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  • Crossing the Ponte Romano de Éntoma to Virgen del Galir Godello

    Posted: 2020-04-09 13:58
    Ponte Romano de Éntoma
    via Camino de Santiago
    The Ponte Romano de Éntoma -- a stone bridge over the Rio Galir in the village of Éntoma and built by the Romans over two thousand years ago. It is even still usable today for pilgrims on the Camino Invierno de Santiago's winter route.  The bridge was constructed most likely to facilitate the transportation of gold from the encompassing Valdeorras (“Valley of Gold”) region. This area is located in southeastern Galacia and not to be confused with the coastal Rias Baixas. Gold mining eventually transitioned to slate once that precious metal had been extracted - but the Romans left an additional legacy: vineyards. And possibly the first vines planted in Galacia.

    As Galicia's most inland region, Valdeorras has a predominantly continental climate, experiencing warm summers, cold winters, and mild autumns and springs, although the Atlantic Ocean to the west also exerts an influence (wine-searcher.com). And as a result of natural cross-breeding or mutations, the autochthonous grape variety Godello emerged as a dominant white grape. Yet, in the 19th century, most vineyards in Valdeorras suffered from multiple pests - most voraciously by phylloxera. In the 20th century, vineyards rebounded. The Valdeorras DO was created in 1945 and 25 years later Godello was reintroduced on a large scale - becoming the signature grape of the appellation.

    More recently, in the 21st century, the Rioja powerhouse CVNE purchased the Virgen del Galir, a noted winery in Valdeorras located just outside of the village of Éntoma. The winery owns 20 hectares of high altitude vineyards planted at 30% inclination and with soil composed of decomposed slate. Since the winery's inception in 2002, Godello has been a major attraction - like the 2018 Pagos del Galir Godello ($21). The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and then rest on their lees for four months which helps provide a silky elegance. The wine also features characteristics of lemons, minerality, and fresh acidity. An excellent option.


    Disclosure: We received samples from CVNE in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.
  • Stay Connected with Virtual Chats During the CV Lockdown

    Posted: 2020-04-02 17:45
    We are living in interesting times, unable to frequent our favorite craft beverage establishments or explore various regions.  Fortunately, wine, beer, and liquor stores are considered essential services and combined with discounted shipping rates are supplying our beverage needs. In order to stay connected with existing customers and to seek new consumers, craft beverage producers, importers, and retail shops are conducting virtual tastings.  The chats that I have participated in have been extremely informative, even when not indulging in the targeted beverage. And if you cannot participate live, most of these tastings are available via playback - so enjoy at your leisure. Here is a short list of sessions where I have either participated or received an email notification. Cheers.

    On Tuesday nights at 8pm EST, Mirena and Win Burke have been hosting a Croatian Wine Chat at Croatian Premium Wine Imports which feature wines from the Komarna Appellation. In the first two episodes, they have interviewed Decanter judge and Croatian sommelier Siniša Lasan as well as winemakers Josip Volarević and Marko Suman. Each week they will focus on one or two wines in their portfolio available at their Online Store.

    Similarly, Taste Hungary, which normally provides a quarterly wine club, has augmented that service with weekly virtual chats on Saturday evenings at 7pm EST. This coming Saturday, April 4th owner Gábor Bánfalvi is presenting Wines from Tokaj with future chats featuring Wines from Eger and Wines from the Heumann Winery in Villány. The wines for these tastings are available as part of various mixed 6-Packs, with free delivery on purchases of 6 bottles or more in the DC metro area, within 40 miles of DC (use promo code: DMV-FREE). They are also providing free delivery on the first shipment of a Wine Club subscription (use promo code: DMV-FREE1) and $10 shipping to all other states (except Alaska), for purchases of 6 bottles or more.

    Several wine producers are also conducting virtual chats. In Virginia, Early Mountain Vineyards hosts several virtual presentations such as Friday, April 3rds Vineyard Tour with Dustin Wade, Vineyard Manager at 3:30pm EST.  Through their online store, they are offering free shipping for any orders of 3+ bottles -- combined with a 10% discount for any 6+ bottle order.  In Santa Barbara County, California, Solminer Wine Company is hosting weekly Saturday afternoon Taste Together virtual chats (3:30pm EST). Also in California, on Sunday afternoons (4pm PST) Kendall-Jackson's Winemaster Randy Ullom leads a tasting and discussion of their wines alongside various culinary pairings.

    For distilleries, Seattle's Westland Distillery is hosting a tasting experience featuring their core whiskeys (American Oak, Sherry Wood, and Peated) starting Friday, April 3rd at 4pm PST. In Iowa, Mississippi River Distilling Co. is allowing consumers to plan their own virtual tasting with the distillery offering cocktail recipes and on the night of the tasting, they’ll walk the guests through the distillery.

    For cideries, Richmond's Blue Bee Cider hosts their FireCider Chat Virtual Tastings on Thursday evenings at 7pm EST which should be very engaging to consumers not familiar with the cider industry or heirloom cider apples.

    And continuing with the Commonwealth, let's not forget Frank Morgan's Virtual Virginia Wine Chats which we mentioned in Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night. The Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night on March 28th received more than 4,000 views.

    Retail outlets are also using the virtual mode of communication. In DC, the popular wine store DCanter - A Wine Boutique is hosting Friday evening Sips -- virtual wine classes at 6pm EST that "tackle a different wine topic that you can easily follow along at home with or without wine".

    Update (4/2/2020) - Paso Robles Wine Country has compiled a list of twenty Virtual Experiences within their appellation. The same is true for the Idaho Wine Commission (pdf).
  • Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night

    Posted: 2020-03-26 20:17
    Frank Morgan at DrinkWhatYouLike has been working overtime supporting the Virginia wine industry during the CV pandemic - primarily using his VAWineChat platform for nightly webinars featuring Virginia winemakers. Last week he suggested an Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night for Saturday, March 28th where consumers share on social media (using #vawinenight) a specific Virginia wine and why they selected it. A great idea borrowed from Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher's Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). And on a separate thread, Lenn Thompson and Gina Shea of The Cork Report were organizing a Drink Local Night stressing east coast and midwestern wineries -- the same concept just using the #openlocalwine hashtag.

    Please participate in these campaigns, and in addition, raise a glass to toast Juanita Swedenburg, one of driving forces behind the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision forcing states to allow shipping from out-of-state wineries.  "The court’s decision resolved a longstanding conflict between a state’s right to regulate the sale and use of wines and liquors, as outlined in the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which ended Prohibition, and the Constitution’s commerce clause, which limits a state’s ability to erect economic barriers against goods shipped from beyond its borders" (NY Times).

    The plaintiffs were a combined lawsuit from wine collector Eleanor Heald and others against Michigan and Swedenburg's (and other out-of-state winemakers) lawsuit against New York state. At the time, Swedenburg and her husband were the proprietors of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg, Virginia and a founding member of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association which is now the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA).  In her multiple fights leading to the Supreme Court, Swedenburg benefited from the services of the public interest law firm, Institute for Justice, to handle her cases. And "on May 16, 2005, in a 5-to-4 vote on an action brought by Mrs. Swedenburg and others, the Supreme Court overturned laws in New York and Michigan that discriminated against out-of-state wineries that wanted to ship directly to consumers’ homes" (NY Times).

    Wineries across the United States are implementing special shipping rates for online purchases so please support these efforts as much as possible.  The Cork Report has a list here, including several wineries from Michigan and New York - who also profit from interstate wine sales.

    And as a side note, Swedenburg Estate Vineyard is now Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, known regionally for its sparkling wine program.
  • Distilleries Helping in a Crisis: Converting Alcohol to Hand Sanitizer Gel

    Posted: 2020-04-02 17:36
    After Italy, Spain is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus and like most countries, their supply of cleaning solutions and sanitizers are being depleted. To help alleviate this problem our friends at González Byass have converted their three production facilities (Chinchón (Madrid), Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) and Bodega Las Copas in Tomelloso (Ciudad Real)) to manufacture and supply sanitary alcohol and hydro-alcoholic gel across Spain. Another famous producer, Bacardi, has begun distribution of over half a million 10-ounce hand sanitizer units to local communities, focusing initially on USPS workers, firefighters, police, and its own employees and contractors (Shanken News).

    Closer to home, smaller American craft distillers are also diverting spirits production to hand sanitizers. Initially, distilleries were required to get explicit permission from both the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this week they both waived these restrictions as long as distillers use the recipe outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO):  ethanol (80%, volume/volume) or isopropyl alcohol (75%, v/v), glycerol (1.45% v/v), hydrogen peroxide (0.125% v/v) and sterile distilled water or boiled cold water.

    Here is a sample of distillers participating in this endeavor.

    According to this WKYT story, Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. is using their surplus alcohol supply, and chemistry knowledge to produce hand sanitizer that they are providing free to Lexington city hall.  "It's been denatured so it’s not safe to drink and we surely don't want anyone to try that, its' also got hydrogen peroxide and some glycerol, a little thickening agent," said Mark Coffman, Master Distiller.

    In Clarksville, Tennessee, Old Glory Distilling Company switched from whiskey to a 96 percent ethanol hand sanitizer, and founder Matt Cunningham thanks one of their suppliers, Long Vue Farms who is supplying the corn for the distilling process. (ClarksvilleNow.com)

    In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that "A number of our distillers from across the state are now, instead of producing alcohol, they're producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the local communities". Scott Jendrek, owner of Patapsco Distilling Company said they will be using a World Health Organization's recipe that "..starts with ethanol,.. then you add glycerin, hydrogen peroxide water and you mix it up," Jendrek said. (WBalTV).  Twin Valley Distillers in Rockville and Lyon Distilling Company are two more distilleries aiding in this effort. This ABC3340 article also has a nice write-up of Twin Valley's founder Eduardo Zúñiga.

    In Colorado, Spirit Hound Distillers is leading the effort (TheKnow) along with J&L Distilling Company and Talnua Distillery, whose co-founder and current President of the Colorado Distillers Guild says, "This is all still developing and we will see many more distilleries jumping on board with the production of hand sanitizer."

    In Atlanta, Georgia Old 4th Distillery is distributing a house-made hand sanitizer to emergency personnel (CBS46) and Ann Arbor Distilling Company is in on the action. According to tasting room manager Danielle Berridge, they are using the neutral spirit they use in their gin. “It’s actually made from local corn. And then we’ve got some aloe gel in there and a little bit of veggie glycerin. And then we also add water to it to bring it down to, I believe, 70%.” (Michigan Radio).

    Eight Oaks Craft Distillers (Pennsylvania) has temporarily shifted their distillation process from spirits to hand sanitizer in order to support our community, hospitals, assisted living homes, and beyond (more info here). Revivalist Spirits is another distillery from the Quaker state manufacturing sanitizer which owners Scott and Don Avellino are providing to healthcare professionals (Cision).

    Durham Distillery (North Carolina) will be donating their solution to hospitality colleagues.

    In Hawaii, Ko'olau Distillery is shifting production to begin supplying hand sanitizer for critical services (press release).

    We will be updating this list as we discover more participants - in the meantime - stay healthy. Cheers.

    Update (3/24/2020): There is no need to update this list as it appears most craft distilleries are transitioning to manufacturing hand sanitizer. Find your local distiller at either WineCompass.com or theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

    Update (4/2/2020): Apparently, the FDA and gov't regulations are hindering distillery's ability to manufacture hand sanitizer without destroying their existing equipment via Reason Magazine.
  • Over the Ridge from Napa - Berryessa Gap Vineyards

    Posted: 2020-03-18 09:35
    As I mentioned in a previous post concerning Scattered Peaks, winemaker Nicole Salengo also attended our wine dinner at Officina and introduced us to her Winters, California based winery: Berryessa Gap Vineyards.

    The winery sprang from Martinez Orchards, a grapevine rootstock nursery started in 1969 by Dan Martinez, Sr., father of the current owners of Berryessa Gap, and winemaker and wine historian Ernest Peninou. Thus the Martinez family has a strong grasp of the microclimate within their western corner of Yolo County, located off Route 128 between the town of Winters and the Vaca Mountains - with Napa County on the western side of the ridge.

    The Berryessa estate - Coble Ranch vineyard -- planted along the eastern ridge of the Vaca Mountains and benefits from a climate that resembles the hot and dry conditions of Mediterranean climates. In addition, the eastern-facing slopes provide well-draining soils and are situated near an Alluvial Fan or gap in the range where cooling breezes blow through -- enhancing the grapes' acidity.  This interesting micro-climate allows Berryessa Gap to plant a wide assortment of grape varieties such as Durif (Petite Sirah), Tempranillo, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Barbera, Malbec, Albarino, Verdejo, and Sauvignon Blanc.

    Nicole Salengo related these and other facts during our wine dinner. She was born in Vermont and studied Geology in a New York college where she also worked at famed Belgium styled producer Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown). That started her down the craft beverage path and when a family member offered her an opportunity to stay in Davis California, she proceeded to enroll in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology -- earning a winemaker's certificate. After a short stint in an air-testing lab (while taking chemistry classes at night), Salengo was hired at a wine shop that specialized in rare wines. Mark West, of Mark West Wines, was a frequent customer and offered Salengo a quid pro quo. He would teach her how to make wine if she worked for him full time.  A new career commenced.

    In 2013, she was hired by Berryessa Gap where her primary goal is to highlight the particular terroir at Coble Ranch -- each individual year.  In this regard, Salengo introduced us to 2016 and 2019 through a rosé, a white, and a red wine. These wines were fresh, well made, and priced for most budgets.

    2019 Yolo County Rosé ($19)
    This rosé was just recently bottled and is a blend of Grenache, Primitivo, and Barbera -- and technically its a Primitivo clone which Salengo states "provides more nuanced elegance". The grapes were harvested early, keeping sugar levels moderate, in order to produce a low ABV wine. There's a distinct depth to the wine with layers of light red fruit. Very nice.

    2019 Yolo County Verdejo ($23)
    Salengo and Berryessa Gap love Spanish grape varieties and, in fact, in 2013 Berryessa Gap was the original filer to the then TTP equivalent for having Verdejo designated as an approved grape varietal. This wine is an excellent tribute to Rueda as it displays abundant aromatics transitioning to a creamy lemon core, herbaceous, and finishing with fresh acidity.

    2016 Yolo County Petite Sirah ($28)
    The 2016 Petite Sirah is a field blend that Berryessa Gap modeled after vineyards in France as well as closer to home, Ridge Vineyards - Lytton Springs brand. The actual blend consists of 85% Durif, 10% Primitivo, and 5% Peloursin and the grapes were also whole berry co-fermented. Durif and Petite Sirah are basically synonyms; the grape was originally called Durif after Dr. Francois Durif, who discovered a natural crossing from the cross-pollination of Syrah and Peloursin. For this wine, the naturally high tannins in Petite Sirah are muted by the whole berry fermentation which allows the black cherry character to lead. Expect spices and earthiness as well as refreshing acidity held together with the remaining firm tannins. Delicious.  Berryessa Gap also produces a 100% Durif, which is labeled Durif, which comes from a block at Coble Ranch which is entirely Durif.

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