Wine of the Week: Gold medal wines

WASHINGTON — I don’t know about you, but I love the Olympics and have caught Winter Olympic fever big time.

I am up at all wee hours of the morning watching athletes from across the globe competing in skating, sledding, skiing and snowboarding. Even curling has some sort of strange hold on me. My DVR is bursting at its digital seams, begging me to erase hours of biathlon coverage.

I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to train for thousands of hours, for years on end, in order to get an opportunity to spend just a few precious moments atop the podium, a gold medal draped about the neck.

While it is highly unlikely that I will ever get a chance to win a gold medal at the Olympics, it certainly won’t prevent me from enjoying gold medal wines while celebrating those that have achieved their ultimate goal. So as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games wrap up this weekend, I plan on watching the closing ceremonies while opening a few wines that have been awarded “gold” medals of their own in an assortment of notable wine competitions. It will be fun to sip gold while applauding the efforts of those who go for the gold. After all, you can’t spell wine without win!

One way to celebrate a big win is with a sparkling wine from our own backyard. The Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition awarded a gold medal wine to the King Family Vineyards Nonvintage Sparkling Brut wine. King Family Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Crozet, Virginia, just 15 minutes from Charlottesville. The winery specializes in the production of ultra-premium wines that showcase the remarkable quality and terroir of the Monticello AVA. Beginning with carefully selected estate grapes, winemaker Matthieu Finot creates wines inspired by the old world, but are uniquely expressive of Virginia. The King Family Vineyards Sparkling Brut is produced in the traditional method from 100 percent chardonnay grapes. On the nose and the palate, the wine is full of rich green apple notes and light toast. It is aged for seven months in oak barrels, and then another 10 months aging sur lees in the bottle.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition proclaims that it is “the largest competition of American wines in the world,” so clearly, they have a lot to choose from, and they chose the 2016 Michael David Chardonnay from Lodi, California, as the best chardonnay wine in the $16 to $18 category. This chardonnay is handcrafted from the family’s vineyard in Lodi, where the winemakers produce three distinct chardonnays that are later blended into a final wine just before bottling. From a crisp, fruit-driven style, fermented and aged in stainless steel, to a softer, more round French oak barrel fermented chardonnay, our chardonnay captures the best qualities of each style. The 2016 version bursts with aromas of pear, melon and spiced peach. Bright and crisp with fresh acidity, the wine is medium bodied with forward flavors of green apple. Subtle French oak aging adds complexity with additional notes of honeyed citrus and pear. And for the price, it is a perfect 10! $16

If gold isn’t good enough for you, then how about double gold? The San Francisco International Wine Competition awarded a double-gold medal to Cline Cellars for the amazing zinfandel wine. The 2014 Cline Cellars Big Break Zinfandel from Contra Costa County in California is to zinfandel what the quadruple-twisting triple back flip is to men’s freestyle skiing aerials: It’s amazing! This full-throttled zinfandel offers scents of blueberry liqueur, blackberry and cherry. The rich flavors of spicy cherry, raspberry and toasty oak coat the entire tongue. The wine is kept in balance by loads of soft tannins and subtle acidity. The characteristic notes of black pepper and mint — thanks to a nearby Eucalyptus grove — jump in on the perfect landing. $37

Another double-gold winner from the San Francisco International Wine Competition is the 2013 Swanson Vineyards and Winery Merlot from Napa Valley, California. The wine is produced with grapes farmed from two highly regarded vineyards located in Oakville. The yields are adjusted each year to achieve the desired level of ripeness. The practice leads to favoring quality over quantity, so crop yield is intentionally kept low, allowing for a long hang time on the vine, building intense flavors and retaining natural acidity. The 2013 winner offers up aromas of plum, crushed ripe cherry and a touch of cassis. This full-bodied merlot is powerful, yet balanced perfectly, with flavors of red fruits, pomegranate, cedar wood and a touch of dried oregano on the palate. This is a wine that will develop gracefully over the next seven to 10 years, just in time for the next winter Olympic Games. $31

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