VinoVerve in the News

The sword is mightier than…. well fill in the blank yourself.


Earlier this year, I visited a friend, Arlynn Lieber Presser who was undertaking a project to visit all of her Facebook friends in 2011. Since then she has gotten quite a bit of publicity and some of it has rubbed off…. on VinoVerve. I was on Good Morning America (albeit somewhat passively).

Until GMA decides that they want to know about local wine…. hint, hint.

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

With Thanksgiving over, the inevitable slide into the Christmas holidays has begun. Usually in the weeks before Thanksgiving, this depresses me. However, this year I got the opportunity to taste a wine that made me wish for the arrival of holiday and mistletoe.

The Biltmore Estate has been producing wines since the 1970s and presently producing wines from both estate and contract grown grapes. VinoVerve had its first taste of wines from the estate when Marguerite Barrett first tasted the Century White on 2009’s Open That Bottle Night.  Besides good wine, I love the sense of history that comes from the Biltmore Estate and their wines.

The Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II a scion of the great Vanderbilt family.  Being the youngest of his father’s eight, the bulk of his father’s wealth went to his older brothers, but G.W. was not left penniless.  He build the Biltmore with the plan to pursue intellectual pursuits which he did, including experiments with horticulture, animal husbandry and silvaculture.  Unlike many intellectuals of his time, his goal was to make the estate self-sustaining.

In furtherance of this goal, GWV’s grandson began the winery.  Starting with French-American hybrid grapes, the estate is now growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Viognier.  The wine makers are using North Carolina grapes as well as those from California and Washington to produce award winning wines.

The Christmas at Biltmore® White Wine is the perfect wine for a holiday meal or party.  It is fruity and off-dry to semi-sweet which will match perfectly with spicy foods.  It is lovely for sipping in a crowded party and if sweeter wines aren’t your thing, you probably have an Aunt Rita who drinks nothing but.  The flavors of orange, spices with a touch of mint scream Christmas and the bottle label with a holiday tree seals the deal.

This wine is available at the winery, online and in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Enjoy your holiday season!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
December 1st, 2011


Disclosure:  I received this wine as a sample.



For Columbus Day

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Oh, Columbus. We know that you didn’t really discover America. We also know that you tortured and killed the native peoples you encountered. On the plus side, you did bring tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, turkeys, chocolate and vanilla back to Europe. Not that this would matter much to the natives that you tortured, killed or transmitted smallpox and other diseases. Though it seems possible that that while you were giving the natives smallpox, they were giving you syphilis, so that might be a more even exchange.

Columbus' departure from Palos, in 1492, by Evaristo DomínguezThe question, that I have for you is this? What did you drink on the voyage? Because, it appears that we have to guess. And why? Apparently you kept really crappy records. Why couldn’t you have been like John Winthrop and keep track down to the last firkin of butter or pipe of Canary.

Instead, we kind of have to guess. Wheat, olives, rice, lentils, garbanzos, pickled and salted meat and fish, cheese and wine. How much? Hard to tell, but given the fact that the people of the region were forced to pay two of the ships for Columbus’ expedition and provision all three to pay off the fine for piracy, I would guess that the amounts were niggardly at best.

We can guess that the wine would have been local. And the Condado de Huelva DO was established to honor these wines. In fact, it is known that the wines from this area were the first exported from Spain to the new world. The wine was shipped to La Española (Hispaniola) in January 1502 and was worth 1,422 maravedíes. Grapes grown in the area include Zalema, Palomino Fino, Listán de Huelva, Garrido Fino, Moscatel de Alejandría and Pedro Ximénez and the wines that they produce are referred to as Wines of the Discovery of America.

So, Columbus? You might have been a jerk, who never even stepped foot in North America, but you brought wine to America. Thank you.

Looking Ahead to 2010

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

New Year’s Eve – the time to look back over the previous year and look ahead to the coming year.

2009 was a great year for us at Vino Verve: Gretchen became an officer of the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition and was invited to participate on a panel discussion with Bill Daley, wine critic for the Chicago Tribune, and Anthony Terlato, President of the Terlato Wine Group.  I began branching out beyond Connecticut, exploring wineries in nearby New Jersey and Rhode Island, and along the way picking up new wine-trail-buddies, Christy Sherard and Maree Prendergast.  Kevin took advantage of his frequent business travel to discover wine venues in unexpected places, including discovering a new trend of locating upscale wine bars in major airports.  And while Rory has been relatively quiet with regards to Vino Verve, he’s been busy behind the scenes attending business school and keeping Kevin and Gretchen well-connected within the Chicago wine scene.

But most important, to my mind, 2009 was the year we truly found our voice.  Ever since Gretchen founded Vino Verve almost 3 years ago, there has been a focus on “local” – things we discovered, things we drank, winemakers or sommeliers we met, etc.  But as I look back over 2009, I can see a progression as we continued to define and refine exactly what we’re all about here at Vino Verve, a change that’s also reflected in the blog’s redesign, courtesy of Gretchen, our editor, and the creation of the Win(e)ding Roads and Better Know an AVA sections to help us organize our explorations.

I’ve seen a similar progression in myself  – what started as an occasional hobby has become a passion, something I look forward to and plan for.   In 2009,  I visited over 30 wineries and explored almost every nook and cranny of Connecticut along the way. Christy and I visited our first wine expo and participated in a phenomenal seminar, the Frescobaldi Grand Cru.  I joined Snooth and became the curator for the Connecticut Group pagealthough I have been lax and haven’t updated anything recently; need to get back to that. I attended some great Spring and Harvest Festivals at area wineries and met some great people, who now recognize me (and I them) when I stop by the winery.  And along the way I’ve learned a lot – I think my posts have improved over the year, and I know my palate has.

So with all that in mind, what’s ahead for 2010?

First and foremost, I’m on track to finish the Connecticut Wine Trail by March – there are just a few wineries left that I have yet to visit, one of which, Taylor Brooke Winery, I’ll be heading out to this afternoon before they close for the season.

Come January 23rd you’ll find me in Boston at the Boston Wine Expo for the Corton Charlemagne and Corton Grancey: The Great Grand Cru’s of Maison Louis Latour and the Alain Junguenet: A Collection of 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Super Cuvées seminars.  A locapour focus does not preclude one from taking advantage of opportunities to sample some of the world’s great wines when given the chance.  And the following Saturday will find me in southeast Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Winefest and the Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay: It’s All About Terroir seminar.

By mid-March, once I wrap up Connecticut, it’s on to Rhode Island and then by early Summer, Massachusetts.

Come July is the Wine Blogger’s Convention, which Gretchen will be attending, and I, if I can afford it.  If not, then perhaps a long weekend in Philadelphia with day trips to explore southern New Jersey wine country or a trip up to Niagara Falls and a comparison of the Canadian Niagara wine region and the wineries of the US Niagara Escarpment.

And with the turning of the leaves, it’s Harvest Festival time.

Throughout the year I’m looking forward to my newest tradition – monthly wine excursions with some new wine-trail-buddies, a group of friends from work.  We call ourselves the “Sisters of The Connecticut Wine Trail” (SOTs for short), and we pick one Saturday or Sunday a month and head out to check out a couple of local wineries.  While we’ll spend most of our time in Connecticut, we are planning a long day trip to the North Fork of Long Island at some point – one of my favorite wine regions in the Northeast. If you’re in a Connecticut Winery and there’s a group of women off in a corner having way too much fun – that will be us!

I also want to continue to refine my focus – spending more time getting to know the winemakers and the history behind the wineries.  One of the things I’m considering for 2010 is a new series on the winemakers of Connecticut – we’ll see how it shapes up.

So here’s to a great 2010!

Wine, Family and Holidays

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Holidays are about family.

Holidays are about celebrating with good food and wine.

OpeningThe problem with these two statements is in their intersection. How do you celebrate the holidays with family and good food and wine? Particularly with the younger members of your family.

Wine has been part of family dinners since I was a child.  Kevin and I have carried on the tradition with our family. The girls have received a little watered wine in order to join family toasts for a number of years now, but we find other ways to include them as well.

My younger daughter loves to open and pour the wine. Her older sister can do it as well.  This year she opened the champagne at dinner. They also get to tell us what they smell from each bottle as well as a take a sip occasionally.

What is the purpose of this? Well, in part to keep teens who normally would try to eat in 15 seconds at the table and talking, but also to teach them about wine and culture. The culture of hospitality… the traditions of family.

And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?Pouring

We Gather Together

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

With Thanksgiving looming before us this week (Please keep your Christmas references at bay, please… I can only handle one holiday at a time), many people are trying to decide what to have for the big feast.

Turkey is the obvious choice (though venison would be traditionally correct as well, as the local Wamponoag people brought five deer to the feast)

One thing that we can be sure of? Those people celebrating their first feast of thanksgiving in Plymouth (or Virginia) dined on local food. There was no Beajolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Vieux for that matter…

What seems totally appropriate?  Drinking local.  During the colonial period, the Pilgrims would have had beer from home grown barley, or cider from home grown apples or even wine from from native grapes (fox grapes named for their flavor… think Concord and tell me if you can avoid thinking of grape jelly!) or other local fruit.

So my plan?

To drink as much local wine as possible…  The thing holding me back?  Well… my parents are hosting our feast.. and Dad does have all of those wine clubs that he is a member of…  I will do my best to bring more wine than Lionstone International can send my father.

Avoid the Malls – Spend Black Friday on the New Jersey Wine Trail Instead

Marguerite BarrettThanksgiving
Contributing Writer

November is New Jersey Wine Month, and the local wineries are capping off the month with the Holiday Wine Trail Weekend!  Friday, Saturday, Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend (November 27-29), local wineries across the state will be offering tastings, tours, and in many cases special events.  Many of the wineries offer gift baskets and gift certificates so you could also get a lot of your holiday shopping done at the same time.    Who knows?  Maybe it’ll be the start of a new “Win(e)ding Road” holiday tradition…

Personally, I’m liking the idea of winery gift certificates; knock out most of my holiday shopping in one fell swoop!

Holiday Wine Trail Weekend Participating Wineries include:

Alba Vineyard, Milford, NJ     **VINO VERVE VISITED**

Bellview Winery. Landisville, NJ

Brook Hollow Winery, Columbia, NJ

Cape May Winery, Cape May, NJ

Cava Winery & Vineyard, Columbia, NJ

Cream Ridge Winery, Cream Ridge, NJ

Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery, Rio Grande, New Jersey

Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Pennington Vineyards

Laurita Winery,  New Egypt, NJ

Natali Vineyards, Cape May Courthouse, NJ

Plagido’s Winery, Hammonton, NJ

Sharrott Winery, Blue Anchor, NJ

Swansea Vineyards, Shiloh, NJ

Ventimiglia Vineyards, Wantage, NJ       **VINO VERVE VISITED**

Villa Milagro Vineyards, Finesville, NJ   **VINO VERVE VISITED**

Westfall Winery, Montague, NJ

The wineries listed are within a day trip from New York or Philadelphia.  Check out the Garden State Wine Growers’ Association website for wine trail “cluster” suggestions – mini-trails of 4-5 wineries.