Finally, A Wine For Serious Hopheads

winerack

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind commercial endeavor, a South Jersey winery is selling wine aged on hops normally used for brewing beer. As of last week, Valenzano Winery in Burlington County has released the first of what may end up being a series of hopped Chardonnays, which are available for around $15 a bottle at South Jersey liquor stores like the Joe Canal’s chain and WineWorks in Medford.

Winemaker/homebrewer Michael Jones says as a hophead who works at a winery owned by a beer geek, the idea emerged–as ideas so often do–over pints.


“We were drinking some really good IPAs and we thought, ‘Why don’t we try putting hops in the wine?’” he recounts.

Initially, Jones tried out the idea with 50 gallons of the winery’s 2012 Chardonnay, which is aged in stainless steel and lightly oaked with wood chips. He put glasses up for sale in the tasting room and customers went crazy for the bright, citrusy, high-acid wine, made funkier with the Citra hops. So the next logical step, of course, was to dump the hop into 500 gallons of liquid.

“It’s cool and unique because you don’t usually have chance to taste hops without the malt backbone,” he says. “So you’re really just going for some great aromas and a smoother and heavier mouthfeel. It really lets the hop shine.”

Jones calls the wine “Bine & Vine,” and he’s so excited about the idea, he plans to experiment with different hops and maybe different grapes. Just like a brewer, huh?

Valenzano Winery [official]

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  • Jason Malumed

    Why do you write about this bullshit? Is there someone in the Philly food journalism world that can cover wine in a meaningful way? We love to complain about the PLCB negatively impacting our wine scene, but the lack of interest and support from our local media is just as bad, if not worse. So many good things are starting to happen in the Philly wine scene, but if you keep writing about hopped chardonnay from New Jersey or reverse osmosis zweigelt from Lehigh Valley, you are hurting those trying to do something meaningful for our beverage culture.

    • Albert Brooks

      As long as there is the PLCB selling wine there will be no “good” wine scene in Pennsylvania.

      • Jason Malumed

        Not true. Look at the lists at places like a.kitchen and Vedge (among several others). The PLCB makes it tougher, but it can be done. Plenty of good wines making their way into PA now that are available for restaurants to buy. Even in the stores, if you go to 12th street and talk to Max, he will show you plenty of interesting wines the PLCB stocks. Yes, the prices might be slightly higher in PA for retail consumers, but keep in mind restaurants ALSO have to buy their wine at that same retail price.

        I agree with you that until the PLCB offers true wholesale pricing on wine to restaurants, it will be very tough for Philly to have a wine culture like NY, but there are several examples of people dealing with wine in unique ways that deserve more light shed on them from the food journalists here. I don’t know why they waste their time on junk like this…

        • Albert Brooks

          As long as the selection is controlled buy some low-level PLCB bureaucrat – for the entire state mind you- the best anyplace will do is just making do. While there are places that try to work within the system it is the system itself that holds back any meaningful wine scene anywhere in the state. Until we rid ourselves of the PLCB it will never be a scene but just some bright flashes once in a while until owners/restauranteurs get tired of dealing with the inanity we suffer from here in PA.

          BTW, restaurants and bars do get a 10% discount but that is half of what they would elsewhere.

          • Jason Malumed

            Valid point, but the PLCB controls selection just for the wines on the store shelves, not what restaurants buy. I can register and sell any wines I want to restaurants through the SLO system. If a restaurant is interested in purchasing a certain wine, all they have to do is ask (obviously it is more involved than that, but I think you get my point). But because they have to pay retail price for that wine, it makes it extremely difficult to do anything interesting. A wine that costs $12 wholesale in NYC costs $19 in PA once it makes it through the PLCB markup machine. That is a huge difference. So yes, until the PLCB changes their pricing formula for restaurants, I’m afraid we might only continue to have “bright flashes once in a while.”

            And it is only because of the demands of people like Tim Kweeder, ex-a.kitchen, that restaurants have access to some of the wines they now do. That seems like an interesting story, no? “Philly wine buyer travels to New York dozens of times to personally meet with importers and convince them to sell their wines in PA”. Did I miss that headline somewhere? Instead, we get bullshit about hopped NJ chardonnay.

            Foobooz, when does the Valenzano Winery banner ad go live?

          • Albert Brooks

            Yes it is more involved than your example, and no restaurants can’t get anything through the SLO process. If it is not listed by the PLCB then it doesn’t happen. There are listings that aren’t available to the public for the trade but it is a surprisingly small number. Your wine buyer can’t buy what he wants he has to convince the winery or distributor to offer the wine to the PLCB who then makes the decision (or not) to list it as SLO or carry it on the shelf. The only real buyers in PA are the drones working for the PLCB.

            That isn’t to say there aren’t people trying to improve the situation that shouldn’t be recognized but the current system needs to go before they will have any real success.

          • Jason Malumed

            I think you are misunderstanding the process. SLO wines are not “selected” by the PLCB. Yes, they have to be approved before they can be sold, but that is just to ensure another vendor is not currently selling the same wine. The PLCB is not specifically rejecting any wine in the SLO system simply because they don’t like it. If a restaurant demands a wine, an importer or distributor can register it for sale through the SLO system (for free, mind you, which is not the case in NJ), and the PLCB will not reject it. Maybe 95% of wine in Philly’s top restaurants are bought through the SLO system. So theoretically, restaurants can get whatever wine they want as long as importers/distributors will get it registered, which takes all of 5 seconds to do (speaking from experience). But once that wine is registered, they will be paying retail price for it. With no credit terms. And they have to leave their restaurant to pick it up themselves. So yes, that aspect of the PLCB should change. Selection is not the issue for restaurants, it is the pricing.

            But, we are getting off topic from my original point. Foobooz, write about some real posts about wine once in a while, it won’t kill you, and it will support the efforts restaurants in Philly are making.

          • Albert Brooks

            We know the reason restaurant wines are SLO – so the customer doesn’t see it at his limited selection, inconvenient state store and have a heart attack on the mark-up.

            We agree on the process but you think it is less intrusive than I which is fine but I would still rather deal with the free market myself.

            Cheers to all those trying to free the grapes in PA and to all the future stories about them.

    • Giovanni Gino Caffarella

      I am curious to know about your thoughts on craft beer….

      • Jason Malumed

        I wish I could say I knew enough about craft beer to give you a meaningful response. But in short, they are two totally different beverages. As are spirits/craft cocktails. Obviously. I feel the craft beer world may be more process driven (i.e. which yeast you use, what kind of malts, etc.), and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But for wine, the vast majority of what makes it interesting is its ability to be expressive of a certain place at a certain time. Not the process used to create that finished wine. So, on my imaginary scale of beverages, for wine, the most important thing is the raw ingredients going into it.

        Craft beer, at least to someone like myself who is not super experienced with it, seems to be a mix of raw ingredients (high quality hops, malts, etc.) and process (yeast strains, temperature, roasting malts, etc.). Not that that makes it any less interesting, it is just an observation. I do happen to like a lot of sour ales and geuze if that gives any kind of insight. Maybe craft cocktails are all the way on the opposite end of the scale, where the unique combinations bartenders can create are the most important?

        I don’t know, what are your thoughts?

        • Giovanni Gino Caffarella

          Thank you for your detailed response. I am glad to see the passion of wine in the Philadelphia area. I admit it has been four years since I left the wine world to explore the craft beer world in depth,and specifically, the Italian craft world. Naturally being Italian I was raised on great wine and the passion for it will never leave. One of my favorite wines, and well since my grandfather is from the region, is Aglianico del Vulture.

          I like how you look at both the craft beer and wine in retrospect.

          And for me personally I have found beer to be everything I have been looking for and its variety I do enjoy. Oddly enough as much as I love bitter, I still have not find a liking to geuze and sour ales.

          I have this story I did for Philly Beer Scene magazine if you care to have a read.

          http://www.phillybeerscene.com/2014/02/wine-takes-a-backseat-to-italian-craft/#.UxogX4XnI9t

  • ND

    Interesting. Can anyone tell me if wineworks or any of the joe canals are within walking distance of a Patco stop?

    • Giovanni Gino Caffarella

      Sadly no stops close to Wine Works!

  • Boo-urns

    Too bad Valenzano is fucking horrible.

  • Guest

    @Albert Brooks for some reason my comment isn’t showing up. Here is what I replied:

    Not true. Look at the lists at places like a.kitchen and Vedge (among several others). The PLCB makes it tougher, but it can be done. Plenty of good wines making their way into PA now that are available for restaurants to buy. Even in the stores, if you go to 12th street and talk to Max, he will show you plenty of interesting wines the PLCB stocks. Yes, the prices might be slightly higher in PA for retail consumers, but keep in mind restaurants ALSO have to buy their wine at that same retail price.

    I agree with you that until the PLCB offers true wholesale pricing on wine to restaurants, it will be very tough for Philly to have a wine culture like NY, but there are several examples of people dealing with wine in unique ways that deserve more light shed on them from the food journalists here. I don’t know why they waste their time on junk like this…

  • Beertodd

    Mawby in Traverse City has been doing it for a little while

  • Charlene Rigone

    We just tried this wine at a charity event last week and it was suprissingly impressive. We also tried Valenzano’s Cabernet/Merlot Blend. For a wine under $15.00 we were utterly impressed. Its wonderful to see high quality locally grown wines being sold at reasonable prices. If I was told, I would have thought it was a more expensive West Coast wine.