Friday, November 22, 2013

Wine Tasting Evening with Laurie Forster

While it may seem boring to some and it may seem I do a lot of of it, the most important thing that happens when I go out to taste wine is that I meet people. Wine drinkers seem to be a group of people who are willing to celebrate life and enjoy the fruit of the vine.

Last evening Chris and I along with two close friends went to a wine event (not entirely a tasting) at a recreational store in Annapolis and enjoyed not only an evening together but rekindled a relationship with a star of the wine world, Laurie Forster.  We first met Laurie about five years ago at the St Michael's Food and Wine event. I must have made an impression because she remembered me. How do I know? She told me where and when we first met! Wow.
Laurie Forster

During the evening, I had the opportunity to play a how good is your nose game--mine isn't very good because blindfolded I confused a banana with an apple and couldn't identify Old Spice aftershave, and wine a book written by Laurie while enjoying an evening of wine and learning. 

Learning about wine is what makes the whole process fun. It is not all about the drinking, but the learning to slow down and appreciate wine. 

Laurie has a great approach to help people learn about wine without that snobby approach that turns so many novices off.

Wine provides a means to meet people and to share experiences. Laurie has developed a subtle comedy act that helps to to educate while also encouraging the enjoyment of wine--and especially moderately priced, good tasting wines. 

Chris and I enjoy learning about wines from new places and even new wines from known locales. The best part is tasting them to appreciate their strengths and to enjoy their complexity.

Good wines, good friends, and meeting new people. What could be better.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Vint Hill Winery - A Review

Vint Hill Tasting Room
I ran across a new and exciting winery on Sunday while passing through Northern Virginia with Mom and Dad. The winery is Vint Hill and the site that it is on has a WW2 history that appeals to me.

And, they make some really rockin' wines.  Although it appears that they have a web site, the URL was not working for me when I went back.

The winery specializes in craft style, small vintage wines. It is located in an old farm which was used as a signals relay station during WW2. I was amazed by the history of the site and I was also pleased by the variety of wines and their complexity.

Vint Hill makes a wide variety of wines using grapes from throughout Virginia, Washington State and California. The key is that they buy grapes from many sources and make some very tasty wines.

Vint Hill is located in Northern Virginia just over an hours drive from Baltimore. The tasting room is located in the upstairs loft of a barn--we did not see an elevator and so this winery is not suitable for disabled vinophiles. They have a nice variety of wines from whites to reds and including a few dessert wines. Many of the labels hearken back to the site's WW2 history and provide a setting for history and a bit of learning while enjoying wines.

The winery offers two levels of tastings--$10 and $15. I recommend a couple take one of each and swap the wines while tasting.

RECOMMENDATION: Visit this winery and enjoy not only the wines, but a piece of American history. CAUTION: The tasting room is on the second floor and not easily accessible by the handicapped. I did not find an elevator.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Virginia Wine Trail - Pearmund Cellars

Pearmund Cellars
Traveling through Northern Virginia yesterday on my way to Charlottesville, I had the opportunity to visit two wineries and vineyards that I had driven by but not stopped at during my previous travels through the area.

The first was Pearmund Cellars in Broad Run, Virginia. They say of themselves: "Pearmund Cellars is located in the beautiful foothills of eastern Fauquier County, VA, conveniently close to Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Our 7500-square-foot geothermal winery and 25-acre vineyard produces Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Late Harvest Vidal, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Ameritage, and other award-winning Virginia wines."

I did note that they were recently recognized by Virginia Wine Lover magazine as the best winery in Virginia for 2013 as reported on their web site.

The tasting room is located a short drive off Highway 29 and is well marked. Follow the signs! There are a couple turns where without the excellent signage it would be easy to end up in the driveway of a private residence. The tasting room is large and offers good access to the pouring bar for larger groups. They also offer an assortment of light sandwich fare and cheese plates for those who just want to buy a glass or a bottle and stop to enjoy themselves for a while.

I found the wines to be very representative of Virginia wines. Most of the juice for their wines is sourced from vineyards throughout the central Virginia region, with only the Chardonnay being estate grown. They have an arrangement with a growers in Washington State to produce some wines sourced from there. Of special note, I enjoyed the 2012 Petit Manseng and the 2010 Merlot. The merlot is very light, as compared to most merlots, but has some very nice characteristics. The Collaboration, a wine made entirely using juice form Washington State is also very drinkable and I enjoyed it. The selection of wines offered should find something to appeal to nearly every wine drinker.

RECOMMENDATION: The tasting fee is $10, but it is well worth the time and money to experience the very nice quality wines offered at Pearmund Cellars.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Charlottesville, VA

Friday, July 19, 2013

Endless Summer Vineyard and Winery -- Review

Endless Summer Vineyard and Winery Entrance
Yes, I found a winery in Florida that actually grows grapes and makes wine. That, of course, deserved a visit to check out the wines and help drive away the blues of a rainy day.

The Endless Summer Vineyard and Winery in Fort Pierce, Florida is roughly a 45 minute drive from Jupiter. The winery is just a short two miles off the interstate and has a nice tasting room adorned with a beach theme. The winery is striving to develop serious Florida wines that will appeal to many people.
Palms and Grapes

Entering the tasting room provides a great introduction to the winery. Surf boards and beach items adorn the walls. We were met be a very nice and wine savvy hostess who helped us to understand the wines and the grapes used to make the wine for this vineyard. The tasting room has been open for only a year and the vines are only four years old--so they are using juice from other vineyards to make their wine. But, next year they are expecting to produce  their first home grown vintage.

The winery provided my first introduction to the muscadine grape, which is the only one that will grow in this part of Florida. I was amazed to find that there are over 300 varieties of muscadine grape. The grape is very light and sweet. I found that it smells a lot like the niagara grape grown in upstate NY. Likewise, the wines made from this grape smell like grapes and not berries like those made from the other wine making grapes. The grape nose is in every wine that the winery offered. Some of the wines are blended with merlot and chardonnay sourced from, of all places, Arkansas. One wine blended with a mango wine.
Endless Summer Vineyards

The wines that Endless Summer wines have very creative names: I found Marlin Monroe and Rated Arrr to be the best. All of the wines are on the sweeter side and all have the pronounced grape nose. These wines are good for drinking around the pool. This winery represents the furthest south in Florida that grapes are grown for the purpose of making wines. There is another winery further south, but they do not make wine from grapes.

Driving by the vineyards, it is clear the the vines are very young--but that does not dampen my enthusiasm for this winery. I am very impressed with the location, the concept, and the idea that they are going to produce the best possible wines from the grapes they can grow.

RECOMMENDATION: A must visit if you are in this part of Florida. The whites are the best and the reds are light, summery offerings.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Jupiter, FL

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reflections on a Glass of Wine

At the end of the day, especially after an extremely trying and busy day, I am amazed a how a glass of wine can cause the weight of the day to melt away.

Sipping and appreciating a glass of wine is an art form  and settles the mind. Reviewing the clarity, the color, the "nose," the flavors and the finish cause the mind to refocus on the glass and not the troubles of the day.

Unlike other beverages, which I often drink very quickly and am left wondering what it was I just consumed, good wine causes me to pause and appreciate something other than the troubles of the day.

Last evening, after working for another few hours on the flooring project, the wine of choice was Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon. An easy drinking and enjoyable wine which helps the troubles of the day melt away as I consider the  characteristics of the complex liquid in my glass. It was, of course, made better by the way the Orioles were beating the unnamed team from the north on the field at Camden Yards.

I highly recommend a glass to end the day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blending a Winning Wine

One of the events that Chris and I look forward to participating in every year is the Consensus Blending sponsored by Keswick Vineyards in Virginia. This past weekend marked the fourth time that we have made the trek to the vineyard to participate.
Keswick Barrel Room
Ready for Consensus Blending

The task is to create the best tasting wine from the young wines that the winemaker provides as raw material. The event was held over three weekends this year allowing for about 360 members of the wine club to participate. Divided into teams of six people each, which allows for about ten teams on each day of the weekend, the teams come up with their best wine and enter it into the judging to become the Consensus Wine which will be produced, bottled, and sold by the winery.
Chris, Sue, George, Peggy, and Mark
The Team 

We went to the winery with a complete team, ready for the blending. Chris and I, and Mark and Peggy are veterans, while George and Sue were the rookies. But, we have gone in previous years on our own and just joined a table when we arrived. It is a pretty laid back start to the day.

This year, Stephen, the winemaker at Keswick, provided two different cabernet sauvignons, a norton, and a syrah as the raw material for blending. Seated in the always too cold barrel room and after a few opening remarks, the blending begins. Stephen says that we are doing in two hours wine blending that takes him six months.

But it is not just blindly blending wine. Or drinking wine for that matter. Each of the prospective wines in the blend must be evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses. Then the team decides upon a strategy to put the wines together to create a complete blends that had a nice aroma, good color, and a full flavor in the mouth. The hazards are many. Out table, for instance, appreciated wine that is dryer, while the most salable wines in America are fruitier and not as dry. The winners will create a wine that others will like and buy not necessarily one that we will like or buy.

Through seven different blends of the wines, we collectively decided upon the blend that we thought was the best of the wines provided. It, coincidently, was the third blend we created, but we had been unable to improve it through subsequent iterations.

Once all of the tables blend and submit their entrants, there is a break for lunch after which the judging begins. Each wine is judged by every table. A couple of ringers are added for control purposes and although there were only 8 tables on Sunday, we judged eleven wines--three of them were the same. It provided insight into how tough it really is to judge wine.

Did we win the day? No. We were a very close third--only four one hundredths of a point out of second place. The wine that won the day then entered the next stage of the competition against the other five day winning wines to become the 2012 Keswick Consensus Blend based upon average score.

In the end the real winner was everyone who participated. The wine craft learning and insight that I get every year is more that worth the trip. But more than that, it is just fun to be in the barrel room with the winemaker talking wine and blending and getting insight into how award winning wines are produced.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 27, 2013

So Many Vineyards

Awesome Saturday in Charlottesville. What more needs to be written?

The plan was to visit four or maybe five vineyards for a mid-winter respite.

We actually visited six and passed a seventh without stopping.

The day was beautiful and warmer--still not above freezing for most of the day, but warmer without the biting wind.

The vineyards?

King Family - I highly recommend a visit
White Hall - I highly recommend
Stinson - Limited selection but a nice in between stop
Veritas - Great tasting room, but I didn't really think the wines were drinking that well
Flying Fox - Nice stop--especially for reds. This was a a first time visit for me.
Trump - This was my first visit. The sparkling wines are good, the non-sparkling wines are average at best.

Today we are off to Keswick for the Consensus Blending to see if we can create a winning wine.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD