Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

2013 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River
2013 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River

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.

A Collage of My Experience at Hudson-Chatham Winery
A Collage of My Experience at Hudson-Chatham Winery

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.

Exel Wines Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blog
Exel Wines Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blog

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.

My visit to Kemmeter Wines
My visit to Kemmeter Wines

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.

#MWWC18 Winner!
#MWWC18 Winner!

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:

  1. Biltmore Estate Winery (September 2013)
  2. Getting the skinny on Skinny Vine (November 2012)
  3. #MWWC18: Crisis (July 2015)
  4. Wine and a Movie: Under the Tuscan Sun Paired With Wines of Tuscany (December 2014)
  5. 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.

Drinking Blissfully: Quinta do Cabeco, Arrojo 2013, Malvasia Fina/Rabigato/Viosinho
Drinking Blissfully: Quinta do Cabeco, Arrojo 2013, Malvasia Fina/Rabigato/Viosinho

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.

A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards
A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards

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.

  1. Choice: Va La Vineyards
  2. Drinking Blissfully
  3. Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery
  4. Holiday Wine Value Picks Under Fifteen Bucks
  5. Hudson-Chatham Winery
  6. Kemmeter Wines
  7. Penns Woods Winery
  8. Summer Fall Transition Wines Under $20
  9. The Magic of Jordan Winery
  10. 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!
Beth

Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery

Galer Estate's White and Rosé Lineup
Galer Estate’s White and Rosé Lineup

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.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Penns Woods Winery

Penns Woods Winery
Penns Woods Winery

For those of you have been reading my posts, Penns Woods Winery should be familiar to you. I previously reviewed the winery in 2014 after my first visit and as part of my year-end roundup of favorite things. I’ve also reviewed two of the wines, the 2013 Bancroft Riesling and the 2012 White Merlot. At home, I have four Penns Woods wines awaiting my palate: the 2005 Ameritage, 2010 Chambourcin, 2014 Grüner Veltliner, and 2014 White Merlot. To say that I like Penns Woods’ winery experience and wines would be an understatement. I am honored to share with you my latest visit to Penns Woods Winery on September 7, 2015, written for and published by American Winery Guide.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Cheers to Penns Woods Winery!
Beth

My September Sips

Seriously, where has September gone? Where has this year gone? September has been another whirlwind month for me, with a new career and writing opportunities unfolding before my very eyes. My time has become a hot commodity and I feel like I am playing catch up most of the time. However, as has become tradition, below are some of the interesting wines I’ve tasted this month. The two Pennsylvania wines were gifts and the wines from Chile and New Jersey were samples provided by the producers.

Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée
Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée

Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée
Blair Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery located in Kutztown (Berks County), Pennsylvania that primarily focuses on cold-climate, European grapes like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Riesling. Ten different grapes varieties grow on 23 acres. The red cuvée is a proprietary, Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which was originally made to be served at the weddings of two of the Blair family children. It is a medium garnet color and medium bodied, with flavors of black cherry and vanilla and firmer tannins than I expected from this five-year-old offering. I paired this with steak, which brightened the fruit flavors. $19.99 at the winery. This was a gift from a friend.

Galen Glen 2013 Zweigelt
Galen Glen 2013 Zweigelt

Galen Glen 2013 Stone Cellar Zweigelt
Galen Glen Winery, located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley AVA and owned by winegrower and winemaker Galen and Sarah Troxell, is the culmination of six generations who have farmed this land. The winery is named after Galen and the property’s shape, a glacially-formed, narrow valley, a glen. Galen Glen produces cold-climate grapes on 20 acres, including Cayuga, Chambourcin, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, and Zweigelt. The Zweigelt is a nice, light-bodied transitional red, perfect for late summer and early autumn.  Its crisp and fresh combination of cranberry, black cherry, raspberry, and black currant delights the nose and palate. $16.99 at the winery. This was a gift from a friend.

Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile
Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile
The grapes for this limited production Pinot Noir from Viña Apaltagua come from a vineyard that is only 12 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean, a Mediterranean, maritime-influenced climate that is cooler than other grape growing areas of Chile. The wine is a rich garnet color. On the nose, the first scent I detected was cinnamon. While very fruit forward on the palate, a mélange of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, red currant and blackcurrant fruit flavors, it is also cinnamony, spicy and smoky, with good tannin structure and lively acidity. It is quite young, so I recommend decanting for a short while. Approximately 1392 cases produced. SPR $25. (SAMPLE FOR REVIEW)

My cat, Einstein, is always ready to taste
My cat, Einstein, is always ready to taste

Every couple of months, I participate in a Twitter tasting sponsored by Old York Cellars, accompanied by a YouTube video that serves as a good introduction to the wines being discussed. In July, I was unable to participate because it was too hot to ship wine samples. However, they graciously welcomed me back into the Old York Cellars fold for their September tasting. This month’s samples were a couple of their best since I started participating, especially for the price point.  A tasting package of the two wines is available for $27.20.

Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc and 2014 Malbec
Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc and 2014 Malbec

Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc, New Jersey
According to winemaker Scott Gares, Old York Cellars produces Vidal Blanc, a hybrid variety comprised of Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Toscano) and hybrid Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986), because it is more tolerant of cold climates, is disease resistant, and yields about seven tons per acre in New Jersey. Because of its higher sugar levels and acidity, Vidal Blanc is often used to make ice wine. However, Gares crafts the variety as a dry wine. This vintage was harvested at 22 brix. Gares fermented the wine at colder temperatures in stainless steel, using Premier Cuvée yeast, which enhances the wine’s citrus aroma and flavor profile. The wine is a clear, pale yellow-green color. It has a weightier mouthfeel than some whites.  On the nose and palate, it is all citrus and mouthwatering acidity, primarily grapefruit, lemon, and lime. I paired this wine with shrimp.

Old York Cellars 2014 Malbec, New Jersey
Malbec has its roots in Bordeaux as a blending grape and in Argentina as a single-varietal wine. Gares uses Pasteur red yeast and malolactic fermentation to create an approachable style of Malbec that even white wine drinkers may enjoy. The wine is medium garnet in color. Softer tannins and acid yield a rounder mouthfeel.  Berry flavors such as cherry and raspberry dominate the palate, while oak plays more of a supporting role with regard to structure and mouthfeel, rather than imparting flavor and tannin. Suggested pairings include aged cheddar, lean red meat, and dark chocolate, although this wine is easy to drink on its own. I paired my sample with tri-tip sirloin, which brought out the wine’s darker fruit side.

A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards
A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards

Of course, these are not the only wines I have tasted this month. If you missed my other September features, Va La Vineyards and Kemmeter Wines, please click the links and enjoy reliving my wonderful experiences. Forthcoming are reviews of Galer Estate and Penns Woods Winery, which have been submitted and are awaiting publication dates.

As to October, it’s shaping up to be another busy month, with trips to Seattle, Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina planned, along with more tasting and winery opportunities, including MacLaren Wine CompanyMagnum Wines International, LLC, and Nieto Senetiner. I hope you will stay tuned!

Thank you as always for reading and for your support!
Beth

Choice: Va La Vineyards

The entrance to Va La Vineyards
The entrance to Va La Vineyards

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved. ~ William Jennings Bryan

When deciding to follow his passion of producing wine, Anthony Vietri had to make a choice: give it a go in California, where the climate and soils are nearly perfect for wine production, or at his family farm in Avondale, Pennsylvania, where he had been told, Nothing good can come of mushroom soil. Vietri chose to go against the odds, but on the side of family, creating the winery we know now as Va La Vineyards.

Va La
The entrance to Va La Vineyards

The name Va La has multiple meanings. The Vietri family comes from an Italian village named Giusvalla. The phrase va la in Italian can loosely mean go there, but dialectically it can mean go away or take a hike, as in saying to the naysayers, including those in academia and the neighbors who were sure that quality wine could not be made in Avondale. Now producing around 750 cases, more or less, since 2002, Vietri has proved these cynics wrong and has created a successful family business without compromising his choice of making vins de terroir using Old World methods from the unlikely soils of Avondale, never submitting his wines to competitions or for ratings or scores. As per his tasting menu, he writes, We consider your decision to take our wines into your home a sacred honor; it is the reason that we can devote our lives to pursuing this thing we love.

The vineyards are comprised of four distinct soils types. Every year, Vietri makes choices about which vines are producing the best fruit. The best vines remain, while those that are not are removed to make way for ones that do. Today Vietri produces four estate wines from vineyard to bottle, almost always Italian field blends from his 6.73 acres. However, this was not always the case. In the beginning, he tried other varieties, but as destiny would have it, Italian varieties have manifested themselves as the best choice.

Tasting Va La's four current releases
The wines of Va La Vineyards

During my last visit on Sunday, September 6, 2015, I had the opportunity to taste the following four wines: 2012 La Prima Donna, 2013 Silk, 2013 Barbera Batch III, and 2012 Mahogany, presented to me by the lovely, gracious, and professional Cyndy Barrett. One thing one will immediately notice is the understated bottle labels. The name of each wine is printed on a simple, white label. One realizes that what is inside the bottle is most important, with no bottle or label distractions. The wines are meant to speak for themselves. The wines are also meant to pair with food, so with each wine, you are given a local cheese or chocolate as a suggested pairing, as well as meal suggestions on the tasting menu. Neither Vietri nor the staff will tell you what you should taste, but rather describe the production process and leave it up to your palate to decide.

The grapes for all four wines are hand harvested and the wine filtered, but not fined, so as to remove spoilage organisms, but retain maximum color, aroma, and flavor. Vietri chooses to use old Bordeaux isolate yeasts that date from the 1950s, as they provide neutral, consistent winemaking from vintage to vintage. As he told me, he is striving for consistency as much as the vineyard will allow.

2012 La Prima Donna
La Prima Donna

2012 La Prima Donna (12th vintage)
With this offering, Vietri has chosen to make this field blend white wine in the vin orange style, the way white wines used to be made until the 1970s and 1980s, when it was deemed that we the people preferred our whites with more clarity and less color. As always, Vietri’s choice to go against popular belief has resulted in one of the most interesting wines you will ever taste. The blend is malvasia bianca, petit manseng, pinot grigio, and tocai from lower-yield vines, most which are 17 years old, and grown in Kennett Square basalt and stony silt loams. Batches are fermented separately with skin contact of 27-31 days, unheard of with most white wine producers. This skin contact allows more flavor, color, mouthfeel, and tannin components, especially from the petit manseng and pinot grigio, which have long hang times, thus more physiological ripeness. The wine is aged sur lie for 17 months in stainless steel, no oak. The resulting wine is fleshy and plush, with a balance of tree fruit flavors, rusticity, a round mouthfeel, and lively acid. It pairs with a variety of foods, from fresh fruits to mushrooms to pasta with white cream sauce, as well as fish, poultry, and pork dishes. The recommended decanting time is one hour. 207 cases produced. Flavor peak around 3-8 years.

2013 Silk
Silk

2013 Silk (12th vintage)
Vietri’s Silk is his rosato, his single-batch, field blend made from free-run juice, no pressing, using corvina veronese, barbera, carmine, petit verdot, and nebbiolo from vines that are 5-17 years old in silt loam soils overlying gneiss and Mt Cuba schist. The grapes are fermented slowly at cold temperatures. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak barrels that were first used to make his Mahogany red blend. As Vietri told me, this wine is calling to go in oak. Silk is aptly named, as it’s silky on the palate, with rich, red berry flavors, noticeable spice and tannin, and great acid, which means one can age this a few years instead of drinking it immediately like many rosato wines. Suggested food pairings include chicken, pork, prosciutto, salmon, and veal, especially those prepared in red sauces. The recommended decanting time is one to two hours. 107 cases produced. Flavor peak from now until 2018.

2013 Barbera - Batch III
Barbera

2013 Barbera – Batch III (14th vintage)
This vintage, Vietri had higher barbera yields. He did not want to alter the blend for his Mahagony, so he decided to make three batches of barbera, each aged for different lengths of time. This last batch is a small-production, single cuvée barbera, aged 15 months in oak. It is clonally significant, comprised of five clones, including a clone mutation which is unique only to his vineyard, grown in the now (in)famous black mushroom soils from vines that are 8-15 years old. The finished product is deep garnet in color, as well as rustic and spicy, with more earthy than fruity flavors, and a backbone of acidity. It pairs best with traditional Piemonte fare, pork dishes such as barbecue, and spicy foods. The recommended decanting time is two to four hours. 110 cases produced. Flavor peak around 2-7 years.

2012 Mahogany
Mahogany

2012 Mahogany (8th vintage)
This is one of Vietri’s crowning jewels, a field blend red of barbera, malvasia nero, charbono, petit verdot, carmine, teroldego, lagrein, and sagrantino coming from black mushroom soils and vines that are 10-17 years old. The yields are limited to produce the best, most concentrated berries that the vineyard can offer. The wine is aged in a unique combination of Burgundy and Pennsylvania oak for 27 months. This blend is named Mahogany, because it is a dark, bold, and luscious wine, in color, aroma, and mouthfeel. The mushroom soil terroir dominates the nose and palate, offering a plethora of earthiness and black fruits. This is the choice for meaty dishes such as lamb, prime rib, and meats prepared in reduction sauces. The recommended decanting time is four to twelve hours. 126 cases produced. Flavor peak around 4-10 years.

Anthony Vietri and me
Anthony Vietri and me

My visits to Va La, while always wine-centric, also allow me to capture the human and the family behind the bottle. Vietri is simply a delightful conversationalist and teacher. I discovered randomly that his favorite sports teams are the Knicks, the Raiders, and the Cardinals. I also learned that he has lived around the world, including Italy, Southern California, and Avondale, which indicates that he has come full circle, back to the family fold, now raising the fifth generation of the Vietri family, his daughter, Sofia, with his wife Karen (Ren).

For those who are interested in keeping up with Va La Vineyards, you will be happy to know that there is a newsletter, as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. The winery newsletter is purposeful, sent periodically to announce a new release, an update on wine availability, and to share some of the good press that the winery is receiving, all with a massive dose of humor. It’s not often I recommend newsletters, but this is one to which one should subscribe. Better yet, if you have the opportunity, please make the choice to va la, go there. A visit and tasting will remove any preconceived notions you may have about winemaking in Pennsylvania. Be warned, though: Vietri has set the bar high for producers, not only in Pennsylvania, but around the world.

You have to choose the best, every day, without compromise…guided by your own virtue and highest ambition. ~ Philippa Gregory

My July Sips

My July Sips
My July Sips

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
2013 Galer Estate Albariño

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.

2013 Anderson's Conn Valley Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Anderson’s Conn Valley Sauvignon Blanc

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 Vineyards & Wines Valdiguié
2013 J. Lohr Estates Wines Valdiguié

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!

Cheers!
Beth

2014: A Few of My Favorite Things

My signed barrel at Passaggio Wines
My signed barrel at Passaggio Wines

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.

Vineyard view on Silverado Trail
Vineyard view on Silverado Trail

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.

2011 Va La Vineyards Cedar
2011 Va La Vineyards Cedar

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)

My 2013 Finger Lakes Riesling Lineup
My 2013 Finger Lakes Riesling Lineup

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!

2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse
2012 Mark Ryan Dead Horse

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)

2012 Passaggio Unmarked Pinot Noir
2012 Passaggio Unmarked Pinot Noir

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)

2012 Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank

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.

Sunset at Va La Vineyards
Sunset at Va La Vineyards

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.

Sparkling and Pinot Flights at Domaine Carneros
Sparkling and Pinot Flights at Domaine Carneros

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)

Penns Woods White Merlot
Penns Woods White Merlot

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.

Tasting at Galer
Tasting at Galer

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.

2012 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
2012 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

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.

Wine Firsts
In looking back through my posts and reviews, I’ve experienced a few wine firsts this year.

Silk and Castana at Va La Vineyards
Silk and Castana at Va La Vineyards

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.

2013 Old York Cellars Dry Riesling

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)

2013 Old York Cellars Malbec
2013 Old York Cellars Malbec

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)

3. Wines from Turkey: My first Turkish wines came to me by way of importer VinoRai. To date, I’ve tried these from Turasan:

2013 Turasan Cappadocia Emir Dry White
2013 Turasan Cappadocia Emir Dry White

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)

2012 Turasan Kalecik Karasi
2012 Turasan Kalecik Karasi

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.

Cheers!
Beth