Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Wine Tasting Disaster

Wine Tasting in Small Plastic Cups
Chris and I decided to visit a few local wineries and vineyards to enjoy the fruit of the vine and see how the wines are progressing. We ended up visiting two wineries that we had last visited a few years ago and one winery that we had never visited. 

I was disappointed in the quality of the tastings. And of course the wines suffered as well from poor presentation.

In my mind, winemakers should ensure that their wines are presented in the best possible manner for people to enjoy and hopefully purchase. 

All three of the wineries visited were doing tastings by the flight. Which, in my mind is the worst way to do a tasting. There is little interaction with the staff and almost no knowledge transfer regarding the estate and the wines. 

At one winery Chris and I tasted 12 wines--but they were served in small plastic glasses--single serving glasses not much larger than communion cups. It is impossible to enjoy the intricacies of wine in small plastic cups which provide no space for the bouquet to develop. At least when I had decided that I wanted to taste a couple of the wines in glass, the tasting room manager accommodated me.

At another winery we were seated outside, under alleged heaters on a cold November day, to taste wines in flights of four. At least they were serves in glass--although not wine glasses. And since the day was cold the wines definitely did not overheat. The reds may have been a bit cool. As the cold November wind blew, we definitely did not enjoy the wines in the same manner that could be done in a warm tasting room with knowledgeable staff to help us understand the vintages and processing. 

The final winery's tasting was probably the most egregious. The wine tasting was $20 for three wines. They were served in wine glasses and were a sufficient pour--but the server poured the wines, placed them in front of us and went back to her computer and continued shopping on Amazon. So much for as personalized tasting experience. We did not even get a written description of the wines. Did I mention that there was only one other two-some in the tasting room? Well, at least we were in the tasting room.

Based upon our experience we likely will never return to any of the three wineries. 

-- Bob and Chris Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Central Loudoun County - Middleburg AVA


Tarting Room Casanel Vineyards
Leesburg, VA
August 13, 2021
Chris and I headed off to the Leesburg, VA, area this past weekend to sample wines from wineries and vineyards that we had not yet had the opportunity to visit.

Let me begin by writing that there are more wineries and vineyards in this region of Virginia than can possibly be sampled in a single weekend or for that matter likely in a month. Trying to keep the weekend sane and to truly experience the wines and ambiance of the vineyards we limited ourselves to three tastings per day. So for the weekend we visited six wineries or vineyards. We had alternates selected to account for unforeseen circumstances and, in fact, the first stop was at a winery we had previously visited, but forgotten, and so we went to our second planned stop instead and added the alternate to become the third stop of the day.

The six wineries or vineyards were chosen based upon a review of their websites and the types of wine offered. Two were chosen because they offered varietals not normally experienced in Virginia. One offered both a Tempranillo and an Albari├▒o, while another offered a Vermentino. We were not disappointed at either vineyard, although truth be told, the Tempranillo was made with grapes sourced from Washington State. My understanding is that Tempranillo does not grow well in Virginia.

So the scorecard for the weekend was six stops at wineries or vineyards. Of there six, four were definite keepers, one is on the must revisit after COVID list, and one was truly disappointing despite having a magnificent facility and a seemingly diverse and exciting wine list. That said, we purchased wines from all six wineries and vineyards and joined the wine club at one of them. Yes, I came home with bottles of all three of the wines that most interested me and many more. 

So the top four, in no particular order:

Casanel Vineyards

Stone Tower Estate Winery

8 Chains North

Walsh Family Wine

Important safety tip: Check the websites at any winery/vineyard you intend to visit to determine how or if they are conducting tastings during COVID and whether reservations are required.

Important Safety Tip #2: Drink and drive responsibly. It is OK and desired for you to spit after tasting to avoid alcohol loading.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Key Lime Pie and Shiraz


Key Lime Pie and Shiraz
A couple weeks ago, while dining at a friend's for Happy Hour I experienced something unexpected. I enjoyed wine, as we usually do, but as we moved onto dessert we put together Key Lime Pie and a very special bottle of Australian Shiraz--Mollydooker The Boxer, 2016. 

I initially thought that this experiment was doomed for failure. How possibly could a fully bodied Australian red wine work with one of my favorite desserts: Key Lime Pie. 

But work it did. 

The pie and wine went together exceptionally well and it wasn't to just my opinion, but the opinion of everyone at Happy Hour. The deep rich flavors of the Shiraz blended perfectly with the sweetness of the Key Lime Pie and made a very pleasant and enticing dessert combination. 

When working with food and wine it is important to experiment and  sometimes something good happens, like Shiraz and Key Lime Pie!

I am going to save this combination for the future.

-- Bob and Chris Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Weather and Wine Flight Tastings


Loudoun County Winery, VA
June 6, 2021

We experienced a COVID-19 modified wine tasting at a prestigious Northern Loudoun County, Virginia, winery the other day.

The facility was beautiful and reservations were highly encouraged for the Sunday tastings. I had made a reservation and the check in process went smoothly. We were given a nice souvenir glass, which I think we left at the table when we departed, and went off to the covered porch to enjoy a nice tasting. There was pleasant music and everything seemed very to be working perfectly. 

Then came the tasting. 

There were, in fact, two tastings--the first, for $22 was for six of their normal wines and the second for $18 was for three of their recent award winning wines. We did both--starting with the normal tasting. The wines were poured into plastic cups and I have to admit they were very small pours. We then took the tray with the cups and information about the wines to our seats to conduct the tasting on our own.

Here comes the problem. It was a near 90 degree day. Meaning it was hot. With the small pours and all six wines already poured the samples quickly warmed to a temperature which was not suitable for the tasting. We tasted two whites, one rose, and three reds during the first tasting. I have to admit, none of the wines, except for the Meritage tasted well. 

Believe it or not, I then went and bought the second tasting which was the real reason we visited the winery. Same problem. Three wines, all red with price points above $50 per bottle were too warm and were not enjoyable by the time we tasted them. 

I dearly wanted to buy something and find a drinkable wine, but because of the environmental conditions of the day, there was no way the wines could hold up. 

Lesson Learned: tasting flights of wines outside on a hot day is not a good way to enjoy the fruits of the winemakers labors.

-- Bob and Chris Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, May 22, 2020

Boordy Chesapeake Icons No. 6/Baltimore Oriole - Riesling

Chris and I have been drinking more white and rose wines of late. We are really hoping that summer weather arrives soon and are trying to encourage its arrival by serving and drinking summertime wines. 

One of our local favorites comes from Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Maryland. We have grown fond of the Boordy Chesapeake Icons No. 6/Baltimore Oriole -  Riesling

If you are looking for a New York style Riesling--do not look here. We have found that this Riesling has a surprising and enjoyable character of its own and is to be appreciated. 

The website describes the wine as: "Classic Riesling aroma of honeysuckle, citrus, and apricots are followed by mouth-watering acidity that perfectly balances the wine’s sweetness. Slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks using select yeast strains emphasizes Boordy Riesling's exotic natural aromas. An appealing residual sweetness is retained by chilling the wine before completion, and early spring bottling captures the wine's freshness and delicate allure."

The wine has a great price point. On the winery's website it is advertised for $13.76. I checked Total Wines in Laurel, MD, and found it advertised as a Winery Direct wine at $13.99, but as most know Total Wines routinely offers sales and discounts which can make the actual price of this wine lower. 

Chris and I really enjoy this wine and it is one of our "house" whites which we serve to friends and family. Don't buy just one bottle--but at least six so that you can enjoy the wine over and over again!

-- Bob and Chris Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, May 11, 2020

What We Are Drinking - Carol's Vineyard J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard
St Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the advantages of being a vineyard or winery wine club member is that we receive wines that we otherwise either would not or could not buy on the retail market. The club allows us to enjoy some higher end wines while also diversifying our tastes and wine experience.

The J. Lohr Wine Club is no exception. Chris and I have been members since we were fortunate to have visited their Paso Robles, California, tasting room a couple years ago and enjoyed a beautiful day learning about the J. Lohr process and experiencing their wines first hand. 

The other evening, Chris and I decided to enjoy a special wine and it was one of those higher end wines that I chose. It was the J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard St. Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 that I pulled. It is more expensive, as wines go, that the wines we usually drink. I paid $54 for it through the wine club and I noted that through the website the 2016 vintage retails for $60. The drinkability period for the wine is from 2020-2025, so it was right in the drinkability zone according to Cellar Tracker. The 2014 vintage received ratings of 91-92 from most of the rating agencies and a 88.5 average from the two people who tasted the wine--both during 2020. My personal rating, made before reading the reviews, was 91.

The winemakers notes are as follows: The 2014 vintage of J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon expresses this classic valley floor site in an approachable way. Savory fruit elements wrapped in a barrel signature of hazelnut and cocoa powder. Firm and angular in structure with red and blue fruits on the finish. Excellent with grilled entrec├┤te and shallots, or a roasted pork loin with porcini mushrooms and fennel.

I highly recommend the Carol's Vineyard series of J. Lohr wines for a special occasion or just because you want something really nice to enjoy.

One of the problems that we have, well it is not really a problem, is deciding when to drink some of the higher priced wines that we accumulate from the wine clubs that we have joined. We enjoy having them in the cellar, but sometimes we have to just decide that tonight is the night! And that is exactly how we decided to enjoy the Carol's Vineyard 2014. And we were not disappointed. 

Sometimes it is just fun to pull out a special bottle of wine and enjoy it--just between the two of us. On the up side that means we get a second glass because we are not sharing it with friends!

-- Bob and Chris Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Coronavirus and Wine

I have been joking with many people that wine is the perfect beverage for consumption during the coronavirus quarantine. 

I maintain that wine is based upon fruit and therefore is a healthy choice. 

It is a liquid and helps to prevent dehydration, and

Most of all, if you drink enough wine you no longer care about coronavirus!

Please note, I do not say this to undermine responsible drinking or social distancing, but rather to get people to smile and try to think of something other than the virus. 

Generally, I am successful in my effort. Most people smile at least. Some laugh!

So let me propose a toast to good health and responsible wine consumption while we are complying with the stay-at-home orders.

Be well, stay safe, and drink responsibly!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD