Wine of The Week

Thanksgiving Day Wines

Posted on: Friday 11/18/2011 2:12pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Every Thanksgiving, my wife and I experience the same crisis. It has nothing to do with who we invite or which guest will sit next to whom, or even what size turkey to buy, but rather what wine to serve.

Yes, in our house, it’s a big deal, mainly because my spouse and I differ on the style of wine to serve during the annual feast. I take a modern approach to wine and food pairings while Cindy likes to take a more traditional approach when it comes to her selections.

In order to keep the peace in the family this year, we decided to employ the advice of a few “neutral” wine experts in Washington, DC, to play referee and keep our Thanksgiving Day wine choices stress free.

Jon Genderson, co-owns and operates Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a third generation wine shop in northeast DC, near Union Station. He loves Rosé sparkling wines because they work wonders with Thanksgiving dinner, so he has selected the 2009 Mont Ferrant Brut Rosé from Cava, Spain to get the festivities started. This elegant Cava possesses fragrant cranberry and rhubarb aromas leading to creamy, intense, savory middle and a long clean finish. ($20)

Omar Hishmeh is the wine director/sommelier at Bistro Bis restaurant in Washington, DC. He knows everyone’s menu varies considerably on Thanksgiving, so he likes wines that pair well with fall seasonings and flavors. For example, he thinks that the 2008 Weingut Glatzer St. Laurent is reminiscent of an earthy, spicy Burgundy from a ripe vintage. On the nose, dark fruit spice and wet earth dominate. The palate shows a wonderful richness of fruit balanced with minerality and soft tannic structure. According to Omar, “This is a whole turkey dinner in a bottle.” ($20)

Ben Giliberti is the former wine writer for the Washington Post and current Director of Wine Education at Calvert Woodley Fine Wines and Spirits in DC. Paring wines with Thanksgiving doesn’t present a conundrum in Ben’s house, since their traditional white choice is Caymus Conundrum from California. The multi-grape blend (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Semillon) is ideal because it harmonizes well with both the bird and the trimmings. He likes the juicy, honeysuckle and citrus fruit and noticeable sweetness on the finish that sends a big wake up call to the palate after every sip. ($18)

Ben is also a big fan of employing a good Beaujolais-Villages on Thanksgiving because it is a red wine that really captures the harvest. Because 2009 is the best Beaujolais vintage anyone can remember, Ben is going to open a 2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages this year, because, as Ben notes, “He (Duboeuf) is the King of Beaujolais and always will be, for me.” ($12)

Mark Wessels, is the managing director at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC. His palate usually tends towards old-world styles, but this Thanksgiving, Mark steps outside his traditional choices with two domestic selections, including the 2009 Girard Chardonnay from the Russian River region in Sonoma, California. This chardonnay has a nice body to go with the Thanksgiving meal, but it is not too oaky. It works very with the turkey as well as the trimmings. ($19)

Mark also thinks Pinot Noir is a versatile wine, and it is especially delicious when it’s from the terrific 2008 vintage in Willamette Valley, Oregon. The 2008 Holloran ‘LaChenaie’ Pinot Noir from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA is a well balance and stylish Pinot with medium dark cherry fruit and good balance, which means that this wine will work perfectly with the traditional turkey dinner. ($20)

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Starter Wines

Posted on: Friday 11/11/2011 4:56pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Last week, I touched on a couple of ways that consumers who want to learn more about wine can do so by reading wine books and attending tastings. But when it comes right down to it, the best thing to do is to simply taste more wine. The trick, however, is finding wines that will expand your horizons without shrinking your bank account.

The idea of spending north of a $100 on a bottle of wine for a learning experience is a bit outlandish, if not impractical. The good news is that with advances in winemaking techniques and choices from more countries, there are some very good wines that offer a lot of “palate education” for the money.

With a little bit of research and a lot of tasting, I have compiled a list of several wines that any wine novice or accomplished enthusiast can cut their wine teeth on for around $12 a bottle.

One of the best ways to really get a feel for a particular varietal is to try it “naked” – meaning without any oak treatment during the winemaking or aging process. The wines made by Ryan Flock for Simply Naked allows the expression of each type of grape to shine on its own. Ryan makes a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that are clean, fresh, and straightforward, using premium fruit that has been sourced from some of the best regions in California. One of the most remarkable aspects of these wines is how fruit-centric the palate is while remaining balanced and structured. Best of all, they are each $10.

Originally launched in 1998, Echelon Vineyards was created to showcase fruit from the Central Coast region of California. Today, Echelon Vineyards has expanded its roots beyond the Central Coast to showcase the characteristics unique to several of California’s diverse appellations by introducing their “California Series” of wines. Echelon sources fruit for their new brand from a mixture of winegrowing regions including Lodi, the San Joaquin Valley, Monterey County and the Central Coast. Winemaker Kurt Lorenzi combines the best of these regions to layer flavors and complexity. For example, grapes from the cool, coastal valleys are used in the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio ($10) wines and have great concentration and structure, while grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend ($12) come from the warmer, interior valleys and add richness and suppleness.

One of the old wine tasting rules of thumb assumes that Italian wines must be paired with food. Castello di Gabbiano has two wines that will let you be the judge of that. The 2010 Gabbiano Chianti DOCG ($10) is a new-world Tuscan red that is aged in stainless steel tanks. It offers up pretty floral aromas and complimentary flavors of red cherry and dark strawberry. While the bright acidity would love to play with a tomato-based pasta dish, the sweet tannins are content to remain a solo act. The 2010 Gabbiano Pinot Grigio ($10) is perfectly happy performing on its own. Aromas of acacia flowers and citrus on the nose combine with flavors of tropical fruit and citrus in the mouth to deliver a wine that is crisp and clean. Winemaker Federico Cerelli adds touch of chardonnay to provide depth and balance.

The Familia Zuccardi line of wines hails from the Mendoza region of Argentina. They recently introduced a line of wines named Santa Julia ($10) that include Torrontes, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. They use grapes are sustainably farmed on their own estate. The 2010 Torrontes and the 2010 Malbec offer an interesting dichotomy from white to red. The Torrontes offers up notes of white peaches, orange rind, pear and citrus flavors that are delicate, while the Malbec is full-bodied, featuring ripe plums, blackberries and mocha flavors and a long, expressive finish. Both are good examples of their varietal’s characteristics.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Wine Primer 101

Posted on: Saturday 11/5/2011 10:45am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

So, you want to learn more about wine but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’re just looking for a reasonably priced wine that will expand your palate’s horizon. Either way, you’re not alone.

Where to start? A lot of new wine drinkers may want to drink wine, they don’t necessarily know how to go about understanding what wine they are drinking. With an estimated 40,000 different labels of wine crowding various wine shop shelves, picking the right wine can be downright confusing, with decisions often dictated by price or, worse, an eye-catching label.

The first thing I recommend is to read about wine from as many different sources as you can. Of course, I am partial to the advice given in this column, but I also advocate reading books and magazines from a variety of authors. Natalie McLean, a veteran wine author and self-proclaimed wine cheapskate, has a new book out, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines ($16), where she travels the world in search of the best wine values. One of her more whimsical tips in the book is to buy wine with impossibly long names, written in gothic script. This usually applies to German Rieslings, whose bottles may sit on retailer’s shelves as a result of misunderstood labeling – driving the price down for a very good wine.

One of my favorite recommendations for neophyte oenophiles is Oz Clarke’s ‘Let Me Tell You About Wine’ – A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Wine ($20). While it is simplistic in format – which makes it easy to understand the concepts – it is also very comprehensive in content. About half of this book is devoted to wine basics such as what types of grapes wines are made from, how to buy and store wines, and, of course, how to taste wine. A section on food pairing is invaluable for dinner parties and holiday entertaining.

How would you like to learn about, appreciate, and enjoy wine from a wine professional – and have fun doing it? That is the mission of the Capital Wine School, founded by Master of Wine, Jay Youmans. Jay’s vision is to offer the highest quality wine education and tasting instruction available in the Washington, DC area. His classes and events are fun and unpretentious, but offer the depth of knowledge and insight sought by those wanting to learn more about wine. What a great combination. Go alone, with a friend or as a group.

Wine shops love developing loyal customers, so many wine shops will periodically offer tastings to introduce new wines to consumers. Check out a couple of wine shops and tell them what you want to learn about and be very specific about your price range. Some retailers will even open a bottle or two for you in the shop so you can try-before-you-buy.

Of course, actually tasting wine is the best way to really learn. I think one of the best white wines to cut your teeth on is Sauvignon Blanc since it’s easy to identify specific characteristics. The 2010 Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc ($9) from Chile offers plenty of classic grapefruit and nectarine flavors on the palate while delivering a clean, crisp finish filled with citrusy notes.

The 2010 Norton Malbec ($10) from Argentina is an easy-drinking red wine that offers loads of juicy red and black fruit on a soft frame. A nice touch of spice on the finish provides a bit of depth and complexity.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Third annual wines to say 'boo' to

Posted on: Friday 10/28/2011 2:18pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Halloween is just around the corner – and judging from the hype on the morning news shows and party store displays, the annual ghostly celebration appears to be enjoyed as much by the adult crowd as it is by the traditional younger-than-sixteen gang.

At our house, it appears that as I get older, so do the ghosts and goblins that show up on my doorstep – most notably in the form of adult friends and parents who know that I usually have a bottle or two of wine open and ready to share when the doorbell rings. Plastic wine glasses compete with plastic pumpkins and paper bags, extended at arms length, looking for a liquid goody of the red or white varietal.

If you’re looking for a bloody good wine, Vampire Vineyards from California offers nine different wine varietals for your Halloween treat including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay. My favorites are the 2006 Dracula Syrah from Paso Robles and the 2007 Dracula Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. The Syrah features a jammy core of fruit reminiscent of a chocolate covered black cherry and has a long, lush finish.

The Pinot Noir is produced from grapes that are – and I am not making this up – picked before sunrise! It offers up beautiful concentrated raspberry, dark cherry and pomegranate flavors with a silky texture and a balanced, pretty finish. The Syrah is $17 and the Pinot Noir is $34 and I recommend having either with a bite of soft cheese.

If you are looking for a wine to “die for,” try the 2009 Armida Winery “Poizin” Zinfandel from Sonoma, California. This full-bodied zinfandel is from the heart of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma and according to the website, it’s “the wine to die for.” Bright notes of cherry, raspberry and blueberry cover the tongue on a medium-bodied frame. The slightly dusty finish features just a touch of black pepper. The label sports a wicked skull and crossbones and best of all, you’ll only be “coffin” up $25.

If you’re looking to wear a mask this Halloween and go incognito, then the 2010 Michael David Vineyards “Incognito” White is for you. Created from a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, and Roussanne all sourced from Lodi, California, it’s a goody bag filled with beautiful flavors of honey, apricot, peach and pineapple. Highlights of candied orange rind that glide over the palate and onto the lengthy finish. At $18, this wine is a wickedly wonderful value.

One of my favorite local wines also sports a wicked label – the 2009 Horton Vineyards “Black Cat” Chardonnay. Blended from select barrels of chardonnay grown in Orange County, Virginia, this wine sports a wonderfully rich, round mouthfeel, featuring sumptuous flavors of apple, nectarine and guava. The oak-accented finish is lush and long, with a nice touch of vanilla on the back of the tongue. Just $15.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

The value-oriented wines of cupcake vineyards

Posted on: Friday 10/21/2011 11:18am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

What happens when a naval aviator for the Royal Australian Navy turns his sights to winemaking? You get wines that take off in the mouth with well-grounded prices. You get Cupcake Vineyard wines.

Adam Richardson has always loved aviation. He earned his pilot’s license before he learned to drive. But the winemaking bug bit him late – and hard.

Adam joined the Cupcake team in 2008, bringing with him the same passion for winemaking that he shared for flying as well as a sense of organization and efficiency that he learned in the navy.

His inaugural release of three wines, a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot, all from the central coast of California, were an immediate success.

Since then, Richardson has expanded the Cupcake Vineyards portfolio to consist of wines from five different countries. His repertoire now includes sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, malbec from Argentina, Prosecco from Italy, riesling from Germany and Shiraz from his native Australia.

I am a fan of Prosecco in general and this one in particular. The Non-vintage Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco is produced using the traditional glera grape varietal and possesses a brilliant nose of citrus, green melon and nectarine. The bubbles are remarkably tiny and precise and give the flavors of creamy lemon, roasted nuts and nectarine a wonderful lift in the mouth. Charming toasted bread notes chime in on the bright, clean citrus-fueled finish. $14

The 2011 Cupcake vineyards Sauvignon Blanc hails from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and proves that not all sauvignon blancs are created equal. While the wine does sport notes of traditional grassy scents on the bouquet, it is the extended exposure to the yeast sediments during maturation that really bring out the best of the fruit. Flavors of grapefruit, lemon and lime hit the front of the palate with a refreshing citrusy blast, but the creamy mid-palate expands to incorporate yellow cake and mango. The creamy texture continues onto the medium-balanced finish, with just enough acidity to keep it clean and crisp. $14

If you’ve been looking for a reasonably priced, high quality domestic Chardonnay, then the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California is your wine. About 30 percent of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation which imparts a creamy texture in the mouth, where flavors of apple, nectarine, lemon/lime and buttery highlights meld together. Use of American oak barrels (about 20 percent new) imparts additional complexity and notes of toasted buttered bread and vanilla on the soft finish. $14

It’s only appropriate that Adam’s talents shine even brighter when he gets a chance to make a wine from his native Australia, like the 2010 Cupcake Vineyards Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Deep, dark and brooding, it features full-throttled flavors of ripe blackberry, dark plums, smokey cassis and rich chocolate on the front of the palate and just enough black pepper spice on the medium-bodied finish. $14

The 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet is a blend of zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah grapes that has been sourced from vineyards located throughout California. Each varietal has been vinified separately and then blended. The result is a wine that actually is reminiscent of a blackberry cupcake with chocolate icing. Hints of red fruit and mocha add a delicious note on the creamy finish. $14

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Oktoberfest means beer

Posted on: Friday 10/14/2011 3:02pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

People are always amazed when I tell them that I really like beer. I know that my moniker, The Vine Guy, suggests otherwise, but my first love before wine was beer. I even brewed my own for several years – until my wife became pregnant with our first child and she had an “adverse” reaction to the smell of the wort. But my love affair with beer continues.

With the onset of Oktoberfest, my beer-roots bubble up to the surface like the head of a perfectly poured lager.

My passion for Oktoberfest is to drive home the point that, just like fine wine, many beers are brewed to be paired with specific types of food. Particularly the beers from the Netherland…

Brewing has been an integral part of life in the village of Hoegaarden, Belgium, since 1318. By the fifteenth century, Begarden monks settled in the area and began brewing Belgian white (or wit) ales. By the end of the nineteenth Century, the village boasted more than 35 breweries, although the town only had 2,000 people. Hoegaarden Witbier, Belgian White Ale boasts a spicy nose, courtesy of real Curaçao orange peel and coriander that are used in the brewing process.

Try pairing with salmon or the classic Belgian-inspired “moules et frites” (mussels with shoestring fried potatoes). ($12/six-pack)

Stella Artois was originally brewed as a special holiday beer, but demand was so high, it eventually became available year round. The lager features a creamy, lemony nose and a crisp-yet-mellow finish. The subtle bitter aftertaste works well with intensely flavored Thai, Asian Fusion and Indian dishes such as curries. The bitterness also helps cut through cream sauces in pastas and contrasts the creaminess of flavorful semi-soft cheeses, such as Havarti and Brie. ($12/six-pack)

The monks of St. Norbert began brewing Leffe beer in 1240 for the community surrounding the Abbey Notre Dame de Leffe. The Leffe Blonde is a fruity and lightly spiced dry ale which features a wonderful balance between bitterness and flavor. Roasted malt results in a nose of roasted nuts and roasted coffee. Delicate flavors of orange blossoms and citrus are noted on the front of the palate while a honeyed finish extends over the back of the tongue and lingers as a subtle aftertaste. Perfect with meat dishes like grilled pork loin or hamburger. ($12/six-pack)

For something brewed a little closer to home, try the deeply amber-colored Samuel Adams Octoberfest, a seasonal lager beer made in the märzen style. Brewed using five different roasts of malt, it has distinctive notes of roasted coffee, caramel and toffee that are nicely balanced by the refreshing hops pm the crisp, bitter finish. A nice match with traditional bratwurst or local half-smokes. ($11/six-pack)

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Oregon Pinot Noir, a fall classic

Posted on: Friday 10/7/2011 4:36pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, roughly an hour’s drive south of Portland, is now known for producing world class pinot noir wines that have a style all their own.

In general, they are a touch bolder than their French cousins and a bit rounder than the pinot noir revolution going on Down Under.

They display flavors of wild strawberry, dark cherry, graphite, tea and bramble. Stony minerality is another hallmark feature of these wines.

Best of all, they’re just right for fall. Retail prices are approximate.

Benton Lane is a family owned winery located in the heart of the Willamette Valley. They have a unique approach to growing fruit and producing wine, taking the best practices of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming techniques. Their 2008 Benton Lane Pinot Noir displays red fruit and dark cherry characters, both in the nose and on the palate. Wild cherry and juicy raspberry flavors intermingle with hints of spice and minerals. $21

Founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, Elk Cove Vineyards is one of Oregon’s oldest wine producers. Today, their son, Adam, continues the family legacy of producing textured, stylish wines. The 2008 Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir displays vibrant aromas of black cherries, spices and vanilla. Intriguing flavors of nutmeg combine with ripe flavors of strawberries and cherries and mineral overtones. The mouth feel is soft, round and warm with a juicy impression of ripe fruit. The finish is long, with hints of baking spices, vanilla and sweet tannins, all balanced by abundant acidity. $22

A friend of mine recently told me about a winemaker, Patricia Green, who was producing seductive pinot noir, so I decided to track down a bottle. I am glad that I did. The flavors and aromas in the 2009 Patricia Green Cellars Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir sweeten and deepen as the wine opens and finds its balance. A round entry gives way to a mouthful of juicy raspberry, black cherry and strawberry flavors balanced by fine-grain tannins that support a long, pretty finish. $36

Cristom Winery owners, Paul and Eileen Gerrie, moved to Oregon in 1992 with their two children, Christine and Tom, (Cristom in a contraction of the children’s names), with the dream of starting a winery dedicated to making world class Pinot Noir. With the help of longtime winemaker, Steve Doerner, I would say “mission accomplished.” The 2007 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley exhibits complex aromas of roses, cherries and strawberries. It has a softer feel in the mouth that allows the lighter fruit characteristics (red cherries, raspberries and strawberries) to linger on the palate and just enough sweet tannin to reward the palate with a spectacularly long, seductive finish. $49

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Champagne Houses

Posted on: Friday 9/30/2011 2:22pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Last week, I reviewed the wines of a few co-ops. Tonight, we’ll talk about wines from a few unique Champagne Houses.

Back in 1981, Bruno Paillard founded his eponymous winery with a passion for Champagne and a specific vision based on blending the best wines. “We have a priority of assemblage,” declares Mr. Paillard. “It is a process of composition which allows a House to blend from vintage to vintage and from vineyard to vineyard in order to achieve consistency of a style. That is why a House bears the name of a person instead of a place. Something to consider.”

I enjoy considering the consistently delicious Non-vintage Bruno Paillard Brut Premier Cuvee – a tribute to Bruno’s vision of maintaining a “house style”. Tiny, elegant bubbles carry flavors of roasted nuts, green apple and bright citrus. Just a hint of orange clove and biscuit on the crisp, refreshing finish lends a note of refinement. $40

In stark contrast to the traditional House “style” is Champagne Jacquesson. Founded in 1798 by Memmie Jacquesson, it remained true to its heritage of style and consistency. But in 1974 it was sold to the current owners, the Chiquet family. When brothers, Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet took over the operation in 1988, they made a radical decision to redirect the winery from a “House” philosophy to a “grower” philosophy, emphasizing a sense of place versus a sense of style.

The wonderfully dry Non-vintage Champagne Jacquesson 735 Cuvee Brut is a testament to the new style of winemaking embraced by the brothers Chiquet. The “700 Series” of wines is produced from the same Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards from the same vintage, with small additions of reserve wine from previous vintages as needed. The intention, according to Jean- Hervé is to, “retain the best characteristics of each harvest and not to disguise the variations that each year brings.” It features flavors of honey, apple and nectarine on a weighty palate with exceptional balance and finesse. The slightly creamy mouthfeel provides a silky-yet-firm finish. $60

Champagne Philipponnat is another House that advocates terroir over technique, using pinot noir grapes from their coveted hillside vineyard, Clos des Goisses, a five and a half hectare site overlooking the Marne River. In addition, the House buys chardonnay and pinot muenier grapes from exceptional growers. Charles Philipponnat describes the House style as a balance between freshness and intensity. “We want to produce a wine with complexity without weight,” he is fond of saying.

The Non-vintage Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve is a blend of mostly pinot noir with 30 percent chardonnay and a small amount of pinot muenier. Aromas of ginger and brioche dominate the nose while flavors of nectarine, lime and roasted nuts sit lightly on a frame of chalky minerality. The finish is delicate and charming, leaving a graceful impression on the tongue. $40

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Champagne primer: Growers and co-ops

Posted on: Friday 9/23/2011 2:31pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

This week, I’ll review wines of growers and cooperatives and next week I’ll cover houses.

The largest cooperative in Champagne is Nicolas Feuillatte. With over 5,500 growers in the co-op, it produces over 8 million bottles of Champagne annually. That may sound like a lot of wine, but considering that the region produces over 340 million bottles of bubbly per year, it’s just a drop in the Champagne bucket. Given the sizeable production, the Non-vintage Nicolas Feuillatte Brut ($28) is remarkably refined, with notes of toasted brioche and crisp apple on the front of the palate and a touch of roasted hazel nuts on the medium-balanced finish.

Representing one of the oldest wine regions in the area is Champagne Mailly, a prominent co-op made of up of 70 growers. All of the grapes sourced for the wine come exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards near the village of Mailly. This quality is expressed in the chalky minerality of the Non-vintage Mailly Brut Reserve ($55) which supports flavors of rip apple, honey and bees wax. Moderate acidity keeps the wine fresh and in balance.

Growers pride themselves on making wines that have a sense of place, or terroir, and few do it better than Pierrer Gimonnet. The Non-vintage Pierrer & Fils Blanc de Blancs Brut ($40) is made exclusively from chardonnay and boasts flavors of creamy lemon and nectarine that are elegantly woven into a round, balanced wine with wonderful structure and tiny, precise bubbles. A touch of brioche is a pleasant highlight at the end of the graceful finish.

Collard-Picard is a grower/producer with deep roots – figuratively and literally – in Champagne. Husband Oliver Collard is a fifth generation grower and his wife, Caroline Picard, is fourth generation. Together, they make wines of artisanal quality, like the Non-vintage Collard-Picard “Prestige” Brut Champagne ($45). A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the wine is aged in oak casks, blended, and then aged for over three years. Flavors of biscuit highlight notes of apple blossom, peach and honey on the front of the palate. Crisp acidity and mineral notes provide a remarkably fresh and balanced finish.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Family reunion wines

Posted on: Friday 9/9/2011 12:40pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

My mother in-law hails from Louisville, and makes the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. My brother in-law lives near San Francisco and grills a mean salmon. My aunt in-law grew up in southern California and has an affinity for lamb. Me? I’m known for my neighborhood-famous teriyaki flank steak. To celebrate our last evening together, my father in-law thought it would be fun to have a smorgasbord and try each of our specialties collectively. A wine pairing disaster if I ever did see one.

I decided to orchestrate the evening by starting with the fried chicken, then the salmon, followed by the flank steak and finishing up with the rack of lamb. Once the order of the meal was set, the wine pairings fell into place, with lighter-styled wines kicking off the evening and bigger wines towards the end of the meal. Retail prices are approximate.

Pairing wine with fried chicken was a new experience for me, but I knew I wanted a wine that would hold up to the spiciness of the coating but not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the meat. The 2007 Trimbach Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region of France hit just the right balance. This straight-forward wine has a bright, fruit oriented bouquet, featuring scents of nectarine and peach. Flavors of summer stone fruit, apple blossoms and green melon slip across the tongue in an easy, uncomplicated way. Best of all, there is just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the fried skin and keep the palate refreshed. ($16)

Pairing wine with salmon would usually be a snap. However, my brother in-law threw me a curve when he decided to grill the fish on a cedar plank with a maple-cayenne pepper glaze. The cedar plank departs a distinctive smoky note while the glaze adds both sweet and heat. I skipped the usual pinot noir pick and went with the 2006 St. Francis Pagani Ranch Zinfandel from Sonoma, California. This sumptuous Zinfandel has a remarkable bouquet of sweet blueberries and cherries. In the mouth, the ripe black cherries, dark plums and blueberry liqueur on the front of the tongue complement the sweet glaze while the touch of black pepper on the powerful finish keeps the heat in check. ($25)

Steak marinated in teriyaki and orange juice calls for a red wine with both strength and finesse. The 2007 Markham Merlot from Napa Valley, CA has an enticing nose of red currants and dried herbs cedar on the fragrant bouquet, but it is the smooth-textured palate, featuring flavors of blackberry and ripe dark plum, that makes this match work. The complex, lengthy finish shows off just a touch of smoky cedar and earthy notes. ($20)

Fortunately, the rack of lamb course was a classic preparation, roasted with rosemary and garlic, so the choice of wine was simple; Shiraz. The 2007 D’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz from the McLaren Vale appellation of Australia has just a touch of Viognier blended in to smooth out the bold flavors of blackberry, licorice and black pepper and give the long, elegant finish a slightly floral quality that plays off of the rosemary notes. ($24)

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reser4ve

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