In 2014, I earned my wine certification through phillywine.com, which required me to travel to Philadelphia to sit for the exam. During my trip, one of my classmates convinced me that I need to try Pennsylvania wines
It seems appropriate to close out the writing year with an end-of-year post. At this moment, I don’t have a plan of how this is going to evolve, so please bear with me and stay along for the ride.
First and foremost, thank you to those of you who have been reading, especially those of you who may have been around the four and a half years this website has been in existence. Thank you to the various wineries and wine public relations businesses who have sent me samples for consideration. This endeavor is still purely a hobby and I do not earn any money to do this. However, I do believe that this website was one of a few catalysts that led to me living and working in Napa, so this is why I continue to write.
The readership of my website has increased exponentially in 2015. I believe there are a few reasons for this, such as being featured as a top 100 wine blog on a couple of websites such as Wine Turtle and Exel Wines. My writing has also been featured in wine writing challenges and on other websites such as American Winery Guide, Grape Collective, The Drunken Cyclist, Snooth, and Wine Turtle, which has brought new readers to this site. I also won the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #18 (#MWWC18) with this post. I am forever grateful for this fortuity.
I am especially thankful for the opportunity to write winery reviews for American Winery Guide. I have published seven reviews the past four months. While I love tasting and drinking wine, from the very start of this endeavor, I have been called Travel or Traveling Wine Chick, with travel coming first. Travel experiences are my niche. I love sharing my impressions of a winery and/or its winemaker(s), and if a wine tasting review fits, I add it. In 2016, you will see more travel, winery/wine experiences, and follow-your-passion stories in my writing.
The other day, WordPress sent me my end-of-year statistics for this blog and I was a bit surprised at the staying power of some of the posts. Three of the most viewed posts this year were written in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The top five viewed posts are:
- Biltmore Estate Winery (September 2013)
- Getting the skinny on Skinny Vine (November 2012)
- #MWWC18: Crisis (July 2015)
- Wine and a Movie: Under the Tuscan Sun Paired With Wines of Tuscany (December 2014)
- Choice: Va La Vineyards (September 2015)
Themes of travel, winery, and personal experiences dominate four of these posts. As to the Skinny Vine post, I am not sure why that’s still popular, as I was such a beginner three years ago. It is cool to see how far I’ve come, though.
The top referrals to my website came from Facebook, Twitter, Wine Turtle, The Drunken Cyclist, and The Fermented Fruit. The latter two websites are written by two of my dearest wine writing colleagues and these connections warm my heart. It would also seem that the next time that I see them, I owe them at least a drink.
These were difficult to choose, but below are my favorite experiences and/or writing of the year published on this website, American Winery Guide, and Snooth, in sort of alphabetical order. Most touched me on a very personal level. When I reread these, I feel as if I am reliving the joy and pleasure I felt during the visits and tastings. If you haven’t read them, please do. Better yet, please visit these producers and/or taste their wines.
- Choice: Va La Vineyards
- Drinking Blissfully
- Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery
- Holiday Wine Value Picks Under Fifteen Bucks
- Hudson-Chatham Winery
- Kemmeter Wines
- Penns Woods Winery
- Summer Fall Transition Wines Under $20
- The Magic of Jordan Winery
- The 2015 Vintage Prediction Round-Up
I hope that as we move into 2016, I can count on your support as I transition into a new phase of my writing and wine business career. I am excited about new, unannounced opportunities. Stay tuned.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!
Countless American wineries begin with a moment of clarity when someone decides to change direction and follow his or her passion. Such is the case with Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery in Chester County, Pennsylvania, founded in 2005 by Brad Galer, a doctor, and Lele Galer, an artist, who at the time decided that they wanted to do it right or not at all.
This has been an interesting month for me. I’ve been struggling with off-and-on, low-grade headaches for weeks, so those have caused me to cut back on my wine sipping. I’m still trying to determine a cause, which is probably a combination of eye strain, neck strain, and stress. At any rate, I did manage to sip occasionally, so here are my wine gems for the month of July.
2013 Galer Estate Albariño, Chester County, PA, $35
It’s been nearly a year since I first tasted this wine, Labor Day weekend 2014, but I immediately remembered why I loved this Albariño as soon as it coated my palate. It’s pale straw in color and crisp, screaming summer all the way from the tip to the back of my tongue. I’m almost afraid my words won’t do it justice, but there’s an immediate impact of stone fruits, lemon, and salty minerality that crash together on the palate like ocean waves at high tide. It was this salty minerality that immediately made me think, “I am drinking the fruit and soil of the Galer Home Vineyard in Chester County, PA.” It’s this soil – the Manor Loam and Glenelg Silt Loam Series – along with gift of former winemaker, Catrina North, that makes this a stellar example of Chester County, Pennsylvania wine. This was a gift from owners Brad and Lele Galer. Only 76 cases produced. International Eastern Wine Competition Bronze Medal.
2014 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $40
The grapes for this wine now hail from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley instead of Lake County, which in my opinion, adds to its depth and complexity. It exhibits layers of ripe tropical fruits, bright citrus, and melon, coupled with smokiness and a rich mouthfeel due to barrel fermentation and aging. The finish lingers for a while. This is a lovely fumé blanc style Sauvignon Blanc. Only a few hundred cases produced. This bottle was part of my employee allocation.
2013 J. Lohr Estates Valdiguié (Gros Auxerrois), Monterey, CA, $12
Light bodied, yet rich in color, a very purple-magenta, I didn’t think this wine was like Gamay at all, as said the bottle. I would call this is an easy, patio-sipping red, dominated by floral and berry aromatics, juicy flavors of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate, and mild tannins and acidity. This wine would also work as a base for a dessert sauce or paired with Thanksgiving dinner. Serve slightly chilled. I purchased this bottle at A Taste of Monterey-Wine Market & Bistro in Monterey. This vintage is sold out, but the 2014 vintage is available here. This was my first Valdiguié, so I can cross that grape variety off my list.
Summer is flying by and August is already upon us, so seize the season and try these wines, if available to you. August 12-16, I am headed to New York for the 2015 Wine Bloggers’ Conference in the Finger Lakes, with a quick detour to the Albany area to visit Hudson-Chatham Winery, so stay tuned for some posts from that trip. Until next month, I wish you happy, sunny, warm-weather sipping!
I keep trying to come up with a way to describe this year in my life, but all I keep coming up with is crazy. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to do a life 360 needs to give it a try. You can read more about my personal life this year at this link.
At any rate, this is my year-end roundup from the wine and travel side of my life, clearly not normal, either. I’d been struggling to figure out what to call this post, then all of a sudden, this song popped into my head (see, crazy, I’ll tell you!), so voilà, below are a few of my favorite things from 2014.
Favorite Wine Blogs (besides mine, of course)
1. Uncorked Remarks: Doug’s niche is local wine and wine tourism and he excels at writing about winery experiences so that you feel like you’re right there with him. He has this conversational style that immediately draws you in and you can’t stop reading. His blog is also the reason I’ve discovered Pennsylvania wine and traveled to the area three times in 2014. (Editor’s Update: This website is no longer available, unfortunately).
2. The Drunken Cyclist: I love Jeff’s mix of wine, bicycling, travel, and his son, Sebastian. I’m especially envious of his travel to France, as I haven’t been since 2005. He also isn’t afraid to tell it like it is from his point of view. His writing makes you feel welcomed in his world. I’m happy to have had the honor of meeting Jeff at the 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference and hope our paths will cross again someday.
3. 1WineDude: Joe’s strengths are his creatively awesome 140-character wine reviews and his opinions about wine writing and the wine business. He’s both serious and seriously funny. He’s also controversial. Yes! I’ve been following his blog for a while, but meeting him in person made me pay more attention. There’s nothing like a real-life connection to add another dimension to one’s writing.
4. SAHMmelier: I really admire Alissa’s ability to capture a wine moment or event. She, too, like my other favorites, is able to personalize her wine experiences and cause me to experience them in my head and my heart. I also met Alissa at the 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference during a presentation which included the aforementioned 1WineDude.
5. Cheap Wine Curious: I’ve enjoyed getting to know Loie both online and in real life, so it’s no surprise I like her blog. She calls herself The Comtesse du Cheapeaux Vin and is always looking for great wine bargains. She writes some of the most creative, well-researched posts I’ve read in a long time. I also love her wine rating system: Case Worthy, Guest Worthy, Buy Again, Drinkable, and Blech! Cheers to wine unpretentiousness!
Most Memorable Wines
I’ve been reviewing wines over at Vivino as a Pro and Featured User more than my blog because it’s quick and immediate (gotta love immediate gratification), so you may have missed 56 wine reviews (as of this post date). I hope you will take a look. I never want to hurt a business, so you’ll only find the good stuff over there, no negative reviews. These are a few of the most memorable wines of 2014.
1. 2011 Va La Vineyards Cedar: This is perhaps one of the most unique blends I’ve ever tasted. Va La Vineyards‘ winemaker Anthony Vietri captures the fruit and terroir of his aptly named little vineyard in this Nebbiolo-based blend bursting with dark fruits, sweet spice, earthiness, tannin, and acidity. You can decant this wine for 6-12 hours and drink now or put this baby back for a while. (My Vivino review)
2. Finger Lakes Wines: I wish I could pick just one, but I can’t. Anyone who has dismissed Finger Lakes wines are making a huge mistake. All the wines I’ve been fortunate to taste have been outstanding and I can’t wait to visit again in August 13-16, 2015 for the 2015 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. You can read more about these wines at Finger Lakes Rieslings continue to shine!
3. 2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse: I first visited Mark Ryan Winery‘s tasting room and tasted a vintage of this wine in August 2012. That was the wine I brought home. Two years later, I had the opportunity to visit Mark Ryan again in its new tasting room location in Woodinville, Washington and it’s still my favorite. If you love Red Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon-based red blends, you can’t do much better than this. It’s rich and bold, yet balanced, a mélange of lush fruit, firm tannins, and good acidity. (Excerpted from my Vivino review)
4. 2012 Passaggio Unmarked Code Seven Pinot Noir: Aged in neutral oak means amazing red berries, spices, and acidity. I love this Pinot Noir produced from Sonoma Coast fruit. Perfect for the holidays. And 5% of the selling price goes to families of fallen law enforcement officers. Win-win. However, I’ve heard it’s almost sold out, so get yours before it’s gone. (Excerpted from my Vivino review)
5. 2011 and 2012 Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank (Very different, but both stellar. And yes, I work for Conn Valley, but these wines rock!)
2011: Velvety smooth mouthfeel with a near-perfect balance of red and black fruits, tannins, and acid. Don’t be afraid of this blend of 78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc. (My Vivino review)
2012: This vintage is more Cab Franc than Merlot and it shows in color and on the palate. It’s gorgeous with lush, black fruits, firm tannins, and a long, juicy finish. It’s hard to say no now to this wine. Drink now or later. It’s simply amazing. (My Vivino review)
Favorite Winery Experiences
You would think living in Napa that I would be wine tasting every weekend, but there’s this thing called real life that gets in the way. Oddly enough, I may have tasted at more wineries outside of California this year. Here are my personal favorite experiences this year, although again, all the wineries I have visited this have been great.
1. Va La Vineyards: If there ever was an example to set or a bar to reach, every winery should aspire to be Va La Vineyards. Anthony Vietri, the self-proclaimed, ever humble, The Farmer Va La, gets it without compromising his core beliefs. Va La is family owned and operated, Anthony and his team produce enough wine to sustain a happy and fulfilling lifestyle for the family, and there’s that freaking awesome juice for his deliriously happy friends and fans like me produced from just a little, 6ish-acre vineyard in Avondale, PA.
2. Domaine Carneros: At the other end of the spectrum is Domaine Carneros, owned by Tattinger, a French champagne producer. I immediately fell in love with this winery during my first visit in September 2012. The Chateau Society is the only wine club in Napa Valley I’ve joined because I simply feel like a princess at their Carneros chateau, sitting on the beautiful patio or in the club room, sipping bubbles. I still love the vintage Brut Rosé, with juicy strawberry and stone fruit notes and flavors, vibrant acidity, and a fine, creamy mousse. (Excerpted from my Vivino review)
3. Penns Woods Winery: Penns Woods is another American Wine Story-worthy success from Pennsylvania. This was my first Pennsylvania wine experience and it was a superb first introduction to the wines of Pennsylvania. I felt welcomed, in spite of being from Napa now: no pretentiousness, just a great family-owned producer with a wide range of wines for every palate, from the sweeter side to the drier side. I suggest visiting when it’s warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the patio and vineyard views.
4. Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery: Again, nothing quite tops visiting a family owned and operated, craft winery. Galer Estate is truly a blend of nature, art, and science, and an exemplary producer of award-winning, Pennsylvania wines. During my visit, I was particularly enamored with the friendly and welcoming staff, the behind-the-scenes tour, and their terroir-driven wines. I am looking forward to trying the inaugural 2014 wines from their new winemaker, Virginia Mitchell.
5. Jordan Vineyards and Winery: Jordan is another place you need to visit if you want to feel like royalty. The building, grounds, and views are impeccable and gorgeous. Jordan only produces two wines, a Russian River Valley Chardonnay and an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, both splendid examples of wines produced from those AVAs. I’m also a big fan of their nontraditional rewards system for frequent buyers of their wines.
In looking back through my posts and reviews, I’ve experienced a few wine firsts this year.
1. Pennsylvania Wine: I’ve always believed good wine can be made anywhere, but when I mention Pennsylvania wine, some people still don’t believe me. However, I am here to tell you there are some great ones out there, so don’t be afraid to try. The key to finding what you like is leave your biases at home and open your mind and palate. Taste with your eyes closed. Recommended wineries and their wines (in alphabetical order) include Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery, Penns Woods Winery, and Va La Vineyards.
2. New Jersey Wine: My first wines from New Jersey hail from Old York Cellars. Don’t dismiss New Jersey, either. I had the opportunity to try two through a Twitter tasting, hashtag #virtualvines, samples provided by the winery.
Old York Cellars Dry Riesling 2013: This is my first ever wine from a New Jersey producer. It’s lemon in color, not as pale as many Rieslings often are, and is medium bodied. It has aromas and flavors of apples, peaches, and pears, with a grapefruit-lime finish. It’s 100% Riesling vinted in New Jersey. Residual sugar of only 1%. $17 direct from the winery. (My Vivino review)
Old York Cellars Malbec 2013: This is an award-winning Malbec vinted and produced in New Jersey. It is deep purple in color and medium bodied. The nose and palate are dominated by blackberry, raspberry, and plum. This is a big red wine, 15.8% alcohol, and I think the alcohol will integrate more with time in the bottle or by decanting first. Enjoy this fine effort by Old York Cellars with a steak or burger! (My Vivino review)
Turasan Cappadocia Emir Dry White 2013: This is my first Turkish wine, produced by Turasan in the Cappadocia wine region. It’s a winery that dates back to 1943. The grape is Emir, the primary white grape produced in the area. It is pale straw in color and light bodied. It’s quite refreshing. To me, it’s reminiscent of some white Greek wines I’ve had, a balance of bright citrus and tropical fruits, great acidity, and a salty minerality. The sole importer of this wine is VinoRai and this was a sample provided to me. (My Vivino review)
Turasan Kalecik Karasi 2012: This is my first red wine from Turkey and it’s nothing like I’ve ever had. It’s light to medium bodied, but very aromatic. The front palate bursts with ripe red berries, like strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry, while the back of the palate finishes with bold, exotic, peppery spices. I think this wine screams holidays. It’s fragrant, festive, and flavorful. This was a sample provided by the importer, VinoRai. (My Vivino review)
I promised myself I would not write a book about this year, but it appears I almost did. I want to thank everyone who had supported both my blog and me personally during this year of great change, wines, and travel. I will never forget you, no matter where my path takes me in 2015 and beyond.
It’s been a month since I last posted. I’ve been working, traveling, attending chiropractic sessions, assisting a friend with her new business venture, oh, and surviving the Napa earthquake. I can’t believe it’s September already.
Regarding the earthquake, I was very fortunate to have not sustained any damage, just some stuff was moved, including large appliances, and I had to deal with a terrified cat who didn’t want to come out of his carrier. He’s also become a good indicator of aftershocks, as he will stand still with his ears back and his eyes wide open.
Anyway, I had the very good fortune to do some awesome things this past week and I wanted to share them with you!
Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery
Labor Day weekend Sunday, I had the honor of visiting two exemplary examples of Pennsylvania wineries with a friend of mine, a local wine columnist and blogger. The first stop was Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery. The winery’s philosophy, Blending Nature, Science, and Art, is the perfect descriptor of what I discovered. The winery is owned by Dr. Brad Galer, M.D., and his wife, artist Lele Galer, who purchased land for the winery in 2005 after considering a winery start in Sonoma, California. The winery has multiple vineyards, including the Galer Home Vineyard, Red Lion Vineyard, and Folly Hill Vineyard, and they also source grapes from within a 30-mile radius.
Over the past nine years, the winery has received more than 60 awards for their wines, which have included Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc Icebox Wines (ice wines), as well as some white and red blends. Former winemaker, Catrina North, produced the 2013 wines and earlier. Galer now has a new winemaker, Virginia Mitchell, who will begin a new legacy with her 2014 vintage. While there, my friend and I each chose different wines to taste so that we could taste eight wines instead of four. However, we were treated to additional barrel and bottle tastings, including a Viognier and different Cabernet Francs. We also were lucky enough to taste a wine that Virginia produced prior to her arrival at Galer, a rosé produced from Erie area grapes for her recent wedding.
What most impressed me about Galer was not just the quality of the wines, but the expression of terroir in every wine. I am sure that I could recognize it in a blind tasting, it was so remarkable. I was particularly enamored with the Albariño, which demonstrated a balanced expression of citrus, tropical fruits, and noticeable minerality, almost salty on my palate, and that is the wine I chose to take home with me.
Va La Vineyards
The second winery we visited last Sunday was Va La Vineyards, a winery I had been wanting to visit for a while now because I had heard such good things. Winemaker and owner Anthony Vietri, The Farmer Va La, who once had a career in film production, also considered starting a winery in California before deciding upon returning to Avondale, Pennsylvania, the site of his family’s farm. Vietri produces only four wines from his aptly called little vineyard of 6.73 acres and he only produces enough wine to sell directly to the consumer at the winery. No shipping, no distribution, no middle man. Vietri has created a simple dream that sustains his family and provides to those of us who are lucky enough to visit some of the most gorgeous and unique wine blends I’ve ever tasted.
Both the tasting room design/décor and the vineyards are understated, but the tasting experience is amazing. Our visit was especially nice because Anthony joined us and told us his story and stories about his family. Guests taste the four wines paired with local cheeses and chocolate. The wines are elegant blends of white and black Northern Italian grape varieties. The blends vary based upon what nature offers each vintage. The wines are meticulously made for later consumption, except for one, but all can be consumed now with decanting. They include:
2011 La Prima Donna: A white blend comprised of Malvasia Bianco, Petit Mansang, Pinot Grigio, and Tocai (Friuliano). It is aged for 17 months sur lie. Should peak in years 4-8.
2011 Silk: A dry rosato produced from free-run juice and aged 12 months in barrel. Grapes include Corvina Veronese, Barbera, Carmine, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo. Drink now through 2018.
2013 Castana: A special summer red blend to be consumed young. Grapes include Barbera, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Lagrein, Sagrantino, and Teroldego.
2011 Mahogany: A red blend of Barbera, Malvasia Nero, Charbono, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Teroldego, Lagrein, and Sagrantino aged 27 months in barrel. Should peak in years 6-12. If consumed now, decant at least 4-12 hours.
Truth be told, I wanted to take every one of these wines home with me, but I ended up settling for La Prima Donna and Mahogany. Now I just have to figure out when to return to get my Va La fix.
My First Harvest
This week, my friend, winemaker and owner of Passaggio Wines, Cindy Cosco, texted me and asked if I could join six others to pick her 2014 Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard in Lake County, California. I’ve always wanted to experience harvest, but at the same time, have been a bit afraid since I am allergic to bees, sunburn easily, and I am not really a “get dirty” kind of gal. All of these reasons are exactly why I said yes. The quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, Do one thing every day that scares you, has become one of my mantras.
I stayed overnight with the harvest team in Sonoma Friday night. We departed Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m., arrived in Lake County around 6:30 a.m., then began picking. The most important lesson was cut away from your hand, which served me well all day. I also dressed appropriately: old jeans, a thermal underwear T-shirt with a flannel shirt on top, old tennis shoes, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. I never wear hats, but today I was thankful for that and being covered up from the elements, even when it got very warm towards the end of the five and a half hours. In that time, we picked around a ton of Sauvignon Blanc. I got my hands dirty, but got smart and put on a spare pair of gloves after having to rinse my hands about halfway through. Bees chased me and I ran. My hat protected me as I literally stuck my head into the vines to cut grape bunches. By the end, I was dirty, dusty, sweaty, and had terrible hat head. I did it. I conquered my fears and discovered a sense of pride within me.