Arizona toasts a new era

Arizona seems to be having a wine-fueled love fest.

After grape growers, winemakes, wholesalers and retailers reached a compromise on what sort of new legislation would benefit all parties, the state legislature and governor quickly got on board.

The result: a new law will protect growers' existing rights and help fledgling wineries.

Rod Keeling, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association and owner of Keeling Schaefer Vineyards near the town of Willcox in rural Cochise County, said, "We made a compromise deal in an hour and a half, but it took us three days to hash out the language. The wholesalers and wineries wanted a smaller cap (for gallons produced by a winery per year) and we gave them that and got everything else we wanted.

"This is a really good bill for rural Arizona winegrowers," Keeling said in an interview with the Range News.

The bill signed into law by Gov. Janet Napolitano allows any U.S. growers producing less than 20,000 gallons per year to sell directly to Arizona consumers. Previously, Arizona wineries producing less than 75,000 gallons per year could sell directly to consumers, but wholesalers complained that too many wineries were allowed to bypass them.

The new law will also open the Arizona wine market to out-of-state wineries under 20,000 gallons per year.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks


Wine tourism on the rise

See event and contact information below.

Wine tourism has become commonplace now that every one of the United States has at least one winery, and most of them many more.

The majority of states have created wine trails to entice tourists to tour various vineyards and wineries. Pamphlets for self-guided tours are usually free and areas are marked with unique signage to keep motorists from wandering too far off course.

But certain wine-intensive areas in the U.S. and elsewhere are taking advantage of the global boom in wine consumption to push interest to a higher level by creating centers to educate and entertain the masses.

The New York Wine & Culinary Center project, for example, opened this month after a whirlwind 10-month construction schedule.

As the facility, located on the shores of Canandaigua Lake near Rochester, begins its opening programs, a similar facility is under way on the West Coast with a projected May '07 opening.

It's the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, a $9.2 million project located in Prosser, Wash., in the Yakima Valley wine region.

The Washington facility's backers foresee it as both a destination for tourists and a place for winemakers to gather. It will have a 17,500 square-foot building, vineyards, organic gardens and a public park.

The main building will have a restaurant, exhibition galleries, a theater, a demonstration kitchen, wine bar and a retail shop.

The center's namesake is the late Walter Clore, regarded as the father of Washington wine. The state is the No. 2 producer of premium wine in the United States, trailing only California.

To the south, in California's storied Napa Valley, is the 10-year-old Copia against which all other wine-centric facilities are measured.

Neighbor to such commercially popular wineries as Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Stags Leap, Coppola, Domaine Chandon and Sterling, Copia and the nearby West Coast branch of the Culinary Institute of America have helped make the region an eating-and-drinking mecca that helped fuel the rebirth of Napa, the valley's anchor city of 53,000.

Copia's subtitle is "The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts." It's a not-for-profit cultural center and museum that has been open to the public for about four years. It includes sprawling herb, flower and tree gardens (seen above), as well as several restaurants, museums and galleries in am 80,000-square-foot building on the banks of an oxbow bend in the Napa River.

"We're a non-collecting museum," said Daphne L. Derven, curator of food and assistant drector for programs. "That keeps us on our toes to continually come up with new ways to educate and entertain our visitors."

Two years ago, on the other end of New York state, Stony Brook University came up with a different model by establishing its Center for Wine, Food, and Culture.

The idea is to split its efforts between its main campus on Long Island and its facilities in Manhattan, offering wine- and food-tasting classes, cultural lectures, and interdisciplinary symposia.

The Canandaigua wine and culinary center is more of a destination place, like its California cousin Copia, although decidedly smaller.

While the exterior is on the plain side and the landscaping news and, therefore, undersized for now, the interior has an impressive upscale Adirondack-style design, utilizing multi-hued, handworked wood wainscoting, stair railings, display shelving and counters. A 36-station kitchen and views of the lake are other highlights of the roughly $7 million project.

Director Alexa Gifford said the final look will include entrance landscaping geared toward representations of indigenous plants from the region.

"We'll have local flowers and shrubs, grape vines and the like that will set the mood for visitors," she said. "Americans in general are used to pulling into a parking lot that leaves you right up to the door. We'll be guiding people along a path that creates a mood, and then they'll walk into this beautiful facility that will build on that atmosphere."

The 15,000 square-foot center will offer hands-on courses in culinary science; interactive exhibits on New York State agriculture, foods and wines; demonstration space; and a live garden outside of the building. And, it has a tasting room with a
rotating selection of wines from New York's major regions (Niagara/Lake Erie, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island), a wine and tapas bar for light meals and wine-and-food pairings, a theater-style demonstration kitchen, a training kitchen for hands-on cooking classes, and industrial kitchens for credited culinary classes and corporate training.

No wine is sold at the facility, but visitors can use a computer right there to order directly from New York wineries.

Planning your trip

Check out domestic possibilities on Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails and U.S. and Canadian wine festivals at Dowd's Drinks Events Calendar.

Both sites offer live links to recognized trails and events information nationwide.
To check out events and schedules at various wine and culinary centers, call or go online:

• Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts
500 First St., Napa, Calif. 94559.
Details: Online or by phone at (888) 512-6742.

• New York Wine & Culinary Center
800 South Main St., Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424.
Details: Online or by phone at (585) 394-7070.

• Stony Brook University
Center for Wine, Food & Culture, Stony Brook, N.Y. 11794.
Details: Online or by phone at 631) 632-6000.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd On Drinks


Fruit wine niche is broadening

Some years ago, I was tromping through the fields at the Eden Vineyards and Winery in Alva, a little burg east of Fort Myers, Fla., and about an hour’s drive south of Tampa.

I was there to look over the modest operation for several reasons. It was the state’s oldest winery, the southernmost winery and vineyard in the continental United States, and it purported to be the only commercial winery using carambola, more popularly known as star fruit.

Fast forward to today. Eden now holds only one of those distinctions. It still is Florida’s oldest operating winery.

The emergence of Schnebly Redland's Winery has taken away the geographic title. It’s located in Homestead, down near Miami. And it, along with Eden and several other producers, makes carambola wine.

Schnebly Redland, owned by the husband-wife partners Peter and Denise Schnebly, is part of a growing niche in the American winemaking industry using more than grapes, or avoiding them altogether.

The Schneblys, for example, produce five grape-free varieties of tropical fruit wines: carambola, mango, lychee, guava and passion fruit. They range in price from $13.95 to $18.95. The winery ships orders to all states except Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Utah.

For a long time, non-grape wines were primarily the province of the home winemaker. For one thing, it is easier to get good berries and fruits than it is to get wine-quality grapes. For another, aging rarely is necessary to ensure a good non-grape wine.

In judging various wine competitions around the country, I’ve noticed an uptick in recent years in non-grape wines its producers feel are of medal quality. Most have been in the port (blueberry, blackberry) and ice wine (peach, cherry) categories, but the range is broadening.

Sometimes the decision to go into non-grape wines has been the result of an established winery looking for new products to sell. In other instances, it has been a matter of economic survival.

A good example of that is Goold Orchards in rural upstate Rensselaer County, N.Y. The Goold family began selling apples there nearly a century ago, and Sue Goold Miller and her husband, Ed Miller, have used almost every trick in the book to keep their business healthy – selling cider, pies, pumpkins, holding breakfasts, craft shows, school tours, even sponsoring a 5-kilometer run on their grounds.

Now, they’re established the Brookview Station label for a semi-dry apple wine. They're giving it to friends and family while they await action on their bid to get state permission to become a farm winery.

Others fruit farms in New York have done the same thing. Warwick Valley Winery in Orange County, 70 miles from midtown Manhattan, makes hard cider and apple port. The Winery at Marjim Manor in Niagara County in the western part of the state has a variety of fruit wines such as apples, pears, cranberries and plums.

Grapes are delicate creatures, thus the use of other fruits in winemaking adds to the business potential for business people in more rugged climes.

North Rivery Winery in Jacksonville, Vt., for example, has carved out a solid place in the non-grape world.

There, rhubarb, raspberry, apple, and pear wines are made. Proprietors Curt and Wendy Barr have done so well since opening in 1985 that they expanded to a second facility, opening the Ottauquechee Valley Winery in nearby Quechee.

At the Three Lakes Winery in the Wisconsin north woods, several generations of the McCain family have parlayed what once was a hobby when they lived in Palo Alto, Calif., into a serious commercial wine business.

It was in California that John and Maureen McCain began using fruit from several of the Japanese plum trees in their front yard, and that led to using other fruits and berries, which in turn led to establishing their winery in an area where John had long vacationed.

Not every fruit winery is located out in the country, of course.

Ferrin's Fruit Winery, in Carmel, Ind., is a scant 20 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. There, David and MaryAnn Ferrin do offer three wines they make, but the bulk of what they produce comes from pears, apples, cherries, cranberries, plums, raspberries and blueberries.

Given that there is at least one winery in every state, it's a safe bet to predict bothing but growth in the non-grape wine industry as more and more people try to make a financial go of it.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Bar Blog


Portugese grape crops destroyed

Get ready to pay higher prices for authentic port wine from Portugal.

Severe storms this week destroyed more than 4,200 acres of grapes in northern Portugal, according to the country's Agriculture Ministry. That leaves about 11,500 acres of grape production. Hail also fell in June last year, causing damage to hundreds of acres.

Heavy rain hit the country from Tuesday, causing floods and damage from north to the south of the country and injuring 16 in the northern town of Famalicao.

Agriculture Minister Jaime Silva said hailstones "the size of quail eggs" fell on crops on Wednesday in Alijo, Sao Joao da Pesqueira, Tabuaco and Sabrosa, four of the most important port-producing regions.

Several local officials, however, have said that up to 80 percent of the port wine crops in their districts was lost in the storms.

Portugal sold 24.7 million gallons of port wine last year, according to the Port and Douro Wines Institute (PDWI).

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Bar Blog


Berger lands a new perch

Dan Berger, the California wine writer who ranks among the upper echelons of our craft, is joining Appellation America as editor-at-large for the Internet-based wine portal.

Berger will concentrate on the emergence and redefinition of appellations and the importance of terroir in North America.

The full story is here.


'Wine can't be an antique, can it?'

That's the question the lady asked of Elmer P. Thinkwhile.

You might enjoy his answer. Especially if you're curious about wine collecting.

The noted antiques dealer's ruminations on vintage wines are available here on Wayne Mattox's "Antique Talk" Web site,


Europe's wine woes getting worse

Too much of a good thing can be a problem. Just ask Europe's wine producers.

Wines from the "New World" have become such a consumer favorite in the United Kingdom that drastic measures are being taken.

As reported by The Times of London, "The unquenchable desire of Britons for New World wines has forced Brussels to order nearly a billion bottles of French and Italian wine to be turned into fuel and disinfectant. The European Commission will then spend US$3.03 billion digging up vineyards across the continent.

"The drastic measures to drain Europe’s swelling wine lake come as winemakers across the Continent face a seemingly unstoppable invasion of cheaper and more consistent wines from Australia, Chile, the US and South Africa. Wine critics say it is an inevitable result of French wine producers not adapting to demand."

(Read the full story here.)

Meanwhile, this report from New Zealand deals with the Australian wine glut that is forcing prices of Aussie wines down and affecting other markets:

A flood of cheap Australian wine and intense retail competition mean it is a great time to buy wine but not such a good time to be selling it. Some New Zealand winemakers say Australia's glut is dragging prices down in local and export markets.

"We are definitely feeling an impact from the wine glut – not only in New Zealand, but we are seeing quite a profound effect in the UK market," said Erica Crawford, general manager at Kim Crawford Wines. "Prices have just fallen through the bottom ... . We've noticed this in the last two quarters in the UK. It's so cheap from Australia other countries don't get a look in."

(Read that story here.)

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Bar Blog


Let it breath, heavily

The last time I reported on Natalie Oliveros, the porn star/promoter was talking up her Savanna Sogo Uno red wine.

Oliveros, 31, the expatriate New Yorker who is known to her fans as adult video actress Savanna Samson ("The New Devil in Miss Jones") had received a score of 90-91 out of 100 from wine guru Robert Parker for her Italian red.

Now comes word the entrepreneurial Ms. Oliveros will be stripping off the veil from her white blend, a performance scheduled for Wednesday, June 14, in conjunction with the premire in New York of the HBO porn documentary "Thinking XXX," at the Hotel On Rivington.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Bar Blog


Sip transit glorious Finger Lakes

One of the problems with the rapidly expanding number of wineries in New York's Finger Lakes is tourism.

Not that the area doesn't want visitors. Just the opposite. Trouble is, too many of them are potentially dangerous drivers as they move from winery to winery, tasting their wares.

Some enterprising types have been offering a combination of a rental car complete with driver, and even a linkup to a bed-and-breakfast with that service. However, that doesn't do much for the many boaters who pull up to shore and want to visit more tha one winery but have no wheels.

Thus, the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce has begun offering weekend bus tours to local wineries -- four wineries on the west side of Cayuga Lake on Saturday, and four on the west side of Seneca Lake on Sunday.

"The wine tour was in response to boaters coming in not being able to get a limousine or a rental car because they were booked up for the weekend. So they were stuck in the harbor," said Dominic Christopher, the Chamber's executive director. "We're ready for big groups anytime."

Traffic is particularly heavy during the summer months when boaters show up at the state's canal system harbor in Seneca Falls. For $25, they now can take the bus right at the harbor. Of course, the weekend tours, which began June 3 and will run through Oct. 8, aren't limited to boaters. They're available to anyone on a space-available basis.

Meanwhile, a trackless Wine Tour Trolley will also be offering a similar service for visitors in the Geneva area starting Saturday, June 10.

Mike Fitzgerald, who owns a limousine and private tour coach service, bought the trolley which had been used in tourism businesses in New Orleans and Buffalo. Tours on the 26-seat vehicle will cover five wineries in a six-hour period through Dec. 2 at $45 per person.

To Dowd's Spirits Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Wine Notebook latest entry.
To Dowd's Brews Notebook latest entry.
Back to Dowd's Bar Blog


NY Wine Center sets opening day

The New York Wine & Culinary Center will open to the public on Saturday, June 17.

Executive Director Alexa Gifford calls the $7.5 million facility perched on the shore of Canandaigua Lake the "physical and electronic gateway to New York's food, wine and agriculture."