Tuesday, May 24, 2011

35 Years After the Judgment of Paris and 2 Months After the Virginia Wine Bracket Challenge

If you haven’t seen the movie Bottle Shock, it is definitely worth watching, preferably with a bottle of wine or two. The movie depicts the organization of the Judgment of Paris wine tasting where California wines beat out their French counterparts through a blind tasting that was comprised of all French judges. The movie is very enjoyable, and not just because Severus Snape is cast as the wine merchant who organized the tasting.

35 years ago today, the Judgment of Paris put the international wine world on notice that terrific wine doesn’t need to come just from France or Italy. The New World is more than capable of creating high quality wines – and is even capable of producing superior wines – than those of the Old World. What constitutes "the New World" of wine keeps growing and expanding.

California is now part of the wine world’s Establishment – with Napa Valley wines rivaling those of France in terms of both reputation and price tag. What was true of the Judgment of Paris, however, is still true today: upstart wine regions are capable of holding their own against more established wine regions. Wines coming out of Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Oregon, New York and Virginia can stand toe-to-toe with wines from France, Italy, Germany, Napa and Sonoma Counties. What’s more, you can find much better values on wines coming from emerging wine regions than you can on wines from more established regions. I have recently had a Chilean Pinot Noir by Anakena, an Argentinean Syrah by Fingerprints, and a Virginia Rosé by Fabbioli Cellars that rival similar offerings from the Old World or California.

Our Virginia Wine Bracket Challenge was held two months ago, with wines from Virginia and Chile taking top honors. I’m not claiming that our tasting will put Virginia on the wine map the way the Judgment of Paris put Napa Valley on the wine map. For one thing this blog is far, far away from being Time Magazine. For another, the fact that great wine is now being produced all over the world isn't all that newsworthy. It seems like there's a hot new wine region emerging every year. As wine consumers, it means that we’re fortunate to be able to have such an abundance of high quality wines readily available to us at great prices. Some are from further away than we could ever have imagined while others are from our own backyard.

Friday, May 6, 2011

For Mother’s Day, Give a Bouquet of Rosés

Every year there’s a spike in flowers in the early part of May for Mother’s Day. And why not? Who doesn’t want to do something special for their mom on Mother’s Day? Flowers, chocolate, maybe a spa treatment… These are all great ideas, but by this point, they’re all tired, too. You’d be better off making her a macaroni picture or gluing some shells to a picture frame.

Or you can get her something she would actually enjoy, use and appreciate. I am talking, of course, about some dry Rosé. Virginia is starting to make more Rosé and what it’s producing is startlingly good. Rosé is also becoming more and more popular in other wine-growing areas - and with good reason. Rosés are light, crisp, refreshing and complex. Often with an abundance of strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavors, Rosés are perfect for the spring and summer, and your mom will likely love them, too.

A few really good Rosés coming out of Virginia are Ingleside Winery’s Rosato di Sangiovese, a 100% Sangiovese Rosé, Fabbioli Cellars’ Rosa Luna, which is also 100% Sangiovese, Bluemont Vineyard’s “The Donkey” Dry Rose which is a blend of Nebbiolo, Viognier and other grapes and Tarara Winery’s Dry Rosé which is a blend of all the red grape varietals that they grow. Hume Vineyards is also expected to release a Rosé later this spring, which I am looking forward to. Hume’s owner and winemaker is from the Loire Valley, which is home to some of my favorite Rosés. One that Caitlin and I have been drinking with some regularity this spring is the Bougrier Rosé D’Anjou, which is primarily Cabernet Franc.

All these Rosés are extremely drinkable and each of them is helping to dispel the myth that pink wines are artificially sweetened fruit juice for grown-ups. What’s more, your mother - as well as everyone else - will love them. Bring your mother some Rosé on Mother’s Day and become her favorite child. The only problem is that roses will last longer than Rosés after people get a chance to taste them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paradise Springs is All Grown-up

It seems like only yesterday that a new winery in Fairfax was fighting with local authorities to be able to open its doors. Looking back at all the struggles Paradise Springs faced initially, and all of the winery’s subsequent success, the opening of their new facility - and their successful opening weekend - serves as a nice reminder to all Paradise Springs has overcome and accomplished in its brief history thus far. To recap: yes, there are still rural parts of Fairfax County. Yes, Paradise Springs makes good wine. Yes, the new facility will help Paradise Springs take their operation to the next level. The fact that they are just a quick trip from downtown DC – I-66 permitting – is just an added bonus to plan a visit.

Paradise Springs is receiving ample support from both the Virginia wine industry and from local and state officials now that they have established themselves and their Chardonnay has won the Governor’s Cup. Their award-winning Chardonnay was one of the wines served at the Grand Opening. The other was their Cabernet Franc, which readers of this blog may have heard once or twice, is one of the varietals that grows extremely well in Virginia.

Gone are the days when Fairfax County zoning officials tried to claim that the winery was actually a manufacturing plant and not a farm. Even with the new facility, Paradise Springs is very much a farm, a winery, and a welcome addition to the exploding wine industry in the state. Virginia Wine Time has a good run down of all the big wigs, fat cats and honchos who were in attendance as well as lots of pictures of the event.

As for the new facility itself, there are essentially three different areas: a tasting room with bar large enough to accommodate several busloads of guests at a time, a production facility/barrel room and a large patio with a fireplace, tables and wooded views. The new building fits in with the current feel of Paradise Springs. Prior to the new facility opening, tastings were done in an old farmhouse and overflow crowds could taste in the barn as well. There was almost always overflow because, as charming as the old farmhouse is, it wasn’t big enough to accommodate the crowds. The barn and the new facility are adjacent to one another with the new facility mimicking the look and feel of the old barn’s exterior. The inside balances modern with traditional very well. The tasting bar side has a cozy feeling to it, despite being a large, airy space.

A portrait of Thomas Jefferson hangs on the wall, and I’m sure he’d be proud of what Paradise Springs, and Virginia wine in general, has accomplished.