Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wine Tasting - Pennsylvania!

When I first started conducting wine tasting classes over ten years ago, I never dreamed that one day I would feature Pennsylvania wines.  My experience had been that they were either too sweet, too thin, too rough, or too harsh and not at all interesting or complex, most of them produced from native varietals or hybrids that just did not compare with the vitis vinifera European styles.

Lo and behold, over the years, the quality of Pennsylvania wines has noticeably improved and there is now a growing number of wineries that are producing quite respectable European style wines (in addition to the sweet, fruity, native varieties).   Not only that, but the wineries themselves have become very pleasant and picturesque destinations for day trips, often featuring live music, special events, and tutored tastings.  Indeed, I visited each of the wineries listed below and can highly recommend a visit without hesitation.  Although prices for the top quality wines may be a little dear,  you can take heart that you're supporting local businesses and ensuring a bright future for a burgeoning industry.

Galen Glen Gruner Veltliner 2018 http://www.galenglen.com/

Origin: Lehigh Valley

Varietal: 100% Gruner Veltliner

Production/Tasting Notes: Second oldest Gruner planting in the US; aromas of white grapefruit, passion fruit with sweet minty herbal note; bright acidity; subtle creaminess on palate; long, honey-tinged finish

Food  Pairing: aperitif; seafood, sausage, schnitzel

Alcohol: 12%

Stargzer Arneis 2015 http://www.stargazersvineyard.com/

Origin: Chester County

Varietal: 100% Arneis

Tasting Notes: "Delicate aromas and flavors of pears, with a hint of almonds and a lingering finish" (Winemaker's notes)

Food pairing: spaghetti with garlic and olive oil; calamari; Waldorf salad

Alcohol:  12.5%

Karamoor Estate Meritage 2013    https://www.karamoorwines.com/

Origin: Ft. Washington, Montgomery County

Varietals: 35% Merlot; 27% Cabernet Franc; 23% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Petit Verdot

Production/Tasting Notes: Aged for 16 months in 65% French oak, 20% American oak, 15% Hungarian, of which 30% was new oak; plums, currants, and traces of dusty leather open up to opulent, dark fruit on a silky textured palate; well-managed tannins create velvety mouthfeel and allow for aging potential.

Alcohol:  13.7%

Stargazer Cabernet Franc 2015

Origin: Chester County

Varietal: 100%  Cabernet Franc

Production/Tasting Notes: Aromas of violets, flavors of bramble-berry; expansive, deep contours on the palate; soft tannins

Food  Pairings: roasted game; broiled salmon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Penns Woods Novi 2018 https://www.pennswoodsevents.com/

Origin: Chadds Ford, Chester County

Varietals: 100%  Merlot

Production/Tasting Notes: Unoaked; carbonic maceration; nose of plump red fruit, banana; light body; dried fruits, soft tannins on the finish; best served chilled

Food Pairing: Soft, creamy cheeses, brie, comte, fresh goat cheese, mild cheddar; ham, pate, charcuterie; roasted turkey with pomegranate and cranberry sauce; smoked salmon

Alcohol: 12.%

Fero Saperavi 2017 http://www.ferovineyards.com/

Origin : Lewisburg, Union County

Varietal: 100% Saperavi

Production/Tasting Notes:  18 months aged in oak; primary grape of the Republic of Georgia; 
extremely dark grape skin and juice due to red anthocyanin pigment; fragrant, fleshy, grapey, floral; 
creamy vanilla; faintly herbal meaty notes; moderate acidity; long finish

Food Pairings:  beef stew, lamb, khachapuri (Georgian style bread)

Alcohol: 13%

Winery Notes

STARGAZERS Vineyard and Winery was founded by Alice and John Weygandt. The Vineyard was first planted in 1979; the winery was established in 1996. The Vineyard overlooks the Brandywine Creek from its south facing slopes just north of Unionville, PA in Southern Chester County.
The Vineyard is near the "Stargazers Stone" which marks the location of the observatory Mason and Dixon used in surveying the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. They were known as "the stargazers" because they used celestial navigation to correct their measurements over the ground. For more about the Line see www.mdlpp.org
We have an excellent vineyard site in the heart of southern Chester County on a south-facing slope with heat retaining, well drained, schisty soil. Situated on a hill above the Brandywine Creek, Stargazers Vineyard has its own special environment and microclimate.

Penns Woods Winery is the result of Gino Razzi's lifetime of experience in the world of wine. A respected importer and distributor of wine, Gino is an Italian immigrant from Abruzzo, in southern Italy. He settled in the Delaware County area in 1962, where he was fostered by the area's Italian-American community. Gino served four years in the United States Marines then attended college in California. After graduation, he returned to Pennsylvania to rejoin family and friends. With three decades of success as a wine importer, in 1995, Gino turned his experience towards the craft of winemaking.  He finished his first wine in 1997. Symposium, a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was his first commercially released wine, and was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator Magazine.  This publication recently honored this wine again with its inclusion in the retrospective article "Italy's Golden Vintage - the 1997 Harvest" in 2007.
Gino's pursuit of perfection led him to his own back yard. In 2002, he began to craft wines from Pennsylvania–grown grapes. To his surprise, he found that great wines can be made in Pennsylvania.

After a two year search for an ideal vineyard site, Gino decided to purchase the Smithbridge Winery, in 2004, to take advantage of its 25-year-old vines. Gino is convinced that Pennsylvania has the capability to produce world-class wines, and hopes to contribute to the legacy of hard work and artistry of his predecessors. As a symbol of these aspirations, one dollar from the proceeds of each bottle of Penns Woods wines will be used to further wine and grape research in Pennsylvania.     

Karamoor Estate's vineyard is 27 acres of densely planted, immaculately maintained vinifera vines.  The vineyard was designed and architected by Lucie Morton  who was highlighted in Vineyard & Winery Management's "Top 20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry".  In 2003 (when she began working with Karamoor); she chose the varieties of vinifera grapes that we would plant here and she chose where they would be planted.
Lucie is a big advocate of high-density planted vineyards.  The normal vineyard may have about 600-800 vines per acre, but the vineyards that Lucy designs on the east coast have an average of 1600-2000 vines per acre.  The reasoning behind high-density planting is that it promotes even and full ripening by asking the vine to produce less fruit (esentially, making the vine do less work, allowing it to concentrate on fully ripening a smaller crop).
In 2006, the first 10 acres were planted, in 2008, an additional 5 acres, and in 2013, the final 10 acres were planted.  As far as varieties of grapes; we grow Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malbec, and Pinot Gris.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Wine Dinner Featuring Eastern Mediterranean Wines - a Recap

On a recent Saturday evening, wine- loving friends of mine gathered once again to enjoy a lavish - but very healthy and expertly prepared by our hosts! - multi-course dinner paired with a selection of wines from the Eastern Mediterranean judiciously chosen from Greece, Israel and Lebanon.  These wine regions have gathered more and more recognition and critical acclaim in recent years and are becoming more available in local wine shops, although they still have a long way to go. (There was a time when the only Greek wine people on this hemisphere knew about was Retsina, that piney white that was to  Greece what Mateus was to Portugal - the times, they have a-changed a lot!)

And so, to celebrate these long neglected wine regions, I offer up to you this recap of the wines featured at our dinner in hopes that you will enjoy expanding your palate and virtual wine travels as well!

All these wines were purchased at Wine Works in Cherry Hill, which has a pretty decent selection from these regions.

As for personal preferences, the standouts to me were the  Assyrtiko, the Yiron and the Kefraya, although everyone seemed to enjoy all the wines to varying degrees.  For rosé fans, the Xinomavro offers a delightful alternative to the ubiquitous Provencal blends with a distinctive flavor profile and vibrant acidity due to this indigendous Greek varietal.


Tishbi Sauvignon Blanc 2018  www.tishbi.com/en/  $18

Appellation:  Shomron, Israel

Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Production/Tasting Notes:  more herbaceous than citrusy aromas; a little creamy on the palate; moderate acidity; light bodied.

Food pairing: grilled fish, Mediterranean dishes

Alcohol: 12.5%

Art. Karamalogos Assyrtiko 2017 $22

Appellation: Santorini PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), Greece

Varietal: 100% Assyrtiko

Production/Tasting Notes:  Pneumatic pressing, static racking; fermentation in thermo-regulated tuns for one to four months. Maturing for seven months on fine lees;the nose is frank, pleasant, open and racy; fruity scents: citrus fruit, lemon, floral scents, white flowers, peach, herbal notes and a fine touch of spice, ginger; opening up to reveal a fine, exotic character of pineapple and blood orange; creamy texture; bone dry; moderately rich, dense on the mouth. Long, salty finish.

Food Pairings: prime grilled fish or shellfish; lamb kebabs; Asian cuisine; grilled chicken; pasta with aromatic herbs.

Alcohol: 13.5%

Diofili Xinomavro Rosé 2018

Origin: Siatista, Greece

Varietal: 100% Xinomavro

Production/Tasting Notes: Dio Fili is located in Siatista, a town located in western Macedonia just off the Egnantia Odos; 70-115 year old vines; high altitude (900 meters);  intense raspberry, strawberry flavors; melon; vibrant acidity

Food Pairings: fish with sauce; smoked salmon; duck magret

Alcohol: 12.5%

Mitravelas Estate Agiorgitiko 2016 $19

Appellation: Nemea PDO

Varietal: 100% Agiorgritiko

Production/Tasting Notes: oldest modern winery in Nemea founded in 1913; soil is amixture of clay, limestone and sandy soil; aged for 12 months in new (1/3) and 3year-old (2/3) French oak, followed by 6-12 months in bottle; unfiltered; dark red fruit with hints of chocolate and spice; soft, well-integrated tannins.

Alcohol: 14%

Galil Mountain Yiron  2015 $28

Appellation: Galilee, Israel

Varietal: 47% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 8% Petit Verdot; 5% Cabernet Franc 

Production/Tasting Notes: Aged for 16 months in French oak barrels; complex; elegant; rich black cherry-berry, plum jam nose; fine notes of dried herbs, vanilla, clove oak; long finish. (Flagship wine of winery; 91 points, Wine Spectator)

Food Pairings: braised lamb shoulder, winter squash, and roast turkey.

Alcohol: 15%

Chateau  Kefraya Les Breteches  2016 chateaukefraya.com $12

Origin: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Varietals: 50% Syrah; 20% Cinsaut; 18% Tempranillo; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Marselan

Production/Tasting Notes: Finely spiced nose of blackcurrant; silky tannins; red fruit flavors

Food Pairing: grilled lamb or chicken skewers

Alcohol: 14%

Notes on Wine Regions and Wineries

Shomron (Samaria) is one of Israel's key wine regions. Although not as famous or prolific as the Galilee to the north-east, it is home to some of the nation's most important viticultural heritage. The most obvious with regard to recent history is Mount Carmel, and the winery named after it. Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (of the powerful French banking family that owns Bordeaux Chateaux Lafite and Mouton, among others) and remains Israel's most prolific wine producer by far.

Shomron is composed of the coastal areas south of the port of Haifa (Israel's third-largest city), the Sharon Plain and Mount Carmel. The climate here is Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild, relatively wet winters. This classic viticultural environment calls to mind the southernmost coastal regions of France, and not just because of the weather and the landscape. The grape varieties of choice here are almost exclusively French, with the likes of MerlotCabernet SauvignonSemillonChenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc holding sway.

Israel's New World take on wine, which seems almost ironic given that this area is the very cradle of winemaking, has led the Israeli government to develop its wine tourism interests. It has plans for a national wine center, intended to promote and develop Israel's wine industry worldwide. The proposed site will cover roughly 60 hectares (150 acres) near Binyamina, at the heart of the Shomron region. The Rothschild link appears again here, as the center is to be situated at Binyamina, a town named after Edmond de Rothschild, whose middle name was Benjamin.
The importance of wine production to the region is reflected in the motto, taken from Jeremiah 31:5, of Shomron Regional council: "Again You will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria".

Galilee is an administrative and wine region in northern Israel. Its name is perhaps most widely recognized in the context of Lake Galilee, via its associations with the Bible, but it is now steadily becoming known as a wine region. 'Water into wine' is not a new theme for the Galilee region; the story of the wedding at Cana, in which Jesus turns water into wine, is widely thought to have its origins here.

The Galilee region is (unofficially) subdivided into Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee and the Golan Heights, with the latter confidently emerging as one the most interesting New World regions of the Old World. Lower Galilee is by far the smallest in terms of area under vine, with just a small viticultural district around Mount Tabor, the iron-rich terra rossa soil of which bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Coonawarra. The vineyards of Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights are considerably more widespread, scattered over almost every part of Israel's north-eastern corner. Thus the soil profiles vary considerably, offering greater choice to contemporary vignerons seeking out their preferred terroirs. Among the soil types in Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights are free-draining gravels such as those found in Graves; limestone, as per the finest terroirs of the Loire Valley and Burgundy; and mineral-rich volcanic basalt, which brings unmistakable richness to such wines as VesuvioEtna and Rangen.

The landscape throughout Galilee is characterized by rocky elevations of well over 1500ft (450m), with the topography peaking at Mount Meron (4000ft/1210m) in the far north, near the border with Lebanon. The cool elevations and relatively high rainfall in this area (for what is essentially a semi-desert region) mean that wines made here are atypically fresh and vibrant. Very few wine regions at 33 degrees latitude are capable of producing wine of this quality – those that do are, like Galilee, reliant on high altitude to compensate for their low latitude.

The grape varieties most often used here are of French origin; the Gallic influence is noticeable, but decidedly less overt than it is in neighboring Lebanon. Red wines have traditionally been based on such southern French classics as CarignanMourvedreGrenache and Alicante Bouschet (a deep-hued, Grenache-based crossing) but are almost inevitably moving towards more commercially attractive options including Cabernet SauvignonMerlot and Syrah. The whites have followed a similar trajectory, with SemillonChenin Blanc and Muscat of Alexandria (the longer-established varieties here) being supplanted by Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The latter is most often used in dry, oaked wines, but also finds its way into Israel's sparkling wines, in which it is usually blended with Pinot Noir.

Israel's three largest wineries (Carmel, Barkan and Golan Heights) each have significant holdings in the Galilee region, and each recognizes Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights as Israel's finest wine regions. Carmel and Barkan also own sites in each of Israel's other viticultural areas: NegevSamsonShomron and the Judean Hills.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Zichron Ya’akov region was commissioned by Baron Edmund de Rothschild as an ideal location for the cultivation of high quality vineyards. The Tishbi family has over ten decades of experience in the cultivation of wine grapes, their vineyards covering a total of 62 acres (25 hectares), spreading from the slopes of the Carmel Mountains to only a few kilometers from the Mediterranean coastline. The cool sea breezes alleviate the summer heat and generate the morning mists, providing extra protection for the vines. The diverse soil varies from red and black alluvial to white limestone. Each grape variety is grown according to the conditions that are best-suited for its cultivation

Château Kefraya

Located in the West Bekaa Valley, the large estate of Château Kefraya has been the Bustros family’s property for generations.
The vineyard spreads over 300 hectares of terraced slopes, 1000 meters above the Mediterranean Sea, on the foothills of Mount Barouk in the Bekaa Valley.

Clay-limestone, clay-chalk as well as sandy and gravelly soils compose a real mosaic of terroirs. The vines enjoy an exceptional sun exposure with no irrigation. They are mainly trellised with a planting density of 4000 vines per hectare and an average yield limited to 35 hectoliters per hectare.

In addition to the diversity of soil, Château Kefraya uses a wide and exciting range of grape varieties in its blends, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier as well as more unusual varieties such as Carménère, Marselan and Muscat à Petits Grains.

A sustainable wine-growing policy allows the vines to flourish, while respecting the terroir’s expression. Significant variations in temperatures between day and night ensure a perfect ripening of the grapes and optimal harvest conditions.

The castle is built starting 1946 on an artificial hill used by the Romans centuries ago to observe their troop movements.
Founder and visionary Michel de Bustros (1929-2016) undertakes massive works to implant Château Kefraya’s vineyards on those magnificent hillsides. The first vines are planted in 1951 and in 1979 - despite the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) - Château Kefraya starts producing its own wine with its own grapes grown in its own vineyard and vinified in its own cellar.

In the early 80’s, “Les Coteaux de Kefraya” 1982 and 1983 win the winery’s first international medals and Château Kefraya starts exporting its wines to France.

In 1997, American wine critic Robert Parker awards Comte de M 1996 91/100, qualifying it “An amazing accomplishment in Lebanon”.

Today, Château Kefraya is present in more than 40 countries over the five continents.

Artemis Karamolegos Winery

1952 The story of this winery begins with  Artemis Karamolegos cultivating his vineyard in Exo Gonia. He mainly produces wine for his family, but he also sells wine.
Artemis Karamolegos’ son, Vangelis,
takes over the wine production,
but again, not at a professional level.

2003 : Artemis Karamolegos, the grandson,
is handed the reins of the family
business. He begins to produce the good quality,
bottled and labelled (then Ο.P.Α.P) wine

Artemis oversees the renewal of the old vineyard. He plants rare traditional Santorini varieties of grape such as Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano. He starts selling the winery’s first bottled wines, Santorini, Nykteri and Vinsanto, on the local market

2005 :The winery in Exo Gonia is expanded to house the entire wine production and bottling line including wine presses, fermentation and maturation tanks, vinificators, stabilisers, coolers, filters and pumps. A new label is added to the winery's range, the red Terra Νera.

He redesigns the labels for the existing wines and changes the name of the winery from San…Torini Winery to Artemis Karamolegos Winery. Artemis launches five more new wines on the market: Assyrtiko, Assyrtiko Barrel Aged, white and rosé Terra Nera and Mavrotragano. He also starts to distribute these wines throughout Greece and wines are exported to America, England, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Holland.

2008 : The Artemis Karamolegos Winery opens to visitors.
The winery starts to export wines to China. Artemis’ wines win many international awards.

2014 : Wine-tastings are held in the winery’s new cellar which was built in 2013. The winery’s partnership with Foodrinco begins, and wines from the winery are distributed throughout Greece. The Aroma Avlis restaurant opens, and diners can enjoy its wonderful yard filled with scents from aromatic Greek plants, or relax in the stylish modern décor of the restaurant’s interior. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and local cuisine, and also has a shop selling select local products and wine from the winery.

Artemis Karamolegos’s wines become the wine of choice for many, and their reputation grows and grows. With the guided tours of the winery, the wine tastings, the food in the Aroma Avlis, the cooking lessons and the exhibitions, the winery is brimming with life all day long. The restaurant’s second yard, with a view of the vineyards and the Aegean Sea, also opens at this time. The experience offered by a visit to the Artemis Karamolegos winery is complete.

2016: The distinctions continue: Gold Medal for Vinsanto 2007 at Mundus Vini 2016 and TEXSOM IWA 2016, Silver Medal for Assyrtiko 2015 at the same competitions and Silver Medal for Santorini 2015 at Mundus Vini. Investment in human resources as Lefteris Anagnostou, Viticulturist-Winemaker, becomes member of the team. 

Pyritis' first vintage is released. The premium wine receives excellent reviews and important distinctions. An historic moment for the Winery: Santorini 2016 receives the Judges' Selection award as the best Greek white wine at the TEXSOM IWA 2017. Beside this highest distinction,the winery receives the Gold Medal for Assyrtiko 2016 at the same competition.