Chardonnay

Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Serious modern winemaking took root several decades ago in Pennsylvania, but a handful of small wineries just outside Philadelphia's western suburbs are expanding well beyond the presumed limits for Keystone State wine. This third post takes a quick look at three wineries a short drive from Philadelphia. One challenges conventional thinking about Italian grapes for Eastern Seaboard winemaking. Nestled in a suburban neighborhood, another proves that “backyard winery” is not just a California phenomenon. And yet another is systematically proving that Pennsylvania can produce wines that age beautifully into a voluptuous maturity. Vineyards speak for themselves at Vox Vineti Ed Lazzerini refers to Vox Vineti (Latin for “voice of the vineyard”) as a nano-winery because it produces 200-300 cases per year. But the vines are...Read More
Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

William Penn must be smiling somewhere. With more optimism than horticultural knowhow, the Quaker son of an English admiral planted a Philadelphia vineyard of French wine grapes in 1683. They soon died off, and what wine Pennsylvania made until the 20th century was largely vinted from native labrusca grapes. There are accounts that some Pennsylvania wine was well-received in London in the 1760s, but the correspondent might have been merely polite. There's no longer any need to cut Pennsylvania wine special slack. I spent part of a week in September touring nine outstanding wineries in eastern Pennsylviania. While these nine represent just 3 percent of the Keystone State's wineries, they demonstrate that Pennsylvania has the potential to make major league wines that can compete with...Read More
Kontokosta and Sparkling Pointe: North Fork’s lifestyle wineries

Kontokosta and Sparkling Pointe: North Fork’s lifestyle wineries

Just as there are no ugly babies, there are really no ugly vineyards. But let's grant that some vineyards—and definitely some wineries—are grander than others. And why shouldn't the folks who can afford it exchange vows by the vines? We also suspect that corporate retreats go better when accompanied by a little wine. Which brings us to Kontokosta and Sparkling Pointe, two of the North Fork wineries that seem very much in sync with the lifestyle aspirations of Long Island's South Fork. Kontokosta makes a terrific first impression If you visit the North Fork, as we did, via the Orient Point ferry, Kontokosta (825 North Road, Greenport; 631-477-6977; theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery) is the first winery to appear along the main road. The winery and vineyards are perched...Read More
Lenz Winery’s finesse whites still set North Fork standard

Lenz Winery’s finesse whites still set North Fork standard

A British friend once told us that Americans have too many choices. He was referring to ice cream, but it's equally true of Long Island wineries. More than 40 producers welcome the public for tastings so it can be difficult to narrow the field to fit a couple of days. We knew, however, that we wanted to start with Lenz Winery (lenzwine.com). For years, we've been telling people that Lenz makes some of the best Burgundy-style Chardonnay on the East Coast. We certainly hoped that was still true. In a word, yes. Lenz was one of the North Fork pioneers. Its first vineyards date from 1978, which makes the promise of the “Old Vines” series much more than a hollow boast. (Wines in the series...Read More
Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

We've been drinking Gruet wines for about 25 years now, and we hope to keep drinking them another 25. That would be something to celebrate—which is appropriate for an American winery that produces sparkling wines that rival good Champagne. Quality can always be had at a premium price, but entry-level Gruet Brut starts at $15. That's hard to beat, even if you step down to bulk-process California sparklers. The top of the line—a grand rosé that sits three years on the lees—is only $39. (Those are winery prices.) When we're in Gruet country, we always try to stop at the Albuquerque tasting room (8400 Pan American Freeway NE, Albuquerque; (505) 821-0055, gruetwinery.com). For one thing, this space has the full line of Gruet wines, including...Read More
Jordan captures the luscious bounty of Sonoma

Jordan captures the luscious bounty of Sonoma

You can be forgiven if you rub your eyes at first sight of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com). It looks like a mirage. Tom and Sally Jordan established the 1,200-acre Alexander Valley estate in 1972 as an homage to Bordeaux. True to their vision, the ivy-covered manse overlooking gardens and vineyards appears to have been transported whole from the gently rolling hills of Entre-Deux-Mers. Now their son John Jordan (above) continues the tradition of crafting Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Valley Chardonnay in the Old World style. Producing two superb wines—one modeled on Bordeaux's Saint-Julien, the other on Burgundy's Montrachet—gives Jordan Winery a clarity of focus. But following the model of Napa, Jordan is a destination winery....Read More
Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Westside Road in Healdsburg is the cool end of the Russian River Valley. That's just fine by Thomas and George Baker, founders of Thomas George Estates Winery (8075 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8031, thomasgeorgeestates.com). When geography gives you cool vineyards in this part of Sonoma, you focus on the stars of Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since launching the winery in 2008, the Bakers have assembled four select vineyards to grow both varietals. These small-lot artisanal wines tend to spotlight individual vineyards, although the winery does make one blend from each grape. The winery tunnels into the hillside beneath the Baker Ridge Vineyard. Although the operation does have some stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, the dominant vessels are concrete eggs. The vessels have been gaining...Read More
Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

The success of the 2004 film Sideways made California Merlot unpopular for a while. But the dip in that red's reputation might have made helped clear the way for the winery and tasting room at Comstock Wines (1290 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-723-3011, comstockwines.com, tastings $20-$50). The photo above looks out the back of Comstock's tasting room to old Merlot vineyards. (That's a blue heron flying over the vines.) Many more vines were sacrificed to clear ground to build the winery, tasting room facility, and wine club residence. But not too many. Founded in 2012 using much older vineyards, Comstock still makes an outstanding Merlot that shows the restraint of the cooler Dry Creek Valley climate but bursts with black currant and violets. Currently producing...Read More
Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

The small red industrial building on the Timber Crest Farms property that houses Kokomo Winery (4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-0205, kokomowines.com, tastings $10-$25) is deceptively modest. The winery was founded by Erik Miller in 2004, who named it for his Indiana hometown. The vineyards date much, much farther back. Some Zinfandel plantings on the estate are more than 150 years old. Partner Randy Peters, a fourth-generation grape grower, has tended other vineyards here since 1974. He grows about 70 percent of Kokomo's fruit in all three Healdsburg appellations: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley. We say the building is modest because the wines are anything but. Miller's philosophy of winemaking is terroir-driven. “The special thing about wine is that it showcases...Read More