Category Archives: Behind the Bar

Behind the Bar Series: Rick

Rick Leiti of Cape May Point has only been on the Hawk Haven staff for two years but his interest in wine runs deep.

Leiti is originally from Delaware County, Pa., and spent a lot of his twenties working in an office. Eager for a change in scenery, he took some time off to work in Peru.

“That was where I really discovered wine,” he said.

Leiti eventually returned to the Philadelphia area to be close to friends and family. At the time he returned to the area there was a burgeoning wine scene.

“I wanted to be a part of what people were growing and learning about the industry,” he said.

He went to Auburn Road Winery, where he started working part-time in the tasting room. As he gained experience there, his interest in the wine industry grew, and Leiti decided he wanted to invest more time at the vineyard.

Eventually he increased to full-time, working in the vineyard, as a liaison between their wine retail locations, in the wine cellar, and managing the tasting room on weekends.

When Leiti met Seneca Reiley, they moved to Cape May County to start their life together (and will soon be married in Costa Rica, April 2017!).

Leiti asked the advice of the owners of Auburn Winery where they thought he should pursue he wine career locally. They pointed him in the direction of Hawk Haven Vineyard.

“The first thing that I really connected with was their amazing wine,” said Leiti. “The next thing was the vibe there. Todd and Kenna are working tirelessly to create amazing wine and surround themselves with a staff that is as passionate about their vision as they are.”

At Hawk Haven, in addition to working in the tasting room, retail outlets and working in the vineyard, he also does the winery tours.

“I love interacting with the public and educating them about all the amazing wine that is made here,” he said.

Leiti said that on the top of his list of dreams is to one day own his own winery. But for now, he is enjoying learning all he can and helping make great wine at Hawk Haven. He recently received a certificate from Wine & Spirit Education Trust and noted that there is always something new to learn.

“For the better part of my twenties, I spent so much time not knowing what I wanted to do. Then I found my passion is wine and it gave my life a direction,” he said.

When he isn’t working, Leiti enjoys relaxing with his favorite Hawk Haven bottle, Quill. 

Cheers Rick!

Behind the Bar Series: Celine

We at Hawk Haven firmly believe that you should find something to celebrate in every day, and as it is her birthday, today we are celebrating  the hat-wearing, wine-loving, people-charming Celine!

Hceline-winetastingailing from Northeast Philly, Celine met her chef husband of almost 30 years when she was still an Archbishop Ryan Ragdoll.  A graduate  of West Chester University, Celine went to work for the railroad, marketing transportation to food & agriculture shippers.  It wasn’t  long after Celine moved to Warrington, Bucks Co., PA that she  suddenly found herself facing a breast cancer diagnosis .  A mother of two little boys then, she  was determined to turn lemons into lemonade.  Immediately focusing her attention on cultivating a healthy lifestyle, she pursued her master’s in health education and her health & wellness coach certification.  Now, when Celine’s not in the Tasting Room or mingling on the crush pad, you’ll find her teaching healthy eating classes at Bucks County Community College or hard at work for a leading healthcare company.

Celine fancies herself a world traveler, and what makes her hair 35944_144287892264787_1938330_nfly back the most is following her rock star heroes around the globe to take in concerts in exotic places.  One lucky lass, she’s had the good fortune to be in Dublin, Ireland twice when Bruce Springsteen was performing.  And, as Rod Stewart’s #1 fan, she’s even traveled to Scotland to see him perform at Edinburgh Castle!

Celine achieved “rock star” status herself when she landed every college kid’s dream job!  She had the honor of strolling Sesame Street as the first Big Bird character during the Sesame Place Theme Park’s debut season.

Thrilled to become one of the cast members of Hawk Haven’s Season 5, Celine started pouring in our Tasting Room in April 2013. A desire to learn about all things wine set Celine on a path of discovery.  She toured many wineries until she found just the right mix of vino & vibe.  When she met our proprietors, Todd & Kenna, she knew Hawk Haven was the real deal!

Hats off to Celine! You may notice that she dons a hat every weekend. In fact, you'll never see her wear the same hat twice. So where does a lady keep 100 hats? In the bathtub, of course!
Hats off to Celine! You may notice that she dons a hat every weekend. In fact, you’ll never see her wear the same hat twice. So where does a lady keep 100 hats? In the bathtub, of course!

Celine’s favorite Hawk Haven bottle is any one she has on  hand to give to a friend.  She used to give fudge from the shore as her calling card; now, she loves to give Hawk Haven wines and regale friends and family of stories from the winery.

Her favorite thing about working at Hawk Haven is getting to mix and mingle with our extraordinary patrons — every person, without exception, who crosses the threshold of Hawk Haven comes seeking pleasure.  When the day is done, Celine always leaves with a smile on her face, happy to have shared her passion for wine with fascinating, like-minded people.

Her advice to other wine drinkers: “Be adventurous!  Don’t be married to one varietal.  Love the wine you’re with, but keep trying new things!  And never take yourself (or your wine) too seriously! Drink whatever makes your hair fly back!  Sláinte!”

Vintages Uncorked: A Cellar Tasting with Hawk Haven’s Winemaker

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One thing we always say at Hawk Haven is that every great wine has a story. And every once in a while, we get the opportunity to replay those stories when we uncork a bottle that we’ve kept hidden away for a certain period of time.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to hold on to a bottle of wine. I bought it because it was good, I want to drink it now! And most of the wines here at Hawk Haven are just right to open and enjoy. But there are a few that benefit beautifully from some additional cellaring, some up to 10-15 years.

Luckily our Winemaker Todd had the foresight to stash away a few bottles for all of us. That means YOU too! And we (the Hawk Haven staff) got the chance to try some cellared wines a few days before they will be released to the public for two days only during our Cellar Wine Tasting on January 16th & 17th, 2016.

2012 Signature Series Chardonnay

Cellar6Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Aging: 7 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.5%
Bottle Date: April 2013
Production: 495 bottles
Tasting Notes: When this wine was first released in 2013, flavors of dried mango and vanilla filled the palate. Todd had carefully chosen specific clones of the Chardonnay grape, known as “Dijon clones,” as he was looking for a lower-yielding, more flavor-concentrated cluster of fruit. He definitely chose well, because almost three years later this wine has really blossomed. Those vanilla notes gained a pleasant creamy quality, and the mango evolved into caramelized pineapple and lemon creme brulée.

2008, 2009,  & 2010 Merlot

Cellar10Blend: 100% Merlot
Aging: ’08- 21 months French Oak
’09- 20 months French Oak
’10- 23 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.9%
Bottle Date: ’08- July 14, 2010
’09- August 5, 2011
’10- July 2012
Production: ’08- 119 cases
’09- 84 cases
’10- 130 cases
Tasting Notes: Plum, cherry, and strawberry were all common denominators when these wines were originally released. The ’08 was marked by rich fruit and soft tannins. The ’09 was more aromatic with a peppery finish. And the ’10 was a nice balance of berry and spice. Tasting the 2008 Merlot now, the jamminess is stillCellar24 there on the nose, but now with an earthiness and notes of chocolate and cedar spice. But on the palate the fruit gently fades into elegant tannins. The 2009 still has some opening up to do, so now is a great time to get a few bottles for cellaring. Where the ’08 is more refined, the ’09 is bold and vibrant. The body is heavier, with more lush black fruit, a finish of mint leaf, and an oaky thread throughout. And finally, the 2010 Merlot is “super fruity” (that is very advanced wine terminology right there) with notes of strawberry preserves, leather, and bright fruit. The ’08 and ’10 vintages are prime for drinking now, but the ’09 will definitely benefit from additional aging.

2008, 2009, 2010 Talon

Cellar20Blend: ’08- 50% Merlot, 50% Syrah
’09- 47% Sangiovese, 34% Merlot, 19% Syrah
’10-33% Sangiovese, 33% Merlot, 33% Syrah
Aging: ’08- 24 months French Oak
’09- 20 months French Oak
’10-23 months French Oak
Alcohol: 13.4%
Bottle Date: ’08- December 14, 2010
’09- August 5, 2011
’10- July 2012
Production: ’08- 85 cases
’09- 122 cases
’10- 208 cases
Tasting Notes: The wines in our Talon label have always been known for being bold and jammy, and time has only improved on these qualities with an added elegance and smooth palate. Looking through the winemaker’s original notes when these wines were first released, I see a lot of words like blueberry pie, strawberry jam, cherry, and spice. Fast-forward to theCellar21 present and those somewhat astringent qualities have softened; we perceived leather, nuttiness, and caramel. The 2008 Talon has cherry and sweet spice aromas with a full palate spectrum of mint leaf to strawberry jam with a bright rush of tart cherry towards the finish. The berry notes in the 2009 are more on the tangy side; think blackberry and raspberry, with a leathery front palate of cranberry sauce. The ’10 has a softer nose, not quite as aromatic as the Merlot, but the palate really builds through the finish with nice tannins and a hint of sour cherry.

CONCLUSION

IMG_7275There was a definite consistency in the vintages with the Merlot and Talon. “You can find the terroir from year to year,” says Lou, our assistant winemaker, “These wines are alive.” The 2008 vintages are now more elegant and refined with softer tannins while the 2009’s are bigger and more robust. For all of the wines, from the Chardonnay to the Merlot to the Talon, you can absolutely sense the passage of time. When they were bottled, the fruity notes were packed in tightly with more pronounced qualities from the barrel. Once the wine got used to its new home, the fruit lost its inhibitions and rushed to the forefront. Now, time has allowed the flavors of fruit and oak to marry, and what a beautiful marriage it is!

We hope you will join us this Saturday & Sunday (January 16th & 17th, 2016) for our Cellar Tasting featuring all of these wines plus a bonus wine from our Signature Series collection! The Cellar Tasting is $20 a person and includes a souvenir glass. All of the wines will be available for purchase at the tasting room this weekend only. These wines are in limited quantity and won’t last long so be sure to get them while you can!

Cellar4

Wine – Keep it Simple

Wine can be a very complicated subject matter. No doubt, tending and training the vines, growing the grapes, knowing when to harvest and finally the craft of bringing all of it together to produce an enjoyable experience to karlshare with family and friends is both challenging and hopefully rewarding for those engaged in the hard work. BUT!! If you are anything like me you are mostly interested in one thing: How does it taste and do I enjoy it.

O.K. you got me that’s two things.

Trust me, you do not have to be a Mensa candidate to enjoy wine. Some folks try to cultivate wine appreciation into an intellectual endeavor. It AIN’T. It is about the visceral impact of a good grape on one’s palate. That is it.

By the way the highest and best use to which a palate can be put is to separate the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. Everything and anything beyond that is simply a bonus. But what a bonus – when you find that just right wine to share with that just right person at that just right moment.

Take it from a lifetime member of the third reading group – keep it simple and savor the damn wine.

Karl-blog-signature

 

 

 

Karl is a former drill instructor and recovering attorney. He joined the Hawk Haven team in April of 2012 and we haven’t been able to get rid of him since. To read more about our resident vineyard curmudgeon, click here.

Behind the Bar: Lynsie

This is going to be very odd because today I’ll be writing about myself. Hello, I’m Lynsie, I manage the blog, facebook, and twitter for Hawk Haven. You might also see me in the tasting room, usually at the register. I started working here in the summer of 2010 because Hawk Haven was and is my favorite winery here in Cape May County. I love the atmosphere, not to mention the wine maker hasn’t yet made a wine I didn’t like. Everyone here is so friendly, from the staff to the customers, that it never feels like a job.

lynsiebiophotoI live in Cape May with my husband but I was born and raised in Delaware. No kids yet, but we do have a dog and two cats. I started pursuing an English degree at University of Delaware, but ended up majoring in Religion at Liberty University in Virginia. So, naturally, I have a completely unrelated job here at Hawk Haven, pouring wine and tweeting pictures of the vineyard.

I love reading, cooking, and jogging. I also have an unnatural obsession with Disney World which everyone here loves to tease me about. Seriously though, get me started talking about it and I won’t shut up. I am amazed at the number of guests that visit the winery who are fellow Disney lovers and I love exchanging tips and stories about visiting “the World.”

But I digress. I’m supposed to talk about my favorite Hawk Haven wine now, but the truth is I love the different wines for different reasons. Mostly it depends on what I’m eating.cinderella I love the Pinot Grigio with salmon baked with lemon slices and capers because the citrusy notes of the wine cut through the creamy texture of the fish. I don’t eat Mexican food without the Red-Tailed Rose because the fruity sweetness is a perfect match for the spicier tones in the food. The Northern Harrier Red is a great everyday drinking wine and when I’m in the mood for something with a little more substance like pasta or burgers, this blend is an easy pick. I could go on and on but I guess if you were going to get me a bottle for Christmas, I would want the 2010 Reserve Merlot. It isn’t on our regular tasting list (it’s Signature Series), but I promise you this wine is divine. It’s so smooth and rich with notes of raspberry and cocoa. It was love at first sip!

My advice for wine drinkers is to not be afraid to try new wines. Your palate is always changing, and besides, even within a particular varietal there are going to be different flavors depending on where it was grown, how it was aged, etc. Wine tasting should be relaxing and fun; remember, you’re here to find something you love! And don’t be afraid to ask questions.

P.S. This month Lynsie is raising awareness and funds for the International Justice Mission‘s goal to end human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression by participating in Dressember. She will be wearing a dress every day for the entire month of December, and you can follow her on instagram and twitter. Please consider making a donation on her campaign page (click here).