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Le Grand Tasting in Paris

Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 Wine Tasting

There are a lot of wine tastings around the world throughout the year, but hands-down the best one is going on right now at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris.

Le Grand Tasting showcases the best of French wines from all over the country. It is a chance to try Champagne alongside the best of Bordeaux (though bring some coffee for the Chateaux pouring from Bordeaux, many of them are just returning from the UGCB trip to Asia).

Tickets to the event are only 20€ (25€ on site). The event runs today and tomorrow from 10h30 to 20h30 (today) and 10h30 to 19h00 (tomorrow). If you are anywhere near Paris, definitely check it out!

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Coutet Finds Its Match for Thanksgiving

Date: Thu, Nov 8, 2012 Wine Tasting

Once again, Château Coutet has made available a full menu, along with suggested Coutet pairings, for Thanksgiving. Each year The team at Château Coutet produces intriguing recipes, and shares them with their fans. Not only have these recipes given me the opportunity to expand my Thanksgiving horizons, they have also helped to make Château Coutet wines a staple of our Thanksgiving dinner. Details below:

In a few days, and for the third time in a row, Aline Baly and her family will be sending out their original Thanksgiving card. With her wishes, you also will be receiving their selected menu and recipes for an all-Château Coutet celebration dinner.

This super idea of pairing Château Coutet to Thanksgiving stemmed from the Baly family’s personal experience of this holiday as newcomers to New England in the late 80s, when for the first time they faced the challenge of preparing a moist, flavorful turkey.

Since 2010, the Balys have commissioned a different chef to create a menu for this feast. This year, Chef Sarah Scott was selected specially for her original style, great sensitivity to food pairing and fine French flair, due to her numerous experiences in Michelin-star restaurants.

Featured for Thanksgiving 2012 will be a Sauternes and Butter Glazed Turkey with Chestnut and Leek Stuffing, recommended with Château Coutet 2002 or 2004, accompanied by Sweet Potato Pomme Dauphine and Château Coutet 1997 or 1998, a Twice-Baked Blue Cheese Soufflé with Quince Compote served with Château Coutet 2003 and, to conclude, a Pumpkin Crème Brulée with Château Coutet 2009.

These delicious recipes can be found on the estate’s website: www.chateaucoutet.com and the matching wines at your local fine wine shop. For more information on wine prices and availability in your area, visit www.wine-searcher.com

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A Trio of Ports for Any Occasion

Date: Sat, Nov 3, 2012 Wine Tasting

Editor's Note: these wines were provided to us for write up. Because I am not a Port fan, I passed them off to our secret taster to write them up.

People either love port wine or dislike it. I am in the love category so was very excited when given the opportunity to taste three different ports.

There was a Croft Pink Rosé Port, a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port and a Fonseca Bin 27.

Since I had never seen a rosé port I decided to try that one first. I was having dinner with a friend and took the bottle over to share with her. She is in the category of not usually liking port. This port came with a little booklet attached to the neck of the bottle which provided recipes to try with the rose port. We first tried the port by itself. It had a much lighter flavor than other ports and was very food friendly. This is a port that you could easily have several glasses of at one time. I tried one of the recipes that came in the booklet but decided that I preferred it plain. My friend really enjoyed this rosé port. If you like to have a port but feel it is more a cold weather wine this is a good one to try for those warmer weather times.

The second port I tried was the 20 Year Tawny Port. I decided to have this one with a cheese plate . This is a very smooth port that doesn’t leave a burning feeling on the back of your throat. The cheese enhanced the flavor but I can easily see enjoying this port by itself. This port is made to drink now.

The last port was the Fonseca Bin 27. I tried this one with some dark chocolate on one of the cold fall evenings we had recently. This is what I think of when you mention port. Rich, with a lingering finish. I enjoyed it by itself but having it with the dark chocolate made it my opinion so much better.

Each of these ports had individual characteristics that made them enjoyable in their own way. If you want to try port or retry port I would start with the rose or tawny and move your way up to a richer port.

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Glass House Winery

Date: Tue, Oct 23, 2012 Wine Tasting

As the fall foliage begins to peak in the Virginia wine region, I thought it would be a great idea to hit the wine trail and explore some wineries I'd not yet been too. My first stop this weekend was Glass House Wineryin Free Union, VA (near Charlottesville). The first thing I noticed as we pulled up was the lush pond in front of the building, it was beautiful!

As we entered the tasting room, we were warming greeted by Sabrina, who did our tasting. For the $5 tasting fee, we tasted 6 wines. First up was the 2011 Viognier, which is made of estate grown grapes. It was a blend of Viognier aged in French oak with some Viognier aged in stainless steele. The next wine on the tasting sheet, the 2011 Pinot Gris was sold out, so instead, we were given the 2011 Vino Signora Dry, which was a dry Gewurztraminer done in stainless steele. I am not used to tasting a dry Gewurztraminer, so it wasn't my favorite of the day, but was definitely drinkable, if you like dry whites. The third white we tried was the 2011 Vino Signora...a sweeter version of the previous wine we had just tasted. This to me, was more representative of what I'm used to for a Gewurztraminer. This wine has a 2.5% residual sugar and is aged in stainless steele.

Onto the reds, our first taste was the 2010 21st (for the 21st Amendment). This is a bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in neutral and new American oak. I found it to be fruit forward, but with a nice tannic finish. Next up was the 2011 C-Villian, made from Chambourcin and blended with around 25% Merlot. There was a 2010 Barbera on the tasting list, but that was sold out, so we were unable to taste. Our final wine was the 2011 Meglio del Sesso, a Norton blended with Cabernet Franc, which is then aged with 82% ground chocolate, then settled out and filtered prior to bottling.We tasted this while enjoying some salted caramel chocolate that is hand made on site....YUM! There was definitely a chocolate flavor to the wine, but it wasn't overpowering and it went really well with the chocolate we tasted. We enjoyed the amazing views of the fall foliage while out on the patio sipping a glass.

One of the unusual features of all of the wines offered at Glass house is that all of the wines use Glass corks! It was really cool to see those, although I am curious about how they hold up to regular, synthetic corks or screw tops.

Another great feature of this winery is their actual Glass House that is heated and cooled from a geothermal system that lies in the bottom of the lake on the property. It is filled with tropical fruits and exotic flowers as well as tables and chairs so you can sit among the greenery and not have to worry about the weather outside. A great place to be in the winter if you feel the need to soak up some sun!

The only thing we didn't really get to check out on this visit was the Bed and Breakfast that is also located on the property. A great feature to have so people can come and enjoy the winery all day, but not have to worry about driving!

If you're in the area, I definitely recommend a visit! Cheers!

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Opalie de Château Coutet Scheduled to Release This Week

Date: Sun, Oct 14, 2012 Wine Tasting

Château Coutet has a new wine scheduled to be released in the United States later this week. The wine, called Opalie de Château Coutet, is a dry white wine that is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Sémillon from 40-year-old vines.

The inaugural vintage is 2010 and only 250 cases were produced. In the United States the wine is available exclusively from the The Wine House in San Francisco (don't worry, they ship to Virginia) for $42 a bottle.

Congratulations to Aline and the whole team at Château Coutet and good luck on your new venture!

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Stunning Video of 2012 Harvest at Château Gruaud Larose

Date: Mon, Oct 8, 2012 Wine Tasting

Our friends at Château Gruaud Larose have released a beautiful video documenting the 2012 harvest. It is a great way to provide a harvest report and share images from the vineyard at the same time. Very much worth the watch.

Château Gruaud Larose Vendange 2012 VOSTEN from Benjamin Duvignac on Vimeo.

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Saudé Creek Winery: Pamunkeys Abound

Date: Sun, Oct 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

It's not often that I have an opportunity to hit vineyards in the Southeastern area of Virginia (a. k. a. the Hampton Roads region), but on a recent trip with friends to North Carolina, I specifically had looked for a winery somewhat on the way that we hadn't previously visited.

Upon scouting out the region on Virginia Wine's main site, I found the perfect place. It was right off I-95 in New Kent County as well as one I had not heard of previously:Saudé Creek Winery. After visiting their site, I definitely was excited to check this place out.Saudé Creek, having opened a year ago this last July, boasts that they are located on the same site that once boasted the historic Frank's Tavern (A colonial inn and publick house) where George Washington and General Rochambeau quenched their thirst.

Speaking of thirst, let's move on to the wine.

The tasting was $7 and included the souvenir wine glass. We tasted 5 different wines, beginning with "Pamunkey Fall."Pamunkey Fallis a blend of Viognier and Chardonel, with notes of honeysuckle and apricot. This would definitely be an easy sipping wine by itself during the summer, but would pair well with food. This wine is named for the river that their property overlooks. Next on the tasting line-up was theirVidal Blanc, another easy sipping summer wine with notes of peaches on this. I would imagine this would pair very well with spicy foods. Both of these are each $19/bottle.

From there, we moved on to the red wines, starting off with theMerlot. Currently, it is a 2010 Merlot, aged 18 months in American oak. While I'm not normally a Merlot fan, I found this very drinkable with the big fruit up front and much smoother than I expected. Second on the list was theirCabernet Franc, which is a blend of 2009 and 2010 Cabernet Franc aged 24 months in French oak. This had the pepper that is often expected when drinking a Cab. Franc. Last of the reds available for tasting was theSaudé Creek Red. This is a blend of five red grapes, but the majority is Chancellor and Merlot. I hadn't previously heard of the variety of "Chancellor" but after tasting this, I definitely am interested in tasting more of this type of grape. As far as the cost to these, the Merlot rings in at $21, the Cab Franc at $27 and theSaudé Creek Red at $18.

In addition to the history behind their location, they can also boast about having a site with beautiful views with the tasting room nested on what appears to be the highest point. The tasting room has a decent sized wrap around bar with a cozy seating area near a fireplace, along with a spacious covered patio/porch area that wraps around most of the building and a deck in the rear overlooking the Pamunkey River in the distance. There is plenty of space here to accomodate people without being cramped at all. In addition to the patio/deck area, there are plenty of other seating options on the lower level. They currently have 25 acres under vine and have leased another 40 acres in Montpelier.

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Stone Tower Winery Groundbreaking

Date: Tue, Oct 2, 2012 Wine Tasting

There's going to be another new entry to the list of vineyards in Loudoun County in 2014, and that would be Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg.Stone Tower Winery is the venture of Mike and Kristi Huber, which you may know of them through their other business venture, Belfort Furniture. They recently held a Groundbreaking Ceremony and Inaugural Vintage Release which I attended along with fellow bloggers Paul and Warren of Virginia Wine Time, and Kurt and Carol of Wine About Virginia.

Their family has owned approximately 1400 acres in Leesburg for several years, and have carved out approximately 200 acres of that land for a vineyard. They've scouted a beautiful location that will have some very scenic views for the buildings that will be constructed. They had some of the renderings of what the buildings will look like built on the property, and I must say that no one will complain about the size of their tasting room/space.

It was a $10 donation for a tasting of 4 wines. We were given each 4 red tickets, and you handed a ticket to the person at the tasting station.

Each of the 4 wines had their own station. For the first ride, I mean wine, I handed over a ticket for a pour of their 2011 Viognier with lots of honeysuckle at 13.3% ABV and priced at $28/bottle. From there, we found the Chardonnay tasting stations. Both 2011 Chardonnays are named after the Hubers two daughters, Lauren and Lacey. The Lacey is the un-oaked of the two. Both are slightly different blends of clones of Chardonnay with 13.3% ABVas well. Each of these is priced at $24/bottle. All 3 of the whites were harvested from the estate just prior to the rain that tormented from the end of August to the end of the summer in 2011. From there, we moved on to tasting their 2009 Sanglier Noble, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (30%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Cabernet Franc (6%) using fruit from other Virginia vineyards. This wine comes in at a bit hotter ABV of 14.5% and is $29/bottle.

After the tasting, we moved outside to enjoy some light fare, a bottle of the Lacey and the Viognier all while listening to the wonderful musical styles of local artist, Dan Fisk. Dan is someone that is being seen more and more along the vineyard "circuit" and while he's great at the cover songs he does, he has some very enjoyable original music as well.

Just prior to sundown, we moved to the site where the buildings will be constructed for the groundbreaking where Michael discussed the vision, shared some candid thoughts of Virginia Wine in general, and his family. And then they broke ground.

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Five Tips for the New Owners of Lost Creek Winery

Date: Mon, Oct 1, 2012 Wine Tasting

Lost Creek Winery recently came under new ownership and we decided to head out on Sunday to see if we could meet the new owners. Unfortunately, when we got there the tasting room was busy and the new owner seemed really stressed, so we did our tasting and left.

Lost Creek is an interesting winery, the previous owners considered it more of a hobby and ran it as such. This has left a bad taste in the mouth of many Virginia Wine Lovers who know that Virginia is capable of producing serious wines.

But, I think Lost Creek can be better. Since I did not get a chance to impart my thoughts (nor am I sure they would have been welcomed) to the new owners, I am going to do it here. Please understand this post is from a position of love, I want all Virginia Wineries to make great wine, but right now, you don't.

First, some things you are doing right: the rumor is you are bringing on Sébastien Marquet, from Doukenie Winery as a consulting winemaker. If this is true, fantastic. Sébastian is great at what he does and he is a perfectionist, his presence will instantly add gravitas to your wines.

Your facility and tasting room are beautifully designed and laid out. Lost Creek is one of my favorite places to spend time. I especially like the dual patios, so if we want to listen to music we can, but if we want to have a conversation we can sit on the other side.

That being said, there is a lot of room for improvement. I am going to give you five tips that I think will help improve Lost Creek, and it's wines:

  1. Decide whether you are going to be a wedding winery or a serious winery. Right now, you are firmly in the category of wedding winery. There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, but most wedding wineries don't make great wine (there are obvious exceptions to this). You can be a serious winery that sometimes hosts weddings, but you have to put the one first.

  2. Train your pourers better. The woman who poured our wine was new, which is forgivable, but it was clear she didn't know anything about your wine, which is not. Your tasting room staff has the ability to turn a mediocre experience around with their personality and knowledge.

  3. Speaking of that, at one point your Merlot may have been "light bodied", that is no longer the case. Switch the order up and pour the Chambourcin before the Merlot. Frankly, I think your Cambourcon is your stand out wine now, so tout its lightness and easy food pairing capabilities.

  4. Stop with the non-vintage wines and the oak chips. There is no excuse for making all of your wines non-vintage. Virginia has variable seasons and years, let the true expression of the fruit from each vintage shine through and make vintage wines. I know that people can't tell the difference between oak chips and barrel-aged wine, but until you have established your wines as quality wines use barrels.

  5. Finally, stay away from Groupon, Living Social and all of the other places the previous owners advertised. These services are great for bringing in new peoples but right now you aren't going to convert them to repeat customers because the tasting experience has too many problems.

Once again, I wish you luck, I want you to be successful. You have a lot of work ahead of you -- but it would be nice to count Lost Creek amongst the top Loudon County wineries. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Oh, and based on the picture above, I think your Chambourcin is almost ready to harvest.

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Hiddencroft, A Little Bit of Something for Everyone

Date: Sun, Sep 30, 2012 Wine Tasting

Many people know some of my own personal favorites as far as vineyards go, and one of them is Hiddencroft. I've long appreciated all of their wines, and their offerings continue to get better and better. During this summer, they released a few new offerings that I feel are very much worth discussing.

The first new offering is aRoséspecifically 2011 ChambourcinRosé This is the first time they've done aone,and it was not initially planned. They had more Chambourcin fruit than they would use for the barrels, so they decided to take what was left over and produce this.What resulted was a very crisp and brightRoséwith a beautiful color. I'm really not normally aRoséperson, but I really do enjoy this. It's a dry styleRosé, but with great fruit up front and a burst of acidity.

The next 2 releases are both 2011 Traminettes. Clyde Housel, the winemaker, has in previous years done either a dry style or a semi-sweet, with usually one appealing to some but not others. For this release, he had enough fruit to produce both. Both Traminettes are 90% Traminette and 10% Vidal Blanc. The Dry Traminette has no residual sugar while the Semi-sweet has 1.5% residual sugar. Both have the spice and floral notes that you'd expect a hybrid of the Gewurztraminer grape to have. These are each priced at $18/bottle.

They've also released their latest Dutchman's Creek Blend. This a non-vintage blend, but the latest of this is just wonderful. I noticed quite a few self-confessed non-red-wine drinkers actually really comment on how smooth this is. Their Dutchman's Creek Blend (named after the creek that runs along the property) is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Tannat. This is priced at $23/bottle.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the 2008 Tannat. Prior to this release, they were offering a 2009 Tannat, while they still had the 2008 in the barrel. The 2008 is aged 3 1/2 years in the barrel and has produced a very smooth, full bodied Tannat. They even have a note in bold on the tasting notes to try to bring this wine to the attention of dry red wine lovers. I was a fan of the 2009, but I'm an even bigger fan of this one. It has aged very well, and while drinkable now, it will age very well 5-7 years from now. They left the price the same on the 2008 as it was for the 2009, $40/bottle.

They do still have limited amounts of the 2010 Traminette, and the 2009 Tannat left available for sale.

If you haven't been to Hiddencroft within the last 3months (or ever), quite honestly, you're really missing out. I've been pleased to see just how this vineyard progresses and grows. This is one of the vineyards on my list for when I'm taking a group with varied tastes in wine, or someone who is really new to wine.

They also have a new addition to their winery cat family. Meet Jack:

OH! And here's a peek at some yummy goodness just after harvest:

So, anyone wanna guess which grape that is? :)

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Domaine de Chevalier Stars Harvest!

Date: Mon, Sep 24, 2012 Wine Tasting

It is harvest time in Bordeaux! After a challenging year in 2011, 2012 is looking to be a better year. Our good friends at Domaine de Chevalier sent us this early harvest report:

After a first pass to harvest early-ripening grapes, the fruit proved to be tasty, aromatic, and with the sort of beautiful acidity that befits great dry white wines. Reflecting substantial natural concentration, the yield was only 40 hectolitres per hectare.

The weather forecast for the next few days is excellent, and should ripen the remaining grapes beautifully. Maturity has been relatively spread out due to the prolonged flowering period. However, the way we harvest is ideally suited to this situation. Our experienced pickers and their supervisors undertake several passes, exclusively in the cool of the morning, to pick bunches at peak ripeness. Tastings of the freshly picked fruit and new wine, as well as laboratory analyses, show that that the hopes raised by the beautiful weather in Bordeaux since early August are fully justified.

We already have a general idea of 2012 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc's flavour profile: powerful and fresh, but also bright, complex and mineral.

After one of the coldest winters of the past thirty years, spring was very wet and replenished water supplies that might otherwise have been deficient after an historically dry 2012. While abundant rainfall meant that flowering was spread out, this nevertheless ensured good vine growth.

Summer was rather timid and cool in July, although there was little rain. Then, beautifully sunny weather set in starting in early August. This has virtually lasted nonstop until today and been conducive to rich, sweet grapes. The thermometer reached nearly 40°C form the 17th to the 19th of August, and then dropped to more reasonable levels. By this time, there was a big gap between daytime and night-time temperatures. At Chevalier, we very much like slightly cool evenings that enhance acidity and aromatic expression in our white wines.

I am worried about the massive rains that hit parts of Bordeaux over the weekend, but it looks like 2012 could turn out to be another great year. Good luck to Domaine de Chevalier and all the estates in Bordeaux!

Image provided by www.thewinecellarinsider.com originally appeared here.

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Bring Notaviva Wines to Your House

Date: Sun, Sep 23, 2012 Wine Tasting

When Notaviva Vineyards announced their Host a Wine Show last year I was intrigued. I have never been a big fan of "wine shows" like the Traveling Vineyard, but this is completely different.

I finally got to host one of their shows in July and it was an incredible event. The Notaviva "Host a Wine Show" brings Notaviva wines to your home or business along with Stephen or Shannon to tell you about the wines.

The cost is only $15 per person and not only do attendees get to taste the wonderful wines that Notaviva produces, but they get to hear about the wines and the winery from one of the owners. For those interested, they can even by wines (which a lot of people did).

Notaviva is a beautiful winery and worth the trip, but it is hard to beat the intimacy of an in-home wine tasting with a winery owner, it makes for a great event.

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Vintage Crystal Returns Tomorrow!

Date: Sat, Sep 15, 2012 Wine Tasting

One of my favorite local events, Vintage Crystal is returning tomorrow and the weather could not be any better for this outdoor event:

Vintage Crystal: A Taste of Wine and Jazz – This Weekend
A convenient, metro-friendly addition to the Virginia wine festival scene, enjoy sips of wine provided by Jaleo and tempting tastes from local restaurants. Free Salsa dancing lessons from The Salsa Room, Latin Jazz from Trio Caliente and wine tasting classes from the Washington Wine Academy round out the sixth installment of this local favorite.

When: September 16, 2pm – 6pm.
Where: Courtyard at 220 20th Street, Arlington, Va.
METRO access via blue and yellow lines to Crystal City.
Admission: Tickets available day of event. $20 – food and wine (includes a tasting glass), $10 – food only.

This event is always a great one, and an excellent value. Hopefully, I will see you all there!

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Virginia Harvest Report

Date: Mon, Sep 3, 2012 Wine Tasting

"Gun Shy" is the word that appears to be defining the 2012 harvest in Virginia. I have heard that phrase from more than a dozen winemakers and vineyard managers around the state. After the difficult 2011 vintage many wineries are concerned about the September rains and their potential impact on the harvest. In fact, many wineries started their harvest a few weeks early in order to avoid a repeat.

The 2012 growing season started in 2011 with what turned out to be the mildest winter in recent memory. The mild winter lead to longer than usual growing season, and unfortunately, also lead to several frost scares. While there was some minor frost damage across the state, it was not nearly as bad as the damage from frost in 2010.

2012 was a dry year with only 14.43 inches of rain between April 1st and August 31st in Loudoun County and 17.82 inches during the same period in Charlottesville. Compare that to an average rainfall of 18.73 inches during the same time period over the previous 5 years in Loudoun and 16.94 over the same period in Charlottesville.

Loudoun County experienced 36 90+ degree days between April 1st and August 31st. Down from 42 and 46 in 2011 and 2010, respectively. This meant that in Loudoun there was a longer growing season that was dry an warm, but not too hot.

Charlottesville had 46 90+ degree days between April 1st and August 31st, including a stretch of 5 strait 100+ degree days between July 4th and 8th. This is also down from 47 in 2011 and 59 in 2010.

While it is never a good idea to make predictions about the wines from a harvest, this is definitely shaping up to be a good year for Virginia wines; provided we avoid the deluge of rain we experienced in 2011 and wineries don't jump the gun and harvest too soon.

Good luck to all Virginia wineries!

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