In November, the fabulous Eve Bushman invited a few of us to her home to taste wines from Maryland. Did you know there are over 400 wines being made in Maryland? Susan Southard, publisher of Welcome to Maryland Wine Country magazine, was in SoCal to visit family, and decided to mix business with pleasure by bringing along some wines for some California writers to taste. Eve hosted winemaker Shawn Shai Halahmy, Debra Bizek, Mary Bradway, winemaker and writer Russ Briley, and yours truly.
It turned out to be a very interesting evening which made me research the Maryland wine community. Thanks, Eve and Susan!
2006 Basignani Lorenzini Reserve - A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. There was a significant amount of oxidation, the color being brown and the nose indicating that it well past its prime. Luckily, the wines that followed were in much better shape.
2007 Serpent Ridge 'Basilisk' - A well-rounded blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with dried cherry on the nose and hints of coffee and tobacco on the palate. 13% alc. made it easy to drink. The current vintage (2010) retails for around $24. And yes, the winery is named for the reptiles on the property!
2007 Black Ankle Leaf-Stone Syrah - With some barnyard-y notes of tobacco and cranberries, this wine was my favorite of the Maryland wines. The label stated they had blended 4% Pinot Noir and smaller percentages of Cab Franc and Merlot into the Syrah. Firm tannins, chocolate and baking spices reflected the 100% new French oak and nicely balanced the berry-licious fruit from the stony Mt. Airy region. $45
2010 Black Ankle Passaggiata Red Blend - A pretty, bright ruby blend of some unidentified red grapes, had strawberry and pomegranate overtones with a pleasantly acidic finish. Unremarkable, but definitely drinkable. $28
We finished up with what Susan put forward as a dessert wine. Thanksgiving Farm Vineyards in Anne Arundel County does a non-vintage pressing of Cabernet Franc with no skin contact, calling it Franc Blanc. You read that right. The color was pale salmon, the nose was resin-y with some apple overtones. On the palate, the resin was stronger with a saltiness on the finish that no one could explain. The website suggests pairing it with cheese. We all quietly moved on to revisit some of the other wines, as well as some Shai Cellars Adome (or was it the Grenache. I didn't write it down!), and a tasty Pinot Noir from local winemaker, Russ Briley, who does very small quantities of his Nuggucciet Cellars wines (of which I'd like to taste more!).
Shaw Vineyard was also visiting and brought some of bottles to present to a lucky few of us in the Cellar at 55 Degree Wine in Atwater Village. The Finger Lakes region was created by glaciers, and the wines reflect the minerality of clay and shale left behind by the ice. Because of the cool climate, the fruit doesn't get overripe, so all the whites end up around 12% alc., and the reds around 13%.
2006 Unoaked Chardonnay - The nose was strangely woody, like twigs. The earthiness of the nose gave way to viscous, soft and buttery fruit with great minerality. Really tasty. $15
2007 Gewurztraminer - Spicy apples on the nose, with a side of kerosene and chamomile tea. Lovely fruit in the mouth. $19
2011 Sauvignon Blanc - A slightly grassy nose gave way to an oddly sweet middle palate, but finished dry. Others who were tasting like it a lot; me, not so much.
2010 Pinot Gris - Wow. Full-bodied, very dry, with great acid to fruit balance and tremendous minerality. I don't like Pinot Gris in general, but I like this a lot! $15
2008 Riesling - This dry Riesling aged on the lees for 3 years. My tasting companions liked this a lot, but I found something sour on the finish that didn't work for me.
2008 Pinot Noir - Unfiltered and unfined, 3 years in replaned French oak barrels. Great minerality in the nose, lovely fruit on the palate. Yummy and very drinkable. $25?
2007 Cabernet Franc - 3 years in oak. Rich and earthy; kept getting better as it opened. $35
2007 Keuka Hill Reserve - This blend of 40% Cab Sauv/30% Merlot/30% Cab Franc, having aged for 4 years in French oak was spicy and peppery and just delicious. I wanted more! $30
Steve told us that there are 285 wineries in New York State with 140+ in the Finger Lakes. He grows both vitis vinifera (Old World grapes) and vitis labrusca (New World grapes), but he and his dad are focused on making wines with a Burgundian feel to them. I look forward to tasting more of his wines!
What other states are making wines that the Goddess needs to taste? Cheers!