Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cairdean Estate - Your Friends In Wine Country

 Many times when I begin the podcasts there are some great conversations that don't make it to the final cut. One of these conversations was about Rhode Island and what Stacia really wanted to do when she graduated high school. Wine making wasn't even in her vocabulary. So I begin these show notes with a little background on Stacia Williams that we spoke in detail about after podcast.


Stacia grew up in Rhode Island and wanted to go to college at Johnson & Wales and major in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Her family talked her out of it, they said they are all engineers and scientist she should follow in those steps so she went into computer science. Once in the real world she entered into the software industry where she found herself drinking lots of wine, attending wine tastings, then she wanted to make wine. Stacia and Edwin met at a party where she took him down to taste her the wine that she was making in her basement and the rest is history! 
They moved to Fresno, CA so Stacia could study enology and viticulture at Fresno State and worked in the vineyard and winery on campus. After she was finished with her studies they looked all over the world for their place to settled and decided on Napa. Why? Because out of all the places they looked, they realized the wines that are made in Napa are the wines they like to drink the most. 

They found a 50 acre parcel in St. Helena. Their goal was to have a small winery with a small vineyard out front and make enough wine to support the vineyard and house. That would take a while since it takes 3 years after you plant vines to harvest your first crop to crush. They began to look at other vineyards and they purchased a vineyard in the Coombsville AVA, just east of Napa and began farming on it right away. This vineyard, Acquaintance is home to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon but all 5 Bordeaux reds are planted there.

The following year they looked at a vineyard in Sonoma County which was planted with Pinot Noir and Syrah. The cool weather Syrah is dark and rich, not jammy, very expressive of Syrah character and the Pinot Noir is very cherry and bright fruit. Sold. They purchased this vineyard and began farming it as well. This vineyard they named Confidant Vineyard. Confidant, because of the rolling hills in this vineyard and the size, let's just say what happens in the vineyard stays in the vineyard because nobody will ever know what happens in the vineyard except the vines. 

Their Atlas Peak Syrah was just rated 98 points, best in class and region and best in California at the California State Fair wine competition. This is mountain fruit from Atlas Peak aged in 70% new oak, half French half American for 3 years. Soon to be released and you will get a preview of the tasting notes in the podcast. 

Game Pie 
They also have an on premise restaurant that opened June 5, 2014 "The Farmer & The Fox" and it's been very well received. Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey has a wealth of knowledge and great creativity. It does have a Scotch flare with gastro pub menu featuring items such as burgers, smoked mussel chowder and popovers. Unique and special items such as Lamb Tartar, Rabbit Wellington and Game Pie (soft pastry dough, mustard cream pie, wild boar, duck and venison). A great feature is no corkage fee at the restaurant.

Cairdean Estates is located on Highway 29 in St Helena, drive through downtown St Helena and they are 1.5 miles outside of town on the left. Visit them on line at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The tasting room is open until 8pm.

It makes people happy. they come to you, they want to enjoy their experience, they want to drink the wine and enjoy the food and that makes me happy. ~ Stacia Williams

Tasting Notes  2012 Haley Margaret - This wine is named after Stacia's cousin who passed away from cystic fibrosis 2012 at the age of 25. This wine is a tribute to Haley Margaret to keep her memory alive and to raise awareness of the disease. They pledge $10 sold of this wine to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This is a blend of Roussanne, Pinot Gris and Viogner. A wonderful wine and supports a great cause. Expressions of lemon curd, grapefruit and some stone fruit. Very light with balanced acidity is smooth and delicious. Great with food or a stand alone wine.

2011 Cairdead Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay Napa Valley - Aromas of green apple, ripe pear and hints of citus lead the way to a soft palate with nice acidity.


Monday, July 21, 2014

North River Sparkling by Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery

I’m a little behind in my blogging, but I had to tell you about this Sparkling Wine from Whitecliff Vineyards.  It’s called North River and during the colonial times that is what they called the southernmost portion of the Hudson River. The term was given to it by the Dutch in the early 17th century and fell out of use during the early 1900's.

The label on the wine is a reproduction of William Bartlett’s 19th century etching of the Hudson Highlands. There's lots of Hudson Valley history on this bottle.

Most importantly, what is in the bottle.  A beautiful Rose sparkling wine made in Methode Champenoise (which is the same way they make Champagne in France, the second fermentation happens in the bottle.)The color was intense reminded me of the color of Sockeye Salmon.  Aromas of strawberry jam with some slight bread and yeasty notes.  (would probably pair very will with it)   My mouth was filled with flavors of pomegranate, slight hint of yeast that led to a light citrus rind finish. The bubbles weren't very tight, but they were effective until they fell out on the finish. Overall it was nice bubbly

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Hudson Valley Winery Wedding

It's wedding time in the Hudson Valley.  Congratulations if you are one of the many who have recently got engaged!

I recently wrote an article for Hudson Valley Wine Magazine on planning your winery wedding.  There are some good tips and information on the various venues in the Hudson Valley.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room The Captain’s Log: Sour Power!

Not yet three years since moving to a roomy new brewing facility in Elmsford, Captain Lawrence is
expanding further. The brewery will be taking over the adjacent 4,800 square feet currently occupied by an HVAC outfit, says owner Scott Vaccaro, on top of the 19,000 square feet Captain Lawrence currently operates in. The expansion should be completed early in ’15, and will enable the Captain to produce more beer—and its beloved sour beers in particular.

The space will allow for storage of as many as 500 oak barrels and a second bottling line. Captain Lawrence’s sour ales, such as the Cuvee and the Hops N’ Roses, are currently bottled and labeled by hand. “It takes an enormous amount of time and manpower to get through a decent amount of beer,” says Scott. “This will allow us to do a lot more beer—to really expand production.”

The brewery is also designing special packaging for the sours, which typically leave the tasting room in drab cardboard boxes. The new sour beer wing will also allow for corking and caging of bottles.

Scott is currently sourcing equipment for the extra space. “I wish we could’ve had it running in time for the sour festival,” he says, referring to Sour’d in September.

On September 13, Captain Lawrence hosts 20 breweries, including Peekskill Brewery, Newburgh Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewing and Great South Bay Brewery, bringing their best sour beers to Elmsford. (Brewed with wild yeasts, sours offer a funky and tart flavor that beer connoisseurs adore, while other palates may wonder what the fuss is about.) Only 400 tickets are available, and go on sale online July 15 at 9 a.m.

Here’s something that will be ready for the September 13 event—a Captain Lawrence sour ale fruited with Italian plums and aged for “many, many, many months,” says Scott, in oak. The plums come from the regional grocery chain/craft beer haven DeCicco’s that often partners with Captain Lawrence on unique specialty beers. “Whenever they have something interesting, they let us know about it,” says Scott.

Just 30-40 cases will be produced. Scott says the plum brew will be “tart, tangy, delicious.”

The DeCicco’s outlet in Brewster is hosting a Captain Lawrence event July 26, featuring an assortment of CL brews for the tasting.

The brewing quarters isn’t the only thing that’s expanding. Captain Lawrence got permission to significantly extend the outdoor patio, and will begin construction on it in the next few weeks. “We’re doubling the square footage of our outdoor enjoyment area,” he says. “It will definitely be a big plus.”

Even if you don’t go for the sours, there’s always a wide range of colorful beers coming out of the brewery’s experimental pilot system. In fact, 36 small-batch beers—IPAs, lagers, stouts, ales--have been produced so far this year, including the 100% Brettanomyces yeast concoction known as Red Herring. On its heels is another 100% Brettanomyces brew in the tank now that Scott calls a “funky golden ale.” (Brettanomyces, imparting a complex, Belgian-style flavor in the beer, is Greek for “British fungus.”)

“We’re shooting for 70 pilot-system beers this year and it looks like we’re gonna break it,” says Scott. “If you haven’t been to the tasting room lately, there’s a lot of stuff going on.”

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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: And So Fourth and So On

The holiday weekend initially looked like a washout, but Mother Nature rallied and served up a couple picture-perfect days for deserving revelers. Many of them are squeezing in some recreational activity—cornhole, bocce, beer sampling—on the Captain Lawrence patio before the long weekend comes to an end.
Brad Orr of Brooklyn and Mike and Marissa Madonia of Ardsley are enjoying a spirited game of Hong Kong Poker. “It’s similar to A**hole,” says Brad of that card game centered around getting rid of your cards--and doing humiliating things to the player still stuck with theirs. “Only nobody makes anybody drink.”

Their pal Victoria Yang comes back with fresh samples of Sippa, a mellow summer IPA out of the pilot batch system, while it’s cranberry juice for the expecting Marissa. The Madonias spent the first part of the weekend in Mystic. Brad is pleased to get out of the city to enjoy craft beers, along with some tasty Vietnamese banh mi and good old American pulled pork from the Village Dog stand, out in the sun.

“Miserable,” he says with a smile. “Just miserable.”

A young couple with a baby throws a blanket down in the grass and picnics. A few more dogs show up, their owners in tow. A two-on-two game of cornhole heats up.

Elsewhere on the patio, Anthony Stoddard of Stony Point, girlfriend Gina Celenza, Gina’s sister Christina, also of Stony Point, and George “Buy a Vowel” Eoanou of Fairfield, Connecticut are relaxing over beers and quips. Anthony is a frequent visitor to Captain Lawrence, typically leaving with a growler of Imperial IPA.

“I don’t know why—my taste buds just love it,” he says, offering up one of the most honest beer descriptions you’ll ever hear.

“He refuses to drink anything else,” says Gina.

George quaffs the Freshchester Pale Ale, the sisters Celenza sip the India Pale Ale, and Anthony of course does them one better with the Imperial IPA--as if the table has hit for the hops cycle.

Anthony sports a Red Sox hat that is a bit incongruous with his New York accent. His grandfather played a few games for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he says, before wrecking his knee and joining the NYPD. Grandpa despised the Yankees and passed it down like a family heirloom. To Anthony, it means rooting for the Yankees’ biggest rival.

Another foursome has just completed the brewery tour and is relaxing over samples of the copper-colored, 100% Brettanomyces yeast brew known as Red Herring. “It’s not heavy, it’s not light, it’s refreshing,” says Michelle Schoonmaker of New Paltz.

She’s sharing a table with Greg Lesser of Dobbs Ferry (Greg 1) and Greg Hasapis (Greg 2) and Nick Palega of Beacon. Greg 1 is asked what he likes about the Red Herring. “I don’t remember,” he japes. “Guess I’ll have to get another.”  

They’re fans of brewery tours, and Greg 1 notes that Captain Lawrence is the first place he’s been to where the staff crank out their own small batch beers, such as the Sippa and the Sleepy Time Saison.

The approach to the brewery—call it industrial eyesore chic--was “weird”, says Greg 2, but everything that came after has been a hit. “This is a good tasting room environment,” he says. “We just enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, inside the tasting room, Charlie Menendez of White Plains is enjoying quality time with his family. If anyone deserves a relaxing Fourth of July weekend, it’s Charlie, back from a two year stint fighting in Afghanistan. He’s digging the Red Herring. “Usually I’m an IPA guy,” he says. “This is a sweet twist on an IPA.”

Charlie is with his mother, Luz Mary, his brother, Christian Lasso, and his stepfather, Peter Gonzalez. Luz Mary is from Colombia, and the family rabidly watched Colombia’s World Cup campaign, which ended a few days earlier in a bruising match with Brazil. “I barely cried in Afghanistan,” says Charlie. “But that was…emotional.”

Luz Mary is emotional too, tearing up when Charlie speaks of phone calls from Afghanistan with his mom that were cut short when the bombing started. But that is all behind him now.
“We haven’t had many Fourth of Julys together—it’s always nice,” the proud veteran says. “Beer, barbecue, relax with family…that’s it.”

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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Chill Your Wine

Our new refrigerator was delivered on Thursday and boy was I happy.  I was tired of living out of my college dorm fridge and a cooler that I had to purchase ice for every day.  When I got home that day the fridge was plugged in and working and when I opened it there were 5 bottles of white chilling. (or so I thought) It was hot out and I was dying for a glass of a nice crisp white.

I opened the fridge and grabbed one of those bottles.  I thought Paul was being so thoughtful in chilling them. BUT, what I failed to realize was that the fridge had only been on for 45 minutes and they weren't to cold because the fridge wasn't cold, it had just been turned on, so that left sticking it in the freezer as not an option.   Then I thought to chill them with the ice and water from the cooler, but that wasn't an option since the water wasn't that cold and all the ice had melted.  Don't worry, I opened a Pinot Noir and was happy.

That led me to think about how the chilling time of wine and what the proper temperature should be.  If a wine is to cold, it will lack the aroma and flavor until it begins to warm up.   If a white wine is to warm you won't get the acidity and minerality or expression of terrior.  When a red wine is to warm you get alcohol and a mush of fruit and oak.  Where when it's at the proper temperature you'll get liveliness and freshness of the wine.

So what is the right temperature, time in the fridge, freezer (yes we are all guilty of this ) or the best in a bucket with ice and water.

Sparkling Wine should be served between 45 and 50 degrees.  Plan ahead and it should take 2 1/2 hours in the fridge, 20-25 minutes in your freezer and 10 minutes in a bucket of ice with water.

White and Rose Wine should be served around 50 degrees.  It should take approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours to chill in the fridge, 25 minutes in freezer and about 7 - 10 minutes in a bucket of ice with water.

Red Wine can be served to warm.  Best temp is between 62 and 68 degrees.  However lighter bodied red table wines should be served between 55 and 62 degrees.  If you want to cool off your red wine stick it in the fridge for about 40 minutes, in the freezer for 6 minutes and in that bucket of ice with water for 3.  

Sweet Wines always in question for me. Sweet wines like ice wines should be served around 40 degrees.  Just chill if for 2 hours in the fridge, 15 minutes in the freezer of 10 minutes in a bucket of ice with water. If you are serving port, I would suggest about 63 degrees.  Put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, freezer for about 5 and in the bucket of water with ice for 3.

You can also purchase a wine bottle thermometer.  They are pretty inexpensive and will give you a pretty good reading so you can pop that cork and know the wine is ready.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Red, White, Rose & Bubbles For Your July 4th Celebration

We are coming up to the holiday weekend where many of us will be hosting or attending barbecues. I am one of those people. As I am presently without a kitchen I will be attending a rib cook-off with at a friends house. Even without a kitchen, we will be making our smoked ribs. What wine will I be bringing to pair with the ribs...a Malbec from Argentina and a Hudson Valley Baco Noir.

One thing I noticed when out wine shopping is the availability of wine in different states and counties. Yes, while you most likely can order anything from the wine store, if they don't carry it you will be paying a premium. (That's another post) My goal here is to give you some suggestions on wine types to bring to your 4th of July barbecue. Hoping you can find a few at your wine store.

Malbec - I think the Malbec especially ones from Argentina are great burger and rib wines. Many of them sell for under $15

Vinho Verde - High acidity, crisp and clean and sometimes with a little carbonation this white wine from Portugal will pair great with shell fish or just to sip on during a hot summer day.

Cava - You always need some bubbles.  Cava is from Spain and is made with the second fermentation in the bottle similar to the way Champagne is made.  The three grapes that make Cava are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.  Nice, crisp and dry enjoy all day long.  Why wait for the BBQ when you can enjoy this with your breakfast.

Tempranillo -  You will find some nice and reasonably priced ones from the Rioja region of Spain. Crianza means the wine is aged in barrels for 6 months and total aging for 2 years before released.  Reserva the wine is aged in barrels for 12 months with the total aging before released 3 years.  Either one of these will go nicely with your grilled steaks and kabobs.

Rose - Just because it's pink doesn't mean it's sweet.  With Rose wine, the wine is left on the skins for about 24 hours to extract color.  Provence is the home of Rose and you will find some beautiful selections.  Rose is made all over and with a variety of grapes.  Make sure you look at the back of the bottle to see what grapes are in the Rose.

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend.  Enjoy!