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Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis

Updated: 2018-04-09T09:50:54.691-04:00


Visiting Virginia Cideries in Charlottesville


In colonial times cider was the drink of choice in Virginia. It was easy to make, safer than drinking the water and apples in Virginia were abundant. With the advent of beer and hard liquors, cider fell out of favor, but never completely disappeared.The good news is that cider is making a comeback in Virginia (and other places). It makes sense, Virginia grows some of the best apples in the world and cider makes for a nice refreshing drink that is (generally) low in alcohol.We were in Charlottesville for our anniversary recently and decided to do a tour of cideries. We started with Albemarle Cider Works, one of the most respected cideries in Virginia.The tasting room is warm and friendly, and our hostess was very knowledgable about the different types of ciders they have as well as the cider making process. It was a great first stop to learn a lot about how cider is made in Virginia and the history of cider.Our two favorites were the Pomme Mary and the Jupiter's Legacy. The Pomme Mary has a hint of sweetness that would pair well with spicy food. Jupiter's Legacy, on the other hand is a bolder cider with an ABV of 8.5% and a rotating blend of 20 types of apples. I was surprised at how much I liked this cider but it had a nice creamy finish to it.Our next stop was Bold Rock Cidery at Carter Mountain Orchard. Bold Rock is available at almost any grocery store in Virginia and is probably the most well-known cidery in the state, but it is worth it to visit their cidery for the view alone, plus they have apple cider donuts!The ciders were generally good. But their seasonal ciders were excellent. We particularly enjoyed their Blood Orange Cider, which had a unique tartness to it that contrasted nicely with the apple. It is nice to see a local Virginia Cidery get such national acclaim and it is worth visiting their tasting room to try some of the experimental flavors that are not widely available in the grocery store.  Our final stop of the day was Castle Hill Cider. Castle Hill is located on an orchard that was the first to grow the Albemarle Pippen Apples in the 1700s. They also use the Georgian winemaking technique of fermenting some of their ciders in terra-cotta vessels buried underground.  The two ciders that stood out for us were the Serendipity and the Celestial. The Serendipity is a refreshing cider that is very smooth and crisp. A cider to drink on a hot day. The Celestial uses a blend of apples that adds a touch of tartness and a slightly higher alcohol content. But the cider is still refreshing and smooth.It was a good day in Virginia cider country and we look forward to sampling more of Virginia's ciders. [...]

Will There Be a Next Generation of Loudoun County Winemakers?


I will be honest, I have been neglecting my Loudoun winemaking friends recently. My opinion of Loudoun County wine has not changed, but I simply have not had the time recently to visit vineyards the way I used to, too many other obligations.In my absence (hopefully not because of my absence) a number of Loudoun County wineries have gone up for sale. Notaviva Vineyards, Northgate Vineyard, Dry Mill Vineyards, Doukenie Winery, and a couple of others are all on the market, or at least entertaining offers.To be honest, I don't blame the owners for wanting to sell. The more I learn about operating a winery, managing vineyards and making wine the less I want to own a vineyard. Winemaking is a brutal industry where one bad storm can destroy years worth of work. If nature doesn't get you, the Virginia ABC will. And, if the Virginia ABC doesn't customers who demand hand crafted, well-balanced wine, with lots of fruit and tannins and a smooth finish will.In fact one winemaker, recently quipped to me that he was excited that he was finally a millionaire. All he had to do to get his millions was sell his vineyard, tasting room, and all of his wine. Until he does that, he is living paycheck to paycheck just like the rest of us.But, here is the problem: Loudoun County winemakers have done some amazing things with their wine in a relatively short period of time. Just over 30 years is nothing in wine years. Vines planted at the start of the Loudoun County wine era are just reaching middle age and could have another 40 years in them, but who will be there to tend to them then? Loudoun is producing excellent wine, but it is not producing the next generation of winemaker.When you travel around Bordeaux there are certain family names you hear over and over again. The Lurtons, the Rothschilds, the Cazes and many others are well-known throughout Bordeaux. But, even outside of those families many Châteaux in Bordeaux have been in one family for generations. When you walk the vineyards with these owners they know the land and vines inside and out, because they grew up playing in the vineyards and helping to make wine.That doesn't seem to be the case in Loudoun County. The children of today's winemakers seem to want to get out of the vineyard as quickly as possible. They want to work in other fields, live in other areas. There is nothing wrong with that, no one should be forced to do the same job as their father or mother, but I worry that this means there won't be someone to carry on the amazing work their parents have started.There are a couple of exceptions to this, of course. The Hatch family at Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is a family affair and Tremain seems determined to carry on the family business. Katie and Anna at Casanel Vineyards have gotten Anna's young daughters involved in the process early and plan to keep them engaged as long as they are interested.While there will always be turnover in the world of wine, second and third generation vineyard and winery owners are important for continuity and to improve on the work their parents started. I think that second generation is what is needed to turn Loudoun from a good wine region to a legendary one.[...]

Château Coutet Celebrates 40th Anniversary with a Special Offer


Drinking older Bordeaux is a treat that everyone should try at some point in their lives, but it is an even bigger treat when those wines come directly from the Château. There is just something special about drinking a wine that has been aged for 15, 20 years in the library of the Château and delivered directly to you.

That is the special offer that our friends at Château Coutet are offering specifically for Americans. From our friend, Aline Baly:

To thank you for all these years of support, Philippe, Dominique and I have decided to offer you a special opportunity from the Château’s private cellar, a treasure chest of gold… Coutet 1870? A solitary bottle divided amongst all our American friends would not do… The decision came down to determining which vintages of Coutet’s signature freshness and vivacity would match our annual Thanksgiving menu! A tasting session was scheduled: rehearsal Thanksgiving dinner in July to test this year's yet to be unveiled holiday menu!
The two wines we have selected for this special offer are the perfect match for two of this year's holiday dishes! The Coutet 2000 for a savory pairing experience with the “cranberry, smoked pancetta and red onion filo tartlets”, while the Coutet 1995 found its match with “grilled peaches, apricot and pine-nut shortbread with poached strawberries”.
Château Coutet is working with the team at VinConnect to deliver this offer. VinConnect has a special form set up to order the holiday pack, you can find it here.

The deadline to order the wines so they arrive by Thanksgiving is today, September 13th, so get your order in fast. It is a very rare opportunity to have two drink two amazing wines direct from the Château, don't miss out.

Domaine Storage DC Lounge Re-Opens



When Domaine Storage opened their wine storage facility in Washington DC a few years back one of the coolest features of the facility was its tasting room and lounge. It was a great place for entertaining and hosting tastings.

Unfortunately, the tasting area ran afoul of local ABC laws, and was shut down. But the team at Domaine has been working with the local government in Washington DC (and, because of DC weirdness, the federal government) and tasting area has been re-opened.  From a note they sent to their customers yesterday:

Through a concerted effort that included major wholesalers, Domaine DC, the director of ABRA and our liquor attorney, we were successful in drafting new legislation included in The Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Ammendment Act of 2016 (B21-0849) which formally allows tastings at wholesalers and storage warehouses. As the only permitted private storage warehouse in the District, we are thrilled to announce that the tasting room and lounge will be available again soon, exclusively for Domaine clients. While the wheels of legislation move slowly (including a review by the US Congress) we are thankful for the support of Mayor Bowser, Director Moosally, the DC Council and the citizens of DC who strongly supported this new law. 
They expect to have the room up and running in a few weeks. Congratulations to the team at Domaine Storage for the great work. I can't wait to see the new space. 

Interview with Jane Anson + The Club of Nine Book Signing October 19th in NYC


The incredibly talented Jane Anson has a new book coming out this month entitled The Club of Nine. The book, which is really the work of famed photographer Andy Katz is a pictorial of the most famous Chateaux in Bordeax: Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Petrus and Yquem. However, pictures alone cannot describe these Chateaux or relay their history, which is where Anson comes in. Very few writers know Bordeaux as well as she does, and her style of writing can bring thousands of years of history alive to the reader. Combining a world-renown photographer with a Louis Roederer award winning writer makes for a powerful combination.Anson and Katz will be in New York City on October 19th for a book release party and signing.  The signing will be held at 25 Madison Ave and is open to the public. It is absolutely worth stopping by to listen to Anson speak and learn more about these great estates. Details, and RSVP information are available in the invitation on the right.  If you are in the city, definitely stop by and buy a copy of the book!Anson was also kind enough to sit down for an interview with is always fun to learn how truly great writers approach their craft:1. How did you get started writing about wine, and what made you decide to move to Bordeaux?Weirdly, I am just about to meet up in New York with the man that got me first interested in writing about wine! I first met him - Jabulani Ntshangase - back in 1996, while visiting the Cape wine lands in South Africa. He was the first black manager of Spier winery, having moved back to Cape Town from New York where he worked for Acker I believe. I was already a journalist at the time, visiting from Hong Kong where I was living, and it was through interviewing him that I first really understood just what a fascinating world wine can be - the whole intersection of politics, economics, history, geography and pleasure!  I didn't move to Bordeaux until 2003 (and was in London in between), but by that point I had become more and more interested in writing about wine, and decided that if I was going to specialise in any one area, that Bordeaux offered infinite possibilities...2. Many wine writers have a wine, an "it" wine that spurred their lifelong passion. Do you have one and what was/is it?Not exactly the one moment... when living in Hong Kong in my early 20s I discovered Italian wine from Carmignano - not one of the most prestigious parts of Tuscany really, but the first region that I felt some sense of ownership over. At roughly the same time, when back in the UK on holiday, my godmother brought a bottle of Barsac (I think it was a Climens but honestly I may be projecting retrospectively!) over for supper and we matched it with an apricot crumble that I had made, and I clearly remember what a stunning combination it was. Combine those events with visiting South Africa and its vineyards, and I just starting falling in love with wine in its myriad forms. On moving to Bordeaux, it was a Lynch Bages 1996 that was my first utterly 'wow' moment with wine - drunk way way too young in 2003.3. Tell me about "The Club Nine", how it came about and what people can expect from it?This is a project that was initiated by Andy Katz, a truly wonderful and multi-award-winning photographer who has worked in many vineyard regions over the years. He has produced a book on Tuscany with Hugh Johnson and on Burgundy with Nicolas Faith and Robert Parker. For this one, he spent just over a year working with the Club of Nine chateaux in Bordeaux - so Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux, Haut Brion, Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Petrus. Legendary wines that have a shared research and development grouping called The Club of Nine, hence the title. The book is truly full of just stunning, lavish photographs taken that bring these estates to life. Many[...]

Upside Down Fermenting?


I heard about this while I was in Bordeaux and thought it was a neat idea, but I didn't have all of the details at the time. The image above is the <> fermenter, created by the team at Tonnellerie Radoux, one of the world's best-known cooperages. The idea behind the <> fermenter is that it will improve the color and tannins of a wine by allowing winemakers to extract the wine in a more gentle fashion than traditional punchdown methods.  

The <> fermenter takes advantage of gravity and a conical shape, that is very much in fashion with fermenters, to improve the quality of the wine.  Of course, all of this is in theory -- fortunately Jean-Luc Thunevin put it to the test with the 2015, vintage.  

Here is how the test worked:
The first experiment with this new vinification tool was carried out during the 2015 grape harvest. A cabernet franc from a 25-year-old vineyard with chalky soil was chosen for this test. The best bunches on the vine were handpicked and sorted. 
Two batches, harvested the same day and on the same section of the vineyard were isolated and fermented using whole grapes, one in the « Upside-down » fermenter, the other in a 400 liter barrel with an open head.

The vinification protocol was identical for both batches: cold pre-fermentation maceration over 8 days with 2 turns of the « Upside-down » fermenter and 2 daily punch-down operations for the barrel.   Then, after the beginning of fermentation, 5 half turns a day over 5 days for the « upside-down » fermenter and 6 punch-down operations for the barrel. Finally, during extended maceration (between 2 weeks for the barrel and 3 weeks for the « Upside-down » fermenter) 4 and a half turns and 2 and a half turns were made every day with equivalent stirring for the barrel. After the drawing off and gentle pressing, the two batches were transferred, along with the juice solids, into new barrels.

The end result is that the wine aged in the <> fermenter showed more color and more intensity. Of course, that could just be bias of the tasters, so they did a second test:

The tasting results are confirmed by laboratory analyses, with evidence of a better average colorimetric index with the batch prepared in the « Upside-down » fermenter.  The more intense color indicates that the extracted anthocyanins were better or more quickly stabilized by the system used with the « Upside-down » fermenter.  In addition, the higher level of anthocyanins combined with the tannins reduces the sensation of astringency and renders the tannins more silky on the palate.
 Overall, I think it is an interesting technology and, at first blush, it seems to have worked.  Of course, 2015 in Bordeaux was a near perfect vintage. The real test will come with how it performs on a less than stellar vintage.  

How a German Soldier Saved Bordeaux Wine During World War II


Indulge me for a minute, this post is going to tie in a few threads from different places around the world.  A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the library at Château Siran in Margaux.  I have actually been to a number of libraries in Bordeaux, but this is the first I have ever seen that was behind a bank vault. The library, as with so many libraries in Bordeaux is impressive, with wines going back to the 1800s and probably some, so faded that you can't read the labels any more, from even earlier.I am always overwhelmed by the history in these libraries and all of the stories that these bottles hold.  But, it didn't occur to me until recently that this history almost didn't exist.  Last year Kris and I toured a few wineries in Oregon.  One of the wineries we visited was Domaine Drouhin, a winery with deep ties to the Burgundy region in France.  While there, in addition to tasting some excellent wines, we picked up a copy of the book Wine & War (available everywhere, and you should read it).  The book talks about the struggles of the French to save their wine and their vineyards during the German occupation of World War II.  Call me a stupid American, but it has never occurred to me during all of my library visits that these libraries should not exist.  Bordeaux was part of occupied France during World War II and the Germans plundered everything from the great art of the Louvre to all of the Champagne in Champagne.  But, Bordeaux remained surprisingly in tact.  A lot of that has to do with Heinz Bömers, the German soldier who led the occupation of Bordeaux.  Known locally as the Weinfuhrer Bömer worked with the people of Bordeaux, as much as he could, to ensure that their history would not be plundered and their legacy destroyed. The book is a fascinating one, and one that I highly encourage reading.  Not just to learn more about Bömer but also the brave Château owners that protected their Jewish friends and persevered to ensure their wine was made even during the darkest of times.  [...]

Cité du Vin Opens in Bordeaux


Today marks the greatly anticipated opening of the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.  Billed by many as "wine theme park", the Cité du Vin is a monument to wine from all over the world.  The Cité du Vin offers visitors a tour of the 8000+ year history of wine with a mix of temporary and permanent exhibits.  The first of which will open on July 13th and will feature a tour of wine from the Republic of Georgia, which is thought to be the origin of viticulture.  

The museum itself towers above Bordeaux and offers beautiful views of the city and the river that divides the left bank from the right.  It has been fun watching the construction of the museum over the last few years, as you can see in the middle left of the picture below, taken in 2015 during the Weekend des Grands Crus.  

And the above picture taking during En Primeur this year, where you can see the building was complete, and the plants were just starting to peak through their cover.  

The museum hosted a sneak peek for journalists from around the world yesterday and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.  I cannot wait until my next visit to Bordeaux to check it out.  

Why Can't Virginia Create a Virginia Wine License Plate?


Back in 2007 the Virginia Wine Industry launched an effort to get a customized Virginia Wine License plate. They could not get enough pre-purchases.  In 2011, the effort was revived, again to no avail.   

This effort was started up again last year, but fizzled out.  So, why can't Virginia Wine lovers and industry members get organized to enough to create a custom license place?

For those that don't know, Virginia has dozens of different types of customized plates supporting everything from the Eastern Shore to Harley Davidson.  in order to create a customized plate, all you need is to get 350 people to pre-pay $25 for the plate and the State of Virginia will produce it.  

Virginia currently has 270+ wineries, so just in winery owners there are almost enough people to cover the requirement for the custom tags, but it has been to no avail.  If you count all the people who work in the Virginia Wine Industry, 4700+ as of 2014, there are 10 times the number of people required to pre-order the plates.  Heck, "Friends of Coal"has their own customized license plate and the Coal Industry only employees 3600+ people in Virginia.  

So, why can't the Virginia Wine Industry, generate the type of interest needed to create a custom license plate?  People are passionate about wine, not just the winemakers and employees, but people all over Virginia love Virginia Wine.  So, why can't they generate enough pre-orders?  I don't have an answer, but I think it is worth discussing.  

Image courtesy Swirl, Sip, Snark


Bud break in Bordeaux


It is always a happy coincidence when Mother Nature cooperates and bud break occurs around En Primeur in Bordeaux. Here are some picture from around Margaux.Château Dauzac:Château Brane-Cantenac:Château Margaux:Château Palmer:Château Kirwan:[...]

Loudoun Wineries Brace for Frost on Tuesday


This is why only the most passionate winemakers make wine in Virginia, you never know what you are going to get. With the recent bit of nice weather the vines are starting to come alive. They have been weeping for a while and some vineyards are even reporting bud break. 

Now comes he weather report, with two chances for frost: Tuesday and Saturday. Frost at this stage could seriously damage the vines, a few years back Fabbioli Cellars lost their entire Cabernet Franc crop because of a late frost like this one. 

Now, vineyards will be scrambling to build fires, bring in frost abating equipment and even renting helicopters. Though none of these things will help if the temperatures dip down to 22 degrees, as originally predicted. The good news is that the temperature is ticking up a bit, though not enough. 

At this point all the winemakers can do is hope that the temperature continues to rise and prepare for a long and sleepless Tuesday night. 

If you have a favorite winery in Virginia, stop by Wednesday with some coffee for everyone. They are gong to need it. 

Château Haut-Bailly Space Bottle


Most people have never given any thought to the challenges of drinking wine on a space ship, or for that matter drinking anything on a space ship. But, there are unique challenges to drinking in a low gravity environment. Liquid does not flow in a low gravity environment the way it does on earth. Instead, it pools into droplets that look almost like floating bubbles. That is why astronauts drink water, and other drinks, through a straw.

That is fine for water and juice, but it is not a good way to drink wine.  Fortunately, a young designer, Octave de Gaulle, got curious about drinking wine in space and spent a lot of time, studying the problem.  According to him:
Nowadays drinking in space is no longer a technical problem. However if you drink alcohol from the existing plastic bags, you ruin everything beautiful and good in wine.
You just have to look at modern wine glasses to understand this. These objects are the result of several centuries of research: they sublime wine and involve our sense of smell in tasting thanks to their balloon shape. These glasses channel wine aromas to the nose… I had to find a shape – contrarily to a straw – which preserves the smell aspect of wine consumption.
For his space bottle, Octave chose a round shape. This prevents the wine from collecting in one part of the bottle to avoid contact with air, and makes it so that the wine will be easy to drink. The ring-like shape also means that the wine will be easy to carry and transport.

Octave has chosen the 2009 vintage of Château Haut-Bailly for his first vintage to space. The wine is an exceptional one, from an exceptional year, making it a perfect complement to a unique design and unique mission.

After entering the artistic residence program at the CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales,
Observatoire de l'Espace), Octave de Gaulle is currently exhibiting "Civilising Space" at the Museum
of Decorative Arts and Design of Bordeaux.

11th Annual Weekend des Grands Crus


Next week thousands of journalists will be in Bordeaux to celebrate the 2015 vintage, but just a few months after that thousands of people who love Bordeaux will be in town for what is absolutely the best wine tasting event of the year.

Union des Grands Grus de Bordeaux will hold its 11th annual Le Week-End des Grands Crus on June 4th and 5th this year.  This is an incredible tasting of 120 Bordeaux wines and a chance to chat with the Château owners and winemakers.

But, what makes the event special for me is the chance to have dinner at various Château.  These dinners are always an amazing experience, and one of the hostesses this year is Sophie Schyler Thierry, the charming Director of Communication at Château Kirwan who will show off their completely redesigned cellar.

This really is an amazing experience, you will find the many things to do during the weekend listed on the UGCB website.  It is worth getting a group of friends together and heading to Bordeaux for what will undoubtedly be a beautiful weekend.

.WINE and .VIN Domains Available for Registration


In 2014 I wrote about the potential creation of the .WINE and .VIN domains thought domain registry Donuts.  Well, you can officially register your own .wine and .vin domains through one of the Donuts-affiliated Registrars!In fact, one at least one Virginia Winery is already on-board, Stephen Mackey at Notaviva Vineyards has already registered and I asked him why he did it so quickly:It's too soon to tell if having a .WINE Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) will actually boost your search engine rankings, as Google has indicated that the gTLD does not inform your score.  However, other studies from respected search engine experts do seem to indicate that having keyword-rich domain names does in fact boost your SEO scores.  Though the story still seems to be unfolding, it is Mesh Omnimedia's recommendation that the potential benefits of making the minimal investment required to secure your .WINE gTLD far outweigh the potential risks of losing your brand name to a fan page or cybersquatter.  Once registered to someone else, it can cost thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, to re-purchase a domain name not including the legal fees incurred if the situation is centered around a trademark dispute.  As owners of the NOTAVIVA® trademark it was a no-brainer for us to secure and also followed up with Jeff Davidoff, CMO of Donuts about going from the idea of .wine and .vin to the actual execution:In June of 2014 Donuts announced the intention to offer .wine and .vin domains available for registration. In January of 2016 they are finally available.  What was the process to get from June to now?Wine industry organizations previously expressed concern over protection of certain names at the second level (before the dot) and initiated a process with ICANN (the industry regulator) to address the concerns.  After cooperative consultation with Donuts, however, they withdrew from that process and we proceeded to launch .WINE and .VIN.What do you see as the advantages for companies that register .wine or .vin domains over traditional .com domains?Companies that register .wine or .vin domain names will stand out in a crowded field of wine brands and businesses because these names are more meaningful and memorable. They enable wine connoisseurs, and businesses that serve them, to build identities and vibrant communities for marketing, sale and education.,, and are several examples.The wine industry is not always known for being innovative when it comes to technology, how will you get word to technology-challenged winery owners and convince them to sign up?With the Internet saturated with website URLs ending in .com and .net, it’s gotten very crowded. With hundreds of new “not-com” domains available, businesses entering the wine market have the opportunity to find the perfect website name for the brand. A ‘dot-wine’ domain name ending immediately tells the world you are in the wine businesses.For those worried about security are the .wine and .vin domains DNSSEC enabled?Yes, we support DNSSEC in all of our gTLDs, including .WINE and .VIN.                                                                          [...]

Interview with Adam Centamore, Author of Tasting Wine & Cheese


[Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher]Wine and cheese pairing is something that many people, including a surprising number of restaurants get wrong. I think a lot of that has to do with how we in the United States think about how we pair our cheeses.  I have been to restaurants where they offer cheese plates based on region (e.g. American cheeses vs European cheeses), but there is such a wide variety of cheeses from each region that it makes it difficult to pair a single wine with the plate.  Consumers often have it worse, unless there is a cheese shop around, or a grocery store with a good cheese selection and a knowledgable staff you are often relegated to choosing a pre-made cheese tray with no control over the types of cheeses used.  That is one of the things that Adam Centamore's new book Tasting Wine & Cheese helps readers overcome: Understanding the different cheese taste profiles and how to match those profiles with the perfect wine.  Adam steps through almost 50 different types of wine ranging from Albariño to Zinfandel and matches them with some excellent cheese selections.  Each wine gets its own section and few cheese suggestions as well as some beautiful pictures to entice the reader to try the pairing (I have already visited a couple of times to order some of the suggested cheeses).  One thing I especially liked about the book, especially during this time of holiday parties, was the specificity when it comes to sparkling and dessert wines.  Adam breaks down 7 different sparkling wines and 8 different dessert wines, to ensure each one gets a perfect pairing.  If you host a lot of wine dinners and are looking for some great advice to ensure all of your pairings are perfect this is a great book.  But, it is also a great book if you are like us, where sometimes you want to have a glass of wine and match it to a great cheese.  Frankly, it also makes a really interesting Christmas present for wine lovers on your list.  Adam was nice enough to sit down with me to answer some questions, you can find the interview below:1. What first drew you to a career in wine, and how did that translate to a passion for wine and cheese pairing?My interest in wine, and food in general, comes from growing up in a household where food was everything. When something good happened, we ate & drank. When something bad happened, we ate & drank even more. Food was (and is) such an important part of how my family interacts and relates to each other and life. This foundation has always kept me close to the kitchen, and given me an appreciation for the power of food. I first fell in love with wine around fifteen years ago when I found myself let go from my job. With part of my severance I bought a case of wine, letting the salesman pick out a variety for me as I didn’t know much at the time. That night, I happened to open a bottle of oaky California Chardonnay to drink with my fish n’ chips. The buttery wine mixing with the crispy batter-fried fish and french fries completely knocked my socks off. It was nothing short of an epiphany. From that moment on, I paid close attention to how what I was eating interacted with what I was drinking. As I’m an avid cheese eater, it wasn’t long until my notebooks had more wine & cheese pairing notes in them than anything else. I kept coming back to those combinations, and revisiting them. Brunch, appetizers, dessert - it didn’t matter. Wine & cheese kept calling me, and I was all too happy to oblige the siren song. Years later, when I completed my cheese certification through Boston Un[...]

Château Angélus Makes an Appearance in Spectre


The latest James Bond film, Spectre, has a number of famous stars including a bottle of 2005 Château Angélus.  This is the second Bond film in which Château Angélus has made an appearance, a bottle also appeared in the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale. The bottle appears in an action-packed train scene featuring James Bond (Daniel Craig and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux).

If you would like to drink like Bond you can pick up a bottle of 2005 Château Angélus from Zachys in New York for $439. That being said, even though it is starting to open up I would wait a few more years to drink it.

Virginia Wineries Race to Finish Harvest Ahead of Joaquin


Joaquin has been upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane and is heading up the east coast toward Virginia.  In fact most of Virginia is expecting heavy rains between now and Tuesday.  This could be a disastrous ending to what has been, to this point, a potentially excellent vintage for Virginia wineries.

Most whites and many reds have already been harvested in Virginia, but there are still late harvest grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, still waiting to be picked.  A deluge of rain at this point can damage grapes.  It can also cause bloat in the grapes, leading to a thin wine.

Here is hoping to a quick and successful end to harvest for Virginia wineries, and if you have time check with your local winery to see if they need help harvesting over the next couple of days.

Photo courtesy National Weather Service

Tre Sorrelle Vertical with Doug Fabbioli


Every winery that has been around for any length of time develops some signature wines.  These are the wines that the winery owner or winemaker are most passionate about making and these wines develop a signature profile that is reflected from vintage to vintage.  The team at Breaux Vineyards has known this and their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo verticals are among their most popular events. Beyond Breaux there are wines from other wineries around Virginia that really are the signature wines for that winery or that winemaker.  Jim Law has his Hardscrabble Red and Hardscrabble Chardonnay, Luca Paschina has his Octagon, and Doug Fabbioli has his Tre Sorrelle. Tre Sorrelle is one of my favorite Virginia wines and has been for many years.  I didn't realize how long it had been a favorite wine, until I realized we had bottles dating back to 2005.  The only vintage we did not have was 2007, but we decided to host a Tre Sorrelle vertical and Doug & Colleen graciously agreed to attend, they were even nice enough to bring a bottle of 2007 and the not-yet-released 2013. Tre Sorrelle is a right bank Bordeaux-style blend, meaning it is base wine is Merlot. Except for the 2005 vintage, which has a Tannat base.  That is the first thing everyone noticed: the 2005 feels like a young fresh wine, with great fruit and tannin balance -- it feels like it has another 10 years on it [If this is typical, those of you drinking all of your Virginia Tannats now are going to regret missing out on the amazing wines they will become in 10 years].2007 and 2010 were great years for Virginia wine and the Tre Sorelle from those vintages reflected the hot dry summers of those years.  They were both tannic wines, with the fruit starting to bleed its way through showing some cranberry and red cherry.  The 2012 vintage is beautifully balanced with nice red fruits on the mouth, followed by a long tannic finish.  The 2013 is definitely a young wine, really showing its tannins at this point, but starting to mellow just a little bit. The thing is, despite the radically different weather patterns from vintage to vintage (Virginia never has an "easy" growing season) the essence of wine remains the same from year to year.  Part of that is caring hand that Doug shows this wine, his baby, but the other part of that is that Doug produces a wine that reflects the land in which the wine is grown, respects the terroir of the vineyard.  This shows through vintage after vintage.  While some vintages have more tannins than others, and some have more fruit, there is an identifying taste profile to the wine that screams Tre Sorrelle -- well, maybe scream is too strong, but it makes itself known.Tre Sorrelle is a wine that is delivered drinkable, you can pop open a 2012 vintage tonight grill up some lamb or steak and very much enjoy it.  However, it is also a wine that is clearly designed to be aged -- held back for a special dinner or to enjoy with a group of friends 5 years from now as you remember your visit to Fabbioli. [...]

The 6th Annual #CabernetDay is Today


It is hard to believe that today is the 6th annual #CabernetDay, but here it is.  Started in 2009 by Rick Bakas the event really has taken on a life of its own with wineries all over the world celebrating one of the most popular grapes in the world.  

How do you celebrate #CabernetDay 2015? By opening a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or its father, Cabernet Franc and enjoying it.  Or even better, get a group of friends together and share a couple of bottles.  

In case you want some trivia points to discuss over your wine I had a friend put together this infographic with some fun facts about Cabernet Sauvignon.  Enjoy!

33entrepreneurs is Coming to America


During my last trip to Bordeaux I was lucky enough to visit the the 33entrepreneurs team at their very cool office located in the Bourse Maritime building right on the waterfront.  33entrepreneurs was started in 2014 with goal of investing in start up companies in the food, wine and tourism space.  They wanted to take advantage of their connections and collective knowledge of the people within Bordeaux to guide these startups from their infancy to becoming successful businesses.  Having completed their first demo day on June 4th of this year the team at 33entrepreneurs is setting their sites on North America with a multi-city startup tour in July.  They have even released a video and set up a dedicated website: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">The tour starts in New York City on July 8th and finishes up in San Francisco on July 30th.  If you have a food, wine or tourism startup that meets their minimum requirements you should absolutely try to make it to one of their pitch contests on the tour.  It is an incredible opportunity to move your company forward and you would be hard pressed to find a better set of mentors.  [...]

Are More Americans Discovering Bordeaux?


In 2008, during my first trip to Bordeaux, I was struck by how few Americans I ran into (though, oddly, I did get to meet comedian Lewis Black who was there on vacation). Antecdotally, that seems to be changing.  

I think Bordeaux suffers from the same problem that upstate New York does: when you say New York, people immediately think of New York City. Similarly, in the United States when you France, people immediately think of Paris. But, Bordeaux has so much to offer, aside from wine, that I think Americans are starting to realize it is worth the trip to this city. 

First, my antecdotal evidence: there was a marked increase in the number of Americans who attended the Weekend des Grands Crus this weekend. Compared to previous years, I heard a lot of American accents. I also ran into a number of Americans dining throughout the city.  More so than I have seen in the past. But, it is not just me. Several Châteaux gave reported a 7-10% increase in visitors from the United States this year. Finally, our local NPR station is hosting its first ever Bordeaux cruise in July. Again, the fact that they felt that they could attract enough listeners to sign up for such a cruise tells me that Bordeaux is on the rise in the States. 

I don't have hard numbers to back up these antecdotes. But, if I am right, this is a good thing. Bordeaux is a warm and welcoming city and it is time more Americans discovered her charms. 

Les Trompettes de Lyon at Chateau Soutard


On Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited out to Château Soutard to listen to a performance by Les Trompettes de Lyon. The performance was part of the Grandes Heures de Saint-Émilion series held at various Châteaux throughout Saint-Émilion.It was a fun event, the room in Château Soutard where Les Trompettes de Lyon was cavernous and beautifully designed, which made the performance by this talented quintet all that more special. The performance itself was a quirky combination of slapstick and very skillful playing. The performers effortlessly switched between Mozart and Michael Jackson (literally). My favorite part of the performance was the tribute to great trumpet players including Maurice Andre, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. The performance was followed by wine (2012 Château Soutard) and light hors d'oeuvres as well as a chance to meet the performers.It was a great evening, and if you are in Saint-Émilion it is worth checking out the concert series as well as visiting Château Soutard. [...]

Weekend des Grands Crus is This Weekend!


The annual Weekend des Grands Crus is finally this weekend in Bordeaux. I have said it before but this is, by far, my favorite wine event.

There will more than 100 of the greatest Bordeaux estates gathered in downtown Bordeaux showing off their 2012 and one other vintage. In addition to great wine, there is also an opportunity to dine at various Chateau (this is an amazing opportunity, and something that very few people get a chance to do). Not only is the tasting great, but the location of the tasting on the Quai is beautiful and the weather is even cooperating this year with 22 degree (Celsius -- 72 Fahrenheit) and sunny weather predicted.

It is not too late to get tickets and it really is worth it. Check out the UGCB website for tickets and check out other events.

Two Wine Marathons in the Next Two Weeks


If you are a runner, wine drinker and world traveler the next two weeks should be pretty exciting for you.

This Sunday, May 24th is the annual Marathon de Sauternes. The marathon starts at Chateau Guiraud and winds its way through some of the most well-known estates in the Sauternes region. This is the 5th year the marathon has been held in Sauternes and, honestly I can't think of a better wine to go with a 26.2 mile run.

A little closer to home for many of this blog's readers is the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. Operated by Destination Races, this marathon is expected to draw almost 3000 runners. It kicks off at the beautiful Doukenie Winery and meanders through the hills of Western Loudoun stopping at Hiddencroft Vineyards for wine and water. The half-marathon is next Saturday, May 30th, and unlike in previous years there are still a few registrations available.

Whether you are in Bordeaux or Virginia both of these races should be a lot of fun and a chance to show off both your running and wine drinking skills.

2015 Budbreak in Virginia Wine Country


Once again, my favorite time of the year in Virginia Wine is here. The (visible) start of the growing season has arrived with budbreak occurring throughout the state.

Here are some pictures from two Loudoun County wineries (pictures taken May 1st, 2015).

First up, Fabbioli Cellars:





Next up, Lost Creek Vineyard & Winery: