Thursday, April 22, 2021

Celebrate Earth Day with Veramonte Organic Wines

As Earth Day approaches it’s time for us to recognize the importance of the earth and what it gives us every day. Growing up, I didn’t think of anything about my surroundings and the impact we have on it, but I did know, not to swim in the Hudson because of the PCBs. I didn’t fully understand the effects of pollution of all kinds until I was an adult.

Fast forward to last year when the pandemic hit. All of a sudden there wasn’t as much traffic and the air quality improved, the sky bluer and you could hear nature more clearly.

Now let’s think about our soil. Each layer of soil contributes nutrients to the grass, flowers and vegetables you grow. It is reflected in what you eat and the beauty of the landscape you look at each day. It is so important to watch what we put into our earth.

Growing grapes is hard and growing organic grapes even harder but many wineries are opting for organic methods. It is better for the environment and we have to take care of the environment, just like we care for our children.

In celebration of Earth Day I am celebrating with Veramonte and applaud them for what they are doing to save the environment. Veramonte is located in the Casablanca Valley of Chile. They follow organic and biodynamic practices to ensure the best conditions for their vines to develop. The vines truly reflect the soil they are grown in.

What are some of the characteristics of an organic vineyard? Well, the soil is healthy. Many times the animals and insects that occupied the soil before humans began messing with it return. As the vine develops it is aided by all the natural agents of the environment.

Veramonte banned the use of pesticides to protect and care for the ecosystem. By eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides the earth is more nourished, the soil regenerates itself, is healthy and reflects the true terroir in the grapes and wine. They incorporated the use of animals in the vineyard. They fertilize the land, mow the grass and aerate the soil with their hooves as they walk through the vineyard.

Veramonte Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2020 SRP $11.99 - This wine says summer in your glass all the way. Light straw in color with aromas of lime zest and white citrus lead to a palate of juicy grapefruit and white peach

Veramonte Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $11.99 - This Cabernet spent 8 months in neutral oak. The wine really expresses the terroir it’s grown in. Slight balsamic notes on the nose with red and black fruit and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, the wine was smooth with mouth-watering tannins, a mix of red and black fruit and a touch of herbs.

Thank you to Donna White Communications and Gonzalez Byass for providing me with samples of this wine.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Lugana Wines - As Fresh as Spring Flowers

Last week I traveled to Lugana DOC on the shores of Lake Garda, Italy. Well, virtually I did as I attended a virtual masterclass on the region invited by Gambero Rosso the global authority on Italian wines and publisher of the annual Vini d’Italia guide. The masterclass and tasting was hosted by Marco Sabellico Senior Editor of Vini D’Italia and I would love to one day be in a room tasting with him.

The Lugana DOC is located in Northern Italy on the southern end of Lake Garda. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and has its own microclimate. The region is known for its white clay soil and the Turbiana grape which is native to the region. In Lugana they only grow white wine and it’s produced in 5 different styles:

Lugana DOC - This is the keystone wine that covers 90% of the DOC. These wines are young and released a few months after harvest. These are the youngest wines.

Lugana Superiore - This wine must age for at least one year before it is released

Lugana Riserva - These are age-worthy wines and must be aged for 24 months before release. Six of those months must be spent in the bottle.

Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva - This is your late harvest wines. The wine made in this style is made with “over-ripened” grapes. They let the grapes remain on the vine until the end of October, early November and then harvest them.

Lugana Spumante - Get out your saber, this is Sparkling Turiana maid in the Charmat method and classic method.

Last year there were 2 million cases of Lugana wine produced.

Sitting in on these seminars never gets old. This isn’t my first time with Lugana and the Turbania grape. I learn something new each time. We tasted wines from 2015 to 2019. My big takeaway from this seminar is the age-ability of this grape. Normally I wouldn’t think to age this white wine for more than 3 years and would probably shy away from purchasing an older vintage, but boy am I wrong! The 2015 was wonderful and still had lots of acidity and freshness going for it.

If you are wondering what to pair with this grape - all-out seafood. No matter how you prepare the seafood, baked, broiled, fried or raw, this wine will be wonderful with it.

Let’s explore the wines of Lugana.

Tommasi lugana Doc Le Fornaci 2019 They have 45 hectares of grapes in three main vineyards located in different areas of the Lugana DOC. One parcel is on calcareous soil and the other two sit in soil that has more sandy composition and is rich in silt. This all contributes to a wine that is fresh, crisp and clean with citrus, stone fruit and minerality.

Pasini San Giovanni Lugana Doc 2019 Founded in 1958by Andrea Pasini they have kept and maintained the buildings where the name of the family. 1958 created. San Giovanni small building from the 18th century where they started to grow their own vineyard. 2009 went organic. Having vineyards in different villages brings different taste in wine. Piscara is full of touch white clay soil, the other desanco is more morain stoney that brings richness and strength, and crispy from the stones. Beautiful notes of tropical fruit, lemon, white grapefruit and hints of Mediterranean herbs with a slightly oily mouthfeel.. If you happen to eat some salami with this wine, it will really bring out the herbs.

Marangona Lugana Doc 2019 This family-run winery sits on the border of Lombardy and Veneto, close to the southern shore of Lake Garda. The vineyards are between 10 and 50 years old and sit on calcareous and silt-rich clay soil. The wine was aged sur lie in stainless steel for 3 months followed by two months in the bottle. Fresh orange blossom leads the way to a very lively palate full of tropical fruit, fresh acidity and minerality and salinity notes of the finish. This will be a great brunch wine.

Ca Maiol Lugana Doc Molin 2018 Ca Maiol was founded in 1967 by Walter Contato but the farm dates back to 1710. The oldest vines sit outside the cellar doors located 1.5 miles from Lake Garda. A lovely wine with notes of citrus, lavender, stone fruit and orange zest on the finish with lively acidity.

Perla Del Garda Lugana Doc Madreperla Ris. 2018 - Fairly new winery that began in 2000 with Giovanna and Ettore Prandini revived the viticulture on the family estate. Production began in 2006 in a new gravity-flow winery. This wonderful Lugana wine will be great for afternoon drinking. Nice complex aromas of orange, lemons Mediterranean herbs lead to a palate of fresh fruit with grapefruit on the finish.

Corte Sermana Lugana Doc Ris. Sermana 2015 - Located on the shores of Lake Garda Corte Sermana produces 2000 cases of wine in chalk and clay soil that is influenced by the micro-climate of the breezes coming off Lake Garda. This wine blew me away with its age-ability. Ten percent of the wine was aged in two-year-old French oak the rest in steel for 18 months on the lees and 12 months in the bottle. There is so much freshness coming out of the glass and the with the acidity beaming. Notes of pear, white flowers and hazelnuts with hints of chalkiness. Goes well with Brie cheese as it balances out the acidity and creates a smoother and creamer cheese on your palate with no bitterness. Pair this wine with a heavy cream sauce.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Bodega Beronia Food Friendly & 2 Sizes


Let’s travel to Spain where in 1973 a group of businessmen from the Basque region of Spain who are friends would travel to La Rioja every year on holiday. Can you imagine the fun they had. They loved everything about the area so much, the food, the wine that they decided to open a winery. The purpose of the winery was to produce wine to pair with the food during the get-togethers of their gastronomic society (txoko) that they formed.

The name Beronia is named after the Berones who were warrior people of celtic descent of ancient Spain who migrated from Gaul to Iberia around the 4th century BC. They settled in the La Rioja region and lived close to the Cantabrian Conisci in the middle of the Ebro region between Tiron and Alhama rivers.

Bodegas Beronia is located in the village of Ollauri in the Ebro Valley in the heart of Rioja Alta. Rioja Alta features Atlantic climate and soil that consists of yesos, ferrous and aluvial clay soil. The Atlantic Ocean protects the region and the Ebro river gives the soil the richness of minerals that make the area a great home for vines.

Beronia farms 900 hectares in Rioja Alta. The average age of the vines are 30 years however, there are about 50 hectares that are over 60 years old. They are planted with the majority of Tempranillo with Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano and Viura.

I had the opportunity to taste Beronica Crianza 2017 and found it so food-friendly! It’s a blend of 94% Tempranillo with 5% Garnacha and 1% Mazuelo. The wine spent twelve months in barrels and then relaxed for three months before being released. Beautiful dark red in color. The wine shows aromas of dark cherry and black raspberry. The aromas are followed to the palate with a cinnamon explosion on the finish.

The Beronia 2017 Crianza comes in 750ml bottle and 350ml bottle. The smaller bottle is great for the beach, boat, or bring along to dinner if dining with a friend that doesn’t drink wine. SRP 14.99 750ml and $7.99 350ml bottle.

Spanish wines are such a great value, great-tasting and at great prices. Now that we are heading into the Spring and Summer, they go great with appetizers, burgers and barbecue. We paired the Beronia with a cheese plate followed by burgers.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Geyerhof Gruner Veltliner Delivers Excitement

I’ve been digging Gruner Veltliner from Austria these days. I think it’s the crisp acidity and green apple notes that have me hooked.

In the small village of Oberfucha located in the Lower Austrian wine region of Kremstal is Geyerhof. The estate began over 800 years ago and is 14 generations strong. Just like her grandmother and great-grandmother, the female members of the family took over the day-to-day running of the family farm. Today, Ilse Maier runs the winery with her son Josef.

In 1988 the vineyards were converted to organic and in 2019 they were granted membership in Demeter Austria.

The 2019 Ried Rosenteig Gruner Veltliner is their flagship wine. A single-vineyard wine from Reid Rosenteig grown in loess soils and 35-year-old vines. The wine is hand-picked in the beginning of October and aged in steel tanks.

The wine has a beautiful nose with aromas of green apples, a hint of key lime, lemon blossoms and white pepper and minerality dancing around. The palate is refreshing with bright acidity, green apple, citrus, minerality and white pepper spice on the finish.

Drink this after a long day when you want some excitement.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Out at the Wineries March 2021


This past weekend I ventured out to some area wineries and took advantage of the nice weather.

Wine tasting is a lot different today. Appointments are needed and you need to think out your route and stops. Gone are the tastings where you belly up to the bar and tasted 5-8 1 ounce pours and dump or spit in the dump bucket. But you know what, I like it this way. It is actually more enjoyable. What I did miss is the interaction with the employees over the wine. You know, where they talk to you about the wine, answer your questions and you can see their face light up with enthusiasm when talking about one of their favorite wines.

I know the wineries are doing their best and they have had to adapt and change many times. This is in no way meant to criticize but to show you how tastings have changed and every winery is different. Know the rules set forth at each of your stops. One winery we went to had no time limit, while the other winery had a time limit of an hour and a half. An hour and a half is plenty of time to taste. If you want to camp and picnic make sure the winery allows that.

When making reservations, it’s like making reservations to go to dinner. Make sure you show up or cancel with plenty of notice so the winery can sell that reservation time to someone else. Don’t be surprised if there is a cancellation fee closer to the time of your reservation. Trust me, coming from owning a restaurant, decisions are made based on reservations. If you cancel an hour before your reservation, that time slot could have gone to someone else who was disappointed they couldn’t get in, and they can’t rely on walk-in business. OK - I’ll get off my high horse on that subject.

White Horse Winery

Located in Hammonton, New Jersey our reservation was for 1pm. This winery handles reservations by phone and we reserved a fire pit and there was no time limit.

When we arrived we were greeted by their friendly staff who showed us the tasting menu by the glass. I ordered a glass of the Chambourcin and Jenn ordered a glass of Cabernet Franc. While we ordered another staff member went out and lit our firepit #2 and brought a pitcher of water to the area. All tables and firepits are labeled with a wine bottle with a number on it. I could have sat out there all day, it was so delightful.

A second round was ordered, another Cab Franc for Jenn and a 2017 Merlot Reserve for me. At the end of our time here, I went in to purchase a bottle of the Merlot and noticed people ordering flights. I so wish we were told they had flights because we would have ordered them. All good, we enjoyed our time here.

Bellview Winery

This winery was a 20-minute drive from White Horse and located in Landisville, New Jersey. We made our reservations right off their sight on OpenTable. Beautiful spacious grounds and when making our reservation we had the choice of inside or out. When we got there we notice there were fire pits. Upon checking in there was no check from a reservation system or list. The person behind the counter showed us a menu and said we can do wine by the glass, bottle or get a red or white flight and she would bring it out to us. I did ask some questions about the grapes that were in the rose and the blends, but unfortunately, she didn’t know the answer.

We got to pick any picnic table outside and we chose a picnic table just outside the tasting room. After 15 minutes I went back inside looking for our flights. I got the deer in headlights look. They found our flights sitting on the back bar, the server forgot to take it out to us. I get it, things happen.

This is the first time I’ve been out tasting since Covid. The biggest thing I missed was the conversation about the wines, learning about the blends, the grapes, the process and who is behind the winery. I know every experience is different at every winery. I feel Covid has limited that personal information transfer between employee and customer, perhaps for fear of catching the illness.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Winephabet Street: P is for Petite Sirah

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 16- P is for Petite Sirah. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

February was all about Petite Sirah. We had special guests Steve Tenbrink from Tenbrink Vineyards and his daughter Lisa Howard from Tolenas Winery. Steve is a big Petite Sirah grower and we did a deep dive into Petite Sirah.

First some facts on Petite Sirah:

  • Petite Sirah is known as Durif a grape named after its founder Dr. Francois Durif. He was a grape botanist and breeder who in 1880 released the variety that he grew from a cross between Peloursin and Syrah.
  • In 1884 Petite Sirah was imported to California by Charles Mclver for his Linda Vista Vineyard at the Mission San Jose in Alameda County.
  • 1900 Petite Sirah became a popular variety in California
  • 1920’s - Petite Sirah was shipped from California to home winemakers in the East during Prohibition
  • 1930’s There were approximately 7,500 Petite Sirah acres planted in California
  • 1960’s acreage was down to 4,500
  • 1976 California acreage of Petite Sirah is up to approximately 14,000
  • 1988 A big decline in California’s Petite Sirah crop to just 5,000 acres between Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and the Central Valley
  • Today according to an article in the Napa Valley Register article dated Nov 2016, Petite Sirah acreage is roughly 7,500.

Steve Tenbrink and Lisa Howard

Steve and Lisa are located in the Suisun Valley and they explain why the Suisun Valley is the Petite Sirah Capital of the world. Many winemaker were coming to the Suisun Valley to purchase Petite Sirah and said that the grapes purchased from there makes the best wine. The favor structure is what shines. The tannins in the Petite Sirah in the Suisun Valley are so soft, not mouth gripping like the grapes grown in other regions. The tannins are still very structured, but they aren’t overdrying, abrasive tannins. They believe it’s from the shift in temperature and they are a tad warmer than other areas growing Petite Sirah.

Steve and Lisa go into the physical growing of the grapes. Talking about the cover crops, planting and the weather. The need to thin the grapes down. It’s all about what happens in the vineyard then comes the wine.

2017 Tolenas Suisun Valley Red Blend This is a blend of 50% Petite Sirah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Zinfandel. The wine is all pressed and aged on its own and then comes together in the bottle. The Petite Sirah is put in an 8 ton wooden fermenter. The wine gets gentle pumpovers and is fermented at a high temperature.

The wine has beautiful aromas of sweet herbs and blueberry leading to a soft and silky palate with notes of black cherry, blueberry and black plum. The tannins bit on the finish as the acidity brightens the palate.

Typically Petite Sirah is dark and inky - think purple teeth! It’s a big bold wine and can be very tannic. It has great structure and a unique flavor.

Suggested food pairings for Petite Sirah are red meat, pasta, cheese. It’s a great food wine.

Listen to the podcast or watch the webinar. Unfortunately for this episode I kept getting booted off. Weather, minor technical difficulties, but Lori carried on….

For more episodes of Winephabet Street visit

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Where Music and Wine Collide: Radio Boka

We are coming up on Spring, nice weather where we will be hanging outside gardening, boating, going to the beach, hiking and more. What goes best along with those activities, music and wine.

As we know wine is an important part of my life and so is music.

I worked in radio for many years. Well, I actually grew up in radio. My dad had a dream of owning his own radio station since he was a child. He was working as a Sound Engineer at Candid Camera and the show was coming to a close. It was at this time in his life he decided to go for it! The year was 1967 he purchased his first radio station. I grew up with the tunes and found out my dad's family has history in the Hungarian wine trade. I was destined for music and wine in my life

Meet Nicholas Hammeken

Back in October when we were doing Monastrell for Winephabet Street and we had Nicholas Hammeken, founder of Hammeken Cellars as our guest. While researching for this episode I noticed he also produced a wine brand called Radio Boka. This immediately caught my attention. Me and the wine connected!

Hammeken Cellars isn’t your ordinary winery. Nicholas is Danish and was working in the wine industry in the UK. His wife who is a dentist had the opportunity to relocate to Spain and in 2001 Hammeken Cellars released their first wine brand.

Their philosophy is to source indigenous grapes from the best places in Spain and create fresh, approachable wines with growers that share the same vision.

Radio Boka

Music plays such an important role in our lives as does wine. When you hear that song on the radio or digital music platform it brings you back to a memorable time, the right tune can create excitement on an otherwise boring day.

You open that bottle of wine and the aromas take you back to a time in your childhood. The wine’s bright acidity might create excitement or chewy tannins, romance.

Now combine the music and wine and you have an explosion of good vibes around you. Excitement. Romance. Love. Fun. Memories!

Radio Boka is where friendship and music collide. It’s about having fun in life, enjoying today with the people you love and creating memories. The best is it comes in “three frequencies” Verdejo, Rose and Tempranillo all produced to show their fresh and lively expressions. Also packaged in a three-liter box in the shape of an old car radio. That will be great for the beach, the boat or the pool this summer. The bottles are all priced at $9.99 - so affordable.

Radio Boka Verdejo - 100% Verdejo from 25 year old vines. This wine is unoaked with lively citrus and green apple notes followed by medium-plus acidity. I see this wine sitting by the pool or watching the summer sunset.

Radio Boka Rose - This is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 20% Bobal from 30+-year-old vines with strawberry, cherry and rhubarb notes. The perfect wine for the beach or the hike.

Radio Boka Tempranillo - 100% Tempranillo from 30+-year-old vines and partial aging in 100% French oak. Nice fresh red fruit with cinnamon spice on the finish. This wine is perfect for the summer BBQ!

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