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Posts Tagged ‘red wine’

Luca Paschina, Winemaker & GM at Barboursville Winery

I could not be happier with the success of the 2010 Winemaker Wednesday series at The Frenchman’s Cellar in downtown Culpeper.  When I first suggested this series to Jeffery Mitchell, owner of FC, there was no hesitation on his part.  A true believer in Virginia wines and Virginia artisan food products.   His shop, located within the Frenchman’s Corner, is an oasis of wines, micro-brews and artisan cheese delights in Central Virginia.  

You know how I love one-on-one chats with winemakers, and I have no doubt that you also see the benefit of a visit to charming downtown Culpeper, for the opportunity to visit with an icon in Virginia winemaking. 

So get your wine-loving self to FC on Wednesday, September 15th, when Luca Paschina of Barboursville Winery will be the featured winemaker.   From 6pm – 8pm wine enthusiasts will have the opportunity to experience a casual, intimate setting in which to taste the highly revered Barboursville wines and chat with Luca about his approach from vineyard to bottle.  The wines will be paired with artisan cheeses from the Frenchman’s Cellar’s international array.

The Frenchman’s Cellar/Corner,  129 E. Davis Street, Culpeper.  Phone. 540.825.8025.  Complimentary tasting paired with artisan cheeses.  Of course, wine available for purchase.

Cheers!

Anita

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For a long time I’ve been a summertime white Lillet fanatic.  Over ice and sitting on my deck.  It’s quite an old fashioned apéritif.  This was confirmed by my friend Frantz who informed me that it was also a favorite of his Grandmother’s…pffft…so, I guess that just makes me timeless.  In an effort to modernize my apéritif  habits, I’ve lately been sipping Virginia Vidal Blanc, but not just as an apéritif.

At one of my dinner parties, I served Old House Vineyards 2009 Vidal Blanc with a grilled curry shrimp, as an appetizer.  I even had Damien Blanchon, Old Field’s winemaker, grilling the shrimp for me.  The slight sweetness of the Vidal Blanc and spicy curry was a good combination, but of course, I have my critique.  And that is that I should have simmered the shrimp in the curry sauce, vs. marinating it and then grilling.  For the simple reason that it didn’t have enough spice.  I use Patak’s Curry Paste, which I buy at Cost Plus World Market.  It is really a simmering sauce and now I understand that is how the spice and heat develop, when I’ve previously used it.  So, next time I will let the curry paste simmer (add a bit of water) for 20 minutes and then put in the shrimp for 5 minutes to cook.  I bet it will then have the spice that I’m looking for.

The apéritif that evening was the Janisson et Fils ‘Bleu’ Champagne.  It was a gift from my friend, Pamela Margaux of Margaux & Company.  This champagne is divine.  Brilliantly fresh with subtle fruit and flower characteristics.  50% Pinot Noir, and 50% Chardonnay.

The main course was a Grilled Marinated Flank Steak and a Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs.  The marinade I used has become my favorite,  and makes an inexpensive cut like london broil or flank steak sing.  This was paired with King Family Vineyard’s 2007 Petit Verdot (sold out, you’ll have to wait for the 2008).  The rich, dark fruit of the PV paired beautifully with the steak.  The marinade makes a difference, and you will understand when you click through below, to the recipe.  Of course, one bottle wasn’t enough, so we also opened a bottle of Old House’s Bacchanalia, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Tannat, for the cheese course.

Dessert

Dessert….one of my famous cakes!  A Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries, paired with a Prosecco. 

Frantz Ventre opening the Prosecco!

And then we finished off with Old House’s Chambourcin Port…..ahhh, a perfect evening!

Recipes are compliments of Epicurious.com:

Marinated Grilled London Broil/Flank Steak

Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

I am forever apologizing for the quality of my photos….so, why should now be any different!!  My other dinner guests:  Katy Bradley & Damien Blanchon, Jenn & Benoit Pineau were not done  justice by my very  blurry pics.  Never mind….I’ll get the hang of it someday!

Let me know how you like the recipes…and enjoy!

Cheers,

Anita

“I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens.”
Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of U.S.)

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The world of artisanal farm products have a story all their own, much like farm wineries.  Take, for example, Caromont Farm in Esmont, owned by chef-turned-farmstead cheese-maker, Gail Hobbs-Page and her husband, Daniel.  As a former chef, Gail’s love for good food, and commitment to sustainable farming and the local food movement, forged a natural path to her present-day role.  This no frills farm is why it’s so charming and it reflects Gail’s down-to-earth, yet perfectionist approach to producing cheese.  

Despite my lust for wine and good cheese, I am a neophyte when it comes to the cheese-making process, so Gail had to get down to basics for me.  To begin with what defines a farmstead cheese?  That would apply to cheese made on the property where the cows/sheep/goats are raised and milked.  No outside milk is sourced; no frozen curd; and all the cheeses are hand ladled.  The Caromont goats are a closed herd.  What does that mean…they’re unsociable?  Yes, in that they are all bred on the premises, and some on Gail’s sister’s property.   No outside goats welcome!

Gail’s cheese making is self-taught and inspired by the great artisanal cheeses from Europe, primarily France.  The production facility is small and efficient, and good hygiene is strictly adhered to, hence the attractive cap and long, white coat I donned before being ushered into the ‘drain room.’   An overview of the process begins with…you guessed it, milking the goats!  Two minutes per goat x 22 milking goats doesn’t seem so long.  Each goat gives about one gallon per day.   The pasteurization is based on temperature control, which will be adjusted based on the weather.  A lactic bacteria/culture is introduced to the milk and sits until Rennet is introduced.  This creates a matrix of proteins + fat + milk solids, which in turn creates the curd. 

The curds in the drain pans...that used to be a salad bar!

 The curds are cut and put into drain pans, which sit on what once was a salad bar…ingenious.  Most or all of the whey is drained and the curd is set into molds, and then continues to drain.  Once the cheese molds have drained sufficiently, Gail will then apply any herbs, as in the case of the Old Green Mountain Round, a fresh Chevre; or Ash, for the Greek Feta.   Then they are off to the temperature-controlled walk-in where they hold until ready for shipment, or longer in the case of the aged Esmontonian.  Have you ever thought about the different shapes of cheeses?  Those shapes aren’t by accident.  The mold shapes vary dependent on the type of cheese. For example, you will only see Tommé cheeses in one mold shape.  As Gail says, “I love molds like other girls love shoes!”   

The Esmontonians draining.

Our next stop was at the goat’s winter home.  This is a dome-shaped structureand the eco-friendly aspect is that the goat’s poop (can I say that on a blog?) emanates enough heat to keep the structure warm during cold temperature months. Then it goes to the compost pile in the Spring.  As we wandered to the goat pens, Gail pointed out that the whey, a by-product of the ‘matrix,’ flows into the goats’ water dish.  Whey is full of protein and very healthy to drink, even for us humans.

We then visited with the goats, and it was love at first sight.  Had Gail taken me to the goat pens first, I would have to be dragged by my ears to continue the tour.   They are just too cute, especially the babies, all of whom I wanted to take home with me.  And if my cell phone camera was more cooperative, I would have posted the pics, that somehow ended up as video files…don’t ask.

When shopping for Caromont Farmstead Cheeses, here are your choices, and wines to pair! 

“Caromont’s Farmstead Fresh” pasteurized, light, lemony, and creamy in the style of Fromage Blanc.    “The Old Green Mountain Round” – 5 oz. “Rounds” dusted on the top and the bottom with Herb de Provence – mild, creamy, and with gentle herb overtones.  
 “Alberene Ash”  has been aged for 2 weeks – a 6 oz Pyramid with a layer of vegetable ash in the center and is creamy with a pronounced mineral overtone and hints of blue as it ages.     “The Esmontonian”  is raw and aged 60 Days with a Natural Rind -Semi Hard Tomme (2.5 lbs) – washed in local Chardonnay Vinegar while aging.    “Mount Alto Feta” Raw — Aged 60 Days – Greek  Feta Style Cheese, aged in its own brine – mild, Creamy, and crumbly – not aggressively salty, gets more complex as it ages.

White Wine Recommendations:  Sauvignon Blancs (crisp and lean),especially Sancerres; unoaked Chardonnays and Gruner Veltliners; Pinot Blanc; Chenin Blanc; Italian whites from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

Red Wine Recommendations: Beaujolais, Gamay or other light red blends.

 Check the website for ‘Where to Buy’  http://www.carmontfarm.com/.

Cheers,

Anita

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Old House Vineyards Tasting Room

Granted there are many “old houses” in Culpeper, but only one houses a vineyard and winery with a talented, young winemaker by the name of Damien Blanchon.  As I drove up to the stately farm house of Old House Vineyards, I was brought back in time, and as Damien led me through the tasting room and private event dining room, both with fireplaces, the ambience of the exterior architecture continued within.  It feels like a B&B, and in fact they do have some rooms to let, if you are attending a private wine dinner in the dining room. It is marvelous that owners, Pat and Allyson Kearney, decided to keep the rooms as they were.  Just some painting and floor refinishing, and what they created is a most inviting and charming series of tasting areas.  I can only imagine that it is next to impossible to get people to leave!  Granted, I am a sucker for classic old farm houses with big sweeping porches, dark wood mouldings and fireplaces.  I just wanted to move in!  And combine that classic homey ambience with fabulous wines and a picnic lunch.   

Damien told me that Old House has 22 acres under vine and he only uses Estate grapes in the 3,000 case production.  Planted in the vineyard is Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and some newly-planted Tannat, not yet in production. BTW – Tannat is a main varietal from where Damien hails from in Peripignan, Southwest France.  Born into a family of viticulturists, Damien started his education in his Grandfather’s vineyard. He then went on to receive his  degree in viticulture and enology at the College of Agriculture LEGTA Charlemagne in Carcassonne.  Coming to the United States to make wine was a decision led by his desire to experiment with different growing conditions, varietals and the freedom to blend any range of varietals that he so desires.

Damien Blanchon

The first wine we tasted in the cellar was the ’09 Vidal Blanc Clover Hill. Aged in stainless steel and with a malolactic fermentation this wine sang of pear on the nose.  Fresh and lively, it is the dry VB of the portfolio. 

The first Chardonnay ’09 was barrel femented in a neutral barrel and is resting ‘sur lies.’  Damien also stirred the lies to prevent oxidation, and then did a malolactic fermentation. So you can imagine the roundness on the palate, yet acidity bounced in at the  back end.  The second Chardonnay ’09 is aging in a ‘toastier’ barrel and that showed in a nice way.  These Chards will age  for one year in the barrels.  

The Cabernet Franc ’09 is bright, light and fruity, and well-balanced.  It will be a great picnic & BBQ red.

Chambourcin ’09 is blended with some Cabernet Franc and is just wild strawberry fruity!  It reminded me of picking wild strawberries in the field behind my childhood home in Maine.  The second Chambourcin ’09 went through a cold soak and longer maceration.  This will be used in the Bacchanalia blend….a favorite of Old House’s customers.

Damien Blanchon

The Late Harvest ’09 Chambourcin grapes were immediately refrigerated, then de-stemmed and put into a stainless steel tank, and is now aging in a barrel.  I really like red dessert wines and this is soooo South of France!  And even for the summer, it would be great with a cheese course of Blues and Cheddars, oh throw in some Epoisses, too.

Ahhh…the Petit Verdot ’09….I am becoming a fan of this varietal as a single-varietal wine.  This PV is still in a fresh, young stage and showing good acidity.  PV is a grape that delivers a good level of acidity, another good reason for its blending capacity, but works in its favor as a single varietal.  This wine will be aging for another year.   In the meantime, The Petit Verdot ’08 is a classic inky, full bodied PV that will be released in the Bacchanalia blend this summer.  Damien is still deciding on the final blend, but it may be something like 50% Petit Verdot, 30% Chambourcin, 25% Cabernet Franc…you heard it here first.    

The ’09 Vidal Blanc Late Harvest has been fermenting since December and has about 3 more weeks.  Then it will be racked and held in a stainless steel tank; then racked again and transferred to barrels to age for maybe one year….for as long as Damien decides it needs to.  He is planning to release it towards the end of 2010…. maybe in time for Christmas.

I have never tasted a Port made from Chambourcin, and I was surprised to see that it’s amber color.  The ’09 has brandy added to stop the fermentation….and that is called ‘mutage’…en Français.  This is a very South France style, Vin du Naturel.  Two barrels will be aging for 3 years….oh, take off that frown, because Damien is aging another batch for 1.5 years, that of course, will be available sooner.  Besides, the ’08 Port is available in the tasting room.  Although, I can’t wait for that 3-year aged batch…let’s see 3 years aging, bottled, released oh sometime around 2013.  Yikes!! Considering the Ancient Mayans predicted total earthly devastation in 2012…pffft, never mind.  I shall remain positive that we will be imbibing in this nectar. I don’t think even the Ancient Mayans prediction will convince Damien to decrease the time of aging. 

Current Releases – no more teasing of wines to come.  These are now available!  ’09 Vidal Blanc, this is the semi-sweet VB of the portfolio.  Damien did a skin maceration with this and delivered a 3% Residual Sugar.  BTW – it’s fructose sweetness vs. saccharin, which would result from adding sugar. Just thought you might want to know that.  The fermentation was stopped at 12.3% alcohol, so even though it’s semi-sweet wine, it’s not any higher in alcohol.  Yes, that is a license to drink more.  I’m planning to try this wine with grilled shrimp that I’ll marinate in a medium-spice curry paste, as a first course on greens.  Vidal Blanc is aromatic and expressive, and it’s semi-sweet nature should be an interesting pairing with the spicy shrimp.

2007 Bacchanalia, a blend  of Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Chambourcin.  I undersand why I had so many customers asking for this when I was on the floor at Frenchman’s Cellar in Culpeper.  A bold wine, but that strawberry thing with the Chambourcin softens it a bit and brings some female to the wine.  Along with the earthiness of the Cab Franc and tannic blackberry of Tannat in the blend, it really paired nicely with a Chicken Marsala I recently made, using Crimini mushrooms.  The richness of the Marsala wine sauce stood should-to-shoulder with this wine.

2008 Port – this is the older brother of the ’09 that is still aging in a  whiskey barrel.  Again, Damien used Chambourcin and it really works well for Port.  Perfect with a cheese course, or chocolatey dessert.  I can see just sipping it on late wintry evenings.

2006 Petillante, which translates as “bubbly, sparkling.”  This is a yeasty, biscuit-like sparkling with a long finish.  This elegant Sparkling is made every two years, and only 100 cases.  As you may know, it is a rather tedious endeavour to make premium Sparkling in the ‘methode traditionelle” style, hence the price tag generally. But at $35 for Petillante, it delivers for the price.  I can see this with foie gras as a first course; or with a lobster dish.  Today, I came across a suggested pairing of Dom Perignon with BBQ  ribs.  So, go for it!

"The Island" at Old House Vineyards

The biggest news from Old House is the introduction of their Lake Pavilion, an events venue that overlooks the “The Island,” which is perfect for wedding ceremonies.   This is the newest and most unique wedding venue addition to the region.  Imagine….dial in to your romance gene…strolling across the foot bridge over to the small island to say those vows. The Lakeside Pavilion is still having some final tweaks done, but will be ready in time for this season.  As an event planner in Napa and on the East End of Long Island, I’ve done lots of weddings in beautiful locations, and Old House Vineyards certainly delivers a top notch site that offers a gorgeous view and setting without any puffery.

Check out their upcoming winery events.

Cheers,

Anita

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Some winemakers are sort of like jet setters.   Think about it, they jet from one beautiful wine region to another to work at wineries and vineyards, so they can broaden their winemaking skills.   No wonder wine enthusiasts dream about being a winemaker, or starting a winery.  But, at the risk of bursting your bubble, these winemakers and the vineyard managers, toil and stress over growing conditions, sometimes inheriting a not-so-well-planted vineyard, negotiating big equipment in small spaces; not to mention really fun stuff like pruning in 0-20˚ winter weather with the wind howling.  Yep, it’s true…the wine business isn’t all about charming, or Taj Mahal-like tasting rooms, or wine dinners in elegant restaurants.   It’s a lot about farming and the challenges therein.  I am droning on about this a bit, because as I do these cellar visits with winemakers, and tell you about them, I am hoping to increase your appreciation of what it takes to make good wine.   A lot of guts and not always much glory.

Sébastien Marquet

The well-travelled winemaker who inspired this blog is Burgundy born and raised, Sébastien Marquet, at Doukénie Winery.   The Winery is owned by the Bazacos family, who first planted a vineyard on the property back in the ’80s.  The 4,000 case production enables Sébastien to also fulfill the roles of Vineyard Manager and General Manager, in addition to winemaking duties.  Before  we went into the cellar to taste, Sébastien gave me an overview of the vineyards….because any winemaker of worth will attest to how good wine is first made in the vineyard.   They have 12 vineyard acres on the Estate with clay and chalky soils, and 26 acres Sébastien also oversees in Fredericksburg, where the soil is sandy.  We ventured into the cellar, where I was reminded of how winemakers organize production in small spaces; similar to chefs who produce an amazing array of dishes out of incredibly small kitchens.  Not that Doukénie’s cellar is any smaller than most.  But, as in the case of most, especially during harvest it requires moving big tanks and barrels in and out and around.  Some barrels are still aging wines from the prior vintage, so space has to be  maintained for them.  Winemaking is truly a crossover of left and right brain activity.  

We started with a Chardonnay 2009 – aging in a 10 year old French Oak barrel, sur lies.  I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you haven’t read all of my blogs (hard to believe!)… sur lies is the term used when winemakers choose not to rack the wines after the first fermentation, and leave the wine to lie on the yeast.  This process gives a fuller body to the wine, and is often opted for with white wines instead of doing a 2nd/malolactic fermentation; but sometimes a winemaker may choose to do both. It’s a matter of the style that the winemaker is going for.  Even at this stage, wines will show their varietal characteristics on the nose and palate.  We did a tour of the Chardonnays and all exhibited classic Chardonnay pear, riper apple (unlike the green apple of Chardonnay that remains in stainless steel).  Also the difference in barrels, related to age, toast level (light to heavy), and country/region of origin, will all contribute something unique.  The blending of all is a result of the winemaker’s creation, their own recipe, as it were.

Chardonnay 2009 – aging in a 2-year old French Oak barrel.  The fuller palate on this wine, because of the newer barrel, was immediately apparent.  Just as wines are organized in order of style for tasting purposes, the same applies in a cellar tasting.

Chardonnay 2009 – aging in Hungarian Oak, which can impart pretty strong aromatics to a wine.   A smoky aroma was prevalent and Sébastien intends to blend this barrel with Chardonnay aging in French Oak.  This way the final blend of Chardonnay will have just enough of the Hungarian Oak characteristics to complement the Chardonnay from other barrels.

Chardonnay 2009 – aging in a new French Oak barrel.  Yes, a bigger, longer finish.

Chardonnay 2009 – aging in an Acacia barrel.  If you’re familiar at all with Acacia, then it will not surprise you that this barrel imparts floral characteristics immediately, on the nose.

Chardonnay 2009 – from the  Estate vineyard.  These vines are 16 years old and this Chardonnay stood out with richness and butter  (without a 2nd fermentation) on the nose and palate …but, like fresh dairy butter.  Not that stuff that impersonates butter found in the grocery store.  I usually don’t like that butter thing that happens in Chardonnay, but this was not that.  This was a good thing.

Even with oak aging, a good winemaker will always maintain the fruit’s integrity and all of the Chardonnays (well, in fact all of the wines I tasted) did just that.  Many of us have become picky Chardonnay drinkers, so I am always thankful when I taste the future of a final blend and know that this is a Chardonnay I will happily uncork!   And it probably helps that Sébastien learned to crawl in his grandfather’s Burgundy vineyard, followed by boarding school in Burgundy where viticulture and oenology was the focus of studies from the time he was 13 years of age.  Years making red and white Burgundies in many of  the top regions such as Pommard, Volnay and Meursault goes a long way in making  a Burgundy-like wine. 

We then went up to the ‘club members only’ room and tasted several of the current releases available in the tasting room.   Let me just say that I love that ‘club members only’ room.  It’s charming, with lovely views and it makes you feel special without being stuffy.

Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – this wine had just been recently bottled, so it will be released soon.   I had a chuckle when re-reading my notes, because  I had actually written ‘Sancerre” instead of Sauvignon Blanc.   As I’ve previously written, my favorite Sauvignon Blanc is from the Sancerre region of the Loire Valley.  So, obviously, I really like this one!   The nose was tropical and floral, acidity with a touch of roundness on the palate…and where did that floral come from?  Well, Sébastien has aged just a bit of it in an Acacia barrel.  Perfection!  This could be my summer House White!

2009 Mandolin – a lovely blend of Traminette, Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc.  A nose full of lychee, apricot and citrus flowers.  And with just 1.5 Residual Sugar, the intense aromatics of this wine is about the fruit, not added sugar.  A long finish and balance that has acidity and sweet aromatics in perfect harmony.  A divine apéritif, and dinner wine for spicy grilled fish.

2007 Vin de Paille – a Riesling dessert wine.  Vin de Paille translates to Straw Wine.  And why would anyone think Straw Wine sounds appetizing?  Well, when you hear what it stands for…you’ll get it.   It’s a term for this style of wine, where  the grapes are laid out on straw to dry to develop concentrated sugars.  Plus, the grapes had some botrytis, which is that good bacteria that forms on grapes in wet, accompanied by humid, weather.  Now, of course, the botrytis is only a good thing  if you’re planning on making a dessert wine.  Otherwise, you don’t want to see it spreading like mad on the clusters.  This is a rich, honeyed wine with balance of richness and slight acidity, florals and spice.  My peach and blueberry clafoutis, or that angel cake I make (from scratch, don’t you know) with macerated berries; Blue d’Auvergne cheese…any and all would work very nicely.

On to the reds….Petit Verdot 2007 – Silver Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.  This unfiltered wine delivers the inky, black currant of Petit Verdot, aged 24 months in French Oak.  I see why several winemakers and some owners, see Petit Verdot as potentially ‘the’ leading red varietal for Virginia.  This one has a great earthiness and although it still shows some tannin and as Sebastien said, “It’s still angular, but will continue to smoothen in the next 2- 5 years.”  So this is a wine for your own cellar.   Petit Verdot is pretty singular in regard to it’s fruit characteristics, but even so, when in the hands of a good winemaker, one doesn’t feel cheated.  The varietal can still deliver a satisfying wine in every way. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – another Estate wine from their 25 year old vineyard.  Wow….it’s hard to get excited about most East Coast cabernet sauvignons, because the varietal can’t ripen as much as it needs to in these parts.  So having 25 year old vines sure does help.  This wine was rich with raspberry, strawberry, earthiness, cinnamon and black pepper.   Typically, red grapes are de-stemmed first thing, but Sébastien kept the stems on  to increase the tannins and structure, he did a cold soak for 4-5 days; started the fermentation at a low temperature and did 2-3 pump overs daily, plus push downs.  He does not like to have too high a temperature for fermentation to avoid that ‘cooked fruit’ taste in the wine.  This kind of thing is what defines a ‘winemaker’s style.’

Vintners Reserve 2007 – Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 20%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 10%.  A classic Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend.  Three words leapt to mind when I tasted this wine – perfection, bold and rich.   Everything was spot on with this wine.  The lively tannin makes it another candidate for your wine collection. 

It is very satisfying to experience such gorgeous wines being made right here in Virginia by winemakers who have chosen, out of all of the higher profile regions they could be in…to be in Virginia.  For  Sébastien, and winemakers like him,  the opportunity to be able to focus on a smaller production of high quality wines far outweighs being a cog in the wheel of a big name, high volume winery in a higher profile region.    Score for Virginia!

Doukénie Winery has lots of events, like Blending with the Winemaker…gotta love that, and culinary classes!   I suggest you put them on your weekend wine tasting schedule.  And the wines are outstanding across the board, so think about becoming a wine club member and get entry into that private tasting room.

Cheers,

Anita

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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.

 2007 DOMAINE ROBILN SANCERRE (SAUVIGNON BLANC), FRANCE   

CHEESE PAIRING:   FLEURS VERTS – GOAT CHEESE WITH HERBS

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                                    

CHEESE PAIRING:  FLEURS VERTS – GOAT CHEESE

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                                                

CHEESE PAIRING:   BELLETOILE – COWS MILK

 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.

2008 J. ORDONEZ  BOTANI MALAGA (MOSCATEL), ANDALUCIA, SPAIN                

CHEESE PAIRING:   COMTÉ – COWS MILK

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.

2007 DOMAINE DROUHIN PINOT NOIR, WILLAMETTE VALLEY                    

CHEESE PAIRING:    DRUNKEN GOAT – WASHED IN A FRUITY SPANISH RED WINE.

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                                                      

CHEESE PAIR:   PARMESAN – SEMI-HARD, COWS MILK

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                                                          

BLEND:  42% CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 42% MERLOT, 16% PETIT VERDOT

CHEESE PAIRING:    MONTASIO – COWS MILK

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                                                   

BLEND: CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CABERNET FRANC, MERLOT

CHEESE PAIRING:             ST. PETERS FARIBAULT BLUE         

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. 

Cheers,

Anita

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

 

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