How To Drink Local Wine

My favorite way to discover local wine is through travel. As I drive to conferences or visiting relative, I like to stop by the local winery and taste what they are producing.  I love talking to the wine makers and learning about their story.  Their passion for wine is always infectious.  Currently, I have a problem. Getting away has increasingly become difficult due to family responsibilities (i.e., reining in teens)

My solution? Well the first option is to comb my local wine shops (which may in fact be local grocery stores). Grocery stores? Well, being a foodie type, it makes for easier menu planning.  I have found myself doing this on the road as well.  In part, because I eat better on the road when I am picking fruit and veg instead of eating fast food, but also because in many states, grocery stores have wine (Yes, I know you don’t New York State – get over yourselves on that matter).

I have picked up great wines in Virginia, Indiana Illinois and Nebraska at grocers or their closely associated liquor stores.

Some standouts? Bloom, a small chain that I found while visiting my 104 year old grandmother and other relatives in Virginia Beach. They have a nice wine section that has got one of the nicest selections of local wines that I have ever seen.

My nationwide? Whole Foods is a great choice. With its dedication to fresh and local ingredients, it makes sense that they would feature local wine. Given their national reach? Local wines extend to regional options extending my non-travelling reach. Lately, I have found Firelands Gewurztraminer from Isle St. George, near Sandusky, OH and from Illinois, Prairie State Winery, Lynfred and Glunz Family all in my local WF.

Surprisingly, in Chicago, I have found that smaller, ethnic groceries are full of local options as well. Maybe this is because they are being supplied by alternative distributors. I am not going to argue the point so long as I can find new and original options. In my neighborhood, I am recommending Foremost liquors which vary from neighborhood to neighborhood as to their options.

I have also found increasing local options at my neighborhood Jewel where the wines of Indiana’s Oliver Winery  and Michigan’s Tabor Hill have found themselves on the shelves.

These are very pleasant surprise for a local wine lover.

My new way to get local wine? If I can’t get to the wine? I am having it brought to me.

While not all smaller wineries can and do ship, we should take advantage of those that do. How to chose?  I am using results for wine competitions.  An imperfect system to be sure, but one that is making it easier for a lover of local wine to extend their selections.

What are your favorite regional American wines?  Let us know and maybe I will be checking them out soon!

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
October 10, 2011

Eric Asimov

 

 

 

If you are a wine lover, you are definitely familiar with Eric Asimov. We wine bloggers were lucky enough to get a chance to hear him and learned how he began his career.

Sorry that this video bounces around a bit as people kept moving to get closer to him.

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve.com Editor, September 8, 2011

Jancis Speaks

This year’s Wine Bloggers’Conference showed me how much the consequence of our craft* has risen. The keynote speakers were major wine personalities, Jancis Robinson, OBE, MW, wine writer for the Financial Times and JancisRobinson.com who also advises the QEII on her wine cellar and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.

I am periodically going to publish bits and pieces that I thought were cool from these speeches.

This is Jancis Robinson talking about the evolution of her website and the decision to use a subscription model.  I like it because there is not great master plan involved which makes me feel like even I could manage to accomplish greatness… Although she was already a Master of Wine at the time, so I guess there goes my dream again.

 

 

 

* Please slap me if I use such a phrase again.  I felt like an actor dissecting their oeuvre, which usually makes me want to vomit.

 

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor, September 1, 2011

Regional American Wines Celebrated on Today

One of the advantages of “Back to School” time is that, I, your dear editor, regains access to my television (if not my sanity). This means that I get to watch my favorite part of the Today Show, the 4th Hour with Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. One of the reasons that it is my favorite is because there is usually liquor involved and often wine. Yesterday Today had Alpana Singh on to pour Regional American wines. Go Alpena and thanks for your support for local American wines from up and coming areas!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Congrats to the wineries and wines featured:

Blue Sky Vineyards 2010 Vignoles (we’ve been there!)
Red Newt Cellars 2010 Riesling
Keswick Vineyards 2009 Estate Reserve Viognier (coming soon!)
Saint Croix Vineyards 2009 La Crescent Dessert Wine
Prairie State Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc (we’ve been there but I can’t find my own link!)
Bedell Cellars 2007 Musée (we’ve been there!)
Hinterland Vineyard 2009 Marquette Reserve
Barboursville Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot Reserve (we’ve had their wine!)

 

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor, September 1, 2011

Jefferson Vineyards – History


After visiting Monticello, it makes perfect sense that my first stop the next day was the Jefferson Vineyards. The property was originally part of Monticello and granted to Filipo Mazzei so he could develop a vineyard. Jefferson had been disappointed by his attempts to produce wine grapes so he brought in Mazzei, a Venetian viticulturist to take over the effort. This is a story about timing being essential. Luckily, the dream lives on at this winery.

Jefferson Vineyards
1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
434-977-3042

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 30, 2011

TJ’s Appearance

Now that I have gotten the teens back and school, I can finally concentrate on stuff that matters – WINE.

When last I checked in, I was heading off to Charlottesville, Virginia for the annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

This was exciting to me as I had always wanted to see Monticello.  Instead, when I was 10, my family visited Mount Vernon.  George Washington may have been the founder of our country, but he had nothing on Thomas Jefferson.  He wrote the Declaration of Independence as well as being an architect, inventor, diplomat, President and of course, Gentleman Farmer.  Probably less known was that Jefferson was something of we now call a foodie.

Our third president was a lover of wine and tried to grow vinifera grapes at Monticello without much luck.  Why? a little critter called Phylloxera which killed off a huge number of vines throughout the world (once it got out of the US, that is).  While trying to grow wine grapes himself, he also worked with, Filipo Mazzei (founder of what is now know as Jefferson Vineyard) , John Adlum and John James Dufour all of whom were influential in American viticulture.

Oh, and in the food department he popularized macaroni and cheese (though he referred to all pasta as macaroni).

Naturally, I was raring to go!  But better yet, we bloggers discovered that we would have a dinner and wine tasting reception at Monticello!  The only part of the event that was disappointing was the weather.  While the sun was shining the temperature was about 105°.  And not the Arizona dry heat kind that everyone says is better (it isn’t).  Despite that we were served fantastic wine, a really nice buffet that included fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits and PLENTY of water.  Oh.  and fans.  As the evening progressed there was a certain antebellum flair to the proceedings as we all fanned ourselves.

And for those of us who wanted to really cool off?  Well, house was open to us. and it was air conditioned.  YEAH! The interior of the house was amazing, unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures (flash or otherwise).  Naturally wino’s wanted to see the dumbwaiter that brought wine bottles up from that cellar.  And we got to see if from two perspectives.  One from the dining room and the other from the wine cellar that has just been renovated.  If you are looking at slideshow?  Yes, that is Jancis Robinson. She gave the keynote at the WBC.  Wow.

As for the wine tasting?  Viognier is the white wine of choice in Virginia.  I tried several that ranged in their fruitiness and minerality.  All were very pleasant and I wish it had been cooler so that I felt like tasting more.  Additionally, the standout wine of the evening was a Virginia Pinot Noir from Chateau Morrisette.

The highlight of evening was the presence of TJ himself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Now this was the guy to feel sorry for in the heat.  We could all wear light clothing but he was stuck in full period regalia  and in BLACK to boot!  But he spoke eloquently and then wandered around taking pictures of everyone.  What a trooper!

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 25, 2011

Virginia, You Really Rolled Out The Red Carpet – WBC’11

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference exceeded my expectations.  Being a conference newcomer, I can’t say that my expectations were all that well-formed, but I overheard many a conference veteran also commenting on how impressed they were with this year’s conference.

Having now arrived home, shaken the dust from my feet and begun the process of trying to get the red wine stains out of my shirts, I thought it worth taking a moment to reflect on what I took away from the conference.

First and foremost, Virginia’s wine culture is alive and thriving and producing some very nice wine.

Second, both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville know how to welcome people in style – from the welcome signs in many shop windows in downtown Charlottesville to the warm welcome and graciousness of the winemakers and wineries, throughout the entire weekend it was clear that both Charlottesville and Virginia were really glad to host the conference.    There was even a video-taped message from the governor shown at Saturday night’s dinner.   Now, I’ve been to many conferences over the years, including ASTD’s National Conference which has several thousand participants – talk about a quick-hit tourism boom to the local economy when they show up!   And yet this is the first conference where politicians and leaders of the tourism boards as well as local industry representatives showed up.   Needless to say, I was impressed.

WBC'11 Wine Reception at Monticello

The overall highlight of the conference for me was the connection to the local community and the local wines.   Friday’s dinner and wine reception at Monticello was great fun – good food, a chance to sample wines from 32 Virigina wineries (although I didn’t even come close…) and the opportunity to tour the house and grounds of Virginia’s, and America’s, patron saint of wine, Thomas Jefferson.   Between the history and the wine I was in heaven.

The focus on Virignia wines continued into Saturday with trips to several local wineries.  We were told to get on a bus – any bus – and we wouldn’t find out where we were going until after the bus left the hotel.    As much as Gretchen and I wanted to spend the day together, we decided to split up so between us we could cover twice as many wineries.   My bus stayed fairly close to Charlottesville in Southeastern Albermarle County, visiting the Virgina WineWorks (Michael Shaps’s winery), First Colony Winery, and finished with a fairly leisurely lunch at Blenheim Winery, owned by Dave Matthews.   No, Dave wasn’t there that day, but we did get a chance to meet Blenheim’s winemaker Kirsty Harmon as well as being treated to a surprise visit from and chance to chat with Gabriele Rausse, one of Virginia’s premier winemakers.   But more to come on the wineries and the wines in upcoming posts.

Monticello, Virginia

My weekend ended with Saturday evening’s dinner, a pairing of local food and wine, as I was scheduled to leave first thing Sunday morning.  Having the chance to sit down, enjoy the wine in a slightly more leisurely fashion and paired with food made for a truly satisfying experience.   And having a number of Virignia winemakers join us at the dinner to chat about their wines and Virginia wines in general was an added bonus.

My favorites of the dinner included the Afton Mountain Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon which I found fruity, smooth and lush, and the Michael Shaps 2007 Meritage, a lovely, well structured red wine, both of which paired very well with the rib-eyes and grilled vegetables served as the main course; Horton Vineyard’s Sparkling Viognier, whose light citrus notes and effervescence were a lovely complement to the Duck Paté which started the meal, and the Gray Ghost Vineyards 2010 Adieu, a late harvest Vidal Blanc that was mellow, lush and not overly sweet in the mouth.

WBC’12 and ’13

As I hit the road Sunday morning for the drive back to Connecticut, the Twitter feed was already buzzing with the news that WBC’12 would be held in Oregon and WBC’13 in Vancouver (!).   Both great wine regions with lots to offer – and I’m confident they’ll both be great conferences.

But as the conference organizers start thinking beyond 2013, I hope our experience in Virginia will encourage them to look east again.  And to help with the planning, I offer the following suggestions for potential sites for WBC’14 and beyond…

  • North Carolina – gorgeous countryside, a strong up and coming wine region, and as the centerpiece, the Biltmore Estate, which like Monticello is not only a great local landmark for an outdoor wine reception/dinner, but also boasts their own vineyard and produces some rather interesting wines themselves.
  • New York – in some ways this is the easy one.  With several great wine regions to choose from, Finger Lakes, Long Island or the Hudson River Valley, how could you go wrong with New York?  And with three-time Wine Blog Award winner Lenn Thompson and the team of the New York Cork Report on hand, I’m sure they could provide us with some great suggestions for winery visits and featured wines.
  • The Niagara Region in Ontario – personally this is one of my favorite wine regions in the Northeast.
  • And last, and perhaps more of a stretch than the others, may I also suggest Southeastern New England?   With Newport as the center, it could be a very interesting conference spanning the wines of three states, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.   Newport is a great town and summer playground and much easier to navigate than Cape Cod.   There are three wineries in the vicinity of Newport and the wineries of southeastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts are only an hour away.   Newport is also home to Nancy Knowles Parker, founder and editor of the New England Wine Gazette.   A little local expertise can always come in handy…

So I throw these out as potential suggestions for the future, and in the meantime look forward to whatever the conference organizers have in store for WBC’12.

And Virginia, your southern hospitality has charmed this Yankee girl; I’ll be back … and soon.

All Roads Lead to Virginia

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

To be honest, Gretchen, I hadn’t even started thinking about my route yet.  But since you’ve asked…

Like you I have a couple of different options, both of which hover around 9 hours of driving time (that’s NOT counting New York/New Jersey/DC traffic) – definitely do-able in a single day, but I will likely split up the drive both days for some stops along the way.

The first and most direct route is I-95 which, after skirting Manhattan, will take me down through Jersey, past Philadephia,  through “Baltimore and DC now” (hmm… are you hearing Martha and the Vandellas, too – “don’t forget the Motor City…”  Oh wait, that’s the previous weekend), and then a quick jog west to Charlottesville.

This route takes me through the southern New Jersey wine country which is home to 17 wineries in the area south and east of Philly, four of which appear close to I-95 according to the Garden State Winegrowers Association map.

 

The alternate route bypasses Philadelphia and DC, cutting west across New Jersey on I78 to Pennsyvlania and then picking up I81 to head south into Charlottesville.   The attraction to this route (other than missing the Jersey and DC traffic)?  Gettysburg.  Not only have I never visited the battlefield, but what better tie in with the War and Wine series I hope to kick off with this trip?   And there are also two wineries in close proximity to the park.

I still need to build out an actual itinerary, but right now I’m trending towards the I78/I81 route on the way down with a stop in Gettysburg the first day to visit the local wineries as well as the park.  The park itself is open until 10 pm, so if I time it right, I should be able to make it to the area in time for lunch, visit the wineries and then make my way over to the park before the visitor’s center and museum closes and still have some time to drive around the battlefield in the evening.  The next morning would then be a leisurely 3-hour drive to Charlottesville.

Then I’m thinking it’s the I95 route home; hopefully if I leave early enough I’d miss the worst of the DC traffic.   My thoughts right now are to stop outside of Philly, spend the afternoon touring some of southern Jersey’s local wineries, then dinner and a relaxing evening in Philadelphia, before heading home the next morning.

Those are pretty full agendas, so I need to do some work on the itineraries – this is supposed to be a vacation after all, not an endurance test!