Lorie Honor, who’s contributed to OWJ in the past, opened her own wine store in Staten Island just in time for Hurricane Sandy.
After years of dreaming, months of planning, a summer supervising construction, we finally had an appointment to pick up our Wine License from the NYS Liquor Authority in Harlem on Monday October, 29th so that we could open our wine shop, Honor Wines, later in the week. We never made it to that appointment because NY shut down that week, Sandy slammed Staten Island and nothing about opening our business went according to plan. The aftermath of Sandy left our fellow Staten Islanders reeling. Our neighbors in the gorgeous condo community Bay Street Landing evacuated and returned to shocking damage, most of our fellow North Shore residents were without power and the harrowing stories to the shore areas were yet to be told due to the inexplicable news black out.
Riding my bike to the shop on Tuesday, afraid of what I might find, I was relieved. There was no damage to the shop, despite our proximity to the harbor, and gratefully we were one of the few in St. George with electricity. I felt privileged to open the shop on Tuesday to the community. I had no wine to sell, and no license to sell any so nothing to offer but a clean space so our neighbors could sit in our shop charge their phones and laptops and tell their day-after stories. I opened what little wine we had and just “sampled” who ever came in to chat and re-charge.
Wed. night, in a surreal midnight run, we drove through a blacked-out Manhattan to the well lit Hell’s Kitchen, to pick up our liquor license from an angel from the State Liquor Authority, who had called me Tuesday to say she had taken it home with her because the NYSLA offices on Lennox and 125th Street were closed indefinitely. I cried a little when I hugged my full-service licensing agent and thanked her for her ridiculous kindness. “Be good licensees!”, she said as we drove out sight! So much for heartless bureaucrats.
The next day was spent e-mailing our license and setting up valid accounts with our vendors and begging for wine deliveries. No one was sure if deliveries could come out of New Jersey warehouses much less delivered to Staten Island. But by late Friday afternoon, hundreds of cases of wine arrived thanks to our distributors, reps, and drivers, wine -angels all and we hastily set-up shop and began to “serve” our community. That night and all weekend beleaguered and thirsty St. Georgians came out to support us, to thank us for being open, and congratulate us on our beautiful shop, which was a bright spot for them in an otherwise very bleak week. That Sunday we cheered on throngs of would-be marathoners who ran past the shop on their way to take the Staten Island ferry back to the city after having volunteered in our hardest hit area…making Staten Island their unexpected destination of the NY Marathon instead of their starting off point.
Sandy has made the start of our business a bit quieter but much more personal. No big week of nightly tastings with gala opening party as planned. We’ve swapped our meager advertising budget for a giving plan to help our friends rebuild their house. The storefront sign we didn’t have the time to install is still not up and there’s no lettering on the shop windows yet. But word-of-mouth is spreading and it’s sort of cool to have the business grow in a neighborly way. It’s not exactly how we planned it. But neither is the way we started. And I think, like the rest of Staten Island, we’ll do just fine.
Honor Wines is a neighborhood wine shop specializing in small yield, well-crafted, value wines, many of which are natural,organic or biodynamic. We’re located across from the Staten Island Ferry at 36 Bay Street.
Basically, I was wondering exactly what (and how much) information to put on my next batch of back-labels, both from a practical and also from a legal point of view. And whether I should include what the wine does NOT contain and what was NOT done to it.
So, after much thinking over the last 7 months, here’s what I came up with for the back-label:
Well, as you can see, it’s a sort of compromise. I think the label itself provides quite a lot of general information, and it has a QR Code which leads to this page (here) where much, much more info is available for any potential customer who is thinking of buying the bottle.
Here’s a copy of it below, for your convenience, so you don’t even need to lift a finger to click through!
Mind you, I can’t get the formatting to show correctly here, so maybe it’s better if you do click through and see the page properly!!!
QR Code Page
Thank you for scanning my QR Code and coming here. If you don’t find the information you’re looking for on this very page, it will probably be on another page of this same website.
Failing that, you can contact me directly anytime, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or even by cell-phone (+34-687-050-010); but bear in mind that I live in Europe – so if you call me, please try not to wake me up in the middle of the night!
Below is the information that I would have liked to put on the back-label directly, but didn’t do so for several reasons: too much information to fit, probably not legal and maybe confusing or counter-productive to some people. But if you’re reading this, then you’re a wine-geek and so you won’t be confused!
I hope you enjoy my wine. That’s basically why I made it! I hope you liked the aromas and tastes, and I hope you found it interesting and complex and expressive of its terroir, and worth talking about.
The following information refers to the six (6) different wines imported into the USA in 2012 by José Pastor Selections:
· Industrial yeasts to give false and artificial tastes and aromas
· Industrial bacteria
· Industrial enzymes
· Colorants (like Mega Purple)
· Flavour enhancers
· Added acids
· Added sugar, added fruit juice, added fruit extract
· Added water
· Wood chips
· Artificial tannins
These wines underwent the following PROCESSING:
I did these things:
· Crushed the grapes
· Pressed the grapes
· Racked the wine from one tank to another
· Clarified the wine using gravity, time and the cold of winter
And I didn’t do these things to them:
· Spray pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc onto the grapes
· Heat the wine up
· Cool the wine down
· Filter it
· Add any substances for clarifying or fining the wine
· Use reverse osmosis
· Use spinning cones
· Use cryo-extraction
· Use sterile filtration
· Use any other unnecessary terroir-masking intervention
So what do you think?
Is there anything objectionable here? Illegal? False? Misleading? Is it helpful to consumers? Is it a good idea or a bad idea in general to do this?
I would really appreciate any sort of feedback.
And I haven’t actually sent the files to the printer’s yet, but they are ready to go, so I’m still in time to modify, if necessary!
And of course I can modify the QR landing page anytime.
For a long time, well before I paid attention to the farming techniques of different wineries, I valued wines that have character. The common theme among most of my favorite wines is not a specific flavor or aroma or weight or grape or country or structure; rather it is personality and expression. Once I became interested in organic farming, and began looking into the farming methods of some of my favorite producers, I noticed that a large proportion of my favorite wines were crafted from organically farmed grapes. I don’t know why – perhaps it’s the complex soils and healthy vines undamaged by pesticides, perhaps it’s the extreme care and attention the wineries put into the wines, perhaps it’s the natural fertilizers that are used – but I have found that organic wines are more likely to have that vibrant expression, clarity of fruit, thought-provoking complexity, and unique personality than wines produced by conventional farming.
Once the industrial chemicals have been released into the vineyard, they can have detrimental effects on the soils, grapevines, and overall ecosystem. Chemicals can damage plants by weakening the root systems of the plant, and can also damage the plant’s immune system. Grapevines are particularly sensitive to some herbicides, and herbicide injury to grapevines can last for several years after the application. The herbicides can reduce the vigor, yield, and fruit quality of the grapevine, weaken the vine’s immune system, and shorten the life of the vineyard. Industrial chemicals can also degrade the soils of vineyards, by reducing concentrations of essential plant nutrients. Furthermore, the overall ecosystem is damaged as beneficial insects, worms, and microorganisms are wiped out by industrial chemicals.
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is integral to the sustainability of balanced ecosystems. Pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers have been proven to reduce biodiversity and thus endanger the stability of ecosystems. Several types of pesticides are toxic to beneficial insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, or fish. These pesticides accumulate in the food chain and can affect many more species than only those that were directly exposed to the pesticides. Also, pesticides and herbicides also can reduce the abundance of weeds, grass, and insects that are food sources for many species, and they can damage wildlife habitats by altering vegetation structure.
Here is an interview with filmmaker turned organic winemaker Allesandro D’alatri in Tuscany.
Photo-journalist/filmmaker Ralph Toporoff began his career in the sixties, with international magazines including Look, Paris Match, Gente and Der Spiegel. He then went on to a forty year career as a Cinematographer and Motion Picture Director. See more of his work at rtoporoff.com.
During the Italian summer that has just ended, two officers from the agriculture ministry paid a surprise visit to the Enoteca Bulzoni wine store in Rome, which has been operating on the Viale Parioli since 1929. Its owners, Alessandro and Ricardo Bulzoni, grandsons of the founders, were formally notified that they would be fined – and possibly prosecuted – for selling “vino naturale” (natural wine) without certification.
But therein lies the sting: While it is against the law in Italy to sell natural wine without certification, it is also impossible to sell it with certification, since no such category of wine exists under Italian law.
A ministry official quoted in the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano explained that “the phrase ‘natural wine’ does not exist and, therefore, does not correspond with the accepted appellations, and, for this reason, it is not verifiable.” He continued: “No similar appellation exists in the regulations that govern the commercialization of wine in Italy or in the European Union.”
The official added that the regulatory regime was designed to protect the consumer. Using the label “natural wine” was misleading to the public, he said, and damaging to the Italian wine industry.
When the owners of Enoteca Bulzoni were duly fined, Alessandro Bulzoni said: “I’m not complaining about the fine itself, but about the legislative loophole in the definition of the term ‘vino naturale.’”
Legally, natural wine in Italy is in the same position as in the rest of the world: there is no official, universally accepted definition of “natural wine,” and unlike organic wine, there are no “natural wine” certifying bodies. (Organic wine is different from natural wine in that it simply has to be produced from organically grown grapes, whereas the vinification of natural wine is as important as the grapes from which it is made.)
How does an organic wine from France crack the U.S. market? Gilles Louvet sent sales manager Laura Bret to find out. From Wine-Searcher:
In September 2010 – the same year that the United States overtook Europe as the largest market for organic products – Louvet sent an emissary to set up a New York office. Newly appointed national sales manager Laura Bret arrived in America armed with just one range of wine that was legally allowed to carry the United States’ organic seal of approval: O by Gilles Louvet. The other seven wines she had to offer were not allowed to say they were organic, despite Louvet’s European credentials, since American authorities required an additional three-year certification process.
Within a month, Bret had begun working with a distributor and pounding the pavements of New York City. One day, she found something promising: a small new restaurant in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan.
“When I saw that there was an organic wine bar opening, focused on Mediterranean wines, I just thought, ‘Okay, he has to be my client,’” says Bret, whose slight French accent is beginning to pick up a hint of New York.
She called owner Özgür Delikanli to arrange a tasting at his restaurant, Lallisse. Delikanli immediately selected wines to serve by the glass: a rosé, a sauvignon blanc and a cabernet sauvignon. More than 150 accounts later, Lallisse is still one of Louvet’s best clients in New York.
Bret has now imported a total of 60,000 bottles to serve customers in the states of New York, New Jersey, Maine, Texas, South and North Carolina, Florida and Michigan. To cope with demand, a second full-time person, brand ambassador Arnaud Fressonnet, was recently hired to focus exclusively on New York and New Jersey.
Here’s another harvest post or update of the state of my harvesting this year. This is a good time for me to write this because I’m between harvests, as it were
I’ve brought in all the red grapes that I’ll be bringing in this year, and the white grapes are not ready to be picked yet.
So, what have I got this year?
1. The usual Tempranillo from Carabaña that I’ve been harvesting for the last 9 years! The quantity this year was ridiculously tiny – even more ridiculously tiny than usual! On the one hand, because of the drought (it hasn’t rained properly for about a year) and on the other hand because of the rabbits, who have again eaten more than their fair share of grapes this year, just like they did last year.
So, basically there’s less than 300 litres of juice + skins fermenting at this very moment as I write, which means that there will hopefully just be enough to make 1 barrel (225 l) of Tempranillo Crianza including a few litres for top-ups during the year. I harvested early this year, because I was fed up with making the usual +14% alcohol tinto Crianza! Although there’s never been anything actually wrong with my previous Crianzas, they’ve never been anything exceptional either, imho, and in that of others! Hence the risk of experimenting this year. Maybe it’ll turn out better at 13% or 13.5%. Who knows? But I’ll never know if I don’t try it at least once!
2. Some Garnacha from Gredos. I’m going to be a bit secretive here and save the details for later Ha ha! I’ll just say that I’ve got four (4) separate lots of old vine Garnacha that is already fermenting separately. Some in open top old wooden barrels, and some in stainless steel. Two lots are from separate plots in Sotillo de la Adrada and two lots are from … somewhere else in the Gredos region! Ha ha!
That’s all there is tinto-wise. This is what there will be, blanco-wise:
1- The usual Airén from Carabaña that I’ve been harvesting for the last 10 years. The grapes are not ripe yet – they were at 11% a few days ago, and there are still quite a lot of green bunches visible. I’d like to harvest this at between 12% and 13%, and make the usual young white that I usually make every year. I’m really happy with the way it’s been turning out, and I think my clients are too. I’m on a little, personal Airén crusade here, I think, because I believe that really good wines can be made with Airén, especially if a better winemaker than me were to put his/her mind and hand to it!
Airén has such a negative cultural and vinous baggage to carry! Sigh! Oh woe, is life not hard enough already without having to shoulder all this negative baggage? Ha ha, only jesting! Deep down, I’m really a masochistic cynical bastard who thrives on hardship and albatrosses! Ha ha, jesting again! But seriously, I really do like Airén and really do believe that great wines can be made from it. So I shall make more of the same this year, plus of course I shall do a few experiments. Firstly, as I have all these old barrels available, I’ll do a bit of fermenting in them, in addition to the usual stainless steel. Secondly, I hope to come up with some other experiment to do when the time comes! Suggestions welcome! Here’s an interesting article about Airén by FringeWines:
2. Malvar from Villarejo. Again I’m going to do the same as last year with these grapes. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I was really pleased with last years’ wines and experiments. There were three lots of wines last year: Carbonic Maceration, Skin Contact (15 days) (‘orange’), and a straight 5-month skin contact ‘orange’ from an old amphora (tinaja in Spanish), all from the same Malvar from Villarejo. And I think my clients were happy with them too. So this year, I bought another amphora (see photo) so as to make another 300 bottles, in addition to the original 300!
And that’s it, I’m afraid (apart from the older wines from previous years that are still aging). Only about 4,000 bottles in total, I think. I had originally intended to make quite a lot more wine this year, but my best laid plans were rudely scattered to the winds by the great plough of life and circumstances, and will have to be rebuilt next year. C’est la vie!
So now, it’s the calm before the storm, ie just checking the white grapes in the vineyards, and checking on the red fermentations in the bodega.
Lastly, quite a few people have contacted me over the last few months with a view to visiting the vineyards and winery, but I haven’t been able to arrange these visits properly – due to my own inability to deal with emails and to arranging visits, etc. But I really do like receiving visits, so if you’re reading this, please just contact me again and insist harder! I’m not being exclusive or playing hard to get here, it’s just that I can’t cope with everything that I have to do all at once! So the ‘de facto’ or ‘fait accompli’ solution or whatever it’s called, is to tell me that you ‘have to’ visit on such-and-such a day, and then I’ll work all my other tasks and activities and urgent urgencies around the visit! Et violà! Problem solved!
Vienna may have 300 wine growers, but few are as passionate and forward-thinking as Fritz Wieninger. Overseeing the family winery started by his father in the 1960s, Fritz has not only grown its output and reputation but also reoriented it to the future by converting to biodynamic practices. The 2011 vintage is the first to feature biodynamic wines, currently numbering eight different bottlings.
Sipping wine with Fritz next door to the family heuriger, now run by his brother, we talk about the struggles of making wine in Vienna and the responsibility of winemakers to future generations. After a stint in Napa Valley, he took over the winery in 1987 and, in 1999, picked up land at the highly regarded Nussberg vineyard. In the intervening years, Fritz became a champion of the city’s wines and its typical white wine, Gemischter Satz, a field blend of various grape varietals grown together. But his biggest leap was to biodynamics, a process he began in 2008.
When I ask what precipitated the change, he mentions his three children, saying he grew concerned for the future and that it was “my duty to do something.” He had noticed the downward spiral of ever worse results from spraying, reaching as he calls it a “dead end” in 2005. “And at the end of the day it’s better for the quality of the wine,” he concluded.
A tasting of the 2011 vintage yields a good overview of the potential of Viennese wine. Lying on both sides of the Danube, his two sites, Bisamberg and Nussberg, are vastly different though part of the same city. Near the winery north of the Danube, Bisamberg has sandy, loess soil while Nussberg, one-third of his lands, which he refers to as the “better site,” sits on limestone.
With an able assist from his young son Max opening our bottles, the tasting included several biodynamic wines, including two 2011 Gruner Veltliners from Herrenholz and Nussberg. The Herrenholz, grown on sandy soil in Bisamberg, was fresh and high in acid while the Nussberg showed nice minerality with potential to age for years. Rosengartl in Nussberg represents Wieninger’s top cru and his 2011 Alte Reben showed a high acidity upfront with excellent structure. The 2011 Nussberg Riesling finds the perfect terroir in this vineyard, producing a balanced wine with a hint of honey and stone fruit.
While his own vineyards are 100% biodynamic, Fritz also rents some land tilled in the traditional fashion so his Gemischter Satz is not yet biodynamic. But with an eye to the future, his goal is to soon change that, as well introduce organic principles to his fellow winemakers. The next act for Vienna’s wine ambassador may be a challenge but if anyone is up for it, it’s Fritz Wieninger.
Michael Tulipan is the Editor of TheSavvyExplorer.com, a travel guide for sophisticated independent travelers on a budget.