The Calvert Party Encyclopedia

My friend Allison, who happens to be the same Allison that did an entire weekend camping trip wearing a trash bag as a poncho in 3 inches of rain because I assured her there was no rain in the forecast and therefore, it was not worth running home for – which I would also like to point out she was an absolute trooper about, but then, that’s Allison.  She’s one of those rock solid people who takes everything in stride.  She’s the kind of friend you can call on a cold, snowy Saturday in January and ask to please bring you a chocolate banana milkshake because you just had a baby and your husband has told you his days of running out to please your every whim are over, thankyouverymuch and she then walks all over downtown in the snow looking for anything that’s open that will make you a chocolate banana milkshake and while she’s at it, she brings along a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which you’ve been craving for the last 9 months just in case the six pack you had sitting in the cooler on the back porch for such an event accidentally got left on the back porch in the excitement of leaving to have a baby, because it did.

She’s that kind of friend.   Kinda the bomb.

Allison came down to visit recently and brought me a most delightful gift that as soon as I opened it, knew I had to share it here. Continue reading

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.

I got my wine geek on.

This past weekend, Barboursville Winery held a vertical tasting –  where one could taste different vintages of the same varietals.  Among the offerings were Cabernet Sauvingnon Reserve, Cabernet Franc Reserve, Nebbiola Reserve and Octagon.  Tasting this way, you can see the differences aging can play in a varietal, as well as weather.

Octagon is a Bordeaux style blend known in this country as Meritage.  These wines use the 5 standard Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Sauvingnon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  There is a 6th Bordeaux grape, Carmenere,  that was considered ‘lost’ for years until it was discovered to have been planted in South America amongst the Merlot also brought from France in the 19th Century.  I tasted the 2008 Octagon vintage a few weeks ago and while I liked it, I felt it needed a few more years of aging before it would be ideal.  Interestingly enough, the winery had the 2010 Octagon available for tasting as part of the vertical tasting despite the fact that it’s not yet bottled and not expected to be released for at least another 2 years.  I found it highly drinkable now and in fact, next to the outstanding 2007 vintage, was my favorite of all the Octagons.  Patience not being one of my virtues, I’m more than a little bummed I have to wait to bring home what I thought was one of the more superior vintages.

Among the other Octagons we tasted (2008, 2007, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001 and 1999), I found the 2006 in need of further aging, while the 2005 was luscious now.  (That’s the tasting note I wrote down btw – luscious).  The lightest of the bunch was the 1999, which is not what one would expect from a wine that’s aged for 13 years.

I’ve tasted the same varietal from different wineries, but this was the first time I had ever sampled the same varietal from the same winery and winemaker over a series of years.  To me, one of the most fascinating things about wine is how fruit from a plant can be so different from place to place, wine maker to wine maker, year to year.  It was quite fun and if you like wine, I recommend trying a vertical tasting if you get a chance.  (Virginia Wineworks has just announced a vertical tasting of Michael Shaps wines on December 1.  I wasn’t able to find any information on their website this morning,  but it is on their Facebook page. Reservations are required.)

Of the other wines we sampled, I found I preferred the 2004 Cabernet Sauvingon Reserve as well as the Nebbiolo Reserve to any other vintages of that varietal.  (Confession – I found some vintages of the Nebbiolo undrinkable, which says something, because I find just about any wine drinkable.)  I liked the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007 vintage the best of that category, although the last few vintages, the 2008-2010, were also quite nice.  I wasn’t as impressed with some of the older vintages, but we hit that group last and admittedly, some of them started tasting the same no matter how much palate clearing we did. 

As we mingled around tasting, we found ourselves striking up conversations with fellow wine drinkers.  While we often found ourselves in agreement with those we spoke to about what vintages we liked best, we didn’t always.  There was one young man at the Cabernet Franc table who insisted that the 2004 and 2006 versions were hands down the best.  Personally, I found at least one of them smacking of green pepper, not a flavor I care for in my wine (or in my food).  It seems that just like terroir, one’s palate also makes a significant difference in your wine experience.

We came home and eased our way back from sampling $75 a bottle wine to something more in my budget ($10 a bottle) before cracking open the boxed wine.  For while it’s lovely to explore fine wines, I also just like to drink wine of any type.  I’m really not that picky for a wine geek.