After the latest attempt to get Pennsylvania out of the business of selling wine and liquor failed, I realized that I would miss the Chairman’s Selection program that offers some very good wines at a deep discount. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (P.L.C.B.) is the second largest purchaser of alcohol in the world so it has tremendous buying power. The buyers at the P.L.C.B. do a great job sorting through the wine market to come up with plenty of interesting wines that would have gone unnoticed and bring them here at attractive prices. If you live in or visit Pennsylvania often you probably have gotten accustom to the antiquated laws regulating alcohol sales within the state but if you are new to the state here is a quick primer. Bottles of wine and spirits must be purchased from a P.L.C.B. store, no wait you can also buy wine produced in Pa. from the winery or a business associated with them. Only full cases of beer and malt beverages can be purchased from a beer distributor and you must buy six packs from a bar or six-pack store. Now that everything is crystal clear I hate to tell you that is only the tip of the regulatory iceberg. There are deals to be had in P.L.C.B. stores and I recommend visiting a “Premium Collection Store” for the best selection. The P.L.C.B. website and smart phone app makes it easier to navigate the state store system in Pennsylvania. I have listed the website and where to get their mobile app. I recommend taking a look at the Chairman’s Selection section whether you are in the store or online for the best deals available. Happy Hunting! www.finewineandgoodspirits.com For free mobile apps go to ITunes or The Google Play Store.
The Red Wines of the East Coast have never gotten the love that their White Wine counterparts have received over the years and in most cases for good reason. But that may change if an old Eastern European grape can live up to its promise of becoming the foundation on which the future of eastern Red Wine is built. The wine grape that I am talking about is Saperavi. This grape variety originated in the Georgian Republic of Russia and features a dark skin with
pink flesh. It is a teinturier variety of grape, meaning unlike most grapes that have uncolored flesh and produce clear juice a teinturier has red-tinted flesh that makes a vibrant richly colored wine. Saperavi vines are grown throughout the area connecting Asia and Europe know as the Caucasus and in various regions of the former Soviet Republic. Sapervai has long been viewed as an ideal ingredient for cheaper blended wines but in recent decades it has been proven to be capable of producing a varietal of high quality. The best Georgian-produced Saperavi comes from the Kakheti Region that is near its eastern border with Azerbaijan. These Georgian-made wines are available in the U.S. but you will have to do some searching to find them. The fact that this grape is late-ripening and thrives in a cooler climate while producing generous yields without sacrificing much in quality is the reason that vintners in the Finger Lakes and Central Pennsylvania are exploring its potential within their vineyards. I have mentioned in earlier posts the pioneering work done by the Standing Stone Vineyards and Winery with Saperavi but I have recently learned of a producing vineyard in Lewisburg, Pa. Chuck and Daneen Zaleski owners of Fero Vineyards and Winery have produced a varietal from Saperavi grapes grown in their Central Pennsylvania vineyard and made exclusively in their Lewisburg winery. Chuck Zaleski at Fero and Marti Macinski at Standing Stone are on the cutting edge of this exciting reinvention of an Old World stalwart. I am excited to have the chance to follow the evolution of the Saperavi wine grape in the Eastern United States from the persceptive of the wine makers themselves. For more information about these two fine wineries visit their websites at: www.standingstonewines.com and www.ferovineyards.com
There’s a new kid in town and that kid is James McCeney. James has established his Bridges Wine Co. in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh on the second floor of a former warehouse at 6901 Lynn Way. McCeney married a local girl and settled in Squirrel Hill after leading the life of a wine vagabond. James was thirteen when he started working summers at a winery which eventually lead him to Napa Valley, California where he attended the University of California, Davis studying viticulture and enology. To take part in two harvests a year he split his time between California, New Zealand and Australia but with his wonderlust still not satisfied he managed to find time to work in Burgundy, France. You are probably are wondering how McCeney produces his wine from the second floor of a warehouse in the East End of Pittsburgh. Bridges wine is fermented in Sonoma, California and shipped to Erie, Pennsylvania for bottling then delivered to Pittsburgh. James hopes to someday consolidate his operations entirely here in Pittsburgh. Bridges Wine Co. has two initial offerings, a 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a 2012 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel , both are available online at www.bridgeswineco.com. The 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is dark, rich and well-balanced with a nose of raspberries, strawberries and vanilla. The palate of spicy cherry is carried on refined tannins and a lively acidity into a long fleshy finish. 2012 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel is a deep purple wine that delivers with aromas of plum, black cherry and Asian spice that leads into flavors of ripe fruit. The structure is one of firm tannins and focused acidity with a hint of French Oak on the finish.
B.W.C. will soon be offering a Muscato that is now in the fermentation stage and is progressing as planned. James wanted to let everyone know that the tasting hours at his Point Breeze tasting room will be 12 pm – 6 pm Wednesday – Saturday and free shipping will be offered for the holidays.
I am happy to welcome James McCeney and his Bridges Wine Company to the winemaking family of Western Pennsylvania and as it is with any large and boisterous family there is always room for one more at the table.
Western Pennsylvania has more than its share of myths and mysteries. The B-25 that crashed into the Monongahela River near Downtown Pittsburgh but was never found or the reported U.F.O. landing site near Kecksburg are just two of the myths I have heard recounted over the years. None is more intriguing than the one about an elusive Pennsylvania winery that produces vinifera wines in a dry European-style with grapes from their own vineyards. I was beginning to doubt the existence of such a winery when driving through the beautiful Bedford County countryside I saw a signpost up ahead that read “Briar Valley Vineyards & Winery.” This was no mirage it really was the only winery in Pennsylvania to make only vinifera wine from their vineyards of all vinifera grapevines.
Tod and Jean Manspeaker are the owners of Briar Valley with Tod managing the vineyards and Jean the winemaker. To pursue their passion for winemaking Tod packed up his degree in accounting and Jean her M.B.A. and English Lit. degrees and left the 9 to 5, five day a week business world to join the “Glamorous” 5 to 9, seven day a week lifestyle of the winery. This dedication to excellence is reflected in their mission statement ” It’s all about the wine” and it really is, even if it takes handpicking leaves to allow more sunlight to reach the grapes, rejecting any batch of grapes that doesn’t meet their high standards or only using $1000 French Oak Barrels instead of using a lower cost option the wine always comes first. With that goal in mind they planted a second vineyard on the 100 acre farm that Tod’s father purchased in 1950 where he and his family raised quarter horses. Tod said they corrected any mistakes made in the first vineyard by planting the second vineyard on a southeastern facing slope with grape varieties perfect for the slate soil. He laughed and told me the best thing about raising grapes on his father’s old farm was “I have never been bucked off a grapevine!”
The terrior of Briar Valley can be tasted in their Proprietor’s Reserve Estate White 2013. This white is a blend of 50% Gewürztraminer, 26% Riesling and 24% Chardonnay and while it displays crisp citrus flavors what really makes this offering a star is the driving minerality that it draws from the slate-rich soils of Bedford County. This came as no surprise to me because after talking with Tod I found out we are both big fans of the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Finger Lakes, long known for their world-class signature dry-style Riesling. I usually judge a winery by their Cabernet Sauvignon but by default I have to judge Pennsylvania wineries by their Cabernet Franc because Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have proven to be difficult to ripen on the East Coast. I sampled a 2010 Cabernet Franc from Briar Valley and found it to be one of the best Pennsylvania Cab. Franc I have tasted. It has a full-body and supple tannins with flavors of red cherry and oak that has been fleshed out with the extra aging Jean gives her wines before release.
Tod could barely contain his enthusiasm for their newly released 2010 Chardonnay and soon-to-be released 2010 Merlot calling them “Spectacular.” Leading me through the tasting of the following three wines in his tasting room at 107 E. Pitt St. Bedford, Pa. he explained the nuances of each in a way only someone with an intimate knowledge of their production could. The following are my impressions of the wines I sampled that day. 2009 Proprietor’s Red: The award-winning 2009 Proprietor’s Red is one of the best reds grown and made in the state of Pennsylvania. Winemaker Jean Manspeaker has put her own spin on the quintessential Bordeaux blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes to produce a superbly crafted wine. Proprietor’s Rosé 2012: This is a truly dry Rosé made in the French Saignee method which produces the beautiful Rosé color and flavors we have come to expect from this traditional summer wine. Lively acidity and soft tannins combine with the flavors of red fruit to yield a very enjoyable Rosé. Chardonnay 2012: This is a dry Chardonnay but not at all like the bone-dry Chardonnay we have become accustom to from California. This wine has a good balance of acidity combined with a nice structure and the taste of citrus and apple. You can taste the terrior of Briar Valleys slate-rich soil in this Chardonnay.
The Manspeakers are not content to keep what they have learned about growing vinifera grapes and making winemaking to themselves. They have partnered with Juniata College to host the colleges’ enology students at the winery. The couple has been impressed by how intuitively the students understand every step of the winemaking process and their eagerness to learn the intricacies of the craft.
As the public’s taste in wine matures and evolves the Pennsylvania wine industry must continue to improve their products or lose customers to others that do change. Briar Valley Vineyards & Winery has taken a huge step in that direction with an innovative approach to the wine market. I wish them the best of luck but I know luck has very little to do with their success. Their success is built on a foundation of hard work, perseverance and smart planning. For more information go to http://www.briarvalleywinery.com or call 814-623-0900.
Standing Stone Vineyards to host a vertical tasting of their popular Saperavi on Sunday November 16, 2014. Tom & Marti Macinski become the first vintners in the nation to bottle the Saperavi grape under its newly recognized and rightful name. The N.Y. Wine & Food Classic double gold medal-winning 2012 vintage will be part of the November 16th tasting. This vintage is featured in the November 30th issue of Wine Spectator Magazine where it was awarded a 88 point rating. Owner and winemaker Marti Macinski will be leading the two Saperavi vertical tasting sessions Sunday afternoon at 1:00 and again at 3:00. This is a great opportunity for guests to learn from the leading expert on this up and coming wine grape. Tickets are $20 and include food pairings from Dano’s. Reservations can be made by calling 607-582-6051 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
I tried this wine purely on a recommendation made by Trib Total Media wine expert Dave DeSimone and I am glad that I did. 2013 Cossetti Dolcetto d’Asti is offered by the P.L.C.B. as a Chairman’s Selection on sale for $15.99 (Product code Luxury 33495). The Cossetti family have grown wine grapes and made wine since 1891 in the rolling hills of Castelnuovo Belbo. To keep the pure flavor and aromas of the delicate Dolcetto grapes they are fermented in stainless steel tanks. In the glass it displays a light ruby-red color with a floral nose. The flavors of cherries and red berries are contained in a medium body of fresh acidity and mild tannins. The finish is dry but retains some fruit flavors. I think if you pair this wine with Italian food you should avoid the red sauces and match it with the light sauces especially if they contain mushrooms or mild cheeses.
Good wine is good wine, it makes no difference where it came from or where you drink it.
Originally posted on Reijosfood:
Then to the topic; Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a typically rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes. For this wine grapes used in production are Corvina 50%, Corvinone 35%, Rondinella 10% Croatina & Dindarella 5%.The final result is a very ripe, raisiny, full-bodied wine with very little acid with over 15% alcohol content.
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It is no secret that I am a fan of Goulart Malbec simply because they consistently market a quality wine at a fair price. Bodega Goulart Malbec Clasico 2010 doesn’t disappoint on either of those points. The deep red color of this malbec proves to be an accurate prelude to flavors of red fruit carried in a firm body that displays a friendly structure. The surprisingly smooth tannins are held throughout a short finish. I.W.C. gave this offering an 88 point rating. It would be hard to find a glass of comparable malbec for less than the $11.99 a bottle price at P.L.C.B. stores or the even lower prices that can be found online.