Rosé Champagne at the Wine Media Guild

By Christopher Matthews

Cross one of the bucket list…  

After years of work conflicts and scheduling bad luck, I finally made it to one of Ed McCarthy’s annual December Champagne tastings for the Wine Media Guild of New York (WMG)!

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And after whiffing so many times on this yearly event, things actually worked out in my favor, given Ed’s choice of theme this year: Rosé Champagnes, with a record number of Champagnes to sample (22 in all).

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Ed McCarthy, Mr. Champagne, in his element

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2017 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competion: Whitecliff Wins Big…

By Christopher Matthews

…with its 2016 Vidal Blanc from the Hudson River Region (HRR)!

Not only did Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery win Best in Show with its Vidal Blanc, but it also took Best Overall Hudson Valley Wine (using Hudson Valley fruit) and Best White Wine, a well-deserved trifecta for one of the HRR’s stalwart wineries. Well done!

Vidal Blanc is a versatile French-American hybrid grape that is winter-hardy, disease resistant and widely cultivated in the Northeast US, including the Hudson Valley. It’s also one of the most successful of these hybrids, which can sometimes be an acquired taste. No such problem with Whitecliff’s winner, a pretty, floral wine with citrus and stone fruit notes and excellent balance.

 

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The Vidal edged out Robibero Family Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc for Best in Show, but for the second year in a row, Robibero took Best Red Wine with said (classic) Cab Franc, further underlining Cab Franc’s growing recognition as a signature red vinifera grape for the HRR. Continue reading

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Hudson River Region’s Fjord Vineyards Wins Best Cabernet Franc in New York

By Christopher Matthews

Following up on its stellar performance at the 2016 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition, where it swept most of the top awards, Fjord Vineyards, located in Marlboro, NY, recently won the “Best Cabernet Franc” at the 2017 New York Wine and Food Classic, which is considered the “Oscars” of New York State’s wine industry (click here for full results).

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Fjord’s 2015 Cabernet Franc (Hudson River Region) scored a Double Gold at this year’s Classic, and beat out 11 other Gold and Double Gold winners in the Cab Franc category to take the “Best Cabernet Franc” of New York accolade.

Not only is this a win for Fjord; it’s also a victory for the Hudson River Region (HRR), where Cabernet Franc is widely considered the Valley’s signature red vinifera grape (owing to its winter hardiness, ability to ripen in a highly variable climate and compelling, cool-climate expressions). Continue reading

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Gaskins’ Got It Going On

By Christopher Matthews

In the micro-hamlet of Germantown, in southern Columbia County (NY), Gaskins is a pulsing farm-to-table boîte in the middle of a small, but vibrant, business district.  As its second anniversary approaches, this “tavern” has clearly hit its stride, a welcome harbor for locals, and a culinary destination in its own right.

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My first impression two years ago was less than favorable.  Continue reading

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Blaye Bargain: Chateau La Croix St. Pierre

By Christopher Matthews

Mention Bordeaux to someone, and chances are that Blaye does not come to mind. Perhaps it will in the future, as this large district within the greater Bordeaux wine region, a.k.a. Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, is a source of good value wines.

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A case in point: the 2015 Chateau La Croix St. Pierre.  Continue reading

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Champagne Collet: Stylish Bubbly

By Christopher Matthews

Champagne is a big deal in the US, which is the second largest market outside of France for the iconic French bubbly (the UK remains first). And not only does it comprise over 20% of the total American sparkling wine market, but it also had its best year in the US since 2007 in 2015 (some 20.5 million bottles sold), growing at a 7% clip per annum. C’est les bon temps!

While the big global brands — e.g. Moët et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, G. H. Mumm — still dominate the US Champagne landscape, the small “grower” Champagnes, made by vignerons who once just sold their grapes/wines solely to the big houses, have captivated sommeliers and cognoscenti alike, giving added impulse to the category. Between these two extremes lies Champagne Collet, a medium-sized, cooperative producer, and a historic house in its own right. At a recent event at Ai Fiori in Manhattan, I had an opportunity to taste through Champagne Collet’s US portfolio, and my conclusion is clear: these fine wines need to be better known in the US.

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Peak Etna Value: Barone Di Villagrande Rosso

By Christopher Matthews

Of the many favorable spots to grow grapes on Sicily, the most compelling district for me is the Etna DOC, in the shadow of Europe’s tallest — and very active — volcano. Endowed with mineral-rich volcanic soils, intense sunlight and cooling sea breezes and altitudes, the cinematic foothills of Etna produce some stunningly good wines from mostly local varieties, namely Nerello Mascalese (red) and Carricante (white).

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Mt. Etna in the distance

Recently, at Ester Wine and Spirits in uptown Kingston, NY (which, BTW, has a nicely edited selection), I was drawn to an attractively labeled Etna Rosso that I had never tried before, from Barone Di Villagrande. When I brought it to the register for purchase, the wine dude on duty said: “Oh my god, this wine is so good.” My expectations rose… Continue reading

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