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Wine Just Off the Vine Event – Two Weekends in November

Each year the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail features two special wine events. The 2014 Wine Just Off the Vine event takes place November 8-9 and November 15-16. The second event, Tour de Tanks, is in March.

Tickets can be purchased online until October 27. However, the tickets will be mailed to you. The ticket includes a wine glass, wine tastings, light food, presentations by winemakers and 10% off purchases of wine at participating wineries. Tickets can also be purchased at the wineries.

The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail is a unique wine trail as it has wineries from two states participating in it. Almost two dozen wineries are members of the Wine Trail, many of which we have visited and written articles about.

Current Maryland and Pennsylvania winery members of the wine trail include:

Adams County Winery
Allegro Winery
Boordy Vineyards
DeJon Vineyard
Fiore Winery
Four Springs Winery
Harford Vineyard & Winery
Hauser Estate Winery
High Rock Winery
Logan’s View Winery
Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
Mount Hope Winery
Naylor Wine Cellars
Nissley Vineyards & Winery
Old Republic Distillery
Reid’s Orchard & Winery
Royal Rabbit Vineyards
Tamanend Winery
The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey
The Vineyard at Grandview
Thistle Finch Distilling
West Hanover Winery
Wyndridge Farm

Halloween for Wine and Candy Lovers

pumpkinIMG_6628Have you considered pairing candy with wine? Usually this topic comes up when talking about chocolate pairings. Numerous wineries offer chocolate and wine pairings. What about all the different types of Halloween candy, whether you are thinking about Skittles, licorice or candy corn? Is it possible to pair wines with seasonal Halloween candies?

Yesterday, Kevin sent me a link to a unique and colorful chart. The Candy & Wine Matchmaker chart shows a variety of Halloween candy and wine pairings. The poster can be viewed at http://www.thekitchn.com/choose-the-perfect-wine-to-go-with-your-halloween-candy-food-news-211620.

An example from the chart is one of Halloween’s most known candies – candy corn. For candy corn wine matching the chart suggests:
1. A sweet wine like Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thugrau, Malvasia, Moscato, Riesling
2. Rich white wines like Chardonnay, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier
3. Sparkling wines including Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or a Sparkling Rosé

What would you pair with your favorite Halloween candy?

Plan a Halloween Party for your adult friends

Halloween isn’t just for children! Why not host a fun Halloween party at your home. Be sure to decorate with orange and black crepe paper, wine glasses filled with Halloween candy. Hobby Lobby and Michaels are wonderful places to purchase seasonal items to include in your décor.

For fun add a Candy and Wine Pairing Tasting

If I were planning a candy and wine tasting for Halloween I would focus on a few of the many popular candies, being to sure to add candy corn.

Before beginning the candy and wine tasting, offer some other types of food probably tapas or pizza. Have coffee, tea, and/or water available.

Challenge each of your guests to write a haiku for each of the tastings. A typical haiku has three lines with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 syllables on the second line and 5 syllables on the third line.

Take time to enjoy a class of wine.


Does the Glass Matter?

In The Drinks Business’ post Wine Glass Best for Champagne, Says Pernod the notion of a flute and coupe is put to the challenge. Perhaps the best glass for sparkling wine is a white wine glass. This made me recall the glasses we used while in the Penedés Cava region of Catalonia and Barcelona a week ago.

We only had cava in a coupe once. We were wondering the streets of Barcelona and discovered Can Paixano, a crowded restaurant with standing room only. The restaurant serves cavas, sandwiches and tapas. We sampled two cavas, a brut nature and a demi-sec, both served in coupes to the very top. While in the Penedés wine region tasting some of the 50 Great Cavas, we did not have any cavas served in coupes. The cavas were either served in flutes or white wine glasses. This was about even with perhaps a slight edge to the flutes.

Coupes and flutes are used to serve cavas.

Coupes and flutes are used to serve cavas.

In the Penedés region of Catalonia, Spain, cavas are served in white wine glasses and flutes.

In the Penedés region of Catalonia, Spain, cavas are served in white wine glasses and flutes.


The article and our experience made me think that I should conduct some research to discover if the glasses do make a difference. At the moment, I have a nice stock of cavas, and have a couple coupes, several flutes and several white wine glasses. Some question that I am interesting in collecting data include:

Which glass keeps the bubbles longer?
Which glass keeps the cava the coldest for the longest period?
Which glass does a better job identifying the aromas?
Is the taste different between the glasses?

One thing about wine research is there is always an excitement in conducting it. I’ll let you know my findings.


Keeping Up with Our Home Winemaking

Adding must to the press

Adding must to the press

Since arriving back from our visit to the Catalonia region of Spain, where we visited with winemakers and cava producers, we have been busy with our own winemaking. Late last week we visited a company in Jessup, Maryland that sells wine grapes in 36-pound lugs and grape juice to home winemakers.

We were looking for a white grape variety that we could use in our recently buried qvevri. We finally settled for a Muscat grape, not exactly what we wanted but since it is getting late in the season it will do for our qvevri 2014 vintage. At the warehouse, it was suggested that we wait for the cold, refrigerated grapes to warm up a little – about 24 hours. We also needed to purchase the “correct” yeast as well as the clay to seal the top of the qvevri.

The day after purchasing the Muscat, we began hand destemming the grapes. The destemming for two lugs of grapes took two of us three hours to destem – much longer than what I originally thought it would take! As we destemmed we sorted the grapes into three groups: those that would go into the qvevri, those that we would press and those that we would use as raisins.

We crushed the grapes and added them to the sanitized qvevri, added yeast and then covered with a circular piece of Plexiglas with an airlock inserted. The Plexiglas is fastened to the qvevri with a moist clay coil. The cover needs to be removed two to three times a day for punch down until fermentation is completed. The must began to ferment the first day and a cap formed the second day.

This past weekend we went to Tin Lizzie Wineworks where we spent an hour pressing our Bordeaux blend into a French oak barrel which is now ready to have the wine racked off the gross lees.  While we were pressing the grapes we tasted a bit of the wine and it is definitely promising to be a great wine when it is finished and aged about two years.

After pressing our grapes we returned home with some leftover grape skins and seeds. Adding dissolved sugar water to the skins, we are attempting to make a “second run” wine. Two years ago we made a “second run” wine and we were very pleased. We hope this years “second run” wine will be as good. We discovered it’s a great way to make an affordable, everyday wine.

If you enjoy wine and want to learn more about it, I recommend making a carboy of wine at home. Check out our Wine Trail Traveler winemaking website.


Howard County, Maryland Okays First Farm Winery

Vineyards at Sugar Loaf Mountain, Maryland

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Maryland

In a Baltimore Sun article, “Howard’s first farm winery gains approval” by Amanda Yeager, I was surprised and happy to learn Howard County has approved its first Class 2 farm winery.  Howard has been the last county in Maryland to become winery friendly.

For longer than I like to think about it, Howard County, Maryland has been adverse to anyone who wanted to start a commercial winery. About three years ago, I attended a county meeting that was contemplating allowing wineries in the county to open. Several people in attendance spoke negatively using the stereotypical comments that have been proven time and again incorrect. Others spoke in favor of allowing wineries but the anti-wine and anti-development critics seemed to win by fear mongering. The only type of winemaking in the county that has been allowed has been a winemaking teaching facility not allowed to sell wines.

Galloping Goose

Galloping Goose Vineyards, Maryland

There are many benefits to locating wineries and vineyards in any region. Wineries and vineyards offer employment opportunities, support agritourism and add to the economy of the region. In addition, visitors to wineries will frequently need gas, food and lodging. Many winery facilities are architectural delights while others are small, simplistic buildings. Usually the landscaping around the wineries is well done. When the winery has vineyards, the vineyards are a sea of green during the growing season. During the winter vineyards offer numerous photo opportunities.

Congratulations to Howard County for recognizing the value of wineries and vineyards and approving its first Class 2 Farm winery. It will be interesting to watch the development of wineries and vineyards in the county.


Roundup of Catalonia-style Food and Cavas

50 Great Cavas Media Tour

50 Great Cavas Media Tour

We recently returned from Catalonia, a region of Spain where we discovered fine foods, cavas and still wines. Along the way we posted 11 Wine Trail Traveler blogs featuring the wines and foods easy to discover in this Mediterranean region. We could not have asked for better food, better cavas or better weather.

Did you miss the Catalonia and cava blogs we wrote? Below is a complete list with links.

When you have an opportunity enjoy cavas and even better try to visit the Catalonia region to enjoy a first hand experience.


An appetizer at Mas Codina

An appetizer at Mas Codina

Cava: A Must Have?
The Search for Cava Begins
Our Search for Cava Continues
Discovering a Local Bar in Barcelona
Priorat Rocks
A Qvevri or Something Else?


Returning Home from Cava to Champagne

101514aAfter discovering cava for two weeks it was time to leave Barcelona and return home. Our flight home was less direct than our flight from Baltimore to Barcelona via JFK. To go home we had to fly from Barcelona to Paris then onto Detroit, then onto Baltimore. This was not a very direct flight. The first leg of the journey was delayed in Barcelona which meant racing through Charles DeGaul Airport in Paris to make our connecting flight on time. We made it with only minutes to spare. Our first two legs was with Air France, so I naturally asked for champagne once we were at cruising altitude.

In economy, Air France was serving Champagne Pannier Selection Brut. The yellow color champagne offered some yeast notes similar to freshly baked bread. There were also apple notes and a small persistent stream of bubbles. The sparkling wine was crisp with 12% alcohol. The wine was a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

Once home, I decided to do some research on the price of this champagne. I was surprised to see the average price was $38. I thought that was rather high for a wine with a score of 84/100. The price also reaffirmed my desire for cava. The cavas we tasted in the Penedés Alt region of Catalonia were every bit as pleasing at only a third of the cost. We tasted several of the cavas on the 2014 list of 50 Great Cavas. Of those a number were less than 10€ (less than $13) while others were less than 15€ (less than $20).


Cava Tasting to Help Obra Social San Juan de Dios

IMG_3827Tomorrow we will be heading home after a delightful visit to wineries in the Catalonia region of Spain. The weather has been delightful with bright sunshine every day. Perhaps it is because we brought two umbrellas with us just in case of rain!

Unfortunately we are returning home just a few days before a charity wine event that benefits Obra Social San Juan de Dios.

On October 17 at the Hotel Hilton Diagonal Mar, the hotel will host a charity cava tasting. The organizers expect about 150 people to attend making this one of the largest charity wine tasting events in Barcelona. The wines for the event will be the Vinari Awards 2014 winners. The event will include a multi-sensory tasting session with music and cava. Two tasting sessions will be held in English. We spent two days at this hotel and had a great experience. Our room, on the top floor, had spectacular views of Barcelona and the sea.

Obra Social San Juan de Dios

According to their website, the organization works “to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people, seeking the complicity of people, organizations, companies and institutions.” Specifically they work with the homeless, those with mental health issues, intellectual disabilities, hospitalized children and much more. Be sure to check out the Obra Social San Juan de Dios website.

The above charity event is part of this week’s October 25 Grand Luxe and 4-star hotels wine tastings with Catalonia DO wines. The Barcelona Hotels Association and the Catalan Institute of Vine and Wine have worked together to create this event promoting the Cavas produced in the Catalan region of Spain.

If by any chance you are visiting Barcelona this week, do try to attend one of these special wine tastings and discover some wonderful cavas.

Cheers! Kathy

In Search of Cavas, Phylloxera Is Celebrated

Phylloxera display at Centro de Interpretación de Cava

Phylloxera display at Centro de Interpretación de Cava

Phylloxera is an insect that, in most areas of the world, has destroyed grape vines. The villain of vineyards is celebrated; however, in a small town in the Penedés region of Catalonia, Spain. While on our search for Cavas, we stopped by the museum Centro de Interpretación de Cava (CIC). The town Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is referred to as the capital of Cava. There are many Cava producers there and most of the Cava is produced there. The ultra-modern multi-sensory museum makes sense. Celebrating the insect that destroyed vineyards in the region though does not.

In early September of each year, the town celebrates, rather festively, the difficult times of poverty that faced the town after the 1887 devastation of their vineyards. Although merry makers dress up as bugs, the festival is really a celebration of the human spirit that persisted and eventually overcame Phylloxera and ultimately started producing Cava. Our museum guide mentioned that if it wasn’t for the Phylloxera, there may not be any Cava.

101114bThis museum is a must for wine enthusiasts that want to learn a bit of history associated with the bubbly. While there, a local Cava producer met us with a few of his Cavas. Josep Ma. Estruch met us at the museum and we tasted some of his Cavas. The Brut Nature Reserva Cava DO was a blend of Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeu. The sparkling wine spent 24 months in the bottle during the secondary fermentation. The Cava was a light yellow color and offered green apple and citrus aromas and flavors. It was very crisp. The 2010 Extra Brut Gran Reserva Cava DO was a blend of Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Chardonnay. The sparkling wine was aged 36 months during the secondary fermentation. It too had a light yellow color and offered freshly baked bread aroma and taste along with apple.  The third Cava was the Estruch Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava DO that was aged for 50 months in the bottle. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend was a yellow color with freshly baked bread, lemon and green apple aromas and flavors. All the Cavas were crisp and under a 14€ price point.

If you visit the Penedés wine region, stop at the Centro de Interpretación de Cava Museum in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Discover how phylloxera destroyed vineyards and how the towns people fought back and overcame the diversity and began making Cava.


What Does Cava Have to Offer Wine Lovers?

Cava at Llonpart

Cava pouring at Llopart

While on Wine Pleasures 50 Great Cavas Media Tour, visiting Cava producers and tasting numerous Cavas in Catalonia, we discovered a wonderful enthusiasm for Cavas. One comment made today after a whirlwind visit to approximately ten Cava producers was, “More people can enjoy Cava more frequently than a Champagne.” Why? The retail prices for many Cavas are more affordable than Champagnes.

How good are Cavas?

Just as with any other sparkling wine or still wine, the quality is determined by the quality of the grapes and the winemakers many decisions. We discovered many delightful Cavas this past week. There is also a regulatory board for Cava.

The vineyards for Cavas must follow strict regulations set out by El CAVA Regulatory Board. El Cava controls:

  • Amount of grapes harvested from vineyards
  • Monitors the quality of the grapes
  • Monitors the final grapes destination

Production controls include:

  • Tipping stoppers for Cava must be marked with the date of production to meet the minimum ageing requirements
  • Regular inspections
  • Cava labels must be authorized by the control board

Specific ageing of Cavas must be observed

  • Cava must be aged for at least 9 months
  • Cava Reserva must be aged for a minimum of 15 months
  • Cava Gran Reserva must be aged for at least 30 months.

According to the El Cava website: “To qualify as a ‘Gran Reserva,’ cavas are subjected to special quality controls including organoleptic and analytical examinations. The indication ‘Gran Reserva’ many only be used for ‘Brut Nature,’ ‘Extra Brut’ and ‘Brut,’ which are aged for thirty months or more in the same cellars. The label must necessarily show the indication ‘Gran Reserva’ and the year of the harvest. In this respect, Cava is the only sparkling wine which can bear this distinction.”

If you haven’t tried a Cava yet, maybe it’s time to do so. The Cava producers we toured on our visit to Catalonia are exporting to numerous countries around the world. If you haven’t tried a Cava yet, maybe it’s time to do so.







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