Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition Results

It's been a busy month.  For the past three weeks I've been preparing for the 2018 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition. Although I am not counting I believe this year is my 11th year as the chairperson.  I have a wonderful panel of judges who I can't thank enough for giving up their Saturday morning to judge and a fantastic seasoned back room staff, who without them, the competition would not run as smoothly as it does.

Many of the judges have been with the competition since I took over. What has been said this year is how we have all seen the quality of the wines in the Hudson Valley grow and the pride the winemakers have in what they are producing.

This year we awarded 9 Double Gold Medals, 6 Gold Medals, 25 Silver Medals and 26 Bronze Medals.

Congratulations to all the wineries, distilleries and cideries.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Estates at the Heart of Paul Mas

I’ve written before about Paul Mas Wines. Jean-Claude Mas is behind the Arrogant Frog line and Cote Mas Rose in the liter bottle. All fun wines, but there is a seriousness behind Jean-Claude Mas and a renewed pride in the Languedoc region of France and his estates are at the heart of it all.

Jean-Claude Mas

“ To me, the Languedoc represents terroir meeting modernity, a blend between French expertise, Tuscan style and dynamism of California”

Jean-Claude Mas is the son of grape growers and inherited some vines that gave him his start. In 2000 he established Domaines Paul Mas from 35 hectares he inherited and today he owns and manages 12 estates in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. These 12 estates cover 700 hectares and he is partner in vineyards of 1500 hectares. He works with 45 different grape varieties each growing in areas where they thrive.

The Grapes and regions

In Limoux he grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Viognier, while in Roussillon Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris and Macabeu thrive in those soils.
The Syrah is grown in two different areas where the soils extract different characteristic of the fruit. The Malpere region is warmer and the Syrah gains peppery notes where in the Terrasses du Larzac area you will see more black fruits, black olive and truffle from the grapes.
In the Herault Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc thrive in the fertile soils.

It’s Personal

When selecting his estates, Jean-Claude looks for the potential to produce great value wines. Each of his estates have their own mission.
All of the estates are located an hour and fifteen minute drive from his headquarters at Domaines Paul Mas in Montagnac.
Jean-Claude is hands on. He takes pride in all his vineyards and visits them regularly checking on the development and health of the vines and grapes. Each vineyard requires it’s own individual TLC.

Wines of Chateau Pal Mas

One of the things I love about the wines Jean-Claude produces is first the quality and second the price and third the variety of the blends.

Chateau Pal Mas Clos Des Mures 2016 SRP $19.99 - This blend is 85% Syrah from vines 25 to 35 years old, 10% Grenache from 30 year old vines and 5% Mourvedre from 18 year old vines. The soil is clay and limestone with fossils and limestone rocks. The wine is aged in a mix of French and American oak barrels. With 30% new oak, 35% one year use oak barrels and 35% two year use oak barrels.
Aromas of pepper spice, blackberry and black currant. It’s medium plus soft body with black fruit that’s dry yet fruity and has a nice burst of black pepper on the finish.
It is a nice every day wine that we served with grilled prime rib.

Chateau Paul Mas Clos de Savignac 2016 SRP $22 - This is a blend of 55% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache from the Les Vignes de Savignac vineyard. These vines are old vines with low yield. The wine is aged for 14 months in oak barrels and bottled unrefined and unfiltered to preserve it’s velvety and dense structure.
A beautiful purple color with nice structure and complex body of cassis, dark red cherry, blackberry and a nice spice on the finish. A very nice wine that we paired with New York Strip Steak and the first silver queen corn of the season.

Paul Mas Estate Picpoul de Pinet 2016 SRP $12.99 The grapes for this wine come from vineyards that lie along the Mediterranean Bay of Thau. The soil is full of limestone with some red soil in parts of the vineyards. The vineyard has been planted for nearly 2,000 years.
This was such a nice wine to have while sitting at the beach. It was light with the minerality showing through. White flowers, tangerine and unripened white peach flavors that paired very well with herbed goat cheese and cheddar cheese.

A final note on the wines in the portfolio of the Estates of Paul Mas, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle to have at home, bring to a party or just an everyday wine to have on hand. Reasonably priced and pairs will with most foods and friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Montefioralle Celebrating 50 Harvests and Going Strong

Celebrating 50 harvests is just as monumental as celebrating your 50th birthday or your 50th wedding anniversary.

Montefioralle is celebrating their 50th harvest this year. Located in the small medieval hamlet of Montefioralle that is located not to far from Greve in Chianti. The castle dates back to 931 when a German monk was passing through ended up staying and set up a fortified monastery. The castle changed hands many times before ending up in the ownership of the local parish. In 1964 Renato Sieni took over the running of the vineyards that belonged to the parish of Montefioralle. The first harvest was in 1968 and in the 1990’s Renato had the opportunity to purchase the vineyards. Today together with his son Fernando they have planted new vines and began producing Chianti Classico wines.

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico is the name of the wine that contains at least 80% of Sangiovese grape. What is special about Montefioralle’s Sangiovese or Chianti Classico is the microclimate the vineyards sits in that gives these Sangiovese grape the unique character that sets them apart from the rest. The vineyards sits at southern foot of the hill and it is believed that the possibility of a glacier is the reason why there is up to 50% loam in certain spots around the hamlet. The soil is rich in limestone which pushes the vines to dig deep for water, which is a good thing.

The Wines of Montefioralle

I am going to begin with Montefioralle 2014 Vin Santo which is a blend of late harvest Trebbiano and Malvasia. This is a very special wine, a wine that takes 3 years to produce though 4 phases of production.

Phase 1 - Immediately after harvest the single bunches of grapes are hung up in aerated rooms where by January they will slowly become raisins. This allows to lose most of the water that had been filling the grapes and will increase the percentage of fruit-sugar.
Phase 2 - After more than three months, usually January, following a careful selection, the raisins are pressed. 
 Phase 3 The little amount of juice obtained will then be put in small barrels made out of cherry-wood (caratelli). They will be filled only up to 75%, and then sealed with cement. Therefore this will cause a slow fermentation in high pressure. Fermentation is a very difficult environment, in 3 years fermentation starts and stops several times. Only the strongest yeasts survive.
Phase 4 - The final result, after three years , is a sweet wine with a high alcohol content of approximately 16 degrees

The 2014 Vin Santo had raisiny aromas with hints of caramel. In the glass it’s a great sipping wine. At first the wine had some juicy red apple flavors that soon turned to prune and fig. This is a dessert style wine that I paired with Creme Brulee (my attempt of Creme Brulee) and it will also go well with blue cheese. The combo was like butter. The Vin Santo just melted right into the Creme Brulee and danced in your mouth and put a smile on my face. SRP $35

2015 Montefioralli Chianti Classico DOCG is made mostly from the Sangiovese grape with Canaiolo and Colorino added in small quantities. It is aged in oak for 12 months. Aromas of plum and red and black cherry leads to a palate of dark red fruit. SRP $19

2014 Montefioralli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG is selected from the best grapes from the oldest vines. After malolactic fermentation the wine is aged for 24 months in oak barrels. Nice aromas of dry herbs, thyme plum and red raspberry lead way to a complex palate with nice acidity and flavors off blackberry, cherry, plum red fruit and hints of sour cherry. SRP $30

The Sieni family shares their memories with you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Grilling Beyond Salt And Pepper

 Summer time is a time for grilling. (Actually we grill all year around in our house, yes even in the snow. ) As much as we grill we never really have tried grilling on planks.

I was so happy when I received an email from Beyond Salt and Pepper to try grilling on their planks. These planks are not your ordinary grilling planks. They have been pre-soaked for 48 hours in wine or spirits. They are vacuum sealed while still soaked to preserve the aromas and flavors. They are all ready to use. They can be used on the grill and in the oven.

My first thought was this will be great for the restaurant. So I brought them up there. When the Chef didn’t use them after a month, I took possession of the planks back and we enjoyed the “last supper” cooking on the planks before the summer season arrived where our time together will be limited.

The Planks

We used the Merlot, Bourbon and Chardonnay planks. Each plank measures 6” wide by 12” long and is 0.375 thick. All the wood is harvested in Maine and Florida by family farms and local foresters and the wine and spirits used to infuse the wood are all produced in the USA. They are all natural, there are no chemicals or additives. You can’t go wrong with these!

The Prep

There is some prep to do with the planks but it’s minimal like 5 minutes. First you heat the grill to medium-high. Once pre-heated place prepared plank on grill and close the lid and heat for 2 minutes. Turn plan over and repeat for 2 minutes. Once plank begins to crackle put the food on the planks and re-close lid.

We did a variety of food on the planks to see what tasted the best and on what plank. We grilled ribeye, salmon, wahoo, and asparagus. It all went pretty easy and the food tasted fantastic! All of us thought the salmon tasted the best on the plank.

Oh, and it’s an easy cleanup. Just clean with hot water and a drop of soap, rinse well and let it dry.

To more information on Beyond Salt and Pepper visit the website at In addition to the planks they also have pre-soaked chips ready to use.

Our Experience 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Catching East Coast Fish Pairing with Left Coast Cellars

This summer seems to be the summer of fish and white wine pairings for me. It’s a great time to eat fish,especially when your husband catches it. There is such a variety of white and rose wines that pair so well with fish and Left Coast Cellars produces some rare and exceptional wines that fall into that category. There is nothing better than eating fresh fish and drinking good white wine that leads to great memories.

Last year I got introduced to Left Coast Cellars and was quite impressed with their wines. I’m going to admit, I was never a fan of Pinot Gris until I had it from Oregon and now I am hooked. Left Coast Cellars not only produces a Pinot Gris but a wine you don’t see very often being made, a White Pinot Noir and I am always intrigued with wines out of the norm.

What is a White Pinot Noir? 

At Left Coast it all began as an experiment. One of those experiments that you undertake and hope for the best others just happen. This experiment was a huge success. The grapes are crushed at extremely cold temperatures so there is minimal coloration from the skins. There is no time for them to sit and extract of color and tannins from the skins and seeds. Once pressed, the juice is then fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees.

My thought was what do I pair with a White Pinot Noir? This 2017 vintage of Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir SRP $24 is 91% Pinot Noir and 9% Pinot Planc from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Once the grapes are pressed they are aged for 4 months in stainless steel. The wine shows aromas and flavors of white berries and white flowers, nectarine, peaches with hints of wet stone. I paired it with the Sheepshead Fish Paul caught and grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream. The wine went well with both. With the fish, it cut back on the acidity. With the grilled peaches, it was the perfect way to end a nice dinner.

The Orchard Pinot Gris

Left Coast The Orchard Pinot Gris 2017 SRP $18, a blend of 91% Pinot Gris and 9 % Pinot Blanc from Willamette Valley, Oregon. This wine paired well with the Sheepshead Fish too. Yes it was a two bottle evening. This is a very exciting Pinot Gris and complex as well with aromas of pineapple, white flowers, and wet sand. On the palate it is soft and exciting with flavors of apricot, white plum and ripe pears. A delightful wine with a white fish or just on it’s own.

Sharing the Estate Rose

Left Coast Rose 2017 SRP $24 is a blend of 54% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 9% Pinot Blanc aged in 100% neutral French oak for 4 months. A nice food friendly Rose or drink on it’s own. Aromas of strawberry and black cherry has a hint of earthiness. Flavors of cherry, mandarin orange with a slight hint of white spice layer on the palate. I believe in sharing and brought this wine to the restaurant to share with my favorite people Bob & Vickie. I think this will pair very will with our Halibut and Lobster dish that is topped with a provencal tomato nage.

Left Coast Cellars is a family run winery located in Rickreall, Oregon. Take a tour of their estate below and if you are in the region, make sure you stop in for a tour and tasting.

Left Coast Estate from Left Coast Estate on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Winephabet Street M is for Mencia

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 13. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions on letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

This month we explored the Mencia grape grown in the Northwestern part of Spain. Mainly in the Bierzo region. It was once thought to be a clone of Cabernet Franc but through DNA profiling they found it was identical to Portugal’s Jaen do Dao variety.

This is a grape new to me. Someone at the restaurant left a bottle of Mencia and I tasted it and wasn’t impressed. I was a little worried about the bottle I had at home. Worry not! I was wowed and very impressed with Godelia Mencia SRP $19 and highly recommend it. The grapes in the Godelia Mencia come from 40 to 80 year old vines. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation in barrels and is aged for 12 months in French oak.

To learn more about Bodega Godelia and the wines they produce visit my previous article on Godelia and the white wine they produce. Click here.

Sit back and relax and watch or listen to the webinar. Learn about Mencia and the wines we are drinking. The best is to look at our expressions when we taste what we are drinking. You will see how much Lori and I loved this grape and the wines we chose.

Don’t forget to sign up for July’s episode of Winephabet Street where we go to Italy and learn about the Negroamaro grape. Winephabet Street will take place Monday July 23 at 8pm ET from the comfort of your living room (or wherever you may be). Register here

You can find all past episodes on and don’t forget to visit our sponsor the wine club where wine experts select wines matched to your taste, personalized for you and shipped right to your door.

Watch the Webinar

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Celebrate Bastille Day with Luxe Rural Rose from Domaine Paul Mas

Bastille Day is the celebration of the storming of the military fortress and prison Bastille on July 14, 1790. This was a turning point of the French Revolution and a celebration of the unity of the French people.

Today it is celebrated by a miltary parade and parties throughout France. Why not celebrate with the Frenchman himself Jean-Claude Mas. Jean-Claude produces wines from the Languedoc region of France where the regions terroir meets modernity. His wines are great expressions of what the Languedoc region offers. Wines that give pleasure in their youth and become exceptional with aging. His wines are an everyday luxury and best of all they are very reasonably priced.

A little background on Jean-Claude, he grew up in the vineyards as the son and grandson of grape growers.He produced his first wines from a 35 hectare plot of vines inherited from his father. Today he owns 12 estates in the Languedoc- Roussillon covering 700 hectares. In addition he manages an 1500 additional hectares.

Planted are 45 different grape varieties, each giving different expressions into the wine.
Each vineyard is treated with TLC and is given what it needs to produce quality grapes. For instance, in Limoux at Domaine Martinolles some vineyards are planted with cereal crops and leguminous plants before they replant them with vines. This is the natural way to bring the organic material back into the soil that the previous vines depleted. Jean-Claude has great passion for his vines and visits each estate vineyards every week to check on the health of the vines. He is called the “pioneer for the ‘New Languedoc’,” raising the profile and quality of the region’s wine.

Jean-Claude’s wines are great for everyday enjoyment. Whether celebrating and event, or wine o’ clock, his luxe rural wines will put a smile on every face. Luxe Rural is an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life, something we all need to do every day.

Domaines Paul Mas 2017 Cote Mas Rose Aurore is the perfect wine for celebration of any kind, like friendship as we did one evening. The beautiful label on the front originates from a pastel drawing in the Art Nouveau style of the original Domaines Paul Mas family estate. He worked with an artist that had the Toulouse Lautrec style to create the label.

Once past the label and one sip and the comments were “this is a lovely great everyday Rose.” It’s fresh and easy drinking with a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault an 20% Syrah. It has a nice pink color bringing excitement to the wine. Aromas of strawberry, and some floral hints leading to a well balanced palate with flavors of watermelon, strawberry, and cherry.

While most wine comes in 750ml, this Rose is the only 1 liter format in distribution in the US to signify wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends. The wine retails for $12.99 / 1 liter.