This Blog will meander around, visiting topics which may not have to do with wine, but will be more enjoyable with a glass of it. If readers want to be proactive, you can send me an e-mail if there is something specific about which you would like me to write.
Disgorged – The Blog: Update on Anniversary Dinners in July
We have added an Italian dinner on Sunday 20 July to the lineup. Chef Bill Schroeder of Giulianovas in Westminster.
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog 21 May 2014
Am jumping in with with a short post to note a ‘Call for Festival Volunteers’ has been added to the events page for the June Festivals. >>>Click HERE to Volunteer!
Also coming up is another off-site event that Cygnus has participated in for many years, and that is the fundraiser for the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore this weekend, the ever popular Brew @ the Zoo (and Wine, too). It runs 1-7pm both Saturday and Sunday and your hefty admission fee gets you into the Zoo each day at no charge, as well as sampling great craft brew and MD wine. Proceeds go towards supporting the many Zoo programs. A worthy cause indeed.
A more serious and perhaps lengthy Blog coming soon.
Thanks very much for your support. See you soon.
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog: 28 April 2014
Important Stuff indeed! I have posted the updated Calendar of Events through July for your information and enjoyment. I especially want to point out the Anniversary Dinners in July (pictured here a previous feast). Plus a load of off-site events as this is the Spring Festival season breaking upon us. May and June are STUFFED! The Call for Volunteers has gone out for the May events, and will soon go out for the June fests. There is still time to sign up for the Wine in the Woods festival at Symphony Woods in Columbia. And Great Grapes in Hunt Valley at Oregon Ridge Park.
Important Stuff also includes life away from work. I sincerely hope that everyone is taking time to engage with family, friends etc.. Face it, regardless what we may have convinced ourselves to believe about work, very little has to be done today, certainly not at the expense of missing family. Including your obnoxious, combative teen-agers, if you are luck enough to have at least one! Ours is no longer a teenager, so we are no longer responsible (although we do take some credit, from time to time). So consider less overtime, and more going home on time. Speaking of time, Eleanor comes home from the Peace Corps (if she doesn’t request an extension) in 13 months. Sometime mid to end of May, 2015. I am sure that all of Zambia will miss her when she’s gone.
Important Stuff probably also includes trying to Post more frequently.
I’ll work on that.
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog: 20 Feb 2014
At Cygnus Wine Cellars, we believe that it takes more than a day to celebrate our love to our Valentine, so we serve up great chocolate treats and even greater Cygnus wines all month long. We ( I use that term very loosely as it is Dr. J my Valentine, who does all the baking) usually lay out 4-6 chocolates, based on a fudgy brownie recipe, with varying % of cacao, and/or added flavors like mint or all-fruit raspberry jam. Very tasty, and match well with the red wines available for sampling. The killer match-up is the Raspberry/Bittersweet chocolate with Port of Manchester.
This February we were able to hopscotch through several snow/ice storms and still be open every weekend. The big one, at least for the region in north Carroll County around Manchester, was the 20″ snow we received the Wednesday night into Thursday morning (the 13th), and that evening another 7-8″. Just about put us out shoveling all that snow off our very long driveway at home. But the town does a great job with the streets, and we were able to host the St Valentine’s Day dinner Friday evening with the Dutch Corner Restaurant with no problems.
Preparations are now being made for the Cellar Rat Holiday, artisanal cheese tasting coming up on March 2nd. A great foodie event the information for which you all should pass along to your friends.
Also enlighten them about my wine, if that has slipped your mind.
Winter has another 4 weeks. Isn’t that great!
See you soon.
Ray @ Cygnus
Yes, indeed. No big treatise or rant this time. Just a message of hope and promise to all this Christmas. Peace and love be to you, your families, friends, neighbors, and enemies. Maybe with a little prayer and hard work, some in that last category can be moved into that of Friend in this coming year.
Will write again next year.
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog: 19 November 2013
I really like Champagne, and its kissin’ cousin methode champenoise sparkling wine. Old Houses like Bollinger and Krug are my unaffordable favs, but the list is long and equally unaffordable. There are many really good sparklers from New York, California, and other States that I like. But as a commercial market, America has always been a hard sell. I think the current percentage of the market place in the USA is about 5% for all wine sold. And that includes all of the usual suspects; Champagne, methode champenoise sparkling, Charmat (bulk fermented) and transfer process. Difficult to understand, given our love affair with carbonated beverages. We use it for celebrating and that is about it.
And that is what I believe to be the key. Just as the battle in the 60’s and 70’s, which led to the rise of the California wine industry, was establishing its relationship to the dinner table, doing the same for sparkling wine should help break the acceptance barrier with Americans for sparkling wine as an everyday (or at least every week) food beverage. There just has not been an effort to do that, as there was back in the 1970’s for still table wine. Too bad.
We are fast approaching the wine party time of the year. From Thanksgiving through to the New Year, wine, still and sparkling, take center stage, even in demographics that usually prefer beer and/or spirits. This year a double hit takes place as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are the same day. So let the feasting begin with some great American sparkling wines, with perhaps one or two Royele sparkling wines from Cygnus! Thanksgiving is at its latest possible date in our calender this year, so Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations are only four and five weeks after, but that still leaves plenty of time to restock your bubbly. Break out of the same old ways and open yourself and your friends/families up to great sparkling wines this holiday season, and beyond!
If you must dilute the pleasure, explore drinks recipes which utilize sparkling wine. Mimosas are a perfect place to start the party, even though I think it is either a waste of perfectly good orange juice or really good sparkling wine! Go to www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/champagne-cocktails or www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/champagne-cocktails to get some ideas of sparkling wine cocktails to try out.
That’s it for now, got to get back to disgorging more Rose de Noir and Blanc de Blanc. Cheers!
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog: 7 Nov 2013
Age of Aquarius; or How well does wine age?
The top two questions I tend to get are: “How do you put those flavors in the wine”? and, “How will this wine age”? I also get “How long did it take to grow that beard”? I ignore that one but can wax poetic forever (almost) on the other two.
Briefly, though, the subject of the aging of wine is relatively modern, as historically most wine didn’t make it until the next harvest without it turning yucky. For less than about 200 years then, we have abused ourselves with the question about aging of wine, and it’s corollary, do we like the results? To begin with, wine is always at its most fruity at the end of fermentation, and will always lose fruitiness from that point forward. The question is, are we willing to invest time, and assume the accompanying risk, that as wine ages the up front fruitiness will change into something perhaps a bit more interesting, a little more subtle and complex? Now most of the worlds wine is consumed before its third birthday, or thereabouts, so the matter of aging really doesn’t seem to occur to a majority of wine consumers, or apply to all of that wine. But for the few that are interested in exploring and experiencing wine beyond the basics, aging wine and tasting it throughout that journey can bring untold rewards (hedonistically speaking). And maybe a time or two of spitting into the nearest receptacle!
What perhaps, you might ask, would be criteria on which to base your choice of wine for aging? Frankly, you can do this with any wine from big reds to lighter whites, corks to screw caps. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to do just that, as you will have a great educational opportunity that doesn’t come by accident, you have to do it on purpose, and you control the parameters. When it come to aging of wine, the most talked about are reds, usually big tannic monsters that need time just to be able to drink them. But actually some of the most long lived wines are whites; great dry Rieslings from the glorious Rheingau of Germany, and the fabulously decadent sweet Tokays of Hungary. And the key to aging is balance. Not high ‘bring tears to your eyes’ alcohol, not pallet killing ‘I need a beer’ tannin, and not bracing ‘clean your silverware’ acidity. Balance.
What I would recommend is this. Visit some of your local wineries ( I suggest starting with Cygnus Wine Cellars), select a white and red wine that you like and buy a case of each. Then every six months over the next six years, invite a few close friends over for dinner, pull out a bottle of each wine, and taste them before and during dinner, discussing the wines with your friends. It is best to also take notes, as the Chinese say ‘ Short note better than long memory’. Then repeat all of the above. Buy a case of the new vintage when it is released and stick it in the basement ( or closet ) along with the previous purchases and add it to the tasting queue.
Aging of wine then is really a personal preference. It is not some thing you have to do. It is not something that will necessarily benefit the wine. But it is part of the wine adventure, right up there with discovering a new winery/winemaker, or new varietal.
I will close with a somewhat self-serving e-mail exchange which happened back in April of this year, regarding the Cygnus Julian.
—– Original Message —–
From: Gary Blanchard
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 8:44 PM
Subject: 1997 Julian
Hello Cygnus Cellars,
This evening I opened a bottle of 1997 Julian fully expecting it to be past its
prime, to my great surprise it was the same wine (with a bit more age) that I
drank in 2002 when I originally purchased it. I have one more bottle of the 97
and a couple of bottles of the 2002 left in my wine refrigerator. My question to
you is do I dare keep it much longer or drink it reasonably soon?
Thank you for your wines and the enjoyment they have provided
Bedford, MA 01730
Great to hear from you and your experience with Cygnus Julian. The older
vintages of Julian (1995, 1997) are indeed still vibrant wines. At the recent Drink
Local Wine Conference held in Baltimore two weekends ago, I sampled both the
1997 and 2002 Julian to wine writers and bloggers from around the country and
they all were also amazed at their staying power. As to the time remaining for the
’97, I can only say that it is better to enjoy wine too early than too late. But I can’t
see these wines all of a sudden falling apart either.
Thanks for your comments, and your support.
Ray G. Brasfield
So, dear Blog readers, carry on with the adventure. And let the rest of us in on your
Ray @ Cygnus
Disgorged – The Blog: 31 October
Happy for several reasons. Harvest is over. I pressed out the Cabernet Sauvignon this week. We had our Volunteer Party this past Sunday (the menu will appear later). Have finished riddling down the 2010 Hampton Cuvée Brut Rosé. Happy. Happy. Happy.
Of course, what started out a few centuries ago as evening prayers in anticipation of All Saints Day, has gone from the Eve of All Hallowed, to All Hallows Eve, to Halloween. Instead of prayerfully asking that evil spirits stay away from our ancestors (and us), we started running around like evil spirits thinking it would scare them away. Instead we became the evil, and began doing naughty things to our neighbor’s yards, and other inventive pranks. And now, since we can’t trust anyone anymore, our kids have to be escorted through our neighborhoods before dark for their ‘Trick or treating’ exercise, but then still have to search through their treats to make sure they haven’t been given any malicious gifts.
The Volunteer Party we host every year is our way of trying to thank the people who volunteer to helpus during the festival season. We also encourage them to dress up and come in costume (they ARE the entertainment!) . Joyce and I do the cooking ourselves, lay it out, and let ’em at it.VPM13 So far over the years, no one has been harmed in the process. We anxiously await next year!
November brings us to some tours for small groups at the winery, the last Farmer’s Market to do (Cheverely Holiday Market on Sat 23 Nov), and the Black Friday Wine Dinner at the Dutch Corner Restaurant, part of the Manchester Area Merchants Association Open House. And only one day too late (as it is not in November, but in December, that is) is the Stars in the Cellar Sparkling wine tasting on Sunday 1 December from 1:30 to 4:00pm. This event requires pre paid reservations @ $ 35.00 per person.
Feel free to write or call anytime.
Ray @ Cygnus
Here we are, approaching the middle of October, and the middle of the Fall festival season. The Maryland Wine Festival is history and so is the Riverside Wine Festival at Sotterley Plantation in St Mary’s County. Held last weekend, Sotterley is a smaller festival but usually pretty good for Cygnus, as it is near Patuxent Naval Air Station and most of the service people stationed there have been around, like drier wines, and don’t pussyfoot around (if they like something they buy it). Ran a lot of Navy Federal Credit Union cards last weekend! And it didn’t rain!
Also harvested Cabernet Sauvignon from two Carroll County vineyards; Copernica Vineyards, a twenty five year old vineyard with a great track record, and Terlizzi Vineyard, only four years old and second harvest (first real commercial harvest). Great fruit, 24 to 24.5 Brix, in the vats and fermenting nicely. Am using combinations of Pasteur Red and Epernay II yeasts with both vats. Cool in the winery now so will punch down caps maybe twice a day. Unless it warms up appreciably in the next week (which is not what the forecast says) looks like a long cool fermentation with at least three weeks vat time. Will keep you posted, but feel free to come to the winery, stick your head in the vat and check it out yourself!
Also, October is Harvest and Halloween at Cygnus and if you come to the tasting room in costume, I will waive your tasting fee. At the end of the month is our annual Volunteer Party, for all those people who have helped out at festivals during the year. Sunday 27 October from 3 – 6pm, and appropriately Hallowed dress is encouraged.
In November is the annual Manchester Merchants Black Friday Open House from 6-9 pm, and we will again partner-up with Susan Rill at the Dutch Corner Restaurant for a bring your own wine dinner. Cygnus will open at 3pm for tasting and purchase of your wine to take to dinner, which runs from 4-8 pm. I will post the menu with wine pairing suggestions closer to the date.
A couple recent Blogs by local writers have said some nice things about Cygnus wines. Paul Vigna writes for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and Jon Kelvey writes for the Advocate, part of the Carroll County Times empire.
Have fun this Fall, and stop by the winery and pick up your wine for the holidays.
Till next time.
Ray @ Cygnus
Ok well, its been a while since I posted. Sorry, too bad. Strange year, strange growing season, strange festival season, etc. While September is THE transitional month in most everyone’s mind (summer to fall, vacation to school, etc), August is the real culprit and can make the rest of the year easy or not so. Well this is one of the not so years. Harvest is sort of normal so far, but the cool, dry August really changed my expectations. Also my planning. Ended up being a little behind in bottling the last of the reds for the year, but was able to get the equipment cleaned and ready to go, and to get yeast ordered in time. But the first fruit harvested intended for sparkling wine turned out riper than desired cause I anticipated slower ripening as a result of the cool end of August period. Nope. Should have taken the fruit a week earlier. Since then, things have progressed more or less on schedule. We expect Cabernet Sauvignon to be harvested in another couple weeks, and that should be the end of it. Grapes have good ripeness, with great color and flavor. Wine should be good this year, although crops seem down a bit from average yield.
This is the first fall season in which we did not have Eleanor going to school. Talk about transitions, our daily lives are pretty much the same, working the winery and Joyce teaching, but Eleanor is in a whole new world. She is absolutely loving her Peace Corps assignment in Zambia. Also in transition is the seasonal change in Zambia, going from their winter seemingly directly to summer, no spring transition needed! E said it only took a matter of a few days to go from moderate temps to being in the 90’s F.
Transitions are complicated, even the easy ones. We are into the historically big wine sales period from September through December, at the same time as harvest, at the same time as the fall wine festivals, at the same time as winemaking, at the same time as everything else. Whew!
Speaking of transitions, the Maryland Wine Festival (as well as the other large format festivals) has certainly transitioned into a different event than it was even just a couple or so years ago. Gone are the weekend crowds of 25,000 people. Gone are the customers buying wine by the case. Gone are the people coming to taste and learn about Maryland wine. In its place is an event which has been taken over by pop-up tents, on-site consumption, and marauding groups of four to six 25-year olds sampling everything in sight and drinking wine directly from the bottle, as if they had reached the epitome of cool. What a shame.
The Maryland Wineries Association is also in transition, in several ways, but in particular how it is developing new wine events, getting away from the large format festivals and moving toward more select, smaller venues where both the attendees and the wineries can interact in a more intimate fashion. This has been hard work, especially the formidable task of surveying and selecting the venue for a new event, and then the process of negotiating arrangements with the owners/managers of the host site. The Eat, Drink, Go Local event developed a little more than three years ago, and which has great potential, has hit a snag with site placements; EDGL is meant to be set in urban and suburban environments in the format of a farmers market, with a direct link to wine through the use of food & wine pairing stations. The inaugural successes in Frederick and Silver Spring have not been able to repeat, with only the North Beach event continuing. We have also developed winter season inside events in intimate upscale venues to showcase our wines, in a format which combines a food and wine tasting session with a buy wine as you leave feature. The Winter Wine @ Evergreen premiered this style of wine event this past January, and planning for the 2nd this coming winter is in the works. And more such events are in the development stages.
Transitions, although that is what they seem like at the time, can really be paradigms; significant change in the way something is viewed, interpreted, understood, implemented. Perhaps that may be where the Maryland industry finds itself.
I am going to transition myself back to the winery, where barrel fermentations call out to be tended, and stuff needs to be washed, dried and put away. Sounds like housework.
Where is your next transition taking you?
Ray @ Cygnus