New York’s top winery accolade goes to Long Island’s Macari Vineyards

 

Macari Vineyard on  Long Island's North Fork

Macari Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork

By Alan J. Wax

A multi-generational, family-owned Long Island wine producer founded almost two decades ago is getting long overdue recognition.

Macari Vineyards, which now produces about 14,000 cases a wine annually from 200 acres of vines in Mattituck, on Long Island’s North Fork, won the New York State Winery of the Year award at the 2014 New York State Wine & Food Classic, an annual competition run by the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation.

“It was really great. We’re really happy,” co-owner Alexandra Macari said of the award announced Aug. 13 in Watkins Glen. She attributed the win to the winery’s staff. “We have such a solid team,” she said.

Owners Joseph Macari Sr., his wife, Katherine, and Joseph Macari Jr., who runs the winery with his wife, Alexandra, and their children, founded the winery in 1995 on 200 acres of the family’s 50-year-old, 500-acre waterfront estate,  Some of the acreage is used to raise livestock, including Texas Longhorn cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, ducks and rabbits.

In June 2007, the Macaris added 20 acres of vines to their holdings and a second tasting room when they purchased the former Galluccio Vineyard in Cutchogue.

The Macari vineyards, planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and Syrah, are largely farmed using biodynamic methods with fungicide and pesticide sprayed only once a year. Chemical nitrogen and herbicide has not bee used for the past 16 years. The vineyard was briefly on the selling block a decade ago.

The Winery of the Year award recognizes consistent quality of wines, said Jim Trezise, president of the wine industry group. At least seven wines had to be entered into the competition. Trezise said numbers are assigned for Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold, Best of Class and Best of Category, and then the total is divided by the number of wines entered to derive a ratio; the winery with the highest ratio receives the award. This year, there were 863 entries, 733 of them medaled.

Macari is the third Long Island winery to receive the top winery award, which last year went to McCall Wines, of Cutchogue, and in 2004 to Paumanok Vineyards, of Aquebogue.

Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled, from the Finger Lakes wine region won the coveted Governor’s Cup trophy as the judge’s top wine. The winery was purchased last year by Gene Pierce, owner of nearby Glenora Wine Cellars.

This year’s competition included 835 New York wines, 20 hard ciders and 8 spirits from across New York.

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari won Best Red Wine and Best Cabernet Franc for its 2010 vintage on its way to its Winery of the Year award, along with several other top medals. “We really believe in Cabernet Franc from Long Island, said the UC Davis-trained Kelly Urbanik Koch, Macari’s winemaker since June 2010.

Macari’s other awards included double gold for its 2012 Chardonnay Estate, gold for its 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Dos Aquas red blend, and 2013 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc. It also received silver medals for its 2007 Merlot Reserve, 2010 Bergen Road red blend, 2012 Chardonnay Reserve, 2013 Rose and 2010 Block E Viogner

The awards were based on blind tastings by 22 expert judges, including four from California, 10 from New York, seven from other states, and one from France. They included wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Judging panels determined the initial awards, with the top-scoring wines evaluated by all 22 judges for Best of Category and Governor’s Cup awards.

Such awards and medals are useful marketing tools for the numerous small wineries across the state that were eligible to enter the competition.

The complete results can be download from industry group’s web site.

The Best of Category awards, all considered for the Governor’s Cup, went to:

Best Sparkling Wine: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

Best White Wine: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Rose Wine: Anthony Road Wine Co. 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Red Wine: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Dessert Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best of Class awards went to Double Gold or Gold medal wines in classes of at least seven wines. The winners:

Best Oaked Chardonnay: Coffee Pot Cellars 2013 Chardonnay

Best Unoaked Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Overall Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Gewürztraminer: Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2013 Gewürztraminer, Estate Bottled

Best Dry Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Dry, Caywood East Vineyards Estate Grown

Best Medium Dry Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Medium Sweet Riesling: Barnstormer Winery 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling

Best Sweet Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Select, Estate Grown & Bottled

Best Overall Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Sauvignon Blanc: Hosmer Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Best Pinot Grigio: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Pinot Grigio

Best Grüner Veltliner: Three Brothers Wineries & Estates 2013 Grüner Veltliner, Estate Reserve

Best Vinifera White: Seneca Hayes Wine Cellars 2012 Riesling-Gewürztraminer

Best Other White Vinifera Varietal: Millbrook Vineyards & Winery 2013 Tocai Friulano, Proprietor’s Special Reserve

Best Cayuga: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Cayuga White

Best Traminette: Thirsty Owl Wine Co. 2013 Traminette

Best Vidal: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Vidal Blanc

Best Vignoles: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Vignoles

Best Cold Climate White Varietal: Tug Hill Vineyards 2013 LaCrescent, Estate Grown

Best Hybrid White: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Harbor Moon

Best Niagara: Lucas Vineyards Miss Behavin

Best Vinifera Rose: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Catawba: Woodbury Vineyards Foxy Blush Renard

Best Native Blush: 21 Brix Winery Thirsty Elephant

Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Brotherhood Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Best Merlot: Osprey’s Dominion Vineyard 2010 Reserve Merlot

Best Pinot Noir: Ventosa Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir

Best Cabernet Franc: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Lemberger: Inspire Moore Winery & Vineyard 2012 Change

Best Syrah: Billsboro Winery 2012 Syrah

Best Other Red Vinifera Varietal: Fulkerson Winery 2013 William Vigne Dry Zwiegelt

Best Vinifera Red: Harbes Vineyard 2012 Red Blend

Best Vinifera/Hybrid Red: Buttonwood Grove Winery Redbud

Best Other Red French-American Varietal: Johnson Estate Winery 2012 Chambourcin, Estate Grown

Best Cold Climate Red Varietal: Thousand Islands Winery 2012 Frontenac

Best Hybrid Red: Lakewood Vineyards 2013 Long Stem Red

Best Concord: 21 Brix Winery Ella’s Red

Best Fruit Wine: King Ferry Winery 2013 Apple Mystique

Best Cider: Kaneb Orchards 2014 St. Lawrence Cider

Best Spirit: Hidden Marsh Distillery Judd’s Wreckin Ball Corn Whiskey

Best Ice Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best Vinifera Sparkling White: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

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Highlands distiller Knockdhu adds some smoke to its AnCnoc single malts

Distiller pays homage to its heritage with a series of limited edition peaty expressions

By Alan J. Wax

A distillery in Scotland’s Highlands region, an area largely known for its floral, sweetish, fruity single-malt whiskies, now is offering something for those who enjoy a bit of smoke in their libation.

The Knockdhu Distillery, which more than a century ago began producing whisky with a strong peaty flavor imparted from the turf-fired malts available at the time, now, has recently released a limited edition collection of peaty whiskiess with bolder, smokier flavors under its AnCnoc. (pronounced a-NOCK) brand

The collection includes three expressions, Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar—named after traditional peat-cutting tools. Rutter and Flaughter currently are available in the U.S., while Tushkar, for now, only is currently available in Sweden.

For many imbibers, peat smoke is a key flavor in whisky and for others it may be the reason they don’t drink whisky. While few whiskies are actually noticeably peaty, peatiness, or smokiness, has become one of the best-known characteristics of Scotch whisky, and it’s through this smoke character that distilleries try to define themselves.

Traditionally, the more peated the barley, the higher the phenol levels in the spirit, and the smokier the whisky will taste. Peatiness is measured in PPM, or phenol parts per million.

The new AnCnoc whiskys display their PPM level on their labels, allowing the drinker to select an expression with a level of smokiness to their liking.

I have to admit, I am not much of a fan of such extreme smokey expressions as Ardberg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroig and Talikser. I still recall my first sample of Caol Ila, which suggested licking a newly tarred road. No, personally I favor fruity, floral, sweetish whiskies from the Highlands and the Speyside whisky regions.

Playing with the character of their spirits seems to have become de regueur for some producers in recent years. I believe in marketing terms, they’re considered brand extensions.

But, I’m always game to try something new.

Flaughter

Flaughter

Rutter

Rutter

AnCnoc Rutter, the first release in the collection, is named for the spade used in sizing and separating peat blocks. Peated to a PPM of 11, this golden-hued whisky initially reeks of burnt wood and earth and then gives way to delicate spices, sweet tones, tropical fruit-like esters, notes of minerals and a hint of vanilla. It’s quite drinkable.

anCnoc Flaughter (pronounced FLAH-ter) is named for the spade used to remove the top layer of peat. Peated to a PPM of 14.8, the pale gold, whisky offers up aromas and flavors of ash mixed with sweet melon notes, hints of vanilla oak and a long-spicy finish. Despite its higher PPM, this seems a more mellow whisky that its companion expression.

The AnCnoc Tushkar is said to be the most peated ot the trio, at 15 ppm, but was not available for tasting.

Both Rutter and Flaugher currently are available at U.S. spirits retailers with a suggested retail price of $85 for a 750 ml bottle.

I have tasted the smoke and I like it.

 

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Great American Beer Festival tickets go on sale; steps taken to curb scalpers

GABF_Logo_LRG_V_RGBBy Alan J. Wax

It’s just about that time of year, again. And you’ll have to act quickly.

Tickets for the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF), to be held Oct. 2-4 in Denver, go on sale July 30 at Noon (EDT) via Ticketmaster.com. And event organizers are taking steps to curb scalpers who may have contributed in past years to the event’s sellout in a matter of minutes.

Members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association may buy up to two advance tickets until July 20. Admission to the Saturday, Oct. 4 afternoon session will be AHA and BA member, but the number of tickets is limited.

Tickets are $80 per session. Designated driver tickets are $25.

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

Last year, general admission tickets to the nation’s biggest beer event sold out in just 20 minutes and a sellout this year is expected again. Last year’s sell out led to speculatation that scalpers were attempting to corner the market.

GABF organizers said on the event‘s web site that they are attempting to deal with scalpers.

This year, general admission ticket buyers will be limited to four tickets and organizers further stated: “Unfortunately, the secondary market for popular tickets persists, despite many efforts to thwart it …There are measures in place to decrease access for scalpers, including the ticket limits that we set for GABF ticket purchases and Ticketmaster’s anti-bot and other security measures in their selling system. (Ticketmaster reviews all purchases to enforce our GABF ticket limits.) Again, though, while this decreases access, it unfortunately does not prevent a secondary market. To ensure you have a valid ticket, purchase tickets from authorized outlets only.”

The festival at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver is expected to draw up to 49,000 attendees over four sessions who will have the opportunity to sample almost 3,000 beers from about 700 U.S. breweries.

 

 

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They’re all beer aficionados on this bus

Brew Bus

Getting aboard The South Florida Brew Bus near the Funky Buddha.

A group of South Floridians discover their region’s breweries and beers with a chartered bus tour.

By Alan J. Wax

It began and ended in Boca Raton, Florida. For more than eight hours, starting on a recent sunny, Saturday afternoon and finishing mid-evening, 24 craft-beer loving South Floridians traipsed through five brewery tasting rooms, traveling from one to another aboard a luxury livery dubbed the South Florida Brew Bus, sampling dozens of beers at each—and more onboard.

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewry

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewery in Miami.

The beer lovers were among the 500-plus members of the Boca Brews Meet Up Group. The tour was organized by the group’s leader, Melissa Nowak, a former paralegal and Maryland expat now living in Boca Raton. A diverse collection of men and women — Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, Boca Brews meets monthly at different venues to quaff their favorite beverage and socialize.

The Brew Bus is affiliated with the Funky Buddha Brewery, which is in Oakland Park, Florida’s budding Culinary Arts District and, which highly regarded for its full-flavored, eclectic beers. Funky Buddha, the region’s largest brewer, started in Boca Raton, where it still operates a lounge and small-scale brewing operation.

I happened to be in Florida when a Boca Brews bus tour was scheduled and decided to join  the fun. Many of the breweries are in out-of-the way locations and the idea of visiting them without having to drive was appealing.

We departed from Miller’s East Boca Ale House in Boca Raton, with Funky Buddha Brewery our first destination. On board, cans of Brew Bus beer, brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa were passed around—along with pretzels and cookies. I found myself with a can of Rolling Dirty, an Irish-style red ale with a big malt backbone and a good dose of hops.

The breweries and their beers

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

The exterior of the Funky Buddha is deceptive, looking much like a store in a strip mall. Inside, however, there’s a cavernous tasting room and, of course, the brewing operation.  Since brewers can’t serve food under Florida law, a food truck sits outside. There are numerous beers on tap, but its possible to select a few for a custom flight. Servers write each beer’s name in white chalk on your paddle.  Opting for an eclectic selection of brews I was not disappointed.  Vanilla Cream Abdul Jabar Ale showed just enough vanilla to make it interesting—a cream soda kissed by hops. No Crusts, a brown ale with peanut butter and jelly, was interesting with its distinct, but balanced bready, peanut and fruit notes, but too sweet for more than a sampler-sized glass. Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter was tasty, but hardly summery with its strong bitter chocolate and roasted-grain character and undertones of cherries. Floridian Gone Wild is the brewery’s popular wheat beer turned into a tart, but soft refresher.

Mack House Interior

Inside The Mack House, Davie, FL

Back on the bus for a short hop to Mack House in Davie, Florida, home to the Holy Mackerel nano brewery. The tasting room-cum-college-dorm lounge, tucked away in a strip mall on the service road of I-595, offered a handful of interesting beers and some less so. The easy drinking Bowling Alley Blonde seemed to be an entry-level, session brew with its low hop bitterness and a sweet, soft malt character. The golden-hued Downpour IPA offered balanced bready malts and a resiny hop character. The best-selling Psycho Fish, a cloudy orange-colored, orange-infused, intensely flavored Belgian tripel was a delight with its estery Belgian yeast notes, bright orange flavor and notes of bubble gum. Mack in Black, a dark, strong Belgian-style ale was opaque and stoutish with roasty notes. Panic con Pablo is a copper-colored ale infused with a blend of coffee from a local coffee shop called Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee; too intensely coffee flavored for my palate.

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Onward to South Beach’s only brew pub, Abbey Brewing, which contract brews its four house-designed offerings at Indian River Brewing Co./Florida Beer Co.  in Melbourne, Florida. Appearing bit rustic for this glitzy neighborhood, it offers more guest beers than those with its own tap handle. On a recommendation, I sampled Immaculate IPA, a copper-hued brew more in the style of an English ESB with notes of malt, fruity esters and more than a hint of hop bitterness.

Inside Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Stop No. 4: Coral Gables, home to Titanic Brewery and Restaurant, the Miami area’s first brew pub, located opposite the University of Miami Hurricanes’ baseball stadium. Titanic’s beers, not surprisingly are mostly British influenced and nautical themed, a sampler of six generally well-made brews cost just $6. Triple Screw Light Ale, a 4% abv German style ale, was more like a Pilsner than a Kolsch with its grainy, low-hopped character.

Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, a amber brew was deep brown, round, fruity and spicy from the malted rye in the grain bill. White Star India Pale Ale is a copper-hued Anglo-American ale made with Cascade hopes and British ale yeast. Loaded with juicy malt character along with citrus notes it was smooth, creamy brew.Britannic Best Bitter, a British styled ESB was amber hued with a fruity, malty and floral hop character.  Boiler Room Nut Brown Ale, also quite British in style, was a translucent reddish brown, creamy, grainy and a finish that was somewhat short.Shipbuilders Oatmeal Stout, deep brown with an oily character, it seemed thin bodied with an exceptionally dry finish.

Wynwood Brewing in Miami's Wynwood Arts District

Wynwood Brewing, Miami

Our final destination was the Wynwood Brewery, Miami’s first production brewery, located in the Wynwood Arts District, just east of Interstate 95 on a street lined with single-level warehouses tagged with graffiti. Having had a couple of Wynwood’s brews before and been disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised by Wynwood’s Fox, an imperial/double red with a deep russet hue, crisp and flavorful with big malt character and enough hops to suggest and IPA. I was, however, annoyed by the 12-oz. plastic cup and the $8 tariff.

Abbey Brewing Co., 1115 16th St., Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8110.
 
Funky Buddha Brewery, 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334 (954) 440-0046.

The Mack House (Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery), 9118 W. State Road 84, Davie, FL 33324 (954) 474-5040.

Titanic Brewing Co., 5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146 (305) 667-2537.

Wynwood Brewing Co., 565 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 982-8732.

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Saranac’s new Single Malt brew will appeal to whiskey and beer aficionados

Label for Saranac Single Malt Scottish Ale

Label for Saranac Single Malt Scottish Ale

Scottish ale aged in single-malt Scotch whiskey barrels.

By Alan J. Wax

A recently released beer from the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. could be a beer for Scotch whiskey aficionados or, perhaps, a Scotch for beer drinkers.

The beer, called Saranac Single Malt is a strong Scotch ale – a one-off, limited edition brew that’s part of the Utica, New York-based brewer’s Saranac High Peaks series targeted to beer geeks.

Matt, established 126 years ago, besides being known for its Utica Club American lager and its line of Saranac beers, produced since 1985, is a big contract brewer whose customers over the years have included Brooklyn Brewery, Boston Beer Co., Harpoon Brewery, Kirkland (Costco) and numerous other labels that have since vanished into oblivion.

The Matt brewery, now ranked No. 11 in terms of sales volume among U.S. craft brewers, appears to have taken a step forward with this new release from its long-time aping of product lines of other brewers, among them Samuel Adams.

Like many beers on the market these days, Saranac Single Malt is aged in wood, but instead of Bourbon barrels, F.X. Matt aged its high gravity (9% abv) Scotch ale aged in hundred-year-old whiskey barrels from the Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery, a somewhat off-the-radar whiskey producer in Ballindalloch, in the Speyside region of Scotland. Its unpeated whiskey rarely is seen as a single malt; most of Tomintoul’s output goes into blended whiskies. Previously, the barrels were used to age Sherry wine. Matt started aging the beer almost a year ago on the oak.

“In our mind, the barrels are 125 years old!,” Fred Matt, president and 3rd generation owner, said in a press release.  “In all seriousness though, they are very close to that.  Imagine how much character is in this beer between our brewing history and the history of these barrels.  We’ll say 125 years worth of character.”

The beer offers an enticing nutty, caramel, scotch whiskey aroma and on the palate there are rich, sweet malt with undeniable Scotch Whiskey-like, oak, fruit and sherry notes.

To be sure, Matt is not the first brewer to go the Scotch whiskey barrel route. Two years ago, Schafly Brewing Co. in St. Louis released its own whisky–aged beer called Single Malt Scottish Ale (what else?) to mark its 21st anniversary. Schafly used emptied Highland Scotch whisky barrels from the Glen Garioch Distillery.

If nothing else, Saranac Single Malt demonstrates Matt is capable of producing a beer that can appeal to aficionados. Indeed, old dogs can learn new tricks.

 

 

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Long Island vineyard funded through Kickstarter offers different wines

Southold Farm+Cellar, an upstart winery, is producing distinctive wines made from familiar grapes.

 

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

By Alan J. Wax

A little more than a year ago, the owners of a Southold, Long Island, vineyard were seeking crowd-sourced funds to plant 9 acres of what they described as “weird” grapes. Now, they’ve not only planted their grapes but they’re selling their first vintage, albeit made with purchased grapes.

The owners of Southold Farm + Cellar, Regan and Carey Meador, raised almost $25,000 through a campaign on Kickstarter.com to plant what Regan Meador called “weird grapes.” This spring, they planted 9 acres of grapes – Teroldego, Lagrein, Goldmuskateller and the not-so-weird syrah— and now they’re are selling four wines from their hard-to-find, small, gut-renovated-barn-cum-tasting room on a rural North Fork lane.

The Meadors’ hope was to bring diversity to the Long Island wine market by planting grapes such as Teroldego, a red Italian variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Süditrol, Italy.

The Meadors, now 34, combined their savings with money from relatives two years ago to buy the 23.7-acre former Charles John Family Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork from Leucadia National Corp., which had pulled out all the vines.

Now, with fund raising behind him, vines planted and wine made and on sale, Regan Meador says he feels an air of excitement. “It’s so nice to actually sell something now. It was so esoteric and theoretical. Now I can put stuff in front of you.”

Regan Meador and his wines, inside his tasting barn.

The Wines

And what he’s putting out!

Southold Farm+Cellar’s wines stylistically stand out in the increasingly crowded Long Island market dominated by merlot and chardonnay.

The wines, except for one, are made from grapes purchased from area growers, including Rex Farr, who owns a certified organic vineyard, and the pioneering Mudd Vineyards. Meador made the wine at the Raphael winery in Peconic.

Meador, who has no formal wine making training, but has taken courses from the University of California-Davis and has apprenticed as at Osprey’s Dominion in Southold, was a planner at a New York City advertising agency before turning to oenology.

Greg Gove at the now-closed Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue made Southold’s La Belle Fille Brut Nature 2009, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkler. “It was a forgotten step child. It never saw the light of day,” he said, explaining that he bought the entire 100-case stock, disgorged the wines but did not add a dosage, and then slapped on his own label. The wine, it’s French name translates to “The Step Daughter,” sells for $36. It offers a nose of pears. It’s rich and fruity with a dry finish. “I wanted to give people the same experience I had in in stumbling upon it,” Meador said.

Devil’s Advocate, a Chardonnay made from the 40-year old Mustique clone vines at Mudd Vineyards in Southold, is not a typical chardonnay.  Though not a fan of Chardonnay, Meador said he felt compelled to offer one, albeit made his way. He barrel fermented the wine in large, 228-gallon wooden casks, leaving the wine on its skins for seven days. This wine fermented on wild yeast for over four months, going through secondary on its own. A bit of sulfur was added at the end. It’s full-bodied with tropical fruit and spice notes reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. It sells for $26 a bottle; 190 cases were made.

Cast Your Fate to Wind, Southold’s cabernet franc, also is a departure from the North Fork’s traditional handling of the grape.  It was made in a Chinon/Loire style, using whole clusters of grapes that were, in part, foot-stomped and aged in large casks. The organic fruit came from Rex Farr in Calverton. Dark, but light in body, it’s earthy, spicy and full of cigar box character. Meador produced 119 cases; it sells for $32 a bottle.

Damn the Torpedoes a crown cap finished, wild-fermented sparkling red wine in the Lambrusco style made from a Merlot-predominant blend that also includes Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. It offers up noted of dried fruit, and plums. A light summer red, it sells for $28; 148 cases were produced.

The wines already are attracting attention. In just a short time, Meador’s made his first sale to a restaurant— Damn the Torpedoes, Cast Your Fate to The Wind and The Devil’s Advocate are now available at The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. He’s also selling wine online, and, relying strictly on social media, he attracted 60 visitors on his opening weekend.

And while that last number may seem small, Meador is unperturbed. “I don’t need a big cavalcade of people coming in the door. I want people excited about wine.”

 

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Random ingredients, beer styles drawn from a hat, are the focus of a club’s unusual homebrewing competition

Jaclynn Brandi ready to pour beers at homebrewers group competition,

Jaclynn Brandi ready to pour beers at homebrewers group competition,

Inspired by Food Network’s “Chopped,” a homebrew club’s members concoct some beers with unusual flavors. Stout with vanilla and Mexican chilies tops them all.

By Alan J. Wax

Borrowing a page from the Food Network show “Chopped,” a Long Island homebrew club sponsored an unusual brewing competition that required entrants to brew a beer using key ingredients drawn from a hat.

The competition run by Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts involved the brewing of various beer styles with random, often-unlikely ingredient combinations, testing the creativity of those involved.

LIBME logoThe contest got underway in early March, when ten teams were formed and a drawing held to determine who would brew a particular style and what flavors were to be added to each brew.

The combinations:

- Porter with wood chips and chocolate

- Amber ale with smoked malt and cherries

- Brown ale with tea and blueberries.

- Black rye ale with ginger and cinnamon

- Pale ale with coconut and blackberries

- IPA with hot peppers and peaches

- ESB with honey and coffee

- Rye IPA with orange peel and basil.

- Roggenbier with raspberries and licorice root

- Stout with vanilla and Mexican chilies.

Brewing ensued in April and club members judged the resulting beers at a June meeting using drinking pleasure as their guide instead of BJCP style guidelines. The winning beer is to be brewed at Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore, New York.

Some of the teams took liberties, One used Sambuca and Chambord liquors instead of licorice and raspberries, while others used such exotic additions as avocado honey, Ethiopian coffee, and ghost pepper chilies—among the hottest on the planet.

My team, led by Brian Giebel, a research chemist with a PhD and aspirations of becoming a professional brewer, concocted an Earl Gray-tea infused English brown ale with blueberries.  After an online team consultation about recipe formulation, the beer was made at Giebel’s garage-turned-home brewery in Smithtown, New York. Our recipe included 9 pounds of Maris Otter malt, 12 oz. of Special Roast malt and 8 oz. each of crystal 40L, Victory and chocolate malt and just 2 oz. of East Kent Golding hops. One-third oz. of Earl Gray team in a mesh bag was added at flame out for 5 minutes. Two pounds of frozen blueberries were added to the secondary after two weeks of fermenting with rehydrated SAF04 yeast.  The berries sat in the secondary for about 20 days and the beer was then kegged.

Despite my participation, the beer we produced was not my favorite – and not my least. I felt the Early Gray tea added astringency.  Giebel said he was pleased with our beer, noting that he would’ve left it home were he unhappy.

My favorite, however, was the porter with chocolate and wood chips, which finished third. Its brewers, led by Thomas Fox, who worked at Chelsea Brewing in New York City, substituted chocolate malt for the confection and used cherry wood chips soaked in Sailor Jerry spiced rum.  The flavors were reminiscent of a Black Forest cake.
Close behind, at least for me, was the pale ale with toasted coconut, blackberries and and raspberries. Though the berry flavor wasn’t pronounced, the beer’s biscuity malt and coconut notes reminded me of a coconut macaroon cookie.

Competition organizer Chris Kelly and his team brewed a rye IPA flavored with orange peel and basil along with Amarillo and Citra hops. It scored third.

The vanilla and pepper infused stout was the crowd favorite, finishing first.

Other brews were less successful. The Sambuca and Chambord infused beer came across as a high-alcohol beer cocktail that was undrinkable in my opinion.

“I was looking for an excuse to get people together to brew,” Kelly said explaining the rationale for the unusual competition. Working with Andrew Luberto, a national BJCP judge, he fine tuned the idea. He said the group would hold a similar competition again, adding that he hopes to improve on the concept.

 

 

 

 

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Corks, Caps & Taps wins blogging award

Photo-18The Press Club of Long Island, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, presented its 2014 award for “Social Media-Blog Created and Maintained by an Individual” to Corks, Caps and Taps and its editor, Alan J Wax.

The award was among 80 presented by the club at its 2014 Media Awards dinner on June 5 at the Woodbury Country Club in Woodbury, New York.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization with 60 professional chapters and 250 student chapters nationwide. It is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

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Forget beer and tea: She picks the right wines for high-end Chinese food

Christine Parkinson Portrait

Christine Parkinson

Christine Parkinson, the worldwide wine buyer for London-based Hakkasan Group’s Michelin-rated restaurants, reveals some of her secrets.

By Alan J. Wax 

What wine with Chinese food?

An oft-debated topic with Riesling or Gewurztraminer the usual answers— or beer, or tea.

But don’t tell that to Christine Parkinson, the London-based global group wine buyer at Hakkasan Group restaurants, whose chain of stylish, high-end Chinese food outposts spans the globe. Its 12 locations in London, Beverly Hills, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, New York, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Mumbai and Shanghai, have become destinations for wine as well as Cantonese cuisine.

Recently, I met with Parkinson, who’s been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by English wine writer Jancis Robinson, at the almost two-year-old New York City Hakkasan, to gain insight on how she crafted the Hakkasan wine program and how the food that is served influences the wines on the list.

The interior of New York's Hakkasan restaurant

Latticework decor in New York’s Hakkasan restaurant

The New York Theater District location at 311 W. 43rd St. is a stunner. The 11,000-square foot, 200-seat foot eatery is sleek, decorated with marble, ornate wood latticework, glass and mirrors and deep blue colors. The restaurant was bustling with an après-work crowd at the time of our meeting.

Parkinson, who was tasked in 2001 by former Hakkasan CEO Niall Howard to create the first Hakkasan wine list in London, was recruited just 10 weeks before it opened. She has since become regarded as a pioneer in pairing wines with Cantonese cuisine

In those days, she recalled, “it was tea or lager beer” with Chinese food in Britain.

Putting together that first wine list required much research, guidance from colleagues and, of course, lots of tasting, she said, noting she decided at the start “to look for lovely wines.” The wines, of course, had to match the food—all of it. Parkinson and a group of sommeliers and Hakkasan’s chef settled in temporarily at another restaurant and tasted and matched. “The experience taught me that some wines taste dreadful with Cantonese cuisine,” she said, noting that to make the cut, a wine must work with every dish on the menu. “If it goes with the food, I’ll put it on the list.”

Chinese cuisine with its multitude of flavors — mild, savory, sweet and spicy, “makes life very hard for wine,” said Parkinson who said she acquired her wine knowledge as a food and beverage manager, a job that was preceded by work as a chemical analyst and head chef. “From my experience so many wines don’t work with the food. If a customer doesn’t like the match up, she added, they’ll return to their tea and beer.”

Hakkasan's Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Hakkasan’s Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

As we chatted, we nibbled on delicately flavored hakka steamed noodles tossed with mushrooms and chives and an addictive, sweetish Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey. We sipped Ca’ dei Frati Lugana I Frati, an Italian 100 percent Lugana (Trebbiano)-based wine from Lombardy that’s been on Hakkasan wine lists since 2001. A delicate, fragrant wine with floral, apricot and almond notes, it suited both dishes.

Parkinson and her teams of sommeliers have tasted every wine on the restaurants’ lists with the cuisine and continue to taste new wines every Tuesday in each location.

Hakkasan’s wine list is formatted to minimize confusion.  Various sections reflect the categories that Parkinson has placed the wines for Hakkasan’s guests. Each title is followed by a simple, brief explanation. Each page essentially is a separate list.

The lists vary by location, due to availability of the various wines, but Parkinson noted, at their hearts, they are all similar.

The  New York wine list, has about 350 wines, listed in order of body and flavor from light to rich, starting at $30 for the Chilean Riesling, Neblina Vineyard Leyda 2008, and climbing to almost $3,000 for a 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Virtually every wine-producing region in the world is represented, including Greece and New York’s Finger Lakes with Dr. Konstantine Frank Rkatsiteli. There are also 23 different sakes. Nine wines are available by the glass.

Sauvignon Blanc is the group’s top seller by the glass. At the New York Hakkasan it’s Astrolabe, a dry, full bodied New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that goes for $15 a glass or $57 a bottle.

Parkinson says the restaurant’s top selling red is a tempranillo-based Rioja Reserva, Remelluri 2008, which goes for $80 a bottle.

Hakkasan’s menu often pairs best with wines that are fruity, have soft tannins and are light to medium in body, she said, adding, “Sherry is very good with the food – Tio Pepe [Fine Sherry] or a dry Amontillado Sherry with our food is one of my favorites.”

Hakkasan NY, 311 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036 (212) 776-1818

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Traditional Belgian Brewers in uproar over proliferation of ‘fake’ brewers

Leboucq

Leboucq

Van Roy

Van Roy

Herteleer

Herteleer

A group of traditional Belgian brewers are in an

uproar over the proliferation of contract beers now being produced in a nation where beer has long been revered as

Minne

Minne

part of its national heritage. They claim consumers are being defrauded and the image of artisanal Belgian beer is being tarnished.

In a letter published by the Le Soir newspaper, the brewers group blasts contract producers as “fake brewers” and warns that “one of the last of our national treasures, is in great danger” as a result of their proliferation.

The brewers also issued a call for laws requiring beer labels to state the name of the brewery where a beer was produced and to allow only producers with brewing equipment to use the term brewery.

The Belgian brewers’ protest is similar to the complaints often aired by American craft brewers and comsumers who have made contract brewing a hot button issue

The text of the 1,200-word letter, written in French, was translated by the Belgian Beer and Food magazine. The original can be found here.

The protesting brewers, some well known, described what they called “fake” brewers as “marketing enterprises, who sell beers they have not themselves produced, while passing themselves off more or less openly as real brewers.”

The letter writers, including the owners of Brasserie de la Senne, Brasserie Cantillon, Brasserie de Bastogne, and Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers, claimed that a new brewery opens every 15 days in Belgium, but that three-quarters of these producers are breweries only in name. They claim these new beer producers lack experience, training, or both and are supported by “splendid” websites and social media that have garnered a wealth of TV coverage and press. Some of these new brewers buy equipment, ostensibly for show, they alleged.

The letter writers said they are shocked that the contract brewers deny the notion of craft. “The world they inhabit has no need of the brewer in the traditional meaning of the word.” They said these brewers simply are about marketing.

Contract brewing, the protesters noted, is hardly a new phenomenon. “Beers with names that are familiar to the general public have been sold by fake brewers for years,” they said. But, “the situation has become more serious in recent years, with the manipulation of the consumer through the media reaching unprecedented levels.”

Indeed, Corsendonk, a brand long imported into the U.S.— currently by St. Killian Importing— hasn’t had its own brewery since 1953. Brasserie Du Bocq produces Corsendonk.

Moreover, the brewers group said, because only a few contract brewers produce so much of the new beer, the taste of Belgian beer could be standardized. The breweries who produce these contract beers “inevitably put their own stamp on everything they produce,” the letter stated, adding, “In time, the words “Made in Belgium” on a label will be stripped of all meaning, since the beer in the bottle may well have been manufactured by experts who might as well be situated anywhere on the planet, and marketed by salesmen who have turned impersonation into an economic model.”

Belgian contract brewers include Heineken owned Affligem, Verhaeghe, Abbaye du Val Dieu, Brasserie Silly and Brasserie Dupont, according to Belgium-Mapped-Out.com.

The brewers said regulators in their so-called beer paradise have done nothing to protect traditional brewers and called on politicians to enact laws requiring transparency on beer labels listing the brewery in which a beer is produced and that only businesses owning brewing equipment be allowed to use the term brewery.

Sébastien Morvan and Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project

Sébastien Morvan and Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project support the brewers’ legislative aims.

At least one upstart contract brewer has responded. The Brussels Beer Project, a crowd-funded brewer that currently constructing a micro-brewery, but now produces its beers are Bier Anders in Liege, said it supports the traditional brewers’ legislative aims. But, writing on its their home page, the brewery’s owners, Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan, also said, “We do not believe that the sector is currently in ‘serious danger’, particularly not from new brewing initiatives. To the contrary, we are gladdened by the renewed energy they bring.”

The start-up brewers said they make no apologies for doing contract brewing or using crowd funding for financing or for their reliance on social media, which they described as being “a fresh, contemporary and interactive medium, on top of being free! … we are proud to convey our message about beer in a different way.“ Moreover, they said, “We create recipes inspired by Belgian tradition just as much as New World influences.”

The letter was signed by Yvan De Baets and Bernard Leboucq, Brasserie de la Senne; Jean Van Roy, Brasserie Cantillon; Catherine and Philippe Minne, Brasserie de Bastogne; Kris Herteleer, Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers; Pierre Tilquin, Gueuzerie Tilquin; Alexandre Dumont, Brasserie Jandrain-Jandrenouille; Pierre-Alex, Marie-Noëlle and Kevin Carlier, Brasserie de Blaugies; Jef Van den Steen, Brouwerij de Glazen Toren; Pierre Jacob, Brasserie Saint-Monon, Marc-Antoine De Mees, Brasserie Brunehaut; Luc Festjens, Brouwerij Den Toetëlèr; Pierre Gobron, Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets;  Gregory Verhelst, Brasserie de Rulles; Kristof Vandenbussche, Brouwerij Fort Lapin; Laurent Agache, Brasserie de Cazeau, and  others.

Where do you stand on this issue?

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