Wine of The Week

Discovering wines by the glass

Posted on: Friday 5/13/2011 2:42pm By jmeyer

Here is a summary of some of the top spots in our area to taste a variety of varietals. Prices are approximate.

Northern Virginia

Wine from a vending machine? At Evo Bistro in McLean, restaurant patrons can purchase a debit card and use it to help themselves from a list of over 50 wines from around the world. Guests insert their card, select a wine, and receive a one ounce, three ounce, or five ounce pour. Swipe, dispense and sip.

EatBar in Arlington has one of the most eclectic wine-by-the-glass programs in the area. With over 50 wines available in 3, 6 and 10 ounce pours ($4 - $25) from over ten countries, the list will keep any palate busy for many visits.

Maryland

Grapeseed in Bethesda was one of the first restaurants to bravely go where no restaurant had gone before - offering high-end wines by the glass in Montgomery County, where the liquor laws are a bit quirky. But chef/owner Jeff Heineman persevered and now offers over 25 whites and 25 red and a variety of sparkling and dessert wines (over 80 total), either by the glass or sample pour ($5 - $20).

The Wine Harvest, with two locations in Montgomery County (The Kentlands in Gaithersburg and Park Potomac in Potomac) is a specialty wine shop that offers sandwiches and light snacks along with samples of wines by the glass ($4 - $9), so you can "try before you buy."

Florida-based Seasons 52 restaurant's newest outpost recently landed in the Rockville area and offers guests up to 60 different wines by the glass (6-ounce pour ranging from $6 - $15). Best of all, the wines are personally selected by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, so there are a lot of interesting and diverse wines to chose from.

Washington, D.C.

Mark Culler has been collecting wine for over 25 years, so when he launched Proof, wine was a major focus. He purchased a state-of-the-art wine dispensing/storage system that serves 16 white wines and 16 red wines. The temperature controlled Enomatic system uses Argon gas to keep the bottles fresh for up to three weeks, but they rarely last more than a day or two. In addition to the 2, 6 or 8.5 ounce pours of reds and whites (ranging from $7 to $22 per glass), there are also 8 sparkling wines and 8 dessert wines available.

If you're looking to see the world through wine, then take the tour at Cork Wine Bar, near Logan Circle. Cork offers over 50 wines by the glass from big and small producers from around the world and prides itself on making wine tasting approachable by providing easy-to-understand descriptions for each wine. In addition, they offer flights of wine so you can sample different regions and varietals. No passport necessary.

Mother's Day Wines

Posted on: Friday 5/6/2011 2:07pm By jmeyer

Roses are always a good idea on Mother's Day, so why not bring home a rosé - particularly one with bubbles, the ones found in the Non-Vintage Domaine Chandon Sparkling Rosé wine from Napa Valley. Made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the Méthode Champenoise, the bright pink color is festive and inviting. Ripe strawberry, juicy watermelon and raspberry hit the front of the tongue like a kid on a waterslide. Bright notes of red cherry fruit bring up the rear of the vibrant, refreshing finish. Only $17.

If you want to give mom diamonds, look no further than the 2009 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Director's Cut Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. This lovely Chardonnay is only $18 and has an old-fashioned filmstrip wrapped around the bottle as an homage to the famous director who owns the winery. The wine is aged entirely in French oak barrels that lend a note of buttered toast and vanilla on the seductive nose. In the mouth, the wine has a round, lush texture featuring favors of green apple, nectarine and honeysuckle on the front of the tongue and bright citrus notes on the crisp finish.

For just $15, you can give mom her own clone with the 2007 Pedroncelli Winery "Mother Clone" Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California. This zesty Zinfandel took home top honors last year at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in the "Under $20 Zinfandel" category - and it's easy to see why. This is a classic Dry Creek Valley aromas of ripe blackberry, dusty earth and subtle black pepper spice. This is a concentrated wine that offers a great balance of jammy fruit flavors, savory spices and enough tannins to provide a long, lush finish.

If you're looking to splurge on a precious metal, look no further than the 2006 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, California. With notes of cassis and dark fruit on the nose, the powerful-yet-easy to drink wine offers a nice balance of blackberries, ripe plums and black figs. The smooth finish will long be savored after the bottle is gone. And so will your thoughtfulness. $60.

Big House offers big value

Posted on: Friday 4/29/2011 4:22pm By jmeyer

Eleven, yes, eleven different varietals contribute to the 2010 Big House White Wine. The aromatic nose really does have a perfume quality, including scents of spring flowers and lychee fruit. Flavors of white peaches, dried apricots and nectarines fill the mouth while bright acidity provides a clean, citrusy finish. $10/750ml or $22/3 liters

When chardonnay is made without the use of oak, it is referred to in the industry as "naked." The 2010 Big House Unchained Naked Chardonnay is an excellent example of the pretty flavors unadulterated fruit can provide. Bright green apple, ripe nectarine and lemon/lime flavors zip over the tongue on their way to the clean, crisp finish. $10/750ml or $22/3 liters

Georgetta's approach to wine is "the more the merrier," and the 2009 Big House Red certainly lives up to her philosophy. With over 14 red varietals in the juice, including Petite Sirah, Syrah, Montepulciano and Barbera to name a few, it delivers oodles of juicy red fruit flavors, including blackberry, red cherry and cranberries. $10/750ml or $22/3 liters

Zinfandel grapes from old vines produce elegant wines, like the ones used in the 2009 Big House Beastly Old Vines Cardinal Zin. Made from 80 percent old vine Zinfandel grapes from vineyards around California, it delivers sumptuous blackberry, cherry and blueberry flavors on the front of tongue. Dried herbs and spicy pepper notes fill out the medium-bodied finish. $10/750ml or $22/3 liters

A couple other wines in the Big House portfolio, namely the 2010 Big House The Birdman Pinot Grigio and the 2009 Big House The Usual Suspects Cabernet Sauvignon (both $10) also deserve to be sprung free from the bottle.

Around the world with wines for Easter

Posted on: Friday 4/22/2011 5:32pm By jmeyer

If you're planning on serving ham for Easter dinner, then try the 2008 Takutai Pinot Noir from the Nelson region of New Zealand. This pinot is not too brooding but it has an intense nose showing an attractive bright berry fruit profile. A deeply impressive Pinot Noir that gets it just right. Excellent. $15

Easter ham can be rich and salty, so I think a nice, delicately sweet Riesling with enough underlying acidity will cut through the richness of the ham like a knife while providing a nice counterpoint to the saltiness. My recommendation is the Poet's Leap Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington State. $19

If your plans call for a turkey dinner this Easter, serve something a little different - Grüner Veltliner. The 2008 Laurenz V. Charming Gruner Veltliner from Kamptal Austrian has aromas of ripe apples and a typical Veltliner spiciness that combines to create a charming fruit bouquet. $25

And if leg of lamb is on the menu, then Chateauneuf du Pape is the way to go. The 2004 Feraud Chateauneuf du Pape from the southern Rhone Valley of France is rich, full and spicy, with peppery notes of black cherries, dried herbs and tobacco. It has excellent balance and is ready to enjoy now. $30

Passover wines: Not your father's Manischewitz

Posted on: Friday 4/15/2011 2:20pm By jmeyer

by Scott Greenberg,
Special to WTOP.com

Kosher wines have entered a new era. There are a several countries that are dedicated to producing quality wines for all consumers. Israel is leading the way with six wine producing regions turning out some pretty good juice. Italy, New Zealand, Australia and California are also on the map with respectable Kosher wine offerings.

Nothing gets a party - or Seder - started like a glass of sparkling wine. The 2008 Bartenura Moscato from the Lombardia province of Italy is a fun and festive way to kick off the first cup with. This sparkler features bright flavors of ripe pear, tangerine and nectarine on the front of the palate and a touch of green melon on the crisp, refreshing finish. Serve cold in a fluted glass. $15.

White wine lovers will rejoice when they taste the 2008 Yarden Chardonnay from Galilee, Israel. This Chardonnay is an exceptional full-bodied wine with plenty of toasty oak and buttered brioche on the bouquet and fresh flavors of pear, apple and a bit of melon in the mouth. Well balanced, with a long, elegant finish. $20.

If you really want to see how far kosher wines have come, try the 2007 Galil Mountain 'Yiron' from the Galilee appellation in Israel. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It is aged for 16 months in small French oak barrels which produces a wine with a full-bodied frame featuring blackberry, cassis and jammy ripe plum on the front of the tongue. The finish is chocked full of nicely layered flavors of cocoa, dried herbs and earthy notes. $20.

All the way from the land Down Under comes the 2009 Goose Bay East Coast Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Utilizing grapes grown in the Marlborough and Nelson appellations, this wine is on the lighter side, with delicate notes of strawberry and red cherry that seem to float on the tongue. The abundant acidity provides splendid balance and carries the hint of baking spices throughout the supple finish. $20.

Another choice from south of the equator is the 2009 Beckett's Flat Five Stones Shiraz. Located in the Margaret River appellation of Australia, Becket's Flat has been making kosher wines since 1998. Their Shiraz - or Syrah as it's know north of the equator - displays characteristic blackberry and dark plum flavors up front and distinctive notes of black pepper on the balanced, powerful finish. $21.

Of course, no celebratory meal is complete without dessert. The 2008 Barron Herzog Late Harvest Riesling, Monterey County, Calif. is a nicely balanced dessert-style wine. The abundant bright acidity keeping the sweet flavors of candied orange, apricot and dried pineapple in check and the finish clean. Serve it well-chilled. $25.

Is it Worth The Money?

Posted on: Friday 4/8/2011 5:26pm By jmeyer

Is the taste or pleasure perceived of the wine influenced by price? It is a mystery similar to the chicken and the egg. Does the wine taste better because it costs more or does it cost more because the wine tastes better?

Here's a simple way to try this at home. Ask your friends to bring a bottle of the same varietal of wine - California cabernets for example - at differing price points. Make sure that they're wrapped in a brown paper bag without any identifying features exposed. Number the bags, then taste and rate the wines. In addition, ask everyone to guess the price of the wine. Reveal the wines and compare notes.

I did this yesterday with a group of enthusiastic wine consumers and here are the results…

2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast ($15) The 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon offers up-front aromas of ripe red fruit, followed by similar vibrant and rich berry flavors. Silky but firm tannins lend excellent structure, while maintaining a soft approachability reflective of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.

2007 Chateau Sourverain Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, CA ($30) The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is another very good value. Ripe black currant, herb, and spice box aromas are followed by a medium-bodied, attractive, fruity Cabernet with good texture, depth, and richness, and no hard edges. It should drink nicely for 7-8 years.

2007 Neal Family Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($45) This cabernet features dark fruit flavors, very well balanced acids and tannins, and beautifully colored wines. This vintage is packed with intense fruit aromas of cherry, blackberry, cassis and sweet oak. The resulting character makes this a great vintage for enjoying now as well as aging 2006 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County, CA ($60) Cinq Cépages is the flagship wine of Chateau St. Jean.

Each year, Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren selects fruit from the finest Bordeaux variety vineyards to craft a wine that showcases the best of Sonoma County. The primary grape sources for the 2006 vintage are Alexander Valley, Knights Valley and Sonoma Valley. The Alexander Valley grapes highlight bright berry with back notes of dried herbs, while the Sonoma Valley fruit is from our home vineyard - the St. Jean Estate Vineyard - and brings black and dense mountain fruit to the blend. The Knights Valley fruit adds boysenberry flavors and elegant tannins.

Virginia wines for March Madness

Posted on: Friday 4/1/2011 11:35am By jmeyer

What appropriate wines should you open and enjoy while watching the gentlemen from Richmond make history this weekend in the NCAA Tournament? Why, wines from Virginia, of course.

Just like the 11th seeded teams of past and present, Virginia wines are surprisingly good. And I don't mean "surprisingly" in a negative or mean way. It's just that Virginia wines don't often get the attention and recognition they deserve on the national stage.

If you're looking for a wine to sip, swish and swallow, pick up a bottle of 2006 Prince Michel Barrel Select Chardonnay, from Leon, Virginia ($18). The barrel fermented chardonnay boasts aromas of vanilla, pear and ripe apple. The rich, creamy mouthfeel and luscious flavors of baked apple, pear and peach are due, in part, to the sur lee aging process, so the wine stays in contact with the yeast and other beneficial sediment for a longer period of time. The toasty finish offers up hints of roasted cashews.

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of Virginia wine pioneer, Dennis Horton. His eponymous winery, Horton Vineyards in Orange County, Virginia, produces some of the best Viognier wines in the country. His 2009 Horton Vineyard Viognier is a steal at $20.

In December of 2010, the prestigious Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards went into bankruptcy when lenders foreclosed on the property. The silver lining is that the 2005 Kluge New World Red Wine from Albemarle County, Virginia ($22) was purchased by several wine shops at a discount.

Down Richmond way, in the shadow of Monticello, is the delightfully charming Barboursville Vineyards. But don't let the stately grounds and pristine vineyards fool you. This is place where serious wine is made, like the 2007 Barboursville Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($30).

And if VCU wins, celebrate with a bottle of Non-vintage Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Sparkling Wine from Charlottesville ($26).

Cherry, Cherry Baby (cue to 'Sherry Baby' by Frankie Valli)

Posted on: Friday 3/25/2011 1:09pm By jmeyer

Here are some examples of wines that you can celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival with in both spirit and flavor. A lot of wine snobs overlook the 2008 Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Merlot - which is good since there will be more for the rest of us. This is a well-made wine, aged for 14 months in French and American oak. Only $20.

Pinot Noirs are famous for sporting flavors of strawberry and cherry. The 2008 Argyle Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon definitely tilts towards the cherry end of the spectrum where other notes, such as raspberry and cinnamon, jump in to keep it company. Touches of wild strawberry glide in on the medium-bodied finish. $24

Last week, I disclosed my penchant for Grenache wines and the love affair continues this week with the 2007 Kilikanoon "Prodigal" Grenache from the Claire Valley of South Australia. It spends about 20 months in second and third year oak barrels, so there is not a lot of wood to get in the way of the ripe cherry flavors on the front of the tongue. Cedar, tobacco and red licorice notes jump in on the smooth textured and full-bodied finish. $25

Another stunning example from the land down under comes from a producer who is known more for their high-end wines. The 2008 Torbreck Juvenile from the Barossa Valley, is a red wine blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Shiraz, and 20% Mataro. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, this big wine favors more of a black cherry component on a nice, medium-bodied frame. The charming finish brings in complimentary notes of cherry jam and baking spices. $25.

Beers for St. Patrick's Day

Posted on: Wednesday 3/16/2011 11:17am By jmeyer

Of course, the number one of choice beer on Saint Patrick's Day is the national beverage of Ireland, Guinness Stout. As legend has it, Arthur Price, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Cashel, bequeathed his godson, Arthur Guinness, £100 and the secret family recipe for stout ale. Guinness Draft - many pubs will be pouring a plethora of pints. Make sure to let it set until all of the bubbles have risen to form a quarter inch creamy head. One of my favorite Irish beers is Harp Lager -- a smooth and lighter-styled beer than the darker stouts. It has a beautiful dark gold color and the super clean finish makes this beer easy to drink - which is fun to do on St. Patty's day.If you're in the mood for an Ale (as opposed to a lager or a stout) - try an Irish favorite, Smithwick's Irish Ale. If you want to celebrate the American side of Irish-American, then drink a domestic beer with an Irish lilt. The Samuel Adams Irish Red is remarkably balanced beer.

Is it getting warmer? Or colder?

Posted on: Friday 3/11/2011 11:30am By jmeyer

More importantly, what wine do you drink when the weather has more mood swings than a teenager? Enter Grenache - a lovely wine known more for its supporting role in French Chateauneuf du Pape wines than as the lovely little star of the show it is. Here are a few of my favorite Grenache wines to get us through these weird weather weeks. From the Languedoc region of France comes the delicious 2007 Domaine Cabirau Grenache Serge and Tony, made from a small vineyard owned by importer Dan Kravitz and named in honor of the two gentlemen who oversee the vines and winemaking. A touch of eucalyptus and black olive on the juicy finish is enough to keep you coming back for another sip ($16). Australian winemakers love playing around with Grenache and I think the 2008 Trevor Jones Boots Grenache, from the Barossa Valley, is a successful experiment. The fruit-driven finish is round and expansive ($15). One of my favorite Spanish wines in the under $20 category is the 2008 QUO Grenache Old Vines from the Aragon region. The seductive, intense fruit and fat, round flavors make this wine shine ($15).


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