Where Wine and Beer Meet: Cider

It’s the middle of harvest and we all have been rather busy with picking grapes and the numerous wine festivals this time of year. All that being said, I never got to write a blog for last week…  

So without further ado: Cider

While I was at Cornell, one lecture was devoted to the topic of apple cider. One point brought up was, “What exactly is cider? Would you call it a wine or would you call it a beer? It doesn’t really fit either category…”

Cider, to me, is where the brewing world and the wine world meet. It is sold like a beer, often with crown caps, carbonation, and generally has the same alcohol level as a beer. From the wine end the apple juice is fermented like any other fruit wine, just with a shorter fermentation since there is less sugar in apples. The line really blurs when one starts to consider carbonation, some cider is flat like most wines others have CO2 like most beers. Legally though, cider is simply fermented apple juice with a final alcohol level below 7%.

Enough of that debate though; let’s get into what makes a good cider. Surprisingly, the answer is sharp (highly acidic) apples. Well, a blend of those and sweet apples. Most of a good cider’s structure comes from the acid that found in the sharp apples. Too few sharp apples and the drink feels watery and flat. Too many sharp apples will produce a cider that will make someone pucker in an instant. The key is finding the right blend of sweet and sharp apples.

Lastly, I’m proud to say that our Artisan Orchard Cider, just released this past weekend, is my first creation as a winemaker! I hope you enjoy it.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

 

The Three Parts of a Grape Berry

We started harvest about ten days ago so I wanted to talk about grapes today. Wine grapes have three parts: the skins, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds have been bred out of table grapes, one example being Thompson seedless grapes.

Let’s start from the inside with the seeds. Seeds are not very tasty since they have very high amounts of tannins and do little when it comes to winemaking. If you have ever bought a bag of concord grapes and then bit down on the seeds you know how bitter the seeds can be. That being said, the last thing a winemaker wants to do is crush the seeds when the juice is pressed otherwise this bitterness will find its way into the juice. Grapes can have anywhere from one seed per berry up to four seeds per berry.

The most important part of the grape for white wine is the pulp. This contains the sugar, acids (both tartaric and malic), aromatics, and a small amount of potassium. A white wine gets all of its acid and flavor profile from the juice that is extracted from the pulp.   

The last and most important part of the berry for a red wine is the skins. The skins contain all the color (called anthocyanins) in a red berry and thus need to be left in contact with the juice for the wine to have a red color. If the grapes are pressed shortly after they are crushed then the wine will be similar to a white wine or be rose in color. This part of the grape also contains the less bitter tannins that a winemaker wants in a red wine; it helps to give the final product a better mouthfeel.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery
Image Credit: http://dcwineweek.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/DCWW-Blog_extra61.jpg

Chambourcin

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I worked a wine festival in Allentown, NJ and came to realize that a number of people do not know what a Chambourcin is so here is a small introduction.

Chambourcin, a red grape, is a French-American hybrid grape that was first commercially sold in the early 1960’s. For a hybrid it is very popular in France and has found a home in the northeast United States, Australia, and Vietnam as well. It is a grape that can handle the winter cold better than most hybrids but also does well in the hot and humid summers of New Jersey because it is particularly resistant to downy mildew.

From a wine side, Chambourcin does particularly well when aged in oak. It has a number of fruit forward notes like, black cherry and plum but also has hints of baking spices from the oak. We age our Chambourcin in American oak for a period of ten months. The wine has a deep and dark plum purple color and a very round, smooth finish.   

We are just about to release our 2015 vintage, which is a wonderful example of the full bodied reds that can be produced here in Southern New Jersey. Stop in and try some today.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Let’s Talk about Closure. Wine Closures that is…

There are two main types, corks and screw-caps.

Corks are produced from the bark of a cork tree, in the Quercus species. These cork trees can be harvested every few years. Removing the bark off of the trees does not harm them in any way; additionally a new layer of bark will form meaning the cork is a renewable resource. The majority of corks used for wine are produced from trees that grow in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy. One benefit to cork is the slight bit of air that passes through them over time. This allows older wines to breath. The main drawback to natural corks is cork taint, a bacterial issue in the cork, which makes the wine inside the bottle smell like wet dogs or old wet cardboard. This has been limited though since corks are screened numerous times between the cork tree growers and the cork producers. To keep a natural cork working correctly a bottle must be inverted so the cork stays wet, otherwise the cork will dry out.     

Screw-caps are small metal shells that go over the opening in a bottle and twist off without the need for an opener. The main advantage for a screw-cap is the assurance of no cork taint. The down side is the lack of airflow across the closure over time; which is not beneficial to wine that should be aged for numerous years. Screw-caps are the main form of closure in Australia and New Zealand as high quality corks were difficult to obtain when these wine regions started to take off in the late 70’s and early 80’s.   

Which closure do you prefer?     

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

The Basics to Bubbly

To begin, as a point of clarification, the word “Champagne” when used on a bottle of bubbly indicates that the bottle was made in the Champagne region of France. In the United States the term “Method Champenoise” means the sparkling wine was produced using the same traditional methods.

The first thing to do for sparkling wine is to pick the grapes early. This minimizes the varietal characteristics of the wine and allows the yeast aromas to come through. Also, slightly under ripe grapes will make a lower alcohol base wine. After a normal fermentation, the base wine is bottled and has more yeast and sugar added. For Method Champenoise, this must be done on a bottle by bottle basis. (You can note on the bottle that it often says, “Fermented in this bottle”.) These bottles are crown capped and allowed to ferment. The secondary fermentation allows for the CO2 to get trapped in the wine and produces a small amount of alcohol to make up for the earlier lower alcohol level. Once the second fermentation is finished, the yeast is allowed to settle near the crown capped end of the bottle. The neck of the bottle then can be frozen, separating the yeast from the sparkling wine. When the bottle is opened the pressure sends the ice in the neck out pushing the yeast out with it. The sparkling wine then may have some sugar added back via a thick liquid syrup of the base wine and sugar, this is called the dosage. After all this, the wine is finally ready to be cored and with a cage, labeled and sold.

Come try some bubbly today at any of our tasting rooms.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Chardonnay often done two ways

So here at Tomasello Winery we have two Chardonnays. One, our Palmaris Chardonnay, is a classic style similar to Old World methods where the wine is aged for months in oak barrels. This brings out warm oaky notes like vanilla, cloves, and other warm baking spices. Wines of this style, ours included, also commonly undergo malo-lactic fermentation which brings forth buttery aromatics and improves the roundness of the wine, it has a nice smooth silky mouth-feel.  

The other style, found in our Tomasello Painting Chardonnay, is much more a New World creation; the wine solely sees stainless steel tanks. This allows many more varietal characteristics to come through in the finished product. The wine is much more fruit forward, with hints of apple and pear and the lack of malo-lactic fermentation gives the wine a cool, crisp mouth-feel similar to the bite of a green apple. This new style originates from the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement of the late 80’s and early 90’s, when consumers pushed away from heavily oaked and very buttery Chardonnays produced by a few very large wineries.    

If already have enjoyed a 2013 Tomasello Winery or Palmaris Chardonnay I am happy to inform you that all of us here at Tomasello Winery feel the 2014 vintages are even better. These will be released in the next few weeks.   

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

OCP Chardonnay

One way to categorize all the different wine grapes.

Most wine is produced from grapes however there is a huge number of wine grape varietals. One way to break down all the different grape varietals is to consider where in the world it originated from. Generally, most will agree, that there are three sub-categories of wine grapes. These are: Vinifera, French- American hybrids, and Native American grapes.

Vinifera (or Vitis vinifera) are the grapes from Europe. They are the varieties that one will generally find in French wines, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are just a few. These evolved in Europe and are not resistant to a number of grape vine diseases and pests that are present in North America. One extreme example is the Phylloxera aphid that decimated numerous French vineyards in the mid- 19th century.

French-American Hybrids are crosses of two different grape species or two Vitis. Normally, these will consist of a Vinifera and some other grape species. These are generally more resistant to a number of diseases and many have become commercially available thanks to grape breeding programs. Two research facilities, one at Cornell University and one at the University of Minnesota have created many that can withstand the cold winters in the Northern USA. Several of these varieties include Cayuga White, Corot Noir, and Marquette.

The last group of grapes is the Native American grapes. These evolved in North America and usually are resistant or at least very tolerant to diseases and pests like Phylloxera. These can generally be found in the North East USA. Native American grapes generally get turned into grape juice and because of this their aromas are what most people consider to be the “grapey” aroma. There are numerous grapes that evolved in Native American, these include: Concord, Catawba, Niagara, and Delaware, just to name a few.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Wine of the Week: Petit Verdot

2013 Palmaris OCP Petit Verdot (Pronounced pe-TEE ver-DOE)

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Petit Verdot was originally a Bordeaux grape from the southwest area of France. It is a less common grape in its homeland since it ripens very late in the season, additionally it buds very early. Both of these things make growing Petit Verdot a challenge as frost in the spring or fall and cold weather throughout the summer may produce a limited crop or an under ripened crop. In a good year when the grapes fully ripen, Petit Verdot has a very dark purple hue.

Petit Verdot is often not used as a varietal wine, rather it usually is used for blending to round out Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. This year we wanted to highlight our Petit Verdot and produced the 2013 Palmaris (Latin for “prize worthy”) Petit Verdot. 2013 was a wonderful growing season here in the Outer Coastal Plain. We had dry and warm conditions though the end of the harvest which allowed for a full mature crop. Once picked the grapes were allowed to macerate and ferment for two weeks before it was blended together and stored away for 28 months in a mix of French Nevers Oak and American Oak. The blend is 79% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Cabernet Franc.

Our Petit Verdot is a wonderful full bodied red wine with hints of cherry, warm hearty oak, along with many other secondary and tertiary aromas. It is best to open the wine and let it breath before you drink this wine. This allows the wine to open up and aromas to reach a fuller flavor potential. This is best done by decanting the wine. That being said, stop in at any of our tasting rooms and try some of the 2013 OCP Palmaris Petit Verdot. We are excited about the results.

I hope you enjoy this first of many wine blogs. I am going to try and discuss a few wines a month and teach some basic wine terminology/ wine processing.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

24 Wines 24 Days Holiday Sale!

The holiday season is upon us! How many of you have seen the wine advent calendars? How many of you like to buy wine as holiday gifts? Who here uses the holiday season as an excuse to fill up their wine collection? We here at Tomasello Winery want to help you with our 24 Wines 24 Days Holiday Sale! The 24 Wines 24 Days Holiday Sale is 24 wines that we are putting on sale during the month of December. We picked our favorites (some of our favorites) and ordered them in a way so you can best enjoy them all December long. The sale will be broken into 4, 6 day intervals each featuring 6 wines. Ok we know that sounds complicated so we will break it down in an easy to understand way…

December 1-6 the following wines will be on sale:

 

IMG_3224Dry Riesling

Spiced Apple

Chambourcin

Sangiovese

Cherry Wine

Sparkling Blueberry

 

December 7-12 the following wines will be on sale:

Palmaris ChardonnayIMG_3225

Ranier White

Syrah

Raspberry Moscato

Cherry Moscato

Blueberry Moscato

 

December 13-18 the following wines will be on sale:

IMG_3226Painting Chardonnay

Palmaris CabSauv Reserve

Blackberry Wine

Ranier Rose

Mulled Spiced Wine

2014 Vintage Port

 

December 19-24 the following wines will be on sale:

Winter Chill WhiteIMG_3227

Ice Wine

Pinot Grigio

Palmaris Pinot Noir

Ranier Red

Blaufrankisch

 

Simple, right? You can use the sale to try all 24 wines or wait until your favorites are on sale and stock up. The 24 Wines 24 Days Holiday Sale provides a perfect opportunity to try some wines you may have never had before. It’s also a great way to get some great wines for holiday dinners. We just want to help you get in the holiday spirit and start a new tradition. Make sure to like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss any sales!

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Holiday Wine Trail Weekend

 

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Happy Week (6 days) before Thanksgiving everyone! We here at Tomasello Winery love Thanksgiving for 2 reasons: First we have our November sale which you can use to stock up on wines for your Thanksgiving dinner. Our Winter Chill White, Ranier Red, Cranberry Moscato, Cranberry Wine, and 2013 Outer Coastal Plain Sangiovese are all on sale for 25% off until November 30th. Second the weekend after Thanksgiving is Holiday Wine Trail Weekend! Instead of spending black Friday running through the streets and standing in lines at crowded malls, spend the weekend with us. It’s a great way to unwind before the Holiday season gets into full swing and old Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose.

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There are so many great reasons to visit us during the Holiday Wine Trail. For starters we can help you cross a few people off your Christmas list with our great gift baskets. Each basket features two wines and other treats and goodies to go with them. Another reason to visit us is that we have grapevine wreaths and cork ornaments for those who stop by. The ornaments are handmade and perfect to adorn your tree but you better come in early because we only have a limited supply so get them while supplies last. All 3 days from 12-5 we will have a chocolate fountain in our Palmaris room. We repeat, a chocolate fountain. It’s so nice that we just had to say it twice. What goes better with wine than chocolate? On Saturday and Sunday we will have live music from 1-4. Lastly on both Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 we are having tapas and burgers made to order at our tapas and burger bar! We know that you’re going to have a full day so not only can you come in for a wine tasting but you can have some lunch before you head out for more shopping. We can’t wait to see you then!

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