Friday, October 26, 2012

Veins Full of Riesling

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( We all had veins full of Riesling after this tasting! )

If one could overdose on Riesling I'd bet I have made a pretty good run at it in the last year. After three trips, samples from several producers and four virtual tastings of Finger Lakes Rieslings I must have tasted at least 150 different bottlings from several dozen producers. Add to that the Rieslings that have shown up in the Empire State Cellars club shipments and I've been drinking Finger Lakes Riesling AT LEAST monthly since this time back in 2011.

All of that experience doesn't make me an expert though. My Finger Lakes Riesling vintage experience only spans 2008 to 2011, with the majority of my tastings from the 2009s and 2010s. While 2009 and 2010 were definitely different growing seasons, the limited perspective a focus on just these two these years offers is very much a place to start. I have learned a few things however.

Structural acidity is a term you might hear bandied about for some types of wines, with well made dry Rieslings being one of those types. I've had a few German Rieslings in my wine drinking life, but never enough to really understand what this term could mean. Try enough dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes and guarantee you will get it firsthand. A robust thread of acidity is a hallmark for the best Finger Lakes Rieslings, even the sweeter styles that benefit from the balancing affect it has. These wines are great because the acidity defines, structures and holds the fruit and minerality in place as well as giving purpose to the finish. With food the acidity in many of the Finger Lakes Rieslings really allows the wines to shine. Paired with cheeses, savory dips, salads, chicken, pork as well as moderately sweet desserts, these wines can help make the sum total greater than the parts. Just last night I was enjoying the Keuka Lake Vineyards Falling Man 2009 Dry Riesling with Ocean Spray gummy fruit snacks. As silly as this sounds, you'd be surprised at how the acidity provided an excellent counter balance to the sugar, making the fruit flavors pop.

The Riesling grape is a freaking chameleon! This statement comes from tasting experiences where I came in contact with many different flavors and textures but also from listening to growers & producers from the region talk about how Riesling rides the waves of the weather better than other grapes. As I tasted through the region I came in contact with Rieslings that project lemon, orange, pineapple, apple, pear, peach, melon, apricot, plum, tropical fruits, flowers, herbs, petrol and several types of minerality. That pretty much runs the gambit for white wine aromas and flavors, and it really speaks to the diversity that is available in fruit and the different winemaking approaches being applied in the region.

These Rieslings shouldn't take crap from anyone. Riesling has a mixed perception in the wine world. So what of it? Yes, there still are many volume produced sweet Rieslings out there that are often a gateway wine for new drinkers. These wines aren't typically flawed, but aren't overly exciting either. I've had them, and I have good memories from my early consumption days when these wines were the drink of choice. Maybe these wine make up some of the light beers of the wine world. Some people graduate. But marring a whole segment of wine because of a few homely examples is ridiculous, and the Finger Lakes Rieslings prove this. The best of these wines are well made, delicious, offering plenty of nuance for wine lovers AND simple pleasure those who just drink wine casually. So next time somebody mentions Riesling make you sure you listen long enough to find out which ones they are referring too. You might be pleasantly surprised!

The most recent opportunity I had to taste Rieslings from the Finger Lakes was a virtual tasting organized to celebrate Riesling Hour, the official launch of the 2011 vintage.

My wife and I hosted a tasting at home before the Twitter event began, providing both some background education and a tasting opportunity for friends. In addition to the four sample bottles I received I also lined bottles of Riesling from France, Germany and two non-2011 bottles from the Finger Lakes. The way I saw it the style and vintage comparison would add dimension for my friends who for the most part are new to wines from the Finger Lakes region.

The samples included the Wagner Dry, Three Bothers Zero Degrees Dry, Fulkerson Semi-Dry and GlenoraMedium-Sweet Rieslings, all from 2011. The self-selected bottles included the Trimbach Reserve 2008, Dr. Zenzen Kabinett 2008, Ravines Dry 2009 and the Anthony Road MRS 2009.

A big thank you is due the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for the media packet, samples and for organizing the Riesling Hour tastings again this year.

I started off with a review of some of the materials from the media packet, including bits on the geography, climate, history, styles and the IRF scale, all from the slideshow that I played on the big TV. As my friends got to tasting the wines I could see the neurons firing. Approaching wine tasting educationally and with your senses peeled isn't something that non-wine aficionados really do. Consumption of any foodstuffs with a focus on sensory experience seems like a lost art in America, but like so much else there are plenty of excuses offered why people don't have the time or energy to be that engaged. That makes me sad, but it's not how I live so at the end of the day I'll keep doing my thing and sharing the possibilities with anyone who cares. My friends were getting it though and I was happy to see them taking the time to pick out aromas, flavors, textures and finally sharing what they liked and didn't.

We started with the four 2011 bottles. Comments about the range of fruits present in the wines were first to surface. The racing acidity of the Wagner selection was the next thing to spur conversation. This wine needs food to be complete in my opinion. I don't feel like the acidity was out of balance, but it was pronounced and the wine tasted best with a fruit & nut cheese spread, on crackers, one of our friend brought.

The Fulkerson & Three Brothers wines got the most feedback. Both were surprisingly light in color, with the Fulkerson also being very light in body. Both were fruity and everyone thought the Three Brothers wine had something in the background that was adding nuance, but none of us could quite describe it.

The Glenora Riesling was the sweetest of the bunch and garnered plenty of comment on the breadth of the fruit that was perceived at that level of sweetness. This wine carries along enough acidity to keep things well balanced, although as the wine warmed it trended a bit flabby.

In comparison to the Trimbach the Finger Lakes Rieslings were clustered in a tight zone around it. While there were differences, nothing significant or detracting stood out. The Dr. Zenzen was oxidized from a bad screw cap so we dumped it. When we got to the Ravines 2009 Dry Riesling I prefaced the tasting with an explanation of why I liked this particular wine so much. I feel it is an example of a finesse player from the Finger Lakes region. Everything is focused, in the right place and the wine just exudes polish. The Three Brothers bottle was compared to the Ravines the most, although everyone did agree that the Ravines wine was indeed specific and distinct.

The Anthony Road wine was one I hadn't had yet but did have some qualified recommendations behind my anticipation. This is a another finesse wine. Everything about it is focused and clean. It isn't as sweet as I would have expected from the reported residual sugar (which I can't find in my notes), but that didn't take anything away from its enjoyment. There wasn't really any comparison to be had here, more of a broadening of one's understanding of the range of Rieslings produced in the Finger Lakes region. I finished the night sipping on this little gem!

At the end of the tasting the Fulkerson & Three Brothers wines were the winners amongst the 2011 bottles, with the decision between the two was split. Our friends cheerfully thanked us for the education and the opportunity to taste wines new to them. Those thanks weren't one sided. I feel like I learned a few things from putting on my "teacher" hat in preparation for the tasting. Observing the others digging into the different wines was also instructive, proving to me that I should continue to host these types of tastings.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Boston Wine Expo Wants to be Friends

The Boston Wine Expo is going to get more social. With social media that is. This was clear from the presentation at a recent blogger event where some of the changes for the 2013 Boston Wine Expo (BWE2013) were shared.

So what are some aspects of the event that are new or will be changing?
  • A new Blogger's Lounge will be available as a dedicated space for interviews and blogging activities.
  • An improved mobile app will provide attendees with the capability to rate the wines they taste, manage lists of favorites as well as interact with the expo via survey questions.
  • In a new Social Media lounge located in the center of the Grand Tasting all participants will be able to see what wines are trending from feedback via the mobile app as well as see what people are "saying" about BWE2013 on Twitter.
  • Wine sales will now be permitted at the event. Attendees will be able to place orders for wines they like before leaving the expo!
As always attendees will be able to taste wines from many wineries (over 200), showcasing products from more than 15 countries, experience dozens of food and lifestyle exhibits and enjoy food from more than two dozen restaurants. Special seminars and celebrity chef demonstrations will also be part of the schedule again next year.

The blogger event was a mini food and wine showcase hosted at Action Kitchen located in the Seaport Hotel. The best food item I sampled was a crab cake (several actually) and I neither got a picture or any information on it. Bad food blogger!

The wine was flowing with bottlings available from France, Italy, California and New York State. The most interesting wine I tasted was the Bressan Verduzzo Friulano. This wine is a contradiction in my wine world. The nose zigs and zags back and forth between typical red and white attributes and then when you get a taste letting the tannins settle in it really feels like you are drinking a red wine. But it is a white! White fleshed fruits do dominate the nose and mouth, and the finish is dry with a subtle nutty quality to it. The tannic structure is unusual for a white, but it really works. It is always nice to come across something new, but when it is also so different it makes a tasting that much more interesting!

Also announced was the Boston Wine Expo Blogger Ambassador program that will partner bloggers with the Boston Wine Expo. Participating bloggers will be media personalities for the expo, will be provided with several tickets to give away on their blog and a discount code for readers to use for ticket purchases. More on this program will be announced as we get closer to the event.

As I was standing in a room of food & beverage bloggers listening to the details on the social media commitment being made for BWE2013 I got to thinking, "what have the folks behind the expo learned about their audience that prompted these changes?" Moving to integrate social media into such an event isn't even remotely radical as an idea in 2012, and some people might suggest the expo planners are arriving late to that party. I tend to be pragmatic by nature and when also giving benefit of the doubt I suspected the efforts to do this now were sincere and reasoned. So I asked.

The following is a transcript of the follow-up questions I used to interview Ed Hurley of Resource Plus, the company that provides the event management for the Boston Wine Expo.

Me: What were the motivations to incorporate the social aspects and the new app into the event?

Hurley: We were motivated to incorporate social media more heavily into the Boston Wine Expo for the following reasons:
  • We recognize that social media has become the main method in which to communicate to a wide audience with similar interests.
  • We also realize the influence that blogger’s like yourself have on fans in the wine and food community and we are excited about the changes that we have been making to the Expo that we wanted to share them with you in the hopes that you will find them to be positive and share them with your followers.
  • Our wineries and sponsors have regularly been asking us what our social media campaign looks like and how they be a part of it. We quickly learned that social media is important to these groups as well.
  • We want to be recognized as key portal of information regarding the food, wine and hospitality industry in New England.
Me: What expectations do you have for how more social media awareness and the mobile app will impact the event?

Hurley:  Our motivations for the mobile app came from the realization that in the age of smart phones, our audience prefers to have their information presented in this manner.  Through a mobile app, we are able to present consumers with all the information they need to know about the Expo as well as guide them from wine tasting table to wine tasting table while in the show. We hope to be able to help attendees create a list of favorite wines that they taste at the Expo and offer solutions as to where they can purchase the wines locally.

Me: Were there specific findings about the demographics of the BWE attendees that made this appropriate to do now?

With regard to demographics, our research shows that 51% of our audience is between the ages of 30 – 49, 65% have household incomes above $100,000 and 64% of our audience is female. This helped lead us to the conclusion that our audience is one that utilizes social media on a daily basis and mobile apps are a big part of their daily lives.

Me: Involving the press in BWE is nothing new, but crafting a program specifically for bloggers is new as far as I know. What are the goals of having a closer relationships with local bloggers? What can we do for you now, then and later?

Hurley: Our expectations for social media are this…if we continue to present top wineries, compelling seminars and popular chefs then the food and wine community will get excited about what we have to offer and will spread the word to their friends that the Boston Wine Expo is the place to be on February 16 and 17 of next year.

The goals that we have regarding the development of a closer relationship with you and other bloggers are:
  • To keep up to date through your help – You know a lot about what the public likes in regard to food and wine and can help recommend to us certain restaurants, chefs, etc. that we should invite to participate in the show. You have the pulse on the wine and food community.
  • To get your opinions – You are a good sounding board for the continuous changes that we are looking to make in the show as it evolved over the years.
  • To entice you to help spread the word about the Wine Expo – As a prime influencer over many followers, you can help us spread the word of the exciting things happening with the event. In return, we have a strong platform as well and can offer you free tickets, discount admission codes, etc. to provide to your followers to spread goodwill. We can also support your blogs through our social media efforts. 
Me: Are the vendors and presenters aware of the new social and blogger changes? If not, does it make sense to involve them early on? Would their own outreach efforts compound the work you are already doing? If so, how do you expect they will be involved in additional promotion of the event before and during? Are there any vendors or brands that would like to connect with bloggers ahead of the event?

Hurley: The vendors and presenters are becoming aware of our new emphasis on social media and the blogger community.  We have begun to reach out to them for newsworthy stories regarding their organizations that we can pass along to your community. Also, as I mentioned above, several of our exhibitors and sponsors are already heavily invested in social media and have been asking what we are doing in this arena.  This illustrates that their own outreach efforts compound the work that we are doing as we are both trying to pass along relevant information to the community.  We have already begun engaging our exhibitors in our social media campaign. When an exhibitor signs on, we look for important news about them that we can share with our followers. We also ask them to provide us with news that we can share with our audience.

Another example is the recent Bloggers Event. When we put the word out that we were holding the event, we immediately got the participation of the nine wineries that were present along with our food sponsors. They recognized the importance of the blogger community and wanted to be a part of it. I believe that as we move closer to the event, we will see more vendors want to get involved as well.

The motivations and expectations shared above seem well reasoned and legitimate to me. Having participated in several Second Glass wine events that are heavily social I fully expect a return on these commitments. I am personally excited for the 2013 Boston Wine Expo and can't wait to share more about the event as February creeps closer.

So will you be friends with and like the Boston Wine Expo in 2013? I certainly hope so. I attended last year and enjoyed sampling new-to-me wines from many producers representing quite a few different places. Add more social interaction to that mix and I fully expect that attendees will be able to get more and better hints on wines to try before the show is over. And even better, attendees will be able to order wines that they really enjoy before they go home. Closing that loop ensures that producers who have wines that really shine will know that consumers won't have to spend lots of time searching around for a shop that carries their favorites!



Friday, October 19, 2012

Sparkling Anniversary

In two previous posts, "Getting to Know Sparkling Wine" and "Leftover Sparkling Wine", about sparkling wine I shared what I have learned this year from a closer inspection of sparkling wine. In the first post, for the WineMaker Magazine blog actually, I teased readers with a list of bottles my wife and I had enjoyed around our wedding anniversary this year. All of those bottles are reasonably accessible to people who live near us and make use of the NH state system, and/or can direct ship to home. None of the wine are really bank breaking purchases for those who want to try them. It's not a snobby or specialty list, and I'm not advertising it as such. It covers a range of styles from both well known to smaller regional producers and gave me a lot of new information to consider about sparkling wine.

With "Getting to Know Sparkling Wine" I also shared my concerns that in my experience sparkling wine enjoyment was too often relegated to special occasions and not everyday drinking. There is no reason for this these days, sparkling wine pairs well with so many foods and there are values out there to suit all budgets. Steve Heimoff touched on this same thought last week in "Sparkling wines for the holidays: why not all year long?" After such a profession some of you might be thinking that ending that very article with my own plan to consume a variety of sparkling wines around my wedding anniversary was a conceit to my assertions. Maybe, and I can only say that we enjoyed these wines during what we called our "Sparkling Anniversary", where most were enjoyed with everyday dinners, or snacks; and even popcorn whilst watching TV. No special occasions there! We did indeed take some bubbly in the limo as we rode to our actual anniversary dinner, and I'll explain the significance and sentiment of those bottles a little bit later.

In "Leftover Sparkling Wine" I share my experiences with a grower Champagne tasting which constituted my first formal experience with Champagnes made by the grape grower. My thoughts and those of the host, Adam Japko of the WineZag, are interesting reading for anyone not familiar with the category.

As I alluded to above we didn't really do anything special with the wines for our Sparkling Anniversary and by the time we were through the best pairings we had experienced were with either buttered popcorn or French Fries. We also made cocktails with several of the bottles, both to experiment with different flavors and textures and put wines that didn't pop for us to good use.

Here's that Sparkling Anniversary list again (and in no particular order):
  • Chateau Frank Célèbre Rose
  • Chandon Blanc de Noirs
  • Cuvée Aurora Rosé Alta Langa
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige
  • Gruet Blanc de Noirs
  • Fox Run Blanc de Blancs
  • Lafitte Brut
  • Banfi Rosa Regale
  • Raventós i Blanc Reserve Brut
  • Mionetto Moscato Dolce
  • Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut
  • Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad
  • Cuvée y Camps Brut Nature
  • Montsarra Cava
Best of the Best

It would be hard not to share which of these wines we liked best and why, but since tastes vary and I don't rate wines, take it for what it's worth.

Cuvée y Camps Brut Nature - For both Margot and I this was the most refined of all the sparklers we tried. The nose is tropical with tart citrus in the mouth and through the finish. This is one of the best dinner party or entertaining-worthy sparkling wines I have ever had.

Chateau Frank Célèbre Rose - This is a medium-dry rose colored sparkler that is just simply easy to drink. It is well balanced, delicious and should appeal to both dry and sweet sparkling wine drinkers. It was summer when we drank these wines and this one really pulled off the role of refreshment.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - I really liked the balance of fruity and tart character in this wine. The slight creamy texture brought the whole package together. This is another fantastic wine to use for entertaining and a slam dunk with appetizers, including fried ones!

Honorable Mentions

Gruet Blanc de Noirs - This wine was notable for me because of the pronounced strawberry and citrus that actually came off like berry lemonade. This is a fairly full bodied sparkling wine and was a departure from some of the others in the lineup.

Montsarra Cava - Cava performed well in the tastings, but wasn't entirely new to us as a style, and this wine was the first one we tried. Fruity with hints of almonds a slight creaminess, this wine piqued our interests for more.

Cocktail Experiments

Passion Fruit Cocktail - we used the Fox Run Blanc de Blancs for this drink, combining it with passion fruit puree, Cointreau and bitters. The dry sparkling wine lightens up the puree nicely and the blend of fruits in the puree and wine showed nicely in the nose. It's a sweet cocktail, but if that is your thing this one might give you a smile!

French 75 - I fall on the Cognac side of the French 75 debate and thus I make mine with it. These are a potent cocktail with a nice balance of tart and sweet. The texture is best with a good sparkling wine with lots of small bubbles.

Champagne Cocktail - This simple concoction using a bitters infused sugar cube and sparkling wine is both tasty and fun to drink. Watching the bubbles ribbon off the sugar cube and head to the top of the glass provides the entertainment. We tried these with both domestic sparkling wine and Cava.

Sentimental Bottles

I'll finish with a few of the bottles that have special meaning for us. Two of them are part of our "wine personality" and elicit great memories any time we drink them.

( We dined at Top of the Hub in Boston for our anniversary dinner. The subset was beautiful! )

First, and maybe the most comical to wine aficionados, is Banfi Rosa Regale. We just like this wine. It's sweet, sparkling and super fruity. I bought it for Margot as a gift a few years ago and she absolutely loved it. Margot calls it a panty remover, which from experience isn't a bad way to describe its merits beyond a beverage. We buy a few bottles of this several times a year. When paired with dark chocolate this wine makes an excellent dessert.

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut - we received this wine as a gift from friends and chose to enjoy it on the night of our anniversary dinner to honor the joy we take in having such great friends. The wine is also very good.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad - This is our anniversary wine. I was looking for a delicious bottle of bubbly to celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2007 and came across this one. The bottle is actually a collectible, hand blown and emblazoned with a pewter crest and base. I snapped one up and we enjoyed it the weekend of our anniversary party that year. This is a complex sparkling wine, projecting citrus, peaches, minerality and a touch of graphite or smoke. It has a full bodied feel, but is rather a light, refreshing wine. We opened this bottle in the limo on the way to Boston for dinner this year, and it didn't disappoint once again. I purchased several bottles this time and can't wait to try one with a bit of age at our next milestone anniversary!

Drink More Sparkling Wine!

I hope these three articles on sparkling wine have inspired somebody to crack open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy it with friends (or family or a significant other, all of which are friends to me) just because you can. The diversity in styles, textures and flavors offers a world of possibilities for us to explore.



Friday, October 12, 2012

Leftover Sparkling Wine

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After writing a recent WineMaker Magazine blog post entitled “Getting to Know Sparkling Wine” I had quite a bit of additional material to share. I’ve tasted more sparkling wine this year than any prior year in my wine-drinking life, and the range of styles and background I’ve come in contact with has been both educational and fun. So here's my leftovers, I hope you enjoy them!

More on Sparkling Wine Styles

Cremant was a term I came in contact with looking through different resources on sparkling wine. The word is used to identify non-Champagne sparkling wine produced using the traditional method in France and other EU countries. Ultimately I would be best to understand that the difference in these wines will be more like any other regional distinction, including the grapes used, soil composition and climate.

I picked this bottle up from the local state store because I was curious what if anything I might detect about a Cremant differently from other sparkling wines. I didn't discern anything specific, but since I am not that familiar with regional differences in traditional sparkling wine, what do I know?

This wine is made from 80% Pinot Noir with the remaining 20% made of up Gamay and Chardonnay. It pours a deep pink color and has red, and even dark red fruits, like raspberry and currant on the nose. In the mouth the wine is tart, dry with plenty of small bubbles that create a pleasant texture. From a performance perspective this wine does pretty well. The regular retail is $19.99 but it seems to be on sale for $16.99 pretty frequently. At either price I see pretty good value and in my final post (next week) on sparkling wine I will share tastings on a couple more rose sparklers for comparison.

Cava in particular performed well when compared to many of the other sparklers I tasted this year. Spanish wines overall offer plenty of value, lots of $15-20 high quality offerings,  where I saw difficulty in even finding Champagne or worthy domestic bottlings in the same price range.  

Cava showed up three times in a lineup of sparkling wines that I selected for a month long celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary, the subject of my third and next post on sparkling wine.  We finished that celebration with a sentimental one which I will share the story and thoughts on next week. What did I think of the other two?

I nabbed this guy from for 19.99. I found it dry and slightly minerally with restrained fruit in both the nose and mouth. It is very crisp and clean making it a great social wine or one that would pair with a wide range of foods. This wine has beautiful texture, the prickly carbonation is buffered with just a little creaminess. I was surprised at how simple, yet beautiful this wine was for the price.

Another find at 18.99, and one I have had before. This one pours a deep gold color, darker than most sparkling wines I have experienced. The nose projected tropical fruits which were married with tart citrus in the mouth. 

Margot and I both found this Cava to be particularly refined and Margot liked it more than many of the others we ended up trying. There is some complexity here, something that might not make it as universal, non-aficionados might not appreciate it for what it is, which is only a lost opportunity and not the end of the world. I do like to pair wine with people so such scenarios concern me.

Grower Produced Champagne

Earlier this year I attended a tasting hosted by friend and fellow wine-blogger Adam Japko who writes the WineZag. Adam had assembled two flights of Champagnes that had been produced by the grape grower rather than a negociant, famous house or vanity label. Not knowing much about this category of wine it was hard to decide what to expect. In doing some research I came across plenty of vigorous debate about stylistic differences,  variation, performance and value, but nothing that could make sense of it in any concrete way. Read Adam's post "Grower Champagne Makes Sense" for more information on this class of wines, the flight list and his thoughts on some of those we tasted.

What I experienced was most instructive. First, there was plenty of variation amongst the different bottles, something atypical to big name Champagne, but what struck me was how exciting some of the nuances were.  Pear, quince, mushrooms, graphite, yeast, smoke, lemon, peach and guava were some of the specific aromas and flavors that I wrote on my tasting sheet. Some of the wines tasted wild, inferring that the producer wasn't trying to produce a house style, rather was letting the grapes and yeast do what they were inclined to do that year.  I like exciting wines and sometimes just being a little different is all the excitement I need!

On the value front my conclusions were mixed. Many of the bottle prices were in the range that while you get what you get with a big name house at the same price, I wouldn’t say either wins a hands down fan vote of everyday consumers. The favorites trended in the $45-50 range, and taking the nuances as a good thing they all performed well at those prices. Those with developed Champagne palates will definitely find lots to love in those wines, and potentially even more in a few beyond $50 amongst those we tasted.

I can't tell you what my favorite was because I can't find that page of my notes! What I can tell you is that is if, and more so when, I want to spend $40-$50 on a bottle of sparkling wine I would definitely look at grower produced Champagne before deciding what from my available options I will take home. Depending on the people and the setting a wine with more unique character might actually be a better fit!

The Show Goes On

I hope you enjoyed my sparkling wine leftovers. Next week I be posting on the sparkling wines that I enjoyed in June to celebrate my wedding anniversary. I know that I said in my WineMaker Magazine article (linked above) that sparkling wine wasn't just a celebratory drink and I can assure you that while I chose my anniversary as the backdrop to try a bunch of different sparkling wines, the specific tasting scenarios were very pedestrian. The list included those reviewed here, several domestic versions, and sparkling wines made in France, Spain and Italy.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why You Need To Help Fight Cancer

( Missi, Me and Margot at Making Strides in 2011.)

As I was pursuing a recent issue of Newsweek I cam across the article "I'm sorry, Steve. I wish we had done better" authored by Siddhartha Mukherjee. The article looks back at the loss of Steve Jobs and what the cancer research community has done, and has yet to do, that might have been able to save Jobs and millions of other people.

Mr. Mukherjee is well known in the cancer community. He is a researcher, oncologist, the author of "The Emperor of Maladies" (a book that I plan to read on my Florida vacation next month) and a peer honoree of a Mass General One Hundred award this year. I was so proud to be part of that group and knowing that Mukherjee was also being recognized for his impressive efforts energized me to be less apologetic about telling people to get off their ass and get involved. And I'm back again to do just that.

In the Newsweek article Mukherjee explains a bit about the difficulty of analyzing the biology of rare cancers and that while researchers have made progress, including on the form of cancer Steve Jobs succumbed to, translating the knowledge into medicines to fight cancer is slow going. The problem of undertaking the necessary research is two-fold. On the one hand it is hard work, but more importantly if that work were more well funded we would expect to get better and more rapid results.

( Me and Missi all smiles at Making Strides in 2010. )

You can, and should, read the article. If you don't think you have the time (a cop out) there are two things I want you to take away, and they both come from the infographics in the article.

First, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the organization in the US leading this charge and their annual budget is a meager $5 billion. The FDA that is tasked with making sure drugs come to market safely has funding of another $4 billion annually. It sound impressive, but it's not, it's chump change. Next to the $12 billion spent each month (yes, each month) on the conflict in the Middle East ($144 billion annually) the cancer funding is dwarfed 16 fold. That's not good enough, and we can't expect all the funding to come from taxes, but something smells in those numbers to me. Supporters of defense spending will chime in about the security our defense spending gets us and go right ahead. I'll shut you up with this. What country is secure when more than 550,000 (0.15%) of it citizens die from cancer each year? Really? Those deaths are real and my stats may even be a few years old and low. These are working, tax paying, voting citizens, and we lose them every year because we don't fund research to try and say them well enough.

Don't think that affects you? Here's the second bit.
  • 1 in 2 men will develop cancer
  • 1 in 3 women will develop cancer
  • 1 in 4 people will die from cancer
It affects you, your parents, your children, your neighbors and your friends. That's the real deal. You can do nothing and live with it, or you can get involved.

Funding from other sources can help bridge the gap, but that means citizens need to lead the charge and get everyone they know involved. This is where I come in. I'm a cancer survivor, thank you to the people who funded my care-givers so I can be here today, and I can help you make your voice heard. I fund raise, volunteer and make a racket about this problem so people know where to put their money.

In two weeks I will be walking in my 10th Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. This year my fundraising team, Survivors Rule!, eclipsed $100,000 in funds raised since we started in 2003 and that's us just getting started. I need you to click the link below, get out your credit card and make a donation. $5, $10, $20, $100, whatever you can give. It all goes to fund research, programs and support in the fight against cancer. Do it now!

Make a donation to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.



Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Oregon Beer Trail

( Yeah, I like beer! )

My post-WBC12 writing is coming in spurts. With so many other things are going on, new wines and meads NEED to be made, my gig with WineMaker Magazine continuing steadily and so many events and activities that pop up suddenly, that it just seems like good writing ideas are coming too fast and too furious to keep up. Such is the life of a food & beverage blogger I guess.

Today I will take you with me (and Margot, my constant co-pilot and gastro-explorer companion) out on the Oregon beer trail as we experienced it during our vacation to the Portland area back in August. We ate while on the trail too, so I'll share a small bite of that as well!

Margot and I love beer. I love wine, and while Margot doesn’t dislike it, beer just works better for her. Good thing I like beer too! Anytime we go on vacation my pre-trip research always includes compiling a list of breweries and brew-pubs to visit. Before leaving for Oregon I compiled quite a list. See for yourself below.
  • BridgePort Brewing
  • Deschutes Brewing
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing (Gashaus Pub)
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery
  • Burnside Brewing
  • Hair of the Dog Brewing
  • Rogue Brewing (brewery in Newport, OR)
  • Lucky Labrador Brewing
  • Rock Bottom Brewing
  • McMenamins Brewing
The list above was compiled using a couple of inputs. We have a fair number of beer-loving friends so some of destinations we had already pulled from Beer Advocate’s web site were confirmed to be solid choices. Additionally we looked for at least a few places that had a reputation for decent food as well. There are many Portland brewpubs to choose from and I’d have to be in town for another whole week to canvas them all! Rogue, and the trip to the coast required to get there, was planned because we both have been drinking beers from Rogue for as long as we can remember being able to get them, and it seemed like something we just had to do.

We didn't get to all the places on the list, we never do and we always have backup choices, but the ones we did get to helped us get a pretty decent picture of why Oregon (and Portland specifically) is known is a beer mecca.

Rogue Brewing

I’ll start with Rogue, and unfortunately it was the place we enjoyed the least. Rogue Brewing was founded in 1988 and is based in Newport, Oregon. They operate brew pubs in Oregon, Washington and California.

I’ve been to the Rogue Public House in San Francisco and felt it represented the brand well, but I had heard mixed reviews of the Public House in Portland so we skipped it. I expected the brewery and the restaurant within it to be their flagship, demonstrating the full character of Rogue Nation, but I just feel like it fell short in presentation. The brewery itself also smelled a bit musty and heady with TCA. That kind of turned me off to the experience, but since I’ve never had a flawed beer from Rogue, I will still support them with my $$. The restaurant is non-descript and right upstairs from the swag shop. Simple presentations can sometimes be the right way, but I was left wondering if making it more like a brew-pub could amp up the experience a bit. Lunch was good, but the best reason to visit, aside from the gorgeous views of the coastline there and back, were the beers on tap; some of which only available at the brewery.

The Single Malt Ale was solid performer for a straightforward golden/blond ale. It is isn't super hoppy and is quite refreshing. I'd see this as a great food pairing beer. The Alluvial Hop Ale is a single hop IPA available on tap at the brewery, and only when there is some available. This beer is a riff on the Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale with just one of the hops found in that product. I found hints of pine and citrus and felt it was also projecting some white wine fruit character. We also tasted Dead Guy, Captain Sig's Ale, a Hefeweizen, Chocolate Stout, Mocha Porter and the Hazelnut Brown Nectar. All of those were repeat tastes for us, but hearing that people blend the Chocolate Stout and Hazelnut Brown Nectar 50/50 to create something called a Rogue Snickers gave those two beers new life for us!

( Margot likes beer and approves this message! )

We had fun making a pilgrimage of sorts and like I said, the coastline drive was a highlight so if you are in the area and want to check out Rogue just know what you might be in for.

Back in Portland we visited five different brewpubs, each offering their own unique character, broad selections of beer and delicious food.

McMenamins Brewing

I picked McMenamins because it has history (founded in 1974, and boasting more than four dozen brewery, restaurant and hotel locations) in the Portland area and I wanted to make sense of the mixed reviews firsthand. We dined at the Broadway location not long after arriving at the hotel for WBC12. There are several other similar locations in different parts of the city and the surrounding boroughs.

I tasted the Ruby Ale, Hammerhead Ale, IPA, Porter, Stout and the Copper Ale which was offered as their seasonal beer. The Ruby Ale, a fruit beer flavored with raspberries, presented as light, fruity beer and would definitely be crisp and refreshing on a hot day. The Hammerhead ale is a solid hopped ale and was better than the IPA which had a big diaceytl nose that dominated my tasting. Both the Porter and Stout are straightforward beers not veering off the central aspects of their styles. The Stout is a great pub beer, something I could drink a couple of out with friends. The Copper Ale is a solid amber beer with light, sweet malts in the nose and just enough bitterness to aid in the crispness.

As much as our stop here was a blur, visiting immediately after arriving in Portland, I can say that our server was friendly, the food was prepared well (I had a pizza and Margot a burger) and while there are no stunners in the beer lineup here, I think the mixed reviews I saw online can't be fully taken to heart when you consider the type and history of the company.

BridgePort Brewing

BridgePort Brewing was founded in 1984 by the Ponzi family, who are still well known locally for their winemaking in the Willamette Valley, and has since been sold to the Gambrinus Company. The downtown brewpub has always been in the current location and their beers are available in less than two dozen US states, New England not amongst them.

( Chalkboard tap lists come all shapes and sizes. This one is particularly pretty. )

The space that BridgePort Brewing is located in is one of the draws. We have plenty of old brick mill and manufacturing buildings in New England and quite a few have been converted into residential and retail space. When done well the charm and history of an old place given new life can contribute to an experience. Bridgeport is located in just such a place. The metal work of the central staircase and the sky lights above it help to open up an otherwise dark building. There aren't any photos to back this up.

Both the food and beer are top notch at Bridgeport. Sadly I didn't take any photos of the food either. I had a pulled pork sandwich, which I very much enjoyed, and I can't remember what Margot had. We came for the beer so I guess that got the majority of our attention!

Many of the beers in my sampler brought the West Coast beer action I was expecting. Hoppy beers are loved on the West Coast, the hoppier the better, and this is often taken to extremes out here so you best be ready.

The Blue Heron was the exception with a gentle dose of hops and a low ABV making for a great summer pale ale. The Kingpin Double Red, served both via CO2 and Nitrogen, is a hoppy red ale with a nice thread of acidity through the finish. The house IPA was next and I found it just as I would have expected. Light in body with plenty of hops, but restrained bitterness. Margot actually liked it, and she doesn't typically like hoppy beers. The Hop Czar, love the name, capped off the hop tour with a nice big dose wrapped in a light bodied beer. No complaints here at all. Each beer was different, well made and tasty.

The remaining beers in my sampler were of the darker variety, but don't count the hops out just yet. The Old Knucklehead Barleywine was throwing up the hops, the Black Pale Ale was dark and hoppy (wonder how the homemade beer with that name compares?) and could not be mistaken for a stout. The final beer was the seasonal, a brown ale with spices and a small share of hops, called Witch Hunt. Everything here was really delicious too so I'd recommend folks stop in for a beer anytime!


Deschutes Brewery was founded in 1988 in Bend, Oregon. As one of the early craft breweries in the state (which saw a resurgence of brewing in the 1980's) Deschutes has grown considerably since the early days to become one of the 25 largest breweries nationwide. But that's the boring stuff. We can't get their beer in New England as their distribution is mostly in the central and western part of the United States, so stopping in a the Portland brewpub was a must do while we were in town.

( Saddled  up to a sampler is the best way to get a feel for a brewery's beers. )

The pub is an open space with lots of windows. It was busy, but there was no real wait. They have 18 taps that cover their standard offerings as well as seasonal and experimental beers that may be brewed at the Portland location and only available there. The dinner menu has a huge range of pub food and we started with the warm pretzel and I went with a local grass fed burger for dinner.

( The pretzel is hiding behind the beers! )

The pretzel comes with a cheese sauce and mustard and with more than two people at the table I would definitely suggest ordering more than one! The burger was cooked very well and the beef itself had so much flavor compared to the usual commercial beef. The presentation was a tad upscale with aioli slathered on the ciabatta bread, local Tillamook cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes and house-made pickles as toppers. Bravo!

The best brewpubs are the best because BOTH their food AND their beer is good. Deschutes gets that right in my book!

I got to select the contents of my sampler (with 18 choices and 6 beers per sampler you could do them all in 3 rounds, but oh the buzz!) and I chose half hoppy and half malty or sweet. The Chainbreaker IPA is one of their well known beers and for West Coasters I can see why. It is super hoppy and pretty bitter so depending on how much bitter you can stand this might not be a multi-pint beer. It is slightly creamy and smooth allowing the hops to be the star. The traditional IPA was maltier than the Chainbreaker and not quite a hop forward. I liked it the best. The XPA drinks like it is a bigger and hoppier beer than the IPA but the ABV and IBUs are actually lower. It didn't have enough character for me but it was worth the taste to better understand the range they shoot for in their hoppy beers.

The first of the malty/sweet beers was the Black Butte Porter, another beer Deschutes is known for. I picked up dark chocolate and roasted nuts in the nose and found this to be a stylistically accurate and classic porter. I could easily drink a few of these! The Deep Red Belgian is a Belgian style red ale with a fruity & spicy nose, a good dose of bitterness and a gently sweet finish. The last beer in my flight was the Cyclist, a radler, and I picked this specifically to see how it compared with the homemade shandy we had started drinking the month before. This beer is a wheat ale that is blended with lemonade in the tank before kegging. It smelled a bit like lemon candy, was tart and only slightly sweet and didn't taste like a beer at all. All of that together made for a pleasurable experience. My comparison rests with our own shandy as the winner amongst all the shandy/radler/lemon beers we've tried this year. I think it is a good example of solid wheat ale flavored with lemon and a touch of non-fermentable sugar to fill in the sweet component. It tastes like beer and the fruit isn't lost.

I also tried the Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale while in town. An aromatic, light summer beer, it does have plenty of aroma and flavor so as not to be marginalized. The floral and fruity nose segways into a mildly bitter beer with a lightly toasted bread finish. Another beer I could easily drink quite a few of.

Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom is a restaurant chain, but the beer is brewed on site so having been made by local brewers I can’t knock the joint solely for not being a single-location place. We were out with a friend so I suspended my food/beverage blogger regimen (no notes or pictures) so I could enjoy the company. 

( To the relevant moms and dads, we were having a good time in the city! )

What I do recall is that the food was typical pub fare, prepared well,  and the beers were well made, available in standard styles of wheat, red, IPA brown, and black. They also offered a Kolsch, a lager and a Belgian white ale so there is plenty to choose for a range of tastes. I don't recall if there was anything seasonal available, but I do believe they rotate in some different styles throughout the year as well.

HopWorks Urban Brewery

Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is an organic brewery, something I had never experienced before so I didn't have any expectations, good or bad. I've had the miscellaneous organic beer here and there, but I've never been to a brew-pub where all the beers were organic. At HUB they are also highly committed to sustainable and renewable initiatives using as much local food as possible. They are also part of the local bicycling scene, hosting numerous cyclist themed events throughout the year. The brewery opened in 2007 and the brewpub opened the following March.

The best really was saved for last. We visited HUB on our last day and it was our last stop. That day turned out to be beautiful, after the 100 degree heat wave the prior week, and we sat out on the back deck at HUB for several hours enjoying beers, snack and a calzone.

( Another colorful tap list. )

The beers at HUB kick ass! Every single one of them was clean in presentation, and projected their innate character easily.

HUB offers a 10 beer sampler, covering their whole menu at any time, which is served in an old bicycle hub that has been filled in to look like a tray. Killer presentation!

( That is one of the most unique presentations I have seen for a beer sampler. )

As my sampler was being drawn we munched on house-made hummus with pita bread and fresh veggies. Later during our visit we ordered a vegetable calzone which was massive and can easily feed two people. It's size was to house all the roasted veggies, including whole garlic cloves so watch out, with plenty of cheese and a zippy red sauce. It was fresh and delicious just like you would expect based on their principles and practices at HUB.

Five of the ten beers in the sampler were of the rotating type, with the others representing year-round styles.
  1. HUB Lager
  2. IPX
  3. Velvet ESB
  4. Hopworks IPA
  5. Survival 7-grain Stout
  6. Deluxe Ale
  7. Belgian Pale Ale
  8. Kolsch
  9. Kentucky Christmas
  10. Ace of Spades Imperial IPA
That's quite a lineup!

Digging in I found the HUB Lager to be clean & crisp with a bit of a zip in the finish. The IPX is a single hop (Cascade) IPA. The beer has a pleasant hop nose and is mildly bitter. The clean finish and mellow drinkability makes it dangerous! The Velvet ESB is a bitter amber beers with hints of toasted bread and caramel. The Hopworks IPA is very much to style with a big hope nose, savory flavors and healthy bitterness. I do love a good IPA and this one won't do you wrong. The Survival 7-grain Stout is a dark brown stout with a nose of coffee and dark chocolate. It was finished with local Stumptown organic coffee which is quite accessible in the long finish.

( Tasting beer IS hard work! )

The Deluxe Ale is a reddish brown beer with plenty of sweet malts and enough hops to create a pretty complex overall impression. The Belgian Pale Ale had some of the Belgian complexity in the nose but was a bit more bitter and hoppy than I personally enjoy. This style of beer does have a range of interpretation so this is not surprising. The Kolsch is a light and crisp beer with hints of fruit in the nose and mouth. Letting it get warm is a bad idea. At less than 5% alcohol it definitely is something you can move through quickly so any warming mess it up. Kentucky Christmas is a bourbon barrel aged strong ale. It's got lots of barrel character, coconut, vanilla, and sweet malts, brown sugar and citrusy hops. All of the attributes are nicely balanced and even on a warm day this beer drinks well. I finished with the Ace of Spades Imperial IPA which I found bigger and badder than the house IPA. It came off sweet an d malty with more hops and a very pleasing finish.

( And when it's gone, it's gone. And that makes Margot sad!

Having walked a few miles on the Oregon Beer trail I can clearly say that beer lovers everywhere should have Portland on their trip list. Margot and I will be back in 2013 and fully expect to tick off more brewpubs for our drinking and eating enjoyment. The breadth of styles presented can satisfy lots of tastes and if you are looking to stay a while many of the destinations have great food to keep you happy.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mead for Dummies

( Drink more mead! )

Well not exactly. Mead for newbies maybe. A catchy title is worth a many more words so when you find one, use it!

Mead is a beverage made from fermented honey, and is also often referred to as honey-wine. Traditional mead is very straightforward in concept, it is made with honey, water and yeast. It can't be that simple, can it? Yes, but that is very much just the beginning. But let's start at the real beginning by jumping in the way back machine!

Mead is old beverage. Recent archaeometric evidence, check out the book Uncorking the Past, from the Jiahu region of China suggests that fermented beverages that included honey, rice and hawthorn fruit were produced there about 7000 years ago during the Neolithic era. The chemical analysis undertaken to provide this evidence is based on identifying chemical signatures of residues found in pottery. While not an exact science, ongoing analysis suggests that in addition to the ingredients listed above, other fruits like native grapes, Asiatic cherries or flowers from the geranium family may have also been included in these very old beverages. 

The best explanation of how early humans may have stumbled upon the knowledge that honey would ferment (a process they didn't understand early on, but had enough experience to harness) into a pleasurable beverages goes a little something like this:

A hunter gatherer type happens upon a beehive that had fallen from a tree. The top of the hive was open and there had been rain since it dropped. There was a pool of liquid filling the hive. The liquid smelled sweet so the curious human stuck his/her hand in it and tasted it. Bam, it was sweet and delicious so he drank all he/she could extract! A little while later the imbiber felt a bit funny and maybe a little light on their feet. This was a light bulb moment. Find beehives laden with honey, fill them with water and let them sit exposed to the air for some time and it was assumed that this tasty, and intoxicating beverage, would result. The rest is indeed history!

Speeding through history there is evidence from Greece, India, Scotland, England, the Baltic countries, Russia, Finland, Ehtiopia and many other locales that mead (or beverages fermented with honey) were part of the local foodstuffs and are still important local products. Mead is seeing renewed interest in America, something akin to how craft beer took beer-making back to its roots and has now achieved cult status for many.

So what else do you need to know about mead? Mead comes in a variety of styles. The most common (and popular) are listed below.
  • Traditional – water, honey and yeast. That’s it. People interested in mead should try this style to get a baseline for what wine made from honey tastes like. All of the rest of the variations below are riffs on this, using the honey, water and yeast as the starting point.
  • Metheglin – contains spices. I made an Orange/Vanilla mead this year that is technically a metheglin. The orange was low volume and the vanilla is a predominant flavor in the finished product. Other spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, tea and ginger are all commonly used. My first mead was a Blackberry with nutmeg so either a metheglin or melomel (up next).
  • Melomel – made with fruit. Next to traditional mead this is the second most popular type in my experience. Berries, cherries, currant, mango, etc. These can come dry or sweet depending on the maker’s preference. If made with apples and grapes, see below.
  • Pyment – made with grapes or grape juice. I've only had a few of these, one just last night in fact that was rockstar, and this is an area I will experiment with in the coming years. If oak aged it can have a port-like character.
  • Braggot – made with hops and/or malt. Another variation I've only had a couple of times, but has intense character. The best one I've had came from Michael at Moonlight Meadery (we’re getting to he and his meads!) and was in an Imperial Stout form. Another area for potential experimentation for me.
  • Cyser – made with apples or cider. I am making one of these next weekend, with some cinnamon. Sort of baked apples perhaps.
Mead can be both dry and sweet and this choice is more of a stylistic one than anything inherent in the different styles. You will also find meads that are still, pettilant (very gently sparkling) and those that are full on carbonated. This is again a choice of style, and both choices coupled with the different styles really allow a meadmaker to create unique beverages for different tastes. Additional character can be added to mead through barrel aging, and the results can depend on both what the barrel had been used for previously and the composition of the mead being aged.

Drink more mead!

For me personally mead-making is of particular interest right now. I shared a bit my personal history with mead-making in a recent blog post entitled Sweet Dreams. In that same post I shared the story of making a commercial version of a recipe of my own with the folks at Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, NH. That new product hasn't yet reached the bottle so I can't tell you anything more about it just yet.

I definitely can share (and have many times in my blog) more about Moonlight Meadery though, and in fact they will be tell all the #winechat participants about themselves and their products tonight (October 3rd) at 9PM EST.

Moonlight Meadery makes a dizzying array of meads covering all of the styles above, except braggot (which they can't make it legally, bah!) and pyment, something they have yet to make, but I have it on good authority that we should expect one in the coming months!

There is a Moonlight mead for everyone. Folks that want to go traditional will dig Sensual. Desire is flavored with a blend of blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants and is the flagship product from Moonlight. If you are a bit more daring you might try Fury, flavored with a blend of chili peppers. If heat isn't your style then maybe Sumptuous, flavored with mango, might hit your sweet spot. Kurt's Apple Pie never fails to please and when Fall comes to New England then blend of apples, honey, vanilla and brown spices fit right in. Maybe Flirt (apricot), Tease (plum) or Fling (strawberry/rhubarb) would work best for you. All I know is that you WILL find something you like!

( Michael Fairbrother spends lots of time at the tasting bar educating guests about mead. )

The following comes directly from the Moonlight Meadery web site.

It all started back in 1995, when Michael tried a cyser (apple and honey mead) for the first time.  Since that first sip Michael has developed a passion, and a masterful skill at making international award winning meads. Michael Fairbrother has started Moonlight Meadery®, with a mission to bring ultra premium meads to the market place.  It is more than a product and it is more than a process, it's our obsession.

    "Mead to me is passion, it's about living and love, it's about enjoyment, family and friends, and sharing." says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Mead Maker. 

Our meads will be unique, and unlike anything you have ever tried, you will find it incredible!   We are going to embrace the unique nature of natural honey as minimally processed as possible.

All of that is true, and I know this because I have heard it from the people involved directly. But those words don't really do the product justice, nor do they make the authenticity and sincerity of the Michael and his team at Moonlight real, something everyone visit to experience. When you meet people who are passionate and truly love the work they do you can't mistake it for anything else.

I've written about the meads from Moonlight on several occasions since walking through their door for the first time in 2010, hell I've been inspired by their range of products to make a few crazy meads of my own!
My meadmaking bender started in 2011 with my Orange/Vanilla mead. When that little dandy took medals twice in competition I realized I might be on to something. The follow-on projects were a bit less successful, Cherry/Black Currant, Blueberry and Pecan Pie (yes, it tastes weird) and only because I was still learning how much additional flavor I really needed to add to the honey to get a balanced, yet forward result. None of those meads are bad, they are just really light in flavor and didn't meet my expectations.

My cyser using local apple cider, Vermont honey and cinnamon moved me in the direction I was looking for, but still left plenty of room for improvement. I then made a hoppy braggot (riffing on the recipe for a West Coast IPA named Pliny the Elder) that drinks like a dream and needs it own security, finally stepping back to review what I learned and collect my thoughts on where to go next. I consulted the mead-making bible, the Compleat Meadermaker by Ken Schramm, quite a bit during my reflection and just let the ideas flow.

In June my wife and I attended the fifth annual WineMaker Magazine Conference where the yearly competition awards are announced. We also took some Moonlight mead with us to share, something I have been doing for conference trips, including the 2011 Foodbuzz Festival shown on the left. We took home several medals for our meads & wines which of course made us happy. Much to our delight the winner of Wine Maker of the Year was a meadmaker, Godwin Meniru who has his own meadery opening soon,, from Ohio who makes some pretty mean stuff! We were lucky enough to taste his meads during the trip and I can't wait to see where his exploits take him.

I really cranked up the creative energy since coming home from the conference. To start I made a traditional sweet mead from Vermont honey that is sure to please anyone who gets a taste. The second batch of Orange/Vanilla mead is waiting to be bottled and meads flavored with cinnamon, hot peppers, dandelion & tea, strawberry, hops, sage & lemon and ginger are at various points in the process. I have some unflavored mead that is finished and waiting for infusions of flavor, and boy do I have plans. Tea, other fruits, spices and herbs are all in the line of fire. Like I said, I'm a really amped up to create new and interesting beverages, all in a quest to see what is possible.

Wow, that's a lot of information! I hope you caught all of that and will come back to follow the links to learn more about mead and people who enjoy making it. Tune into for #winechat on Twitter tonight (10/3/2012) to learn more about mead and Moonlight Meadery.