Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts

Friday, August 26, 2016

Two Great Pennsylvania Beers

A recent visit to northeastern Pennsylvania resulted in not so many wine experiences as I would have liked, but a couple of really great beers came my way.

At each bar I visited, I first scanned for local wines, and finding none, asked about local brews. It was surprising to me just how many bartenders in the Wilkes-Barre area don't seem very well-versed in either. The wine I understand. It’s fairly hit-and-miss with Pennsylvania wines. But Wilkes-Barre, Scranton - those are beer towns. A little knowledge about the wealth of great craft brews in your area is not a lot to expect from a barkeep.

Nimble Hill Vineyard and Winery in Tunkhannock, PA makes beer as well as wine. Their beer is so good, I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to sample their wines. Their Hop Bottom IPA has a nice medium brown color and the one-finger head holds nicely and laces well. It has a great hoppy flavor with slightly bitter finish, right up my beer alley. I ordered this winner at Bar Louie in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre.

Susquehanna Brewing Company's Hopfive IPA was a staple each evening at the hotel where we stayed. It was at that tiny lobby bar where we discovered a stray relative of my wife who happened to be working there. That sort of thing never happens in my tiny family. Thanks for the SBCs, Barbara, and we'll see you next trip!
 
The Hopfive IPA is caramel colored and has a floral, citrusy nose and a refreshing palate. A rather low head shows only slight lace on the sides of the glass. It employs five different kinds of hops. For the true beer geeks, they are Bravo, Willamette, Mount Hood, English Progress, and as-harvested whole-cone Liberty Hops.

The brewery is in Pittston, PA. My wife and I have been to Pittston for a tomato festival, or some such exotic event. We were shocked when one of her friends who lives in the area told us that Pittston is now "fabulous" after some sort of gentrification makeover. If the beer is any indication of the town, "fabulous" is a pretty fair description.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Pennsylvania Wine: At The Casino

We put off the wine vacation in favor of seeing family. Sometimes, the family is taken better with a gulp or two of some emotional lubrication, but we didn't require too much on this trip. Anyway, I can make any vacation a wine vacation. There's always a way.

We had a vacation, the wife and I, and we spent it in lovely Pennsylvania. The mountains and forests in the northeastern part of the state - and other parts, too - are gorgeous, even if most of those living there don't know how good they have it. People, you can park in front of the business into which you need to go. Cherish that!

Crossing Vineyards has a tasting room in the Mohegan Sun Casino. If you think about it, it's a great place for good wine. You can't gamble all the time, although I know some people who would disagree with that. The Crossing Vineyards Wine and Cheese shop offers full tastings, which I have had before. this time I opted for a glass of something inviting.

The Chambourcin Reserve 2013 is billed as a "Zinfandel style red wine." It certainly features a savory nose full of spices and Pennsylvania dirt. The palate is dark and silky with a hint of cola and coffee. It reminds me more of a big California Pinot Noir than Zinfandel.

The Crossing Vineyards Cabernet Franc Rosě 2014 shows a deep red color and smells of sweet cherries with herbal hints. It's not as dry as advertised, but maybe for local tastes it is.

A young woman was at the bar with an entire entourage waiting on her to finish a glass of her beloved, sweet, peach wine. She was obviously "worth waiting for," even though no one else in her adoring group would join her in a glass of vino. She effused about her selection to me, and cheerily asked if I like sweet wine, too. "Tonight I do."


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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

East Coast Beer With East Coast Seafood - On the West Coast

Connie and Ted's is a Los Angeles seafood place that hits the nail right on the head, according to some East Coast seafood aficionados I know.  The eatery does seafood like it's done "back East," as transplants are fond of referencing.

I loved the food, and the good marks it gets from people who like their seafood authentic are enough for me.

Looking at the beer and wine lists, it is apparent that they look for wines and brews that are more artisanal than mass produced.  By-the-glass wine offerings range from eight to 15 dollars and do not suffer from burnout of having been seen too often, while the beers are largely American small-producer craft brews from California, Oregon and a handful of other states.  The wines come from California, France, Italy and Portugal, for the most part.

The East Coast bias is noticeable only in a few of the beers.  Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania contributes a stellar pilsner that fits well with the menu.

Victory's Prima Pils has great color - a beautiful yellow-gold - with a head that is white and frothy.  The German-style pilsner has a nose that carries a bit of hops, but not as much as an IPA.  The 5.3% alcohol is easy to take, and the taste is malty with the bitter hops playing a role.  Some citrus notes come forward, too, but the malty quality is the hallmark.  A little citrus plays out on the finish, and it was a perfect complement to the lobster roll and the New England clam chowder - which is done brothy, not creamy.  I'm told this is how New England clam chowder is rightly done in the northeast.


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Wine Country Pennsylvania: Lakeview Cellars

For a state with as much winemaking heritage as you will find in Pennsylvania, they lag far behind most states in embracing laws favorable to wine consumers.  Things appear to be shifting there, but the movement is slow.  

While tasting wine from all parts of the US for the Now And Zin Wine Country series, I have had the opportunity to sample Pennsylvania wine several times.  Some has been good, while some has been merely tolerable.  The samples from Lakeview Cellars definitely fall into the "good" category.

Lakeview Cellars is a boutique Pennsylvania winery located just south of I-90 in the town of Northeast, PA, which is actually in northwest PA.  The directional aspect of the town's name describes its situation within Erie County.  The winery offers visitors some great views of Lake Erie and a pond shaped like a wine bottle - in addition to their wines, of course.  Owner and winemaker Sam Best sent two bottles of his very popular Shipwreck Series, a red and a white, for me to sample.

2011 Shipwreck Red

This Lake Erie red blend uses five grape varieties: Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon and Noiret.  Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon you know.  The other three grapes are hybrids found mainly in the American northeast.  Baco Noir is a cross of the French vitis vinifera grape Folle Blanche and an unknown variety of vitis riparia indigenous to North America.  Chambourcin and Noiret are also hybrid grapes.

Best says, "The wine is finished with 1% residual sugar, and exhibits nice fruit forward and finishes with some oak tones."  Sure enough, it's a dry wine at 12.4% abv, fermented and aged in Pennsylvania white oak.  It sells for $17, when they have some to sell.  This vintage ran out in September this year, nine months after its release.

Medium-dark ruby in the glass, the nose is complex, with black plum and blackberry, a little cinnamon and allspice, cigar tobacco and even a bit of leather.  The sip reveals a beautiful, peppery raspberry delight.  It's a little bit Pinot, a little bit rock'n'roll.  The Baco Noir and Chambourcin grapes seem to shine the brightest.


Shipwreck White

Best says he aimed for crisp and semi sweet with the Shipwreck White.  He hit the mark well.  Notes of melon and citrus come through an earthy nose, while similar fruit adorns the palate.  It strikes me as having just a hint of sweetness, a little odd for a wine with 3.5% residual sugar.  Best explains, "We blended this wine to have a nice balance of fruits and acid and finish with a honeydew melon taste.  The wine was finished with 3.5% residual sugar, but because of the acid, it doesn’t come across as sweet."  

This blend of Riesling, Vignoles, Cayuga and Vidal retails for $14 and barely tips the alcohol meter at 12% abv.

The earthiness on the noise is amazing.  The way the minerals, sugar and acidity merge is equally stunning.  It goes great with almonds and a cheese plate, but it makes a great sipper, too.


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Monday, August 19, 2013

Wine Country Pennsylvania - Lakeview Wine Cellars

We have visited Pennsylvania before in the Now And Zin Wine Country series.  At O'Donnell Winery, Norbert O’Donnell makes due in a cold climate quite nicely with grapes taken from slightly off the usual wine grape path.  Awhile back, O'Donnell wrote to suggest I get in touch with Sam Best of Lakeview Wine Cellars in northwestern Pennsylvania.  The pair met while taking some wine classes together and they hit it off famously.

Lakeview Wine Cellars is located in the town of North East, PA, even though the community is actually in the far northwestern corner of the Keystone State.  The name refers to its position within Erie County.

Best tells me that northwestern Pennsylvania is the largest grape growing area east of the Rockies, with some 30,000 acres under vine.  The Lake Erie appellation stretches over three states, from Buffalo, New York to Toledo, Ohio.  Best proudly notes that the Lake Erie Wine Trail is the fastest-growing wine country in the northeastern US.

Best estimates there are anywhere from 150-200 grape growers within 15 miles of his winery.  A lot are growing Concord grapes, while some grow Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay,  Gruner Veltliner and Riesling.  Best says there are three major growers in his area who sell their juice to winemakers.

Becky and Sam Best
The 5,000 cases of wine produced by Lakeview each year are currently produced with juice from these growers, but Best has plans for grapes of his own.  He actually has six acres of Concord, but he is in the process of removing those vines and replanting different varieties like Noiret.  That grape was developed by the wine department at Cornell University, an institution as indispensable to winemakers in the northeastern US as Cal Davis is to California vintners.

"Noiret is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon," says Best, "with the same type of color and tannins but a little higher in acid.  It has a peppery taste and is not as fussy as, say, Pinot Noir."  The one-acre plot could take five years to start producing, and Best is looking forward to planting more varieties, too.

Best says he specializes in dry reds and dry whites, although he sells about the same amount of sweet wine as dry.  His biggest seller at Lakeview Wine Cellars is Red Sky, a blend of Concord and Niagara grapes with a 5% mark on the residual sugar scale.  He uses only neutral Pennsylvania oak for fermentation and aging.  He also makes a wine using Steuben grapes.

Only four of Best’s 13 wines are sweet, clocking in between 3.5% and 5% residual sugar.  He makes a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and a Cab Franc ice wine infused with chocolate.  The grapes for his ice wine don’t come from the freezer.  They are picked frozen right off the vine.

Lakeview's Shipwreck Series of wines tips the captain's hat to the seafarers of Lake Erie.  Best claims there are more shipwrecks on Lake Erie than in the Bermuda Triangle.  He says that's due, in part, to an average depth in the Great Lake of only 58 feet.  It's the climatic effect of that relatively shallow water that keeps things temperate in the fall and spring.

I can’t wait to taste the wines made from Best’s own vineyard, although I’m sure he’s even more anxious.  Until those vines are ready, he will continue to use grapes grown by others - the best he can find - to fulfill his passion for winemaking.  If his Lakeview Wine Cellars customers can wait, so can he.


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Friday, September 14, 2012

Wine Country: Pennsylvania - O'Donnell Winery


The first vitis vinifera grapevines planted in Pennsylvania were put there by William Penn in the 17th century.  That’s reason enough to name the whole state after him, if you ask me.  It took about a hundred more years for the first commercial vineyard to spring up, but it was the first in the country.  Now, here’s the part where we write how Prohibition devastated the Keystone State’s wine industry.  Sadly, it wasn’t until 1968 that the state government loosened restrictions on the making and selling of wine, even if only in a very limited way.

Today, Pennsylvania’s wineries number over 160 and are largely family-owned outfits.  It’s not a bad place to grow grapes, as the northern clime is mitigated by Lake Erie and the Gulf Stream waters of the Atlantic.

Pennsylvanians claim eighth place in wine production by state, although I’ve seen lists that had them looking up at the top ten.

Norbert O’Donnell, of O’Donnell Winery, fell in love with wine while living in Washington state.  Upon his return to Pennsylvania, he missed the wines he grew to love.  So, he decided to make his own.

The winery is located in Berwick, Pennsylvania, a little bit southwest of Wilkes-Barre.  The grapes in the O’Donnell vineyard have not come in yet, so these wines are produced from grapes he sourced from the area near Erie, PA.


Rory Red - Here’s a sweet wine made from Concord grapes.  The grape millions love under the name “Welches” is a real delight here under O’Donnell’s banner.  A medium purple in the glass, there’s a slight frizzante upon pouring.  It looks rather like Pinot Noir, but the similarity ends there.  The nose comes on a bit like grape juice, but more like grape Fizzies, if you remember those.  There’s a slight tartness that tempers the sweet candy on the palate, so it’s a perfectly good table wine.  O’Donnell says, “I enjoy it chilled and even on the rocks as its lush flavors can support ice.  Very good with chocolate.”  I concur.

Snapper - This is a dry, oaked wine made from Corot Noir grapes.  It’s deep red with an extremely earthy nose - blackberries and cherries figure into the aromas as well.  The mouthfeel is medium weight with a crisp acidity, the kind of wine that takes a chill well.  The easy tannins often found in cold-climate grapes are true to form here, actually taking a backseat to the acidity.  O’Donnell recommends it with burgers on a picnic.

Slàinte - Pronounced Slawn-cha, which O’Donnell tells me is Irish for “Cheers” - is made from Geisenheim grapes.  Light and thin-skinned, these cool climate grapes originated in the Rhine region of Germany.  The pale wine has a nose that is subdued and lovely.  Peaches and apricots battle with a floral note and the aromas glide on an herbal wave.  The palate pulls a switcheroo with the fruit taking the lead and the green element accenting.  The finish turns things back around with the herbal aspect lasting long beyond the sip.  O’Donnell suggests you “drop a few fresh blueberries in the glass and enjoy them at the last sip.”  He says a fruit salad is a perfect pairing.  It’s sold as a sweet wine, but it really clocks in at off-dry to me.  It offers quite a bit more complexity than I expected from a sweet wine.

Banshee - This is an unusual Catawba wine.  Bone dry and golden, instead of sweet and red, as that grape often appears in the glass.  O'Donnell is particularly fond of this one, and it's not hard to see why.  The aromatic nose shows an earthy herbal flair, while the palate is loaded with what he calls "the mineral notes of an old world Pinot Gris and a wonderful citrus finish."  The acidity is racy and the wine feels clean in the mouth.


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Friday, August 17, 2012

Realizing A Wine Dream: Pennsylvania's O'Donnell Winery


If you've ever thought, "Man, I'd love to own a vineyard and make my own wine," you have something in common with Norbert O'Donnell.  He's the owner and winemaker for O'Donnell Winery in northeast Pennsylvania. They have only been open a few weeks (as of mid-2012) but Norbert and his wife, Jeannie, are running full steam ahead.

Norbert is from the NEPA area, but he was bitten by the wine bug while living in Washington's Columbia Valley.  He grew to love the rich, voluptuous wines made there and found it a disappointment to return to his home state and the thin, sweet wines people seem to like there.  He says he wanted to turn around and go right back to Washington.

What he really did, though, is stay in Berwick, Pennsylvania and try to change the wine scene on his own.  O'Donnell's vineyard is still a year from first harvest, so he is sourcing grapes from Erie, PA for his first effort at a full scale release.  He currently has four wines in production, and made 1,000 liters each - about 110 cases for each wine.  That's quite a step up from the hundred he had been producing for personal use with grapes from California, Washington, Chile and Italy.

O'Donnell Winery is now one of 140 or so wineries in Pennsylvania.  The wine list shows two dry wines - his preference - and two sweet ones - the kind people like to buy in his area.  O'Donnell tells me sweet wines outsell dry by at least three to one in his part of the Keystone State.  He makes a dry Catawba, a Corot Noir, a Geisenheim and a concord.  The Corot Noir grape is a hybrid developed at Cornell University.  It's free of the "hybrid aromas" often found in North American grapes.  Geisenheim is a cross of Riesling and Chancellor grapes.

In his vineyard, O'Donnell watches over plantings of Chamboucin, Cameret (a Gewurztraminer clone) , Riesling and Merlot.  I hope to have a chance to taste his wines soon, and when I do I'll include O'Donnell Winery in the Now And Zin Wine Country series.


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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SOL CASAL TEMPRANILLO


This Now And Zin entry wraps up the wine story of my trip to Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley.  Actually, this fond farewell concerns the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and the Continental Airlines flight back to Los Angeles.

YuenglingI had a couple of opportunities to enjoy Yuengling beer during my visit to NEPA and was delighted to find it available at the airport as we awaited our flight.  It's hoppy and bright - just the way I like 'em - with a strong hint of lemon that is quite refreshing.  It goes great with pizza, too.
After the puddle-jumper to Newark, Continental flight 302 boarded and we were on our way home.  I was once again delighted, this time to find an interesting wine offered on the plane.  Maybe a bit homesick, I asked for a Zinfandel.  There was none of that, but the Sol Casal Tempranillo proved to be a nice substitute.  It's a Spanish wine from La Mancha, but it's bottled by Paul Sapin in France, and I believe it's part of his 187 line of small, one serving bottles like those served by airlines.
Sol Casal TempranilloThe wine is dark at the core and ruby red at the edges with a big nose - and I mean a huge nose - of red fruit and leather.  It tastes of smoke and dried cherries, plums and blackberries.  The tannins are quite mellow and the alcohol level is 13% abv.  It has a big, rich taste which was much appreciated on the cross-country flight.  It even tasted great in the plastic cup.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RIUNITE LAMBRUSCO


Riunite Lambrusco

You can't always drink from the top shelf, but there's no reason you can't enjoy what the moment brings.  I found that out recently in downtown Wilkes-Barre at a bar called Bart & Urby's.
I guess I really should have ordered an ale or stout - the establishment serves a rather impressive array of domestic, imported and microbrewed varieties.  The wine list has only a few options: Beringer, Fetzer, Yellowtail and - what's this? - Riunite!  Holy cow, I've never actually had a Riunite.  It must be time.
I ordered the Lambrusco with visions of saying "yes" to Martini and Rossi on the rocks and Bartles and Jaymes thanking me for my support.  I don't recall the actual TV commercial jingle for Riunite, but I know it's in the memory bank somewhere and it's filed right alongside the taglines I do remember.  I probably never had Riunite because in the early '70s I was too busy sneaking my mom's Spanada from the refrigerator.
The Riunite website explains the different varieties of Lambrusco grapes they use: "Lambrusco Marani imparts brightness, taste, perfume and color; Lambrusco Salamino, for perfume and harmony; Lambrusco Maestri, for fruitiness and body; Lambrusco Montericco for added body and perfume and finally Lancellotta (also known as Ancelotta) sometimes referred to as the "missing grape," which is responsible for the very fresh and abundantly fruity character of Riunite's Lambrusco."
They also explain that Lambrusco is a "unique Italian grape variety grown principally in the three central provinces of Emilia - Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia."
The Lambrusco arrived on the Bart & Urby's patio and my first whiff of the dark juice reminded me somewhat of Welches grape juice, but more of Spanada.  It was served chilled, and was a sweet and refreshing cross of grape and cranberry juice flavors.  It won't be a regular choice for me, but it hit the spot so well at this moment that I ordered another.  Leave the top shelf for another evening.

Monday, September 6, 2010

PRELIUS VERMENTINO MAREMMA 2008 AT GRICO IN EXETER, PA


Prelius Vermentino

Another night, another family and friends gathering in northeastern Pennsylvania for my wife and me.  This dinner found us at Grico's  in Exeter, PA.  We were advised to grab one of the curtained, private booths, but they are best for smaller, more romantic tete-a-tetes.  Our party of six ended up in the Library Room, a private dining room in the front of the restaurant with pictures of books on the walls.
Owner/chef Pat Greenfield maintains quite a reputation in the Wyoming Valley and her restaurant is recommended by locals as a dining hotspot.  The food certainly deserves recognition.  It's good enough to keep people dining there for 75 years - much, much longer than she's been around.  The Grico's wine list showed plenty of imported - and expensive - choices by the bottle.  Maybe as a nod to the hard times the area has seen in recent years, there was a separate "20 Wines For Under $20" list.  That's $20 per bottle, by the way.  Our wine for the evening came from that list.
The Prelius estate is in Tuscany's hilly Maremma region.  The grapes are organically farmed and the estate has Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vermentino growing in the sandy soil of a slope just two miles from the sea.
The Vermentino is only 13% abv, and is aged three months in the bottle.  A 100% varietal wine, it is very pale in color and has tons of minerals on the nose, along with a hint of sea shells.  Tropical notes dominate the palate and a bit of lemon zest adds a nice zing.  The acidity level is plenty high for food pairing, but maybe a little too high for sipping.  It matched quite nicely with my sea scallops.  Despite the acidic edge, the mouthfeel of this wine was actually somewhat creamy and full.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

CASCATA WINERY CASCADE RIESLING 2007


Cascata Cascade Riesling

The saga of the Now And Zin trip to northeastern Pennsylvania continues today, back at my brother-in-law's house in Kingston, PA.  Denise and I sat with Steven on the porch in wicker chairs and let some relaxation creep into our collective consciousness.  Robin had the brilliant idea of helping it along, and she produced a bottle of wine they had procured on a visit to the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Despite Mrs. Now And Zin's weak protest - "What, drinking again?" - the other three of us outvoted her.  Besides, wine tasting is what I do. Even on my time off, it's work, work, work.
The Cascade Riesling which Robin brought to the porch hailed from Cascata Winery, a boutique winery/art gallery/bed & breakfast in Watkins Glen, NY, near Seneca Lake.  Robin told me the winery's tasting room is housed in a 19th century home on a beautiful estate.  From the Cascata website: "Our wines include examples of dry and semi-dry Vinifera, dry and semi-dry French-American hybrids, and sweet Labrusca."  The Cascade Riesling is one of the winery's semi-dry white wines.  It's a double gold medal winner from a competition somewhere, if that sort of thing intrigues you.
The wine sits quite pale in the glass, almost colorless.  The nose shows plenty of citrus notes with a hint of apricot.  On the palate, lemon peel plays against a backdrop of minerals and a faint sense of petrol comes through.  It's quite an appealing wine, with enough acidity to welcome food pairing.  It's also nice to sip, just sitting on the porch in a wicker chair.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

CROSSING VINEYARDS AND WINERY TASTING ROOM, WILKES BARRE, PA


Crossing Vineyards and Winery Tasting Room

After a few hit-and-miss attempts at sampling some Pennsylvania wines during my visit to the Keystone State, I was eager to try a real winery tasting room.  Our schedule did not permit any wine country excursions, unfortunately.  My luck changed at the Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs in Wilkes Barre.  Not only did I take some chips off the blackjack table, but I got to visit the Crossing Vineyards and WineryTasting Room, located in the shopping mall that encircles the gaming area.
The Crossing Vineyards winery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes from Philadelphia and an hour and a half from New York City.  The estate is over 200 years old and is less than a mile from the place where George Washington crossed the Delaware River in 1776.  Established by the Carroll family in 2000, Crossing produced its first vintage in 2002.  Winemaker Tom Carroll, Jr. envisioned the winery at age 10 when his family bought the property.  He spent time in California and returned home with his acquired knowledge to see his dream realized.  Carroll has a wide assortment of grape varieties at play and he does an admirable job with them.  I was impressed with the overall quality of his wines.
The tasting room is modern and commercial, with plenty of bottles for sale along with some gourmet food items and wine paraphenalia.  The $8 tasting fee buys samples of six wines or four wines and four cheeses.
The white wines and the blush I tried all have a nice acidity, with nary a flabby wine to be found.  The reds are very bright and fresh on the nose and palate.  Here are my tasting notes:
Blush - This pink wine is made from Stuben and Merlot grapes.  Steuben is also known as Ambrosia, and is used in making jellies as well as sweet, floral wines.  The sweet nose of honeysuckle no doubt comes from the Steuben, while the cherry soda flavor represents the Merlot.  Despite the references to sweetness, this wine has a very nice acidity.  It's one of my favorites of the tasting.
Vintner's Reserve White - A blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, this wine has a nose remeniscent of a Sauvignon Blanc.  Grassy, funky aromas lead to a fruity taste of pears and tropical fruit.
Vintner's Select White - This blend of Vidal Blanc, Riesling and Viognier has an herbal nose and is very pale in the glass.  Vidal Blanc is a French hybrid grape parented by Ugni Blanc and Seibel.  Guava and apricot are the flavors I taste, but the wine is not too fruity.
Pinot Noir 2008 - This Pinot has a peppery, spicy nose that really intrigues, but it's thin on the palate with a raw raspberry flavor.  It was not a favorite.
Cabernet Franc 2007 - I was surprised to find that even a Cab Franc doesn't go dark and brooding here.  A bright red nose is matched by cranberry on the bright, fresh palate.  Very different, but nice.
Vintner's Select Red - This red also has a bright and fruity nose.  Raspberry, clove and leather show up on the palate, but the oak does not appear dominant in the profile.  It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Another favorite of the tasting.

Tomorrow on the Now And Zin Wine Blog, a New York state of Riesling.

Friday, September 3, 2010

MONDAVI WINES AT BISTRO ON THE AVENUE, KINGSTON, PA


If you've been checking this site recently, you know Denise and I spent some time in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The trip afforded us an opportunity to hang with family and friends in some of greater Wilkes Barre's finer establishments.  Some of the hangouts were funky, old-school places while others were moderately upscale - and then there was the pierogie stand at the Kielbasa Festival in Pittston.  Margarine?  Puh-lease.  Today's location - Bistro On The Avenue - falls into the second category.

Bistro On The Avenue is in Kingston, PA.  It sits nestled in the crook of an elbow-bend strip mall on Wyoming Avenue, a street I became very familiar with during my stay.  You take Wyoming Avenue to get anywhere in the valley, no matter where you are.  If there is anything remotely resembling a traffic pattern on it, the locals scramble for a different way, usually the back road - which is actually called Back Road.  Los Angeles drivers should be so versatile with alternate routes.
At Bistro On The Avenue, our table ordered what looked like every appetizer on the menu - whch is quite a few.  The Lobster Strudel should be spoken of only in hushed, reverent tones.  It's divine.  The wine list is not bad, but not what one might expect from a place with "Bistro" in its name.  I had hoped to drink local whenever I could, but with no wines from the great northeast on the list, I went back to Cali.  Passing on the fairly pedestrian entries there - none looking very exciting - I settled on a Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, and liked it so much I followed up with the Mondavi Merlot.
Mondavi CabThe Cabernet was dark ruby in the glass, with a nose featuring black currant, smoke, leather and pencil shavings.  It was nice to give my palate something more complex than the samples of the Keystone State wines I had been enjoying thus far.  The Cab had a good grip and felt very full in my mouth.  Blackberry, blueberry and cassis showed on the very fruit forward palate.
Mondavi MerlotWhen the waitress inquired about another round, it seemed everyone was in agreement.  I stayed with Mondavi and had the Merlot.  Medium ruby in color, this wine was not shy either.  The nose was a huge fruitfest, with blueberry and cherry coming forth.  There was a lot of smoke on the palate here, too, even more than the Cab.  The taste of big, dark berries swam around in a setting that resembled a wood fire.  The finish was long and luxurious.

Tomorrow, a visit to an actual winery tasting room - at Wilkes Barre's Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

WASHINGTON HILLS RIESLING 2008


Washington Hills Riesling

A week-long stay in the Wilkes Barre, PA area supplied me with the opportunity to sample a few Pennsylvania wines.  This day proved to be a departure, as several of us decided to have lunch at Kazimi's Restaurant in Kingston.  Kazimi's has a reputation as a “date night” dining establishment.  Its old-school red leatherette and white cloth napkins are thought to be quite fancy amongst the locals.  Try the quiche du jour.

The wine list was not so fancy, with no local or regional efforts to offer.  When I saw Riesling, I realized that was what I was thirsty for.  The Washington Hills Riesling is a Columbia Valley wine, a 100% Riesling from Washington State.  To top it off, it was only $6.75 per glass.  I didn't expect to have a problem with this wine.

The nose shows plenty of minerals with a strong presence of melons, pears and peaches.  The fruity palate shows tropical notes, and a trace of lemon peel.  It's on the dry side, but with a sweetness that lurks just out of sight.  A good acidity level provides a crisp and refreshing finish.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CHADDSFORD PROPRIETOR'S RESERVE 2008


Chaddsford Propritor's Reserve

It takes a village to hold Denise's family.  Several villages, in fact.  The villages are in the area around Wilkes Barre, PA.  On a recent trip there, we visited with a huge number of family members in quite a few of those villages.

The family is a big Italian group, the kind in which fifty or so people all share three names.  Joe, Steven and Christopher get recycled a lot.  If you are unsure of any male person's name in my wife's family, one of those three will give you about a 30% shot at being right.  Joe, Joey, Chris, Christopher, Stevie, Little Steve, Big Joe, etc.  All those variations make it seem to the uninitiated that they're talking about the same few people.  The ladies have a few more names to work with, but Mary is a favorite that keeps coming up a lot.

One of the family gatherings on this trip to northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA, I think is the abbreviation) took place at the home of Mary Theresa and Jerry.  Jerry and I were lucky – we married into the family and were allowed to keep our own names.

I brought the last of the three wines from the Wine and Spirits store to this buffet dinner.  I had previously had mixed results with Tailgate Red and Clover Hill DeChaunac.  I hoped the Chaddsford Winery Proprietor's Reserve would be the best of the three.

Labeled as Pennsylvania Red Wine from the Brandywine Valley, the Chaddsford records a 12.9% abv number.  Once again, I'm not expecting a big, firebreathing monster.  Also again, I am experiencing a grape which is new to me - Chambourcin.  The Chaddsford is 91.5% Chambourcin from southeast Pennsylvania and 8.5% Barbera from Flowing Springs Vineyard.  The wine sees American oak chips during its stainless-steel tank storage and it experiences 100% malolactic fermentation.

A translucent cherry red in the glass, it looks almost weak.  I have no great expectations for this wine – until I smell it.  Aromas of dark fruit, ripe cherry and smoke jump right out at me.  It's complicated and delightful to whiff.

On the palate, a bright cherry flavor with a brambly feel is a joy to taste.  There's a bit of smoke, too.  I am relieved to find that it's really a pretty good wine.  It tastes and drinks a lot like a Pinot Noir.


Tomorrow on the Now And Zin Wine Blog, a Washington State Riesling.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CLOVER HILL VINEYARDS AND WINERY DECHAUNAC


Clover Hill DeChaunac

My recent visit to a state-run wine store in Pennsylvania resulted in the purchase of three wines produced in the Keystone State.  My encounter with Tailgate Red left me enlightened, if not delighted.  My second selection from the state store was a wine from the Lehigh Valley AVA,Clover Hill Vineyards and Winery DeChaunac.

I selected this wine because DeChaunac is a grape with which I had no prior experience.  It's a French hybrid grape planted primarily in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.

With an alcohol level of 12% abv, it does not appear to be a heavyweight red.  The label tells me to expect “mulberry, dark berry and earth aromas and flavors,” which appears to be right on the money.  The wine sports some very dark aromas, but they seem sour to my senses.  It feels like a well made wine, with good balance between the sweetness and acidity.  It's rather full in the mouth, too, with a good weight. The sour aromas carry over onto my palate, though, and the taste is not something I would go back to experience again.

It's very seldom I experience a grape for the first time and am underwhelmed, but that is the case with DeChaunac.  Even though the wine has all the makings of one I should enjoy, I simply don't.  I feel it's a flavor profile that I just don't care for.  Perhaps with more exposure I would form a taste for it.  For a wine billed as semi-sweet, the sourness hit me oddly.

Props to Clover Hill, though, for utilizing an underexposed grape, and props to those who like it and drink it.


Tomorrow: the real winner from that Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits store purchase.

Monday, August 30, 2010

MOUNT NITTANY VINEYARD AND WINERY TAILGATE RED


Mount Nittany Tailgate Red

Still in the capable - and local – hands of Steven and Robin, our visit to the Wilkes Barre, PA area continued with a special trip which was staged just for me.  It was a trip to one of the many state-run “Wine and Spirits” stores.  The locals just call them “state stores,” and that's where one must go to buy wine in Pennsylvania, either there or the winery.  There's no wine sold in grocery stores, supermarkets, drug stores or the corner Stop-N-Rob.  The Keystone State's archaic alcohol laws make it as difficult as possible to purchase a bottle of wine.

Expecting bars on the windows and a teller-cage atmosphere, I was pleasantly surprised to find the state store looked just like a regulation wine store inside.  There was even a very helpful gent on duty who directed me to the half-shelf of Pennsylvania and New York wines.  The limited shelf space given to the regional juice was a bit of a surprise to me.  Most of the store was given over to wines from California, France and Italy.  There were quite a few offerings in boxes, and quite a few White Zinfandels.  I hadn't seen Mateus Rosé in quite a while, but this state store was well stocked with it.  

I limited myself to the regional half-shelf and pulled a few bottles to share at some family gatherings.  The results were mixed.

The first wine I took from the shelf was dedicated to Steven's love of Penn State football.  Tailgate Red, in fact, is produced by Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery of Centre Hall, PA.  This is located along the Susquehanna Heartland Trail of wineries north of Harrisburg.  I wish I could say I enjoyed this wine as much as I have enjoyed the sight of Joe Paterno stalking the sidelines of Penn State football games for decades.

Tailgate Red is described on the winery's website as a “light, semi-dry blend of French hybrid grape varieties.”  It's light alright, seemingly made for people who just want to drink a whole lotta wine at once.  It's a little darker red than a rosato with a fruity, candy-like nose and even more candy on the palate.  The grapey, juicy taste is appallingly sweet and reminiscent of candy, but not particularly good candy.  There is very little acidity, which makes the wine seem quite out of balance.  It was a $10 bottle which would have been overpriced at the going rate for Boone's Farm in 1973.

The grapes involved in this enological disaster are not specified on the winery's website - perhaps to protect the innocent – but I'm told there could be some Catawba or Cayuga grapes involved.  They are both native to the eastern U.S. and are cold weather varieties.  Whatever grapes were used in the production of this wine would have better served humanity had they been sold to Welch's instead.


Now And Zin's trip to Pennsylvania started with a cheap Pinot Grigio.  The Pennsylvania Wine Tasting continues tomorrow.  Please come back to this space for more.  The wines get better as we go along.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

HRM REX GOLIATH GIANT 47 POUND CHICKEN PINOT GRIGIO 2009


HRM Rex Goliath 47 Pound Chicken Pinot Grigio

Robin brought out the bottle with the chicken on it, saying, "I know you really like wine, so this may not be good enough for you.  It's really cheap."  People are always mistakenly using price as a gauge for quality in wine.  I was not knocked out by the label art, or by the back story that goes along with HRM Rex Goliath 47 Pound Chicken.  A sketchy story about a huge rooster in a Texas traveling circus given royal status has the stink of very unimaginative marketing all over it - but I'll give any wine a fair chance to impress.

I'm not in the habit of insulting my in-laws anyway - at least not on purpose - so when my brother-in-law's spouse brought out the bottle with the chicken on it, I gladly accepted a glass on the porch in Kingston, PA.  It was a sad occasion that brought us to the Keystone State in the first place.  Nobody needed some overly picky wine blogger making the situation worse.

She was right about it being cheap - His Royal Majesty sells for about seven bucks a bottle most places - but she was needlessly apologetic in serving it.  It really hits the spot.

This Pinot Grigio is produced in Woodbridge, CA and is identified as "California," so it's not really clear where the grapes are sourced.  There is no oak treatment given to it.  The alcohol content is an easy-drinking 12.5% abv.

The big chicken pours up very pale in the glass and sports a nose of melon and peach that comes through quite nicely even when served cold.  This is an encouraging sign.  The palate carries through on the promise of the bouquet with the taste of minerals and lemon rind taking the spotlight.  There is a bracing acidity that makes for a clean and refreshing quaff.  This cheap wine is actually quite delicious!

Here's hoping it's a happy occasion that brings my family together again.  Here's further hoping that Robin pulls out the bottle with the chicken on it the next time I'm on her porch.


I'll detail more wine adventures from northeast Pennsylvania during the coming week, including my first encounters with Penn-produced wines.  Please keep visiting this space.