Posts Tagged ‘Wine Tasting Events’

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.




Read Full Post »

Keswick Vineyards, and Winemaker, Stephen Barnard

Wednesday, July 14th, from 6p-8p,  the Frenchman’s Corner in Culpeper will feature Stephen Barnard, winemaker at Keswick Vineyards

This in-store event is an opportunity to have a casual tasting of Keswick Vineyard’s wines and a one-on-one with Stephen.  If you have not yet discovered the KV wines, than I suggest that you make your way to downtown Culpeper on Wednesday.  Make a night of it.  Foti’s Restaurant is just a block away.  It’s About Thyme is just across the street! 

The Frenchman’s Corner, 129 E. Davis Street, Culpeper.  540.825.8025.

See you there!



Read Full Post »

Claude Thibaut

June 9th, from 6pm to 8pm at The Frenchman’s Corner, 129 E. Davis Street, Culpeper.  An opportunity to meet Virginia wine-maker (by way of Champagne…yes, I mean France) Claude Thibaut of Thibaut-Janisson Winery.  As you may already know, Claude is a renowned Master of Champagne, and as good fate has it, he has made his home in Central Virginia.  So tell your friends and get your wine-loving selves there!

The Winemaker Wednesday series of complimentary tastings, which I cooked up with Jeffery Mitchell, owner of the wine & cheese shop portion of The Frenchman’s Corner, is a great casual way to meet the winemaker.  Let’s face it, they aren’t hanging out in their tasting rooms…well very much anyway.  And in the case of Claude, who doesn’t have a tasting room, this is a perfect opportunity to meet him and find out what goes into the making of his Sparkling wines.

The wine menu for the evening, paired with fine French cheeses, will be the Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay,

Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay

and Claude’s newest releases, Brut Rosé and Virginia Fizz.  I wrote about Virginia Fizz in my article about Claude in the Spring issue of the Virginia Wine Gazette.  But, don’t rely entirely on what I have to say, show up on June 9th and taste for yourself.   Did I tell you that the TJ Blanc de Chardonnay was served at the Obama’s first State Dinner last November?!   (oh, we just don’t tire of this story!)  Well, it was, and Claude did not have to crash it. (Don’t get me started on the two Bozos who did crash.)   The wine-powers-that-be in the State Department have chosen Claude’s Sparklings on a few occasions, when he was working for California wineries.  But since they were not his own label….the Obama State Dinner makes it that much more special!

Here is the upcoming star-studded schedule of Winemaker Wednesdays! 


A nod of thanks to the winemakers who have participated thus far:  Bree Ann Moore for Unicorn Winery, Gabriele Rausse for Gabriele Rausse Wines, Al Kellert for Gray Ghost Winery.  And a big kudos to Jeffery Mitchell for making this commitment to promote Virginia wines and their winemakers!

See you there!



“No government could survive without champagne. In the throat of our diplomatic people [it] is like oil in the wheels of an engine.”

Joseph Dargent quote

Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

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.



Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Before I tell you about the Jefferson Vineyard’s tasting…..what about this snow??  As I gaze out of my window across a field of freshly fallen snow, to the Blue Ridge Mountains…well, I couldn’t ask for a better view.  The photo below is the view from my porch.  But, aside from the Currier & Ives view, I think we are all rather tired of it.  I was scheduled to lead a tasting for a social group in Culpeper, last Saturday….postponed until this coming Saturday, which will undoubtedly be postponed with the expectation of 3+ feet of snow.  Now how’s a wine-o to earn a living….Mother Nature are you listening?!

OK on to the subject at hand. I have created a program of in-store tastings for The Frenchman’s Cellar in Culpeper, called Winemaker Wednesdays featuring Virginia winemakers.  Even though this one took place a few weeks ago, I can close my eyes and taste each of the wines all over again.  As I said in my first blog, I’m not here to be a wine critic…but, I will say that, as most any knowledgeable wine professional will, beyond enticing aromas and fulfilling palates and extended finishes, we look for balance in a wine.  Notwithstanding the lack of initial balance which exists if a wine simply needs to breathe.    I’m talking about balance that comes from the adept hand of a good winemaker.  And this you will find in the wines from Jefferson Vineyards, made by Andy Reagan.

 Here’s the line-up, with Winemaker notes, and my clarifications in parentheses, for those of you aren’t certified wine geeks:

2008 Pinot Gris  – Alsatian in style, with rich mouthfeel and broad acids.

2008 Viognier –   Rich, sweet fruit; long, broad malic acids & a hint of RS (residual sugar)


2008 Reserve Chardonnay – – Sweet, ripe apple & pear, no malo (no 2nd/malolactic fermentation) & delicate oak 

2008 Petit Verdot – Thick, sappy dark fruits on the attack with robust tannins & acids.

2006 Meritage (just about sold out) – Our flagship red is 37% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium-bodied, elegant, richly flavored and well-balanced.

2007 Meritage – just released…Andy hasn’t published notes yet, but I can tell you that it is a rich, bold and still well-balanced, with the usual suspects of fruit characteristics – dark cherry , plum,etc.


 Jeffery Mitchell, owner of Frenchman’s Cellar, and I have decided to put the Winemaker Wednesdays on hiatus until the Spring.  Seems impossible to pry people out of their warm homes on Wednesday evenings in the dead of winter….what’s up with that?



“You know. Wine drinkers. Pea soup eaters. French Canadians!”
Highway Patrolman in Canadian Bacon (1994)


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: