Drinking (and Eating) in South Jersey: Amalthea and Winemaking’s “Third Wave”

Vinted on August 12, 2010 binned in on the road

If you take a map of the Bordeaux winemaking region and flip it upside down, it becomes a (more-or-less) mirror-image of the Delaware Bay area that houses the New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain (OCP) AVA.

Yes, that would be South Jersey.

Yes, they make wine there.

Better wine than you might at first imagine, actually.

Of course, the inverted mirror-image likeness is about as far as the comparison between South Jersey and Bordeaux can go – after that, you have (very) different soils, (wildly) different average temperatures, and (incredibly) different winemaking histories.  But the point, which was being made to me by OCP winemaker and Amalthea Cellars owner Louis Caracciolo, was pretty clear: if you have a body of water to help mitigate the climate, why not try to make fine wines?  Even if it is in Jersey.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Amalthea with fellow bloggers John and Lisa Howard-Fusco, who run the fine locavore-styled website Eating In South Jersey.  I was tagging along as the wine guy, helping to assess what they considered to be some of the more promising wines being offered from S. Jersey.  The payoff for me, aside from expanding my wine brain and getting to hang out with John and Lisa, was being introduced by John and Lisa to one of S. Jersey’s best worst-kept secrets – roadside BBQ joints (read John & Lisa’s take on the post-tasting BBQ goodness here).

At the time of the visit, I’d enjoyed enough of Amalthea’s wines to highlight the OCP region over at the Wine Crush Blog as a spot to watch – or, at least, as some evidence that no self-respecting wine geek should scoff at the notion of quality cool-climate, East Coast reds.

Which isn’t to say that all of the Amalthea whites are bad, or that all of the reds were great.  But it is to say that I’m not sure if Amalthea’s Louis Caracciolo is a genius, or a nut-case…

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Tattoo You: Hate Points? Get Some Body Art!

Vinted on August 10, 2010 binned in commentary, wine news

I don’t normally read press releases that are e-mailed to me (usually they are destined for the Delete key), but this one hit my (perpetually overflowing, groaning from the strain and taxed beyond all logical, sane measure) Inbox last night and it caught my eye for reasons that will appear obvious in just a minute.

First a bit of background: A few days ago, the Mutineer Magazine blog pointed out a unique contest being held by Washington producer Hedges Family Estates, in which they (HFE, not Mutineer) were offering magnums of HFE wine and other culturally-minded prizes to seven contest winners who would be chosen after submitting mission statements for the terroir of the Red Mountain AVA on Hedges’ Facebook page.

Oh, yeah – and also agreeing to tattoo the Red Mountain AVA symbol (a red triangle with sunbursts surrounding it) somewhere on their bodies.

No, I am not making this up.

In any case, it was substantiated by the press release that I received last night.  What really struck me, though, was not the call to ink (I’ve certainly got nothing against tattoos, and in fact have been waffling on getting my own for about, oh, four or five years now), but that the AVA tattoo itself was being proffered as an act of rebellious defiance.  Against the 100 point wine scoring system…

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Crouching Price, Hidden Ridge: When Lowering a Wine’s Price Can Work

Vinted on August 9, 2010 binned in California wine, on the road

Hidden Ridge Vineyard is technically in Sonoma County, though it’s a stone’s throw from Pride Mountain Winery and is pretty close to Napa, as the crow flies.

But in order to actually get to Hidden Ridge’s insanely, almost Mosel-esque steep vineyards in any reasonable amount of time, you’d need to travel as the crow flies.  As in, by helicopter (not that I’ve seen any crows flying helicopters… but it could happen, right?).  Or, you can do what I did on a recent press trip, which is visit Hidden Ridge Vineyards by way of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck.

Which is to say, you can be tossed around like a rag doll in the back seat of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck while traversing the rocky, twisting and winding “roads” that lead you to the vineyard owned by Lynn & Casidy Ward.  I’d love to provide directions, but I’m pretty sure my memory of the trip was compromised by the multiple concussions I endured during the drive.

The vineyards at Hidden Ridge might be elevated (some as high as 1700 feet), but the winemaking approach of consulting winemakers Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos is fairly down to earth.  Several years ago, Lynn was advised to “throw that damn thing away” when he tried to produce a refractometer in the vineyard to measure grape ripeness.  Now, he and the winemaking team simply taste the grapes to determine the best time to pick.  “Brix aren’t measured until the wine is in the tank” Timothy told me when we toured the ridiculously steep (on up to 55 degree slopes) rows of vines on the Hidden Ridge property.

Lynn is fond of telling stories, most of which are about California wine industry types and aren’t really fit for “printing” here, but the most interesting story when it comes to Hidden Ridge, for me, is the wine itself – most notably, it’s price.  Or I should say, its prices

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