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Ode to Catawba Wine by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Dedicated to The Father of American Wine – Nicholas Longworth

Ode to Catawba Wine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(Written In Praise of Nicholas Longworth’s Catawba Wine made on the banks of the Ohio River)

This song of mine
Is a song of the Vine
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers.

It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys.

Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O’er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.

For the richest and best
Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River,
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.

And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees,
Forever going and coming;
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing
and humming.

Very good in its way
Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious and dreamy.

There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Quadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o’er
the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains,
That have driven the
Old World Frantic.

To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer,
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil’s elixir.

While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it,
one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it.

And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.


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The Father of American Wine – Nicholas Longworth


The Father of American Wine – Nicholas LongworthUp until the 1800s, wine in America, for the most part, was produced locally and in small batches. The first Europeans to come to America, brought their love of wine with them. Because the native grapes they found made poor tasting wine, they had to bring the vines to America as well. They preferred the wine from the familiar Vitis vinifera vines. The first recorded planting of these imported wine grapes was in New Mexico way back in 1629 but still there was no major wine production until over a hundred years later.

In 1802 the native grape Catawba was discovered. Unlike the other native grapes previously discovered, the Cayawba was deemed fit for wine making. Nicholas Longworth planted a vineyard of Catawba in Ohio, which grew to 1,200 acres by 1842. Longworth, using traditional Champagne making techniques, crafted America’s first sparkling wine which was widely praised and distributed throughout the US and Europe. The Illustrated London News compared the wine to those being produced in Germany and even wrote that Longworth’s sparkling wine “transcends the Champagnes of France”. The great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow even wrote a poem dedicated to Longworth called Ode to Catawba Wine.

Longworth is considered by some to be the father of American wine. His success inspired others to plant grapes and make wine all through the Ohio River Valley to the Finger Lakes region in New York. Unfortunately his Ohio vineyard was destroyed by fungus which prompted many growers to move their operations to the Finger Lakes area. By the early 1860’s, the wine-making industry of the Finger Lakes region was flourishing.

What about California?
The story was similar on the west coast in California. The Spanish missionaries, not happy with the 2 wine grape varieties native to California, planted Mission grapes instead; an inferior variety of Vitis vinifera called Criolla. The missionaries established the first vineyard and winery in California in 1769. Around the same time as Longworth, a French immigrant, Jean-Louis Vigne, was growing and producing wine in Los Angeles using vines imported from France. In 1840 he made the first recorded shipment of wine in California. Though we was a contemporary of Longworth, his wine was mainly consumed in California and didn’t get near the attention or accolades Longworth’s sparkling wine received.

Vigne also has a great and interesting story; however, we’ll save the history of Vigne and California wine for another time.

Read Ode to Catawba Wine by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


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Featured Wine: Viña Olvido 2007 Crianza Rioja DOC – Spain


2007 Crianza Rioja
Rioja is arguably Spain’s top wine region and is one of only two regions classified under the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) system. Its two most important red grapes are Tempranillo and Garnacha. There are four categories of red wines in Rioja. The youngest of these is known as “Joven”. “Crianza” must have been aged in oak for at least two years, while Reserva is oak aged for at least three. Gran Reservas spend at least two years aged in oak and three in the bottle, although many are aged longer.

This 2007 offering from Viña Olvido is made from 100% Rioja Tempranillo. After vinification the wine was aged for 12 months in French oak and then another 12 months in neutral oak to meet the Crianza requirements. It then spent another year in the bottle before it was released. When all of those years are added up it means this wine has really only been in the US market since 2011. This dry, floral, exotic Rioja is a different breed of cat than typical Riojas. The bouquet is jammy and herbal, with flowery notes. In the mouth, tannins hold up a wayward frame, while black cherry, plum and floral flavors finish with prune and asian spice notes. The finish is smooth and silky. This aged beauty is drinking well right now and should keep for another 2 years with proper care. Serve at room temperature with roast beef, lamb chops, roast suckling pig and medium cheeses.

Featured in our International Wine Club and International Wine Gift Club.

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Featured Wine: El Supremo 2013 Torrontes Vino Blanco – Argentina


2013 El Supremo TorrontesIn the year 1959, Rufino Pablo Baggio (RPB) established his winery in the city of Maipú, province of Mendoza. Maipú is where most of the early immigrants were settled, some arriving as far back as 1878 and it is here that their parcel of free land was located. Many of these new and welcome arrivals were from Italy. Consequently Maipú boasts as many Olive trees as vines. With altitudes at 750 to 1,060 meters, and an abundance of minerals deposited from the Andes river, conditions for growing grapes are ideal.

Presently RPB is creating Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Torrontes, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. RPB pays homage to Argentine’s War of Independence hero Pancho Ramirez with his El Supremo line of wines. Born in 1786, Francisco “Pancho” Ramirez was an Argentine governor during the Argentine’s war with forces loyal to the Spanish crown. He died in 1821 while trying to rescue his wife who was captured by an opposing faction of the Argentine government. Homenaje a Pancho Ramirez translates to “Homage to Pancho Ramirez.” Made from 100% Torrontes. The wine is a lively straw color. Intense floral aromas along with aromas of tropical fruit. On the palate it is flowery and vivid with excellent fruit, a truly explosion of the senses. It has good acidic balance. The wine is ready to be enjoyed now. Serve chilled with Pacific Rim cuisine such as mushroom dumplings in chicken broth, herb stuffed zucchini with basmati rice, tuna with mango sauce, Alaskan butterfish marinated in Torrontes and Miso, lobster with papaya sauce, and steamed bass with caramelized onions, ginger and scallions.

Featured in our Premium Wine Club and Premium Wine Gift Club.

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Featured Wine: Ten Spoon 2013 Organic Rocky Mountain Red Blend – Missoula, Montanta


Although we recently featured another Ten Spoon wine, those grapes were from Washington’s Yakima Valley. This month the owners of Ten Spoon asked if we would like to use a wine made from Montana grapes. This is the first time we were able to try true organic Montana wine and we were very pleased from after our tasting.

Over 20 years ago, Connie Poten and Andy Sponseller worked with friends, family and volunteers to turn a rocky patch of 4.5 acres into the lovely Missoula, Montana vineyard and winery it is today. Ten Spoon crafts award-winning, sulfite-free wines, many of which are made with estate grown grapes. Despite Montana’s short growing season, the long daylight hours of the north allow them to successfully cultivate primarily French-American varietals: Frontenac, St. Pepin, LaCrosse, Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, St. Croix and Swenson Red. Ten Spoon is also dedicated to preserving the environment and supporting small farms. The land was originally purchased to save it from development. Since then, the rocky slope has been transformed into a healthy open space for wildlife and the vineyard irrigation system is solar-powered. The fruit and grapes not grown on-site are all purchased from family farms in Montana, Oregon and California. And right along Ten Spoon’s driveway, there’s a small lavender farm called Rocky Mountain Lavender, which they actively promote on their website.

The majority of French-American hybrid grapes for this red blend grow in Ten Spoon’s own vineyard. The Clark Fork Vineyard and Saddle House Vineyard, both Missoula Valley vineyards, provide additional organic grapes. Varieties include Maréchal Foch, Frontenac, Leon Millot and St. Croix. The sum of the parts have produced a lighter bodied blend with distinct flavors and aromas of, red and black fruits, and flowers, with a subtle undercurrent of licorice. It is velvety in texture and shows no hard edges. Its smoothness finishes with some slight spiciness that is both pleasant and long. A perfect quaffer by itself or serve alongside some garlicky sausages or salty cheeses.

Featured in our Premium Wine Club and Premium Wine Gift Club.

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Featured Wine: Viña Qaramy 2012 Latido Malbec Mendoza – Argentina


2012 Latido MalbecQaramy means “poetry” in the ancient quechua language, a native South American language spoken primarily in the Andes. The name symbolizes the winery’s expression of loyalty, tradition and commitment to its terroir and wines. With vineyards located at the foot of the Andes in Tunuyan, the dry and stony soils and high-altitude sunlight gives the grapes a unique strength and personality. The winery is managed by a father-son team, Mario and Leonardo Bromberg. When they started this project, they were originally only selling their grapes; Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah all grown in their vineyards located about 3,000 feet above sea level. Each bottle of wine is meant to be an expression of the poetry of the land and of their ancestors.

The Brombergs were consistently praised for the high level of quality of their grapes and therefore, they decided to begin using 10% of their grapes to create small lots of their own wines under the Latido and Qaramy labels. This Latido offering is made from 100% Malbec which come from their own impeccably cared for vineyards at high altitude (3,772 feet above sea level) in Tunuyán, Valle de Uco, Mendoza. Here the unique microclimate is especially cool, thus locking in the attractive dark purple color and violet aromas and flavors for which the Uco Valley is known. Approximately 10,000 bottles of this wine are hand-crafted by up-and-coming oenologist Rolando Laconti. After fermentation it spends 4 months in second use French oak barrels. The color is remarkably dark, and aromas of violets and plum confit entice the drinker with their charm. These same flavors continue on the palate, along with flavors of other red fruits and a smooth round vanilla note. Its tannins are velvety yet chewy, and its acidity (typical of wines from the Uco Valley) gives it a nice backbone. Ripe and luscious, this wine is perfect with game; meats; dishes with strongly-flavored sauces such as barbequed short ribs; hearty cheeses; & chocolate desserts.

Featured in our Premium Wine Club and Premium Wine Gift Club.

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Keeping a Wine Journal


Wine Journal
Wine journals are a fun way to capture the memories of tasting new wines and chronicle your favorites. No matter how great your memory is, the wonder is in the details when it comes to wine. You need to record images and notes of the wines you taste in the present in order to know which ones to choose in the future! That way, you can repeat stellar experiences and skip the unappealing ones the next time around.

The smell of a new journal is wonderful, with crisp, empty pages that beckon to be filled. Before you dig in to creating your new journal, envision how you want to use it. You can organize your wine journal into the monthly themes of a wine of the month club or even types of wine. Some opt to have two wine journals, one for white wines and the other for red wines. Yet another way they can be organized is likes and dislikes.

Although most people only choose to journal about wines they found especially tasty, others like to chronicle experiences, even if the wines were not favorites. Wines from a special vineyard or recommendations from a revered sommelier are just some things that may lead to future wine of the month club selections that make journaling about all of your wine tastings a good idea.

Removing the label

You need to be able to remove your wine labels without damaging them in order to create an aesthetically pleasing scrapbook. Just words on paper won’t cut it when your wine club provides special wines with carefully designed labels that deserve to be preserved. Nearly all liquor stores and vineyards sell wine label removers. If you prefer to do it a more raw, do-it-yourself kind of way, there are other options.

Bake Method
Bake your wine bottles for an easy removal method. Yes, you want to make sure the bottles are empty of wine first! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the bottle in only until it’s hot, but do not leave them in longer than 10 minutes. This should soften the adhesive that sticks the label to the side of the bottle. Slowly, use an oven mitt to remove the bottle. Then use great care and slow precision to remove the label. The wine label should come right off at this point.

Microwave Method
Another method is to use a microwave for heating, saving electricity. This method is especially good for single bottles, were as baking in an oven is best for a few bottles at a time. Here’s a link to a great video that shows how to set up the microwave method. Do NOT use the microwave method with wine bottles that have metallic labels, as this is a fire hazard.

Once you’ve removed your intact wine label, it’s time to place it in your journal. Use the old leftover adhesive on the label, double-sided scrapbook tape, or other acid-free adhesive to preserve the label. Let your creativity soar and add your descriptions. Happy tasting!

Or… go digital and use a wine journal app. Take a picture of the label instead!

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“Old Vine” Wines Explained


Old Vine Wine Grapes
As any wine club member can discuss with you, there are hundreds of varieties of wine. From sweet white wines such as Moscato and Chardonnay to dry, deep reds like Cabernet and Merlot, there are thousands of options and brands to choose from. No matter what your tastes may be, there is a wine that will suit them. Despite your personal preferences largely dominating your wine selection, there are many individuals who will argue that some wines are better than others. Factors like the grapes used, the winemaking techniques employed, the area of the country or world the grapes were grown in and the age of the wine can all make a difference in a wine’s quality.

Although the true benefit of a great bottle of wine lies in partiality, there are many specific qualifiers that contribute to a wine’s inherent quality. Old vine wine, for example, is something highly desired by many individuals due to its longevity. Essentially, old vine wine is a wine made from grapes growing on a vine of significant age. Rather than a new vine, as found in most recently formed vineyards, an old vine has a tried and true history of producing high caliber grapes and quality wine.

Wine grape vines can grow for 120 years or more. After several decades, the grapes a vine produces are smaller, more vibrant, and more intense. This provides a flavor that new wine vines cannot match, a detail that makes long-standing vineyards and their wines highly prized by wine club members and other wine aficionados. Although old vines are prized over new vines, there are no true parameters or age ranges that differentiate an old vine from a new vine.

While many factors can be used to differentiate one kind of wine from another, and a high quality wine from an average bottle, vine age is a particularly interesting element to the wine making process. Old vine wine has a flavor profile than cannot be matched by fledgling wines. If you are more interested in learning more about the subtle differences in wine and heighten your palate, a wine club membership could be the perfect solution.

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Tasting Wine: The Sommelier vs. The Wine Novice


Wine Expert vs Wine Novice
About a month ago I read a great article on the differences between a Master Sommelier (wine expert) and wine novice in regards to tasting wine. This was a fascinating subject for me because I always wondered if sommeliers or famous wine critics like Robert Parker Jr. had a biological advantage or pre-disposition to become a wine expert. Needless to say, the article’s conclusion surprised me.

In short, the article referenced several studies that showed that the wine expert’s taste of the wine is no different than anyone else’s. In other words, they are tasting the exact same things as you and I. So then what makes them an expert? The only difference is the wine expert is able to put those tastes to descriptive words. They are better able to assign flavors and adjectives to what their perceived tastes are. That’s it. They don’t have super palates or bionic tongues.

This means that if you want to be a wine expert there is hope. Start tasting as many wine as possible and practice putting your tastes to words.

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What is a ‘Sister” Winery?


Sisters Drinking Wine TogetherMany times we will feature a winery in our wine club and then a few months later feature their sister winery. A few people have emailed us on what we mean by a sister winery.

Simply put sister wineries are wineries that share ownership, either fully or partially, but target different markets or a different kind of wine consumer. The main benefit of starting a sister winery is that a winery owner or winemaker can reach new customers without changing the core values of the original winery. By doing so the sister wineries can branch out with new varietals, vineyards, labels, and even winemakers to keep up with what’s trending new in the wine market or push the envelope and experiment without harm to the original brand.

One of my favorite Washington State wineries is Corliss Estates, located in Walla Walla, Washington. They produce iconic Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Bordeaux Blends. Whenever I can taste these wines, I jump at the opportunity and I highly recommend you do too. The problem with Corliss is that they are very exclusive and often sell out before I have chance to purchase them. Furthermore their prices can be considered cost prohibitive (special occasion budget). Luckily Corliss started a sister winery called Tranche Cellars a few years ago. Same owners, same winemaker and technology, but a different temperament so to speak. While Corliss focuses on traditional and timeless wine personalities, Tranche is more innovative and visionary. Both produce expressive, aromatic, and stunning wines, from estate-grown grapes but Tranche chooses to do it using less expensive techniques and materials leading to prices that won’t break the budget.

So if there is a winery you like and you discover they have a sister winery, it’s a great bet they will also have wines that you like and may be even be a better fit for your palate or budget.

Learn More About Tranche Cellars.
Tranche Cellars Logo

Learn More About Corliss Estates.
Corliss Estates