Finally we are breaking out of the winter doldrums.  Spring is in the air!  The smell of damp soil is one of my favorite Spring aromas.  Laugh if you must, but I think that is why two of my favorite wine aromas is earthiness and barnyard.  Wet earth is the pretext to the first floral aromas of the season, and the initial sign that blooms are around the corner. 

As Spring descends upon us (I am ignoring that the Farmers Almanac says that we are in for a last snowstorm at the end of March), my eating habits begin to change, which affects my wine choices, as well.  Recently I presented 8 wines as part of a wine education class at The Tasting Room Wine Bar in Reston.  When I selected the wines from the wine menu presently offered, I was dreaming about Spring and so the line-up reflects that.  Well, what does that mean?  It means I leaned towards lighter, crisp whites, and one light semi-sweet white; and reds that are medium to full bodied, with prominent fruit, and not heavily oaked.



I began with a 2007 Sancerre from Domaine Robiln, and it turned out to be one of the two favorite whites from the line-up.  For those of you not familiar with it, Sancerre is a wine region in the Loire Valley of France and Sauvignon Blanc is the main white grape. Hence, Sancerre on the label means Sauvignon Blanc in the bottle.  Sancerre characteristics are typically crisp, meaning a good level of acidity, with aromas ranging from grassy, herbaceous, lemon/lime to grapefruit, and minerally/flinty.  The Domaine Robiln was very lemon/lime on the nose, flinty, crisp and fresh –  just the way I like it.  It paired perfectly with the goat cheese.  Why? Because fresh goat cheese pairs best with light white wines, and possibly light bodied reds, like a Beaujolais or Gamay.   

2008 SANTIAGO RUIZ ALBARINO, RIAS BAIXAS, SPAIN                                    


Albarino has gained more notoriety in this country during the past 8 years or so.  Rias Biaxas is the region in Northwest Spain that is recognized for producing great Albarinos.  It has sometimes been described as Viognier-like, but I think that really depends upon the producer.  The Santiago Ruiz was not very aromatic, and had less acidity than I expected from an Albarino, but it was still a very pleasant fresh tasting white wine that also paired well with the goat cheese.  Another wine that I would categorize as a ‘deck sipper.’  I am a fan of Albarinos, especially during warmer months, and to pair with grilled fish dishes.

2007 TRIENNES, VIOGNIER, PROVENCE, FRANCE                                                


 I have presented this wine before, and it does not disappoint.  It was the favorite white by the class participants. The owners of Triennes are two well-known vintners from Burgundy, who have revived a decaying vineyard in Provence and are now producing a lovely Viognier.  I’ve written about Viognier before, and its growing popularity as a leading Virginia wine, and my admiration for its ability to pair with a variety of foods.  I am a fan of Triennes for its balance and flavors; the nose captures apricot, violet or lavender, honeysuckle and importantly, the palate has just enough roundness to enable this wine to carry through as a dinner wine.  The Belletoile, a triple crème cheese, did not overpower, but I would not pair it if the cheese had been left out longer and had developed a riper flavor profile.



I chose the Moscatel for the line-up to make the point that semi-sweet table wines, when well-made, are one of the loveliest warm-weather apéritifs.  And they are also a great pair with Thai, Moroccan, or Asian spiced grills of fish or chicken. 

Semi-sweet table wines have received a bad rap because of some of the badly made American sweet table wines.  Varietals like Moscatel, Muscat (as called in France), Moscato (Italy), Vouvray (Chenin Blanc grape) are examples of semi-sweet to sweet wines that have that characteristic because of the grape varietial, not a trumped-up sweetness.  The key to a sublime semi-sweet wine lies in the balance of acidity, so that it doesn’t drink like syrup. 

Sooo, back to the Moscatel.  Anadalucia is a region in south of Spain that is widely known for Sherry production, and Malaga is right on the Mediterranean.  This Moscatel had an aromatic nose of honey that leapt out of the glass, but a rather neutral palate; not quite as expressive as I would want it to be.  The nuttiness of the Comté was a yang to the Moscatel’s ying.



Drouhin is as big a name in Oregon Pinot Noir, as it is in Burgundy.  This 2007 lived up to what we always expect from Pinot Noir, regardless of what region it comes from.   Bright raspberry, sweet spice, mild toast was prevalent and the palate carried through to a fine finish.  I chose the Drunken Goat Cheese to pair because it was washed in a fruity Spanish red wine, had an appropriate richness, and was aged enough so that it wasn’t tangy like a fresh goat cheese.  Not that I am comparing a fruity Spanish red wine to a Drouhin Pinot Noir.  The pairing point is that the feminine lushness of the Pinot Noir relates more to this cheese than, say, a cabernet sauvignon. 

2006 SYRAH, RUDI SCHULTZ, STELLENBOSCH                                                      


This is the first South African Syrah that I’ve tasted and I liked it!  It had the bold blackberry and spice that we love about Syrah, and a medium body with a satisfying finish.  The Parmesan was a nice pair.  For those of you who care, Spectator gave this wine a 93, and I think its deserving of it.

2007 BOXWOOD WINERY, MIDDLEBURG, VA                                                          



This was the favorite red of the line-up.  I’m not just saying that because Boxwood hires me to give these classes!  I took a ‘hands up’ poll at the end of the class to review the wines for feedback as to what were their favorites.  And what about the 2003 Giscours?  I’ll get to that  next.  The majority agreed that, yes, the Ch. Giscours is indeed an excellent wine, but not one they would drink as often as the Boxwood.  Why?  Well, pricing aside, it isn’t as drinkable now as the Boxwood.  And the Boxwood delivers everything that you are looking for in a Bordeaux-style red…complexity, power on the nose of rich black cherry, plum and the inky, black currant of Petit Verdot that carries through to  a rich mouthfeel.  This wine has a solid structure and flawless balance.  Recently, this wine received a Spectator rating of 88  (Very Good – A wine with special qualities), which is very meaningful for a first submission from an American winery.  88 seems to be the highest that Spectator typically gives a wine from an American wine region, other than California, Washington or Oregon.  Glass raised to Boxwood and Stephane Derenoncourt!

2003 CHATEAU GISCOURS, MARGAUX, FRANCE                                                   



The pedigree for this wine is clear.  It’s located in the Margaux region, with many Premier Cru Chateaux; Ch. Giscours is a 3rd Growth property that dates back to the 16th Century; and 2003, although not the 2005 vintage, was a very hot growing season, which is always good in wine regions that don’t typically get long, hot growing seasons.   It still has some chewy tannins, but not overwhelming to me; not as fruit-forward as the Boxwood, which is not unusual in many Bordeaux, even at 7 years old.  But, the fruit was apparent, just not as up front.  Certainly, it is an outstanding wine that will continue to benefit from further aging.  Having said that, in hindsight, I would not have paired it with the Faribault Blue.  The cheese was a tad too big for the wine and overpowered it.  I, instead, would have done the Blue with the Boxwood and the Montasio with the Giscours.  This can be a challenge, because so many people want to pair Blue cheese with a big, bold red…so, one tries to deliver what the people want.  At first, I was going to leave out the Blue altogether….but, I caved in.  Cheese professionals always recommend that those big Blues be paired with Sauternes/White Dessert wines, or the very least, a Port.  So, keep that in mind!

The next class is on Saturday, April 10th from 3pm-5pm. 



“Beauty is worse than wine; it intoxicates both the holder and the beholder”  Aldous Huxley



Granted, I am getting ahead of the game here by blogging about Evan Goldstein’s upcoming book Daring Pairings, http://bit.ly/cJMwM3  since it will not be available until April 1st.  But, it will be here before we know it, so put it on your ‘must have’ list, now!

One of the chefs featured is Dan Barber, of Blue Hill fame in NYC and his Hudson Valley outpost, Blue Hill Stone Farm.   In 2003, Dan invited me and the winemaker I worked with at the time, Charles Girard, to dine at Blue Hill as his guest.  Dan was a fan of Charles’ 2000 Cabernet Franc which he liked to pair with his infamous Short Ribs.  Admittedly, I don’t remember the menu exactly, so I can’t regale you with details (it was many dishes)….but, I will say that even without specifics I remember it as one of the most enjoyable meals ever.  After dinner, Dan invited us into the kitchen, which was so small we were aghast at how Dan and his team produced such exquisite and varied dishes from such a small area.  Great chefs do great things in small spaces. Dan has always been a leader in sourcing local and cooking seasonal, and provides his restaurants with produce from his Great Barrington, MA farm.  The specialty of that dining experience was beyond the amazing flavors and textures of the food.  It was also special because Dan’s accessibility, passion and generosity made it so. When you are in NYC, or Hudson River Valley, be sure to make Blue Hill a stop….you will be very happy you did.



This posting is a tad later than I intended, so by now you know that the 2010 Governor’s Cup went to King Family Vineyard’s 2007 Meritage.  It could not have happened to a more deserving winery and winemaker!   Matthieu Finot, Winemaker, ascended the stage last Friday evening at the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond, to accept the Cup along with David King.  Here is Matthieu’s notes on this wine:

A blend of 56% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 16% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec. The wine has been aged in French oak for 18 months. There are dark fruits, especially black cherry and raisin, on the nose with a hint of toast. Full mouth of black cherry, smoke and clove. Perfect structure with firm, balanced tannins. The finish is smooth and lingering. A wine that will make you discover something new and enjoy more with every sip! Double Gold Medal Monticello Cup 2009, Gold Medal Governor’s Cup 2010. Drink now through 2015. 615 cases produced.  Retails for $25.95.

While cruising through the Grand Tasting on Friday evening, I tasted, nibbled and chatted.  It was fun being on the other side of the tasting table.  The following wines (listed alphabetically by winery) stood out for me because they expressed the classic expression of the varietals, and all showed balance and flawless structure.  I urge you to click through to the wineries’ websites for further notes and pricing.   There were many food stations, and I was not able to sample from them all,  so my notes are just on those that I did.

Barboursville Vineyards – Winemaker: Luca Paschina

2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Jefferson Vineyards  – Winemaker: Andy Reagan

2006 & 2007 Meritage

Keswick Vineyards – Winemaker: Stephen Barnard

2009 Les Vents d’Anges Viognier

King Family Vineyards – Winemaker: Matthieu Finot

2008 Viognier

2007 Meritage

Pollak Vineyards – Winemaker: Jake Busching

 2007 Cabernet Franc – unfined & unfiltered

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sweely Estate Winery – Winemaker: Frantz Venture

2007 Cabernet Franc

Tarara Winery – Winemaker: Jordan Harris

2007 Cabernet Franc

2007 Meritage

Since I was driving back to Madison from Richmond that evening, I am sure that I missed some other outstanding wines…but, better to be safe than sorry!

Food highlights…..

Chef Melissa Close of Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards – Melt-in-your-mouth Brisket  served over Polenta, with Barboursville 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve .  Chef Melissa has been nominated, once again, in the 2010 James Beard Awards.   If you have not eaten at Palladio, drop whatever you are doing now, call and make a reservation.  The food is divine, the service impeccable and wine list exemplary.

Gearharts Chocolates – I had the Pistachio Toffee Orange with the Pollak 2007 Cab Sauvignon…if I wasn’t typing this right now, I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven! 

Lollipop Lamb Chops in a blueberry reduction, compliments of The Bull & Bear, Chef Michael L. Hall – OMIGOD these were so yummy.   I had some of Pollak’s Cab Sauvignon still in my glass…perfection.

Cassoulet by Millie’s of Richmond – one of my favorite winter comfort foods and it paired perfectly with the Sweely Estate 2007 Cab Franc.

It was a wonderful evening and had just enough attendees so that it was possible to taste and chat without too much elbowing. 

Here are some photos.



If I can get away from my laptop, that is. 

I am a big fan of the Virginia Wine Expo.   Having been a producer of  large events in Los Angeles in a former life, I know what it takes to bring together an event of this size and caliber.   Alex Papajohn and his trusty sidekick, Jessica Braum of Echelon Events Management, do an ace job in producing this food and wine event. 

It starts this evening with the 2010 Governor’s Cup Grand Tasting.  I do believe that Governor McDonnell will be there to announce  the recipient of the 2010 Governors Cup.  Gold, Silver, Bronze Medalists (because, you know everyone is a winner) have been announced and are below. 

Saturday and Sunday’s schedule is chock full of culinary events that take place right there on the Expo floor.  Over 350 Virginia wines to taste.  And the special treat is that several wineries who do not usually participate in wine festivals do participate in this one.  

2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup

Medal Winners By Medal and Varietal



 Cabernet Franc

Potomac Point Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc

Sweely Estate Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc

North Mountain Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Dessert Wine Blends Red

Cooper Vineyards NV Noche

Meritage – Red

Fox Meadow Winery 2007 Le Renard Rouge

King Family Vineyards 2007 Meritage

Tarara Winery 2007 Meritage


Chrysalis Vineyards 2005 Norton Locksley Reserve

Paradise Springs Winery 2008 Norton

Petit Verdot

James River Cellars 2007 Petite Verdot

North Gate Vineyard 2008 Petit Verdot

Sugarleaf Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot

Gadino Cellars 2007 Petit Verdot

Ingleside Vineyards 2005 Petit Perdot Reserve


Rosemont of Virginia 2007 Kilravock

Silver Medal

 Cabernet Franc

Horton Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc

North Gate Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Franc

Pollak Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc

Wolf Gap Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Franc

Cross Keys Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc

Cave Ridge Vineyard 2007 Red Silk

Chester Gap Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc

Ingleside Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc

King Family Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc

Lake Anna Winery 2007 Bellhaven Cabernet Franc

Rockbridge Vineyard Inc 2007 Rockbridge DeChiel CAF

Tarara Winery 2008 Caberent Franc


Cabernet Sauvignon

Pearmund Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Pollak Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunset Hills Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Barboursville Winery Inc 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Paradise Springs Winery 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon  

Hickory Hill Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon  



Notaviva Vineyard LLC 2008 Celtico

Wolf Gap Vineyard 2006 Chambourcin  

Cave Ridge Vineyard 2007 Chambourcin  

Wintergreen Winery NV Three Ridges Red


Dessert Wine Blends Red

Horton Vineyards NV Xoco


Meritage – Red

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery 2006 Meritage

North Gate Vineyard 2008 Meritage

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Ameritage

Barboursville Winery Inc 2006 Octagon

Prince Michel Vineyard 2005 Prince Michel Symbius

Jefferson Vyds 2007 Meritage

Rockbridge Vineyard Inc 2007 Rockbridge DeChiel MER  

New Kent Winery NV Meritage

Michael Shaps Wines 2007 Shaps Meritage



James River Cellars 2007 Merlot

North Gate Vineyard 2008 Merlot

King Family Vineyards 2007 Merlot

Rockbridge Vineyard Inc 2007 Rockbridge DeChiel MRL

Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery 2008 Merlot  



Horton Vineyards 2007 Nebbiolo



Cooper Vineyards 2008 Norton Reserve  

Potomac Point Winery 2008 Norton

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Norton

Chrysalis Vineyards 2005 Norton Estate Bottled


Petit Verdot

Cooper Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot

Pearmund Cellars 2007 Petit Verdot

Stone Mountain Vineyards 2006 Petit Verdot


Pinot Noir

Rockbridge Vineyard Inc 2007 Rockbridge DeChiel PNR



Horton Vineyards 2008 Malbec  

Cave Ridge Vineyard 2007 Fossil Hill Reserve


Red Table Wine

Pearmund Cellars 2007 Amentage



Barboursville Winery Inc 2007 Sangiovese Reserve

Barboursville Winery Inc 2008 Sangiovese Reserve


Syrah or Shiraz

Cave Ridge Vineyard 2007 Syrah

Rockbridge Vineyard Inc 2007 Rockbridge DeChiel Syrah


Bronze Medal



Barboursville Winery Inc 2007 Barbera Reserve

Cabernet Franc

Cedar Creek Winery LLC 2008 Cabernet Franc

Cooper Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc  

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc

Fox Meadow Winery 2007 Fox Meadows Vineyards Reserve

Fox Meadow Winery 2007 Fox Meadow Winery

Notaviva Vineyard LLC 2008 Cantabile

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Franc Free Run

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Franc

Barboursville Winery Inc 2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Barboursville Winery Inc 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Fabbioli Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Fabbioli Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc

Afton Mountain Vyd Corp 2008 Cabernet Franc  

Cardinal Point Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Franc

Hickory Hill Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc

Jefferson Vyds 2008 Cabernet Franc  

Tarara Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc

Michael Shaps Wines 2007 Shaps Cab Franc


Cabernet Sauvignon

Sugarleaf Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sugarleaf Vineyards 2007 Neubia

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Barboursville Winery Inc 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

Barboursville Winery Inc 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Casanel Vineyards / Casanel 207 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon


Narmada Winery 2008 Midnight

Narmada Winery 2008 Reflection

Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery 2008 Chambourcin  


Dessert Chambourcin

James River Cellars 2008 Chambourcin


Meritage – Red

Autumn Hill Vyds Inc NV Horizon Rouge 10th Edition

Flying Fox Vineyard 2007 Trio

Keswick Vineyards 2007 Estate Reserve Heritage

Rosemont of Virginia 2007 Meritage

Fabbioli Cellars 2008 Tre Sorelle



Autumn Hill Vyds Inc 2008 Merlot  

Rosemont of Virginia NV Merlot  

Sweely Estate Winery 2007 Merlot

Veramar Vineyard 2008 Merlot – Free Run  

Casanel Vineyards / Casanel 2007 Chegada Merlot

Ingleside Vineyards 2006 Merlot  

Jefferson Vyds 2008 Merlot

New Kent Winery 2008 Merlot  



Barboursville Winery Inc 2005 Nebbiolo Reserve


Horton Vineyards 2005 Norton


Petit Verdot

Flying Fox Vineyard 2007 Petit Verdot

Potomac Point Winery 2008 Petit Verdot

Cross Keys Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot

Michael Shaps Wines 2008 Shaps PetitVerdot


Pinot Noir

Cross Keys Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir



Keswick Vineyards 2008 Consensus

Sweely Estate Winery 2007 Wolftown Red  

Chrysalis Vineyards 2006 Tannat

Tarara Winery 2008 Long Bomb


Red Table Wine

Afton Mountain Vyd Corp 2008 Fiesta di Bacco  

Stone Mountain Vineyards 2008 Malbec



Casanel Vineyards / Casanel 2008 Batucada Norton

Farms LLC


Ingleside Vineyards 2007 Sangiovese


Horton Vineyards 1999 DIO – Touriga Nacional

See you at the Expo!!



Before coming to Virginia, I drank Viognier, but not very often and always from the Rhone/South of France.   My Virginia experience has brought me closer to Viognier and for that I am very thankful!   It is by far one of the most flexible white wines in which to pair with food.   Viognier is prolific with Virginia wineries, and you will find many with differing characteristics, to choose from.   Hence, the fact that Viognier is so very flexible in its pairing abilities is a culinary Godsend to the Virginia wine industry.  It has been suggested that it is the varietal, at least white varietal, to be seriously considered as the one that Virginia should put forth as its signature wine.  Petit Verdot and Norton are considerations for red wines.   History tells us that New World wine regions have achieved widespread recognition with a particular varietal…..the obvious being Napa with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Australia with Shiraz.  New Zealand with Sauvignon Blanc.   I guess time will tell which one the industry chooses as their hallmarks.   In the meantime…let’s just talk Viognier and some of the dishes I like to pair with it.

Viognier can express notes that range from citrus/lemon-lime, honeysuckle, to apricot, to floral and white peach, some minerality is always a good thing; and in the hands of a good winemaker will maintain freshness and acidity, while providing enough roundness on the palate to be an elegant dinner wine.  The introduction of malolactic/2nd fermentation, either wholly or partially, will secure that richness on the palate.  Leaving it ‘sur lies’ in the barrel, is another option.  The ripeness of the grapes is always essential for a wine to express the fruit’s characteristics at their best….and this is sooo true for Viognier. In the spirit of “when in Rome” I served Viognier for my first Thanksgiving in Virginia.  My palate told me that this would be a perfect pair, and it was right!!  I will not go into my traditional Thanksgiving menu details now.  Clearly, not the season and besides, what would I write about for Thanksgiving 2010.  My point is that in exploring Viognier, I discovered quickly its pairing potential.  Scallop and Bacon Chowder, Shrimp and Corn Chowder – staples of my winter comfort foods repertoire.  Roasted Guinea Hens or Chicken stuffed with apricots and wild rice….or, wait a minute, what about an Herbed Roasted Pork with an Apricot Chutney!  I am giddy with the possbilities.   Typically, Viognier is paired with exotic foods that encompass sweet spice – think Indian or Moroccan or Asian.  And I highly agree with that, and one of these days will purchase a Moroccan tagine and do just that.   But, for most folks making dinner for their family and friends, Indian or Moroccan may be a tad challenging.   

A lighter Viognier as an apéritif pairs nicely with hummus.  Sabra is a hummus brand that I like a lot.  The one with pine nuts, or the red roasted pepper, with some pita slices….a not-too-ripe brie, maybe warm with apricot or peach chutney…and some olives, would make a fabulous opening spread. 

I was convinced that I alone had figured out the Viognier and Thanksgiving pairing (I’m sure there are  VA wineries that would challenge me on that claim)…..but, very recently, when perusing Evan Goldstein’s Perfect Pairings, I discovered that he had beat me to the punch.  Pffft (as the French would say).  Okay, at least I can take solace in knowing that a published Master Sommelier, son of renowned Chef Joyce Goldstein, had come to the same pairing conclusion.  And having recently connected with Evan in the world of social media, I had my intro….Viognier and Thanksgiving and the conclusion that, as Evan says in his book, “Viognier is underrated in its ability to pair with food,”  OMIGOD, I’ve said that lots of times…really!!   I’d like to think that we are now pairing soulmates.


“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.”  Robert Fripp, Rock Guitarist extraordinare and old friend.

I will be presenting a menu of 8 wines, mostly Bordeaux, at The Tasting Room Wine Bar in Chevy Chase, MD on Thursday, February 25th from 6pm – 8pm; $45/pp .   Scroll for more details, details, and how to reserve.  Come & join the fun!

No, this wasn’t a romantic pre-Valentines dinner.  It was simply another of my dinner parties this past Saturday with my friends, Frantz and Karina.  The menu of Corned Beef and Cabbage, was made from James Beard’s 1965 recipe.  Sooo easy and it was delicious…recipe below.  Dessert was one of my specialities, Cherry Clafoutis.  For those who aren’t Francophiles, Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert; sort of like a baked custard and traditionally with cherries.  Although, being the adventurous recipe freak that I am, I have made it with white peach and blueberries, when in season, and my French friends have joyfully accepted this messing with tradition.  I poach the peaches in Lillet first….can’t wait for summer to return!

What did we drink??  Frantz is a fine winemaker and has made a fortified white dessert/apéritif wine from Muscat.  So we sipped a bit before dinner while noshing on hummus and olives.  With the main course, we started with a lovely Grenache from Domaine André Brunel, a new estate in Southern Rhone Valley.  A simple Vin de Pays, which pairs great with a workman’s dinner like corned beef and cabbage.  This wine is imported by Robert Kacher Selections   , one of my favorite portfolios.  If  I am browsing wines in a shop, looking to try something new, I always look for who the importer is, and if it’s a Robert Kacher, Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch…to name a few, for sure I will try that wine.  They focus on smaller, quality producers.

Then we moved on to a bolder, more complex 2006 Meritage, made by Frantz for Sweely Estate Winery and called ‘1867’.  Frantz is originally from St. Emilion, so his roots show forth in his winemaking.  The blend is 75% merlot aged for 12 months in new French oak, and 25% cabernet franc that stayed in stainless steel.  The fruit is rich with dark cherry, slight toast and leather, with a hefty structure and tannins just enough to tell you that this baby will age beautifully.  This wine garnered 3 Gold Medals, one from an international wine competition called The Dallas Morning News….., but I’ve been drinking this wine from inception and it was fabulous even before the medals arrived.

We continued to drink the Meritage with the cheese course, which was a buttery, soft Robiola from the Piedmont Region of Italy. A combination of sheep & cow’s milk.  I highly recommend this cheese. Be sure to let it sit out and ripen before serving.  And this could also pair with a full bodied white wine.    We went back to the fortifed Muscat for dessert and it paired beautifully.  Already you get lots of ripe pear and once the alcohol settles down, this wine will be fantastic.  Frantz will continue to nurture this wine along and I am always honored when a winemaker shares their work-in-progress with me.

My only Valentine story is that I received a dozen red roses from a “Secret Admirer.”  No kidding!  I think I may have figured out who the masked admirer is…but, regardless, I spent V-Day curled up on my sofa watching my favorite love story, Pride & Prejudice,  with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy….now why couldn’t Colin have been the secret admirer!

I haven’t forgotten…here is the Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe – serves 6 with some left overs. I made a smaller portion.

6 lbs. of corned brisket of beef (I just used a brisket of beef)

6 peppercorns, packet of pickling spice (I used  2 palmfuls of McCormick Pickling Spice)

3 carrots, peeled & quartered (I used more, because I love carrots cooked this way!)

3 onions, peeled & quartered

1 medium-size green cabbage, quartered or cut in wedges

Melted butter (4 tablespoons)

Place the corned beef/brisket in water to cover, with the peppercorns and pickling spices in a large pot.  Cover the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 hours or until tender, skimming occasionally. During the last hour, add the carrots and onions, and cover again.  During the last 15 minutes, add the cabbage.  Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and brush the vegetables with the melted butter.

 Serve with parsleyed boiled potatoes, cooked separately.

Recipe from House & Garden

January 1965

James A. Beard

 A cook from Auburn, CA suggested using Guinness while simmering, and I plan to try that next time.



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