Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?

Neither did I, until I did a little research on Port wine in anticipation of our upcoming barrel tasting. Our wine maker Todd has been working on a white Port since before he and his wife opened the tasting room doors in 2009. “I wanted to make a port because I like the flavors and I wanted to add a dessert wine to our list.”

I believe it was in 2010 when I started working here and got to have a little sample of our ’08 White Port. I don’t usually drink this type of wine but it was delicious; sweet and nutty, like a toasted marshmallow or creme brulée. I asked him how soon we would be releasing it, excited to take home a few bottles of my own. “No, it’s not ready yet.” What???

So that was the first time I tasted it. Almost every year since then, he brings it out again to tease our taste buds. And every year, “No, it’s not ready yet. Just a little longer.” Why, Todd, why?

“We could have released some before but it wouldn’t have the complexity that it has now.”

Such is life, when it comes to good Port. It has been around for a very long time; it originated in Portugal where the oldest regulated and protected appellation exists, in the Douro River Valley. The wine is fortified using a distilled grape spirit like brandy. “This stops the fermentation,” Todd explained, “and retains the residual sugar of 10% and raises the alcohol to 18%.” If you’ve ever tasted our wines, you probably know our sweetest wine (the rosé) has only 2% residual sugar, and our average ABV is around 13%.

The wine is then added to oak barrels to age, but we only fill them about three-quarters of the way. This allows a small amount of oxidation to occur which lends a golden color and nutty flavors. And then we wait. And wait. And wait some more.

“Waiting so long allowed the wine to create much more complex aromas and flavors as well as an enhanced mouth-feel,” Todd told me. “This is also why we are only releasing 15 cases out of 100 this year; it will continue to get better with additional aging in the barrel.”

Six years later we are finally preparing to bottle this delicious drink, though only a limited quantity. If you’ve been following along this far, you might still be wondering who the hell is the Bishop of Norwich and what does he have to do with any of this?

Well, at British meals, it is tradition to pass the port to the person on your left immediately after pouring (get it? pass the port to port?). The bottle must continue from person to person, never touching the table until it is finished. If someone fails to do so, the other guests will ask, “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” This will either remind them to keep passing, or they’ll say no, at which point someone replies:

“He’s a terribly good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port!”

Try our 2008 White Port during our Barrel Tasting & Futures Sale on Saturday, February 21st and Sunday, February 22nd at the Hawk Haven tasting room.


Opening a bottle of wine can sometimes be the hardest part of service. In some circumstances, every single detail matters – from the way you hold the bottle, to where you cut the foil, to the number of turns of the corkscrew! But while cork has become synonymous with wine, that has not always been the case. In fact, in the grand scope of wine history, sealing bottles with cork is a relatively new
progression. At Hawk Haven, we use a variety of different closures for our bottles. Let’s dive into why cork became popular, what cork even is, and different types of closures now on the market.

Bottle Me Up
Archaeologists have found evidence of wine production as far back as between 8000 B.C. and 4100 B.C. in Armenia. Various containers have been used to ferment and store wine, ranging from Georgian earthenware vessels coated in beeswax, to Egyptian amphora, to the wooden barrels of Gaul. It wasn’t until technology advanced into the 1600’s that glass bottles came more onto the scene. The coal furnace allowed for thicker glass to be produced. Before these bottles, the vast majority of wine lasted less than a year before turning to vinegar. The vast majority of wine was still stored and transported in barrels, but the transition was slowly changing over to the smaller storage vessels. By the nineteenth century, it was common practice. These glass bottles also created the ability to store wine long-term and age the beverage.

Ancient Romans had experimented with cork, oil-soaked rags, and many other materials to stop their amphorae. It was the popularity of the bottle that truly brought cork onto the main stage. While cork stoppers aren’t perfect, they’re malleable and can keep oxygen out to help extend the shelf-life of a wine. The bottle plus the cork created a new possibility for the wine industry – collecting, cellaring, and relishing in rare and aged wines.

What Even Is Cork?
Cork closures come from the bark of the cork oak trees. It is one of the few natural products that is malleable enough to keep wine inside of a bottle and have the ability to be reused. Cork is a renewable resource, but requires a labor-intensive process for harvesting. The trees are not cut down, but actually have their exterior bark carefully peeled off. Only half of the bark is removed at one time. Most of the cork in the world comes from Portugal, followed by Spain. A few other countries in North Africa and Europe also produce cork, but at much smaller quantities: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, and France. Cork trees need to be 25 years old before the bark can be harvested, and unfortunately many forests have been leveled to create space for other industries. This has created a very limited supply of natural cork, skyrocketing the price to be twice or thrice as expensive as other closure options. Additionally, natural cork has the possibility of having Trichloroanisole (TCA) or “Cork Taint” impact the bottle. This chemical is created by the chlorine from the external environment reacting with the natural lignin molecules in the cork. The TCA possibility, expense, and limited supply have driven winemakers to explore other ways to close a bottle, even creating different types of cork.

A “cork” can cover a lot of different closures to the average consumer. The historically most desirable are the 100% Natural Corks. These are one piece, and can come in different grades. These are the best option for aging wine, as their malleability keeps the seal of the bottle for the longest time. Breathing for aging wines is incredibly important, as many wines develop undesirable aromas when stored without oxygen. Natural Cork lets about one milligram of oxygen in per year. The next type of cork is a Colmated Cork. This closure is when a natural cork has its pores filled with a mixture of cork dust and glue. This process results in a smoother final cork that glides out of the bottle. A wine with this closure can still be aged for a medium amount of time. Next is a Multi-Piece Cork, where two or more large pieces of cork are glued together. These corks are more dense than natural corks, and are the only way to make corks to seal those giant wine bottles. It’s not recommended to age a wine that has one of these corks. Agglomerated Corks are the next on the list. The stopper is made from cork dust and glue. It is much less expensive than natural cork and much denser. The seal does not last for more than one year, so these corks are not recommended for aging. Technical Corks could be classified as a sub-type of Agglomerated Corks – they are Agglomerated Corks with two disks of Natural Cork on each end. This method can improve the seal of Agglomerated Corks, and ensures that the cork is uniformly dense throughout.

Other Types of Closures
The Stelvin
While the name “Stelvin” may not ring a bell, it is the technical patented name of the screw cap closure. These closures have been used for wine since 1964, but did not take off until the 1980’s. They
became popular because of a decrease in cork manufacturing that resulted in a higher frequency of cork taint. These closures are more affordable, easy to open, and still have the potential for long-term aging. Screw Caps have two parts – a metal cap and a liner inside the top of the cap that seals to the lip of the bottle. They are made from aluminum and plastic, which are not renewable resources. They are recyclable, but not biodegradable like cork. With modern technological advances, they now have the ability to allow a desired amount of oxygen in over time. This type of closure is preferred for wines meant to be consumed within a year or two of bottling.

Synthetic Cork, Crown Cap, and Vino-Seal
Synthetic Corks are made from Polyethylene,+ the same substance used to make milk bottles and plastic pipes. They now perform nearly the same as Natural Cork, without the possibility of cork taint. They do let in a bit more oxygen than Natural Cork, but they are very consistent in the amount of oxygen let in. This consistency makes it easier for winemakers to predict how a wine will taste in the future. Crown Caps are used for closing sparkling beverages, and are most commonly associated with beer. They are used in sparkling wine production before disgorgement – when the yeast is extracted from the bottle after secondary fermentation. Some producers are skipping removing the crown cap and are sending their wines out as is; this practice is especially common with the pétillant-naturel (“pet-nat”) style of sparkling wine. Vino-Seal is the glass stopper that was released in the European market in 2003. This sleek and reusable closure created a near perfect seal with the bottle. It is easy to open, but not easy with production. They are expensive and hard to use in most bottling machines.

Which Way is Best?
All in all, there is no “best” way to seal a bottle of wine. The different closures are all meant for various wine styles and cover different necessities. At Hawk Haven, we’re excited to keep experimenting with different closures for all of our different styles of wine. Next time you’re in our Tasting Room, keep an eye out for how many different closures we use!


When someone describes a wine as having “structure,” what does that really mean? And why is a liquid described as being “dry”? In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll be exploring the four main components of structure: acid, sweetness, alcohol, and tannin. These four traits also can dictate whether or not a wine can be aged. We’ll discuss each of the four components, and hopefully dispel some myths and misunderstandings about wine!

All About Acid

Acidity is arguably the most important component in wine. Similar to how salt enhances food, acid in wine highlights and balances other components. It can make a wine seem lighter, drier, or crisper. Without it, wines can seem flat, flabby, and dull. Acidity makes your mouth water, which is the key indicator to a high acid wine. High acid wines are usually described as being “refreshing,” “zippy,” “bright,” and “mouthwatering.” The main types of acid in wine are tartaric, malic, and lactic. The first two come from the natural grape juice, and the last is a byproduct of malolactic fermentation. In sweet wines, the acid is there to balance, not dominate. It plays a similar role as the acid in lemonade: you don’t necessarily notice when it is there, but the drink becomes tooth-achingly sweet when it isn’t. Similarly, in acidic wines, sweetness can help balance the tartness. Regardless of how much sugar is in a wine, a mouth-watering sensation is the tell-tale sign of a wine with acid.

A Spoonful of (Residual) Sugar?

The most contentious component in wine is sweetness. Some people will turn their nose away at the mention of any residual sugar, while others will search out a wine with the highest sweetness. While some people may claim that a wine “smells sweet,” sweetness refers to the actual presence or absence of sugar in a wine. When a wine has ripe fruit characteristics, many people confuse this with sweetness. Sweetness also is the first impression from tasting a wine. It can make a wine seem more full-bodied, and the presence or absence of other structural components can impact the perceived sweetness. Sweetness is broken down into five main categories:

  • Bone Dry: less than 0.1% Residual Sugar (RS), or less than 1 gram per liter (g/L)
  • Dry: between 0.1% and 1% RS, or 1-10 g/L
  • Off-Dry: between 1% to 3% RS, or 10-35 g/L
  • Sweet: between 3.5% to 12% RS, or 35-120 g/L
  • Very Sweet: 12% to 22% RS, or 120 to 220 g/L

FACT: Cola has around 105 g/L of sugar, yet most people do not perceive it as being super sweet because of the acid and carbonation.

Bring on the Booze

If a wine is described as being “hot,” this phrase means that the wine is high in alcohol. Alcohol contributes to the weight of a wine, and should be one of the least obvious characteristics while tasting wine. The drinker should not be able to taste or feel the alcohol. Alcohol creates the warming sensation towards the back of the mouth, but it should not be so obvious as to create a “dragon breath” feeling. Wines have, on average, between 11% and 13% alcohol by volume, or ABV. They can range from 5.5% to as high as 20% in some places. Usually, wines from warmer climates will potentially have high alcohol wines, as the heat from the sun can help develop higher amounts of sugar in their grapes. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of the natural sugar in grapes. If alcohol is added to a wine, the wine is considered to be a fortified wine rather than a table wine. Viscosity, or legs, in a dry wine can indicate the alcohol level by the rate of evaporation. In a sweet wine, the legs could indicate both sweetness and alcohol.

MYTH: “More legs mean the wine is a higher quality.” Legs in a wine are not an indication of quality as much as alcohol content, and in some cases, residual sugar.

Why is My Mouth So Dry?

Tannic wines are often confused with dry wines. After all, if a wine creates a drying sensation in your mouth, doesn’t that mean it’s a dry wine? The drying effect is actually caused by tannins, which are polyphenols that combine with protein. Specifically, when the tannins in wine combine with the protein in your saliva, it makes your mouth feel dry. Tannins are found in the skins, seeds, and stems in grapes; these tannins create sensations more towards the sides and front of the mouth. Wines can also get tannin from aging in oak barrels; these tannins will taste more towards the center of the tongue. Tannins can also be found in chocolate, tea, pomegranate, and apple skins. Ripe tannins can add textural richness to a wine, while unripe tannins will have a harsh astringency. Tannins are often described as either bitter or astringent because of the sensation created. Since tannins combine with proteins, high tannin wines are perfect for rich, steak dinners.

MYTH: “I can’t drink wine because I’m allergic to tannins.” While this is not completely a myth because it is possible (though very rare) to have a tannin intolerance, other culprits of that wine headache could be sulfites (also rare), histamines, or just plain over-indulging. However, the amount of tannins, sulfites, and histamines in wine are on average significantly lower than a variety of common foods like dried fruits, burger meat, fish, and coffee.

Wines that Can Age

Acid, sweetness, alcohol, and tannin all contribute to the body of a wine. Disregarding packaging (but see our article about  corks and other closures), these same components can affect a wine’s ability to age. Wines that are meant to age might not drink very well now. Wines are still developing even when placed in a bottle, and may balance out over time.

Acid is very important when aging wines, as wines with higher acidity will last longer than low-acid wines. Acid evaporates over time, and the wine will flatten out.

Tannin will also smooth out over time. The tannin molecules, when young, repel against each other. As they age, they lose their charge and combine to form larger, heavier chains. This formation has a reduced surface area than the individual molecules, and will therefore taste smoother and rounder. If these chains become large enough, they will actually fall out to form sediment in a wine. Tannin also helps preserve a wine with its antioxidant properties.

Lower alcohol in non-fortified wines last much longer than higher alcohol. Alcohol will actually cause the wine to become vinegar faster. The best wines for aging will be below 13.5% ABV, except for fortified wines averaging between 17-20% ABV, which will last much longer.

Residual Sugar will also help a wine age. Some of the longest living wines are sweet wines, such as Port, Sherry, and Sauternes. When a wine ages, the primary flavors (such as fruit and floral notes) will fade away, and the tertiary notes (such as dried fruit, honey, and mushroom) will come forward. The color will also change over time, with whites moving towards amber hues and reds showing hints of tanned leather shades.

If you are planning to age your wine, make sure they are stored in a dark place that has a steady temperature between 53° and 57°F.

MYTH: “The older a wine is, the better it is!” Most wines are not meant to be aged, or at least not for very long, and not everyone will like the taste of very old wine. If you’re not sure, ask a staff member (whether you’re at a winery or a liquor store). Otherwise, life is short, so open and enjoy!


“You’ll get notes of green apple skins, lemon, pear, and ginger in this wine.”

These are just some of the words you might hear during a wine tasting. A large misconception is that those descriptors are actually put into the wine. Here at Hawk Haven, we only use grapes to make our wines – no other fruit is added to achieve specific smells. So when you hear wines described as having a ‘bouquet’ of specific fruits or other aromas, how do they get into the wine? In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll be exploring the three major groups of aromas in wine: primary from the grape, secondary from fermentation, and tertiary from aging.

Primary Aromas – Straight from the Grape

Flavor is the combination of aroma and taste. Without aroma, you don’t have flavor. This is the reason you might have plugged your nose as a kid when your parents made you eat that food you hate, to try to not fully taste what seemed disgusting. Aroma is a volatile compound, meaning it evaporates easily. When you swirl your glass of wine, you’re releasing more of the aromatic compounds into the air, making it easier to smell the wine. Additionally, when you leave a bottle of wine open overnight or for several days, the wine will taste “flat” because the aromas have evaporated out of the wine.

Vitis vinifera is the main species of grape vine used for wine production. The different grape varietals, or types, used for wine come from either cross-breeding or mutations. For example, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are technically the same species, but are different varietals with very different characteristics. Each grape varietal is commonly associated with a range of aromas that change in intensity from factors like climate, soil, and sun exposure.

Pyrazine is the aromatic compound that can make wine smell like bell pepper or grass, and is very commonly associated with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Terpenes are known for floral notes of rose, Christmas trees, lychee, and lavender in wines like Gewürztraminer, Grenache, and Syrah. Thiols are responsible for the fruit aromas in small amounts, such as grapefruit in Sauvignon Blanc or black currant in Merlot. Esters bind with the acid in a wine, and are the foundation of several fruit and floral flavors in a wine. For example, esters give Chardonnay its apple or pineapple aroma. They are much less stable than other aromatic compounds in wine, and usually fade after just a year. More than 160 esters have been identified in wine!

Secondary Aromas – Fermentation and Other Winemaking Practices

Fermentation and other winemaking practices can have a huge impact on the final aroma of a wine. Malolactic fermentation is a form of secondary fermentation, where bacteria convert the tart malic acid in wine into creamy lactic acid. This fermentation usually goes hand-in-hand with oak aging, in which lactones give wines notes of vanilla, coconut, and butter, such as in oaked Chardonnay. Another form of secondary aromas comes from aging a wine “sur lie” or “on the lees.” Lees are the remaining yeast after fermentation. Sur lie aging is common with sparkling and white wines. This process can add aromas of toast, brioche, and nuts to sparkling wines, and aromas of caramel, clove, smoke, and vanilla to white wines.

Fermentation and other winemaking practices can have a huge impact on the final aroma of a wine. Malolactic fermentation is a form of secondary fermentation, where bacteria convert the tart malic acid in wine into creamy lactic acid. This fermentation usually goes hand-in-hand with oak aging, in which lactones give wines notes of vanilla, coconut, and butter, such as in oaked Chardonnay. Another form of secondary aromas comes from aging a wine “sur lie” or “on the lees.” Lees are the remaining yeast after fermentation. Sur lie aging is common with sparkling and white wines. This process can add aromas of toast, brioche, and nuts to sparkling wines, and aromas of caramel, clove, smoke, and vanilla to white wines.

Tertiary Aromas – Aging in the Bottle

The last set of aromas: tertiary. Some tertiary aromas come from micro-oxygenation, or the gradual introduction of oxygen into a wine, resulting in aromas of hazelnut or almond. Aging can also reveal hidden aromas in a young wine: cigar box, smoke, cedar, or clove. Lastly, if a wine is heated, the aromas can smell more caramelized, like a toasted marshmallow or caramel. This technique is purposefully done Madeira, but can also be a fault in wines called Madeirizing.

Isn’t it amazing how a simple wine grape can end up smelling like a million different things? Not to mention how overwhelming it might seem to know all the scents your olfactory organs can potentially perceive in a single wine. But practice makes perfect, and the best way to train your sniffer is to thoughtfully smell new things. When you smell a wine, start with categories (fruity, floral, earthy, etc.) and then work on narrowing it down (fruity- berry, citrus, dried, etc.). Before you know it, you’ll be an aromatic expert!