Saturday, September 28, 2013

October is Wino Month: Virginia Wine Month - DC Wine Week - Regional Wine Week

Yes it is, especially if you live in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. First, it's Virginia Wine Month. And as the Virginia is For Lover's site reminds, "Virginia is a wine destination unlike any other,  with more than 200 wineries surrounded by lavish scenery, breathtaking views, quaint small towns and monumental historic sites."  And you can choose from over a hundred different events throughout the state to enjoy a nice lass of Virginia Wine.

October also coincides with DC Wine Week, scheduled for October 12th-19th, that is a "week long celebration dedicated to enjoying wine, wine education and an opportunity to support the area’s growing number of local wineries, wine shops, wine bars, restaurants and merchants". In preparation the celebration, the organizers are planning the DC Wine Week On the Road: The Grape Escape on October 5th and a visit to The Winery at Bull Run for their Fall Crush Festival on October 12th. The Grape Escape will hit Loudoun County and Fabbioli Cellars, Lost Creek Winery, and 8 Chains North Winery. Like the DC Wine Week 2013 Facebook page to stay updated on the week's activities.

Finally, there's my favorite: Drink Local Wine's Regional Wine Week. From from October 6th to 12th, "wine writers, bloggers and enthusiasts share information about wine from lesser known wine regions throughout the country — providing a one-stop shop to see what’s cutting edge in regional wine. ... Regional Wine Week is open to anyone –- from professional wine writers to wine enthusiasts with Facebook pages or Tumblr sites. You can submit stories about anything related to wineries, winemakers and wines from anywhere in North America (though we prefer not to include areas like Napa and Sonoma, since they already get enough attention)". 

To encourage this effort DLW is Regional Wine Week Photo Contest and encouraging all wine lovers to submit photos, starting now, to their Facebook page."It can be a photo from a visit to one of your favorite local wineries or a bottle of regional wine you recently enjoyed. And since fall is upon us, we would love to see some of your local wine country’s beautiful colors (hint hint). Just snap a picture, describe it in less than 100 words, and post it to our Facebook wall for all of our friends to view, like, share, and comment on. Please include Facebook hash-tag #DrinkLocalWine with each entry so everyone can easily find your post."

My favorite regional wine photo is from the DLW12 Colorado of the view from Canyon Wind Cellars. And for a little marketing, that's why its the first photo embedded in our theCompass mobile app. Cheers.

Update: I also learned that October is Texas Wine Month. Virginia and Texas seem to be side-by-side in all things wine related. For all those in Texas or planning to visit - particularly during ACL Season, here is a list of Texas wine events.

And of course, theCompass Winery & Brewery Locator can guide you to your local winery whether in Virginia, Maryland, Texas, or any other state and province. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Unique Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour 2013: Tannat and Whites Impress

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape". - Wikipedia

Very prominent in Uruguay and to prove it, the Wines of Uruguay set out on The Unique Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour 2013: "Fifteen of Wines of Uruguay's (WoU) member wineries will pour many of their finest wines in a 3-city, U.S. trade tasting tour in Washington, DC, Austin, and San Francisco. Each winery will pour up to six wines with an emphasis on Tannat."

I attended the Washington D.C. session and was immediately impressed with not only the quality of the wine but also the long wine making tradition in that country. Many of the families were immigrants from Spain and Italy, and as usually the case, brought their wine making tradition with them. And with no roadblocks such as Prohibition, many of these wineries have been operating for several generations.

Uruguay resides in the same parallels as its neighbors Argentina & Chile, but also South Africa, Australia, and New Zeland. The soils are mostly clay, there's plenty of sunshine,  and the vineyards are mostly situated near the Rios de la Plata (across from Beunos Aires) or the Atlantic Ocean - thus cool from coastal breezes. A perfect environment for producing balanced and structures wines.

Tannat was introduced into Uruguay in 1870 by Basque immigrants and now represents one third of all wine produced in that country. Tannat is normally ages at least one year in oak and sometime blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Sirah. However, I was not a huge fan of these blends, particularly the Tannat-Merlot blends. It seemed that the Merlot added some fruitiness but took away from the finish, making the tannins even softer which had the result of a a wine falling off the palette. However there were really no complaints of the single varietal Tannats. They were most likely red cherry flavor, with a chewy structure, and nice soft tannings - dripping down the throat. Since alcohol levels are generally low12-14%, there was never a hot finish.

There were several that soon became favorites. The Bodegas Carrau Ysern Tannat-Tannat is a blend from two different vineyards - one from the north, the other in the south. The northern vineyard contains more sandy soils leading to structured tannins, whereas the clay soils in the south produce a more rusty wine. Blended together, the wine gains the benefits of each soil type. The Bodega Garzon Reserva Tannat was very similar and I was very fond of the Gimenez Mendez Las Brujas Tannat. Bouza Bodega may have been the most interesting as the representative explained that in one vineyard, the winery stacks red colored rocks along the base of the vines in order to reflect even more sunlight to the grapes. The Tannat A8 wine from this vineyard was slightly smoky, full of dark cherry fruit and smooth tannins. Another smoky wine was the Toscanini Reserva Tannat, who also produced a nice entry level Tannat - the Classic Tannat 2011. Familia Irurtia's Grand Reserve Tannat was spicier than most, a very agreeable wine; as were the Narbona Tannat Luz de Luna, Traversa Vina Salort Tannat Roble, and Pizzorno Tannat Reserva.

As for non-Tannat reds, the most impressive was the Antigua Bodega Stagnari Prima Donna Cabernet Franc. This wine was creamy, chewable cherry balanced with smooth tannins and nice acids. Artesama offers a range of Zinfandel and a tasty Tannat-Zinfandel-Merlot blend. Both display that characteristic spicy flavor that prompted me to put Zinfandel back on the tasting calendar. Finally Gimenez Mendez produces the Alto Reserva Malbec that is similar to the Antigua Bodega Stagnari CF, my notes read chewy cherry smooth tannins, acidic finish - and only 13% alcohol.

What also impressed me was the quality of the few white wines. No consensus yet for the white version of Tannat such that there were a couple Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and even a Viognier and Marsanne. Some of these were produced perhaps because of the individual tasting preferences of the winery or  a linkage to their family history.  Regardless, they were all simply delicious and bargains (talking about $10-$15 when available in the U.S.).  Both Bouza and Garzon produced Albariño to honor the family's Spanish
 heritage.  Bodegas Carrau offers a heavy, but refreshing Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie that oscillates between yeasty and lemongrass. Their Chardonnay is also a little grassy and with nice structure and acidity. The Gimenez Mendez Reserve Sauvignon Blanc was light, lemon sea-grass throughout and completely effervescent. The same can be said for both the Narbona and Toscanini Sauvignon Blancs.  All very tasty. Finally there was the Familia Irurtia Gran Reserva Viognier - with twelve months in oak - a deep buttery wine exuding floral aromas and nice acidity.  And staying regionally, De Lucca was pouring an excellent Marsanne Reserva.

All in all, a successful day or exploring and sampling wine from Uruguay. I have a completely new understanding of the country's wine-making tradition as well as it's vineyard geography.  I plan to continuing this learning process. Cheers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

#Winechat featuring 2012 Finger Lakes Riesling

Last night during our weekly Wednesday #winechat, we tasted through a quintuple of Riesling wines from New York's Finger Lakes. These wines ranged from practically bone dry to frozen iced styled; and its mighty clear that the Finger Lakes delivers quality wine with each style.  When examining the label of a Finger Lakes Riesling be sure to peek at the back label which should include a Riesling Taste Profile. The profile is designed to make it easier for consumers to "predict the taste they can expect from a particular bottle of Riesling" and according to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (@FLXWine), there is almost unanimous compliance with the member wineries. Pretty cool.

We also learned about the age-ability of Reisling, in some instances they can maintain themselves for over a decade.  According to Red Newt Cellars (@FLXnewt), "The acid holds on cleanly, the sweetness mellows.  Great Riesling ages better than most red wines could dream of!"  And Fulkerson Winery (@FulkersonWinery) finds "that aging softens them. Brings out the petrol and honey notes." Who knew?

We started the evening with the Swedish Hill Winery (@SwedishHillWine) 2012 Dry Riesling at 0.8% RS and 12% alcohol, the driest of the bunch.  This wine uncorks with powerful floral aromatics which the winery explained in a tweet - is partly due to the season, site, and wine making. The grape itself is clone 90, in which I learned there are approximately four Riesling clones planted in the Finger Lakes. And the site is on Cayuga Lake, one of the right fingers.  The wine itself continues with floral, green apple flavors and nice acidity.

Next up was the single vineyard Standing Stone Vineyards (@SSVNY) Old West Block 2012 Riesling at 1.4% RS and 12.2% alcohol.  The grapes were harvested from the old Gold Seal Vineyards, first planted  in 1972.  The wine has plenty of acidity to balance the additional sweetness and displays a more peaches and honey flavors intertwined with some stoney earthiness.

Moving further along the Riesling Taste Profile, the Red Newt Cellars Circle Riesling 2012 comes in at 3.2% RS and only 11% alcohol. Easy to get carried away with this one. According to @FLXnewt the Circle Riesling is here to remind people that the words "everyday" and "Riesling" DO belong together. And "the RS worked out naturally for us in 2012 to this level; ripe fruit aromas boost the sweet impression instead." During the chat, many of our fellow bloggers recommend spicy foods with the wine or as we dined - spicy pork sausages. The wine itself swayed from apricot to honeyed pear - with the refreshingly balanced acidity.

The Wagner Vineyards (@WagnerVineyards) 2012 Riesling Select is in a similar ballpark  at 4.2% RS and 11.2% alcohol. This wine is made from grapes grown from the winery's oldest block of Riesling, planted in 1979, with the original vines still yielding fruit. Once again, balance. The sweet pineapple flavors blended seamlessly with the effervescent finish. 

Last was from the far right on the Tasting Profile, the Fulkerson Winery 2012 Riesling Iced Wine.  They had wanted to leave the grapes on the vine to produce a true ice wine, but Mother Nature interfered so they grapes were harvested at full ripeness and then frozen. After fermentation, the wine was then aged six months in new oak. The result is a honeyed fig flavored wine coming in at 19.7% RS, but, once again, only 11% alcohol. But even with the intense sweetness the inherent acidity comes through again. The winery tells us that the "Riesling Iced Wine is fantastic with an apple tart or rich cheeses (sharp cheddar, Danish Blue, etc.)". I also want to sample their 0.2% bone dry Riesling as well as their true 2008 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine. Nice range of offerings.

For the past decade, I've said I'm going to visit the Finger Lakes, I need to get on that promise. Look how many there are to choose from. Cheers.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cider 101: Hops and Cider

We've learned over the years that hops are not just used to balance the malt in beers. It can also be used to balance the honey sweetness in mead and also the sweet apple flavors in cider. A couple weeks back we first sampled the Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Anthem Hops at our local Whole Foods. And this week we discovered it at our local beer store. The cider is produced from Washington grown Red Delicious, Gala, and Granny Smith apples and dry hopped with a dose of Oregon grown Cascade hops. This procedure enhances the aroma from the hops, all the while avoiding the heavy bitterness when added earlier in the process. The result is a cider with apple-grapefruit aromas with a subtle dry lemon-grass finish. And at 5.5% ABV, had no problems biking the rest of the day. Cheers.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The United Grapes of America - West Virginia - Forks of Cheat Winery Chambourcin

After several years of home wine making, recognition in amateur competitions, and the support of his friends, Jerry Deal decided to turn his hobby into a business by establishing Forks of Cheat Winery in July of 1990. The winery releases a range of wines made from estate, West Virginia, and American grown vinifera, French hybrid, and American grape varietals. Their estate is particularly advantageous as the slopes allow cold air to pass and settle below and thus rarely do they loss crops to frost. Their Dry Chambourcin ($13) is made from a blend of estate and West Virginia grown fruit and is very reminiscent of the style for that grape. There are noticeable cherry fruit and spicy characters as well as decent acids and modest tannins. A very drinkable wine from the Mountaineer state. Cheers
The United Grapes of America The United Grapes of America

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Maryland Wine Announces Results of 2013 Governor's Cup Competition

These are exciting times for the Maryland Wine industry and based on the results of the 2013 Governor's Cup Competition the recent expansion has augmented the supply of excellent wine. Both new and old wineries shared in the haul of awards. And how do I know the quality? Fortunately the 2013 Drink Local Conference was held in Baltimore and we were able to sample many of these vintages - particularly the Governor's Cup winner: Black Ankle Vineyards Crumbling Rock 2010. And no surprise from Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard; but check out the haul from Port of Leonardtown Winery. Looks like I have some traveling to do for DCWineWeek.  The full results are listed here; but I've listed the the major awards below. Cheers to Maryland Wine.


Best Sparkling: Great Shoals Winery • Sparkling Vidal Blanc 2012
Best White Varietal: Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard • Chardonnay 2012
Best White Blend: Black Ankle Vineyards • Bedlam 2012
Best Rosé: Crow Vineyards & Winery • Barbera Rosé
Best Red Varietal: Cascia Vineyards • Nebbiolo 2009
Best Red Blend: Black Ankle Vineyards • Crumbling Rock 2010
Best Off-Dry Varietal: Boordy Vineyards • Vidal Blanc 2012
Best Off-Dry Blend: Royal Rabbit Vineyards • Chatelaine 2012
Best Mead: Orchid Cellar Winery • Archer
Best Dessert: Port of Leonardtown Winery • Autumn Frost 2010
Best Fruit: Port of Leonardtown Winery • McIntosh Run 2011
Best Fortified: Serpent Ridge Vineyard • Slither


Black Ankle Vineyards • Crumbling Rock 2010
Cascia Vineyards • Nebbiolo 2009
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard • Chardonnay 2012


Big Cork Vineyards • Chardonnay 2012
Black Ankle Vineyards • Bedlam 2012
Boordy Vineyards • Veritas Port 2008
Boordy Vineyards • Vidal Blanc 2012
Bordeleau Winery • Pinot Grigio 2012
Crow Vineyards & Winery • Vidal Blanc 2012
Crow Vineyards & Winery • Barbera Rosé
Dejon Vineyards • Festivus 2012
Great Shoals Winery • Sparkling Vidal Blanc 2012
Layton’s Chance Winery • Oaked Chambourcin 2011
Linganore Winecellars • Indulgence
Loew Vineyards • Apples & Honey
Loew Vineyards • Viva Vidal 2011
Orchid Cellar Winery • Archer
Port of Leonardtown Winery • Chardonnay 2011
Port of Leonardtown Winery • Captain’s Table 2010
Port of Leonardtown Winery • Autumn Frost 2010
Port of Leonardtown Winery • Chaptico Rosé 2011
Port of Leonardtown Winery • McIntosh Run 2011
Royal Rabbit Vineyards • Chatelaine 2012
Serpent Ridge Vineyard • Slither
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard • Cabernet Franc Reserve 2011