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President’s Message – Corona Virus Crisis Response

President’s Message to PWS Members and Guests

Corona virus is an invisible threat to our health and normal life. What we do not know about it is what makes it so dangerous. The, so called, “abundant precautions” will hopefully flatten the curve and return quick and significant dividends enabling us to return to normalcy. However, until then we will suspend all tastings by the PA Wine Society. Our intention is to reschedule most if not all events going forward. Details and dates will be communicated when known. PWS will be a responsible community citizen placing your health as priority #1.

For those who have signed up for our tastings, we will hold your reservation payment until we determine if/when the event can be rescheduled. When a reschedule date is announced, you may determine if you are able to attend. If you cannot attend, a refund will be provided, or you may apply the fee as a credit toward a future tasting. A refund check will be mailed to you, if desired. If you wish a refund, please contact the treasurers via the Contact Us page of the PWS website http://www.pawinesociety.com/contact-us/.

In the meantime, we urge you to be a considerate citizen, practicing safe and appropriate measures, to avoid contributing to spread of the virus. We look forward to seeing you at future tastings when things return to normal. Until then, I pray you all have sufficient wine to last until the PLCB reopens its stores.

Dave Williams
PWS President

MA(i)SON | An Urban Cookery

by Jim Lang

MA(i)SON | An Urban Cookery  at 230 North Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17603 Phone: (717) 293-5060
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

It is tough to find a restaurant which features both good food, and is quiet enough to easily allow conversation. Maison satisfies on both counts. Nina and I got a table at 7 PM on a Saturday night and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, even though the small space was packed.

It’s country French, and BYOB ($7 corkage), with a choice of four starters, four entrees and 3-4 desserts, all in ample amounts and all delicious. We had homemade burrata, foie gras, duck breast, gnocchi…ahhh. Check the website at maisonlancaster.com. I have to thank my dermatologist in Hershey for recommending it.

From their website: “Ma(i)son is a contrived word that combines the French word for house or home (maison) with our last name (Mason)—in essence  ‘Mason’s house.’  For the first few years we lived in the apartment above the restaurant and think of our restaurant as an extension of our home.   It is this sense of comfort and conviviality that we share with our diners on a nightly basis.   At Ma(i)son, we like to think that every night we host a dinner party for our friends, family and neighbors.” — Taylor and Leeann Mason

Street parking is easy, even on Saturday night, and the staff is friendly and welcoming. I now have four restaurants, three of which are in Lancaster, to recommend to friends: The Belvedere, John J. Jeffries, Maison, and the Hilton in Harrisburg (noisy, but with good oysters and steak). I welcome recommendations from anyone reading this.

President’s Column – April 2020

by Dave Williams

The life blood of every volunteer organization is first volunteers, and second, new members. PWS recruitment success has primarily been by direct one on one contact with individuals. However, I have to commend Marty Cook persuading more than a dozen non-members to attend his recent “Godforsaken Grapes” tasting. While I want to encourage Marty to keep up the good work, we can all bring new faces to our events. Needless to say, recruitment of new members has been slower than we would like to see.

When I look across our membership at tastings, I see a sea of senior blonde hair; gray for those of us who don’t hold on to a bit of vanity. Of course this applies more to the men than ladies. This brings me to an event, that is in the planning stages, to appeal to millennials or younger audience. This will be a family-friendly extra event planned for June 13 at Nissley Vineyards. The purpose is to enable younger couples and singles (children included) to attend a budget-conscious event to experience and explore wine and its contribution to life. Details will follow, but what I am asking is that if you have offspring, younger acquaintances, friends and co-workers that have even a slight interest in wine, please help encourage them to attend.

Wine is a wonderful, intimate product connected to a place and people. It can enhance a meal, a moment, a romantic encounter regardless of age. It is not a product that should be restricted to the senior blonde audience.

PA Wine Excellence XVIII Results

by Averill Shepps

Sunday, January 26th was the date for the annual awards ceremony and wine tasting for the 18th annual Pennsylvania Wine Excellence judging. We were pleased to have record attendance of 107 for this popular event that highlights the Pennsylvania wine industry. I recall the early days when we held the awards tasting in one of the smallest of the Hilton’s banquet rooms, and now we have now graduated to a section of their ballroom! The winner of our top award and recipient of our elegant plaque this year was Mazza Vineyards Winery for their 2018 Ice Wine. The runner up was Armstrong Valley Winery’s 2017 Cabernet Franc. Winemakers representing the top 13 wines spoke at the event, recalling the difficult wet summer of 2018 when conditions were difficult in the vineyards. We could only admire their hard work, perseverance and ingenuity in dealing with what nature handed them.

Your wine society has a strong crew of volunteers, many of whom helped with such tasks as receiving the wines and getting them to the Hilton on time (Dave Williams and Brett Kern); pouring the sparkling wine for the guests as they entered the room (Rit and Stephanie Casey); many hands were at work with the set up as well as with opening and pre-pouring the other 12 wines (Cindy Shingler, Scott Casper, Kim and Dave Hawkins, Bonnie Noll, Marty Cook, Christine Williams, Susan Decker, Stacey Zechman). Before and after the tasting our Treasurer (Lynne Beeson) and Assistant Treasurer (Cathy Boyd) took reservations, followed up with guests on details, kept financial records, and checked in attendees. It was heartening to see them all work to make the event a great success. My thanks to all of them!

President’s Column – March 2020

by Dave Williams
A considerable amount of work goes into PA Wine Excellence, for which I would like to thank Averill Shepps and the PWS team that tackles any problem that arises the day of the event. To give you an idea as to scale, we poured 1,378 glasses of wine on Sunday, Jan. 26. No small feat. However, for me the greatest reward is seeing the enthusiasm of the audience, both wine enthusiasts and wine makers. The chatter that occurred during the breaks had many exchanges between wine makers and enthusiasts. Pennsylvania wines certainly deserve more attention and recognition. PWS tries to call attention to the great wines of PA with PA Wine Excellence. Our contribution to the wineries is the press coverage we seek before and following the event. Congratulations to the Winning, Top 13 and 10 Honorable Mention wines and wineries. Attendance exceeded 100 this year. Hopefully, guest and winery participation will increase year after year.

Through my participation in PA Wine Excellence over the years I have gotten to know many of the winery owners and wine makers. These have become valued relationships for me. I particularly enjoy hearing the details and stories behind the wines as told by the wineries at our event. The wines are not merely a product but a place, a time and people captured in a bottle. I like Terry Theise’s term, “authentic” as an excellent contrast to manufactured. Drink local, you may be surprised at what you find.

BYOB Insider – El Rancho Restaurante Y Pupuseria

by Lynne Beeson

El Rancho Restaurante Y Pupuseria Address: 210 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg PA 17101 Phone: 717-317-9239
Hours: Open 7 days a week. Wednesdays open for lunch only 11-3.

Here is another great find for eat in, takeout, or Uber delivery to pair with your favorite casual wines. Authentic Guatemalan cuisine is prepared lovingly in this kitchen. This place can render a business chore type trip downtown something one actually looks forward to, just for the stop at El Rancho on the way to the car for takeout. Guatemala food such as nachos, burritos, and enchiladas are just as delicious as you’ll find in your favorite Mexican restaurant–and much cheaper. Guatemala food and drink are primarily influenced by the country’s Mayan and Spanish cultures with additional influences from African and Caribbean cultures.

Ready for a taste of Guatemala’s food? No Guatemalan dish is more emblematic of the country than Pepian and you will find it here. This spicy and slightly bitter stew is a fusion between Maya and Spanish cuisine. What gives Pepian its characteristic flavor are toasted pumpkin or sesame seeds, tomatoes, and squash or pumpkin. If stew’s too much, or not your thing, try the Chiles Rellenos: Chile peppers stuffed with rice, cheese, meat, and/or vegetables (often covered with egg batter and fried). And you must try the Pupusas no matter what. This traditional street food comes to Guatemala from neighboring El Salvador. It’s a tortilla normally filled with refried black beans, cheese or pork cracklings, fried to a slight crisp. Pupusas are topped with curtido, or pickled cabbage, a light refreshing garnish. I highly recommend the Pupusa with carnitas and extra cheese. Just one of which, makes a filling lunch for only $2.50. If filling wasn’t the case, I’d love to try desserts one day – but for now I’ll just preview dessert.

Featured desserts include Tres Leches Cake, a cold dessert cake soaked in three types of milk, including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream. Flan, a wobbly, golden-colored caramel custard with some liquid caramel on top. Or for something a little lighter you could try the Horchata, a traditional drink made from rice, sugar, almonds and a bit of cinnamon. Tasty.

This is BYOB so, what wine is regional? None! Guatemala is too close to the equator for viticultural comfort. There’s lots of sugar cane grown, however, and many rums produced and exported. Pinot Noir has been rumored to be produced but won’t likely replace Oregon or Burgundy ones on our tables! Pinot Noir would be a nice wine to pair with many of these dishes. The food is clearly made from fresh ingredients and is truly delicious. The menu is simple, yet includes everything from soup and salad to more hearty fare of burritos, tostadas, and tortas, and a selection of dinner entrees. And you can have your selection made to order. Kid and grandkid friendly too. Check it out next time you’re downtown.

President’s Column – February 2020

by Dave Williams

Unlike the current atmosphere surrounding our upcoming national election we had no contentious issues in our recent elections. The current slate of officers have been re-elected and we added two new board members to our slate: Jim Lang and Joe Via. I look forward to working with both to bring forth some new perspectives and ideas to further PWS’s mission of wine education and entertainment. In addition, you may have noticed we added a new Social Media position to our board last year: Kimberly Hawkins is fulfilling that role. I urge you to add PWS to your social media accounts and share our posts with your friends to help us increase exposure. Thanks to Marty Cook’s prompting, a wine info section was also added to the web site. In this section we look forward to interesting and relevant tidbits of facts and knowledge on wine.

I am committed to insuring PWS is focused on serving you, our members, so let us know your thoughts, comments and suggestions; including criticisms. Serving as a PWS officer or board member is truly based on a love of wine and desire to share the experience with others. To that point I will again ask you to invite friends, business associates and family that are interested in or merely curious about wine to one of our events. Sharing the wine experience is one of each event’s unique features and value.

New Wines – There’s More Than Beaujolais Nouveau

by Dave Williams

I would bet most of us are familiar with “new wine” because of George DeBoeuf and Beaujolais Nouveau which appears annually on the third Thursday of November. George certainly did a marvelous job as a promoter or extraordinary marketer. To the point where it has become cause for grand, and some say crazy, celebrations; and certainly increased revenue for wineries and retailers across the globe, regardless of whether people like Beaujolais Nouveau or not. In Japan one ritual is for the consumers to bathe in giant pools of the stuff. Makes one wonder if they drink their way out of the pool. While George may have latched on to wildly successful marketing ploy he certainly has no claim of exclusivity or originality as new wine has been made in the Old World for hundreds of years.

As far back as Medieval times wine makers traditionally first tasted their “new wines” around St. Martin’s Day (November 11). In Eastern Europe the Czeck Republic and Hungary also have such celebrations around wines called Svatomartinske Vino and Marton bora or wine of St. Martin, respectively. Not all are made via carbonic maceration, although most are. (Carbonic maceration is when harvested grapes are fermented in closed vats bathed in carbon dioxide prior to crushing producing simple wines with low levels of tannins. These wines are quickly bottled and consumed with no intent for longevity.) In fact, the Czech Republic has quality standards for Svatomartinske which undergoes evaluation by the state wine making institute. In Hungary, Marton bora is strongly connected to goose dishes with goose feasts occurring throughout the country upon release.

All so called, “new wines” are produced from early harvested grape varieties, Gamay being the most well-known. However, in Central Europe Muller-Thurgau, Fruhroter Veltliner and Muskat Moravsky are used to make white, as well as rose, “new wines”. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your opinion of these wines, most are unknown outside the local areas they are made. For example, the Gaillac appellation in Southwest France makes Gaillac Primeur and releases it on the same day as Beaujolais Nouveau. I would bet you have never heard of this new wine, let alone tasted it. “New wines” also appear in Austria, Italy and Spain during fall in the year of harvest although few if any are imported to the US. Released on October 30, Italy’s “vino novello” is probably the only one likely to find its way Stateside.

In summary, “new wines” bring energy and some excitement to the wine world. Celebrations occur after release for a few weeks then all is quickly forgotten, very ephemeral.

Gifting a Birth Year Wine

by Cathy Boyd

Recently I attended a christening for my newborn nephew and instead of arriving at the christening with an age appropriate gift, I gave the parents an IOU. I would buy a bottle of wine from the child’s birth year, store the bottle for 20+ years, and then give it to the child on their 21st birthday.

What are some guidelines on choosing a wine that will be palatable in 2038, considering most wine produced is best consumed within 5 years of bottling? First, choose a varietal that is known to have potential to hold up over the 2+ decades. Reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Vintage Port. Whites – Riesling, Semillon, and Champagne.

Research the vintages. Because the year is already chosen for you, review the professional’s opinion on the potential of the vintage. Look for producers who consistently make great wine no matter the seasonal difficulties. Buy the bottle when it is released. The cost of the bottle at release will be less than purchasing it several years after release at an auction, plus you will have the provenance.

Plan the purchase of the bottle. Purchasing the bottle is done long after the candles on the 1st birthday cake is blown out. Don’t forget! If available, purchase a magnum bottle (1.5L) of the wine of your choice. Magnums age more reliably and will provide the opportunity for more to share in the celebration when opening.

Finally, store the wine carefully. Proper cellaring conditions allows the wine to age rather than deteriorate.

For birth of a nephew in 2017, I purchased a Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese Riesling. I consulted professional reviews – Wine Spectator 95 points, drinking from 2025 to 2039. Price $45. The bottle is tucked away in my wine refrigerator (with a tag noting the intended recipient). And of course, I bought a second bottle for my collection.

President’s Column – January 2020

by Dave Williams

A bit of history: PA Wine Excellence is one of our most enjoyable and educational events. It should be attended by those who have both a negative and positive impressions of PA wines as opinions will be changed or confirmed, respectively. Today PA’s wine industry is about 50 years old, however, it all started with William Penn in 1863. While his Bordeaux cuttings did not survive they did manage to produce a cross hybrid called Alexander which became popular mid-18th century. Pierre Legaux emigrated from France to America in 1787 and started PA’s first commercial vineyard and nursery based on the Alexander grape. By mid-19th century PA was the 3rd largest producer of wine.

The locus of PA wine making moved from the southeast to the northwest with the 1864 establishment of the South Shore Winery (recently purchased and reactivated by Mazza Vineyards). The Concord grape moved Lake Erie’s focus to table grapes aided by prohibition. After prohibition the legislature created the PLCB which hindered the growth and development of PA wineries. It wasn’t until the passage of the Limited Winery Act in 1968 which allowed farm wineries to make and sell up to 50,000 gallons of wine. (Thanks to effort of Doug Moorhead who then started Presque Isle Winery with William Konnerth.) Pennsylvania’s wine industry grew from 11 wineries in 1976 to 270 or so today. Act 39 was passed in 2016 which further enabled wineries to self-distribute to licensed outlets like grocery stores and wine shops. It also authorized up to $1 million for marketing and research supporting PA wine.