Friday, April 4, 2014

Around here, "Napa" is for car parts.....



(Full disclosure: I stole that phrase from some other wine region which has now slipped my mind.)

It’s also for grapes, but those grapes are from California.  Around here, I’d like to think that when most people mention “Napa” they’re referring to the local car parts store, but something makes me wonder if that’s all that’s going on….

As some of you know, we make wine for other wineries.  At times, these wineries are happy to be associated with us (Karamoor in Fort Washington and the Vineyard at Grandview in Mt. Joy) and we’re happy to work with them as well.  Other times, the contracting winery would rather it not be public that we made anything for them.  Either way is fine for us; winemaking is our strength and we’re glad to do it.

In the last couple years, I have been approached a few times by wineries who would like us to make some dry red wines for them.  The second question usually is, “Can you use some, uh, California fruit?”  Whereas I am happy to make wine for anyone, I draw the line there.  At no point will any West coast grapes ever be allowed in our winery.  All of the fruit will be grown as locally as possible.  The crazy thing is, I think some of these folks think that the quality of our dry reds must come from sourcing fruit from California.  I don’t know this for a fact, but that’s the insinuation.  It pisses me off.

I am extremely proud to be making wine here in this little part of Pennsylvania.  I know in my heart of hearts that we can make amazing wines, mind-blowing wines.  I’ve already tasted them.  It’s now just up to us to push the envelope a little further….and do it with consistency.  It’s why we’re planning on planting another ten to fifteen acres of Bordeaux varieties.  This is our commitment to this area.

That said, I can safely say that I have tasted wines—with the word “Pennsylvania” on them—that definitely had to have Cali fruit in them.  (Depending on the percentage, this could in fact be legal.)  Yes, they were nice wines.  BUT, they weren’t from here!  We have our own styles and flavors here, and we know that California grows 90% of the fruit in this country and that most of you probably drink more than your fair share of wines from there.  That’s fine, and I don’t have a big problem with that.  It just bugs me when there’s no transparency.

Most importantly, I think you the consumer and local winery supported needs to know about one of the little known fact about wine labels.  If you ever see a bottle of wine that says “American”, please do yourself a favor and ask where the grapes were grown.  A wine made 100% from PA fruit can be called American, as can a wine made from 100% California fruit.  But if there’s too much non-PA fruit in the wine to call it “Pennsylvania”, then the only legal resort a winery has is to call it “American.”  And, believe me, I’ll bet if it says “American” it’s mostly not from here.

Usually in this part of the world, you see a lot of French-American hybrids grown.  These you may or may not be familiar with, but they have names like Vidal, Chambourcin, Traminette, Cayuga, Chancellor.  You’re pretty much guaranteed that these grapes were grown somewhere on this coast, although not necessarily in Pennsylvania.  In addition, there are a lot of European grapes that we also grow over here in the East, such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc among others. 

But there are varieties you’ll never see grown over here—or at the very least—grown well, such as Zinfandel, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Camenere, Malbec.  These are varieties that are grown in hot climates and make some amazing wines when grown in the correct places.  Central PA, unfortunately, will never produce a good Zinfandel. 

So, the next time you’re out at your local winery, looking at some local vines while checking out the local views and talking with the local people about buying fresh and buying local, let’s make sure we’re all drinking wine made from local grapes.

Drink like you live here, damn it.

--Carl

Big News about Allegro and our Vineyards



As many of you know, we are extremely proud of our vineyard site out here in the Brogue.  We are one of the few vineyard sites that was searched out for its winegrowing potential in Pennsylvania.  (Most were re-purposed from previous uses.)  It’s why we’re out in the Brogue, so far removed from people who drink wine.

If we had our way, the great grape growing lands would be next to York or a major highway.  Unfortunately, we weren’t that fortunate.

Even fewer of you may know that these days we are struggling to find enough quality grapes to make Cadenza.  Our Cabernet and Merlot are our mainstays, but as the demand for our high-end wines increase, we’ve found that we can’t keep up.

So, starting in 2015, we will begin to plant more vineyards at our property.  The current thought is to plant more Merlot as it is slowly becoming the best grape for our region.  To this, we’ll add Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and more Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  Ultimately, we’ll end up with about 13 or 14 acres under vine.

Lastly, although I love growing grapes, I am going to give this part of my life up.  This is an extremely important expansion for us, at no small financial risk, and so I’ve decided to hire one of the best grape growers on the East coast, Nelson Stewart. 

I’ve made wine from Nelson’s fruit for six years, and he has proven himself regionally as one of the best in the business.  His resume includes managing his own vineyard, being part of Black Ankle in Mt. Airy, MD (one of my favorite wineries in the East), Boordy Vineyards, and managing Karamoor Estate (for whom we made the wine from 2007-2010.)  Last year, Karamoor’s 2008 Meritage (grown by Nelson and made into wine by us), won the Governor’s Cup for best wine in Pennsylvania.

I feel so fortunate and blessed to have around me some of the best staff a person could ever ask for, and with Nelson coming on board we’re starting to resemble a Dream Team of Olympic proportions.  I am really psyched to see what the next few vintages have in store for us! 

Can’t wait to get started!  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Drink Like You Live Here 2013



Drink Like You Live Here

I don’t know how you feel about this, but for me, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  As a guy, you know that the way to my heart is through my stomach.  (As a winemaker, it’s across my palate….)  And ever since I was a kid, I’d look forward to eating more than my appetite could handle.

Of course, now I am much different.  (OK, I am, but not in the fundamental ways…..)  We celebrated Thanksgiving early this year as my folks came out for a visit and we were able to share the time with Kris’s parents and our boys with as close to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as I’ve had in a long time. 

Ours may be one of the few holiday dinners that has only local wine on the table.  And this is important.  There is a movement afoot these days, spear-headed by the Buy Fresh/Buy Local organization that seeks to bring locally made food-products into the local marketplace.  This is important for many reasons, but the one that hits home to me is that it just makes good sense: Why transport anything with regularity around the world when it can be avoided?

There is a sense of place with wine as there is with any food.  There’s a reason why crabs and apples taste different in different parts of the world.  And, yes, I agree that there are times when I want to enjoy something that isn’t from this area.  (I’m a sucker for Bordeaux wines…..)  But the everyday meals that make up the bulk of our sustenance are not usually filled with these exotic treats.  Our main food source is usually something we’re familiar with, something comfortable.  Something we’ve grown up with.

But what has become familiar to us–more  often than not—is not grown anywhere near us.  How many times do you eat lettuce from California?  Strawberries (in the winter!) from Florida?  Or grapes from South America?  It bothers me, bothers me, bothers me that even for someone like myself, I can’t find a sensible and simple solution to eat locally regularly.  The places we go to in our busy lives are places of convenience.  I don’t have time to go to ten different places for our food. 

I’m not trying to come up with solutions, just pointing out the problems.  This is bigger than you and me.  It’s going to take all of us.  And we’ll have to start out with small steps.  My suggestion is that the wines you drink this holiday season come from this side of the Mississippi River.  Get in touch with what’s around you.  And, drink like you live here. 

Cheers,

Carl

P.S. I have to thank Chef Andy Little formerly of Sheppard Mansion fame in Hanover and now in Nashville, for not being mad at me for adulterating his tag line…..