Monday, March 17, 2014

Wine and Saint Patrick's Day? It Can Be Done!

With the middle name of "McLaughlin" and the last name of "McGurn," a wife whose maiden name is "Holmes," whose mother's maiden name is "Byrne," and a son named Finn, it's impossible to get around the need for a Saint Patrick's Day post.

Remember, "Whiskey" is Irish while "Whisky" is Scottish, and neither are made from grapes.
Given that I am posting midday, most readers may already be drunk off of whiskey and Guinness, yet soldier on I must...

Obviously, today celebrates the Irish, and Ireland is not known for producing wine, nor consuming a great deal of it. They are known for whiskey and dark beer - preferably served at room temperature. That said, wine is slowly making its ways into the pubs and restaurants of Ireland. That said, Ireland only recently seen as a major cheese producer, so perhaps they could learn a few other tricks from the French...

For the purist, of course, today will be drenched in Guinness, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you can find Murphy's Irish Stout, there's an entire region of Ireland that prefers this lesser-known Irish beer its massively larger cousin. Admittedly, I do, too. 

What goes well with Irish whiskey? Banjo music, obviously
 As for wine, the Irish themselves are now drinking a lot of wines from Argentina and Chile. Even though it is far closer to Spain and France - both of which are producing very approachable wines fit for a pub - when I was last in Ireland, the wines from South America - Chile in particular - were the wines of choice. 

See! Wine! Most likely a Chilean Merlot, as it was quite prevalent.
Editor's note, this picture was actually in Scotland, but the same thing applies

Perhaps it is EU trade rules, cost-to-value ratio or just some industrious Irish businessman began importing the stuff at the right time. Whatever the reason, along with the choice of Irish beers, American beers and whiskey, almost everywhere we went also had wines to offer. 

If you are so inclined, follow the new Irish trend of enjoying South American wine on this most Irish of holidays. I have raved about Chilean Merlot in past posts, and I have not softened on them at all. In fact, they are still some of the most complex, best value wines available. If you are more daring, take this opportunity to try a Chilean Carmenere with your corned beef tonight. Other options would be Malbec or Cabernets from Argentina or Tannat from Uruguay. 

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! 
Whatever you choose to drink - and however you choose to celebrate - do it responsibly, and keep in mind that Ireland, like the rest of the world, is fast evolving and developing a more sophisticated view of wine - with increasing consumption and enthusiasm for it. That, along with the Irishness of the day, is cause to celebrate.     

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hope in the New Year

This late into January, most New Year's Resolutions have long found their way to the curve along with the Christmas tree, the broken ornaments from the season and the cheesy gifts you can't return and feel too guilty to regift or even give away. 

Gone are the good intentions of losing weight, becoming a better person, being more assertive at the office, getting more involved in the community or the seemingly endless list of improvements people make late in December or early in January. By the time late January rolls around, everybody is - more or less - back to being themselves and their resolutions are boxed up and forgotten for another year. 

For those who are looking to still do good while not necessarily exerting too much energy, there is hope. Specifically, there is ONEHOPE Wines. ONEHOPE Wines gives half of their profits to social causes depending on which wine. Looking to help fight breast cancer? ONEHOPE's California Chardonnay will help you do that. Was your New Year's Resolution to go on a mission trip to provide clean drinking water for children in the developing world? That probably won't actually happen (again) this year, but you can crack open ONEHOPE's Central Coast Pinot Noir and help get clean water to those in need. 

Other causes associated with ONEHOPE wines is autism research, ending Alzheimer's disease, supporting our troops, ending childhood hunger and pet adoptions. 

2011 ONEHOPE California Pinot Noir
One Hope's California Pinot Noir. Half of All Profits go Towards Pet Adoptions

ONEHOPE recently sent me a bottle of their California Pinot Noir - where half of the profits go towards pet adoptions. 

The wine itself was light-bodied with a nose of chalk, cranberry and spice and full of cranberry  flavors. I couldn't help but think that these wines try to appeal to two different groups: those looking for a decent under $20 bottle of wine, and those who are looking for a wine that supports the same causes they do (Pinot for Pooches, etc.) and don't really care what the wine tastes like. 

Both motivating factors will help people purchase ONEHOPE wine and be satisfied with their decision. I would be interested to try some of their higher-end wines as a comparison to their under $20 California-appalated wines to see if there is a bit more complexity and character to them, but that will be another post for another time. 

For those who are looking to support good causes and drink drinkable, reasonably-priced wines at the same time, give ONEHOPE a look and a try. Better yet, host a Pinot for Pooches part and serve ONEHOPE to all your guests... Just a thought. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Washington Wine Academy's "State of Virginia Wine" Tasting

Jim Barker is passionate about wine. For the past 15 years or so, he has done everything to educate Washingtonians about how to properly appreciate, drink, buy, taste and enjoy wine through his Washington Wine Academy. He has been able to turn his passion into his profession and it shows with his dedication to any and all things wine.

Go to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on a Friday, there he is, pouring wine and trying to take a few moments to share what people are tasting rather than just pouring. 

If you happen into Crystal City seemingly any time during the summer months, there's Jim and his Washington Wine Academy volunteers pouring wine and appearing to have a great time. 

Barboursville is ubiquitous at Virginia Wine Events, as well as being one of the industry's leading spokeswineries

In a city that has both an established as well as an emerging wine culture, people like Jim and organizations like the WWA are vital - especially when the focus changes to wines that are produced locally. Such was the event the WWA recently hosted in a vacant storefront in Crystal City - the "State of Virginia Wine" tasting. 

Pearmund was serving their Bordeaux-style blend as well as a Chardonnay and Viognier during the "state of Virginia Wine" Event

The tasting brought together some of the state's most prominant wineries, and the $55 price tag meant that the crowd - while small - was a good mix of wine lovers and hipsters who felt like paying $55 to hang out in an empty retail space, drink wine and snack on cheese and crackers. There were good numbers of both types of people at the event. 

Tasters sampling some of Virginia's best wines: Linden, RdV, Barboursville

"I wanted this event to be all about the wine," said Barker. "I didn't want to put on another event where people can see how much wine they can drink for twenty bucks."

Jim Barker chatting with a sleazy member of the wine press
In order to keep the event all about the wine, Mr. Barker used his extensive contacts in the Virginia wine industry to get both the big names - Barboursville, Trump - and the elusive, craft wineries - RdV, Linden - to participate. Ten wineries in all were present, many of them highly rated or highly regarded in their own right. If the purpose was to highlight the "best of the best," the sample was well thought-out.

"The DC market still doesn't understand what Virginia wine is all about," said Barker. "We're damn lucky to be here and wanted to showcase the best of Virginia wine to the DC area." 

Indeed, Virginia wine is starting to become a victim of its own success. With so many wineries moving into the state, Barker predicts that there may be a serious grape shortage in the near future. There are now over 200 wineries in the state, and the quality ranges from highly sought-after, coveted bottles - Barboursville's Octagon, RdV's Rendezvous - to low-quality, fruit wines that are designed to lure tourists to a tasting room, but little else. 

With demand rising, wineries continuing to open their doors, and massive amounts of money flowing into the industry from people with names like "Trump" and "Case," the sense one gets when speaking to Barker, those who work in the wineries, or those who cover Virginia wine is that between the continuing increase in quality wines being produced in the state, the increase in money being pumped into the industry, and the increase in accolades that wine writers are giving Virginia wines, Virginia wine is poised to take off in a serious way.  

The "Taste of Virginia Wine" reflected the Virginia wine industry's recent self-confidence and demand to be seen as a major region in the world of wine.