For Paul B. (and Howie)

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For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Thomas » Thu Oct 12, 2006 6:19 pm

This morning I had to see our old buddy John Zuccarino at his tasting room. I tasted some wines--a great Bordeaux blend--but in the midst of the array he pours me a Catawba.

I don't like Catawba--this wine was quite good. A nose that smells like the Constellation Brand Catawba vineyards next door to me and a mouthfeel that is structured and comes off reasonably dry at about 3% sugar.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Paul B. » Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:16 pm

Thomas, many thanks for that! I have yet to try John's wines, but I hope to at some point. Perhaps a visit to his winery next year would be a good idea as well - I certainly have a keen interest in his Catawba and Delaware.

Me? I love Catawba, but with a caveat (more on that in a moment). The only varietal Catawba in Ontario was a late-harvest one made by Thomas & Vaughan until about 1999; it was called "Old Gold" due to its characteristic golden hue in the glass. The nose was intriguing for its purity and fruit: it featured tropical strawberry and pineapple esters along with a rosy/spicy note and delicate labrusca musk on the finish - just beautiful. Its downfall, to my taste, was the sticky-sweet finish.

One of the nicest Catawbas I've tasted to-date was Chiappone Cellars' example, which I got from Howie some time back. It was finished at around 3% r.s. if I recall correctly. That much r.s. is fine by me, though my heart really yearns for a completely dry version - zingy acidity, full-throttle fruitiness, a big mouthfeel and a completely crisp, full-flavoured, unsweetened finish. That is the essence of labrusca wine for me, and it's what I seek to make each year at home from Niagara and Concord.

Many thanks for your lovely post.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby James Roscoe » Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:21 pm

This thread just struck a memory. At the Virginia Wine Festival two weeks ago, I had a dry Concord that was actually pretty good. It tasted a little like a very young Chinon. There was definitely some potential there. I can't remember the vineyard. My wife didn't care for the pencil shavings quality, but I thought that this is what floats Paul's boat.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Paul B. » Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:29 pm

James, it's interesting that you mention a dry Concord at that festival.

My plan for this year was to make a dry Concord and age it with a bit of oak chips to see what it'd be like. The plan never came to fruition (pardon the pun) because this year was a complete write-off for labrusca in Ontario: the non-stop rain and cold, cloudy weather during the critical September ripening period resulted in half-unripe, half-split/-rotten grapes, which of course I refused to buy.

I truly believe that Concord wine, fermented fully on the skins and done dry, is a better wine than the alcoholic-grape-syrup style that many have long thought was the only way you could make wine from this heirloom variety.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Howie Hart » Fri Oct 13, 2006 8:36 am

Thanks, Thomas. John forwarded a bunch of his wines, including the Catawba to our NiagaraCOOL picnic last June. A few were opened. Some, a few of the attendees took with them and I drank a couple (I believe there are a few TNs posted in the Netscape Forum). I still have a few, which I will be sharing with Ed Draves one of these days when we get together (I've been meaning to invite him and his wife over for dinner, and now that my son's wedding is over, maybe I can do that). I do have his Catawba and a couple of his reds. The wines I've had have been very nice. One of these days I'm going to have to visit the FLs and stop in at Silver Springs.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Paul B. » Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:10 am

I sorely regret not getting to try John's Catawba and Delaware at NiagaraCool - for some reason they weren't put out.

Hopefully next year there'll be a chance to stop into the winery for a visit.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Howie Hart » Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:39 am

Paul B. wrote:I sorely regret not getting to try John's Catawba and Delaware at NiagaraCool - for some reason they weren't put out.

I brought John's Catawba to MOCOOL for you, but your Mom got sick and you couldn't make it. I still have it for you. At NiagaraCOOL, Ed Draves ended up getting sick, so his wife delivered the wines. I was relying on him to organize the wines and the Riesling Taste-Off and was busy cooking, didn't realize they were there and it all fell through the cracks. Plus, there were so many wines there it was hard to keep track of them all. I'm glad I attended the entire MOCOOL weekend this year, not just because of the pleasure of the event, but also I learned a bit on how to better organize such an event.
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Re: For Paul B. (and Howie)

Postby Paul B. » Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:43 am

Yes - I forgot all about Ed's illness that weekend. Now it makes sense!

I was intrigued when I read about John making the Catawba dry, and think that more wineries should do that with the grape. Given the long history of the variety in Ohio especially - and Longfellow's poem in praise of it - I think that there is ample opportunity to resurrect the grape in a style that's more fitting to today's wine-astute consumer. I maintain my long-held view that it is the sickly/syrupy style that has given labrusca its bad image, not the aromas of the grapes themselves, which are actually pretty when the wine is made with an eye to purity.
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