Friday, December 28, 2007


On a recent trip to New York City, I stumbled upon a great wine bar - or should I say Champagne bar: Flute. There are two New York locations and I found the midtown one located on W. 54th street, between 6th Ave and Broadway. The goal of this establishment is to provide "a comfortable space where guests could have a "Champagne experience" whether they came for caviar and bubbly or cocktails with friends." I think they succeeded. I arrived promptly at 5:00 PM, right when they opened and thus I had the tasting bar to myself - plus another couple starting their Saturday evening. Flute serves 100 champagne and sparkling wines by the bottle with about a dozen of these available by the flute. You can also purchase tasting flights of various champagne and champagne cocktails.

I started with a flute of the Chartogne-Taillet Rosé NV - a dry champagne made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, plus a splash of Pinot Meunier. The wine has strawberry flavors and a dry - complex finish. I can't wait to step up and try their Cuvee Fiacre. I wanted to also try a French sparkling wine, so the bartender recommended the Blanquette de Limoux Grande Reserve, a dry champagne from southern France's Languedoc and the home of the first sparkling wines. This wine was lighter than the Chartogne-Taillet and balanced throughout, a very drinkable champagne. It is made from the Mauzac grape, known locally as “Blanquette” and the name of the appellation: Blanquette de Limoux. I would suggest this wine before a meal and the Chartogne-Taillet during.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Niner Wine Estates - 2004 Sangiovese

On Christmas Eve, a dinner guest brought over a 2004 Sangiovese from Niner Wine Estates. After re-tasting today, this is the best Sangiovese I've tried produced outside of Italy. I can't articulate tasting notes as well as the winery's description so here it is:

"This wine’s deep dark color is notable for Sangiovese. The promises made by its appearance are kept by the aromas and flavors of this dark rich wine. The nose brings aromas of black fruit and well-integrated oak with a hint of licorice. Warm rich flavors of jammy blackberry and juicy cherry are accompanied by soft tannins and a subtle note of mint on the finish."

In layman's terms this is a fruity wine, but with a smooth - slightly spicy finish. Even with the low tannins the finish is unique. This morning I discovered that the wine won Best of California and Double Gold Medal at the 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition and various other Gold and Silver medals during the past year. The wine is also very reasonably priced at $20. I hope I can find another bottle in my area.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Antis Malbec

A short while ago, one of our local wine merchants, Norm's Beer & Wine, suggested a bottle of the 2003 Antis Malbec. We have been back several times to restock. Antis is another term for the Andes Mountains and this wine is made from 60 to 90 year old vines grown on the foothills of these mountains. The wine is composed of 92% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in different oak combinations. The result is a dark purple wine - with strong fruit flavors - and a slightly spicy finish. Plus at around $10 - it is a bargain. But don't just take our word - the wine won a Gold medal at the 2003 CATAD’OR, Argentina's most famous wine competition.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Vintage Ridge Vineyards

Last Saturday we visited one of Fauquier County's newest wineries, Vintage Ridge Vineyards. The winery is located in the historic village of Rectortown, which still contains many 100 + year old houses - and was where General McClellan was camped when relieved as commander of the Army of the Potomac. The vineyards are hidden from the main road; but once you drive up the driveway the estate opens into an array of vines surrounded by woods and views of the Blueridge Mountains. An amazing site.

I am constantly surprised when new wineries produce quality wines in their first vintages, and Vintage Ridge Vineyards is no exception. They started by planting vines of two grapes that grow extremely well in Virginia: Cabernet Franc and Vidal Blanc. Plus, they added a little character by growing Mourvedre. Thus all their wines are estate grown, except for a Syrah where the grapes are grown in another Fauquier County vineyard.

Vintage Ridge has a very unique method for serving their wines. Visitors can purchase a tasting platter containing meats and cheeses as well as access to a variety of mustard and chutneys. The tasting sheet offers suggestions for pairing the wine with specific meats, cheeses, or spreads. The winery wants visitors to appreciate how a wine's flavor changes when combined with different foods - plus it makes the tasting experience a lot more entertaining. The first wine was a dry vidal - the Summer Night (dry) - which has a nice floral aroma and dry fruity finish. I preferred the next wine, the Maiden Voyage, a blend of Vidal and Mourvedre. This is your refreshing afternoon wine after a day of work - smooth with a refreshing acidic finish. Moving to the sweeter whites, Vintage Ridge produces a second Summer Night, this one with 1.5% RS. This is an alternative to a semi-dry Riesling. And then there's the Ice-wine styled Late Harvest Vidal Blanc - made from grapes frozen after harvest. This is the wine to have the most fun tasting with chocolate, the chutneys, and even spicy mustard.

Turning to reds, Vintage Ridge poured two excellent wines from Cabernet Franc that show why this grape is special in Virginia. The 2005 Cabernet Franc was aged one year in the barrel and is a full bodied spicy wine. Spicy from the initial aroma to the "tail". The 2006 Cabernet Franc is smoother and more complex - more reminiscent of a Bordeaux styled wine. Both are completely different - but excellent in their own styles. The final wine was a Syrah - but after the Cabernet Franc - my attention span was wavering - so any thoughts would not give this wine justice. Next time, I'll try this wine first.

If I can't return to the winery before Christmas, I look forward to my next visit in the spring. Plan ahead and give yourself ample time to try the wines and food - I plan to spend an afternoon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

December Wine Festivals

The 2007 festival season is winding down and the event database contains over 400 upcoming events in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in December, here is a short list of events in several states:

Holidays in the Vineyards - Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association: December 1st-2nd

Fifth Annual Kristkindl Markt - Hermann Wine Trail: December 8th-9th

New York
"Wreath Fineries @ 10 Wineries" The Shawangunk Wine Trail: December 1st-2nd
Deck The Halls - Seneca Lake Wine Trail: December 1st-2nd
Holiday Happening - Niagara Wine Trail: December 1st-2nd

Very Cool Wine Trail - Ohio Wine Producers Association: December 1st-2nd
Tannenbaum Trail - The Wineries on the Vines & Wines Trail in Northeast Ohio - December 6th-7th
Very Cool Wine Trail - Ohio Wine Producers Association: December 7th-8th
Tannenbaum Trail - The Wineries on the Vines & Wines Trail in Northeast Ohio - December 14th-15th

Heart of Virginia Jingle Bell Wine Trail - Heart of Virginia Wine Trail: December 1st-2nd
Deck the Halls Weekends - Shenandoah Valley Wine Growers Association: December 1st-2nd

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #44

Somehow we stumbled upon one of our new favorite values wines: Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #44. Located in Sonoma, Marietta Cellars specializes in Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each year the winery creates a proprietary blend consisting of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane and lesser amounts of Cabernet and Syrah. The current version, Old Vine Red Lot #44 is awesome - blackberry aroma - slightly spicy - but with a smooth, almost buttery finish. And priced under $15 it's a bargain.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wine Gifts

Over Thanksgiving we were asked by several family and friends if we had any good wine gift ideas. I decided to compile a list and post for anyone interested. My basic philosophy is to give something a little different; and you can find good wines for less than $15.

For instance, why not try an Argentinian Alamos 2006 Malbec, a Spanish Mano a Mano 2005 La Mancha, a South African Beyerskloof 2006 Pinotage, or an Oregon Bridgeview 2004 Black Beauty Syrah. For whites or rose try an Austrian Velt. one 2005 Gruner Veltliner, an Italian Falesco 2004 Vitiano Bianco, or a Washington Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Neillie's Garden Dry Rose.

I also like giving dessert wines, although you will have to splurge a bit more. Try the California Quady 2005 Elysium Black Muscat, Hungarian Royal Tokaji Wine Company 2000 Red Label, or the Canadian Inniskillin 2006 Riesling Icewine.

For those looking for accessories the Riedel 'O' Series stemless wine glasses are becoming more popular. We've been using a similar style European wine tumbler for years. And everyone needs a proficient corkscrew, we use both the Rabbit 6-Piece Wine Corkscrew and the Insta-pull Lever Corkscrew.

Finally provides many gift ideas including personalized wine labels and celebrity sketches. I hope this list helps.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Grapes of Galilee

While reading through the Catholic Digest I saw an advertisement for The Grapes of GalileeTM, wine made from grapes grown between Mount Tabor and the Sea of Galilee. The wine is produced and imported by Georgia based Haroz Vintners and is marketed to the Catholic community. The company "suggests pouring The Grapes of Galilee at wedding receptions or communions, or any festive occasion where Christians seek a physical connection to their spiritual homeland." Currently there are three type of wine:

* Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Deep royal purple, showing herbal and black olive flavors backed up nicely by currants and wild berries. Soft tannins and good balance make the wine fun to drink.
* Merlot 2005 - Medium bodied, with soft tannins and generous berry and black cherry fruits; very pleasant.
* Chardonnay 2006 - Light gold, medium bodied, with citrus and tropical fruits on a lightly earthy background. Good balancing acidity keeps the wine lively and fruity.

The labels depict Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River and his walking on the Sea of Galilee. Haroz Vintners has received mostly positive reviews for simply producing the wines; while some believe the idea is distasteful. The wines are available online and at several retail outlets in selected states. Check their website for locations. I look forward to giving the wines a try, particularly as Israeli wines improve in quality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kokomo Winery 2005 Zinfandel, Perotti Vineyards

We have been drinking several different Zinfandel wines lately and our favorite has been the 2005 Zinfandel, Perotti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley from Kokomo Winery. This three year old Sonoma Valley winery specializes in single vineyard wines, particularly Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course, Zinfandel. The Perotti Vineyards Zinfandel was fermented in French & American oak after harvesting from the famed third generation vineyard. This wine is pure Zinfandel - a raspberry forward flavor and a spicy complex finish. And the wine is reasonably priced at $22.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Miracle Valley Vineyard

Today we traveled out to the beautiful rolling hills of Virginia horse country to visit another of the state's newest wineries: Miracle Valley Vineyard and Winery. The winery and vineyard are located on a former cattle pasture and the tasting room is situated in a hundred and twenty five year old restored farm house. Its always enjoyable driving through country roads in Fauquier County and driving to Miracle Valley is no exception - even though it is located only a few miles from Route 66. The Cunningham family have created a warm environment by providing both a front patio and back deck - which overlooks the catfish stocked pond. Plus, the grounds and farm house were still decorated for Halloween which provided an additional cosy atmosphere. To learn about the inspiration for Miracle Valley Vineyard, you can read this excellent article at the Fauquier Times-Democrat.

Miracle Valley produces wines from traditional vinifera grapes and their red wines are classic Bordeaux. The 2005 Cabernet Franc is medium bodied - very fruit forward and a smooth finish. This wine joins the crowded competition among quality Virginia Cabernet Franc. The 2006 Merlot is full bodied with a strong berry flavor and a long spicy finish. This was our favorite red, but the wine maker's favorite is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is aged 11 months in American oak that produces a strong fruity bouquet and a very spicy finish.

Miracle Valley currently offers three Chardonnay wines. The 2006 Chardonnay is fermented and aged in stainless steel, which produces a fresh crisp wine with nice acidity and citrus flavors. There are two 2006 Reserve Chardonnay wines, one fermented and aged in Hungarian oak and the other fermented in stainless steel, then aged in American oak. The later is spicier and more complex - which made it our favorite of their chardonnay. The final white wine is their Sweet Michelle - but don't let the name fool you. This is more of a semi-dry wine at 2% residual sugar and made from one of our favorite grapes: Rkatsiteli. It has the familiar spicy flavor and a somewhat dry finish. For those looking for something different, this is it.

This next Sunday on November 11th, Miracle Valley is hosting a children's fishing tournament from 1:00-3:00. We will have to wait until the Spring for our next visit - perhaps when their Viognier will be ready for sale.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Merlot Murders: A Wine Country Mystery

Recently a family member inquired if I had read Ellen Crosby's Merlot Murders: A Wine Country Mystery. She had enjoyed reading about the various places in Virginia that Ms. Crosby had incorporated in her book. I had first learned of the Merlot Murders while visiting Swedenburg Estate Vineyard, where Ms. Crosby was a frequent visitor researching winemaking and the Virginia wine industry. A few months ago, Swedenburg hosted a book signing for her next book: Chardonnay Charade: A Wine Country Mystery. As you may recall, Juanita Swedenburg was the lead litigant in the Supreme Court's decision to force states to treat out of state wineries the same as in state wineries. Look for the December issue of the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine where Ms. Crosby will post a tribute to Mrs. Swedenburg as she "writes about her memories of Juanita Swedenburg and her contributions to the novel."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November Wine Festivals

The event database contains over 566 upcoming events in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in November, here is a short list of events in several states:

Eureka Springs Food and Wine Weekend - Carefree: November 7th-11th

Carefree Fine Art and Wine Festival - Carefree: November 2nd-4th

British Columbia
Wine and Food Celebration Whistler: November 8th-11th

17th Annual Harvest Celebration - San Luis Obispo Vintners Association: November 2nd-4th
The Art of Food & WineDesert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Palm Desert: November 8th-11th
11th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend -Monterey: November 9th-11th
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival - San Diego: November 14th-18th

Denver International Wine Festival - Denver: November 1st-4th

Dover Downs Wine and Jazz Festival - Dover: November 9th-11th

Epcot Int'l Food & Wine Festival - Lake Buena Vista: September 28th-November 11th
17th Annual Holiday Open House - Lakeridge Winery: November 9th-11th
Suncoast Winefestival - Lakewood Ranch: November 10th

Our First Anniversary Celebration - Sharp Mountain Vineyards: November 30th

Holiday Food & Wine Weekend- Upper Mississippi Valley Wine Trail: November 3rd-4th

Holiday Open House - Smith-Berry Winery: November -24th

Waterfowl Festival - Easton: November 9th-11th

New Wine Festival - Chester Hill Winery: November 3rd-4th
Wine and Apples Festival - Russell Orchards Winery: November 10th-11th

Holiday Cheer - Southwest Michigan Wine Trail: November 10th-11th
The Big Grape Tour - Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail: November 10th-11th
Toast the Season - Leelanau Peninsula Vintners: November 10th-11th
Toast the Season - Leelanau Peninsula Vintners: November 17th-18th
Mac and Cheese Bakeoff - Old Mission Peninsula: November 24th

Holiday Fare Wine Trail - Hermann Wine Trail: November 17th-18th

New Jersey
Holiday Wine Trail Weekend
- Garden State Wine Growers Association: November 23th-25th

New York
Holiday Wine Weekends
Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail: November 3rd-4th
Holiday Wine Weekends
Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail: November 10th-11th
Keuka Holidays I Keuka Lake Wine Trail: November 10th-11th
Keuka Holidays II Keuka Lake Wine Trail: November 17th-18th
Deck the Halls Seneca Lake Wine Trail: November 17th-18th

Ottawa Wine & Food Show- Ottawa: November 2nd-7th
"Taste the Season" Niagara on the Lake Wineries: November 10th-11th
Gourmet Food & Wine Expo
- Toronto: November 15th-18th
"Taste the Season"
Niagara on the Lake Wineries: November 17th-18th
"Taste the Season" Niagara on the Lake Wineries: November 24th-25th

Northwest Food and Wine Festival – Portland: November 10th-11th
2007 Wine Country Thanksgiving - Willamette Valley Wineries Association: November 23rd-25th

Holiday Wine Weekends Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail: November 3rd-4th
Holiday Wine Weekends
Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail: November 10th-11th
The Pennsylvania Food and Beverage Show - York: November 17th-18th
Nouveau Weekend - Go "NuVo" Lehigh Valley Wine Trail: November 17th-18th

South Carolina
Blessing of the Vines - Irvin-House Vineyards: November 10th
Island Fever Music Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: November 10th
Holiday Spirits Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: November 24th

Wine Down Main StreetFranklin: November 2nd

Art & Wine Trail -
Texas Hill Country Lake Region: November 17th-18th

Harvest Passport Weekend - Heart of Virginia Wine Trail: November 3rd-4th
Deck the Halls Weekends & Wine Tasting - Shenandoah Valley Wine Growers Association: November 17th-18th
Grand Opening - Bluemont Vineyards: November 17th-18th
Deck the Halls Weekends & Wine Tasting - Shenandoah Valley Wine Growers Association: November 24th-25th

Thanksgiving in the Wine Country - Yakima Valley: November 23rd-25th
Autum Barrel Tasting - Columbia Cascade Winery Association: November 30th-December 2nd

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fincastle Vineyard & Winery: Cabernet Franc 2004

Virginia is becoming well known for producing two very good vinifera wines: Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Recently we opened a bottle of perhaps our favorite Virginia-made Cabernet Franc from this season, Fincastle Vineyard & Winery's Cabernet Franc 2004. Since Fincastle is located at the southwestern part of the state, it is difficult for us in the northern part to sample their wines. However we were able to get our hands on this bottle at a state wine festival earlier this year. Their Cabernet Franc us a full bodied red wine that has been aged 12 months in American oak. It has a very fruit forward nose and flavor - with a long dry finish as the cherry flavors flow from start to finish. We hope to visit the winery soon to see what other gems they produce.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Christensen Ridge; Madison, Virginia

On a recent trip to the Graves Mountain Lodge Apple Festival we snuck into nearby Christensen Ridge, located a few miles south on Route 231. While driving to the winery, you pass through rolling hills of cattle pasture and even drive through a working farmyard – before reaching the secluded winery and guest houses. Yes, guest houses – each rentable for weekends, weddings, business retreats, etc. During our visit, there was a steady stream of people who had navigated their way up the driveway, many returning home from the Apple Festival or from sightseeing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Christensen Ridge offered four wines during our tasting; but they plan to offer a larger selection as the winery expands. Their vineyard includes some of the oldest vinifera vines in Virginia as well as newer plantings of Viognier, Petite Verdot, Petite Manseng, and Norton. The first wine was the 2002 Viognier, the Virginia specialty. This wine is very good with an apricot flavor and a refreshing, slightly acidic finish. Next we tried their 2002 Chardonnay, which we liked more than the Viognier. Normally, we pass on the Chardonnay, but this wine is good. It was even better drinking on their patio. The reds did not have an effect on us as much as the whites. Their medium bodied 2002 Merlot has a nice cherry flavor and a smooth finish; whereas their 2002 Proprietors’ Tuscan Blend is stronger with a spicier finish. This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – primarily because a few years back a vineyard owner visited Christensen Ridge trying to sell these grapes. Feeling sorry for the man, the winemaker purchased the fruit and a wine was born. A few years in the cellar should really bring out the cherry flavors.

Christensen Ridge is not far from Route 29, so we plan on making the winery a stop on our trips to Charlottesville, particularly if they continue to serve their homemade barbecue on the weekends. The winery closes from late November to early February – so you don’t have much time to visit this year.

Monday, October 22, 2007 is pleased to be a contributer to a new music site: The site allows any user to add an artist, venue, or music event to the site as well as review artists and share events with friends. We will be responsible for loading winery music events such as the summer concert series at Tarara Winery Linganore Wine Cellars, and Grande River Vineyards. If you know of any music events that are not loading into or; please let us know - or you can add the event yourself on each site. Thanks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Anton Bauer

If you are looking for something a little different we recommend the Austrian wines from Anton Bauer. A 4th generation winemaker, Mr. Bauer produces wines from several grapes acclimated to central Europe such as Riesling, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. Our favorite is the Reserve Wagram 2005, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Blaufränkisch, Syrah, and Merlot. This wine has a strong cherry flavor balanced with a long smoky finish. This is your steak wine. We were recently able to purchase their medium bodied Wagram Cuvée No 10 Wagram 2004 - a blend of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. This wine had a similar cherry flavor, but a much mellower finish - even after aging 15 months in French oak. Here's your pasta wine. You can also read more about Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt at the WineCompass Wine 101 page.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Boxwood Winery

While driving through the small village of Middleburg, I noticed that Boxwood Winery's long anticipated satellite tasting room had finally opened. Boxwood's winery complex is only open by appointment only so they opened a tasting room in the middle of Middleburg, convenient for local residence and tourists. Boxwood produces Bordeaux style wines with the consultation of famed wine maker Stephane Derononcourt. Currently they have released two wines; a dry Rosé and a Bordeaux blend Topiary. So that you can compare their offerings with other Bordeaux wines, Boxwood has installed an Enomatic machine loaded with several famous Bordeaux wines and their Topiary.

And their wines are excellent. I missed including the dry Rosé in our blog posting of local rosé wines by a day. This rosé has a great fruit aroma with a strawberry flavor and a smooth, refreshing, dry finish. The Topiary is a full bodied blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The nose is amazing - the exact same as many of the Bordeaux wines we recently tasted at the Bordeaux 100 event. The rest of the wine is smooth - from the black cherry flavor to the long finish.

Visiting Middleburg has also been a worthwhile en devour. Now you have one more reason to visit: a chance to sample extraordinary Bordeaux style wines.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rosé Wines

Lately we have been able to taste four very good dry rosé wines from Maryland and Virginia that are welcome alternatives to the sweet blush style wines. Maryland's Deep Creek Cellars offers a dry Rosé made from Cabernet Franc that is fruity and has a nice acidic finish. On the other side of the state, Solomons Island Winery offers a White (Rosé) Merlot. This Maryland Governors Cup Competition-Gold Medal wine is made in the style of the dry Rosés from Provence. This mat be my favorite. And in Virginia Chrysalis Vineyards and Bluemont Vineyards produce similar style rosé made from several grapes. The Chrysalis Mariposa is a Spanish style Clarete made from seven European varieties and a little Norton for color. The Bluemont Rosé - "The Donkey" is a blend of five varieties - Tannat, Tinta Cao, Nebbiolo, Viognier, and also a splash of Norton for color. Its nice to see dry rosé wines back vogue.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Beyerskloof Pinotage

This week I tried my first Pinotage wine, the 2005 from Beyerskloof Winery. The wine was recommended by one of our local wine stores, Out of Site Wines. I'm not sure if all Pinotage wines taste similar, but this was very interested. The wine is dry and full bodied with an initial plum flavor. However that flavor quickly turns spicy into a long smoky finish. And I mean smoky - reminiscent of some single malt scotches. After the first startling sip, I gradually became accustomed to the smokiness and found that the wine mellowed after decanting. It also went down well with sausage pizza. If you want to find out more about Pinotage check out The Pinotage Club and wait for a future Wine 101 article.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bluemont Vineyard

Today we visited the newest winery to open in Virginia, Bluemont Vineyard. Located in Loudoun County the winery is located between Berryville and Leesburg off Route 7. For those who are familiar with Great Country Farms, the winery is directly across from the farm, half way up the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is no coincidence, since Bluemont Vineyard is owned and operated by members of the same family. Besides visiting the Farm, the drive up the mountain is worth the amazing views of the Loudoun Valley below. This may be the best views provided by any Northern Virginia winery. Let's not forget the wines.

Currently the winery sources its grapes from other local vineyards, including Chrysalis Vineyards award winning Viognier and Norton. They hope to start producing wines from the Bluemont Vineyard in a couple years. There were four offerings today - two whites, a rosé styled wine, and a dry red: Norton - "The Pig". This is a solid wine for a first time Norton. The grapes are from the 2005 and 2006 vintages and aged in oak. The fruity nose is followed by a fruit forward flavor and slightly spicy finish. The beauty is the Bluemont was able to remove the acidity from the wine and showcase the grape itself. On the other side, their 2006 Viognier - "The Goat" is the winery's dry white wine. It has a nice citrus flavor with a mild acidic finish. Another great alternative to your standard Chardonnay. The 2006 Vidal Blanc - "The Cow" is semi-dry even at 3% residual sugar. It has a citrus nose and flavor like the Viognier, but more acidity at the finish. This wine should find a balance between dry wine drinkers and those who prefer a sweeter wine. Finally, our favorite was the "wine stew", their 2006 Rosé- "The Donkey". This wine is a blend of five varieties - Tannat, Tinta Cao, Nebbiolo, Viognier, and a splash of Norton for color. It is a full, dry wine at 1/2 percent sugar, and has a balanced structure. This is just a good wine to sip slowly on their deck - enjoying the amazing views of Loudoun County.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

October Wine Festivals

The event database contains over 1,029 upcoming events in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in October, here is a short list of events in several states:

Scottsdale 5th Avenue Fine Art & Wine Festival - Scottsdale: October 26th-28th

British Columbia
Okanagan Fall Wine Festival – Okanagan: September 29th-October 7th

23rd Annual Food, Wine, and Micro-Brew FestCosta Mesa: October 4th
Loose Goose Wine Festival
Valencia: October 4th-7th
Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival - Half Moon Bay
: October 13th-14th
Paso Robles Harvest Wine Tour - Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance: October 19th-21st

Epcot Int'l Food & Wine Festival - Lake Buena Vista: September 28th-November 11th
The Biltmore Great South Florida Wine FestivalCoral Gables: October 12th-14th
18th Annual Stone Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival – Longboat Key: October 25th-28th

4th Annual Smyrna Hops & Barley Beer Tasting - Smyrna: October 6th
All-American Wine Celebration - Three Sisters Vineyards: October 6th-7th
Annual Harvest Festival -
Crane Creek Vineyards: October 20th

Riverside Winefest at Sotterley - Hollywood: October 6th-7th
Vintage Jazz Wine Festival –
Linganore Wine Cellars: October 20th-21st
St. Mary's County Oyster Festival
St. Mary's: October 20th-21st
Autumn Wine FestivalSalisbury:
October 20th-21st

Food, Wine and All That Jazz - Mackinaw City: October 26th

New Jersey
Agora Greek Food and Wine Festival
Cherry Hill: October 4th-7th
Cape May Wine FestivalCape May: October 6th-7th
Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival
Atlantic City: October 12th-14th
Grand Harvest Festival
– Alba Vineyard: October 13th-14th
Blues & Pumpkin Festival -
Alba Vineyard: October 27th-28th

New York
BeerFest 2006 "Beer on the Pier 3"New York: October 6th
Sanborn Winetique Festival – Sanborn: October 14th

North Carolina
Great GrapesCharlotte:
October 6th
World Beer FestivalDurham: October 6th
Lighthouse Beer & Wine FestivalWilmington: October 20th

Guthrie Art & Wine Festival - Guthrie:
October 6th-7th
Grand Wine Country Fall Festival – Grand Wine Country:
October 13th

Wine by the River 2007Bend:
October 5th-7th

Vintnerís Post-Harvest CelebrationBrandywine Valley Wine Trail: October 27th
1st Annual Food & Wine Festival Groundhog Wine Trail: October 6th

South Carolina
Big Band Sounds & Tastes of the Strand - La Belle Amie Vineyard: October 13th
Rock Back The Clock Music & Wine Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: October 27th

Tennessee Wine FestivalNashville: October 10th-14th
11th Knoxville Brewers JamKnoxville:
October 13th
Manchester-Coffee County Wine FestivalManchester: October 20th

The Heart of Texas Wine & Food Festival - Waco: October 13th
South Shore Dockside Food & Wine Festival - South Shore: October 20th
Katy Stomp & Wine Fest - Houston: October 27th
Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest - Fredericksburg: October 27th

Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival & Sunset TourMount Vernon: October 5th-7th

Fredericksburg Area Wine Festival
Fredericksburg: October 6th-7th
The 2007 Monticello Wine Trail Festival
Monticello Wine Trail: October 7th
Oktober BrewfestVirginia Beach:
October 13th-14th
Mount Jackson Annual Apple and Grape HarvestMount Jackson:
October 13th-14th
17th Annual Virginia Wine & Garlic Festival -
Rebec Vineyards: October 13th-14th
Black Dog Wine and Beach Music Festival -
Chateau Morrisette: October 13th
Taste of Culpeper – Culpeper: October 14th

Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival – Millwood: October 19th-21st

Cingular Wireless Town Point Virginia Wine Festival
Norfolk: October 20th-22nd8th Annual Wine Festival - Unicorn Winery: October 20th-21st

Lake Chelan Crush Festival - Tsillan Cellars: October 5th-12th
West Coast Oyster Shucking ChampionshipShelton: October 6th-7th
Hallowine in Rattlesnake Hills -
Rattlesnake Hills: October 27th-29th

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wine Fest at the Beach - Ocean City Maryland

On September 28th-29th several mid-Atlantic wineries will participate in the Thirteenth Annual Wine Fest at the Beach. This event will take place at the Inlet Park - right on the boardwalk and will include a couple micro-breweries and local food\craft vendors. As for the wineries, this is a great opportunity to sample various vinifera, labrusca, and hybrid wines from some of the best wineries from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The New York contingent includes America's oldest continually operating winery, Brotherhood Winery. Make sure you sample their Catawba and Pinot Noir. There will also be excellent Riesling from the three Finger Lake wineries: Goosewatch Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, and Hazlitt Vineyards. Hopefully these wineries will bring samples of their labrusca wines made from the Diamond, Delaware, and Isabella grapes.

There will be one winery representing Pennsyvania: Chaddsford Winery. Red wine drinkers should enjoy their Chambourcin and Due Rossi - made from Sangiovese and Barbera - while white wine drinkers will enjoy their Chardonnay.

Maryland will be represented by the 2005 and 2006 Governors Cup winners, Linganore Winecellars and Frederick Cellars. These wineries will probably not bring their award winning Maryland Merlot and Frederick Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, but will provide excellent alternatives. Linganore also makes a great Chambourcin wine as well as their Terrapin White and several great fruit wines. Frederick Cellars should be pouring their Riesling and Eye of the Oriole, which are great summer wines - perfect for those trying to hang on to a few more weeks of warm weather.

Two of Virginia's better known wineries will be attending, Williamsburg Winery and Horton Vineyards. Not too long ago Horton was listed as one of America's top 40 wineries and is one of the best vinifera wine-makers in the state. Hopefully they will provide samples of their Viognier, Malbec, Tannat, Nebbiolo or Marsanne. Plus they may have on hand their excellent Norton and fruit wines. Williamsburg Winery is best know for their Chardonnay and hopefully the will bring their Blackberry Merlot.

Finally, two little known, but excellent wineries from West Virginia will make the trip to the shore. West-Whitehill Winery makes excellent wines from the hybrid grapes: Aurore, Chambourcin, and Seyval Blanc. Make sure you don't leave the festival without trying their Aurore wines. Then there's Forks of Cheat Winery, from picturesque Morgantown. The Deal family has won us over with their colorful labels, charming personalities, and of course - good wine. They make wine from many interesting varietals including Van Buren, Villard Blanc, Villard Noir, Leon Millot, DeChaunac, Marechal Foch, Catawba, Chambourcin, and Niagara. This list doesn't include their vinifera and fruit wine offerings. From this large selection there is a gift waiting for anyone.

We are looking forward to this year's Wine Fest at the Beach. The weather may even be warm and with the excellent wine and beer - so what if it's a little chilly. Plus, this may be you last opportunity for summer crabs.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wine and Dine Radio

This month we stumbled upon an interesting source for wine news: Wine and Dine Radio. Hosted by Lynn Krielow Chamberlain, the show is "the first internet radio broadcast devoted to wine and food... facts, news and newsmakers, trends, and lifestyle issues in one-on-one interviews and group discussions." Past guests include Dave Eckert (PBS television Host and Producer of Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert) and Fred Plotkin (author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler). This week Ms. Chamberlain interviews Nicolo' Mascheroni Stianti of Castello Di Volpaia, producers of organic Chianti Classico and Super Tuscan wines. And next week, Karen Ross, President, California Association of Winegrape Growers, will discuss the differences between Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic wine and updates on the continued growth and success of the organization's signature concept, California's Sustainable Winegrowing Program. We recommend bookmarking this site.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fox Meadow Winery Cabernet Franc

We try many different wines and sometimes we open one that makes us say, "Wow, that's really good." That happened this week when we opened Fox Meadow Winery's 2002 Cabernet Franc. The wine is medium->full bodied with a nice cherry flavor. But its the finish that does it. The wine moves slowly from the cherry fruit to a spicy - peppery finish - that is not overpowering - it just balances the fruit. This is another example of quality Virginia Cabernet Franc. I'm not sure if the 2002 is still available - but their 2005 is available at the winery - in addition you can take home amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Monday, September 10, 2007

National Norton Festival

On Saturday September, we were fortunate to attend the First Annual National Norton Festival in St. Louis Missouri. Organized by the Missouri Wine Country The event provided the general public a chance to sample a wide array of Norton wines from 25 wineries from Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. This event was the culmination of activities that began in August, at the 2007 National Norton Wine Competition.

We made it a point to visit the Gold medal winners first, and after tasting, agreed with the judges decisions; these were excellent wines. Best in Show Sugar Creek Vineyards & Winery's 2006 Cynthiana was smooth and fruity and somewhat similar to Westphalia Vineyards' 2006 Norton Reserve. Mary Michelle Winery's 2006 Norton was fruity with a little more spiciness at the finish. Bethlehem Valley Vineyards' 2004 Norton and Chrysalis Vineyards' 2005 Barrel Select 100% Virginia Norton and 2004 Locksley Reserve Norton where fruity, but possessed a little more character at the finish. Finally, we tasted the best dessert wine this side of Tokaji, Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery's 2002 Missouri Red Port. This may have been our favorite wine of the day.

Besides tasting these wines, we enjoyed tasting wines we normally would not be able to try such as Stone House Vineyards' (TX) 2005 Claros Norton, Tiger Mountain Vineyards' (GA) 2002 Mountain Cynthiana, Mary Michelle Winery's 2006 Illinois Cellars Norton, and Stone Hill Winery's (MO) 2005 Norton, Cross J Vineyards. The last was made from grapes from one of the winery's oldest vineyards. Plus, there were excellent wines from some of our favorite Missouri producers: Crown Valley Winery, Montelle Winery, St. James Winery, Les Bourgeois Winery, Baltimore Bend Winery, Cave Vineyard, Augusta Winery, Hermannhof Winery, Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, and the previously mentioned Stone Hill Winery. We will definitely be planning a trip Herman and Saint Genevieve next year.

We will post pictures and a longer description of this event at Compass Tours and a review of Chrysalis Vineyards and other Virginia Norton producers in the October edition of Virginia Wine Lover.

For those who are familiar with Norton or Cynthiana we strongly recommend this event. For those who have never tasted a Norton, try to find one in your area. You will soon learn why it is referred to as the Cabernet of the Ozarks.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wine 101 - Chokecherry Wine

Chokeberry was an essential ingredient in the native American diet, either dried for winter use or mixed with fat and buffalo meat in pemmican - a staple of the native Indian’s of the prairie. Wild chokecherries were not only abundant; they are also loaded with nutrition. Chokecherries are a better dietary source of potassium (269mg/100g) than blueberries and strawberries, and contain 4.7g of fiber, 1.5g of protein, and 0.3g of fat per 100g of fruit. Today chokecherries are used to make syrups, jellies, jams, and wine - although winemaking is difficult because the berries are highly acidic and quite tart. Plus the seed accounts for over 50% of the berry’s volume. Despite this trouble and from its winter hardiness it is the fruit of choice for many vintners in the northern United States and Manitoba, Canada.

The first winery to vinify chokecherry commercially and perhaps privately was Prairie Berry Winery in South Dakota. The Vojta family had been creating wine from chokecherry ever since the first family members immigrated to South Dakota from Moravia in the late 1880’s. The recipe was passed to succeeding family members up to the present, where current winemaker Sandi Vojta (the 5th generation) decided to share the family wine. And why not, she grew up knowing how chokecherry wine should taste and was certain the public would accept this unique product. She first, though, had to convince the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agency to allow production of commercial wines from the fruit. Once this was accomplished, other wineries were able to follow suit. Prairie Berry Winery’s “bread and butter” chokeberry wine is their Great Grandma’s Chokecherry, a wine made almost exactly from the original family recipe. This wine is made semi-dry and has a strong fruity flavor. The winery also creates a port-style chokeberry wine in their Great Grandma’s Chokecherry Bliss. In this wine, the chokecherry wine is fortified with cherry Kirsch which produces a great dessert wine. The chokeberries are also blended with grapes to create the Pheasant Reserve and with honey to make Chokecherry Honeywine. The Vojta family deserves our recognition for paving the path for the general public to enjoy this fruit wine.

In neighboring North Dakota, Chokecherry wine is one of Maple River Winery’s top sellers. According to Greg Kempel, Chokecherry wine is popular in North Dakota because “Everyone that grew up in the Midwest on a farm either made or knew someone that made chokecherry wine”. And since traditional vinifera grapes do not fare well in the Dakota’s harsh climate, fruit wines, such as chokecherry, must truly stand out to grab the public’s attention. Maple River Winery’s version is semi-sweet and they recommend serving with red meat dishes. Even though the wine is popular locally, the winery is seeking to alleviate the national "Grape" obstacle, i.e. the belief that all quality wine is produced from grapes. Mr. Kempel sees that, “with education, our chokecherry wine is gaining tremendous popularity...even in wine country”.

Further west, in Mt. Pleasant Utah, Native Wines specializes in creating wines from wild fruit. Chokecherry is one of their products, not only from its flavor, but also from its healthy side effects. Each year the winery sends samples of their red wines to a laboratory for antioxidant testing and chokecherry wine always tests near the top in its antioxidant scores. Chokecherry also has a long tradition in Utah, from the Native Americans and early pioneers to the present. Mr. Bob Sorenson, Native Wines owner\winemaker, says that many middle-aged and elderly customers are pleasantly surprised to find Chokecherry wine available. Mr. Sorenson’s Chokecherry wine is rather unique in that he adds a few pits of the fruit, which creates a “warm spicy/nutty” aspect to the flavor. He admits that since the pits contain a certain amount of cyanide some people may be worried about drinking the wine. However, Mr. Sorenson reply’s that “many old recipes include the nuts of the stone fruits and as long as the products are consumed in reasonable quantities there will be no adverse effect”. We for one will take him at his word and look forward to trying his version of Chokecherry wine.

Traveling north into Manitoba Canada, D.D. Leobard Winery started making Chokecherry wine in 2005 after three years of trials. The winery is located in Winnipeg and specializes in producing wines from locally grown or wild fruit. Their Chokecherry wine is made from wild berries and made off dry, with a strong cherry flavor. Although the wine has been well received by critics (it was awarded a bronze medal at the 2006 All Canadian Wine Championships) it has been demanding to produce commercially. First, the winery has found it troublesome to find someone to pick their supply of wild berries. Second, Chokecherry wine is difficult to produce. The berries are small and initially highly acidic and quite tart. The winemaker must reduce these properties while simultaneously extract the natural cherry flavor of the fruit. Finally, although Chokecherry wine is very popular in Manitoba, it is difficult to sell because of this popularity. Many people either make their own Chokecherry wine or know some family member or friend who makes it; thus, according to Denis d'Eschambault, one of the winery’s co-owners, “why pay for it!”

Chokecherry wine is produced by a little over a dozen wineries in North America, most likely from wild berries and family recipes. The styles range from the semi-dry version offered by Colorado Cellars Winery to the sweet, port-style Chokecherry wine offered by the Lil' Ole Winemaker Shoppe in Wisconsin. We are certain, regardless of the style, that the majority of wine consumers will appreciate this wine, once the opportunity to taste one, presents itself.