Wine of The Week

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

Labor Day pains: What wine to choose this weekend

Posted on: Friday 9/2/2011 11:40am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

If you’re still firmly rooted in “summer” mode, then try the 2007 Trimbach Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region of France is perfect to chill out with. The pretty straw-colored wine has a lovely floral nose that includes scents of nectarines and lemon rind. The crisp flavors of apples, pears and honeyed-citrus make this a wine to pair with either grilled seafood or barbeque chicken. And for around $14, you can’t go wrong.

If you think that Labor Day signals the start of fall, then you’re probably looking for a great excuse to entertain friends one last time before the grind of school, work and sports schedules dictates your routine and throw a party with grilled meats and the appropriate big red wine to compliment it, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Syrah.

If you’re going to go for a big red wine, try the 2008 Michael-David Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel form Lodi, California. This is a full-throttled, sumptuous Zinfandel from the center of California. It has a remarkable bouquet, throwing off scents reminiscent of chocolate covered blackberries, blueberries and cherries. In the mouth, it tastes like ripe black cherries, dark plums and blueberry liqueur on the front of the tongue and a touch of black pepper on the powerful finish. It’s the perfect accompaniment with either burger or steak.

And if you’re looking to keep the peace in your family this holiday weekend, why not chose something in between, like a rosé? Aurelio Montes is responsible for some of Chile’s best wines. Made from 100 % Syrah grown near the Pacific coast, the 2010 Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah from Chile offers seductive scents of rose petal, orange peel and strawberry. Bright cherry and strawberry flavors predominate with brisk acidity and a firm lingering finish. Great with just about anything. $15

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

White wines from the Loire Valley

Posted on: Friday 8/12/2011 9:26am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

The wines of the Loire Valley have long been a favorite of wine lovers throughout Europe and sought out by knowledgeable consumers here in the United States for decades.

However, most Loire Valley wines go unnoticed by most wine buyers, which is too bad, since so many of these wines are just what the wine doctor ordered for cooling down on hot days.

Here are a few choice Loire Valley wines to slip into your picnic basket or serve well-chilled at your next party.

Made exclusively from chenin blanc, the 2009 Champalou Vouvray, Loire Valley, France has a lovely nose of peaches and nectarines. The full mouthfeel offers up more peach fruit notes and hints of ripe apples and cloves. The long finish is full and rich, with notes of wet stones and spices. The wine offers an excellent value and a solid introduction to this splendid region. $17

Also made from chenin blanc is the 2010 Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Cuvee de Silex, Loire Valley, France. This wine has a delightful nose of apple blossom, lemon and minerals. Citrus flavors and light honey notes dominate the palate and add just a touch of sweetness at the end, but the wine maintains a very clean, crisp finish, thanks to substantial acidity. $18

A delicious introduction to the Sancerre appellation is the 2009 Thomas Crele Sancerre, Loire Valley, France. Made from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, the nose of ripe pears and orange cloves is memorable. In the mouth, the wine feels lush and full with flavors of pears, apples and the ever-present mineral notes. The medium-bodied finish is smooth and well balanced, with hints of lemon peel popping in at the end. $24

Another sauvignon blanc from Sancere is the 2010 Vacheron Sancerre, Loire Valley, France. This wine has a nose of honey and minerals that is rich and powerful. On the palate, it is intense, yet bright with predominate flavors of pear, white peach and nectarine. The finish is long and lush with hints of wet stone at the end. $27

For a special treat, try the 2007 Baumard Savennieres Trie Speciale from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley. This Chenin Blanc features a nose of ripe apples, white flowers and wet stone. The palate has a polished texture that features a complex mixture of roasted almonds, white nectarines and honey. The long finish continues to entice the tongue with notes of toast and minerals. A delicious alternative to the everyday chardonnay. $28

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Ship, Ship Hooray

Posted on: Friday 8/5/2011 11:38am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Washington, D.C. has allowed residents to receive wine shipments for quite some time and Virginia opened their boarders shortly before the high court’s ruling. Until recently, Maryland was the lone holdout in the area.

Starting July 1, Maryland joined its neighbors, allowing wineries located outside of the state to ship up to 18 cases of wine per year to Maryland residents who are of legal drinking age. The Maryland bill excludes shipments from out of state retailers.

Virginia allows up to two cases of wine or two cases of beer per month for your personal consumption and not for resale.

But just because consumers can get wines shipped to their doorstep, doesn’t necessarily mean they should.


  • Access to highly allocated and “cult” status wines.
  • It comes to you!


  • Taxes are still collected by the winery, so no cost savings
  • Shipping adds an additional expense of three – five dollars per bottle
  • Wine is subject to bottle shock or worse, adverse exposure to extreme temperatures during summer and winter months
  • Carbon footprint: Some shippers contain Styrofoam and shipping just one case at a time is very inefficient

Unless the wine is impossible to find, I am in favor of developing a relationship with a local wine shop, which can have many ancillary benefits.

As your merchant gets to know you and your palate, he or she can offer suggestions that can broaden both your knowledge and your appreciation for different styles of wines.

Next, many wine shops will actually let you try a wine before you buy it. Or, at the very least, will include you on an email list that will alert you to in-store wine tastings, many featuring winemakers or producers.

I also like the fact that I can buy a couple of bottles to take home and enjoy them in a more neutral environment. That way, if I like the wine, I can always call the wine shop and ask them to put a few more bottles aside for me. A few too many times I have had my “wine goggles” on while visiting a winery or wine shop and end up ordering a case (or two) of a particular wine only to discover that once I get it home, I am not as in love with it as I thought I was.

Lastly, many wine shops offer discounts to regular customers, especially if they are recommending a particular wine. By the way, it is always prudent to ask for a “case discount” (usually ten percent or more) when you are buying twelve or more bottles of wine from any merchant.

The bottom line is that shipping laws now provide more options to consumers to purchase hard to find or “cult” status wines that local wine shops may not have access to, and that’s a good thing. But I would recommend that consumers first ask their local wine merchants to find and acquire a particular wine on their behalf. If you do order wine online, make sure that the juice is worth the proverbial squeeze. Shipping charges and exposure to extreme temperatures in transit can turn your prized wine into sour grapes.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

White Burgundies to Love

Posted on: Friday 7/29/2011 10:38am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Many wine lovers consider chardonnay from Burgundy to be the Holy Grail of white wines, sought after by collectors for their seductive flavors, incredible balance and remarkable aging potential.

The 2009 ripe fruit vintage produced wines with solid core flavors, good acidity and lovely concentration and balance. Here are a few excellent values to lookout for.

The 2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne takes advantage of sourcing their chardonnay grapes from all over Burgundy. Chablis-like in character, with hints of honeysuckle and nectarine on the nose, it sports a solid mouthfeel, featuring flavors of baked apples and green melon, with just a whisper of mineral notes on the crisp finish. Even though this is the winery's entry-level wine, I think it is always a special treat. ($14)

Despite the fact this vineyard is located just outside the village of Chablis proper, the 2009 Guy Mothe Domaine de Colombier Petit Chablis retains all of the true characteristics of Chablis, with tangy notes of green apple and citrus in the mouth and flinty crisp dryness on the mineral supported finish. ($16)

If your palate favors a richer style chardonnay, try the 2009 Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc. Its floral bouquet is seductive and the well-delineated flavors of apples, citrus and buttered toast are supported on a creamy texture. The medium-bodied finish is persistent and clean. ($20)

A personal favorite in our home is the 2009 Verget Mâcon-Bussières Vieilles Vignes du Clos. It's a step up from the producer's Mâcon Village, featuring intense flavors of crisp apple, green melon and ripe pear. A touch of citrus and mineral notes on the slightly flinty finish provides nice balance and structure. ($22)

Ex-pat Blair Pethel makes an extraordinary chardonnay from his winery in the Cote de Beaune region. Blair's 2009 Dublere Bourgogne Blanc is graced by scents of acacia and melon on the lovely nose that beautifully compliments the flavors of green apples and pear in the mouth. The balance is delightful, featuring a clean, crisp finish. ($25)

The 2009 Jean-Marc Boillot 1er Cru from the Montagny region is simply stunning for a premier cru level wine at this price. It sports mouth-filling flavors of ripe apples, pear on the front of the palate and a touch of slate and wet stone on the beautifully round finish. ($25)

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Spanish Wine Values

Posted on: Friday 7/22/2011 3:18pm

Scott Greenberg, special to

What do Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Portugal all have in common? At one time or another, each of these wine-producing countries was considered the little darling of wines values.

Well, today, there's a new country in town. Spain. The third largest wine producing country in the world is now gaining a reputation on the world wine stage as making very good wines at very reasonable prices.

Capital investments in modern winemaking equipment and a new breed of young winemakers with contemporary winemaking ideas have revolutionized the industry. This combination has added up to one great bang-for-the-buck for the American consumer.

There are some terrific white wines under $15 and a plethora of delicious red wines for under $25. Surprisingly, many of the red wines can be enjoyed at both a young or considered for long-term cellaring, thanks to prominent tannin structure.

For a summer white wine treat, try the 2009 Protos Verdejo from the Rueda region. Produced from 100 percent verdejo grapes and fermented in stainless steel vats, the wine features floral scents of honeysuckle, green apple and nectarine. Flavors of apple, orange blossom and tropical fruits are buoyed by delicate mineral notes and nice acidity. $14

One does not often hear about wines from the Coast Brava section of Spain, but the 2009 Oliver Conti Turo Negre could change that. Turo Negre is Catalonian for the "black hill" that sits at the edge of the estate, located in the Empordà region. A red wine blend made from separately vinified and aged cabernet sauvignon, merlot, granacha, cabernet franc and a touch of carignano, it spends about one year aging in French oak barrels, just enough time to give the juicy black cherry fruit, plums and licorice flavors a chance to mellow and meld with the refreshing acidity. The touch of pepper on the deep finish is just right. $15

The 2004 Castillo Labastida Rioja Reserva from Rioja is made exclusively from old-vine tempranillo grapes. It is superbly balanced and refined with notes of ripe red cherry, cocoa and vanilla on the front of the palate and hints of tobacco and smoke on the elegant finish. $19

An example of a remarkable value in hand-crafted wine is the 2006 Convento San Francisco Crianza from Ribera Del Duero. The fruit, a blend of 90 percent tempranillo and 10 percent merlot, is sourced from a number of vineyard sites around Ribera del Duero, including 50 percent from pre-phylloxera old vines.

The wine is aged in a combination of French and American barrels for 14 months and sports a bouquet of black plums and tobacco. Stylish flavors of blackberry, dark plum and cherry dominate the palate. Lovely notes of licorice and tobacco mingle with soft tannins and bright acidity to provide remarkable balance and structure on the lingering finish. All this for $25.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Best of the best from the San Francisco International Wine Competition

Posted on: Saturday 7/16/2011 9:40am

Scott Greenberg, special to

Lucky me! For the second straight year, I participated as a judge in the 30th annual San Francisco International Wine Competition in San Francisco, considered by many in the industry to be the largest, most influential international wine competition in America.

The contest is judged by multiple panels of judges and is done on a blind, consensual procedure, meaning that the three-judge panel tasting a particular set of varietals has to come to a consensus on each wine tasted. For a wine to be awarded a Double Gold, it had to receive a Gold score from all three judges.

This year, winemakers from 29 countries and 20 states submitted a total of 4,184 wines from 1,200 wineries.

There were a total of 158 Double Gold awards handed out, with many of the top wines available for less than $35. These medal recipients represent some of the best values available in their class. Here are a few of the top winners

Best In Show- These wines were the best of the best in their overall category

Best in Show Red Wine is the 2009 Lynmar Estate Winery Pinot Noir, Quail Hill Vineyard from the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma, California. This is the second year in a row that a pinot noir has taken top honors in the red wine category. It possesses aromas of black plum and boysenberry on the sweet nose. The flavors on the palate are fruit driven with notes of blackberry, blueberry and earthy spices. Hints of baked cherries provide a memorable note on the medium-bodied finish. ($60)

The Best in Show Dry White Wine this year belongs to the 2009 Türk Grüner Veltliner from Kremstal, Austria. With just a touch of sweetness, it is still considered a dry wine, featuring a concentrated palate of nectarine, melon and green apple. The wonderfully refreshing finish hits high notes with enough acidity to play off of the ripe tropical fruit flavors. ($20)

Double Gold Winners

Best Chardonnay: 2009 Fritz Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California. The bouquet features buttered toast, nectarines and white peach aromas. Flavors of green apple, ripe peach and nectarine are kept in balance by the wonderful acidity. Hints of roasted almonds and toasty oak glide in on the lengthy finish. ($25)

Best Viognier: 2009 Robert Hall Winery Viognier, Paso Robles, California. Scents of honeysuckle, acacia and orange blossom dominate the bouquet and buttery flavors of citrus fruits, green apple and apricot explode on the creamy, rich textured palate. Nice touch of mineral notes on the finish provides depth and balance. ($20)

Best Zinfandel: 2008 Sobon Estate Fiddletown Zinfandel, Lubenko Vineyard, Plymouth, California. Notes of sweet plums and pepper dominate the nose while flavors of blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon and black pepper glide across the palate. The silky smooth tannins deliver a soft, fruit driven finish. ($22)

Best Shiraz: 2009 Zonte's Footstep Shiraz, Lake Doctor Vineyard, Langhorne Creek, Australia. This was definitely one of the best values of the competition, with classic aromas of black plums, cassis and licorice on the nose and flavors of black cherries, briery fruits and black pepper on the medium body palate. The wine finishes remarkably soft with smooth tannins that sustain the prolonged finish. ($16)

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

More hammock wines for summer sippin'

Posted on: Saturday 7/9/2011 11:51am

By Scott Greenberg, special to

It's hot and I need a wine that I can kick back and relax with - whether I am swinging in a hammock at home or hanging out at the beach.

I need a "summer" wine.

The requisite summer wine has got to have enough fruit to keep up with summer foods and enough acidity to keep it light and refreshing. After all, the acidity is responsible for the clean, fresh finish that dries your palate and whets your appetite.

Traditionally, sauvignon blancs lend themselves to the aforementioned characteristics, but lately, other varietals and blends have popped up on the summer scene to provide relief from the heat… and humidity.

Let's start with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc - like the one made by local-boy-makes-good-wine, Gus Kalaris. The 2009 Worthy Five Clones Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley cuts down the heat of summer faster than a cold weather front, with scents of lemon/lime and honey dew melon on the nose and crisp, refreshing flavors of nectarine and citrus flavors in the mouth. The abundant acidity keeps the flavors bright and focused all the way through, from first sip to finish. $20

Argentina might know how to beat the heat, with the 2010 Susana Balbo Torrontes from South America. The winemaker notes that the aromas are similar to Viognier, with hints of peach, pear, and orange citrus fruit. On the palate, it has beautiful structure and the same bright acidity found in Sauvignon Blanc. The summer stone fruit flavors - think peaches and nectarines - keeps you coming back for sip after sip - and even though it's fruity and floral, the abundant acidity keeps it bright and refreshing - try it with sushi. $12

It must get hot down under, because the Aussies make some pretty invigorating wines, like the 2009 D'Arenberg "Broken Fishplate" Sauvignon Blanc from Australia. The fruit for this refreshing white comes from the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills region. According to the winery's website, the wine takes its name as a result of the fishplates which sit in the bottom of the harvester and collect the falling grapes, which are invariably destroyed due to the rough terrain of the vineyard. Good thing that the light and refreshing flavors of passion fruit, nectarine and lemon/lime built on the medium body make it worth the trouble. $18

Any winery with the name Dry Creek must know how to quench thirst. One of my favorite summertime wines to put out my palate fire is the 2010 Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc from Sonoma, California. It's summertime in a bottle with whispers of honeysuckle, pineapple, white peach and honeydew melon on the nose and notes of crisp apple, cantaloupe, and pineapple, happily mingling with underlying minerality and freshly grated lemon zest on the finish that keeps this wine fresh and crisp. Ahhh. $12

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Sparkling wines for the Fourth of July

Posted on: Friday 7/1/2011 7:39pm

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, Washington Examiner

Red, white and sparkling wine for Fourth of July

Posted on: Friday 7/1/2011 2:19pm

Scott Greenberg, special to

When I was growing up, the Fourth of July meant ice cold watermelon, cookouts, a parade down Main Street, and fireworks at the community college stadium. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.

But that was then.

Today, wine is a familiar site at backyard barbeques across the country, and celebrating the birth of our nation in the nation's capital with an assortment of red, white and sparkling wines is a great way to declare your own independence.

As Benjamin Franklin put it, "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." I'll drink to that.

I use to love running around the front lawn waving sparklers to and fro, blissfully ignoring the small patches of skin that were singed by wayward cinders. Today, my sparklers are made up of bubbles instead of burns. The Non-Vintage Mumm Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine from Napa Valley, California ($28) is a versatile and delicious bubbly. Just slightly sweet and sporting flavors of melon, crème brulée and bright citrus, it can stand alone as an aperitif or pairs beautifully with the all-American dessert, apple pie.

What better way to celebrate our independence than with a white wine that is all about liberty, like the 2009 Liberty School Chardonnay from Central Coast, California ($12). The wine is made with a touch of new oak and does not undergo any secondary malolactic fermentation so the green apple and nectarine flavors stay bright and focused on the front of the palate. Notes of lemon/lime citrus lend a refreshing tanginess to the crisp finish.

Zinfandel is considered the all-American grape, and thanks to the characteristic dark fruit and black pepper notes, it pairs well with grilled meats like steaks and ribs. Having just recently participated as a judge in the National Capital Barbecue Battle Rippin' Ribs contest, I know I'll be looking for the 2009 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, California ($12) the next time I cook up a batch of baby backs. Produced from tiny berries harvested from old "head trained" vines ranging in age from 35 - 80 years old, the wine features scents blueberry jam and spicy pepper on the nose and flavors of black plum, dark cherry and vanilla in the mouth. Bold notes of black pepper strike a lasting impression on the medium finish.

If you're looking for a fun wine to enjoy with friends and fireworks, try the 2008 Bodegas Exopto Wine Cellars Big Bang from Rioja, Spain ($18). This red wine is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Graciano and offers up a nose of blackberry, dark cherry and cigar humidor. The explosion of flavor in the mouth features juicy notes of blackberry, cassis, tobacco, and earthy highlights. The bright acidity keeps the wine lively and fresh from start to medium-bodied finish.

The American Revolution was fought for the right to be free, so the aptly named 2010 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($40). The fragrant bouquet of red berries violets on the nose is just a teaser for what's in store for the mouth. This wine is deeply layered with intense-yet-velvety flavors of cherries, plums and baking spices throughout its wonderfully long finish. The medium-bodied frame offers just a touch of dark raspberry on the softly texture finish.

And if you absolutely must have a cold beer this Fourth of July, there is no more patriotic brew to toast America's birthday with than the Samuel Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale ($16/twelve pack). This deep reddish-hued ale has a nice balance of sweet and spicy flavors, complemented by pine and citrus notes from the combination of German and American hops. The malted Rye provides additional complexity and a slightly dry finish.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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