I’m often asked why I’ve decided to make a career in wine and the answer, like many, is a circuitous one. Not many people start their careers in wine, but almost everyone you ask will be able to point to one or two seminal experiences in their lives that changed the game, pointing them towards their eventual career.
My Dad introduced us to great food at an early age and we were permitted to enjoy a small glass of wine on special occasions. His favored tipple was- and remains- heavily oaked American chardonnay, and so that was my reference point for all wine from a young age.
My family has always believed in spending money on travel over material things- we’ve all got a serious case of wanderlust, and it’s often when I’m furthest from home that I feel the most myself.
When I was 16 we took a trip to Paris and the Loire Valley over Thanksgiving break. There were as many Griswold type gaffes as there were outstanding moments on that trip.
My Dad isn’t the most patient of travelers, and teenage girls aren’t known for traveling light. At one point the four of us were separated, jet lagged on three different metro cars on the way to our hotel. We eventually all made it in one piece, exhausted, angry and overburdened by our stuffed suitcases ill suited for the myriad stairs and cobblestones of Paris. My father was enjoying his second glass of wine in the lobby bar as if nothing was amiss by the time my sisters and I huffed in.
There was Thanksgiving dinner at Le Jules Verne, where I learned that turkey is highly over rated on that most American of holidays.
There was the car wreck in a torrential downpour set against the splendor of a brooding Chambord, beautiful and desolate in the slanted rain and fading light.
And there was my wine epiphany, in a wine cave somewhere in the Loire.
I don’t remember it being a planned stop, but pretty much everyone was ready to get out of the rental when we saw a sign advertising “Wine Tasting” on the side of the road.
It was cool and damp in the small, dimly lit cave. As the host graciously poured us all a sample of chardonnay he described the wine, “pomme, poire…” trademarks of great Loire chardonnay, but it was the pear that jumped out to me. I had no idea up until that moment that Chardonnay could taste of anything other than vanilla, buttered popcorn and oak. But PEAR?! It was revolutionary, and I started my love affair with old world wine and French chardonnay then and there.
My dad bought a full case of the wine and each evening before dinner we would all gather to enjoy a glass. I’m not sure how much ended up making it back home, but that no name wine changed the game for me.
I called my Dad to see if he could remember anything else and at first he didn’t recall the wine at all. Jules Verne, yes….the car wreck at Chambord, yes. As I described the wine it clicked. “Yes, I do remember buying a case of wine somewhere. It was definitely chardonnay, but I don’t remember anything about pear?”.
What wine changed the game for you?
Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Entertaining, Event Planning, Holidays, Porch wine, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wine Shops, Wine Tasting
The storm clouds in DC have finally given us a break and many people are planning outdoor entertaining for Memorial Day Weekend. What you may not know is that today is also #LanguedocDay.
Wine “days” seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but what I love about this particular one is that it breaks people out of wine ruts and raises awareness about an unsung region in the Southwest of France that offers incredible quality at affordable prices.
When Wines of Languedoc approached me about reviewing some of their wines, I was excited- mainly because I happen to love them, but also because they were focused on quality, with only AOP (Appelation d’origine contrôlée) designated wines. Though the region is often known for its bulk wine production, only 10% of wine from the region receives AOP designation, meaning stricter sourcing and production guidelines, but also higher quality wines.
It also gave me an opportunity to invite some friends over to chime in with their own opinions! We took advantage of a gorgeous DC day and threw a garden party.
Wines from the Languedoc lend themselves exceptionally well to entertaining. They’re accessible wines in both flavor profile and price- 2 things that make them prime candidates for any party wine!
The bar was set up for guests to easily serve themselves and sample all of the wines. Sparkling water and a carafe of cucumber lemon water kept guests hydrated!
On the menu:
- Homemade pimento cheese with ritz crackers- a must for any southern garden party!
- Crudité platter with hummus
- Orzo pasta salad
- Fruit platter
- Assorted olives, nuts, charcuterie and artisanal cheeses
- To hydrate: I like to serve cucumber lemon water and sparkling water.
- The bugs: These pretty citronella candles give off a gorgeous glow while keeping the bugs at bay.
These citronella candles not only give off a gorgeous glow, they keep pesky bugs at bay!
All of these, with the exception of the Crémant, are available at Weygandt Wines
. They’ve been kind enough to offer readers 15% off if you mention this post! Stop by to stock up for any weekend entertaining you might be planning.
Montfin Corbieres $13.99
This wine offers lovely red fruit with some earthy undertones. I noticed plum, red pepper and leather notes with medium tannin and acidity.
Montfin Rosé $13.99
This easy going rosé was a crowd favorite on such a gorgeous day! Dry, with notes of white peach and raspberrry.
Arbalète Coquelicots $17.99
This wine showed best after it cooled off a bit. Red fruit, a hint of baking spice and lovely earthy qualities.
Picpoul de Pinet $11.99
Crisp and light with notes of apple, pear and citrus. This is a warm weather no brainer!
Saint-Hilaire Crémant de Limoux $15
This crémant was both festive and accessible at a fraction of the cost of champagne! Crisp with notes of pear and soft floral notes.
Have you tried Languedoc wines? If not, this weekend is a great opportunity to do so. To learn even more check out L’Aventure Languedoc, a celebration of Languedoc AOP wines throughout June, coming to Seattle and Washington DC. Click here for more information!
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!
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.”
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.
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.
I sampled through an outstanding vertical of their acclaimed “Octagon”, mixing and matching the traditional tasting with an additional pour of 2008.
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!
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
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!
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!
This bottle is a go to when enjoying lamb and delicious homemade tzaziki.
Do you ever enjoy Greek Wines?
Although Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I expect many will be gorging themselves on wine and chocolate (for pairing tips, check out this post from last year!), I thought I’d return from my writing sabbatical with a bit about where I’ve been and what I’ve been tasting lately!
I recently visited one of my oldest and dearest friends in Dallas, Texas to meet her new baby. And because I haven’t had much Texas juice before I knew we had to visit a winery while I was there! At the suggestion of Dallas Wine Chick and Texas Wineaux we headed to nearby Grapevine, TX to check out Messina Hof‘s urban winery- one of the oldest and most award winning wineries in Texas.
One thing I was shocked by in Texas was how much of the juice wasn’t actually from Texas. It was disappointing to see so many grapes being sourced from Lodi, California. Not so with Messina Hof. They grow their own grapes on their property in Texas Hill Country a few hours away, and so I was able to get an authentic taste of what Texas wine is all about.
Besides the cozy, western feel of the urban winery, they offer wine on tap, which is fermented on site in the small production facility! Customers can even fill up growlers of their favorite wines!
We were given a tour of the property by Manager, Nathan DeWitt, and Sommelier, Mark Rettig, before going through a tasting of their wines.
I was particular impressed with the Blanc de Bois- a new to me wine that was cultivated in the 1970s at the University of Florida. It had incredible aromatics with a bit of petrol and slate on the nose, mouthwatering acid, and notes of key lime and grapefruit on the palate. In some ways it reminded me of a dry riesling and was extremely food friendly. Several of us left the winery with a bottle to enjoy later!
The GSM was another stand out. This Rhone blend (50% Syrah, 41% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) was easy drinking with plenty of nuance. The medium bodied wine boasted notes of cigar box, blackberry and spicy floral notes- I was reminded of the nasturtiums growing in my childhood home’s garden.
Tasting Barrel samples in the production room
After visiting another (disappointing) winery down the street, we decided to head back to Messina Hof to finish the day on a high note relaxing in their lounge with a glass of wine. This southerner appreciated the sense of warmth and hospitality, along with the distinct focus on wine education during the tasting.
If you find yourself near Dallas, I highly recommend a stop by Messina Hof in Grapevine. Tastings are $10 for 5 wine tokens (a few of the reserve wines take 2 tokens.)
The huge variety available will give you a great idea of what’s possible in Texas wine with something sure to please most any palate. If you’re not sure what to taste just ask the friendly staff for their favorites!
Have you tried Texas wine?