Friday, January 20, 2017

Hudson Valley Soil & The Vines


Back in the Fall I strolled down the vineyards at Whitecliff with Michael Migliore and we chatted about dirt. Really, the type of soil found at his vineyard, what grows well in the soil and why.  It was very enlightening discussion.  Not only does the soil contribute to the grapes in your glass, but it's important to graft the vine on the proper Rootstock that grows well in that type of soil. So many factors a vineyard manager has to take into consideration when planting a vineyard and where to plant what kind of grapes.

Below is an excerpt of my conversation with Michael. To read the entire conversation where he talks about the soil at Whitecliff and his new vineyard at Olana. why certain grapes are planted in certain places and the Riparia Rootstock experiment, click the link at the bottom and download the 6 page e-book.

Michael: We're talking soil types of which at Whitecliff here there are 3 soil types. We're standing on the highest point of our vineyard here and this is Castille soil. It's made up of fragments of shale, sandstone, clay and quartz conglomerate.  We're very near a shale outcrop so it will be predominately shale up here.

Debbie:  So what vines are growing here?

Michael: This is Pinot Noir and this is Clone 667. We grow a number of different clones of Pinot. 114, 113, are the predominant types that we grow. Some clone 29 also, the Pommard clone.

Debbie: Now tell me why Pinot Noir in this soil?

Michael: Ah, that's a very good question. This is my best site on our farm right here. It's south facing, it has perfect drainage. Grapevines do not like wet feet. If you could see what we're looking at right now, it's made up of lots of small stones and shale so it drains very, very quickly, so because of the aspect ratio of the slope of the hillside it gets plenty of sunshine. This was the site that we just got 7 tons to the acre of Pinot Noir, a record yield for us.(Harvest 2016)  We like that very much. Whereas other soil types on my property are Churchville, and that's on the lower section of our vineyard right over there and it extends over about halfway into field 3 that we're looking at right now. That's a heavier clay with a lot worse drainage and what we see if we looked underneath the soil out there, we have drainage tile that's every 20 feet in order to aid in getting the water away from the roots of the grapevines. You can farm it, you can see we got a great yield, we actually got over 11 tons of Chardonnay out there on Churchville soil, and it has limitations because it tends to be wet. You can't get into the field as quickly with machinery after a heavy rain, and as I said we had to put drainage tile in to keep the soil from getting waterlogged. Then the third type of soil that we have is Cayuga and it runs half of the large field below. That's characterized by a gravelly loam. Glaciers came ten thousand years ago, as the glacier retreated it deposited all of this type material which is a lot higher in sand, a lot lower in clay content and has a lot of quartz material scattered throughout the soil profile. That's a very deep layer. It extends down to 10 feet before you hit a hard pan. Underneath that you'll hit a hard clay, but the drainage is very, very good throughout that area.

Click here to get e-book and learn about the different soils, along with rootstock and how it impacts what what is grown where in the Hudson Valley.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Bootleggers Moonshine



Get a taste of what it was like being a bootlegger during prohibition with a visit to Dutch’s Spirits in Pine Plains, New York.


Dutch Schultz was born Arthur Simon Flegenheimer a German-Jewish mobster in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He led a life of crime and racketeering. From the early age of 18 he was in jail on what today is Roosevelt Island. During prohibition he began smuggling liquor and beer into New York City from Canada. During the last years of Prohibition Schultz built an enormous underground distilling operation that produced thousands of gallons of moonshine in Pine Plains. In October 1932 the Feds raided the distillery and Schultz was arrested. October 1935 Dutch Schultz was shot and later died. After Schultz’s death the property change hands numerous times before one of Schultz’s former employees Charles Adams and his wife Janet purchased it in 1969. In the spring of 2008 Charles’s grandson Alex Adams and his college roommate Ariel Schlein decided to take the property back to what it once was, a distillery, but a legal one. As you pull into Harvest Homestead Farm, home to Dutch’s Spirits, you drive down a long road as the distillery sits far back on the 400 acre farm. The original building is gone but the bunkers still exist.



The new 1500 square foot barn with solar panels sits on top of the bunkers that housed the prohibition distillery. I was privileged to be taken down into some of the bunkers by Lydia. When I say they are cool, that is an understatement! When it is safe and they do tours down there, I highly suggest it and it will most likely be free of mice by then. There is a lot of history in the bunkers, old beer bottles, machinery and tools from the 30’s. It will make a great underground museum highlighting the history Dutch Schultz.  


When you visit, you can see the old turkey coops which are still in pretty good shape today. There are remnants of the train tracks the went through the property and the smoke stacks that protruded through the ground.


Dutch’s Spirits produces Moonshine, Peach Brandy and Bourbon. What you will find when you enter the 1500 square foot barn is not only a tasting room but a full fledge farmers market. In the tasting room you can taste not only Dutch’s Spirits but craft spirits from all over New York State. With 150 licensed distilleries in New York they want to give the producers a place to showcase their product and an outlet to sell them beyond their own tasting rooms. Head downstairs where you will find a farmers market full of local products and produce.



The property is quite large and they are fully equipped for bus tours and events.

 In case you are wondering what to do with moonshine, just substitute it for vodka or gin in your mixed drink.

On January 10, 2017 Dutch’s Spirits was featured on Billion Dollar Buyer. You can learn more and watch the episode here http://snip.ly/i5yn7 (you will need to go through you cable or direct tv supplier for access.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Elegance of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé


Laurent-Perrier is a Champagne House located in Champagne, France founded in 1812 by André-Michael Pierlot. He was a négociant in the region and settled in the town of Tours-Sur-Marne. He began farming on two plots of land and began the Alphonse Pierlot Champagne House. Later it would become Laurent-Perrier.
When Andre passed the House was left to his son. Upon his death the House was left to his cellar master Eugénie Laurent. The name Veuve Laurent-Perrier came to be when Mathilde Emilie Perrier the widow of Eugénie Laurent decided to expand the business and combined the two family names.
The House was sold in 1939 to Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt and Marie-Louise’s son Bernard had the passion and drive that took the House on the road to where it is today. Today Lauren-Perrier is exported to more than 160 countries worldwide.
The Cuvée Rosé was created in 1968 by Bernard de Nonancourt. It is 100% Pinot Noir from 12 different Crus vineyards in the Montagne de Reims region and Grand Crus vineyards in Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois and Tours-Sur-Marne.
This Cuvée Rosé is one of the most elegant Rosé's I’ve tasted. It is so special it has its own dedicated winery that's sole purpose is the production of this Champagne. During production the wine remains in contact with the skins from 48 to 72 hours. It is during this skin contact that the wine develops its beautiful intense salmon color and the aromas to go with it. When the wine is blended and bottled the Cuvée Rosé ages for at least four years in the cellar.
What makes this wine so elegant?
  • The beautiful rich salmon color
  • The tight tiny bubbles shooting up from the middle of the glass
  • The light airy froth that forms when poured
  • The wine just sings with excitement and elegance
  • The delicate aromas of raspberry and strawberry aromas coming from the glass
  • The soft creamy feeling in your mouth combined with the velvety flavors of raspberry, and red berries that are lighting up your palate
  • The look on 8 adult faces as they drink the glass of Champagne and remark how lovely and delicious this is
  • Watching the smile on their face and their eyes dancing.
Champagne should not just be consumed on New Years Eve, it should be enjoyed all year, everyday. If you only think about Champagne for special occasions, plan ahead and pick up a bottle of this Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé for Valentine’s Day. A special Champagne for your special person. The SRP is $99 but I've seen it as low as $68

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fall in Love with Sardinia Wines


Sardinia or Sardegna as the locals spell it, is an island off the coast of Italy. Surrounded by the Mediterranean See. Their wines not only have influence from Italy but from but by Spain as well.
Let’s take a look at Sardinia and the wines of Catina Santa Maria La Palma.

The island of Sardinia has one DOCG appellation, 19 DOC and 15 IGTs with Italian and Spanish influence. They are known for their production of Vermentino and Cannonau. Cannonau is their native Grenache grape. 


I had the opportunity to sit down with Igor Profili of Santa Maria La Palma at Sfoglia Restaurant in New York City and got acquainted with the wines of Sardegna and Cantina Santa Maria La Palma.

In 1946 the Agrarian Reform was implemented in Sardinia which is when the government redistributed the agricultural land back to the people. In the area of Nurra they began to farm the land with vines. In 1959 one hundred of the vineyard growers formed a co-operative that founded Cantina Santa Maria la Palma Winery.

Today Santa Maria La Palma is cooperative of 300 farmers located in the northwest of Sardina. They are in the DOC Vermentino di Sardegna which is a leader in Italy as a single label DOC wine. The DOC produces more than two million bottles of Vermentino a year. The farmers collectively grow on 700 hectares of which 320 are Vermentino which makes them the largest producer of Vermentino in the world. They make Vermentino four ways: a sparking wine, spumante, still wine, and passito a sweet wine.

The Cannonau grapes make up 106 hectares and is in the designated Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, and the rest is planted with grapes like Cagnulari, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Monica and others. Many of the vineyards are located seaside where the soil is very rich in minerals and the saltiness from the sea is apparent in your glass.

In 2014 Santa Maria La Palma embarked on a project to age their wine under water. They selected the best Akenta production and aged it 40 meters under water. To understand what makes this aging process special is that there is no direct light and no oxygen 40 meters under the sea. You are aging the wine at the same temperature it will be stored at so there is no fluctuation and at 40 meters under the sea you are at 5 bars of pressure which is the pressure in the sparkling wine bottle.

I had the pleasure of tasting 4 wines that were paired with food that you would find while visiting Sardinia which is known for seafood. The menu consisted of Crispy Rock Shrimp, Burrata with apples, kale, caramelized onions and walnuts, Clams with spicy Italian sausage, Tagliatelle with lobster, peppers, garlic & basil, Lamb Osso Buco.

I will go into the tasting notes below and then reveal the surprise pairing that worked really well. I will say I really enjoyed the wines and they are very affordable. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle and bring it to a dinner.

 Akenta “Millesimato” Spumante Extra Dry NV is made with 100% Vermentino in the Charmant method and aged for six months on lees. Akenta means “cheers” in Sardegna. This was aged under the sea and you can really taste the salinity of the region in the wine. Aromas of soft peach, white flowers with yeasty notes fill the glass with soft bubbles. It’s well balanced with nice structure with a hint of sweetness. This wine will begin to be distributed in the States this year and will retail for about $16.99 

Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2015 is a still wine made with 100% Vermentino. Aromas of white flowers and green apples with a hint of grassiness fill the glass. The palate express the crisp minerality of this wine with soft flavors of apple and melon. True expression of the region. SRP $16 

La Bombarde Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2014 is made with 100% Cannonau grapes. The cannons on the label represents the symbol of defense and pride the people of Sardinia have and of the strong and determined character of the people and the grapes. I found this wine a bit light on the palate with flavors of cherry and cranberries. The minerality comes through with stone and slate. It does have a hint of spice on the finish. SRP $16

Cannonau Di Sardegna DOC Riserva 2013 made with 100% Cannonau grapes and aged in French oak for 2 years. This is a full bodied wine with cherry, raspberry, red fruit and black pepper aromas. Rounding out in the glass were nice tannin structure, red fruit and a nice spicy finish that lingers on the tip of your tongue. SRP $21

What surprised me the most with these wines is that you would think the reds would have really worked well with the lamb. However, the lamb negated the wine and took the flavors away. The tagliatelle lobster dish went the best with the reds. Don’t be afraid to try different pairings, you never know what you find.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Little Black Dress - All Grown Up


What do you say to someone who is all grown up?  That is what my thoughts were when I received 2 bottles of  Little Black Dress to taste.  My baby is all grown up and mature. Now going by lbd  my first thought was wow, she’s all grown up, she left the crazy bar scene and is now at the sophisticated cocktail party entertaining clients.

In addition to the labels on the bottle changing they have overhauled their entire website http://www.lbdwines.com/ making it appeal much more to the everyday woman like you and me. A total re-branding. Funny, when I was checking out their new website, I felt like I was shopping at a on-line at The Loft, with the layout, graphics and fonts, not a wine brand. I was quite comfortable.

Their winemaker Margaret Leonardi is making wines that are approachable to everyone. It shows. I got the opportunity to taste two of her wines, the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and was quite impressed as I was expecting something different.

The Little Black Dress Chardonnay was aged in a nice mix of both stainless steel and oak. The wine appeared light yellow in color with aromas of melted butter, vanilla and Bartlett pear. As the wine warmed up green apple notes come through. The first thing I noticed as the wine passed my lips was how soft and creamy it was on my palate.  I found flavors of pear, green apple with slight nuisances of oak. The SRP is an affordable $11.99

Little Black Dress Cabernet Sauvignon comprised mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with a little bit of Petit Sirah, Syrah and other red varietals that are not disclosed. Aromas of dark fruit, vanilla, combined with some herbacious notes and a hint of clove. Sweetness on the palate with flavors of sweet blueberry, blackberry and cherry. This also sells for $11.99

I think Little Black Dress image change is for the better. No stereotyping here with labels so if you are a cute sheeky label buyer, this might pass you by.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays and What the New Year Holds


As the end of 2016 approaches I realize I am incredibly lucky.  I have a wonderful family, friends and you. I wouldn't be here today still sharing my experiences with you if you weren't so supportive. I am a lucky girl!

So what does the new year hold?  I am hoping that my book Tapping the Hudson Valley - Day Trips & Weekend Itineraries visiting the wineries, distilleries, breweries & cideries will be published by spring. (Fingers crossed!) I plan on having a book release party at Whitecliff Vineyards and Dutch's Spirits.  Have to have one for each side of the river. Then you can find me at various wineries, events and stores for book signings.

I am going to begin the year taking you to the Navarra region of Spain. Then we will learn the truth about Prosecco and visit the wines of Sardinia. That's just the beginning of the year. I also hope to have my wine classes running by spring.

Mid year you'll travel with me to visit the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy. You'll have to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the play by play while I'm away. Who knows what else is in store.

You can guarantee I'll be taking you with me. Sharing the wine education with you.

I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday season!  Cheer,s for a happy and healthy New Year!

I'll see you on the flip side!

Enjoy the year in review.  Lots of good wine, spirits, beer and food.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Baking with Vina Zaco Wines

It's that time of year where I'm baking away.  I have a cookie swap I had to make 7 dozen cookies for and there are the cookies for Christmas and New Year's Eve. There is no better way to get through your holiday baking than with a bottle of wine at your side.

This year the bottle of choice was a 2014 Vina Zaco Tempranillo from Bodegas Bilbainas located in the Barrio de la Estacion of Haro in the Rioja Alta region of Spain. It is known as the oldest bottler in Rioja as well as the largest vineyard owner in the Rioja Alta region with over 600 acres.. This region is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and has mostly chalky clay soils which allows the Tempranillo grapes to thrive thus producing some wonderful wines.

The 2014 Vina Zaco Tempranillo rested in 50%  new American oak and 50% French Oak for six months. The wine had beautiful aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice and hint of violets. Sipping on this wine while red velvet cookies and chocolate chip blondies, my mouth found black fruit, hint of strawberry, vanilla, subtle notes of oak. The wine was well structured and had nice rounded tannins.  Was a great wine to eat the warm cookies with!

Besides the cookies, this wine would pair great with barbecued meat and chicken. SRP $15


The Vina Zaco Tempranillo has a sister a 2015 Vina Zaco Albarino. She is a great fresh aromatic white wine.

The fruit is sourced from the Val do Salnes region of Rias Baixas. The Albarino is hand harvested, went through malolactic fermentation and then were left for a few months on the lees before being bottled. The wine maintained its freshness and has a nice mouthfeel as a result of the malolactic fermentation.

The wine has beautiful aromas of white flowers, white grapefruit and green apple. Citrus notes on the palate, the wine is smooth, hints of minerality and a touch of acidity.  A delightful and fresh wine! This wine is a great pairing for seafood SRP $17.50