blogger web statistics/a>
1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 348

A Pennsylvania (Wine) Revolution (Penns Woods Wine Tasting)

Vinted on June 9, 2008 binned in Penns Woods, pennsylvania, wine industry events, winemaking
WP Greet Box icon
HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!

A shot has been fired in the world of Pennsylvania winemaking.

And it’s a portent of a revolution in how wines are made in PA – and for that matter, how wines are made in all of the East Coast U.S. wine regions.

A bold statement? You bet. But I mean every word of it. And yes, I am totally sober as I write this (a condition I plan to remedy by sampling some heavy reds later this evening).

And if you taste some of the wines from Penns Woods, the brainchild of Italian winemaker and importer Gino Razzi, you might end up agreeing with me.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gino and sampling his wines during a recent first-rate tasting event at Teikoku Restaurant. Now, before you write me off as having gotten wined & dined so that I would waste several minutes of your life with a recap of a drunken Penns Woods love-fest, you need to know that I did not care for all of Gino’s wines.

At worst, Gino’s wines were over-manipulated, over extracted, Parker-point-chasing fruit bombs (2005 Merlot Reserve); or, just plain unnecessary (2006 White Cabernet, a rose that somehow kept astringency without offering much in the way of fruity goodness).

But at their best… Gino’s wines are nothing short of the opening salvo in a PA wine revolution. A shot that is sure to have reverberations felt as far away as VA, Long Island, or wherever quality wines are trying to be made in the U.S. right coast.

Because at their best – most notably the 2007 Chardonnay – Gino’s wines are that good. Not “good, for a Pennsylvania wine” good. They are “stand up to any U.S.-made wine” good…

While I’d been interested in trying Gino’s wines ever since I read Craig LeBan’s enthusiastic review of Penns Woods, I wasn’t expecting any miracles. We’re talking about PA, after all, whose future seemed to best lie in unique expressions of Cabernet Franc and the brambly Chambourcin. When I saw that the dinner at Teikoku was being prepared by Iron Chef Takao Iinuma (pictured, left), and was bookended by Wakatake Daiginjo Onikoroshi sake and gelato covered in 50+ year old Modena balsamic vinegar made from trebbiano grapes that goes for well over $40 / ounce, as far as I was concerned if the accompanying Penns Woods wines were any good, it would simply be a bonus.

A shot has been fired in the world of Pennsylvania winemaking. And it’s a portent of a revolution in how wines are made in PA – and for that matter, how wines are made in all of the East Coast U.S. wine regions.

I’d expected a quiet spot in the corner where I would be able to take a few tasting notes. Instead, I was given the honor of sharing the winemaker’s table with Gino, wine guru John McNulty, consultant Heather Wright of Cellar Door Imports, West Chester foodie Mary of WC Dish fame, and talented WC Dish photographer Sugendran Ganess, among others. One of the best things about sharing a wine event with a crowd that irrepressible (outside of the fun factor), is that it saves me from having to be irrepressible myself, and afforded me a few moments to reflect on Gino’s wines – which through the course of the dinner were wowing me nearly as much as the food.

As soon as I had a whiff of the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, I was almost speechless. Sure, it has some of that PA ‘grit'; but this wine delivered an improbable amount of citrus fruit. I scratched my head… did these grapes honestly ripen in southeastern PA?

When Gino decided to make wine in PA, he told us, he sent some of his grapes to trusted associates for examination. The news Gino received back was that he should go ahead and make wines with his PA grapes, because they had levels equal to the quality of the grapes that produce his high-scoring Italian-made montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

I was brought down by the Merlot. It tasted of raisins and the varietal character felt masked – overdone and over extracted, I thought. And then it hit me again – how the hell did he get so much fruit out of these wines? No one in PA has been able to do that since, well… ever.

When Gino decided to make wine in PA, he told us, he sent some of his grapes to trusted associates for examination. The news Gino received back was that he should go ahead and make wines with his PA grapes, because they had levels equal to the quality of the grapes that produce his high-scoring Italian-made montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

The two wines that really drove things home for me were the Ameritage red blend and the Chardonnay. According to Gino, year on year he may not have any idea exactly what grapes will go into his Ameritage, but year on year “I promise you, that wine will be good.” And he delivers. Was it a tad manipulated? Yes. But it was also very, very good, at par with (or better than) similarly-priced red blends I’ve had from CA, WA, and southern France. The hint of nebbiolo gave a small, delicate polish aroma to the wine that countered the intense fruit nicely. Nebbiolo? In Pennsylvania?? Is this guy nuts?!?

Gino was insistent that there was no secret to his approach: he wants to make world-class wines in PA, and he has invested the capital (physical and mental) to do so. He uses expensive, ultra-modern equipment to extract the maximum amount of fruit from his grapes. He hires consultants that charge more for a few vineyard visits than most PA winemakers clear in an entire year of doing business. And he uses new (= very expensive) French oak barrels to impart complexity to his wines.

The shining result of this work is the 2007 Penns Woods Chardonnay. John McNulty (pictured, far right, with Gino and the Dude) introduced this wine as “a home run.” My tasting notes for the Chardonnay have two words that really stood out when I went back to them to pen this article:

“A revelation.”

This wine had tropical fruit, just the right amount of oak and creaminess, and was big – and I mean BIG – on the palate. It finished long and strong with minerals, almost like wet rocks. Tropical fruit? In Pennsylvania?? This was one of the best Chardonnays I’d had in the last three years outside of France. I was stunned. Maybe it’s not as steely as a great Chablis, or as complex as a Montrachet, but it aims to kick no less ass than the French big boys.

A Revelation – for me, anyway. Actually, it’s more like a Revolution.

The word is out, and if you want to hear it, just pick up a bottle of the Penns Woods Chardonnay, pour a glass, and listen to what that fine wine is telling you.

PA can make world-class wines.

It’s now a fact – and if Penns Woods repeats this over multiple vintages it will be indisputable – and not just a dream of a few passionate individuals. Gino has fired a well-aimed first shot. Will any PA wineries return the volley? Time (and a good heap of venture capital) may tell…

Cheers!

(images: members.aol.comliv18thc, sugendran.net)

The Future of Small Wineries in America…?

Vinted on June 6, 2008 binned in wine news, wine shipping, winemaking


Forbes.com ran an interesting (and sobering) article this week about the future of small to medium wineries in the U.S. (primarily CA, WA, & OR).

What this article says is that, due to the proliferation of wineries, wine brands, and distributors (5000+, 7000+, and 450+ respectively – in the U.S. alone), consolidation is inevitable. Throw in the escalating fight for retail shelf space (usually won by the largest players with the most retail muscle) and skyrocketing land value prices in those aforementioned states, and you have an industry almost ripe for the picking. According to the Forbes.com article, a recent study by Silicon Valley Bank estimates that over 1000 of wineries in those states may change ownership in the next 10 years.

This is not just a situation impacting the U.S. Global competition is creating large wine brand conglomerates with global reach. And rising land prices are certainly not unique to U.S. wine properties – just check out Noble Rot to see what land value and inheritance taxes are doing to the Bordeaux wine area prices, which eventually are driving smaller players out of the market (and ins some cases, out of their family properties) entirely.

With all of this going on, you’d think that Internet wine sales might help to level the playing field for these smaller players.

And you’d be wrong. Way wrong…

Why? Because antiquated wine shipping and alcohol sales laws, as well as unfair state licensing fees effectively prevent many smaller wineries from selling their products online.

Those wineries that do brave the insanity of interstate sales have a heady task in front of them – according to the Forbes.com article:

A winery shipping a single case to each state that allows direct sales (there are now 37) would have to submit 725 forms to conform with sales, excise and state income taxes.

That’s not a joke.

This totally sucks, on two counts.

  1. Wineries with amazing products can’t get those products to people who want to buy them – resulting in lost sales, and, as mentioned in the Forbes.com article “family-owned microbrands have seen their pricing power and ability to demand shelf space trickle away.” This is Bad for the U.S.’s ailing economy.
  2. The average wine consumer also gets screwed in the process – fewer players controlling the wine brands available to you, and fewer ways for you to get those wine brands. So you can’t spend your money even if you wanted to – also Bad for the ailing economy.

I’ve contacted the campaign centers for the presumptive 2008 U.S. Presidential nominees, Senators Obama and McCain, to find out where they stand on the issue of interstate commerce and wine sales.

So far, I’ve received nothing but canned responses… but I’ll keep trying in the hopes that they answer, because for a geek like me this issue is part of the larger problem of archaic bureaucracy negatively impacting the economics of U.S. citizens. Watch this space…

Cheers!

(images: autocrisis.com, ecu.edu)

In the News: Can Red Wine Keep You Young at Heart?

Vinted on June 4, 2008 binned in wine health, wine news

No doubt that a glass or two of red vino can awaken your youthful enthusiasm, under the right circumstances of course (dining with friends, during a hot date…).

But can red wine literally make you young at heart? As in, keeping your ticker from aging?

Apparently it might, according to this article released today by BBC News.

Actually, what the article states is that our old friend Resvertatrol, a compound found in red wines, appears to be able to do this – for mice.

Actually, what the article states is that Resveratrol in substantially larger quantities than can be safely delivered to your body through normal amounts of responsible red wine drinking, might have an anti-aging effect on heart genes.

When we hit a real health breakthrough with wine compounds that has a positive impact on humans, we’ll know it – because it will be much bigger news than any of these important (but inconclusive) lead-up studies.

If I sound skeptical, it’s not because I think this type of research isn’t valuable. It’s because the media oversells this research a bit, thereby fueling a specious supplement market. And because I like to skeptical. And cynical (I know… what a jerk!).

Don’t be too swayed by the media around this. When we hit a real health breakthrough with wine compounds that has a positive impact on humans, we’ll know it – because it will be much bigger news than any of these important (but inconclusive) lead-up studies.

In the meantime, if you want to get some health benefit from red wine, then enjoy a glass tonight and let the joy of connecting with that wine allow your hair to come down for a few minutes. It will probably do just as much good (maybe more) than the resveratrol that you’re consuming at the same time…

Cheers!

(images: thefavoriteplace.com)

The REALConnection Between Wine and Your Health

Vinted on June 2, 2008 binned in best of, wine health


What’s the REAL connection between wine and your health?

Anyone who hasn’t been living the past few years on that crazy Lost island (with the ghosts and tropical polar bears and droll plot lines) has likely heard that wine is purported to have benefits to your overall health.

But the connection between better health and wine is not as straightforward as you might think. In fact, far from being a direct link, the wine/health connection is more like a Homeric journey, full of unexpected twits and turns.

A journey that is detailed in this post, with the Dude here acting as your host, as we visit the science lab, examine the (non-Karmic) laws of cause and effect, stop in Galapagos, and give a nod to Quantum Theory, while also troubleshooting my home wireless network. Also involved, unavoidably, is France (hey, we are talkin’ wine here, after all), and we end unexpectedly at MSNBC (where nobody really goes!).

It will all make sense in a minute or two (okay, maybe 5). So pack your intellectual bags, and let’s get rolling on the road to wine & health…

Ever since the (in)famous 60 Minutes special exploring the French Paradox (told you we couldn’t avoid France), scientific studies have been trying to test if wine consumption is the de facto reason behind why France’s high-fat-diet eating residents don’t keel over in their 30s from heart attacks.

To even begin to answer whether or not wine is or isn’t imparting various health benefits, including seemingly being the elixir of long life for the French, I’ve gotta explain the difference between scientific theory, and medical fact.

In science, it can be difficult to prove things as being indisputably true. In fact, whenever scientists state that something has been solved, you can bet within 10 years it will get turned totally on its ear. Which is partly why we have theories instead. Quite often, a scientific theory is never called fact, especially if it’s complex. Over time, if it stands up to enough quantitative evidence then it is taken to be true, even though to actually prove it might remain improbable. Good examples of this are certain aspects of Quantum Mechanics, as well as Dawin’s island turtle-inspired theory of Evolution – it’s unlikely that we can ever prove this theories unequivocally, but because they so accurately predict events in our universe, and are backed up by overwhelming amounts of scientific evidence, you’d be kind of nuts not to treat them as fact.

In science, it can be difficult to prove things as being indisputably true. In fact, whenever scientists state that something has been solved, you can bet within 10 years it will get turned totally on its ear.

That’s a bit different than medical facts. Medicine is concerned with cause and effect relationships. I.e., identifying positively that you have a certain disease that is causing your symptoms, and treating that disease as effectively as possible.

To illustrate the difference, let’s take a practical example from the House of Dude. Let’s say my wife calls me and tells me that she can’t get to the Internet via our home network. [Editors note: you have my permission to take a break at this point, and get yourself a glass of wine... but I swear to the heavens that this post will eventually teach you something about wine... hang in there, people!]. If when I get home I discover that the wireless router has been turned off, then I’ve got a pretty good case for having proved a cause-effect relationship why Mrs. Dudette didn’t have Internet access. BUT… I can’t then theorize that I every time my wife calls me, her Internet access will be down – that prediction would get me into a lot of trouble!

Okay, but back to wine, what does this all mean for the average wine-drinkin’ Joe or Jane?

Certain compounds found within wine have been proven to have potential health benefits. Of this, there can be little doubt based on the scientific evidence carried out in statistically meaningful studies. The potential list of health-friendly (including cardiovascular and anti-oxidant) wine compounds and their effects on your health is a long one so I won’t reprint it here. [ Check out these handy lists from WinePros.org and BeekmanWine.com for detailed info. on that. ]

Little evidence exists to suggest that wine itself is the de-facto cause of those health benefits. At least, not in the ‘Surgeon General can endorse it’ sense. It may feel obvious to normal folks that if wine has compounds that are good for you, then wine is probably the cause of the positive health benefits seen in wine consumers during scientific studies. But scientifically that conclusion cannot safely be drawn from the findings of existing studies (especially not in the medical field). For now, it’s just a guess – a reasonable one, but a guess nonetheless.

It may feel obvious to normal folks that if wine has compounds that are good for you, then wine is probably the cause of the positive health benefits seen in wine consumers during scientific studies. But scientifically that conclusion cannot safely be drawn from the findings of existing studies.

Plenty of evidence exists to link alcohol abuse to poor health. This one is also supported by a great deal of evidence, so it does not follow at all that if wine is good for you, more wine is better for you. In fact, exactly the opposite is true – alcohol abuse can be deadly to your health.

What’s scary is that fewer and fewer people seem to be getting the message. Check out this (non-scientific) poll from MSNBC for starters – not a perfect example but it shows that more people in that survey are drinking daily than not. Add in the rise in health-care costs from rising alcohol abuse in the States and in the UK, and you have a troubling trend on your hands.


Maybe the French Paradox has less to do with what the French eat and drink, and more with how they approach life in general. One of the code ideas of Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat is that French culture teaches how to respect food and wine, leading ultimately to true enjoyment of it with all of your senses (and away from abuse). While we’re probably never going to unequivocally prove that one, there just might be enough evidence to treat it as true…

Cheers!

(images: hwcoc.org, novusvinum.com, wordinfo.info, msnbc.msn.com)

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com

Google+

Labels

Vintage

Find

An abundance of free academic writing tips is waiting for you. An expert writer will share helpful research and writing guides with college students.