I’m headed to the mountains of North Carolina today for a camping trip and one of the wines I’ll be bringing with me is a tried and true we order by the case chez Marriott. (Yes, I take wine camping.)
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling
It’s a wine I’ve poured at a number of tastings and brought to countless dinner parties. It was even on our Thanksgiving table this year!
Invariably, when I say I’m pouring an Australian riesling an eyebrow or two is lifted, but there’s always a fight over the last splash.
It’s wonderfully bright and acidic with crisp citrus notes, light minerality, and a bone dry finish. The high acidity makes it extremely food friendly, and it makes an excellent porch wine all on its own! It retails for around $15-$16.
So branch out this summer and give this tried and true a try- you won’t regret it.
What are your tried and trues? Have you ever packed wine on a camping trip?
No matter how busy Sona is, there has never been a time when owners Conan & Genevieve O’Sullivan don’t stop to greet me with a smile.
The Capitol Hill outpost has just celebrated 100 days of being open to the public and has already cultivated a devoted group of regulars.
Happy hour lasts from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM every day, featuring generous $6 pours of bubbly, white, rosé, and red wines.
My favorites are the Chardonnay from Macon- crisp with apple and pear notes, and refreshing minerality- and the recent addition of a French rosé- aromatic with red fruit and a classic, Provençal blend perfect for spring sipping.
These two Pacific Northwesterners made the cross country move to be closer to family, finding DC to be nothing but “kind, open, and welcoming,” words that aren’t generally used to describe this town.
When Conan used those words to describe their DC initiation I was surprised, because they’re the exact words I would use to describe Sona and it’s affable proprietors.
“This is our dream,” said Gen, of opening Sona.
They’ve put together a team that works seamlessly, “dividing and conquering” the crowds that come in for a bite to eat or a glass of wine. Even though they seem to have come as a package deal, the managerial team is actually just a fortuitous conglomeration- and it’s one that clearly works. “These are people I would want to hang out with,” says Gen.
Chef Frank D. Paris, III churns out impeccable small plates to accompany the wine list. Here he shows off his affinity for swine, which makes frequent appearances on the outstanding menu.
Originally from Virginia, this Mid-Atlantic native has spent plenty of time in the real south (no, VA doesn’t count, Chef!). These Dixie culinary influences are consistent throughout the menu, most notably (and deliciously) in the Pig Ear and Pimento Cheese Crostini- a dish I have trouble not ordering each time I come in. The Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese and Turkey Burger are other menu standouts, although I haven’t tried anything that I didn’t enjoy immensely.
Pig Ear and Pimento Cheese Crostini. Trust me, just try it.
DC’s best Turkey Burger. Available at lunch until 5:00 PM.
In approximately 2 weeks, diners and sippers can enjoy patio seating, and more wine dinners are in initial planning stages. While the wine list currently focuses on by the glass selections, there are plans to introduce a reserve bottle list- the result of careful listening to what their patrons want.
After the recent loss of Cowgirl Creamery’s DC outpost, Sona will be the only creamery in Washington, DC. It’s a process that has taken years of planning, permitting, engineering, and consulting with veteran cheese makers from France, Canada, Holland and across the States.
Cheese making vat
For now, they are working on the last step- the boiler installation process; no small feat that involves engineers, permits, and precise science. Once it has been installed they’ll start the cheese making process immediately. Some cheeses, like Chevre, take a mere 24 hours, while aged Goudas can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to produce.
For now the temperature and humidity controlled cheese cave houses wine.
When I asked, “Why cheese?”, Chef Frank was quick to quip “because you can’t raise a pig in a vat.” Conan, laughed, adding, “we fell in love with the process….It’s 80% process and 20% magic.”
Just a small selection of Sona’s cheese offerings.
When they’re not dividing and conquering, you can see the team laughing and joking together in rare down time like old friends.
It’s a place I like to do the same, taking friends and family members to enjoy what has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
Have you tried Sona yet? If you’re on the hill, be sure to stop by in honor of National Small Business Week- you won’t regret it!
With spring weather (finally!) here, I’ve been enjoying some of my favorite warm weather wines recently.
One of my very favorite spring sippers is a Spanish wine that’s quite similar to the more widely known Portuguese Vinho Verde. Txakoli (pronounced Chacoli) is produced in the coastal Basque region of Spain.
Although most Txakoli is white, last week I tasted a rosé version at DC’s Estadio, paired with a skewer of manchengo, chorizo and pistachio that was just right for the spring day.
Made from the hondurrabi zurri grape, this hard to pronounce wine goes down easy! It is bone dry, high in acid, with a touch of salinity. The hint of effervescence gives this light wine an added spritz and reminds me of summer days at the beach and warm nights on the porch with friends.
Another of my favorite producers is Ganeta- the new vintage is currently on it’s way to the DC area, just in time for Spring. This is a tried and true at our house, and I can’t wait to try the newest vintage!
Next time you’re in the mood to try something different, give this Basque wine gem a try! It’s delightful with seafood or enjoying al fresco with friends!
What are your go to spring wines?
Although grocery stores are convenient, and places like Costco can save you a few dollars, I’ve always been a huge proponent of shopping at my local wine store (or winery!). Here are a few reasons why:
Just one of my many finds from a neighborhood wine tasting- Xion Albariño.
1. A good store’s owner will have tasted every.single.bottle.
…Along with another 10 or 20 that didn’t make the cut! They’ve taken much of the guesswork out of the equation for you! They’re also constantly refreshing inventory, and there are always exciting new finds to try.
2. Most offer free wine tastings on the weekends!
This means no taking chances on fancy bottle designs only to be disappointed by the contents. Try before you buy and you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. These tastings often come with more information about the wine from the distributor or even the winemaker- they can be a great way to learn more about the wines you’re drinking!
3. As you develop a relationship with the proprietor, they will come to know your palette and make suggestions.
This has paid off for me more times than I can count. Owners’ recommendations almost always pan out, and I’ve even amended a dinner menu to accommodate a new find!
4. It boosts the local economy!
No one works harder than folks that own their own businesses- often on weekends and holidays. Support them!
5. They generally have more interesting wine!
Sick of seeing the same labels everywhere you go? Try a smaller, local vendor. They tend to work with smaller, independent wine producers who don’t necessarily have the volume to contract with major chains, but are making outstanding wines. If you’re not drinking these wines, you’re missing out on some of the best the wine world has to offer!
Where do you tend to shop for wine and why? Do you have a favorite local store?
So many bubbles…
I was lucky enough to recently attend Drink What you Like‘s 5th annual Virginia Sparkling Wine Blind Tasting. A line up of 11 sparklers was presented to the tasting panel of 10 local winos at the very hospitable Tarara Winery in Leesburg, Virginia.
And if you were wondering, yes, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon!
The event was straightforward- all dry blanc de blanc (chardonnay!), all bubbly, with a Virginia focus and a straightforward ranking system.
The rankings might be surprising to bubbly drinkers and champagne lovers, alike.
If you had told me several years ago that my focus would be so heavily focused on Virginia wines I would’ve dismissed the notion. However, even this Francophile was astonished when the ranking lineup was revealed! Virginia offers some outstanding sparklers and surprising value.
Although the wines were primarily from Virginia, there were also examples of sparkling chardonnays from New York, California and France, as well.
The winning wines, ranked from left to right:
Virginia took the top 4 spots!
1. Trump Blanc de Blanc (VA)
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs (VA)
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar (VA)
4. Boneyard Blanc de Blanc (VA)
5. Flat Rock Cellars, * (Niagara, NY)
5. Roederer Hermitate 2004 * (California)
7. Trump Reserve (VA)
8. Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc (VA)
9. FIZZ (VA)
10. Piper-Hidseck (Champagne, France)
11. Louis de Sasy Champagne (Champagne, France)
Sparkling wine against the backdrop of Tarara Winery
I was partial to the Trump sparklers, as well as the Roederer Hermitage- and when I refer back to my notes what really pushed these wines to the top for me was their more feminine, elegant and well-balanced qualities.
Most of the tasting panel was surprised at Trump’s placing so highly over the esteemed Thibaut-Jannisson, a self-professed favorite for most. However, the esteemed French winemakers take cues from Champagne, marrying the gold standard of bubbly production with the unique Virginia terroir.
As is true in most cases, much of the voting likely had to do with the day- a perfect 70 degrees with a light breeze. Although I usually love the toasty, yeastiness of a true Champagne (the wine geek term for this quality is “Autolytic”), the first notes of spring had me craving something lighter.
The number one ranked wine is a superb value, ringing in at just $24, far less than the Piper-Hidsek, which typically runs between $40 and $50. All this goes to show that even trained palettes don’t always pick the priciest bottle when drinking blind, and the day’s circumstances really can influence even the most ingrained preferences.
Do you drink Virginia Sparkling Wine? What’s your favorite?