17 August, 2011

Time for Wines and Wagons - Lessons in Russian River Valley

Fog-omenal!  Is a descriptor I love...especially when it means perfectly cool, chilling fog after too-hot days anywhere else, or the effect that produces such yummy cool climate Pinots in the Russian River Valley.  But a lot of other factors contribute to the deliciousness.  Geology, viticulture and the art of winemaking.  I am thrilled to be able to get a glimpse into a "Day in the Life" of wine grape grower, Nick Leras.  We always hear that great wine is "made in the vineyard", so getting to see the art of grape growing from his perspective will be educational.  I plan on getting in touch with my pioneer ancestors during the covered wagon portion of the tour as well as working up an appetite for delish BBQ.  A better knowledge of how great wine gets made this weekend can be yours too.  Wines and Wagons . 

In addition to Leras, folks from Ancient Oak Cellars and Sandole Wines will be on hand to share their stories and their wine.  Ancient Oak is meant to have a wonderfully fogomenal Pinot Noir, which I am looking forward to try as well as the Sandole wines.  Sandole offers a Zinfandel too! If you have the time, make plans to join in as tickets are still available Click here...

Later in the day, a preharvest barbecue will bring more opportunities to meet all the talented, dedicated folks who bring wonderful wines to market. 

15 August, 2011

Drink Wine with Dinner #Dw2d2

If she had still been with us, Today would have been Julia Child's 99th birthday! To commemorate, the fabulous Rosina Wilson, (who actually met Julia), is suggesting we all drink wine with dinner tonight and honor Julia in personal ways. So we BrixChicks are getting together and celebrating with paired wine and dinner. With the Dow giving us all whiplash and the days getting shorter, we thought what more fun way than to challenge ourselves, by focusing on paired course where all the elements come from Trader Joe's.

We used some of the principles from Rosina's cool mini eBook, which she summarized for us here:

1) Geographic ~ where food & wine evolved together: Chianti and Tuscan game, steak, pasta; Alsace/German whites with quiche, trout, sausages; Oregon Pinot with alder-planked salmon...

2) Similarity ~ where food & wine have *matching* flavors, textures, etc.: A herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc with herbed goat cheese; a malolactic Chardonnay with a butter sauce; a berry-like Zin with duck/berry sauce; Champagne/sparklers with caviar (texture: "tiny bubbles")...

3) Contrast ~ where food & wine have *different* characteristics that you know will work well together (like harmony in music): Acidic wine (e.g. sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc) with butter/cream in food; sweet/fruity wine (e.g. Riesling, Grenache, Zin) with spicy food (e.g. curry, BBQ)...

4) "Equal Intensity" ~ Food & wine have approximately the same strength. Pinot Grigio with sole; Cabernet with roast lamb. (If one partner is slightly *less* intense than the other, it will play "supporting actor" and make the other partner the "star.")

5) Personal Preference ~ Whatever you like! Traditional: Champagne/sparkling wine with caviar; Burgundy/Pinot Noir with roast beef. "Daring pairings": Champagne/sparkling wine with KFC or popcorn; Burgundy/Pinot Noir with BBQ ribs/pulled pork.

Here is the menu so far:

Julia's potato Leek Soup

Mastering the Art of...Monday Dinner!

Happy Birthday Lambrusco Cupcakes!
We will be interested in reading about what you plan at #DW2D2. Stay tuned for our updates later this week and

Happy birthday, Julia!
Bon appetit!

09 August, 2011

#wbc11 Last of before...

After a great experience at Chrysalis, the bus took us to a fun restaurant in Middleburg.  Even though the mercury said stay inside,  most of us ventured out to explore the town.  I don't think Middleburg got the memo, as the snark factor was almost as high as the humidity.  Stacey and Wendy are so awesome, I will forgive them for taking us to the Jan Brady of the 'burgs. 

Next stop, Boxwood Winery.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I tumbled from the air conditioned coach into the bright sunshine.  Now I know, if I find myself stuck in the Middleburg again, I will head straight to 16 East Washington Street and knock back some tasty rose.
Everything about Boxwood was manicured and gorgeous.  And miraculously welcoming and not the least bit "horsey" in feel.  Whew!  The property is after all an historic horse farm.  We explored the facility where no expense was spared in providing all the accouterments to control every facet of the production.  Even the bottling line had a jewel box feel. 
Later we found that Stephane Derneoncourt consults to help them create the best expression of Virginia in a distinctly Old World feel.  We tried all the wines, which were all red and based on a Left Bank and a Right Bank iteration of red and rose.  The Boxwood was my favorite.

'07 Boxwood, Boxwood, Virginia A blend of Cab Sauv with Merlot and PV, it's a dark lovely wine with black fruit and a smidge of tobacco. And at only $25 a bottle, awesome QPR!  
'07 Topiary, Boxwood, Virginia A blend of mostly Cab Franc blended with Merlot and Malbec in the Right Bank style.  I got a lot of nice blueberry in this.  The finish was nice.
I am looking forward to opening up these wines with some Bordeaux loving pals to initiate them into Virginia wines. 
It was a fun visit thanks to a ton of attention from EVP Rachel Martin.  If you find yourself in the area, be sure to make an appointment to visit:

So, the preconference ended and the bus headed up to Charlottesville.  I can't say thank you enough to Stacey and Wendy from Visit Loudoun for making this introduction to Virginia so fun, comfortable and informative.  Thanks again for a great orientation!  And to the other overachievers on the Preconference tour!  It was a great group of intrepid bloggers. Cheers to:

08 August, 2011

#wbc11 Still Before...

Jenni McCloud is a evil temptress. More about that later...

Grandale Farms Dining Room
After a fun and filling dinner at Grandale Farms restaurant, a real and historic farm house where food was sourced locally and many Virginia wines were offered, I hit a wall. Reviewing the wine list, the wine I wanted to try but didn't quite make it to, was the Chrysalis Norton Locksley Reserve. Luckily, the very next day, breakfast of champions was a banana on the bus and then on to tasting through the wines at Chrysalis Vineyards.

Perhaps because of the sketchy breakfast (I blame the Hilton Garden Inn, as my stay there was so restful, it was like a coma and I slept through my feeding time), so driving up to the tasting room, and looking at the shiny black cows, all I could think about was dairy. But once I rolled up to the tasting area with tour leader Pat Hess at the helm, entertaining and informative stories paired as well with the wine as I imagine the wine will companion food.

I tried:
'07 Tannat, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia : Described as a "cigar wine", this had a lot going on in the aroma with a curl of smoke and leather. The flavors were black fruit hit with spice and mocha vanilla. It had great tannins. I generally love the Tannats I have tried for mouth puckering tannins and dust, but this expression had , in addition, a well-mannered structure that made it very appealing.

'10 Mariposa, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Lovely color. Interesting blend (lost to my bad penmanship) with lilting aromas of cherries.

'10 Albarino, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Partial as I am to most Albarinos, this was a nice one with hints of pineapple and lovely balance. 

'10 Sarah's Patio White, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Yummy porch etc. wine. Blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette, Slight sweetness balanced with acidity. Refreshing. Sarah is a ghost, or rather a 16 year old whose headstone was discovered on the estate.

'10 Sarah's Patio Red, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: 100% Rose of Norton My first swish of the Real American Grape!® Intoxicating aromas and flavors of tart cherries. At 2.8 residual sugar, it is semi sweet and meant to be serve well chilled. The sweetness and cherry profile made me want to go out and build a cheese plate around it as this would make a good match for some interesting cheeses.

'10 Barrel Select Norton, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: 100% Norton made whole cluster fermented (like a Beaujolais), then barrel aged in 100% new Virginia oak. 

'07 Norton Estate Bottled, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia Yum! The wine was very dark with intoxicating aromas of black fruit and berries and nice tannic structure.  I liked it very much. Cultivation of this variety takes patience and passion and the folks at Chrysalis have both.

'08 Norton Locksley Reserve, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia:  my favorite.  75% Norton, 12.5% PV and 12.5% Nebbiolo this wine is intriguing with lots of dust, pepper, cocoa and black fruits.  It had a lovely finish and seemed like it would be very companionable with food.  

Petit Manseng
While Chrysalis produces a number of interesting European varieties, the real story here is Norton.  ( And the Norton's story can be found in Todd Kliman's interesting book, The Wild Vine )At one time, the Norton grape, a hybrid developed by a Dr. Daniel Norton, whose own story casts him as the Heathcliff of viticulture, was the US's leading grape.  It made its way from Virginia to Missouri and then, under the aegis of David Horton (with whom we would visit on the WBC Touring Day), back again.  But at Chrysalis, Jennifer Mc Cloud grows more Norton than anyone else in the world.  The Norton has the hardiness of the native grapes without any of the "foxiness", a term used to described a musky character to the point of flaw, found in wines made from native grapes.  Still, Norton vines require years to mature before the fruit becomes usable, and they need to be carefully cultivated, trellised, and harvested.  All this makes the achievement of the Chrysalis team more impressive.  In the book, The Wild Vine , I read about blind tasting the Norton with European wines and I am looking forward to baiting some Wine Snark friends. 

In a world where lots of people seem to want to "Six -drops- of -essence- of- terror,-Five- drops- of- sinister- sauce"-up a reasonable facsimile of what sells, Chrysalis invests to draw out unique expressions of their local terroir.  Which makes for soulful, distinctive wines. 

And in the future, they will use the Devon Milking cows and heritage chickens to leverage more expressions of the terroir in the form of cheese and hopefully ice creams too! 

So okay, wine and potentially all kinds of luscious dairy, too. how can I call Jenni Mc Cloud an evil temptress?  As a parting gift she shared with us a dram of Petit Manseng dessert wine.  A wine whose production is fiendishly difficult and thus whose supply is constrained at best.  It is also a wine served on  the level of heaven where the wedding guests from Cana get their glasses filled.  Silky, sweet but structured so as not be cloying.  With interesting hints of candied loquat and other exotic flavors.  So delish!  And you can't buy it...

Me with Pat Hess
Unless you are A VIP wine club member.  Okay,  so maybe more brilliant marketer than evil temptress.  Definitely a great winery leader.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Chrysalis and when I finish up all the wine I bought, I will seriously consider the VIP all access pass.  Many thanks to Pat Hess, Jenni and everyone at Chrysalis who made our visit so fun!

05 August, 2011

#wbc11 Still before...

Yay!  After a fun an informative tasting at Tarara, the next stop was Breaux Vineyards.  There we were greeted by a welcoming glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.  In the sizzling heat, the wine was tasty and refreshing.  Virginia wine definitley ignited my sense of adventure! Evidence: when the folks at Breaux proposed a hayride (in the shimmering heat and swimmable humidity), I leaped enthusiastically aboard! 

 On the way, Chris Blosser gave us an update on BreauxVineyards to put the lovely vistas in context.  Started by his father in law,  Paul Breaux in 1994, it remains very much a family business.  Chris told us  a great story of his father in law's fascination with Nebbiolo when he tasted it on vacation in Italy.  Without an interpreter, he managed to get a lesson and created a plan, which manifested in the tasty Nebbiolo currently being produced.

Glorious vistas aside, I nearly melted and was delighted to escape the heat in the 12c wine cave. 

Tasting through, I tried;
'10 Viognier, Breaux Vineyards, Virginia: Clear, pale citrine color.  Aromas of stone fruit and apricot. Delicious acidity that made it very pairable. 
'07 Nebbiolo, Breaux Vineyards, Virginia (barrel sample): Lovely dark color, with fragrance of cherries and spice.  Definitely a wine that wanted to be served with food.  Its tannins were assertive to the border of politeness, which the winemaker, David Pagan Castano,  said they intended to tame with aging.
'07 Meritage, Breaux Vineyards, Virginia:  A Cab Sauv centric blend with lots of black fruit and peppery aromas with a hint of chocolate  The flavors were yummy  with more black fruit and cocoa.  15% alcohol but well integrated so that the alcohol wasn't front and center.
and my favorite:
Girls just want to have Cab Franc or fun!
'07 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Breaux Vineyards, Virginia: My big surprise was how much I loved Virgina Cab Franc and this one is delicious.  With  a rich, round mouthfeel and lovely black fruit and spice, the two bottles I managed to bring home are already gone, pairing well with pork chops and mango-ginger chutney and delighting Xandria, who initially did not want to try it.  Yum!  Yes, at 16.3% alcohol, it packs a wallop, but it is so well integrated that you don't notice the booze, just the yummy flavors and aromas. 

Definitely delightful.  As was the hospitality of the team at Breaux.  The crawfish in the label celebrates the family's Cajun heritage and their tradition of hospitality.  I can vouch it is a super fun place to visit.  Beautiful land and delish wine!  Many thanks to Jennifer, Chris and team! And of course to Stacy and Wendy at Visit Loudoun, who made our preconference so comfy and fun!

Next up:
Chrysalis or Jenny McCloud is an evil temptress...

04 August, 2011

#wbc11 Before.....

"Honey, why would you want to drink that?" A question posed  to me in the maple sugar tones of a very charming and brilliant gentleman farmer, whose much vaunted efforts in Northern California have eclipsed his Southern heritage. Still, his comments were less terrifying than Napa's North Carolina graftee who assured me, when I overheard her saying all Virginia wine was White Zin, that she had meant that comment in the best sense.

I was already all in ...not just for the conference, but for two full days of preconference in Loudoun County. The promise of seeing Monticello in person as well as wine blogger camaraderie was going to have to be enough. I could hoard my Sharing Wine if worse came to worse. Maybe I could load up at Vino Volo on my way out of the State?

Bitch slapped by the mean heat of Minneapolis (92 degrees in the jetway at 5:30 am local time? Really?) as I changed planes, the discordant rhythm of my day did not seem set to improve as I slogged through Dulles ready to take my lashes and take on the soggy heat and the prospect of days of white Zin.


However, the universe favors the intrepid.

As soon as I saw Stacey, I knew I was in capable hands. Visit Loudoun was officially on. Air conditioned coach. Fellow bloggers. And one of my favorite people in the whole world, Melanie Ofenloch, aka Dallas WineChick.  Our first stop was Tarara.  We were met by the enthusiastic and engaging winemaker, Jordan Harris.  Even though the team was so welcoming, the phrase "Whywhywhywhy...White Zin." kept repeating Rod Serling-style in my head. 
With the first sniff of the '09 Charval, Virginia ($20), the voices of the haters fell away.  A delightful blend of 66% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Gris, 9% Viognier and 7% Sauvignon Blanc, the cacophony I now experienced was delicious aromatics.  Sigh of relief.  This wine is good!
We went on to try:
'10 Viognier, Williams Gap Vineyard, Virginia: 100% Viognier The aim of this to have a fresher style was acheived.  Exotic fruits. white peach, with interesting notes of white flowers, the wine also had a nice mouthfeel and lovely finish.  Yum!

'09 Nevaeh (na-VAI-ah) White, Virginia:  70% Viognier with 30% Chardonnay.  Interesting blend produced aromas of mandarin orange sections, cedar and spice.  It had a nice mineral quality, which they said came from the limestone deposits in that section of the vineyard.  It felt a little food slutty; it was better with a snack than alone. Luckily, the table was a locavore's delight. 
'09 Three Vineyards Chardonnay,  Virginia: 100% Chardonnay Golden color, long finish with aromas of pear, fennel seed, baking spice.  The cooperage was interesting in that on this wine, Tarara uses oak from a small forest near the Loire, Jupilles, where the trees are 150 years old and in a cool climate, so very dense.  50% new and 50% 2nd year.  The oak treatment was pleasantly balanced. 
'97 Chardonnay, Virginia: Golden dark straw color.  Aromas of toasted marshmallow.  Super smooth with ripe pineapple at front palate and Marin County forest floor in the middle and in the finish. 

'09 Three2One Cellars - Tranquillity: Collaboration of three wineries who use fruit from the same vineyard.  The three offer their two best barrels to blend.  With aromas of eucalyptus, raspberries and hint of Meyer lemon peel and interesting woody flavors and subtle raspberry flavors in finish, it was delicious.

'08 Commonwealth CasaNoVa, Virginia: 53% Merlot,31% Cab Sauv, 9%Petit Verdot, 7% Cab Franc Dark gorgeous color, alluring aromas of black fruit, chocolate and hint of mint. Cocoa oak in the flavor and a pleasant and elegant finish. 

After tasting through the Tarara wines, they took us to the caves where we sampled from the barrel a Petit Manseng that tasted like it wanted to become a sherry, with Tio Pepe like cuminy hints. All in all an auspicious start to my VirginiaWine Odyssey. 

Next stop :
Breaux Vineyards