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Arrowhead Spring Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir

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Think that pinot noir that retails for under $20 isn’t very good? Get yourself a bottle of Arrowhead Spring Vineyard 2010 Piont Noir ($18) and unlearn that widely held belief. Just-crushed raspberries and pomegranate fruit dominate the nose and tell you what’s coming on the ripe, concentrated palate — more raspberry and pomegranate with chalky, gently grippy tannins and fresh acidity. With some time open, a faint spicy, Dr. Pepper-esque note steps forward a half step. It’s not complex or a wine to age for 10-15 years, but it’s satisfying and delicious. Producer: Arrowhead Spring Vineyards AVA: Niagara Escarpment ABV: 13.6% Price: $18* (3…

Niagara Icewine Update: We Haven’t Started Getting Nervous… Yet

Niagara ice wine harvest... from 2009

With this weekend’s projected record-warm temperatures, it feels a little weird to be preparing for a weekend of ice wine themed activities across the border. In a region that can usually set its watch to that first big, bone-chilling weather event in early January, Mother Nature has only teased Niagara with a very narrow window for an ice wine harvest so far this year and people are wondering if there will be a full harvest in 2013. “I haven’t started getting nervous yet,” says Jonathan Oakes, winemaker at Leonard Oakes Winery. Oakes is the go-to winemaker in Niagara USA on…

All-New York Wine Boutique Opens In Niagara Falls

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The distance between Niagara wineries and the natural wonder of Niagara Falls has shrunk with the opening of Niagara Community College’s Culinary Institute just steps away from the brink of the falls. The school brings much-needed attention to the hospitality industry of the region with several programs including culinary arts, restaurant management, and winery operations. The building, once the site of the long-forgotten and abandoned Rainbow Centre, hosts several outlets including a restaurant and wine boutique. The restaurant, which carries some local wines, will probably be the main draw for tourists but there’s plenty of excitement around the all-New York…

Overcoming A History of Sour Grapes with Kurt Guba

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Two years ago, the owner of Freedom Run Winery bought what was once known as Warm Lake Estate, including the winery building, vineyards and much of the equipment. With the 2012 harvest,  Freedom Run saw its first harvest from those purchased vines. I sat down with friend and part-time co-worker Kurt Guba, cellar master at Freedom Run, to get his impression on the wines to come from that site not too long ago. Bryan Calandrelli: This was the first year Freedom Run Winery has gotten a harvest at the site of the former Warm Lake Estate Vineyard. How were the…

The Niagara 2012 Vintage in Their Own Words: When We Stopped Measuring Our Brix

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It’s the same story that plays out every year. Winemakers are forced to evaluate the complexities of a growing season in a consumer-friendly pitch meant to inflate or dampen expectations of a particular vintage. I tend to believe the dance that Mother Nature, grower and winemaker perform every year and the expectation of resulting quality can hardly be simplified by rehashing the weather but this look back on our young region’s season will suggest the potential of the vintage. Grower Tom Tower of Youngstown — like most everyone I spoke to this year — agreed that there was plenty of…

Woodcock Brothers Brewery Porter

I first tasted Woodcock Brothers Brewing Company’s prototype porter back in May, when the brewery was still in its planning stages and brothers Tim and Mark Woodcock were still homebrewers — rather than owners of Niagara County’s first modern-day brewery, as they are now. I loved it. The dry, smoky finish was delectable, the chocolate and walnut notes and hearty body balanced just right for the warm spring weather. I remember thinking, “If this is their sample porter, I can’t wait to try the rest of their beers.” The weekend before Thanksgiving I visited the brewery once again, and barely…

Previewing Arrowhead Spring Vineyards’ 2010 Reds

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If Arrowhead Spring Vineyards has its way, “Black Friday” will be renamed “Red Friday” on account of its annual day-after-Thanksgiving wine release event where the winery will once again change the landscape of locally grown reds by releasing several from the 2010 vintage, including the Estate Arrowhead Red, Estate Meritage Reserve, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Cabernet Franc, Estate Merlot and their 2011 Pinot Noir. The 2010 vintage was as close to perfect as any for red grapes in Niagara thanks to a long season combined with warm temperatures and dry conditions. I recently had the opportunity to taste these wines…

Buffalo Beer Week: Collaboration, and a Little Diversification

A flight of Beer Week offerings at Aurora Brew Works.

Buffalo Beer Week, which closed its second year running on Sunday, featured many events dedicated to the great bars and breweries of Western New York. I wasn’t able to attend as many Beer Week events as last year due to the timing of the event (the week leading up to a major running event), but I still managed to get out and enjoy a few of the festivities. Two great aspects of Beer Week really caught my attention; one made me proud of our existing beer community, while the other motivated me to work harder towards a better future for beer in…

Harvest 2012: Grower Tom Tower on the Rocks

Youngstown farmer Tom Tower is no stranger to the spotlight in Western New York. He’s a driving force behind several local farmers’ markets and he’s been supplying some of the best chefs in the region with his fruits and vegetables long before it was hip to eat local. These days Tower has thrown his trademark hat into the grape growing ring by supplying winemaker Jonathan Oakes and the rest of the crew at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery with grapes grown on his farm just 1.5 miles south of Lake Ontario. I had the opportunity to do an on camera interview…

Empire State Cellars Wine Club: November 2012 Selections

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The November shipment of the Empire State Cellars Wine Club will ship in a couple weeks, but — as always — I’m excited to share the selections with you. If you’re not familiar with the club, you can learn more here. “Hello New York” Wines Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Gruner Veltliner: It’s exciting to include this relatively new grape to New York, and Lamoreaux Landing’s first commercial release of it. Dry and refreshing, it shows aloe, white pepper, lemon-lime citrus, and green herbs — with just a hint of salinity. Roanoke Vineyards 2010 BOND: Some complain about the lack of quality “table wines”…