Friday, October 28, 2011

Grüner Veltliner Finds a Papa

While visiting Budapest & Vienna, we happened to stumble upon several wine bars in each country where they served young, ready to drink white wines. We made it a ritual to start our day at these wine bars having a glass of dry Furmint in Hungary and some type of white grape in Austria. These wines had low alcohol levels, so we indulged a few times during the day and were refreshingly acidic in the summer heat. It wasn't until years later, when my wine knowledge expanded, that I realized that the unknown Austrian grape was most likely Grüner Veltliner - the most popular white wine variety in that country. The grape has an interesting heritage, deriving from a natural cross between the mother Traminer and an unknown father. Unknown, at least, until a few years ago. Apparently in a small hillside in St Georgen (Burgenland) there was a vine known to the village elders that bore no fruit. Local historian, Michael Leberl, was able to locate the vine and have it genetically tested. The surprise result was that it was the predominate parent of Grüner Veltliner and subsequently named St. Georgen-Rebe. Despite surviving phylloxera, war, and cattle; this vine has a precarious future - so please read the story here.

The Weinviertel region, just northeast of Vienna is the oldest agricultural region in central Europe as archaeologists have unearthed artifacts nearly 7,000 years old. Today, vineyards stretch from the Danube and Vienna to the Czech republic to the north and Slovakia to the east. And each sub-region provides distinct wine styles. The northeastern section produces sparkling wine from Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling; the western, dry reds along side Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Closer to the Danube and Vienna, Grüner Veltliner dominates. Many of these vines supply the Heurige Inns that we frequented, but lately are being used to make age worthy wines. In early 2003, Austria implemented a DAC standard - which translates to "controlled designation of Austrian origin". The Weinviertel DAC was introduced as Austria´s first DAC Wine, with the quality regulated by “Qualitätswein” (quality wine) definitions; blind tasting; at least 12% alcohol; lean, crisp, peppery-spice character; and no discernible oak characters. And in 2009, Austria introduced the Weinviertel dac Reserve in order to promote fuller wines. These wines share the same characteristics as the dac but can contain subtle traces of Botrytis or oak. Furthermore the minimum alcohol content was increased to 13% and the blind tasters expect a denser structure with a longer finish.

The dac system has proven quite beneficial for both producers and consumers. In the past, small family wineries had trouble marketing their wines to wholesalers or exporters. But with a dac label, these wholesalers and exporters assume less risk in marketing the wines. The same holds for consumers. When searching for a Grüner Veltliner, look for the dac label. You should be assured of a certain level of quality.

Now, here in the United States, the acreage planted for Grüner Veltliner is climbing. In Maryland, Black Ankle Vineyards produces an excellent wine and the grape is becoming more popular in the Finger Lakes where Riesling is normally supreme. (See Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars and Zugibe Vineyards.). And on the left coast, the grape is finding a home in many wine regions - Chien Wines, Darcie Kent Vineyards, Von Strasser Winery, & Niven Family Wines.

We still have plenty to learn about this grape. So join us as our education continues this Wednesday during #winechat where Austria Wine will be discussing Grüner Veltliner from Lower Austria during the Twitter tasting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Villány: Hungary's Bordeaux

A recent #winechat session on Cabernet Franc reminded me of several nice wines from this grape that I had tasted from a relatively unknown wine producing area in central Europe. I'm referring to the Villány region in southwestern Hungary, who's climate affords the luxury of growing several well known Bordeaux, Rhone, and Burgundy grape varieties. And why not; the region lies at the same degree of latitude as the northern part of the Bordeaux wine-region. Plus Northern mountains protect the area from cold northerly winds, while the southern ranges help establish a micro-climate where the number of sunny hours is the highest in the country.

Grape cultivation in Villány probably originated with the Celts, and continued with the Romans as an inscription on a Roman-era altar stone discovered in the hillside of Szársomlyó documents 50 hectares of vine stock plantings. The Magyars continued this practice and, in his deed of foundation of the Szársomlyó Castle, King Béla IV mentions vineyards on the outskirts of Harsány. However, during the Turkish wars, the vineyards suffered terribly; and were rehabilitated when Serb and German settlers moved into the area. At the same time these settlers introduced Hungarians to new grape varieties (Kadarka and Portugieser) as well as new winemaking and storage techniques. Villány wines soon were exported throughout Europe and the Americas and the region thrived until the phylloxera arrived in the late 1800s. Just like the rest of Europe, Hungary's vineyards suffered almost complete devastation. As over half the the vineyards perished; a local grower, Zsigmond Teleki, established an experimental stockyard in Villány to test varieties of rootstock - both American and domestic. He eventually created several rootstocks that were used to reconstruction vineyards, in Villány, Hungary, and throughout Europe. With this reconstruction, Bordeaux varieties, as well as Syrah and Pinot Noir, were planted in this temperate climate.

Over the past several years, we have had the opportunity to taste many of these Villány wines, and in particular wines from Zsigmond Teleki's Château Teleki Winery - now made by Csányi Winery. These were single varietal Bordeaux style wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot - seeming to match New World market for single varietals with Old World earthy styles. Besides Bordeaux styled wines, the Vylyan Winery produces an excellent Pinot Noir, which might be our favorite wine from the region. And finally, Heumann Winery, produces two Bordeaux style blends which are smooth classic Bordeaux cuvees, with light tannins and balanced acidity. The winery also produces a very impressive Kékfrankos as well as a Chardonnay (full bodied with apricot flavors and a slight nutty finish). Perhaps the only version of Hungarian Chardonnay available.

Wines from Villány are still scarce in the United States. But check with your local wine shop or Blue Danube Wine, they are worth the search. Photos courtesy of

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Napa Vintners Present Harvest Live 2011 - October 17th-22nd

A Groundbreaking Six-Day Webcast Combining Harvest with Real Time Q&A:

St Helena, CA--The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association is excited to bring "Harvest Live 2011," the Napa Valley's first week-long, live harvest webcast that will allow viewers to interact in real time with winemakers, vineyard managers and special wine industry co-hosts to hear and see all that's news with this year's crush in America’s premier wine region. "These innovative, interactive webcast will be breaking new ground in social media wine education," said Linda Reiff, NVV executive director. "It will be a terrific opportunity to have a conversation with these renowned vintners in real time, all week long."

"Harvest Live provides an opportunity for anyone, anywhere, to experience a Napa Valley harvest--even on their phone via the Ustream mobile application," explained Christophe Smith of Titus Vineyards. "This is a chance for wine lovers to connect with the Napa Valley beyond what they have tasted in the bottle and have a behind the scenes look into the 2011 vintage. We look forward to a great exchange between wine enthusiasts and those of us in the winemaking business during this most exciting and important time of year."

Produced by Christophe Smith along with David Gowdy of Dirt on the Vine, Randy Hall of VOM Productions and the NVV, Harvest Live offers participants a behind the scenes view into the Napa Valley harvest that even many locals don't get a chance to see. During the morning broadcasts viewers will be taken outside into the vineyard to learn about picking decisions and what's current in the field, then during the afternoon journey into the cellars to follow those grapes through the winemaking process. Capitalizing on the real-time webcast, viewers will have the ability to ask questions of winemakers and hosts via the Ustream webcast and receive answers instantly. For Twitter and Facebook users, questions will be monitored and answered via the #HL11 hashtag.

The interactive, one-hour webcasts will occur daily October 17th through 22nd at 9am PDT and 2:30pm PDT, and will be hosted at a different winery each day, showcasing varied winemaking techniques as well as multiple American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) throughout the Napa Valley AVA.

The winery participants by day are as follows:
  • Monday, October 17: Robert Mondavi Winery with Keith Horn, director of vineyards and Genevieve Janssens, director of winemaking
  • Tuesday, October 18: Staglin Family Vineyards with Garen Staglin, owner, along with Fredrik Johansson, winemaker and Chris Platt, assistant winemaker
  • Wednesday, October 19: William Hill Estate Winery with Raif Holdenried, winemaker
  • Thursday, October 20: Round Pond Estate with Chris Pedemonte, vineyard manager and Brian Brown, winemaker
  • Friday, October 21: Titus Vineyards with brothers Eric and Phillip Titus
  • Saturday, October 22: Chappellet Vineyard & Winery with Phillip Titus, winemaker
To access the interactive webcast, visit the NVV's Harvest 2011 website . A detailed schedule including on-camera talent and topics can be viewed online in advance of broadcast, and sessions will be archived here as well so viewers can watch and hear all the sessions.

To read and watch all the Napa Valley Harvest 2011 videos, blog posts and photo galleries, and to take the fun and interesting quiz, find out about tasting events in celebration of October's Harvest Napa Valley month, please visit

About the Napa Valley Vintners
The Napa Valley Vintners is the non-profit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region. From seven founding members in 1944, today the association represents more than 420 Napa Valley wineries and collectively is a leader in the world-wide wine industry. To learn more about our region and its legendary American wines, visit

press release: Contact: Terry Hall Communications Director Napa Valley Vintners 707.968.4217

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Regional Wine Week: How many of the 47 have you visited?

While smack in the middle of Regional Wine Week I decided to see how many of the 47 states we have visited wineries. And the answer was rather disappointing - I really thought we had visited wineries in more states - but the sum was only 17. That's poor. and WineCompass stress the availability of wines from all states and I personally believe the best method to enjoy these wines is to visit the winery. Why? Usually, you get to meet the winemakers, discover new grape varieties, enjoy local terrain, and learn some regional history. We need to get out on the road more often. How about you? I'm sure there are many who have visited wineries in more states than us. Let us know.

Here is the list of wineries we have visited, excluding the 100 or so from Virginia - home field advantage on that one.

Blacksmiths Winery
Cellardoor Winery
Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery

New York
Applewood Winery
Brotherhood America's Oldest Winery
Demarest Hill Winery
Loughlin Vineyards
Warwick Valley Winery

New Jersey
Alba Vineyard
Cream Ridge Winery
Silver Decoy Winery
Tomasello Winery

Adams County Winery
Glades Pike Winery
Hauser Estate Winery
Reid's Orchard & Winery
Rose Bank Winery
Stone Villa Wine Cellar

Nassau Valley Vineyards

Black Ankle Vineyards
Cove Point Winery
Deep Creek Cellars
Elk Run Vineyards
Frederick Cellars
Linganore Wine Cellars
Loew Vineyards
Orchid Cellar Winery
Solomons Island Winery
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

West Virginia
Forks of Cheat Winery
West-Whitehill Winery


North Carolina
A Secret Garden Winery
The Biltmore Estate Winery
Chatham Hill Winery
Laurel Gray Vineyards
Moonrise Bay Vineyard
RagApple Lassie Vineyards

Corey Ippolito Winery
Countryside Vineyards & Winery

South Carolina
September Oaks Vineyards

Eden Vineyards
Rosa Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard
San Sebastian Winery
Schnebly Redland's Winery

Bynum Winery
Pirtle Winery
Stonehaus Farms Winery

Davenport Winery
Heimhof Winery
Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery
Kugler's Vineyard

Dry Comal Creek Vineyards & Winery

Carlson Vineyards
Minturn Cellars
Plum Creek Cellars

South Dakota
Prairie Berry Winery

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Regional Wine Week's 47 Word Essay

We posted earlier about's 4th annual Regional Wine Week which started Sunday and continues through October 15th. One of the highlights of the week is the 47 word essay describing the hidden gems among the other 47 wine producing states (California, Washington and Oregon excluded). Here is our entry, which is loosely based on our visit to Hiddencroft Vineyard described in this link.

Returning from hiking and thirsting for wine; we headed to Notaviva but saw a sign;
It pointed to Hiddencroft, a really good bet; with new wines from Chambourcin, Cab Franc, and Traminette;
But then, the little boy made a big mess; that Mr. Clyde cleaned, God bless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tale of Two New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs

Way back when, in July, we sampled two different New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The first was a sample sent to us, the Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99); the second was the Decibel 2009 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($16), poured at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference. Each have unique names, the first named for the "9 Great Walks of New Zealand"; the second inspired by owner Daniel Brennan’s prior work with musical artists. That’s where the similarities end. The Nine Walks was made from grapes sourced from Marlborough: the Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley sub-regions to be precise. Malborough, located on the northeastern corner of New Zealand's South Island, is the region that put New Zealand wines in consumer’s vocabulary. It produces about 60% of that country's SB and for some, this region produces the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. On the other hand, the Decibel was made from grapes sourced from the Mai Mai Creek vineyards in the Brookfields region of Hawkes Bay. Hawkes Bay, located on the North Island, is no slouch itself, being New Zealands second largest wine region and the oldest grape growing area in the country..

Now Sauvignon Blanc often buds late but ripens early, which means the grape thrives in cooler climates with plenty of sunshine. So which region is preferable? In Malborough, “the long narrow geography of the South Island ensures that no vineyard is more than 80 miles (130 km) from the coast. The cool, maritime climate of the area allows for a long and steady growing season in which the grapes can ripen and develop a natural balance of acids and sugars. - wiki” Perfect. Hawkes Bay has some of New Zealands's highest sunshine hours, with long, hot summers and cool winters The warmer maritime climate in Hawke’s Bay allows for a more supple, fruit driven Sauvignon Blanc.

The results? We were very impressed with the Decibel Sauvignon Blanc. It possessed more of a new World character than the Nine Walks – more fruit forward – and finished with a louder bang – in terms of acidity. As I recall, the wine exhibited a creamy texture in the mouthfeel – very different from most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs we’ve tasted. The Nine Walks had a smaller flavor profile, a little grassy and citrus. Both are excellent values and when Decibel becomes available in DC, we will scoop it up. Even with summer over, clean Sauvignon Blancs are still appreciated.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Great American Beer Festival - The Medal Winners

Another year, another missed opportunity to attend the greatest beer fetival on the planet: the Great American Beer Festival. Held each year in Denver, the festival sports continuous beer sampling as well as the GABF competition. The winners are listed in this pdf; but here are some of the highlights and results for the #dcbrew. Congrats to PBR - and to the several MyJoogTV participants that are bringing home medals: Mad Fox Brewing Company, Flying Dog Brewery, and Devils Backbone Brewing Company.

-------------------------------------- Brewer of the Year
Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, WA: Will Kemper

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company
Firestone Walker Brewing Co, Paso Robles, CA: Matthew Brynildson

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company
Pabst Brewing Company, Woodridge, IL: Bob Newman

Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub
Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA: Yiga Miyashiro

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub
Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA: Pizza Port Brew Guys

Brewpub Group and Brewpub Group
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea, CA: Victor Novak


Category: 15 Indigenous Beer - 31 Entries
Silver: Monticello Reserve Ale, Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA

Category: 17 American-Belgo-Style Ale - 43 Entries
Silver: Blue Reserve, Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA

Category: 25 Kellerbier or Zwickelbier - 48 Entries
Gold: Kolsch Kellerbier, Mad Fox Brewing Co., Falls Church, VA

Category: 26 Smoke Beer - 43 Entries
Silver: Smoke Out, Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA

Category: 31 Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest - 20 Entries
Silver: Tommy Two Fists, Devils Backbone Brewing Co., Roseland, VA

Category: 34 Vienna-Style Lager - 32 Entries
Gold: Jomo Lager, Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA

Category: 45 English-Style Summer Ale - 33 Entries
Gold: Summer Lovin’, Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA
Bronze: Mad Fox Brewing Company English Summer Ale, Mad Fox Brewing Co.,
Falls Church, VA

Category: 64 German-Style Sour Ale - 13 Entries
Bronze: Gordon Biersch Goze, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (Rockville, MD)

Category: 83 Barley Wine-Style Ale - 42 Entries
Gold: Horn Dog Barleywine, Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD