While we expect to learn that our alumni are doing remarkable things, there’s a little extra excitement involved when researching their accomplishments involves sampling the vinous creations of five renowned wineries. Our alumni work as marketing directors, vineyard managers and winemakers throughout the country, so we rounded up some of their finest offerings and enlisted our resident wine expert to offer his take on your best options from coast to coast.
Our wine guy: Kevin Atticks, D.C.D. ’02, is the executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association and the author of Discovering Wineries, a series of travel guides. He also co-founded the WBJC-FM show Word on Wine. Atticks teaches publication design at Loyola University Maryland.
Russian River Vineyards
Barbara Sattler, B.A. ’81, is a partner at the Forestville, Calif.-based Russian River Vineyards, a sustainable winery that produces cabernet, pinot noir, rose, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and more.
If you don’t know petite sirah, you’re missing out. It’s a glassful of dark, brooding flavors, most notably blueberry compote, brambles and black pepper. Russian River Vineyards sourced the grapes from Guido Venturi Vineyard, a Mendocino, Calif., vineyard with a great reputation for high-quality fruit resulting in exquisite wines. This wine comes on strong with an incredible aroma (petite sirah lovers know this well), full-mouth feel and medium finish. Petite sirah can usually be enjoyed immediately upon release, but it is best when cellared for a few (or as many as 10-15) years. This wine would pair wonderfully with grilled meats but is superb all by itself.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
St Helena, Calif.
Joseph Phelps has earned a reputation among wine lovers as one of the best of the best of California’s premium wine producers, offering cabernets, red blends, sauvignon blancs and estate-grown olive oil. Mike McEvoy, M.B.A. ’97, is vice president and director of sales and marketing.
There are few labels that get big-time wine lovers more excited than does Insignia by Joseph Phelps. Known as one of Napa Valley’s greatest wines, Insignia lives up to every expectation. It’s big, deep and full of concentrated red- and black-fruit flavors with aromas of coffee, pencil shavings and cream—imparted by 24 months of aging in new French oak. While clearly a cabernet sauvignon, its structure is bolstered by 7 percent petit verdot and 4 percent merlot.
I opened it and realized immediately that I had committed a crime; it needs to be aged many more years before reaching its peak. The Wine Advocate, which rated this wine 97 points, noted, “Ideally, the 2008 should be purchased by those who can be patient; it is not a wine for those seeking immediate gratification.”
Phineas Deford, M.B.A. ’11, works with his family at Boordy Vineyards just north of Baltimore, where he is the wine club manager. The winery makes 20 wines in a variety of styles, from premium Landmark wines and Icons of Maryland wines to its Just for Fun series.
Boordy Vineyards is Maryland’s oldest winery, founded in 1945 by Philip Wagner. Though it started as a vine nursery, Boordy developed a following for its unique varieties and small-batch wines. Now it’s an industry leader, deploying the latest vineyard and winery techniques to create excellent wines.
Fermented in French oak and aged on the lees, Boordy’s chardonnay is rich, creamy and full bodied—a sometimes surprising quality for a white wine. There’s some citrus zest initially and tropical fruit and melons rounding out the long finish. At this price, it’s a steal.
Snow Farm Vineyard
South Hero, Vt.
Harrison Lebowitz, J.D. ’84, founded Snow Farm Vineyard in Vermont with his wife, Molly. The winery makes nine wines, from riesling to baco noir (a light-red French-American hybrid) to late-harvest vignoles.
Perhaps it’s the process to create it or maybe it’s just the price we pay for that process, but there are few treasures in the wine world like ice wine. The grapes hang on the vine until frozen and then are delicately pressed to collect the honeyed juice. The water in the grapes is frozen as well; thus, the remaining juice is super concentrated and very sweet.
Snow Farm’s Vidal Blanc Ice Wine has a golden hue and slow-rolling legs (indicating the sweetness). It’s redolent of tropical fruit, particularly mango and lychee—plus a striking flare of white pepper. This wine would make for a great dessert all alone or paired with nuts and dried fruit.
Four JG’s Vineyards
Colts Neck, N.J.
Four JG’s Vineyards, co-owned by attorney John A. Giunco, J.D. ’78, is situated on a historic farm in Monmouth County, N.J. The winery makes seven wines in a variety of styles.
From the start, this wine is a mix of serious and fun. First, the serious: It’s a cabernet franc, one of the noble Bordeaux varieties. It’s garnet in the glass and exudes leather and dark cherry aromas. It fills your mouth with soft, broad tannins and has a medium finish of raisins and dried cherries; it was aged in American oak for nine months. Cabernet franc has begun to stake a claim as one of the best grapes from Maryland to the Finger Lakes (N.Y.). This example earned a medal in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Next, the fun. The label has a green dinosaur with a birthday hat running at a fast clip, clearly late for the party.