Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrate Finger Lakes Wine Month With These 3 Great Wines

May is Finger Lakes wine month and as much a the first thing that comes to mind is Riesling, I celebrated without one.  I shared a Pinot Blanc, Rose of Pinot Noir and Bordeaux Style red with my neighbor who has never had the Finger Lakes wine experience. I was so glad to be able to give it to her.

We began the evening with the 2013 Glenora Wine Cellars Pinot Blanc.  Glenora is one of three wineries in the Finger Lakes that produce Pinot Blanc.  They currently are testing out the Pinot Blanc produced in three different processes.  One produced in a concrete egg shaped tank that they had imported from Burgundy, one in a stainless steel tank and the other in neutral oak barrels.

Yes the concrete egg tank does have a story behind it.  While most people that go to Burgundy will bring home wine, Glenora's owners were so intrigued with the concrete egg shaped tanks they saw while touring the wineries, they brought one home as a souvenir. They and winemaker Steve DiFrancesco decided to try the Pinot Blanc Trilogy Experience, hence the three different production processes.

The Pinot Blanc that I tasted, 50% of it was aged in the neutral oak barrels for 6 months. The oak balanced out the acidity and brought softness to the palate.

The nose on this wine was full of citrus, lemon and a bit of chalkiness.  The palate was full of pear with some orange zest, lime. The minerality comes through on the palate and the wine has a nice lingering finish.

It's a nice easy drinking wine and  must for the summer.  SRP $14.99

Don't think our wine tasting didn't include some food.  I prepared a goat cheese tart with half caramelized onions, the other half plain.  It went very well with both the Pinot Blanc and the Rose.

The 2014 Pinot Noir Rose from Chateau Lafayette Reneau had a beautiful fresh nose of strawberry and floral aromas.  As the wine warmed up a bit after coming from the fridge, the strawberry aroma was that of a strawberry Jolly Rancher.  The fresh strawberries carried over to the taste and the wine had a nice creamy mouth feel.  The wine finished with hints of pomegranate seed that gave it a hint of bitterness.  SRP $16.99

We finished off the evening with Hector Wine Company's 2013 Essence which is a Bordeaux style blend.  It's made with 1/3 each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  The wine is aged in a separately in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak, with some of the oak new.

A  very complex nose, the wine had layers of black fruit. As the black fruit began to identify itself, aromas of black berry, black cherry stood out with hints of vanilla and oak.  This all came through on the palate as well. SRP $25

It was a great evening celebrating Finger Lakes Wine Month.  I am glad I got to introduce Finger Lakes wines to someone new.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wine Word Wednesday: Ageworthy

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Hoppy Birthday to the Captain

Captain Lawrence marked its ninth birthday in style, with a half dozen bands, as many food vendors and several hundred fans of the brewery coming out to try beers old (Freshchester Pale Ale, Liquid Gold), new (Kirk Lazarus dark witte and Effortless IPA) and rare (Cuvee de Castleton, Rosse e Marrone). The Captain had something to prove after last year’s endless lines at the anniversary pig roast, but this year’s “Tap & Pour” bash had oodles of food–not only pig but pizza from Dough Nation, hot dogs from Walter’s, appetizers from Gleason’s and several other local victual varieties.
Nick Funeral of Monmouth County, New Jersey generally stays away from large crowds, but finds the mix of people at Tap & Pour just about right. After all, Captain Lawrence cut the ticket total almost in half from last year to keep it relatively intimate. “It’s spaced out enough, and there’s no line for beer,” he says.
Nick sips some pale ales with pals Tom Schultzel and Megan Jones of Elmsford. There is some debate as to whose idea it was to come to Tap & Pour. “Mine,” says Tom. “I’m pretty sure it was mine,” counters Nick.
Nick works out a compromise. “It’s half his and half mine,” he says. “And a quarter Megan’s.”
It wasn’t the schools or the parks that drew Tom and Megan to Westchester—it was the brewery. Tom was looking to move from Jersey for work, so he and Megan poked around White Plains a bit. “Hated it,” says Megan, as Nick refers to her as a “Piney”, and insists I include that.
But Megan and Tom ducked into Ron Black’s, had the Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale, and blissfully sat back as a humdrum afternoon melded into a memorable evening. When she learned that the brewery was just up the road, well, Megan was sold. “Captain Lawrence is basically why we moved here,” she says.
Evan Watson’s VIP set in the Fermento Funk Factory, as the Captain’s new sour ale aging facility is called, winds down. Phineas and the Lonely Leaves set up shop inside the brewery. A film crew representing Jameson’s Whiskey is on hand, filming something documentary-esque related to some Captain Lawrence sours aging in Jameson’s barrels. It’s undeniably festive.
Beertender Rob Catalano was pouring at the first pig roast nine years ago, and he’s dishing out the rare brews today. “I never thought it would come to this,” he says. “It feels pretty damn good. It’s definitely crazy to see how far we’ve come.”
Rich Sutphin and Clint Ferreira made the trip from Milford and Middletown, Connecticut, respectively, invited by Captain Lawrence Connecticut rep Marcus Adams. Surrounded by oak barrels adding character to unique brews, like the ultimate man cave, they’re digging the Frost Monster imperial stout, aged in apple brandy barrels. “Delicious,” says Rich.
But the Fermento Funk Factory (patent pending, or at least it should be) is really about the sours, and Patrick Densmore, cousin of CL staffer John Hanrahan, tried them for the first time, and it’s love at first sip. “I see this as my future,” he says, though John notes that it could be an expensive lifestyle choice.
Patrick and brother Cory are up for the weekend from Philly, because that’s what you do when your cousin works in a brewery, and it’s the brewery’s birthday. Speaking of birthdays, Cory just turned 21 a few weeks before, and finds the Liquid Gold preferable to anything else a 21 year old might be drinking.
After a rainy morning, the sun is shining. While it’s a day for funky, special occasion beers, back outside, sisters Cara and Jenny Rothenberg of Tenafly, New Jersey are sipping the beer that started it all—the flagship Freshchester Pale Ale that was poured when Captain Lawrence first put flame to pig back in 2006. “I like the lighter beers,” says Cara. “I don’t go for the hoppy stuff.”
The sisters are eyeing the many food selections, but one thing has their attention: deep fried bacon—not to be confused with the band Space Bacon that’s currently got the crowd moving. “Salivating,” says Cara. “There are a lot more food options than last year.”
Nearby, a half dozen women schmooze in the sun. While most everyone’s here to sample the beer, they’ve actually agreed to drive their boyfriends to and from, their hands sporting the X of a selfless designated drive. Except Gina Palumbo of White Plains, that is. She’s quaffing the Liquid Gold, and scoping out some of the guys in attendance. Her type? “Tall, skinny, beards are OK,” she says. “Tattoos are OK too, but no Chinese characters.”
The Mark Sinnis Band takes the stage for its unique brand of “cemetery & western”. Captain Lawrence founder Scott Vaccarotakes it in with a smile as he sips a rice imperial IPA brewed specially for the day. He recalls that first pig roast in 2006, when he cooked the pig, served the pork and poured the beer. The Captain’s come a long way, to say the least.
“The sun is out and the beer is flowing,” Scott says. “We’ve got nine years on the books and we’re just getting started.”
–Michael Malone (

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in Palate Shifter imperial IPA. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wines of New Zealand: Amisfield

On of the largest single vineyard states in the Central Otago region of New Zealand, Amisfield produces Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines beneath the Pisa Mountain range in Cromwell Basin. They produce over 20,000 cases of wine per year with over 60% of the production in Pinot Noir.  The  other 40% consists of  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

I had the opportunity to taste their wines at recent New Zealand wine tasting in New York City.

The Amisfield 2014 Sauvignon Blanc had a beautiful aroma of grapefruit with a hint of pineapple. What struck me as with many of the Sauvignon Blanc's I tasted that day was how soft the grapefruit notes were on the palate.  Meaning it didn't destroy my palate.  Some of this Sauvignon Blanc was put into neutral oak barrels for 6 months and it really helped with the mouth feel without taking away from the wine.

The 2013 Amisfield Pinot Gris had aromas of quince and orange blossom filled my glass.  The wine had very nice structure with a nice crisp finish.

In 2011 they had a cool vintage and the 2011 Amisfield Pinot somewhat reflects it.  The nose was full of red cherry and some baking spices. Light on the palate with lots of dark fruit and spicy cinnamon on the finish.

The 2012 Amisfield Pinot Noir was a bit more of a serious wine than the 2011.  Lots of fresh red fruit on the nose.  The palate was full of ripe red fruit with hints of baking spices.

Overall these wines ranged in price from $20 to $35.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wine Review: Vina Real 2014 Rosado

As you may or may not know, I'm not a big fan of Rose wine but I think it is beginning to wear on me.  I am really starting to enjoy them!

Never turn your back on a wine.  Always keep your palate open as it is always changing.

This Vina Real 2014 Rosado is from the Rioja region of Spain.  It is a blend of 85% Viura and 15% Tempranillo.  Viura is also called Macabeo and it is the most widely planted white grape in Rioja. 

The wine had a nice coral color.  I picked up some rock candy peach on the nose followed with nice crisp acidity on the palate.  The palate at first had some citrus on it, but as the Rose warmed up there was some nice hints of red fruit.  I found the finish a tad bitter, like orange pith.

It was a very nice pairing for a Sunday afternoon gardening break with some cheese.

SRP $15.99

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: An Effortless Day For Mom

For some moms, the ideal Mother’s Day involves brunch with loved ones. Others opt for a picnic in the park. For still others, when it’s their choice, it’s craft beer samples at the local brewery. Megan Shamas of Fairfield, Connecticut is enjoying her first-ever Mother’s Day—with husband James and eight-week-old son Vaughn in tow. It’s a gorgeous Sunday, sun warming the patio. A sample of Effortless IPA just seems, well, effortless—as does a wood fired pizza from the Gleason’s guys.
“I wanted to do something outside,” says Megan, and after nine months of hauling Vaughn around, she didn’t mind a brew or two as well.
Vaughn sleeps peaceably in his baby seat. It’s his first trip to a brewery, though with James an avid home brewer, the wee boy is no stranger to beer making. “He’s used to the sights and smells,” says James.
James recently won the grand prize in a brewing contest at the Fairfield pub Craft 260, his Flanders red voted best in class, and earning him the privilege of brewing a big-scale beer at Two Roads Brewery. He’s enjoying the Hop Commander IPA. “We like hoppy beers,” James says.
A table away, Sumiko Tshushi of White Plains has her own sample of the session IPA called Effortless, weighing in at a wispy 4.5% alcohol, as she watches 22-month-old son Minato race around the patio. Her husband was off to the golf course, so Sumiko tagged along with neighbors Kenji and Yukiko Watanabe to Elmsford. “It’s really good,” she says, citing Captain Lawrence’s spacious patio as a favorable alternative to the crowded restaurants and cafes on Mother’s Day.
Yukiko too has the Effortless IPA, while husband Kenji steps it up to the Hop Commander. “We’ve been here a few times and saw it was OK to bring kids,” says Yukiko.
Vampire Weekend tunes fill the summery air. Not everyone on the patio is out for a Mother’s Day excursion; Greg Cashman andHugh Babowal of Chappaqua just finished a bike ride from Chappaqua, heading south on the North County rail trail, and eventually over to the brewery. All told, they did 24 miles in 151 minutes, and capped it off with a few cups of beer.
“It was my idea to do the path, and his idea to do the beer,” says Hugh. “That’s why he’s my favorite riding partner.”
Greg, sipping the Effortless IPA—clearly a popular choice in the day—calls it “fuel for the tank.” Hugh, for his part, has the Sun Block, with its hints of lemongrass and some citrus from the dry hopping. “It’s lighter, and wheatish but not too wheatish,” he says.
The two took care of their Mother’s Day commitments earlier in the day. “I got my dispensation to go riding,” says Hugh.
Others have opted for the cool embrace of the tasting room, where the musical selections include plenty of Alabama Shakes, and in between pouring samples, the beertenders try their hand at a Rubik’s Cube that has materialized, with varying degrees of success. Margaret and Charlie Mosley have made the trip from Yaphank, Long Island. “It’s our hobby–whenever we travel, we visit breweries,” says Margaret, mentioning Ommegang, Dogfish Head and Stoudt’s, among others.
“We can go on and on,” adds Charlie. “We’re very comfortable with this kind of thing.”
The couple is sipping the, you guessed it, rookie of the year beer Effortless IPA. “A nice Sunday afternoon beer,” says Charlie. They’re becoming fast friends with Joann and John Flynn of White Plains, stars of “Notes, No. 42.”
The mother of two, Margaret had her pick of destinations for the day, and Captain Lawrence won out. “We get to do what we love best,” she says. “I love beer. I love meeting people and hanging out with them. You meet the best people this way."
—Michael Malone (
Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale.