by Marco Montez
This weekend marks the beginning of the most exciting time of the year for me as a winemaker... harvest. It’s the culmination of 10 long months of hard work in the vineyards. Grape growers endure difficult weather, pests and other challenges, but never lose site of their ultimate goal… to deliver great fruit to the winery. Now people like me take over the fruit and have the responsibility of guiding it into this wonderful beverage we call wine.
Harvest means crush which is quickly followed by fermentation... and to me there is nothing more thrilling than the sound, the smell, the touch of a fermentation. A fermentation reminds us of how powerful nature is... an unstoppable force. In the days that precede harvest, I get this same feeling I had on Christmas Eve as a kid. Couldn’t quite fall asleep... couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning. For the past three years, my harvest season begins in the middle of September at PENADA, the family vineyard in Northern Portugal. Here I’m working mostly with red wines. Then back in Massachusetts I turn my focus into Travessia’s white wines. In all, it’s about 8 weeks of craziness.
In the meantime... There’s an Ebola outbreak that seems to be getting worse. Young girls are still being kidnapped in Nigeria. Al Qaeda hasn’t gone away, and now there’s ISIS, an even more radical organization. I don’t really have much time to watch TV or read the news, but one has to be living in a cave to not be aware of our troubled world. Then we all have our own personal issues to deal with... maybe it’s a friend that passed away unexpectedly, or a loved one that isn’t doing so well. So in the midst of all this harvest excitement I try to remind myself that it’s all a bit insignificant. It’s just wine.
But I’m incapable of hiding my excitement. This is what I live for. So in the coming days and weeks, excuse me if I seem self-absorbed.
by Marco Montez
Wine festivals aren't the best place to truly appreciate the virtues of a wine. They are however a great opportunity to get an overall introduction to the wines of a region and its wineries. That's why I recommend the upcoming Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Market organized by the Coastal Wine Trail group of Southeastern New England.
The event takes place this Saturday, June 21st, at the Westport Fairgrounds, 200 Pine Hill Road, Westport, MA. For $25 you will have the opportunity to taste 40 different wines, meet the winemakers and some of the wonderful people that work at our region's wineries.
If you decide to attend (you can purchase your tickets buy visiting this page), I would recommend the following strategy to maximize your experience:
- Arrive early so you have plenty of time to pace yourself.
- Pace yourself! Don't guzzle down everything that goes in your glass.
- Consider tasting lighter wines first (sparkling, white, rose') which also tend to be lower in alcohol and then wines which are heavier on the palate such as red and dessert wines.
- Spit into a spittoon after you taste. If you drink one ounce of 40 different wines, not only will you lose your ability to enjoy most of what you taste, you will be drunk.
- If you feel intoxicated PLEASE DON'T DRIVE.
- When you taste a wine that you think you would enjoy, make note of it, and better yet, buy it!
I will personally be at this event, so stop by our table and say hello.
by Jenn Marcos-Tripoli
I'm going to start this by giving you a little history lesson (this was never my strong-suit in school, so I'll keep this very short and sweet). Let's rewind about 6,100 years when people produced wine because consuming alcohol was more sanitary than drinking the local water supply. From that point on, as wine-making spread across the continents into Europe, the first "foodies" began pairing their region's wines with local fare, especially charcuterie - regionally produced artisan meats and cheeses - to enhance their tasting experiences. And here we are in in 2014, continuing the age-old tradition of wine pairings in our wine tasting room in New Bedford using exceptional local artisanal cheeses from Shy Brothers Farm of Westport, MA. And as they say, the rest is history!
We've been carrying Shy Brothers' cheeses for a little over a year now after trading tastings at the Coastal Wine Trail Summer Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Festival and realizing how well our local wines paired with the cheese from this local dairy farm. I was invited to tour the farm and cheese house Westport on a cold, snowy morning in March. I met with cheese-maker Karl Santos, as well as staff member Kate, to learn more about the farm and the process that goes into making their award-winning hand-made cheeses.
The farm is run by the four (very shy) Santos brothers, two sets of fraternal twins - Karl and Kevin, Arthur and Norman. They are third generation dairy farmers, and a couple of years back in order to sustain their farm, they decided to delve into cheese-making. A trip to France led Karl and business partners Barbara Hanley and Leo Brooks to Burgundy, where they discovered a style of goat's milk cheese called "boutons de culotte" which literally translates from French to "trouser buttons." They fell in love with the button-sized cheeses, the complexity of the flavors and the process which takes 10 days to produce. They came back to Westport, tweaked the recipe to suit the milk from their 120 cows (I got to meet the cutest day-old calf when I visited!), added delicious herbs like rosemary, lavender buds or chopped shallots, and decided to name the little morsels of goodness "Hannahbells" - an ode to their Mom, Hannah, and the bell-like shape of the cheese.
Hannahbells are made from a base of their very popular artisanal cheese curd, Cloumage. Essentially, Cloumage is blended up in very small batches with each herb, and spread into tiny molds that stay in a temperature and humidity-regulated room to age for about a week before being packaged and shipped or delivered to some of the best restaurants and groceries on the East Coast.
Hannahbells are great because they are so versatile. Since they are so small, they are great snacks to just pop while watching TV or playing board games, or you can toss some into pastas or casseroles to amp up the creaminess and flavor. They also sell Cloumage, which is creamy with an addictive and delicious tang, is just as versatile and can be used for just about anything - savory stuffed pastas instead of ricotta, sweet cheesecakes instead of cream cheese.
We are lucky to have sampler packs of their Hannahbells at the winery to offer daily pairings along with our local wines to enhance the tasting experience. Lee's Market in Westport, MA, also carries packages of each of their Hannahbell flavors, as well as Cloumage, if you want to check it out!
Until next time, cheers!
by Marco Montez
I recently visited The Red Hook Winery in New York. Red Hook, an industrial port section of Brooklyn, is the home of this urban winery launched in 2008 by proprietor Mark Snyder. Mark convinced two west coast winemakers to get on board, Abe Schoener and Robert Foley. Their concept is quite unique… Red Hook Winery purchases grapes from several New York vineyards. Upon arrival, the grapes are split between the two winemakers who then create two separate wines from the same batch of grapes.
During my visit I had the pleasure to meet Darren Palace who is the General Manager and Assistant Winemaker. Darren guided me through a tasting of seven of Red Hook's wines. Another interesting aspect about Red Hook is that every harvest they work on about 60 to 70 different fermentations. Since the winery currently produces between 1,000 and 1,200 cases, the result is very small batches of distinct wines. Red Hook produces many white wines, a couple of rosés, and several red wines as well. As I tasted through the wines, what I enjoyed the most was their uniqueness. The winemakers are definitely experimenting here, not simply making wines with mass appeal.
Christopher Nicolsen, resident winemaker, jumped in when he heard me say that I'm from New Bedford, MA. "The New Bedford with the Whaling Museum?" he asked enthusiastically. Christopher visited New Bedford several years ago to participate in the Moby-Dick Marathon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, just a couple blocks down from where Travessia is located. Small world…
Red Hook's greatest challenge might have come back in 2012 when hurricane Sandy hit the Brooklyn area especially hard. The winery was flooded with several feet of water, damaging infrastructure, equipment and destroying wine. It was late October and the winery had already begun fermenting that year's harvest. Tanks and barrels full of juice and grapes spilled over onto the winery's floor which was flooded. It was practically total loss and the winery had to close for 7 months. Thankfully, the team at Red Hook "rebuilt" and the winery appears to be thriving once again.
I wanted to get a taste of the local flavor and Darren suggested "Defonte's", a sandwich shop within walking distance of the winery. I had the Red Hook special… Chicken cutlet, melted american cheese, sliced turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, gravy and mayo. It was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to sit on a bench right outside the shop and devour my Red Hook sandwich… like a boss!
Name: Red Hook Winery
Location: 175-204 Van Dyke St., Pier 41 #325A, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Year started: 2008
Grape sourcing: Several vineyards, all within New York State
Current case production: Between 1,000 and 1,200 cases per year
Sales channels: 75% distribution, 25% tasting room
Retail price range: Whites $22-$45, Reds $32-$50
by Marco Montez
Unless you are studying wine or work in the wine business, there several aspects of it that you don't need to obsess about.
People often feel that in order to enjoy wine they must be able to discern its aromas in the glass. In our tasting room we often interact with visitors who feel a bit shy about their inability to "smell" the wine. Our recommendation: don't sweat it. If your interest in wine continues to develop, over time and with some practice you'll start "smelling" it. However, don't let this get in the way of your wine enjoyment.
And please… don't ever swirl your glass up in the air and aloud declare that you smell "petals in the rain"...
by Jenn Marcos-Tripoli
One of the things that I love about hosting wine tastings for guests at Travessia's tasting room is offering ideas of what to eat with our wines at home. While wine is obviously delicious to sip on it's own, the experience is elevated with the right time, place, people, and of course, the perfect pairing. Though most people wouldn't think to pair the light bodied wines of Massachusetts with the strong, complex flavors of chocolate, it surprises everyone when I bust out these gritty, dark chocolate morsels with funky flavors like guajillo chile or ginger to pair with a light, crisp local riesling... And it works really well!
I decided to visit Taza Chocolate Factory to tour their facilities in Somerville, Mass., for some of what I like to call "hands-on research" (i.e.- eating chocolate... lots of it!) on one of my favorite tasting room's venders. As some of you may know, we've been selling Taza's Mexicano Discs for over a year and offering daily tastings of their dark chocolates along with our wines. I felt I was overdue to check out this local chocolate legend-in-the-making and learn more about what it takes to make authentic Mexican-style chocolates, and what better time to do this than around Valentine's Day? My husband, Eric, was definitely happy to tag along.
If there's one thing you should know about this company, it is that they are dedicated. After a trip to Oaxaca ("wuh-HA-kuh"), Mexico, and tasting stone-ground Mexican chocolate for the first time, founder Alex Whitmore was inspired to start a chocolate factory. He started out of his apartment, then over time acquired and refurbished vintage equipment, bought factory space in Somerville, and forged relationships directly with cacao growers in Bolivia, Belize and the Dominican Republic in order to get the best possible quality cacao for their chocolate nibs, discs, and bars. All of Taza's products are certified Direct Trade (an even more "fair" arrangement than Fair Trade), Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Kosher... And so delicious! They put Hershey & Willy Wonka to shame, in my opinion.
Our factory tour guide was Ayala, a lively, bubbly lady who was seriously passionate about chocolate! The small tour group had an age-range from eight to eighty, and we spent a whole hour weaving through the rooms, learning about all the ins and outs of Taza. Everything from the trees the cacao fruit (yes, fruit!) grows on, to the finished product being shipped to all 50 states and around the world from this little local factory!
There were lots of unique pieces of equipment and many steps to their chocolate-making process. Very rarely will a chocolate company make chocolate from bean-to-bar, but Taza is definitely one of them! Once the dried, fermented beans arrive at Taza, they roast and winnow the beans in small batches, which separate tasty cacao "nibs" from their shells. Instead of wasting the shells which aren't used in the chocolate-making process, they are sold to local businesses who use the shells to create craft beers, teas, and even mulch - gaining major sustainability brownie points in my book! After the winnowing process, they grind the nibs using a Molina, or Mexican stone mill, that uses hand-carved granite stones to create a thick chocolate-y paste, and then add any real, whole ingredients (cinnamon, coconut, vanilla beans, spicy chiles, you name it!) and organic cane sugar to a desired sweetness, then refine and temper the chocolate to different consistencies for the different types of chocolates they produce.
This made for an excellent day trip, was totally family-friendly, affordable, educational, and most of all, fun! The tour was $5 per person, lasted about an hour, and everyone I met at the factory were knowledgeable and super sweet (pun intended). Tours book up quick, so purchase your tickets online here about a week in advance!
A few of my favorite highlights from the tour:
-Having to wear hair (and beard) nets, because there aren't many things more hilarious than a beard net. Don't we look stylish?
-Much like fermenting grapes to produce wine, the beans of the cacao fruit are fermented to produce complex chocolate flavors. Some cacao growers will even take the flesh of the cacao fruit, called "baba de cacao" and produce cacao wine with it for their families! Where can I get some of that?!
-I also loved that Taza's company store featured items made using Taza chocolate from other companies from near and far... From Q's Nuts in Somerville to Big Spoon Roasters in Durham, North Carolina! It's really great to see small businesses support fellow small businesses.
-Pro-Tip: Mexicanos Discs make excellent Oaxacan-style hot cocoa, called Taza de Chocolate. Break apart one of your favorite flavored discs in a saucepan with a mug-full of your choice of milk (whole, skim, almond, soy, rice, whatever you want!), and whisk until warm and frothy. My favorite combinations are Salted Almond discs with almond milk and their Cinnamon discs with whole milk, yum! Taza even carries hand-carved, one-of-a-kind wooden chocolate whisks made from small-scale venders in Oaxaca called molinillos ("moh-lee-NEE-yos") which you can use to foam the milk. I thoroughly enjoyed them!
After the tour and buying copious amounts of "Factory Limited" chocolate (limited batches you can only buy at the Somerville location or online... I had to buy the "Mi Cariño" gift set... SO GOOD!), we stopped by Flour Bakery about a mile up the road on Mass Ave. for a post-chocolate coma snack, and I was pleasantly surprised to see another Travessia favorite, Shy Brother's Farm, on the menu! The Tartine special with their artisanal Cloumage curd was fantastic! It reminded me that my next "field trip" must be to their local cheese farm in Westport.
Until next time, cheers!
by Marco Montez
As some of you may know, I've been working on a new winery project with my parents in Portugal. I will soon tell you more about that, but today I want to speak of a truly unique place and a very special person.
In Portugal people don't just drink wine, they live it. Everyone has an opinion about wine… when should the grapes be harvested, how the wine should be made, etc. In the countryside, residents plant grapevines in their land like we plant tomato vines in our backyards here in the US. Wine is embedded into the culture and life of most Portuguese. This is the way it has been for centuries.
During my last trip in February, I visited a long-time family friend, Senhor José Barreira (Zeca).
Senhor Zeca, who is 78 years old, lives in São Jumil, a small village in the Vinhais county of the Trás-Os-Montes Province.
São Jumil - Vinhais - Portugal
I remember visiting often with my parents as a kid. Food was always plentiful and so was the wine. I hadn't been here for over 20 years so after lunch I asked Senhor Zeca if we could go for a walk around the village. He took me to the "Adegas".
Adegas - São Jumil
São Jumil is known across the region for these "Adegas"… a cluster of small wineries built on a gently sloping hillside, some of which are dated as far back as the 18th century. Supposedly, this location was picked because it allowed for the wines to be aged at an appropriate natural temperature. How many wineries? According to Senhor Zeca, there are 48 of them altogether. There are now more wineries than people living in the village since São Jumil's population has dropped to a mere 35. Some of the winery owners have died and some have moved to the cities.
Senhor Zeca at his Cellar Door
Most of these wineries have common walls and share continuous roof tops. The typical winery here consists of nothing more than two rooms. First, a fermentation room consisting of a "Lagar". Grapes are dumped through a small door into the Lagar and fermented with nothing more than the occasional punch down of the fermentation cap. No yeasts added (they already live in the Lagar), no temperature control, no enzymes, no laboratory tools. It's non-interventional winemaking to the extreme. When the fermentation is completed, the wine is transferred to a second and adjacent lower-level room where it is stored and aged for the most part in 500 Liter "Pipas".
One can only imagine the joy and flurry at these Adegas during harvest! In his heyday, Senhor Zeca used to make the equivalent to 2,500 gallons per year! His family would drink part of it, give a lot to friends and sell some as well. These days, some of the Adegas have been abandoned and efforts to raise money to restore the collapsing buildings have failed.
Senhor Zeca and his Vineyard
Despite his age, Senhor Zeca still takes care of his vineyard. The grape varieties? That's really not of major concern here… it's a field blend of many varieties, just like it has always been.
As I left that day, I could not help but to wonder about the future of these Adegas. For how much longer will people like Senhor Zeca keep this very special place alive?
by Jenn Marcos-Tripoli
I'm Jenn, the tasting room manager and event coordinator at Travessia Urban Winery. When Marco asked me to have a regular column on the winery's blog, I was psyched! It's great to feel like not only do I have one of the coolest jobs ever (HELLO?! Local wine, local cheese, & local chocolate!), but I also get to go to work every day and teach our visitors something new about Travessia, the excellent wines that Marco is producing, and our lovely micro-climate and region in Southeastern Mass. Not to mention plan fun events for our guests and curate awesome art and music shows featuring the local talent of the New Bedford area!
I plan on using my time blogging here to do something a little different, by taking you on my own personal journey with Travessia, wine, and the greater New Bedford area.
As a young wine drinker, I feel like a lot of my "Millennial" peers (even myself, along with many members of older generations) can be intimidated by learning about and drinking wine. I hear it every day at the winery, almost as if customers feel the need to apologize for their "lack of knowledge" prior to even tasting a wine. In my humble opinion, as long as you know what you like or are open to trying something new, there's never any need to apologize!
So my main goal in blogging for Travessia is to un-complicate the sometimes daunting endeavor of learning about wine - it should always be fun, never anxiety-inducing! I find that the more questions I ask, the more there is to learn; so I plan on sharing with you tidbits of knowledge I pick up along the way. Expect to find a lot of wine basics, pairing ideas, recipes, easy lessons you can try at home with your next bottle of wine, DIY crafty wine projects, and more!
Another aspect of my blogging column will focus on my adventures in and around this city, hopefully offering up some great ideas for your next day trip on the Coastal Wine Trail. As some of you may know, I'm still fairly new to New Bedford, and working downtown in this bustling little corner of Massachusetts has really opened my eyes to all the great things the South Coast has to offer. It's fascinating to be a first-hand witness to New Bedford's cultural renaissance, and I love feeling like I'm contributing in some small way by working with Marco to manage a small business that I believe fits in perfectly with the positive changes happening to this often-underestimated historic city. I plan on getting out and about, visiting all the places in the area I've heard of but haven't had a chance to see or experience... yet!
In between my blog posts, you can keep up to date with Travessia's happenings via my monthly event calendar email, Marco's quarterly newsletter, along with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram updates! Hope to see you soon at the tasting room!
by Marco Montez
I'm often asked about what goes on at the winery during Winter. Most think of winemaking as harvesting, crushing and fermenting which all take place in the Fall, but there is in fact much work performed in a winery throughout Winter.
At Travessia, it is for the most part during Winter that white wines (and rosés if necessary) are clarified. Clarifying white wines is a fairly simple process, but one that is necessary before the wine is bottled. The following is my attempt at explaining one of the types of wine clarification, hopefully without getting too nerdy.
Grape berries contain proteins whose solubility decreases with the wine's alcohol content. These proteins often precipitate in the form of a visible haze in the wine especially when the wine is exposed to elevated temperatures (for example when someone buys a bottle of wine in a tasting room and leaves it in the trunk of a car during a hot Summer day - believe me, it happens…) Although this haze is purely an aesthetic problem since it has no taste, most people prefer their wine to look just like it did when they purchased the bottle.
Most white wines at Travessia are fined with Bentonite which is widely used by winemakers all over the world. Bentonite is essentially an impure clay formed by weathering of volcanic ash. When this Bentonite clay is hydrated in water, the minerals in it become positively charged. Mixed with wine, these positive ions in the clay bond with negatively charged particles (such as proteins) which are floating around in the wine and both sink to the bottom of the tank. Once on the bottom of the tank, the winemaker can then transfer the now clear wine off of the sediment. No Bentonite actually makes it to the final bottle of wine.
There are some drawbacks to fining, the most problematic being the stripping of aromas, flavors and color especially when too much Bentonite is used. So the goal of every winemaker is really to use the least amount of Bentonite necessary to accomplish the goal of clarifying the wine just enough. As a winemaker friend of mine puts it… if someone leaves their fresh milk in a hot car, it's their fault that the milk goes bad, not the cow's. At Travessia I've never used more than 0.4 grams of Bentonite for a volume that would be equivalent to the usual bottle of wine.
And that's Bentonite fining. If you have any questions about this, don't hesitate to ask which you can do by leaving a comment below.