Double up on the anti-oxidant factors in wine and chocolate for an indulgent pairing!
This is a great time to pull out your fortified wines! Ruby Port and Pedro Ximenez Sherry pair beautifully with chocolate!
Champagne + milk chocolate covered strawberries is another classic pairing. Try a rosé sparkling wine to bring out the red berry flavors!
Lambrusco, the slightly effervescent sweet red wine from Italy, is another great option.
If you want to drink local and knock out 2 birds with one stone, try Cooper Vineyard’s Noche Chocolate Wine. This Norton dessert wine infused with chocolate is like a chocolate dessert in a wine glass!
If you prefer to stick to dry red wines, a fruit forward Syrah or Zinfandel is the way to go!
Finally, if beer is more your style, try “The Fix” at Bluejacket, a DC microbrewery.
If you’re still unsure, there are a ton of FREE Valentine’s day wine tastings this weekend around the District!
Paul’s Wine and Spirits will be hosting a sparkling wine & chocolate tasting this evening in Friendship Heights from 5:30-8:00 PM, featuring 12 different wines!
Wagshal’s will be pairing Austrian wines with Godiva Chocolate from 5-7 PM.
There is a Valentine’s Day Showcase at Chat’s Liquors on Saturday 3-6 PM. Be sure to say hi to my former colleague, Jody!
Check back early next week for some great wine events over Valentine’s Day weekend and an exciting giveaway!
It’s easy to become paralyzed in a wine shop when shopping for a wine gift.It’s hard enough to know our own tastes, but the task becomes exponentially harder if you don’t know the hosts’ taste- or what they might be serving.
So the next time you’re standing paralyzed in front of a wine aisle, consider these tips:
Pick a wine that plays well with others
These are wines that please a variety of tastes and potentially pair with a variety of cuisines. For a better sense of what this means and specific recommendations, check out my post on pairing with small plates, or this one on Thanksgiving pairings.
Have a budget in mind
This will be one of the first questions someone helping you will ask.A range of $18-$25 is typically what I stick to for basic dinner party wines.
Go with what you know
If you have a “tried and true” that you love, there’s a good chance your hosts will like it, too!
Most people like it, and it pairs well with a variety of foods!
Rely on the sales staff
Staff at a reputable wine store will know their stock better than anyone, and I’ve found great new favorites by taking the word of a trusted shop owner. Trust me, they help people in your situation every day!
What are your favorite wines to bring to a dinner party?
Although many reach for heavy red stand-bys like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux, I have a few lesser known favorites that are perfect for warming up in front of the fire!
This is the time to bring out your fortified wines– Sherry, Port and Madeira. Although there is huge variation within the category of fortified wines and they can get expensive quickly, there are delicious bottles in the $22-$25 range.
I recently tried Baco de Elite Olorosso Sherry, a medium dry sherry with toasted walnut notes. Derek Brown’s Mockingbird Hill is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about sherry! I’m also partial to Dow’s Boardroom Tawny Port for its caramel notes and lighter finish than Ruby Ports.
Forget budget Madeira and just splurge. It’s worth every penny! For a special treat, visit The Jefferson Hotel in DC, which houses the largest Madeira collection in America. Ask Jen, the Sommelier, or Ivan, an outstanding bartender at the intimate Plume bar, for a recommendation!
Although this grape is grown primarily in Uruguay, it was originally a French varietal. This is definitely one to decant and you will be amazed at how a Tannat will open up and develop as it is exposed to air! I recently poured Bouza Tannat at a private wine tasting, and it’s chocolatey notes and full body were a crowd pleaser. It’s not a grape you see every day, but if you like super full bodied reds, this is one worth trying! Tannat tends to be very high in alcohol- hovering at around 15%- so sip accordingly!
As mentioned in last week’s post, I adore red wines from this Spanish region. These powerful red wines are comprised of a blend of varietals including Garnacha, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Try the Menut or Zaumau- both are spectacular wines that offer spicy red fruit notes and pack a powerful punch. They’re great to pair with your favorite hearty winter fare, as well!
This Italian wine doesn’t come cheap, but is absolutely amazing when it’s cold outside. Made in the Veneto region of Italy, this full bodied, earthy red wine is made by letting the Corvina grapes dry out into raisins, heavily concentrating the flavors. Try Allegrini for a tried and true house that also makes an excellent “Ripasso” Valpolicella- frequently known as the “poor man’s Amarone”.
Although I’m content to pair bubbly with just about anything (mac & cheese, anyone?), there are a few things worth noting about sparkling wine as we approach New Years Eve.
Just because it has bubbles, does NOT mean it’s called Champagne! (See wine pet peeves for more on this one!)
There are a number of ways to produce sparkling wine- “méthode Champenoise” or “méthode traditionelle” indicate that the wine has undergone a second fermentation, which produces the bubbles naturally. They can also be added through forced air, as is the case with many Proseccos. For a more in depth guide, check out Wine Folly’s excellent breakdown of the different methods!
This study says that drinking Champagne can help improve memory. I’ll drink to that!
The first sparkling wine ever produced was actually a mistake! Thank goodness for happy mistakes!
Although many people claim that Champagne gives worse hangovers than other wine, the alcohol in most sparkling wine is actually lower than in most still wines- generally around 11-12%. If you’re anything like me, it does tend to go down the hatch quickly, making it easy to consume more than you realize. Make sure to hydrate and enjoy your bubbly with food to avoid the dreaded hangover!
Although some bottles of vintage champagne can set you back hundreds of dollars, quality sparkling wine can be enjoyed at almost any price point. See my top picks ranging from $12 to $200 below!
Champalou Vouvray Cuvee des Fondraux is a French sparkler from the Loire Valley made from Chenin Blanc. It is incredibly aromatic with notes of jasmine and honeysuckle with an off dry finish. This food friendly wine retails at just over $20.
Charles Orban Rosé is a great pick for dry rosé fans, offering red fruit aromatics and a dry, lengthy finish. It retails for around $43.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs This sparkler received 91 points from Wine Spectator. The 100% Pinot Noir is full bodied, balanced and elegant- all for less than $20.
Rossinyol Rosé This cava producer uses an aromatic and rare grape called Trepat to produce a lovely dry rosé with notes of strawberry on the nose. This small production Spanish wine retails for just under $20.
GruberRosé This Austrian sparkler is made from the Zweigelt grape. This hard to pronounce varietal goes down easy and isn’t hard on the wallet, either! Lively and crisp, with notes of strawberry and raspberry, this wine retails for under $15!
Moet Imperial offers traditional champagne yeasty notes and excellent acidity for around $45. This wine also received 91 points from Wine Spectator.
Krug Grand Cuvée is what I would choose if I were to splurge on a special bottle. Ringing in at $180, this 97 point wine offers incredible balance, acidity and finish for under $200.
Bohigas Cava is one of my go to cava producers. For those who like their sparklers on the sweeter side, their Semi-Sec fits the bill. Maintaining classic cava crispness, it has just the right amount of residual sugar to satisfy those with a sweet tooth at $18-21.
Voveti Prosecco is a favorite among critics and casual drinkers, alike. Made from the Glera grape, this easy drinking bubbly is aromatic and fruit forward with notes of peach, apricot and pear for around $12-14.
Jansz Premium Cuvée This sparkling wine from Tasmania, Australia is from a lesser known, but fantastic sparkling wine region. Aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, this wine is crisp and acidic on the palette. It retails for around $24.
What is your favorite Sparkling Wine? Do you prefer Champagne? Cava? Prosecco?
As a DC wine consultant, I’m often asked what I think about nearby Virginia wineries. To be honest, I haven’t always had an overly favorable view of the region. A visit to Linden Vineyards changed that.
Jim Law, the owner, is particular about promoting what a Virginia winery can and should be. I found the results of his philosophy and commitment to quality wine-making refreshing. In a region addled by notoriously difficult weather conditions, Law is committed to producing wines to be taken seriously.
Early Chardonnay grapes on the vines.
Despite being in business for nearly 28 years, Linden’s vintners are constantly re-evaluating which varietals grow best on each site and adapt accordingly. They display an overt commitment to the French notion of terroir, loosely translated as a “sense of place.” Terroir is about respecting the land, and letting wine grown in a particular place reflect its unique characteristics. There is a definitive old world sensibility to the wines produced by Linden Vineyards.
You won’t find Linden Vineyards in the Virginia guide to wineries, and they have a strict policy that limits groups to six people. There are no bachelorette parties, busloads of tourists, or even limos (which are prohibited) at Linden. Cell phones don’t work on the Hardscrabble property. The result is a tranquil respite that focuses on serious wines and a feeling of true escape from life’s day to day demands.
When I met the owner, he came straight in from a day tending the vines, extending his calloused hand from sleeves of a wine splotched shirt. Jim takes bi-annual trips to France to taste and learn more about his craft. He’s less interested in the best vintages, but eagerly pursues knowledge about how French vintners contend with difficulties and challenging weather conditions- lessons that have served Linden well during the more difficult years.
Alison and Linden’s owner, Jim Law
Linden Vineyard’s Director, Shari Avenius, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the property and explained that each of the winemakers on Linden’s three properties spend about 90-95 percent of their time outside tending the vines. She described wine growing in Virginia as, “riding the wave the whole growing season, you don’t know what’s coming next.”
Currently they’re contending with the region’s historic rainfall, as well as the emergence of the 17-year Brood II cicadas. According to Shari, the worst threat to the carefully tended vines is undoubtedly, “The H-word. Hail. We try not to say it.”
Long-time Linden employees, two of the cousins Chavez, tending the vines.
Every vine on each of Linden’s three properties is tended to an average of 12 times before harvest- a testament to both the staff’s respect for their product and fickle Virginia growing conditions. It’s this type of vineyard vigilance that allows Linden to adhere to a policy of non-intervention in the cellar.
After touring the grounds and enjoying the reserve cellar tasting, we decided to forego another winery visit, opting instead to finish our afternoon on Linden Vineyard’s scenic porch with wine and charcuterie, a decision we didn’t regret.
2011 Linden rosé with locally sourced cheese and summer sausage.
While the coveted seats are reserved for the vineyard’s most loyal clients on weekends, members of the case club, the tables are open to all clientele during weekdays.
Linden produces around 5,000 cases of wine per year, and while they sell 95% of their wine on site, you can also find their products at high end restaurants and wine bars in and around DC. Visit www.lindenvineyards.com to learn more about their tasting room, reserve cellar tastings, case club, vineyard tours and more!
We enjoyed all of the wines we tried during the reserve cellar tasting, but couldn’t leave Linden without these two standouts!
For more behind the scenes photos, visit Bon Vivant DC’s facebook page!
What do you think of Virginia wineries? Let me know the good, the bad, and the ugly!