batlle, and Ill Lustros—produced by Gramona
  • Terroja Zone, the name of the wine is Sabaté i Coca Reserva Familiar—produced by Sabaté i Coca/Castellroig

The newly-designated wines are scheduled to hit the market towards the end of 2017; it seems the last step in the process is the design and approval of new labels to designate the Cavas de Paraje Calificado status of the wines.

The application process for Cavas de Paraje Calificado is still open, and more estates may be designated in the near future.

References/for more information:

 

Welcome to the World! The Rioja DOCa Approves a new Sub-category

Logo via: http://es.riojawine.com

Logo via: http://es.riojawine.com

Yesterday—June 7, 2017—the Consejo Regulador of the Rioja DOCa approved a new “Single Vineyard” sub-classification of Rioja wines.  The new category is described in Spanish as Viñedos Singulares (which translates literally to “singular [unique] vineyards”).

In order to qualify as a Rioja Viñedo Singular, a particular estate must first apply to the Consejo Regulador. The application must describe the natural features of the estate that differentiate it from the surrounding vineyards. Estates that earn the classification will be subject to approved yields that will be 20% lower than those allowed for the general DOCa. Only manual harvesting will be allowed, and the wines will be subject to two quality control analyses (including one performed just prior to market release).

It was also announced that new regulations for bottle aging—to apply to the reserva and gran reserva designations on Rioja DOCa wines will come into effect in 2019 (more information on these changes will be reported as it becomes available).

In the same press release, the Consejo Regulador of the Rioja DOCa revealed that they are still working on the identification of approved subzones as well as the use of certain approved village names in conjunction with the Rioja DOCa designation.  They also intend to allow for the production of white and rosé sparkling wines (made using the traditional production method and sur lie aged in the bottle for a minimum of 15 month). Both of these initiatives are still in the planning stage.

References/for more information:

Conference Preview: Long Island—More than Just Billy Joel, the Hamptons, or Montauk

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Today we have a guest post from Kathy Falbo, CSW. Kathy tells us about her love for Long Island Merlot, and gives us a preview of her upcoming conference session!

“In a single generation, Long Island winemakers have proved that applying passion and skill to the natural advantages of soil and climate can produce wines of harmony and finesse. Few other regions of the world have come so far, so fast.” – Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator Magazine

The Long Island Wine Region is over 40 years in the making, and one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. Yet, still so many people are unfamiliar with its world class wines. Just 75 miles or so from New York City, you can find yourself amidst the beautiful, tranquil country side with rows of vineyards, wineries, antique shops, bed and breakfast destinations, beautiful beaches, and local farm stands.

As a native long Islander and having grown up in Long Island, I am so proud to have this beautiful wine region in my own back yard. (Ok, well, not exactly in my own back yard, but about an hour’s drive away.)

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The history of this island doesn’t go back as far as you may think. In geological terms, Long Island was born yesterday. It’s fish like formation (so appropriate for the island) took place around 11,000 years ago when colliding mountains, shifting sea levels, pounding waves and Titian Canadian glaciers formed a glacial moraine. Long Island is surrounded by an outwash plain produced about 20,000 years ago by Wisconsin Glacier.

The maritime climate, surrounding bodies of water and the well-drained loamy soils are perfect for growing wine grapes.  Especially on the North Fork where the days are sunnier, warmer and longer than on the South Fork. The North Fork is where you will find most Long Islands vineyards, and some of the most amazing sunsets!

Long Island wines can be identified by their distinct, unique, elegant styles and characteristics that distinguish them from wines made anywhere else.

With over 700 acres planted, Merlot is the most widely planted red grape variety in Long Island.  Long Island Merlot is attracting a lot of attention, as it really seems to be emerging. In fact, it is considered by many of the locals as being the best red grape for this area.

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Long Island Merlots are often complex with amazing structure and crisp acidity, making them easy to drink on their own, and extremely food friendly. The maritime climate, long days, cool nights, terroir, cool ocean breezes, and well drained soils give way to fully ripened fruit with plenty of minerality, and graphic notes.

Sharing a similar latitude and maritime climate as France, it is not unlikely to hear a Long Island Merlot being compared to right bank Bordeaux. Though we really are a region all of our own, producing unique, award winning wines.

Did Merlot lose some of its popularity in 2004 after the movie “Sideways?” Just ask any wine professional and most will tell you, yes! Being in wine sales for Paumanok Vineyards (the Native American name for Long Island), it is disturbing to me every time I hear, “Merlot isn’t poplar,” or “Merlot doesn’t sell here!”

Despite the decline in popularity, Merlot is still the 4th most popular wine in America and is rapidly regaining the respect it deserves.

It is my mission to not only help people recognize how far we’ve come as a young wine region, but to understand the quality of all wines coming out of Long Island, and raise awareness of the age worthy, elegant, and delicious merlot and merlot blends we are producing.

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I hope you can join me at SWE’s upcoming annual conference, on Saturday August 12th as we look further in to what makes Long Island wines so special. We will compare the different profiles and expressions of Merlot from three of the top producers in Long Island, as well as three other regions in the country.

About the Author: Kathy was born and raised in Long Island.  After 37 years in the dental industry, Kathy’s passion (and thirst, if you will) for wine ignited after a trip to Napa in 2010. After returning from that Napa trip, Kathy began taking some novice wine classes in NYC., and headed to Long Islands wine region for wine tasting every chance she got.

Kathy’s wine career took place in 2012 when she applied for a positon with Paumanok Vineyards as a tasting room “pourer.” From there she registered with the Society of Wine Educators in 2013. Kathy went to Napa Wine Academy for their five-day prep course in April 2014, and proudly passed her CSW exam on December 15th 2014. In January of 2015 Paumanok Vineyards offered Kathy the wholesale/wine consultant position she currently holds today, and is one of the top producing representatives for Nassau and western Suffolk counties.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the World, Cape Town District!

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A new appellation for wine production was announced today: the Cape Town District of South Africa! This new appellation replaces the former regions of Cape Peninsula and Tygerberg, and as such, combines the wards of Durbanville, Philadelphia, Constantia, and Hout Bay under a single District.

There are over 30 wineries located within the new district, including some of South Africa’s most historic and best-known wineries. These include Groot Constantia, Durbanville Hills, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, Nitida, Meerendal, and Cape Point Vineyards.

According to Rico Basson, CEO of South African wine producers’ organization Vinpro, “As a wine region, Cape Town now encapsulates a wonderful set of dynamics in terms of heritage, culture and modern wine styles. South Africa is already well-known for our wine tourism offering and this new development will add to integrating our strategy of innovative marketing.”

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The geographical indications of South Africa’s wine industry are based around a system known as the “Wine of Origin” (WO) scheme. The Wine of Origin Scheme is administered by the South African Wine and Spirit Board. The various categories of areas, from largest to smallest, are the following:

  • Geographical Units
  • Regions
  • Districts
  • Wards

The new Cape Town District is part of the Coastal Region, which is in turn contained within the Western Cape Geographical Unit.

As for wine students, this means we need to update the flashcards one more time, but on a positive note, there is one less District to memorize!

Welcome to the world, Cape Town District!

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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Moonshine University Presents: BBQ and Bourbon Pairings!

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The air gets a little smokier in May as Americans fire up the grill for National Barbecue Month. For this summertime exercise, the team at Moonshine University, the epicenter of bourbon, looked at BBQ sauces from all over the U.S. and did a big taste testing to see which bourbons paired the best with each sauce. Let that stew in your work jealousy for a while. The Moonshine team tried each sauce with both pork and chicken and then narrowed down what bourbons to match to based off the initial tasting notes of the sauce. Here’s Moonshine University’s top BBQ and bourbon pairings.

Alabama White Sauce: This mayonnaise-based sauce hails from northern Alabama. Beyond mayo, this sauce includes: apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. We found the sauce to be very mayonnaise forward, much like ranch dressing with a slight vinegar tinge.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Booker’s – The higher proof of the Booker’s was mellowed out by the oil in the sauce, letting a lot of the flavors in the bourbon to come out in a way they didn’t on its own. We thought dialing back the alcohol burn really opened the bourbon and since the sauce wasn’t wildly flavorful, we didn’t feel anything was lost in the bourbon or in the sauce. It was a nice juxtaposition pairing : the mellowness of the sauce, with the boldness of the bourbon.

 South Carolina Mustard Sauce: This sauce, as the name would indicate, is a mustard-based sauce instead of your typical ketchup or tomato base. The flavor profile is like many of the red barbecue sauces, sweet and spicy. We loved this sauce. It was slightly sweet, a little tangy, and carried a nice balance between apple cider vinegar and mustard. It was loudly exclaimed by a member of the tasting panel, “Ain’t nothing wrong with that sauce!”

  • Bourbon Pairing: Maker’s Mark – Maker’s Mark was a perfect complement to this sauce. The sweetness of the bourbon matched the sweetness of the sauce just right and both flavor profiles complemented each other perfectly. Every time you took a sip after a bite or a bite after a sip, different flavors popped out, often blending together to create a tangy mustard with a sweet, subtle oak flavor. Leaving a light candy flavor aftertaste.
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Texas BBQ Sauce: While Texas has many different regions that all prepare their meat differently, we’re going to focus on the sauce. Texas BBQ sauce is one of the styles people traditionally think of when they think of BBQ sauce. It’s a tomato-based sauce sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The sauce we ended up with was a mild sauce and not very spicy at all. It was very tomato forward with black pepper and other spices coming in mid-palate and leaving us with a spicy finish.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Woodford Reserve – We found that Woodford Reserve was the right proof and flavor profile to complement this sauce. The proof added a little heat to the somewhat mild sauce, so the kick up in spiciness was a nice addition. Not to mention the rye notes that come out in Woodford rounded out the sauce and gave it a spicy flavor throughout. The spiciness of the rye in the bourbon pair perfectly with the spices in the BBQ sauce. It is a combo that really brought out the best in each other.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce: The Carolinas know their BBQ and it’s evident by the showing of 3 different styles of sauces on this list.  The ketchup-based version would fall under the realm of a ‘traditional’ type of sauce.  This particular sauce was very sweet, had notes of molasses and was mild, but had a rich umami, or meaty, character to it.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Buffalo Trace – After taking a bite of BBQ with this North Carolina sauce on it and taking a sip of Buffalo Trace, something magical happens. This relationship birthed a completely new flavor that we didn’t pick out of the sauce or bourbon individually.  The two together brought out a smoky and oaky character that was fantastic. Plus, the bourbon lessened the intensity of the sweetness and allowed a caramel note to pop out. The flavors blended well with one another creating an entirely new, sauce and flavor.
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Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce: This other offering from the Carolinas comes from the coast. This vinegar-based sauce is generally spicy.  Starting with vinegar instead of ketchup, this sauce is much thinner than all the others on this list, however everyone on the tasting panel was big fan of spicy and a big fan of this sauce.  It was vinegary, hot, spicy, bold with big flavors.  Overall a great and well-balanced sauce.

  • Bourbon Whiskey Pairing: Bulleit Rye – This is the only whiskey on our list that isn’t a bourbon, but when we tasted the sauce we knew what would pair perfectly, Bulleit Rye. Bulleit Rye has big, bold flavors that can hold up to the sauce.  Bulleit Rye has a delightful dill note, that when coupled with the sauce, gives the experience an almost pickle back note.  Generally, not something that would be desired, but with BBQ it’s a perfect flavor that gets created.  The bold flavor of the sauce and whiskey balance each other out and complemented each other perfectly.

Memphis BBQ Sauce: Memphis knows a thing or two about BBQ as well and is one of the most popular styles of BBQ. This sauce is a ketchup-based sauce that is generally sweet, peppery and a little peppery. Everyone enjoyed this style of sauce quite a bit. It hit every part of the mouth with a good flavor and it had a wide breadth of characteristics, not to mention the really nice pepper and coriander notes.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Wild Turkey 101 – A sauce with that much going on needs to be paired with a bourbon that has a whole lot going on too but in the same smooth, well-balanced way. That’s how we paired Wild Turkey 101 with this sauce. The Wild Turkey amplified all the best parts of the Memphis style sauce by adding nice, fruit notes, a subtle smoky note and gave the whole combination a full umami experience.  The 101 proof of the Wild Turkey was cut back by the sauce letting the flavors really come out. The combination also produced a delightful, sweet and spicy finish that lingered enjoyable on the tongue.
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The debate about which region has the best BBQ will carry on for years to come. Personally, we like them all. But the same debate happens in the bourbon industry as well. Again, no favorites here. But the Moonshine U tasting panel tried to find common ground by pairing two of our favorite things together into something we can all agree on. Cheers to National BBQ Month!

About Moonshine University: Moonshine University was founded by David Dafoe in 2013. The bourbon epicenter opened its doors on the Distilled Spirits Beverage Campus in Louisville, Kentucky to educate entrepreneurs on how to launch a successful distilling business from concept, to distilling, to bottling.  Moonshine University houses the Stave & Thief Society, a bourbon certification program. It was established to promote Kentucky’s distinguished bourbon culture. Stave & Thief Society will lead bourbon enthusiasts, restaurants, bars, hotels and retail employees to become Executive Bourbon Stewards through a standardized training program.

Thanks to Moonshine University for the press release. Photo credits: Phil Icsman.

 

Guest Blogger: Discover Mexico’s Baja Wine Country

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

In this guest post, Matilde Parente, MD, CSW gives readers a lovely armchair tour of the wine, food and history of the Guadalupe Valley, a region that’s putting Mexican winemaking on the world’s wine maps.

Wine country adventurers now have another destination to explore: Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, located 90 miles south of San Diego in Baja California. About half the size of the Napa Valley, this Mexican valle offers a low-key and rustic wine, food, and cultural experience that will jolt your palate and swaddle you with its warmth and beauty.

Although Mexican wine has only recently burst onto the radar of norteños, our southern neighbor has been making wine since the 1500s, after conqueror Hernán Cortés requested grapevines from Spain and before vineyards were planted in Chile and Argentina.

Milestones in Baja winemaking include efforts by the Jesuits in the early 1700s, the 1888 founding of Bodegas de Santo Tomás, Baja’s oldest continuously operating winery and the winegrapes  planted by Russian Molokan refugees in the early 1900s. More French and Italian varieties were introduced to Baja in the early 20th century, aided by Wente’s James Concannon and the Piedmont-born Italian viticulturist Esteban Ferro.

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe photo credit: Matilde Parente)

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The modern era in Baja winemaking began in 1972 with the founding of Casa Pedro Domecq and has accelerated since the 1980s, which saw the emergence of the Valle’s first boutique winery, Monte Xanic, and the rising prominence of the Bordeaux-trained enologist Hugo D’Acosta. In 2004, D’Acosta founded a winemaking school, the Estación de Oficios Porvenir, affectionately known as La Escuelita, to train and help support small-scale winegrowers.

Common red grape varieties planted today include heat-loving Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Carignan, Aglianico, Syrah, and Petit Sirah—along with Barbera, Nebbiolo and Spain’s original Mission grape. White varieties include Chardonnay, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Viognier. Delicious rosés are also made from many of these varieties, notably those from Nebbiolo.

Although some single-varietal wines are made, most Valle wines are blends, some of which are unusual, such as the outstanding Rafael, a Cabernet-Nebbiolo blend by Adobe Guadalupe. Limited more by their imagination than AOP-type regulations, Mexican winemakers continue to experiment with their terroir and winemaking decisions.

Guadalupe Valley soils are a mixture of sandy loam and red clay. Lying just within the 30-degree latitude for quality winegrowing, the arid Valle receives only about 3–4 inches of rain annually with daytime temperatures averaging 86°F in summer and 42°F in winter. Yields average 2–3 tons per acre.

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

Today, the more than 60 Guadalupe Valley wineries account for 90% of Mexico’s wine production with L.A. Cetto, Domecq and Monte Xanic producing the lion’s share of the region’s wines. According to 2014 figures, Mexican wineries produced just over two million cases of wine a year, which accounted for about one-third of domestic (Mexican) wine sales. Most other wineries and artisan winemakers are small-production, family-owned and -operated enterprises with limited marketing and distribution opportunities, even within Mexico.

Traditionally, beer and tequila have been the nation’s most popular adult beverages. However, Mexican wine consumption has seen a 12% increase over the past decade, especially among the upper middle class and younger consumers. Key Mexican wine markets are Mexico City and Guadalajara restaurants and their more affluent residents.

The two-lane Ruta del Vino (wine route) tracks north and east from coastal Ensenada towards Tecate. Wineries that deserve a stop and a few sips include the Adobe Guadalupe (with a free tasting and homemade breakfast included with your stay), the architecturally stunning Monte Xanic, Villa Montefiori, Viña de Frannes (where Michel Roland consults), Vinicola Torres Alegre y Familia and La Lomita Winery.

On and off the the well-marked Ruta you’ll also find a range of accommodations, from the air-conditioned cabins of Ensenada’s glamping hot spot Cuatro Cuatros to the relaxed country sophistication of the six-room Adobe Guadalupe, which is also home to its outstanding winery and Azteca horse stables.

Finally, no wine country would be complete without great food and a museum. The $5.3 million Museo de La Vid y El Vino inaugurated in 2012 is a spacious modern architectural wonder where you can learn more about the region’s fascinating history.

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit" Matilde Parente)

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The Baja food scene evolved along with the emerging wine scene, propelling it forward gastronomically. Known as Baja Mediterranean, the local cuisine is creative, healthful and farm-fresh. Along with al fresco pleasure, freshly caught seafood and flavorful Valle-grown produce are exceptional. Many dishes are prepared with the local olive oil, a must-buy at many wineries.

Homegrown and resettled chefs such as Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano), Drew Deckman (Deckman’s en el Mogor), Angelo Dal Bon (Tre Galline at the Villa Montefiori winery), Leda Gamboa (The Adobe Food Truck at the Adobe Guadalupe) and Diego Hernandez (Corazon De Tierra) continue to transform, elevate and energize the local food scene with their creativity and enoturismo evangelism.

For those unwilling or unsure about driving down to the Valle, a few reputable companies offer guided tours for small groups and individuals, including Fernando Gaxiola’s Baja Wine + Food. Although 4-wheel drive isn’t required, most roads leading up to the wineries are pocked dirt roads and dusty feet are guaranteed – a good enough reason to kick ‘em up and enjoy another sip of delicious Guadalupe Valley wine.

About the author: Matilde Parente, MD, CSW blogs at www.writeonwines.com and tweets @winefoodhealth.

References:

  • Covarrubias J, Thach L. Wines of Baja Mexico: A qualitative study examining viticulture, enology, and marketing practices. Wine Economics and Policy. Vol 4, Issue 2, Dec 2015, pp 110–115.

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Guest Post: Is Wine from Cornwall Actually Cornish?

Today we have a guest post from Ted Lui, CSS. Ted tells us about his exploration of the wineries of Cornwall and invites us to ponder the question: Is wine from Cornwall actually Cornish? 

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Is the wine produced in Cornwall actually Cornish (in style)?

Before answering this question, I’d like to say something about my interpretation of wine, from the point of view of 21-year-old man. I believe that there must be a big difference between the ideas of well-experienced wine experts and young “wine enthusiast” adults, particularly when it comes to defining the “meaning” of wine.

In this case, I am going to explore the world of wine with you via a journey to a “young” wine production region, and from a young person’s perspective.

I first discovered British wine in Cornwall—not the one in New York but in the UK. I knew nothing about British wine before visiting that prior to my visit to some of the vineyards- Camel Valley Vineyard, Polgoon Vineyard, and Knightor Winery.

Although Cornwall is not a traditional winemaking region compared to France and other countries that have produced wine for centuries, it does have a wine history of its own. There is evidence that the origins of British wine dates back to 955 when King Edwy permitted winemaking in Somerset (Harding and Robinson, 2015). Therefore, it would be inaccurate if one claims that British wine has nothing to do with history.

Map of the United Kingdom - Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Map of the United Kingdom – Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall has its own history, although it only goes back about 30 years. This is not a long period of time by Old World standards, however, it is a good enough place to begin in my quest to determine if the wine is truly Cornish in style or something just resembling Champagne.

For starters, Champagne grape varieties account for 45% of the grapes used in producing British wine (Johnson and Robison, 2013). I found that most of the sparkling wines produced by Camel Valley were made using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while others included some Seyval Blanc and Reichenstenier. The wines were fruity and floral on the nose in addition to the palate, and the flavour intensity was rather medium (-) generally.

Interestingly, despite some French terms revealed on the labels like blanc de blancs and demi-sec, they were British-style for sure in terms of their refreshing and fruity profiles. Champagne lovers may find them too light in terms of body and intensity when the wines are compared to traditional Champagne. In fact, the “young” profiles made the wines sui generis, particularly a new red sparkling using Pinot Noir.

The red sparkling Pinot Noir was definitely a non-Champagne style of wine, and made me realize that the success of British wine, such as that at the International Wine Competition (Abbot, 2010) had to do not with the fact that it could imitate Champagne, but rather that they were producing award-winning wines was probably due to their modification of some production methods, for example, the replacement of grape varieties by local grapes. There will be no place for further development if the aim is to copy Champagne from every perspective except the PDO.

The English wine industry shares the ambition of a world top-five spot sometime in the near future (Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015). Camel Valley Vineyard absolutely presents a step forwards towards the next success of British or Cornish sparkling.

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

The limitations of British or Cornish wine are probably going to be attributed to the maritime climate. Gale-force winds and high summer precipitation in 2012 caused a drastic decline in the total crop by two-thirds (Harding and Robinson, 2015). The changing climate has been a crucial factor in determining the quality of wine for many years. The acidity of the wines produced in Cornwall is one of the examples that explain the difficulty of quality control in Cornwall. It is slightly high in general, resulting in a minute imbalance in which the body, the flavour intensity and the finish are good. Still, it has been a stimulating start of the modern British or Cornish winemaking industry.

Time to end up with an answer to the question. I believe the wine made in Cornwall is indeed Cornish, and unique enough to find its own niche without having to imitate Champagne. Cornish wine has proven itself by the use of unusual grapes, sparkling red versions, and unique flavour characteristics. There is always room for the improvement, and perhaps the wine will evolve to find its sweet spot in terms of the flavour intensity and the balance of acidity. With the winemaker of Camel Valley

Bibliography

  • Abbott, J., 2010. UK sparkling wine producer beats Champagne to win global award. [online] Available at: <http://www.hortweek.com/uk-sparkling-wine-producer-beats-champagne-win-global-award/fresh-produce/article/1028353> [Accessed 20 April 2017].
  • Harding, J, and Robinson, J., 2015. The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015. Profile on Chapel Down: Shaking up the UK wine scene. [online] Available at: <www.Harpers.co.uk> [Accessed 18 April 2017].
  • Johnson, H. and Robinson, J., 2013. The World Atlas of Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Ted LuiAbout the author – Ted Lui, CSS: Ted Lui, CSS is a wine enthusiast and an undergraduate studying at the University of Exeter. Ted holds Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) certification from the Society of Wine Educators as well as the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits. He is also an International Kikisake-shi and Certified Sake Sommelier approved by Sake Service Institute and Sake Sommelier Association respectively. You can find out more about Ted on Instagram @ted_gin, or contact him via email cheuktaklui@yahoo.com.hk

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Guest Post/Book Review: A Glass Full of Miracles

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews the long-awaited autobiography from Mike Grgich!

Book Review: A Glass Full of Miracles by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich

Here is a memoir that mirrors the history of wine in California. But it starts well before that— in 1923, as a matter of fact. That was the year that Miljenko Grigich, the youngest of eleven children, was born in the town of Desne—an obscure village in Croatia’s coastal region of Dalmatia. Grgich’s early life in Croatia was one of poverty and even worse World War II, Nazi oppressors and the rise of Communism.

With resourcefulness, ingenuity, and other “miracles” he escapes from behind the Iron Curtain and arrives in the middle of winter in Halifax, Canada. Here he works for a short time as a lumberjack Twenty-two years later, another miracle occurs and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay—made by Grigich—wins the Paris tasting that turns the world of wine upside down.

In this charming book you can follow Mike’s story as he works for, and learns from Lee Stewart (of Chateau Souverain), Brother Timothy (of Christian Brothers), André Tchelistcheff, Robert Mondavi, and Zelma Long. Later, we follow Mike on the path to his own winery with Lee Paschich, a wine hobbyist, who weathered Prohibition and who bought Chateau Montelena in 1968.  This leads to a meeting with Jim Barrett and his son, Bo, as the new partners of Chateau Montelena who were looking for a winemaker.

Photo of Grgić Vina wines via http://www.grgich.com

Photo of Grgić Vina wines via http://www.grgich.com

The Barrets gave Grgich a five-year contract, and he set was soon creating award-winning Rieslings, Chardonnays, and well-aged Cabernets. He recognized the Zinfandel grape of California as a grape from his homeland in Croatia—this was later confirmed by UC Davis’ renowned grape geneticist, Dr. Carole Meredith. The wines produced in 1972 and 1973 were outstanding, including the winner of Paris Tasting, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

Along the way, Grgich Austin Hills, and their friendship led to a partnership: Grgich Hills Winery. Grgich even returned to Croatia for a while, and started a vineyard and winery growing the indigenous white Pošip and the red Plavac Mali, a relative of both Zinfandel and Crljenak Kaštelanski.

This book shows Grgich, now 93, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and love for both California and for his homeland Croatia, and with his anticipation of his 100th birthday.

Bibliographical information: Grgich, Miljenko (Mike). A Glass Full of Miracles. Violetta Press: 2016.   417 pages, hard cover, available on Amazon.com, violettapress.com, and at retail outlets.

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

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Introducing Erbamat!

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It’s quite possible you have never heard of the Erbamat grape variety. Before last month, I’d never heard of it either. However…starting with the 2017 vintage, Erbamat (a white variety) will be allowed for use in the wines of the Franciacorta DOCG.

Franciacorta, as all serious wine students know, is a super-serious (read: Traditional Method) sparkling wine produced in Lombardy. The normale version requires a minimum of 18 months of lees aging; this goes up to 60 months minimum for the riserva. And the grapes are totally no-nonsense: up until now, the only grapes allowed for use in Franciacorta DOCG are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Pinot Bianco (but only up to 50%).

This will change soon, as the Italian ministry of Agriculture and the Franciacorta DOCG consortium have announced a change to the Disciplinare di Produzione that will allow the use of the Erbamat grape variety. This change should become effective with the wines of the 2017 vintage, assuming the amendment’s publication in the Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Journal).

When the new regulation goes into effect, the Erbamat grape variety will be allowed to comprise up to 10% of a Franciacorta DOCG wine produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and up to 50% of the blend if used alongside Pinot Bianco. The grape is appreciated for its late ripening characteristic and neutral flavors, but primarily for its ability to retain high levels of malic acid, even in warm temperatures and despite its tendency to ripen late.

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The Erbamat grape has been grown in the areas in and around Lombardy since at least the sixteenth century, however, it seems it has always been a minor grape variety and was in danger of becoming extinct about a generation ago. Before its recognition in the wines of Franciscorta, it was not allowed for use in any of the DOC or DOCG wines of Italy. However, it been used in some interesting blends bottled at the “vin” (table wine) level of categorization, such as the Erbamat/Trebbiano blend known as Perlì produced by the Comincioli Winery in Brescia.

Following a 1982 study in which the grape was described by Professor Attilio Scienza as”capable of producing wines of extraordinary acidity and freshness,” several producers in Franciacorta began some experimental plantings of Erbamat. The experiment, it seems, turned out well.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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