Tuesday, December 4, 2012
If the questions was, "what should I get the wine-trinket lover this holiday season" or "what should I get the person who loves wine-themed kitchenware this holiday season," the answer may be different. However, I speak for all wine enthusiasts when I say what all wine lovers really want for Christmas is wine.
Yes, that $60 vacu-suck/pump wine opener is neat, but if the person has become the "wine-lover" on your holiday list, they already know how to open the bottle. Similarly, the wine-lover on your list doesn't need a cheap wire frame that is shaped like a wine bottle for their corks, silicon replacement corks that look like Star Wars characters, charms to distinguish wine glasses from one another, a necktie with wine names and labels on them or even bedazzled wine glasses.
All of these purchases seem like a great idea after two or three different wine tastings. That is why every winery on the planet stocks them. But all these gifts, while well-intended, won't be as appreciated and may not even go to use. I have a good-sized box of wine accessories that I have been given over the years tucked away in a closet. I doubt I am alone.
Unless the wine-lover/wino on your list has specifically asked for a new corkscrew, bedazzled wine glasses for special occasions or any number of other wine-related items, get them wine. It will be much more appreciated than any sort of wine-related gift could be.
"But I don't know anything about wine," is a common reply when I tell people to forgo the gimmicks and just give the wine-lover on their list wine. To that, let me just say that it doesn't really matter. It's the thought that counts. If you aren't a wine lover, you aren't expected to be one. Nor are you expected to shell out more than you are comfortable with to get an exclusive wine.
One of the great things about the current state of the wine industry is you can get really good, interesting bottles at just about any price range. I have sung the praises of Chilean Merlot in a previous post. You can get really good bottles of the stuff for under $10. If you are looking to spend a bit more, there are plenty of options under $20, under $30, under $40... You get the point. What's even better, if you are shopping for a wine-lover and know nothing about wine, staff at whichever wine store you go to will be happy to help you.
The few suggestions I would give is stay away from wines with cartoon animals on the label, and during colder months, more people drink reds than whites. Sparkling wines are always a good alternative - and given the growth in cavas from Spain and some really good domestic brands - sparkling wine does not need to be a bank-breaking gift, either.
If you choose to go with the tried and true, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Barolo from Italy, the famed wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone are always great go-tos.
If you want to get your wine-lover something from an less well-known appellation, try Pinot Noir from Oregon, Carmenere from Chile, Malbec/Merlot blends from Argentina, Pinotage from South Africa or Petit Verdot from Virginia.
Whatever you get for the wine-lover on your list, they will appreciate it. It's always easier to find space for another bottle of wine than it is to cram yet another trinket into a box of wine-related gifts of Christmas past.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Holiday gift writing tends to explain why wines in the $30 and up are worth it for non-wine drinkers and explain why certain wines cost what they do and why, for a gift, they are worth it. These usually end with a little joke that the card should indicate that in five years, the giver would be happy to help the recipient drink the gift wine.
To do something little different, I wanted to offer up a list of the types of wines I am most thankful for this year. These are not, necessarily, good wines for Thanksgiving. Nor are any of them really good gift wines unless you are a cheapskate. Rather, these are the wines that I find myself cracking open more often than not on a regular evening, or that I have come to appreciate throughout this last year.
1. Chilean Merlot. Chile and Washington State have put Merlot back on the wine map, and Chilean Merlots - with an abundance of dark fruit, chocolate, spice and earth - almost always punch above their weight. Usually under $10, Chilean Merlots have become some of the best value, versatile, everyday drinking wines out there.
2. Virginia Cabernet Franc. I have written a lot about this wine on this blog, and with good reason. The quality and diversity of the Cabernet Franc produced in Virginia continues to grow and is helping to pave the way wider acceptance of Virginia wines in general.
3. Virginia Viognier. Viognier is doing for Virginia white wine what Cabernet Franc is doing for reds. If word gets out on how good Virginia Viognier really is, it could become a go-to white of choice for Chardonnay drinkers looking for something a bit more complex and aromatic as well as Pinot Grigio drinkers who are looking for more body. With its melon, slate and honeydew flavors, it is also a great brunch wine.
4. Cotes du Rhone. While these wines are still gaining and popularity - and increasing in cost - you can still get some very good ones under $15 that are full of clove, spice and blackberries.
5. Grenacha. Spain's second major red wine varietal is starting to gain attention. While these big, bold and smokey wines can be a little rough around the edges, there are some great values out there - especially if you are looking for bigger, more full-bodied wines that pack a punch and are a great value.
6. Argentine Sauvignon Blanc. Let's face it - California Sauvignon Blanc under $15 is rarely good, and the New Zealand stuff is good, but can be fairly acerbic. Argentina is coming into its own with this varietal. There is still the minerality and slate of the New Zealand stuff, but without the over-abundance of gooseberry that turns some people off. These are great light, crisp and refreshing wines.
7. Blends. While pretty much all wines are blends - you only need 75% of a single varietal to put the name on the label - winemakers are becoming more comfortable to put "red blend" or "white blend" on the label. Of course, Bordeaux is still making great wines which, by law, need to be blended, but the trend is catching on in the New World, too. Blends offer depth and complexity that you can't get otherwise. And as long as you stay away from the overly-sweet blends, there are some really good values available.
All of the wines are simply the ones I have developed a greater fondness and appreciation for this year, and all of them tend to have great cost-to-value ratios. During the season of holiday parties, dinners and happy hours, any of these wines would make great gifts or things to order off the menu that won't break the bank, but will leave you satisfied.
Friday, November 9, 2012
It stands to reason that Virginia Wine Month continues to improve its outreach because the quality of Virginia wine continues to improve and more and more people see wine produced in Virginia as a viable option. True, there are still plenty of challenges in making Virginia a wine-producing region on par with stalwarts like France, California or Italy or Argentina, it is developing its niche among those who are willing to pay a little more for local as well as those eager to try wines from new and unique wine regions. And while Virginia wine will never compete with the likes of Australia or Chile when it comes to price, there are now some Virginia wines that can more than hold their own when it comes to quality.
Virginia Wine Month is also a great time to gauge the state's winemakers on how the harvest went and what the upcoming vintage will be like. Now that another Virginia Wine Month is behind us, this is the perfect time to get out to some of the wineries and start tasting Virginia wines that may be good options for Thanksgiving. The state is producing some very nice light-to-medium drinking Chambourcins with cranberry accents that would be the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
|"Whiskey" - with an "e" is Irish. "Whisky" sans "e" is Scottish|
|Yes, I prefer Murphy's but this is still a picture of happy|
|Crean's from the Dingell Brewery is one of the|
few microbrews we encountered.
|The Oban Distillery. Cold, rainy and windy weather calls for whisky.|
Monday, August 20, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Octagon has become a showcase wine because of its quality vintage after vintage. Imagine the pleasure people get once they realize that while Barboursville's Octagon is a great Virginia wine, it is by no means in a league of its own. Indeed, as Virginia's wine industry continues to grow, more and more high-quality, if less well-known, Bordeaux blends are being made.
Take, for example, Anghel. It is a side project of Rappahannock Cellars' winemaker Jason Burrus, which alone should tell you something. Named in honor of his wife, every year Jason sources grapes from thought the state - getting his hands on the best ones available - and blending them to his exacting standards. One year, it may be a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Another year, like the 2008 vintage, it may be a 50/50 blend of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. In essence, Anghel gives on of Virginia's great winemakers the ability to work with the best fruit and develop a signature product. The 2008 is extremely smooth with big red cherries, raspberries, cedar, vanilla and spice on the palette. Just to be smooth, the tannic structure gives way to even more smoothness on the long finish.
There are many, many other quality Bordeaux blends available from throughout the state - Cobbler Mountain's Meritage and Fabbioli Cellars Tre Sorele are two that come immediately to mind - and there are many more I have not yet tried.
Yes, The Octagon s good, and quite deserving of its reputation. However, someone's whole knowledge of Virginia's high quality blends shouldn't begin and end there. With so many other great blends being produced, that jus wouldn't b fair to any wine drinker.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
True, Virginia is gaining a reputation built on the shoulders of Cabernet Franc, Viognier and increasingly Petit Verdot. Yet, the industry is still so young and growing that people are willing to try new things - be it blends, varietals or growing techniques.
Take Doug Fabbioli. He has made a name for himself based on his reds. His Cabernet Franc Reserve is a great showcase wine for Northern Virginia. He doesn't stop there, though. He committed to planting several rows of Carmenere to see how they did. It didn't work out, but the effort was made. Several acres and several years of patience were invested to reach that conclusion. Doug said he is now leaning to tearing out the Carmenere and replanting. Given the time it takes grapes to grow - usually three years, the land involved, and the labor costs involved, it is a proposition that other more established wine regions wouldn't consider. In Virginia, winemakers like Doug feel it is worth it because there is still the freedom to experiment.
Not all test plantings have had the same results as the Carmenere. Indeed, both Tannat and Sangiovese have taken to Virginia better than anyone could have expected.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
|Yes, Barboursville has ruins, cows and wine. It also has large crowds and a theme park atmosphere|
All in all, given its reputation, size and location, Barboursville is a good place to start - especially as an introduction to Virginia wines. And there are many other wineries located nearby. The other wineries we went to on the first day were Reynard Florence and Keswick Vineyards. Neither of these had the crowds or chaos of Barboursville. True, they didn't have Thomas Jefferson-designed ruins on the property either, but that's a small price to pay for tranquility.
|Another view from another winery. For the life of me, I can't remember which one|
Rounding out our wineries for the day was Keswick, which does a hefty wedding business for good reason. The winery grounds are beautiful. Finishing off a day of wine tasting with dry Rose on a porch in a comfortable chair is never a bad thing. And, lest I forget to mention it, their wines are quite good, too. I was a fan of their Viognier and their Rose, though their Verdejo is also worth trying given that it is a unique varietal in Virginia.
This trip was also some of our friends' first experience with Virginia wines, and I am proud to say that they have now become fervent fans of Virginia Viognier. A weekend in Monticello will do that to just about anybody.
Friday, June 8, 2012
doors for good last Friday. That's sad news for DC-area food and wine
What Restaurant 3 did so well was comfort food with fresh and local
ingredients - shrimp and grits, fried oysters and pork. Lots and lots
of pork. Their happy hour pulled pork sandwiches were among my
favorite cheap eats around, but they didn't stop there. They made
their own bacon, infused that deliciousness into cocktails and hosted
PigFest. Seeing Adidas shorts-wearing men and yoga pants-sporting
women rushing to one of the 8,000 gyms in Arlington only to walk by a
fully roasting pig parked outside the restaurant was always priceless.
Of course, this is a wine blog and while their food - up to and
including their near-obsession with everything pig related will be
greatly missed - they also knew how to accompany their menu with wine.
While never the most extensive or esoteric wine menu, it was very
solid. It worked for and with the food available and ambiance that
Restaurant 3 had.
It is a shame that such a place needed to close its doors after nearly
five years in a prime location with a large and loyal fanbase. Here's
hoping whatever takes its place is also willing to park a smoker in
front and attached a whole pig to it.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
After that feat, we celebrated by visiting some of the Charlottesville area's most well-known wineries. This is my first trip down to the wineries of the area and they have, for the most part, lived up to the rave reviews I have been hearing since I started this blog a couple of years ago.
We started at Barboursville because, given its size, reputation and Most-Favored Winery status in the Governor's Mansion, it was the logical place to start. I wasn't a fan of all of their wines - their Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites and the Sangiovese and Merlot left much to be desired - the quality of the Reserve lines more than lived up to the winery's reputation. I couldn't help think that Barboursville is as close to the Napa Valley wine amusement parks like Beringer and Robert Mondavi that we will ever have on the East Coast, but it is well worth a trip and became so popular with good reason.
Monday, April 16, 2012
|Jefferson Vineyards was the Big Winner Among Stiff Competition|
To level the playing field, this year’s Bracket Challenge consisted of all Virginia Cabernet Francs, with a number of bloggers, restaurant and wine industry professionals tasting and judging the wines. Other bloggers included Allan from CellarBlog, Kurt from Wine About Virginia and Frank from Drink What You Like. Unlike the men’s basketball tournament, there are a lot fewer fake injuries and poor refereeing during wine tasting.
|Tools of the Trade for this Year's Challenge|
The 16 wines tasted were from wineries from all around the state, and all had won Governor’s Cup honors. While all the wines were Virginia Cabernet Francs, the diversity of the wine’s appearances, aromas and tastes led to some interesting discussions and opinions. Some were overflowing with green pepper, some had more graphite to them, and others smelled like a cranberry bog.
Pitting 16 Virginia wines against one another demonstrated not only the diversity of flavors and growing regions around the state, but also of increasing quality. While some of the wines were on the light, thin side, others could more than hold their own with Cabernet Francs – or Cabernet Franc-heavy blends – from other winegrowing areas of the world.
Of the wines that made it to the Final Four, one was from Loudoun County and the other three were from the Charlottesville area. Jefferson Vineyards was the night’s overall winner. Congratulations to the winemaking team at Jefferson Vineyards for creating this year’s Bracket Challenge winner.
|This Year's Winner & Runner-Up. Next Year, the Winning Winemaker will get to Cut Down a Net|
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Last year, the festival was a bit more focused on haute cuisine with Low Country food being elevated by all the chefs and students. There was also some bacon cotton candy that I am still thinking about. Notice a trend emerging?
This year, I am looking forward to tasting, trying and experiencing new foods and wines.
Both previous years, I have noticed a distinct lack of Virginia wines the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. Given the proximity of where some of Virginia's best wine comes from and where the festival is located, that's a shame.
Virginia wine - like the festival itself - keeps getting better. It would be great if the two could join forces. Maybe with some bacon thrown into the mix for good measure.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Fancy that, we chose to have wine with our game food of pigs in a blanket, mini-burgers and herb-garlic fries. I have written about great wines to pare with football in the past, and the Big Game is no exception. We opted for a Zinfandel and it went perfectly with both the game and the food we were serving.
I'm glad that I'm not the only one who prefers wine to beer when it comes to football, as some of the area's local wine shops were getting into the spirit of the game, too. Red, White and Bleu, for example, featured wines at $10 and $12 in honor of each team's quarterback. They also had deep discounts of cheese and charcuterie from New York and New England.
While wine will never, ever replace beer as football's signature drink, it does make for an enjoyable game. And say what you want about the incessant beer ads throughout the game, the Bud Light ad featuring Weego was pretty damn good, and it helped raise awareness of rescue dogs - a cause both beer and wine drinkers should fully support.
Friday, January 13, 2012
|It's not the 1K that's daunting. It's finding the first wine station|
To be clear, 1K is not an entirely long distance. If you are a competitive runner who does 5 miles on the treadmill before riding your bike to work, this is probably not the event for you - thought there was a bit more spandex on people last year than was necessary. On the other hand, if you are looking to try a bunch of new wines, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. And because 1K is better than no ks, you should enjoy that extra sample glass.
The Washington Wine Academy does a lot of good work around the area, and this event was a lot of fun last year. Hopefully I will be able to participate next year provided I am physically up for it.
Walking and drinking red wine at the same time can do a number on white shirts, and works lots of different muscle groups.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
While I wish Virginia wine had a better reputation, that Virginia wines were not segregated to the "local" section of most wine shops, and that consumers viewed Virginia wines as a viable and highly enjoyable option, changing mass opinion is a huge undertaking. Changing an individual's mind is far easier than changing a collective mind. All it takes is a corkscrew and a bottle that you like.
When someone scoffs at Virginia wine, I try to convince them that they are misguided and missing out. I will mention the advances in quality, the Old World characteristcs some of the wines now have have and the praise that the world's wine critics now bestow on wine from the Commonwealth.
When I can, I much prefer to show rather than tell people that there is some great wine being made in Virginia. I had the opportunity to do just that not too long ago. Someone was planning to host a party with local food and wine, but backtracked on the wine. "Virginia wine, to me, just sounds terrible," she said. After the party, I brought over a bottle of 2007 Chateau O'Brien Buddy's Bistro Red. It's deep, dark color, smooth tannins, ample dark fruit and spice characteristics made it a huge hit with everyone.
|Buddy is the dog on the label. His wine is quite good|
Make it a New Year's Resolution to try different wines from Virginia and tell others about the ones you like.