Inside Wine - February 10th, 2020

Inside Wine (Feb 10th, 2020)

East Coast wines, recommended by those in the know

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I'm writing this ahead of leaving for Wine Paris, where I'll be taking Master Classes and tasting wines from around the world. I won't be home until Wednesday night so instead of leaving you with no newsletter for two days, I'm doing a takeover edition today. Wednesday, there will be no wine newsletter. But, if you follow my Wine Paris posts on both my Instagram account and my Twitter account, you'll hardly know I'm gone.

My love of East Coast wines should be evident by now, so I asked several of my wine-writing colleagues to introduce us to bottles from the region they think are exceptional. A couple of them couldn't follow the rules contain their excitement and recommended more than one. I gave them little instruction but to pick a wine and tell why they want others to know about it. Here's what they had to say.

- Robin

1. Glorie Farm Winery Cabernet Franc East 2018 and Glorie Farm West 2018, Marlboro, New York

The Hudson Valley has been the historic heart of New York's winemaking industry. But in the last decade its reputation for quality wines has improved greatly, making it a region on the come. At a recent tasting of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition, Glorie Farm Winery's two barrel samples (two separate vineyard blocks) drew some of the highest praise from all around.

Glorie's well-known winemaker Kristop Brown is known to be one of the better winemakers in the valley (he also formerly made wine in Walla Walla). New owners Dan and Jacqui Heavens have decided to sell the two vineyard blocks separately (originally there was the thought to blend the two into one). It was too much fun tasting the two blocks side-by-side. Hence, the winery is releasing Glorie Farm Cabernet Franc West - 2018 and Glorie Farm East - 2018.

The East - 2018 is made from newer vines, and the flavor is all bright red cherry like a fresh cherry pie. Big red fruit and a lovely, lip-smacking finish that clings to the palate for a long time. The West - 2018 comes from a much older block. The flavors are dark cherry and dark raspberry, hints of mocha, graphite, and prune. It's deep, multi-layered, and luscious. It's sex in a glass! This is what wine geekdom is all about. Too much fun to pass up!

- Carlo De Vito, winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Vineyards and writer at East Coast Wineries

2. Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Franc, Asheville, North Carolina

A lower-alcohol beauty at 13 percent, the Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Franc from North Carolina shows a mélange of delightfully ripe berries and sweet vanilla spice on the palate. Its bright, food-friendly acidity and softer tannins make it an ideal accompaniment to a variety of meat dishes such as beef, pork, poultry, and venison. The grapes for the wine come from an estate vineyard – originally planted in 1971 – located in the valley of the nearby French Broad River. It is priced attractively for a single-vineyard, limited release of this caliber, with a suggested retail price of $35. Recent awards include a score of 93 points in the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition and Gold at the North Carolina State Fair.

Biltmore, whose French-style château home and surrounding landscaping were designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, has been a leader in hospitality and sustainable, field-to-table practices since the estate’s inception in 1895. Once the home of Biltmore Dairy Farms, the former dairy was transformed into a winery, opening to the public in 1985 and now has 600,000 visitors annually.

Dr. Elizabeth Smith, Professional Wine Tutor, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone; Contributing Writer, Napa Valley Register

3. Nassau Valley Vineyards Naked Chardonnay, Merlot and Indian River Blend, Lewes, Delaware

Nassau Valley Vineyards is Delaware’s first commercial winery. Located just outside Lewes, Delaware, it was founded by Bob Raley and his daughter Peg. A visit to the winery will begin with a self-guided tour of the 8,000-year history of wine, ending in an exhibit gallery that displays artwork from regional artists and changes monthly. Tastings follow, featuring a wide variety of wines from dry to sweet. Nassau was my first time tasting wine from Delaware, and I was quite impressed. These wines stood out.

  • The 2017 Nassau Valley Vineyards Naked Chardonnay was a beautiful expression of the grape. Soft pear and melon notes with a clean and fresh balance. It’s light, crisp, and makes a great après ski wine.
  • 2017 Nassau Valley Vineyards Merlot isn't too heavy. It’s light and smooth with blue and red fruit. This merlot is very easy drinking and will pair with many dishes.
  • 2015 "Indian River Red” Vintner’s Blend is a blend of 60 percent merlot, 31 percent cabernet franc and 9 percent cabernet sauvignon, aged for 13 months in new French oak. This wine has a little more character with some earthy and leather notes, black cherry, cassis and finishes with some black pepper spice. This is the wine if you are looking for a little extra body. Heavier than the Merlot, this will warm you up on a cold winter night.

- Debbie Gioquindo CSW, WLS, Hudson Valley Wine Goddess; Author, "Tapping the Hudson Valley"

4. Turdo Vineyards & Winery Nero D'Avola, Cape May, New Jersey

It is near impossible to pick just one wine from the whole state, but here goes: My choice for a New Jersey wine worthy of attention from the rest of the country is Turdo Vineyards & Winery Nero D'Avola. Their signature red wine has a Sicilian heritage (like its winemakers and owners). Similar to cabernet sauvignon in body and flavor profile, it is great with grilled meats or on its own merits.

This Nero d'Avola is an excellent wine. But, there are many excellent wines being produced across the state. My criteria for selection was "consistently excellent, but also unique in some way." What makes it unique? Turdo – as far as I can ascertain – is the only winery in the country growing this grape and one of a select few producing this wine. In Sicily, it is the most commonly planted red variety. I hasten to add that I have tried several Nero d'Avola wines from Sicily and none have measured up (in my opinion) to those made by Turdo.

- David Mullen, Author, "New Jersey Uncorked: A Snob-Free Taste of NJ Wine" and the weekly wine blog, New Jersey Uncorked

5. Old Westminster Winery Viognier, Westminster, Maryland

Old Westminster is a terroir-focused winery in the Piedmont region of Maryland. Their mission is for wine-drinkers to taste Maryland – forgoing the use of conventional winemaking methods that can turn a wine of a place into a wine of any-old-place. The wine that best extolls these virtues is the viognier grown in the hills of Western Maryland at Cool Ridge Vineyard.

There is minimal manipulation from grape to glass, and the wine is made using native yeasts and fermented in stainless steel, allowing the true nature of the viognier variety to come forth. The result is intensely floral on the nose with ripe, tropical-fruit notes from the warmth of the south-facing slopes with a chalky mouthfeel from the rich, limestone soils. Viscous and full in body, it is a bold wine that can hold its own with heartier fare. 

- Carrie Dykes, wine writer and international wine judge

6. Chatham Vineyards Steel Fermented Chardonnay, Machipongo, Virginia

The soil under Chatham's vineyards that sit on the banks of the Church Creek on Virginia's Eastern Shore are full of oyster shells. I know there is much debate about the term minerality when it's used to describe wine, but to me it's reminiscent of the smell and taste of the creek next to my great aunt's house in the Poconos that I used to catch tadpoles in as a child. The maritime terroir of Chatham's vineyards gives this wine that type of minerality too, plus a sweet honeysuckle fragrance on the nose. It's crisp and clean on the palate with a tiny bit of salinity and stone fruit. It is a quintessential seafood wine. 

Each fall, friends and I meet up in Cape Charles, and this winery is just 20 minutes away from our meeting place. Our tradition is to make low country boil our first night there, and I stop at the winery before meeting my friends and grab enough Chardonnay for dinner plus extra to take home. It simply sings with the seafood in the dish. I'm not one to quickly reach for Chardonnay, but when this wine is around, I'm happy to open it. 

- Robin

7. Westport Rivers RJR Brut Cuvee, 2009, Westport, Massachusetts

Massachusetts isn’t the first place you think of when you think of sparkling wine, but this bottle from Westport Rivers Winery on the South Coast is a consistent winner. Tiny bubbles and a nice combination of citrus and fruit flavors balanced with toasty bread notes make this wine easily drinkable with anything from spicy food to fine dining. Spoiler alert: the Westport Rivers RJR Brut Cuvee made using the Champagne method tastes just as good on a Tuesday as it does on a special occasion, and the price, at under $30, makes it an easy choice for either.

- Julie Tremaine, food and travel writer who’s road-tripping and tasting her way across the country at Travel-Sip-Repeat.com

8. Newport Vineyards Rochambeau Red, Middletown, Rhode Island

Coastal Rhode Island is best known for its white wines, but this Rochambeau Red from Newport Vineyards is worth a taste. A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, this wine is named after a French general who brought troops to Newport during the American Revolution. This red has a rich flavor of dark berries to it, with a depth of flavor from the cab sauvignon that’s softened by the merlot, and is balanced enough to drink with or without food. The price for this versitale wine is just $25. 

- This recommendation also comes from Julie Tremaine

Robin Shreeves is a wine, beer, spirits and travel writer. She's the wine columnist and restaurant and beverage features writer for the Courier Post newspaper in New Jersey. She holds an Intermediate Sommelier certification from the Wine School of Philadelphia. Her food and drinks writing can be found at Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Food Network, Spirited magazine, USA Today, Mother Nature Network, Drink Nation, Edible Philly and Edible Jersey. Visit her website wineandwonder.com and follow her on Instagram at @rshreeves.

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