Monday, August 30, 2010

August A Tale of Two Cities (ATTC): Chardonnay

The world of wine is more vast and complex than I could have ever imagined. There is always something to learn, a new varietal, new blend, new AVA, DOC, just have to know that you will be on a continuous learning process. In a quest to continue my wine education with an in-depth study of varietals, I decided to take one varietal from 2 different countries and do a comparative tasting. I know, I know...genius!!

Starting things off basic, and with what I already had on hand, the first head-to-head varietal is Chardonnay. Chardonnay is probably the most widely planted grape on the planet and also the most versatile. As stated in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, "It’s not easy to know what any bottle labeled Chardonnay will taste like. Will it be steely and crisp, loaded with green apples and lemony citrus? Will it be fleshy and fruity—a bowl of stone fruits, tropical fruits, bubble gum? Will it taste like buttered popcorn? Toast and coffee? Ancient sea life soaked in chalk? In truth, Chardonnay can be any and all of the above. "

Perfect! I grabbed my fellow tasting partner and Venture Brothers fan, Brock Wino, to taste along with me as he has the nose of a a good way :-) Chile vs. California, let the tasting begin!

Chile (Los Vascos) -- Pale lemon/yellow in color and very vegetal in aroma. Crisp notes of citrus, herbs, and a hint of minerality were also found on the nose. After a the swirl, sniff, and sip, fruit flavors of apple and lemon coated the palate. Tart with pretty high acidity but the surprise was the creamy, soft finish.

California (J Lohr) -- The color is a big difference already, this was a much more golden yellow. Now this is a 'typical' CA Chardonnay, oak and smoke and tobacco were all I smelled at first sniff. After letting it sit in the glass for a bit, I got a little bruised red apple. Flavor mimicked the aroma, more oak and bark with hints of apple. A twist though, a slightly nutty finish. I felt like there was less acidity but more alcohol in this style, yet Brock Wino thought they were about the same. Perhaps the oak barrel fermentation and aging had a lot to do with that.

Extreme differences in visual appearance, aroma, and flavor profiles of these two wines. Same grape, two continents, why the difference? I initially thought climate, but after further research, both are from cool climate regions. Guess the winemaker 'intervention' made all the difference here. 'Typical' California Chardonnay is known for being oaky and buttery, and this one was no different. Malolactic fermentation took place for 4 months and the wine was aged sur lie in a 50% French oak barrel. In English: this Chardonnay will exhibit notes of apple and yeast from the malolactic and butter and oak from the barrel aging. Unfortunately I could not find much information on the winemaking techniques of the Los Vascos so I'll just assume stainless steel fermentation (by its taste).

So there you have it folks! I'm not going to say which one I enjoyed more...they were both good wines in their own way. But if you aren't a fan of the oakier style of Chardonnay, the California one is not for you.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

VA Wine in the Midwest

There is such a big movement in Virginia (I'm trying to add Maryland to that too) to Drink Local' and I enjoy their wines. So I purchase them in retail shops and look for them on restaurant wine lists. Imagine my excitement when I saw a Virginia wine on the list at a wine bar in Chicago! Right there on the wine list was the Barboursville Pinot Grigio! I even let out a little yelp, my friends thought I was crazy. Go VA Wine!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Making Up for Lost Time

It's Friday night and I'm out with the girls on the patio of Market Bar in ChicagoBold. They have wine!! And nothing says patio wine like a crisp rose. The sole rose on the menu was Zoe Rose from Greece. Always being one to try something new, I ordered it. Wine the color of cherries came to the table. And it was DELISH, a floral bouquet in glass!! While it did have tart flavors of red cherries, it also had notes of cranberry, strawberry and a little lemon zest. The bright, crisp acidity made it a perfect wine to break my wine 'fast' and even better for the patio. My girl took a sip, and she was sold too! Clearly this is what I'd be sipping all night. Which is a great thing because we had a little incident with vodka the night before. (That's a whole 'nother story!)

I went home to get a little more information on the wine, more importantly where I could get it from. The wine is from Domaine Skouras in Peloponnese, Greece and made from the regional grapes Agiortgitiko and Moscofilero. Funny that I picked a wine with moscofilero as it's a grape I was just introduced to and fell in love with a few weeks ago. Such a soft, perfumey aroma. And available in several wine shops around the Chicago area, this wine is retailing for about $9 - $12. A steal for a great rose that I would drink all year long! If only I can find it around here....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the House

I'm at home visiting my parents, clearly there is no wine at the house. Unless I'm down with the Strawberry Hill that nobody knows how long it's been in the fridge. So on Day 3, I'm out for pizza and I take a chance on the house wine...a 'Burgundy'. Sike! I am clearly drinking a light concord grape juice aged with oak chips. But what did I really expect for $5 a carafe! No worries though, the deep dish stuffed pizza will more than make up for it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Go For The Gold

I often pay attention to wine scores and awards that certain wines/wineries have, but this week I was on the other side of things. I was a judge for the Maryland Governor's Cup Wine Competition! Yeah, OK, I was a little bit excited. Excited at the honor of being chosen, excited because of the amazing wines I'd be able taste, excited to be a part of given Maryland wines some much needed accolades and recognition. So at about 10AM this morning I sat at my table and waited for the first flight.

Clearly I can't give too many details because the final scores aren't out yet. But I will say that I found some real gems after going through 6 flights! Apple wines, chambourcin, meritage blends, sangiovese, roses, and white blends came across my table. Not even sure how many wines were tasted total as each flight had different amounts. Maryland really produced some amazing wines and sent their best stuff to be judged. Stay tuned for the final update once the medals have been awarded!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The GrapeVine Digest

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

White – Mouton Cadet Blanc (France)

The wine has a fine, light, straw colour with pale gold highlights and a refined fresh nose on which distinctive floral aromas combine with fresh apples and citrus fruits and a tiny hint of toast on the finish. The Sauvignon Blanc in the blend brings refinement and texture, while Semillon and Muscadelle give substance and the impression of roundness in the mouth. The long finish, expressive and harmonious on ripe fruit with a slightly mineral tinge, is entirely typical of the appellation.

Rosé – Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec (Argentina)

A beautiful, deep, vibrant rosé color. Has a surprising amount of glycerin and body for a rosé wine, and beautiful aromas of fresh, ripe wild strawberries. On the palate, the flavors of strawberries and cherries come rushing in, accompanied by some spice notes and a clean, dry finish.

Red – Tarara Wild River Red (Virginia)

Blackberry, cherry and raspberry on the nose lead to a fruity soft palate with smooth tannins and a sweet, lingering finish. This is a medium bodied wine meant to be enjoyed now. Serve this wine lightly chilled with a rich chocolate dessert.

Wine Tastings
You don't know if you like it until you try it!

Saturday August 14th – 12pm – 4pm

French for Barbecue is….BARBECUE

With Labor Day fast approaching we thought it would be a good time to show off some well-priced reds from France that will pair nicely with a variety of food off the grill. Come join us this Saturday, August 14th, from 12PM until 4PM to sample these tasty values! and pick some up at discounted prices.

Weygandt Wines | 3519 Connecticut Ave, NW | Washington, DC 20008

Saturday August 14th -- 12pm – 3:30pm

The Longest Running Wine Tasting
This is the longest running wine tasting in DC beginning in 1971. 10 Different Wines Every Week, including 1 Mystery / Blind Tasting Wine

Bell Wine & Spirits | 1821 M St NW | Washington, DC

Save the Date
Upcoming exciting wines events that may be of interest

Wednesday August 18th – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Forgotten Grapes Wine Tasting

Lock up your Pinot, hide away your Chardonnay, and keep your Merlot on the down low, because wine expert, culinary entrepreneur, and creator of Chris Kern is bringing his fun, irreverent, interactive and pop-culture-filled "Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes" wine tasting event to Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro in Arlington on Wednesday, August 1th.

Chris will introduce you to five lesser-known wine varietals – Semillon, Gruner Veltliner, Carmenere, Mourvedre, and Brachetto D’Acqui – that you’ll learn to love (or at least want to get more friendly with) while entertaining you with stories, songs, jokes, and interactive challenges centered around these uncommon Forgotten Grapes. It’s a wine tasting event unlike any other you’ve ever attended: irreverent, interactive, educational, completely unpretentious, and totally off-the-wall!

Join us for this very special one-night-only wine tasting event on Wednesday, August 18th at Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro in Arlington. The first wine pours at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are only $35 per person, which includes the show and pours of all five Forgotten Grapes varietals (the best bargain in D.C. wine going!).

Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro | 2803 Columbia Pike | Arlington, VA
571-482-8581 or

Restaurant Week 2010 -- The insanity begins.

Over 200 of metropolitan Washington, DC's finest restaurants offer multi-course meals prepared especially for this summer event. Destination DC and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington presents the 16th biannual Washington, DC Restaurant Week from August 16-22, 2010. At participating restaurants lunch will be $20.10 for a three-course fixed-price meal and dinner will be $35.10 for a three-course fixed-price meal.

See for a list of participating restaurants.

Happenings with The GrapeVine
We made it through over 150 wines, over 6 days at 2 wine conferences! Boy were we pooped! At 8:30 in the morning, we’re sitting in front of 10 wines that we needed to assess and take notes on. It’s a hard job people, but somebody’s got to do it!
J The French Wine Society conference kicked off our ‘wine week’ but we had a different view of that one since we volunteered. At 7am we showed up at the French Embassy to set up glassware, placemats, handouts, etc. Then throughout each presentation we poured wines…one 2 hour seminar had 27 wines! At the end of it all, we had a Champagne toast and received kudos and thanks from the French Wine Society President, Education Director, and Conference Chairperson. A great time was had by all! Next we were off to the Society of Wine Educators Conference. No apron here, we sat and enjoyed the wines and listened to the presenters. And what amazing sessions! Some favs were New Zealand: France of the New World, Hot New Aromatic White Varietals, and the Iron Sommelier Competition. Blog recaps will be posted on The GrapeVine Blog as soon as we can slow down over here!

The GrapeVine Tasting Club is on vacation for the summer. We’ll be back in the fall with some very exciting events: Live Chef Demo with Wine Pairings, Cognac vs Armagnac, Wine Cocktails…you don’t want to miss it! You can stay in touch with us by checking us out on Twitter, Facebook, and The GrapeVine Blog. We love hearing from you!

For additional information on anything seen, or if there is anything you'd like to see in The Grapevine Digest, please email us at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shot In The Dark

It's been awhile since I've been able to taste with other 'wine-knows' that really know what they're doing and really have a passion for it. That drought ended last night! I had the pleasure of being part of the tasting group hosted by Julie Dalton CWE, Directora de Vinos & Sommelier, of Ranazul Tapas and Wine Bistro in Fulton, MD.

We were poured 2 flights blind, 3 whites and 3 reds. Then following the tasting methods of the Court of Master Sommeliers, each person when through their grid on their own while one brave soul provided their comments out loud. Not to toot my own horn but, I didn't do too bad when it came to sight, nose, and palate. Brightness, meniscus and viscocity determinations were new to me so I will need a little work on those. Now the pre- and final conclusions...I only picked 1 1/2 correctly. This is where I need the practice. Determining climates, new world or old world and why... Julie was amazing in getting us to give her the answers by walking through ever step, some tell-tale flavor or aroma characteristics that will help us to distinguish and determine varietals, countries and regions.

The 6 wines we tasted were: Spanish Albarino, Pouilly-Fume (Sauvignon Blanc), Condrieu (I thought Viognier for this one but there is no chance I was 'guessing' region, honestly I really did think it was Viognier!), Beaujolais Villages (Gamay), Chinon (Cabernet Franc), Grand Cru Echezeaux (Pinot Noir).

The Grand Cru Echezeaux blew us away! I drank every drop of that one. I so can't wait to meet with the group again. Maybe I'll even give my comments aloud...