Monday, June 28, 2010

I'll Have a C Sharp With That

I am all for trying new wine pairings, what wine tastes best with certain cheeses, random dishes that I make, sauces, etc. But hearing about Notaviva Vineyards Wine & Music pairing event was a new one on me. I was invited to this event by a fellow wine blogger from VA and I am not one to turn down a wine tasting event invitation.

So we took the Saturday night trip to Purcelville, VA down a gravel back road to Notaviva Vineyards. The idea or thought behind this tasting was that wine puts you in a certain mood and evokes certain feelings and so does music, so why not put the two together. The concept makes sense so I was interested to see how this thing would go. We'd have 5 wines and each wine would be paired with 10 music tracks. We were to decide which track we thought went best with the wine. Not feelings or thoughts based on what music genre you like...but how you FEEL when you hear each song.

A bit weird at first, like I just didn't 'get it'. I totally enjoyed the wine but was having a bit of trouble deciding it's musical pairing. Like the first wine was a white with peach and honeysuckle notes...50 Cent 'In Da Club' was playing. Liked the song, bobbed my head...not a great match. By the 4th wine though, I was kinda into it. The 4th and 5th were reds and I felt they needed a certain type of song to match their flavor. The 4th wine, a cab franc with it's blackberry and dark fruit flavors was a bit racy and needed a quick paced upbeat song. What's that playing over the speakers, the theme from Zorro! Perfect! Sexyback by Justin Timberlake was a choice for the 5th wine, a Chambourcin. I'll admit, this one I picked just because I liked the song.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Art of Wine

Ever talk to a group of people and they just look back at you with that blank stare? Well, I got the exact opposite from the guests at this tasting! There are plenty of times when I'll ask for comments, questions, a little crowd interaction...yet I get nothing. This group was vocal and I so enjoyed them!

I was the 'wine speaker' along with Carafe WineMakers for an art and wine show at Madly Living a B&B in Southern MD. Since it was the week before the 4th of July I talked about Grapes & the Grill. A few wines that are perfect for patio sippin', picnics, and anything off the grill. We started with a Prosecco that was served to guests as they arrived. But the first wine of the formal tasting was a Sauvignon Blanc from Carafe WineMakers in VA, a Rose from Brown Estate in CA, Splash (a blackberry merlot) from Carafe WineMakers, and a red Zinfandel from Brown Estate.
After I explained the concept of swirl, sniff, sip...the crowd took it from there. They were so interactive providing comments on aromas and flavors of the wines. A couple of times they got a little fancy, like granny smith apple, rhubarb, ripe strawberries. Juicy juice was my fav description. I'm wondering what kinds of descriptions they'll come up with next month. I think we'll taste through some blends.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cuckoo for Cocktails

Clearly I'm a wine drinker, but sometimes my palate wants a little something different. Which seemed to be the case this weekend. Perhaps since it was so hot, only a drink with some ice would do the trick. Either way, starting from Friday until today, cocktails were the drinks of choice.

Friday night I was lucky enough to have tix to see Jill Scott and Maxwell in concert. My girlfriend's husband wanted her to get out and enjoy herself before the baby comes so he scored the tix for us. It was a surprise for her...and it actually worked! She had no idea and was so excited! Before the show we went to Coco Sala for dinner. The 1st cocktail on the list caught my eye, the Alisar - cucumbers, vodka, and lime juice. This drink was absolutely amazing! It just had a slight hint of the cucumber flavor, but the tartness of the lime juice and the vodka...well you know how that tastes.

Saturday was 'Get my house in order day' so I did just that. I had a little sweet tea vodka and lemonade to help me with the tasks at hand.

Sunday I had a mimosa for brunch at Ulah Bistro to go with my crab & brie omelet. Then later on met up with a friend at Ping Pong Dim Sum for happy hour and had a kumquat mojito. Harris Teeter has a special on kumquats, I will be going back for some!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back to Burgundy

Last June, I had the pleasure of being selected to attend the Burgundy Wine School in Beaune, France and passed the rigorous exam to become an accredited Burgundy Wine Educator. Which basically means that I'm a beast when it comes to the Burgundy region, LOL! But that aside, I really do love the wines so when a Chablis seminar came to DC, clearly I had to be there.

When the Burgundy region does a seminar, they do it right! Printed, laminated maps, pre-printed listing of the wines with room for wine notes, a local Certified Wine Educator for the presentation, and each one of us were given a thumb drive of the presentation to take home. Now that's a seminar! Now I will say that since I've attend the school, there wasn't too much new information, but this time I was able to understand a few of the concepts a little better since I wasn't cramming the whole region into my head to prepare for the exam.

Chablis is a wine region located in the northernmost portion of Burgundy and produces wines made from the Chardonnay grape. The Kimmeridgean soil of the region gives the wines a flinty, mineral note. Most basic Chablis is completely unoaked, and vinified in stainless steel tanks. While the entire region of Chablis is designated as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) it is further split into four quality classifications (listed from lowest to highest): Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. On a side note, we went to the Chablis region as part of our 'learning' and we stood on a hill overlooking several of the climats of Chablis Grand Cru. The view was absolutely breathtaking.

You can't really have a Chablis seminar without tasting the wines, so they brought along 7 examples covering all 4 classification levels for us to taste and review.

Petit Chablis 2008
Domaine Bernard Defaix

Chablis 2007
Christian Moreau Pere & Fils

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, Vaulorent 2008
William Fevre

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, Vaulorent 2007
William Fevre
An excellent expression of Chardonnay. Very interesting and distinct differences between the 2007 & 2008, with 2007 in my opinion being the most expressive of the two. It tasted of tart apple and herbs with hints of minerality. Bright acidity and yeasty notes started mellow but finished in a symphony with crisp fruit.

Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 2007
Louis Michel

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2006
Chateau de Maligny

Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2008
Louis Michel
Grenouilles in French means 'little frog', so glad that has nothing to do with this wine! A sweet nose of pineapple, exotic fruits, and florals prepare you for the lush banana, pear and pineapple flavors for the palate. This is the rich, lush, round, complex flavor you expect from a Grand Cru.

Chablis Gran Cru Les Clos 2007
Christian Moreau Pere & Fils

You can never know everything, or even enough, about wine. It is ever changing, ever evolving. So I will be ever drinking! Since I happened to be one of the last to leave the seminar, I was able to take home one of the open bottles. Lucky me, I went home with a Petit Chablis!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sojourn to Great Falls

I usually go to wine events alone, which is kinda cool because I meet some of the most amazing people. I took a 3-day seminar with the Spanish Wine Academy last year I met firecracker of a woman in Karen! We've since kept in touch, met up for wine events, wine drinking, etc. Today she hosted a a wine tasting at her brand new, custom built home. I promise I was only seconds away from just hiding in a nook under the stairs and just coming out after dark so I could live there myself! But I was there to taste wines, so I went about my business.

The wine tasting featured wines from Sojourn Cellars, a small artisanal winery out of Sonoma, CA. They're a partnership between Craig Haserot (who guided us through our tasting) and Erich Bradley, 2 guys that met on a tennis court. Their wines are described as having 'New World style with Old World sensibilities' and are handcrafted in small lots to maintain and ensure a superior quality. Sojourn Cellars produces only Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. When asked why, Craig answered "Because that's what we like to drink!"

We tasted 7 wines, and I re-tasted 5 more ;-). I fell in love with them all, but not only do people want to read about each one, that's an awful lot of typing! So I'll pick 3 favs, 2 of the Pinots and 1 Cabernet:
2008 Gap's Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir
A spicy aroma followed by hints of cinnamon on the palate. A very fruity mouthfeel and finish with soft tannins to round out the wine.

2008 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir
Such a Burgundian flavor with this one! Very earthy and mushroomy giving way to flavors of dark cherries and blackberries. Super smooth finish

2007 Home Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Displayed a rich blueberry character and hints of mint on the nose. This drank pretty well right now and I know it will only get better in the next 2-3 yrs.

All the wines were amazing and they offer FREE SHIPPING! If you'd like any additional information or would like to purchase wines from Sojourn Cellars, please visit them at or you can follow them on Facebook.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Toast of the Town

I am a loyal reader of Wine Enthusiast magazine. And much to my BF's dismay I've kept most of the issues and they are neatly stacked next to my cable box. (Mags in the stack go back a couple of years.) So I've always seen the ads for Toast of the Town, but never quite got it together to go. Not so this year! I was able to volunteer with setup for the event through the Washington Wine Academy and they gave me a free ticket to the event as a thank you. What a thank you! The goodie bag alone was completely worth it.

Toast of the Town is an annual wine gala put on by Wine Enthusiast. Held in multiple cities, the DC event is the last one of this tour and was at the National Building Museum Friday night. The gala featured over 500 wines and spirits and 25 restaurants served signature dishes.

Unfortunately I had a work event tonight as well so I arrived late. Too late for the food which was kinda what I was most excited about :-( But alas, I just ran around and tasted as much wine as I could in the time I had. Some wines of note were the Greek wines from Nestor Imports. Their Assyrtiko and the Malagousia-Moscato wines took 2 more grapes off my Wine Century Club list. The Assyrtiko was crisp and clean with hints of citrus zest. And since this wine is sold at Whole Foods, it will be added to my list of great summer wines. Virginia wines held their own at this gala. Corcoran's 2008 Malbec, Chrysalis' 2005 Locksley Reserve Norton, and Boxwood Winery's 2007 Topiary Blend all get rave reviews from me. I hope to find them in a local wine shop soon.Since food and drink is not enough, the David Bach Quarter played cool jazz all night long. The electric slide broke out on the dance floor at the end of the night...I think the 500+ drink offerings had something to do with that. I drank a little, got a goodie bag, saw some old friends and wine buddies, all in all it was a great night. Next year I will definitely go back, and go early.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


As I sat here at my computer answering some emails, doing a bit of surfing, etc...I realized that I hadn't tasted/assessed ANY wine this week!! My work schedule has definitely thrown me for a loop. I quickly poured myself a glass of Pampano from Rueda, Spain and am relaxing while watching tv. This problem will definitely be fixed tomorrow! I'm attending Toast of the Town wine tasting hosted by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Over 600 wines and spirits, maybe I should take the metro...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

No Wine for the Storm

So, today was the 1st of 3 scheduled shifts at Harris Teeter to do the Bordeaux promotion. I was all excited to go and pour, and sample, a few of the Bordeaux they had to offer. Unfortunately, a colleague of mine that did the promotion on that Friday had cleaned them out!! My go-to wines from Mouton Cadet were completely sold out! With what was left, I could only display 2 wines. For tasting I had the Collection des Chateaux which is actually made from the best grapes in Bordeaux from many chateaux and blended to make this 'collection'. This wine was very rich in flavor, tasting of raspberry and plums. Light tannins gave it a nice finish and it was smooth going down. Chateau du Bousquet was served alongside the Collection, a fairly thin wine which was surprising since Bordeaux wines are usually so big. Hints of pepper and flowers. Very earthy, a characteristic of French wines.

My sales weren't too great today. But in my defense, I only served samples to like 15 people. Maybe people didn't want to taste wine or buy it on a Sunday. And there was a thunderstorm that occurred during my demo. It didn't effect me in the least, it had stopped by the time I left. Maybe people didn't want to come out for groceries with that going on...who knows!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The GrapeVine Digest

Give It A Swirl
Try a cool glass of wine for those hot summer days. Enjoy!

White – El Fogon Torrontes (Argentina)
Greenish yellow shades, flower and tropical fruit aromas. Pair with seafood, fish, poultry, Asian cuisine, salads and soft cheese. An ideal aperitif.

Rose – Tegernseerhof Zweigelt (Austria)
Bright redcurrant, tart raspberry, and strawberry wrapped in delicious wave of mouth-tingling acidity.

Red – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages (France)
Not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau, this fruity red exhibits a ruby-purple color, red berry perfume and floral bouquet, and bursts on the palate with gobs of dark cherry and cassis fruit. Soft, lush and ready to drink now, serve slightly chilled at your next picnic or BBQ.

Wine Festivals
Summer is here, and so are wine festivals! For admission, you get a commemorative glass and unlimited tasting.

Saturday & Sunday June 5th & 6th – 11am – 6pm Vintage Virginia
In its 29th year this event is a cornerstone of the East Coast wine festival season, featuring a one-stop shopping environment for wine collectors and enthusiasts, as well as a unique opportunity to interact with winemakers, movers and shakers, cultivating your own understanding of what makes a quality vintage.
Bull Run Regional Park | 7700 Bull Run Drive | Centreville, VA

Saturday & Sunday June 5th & 6th – 11am – 6pm Chesapeake Bay Wine Festival
An opportunity to sample wines from 20 Maryland wineries, the Chesapeake Bay Wine Festival offers a little something for everyone. A variety of fine food vendors will please any palate! Bring a blanket or lawn chair, sit back, listen to the sounds of great musicians and spend a wonderful afternoon at the Chesapeake Bay Wine Festival.
Terrapin Park | 191 Log Canoe Circle | Stevensville, MD

Save the Date
Upcoming exciting wines event of note

Sunday, June 6th – 1pm – 4pm
Exclusive California Wine Tasting
Join us for an afternoon exploring twenty-five of California’s finest wines in the Dean & DeLuca Cafe.
Dean & DeLuca | 3276 M Street NW | Washington, DC 20007

June 10th – Smithsonian Presents "An Evening with Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Randall Grahm"

Participants have the opportunity to share the fruits of this vinous journey as he leads a guided tasting of Bonny Doon vineyard wines, including winery flagship red Rhone-style blend Le Cigare Volant; the white Le Cigare Blanc; the dry rose Vin Gris de Cigare; estate/single vineyard representations of Albarino and Syrah Le Pousseur; and Vinferno, a vin de paille-style dessert wine made from a single vineyard blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Grahm’s book, “Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology” (University of California Press), is available for signing after the program. $75 per person

June 12th & 13th – The Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor
Experience Flavor with a View: a world-class event, will celebrate distinctive cuisine, fine wine, beer and spirits. Guests will have the opportunity to learn about the latest culinary and varietal trends.

June 12th & 13th – Great Grapes Uncork The Wine, Uncork The Flavor, Uncork the Fun…
Join us for the 8th ANNUAL year for Baltimore's favorite wine festival. Thousands of wine lovers have been visiting us over the years and this year will be bigger and better than ever. Think Global but Wine Local and this show has it all.
$20 advance online or $25 on-site includes a souvenir wine glass, unlimited samples, all performances and cooking demonstrations. Oregon Ridge Park | 13401 Beaver Dam Road | Cockeysville, MD

The Latest with The GrapeVine
For those of you that have missed The GrapeVine Digest, my apologies! I just recently returned from an amazing trip to France where I attended the International Malbec Days event in Cahors. Cahors is in Southern France and is actually the original home to the Malbec grape. I sat in seminars and attended tastings while overlooking some of the most beautiful vineyards and landscapes. Cahors is also known for foie gras, a fav of mine! I definitely got my fill of it on this trip. Boy it took a lot to get me to board the plane to return home!
A much different style than the Argentine Malbec, France's style has a dry, earthy characteristic with dark fruit flavors on the palate which expresses the terroir of the region. As an experiment, why not visit your local wine shop and try the Argentine and the French style of Malbec. You may find something new! Also, be sure to visit The GrapeVine Blog for trip recaps and pictures.

With the warm weather being here for good, it is now time for my summer winery visits! There are so many great wineries right here in our backyards in Maryland and Virginia, I can't wait to share my visits and the wines with you. I may start this weekend :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wine Wednesday - Champagne & Cupcakes

Many writers have written articles and discussed at length the pairing of champagne and cake. Especially wedding cake and champagne. The verdict is usually that the sweetness of wedding cake is not an ideal match for the dry champagne that it's usually served with. After tasting a variety of Champagnes, Sparkling Wines, Cavas, and Proseccos with cupcakes...that couldn't be further from the truth!

We had cupcakes in Lemon, Banana Chocolate and Coconut made by Delightings and a cheese and charcuterie plate. Each lady invited to the party brought a bottle of 'champagne', which really just meant anything with bubbles in it. That was a pretty cool way to do things because we definitely had plenty of sparklers to drink and I was able to try different ones to see which matched up the best with the cupcakes. The following is a list of wines that we were available to drink with the cupcakes. I don't have a formal review of the wines because there were so many and it was just too beautiful a night :-)

Pink by Yellowtail
Barefoot (Pinot Grigio)
Chandon (CA)
Le Berceau Blanquette de Limoux
Francois Montand Rose Brut
Lunetta Prosecco
Fleuraison (Blanc de Blanc)
Domaine Ste Michelle Brut
Zardetto Prosecco

As for the best of the night, I'm partial to the Blanquette de Limoux (I brought it, wink) and the Zardetto Prosecco. But with the amount of cupcakes I ate...well, let's just say that I'll be in the gym for the next few days!