Thursday, January 31, 2008

February 2008 Wine Events

The event database is growing rapidly for the 2008 wine season in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in February, here is a short list of events in a few states:

5th Avenue Fine Art & Wine – Scottsdale: Feb 15th-17th
Carefree Fine Art and Wine Festival – Carefree: February 29th-March 2nd

Truffles, Tidbits and Wine Tasting – Pleasanton: February 7th
San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – San Francisco: February 16th

District of Columbia
Washington D.C. International Wine & Food Festival - Ronald Reagan International Trade Center: February 29th-March 2nd

South Beach Wine and Food Festival - Miami: February 21st-24th
17th Annual Space Coast Wine & Beer Festival - King Center for the Performing Arts, Melbourne: Feb 24th

17th Annual Boston Wine Expo - Seaport World Trade Center, Boston: February 9th-10th
Extreme Beer Fest - Boston Center for the Arts, Boston: February 15th-16th

Chocolate Wine Trail – Hermann Wine Trail: February 16th-17th

5th Annual Flying Fez Wine Tasting Festival - Bedouin Shrine Temple, Muskogee: February 23rd

Oregon Seafood and Wine Festival - The Oregon Convention Center, Portland: Feb 1st-2nd
Newport Seafood & Wine Festival - Rogue Ales Brewery, Newpor: February 22nd-24th

Wine & Chocolate Valentine's Weekend – Berks County Wine Trail: February 9th-10th

South Carolina
Winter Parrot Head Festival - La Belle Amie Vineyard: February 23rd
Charleston Food + Wine Festival - Marion Square Park, Charleston: February 28-March 2nd

Virginia Wine Showcase - Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly: February 9th-10th
Virginia Wine Expo - Greater Richmond Convention Center - Richmond: February 16th-17th

Red Wine & Chocolate – Lake Chelan Wineries: February 8th-17th

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 introduces MyCompass Calendar now includes the ability to create a personal calendar of wine events. Wherever an event is listed on the site, it will include a calendar button next to its title. The button's tool tip will inform you whether the event currently exists in your calendar. Simply click the button to add or remove that event from your calendar. Your calendar is viewable under the MyCompass tab. In the coming weeks will include the ability to save these events to your Yahoo, Google, or Outlook calendars as well. Note: This functionality is only available for registered users, but registration is free for all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Government Regulation Gone Crazy

Here is yet another example how government regulation is ruining people's freedom to enjoy wine:

By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press Writer Fri Jan 25, 3:51 AM ET

RICHMOND, Va. - If you're served a pitcher of authentic sangria in a Virginia restaurant, someone's breaking the law.

Since 1934, the state has prohibited mixing wine or beer with spirits. Frances McDonald, vice president of La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurants, found that out the hard way when his Alexandria location was cited for violating the sangria ban in 2006 and fined $2,000.

McDonald and managing partner Shana McKillop appealed their case to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Thursday before going to the Capitol to urge legislators to pass a bill legalizing the red wine, liqueur and fruit concoction.

McDonald said his business received no warning about the ban. He said he was unaware of the prohibition and had he known about it would not have located any of his five restaurants in Virginia. "It's like not being able to serve tequila in a Mexican restaurant," he said.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Department agent who cited La Tasca even ordered restaurant employees to pour its sangria — about 40 liters — down the drain, said Shana McKillop, managing partner at the Alexandria restaurant.

A ruling on the La Tasca's appeal should take two to four weeks, said Kristy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the ABC Department. In the meantime, the restaurant has taken to modifying its sangria recipe. The brandy has been eliminated and the triple sec replaced with a nonalcoholic orange liqueur.

"It's still sangria but not as authentic as we'd like to offer our guests," McKillop said.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2005 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc - 75 Wine Company

Over the years we have tried several excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines from France, New Zealand and Virginia, but I think we may have found on of our favorites: the 2005 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from 75 Wine Company. The winery is named after the year the Beckstoffer family moved to the Napa Valley.

The wine possesses a refreshing citrus aroma and flavor, but has the texture and finish of a good chardonnay. After fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine was aged on lees for three months. Technically this means that yeast components, usually polysaccharides, are released to the wine by autolysis. For our purposes, this means that the wine develops greater palate weight and texture, i.e. a rich and creamy finish. The 2005 and soon to be released 2006 Sauvignon Blanc are both very affordable at $20/bottle. We drank this wine with fruit and cheese - a great combination.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Burnley Vineyards

For the first time we finally took the time to visit one of the oldest vineyards and wineries in the Charlottesville area: Burnley Vineyards. The Reeder family harvested their first grapes in 1980 and sold them to other Virginia wineries until 1984. At that time they started their own farm winery. They have gradually expanded operations where they currently have 31 acres planted which produce close to 5,000 cases annually. Only 5% of their grapes come from elsewhere.

We had never previously tasted Burnley’s wines at the various state festivals, so this was a great opportunity to familiarize ourselves with their products. They started with the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay which was fermented in oak, then aged in oak for only 4 additional months – the result is a wine with subtle hints of oak – a very refreshing wine. Burnley also offers a stainless steel fermented Chardonnay that is dry – but fruitier. Of the two – I leaned towards the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. The Rivanna White was next – a semi-dry Vidal Blanc – made in the Germanic style where unfermented grape juice is added to the wine to “enhance the fruit flavors and add natural sweetness to the wine”. I really liked this wine and at 1% r.s. – it’s a medium dry wine – your summer afternoon wine. Their Riesling was made in the similar method where the unfermented Riesling juices increases the residual sugar to 2%. The strong Riesling flavor is evident in this wine.

The first red wine served was the Rivanna Red a blend of 2003 Chambourcin, Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an excellent everyday table wine – made in the Beaujolais style – dry and fruity. Each grape variety contributes – Norton to the fruity flavor, the Chambourcin to the nose and texture, and the Cabernet to the slightly spicy finish. This is also a bargain at $11 a bottle. I next tried the only wine not made from Burnley Vineyard grapes, the 2006 Zinfandel – made from grapes grown in Amador County that were immediately processed on delivery. This is a very good Zinfandel – loads of plum flavors and the expected spicy finish. It is also a young wine that will improve with age. Their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is similarly dry – but heartier – a strong wine. It is also unfiltered and after having aged 5 years in the bottle – the finish is very smooth. This is another good red wine. The final dry, full-bodied red is their 2006 Norton. This wine is young and acidic – but contains the fruity Norton flavors. I would recommend letting this one sit a couple of years to mellow – a process the Reeder’s wish to do, except the wine sells too quickly as is. I’ll let you know in a few years how my bottles aged.

Burnley’s best selling wine is their Somerset, a sweet wine made with Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Norton, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite the combination. Unfermented Vidal Blanc juice is added back to the wine after fermentation for sweetness and the Norton, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon provide plenty of color. The wine is a little too sweet for my tastes as an every day wine but I strongly recommend their Moon Mist a dessert wine made from Muscat Blanc and Orange Muscat. The wine has the floral aromas and flavors of the Muscat grape and at $12 is another bargain.

Burnley also produces a blush style wine, their Rivanna Sunset. This wine shows the versatility of the Chambourcin grape, which is normally made into a dry red wine, but here, the grapes are processed with no skin contact. This is a sweet blush – with more flavors than a standard White Zin, but just as sweet at 4% r.s.

The final two wines were their Peach Fuzz and Spicy Rivanna. The former is a blend of grape juice and peach juice that is cold fermented, cold filtered, and cold bottled. Serve chilled or as Lou Reeder suggested, mixed with Champagne. Our bottle lasted one night using that approach. The Spicy Rivanna is your Christmas wine, where the winery adds cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, anise, orange peel, lemon peel and residual sugar to the Rivanna Red. This wine can be served chilled, but is better served warm. This wine is also a string seller after the season as a visitor purchased a case during my visit.

In the future, we will make more of an effort to visit Burnley’s tasting tent at this year’s festival or visit the winery again during trips along route 29. The winery is only 6 miles of the highway – although be prepared for 6 miles of twisting road over several one lane bridges. The ride itself is almost worth the trip.