Last Wines at the Old House

Yes, we’ve moved, from our old house near the Livermore Valley wine region to our new house a bit further north in Sonoma County. One of the many issues with the move was moving the wine collection. The easiest way to deal with the problem was to reduce the number of bottles we had to move. We still had a couple hundred bottles left to move, but we did have fun drinking those last bottles. Here’s the lineup over the last days at the old house:

Armida Winery, 2012 Il Campo (Zinfandel/Petite Sirah field blend), Dry Creek Valley
Donkey and Goat, 2013 Grenache Noir, El Dorado County
Pessagno, 2011 Zinfandel, Idyll Times Vineyard, San Benito County
Soquel Vineyards, 2012 Trinity (red blend), California
Tobin James, 2010 Ballistic Zinfandel, Paso Robles

Armida Winery 2012 Il Campo (Zinfandel and Petite Sirah field blend), Dry Creek Valley

Armida Winery 2012 Il Campo (Zinfandel and Petite Sirah field blend), Dry Creek Valley

Yes, we drink a lot of Zinfandel. It’s a good value wine, both at the low end (price-wise) and the high end (high end of the Zinfandel range). It’s also a grape that lends itself to different styles, from big bold fruity wines to more complex layered wines, all of which can be very tasty.

The Il Campo is an excellent Zinfandel blend from Winemaker B at Armida. It’s a field blend, so it’s a bit difficult to say how much of what went in, but likely it’s somewhere around 75 – 80% Zinfandel.

Donkey and Goat 2013 Grenache Noir, El Dorado

Donkey and Goat 2013 Grenache Noir, El Dorado

Donkey and Goat is relatively new to us, with our first and only visit there 2 years ago. A Berkeley winery, sourcing grapes from all over Northern California, this Grenache was very good, surprisingly good. Actually, you’ll see Grenache (or Garnacha from Spain) mentioned in a couple of future posts. Grenache, while one of the big three Rhone grapes — Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre — is rarely made as a single varietal, especially in California. Syrah, yes, but not Grenache, nor Mouvedre. When Grenache is grown well and made well, it’s a really nice treat. Not too big a wine, not too big body, really good with food.

Pessagno 2011 Zinfandel, San Benito County, Idyll Times Vineyard

Pessagno 2011 Zinfandel, San Benito County, Idyll Times Vineyard

The Pessagno is a bit more in the understated style for Zinfandel, and this has been outstanding from our first taste at the winery to the two bottles we’ve opened. (I’m kicking myself now for not buying more when we were there. But of course, then we’d have had to move those bottles, so probably just as well.)

Soquel Vineyards 2012 Trinity Rosso (red blend), California

Soquel Vineyards 2012 Trinity Rosso (red blend), California

The Soquel Trinity is consistently, year after year, one of the best low end red blends, now matter what grapes they’re using. Soquel Vineyards is either number 1 or 2 on our Santa Cruz Mountains wineries hit list. They’ve been building great wines, and providing a great tasting experience, for a couple of decades now, longer than most in that area. We’ve talked about their wines and tasting room a few times in this blog; just search on Soquel to find those posts.

Tobin James 2010 Zinfandel "Ballistic", Paso Robles

Tobin James 2010 Zinfandel “Ballistic”, Paso Robles

The Ballistic Zin is the flagship for Tobin James, a classic big juicy jammy Zinfandel from the East side of Paso Robles. They’re almost the last winery heading east on Hwy 46, but worth the extra couple of miles to visit the tasting room.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Charity Wine Auction for Lake County Fire

A charity wine auction is being held to help rebuilding efforts in Lake County after last year’s destructive Valley Fire. The auction will be held this Sunday, March 20th, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (St. Helena, Napa Valley). Headlining the event are Congressman Mike Thompson and grape-grower Andy Beckstoffer. Fritz Hatton is managing the auction, which will include both live and silent auction items. The #LakeCountyRising event is sponsored by Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lake County Winery Association and Lake County Wine Alliance.

Some of the auction items look pretty amazing:

– Tasting menu with wine pairing for 3 couples at The Restaurant at Meadowood

– Your own barrel lot from Beckstoffer Vineyards

– Luxury suite at a SF Giants baseball game

Multiple lots of wine and dining experiences are also available.

More information on the event is available here: http://lakecountyrising.org/news/2016/3/14/thompson-beckstoffer-hatton-lead-charity-wine-auction.

You can register for #LakeCountyRising, or donate if you can’t attend, here: http://lakecountyrising.org/charity-auction.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Zin and Pinot and Pints, Oh My!

My cousin came to town between Christmas and New Years Day, and had one day for sightseeing with us. We hadn’t seen Diego for about 13 years, as he’s from the branch of the family that’s based in Argentina, although he’s currently living in Spain. He was traveling with his girlfriend who, as it turns out, is currently living and teaching English in Spain, but grew up only 30 minutes from us here in the Bay Area. We decided to spend the day up in Sonoma County, eating and drinking and seeing some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, and also seeing our boys and their families.

With that preamble, here’s our agenda for one day in the wine country:

• Wine tasting at Armida Winery
• Lunch at Matteo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg
• Wine tasting at Woodenhead
• Hiking in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
• Dinner at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol
• Ice cream at Sub Zero in Sebastopol

Wine tasting at Armida was an easy choice, because our son Brandon, aka Winemaker B, is the winemaker at Armida. Moreover, the views are great, and so is the wine. Brandon gave us a tour of Armida, which started with a quick taste in the tasting room, and finished there as well. The zinfandels were a hit with our guests, and a bottle of the Reserve PoiZin (with the coffin package) went home to Diego’s girlfriend’s family.

Matteo's Cocina Latina in Healdsburg serves some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area.

Matteo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg serves some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area.

Lunch at Matteo’s was another easy choice. Great Mexican food, but not the conventional Mexican-American fare. This is a restaurant that has been in the top 100 in the Bay Area according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which is a pretty elite list given the quality of food in the Bay Area.

We had time for another winery between lunch and the Armstrong Redwoods, and so wanted something relatively convenient to the drive from Healdsburg to Guerneville. This narrowed down our winery choices to only about 50. Woodenhead was chosen because of their emphasis on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, because we had recently opened our last bottle of Woodenhead Pinot Noir and needed to buy more, because they have a nice, cozy, comfortable tasting room and because the view from the deck outside the tasting room is quite nice. Certainly our stop there didn’t disappoint anyone.

My cousin Diego and his girlfriend on the left, Lori and I on the right, at the Colonel Armstrong redwood tree

My cousin Diego and his girlfriend on the left, Lori and I on the right, at the Colonel Armstrong redwood tree

From there we went to the Armstrong Redwoods. Until a visitor stands next to one of those Coastal Redwood trees, the numbers that you read – hundreds of feet in height, tens of feet in diameter, more than 1,000 years old – are just numbers. Then you experience it in person, and realize what those numbers mean. It’s awe inspiring, and spiritual, in a way that can only be felt, and not read about.

Dinner was a family gathering at the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol. While the Russian River Valley and surrounding areas are now known mostly for wine and redwoods, this was once a great area for growing hops and brewing beer. Well, the hop vines are gone, but this area is now one of the great areas for craft beer brewing in California. Hopmonk brews a few of its own, but also has other local craft beers on tap. All the adults at the table had the Hopmonk brews, and we were quite impressed. On top of that, the food was very good, and they were able to easily accommodate and provide good service to a large group, ranging from 2 year olds to their grandparents.

Finally, even though it was the middle of winter, we needed dessert, and Sub Zero beckoned. This is a new ice cream store in the Barlow center, which makes their ice cream to order by combining the raw ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and then freezing them on the spot using liquid nitrogen. Their claim is that this technique produces a creamier ice cream, and since texture is a big part of taste, this should improve the ice cream. The ice cream was very good, but even better was eating with everyone around the fire pit outside the store, then working off the ice cream by chasing a granddaughter around the area, and being chased by her.

I’m not sure a day could be any better.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Wine Is More Than Manischewitz and Hearty Burgundy

Al Lapides on his 80th, glass of Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon in hand

Al Lapides on his 80th, glass of Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon in hand

My father, Al Lapides, died last year. He taught me a lot, and set a pretty high standard to try to live up to. Maybe the most important thing he ever taught me was to “brake before the curve, accelerate coming out.” First, it’s a good driving practice. If you hit the brakes while you’re in the curve, there’s much more likelihood of losing control of the car. Second, it’s a life philosophy. When you see a curve coming, when you see the unknown coming, be under control and leave your options open. Then, once you’ve seen the curve and know which line you’re going to take, hit it. Commit to it. Accelerate.

A turning point in my father’s life, and in my life, came between my 11th and 12th birthdays. In that time he quit his big company job, joined my uncle in an executive search firm (which was just the two of them), and he, my uncle and a friend of theirs started another company. Just for kicks, my father and uncle also started a wine appreciation club, led by a local wine merchant/distributor, to learn more about fine wines. Talk about accelerating out of the curve!

As I look back on this time, a few lessons were absorbed in my subconscious, the first two more quickly than the third.
1) Working for a large company can be stressful; being your own boss means more pressure, but less stress.
2) Starting your own company is a lot of work. The company started by the three partners was started by an incredibly small investment by each of them, which meant a lot of sweat equity went into it, including from my brother, my sister and I.
3) Wine can be interesting, delicious and fun.

The first two lessons moved from subconscious to conscious fairly easily and quickly. From my first job out of college to my current day job, I have gone to smaller and smaller companies, including being part of high tech startups for the last 26 years. With my current company I am part of the founding group, which took no outside funds, and it was really rough at the beginning. It’s still hard work now, but we’re at least profitable at this point.

Wine, the third lesson, took more time. Not that I didn’t drink wine from an early age. I grew up having Manischewitz Concord Grape (or for a change of pace, Blackberry) wine, cut by seltzer water, at Passover seders and other holiday events. Mom and Dad used to have Gallo Hearty Burgundy by the gallon jug in the house. The wine club changed at least the wine in the house pretty quickly. (It didn’t really change what I got to drink.) I didn’t take the time to learn about wine then, only to see that this was something my father was enjoying. Occasionally I got to taste the good stuff, but really didn’t know what I was drinking.

As an adult, when I could legally go out and buy and drink wine, I got to develop my palate a bit more. Lori and I have been fortunate to have lived in wine regions: first in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, then in the Santa Barbara area, and for the last 20+ years in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the Napa, Sonoma, Livermore and Santa Cruz wineries all within easy striking distance. Visiting wineries was both fun and educational, and a way to see the beautiful areas we lived in.

Dad also shared some of his wine when we were living back in California, and could bring a bottle or two home from a visit. One meal I remember clearly is having a couple of my college friends over after we moved back to the Bay Area. Lori cooked a Greek lamb dish, and we drank a 1970 Cos D’Estournel and a 1974 Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Easily the best wines I had ever tasted to that point. As I recall, at that time (around 1994?) the wines were about the same (11 on a scale of 10), although the Louis Martini did take more time to open up.

The best wines I have ever had

The best wines I have ever had

As a final story I give you my mother’s 65th birthday, where my parents decided to have a sit down dinner at the house, catered by a nice restaurant, for just the immediate family. My parents, my brother and sister and their spouses. As an added bonus, our boys, then 16 and 14, were deemed old enough to join the dinner and share the wine. I can’t remember the meal, but as with the wines above, I have the wine bottles. 1961 Chateau Latour and 1970 Chateau Pichon Lalande. Amazing. The Chateau Latour is the best wine I’ve ever had, and the other is tied with the wines from the previous story.

L’Chaim, and don’t forget to brake before and accelerate coming out,

Larry

Malm Cellars: Pinot Noir and Zinfandel

I often get asked what my favorite wine is, meaning what is my favorite varietal. I usually take that opportunity to talk for as long as that person is willing to listen, about how it depends on white or red, or food or no food with the wine, or price, or any one of a dozen other factors. It’s really the wrong question to ask a wine person. The interesting question is, Which wine(s) do I buy the most? Then the short answer is “Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.”

The medium length answer is that I buy more reds than whites (probably about a 4:1 ratio), and among the reds Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are usually a good value, go very well with food and don’t need a lot of aging. Also, these two wines are the best wines of the Russian River Valley wineries and Dry Creek Valley wineries, which are the two wine growing regions I visit the most.

(There is a longer answer too, but I’m not sure I have your attention for enough time.)

Brendan Malm getting ready to open another bottle of his Malm Cellars wine

Brendan Malm getting ready to open another bottle of his Malm Cellars wine

Nearly 3 years ago, when Lori and I visited Malm Cellars in Healdsburg during a barrel tasting event and saw the lineup of only Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, I got my hopes up just a bit, that maybe here was a winemaker aligned with my tastes. Then we tasted from the barrels, and I allowed my hopes to rise just a bit more, enough so that we bought some “futures”. Futures are wines in the barrel that have yet to be bottled. This is the purpose of the barrel tasting events, with the winery then shipping you the wine when it’s bottled and released.

Or you go to pick up the wine. Which was our option, since we get to Healdsburg on a regular basis. The only problem was coordinating our schedule with Brendan Malm’s schedule, since Malm Cellars is essentially a one man shop, and only open to the public on special event weekends. (That’s changing soon, but not quite ready yet.) So from buying futures of 2012 vintage wines at a 2013 event, with the wines released in 2014, it took until 2015 for us to pick up our case.

Malm Cellars 2012 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

Malm Cellars 2012 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

It may have taken us a long time to pick up the wine, but it didn’t take long to open the first bottle. About 6 hours later we were having a birthday dinner for one of our daughters-in-law, and wouldn’t you know, a bottle of Malm 2012 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley was opened. 2012 was a pretty good year in the Dry Creek area, after two years in a row where harvests were below par for quality and/or quantity. Also, typical Dry Creek Zinfandels tend towards the big, jammy, drink-now end of the spectrum, especially in a good harvest year, which is not my favorite style. The Malm Zinfandel had the fruit flavors on entry, but was actually well balanced and went well with our dinner that evening. This is what I remembered from the initial barrel tasting, and I’m starting to feel pretty good about the purchase of the futures.

Then a couple of weeks later we opened a bottle of Malm 2012 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (RRV). (I’m feeling pretty good about waiting even that long to open the first bottle of Pinot and see what we’ve got!) Well, this was worth the 2+ year wait, and it will be worth waiting even longer for the other bottles. Very nice RRV Pinot Noir, with some delicacy and subtlety, that should get better for the next few years. With half a case each of the Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, we’re pretty well set for opening one Malm per year for the next 10 years, if we can hold ourselves back.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Santa Cruz Thanksgiving

Lori and I spent the week of Thanksgiving in Aptos, a little town just south of Santa Cruz (actually it’s east of Santa Cruz, but you have to go “south” on Highway 1 to get there), in our vacation house just a 10 minute walk from the beach (Seacliff State Park). It was a great week from a weather point of view, with only one day of rain. There were great sunsets, as you see above, and great ocean views.

We were joined there for the holiday, and a couple of days on either side of it, by Winemaker B and his family. This meant some interesting wines for the meals, from his cellar and ours. Here’s a quick rundown:

Woodenhead 2005 Pinot Noir, Buena Tierra Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Crosshatch (Carr Vineyards & Winery) 2010 white blend, Santa Ynez Valley
Soquel Vineyards 2006 Zinfandel, Old Vines, Lodi

This doesn’t include the wines for the Thanksgiving meal, which won’t be talked about here. (We opened a vertical of Syrah from a single winery, and it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Nice to have opened the bottles, and they were quite nice with the turkey, but not a highlight to spend time on.)

Woodenhead 2005 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Buena Tierra Vineyard

Woodenhead 2005 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Buena Tierra Vineyard

Woodenhead Pinot Noir: This is a small winery in the Russian River Valley (RRV), specializing in Pinot Noir. We did an interview with Zina Bower, the co-owner, in the early days of the ViciVino.com website. This bottle was what I like to think the RRV does best, Pinot Noir with some restraint, delicacy and subtlety. After 10 years this wine was all we expected, balanced from nose through entry through mid-mouth through finish. Not real heavy bodied, it went great with a shrimp stir fry we cooked on the barbeque. We have consistently liked their Pinot Noir; unfortunately this was our last bottle. Time to go up and buy a few more.

cross_hatch_white_blend

Crosshatch: This is the brand name for some interesting blends from Carr Vineyards & Winery in Santa Barbara. We enjoyed our visit to their tasting room this past summer, and really loved how they handle Rhone varietals. The reds we bought — Syrah and Grenache — will sit for another few years, but this white was ready now. The Crosshatch white blend is 70% Viognier, 30% Marsanne, and was delicious. Definitely ready to drink.

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Zinfandel, Lodi Old Vines, Schmierer Vineyard

Soquel Vineyards 2006 Zinfandel, Lodi Old Vines, Schmierer Vineyard

Soquel Vineyards: We’ve mentioned Soquel Vineyards a few times before in blogs, including writing about the 2004 vintage of this same Zinfandel. Soquel consistently produces excellent wines, and their tasting room is a great experience. The 2006 Zinfandel was lovely, sort of the “Mama Bear” wine: Not too big, not too soft, aged just right for drinking over the holiday.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

L’Chaim,

Larry

Te Whare Ra in the OXO Tower Restaurant

Lori and I spent a week in England in December. One of those business/vacation trips, which ended up being great. We were staying in a small town, Thame, which is near Oxford, and is where my day job company is located. Two days Lori took the train into London, with me joining her there in the evening. One of those evenings was a theater evening (Billy Elliot), while the second was to meet with friends that we hadn’t seen in a number of years. After wandering around a Christmas market near the Millennium Bridge, we went to the OXO Tower Restaurant (only 8 floors up to the top of the tower, but still a pretty good view overlooking the Thames River and London).

Incredible cheese trolley at OXO Tower Restaurant in London

Incredible cheese trolley at OXO Tower Restaurant in London

The restaurant has a very good reputation. The food was very good, and the service was excellent, except for the sommelier. After looking through the wine list I found a bottle of Te Whare Ra 2010 Syrah, from Marlborough, New Zealand. The sommelier tried a couple of times to talk me out of this bottle, suggesting both South African Syrah and Australian Shiraz as alternatives with bigger, bolder flavors. But I didn’t want that – didn’t want bigger, bolder Syrah with the mix of meals we were getting – and I did want the Te Whare Ra bottle.

Te Whare Ra 2010 Syrah, Marlborough, New Zealand

Te Whare Ra 2010 Syrah, Marlborough, New Zealand

When we visited New Zealand in 2005, and visited the Marlborough area where Winemaker B and then-fiance-now-wife Kim were spending 6 months (Winemaker B’s first post-UC Davis graduation job was in Marlborough), our favorite winery was Te Whare Ra. The name is pronounced Tea Far-ee Ra, and means house of the sun in Maori. There was a young couple running the place; I seem to remember twins about 1 year old at the time.

Te Whare Ra 2004 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough, New Zealand

Te Whare Ra 2004 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough, New Zealand

This couple really knew what they were doing around wine. They made the standard crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but also made a Gewürztraminer that we all loved. I don’t remember much about red wines, but anyone that can make a good Gewürztraminer can make almost anything. That was proved out with the 2010 Syrah. Not so big and bold, but lighter, smooth with a good balance between fruit and acids. It went great with our dinners.

Wine is about people and place and time, as well as about the wine itself and the food being enjoyed with the wine. This was a reminder of New Zealand 10 years ago, and now has a place in our memory with our friends Chris and Catherine with whom we enjoyed this wonderful bottle and meal.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Sangria in Puerto Rico

The origin of Sangria? Who knows? Here’s my story. A long time ago, the Spanish had a problem: what alcoholic beverage to drink when it is really warm out? Beer wasn’t their alcohol of choice in the first place; neither were distilled spirits. What Spain does have though is wine, especially red wine. Drinking red wine on a hot day does nothing to cool you down, it just gets you drunk. Putting ice cubes in red wine is an offense against the laws of nature (or some such reasoning). What if you put fruit in with the wine and let them stew together, and then add ice? Sangria!

You don’t want to use your good wine, but you don’t want something terrible either. A wine that is relatively light bodied and fruity is called for. (Light on the tannins please!) Tempranillo or Garnacha (Grenache), the primary red varietals in Spain, work well in their less expensive incarnations. Working with California varietals, I like Zinfandel or even Merlot for the Sangria base.

As far as what else goes in the Sangria, there are undoubtedly thousands of different recipes: different fruits, additional alcohol (brandy, liqueurs), sparkling water or lemon-lime soda even. White wine Sangrias are also pretty darn good.

Lori and I split a pitcher of sangria at a sidewalk cafe.

Lori and I split a pitcher of sangria at a sidewalk cafe.

On our recent trip to New England and Puerto Rico, I ended up having a lot of Sangria. It was served at the wedding we attended in New Hampshire, and then with the heat in Puerto Rico, something was a necessity. As I’m not a huge fan of rum, and rum is the major alcohol of Puerto Rico, I needed something else to drink, and there was my long lost and newly rediscovered friend, Sangria.

Sunset over old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sunset over old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As far as I can count, I had Sangria at six different places in Puerto Rico, almost every night. I’ll blame it on the sunset colors reminding me of Sangria. I missed the first night because I had one of the Puerto Rican beers; didn’t make that mistake again. And I missed the last night because we were doing a nighttime snorkeling trip in a bioluminescent bay and got back to the hotel too tired to drink. (By the way, the bioluminescent bay swim was one of the coolest things ever. Swimming and your hand trails strands of light in the water. Magic. Belief in a higher being. More than just science. Do it if you ever get a chance.)

The danger with Sangria is that it can easily get too sweet. The wine you’re starting with typically isn’t going to have a lot of acid, and you’re adding fruit and potentially other components that have some sugar. I encountered this quite often. It was still good, but not great. The two best from the trip were at Aji Dulce, a restaurant in Old San Juan, and at the Tamboo Tavern, a bar/restaurant right on the beach in Rincón (Sandy Beach). Both were nicely balanced takes on Sangria, and earned a second glass.

I’ve talked before about rosés as great for warm weather, and now I’ll keep Sangria on that same list.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Wine, Cheese and Chocolate in New Hampshire

Kim and Jason at the altar, on the beach at Newfound Lake, NH

Kim and Jason at the altar, on the beach at Newfound Lake, NH

Lori and I were in New England last week for a wedding. End of September in New England: beautiful weather, beautiful leaves, old friends, the son of those old friends getting married; how could we not attend? Driving up from Boston to New Hampshire for the wedding we stopped at a rest/tourist information area. Glancing through the brochures we found one titled Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Trails in New Hampshire. OK, you had us at wine, but the rest is not bad either. We had a free day after the wedding, and wanted to tour around; might as well have wineries etc. as a target for that driving.

We first visited Gilmanton Winery and Vineyard. Actually, bad timing on our part. They not only make wine, but also serve brunch on the weekends, and it’s a very popular place. So popular that they didn’t have anyone to serve us in the tasting room. The closest we got to tasting was grabbing a couple of grapes from the vines growing there. What was growing there was Concord grapes (perfectly ripe), so it was just like tasting grape jelly.

Getting to Gilmanton involved a couple of dirt roads, and took us past a small pond where the leaves were just starting to turn colors. Beautiful day, beautiful scenery.

Kellerhaus

Kellerhaus

Chocolate was next on the list. We went to Kellerhaus in Weirs Beach, which boasts of having an ice cream sundae smorgasbord. It did, and we did. Choose the cup size and ice cream flavor(s), then serve yourself hot fudge, marshmallow sauce, butterscotch sauce and all sorts of toppings. They also have a full selection of chocolate truffles and other candy delights.

Newfound Lake Vineyards tasting room

Newfound Lake Vineyards tasting room

Last on our list was Newfound Lake Vineyards, just on the other side of the lake from where we stayed for the wedding. They grow some of their own grapes right there, and also get some grapes from Suisun Valley in California (just east of Napa Valley). What they grow there is a white varietal called Edelweiss, which was pretty good. We bought a bottle and took it back to our friends’ house, where we had it with Thai food the next night (a pretty good pairing). The California grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which they make into both individual varietal wines and also a blend, called “Wicked Good Red,” or WGR. We liked the WGR a lot, and bought a bottle, which was consumed that evening with our friends and the bride and groom while watching the lunar eclipse.

Newfound Lake vineyards

Newfound Lake vineyards

I don’t think wine should be your primary reason for going to New Hampshire, but if you’re there and wandering around, visiting wineries is a great way to see the state and have some extra fun while you’re at it.

L’Chaim,

Larry

First Day of Harvest 2015

First day of kindergarten; first day of harvest 2015

First day of kindergarten; first day of harvest 2015

I don’t think Winemaker B (Brandon Lapides) will soon forget the first day of harvest this year. In one of those interesting coincidences, the first day of harvest for Armida Winery (Pinto Gris brought in) was also the first day of kindergarten for his first-born, Winemaker-in-Waiting Elliana. Wednesday August 19th was a big day for everyone in the family.

Winemaker-in-Waiting Elliana

Winemaker-in-Waiting Elliana

Winemaker B and WiW Elli were out in the vineyards yesterday morning checking sugar levels. The first Zinfandel was supposed to come in today; likely Sauvignon Blanc later in the week.

Winemaker B is cautiously optimistic about harvest this year. Yes, harvest is early, but the growing season started early, so the grapes got the right amount of hang time. Couple that with no sustained heat spikes, and the grape quality should be good this year. Balancing that is a reduced yield, due primarily to the drought. Still trying to figure out how much the drop in volume will be. So cautious optimism for now, but we’ll check in with him in September to see how the harvest is shaping up.

L’Chaim,

Larry