Monday, June 30, 2014

Serpent Ridge Vineyard - Maryland Vineyards

Serpent Ridge Vineyard Tasting Room
Nestled into the forest along a scenic Carroll County, Maryland, road we happened upon a jewel of a vineyard which epitomizes a dream becoming reality. Serpent Ridge Vineyard is admittedly small, with only four acres of vines, but it is significant in the quality of the wines produced and the friendly welcoming atmosphere.

We were met as we entered the tasting room by Janell, who exhibited enthusiasm about the wines and also in depth knowledge of the vineyard. She expertly took us through the tasting and answered my myriad of questions. Most of the wines are produced from grapes grown on the estate. 
Serpent Ridge Vineyards

The day we visited, six wines were being tasted. They represent a good mix of white and reds. The vineyard uses a unique closing system for the bottles--a zork resealable wine closure. They are the only winery that we have visited using this system and I like this much better than screwtop bottles, although I do remain a cork-o-phile. The zork does have many advantages including potential use on other bottles after the wine bottle is came on is long empty.

The tasting room is nicely situated providing a beautiful setting for sipping good wine, relaxing and enjoying a summer afternoon. As we sat talking over wine, cheese and crackers; Karen Smith, one of the owners, came and spent some time taking about the history of the vineyard and their plans for the future. I was impressed with her realistic vision and approach to winemaking. She recognizes that there are opportunities for winemakers and is definitely looking to fill a niche which will attract others to Maryland wines.

The wines were tasting very well and we were especially impressed with the 2011 Albarino and the 2011 Cab Franc Rose. The dessert wine, appropriately named Slither, was also very nice.

The 2011 Albarino was crisp with some minerality. It had nice fruit on the nose and hints of peaches and pears. The nose was full and enticing. This is a good sipping around the pool wine and was our favorite of the day.

The 2011 Cab Franc Rose was especially interesting because the nose and the taste seemed to be very different from each other. The bouquet was full of jammy fruit, but the tastes were of light strawberry in a very dry interpretation. I enjoyed alternating between enjoying the bouquet and then finding the flavors as I sipped the wine. This wine definitely needs to be served chilled.

Slither, the dessert wine, is one of those wines that needs to be in everybody's cellar. It is a very well done combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. With its 5 percent residual sugar and 19 percent alcohol, this wine is meant to be enjoyed very slowly and we could think of many ways to enjoy it, from over ice cream, to even on its own in a glass as a dessert on its own--chilled, of course.

The vineyard has a solid schedule of events planned throughout the summer--to further attract people. Check out their events calendar. There is ample parking and the tasting room is spacious and pleasant, as is the on lawn seating for the enjoying the summer evenings ahead. 

RECOMMENDATION: Check this vineyard out. We found Serpent Ridge to be a very enjoyable foray into Maryland wines and winemaking and the setting provides a great way to spend a summer afternoon. Be sure to check the website for hours of operation.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Home Wine Cellar, Part 2: Storage

Why did the size of our wine cellar increase beyond 18 bottles, which was sufficient to meet our daily needs? 

Well, frankly, it was not a conscious decision. It just happened! As we became more familiar with wine and the impact that aging can have on better wines, we began to buy multiple bottles of wines. One to enjoy now and more to enjoy later.

A great conundrum is realizing that the wine being tasted today may not be available tomorrow and trying to decide how many bottles to buy to be able to continue to enjoy the wines.

One of my personal rules of wine shopping is never buy a single bottle of wine. Buy wine in pairs. If it is good enough to buy today, I will want to enjoy it again. Buying wine like this naturally increases the number of bottles that are maintained. A really great wine at a really great price point may mean that a case needs to be purchased to lay down and to have for later. 
No, This isn't my Wine Cellar

It have to admit that for good wines, it is a lot of fun to watch a wine develop. And, it is educational. We are watching a wine that we helped develop mature in the bottle. It is a 2009 vintage from Virginia and it has changed significantly from when it was first bottled and sold.

Changing the way wine is purchased means that wine holdings just naturally begin to increase, incrementally over time and then, suddenly, there are cases of wine crammed into closets. Ultimately, I would love to have a real wine cellar like the one in the image--but I have neither the space nor the money for such an ornate cellar. Something, however,  has to be done or good money will be wasted on wine that will go bad in the bottle.
Small wine Refrigerator

Three words:

Storage, storage, storage.

Start small. Buy an inexpensive wine refrigerator that holds 50 or more bottles. That will provide two of the most important aspects of managing a small collection: darkness and consistent temperature. 

Light and fluctuating temperatures are known enemies of wine. A small wine refrigerator allows the wine collection to be maintained, even near the kitchen or on the main level of a house, where temperatures fluctuate and sunlight is present.

As enjoyment of wine increases, we have found that having a selection our favorites on hand is always preferred to running out to the wine shop for something fast. Having a modest cellar has increased our wine enjoyment immeasurably because we always have something on hand suitable for everyone's personal tastes.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery

Sitting above the Patuxent River in Calvert County, Maryland, on a scenic plot with eight acres of vineyards, we found a charming and enjoyable winery: Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery. It was a spur of the moment day trip to wineries within about an hour and a half of the house and we were not disappointed. All of the wines which carry the Perigeaux label are estate grown--which is no small feat considering the size of the vineyard.
Perigeaux Tasting Room

It was a beautiful, late-May afternoon and our visit to the winery was thoroughly enjoyable. We were met as soon as we walked  into the tasting room by Katie who demonstrated a deep knowledge of the winery and wines produced. Varieties grown on the estate include: Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, and Zinfandel. 

I learned something really interesting while in the tasting room. One of the pairings they proposed for their 2011 Chardonnay was with quiche! Yup--quiche. Wine is not just for dinner anymore and can rival the cheap sparkling wines used to make breakfast mimosa's. 

The winery is most proud of its dry red offerings, but we also found a unique interpretation of Chardonnay. 

The 2011 Chardonnay was very impressive and found an excellent balance between the steel tank and oak barrel fermented Chardonnays. This Chardonnay is held in oak barrels for just a few weeks--and this imparts soft tones into the wine without becoming overpowering oaky or buttery. 

The 2012 Pinot Gris Reserve was also very nice and definitely worth the taste.

The reds, however, were truly the hit of the visit.

We were able to sample some of the double gold winning 2011 Montepulciano and it was every bit as good as a double gold winning wine should be. Sadly, there were only a few bottles of this wine left.
Gift Area in the Tasting Room

But, there were some other great reds to be sampled. The 2011 Cabernet Franc was very nice and surprisingly full bodied, while the 2011 Mackall Road Cabernet Sauvignon was similar to a Washington State interpretation with a very light body and almost no tannins.

It was a perfect day to visit the Winery and Vineyard and I recommend it as a must do stop on Maryland's Patuxent Wine Trail

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD