Wines I drank – Local Edition.

DSCN1853Have you heard of  “3”?  It’s the collaboration between the winemakers at Veritas Vineyards (Emily Pelton), Grace Estates (Jake Busching) and King Family Vineyards (Matthieu Finot).  The 2012 release is a white, a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng.

DSCN1854Viognier is the primary grape in this wine, giving it tropical fruit & flowery notes, a hint of a buttery smoothness from the Chardonnay and the Petit Manseng balancing the wine out.  This wine is produced in limited quantities (45 cases), so it was a lovely treat my friend Megan shared with me.

I’m not at all sure where this wine is available outside of the wineries involved.   At $33.33, this wine is priced outside of my usual price point,  but a splurge every now & again is nice.  This would be one of those bottles worth the splurge.

DSCN1855I had brought my own bottle of local wine to sample as well – a bottle of Knight’s Gambit Rosé.  Full disclosure – while this wine is relatively new to the shelves around town, I have been drinking this wine for a few years now thanks to knowing the owner of the winery, Paul Summers.  I interviewed Paul for a piece I wrote about Virginia Wineworks for my former  “In the Kitchen” column (I think maybe the September or October 2011 “Beneath the Cork”).  I’ve known Philip Stafford & Michael Shaps of Virginia Wineworks for a few years through various connections that are the way of life here in Charlottesville.  I have the utmost respect for Michael as a wine maker and while I like Virginia Winework’s wines, I never miss an opportunity to applaud their custom crush work and the helping hand it is giving so many small Virginia wineries, like Knight’s Gambit.

Needless to say, I was excited to see Knight’s Gambit on the shelves at the Hydraulic Road Kroger and as it was on special for $12.99, I snapped up a bottle.  It’s a dry rose, with some creaminess to it.  It was likened to strawberry shortcake as we sipped on it.  Then again, that might have been the spread of strawberry jam, strawberry pickles, bread & cheeses we nibbled on influencing our palates.   It is, after all, strawberry season.

Wines I Drank – The Front Yard Edition.

With spring and warmer weather comes our family doing more outside.   Including happy hour every day we can.  Is there really anything nicer than sitting outside on a beautiful day and just soaking it in?  We think not.

It seems we have plenty of friends and neighbors who agree.  From the first official outdoor happy hour of the season until we close it up for the fall, we have a steady stream of drop-ins.  Why yes, it has been much commented that in some ways, we live similarly to how we did in college, only we now have a mortgage, a child and are a bit more responsible.


She just thinks that this is how people live.  Jam session in the front yard and all. Continue reading

It’s good to have wine friends.

My friend Bonnie‘s husband Ted is a bit of a wine guy.  When not busy being a neurologist, he does podcasts and was a founding partner of a wine importing and distribution business.  I love going over to their house for drinks because there is always good wine and even better, Ted likes to pull out new things for me to try.  Like the bottle of Georgian wine he sent over for my birthday a few years ago. Continue reading

In which I begin to tackle French wine. And discover a lovely new local one.

The problem with people knowing I occasionally write about food and wine is that they think I know quite a bit on the subject.  To be honest, I really only know about the food and wine I either like or have worked with.  Which up until now, has not been French wine. If I’m going to be fully honest here,  I am slightly intimidated by French wines – the appellations (a defined regional area), the Crus (still trying to grasp that one) the pronunciations (I butcher anything longer than a 2 cent word in my native tongue, my pronunciation of French is abysmal despite 3 years of French), the fact that French wines are among some of the most respected and most expensive wines in the world – I have at best, a rudimentary knowledge of French wines.  I know just a little bit about  Bourdeaux and Burgundies, that only French winemakers in a particular region produce true Champagne and that Cotes-du-Rhone and Chateneauf-du-Pape are regions for wine in France, but beyond that, I don’t know much about French wines. Continue reading

Wines I drank.

This weekend while picking up some shifts at l’etoile, I participated in some staff wine tasting.  One of the things I enjoy about keeping a toe dipped in that world is staying up on current fine food & wine trends.  It had been a while since I had rolled out my wine knowledge and I think I surprised some of my co-workers with how deftly I was able to describe the wines we were tasting.  There was a French Sauvignon Blanc made in the New Zealand style – by far my preferred style of the variety, one I drink by the gallon during warm weather months.  I call it the adult lemonade of summer.  There was a Beaujolais that had a strong vegetable note – the first thing that sprung to mind when I tasted it was that I wanted a cheese plate to accompany it.  Lastly was a Bordeaux, a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, light on the palate with heavy tannins and fruity finish.

I always seem to surprise people with how much I know about wine.  I don’t come across as someone who can navigate my way through a wine list.  When “In the Kitchen” folded publication last year, it was suggested I continue to write about wine here and I meant to do that, but just haven’t.  To be completely honest, I have long been on a quest to find the best wine for under $10 that I can.  Because while I love wine and am not opposed to springing for a more expensive bottle now and again, I am inherently cheap.   I can and will try that $3 bottle and unless it’s horribly undrinkable, I will drink it because dammit, I paid for that.

This of course led to another fantastic idea which is that I make a regular feature on here of wines I drink – good and bad, cheap and not so cheap.  I have at least one friend who almost always takes a shot of the label I am serving her so that she remembers to grab it next time she’s looking for something good to drink.  I’ve run into friends in the wine aisle of the grocery store who have asked me to please point out what it was they had last time they were at my house.  I have had long talks with the owner of a local wine shop who agrees with me that you can find some very nice wines for not a lot of money.  So, after promising last year to write more here about wine, I’m going to do so.  Beginning now.

This was a glass of Trump Viognier I enjoyed after my Saturday evening shift.  I noticed that at a certain angle, there was a rainbow in the glass. Which by no means is an apt description of the wine.  Viognier is a grape that Virginia does well (so well it’s the official state grape), but I don’t think this is most stellar example of it. Trump’s Viognier is floral and slightly sweet, not as well balanced as other versions out there.  I had been wanting to try some of the Trump wines just out of curiosity, but I can’t find anyone who wants to go to the winery with me.  It seems no one I know wants to part with their money in order to give Donald Trump yet more money.  At $19 a bottle, it’s not entirely out of the price range for what I would splurge on for a bottle of wine, but I didn’t find it splurge worthy.

I’ve been on a bit of whites kick here lately.  I think it’s part of my fondly moving time forward, like switching the Calendar to March when there are still 5 days of February left.  I realize I did the same thing the end of winter last year as well.  This is a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc made in the New Zealand style.  I got this particular bottle at Whole Foods, but Reids carries it as well.  I think it runs about $7.99/bottle.  It’s the perfect combination of dry, citrusy crisp, fruity that I adore in New Zealand style Sav Blancs.  And the price is right.  Oh, and I can run to Reid’s to grab a bottle.  What’s not to like about it?

I’m not entirely drinking whites however.  I find I like a glass of white and then switch it up to a red.  I’ll admit I bought Estratos, a Spanish red because I thought it was a Syrah and it was in the cheap section at Whole Foods.  I ran in there the other day for a few things (the essentials – milk, toilet paper & peanut butter, at least two of those being things that WholePaycheck has the best prices on) and grabbed a few bottles of wine while I was at it.  I was sure I’d had it somewhere and liked it.  Turns out, it’s not a syrah, it’s a blend, with 80% being Monastrell, a varietal from the Spanish Mediterranean coast.  Monastrell is a varietal I wasn’t familiar with, which proceeded to send me on a mission to learn more about it in order to tell you about it.  What I’ve learned?  It’s a grape that is mostly blended.  It’s described as ‘meaty’ and ‘herbal’, high in tannins as well as alcohol.  With the case of this particular wine, I tasted the alcohol content, which is an indicator of a a poorly balanced wine.  In fact, that was the overwhelming note of the wine – the alcohol.  It had a slightly fruity finish, but the that first note held on for quite some time. I tried it with a few different foods and nothing seemed to temper it.  I’ve read that this is a varietal that ages well – this particular bottle is a 2009 and while I could see where it could use a few more years to mellow, I’m not convinced this particular wine is worth giving up space in my ‘cellar’ to see if it goes age well.  I’d rather move on.

Warm Weather Whites (In the Kitchen Series)

This post was previously published for In The Kitchen Magazine, which sadly, is no longer.  This article ran in July of 2011.

At the onset of warm weather every spring, I break out the all the accoutrement of the season – shorts, flip flops and fill my wine rack with a variety of white wines. As the season winds around, I find myself gravitating towards lighter and sometimes more effervescent wines.

Vino Verde, for example, is about the most delightful wine I can imagine on a hot summer day. A Portuguese wine, it is light and fruity, with a definite pétillance to it. It is high in acid, so it has a certain crispness that I liken to lemonade, and has a lower alcohol content, which makes it a perfect ‘by the pool’ wine. On those really cold winter days, when I need to pretend I’m somewhere warm and tropical, it’s Vino Verde I imagine myself drinking. It is always the first bottle of white I grab in March, when I begin stocking for the warm weather, because I want to make sure I have it on hand when the time comes. Best of all, Vino Verde is a fairly inexpensive wine – you can find great bottles of the stuff for under $10.

If you really want to impress your friends, seek out a bottle of Txakoli (sometimes known as chacolí) for an afternoon of fun. Txakoli is a Spanish wine, very similar to Vino Verde, with a crispness and touch of sparkle thanks to a high acid content, but has a bit more heft in the body from its Portuguese counterpart. It was a primarily home distilled wine for many years, but it was rediscovered in the 1980’s and is finally being imported in this county. It’s worth seeking out.

If sweet is more your preference, then a bottle of Moscato is something you must try if you haven’t already. A light, fruity, slightly sweet, frizzante wine from Italy, Moscato is considered a lovely aperitif, brunch or dessert wine. Talk about versatile! Moscato typically has hints of peach (among other fruits) and is low in alcohol.

Of course, if you are just in the mood for something sparkling, why not try a bottle of Prosecco? Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that is dry, with subtly sweet fruity notes. In recent years, it has become a popular and less expensive substitute for Champagne. It also mixes beautifully and is the main ingredient in the classic Italian cocktail, Bellini.

By this point, you may have noticed some similarities in these suggestions. All are lower in alcohol content, which is recommended for those blistering hot days, and are lighter bodied wines. They all come from countries with a Mediterranean climate – hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. I can’t think of a better recommendation for a wine to drink on a hot summer day than one that hails from a climate well versed in hot summer weather.