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Friday, March 29, 2013

A #TGTaste of Villa Maria Estate

This week saw the first #TGTaste twitter tasting of 2013 featuring two wines from New Zealand's Villa Maria Estate: the 2012 Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($13) and 2011 Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir ($16). These were my first wines from the winery, but apparently they are quite popular, having to open a second facility recently in Auckland to satisfy demand. I found it interesting that founder, George Fistonich, is Eastern European as he says, "Being Croatian, wine is part of my blood. It’s always been a part of life and I’m pleased to have spent my career pursuing this life-long passion."  And for those where sustainiblity is a criteria in purchasing wine, Villa Maria is a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ).

Starting with the  Sauvignon Blanc, the fruit was sourced from vineyards throughout Marlborough, including the Wairau and Awatere valleys. You may want to check out Kiwi Daydreaming to find out more out the Marlborough region.  It looks like there was nothing fancy about the fermentation process, and the result is a typical clean and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc - grapefruit and lemon on the initial palette, some grassy flavors in the mid-palette, and a clean refreshing acidic finish. And extremely attractive at the $13 SRP.

The fruit for the Pinot Noir were sourced solely from the Wairau and Awatere valleys in Marlborough. The grapes were cold soaked up to 32˚C, with a majority of the juice fermented in oak and the remaining wine was barreled after fermenting in stainless steel on lees. The total oak treatment lasted 10 months. The resulting wine is all cherry, dark cherry to be precise, with a little plum mixed in. The mid-palette is soft and creamy with the cherry mixed with a few flakes of white pepper. The finish is nice and easy - and as suggested by the screw cap, drink now - and often. Cheers

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

North American Wine Roads - Virginia - Middleburg AVA

Courtesy of Boxwood Winery
The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to a number of American Viticultural Areas (AVA) such as Monticello (1984), the North Fork of Roanoke (1987) , the Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace (1987), Rocky Knob (1987), and Virginia’s Eastern Shore (1991), as well as sharing the Shenandoah Valley AVA (1987) with West Virginia. As you can see, the last AVA from the above list was Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 1991, with the remaining acquiring a designation in the 1980's.

In terms of the contemporary Virginia wine making industry, that's ancient history and quite a lot has changed since those early petitions. For instance, the petitioner of the North Fork of Roanoke AVA, Woolwine Winery, was the precursor to Chateau Morrisette and this AVA as well as Rocky Knob are currently home to very few commercial vineyards. In contrast, the number of vineyards in Northern Virginia have escalated rapidly in the past two decades particularly in Fauquier County and its northern neighbor Loudoun County, where there are now over 60 wineries operating between the two. 

Back in 2006, Rachel Martin, Executive V.P. at Boxwood Winery thought there was enough similar characteristics in geology, soil, climate and geography between many of these wineries that warranted a petition to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to designate a distinct AVA. The TTB defines an American Viticultural Area (AVA) as
A viticultural area for American wine is a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features as described in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 27 CFR part 9 and a name and delineated boundary as established in part 9 of the regulations. These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.
According to Martin, the designation matters for a number of reasons, first because it will allow wineries within the AVA to label their wines as “estate bottled” if the wine meets these conditions as stated by Steve Heimoff:
Take the term “estate bottled.” Up until now, a wine can be called “estate bottled” only if (a) it is labeled with an appellation of origin, and (b) the bottling winery is located in the labeled viticultural area, grew all of the grapes used to make the wine on land owned or controlled by the winery within the boundaries of the labeled viticultural area; and crushed the grapes (there are some additional restrictions).
To finish reading about the AVA, visit Middleburg Gets Some Signage For Their AVA.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Going Mobile at WineCompass

Figure 1
When not sipping and writing, my daily occupation is a software developer at Segue Technologies. As we all know, the technology industry is constantly evolving and in order for developers to stay relevant, they must continually upgrade their abilities. I've tried to stay relevant by building demo applications that interest me.  WineCompass was the result of learning Microsoft's .Net platform a decade ago and MyJoog was the result of becoming competent with the DotNetNuke CMS.  My current employer has recognized the popularity of mobile application development and is moving several .net-centric developers to that sphere - me included. I chose the Android path and naturally decided to augment my training by building a mobile version of the WineCompass website.

Figure 2
Initially I created several views and activities in order to understanding the basic Android programming functionality, including incorporating Google mapping. Currently there are three basic activities, search for companies by state, by zip code, or by current geo-location. The results are populating in either a list view or plotted on a Google map - see Figure 1. Each marker contains an InfoWindow that when clicked navigates to the Company Info screen (Figure 2).

In order for any application to be successful, it must satisfy client or consumer expectations. That's the purpose of this post and below are a few questions to those who would utilize this type of application.  Any suggestions by comment or email would be helpful. Thanks and cheers.
  1. What functionality do you expect from a mobile application?
  2. What search parameters are most important (location, zip code, state, products)?
  3. What company information would you like displayed in Figure 2? 
  4. What social networking functionality would suit your needs?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The United Grapes of America - California - Flora Springs Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

It was only a matter of time that we turned to a California wine in our The United Grapes of America series and I want to feature one of our favorite Napa valley wineries, Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards. This three generation, family owned farm winery is best known for their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage blend, and Chardonnay. Dezel from MyVineSpot, just reviewed these wines last
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
month. And Dezel also provided me with a bottle of their limited release 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc ($50) as a birthday gift last year. A year later, I finally opened the wine.  More often than not, I consume either Chinon or Virginian Cabernet Franc, and the Flora Springs was neither; more full bodied than a Chinon, and less peppery and earthy than a Virginian. It was actually more Pinot-ist: fruity, feminine, and creamy with just a touch of pepper at the tail. Basically, it was delicious; the cherry and vanilla flavors melted throughout the palette and the finish was nice and easy. Too bad it's not an annual release. Cheers.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Winerist - A Global Wine Travel Portal

We've always enjoyed visiting wineries when we traveled - whether the wineries were destinations in themselves, or when we wanted to find a winery in a unique location. WineCompass was basically the result of these travels. Over the years other wine related travel sites have emerged, many with more robust features, and understanding the limitations of our site, we readily use these alternatives to augment our travel planning. One of these is Winerist, a relatively new platform focusing on world travel that connects wine tourists with local experts, special accommodations, wineries, and tour guides. For each region, they publish a short wine making history; a map; suggested itineraries and tours; and guides on where to taste, stay, and eat. Plus many attractive photos that are an incentive along to start making travel plans.

The site currently provides information for 30 wine regions, with France (8 regions), Italy (4 regions), Chile (4 regions), Spain (2 regions), and South Africa (2 regions) having multiple regions represented. In North America, Winerist includes travel information for Napa and the Okanagan Valley - perfect timing for the bloggers attending the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference.  And they've also included other popular regions such as  Mendoza, Barossa Valley, Dubrovnik-Dalmatia, Douro Valley, Tokaj, and Santorini. For the last two, I will be providing a short overview of the region's wine history and wineries in the coming months.

Besides self interest, I encourage you to check out Winerist; there's plenty of cool information like Bike & Wine in the Casablanca Valley or Cooking & Tasting in Santorini. Plus with the social aspect, you can contribute your own wine travel experiences. Cheers.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The United Grapes of America - Maryland - Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Comus

Even though we live in Virginia, the closest winery to us is actually in Maryland, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. We've been heading up I270 on a regular basis for the past seven years  to hike up the mountain and then enjoy some nice wine afterwards. The winery is owned by a family conglomeration, the offspring of Dan and Polly O'Donoghue - who purchased the farm in the early 1960s - included the signature bright red barn (built in the early 1900s). When deciding to plant vines, they hired vineyard consultant, Lucie Morton, who meticulously surveyed the property and determined which Bordeaux varieties would excel in each lot. They then double downed on success by hiring Carl DiManno as their vineyard manager and winemaker. Morton and DiManno have contributed to dozens of successful east coast wineries, and most definitely SMV.
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

In 2011, Benoit Pineau took over the wine-making responsibilities and can claim credit for our current profile - the 2011 Comus. The wine's namesake is both the Greek god of revelry and merriment and also the road in which the winery is situated. It is composed of several Bordeaux varieties and aged in used French oak resulting in a flavorful dark fruit and slightly spicy profile. It is medium - full bodied with subtle tannins - easy to drink alone or pair with tenderloin, pork roast and game (as the winery suggests).  This is a really nice wine, one of my favorites from the state.  The judges at the 2013 International Eastern Wine Competition also enjoyed this wine, giving it Best in Class for Bordeaux styled red blends. Cheers to that and to the upcoming DrinkLocalWine.com conference scheduled for April 13th in Baltimore. Spend the day tasting the many quality wines Maryland has to offer. You won't be disappointed.