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Turkey Day

The Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us, it is just a few days away. If for some reason you had forgotten that it was this week, just take a vist to the supermarket and you will quickly remember. Yesterday I thought I was clever arriving at my local store prior to church letting out as I thought I would miss the crowds. Well, I was quite mistaken. The parking lot was mobbed and they were 5 or 6 people deep in the check out lines. My weekly shopping trip that normally takes 30 minutes took me 90 minutes yesterday. Another thing about the holidays is people are so crazy! It is supposed to fun, but they are under such pressure to get things done they forget to enjoy themselves. I also hear folks around the office complaining that a relative is going to serve dinner on festive paper plates rather than the fine china and how that will ruin the holiday? If the fine china makes the holiday for you, there is a problem. Do you think the pilgrims had fine china? I think not. The holiday is about being thankful and enjoying loved ones, not what you eat off of.
While I think picking out holiday wine is fun, I know it is another pressure for some folks. I was reading on the internet today all the tips to picking holiday wine and you see the signs in the liquor store that read “great with turkey”. It can all be confusing and yes, add some more pressure. You know what I always say, drink what you want. While I do a agree that some crisp whites and lighter reds such as Pinot Noir do pair wonderfully with turkey, you have to like it in order to drink it, right?
So, my suggestion is drink what you want for yourself. If you are unsure about your guests, pick up a Reisling, which is a sweeter white, a Chardonnay, a light red such as a Pinot Noir, and lastly a Cabernet or Merlot for a bolder red. This range should cover all of your guests tastes.
Most of all whether or not you celebrate the holiday, please take a moment to stop and think about all that you have to be thankful for. Big or small I am positive we all have something to be thankful for.

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Chaddsford Winery

I have often wondered why the big wine publications pay so little attention to the many excellent small wineries located in regions around the United States. Test my theory, pick up any of the top wine magazines and almost all the articles will be about the big wine regions, California, France, Italy, Australia, you get my point. While I understand that some great wines come from these regions, hence the interest, I just feel more must be done to promote some of these less celebrated regions here in the U. S., that well deserve some attention. That leads us to report on another unique U. S. winery.

The beautiful Brandywine Valley in southeast Pennsylvania is home to the Chaddsford Winery. The setting is a small country estate in the historic town of Chadds Ford, the winery itself is housed in a renovated 17th century colonial barn once owned by William Penn. Founded in 1982 by Eric and Lee Miller, Chaddsford enjoys the title of largest winery in the state. The location was chosen on their belief the climate, soils and growing conditions would be ideal for producing premium European style wines. Their Miller Estate vineyard in nearby northern Chester County is planted with over 30 acres of grapes.

Their first release was in 1983 and they have grown from around 3000 cases to over 25000 annually. Even with the increase, Eric’s passion to create the very best wines without losing sight that they must contain the signature of the local land, soil, climate, etc. shines through in each bottle of wine he puts his name on. Eric has been a huge influence with farmers in the area with regard to grape growing and strives to inspire other local wine makers that they too can make their mark in the wine world.

Eric Miller’s interest in wine began at an early age, spending a good portion of his youth growing up in France and near many of the famous vineyards of Europe. Returning with his family to the U. S. in 1970 they settled in New York’s Hudson Valley and founded the state’s first farm winery, Benmarl Vineyards. As a grape grower and winemaker Eric used many of the European grape varieties and pioneered wine types that are still used current day in the Eastern wine making region. He spent ten years at Benmarl perfecting his skills as a vintner before starting Chaddsford along with his wife Lee who he met in 1978 and married the following year. Lee became involved in the wine business as a journalist, she was a co-founder of the magazine “Wine East” in 1981, and the following year co-authored the first book about wineries east of Mississippi, titled “Wine East of the Rockies”. Lee also has many other published works related to wine and grapes of the east. Together they share a wealth of wine knowledge, and a goal to establish the Atlantic Highlands as a top American wine district.

We had the pleasure of meeting Eric recently at the Chaddsford location. We had tried their wines on a previous trip to their tasting room in Peddler’s Village in Hope PA, and were so impressed we made plans to visit the winery location. Upon arriving at the winery, we felt as though we were visiting one of the Napa Valley’s newest tasting rooms, everything was all about wine, from the décor to the gifts for purchase to the tasting rooms… and the picnic tables outside overflowing with patrons enjoying a glass of their favorite Chaddsford wine. It was the Brandywine trail passport weekend, meaning pay one price and visit all of the local wineries with tasting included in your passport price and Chaddsford was a packed house. The winery was celebrating complete with a band that happened to be playing in the barrel room due to the occasional rain that day. However, I would like to mention that the Chaddsford staff must be well accustomed to crowds of that size as they were as professional as could be. Moving on I will highlight a few of the wines, but let me preface that by saying I will not do them all justice as I can confidently say there is a Chaddsford wine for every taste and my tastes are unique to me.

For example, Naked Chardonnay… a Chardonnay that Eric decided should not have all the additional oak flavors, just plain old “naked” Chardonnay. Check out the Chaddsford winery website for a picture of Eric in the vineyard demonstrating just how he makes naked wine. Of course Chaddsford has your traditional Chardonnay as well. While completely different, both are outstanding. There is also a Proprietors Reserve white blend that we enjoyed very much. While Eric enjoys wines made all over the county, including Napa, he stays true to the region and knows outstanding wine can be made almost anywhere and he is living proof. While we enjoy white wine, we are truly Red wine drinkers and had enjoyed some of the red wines that we had previously sampled at the Peddlers Village tasting room. Eric produces some of what I affectionately call the “traditional” reds such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Syrah, which can be called somewhat traditional these days. We loved all of the wines we sampled but our favorite was the Due Rossi blend, an Italian style red made from Sangiovese and Barbera grapes.

The Millers also produce other red blends, Merican (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), and Rubino (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese). While I highlight the traditional reds and whites, Chaddsford truly has something for every type of wine drinker. Although I have not sampled them, there are also sweet and seasonal wines that I am sure are made to the same quality standards as the Chaddsford wines I sampled.
After our visit and talking with Eric it was apparent to me that while he has long ago surpassed his goal of making excellent, premium wines. He is not about to stop striving for perfection in his wine making. I sense his passion has not wavered and his involvement in every facet of his operation is proof Eric will not let success go to his head. I remember in conversation he said “it is after all just grape juice” yet, I know he works hard every day to make that grape juice fill bottles that will always be better than the last and bring smiles to the faces those who drink his wine.

Chaddsford Winery is open 7 days a week for tours and tasting from 12:00pm to 6:00pm. They also have a tasting room and wine shop in Peddler’s Village located in New Hope PA.
For information and directions visit their web site:

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Football Sunday

Tomorrow we are off to Giants stadium to see our favorite team (hopefully) beat Baltimore. We look pretty good so far with an 8-1 record, but as any sports fan knows, the season can change at any moment. Then again we are the current defending Super Bowl champions so it is fair of me to expect more of my team, don’t you think? I do. Well, I could have this debate all night and it doesn’t change the outcome, so I’ll just say a little prayer when I put my head down on my pillow that tomorrow the loss column is still 1! It will be a cold one as the forecast is for a high of 47 degrees and windy, but we are all set for the tailgate party. We will arrive in the parking lot by 9:00 AM so we can set up for our BBQ. We have chili, sausage for grilling, fresh mozzarella, lot of snacks and WINE! Of course we are bringing wine, we selected a Ghost Pines Cabernet and a Rodney Strong Cabernet for our tailgate party. I must sign off for now to gather up our Giants gear so we can show our team spirit. And my number one priority is the wine glasses, wine, and I can’t forget the opener! Can you imagine if we couldn’t open the wine?

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Wine of the month for November

Wine of the month for November is Hook and Ladder 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley. The single Vineyard Cab comes from the family’s Los Amigos Ranch in the Chalk Hill area of the Russian River Valley. The wine is blended with a small amount of Merlot from the same area and aged in a combination of French and American Oak for 20 months before bottling. The wine is well balanced and offers hints of vanilla, cocoa, and spices on the nose with lots of ripe berry and oak in the taste. Hook and Ladder produces a variety of wines including Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot and several blends in the red family of wines. In the white family they offer The Tillerman white blend, Chardonnay, White Zinfandel and Gewurztraminer. I have not sampled any of the white wines produced by Hook and Ladder, however, I did sample one of the red blends that was very good as well. The wines are all reasonably priced with reserve wines topping out at $35 and all other wines under $25. Hook and Ladder is produced by Cecil De Loach (a former San Francisco firefighter) and his wife Christine who have been making wine in Sonoma for more than 3 decades now. The family owned winery keeps the philosophy simple; make exceptional wines that people love to drink.

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November 2008

Dan Aykroyd, well known actor/comedian/musician recently launched his own wine label. Known for his acting in the films Ghost Busters, the Blues Brothers and his stint as a comedian on Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd is a passionate wine lover and collector who has tasted some of the best in the world. Aykroyd joined in a partnership with De Loach Vineyards and its owners the Boisset Family. Together they will release a 2007 vintage Chardonnay and Cabernet from the Sonoma region under the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series label. According to Aykroyd, a white Burgundy fan, his Chardonnay is a blend of seven vineyards. It will be food friendly, made in the Sonoma style with fresh Russian River- style fruitiness, rich complex aromas and flavors. The Cabernet will have a balance of structure, easy tannins, spice and a distinct flavor from the blending of 5 percent Carmenere from Alexander Valley.
Aykroyd was first introduced to wine in 1979 while filming The Blues Brothers. A member of the movie’s band, the famous Memphis guitarist Steve Cropper turned him on to a bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. He is not the first celebrity to produce a wine label with the likes of Raymond Burr who was part owner of Raymond Burr Vineyards before his death, Francis Ford Coppolla who owns Neibaum Coppola Winery, and Rich Frank of Disney and Hollywood fame to name a few.
Aykroyds first release will be around 12,000 cases with a retail price of $18 to $20 per bottle. The wines should arrive in stores early next year.

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Troubling Economic Times

The recent financial meltdown and economic worries are affecting just about everyone worldwide. Maybe some of us have not been hit as hard as others yet we still have concerns. People everywhere are changing their buying habits, looking for bargains, putting off large expenditures and staying away from big tag items. Just about every retail market has been hurt by sales declines and the wine industry is among them. The December issue of Wine Spectator has two articles on this subject titled “Wine Industry Worries About the Economy” by Tim Fish and “What Now for Wine Lovers?” by James Laube. The first tells how wine retailers and restaurant sommeliers around the country are worried about the upcoming holiday season, the busiest wine-consuming time of the year. With the economic problems affecting consumer spending everyone is concerned about what the 2008 holiday season will bring. With reports of sales being generally flat and customers trading down in price there is definitely reason for concern. One buyer reports customers have become more price conscious with double digit increases in the $8.99 to $13.99 price range, while $15 to mid-$20 wine experienced only a moderate increase.

The second article What Now by James Laube lists excellent ideas or strategies for wine buying in these troubled times. A few of his key points are Ignoring price as a quality gauge. I know many times I have purchased a wine based on price assuming it to be a premium wine, only to be disappointed by it. Set limits on your spending, making bargain hunting a priority and holding the line on what you spend per bottle. Being cautious about mailing lists, with most wines sold by clubs or mailing list being expensive, he suggests short of quitting, “consider resigning from those whose wines don’t equate to value.” Also cutting back on your allocation or sharing it with someone. My favorite is If you have a cellar, drink from it. I have been collecting wine in my cellar for several years now. What better time to bring out some older selections, you know a little house cleaning. I will save some cash, drink some good wine, and have some fun trying to remember the reason each bottle was collected. The article lists many other good suggestions on rethinking your wine buying strategies and not over paying for wine.
As a wine lover I am not about to quit buying and drinking wine in a bad economy. I have for the most part, lowered my price range under $15, while searching out bargains and sales. I believe wine prices as a whole have become inflated in the last few years, especially the California wines and hope these trying times will push retailers to scale back the prices and put more value wines on the shelf.
For the complete articles pick up a copy of Wine Spectator Magazines December issue, or if you are a member visit their web site: