Thursday, November 14, 2019

Heinz Frischengruber of Domäne Wachau on Tradition is Experience

I recently had lunch with Heinz Frischengruber the winemaker and oenologist at Domäne Wachau. In case you are not familiar, Domäne Wachau is located in Austria and known for its outstanding Gruner Veltliner and Riesling wine.

Our lunch took place just after the Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition so I brought to lunch Millbrook Vineyards & Winery’s 2018 Gruner Veltliner for Heinz to taste. This was Heinz’s first time to New York and so fitting for him to taste a New York Gruner Veltliner. By far the best Gruners are made in Austria, but this was Heinz's first New York Gruner and New York wine. I was glad to make that introduction and we did taste the Gruners side by side. He was impressed and we briefly chatted about the differences yet similarities.

Domane Wachau      Millbrook   

“Heinz on Millbrook - different noses. As it opens it gets a little honey aromas. $18 is a good price for it.”

Heinz and Domäne Wachau
Heinz grew up in the Wachau valley on his family estate winery which his younger brother runs today. His parents had him at a young age (20 years old) and if you ever worked for in your family business (I have and know only too well) you can clash and it just isn’t healthy. Heinz was in that position and went to Germany and then overseas to learn about viticulture. When he came back he started at Domäne Wachau and has been there for 15 years.

Wachau is the most well-known region in Austria. According to Heinz, it has “great hardware” meaning terroir. The steep terraces, gneiss, rock and cool breezes coming off the Danube river have shaped winemaking through the years. They work with 250 winegrower families and cultivate vines from the best vineyards in the region.

Heinz on Climate Change
Nobody ever really likes to discuss climate change, but we did a little. What they have seen is less rainfall and crazy high temperatures. When the temps get over 34 degrees Celsius which is 93 degrees Fahrenheit the vines shut down. In the winter they prune the vines to handle the warmer weather. They are seeing bud break earlier but it’s not consistent. Many of these vines are 80 years old with deep roots, so they have begun to change course a bit in the cellar.

Heinz on Winemaking
Heinz is a big fan of traditional winemaking. Tradition is experience. The Gruner does have skin contact. For the more entry-level wine the skin contact is about 3 hours. For the “good stuff” as Heinz says, between 6 and 10 hours of skin contact. The longer the skin contact will create a more elegant wine with more spicy notes. The pepper flavor is located in the skins as well as the tannins and Gruner needs tannins. 

The Gruner Veltliner & Rieslings of Domäne Wachau
I have to say, I was so impressed with the wines from Domäne Wachau. Both the Gruner and Rieslings were crisp and clean. They were dancing in the glass. I would not hesitate to grab a bottle of any of these wines.

Two defining terms to know:
Federspiel - Stems from falconry. The historic regional sport of the aristocracy. It is also the golden meaning among the dry Wachau wine categories. This means it excels with fruity elegance, complexity and vibrant freshness
Smaragd - The opulent emerald lizard known as Smaragd are found in the terraced vineyards. Smaragd is the highest wine category. These are dry, concentrated and complex wines that represent the full potential of the grand finesse of Wachau.

Domäne Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassan 2018 SRP $18 - This is an entry-level Gruner Veltliner. Medium style blended from different vineyards. Clean, fresh, notes of citrus, lime and white pepper.

Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2018 SRP $20 - An entry-level Riesling. Beautifl and complex with notes of peach, apricot, floral, exotic fruit, and pineapple. A long soft finish laced with white pepper.

Domäne Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Ried Liebenberg 2018 SRP $25 - Elegant, light and dry with crisp acidity and notes of mandarin orange, peach and apricot.

Domäne Wachau Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Achleiten 2016 SRP $46 - This is a single vineyard Gruner with good aging potential. As Heinz said this is the “greatest single vineyard in Austria.” Terroir driven full-bodied wine. Complex wine and rounded mouthfeel and long structure. The minerality comes out with notes of green apple and a bit more spicy with the white pepper.

There’s an App for Wachau
Traveling to the region there is an app for that! Download My Wachau. It will give you all the tourism information you need.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Happy 100th Birthday Nino Franco

Nino Franco is one of the oldest winery’s in Valdobbiadene which is the area where most of the DOCG Prosecco is produced. I have to be frank with you, I was not a fan of Prosecco until I got introduced to Nino Franco. Their entry-level Prosecco “Rustico” put a huge smile on my face and I said, “damn this is nice!” Of course it is, Nino Franco Rustico has been selected this year as the #1 Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines for 2019. I wouldn’t lead you in the wrong direction, plus it's only $19.

It all began in 1919 when Antonio Franco founded “Cantine Franco.” His grandson Primo Franco and son of Nino Franco was the third generation to lead the winery and pave the way not only for the Nino Franco Winery but for Prosecco today.

So what do you do when a winery celebrates its 100th birthday? You throw a party!! That is just what Nino Franco did and they included me in that celebration! Such an honor to be part of the party! They supplied the cake, candles and Prosecco and I invited the neighbors.

Of course, I sabered! No bottle of bubbles gets past my sword. We gathered around the table, sang Happy 100th Birthday to Nino Franco, shared in some Prosecco and cake. The cake was supplied by and it was quite good and paired perfectly with 100 years and Nino Franco’s Rustico Prosecco.

Happy Birthday Nino Franco - Cheers to 100 years and many more.

For more articles on Nino Franco visit:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Last Look at Summer with Pagos de Galir

And boom it’s November! I can’t believe how fast time flies sometimes. As crazy as the summer has been the fall is a time of winding down. The restaurant is only open weekends and I can focus on my wine and get back to the gym among other activities. I look back at this summer and remember the wine friends that came down to visit and the time spent at the pool and on the boat. So here’s one last look at summer with Pagos de Galir.

Pagos de Galir is located in the D.O. Valdeorras appellation that is located within the Galicia region of Spain. In this appellation, they grow Godello and Mencia in soil that consists of schist and slate.

Virgen del Galir was founded in 2002 and it sits in the Galir river valley. The climate has Atlantic influence with cold winters and warm summers.

Wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I love to share! So when my friend Kathy came all the way to visit me from Virginia and I hosted her at the restaurant with Pagos de Galir Mencia. If you are not familiar with Mencia, it is a medium-bodied red wine, not to heavy, not to light. It actually goes well with quite a bit of the menu at Kitchen 330.

Kathy ordered the Veal Medallions with goat cheese and horseradish mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms and I ordered (yes I got to eat with her) Monkfish wrapped in Prosciutto with paella style rice, chorizo, mussels, clams, tomatoes and gremolata. At first you might say fish with a red wine, but the prosciutto, chorizo and paella totally paired with the Mencia as it paired just as well with the veal too.

Pagos de Galir Mencia 2016 SRP $17.00
Aged in American and French oak barrels for 6 months and then it spent 6 months in the bottle before being released. Dark cherry in color with hints of boysenberry and violets leads to a palate of dark fruit and layers of black cherry. As it open up notes of black licorice become apparent with soft tannins and hint of acidity.

Summer has come to an end and so has boating season. The last ride Paul and took, we took with Pagos de Galir Godello. It was a beautiful day as much of the summer and fall was. There is something so relaxing about boating and having a glass of wine at the end of your ride.

Pagos de Galir Godello 2017 SRP $19.00
Light like summer with a fresh attitude. Floral nose with hints of lemon and lime. Fresh on your palate with hints of passion fruit, pineapple and citrus nuances. Couldn’t have shared the end of boating season with a better wine.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Navarra Wines Perfect for all Seasons

Recently I have really begun to have a thing for wines from Spain. Not one particular region, as all are different and special. Wines from the Navarra region are perfect for all seasons and occasions.

Located in the northern part of Spain between the Pyrenees and the Ebro River, the D.O was established in 1933, and known for producing rose wines made from the indigenous grape variety Garnacha Tinta. Although wine-growing dates back to the first century AD, it was in the 1970 and 80’s that some of the growers decided to experiment with some French varieties like Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The elevation of the vineyards vary from 800 to 1800 feet. The climate is continental. The soils are limestone mixed with marl or alluvium

Wines of Navarra

Navarra produces many different wine styles suitable for all palates. There are crisp mineral-driven white wines as well as rich aromatic whites. You have Rose wines and red wines that can be soft and earthy to spicy and with herbal notes to the old vine reds that are very concentrated. For the sweet wine lovers they do produce some dessert wines from the Moscatel de Grano Menudo grape.

I had the opportunity to taste two wines from the Navarra region recently that I think are good all season wines. You can enjoy them in the springtime throughout the summer and into the holidays. Best part is that they are very affordable!

Bodegas Ochoa Calendas Blanco 2018 SRP $12
Made from 3 different varietals with the most prominent being Chardonnay at 75% and Viura at 25% there is also a touch of Muscatel added that brings floral aromas to the wine. Citrus pineapple aromas with hints of floral aroma lead to a plate with floral notes, pineapple, golden delicious apple and passion fruit with white spice on the finish.
This wine is nice all year round. Sit with a bottle and have some cheese and crackers, nice on the beach, with your holiday meal and perfect for apres ski.

Bodegas Inurrieta Mimao Garnacha 2016 SRP $15
One-hundred percent Garnacha fermented in stainless steel vats then aged in semi-new French oak for 7 months this wine has many layers. Lots of aromas escape from the glass. Red fruit leads to violets, anise, red raspberry with a hint in the back of black raspberry. Bright red fruit on the palate with fresh raspberries and black raspberries and a hint of baking spice on the finish.
This wine can be enjoyed all year round. Good with your barbecue, on the boat, will pair well with lamb for your holiday meal or a romantic evening in front of the fireplace.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Beach Time with Marshall Davis

I know it’s fall, but here on the east coast it has been a beautiful fall and an exceptionally warm one as well. Since I didn’t get to the beach this summer, I thought the fall would be a great time to go, especially when it was so warm, and why not bring a bottle wine with me. After all, the off season is the best time to relax and enjoy the beach and nobody bothers you.

Marshall Davis

Marshall Davis is located in Carlton Oregon and is in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. If you have ever have the chance to visit this area it is beautiful. It’s like being on the beach in off season. The town is small, quiet and the people are very friendly. At least that is what I experienced when I was out there.
In 2011 three brothers - Sean Davis, Ryan and Matt Marshall founded Marshall Davis to create small batch vineyard specific wines. From their 8 acre vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA they produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They also source Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Walla Walla (Washington State) region.

Marshall Davis 2017 Estate Chardonnay SRP $39

This Chardonnay is beautiful and elegant, clean and fresh. Barrel fermented and aged for 16 months in French oak with 20% of that oak new oak. Nice balanced acid and minerality with a slight hint of butter gives way to soft juicy honeydew melon and hints of pineapple. Bring it to the beach, the boat, the bonefire.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Intro to Cava with Patrícia Correia Directora de Comunicació Consell Regulador de la DOP Cava

Cava I think is the most underrated sparkling wine on the market today. I fell in love with Cava about 10 years ago and didn’t know that much about it until I went for my CSW designation. Cava is my go-to for an every day sparkling wine.

Here is what you need to know about Cava:

1. Cava is produced in the traditional method where the second fermentation happens in the bottle.
2. Three main grapes in Cava - Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo
3. Cava can be produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Garnacha or Trepat
4. Cava is white or rose. Rose. If rose, blending is not allowed and the wine must be made Saingee method using Pinot Noir, Garnacha or Trepat
5. Cava is produced in Catalonia region of Spain and holds a Denominacion de Origen (DO)
6. There are 4 categories of Cava
  • Cava - 9 months on lees
  • Cava Reserva Cava - 15 months aging on lees
  • Cava Gran Reversa - 30 months aging on lees
  • Cava Qualified Place - 36 months aging on lees

I recently went to a Wines of Spain tasting in New York City called “Spain’s Great Match” where I met Patricia Correia who is Directora de Comunicació Consell Regulador de la DOP Cava. I asked to her talk to me a little about Cava. She was a little nervous because she is new to the job but not the region. I assured her she would be great and she was. So, pour yourself a glass and listen to Patricia talk all things Cava.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A New Generation of Farmers Saving the Family Farm:

There are wines from every state. I am so fortunate to be involved in different wine programs that open me up to wines that I would have never tasted and regions I knew nothing about.
Back in June before everything got crazy with the restaurant I was participated in #Winestudio as they hosted Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard from Maryland, the new generation of farmers. This is my first taste of Maryland wines and I hope yours will be right behind me.

The New Generation of Farmers
A team of three young siblings are on a mission to save the family farm and follow their dreams to creating a vineyard and winery. The farm that laid dormant for years was untapped potential. Sure, it was used, it had a few horses, a dirt bike track but for the most part was vacant for 10 years and untapped potential. A family discussion on how to preserve the land lead three young adults to research, read and network to follow their dreams to building a vineyard and winery.
When it all began, Drew was 22, Lisa 21 and Ashli was 19, all first generation farmers. This is allowing them to create their own tradition. They have a lot of dreams and ambitions to push forward grape growing and winemaking in the region. Each child has their own specialty; Drew is the vigneron, Lisa is the winemaker and Ashli is the front of the house. Their mission “To craft distinctive wines with a sense of place.” They have no rules, are following their interests and figuring it out as they go.
“We choose to think of our farm as a living, breathing organism. Like a human body with a system of organs, our farm is a complex system of interacting substances and process” - Drew Baker

In 2011 they planted their first 7500 grapevines; Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Albarino. In 2016 they partnered with geologist Ernest Beasley and purchased the 117 acre Burnt Hill Farm.

Burnt Hill Project
Burnt Hill is the new frontier for the Bakers. The farm is located in the hills of the Piedmont Plateau, 30 miles northwest of Washington, DC. The name Burnt Hill comes from the early settlers in the 1800’s. They found it very difficult to grow crops on this land so they made money burning trees and brush to make charcoal, potash and lye. Now the name Burnt Hill reflects 117 acres of new life and new crop - grapes.

The plans are to plant a mix of 100 grape varieties to include vinifera, mixed heritage and native grape with biodynamic farming practices. By diversifying the grape varieties they feel it will balance the biodiversity, increase resiliency and reduce chemical use in the vineyard. They are taking a fresh look at indigenous, native, hybrid and mixed-heritage varieties to produce great wines with minimal intervention can redefine American wine in the minds of the Bakers.

The Wines
2018 Old Westminster Heirloom
This is a blend of 77% Chardonnay, 12% Albarino and 11% Muscat all grown in the greenstone schist soils of the home vineyard in Westminster, Maryland. The wine was fermented separately in stainless steel with native yeast and blending before bottling. It is unfined and unfiltered. An interesting layered wine with lots of citrus and passion fruit, minerality and acidity.

2017 Old Westminster Cabernet Franc
This Cabernet Franc comes from the home vineyard in Westminster, Maryland. It was 80% whole berry fermentation and 20% whole cluster fermentation in stainless steel. It was aged in oak for 18th months then blended with 22% Petit Verdot for structure and intensity. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Complex wine with black cherry, eucalyptus, baking spice, sour cherry, dried herbs. A wine that evolves with every sip.

2017 Old Westminister Vin Doux Naturel (VDN)
The grape in this wine is Valvin Muscat grown on their home vineyard in Westminster, Maryland. The wine was aged in stainless steel for 10 months then neutral oak barrels for 8 months. It was fortified with estate spirits 50% on the way through fermentation. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this wine, but an open mind I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be. It was nicely balanced with ripe peach, honey, peach cobbler and citrus. Paired very well with cream puffs!