April 13, 2014

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Three Sisters Vineyards 2008 Cynthiana

Cynthiana, also known as Norton, is the oldest native North American variety in commercial cultivation today. Popular in the mid-Atlantic and southern states, Cynthiana has found a home in Georgia, and especially at Three Sisters Vineyards. Established in 1996 and bonded in 2000, Three Sisters Vineyards is Lumpkin County’s first vineyard since prohibition and holds the distinction of being “Dahlonega’s First Family Farm Winery.” Located eight miles northeast of the site of the first major US gold rush, Dahlonega, the farm’s name was inspired by the property’s spectacular view of Lumpkin County’s Three Sisters Mountain.

An advocate of drink local and 100% Georgia Grown, Three Sisters only produces wine from their twenty-plus acre mountainside vineyard. Their plantings include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Touriga, and three distinctive clones of Chardonnay-as well as the French-American hybrid, Vidal Blanc and the East Coast’s popular Native American varietal Cynthiana-Norton.

The Three Sisters Vineyards 2008 Cynthiana is a lovely deep, rich color in glass, with a nose of blueberry and black fruit. On the palate, medium-bodied with plum, black cherry and a touch of oak. The wine screams for food (perhaps a hearty beef stew or grilled venison?). A part of me thinks this wine could go another two to three years, but drinking so well now, why wait any longer. Well done.

Three Sisters Vineyards 2008 Cynthiana

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January 25, 2014

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The Wine Label

The back label of wine bottles can be valuable real estate. Unfortunately, this area is often overlooked. I recently opened an old favorite from my cellar, the Millbrook Cabernet Franc. Nearly 6 years ago, I tried my first New York wine, a Millbrook Pinot Noir. Ironically, I was staying at the W Times Square and decided to stay in and order room service. At the time, any local wine on a menu was rare. Nonetheless, I ordered and have followed Millbrook Winery ever since.

The back label of the Millbrook Cabernet Franc is one of the most thorough I’ve seen. I like to compare it the 5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Wine is so such much more than just a drink to me. It’s an opportunity to learn, to understand the story behind the wine or the vintage. It’s an opportunity to connect. And in this social world we live in today, why not take advantage. Cheers!

Millbrook Winery WineLabel

November 29, 2013

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Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery

What happens when a winemaking hobby becomes too big? If you’re David Butkovich, you open a winery and follow your dream of producing wines. Located on 20 acres in Mattawan, Michigan, Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery opened their doors in 2010. But the dream of winemaking started before then. A third-generation grape grower, David planted his first vines after purchasing the property in 1980. Focused on quality, the winery produces small lots of vinifera and hybrid wines from grapes grown in the Lake Michigan Shore Appellation and their estate vineyard.

A recent pour, the Cody Kresta Vineyard & Winery 2012 Vignoles is proving the versatile variety has a home in Michigan.

Clean, floral notes and especially grapefruit greet the nose. Secondary aromas of melon, peach and mango also make an appearance. Complex flavors of nectarine, jasmine, and a crisp minerality that I had not previously experienced in this variety. Medium-bodied, off-dry and plenty of acidity.

A very good wine from a winery with a bright future.

Cody Kresta Vineyard & Winery 2012 Vignoles

October 27, 2013

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St. Ambrose Cellars

If you like meads and haven’t tasted an example from St. Ambrose Cellars, you are truly missing out. Located in Beulah, Michigan, St. Ambrose Cellars produces a variety of estate meads, traditional grape wines and honeys at Sleeping Bear Farms, one of the largest apiaries in the state with 7,000 bee hives. What started out as a hobby for owner Kirk Jones over 35 years ago has evolved into a fledgling meadery in Northern Michigan.

In its simplest form, mead is a fermentation of honey and water. An incredibly diverse beverage with a history dating back at least 9,000 years, meads can vary wildly in style and flavor.

The “star” of the show is the Star Thistle Ambrosia, a dry mead produced in the traditional style. Rich honey aromas and elegant floral notes greet the nose. Ripe tropical fruit and smooth honey play together, complementing each other in total harmony. A light-bodied mead that is surprisingly food friendly, or delicious on its own.

St. Ambrose Cellars Dancing Bare Ambrosia

The Dancing Bare Ambrosia is a blend of 34% grapes and 66% honey. The pyment (a wine made with grapes and honey) is a semi-sweet, crisp autumnal delight, fermented with Star Thistle Honey.

The team at St. Ambrose Cellars has created a lineup of meads that are unmatched in quality and taste. A job well done!

October 14, 2013

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Florida Local

Fall is my favorite time of year in Orlando when the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival makes its annual appearance. The popular event offers locals and tourists the opportunity to taste their way around the world on an unforgettable tour of eclectic cultures, global cuisines and wine offerings.

Among the many stops along the way, be sure to salute the Sunshine State and all that makes it great as you choose from a selection of local foods and beverages. After its successful debut last year, the Florida Local kiosk returns. Also making a return appearance is Florida Orange Groves Winery, the third generation family owned and operated tropical fruit winery in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I opted for the Florida grass-fed beef slider with white cheddar and sweet & hot pickles paired with the Florida Orange Groves Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria. The wineries best seller, the Sangria is a blend of 5 of the other wineries fruit wines. A delicious and refreshing wine that paired perfectly with the slider. Also, be sure to try the Florida shrimp ceviche and excellent offerings from Orlando Brewing and Cigar City Brewing. Cheers!

Epcot International Food & WIne Festival Florida Local

October 13, 2013

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Riesling Hour

I had the opportunity to participate in the Finger Lakes 2012 Vintage Riesling Launch this past weekend, courtesy of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. Riesling Hour is a virtual annual event where participants gather across the globe to taste (and discuss) the current Riesling vintage. The event hashtag, #FLXwine, was the #2 trending topic on twitter that evening. Usually an active participant on twitter, I decided to host a private tasting this year. As a result, my tweets were few and far between (I haven’t quite mastered the art of tweeting, pouring and tasting).

Renowned for their Riesling, the Finger Lakes growing land lies within a distinct geographic region just south of Lake Ontario in central New York. The deep Finger Lakes run north-south, providing prime grape-growing sites on their eastern and western slopes. Lying at various elevations and distances from the water, the vineyard landscape provides for distinct sites and terroirs, all of which contribute to the range and complexity of their wines.

We started the evening with the Knapp Winery 2012 Dry Riesling. Crisp and lively, the dry wine paired nicely with our starter, pan-seared scallops. Located close to Seneca Falls, Knapp Winery & Vineyard has grown Riesling since its first vintage in 1983.

The second wine poured was the Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Dry Riesling. The family owned and operated Lakewood Vineyards was established in 1988. The 80 acres of vineyards includes some vines dating back to 1952, and currently consists of 14 varieties. Paired with pork, the nose featured floral and lemony citrus. On the palate, crisp minerality and acidity. At $13 retail, a solid value.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Lucas Vineyards 2012 Semi-Dry Riesling. A personal favorite of mine, no matter the vintage. Ripe peach and nectarine on the fruit-forward nose. Pear, apple and a twist of lime on the palate. Delicious and refreshing. A nicely balanced wine that proved popular amongst the group.

In summary, Riesling Hour offers participants an opportunity to get an up close view of the current vintage, in addition to insight from the winemakers and winery themselves. And of course, let’s not forget the Finger Lakes, North America’s premier cool-climate wine growing region.

September 10, 2013

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Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery

Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery history begins in 1974 when Curtis and Martha Bourgeois purchased 15 acres of blufftop property on the Missouri River near Rocheport. Year later the family planted a hilltop vineyard in front of their home. It wasn’t until after the first significant grape harvest in 1985 that the Bourgeois’ casual hobby of making homemade wine showed the potential to become more than a diversion.

Today, Les Bourgeois is the third largest winery in Missouri making nearly 135,000 gallons per year. The vineyards at Les Bourgeois produce native varieties such as Norton and Catawba, along with various French hybrid grapes including Chardonel.

Designated as the official state grape in 2003, Norton is the cornerstone of the Missouri wine industry. So it’s only fitting that the first Missouri wine featured on the site is the Les Bourgeois Vineyards 2010 Norton.

Oak aged for 18 months, the 100% Norton retails for $25. A deep, dark purple in glass, the smoky bouquet shows plum, violet and plenty of warm spices. On the palate, the full-bodied wine displayed similar characteristics as the nose with the added touch of sage and black cherry. Robust and delicious, the wine is a great example of the state’s signature variety. A poultry dish or a savory stew would have made this wine perfect.

Les Bourgeois Vineyards 2010 Norton