Monthly Archives: February 2008

Washington DC Wine Festival

This weekend is the Washington DC International Wine & Food Festival.  200 wineries will be represented with a whopping 800 wines up for tasting.  I was lucky enough to obtain press credentials for the event so I will be heading up to DC around 1:00 tomorrow to make sure that I take full advantage of the trade only part of the show.  In addition to the excitement of the show and tasting some new and fabulous wines I will have the added excitement of meeting fellow blogger and Virginia resident Sonadora from the blog WannabeWino.

Since I will be driving back to Richmond after the event I figure I should only taste for a couple of hours. That being said I have studied the list of wineries and distributors that will be in attendance in order to pick out some most visits.

Here is my short list:

Brown-Forman distributors (because they distribute Wakefield wines which I really enjoy)

Cellarium Imports (Italian wine importer)

Chateau Julien Wine Estates ( a winery from California that I have never heard of)

Confluence Wine Imports ( South African Importer)

Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines (small family winery from Paso Robles that I also hadn’t heard of)

Four VinesGraystone Wine Imports (wines from Moldova, I had now idea what or should I say where Moldova was)

Peltier Station

Rued Winery

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Willamette Valley Vineyards 

The event is Saturday and Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and is open to the public 2:00 – 6:00 both days and is $95 for a single day pass.

Stay tuned to both Anything Wine and WannabeWino for upcoming reviews of the event. 


Categories: dc wine expo, virginia wine, wine tasting | 1 Comment

All About Merlot

This Friday at the Wine Cellar Jeff is serving up Merlot in his series of educational wine tasting. So, on that note I thought I would write a few wine facts about Merlot.  Merlot sadly got a bad wrap a few years ago with the movie Sideways, as a result sales dipped slightly (and Pinot Noir sales and planting went through the roof) but it is back on top as far as red wine volume sales in the United States. 

Merlot, aka the little blackbird is one of the 5 grapes allowed in Bordeaux and was originally famous for its plantings and wines that it is the primary component of in the regions of St. Emillion and Pomerol.  Today Merlot is planted all over the world with fabulous, fruity, textured,  examples coming from California, Washington, Chile, and Virginia just to name a few.  For many years Merlot was used as a blending grape, being paired with it’s big brother Cabernet Sauvignon. The addition of Merlot to Cabernet adds subtle body and softens the sometimes harsh (edges) tannins of the wine providing a great balance and when done right a great wine.  Today, as mentioned above Merlot is planted everyone and stands alone on many tasting counters and wine shop shelves.  Some knockout examples I have had recently in the 100% Merlot category are the Northstar Columbia Valley, Grgich Hills and Imagery Estates Sunny Slope, all of which show that the grape has 2 very strong legs to stand on. (picture from wiki)

Tomorrow Jeff says he will be serving full bodied Merlots from around the world with examples from Argentina, Australia, Washington and California.  Those sound great but I would have liked to seen an example from St. Emillion or Pomerol, but maybe he will surprise us.

Remember the tasting is FREE from 5:00 – 8:00 tomorrow night.


Categories: merlot, wine cellar | 2 Comments

Wine Book Club #1 – Vino Italiano

Today is the due date for the first book report for the Wine Book Club. The wine book club was the idea of Dr Debs from the blog Good Wine Under $20, as great way to share our thoughts and views on literature with other wine bloggers and to help reduce the stack of wine books next to most of our beds.

The task of deciding on the first choice of reading material for the book club was giving to David of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail.  He chose a book that I did not actually have on the shelf titled Vino Italiano, but luckily it was in stock at the local Barnes and Noble.

Well I have to admit that if we were back in 2nd grade, I would probably get a C- on this report.  Unfortunately I did not read the whole book but I feel that I read enough to give a good run down and answer a few of the questions that David gave as “helpers” for our book report.

Each chapter of the book gives you great detail into the different wine making regions of Italy. The chapters start with a wonderful narrative of the authors visit to that specific region. I think this is the part of the book that separates it from other wine books. To give a metaphor from our beloved industry, if each chapter were a glass of wine, the beginning page or two would symbolize, for me, the terroir. 

The amount of information in this book is staggering, but I guess most books on the subject of wine are this way.  For that reason, I think that the best utilization of this book would be as a reference tool, a great one at that.  I wish I had had this book last year before we went to Italy, it would have been quite helpful.  It has opened my eyes to new varietals that I now have in the wine cellar, that in future blog posts I will point out as purchases due to the book. 

I am totally pleased with this book and am glad I have it on my shelf.  I wish I had read more chapters, as I only read about ½ of the book prior to this review, but what I did read either clarified facts or taught me a BUNCH of new ones.

Great suggestion David and a successful first book club meeting Dr. Debs.


Categories: Wine Book Club, wine books | 4 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday – #43 Announced

The next Wine Blogging Wednesday, #43 in fact, was announced last week while I was away so I am a bit late in posting the new topic.  The topic for number 43 comes to us from Joel at Wine Life Today and is one of comfort wines.  I have heard of comfort foods and am familiar with the ones that I would consider my comfort foods as well what the general public thinks comfort foods are.  But I have never thought to myself what my comfort wine might be.  Joel’s distinction for a comfort wine is this, “any wine that you love to unwind to and tell us about not only the wine but what makes the experience special and relaxing for you.”

Thanks Joel for a great topic.


Categories: Wine Blogging Wednesday | Leave a comment

Colorado Wine Trail – Yes, Really!

Although I did not get a chance to sample any Colorado wines, I was shocked to find out that I could have visited a winery not more than 5 miles from our condo in Keystone.  On the way out of town today I picked up a fold out brochure for Colorado Wine and in addition to finding out there is a winery right in Dillon (just down the road from Keystone) there are also more than 60 wineries now in the state.  All the wineries here in Colorado are family owned and produce everything from Merlot to Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.

According to the brochure, it is Colorado’s abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights and low humidity that lead to the states award winning wines.  Two AVAs have been designated in Colorado, the Grand Valley and the West Elks.  The majority of grapes come from vineyards in these areas, in addition to vineyards in Delta, Montrose, Fremont, Larimer and Montezuma counties.  Like most states that have a “wine country”, Colorado has developed wine trails that are designated by blue Colorado Vineyards highway signs.

So go checkout the Colorado Wines website so that, unlike me, the next time you visit this beautiful mountainous state you can partake in some wine tasting and touring.

If anyone has tried Colorado Wines before let me know which ones and what you thought. I am going to try and seek some out back in Richmond but I have a feeling distribution to the East coast may be slim.


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Apres Ski – 2005 Bogle Petite Sirah

For Apres ski today we popped a bottle of 2005 Bogle Petite Sirah.  Harvested in October and November from vineyards in Clarksburg and Lodi this wine clocks in at 13.5% alcohol. Bogle Vineyards farms over 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Delta region. While the winery was established ten years after the first grapes were planted, its success has grown tremendously along with the vineyards.  I have had the Petite Sirah before, which is the flagship grape of Bogle, but I did not remember it. I am huge fan of the Phantom from Bogle which is a blend of Zin, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre.

My Tasting Notes 

Color – Very dark purple 

Nose – Cassis, vanilla, walnut, cinnamon

Taste – Blackberry, black cherry, licorice

Mouthfeel – Medium body, smooth although I did get a little heat at only 13.5% alcohol which seemed weird

Finish Peppery with some black pepper on top, long and dry 

The wine comes off a little “sweet”, although it is a dry wine, with all of the dark fruit and vanilla notes on the nose and palate.  I liked it, plus for $12 in a ski town that isn’t bad.  It wasn’t overly complex but it paired nicely with some Huntsman cheese which is a blend of Blue and Cheddar cheese. 


Categories: Bogle Vineyards, wine review | Leave a comment

From 30,000 Feet

Today I left for Keystone Colorado to indulge in one of my other passions, skiing.  In search of big mountains and deep powder, I am missing the Richmond Wine Expo happening this weekend at the Convention Center here in town.  Don’t worry though, in my true, anal, pre-vacation planning fury I have scouted out the restaurants in Keystone with the best wine lists and even a wine bar just a few minutes from the slopes.

The Virginia Wine Expo that I am missing looks to be quite nice, showcasing only Virginia wines (I think 42 wineries are in attendance) with lots of meet and greets and special education seminars.  The one thing that I really wish I could have seen at the expo would have been the session with Jannequin Bennett, of Ellwood Thompson’s and former TJ’s fame, where she is giving tips on pairing big red wines with vegetarian dishes.  From perusing the program of the 2 day event, other highlights (of course these are highlights to me, maybe not you) include keynote address from Bruce Schoenfeld and Andy Reagan from Jefferson Vineyards will be there as well.

Also I will be missing the Friday night wine tasting at The Wine Cellar this week.  In the second installment of Jeff’s education series, tomorrow night he will be showing you the many faces of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Make sure to stop by and have a glass or two for me, from 5:00 to 8:00 and FREE as always.

This post will be the first that I have written in flight, how exciting.  I was going to get one of the mini bottles of Sutter Home and do a funny post about it, but I couldn’t force myself to pay the crazy $5 for it.

More to come from the Rockies!


Categories: virginia wine expo, wine cellar | Leave a comment

Wine Blogging Wednesday #42 – Just Seven Words

This months WBW is brought to us by Andrew Barrow over at Spitoon. Andrew asks us to pick an Italian red wine and describe it in just SEVEN words.  HOW COOL!

Wine – 2003 Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo

Grape – 100% Nebbiolo

Region – Barolo – Piemonte, Italy

Price – $35 Retail, we paid $58 at a local restaurant (Juleps) this past Saturday

My Seven Words –

Hey, who put cherries in my campfire?

Categories: barolo, piemonte, Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine review | 5 Comments

Richmond Vegetarian Update

Last Thursday I went to TJ’s at the Jefferson for my mother-in-law’s birthday for the first time. I was very excited to go as I have ogled at their unique vegetarian and vegan entrees they’ve had on their menu for quite some time. Unfortunately when we sat down, we were disappointed to see that TJ’s has changed their menu to include a total of ZERO vegetarian entrée choices. Although they did have some great veggie appetizers, I don’t recall anything vegan. The waitress felt very bad as just an hour before we had looked on the website to refresh our memories of what options we had waiting for us, an now we had almost nothing. The chef was able to create a nice trio of vegetables with brown rice for us that was quite tasty, which in addition to the nice goat cheese stuffed plum tomatoes and roasted red pepper terrine was all in all fairly filling. In addition, their wine list is decent with good selections and reasonable prices, and for desert, the pear tart was simply fantastic.

So unfortunately fellow Richmond vegetarians, TJ’s is no longer a place to go for a slightly upscale vegetarian meal.

The former chef Jannequin Bennett is now the executive chef for Ellwood Thompson’s, so her cuisine is not gone, it has just changed locations. Also, as of Monday the TJ’s menu now reflects the correct (new) menu.


Categories: vegetarian | Leave a comment

To The Rhone We Go

In an effort to try new “random” wines and to also purchase more wines in the $15 and under range, we picked up this 2004 Cotes du Rhone from E Guigal rather blindly off the shelf.  The 2004 is a blend of 55% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache and 2% other (I wonder what the other could be???). E Guigal named for Etienne Guigal, is probably most famous for their Cote-Rotie than any of their other wines.  This isn’t all they produce as they have won awards and high scoring reviews for almost all of their wines which span from the appellations of Cote-Rotie to Hermitage to Condrieu and St. Joseph. Run now by Etienne’s son Marcel, Guigal is a large operation that makes quite a bit of fine wine. The winery (Chateau) is located in the town of Ampuis in the heart of the Cote-Rotie appellation where almost all of their wines are produced, aged and stored. The 2004 Cotes du Rhone was aged at Chateau Ampuis for one and a half years in oak foudres (big casks).  We purchased the wine for $12 (before our 10% discount) at the Wine Cellar.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – Tobacco, green pepper, lavender, vanilla extract

Taste – Black currant, raspberry, red bell pepper, leather

Mouthfeel- leathery tannins, and round full body

Finish – Very dry and firm, long in length

At $12 or a little less this wine is a great value, even if you had to pay a bit more for it.  Mostly earthy notes on the nose with more of the fruit coming through on the palate made for a delightful sip.  The tannins were still quite firm, and the fruit was quite present, so I definitely think the 2004 Cotes du Rhone would show really well with another year or so on its side.  With the wines large distribution you shouldn’t have a hard time finding this everyday drinker.


Categories: cotes du rhone, wine tasting | 1 Comment

Chardonnay from Unlikely Places

Since tonight is the Chardonnay tasting at the Wine Cellar I thought I would write about a Chardonnay that Megan and I had recently from an unlikely place.  This summer when were in Piemonte Italy one of the wineries we visited was Rizzi (click here for the post and info on Rizzi), and one of the wines we brought home from Rizzi was a Chardonnay, actually 2 bottles.  When the winemaker Enrico pulled out the Chardonnay we were very surprised because it is not a varietal that commands much acreage in this part of Italy.  Although there are some minor plantings of Chardonnay the 3 main grapes of Piemonte are Arneis, Cortese and Moscato. 

The 2006 Langhe Chardonnay from Rizzi is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks and is bottled the March following the harvest.  The vineyards that produce the grapes for this wine are south, southwest facing and consist of soil that is composed of white clay and sand.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – Apple, mineral, cut grass, chalky/peppermint, maple syrup

Taste – Apple, pear, peach, raw nuttiness, white grape juice

Mouthfeel – Medium body, with a round and voluptuous feel while remaining quite crisp

Finish – Long with lemon and grass flavors lingering

Overall this was a great wine and the best part is after the euro dollar conversion it was about $7 (4,50 Euro).  Holy cow, what a great value!  I would have expected this wine to be crisper than it was since it did not go through Malolactic Fermentation and did not have any time in oak. With little “handling” of the wine in the winery (cantina) it was left to express its wonderful fruit character laced with the mineral and chalkiness of its terroir. They do not sell this in the US unfortunately, but if you happen to be in Northern Italy, keep your eye out for it.


Categories: chardonnay, piemonte, wine review | Leave a comment

Chardonnay Tasting at The Wine Cellar

Friday night at the Wine Cellar Jeff will be continuing his education series by sharing the many styles of Chardonnay with us.  He will have five up for tasting that will run the Chardonnay gamut from buttery and oaky from California to French Burgundy.

FREE as always from 5:00 to 8:00


Categories: chardonnay, wine cellar, wine tasting | 1 Comment

Disappointing Trend

After this weekend of wine tasting in Northern Virginia with our friends Paul and Warren, I have become aware of an increasing trend, wineries not allowing outside food available on the premises. Except for a few exceptions, I have never noticed wineries posting signs stating such regulations, but 3 of the four wineries this weekend had newly placed such signs.

I am pretty sure this new occurrence is not related to new state legislation so I am even further perplexed. Of the 3 wineries 2 offered a little bit of food (soup, cheese plates and baguettes) although none offered substantial food for lunch. I don’t think (or hope) this is an issue of the wineries trying to squeeze more money out of us. If it is the later, I would make a suggestion to wineries thinking of offering light food options and not allowing outside food on the premises (including patios and porches). If Megan and I head to a winery with a picnic basket full of food, after we participate in the tasting, we are going to pick up a bottle of wine, most likely costing from $12 to $25, to enjoy with our food. If we can’t for some reason eat at that winery, we move on to the next one and the winery loses out on the extra bottle we would have purchased above what we were taking home and the winery ultimately loses money. Who is that good for?

If anyone has any insight on this issue please comment or email me. And to Virginia wineries that are starting to implement or thinking of having such rules, please reconsider.


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Categories: virginia wine, wine industry issues | 9 Comments


For those of you that read my blog you know how much I enjoy Grgich Hills for who they are, where they came from and the wine making philosophy they stand for. I got my first taste of what Grgich was all about not through a bottle of wine but by listening to a Graperadio podcast. The two part (Part 1 and Part 2) series introduced us to Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and how he first gained international notoriety after his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the 1976 Paris tasting. After learning about how Mike came of age as a great winemaker in Napa Valley I learned of his quest to keep on top of the best vineyard practices, ones that are good for the wine as well as the land. Being intrigued, I went out and got the book “Judgement of Paris” by George Taber and learned more about Mike Grgich as well the history of how Napa Valley came to be the wine mecca it is today.

I wrote a little while ago about the 2001 Grgich Cabernet Sauvignon that I was slightly disappointed with, mostly because of my preconceived notions of how I thought it should be and how I remembered it was from my visit to their tasting room in 2004.

Recently I pulled another Grgich out of the Cellar, this time it was the 2002 Merlot, about the same price point as the Cabernet, around $50. This was what I remembered about Grgich wine, a truly fabulous expression of the grape from start to finish.

My Tasting Notes

Color – Very dark ruby red

Nose – Cedar, pine, cherry, pomegranate, black tea, vanilla, corn husk

Taste – Black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, cardamom, cinnamon, under ripe green grapes

Mouthfeel – Full body, spicy yet soft and polished across the tongue

Finish – LONG, with the tannins leave a nice fuzzy feeling in the mouth

This was a big, complex, layered Merlot that shows the best of what California Merlot has to offer. Definitely on the New World end of the spectrum but not over the top displaying lots of great earth flavors layered with the fruit and spice. I would definitely recommend this wine if you are looking for a “BIG” full bodied Merlot. This is up there with the Northstar Merlot I had a few months ago from Washington State, but the Grgich offered more spice and a more tannic finish.


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Categories: grgich, merlot, napa, wine review | 3 Comments

Zinfandel Tasting and A Little History

Tonight at the Wine Cellar, Jeff will be starting his education series as he himself is doing the pouring. He will be showcasing red Zinfandel with 3 in a range from light to full bodied and 2 old vine Zins from 68-100 year old wines.

Hailing from Croatia, Zinfandel originally made its way into the United States in 1829 via Long Island New York before it was first planted in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys in 1859.  The style of Zinfandel can be quite varied, from over the top fruit bombs, to soft and subtle gems, to jammy exotic Ports and any combination of those three.  In California, Zinfandel is the only grape that comes close to Cabernet Sauvignon with respect to acreage and crushed juice volume and has recently taken some of the spotlight off of the King of California, Mr. Cabernet.  As mentioned above, Jeff is going to show us 2 good example of Old Vine Zins, but what exactly is the definition of “Old Vine”.  Well in fact nothing defines the “Old Vine” labeling of Zinfandels and that subject has been talked about greatly, and this year was a huge topic across the blogosphere.  Certain winemakers such as Joel Peterson from Ravenswood winery define Old Vines as those between 50 and 80 years old and anything over 80 years of age as Ancient vines.  David Gates of Ridge Winery bases his definition of Old Vine on any vines that are 50 years of age and older.  And the list goes on and on of famous Zinfandel producers most of whom give, what I feel, good definitions of what they consider to be old, but in fact if they wanted to name 10 year old vines as “Old”, they could. Not that there is anything wrong with that. (Seinfeld reference)

So come check out what Jeff has to offer tonight and see if Old Vine does make a difference, and get your palette trained on Red Zinfandel.

See you tonight from 5:00 to 8:00 and FREE as always.


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Categories: old vine, ridge, wine cellar, wine industry issues, wine tasting, Zinfandel | Leave a comment