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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge - #7 Old 690 Brewing Company & #8 Mad Horse Brewpub

We continued our #VABreweryChallenge by visiting two Loudoun County breweries Old 690 Brewing Company (Purcellville) and Mad Horse Brewpub (Lovettsville). On January 21st, 2015 Old 690 celebrated the repeal of Prohibition of Loudoun farm breweries as the county's Board of Supervisors approved allowing breweries on farms provided they use crops grown on site in the brewing process. Old 690 satisfies this requirement by growing hops behind the brewery. At the tasting bar, we settled on splitting an eleven beer sampler, reveling in the diversity of their portfolio. Chris and I agreed on their two IPAs (21 Session & Bitter Neighbor) and the Stoner Point Smoked ale whereas I also liked the 690 Beer (Blonde ale) and Happy Neighbor Tripel. With two large screen TVs showing March Madness, GK's BBQTruck, and a fire pit - this is a brewery to camp out.

Lovettsville is a scenic 15 minute ride from Old 690 and Mad Horse is located in a renovated funeral home near the Community Center.  Brewer, Tom Troxell utilizes a 7bbl mash/tun and brew kettle and several 7bbl fermenters.  Instead of a sampler, Chris continued with an IPA, the Mad Falcon IPA and I settled on the Resurrection Pale Ale.  Both were clean, hoppy, and refreshing. Next time I'll hit the blonde ale, hefeweisen, brown ale. The food at Mad Horse matches Lovettsville's German heritage - so go with the bratwurst and Bavarian pretzel. And for the winos, the brewpub offers a few wines from North Gate Vineyards, ironically located yards from the turnoff to Old 690. Cheers and safe travels.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Travis Book's #Bluegrass, #Beer, and #Bikes Tour

Readers should know I'm a fan of biking to breweries and also a fan of Travis Book and The Infamous Stringdusters. MyJoogTV Episode 8 features the two of us, along with his wife Sarah Siskind, discussing beer and music with master brewer Jason Oliver at Devils Backbone Brewing Company.  This weekend Book combines all three in the Bluegrass, Beer, and Bikes Tour, presented by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.

Each show will take place at a different craft brewery in the Appalachians, where Book will host a group mountain bike ride in each town. Proceeds from every show will benefit local bike clubs.

The four day event "kicks off on Thursday, March 26th, at Oskar Blues Brewery’s Tasty Weasel Taproom in Brevard, N.C. Friday, March 27th, includes a stop in Boone at the Appalachian Mountain Brewery, while Saturday, March 28th finds Travis back on his home trails at Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Va. The weekend winds up on Sunday, March 29th, at Soaring Ridge Craft Brewery in Roanoke." Below are theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator profiles for each brewery. Cheers and safe travels.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Is the Capture Artisan Wine Tour Visiting Your City?

On April 10-11, I will be attending one of the many stops of the Capture Artisan Wine Tour, "an epic urban party, celebrating beautiful but affordable artisan wines, paired with cuisine from the hottest local chefs. It's set to great music, in a downtown arts-district venue filled with rebel winemakers, marquee restaurateurs and rising culinary stars". Let's hope it's epic.  The tour stops in ten U.S. cities throughout the year, starting in Washington DC April 10-11 at Union Market. There are both matinee and evening events with the former an affordable option at $89 plus a $20 Lyft voucher.

What does admission get you? First an impressive selection of American wine, with Oregon and Sonoma overly represented. Pinot anyone?  Then there's the local fare specific to that city which includes fresh, farm-to-table dishes; seasonal locavore specialties; petit-bites; artisan cheeses and chocolates; locally sourced delicacies; and a variety of champagnes, brandies and creative cocktails from top mixologists. Sounds like a good party.

Update:I just learned that the first six stops of the Capture Wine Tour has been postponed until Spring 2016. The tour will begin in September in San Francisco. The east coast cities will commence following the west coast tour.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Time for Some Irish Red Ale on St. Patrick's Day

Remember the day when Killian's was the only "Irish" Red Ale option if Smithwick's Ale wasn't available or you tire of Guiness? Well these days there are plenty of Irish red's around. This style normally is a bit sweet with toasted malt on the front leading to a medium hoppy dying finish. And don't expect a strong hop aroma. Some breweries attempt to pass off caramel colored lagers as Red Ales (i.e. Killian's); so read the label.

The History Behind George Killian's Irish Red According to Wikipedia
George Killian's Irish Red is a beer with an Irish heritage, based on a recipe created at Lett's Brewery in Enniscorthy, Ireland, in 1864. The beer is named after George Killian Lett, the great-grandson of George Henry Lett, who founded the brewery in Enniscorthy. George Killian Lett died at the age of 84 in Enniscorthy, Ireland in December of 2010. It was originally an Irish red ale called "Enniscorthy Ruby Ale," and brewed from 1864 to 1956, when the brewery closed and it was discontinued. It is no longer sold in Ireland. The brand name "George Killian's" was purchased by the Pelforth Brewery in France. In the mid 1980s Coors bought the rights to use the brand name "George Killian's Irish Red" in America.

This weekend I tasted a few American versions that were available in the DC market and have some recommendations:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What Are the Best Wine Case Clubs in Virginia and Maryland?

Since Winter has stubbornly succumbed to Spring, I'll be navigating to Northern Virginia and Maryland wineries testing theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator.  Despite traveling the wine roads for over a decade, I've never joined a wine case club. No particularly reason; but I think this is the year. Thus, I've researched local NOVA and MD wineries that offer clubs and asked for suggestions from the well informed members of the Virginia Wine Mafia Facebook group. Here are a few of their suggestions (plus a few hints from proactive wineries). Beneath that is a list of the wine club benefits for almost 30 Virginia and Maryland wineries. Cheers and safe travels.
Anthony Marocco of Virginia Pour House
By far the best wine club in the state has to be Rappahannock Cellars. Two bottles a month, flat rate 50 bucks, club appreciation events, and to top it ALL they offer 50% off ALL cases mixed or matched for all club members. So if you buy 12 bottles 6 at 30 bucks and 6 at 10 bucks, your price is 15 bucks for six and 5 bucks for the other six. How can you beat that? It allows for people to be able to afford to drink Virginia wine nightly if they choose rather than having to go to Trader Joe's.
Vicki Fedor North Gate Vineyards
No signup fee. 3 bottles every quarter, winemakers' choice, but you can switch out. 15% off that allotment. Pickup parties with extra tastings, barrel tastings, food, winemaker presentation. Any other time: 2 free tastings per visit, one group of 4 free tastings per quarter, 10% off bottles, 15% of 6 packs, 20% off cases. We're beginning to off after hours club only events, and have made several wines (with more to come) for members only. Members get discounted rentals.
Erica Johansson
I'm a member of Breaux Vineyards, Sunset Hills Vineyard & Winery, Fabbioli Cellars, and Hiddencroft Vineyards . They are all excellent clubs in what they offer, and the deals that they offer. One thing that is different among them is Hiddencroft's. It's a one time purchase of a case of wine...and you're a club member (2 free tastings each visit, and I forget what the discount on wine is?). But that's it. There's no further commitment required and you're still a case club member.
Silvia Miller, wine educator at Breaux Vineyards
We have 2 bottles every other month and the price is still the same since 2005 . And for the month of release you have the 20% discount of your current release, complementary tasting and more.
Kurt & Carol Jenson of Wine About Virginia
Our first was North Gate (see Vicki's post) and currently we also belong to Keswick, 3 bottles each quarter; Gadino, 2 bottles each quarter, and Breaux. We have been case club members (buy a case at one time, you are in for a year) of Linden for a couple years, and for the last year of Glen Manor. Plus Arterra.

868 Estate Vineyards (Purcellville, VA) The Vine Case Club
  • Quarterly shipments of the winemaker’s choice of wines which will include a selection of world trend wines, local Virginia wines and wines from 868.  (The cost will be between $65 – $85 plus s&h unless you choose to pick up the wines at 868 Estate.)
  • A free standard tasting for yourself and a guest when you visit us at the vineyard
  • A 10% discount on purchased wine and merchandise, excluding original art from our gallery
  • A 20% discount on case purchases on event nights for The Vine
  • Email notification of special events and promotions
  • Our quarterly newsletter with features, wine and food pairings, tips and special offers

Arterra Wines (Delaplane, VA) The Vintage Priority Club or the Red White and Blue Club
  • The Vintage Priority Club — Premium Reds: You will be invited to a futures tasting annually in the cellar with winemaker Jason Murray, where you will taste and choose your selection of wines for the year. While some younger drinking wines may be bottled but not released, others will still be in barrel, and others will be blended in stainless steel tanks in preparation for bottling. This is a unique experience. The initial 2013 offers Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Tannat. Varietals and quantities may change yearly, but potentially include Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and our Reserve blend. (The wines will be sold at retail price. Attendance of the Futures Tasting will have an additional fee, but is not mandatory. Your ranking of choice of varietals and quantities will guide our allocation, but exact allotment cannot always be guaranteed due to fluctuations in vineyard yields that limit potential volumes of each individual wine — however, overall production of the wines in the future derived from vineyard blocks will be aimed towards matching club member preferences.)
  • The Red, White, & Blue Club: As a thanks and tribute to the great people of America that rallied to help establish our business, and the amazing United States Department of Agriculture loans and grants that facilited our launch and left us thankful to be in the “Land of Opportunity,” the Red, White, & Blue Club further showcases the diversity of this great land, offered in metaphor as a diverse selection of our wines. Your annual allocation will include four bottles of Red wine, four bottles of White wine, and four bottles of Blueberry Apple Wine. Participation in this club is also very limited, due to minimal production of white wines at Arterra. The wines will be sold at retail price.

Barrel Oak Winery (Delaplane, VA) BOW Club
  • Membership is only $195 for 2 years and includes
    • 15% off all glass, bottle and case wine purchase
    • Free BOW tasting for up to 8 individuals upon the Owner’s visit to the winery. (If a party greater than 8 is planned, please call BOW first to inquire about space availability)
    • Free Vintage Piedmont Lifetime membership
    • Special private club member parties from June to September

Black Ankle Vineyards (Mt. Airy, MD)
  • Members opt to receive either four, six, or twelve bottles of wine, four times each year
  • Access to limited production wines not available to the general public
  • Exclusive opportunity to receive new wines before release to the public, retailers, and restaurants
  • Complimentary tasting for Club Members and guests during visits to our tasting room
  • Special invitations to members only events

Boordy Vineyards (Hydes, MD) The Landmark Club
  • Receive the new vintage of every Landmark Series wine, including Reserve wines.
  • Highly limited production wines will be set aside for Landmark Club members.
  • Included in your quarterly wine packages will be a newsletter written for the Landmark Club by winemaker Tom Burns, vineyard manager Ron Wates, and owner Rob Deford; detailed tasting notes; and delicious recipes custom made for each wine.
  • Pickup parties with 
  • Wine activities such as tasting young wines straight from the barrel; vertical tastings of previous vintages; sales from Boordy's library of wines; and sales of limited release wines.
  • Complimentary wine tastings at Boordy Vineyards for four people per visit.
  • 10% off all Boordy wines purchased at the winery, Boordy's festival tent, or farmer's market booth - good for single bottle purchases or more.
  • No membership fee.

Boxwood Winery (Middleburg, VA) Wine Club
  • Two shipments a year in Spring & Fall
  • Discount on purchases the day you join:
    • 20% Discount: Platinum Plus, Platinum, & Gold Levels
    • 10% Discount: Silver Level
  • Discount during membership year
    • 15% case discount
    • 10% bottle discount
  • Member Referral Program
  • New release priority
  • Exclusive quarterly events for Club Members
  • Advance notification of all wine events at the Winery & Wine Bars

Chrysalis Vineyards (Middleburg, VA) VIP Wine Club
  • Enjoy Chrysalis Vineyards premium wine selections hand selected by our winemaker, every month! This includes one white and red wine , a total of 2 wines – or – you may also choose the option of “White Only”, “Red Only” or “No Sweet” membership, pick - up or ship , in - state and out, AND w e hold your wines for up to six months.
  • Save 15% on all wine, food, gift purchases + facility rentals , regardless of quantity purchased every visit.
  • Visit our tasting room as often as you like for 4 c omplimentary Reserve Tasting s ! • Attend both our Hottest Cool Jazz Festival (spring) and Norton Wine and Bluegrass Festival (fall) for FREE.
  • Attend our monthly VIP Pick - Up P arties catered ONLY to our club members for complimentary food pairings for your wines - of - the - month and “VIP Tastings” that include wines that are not regularly tasted.
  • Receive 6 complimentary Reserve Tastings with a birthday cake every year for your birthday!
  • Attend our annual VIP Club Appreciation Party expressly held for all active members for free , which includes wine - by - the - glass, catered food and live music ! (Must be active for 3 months and/or purchase the previous 3 VIP Club shipments) 
  • Have priority over new vintages before they are released to the general public.
  • Receive special VIP Club - only wine selections crafted from our finest lots, specifically for you.
  • Enjoy exclusive recipes and tasting notes each month catered to compliment your wines - of - the - month. 
  • Sign up your friends or family, and if they join, receive a 25% discount on a future purchase.

Delaplane Cellars (Delaplane, VA) Wine Club As a club member you will have access to our members-only retreat where you will enjoy comfortable seating in an adult-only, serene atmosphere.  Seasonal releases are accompanied by tasting notes from the owner and winemaker, Jim Dolphin, along with food pairing recipes, many of which come from the kitchens of local chefs.
  • Three bottle release each season
  • Priority notice on all wine events, new releases, special offers and access to limited release, small lot and special reserve wines.
  • Members-only Barrel Tastings
  • Preferred pricing on library wines
  • Complimentary periodic wine and food pairings with library or newly released wines.
Winemaker’s Dozen Club Membership Benefits:
  • Four complimentary wine tastings per visit for club members in the tasting room.
  • 20% discount on all wine bottle purchases
  • 15% discount on merchandise in the tasting room
  • 15% discount on all Local Light Fare in the tasting room
  • Delaplane Cellars Winemaker’s Dozen Club membership cards 

Doukenie Winery (Hillsboro, VA) Heritage Club
  • 15% off every bottle
  • Flexibility: Select any of our wines, and change your selections at any time
  • 20% off all wine after two full years of membership
  • 30% discount per case of our Blue Cap Collection
  • Automatically scheduled shipments (to your home or office) or pick ups at the Winery
  • Complimentary tastings for 2 on one membership in our Tasting Room
  • Private Tastings for 4 on one membership in our exclusive Heritage Club Room. Reservations required
  • Invitation Only Status to our Wine Club exclusive events
  • Receive newsletters with interesting wine facts from our winemaker, and updates about the club
  • One free ticket to each of our annual Spring and Fall Music Concerts
  • Private dinners for Heritage Club members only

Elk Run Vineyards (Mt. Airy, MD)
  • Two (2) complimentary tastings of 6 wines for each visit to the winery
  • Exclusive opportunity to receive new wines before release to the public
  • Quarterly newsletter updating you on new wines, pairing recipes, and happenings at Elk Run
  • Six wines, 10% discount.
  • Second six each year 15% discount.
  • Continue to buy six bottles each year and you  will continue to get 15% discount.
  • Two (2) complementary tastings of 6 wines at each visit to the Winery.

Gadino Cellars (Washington VA)
  • Two Gadino Cellars wines every three months at discounted prices (one red and one white). 
  • Reserve wines available only to club members. 
  • Includes club discounts of 10% off 11 bottles or less and 20% off 12 or more for your wine purchases when visiting the winery.

Glen Manor Vineyards (Front Royal, VA)
  • Membership is automatic with the purchase of 12 bottles or more and lasts for 12 months from the date of purchase. Each time an additional case, 12 bottles, are purchased your membership is again extended for 12 months. 
  • Complimentary tasting room wine tastings for club members and their guests, up to a party limit of six. 
  • Exclusive invitation to all Glen Manor wine events such as our Spring Barrel Tasting and comparative tastings in our cellar. 
  • Early notice on wine releases and notification when wines are close to selling out. 
  • An allocation of each of their wines for club members purchase only.
  • Certain limited production wines allocated exclusively to club members. 
  • Early notification of all offsite Glen Manor events, such as vintner dinners, seminars or other tasting venues.

Hillsborough Vineyards (Purcellville, VA) Frequent Winer Club
  • 20% discount off all of our wines including limited and reserve releases. 
  •  Free bottle of wine for every person you refer that joins the Frequent Winer family. 
  • Complimentary tastings in our Tasting Room
  • Frequent Winers and one guest also receive free admittance to one of the scheduled Barrel Tasting events, held by our winemaker Kerem Baki.

Mediterranean Cellars (Warrenton, VA) Winemaker's Selection
  • Discounts: 10% discount on all purchases; 15% discount for 1-3 cases; 20% for 4 or more cases
  • Quarterly shipments of three bottles of the winemaker’s selection. As a member, you can elect to pick up the wine at the winery, or have it shipped to you.
  • Complimentary tastings; free wine tastings for the member and one guest.
  • Sneak previews and tastings of our new releases before they become available to the general public.
  • Special offerings throughout the year.
  • Recipes to accompany our wines, featured with each quarterly selection.

North Gate Vineyards (Purcellville, VA)
  • No signup fee. 
  • 3 bottles every quarter, winemakers' choice, but you can switch out. 15% off that allotment. 
  • Pickup parties with extra tastings, barrel tastings, food, winemaker presentation. 
  • Any other time: 2 free tastings per visit, one group of 4 free tastings per quarter, 10% off bottles, 15% of 6 packs, 20% off cases. 
  • We're beginning to off after hours club only events, and have made several wines (with more to come) for members only. 
  • Members get discounted rentals.

Old Westminster Winery (Westminster, MD) Cru Club
  • The Cru is based on quarterly wine allocations thoughtfully selected by our winemaker and an annually-crafted custom blend, Cru Cuvée. On pick-up day, enjoy a gratis glass of your favorite wine, taste new releases and connect with other members. It’s free to join and you can modify your wine allotment via the member’s area of our website. No strings attached! 
  • Complimentary tastings at the winery
  • Annual vintage release party invitations
  • Special pricing on wine purchases

Paradise Springs Winery (Clifton, VA) 
  • Complimentary tastings for you and up to 3 guests (4 people total)
  • 15% off all wine purchases (20% off cases)
  • 20% discount on current wine selections for first 30 days (25% on cases)
  • Quarterly pick-up events for members only 
  • Priority reservations for wine dinners and in-house events 
  • Host your private event and apply your membership discounts on wine
  • All members receive a PSW Black Card
  • Winemaker selected wines including occasional selections crafted exclusively for the club
  • Welcome package to include PSW frameable print.

Pearmund Cellars (Broad Run VA) Old Vine Club
  • 30% off your purchase of 3+ bottles of wine at registration
  • Pick-Up Parties for Wine Club Members only, featuring a free tasting of selected wines and cheese platter
  • Voucher for 2 complimentary tastings with each wine club pick-up or shipment
  • All club wine packaged in exclusive 4-bottle Pearmund Cellars wine totes
  • Access to unique wines exclusively for Wine Club Members
  • Members-only newsletter with tasting notes
  • Bring a friend with you to enjoy Pearmund Cellars wine… If your friend joins our Wine Club, you receive 30% off that day’s purchase of 3+ bottles
  • $60 + tax for each 3-bottle package, 4 times per year. Pick-up or shipment ($5/bottle)

RDV Vineyards (Delaplane, VA)  RdV Ambassadorship
  • Harvest Release Party 
  • Invites to wine dinners throughout the year.
  • Participate in harvest and join the team for Friday lunches in the fall.
  • Invitations to RdV hosted events at the winery exclusive to only Ambassadors.
  • Exclusive ability to host private tastings in the Wine Library, Lab or Private Tasting Salon
  • The first Friday of every month we host a casual cocktail party with various themes.
  • Access to our second wine, Friends & Family, which is reserved just for Ambassadors.
  • Joining is as simple as buying some wine. Ambassadorships come in two forms:
    • 6 Pack – two bottles of Lost Mountain, four bottles of Rendezvous (Plus tax, shipping and handling)

Rocklands Farm (Poolesville, MD)
  • 3-6-12 bottle plans
  • 10% Discount on All Wine Purchases
  • Special Discounts on Quarterly Club Purchases
  • 50% Off Wine Tastings (up to 6 Guests) Each Time You Visit
  • Exclusive Annual Barrel Tasting and Tour Invitations
  • Provision of Tasting Notes of Each Quarterly Selection, Plus Rocklands Garden Recipes to Compliment Each Wine and Its Pairings
  • Exclusive Access to First Releases

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (Dickerson, MD) Bacchus Club
  • 3 bottles of wine/quarter Winemaker's selection (shipments will always be a $65 or greater retail value)
  • 10% off all retail purchases in the tasting room
  • Half price tastings for you and your guests
  • Two free tickets to our Stomp Festival
  • Invitation to quarterly pick up parties
  • Invitation to barrel tastings, reservations required, space is limited
  • Exclusive "Bacchus Club Only" wines
  • Bacchus Club Only express register on select busy days and festivals
  • Delivery within Maryland available for an additional $15

Sunset Hills Vineyard & Winery (Purcellville, VA) Cellar Club
  • Two bottles of wine bi-monthly and receive discounts on food and wine purchases, event tickets and merchandise.   
  • Access to exclusive wine selections. 
  • Special access in the upper loft and deck areas of our winery and the privilege to bring groups with advanced reservation.  

Tarara Vineyard & Winery (Leesburg, VA)  Artisan Red, Artisan White, Artisan Single Vineyard or Artisan Winemaker's Select
  • Four times a year, a trio (3) of Tarara’s wines selected by Jordan Harris, Tarara’s winemaker, including pre-release and Vine Club exclusives.
  • Convenience of having Tarara wine on hand for impromptu occasions.
  • 15% discounts on wine purchases at the Winery and online
  • Quarterly Vine Club newsletters detailing your wines, pairing recipes and updating you on the happenings at Tarara
  • Invitations to exclusive members-only events, including package “pickup parties”.
  • Six (6) complimentary wine tastings each quarter (or 3 tastings for 2)
  • Priority notice for new releases and special offers
  • 50% Savings on Premier Tasting Experience
  • A Vine Club manager dedicated to assisting you with selections and inquiries

Veramar Vineyard (Berryville, VA) Estate Wine Club
  • 2-Bottle Shipments pre-selected and automatically shipped six times a year.
  • Cost of each shipment is $38 plus tax and shipping.
  • No tasting fees for you and a guest.
  • 15% Discount on tasting room merchandise.
  • 15% Discount on wine bottle purchases.
  • 15% Discount on cases of wine.
  • 15% Discount to Veramar events(excludes weddings, rehearsals, and corporate events).
  • Notification of early and limited releases, recipes, and access to library wine stock purchasing.
  • Invitations to exclusive programs and events created especially for Estate Club members.

Vineyards At Dodon (Davidsonville, MD)
  • Pre-release access to limited production wines.
  • Allocations of two 6 bottle releases per year.
  • 10% per bottle discount on all purchases.
  • Invitations for two people to wine dinners & events.
  • Tasting and social hour for members on designated allocation pickup days.
  • Free delivery within 20 miles.
  • Access to our tasting room for private group tastings followed by a social hour.

 Willowcroft Farm Vineyards (Leesburg VA) “Press”tige Club
  • Complimentary tasting for 2 or a free glass of wine upon each visit to the tasting room
  • Bi-monthly shipments of two Willowcroft wines hand-selected by our winemaker, Lew Parker
  • Two planned evening socials elusively for club members.

Winery at La Grange (Haymarket, VA) Benoni's Reserve Wine Club
  • 10% off 1-5 bottles or 20% off 6+ bottles purchased at the Manor House
  • 10% off all merchandise in the Manor House Gift Shop
  • 10% off facility rental prices for private events
  • One Complimentary tasting card for two per delivery
  • A bottle of our Reserve Sparkling Wine when you join
  • 50% off facility rental price for your birthday at the winery

The Winery at Olney (Olney, MD) VINO1800 Wine Club
  • 10% all batches of wine (During our annual Christmas in July sale, members will receive 25% off all batches whereas non-members will only receive 15% off)
  • 15% off all cases of wine
  • 5% off all individual bottles & glasses of wine
  • Two complimentary bottles of wine each month selected by our Wine Maker.  One of the two bottles will be an exclusive varietal of wine not presented to other customers.  These wines will be available for pick-up on a designated day each month.  NOTE: If you prefer to have the wines shipped to you within the state of Maryland, there will be an additional shipping fee of $12.95 added to your monthly membership fee. 
  • Two complimentary custom label designs annually (a $50 value)
  • A members-only quarterly e-publication highlighting exclusive member specials and information about The Winery
  • Invitations to two semi-annual VINO1800 Wine Club events, featuring wine flights, hors d’oeuvres, and entertainment. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Tasting Tuscany's Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

This week, members of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came to Washington D.C. as part of a marketing campaign. I was fortunate to able to attend a seminar that provided an overview of the region's wines. The Consorzio is celebrating it's 50th anniversary with their primary goal being to preserve the region's agriculture heritage.  The city and region of Montepulciano is located in the larger Valdichiana region within SE Tuscany and borders Umbria to the east. Montepulciano's soil is primarily clay and silt with elevations ranging from 800-2,000 feet. And Montepulciano is considered a Continental climate with long hot and dry summers.

In 1980, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was granted DOCG status with the following rules enforced. The grape vines must be planted within approved viticulture areas close to the town with maximum yields set to 8 tons per hectare. At least 70% of the wine must be Sangiovese, locally called "Prugnolo Gentile"; this specific clone has a thinner skin than its Brunello cousin. The remaining 30% can be a combination of other red grapes approved in the Tuscany region, although up to 5% can be white grapes. There are three types of wines that can be produced in Montepulciano. (1) Rosso di Montepulciano is wine that has been aged in oak for a maximum of one year. These wines are fruit forward and intended to be consumed immediately. (2) Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is wine that has been aged for a maximum of two years, although there are several  permissible combinations of oak maturation and bottle aging. In general, these wines are held back at least one year in the bottle until release. (3) Vino Nobile Reserva is wine aged at least three years, with at least 2.5 years in oak and are usually only produced in very favorable years.

Moving to the seminar, there were a few common themes that arose. First, most of the wineries presenting were relatively newcomers to winemaking - having converted family farms from other agricultural or animal husbandry pursuits to vineyards.  Second, most of the wines possessed very fruit forward aromas that dissipated as the flavor profile portrayed more earthiness and dust. Merlot was a common addition which may account for the fruity nose.  Finally, although Sangiovese is considered an acidic grape, these wines were flatter than I had expected - perhaps due to the blends or bottle aging.

The wines we sampled were from 2009 and 2010 with the later considered a perfect growing year with a wet cold winter, slight rain during bud break and flowering, and then a long, hot and dry summer.
  • Fattoria La Braccesca 2010 Vina Nobile di Montepulciano: 90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot from the Valiano district and aged one year in oak and one year in the bottle. This wine hit the above mentioned profile, with a cherry fruit aroma followed by a dirty cherry flavor and easy tannins.
  • Lunadoro 2010 Vina Nobile di Montepulciano:  100% Prugnolo Gentile from the Valiano district and aged in large Slavonian oak casks for two years. Starts with blackberries then transitions to dirt and lingering smooth tannins. Very nice.
  • Crociani 2010 Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva: made from 80% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Canaiolo Nero, and 10% Mammolo; fermented using natural yeast, then aged three years in Slavonian oak followed by six months in the bottle. As expected, this is a bigger wine, with less fruit and more dirt. The finish is surprisingly easy and lingers until the next sip.
  • Tenuta Gracciano Della Seta 2010 Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva: made from 90% Prugnolo Gentile, 9% Merlot, and 1% Trebbiano (an example of using a white grape) from the Gracciano district; then aged in various types of oak for three years and then six months in the bottle. The Trebbiano enhances the aromatics, then the wine follows with a leathery profile and finishes smooth.
  • Montemercurio 2009  Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Messaggero (Message of the Gods): made from 95% Prugnolo Gentile and 5% Canaiolo Nero - to strength the body. The wine is then aged for 18 months in Slavonian oak, six months in smaller oak casks, then bottle aged for one year. This wine was somewhat of the exception to the flavor profile with the usual bright cherry fruit, followed by a combination of fruit and dirt in the palette and finishing with strong acids. Perhaps my favorite.
  • Casale Daviddi 2009 Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva: made from 90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Canaiolo Nero and aged three years in French oak and six months in the bottle. There is almost a candied cherry aroma with a little more fruit on the palette, then the standard dirt and smooth, long finish.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The New Belgium Brewing Company Explains "What is Sour Beer?"

I was planning on writing a series on "What is Sour Beer", but it looks like New Belgium Brewing Company just released a video series that outshines anything I would have produced. They are short videos so you don't have to invest much time; but they are packed with information. I like the mention of the Goze style in the embedded "History of Sour Beer"embedded below, that I mentioned in my previous post. My wine friends should also watch particularly since they discuss the history of oak barrels, what oak imparts on wine and beer, and brett. The New Belgium Sour Beer Program is just another reason to visit Ft. Collins. Cheers.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blood Orange Gose - Are You Serious Anderson Valley Brewing?

Seems like brewing with blood oranges is a favorable new fad in the Maryland beer scene with at least Flying Dog Brewery (Bloodline Blood Orange IPA) and DuClaw Brewing Company (Hop Continuum No. 1 - Blood Orange Gypsy IPA) brewing an IPA version. I'm really digging this flavor profile, the subtle citrus tartness from the oranges provide a distinct difference to the heavier IBU side of the beer. I've also become interested in Gose styled beers after our recent #VABreweryChallenge visit to Manassas and  Badwolf Brewing Company. Gose styled beer originated in Germany (Goslar) and is an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with ground coriander seeds and salt. It receives its sourness through inoculation with lactic acid bacteria. You may be thinking, what about the Reinheitsgebot? Well, the beer receives an exemption because its a regional specialty. The Badwolf version was both sweet and a tad sour with a noticeable salt concentration at the finish.

Today, I joyously discovered the Boonville, California's Anderson Valley Brewing Company Highway 128 Blood Orange Gose combining my two new beer obsessions.  The brewery's Highway 128 Series is a set of funky session beers with the Blood Orange Gose weighing in at a measly 4.2% ABV. The blood oranges are added during fermentation and according to Director of Brewing Operations Andy Hooper, the Gose part of the beer is a major challenge.
"Traditionally, this beer was made by allowing yeast and bacteria to ferment wort at the same time.  It was packaged unfiltered and still contained loads of yeast and bacteria.  Putting Lactobacillus bacteria into our cellar equipment and packaging lines would be a potentially huge problem and might contaminate other non-sour beers.  To solve this problem, the lactobacillus is added in the brewhouse – specifically in the kettle.  The bacteria are allowed to sour the wort and create the acidity needed for the tart flavor and funky aromas.  After the bacteria do their job, the wort is boiled and sterilized.  Now that all the bacteria are dead and gone, it’s safe for us to ferment, filter, and package the beer in the cellar without the risk of contaminating other beers.  After fermentation is complete, a small amount of sea salt is added to enhance the body and soften the edge of the sourness."
The Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose is more sour than the Badwolf (a plus for me), but less salt on the tail - which resides mostly on the tongue (another plus). The beer starts with an orange citrus aroma and the blood orange refuse to leave the stage until the final, final act. There's a little effervescence which provides a refreshing finale - along with the salty finish. Overall this is a great beer. Good enough to have a blog post devoted to it. Care for a music pairing? Easily the funky soul and blues of JJ Grey & Mofro. Cheers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tasting Virginia Spirits With The Great Dismal Distillery SilverFox Brand

Besides wine and beer, the Virginia spirits industry is growing rapidly. theCompass Mobile app lists 20 distilleries in the Commonwealth with tasting rooms; one of these being The Great Dismal Distillery - located in Norfolk. For those familiar with the area, you'll recognize the reference to the Great Dismal Swamp. The distillery was established in 2008 by Zachary Combs. His first product was SilverFox Vodka, produced from a family recipe that "fermented grain to power the tractor on their small farm in the Fentress area of Chesapeake. What was left over, his grandmother turned into liquor. " His grandmother had received that recipe from her grandfather, known as the Silver Fox. Although, still a small operation, the distillery has expanded its product line into bourbon and rum. Each of these spirits are sold for $17, hopefully at your local Virginia ABC store.

This month I received a three pack sample containing a bottle of each, which I have tried in various ways. In general, the overall concensus is that these spirits are designed for mixing and not for the snifters.  The SilverFox Vodka is triple distilled then cut to 90 proof with a basic petrol aroma profile until a little water or ice is added. This dampens the alcohol and burn, revealing a sweet and smooth vodka with a subtle burn.  I'd suggest using this in any of your standard vodka recipes.

The SilverFox White Rum is distilled from pure sugar cane juice, not molasses, and then infused with vanilla. The profile is honey-vanilla, slightly on the sweeter side with very little burn.  I first tried mixing in a Josie Russell, which creates a much different cocktail than when using straight rum - perhaps a little too much vanilla that overwhelms the apple. Instead, my two favorite cocktails  was a Vanilla Chocolate Drop (equal parts rum and Godiva dark chocolate liqueur and a splash of cream). A great dessert. Another dessert type drink was a Root Beer Float, add enough rum to taste. The one disappointing aspect to the SilverFox White Rum is that I would have loved to taste before the infusion of vanilla; un-aged rum distilled from sugar cane is quite tasty.

The SilverFox Bourbon, aged two years in oak, is the one spirit I preferred in a snifter, with a small dose of water. Neat, it starts with a sweet corn petrol aroma; candied corn - honey flavor; with no burn at the tail. The water pushes the petrol to the finish; leaving a sweeter vanilla-honey flavor. interestingly the burn increases slightly at the finish.  I also mixed with the suggested ginger ale and yes, it works, but I preferred this medium bodied bourbon by itself.  The SilverFox Bourbon won't be replacing my Buffalo Trace or Catoctin Creek, but is perfect for an everyday bourbon to have on hand. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oregon's Youngberg Hill Vineyards comes to Virginia

Everyone knows that Oregon is producing fantastic Pinot Noir, but did you know Oregon has 16 approved American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)? You probably did. Did you know that the largest, the Willamette Valley AVA is subdivided into smaller sub-AVAs? Yea, but did you know that in one of these sub-AVAs, the McMinnville AVA, one producer makes Pinot Noir from 25 year old vines that are own rooted? I didn't know that until Wayne Bailey, proprietor and winemaker of Youngberg Hill Vineyards (1,500 case production) came to Virginia on a short marketing excursion. And I caught up with Wayne to sample his wines and talk shop at The Wine Cabinet in Reston.

Born on an Iowa farm and tutored in Burgundy, Bailey purchased Youngberg Hill in 2003 after learning it was one site a majority of Oregon winemakers would seek to purchase fruit. The vineyard was first planted in 1989 by Ken Wright and the fruit used in his Panther Creek wines. Today these vines are known as the Jordan and Natasha blocks and the Pommard and Wadenswil clones are own rooted. The Natasha block is located at 600' and consists of sandy marine sediment that helps to ward off the phylloxera louse. The Jordan block is located higher at 800' on volcanic rock.  Bailey practices both LIVE and Biodynamic farming and strongly believes that the healthy environment may even help the vines recover if the louse strikes. As long as he has patience, 10 years patience. Bailey also believes biodynamic farming's major benefit is providing guidelines on what not to do. For instance, in order to alleviate powdery mildew, organic vineyards can use sulfur, which remains on the grapes and soil and can creep into a wine. Instead, he uses whey protein. And instead of spraying to rid the vineyard of red or rustic mites, which would also kill beneficial mites, he leaves patches of grass that attract insects that feed on these specific mites. And there are plenty of other examples of sustainable agriculture practiced in Oregon.

At The Wine Cabinet, Bailey was pouring samples of four wines, all estate except for the 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir.  We started with the 2013 Aspen Pinot Gris ($28, 11.8%).  The wine has a strong apricot flavor and a depth not usually associated with the grape. Nice acids too. The 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir ($40, 14.5%) is interesting in that it is composed of the Dijon 777 clone from three vineyards in the Willamette Valley AVA - including Youngberg's Bailey vineyard.  This is a dark wine, both in color and with dark cherry flavors, easy tannins, and finishes with appropriate acids.  I mentioned the features of the Natasha block above and the 2012 Natasha Pinot Noir ($50, 13.8%) is quite enjoyable with more dark cherry and some blackberry flavors, white and black pepper mingle in the palette, a little earthy funkiness, and the wine finishes with mellow tannins and plenty of acids. Bailey mentioned that the acids result from the higher altitude and the tannins are fruit tannins, not wood tannins. The final wine was the 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir ($50, 13.4%) which is a deeper, more complex, and more tannic version of the Natasha.  With patience, this is one to lie down for awhile.

Younberg Hill strongly encourages visitors. The Bailey's operate an Inn on site and for those who like to cycle, they have initiated a program where after visiting area wineries, all purchased wine will be delivered to the Inn. No need to haul wine bottles in the backpack. Here's hoping I can be one of these cyclists soon. Cheers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Billy Joe Shaver, #Lent, & #theCompassApp

Starting tomorrow thousands will give up drinking alcohol for Lent, perhaps based on their hangover from Fat Tuesday. While the endeavor is noble, is it necessary? For, in the words of Billy Joe Shaver, "it's not what you put into your mouth that defiles you, it's what comes out". So I suggest to continue supporting your local wineries, breweries, and distilleries, and give up cursing instead. Shaver and theCompass Mobile Application will be happy. That's my lenten obligation. Cheers and be safe.

Monday, February 16, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge - a Return to Ashburn

Our first stop on the #VABreweryChallenge was to Ashburn's Lost Rhino Brewing Co. and this weekend we returned to visit two area breweries: Beltway Brewing Company and Old Ox Brewery.  Beltway is a contract brewery that opens it's doors on Friday evening and pours the latest contracted beers. This evening they were pouring a couple high octanes brews from Virginia's Adroit Theory Brewing Company, but I started with the Cahaba Brewing Company American Blonde. Perfect for summer or southern drinking. We also learned there's a new brewery opening in Upper Marlboro, Maryland - Calvert Brewing Company - and they contracted out their Good Company Pale Ale. More malt then hops, this was a popular offering on the low alcohol front. Looking forward to visiting Calvert Brewing soon.

I've visited Old Ox several times based on their immediate proximity to the W&OD bike trail. They also have expanded hours on Fridays and the brewery was packed - interesting with a food truck and Frisbee golf in the production area. We also wanted to support the brewery while in the mist of a frivolous dispute with Red Bull who claims the Old Ox brand would somehow confuse consumers with the energy drink. Really? I recommend reading the brewery's open letter to Red Bull, who you would think has more important problems like losing a class action suit where consumers of their drink are entitled to a $10 refund. In any event, I loved Old Ox's Kristin's Passion Mexican Hot Chocolate Porter - just how I enjoy a porter - chocolate base with a soothing milky hoppy finish.

We wish Old Ox good luck in solving this dispute and safe travels to all who try to complete the  #VABreweryChallenge or who are using theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery locator app. Cheers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bourbon Review: Moving up to Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In my younger years, my go bourbon was Ancient Age, first the light brown label and then the dark brown. As the years progressed, I've stayed within the to Buffalo Trace DistillerySazerac family and graduated to their Buffalo Trace Whiskey ($30).  Most are familiar with the fascinating history of the distillery from Colonial E.H. Taylor, Jr, George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, Elmer T. Lee to now Harlen Wheatley. I would also recommend the Buffalo Trace Oral History Project produced by The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Getting back to the the Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the bourbon is distilled from a low rye mash bill (see the Bourbonr Blog).  The spirit is then aged in the distilleries famous century old warehouses. The result is a fantastic whiskey. On the nose, I was presented with a major whiff of  toasted vanilla almonds. On the palette, the nutty flavors mingle with caramel and honey, finishing with a vanilla-anise blend and a subtle burn. Quite nice. Maybe I need to do a comparative tasting with Ancient Age for old times sake. Cheers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Woodchuck Cidery wants you to drink Cheeky Cherry on Valentine's Day

Last night I received a couple of bottles of Cheeky Cherry, the newest addition to Woodchuck Cidery Out on a Limb Series™. The Middlebury Vermont cider house is marketing this cider for Valentine's Day; so I was expecting a sweet cider to pair with the holiday's red coloring. Instead, and to my taste bud's enjoyment, I tasted a dry cider (although not sure the exact R.S. level) full of apple and tart cherry flavors. In fact the tart cherry resides on the tongue long afterwards, with the apple's acidity providing a lively finish. I was also expecting some artificial-ness with the cherry flavor; but no, the cider house infuses dried Michigan tart cherries into the already fermented cider plus a douse of Belgian cherry juice. The base cider is composes of a blend of common eating apple varieties as well as bittersweet cider fruit.  The alcohol weighs in at a reasonable 5.5%. Thumbs up for the Cheeky Cherry.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Next Stop in the #VABreweryChallenge: Manassas with Badwolf Brewing Company and Heritage Brewing

This weekend we continued our #VABreweryChallenge by traveling down Route 66 to the historic Civil War town of Manassas and two very new breweries: Badwolf Brewing Company (#3) and Heritage Brewing (#4). Badwolf is the smaller of the two and opened in July 2013 by Jeremy and Sarah Meyers. Did I mention small? They utilize a one barrel system; yet this nano-size can be a major benefit. There are plenty of unique beers on tap. This weekend featured six beers and I sampled all using their larger than normal sampler (8 ounces? per glass). I started with the Grisette (4.3%), a low alcohol session Saison with a lower spice profile which made it quite enjoyable. Next, was the most interesting, Bad Moon Rising (3.9%), a gose styled beer from Goslar Germany, that is to say, an unfiltered wheat beer brewed with ground coriander seeds and salt. Fails the Reinheitsgebot, but gets an exemption being a regional specialty. And as advertised, it is sweet and salty. Very interesting.  The Chocolate Nutz (6.6%) nut brown ale was spot on as was my favorite, the Simtra Pale (4.4%) - an American pale ale brewed with Simcoe and Citra hops. Surprisingly the highest abv, was their refreshing Hefeweizen, The Wild Rumpus. And we closed out the tasting with the Vanilla Malupa (5.7%),  a full bodied milk stout brewed with vanilla beans. Not bad. The only negative comment I can give the brewery is the cramped quarters on a crowded day; otherwise their beer is solid.

As a more spacious brewery, Heritage Brewing, provides plenty of room along their L-shaped tasting bar.   This veteran owned brewery also opened in 2013 and they claim to use at least 90% organic ingredients. Heritage bases their production around five flagship beers; the Freedom Isn't Free IPA,  Kings Mountain Scotch Ale, Revolution American Amber Ale (brewed with organic oranges), The Teddy East Coast Pale Ale, and the American Expedition - a honey ginger wheat ale. On this visit, I stuck to the Freedom Isn't Free IPA - a solid offering with plenty of IBUs to produce that refreshing hoppy finish. Our tasting neighbor preferred the American Expedition - so that's at least two popular beers. Heritage also has a great deal on their canned beers - $8 a six pack. That's a bargain. Cheers and safe travels with theCompass Mobile App.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hall Winery, Protocol #WineStudio, and #Wine Credentials

Protocol #WineStudio continued their January discussion on Wine Credentials: Letters of Distinction with more credentials from available from the San Francisco Wine School. These include the California Wine Appellation Specialist® (CWAS) program, the French Wine Scholar (FWS) Program, and the Italian Wine Professional (IWP) Program. And to assist our appetite samples from Hall Winery were distributed to several lucky participants. Me being one of these.  Like Steven Kent Winery, Hall sends their staff to the San Francisco Wine School; they participate in the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program and plan to start sending staff to take the CWAS. A clear benefit to both the winery and its customers.

The two wines they sent were clear benefits to those of us tasting; these were the 2012 HALL "Eighteen Seventy-Three" Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) and the 2011 HALL "Jack's Masterpiece" Cabernet Sauvignon ($125). The "Eighteen Seventy-Three" honors Captain William Peterson, who in 1873, and established the first incarnation of the many wineries that have operated on Hall's St. Helena site. Although the vineyard Peterson planted was lost to phylloxera, elements of his winery are still evident in the restored winery.  The "Eighteen Seventy-Three" is an incredible wine, made from all Napa Valley fruit and aged in French Oak. Allow this wine to breathe because their are layers of chewy tannins ready to be released. These tannins are proceeded by creamy blackberry flavors then mild acidity.

Jack's Masterpiece is the creation of HALL President and former Winemaker, Mike Reynolds, who was tasked to devise a special release wine. If you notice, Hall supports the arts and uses different paintings in their labels. In 2006, Reynolds' then 18-month-old son Jack presented him with a canvas painted to celebrate Father's Day. Reynolds now had inspiration for the wine, Jack's Masterpiece. The 2011 incarnation is more subtle and earthy than the 1873, but contains plenty of depth and cherry flavor. Another beautiful wine.