Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

Share Your Favorite Sonoma Area Places!

January 31, 2007
I've got a friend who is planning a celebratory trip out to the Sonoma area this summer. She and her husband will be there for 5-6 days (have I mentioned that I'm very jealous?). I've already suggested some of my favorite wineries that we visited, plus places we ate and other things we did (like a day trip up to Mendocino). However, that won't fill all the time (and I know if Matt and I get a chance to return I'd like to have a little more of an attack plan so we could make the most of the time)! So if you had 5-6 days to spend in the area and had never been there before, what would you not want to miss?

I know where I'd go again, so those are the places I have suggested so far. Anyone else have any thoughts?

Roshambo Gewurtztraminer

I'm a little behind in my wine reviews, which I suppose is fine because there won't be any wine drinking tonight (I'm still recovering a bit from last night) so at least I have a few back-ups to post!

Anyway, on Monday we drank a bottle of 2005 Roshambo Gorey Gewurtztraminer. It had a real cork, cost us around $15 and is 14.1% alcohol by volume. I paired it with some more of the Zuppa Toscana because it struck me that it might be a good match with the spiciness of the sausage.

It smells like Gewurtztraminer......it's aromatic, floral, lightly sweet with an undertone of spice. Honeysuckle especially seemed to jump out.

In the mouth, it's a little greasy. Very heavy and palate coating and an odd kick of maybe petrol at the end? Also quite sweet. NMS.

Tuesday Wine Down

January 30, 2007
Leah of DC Gastronome told me a few weeks ago that she and some friends were hosting a wine happy hour today. I had said I could probably make it, and Matt and I made plans to attend. Now, come to find out, Leah is the new co-host of Meetup DC's Wine Group! (I was slightly confused when the second invite showed up in my non-blog email, but quickly figured it out.) And, tonight's activity is her happy hour.

I have yet to attend a Meetup event, so this will be my first. And it looks good. It will be held at David Greggory in DC, with I gather is on the corner of 21st and M. Happy hour starts at 4:30pm and goes until 10:00pm. The Meetup group is scheduled to gather at 6ish. I'll be there, with Matt in tow and I'd love to meet some new people in the area...I just moved here in September and don't know a lot of folks yet (especially any that really enjoy wine!).

Looks like the specials are $4.75 wines by the glass (doesn't say which wines though), $4.25 Microbrew Drafts, Smirnoff vodka drinks $5.00 and Sangira for $3.75. Some good looking appetizer specials, all at $5.00 and a small but tasty looking regular menu. Fairly decent wine menu, though a bit lacking in bottles under the $30 mark....oh well, hopefully the wine by the glass specials will be interesting!

So come on out! I'll be the one in a gray suit and I now have kind of blonde hair (my picture up in the corner was taken in October when I decided to be auburn for the fall/winter until I got bored of it last week.) Hope to see you there!

A Virginia Red that Merits a Look

January 29, 2007
I will be the first to say that I have tasted red wines at a good handful of Virginia Wineries. And usually, I'm not all the impressed. We don't have a fantastic climate here for some red grapes, it's hard to get some to ripen before the cold sets in. However, I have recently had a few Virginia Pinot Noirs, and I must say, they are really coming along.

Last night I served Roz of Beadimous' Zuppa Toscana (Matt really loved it and requested it again this soon!). Last time, we drank a Roederer Pinot Noir with it one night and I thought it was a good match. I figured I'd try again with this bottle of 2005 Pinot Noir from Swedenburg Winery. We picked this up at Swedenburg a few weeks ago for $18, it has a real cork closure and is 12% alcohol by volume.

I found ripe raspberries in the nose and mouth of this wine. It also had undertones of strawberries and spices (mostly black pepper) in the mouth. It was smooth and delicate and I thought it paired very well with the creamy and slightly spicy soup. A very light wine in the mouth and a great effort for a red from Virginia. Overall, it had flavors kind of like a subtle (if that's possible) raspberry jolly rancher.

Matt wasn't such a fan, he found it sharp, which I thought was odd, the flavors seemed very smooth to me and the finish was simple and easy

The Finished Corkboard

I did eventually (actually rather quickly) get around to making that corkboard out of my bag of corks. Oddly enough, the bag itself doesn't really look much emptier than when I started. And it really only took around 120 corks to finish. Really not that big of a dent in a bag that had nearly 400 corks in it...... :) Perhaps I ought to get on mass producing cork reindeer (again, my apologies to the person who keeps searching for how to make one of these things, I don't honestly know!).

Anyway, it probably took us around an hour and a half to make this thing. The hardest part was finding corks that were long enough to fit tightly. Ocassionally we had to sacrifice a pretty cork for a less pretty one just to be able to fit them all in so there were no gaps. I'm fairly pleased with how it came out, but less pleased with the quality of the product. The dry erase board won't stay in like it is supposed to and the corner of the wood frame has already separated. Also, make sure you have your own container of wood glue around to glue in the corks. The little tub they provide is not nearly enough to put a "generous amount" of glue on each cork, nor does it want to come out of the tub all that easily. Now I just need to get to the hardware store to pick up some kind of a brace to hold the frame together while the glue dries so that I can finally hang the thing up.

Worth Another Look

January 28, 2007
We drank a first bottle of this wine over Thanksgiving, in this post, but I don't feel I did it much justice, both in the food pairing and the short treatment I gave it in my post. It deserves another look! I was going to let the remaining bottles of our Fritz 2005 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel age for a while, but we just got another shipment and it had an additional 2 bottles, so I thought we'd drink one.

This cost us $25 in a club shipment, has 14.2% alcohol by volume and came with a real cork closure. On this bottle, I found blackberries and raspberries on the nose, with a bit of currant. That's a little different than the last time where I found blackberries and cherries. In the mouth I got the same fruit I found in the nose, plus earth, tobacco and cedar.

I paired this with a leftover filet mignon and risotto and it did really well with the steak. I can definitely picture this as a great bbq rib bottle of wine. After dinner we had some dark dark bittersweet chocolate and this wine just shone with the chocolate. It was perfect. The raspberry flavors and the chocolate together were fabulous.

Another Excellent Value

January 27, 2007
My spreadsheet of wines was missing an entry in the price column for the wine I picked as our after dinner bottle. What can I say, the spreadsheet isn't perfect (sorry Huevos Con Vino, I know how much you love spreadsheets) especially when I found some of our receipts had gotten tossed as we worked our way down the west coast this summer. So I was a little afraid I might be choosing a pricey bottle, but I was wrong!

Anyway, the second bottle we drank last night was Nelson Family Vineyards 2005 Viognier. At only $16.80, this was quite a value. It was 14.8% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. Sorry, no picture, I forgot to take one!

The nose on this bottle was incredibly aromatic and I could smell it easily without even bringing my nose into my glass. Many flowers jumping out with a touch of honey, it made for a pleasant aroma. It actually reminded me of when honeysuckle was in bloom in my yard as a kid.

In the mouth, there were spiced peaches and a bit of honey, following through on the nose, but surprising me with the peaches and the spice! Overall, I thought the structure and acidity were very well done, holding in what could have been very sweet flavors, but turned out to be an enjoyable, balanced and surprising mouthful of flavors.

This is our only bottle of this one and unfortunately, it appears to be sold out. Oh well, there's always next year's release, which I'm sure we'll get in a club shipment. Great value, keep an eye out for next year's.

The Forrest Through the Trees

Last night's wine was all about the pine! The bottle was a 2004 Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Weighs in at 13.8% alcohol by volume (thankfully less than the night before!), cost us $13.60, though I found it online for $11.99, and had a real cork closure. I served it with chicken roll-ups, cream sauce, broccoli and white rice. I thought a crisp Sauvignon Blanc would be a good match for the creamy, cheesy chicken dish. I thought it turned out well, with the acidity cutting through the creaminess and cleansing the palate.

Thie one was full of pine on the nose, with some lemon (but not smelling like pinesol, I promise!). Citrus flavors were in the mouth, with crisp apples and a little bit of a creamy melon flavor at the end.

Overall, the wine had good acidity and structure holding it together which balanced well with the fruit flavors. It's not terribly complex, but is easy to drink and was a pleasant match with dinner. And if you can find for around $12, I think it's an excellent deal and would easily be something we could use as an everyday wine. It was especially nice to see a wine under 14% alcohol by volume!

Alcohol Alert!

January 26, 2007
Last night's wine was a 2003 Reserve Wilson Estate Zinfandel Reserve. We picked this up at Wilson for about $22 and it had a real cork closure. However, it must be the week of high alcohol contents. I know over at Barreled, Barrld tasted a Viognier the other night that came in at 16.1%(that's huge for a white!) and the wine Matt and I had last night came in at 16%.

Now overall, I have nothing against high alcohol wines, my main concern is that the alcohol be kept balanced by the flavors and the structure of the wine. I must say I was slightly worried last night, as I poured some of the wine into the currant red wine sauce for our steak and I thought Matt might pass out from the fumes alone.

However, since it was sitting out for a while before we ate, the alcohol seemed to have almost dissipated by the time we were ready. I served it with a bacon wrapped pan seared filet mignon with currant red wine sauce over 4 cheese risotto and a side of green beans. It was actually a very good match with the dinner, though in general I think this wine needs to age for a few more years. The end was tannic, but I really think it will get better.

On the nose there was cedar and a few spices. In the mouth, blackberies, vanilla, more spices and currants as it aired out a little more. As I said, the end was tannic, but not that bad and it definitely faired better as the night progressed. The alcohol didn't bother me because the structure was good and the flavors were enough to make it good for me. However, I will say that I had trouble getting through my 2 glasses of wine. It made me a little tipsy. I would say that's the worst part of the high alcohol wines.
Really good with dinner

Second Night of the Mauritson

January 25, 2007
We drank the rest of the bottle of Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc last night. Now, I had no other option for preserving it on hand except my vacuum pump. So I went ahead and gave it a shot (it was the first time I had used, DH had always done it before) without much hope for how it would taste last night.

However, I think perhaps I used it correctly.....? I took Dr. Deb of Good Wine Under $20's advice and I let the bottle warm up on the counter a while before serving it. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near as degraded as past bottles that we had saved. I still got the citrus and the grass in the mouth, but I also got a little bit of pear. Overall tasty, but I'm glad we didn't have to try to keep it for a 3rd night!

I served it with fried chicken, biscuits and broccoli. Matt cooked us dinner, which was a nice break for me! I attempted to help with the gravy by offering the suggestion that perhaps cornstarch is a better thickening agent than flour, but alas, the gravy was still quite a failure. The wine was fairly tasty with the fried food though, so at least the pairing was good!

I think I will shortly be looking into the alternative ways of preserving that everyone suggested last night. Thanks to all!

Thinking About Obscure Regions and Varietals

Yes, these are the types of thoughts that run through my head when I am sitting in a fairly dull training class all week. If I get lucky, I'll remember them at lunch time so I can jot some notes down, and that's what happened today (yay for lunch, the bright spot in an otherwise deadly boring day).

So as I sat in training, mesmorized, of course, by the topic at hand (types of government contracts and the risk assumed by the government based on each type, thrilling, huh?) my mind was running over some of the more obscure wines I've had lately. And I was wondering, what is the most obscure region or varietal you have tried in recent memory?

I didn't write about this one (or at least I'm fairly certain I didn't....I can't find it if I did) but we had a red (forgive me, the type is slipping my mind) from Bulgaria this year. We have this kind of kitschy little Bulgarian place near our apartment building (very tasty and interesting food, especially for a cold night) and they carry Bulgarian wine on the menu. I remember thinking it was really reasonably priced for a restaurant ($18) and I really enjoyed the bottle, though it did need to be a touch cooler. I'd drink it again, and next time I'd remember. I think that was easily the most obscure region from which I've tasted a bottle.

So the question remains, what varietal or region has been your most obscure?

WBW #30 Announced (Already!)

January 24, 2007
And it's soon, so get cracking on this assignment! Though I think it will be much easier this month to find a wine that fits!

WBW will be hosted by Tim of Wine Cast this month. You can find all the details over on Wine Cast in this post. The date is February 7th. That's soon! Our assignment is to drink and review a bottle of New World Syrah/Shiraz....so really, from anywhere in the United States, Australia, South America, etc......there are definetly a lot of bottles to choose from. But still, only about 2 weeks to get on this one. Same deal as always, drink your wine and send your review to Tim on February 7th.

I'm pretty sure we have a few (cough, cough, I have a very loose definition of "a few") bottles of Syrah hanging around from our trip. In fact, we drank a fabulous one from Quivira just the other night. It was the star of the wines of our dinner party and I'll be happy to try one of our other Syrahs for this WBW. Thanks to Tim for hosting!

Drinking by my lonesome

Last night Matt had to work very late and I still wanted a glass of wine to go with my Asian Basa filet. (Yummy fish by the way, I just sautee it lightly in a bit of butter, some salt and pepper.) I was originally planning to drink some Chantilly from Swedenburg with this meal, but we only have the one bottle and aren't likely to head back out there anytime soon.

The wine I chose instead was a 2004 Mauritson Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Picked this up at Mauritson for $12.80, has a real cork closure and is 13.5% alcohol by volume.

On the nose there is citrus, green pepper, and grass.

In the mouth, it's a little spicy, with some lime. As I made my way through my glass and a half (really, I had no chance of drinking much more than that if I wanted to be functioning at work) I thought some pineapple showed itself in the mouth. The wine has great acidity and structure and an excellent finish full of citrus. It's a very thirst-quenching wine and I can just picture drinking this on a hot summer day by the pool.

Preserving Wine

January 23, 2007
I know that Huevos con Vino has been checking out a cool new preservation system for his wine. And recently Farley over on Wine Outlook is looking to get a pump or something to preserve her wine. The subject seems especially pertinent to me tonight since I am home by myself and really wanted a glass of wine. So I opened a bottle. Now, I love wine, but there is absolutely no way I can drink a whole bottle by myself, even if I wanted to on a work night (now, on a weekend, maybe, since we tend to drink our bottles over an extended period of time, but on a worknight, when I didn't get home until 6pm and I have to be back at work at 6am, there is just no way).

Someone gave us a wine vacuum pump as a wedding present. We've used it only a handful of times. Wine bottles don't usually last past a night in our house. :) However, the few times we have used it, we've had mixed results. It seems to work better with red wine than it does with while wine. The whites always remind me of when you go to a bar and get a glass of wine and you just know that bottle has been in the fridge overnight. The reds seem to fare better, but I guess I would attribute that to the fact that our reds tend to have more aging potential in general than our whites.

Now tonight, I've been sipping on a white. And it's pretty darn tasty. I'm kind of sad that I know it just won't taste very good tomorrow.

Which brings me to my question: if you ever find yourself with a partial bottle of wine left, what do you do with it?

Same Name Different Zin

Another 2004 Zinfandel by Bella, but sourced from a different vineyard than my last two reviews. This is a 2004 Lily Hill Zin. A big wine...15.5% alcohol by volume, a real cork and cost us around $22. The label says it can age for 7-9 years easily. I'm not sure I agree. It was a little tannic, but I doubt I'd let it hang around much longer than another 2 years.

On the nose, there were big blackberries and a bit of a flowery scent. In the mouth there were more blackberries, and as it opened, currants, earth, wood and a hint of vanilla.

As I said, it was a little tannic, and could age. Or you could decant it and it would be beautiful now. After a few hours of being open, this was a smooth wine, with an easy finish. Towards the end, this wine really opened up and showed a big chocolate finish.

I served it with yet another homemade pizza, plain cheese this time, as I had made an extra ball of dough for our company and needed to use it up!

Drinking VA Wines

January 22, 2007

Last night we drank one of the bottles we picked up at Swedenburg Vineyards. First, I have to say that I love the fact that the label was drawn by a 10 year old Swedenburg family member. It's adorable and a really cute touch.

The wine was a 2005 C'est La Vie, A Rose. 12% alcohol by volume, real cork closure and cost us $10 (it was on special, usually is $12, but if you bought 3 it was only ten). A very dry rose, but a style I really enjoy. Many roses tend to be a little too sweet for my tastes, so I'm always happy to run across a nice dry one. This one displays good strawberry and raspberry flavors and would make a great porch sipping wine.

I served with with ham and cheese omlettes, a little bit odd, but Matt offered to cook last night and omlettes are his speciality. It actually wasn't a bad match, especially with the ham in the omlettes.

Bebo Trattoria: Italian and Wine

Our neighborhood has a surprisingly large number of Italian restaurants for not being that big of a place. We've tried a few, but more seem to open every month. The most recent addition is Bebo Trattoria.

What a great find!!! The prices here are so reasonable and the food is great! No entree was more than $16. Matt had the Pasta with Duck Ragu and I had the 4 cheese risotto. As an appetizer, we had the Pancetta over warm polenta with brie. This was a fantastic appetizer. The crisp, salty pancetta was a great contrast to the polenta and brie and it really worked well. My risotto was a little oniony for my taste, but Matt really liked it. I didn't taste the Duck Ragu, but he proclaimed it "good." For dessert we spilt a Panna Cotta with strawberry sauce. It was so well done. Perfectly creamy, while mainting it's shape and the strawberry sauce was an excellent complement.

I had a glass of 2004 Trebbiano D'Abruzo. It was a light and lively glass of wine, served a little too cold (not something I say too often since I tend to like my wines chilly). It got better as it warmed up and showed citrus and spices in the mouth with a good finish. It was a fairly decent match with all the creamy flavors that my meal had. The wine list was fairly large, inlcuding a good selection of wines by the glass. However, it looked like you could get a fairly expensive bottle of wine for a restaurant whose food prices were very reasonable!

Overall, a good value.

Visiting Virginia Vineyards #4


The first stop we made on our visit to Virginia Wine Country last weekend was to Swedenburg Vineyards. You drive up a one lane road to the tasting room(so be careful, you need to pull over if you meet anyone else). The tasting room is not too big and it looks new, though the woman in the tasting room (I think she was the owner?) said they had been there for 25 years, but I think she might have misunderstood my question!

A tasting at Swedenburg costs $3, which is not too bad of a fee, though they don't refund with purchase either. They were tasting five wines on Monday, all of which were very well done in my opinion, and all of which were excellent values, with the most expensive being $20. This is the 7th vineyard we have visited in Virginia and overall, I was most impressed with the consistent quality of the wines here.

Here's the run-down of wines tasted:
Reisling- Very reserved fruit on this, but good apple tones. Not too sweet at all and would be an easy wine to start an evening with. Good structure, and quite a value at $15 a bottle.

Chantilly- This was an excellent off-dry bottle of wine. Very aromatic, with a floral nose. Pear in the mouth. Easy to drink and would go well either on it's own or with a light white fish. A bargain at $12 a bottle. We took home two.

C'est La Vie (Rose)- Easily the star of the show here. We really liked this bottle of wine. A very dry rose with a good strawberry and raspberry character. We took home 3 botttles and will hopefully be sipping this one on our own porch come this summer! Fantastic value at $12.

Pinot Noir- Pepper and spices on the nose of this of this one with a hint of oak. Reserved berry flavor in the mouth. One of the best done reds I've tasted in Virginia to date. Not a bad deal at $18 a bottle, we took home one.

Cabernet Sauvignon-This would be good with a steak. It was a bigger bodied wine and could easily stand up to a nice pepper grilled steak.

We were the only visitors in the tasting room on Monday morning. The owner was quite quiet at first, but she warmed up to us after she saw that I was really taking notes on the wines. I then explained, as best I could, how I was going to do a write-up of the vineyard for my website. Then she was eager to tell me more about the vineyard and she even gave me her recipe for mulled wine. It was quite cold in the tasting room, which was odd because it was so warm out!! I recommend a visit to Swedenburg highly.

I couldn't do it

January 21, 2007
I'm too much of a wuss. I made Matt call the vineyards to cancel the wine clubs. He cancelled 5. So that leaves us with 7. I think we still need to get rid of 2 more. We are quibbling over which ones have to go though. We kept most of our absolute favorites (with one exception that we hope to rejoin when we aren't just about to buy a house). I think we have another one we can easily knock off the list because we can get it around here already. It's that very last one that's going to be tough. I suggested we stop eating out so we can keep the wine club, but I realize that hurts me more than anyone else since I do 97% of the cooking around here and a night out is a night off for me.

Friday Night Causulties

We hosted a dinner party on Friday night for several of Matt's coworkers. Since it was my day off, I got to spend the day prepping food and picking out wine to serve. A total of 5 bottles of wine fell here on Friday, 2 whites, 2 reds and a dessert wine. With them I served a platter of assorted cheese and crackers, bruschetta, homemade pizza (1 pepperoni, 1 ham and pineapple) and chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce and fresh whipped cream.

The first wine served was a 2005 Fritz Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, served with the assorted cheese and crackers. I'm almost always a fan of a crisp sauvignon blanc with cheese, especially when I'm serving creamy, tongue coating cheese, and this was no exception. We picked this bottle up at Fritz for $16.20 this summer, real cork closure and 13.6% alcohol by volume. A great match! Crisp, tart and acidic on the finish. Fairly citrusy, with lemons and grapefruits on the nose and the mouth. A nice long acidic finish. I'm glad we have a few more of these hanging around.

Second was a bottle of Quivira 2004 Syrah. I don't remember if this came in a club shipment o if we bought it at Quivira, but it was $28.00, had a real cork closure and is 14.4% alcohol by volume. This bottle was a big hit with all of our guests and was served with the pepperoni pizza. A deep inky purple, it was a beautiful glass of wine. I decanted it for nearly an hour before serving, which was definetly a good call. There was vanilla and spice on the nose, and also a distinct scent of bacon. In the mouth there were blackberries and currants. It had a big mouth feel and was smooth, but the alcohol was there, so decant!

Third was a bottle of Ferrari Carano 2003 Zinfandel. At 14.8% alcohol by volume, this was a big wine. It had a real cork closure and ran us $21.60. This one is done, it didn't need to be decanted at all, if you have it drink it now. We have one other bottle and I will serve it asap. Raisins and black currants on the nose, with blackberries in the mouth. It had a very nice finish and I didn't even notice the big alcohol. This was not the typical big zinfandel, it was more reserved and not too fruit forward, but an excellent balanced bottle. I served this with the ham and pineapple pizza. Drink up now!

Forth was a bottle of Trentadue Chocolate Amore Red Dessert Wine. Now, if you want to talk about big alcohol levels, here it is! This one sits at 18.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure and I don't remember what it cost. It's a very tasty and well done dessert wine, though the chocolate is flavor added. Under the chocolate, there were layers of red raspberry. It was fairly thick, but this is probably Matt's favorite dessert wine ever. I served it with chocolate mousse.

Finally, a bottle of 2005 De La Montanya Fume Blanc. 14.6% alcohol by volume, a real cork closure and cost us $16 at the vineyard. This was floral and aromatic on the nose. In the mouth there was green apple. A crisp wine with a good structure and a decent finish. I thought the flavors in this bottle were very well done and it was definitely a good value. I think we have 2 more of these hanging around.

Phew, that was a long one, but an excellent party, with excellent food if I do say so myself and delicious wine!

It tastes like Chardonnay

January 19, 2007
The overwhelming impression I got from this wine was that it tasted like a Chardonnay grape. Last night's bottle was a 2004 Goisot Bourgonge Cotes D'Auerre Chardonnay. We picked this up for $17 at Arrowine when we went tasting there a few weeks ago. And yet again, I remember liking it a lot more in store than I did at home. The wine had a real cork clousre and is 13% alcohol by volume.

Besides having the flavor of a Chardonnay grape, on the nose of this bottle there was spice. A really spicy spice, like ginger or ginger root. It was odd. In the mouth there was more Chardonnay grape and just a touch of citrus.
The finish was long, and overall it wasn't an unpleasant wine, it just didn't work for me.

I served it with a mishmash of leftovers from this week, and I though maybe I was doing a diservice to the wine. However, hours after dinner, it still wasn't doing much for me and I wasn't finding anything else but the spice and Chardonnay grape. NMS.

The All American Grape

January 18, 2007
I'm trying to stick to my goal of learning something new about wine every week. I thought I'd test it out and put the post up here this week.

This week's bit of knowledge was inspired by our trip to Chrysalis Vineyards this weekend. Even before going, I looked at their website and saw much propaganda about the Norton grape and how they make wines entirely of this grape. I had no idea what to expect on tasting wine made with Norton grapes. It also intrigued me that it was referred to as the "true" American Grape.

Apparently there is a reason why Chrysalis touts this grape: It is believed to have been named by and is first attributed to Dr. Norton of Richmond, Virginia. Otherwise, it appears that most of the origins of this grape area mystery. It was first available for commercial purchase in the 1830s and was apparently a huge success, even wining an international wine competition from a vineyard in Missouri, which became the central producer of wines made from Norton grapes. Today, Missouri remains the most prolific producer of Norton Wines, though Virginia wineries continue to produce the wine and it appears to be gaining popularity here.

As a grape, it is very resistent to both pests and typical diseases that affect vines and the fruit. However, at the same time, Norton is a hard grape to cultivate. The vines do not do well if producers attempt to get cuttings to root. The mystery of why the Norton plants will not root has not been solved, and producers have to resort to other and more time consuming techniques in order to grow new vines.

There are at least two producers of wines made with Norton grapes in Virginia, Chrysalis Vineyards and Horton Vineyards. Though as far as I can tell, only Chrysalis makes a wine from 100% Norton grapes. As I mentioned in my tasting notes from Chrysalis, I found the 100% Norton wine to have a grape jam and raspberry flavor with a nose of grape juice. One page of information notes that Norton grapes can sometimes have the scent of a Concord grape, which I guess would be what gave me the grape juice nose! The blended Norton wines I tried displayed more red fruits and earthy characteristics than the 100% Norton wine.

Sources: Appellation America
The Wine Man

It may be Wacky....(WBW #29)

January 17, 2007
But I'm all for good wine, even when I'm not totally convinced of the biodynamic process behind it. I'll also be the first to admit that I don't totally "get" the whole biodynamic thing. I've read about it over the past month to see if I could educate myself, but I'm still not sure I'm totally on the same page with what is going on. Protecting the environment and trying to use the land with the least harmful impact is great in my book, I'm just not sure I buy into all the swirling of things in a certain way and burying items at proper times in the skulls of animals. Nonetheless, what I drank tonight was a fabulous bottle of wine.

This bottle of Zind Humbrecht 2004 Pinot D'Alsace came highly recommended as a biodynamically produced wine from the associate at the Curious Grape after she kindly check in their computer for me to make sure that it was indeed biodynamically produced. It ran $23, had a real cork closure and is 13% alcohol by volume.

This is a blend of two different grapes, in 2004 it was made of 70% Auxerrois and 30% Pinot Blanc. On the nose of this wine I get honeysuckle, tons of minerals and exotic spices. There's also a hint of citrus and I almost want to say that it's a clementine orange. In the mouth there is citrus, with a hint of the honey I got on the nose. It is crisp and biting and has a long mineral filled finish.

I paired this with the last of Roz's Zuppa Toscano recipe and it actually wasn't a half bad match. The soup is both spicy (with the Italian sausage) and creamy (with the whipping cream) and the tart acidity and excellent structure of the Zind held up well to the flavors.

Given the opportunity I would buy this wine again. It's a bottle right up my alley with the crip citrus flavors and the lasting minerals. I'm also a sucker for an aromatic nose that follows through in the mouth. Even Matt proclaimed this a "tasty wine" and he's usually not one for a wine that is mostly tart and crisp on the flavors.

Thanks to Fork and Bottle for hosting this month's WBW and for making me step out of my normal zone to search for a new wine.

Drinking VA Wines

We opened one of the bottles we picked up at Chrysalis Vineyards this weekend. I made Leah from DC Gastronome's salmon and roasted potatoes and with our recent heat wave, we were in the mood for a nice light white.

The wine was a 2005 Sarah's Patio White. It cost $13, doesn't appear to have an alcohol content on the label (I thought that was required by law?) and had a real cork closure. On the nose this wine was very floral with a hint of sweet pear.

This is a blend of vidal blanc, chardonnay and viognier. In the mouth it was sweet with pear and apricots, but with enough structure and acidity to hold it together. It makes a very good sipping wine and was easy to drink and enjoy.

The blend worked well for me, and in some ways reminded me of the flavor of a muscat grape. Overall, it paired okay with dinner, though with the corn, bbq sauce and chicken stock falvoring the salmon I think I would have really liked a nice crisp white with it (perhaps the sauvignon blanc we had at Butterfield 9 the other night) because the flavors seemed creamy to me.

A good value, and we picked up two more bottles, so I'll be drinking those this summer!

Decisions, Decisions

Upon perusing our credit card statement, it came to Matt's attention that we spend a good chunk of our income on wine. Since we are planning to buy a house, we really need to get our spending in check. The bulk of what we spend on wine comes through our club shipments. And while I love all of them for different reasons, even I will admit that shipping wine across the United States direct to my door is not very cost effective. Most of the wines themselves are priced reasonably enough, it's the shipping costs that are killing the cost effectiveness. When a $50 shipment of wine costs $84 because of shipping, we've got an issue. Additionally, we went a little nuts when we discovered the idea of wine clubs and got in over our heads. I think the best solution is for us to keep the ones we love the most and stock up by reordering the club shipment wines if we like them at a discount and with the splitting the shipping cost option that some often offer (Matt said I need to cut immediately). In alphabetical order, here are our clubs:

Alderbrook
Bella
De la Montanya
Ferrari-Carano
Fritz
Hanna
Hop Kiln
Marimar
Mauritson
Nelson Family
Quivira
Roshambo

If we kept them all, we end up with around 127 bottles shipped to our house per year with approximately 42 shipments. And really, it's the shipping costs that are killing us. Each shipment has an average of around $30 in shipping costs. So we're talking around $1300 a year just in shipping costs. $1300 is a lot of wine that we could buy. Some of these are going to be easier to cut than others because I can find some of them in the stores here (not many though) which I didn't realize when we joined since I didn't move to this area until after we came home from California. I need to pick between 4-6 to cut. Anyone have any suggestions, if you are at all familiar with any of these? Or in other words, make my decision easier!

Today is WBW #29

I almost forgot that it was today, which would have been a shame since I went out and bought a bottle specially for it! Thanks to Huevos con Vino for reminding me (overachiever, he already has his post up! :) ).

So the deal is, drink a bottle of biodynamically produced wine and post the review today. Then submit your link and other pertinent info as specified to Fork and Bottle at some point today. There's still time to go out and pick up a bottle if you want to participate.

The days are slipping my mind this week, as we had Monday off and Friday is my regular day off, today just doesn't feel like Wednesday (plus, I'm planning a dinner party for Matt's co-workers on Friday, so I'm a touch distracted!).

Visiting Virginia Vineyards #3

January 16, 2007
This gray and dreary day found us heading out to the "country" in Virginia to check out some of the local vineyards and wines. Our second stop of the day was Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, VA. Overall, this vineyard was a very inviting place to visit. It had a huge patio with tables and chairs (which were actually full because despite the gray day, the weather was so warm for January!) and even an area where you can grill your own food and picnic. The tasting room is surrounded by the vineyards and gorgeous property.

Now, an overall comment and gripe. I have no problem with tasting fees. However, I feel stongly that they should be refunded or taken off the cost of a bottle when you buy. Especially if they are hefty. Here, it cost $5 for the regular tasting and $10 for the reserve, with no discount or refund. And also came with a glass. Which we left there because really, the LAST thing we need is another wine glass. We went for the reserve tasting since we were all the way out there.

The tasting room was crowded, but the staff was very friendly. They did their tastings in shifts, so you had to wait for the group to gather and everyone to pay, then they had about ten of us taste at the same time. I guess we hit it at a busy time of the day, we had to wait for a group to finish and there was another group waiting to start when we were done.

The regular tasting had 6 wines.

2005 Viognier-Easily the star of the show here. However, very steeply priced in my opinion at $29 a bottle and $8.50 a glass! This was a tart, crisp wine that was floral and displayed apricots on the nose with apple, apricot and a little pear in the mouth. I think this would be excellent with a spicy thai dish.

2004 Chardonnay- Aged in old oak, this was a smooth, tart chardonnay. There was almost no evidence of oak on this one. There were apples on the nose, peaches in the mouth and quite reserved overall.

2004 Mariposa- Amber in color, which I found odd in a rose, This was light and dry with flavors of cherries.

2005 Sarah's Patio White- The best value of the day, at $13 a bottle we took home 3. A mix of vidal blanc, chardonnay and viognier, this had a fruity nose, is sweet but not cloying with pear and good structure.

2003 Rubiana-This is made in the style of a Rioja, but overall didn't do much for me. There were currants and it was peppery and served too warm.

2003 Norton Estate Blend- Made with 75% Norton grapes, I got dirt and wood, red berries with a big body. A good value at $16.

The Reserve tasting included a bigger wine glass and 5 extra wines, all of which were quite pricey.

2003 Norton Locksley Reserve-This was bigger than the Estate Norton, mmore fruit on the nose, a bigger body with currants and hints of earth.

2005 Norton Barrel Select-The only wine made of 100% Norton, or the "American Grape." I thought this smelled like grape juice. It was floral, but also a lot of grape jam, raspberry and quite light in the mouth.

2004 Papillon- Composed of Tannat and Petit Verdot, Matt said this was like drinking a glass of steak. I got meat and new leather.

2003 Petit Verdit-I got cherry blossoms on the nose, but not much in the mouth. This was tannic, it made me pucker.

2004 Petit Manseng- A dessert wine made in the ice wine style. It was thick and golden in color, tasted like drinking a honeysuckle flower with a hint of mango.

Overall, I thought the white wines were very well done. Chyrsalis produces 10,000 cases of wine a year, but I asked them how, if at all the the new VA laws are effecting them. And since they are so large, it isn't. They already have a distributor and won't really feel any effect since they do most distribution through in tasting room sales, distributors and their VIP program.

Fun to visit, but pick an off time or day. It was crowded and I would have liked to stay with a glass of wine, but the patio was packed as well.

Dinner with Wine Challenge Results


Well, I did buy salmon and ingredients to make Leah of DC Gastronome's baked salmon and roasted potatoes, but I was too exhausted last night to actually make it. I'll do it tomorrow. But I still wanted to drink the 2004 Roederer Estates Pinot Noir. I paired it with the soup from last night, my thought process being that everyone suggested such diverse dinners so I thought that perhaps the pinot would also pair well with it. And it did.

The wine needs to decant, it is still too young to drink straight from the bottle. We didn't decant it, so I let it sit in the glasses for a while. The alcohol scent dissipated and I was left with a great bottle of wine that has a ton of aging potential, but what is in there now is perfect if you let it decant for an hour or so.

This wine hasa gorgeous deep purple color, that's what struck me first when I poured it. Cherries and earthy tones on the nose. Cherry and raspberry and just a slight tobacco and earth note in the mouth. Incredibly smooth and drinkable. Yum. I'm really glad we bought several of these as I am eager to see what it will taste like over the next few years.

Could blogs replace traditional newspapers?

A habit left over from my days of living in the Manhattan area is that I read the NY Times and the NY Post every day. When working in NYC, I would pick up the Post on my way to the subway and then the Times right outside Grand Central as I walked into work. I wouldn't say it was before the time of blogs, but to be honest, it was before I knew what a blog was. In addition to reading both of those papers online, I keep up with the Washington Post and the LA Times regularly, sometimes USA Today, and ocassionally others as well.

Today I ran across this article in the NY Times. 24-Hour Newspaper People. Following up on the article I posted last week from the Washington Post, I am again struck by the amount of attention traditional news outlets are paying to blogs.

The idea of this article is that it has become fairly common for newspaper journalists to run blogs. The author of the article has a blog hosted by the NY Times and he talks about it as if it were his child or his pet. How much attention it needs, how quickly it can draw him in and how the hours disappear when he is working on it. He makes an interesting point about the relationships he has developed through having his blog and that in some way he considers his frequent commentators his friends of a sort. It seems as if the feedback he gets through the blog is both a blessing and a curse. He takes is as a measure of how well "they" like him now.

Which brings me back to my original point. Is a blog a replacement for a traditional print newspaper? Major newspapers all over the country have reporters who also run blogs for them. It allows for instantaneous and unfiltered (well, to an extent) commentary on an article, the author's choice of subject and his treatment of that subject. Today's article even offers an example of a magazine editor, of Business 2.0, who has offered bonuses to his writers to run blogs, with bonuses based on the number of readers. With a traditional print paper or magazine, there was really no meaningful way to track the popularity of an individual writer's particular article, except perhaps by letters to the editor. And in my thought process, those who would take the time to write a letter to an editor is a pretty self-selecting group. Whereas it seems that leaving a comment on a blog is much easier, and at least in my case, infinetly more frequent than the composition of a letter to the editor.

What role will a traditional print newspaper play in the future? I know I personally haven't had a subscription to a paper in at least 8 years, though I did pick up the Times and the Post every day for a period of 6 months 6 years ago.

Visited Two Virginia Vineyards Today

January 15, 2007
I went with our original plan and we stopped by Swedenburg Winery and Chrysalis Vineyards. I was going to check out Dezel from Virginia Vinespot's suggestions, but only one of them was open today. So we will have to save that trip for a weekend! We had a very nice day, though I'm exhausted since we started early with a trip to see some more houses with our real estate agent (I think we found one!!). The weather here is unseasonably warm, high 60s to low 70s, but sadly not too sunny. Here's a picture from Chrysalis, I'll post reviews tomorrow!

Menu for Hope Prizes Announced

Well, I didn't win anything, but maybe you did. Here's the link the Chez Pim.

A great cause, and I'm happy to have participated.

Wine with Dinner Challenge Results.

First, the soup was excellent! I ended up subbing fresh bacon for the bacon bits, adding some chicken stock and putting in more cream so that I had a bigger batch! Much thanks to Roz for the recipe! Secondly, I took Farley from Wine Outlook's advice and paired it with a Rose because it was the "fruitiest" wine I had on hand and it seemed the recommendations were leaning toward that (both Cooking Chat and El Jefe from El Bloggo Torcido suggested fruity reds). We have plenty of leftovers though so I will try it with some of the other suggestions, I just need to get to the wine store. My picture doesn't look as pretty as Roz's, but you'll have to excuse me since our light went out in the kitchen and we were working by candlelight.

The bottle I chose was a 2004 Wilson Winery Merlot Blushing Flamingo. We picked this up at Wilson Winery on our trip this summer. The bottom picture was taken overlooking their vineyard. This was a sharp, dry rose, quite different from many of the sweet ones I am used to and much different from the one we consumed a little later last night.

At 14% alcohol, this is no small wine; it also had a real cork closure. It paired really well with the creamy soup and the spicy sausage, thanks Farley! Strawberries on the nose and in the mouth, with melon and oddly enough a hint of lime. An interesting rose, we have a bottle or two more hanging around. I'm sure it makes a great summer wine (though it may as well have been summer here with temps nearly in the 70s!

A Second Look at a Second Rose

January 14, 2007
I've reviewed this one before, here. It's a Rose from Lost Creek Vineyards in Virginia, where we visited earlier this year. This one weighs in at 12.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. We drank it extremely cold today and it was a pretty darn tasty bottle of wine. Lots of strawberries in the mouth and on the nose. We've had this one hanging around for a few months now, and I think the complete chilling of this one helped a lot. A nice little summer sipper and since it felt like summer again this weekend it was a pretty tasty treat.

Melted Cheese and Chocolate

Plus great company, what more could you ask for? Some tasty bubbly perhaps?

We went out last night to the Melting Pot for dinner with our friends Danielle and Tom. Always excellent to see them, especially over a fun meal. Restaurant week is now over until August, but we took advantage of it again last night.

For dinner we had a melted cheese fondue of swiss cheeses served with various bread, veggies and green apples for dinner. The second course was meat fondue in a vegetable broth, served with terrikayi steak, chicken, shrimp, gorganzola and shrimp ravioli and assorted vegetables. Finally, we had a dark chocolate fondue with marshmellow cream and Oreo crumbles. Yum. Excellent food!!

The meal was pretty much fixed, we could change the cheese and chocolate, but that was about it. So I figured with the mix of food and flavors I would pick a sparkling wine. I haven't had a Cava in a while, so that's what I went with. A Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut. The restaurant price was $28, 11.5% alcohol by volume and a traditional champagne closure. I see that it's available around $10 online, so not a terrible markup for a restaurant.

In the mouth, there were apples, pears and spices, with a hint of either a nectarine or a peach. There were nice little bubbles in the mouth and a good finish. I liked it, and would get it again if I could find it again for $10!

I'm completely frustrated

I am trying my hardest to add those lovely RSS feed and Toast This! features to my blog. And I cannot, for the life of me, get it to work.

I signed the blog up over at Feedburner. Sweet, I can do that much. Then I attempted to put the RSS feed button in the sidebar with my "about me" and all that jazz. No dice. I could get it to show up at the bottom of the blog, but how useless. So I gave up.

Then, I figured, okay, well, I'll go ahead and give the Toast This! Feature a try, as it seemed easier. Wow, I must be really dumb. I followed all the instructions. I activated the Feedflare features, added the button for Toast This!, clicked for both site and feed, saved, and even managed to find the correct place in my html template to insert the generated code. And, still, it is not showing up.

I'll straight up admit that I am an html/computer science challenged idiot. Can anyone help me or tell me what I am doing wrong? Did I miss something, like an initial bit of code I needed to have before I could get the Feedflare codes to work?

:(

Edited to add: Apparently I managed to get the Toast and Digg features to work. In the interest of not deleting this post and because I still can't get the RSS Feed to work, I'll leave it up.

Not a Pinot Grigio Fan

January 13, 2007
We had a bottle of 2005 Weingut Hillinger Pinot Grigio last night. I'm really not a pinot grigio person. They usually don't do much for me, but that's probably because after being subjected to so many bad ones by the glass in bars, at weddings and at people's houses I'm not sure I'm willing to part with my wine money for any more. I find them flabby and lacking character and that leaves me hesitant to buy them.

Matt wanted to try buy this one when were at the Curious Grape. It was inexpensive, around $8, had a plastic cork and is 12% alcohol by volume. I'll say it's better than other pinot grigios I've had, but it still didn't do much for me.

It had an indistinct nose, which generally isn't a good sign. A little sweet and floral in the mouth. I also got some sort of sweet fruits, but I really couldn't pick them out, they just seemed indistinguishable. There was a slight rubbing alcohol aftertaste on this one. It's not for me.

Anyone have any suggestions for a good pinot grigio to give me some faith in this wine?

Same Wine New Review

I reviewed this same bottle a little over a month ago, at this post.

It's a 2004 Bella Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I'm reviewing it again because this bottle tasted different. I don't know if it was the food or the month lapse or perhaps just the bottle. Instead of blueberries and cherries, this time I got black currants, blackberries and sour cherries. I wrote in my tasting notes that it was a little understated and needed more time to come into its own. As we drank the bottle it opened up, but overall it was much more reserved than the last bottle we drank.

Overall, it worked very well with dinner. I made a pan seared filet mignon with a red currant zinfandel reduction served over a bed of 3 cheese risotto with broccoli florets. Having put the zinfandel in the sauce and then serving the same bottle with dinner seemed to really make the whole dish come together and I really actually liked it with the creamy risotto since I didn't get the huge fruit I usually find in a CA zinfandel.

Giant Rats Storm LA

January 12, 2007
Just kidding, but Matt once thought it would be really cool to make a movie about giants destroying Los Angeles. Then we saw it was already made, only about Manhattan. Totally off point except for the fact that last night's wine was a 2005 Roshambo "The Rat" Carignane.

Cost us $17.78 in a club shipment, real cork closure and 14.4% alcohol by volume. On the nose and in the mouth, there was raspberry and pepper in this wine. It reminded me somewhat of a Syrah. The tannins were a little strong on the end, but mellowed considerably as the wine aired. I thought overall this was a really well done wine.

The rats are everywhere!

A Wine with Dinner Challenge

(Like that huh? Yes, I have much spare time today.)

I got a recipe from my friend Roz of Beadimus for Zuppa Toscana and I want to make it this week. (I also borrowed the picture from her, so this is her cooking, yum!)

Here's the recipe:
1 lb. italian sausage
2 large (I usually use 3) potatos, sliced in half then chopped in 1/4 in. slices
1 onion (medium)
1/2 can oscar meyer bacon bits
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale (you can also use swiss chard), chopped
2 cans chicken broth
1 qt. water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
dash of red pepper flakes, optional
salt and pepper to taste
Cook sausages in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Drain sausages on paper towel and cut into slices. Place onions, potatoes, chicken broth, water and garlic into pot and cook on medium heat until potatos are done. Add sausage and bacon, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 10 minutes and then turn on low heat. Add kale and cream. Heat through and serve. I usually serve it with some sort of bread.

What would you serve with this soup? Again, I'm open to all suggestions! When I get home I think I will work on uploading our wine list, but suffice it to say, we have many zinfandels, cabernet sauvignons, sangioveses, various red blends, chardonnays, gewurztraminers, viogniers, various white blends all from CA, plus I am willing to go hunt down a specific bottle if you think something would be perfect with this soup!

A Dinner with Wine Challenge

In attempting to reach my goal of thinking about my wine first and my dinner second at least once, I would like to ask everyone for their help. I have a few bottles of Roederer Estates Pinot Noir (sorry, the year escapes me at the moment, but I want to say 2000) stashed away that we picked up this summer. We haven't had any yet and it's been a while since I've had a Pinot Noir and I'm in the mood. The only review I could find online for the Pinot Noir was a 1998 vintage and it wasn't glowing though the reviewer recommended it (always confused by this, why would you recommend something if you didn't think it was fairly good?).

So I ask you, what would you serve with my Pinot Noir? I'm a pretty decent cook, I've got access to fairly good ingredients at various stores in the area and I'll try almost anything once. My only limitation is that I'm allergic to soy sauce (but not soy, go figure) and celery (yes, I know it's water and fiber and logically you shouldn't be able to be allergic to it, but I am).

If you have any ideas or recipes, I am totally open and would appreciate any suggestions!

Huh?

I've been meaning to post this article from the Washington Post for a couple of days. Bottles with a Princely Pedigree.

Okay, I understand that the bottles of wine are produced at a winery owned by the court of Liechtenstein. But the grapes are grown and the wine is made in Austria. The article says that Liechtenstein wants Americans to find its wines, but then says that most wines are actually made in Austria. So what exactly are we supposed to find? It then goes on to list a few bottles that can be found in the DC area, all of which are from the court winery which again, is in Austria. So wouldn't that make them Austrian wines, simply produced at a winery owned by people who happen to be from Liechtenstein?

Color me confused.

Quietly Passed 100 Posts

And didn't even realize it. Cool. Not bad for a little over 2 months of having this blog. Or disturbing because I have that much time on my hands and we drink that much wine. Oh well, whatever, I'm having a lot of fun with this, so what does it matter? I can think of much poorer ways to spend my time :)

Happy drinking!

Butterfield 9 Food and Wine

January 11, 2007
First, some general comments about the restaurant. It was a little tough to find as the signs sort of fade into the windows! There was a nice bar area to wait in until your tabel is ready with plenty of places to sit. I liked where we were seated in the restaurant, at a comfy corner table in an off the main path room. I would not have liked to be seated at some of the tables as they were so close to the enterance. Overall, the wine list was fairly impressive. They had well over a hundred wines to choose from, all arranged by country of origin. Also, I noticed a selection of about 30 different wines by the glass plus about 10 half bottles of wine. However, the least expensive bottle was $30. Two final observations before we get to the food and wine. The servers did not bring the wine promptly. We ordered the wine pairing and we had our first course easily five or more minutes before we got the first wine, same with the following courses. And, they fed us too fast. We had barely had our first course dishes removed and we certainly hadn't finished the first wine before the next course was on the table (without the next wine). It felt really rushed.

Both of us chose the soup of the day, a clam and lobster bisque for our first course. It came nicely presented, with 2 clames in the center and lighter color soup swirling out from them. Excellent texture and flavor, this was very thin bisque with a hint of chili pepper. The wine pairing was a 2005 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It's available online for $9.99 and is 13% alcohol by volume. I was struck by the tropical fruits on the nose, especially pineapple. In the mouth there was pineapple and I think guava. I wrote that it had a perfect structure and acidity. It was an okay match with the soup, but was a little overpowering. I really liked the wine though.

For the second course, Matt had the roasted pork tenderloin with creamed barley and mustard greens. I had the boneless braised beef short ribs with cheese grits, mixed veggies and truffle oil. Both entrees were excellent, though I didn't try Matt's. My beef was a little fattier than I normally like it but worked well with the bbq sauce. With this course the wine was a 2005 Shoo Fly Aussie Salute Grenache Shiraz from Australia. I got chocolate, spices ad raisins on the nose of this one. In the mouth, I got pepper to start. I could tell this wine hadn't been opened in advance. It was thin in the mouth to start, but opened up over the course of dinner opened up with a nice spice, cedar and berry mix. This really would have benefitted from being decanted and will probably get better with age. A decent pairing, Matt really liked this one.

Finally, dessert. I had the Vanilla Creme Brulee and Matt had the Chocolate Almond Mocha Cheesecake. The brulee was fabulous. Easily the lightest, fluffiest brulee I have every had (usually I'm not a fan because it's too much of a thick custard for me, the texture weirds me out) so I was pleasantly surprised by this. Paired with dessert was a Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato D'Asti from Italy. This was the smallest pour of wine I have every seen, ever. It came in a cordial glass and wasn't even a mouthful of wine! However, I thought this was the best wine of the night and the best pairing. But correct me if I'm wrong, Moscato D'Asti is supposed to be frizzante, right? This had no bubbles. It had a very aromatic bouquet. Floral and light on the nose. In the mouth I got mandarin orange and apricots. Overall, a delicious little wine and very afforable, online for $11.99! It had good structure and great acidity and was served at a perfect temperature.

Wine with Dinner or Dinner with Wine?

I have always been a wine with dinner person. Mainly because I go to the store and plan meals and I know pretty much exactly what I'm making for dinner that week. Less stressful for me since I don't have to come home and debate what I'm making. I also don't find that I have the time to go to the store frequently enough to just whip up something on a whim. Then, I pick a wine to drink with the dinner from our collection.

I've been mulling over the idea of switching this up, at least once in a while so that my dinner is planned around my wine rather than having the wine planned around the dinner. I think I shall pick a bottle this weekend and decide a meal on what would go best with that wine.

So which one are you? Wine with dinner or vice versa?

Blogs and Advertising

Today's Washington Post had a fairly long article about turning a profit while writing a blog. Product Reviews and Links Turn Pages into Profit.

The jist of the article describes several advertising services that connect with blogs and pay them either per click on a link or an image or pay them for a mention/review of their product. It claims that there are currently 63.2 million blogs out there with 175,000 new ones a day and suggests that there is potential to see a closer relationship between bloggers and advertisers in the future. One source estimates that there are several hundred bloggers who make their living running blogs.

An interesting point made in the article is that some of the new firms are requiring that bloggers disclose that they are being paid when they plug an item. I wonder if the same holds true for companies that provide products to bloggers, especially in the electronics industry where I've seen articles about companies distributing a new product to bloggers for review?

I know that I've seen many wine blogs that disclose they received a sample from a winery and I think that's a good thing. I don't know how or if getting something for free would influence your decision, but I do appreciate the transparency when reading the review.

The article is an interesting read, and I think the recognition of blogs in the mainstream media as a good advertising tool speaks to the acceptance of blogs as a legitimate source of consumer information.

Why Heartburn is not Conducive to Being a Wine Lover

January 10, 2007
As I think I have mentioned, I have been suffering from a terrible case of heartburn. It's been on and off for about 2 weeks and pretty much non-stop for the last week. Not fun. I finally decided to research what I could do to make it go away and I've decided that the solutions definetly don't jive with being an avid wine drinker. The highlights are as follows:

1.) Don't drink any alcohol (including wine and beer, apparently they needed to spell that out in case you thought those two weren't included in the definition of alcohol). This would severly limit my consumption of wine and lead to an even bigger backlog of bottles that need to be consumed. Oh, plus I wouldn't have much to post about then, would I?

2.) No eating or drinking within several hours of going to bed. Well, this would either make me incredibly drunk really fast since I'd have to drink my part of the bottle in record time over dinner (which I would have to eat alone since several hours before bed puts me eating around 6 and Matt isn't home by then) or it would mean I only get a glass from the bottle or I just stop eating and drinking, which while it may help with number 6, might just kill me.

3.) Do not bend over. Exactly how am I supposed to pick up cases of wine if I can't bend over? Which leads me to number 4.

4.) No lifting of heavy objects. See response to number 3.

5.) No exercising. Wine has calories and I drink a lot of it. My life plans do not include weighing 5,000 pounds, which might happen if I keep consuming wine and stop exercising.

6.) Lose weight. Anyone see a problem with this one when combined with number 5? Yeah, I thought so.

I thought of more this morning:

7.) Take antacids. There is no wine that pairs well with Tums. While we may sometimes taste chalk in our wines, I really don't think anyone suggests actually eating chalk. Especially with wine. Seriously, have you ever had these things?

8.) Don't wear fitted waist clothes. Apparently any pressure on your waist area increases heartburn. Somehow, I think I might get fired if I showed up to work in sweatpants or sans clothes and then I wouldn't have any money with which to buy wine.

Restaurant Week!

It's restaurant week here in the DC area. Which is excellent since many of the area's best restaurants offer a 3 course meal for only $30.07 (or lunch for $20.07 but I tend to think dinner is a better deal since I rarely go out ot lunch and $20 strikes me as a lot for lunch even if it is fabulous). Tonight we have chosen to go to Butterfield 9, a restaurant I haven't been to before but have heard very good things about. The menu for the evening sounds excellent (one of the dishes even has cheese grits (no, I'm not Southern and I never actually had grits until I moved to the South, but well made cheese grits are such a great homey comfort food), one of my favorite things, as a side dish). Menu. They are also offering a wine pairing with dinner for $19.07. I will look into it to see what the offerings are, there's a good chance we could get better wines for our money this way than if we ordered one $38ish bottle of wine for the two of us. We shall see, as I will definetly want to know what the pairings are before I leap into that one!

Look for a wine and restaurant review tomorrow! I love checking out new places to see what kind of a wine list they have (not to mention the fact that it means I don't actually have to cook today, which has made me very happy all day!). We are also heading out to the Melting Pot this week to take advantage of the special there. Look for that wine review this weekend.

Certainly not Petite

2003 Quivira Petite Sirah. Nothing small about this wine. Big nose, big mouth. I smell blackberry, currants, pepper and vanilla on this one. Dark fruits of many kinds in the mouth, though primarily blackberry. Spicy, some toasted oak in the mouth as well. Tannins at the end would probably mellow a bit more with some age.

Club shipment, $24 minus whatever discount, plus shipping (really, I understand that I don't save anything with the discount since I have to ship it across the country, but eh, I can't get these wines locally). 14.2% alcohol by volume and a real cork closure. Quivira only makes this varietal wine in years they deem to be "exceptional." Otherwise, I gather they blend the grape in their zinfandels. A very good value on this one, and I wish I had another bottle to taste in a year or so to see if the tannins have mellowed out. Though perhaps if I had bothered to decant this for a while, I wouldn't have noticed them at all. And really, that's probably what would have happened as I noticed the wine getting smoother as I made my way through my glass (hey, it took me a while, I was distracted by typing up last night's tasting notes).

A fair match for our dinner of homemade bruschetta (sensing yet that we really like bruschetta?) and porcupines (no silly, not road kill (though that would be interesting, I wonder exactly how one would skin and prepare a porcupine and what it taste like? Chicken probably, everyone always says various meats taste like chicken) but meatballs made with rice and simmered in a beefstock just like my mom used to make). For some reason, I think it would have gone really well with Pasta Bolognese.

Virginia Wine Bill Articles and Info

Sorry to bore those who aren't interested in this topic, but there are only 45 days in the legislative session, and I would like to help draw as much attention as possible to this issue. Especially since it seems that all anyone cares about in the legislature this term are Virginia Transportation issues.

An article in The Free Lance Star, Making a Case, out of Fredricksburg.

Another article in the Daily Progress out of Charlottesville, Bill Seeks to Aid Small Wineries.

Inside Nova has printed Law Makers See Support for Wine Distribution Bill.

The Roanoke Times published Small Wineries May Get a Break.

The Daily Press out of Hampton Road has Pushing Their Case for a New Solution.

In the Newsleader out of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Wineries' Progress Corked by Unecessarily Stringent Federal Court Ruling.

I also urge you to continue monitoring Allan's site at the Cellar Blog. In addition to his interview with Saxman, he has now interviewed the owners of two small Virginia vineyards on the effect of the current law on their business.

I also see that Doug on Below the Beltway is offering some thoughts.

Again, here is the link to find your legislator. Call or write now!

Spiced Pear

January 9, 2007
A bottle of Velt.1 2005 Gruner Veltliner. Cost $13.99 at the Curious Grape on Saturday in our quest for everyday wine, screw-cap closure and 12% alcohol by volume (though their website says 12.5%). My first Austrian wine (I think, though I've had people show me I'm wrong before, but I really think this is the first Austrian one).

Nice nose of spiced pear and apple. Crisp and acidic in the mouth, a very light feel. Big granny smith apple in the mouth. I served it with chicken roll-ups, brocolli and white rice, with a cream sauce. Decent match since the sauce is creamy and thick, good acidity and minerals to cut through the flavors. I like it a lot, but Matt, not so much. But I'm a big fan of crisp white wines, he prefers much sweeter whites and wines in general than I do. Some so sweet I can't even tolerate them. I will convince him my crisp ones are better, someday....

Never had this grape before either. So off I go to my trusty Oxford Companion to Wine to figure out what in the world it is. Apparently, it's the most widely planted grape and Austria and with time in the bottle an excellent one can taste like a Burgundy. I find it most interesting that the website for the wine proclaims it to be most commonly found at progressive picnics.....(I'm assuming they mean picnics where you progress from one station to the next, kind of like a progressive house party, appetizers at one, main course at the next, etc. Though I have never heard of a progressive picnic before!).

Virginia Winery Suggestions?

We were talking last night about what we want to do on Monday since we have the day off from work. Matt suggested a trip to visit more winieries in Virginia. We don't want to go too far from home this time, so within an hour and a half of Arlington please!

Last time we ventured out we stopped out Tarara, Willowcraft, Lost Creek and Hiddenbrook. We've also been to the Williamsburg Winery at least a dozen times, though that's farther than we want to go on Monday!

I'm thinking maybe Chrysalis Vinyeards and Swedenburg Wines in Middleburg, VA, but if you have suggestions that would be in a bit more of a cluster (or ones we could visit on that trip) that would be great. Ideally, we would hit 3 or 4 in the course of a day. Hopefully one would have light lunch fare available, or else be near a town with food options.

I appreciate any and all suggestions. Even if it's a completely different area than what I currently have in mind. Thanks!

Wine Cork Wreath

January 8, 2007

Thanks to Farley of Wine Outlook for the idea of a wine cork wreath. And to Roz of Beadimus for searching out this picture for me. This actually looks pretty cool and I think it will be my next wine cork project (considering it will probably take me until next Christmas to actually finish it.....). Plus, I think I will need quite a few corks to actually make this look good or else it might look a touch skimpy....I wonder what other things are out there that people have come up with to do with their corks? I've seen a table top, the standard corkboard kits, trivets and trays from Wine Enthusiast and of course the cork reindeer ornament my mom found this season. Not to mention my placecards of course. :)

A Liter of Wine!

Matt accidentally opened the botttle in our wine fridge that holds a liter of wine. Generally I don't like to drink that much on a work night, but it's open and I don't have a cool wine preservation system (birthday gift perhaps) like huevos con vino so I guess we were stuck consuming it last night.

A 2004 Muller-Thurgau Halbtrocken from Germany. Screw-cap, cost $10.99 at the Curious Grape and is 12.5% alcohol by volume. This was a light, floral wine, with just a hint of citrus. I got mostly flowers, both on the nose and in the mouth. It's simply a very easy, not fancy or deep white table wine.

I served it with green beans, lemon-herb chicken and herbed fried potatoes. It was a decent match and it wasn't long before the bottle was gone, despite it being larger than normal.

Overall, simple, easy to drink, light table wine.

More on Virginia Bill

Just a round up of some recent articles and blog posts concerning the new Virginia Wine Bill that would allows both instate and out of state wineries to self-distribute up to 3000 cases of wine in Virginia a year, effectively reinstating a right held by Virginia wineries for the last 20+ years.

Popping the Cork in The Virginian Gazette out of Halifax County, published this morning.

Virginia Wineries Want Law Changed also in the Potomac News.

A Call to Action issued by the Virginia Vineyards Assocation, including talking points about the proposed bill.

The article I already posted on WTOP News from January 4.

Dezel over at Virginia Vine Spot offers his thoughts on the matter.

Allan at The Cellar Blog has several posts on the topic, including an interview with Delegate Saxman, a sponsor of the bill.

Kelly from Kelly's Grape Times posts a short synopsis.

Wine and Spirits Daily has a small blurb.

You can find your legislator here.

I urge you to call or write your legislator ASAP. There isn't much time in this legislative session to get this law through. I will post more links as they become available.

A Swing and a Miss

January 7, 2007
A bottle of Adega de Pegoes 2005 Vihno Blanco, purchased at the Curious Grape for $6.99 while seraching for everyday wines. 12% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

The nose of this bottle had a lot of promise. It was very floral and had a huge aroma. It was also very fruity on the nose, with pears, peaches and melons showing through. I also thought I got a whiff of the muscat grape.

What a disappointment in the mouth. There was no delivery on the flavors in the nose. It was simply flat, lacking any real flavor. It tasted like sweet water. Surprising, it got a little better when I ate some chocolate with it, but not enough to make me run out and get another bottle. I will keep looking for my everyday wine, this one was all show and no action.

Juicy and Delicious

My first note on this bottle of 2004 Old Vine Zinfandel from Alderbrook is "yum." And really that sums it up. Everything you would expect from a big CA zinfandel. Big mouthfuls of blackberries and cherries, just full of fruit in the mouth. As well as a very smooth bottle of wine in the mouth. There was just a bit of heat on the finish, but not much and not offensive. I didn't decant this one because I wanted a big red to pair with our leftover pizza and bbq pork (I know, kind of a disgusting combo of food, but it was time to eat the leftovers!). It was a very juicy bottle of wine, and it had a gorgeous inky purple color in the glass.

On the nose there were cherries and blackberries as well as just a bit of oak. I would suggest drinking this bottle now or relatively soon, I think it's just about perfect now. Although I didn't decant this one, perhaps you might want to, not for the sake of letting it air, but because it had a lot of sediment in the bottle, all of which ended up in our glasses. This one is 14.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure and ran us around $20 in our club shipment.

Two Days Late and a $ Short

My little notebook of wine tastings got left in the car when we were out buying wine on Saturday, so I'm a touch late with my Thursday night wine review. Today you get a picture of both the wine and the dinner, mainly because I'm extrememly proud of my pizza making skills, and two, to show my friends and family that I can cook (see, homemade crust and all!).

Normally I would pair a red with our pizza and I had a bottle of zinfandel inthe wine fridge that I had intended to serve with bbq pulled pork I made the other night. However, my heartburn was still raging and for some reason, although I know no alcohol is good for it, I thought perhaps a white might hurt less than a red? No real logic there, but in anycase...

The bottle was a 2005 Domaine Jouclary Sauvignon. Picked it up at Arrowine for $7.99 in our quest for everyday wine. It had a synthetic cork and weighs in 13% alcohol by volume. Melon on the nose, with a slight acidic note. In the mouth there was melon, lemon and a creamy feel. I almost want to say there was just a touch of a butterscotch taste in there. It was interesting for a $7.99 bottle of wine, I'd try it again.

The Bag of Corks

January 6, 2007
Now, I would hazard a guess that many an avid wine drinker finds themselves, at one time or another with a bag of corks. Or a box, or perhaps, as was the case in my last apartment, an entire drawer. For whatever the reason, I think many of us just don't want to throw the corks away. This is a picture of our bag of corks. It currently resides on top of our wine fridge. At the moment, it is not as alarmingly full as it once was, since over the summer I did this to our corks in order to make placecards for our wedding. At the time, I wasn't sure I would have enough. The joke was on me. After making over one hundred of these placecards for our wedding, I still had a bag of corks. And that bag has not gotten any smaller in size over the course of the fall. So today I went and bought this corkboard kit at the Curious Grape. I first saw one back in the day at the Williamsburg Winery and thought it was pretty darn nifty which is why I had all the corks in the first place. Then I thought it would be much more fun to use them at the wedding since they were all bottles we had consumed at one point or another over the previous 3 years. (I'm really not sure that says great things about our consumption habits, but hey, I was a law student at the time, does that give me a good enough excuse?) Personal touch and whatnot. Plus we put half bottles of wine in all the welcome bags at the hotel, so it was kind of going on a theme or something.

Which brings us to today's purchase. The kit says you need around 200 corks. Which will probably leave me with around 200 extras. So what to do with the rest? I did see a creative idea this year. My mom sent me a reindeer ornament made of corks. It was quite cute, and clearly thought up by someone who has a creative gene I am missing. Oh well. Anyone need a cork trivet? Or twelve? And please, tell me I'm not the only nut that saves wine corks. And if I am, lie to me, I promise, I won't hold it against you! I'll take a picture of the finished product, hopefully I won't hotglue a cork to myself.

La Vita Italiana

Dinner last night found us checking out a new restaurant that I'm actually surprised we hadn't been to before as it is quite close to Matt's last place. The Ristorante Murali is located on Pentagon Row and was absolutely fantastic. We had spinach, feta and cherry tomato foccacia to start, Matt had the meat lasagne, I had crab meat ravioli in vodka sauce and we finished with divine cannolis. Delicious! Tasted like my gramma used to make and they actually had Italian folks who own the place, cook the food and do the serving.

And of course the wine. Not a long wine list, but a decent selection, heavy on the Pinto Grigio for the whites. I wasn't in the mood for a Pinot Grigio, so I selected this bottle of 2005 Novilunio Orvieto. One thing (and probably one of the only things) I love about VA law is that it permits you to take home your bottle of wine if you do not finish it, which we took advantage of last night. The bottle is 12% alcohol by volume, had a real cork and cost us $28 at the restaurant. I see the 2004 listed online for $7.99.

I thought it had a little bit of a note of green olives on the nose. It was light and dry in the mouth, with just a ton of minerals. A very long finish, generally a crisp white table wine. It actually paired very well with our meal. It also reminded me that we don't drink many Italian wines, and perhaps we should!

Nothing to do with wine #2

January 4, 2007
Sorry, I attempt to resist posting non-wine things, but occassionally certain things strike me and I have to share.

Go watch this: Crack Spider on You Tube. It's hilarious and I really don't like spiders.