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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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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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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.

Cheers,

Anita

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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.

Cheers,

Anita

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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.

Cheers…………Anita

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

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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!

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