Who Is This Marcus Whitman?

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

When in Walla Walla, I attended the Wine Bloggers’ Conference at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center and visited Whitman Cellars. Walla Walla is also home Whitman College, alma mater of Adam West and Dirk Benedict.

So, naturally, the question arose, who is this Marcus Whitman guy and what did he do to get so much in town named after him. Here is your answer. Your welcome.

Road Trip Planning 2010 – North Dakota

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

North Dakota! Where the winds go sweeping down the plains! Ooops, wrong song. But North Dakota is where I’ll wind up next and there are plains. So that much is accurate. To get there, all I have to do is cross the Red River from Minnesota. Easy-peasy. Now, I have seen the Red in action. it is no meek, mild river. I got to enjoy its delightful flooding during the summer of 1993 in the even more delightful city of Winnipeg. Do you know how big mosquitos get in Manitoba during a flood? I still have nightmares about them.

So what do I have to look forward to in North Dakota?

Well, there is Fargo. Still no Marge, but still. I also get to go through the capital, Bismarck, named for the German Chancellor, not the donut.

Other options for me:

The Roger Maris Museum
The National Buffalo Museum where there are albino bison.
A walking tour of Louis L’Amour’s hometown
I got excited about the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame, but it turns out that it is a portrait gallery of famous North Dakotans Now it is interesting because I learned that Lawrence Welk, Peggy Lee and Angie Dickinson all came from North Dakota.
Fort Abraham Lincoln and Custer House might be more up my alley so long as I avoid the guided tour (I have been banned from the Freedom Trail, after all. Marguerite is similarly banned. We are not good on historical tours, in fact, we are downright snarky.)
Salem Sue! I love giant animals! I visit the Big Duck often, how could I skip the duck’s dairy equivalent?
Dakota Dinosaur Museum. Did you just hear my nerd alert go off? WHEE!
Did I mention that this will be my first time seeing the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_National_Park?

Now I just have to figure out what the quintessential food of North Dakota is… Any ideas? You know how to reach me or comment below.

Support Your Local Locapour!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Recently, I ran across this question on a message board (if you can call LinkedIn that):

Should the “Eat Local” ethic apply to wine as well?

Not surprisingly alot of the commenters couldn’t see the point of extending that philosophy to what they drank. Some because “freshness” isn’t exactly a quality sought in wine, others because of economics of the restaurant business or the wine business. Naturally, I have a point of view. Here is what I wrote:

What would you think about a San Francisco restaurant that REFUSED to sell California wine?

That is exactly what local wineries all over the country face.

And by wineries, I am NOT referring to ambitious hobbyists making wine in their basement (like I do) but rather licensed and bonded wineries which exist in every state of our nation. Without retail and restaurant exposure these wineries remain undiscovered gems. “Local” may be seen as environmentally friendly and good policy when it comes to foodstuffs, but in the wine world has become synonymous with “inferior”. Why? Because there is no recognition for these wines because the distributors control all the marbles. Without distribution, the chances of a wine ending up on a restaurant menu or in your local liquor store are close to nil. And of course, without name recognition, most distributors won’t be bothered with a winery.

What bothers me are people who recognize the positives that come from supporting local producers but drawing the line a local wine. If you are going to promote locavorism then you should support locapourism too.

Think about the restaurants that you frequent. Do they serve local wine? Do they talk about “local” produce? If they do, ask for a local wine pairing. And tell us if they have one. I would love to start a listing of restaurants that carry local wine.

Hudson River Region AVA

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ahh, the Hudson River. Four hundred years of American history flow up and down its length.  I am guessing that Henry Hudson had no idea what he was getting us all into when he sailed up river looking for the Northwest Passage (he didn’t find it there…(duh) but even though he explored the river for the Dutch, even the English named the river for him)).

Wine-making is thought to begin with the French Huegenots who settled in what is now New Paltz. The year was 1677. This was six years before the first European attempt to establish vineayrds in California. The region is also home to oldest vineyard (located at the Benmarl Vineyards) and the oldest winery, Brotherhood Winery (which even produced during Prohibition by making sacramental and medicinal wines) in the United States.

The region is home to over thirty wineries which can be found at Uncork NY!

Hudson River Valley

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.

I Don’t Like Mondays

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Sugarloaf Mountain

Go ahead. Cue the Boomtown Rats. But it is true.

After leaving my Grandmother’s birthday party in Virginia Beach at the beginning of the month, I headed back on the road thinking that I would find wineries.

And then I remembered. It is autumn now and it was Monday. Wineries like many service industry businesses are often closed on their slowest day. In this case, Monday. Particularly in the off season. This meaning not Autumn and Winter. Sigh.

Yummy Chick-fil-AI tried, but wasn’t able to find a winery in Maryland that was open, but I will make an effort to get to this one my next time out.

It wasn’t an entire loss for Monday. I did stop at my first Chick-fil-A. Yummy. Now all the other chicken sandwiches are pale imitations.

So take THAT! Monday.

I was In-N-Out

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

For the last week and a half I have been posting about the events of one day, July 25th, 2009. It was a long, fun and exhausting day where I drank a lot of wine, learned a lot of interesting facts and met a lot of interesting people. But the day, like every day must eventually end.

The Order BoyIn the morning I got up and went down for the break out sessions of the conference. Apparently these were strategically arranged for Sunday to keep people from sneaking out of the conference early. And as they were sessions about how to figure out ways to monetize or improve your blog, I was there. But I am not going to bore you with the how-to minutiae of blogging. If you want a blog, you can figure out easily enough for yourself the relative ease of creating one and the difficulty of getting it to work the way that you want it to.

This post is not really going to be about wine, but rather the environment where I was finding the wine that I was drinking – California. Specifically some of the delicious options that can be found in Golden State.

WaitingCalifornia’s development as a major state in the Union was predicated on the completion of the two major transcontinental highways: The Lincoln Highway and Route 66. It is in this environment that the drive-through restaurant was born. And the first of its kind was the In-N-Out Burger that being in 1948.

In the weeks before the conference I heard people outside California posting on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter about the need to get themselves over to an In-N-Out Burger stand. As I had never had one, it seemed like a plan to go and see what the fuss was about. So I did. After the formal programs for the conference were over I got into my car and looked around for the nearest In-N-Out Burger joint (Which was easily found due to my onboard GPS system).

The place was packed. So I got in the line and waited for my turn. The boy in the headset soon came up to my car (or I moved up to his position) and placed my order. As instructed, I ordered the double-double (per Rory Gurland) animal-style (per Bill Daley and eaten in the same manner, no doubt). Next came the long drive up to the windows. First to pay. Then to collect my meal.  In fact, when I got to the pick up window, I announced to the woman manning (womanning?) it that this was my first In-N-Out Burger.  She smiled and said, “It won’t be your last… You enjoy that burger”.

What a Burger!I took it back to my hotel room where I ate it with relish (which is a description and a pun at the same time).  Oh, I did drink wine with it.  A Yellowtail Rose (which I have never seen in Chicago before).  The fries were perfect (ok. I ate those on the ride back to the hotel as they hold their temperature as well as an icecube in Death Valley).  The burger was delicious and juicy and I made a mess of myself… enjoying it thoroughly.

Afterwards, I took a long, long nap.  To prepare me for the day to come.

Ventimiglia Vineyards ~ The Reds (New Jersey)

Marguerite BarrettVentimiglia Vineyards ~ vineyards behind winery / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Gene Ventimiglia, patriarch and principal winemaker of Ventimiglia Vineyards, is a third-generation winemaker, having learned the craft from his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy in the early part of the 20th century.   In the 1920s, the elder Ventimiglia, a member of a local Italian-American Club, produced wine for the club throughout the Prohibition era.  With the demise of Prohibition in 1933, Ventimiglia continued to produce wine, albeit legally now, and passed the traditional hand-crafted winemaking methods he learned in Italy down to his grandson, Gene, who after growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, opted to continue the family traditions here on the East Coast.

As for the Ventimiglia Reds, Gene has produced a very interesting collection of California and New Jersey table wines:

Rocky Ridge Red 2006 The Rocky Ridge Red is a bland of eight different grapes, all grown locally in New Jersey.  It is cold-fermented and aged in oak, and like all of the Ventimiglia Reds it is unfined and unfiltered.  The nose is bright and fruity, and in the mouth there are lovely notes of dark berries and stone fruits.  The wine has a slight tartness, which gives it a piquancy.

Chambourcin 2007 A Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 NJ Wine Competition, this is a very interesting wine.  Chambourcin with a slight blend of Syrah, Merlot and a little Sangiovese, this is a medium-bodied wine with a lovely deep ruby color.  The nose is bright and fruity, and the mouth-feel is lovely and full.  Aged for 16 months in French and Hungarian oak, there are notes of dark berries, particularly blackberry, in the mouth, with a light pepper finish.  95% of the grapes are grown locally in New Jersey, making this one of three of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds.

Syrah 2007 The last of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds, the Syrah is made from grapes grown in vineyards directly across the street from Jon Bon Jovi’s house.  Gene has added just a touch of Grenache to the Syrah and the result is a lovely medium-bodied wine with a delicate, fruity nose, a smooth, soft mouth-feel, and light cherry notes on the palate.  The Syrah will pair well with a wide range of food, and will also cellar nicely.

Carignane 2006 This was my first taste of a Carignane wine, as despite it being one of the most planted grapes in France, it is often used for blending rather than as the primary grape.  Medium-bodied with a soft mouth-feel and notes of stone fruits on the palate, it is designed to be a “companion” or table-wine, and is Gene Ventimiglia’s favorite everyday wine.  It shares many of the characteristics of a good European (French or Italian) table wine – interesting and lightly complex, without being overpowering, it will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Merlot 2006 Made from California grapes, the Merlot has a bright nose with notes of plum and cherry, and a lovely soft fruitiness in the mouth that is balanced by a slightly acidic finish.   A nice wine, but not as interesting as the Syrah, Carignane, Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Also made from California grapes, this is a full-bodied wine with a lovely deep garnet color.  The nose is sharp and tangy, and in the mouth the wine is soft with nice notes of plum and a smoky, spicy, slight tobacco finish.  The finish also lingers beautifully, and the wine grows more complex and interesting with each sip.

Cabernet Franc 2006 The afternoon ended with the 2006 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorites of the day.  Aged in French Oak, the wine ages an additional 3 years in the bottle.  Made in the Bordeaux-style,  this is a full-bodied, dry red.  The nose is earthy with a slight mustiness, and in the mouth the wine is rich, full, with notes of grass and berries and a strong earthiness that gives it depth and character.   Very interesting wine.

A smaller winery, tucked in the northwest corner of the State, Ventimiglia is worth a stop.  While I definitely had my favorites from among the selection, none of the wines disappointed.

What To Do With All Those Glasses

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

One of the side effects of my Win(e)ding Road adventures is a growing collection of souvenir wine glasses.  In most wineries, at least here in Connecticut, the tasting includes the wine glass etched with the winery’s logo.  A nice idea, but what do you do with the wine glasses when you’re done?  

Courtesy of great sales at IKEA, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, I already have a large collection of basic wine glasses which I keep on hand for parties.  And courtesy of my friends Richard and Charles, I have a set of beautiful crystal white wine glasses for special occasions.  I also don’t have the luxury of a huge wine cellar and/or bar room, so finding space for souvenir wine glasses poses its own challenge.

When I can, I politely decline the glass at the end of the tasting ~ if the winery can wash it and reuse it, it saves them money and me space in my cupboard.  My rememberance of the visit is usually several bottles of wine I purchase at the end of the tasting.  Sometimes, though, the winery won’t keep the glass, or they wrap it up and slip it in with my wine before I remember to tell them I was fine not taking it home.  I’ve given a few away to my friend and wine-trail-buddy, Christy, so she can have matched sets, but I’m still finding myself with a nice little collection of wine glasses in my garage.

So what does one do with all those glasses?  Take a page out of Seinfeld and re-gift them!  I can’t take credit for this idea, as I got it from a staff member at Priam Vineyards who while sympathizing with me when I said I already had too many glasses and really didn’t need to take another home, also told me that she doesn’t do dishes, so the glass was mine.

I regularly give gifts of local wines; it’s a great way to promote local wineries, and it’s a unique gift because I’m finding most people haven’t tried their local wines.  Combine a bottle or two with one or two tasting glasses etched with the winery’s logo, and presto – a gift that feels like you put some thought and creativity into it.   And best of all the idea can be expanded for any occasion.  Need something more special (or substantial) than just a bottle of wine?  Combine the wine and glasses in a basket with local cheeses, fruits or other foods; or add a cookbook featuring local cuisine, or a special book on wines of the region ~ you’re only limited by your imagination (and budget).

And best of all?  You’ve found a use for all those glasses…

How Local Do You Want Your Food?

(Editor’s note: This piece is being cross-blogged over at GastroNerds)

The current thinking in food and green living is eating locally. Locavores concentrate on eating foods that are grown within 100 miles of where you live. By doing this, we eliminate the possibilities of being effected by the kinds of food recalls that have been all too commonly lately. Why do you eliminate them? Well, all of our spinach wouldn’t come from ONE valley in California which might eliminate the chances of it ALL being contaminated by the same e-coli germs.

Another good point to this trend is that when your food is grown three hours away there is a higher chance of being at its peak freshness when it arrives at you table. Not to mention the decreased use of transportation and thus oil and gasoline. A substantial benefit when looking at the rising food costs in this country. So, yes! Eating locally is good for us all. But how close up do you want to see your food? We tested those ideas the other day when we ate locally here in the Hamptons.

Our Stops:

Mecox Bay Dairy: Ultimately we were not at the dairy at all but at the farmstand next to it. We purchased a piece of the cheddar which was a pale golden and the Mecox Sunrise, a gorgeous triple cream that seemed quite camembert-like. We drove next to the pasture and we looked at the cows, calves and heifers (Jersey’s known for producing a rich milk). They looked very peaceful within view of the million dollar homes.

Iacono Fresh Poultry: Off the beaten path in East Hampton, they have been selling fresh eggs and poultry for generations. And we were there for the poultry. As fresh as you can get it. What did we get? Two chickens about 7 lbs total that were presented to us in the old fashioned way. They were brought to us, carried by their feet with their heads still attached and their throats obviously cut. I have never been presented my chicken like this before. And I am sad to say that I failed to get my chooks on film before they were transformed.

After our approval, they were taken to the back and with a few swift cuts were transformed into the same kind of poultry that I have come to expect. I even went out back and looked over yard where the chickens, mostly Rhode Island Reds, geese and ducks are hanging out. When they see us coming, they come closer to the fence hoping that we will give them a treat. This means that they are not stressing about their approaching doom in the way that your most ardent 11 year old vegetarian would describe to you (and YES, I have been told about it). In fact, the only animals that appear to want to bolt are the two goats on the property. Figure that out if you will.

Wolffer Vineyards: A regular stop for us when we come out the Hamptons. Why? Well, we are in their wine club for one. We stopped here to pick up 2 Reserve Chardonnays, 2 Pinot Gris, 2 Roses and a Verjus. The nice thing for budding locavores to remember is that there is mostly likely wine being produced near you as well. Every state in the Union has at least one winery. And that includes Alaska and Hawaii. So it turns out that there is no excuse for not drinking locally too. The tasting room was nicely appointed so that you can buy a bottle and take it out to the patio that looks out over the vineyard and enjoy the wine right there. Unfortunately, we could not linger! We had cooking to do.

Our choice? Simpler the better was the decision. So we decided to roast the chickens on the grill. I made a rub of paprika, thyme, onion powder, salt and pepper and sprinkled some inside the rinsed out cavity of my two birds. Also inside went half a lemon. The remainder of the rub was massaged onto the skin of the bird with a bit of olive oil to help it crisp.

To accompany the chicken, I prepared a risotto. Using the local asparagus of the household and by that I mean canned which while revolting did mix right into the risotto and really underscored the flavor of the rice’s special ingredient, the Sunrise cheese. We cut off some of the rind, but the rest melted right into the mixture.

The chickens came of the grill. They were superb. Probably the best tasting birds that I have ever eaten. Juicy, crispy and flavorful all at the same time, it was delicious. With our meal we drank some of the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris which set off the tastes perfectly and more than stood up to the rich flavors. The risotto was perfect with the chicken. The cheese was slightly tangier than the normal mixture of cream and parmesan that I would have used. But it was richer and creamier as well. The asparagus? It was there. That is all that I can say about it. My in-laws have traditionally felt that having asparagus in the house all the time was a classy thing to do. But unfortunately, their reliance on canned tends to gross our generation out.

And speaking of generations, the younger crowd was not enthusiastic in their love of this local eating thing. Lillith refused to step out of the car at the chicken farm. And Imelda was a bit freaked out. This carried over to the cooking and eating of the chicken as well. Ultimately they could NOT resist tasting the chicken because the smell was too delicious. Lillith, herself, acknowledged this. But I have to admit that my attempt at a joking with her, suggesting that she join PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) went over like a lead balloon. I guess she just felt a little guilty enjoying food that was LITERALLY running around this morning. Que sera.

I did assure her that the chicken would be used as much as possible. And that like Kosher and Halal butchers, I thanked the birds for their sacrifice. This seemed to help her. And she knows that I will keep my word. The carcasses have been saved. I will make my father-in-law chicken soup from them before I go. Maybe I will even use my mother-in-laws pressure cooker to do so. Cross your fingers that I don’t blow up the kitchen with it.