by Dave Williams
For the past two years or so my wine experience has been in transition. My focus has been on a selection of grapes that are relatively new to me and not the most common. I find exploring a grape variety from many locations easiest for me to grasp its message, followed by the influence of climate, terroir and wine-making style. My preferences find their way quite simply as do food pairings, without attending to the point scores assigned by the wine press.
More recently, reading Terry Theise’s two books, “Reading Between the Wines” and “What Makes Wine Worth Drinking”, has challenged my overall approach toward wine. It has prompted a transition from more of an analytical to an experiential approach reflecting on the wine’s message and “authenticity” or connection to place and people. Madeline Puckette in her newsletter, “Wine Folly”, recently compared and tasted three grocery store California Cabernet Sauvignons under $20, which indirectly reinforced the concept of “authenticity” as these were primarily what I call manufactured wines – consistent from year to year without much variation. These volume wines are composed in the winemaking process utilizing all the tools chemistry provides to produce a desired outcome. It is quite the contrast from approaching a wine to experience its message of a place and people with all the variation a vintage imbues. I equate this to the difference between quiet listening versus loudly being told.
So, if you have ever questioned what wine really means to you, I urge to pick up one or both of Theise’s books and ponder how you experience wine or how wine speaks you.
by Averill Shepps
The Pennsylvania Wine Excellence tasting and awards ceremony was attended by 90 people, There were winemakers, wine lovers, in fact everyone there was interested in or involved in the Pennsylvania wine industry and in encouraging the wineries to make great wines. Leaving you in suspense no longer, the winner was Waltz Moscato, while the top scoring red wine was the Stony Run Cabernet Franc. It was the third year in a row that Waltz won, though each year for a different wine.
As we got ready for the event on that Sunday, I looked around the room and saw all the board members and former board members, running around performing the various tasks that need to be done. I was moved by the spirit with which they got to work, each at their own job – bringing and arranging all the bottles needed for the 90 people, opening them all, pouring 10 glasses at 90 place settings.
Then there was the audio-visual to be set up, the tasting order to be distributed, and all the while our stalwart treasurers were checking the 90 attendees in at the door. We have a dedicated group of volunteers who work without compensation or recognition because they feel that what we are doing is important. A big thank you goes to all of them!
And a personal thank you as well to all those who were involved in the recognition ceremony that Frank Fritsch had organized to honor me for the 17 years I have worked on the event. I was truly stunned and even rendered speechless by the ceremony. Now I can say that while I don’t do all that work for the recognition, it is certainly lovely and meaningful to receive it. Thank you all!
by Dave Williams
I particularly enjoy our PA Wine Excellence event. This year’s celebration was an entertaining and successful event judging by the comments and lingering social interactions. The wines continue to improve and we see new wineries participating each year. Waltz again captured top honors with their 2018 Moscato followed by Stony Run’s 2016 Cabernet Franc, Reserve. However, all 20 wines presented were quite worthy in their own right as were many of the 90 wines submitted. If you are skeptic of Pennsylvania wine, you really need to attend this event to re-evaluate your assessment of Pennsylvania wine and hear the story from the people who make it. They are truly “authentic” to use Terry Theise’s term having a connection to a place and family or people.
FYI. PWS is a distributor of Riedel glassware. Those that attended the tasting with Riedel can attest to the impact of proper glassware can have on the wine experience. It can be quite dramatic. As a distributor we are entitled to 40% discount off retail pricing. I would be interested to hear from those who would be interested in purchasing Riedel glassware and who would be interested in having another Riedel tasting event. If not for yourself, it makes a great gift for a fellow wine enthusiast. To quote Riedel, “Grape varietal specific stemware features finely-tuned glass bowls consisting of three variables: shape, size and rim diameter; to translate the ‘message’ of wine to the human senses.”
For info on Riedel glassware, I suggest visiting www.riedel.com.
by Dave Williams
TE, The Inn at Leola Village 38 Deborah Drive, Route 23, Leola, PA 17540 (717)656-7002 www.theinnatleolavillage.com
Originally an Amish tobacco farm slated for demolition in 1999 to make way for a convenience store and automotive service center, it was—thankfully—magnificently renovated in rustic character with a mission to create a five-star resort. The locals thought it was a foolish endeavor and claimed it would happen only when pigs flew, which explains the many images, statues and figurines of winged or flying pigs adorning the property.
Today it has two restaurants, three acres of gardens, unique accommodations, event hospitality facilities and a spa. Osteria Avanti is a noteworthy, yet more conventional Italian restaurant, servicing the property with breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. However, it is TE that makes dining a truly grand celebration. Chef Calabrese wanted to create the ultimate expression of a formal Italian restaurant. Ultimate is no exaggeration! Your experience will be a journey of refined Italian cuisine worthy of the Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5 Diamonds rating. Dining is offered Friday and Saturday only and reservations are required, as is a jacket for the gentlemen. The menu consists of two basic offerings: a five-course prix-fixe or a nine-course degustation menu. Multiple choices for each course are standard, as are the chef’s amazing intermezzos between most courses. Wine can be purchased from the list of 450+ wines or you can select the sommelier’s pick of wine for each course. TE is luxurious entertainment with impeccable service for you and your mouth and soul that takes an evening (2.5-3.5 hours). In fact, the exchanges with the engaging staff enhanced the entire evening. It comes at a price, but worth every penny. The five-course menu is $129/person and $199 with wine paring. Degustation menu is $199 and $299 with wine paring. It is a dining experience to rival the finest in the world regardless of location. Be prepared to be impressed, I most certainly was and anticipate returning.
by Dave Williams
This year will be 33 years since several curious individuals came together to explore wine, armed simply with more questions than answers, but a hunger—or should I say thirst—to learn. Today we are an organization that regularly gathers to learn and explore the vast world of wine. Our future and success depend on you and others who have an interest in learning about wine. Speaking for myself, much of my wine knowledge has come from PWS events, which enhanced my appreciation of wine and significantly impacted my dining pleasure. One of the remarkable things about wine is that its pleasure accrues value when shared with someone else.
Over the years there have been a dedicated and revolving team of people who plan, prepare and execute our events. A great deal of thanks goes to those individuals. They do this out of passion, as there is no compensation other than the gratitude of smiling faces enjoying an event and the knowledge acquired.
I would invite your input on subjects and events you would like to see PWS present. Plus, I encourage you to invite your friends, family or business associates who have a curiosity about wine to attend an event. What we share is a pleasure, comradery and desire to learn. What we gain are friends and a deeper appreciation for one of life’s great pleasures.
by Averill Shepps
The PWS Bylaws require a change of executive officers after serving for three years. As I have served a three-year term, we just held an election at which time Dave Williams was chosen to take over as President. He has served ably on the Board and as Vice President. I will remain on the Board as Past President. As I leave, I want to remind you all of what Peter Weygandt said about us after speaking at the Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting three years ago. He expressed his impressions of us beautifully.
“I had a most enjoyable time—being with such genuine wine lovers, so attentive, so involved in each wine, and enthusiastic – a wonderful feeling, and so rare to find these days. As Robert Parker once said to me – it is easier to find a great wine than it is to find people who truly appreciate great wine. You have such a group.”
Let us never lose that spirit! Part of it is you; part is the Board that works diligently to put on good events for you; part of it is past Board members who continue to help us out by pouring wines when asked, by helping with our PA X judging, by keeping up our Facebook page, etc. People will leave the Board, but as they do so they tell us they will continue doing what they have been doing for us. I know our members are outgoing and welcoming to new attendees so that they will feel comfortable. After all we all share a common, consuming interest—learning about wine. We are fortunate indeed to have such a group! May I leave you with a bit of trivia. The Friday night tasting group at the Lemoyne store (I call it the Pub) had a distinguished visitor last Friday. Governor Wolf was there!
by Averill Shepps
As I think about what to write this month, my memory goes back to the earlier years of PWS, back to when we were known as the Wine Society of Central Pennsylvania. Back when we started we were the only game in town. If you wanted to learn about wine, we were your answer. Now the wine specialty stores are having tastings! I recall my first wine society tasting and my surprise at hearing about events coming up. I wanted to attend all of them in order to increase my knowledge. Naturally some events were good, and some not so good, but there was never an event where I learned nothing. That is still true. In Science, a negative result in an experiment is still important as it gives you more information about what you are studying. Wine is much like that. You try wines made from a specific grape or from a certain country or wine area, even a specific vintage from a really good (or bad) year, and all those experiments blend together to increase your knowledge. In the early years of your pursuit, you are also learning about your taste buds and your nose. We are all unique so that what appeals to one person is not the same as another. When we vote for our favorite wine at the end of a tasting, most wines get at least one or two votes. Another huge plus for becoming part of PWS is that you meet people who share your passion for your favorite subject. To others, we are obsessed; to kindred souls we are a source of yet more knowledge and we can join our friends in enjoying wine more than once a month!
—by Averill Shepps
Late Fall is election time for your Wine Society. A Nomination Committee has begun work and will be announcing its results at our November Board meeting on Monday, November 12. The vote itself will take place at the December meeting on Monday, December 10. All meetings are held at the Harrisburg Hilton and begin at 6:30 p.m. You may order dinner from the room service menu and have it served just before the meeting. Board members may bring wines that we sample during the meeting. Nominations for any Board position may also be made by a Board member. You may attend the meeting, or you may send your nomination to the Committee Chair, Scott Casper, at 9 Spring Hill Lane, Elizabethtown, PA 17022 or email him at: email@example.com. Not only can any current member nominate another member for a Board position, s/he may also vote at the December meeting. Members have the right to attend any Board meeting; the dates are listed on the back of each Newsletter.
If any of you are considering joining the Board, we would love to hear from you. It means going to monthly meetings at the Hilton, helping with tastings, and thereby learning how to host events or perhaps perform another function for the Society. You will learn a lot more about wine and be working with some really dedicated people who love the subject. Talk to any Board member about what is involved and let us know of your interest.
–by Bill Beeson
Upper level at 7011 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg PA 17112 Phone: 717-710-3731 Hours: Tues- Sat: 10am – 9pm; Sun: 11am – 7pm
Our area has seen a number of phở restaurants open recently, and we’ve been sampling them. Phở (pronounced “fuh”) is the national dish of Vietnam. It is a rich broth with rice noodles and your choice of a variety of meats, seafood, or vegetarian ingredients. Bean sprouts, Thai basil, scallions, jalapenos and lime are served on the side to top your order to your tastes. It is a full meal.
For lighter fare, appetizers consist of a variety of hot and cold Vietnamese rolls, most containing pork, as well as Bánh Mì or Vietnamese meat sandwiches (think Vietnamese sub). The menu fills out with meat and seafood entrees with rice vermicelli or white rice, and fried rice combos. An interesting variety of Vietnamese beverages are available. We didn’t sample any as we brought wine, of course.
I ordered the Tàu Hủ Cuon – Winter Rolls – fried tofu and vegetable cold rolls which are served with a delicious bean dipping sauce. I was very impressed with the fresh and complex flavors in this vegetarian roll – these were the best rolls of this style I’ve tasted anywhere. For my entrée I chose the Phở Vegetables. Some phở dishes I’ve tasted were somewhat bland, but not this one! The broth was extremely flavorful and the vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The added fried tofu was so good, I wished there was more (something to request next time). The Vietnamese vegetables provided some unusual, subtle and delectable flavors. Vietnamese food is distinct from Chinese, Thai and Cambodian, though some ingredients are shared. Lynne had the Gỏi Cuốn spring roll appetizer and the Cơm Chiên Đồ Biển – shrimp, salmon, crabmeat, shrimp balls & egg stir-fried rice. The spring rolls were crispy, fresh, and contained an unidentified interesting, unique spice combination to be enjoyed. The seafood rice had fresh garden ingredients and fresh seafood with several fish surprises not promised (cuttle fish and scallops); making it both interesting and tasty.
The shock of the evening was our check as we found prices to be very reasonable given the gustatory experience we both enjoyed. WHEN, not if you go; because you must go – this is a great find. We recommend bringing light whites and rosés which will not overwhelm the subtle, wonderful taste profiles in these dishes. Enjoy!
—by Averill Shepps
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new comes along. In this case it’s blue wine, not the Blue Nun wine that was popular in the 70’s, but blue-colored wine! Why? I suppose because it can be made. The vinification process uses both red and white grapes blended with anthrocyanin from the red grape skins and indigotine, an organic compound commonly used as a food dye. It was first made by a Spanish company called Gik and the Italian Blumond, but they both ran afoul of the wine labelling laws.
A new company has made a blue wine and calls it Vindigo, avoiding the laws, possibly because nowhere on the label is it called wine and because it has enough alcohol to be called wine . Blumond at 7% alcohol was rejected for that reason. According to Vindigo’s Facebook page, it is made from Chardonnay grapes filtered through red grape skins for the anthrocyanin. Flavors mentioned are cherry, raspberry, blackberry and passionfruit. No mention of the food coloring. Apparently the drink is very popular in some parts of southern France, so okay, it’s a non-serious holiday wine that looks pretty in the pictures as it is a lovely color, but not one that we usually drink.
Blue wine has received press attention in such magazines as the British Decanter, as well as the American Food and Wine and Wine and Spirits. Reuters has also covered it. Let’s see where this trend leads. I’m sure the story isn’t over, and if the wine proves to be serious, PWS will have to introduce it to you.