- May 28 -29 - Caribbean Festival
- June 25 – 26 – Beach Party Wine Festival
- July 16 – 17 - Reggae Festival
- August 27 – 28 - Cool Beats’n The Summer Heat
- October 16 – 17 Reggae Wine Festival II
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
A few years back, the very first Virginia winery we ever visited, Oakencroft, closed as the owners retired. This year, MistyRay Winery (Harrisonburg) and White Fences Vineyard & Winery (Irvington), are closing for similar reasons. MistyRay will close on June 30thso that Phil can dedicate more time for golfing. At White Fences, Bill & Susan Westbrook are closing as soon as the entire inventory is liquidated. No more Meteor. So here's your last chance to grab these wines and we wish the owners a long & healthy retirement.
Friday, April 22, 2011
- Willowcroft Farm Vineyards
- Williamsburg Winery
- Unicorn Winery
- Stone Mountain Vineyards
- Rosemont Vineyards and Winery
- Rebec Vineyards
- Prince Michel Winery
- Potomac Point Winery
- Philip Carter Winery of Virginia
- Mattaponi Winery
- Loudoun Valley Vineyards
- Lake Anna Winery
- James River Cellars
- Horton Vineyards
- First Colony Winery
- Fabbioli Cellars
- Democracy Vineyards
- Davis Valley Winery and Vineyard
- Cooper Vineyards
- Chateau Morrisette
- Belle Mount Vineyards
Saturday, April 16, 2011
While their vines are being planted and maturing, Capital Vineyards crafts their wines with Michael Shaps at his facility south of Charlottesville. The grapes are from the Monticello AVA and are your traditional Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While bottling single varietals of each of these, they also blend a Meritage. And for white wine they produce a Traminette - a hybrid that doesn't get enough love. In fact, this was probably my favorite, as it exhibited the aroma and flavor of a dry Gewürztraminer (one of its parents).
Eventually Shrem and Noland plan on opening a Bed and Breakfast on the property making this a unique weekend destination. For now though, put Capital Vineyards on your list of northern Virginia wine destinations.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Languedoc is located in the south of France adjacent to the Mediterranean sea. Wine has been produced in the region for two and a half millenia - starting with the Greeks, then the Phoenicians and Romans. In fact, the Roman historian Titus Livius was lauding "wines of light" from Limoux two thousand years ago. And sparkling wines from Limoux were the first wines we had tasting from the region. Based on the Mauzac grape, these are some of the best sparklers we have ever tasted. Getting back to Languedoc, the region is divided into many AOCs, with almost a dozen represented on the Ambassador Tour. And as expected, the wines differ by AOC because of terrior and the grapes planted. Besides some indigenous grapes, the most popular grape varieties are Rhone varieties: Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre for reds and Rousanne, Grenache Blamc, Marsanne, and Muscat for whites. Not too surpising since Languedoc and Rhone border each other.
The Ambassador Tour was comprised of 31 wines selected in a blind tasting by American panelists from over 120 wines submitted. Most of the wines should retail between $15 and $25, although there were a few higher end wines that were priced closer to Grand Cru Bordeaux. And almost all the wines were were made from hand picked grapes, grown in small lots, using organic farming practices, and by family estates that span generations.
The best part of the tasting was listening to the winemakers or their representatives discuss their passion for wines made in the region. The region's history, the AOCs, the grapes, food pairings - all contributed to fabulous discussions.
- The region's popular wine grape, Carignan, has the second largest planting in France. Can you guess the first?
- The traditional method of sparkling wine production, "méthode champenoise", where the bubbles are produced by a second fermentation in the bottles, may have originated in Limoux before it was utilized in Champagne.
- The La Clape AOC was once an island - now connected to the mainland by the runoff of sediment. And the Château des Karantes Grand Crus Rose and Rouge from La Clape are quite good. These wines as well as the Château des Karantes Blanc, based on Bourboulenc grape, are available locally at Cobblestone Cellars.
- The vines used by the Domaine la Croix Chaptal, a small winery in the Terrasses du Larzac - an AOC, have been tended by Monks for over 12 centuries. The vines were ravished by the Phylloxera epidemic almost 150 years ago; thank God for American rootstock. The present owners restored the original cellar from the Abbey and are now making very good wine - as evident by the Les Terrasses Rouge and Cuvee Charles - each differing blends of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan.
- Château la Dournie is owned and operated by one of the oldest families in the region - going back almost 140 years of continual production. What's even more interesting is that the gender relationships are reversed and the winemaking has been handed down from mother to daughter for 6 generations, with the males acting as hunters and gatherers. Oh yea, there Syrah based wines are quite good.
- The oldest continually owned property was Château du Donjon, which has stayed in the same family for 500 years. For Americans, this length of time is unimaginable. When Columbus was sailing the seas, this family was plowing the same soil they do today. And not to be outdone, wine has been made at the estate of Chateau de Lancyre going back to 1550. These wines as well as the highly recommended Château Saint Baulery Rouge are available from Hand Picked Selections out of Warrenton VA.
- Organic farming -Agriculture Biologique (AB) - was proudly on display at Gilles Louvet Vineyards. They are the largest AB producer in France and the second largest in Europe. What differs from most organic wines made in the States is the price, $15 for the Vignobles Gilles Louvet Rouge. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan is not only excellent but priced in our ballpark. Their Esprit de Sud is a sparkling wine from the Blanquette de Limoux that also fits our budget. A perfect expression of Languedoc sparklers - dry, aromatic, and flavorful.
- Still wines are also crafted in Limoux by the Château Rives Blanques using Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Mauzac. Whereas they produce 100% varietal wines from the first two grapes, my favorite was the La Trilogie a blend of the three with 50% Mauzac.
- The most interesting white wine was the Domaine Félines Jourdan Blanc made from 100% Piquepoul in the Picpoul de Pinet AOC. I know, Piquepoul - never heard of that grape - but it makes a good wine in this case.
- And the one person you would want to spend time with the most is the unofficial Ambassador for the Languedoc region, Gerard Bertrand. Besides making excellent wines, he's a professional rugby player. Most of his wines are made in Corbières but he owns or sources from vineyards in other AOCs including Monervois la Liviniere - the source for the Gerard Bertrand La Viala Rouge. Along with the Gerard Bertrand La Forge Rouge from Corbières Boutenac, these wines are made from old, low yield vines. The La Viala is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan whereas the La Forge is a 50/50 blend of Carignan and Syrah. Interestingly we learned that Carignan is the second largest planting in France. Can you guess the first? These wines are outstanding, full bodied - balanced between tannins and acidity. And they are priced for the quality - $75.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
The style and facilities differ among region and winery. Some may offer local musicians; other regional artists or national touring acts. Right here in Northern Virginia it seems that almost every winery in Loudoun County and along the Route 66 corridor provide regular live music. Last year we filmed our inaugural episode of MyJoogTV at the summer concert series at Tarara Vineyard & Winery and filmed more sessions at three other wineries that host local and regional acts: Adams County Winery, Black Ankle Vineyards, and Veritas Vineyards. But basically, for those living near Washington D.C. and Baltimore, there is a plethora of musical opportunities within a short drive in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
This phenomenon is not limited to the Mid-Atlantic. Wineries exist in every state of this country, and the same holds for live music hosted at these establishments. Some are full fledged concert halls such as Mountain Winery or Wente Vineyards in California. Others, such as Pend d'Oreille Winery, La Vina Winery, Schnebly Redland's Winery, and McLaughlin Vineyards may seem remote - but they provide plenty of music. And as expected, wineries near music meccas like Nashville and Austin, leverage those musical communities. Check out Arrington Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, and Landon Winery as examples.
We and the wineries are constantly adding these events to the Wine-Compass and MyJoog event listings - with the later providing more information on the musicians. Regardless on how you find these events; go out and support local wine and local music. That's a great combination.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
You never know when the opportunity presents itself to learn more about wine. A month ago, while in Las Vegas, I asked our Peruvian driver about wines in his country. Fifteen minutes later I was a certified expert on the Peruvian national spirit, Pisco, and its companion drink the Pisco Sour. When the Spaniards conquered South American, they carried with them Quebranta grape vines and found a suitable climate to plant these in the Ica Valley. Eventually, the recently fermented grape juice or musts from these grapes were distilled into a clear brandy: Pisco. The name “Pisco” most likely derives from the port city of Pisco, 250 km south of Lima.
There are 4 recognized types of Pisco:
· Pure: distilled only from Quebranta grapes. Other non-aromatic varieties are officially accepted (non-aromatic Normal Black and the Mollar), but our driver warned, only Pisco from Quebranta grapes can be called Pure. It’s easy to see why the Quebranta grape is beloved by the Peruvian people. Its vine is so hardy that, today, the stocks are used as graft bearers for other grape varieties.
· Aromatic: distilled from aromatic grapes derived from the family of muscatels.
· Green Must: originated from the distillation of grape musts in fermentation process (this refers to the musts in which sugar has not been transformed into alcohol)
· Acholado: results from the distillation of musts of different grape varieties.
Our driver also warned us about Piscos made from outside of Peru. He informed us of five main features which distinguish true Peruvian Pisco from those distilled outside the country. For this list, he recommended an article in which I am quoting directly: “Peruvian Gastronomy - The Pisco - Differences between Pisco and other grape “aguardientes” made outside Peru” made available by the Peruvian Embassy.
1. The grape variety: One of the most important differences between the genuine Pisco and foreign aguardientes is that the grape used for its preparation –artisan and industrial- is not limited to the aromatic grape “Moscatel”. Actually, the emphasis is put on the flavor or in the aroma. This is why the most common grape types are “Quebranta” (a typically Peruvian mutation) and, in less percentage, the Normal Black and the Mollar, which are non-aromatic varieties.
2. Non-rectification of steams: The distillation process used for preparing Pisco is carried out in distilleries or small stills of non-continuous operation, not in continuous distilleries. Thus, the constituting elements of the genuine Pisco will not be removed at the time of rectifying steams produced at its distillation.
3. Time between fermentation of musts and distillation process: According to the definition of Pisco, this beverage is obtained from the distillation of recently fermented “fresh” musts. This type of process avoids recently fermented musts to remain stagnant for several months before being distilled or used for mature wines. Nowadays, distilleries for preparing Pisco should meet the requirements required by the Committee of Supervision of Technical Regulations, Metrology, Quality Control and Tariff restrictions of the National Institute for the Protection of Intellectual Property and Free Competition (INDECOPI).
4. No aggregate is included: In Peru, the distillation process is not suspended until obtaining the alcoholic Pisco at levels of 42° - 43° degrees Gay-Lusac. No distilled or treated water is added with the purpose of changing its consistency, color and other features that make it a distinctive product.
5. Process to obtain the established alcoholic content: When distillation of fresh musts starts, the alcoholic contents of the distilled product is high, reaching 75° degrees Gay-Lusac approximately. As the process continues, the alcoholic content decreases, thus, allowing other constituting elements of Pisco to make up the brandy. According to the skills and tradition of the Peruvian “pisquero”, this process lasts until the alcoholic content decreases to about 42° or 43°, sometimes decreasing to 38° degrees Gay-Lusac.
They obviously take their Pisco seriously in Peru. In fact, our trip to Las Vegas coincided with a special Peruvian holiday, National Pisco Sour day, which occurs annually the first Saturday in February. So, the moral of this article is to engage your driver in a conversation on drinks from their homeland and to raise a glass to a Pisco Sour. You will not be disappointed. Below is a simple recipe.
Pisco Sour recipe
3 parts pisco brandy
1 1/2 parts lemon juice
1 - 2 tbsp sugar