Mario Patone: One to watch

2008 Patone Cellars MerlotThe past couple of years, the wine culture around the Brandywine Valley and Chester County area has really awakened. The newly formed Vintage Atlantic Wine Region is working to bring a cohesiveness to the wineries and trails of the belt surrounding Philadelphia. Several players are taking advantage of the recent focus on this territory, and a handful of new wineries and tasting rooms have taken root.

Mario, Enzo and IsabellaDuring this renewal of Mid-Atlantic wine, local winemaker Mario Patone has been quietly bringing his dream to fruition, the dream of making kick-ass wine from locally-sourced grapes. I’ve been a fan of Mario’s wine since I discovered him selling it out of his garage during my first Barrels on the Brandywine in 2011. Since then, Mario has been working hard and jumping seemingly endless hurdles with the local township to build his winery. It’s been an uphill battle to resolve issues from zoning to parking and everything in between. No expense has been spared for this beautiful facility which Mario hopes to open this year. He wants it how he wants it, period. I have a lot of respect for a man of his conviction, who is willing to follow his passion without compromise, expense be damned.

The newly constructed facility in LandenbergThe wine production and tasting facility is coming together nicely. I recently spent a few Saturday hours chatting with Mr. Patone and I have to say that his enthusiasm is contagious. He recently installed a massive fireplace in the tasting area, which was roaring on this chilly late February afternoon. His residence sits on top of the newly-constructed winery, which resembles an Italian villa. This is not unintentional, given his roots in Italy. He shared his plans with me for private dinners in the facility, a wine library to showcase his early vintages and expanding his offerings to lesser known grape varieties. He spoke animatedly about the ups and downs of getting the business where he wants it.

The 2013 Meritage aging at the wineryMario Patone’s family hails from Abruzzo, which helped stoke his fire for winemaking. My favorite offering in his 2011 vintage lineup is his powerful Cabernet Sauvignon. Well balanced with a strong finish, this wine has plenty of presence. The Merlot has more finesse, a substantial wine in it’s own right. The 2011 dry Rosato is a treasure, which pairs well with a hot July day if well chilled. The Fiore Bianchi is a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay, with a touch of Traminette. For Thanksgiving 2014, Mario released a Beaujolais Nouveau which was extremely good, as I’m normally not a fan. It’s light bodied but complex enough to hold it’s own against any other Nouveau out there. When the stars align and Patone Cellars is set to launch, it will be a huge boon to the Brandywine Valley.

Patone Cellars. Tasting room coming soon. “Presently, Patone Cellars is in pursuit of making the highest quality of wine by merging modern techniques with traditional European methods. The wines of Patone Cellars have been hand crafted in our boutique winery with a delicate balance between science and nature to ensure quality and taste.”

– Patone Cellars
– Landenberg, Pennsylvania

Remember that you heard Mario’s name right here and tell him that I sent you. I dare you to be disappointed.


Patone Cellars on Facebook
Vintage Atlantic Wine Region

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Movie Review: A Year in Champagne

A Year in ChampagneThis film is the second in a trilogy of documentaries written and produced by David Kennard. Following on the heels of 2013′s A Year in Burgundy, the story takes viewers on a jaunt through the Champagne region of northeastern France during the 2012 growing season and harvest.

A Year in Champagne follows Martine Saunier through a handful of Champagne houses from early spring through harvest and into winter. Martine is an enthusiastic importer of some of her native France’s finest wines into the United States.

Party in a bottle!
The Champagne region is unique in that all of the wines produced here fall under one appellation, or wine growing area. This makes it easier to define the “rules” for production of the sparkling elixir, in which there are many. Champagne making is very regimented so that quality is consistent. From harvesting to cellaring the wine to pruning the vines, the CVC (Champagne’s Big Brother) keeps tight regulatory control over everything.

Though I’ve personally done some studies on this region, I learned a lot while watching this lighthearted documentary. The material is presented in an interesting, unintimidating fashion. I didn’t even mind the subtitles, which is kind of a big deal considering I changed majors in college just so I could drop French.

The growing region of Champagne

Image courtesy of Wine Folly

Coming off of an exceptional vintage in 2011, the 2012 growing season presented some challenges. It kicked off with a cold, windy, rainy spring, which threatened a crop of saturated or rotting grapes and a small harvest. At the risk of giving too much away, everything worked out in the end as the weather dried out in August. The harvest was indeed small but the grapes expressed magnificent quality with concentrated acid & sugars. After harvest and into winter, we get a glimpse of the blending process, which can be done with juice from other vintages to ensure quality. And then the second fermentation in the bottle with yeast and added sugar kicks off the actual creation of Champagne.

Champagne’s past isn’t all sex and rock & roll. The region has had it’s struggles over it’s storied history. As there are no mountains protecting the region, it has been a blood drenched battleground many times over. Thousands of soldiers have lost their lives where these vines now stand. From Atilla the Hun around 1500 years ago, up until World War I, this area has seen it’s share of conflict and strife. And the residents will never forget.

Over a billion bottles in the underground cellars of ChampagneViewers will be fascinated by the romanticism and pleasure projected by the Champagne producing community. The participants in the Champagne industry are very proud, hardworking people but have a sense of humor and know how to kick back and enjoy life. Drinking Champagne is all about pleasure. There’s an erotic side to it, that’s just natural. Champagne means it’s a party. There’s an element of seduction to it. One might even say it’s magical.

A Year in Champagne is a visual treat and a fascinating picture, even for non wine geeks. It’s available for download and in select theaters on March 6th. See links below.

Thanks for reading!


Complete list of theaters and show times
Pre-order A Year in Champagne on iTunes
Wine Folly

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Observations 2014

Don't be fooled by my expression. I'm in my happy place.Well, here it is December and I figured it’s time to jump back into the land of the living. It’s been a good year for the most part and I wanted to share a few tidbits that I picked up along the way.

As I’ve been involved in the local wine community for awhile now, I stepped back and took a look at how my perceptions have changed. I’ve taken a few classes, attended a variety of industry events, talked to many wine and restaurant professionals and tasted a lot of juice. Here’s a peek into what I’ve learned.

It boils down to this …

Wine enjoyment can be either as snotty or laid back as you want it to be. The culture of wine has gotten it’s somewhat pretentious reputation for a good reason. Oenophiles (wine geeks) like to travel the globe and taste wines from well known or obscure regions. Wine is produced everywhere. And in a lot of those places, it isn’t cheap.

The 2011 Cedar courtesy of Va La Vineyards

Photo courtesy of the Traveling Wine Chick, Elizabeth Smith

That said, as a fan and promoter of the thriving local wine scene here in southeastern PA, I found that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good quality wine. Some of you may turn up your nose at the homegrown juice, but hey, more for us in the know. Good winemakers let the land speak to find out what the local conditions will give them. Different grapes thrive in different areas.

So anyway, I’ve gotten off track lately. I had high hopes for this endeavor when I started it and I still do. Where do I want it to go? I’m not really sure at this point. Wine reviews? I think that’s been done. I may go above and beyond for some local gems, though. How about wine photography? If my wife cursing under her breath while I try to get that perfect shot of my glass of Cab for #WineWednesday is any indication, I would say that’s been played out also.

So the big question is: Why wine? What is the appeal of this magnificent beverage to me?


A damn near perfect evening, if I say so myself.That’s it. Wine is meant to be enjoyed with others. Good wine and food is the cornerstone of quality social interaction. A few weekends ago, my wife and I got together with some acquaintances at a little vineyard in Avondale, PA and the night turned out fantastic. By the end of the evening we were all laughing, talking animatedly and enjoying every moment.

And it was Instagram-free. (Though admittedly Facebook wasn’t off limits).

Since I brought that up, here’s what wine enjoyment is not: The number of wine-centric Twitter followers you have. And yes, I have a few. It’s not a 90+ score from Robert Parker or Antonio Galloni. It’s not how much geekspeak the Somm-wannabes throw around at tastings.

Sunset over the little vineyardFriends and the fruits of the earth.

That’s it. Thanks for reading.

“Beer is made by men, wine by God.”
~ Martin Luther

Shouts to:

Va La Vineyards
Traveling Wine Chick
Saveur the Good Life
SMG Winespeak

… and everyone else who gets it.


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Movie Review: American Wine Story

American Wine StoryThis past weekend, I had the opportunity to view a screening of American Wine Story.

This highly anticipated film chronicles a group of people who take their unexplained passion for wine to another level. In the spirit of similar documentaries like SOMM and Blood Into Wine, AWS tries to indirectly explain this unique obsession of a handful of wine lovers who abandon their scripted lives and put everything on the line to follow their dream.

Jimi Brooks, who was an ambitious young winegrower, is the focal character through most of the story. Having tragically passed away at age 38, he left his 8-year-old son and fields full of fruit ready for harvest. A group of several local wine producers came together to harvest and vinify Jimi’s grapes out of support and respect for their lost colleague. This embodies a refreshing example of the American spirit, and the power of hard work, passion and a dream.

EpiphanyWine lovers like to talk about having an epiphany. That first wine that really moved you. The complexity & changing character of the wine. The realization that there is no other beverage like this on the face of the planet. And the idea that this experience emboldens some so much, as to kick their careers and steady, predictable lives to the curb in order to pursue this passion is awesome to me. (In case you’re wondering, my epiphany was a 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel).

I felt a kindred spirit with Alan Baker, who at age 41, abdicated his seventeen year career in radio and moved to California to pursue his dream. He documented his experience in the Cellar Rat, his blog & podcast. He used his voice to to try to fit in somewhere, as his move was completely off the cuff and turned his life upside down. Today he runs Cartograph Wines in Healdsburg with Serena Lourie.

HTML codeMike Officer also has a story that resonated with me. He realized at an early age that sitting in a cubicle writing web code was the recipe for a slow death. He started making wine at home and that endeavor blossomed into Carlisle Winery. For myself, as a web coder in a previous life, that hit home in a big way.

These are just a few stories that are featured in this inspiring piece which screamed words of encouragement at me. The overall gist of the film is to follow your passion and do what moves you.

Seghesio Sonoma County Zin 2010From a personal standpoint, I completely get it. Describing it is another story. Yes, I have the bug. I’m in awe of those who produce the magical elixir. Practically every winemaker that I’ve ever met floors me with their brilliance, creativity and passion for the craft.

And I admit that I felt a deep stirring within myself while viewing American Wine Story. These feelings made it extremely entertaining, yet somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Yes, I have a dream.

As Morgan Freeman quoted in The Shawshank Redemption:

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Strong words. Stay tuned, my story isn’t over.


American Wine Story – Available for purchase 10/14/2014

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