The Story Behind Johnson Estate's May Wine
Johnson Estate is located in a special microclimate along the shores of Lake Erie, similar to that found in Germany. As a result, the grapes grown and wine made in Germany - Rieslings, Pinot Noir, and ice ones - are exactly the ones which also do well here in western New York.
Johnson Estate's Winemaker Jeff Murphy, travels to Europe every year or two and often comes back with some new insights or "discoveries" which are utilized in our products or events. These have included: the terracotta bottles used for our Ruby Port and Cream Sherry; the glass corks manufactured in Germany and now used on our Freelings Creek wines, and the idea of serving "Fedderweiser", a partially fermented grape juice, for a fall Riesling celebration.
May Day in Germany
In Germany, spring festivities feature "Maiwein", or white wine punches with strawberries and a handful of the shade-loving herb, sweet woodruff (shown here, behind the bottle, just emerging for spring). Jeff was inspired by the annual celebration of May Day in Germany to create Johnson Estate’s own May Wine, using estate-grown Vidal Blanc wine and an infusion of dried sweet woodruff. This sparkling May Wine was first released in 2016 and since the "experiment" was so well-liked, production was doubled the following year. Our current plan is to release, each spring, a limited vintage of this special wine. .
But What is Sweet Woodruff?
In Germany, sweet woodruff is called “Waldmeister” or the “Master of the Woods”. It is a spring blooming perennial plant which thrives in moist woodland shade. In the Middle Ages, it was known as an herbal medicine since the dried leaves contain coumarin and infusions were used as a spring tonic and even as an aphrodisiac. When dried, the herb has the long-lasting scent of freshly mown grass and vanilla. The dried herb has been used for centuries as a strewing herb, for pot pourri or as a perfume ingredient, as a tonic in tea, and an ingredient in German May Wine or a punch made with white wine, this herb, and strawberries – to celebrate the coming of spring.
See May Wine product listing.
Johnson Estate is very excited and proud to announce the following awards at the
2018 East Meets West Wine Competition. The multiple accolades for our favorite Sparkling Traminette are, we believe, well-deserved. It is an elegant and delicious wine, complementary to a wide variety of food, ranging from appetizers to desserts.
2016 Sparkling Traminette:
DOUBLE GOLD & BEST OF CLASS & BEST OF SHOW SPARKLING
2016 Founders' Red: GOLD
2016 Niagara: GOLD, BEST OF CLASS
2016 Concord: GOLD
2016 Vidal Ice Wine: GOLD
In addition, Beverage Testing Institute (Tastings.com) just released
its ratings for Johnson Estate's 2016 vintages of Riesling and Traminette:
2016 Sweet Riesling: GOLD, Exceptional, 90 Points
2016 Traminette: GOLD, Exceptional, 90 Points
2016 Black Locust Dry Riesling: SILVER, Highly Recommended, 89 Points
2016 Dry Riesling: SILVER, Highly Recommended, 89 Points
2016 Semi-Dry Riesling: SILVER, Highly Recommended, 89 Points
So, just what are estate wines? Why is it important to know?
Why does Johnson Estate include it in its brand/name?
The Estate Label
Producing estate-grown and bottled wines is analagous to the French phrase "mis-en-boteille en chateau" - wine bottled at the estate/chateau. "Estate" wineries, which have a financial interest and own the vineyards AND the winery provides incentives to maximize quality of grape production, not quantity, and thus gives the winery in question some good advantages and attributes.
The U.S. government, through the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (known as the TTB), sets the requirements for wineries that want to use the word "estate" on their labels.
Thus, an "estate winery" is one whose operations are vertically integrated to include farming/growing of grapes in vineyards owned by the winery, wine-making, and bottling. As an estate winery, Johnson Estate's vineyard practices are wholly integrated into the production of its wines, and quality, rather than quantity, is the governing principle from bud to bottle.
What is Quince Paste?
Quince trees (Cydonia oblonga), of the apple or “pome” family, are native to the Caucasus mountains of Georgia, Armenia, and northern Iran/Persia. The hard, sometimes fuzzy, fruit is apple or pear-shaped and the green skin becomes bright yellow when ripe. Its whitish-yellow flesh turns a beautiful ruby color when cooked. Quince fruit is high in pectin and has a unique sweet-tart, floral flavor which is perfect in preserves, jams or jellies, and quince paste. Known as “dulce de membrillo” in Spain, quince paste is a thick, sliceable jam, often served with Manchego cheese.
The Story of Quince at Johnson Estate:
Fred William Johnson was an orphan from England who immigrated to Saskatchewan at the age of 14 and worked as a cowboy until making his way to Cornell in the late 1800’s. He bought the farm in 1908, planting orchards of cherries, peaches, apples, and pears. He grew quince for his own consumption and both Fred Sr. and Fred Jr., founder and current owner of Johnson Estate respectively, grew up eating poached quince. Although quince trees were popular in England and the colonies, quince orchards are now somewhat rare in the United States. Fred and Jennifer Johnson have planted three varieties: Van Deman, Orange, and Aromatnaya, providing quince not only for Fred’s dessert with cream, but sufficient quantities for Jennifer to make quince paste to pair with cheese and wines and to sell in the winery.
How to Serve Quince Paste:
With a small knife, gently pry the quince paste out of the glass jar and onto a plate or cheese board. It will hold its shape and may be cut into slices to accompany cheese or charcuterie. In Spain, quince paste is traditionally served with Manchego, a salty sheep’s milk cheese, but the paste is delicious paired with a large variety of hard and soft cheeses.
Serve as dessert with cookies or crackers; pair with Johnson Estate Vidal Blanc.
Gitane, Tom or Palimino from Reverie Creamery, Mayville, NY (Riko Chandra, Owner)
Various sharp cheddar cheeses (Yancey Fancy & Cabot brands available in the winery)
Parmesan and other hard cheeses; goat and soft cheeses
There is a story behind this event.
Last year, Jennifer saw one of Brenda McCutheon's origami "stars" at her booth at the Westfield Farmer's Market. After some discussion of the possibilities, she commissioned Brenda to make ornaments for the winery Christmas tree using cream cardstock and the winery's old labels. The new ornaments make the live Christmas tree (grown and supplied by the Knapp family who live nearby) a deserved focal point in the tasting room for the month of December and a source of pride and delight as we upgraded the winery's made-in-China "ornaments" for something much more meaningful. Yes, we've asked Brenda to make extra ornaments which we will be selling in the winery so that you may have one too!
So this year, we'd like to celebrate properly. With a tree lighting. And the other activities that make our Christmas holidays special:
We hope that you can join us. No reservations necessary.
You may have heard that in the wine business, it takes about seven years to figure out if you made a good (or bad) decision - because that's how long it takes to plant grapes, wait for adequate production to make wine, and then to sell that wine - and to see if your customers like it!
Likewise, we rely on Mother Nature. And sometimes, as in February of 2015, you get a surprise. In this case, it was 30 degrees BELOW zero, which was cold enough to damage some tender vines (Riesling and Traminette) and to seriously reduce production in some vineyards. SO, that was a long way of saying that we sold out of some vintages unintentionally - because we did not have the necessary grapes/juice to produce planned quantities. But now, they are back!
Black Locust Dry Riesling
Pinot Noir (first estate vintage)
Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
Chambourcin Ice Wine
Sparkling Rosé Ice Wine
One of the summer's best stories is that we had been sold out of Vidal Blanc Ice Wine for some time and were looking forward to the bottling and release of the 2016 vintage. Winemaker, Jeff Murphy, had already entered sent some wines in the 2017 San Francisco Wine Competition, but knew that he wanted to include Johnson's 2016 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine - and as it had just been bottled, he had to ship it to California via overnight Federal Express to insure that it arrived in time for the wine judging June 30 - July 2. Are we glad that he did! The 2016 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine was awarded 97 Points!!!
Another point of pride is the accolades given to our May Wine. The 2016 vintage was the second of this new product inspired by Germany's spring May Wine celebrations with a white wine punch laced with sweet woodruff and strawberries. Here's what the Beverage Testing Institute had to say:
"Bright yellow straw color. Fruity aromas and flavors of grape jelly, wild lemon, and preserved peach with a round, crisp, fizzy, off-dry light-to-medium body and a seamless, medium-length roasted nuts, dried pineapple, and cream soda finish with coating, silky, soft tannins and a suggestion of oak. An exemplary sparkler with terrific effervescence and a nuanced approach to Vidal Blanc."
OTHER AWARDS EARNED DURING 2017:
2016 Traminette - Gold & Best of Class, 2017 NY Food & Wine Classic
Exceptional/90 Points, Tastings.com
2016 Sweet Riesling - Exceptional/90 Points, Tastings.com
2016 Black Locust Riesling - Highly Recommended/89 Points, Tastings.com
2016 Dry Riesling - Highly Recommended/89 Points, Tastings.com
2016 Semi-Dry Riesling - Highly Recommended/89 Points, Tastings.com
2016 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine - Double Gold, 2017 San Francisco Int'l Wine
2015 Seyval Blanc - Double Gold, 2017 NY Food & Wine Classic
2015 Ives - Double Gold, 2017 Finger Lakes Wine Competition
2016 May Wine - 94 Points, Gold/Exceptional, Beverage Testing Institute, Tastings.com
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and promotions!
View Past Newsletters.