wine bottles in a rack

Wine for a “DelMarVa”cation

This summer is rapidly coming to an end in Central New York. When the New York State Fair commercials begin in earnest, that’s when you know. Or, if you ask my son, you know when the cicadas (or “summer sounds,” as he calls them) reach their fever pitch decibel levels. Whatever the sign, it’s now the latter half of August, and back to school is only weeks away.

Every summer we go on a family vacation. Most of the time we head south to Delaware to visit family. While there, we try to do a few other sightseeing activities, picking different things to do each year. This past year, the husband and I escaped for an overnight in Frederick, Maryland, a location chosen for its close proximity to Maryland and Virginia wine country.

The Frederick Wine Trail includes about a dozen or so wineries nestled among horse farms and countryside. We visited on a Wednesday and quickly realized that in Maryland, many vineyards are closed for tastings during the week. We did manage to make two stops, however, and they were both well worth the time.

Elk Run Vineyard and Winery

Elk Run was our first stop, mainly because it was the first one we came to along the route. Thankfully, they were open! It was a casual, friendly atmosphere. Someone was actually replacing ceiling tiles and someone also was doing office work at a table just near the tasting bar. I got the impression the winery didn’t get many weekday visitors, particularly on a hot summer day in early August! Carol Wilson was a wonderful hostess pouring wines, explaining how they were derived and patiently answering our questions. She even provided us with a wine trail map and a few suggestions for other places to visit. Her friendly dog laid at our feet the whole time.

We enjoyed a couple of the wines we tried and were pleased to hear that the vineyard can ship to New York State. But, we did purchase a few bottles to take home. Among our selections: Annapolis Sunset, a sweet, off dry white wine perfect for easy drinking on the back deck at sunset. In fact, we purchased two bottles of that and have already enjoyed one with friends. At nearly $15, the price point is reasonable and well worth it for the taste. We also purchased a Chardonnay, as well as

Linganore Winecellars

Travel five more minutes down a couple of old country backroads and you land in the driveway of Linganore Winecellars, another vineyard open for tasting during the week. We were immediately greeted at the door and brought to the tasting bar where we tried some excellent wines and learned of a few wonderful places to eat in Frederick, too. One of the winery’s staff members spent time in the Finger Lakes at a vineyard we knew well so we were curious to try the wines here to see if any reflected the New York style.

In fact, there was a Cayuga White blend that we tried to see if it tasted like the wines we know and love in Central New York. We definitely could taste the Cayuga grape but the tell-tale green apple taste and smell was missing. It always fascinates me how different soils and weather environments can completely reimagine how a grape tastes and how the wine will turn out. Their reds were very good, which surprised me a bit. I tend not to like red wines from the east coast, at least so far in my travels. But, these were really yummy and interesting. Among our selections: Seventh, Retriever Red, Revolution and a port/dessert wine, Abisso.

America’s Oldest Vineyards

Since we were in Frederick, only about 30 minutes from the Virginia wine country, we decided to try to venture over and hit a few wineries there before heading back to Delaware. We probably could have spent a week there, there were so many vineyards. We ended up taking a few tips from our bed and breakfast hostess, as well as the first winery we visited and jumped around to hit three vineyards, all with unique wines and styles. In Virginia, wineries are organized into clusters by geographic area. Each has its own “personality” and growing characteristics. We strategically hit a vineyard from three of the six.

Otium Cellars

horses on a farm in Virginia

On the recommendation of our bed and breakfast hostess, we started our next day’s adventure at Otium Cellars in Purcellville, Virginia, part of the Snickers Gap Wine Cluster. What a great vineyard and winery! Tucked back with a horse farm adjacent to the tasting room, it was a beautiful place with a knowledgable hostess at the tasting bar. We t

ried many different wines made in the German tradition, which is one with which I am familiar. We purchased a few of our favorites, including: Dornfelder and Merlot, and we left with a pair of glasses, too, which have become our go to for our evening wine selections.

8 Chains North

Next up was 8 Chains North, along the Waterford Cluster, and another recommendation from both Otium Cellars and our bed and breakfast hostess. This one didn’t disappoint either, however I felt it was challenging trying to learn more about the wines, their background and origin. In fact, the wine that was listed as the most “famous” from this vineyard was not included on the tasting list. Luckily, when I mentioned it, we were allowed to try it. We ended up purchasing two bottles! This vineyard was interesting in that it was importing grapes from Washington State and making wine that otherwise would not be available from a Virginia vineyard. We left with: Loco Vino and Pink Link Rose. Another interesting fact about this winery? Every year, members of the wine club come together to create a unique blended wine. They try a bunch of different wines and then make a collective suggestion to the winemaker, who then creates the wine exclusively for the club. Very cool!

Hillsborough Vineyards

Hillsborough Vineyards, part of the Loudoun Heights Wine Cluster, was not on our original list but its website said it offered light fare and as it was after noon, we were starving. Alas, when we arrived, we were told that the food is only offered on weekends. Still, as long as we were there, we tried their wines. Many of the reds were a bit too much for me but my husband really enjoyed them. We did end up purchasing a few here so it wasn’t a wasted stop, despite the lack of food! Many of their wines are named after gemstones. Among our selections: Opal, Bloodstone, Moonstone and a White Merlot that I felt rivaled those from California. We also received a set of glasses, which was a nice touch.

Although we were not able to truly delve into all that Virginia wine country has to offer, we learned a lot from the ones we were able to visit. For example, most, if not all, vineyards in Virginia do not distribute their wines beyond their region, preferring instead to make just enough for the annual visitors who venture through the wine clusters. In Maryland, we learned that while those vineyards don’t tend to distribute to retailers outside the area, they are able to ship their wines and New York is one of the states to which they are allowed to ship, which is a bonus for us!

If you ever find yourself in this part of the country, I encourage you to visit a few of the vineyards. The wines are delicious; the drive is gorgeous and the hospitality can’t be beat. Cheers!

maria, lucia and christopher in the swimming pool

Wine for Hot Summer Days

It’s been a hot last few days in Central New York, much hotter than we are used to. The thermometer rarely goes above 90 during a normal summer but so far, we’ve hit and/or surpassed it a few times and it’s only July 3! Typically when it’s this hot, I avoid drinking too much alcohol due to dehydration and just because it makes me feel like garbage when it’s so hot. But, this past weekend, I had some fun loading up the coolers for a graduation party to celebrate my husband’s graduate degree.

The first stop was Harbor View Wines and Liquors where I purchased a case of 12 bottles at a 20 percent discount. I chose wines from all over the world, including Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Argentina and Italy. In addition, my picks included a couple from the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, as well as Washington and California. I tried to vary the types of wines, choosing six reds and six whites, as well as different grapes. I figured it would be fun to have a hodgepodge available to guests or for us after the party ends!

I did the same thing with the beer selection. I chose a Mexican sampler, Saranac Summer Series, Blue Moon, Labatt Blue Light and some White Claw sparklers. Of course, there was plenty of water and sparkling water for guests, too. The most popular beers were the Mexican ones, followed closely by Saranac and Labatt Blue Light. We had one Saranac left and a few Blue Moons. As for wine? I enjoyed Goose Watch Vineyard’s Diamond white, which is made with the Diamond white grape, one of the originals grown in Upstate New York.

I think it’s fun to try a whole bunch of different types of wines and beers. There are so many in this world and I probably will never try them all. That’s why, when I have an opportunity to purchase a lot, I take it; your guests will have their choice and you’ll hopefully have something for everyone’s taste.

Summer Wine Choices

Overall in the summer, I enjoy white and rose wine over a red, simply because they are more refreshing to me. I typically have them at a slightly cooler temperature than I would a red so that may be one reason why. I don’t like an overly sweet wine. You’ll see me drinking a Sauvignon Blanc or a Cayuga White. Riesling is a popular choice, as well, especially with company, and White Merlot is a great standby, particularly with barbecue. Below are some of the ones I chose for our outdoor party.

Goose Watch Winery
Finger Lakes, New York

Clean Slate
Mosel, Germany

Sauvignon Blanc
The Crossings
New Zealand

White Merlot
Napa Valley, California

Bread and Butter Wines

I’ll add to this list, as I try more delicious summer wines. Please share your favorites below!


maria, lucia and christopher smiling and eating ice cream

Wine for “Almost” Spring/Summer

I’m on a roll now! The weather turned gorgeous this week. I’m feeling a bit more like myself. In this post, a short one for #WineWednesday, I wanted to share my top 5 spring/summer wine choices. Cheers!

  1. Sauvignon Blanc – I enjoy those from New Zealand, although I have enjoyed a few from other regions, as well.
  2. Chablis – I seldom write about this one because it’s rare that I find a good bottle but when I do, wow! I forget how much I love it. My favorite pairing for Chablis is sushi.
  3. White merlot – This one is often overlooked but very enjoyable particularly if you have guests who are not used to drinking wine. It’s essentially a blush, which has wider appeal.
  4. Riesling – Of all the whites, this one is my favorite. I love the German Rieslings and those inspired by that region, particularly the Mosel/Saar River area. Try Hermann J. Weimer from the Finger Lakes region in New York state..
  5. Red blend – Red blends tend to be easy-drinking and often fruit forward, making them ideal for nights by the campfire. You can find inexpensive ones at most local liquor stores, including Lucas Vineyards Tugboat Red and Red Truck wine. Any red blend will do!
  6. BONUS: Champagne/Prosecco – Who doesn’t love a good bottle of bubbly? It makes any ordinary day/evening a real treat!

What are some of your favorite summer wines? Comment below! I love new ideas!

Top 5 Wines for Cinco de Mayo!

Typically, people enjoy margaritas or Tequila on May 5, traditionally known as Cinco de Mayo. But, if you are a wine drinker, don’t despair. There are plenty of choices for you, too. Below are my top five picks:

  1. Riesling – German Riesling has an acidity that can stand up to the citrus found in many Mexican dishes. Try anything from the Mosel region, or German-inspired favorite, Hermann J. Weimer from the Finger Lakes region in New York state.
  2. Pinot Noir – Dishes, such as enchiladas are not as spicy and tend to be more mellow and earthy. Try a light Pinot Noir, such as one from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California.
  3. White Merlot – Tacos are fun and carry big flavor, therefore you need something fun to compliment them and quench your thirst. Try a White Merlot from Sutter Home or Beringer Estates. The rose never disappoints.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc – Fish tacos are popular these days and if you get a good one, it will likely have a bit of heat to it. Try a fresh Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to cool the heat and refresh your palate.
  5. Mexican wine – I was hoping this would be my pick this year. I recently read a Huffington Post article on the resurgence of the Mexican wine industry and learned the Baja peninsula is home to 90 percent of the country’s wine producers. So, I had planned to try a bottle of Mexican wine for my Cinco de Mayo feast. But, alas I can’t find any Mexican wine in my neck of the woods. Anyone know where I can get some? ¡Salud!

A Wine for Busy Times

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I have no excuse but, rather, a reason. Busy life! The first part of April included preparations for Easter, kids’ activities, including birthday parties for both girls, and a new floor for our kitchen and dining room. Easter fell in the middle part of the month, featuring the first Easter dinner hosted at our home.

Work is always busy during the month of April since it represents the “home stretch” of the academic year. Between teaching two courses and my full-time job, there are lots of projects and last-minute activities to be accomplished in a very short time! Finally, this week, we’ll celebrate Christopher’s third birthday with a party at our home; we’re expecting around 20 people.

After his birthday, it’s on to wrapping up the semester and Mother’s Day, along with the annual village-wide garage sale in which we participate. So, really, it’s not until the middle to end of May that things begin to ease up.

What’s more, I’ve been battling foot pain. Apparently, I have a neuroma in my left foot. That’s when the nerve gets enflamed. I’ve had foot doctor appointments, plus I’m trying to continue my exercise routine so I can avoid stress. It’s been busy to say the least.

I share all this only to say that my life is quite busy and, thus, stressful. There are more emotional things I’m dealing with, as well, that I don’t share publicly. Suffice it to say that it would be very easy for me to drink “more” wine, not less. Strangely, though, the opposite is happening. I’m actually not into drinking wine as much at the end of the day. I’m not sure if it’s the fatigue or what but I just haven’t been enjoying it. So, although I’ve had wine over these past few weeks, I haven’t had anything to write home about.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed the old standby rose that goes with Easter ham, a Beringer White Merlot. White Merlot is made with Merlot grapes that have had their skins removed prior to fermentation. It makes a lovely, drinkable rose wine akin to White Zinfandel, which is made the same way. I find that it’s an easy-drinking blush that compliments the ham very well. I bought a large bottle to share around the table. We also had a Finger Lakes semi-dry Riesling from Dr. Konstantin Frank. I had a Pinot Noir on standby but we ended up not opening that one.

For a nightcap (it had been a busy day), we enjoyed a new wine that Matt Bellassai created in partnership with Winc. While well-blended it didn’t have a bold enough taste for me. It almost seemed watered down in a way. But for the end of a long weekend, it was a good way to put me to sleep! LOL. Hopefully, as things ease up, I’ll enjoy wine more and will share accordingly. Until then, cheers!


Unexpected Pairings

This post is a little late in coming. I’m going to reference Super Bowl LI, which seems like ages ago already! After making sure we could watch the football game by acquiring a digital antenna to access Fox, we settled in for the evening with our blankets, PJs and wine. My husband decided to make chicken wings and nachos supreme and all kinds of other football snacks. I really just wanted to sip the wine!

We chose a Tempranillo Rose, which we have never tried before, that arrived last week with my first shipment from Heartwood and Oak Wine Merchants. I found a good deal on a case of wine through Brad’s Deals. Since we enjoy a good White Merlot or Pinot Noir Rose from time to time, we figured this one would be fabulous. Unfortunately, not so much. It didn’t have much taste at all and, although the labels suggested we should be tasting strawberry and cranberry, all I got was cranberry, and all my husband got was strawberry.

Despite our disappointment, it actually turned out OK in the end. Because the wine really didn’t have much going on, it didn’t overpower the yummy snacks at all, but, rather, complimented them pretty well! We ended up being pleasantly surprised.

This surprised was not unlike how we both felt about the game. An unlikely country star nailed the National Anthem. A well-known entertainer killed the halftime show despite folks wanting there to be a controversy. And, an unlikely epic battle that led to a historic overtime win.

Football goes with wine. At least for me! Oh, and mark your calendars! Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, followed closely by National Drink Wine Day on Feb. 18! Cheers!


White Merlot – Looking Back on a Trend

You know what they say… wait a while and it’ll come back in style. Ain’t that the truth. Just looking around the Syracuse University campus I can see a similar view to when I was a college freshman years ago – plaid, flannel shirts, untucked over jeans with holes in the knees. It’s too bad I didn’t save all my wardrobe pieces because I’d be back in style!

As I thought about this, it reminded me that wine tasting “styles” come and go, too. When I was in college, I drank a ton of rose and sweeter wines. Just after college, as I “graduated” to bolder reds and drier whites, I passed through my White Merlot phase.

White Merlot is made from Merlot grapes that have limited to no contact with the skins before fermentation. So the color of the wine changes from a red/purple to a rose/light red. It tastes a lot like a White Zinfandel, which uses a similar process. I first learned about White Merlot on a Long Island wine tour in the late 1990s as it was first coming into fashion. A winery on the North Fork was producing it and after trying it, I was hooked! It became my “go to” sipping wine for quite a while.

One of the easiest to find White Merlot wines is Sutter Home or Beringer Estate. Both are usually found at the corner liquor/wine store and they are affordable, too. I recommend chilling it a bit, say to 58 degrees or so. It’s more refreshing and bursts with fruit flavor in your mouth.

While I haven’t enjoyed a White Merlot in years, I do have fun reminiscing about it. And since it is #MerlotMe month, perhaps I’ll grab a bottle for old time’s sake.