Meadowbrook (Michigan) Wine and Food Festival

Saturday, August 22

Picture perfect weather and a gorgeous location among the lawns and gardens of the Meadowbrook Music Festival north of Detroit, the 2015 Meadowbrook Wine and Food Festival didn’t disappoint… at least not with the wines.

With five large tents housing more than 150 wines from 18 regions and featuring 9 Michigan wineries there was something for everyone.

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I spent my drink tickets principally on the Michigan wines.   As expected I found a few that were sweeter than I prefer but on the whole Michigan made a strong showing.

St. Julian Winery
Late Harvest Riesling
Established shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, St. Julian is one of Michigan’s oldest and most well-known wineries.    The Late Harvest Riesling is a sweet wine yet crisp and very approachable even for those, like me, who prefer dryer table wines.   The wine is smooth on the palate with notes of peach and honey.

Fieldstone Winery
Motor City Dry Red – Syrah
The most “local” of the local wineries pouring at the festival, Fieldstone is located in downtown Rochester Hills, about 30 minutes north of Detroit and a few miles from the festival site.  A local winery in that they make their wines here in southeast Michigan, Fieldstone sources their grapes from “all over,” including bringing the syrah in from California.   A new line, the Motor City Red is lovely: soft, dry and medium-bodied, with notes of black cherry and a pleasant minerally finish.   Locapour purists will argue this doesn’t classify as a local wine, and I agree.  But with results like this I’m more than happy to support local winemakers.

Warner Vineyards Winery
2 Cab Merlot
A Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend, this wine has nice notes of dark berries without being overly jammy.    Full-bodied with medium tannins, the wine has a nice, slightly “dusty” finish.

Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
I am a sucker for a good ice wine, and Warner’s didn’t disappoint.    The wine had a silky, rather than satiny, mouth feel and lovely notes of pear and honeysuckle.

Bel Lago
Pinot Noir “North”
Located in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, not far from Traverse City, Bel Lago grows a number of cool climate grapes including Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.    Their Pinot Noir was my choice for pairing with lunch.  Smooth, with soft notes of raspberry and cherry, medium-tannins, and a nice finish.   The wine held up well against the beef brisket BBQ nachos I had for lunch, balancing the smoky sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

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And speaking of food, for a festival advertised as a “Wine and Food Festival,” the food options were very slim.   Kroger, the largest grocery chain in Michigan and a sponsor of the event, had a large tent at the entrance to the event featuring a sampling of standard grocery-store deli fare: Boar’s Head turkey or ham sandwiches, cheese and coleslaw.   There were two food trucks: The Pistons Maplewood BBQ and Chick-A-Dee.    The Maplewood BBQ beef brisket nachos were very good, but there’s no question this is NOT a food festival.

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Seven Lakes Vineyard
Cappricio
I started my day with the Seven Lakes Capriccio, and at the end of the day this remained my favorite of all the wines sampled.    Nice nose with light notes of cherry blossoms.  In the mouth, the wine is juicy rather than jammy with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has a very light pepper which balances the fruitiness, yielding a very nice wine.   Looking forward to opening the bottle I brought home.

Cabernet Franc
I finished out the afternoon with samples of two grapes I had come to love during my time exploring Connecticut Wineries.     Seven Lakes’ Cab Franc was surprisingly earthy – surprising to me who had grown so accustomed to the very fruit-forward cherry I found in Connecticut Cab Francs.   Full-bodied with lovely notes of grass and well-balanced tannins and a smooth finish.

Dizzy Daisy
Marechal Foch
Dizzy Daisy’s Marechal Foch, like the Cab Franc which I sampled shortly afterward, came as a surprise – in this case a shock… it was sweet!    I had my first encounter with Marechal Foch almost seven years ago when I first started traveling the CT Wine Trail.   Finding the grape to come across as very young and green, it took me quite a few samplings before I came to appreciate it, and even longer before I became a fan.   Like so many other CT reds it was very fruit forward, but it was always a dry wine.    As a semi-sweet wine, the fruit notes were much stronger and also smoother than in other Marechal Foch’s I’ve tried.  The additional sugars balanced out the “greenness” I often detected, and as a result I suspect Dizzy Daisy’s is more approachable to a majority of wine drinkers.   But as my preference leans towards dry wines, I found this to be less interesting.

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It’s hard to glean a lot about wines and winemakers from 1 oz samples, especially when you are sampling across a range of wineries.   With people lined up behind you, there’s not much time to chat.  But as a small introduction to the wines of my new home state it was a great afternoon.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Better Know the Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA Map by VinoVerve.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at VinoVerve.com.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

On my quest to be prepared for the DrinkLocalWine.com conference I am moving on from the Augusta AVA on to Hermann. The town of Hermann was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia in the 1830’s after they sent school teacher George Bayer to purchase land where they could establish a German utopia. Bayer selected the area that is now known as Hermann because it reminded him of his childhood home in Germany. Unfortunately the land was not ideal for traditional farming or industry, but was perfect for viticulture. Lucky for us!

Check out the new Hermann AVA page!

 

 

Better Know an AVA Video – Augusta AVA

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I did say that the second video version of Better Know an AVA would be for the Western Connecticut Highlands. But several things occurred. First, I did not anticipate how long it would take me to produce a video. And B. I forgot that I am going to Missouri in April. April 1st. So, clearly Missouri AVAs are prioritized.

First and foremost, the Missouri Win(e)ding Road page was updated as has the Augusta AVA page….

Lastly….

Well, we have video.

Spending Time With… McLaughlin Vineyard’s Coyote Blue

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Hats off to Gretchen for covering for me this week.  I usually try to stay ahead of my posting – writing at least one or two posts a weekend.  If I’m really good, I can often be 3 or 4 weeks ahead, taking the pressure off if I don’t have time to sit down on a particular weekend.

Unfortunately, I skipped too many weekends recently, and the posts caught up with me.  And of course it would happen on a week when I was scheduled to be out of town at a conference.  Oh well…  I’ll get back on track for next week.

So if I wasn’t writing posts – what was I doing last weekend you ask?  Well, as it was Halloween and quite chilly here in New England, I built a fire in the fireplace, roasted a pork loin, opened a bottle of McLaughlin’s Coyote Blue wine and waited for the trick-or-treaters.

McLaughlin Vineyards was one of the first wineries I visited when I began my Connecticut Win(e)ding Road adventures just about 2 years ago.  I like their wines, the coziness of the winery and tasting room, and most importantly love hanging out with Dee, the winery host.  I find myself returning fairly regularly and often dragging friends and relatives along with me.  I’ve been back a number of times since that first trip, including attending one of their Blind Tasting events at which great fun was had by all.

On one of my earliest jaunts, I picked up a bottle of McLaughin’s most popular white, the Coyote Blue, a blend of Aurore (add another grape to the wine century list!) and Vidal Blanc grapes.  At the time of the tasting I found myself really drawn to the hint of  green apple in this semi-sweet wine.  The balance of the green apple tartness of the Aurore with the sweet Vidal grapes made for a rather appealing wine; certainly one I wanted to get to know a bit better.

I recently pulled that bottle out of the cellar where it had been for probably a good 18 months.  I’m not sure why I waited so long to open it, but now am glad I did.  The additional bottle aging softened the wine a bit; it’s lost some of the tart crispness I noted during my initial tasting, but the apple feels more integrated with the wine overall.   Keeping to my “spending time with…” protocols, the first glass was drunk on its own, not paired with food.  The nose was a bit musty with earthy notes, making me worry that perhaps I had left the wine too long before drinking.  But my fears were for naught.   The wine retains much of the sweet richness of the vidal blanc grapes which provide a nice context for the apple notes.  There’s still a touch of tartness on the finish which balances the sweetness and results in a more satisfying wine.

My second glass I paired a roast pork loin with rosemary potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.  I deliberately chose the wine because of the apple notes which, as to be expected, paired well with the pork.  Together the two were a really nice complement.  The pork and rosemary softened some of the green apple tartness of the wine, while the apple, not surprisingly, really brought out the richness of the pork.  I’ve often paired hard cider with pork, but found myself really liking the softer, yet still crisp, notes of the apple in the wine.  It’s a more delicate balance and worked well with this meal.

As that was the only bottle of Coyote Blue in the cellar, I expect next weekend will find me back on the road heading west to Newtown for yet another stop at McLaughlin.

Spending Time With… Greenvale Vineyard’s 2008 Vidal Blanc

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I recently pulled out the bottle of Greenvale’s 2008 Vidal Blanc that I brought home from my August visit.   I had been quite impressed with the wine just from the 1 oz tasting I had sampled that afternoon.   My initial impressions were of the 2007 vintage which had soft notes of pear on the front and tart green apple on the back, an overall pleasant and refreshing combination.

Uncorking the 2008, I found myself looking forward to experiencing the differences between the vintages.   The nose retains the touch of lushness that is so often characteristic of vidal blanc wines, and that really comes out in the ice wines or late harvest wines.

In the mouth, the notes of pear are still present on the front, but the sharper, tarter notes in the back had notes of grapefruit as well as green apple.  I paired the wine with a crisp green salad with grilled chicken, and I suspect the citrus vinaigrette brought out some of the grapefruit notes I was picking up.   I did find that salad toned down the acid bite on the finish of the wine, and together the two worked really well.

The wine is nicely fruity, well balanced, crisp and quite refreshing, and I have it on the list to pick up a few more bottles next time I’m in the Newport area.  It stands well on its own, and in addition to pairing it with salads, it should work equally well with grilled shrimp or a spicy chicken stir fry, and I’m looking forward to trying it with my favorite Thai Green Curry.

Cellardoor Winery ~ The Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Logo from Cellardoor Winery's website

I took my time over the tasting menu, and it was hard to settle on just six.  Some of the choices I passed up this trip included Celladoor’s Pinot Gris and Syrah, and some interesting red blends.  But I decided to go for wines that I, perhaps, don’t encounter quite as frequently, starting with the

Viognier Pale yellow in color, with a lovely, rich honeysuckle nose.  In the mouth the wine is dry and crisp with a really nice bite of acid on the finish.  Initially the wine is very smooth on the tongue, with light notes of peach in the front.  The wine is lightly oaked, providing a slight smokiness that gives it just a bit of bitterness with subsequent sips.  The smokiness should mellow slightly when paired with food, and this should be a very versatile wine for pairing.

Cellardoor’s website features a wine & food pairing section, providing some very specific suggestions and featuring recipes for some of those suggestions.  For the Viognier, they suggest pairing it with “wild mushroom risotto, mussels in white wine sauce, spicy Thai peanut chicken, or camembert cheese topped with apricot morstada.”  An interesting range…

Vino DiVine I only chose 2 whites that afternoon, and for my second selected Cellardoor’s Vidal Blanc, Vino DiVine.  The color is also a very pale yellow, although it is slightly darker than the Viognier.  The nose surprised me a bit – very light, very subtle with the barest hints of citrus.   Unoaked, the wine, while dry, was a bit sweeter than than the Viognier, which is what one would expect from a Vidal Blanc.  Citrus notes predominate across the palate with light sweet/tart notes of grapefruit and the rich, but slightly bitter, notes of orange zest/orange pith.  There’s a higher level of acid in this wine, and I found it hit the tongue in the middle rather than in the back, where I’m more used to finding it.  As a result it gives the wine a bit of tanginess that worked well with the citrus notes.  There also were subtle notes of earthiness from some light mineral content that balanced the wine, toning down slightly the brightness of the citrus.  A very interesting wine, and of the two whites, my favorite.

Cellardoor’s recommended food pairings include “fresh chilled shrimp dipped in a spicy pepper sauce, lobster salad with a mango dressing, soft goat cheese with tarragon, or fish and chips.”

Prince Valiant My first selection from among the reds was a blend of Zinfandel (46%), Mouvedre (23%), Tempranillo (23%) and Malbec (8%).  I was as intrigued by the grape combination as I was caught by the name.  The color is a medium purple, and the nose is fruity and lightly peppery.  In the mouth, the wine is definitely fruit forward with notes of black raspberry hitting right on the front.  There are strong notes of pepper and spice on the finish, and over time the pepper’s heat starts to dominate.  I found this to be an interesting wine, and I don’t think a 1 oz tasting does it justice – although one could say that about any wine.  But in this case, I think the wine is more complex than I was able to appreciate from just a tasting.  Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to bring a cooler and ice packs with me on this trip.  I think the fact that I was staying overnight threw me, and I didn’t pack as I would for a normal day on the wine trails.  As the day was pretty warm, I didn’t want to ruin the wine by buying a bottle only to have to leave it in the car on a hot afternoon, so I’ll just have to make the sacrifice of making another trip to Maine in the future.

Cellardoor’s suggested pairings: bbq pork ribs, aged cheeses, and hard salami.

Artist Series Grenache Each year, Cellardoor crafts one limited edition wine and pairs with a local artist who produces the painting featured on the label for their “Artist Series.”  20% of the proceeds of the sale of this wine is donated to the Bay Chamber Concerts, a music festival and school in nearby Camden, Maine.  This year, the Artist Series wine is a double-gold award winning Grenache.

The color is a lovely rich ruby color.  The nose is fruity with rich notes of plum and black raspberry.  In the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied, smooth on the front and strong tannins on the finish.  More lush than the Prince Valiant, the wine opens up in the mouth.  There are light berry notes and some earthiness on the front, and smoky pepper on the finish.  The heat of the pepper starts at the back of the mouth and actually extends into the chest, and one of the things I noted is that the finish hits the back of the nose as well as the throat.  It might not be to everyone’s liking, but I found the wine to be a more fully sensory experience than I often experience.  I really liked this wine, and will definitely be going back for seconds, or perhaps ordering a bottle or two from Cellardoor’s website.

Recommended pairings: “rich cheeses, duck, wild game, and salmon.”

Monti al Mare “Mountains & Sea,” my final wine of the day was a Chianti-style blend of Sangiovese (70%), Malbec (24%) and Syrah (6%).  The color is a dark, bright ruby, and those is fruity, rich, and lush with notes of black currant.  Medium-bodied, the wine has the smoothest finish of the three reds I tasted that afternoon, and lovely notes of dark berries, black cherry and plum.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a bite of heat, but note enough to overpower the wine or the smoothness of the finish.   I liked this wine, and if I had brought a cooler, would definitely have picked up a bottle for more leisurely sampling later.  But I still found that Grenache calling to me; I don’t know if I would say it was my favorite of the afternoon, but it was definitely the one I was most intrigued by.

Cellardoor’s suggested food pairings for the Monti al Mare include “baked pasta, herb-encrusted rack of lamb, and aged cheeses.”

With only one selection remaining, I left the reds and moved on to the dessert wines.  I’m a sucker for dessert wines, loving their lush, silky sweetness – and if there’s a dessert wine on the menu, it will usually find it’s way onto my tasting menu.

Serendipity Of Cellardoor’s several “Maine-inspired” wines, I opted for a dry Riesling infused with 20% pure Maine maple syrup.  To date, or at least as well as I can remember, I have only tried one other maple wine, the Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur which I found at last year’s Vermont Wine Festival.  While, obviously not as rich or concentrated as a liqueur, Cellardoor’s Serendipity is a lovely dessert wine.  Pale gold in color, the nose is almost vidal-like with a rich, sweetly fruity nose similar to an ice wine.  In the mouth, the wine is rich and smooth with a touch of apricot from the riesling balancing the dominant, but not overpowering, note of the maple syrup.  The result is very interesting – in my notes, I likened it to fruit pancakes in a glass.  Definitely worth inclusion among anyone’s tasting selections.

With my tasting finished, I made a mental note to stop again on a future Maine trip, although perhaps next time at the vineyards themselves.

Greenvale Vineyard ~ The Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

We kicked off the tasting with the 2008 Rosecliff Pinot Gris. Like all Greevnale’s wines, the Pinot Gris is estate-grown and these vines are about 10 years old.  The color is a medium yellow-gold, darker and richer than many of the whites I’ve encountered here in New England.  The nose is soft with light notes of honey.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the result is a crisp wine that starts cleanly and finishes on subtle notes of green apple.  There’s a nice balance of acid that works well with the tangy slightly sourness of the green apple for a refreshing experience overall.

2007 Chardonnay The Chardonnay, as opposed to the Chardonnay Reserve, is produced from the younger Chardonnay vines, and aged in a combination of French Oak (52%) and Stainless Steel (48%).  The color is a medium yellow, and the nose is soft and creamy with very light floral notes and just a hint of vanilla.  In the mouth the wine is really lovely, soft, smooth and creamy on the front with a light touch of acid on the finish providing a nice balance.  Light citrus notes, primarily lemon, play with notes of creamy butter and vanilla for a rich, satisfying experience.  This will pair very well with a wide variety of foods, but also stand up on it’s own.  Definitely one of the stars of Greenvale’s current line-up.

2007 Chardonnay Select. The Chardonnay Select is made from older Chardonnay vines, planted in 1983.  It’s 100% oak aged, but in older French oak barrels to ensure a softer, more subtle oaking.  The color, while still falling within the medium yellow range, is lighter than the previous two wines, and the nose is earthy with hints of grass.  In the mouth, the wine, while still rich, is much sharper than the Chardonnay.  There are notes of cream and vanilla which indicate it’s moving toward that lushness I found in the Chardonnay, but it’s not there yet.  The citrus notes, again primarily lemon, are stronger in this one as well, although I also detected notes of grass which I didn’t pick up in the Chardonnay.   The acid is also much stronger in the Select than it was in the Chardonnay, and somewhat overpowers the finish.   Given 6-9 months, this will be a really beautiful  wine, but it’s not quite there yet.  That being said, it was educating to taste it now, particularly juxtaposed with the Chardonnay, and be able to see the potential in the wine.  If you’re looking to start a wine collection, I would definitely add this to list of wines to pick up now.

2008 Chardonnay Select.  While this wine is not yet available for sale (although I believe it will be soon), Kristen did have it available for tasting.  Like the 2007 Chardonnay Select, this is produced from the older vines and aged for 9 months in the older French Oak barrels.  Another very interesting contrast to the previous two wines.  The color is deeper and more golden.  The nose is soft, deep and fruity with light citrus notes.  In the mouth, the wine is still young; strong notes of grapefruit and a somewhat strong acid finish combine to produce just a touch of bitterness on the end.  The wine hasn’t yet developed much of the creamy vanilla butteriness I found in the other two Chardonnay’s, but there is a smoothness on the front of the wine that speaks to it’s potential.  Given another year or so in the bottle, I believe this wine will mature and soften into a lovely wine.

2008 Vidal Blanc Grown from Greenvale’s oldest vines, this is another very nice wine, and while not as strong as the Chardonnay, definitely one of the brighter stars on the current Greenvale wine list.  The color is a pale yellow;  the nose is lush and soft with rich notes of apricot.   It has a bit of the vidal lushness that you find so often in the sweeter dessert wines, but the effect isn’t as concentrated.  In the mouth, the wine is more complex than I anticipated with soft, subtle notes of pear on the front which develop into the slight tartness of green apple in the mid-back range of the tongue.  The wine has a nice balance of acid which gives it a really crisp finish, but it never completely loses the faint sweetness from the pear.  This will pair well with seafood, chicken, salads, and spicier foods such as Thai.

Some of Greenvale's vineyards; the Sakonnet River is in the background

The last of the whites was the Skipping Stone White.  A blend of 90% Cayuga and 10% Vidal, from the first encounter this wine was not anything I was expecting.  The color, while still in the yellow rather than straw category, is the lightest of all the whites.   The nose, which I anticipated to be perhaps slightly floral or have citrus notes, smelled like nothing so much as grape jelly.  Yes, you read that right – if I hadn’t been told this was a Cayuga and Vidal blend, the nose would have led me to believe there were Concord grapes here.  The Concord flavors carried over into the mouth as well.  The sweetest of all the whites (although it is still a dry wine), the wine is very juicy on the front with lush notes of grape jelly.  The finish is dry although the acid isn’t as strong in this wine as it was in several of the previous wines.  Kristen told me that this was Greenvale’s most popular wine, and I’m not surprised.  Those who like their wines a bit sweeter will really like this, and I found the Concord grape notes to be quite pleasant once I got over my initial surprise.   Don’t be put off by my Concord-grape description, this is an eminently drinkable wine and will appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers.

The one red available on the menu that afternoon was the 2005 Elms Meritage. A blend of all three of Greenvale’s estate grown red grapes, the Meritage is 60% Cabernet Franc, 38% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.  The vines are some of their younger ones ranging between 11 and 14 years old.  In addition to the initial aging in French Oak, Greenvale also bottle ages all their reds for an additional 2-3 years.  The nose has that very distinctive New England “twang” or tanginess that I’ve come to know and love.  I mentioned it to Kristen, who agreed, and we spent a delightful few minutes trying to adequately describe it.  I likened it to the tang of salt air in the Fall; she countered with “chalky granite” which I also get.  The word that we eventually came to is flinty, that smell you get from wet rocky soil after a hard rain…

I’m still working on the description.

Back to the wine…  In the mouth the wine is a little like Alice Through the Looking Glass, everything was the opposite of what I expected.  The predominant notes I picked up were pepper and cherry, but the pepper is on the front and the cherry on the finish.  It shook things up in a rather delightful way.  The pepper, while strong, is not overpowering and hits you with a nice sharp kick of heat in the front before really opening up in the mouth.  That initial kick of heat quickly settles down to a warm glow throughout the mouth at which point the fruit starts to pull through.  The finish is smooth with notes of just-ripe cherries.  This wine would be best paired with stronger, heartier meats and cheeses, and Kristen mentioned that when paired with a strong, creamy cheese like a Blue Cheese, the pepper settles down considerably.

Greenvale is also close to releasing their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  All of their wines are produced in limited quantities and that combined with the 2-3 year bottle aging for the reds means they often sell out of their reds well before the next vintage is ready for release.  I’ll definitely be watching their website and planning a return visit once the Cab Franc is released.

The Wines of Northwinds

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The tasting kicked off that afternoon with the Traminette, altogether a very lovely wine and my favorite of the afternoon.  The nose is very aromatic, with strong floral notes – very pretty.   The wine is crisp and refreshing, with very light notes of sweetness from subtle fruit flavors, maybe a hint of peach, that blend well with the floral notes in the nose.  The finish is crisp with a nice balance of acid.  This is a great sipping wine as well as a wine that should pair well with a wide range of foods.  I liked it so much I actually went home with two bottles – unusual for me.

Next up was the Zephyr.  Because this is the one Northwinds wine that uses non-estate grown grapes, this wine must be labeled differently from the others.  What I loved about Northwinds is that they really embraced that regulation, producing a bottle and label that was not only distinct from their other wines, but distinctive in and of itself.  The wine is a blend of their estate-grown Traminette and Sauvignon Blanc brought in from off-site.  The nose still has the pretty, floral characteristics of the Traminette, but it’s tempered by the Sauvignon Blanc, and as a result is not quite as aromatic as the Traminette.  In the mouth the wine is smooth and refreshing, although not as crisp as the Traminette.  There are also some grassy notes in this one which temper the floral notes.  It’s not a bad wine, and a lot of people, including many around me that afternoon who will like this wine very much.  But I found myself definitely preferring the crisper, more aromatic Traminette.

Last up for the whites was the Vidal Blanc.  Darker in color than the previous two which were more of a pale yellow, the Vidal Blanc is more of a light gold color.  The nose is lovely with sweet floral notes of orange blossom and peach.  In the mouth, the Vidal Blanc, like the previous two, tends more towards the floral rather than the fruity, although the flavors are more subtle in the mouth than in the nose.  I definitely picked up the orange of the orange blossom as well as some light grassiness which provided a bit of depth and kept the wine from being sweet.  The finish is fairly smooth with just a light touch of acid.  Not as crisp as the Traminette, I’d be more likely to drink this wine with food rather than on it’s own.  Still, overall a nice wine, and for those who like their whites tending toward the sweet rather than the dry, this is a nice find.

With that we moved on to the single Rosé.  The most distinctive thing about the Rosé is its color, a beautiful amber gold color.  A color one associates more often with late harvest dessert wines, not Rosés, a comment which I blurted out as soon as I saw the wine.  The Rosé is a blend of three table grapes, the Himrod, Vanessa and Jupiter grapes.  The result is not your typical Rosé, and for those, like me, who often shy away from Rosés finding them too light-bodied and, often, too sweet, this one is definitely worth a try.  the nose is soft and fruity, almost like a late harvest nose.   That combined with the unconsciously led me to expect a much sweeter wine than the one I found.  In the mouth, the wine is much drier than I expected, although until I noted my surprise I hadn’t realized the extent to which I was expecting a sweet wine.  There is a light sweetness, but as with the other Northwinds wines, the overall notes are floral rather than fruity, including a hint of peach blossom.  The finish has a pleasant bite of acid, although overall the wine is smooth and rich in the mouth.  Definitely not what I was expecting from a Rosé.

From the Rosê the tasting proceeded to the first of Northwinds two reds, Boreas a blend of Cabernet Franc (85%) and St. Croix (15%), both estate-grown.   Garnet colored, with a dry, dusky nose with subtle notes of black cherry.  In the mouth, the wine echoes the subtle notes of black cherry found in the nose, with a slight smoke from the Hungarian and American oak barrels.  On the lighter side of medium-bodied, I found the wine didn’t really open up in the mouth, although subsequent sips did provide some layering of flavors and smoke.  The wine should pair well with chicken and lighter meats, such as grilled pork, but I don’t feel it’s robust enough to stand up to the heavier meats such as beef, lamb or veal.  I was somewhat disappointed with this wine, really wanting it to open up more in the mouth.

And last, but not least, the tasting concluded with the St. Croix. Dark garnet, with a really nice soft, rich dusky nose with the faintest hints of fruit.  The wine is medium-bodied, smooth and richer than the Boreas, with interesting notes of grass and earth as well as leather from the oaking.  As with the nose, there are  faint notes of dar berries, but the predominant notes are grass and earth.  I definitely preferred this over the Boreas.  This should pair well with a variety of foods.

I went home that afternoon with two bottles of the Traminette – unusual for me to go home only with whites, and with two bottles of anything.  A 1oz sip, while giving you a sense of the wine, isn’t really enough to truly understand the wine.   I really don’t know if I am going to love something until I have the opportunity to linger over a whole glass as well as pair the wine with food.   Therefore, my standard practice is to bring home a single bottle of wines that intrigued me during the tasting.  Depending on the wine, I’ll either put in the cellar (makes that dark back corner of my basement sound so grand to call it a cellar) to sit for a few months up to a year, or put it in the rack to be opened soon.   This gives me the opportunity to better explore the wine before deciding it’s something I want to invest in having on hand.  It’s this practice that turned me into a Cabernet Franc lover.  The first couple times I tried Cab Franc here in Connecticut, I really wasn’t sure, often feeling upon first sip that the wines were pale versions of their more robust Cabernet Sauvignon cousins.   But there was something there that intrigued me, so I brought home a bottle from one or two wineries.  Let them breathe for a good 20-30 minutes after opening, paired them with food, and found a whole new wine to love.  So to go home with two bottles was a definite departure from routine for me, but I really liked that Traminette.

I’ll have to make a mental note to head back in late September to try the Riesling.

Connecticut Valley Winery ~ Whites and Specialty Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

In addition to being voted Best Connecticut Small Winery at the Big E competition, Connecticut Valley also won the distinction of being the Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail’s favorite winery.  The whole group loved both the winery and the wines – and trust me, they are not an easy group to please!

The tasting menu starts off with the

Chardonnel A hybrid grape, the result of grafting Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grapes together, the result is a lovely, crisp, refreshing white wine – one of my favorites across the Connecticut wine trail.  Like all of the Connecticut Valley wines, the Chardonnel has only a light touch of oak.  A pale yellow color with a soft, lightly fruity nose with notes of apricot and peach, the wine is soft and silky in the mouth with light notes of peach and bright citrus and a soft buttery finish.  The Chardonnel would pair well with a wide variety of foods, but I prefer it on it’s own – lightly chilled, it’s a perfect wine to relax with at the end of the day.

Dolce Vita An estate-grown Cayuga White, Dolce Vita is proprietor Tony Ferraro’s favorite wine, according to his son, Jason, who was my host for my third and most recent tasting.   The color is an extremely pale straw.  The nose is soft and both fruity and floral with lovely notes of orange blossom.  In the mouth the wine has subtle notes of pineapple and touches of melon.  On my most recent visit, the gentleman next to me during the tasting said he was picking up watermelon.  I took another sip and thought about it and could get just the barest hint of the watermelon he was experiencing, but for me the overall impression was that of pineapple.  Regardless, it is a lovely wine.

The next three wines, the Specialty Wines, are all fruit-infused wines, and as Jason Ferraro described them “the dangerous wines.”  First up is the

Just Peachy 75% Chardonnay and 25% Seyval Blanc infused with a peach essence, the result is a delightful, soft, eminently drinkable table wine.  The color is a soft gold.  The nose is soft and peachy, but not overpoweringly so.  In the mouth, you realize at once this is not a fruit wine – the Chardonnay/Seyval base produces a dry, lightly oaked table wine and the peach essence provides a depth of fruit that blends beautifully with the notes already present in the grapes.  The result is a delightful, not-sticky-sweet, wine that would pair well with spicy dishes, chinese and even pork.

Raspberry Delight Like the Just Peachy, the Raspberry Delight is a white table wine infused with raspberry essence.  The result produces a very pink wine.  The nose is soft raspberry; a more subtle nose than I had anticipated.  In the mouth, the wine is also more subtle than I anticipated.  There are strong raspberry notes, but rather than overpowering the wine, they produce a bright, crisp, tanginess at the start that smooths out to a lightly sweet finish.   I definitely preferred the Just Peachy to the Raspberry Delight, but the Raspberry Delight has it’s charms.

Orange Delight This is vintner Jason Ferraro’s favorite wine, as well as one of my favorites, to my great surprise.  I did not anticipate liking this as much as I did.  As it was being poured and described, I expected the orange to be too strong a flavor, overpowering the wine altogether.  I have never been so pleased to be proved wrong.  A 50/50 combination of Orange Muscat and Vidal Blanc grapes, this is a semi-dry wine.  Like the Dolce Vita, the color is a very pale straw.  The nose is soft with strong notes of orange floral.  In the mouth the orange, rather than being too sweet, has a slightly bitter/tart edge that balances the fruity sweetness and creates some depth and complexity in the wine that is really interesting.  Overall it’s a very different wine, and not the kind of wine people will be on the fence about – you’ll either like or you won’t.  Regional wine judges and critics do like it, and it’s won multiple medals in competitions, including a perfect score at the Fingerlakes Wine Competition.  One judge liked it so much that after the competition, he called the Ferraros directly to tell them how much he loved the wine – now that’s a fan!

Connecticut Valley also produces two sparkling whites:  the first a blend of chardonnel and cayuga and the second a spumanti produced from the orange muscat grapes.  Like all sparkling wines, neither is included on the tasting menu, but I’ve promised myself I’d stop back and pick up a bottle of each.

Next up: The Reds, including the only wine in the Northeast allowed to bill itself as a Chianti.

Four Sisters Winery ~ The Whites & Rosés

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, December 1st.

The winery is housed in a ranch-style house with the tasting room located in a large open room in the back of the house.  As we made our way back, we discovered that despite it being close to the end of the day, the tasting room was fairly busy and all the spots at the bar were taken.  So Maree and I hung out for a bit, browsing the gift shop and admiring the extensive and very creative samples of custom labels that Four Sisters offers for people who would like to order custom labels for their wine.

The folks ahead of us at the bar had seemingly settled in for the afternoon, and the staff didn’t seem inclined to move them along despite the fact that there were now another 4-6 people waiting with us for spots at the bar.  But finally after about 15-20 minutes a couple spaces cleared, and Maree and I were able to start our tasting.  We had each purchased the 10 tastings for $5 package and decided 10 wines was more than enough for each of us to get a full sampling of the Four Sisters range of wines, so we skipped our usual “let’s coordinate our selections” and just focused on our own choices.

I kicked off my tasting with the

Seyval Reserve Like most of the whites I’ve tried here in the Northeast, the Seyval Reserve is a very pale yellow color.  The nose has lovely light floral notes, and in the mouth the wine is light, crisp and fruity with soft notes of melon and almost no citrus.  The finish is light and crisp, and this wine would pair well with seafood or grilled chicken.

Vidal Blanc Next up for me was the Vidal Blanc.  As anticipated this was a little sweeter than the Seyval although it is still a pleasant, dry table wine.  The color is very pale, almost straw, and the nose is grassy with subtle notes of green pepper.  In the mouth the wine is lightly tart with citrus notes, particularly lemon.  The finish is smooth with a slight smokiness from the oaking.

Cayuga Over the past year I have become a real fan of Cayuga whites.  When I first started on the Connecticut Wine Trail in October 2008, I wasn’t really sure what I thought of the Cayuga; interesting certainly, particularly given I hadn’t really encountered Cayuga before, but not something I found overly impressive.  Over time, though, as I’ve tried more local Cayuga wines and blends, I’ve found myself really liking this grape, and the Four Sisters’ Cayuga is no exception.  Also a pale yellow, almost straw color, the nose is extremely clean – in fact there’s almost no nose.  Clean is also the best word to describe the experience in the mouth: light, crisp, smooth, the wine has light citrus notes, low acid, a pleasantly smooth finish and just a hint of sweetness.  This would make a good “lunch” wine, pairing well with salads or light pasta dishes.

Niagara The last of the whites I sampled was the Niagara, made from Niagara grapes.  The tasting notes describe it as “spark[ing] childhood memories of eating grapes off the vine.”  I don’t know why that didn’t clue me in that it was going to be a sweet wine, but I found myself surprised by the sweetness when I tasted it.  The nose is light with nice floral notes, and in the mouth the wine has notes of melon and a touch of honey.  It’s a very nice wine, but as I definitely prefer drier table wines, this was not one of my overall preferences of the afternoon.

I had also selected one of the Blushes, the

Merrill Blush I admit I tried this because I was intrigued by the tasting notes which read “enjoyed by traditional wine lovers,” and found myself wondering what on earth that meant.  Is the implication that traditional wine lovers don’t like blushes?  And what is a traditional wine lover anyway?  On tasting I discovered a fairly complex wine with an interesting spicy nose (unexpected after the predominant floral notes among the whites), notes of melon and a touch of lemon on the palate which produces a semi-sweet blush with tart notes at the end that give the wine some bite.  As someone who definitely prefers dry wines, I often don’t buy or serve blushes finding them too sweet for my tastes. But the tartness at the end gave this wine some kick and, for me, made it more interesting than other blushes I’ve tried.  Perhaps that’s what Four Sisters is getting at with their tasting notes for “traditional wine lovers” read “people who prefer drier wines.”

That concluded the first half of the tasting, next on to the Reds…

Continued on Thursday, December 10th.