Thursday, March 24, 2011

I have a Virginia WIne Winning it All

Yup. There it is. I have Fabbioli Cellars' Cabernet Franc taking the whole enchilada. I'm not saying it's going to be an easy road to victory, but I'm comfortable with my picks. We'll see if I'm right tonight...

Stay tuned, fill out a bracket, come to the event and/or follow the results on Twitter (@BeltwayBacchus, @OneClassicWino).

The Bracket is Set. The Madness is Tonight

I have been impressed by the response the tasting fellow blogger Jessica Milby and I are putting on tonight. After planning, selecting the wines, and setting the bracket, we are finally going to be able to see which wine will win it all. We'll also get to see how Virginia wine stacks up against the heavy hitters from France and California, as well as against more recent wine powerhouses like Australia and Chile. Will one of the classic wine countries win it all? Will a plucky underdog prevail as a feel-good Cinderella story? Only time - and the tasters tonight - will tell. It should be noted that Virginia has produced several underdog success stories in recent years for that other bracketed March tournament...

People are getting excited about the tasting and I have had many people tell me that they are in the process of filling out their brackets, trash-talking wines that other people selected, and generally getting into it. It'll be a great tasting with more competitiveness and less snobbery than many wine tastings have. There are still a couple of slots available, too.

Even if you can't make it, feel free to fill out a bracket and follow the proceedings in real time on Twitter (@BeltwayBacchus, @OneClassicWino).

Game on!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Virginia Wine Week's Bracket Challenge

Virginia Wine Week starts tomorrow. The week is dedicated to raising awareness of Virginia wine by buying it from local grocery and wine stores and asking for it at restaurants you visit. Fireworks Pizza in Courthouse, one of our neighborhood standbys, has a decent selection of Virginia wine. More restaurants in the area are starting to increase the number of their Virginia wine offerings, too. If you want to learn more about Virginia wine glass by glass, tomorrow is a great time to start.

There are many other ways to experience and expand your knowledge of Virginia wine during the week, as well. Not least of these is the Virginia Wine Bracket Challenge. The Challenge is a tasting put on by myself and fellow wine blogger - and private wine-tasting hostess extraordinaire - Jessica Milby. Inspired by a certain basketball tournament that falls during Virginia Wine Week, the Virginia Wine Bracket Challenge pits Virginia wines toe-to-toe against their steepest competition.

Even if you can't make the tasting next Thursday, download a bracket on Facebook and follow us as the results of the night unfold on Twitter - @BeltwayBacchus @OneClassicWino #VAWineBrackets. I'm looking forward to Virginia Wine Week and even more excited to see how Virginia wines stack up against the competition.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ponzi’s Scheme: Fantastic Oregon Pinots

I know that the title of this post is a little predictable and cheesy, but I can’t help it – there was a slow softball pitched to me and I took full advantage of it. And I’m glad I did, because that means that I can relive my recent experience with Ponzi Vineyards, a pioneering family in the Oregon wine industry. Maria Ponzi, one of the daughters of the founders, current Director of Sales and Marketing, and sister of the winemaker, was recently in DC as part of the Capital Wine Festival. The wines were some of the most complex Pinot Noirs I have tasted in a long, long time. The food was delicious – especially the Pinot-braised pork osso bucco that Chef Mark Timms prepared that was paired with Ponzi’s 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir. The event was another success for the Capital Wine Festival and I am glad I got to spend some time sampling Ponzi’s wines and meeting the people behind them.

Ponzi’s history dates back to the start of the Oregon wine industry – the early 70s - when the Ponzis moved from Northern California with the sole purpose of making Burgundian wine in a cooler climate. Listing to Maria retell the story of her family leaving California to start their winery in Oregon, I was shocked by how piecemeal the whole move seemed. They knew that they wanted to move to Oregon, make wine made with Pinot grapes, and that’s basically it. They were basically making wine out of a garage for much of their history. Knowing how much time, energy, effort and money opening a winery nowadays costs, it’s amazing that the Ponzis gambled on starting a winery in what was then a remote hinterland far removed from the center of the American wine industry.

The gamble paid off, and Ponzi has been making fantastic wines ever since. My favorite wine was their 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir that’s complex and elegant with spiced cherries, licorice and a hint of earth throughout that ends in a long, velvety finish. It was one of several Pinot Noirs sampled, along with a crisp and refreshing Pinot Gris and a fuller-bodied Pinot Blanc that had pears, honeysuckle and floral hints on the nose and palate.

Throughout the dinner, I enjoyed speaking to Maria about her family’s history and the wine that they make. While their wine receives rave reviews from the usual suspects – both Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate have scored Ponzi wines highly - they are now one of the deans of Oregon’s wine industry. At their core, though, Ponzi is still very much a family business that is run with a start-up’s mentality.

I also kept thinking about how far the Oregon wine industry has come since the Ponzis first arrived to work with cooler climate grapes. Oregon wasn’t anywhere close to being on the wine map then, and it now has a reputation for making some of the best Pinots in the world. Virginia is in a similar situation now. While the state is making some great wine, it is still seen as a novelty, an offshoot of the locavore movement, or the passion of a few dedicated wine enthusiasts. With the same sort of dedication to producing great wines that the early settlers of the Oregon industry had, and with the patience and desire to see the industry flourish, it is only a matter of time until Virginia is as synonymous with Cabernet Franc and Viognier as Oregon is with Pinot varietals.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Washington Wine Academy’s 1K Wine Walk for the Cure of Boring

The Washington Wine Academy’s 1K Wine Walk was not for any cure, cause or awareness raising of any kind. Unless you count awareness of the Wine Academy itself and different wines from around the world. If you do, then it was quite successful. The event was well-attended, and I hope the inaugural Wine Walk was the kickoff to a new annual event on the DC wine calendar.

One of the things I really liked about the Wine Walk was the diversity of wine that was available for participants. There were wines from all over the world – ranging from well-known to more obscure regions and varietals. Virginia wine was well represented with a Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Norton available to taste at the different stops along the walk. I was a fan of the Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Chile, which was a light-bodied, easy drinking and smooth Pinot that was brimming with cherries, raspberries and just the lightest smack of mulling spice to round it out. Another standout was the Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc. Go figure, I liked a Virginia Cab Franc. This one was a nice full-bodied offering that was loaded with spiced cherries, vanilla, and an earthy, smokiness that yielded to a nice, dry finish. I was glad to see Virginia wines mixed in with wines from other regions and not segregated into a Virginia Stop on the walk.

The 1K wine walk is a new offering from The Academy that I hope becomes an annual event. It was certainly popular enough this year – so popular, in fact, that they had to add a second day. Participants ranged from those decked out in running gear - emphasizing the 1K part - to people in wine-tasting gear - including those ridiculous wine glass-holding necklaces – to people who just came out for a fun afternoon of wine tasting.

There is some room for improvement, though. Next year, I would like to see information on where participants can purchase the wine they are tasting. There was no information available to the walkers regarding where to buy bottles this year, nor was it possible to purchase the wine during the event. I am sure a store like Whole Foods or Total Wine would love the partner with the Washington Wine Academy for this event in order to drive a captive audience into their stores.

Overall, the event was a great success that was put on by a great organization. The Washington Wine Academy does a lot to raise awareness of wine in the DC area. From their Movie Nights at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse to their weekend Virginia Wine Tours to their more rigorous classes on wine appreciation and scholarship, they stand at the forefront of wine education and wine events in the region.