The first ever Philly Wine Week is now in the books! It was quite a week, with a slew of great wine and great events. There were 22 venues officially participating, each with at least 3 events; there was definitely a lot to do.
At Jet, we tried to build on the mission of Wine Week by making wine accessible and promoting it in all of its aspects: fun & serious, low-end & high-end, domestic & international, etc. Here is a recap of my week, which inevitably featured mostly Jet events, but also a few others.
All week long, we featured “Local Lunch” at Jet. I like to bring in local wines – both to support them and also because Pennsylvania (and particularly the Philadelphia countryside) has many, many excellent wineries and wines. What tastes great with local wines? Local foods, of course. So we added some local flavors to the menu and served them with $5 glasses of local wine.
Here is (was) the menu:
- Billy Penn’s Platter $10 (soft pretzel, Clover Creek aged cheddar, apple, pickle, & local Lomo or deviled egg)
- Creamed-Mushroom Soup $8
- Turkey-Scrapple Sandwich $6 (spinach, goat cheese, & fried egg, open-faced on rye)
- Cheesesteak $8 (sautéed onions & 3 cheeses)
The local flavors did, in fact, work superbly with the featured, local wines.
On Monday, we featured Fero Vineyard’s Estate Lemberger. Lemberger (as it is known in PA and Germany, is the same as Austria’s Blaufrankisch). This is a nice expression of Lemberger: earthy, light-medium body, good acid, light/tart cherry notes. It is excellent with food, and I particularly liked it with the Billy Penn’s Platter.
Grace Winery was featured on Tuesday, and owner Chris LeVine stopped by to chat and present his Pinot Gris. This wine has a nice, supple and full mouth-feel with softly-spiced aromatics. It is a cleaner style PG with great mineral content. It was a perfect match for the turkey scrapple.
On Wednesday, Cliff Lewis of Penns Woods Winery stopped by with special samples straight-from-the-barrel of their new (but not ready for bottling) Ameritage blend. It was a fun preview of what is certain to be a luscious, deep-fruit, tannic gem. We also had their Bancroft Merlot on hand; the Bancroft has light, cherry notes, a great juiciness, soft mouth-feel. This was by far the preferred wine for the cheesesteak!
Thursday featured Karamoor Estate and their inimitable man-about-town, Victor Ykoruk. Victor brought a rosé specially-bottled for the occasion by winemaker, Kevin Robinson (thanks, Kevin!). The cab franc/merlot blend has just a touch of sweetness that was a big pleaser for several customers. Scrapple and rosé, anyone?
Friday – our final Local Lunch – featured Galer Estate. We had their Huntress White – an intoxicating blend of Traminette, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon – all week long. Its floral aroma disguised a clean, minerally body that was perfect for drinking on its own. We were joined by Galer’s Winemaker, Catrina North, and also Alica Lyon’s, who brought a new Albariño for us to try. Catrina is quite obviously a very talented winemaker and I love drinking her austere, terroir-driven wines; the Albariño is a clear example of this, and it paired superbly with the mushroom soup.
Any Port in a Storm: Ferreira-Port Cocktails
For our $5 cocktails made with Ferreira Port, we partnered with John Toler of Dreadnought Wines and Broadbent Selections, the local distributor and importer, respectively, for Ferreira. Our bartender Amanda J. kicked butt on these cocktail recipes, that will surely make their way onto our Spring cocktail menu. It was hard to pick a favorite between the White Rum Brown Sugar, Ruby Pimm’s Cup, and Tawny Gin ‘n Juice.
Magnum PM: Pours from Magnums
Bob Barrett of Winebow – our Global Vineyard Tasting Series expert – chose 4 wines to pour by the magnum (1.5 liters). Each pour was only $6, which turned out to be a great bargain. Also, I’m a huge Magnum PI fan, so when Bob suggested the name – I jumped! The wines were great – especially the Reserva Brut Cava from Juve y Camps; it has a great creaminess with medium bubbles, apple and citrus mouth. The An/2 was also a favorite, as the meaty, rich red was warming on a slightly cool evening.
Wednesday is, traditionally, our DJ night so we had a wine-themed DJ night for wine week. Mention of an alcohol brand or category by a rapper can send that product’s popularity soaring. So it is with Moscato and Rosé. DJ Smooove killed it with his rap-centric, wine-uendo mix, while customers sipped $5 glasses of Six Hats Rosé, Peter Mertes “Platinum”, and Ricossa Moscato d’Asti.
Some of you know that I participate in a weekly, wine chat with Phillip Silverstone on his internationally-known TuneIn radio program, “Time Out with Phillip Silverstone”. Our “Brilliant Wine Chat” is recorded each week at Jet, and we opted to have a “live” audience for the show released on March 28th (listen here). On Thursday evening, we had some enthusiastic audience members who were able to taste our Magnum Pours from Tuesday (sans the white Beaujolais) and take part in the show. We were even able to use our new “studio” – in Jet’s lower level, now a proper lounge!
Georgia to Greece: Drinking the Origins of Wine
On Saturday, I led a class about the origins of wine in which we tasted wines that come from some of the earliest wine-producing regions of the world. Several lines of evidence point to the trans-Caucusus as the likely center for the earliest domestication of the wine grape (Vitis vinifera) and the earliest production of wine.
>Our first wine – and our only white of the evening – was Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli from the Republic of Georgia. This indigenous grape may be one of the earliest V. vinifera. I have a fascination with this grape, which is spicey and aromatic, citrusy, earthy, and a little herbal. It is grown over a very large area, and its popularity in China may ensure its abundant production for years to come.
Not only does Georgia have a long history of winemaking, its ancient techniques are still used in modern production. “Qvevri” production – fermentation and storage in large, underground clay vessels whose interior is coated with a natural sealant like beeswax – was recently granted UNESCO Intagible Cultural Heritage status. Winemakers from Vinoterra produce their Saperavi in this way, and that was our second wine of the evening. The indigenous Saperavi is known for its deep, ruby/garnet color. The same phenolics that create that color lend the wine strong tannins. This nicely acidic wine is a little “wild”, with flavors of ripe, dark cherry, wild herbs and violets, and tobacco.
Armenia can lay claim to the earliest-yet-discovered large-scale wine production facility, found in a cave complex near the village of Areni in the country’s southwest, and dating to ca. 4000 BC. The complex, known as Areni-1, holds presses, pots, and pips – showing a range of activity from grape pressing, juice storage/fermentation. Wine production in Armenia has recently regained momentum following the cessation of Soviet policies that encouraged grape-growing for Brandy production. Yet, if the Karasi Zorah that we tasted is any indication, modern winemaking is already mature. Karasi is located near that ancient production site of Areni-1; the grape in the Zorah? Areni Noir. Like the Saperavi, the Areni Noir is wild, with flavors of tangled fruits, thistle, and dark cherry. It has softer tannins, though, with a great mouth feel and a lingering finish.
Lebanon has been producing wine for millennia, as well. We tend to know more about it from Mesopotamia, however, whose urban civilizations were importers of wine (from Lebanon, Anatolia, Caucusus…), not producers. In fact, the “wineskin” may well have been “invented” as a response to overland trade in wine. Modern Lebanese winemaking is all about the French – as influenced (like northern Africa) during the French Mandate period. Still, the Chateau Heritage Plaisir du Vin 2006 is not all French in style and flavor. Like the Georgian and Armenian examples, the Plaisir retains a wildness. The fruits in this wine are darker and riper, almost stewed. It has notes of prune along with leather and wild herbs. This is a rich, distinctive wine.
Finally, we moved to Greece from where much modern wine-production stemmed – whether by trade in knowledge, vines, or people. One ancient technique that continues to have modern appeal is the drying of grapes in the sun to produce concentrated, sweeter wines, mentioned as early as 800 BC. Our example came from Cyprus: Keo Commandaria St. John – the oldest named wine still in production. This dessert wine is sweet, but not too “unctuous”, as they say. In other words, the sweetness is balanced by a bit of acidity, and the weight in the mouth is not overwhelming. Flavors are of toasted nuts and honey – but with a hint of citrus.
Thanks to all who came out to Jet, or to Wine Week events, in general. Kate Moroney of Vintage and Bill Eccleston of Panorama did a great job pulling it all together. I look forward to next year!