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More Bad News for Virginia Vineyards

Date: Mon, Mar 26, 2012 Wine Tasting

On top of the frost warning tonight, it now appears that hail is in the forecast for later this week:

SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS ARE POSSIBLE WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING. SOME OF THESE THUNDERSTORMS MAY PRODUCE LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS...PARTICULARLY ACROSS NORTHERN AND CENTRAL VIRGINIA.

Hail storms are always a risk for vines, but the biggest risk comes primarily at the end of the growing season. The biggest risk to vines this early in the growing season is shoot damage, which is recoverable, but can take a lot of work.

Once again, all we can do is hope for the best.

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Frost Warning for Many Virginia Wineries

Date: Sun, Mar 25, 2012 Wine Tasting

The National Weather Service has issued a frost warning for the DC Metro Area which includes most of Virginia Wine Country. If it happens, it will be overnight Monday into Tuesday:

FREEZING TEMPERATURES POSSIBLE MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING...

A COLDER CANADIAN AIRMASS WILL SPILL OVER THE REGION MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING LEADING TO THE POTENTIAL FOR WIDESPREAD FREEZING TEMPERATURES. AFTER AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF UNSEASONABLY WARM CONDITIONS...VEGETATION ACROSS THE REGION HAS REACHED GROWING STAGES THAT ARE AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. AS A RESULT...SUB FREEZING TEMPERATURES MAY DAMAGE SENSITIVE VEGETATION.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A FREEZE WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM LATE MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY MORNING.

TEMPERATURES...UPPER 20S NORTH AND WEST WITH LOWER 30S OVER THE BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON D.C METRO.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FREEZE WATCH MEANS SUB-FREEZING TEMPERATURES ARE POSSIBLE. THESE CONDITIONS COULD KILL CROPS AND OTHER SENSITIVE VEGETATION.


Most Counties in Virginia are potentially impacted. This could be a serious threat as bud break has already started in many areas. We'll keep a close watch and update on the weather patterns.

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Budbreak Comes Early to Virginia Wine Country

Date: Thu, Mar 22, 2012 Wine Tasting

Several Virginia winemakers are reporting budbreak in their vineyards. This is about 3-4 weeks earlier than usual, which could mean a long growing season. Of course, before we can get to the growing season we have to get through the frost. For right now, the forecast looks good with overnight temperatures not falling below the low 40s.

At this point, all we can do is remain optimistic and vigilant.

Of course, we firmly believe the old Internet adage, "Pics or it didn't happen." Therefore, we will post some pictures of budbreak this weekend!

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An evening of lobster and wine

Date: Thu, Mar 22, 2012 Wine Tasting

This past Monday night, The Boxwood Tasting Room hosted the first ever stop for the Lobster Truck in Reston! As I'm sure you know by the mere fact that I write for this blog, I love wine. As you may not know, lobster is one of my favorite foods! So of course, with both wine and lobster being offered, only a zombie apocalypse could have kept me away!

If you live in the DC Metro area, you are probably familiar with the explosion of specialty Food Trucks in the area. Being a native New Englander, my favorite is the Red Hook Lobster Truck, which serves the BEST Lobster Rolls (both Maine or Connecticut style) south of the New England border! They also have an amazing clam chowder, shrimp rolls and delicious Whoopie pies for dessert! When they originally started out a couple of years ago, they only had 1 truck, and stayed strictly in DC. As their popularity soared, they have expanded both their trucks (now they have 2) and their service area beyond District and into the surrounding areas of Maryland and Northern Virginia.

The Lobster Truck arrived outside of the Boxwood Tasting Room and promptly drew quite a crowd! The small tasting room and sidewalk were quickly overwhelemed with people trying to enjoy a glass of wine with their lobster rolls. Fortunately, I was there with a friend, so while she waited in line for the food, I kept my eye out for a table, which I eventually found just in time for the food to arrive. Boxwood was kind enough to print out the Menu from the Lobster Truck, along with their suggested pairings. Because of the crowds though, I didn't see this until I had already gotten my first glass, the Topiary Rose. Since we had scored a coveted table, we took our time eating and enjoying the food and wine. As another friend showed up to join us, I enjoyed a second glass, this time the 2011 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Both were enjoyable as I feasted on my lobster and chowder. Despite the craziness of the crowds, it was a delicious meal with great wines. I think the Lobster Truck was sold out of food in record time and ended up having to close up shop close to an hour before they had planned. Clearly this means that they need to come back and do this again!!

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Cakebread Cellars Dinner at Vinifera Bistro

Date: Tue, Mar 20, 2012 Wine Tasting

Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro is one of the most underrated wine bars in the region. The food is consistently excellent and wine list is phenomenal. Jason, the manager of Vinifera, has a lot of contacts in the wine industry and those contacts are reflected in the unique selection of wines.

A few weeks ago Vinifera hosted a wine dinner featuring wines from Cakebread Cellars and hosted by Dennis Cakebread.

In addition to being a great winemaker, Dennis Cakebread is an entertaining story teller. Between each course he talked about the wine, answered questions, and shared stories about the wine.

It was great to get perspective on the Napa wine industry from a winemaking legend. He continually referred to most Napa Chardonnays as being produced by "Château 2 x 4". He also talked at length about night harvesting and the perils of biodynamic winemaking.

The story that really captured everyone's attention was the origin of the name Cakebread. The Cakebread family hired a genealogist to determine the origins of their family name. The name originates from a type of peasant food that was popular in England in the middle ages. The genealogist was able to track down a recipe and share it with the Cakebreads, who thought it would be cool to make it and serve it in the tasting room as a signature dish.

The only problem is that peasants in England in the middle ages did not eat very well, and Cakebread is awful.

Fortunately, the wine and food that evening were significantly better. Which shouldn't be a surprise. Cakebread Cellars makes excellent wines. For the dinner we were able to try the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Chardonnay Reserve, 2007 Zinfandel, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2007 Dancing Bear Ranch.

The standout for me was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine received a 90 point score from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker and had aromas of plum, cassis and tobacco. It was a nicely balanced wine with good black fruit up front and a soft finish with well-structured tannins.

The wine paired extremely well with the veal chop stuffed it's smoked shallots and cauliflower purée and purple potatoes that Chef Bo chose to pair it with.

I also really liked the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, it is a light wine with green apple and citrus notes. It is a bright wine, with lots of effervescence. Great fruit and acidity make this a really enjoyable wine.

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What Does a Mild Winter Mean for Virginia Wine in 2012?

Date: Sun, Mar 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

The 2011 - 2012 winter has been exceptionally mild in Virginia, and this has some winemakers worried. With vines already starting to leak sap and budbreak around the corner, 2012 could be a nice long growing season. The challenge is that most areas in Virginia are in danger of frost through the end of April. Frost is something that Doug Fabbioli, of Fabbioli Cellars, knows something about. I asked him about the mild winter:

My biggest fears would be early bud break and then a cold snap that freezes the green shoots. You know about my frost issues 2 years ago. The machine I purchased will work when there is air stratification or layers of cold and warm air. When a front comes in like last October and drops a couple inches of snow, there is no protection against that. We want that when it does warm up that it stays warm or at least above freezing.

Jordan Harris at Tarara is also concerned about the potential for frost:
Next is the fact that once we have sap flow and water movement like this we can expect to start seeing bud-break within two weeks. A March bud-break around here is very scary because then you can't get frost of the shoots will be killed and you lose the years crop. If we do get bud break in the next few weeks you can bet I will have some sleepless nights and Helicopters on speed dial. Sounds pricey, but so is losing 42 acres of grapes. They draw the warm air down to help raise the temperature a few degrees if you are on the border. If we get 25 degrees after bud break, then I will think about making beer this year

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about the weather, so while they are concerned they remain cautiously optimistic. Jennifer Breaux, from Breaux Vineyards, strikes a measured tone:
With the mild weather we're experiencing the vines can experience accelerated development which leads to early bud break. The young buds and shoots are left vulnerable to spring frost. Frost and dramatic temperature can lead to damage or death of the vines or at best, delay harvest. It's really a "Hurry up and wait" game at this point. We're getting a heck of a lot of work done in the vineyard in this beautiful weather so for now, we're cautiously optimistic.

Even Jordan is going to hope for he best:
That all said, this is all pessimistic thinking. We could also get an early bud break which gives potential for a longer growing season. The long term from the La Nina shows that we could have a relatively cool summer. If that is the case the extra couple weeks of growing season might be great. We could have a long cool growing season that would give great fruit and moderate alcohols and bright acid.

So in the end, am I scared, absolutely. But, I like to be optimistic and especially when there is nothing that can really be done. I don't even have to play the realist card because it won't help the end resultanyway. So bring it on!

The other cool thing about looking at long term weather is I get to act like a weather man which is the ultimate job of no accountability.

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UGCB Finishes Up Successful Tasting in Brazil

Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Wine Tasting

Last week we wrote about the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Brazil. Stopping in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, the tasting was a huge success.

Brazil is a challenging market for Bordeaux, while there is an appetite for good wine, the tax structure makes Bordeaux wine prohibitively expensive. Henri Lurton, owner of Chateau Brane-Cantenac had this to say:

We had a very good tasting in San Paulo . The interest in Bordeaux wine is very important. There is big importers but also a lot of new ones following the growth of the market. The big problem at the time is the amount of taxes. We find BC 08 in shops at 400 reals so it means 200 €!

A lot of wine lovers use the fact that a family travelling can bring back 18 bottles/capita so a family of four can bring back from the US 4x18bt . It is very important for the very expensive wines.

It's a new market so there is a lot of education to do but there is a great interest and the coming of 80 châteaux of UGCB, for sure will make the interest grow again.

Aline Baly from Chateau Coutet agreed that the tasting was a big success, but she also learned about Brazillian food (and we know Aline loves great food):
The tasting a Sao Paulo was fabulous. The wine enthusiasts are just that: enthusiastic for Bordeaux and all of its appellations! They loved the 2009 vintage and were a delight to meet and interact with; there was a wonderful exchange of information. The same could be said for Rio de Janeiro.

This trip has been eye-opening to me, a first time visitor. I've had the opportunity to meet Brazilian visitors in the past but to see them discover our wines in their home country is wonderful. We've been able to share with them our hard work and passion, while they have opened our eyes to a wonderful, rich culture of gastronomie and their love of wine.

Given this success, I expect we will see more UGCB visits to Brazil.

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North Gate Harvest

Date: Wed, Sep 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

Harvest is an exciting time of year full of anticipation and questions: How well did the fruit mature? Will there be enough rain to give the grapes that final boost? Will the grapes get to the right brix level before they start to wither? Of course, once the questions are answered and it is time to harvest, the real work starts. This year I was lucky enough to get to spend a day help Vicki

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New Releases at Bluemont Winery

Date: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

Bluemont Vineyard has always been a destination winery because of the amazing views (see below). The wines they produced seem to match that ideal, with the focus being on patio wines that pair well with a deck and good friends. As the winery has matured so have their wines and this latest batch of wines reflects a more mature wine making style. The first release is their Petit Manseng (

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Harvest Starts Today at Boxwood

Date: Mon, Sep 20, 2010 Wine Tasting

Over on the Boxwood blog they have a great write-up about the harvest process at their winery. There are some great pictures of their consultants, the vines and the Boxwood Team as well as some insight into the process of deciding when to harvest. Harvest begins at Boxwood today...can't wait to see what the 2009 vintage holds!

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2010 Virginia Governor's Cup Winners Announced (White Wines)

Date: Sun, Sep 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

The list of winners from the 2010 Virginia Governor's Cup for white wines has been announced and Loudoun County wineries, once again, shine: Gold Winner: Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Dessert Wine Blends White Silver Winners: Casanel Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Oaked Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Albarino Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Viognier Doukenie Winery

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Sauternes in China

Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

I am glad to see that the United States is not the only country with weird rules pertaining to wine. It turns out that until now China has not been able to import Sauternes: With much talk about the Chinese market for Bordeaux, one important segment has until now not been officially permitted in China: Sauternes and Barsac. The renowned Bordeaux sweet wines – and other dessert wines – contain

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Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes

Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

The bloggers over at Enjoy Bordeaux posted a link to this recipe for Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes: 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.5 oz) 6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder 3/8 teaspoons baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 oz unsalted butter, softened 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons red wineThat sounds amazing, I think I

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Vintage Crystal this Sunday

Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

If you are looking for something to do this Sunday (Sept 19th) you might want to check out Vintage Crystal in Crystal City. From their press release: While enjoying more than 30 different wines hailing from Spain and South America, visitors to the festival can taste complimentary dishes from local favorites including Cabot Creamery, Café Pizzaiolo, CC Bistro, Domaso, Hamburger Hamlet, Jaleo

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