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Review of The Wine Check

Date: Thu, Aug 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

I love to buy wine when I travel, and I must confess that I really love being able to serve wine from overseas that has no importer label on special occasions. My go to wine transport system has been the dual-bottle Bottlewise pack and it has been great, but it limits me to two bottles. I usually want more.

Which is why I was so interested in The Wine Check. I like the idea of being able to check a case at a time for delivery. So, for our recent trip to Portugal, I packed up The Wine Check and put it through the travel ringer.

One word of caution before you begin: unless you are bringing wine with you, bringing The Wine Check takes some planning. Folded, The Wine Check fit nicely inside a large suitcase and still left enough room for 5 days worth of clothes, but that meant we had to check two bags on the return flight -- for two of us that was no problem, as we each were able to check one bag free, but if I was traveling solo it would have meant checking two bags (still cheaper than paying to ship the wine overseas).

If I was traveling solo, I would probably carry on the empty Wine Check and check my carry on on the way out and do the reverse on the way back.

That is not necessarily a negative, it just means if you plan on brining The Wine Check with you somewhere, be aware that you need to plan.

That is also why I purchased The Wine Check without the optional shipping box. There are wineries and wine shops all over the world that ship wine, so I would rather get a shipper box from then and have more flexibility packing my Wine Check.

In our case we wound up purchasing 6 bottles of Port, 6 bottles of Portuguese olive oil and two bottles of Portuguese late harvest wine. The wines and oil were split into two different shipping boxers that were not quite as big as a standard 12-bottle shipping box, so we augmented the extra room in The Wine Check with a padding of dirty clothes. To be honest, the extra padding was probably not necessary, but e were unsure of what to expect.

How did The Wine Check do? At the Lisbon airport they slapped a fragile sticker on it and wrapped it in plastic. When we got to Newark the plastic was almost completely ripped off, but the wine and olive oil were in good shape.

The trip from Newark to Washington Dulles was a little rougher, the bag missed our flight and got beat around both airports, but the wine was still in good shape.

The Wine Check performed admirably and lived up to its expectations, I can't wait to bring it to Bordeaux with me in April!

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Breaux 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Wins Silver at Concours Mondial du Sauvignon

Date: Sun, Jul 28, 2013 Wine Tasting

The 4th Annual Concours Mondial du Sauvignon took place April 26 & 27 in the Loure Valley. This Sauvignon Blanc-focused competition is one of the most distinguished and difficult in the world, but it is more than just a judgement:

The contest aims to promote wines made from the varietal by increasing awareness of the comprehensive range of Sauvignon blanc wines world wide and providing a cue for consumers at point of sale. The Concours Mondial du Sauvignon is more than just a competition between producers and appellations. It is primarily aimed at fostering dialogue and creating a meeting point for industry specialists.

There were 807 wines submitted to the competition and only 231 medals distributed, which means that just over a quarter of the entrants walked away with medals.

The fact that one of those medals went to Virginia wine is impressive, the fact that Breaux Vineyards was the only North American winery to receive a medal is unbelievable.

Jennifer Breaux was thrilled:
Winning an internationally recognized medal on the world’s stage is extremely gratifying. Winning it in France with a French varietal makes it even better. We hope this continues to solidify Breaux Vineyards as a producer of fine wines and also brings more deserved awareness to VA as a true wine region to watch and appreciate. Every time VA gains attention and accolades internationally it validates us all – no matter which winery it is, we can all celebrate the success collectively. It’s truly a great time to be making wine in Virginia!

Breaux's silver medal was in the unoaked category, by far the largest, most competitive category in the competition.

A total 231 wines were awarded medals, 79 of them gold and 152 silver. The wines were divided into consistent flights (types of wine, vintages and origins) and those achieving the highest scores were awarded a special trophy recognising the excellence of each Sauvignon blanc wine in its category:

Special Trophy – Blend
Château Tour de Mirambeau Réserve 2012 (France) Bordeaux Blanc

Special Trophy – Oaked Sauvignon
Domaine André Vatan Saint François 2011 (France) Sancerre

Special Trophy – Unoaked Sauvignon < 10 €
Domaine Gibault Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (France) Touraine

Special Trophy – Unoaked Sauvignon > 10 €
Weingut Genheimer Killz Gutenberger Felseneck 2012 (Germany)

In addition to two mornings of tastings, a conference was moderated on April 25 by British journalist and Loire wine specialist Jim Budd. Speakers outlined the various markets for Sauvignon blanc world wide and emphasised the archetypal characteristics of wines from the Loire.

The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc was not released when the winners was announced, we wanted to wait until the wine was available to provide you with a review.

The first thing you notice about the wine is the color, it is a light golden hue, very different from most Virginia Sauvignon Blancs. Pouring the wine there is a very floral bouquet with aromas of pineapple and honeysuckle that make your mouth water as you tip it back to taste it. In the mouth the wine has a beautiful acidity and flavors of pears and citrus that lead to a soft, smooth finish.

An absolutely amazing wine, well-deserving of all the accolades it will surely receive.

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Virginia Wine Pioneer Claude DelFosse Has Died

Date: Sun, Jul 21, 2013 Wine Tasting

According to multiple sources Claude DelFosse, Virginia Wine pioneer and owner of DelFosse Vineyards, passed away on July 11th after a short battle with cancer.

We will have more details as they are available, but for now we would like to offer our most sincere condolences to his family and the staff at DelFosse Winery. Claude was a great winemaker and Virginia was lucky that he chose to make wine here.

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Purcellville Wine & Food Festival Today!

Date: Sat, Jul 20, 2013 Wine Tasting

If you are looking for a fun event this afternoon you might want to checkout the Purcellville Wine & Food Festival starting at 4:00.

The free festival runs from 4:00 to 8:00 and features some of Loudoun County's best wineries (sadly, it also features Trump Winery).

In addition to the wineries there are some really good restaurants, including everyone's favorite local food truck, The Roving Italian.

After a day of visiting wineries this will be a great place to wind down and enjoy the evening.

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Do Vineyard Sheep Dream of Wine Bottles?

Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2013 Wine Tasting

Almost every good winery in Virginia has a winery dog, but winery sheep? Surprisingly, winery sheep are a growing trend. Here in Virginia, Tarara Winery is the first winery to make widespread use of sheep to maintain the vineyard.

The sheep are an environmentally friendly way to keep growth between the vines to a minimum. The sheep are voracious eaters and work around the clock. In addition to managing growth between the vines, the sheep are insect eaters, so they help cut down on the use of pesticides in the vineyard.

Of course, you can't use just any sheep because they loves grapes as much as we do. That's why vineyards that are going to keep the sheep year round, need to use a flock that has been specially trained to ignore the juicy grapes as they ripen.

Next time you are heading out to Tarara, take a second to stop and see the sheep wandering between the vines.

Editor's Note: The title is a play on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and, yes, I am awarei should leave the cute titles to the actually funny team at Swirl, Sip, Snark

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Is 25% Too Much?

Date: Sat, Jun 22, 2013 Wine Tasting

A wine can still be labelled a Virginia wine with up to 25% of out of state grapes blended into it. Normally, wineries don't use out of state grapes, but with rapid growth of the Virginia wine industry there is a shortage of Virginia gapes. New wineries are going to have trouble getting Virginia grapes at a price that allows them to make a profit.

Even more critical, with the late start to the growing season and relatively mild summer so far, there could be serious shortage of Cabernet Sauvignon come harvest.

The lure of cheap out of state grapes may be too much for new wineries to resist.

25% of non-Virginia grapes is a lot. It is enough to alter the character of the wine to the point that it will no longer reflect the 2013 vintage in Virginia, whatever that ends up being.

So, my question is: is 25% too much? As a young industry should Virginia winemakers worry preserving the character of the vintage, or should the primary concern be surviving and growing the industry?

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Myth Busted: It Turns Out Wine Lovers Know Their Wine

Date: Sun, Jun 16, 2013 Wine Tasting

There is no denying that environmental factors can impact your perception of a wine. Food you have eaten, temperature at which it is served, even the outside temperature and the company you are with can impact what you think of a wine.

However, there are certain characteristics that inherent to white versus red wines. You don't get aromas like raspberry, blackberry, and cassis from white wines. Similarly, you won't find flavors of citrus, pear, and honeysuckle in a red wine.

In 2001 Frédéric BROCHET conducted an experiment wherein he served the same white wine to wine students. However, he added food dye to one of the wines, so it looked like a red. The students described the dyed wine in terms normally associated with red wines. The study is here. Here you can also read a good write-up of the study here.

My problem with the study is that every jackass who thinks wine lovers don't know what they are talking about cites this study as proof. However, there are flaws with the study, not the least of which is the fact that if your professor invites you try a wine you are more likely to describe the wine in the way you think he wants to hear.

So,I decided to replicate the study, but without the coercion aspect. I invited 10 members of the wine club to participate in a "marketing study". I told them that a overseas winery wanted to break into the Virginia market and wanted to get feedback on their wines. The first wine I served was a 2006 Bordeaux. The second wine was a 2012 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, to which I added a combination of flavorless red and blue food dye.

Each person was handed a tasting sheet and asked to write down their thoughts -- including aroma and taste -- anonymously while everyone tasted. After I collected the notes we opened up the evening for discussion.

As I expected, without the element of coercion present in the original study, the drinkers inevitably used white wine descriptors to describe the second wine (I have included images below). Despite the food coloring, the tasters used terms like grapefruit, citrus, and cotton candy to describe the wine.

While this was not an exact replica of the original study, it was close enough to demonstrate that wine lovers really do know what they are talking about.

Thanks to the members of the wine club and to my brother Michael (and his company Rampancy Productions) for participating in the study.

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Brane-Cantenac Solidair Charity Auction at Vinexpo on June 17th

Date: Thu, Jun 13, 2013 Wine Tasting

Dn't forget that Monday, June 17th, at Vinexpo in Bordeaux Château Brane-Cantenac will be hosting a charity auction to benefit Philippe Chastan's important charity, Solidair.

They will be auctioning off several of Eric Boissenot's photos from around Brane-Cantenac a well as select vintages pulled directly from their cellar.

Details of the auction are available through their Flip Book.

If you are not able to make it to Vinexpo, you can still donate to the charity by sending a check to:

Philippe Chastan/Solidair
c/o Brane Cantenac
33640 Margaux, France

This is a worthy cause that deserves more attention!

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Images from the 8th Annual Weekend des Grands Crus

Date: Mon, Jun 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) held their 8th annual Weekend des Grands Crus the weekend of May 18th. The highlight of the weekend was the Grand Tasting, where the 120 members of the UGCB showcased the 2010 vintage as well as one other.

This is, without a doubt, my favorite wine event every year and this year the chateaux continued to impress. 2010 remains a powerful vintage, with the reds still displaying strong tannins, with just a little bit of fruit starting to show through. This is definitely a vintage to age.

The Weekend des Grands Crus is a great event and I definitely recommend taking the time to visit Bordeaux during next year's tasting!

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#varosé of the Day: Boxwood 2011 Rosé

Date: Wed, May 29, 2013 Wine Tasting

The big day is finally here! Welcome to #varosé day! And what better way to celebrate the first annual #varosé day than with a bottle of Boxwood Winery Rosé.

The 2011 Boxwood Rosé is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot. The wine is a salmon color with strawberry, cherry and a little bit of pepper on the nose. In the mouth it has good red fruit flavors and lots of bright acidity. The Malbec gives it a nice structure and it manages a long soft finish without overwhelming the up front acidity.

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Bordeaux Vines About Three Weeks Behind Schedule

Date: Wed, May 29, 2013 Wine Tasting

The continued rain and lower than average temperatures have left Bordeaux vines about 2-3 weeks behind schedule. While the weather is concerning the good news is that, after two drier than average years, the rain has fully restored the water table throughout much of Bordeaux.

Fortunately, when summer finally does arrive the vines will very quickly catch up.

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#varosé of the Day: Sunset Hills Vineyard 2012 Rosé

Date: Tue, May 28, 2013 Wine Tasting

The Sunset Hills 2012 Rosé is a blend of 83% Chambourcin and 17% Vidal Blanc. It is an interesting blend that combines the strawberry of the Chambourcin with with pear and acidity of the Vidal Blanc to make a unique rosé.

The grapes were harvested and fermented separately, with cold fermentation occurring in stainless tanks. Blending occurred post-fermentation.

The wine has a nice acidity with 1/2 percent residual sugar that gives it just a bit of sweetness. The flavors from the two grapes blend well and complement each other nicely.

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#varosé of the Day: North Gate Vineyard 2012 Rosé

Date: Mon, May 27, 2013 Wine Tasting

Chambourcin is one of my favorite rosé producing grapes, done right it makes a refreshing easy to drink rosé. With the 2012 vintage, North Gate Vineyard most definitely got it right.

The rosé has an inviting ruby color that actually shimmers in the sun, followed by aromas of cherry and blackberry. On the palate there are refreshing strawberry and plum flavors that fill your mouth and the 1/2 percent residual sugar provides just enough sweetness to add to the freshness without overwhelming the acidity.

The rosé was made from free-run juice directly into cold-fermented steel tanks which helps preserve the freshness and acidity of the wine through the aging process.

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#varosé of the Day: Fabbioli Cellars Rosa Luna

Date: Sun, May 26, 2013 Wine Tasting

This Wednesday, May 29th, is #varosé day and the 30th is a #vawinechat sponsored by the Virginia Wine Board featuring rosé wines. With all this rosé talk I thought it would be a good idea to feature a different rosé each day.

We are going to kick off #varosé week with a Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Rosa Luna. No winemaker in Virginia is more passionate about making the perfect rosé than Melanie Natoli, the assistant winemaker at Fabbioli and it shows in the wine.

The 2012 Rosa Luna is 100% Sangiovese that was hand harvested on September 10th. The grapes are crushed and pressed in the style of Provence. Post harvest the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel for 2 months before being left alone to finish aging in the bottle.

The wine is bright and acidic with strawberry, cranberry and peach notes. In the mouth the brightness continues with citrus flavors that lead to a light smooth finish.

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