Wednesday, June 6, 2012

#WineChat: For the Love of Wine! What inspired your passion for wine?


Tokaji Wine Bar in Central Market Hall
This week's Wednesday  #winechat is hosted by Red Wine Diva who poses an interesting question: For the Love of Wine! What inspired your passion for wine?  A very timely topic since it was posed to a few of us in a van ride across the Grand Valley during the 2012 DrinkLocalWine conference. And the answer occurred exactly 15 years ago next weekend.

My route into the winosphere started like many other's - tasting wine at a local wine festival. Through college and my early professional career I was a craft beer drinker. Wine was what we drank when there wasn't any beer available. Then we started attending the Seven Springs Wine Festival in Somerset, Pennsylvania; where I sampled local wines for the first time. I don't remember much about the wines we drank, only that the whites were tasty and many of the reds sweet.  For some reason Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery registers in my memory. But I came away from these annual pilgrimages with the knowledge that local wines do exist, even though I had no clue what we were drinking: Catawba, Cayuga, Vidal Blanc, Niagara, Chambourcin, or DeChaunac. Concord, of course, was grape jelly.
Wine Cave - "Valley of Beautiful Women"

Outside Wine Cave - Eger
Then I had my "Ah ha" moment.  My wife and I decided to spend three weeks traveling through Hungary and Romania for our honeymoon. Our base was an apartment in Buda near Gellert Hill, but we started every day in the Central Market Hall just across the Danube into Pest. While lollygagging through the enormous building I stumbled upon the "Fountain of Youth" in the remote left corner of the market -  The Tokaji Wine Bar - specializing in dry Furmint. Every morning I would order a nagy pohar bor and watch old women stroll through filling empty two liter containers while the men loitered sipping and conversing over their pohar bor. One day we traveled to Eger and the wine caves dug into the "Valley of Beautiful Women", so named because after visiting 30 caves... Here we tasted big reds of Bulls Blood as well as Kékoportó (Blauer Portugieser). While visiting Lake Balaton we visited several "nano"
That's how they roll
wineries - basically home wine makers offering wine for sale in small plastic jugs - just like kids selling lemonade. Whites rule here - particularly Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris) and Olaszrizling (Welschriesling). Then off to Sopron, home to Kékfrankos, no surprise since the region borders Austrian Blaufrankish vineyards.

Wines Still Around from Hungary 1997
Through this unplanned wine adventure I learned that there was no real mystery about wine, just a lot of different wine grapes. Like other European countries, wine was an integral part of the Hungarian lifestyle meant to be consumed daily either from plastic containers or wicker flasks. I still had much to learn, like not aging already five year-old whites meant to open immediately; but that's another lesson. But I was no longer scared off by wine.  On our return, we soon discovered that there were local wineries in Virginia; although in the late 1990's not that many. Remember Farfelu Vineyards?  As we traveled throughout the northeast we realized it wasn't easy searching for local wineries. I couldn't find a central directory to my liking. At the time I needed to train myself in .net; so within a short time WineCompass.com was born and has been running off that 10 year old code since. And from its conception, our the focus has been to visit local wineries and broaden our exposure to new wine regions and grapes. Cheers to your next wine adventure.
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