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

All posts in Wineries and Vineyards

Champagne’s Dirty little Secret

Posted in: Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Champagne, DC Champagne Week, Drink Well, Environment, Events, Green Wine Practices, Travel, Wine Health, Wineries and Vineyards

In an age when we are ever more cognizant of what we’re putting in our bodies, Champagne is hiding a dirty little secret.

During a visit to the grand cru village of Verzenay last April, I explored the vines to take a look at what the devastating frost of last spring had done to the vines.  Due to elevation, these particular vines were spared, but I was distracted by what I saw in the soil.

Verzenay in April, 2017

I thought perhaps that unruly tourists had left trash behind. Only when I looked more closely did I realize there was plastic waste and refuse for as far as I could see. I knew that Paris and Reims had used the vineyards as dumps for ages- it was a practice, upon conception, that benefitted the vines.  For a long while waste was essentially organic compost, but in recent decades, plastic was dumped in huge amounts. The practice only stopped in the 1990s. Some champagne houses that take less care with grape sourcing still haven’t cleaned up their act.

However, the future of champagne is bright, led by committed vignerons who are leading the way with sustainable practices in a region that faces more than its fair share of climate challenges. From organic to biodynamic practices, many of Champagne’s grower producers- and even some of the large houses- have taken huge steps to not only clean up the vineyards, but are integrating solar panels, plowing their vineyards by horse, fertilizing with manure and compost.

Ecueil in October, 2017.

In December, I’ll be hi lighting a selection of these exceptional cuvées during a presentation and tasting for DC Champagne Week.  If you’d like to learn more about natural winemaking practices taking place in Champagne, please join me at Dio Wine Bar. Featured producers include Louis Roederer, Pierre Paillard, Maillart, Lacourt-Godbillon, Franck Pascal, and Moussé & Fils. Purchase tickets here.

 

Are you surprised to still see garbage in Champagne vineyards? I was! 

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Turkish Wine with Vinkara

Posted in: Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Entertaining, Lifestyle, Restaurant Reviews, Travel, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards

One of my favorite things about wine is how it so often interacts with culture, art, politics, history. In addition to the beautiful spread of mezze and interesting wines, these topics were at the forefront of a wine dinner at Agora I attended with Vinkara wines.

 

 

Wine consumption in Turkey is small, averaging just one liter per person a year.  In fact, 80 percent of Turks do not drink alcohol at all and advertising within the country is currently forbidden, making the export business critically important to the success of wineries. However, the grapes are often ancient indigenous varieties which can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce. To say that winemakers are up against some particularly tough odds is an understatement.

 

It is a tumultuous time in Turkey, particularly for the nation’s wine industry. Current laws and custom stand in stark contrast to an ancient history of viticulture. Anatolia is said to be the birthplace of winemaking- scientific studies note the existence of winemaking in the region for 15,000 years. The vines have remained through millennia of turmoil and good fortune, war and peace.

 

It is often said that the best wines come from vines that struggle. In many parts of the world vines are partially deprived of water so that they seek deeper soil, adding strength and character to the plant and its prodigy. Just as vines that have grown more complex and resilient through struggle, the wines produced in Turkey are wonderfully complex, in spite of, and perhaps because of, the very struggles that they face.

 

The good news is, Vinkara has an incredibly passionate winemaker, Ardiç Gürsel, who is focused on revitalizing many of Turkey’s indigenous grapes with an eye on producing quality wines. She makes beautiful and complex wines at accessible price points- just $18 to $40.

 

Below, a few of my favorite wines from the beautiful mezze dinner with pairing suggestions. The overall quality was outstanding for the price, and while the names of these wines don’t exactly roll off the tongue, they are a pleasure to consume.

If you’re new to Turkish wine, here’s where I recommend you start! Kalecik Karasi is an ancient variety that is related to pinot noir. It’s all gorgeous red fruit, herbes de provence, and earthy minerality. Light bodied, immensely approachable, and a great pairing with a variety of foods.  Average Price: $21.

This wine has a slightly more intense body style. I got a lot of raspberry, cherry notes, coffee, and baking spices. Medium tannin, medium acidity. Pair with meat or heavier pasta dishes. Average Price: $18.

 

This reserve wine was the most full bodied of the night, with brooding tannins. Chocolate, dark fruit, and licorice on the palate. It deserved some time to decant and open properly to reveal beautifully integrated fruit and a voluptuous body. Pair with rich stews and red meat. Average Price: $24

Have you ever tried Turkish Wine?
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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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