Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's a #VAWine New Year's Eve

I feel like I've strayed a little off the farm lately, by consuming a great share of French, Austrian, and Eastern European wines, so to celebrate 2012, I decided upon an all Virginia New Year's Eve. For whites, you can't go wrong with the Glen Manor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and the Paradise Springs Winery Chardonnay. For reds, we are turning to the Mountfair Vineyards Engagement and the Gabriele Rausse Winery Cabernet Franc. And for the sparkling, the Barboursville Vineyards Brut and the Thibaut-Janisson Winery Millesime 2008 Blanc de Blancs Cuvee D'Etat. Thanks to Vienna Vintner for providing this gem. So as we close out 2011 and enter 2012, we look forward to a new year of Have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bordeaux's Finest Sparkler - Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux "Cuvee de l'Abbaye"

This week's topic on #winechat was Champagne and unfortunately I was delinquent in purchasing a bottle. Fortunately I did have a sparkling wine available, and one from Bordeaux at that: the Cremant de Bordeaux "Cuvee de l'Abbaye". I never anticipated this region as a source of sparkling wine, but the wine cooperative Jaillance has impressed this family. Not only is the wine affordable ($18.99), made from two uncommon sparkling grapes (70% Semillon, 30% Cabernet Franc), but it completely fits our tastes in a sparkling wine. It's dry, yet fruity - mostly strawberry, with a slight creamy finish. Beautiful. Don't trust us? Well, all Jaillance wines are designated Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) - so they have the French stamp of approval.

After finishing the "Cuvee de l'Abbaye", we moved on to the Jaillance Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale. This wine is produced in Northern Rhone, specifically, in the Drôme Valley, Clairette de Die "appellation d’origine" (AOC). These wines must consist of 75% muscat and the remainder Clairette, then fermented using the "ancestral dioise process". This process was first utilized over 2,000 by the Gallic tribe, Voconces, who left jars of the wine in rivers over the winter and then recovered them in the spring. Today the grapes are cold fermented using modern equipment that more or less replicates a freezing river. Before fermentation ceases, the wines are bottled and the wine continues to ferment at a controlled 12 °C until the percent alcohol falls between 7 and 9%.

The first impression of the Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale is its popping floral aroma - made more intense by the 90% muscat. Because the fermentation process is intended to retain as much grape sugar as possible, this wine is slightly sweet. Not our general sugar preference, but in general we were very pleased with this sparkler. Its light, fresh apricot-peach flavors and the bubbles and low alcohol definitely balance the sugar. Still prefer the brut, but the Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale is a pleasant alternative.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#WineChat Talking Eastern European Wines

On Wednesday January 4th at 9:00 PM ET, we will be hosting #winechat, a weekly twitter tasting among a growing community of wine geeks. The topic is very dear to our heart, wines and indigenous grapes from Eastern European. We will start by discussing Hungarian, Slovakia, Croatian, and Slovenian wines, then expand the conversation to wines and grapes from Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Remember to use the #winechat hash tag when tweeting.

We will be pouring and discussing the following wines:
  • Pfneiszl Kekfrankos 2009 Sopron Hungary $15.95
  • Nyakas Winery Budai Müller-Thurgau; Budajeno Hungary $14.00
  • Heumann Winery & Heimann Winery U&I Kékfrankos 2008 Villany & Szekszard Hungary $34.99
  • PZ Svirce Winery Ivan Dolac 2006, Island of Hvar Croatia $24.95
  • Enjingi Winery Grasevina 2009, Kutjevo Croatia $14.95
  • Corten Pinot Noir 2007; Acorex Winery, Cahul Moldova $11.99
  • Edoardo Miroglio 2007 Cabernet Franc, Elenovo Bulgaria $15.00
  • Brkic Zilavka 2009, Mostar Herzegovina $14.95
  • Murfatlar Winery Doyna 2008 Merlot, Romania $10.49
Hungary | Croatia | Slovenia |Slovakia | Romania | Moldova | Bulgaria | Wine Route of Herzegovina | Serbia | Montenegro

Special Guests:
Cliff Rames: Wines of Croatia - @WinesofCroatia
Erhard Heumann: Heumann Wines - @wine_h
WinesofSerbia - @WinesofSerbia

To find Eastern Europe wines to sample during the tasting, please check you local wine shop, WholeFoods, Blue Danube Wine, Fine Croatian Wines, JW Sieg Wines, Illyrian Import, Inc, Tasty Wine Company

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where the Wild Things (Grapes) Are

This week Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell announced several changes to the structure of the Virginia Governor's Cup Competition. One change is that eligible wines must be certifiably made from 100% Virginia grown grapes. While we applaud the Virginia Wineries Association (VWA), Virginia Vineyard Association (VVA), the Virginia Wine Board (VWB), Governor McDonnell, and Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore - doesn't this new regulation simply codify what we, as consumers, most likely already expected? Isn't it obvious that the wine that is judged to be the best in the state, be made from 100% Virginia grapes? What took so long? And shouldn't a wine labeled "Virginia Wine" be made entirely of Virginia grown fruit? Nope. Make sure you read this article by Frank Morgan in Flavor Magazine that explains why this may not be the case.

Now that wines entered in the Virginia Governor's Cup will consist of solely Virginia grown fruit, we still may not know from where? Was it from estate fruit? A vineyard in a local American Viticultural Area (AVA)? Somewhere else in the state? Just like the locavour movement, wine consumers should start requesting (or demanding) more information about the source of a wine's grapes - whether from inside or outside the state's borders. And this isn't just a Virginia issue, it should resonate with wine consumers in all states.

Recently I visited Linganore Winecellars in Mt. Airy, Maryland. While browsing their wine selection, I was reminded of a Maryland Merlot they crafted which won the Maryland Governor's Cup several years ago. That state's Governor's Cup Competition has always required 100% Maryland grown fruit and this wine was produced from grapes grown in the Maryland Eastern Shore. But the region and vineyard were not publicized? The wine just stated Maryland Merlot. And in a couple weeks, our family will be headed to Seven Springs where we normally visit Glades Pike Winery, just outside of Somerset Pennsylvania. On the last visit, they were pouring a Norton wine made from grapes sourced from Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg Virginia. Knowing that Chrysalis holds the world's largest planting of Norton I surmised this wine's source. But state law allows the winery to print "Pennsylvania" on the label because Middleburg is within a mile radius restriction. Bizarre. Why not publicize the fact that they grapes are sourced from the most trusted grower of Norton. The same holds for eastern wineries that utilize Finger Lakes Reisling or Long Island Merlot or any other grape sourced from a different vineyard.

In Loudoun County Virginia, several wineries (such as Tarara Vineyard & Winery and Corcoran Vineyards) are moving in that direction by creating vineyard designate wines where the vineyard is proudly displayed on the label. And what better way to publicize well known independent vineyards such as Benevino and Honah Lee. There's also another solution implemented by Virginia's Potomac Point Winery and Delaplane Cellars. On their tasting sheet, they note the appellation or vineyard which provided the grapes for each wine. And if the grapes were sourced from multiple vineyards, both note all the appellations or vineyards. The same holds for practically every California winery we have visited. What an easy way to educate consumers when the grapes are sourced from outside the estate. I think as eastern wineries start competing with left coast wines, the source of their wine must be fully disclosed.

One of the beauties of a bottle of wine - as opposed to beer and spirits - is that the wine, itself, is history. The wine directly reflects the weather that affected a geographic region during a specific period of time. If we don't know the wine's source, this sense of history is lost.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Linganore Goes Solar

Over the years, Linganore Winecellars has been one of our favorite places to visit. What more would you want - an enjoyable ride in the country, good local wine, and entertaining music? As Maryland largest winery, Linganore also leads in employing sustainable practices such as recycling tar-tare, cardboard, grape pulp - all practices which helped the winery win the Green Business of the year award by the Baltimore Business Journal. They are a shoe-in next year as they are now the owners of a solar panel and two Electric Vehicle charging stations partially funded by a grant from the USDA Rural Energy for American Program (REAP). Furthermore, the winery received a second REAP grant to study the feasibility of using geothermal, wind, and/or solar systems to reduce electric consumption from the public grid.

I've read that one of the drawbacks of solar panels is the necessity to clean the panel which results in tremendous water usage. Not so with these panels from Earth & Air Technologies, LLC. Regular rainfall will remove any dust and the panels attract sunlight even when the sun is obscured by clouds. On this day, the panels were operated on 25% capacity, even though the sun barely revealed itself. And when it did, the SolarTracker101 elevated and rotated the panels to the most optimal position. In this way, the panels are able to harvest the the most optimal of the sunshine and enables a 45 degree tracking capability. Much more efficient than just planting some panels on a roof.

Adjacent to the panels sits two Electric Vehicle charging stations, in which a quarter of the cost was supported by the REAP grant. Two of the downfalls of Electric Vehicles are the lack of charging stations and the long time required to recharge. Linganore leveraged this to their benefit by utilizing EVs for winery operations and allowing the public to use their recharge stations free of charge. Not entirely conceivable that drivers will stop into the tasting room to sip or purchase, ya think?

The winery has had an interesting 2011, having survived a tornado and tremendous rain. We hope this ribbon cutting ceremony initiates sunny conditions ahead. Paraphrasing Congressman Roscoe Bartlett "I don't like seeing tax dollars going to Washington, but when they do, it's worthwhile to see them return to rural Maryland for a worthwhile energy project". We agree completely. Watch the video below to hear Anthnony Aellen, Linganore's proprietor, discuss the winery and their environmental practices. Cheers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sierra Nevada: Hops vs Malt

This week I seem to have had my fill of Sierra Nevada beers, first at a Steal the Pint Night at Fireworks, Arlington; and then at home comparing two special brews: Celebration Ale and Ovila Dubbel. The goal at Fireworks was to sample the Raiders Of The Lost Hops, brewed during Beer Camp #58. The beer is an Imperial Red Ale - although that style isn't officially recognized - which is basically a maltier version of an American IPA. This beer was brewed using 100% estate Chinook hops (harvested at the brewery's hop farm) and I like the use single hop varieties as with the use of Simcoe. This beer is quite balanced - not overly hoppy. Too bad it won't last long. My second beer was the seasonal Celebration Ale. The beer utilizes Cascade & Centennial hops in for both finishing and dry hopping. The result is as expected - strong aromas and strong tail. I had another Celebration a couple days later which led me to bring some home to pair with a bottle of Oliva Duppel. The Oliva series is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the Monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux, Vina CA. The Dubbel is a copper colored sweet ale with plenty of raisin and caramelized sugar. The problem, after consuming a hoppier Celebration, the Dubbel was too sweet, with no feeling of balance. The remedy - a home blend of 75%\25% Oliva and Celebration - just enough hops to counteract the sugar - but not enough to overwhelm the raisin and other spices. Sometimes, you have to drink outside the box.