Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards, Church Hill, MD – July 13th, 2014

Cassinelli Winery & VineyardsMaryland, day two. My sincere apologies that it took two months to cover a two day road trip. Come to think of it, it may be a good incentive to live each day to the fullest and extend the good times. Or something like that. Enough rambling.

Cassinelli Winery is located south of Chestertown on Rt. 213 in the heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. When you enter the winery, the tasting room is off to the right of the production area. It’s evident there is a lot of change happening here.

Stephanie, Al & JenniferOwner Al Cassinelli is a high energy, enthusiastic guy who is obviously very excited about his endeavor here in Church Hill. In addition to the winery, Al shared his plans to open a distillery in downtown Chestertown this coming April. Since my visit, Cassinelli officially announced their approved Federal Distillery status.

Al & his wife Jennifer have thirteen acres of vines on their farm, and bring in the remainder of their grapes from other sites in Queen Anne County. The wine is all from locally sourced fruit, which will be the catalyst for Al’s distilled spirits as well.

The Cassinellis offer nine wines at the winery, and I wasn’t shy & tasted them all. I can think of much less pleasant ways to spend an afternoon. Mowing grass for example. Anyway, here we go.

Vidal – Floral character with notes of honeysuckle. This wine is dry and somewhat syrupy. Al calls this this Vidal Blanc his winter white.

2011 Chardonnay – The first of two back-to-back Chards today, the ’11 is a nice, easy drinker with aromas of honey. An interesting tidbit on the Chard is that they plant two tons of grapes per acre, as opposed to five for the Vidal.

2009 Chardonnay – This lightly oaked wine is cleaner than the ’11. Two barrels of this was aged in oak, which gives it a creamy mouthfeel.

Pole Dancer WhitePole Dancer White – Al has a thing for old school burlesque, which was the impetus for the name of this one. This wine is from Vidal grapes with 3% Residual Sugar. Very similar to a sweet Riesling.

Rosé of Barbera – A good compromise between dry & sweet, this earthy Rosé is in contact with the skins for 24 hours to keep the color. Excellent summer sipper, RS is about .5%. This wine brought home a lot of medals.

Pole Dancer Sweet Red – This concoction is a mix of whites, reds (Sangiovese & Merlot) and raspberry. This popular, local favorite outsells every other wine here by a huge margin.

2007 Merlot – Nice example of local Merlot and great paired with chocolate. Great color on this.

Livestock! Fun for the entire family!2010 Barbera Reserve – Keeping with the weekend Barbera theme, this light, enjoyable example is earthy on the nose with a dry finish. My favorite wine today.

Chocolate Kiss – Very accurate description. A blend of Merlot & Peruvian chocolate.

Al is an engaging host and was gracious enough to spend the afternoon with us and gave a tour of the facility, despite the busy activity in the tasting room today. Cassinelli’s offerings are a prime example of making the most of the Eastern Shore’s unique terroir. Barbera and Sangiovese are driving the reds as big Cabernets are tough to grow here.

Cassinelli Winery is a part of the newly formed Vintage Atlantic Wine Region, which showcases some of the fantastic wine being offered here on the East Coast. More big news on this new venture to come.

'Nuff saidI personally want to thank Al, Jennifer and their staff for the memorable visit. Best of luck on the distillery. It’s already on the list for next year.

Links:
Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards
Chesapeake Wine Trail
Vintage Atlantic Wine Region (Stay tuned for more on this!)

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Finger Lakes Wine: Always In Style

Finger Lakes wine selections

A Traveling Wine Chick/Uncorked Remarks Collaboration

May was officially Finger Lakes Wine Month. On the eve of June 1, 2014, the Finger Lakes Alliance finished things off with a bang. They hosted a large, online virtual tasting with thirty-seven member of the media and hundreds of passionate enthusiasts. There was live tweeting, Facebook sharing, Skyping, and drinking. It was like being at a large wine bar with everyone. Almost. OK, not really, but we have this technology, we might as well use it.

Sipping, Tweeting, Skyping

I’m finding out that it’s much easier to imbibe and NOT write than try to create a funny and entertaining piece about it. In spite of this, the good folks at the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance graciously included Traveling Wine Chick and I in the sharing of their always fantastic offerings for Finger Lakes Wine Month. Below are our thoughts. Me first, of course.

The three wines on my docket consisted of two Rieslings and a Gewürztraminer. The Finger Lakes region is known for their high-quality, cool-climate Rieslings. I sampled two fantastic examples along with a Gewürztraminer.

The Finger Lakes lineup

2012 Fulkerson Winery Semi-Dry Riesling
Only 274 cases estate grown and produced, this wine has balanced acidity and sweetness, yielding a Riesling with great fruit and floral aromas as well as flavors of stone and tree fruits, like apples, pears, and peaches. Price = $12.99.

2012 Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars Red Oak Vineyard Riesling
This is one of the Finger Lakes’ hallmark, award-winning Rieslings, estate grown and bottled. It is stainless-steel fermented, medium-dry, with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle and tropical fruits, and a long, sweet-to-acid finish. Price = $19.99.

2012 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard Riesling

2012 Lakewood Vineyards Gewürztraminer
This estate-grown and produced Gewürztraminer, only 201 cases made, has aromas and flavors of citrus and spice. It would be the perfect wine to complement spicy, Asian cuisine. Wine Spectator rated the wine 88 points and it earned a Gold Medal in the NY Wine & Food Classic. Price = $14.99.

Though I have not yet visited the Finger Lakes to visit the wineries, Traveling Wine Chick sings their praises after three visits. Here are her reviews of the three wines she received as samples.

Getting ready to taste!

2011 Goose Watch Winery Riesling-Gewurztraminer (Cayuga Lake, Finger Lakes)
In this wine, you will find a blend of 60% Riesling, 40% Gewurztraminer, which is quite rare and unique. The grapes originate from the winery’s Blue Waters farm on Cayuga Lake and from vineyards on the west side of Seneca Lake. The wine is pale gold in color with both floral and fruit aromatics. This offering is medium dry (7 g/l residual sugar and 6.3 g/l acidity), no tannin, and 12% alcohol. It has palate characteristics of both Riesling and Gewurztraminer, with flavors such as apple, honeysuckle, and spices and a medium finish. I would recommend that you drink it now and not age it further. Price = $15.00.

Tasting the whites

2013 Thirsty Owl Wine Company Dry Riesling (Cayuga Lake, Finger Lakes)
Thirsty Owl’s Dry Riesling is a quintessential Finger Lakes Riesling. It is 100% estate-grown and produced with grapes from clones 239, 198, and 30-year-old vines of unknown clones. It’s pale lemon in color, with citrusy aromatics. This offering is youthful, dry (8 g/l residual sugar), with the Finger Lakes’ characteristic (and yummy!) cool-climate acidity (8.3 g/l), no tannin, and 11% alcohol. It’s loaded with both tart and sweet citrus flavors such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine, and has a long finish. You can drink it now, but it also has the potential for aging. Price = $14.95.

2012 Atwater Vineyards Big Blend

2012 Atwater Vineyards Big Blend (Atwater Estate Vineyards and Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes)
For those of you who may think bold reds can’t be produced in the Finger Lakes, allow me to introduce you to Atwater’s 2012 Big Blend (aka Super Seneca Blend). This vintage, which had a long, hot growing season, is a blend of 37% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Syrah, and 18% Cabernet Franc. The wine is deep ruby-purple in color with medium-plus aromatics of dark fruit. On the palate, it is dry (2 g/l residual sugar), with 6.3 g/l acidity (even reds in the Finger Lakes have noticeable acidity), medium-plus tannin, and 13% alcohol. It was aged nine months in 60-gallon barrels, a blend of 45% neutral American oak, 45% Neutral Hungarian oak, 5% new American oak, and 5% new Hungarian oak. It has big, bold flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and plum, a rich mouthfeel, and a long finish. You can drink it now, but it does have aging potential. Price (2011 vintage) = $21.00.

Après Tasting

Lucky for us and for you, September is the official 2013 Finger Lakes Riesling Launch and there will be events in the Finger Lakes, in New York City, and online. Upcoming events can be found at this link, including #winechat on Wednesday, September 10 and #FLXRiesling Hour on Saturday, September 27. We hope you will join us in this next celebration of Finger Lakes wine.

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Maryland’s Eastern Shore – Part 3 of 4

Crow Farm & Vineyard - Kennedyville, MDI don’t know about the rest of you, but after a full day of tasting wine, I enjoy grazing on mouth-watering barbeque. And drinking more wine. So that’s what happened.

Crow Farm is a third generation farm in rural Kennedyville, whose main business is all natural grass fed beef. They also run a nice bed & breakfast, complete with a pool and wine tasting bar, the latter of which was converted from the old milk house. Last but not least, the wine that they pour is their own, made primarily from grapes grown here on the farm and in nearby Chestertown.

All natural, high quality grass fed beef at Crow. Moo!Owners Roy & Judy Crow obviously take pride in the quality products that they provide from the farm. The wine business is fairly new, the first grapes were planted here in 2010. And the Crow’s are proof of the potential for quality wine growing right here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Roy took us through the six hand crafted wines available for purchase right now. As I mentioned, the wines are young but the quality is there.

1. Vidal Blanc 2012 – This is a good summer sipper, dry with a neutral, medium finish. The Vidal was one of the first grapes to be planted here, an acre and a half in 2010. A mild, easy drinker. — $18/bottle

Roy Crow, your bartender2. Chardonnay 2012 – The Chardonnay grapes are brought in from their vineyard in Chestertown. Like the Vidal, the Chard has a neutral character with aromas of peach & honey. Half of the grapes are aged in steel and the rest in new oak, an interesting approach. This is a delicious Chard which will probably benefit from some more time on the shelf. — $24/bottle

3. Merlot Rosé 2012 – This is the summer of excellent Rosé, it seems and this one is no exception. There is just enough Vidal (20%) mixed in with the Merlot to give it some sweetness. Crow’s award winning Barbera Rosé 2013 was unfortunately sold out, I would have liked to taste these side by side. — $15/bottle

4. Barbera 2011 – Barbera is king in Eastern Maryland. This light red is a great pairing with the local beef on the farm here. A well balanced wine with red cherries on the nose and palate. — $25/bottle

5. Merlot 2011 – My favorite wine today. Spicy with black cherries on the palate. Complex & well balanced with a smooth finish. Excellent table wine or on it’s own. Or a cigar if you’re so inclined. — $28.00/bottle

6. Sparkling 2011 – Nothing like finishing a tasting with bubbles. This dry sparkler is made from Vidal grapes brought in from Virginia. Hints of citrus and tropical fruits all over the place. This wine was made in the traditional Champage style. I enjoyed another glass after dinner.

Dinner courtesy of Chef Sabrina SextonAnd speaking of dinner, my wife and I were lucky enough to have time our visit with a guest appearance from Chef Sabrina Sexton. Sabrina put together a barbeque dinner for the local crowd and it was spectacular. Pulled pork, corn on the cob, potatoes and so on. Magnificent. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go:

The Crows were gracious hosts and I can’t stress how relaxing this visit was. I’ve grown accustomed to my suburban life and this was a real breath of fresh air, literally & figuratively. It is so quiet here, I almost couldn’t fall asleep. When I finally did I slept like a rock, though. But I’m sure that a day of drinking wine and copious amounts of barbeque had nothing to do with that.

Here's to the dog days of summer. Salut! *clink*Thanks to Judy & Roy Crow and their top notch staff for all of the hospitality.

We’ll be back.

Links:

Crow Farm & Vineyard – Kennedyville, MD
Chef Sabrina Sexton
Maryland’s Chesapeake Wine Trail

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Arrogant Frog Live Virtual Tasting – July 15, 2014

A Traveling Wine Chick/Uncorked Remarks collaboration

Arrogant Frog - Marketing geniusFrench wine producer Domaines Paul Mas made the decision to relaunch their popular Arrogant Frog line this year, and we were lucky enough to participate. In collaboration with McCue Communications, owner/winemaker Jean-Claude Mas answered questions about his new batch of offerings in a live, online tasting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the format, Jean-Claude and Michelle McCue discussed the new wines, while the participants tasted along, asked questions and live tweeted our opinions and findings.

You will soon see these wines everywhere. They are well crafted, made to drink now and very affordable. Jean-Claude meticulously explored the four newly-released wines tonight (all are 2013 vintage): Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. I will share my take on the two reds and my co-conspirator, Traveling Wine Chick, will review the whites. Off we go.

Arrogant Frog Cab/Merlot blendThe Pinot Noir is about as fruit-forward as any Pinot that I’ve tasted. This wine bursts with cherry flavors and has a toasty, smoky character. Now I chilled it for a short time and just opened the bottle prior to the event, so it was a bit overpowering to me. The Pinot is deep purple in color, almost garnet. Over the next day or two, it softened up nicely and was considerably more enjoyable. Not bad for ten bucks, but you will want to decant this if you can.

Jean-Claude’s Cab/Merlot blend was more my style. I was surprised how complex this wine was for the price. Like the Pinot, it had a lot of fruit on the palate and a dark color. This blend showed layers of character that the first wine didn’t. This will do the trick at your next cookout or with a steak. And I would let this one breathe for awhile also.

And here’s our pro, Beth with the choice, summer whites …

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Domaines Paul Mas owner/winemaker Jean-Claude MasArrogant Frog is Jean-Claude Mas’ “everyday luxury” line of wines. Each wine costs around $10 per bottle.

Arrogant Frog is unique in that the wines are produced in Languedoc, France (Pays d’Oc IGP – Indication Géographique Protégée), but are fermented in American oak, which gives them a new-world style. As Jean-Claude said in during our virtual tasting, they are “old world wines with new world attitude.” The use of American oak, with its more open grain, generally interacts more with the wine. It impacts the flavor more than French oak, often adding flavors such as coconut and vanilla, and provides more tannin and a creamier mouthfeel.

If you try this line of wines, it is recommended that you decant and try them 24 hours later. As stated Jean-Claude, “All of my wines taste better one day later, that’s my style.”

Sauvignon Blanc
I was surprised at creaminess of Arrogant Frog Sauvignon Blanc, with aromas and flavors of warmer-climate fruits such as pineapple, stone fruits, and tropical fruits. Citrus was present, but not overpowering. I found it to be very refreshing for summertime sipping. Recommended pairing: grilled white fish and raw oysters.

Arsenal for tonight's tastingChardonnay
The Chardonnay was similar in style to the Sauvignon Blanc, in that it had that similar creamy mouthfeel and balanced fruit. It possessed aromas and flavors of vanilla, apple, peach, pear, and tropical fruits with a medium finish. I’m thinking shellfish as a pairing here: lobster, shrimp, and scallops. Now I’m hungry.

Both white wines utilize a Stelvin (screw cap) closure and are meant to be consumed now.

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These wines are a great bargain at this price point, four popular varieties which will satisfy a wide range of palates. And serious enough for you skeptics out there.

Thanks to Jean-Claude & Michelle for a great tasting experience. Salut!

Links:

Everyday Luxury with Domaines Paul Mas
Traveling Wine Chick, Beth Smith
McCue Communications

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