Blogs > The Grapevine

Wine recommendations and comments from Dean and Lisa Foster, Vintage Connections Wine Educators and Consultants. Most wines are available in Southeastern Pennsylvania and are priced between $10 and $20. Up-coming "wine events" available in the Pottstown Tri-county area are listed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wine Tips of the Week - In SEARCH for Chardonnay and NC Wineries

 from Vintage Connections 
Dean and Lisa Foster 
Wine Educators and Consultants  


In this issue, we'd like your recommendations about Chardonnay!  

In SEARCH of Chardonnay 

Chardonnay is the best selling white wines in the world and grows well in most grape-growing regions.  It's easy to find, so why go "in search of Chardonnay?"

Because Chardonnay grows in many different conditions, and because it is influenced by the terroir and affected so much by  winemakers' decisions about style, Chardonnay is a chameleon, taking on many different aromas and flavors.  

Many wine drinkers have only tasted "oaked" Chardonnay, and many people who "don't like Chardonnay" have only tasted strongly oaked, high alcohol styles.  But Chardonnay can be crafted to be a more delicate, subtle wine as well.  French White Burgundy, which is 100% Chardonnay, is often made with a softer (French) oak influence and with lower alcohol than the "big" Chardonnays from California, Australia, and other similar climates. 
Some Chardonnays are "naked," made in stainless steel with no oak.  These Chardonnays display more of the fruit of the vine, but lack the vanilla and toasty aroma and flavor imparted by oak (even in subtle ways). They can be delicious and dry, we think with more aroma and flavor than many other whites.

So, why go "in search" of Chardonnay?  First, because different Chardonnays display so many different aromas and flavors, it's fun (and educational) to try different styles, comparing the differences and "searching" for a few favorites.  

Secondly, because it is so common, we take Chardonnay for granted ourselves, rarely write about it, forget how much we enjoy it, and often forget to buy it as we are searching for something a "little different."  So, we've gone to the wine fridge and our wine closet in the basement, searching for Chardonnay, only to find we have NONE!  Oh, that roasted chicken was craving a lightly oaked Chardonnay with hints of vanilla and toast, and the cupboards were bare.  Oh NO! 

So, we're asking our readers to go "searching for Chardonnay" and tell us what you find, what you like, and what you don't like.  We'll report back after we've heard from a few (or more, hopefully) readers.  If you want to remain anonymous, let us know and we'll respect that.  Otherwise, we'll list your favorites and identify you by first name (or alias if you prefer).

GET TO IT!!!  Go search and taste and describe some Chardonnays (and French White Burgundies), tell us what you smell, taste, feel, and like and dislike.  Please write to us at by Monday, August 13 (that gives those of you who - sadly - only drink wine on the weekends TWO weekends to do some experimenting).


On the Road Again - North Carolina Wineries

We've written about North Carolina's Yadkin Valley AVA wineries and wines in the past.  Yes, good wine is made in North Carolina, especially in the Yadkin Valley.  Because of its (high) elevation, the temperatures and growing season enable vineyard managers and wine makers to grow and produce some excellent viniferas and a few good French-American hybrids.

Recently, we made the trip south again and by the time we reached the VA/NC border on Interstate 77, we couldn't resist the craving and temptation to stop at a few Yadkin Valley wineries.  Besides, we needed wine for our week away from home and were craving Chardonnay (hmmm).  Why buy from a liquor store when so many wineries are inviting you to visit (highway signs aggressively promote wineries in VA and NC)?

This trip, we only stopped at three wineries, although in the past we have stopped at MANY wineries in VA and most of those in northern NC, the Yadkin Valley AVA, along I-77. 

First across the border heading south, we stopped at Round Peak Vineyards.  Round Peak has become one of our favorites.  Good wine, very friendly tasting staff (usually one of the owners, husband and wife), and they are DOG FRIENDLY with a cute "dog yard" next to the winery, providing a shady spot for Rohan, our doggie companion.

Round Peak produces a line of dry whites and reds which we have enjoyed and purchased over and over.  They often sell out (see their website for a painful illustration), so we've often missed some of their best.  But, we've always found a few wines worth taking with us.  They also produce a line of sweeter wines, using the Skull Camp label, for those who like their wine on the sweeter side.  And, just recently they've started BREWING BEER and putting two on tap at a time.  We really enjoyed a sample of Kolsch-style beer.  Regrettably, they had not received their shipment of growlers yet so we had to go on our way without the beer.  However, we were satisfied (very) with a few wines including a wonderful Chardonnay, a tasty dry rose (made with Cabernet Franc).  Usually, Dean doesn't like roses, even the better dry ones, but this Cab Franc Rose was excellent. 

Next down the road is Shelton Vineyards.  Shelton is a big name in NC, and this is a huge wine operation.  The tasting room has to be one of the largest on the East Coast.  But, despite their size, they produce good wines and employ a friendly staff.  And, there is a very nice restaurant on the property (too often, we forget to eat while on our wine trips). 

Yep, we bought another Chardonnay for our trip.  Too bad we don't like sweet Riesling.  Cases of their "American Riesling" were on sale for $6 per bottle.  Unheard of.  Several years ago we lucked out and bought a case of mixed, dry, excellent reds for about $10 a bottle.  While not usually this inexpensive, Shelton has about the most reasonable wine prices we've found at any winery (on the East Coast).

Our last (but not least) stop this trip in the Yadkin Valley was Dobbins Creek Vineyards.  Dobbins Creek is one of five vineyards/wineries within the Swan Creek Association (a sub-area of the Yadkin Valley AVA) all within five miles of each other.  We've stopped at all of these wineries at one time or another and have several favorites among them.  This trip, we favored their dry Riesling, Chardonnay of course, and the wonderful, dry Hemric Mountain Rose made from Cabernet Franc. 

And, the view from the front porch is AMAZING.  Even if you don't drink wine, take drive up the mountain and take a look over the valley.  WOW! 

Enough already.  Time for a glass (or two) of wine! 

Fun Fact

Here's an easy one.  Burgundy is a wine-producing region of France.  In most of France, wines are named by their region, not grape variety.  Red Burgundy is 100% Pinot Noir.  White Burgundy is 100% Chardonnay.  NO OTHER WINE in the world should be named Burgundy.  If it's not from Burgundy, it isn't Burgundy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wine Tips of the Week - Sauvignon Blanc and Reader Feedback

 from Vintage Connections 
Dean and Lisa Foster 
Wine Educators and Consultants  

Thanks for feedback from some of our regular readers and wine friends.  See our responses to your feedback below.

Please let us know what topics you would like to read about and please provide feedback on our content and the wines we describe so we can better meet your needs.

Reader Feedback

Thanks to Frank who said it is frustrating to read about wines he cannot find locally.  Each week we'll try to describe a wine you can find in the Tri-county area (Berks, Montgomery, and Chester counties).  This may be a wine from a PA winery (visit them for a tasting or order on-line) or a wine available at PLCB stores within the three counties.  But, we'll also describe wines (wineries, wine trails) outside the area that you may want to visit while away from home. 

Last time we described three white wines from Galen Glen Winery near Andreas PA.  Yes, it is a long (but beautiful) drive for most readers, but you can order their wines on-line.  See each PA winery's website for ordering information and costs. 

More Reader Feedback 

Again, thanks to Frank for reminding us about Morse Code Shiraz Padthaway, Australia.  This is a wonderful and very affordable ($9.99) bold red.  PLCB code 19975 but as of yesterday, according to the  PLCB product search page), only the Lionville store (Chester County) had any (8) bottles left. 
Betsy wrote that she just enjoyed a bottle of TRIO, a bold red blend jointly produced and sold by Manatawny, Pinnacle Ridge, and Allegro.

Also "thanks" to other readers Sarah and Rob for their emails welcoming back our newsletter. 
Wine Tip(s) of the Week  Sauvignon Blanc

Here's a great wine bargain that is widely available in PLCB stores.

We often write about Sauvignon Blanc and for those of you who are already fans of this wonderful wine, we apologize for the reminder that Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing summer wine that pairs well with a wide variety of food.  It is one of the only wines that pairs well with salads, especially vinaigrette dressings.  We prefer the style produced most often in Marlborough, New Zealand with its grassy, herbal, and grapefruit aromas and flavors.  But, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé from Loire Valley (France) and many white Bordeaux are also wonderful.  California sauvignon blancs are also excellent (and are usually named fume blanc when they have some oak aging).  Buy bottles from several parts of the world and compare!

An easy-to-find and reasonable Sauvignon Blanc is Monkey Bay (Marlborough NZ), now on sale for $9.99, PLCB code 9396.  Or, using the PLCB search page, search on sauvignon blanc and scan to your heart's delight.  Better yet, just go to a local PLCB store and scan the shelves for New Zealand, California, France, and Australia.  New York's Finger Lakes wineries are now producing some excellent Sauvignon Blancs as well (but you cannot find them locally or ship to PA from NY). 
An "Old" Chardonnay 

Friends found a 2001 Chardonnay from Heron Hill (Finger Lakes) in their cellar and figured it had gone bad.  So, they served it to us.  Well, it was wonderful.  Oaked Chardonnays sometimes cellar well because the oak acts as a preservative.  The oak influence also fades leaving a more clean aroma and flavor.  Good white Burgundies and Champagnes (traditionally a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) age well because of the oak (and careful processing by the winemakers).  This Chard from Heron Hill aged wonderfully.  Don't expect an aged Chard to taste like a new, oaked Chard, but do expect a treat if you find one.
Fun Fact
White Bordeaux is usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  The Sauv Blanc provides acid and floral, herbal, and/or mineral notes (depending on the source of the Sauv Blanc).  The Semillon provides body and some sweetness (which varies depending on the source and the amount of Semillon in the blend). 

Sauv Blanc predominates in less expensive blends, while Semillon predominates in the more expensive blends. Compare to a straight Sauv Blanc and smell and taste the difference! 
See our previous post for links to some of our favorite wineries, wine trails, and wine spots.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

 from Vintage Connections 
Dean and Lisa Foster 
Wine Educators and Consultants  

We've taken off a few months but now we're back!  We expect to publish our simplified newsletter and blog once every few weeks.  Please let us know what topics you would like to read about and please provide feedback on our content and the wines we describe so we can better meet your needs.
Wine(s) of the Week

Stone Cellar Gewürztraminer
Stone Cellar Riesling
Stone Cellar Grüner Veltliner 
all crafted by Sarah Troxell, winemaker   
at Galen Glen Winery, Andreas, PA 
Lehigh Valley AVA 
Galen Glen Gewurtztraminer
What to write about after taking off three months from our newsletter and blog?

So, we looked in our wine  fridge to see what we had ready to drink on these hot summer days, and voila, we have three award-winning and acclaimed Galen Glen whites ready to enjoy.
All three whites are dry, with the Riesling and Gewurtztraminer displaying aromas that you might mistake for sweetness, but don't be fooled.  These are dry, award-winning wines (in California competitions).  Sarah, the winemaker, won "best woman wine-maker" for her Gewurtztraminer at the  Women's International Wine Competition in CA.    

Grüner Veltliner is rare, especially in the USA.  We love it because it is different from more common whites and we enjoy the difference.  So did the Mark Squires' Bulletin Board in (87 points). 

All three of these wines are available at the winery for $14.  We stocked up at the beginning of summer, but need to make another trip to the winery soon.  

See Galen Glen's website for more details about these and their other wines, news, and events.
Quick Trip

We took a little vacation in June and had the opportunity to explore wineries and taste wines along the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail.  This wine trail is mostly on the middle peninsula southeast of Washington DC and northeast of Richmond.  We had especially great tastings and conversations at the Dog and Oyster, Jacey Vineyards, and General Ridge Vineyard.  Jacey is new and, regrettably, in early June was still waiting for the Virginia ABC to approve their labels. So, we couldn't buy any of their wines, including a wonderful Zinfandel.

These are a few of our favorite wine-related businesses and organizations.
Wine Trails
Fun Fact
There are now over 140 wineries in Pennsylvania, most organized into 11 wine trails.  See  the PA Winery Association website for MORE and MORE information.
Vintage Connections
Lisa and Dean Foster
Wine Educators and Consultants
Members of the American Wine Society 
Vintage Connections provides Wine Education and Consulting Services including wine classes and seminars, food and wine pairings, and wine tastings.  In our newsletter and blogs we provide information and recommendations about wine, wine events, and the world of wine, primarily in the Montgomery, Berks, and Chester Tri-County Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania. We focus on affordable and accessible wines, mostly priced under $20 and available at PA Wine and Spirits stores or at wineries located in Eastern Pennsylvania.
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