Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where are “Our” Wine Boosters?

We’ve been writing about local wines since 2008 and over those years we have observed the value of an engaged, motivated and winery supported blogging community for the local wine industry.  One needs look no further than the Virginia wine community of bloggers to get an idea about how our Midwest wine industry could benefit.  Here are just a few of the Virginia wine boosters:

Virginia Pour House: http://virginiapourhouse.com/

As of January, 2014 Virginia had 223 wineries (source: Wines & Vines) and the 2012 Economic Impact the wine industry had on their state was about $775 million dollars.  Currently the state of Virginia is number #5 for number of wineries.  That’s a big deal and a lot of that is in rural communities.

The Midwest wine region certainly can support an enthusiastic array of wine writers, photographers and boosters to help show the world that our wines are worthy of attention!

WINE WRITERS UNITE!  We encourage writers, lovers of local wines, photographers to start a wine blog, populate it regularly with content, and share it with us and your friends.  Together we can make a huge difference for our state/region, the industry and to good wine drinking.

Help us find other Midwest wine bloggers and writers by dropping a note here or on our Two Wine Brothers Facebook page.


Cheers,
Brad

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Say "Make More Bubbly!"


Jeff, Kirk and Brad - Producers for the film:
Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America's Heartland
www.winediamondsfilm.com
This past Thursday we were putting the finishing touches on the fundraising "pitch piece" we'll be using in the near future for our movie, Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America's Heartland.  We filmed a few segments in the winery at Kirkwood Community College before heading over to the Hotel at Kirkwood, a working/teaching hotel and conference center where we'd finish filming our pitch.

We knew Kirkwood's own wine/viticulture program lead and head
Lucas McIntire, Winemaker
winemaker (Lucas McIntire) would be there pouring samples of his wines and giving the first taste of this brand new sparkler.  Lucas is the kind of winemaker you think of when you think of those great winemakers: full of passion for the industry, knowledgeable, creative and his love of wines is contagious!   


The line to taste his wines seemed to recycle very frequently and he could be heard across the room enthusiastically describing each one to his adoring fans. His wines are extraordinary!

After shooting our pitch we met up with Lucas and our friend Lauren (who owns the Secret Cellar) and we shot some additional footage for our "on-the-road" segments.  


Frontenac Gris - note the amber color of this "white" wine.
Toward the end of our filming we were invited back to his wine cellar where we sampled his wines and was completely amazed by this Frontenac Gris wine.  He grows several dozen varieties of cold-hardy grapes and Frontenac Gris, when fermented by the uninitiated can come off as tart, or bland and unappealing, but not this one.  Lucas described how he had to patiently wait while this gris (grey) grape slowly ripened, waiting, testing, and waiting until an amber elixir of the most elegant nature emerged.  This wine is big, juicy, mouth-filling, fruity, dry and absolutely delicious.  Honestly, this is one of the very best white wines I've had in the Midwest ...hell, anywhere!  Just amazing!

The crazy thing is...while this spectacular wine was captivating it's
Available in Eastern Iowa Only!
sister, a sparkling wine, made in the traditional method (Methode Chamenoise),
 from Adelmiina (a grape you've probably never heard of before), LaCrescent and Okanagon Riesling grapes was jaw droppingly exquisite.  On this night Lucas debuted his 2013 release of his sparkling wine.  In the glass this lively bubbly was gorgeous, trillions of bubbles (just an estimate), a sexy straw color, and a dazzling array of aromas - citrus: lemon and lime, apple blossom, and fresh bread; and to top it off, the flavors popped with bright acidity and a scrumptious citrus, apple, and toasty yeast essence that whispered how well it'd be with food.

The sad news for those not living in eastern Iowa is that you're missing out on some of of the most exciting wines coming on the scene.  

Lucas' sparkler is among the best I've had.  This is a winemaker to follow...and if you have the opportunity to buy his wines, particularly this beautiful bubbly, get it today!

If other Midwest winemakers could emulate what Lucas McIntire (Kirkood Community College) and John Burns (Barrelhead Winery) are doing with traditional method sparkling wines then we'd soon gain national prominence.  

I say...make more bubbly!!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Crazy Good Wines!

By Brad Johnson

My brother and I began writing about wines back in December of 2008 and since then a lot has transpired, both personally and professionally, but the last couple of years were a gut punch of sorts as I left my job to care for our mother before she passed away.

Leaving my winery job, my dream job, was difficult but in the long run has been really good for me.  In the past two years I began working as a wine industry consultant helping wineries and other businesses with public relations, marketing and communications.  Last year my friend and business partner/guru (Kurt Karr) and I were speakers at the Iowa Wine Growers Association where we shared our views on branding, social media marketing, and marketing in general.  It was a hoot!

This year, after working with a local creative productions company (we created television commercials for a mutual client) called MVP Video Productions, we decided to come together and create a feature length documentary movie, called “Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America’s Heartland.”  We’ve been filming since July 2014 and will continue to shoot until fall of 2015.

Winemaker John gives Jennifer a barrel sample
Out and about I get to taste a lot of wine, a lot of very good wine, and occasionally there are wineries where something magical is taking place.  Those are the wineries I get very excited about.  I’ve known about Barrelhead Winery (near Dubuque, IA) for several years and revisited them again this fall with our good friend Jennifer Farnum.  We’d planned an all day long winery road trip but never made it past John Burn’s winery.

Barrelhead Winery is one of Iowa’s (if not the Midwest) best wineries!  Period.  Or is that Exclamation point?!  Either way.  Granted, I’ve known John for a while and have always been impressed with his wines, but on this trip (and another more recent trip with my friend Martin Blind) it was reinforced. 

John was kind enough to take us into his barrel room and provide us samples of his wines - all estate grown and made.  Our first wine, a Marechal Foch, straight from the 2014 harvest and still in its stainless steel tank was our first “barrel” sample.  Extraordinary!  If you know anything about Marechal Foch it is a bugger to work with, in other words, there is what’s become affectionately known as the “Foch Funk,” a heavy herbaceous quality that’s just not the most appealing aroma or flavor for a wine.  Somehow, someway John has tamed the Foch beast and created an amazingly special wine.  Let me say that again to those that have ripped out their Marechal Foch plants - replant, talk to John, and make more of this lovely elixir. 

This Foch is so un-Fochlike that some wine competition judges have docked his Foch wine for lacking Foch characteristic --- Really!?!?  Wasn’t that the point? 

Moving on in the barrel room we were given samples, of various years, of St. Croix, Leon Millot, GR-7 (Geneva Red 7) and Marechal Foch.  One thing was for certain - these wines are fantastic!  The St. Croix and Leon Millot, both wines typically suffer under the heavy hands of some winemakers, are elevated to the heavens in this back road winery. 

Back at his winery tasting room we were treated to more exceptional wines.  Don’t get me wrong when I say the following, because his dry red wine are really amazing and worthy of serious recognition, but his sparkling wines…are as good as I’ve ever had.  Painfully good!  He wants to go toe-to-toe with the French in competition and given what I know about John and his wines, I’d place my bet on his sparklers!

John uses the traditional method (also known as M├ęthode Champenoise) - the slow and laborious way to make sparkling wines (aka: Champagne style wine) and in my opinion, the only way to make a truly great sparkler - using his own grapes.  Enchanting!

Folks…this is the real deal.  If every winery in the Midwest made wines like these there is little doubt we’d become a serious wine destination!

John is a character, the best sort of wine character with a lot of personality and passion for wines that others could emulate.  I highly recommend visiting his winery to enjoy these fantastic wines.  You can only find his wines at BarrelheadWinery.   


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Sunday, May 11, 2014

2009 Fireside Winery, Frontenac, Iowa

Terry Post:

2009 Fireside Winery, Frontenac, Iowa



A few years ago I was discussing with my brother a concept taught in B-School, that was the, "unfair competitive advantage".  An unfair competitive advantage is a business situation where a company has a product which was so superior or so different that it was seen as having an unfair advantage over its competitors.  As an example, a few years ago the brand Soft Soap was the first to market with soap dispensed from a bottle via a pump. 

For those of you under thirty trust me on this one - it was a big deal.  The unfair competitive advantage held by Soft Soap was that the pump device which was necessary to patented and the Soft Soap brand bought exclusive use rights over the pump mechanism for three years.  This unfair competitive advantage allowed Soft Soap to firmly establish itself as the premier product and immune from competition for three full years.


Now to Iowa wine.  What is the unfair competitive advantage which Iowa holds over France, California, Australia, Oregon, Washington or any other wine producing region?  Could it be Frontenac?  I am not sure.  I think when things settle out, it is my opinion that Brianna will provide that unfair competitive advantage for Iowa grape growers.

My impressions: 

Garnet in the glass. 

Not much on the nose.  With a lot of sloshing and more effort than should be necessary I could detect tart cherries.


One dimensional fruit with a brief acidic finish.  Warming.  Perhaps some added alcohol??

It paired satisfactorily with the Mother's Day prime rib I prepared for my bride of thirty-seven years. Food friendly thanks to the acidity.  A good but not great dining companion.

Disclaimer:  It is perhaps not fair to be writing about a 2009 Frontenac in 2014.  Five years in the bottle may be too much to expect from any Frontenac.


Recommended.  If for no other reason than I really want Iowa wines to succeed.  Will buy a more recent vintage the next time I make the trip West.

$15ish at the Winery

~ Terry

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2011 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay Russian River Valley

Terry post:

Restaurant Week in Washington DC is a wonderful thing and the wife and I are taking full advantage with one dinner, one lunch and one brunch out.  Yesterday we had a nearly perfect lunch at Range, one of the dining off-shoots from “Top Chef” alumnus Bryan Voltaggio.

During evening hours the restaurant advertises three sommelier on duty but during lunch there are precisely zero.

So even I, dear reader, was somewhat overwhelmed by page after page of sparklers, whites and reds in their aluminum-covered wine list.  What to do?  What to do?  I took the cowards way out and selected a nice safe Paul Hobbs Chardonnay.

My impressions:

Medium gold in the glass - a shade deeper in hue than any chardonnay I have sampled in a very long time.  

Bright citrus and vanilla on the nose when first poured and swirled about.  Too much oak?  I don't think so.

Medium bodied with a brief caramel finish.

It paired spectacularly with my intensely flavored goat cheese ravioli. 

Food friendly.  Complementing while not overwhelming. 

Recommended.

$62 at Ranch in DC.
$35ish at retail

~ Terry

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Terry post:

2010 Port of Leonardtown Winery "1634" Chardonnay

When it comes to wine I am a "homer".  That is, I strongly support the local teams and unabashedly so.  So, it came with a great deal of anticipation and apprehension that I visited the Port of Leonardtown Winery a few weeks ago and bought a case of Vidal Blanc and a case of their premium Chardonnay, labeled "1634".

The anticipation was that I bought a case of the Vidal Blanc - I believe it to be far-and-away their best wine. 

The apprehension was that my last sampling of the 2009 "1634" was deeply disappointing.  It's razor sharp acidity made it nearly undrinkable.

I was hoping that for whatever reason: global warming, Federal Reserve policies, Kepler's harmonic theorem, sunspots, or whatever that the 2010 version of their premium chardonnay would be superior to the 2009 version.

I was not disappointed.

My impressions:  Light wheat color in the glass.  Subtle perfume of flowers and grass in front.  Nicely balanced with the acidity only slightly over-taking the understated sugars.  Medium bodied.  Not a full-bodied monster like French Montrachet and also not overly buttery.  A friendly companion for dining.

I enjoyed a bottle with a dinner of Pasta with Oysters and Mushrooms.  It stood up very well to the challenging umami-intense offering. 

Highly Recommended

$15ish at the winery

Updated on August 22, 2013 based on three subsequent tastings.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Midwest Winery to Watch - Elmaro Vineyard

Brad Post

This past weekend my wife, Jill, and I spent the New Years Eve weekend in Lacrosse, WI.  While there we made time to visit some friends who recently opened a winery (Elmaro Vineyard) in Trempealeau, nestled beautifully within the Mississippi River valley.
Elmaro Vineyard (taken from website)
The winery, built on the family farmstead, is attractively styled for visitors and creatively designed for wine making.  Planning includes use of gravity-fed systems, to gently move the grape juice and must, thoughtfully constructed cold-stabilization rooms to take advantage of naturally cool temperatures, and a top-tier mobile bottling line (useful for bottling at their winery and contracting to other local wineries - read more about it here).
Elmaro Wines - picture from website
The beautifully crafted and undulating tasting room bar encourages visitors to cozy up to the bar.  Our hosts were gracious and allowed us ample time to taste and enjoy each of the wines.  The Elmaro Rosa, a fruity and fun blush wine containing Concord and Catawba, was wonderfully balanced and it's easy to see why it is incredibly popular.  Mine and Jills favorite was the off-dry Vidal Blanc - sumptuously aromatic and deliciously pleasing on the palate!

One of the most satisfying aspects of visiting a winery is getting to know the owners, their wine making philosophy, and to get a read on the passion they have for wine making. It's truly a family operation with an immense sense of pride and professionalism going into each bottle.  

Great things are happening at the winery and if you have an opportunity, or live within a few hours, you really need to visit!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!