Hopping Up Hudson Valley Cider

By Christopher Matthews

With its tradition of apple-producing excellence — and aided by the New York Farm Cidery license option — the Hudson Valley (HV) has become an epicenter of the burgeoning (hard) craft cider scene, supported by the Hudson Valley Cider Alliance.

And as a cider enthusiast (and maker!), I keep tabs on what is appearing in the local HV cider market place. In recent months, I’ve noticed a positive trendlet from the region’s craft producers: offerings of dry-hopped cider.

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Killer Bordeaux Bargain: Chateau Carbonneau

By Christopher Matthews

It’s no secret that Bordeaux represents a great source of wine value, despite the outsized focus on the Grand Cru chateaux and hallowed First Growths (which certainly have their place, too). Value, of course, is a very relative thing, but sometimes the Bordeaux bargains can border the ridiculous.  Such is the case with the 2014 Chateau Carbonneau Classique, a complete knockout for…$11.00!

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A Winning Home-Brewed Cider

By Christopher Matthews

Apples have long been a touchstone here at Upstate-Downtown, whether via our farmhouse, where we “inherited” three productive Empire apple trees — a great window into the growing season — or in the Hudson Valley more broadly, through its apple-growing traditions and excellence. Part of that tradition, now experiencing a local revival, is hard cider, a topic I have covered.

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Our bountiful Empire apple tree

This past fall, despite an always crazy autumn work schedule — and because of an amazing 2015 apple harvest — I finally succeeded in making some hard cider with (mostly) our own apples, realizing a long-held intention (Michael Pollan, one of my heroes, would be proud!). And after years of writing about fermented beverages — wine, beer, spirits and yes, cider — I produced something not only that was drinkable the first time out, but a blue-ribbon winner to boot!

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A Minervois “Reunion”…with Sainte Eulalie

By Christopher Matthews

This past weekend I had a reunion of sorts. Not with college or grad school classmates, mind you, but with one of my favorite French producers from the Languedoc, Chateau Sainte Eulalie, located in the rugged, herb-laced hills of the Minervois La Livinière appellation.  

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Bordeaux Braves Yet Another NYC Blizzard

By Christopher Matthews

For the second year in a row, the annual NYC tasting of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux was affected by a blizzard — winter storm Jonas — this time the weekend preceding the January 25th tasting; last year’s was during! While most of the wines had arrived well before the storm, many chateau owners and reps were held up by horrendous travel delays, missing the event altogether. But in true New York spirit, the show went on, with industry volunteers pitching in for the pouring. And Jonas’ aftermath did little to dissuade the wine trade from attending the show, which focused on Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage.

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Jonas at work

On the following day, the Wine Media Guild of New York (WMG) held its annual Bordeaux lunch, drafting off the Grand Cru tasting (the lunch had to be cancelled last year…due to the snow storm!), featuring the Chateaux of Malescot St. Exupery (Margaux), Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux), Phélan Ségur (St. Estephe) and Siran (Margaux).

Both events yielded valuable insights.  Continue reading

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Culinary Heirloom: The Cricket Tea Room Cook Book

By Christopher Matthews

It’s funny sometimes how the mind works, and how certain thoughts can lead to action.

The subject of this post — The Cricket Tea Room Cook Book — was co-authored by my Great-Great Aunt, Tona Webb Perry, and served as one of the guiding culinary references for my maternal grandmother, Mary Webb Smith (“Mom”) — an excellent southern cook in her own right — and her generation of female relatives and friends (the men weren’t cooking much back then!), as well as her descending lines. In fact, the cookbook, first published in 1938, was well-known throughout the South in its time, and had numerous editions. Growing up, I often heard it cited in conversations about favorite family dishes, from home-made rolls and desserts, to salmon croquettes. And, as I recently discovered, it’s collectible, and can be found online!

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But this story actually starts with a piece of family art.

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Tuscan Value: the Maremma

By Christopher Matthews

Tuscan wines, like Chianti (in its many iterations), the esteemed Brunello di Montalcino and the “Super Tuscans” (such as Sassicaia and Antinori’s Tignanello), are well-known on these shores, at least among cognoscenti.

Less familiar, but sources of distinct value, are some of the Sangiovese-based wines of the Maremma, Tuscany’s southern coastal area along the Tyrrhenian Sea. This includes the municipalities of Scansano, as well as parts of Grosseto and Magliano. Within this region, two Denominazione stand out, Morellino di Scansano DOCG and Montecucco DOCG, a relatively new appellation which is practically unheard of here, but is producing some compelling wines.

Location of the Maremma

Location of the Maremma

For the first time ever, the producer consortia of these two adjacent Maremma wine districts recently conducted a joint tour of the US, showcasing their wares to the wine trade and media. On the New York City leg of this trip, over a dinner at Aroma Café and Winebar in the East Village, I had the opportunity to taste some wines from the region. Continue reading

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