Many wine enthusiasts dream about owning a vineyard. Few turn those musings into reality. When Arlington resident Beth Ann Dahan, 47, tells people that she, her husband, and a business partner purchased 60 acres of vines in New Zealand, and recently produced 1,100 cases of pinot noir, people invariably ask, "Why New Zealand?"
Dahan, a wine educator at Boston University, explains that she and her husband, Arié, 43, who grew up in Paris, fell in love with the pristine beauty of Central Otago, on the South Island of New Zealand. They were impressed with the energetic wines produced there and the tight-knit community of sustainability-minded growers. Looking to turn their passion for wine into a new venture (Arié Dahan and business partner Max Risman, 42, work together in finance) the three launched Vela Wines in 2011. The company is named for a constellation shaped like ship sails, seen in the Southern Hemisphere.
The name of their line is "Twelfth Night" because of something that happened to them while traveling. "It was our first trip to New Zealand to look for a vineyard," Beth Ann Dahan says. "On the twelfth night of the trip, we visited an observatory. We were blown away by the stars. The next day, we found the vineyard." After the moment when the stars aligned, they assembled their team, which includes Anthony Worch, Vela's winemaker. Originally from Alsace, France, Worch and his crew are based at the vineyard. The Dahans and Risman are "very hands-on," says Dahan. "We're in daily contact to make sure wines are the style we're looking for."
At a recent tasting at Menotomy Beer & Wine in Arlington, Dahan poured the 2012 pinot noir, as well as a lively riesling, made with grapes from a neighboring vineyard. Mary Parent, owner and wine buyer at the shop, was the first to purchase Vela wines (currently only available in Massachusetts). "We took them in because they are awesome," Parent says. "When we can tell customers we know [the Dahans], that they live in Arlington, and shop at our store, that's really great."
As for other enthusiasts who hope one day to purchase a vineyard, Dahan has this advice: "It's wonderfully rewarding, and a lot of hard work. You need to go into it with your eyes wide open."
Vela is hiring an associate to supervise its seasonal crew in Central Otago. Aspiring vineyard owners, take notice.
Vela Wines "Twelfth Night" Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012. A young, fresh food wine, offering aromas of ripe cherry, newly turned soil, and an elegant undergirding of toastiness from old and new French oak. Energetic acidity balances alcohol (14.3 percent) while fine-grained tannins give it some appetizing pucker. Finishes with red fruit and spice. Around $22. At Menotomy Beer & Wine, Arlington, 781-646-0889; Brookline Liquor Mart, Allston, 617-734-7700; Savour Wine & Cheese, Gloucester, 978-282-1455; Curtis Liquors, Weymouth, 781-331-2345, or go to www.velawines.com.
Photo: Beth Ann and Arié Dahan (center and right) along with daughter Elsa at Menotomy Beer & Wine in Arlington.
When the results of Plonkapalooza, the Globe's annual wine tasting, are published, customers come out in droves. They arrive at wine shops throughout the Greater Boston area with print article in hand -- or, more commonly these days, on smart phones or tablets. Top vote-getting wines sell out quickly. Even after nine years of conducting the annual event, we are still amazed by the response. Readers tell us they refer to the list of wines -- $15 and under, nominated by area wine shops -- well into the new year. In case you missed it, here is the article, "Value wines offer some surprises," along with the list of 50 nominated wines.
The story gives folks a glimpse at how expert tasters select their favorites. But how do wine shops nominate the wines that get tasted? (Starting in the summer, we ask each for a list of five whites and five reds. The Globe purchases all bottles.) Recently, we circled back around to this year's participating retailers to ask them.
"It's a unique opportunity to nominate wines that I myself would drink," says Nicolas Haegeli, Old World wine manager at Colonial Spirits of Acton. "I nominate things that I enjoy, and what customers enjoy." When narrowing down his list, he selected bottles that represent "something a little bit different." A white Rioja is a good example -- many people expect all Rioja to be red.
"It's always fun to have the opportunity to talk about wines with consumers," says John Hafferty, owner of Bin Ends in Braintree and Needham. "At its heart, that's what Plonkapalooza is all about...opening doors to learn about fine wines." Like all of the pours in his inventory, the bottles he nominated represent a "sweet spot" -- notches above commodity wine, but not so high-end that customers are put off by price. We are impressed that Bin Ends offers a South African sauvignon blanc (normally retailing for $13) for under $10 -- sure to please the value-minded enthusiast.
Mike Dupuy, owner of Streetcar Wine & Beer in Jamaica Plain, nominated unique, off-the-beaten-path pours that he carries regularly. Dupuy and staff member Dave Dougan selected wines from the shop's casual cart -- a 30-bottle display that frequently features selections $15 and under. They nominated the Croatian red that earned top marks from tasters. Current stock sold out within an hour of opening. "It's so exciting to see the new arrivals from Eastern Europe, especially in this price point, where people can experiment."
Some shop owners decided to throw in unexpected selections. John Libonati, who owns Social Wines in South Boston with his husband Chris Schutte, put forward a white wine from the Veneto that some might consider kitschy and easy to dismiss. "It's a good solid wine, " he says, remembering how much he and colleagues enjoyed it at a blind tasting a while back. "We're always searching for wines $15 and under."
TJ Douglas, who owns The Urban Grape with wife Hadley, nominated wines that are not only appealing and well-crafted, but bottles that "spark conversation." Douglas gives an example of a Rioja made of 100 percent graciano grapes rather than a tempranillo blend. Chelsea Bell, who oversees events and education at both shops in Chestnut Hill and the South End, helped make selections. "We chose wines based upon a mix of large and small distributors. We always get super excited...there are so many great wines in the $15 range." Ultimately, Bell asks herself the same question echoed by fellow nominators:
"What would I like to drink?"
We thank the following retailers for this year's Plonkapalooza nominations: Bin Ends, Braintree (781-817-1212) and Needham (781-400-2086), Colonial Spirits, Acton (978-263-7775), Social Wines, South Boston (617-268-2974), Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain (617-522-6416), The Urban Grape, Chestnut Hill (617-232-4831) and South End (857-250-2509).
SOMERVILLE -- When pairing a beverage with chocolate treats, many brew a French press of coffee rather than uncork a bottle. But if the folks at Taza Chocolate have their way, we might be trading in our favorite mugs for glasses of sparklers, whites, or reds. Taza, whose artisan chocolates are made in a stone-ground style, offers a two-hour evening tasting with wines supplied by the North End's Taranta Restaurant.
At Taza, banners celebrating Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday honoring deceased loved ones, decorate displays of confections. We can see but not hear the evening shift workers in the factory through a plate glass window and the ambient scent is heady and sweet. Pouring is Taranta beverage director Alexandre Zwicker Galimberti, who has selected small-producer, sustainably grown wines for the tasting. Joshua Mamaclay, Taza store and tour manager, explains to the 14 attendees how the company, founded in 2006, has a direct trade relationship with each of its producers, who farm organically in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Belize and supply the cacao beans. The $50 tasting includes six wines and six confections.
A southern Italian sparkling wine, made of fiano and aglianico grapes, is paired with a ginger-flavored chocolate. Mamaclay encourages us to sip the wine, wait a bit, and then nibble the slightly gritty chocolate. On its own, the platinum-hued wine is aggressively bubbly, light in body, and completely dry. The chocolate is gently sweet, tinged with herbal notes. "Now, make sure you let the chocolate coat your tongue," Mamaclay instructs, "then sip the wine." The zippy acidity and floral notes of the wine bring the ginger front and center. Wine itself need not be sweet when paired with chocolate like this. Taza's chocolates contain no dairy; flavors are clean and vivid.
Chocolate flavored with kosher salt and black pepper is served with a pinot nero (pinot noir) from northern Italy. (Taranta's cuisine is Southern Italian and Peruvian, so it's no surprise that most of the evening's quaffs are from Italy's boot, along with a selection from South America.) "The pepper really pops," one taster comments. Another declares, "I like the chocolate even better with the wine," Galimberti smiles. These students are getting it. "It doesn't have to be for dessert," he says. "It's something you can have while making dinner."
A Sardinian vermentino, tasted with guajillo chile chocolate, sounds delicious on paper, but the citrus skin profile of the pour clashes with the bitterness of the chocolate. Yet even this combination -- followed by a more successful full-bodied Argentine malbec with a smoky, dark chocolate bar -- makes us think about the possibilities of wine and cacao bean, far beyond the realm of dessert.
We're finishing with a lovely ruby port, the only sweet wine in the line-up, when out comes a chocolate infused with finely ground espresso beans. So we get our post-prandial coffee after all.
Taza Chocolate will hold the next chocolate and wine class on January 9th at 561 Windsor Street, Somerville, 617-284-2232, www.tazachocolate.com.
LINCOLN -- Every fall, Turtle Creek Winery owner and winemaker Kip Kumler needs helpers to harvest 5 tons of grapes from his 4,000 vines (the grapes are used to make less than half of his total 1,000-case annual production).
It's easy to see how folks would flock to a vineyard on a sunny autumn day. But when you volunteer to harvest grapes for free, and the arrival time is shortly after dawn, and you're faced with venturing out in a downpour, there's a point when you have to wonder if you're a little crazy. On a very damp Sunday morning recently, a dozen volunteers -- 20-somethings to seniors -- suited up for the winery's main vineyard. And there wasn't a complaint in the crowd.
For Lisa Paul, a nurse practitioner, and her husband, Chris, head of engineering at a software company, picking grapes is the neighborly thing to do. The Lincoln residents harvested pinot noir the week before and are here to pick chardonnay. Paul pushes aside a thatch of grass to reveal low-hanging clusters. Clipping off a golden bunch with sharp shears, she flicks off a damaged grape, then plucks off a healthy one to to taste it. "It's amazing -- the flavor," she says, commenting on the sweetness and the tactile characteristics of the grape skins. "Can you tease out those qualities when you drink the wine?" she wonders.
Janet Rothrock, who educates kids about how food is grown at nearby Drumlin Farm, was curious about the grape-picking experience. "I've picked apples before, and raspberries at the u-pick. I wanted to see how this all works." Rothrock thinks that climate change could one day make New England prime wine-growing territory. "Not that that's a good thing," she says. "That's if we don't do something about it."
Kumler teaches a class, offered through Boston University, about the vineyard cycle. Volunteer Laura Ryan met him there. "[The class] was, basically, how to grow a bottle of wine," says Ryan, who works in insurance. She has pushed aside white mesh netting used to prevent birds from eating the grapes, and is filling a shallow crate, called a lug box, with fruit. "I'm a big advocate of knowing where your food comes from," she says. "I like to contribute and give back."
That spirit of community is a common theme in the group. David Jammalo, a home winemaker from Ashland, also picks for a New Hampshire grape grower. Gina Koprowski, an avid cyclist, regularly rides by the vineyard, then took a tour of the winery, and signed up for its wine CSA. Former Texas residents Bill and Shari Price, who just recently moved to Massachusetts, are thrilled to connect with new neighbors.
Kumler knows the attraction for the pickers is more than curiosity. "Wine touches them in ways that are personal," says the winemaker. "They have an instinct to learn more. They get satisfaction handling the grapes. People become invested in it."
In turn, he would be lost without the volunteers. "As a small winery, I have to be integrated into the community," he says. "There are benefits to that."
His rain-soaked volunteers would probably agree.
Turtle Creek Winery, www.turtlecreekwine.com
If you love sherry, but missed Sherryfest -- the premier event held in New York earlier this month celebrating these distinctive Spanish wines -- you are in luck. This Saturday, October 19th from 3 - 5pm, sherry expert and wine writer Peter Liem will come to Boston for a reception at Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain. He will be signing his book, "Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of Andalucia." When this book was published last year, it introduced enthusiasts to the modern world of artisanal sherry and the bodegas that produce them.
A reception and book signing will be open to the public, with books available for purchase. Liem will also lead a guided sherry tasting, including food pairings, during the event. The guided tasting will be limited to 24 people ($10 with purchase of book, $25 without purchase of book) and reservations are a must. To reserve a spot at the tasting and for more information, please contact the restaurant at 617-477-4851 or at email@example.com. After the event, the party will continue (with more sherries to taste, of course) at Streetcar Wine & Beer, just down the street.
We hope it's just a matter of time before the launch of a Sherryfest Boston.
It's a talented wine that can upend assumptions. We're talking about a pour, one you might mistake for a rosé , that we're seeing more often around town. But color is where the similarity ends. These bottles, with deeper aromas, a weightier mouth feel, and velvety texture, are marching to a different drummer. To make them, winemakers take red or black grapes, handle them as if making white wine, and turn out these salmon-hued quaffs.
One is Siegrist Blanc de Noir, made in 2010 by Thomas Siegrist, Siegrist's daughter Kerstin, and son-in-law Bruno Schimpf, in the German region of southern Pfalz. Blanc de noir, a French expression that translates as "white from black," is more commonly used to describe Champagne made from deep-hued pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. The Siegrist wine is copper colored -- not quite white, but definitely not red -- made with a blend of frühburgunder (pinot madeline) and cabernet sauvignon.
After the grapes are gently pressed, grape skins are separated from the juice. That juice is then fermented in stainless steel without skins. Yet it's apparent that even initial contact with skins -- full of pigment, flavor and puckery tannins -- lends intriguing weight and a velvety texture to the final product. Red fruit flavors like tart cranberry and a spritz of pink grapefruit make this a rich yet invigorating sip, perfect to pair with roast chicken, game birds, or richly sauced fish.
Damon Goldstein, owner of Truly Fine Wine, Inc., the importer of Siegrist wines, assures us that this style is not just a fashionable flash in the pan. "The Germans have been doing this for quite some time," he says. "It's more common to see it there than here."
The Siegrist family offers these bottles as a different expression of black grapes. Historically, the wine has been made from 100 percent pinot noir, but the 2010 harvest did not yield enough fruit to make both blanc de noir and the line of reds. So early-ripening pinot madeline and cabernet sauvignon were pressed into service. The wine confounds sommeliers who taste it blind.
Recently, Goldstein challenged some wine professionals to identify the blanc de noir. "I told people there, a lot of them somms, that I'd give them a bottle if they could guess what this wine was. Not a single person in the room could identify it."
Most agreed on one thing: They loved it.
Siegrist Blanc de Noir 2010 (around $20), at The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; Boston Wine Exchange, Financial District, 617-422-0100.
When Bay State native Nick Mucci, 28, decided to launch his own company, Mucci Imports, and bring in small producer Italian wines, he imagined he'd have a few adventures along the way. But he never expected to be chased out of an inn by a burly restaurant owner wielding a salami.
Mucci and his girlfriend, Kelsey, were living and working in Rome, and looking to have lunch with a wine producer in Modena. They hopped on a train and arrived at a restaurant the producer had suggested. The owner appeared displeased that they arrived after the lunch hour. "What are you doing? What are you thinking?," he bellowed, waving a whole salami above his head. It turned out he was joking with the American visitors and invited them in for what Mucci describes as one of the memorable meals of his life. The bottles of lambrusco they drank that day -- fizzy, dry reds from nearby Cantina della Volta -- were just as remarkable.
Dry lambrusco wines, traditionally red, are quite popular right now. Once only associated with sweet, bubbly Italian quaffs, especially in the U.S. market, lambruschi have their artisanal counterparts. Tweets with hashtags like #ReThinkLambrusco and websites like www.LambruscoDay.org drive discussion about these unique reds, which range from frizzante (gently fizzy) to spumante (sparkling). Lambrusco describes a family of grapes that are made into food-friendly pours, bright with lip-smacking acidity, and excellent with salumi and pizza. Mucci now imports the stellar wines he tasted that day in Modena.
Today, Mucci, who lived in Italy for three years and went on to get an MBA in food and wine at the University of Bologna, might be found in a wine shop talking about his bottles. Recently, at Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville, a dozen or so 20- and 30-somethings gathered for a tasting. "How many of you have heard of lambrusco?," Mucci asks, raising the bottle with a flourish. Tasters glance around timidly; no one raises a hand. "You're going to love this," he says, pouring tastes of Cantina della Volta's Lambrusco di Modena Spumante. "Maybe you've had prosecco?," he asks, seeing people react positively to the bubbles. Lots of head-nodding. "Unlike prosecco, [this lambrusco] is made in the traditional method, the same way they make champagne." Mucci explains that there are two fermentations, the second of which creates bubbles in the bottle in which the wine will be sold.
"I try to be as hands-on as possible, to make it fun," he says. "I can't put a price tag on the experiences I've had living in Italy, getting to know the people who make the wine there...I want to be an ambassador for these wines. There's so much to learn."
He'll probably never have to brandish a salami to win fans.
Cantina della Volta Lambrusco di Modena Spumante 2009 (Around $24) available at Ball Square Fine Wines, Somerville, 617-623-9500; American Provisions, South Boston, 617-269-6100, or go to www.mucciimports.com.
Many wine drinkers will tell you that white wines are too mild for steak and bold reds overwhelm a green salad. But when faced with selecting a bottle to pair with more complicated dishes, hand-wringing ensues. That's where a dry rosé fits in, in this case two French pinks that will make even the trickiest end-of-summer dishes shine. The key to their versatility is how they're made.
In the sunny southern Rhone, Tavel has long set the benchmark for quality rosé. On the mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica, Domaine de Vaccelli makes wine from organically grown grapes from 50-year-old vines.
The goal of winemakers in Tavel is to make purposeful pink, meaning that these bottles are not afterthoughts of red winemaking. Grapes are allowed to ripen so skins lend flavor and interest to the finished product, but they're picked early enough to preserve food-friendly acidity.
Prieuré de Montézargues housed in a 12th century abbey, makes a rosé from grenache noir, grenache blanc and cinsault grapes. It's a rosy salmon pink; aromas are generous, offering ripe peaches, raspberries, green herbs and a touch of mineral stoniness. This is an elegant, lush style of rosé -- higher in alcohol (13.5 percent) than apéritif-weight pinks. It gains color and appetizing bitterness from the grape skins, which soak with the gently pressed juice for 12 hours before the liquid is drained away for fermentation. This wine made us nostalgic about a trip to the south of France where we encountered a robust, garlicky salad full of fresh herbs and bitter greens. Nestled alongside was a hearty pâté dusted with dried thyme and lavender. This dish called for a sturdy, thirst-quenching pink. Fortunately, there were plenty on hand. Back home, we understand why these wines continue to be favorites of wine professionals. Recently, we experienced how another well-made rosé bridged the ingredients of a unique dish.
On the menu of Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square, we spied an appetizer of crispy pig tails served on watermelon salad. Chunks of the red-fleshed fruit were infused with agave syrup and hibiscus, and crowned with mint, cilantro, and chili peppers.
This cut of pork offers unctuous meat on the bone. But what wine would pair with both fatty meat and melon? Wine director Colleen Hein suggested the Domaine de Vaccelli rosé, which is named "Juste Ciel!" (translation: "Good Heavens!") made from cinsault and grenache grapes, grown on granitic soil for which the Corsican region of Ajaccio is well known. This chilled, coppery pink quaff offers aromas of peach and a minerally palate tinged with grapefruit peel and saline. It cut through the richness of the pork, elevated the sweetness of the melon, and cooled the chili heat. We envision pairing this wine with Cambodian beef, red onion, and toasted lemongrass salad; or marinated hearts of palm, whose artichoke-like flavors would trump other wines.
Fill your salad bowl with summer's bounty, uncork a distinctive rosé and entertain with confidence.
Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel 2012 (around $23), at Winestone, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393.
Domaine de Vaccelli "Juste Ciel!" Rosé 2012 (around $18), at Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560.
If you've ever strolled through a vineyard at sunset, you know how stunning the view can be. Combine vistas of vines with food, wine, and music, and you have everything you need for a sublime summer evening.
On a recent Friday, we fled the city to picnic and listen to music at Westport Rivers, located on the Coastal Wine Trail in Southeastern Massachusetts. This is the sixth year that the Russell family, which owns and operates the winery, has held the Sunset Music series. "It started as a way to bring together the local community to enjoy the beautiful sun as it sets over the vineyard while listening to talented local performers," says Alan Stewart of Westport Rivers. "It has grown over the years. People come from as far away as southern New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Western Massachusetts." The cost is $10 per carload.
Early in the evening, we see the grounds already packed with friends, families and couples. Blankets, lawn chairs, and coolers seem to cover every square inch of the expansive lawn. The picnic pros have brought low portable tables on which to set their feasts. There's plenty of wine and food to buy. At a table set up under the trees, we order the winery's pinot noir rosé, then walk over to where Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms is shucking clams (the oysters sold out within the first 30 minutes). We settle on our blanket and make new friends with the couples behind us. One fellow is munching on a burger -- Little Compton Catering is grilling on-site. As the band begins to play Americana and folk-rock, some couples get up to dance. One dad bounces his young son in his arms. As the setting sun casts its glow over the crowds and rows of lush vines, Bill Russell, Westport Rivers' winemaker, is beaming. "Everyone just comes for a good time," he says.
At Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod, you can attend the Wednesday night series called WAAM (wine, art, appetizers, and music). Every evening sells out; the cost is $35 per person. "People come right when the sun is setting and they see all that gorgeous light. It's a whole sensory experience," says Nicole Gelinas. She thinks getting away to sip wine and eat farm-to-table fare under the open-sided pavillion is just what people want. Each WAAM features small plates from a local chef paired with vineyard wines. Recently, 75 guests sipped glasses of vignoles, a semi-sweet white, alongside striped bass ceviche, while listening to a jazz and blues duo. Events include a pop-up gallery featuring local visual artists -- a sculptor one night, a landscape artist the next. As Gelinas says, "It's food for the senses."
Sunset Music at Westport Rivers, 417 Hix Bridge Road, Westport, 508-636-3423, www.westportrivers.com, through September 14. Wednesday night WAAM at Truro Vineyards, 11 Shore Road, Route 6A, North Truro, 508-487-6200, www.trurovineyardsofcapecod.com, reservations a must, through Aug. 28.
Enthusiasts of Massachusetts wine can sample more than 70 pours at the Greater Boston Wine Festival on Sunday, July 28th at the Marshfield Fairgrounds. Organized by the Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers Association, this event will celebrate Bay State wines and feature live music along with tasty nibbles of cheese, chocolate, seafood chowder and wood-fired pizza. The Boston Wine School will be offering mini-seminars if you'd like to brush-up on your wine knowledge.
Asked how this differs from the wine festival held at the end of June in Westport, Kim LaFleur of the growers associaton explains that wineries from all over the Bay State will attend this event, not just those from the Coastal Wine Trail in Southeastern New England. Bottles for take-home purchase and samples for tasting will be poured by the following fourteen wineries:
Amherst Farm Winery
Green River Ambrosia
Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
Les Trois Emme Vineyard & Winery
Mineral Hills Winery
Mill River Winery
Mount Warner Vineyards
Still River Winery
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery
Pre-ordering tickets looks like a must. Attendees can choose one of two sessions (session I, 11am - 2pm; session II, 4pm - 7pm). Admission to the festival is $45 per person, plus a $5 (cash only) banding fee. (Friendly folk will make sure you're 21 and attach a wrist band so you can sample wines on offer. You'll also get a glass, wine tote and event program.) Go to www.masswinery.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Nine of us are seated at high bar tables in a corner nook of Gaslight Brasserie du Coin in Boston's South End, paying attention as guide John Fiola (also known as a "wine ambassador") demonstrates how to open a bottle of bubby. "You twist the bottle, not the cork," he instructs the group. "Six twists." On that final turn, the cork releases with a gentle thwup -- not the explosive pop many expected. "Anticlimactic, for sure," Fiola quips, "but better than half the bottle gushing onto the floor." The group chuckles. He pours. We sip the pink sparkler and nibble steak tartare on mini toasts. This is the first stop on a two-hour tour.
City Wine Tours was founded in 2011 by entrepreneurs Daniel Andrew, Rick Goldberg, and Christian Iannucci, to offer afternoon walking tours, year-round on weekends ($56 to $66 per person). They hit three destinations -- usually restaurants, sometimes a wine shop -- where two glasses of wine and small plates are served at each stop. Local sommeliers and wine educators lead the groups, offering helpful hints about wine and insights about neighborhoods.
From the Brasserie, we head out into the sunshine and walk up Harrison Avenue. In a sky blue collared shirt and red cap, we won't lose Fiola in a crowd. Fiola is a wine educator, certified by the internationally recognized Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Participants have arrived mostly in pairs; with all of the hand-holding, it appears to be a romantic afternoon for most of these couples.
At Cinquecento, a Roman-style trattoria that opened this spring, we fan out down the length of the bar. The ceilings are high and it's hard to hear. Fiola is at one end, sharing tips about spotting values on a wine list. One attendee pipes up with a question about Orvieto, the white we are sipping with salumi and cheese. Then a carafe of nero d'avola prompts a couple to talk about a trip to Sicily. Finally, the group is warming up, and dialogue continues as we walk through Peters Park. We learn that the South End used to be a strip of land surrounded by tidal marsh before it was filled in with soil from Needham. Then came the stately brownstones and years later, fashionable restaurants.
Masa is our final destination. Salsa music is playing on the sound system and conversation flows as we taste a Spanish rosé and a sturdy Chilean carmenere. The tapas have withered under a heat lamp before our arrival. But the tasty pours and the walk in the sunshine have put everyone in a festive mood.
At a nearby booth, a family has ordered sparkling wine. Their server struggles, and the cork dislodges with an explosive pop. Fortunately, no frothy dribble.
We look at one another. That wouldn't have happened to any of us. Six turns of the bottle. Worth the price of admission.
City Wine Tours are held Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the South End, North End, Back Bay, and Harvard Square. Call 855-455-8747 or go to www.citywinetours.com.
The instant a wine professional hears this from a customer: "I don't like chardonnay, too buttery, too much oak," it's the perfect opportunity to introduce chablis. This classic Burgundian white offers a fresh, steely profile that manages to change minds, even with the delightful irony that chablis is made with the chardonnay grape. The customer probably doesn't have a quarrel with the grape, but with how New World winemakers barrel-ferment in new oak or overuse oak chips.
Sommeliers and retailers agree that chablis and seafood of every stripe is a match made in heaven. Ralph Hersom, wine director of Ralph's Wines & Spirits in Hingham (now in a new location on Lincoln Street), loves these bottles. "Chablis is the truest expression of chardonnay," he says. "It's a wine with a sense of place." A former wine director at New York's Le Cirque restaurant, Hersom says the best chardonnay in the region grows on sun-catching, southwest-facing slopes with Kimmeridgean soil underlying the best vineyards. In some, fossilized oyster shells are in the limestone and clay, deposited millions of years ago when the land was an ancient sea bed. Could this be a reason why these pours are so delicious with shellfish?
Hersom's wife, Kim, a personal chef, will offer in-store food and wine pairings this summer. Chances are good that chablis paired with seafood will be on the docket. And if a $42 chablis premier cru is out of your range, Hersom recommends a $15 La Chablisienne "Pas Si Petit" Petit Chablis 2011 (a category grown in less prestigious vineyards, but quite nice from this producer). He's enthusiastic about pairing tasty bites with stellar pours. "Once a somm, always a somm," he says.
Recently, we met visiting Christian Moreau, owner of the domaine that bears his name, at Island Creek Oyster Bar. The winemaker lived in Canada for 11 years, then returned to Chablis in the 1970s to help his father, Guy, with the vineyard. Today, Christian Moreau's son, Fabien, the sixth generation, runs the domaine. "I tell him, 'Make the chablis that you like,' " says the father, heartily endorsing his son's skills in the cellar and decision to move toward organic viticulture.
Results show in a glass of Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 2011, an elegantly structured wine with refreshing acidity, pear and citrus notes, and tasting unmistakably of the region's mineral aroma and tang. Restaurant general manager Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli explains that these crisp whites show off the oysters' "merroir" (a play on the word "terroir").
For a splurge this summer, Schlesinger-Guidelli recommends chablis grand cru with lobster dipped in butter. This top-level of chablis is matured in oak -- but artfully so, lending dimension and richness.
So you'll love chablis, and you may also learn that you love chardonnay aged in oak -- just done the right way.
Vinho verde is wine we only thought we knew. Fruity and refreshing with a hint of fizz, most of these budget-friendly, low-alcohol wines from northwest Portugal offer tasty, albeit simple, sips. But recently at The Blue Room in Cambridge's Kendall Square, we tasted two beautiful bottles that opened our eyes to what vinho verde (pronounced "veeng-yo vaird") can be. We just had to meet the right producers.
Pedro Araujo, owner of Quinta do Ameal, explained how vinho verde wines were traditionally produced by small estate farmers. Grapes were picked young, even a bit unripe (hence the descriptor "verde" which translates as "green"). Naturally occurring bubbles cushioned the rustic acidity of these wines. Today, he says, and doesn't seem particularly happy about this, the region is dominated by big companies whose methods of mass production leave unexplored the character and potential of these wines. When he began making wine in the 1990s in the subregion of Lima, using the indigenous loureiro grape, he was determined to farm organically and reduce yields for better fruit. "This region can produce the greatest of white wines," he insisted. "This," he said, pouring his Quinta do Ameal Branco Seco 2011, "is a serious white." Pale yellow and silvery in hue, this wine has no bubbles. Aromas are fresh with floral and mineral notes. Acidity is moderate -- restrained compared to the rollicking acid of other styles from the region. Subtle and refined, this is serious winemaking indeed.
We also met Jose Diogo Teixeira Coelho, winemaker at Quinta da Raza, and chatted with his wife, Mafalda, a petite force of nature. Their estate, located in Basto, the most inland of the Vinho Verde subregions, has been at the center of the family's winemaking since the 1860s. About 20 years ago, they relocated their vineyards to hillside slopes for better sun exposure and made cellar improvements. Their Raza Vinho Verde Branco 2011 is crafted from native grapes arinto (for complexity) and azal (for citrusy tartness). Day-bright in the glass, this white conveys aromas of lemongrass and pear with a citrusy palate of spritz. The winemaker called it "an honest wine" that expresses the best these grapes have to offer.
A warm spring evening found us at Oleana, chef Ana Sortun's homage to flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean in Cambridge. Lauren Friel, wine director, is offering the Raza Vinho Verde as a "blackboard wine" for $9 a glass. These special pours change with the seasons and are on offer only at the bar. Paired with crisp battered fiddleheads on creamy tahini and crostini of spring peas and octopus, the wine complemented these dishes winningly, playing well with fragrant spices like coriander and cumin. Soon after our first sip, we opted for a bottle of this honest wine. It was too good for just one glass.
Quinta da Raza Vinho Verde Branco 2011 available at Formaggio Kitchen South End, 268 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-350-6996. Quinta do Ameal Branco Seco 2011 at Concord Provisions, 73 Thoreau Street, Concord, 978-369-5555; the Branco Seco 2010 at Social Wines, 52 West Broadway, South Boston, 617-268-2974.
Wine professionals live to serve. So it's no surprise that the Boston Sommelier Society is doing all it can to help those hurt by this week's marathon bombings. This down-to-earth group of wine professionals and enthusiasts will host its first Spring Bottle Bash 2013 tomorrow, Sunday, April 21st, from 6pm to 10pm at Moksa in Cambridge's Central Square. Tickets, available online, are $50 each, and all proceeds will go to The One Fund Boston, Inc., announced by Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino to aid those most impacted by the bombings.
For the leadership of the Boston Sommelier Society, it was an easy decision. The board of directors decided Tuesday morning to make aiding bombing victims the event's priority. "All are on board," says John Fiola, secretary of the organization. "It was a quick decision." Teaming up with the somm society for this event is Boston-based Drync , which will donate proceeds from Spring Bottle Bash wines purchased via its smartphone app.
Naturally, more than a dozen great wines from around the globe will be poured. We spied a chateauneuf-du-pape, an Australian cab-shiraz and our state's very own Westport Rivers RJR Brut among the offerings. Tasty Pan-Asian bites will be served up from the kitchen. Raffle prizes and a silent auction will add to the fun. And if wine is not your beverage, Noon Inthasuwan-Summers, Moksa's beverage director, promises to mix up a scintillating cocktail; and Craft Brewers Guild of Boston will provide beer. Let's all raise a glass to hope and healing for our city.
When the doors of Park Plaza Castle opened at 7 o'clock, these rioters hit the floor, eager to learn about wine along with hundreds of fellow hipsters.
Wine Riot, a twice-yearly tasting produced by Second Glass kicked off its 2013 national tour in Boston on Friday night. This event (sold out the entire weekend) is not your average walk-around. Crowds of 20- and 30-somethings in skinny jeans, stemless recyclable glasses in hand, were entertained by a DJ pumping out tunes on a club-worthy sound system. (We assure you it was bumpin'.)
Armed with the Second Glass smart phone app to rate each pour, they sampled more than 250 wines from 70 winemakers from New Bedford to Bordeaux. Ooey gooey treats from Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Aussie meat pies from KO Catering and Pies were on offer to soak up the sips. And did we mention the photo booth with props like sombreros and feather boas? Or if posing for the camera is not your thing, how about a temporary tattoo?
But lest you think this is all mindless revelry, it's really wine education (we swear!) packaged for the next generation of wine drinkers. No stuffy wine-speak here. Just ask John Hafferty of Bin Ends, on hand to provide wine education. Under the banner of "Old World vs. New World," he and his crew conducted a compare-and-contrast of two merlot blends -- a Haut-Medoc Bordeaux vs. a Napa Valley Meritage. "We designed it so tasters can try them [side-by-side], taste the differences, and see what they like." Rioters could also attended 20-minute seminars. The one we attended was hosted by Tyler Balliet, founder and CEO of Second Glass, highlighting California wines from Paso Robles. Although cordoned off from the main exhibit floor, the ambient soundtrack curtailed any in-depth education. But no worries. It was probably no worse than studying with your ear-buds in.
Most tasters rolled in with friends. We spotted a group of four sporting Wine Riot T-shirts they silk-screened themselves. Asked how they heard about the event, Cassandra, a talented designer of steampunk jewelry, pointed to her wine enthusiast friend Greg, who spearheads their urban wine adventures along with friends Stephen and Ana. Adam and Maria, a young couple sampling wines at the Languedoc booth, shared that this is their "crash course" before a summer trip to France.
Fred, from JP, along with pals David and Nat from the South End, are all west coast transplants. You couldn't shut them up about Boston's food and wine scene even if you tried. Like us, these friends can't wait until October. That's when Wine Riot returns to Boston for a groovy round #2. We'll be there -- skinny jeans and all.
Get your glasses ready. The juggernaut that is the Boston Wine Expo rolls into town February 16th and 17th, President's Day weekend, for its annual run. Thousands will converge upon the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel to swirl and sip more than 1,800 wines poured by 185 exhibitors from all over the globe. Beginners and long-time enthusiasts will also flock to seminars covering everything from wine basics to vertical tastings (successive vintages of the same wine). There will be cooking demos by celebrity chefs, keynote speakers, a new smart phone app to scan and purchase wines, a bloggers' lounge....you get the idea. It's big.
First-time attendees always ask how to navigate this theme park of wine. It's smart to plan, especially since a two-day grand tasting ticket will set you back $145, seminars extra. Here are three tips for making the most of tastings as a first-timer.
Begin at the beginning, avoid the end. Each day's Grand Tasting opens to the public at 1pm, and we like being there when the doors open. Wine reps will have warmed up by pouring for wine trade professionals; they will be raring to educate about their wines. Arriving at the beginning rather than the end allows us to avoid attendees who who don't moderate their intake. The last half-hour can devolve into a drunky fest. We avoid it like the plague.
Taste by region, grape or cuisine. It's impossible to taste everything, so having a plan is key, say local wine experts featured on the Wine Education Network. One video on the Wine Expo homepage encourages three different approaches: concentrating on one of four wine regions (Mediterranean, the rest of Europe, North America, Southern Hemisphere); tasting by grape varietal; or with a preferred cuisine in mind. Genius! They also encourage drinking lots of water throughout the day.
Spit to your heart's content. Enthusiasts who are just getting started often hesitate to spit wine poured for them. Some feel embarrassed that they can't spit like the pros do -- presumably in a thin, elegant stream. We think it's fine to spit into a paper cup (we bring a stash with us) and then empty into the spit buckets provided. Not only does this avoid awkward moments -- crowds around the bucket; the dreaded "splash-back" -- but we keep our senses sharp to learn and enjoy. And isn't that what it's all about?
Looking forward to seeing you there.
An invitation to taste the wares of nine Massachusetts wineries catches our eye.
But it's the promise of warmth that seals the deal. "Shoppers enjoy being in a warm greenhouse setting on a cold winter's day," enthused farmer's market manager Peg Mallett in a recent email. Envisioning sips of local wine among potted violets, food vendors and a cornucopia of root vegetables, we headed out last Saturday to Massachusetts Farm Wineries Day at the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market. This winter market, one of the forty operating this time of year throughout the state, is truly special.
Held at Russell's Garden Center on Boston Post Road, the greenhouse environment -- a warren of farm vendors, bakeries and purveyors of jams and salsas -- allows us to shed our bulky coats soon after arriving. The nine wineries, from north and south of Boston as well as Central and Western Mass, are doing brisk business. Customers sample half-ounce pours, purchase bottles for dinner, and chat with winemakers like Donna Martin of Mill River Winery in Rowley. She affirms the importance of a 2010 Massachusetts law allowing farm wineries to sell at farmers' markets and agricultural events.
Martin talks about the law as a catalyst for growth -- not only for her winery, but for nearly forty others in the Bay State. Wineries participating in a 2011 survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources reported doing more than $500,0000 in wine sales that year, an average overall sales increase per winery of 66 percent over previous years. These oft-repeated figures underscore how the law helps increase business and raise the visibility of these wineries among Massachusetts wine consumers, whose per capita wine consumption is double the national average.
Trudi Perry, winemaker of Alfalfa Farm Winery in Topsfield loves selling her wines at farmers' markets. She observes that some towns are reluctant to allow wine sales at events like these. (The law requires the approval of the local jurisdiction.) Are some towns afraid that selling wine will attract a bad element? Scanning market goers, many relaxing at patio tables set up among the lush plants, nibbling on grilled cheese and tomato soup, it's hard to imagine rowdy behavior from this bunch. All we see are contented folk, happy for the chance to feel cozy on a January day. Realizing that this greenhouse-turned-winter market lasts only until March 9th, we reconnect with Peg Mallett. "I tried to get permission to extend the season by one week," she says, "but the growing of annual flowers has to stay on schedule."
For more information about local wine events, check out the calendar of the Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers Association and the newly redesigned Wine & Cheese Trails guide. Photo, top left: Wine tasters at the table of Coastal Vineyards, South Dartmouth. David Neilson, owner and winemaker, on the right. Photo, middle right: Wines from Mill River Winery, Rowley, held by owner/winemaker Donna Martin. Photo, bottom right: Liz Koczera of Westport Rivers, Westport. The 2006 RJR Brut (first bottle to her left) has a newly designed yellow label.
The New Year is your year to learn more about wine. Whether you are a longtime enthusiast or a brand new imbiber, 2013 is an opportune time to deepen your knowledge of this lovely libation. Drop by in-store tastings. Attend a wine dinner to see how a hot new restaurant is pairing wine with food. Read voraciously. Blogs, tweets and online wine media -- along with the good old-fashioned newsstand -- make wine information more accessible than ever. And if you thrive in a classroom environment, a four session Wine 101 at the Boston Wine School is a terrific way to learn the basics. Or, if you have four semesters to spare, you can pursue the wine certificate program at the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center at Boston University.
In the midst of your tasting and reading, how do you capture what you're learning? We're big believers in writing things down. An easy system we use is actually too simple to be called a system. Let's call it an approach that reinforces learning. Get a pack of index cards and keep a pen handy. Whenever a wine question occurs to you, write it on an index card. Later, research the answer and jot it on the back of the card. Or, when a sommelier imparts some wonderful wine fact to you and your dinner companion, jot that down too. Do this a couple of times a week, every week, and in no time, you'll have a growing stack of cards. Naturally, you can keep all of this information electronically. But there is something addictive about seeing your pile of index cards grow. Its increasing height reflects your growing wine knowledge. Try it! And let us know your progress throughout the year.
When it comes to classic wine and food pairings, there are few we crave more than muscadet and oysters. So when we realized we had one more chance to partake of both as part of Muscadet Month, sponsored by the Loire Valley Wine Bureau,
we made a weekend detour to The Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill.
Stepping inside, we were delighted to find wine educator Jo-Ann Ross talking up this lively white wine. "Muscadet is a zesty, zippy white wine from Western France," she explained to customers, many of whom had their costumed trick-or-treating youngsters in tow. "It is made from melon de Bourgogne grapes, once grown in Burgundy centuries ago. It is a dry wine, not to be confused with sweet wines made from muscat grapes," she said.
When you think about where these grapes grow -- near the coast of Brittany where the Loire River meets the Atlantic -- it is easy to see how this wine evolved as a natural pairing with seafood, oysters in particular.
Attendees, eager to experience muscadet's affinity for oysters, had the opportunity to do so on the spot. Mason Silkes of Rhode Island-based American Mussel Harvesters, Inc.
shucked Canada Cup oysters from Prince Edward Island and placed them on an icy bed. Brightly salty up front, these bivalves possess a creamy texture and a saline-sweet finish that called for another sip of muscadet.
A favorite among the line-up of wines was a 2011 Louis Metaireau Petit Mouton Muscadet Sevre et Maine ($12). The bottle's label says "sur lie," which refers to wine kept on the lees (spent yeast) all winter long before bottling in the spring. Overwintering on the lees produces rounded, saline aromas and the barest hint of spritz.
As trick-or-treaters emptied the candy basket, we pledged not to forgo the pleasure of this pairing once Muscadet Month is over.
If you are visiting Long Island and find yourself grooving to bossa nova while sipping a glass of bubbly, you must be at Sparkling Pointe. This elegant winery is done in the style of a French country manor with Rio de Janeiro as its theme. The tasting hall, with its cool white walls, vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers, features paintings of samba dancers and a panorama of Guanabara Bay. Gilles Martin, Sparkling Pointe’s winemaker and master oenologist, explained that owners Tom and Cynthia Rosicki wanted to combine their passion for Champagne with their love of Brazil. The couple founded the winery and brought on French-born Martin as winemaker in 2003. Martin was a natural choice. He made wine all over the world, including Germany, Australia and California, before settling in Long Island. “We have to be proud of our New World heritage,” Martin said, pouring one of several Méthode Champenoise sparklers for a group of tasters. The wines were at once stunning and refined. Regarding a 2008 Blanc de Noir, a blend of pinot meunier and pinot noir, Martin commented, “It is like a ghost. There is an intensity of presence.” Like Martin himself, these are sparklers with true aplomb. Knowing that these wines are not distributed in Massachusetts prompted us to purchase several bottles on the spot before moving on to our next destination.
Richard Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars, is serious about sustainability. So serious, in fact, that he and a group of other wine producers founded, in the spring, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing,
a nonprofit organization to certify local vineyards that practice sustainable viticulture. Developed with the Cornell Cooperative Extension,
LISW builds on VineBalance, New York State’s sustainable viticulture program. While North Fork wine producers have long farmed with the eco-system in mind – minimizing soil erosion and fertilizers that can run off into creeks and bays, increasingly utilizing wind and solar power – the certification process, which will use an independent third-party to evaluate vineyard practices, will take environmental stewardship to the next level. Certification programs are not new. Oregon and California both have similar programs. The LISW program is special in that its guidelines have been developed in place and over time in Long Island’s moist maritime climate. The new guidelines, for example, establish which fungicides can be used to tame mildew. Recommendations include trimming leafy vine canopies to increase air circulation around the grapes to reduce reliance on chemicals. Several producers have signed on to the program; others are assessing whether they can comply with all of the guidelines. It is a work-in-progress that is worth watching.
When we catch up with him, Olsen-Harbich has just come from a LISW meeting. We meet him on the sunny patio deck of Bedell Cellars overlooking a vista of green vines. Once again, maritime breezes remind us to anchor our picnic plates and napkins. As Olsen-Harbich pours a selection of viognier, gewürztraminer and a not-yet-released blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, he talks about how he prefers manipulation in the vineyard – vine leaf removal, hedging and use of cover crops – rather than manipulation in the winery. Each sip tastes free of the chemical bag of tricks used by lesser producers that alter the sense of terroir. These wines, like many others tasted on this trip, project self-assurance and a sense of place. “As a wine region,” Olsen-Harbich said, “we’ve gotten confident in our own skin.”
Select Tasting Notes of North Fork Wines
Sherwood House Vineyards Merlot 2005 A beautiful merlot with savory aromas of age – fennel, cocoa and violets among them. Ripe plum and blackberry notes, velvety tannins and a touch of pepper on the finish. Around $30. Available at the winery.
Peconic Bay Winery Lowerre Family Estate - La Barrique Chardonnay 2010 This barrel-fermented chardonnay handles oak with a deft touch. Aromas of baked pear and freshly-popped popcorn lead to silky weight in the mouth. About $36. Available at the winery.
T’Jara Merlot 2007 This plush merlot offers ripe plum, cigar box and black olive aromas on the nose. Food-friendly with a palate of ripe fruit, baking spice and toast. Around $35. Available at The Winemaker Studio by Anthony Nappa Wines in Peconic, N.Y.
Sparkling Pointe Blanc de Blancs 2006 This sparkler offers fine streams of bubbles that convey floral and biscuit aromas.
Juicy apple and pear notes fill the mouth along with a creamy texture from time on the lees. Fresh and elegant. Around $42. Available at the winery.
Corey Creek Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2011 This Bedell Cellars-owned label offers aromas of rose petals and a minerally-peachy palate full of bright acidity. Around $18. Distributed in Massachusetts by Carolina Wine & Spirits.
If you are visiting Long Island and find yourself grooving to bossa nova while sipping a glass of bubbly, you must be at Sparkling Pointe.
This elegant winery is done in the style of a French country manor with Rio de Janeiro as its theme. The tasting hall, with its cool white walls, vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers, features paintings of samba dancers and a panorama of Guanabara Bay. Gilles Martin, Sparkling Pointe’s winemaker and master oenologist, explained that owners Tom and Cynthia Rosicki wanted to combine their passion for Champagne with their love of Brazil. The couple founded the winery and brought on French-born Martin as winemaker in 2003.
Martin was a natural choice. He made wine all over the world, including Germany, Australia and California, before settling in Long Island. “We have to be proud of our New World heritage,” Martin said, pouring one of several Méthode Champenoise sparklers for a group of tasters. The wines were at once stunning and refined. Regarding a 2008 Blanc de Noir, a blend of pinot meunier and pinot noir, Martin commented, “It is like a ghost. There is an intensity of presence.” Like Martin himself, these are sparklers with true aplomb. Knowing that these wines are not distributed in Massachusetts prompted us to purchase several bottles on the spot before moving on to our next destination.
Richard Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars, is serious about sustainability. So serious, in fact, that he and a group of fellow wine producers founded, in the spring, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, a nonprofit organization to certify local vineyards that practice sustainable viticulture. Developed with the Cornell Cooperative Extension,
LISW builds on VineBalance, New York State’s sustainable viticulture program.
North Fork wine producers have long farmed with the eco-system in mind. For example, they have sought to minimize soil erosion and fertilizer run-off that can harm creeks and bays. Increasingly, wind and solar power are utilized as well. The certification process, which will use an independent third-party to evaluate vineyard practices, will take environmental stewardship to the next level. Certification programs are not new. Oregon and California both have similar programs. The LISW program is special in that its guidelines have been developed in place and over time in Long Island’s moist maritime climate. The new guidelines, for example, establish which fungicides can be used to tame mildew. Recommendations include best practices like trimming leafy vine canopies to increase air circulation around the grapes so fewer chemicals are needed. Several producers have signed on to the program; others are assessing whether they can comply with all of the guidelines. It is a work-in-progress that is worth watching.
When we catch up with him, Olsen-Harbich has just come from a LISW meeting. We meet him on the sunny patio deck of Bedell Cellars overlooking a vista of green vines. Once again, maritime breezes remind us to anchor our picnic plates and napkins. As Olsen-Harbich pours a selection of viognier, gewürztraminer and a not-yet-released blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, he talks about how he prefers manipulation in the vineyard – vine leaf removal, hedging and use of cover crops – rather than manipulation in the winery. Each sip tastes free of the chemical bag of tricks used by lesser producers. These wines, like many others tasted on this trip, project self-assurance and a sense of place. “As a wine region,” Olsen-Harbich said, “we’ve gotten confident in our own skin.”
Select Tasting Notes of North Fork Wines
Sherwood House Vineyards Merlot 2005 A beautiful merlot with savory aromas of age – fennel, cocoa and violets among them. Ripe plum and blackberry notes, velvety tannins and a touch of pepper on the finish. Around $30. Available at the winery.
Peconic Bay Winery Lowerre Family Estate - La Barrique Chardonnay 2010 This barrel-fermented chardonnay handles oak with a light hand. Aromas of baked pear and freshly-popped popcorn lead to silky weight in the mouth. About $36. Available at the winery.
T’Jara Merlot 2007 A plush merlot offering ripe plum, cigar box and black olive aromas on the nose. Food-friendly with a palate of ripe fruit, baking spice, anise and toast. Around $35. Available at The Winemaker Studio by Anthony Nappa Wines in Peconic, N.Y.
Sparkling Pointe Blanc de Blancs 2006 A gorgeous sparkler with fine streams of bubbles that convey floral and biscuit aromas.
Juicy apple and pear notes fill the mouth along with a creamy texture from time on the lees. Fresh and elegant. Around $42. Available at the winery.
Corey Creek Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2011 This Bedell Cellars-owned label offers aromas of rose petals. A minerally-peachy palate is full of bright acidity. Around $18. Distributed in Massachusetts by Carolina Wine & Spirits.
Thanks to Jackie & Bob Rogers, Jean Driver and all of the Long Island wine-folk who extended to us wonderful hospitality.
It is the end of August and we are squarely in denial. With Labor Day around the corner, we know that a new school year doesn't lag far behind. Right now, all we want is to sit by the pond and finish one more novel before wandering home to pluck tomatoes off backyard vines.
To extend the feeling of summer, we’re doggedly drinking American rosés. Since the June column on the subject, we’ve found two more lovely pinks from Long Island N.Y. and Southeastern Massachusetts. Both are limited in supply in the Greater Boston area, but are definitely worth seeking out.
Bedell Taste Rosé 2011 (about $15) offers beautiful aromas of strawberry, white peach and wet stones. This refreshing sip is pale coppery pink -- an artful blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon with a splash of syrah. We tasted it last month on the patio deck of Bedell Cellars on the North Fork. Of the many Long Island wines we sampled, Bedell Cellars is one of the few distributed in Massachusetts. If this rosé is not currently sitting on your local wine shop shelf, it is not too late to special order it.
Westport Rivers Pinot Noir Rosé is a blend of multiple vintages – 2011, 2010 and 2008 to be exact. Bill Russell, winemaker at Westport Rivers likens the process to putting together a sparkling cuvée. This salmon-colored rosé sports bright acidity and offers notes of tart plum and citrus rind. It is on tap – yes, wine kept fresh in a keg – at Russell House Tavern and sells for $6 a glass. Grab a window seat at this Harvard Square institution and people-watch to your heart’s content. Pair with a platter of raw oysters and celebrate. Summer is not over yet.
To the wineries in attendance, the lesson was clear.
Every year, the nine wineries of the Coastal Wine Trail of South Eastern New England come together for a kick-off event of wine tourism season. In the past, one winery hosted the event and while others could pour their wines as tastes, only the host winery could sell its wares. A change in Massachusetts law now allows the Coastal Wine Trail to scale up events. Approved by the legislature in 2010, economic development act S 2582 paved the way for licensed farm wineries to sell their wine at farmers’ markets and agricultural events if approved by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Neilson said the law is a huge change. According to MDAR’s 2011 survey of local wineries and its subsequent evaluation of wine sales at agricultural events, respondents reported an average overall sales increase per winery of 66 percent. They reported more than $514,000 in estimated wine sales at agricultural events and farmers’ markets. More than half of the wineries surveyed planned to hire more full and part-time employees -- no small feat in a tough economy.
Neilson said that the law is having a positive effect – not just for Coastal Wine Trail members but for new wineries just getting started throughout the state. “This is not the end of the story,” Neilson said. “It’s just the beginning.”
Winemakers pouring seemed to agree. “With the response and turn-out that we had,” said Maggie Harnett of Greenvale Vineyards, “we would be crazy not to do it again.”
To learn more about local wineries and upcoming events, go to www.coastalwinetrail.com.
Today's wine column is my last for the Boston Globe. In it I reflect a bit on what has and hasn't changed in the fifteen years I've been writing the column. I offer heartfelt thanks to readers who have followed my writing over the years.
It's always been my view that cultivating a certain sensibility toward wine is a better path to a more satisfying drinking experience than being pointed to specific bottles. And while it may be somewhat limiting to be exposed to a single perspective, it also strikes me that one consistent viewpoint can be preferable to the variety of opinions that emanate from a tasting panel or committee -- often conflicting and rarely offering any clear direction.