Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

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On the Road: Early Mountain and Barboursville Vineyards

Posted in: Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Drink Well, On the Road, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Tried and Trues, Virginia Wine, Weekend Getaways, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards

Planning a wine tasting trip Charlottesville, Virginia can be a daunting task- there are a number of outstanding wineries and picking just a few is no easy feat!

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On my most recent trip with a group of friends, I took my cue from the most recent #VAwinechat, hosted by Frank Morgan of Drinkwhatulike.com at Early Mountain Vineyards.  After tasting a selection of their wines I decided I needed to visit in person. Although the winery is a bit of a drive from many of the other Monticello AVA wineries, but the bucolic setting and behind the scenes tour sealed the deal! Other than their own outstanding wines, Early Mountain has one of the loveliest tasting rooms in all of Virginia and serves an Ambassador for other Virginia Wineries with a program called “Best of Virginia.”

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The General Manager was kind enough to give my group an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the production facility, where we enjoyed tasting through Thibaut Janison’s bubbly, as well as Early Mountain’s own outstanding rosé. With notes of strawberry, watermelon, white peach and white pepper, the easy drinking rosé cut right through the muggy weather as we made our way through the tank and barrel room.

IMG_2173 While Early Mountain is not situated in the main Monticello wine cluster, it’s well worth a visit just to take in the outstanding facility, views and enjoy some of the best wines from all over the state, which they have thoughtfully organized into flights. It’s a great way to experience wines that aren’t so readily available, such as Ankida Ridge’s Pinot Noir. I walked away with several bottles of the Early Mountain rosé, only to regret not purchasing a full case once back in DC.

After our tour at Early Mountain we made our way to the Library room at nearby Barboursville. If you’re looking for quiet amidst the chaos, this is your best bet! Down a hallway and through the Octogan Barrel room, one enters a key code to the library, an appointment only retreat for winelovers that offers patrons exclusive customer service along wine tastings and glasses of wine from the reserve list. There is also a tempting menu of cheese and charcuterie, which are perfect pairings for the fully customized wine tasting. Guests are given wide range to select either a tasting of 6 wines for $20, tasting pours or full glasses of some of the winery’s more exclusive offerings.

wine flights

I sampled through an outstanding vertical of their acclaimed “Octagon”, mixing and matching the traditional tasting with an additional pour of 2008.

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While checking out the terrace overlooking the grapevines, we met grape grower, Fernando Franco, who has been at Barboursville for 16 years.  He spoke of the wine like a proud parent speaks of children, graciously offering tastes of the Nebbiolo ’07 as we chatted.

After lingering and sampling for a few hours, we made our way back to town to enjoy the always reliable  gastropub, “The Local”. On your way out of town, don’t forget to stop for a sack of Bodo’s Bagels and Raising Cane’s fried chicken!

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It’s all Greek to me

Posted in: Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, DC events, Drink Well, Entertaining, Foodie, Seasonal Sips, Wine 101, Wine Facts, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting, Wineries and Vineyards

After spending an amazing summer studying in Greece and returning there for travel over the years, I’ve developed quite an affinity for Greek wines.  The food and wine are such a tremendous part of the rich culture. I adore cooking and serving Greek food and wine for clients and friends alike!

Many are skeptics, having had a bad bout with the notorious pine resin-y retsina, but most leave converts.

I was so pleased to be invited to a blind tasting recently by two Greek brothers who run a wine import and distribution business here in DC. We blind tasted 22 Xinomavros and enjoyed a generous spread of authentic Greek food at Mourayo in DuPont Circle.

Jason and Nasos Papanikolao.  "You captured us perfectly!  He is always out front and I am always in the background drinking wine!" - Jason

Jason and Nasos Papanikolao. “You captured us perfectly! He is always out front and I am always in the background drinking wine!” – Jason

The hard to pronounce varietal is an oft over-looked, but a delicious and bold red wine perfect for pairing with lamb and summertime grilling season! It has deep, dark fruit flavor profiles and a nice earthy balance.  This wine is often best decanted before service.  If you like big, tannic, full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, give this Greek stand out a try for a fraction of the cost!

blind wine tasting

One of my favorite things about Greek wine- and Xinomavro in particular- is the outstanding value.  Below is one of my favorite wines for the money.  It showed well at the tasting against pricier bottles, but is delicious at around $20/bottle!  For a big, bold wine to pair with red meats, that’s a steal!

greek wine and txaziki

This bottle is a go to when enjoying lamb and delicious homemade tzaziki.

Do you ever enjoy Greek Wines?

(Yamas!)

 

 

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Outdoor Entertaining Tips from Robert Mondavi IV

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Champagne, Drink Well, Entertaining, Event Planning, Events, Helpful Hints, Porch wine, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Tried and Trues, Wine Recommendations, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards

I recently chatted with Rob Mondavi IV, 4th Generation winemaker, from his beautiful waterfront home in Beaufort, South Carolina.  He had some great tips for outdoor entertaining as we come into the summertime entertaining season.

rosé on the porch

Mondavi pulls inspiration from California wine country, Europe, South America and Southern Coastal traditions, but his tips work well no matter where you live!

Check out some of his outdoor entertaining tips below and click here to see the full interview!

  • Green & Eco-friendly are trends that are easy to incorporate. Mondavi recommends recycled materials with longevity like Trex decking materials.
  • Make sure your guests have a place to set their drinks- you can even incorporate a cocktail rail into decking! Alternatively, set out cocktail tables or garden stools.
  • Plan intimate events, bigger isn’t always better.
  • Serve Bubbly! “It can mark a moment at the party.”
  • When it comes to food, focus on farm to table and sourcing local, fresh products.  I love visiting Eastern Market and Union Market in DC to pick up local, fresh ingredients.
  • Mondavi’s go to porch wine: Chardonnay! Aromatic whites and dry Rosés are also great options that are trending.

What are some of your favorite outdoor entertaining tips?

cheers

 

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And so it goes

Posted in: Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Drink Well

People often tell me my job is glamorous, but the wine business is much like any other; behind tastings and galas you see on social media there is a life more fully lived.

The past two months have been difficult ones. I sustained a severe concussion that has made writing difficult, memory fleeting, sleep impossible, words lost to thin air.

Shortly thereafter my mother, for whom we threw the Pink Party last June, succumbed to cancer.

In “Pink Party” I wrote that “one must celebrate even in the midst of dark and scary times.”

In the weeks following her death I have found nothing to be more necessary.

While communion denotes a religious sacrament to many, it actually has other definitions that I’ve found integral to life’s slow return to the new normal.

From the Oxford English dictionary: “The sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level” and “Common participation in a mental or emotional experience.”

The very root of the words “communion” and “community” are derived from the latin word “communis”, meaning things held in common and fellowship.

Regardless of your religious tradition, there is indeed something integral- even sacred- to the breaking of bread, the sharing of food and wine with loved ones.

It was only recently that our dining table- normally oft used- was cleared of a month’s worth of mail and household detritus. I helped prepare a meal more complicated than a sandwich for the first time in many weeks.  Music played and I set the table with the gold and white china I inherited from my mother. The bottle of wine I had been saving from my last trip to California was opened, decanted, savored. Candles flanked a small potted olive tree.

To me communion has come to mean far more than just a religious ritual- it is what saves us in our darkest moments. It is over wine and food that many of my favorite memories are created, lingering with friends new and old. In the clearing of bills and the lighting of candles I made more than just physical space.

Amidst tears, there can be laughter.

Amidst grief, moments of happiness are possible.

Amidst loss, a community of loved ones draws near, reminding us of our better selves and better times.

And so for others that have faced tribulations or loss this season, consider clearing a space at the table and pouring something you’ve been saving. Share food and wine with someone you love. ‘Tis the season and life is short.

This post is dedicated to everyone who’s been there to share a glass of wine or conversation, to everyone currently experiencing the dark and scary parts of life, and to my mother.

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CRAVE

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Cocktails, Drink Well, Restaurant Reviews

Looks Can be Decieving

Suburban mall food doesn’t normally conjure images of gourmet food and artisan cocktails, but I was pleased to have those preconceived notions blown out of the water during a recent dinner at CRAVE Restaurant in Bethesda.

For those craving something more gourmand than the Cheesecake Factory during marathon shopping excursions, look no further!  CRAVE offers sleek design, artisan cocktails, and an array of culinary treats. In fact, it’s worth a visit regardless of your shopping needs.

We started with a tray of “Angry Dragon Martinis” and an outstanding sushi platter.

Bacardi Dragon Berry, Soho Lychee, Citrus Rim

Bacardi Dragon Berry, Soho Lychee, Citrus Rim

sushi to start

 

While the menu offered distinct nods to Crave’s other locations throughout the country, it is also largely Chef driven, with an impressive amount of autonomy for a boutique “chain” restaurant.

We moved on to a beautiful array of Americana cuisine- Chef Joel Hassanali is originally from Trininad and Tobago, and subtle nods to Caribbean influences showed up throughout the 5 course meal.

This wino was pleased and surprised to even see a walk in wine cellar for oenophiles. Discussions to bring in local craft wines are apparently in the works!

Wine and Sake cellar

Wine and Sake cellar

For more pictures, check out BonVivantDC on Instagram!

Have you tried CRAVE yet?

cheers

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