Brunch with Friends: Sparkling Wines and Healthy Food Choices for All Budgets

2018-09-29 11.30.29For many, brunch is the earliest meal of the day when alcoholic beverages are deemed socially acceptable. It often conjures up images of Mimosas and Bloody Marys and calorie-laden breakfast and lunch foods, because after all, brunch is two meals rolled into one. People who brunch usually have limitless finances to spend on this leisurely and lavish, decadent meal. However, what if brunch were both more, and less, than that? What would happen if we envisioned brunch as a warm, casual meal for everyone, an educational experience, even a healthy approach to eating and drinking? The latter is the approach that friend, chef, and photographer, Gary Monday, decided to pursue when we planned our intimate brunch with friends.

Both Gary and I have been through major lifestyle changes in our lives, which have resulted in great weight losses and improved health and fitness. We both have learned which foods are good for our bodies. We also both discovered a passion for sparkling wines as standalone or food wines. They are lighter in style, lower in alcohol, available for all budgets, and fit with our newfound lifestyles.

With this vision, I invited sparkling wine producers to contribute to our brunch. We received seven wines at all price points from Italy, California, Michigan, and Virginia. Suggested retail prices ranged from $17 per bottle to $55 per bottle and case production ran the gamut from 109 cases to 240,000 cases. The samples included wines made both in the traditional and charmat methods, the difference being secondary fermentation in the bottle or tank. The wines were made from a variety of grapes: chardonnay, chardonel, glera, muscat, and pinots – noir, gris, and meunier.

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Gary created a menu that he called Southern/Pacific Northwest infused food, a nod to both his North Carolina roots and current home in Seattle. His expenses were around $110 to feed six people, a brunch bargain. Food included bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers; grilled pork loin and salmon; a kale, citrus, and pomegranate salad; a fresh fruit bowl; and biscuits and gravy. Since Gary is dairy free, he made dairy-free sausage gravy and purchased vegan biscuits from Redwing Café in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, along with making traditional milk-based sausage gravy and buttermilk biscuits. While all the food was amazing, the attendees delightfully discovered that the standouts were perhaps the healthiest foods: the grilled salmon; the kale, citrus, and pomegranate salad; the Redwing Café vegan biscuits; and the dairy-free gravy.

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Gary learned the kale recipe in a dairy-free cooking class taught by Danielle Premo. Perfect for brunches and holidays, ingredients included kale from Full Circle – a community supported agriculture (CSA) delivery company – clementine oranges, pomegranate seeds, candied pecans, and Danielle’s dressing made from orange juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The kale is massaged with the dressing, left to sit for 15 minutes, then the clementine orange slices and pomegranate seeds added. The finished salad is garnished with the candied pecans. The beauty of this salad is that it can be prepared ahead of time without the kale becoming soggy. In fact, the flavors integrate the longer they are together.

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For the dairy-free sausage biscuit gravy, Gary used the drippings from cooking bacon, sausage, and pork loins. He added all-purpose flour and cooked on medium heat until he had a thick paste in the pan. He introduced unsweetened cashew milk slowly until the desired consistency was achieved. He reduced the stove to low heat for simmering and thickening, stirring continuously, while adding salt and pepper to taste.

Gary bought vegan biscuits from Redwing Café, which specializes in healthy food options. I contacted the owners to ask what makes these biscuits vegan and they explained that they use olive oil and hemp milk in place of butter and buttermilk. After tasting these, I may never have another traditional biscuit again.

2018-09-29 11.03.47One of our brunch guests was Rhonda Hamlin, biscotti maker and owner of The Art of Crunch. As the dessert finale, in honor of National Biscotti Day, she contributed samples of her handcrafted biscotti, including a special test flavor for all of us to try and contribute our input as to the final recipe. It is not often I veer off my strict eating path, but these biscotti were a delicious way to conclude our brunch. To learn more about The Art of Crunch, visit this link to read my interview with Rhonda.

The beverage stars of our brunch were the seven sparkling wine samples we received. As an educational tasting experiment, we gave our guests an index card for each wine and asked that they take notes on the wines they enjoyed the most and with which foods, then we discussed the results. Below are our collective thoughts.

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Photo by Adami Vigneto Giardino

2017 Adami Vigneto Giardino Asciutto Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Rive di Colbertaldo, SRP $22, 3700 cases produced
Across the board, our brunch attendees chose this wine as one of their top wines of the day, two writing “#1” and “Favorite! <3” on their index cards. In fact, someone said, “I didn’t know Prosecco could taste like this!” This floral, fruity, and spicy sparkling wine made from 100% glera, charmat method, was mesmerizing. It was also one of the most versatile food wines, pairing well with nearly everything, especially the fruit salad, biscuits with raspberry jam, even Rhonda’s biscotti.

Enrico Serafino Rose' 3
Photo by Enrico Serafino

2015 Enrico Serafino Brut Rosé Alta Langa DOCG, SRP $26, 5000 cases produced
This Brut Rosé, made from 100% pinot nero (noir) in the traditional method, was light in color, but big on flavor, exhibiting clean, bright raspberry and redcurrant flavors cradled in yeastiness. A hint of sweetness was beautifully offset by mouthwatering acidity. This wine was a perfect match for our kale salad.

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Photo by Frank Family Vineyards

2013 Frank Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs, Carneros, SRP $55, 500 cases produced
This is wine that our attendees said tasted “the most like Champagne.” Made in the traditional method and hand riddled, the Blanc de Blancs was the elegant, grande dame of our brunch. Fine mousse, brioche, and freshly cut, tart apples dominated the palate of this lovely 100% chardonnay sparkler, which was the preferred pairing with grilled salmon and pork loin.

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Photo by Frank Family Vineyards

2014 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé, Carneros, 2014 SRP $55, 1000 cases produced
I admit, I jumped the gun when I tasted this wine, exclaiming that it was my favorite. I am Brut Rosé gal through and through, and this blend of Carneros-grown 88% pinot noir and 12% chardonnay did not disappoint, bursting with red berries and a pleasantly creamy mouthfeel. One of our guests wrote, “Love it! This is great all by itself!” Our favorite food pairings were strawberries, the kale salad, and biscuits with raspberry jam. Click here to read how this wine gives back during the month of October.

Mawby
Photo by L. Mawby/M. Lawrence

NV L. Mawby/M. Lawrence Sex, Michigan, SRP $17, 246 cases produced
With a name like Sex and a price point of $17, how could you not like this wine? This sparkler, a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and muscat, was dry and crisp, with an interesting juxtaposition of cotton candy and white grapefruit on the palate, making it a fantastic accompaniment to fresh fruit. Exclaiming, “Yes, yes, yes!”, we drank every drop of this wine. Of course, it left us wanting more.

Mumm
Photo by Mumm Napa Valley

NV Mumm Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, SRP $24, 240,000 cases produced
If you want a sparkling wine that consistently delivers palate-pleasing flavors and is and affordable enough to drink anytime you feel like bubbles, Mumm is the wine for you. A blend of 45% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir, and 10% pinot gris and meunier, Mumm’s signature wine is made in the traditional method. On the palate, think pears with a honeyed quality, coupled with soft effervescence. The Brut Prestige complemented rich foods like bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers, biscuits and gravy, and grilled salmon. With a quarter of a million cases produced, Mumm is most likely available right around the corner from you.

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Photo by Gary Monday

2016 Rosemont of Virginia Brut, Virginia, SRP $25, 109 cases produced
This wine was the most unique of all the wines we tasted. The only brut nature (no dosage) of the lineup and made from 100% chardonel (a cross between chardonnay and Seyval) using the charmat method, this wine showed zingy, citrus fruit flavors like white grapefruit, lemon, and lime. The bone dryness and racy acidity cut through the fattiest foods, like bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers, sausage gravy, and grilled salmon. This vintage is sold out, but next year’s vintage will be released in early 2019.

Celebrating #VAWineChat 50 and Founder Frank Morgan

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Photo courtesy of Frank Morgan and #VAWineChat

Those of you who have been following my writing for the past seven years know that I am relatively new to the wine industry and wine writing world. My first “wine moment” was in 2008. A couple of years later, I visited my first Virginia winery, and in 2011, I attended my first Wine Bloggers Conference held in Charlotteville, Virginia. It was at that conference that I truly discovered Virginia wine. In late 2013, #VAWineChat founder, Frank Morgan, invited me to participate in my first #VAWineChat. Here we are, five years and 50 episodes later. For this momentous occasion, Frank inteviewed Kirsty Harmon, winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards, Ampelographer Lucie Morton, winemaker Katie DeSouza of Casanel Vineyards and Winery, and Maya Hood White, Viticulturist and Assistant Winemaker at Early Mountain Vineyards. Those of us who participated tasted the following wines.

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2016 Chatham Vineyards Steel Fermented Chardonnay, Church Creek, Eastern Shore, SRP $20 (sample)
Although I lived in Virginia for over two decades, regretfully, I never had the chance to visit the Eastern Shore. This steel-fermented chardonnay was an ideal choice for my inaugural wine from this area. The boldness and ripeness of the fruit was surprising. I did not expect the palate to have what I call warm climate characteristics. What a clean, crisp, tropical delight.

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2017 Veritas Rosé, Monticello, SRP, $20 (sample)
A blend of cabernet franc, merlot, and touriga nacionale, this is a bone-dry rosé, a little weightier than some due to some neutral oak fermentation and aging. It is replete with red fruit flavors like strawberry and watermelon, but especially juicy, raspberry deliciousness, which popped on the nose and palate. This should be your go-to Virginia rosé this summer.

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2016 Blenheim Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Virginia, SRP $22 (sample)

Cabernet franc is one of my favorite varietal wines and especially when it hails from Virginia. I love the tart cherry, earthiness, and lower alcohol. What a delicate, lovely, and elegant wine. I am also a big fan of the screw cap closure. Only $22? Holy moly. I’ll take a case or three. Thank you, Blenheim, for the overdue, Virginia cabernet franc fix I was craving.

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2015 Casanel Vineyards and Winery Petit Verdot, Middlesburg, SRP $42 (sample)
Petit verdot is my other varietal wine sweetheart. I love it much more than cabernet sauvignon. (Don’t tell anyone here in Napa.) Flavors like blackberries, blueberries, and bitter chocolate dominate the palate. It is dark and delicious, but lower in alcohol than the West Coast versions, a veritable balance of depth and restraint. This is how petit verdot should be. Be still, my heart.

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Photo courtesy of Frank Morgan and #VAWineChat

Shortly after the event, I virtually sat down with Frank via email, who has become a great friend and supporter, to learn why he began #VAWineChat and what it really takes to pull off these tastings. Details about all 50 chats can be found at this link.

1. Congratulations on 50 episodes of #VAWineChat! Share with us the “#VAWineChat” history and story: when and how it began and why you created it.

Thank you!  I very much appreciate you (and everyone) who has participated and helped make Virginia Wine Chat successful. Although the first official Virginia Wine Chat episode was in early 2013, the idea for a monthly virtual tasting series focused on the wines and winemakers of Virginia came a couple years prior.  In 2011, I helped the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office organize several Twitter tastings to help raise awareness of local wines leading up to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville in July of that year. Those three or four Twitter tastings in early 2011 were more popular than I expected. I received a lot of positive feedback about the wines and requests for similar tastings focusing on Virginian wines. I started Virginia Wine Chat in early 2013 as a way to connect notable Virginia winemakers with online wine influencers (a group many local winemakers would not have connected with otherwise).

2. What has inspired you to continue producing episodes?

Good question. I continue with Virginia Wine Chat because I appreciate the time these tastings provide with local winemakers, learning more about their backgrounds, philosophies, and of course their wines. And, I like connecting them with wine folks who are curious and enthusiastic about Virginian wine. This is a labor of love for sure; I do not charge for organizing and hosting the ‘chats. With the cost of camera and mic and the time spent traveling to the wineries plus hotel if I stay over, my wine income statement is always in the red. 🙂 At some point, I would love to find a way to at least cover the cost of Virginia Wine Chat.  Perhaps one day…

3. Take us behind the scenes of #VAWineChat from start to finish, to give us an idea of the logistics involved in bringing together the producers, the wines, and the participants.

Thankfully there’s no shortage of local winemakers interested in connecting with curious and engaged wine folks online via Virginia Wine Chat. Logistics of scheduling a monthly Virginia Wine Chat — oy! Selecting a date that fits in to the winemaker’s schedule and my work travel schedule may be the biggest challenge.  Once a date is set, I reach out to a few regulars and a few new folks that have asked to participate. Confirming 10 — 12 online participants (and then re-re-reconfirming) on the given evening is time consuming. If the ‘chat includes a live winemaker interview (streamed live via the Va Wine Chat Ustream channel or via Twitch), I have to drive to the winery.  Since most wineries are located about 2 ½ hours from my home, I usually have to arrange a place to stay if I don’t drive back that late evening. Staying in the Charlottesville area, or points west, on Sunday evening means a 4am wake up call on Monday morning to drive home and to work by 8am.

4. What makes #VAWineChat different from other virtual tastings?

Virginia Wine Chat is the only virtual tasting series (that I know of) focused on the wines and winemakers of Virginia.  It’s one of the few online virtual tastings that is focused on a small, emerging region. With 50 monthly episodes complete, I believe Virginia Wine Chat is one of the the longest continually running virtual tastings in the wine world.

5. Any idea how many Virginia wineries have participated since the inception?

In total, we’ve had about 65 Virginia wineries and five cideries participate since 2013.  Some months we feature three to five different wineries or cideries.

6. Do you measure the success or impact of the chats? If so, how? Quantitatively and/or qualitatively?

Success is measured in several ways.  The first measure is logistics success: did all participants receive the wines on time; did I make it to the winery on time; did the winemaker I’m interviewing show up on time; is the internet connection at the winery strong enough for video feed? Positive comments from participants about the wines and engagement from the winemaker following the chats are a measure of success, though hard to quantify.  Articles written about the wines are another measure of success. Though the total number of tweets is not a measure of success, it is cool to see the #VaWineChat hashtag trending #1 or #2 on Twitter ahead of big events like football games or the latest political scandal.

7. Which chat(s) have been the most popular?

In terms of overall number of tweets, online engagement, and in-person attendees, the 50th episode featuring the Women of Virginia Wine was by far the most popular. A close second was the November 2017 ‘chat featuring Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider (where she announced Foggy Ridge would no longer produce cider under the Foggy Ridge Label).  The January 2017 ‘chat featuring Virginia cider was very popular as well.

8. Have any of the chats been controversial?

Not really.  Because the #VaWineChat hashtag usually trends on Twitter, we do get some interesting spam during the chats. Occasionally there is an attention-seeker in need of a fix but otherwise, no controversy.

9. Are the chats saved for later viewing?

I have recorded most of the 50 Virginia Wine Chat episodes.  I have posted a few for viewing but am saving them to use as part of a larger project that’s been a few years in the making.  Stay tuned…

10. What is the future of #VAWineChat?

As Virginia Wine Chat has grown in popularity, I’ve received interest from wineries in other regions especially those in the eastern U.S.  Beginning last month, I expanded Virginia Wine Chat to include other notable eastern regions — like Maryland, New York, Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.  I’ve named this series East Coast Wine Chat (#ECWineChat). The eastern U.S. as a ‘region’ is exciting and overlooked by most wine media.  I believe East Coast Wine Chat will bring (at least a little) much-needed attention to the many deserving winemakers growing world class wines the eastern U.S.  I have some really cool East Coast Wine Chats planned — like a focused discussion of east coast Cabernet Franc, Pet-Nats, and ciders — that I hope will foster some collaboration between winemakers in the the eastern U.S.

 

#VAWineChat with Stone Tower Winery

In late September 2017, shortly before the Northern California wildfires threw my life into a bit of a tailspin, only to be topped by an unexpected career curveball, I had the opportunity to participate in #VAWineChat with Stone Tower Winery and facilitated by Frank Morgan of Drink What YOU Like.

Situated on 75 acres in the rolling hills of Hogback Mountain in Loudoun County, Virginia, Stone Tower grows and produces chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, as well as Bordeaux-style black grapes such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot. They also produce very small amounts of grenache blanc, malbec, marssanne, nebbiolo, pinot noir, and roussanne. During this tasting, we had the opportunity to sample three wines. Unfortunately, during my life upheaval, I lost my notes for the viognier, but below are my reviews of the other two wines, the sauvignon blanc and the Wind Swept Hill red blend. As always, your palate may vary.

Sauvignon Blanc

2016 Stone Tower Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Loudoun County, Virginia, $40 (sample)
Don’t let the delicate gold color in the glass fool you. This is a chardonnay lover’s sauvignon blanc. Although the blend is 90% sauvignon blanc and 10% sémillion, the sémillion influence is notable, with its pleasantly bitter fruit characteristics. However, the sauvignon blanc component dominates the palate with lush, rich tropical fruit flavors and spiciness from French and American oak aging. On its website, the winery compares this sauvignon blanc to those of California, but living here in the Napa Valley, I haven’t experienced a sauvignon blanc quite as voluptuous as this one yet.

Wind Swept Hill

2014 Stone Tower Winery Wind Swept Hill, Loudoun County, Virginia $65 (sample)
A magenta-brick red color in the glass, this Bordeaux-style blend of 31% merlot, 28% cabernet franc, 28% cabernet Sauvignon and 13% petit verdot, is already showing some age on the palate. Restrained cranberry and plum flavors are accompanied by meatiness, mint, a bite of French and American oak spiciness, and a distinct minerality, so much so that I feel like I am tasting the vineyard soils of Hogback Mountain, and I mean that in a good way.

Both of these wines are still available for sale directly from the winery via their website at this link, and they also ship.

Enjoy!
Beth

Two Months, Twelve Tastes

It’s been nearly two months since I published a set of wine reviews on my blog. As regular readers know, I am transitioning my writing to focus more on experiences, although it can be said that tasting a fantastic wine in the perfect moment – with food and friends – is also an experience worth sharing. In light of this revelation, I have compiled a list of my favorite wines enjoyed these past couple of months, along with tasting notes. As always, your palate may vary. Enjoy!

2012 Schug Pinot Noir

2012 Schug Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($25, gift from a friend)
I have had this wine for a couple of years and decided to open and give it a try. This pinot noir is quite spicy, with cherry and cranberry fruit flavors and tangy acidity, showcasing beautiful fruit from vineyards in Carneros and Petaluma Gap.

2009 Materra Merlot

2009 Materra Merlot, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley ($40, purchased)
In my glass, the enduring 2009 Materra Merlot, crafted with estate fruit from the Oak Knoll District in the Napa Valley, source of some of Napa’s best merlot. It is still showing floral aromatics and delicious black and red fruits, dusty cocoa, and spice on the palate. The QPR of this wine is outstanding.

2010 Jean Edwards Cellars Seventy Four-Forty One Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Jean Edwards Cellars Seventy Four-Forty One Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($68, birthday gift from Jean Edwards Cellars)

I enjoyed this cabernet sauvignon crafted by boutique producer, Jean Edwards Cellars Wines, paired with filet mignon Oscar at Cibo 7 in Roseville, California. Still very youthful, this wine will continue to shine for many years or after a long decant, with its rich, dark fruit and firm tannin.

2014 Penns Woods Grüner Veltliner

2014 Penns Woods Grüner Veltliner, Pennsylvania ($26, purchased)
Sporting an elegant new label design, this Pennsylvania grüner veltliner is a mouthwatering sipper produced in stainless steel, with aromas and flavors of tart apple, lemon, lime, lively acidity and a hint of warm pepper on the finish.

2014 Anthony Road Rosé of Cabernet Franc

2014 Anthony Road Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes ($20, tasted with friends)
I love when I taste a wine and its bright berry flavors, structure, and cool-climate acidity reveal such a strong sense of place that you cannot shake it. You sip and savor Finger Lakes Wine terroir and return to that very spot, Anthony Road Winery, and recall memories of years gone by.

2012 Freemark Abbey Merlot Bosché

2012 Freemark Abbey Merlot Bosché, Rutherford, Napa Valley ($60, gift from a friend)
This is no wimpy merlot. It’s dark, dense, and dusty, strutting its stuff with warm climate black fruit, bitter chocolate overtones, baking spices, Rutherford dust terroir, and a lingering finish. This merlot really wants to be its big brother, the Cabernet Sauvignon Bosché.

2013 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley ($28, employee sample)
A few months ago while changing fulfillment centers, we discovered a few remaining cases of the 2013 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The cool thing about our wines is that they are made so well, they last longer than perhaps expected. This Sancerre-style sauvignon blanc is simply stunning two vintages later, with mouthwatering fruit, a textured palate, and lively acid. I need to hold back a bottle or two of 2015, it seems. Fantastic.

2015 Cellers Unió Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca

2015 Cellers Unió Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca, Terra Alta DO ($10, media sample)
This is a whole lot of wine for its $10 price point. Lush and weighty on the palate, yet also clean and crisp, it showcases a broad spectrum of white fruits, like pear, white peach, white nectarine, and lychee.

2015 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha

2015 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha, Cariñena DO ($10, media sample)
A vivid, red-magenta color in the glass, this value-priced wine is easy to drink, with bright cherry-berry flavors and soft tannins. Pair this with charcuterie, cheese, and autumn celebrations. A November 2016 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.

2015 Keswick Vineyards Hommage à Geneviève Les Vents d'Anges Viognier

2015 Keswick Vineyards Hommage à Geneviève Les Vents d’Anges Viognier, Monticello, Virginia ($25, media sample)
One of the things I miss about Virginia: viognier. This one from Keswick Vineyards is made with my palate in mind: fermented and aged in stainless steel for six months, delectable fruit, nice mouthfeel, and lovely acidity. Oh, yes.

2014 Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve

2014 Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve, Monticello, Virginia ($65, media sample)
Definitely Virginia Cabernet Franc! The 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Winner, this wine demonstrates a beautiful balance of black fruit and peppery spice on the nose and palate, plus it is oh so smoky and silky. Yum.

2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($45, gift from a friend)
It has been a while since I had an Oregon pinot noir, so I decided to open this to reacquaint myself. Not at all shy or subtle, this is one sultry and spicy pinot noir, intensely flavored with tart fruits like cranberry and plum, and a peppery finish.

In My Glass: East Coast and West Coast in the House

Playing in Napa Valley's February mustard!
Playing in Napa Valley’s February mustard!

My life as I know it is about to change for one month. I am preparing to process the largest wine club I have ever managed. It means long hours and long work weeks. I am putting my personal life on hold for at least two to four weeks to see this through successfully, so if I am unable to post next month that is why. Wish me luck!

Below are some wines – both East Coast and West Coast – that have been in my glass these past few weeks (and months) that merit a mention before February ends. As always, your palate may vary.

2013 Williamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir
2013 Williamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir

I tasted the 2013 Williamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir ($30) a couple of months ago and shared my review on Delectable, but forgot to share it here. Light ruby-garnet in color and medium bodied, this wine is fruit forward, exhibiting aromas and flavors of cherry, cranberry, and plum. The finish is cinnamon spicy with tangy acidity. Drink now and for the next four or five years. (sample)

2012 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc
2012 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc

Here’s another wine that I reviewed on Delectable, but failed to post on my blog. The 2012 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc ($60), hand crafted from 100% organic, 100% estate fruit, is OMG amazing right now: super drinkable with blackberry, black cherry, black currant fruit, spice, and it’s oh-so-mouthwateringly juicy on the palate. The 2013 vintage will be released next week. There might still be some 2012 left, but not much. This was a tasting room sample that I brought home with me one day after work.

2011 Coquerel Wines Tempranillo
2011 Coquerel Wines Tempranillo

Tempranillo in Calistoga? Who’d a thunk it? The 2011 Coquerel Wines Tempranillo ($42) is like a taste of old school Napa Valley before it became the Cabernet Sauvignon darling of the world. If I were to pair this with a song, it would be Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry, because that’s what you’ll get: a floral, funky nose with earthy, spicy, wild cherry and brambly raspberry on the palate. Its playful acid makes it delightfully easy to drink. Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die. (sample)

2013 Hudson-Chatham Field Stone Baco Noir Old Stones & Old Vines
2013 Hudson-Chatham Field Stone Baco Noir Old Stones & Old Vines

I was in a New York state of mind one evening and decided to open one of my favorite low-alcohol wines (12% ABV) crafted by Hudson-Chatham Winery, the 2013 Field Stone Baco Noir Old Stones & Old Vines, Masson Place Vineyards, Pulteney Farm. I also reviewed this one back in August 2015. It remains outstanding, an exceptional example of Baco Noir which expresses its Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail area roots, literally, with aromas and flavors of tart cherry and plum accompanied by crushed rock and earthy minerality, lingering spice, and juicy, mouthwatering acidity. Pair this with nearly any food and music, such as Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind or Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind. I purchased this bottle from the winery for $29.95.

2014 Horton Vineyards Viognier
2014 Horton Vineyards Viognier

I participated in #VAWineChat with Horton Vineyards and Frank Morgan of Drink What YOU Like recently. I rarely cook, but that night, I made spicy stir fry chicken accompanied by wasabi green peas. The pairing: 2014 Horton Vineyards Viognier, which is 5% petit mansang, a match with its floral aromatics and mouth-coating melon and tropical fruits. This wine was more voluptuous the second day, with intense fruit flavors running the gamut from citrus to stone to tropical and fantastic honeysuckle aromatics. That bit of petit mansang also goes a long way. This is great example of Virginia viognier, a top-notch wine for $20. (sample)

2014 Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc
2014 Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc

Another intriguing wine from Horton Vineyards, the 2014 Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc is crafted from 79% cabernet franc, 14% tannat, and 7% merlot, giving it multiple personalities, if you will, that are still integrating. This wine is young and vibrant, showcasing a mélange of red and black fruit, firm tannins, spice, and pretty floral aromatics, all at a quaffable 13% alcohol. What a nice, everyday wine for only $15. This will improve with age and air, which will soften the youthful edges. If drinking now, please decant. (sample)

While March is going to be a challenging month, I am looking forward to some exciting spring and summer destinations: Seattle, Santa Ynez Valley (California), Vermont, and Lodi (California) twice. I will also continue to contribute to americanwineryguide.com and Snooth, whose links I will also share on this website.

Cheers!
Beth

A Rose By Any Other Name

The Trump Winery Lineup
The Trump Winery Lineup

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

~ Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc
2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc

A little over years ago, I was invited to participate in #VAWineChat with Drink What YOU Like’s Frank Morgan and Trump Winery’s winemaker Jonathan Wheeler. The two sparkling wines, the 2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc and 2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé were both fantastic and the name on the bottle went mostly unnoticed.

2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé
2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé

Fast forward to 2015. I was asked again to participate in #VAWineChat, tasting four wines from Trump Winery. I immediately said yes, because I remembered how good the wines were two years ago. However, this time around, just the mention of the name Trump in social media outlets has caused extreme reactions on both ends of the spectrum. I was on the receiving end of some divisive, presumptuous tweets and I found myself in Facebook discussions having to defend my choice to taste the wines. I wanted to say, “It’s wine, for goodness sake!” Some assumed that because I tasted these wines and enjoyed them, I must be sending a message about politics. I was not. From what I have observed and read, some are buying the wines because they love the name or boycotting the wines because they hate the name, without having tried the wines. Has the name Trump trumped what’s inside the bottle? I hope not, because the wines, the livelihood of the winery employees, and the impact on local and Virginia wine tourism and economics are what matter most.

2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé and Blanc de Blanc
2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé and Blanc de Blanc

Award-winning Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Vineyard and Estate until 2011), was planted in 1999 and is Virginia’s largest estate winery at 1300 acres with 195 acres planted.  In 2013, Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2007 SP (Sparkling) Reserve a score of 91 points, which is the highest rating ever received by a Virginia wine. The president of the winery is Eric Trump, who was named a Wine Enthusiast Rising Star in 2013, and is also a key fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through The Eric Trump Foundation. The general manager is Kerry Woolard, herself a star in the Virginia wine industry by her own right. Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler has worked for the winery since 2006 and brought with him winemaking experience from Sonoma and Monterey, California; Marlborough, New Zealand; and the Finger Lakes, New York. An estate winery would be nothing without a vineyard supervisor like Rafael Sánchez, who has been with the winery since 2004, and brought with him experience from Salinas Valley, San Joaquin Valley, and Paso Robles, California.

Our Tasting Packet
Our Tasting Packet

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, a few of us gathered online via Ustream and Twitter, while some met at Trump Winery for this most recent #VAWineChat. We were hosted by winemaker Jonathan Wheeler and Drink What YOU Like’s Frank Morgan. The winery sent those of us who tasted remotely a box of four sample wines along with a beautiful folder of technical sheets and even a tasting mat. This was by far one of the most organized tastings in which I’ve ever participated. I loved that Jonathan led the discussion while Eric Trump jumped into the conversation on Twitter. Frank, of course, was the consummate facilitator. As expected, the wines were very good. Below are my tasting notes.

2009 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc
2009 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc

2009 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Monticello, $24.00
This sparkling wine from Central Virginia near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a rich, creamy expression of 100% first-press chardonnay from Trump Winery’s best grapes. It’s weighty and textured in the mouth, with flavors of yeast rolls, tree fruits, citrus, and loads of juicy acidity. You would be hard pressed to find a vintage sparkling wine at this price that is so well made and delicious.

2009 SP Sparkling Rosé
2009 SP Sparkling Rosé

2009 Sparkling Rosé, Monticello, $28.00
Brut Rosé is always a favorite for me and this is no exception. Although only 8% pinot noir (92% chardonnay), the pinot noir characteristics shine. The wine is a pale salmon color and even the frothy mousse reflects some of the color. Bright, red berry fruits dominate the nose and palate. The mouthfeel is creamy and the acid is as lively as the bubbles. This is an amazing value for vintage brut rosé.

2014 Chardonnay
2014 Chardonnay

2014 Chardonnay, Monticello, $16.00
I’m not quite an ABC (All But Chardonnay) gal, but I have become particular about still chardonnay. Thankfully, this chardonnay is my style: stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic fermentation, a bit of sur lie treatment, and 90% stainless steel, 10% oak aging. This wine is almost clear in the glass with yellow edges. It’s fruit forward, yet round, with bright citrus and tree fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of spice, and lively acidity. What a steal at $16.00.

2014 Meritage
2014 Meritage

2014 Meritage, Monticello, $20.00
This pre-release sample is very young, but should come together with more time in the bottle or some decanting, should you decide to open it sooner rather than later. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend (40% merlot, 35% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 3% malbec, 2% petit verdot) that exhibits a softer side of red with its 13% ABV. It’s medium ruby in color with medium body and fine tannins. The nose and palate are delighted by flavors and aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, bitter chocolate, and coffee, with a warm, spicy, tart cherry finish. This is a whole lot of wine for $20.00.

No matter which side of politics you find yourself, these wines are worth trying and tasting. The Trump Winery story is one of crafting high-quality wines from locally grown grapes and supporting the local economy. Make your decision whether to buy or not buy based on how the wine tastes, not the name. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Cheers to the wines and the people that make them!
Beth

A Trio of Reds for Virginia Wine Month and Beyond

Virginia Wine Month logo, http://www.virginia.org/winemonth/
Virginia Wine Month logo, http://www.virginia.org/winemonth/

This month, Virginia celebrates the 25th anniversary of Virginia Wine Month. Since 2010, sales of Virginia wine are up 23 percent. In 2012, Wine Enthusiast recognized Virginia as one of the 10 best wine travel destinations. This year alone, Virginia has sold more than a half of a million cases of wines. Virginia wine has never tasted better.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in #VAWineChat, a virtual tasting hosted by Frank Morgan of Drink What YOU Like and Boxwood Estate located in Middleburg, Virginia. Although I live in Virginia, I do not often have access to premium Virginia wines, so I was honored and thrilled when Frank asked me to participate. Half-bottle samples were graciously provided by Boxwood.

Topiary and Boxwood Samples
Topiary and Boxwood Samples

Boxwood currently produces red wines in three Bordeaux styles. During the tasting, I had the opportunity to taste the 2011 Topiary, produced in the Saint Émilion style, a blend of Cabernet Franc (68%) and Merlot (32%), and the 2010 Boxwood, produced in the Médoc style, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (43%), and Petit Verdot (7%).

Both wines were fantastic. The Topiary ($25.00 at the winery) is the lighter, refined, more feminine blend, if you will, a dark, clear red wine with aromas and flavors of red berries and violets and a sweet tannin, herbal finish. On the other end of the spectrum is the Boxwood ($25.00 at the winery), the more masculine blend, a full-bodied, dark red to purple wine, with aromas and flavors of blackberry and plum, and a long, velvety finish.

2011 Stinson Vineyard Meritage
2011 Stinson Vineyard Meritage

Last night and today, I tasted another Virginia wine, this one from Stinson Vineyards. Stinson is a sustainable, family-run boutique winery located in a repurposed garage in White Hall, Virginia, although the official address is Crozet, Virginia. The winery has planted five acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. The first harvest is this year, 2013, and grapes from previous harvests have been sourced from local growers.

The wine I tasted is the 2011 Meritage ($25.99 at the winery), a red blend consisting of Merlot (35%), Petit Verdot (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), and Cabernet Franc (20%). This wine is floral and feminine, with aromas and flavors of red and dark berries and a spicy tannin finish. I found it opened up quite nicely from last night to today. This wine was a sample provided by the winery through Folsom + Associates.

Virginia Wine Month runs through the end of October. If you will be in Virginia, I suggest planning a trip to one of Virginia’s more than 230 wineries. For event information around the state, please visit this link.