Piece of Work

     If you are anything like me you love a good bargain. That is exactly what I found recently when I was browsing the “Chairman’s Selection” offerings in my local P.L.C.B. store. El Esteco Don David Reserve Malbec Calchaqui Valley 2016 was on sale for $9.99. Quite the bargain when you consider it has received a 91 point rating from James Suckling (June 2017) and 90 points and a “Smart Buy” from Wine Spectator (February 2018) plus several medals at international competitions.

This medium-bodied 100% Malbec displays flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum with an oak undertone, all in a well-structured wine. Surprisingly smooth tannins and a finish with a hint of chocolate rounds out this high altitude Argentinian Malbec.

Available at http://finewineandgoodspirits.com Product code 000078904 or in select stores. Check for store availability on website.

Conceito Contraste Tinto 2014

     Conceito Contraste Tinto 2014 is one of the Fine Portuguese wines from small family owned producers that is being offered by Silver Coast Imports. This Douro Valley old vine field red blend sports surprisingly firm tannins with red berry, plum and spice flavors showing nicely through mild oak undertone. 70% is oak barrel aged for 18 months. It was rated 89 pts by Robert Parker and 87 by Wine Enthusiast. Great to drink now and I see it continuing to improve in coming years.

http://silvercoastimports.com   email: cbento@silvercoastimports.com  267-236-4248

Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill

     It was a beautiful evening as we drove down the access road past row after row of

Photo Courtesy: Sand Hill Berries

manicured vines clinging to trellis on our way to Greendance Winery. We were driving through Sand Hill, a fruit and berry farm that is home to Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill. After parking in a nicely mowed field we were drawn to the winery by the music drifting through the trees. 

A crowd was lounging at tables spread throughout the patio area and it was easy to see why there was ongoing construction of an extended seating area to accommodate the ever-growing gatherings. 

Sand Hill was purchased in 1982 by Rick & Susan Lynn and Rob & Amy Schilling. When Rob asked if we would like to tour the facilities we gladly accepted. As we passed through different areas Rob described what function they served and some insight into the plans for the operation.

Tastings are free with the opportunity to do a tasting of all their premium wines for only $5. The Greendance premium wines are made from high quality grapes sourced from a grower in Eastern Pennsylvania. They are so particular about only using the highest quality Pennsylvania grown grapes in their premium wine that when the grapes are ready to pick they will sometimes send their own crews to harvest them.

Sweet wines are always the favorites at Pennsylvania wineries and it is no different at Greendance. Their Isabella is a blush that is on the sweeter side but is light in both body and alcohol. The soft and balanced structure of Isabella makes this easy drinking wine the perfect choice for a relaxing evening on the patio with friends. For the curious Greendance Winery has plenty of wine options for you to explore. The selections run the spectrum from red, white, sweet, dry, Rosé, blush, blends, Port, fruit and sparklers. An interesting new offering at the wine shop is Tango Red, a Greendance favorite, now being sold in a box.

Greendance Winery has a no outside food or alcohol policy but as my Australian friends say “No worries mate”because they have an excellent walk-up restaurant and a separate

Photo Courtesy: Greendance Winery

window that serves ice cream and desserts that are made on-site.

Sand Hill Berries and Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill are at 304 Deer Field Road Mount Pleasant, Pa. For more information please visit their websites.  http://sandhillberries.com  and  http://greendancewinery.com

 

Courtyard Winery 2015 Chambourcin

Courtyard Winery 2015 Chambourcin

     As we approached Northeast, Pa. during our recent visit to the Lake Erie Wine Region we were greeted by the obligatory downpour. Luckily, it was brief and by the time we pulled into the parking lot of Courtyard Winery the skies had already begun to clear. I had never been to Courtyard and was eager to taste their wines. The tasting room was very well designed with two bars, one for sweet and the other for dry. The classically styled wine library is decorated with wine barrels and the walls are covered by racks of archived wines. 

After tasting several of their dry Reds I decided on a wine that would be a perfect complement to picnic fare, Courtyard 2015 Chambourcin. This wine is barrel aged to help reduce the naturally high acidity of this grape. Courtyard 2015 Chambourcin is an easy drinking wine with red fruit flavors, light tannins and a smooth finish. Chambourcin pairs well with grilled meats or pasta with red sauce. The bright acidity and lighter body makes this Pa. Lake Erie wine similar to Pinot Noir in structure.

     Lake Erie Wine Country stretches almost 50 miles along the southern shore of Lake Erie between Harborcreek, Pennsylvania and Silver Creek, New York. On your drive you will pass through the largest grape-growing territory outside of California and the 23 wineries that call it home.        http://lakeeriewinecountry.org

Wine Library at Courtyard Winery
Wine Library at Courtyard Winery

2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon

     Occasionally someone will ask me for my thoughts on a wine pairing for a dinner party or a casual evening of grilling in the backyard with friends. I would always make the same mistake of only thinking about pairing the wine to the menu and budget. The problem with that approach is that I was overlooking the most important part of the equation, the guests themselves. 

I now consider who will be attending first before trying to choose a wine that will satisfy the criteria of both food pairing and budget. It is difficult to completely concentrate on the wine at these gatherings because there are so many distractions. With that thought in mind I attempt to please the most people I can by “Painting with a broad brush, using bold strokes”.

     J. Lohr is one of California’s more dependable large, mid-priced producers and one of my favorite go to wineries in situations like these. The 2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon is a solid choice in the settings I have described. 2015 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine that is not elegant but has enough character to fulfill the expectations of your guest. It is an easy drinking Cab from Paso Robles with mellow oak, medium tannins and cherry/blackberry flavors that evolve into a lingering fruit finish which is very typical of a Paso Robles Cabernet. Pricing in the $15-$20 range makes it an outstanding value for a wine of this quality. If you can’t find it in your area you should have little problem substituting another J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cab vintage as a replacement to fit your needs.

Are you planning a party and want to serve something new? J. Lohr can help with free recipe booklets which include wine pairings that you can download and print. Go to http://jlohr.com  click: “life”, then click: “entertaining”.

If you are feeling adventurous and have a few extra dollars to spend you might want to explore J. Lohr’s artisan Cabernet Sauvignon label “Hilltop”. Hilltop is a bigger Cab with a slightly higher price of $35. Like all J.Lohr wines it displays the benefits gained from J. Lohr practicing Bordeaux winegrowing techniques in their Central California Coast vineyards.

The Shape of Wine

     The theme of the Oscar-winning movie of a similar name was that something could be completely different and yet possess qualities that could make you fall in love. Chateau Niagara Kagor 2016 is just such an animal.

Jim and Cathy Baker make their Kagor from Saperavi grapes grown in their vineyard on the Niagara Plain in Newfane, NY. Kagor is traditionally made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes but its name comes from Cahors, France where the predominant grape variety in French Cahors wine is Malbec. Kagor is best described as a red dessert wine with a very long and interesting history. 

Jim Baker describes his Chateau Niagara Kagor 2016 taste profile as  “Decadent, lush rich cherry that morphs into cassis on the tongue. A sweet wine that pairs well with dark chocolate.”

     Jim gave me very detailed instructions on how to taste his Kagor. He told me to be patient with this wine and give it time to develop its flavors by waiting until they all were revealed, then taste it again over fine dark chocolate for a cherry cordial profile.

     Chateau Niagara 2016 Kagor won Bronze at the inaugural 2017  Saperavi World Prize (SapPrize) wine completion in Tibilis, Georgia (Russia). Chateau Niagara Kagor 2016 and all the Chateau Niagara wines are available at  http://chateauniagarawinery.com 

“From Russia with Love” Dr. Frank Cuvee d’ Amour 2014

 

     On a beautiful day in early June, my wife and I found ourselves standing at

View from Dr. Frank Wine Cellars Hammondsport, New York

the tasting bar of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, New York taking in the spectacular view of Keuka Lake. We were led through a tasting of Dr. Frank wines by someone who knows them better than anyone, none other than Fred Frank, grandson of the legendary Dr. Konstantin Frank. After sampling several excellent Dr. Frank wines that included a few fabulous “Sparklers” Fred walked across the room holding a bottle and said to me “I know you like to try the different wines” as he held it up to show me the label, “Cuvée d’ Amour 2014.

Cuvée d’ Amour is made from the fruit of the vitis Amurensis grape. Dr. Konstantin Frank was familiar with this extremely cold-hardy grape and brought it to the FLX from Russia. This grape species is native to the Asian Continent where it is known as the Amur grape in Russia and Shan Pu Tao in China.

The first thing I noticed as Fred poured the wine into my glass was its dark red color. Cuvée d’ Amour 2014 is a flavorful full-bodied red with bright acidity that fits nicely within its well-defined structure leading to what Dr. Frank aptly describes as a “Crisp finish reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux or Borolo.” I would lean towards the Bordeaux but it also has characteristic hints of several wines but they aren’t prominent enough to mention.

If you want to indulge your curiosity for something unique I would suggest trying Cuvée d’ Amour 2014. It is available online at http://drfrankwines.com or at their tasting room in Hammondsport, New York for $29.99.

Russia and China have invested a considerable amount of time and money into the development of vitis Amurensis. This grape has a long list of positive traits that makes it highly desirable in that region of the world. It is probably the most cold-hardy vitis grape at -30°C but while that fact is impressive this grape also has a strong resistance to disease including powdery mildew, white rot, grapevine anthracuose and black pox. Since it has no distinctive aroma it provides a “Blank Canvas” that will not disturb the aroma profile of varieties that it is being hybridized with.

The story life story of Dr. Konstantin Frank is a fascinating one and has been recounted by author Tom Russ in his book “Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank”. Fred Frank generously gifted a signed copy to me during our visit and I am very grateful for his kind gesture. You can purchase it on Amazon.com