Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pollak 2010 Meritage

Well, it is the last day of January and the snow is melting nicely.  It is also the last day of our snow vacation.  So that being said when Bob asked me what I would like for a wine this evening my reply was "something nice! " So up from the cellar came a 2010 Meritage from Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood Virginia. 

This 2010 Meritage  won a Bronze Metal at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The wine is a blend consisting of 41% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc and 18% Petit Verdot. It is a typical Virginia wine as the smokey flavor comes though as you sip.  Don't be put off by the smokiness, this wine is rich with flavors of cherry and currant and a slight hint of vanilla. It is a complex wine with very few tannins that complements the cheddar cheese and crackers we are having as an appetizer very nicely. I love a rich red wine that excites the pallet and soothes the soul on a cold winter night. This wine fits the bill.

At $35 dollars you may ask yourself if it is worth it. As I sit here writing, the wine is opening up showing me that it is worthy of  the price point. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  

Happy Sipping!

-- Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December Evening

Keswick Vineyards 2009
Cabernet Sauvignon
Estate Reserve
Mid-December in Maryland is supposed to be cold, frosty, and a hint of snow.

December 2015 has been markedly different. The temperatures have been very warm--almost balmy!

Chris and I  pulled a nice Keswick Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve and sat on the back deck to enjoy the evening. Yes, enjoy the evening in Maryland on the deck during December. I wrote that. If I had been in Key West or somewhere south of the equator, this would not be much of a story--but I was in the Northeastern United States.

We had a fire roaring in the fire table, but we didn't need it. It was warm and the wine was fantastic! This particular wine is complex and enjoyable from the first sip to the last. The vanilla added a nice rounding to the flavors.

There is something really that makes almost any wine better when it is enjoyed in an unexpected setting. Sitting on the deck, during December when it is supposed to be too cold to do almost anything outside would be that unexpected setting. 

It was a perfect evening and the wine made everything that much better.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heron Hill Winery

Located conveniently along Route 14 on the west side of Seneca Lake, we discovered a tasting room for one of our new favorite Finger Lakes region wineries. Heron Hill is the real deal. It provides wines crafted for differing tastes. We found the wines complex and enjoyable and we also were pleased to find a very enjoyable red wine.
While the winery is located near Keuka Lake, the Seneca Lake tasting room, located in Himrod, NY,  is spacious and offers a pleasant place to stop and enjoy the wines of the region.

Susie was our server on the afternoon that we visited and she did a great job guiding us through the wine tasting. She was knowledgeable and fun to work with and helped us understand the history of the winery and the wines that we were tasting.

Heron Hill sources its wines from around the finger lakes with an emphasis on grapes grown near Keuka, Canandaigua, and Seneca Lakes. The winery focuses its efforts on the strength of the Finger Lakes—which is Riesling in many forms, but they also offer some excellent reds especially their selection of Cabernet Franc and the Eclipse. 

Adjacent to the Tasting Room
I enjoyed a flight of three Cabernet Francs and was very surprised at the depth and quality of the wines. The 2012 reserve ($35) was easily the best of the group—but the Classic ($17) was a great choice for the budget minded oenophile. The wines were medium bodied with a great nose and complex flavors. Each of the three presented a distinct interpretation of the varietal.

The other highlights of the tasting were the Eclipse red 2013, ($17) and the classic semi-dry Riesling 2013 ($11 on sale).

The Eclipse is Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot blend. The wine is medium body with a great nose and nice complexity. It was one of the highlights of our entire trip to the Finger Lakes and we purchased more than a few bottles to share with our friends.

The gift shop boasts a number of interesting wine related items. It is large and spacious. 

RECOMMENDATION: This is one of the must visit wineries along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Big Cork Vineyard

Big Cork Vineyards facility
With a name like Big Cork,we were expecting "big" things as we drove into the vineyard and winery during early August 2015. We were not disappointed.  

Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland, is situated about an hour and a half from Baltimore, and worth the drive. The scenery along the route is a pleasant change from the flatness of the Chesapeake Bay area, but better than that, the hospitality and the wine offerings are excellent.

Follow the Signs
We had heard about the winery from friends who had visited and were really impressed and so we decided to head out for the day to visit a previously unknown (to us) winery. 

The facility is first-class with a great restaurant and some of the best Maryland wines that we have experienced. The combination of a well-planned facility with very enjoyable wines with a nice restaurant seems to be the combination that other wineries and vineyards are using for success and it certainly had all come together at Big Cork.

Big Cork Tasting Room
The tasting room is expansive and inviting. There is ample room to enjoy the wines at a very well thought out tasting bar and the room has a pleasantly modern motif. This is what a tasting room should be prepared to do: immerse the visitor into the wines and into the entire operation of the vineyard. The view of the barrel room provides a great backdrop while sampling the vintages. 
Big Cork Barrel Room

We were impressed with the entire range of wines produced. The whites, the roses, and the reds. There were eleven wines on the tasting sheet the day we visited and between both of us we tasted each of them and found solid enjoyable wines that should appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers and oenophiles. 

The 2013 Viognier was an especially nice drinking wine with a good $24 price point. The aromas of apricot and orange made this an especially enjoyable wine.
Assortment of Big Cork wines

The vineyards' most unique wine was labeled Russian Kiss (2013/$20) and represented a blend of an unnamed Croatian varietal with muscat. It was very floral in nature and enjoyable to experience. We especially enjoy the use of lesser known varietals in wines to help expand understanding that there are more than just a few different grapes used to create wine and that each one has something to offer in the process.

Lunch at the Cafe
The 2012 Cabernet Franc, $22, was, in our estimation, one of the best we have tasted from the entire region. We thoroughly enjoyed it and even ordered some to have with our lunch. The wine was complex and the addition of 7 percent Petite Verdot really enhanced the wine and brought out the peppery and earthy tones. We have placed this wine on our short list for Thanksgiving this year.

Another interesting and enjoyable wine was the 2014 Syrah Rose, $16, which presented raspberries and strawberries and was the embodiment of a light, easy drinking afternoon wine. 

RECOMMENDATION: Put this vineyard on your day trip list. Plan at least an hour and more if you are in the mood for some food. Big Cork is Big!

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Maryland: Go West to Charis

Charis Winery
Cumberland, Maryland
We had the opportunity to visit off to Cumberland, Maryland, and were surprised to find a winery at the trail head of the C&O Towpath Bike Trail. 

Being oenophiles, we had to check out Charis Winery before beginning the trek back to the Baltimore area. 
Charis Wines

We were glad that we stopped in and visited. We were met by Chuck, the owner who is proud of his winery which is showcases wines with variety and creativity ranging from crisp dry and sweet whites to uncharacteristically deep red. 

The tasting notes document 15 wines representing a wide variety of tastes and interests. Additionally, we were able to get a barrel tasting of a couple wines yet to be released and one surprise wine--that we highly recommend but will not divulge the secret. It is not for sale but definitely engenders some interesting conversation. The grapes are sourced from Maryland and West Virginia--which is local to Cumberland.

We most enjoyed the Pinot Noir ($19.95). It is a non-vintage offering that has some unique and very enjoyable characteristics. It is very dark and deep--uncharacteristic for a Pinot Noir, officially it would be medium body. It has spice and a definite black cherry nose. The tannins, acidity and mineralogy are all well balanced and there is a silky feeling in the mouth. It is not a Pinot Noir for those who are looking for the perfect representation of the grape, but it is a very drinkable wine worth enjoying. 

The Trinity Dry was a nice blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The wine had nice structure and a very nice nose. 

The selection of white offerings was, as expected, one of the highlights of the visit. The winery offers a white wine for seemingly every palate and taste. From dry to sweet, each offering has something unique to present. 

Two of the whites could easily become everyday wines: Sweet Dreams and Sunset. 

Sweet Dreams is a Moscato with juicy fruit and flavors that are bursting. This wine appeals to the sweeter side of life and is especially good chilled on a hot day around the pool or sipping on the porch. The Sunset is an un-oaked Chardonnay based wine with peach and apricot flavors but none of the buttery taste or feel that characterize many of the wines produced form this grape.

RECOMMENDATION: A must stop to enjoy Maryland Wines. We enjoyed our visit to the winery and recommend it as a reason to visit Cumberland, Maryland, and then you will be in a good position to enjoy many of the other sights and activities in the area. And say hello to Chuck!

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, May 31, 2015

WineFest at St. Michael's 2015

Wine Tents at St Michael's
During the last weekend of April, we attended the WineFest at St Michael's, Maryland. It had been a few years since we last visited the beautiful town on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to enjoy a weekend of wine and education. 

We were not disappointed. The WineFest has grown significantly from its prior iteration of two large tents in a park along the harbor into a city-wide event. The growth allows for those attending to be able to enjoy the beauty of the town and the offerings of the local merchants along with a days of wine tasting and education. 

Some observations:

The parking plan works! The bus service is convenient, but the venues are close enough that we walked everywhere. 

The tents, especially at the larger venues, get very busy on Saturday afternoon. If you can, plan to spend the additional day, Sunday, and enjoy smaller crowds.
Chris in a Wine Venue at St Michael's

The smartphone application is good. It could be improved by incorporating an ordering service to avoid having to stand in line and place wine orders in each tent.

A centralized pick-up service for wine would be an improvement. This could be a crime through affair where the wines are pulled and ready when people pull up.

The town is beautiful and definitely worth one or two days to explore and enjoy wines.

Don't miss the Maryland wines!

Take time to talk to the vendors. They have a lot of great information about the wines and the regions they come from. The time spent at the fest should be educational as well as enjoyable. 

RECOMMENDATION: This is a great event to sample a large variety of wines and find a new favorite or expand the palate. It is fun and the great value for the price.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sheldrake Point Winery -- A Gem on Cayuga Lake

From the Back Parking Lot
 of Sheldrake Point Winery
 looking towards Cayuga Lake
We had the opportunity to revisit a favorite winery on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes of New York. We were definitely excited about the current offerings from Sheldrake Point Winery in Ovid, New York. 

Sheldrake Point has been a favorite winery of our for many years. Located on the west shore of Cayuga Lake, it is a short drive from Ithaca and is very scenic. The winery offers a good variety of wines suitable for all situations. The staff is friendly and helpful and the tasting room has a bright, openness to it which matches the character of the wines being produced. 

Our house white wine for a few years now has been the Luckystone White, at $12 has a great price point is fantastic and the wine has a character that pleases many palates. It is a bright blend of Riesling (49%),  Pinot Gris (33%), Chardonnay (12%), and Gew├╝rztraminer (6%). These are all great Central New York grapes and produce bright, full flavors. It gets a score of 84.7 in Cellar Tracker--which is a solid score for a good all around white blend.

The 2014 Dry Rose was another great find at the winery during our recent visit there. We found that at $14, the price point on this wine is very good. The Rose is a Cabernet Franc Rose and the bouquet of the wine is floral with nice firm strawberry flavors. The wine is a pleasant drinking wine and it should go well with a variety of foods and cheeses.

The find of the visit, however, was the newly released 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. I know what you are thinking--but it is New York! Don't be fooled--this is a full bodied CabSav with a great nose and full flavor taste accompanied by supple tannins and a medium finish. I was impressed. The tasting notes read: Plush with aromas of smoke and stewed fruit. Flavors of sweet oak and plum interact with an herbaceous and savory quality through the finish of the wine. At $37, it is not for everyone, but it is very nice drinking right now and I believe that in two or three years this is going to be a very special wine. 

RECOMMENDATION: This is a Finger Lakes winery that is not to be missed. There is something for every palate and the view of the lake is worth the visit even for the designated driver!

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD