5/28/2008

Spring Sips: Doukénie Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Hello Friends,

With picture-perfect weather this past weekend, let’s talk about a French white-wine grape variety that exudes a bright spring or summer day. Not only is it sunshine in a glass, but it can usually be found at a great price ($8-$15). The grape variety we are talking about here is Sauvignon Blanc, and it can be characterized as light, crisp, lively, flavorful and fruity, grassy, herbaceous, and even cat-pee (aroma found in some Loire Valley examples). The Loire Valley holds historic claim to producing two classic and popular examples of Sauvignon Blanc in the villages of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, some of which are my personal favorites. New Zealand has set a recent trend of its own, however, producing a crisper, lively, and aromatic example highlighted by oodles of fresh citrus and tropical fruit flavors up front. This style of wine has quite the following, and with prices as low as $8.99 a bottle, the trend will continue to grow as other regions outside of New Zealand are aiming for the signature kiwi style. Elegance can be found in the white wines of Bordeaux produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape in areas such as Graves. More fuller-bodied and rich examples can be found in California, where the innovative wine pioneer Robert Mondavi coined the term Fumé Blanc. Fumé Blanc is a wine produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape that is aged in oak, and is usually dry and fuller bodied with less acidity. The Virginia examples I have tasted in the past center around the aforementioned styles, in my opinion. I recall tasting some nice examples at Linden Vineyards, Pearmund Cellars, and Naked Mountain Vineyards, to name a few. On a trip to Loudoun wine country this past weekend, I visited with Doukénie Winery and enjoyed a glass of their newly released Sauvignon Blanc 2007, which we will briefly talk about below. As you can see, I enjoyed my glass under sunny skies by the winery pond.

Doukénie Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Review: The Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is a nice spring / summer time wine displaying a light lemon yellow color offering inviting citrus fruit and soft spice aromas. The wine is crisp, yet round, with bright citrus fruit flavors and a smidgen of California Fumé character on the back end. Easy drinking, nicely balanced, and pleasing medium length finish; enjoy this offering as an aperitif wine or with many food selections including shellfish and grilled chicken dishes.
Price: $18 Alcohol Percentage: 14% Enclosure: Real Cork

Info: Doukenie Winery, 14727 Mountain Rd, Purcellville VA 20132

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      Dezel


      Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

      5/21/2008

      The Food and Wine Festival at National Harbor: Tastefully Fun!!!

      Hello Friends,

      This past weekend, I headed across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to sip, savor, and sample at the 1st Annual Food and Wine Festival at National Harbor. National Harbor is a new and exciting upscale waterfront attraction boasting top rated hotels, fine dining establishments, luxury shopping, and many other entertainment options. This was the Harbor’s grand opening festival and, for its debut, was tastefully done and tastefully fun.

      Site of the Festival

      This two day event was well attended by many diverse food and wine lovers from the Tri State area of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. Unlike other food and wine festivals I have attended, there was a major emphasis on the quality and selection of foods offered. For the price of admission one could savor and sip to the background sound of relaxing jazz until their heart was content. Many jovial attendees I spoke with said the $65 ticket price was well worth the culinary and sensory experience.

      Some of the Tasty Treats Offered

      The festival showcased a number of Old and New World wines, beer and spirit tastings, delicious food samples, artisanal and organic products, culinary demonstrations, and wine seminars hosted by industry professionals. I attended a number of the wine seminars, which I will elaborate on more. These sessions were all highly engaging and well presented. Among the world of wines offered, there were some Virginia pours to be sampled. The Washington Wine Academy was on hand pouring select Virginia wines from Barboursville Estate, Blenheim Vineyards, Delfosse Vineyards, Naked Mountain Vineyards, Rappahannock Cellars, Pearmund Cellars, and Williamsburg Winery. Maryland’s own Boordy Vineyards was also in attendance to pour and talk about their popular local wines.

      Many styles of wine to taste and talk about

      Highlighting the weekend of swirling, sipping and sampling delicious foods were the aforementioned wine seminars, which for a wine lover like myself was a nice change of pace from the fun-filled outdoor activities offered throughout the day. These wine seminars, with the exception of the Pinot tasting, were included in the price of admission and the only requirement was showing up, and of course having a curiosity about wine. Below are some simple, yet helpful points to be taken from the seminars.

      Set up a Blind tasting with Friends

      One of the first seminars I attended was The Art of Blind Tasting with Laurie Forster, who is also known as “The Wine Coach”. Coach Laurie guided us through a series of Old World and New World wines and talked about the importance and fun of tasting blind. What is important to take away from a blind tasting is not only does it refine your tasting skills, but it does so because you are blocking out any biases you may have of the wine because of region or producer. Thus, your focus is 100% on the wine – site, swirl, sniff, and sip; the full evaluation routine. Sometimes you will find that there is not much difference between a $12 bottle and a bottle you may purchase for $30. You may even find the $12 bottle to be a better wine for you. Sounds familiar?

      The Pop-Cork Experience - Very Fun!

      Another useful course, and one that you can try at home, was The Pop-cork Experience with renowned wine educator, Sharon Charny. The pop-cork experience explored food and wine pairings using neutrally flavored popcorn and three others flavored with lemon, salt, and Old-Bay spice. We sampled the different flavored popcorn with a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a Merlot. Sure enough, salty popcorn will decrease the taste of acidity in a wine, yet increase the sweetness (if there is any). Your acidic foods (we squeezed lemon juice on the popcorn) lowers the perception of acidity in wine; so any acidic food you have will best be paired with an acidic wine like a cool climate white wine (ex. Chablis) or something sparkling. Try this at home, results can be quite revealing and help you establish some basic ground rules for food and wine pairings.

      Michael Green - Wine, What's Hot?

      Last session worth mention was with the personable and electrifying celebrity wine educator Michael Green of Gourmet Magazine. Michael guided us through a tasting of hot new wines from sleeper regions that are gems in the glass, yet great values. Because they are hot today does not mean they are hot tomorrow, but Spain and Chile, regions of which we tasted, are great regions to find satisfying everyday wines, as well as dinner wines in the $10 to $17 price range – and even less on the everyday wines. There are some very good $10 wines out there from both Chile and Spain, and although we did not taste any from this region, I would also put South Africa in the mix. Great quality to price ratio wines found in these three regions, friends.

      National Harbor View

      In closing, I urge all who have not visited National Harbor to drive over or take a water taxi from Old Town Alexandria. There are a number of events scheduled throughout the summer season including an outdoor concert series back-dropped by the Potomac River. Also, be sure to look out for this festival next year. The festival’s debut was well organized, in a prime location, and as my title suggest, tastefully fun!!!

      See You on the Wine Trail, Friends!

    • Stay tuned friends ... More Q&A and lots more to come !!!
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        Dezel


        Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

        Barrel Oak Winery: Memorial Day Weekend Grand Opening


        Hello Friends,

        I wanted to let all of you know about Barrel Oak’s much anticipated Grand Opening this Memorial Day Weekend! Join Brian, Sharon, the tail-wagging Golden Retrievers, and the friendly staff for a fun-filled weekend of special tastings, winery and vineyard tours, gourmet treats, and sweeping vista views. The winery is open May 23rd to Memorial Day; call for times; however, the usual is 11am to 6pm. The winery grounds and the tasting room are beautiful, and the family is warm and hospitable. Make a date with Barrel Oak Winery and have a great time, friends.

        Info: Barrel Oak Winery, 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, VA 20144

      • Stay tuned friends ... More Q&A and lots more to come !!!
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          Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

          Dezel


          Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

          5/14/2008

          The Land Rover America’s Polo Cup 2008: Chukkers, Wine, and Fancy Hats

          Hello Friends,

          This past weekend Dezel was an attendee at the Land Rover America’s Polo Cup held at Historic Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. This fun-filled two day event was highlighted by the USA versus Italian Polo team match, as well as live entertainment, spectacular aerial flyovers, stunning parachute jumps, an Italian versus USA gourmet food competition, a stylish fashion show, and a Virginia Winery challenge hosted and organized by Virginia Wine Lover Magazine.

          USA vs ITALY

          This event, spearheaded by Tareq Salahi, founder of Oasis Winery, was a charitable affair benefiting the Journey for the Cure Foundation - a nonprofit, charitable organization set up to support research and grants for the MS Society and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Additionally, the Land Rover America’s Polo Cup is the world’s only invitational polo sporting event on an international level , so it was great to have it played right here in the Old Dominion.

          Dezel and Todd (of Wine Compass Blog) Enjoying the Fashion Show

          The event began with an opening cocktail party celebration Friday evening where a number of savory delights were prepared and sampled prior to the culinary challenge, which pitted Italian chefs against top America chefs. During this competition I tasted some nice samples on both sides of the fork so to speak. Wine Blogger Todd Godbout, of Wine Compass Blog was also in attendance to enjoy the evening events, and I think he would have to agree with me that both the food and fashion was fabulous. For more coverage of this event check out Todd’s post here at Wine Compass.

          Frank Britt with some of the Virginia Winners

          Following the cook-off, the ever-smiling Frank Britt, co-publisher of Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, took to the stage to announce the winners of the Virginia Winery Challenge. This was a competition coordinated by Virginia Wine Lover Magazine open to all Virginia wineries who wanted to participate. The competition was judged double blind by a panel of esteemed professionals in the field of enology and sensory evaluation using the modified UC Davis 20-point scoring system. See the winning Virginia wines below:

          Red Wine:

          Gold – Potomac Point Winery Petit Verdot, Silver – Pearmund Cellars Cabernet Franc, Bronze – Pearmund Cellars Ameritage

          White Wine:

          Gold – Winery at LaGrange Chardonnay, Silver – Villa Appalaccia Pinot Grigio, Bronze – Lake Anna Winery Totally White (blend)

          Blush Wine:

          Gold – Breaux Vineyards Syrah Rosé, Silver – Chatham Vineyards – Church Creek Rosé, Bronze – Tarara Winery Rosé

          Sparkling Wine:

          Gold - Kluge Estate SP Rosé, Silver – Kluge Estate SP Blanc De Blanc, Bronze – Chateau Morrisette – Star Dog

          Dessert Wine:

          Gold – Williamsburg Winery Late Harvest Vidal, Silver – Breaux Vineyards Soleil, Bronze – Winery at LaGrange Snort and Gray Ghost Adieu

          BEST OF SHOW!!!

          Potomac Point Winery – Petit Verdot

          All of these winning wines, bronze to gold, are worth seeking out, especially at the winery on a sunny, picture perfect day. To my tasting pleasure, Skip and Cindi Causey of Potomac Point Winery were on hand to accept their award and was kind enough to open a bottle of the double gold winning Petit Verdot 2006 to share with the Virginia table. Great wine! Nice color, very expressive, fuller –bodied, easy drinking, good fruit character and balance - are good descriptors of this wine. To visit the Causey’s winery web site click here – the winery is located in Stafford County and is beautiful both inside and out.

          Skip & Cindi Causey with the Award Winning Petit Verdot

          Following the wine competition was the fashion show, which featured Italian designers versus USA designers. This was a very classy and engaging show featuring select spring time fashions, which was followed by the Gipsy Kings Family taking the concert stage. Dance! Dance! Dance!

          Field Demonstration Images

          The following day I arrived at the same location and the live entertainment and on-field demonstrations were already in progress. Highlighting this was a very nice showing of the Clydesdales and the world famous United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. A tasty Italian food spread and open bar complimented the day, and some of the Virginia wines poured were from Oasis and Breaux Vineyards. What a nice way to start the day!

          Dezel's ready to enjoy the day!!!

          Before the match was a very thrilling performance by the Blackwater USA parachute team. Those guys were awesome, and made jumping out of a plane from way, way, up look so easy. Great job guys! Additionally, there were some great military aircraft flyovers that got big “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd.

          Blackwater USA Parachute Team - Awesome Job Guys !!!

          Next up was what the crowd of fans decked out in seersucker suits, fashionable spring dresses, and fanciful hats came to see - the USA versus Italian Polo match. The polo match was an exciting afternoon game with players showing their great skills all for a good cause. In the end the USA team was victorious winning 6-2 over the Italian team. Hooray! And Dezel, finally figured out what a “chukker” was. For those who do not know, it is the polo term used to describe a period of play, for which there are six chukkers in a polo match.

          Images of the Polo Match

          Following the match the crowds took the field to “wine down,” literally, and enjoy the Gipsy King Family and Huey Lewis and the News live concert performances. Be on the lookout for this event next year, as the USA team will compete against Australia in the 2009 Land Rover America’s Polo Cup World Championship at its new location - Capitol Polo Club in Potomac, Maryland.

          The Cherry on Top - A Great Concert!


        • Stay tuned friends ... More Q&A and lots more to come !!!
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            Dezel


            Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

            5/09/2008

            Grayhaven Winery: A Hip Slice of Country Life


            Hello Friends,

            I recently revisited the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail in Central Virginia to drop in on Grayhaven Winery which I missed during my last visit on the trail. The Heart of Virginia Wine Trail consists of four wineries: Cooper Vineyards, Lake Anna, James River Cellars, and, of course, Grayhaven Winery. All four wineries can be reached in a day with a very early start. The wineries on this trail are within 30 minutes of the Richmond, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg areas, and once you visit one, the others are within a 20-30 minute drive through rural and sometimes windy country roads.

            Grayhaven Winery

            Grayhaven Winery is a small family run winery located in Gum Springs, Virginia that is owned by Charles and Lyn Peple, whom, I might add, were growing and selling wine grapes in 1979 to local wineries of which there were few back then. Sixteen years later they constructed a tasting room, started making wine, and have been attracting wine lovers to their slice of “country life” ever since. Nowadays, daughter Max Peple and husband Deon Abrams, who is also the winemaker, assume day to day operations.

            Mona - The Winery Dog

            Waiting at the door to greet me when I arrived was the tail-wagging and friendly winery dog, Mona. Mona, as you will see later in this story, is quite the entertainer. Of course, the farm’s horses would not say that, but I give the little doggy the benefit of the doubt. Into the tasting room I strolled where I was warmly greeted by winemaker Deon Abrams and invited to the tasting bar.

            Deon Abrams - Winemaker

            While chatting with Deon, I learned quite a bit about the small farm winery’s background and his winemaking philosophy, as well as the fact that he was from South Africa and made wine there before settling here in the Old Dominion. Even though Deon is the chief winemaker, he explained to me that winemaking at Grayhaven is a true family affair, stating that, “a lot of our winemaking takes place at the dinner table where we'll try the new vintages and make group decisions as to how to proceed.” As my eyes perused the rustic, yet charm-filled tasting room, Deon’s South African influence is noted in the gift shop that has a number of unique artisan gifts and food items made by local crafters, as well as imports from South Africa. The true tell-tale is Grayhaven’s flagship wine; no, not Cabernet Franc, Norton or Viognier, but a grape variety developed in 1925 at Stellenbosch University in South Africa from crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsaut. This South African wine goes by the name of Pinotage.

            Wine and Fine Nibbles

            Grayhaven specializes in small lots of hand-crafted wines made from vinifera, French-American hybrids, and other unique grape varieties. Varietal wines offered such as Seyval Blanc, a rare Rkatsiteli, Touriga, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin are leaner wines with subtle flavoring and good balance. These easy drinking wines make for nice sippers or accompaniments to a number of food dishes since the flavors are not over powering, but complimentary. The exception to these leaner bodied wines would be the flagship wine, Pinotage, which is also the crowd favorite. Deon tells me that their Pinotage ripens beautifully with high brix levels and the results are much different than the rustic Pinotage examples I have come to expect out of South Africa, and even some of the more refined and “cleaned up,” as I call them, examples out of California and New Zealand. There is no distinct Virginia Pinotage style; however, this example is fuller- bodied with big red fruit flavors and spicy notes – a good wine for a hearty meal and a nice example of what the grape variety can do in Virginia soil.

            Someone is Horsing Around - Guess Who ?

            Following the informative and enlightening tasting with Deon, I chose a bottle of the light and refreshing Rkatsiteli with a local cheese spread, as well as a warm French baguette. As I made my way out to sit by the pond and enjoy the serene country setting, I noticed my little pal Mona, the winery dog, out in the fields entertaining harassing the horses. For a toy-sized doggie, Mona either thinks she is a very big dog, or the horses are very small. Either way, Mona rules the roost, and what is better than playing with horses is following a winery visitor who has a warm French baguette in his hand out to the pond. Needless to say, Mona followed and was quite the companion, even taking a splash in the pond while I basked in Grayhaven’s hip slice of country life. Time flies when you are having fun, and it was nearing time to say good-bye to a very relaxing day and return to the hustle and bustle of life in the city.

            I'm Dezel, see you on the Wine Trail!

            In closing friends, a relaxing country atmosphere, attractive surroundings, horse pastures, nice picnic areas (picnic baskets are welcomed here!), Southern (and South African) hospitality, and several unique Virginia wines are very good reasons to visit Grayhaven Winery on a beautiful summer day. Check their calendar for winery and event information. Their most popular event, the South African Food & Wine Festival, takes place at the winery on July 11th, 12th and 13th – click here for further information. When you visit Deon, Max, Mona, and family, let them know you saw them here on Dezel’s Virginia Vine Spot.


            Winery Info: Grayhaven Winery, 4675 E. Gray Fox Circle, Gum Spring, VA 23065, Phone: 804.556.3917



            • Stay tuned friends ... More to come !!!

            Also, for more on Pinotage, visit my pal Peter May at The Pinotage Club.


            Click Here to vote VA Vine Spot as your favorite wine blog - You can vote 1x per day!

            Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

            Dezel


            Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

            5/07/2008

            Virginia Wine Events: A Site you want to Bookmark!

            Hello Friends,

            Donna and Carl of Capital Celebrations have launched a new web site to let all you Virginia Wine Lovers know about local winery events and other wine related information. Check the site out, bookmark it, and share it with your friends. A number of fun-filled summer events lie ahead, so use this site as your one stop hop to finding your next Virginia wine adventure.

            Link: http://www.virginiawineevents.com/

            Be sure to bookmark the website, and if you have not already, bookmark Virginia Vine Spot!!! The latter is a requirement for you (ha-ha).


            • Stay tuned friends ... Grayhaven Winery, Cellaring, and more to come !!!

            Click Here to vote VA Vine Spot as your favorite wine blog - You can vote 1x per day!

            Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

            Dezel



            Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

            5/01/2008

            Sweet Ending: Tokaji Azsú - One of the World's Greatest Sweet Wines

            Hello Friends,

            This week’s sweet ending brings us to a delicious dessert wine that palates around the wine world refer to as one of the best sweet wines bar none. The golden nectar Dezel speaks of is no other than Hungary’s own Tokaji Azsú. Tokaji is a region in Hungary that is rich in history and well known for its sweet and sumptuous wines made namely from furmint grapes affected by botrytis cinerea, also referred to as noble rot when results are positive. Simply putting it, noble rot is a fungus; yes, I said fungus, which causes the grapes to shrivel on the vine and become raisin-like, concentrating the sugars and intensifying the flavors. These noble rot affected grapes produce intense, mouth filling, elegant golden wines with layers of complexity and depth of flavor (usually). Tokaji wines have been around since the Roman period and were served at the table of excellency and royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, even laymen like us can indulge - isn’t life grand! However, depending on how sweet and refined you prefer your Tokaji, it may cost a pretty penny for a 500ml bottle. Before getting to what is inside the bottle, let’s chat more about Tokaji Azsú and the sweetness / price factor.

            Although we will focus on Tokaji Azsú here, there are several types of Tokaji wines, even some which are dry. Azsú is the most popular of the wines, and a rare wine called Essencia is the most rare and expensive of the Tokaji wines. Essencia is said to be cellar worthy for upwards of two centuries, and able to retain its quality and gain complexity over the stretch. Essencia is often described as intense and syrupy, with powerful flavors packing such a high sugar concentration that the alcohol level usually never exceeds 3%. Technically, I do not think this can be called a wine, but this is some sweet nectar I hope to one day try.

            Wooden Tub and Botrytis Affected Grapes

            In a nutshell, Tokaji Essencia is made from a very small amount of juice per individual (noble rot) grape, hence the price it demands ($400+). These golden droplets of concentrated juice naturally run off by the weight of the botrytis-affected grapes stacked atop each other in vats. I mentioned Tokaji Essencia because the same grapes that give up a sweet golden droplet for Essencia are used to make Tokaji Azsú, at least traditionally. These botrytis-affected grapes are placed in wooded tubs called puttons (50-55lbs of grape per putton) and kneaded into an Azsú paste. A dry base wine is made in a 136 liter cask with non-affected grapes and the puttons of Azsú paste are added, mixed and soaked to extract maximum flavors and sugar concentration. Therefore, when a wine label states three, four, or five puttonyos, you know how many wooden tubs of the sweet Azsú paste was added to the dry base wine. The higher the puttonyos, the more intense, sweeter, and richer – in more ways than one the wine will be. A six puttonyos can sometimes be hard to find, but three, four, and five puttonyos examples can readily be found at most wine stores. I suggest starting with a 4 puttonyos example, which sells for around $30, and if you like it, move up to a five or six puttonyos example ($50 - $80) and have the bottle for a special occasion - or be selfish like Dezel and have it all to yourself over the course of a few days. Now that we have chatted a little about this precious and rich dessert wine, let see what’s in the bottle.

            1999 Tokaj Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos


            Review: The 1999 Tokaj Hetszolo Tokaji Azsú 6 Puttonyos is an attractive deep yellow gold color with honeyed-laced citrus and stone fruit flavors with underlying hints of pineapple and lemon zest. This wine is deliciously thick and voluptuous with an inviting complex bouquet. Sweet she is, yet, there is enough acidity present to keep all of her sugar in balance. Decadently rich, this wine is capable of long term aging. Enjoy this gem as a dessert on its own, or with a fruit pastry, vanilla crème brûlée, or fresh berries.
            Price: $69.99 Alcohol Percentage: 11% Enclosure: Real Cork

            Verdict: Buy and reserve for special dinner guests or a special occasion. This wine was purchased at Unwined Gourmet Wine and Cigars in Alexandria, VA.


            • Stay tuned friends ... Grayhaven Winery, Cellaring, and more to come !!!

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            Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

            Dezel



            Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2008. All rights reserved.

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