20101227

Brown-Forman may sell off a winery

BILL DOWD PHOTO
A tractor driver at a Sonoma-Cutrer vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

In the wake of news that Constellation Brands has sold 80% of its stake in its wine holdings comes news that beverage giant Brown-Forman Corp. is exploring “strategic alternatives” for its Mendocino County, CA, wine holdings.

However, a spokesman for Brown-Forman, best known to the public for its Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey, Woodford Reserve bourbon and Finlandia vodka, said the Louisville, KY, company has no plans to sell its Sonoma County winery, Sonoma-Cutrer.

"We concluded we’re very pleased with its brand-building model and that it can continue to do well in our hands," spokesman Phil Lynch told the Santa Rose, CA, Press-Democrat.

Brown-Forman says it is exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, for the Fetzer winery, bottling facility and vineyards in Mendocino County and its other Hopland-based brands.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported Brown-Forman was putting its wine business on the block after several years of sluggish sales.

(Go here for a report on my visit to Sonoma-Cutrer at harvest time.)

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Adulterated Chinese wines seized

In what is no shock to anyone aware of the adulterated products China keeps pumping into the global marketplace, several wineries in what is referred to as "China's Bordeaux region" have been shut down and bottles of their wines pulled from stores after authorities found wine containing several chemical additives.

A report on Chinese state television today said the incident in Changli county in the central province of Hebei -- where a third of China's domestic wines are produced -- showed wineries were doctoring their beverages with sugar water, coloring agents and artificial flavorings, and then falsely using famous brand names.

Huang Weidong, an industry expert, said the additives could cause cardiac irregularities and headaches, and possibly are carcinogenic.

"We are highly concerned about this behavior. To ensure safety measures, we have already started to remove the suspected wines from the shelves," a spokesman for Beijing area Wal-Mart stores told the Global Times newspaper.

The Xinhua news agency reported that provincial authorities had shut down nearly 30 wineries and corporate financial accounts have been frozen.

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20101225

Constellation sells off wine supremacy

VICTOR, NY — New York State used to be home to the world’s No. 1 wine producer. That no longer is the case.

Constellation Brands, headquartered in this Rochester suburb, has announced it is selling 80% of its British and Australian wine operations to a private equity firm in Australia for $230 million. That makes Gallo the world’s largest wine producer.

Constellation Brands continues to own Robert Mondavi wines in California, along with such brands as Svedka vodka and such beers as Corona from Mexico, Tsingtao from China and St. Pauli Girl from Germany.

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20101222

Study: Wine shipments won't tempt youths

From the Washington Examiner:

A report from Maryland's comptroller found that allowing shipment of wine from out of state does not contribute to underage drinking, deflating the most comment argument for the state's current ban -- and lawmakers are already lining up to repeal the law.

Comptroller Peter Franchot also found that shipment from out-of-state wineries would not hurt the local liquor industry, although imports from out-of-state retailers could have an impact.

His office examined the 37 states that allow direct shipment along with the District, and identified practices that minimize the risk of underage alcohol consumption. For example, packages should be labeled as containing alcohol, and services such as FedEx and UPS should deliver only to adults 21 or over.

But minors generally were not interested in abusing a direct-ship system to get an illegal fix, said Joseph Shapiro, spokesman for the comptroller's office.

"Their No. 1 one concern is immediacy," Shapiro said. "Your parents are going out of town this weekend, let's have a party, that type of thing. With direct ship, the shipment just takes too long."

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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20101221

A wine business on the block

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — There may be two more wine businesses up for sale as some parts of the industry struggle with weak sales volumes and pricing.

Brown-Forman Corp., the maker of Jack Daniel's whiskey, is putting its wine business on the block, The Wall Street Journal reported online late Monday, citing unnamed sources. The company, based in Louisville, KY, has reportedly hired Rothschild to run the auction process after its wine business -- which includes brands such as Fetzer and Bonterra Vineyard -- delivered sluggish sales for several years.

The deal could fetch a few hundred million dollars, according to the report. Brown-Forman and Rothschild declined to comment.

The paper also said that people familiar with matter expect Constellation Brands Inc. to sell the bulk of its non-U.S. wine business to an unknown buyer as soon as this week. That deal is reportedly valued between $300 and $400 million.

Constellation Brands, based in Victor, NY, did not return calls seeking comment.

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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20101216

Veritas' return stars Châteauneuf-du-Pape

NEW YORK -- The Big Apple's largest commercial wine cellar is again available for consumer now that Veritas has re-opened.

Park B. Smith's restaurant, which returned Tuesday after being revamped and re-staffed since the summer, has an immense wine list of 3,300 selections that range all over the globe and all over vintage years.

Smith's favorites are his Châteauneuf-du-Pape segment, which he is offering at discounted prices although most still will be costly, given their provenance. The wines, from the Rhône region of France, are from a variety of estates, including Domaine Pontifical and Domaine de la Mordorée.

Veritas, after dismissing its staff and locking its doors without public notice back in August, now offers New American fare rather than its former pricey a la carte menu. It is located in the Flatiron District at 43 East 20th Street, between Park Avenue South and Broadway. Phone: (212) 353-3700.

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Winds of controversy at NY winery

From BuffaloNews.com

CAMBRIA, NY -- The owners of Arrowhead Spring Vineyards are planning to sue the Town of Cambria over last week’s rejection of their request to install a wind power turbine on their property.

After a crowded public meeting showed solid opposition last Monday, the town Planning Board voted unanimously against the winery’s proposal.

Owners Duncan and Robin Ross said they shouldn’t have even had to go before the board in the first place, since they say state law is written to encourage windmills on agricultural properties. But, Planning Board Chairman William Amacher and attorney Gary Billingsley said the applicants misled the board by saying that the windmill would have powered only the wine making operation. Once the board found out the windmill also was going to power the Ross home on the site, the project no longer qualified for a simple site plan review under the town’s ordinance, Billingsley said.

That shouldn’t be a big deal, Robin Ross said. “Like 90% of farms in New York State, we have one electric meter,” she said.

“It does make a difference,” Billingsley said. “Under normal circumstances, [Arrowhead] would have needed a special use permit, which requires a public hearing. [Duncan Ross] said it was only for agricultural purposes, which requires only site plan review.”

To obtain a special use permit, a noise study also would be required, Billingsley said. Anonymous fliers distributed around the town helped drum up a hostile crowd.

[Go here for the full story.]

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A celebri-quote: Sofia Coppola

New York City-born Sofia Coppola, 39, daughter of iconic movie director Francis Ford Coppola and a very competent filmmaker in her own right, discussed her family's California winery during an interview with New York magazine's Grub Street staffers. 

Q: Your father owns a vineyard. Do you ever take any interest in that at all?

A: In the vineyard?

Q: Yes, or in the wine-making process. Are you into that at all?

A: Yeah. My brother made a wine, and I don’t know as much about it as I feel like I should, but I’m going there for the holidays, and I love to be involved in it and visit and see what they’re making. I’m learning. ...

Q: Does anybody stomp on grapes there?

A: Not anymore, but there’s a bottle somewhere from when we first moved there. I was a little kid and stomped on some grapes, and they bottled it and called it Lafitte Sofia. So there’s a bottle somewhere from 1977 or something. [Laughs.] It’s probably in our cellar somewhere. But we don’t stomp on the grapes anymore. It’s more high tech.

[You can read more comments in my Celebri-Quotes archive by clicking here.]

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1st 'Soiree des Grands Crus' set for January

NEW YORK -- Everything you wanted to know about Bordeaux wines may be at your fingertips in January, when 82 Mercer in SoHo hosts the first Soiree des Grands Crus, a social event and vintage wine tasting that will play host to 17 châteaux owners.

They are billed as the new generation of grands crus de Bordeaux estate owners. The wineries make up about 5% of the total production of wines produced in the Bordeaux region. Among featured estate wineries will be Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, Saint Julien, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Emilion and Pomerol.

Early Access tickets in very limited number are going for $250, with general admission tickets priced at $185.  Admission includes the fine food and wine pairing  event, featuring 23 Chateaux. Also included is free registration  and participation in the Wine Challenge to win Grands Crus de  Bordeaux. Tickets are available online.

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20101127

Musings on a different kind of bug

I was sitting around with some friends the other day, sipping on a lovely Finger Lakes wine and wondering aloud about malolactic fermentations.

OK, so I lied.

But, luckily for those of us who enjoy a lovingly constructed wine, there are people who do think about such things, Take Peter Bell (right), for example. He's the winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards, located on the west side of Seneca Lake, midway between Geneva and Penn Yan. He writes on the vineyard's blog:

"People often stop me on the street and say, 'What do winemakers talk about in late November?' Well, probably the number-one question we ask of each other in this profession is 'So, d’ya getcher deer?'
"Just kidding. It’s 'How are your MLs doing?' MLs in this case are winemaker shorthand for malolactic fermentations. You may recall seeing a picture ... in an earlier post, initiating the process ... with little cups of freeze-dried bacteria. That was a few weeks ago. By now, our MLs are either well under way or wrapped up entirely.
"What’s the point of this procedure? A guaranteed modest reduction in the acidity of the wine, associated with the conversion of malic acid to lactic, is rarely a bad thing in our cool climate. But we also expect an increase in aroma and flavor complexity."

That may be a nugget of wine knowledge many of you didn't have before. Now you do, and it's a fascinating process. You can read the full blog entry by clicking here.

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20101126

Pinot Noir again No. 1 in New Zealand

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- A 2009 Pinot Noir has been  named "Champion Wine of the Show" in New Zealand's premier competition, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

Peregrine Wines' Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 joined its 2008 Riesling -- a winner announced earlier -- among gold medal wines. The facility itself also won the trophy for Champion Open Red Wine.

Steve Smith, chair of judges, said the Peregrine pinot noir was "the finest example of the finest red wine variety in this country" with "wild flowers, thyme and black fruits on the nose."

The question about such awards from many consumers usually is, can I actually find it at my wine merchant? In this case, chances apparently are good.

Grey Hay, co-owner and marketing director of Peregrine, said winning the trophy in the open red wine category was equally important as it meant the pinot noir was produced in a volume that made it available to the public in a reasonable quantity.

"It's not a small volume selection." he said. "That is our standard pinot noir that has been made to that quality. It's a wine that the public can get access to quite easily."

This is the second consecutive year a pinot noir has claimed top honors at the awards, which are organized by New Zealand Winegrowers. You can access the full list of winner here.

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Burgundy auction posits higher prices

• From the Reuters news service

Prices for Burgundy wine jumped by more than a fifth at the 150th annual Beaune Hospices charity auction Sunday, with growers hailing a high quality vintage and a recovery in foreign demand.

The sale of wines from the Hospices domaine, conducted by auction house Christie's, traditionally gives an indication of price trends for the latest vintage and is one of the highlights of the French wine calendar. ...

Burgundy, where viticulture stretches back to at least Roman times and was nurtured during the Middle Ages by Catholic monasteries, is home to some of the world's most expensive wines. Its vineyards nestle in the valleys and slopes west of the Saone River, a tributary of the Rhone in eastern France.

Growers said the 2010 vintage produced unusually low volumes due to a late harvest and small, intensely flavored grapes.

"The very rare coincidence of these two phenomena suggests a high quality vintage," said Roland Masse, manager of the Hospices de Beaune domaine.

[Go here for the full Reuters report.]

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20101124

Former USSR state making whiskey

ABC photo

The former Soviet Union republic of Azerbaijan is about to become the first whiskey producer in the Caucus region of Central Asia.

Naig Mammadhasanov (right), general director of the wine-centric beverage company Tovuz-Baltia, told the Azerbajian Business Center's ABC news office that the company has just begun entering the market.

It plans to finish 15,000 bottles by the end of this year, and "the future will depend on market reaction to our new product. At the same time, German businessmen have already expressed interest in whiskey of our production. They say that there is demand for such output."

Tovuz-Baltia already exports 80% of its other output to European Union and and Commonwealth of Independent States markets in Europea and Asia. Only 20% is sold in-country.

The company was founded in December 1989 and focuses primarily on the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine and wine products such as cognac. However, Tovuz-Baltiya has recently introduced new technology and is producing fruit- and berry-based wines and spirits.

"We decided against bringing spirits from Ukraine, Iran and Russia and are producing vodka with our own raw materials. We have started the production of a new brand of alcohol from watermelon, quince, pomegranate and other fruits," Mammadhasanov said.

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Guest comment: Texas victory needs asterisk

By Fred LeBrun
Albany Times Union

ALBANY, NY -- Texas beat New York badly in the first Grape Gridiron Classic, held a couple of weeks ago in Dallas, but at least there should be an asterisk in the record book.

Just a month or so ago, the Texas Department of Agriculture came up with the idea for a friendly competition between these two wine-producing states, and it's a good one. Using a hurry-up offense, a Dallas-based wine educator and blogger, Jeff Siegel, and Texas wine blogger Russ Kane came up with 11 wines chosen from the 200 wineries in the Lone Star State. Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, picked New York's team.

The wine-to-wine blind taste-off in various red and white categories, with 40 Texas winemakers, sellers and members of the trade participating, took place at El Centro College the same evening the New York Giants were beating up the Dallas Cowboys.

Virginia wine consultant and blogger Richard Leahy and I were the non-Texas voters in the room, and I certainly agree that Texas beat us that night fair and square, wine against wine. We hang our heads.

However, here's why there's an asterisk.

[Go here for the rest of his commentary.]

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NY college, winery teaming up


Freedom Run Winery photo

 CAMBRIA, NY -- While some people are concerned about college students paying too much attention to alcoholic beverages, at Niagara County Community College the interest is being channeled in a positive way.

NCCC and Freedom Run Winery have entered into an agreement for the business to host a school vineyard and serve as the working lab for students studying "Winery Operations," the college’s newest two-year degree program. Also part of the effort is the Niagara Falls Culinary and Hospitality Institute.

The partnership, announced Monday at the winery (part of the tasting room is shown above), "is our first concrete step (in opening) the culinary institute," said NCCC President James Klyczek. "It’s a significant development."

The degree program will consist of 20% classroom work and 80% hands-on experience in all aspects of viniculture, from the planting of vines to picking and processing of the fruit through bottling and sale of finished wines, Klyczek said.

Freedom Run Winery donated an acre of land last spring on which the school's first 300 grape vines were planted. Half are Merlot, half are Chardonnay. Klyczek said the school’s long-term goal is to see wine produced under the Culinary Institute name and served and sold in its restaurant and its wine boutique which is stocked with Niagara Wine Trail wines.

"There’s a real need in Niagara County for anyone with winemaking experience," said Kurt Guba, cellar master for Freedom Run Winery. "It’s exciting to think you can study at a local college and get a job, a career, locally."

Niagara Falls Culinary and Hospitality Institute is to be the new focal point of the college's culinary and hospitality/tourism degree programs, sited in a section of the former Rainbow Mall in downtown Niagara Falls.

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Blowing the dust off a good find

Bill Dowd photo

Sometimes a wine gets lost in the cellar, under coats of dust and indifference. Sometimes they're well past their drinkability when re-discovered. Sometimes they're a pleasant surprise.

The creators of this red Bordeaux, a 60-40% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, said at the time of its release "It has excellent balance  and flavor which makes it enjoyable when young." What they didn't say -- or perhaps couldn't reliably predict -- was that it is enjoyable at the ripe old age of 13.

The northern Médoc region of France is recognized as an excellent terroir, with its fine gravel soil that allows strong root growth. As part of the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) of Bordeaux, its bold wines are noted for their longevity.

I found this cru bourgeois on a long-neglected shelf in my cellar while looking for something with some body to sip with Constant Companion on a chilly evening this week. We both were pleased with the rich, ruby color and the bold, fruity nose. On the palate, notes of blackberry and plum joined together to lead the way to a long, dry finish.

If you can find a bottle of this '97, seize the wine. Suggested retail price: About $25.

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20101122

Wine tips for holiday imbibers

Traditional dining centerpieces for American holiday tables are, by generations-long consensus, turkey for Thanksgiving and ham or roast beef for Christmas. Side dishes may vary, thus allowing for some individuality such as ethnic preferences or personal likes and dislikes. But, when it comes to the wines accompanying the feasts, we're all over the map.

Again, some of that has to do with personal preferences, but in my experience I've found that too often the wines are chosen to appeal more to people who rarely drink except at holiday gatherings. (As an oldtime comedian put it, I feel sorry for such people because when they get up in the morning that's as good as they're going to feel all day.)

I took an informal survey of wine vendors at the recent Pride of New York Harvest Fest held in Albany to see what New York State wines -- not necessarily made just with grapes -- they would suggest to appeal to such occasional drinkers as well as to people with more experienced palates sharing the meal with them. Here's what we came up with, along with my tasting notes from the event.

• Glenora Wine Cellars Cranberry Chablis ($9.99): This is part of Glenora's Fruit Series, and the cranberry aspect is perfect for a turkey dinner. The lightness of the chablis base is a nice starter before cranberry juice from concentrate is added. There is virtually none of the tartness one associates with cranberries; instead, there is a certain freshness and crispness to the concoction, with a slightly sweet and clean finish.

• Knapp  Loganberry ($9.95): The loganberry once was a staple of American home winemakers, but is a comparative rarity these days. Knapp, known for a wide variety of fruit wines, uses a Vidal Blanc base, then adds berry juice from concentrate. While the alcohol content is a touch higher than in many other fruit wines (6% vs. 4%), this is not a "hot" wine that might bother the less experienced imbiber. Fruit-forward taste, bold enough to stand up to those rich pies and cakes we serve as holiday desserts.

• Pazdar Blackberry ($15): This wine is strictly what its name says it is -- 100% blackberry, with no grape base. The deep, dark color and the crisp, satisfying taste of the berry makes this a great wine with heavier meats such as roasts, or even a good dessert wine that pairs wonderfully with chocolate.

• Anthony Road 2008 Cabernet Franc Lemberger ($17.99): This well-constructed blend has only been out a few weeks, and it is immediately drinkable. It will go with any menu, given its medium body, stone fruit notes and  hints of pepper and cocoa.

• Thousand Islands Winery Seaway Blues ($13.49): I was surprised by this wine, packaged in blue glass that gives no hint of the color or density before pouring. It's a potent blueberry style I'd recommend as a dessert wine that isn't terribly sweet (12% residual sugar) and has a clean finish one wants in a final wine note for the meal.

• Amici Vineyards Marechal Foch Frontenac ($13.99): This is an 80-20% blend of the two cold weather grapes. It provides both spice and tartness good in a main-dish wine. Smooth on the tongue, clean and lengthy finish.

• Heron Hill Eastern Wild Turkey Blush ($9.99): The winery's Game Bird Series offers red, white and now this delicate blend of Riesling and Cabernet Franc. It's a festive bright rosé pink color. Opening aromatic notes are a mix of florals, cranberry and citrus. Finishes clean with just a hint of spice.

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20100817

Oklahoma growers may leave grapes to rot

• From The Oklahoman's NewsOK website:

Harvest is under way at Oklahoma vineyards, but some grapes will be left to rot on the vine because of poor sales, growers said.

Mack Hayes quit watering some of his vines this summer when it became clear he wouldn't sell all his grapes to wineries.

"If you can't move them, there's no need to harvest them," said Hayes, owner of Ozark Grapes in Mayes County.

Andrew Snyder, president of the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association, said about 50 tons of grapes will go to waste this year because most Oklahoma wineries are buying bulk wine or juice concentrate from out of state to bottle and sell here. That's worth about $312,500 in unproduced wine.

"It's cheaper to buy bulk wine from California and put it in a bottle than it is to grow grapes in Oklahoma and bottle true Oklahoma wine," Snyder said. "There are enough Oklahoma grapes out there. It's just a business model decision that many wineries are making."

[Full story here.]

20100807

Pennsylvania wineries target world toasting record

Pennsylvania wineries are thinking big this month. Very big.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 14, concurrent wine tastings will be conducted in 30 counties across the state, linked by video for what is being billed as "The Great Pennsylvania Wine Toast."

Wine lover and motor of Nazareth, PA, will serve as toastmaster for the event, leading the crowds at 58 different locations in a simultaneous toast by video link under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Winery Association.

The current record is held by the United Kingdom. Last year, 17,429 participants at 400 pubs across the UK set that record by raising their wine glasses in unison.

Participating wineries:

Adams County:

Adams County Winery (Ortanna) (717-334-4631)
Hauser Estate (Biglerville) (717-334-4888)
Reids Orchard (Orrtanna) (717-677-7466)

Bedford County:
Briar Valley Winery (Bedford) (814-623-0900)

Berks County:
Blair Vineyards (Mertztown) (610-682-0075)
Kog Hill(Morgantown) (610-913-6609)
Long Trout Winery (Auburn) (570-366-6443)
Manatawny Creek Winery (Douglassville) (610-689-9804)
Pinnacle Ridge (Kuttown) (610-756-4481)

Bradford County:
Antler Ridge Winery (Rome) (570-247-7222)
Grovedale Winery (Wyalusing) (570-746-1400)
Laddsburg Mountain Winery (New Albany) (570-363-2476)

Bucks County:
Crossing Vineyards (Washington Crossing) (215-493-6500)
Sand Castle Winery (Erwinna) (800-PA2-WINE)

Butler County:
Rustic Acres (Butler) (724-283-6236)

Centre County:
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars (Spring Mills) (814-364-1000)

Chester County:

Black Walnut Winery (Sadsburyville) (610-857-5566)
Chaddsford Winery (Chadds Ford) (610-388-6221)
Paradocx Vineyard (Landenberg) (610-255-4159)

Clarion County:
Deer Creek Winery (Shippenville) (814-354-7392)

Clearfield County:
Evergreen Valley Winery (Luthersburg) (814-583-7575)
Stone Mountain Wine Cellars (Pine Grove) (570-739-4418)

Dauphin County:

Cullari Winery (Hershey) (717-533-8985)
Westhanover Winery (Harrisburg) (717-652-3711)

Erie County:
Arrowhead Wine Cellars (North East) (814-725-5509)
Courtyard Wineries (North East) (814-725-0236)
Heritage Wine Cellars (North East) (800-747-0083)
Lakeview Wine Cellars (North East) (814-725-4440)
Mazza Vineyards (North East) (800-796-9463)
Penn Shore Vineyards (North East) (814-725-8688)

Elk County:

Winery at Wilcox (Wilcox) (814-929-5598)

Fayette County:

Christian W. Klay (Chalk Hill) (724-439-3424)

Franklin County:
Tuscarora Mt. Winery (Chambersburg) (717-261-9463)

Indiana County:
Windgate Winery (Smicksburg) (814-257-8797)

Lancaster County:
Mt. Hope Winery (Manheim) (717-665-7021 x129)
Tamanend Winery (Lancaster) (717-560-9463)
Twin Brook Winery (Gap) (717-442-4915)

Lehigh County:
Blue Mountain Winery (New Tripoli) (610-298-3068)
Clover Hill Winery (Breinigsville) (1-888-CLOVERHILL)
Vynecrest Winery (Breinigsville) (800-361-0725)

Luzerne County:
Bartolai Winery (West Pittson) (570-388-8466)

McKean County:

Flickerwood Wine Cellars (Kane) (814-837-7566)

Mifflin County:
Brookmere Winery & Vineyard Inn (Belleville) (717-935-5380)

Montgomery County:
Boyd's Cardinal Hollow Winery (North Wales) (215-661-9580)

Northampton County:

Amore Winery (Nazareth) (610-837-1334)
Franklin Hill Vineyards(Bangor) (610-588-8708)

Perry County:
Hunters Valley Winery (Liverpool) (717-444-7211)

Schuylkill County:

Benigna's Creek (Klingerstown) (570-425-3090)
Galen Glen Winery (Andreas) (570-386-3682)

Snyder County:
Shade Mountain Winery (Middleburg) (570-837-3644)

Sullivan County:
Eagle Rock Winery (Laporte) (570-946-7767)
Winterland Winery (Lopez) (570-928-7771)

Westmoreland County:

Greendance, The Winery at Sand Hill (Mount Pleasant) (724-547-6500)

York County:

Allegro Vineyards (Brogue) (717-927-9148)
High Rock Winery (Hanover) (717-633-1288)
Hummingbird Ridge Winery (York Haven) (717-315-0209)
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery (Wrightsville) (717-252-WINE)
Naylor Wine Cellars (Stewartstown) (800-292-3370)

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20100805

Poll: Drinking moves from bars to homes

From TIME magazine

When the going gets tough, the tough, um, go drinking. That's the word from a new Gallup poll showing that 67% of Americans are hitting the bottle, the most since 1985. Another sign of challenging economic times: more and more of those rounds are happening in the kitchen, not at the corner pub.

A new report by Mintel International, a market-research firm, shows that a growing number of Americans are guzzling down wine and spirits at home as opposed to in bars and restaurants, and many are trading down to cheaper brands as they seek fiscally conscious ways to party in a sluggish economy.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20100721

Stone Hill tops in Missouri again

COLUMBIA, MO -- Stone Hill Winery has emerged as winner of the Missouri Governor's Cup wine competition for the second consecutive year.

The cup is awarded to what the judges claim is the best wine in Missouri. It went to Stone Hill's 2009 Vignoles at the Missouri Wine Competition that drew 242 entries from 35 Missouri wineries last week.

The Governor's Cup-winning Vignoles was selected from a field of 12 "Best of Class" honorees:

 Sparkling -- Brut, Les Bourgeois Vineyards
• Dry White -- 2009 Dry Vignoles, Stone Hill Winery
• Semi-Dry White -- 2009 Steinberg White, Stone Hill Winery
• Sweet White -- 2009 Vignoles, Stone Hill Winery
• Dry Red -- 2008 Cross J Vineyard Norton, Stone Hill Winery
• Semi-Dry Red -- 2009 Steinberg Red, Stone Hill Winery
• Sweet Red -- Mellow Red, Pirtle Winery
• Blush -- 2009 Spring Rose, Chaumette Winery
• Fruit -- Blackberry Mead, Pirtle Winery
• Late Harvest/Ice -- 2008 Late Harvest Vignoles, Stone Hill Winery
• Dessert/Fortified -- 2006 Port, Stone Hill Winery
• Distilled -- Peach Eau de Vie Brandy, Montelle Winery

"Vignoles wines are made from one of Missouri's most versatile grapes," said Missouri Wine and Grape Board Executive Director Jim Anderson (shown above with Danene Beedle, marketing director). "This award symbolizes Stone Hill's commitment to their industry, the quality of a true Vignoles and excellence in winemaking."

The awards were based on blind tastings by 10 judges from around the U.S, including two from California and two from New York. Judges awarded 41 gold, 75 silver medals and 72 bronze medals during the two-day competition. A complete list of medalists is available online.

This year's award-winning wines will be on display in the Agriculture Building at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia from August 12 to 22.

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20100711

South Dakota wineries emerging

The other day on another of my blogs, I posted a report on wine sales in New York that contained a comment about New York grapegrowers selling their produce to such offbeat places as South Dakota to make wine.

Even though I know there are wineries in every state in the nation, I confess to not knowing much about such enterprises in South Dakota. So, I went in search of information.

Here's the opening information I found in a story in the Sioux Falls, SD, Argus-Leader about a brand-new winery that brought me very much up to date:

"At the edge of a corn field, in the middle of what looks like an endless prairie, a sign advertises 'winery' in block lettering. An arrow points down a gravel road, which leads to White Headed Robin The winery is housed in a red barn built in the 1940s. Inside, a fully-stocked wine rack holds fruit wines with custom-designed labels and names like 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' and 'Pi,' pear and cherry wines. ...

"Most people don't associate South Dakota with grapes or wineries. But wineries and vineyards dot the state, from Belle Fourche to Brandon. Last year, South Dakota had 16 farm wineries, according to South Dakota State University's Agriculture Experiment Station."

If your curiosity has been piqued, you can go here for the full story.

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20100707

Wine Institute picks international trade head

The Wine Institute has appointed a successor to its retired director of international trade policy.

Tom LaFaille (right), who had been member relations director, succeeds Joseph Rollo, who retired as of June 30.

The Wine Institute represents more than 1,000 California wineries and related companies. It functions as the trade association and lobbying group for its members.

LaFaille, a lawyer, will work with state and federal government agencies and industry groups to reduce foreign wine trade barriers and open new markets overseas, according to the Institute, representing the California wine industry on the World Wine Trade Group, the USDA’s Agriculture Trade Advisory Committee, the California Council for International Trade and other groups. He also will manage the Wine Institute’s International Public Policy Committee and serve on the institute’s Technical Advisory Committee.

Britta Purcell, who had been coordinator of member relations, succeeds LaFaille in the manager position.

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The 'sommelier's sip' -- service or impertinence?

From The New York Times

By ERIC ASIMOV

Stephen Silberling, a tax lawyer who considers himself a knowledgeable wine drinker, could not contain his astonishment as he told me of his recent experience in a New York restaurant. He had ordered a 2007 Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche, a wine he and his date had enjoyed so much the previous week that they decided to drink it again. As they sipped their first glass, however, they both thought the wine tasted different, and they debated whether it was flawed.

Listening to the conversation, the sommelier piped up.

"He said, 'I’ve tasted the wine, it’s fine,' "Mr. Silberling recalled. "He tasted the wine? I was very surprised. I had never heard of that being done before."

Few issues of wine etiquette seem to cause as much consternation as the increasingly common practice of a sommelier taking a small sip of wine, usually unbidden, to test for soundness. Diners often are surprised to learn that their bottle has in effect been shared with the restaurant, even if it’s just the smallest amount.

The practice, which is more common at high-end restaurants with ambitious wine lists, can make diners uncomfortable. Some believe the restaurant may be taking advantage of them by consuming wine that they have bought. Others feel demeaned, that their role of assessing the wine has been usurped.

[Go here for the full blog posting.]


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20100706

PA starts wine kiosk trial program

From United Press International

HARRISBURG, PA -- Pennsylvania is testing the sale of wine at supermarket kiosks and a state lawmaker is pushing legislation to auction off of 750 liquor licenses.

Under the plan unveiled by state Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, the wholesale and retail operation of the liquor control board would be privatized and auctioning of the liquor licenses to grocery stores would bring in an estimated $2 billion to state coffers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Two Harrisburg-area supermarkets have begun selling wine at kiosks under a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board pilot program.

Under the trial process, customers insert their driver's license into a slot to show they're of drinking age while a board official at an office in Harrisburg verifies they're the same persons pictured on the licenses, the newspaper said.

Then the customers blow into a Breathalyzer to ensure their blood-alcohol level is below 0.02.

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20100701

Tomasello named NJ's top winery

• From the Press of Atlantic City (NJ):

HAMMONTON, NJ -- Tomasello Winery, the largest in New Jersey and the state’s Winery of the Year this year, has the kind of great entrepreneur story at its beginning often found in family-owned businesses.

Truck farmer Frank Tomasello got to know about the success of Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City when a neighbor married into that family, said Charlie Tomasello, president of the Hammonton winery.

Frank Tomasello’s homemade wine was pretty good, his grandson said, and he was already growing grapes and selling them to New York State wineries.

So as soon as Prohibition ended, Frank Tomasello got in his truck, drove through a storm storm and got in line to get one of the first winery licenses newly available -- No. 68.

Then all it took was decades of hard work, first by him and from the mid-1940s by his sons, Charles Tomasello Sr. and Jack Tomasello, to grow the business by expanding its wine selection and the outlets for it.

What it took to be named Winery of the Year for the first time this year by the Garden State Wine Growers Association was quality work and some fortunate timing, Charlie Tomasello said.

The association awards the honor based on the total score in its annual winemaking competition, so a winery can have medal-winning wines year after year but not enough to reach the top.

“When you have a really special year and have all of your wines firing at the same time, you end up with this combined score that wins you the award,” Tomasello said.

This year’s competition was very special for Tomasello Winery, which won three gold medals, five silver medals, two bronze and the Governor’s Cup for best dessert wine, its Vidal Ice Wine. The ice wine also won a gold medal, as did Tomasello’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and its raspberry wine.

[Go here for the remainder of the story.]

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20100625

Glenora's newest wine is in the bag

DUNDEE, NY -- Glenora Wine Cellars likes to rack up firsts.

It was the first winery founded on Seneca Lake and, on the Fourth of July, will be the first winery in the U.S. to adopt the environmentally friendly AstraPouch package.

Glenora will sell its new Trestle Creek Riesling in 1.5-liter pouches. They are manufactured in Penfield, Monroe County, by AstraPouch North America.

The pouches, which take the place of wine boxes, are made of multi-playered plastic and have a one-way spigot to prevent oxygen from seeping in. They measure about 7-by-10 inches, and are two inches thick when filled with the equivalent of two standard 750ml bottles.

Glenora is in the process of bagging the equivalent of 4,000 cases of Riesling at the winery. The first release will be in New York State by Empire Merchants North, as well as in the Glenora tasting room.

“Our next product will be a Chardonnay,” Glenora President Glen Pierce told Wines & Vines.com. “We have limited distribution in two or three other states, and we’re looking for interest. If it turns out as we hope, we’ll be looking for broader distribution.”

Glenora was opened in 1977 by Pierce, Eastman Beers, Edward Dalrymple and Howard Kimball. It now is owned by Pierce and Scott Welliver. The complex has expanded over the years to include a 30-room inn, a restaurant, and expanded tasting facilities. It was named the Tasters Guild International's "Winery of the Year" in 2009.

The complex is located at 5435 Route 14. Phone: (800) 243-5513. The retail shop is open every day except Christmas.

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20100618

Chardonnay is king in Washington state

From the Seattle PI:

Once again, Chardonnay is the king of Washington wine -- at least for now.

Last fall, grape growers crushed 33,400 tons of Chardonnay, the most ever in Washington. This pushed the famous white wine grape ahead of Riesling, which was the top Washington grape in 2008.

Chardonnay, made famous in France's Burgundy region, is the No. 1 white grape in California, too, where it often is made in a big, bold, buttery style.

Washington Chardonnay cannot necessarily be defined in any particular way. It can be rich like California or bright and crisp like Chablis (the French version, not the faux California plonk that isn't actually Chardonnay).

Buttery styles of Chardonnay typically are fermented in oak barrels and aged sur lie, meaning the spent yeast and other sediment are left in the barrel and periodically stirred. This provides a certain level of richness on the palate.

Brighter, crisper styles of chardonnay now are in fashion because of a consumer backlash to the buttery versions. Often, these are aged in stainless steel tanks for just a few months before being bottled and sent to store shelves.

[Go here for the blog's recommended Washington Chardonnays.]

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20100616

NY's first 'wine Automat' a new treat

Those of us of a certain image fondly remember the chain of Horn & Hardart Automats, those wonderful food-vending cafeterias that allowed us to pop a handful of coins in a slot and get treats dispensed to us in return.

I was reminded of them by the new wine vending machines at Corks & More, 708 West Buffalo Street on the West End Waterfront in Ithaca, NY.

Customers pop in a debit card in and get wine — by the taste, by the half-glass or the full glass. It is the only such operation in New York State.

Ten vending machines dispense 40 different wines, ranging from Opus One ($50 a glass) to local Red Cat (75 cents a taste) from Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. The devices are made by Napa Technology.

The California company also offers a scaled-down version for home use at about $5,000. You can get the details online.

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20100528

Dr. Frank romps in International Eastern test››

WATKINS GLEN, NY -- Dr. Konstantin Frank took four major medals, best among all wineries, in the annual International Eastern Wine Competition just completed here.

The Finger Lakes winemaker's 2008 Riesling Bunch Select Late Harvest took top honors in four categories --- Best of Varietal and Best Dessert Wine, plus Best Sweet Riesling and the overall Riesling Championship, the latter two in a subsidiary Riesling competition.

As seems to be a growing trend in domestic wine competitions, nearly three-quarters of the entries won some sort of award, with 1,144 medals (44 Double Gold, 151 Gold, 399 Silver and 558 Bronze) awarded to a field of 1,600 entries submitted by wineries in 37 American states and three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec) as well as Argentina, Australia, Chile, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain.

The event, held each May in the Finger Lakes, is a production of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine.

Sweepstakes winners, by category:

BEST OF VARIETAL


• Bogle, 2008 Chardonnay, California (State Appellation), $9

• Ferrante Winery, 2008 Gewurztraminer, Grand River Valley (AVA), $15

• Dr. Konstantin Frank, 2008 Riesling, Finger Lakes (AVA), Bunch Select Late Harvest, $69.99

• Oliver Winery, 2009 Pinot Grigio, America (Lodi and Columbia Gorge AVAs) $12.50

• Domaine Laurier Winery, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County (County Appellation), Reserve, $9.99

• Trecini Winery, 2007 Merlot, Russian River Valley (AVA), $28

• Cross Keys Vineyards, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Shenandoah Valley (AVA), $21

• Napa Ridge Winery, 2007 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley (AVA), $12.99

• Jeff Runquist Wines, 2008 Primitivo, Amador County (County Appellation), Nostro Vino Vineyard, $26

• Balistreri Vineyards, 2008 Sangiovese, Grand Valley (AVA), Talbott Vineyard, $22

• Lost Bars, 2007 Icewine, Okanagan Valley (DVA), VQA, $38

BEST OF CATEGORIES


• Best White Wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen, 2008 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley (AVA), $24

• Best Red Wine: Napa Ridge Winery, 2007 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley (AVA), $12.99

• Best Dessert Wine: Dr. Konstantin Frank, 2008 Riesling, Finger Lakes (AVA), Bunch Select Late Harvest, $69.99

• Best Fruit Wine: Ackerman Winery, 2009 Raspberry, Iowa (State Appellation), $9.95

RIESLING CHAMPIONSHIP


• Riesling Champion: Dr. Konstantin Frank, 2008 Riesling, Finger Lakes (AVA), Bunch Select Late Harvest, $69.99

• Beat of Class: Eagle Crest Vineyards, 2009 Riesling Dry, Finger Lakes (AVA), $12.99

• Best Semi-Dry Riesling: Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen, 2008 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley (AVA), $24.00

• Best Semi-Sweet Riesling: Chateau LaFayette Reneau, 2009 Riesling Semi-Dry, Finger Lakes (AVA), Estate, $14.99

• Best Sweet Riesling: Dr. Konstantin Frank, 2008 Riesling, Finger Lakes (AVA), Bunch Select Late Harvest, $69.99

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20100524

Iowa's Swine Festival welcoming outsider wines

From the Des Moines Register:

The private party is over for Iowa wineries.

Vintners from ouside of Iowa will pour their wines on June 5 at an annual benefit in Ankeny, the Swine Festival. Swine has previously been billed as a showcase exclusively for Iowa wines along with gourmet pork dishes prepared by local chefs.

None of the 10 Iowa wine-making participants are worried about this party being crashed, said Doug Bakker, owner of Madison County Winery, immediate past-president of the Iowa Wine Growers Association and a Swine event organizer.

"One of the worst things they do in some situations is stick all the Iowa wines together," he said. "If they put us between some California wines and French wines, you might get some people to try us and say, 'You know what, this is really surprisingly good.' "

But having the confidence to jump into the ring with out-of-state heavyweights is not a signal that Iowa wine makers feel they can go toe-to-toe with wines from elsewhere, winery owners agree.

"I think we still have a ways to go," Summerset Winery's Ron Mark said of the Iowa wine industry. "But, I also think we're hitting more and more of the right notes."

Iowa wine sales increased from 50,422 gallons to 87,726, or 74 percent, from 2007 to 2009. With 72 licensed wineries in the state, according to Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division records, the sales total represents an average of about 1,200 gallons per winery.

Some wineries are faring better than others. Over the past few years, an elite class of Iowa wineries has emerged.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20100523

Vintage Indiana coming up fast

Vintage Indiana is expected to draw more than two dozen state wineries when the annual festival is held Saturday, June 5, in downtown Indianapolis.

The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Military Park, also will feature about a dozen restaurants as well as live entertainment, art, kids’ activities and educational programs. A crowd upwards of 10,000 is expected.

One sidenote: This is the first Vintage Indiana since the Indiana Wine Grape Council named Traminette the official state grape. Look for a number of expressions of that particular hybrid, developed at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

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A celebri-quote: Dan Akyroyd

• Canadian actor/entrepreneur Dan Aykroyd has been so busy of late pushing his Crystal Head brand vodka some people might forget his first foray into adult beverages was his line of Dan Aykroyd Wines. When he was told Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan were allowed to have free beer but had to pay for wine for their two-drinks-a-month allotment, he quickly reacted by having hundreds of bottles of his wines shipped from Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits Ltd., located in Niagara-On-the-Lake, Ontario, to Afghanistan free. The Canadian Press asked for his comment on the move.

"I was on board the moment Diamond Estates mentioned their support of our troops with Dan Aykroyd Wines.

"This is a very proud moment for me as a Canadian and I hope these wines can inspire some light-hearted times during this difficult mission for our armed forces."

The wine donation will last for the duration of Canada's military commitment there, which will expire in 2012.

[Note: Aykroyd recently sold his one millionth bottle of vodka.]

[Go here for more celebri-quotes.]

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20100503

Wineries Unlimited shifting venues

Wineries Unlimited, the second largest vineyard and winery conference and trade show in North America, will be held in Richmond, VA, next year, ending a 34-year run in Pennsylvania.

Wineries Unlimited 2011 is scheduled for March 29 through April 1, about three weeks later in the season than recent shows.

Event organizers said the venue change was made because "the more southerly location and later dates are expected to provide better weather conditions for attendees traveling from other states."

The last four editions of Wineries Unlimited were held at the Valley Forge Convention Center in suburban Philadelphia. A number of previous shows were located in Lancaster, PA.

The event has been produced since 1976 by the wine trade publication Vineyard & Winery Management.

Annette Boyd, marketing office director of the Virginia Wine Board, said the move will create new opportunities for Virginia wineries.

"Our growers and producers will have better access to the information provided by Wineries Unlimited, and the event will help showcase their wines to colleagues from other states."

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20100426

Aussie wine grape woes continue

If you're paying top dollar for Australian wines, you may want to consider patronizing a different wine merchant.

The ongoing economic woes are continuing Down Under. According to Mark McKenzie of the organization Wine Grape Growers Australia:

"Really it's more around the fact that that lower volume coupled with the worst price position for wine grape growers in terms of the wine grape prices they're receiving in real terms which are the worst in living memory, that is what's causing the financial crisis in the wine grape sector at the moment."

In an effort to stabilize grape supply, nearly 20,000 acres of vines have been uprooted in the Murray Valley and Riverland areas. In the past two years, an oversupply and a dip in prices has wreaked havoc with the industry.

Australia has an estimated 95 million cases of unsold wine.

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20100418

Ontario tax may impact NY grapegrowers

Any New York wine grape growers who have been selling their produce to neighboring Ontario winemakers might find that revenue source endangered.

“The Ontario provincial government has set up a huge greenbelt around Toronto, and now, through a selective tax increase on low-cost blended wines made partly from foreign wines, is trying to encourage people to sip pricier products made entirely from local grapes,” reports the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper.

“The goal: to boost the fortunes of grape growers while ensuring the future of agricultural land -- to keep it from sprouting subdivisions.

“But the big wineries aren’t convinced. They say the tax will lead consumers to buy even cheaper, totally foreign wines instead of their blended varieties, damaging their business and undermining farmland preservation.”

The issue has caused such a rift that Canadian companies selling blended wines have withdrawn from the Wine Council of Ontario, an industry group that backs the tax move, and created a rival trade organization.

The new tax amounts to about 62 cents on an $8 bottle. It goes into effect on July 1, and the $12 million expected to be raised annually is being aimed at promoting locally-sourced, upscale wines. The view of the government and boutique wineries is that to prosper, vintners should specialize in brands with a better pedigree, those labelled Vintners Quality Alliance, the appellation for premium domestic wines using 100% Canadian content.

You can read the complete Globe & Mail story here.

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Bill aims to halt direct alcohol shipping

From the Wine Spectator website:

The battle over whether consumers can order wine directly from wineries is moving to the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

Members of Congress yesterday [April 15] introduced a bill, HR 5034, that could end direct shipping of wine and other forms of alcohol in the United States, or at least put major roadblocks in front of lawsuits by consumers and wineries trying to reduce restrictions on direct shipping.

Wine Spectator obtained a copy of a draft of the bill on Wednesday [April 14], which was crafted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). It would strengthen state governments' control of alcohol sales, allowing them to protect the three-tier system of distribution while putting a much greater burden on people challenging it. ...

"The whole idea [behind the bill] is to make it prohibitively difficult for wineries and consumers to challenge discriminatory and irrational laws that have little or nothing to do with the protection of the public," said Kirkland & Ellis attorney Tracy Genesen, who has been the lead attorney on many direct-shipping lawsuits that have resulted in state alcohol laws being overturned.

[Go here for the full story.]


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20100407

VT winery fills GOP's 'office supplies' order

Forget the strip club party expenses that have made the news after a Republican National Committee expenditure filing with the Federal Election Commission. How about nearly $1,000 for "office supplies" from a Vermont winery?

The name of Boyden Valley Winery, located in Cambridge in rural northern Vermont, showed up in the expenditures column to the tune of $982. It was for 60 bottles of its Swedish-style Glogg, a spiced red wine, and was listed as "office supplies."

Boyden Valley Winery, which operates on a crossroads in the small town of Cambridge in rural northern Vermont and specializes in ice wines, turned up on a Republican party filing of expenditures with the Federal Election Commission.

"I'm a little annoyed that I'm tied to such an article," Boyden said in a Tuesday interview with the wire service. "We've worked really hard to ... have a wholesome image."

The winery is located in a restored 1875 carriage barn on the Boyden family farm. It encompasses 8,000 grapevines and 100 acres of maple trees tended by the family for four generations in the Lamoille River Valley.

Boyden Valley Winery is open year-round and welcomes visitors. Presumably, even Republicans.

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20100406

Inventor of wine box dead at 92

• From the Melbourne, Australia, Herald-Sun:

Winemaker and businessman John Angove remembers telling his father it was crazy to think anyone would buy wine sold in a plastic bag held inside a cardboard box.

Fortunately for consumers and perhaps the wine industry at large, Thomas Angove (right) didn't listen to his then-15-year-old son and pressed ahead with his idea to make wine cheaper.

The result was the early versions of the wine cask, a packaging concept that revolutionized wine marketing and has since spilled over into other sectors.

But Thomas Angove, 92, who passed away at his home ... on March 30 ... was much more than just the 1960s inventor of the wine cask. He will also be remembered as the man who introduced significant wine grape varieties to the Riverland and as a leading figure in the Australian brandy industry for much of his life.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20100401

Highway threatens Germany's Mosel wine region

From the New York Times wine blog

An ungainly highway project will put a four-lane, mile-long bridge right through some of the finest and most historic vineyards of the Mosel (or Moselle) wine region in Germany.

By all rights nature’s annual season of rebirth ought to inspire feelings of optimism and excitement. This year, however, thoughts of spring and the Mosel are bringing sadness instead, because of an ungainly highway project that would put a four-lane, mile-long bridge right through some of the finest and most historic vineyards of the Mosel.

It’s not just a proposal, either. Work on the highway has already begun, and several protests over the last couple of years have not deterred the supporters of the project, including Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Another protest, led by the British wine writer Hugh Johnson, is planned for Berlin on April 11.

[Go here for the complete story.]

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Another lawsuit over 'fake' rare wines

Last winter, I posted an item on billionaire wine collector William Koch's ire over what he claims are fake wines.

Koch (right) this week filed another lawsuit as part of his four-year-long crusade, claiming the auction house Christie’s International in New York ignored evidence of fakery in the 1980s when it marketed several bottles supposedly once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Christie’s denies the charges, calling them "incorrect."

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