Forget everything you thought you knew…
When it comes to Chablis in America, there are a lot of misconceptions. Some think of their Grandmothers clutching crystal goblets. Others, jug wine on the bottom rack in grocery stores.
Perhaps most fittingly, I think of the illustrious character from Savannah. If you’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or seen one of the Lady Chablis’ famous shows, you know how very misleading preconcieved notions can be!
I recently attended a winemaker luncheon at the always delicious Proof DC that illustrated incredible nuance among the wines. Over a 3 course lunch, we tasted La Piereleé Chablis 2011, Chablis Premier Cru Fouchaume 2010, Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon 2010, Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2009, and Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2011.
In typical tasting fashion, each diner had a different favorite. Indeed, even my own favorites changed according to what I was eating- or if I was just sipping.
La grande dame of the afternoon was the Blanchot Grand Cru 2011, from one of only 7 Grand Cru designated vineyards in the region. It was exceptionally well balanced with firm acidity and outstanding minerality, exhibiting graceful citrus characteristics on the palette.
It was particularly incredible to note the vast differences in each wine when you consider how tiny the 3 appellations are in scope. The topography varies wildly, but is spread over less than 10,000 acres, giving these Chardonnays from Northern Burgandy extremely specific characteristics.
The cooler climate gives these wines a distinctive flavor- higher in acidity and less pronounced fruit notes than most Chardonnays. Perhaps most notably, Chablis exhibits minerality and flinty notes from the soil in which it’s grown. Argilo-Calcaire is a composition of limestone, clay, and tiny fossilized oyster shells, pictured below.
If you have any lingering doubts over Terroir‘s influence over a wine, one sip of Chardonnay from Chablis clears it up quickly!
The price point on even the Grand Cru is attainable, making these elegant and food friendly wines within reach for your next dinner party. I particularly like pairing Chablis with seafood, as Proof did, although they are quite versatile wines and have the potential to pair beautifully with many dishes.
To purchase the wines listed above, visit Calvert Woodley, Pearson’s Wine and Spirits, Weygandt Wines, Ace Beverage, McAuthor’s, or Arrowine. You really can’t go wrong with any of them!
Pictured with Jean François Bordet, a 13th Generation winemaker.
So the next time you see a jug of Chablis on the grocery store shelves… walk on by! But DO give this outstanding wine a try. It just may surprise you!
For more information on this tiny but mighty wine region, visit www.chablis-wines.com.
‘Tis the Season
Me with my “cooking” wine last year. This wine was both delicious to sip, and also thinned the gravy quite nicely!
Although Thanksgiving is 2 weeks off, I thought I’d throw in my two cents on what to drink for the occasion.
Thanksgiving food is abundant, rich, and has an array of flavor profiles. Throw in the inevitable array of personalities around most Thanksgiving dinner tables and you definitely don’t want to forget the vino- for therapeutic purposes, naturally!
No one wine is going to pair perfectly with everything on your plate with such a variety of flavors, but there are a few simple guidelines to making your selections complement your meal!
1. Drink what you like. If you prefer red, drink red. White drinkers, drink white! Pick a medium to full bodied white, or a light to medium bodied red and your wine will go just fine with the meal.
2. Pick a wine that is relatively high in acidity. They can be dry, off dry, sweet, or even sparkling. An acidic wine is one that makes your mouth water (as opposed to dry out) when you drink it! This is key to cutting through the richness of the meal.
3. Pick wines that “play well with others”. With so many competing flavors on your plate, you don’t need wine fighting the turkey & gravy (or your crazy Aunt/sister/in-law) fighting for center stage! Save the bold Bordeaux for another occasion.
With these guidelines in mind, here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving wine pairings, all for under $25 and available in the DC area!
- Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc
- Breaux Vineyards Viogner
- Clean Slate Riesling
- Domaine de Varoux White Burgandy
- Ducasse White Bordeaux
- Meiomi Pinot Noir
- Tres Picos Garnacha
- Pratesi Locorosso Sangiovese
- Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhones
- Cerro Anon Reserva Tempranillo
When in doubt, pair with Champagne or another sparkling wine. It’s easily one of the most food friendly wines out there! I particularly love Champalou, a sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc!
What are some of your favorite holiday wines? Anyone have any “weird” Thanksgiving dishes or traditions they can’t live without?
We all have them. Here are my top 5!
1. Wine Snobs
I love learning about (and especially drinking!) good wine. But nothing is more annoying than people who turn their nose up at a bottle, or- worse- a beverage director treating a patron disparagingly. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and in my experience if someone is being a snob about it, they’re either a jerk, or they’re over-compensating (often, both!).
2. Calling all sparkling wine “Champagne”
Unless it’s from the Champagne region of France, please, call it something else. Bubbly. Sparkling wine. If it’s from Spain, call it cava. Italy, Prosecco. I love bubbly (and Champagne!) as much as the next wino, but it’s really and truly not all the same!
3. Close minded wine drinkers
When I was in sales and distribution, I would pour samples of wine at free tastings at retail stores around town. It always completely shocked me when people would decline. It’s free wine! If you hate it, spit it out! When people make blanket statements like, “I don’t drink rosé“, or “I hate [insert varietal] or wine from [insert wherever]”, it drives me insane! The look on someone’s face when they realize they’ve been missing out on something they actually do enjoy is priceless.
4. Wine served at the improper temperature
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a nice restaurant, ordered a bottle of wine, only to have it served too warm. This may sound (gasp!) snobby, but it really does make a difference when you’re shelling out big bucks on a nice night out. Attention to proper storage and service can really make or break the wine experience for me. I like most of my reds slightly chilled- 55-60°F is generally about right for me.
5. Winemakers in the Advertising Business
If you’ve been to one of my classes, you’ve probably heard my adage, “you want a winemaker who puts their money where YOUR mouth is!” Nothing drives me crazier than seeing people purchase wine whose proceeds go to funding commercials, umbrellas or red carpet events. They’re not necessarily all bad wines, but if you’ve seen an ad for the wine just remember, it’s your hard earned bucks that are paying for it!
What are your wine pet peeves? Sound off in the comments section!
A Visit to Breaux Vineyards
As I suss out my favorite Virginia wineries for Bon Vivant’s New Virginia Wine Concierge Program, I’m continually surprised. Pre-conceived notions and even the most well-intentioned recommendations are often wrong or out of date, which is why I make it a point to visit each vineyard myself.
One of the most difficult things to find in a Virginia vineyard is a property that “checks all the boxes”. Although I aim to offer my clients tailored itineraries, sometimes you’re just on the hunt for a property that hits the Big Four:
2. Customer service
3. Quality wine
4. Good Value
You may be wondering why I list wine third? I’ve had more than one good glass of wine sour to vinegar on the palette if the atmosphere and customer service just aren’t there.
It can be especially hard to find this elusive combination at a property that accepts large parties. Breaux Vineyards does so graciously, in addition to offering perks like behind the scenes tours of the barrel room, tank room and vineyards, paired with a private group tasting of 8 wines for just $25!
Favorites from the tasting were the Equation Red Blend- a wine that drinks easily and tastes more expensive than it’s $17 price tag.
Madeleine’s Chardonnay ($24) was also lovely, with nice apple and pear fruit, a creamy and full mouthfeel from the sur lie aging process, and a crispness from the stainless steel fermentation.
The Cellar Club exclusive Nebbiolo- an Italian varietal not generally seen in Virginia- was also exquisite, a bottle of which made it back to DC.
We were lucky to visit on a harvest day, and happened upon a crew hard at work culling the Cab Franc from the vines to beat the rain- just one winemaker’s harvest nightmare! Luckily, 2013 looks to be a promising vintage for Breaux Vineyards, and much of Virginia’s wine country!
For more pictures, visit my facebook album of the visit.
Have you been to Breaux? What was your favorite wine?
What do you look for when visiting wineries? Have you ever had a great wine ruined by less than stellar customer service?
Have you ever been surprised when a glass of wine you ordered was much different than you expected? A single varietal can express many different characteristics depending largely upon where it was grown.
Although this difference can sometimes be affected by cellar manipulation, usually it’s a matter of what wine people call “terroir”.
Terrior is defined as “the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. The characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.”
Have you ever compared your favorite varietals from different locations? What words come to mind when you see “Chardonnay”? “Oakey” and “buttery” are overwhelmingly used to describe this versatile grape. However, they’re the last words that come to mind when I taste a crisp Chardonnay from Chablis, France!
If you’re interested in learning more about how terroir affects your favorite wines, check out my next event, “Vino vs. Vino”. We’ll be blind tasting 4 wines from California and France and discussing some of the major differences in these esteemed wine producing regions.
When did a wine last surprise you?