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Wine: Stutsman and the '95 Cadenza

When I first became enamored of wine, I was eager to taste anything from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, California and the Pacific Northwest -- you know, the usual suspects. Jim Stutsman kept insisting on pouring me local wine.

My wife and I met Stutsman in a wine store. (Sadly enough, we met all our friends in wine stores, at least until we had a daughter and PTSAs became more fruitful hunting grounds for companionship.) We forged a quick friendship, not just because of wine but because he and I both love to bake bread. I wrote one of my first articles for the Food section about Stutsman's travels on his BMW motorcycle when he was not performing with the Washington Opera Orchestra, and all the wonderful foods and wines he would bring home to share. My first tastes of wines from Texas, Ohio, Michigan and New York were all at his house.

A few years after I wrote that article, Stutsman invited me to lunch at Cafe Atlantico. He also invited Ben Giliberti, who was a wine columnist for The Post, and Ann Berta, who wrote about wine for Washingtonian magazine.

At the time, I was writing weekly about wine for Sidewalk.com, a Web site few people knew of or read. (My editor was Tom Sietsema.) Although he had no commercial interest in the wine industry, Stutsman wanted to prove a point. He opened three bottles, all obscured by brown paper bags. One was a cabernet sauvignon from California, another was a Bordeaux, he said. The third was from Pennsylvania: the 1995 Cadenza from Allegro Vineyards near York. His point? That the Allegro belonged in the company of world-class wines from more famous and established regions.

We sniffed and sipped, discussed and then sniffed and sipped some more. I would like to say that we all picked out the Pennsylvania wine, but that could be selective memory. I do recall, however, that the Allegro more than held its own among the more vaunted competition.

"I had been looking for 25 years for a wine from the East Coast that could stand proud among the best of the world, and with the '95 Cadenza, I knew I'd found it," Stutsman recalled the other day. Allegro's founders have passed away, and the winery is under new ownership. Stuts has given up his motorcycle and retired several years ago from the opera orchestra. But his enthusiasm for East Coast wines has only heightened with age.

Stutsman turns 70 today. Friends gathered last weekend to toast the occasion, and, with his characteristic generosity, Stuts opened one of his few remaining bottles of the 1995 Allegro Cadenza. The wine, 93 percent cabernet sauvignon with the balance cabernet franc, retained a bright color and lively fruit. There was a hint of "East Coast twang," but after 15 years, that tasted like a statement of the wine's heritage, a defiant cry of longevity against all odds.

The wine, like Stutsman, has aged well.

-- Dave McIntyre

By Dave McIntyre  |  September 16, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags: Dave McIntyre, Wine  
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Comments

Thanks for writing such a great article on our friend Jim. My predecessor John Crouch introduced me to him, and I usually get to taste wines with him him a couple times a year. There's no one out there who is a stronger supporter and believer in what some of us have been doing here in the east coast wine industry. Jim is a real treasure. --Carl Helrich, owner/winemaker, Allegro Vineyards

Posted by: AllegroVineyards | September 18, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

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