Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wine Dinner à la Bourguignonne

 Following a delay of many months, a long-planned wine dinner among a small gathering of old and new friends finally took place recently on a warm Saturday evening in Mt Airy.  The host, a wine enthusiast who's attended a number of my wine tasting classes over the years, featured an array of white and red burgundy wines (to which he is unabashedly partial), accompanied by a movable feast of French cheeses, shrimp cocktail, ripe, juicy Jersey tomatoes, rice and rack of lamb, topped off by a decadent selection of pastries and chocolates with a pour of a local Pennsylvania ice wine.


We started off at the home of the host's neighbor with the two white Burgundies: a 2018 Puligny-Montrachet from the Domaine Vincent Bachelet and a Premier Cru Chablis from the Vignoble Dampt.

The Puligny-Montrachet is produced at the family estate in Chassagne-Montrachet in the Cote de Beaune region of Burgundy where Vincent established in 2007 his portion of the original 4th generation estate of 100 hectares which was divided among him and his brothers.

This 100% Chardonnay exudes a particular aroma of tropical fruit, notably pineapple, along with hints of white flowers and orange zest, which carries onto the palate supported by a touch of minerality and bright acidity.  The mouthfeel is full, enveloping and expressive; the finish is long and persistent.  The host was a little surprised at how fruity the wine came off, more than he had recollected from previous tastings.  What is especially notable about the wines of Burgundy, which, with a few exceptions, are produced from just two varietals  (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), is that the expression of the same grape in the same region can vary widely depending on the particular terroir, appellation, and even vineyard, sometimes referred to as lieu-dit or locality.  This is especially evident in the Chablis we tasted next.  

The Chablis region is the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region, and because of the somewhat cooler climate, the wines are typically less fruity, more acidic and more minerally, or even "steely" or "flinty". This is why I am especially fond of Chablis (not to be confused with imitations you may have come across growing up years ago when French wine designations were commonly appropriated by unscrupulous wine makers in California and elsewhere).  Chablis is also generally only slightly oaked, if at all.

The 2018 Premier Cru Chablis we sampled was from the Mont-de-Milieu vineyard holding of Vignoble Dampt, another family estate that goes back generations and has earned a special HVE (Haute Valeur Environmentale) certification that recognizes its sustainable farming practices.  I should add that it is a very good value at just $37 a bottle as fine Chablis are often priced much higher.


Once we had our fill of the Puligny-Montrachet and Chablis, we moved next door to the host's abode to begin tasting the red Burgundies, starting with the 2016 Pommard from the Domaine Denis Carré which was established rather recently for Burgundian standards in 1975 and now encompasses 13 hectares over eight appellations.  The estate is managed by Denis' children Marial and Gaetane, and produces 12 different wines from sustainably farmed and hand-harvested vines.


The Pommard is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in clay and limestone soil.  Aromas of ripe red cherries and currants dominate in this finely structured and richly textured wine underlined by complex spice notes. For those not familiar with fine Burgundies, what stands out among these highly reputed wines is their depth and complexity that exude layers of aromas, flavors and textures, opening up over a couple of hours to full expression.  I often make the point in my classes that Pinot Noir has the widest spectrum of taste profiles of virtually all varietals, depending on the particular country, region and terroir.  In the Burgundy region, these differences are generally much more nuanced within its particular style, honed to a fine art over centuries of tradition and knowledge of the terroir and wine-making.  Our host was especially exuberant of this Pommard.

The second red Burgundy we sampled to be paired with the grilled rack of lamb was a 2018 Chambolle-Musigny from the Domaine Anne et Hervé Sigault, a small 7-hectare estate in existence for 4 generations where 50-60 year-old vines are hand-harvested in a mix of village and premier cru vineyards.


Fermented with indigenous yeasts, this ruby-colored, medium-bodied wine features tart berries, red fruit and flowers on the palate with bright acidity and a lingering finish.  This one may have been my favorite of the evening along with the Chablis.  These wines don't come cheap (the Chambolle-Musigny topped out the evening's selections at $70); that's why it's a great idea to share with friends to cover the costs -  and what's better than bringing wine and friends together, especially in these difficult times.

To pair with the scrumptious array of dessert pastries, tarts and chocolates, one of the guests brought along a locally produced ice wine - Vidal Blanc from J. Maki Winery in Elverson, PA

This viscous, sweet - but not too sweet  - dessert wine boasts lovely fresh peach and apricot flavors and can also be paired with fresh fruit and cheese.  Although I had heard of J. Maki winery - I grew up near Elverson, but long before any wineries were established there -, I believe this was the first ice wine of theirs that I had tasted, and I was duly impressed.  Even for those who shun sweet wines, I highly recommend laying aside this prejudice and give a fine ice wine or, a Sauternes-style dessert wine a whirl -  you may be surprised by new flavor sensations!

A hearty thanks goes out to our grand host Carroll, who selected and purchased the wines at the Princeton Corkscrew Wine Shop and prepared the perfectly grilled lamb, along with the accompaniments; Will, who hosted round one at his home for the white wines; Mike, who, brought the J. Make Ice Wine; and last, but not least, Linda and Mary, who moderated the conversation to a civil level.  A delightful time was had by all!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Wine Tasting & Dinner By the Shore - a Recap

After a hiatus of almost 2 years due to some virus pandemic thing you may have heard about, a group of friends gathered by the Jersey Shore the other weekend for another in a semi-regular series of wine tasting dinners for which I select and present the wines.  This time I made selections from my own wine cellar, some of which had been previously earmarked for previous tastings that never materialized for some reason, and others which I just thought would be a delightful, cool and refreshing treat for what turned out to be a perfect summer day by the sea.

We started off appropriately with a bubbly from the Loire region of France sourced from Cabernet Franc grapes - a "blanc de noir" as it were, that is, a sparking white wine made from red-skinned grapes.  (The juice is extracted from the grapes with no maceration with the skins.)  This was quite a hit among the group, and I must say that the "Crémants" of France (sparkling wines from outside of Champagne) are often a very good deal in which you can avoid paying exorbitant prices for highly touted Champagnes.  This particular sparkler was in the $20 price point.

The theme of the tasting was actually "A Trip Around the World" and so we continued our exploration with wines from Portugal, Argentina, France, New York State (Finger Lakes) before bringing it all back home to Pennsylvania.  According to consensus, pretty much every one was a winner, although there were certainly favorites among the imbibers.

Most of the wines were around $20 or less, but the Saperavi, a special cuvée that is aged for 18 months and then cellared for a few more months, topped out at around $30.  I've written previously about the winery near Lewisburg that produces this Georgian-grape wine. It's definitely worth a visit if you're up in the region.

Cheers to a (halting) return to normalcy!


Du Petit Thuouars Brut Crémant de Loire NV 



Appellation: Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) Crémant de Loire, France

Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc

Production/Tasting Notes: Méthode traditionelle; aromas of apple, pear, brioche; dry, medium-bodied; delicate bubbles.

Alcohol: 12.5%


Herdade do Esporão Monte Velho Branco 2017


Appellation: Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal

Varietals: 40% Antão Vaz; 40% Roupeiro; 20% Perrum

Production/Tasting Notes: Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks; membrane filtration prior to bottling; average vine age 17 years; aromas of delicate white stone fruits and lemon; firm, intense on the palate; well-balanced with long aromatic finish

Alcohol: 14.5%


Crios Rosé of Malbec 2019



Origin: Valle de Uco, Argentina

Varietal: 100% Malbec

Production/Tasting Notes: Hand harvested; sourced from the highest Andean vineyards at 3700 feet; aromas and flavors of strawberry and gooseberry; dry; delicate; balanced palate and crisp finish.

Alcohol: 14.5%


D’Autrefois Pinot Noir Reserve 2016 



Appellation: IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) Pays d’Oc

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Production/Tasting Notes: 100% aged in oak barrels for 6 months; aromas of cherry, red 

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Production/Tasting Notes: 100% aged in oak barrels for 6 months; aromas of cherry, red raspberry; subtle vanilla and spice notes; medium bodied.

Alcohol: 12.5%


Hermann J. Wiemer Gewurztraminer Dry 2017 



Appellation: Seneca Lake AVA, New York State

Varietal: 100% Gewurztraminer

Production/Tasting Notes: Hand picked and sorted; whole cluster press; 3-month indigenous yeast fermentation; limited skin contact during fermentation; flowery aromas; hints of fruit and spice distinctive of the varietal; long, vibrant finish.

Alcohol: 12.8%


Fero Saperavi 2017 


Origin: Lewisburg, Susquehanna Valley, Union County, Pennsylvania

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.

Alcohol: 13%



Monday, July 19, 2021

A Primer on Tannins

 Soon I'll be reporting on some upcoming wine tastings that are finally being scheduled as people venture out and resume social activities.  In the meantime, so that you don't get too lazy in your wine education and knowledge, here's an excellent review of the important role of tannins in wine making and wine appreciation.  I've written before about tannins, but it's always good to be reminded of how essential they are for most wines, including reds and whites in terms of structure, aging and appeal.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Virtual Wine Tasting: Value Red Wines for 2021 (Recap)

 The other weekend, I held a virtual wine tasting in what has become another in a series of occasional online gatherings to sample, discuss and enjoy wines with fellow wine aficionados.  This time I asked participants to choose one or more wines in the list of recommended red wines from my previous blog post.  We tasted the following 4 wines which were generally available in local PA wine stores.  Although all wines were positively received, the Italian and Argentine wines seemed to have the edge in preference.  In any event, they all offer good value and a welcome accompaniment to your dinner dishes.

Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2019   ($9.99)                 

Origin: Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina

Varietal: 100% Malbec

Production/Tasting Notes: Estate grown in Uco Valley; cold maturation for 5-7 days before vinification with native yeasts; partially aged in French oak barrels; blackcurrant and plum aromas; full-bodied, black cherry and chocolate notes; velvety finish; structured yet soft tannins. (92 points, James Suckling)

Food  Pairing: Steak, burgers, barbeque

Alcohol: 13.7%


Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($11.99)

 Origin: Colchagua Valley, Chile

Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes: Estate grown and bottled; produced by Domaines Baron de Rothschild (Lafite); stainless steel fermentations between 77 80 degress;10-15 days of maceration with frequent pump-overs; 3 months aging in stainless steel tanks; aromas of red fruit - plum, raspberry, cherry; laced with notes of ripe strawberries, nutmeg, cocoa, thyme, and black pepper; savory notes of tobacco, toasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, tapenade; fresh lively tannins.

Food pairing: Barbeque and grilled meats; pizza

Alcohol:  14%


Planeta La Segreta Il Rosso 2017 ($8.99)


Origin: Sicilia DOC

Varietals: 50% Nero d'Avola; 25% Merlot; 20% Syrah; 5% Cabernet Franc

Production/Tasting Notes:    After diraspapigiatura (destemming), maceration for 7-14 days; racked then aged in oak; aromas of red fruits, black currant, mulberry,  cocoa, hints of balsamic; flavors of ripe berries; herbaceous notes; lightly spicy, mentholated finish; soft tannins.

Food Pairing: pizza, pasta, burgers; Mediterranean fare; bluefish

Alcohol: 13.5%


Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT 2016  ($19.99)

Origin: Veneto IGT

Varietals: 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone; 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese

Production/Tasting Notes: Average vine age 35 years; fermented with native yeasts in stainless steeel; aged 15 months in second-hand barrels; 7 months in bottle; aromas of crushed cherries, aged  balsamic, delicate spice; lively fruit, tart edge; angular tannins; moderate acidity; herb-, smoke-laced finish (90 points, Wine Spectator)

Food Pairings: hearty pastas; pizza

Alcohol: 14%


There's one more one wine (not on the original recommended list) that some people sampled and is also from the Veneto region. It was very well received and is a special bargain as a Chairman's Select if you can still find it:

Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese 2015

Winemaker Notes

Brilliant ruby in color, Alanera delights the senses with a variety of aromas and flavors that include fresh and dried cherries and prunes, sweet spice, and hints of coffee and tobacco. On the palate, Alanera is full-bodied with elegant and velvety tannins. Vibrant acidity brings balance and freshness, and supports a long and harmonious finish.

Pair Zenato's Alanera with medium-aged cheeses, cured meats, meaty fish such as sea bass fillet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or with braised meats and stews.

 This is rich and layered with dark berries, chocolate and hints of hazelnuts. Full-bodied, yet bright and focused. Dusty texture. Drink now or hold. (James Sucking, 93 points.)

Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese 2015
An image of Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese 2015
SIZE: 750 ML
RATING: JS - 93 , WS - 88
PRODUCT CODE: 000081333
SAVE $3.00


Wine Notes

Los Vascos wines blend Lafite tradition with the unique terroir of Chile to create elegant wines that bring exceptional to the everyday. The vision of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to expand their estate took them to South America in 1988, becoming the first French viticultural investment in modern Chile. Since then, a comprehensive modernization and investment program has been undertaken, oriented towards the production of fine wine using and adapting the viticultural experiences of Bordeaux and other areas where Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) is present. Los Vascos is located in Valley de Caneten (Colchagua), a closed valley in the central zone of Chile, approximately 25 miles from the sea. The valley provides a perfect microclimate for high quality viticulture, with Northern exposure to lands uncontaminated by airborne or water-borne pollutants. Daily on-shore winds provide temperature changes between 68-77°F, for optimum maturation of the grapes.

Allegrini is the Veneto’s most acclaimed winery, and their Amarone is the gold standard. The Allegrini family has been handing down grapegrowing and winemaking traditions over six generations, playing a major role in the Valpolicella Classico area since the 16th century.

Giovanni Allegrini is the patriarch of the modern estate and has worked hard to develop and perfect major innovations in the art of wine, particularly when it comes to Amarone. He was among the first in questioning local viticultural techniques, revolutionizing accepted practices, and speaking clearly about quality. He was able to combine the science of enology with strict grape selection, and between 1960 and 1970, made some of the Valpolicella's best wines.

The estate is based in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. Valpolicella, or "valley of many cellars" is an area crossed from north to south by a series of hills, which in succession form three parallel valleys. These valleys are crossed by steep-sided, narrow riverbeds which remain dry except during spring thaws or autumn rains.

With 247 acres of vineyards in the Valpolicella Classico, the Allegrinis nurture a collection of remarkable sites, each with its own personality, soil, and microclimate. Together, they speak to the rich history and extraordinary quality of Valpolicella. All seven vineyards, ranging from the steep hillsides of La Grola to the perfect plateau of La Poja, offer unique, special terroir to express the full range of what is possible in one of Italy’s most prestigious and storied winemaking regions. The family has been a leader in a marrying traditional winegrowing styles with vineyard innovation, introducing modern trellis techniques, site, and varietal selection through meticulous evaluation.

Allegrini's winemaking philosophy is largely based on the concept of "cru" production: a single vineyard dedicated to the production of local varieties destined to become a single wine. These crus have been a success worldwide: The Palazzo della Torre, La Grola and La Poja have set the highest benchmarks for Valpolicella's wines.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The 30 Best Red Wines for 2021 (according to VinePair)

 As a general rule, I don't usually post second-hand ratings lists since the main purpose in creating this blog was to offer personal, first-hand assessments and recommendations of wine.  However, every once in a while, I come across a list that strikes me as worthy of passing on since I'm familiar with most of the wines featured and heartily grant my seal of approval for recommendation. (I'm especially fond of the Allegrini Pallazzo della Torre Veroneses IGT.) Furthermore, most of them are at very attractive price points and eminently affordable.

So here you have a varied and appealing cross section of wines for your 2021 list that won't the bank (except if you want an occasional splurge).  Cheers!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Virtual Wine Tasting - Central & Eastern Europe

 Last March I had a wine tasting class on Central & European wines all set to go - wine purchased, notes drafted and edited, and two full classes of students signed up, when all of a sudden, Alas!, everything came to a screeching halt.  Classes were eventually canceled for the rest of the year.  (An attempt to hold a reduced-size, in-person wine tasting fell by the wayside as no one dared to venture out - a wise choice!)

With several bottles of tantalizing wines lounging in my cellar, I decided to make a go of it on Zoom.  So, a few Saturdays ago, I held our first virtual tasting, and judging from the feedback by participants, this will be just the first of more to come until we can imbibe in person together.

This tasting offered me the opportunity to show off my latest wine preservation gizmo, the Coravin, by which a needle is inserted into a (natural) cork, wine is tapped out just a glass at a time, and the remainder is preserved for months to come, the oxygen being replaced by argon gas, and the cork left intact.  (The Vacu-vin pump and stopper system does a very good job for preserving wine for up to several days in the refrigerator.)

Participants were requested to purchase one or more of the wines listed below, according to how much they wanted to open and sample.  (Most were available in local Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits shops.)  After an initial technical glitch (which was totally my fault as I suddenly couldn't recall or recapture my password) things got rolling and we proceeded to taste and comment on the wines.  Pretty much everyone was happy to share tasting and socialize even under virtual conditions.  Thanks to all for your participation and good vibes.

(If any of you readers would like to participate next time, just give me a shout out and I will put on the list.  For the benefit of all, I am keeping the class size to about 12 people.)

Avia Pinot Grigio 2018

Apparently, this wine is currently out of stock, but it's a steal at about $6 a bottle, so grab it when you can!


Origin: Brda, Primosrska, Slovenia

Varietal: 100% Pinot Grigio

Production/Tasting Notes: Hand harvested; aromas of pear, melon, citrus; crisp, lively acidity; bright white fruit flavors; bracing palate; appealing mouth feel and structure; medium dry (Best Buy, Wine Enthusiast)

Food  Pairing: white meats;  fresh cheeses; prosciutto; risotto

Alcohol: 12.5%


Trapan Ponente Istrian Malvazija 2017


                                      (The cat has dog envy!)

Origin: Sisan, Pula, South Istria, Croatia

Varietal: 100% Istrian Malavazjia

Tasting Notes: fermented in stainless steel;  clean, crisp; fresh, fruity bouquet; minerally; pleasant bitter almond finish.

Food pairing: seafood; shellfish; pasta with asparagus

Alcohol:  13%


Evolucio Furmint 2017  


Origin: Tokaj, Hungary

Varietals: 100% Furmint

Production/Tasting Notes: Rich, smooth palate; floral, white peach bouquet;

Food Pairing: salads; sushi; white meats

Alcohol: 11.5%


Vina Istria Terra Rossa 2016


Origin: Western Istria, Croatia

Varietal: 60% Teran; 20% Borgonja (Frankovka/Blaufrankisch/Lemberger); 20% Merlot

Production/Tasting Notes: Manual harvesting, grape mulching and fermentation of varieties with maceration in stainless steel vinifiers; after fermentation, cultivation of varietals and continuation of malolactic fermentation on a fine precipitate of yeast; maturation in stainless steel continues for 10 months; dark ruby ​​red, blueberry, blackberry, floral aromas, extremely fruity soft and full, of pleasant durability and sweet tannins.

Food  Pairings: Istrian prosciutto and baby cow cheeses, spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, margherita pizza, savory sardines, gnocchi or fuži with chicken liqueur

Alcohol: 13%


Avincis (The Dew Prince) Red 2018


Origin: Drăgășani, DOC, Romania

Varietals: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot; 15% Pinot Noir

Production/Tasting Notes:  Bouquet of blackberry and black currant; juicy berry fruit on the palate; fresh acidity

Food Pairing: grilled meats

Alcohol:  14%


Domaine Boyar Royal Reserve Mavrud 2015


Origin : Thracian Valley, Bulgaria

Varietal: 100% Mavrud

Production/Tasting Notes:  fresh, fruity bouquet; notes of cherry and vanilla and phenol (88 points, Wine Enthusiast)
Food Pairings: Lamb kofte; marinated beef yakitori skewers; steak and kidney pie


Alcohol: 14%


Via Istrum Chateau Borgozone Esperanto 2017



Origin: Danube Plain, PGI, Bulgaria

Varietals: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Syrah; 10% Gamza

Production/Tasting Notes:  Hand harvested; estate bottled; aromas of black and red fruits, spice, eucalyptus; flavors of black fruits, spice, black currant leaf, dark chocolate, cedar; long finish

Food Pairing: roasted meat; porcini; duck

Alcohol: 14.5%

Wine Notes

Furmint: The name Furmint is taken from the word ‘Froment’, for the wheat gold color of the wine it produces. It is widely believed that the grape originates from Hungary; however it seems most likely that it was brought in the area in the 13th century. In recent years, DNA profiling conducted at the University of Zagreb has shown that Furmint could have a parent-offspring relationship with the modest Gouais Blanc grape, which similar research elsewhere has shown to be a parent of numerous other varieties, including Chardonnay. Furmint has also been confirmed to be the same grape as the Croatian white variety Moslavac.

Furmint is mostly grown in the Tokaj region where it is used to produce dry wines as well as the famous sweet Tokaj wines. To make Aszú Furmint is blended with Hárslevelü and Muscat Lunel. It is also grown, to a much lesser extent, in the region of Somló, in the Great Central Plains of Hungary. Furmint is found in other countries such as Slovakia where it takes a similar role as in Tokaj, in Austria, where it is known as Mosler, in Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and the former republics of the Soviet Union.
Furmint is an early budding late ripening grape and particularly prone to botrytis. Its naturally high acidity level adds to its aging potential. Furmint can be produced in a variety of styles ranging from bone dry to extremely sweet wines.

Affinitás & Evolúció come from the Tokaj region in Hungary. Tokaj is synonym of dessert wines and takes its name from the town of Tokaj-Hegyalja in the northern part of the country. Tokaj is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2002. It also has the world's oldest classification system which started in 1730, several decades before Port wine and 120 years before Bordeaux. The classification system was completed by national census in 1772. Tokaj Aszú was one of the Sun King Louis XIV’s favorite wines; he famously called it the "King of Wines, and Wine of King's".
Tokaji vineyards are located near the border with Slovakia and Ukraine and cover around 5000 ha, most planted against the south facing slopes. The area stretches over 85km long and 4km wide. The Bodrog and Tisza rivers dominate the plain and create the ideal conditions for Furmint and Hárslevelü to ripen and develop noble rot. The climate of Tokaj is continental with relatively high temperature variations. On the plain the average yearly temperature is 9 to 10ºCentigrade, 21 ºC in July and -3 ºC in January. On the Mountain slopes the average annual temperature is higher by half a degree, yet winters are slightly colder. The average change of temperature is 13 ºC throughout the year; this coupled with long, sunny summers and dry and sunny early autumns allow for growing healthy and ideally ripened grapes. The humidity from the two rivers brings the autumn fog and therefore allows botrytis to develop. The average annual rainfall is 591 mm, due to the proximity of the Great Plain to the south, winters are relatively cold. Tokaj Vineyards are blessed with a wide variety of volcanic soils. This diversity of soils, with riolit, andezit, riolittufa and andezittufa, not only retain heat beautifully to ripen grapes evenly, they also develop the rich fruitiness in the final wine and impart a remarkable mineral character. This combination of fruit and minerality is the ideal combination to make exceptional wines with a good aging potential.

Teran, in Italian called Terrano is a variety mostly found in Western Istria, a source of a drawn-out dispute between Croatia and Slovenia. In good positions it givesalmost purple wine of a fruity aroma that is easy to recognize, unusually high acidity and high tannins and not too high alcohol content: 12 – 13%. It’s usually enjoyed as a young wine, as the traditional wisdom is that it does not age too well.

Malvazija Istarska, also known by its Italian name Malvasia Istriana is a variety from the large group of varieties, indigenous to the region of Istria, where it is the predominant white wine. It is a versatile variety, allowing different styles for the wine, from young and fresh wine to be consumed within a year, to more serious barrel-aged wine, but it will remain a dry wine with low acidity.

Drăgășani has all the prerequisites of a registered designation, in the French fashion. The Drăgășani vineyard has always produced white wines that are fine, cool, with good acidity. The red wines from the region, produced chiefly from Cabernet Sauvignon and the local variety Negru de Drăgășani, also enjoy national and international appreciation.

Situated on the right bank of the Olt river, the largest tributary of the Danube in Romania, the Drăgășani vineyard extends over a length of 60 de km, between the Getic Sub Carpathians in the north and the Romanian plain in the south.  The dominant soil in the vineyard is clay, with traces of limestone, sand, gravel and marl. The vineyard’s climate is temperate continental, with Mediterranean influences, and its main characteristic is balance. Owing to its location along the Olt valley, which has a balancing role, the Drăgășani vineyard enjoys good humidity, even in the hottest months of the summer. Thus, other varieties have been readapted to Drăgășani, as a result of rigorous work of grapevine improvement, at the Research Station for Viticulture and Winemaking, founded in the area in 1936. Among the Romanian varieties, nowadays, Crâmpoșia Selecționată, Tămâioasa Românească, Feteasca Regală, Feteasca Albă, Negru de Drăgășani, Novac și Fetească Neagră are grown.

Mavrud, or Mavroudi as it is known in Greece, is a dark-skinned grape variety of Bulgarian origin. Its precise provenance is generally accepted to be Asenovgrad, an appellation in the West Thracian Valley of southern Bulgaria.

The low-yielding, late-ripening vine produces small, almost black grapes with thick skins. The grape’s name is derived from the Greek mavro, meaning black, which is appropriate, as the wines it produces usually are of an inky color. They also have pronounced tannins and excellent acidity, with an abundance of stewed-fruit flavors on the palate, which gives a glycerol mouth-feel. It also has a herbal characteristic, giving the wine a medicinal finish. (Wine-Searcher)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Featuring Another Southeastern Pennsylvania Winery Worth a Day Trip - Wayvine!

 Eschewing air travel as many of you are doing during the ongoing pandemic, especially in light the recent surge in cases, day trips will be the order of the day for months to come and I'm delighted to recommend yet another winery in Southeastern Pennsylvania which offers a bucolic escape from the congested city - WAYVINE Winery & Vineyard near Nottingham, just a few miles north of the Mason Dixon line off Route 1.

Managed by the Wilson Brothers, Zachary & James, this relatively new winery features mostly well-known Vitis Vinifera single varietals, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  What distinguishes their portfolio, however, from other regional wineries is a grape I haven't seen much of in this area, Carmine, which they vinify as both a single varietal and their signature Chief Red Blend, a powerful, tantalizing mélange of this off-the-beaten-track grape, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. 

I had actually heard good things about Wayvine some time ago, through the grapevine, as it were, and so, determined to take advantage of the warm, sunny autumnal weather we've been experiencing of late, I and my wine-loving buddy, Richard, piled into my Prius and we set off down Route 1 on a bright, unseasonably warm recent Sunday all the way past Longwood Gardens, and Kennett Square (and the best winery in Pennsylvania, Va La,  in Avondale) to the Nottingham exit  to enjoy a leisurely afternoon of wine and song (live music provided courtesy of Amy Faden) on the beautiful, spacious grounds of the Wilson Estate, right next to the rolling vineyards showing off their array of fall colors.

The Tasting Flight du jour featured a dry Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Barbera Rosé, Merlot, the aforementioned Chief Red Blend, and Carmine.

The 2019 Riesling, Richard's favorite of the bunch, started us with on a high note as this was the best Pennsylvania Riesling I have sampled thus far and is a worthy neighbor of the many renowned Finger Lakes issues.  Dry, crisp, appetite-whetting, with high acidity, floral and white grapefruit notes this is a well-balanced, harmonious version of the classic German varietal that marks another step in winning me over to a wine that I had shunned for many decades.

The Pinot Grigio was, as expected, a light, easy drinking white with a subdued nose and palate which demonstrated why it has become so popular among less adventurous wine imbibers.  I enjoyed the Barbera Rosé as a summer kind of pink with just enough pizzazz, tartness and tannic hints of the red varietal to keep it interesting.

Carmine, a three-way hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carignan developed in California in the 1940s, is a cool climate grape with notable tannins, herbaceous aromas and peppery notes, that seems to have found a welcome home in the challenging terroir of Pennsylvania (as well as New York).   The Chief Red Blend brings all these elements together to produce a bold, juicy red that would pair well with a hearty, cold weather stew.  It happens to top out at $35 a bottle but worth a splurge if you're inclined to support local business.

Wayvine also offers a variety of mostly local craft brews on the premises, including a few on tap.  There is even a short list of hand-crafted cocktails available as well as local cheeses (I especially liked the Seven Sisters from the Farm at Doe Run in Coatesville).  You can bring your own snacks or munchies, but they do encourage you to patronize the food truck which on site.  You may bring your own chairs if you like, but there are plenty available there and during inclement weather, there is limited outside seating under a large, open tent they have set up.  Live music on weekends makes it an especially pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

By the way, the tasting includes a free souvenir wine glass sporting the winery's logo, a nice memento.

So there you have it - another PA winery within an hour's drive or so from Philadelphia very much worth checking out, especially on a sunny fall day. Cheers!

P.S. Here's a link to some more information about local wineries: