Friday, June 24, 2016

Ballparks & Brews: Petco Park - San Diego Padres

I've only been to a handful of major league ball parks but for now the San Diego Padres' Petco Park is in a league of their own. The park embraces craft beer embraces craft beer - not just tolerates it like Nationals Park. I only strayed between the third base line and home plate in the 200 level but saw dozens of unique craft beer options at multiple stands. There's even a dedicated stretch of pavement for craft beer carts. And all local craft breweries: Stone Brewing, Pizza Port, Mission Brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing, and Mike Hess Brewing Company. Walking past these carts will take you to a larger craft beer vending area (with longer lines) including Coronado Brewing Company, The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co., and Saint Archer Brewing Company among others.

There are other craft beer options as well starting in the center field patio where Ballast Point Brewing Company and Sculpin are King overlooking taps from other local breweries. Although I didn't venture into the 300 level I read that Stone Brewing has a dedicated tasting area and I'm sure other craft breweries are represented. As for non-local breweries, I did see a lonely Goose Island Beer Co. and thought why bother.

I stuck to lighter beers but there were a plethora of other beer styles. The Ballast Point Kolsch and Mission Blonde were my go to beers, whereas my IPA laced sibling chose Sculpin, the Stone IPA, and the ridiculously delicious Karl Strauss Aurora Hoppyalis IPA.

If you care to pre-game, there are a few breweries within walking distance starting with the neighboring Stone Brewing Tap Room and Half Door Brewing Company - two blocks away.  On an outer parameter you can find Monkey Paw Brewing, The Beer Company, and Resident Brewing, then take the Craft Beer Bus to Mission Brewery -and then be deposited at the stadium gates. Cheers to craft beer and baseball.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#FirstSipNZ with Villa Maria's Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc

One of the most reliable sources for affordable New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has always been Villa Maria and they didn't disappoint with their current summer offerings tasted through the #FirstSipNZ campaign. Elizabeth Smith has the details on this campaign at Villa Maria’s First Sip of Summer. In general New Zealand, and in particular, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines are fresh; driven by citrus, tropical, herbaceous, and mineral characteristics; and refreshingly acidic. I learned that the "minerality often comes from vineyards with stony old riverbed vineyard sites". Here are the two wines we sampled, both will be available across the U.S. either now or towards August. Cheers.

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99). The grapes were sourced from vineyards throughout the Marlborough region of NZ with a mixture of warmer and cooler vineyard sites which showcase the herbal and tropical note. However, for me, this wine was all citrus from the wet grass aroma through the bright lemon-grapefruit character to the long, long finish.

2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99). Produced in the frizzante style similar to Moscato d’Asti and Vinho Verde where the wine maintains generous effervescence but not to the extent of a sparkling wine. According to winemaker Helen Morrison, a true méthode champenoise would overwhelm Sauvignon Blanc and the wine would lose the freshness associated with the grape. The grapes were also sourced from vineyards throughout the Marlborough region of NZ. The added frizz elevates the fruit profile with the citrus flavors dominating while chilled and the tropical banana and guava like characteristics evolving when warming.. The wine also maintains its texture from the creamy start to effervescent ending.  As for food pairings, seafood was highly recommended (mussels in particular). I'll be heading to the beach with this wine for sure. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Minnesota's Alexis Bailly Vineyard Voyageur

Minnesota wine was present last month at the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting through the Alexis Bailly Vineyard Voyageur ($29). The wine is a blend of Minnesota grown Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, and Frontenac. The first two grapes are French hybrids whereas the later was developed by the University of Minnesota in 1996 as an extreme cold hardy wine grape for northern growers. The wine itself, as well as the winery, is named after their 4th great grandfather, Alexis Bailly, who along with a handful of other French/Canadian pioneers (voyageurs) paddled their way through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Hastings, Minnesota. And the Marechal Foch and Leon Millot were part of the original vineyard when, in 1973, David Bailly planted the fist modern vineyard in the North Star State.

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
The vineyard was inspired by not only Bailley's interest in wine but also a desire to start a business where he could deduct wine trips to Europe. I can relate to that sympathy. In 1967 he tasted the Boordy Vineyards Red from the historic Maryland winery and realized European styled wines could be made in the east. Further research lead him to Millot and Foch and over time he concluded that "the Léon Millot has made the best wine and the Maréchal Foch has been the most winter hardy".

The Voyageur is dark, both in color and black fruit forward flavors; stressing the fruit forward nature of this wine. Ten months of oak treatment comes in play during the mid-palate and outweighs the fruit, whereas the wine finishes with plenty of acids and a slight tannic coating. This wine shows well, a bit pricey in the world market, but more reasonable in the drink local market. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Argentina's Rutini Wines Delivers Four Wines from the Tupungato Valley


I recently received a care package from Rutini Wines, the esteemed winery located on the outskirts of Mendoza, consisting of four Argentinean wines. The winery was founded in 1885 by Italian immigrant Felipe Rutini, who according to wiki became one four great Italian winemakers in Mendoza. His first vineyard was located in Maipú and he further expanded into the Los Corralitos and Medrano regions of Mendoza. In 1925 his descendants planted the first vineyards in Tupungato, in the heart of Mendoza's Uco Valley. Named after one of Mendoza´s mountain peaks, the Tupungato Valley sits at  3000 to 5000 feet (900 to 1500 meters) above sea level. The valley also consists of  several different microclimates, creating optimal growing conditions for different grape varieties. Today it is recognized as one of Mendoza´s premier viticulture regions and the source of the four wines received from Rutini.

2015 Trumpeter Torrontes ($12) - Argentina´s signature white varietal, this Torrontés starts with stone fruits, continues with a mineral backbone, and finishes with easy acids. A very nice wine providing top value.

2014 Trumpeter Malbec ($12) -  Aged using a plethora of American and French barrel grades for 7 months this wine starts bold with strong cherry flavors, maintains a base of structure, and then the tannic finish falls slightly flat. But for the price, I'd say worthy .

2013 Rutini Malbec Encuentro ($19) - Aged 12 months in 50-50 French and American oak this wine is delicious. The wine starts with smooth black cherry and plum, followed by a spicy and structured mid-palate, and finishing with chewy tannins.  Hits a sweet spot.

2012 Rutini Malbec ($35) - Aged 12 months in 80% new French oak and 20% new American oak and includes grapes from vineyards from both La Consulta, San Carlos and Tupungato Valley, Mendoza. This is a juicy wine exuding dark fruit, herbs, and earthiness; yet maintains a firm structure. The tannins at the tail creep up slowly.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Kentucky's StoneBrook Winery Vidal Blanc

The annual Wine America Congressional Tasting delivered once again with a new state wine, in this case, Kentucky and the StoneBrook Winery Vidal Blanc ($13). The winery is located in the western part of the Bluegrass state, just south of Cincinnati, in the Ohio River Valley AVA. This viticultural area is the second largest in the U.S. spanning portions of four states (Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky) and encompassing 26,000 square miles. (The Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA is the largest at 29,914 square miles.) This region also possesses a long history of grape growing reaching back to the early 1820s with Catawba and Isabella being the featured grapes.  In most cases French hybrids have now replaced these native Labrusca grapes.
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
StoneBrook Winery is a 5th generation farm composed of two farmsteads dating back to the 1870s and 1890s. Their tasting room is located in the remodeled Kool House originally constructed in the 1890s. Their Vidal Blanc was the winery's first estate wine and is fresh and floral on the nose, transitions to a sweet pear and grapefruit flavor finishing with decent acids to balance the sugar.  I'm sure this is their best seller. Cheers.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

#SAVOR2016's Top Fifteen Beers That Blew Me Away

I attended SAVOR 2016 on Friday June 3rd and this Brewers Association sponsored event was splendid.  76 breweries poured two beers each and represented a mix of styles from IPAs, Stouts, Porters, Saisons, and sours. Many sours in fact and that's how I started off the evening. Out of the two dozen or so, there were a few that clearly stood out above the noise. Same for the many excellent barrel aged stouts and porters.  And in both categories top honors goes to Crux Fermentation Project. One caveat, I didn't sample many IPAs - just ran out of time trying to sample 152 beers. Cheers.
  1. Crux Fermentation Project [Banished] Bretted Farmhouse 
  2. D9 Brewing Company Systema Naturae Sour Ale fermented with wild lactobacillus & yeast, naturally conditioned.
  3. Crux Fermentation Project [Banished] Tough Love Barrel Aged Imperial Stout banished to used bourbon barrels
  4. The Lost Abbey Track #8  Barrel Aged Quad Judgement Day aged 9 months in new bourbon barrels and spiked with cinnamon sticks and dried chili peppers
  5. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout combines hefty amounts of various dark malts with 98 IBUs of hops
  6. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Schnickelfritz Weissbier
  7. Center of the Universe Brewing Company IV Quadrupel aged in red wine barrels
  8. Southern Tier Brewing Company Salted Caramel Imperial Stout based on a milt stout with Himalayan sea salt and caramelized sugar
  9. Right Proper Brewing Company Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne Berliner Weisse brewed with Meyer lemon zest, elderberries, and dry hopped with Sauvin
  10. New Belgium Brewing Company Tart Lychee Sour Ale barrel aged with lychee puree and cinnamon sticks
  11. Perennial Artisanal Ales Savant Blanc Sour Ale Barrel Aged Belgium Blond Ale (aged in Chardonnay barrels) with Chardonnel wine grapes
  12. Deschutes Brewery The Abyss Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout brewed with black strap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, augmented with vanilla, then aged 12 months in rye whiskey barrels.
  13. Strange Craft Beer Company Cherry Kriek Lambic with loads of cherries
  14. Bell's Brewery Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout
  15. Lewis and Clark Brewing Company  Prickly Pear Pale Ale

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#WineStudio Concludes it's Two Month Foray into DO Rías Baixas

Our two month #WineStudio foray into DO Rías Baixas wine concluded May 31st as the focus continued with their signature grape Albariño.  This has been an eye-opening venture into the region's wine and history as explained in these earlier DO Rías Baixas posts. We will finish this series by commented on a few additional wines we sampled during the sessions.

2014 Santiago Roma DO Rías Baixas ($11). This 100% Albariño is made from grapes harvested from estate vineyards in the Salnés Valley. It is unique in the sense that it offers ripe red apples that then lead into a lemon-mint profile. This excellent value wine concludes with a mildly salty finish.

2013 Baladiña DO Rías Baixas Lagar de Besada ($16). This wine is also 100% Albariño from the Salnés Valley made from one of the first bonded wineries in DO Rias Baixas. It starts with stone fruit which is quickly followed by strong citrus flavors, mild minerals, and a somewhat tannic and very fresh acidic finish.

2014 Tomada de Castro DO Rías Baixas ($14). The Castros had been making homemade wine for a century when Carlos Castro took the venture public. It is another 100% Albariño with plenty of maritime influences. The wine possesses the more typical tropical and stone fruits, mild minerals and saline, sweeter acidic finish.

2015 Torre La Moreira DO Rías Baixas ($18). This wine is produced by Bodegas Marqués de Vizhoja, a historic estate from the 16th century located near the Portuguese border.  This may be my very favorite wine of the sessions with it's very intensive stone fruit flavor, saline and herbal notes, and bright finish. Well done indeed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 SAVOR Preview - IPAs, Sours, Stouts, Saisons, and Porters

It's officially SAVOR week as the annual American craft beer and food experience occurs Friday and Saturday nights June 3rd and 4th. The event is sponsored by the Brewers Association and consists of 76 breweries pouring two beers each. The breweries represent 28 states and Washington DC,  70% were not at least year's event, and 50% have never poured at SAVOR before. This year Wyoming seems to have an over supply with Black Tooth Brewing Co., Melvin Brewing, and Roadhouse Brewing Company representing the Cowboy State. Melvin was the GABF 15 Small Brewpub of the Year so check them out. Along with a sample of beer there is a food pairing developed by Chef Adam Dulye, executive chef at the Brewers Association and Chef Kyle Mendenhall, BA chef consultant and executive chef at  Bolder Colorado's The Kitchen

As usual there is a plethora of beer styles and IPAs dominate the tasting again with 33 versions ranging from low abv sessions to high octane imperials. In tune with the sour beer trend there are about two dozen sour or tart beers with a vast majority binging Sour/Wild/Brett but including four Gose and three Berliner Weisse beers (The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Seaquenchale is included in both the Gose and Berliner Weisse totals). The latter two styles are my sweet spot right now so I've listed these beers below. I'm also a Porter fan and there will be ten versions with a few sweeter Baltic styles, a smoked from Quest Brewing Company, the Flying Dog Brewery barrel aged Notorious B.A.G., and several Imperial Porters - see Stone Brewing Co. Encore: 6th Anniversary Porter. Similarly there will be 16 Stouts from a silky smooth milk stout like the Saugatuck Brewing Co. Neapolitan to several heavy imperial and barrel aged versions. Saisons as well as a few other Belgium inspired Dubbel, Tripel, and Quad ales are also well represented. See Virginia's Center of the Universe Brewing Co.and their IV Barrel-Aged Quad & Monkey's Uncle Tripel and Florida's Marker 48 Brewing Diepolder Dubbel & Meet The Heat Saison. And finally, I've listed a few notable and interesting brews that I plan to checkout. Cheers.

Notable and Interesting
Lewis and Clark Brewing Company - Helena, MT: Prickly Pear Pale Ale
Great Raft Brewing - Shreveport, LA: Oceans Between Us Brett IPA
Service Brewing Company - Savannah, GA: Old Guard Biere de Garde.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - St. Louis, MO: Schnickelfritz Weissbier
Black Tooth Brewing Co. - Sheridan, WY: '1314' Strong Ale
Adroit Theory Brewing - Purcellville, VA: Ortolan Bunting Strong Ale
Melvin Brewing - Alpine, WY: Chchch-cherry bomb

Gose
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, DE: Seaquenchale - Kolsch/Gose/Berliner Weisse Hybrid
Flying Dog Brewery - Frederick, MD: GoseFace Killah
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Chico, CA: Otra Vez
Victory Brewing Company - Downingtown, PA: Kirsch Gose

Berliner Weisse
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, DE: Seaquenchale - Kolsch/Gose/Berliner Weisse Hybrid
Right Proper Brewing Company - Washington, DC: Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne
Bear Republic Brewing Co. - Cloverdale, CA: Tartare

Friday, May 27, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Nebraska's Mac's Creek Vineyards & Winery Poncu

Mac's Creek Vineyards & Winery came through with another interesting wine at the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting. This was their Poncu ($25) port styled wine. The weather is too extreme in the Cornhusker state for vinifera grapes so Mac's Creek specializes in cold hardy hybrids, many created at the University of Minnesota such as Edelweiss, LaCrescent, and Frontenac.

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
Founder Max McFarland explained how the Poncu is made.  They ferment Frontenac and then send the wine to a distillery where it is distilled into grape brandy. The winery then purchases the brandy, ages it in oak barrels, and then use it to fortify batches of semi-dry Frontenac. As you can see, Frontenac all the way.  The label and name honors the McFarland Family cattle brand and Max's father Dale "Bud" McFarland. Bud enjoyed Stetson hats and Poncu is what 3rd generation and co-owner Barry McFarland called his grandfather as a little boy.

The Poncu is very nice. The nose is cherry, wood, and a bit ethanol.  The oak character persists throughout and with the alcohol dampens down the sweetness.With this wine, Mac's Creek proves with a little ingenuity and working within the state regulations, a winery can produce a unique and tasteful wine - in this case a highly recommended port styled dessert wine. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The United Grapes of America - Rhode Island's Greenvale Vineyards 2015 Albariño

theCompass view of
Greenvale Vineyards

It's been difficult procuring wines to continue the United Grapes of America series, but them comes along the annual Wine America Congressional Tasting featuring dozens of wines from across the United States. This event included several interesting wines with one being the Greenvale Vineyards Albarino. This Rhode Island winery is located along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, RI, five miles north of downtown Newport and is a member of the Coastal Wine Trail. Apparently "Greenvale is a farm that has been in the same family since 1863. It is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places". 

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

For the past two months I've sipped plenty of Rías Baixas Albariño through #WineStudio's Rías Baixas sessions and the 2015 Greenvale Vineyards Albariño ($15) matches most of the characteristics I've come to expect in this style. It starts with tropical flavors with some lemon then transitions to a saline-mineral character before finishing with decent acids. Since the grapes are estate grown in the Ocean state (very close to an estuary), they share some similarities to their Galicia grown brethren. Cheers to American wineries producing wine from interesting grapes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge #36 - Arlington's Sehkraft Brewing

Saturday I made my second visit to Sehkraft Brewing and this time they had five of their house brewed beer. This brewery, restaurant, butcher shop, and music venue also carries an impressive list of Virginia and National beers to augment their house brews. First though, the food is unique and outstanding as Chef Jay Jenc melds Eastern Europe and Piedmont/Low Country cuisine - at very reasonable prices. On both my visits I went with the wild burger, the first bison, the second camel. And there's plenty of sausage and kielbasa straight from the butcher shop. Actually, all the meats come from the adjacent butcher shop.

As for the beer I was quite satisfied with four out of five. Their Amber Ale had a nice balance of malt to hops and not overly sweet as tends the style. It also was the best to pair with the camel burger.  The Good To Go Session IPA was both flavorful and aromatic; a low abv session without tasting watery. The Hoptastic IPA was fuller, hoppier, and not over the top. Then there's the Wicked Weiss, a fresh and mildly tart Berliner Weisse - seems like a great beer for their patio and post bike ride. (And Sehkraft isn't too far from the W&OD Trail)  The final beer was the Uber-Awesome IPL which just didn't suit me. I liked the individual aspects of the lager and IPA, but they just didn't seem to meld together and were fighting each other. Otherwise a talented lineup. Go visit soon - theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator app will help. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator App Release 2.1

This week we released the first major upgrade to the Android version of theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator App. The new version includes several library upgrades - including Location Services - as well as several workflow patterns. First, the data is now stored on the device allowing for data access in the most isolated regions. Second, the location and zipcode\name searches have been separated to different activities. And along with the state\province module, these activities utilize a viewpager to display the lists and maps of establishments for an easier flow. The maps also include an upgraded cluster library used for California and Washington state and probably for Oregon in the near future. The Company Details activity is basically the same except easier access to social media sharing and a new Weather API that graphically illustrates a seven day forecast.  The next release will include social media logins which will then allow the user to check-in and save comments when visiting an establishment. That work will commence after the WineCompass.com site is upgraded to a more stable platform. Cheers and safe travels.




Friday, May 13, 2016

#WineStudio Presents Galicia – “Green” Spain and the Celtic Influence of Rías Baixas

During the height of Greek civilization between 800-400 B.C., the Celts, who we now associate with Scotland and Ireland, ruled over most of Central and Western Europe. In fact, the Alps mountain range is named from the Celtic Alpes, which itself is derived from a pre-Indo-European base alb (hill). Over time the Celts were pushed to the extremes of Europe - including Galacia where the Romans referred to them as Celtiberians - regardless whether they were ethnic Celts or a mix with Iberian tribes. (See The Celts in Spain). The Celtic presence explains why many Galicians are fair-skinned and eager participants in the production of wine as the ancient Celts were fans of wine, mead, and beer - which they called cervesia. (See Story of the Celts: The Ancient Celts). 

This week #WineStudio's Rías Baixas session focused on Galicia being called Green Spain as"its wet and mild ocean-controlled climate produces lush pastures and sylvan forests". And whether by intention or coincidence, the landscape of Galicia more closely resembles Celtic regions of Ireland, Great Britain & the west coast of France than the rest of Spain.  This greenness results from winds from the Atlantic Ocean bringing moisture inland which is then trapped by the Galician Massif mountains.This wind also carries sea spray inland which "permeates everything; soils, air and vine". And Galician's diet is based on the sea: fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. As a result many Rías Baixas wines carries some allotment of salt and minerals and the wines are bred to pair with seafood. And the two wines featured this session validate this claim.

2014 Lagar de Bouza DO Rías Baixas ($16) - produced by Bouza do Rei which was established in 1984 and was one of the first wineries registered in the newly created DO Rias Baixas. The winery is situated in Val do Salnés - the western most and most maritime extreme of Rías Baixas sub regions. The vineyards are located on small hills, most only 100 meters above sea level. And the vines are trained on granite posts to protect from humidity. This wine consists of 100% Albariño and exudes minerals that blend with and intense lemon flavor and abundant acids. Give me clams and oysters.

2014 Eidos de Padriñan DO Rías Baixas - Val do Salnés ($22) - this wine was produced by Adega Eidos, also located in Salnés, and launched in 1993. Eidos refers to the "backyard garden arbors constituting the traditional ungrafted Albariño vineyard" mentioned above.  Their Padriñán vineyard is south-facing and  overlooks the sea and receives additional heat exposure from "reflection from the water and a wind-sheltering stand of eucalyptus at the top of the slope". Despite the similar growing conditions this wine is a complete contrast to the Lagar de Bouza. Whereas the former was aggressive and citrus, this is a laid back wine, with textured tropical flavors include creamed guava and milder minerals and acids.  A very self assured wine and my favorite of the entire series.

Other DO Rias Baixas wines in this series can be seen here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mother's Day at Harford Vineyard & Winery

Ladew Gardens
Mother's Day lead us to a day trip to Maryland's horse country and Ladew Topiary Gardens and Harford Vineyard & Winery. The gardens are quite impressive and the winery, a mere 10 minute drive away. Part of the Piedmont Wine Trail, Harford Vineyard was established in 2003 growing Vidal Blanc and Traminette and adding Merlot later to their estate property. In 2009 they started producing wine and augment their portfolio with grapes grown in other Harford County vineyards - except for the California sourced Malbec.

The winery generally has eleven wines available ranging from dry reds to semi-dry whites to sweet wine. Their Chardonnay ($15) is fermented to .5% r.s. Even with a little sugar this is a tasty wine, although I wouldn't recognize the grape. On the other hand, the Vidal ($16) and Traminette ($15) were spot on, floral and acidic for the former, a tad spicy for the later.  Their Cabernet Franc ($20) was my favorite: medium bodied with cherry over green pepper flavors. As for the sweet wines the Peach Kissed ($15) is the best - a blend of peach juice and Vidal with the stone fruit ever present. Cheers to Maryland wine.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rioja Red, White & Pink from CVNE

It seems like Spanish wine is trending, with #WineStudio's Rias Baixas Wines, Finca Hispana, and a recent care package from CVNE and it's more modern sister winery, Viña Real. CVNE (pronouned Coo-nay) was founded in 1879 by brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asua in Haro, Rioja. The winery continues to be family owned and operated by Victor and Maria Umutia - 5th generation direct descendants of the brothers. About half of the grapes are grown in CVNE vineyards and the other from long term growers in Rioja. Here are three wines in their portfolio:


2015 Monopole Rioja 100% Viura ($13) - This wine is one smooth operator: laid back, self-assured, stony and creamy orange blossoms, with just enough acids to make you notice. It is the oldest white wine in Spain with CVNE has produced it since 1915. The Viura grape is also used in Cava and is known outside of Spain as Macabeo. But in Rioja it is the most widely planted white grape variety.


 2015 Viña Real Rosado ($15) - 85% Viura & 15% Tempranillo. Although the Viña Real brand was introduced in the 1920s, the winery in Laguardia is as contemporary as any Spanish winery.  This graphic explains all. The rosado is a very light rosé, starts off floral and ends citrus and decent acids.

2015 Cune Rosado ($13) - 100% Tempranillo. The darker color results from extended skin contact. This is an intense rosé with ripe strawberries throughout and a decent dose of acids. Comes across slightly sweet not from residual sugar but from the juicy flavor. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#WineStudio's Rías Baixas with Albariño and Albariño Blends

Whereas the first month of #WineStudio's Rías Baixas focused on Albariño, this month we are discussing other allowable varieties even though they constitute only 10% of all plantings. According to the Rías Baixas website, these grapes are Treixadura (traditionally blended with Albariño), Loureiro (a high-quality local variety particularly associated with O Rosal), Caiño Blanco, Torrontes, and Godello. Caiño Blanco almost disappeared from Rías Baixas in the 1980s until Terras Gauda resuscitated it after discovering its inherit qualities. According to the winery, Caiño "adds aromas of exotic fruits, balsamic notes and, most importantly, great structure and singularity". The first week of the 2nd session on Rias Baixas featured two wines from wineries located in the O Rosal sub-region which borders Portugal and is adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
These two wines provide a distinct comparison between a 100% Albariño and an Albariño based blend. Cheers to Rías Baixas.


2014 Bodegas La Val Albariño DO Rías Baixas Condado do Tea ($17) - the winery is located in O Rosal, close to the Miño River. This 100% Albariño wine plows straight ahead with grape fruit flavors until the time delayed acids. A simple clean and refreshing wine.

2014 Terras Gauda O Rosal DO Rias Baixas ($24) - this wine is a 70% Albariño, 15% Caiño, and 15% Loureiro blend. Terras Gauda is located in the extreme southwest of the province of Pontevedra and the Loureiro comes from  high altitude and cooler vineyards This leads to more intense aromas and along with the Caiño helps produce a more complex wine with an interesting stone fruit interface. The finish provides a bit of citrus tang and decent acids.

Monday, May 2, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge #35 - Reston's Lake Anne Brew House

 I've lived in northern Virginia for almost two decades but I never knew to visit Reston's Lake Anne Plaza until the Lake Anne Brew House opened two weeks ago. It seems like the nanobrewery and taproom have been on verge of opening for a year now, but they finally navigated the winding and waving state and local regulations to open April 16th.   Jason and Melissa Romano are the proprietors with Jason transitioning from home brewer to professional brewer and Melissa responsible for the architecture. The best drinking spot is on the patio overlooking the plaza and lake tributary. There were only three beers available on my visit because the brewery ran dry on opening weekend. My favorite was the Simon's Stout (toffee focused dry stout with mellow creamy finish). The Reston Red Ale is a nice dry hopped amber ale and thankfully not malt heavy. Finally IPA lovers will be satisfied with the Live-Work-Play IPA (citrus and clean; hop heavy) and a tribute to Reston's founder Robert E. Simon. Looking forward to visiting when their expanding portfolio comes online in the coming weeks. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

DO Rias Baixas Albarino - A Beachcombers Type of Wine


Since An Introduction to Galicia's DO Rías Baixas was published three weeks ago, I've been able to sample the half dozen wines through the weekly #WineStudio Twitter chat (Tuesdays 9 PM ET).  The primary conclusion so far is that the wines are generally bright, with a lemon character, various degrees of salinity, and racy acids. In other words, a wine to pair with seafood like oysters and clams or to sip in the sun: a beachcombers wine. Got that OBXers. I'm already looking forward to clamming in the Albermarle Sound.  These wines are 100% Albarino and excellent values as the suggested retail price in this group ranges from $14 to $17.  Keep following the #Winestudio session as it continues into May with Albarino blends and other wines from DO Rias Baixas. Cheers.

Adegas Gran Vinum, 2015 Nessa DO Rías Baixas ($17) - citrus and stone fruit, mellow minerals and saline, bright acids (favorite of the group)

Martin Codax, 2014 Martin Codax DO Rías Baixas ($17) - floral nose, multi citrus flavors, very crisp

Rectoral do Umia, 2014 Viñabade DO Rías Baixas ($15) - serve very cold to increase the floral appeal and acids (least favorite of the group)

Señorio de Rubiós, 2015 Robaliño DO Rías Baixas ($16) - creamy citrus lemon on the palate; minerals and salt in the acidic finish

Veiga Naum, 2014 Veiga Naum DO Rías Baixas ($15) - I received a cooked bottle, but others mentioned its racy acids and deep salinity

ATTIS Xion (Attis Bodega y Viñedos) 2014 DO Rías Baixas ($14) - extended lemon creamsicle, saline, bright acids

Monday, April 25, 2016

Caboose to Beltway Berliner Weisse on the W&OD

theCompass view of
the W&OD between
Sterling and Vienna
Beltway's selection on 4/23/2016
On Friday afternoons and Saturday, take a moderate bike ride from Vienna's Caboose Brewing Company to Sterling's Beltway Brewing Company and quench your thirst with a low abv Berliner Weisse. The tasting room at Beltway is only open during this period so plan accordingly. The brewery provides samples of their contracted brews plus two house offerings - one being the Berliner Weisse Sour Ale (4% abv). This is a refreshing ale, light, very fruity, and tart. Approximately 11 miles to the east, Caboose has been pouring their The "Zoo" Berliner Weisse (3.4%) since their inception last year. The latest iteration is a little less fruity and comes across dry and effervescent- but with a dose of sour and tartness. And as always, theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App can guide you to all the breweries and wineries off the W&OD Bike Trail and beyond.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Briney Melon Gose, Where Art Thou?

This week I failed to grab the newest Anderson Valley Brewing Company Gose release, Briney Melon Gose, so I decided to drown my sorrows with my existing Gose collection. This tart style is traditionally brewed with salted water, malted wheat, and augmented with Coriander and originated in Goslar and Leipzig Germany. The tartness is created using lactic bacteria and is normally comparable to a Berliner Weisse. And like the Wit beer style, Gose has been resurrected by the American craft beer industry.  My favorite American version remains the Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose (4.2% abv) - which provides both tartness and tangy flavors.  Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Otra Vez (4.5% abv) is a new year-round offering that includes prickly pear cactus and grapefruit that is bittered and finished with experimental hops. Once again the tangy infusion of fruit completely compliments the tartness. There's also a pronounced hop presence at the finish which also blends nicely. The Victory Brewing Company Kirsch Gose (4.7%) comes across the tartest with cherries and cherry juice added after fermentation. The cherries dominate and the finish is a bot creamy sweet and dry.