Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wine of the Evening - 2009 Keswick Vineyards Consensus

2009 Keswick Vineyards Consensus
Every so often one of those truly unique wines comes along and just screams: why couldn't there be thousands more cases of this wine.

The 2009 Keswick Vineyards Consensus is one of those wines. I opened a bottle this evening to check its progress and was truly amazed. The winemakers notes say it may be laid down for five years and, well, it has been five years!

The nose remains as vital and exciting as when this wine was blended. How do I know? Because I had a hand in blending this Gold Medal winning wine. I love the smokiness of this wine and many dark Virginia wines. This one is dark, too; no light escapes.

The taste is medium, but complex with some tannins and a good whole mouth taste with some acidity and a hint of minerality and dark fruit flavors.

This wine has been aging in my cellar and I still have a few bottles. It is sad, though, that there aren't more for sale. The wine is at its peak.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wine for the Holiday Gathering


Holiday time is upon us and with it comes the inevitable decision associated with which wines to serve.

There are multiple opportunities to serve wine during the holiday season, whether for meals or social gatherings with friends and family. Each opportunity presents its own special challenges. 

Wines are deeply personal. Each person has their own favorites and even among my wine drinking friends, although we generally enjoy similar wines, we have different likes.

For the holiday gathering I recommend a solid middle of the road white--a Viognier, a Pinot Gris, and maybe a Muscat with a bit of fizz in it. My specific recommendations are:

2011 King Family Viognier - $24
2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris - $14
2012 Semi Sparkling Muscat Frizzante Tualatin Estate - $15

On the red side, offer a dark red, shiraz or cabernet sauvignon and a lighter red like a cabernet franc or a pinot noir. 

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir  - $22
2013 F Stephen Miller Shiraz Angel Reserve - $11
2013 King Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc - $24
2011 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon - $13

Keep the prices moderate and figure four glasses per person--you should have enough for the evening that way. Remember, each bottle contains five five ounce glasses of wine. Most people pour heavy resulting in six or seven ounce pours.

Most importantly, though, have fun and enjoy the wine!

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pure Wine Cafe

Pure Wine Cafe Interior
Set along Main Street, Ellicott City, Maryland, is one of the premier wine cafe's in the area. The Pure Wine Cafe is everything that we look for in a wine cafe. 

It is cozy, upscale, friendly, and full of great wine and food!

We spent a Friday evening Happy Hour with friends at the cafe two weeks ago and could not have enjoyed our experience more.

The interior is small, cozy and very inviting. The wait staff was extremely knowledgeable about the wines being offered and the Happy Hour specials are worth stopping by to enjoy especially with friends after a long, grueling week at work. The menu is easy to read and understand and the waitstaff is eager to help pair the best wine with whatever is chosen. We especially recommend the truffle fries. 

One of the staff recommendations that we definitely enjoyed was the Inman Family 2010 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. It was the perfect wine for the evening.

RECOMMENDATION: The Pure Wine Cafe is great place for happy hour, dinner, snacks, and most of all enjoying an evening with friends. Check it out, it is worth the trip.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Top 100 Best Buys 2014

We love this time of year. Not only are the grapes being harvested to create the wines of the new year, but the annual top 100 wine lists are published.

We subscribe to Wine Enthusiast and the magazine publishes multiple top 100 wine lists annually. 

The first one was published this week and it is the Top 100 Best Buys of 2014

While wine is intensely personal, lists like this give us the opportunity to expand our tasting into new wines based upon reviews. We don't have to agree with the rankings--but they provide a great place to find new wines.

The Top 100 Best Buys of 2014 is, in our mind, one of the best lists because it focuses on widely available wines with moderate prices. Seriously--the top 10 are composed of wines priced between $7-$14. Now those are really best buys.

This particular list is proof positive that solid, enjoyable wines do not have to cost over $20. We were also encouraged by how many Finger Lakes region wines were on the list and by how many of the vineyards that we have visited were represented on the list. 

Check it out and head off to your local wine retailer to expand your wine experience.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wine Dinner Excellence

We attended a wine dinner in Frederick, Maryland, the other evening which brought together a beautiful venue and very enjoyable wines. Together, it was the perfect combination for a fantastic wine dinner. 

The dinner was hosted by the Ayse Meze Lounge in Frederick Maryland. The food and the wines were paired beautifully. It was advertised as a five course dinner, but two of the courses had seconds--so it was really a five plus course dinner. With the weather being incredibly mild that evening, we were able to eat outside and enjoy the late-Summer coolness in a beautiful setting.

The wines were from the Willamette Valley Vineyard in Oregon. Yes, we've been there, but we really appreciate the wines they produce. Jim Bernau, the founder and CEO, was on hand to introduce the wines for each course of the dinner. Jim was in great form at the top of his game.  Every time we listen to Jim tell the story of Oregon wines and the vineyard, we learn something new and gain a better appreciation for the complicated process it takes to transform a dream into the glass of wine in my hand. 
Halibut first course

So why go to a wine dinner, especially when we already appreciate the wines? Simple. Wine dinners showcase gourmet cooking paired with exactly the right wine to create a perfect dining experience. The elegance and the chance to enjoy a delicious meal with friends is something that must be experienced.  After the meal there is the opportunity to purchase the showcased wines, usually at a discount, and more importantly--the opportunity to meet and talk with the wine producers is something that must not be missed. Being serious about wine, we want to know more and more about the process--the weather, the soil and the choice of grapes for a particular climate. There is a lot of detailed information out there and it cannot be absorbed in one sitting.

The wines served were during the evening were:

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyard Riesling
2013 Willamette Valley Vineyard Pinot Gris
2011 Willamette Valley Vineyard Dijon Clone Chardonnay
2013 Willamette Valley Vineyard Founders Reserve Pinot Noir
2012 Willamette Valley Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir

Each of the wines represented very well.  We were familiar with all of them, but it was nice to enjoy them paired with gourmet food. 

RECOMMENDATION: Find a local wine dinner and attend it--just for fun. Our experience has been that the service is fantastic and the wines are well paired with the food offerings. Wine dinners provide an opportunity to make new friends and enjoy wine.

Our thanks go out to:

Ayse Meze Lounge for hosting the event. The lounge is definitely on our list for a return visit. The service was awesome and the venue beautiful.

Willamette Valley Vineyards which produce some of the best Pinot Noir wines in the world and continue to be a first class operation committed to all around quality. A big thanks to Jim Bernau for not only making the wine, but for making the trip across the country to share his love of wine with all of us.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Glasses Really Do Make a Difference

Riedel XL Pinot Noir glass
We bought some special Pinot Noir glasses while we were in Oregon. They are made by the famous wine glass makers, Riedel. 

Originally, the story goes, they were designed as Oregon Pinot Noir glasses, but marketing them as that met some obstacles. They are now known as Riedel XL Pinot Noir wine glasses--but they are Pinot noir glasses. 

I did a test the other day with some friends.

I poured Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir into the glasses. I also poured the same wine into some regular wine glasses--unbeknownst to those drinking the wine.

The Test
I asked them to compare the wines.

Wow--three people were involved. All three were convinced that I had poured different wines into the glasses. All agreed that the wine in the Pinot Noir glasses was superior to the wine in the straight wineglass. It was difficult to convince them that the same wine was in both glasses.

Amazing confirmation. 

Glasses really do make a difference. The right glass enhances the smell and, therefore, the taste of a wine.

If you have ever had to drink wine from a plastic glass--like on an airplane, you understand what a travesty it really is. Even a great wine will not show to its potential in a plastic airline glass.

To fully enjoy great wines, take the time and spend the money to get stemware, glasses, that compliment the wines being served.

Do the test yourself--you will be amazed.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, September 5, 2014

Willamette Valley Vineyards -- Oregon Trail

Entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards
We have been slow to write a review of Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of the wineries we visited during on our trip to Oregon's Willamette Valley for wine tasting, primarily because this winery and vineyard was the greatest stop on the journey. It is a big, but friendly, winery that offers so many views of grapes, wine, wine production and retailing that trying to write a review of our visit there seemed overwhelming. 
Wines for Tasting

We had the pleasure of staying on the vineyard for three nights and as a result we saw the in-depth side of winery operations. Walking through the vineyards in the morning before the world was fully awake was truly a highlight of our visit--but, then, so was sitting on the veranda outside of the guest rooms watching the sun set over the coastal mountains of Oregon, sipping some of the well balanced wines produced by the vineyard and enjoying the conversation with friends as the darkness fell ending another exciting day of adventure. 
Willamette Valley Vineyards Tasting
Room player piano

The vineyard is easy to find, being right off Interstate 5 south of Salem, Oregon, at The Enchanted Forest exit. It is kind of funny to think about the exit offering excitement for kids of all ages. Even though it sounds like a long way from the Portland airport, the drive was easy and fun.
View Across the Willamette Valley

The newly constructed tasting room must be seen to be appreciated.  Sitting up the hill, it provides a commanding overlook of the Willamette Valley south of Salem. The tasting room is the nicest and most welcoming tasting room of all the ones we experienced in the region. 

And then, and this is not an afterthought, there are the wines. The vineyards possesses a great assortment of wines to please almost every oenophile. 

Pinot Noir is king at Willamette Valley Vineyards and that is as it should be in this region. Ten different Pinot Noir wines were available for sale during our visit. We were able to participate in our first ever horizontal Sub-AVA tasting consisting of Pinot Noir wines from five different sub-AVAs within the Willamette Valley. The tasting helped us to understand the differences of the different regions. But the tastings did not stop there. Willamette Valley Vineyards also provides a dynamic Pinot Gris--which we felt was one of the best Pinot Gris offerings we have ever experienced along with Riesling, Chardonnay, a sparkling Muscat, and Viognier offerings. The winery also has a second label, Griffin Creek, which offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Viognier, and Malbec wines.

Although the choices seem overwhelming--there are definitely some "best buys!"

Bob and Chris's Willamette Valley Vineyards Best Buys:

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, $22. It is hard to beat this wine as a great go to wine that will please nearly everyone. Although promoted as "liquid fruit salad in a glass"--we found it to be a great wine suitable for many occasions, especially sitting around the pool after a long hot day. 

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Reisling, $14. A semi-sweet wine with fruit and a touch of effervescence that refreshes.

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, $16. Fabulous! We are not primarily white wine drinkers, but if all white were like this one, we might convert. The balance, minerality, flavors, and acidity of this wine are unsurpassed. 

2012 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Bernau Block, $55. This is a great Pinot Noir and we were happy to be able to secure a few bottles for our collection. It is the signature wine of the founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards. During our stay we were able to walk around the vineyards block from which the grapes for this wine are sourced. 

2010 Willamette Valley Vineyard AVA Series Wines, $50. If you want to experience the variations and differences among the Willamette Valley sub-AVAs, get these wines. They each provide a flavor the the valley and the regions from which they come.

RECOMMENDATION: This winery should be at the top of every Pinot Noir drinkers bucket list. 

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD
#wvv #wine4yourlife