Monthly Archives: August 2014

Moldovan Wine Tasting at the Astor Center

Moldovan Wine Tasting at the Astor Center

Moldova.   Have you heard of this country?  Vaguely familiar with the tiny republic that is sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine and whose southernmost border is the Black Sea, I was surprised to discover that it is a huge wine producer. Most of its agricultural landscape is devoted to vines and vineyards and the country boasts ownership of one of the largest wine cellars in the world.

Christy Canterbury led the guided Moldovan wine tasting at the Astor Center. When she mentioned the salient facts about Moldova reds and whites and discussed the number of hectares of land used for wine production in her introduction, my ears perked up. I was anxious to begin tasting this historic (from 3000 BC) wine that the Russians had been enjoying for decades until a recent embargo banned the wine for large import into Russia. Why? Most probably geopolitical reasons. You see, Moldova was beginning to market to the EU.  The embargo may have backfired in that Moldova has risen to the occasion and is encouraging their country’s producers to expand their markets to Europe and the United States. Russia’s loss is our gain as we broaden our horizons and our palates becoming familiar with Moldova’s delicious wines which were predominately marketed to eastern block countries.

The Republic of Moldova is sandwiched between Romania and The Ukraine.

Here are a few interesting facts about Moldovan wines which include both reds and whites. One fun fact is that the country is shaped like a bunch of grapes. The Republic of Moldova has 112 thousand hectares of vineyard planted with over 30 types of technical varieties. There are 4 historical wine regions, three of which are designated for the production of wines with protected geographic indication. The largest plantings are the white varieties (Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Aligote to name a few.)  In the southern region 30% are red varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Saperavi, etc.). Aromatic varieties account for 36% of the vineyards.

Cricova 2007 Grand Vintage Brut Methode Traditionnelle

What makes Moldovan wines unique and authentic are the indigenous varieties which are 10% of the vineyards: Feteasca Alban, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra to name the dominant ones. These unique wines were prestigious at the Tsar’s residence in the early 1800s and in Europe. After an anti-alcohol campaign (set by Mikhail Gorbachev) in the 1980s in which production was curtailed, Moldovan wine production revived. After the country became a republic in 1991, the modernization of wine making began in earnest.


At the tasting there were 10 wineries, all looking for markets in the US:  Vinaria din Vale, PURCARI, Castel Mimi, Ampelos, Chateau Vartely, Albastrele WinesCricova, Lion-Gri, BOSTAVANASCONI, and the wines of the Moldovan Small Wine Producers Association. The strongest and most popular offerings of whites and reds were the tasting selections, 11 in all.

Golden Land 2013 Feteasca Neagra

Among my favorites and those of the tasters were the Cricova 2007  Grand Vintage Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, a White Brut Sparkling Wine whose suggested retail price was $50. The one we tasted was from a sparkling white classic collection of 5 years, made by Méthode Champenoise that includes a second fermentation in bottles with following cuvee maturation in a horizontal position for more than five years. What was interesting about this winery was that they hold wine collections of celebrities. If you want to store your collection there, this winery will oblige you. Indeed, there is a story that the Red Army confiscated Hermann Göring’s wine collection and it is stored at this winery. The price of the wine from the Göring collection goes for $25,000 a bottle.

There were two other whites that I enjoyed: the Château Vartely Traminer 2013 Sec Alb, a white dry wine from the Codru region that had a special flavor of rose-petals and moderate acidity, ideal for the summer. A white, Crescendo 2012 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Alb Sec is a barrel fermented white dry wine that has intense flavors. Its elegant and seductive wood notes, well integrated structure melds with the ripe fruit that has significant influences of citrus acidity.

Christy Canterbury led the guided wine tasting of Moldovan Wines at the Astor Center.

Of the five reds, I especially enjoyed two. One was Golden Land 2013 Feteasca Neagra. This is comprised of the Rara Neagra grape varietal which is in limited areas and is drought resistant and of a late harvest. The varietal produces a dark red color wine with a pronounced fruit taste coupled with spiciness. At $11.00 suggested retail, this was a particularly good value.  Another red I enjoyed was the Negru de Purcari from Vinaria Purcari 2010 vintage. It has a rich structure and generous bouquet. The legendary PURCARI winery is the oldest winery in Moldova, which in the early 1800s sent shipments of their reds to Queen Victoria. This particular red is a blend with 70% Cabernet comprising most of the grape varietal.

Pictures from the Walk Around Tasting




Abestrele Wines






Chateau Vartely


Castel Mimi


Vinaria din Vale



Three vineyards are not pictured: 

3.THE MOLDOVAN SMALL WINE PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION                                                                                
The tasting was an excellent opportunity for wine lovers to try wines they were unfamiliar with because of a glitch in geopolitical relations. As we continue to benefit from these events, US markets welcome the fine wines from this region devoted to its vineyards and its appreciation of great wine. After all, if it has the largest wine cellar in the world, it stands to reason that the value of delicious wine is not lost on this country.
This article first appeared on Blogcritics at this link.

‘This Will All Be Yours’ Book by Laura Pedersen, Music and Lyrics by Charles Bloom

In 1970  factory farms, big pharma, corporate land devastation and the deleterious effects of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in our food and water supply were subterranean issues not publicized in the mainstream media.  Small family  farms dotted the landscape and the obsession with making profits in the face of human harm was only whispered about behind closed doors. By the 1980s-1990s there had been a paradigm shift. A bucolic, stress-free way of life , nutritious and delicious produce, nightly home cooked meals, mom and dad closely supervising their children, and a pastoral landscape had transmuted into a pressure cooker existence of traffic jams, subdivisions, less vacation time, processed convenience foods, parents working two jobs, and suburban over development in the wake of urban blight.

L to R: Josh Powell as Adam Price, Trevor St. John-Glibert as Jackson Webb in This Will All Be Yours by Laura Pedersen, Music and Lyrics by Charles Bloom at TBG Theatre. Photo by John Quilty.

L to R: Josh Powell as Adam Price, Trevor St. John-Glibert as Jackson Webb in ;This Will All Be Yours’ by Laura Pedersen, Music and Lyrics by Charles Bloom at TBG Theatre. Photo by John Quilty.

This Will All Be Yours is a vibrant musical production directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser that highlights the beginning of this transitional time. It turns a brilliant, focused spotlight on the Price family farm in 1979 western New York, representative of many such family farms during a time of upheaval which is still happening today in different parts of the country.  Through an excellent musical score by Charles Bloom and pithy, rich book by Laura Pedersen,  we share the family’s personal triumphs and let-downs, as the two sons and the daughter are caught up in the swirling currents of social change which force the entire family to make hard choices. Should they transition into progress or risk falling into the doldrums of debt and a destruction of all that they and three generations of ancestors have worked hard to build up? Should they keep the farm?

L to R: Daniel Rowan, Trevor St. John Gilbert, Josh Powell, Amy Griffin, Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher in This Will All Be Yours, directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser. Photo by John Quilty.

L to R: Daniel Rowan, Trevor St. John-Gilbert, Josh Powell, Amy Griffin, Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher in ‘This Will All Be Yours,’ directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser. Photo by John Quilty.

Much of the story exemplifies themes that have become mainstay issues in our current society and indicate deeper problems with our cultural folkways. By implication these problems run deep even to encompassing the way we have accepted a lifestyle manipulated by corporations, industrial farming practices and the fast food and processed food industries.

Never brow beating us, Pedersen touches upon these ideas cleverly in whispers of truth that float like gossamer in the conversations of the family as they complete their various chores. For example, mom, Paula Price (a wonderful Amy Griffin), enjoys bragging about her recipe using the orchard’s delectable, fresh peaches, and subsequently there are follow up comments about the bland, no taste peaches in grocery stores that have been picked green to ripen in a truck. Of course, this lust for fruit and vegetables out of season, over the years has escalated to a negative chain of events from increasing our carbon footprint in food production, transportation costs and pollution, to all the woes concentrated around agri-business and its lobbyists fighting against GMO labeling, use of pesticides and herbicides, etc.  In the consumer desire for variety has come a lack of quality, nutrition and taste with the attendant environmental impact. Though all of this is unspoken by the characters because they cannot know the future, we do; we are living it and we understand how that folkway has perpetuated a negative result. Pedersen is subtle, but if one has eyes to see, the message is clear in what we are “planting” for our children.

The cast, composer, director and playwright of "The Will All Be Yours,' with the stage crew and orchestra. Photo by John Quigley.

The cast, composer, director and playwright of “The Will All Be Yours,’ with the stage crew and orchestra. Photo by John Quilty.

Another example  of threading themes occurs when father Adam (a dynamic Josh Powell) discusses how watermelons and peaches have to be made to please consumers. Watermelons must have few or no seeds-no one likes the seeds, and peaches must have “no fuzz.”  With these concepts Pedersen gently infers that in food production, the natural world has been modified to our liking. Ultimately, agri-business and industrial food production have accommodated suburbanites and mallsters, but at what expense to our own health, and to the health of the environment?

Though farmers dealt with these questions decades ago, recently we have begun to see the error of our ways. In a line that runs deep, Adam Price asks, “What comes of a nation that doesn’t want peach fuzz?”  Pedersen has beautifully revealed that all elements of a society are networked together starting with the land and how food is produced. Inherent is a love of the land and its spiritual value which those who have worked on it for generations truly comprehend and venerate. When the land, its creatures and natural crops are mowed down, tweaked, disdained and not properly respected, then what indeed are we creating for ourselves and our posterity?

Amy Griffin  with (back ground right), Josh Powell, Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher. Background left: Trevor St. John-Gilbert. Photo by John Quilty.

Amy Griffin with (back ground right), Josh Powell, Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher. Background left: Trevor St. John-Gilbert. Photo by John Quilty.

The production design, staging and the acting reflect a craft and ingenuity that is enhanced by the music and dialogue with energetic vitality. Through the director’s clever use of an economy of space, the actors brilliantly create the lives of their characters with fitting props that are incorporated into the musical numbers. The talented actors (Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher, Daniel Rowan, Trevor St. John-Gilbert, Josh Powell and Amy Griffin), and their singing are spot on, exceptional. Theirs is a liveliness and enthusiasm not often found in musical productions where sometimes the direction pales, the actors tend to “park and bark,” and where there doesn’t appear to be much inner life or conflict. It is thanks to Ludovica Villar-Hauser’s thoughtful and attentive direction, the actors’ portrayals, and Pedersen’s succinct book that the storyline never becomes bogged down in the maudlin.

This is a production which should find additional venues because of its salient themes and overriding message about our accountability to ourselves and others in our culture, in what we allow, often mindlessly and with a lack of vision. The beauty of this production is that Pedersen’s message always remains hopeful and does not hit the audience over the head with cant and/or the rhetoric that we should “eat organic” and “buy local.” She achieves this with simplicity by telling the story of the Price family and how they are forced into an untenable position with their beloved farm because of a combination of factors, some ill some good. We are left with questions: Should this be? Doesn’t this impact all of us in the long term?

The title says it all: “This Will All be Yours.” The message gives us pause for indeed, what are we leaving for our grandchildren if we continue our current actions and policies? Hopefully, we are creating innovative ways to keep the best of what our forebears gave us, jettisoning all that is unfruitful; most importantly, recognizing the difference.

This Will All be Yours runs until August 7th.

This review first appeared on Blogcritics at this link.

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