Ed Hyder’s Wine Director Offers Vacation Choices

By Barbara M. Houle

Ahead of the holidays and in the spirit of the season, Justus Wagner, Wine Manager at Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Market in Worcester, shares wine recommendations for this most festive time of year.

The Dining In column asked Wagner for wines to offer or simply to enjoy with a meal. He has selected wines that deliver too much for their price, delicious and affordable. The $ 20 to $ 30 price range makes these wines perfect for the holidays or to open at a family reunion or other special occasion. Wagner noted that the wines and cider on his list are organically grown, which means no pesticides or synthetics were used in the vineyard or orchard.

Wagner of Princeton grew up in the Worcester area and was a customer at Hyder’s before becoming a full-time employee four years ago. After earning a bachelor’s degree in education, he worked a harvest at Bella Vineyards, a small winery in Dry Creek Valley, northern California, Sonoma County. He was captivated by the entire wine-making process, he said, prompting him to research and learn as much as possible about wine.

At Hyder’s, Wagner sought out small, site-focused producers producing affordable wines, which led him to import wine from Schaad Cellars to Massachusetts and work a harvest with winemaker Forrest Schaad in 2019. Schaad Cellars is a family owned winery located in McMinnville, Oregon.

This fall, Wagner spent five weeks helping with the harvest at Arnot-Roberts in Healdsburg, California. He said he specifically chose the estate because it works with some of the best vineyards in California and is recognized as one of the best Syrah producers outside of France. Syrah is one of his favorite grape varieties. “At the end of the day, give me a well-made Syrah or Pinot Noir,” he said.

Wagner finds the exploration of all aspects of the harvest “invigorating” and a way to add to his knowledge of wine. He even “took off his shoes” for having trod the grapes at Arnot-Roberts’ house. “It’s squishy and fun,” he said. “Honestly, your feet get pretty cold when you are submerged in 40 degree grapes.”

Harvesting the wine grapes is one of the most important steps in the winemaking process, Wagner said. “Obviously, the goal of every bottle of wine is to be delicious. For me, captivating wines are place wines, where the unique personality of the vineyard can shine through, leading to exciting new flavors.

When you talk to Wagner, you feel his confidence and his passion for wine. “He really knows his stuff, and I always trust him to make an incredible case of wines,” said Leslie Lofgren, longtime chef and die-hard customer, who sometimes emails Wagner asking him to pair a few bottles. of wine with food. . “He doesn’t speak over your head and explains things so that you understand what he is saying. He finds wines that you will like, and you can tell by talking to him that he really enjoys his job. I can taste high quality wines in small quantities, ”said Lofgren. “I can buy the best-selling brands of wine in other stores, but Justus offers wine lovers something very different. “

Wagner said he didn’t have to sell big brands of wine. Instead, the goal of retail is to deliver wines from small producers that offer the best value and quality. Wagner writes about wine in the store’s newsletter, and before the pandemic, he hosted wine tastings on Saturdays. His plan is to resume tastings in the middle of the week before Christmas. He is happy to answer customer calls as well as emails.

About half of the wine sold at Hyder’s is organic, according to Wagner, who said market watchers predict continued growth and success for the organic wine industry.

Among recent trends in the wine industry has been the emergence of wine formats, such as canned wines and canned wines. Canned wine has evolved into wider consumer acceptance for some time, according to Wagner, who said canned wine is a trend to watch. Hyder’s buyers can choose from a few brands of canned wine, he said.

"For me, captivating wines are place wines," said Justus Wagner, "where the unique personality of the vineyard can shine through, leading to exciting new flavors.

When not working, Wagner is a home cook who likes to shake things up. “Yes, to spicy food,” he said.

This Thanksgiving, her mother, Kim Wagner of Princeton, will be hosting the holiday dinner, with each family member bringing a different dish to the table. “It usually takes us about six hours to go from starter to dessert,” Wagner said. “It’s sort of a done deal that I make food and wine pairings. Note: Wagner is a huge fan of Cava, Spain’s most popular sparkling wine, and it’s one of his wine choices.

Vacation or not, Wagner’s advice is to don’t be intimidated by wine and be open to trying new things. Raise your glass!

Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Market, 408 Pleasant St., Worcester has been family owned since 1975. Visit www.edhyders.com for schedules and online orders. Partial and full reductions for wine are not available online. Email [email protected] or buy in person. (Beer, cider, and seltzer water are also available.) Great choice of food. The company has recently enlarged the kitchen and has a new parking lot.

Selection of Justus Wagner wines

WORCESTER - Selection of wines at Ed Hyder's on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

Pere Mata, Cava Brut Reserva Familia 2016 – Penedes, Spain; $ 24.99

Nothing says the party like bubbles, and Pere Mata makes fantastic sparkling wine in his small production cellar just outside of Barcelona, ​​Spain. This vintage cava is incredible with hints of brioche and lemon cream. It’s excellent on its own and is also delicious when opened with a plate of antipasti with cold cuts and cheeses.

Eyrie Vineyards, Pinot Gris Dundee Hills – Willamette Valley, Oregon; $ 24.99

David and Diana Lett founded Eyrie Vineyards in 1966, pioneering winemaking in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They were the first people outside of Europe to plant Pinot Gris, which remains the most important white grape in the Willamette Valley. They go for a slower and more expensive method of making their pinot gris, creating a more complex and layered style than many of their peers. While the wine is not oaky at all, it does have a weight that makes it my go-to white wine for holiday meals.

Mas de Cynanque, Fleur Rosé – Languedoc-Roussillon, France; $ 17.99

With its red fruits and tangy freshness, rosé is fantastic all year round, even in the cooler months. This dry (not sweet) rosé could pair with a wide variety of foods, but I think it would be especially delicious when paired with roasted butternut squash.

WORCESTER - Selection of wines at Ed Hyder's on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

Drew Family Wines, Mid-altitude Pinot Noir – Mendocino County, California; $ 29.99

Mendocino, the remote region north of Napa and Sonoma in California, produces incredible Pinot Noirs. The cool climate allows the wine to obtain this fascinating blend of earthy flavors, aromas of rose petals and fresh red fruits. This wine is an excellent choice for holiday meals, as it will work especially well with roast poultry and as a gift because of its unique yet accessible personality.

Massaya, Cap Est – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon; $ 24.99

Although it has yet to receive the credit it deserves, Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley produces incredible wines. Grown on the steep slopes of the valley, the wines develop richness and power without weighing down. If you are looking to try something new, the wines of the Bekaa Valley are absolutely worth exploring, especially for lovers of powerful reds like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Eve’s Cidery, Darling Creek Sparkling Cider – Finger Lakes, New York; $ 17.99

Cider is a fun category for the holidays. It goes naturally with almost any fall and winter food, its naturally low alcohol content makes it ideal for the holiday season, and it is linked to the long history of apple cultivation in the North-east. Eve’s Cidery is one of the best producers in the country focusing on small production, dry, organic and Champagne method sparkling ciders.


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