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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Harvest Ridge Winery, Marydel, DE – July 12th, 2014

Harvest Ridge Winery, Marydel, DelawareTechnically, this piece should be called Maryland’s Eastern Shore, part deux. Even though Harvest Ridge has some vines in Maryland, the winery sits just over the state line in rural Delaware so I made a judgement call. Same trip, different state.

Harvest Ridge opened their gorgeous winery and tasting room last fall to a lot of fanfare on social media. I originally planned to attend the grand opening, but something came up. Life, you know how it is.

Although Harvest Ridge in the middle of nowhere, it is a worthwhile destination. The newly constructed facility is huge, with banquet facilities and room for outdoor seating in the front and the rear of the building. There is a courtyard in the middle, which accommodates outdoor games and also a gazebo. The first vines were planted here in 2011 and the grass on the property is just starting to come in.

Backyard Louie'sSo we rolled into the lot on this humid afternoon and my stomach was rumbling. There really wasn’t much of a lunch selection between here and Chestertown. Fortunately, Backyard Louie’s BBQ truck was right out front. I was covered. My little group opted for air conditioning over food, however, so I decided to wait.

So how do the grapes grow right on the Mason Dixon line? If the delicious arsenal of wine being poured today is an indicator, I would say pretty good. Kira was our hostess today, and walked us through the tasting. Per standard practice, we went from whites to reds to sweet wines. They have some alternate fruit based offerings, as many other local producers do, so there is something here for everyone.

I tasted eight wines today, as follows:

1. 2013 Pinot Gris – This light, off-dry selection flaunts fresh, green apple on the nose and the palate. You can’t go wrong with a chilled glass of this on a hot summer day.

Kira, our charming barkeep2. 2011 Viognier – This French grape grows very well here. The Viognier is more full bodied than the Pinot Gris, with some oak and subtle stone fruit notes. This finishes smooth and slight spicy.

3. 2013 Chambourcin – Yeah, they grow it outside of Pennsylvania, people. This Chambourcin was lighter in flavor than what I’m used to. A deep colored wine, the dark, spicy texture gave way to a slight hint of Good & Plenty. That’s just my opinion. Disclaimer: Don’t share it with the kids.

4. 2011 Merlot – A complex, oaked Merlot. This was my favorite wine today. Red fruit characteristics and a powerful finish. This is what Merlot should be.

5. 2013 Blue Hen Blue – This is a blend of Concord grape and blackberry. This makes great Sangria, see below.

6. Apple – 100% apple wine, from locally sourced fruit. Crisp and delicious. Serve chilled.

The 2013 Country Bloom7. 2013 Country Bloom – A sweet Rosé made with Chambourcin grapes.

8. 2013 Vidal Blanc – This reminded me of liquid fruit salad in a glass. A good summer offering but not really to my taste. Fran loved it, though.

Custom made SangriaSo, today was Sangria Saturday. I picked up a bottle of Blue Hen Blue to mix up for this. The deal was that you can pick any bottle of Harvest Ridge wine, and they will mix it with your choice of fruit and ice it and blend it for you. The girls took care of personalizing the Sangria while I wandered outside for a cheeseburger. I don’t think I’m the hardest person to please but I would say that it was a damn perfect pairing.

Thanks to Kira, the rest of the staff at Harvest Ridge and Backyard Louie’s for a great afternoon. You reaffirm the reason that I keep doing this. Cheers!

Harvest Ridge Winery is brand, spanking new and it’s built for groups and events. Get over there and break it in.

Links:

Harvest Ridge Winery
Delaware Wineries Association on Facebook
Backyard Louie’s BBQ

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Maryland’s Eastern Shore – Part 1 of 4

There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the house, even if it’s only for a day or two. So, in celebration of Fran’s birthday, I whisked her away to a bed and breakfast near the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Maryland.

Heading south!I was really looking forward to this trip and the opportunity to sample some new offerings from our neighbors to the south. We were meeting up with a few friends in that area over the course of the weekend and the beautiful weather in the forecast helped with the positive vibes. I’ve been feeling like a caged animal lately and itching to travel.

So anyway, on Saturday morning, we set off for the historic village of Chestertown. We picked up our cohort Debbie, who lives on the bay near there. Chestertown hosts a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and some local wine producers pour there. It seemed like a great way to kick off the weekend.

Farmers’ markets rock. You find all kinds of awesome, regionally-grown food and local artists showing off their wares. I was surprised to see some Amish this far south selling their fantastic baked goods.

Side note: If you’ve never tried shoo-fly pie, heated in the microwave and covered in whipped cream, you’re missing out. We were late, they had sold out of it already.

Don Tilmon of Tilmon's IslandThe state of Maryland really supports its wine producers and I was fortunate to experience three of them at the market. Remember that it’s okay to sample wine in the morning if you refer to it as “tasting.” I’m just saying. If you have a couple of glasses with your pancakes, we’re in a different ballpark.

Don Tilmon is a local winemaker who originally made his elixir out of his basement. A retired college professor, he shared with me that he makes wine to primarily stay out of trouble. Don’s first grapes were planted in 1999, and he holds the distinction of establishing the “First winery in Queen Anne’s County” when he opened his doors in 2004. He was pouring his Kent Narrows Chianti this morning, which is dark, well balanced and complex. Another notable offering of his is the Rock Hall Rosé. All of Tilmon’s grapes are from surrounding counties in Maryland.

Crow's 2012 Merlot based RoséSide note #2: If you are thinking of Rosé as the pink, sweet stuff from days past, well, this ain’t it. Rosé wine is undergoing a renaissance right now and the styles are very varied. There are many wine producers, local and otherwise, that offer high quality, outstanding Rosés, most of which are on the drier side. Excellent summer wine that goes great with pasta. Don’s Rock Hall fell into this category.

Donna and Mary Jane of Clovelly VineyardsThe next winery stand that we stumbled upon was Clovelly Vineyards. Clovelly bottled their first wine on April 11th of this year, after planting vines on their farm in 2009. They grow their own grapes on about ten acres overlooking the Chester River. Their first offerings consist of Vidal Blanc, their Riverside Red blend and, surprise, an excellent dry Rosé. I anticipate that we’ll be hearing big things from Clovelly in the future.

Last stop before lunch (not a practice that I recommend, the fuller the stomach during wine tasting, the better) was Crow Farm. Catrina and Ally were pouring the wine today. Crow has a farm in nearby Kennedyville, where they raise grass fed beef, grow grapes and run a bed & breakfast. Not so ironic that this is where we stayed for the weekend.

Ally and Catrina of Crow FarmCatrina recently brought her winemaking talents to Crow after getting her chops in California and Australia. She most recently gained recognition for her award-winning ice wine during her tenure at Galer Estate in Chester County, PA. Stay tuned for more on Crow as the weekend is only getting started.

And in case you were wondering, they sell not one, but two excellent Rosés.

Thanks for stopping by. Next up, we’ll be skipping over the Delaware state line to visit Harvest Ridge. Cheers!

Links:

Chestertown Farmers Market
Tilmon’s Island Winery
Clovelly Vineyards
Crow Farm and Vineyard
Chesapeake Wine Trail

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Fireworks & Wine? Yes, please.

Fireworks & Wine 2014Once upon a time there was a winery on the Philadelphia countryside, whose owners realized that on July 4th of every year a farm across the street held a large, private, no-holds-barred fireworks show at dusk.

They decided to stay open late that night to sell a few bottles to patrons, have an enjoyable little gathering and share the festivities with the approximately fifteen guests that showed up.

Fast forward four years.

The secret is out. On Friday, July 4th, 2014 after much planning, live music & food vendors booked, and plenty of social media buzz, Penns Woods got more than double of their expected attendance. We’re talking over a thousand visitors. Dia Doce sold all of their cupcakes. The Meat House ran out of meat. But fortunately, there was enough wine to take the event to the end. Although the popular Viognier didn’t last.

Record breaking crowd today!This is quite a feat in an area that had hundreds of fireworks shows going on at he same time slot, not to mention a world class celebration in the birthplace of America, less than an hour away. I’m sure that quality local wine & food had a hand in this. The perfect weather didn’t hurt either, and a Friday holiday will get people out & about, for sure.

A little bird told me that the event will be set up differently going forward, perhaps in a reservation format. Even though it was a resounding success, Fireworks and Wine brought about borderline craziness from the enormous turnout and a real strain on the staff. Though I’m happy I got to experience it in it’s raw format.

Happy 238th Birthday, America!Amidst the parking problems, unruly patrons (they show up everywhere, folks) and long lines, this event was pulled off with poise and class. I want to thank the staff at Penns Woods for busting ass and maintaining professionalism throughout the event.

Oh, a special shout out to McKenzie Brew House right up the street for the mouth watering roast chicken pot pie. Paired nicely with a Route 202 Pale Ale, this made for a pleasant dinner.. God Bless America.

McKenzie's Roast Chicken Pot Pie!

Raise a glass! See you next year.

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