Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Usually cold winter weather inspires me to open a bottle of red wine. During a recent snow storm, I opted NOT for red, but for white instead. While finishing a bottle of Shelton Bin 17 Chardonnay, I decided it would be prudent to chill another bottle just in case. In an effort to chill it fast, I placed it in the freezer, and then completely forgot about it until much later the next day! It was rather upsetting seeing the bottle completely frozen. Not only was I concern that the bottle would explode, I was troubled that I had ruined a bottle Barboursville Viognier Reserve 2007 which I was so looking forward to drinking. After some quick internet based research, I determined that if I was willing to open it immediately, I was in the safe zone of avoiding explosion and maintaining the integrity of the wine.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Keswick Vineyard: Where I purchased my first expensive bottle of wine

The drive to Keswick Vineyards was beautiful despite the clouds and rain of the day. Ever wonder how the other half live? I certainly did while passing the gorgeous homes and horse farms that line the drive through Albemarle County. I don’t ride horses, but I did suddenly picture myself learning to ride while living in an amazing estate, dressed in classic preppy tweed blazers and riding pants. And if you are a history buff, take the time to visit their website and read about the historical events which have occurred on this property dating back to 1727.

In terms of their wine, I knew very little beforehand. Fortunately, we had an enthusiastic knowledgeable pourer. Overall, I preferred their red wines to white. I was particularly impressed with their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is the 2009 title holder of the Virginia Governor’s Cup. The actual cup is prominently displayed in the tasting room and roughly resembles a smaller version of the Stanley Cup. This was their most expensive wine at $60.00 a bottle. While normally, I would prefer to stay within a lower price range, I decided it was time to splurge. This wine is good now, but they recommend “laying it down” for about 3-5 years. They only bottled 250 cases, so I feel privileged to say I own one. I am excited about opening this wine, but trying to save it for a special occasion or at least sharing it with fellow red wine lovers.

Another interesting wine we discovered was their 2007 Consensus. This was my second favorite wine and somewhat unique in the fact that the winemaker invites member to a blending party to taste and rate various blends. The highest overall score is bottled as their “Consensus” wine for the year. This sounds like an amazing opportunity to not only learn more about the process, but to be involved in the process. Another distinctive feature found at this winery is their wine infused chocolate sauce and it pairs wonderfully with their wine. The tasting room is rather small, so consider going during the week for a more personal experience. I highly recommend adding this vineyard to your stop on the Virginia Wine Trail.

Sans Soucy Vineyards & Backroad Adventures in Campbell Co.

Boasting as the first and only vineyard in Campbell County, Sans Soucy is located in close proximity to my childhood hometown. Through my pre-research, I was surprised to see on their website extended summer weekend hours until 9pm. I would not be arriving into town until late afternoon and since everything that one reads on the internet is true, I knew this would be a great start to our Monticello Wine Trail weekend. Armed with an open mind and my father’s GPS we set out on the country roads that lead towards Brookneal VA. This community is oddly situated in Campbell County as it seems to neighbor more closely with Charlotte and Halifax Counties. The scenery of this drive is quite rural; so much so our GPS often lost satellite connection.

As we approach the entrance to the winery, it was clear that they were not open for business. A woman greeted us in the driveway and we proceeded to explain how we had purposely driven all the way to their winey assuming they would be open. She kindly pointed to the hours of operation as posted on their sign. These types of things really do not upset me, but rather I see them as a nuisance. We chalked it up to a poor business decision on her part to not at least offer us a quick tasting or the opportunity to buy some of their wine as we had already planned to do so. Despite failure to update their website, I can say that the actual vines looked really great. And while very rural, there was something rather charming and quaint about their facility. My sister would later return to the vineyard during operating hours to discover the staff as friendly and inviting. And she very much enjoys their Oak N Berry wine which is a combination of their blackberry wine and Petit Verdot.

The real adventure occurred after our brief visit to Sans Saucy. On the main road to the vineyard, we passed a historical marker which indicated that we were a mere five miles from Patrick Henry’s grave site.

Realizing that we had not been to the home of Patrick Henry on any of our school field trips, we decided to continue onward towards Red Hill. With our handy GPS, surely, it would be easy to find. All true, unless your GPS gets confused and you have naively placed all faith in said GPS. To describe the area as rural would be an understatement at this point. We were on the road to BFE with no historical plantation in sight.

As we dutifully followed the directions, we veered right at a fork in the road and began to pass some rather sketchy houses. As we drove deeper into the unknown we came upon a “Road Closed Ahead” sign. At the end of the road stood two gentlemen outside their cars discussing what we could only assume was very important, very private businesses. Not wanting to interrupt, we politely waved and quickly turned around. As the sun began to set, we knew our chance of seeing this historical landmark would have to wait for another day. Instead we returned to bright city lights of Altavista to enjoy a nice California wine on the front porch and learn more about Patrick Henry’s plantation in a civilize, safe way…via the internet.

I will one day return to San Soucy, so stay tuned for a “San Saucy Revisted” blog entry.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Everyone needs a 'go to' wine and I've found mine

As I continue on my quest to learn more about wine, I traveled to several vineyards this summer. These expeditions have been incredibly important to the research and development of my palate. This time enlisted a few research assistants to join the journey which took us just north of Charlottesville. After visiting Barboursville Vineyard, I nearly stopped all research and development as I enjoyed all of their wines so much, that it seemed futile to try any other wine from this point forward.

Arriving to the vineyard as ravenous females, we decided to embark on the “handsomest gastronomic redemption” (as quoted from their website…seriously) offered in the Palladio Restaurant. They start the meal with a glass of their delicious sparkling wine which is really how all meals should start in my opinion. We went for the two course menu with wine pairing. Who know freaking risotto could taste so good? Turns out it can by adding fresh mozzarella and basil paired with their Sauvignon Blanc! After indulging our tummies (not to mention our wallets) we moved to the tasting room. Now here’s a bargain?! For five bucks we got to taste fifteen, YES FIFTEEN, different wines. Starting with their whites, we diligently worked our way through to the reds. I could have very easily bought a bottle of each, but limited myself to only clear favorites such as the Cabernet Franc. Finally a perfect ‘go to’ wine for which I could purchase with complete confidence anytime for myself or others!

Although, my goal is to visit different wineries in Virginia, it is inevitable that I will need to make a return trip to Barboursville. I found a perfect spot under a glorious magnolia tree surrounded by magnificent boxwoods that just begs for a blanket and a chilled bottle of their Viognier.

A day after a night of cheap wine proves life IS too short to drink cheap wine

Who was it that said, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”? A brief online investigation (i.e. Google) determined it was the great philosopher Anonymous who coined this phase often seen on kitschy wine items such as cocktail napkins. And I can tell you this phase rings all too true…apparently.

Upon learning of my wine blog, a friend traveling through town on his way to Nashville decided to bring along a few bottles of “inexpensive” wine purchased from his local Trader Joe’s. If you are unfamiliar with Trader Joe’s then it must mean that you are not from the Northern Virginia area nor do you have any close friends from the area. Having never set foot in the store and from just merely my NOVA friends alone, I can tell you this must be the grocery store of all grocery stores. In addition to their specialty food items, they offer wines priced as low as $1.99!

My friend made his selections based solely on the look of the label. Admittedly, I have done the same when purchasing wine. Our evening consisted of four bottles totaling $17.46. We started with Espiral Vinho Verde, a Portuguese sparkling wine. This was extremely light and very easy to drink. I’d give this wine thumbs up and consider for purchase again at just $3.99 a bottle. Next we moved to the bottle with the best label, Pancake Big Day White. This California table white features a cartoonish dancing pancake on the label. Even days later, my three year old continue to comment on the dancing pancake. This was our most expensive wine of the evening at $5.49 a bottle. Icky. This wine was a hodgepodge of various grapes and I didn’t like this one at all. My buddy enjoyed it slightly more, but confessed it was not the best wine ever. I quickly moved on to open the next bottle, Nathanson Creek Chardonnay. A welcomed departure from the dancing pancake again just $3.99 for a bottle. Considering I had to work the next day and we had been only consuming white, we did not open the $3.99 JW Morris Merlot (three buck Moe, it’s a Trader Joe’s thing, you wouldn’t understand).

After a lively discussion of the most influential album of my generation, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, I headed to bed with a couple of ibuprofens to ward off any morning headaches. Now, I’m no stranger to a nasty hangover, but this one was certainly a new type hangover experienced. Fortunately, it was not accompanied with any regurgitation. Instead, I endured a headache that remained throughout the entire next day and night until I could finally hit the pillow with only regrets for too much cheap wine and dancing pancakes in my head.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chili Dawg wine and squirt cheese…you don’t see that in Napa!

If there was ever a least pretentious winery in the wine world, it would have to be Peaks of Otter Winery. They taut themselves as the home of the “Chili Dawg” wine as well as the type of homemade wines found in your Grandmother’s cupboard. I recently had an opportunity to taste many of their wines at the first annual Fork and Cork event in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Let me just say, the guys serving the wine were very entertaining and did a great job. They recommend pairing their infamous Chili Dawg wine with dollop of squirt cheese between your thumb and forefinger much in the same spirit of a tequila shot. I think the idea is it should taste like a chili dog, but to my palate it really just tasted like a pepper/spicy wine and squirt cheese. I don’t think you see this type of thing in Napa Valley, but I must it admit we had fun doing our shot of wine. Their other novelty wine is appropriately title ‘Kiss the Devil’. They recommend chasing it with a shot of apple wine. Enough said really, but I must warn you it is very hot.

Clearly the wines produced from this winery are fun and probably interesting for cooking, but nothing you would serve at a dinner party. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but when it comes to entertaining, just ask yourself, “What would Martha do?”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Call it Blush, Rose (“Ro-zay”), or Zinfandel, It’s still shunned by wine snobs world-wide

As I have been pondering my next blog post, I decided that I should be as open and honest as possible. Blog from the heart so to speak. And I’m here to tell you that I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been enjoying a wonderful blush from a nearby winery, Chateau Morrisette. Recently, I chilled a bottled and opened on a hot spring day. What better way to enjoy a hot day than with a very light refreshing wine?! A nearby wine snob commented, “What are you drinking? Strawberry Hill?” Hey, I grew up on Strawberry Hill. It’s terrible at only 3.99 a bottle. (In my day, I think it was actually 2.99 a bottle) I can vaguely recall summer nights whereby a fellow partner in crime and I would swindle some local redneck into buying us two bottles and then promptly slurp it down. Ahh..those were indeed the days.

But I digress from my point. This wine is described as a “semi-sweet blush wine made from a distinctive blend of Vidal Blanc and Riesling, with a touch of Chambourcin for depth”. So it is in fact, more complex than Strawberry Hill and tastier than Beringer White Zinfandel. I highly recommend it if you are searching for something just for fun to sip on as the weather turns warmer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And so the blog journey begins....

Recently, I embarked on a mission to find a fulfilling hobby or pastime. After much soul searching, which amounted to about an hour of discussing and eliminating possible options, it was determined that drinking wine and then blogging about it would be the perfect hobby for me. Besides, I can always find a more sobering hobby like knitting or genealogy when I’m drying out at rehab, right? So, it’s a wine blog infused with humor, satire as well as a few drunken adventures in wine tasting. Perhaps, I’ll even make a few recommendations, pairing suggestions or even comments on the sundry of wine gadgets awaiting you at your local wine shop.

After creating my blog account, it took several attempts to actually blog. My blog methodology was originally comprised of me drinking wine and then immediately attempting to blog about it. That proved to not work well. Thus my new and improved methodology involves me “tasting wine”, then allowing for a day or so to process thoughts (i.e. treat hangover).

My hope is not that you will in anyway find this blog useful as it is just a blog. Instead my goal and intent is to amuse and self-indulge.