Monthly Archives: May 2008

When Spitting is a good thing!


There is something cool about being in a room full of wine professional spitting away into nice little spittoons with the greatest of ease.  More and more I find myself spitting at larger wine tastings where the shear number of wines would make anyone tipsy if you drank it all. Plus it just feels cool. Haha Yes, save the comments, I know I am a geek. On the serious side, as one who goes to these larger tastings to expand my palate, when you are drunk, you don’t really taste anything so there isn’t any point in going past 8 wines or so.  This is not to say I didn’t swallow any, I mean come on!


This week I got invited to a private tasting of some 40 plus wines, and it was another great experience to send the palate to school.  I figured I would write about a couple of my favorites from the red and white category vs. going through the entire list, so here goes.



2006 Ancien Domaine des Pontifes Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc – very nice floral aromas accompanied by pear and hints of citrus. On the palate was crisp apple, almond and mineral flavors that produced a wonderful clean tasting finish. The mid palate on this wine was soft and round but the refreshing crispness and moderate acidity was evident at the finish.

2004 Huber Riesling Von Den Terrassen – asian pear, peach and honey aromas with the classic petroleum smell rounding out the nose followed by similar flavors including a heavy dose of slate. Nice full round body, with good amount of acidity so not to seem flabby with the rich flavor profile. Good!!



2005 Chateau St. Andre Corbin St Emilion – Cherry, plum and red currant aromas followed by black cherry, wet earth, and basil flavors.  Firm dusty tannins at the finish, the wine could definitely hold on for quite a few more years. Medium body, excellent structure.

2004 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus Estate Red – dark fruit, fig and leather aromas followed by lavender, chocolate and blackberry flavor profile. Very full and round body with soft, lush tannins.


Some Virginia wineries were being poured as well, White Hall, Rappahannock and Ingleside. I have visited both White Hall and Rappahannock in the past and have enjoyed their wines but Ingleside was new to me and I enjoyed their offerings. I have put on my need to visit list if I ever make it up to the Northern Neck area.



Categories: virginia wine, wine review, wine tasting | Leave a comment

Wine Review – Moon Mountain Cabernet

Moon Mountain Vineyards (not the original name) has a long history of being bought and sold, including various name changes that date back well into the early 1900’s, to the beginning of Sonoma Valley’s winemaking history. Farmed primarily for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the 70’s, the grapes were sold to big name wineries such as Ridge, Kistler and Chateau St. Jean. A winery was not built on the property until the early 80’s where they focused on making Bordeaux varietals that they found grew well in the soil types that exist in the Mayacamas mountain range. Owned now by Diageo, the winery and vineyard focus on making wines via sustainable if not organic farming practices. All of the wineries planted 73 acres of the 286 that make up the estate are certified organic. For non estate wines they choose vineyards that follow the same sustainable vineyard practices as they do, although these other wineries may not be organically certified.

The 2005 Moon Mountain Cabernet Sonoma County ($15) comes from 6 different vineyards (32% Knights Valley, 23% Chalk Hill, 21% Dry Creek, 15% Russian River, 7% Alexander Valley, 2% Sonoma Valley) throughout Sonoma County. Composed of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Zin, the wines sees 18 months in 100% American Oak, 30% of which is new.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Fig, chocolate, leather, vanilla, spiced meat

Taste – Black currant, cocoa, raspberry, walnut, dried herbs, oak

Mouthfeel – medium to full body, leather but not overpowering tannins, good acidic structure

Finish – red fruit flavors linger along with a nice leathery feel, medium to long in length

We had this with a grilled portabella mushroom stuffed with roasted red pepper, fake sausage, pine nut and thyme stuffing, topped with feta cheese and a balsamic glaze along with some rosemary redskin mashed potatoes. The wine went really well with the slightly charred, grilled and earthy flavors of the mushroom along with the “meatiness” of the stuffing. It had nice dark fruit aromas and flavors up front that were rich and inviting. It took about a half hour for the wine to start showing the nuttier and herbal characteristics that provided welcome layers and a more intriguing flavor profile. This was a good Cab, especially for the price tag of $15. I could definitely see it going well with pizza or other lighter meat dishes that incorporate roasted veggies and fungus!


Image from

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Tastings around Richmond

Tonight at the Wine Cellar in Midlothian – FREE from 5:00 – 8:00


Tonight at River City Cellars in Carytown – FREE from 5:00 – 7:00

Avondale 2007 Chenin Blanc: Grown in South Africa since the late 17th century, Chenin Blanc remains one of the country’s premier white wine grapes.  A progressive estate that practices organic viticulture, Avondale makes this crisp, citrus scented Chenin Blanc.

Forrest Estate 2006 Sauvignon Blanc: Located on the northern tip of New Zealand‘s South Island, the Marlborough district has become synonymous with vibrant, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Forrest Estate is no exception with flavors that recall citrus peel, guava and sweet grass.

Barnard Griffin 2007 Rose of Sangiovese: Peach and strawberry notes come to mind in tasting this dry yet fruity rose made from the Sangiovese varietal in Washington State.

Durigutti 2005 Bonarda: While Malbec is undoubtedly the most recognized grape produced in Argentina, the Bonarda grape, imported from northwestern Italy,  is the most planted.  With hints of tar and spice meshing with blueberry and black cherry, this medium-bodied red has softer tannins and a great sense of balance.

Yalumba 2006 Bushvine Grenache: Produced from Grenache vines averaging sixty years old  in the Barossa region, this full-bodied Australian red has ripe berried flavors as well as hints of cocoa, clove and flowers.

ps: Don’t forget to bring your own glass (unless you like plastic)!

Tomorrow night (5.24) at Bella Vino Stony Point – FREE from 3:00 to 9:00

Domaine de Coussergues Sauvignon Blanc          Vin de Pays D’Oc, France $9.99/bottle

I’ve been drinking this white for several years now and it has always satisfied.  It is a snappy little wine from the south of France.  There’s citrus fruit and a hint of green grass and a lively finish.  It’s oh so easy to drink too much of this wine, so look out!  Have it with grilled vegetables and feta cheese.

Picpoul de Pinet                                              Coteaux du Languedoc, France $8.99/bottle

“Picpoul” means “lip-biter” in French (or so I’ve heard) and that perfectly sums up this wine.  A light white with green apple fruit and a crisp, almost tart, finish.  The grapes for this wine are grown within sight of the Mediterranean (a picture:   Maybe it’s my imagination, but I can almost taste the salinity from the sea breeze in this wine.  Grill up some shrimp and other shellfish and gobble them down with this wine.

Resonata Nero D’Avola                                 Sicily, Italy $9.99/bottle

Nero D’Avola is a grape indigenous to Sicily that has been compared to Syrah.  I think the comparison is accurate:  this wine has a smooth texture, black cherry and raspberry fruit and a slightly spicy finish.  This is rib wine.  The bright fruit in the wine will meld well with sweet, spicy BBQ sauce.  That said, it would be easy to drink alongside anything.

Maipe Cabernet Sauvigon                           Mendoza, Argentina $10.99/bottle

Here’s another one of those great deals from South America. A Cabernet with plump fruit and a little mocha on the finish.  It has big flavor even at a small price.  This wine is made from grapes grown high in the Andes, in a dry climate that allows the fruit to get to  maximum maturity.  If it’s really hot outside,then this wine might be a bit heavy, but once it starts to get dark and cool down, you can crack it open and have it with your main course.

Make sure to get out and enjoy this great weekend and try some new wines. Cheers!

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Is this really the image of Virginia wine drinkers?

This month the first issue of Virginia Wine Lover magazine hit newsstands here in Virginia. (I am not sure if distribution went to other states)  I am very excited to have a wine mag completely dedicated to Virginia wine as I think it will be a great thing for the industry. I have enjoyed reading the content that they have included in their newsletters for the past year or so, so I look forward to continued reading of their take on the Virginia wine industry.


This is the cover of the first issue of Virginia Wine Lover magazine. Is this really the image of Virginia wine drinkers? I was really shocked when I saw this the other day, wondering why they chose to use an image, that to me, portrays wine drinkers as wealthy, prim and proper consumers. Now this is just my take on what the image evoked in my head, so I would be interested to see what other people think.  I visit a lot of Virginia wineries and although there are a fair bit of what I would call rich people in the tasting room, most people are in jeans and polo shirts, not white dresses and dress shirts. First of all, who wears white to a winery anyway? (yes I know they are drinking white wine in the picture) The good thing about the picture is the people are having fun and enjoying themselves and that is what wine drinking is really all about.


As you can tell the image was shocking to me, especially for an industry, not just the Virginia wine industry, which is trying to break the stereotype that wine is for the elite, others need not apply.  But maybe I analyze things too much and other people will think I am crazy, that this image doesn’t mean to them, what it does to me.


Please don’t take this as a stab to the magazine, as I said I really enjoy their content.  As always, I appreciate and welcome everyone’s comments and opinions on this and anything else I write about.



Categories: wine tasting | 9 Comments

Big Red Tasting at The Wine Cellar

Sunday night (May 18th) we attended a tasting at the Wine Cellar that featured big red wines at not “everyday drinker” prices–and they were definitely big. The tasting featured 18 wines in the $30 – $40 range, mostly California Cabernet, with a few Zins and Shirazes as well. When we walked in, the WC crew greeted us and, after collecting our admission fee, handed us nice Riedel glasses to taste with, so I was pleased from the get go. In addition to the wines, WC had a nice spread of 6 different cheeses and hard meats with plenty of baguette and crackers to help keep the palate going between wines. If you are a New World wine fan you definitely missed out. This was a great opportunity to taste some higher end wines side by side and truly compare their quality/value.

So let’s dive into the tasting notes. (These are not in the order I tasted and sorry the notes are a little gibberish-like)

2006 D’arenberg “The Laughing Magpie” Shiraz/Viognier ($33) – Cedar chips, boysenberry, vanilla blackberry and allspice. Great body, aroma and mouthfeel. Hint of floral.

2006 Heartland Directors Cut Shiraz ($33) – Butter, peppermint on the nose, cedar, blackberry, cherry and cinnamon. Nice spicy finish, big without being too big. Full and round, nice dry finish

2004 Neyers Pato Vineyard Zinfandel ($34) – Chocolate bon bons on the nose, raisin and plum, nice and peppery

2005 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon ($31) – eucalyptus, green pepper, plum with smooth tannins

2005 Stuhlmuller Cabernet Sauvignon ($38 ) – nice black fruit with earth and cinnamon top notes, great leathery tannins

2005 Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon ($56) – leather, cocoa and pepperoni on the nose with intriguing coconut truffle flavors. Nice firm structure, smooth velvety tannins

2005 Duckhorn Decoy (blend of all the 5 Bordeaux varietals) ($32) – raspberry with subtle earth notes, hints of cola flavor and very soft on the mouthfeel

2004 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($29) – caramel top note with black raspberry and cedar, medium body, a bit too hot on the finish

2004 Tobin James James Gang Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)nice fresh blackberry, blueberry pie, nuttiness, huge leathery tannins; very nice

2005 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon ($38 ) – black currant, earth, raspberry, prune and leather, full bodied and smooth

2005 August Briggs Zin ($37) – Fig, date and coca with medium to full body with a spicy finish, good acid keep it feeling light with all those heavy “dark” flavors.

2006 Brown Estate Zin ($40) – meaty green beans, plum cherry and port flavors, full bodied and jammy

2004 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) – pepperoni and salami aromas, red currant and plum, very interesting dusty tannins and medium body

2005 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) – strong basil and thyme on the nose, stewed tomatoes, this seriously smelled and tasted like wine flavored pasta sauce – not in a bad way dusty tannic finish

2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (blend with Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot ($48 ) – cinnamon, blackberry, soy sauce, caramel and mint, huge tannins

2004 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon ($47) – vanilla and barnyard notes, nice cherry and plum flavors, fairly smooth with good strong tannins and nice finish

2005 Elyse Korte Ranch Zin ($32) – smoked meat, roasted peanuts and an extremely pleasant black currant jam finish, full body, very nice mouthfeel

2004 Stonestreet Fifth Ridge ($37) – black cherry, green olive, black currant and vanilla, very velvety mouthfeel

These were all great wines and I couldn’t say that any one of them wouldn’t garner their individual price tags. The Cabs were what you would expect from California, big body, bold tannins and lots of good dark fruit flavors. When you taste these wines, which as I said were all quite good, it is hard to justify paying $70+ dollars for the high-end big names that garner more attention. Although being the Caymus lover that I am, I still think it would beat all the Cabs in this tasting, but blind I would probably be shocked more than once. Haha!

So after all of these notes, which wines were my favorites? The Elyse Korte Ranch Zin was very interesting with some aromas I don’t typically associate with Zinfandel wines, though it delivered typical mouthfeel characteristics. The Elyse tied with the August Briggs for my favorite Zin– The Briggs had more of the typical flavor and aroma profile associated with the varietal. Favorite Shiraz went to the Heartland, which again had an awesome peppermint aroma on the nose that you don’t find on too many wines. It was big and bold but not in your face or over the top by any stretch, with great integrated flavors and a beautiful mouthfeel. Top Cab went to what I deemed the sleeper of the group, the James Gang Reserve from Tobin James. I have tasted Tobin James in the past and have enjoyed their reds (especially since they are around $16) but hadn’t tasted any that I would tell somebody they must run out and buy. Clearly I hadn’t experienced their reserve line, because this Cab really shocked me- it was quite awesome and still reasonably priced for a Cali Cab at $28. It was really smooth across the mid palate with nice dark fruit and nut flavors, and it delivered strong leathery tannins which helped provide for the fairly long finish.

Of the wines tasted on Sunday, all but 3 were new to me, so it was a great palate-expanding experience. I am always a fan of Honig and if I had a bottomless wallet I would have picked up a bottle of it as well as the Ramey Cab, which was also impressive, especially as only their 2nd attempt at making the varietal.

We had a blast, as I am sure you can tell. Thanks to the WC crew for putting on a good show and to the distributors (Robin, Bryon and Suzanne) for getting a good forearm workout in while pouring their magic elixirs.


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Barrel Thief Tasting Review – Marchesi di Gresy!

It is always a treat when you get to combine tasting new wines with meeting the winemaker, especially when the winemaker is coming from across the pond.  This past Thursday, the Barrel Thief had a wine tasting with winemaker Alberto di Gresy from his Piemonte winery Marchesi di Gresy.  Marchesi di Gresy’s winery is located in Martinenga just outside of Alba and is in the Barbaresco DOCG zone of Piemonte Italy. While the most prized Barbaresco wines come from the Martinenga estate growing primarily Nebbiolo, di Gresy has various vineyards throughout the famous Langhe region with the other typical plantings of Dolcetto and Barbera and the not so typical plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot.


Alberto di Gresy and his wines 

My Tasting Notes

2006 Langhe Chardonnay ($25) (stainless steel production) – light crisp, passion fruit aromas with loads of apple and pear flavors

2001 Langhe “Gresy” Chardonnay ($34) (barrel fermented and aged sur lees) – almond and honey nose, with mineral, stone and almost flinty flavors graced by fuji apples. Very full body and a touch of spice at the finish.

2006 Dolcetto d’ Alba “Monte Aribaldo” ($25) – blackberry, cherry and earth on the nose with green olive and cherry on the palate. Very full and round for a Dolcetto, very impressive with darker fruit than expected and nice hints of earth and barney notes. Excellent!

2005 Barbera d’ Asti ($24) – Cherry, nutmeg and raspberry nice light to medium body, bright acidity and a touch of green bean at the finish

2006 Langhe Nebbiolo ($29) – firm tannins, dirt, earth, raspberry, currant with dry leathery tannins left on the tongue, very good.

2004 Barbaresco Martinenga ($59) – light in color but full in complexity, hay, cranberry, leather, clove and raw mushroom with an extremely long finish


I am probably biased because I just adore the Northern Italy area of Piemonte, but this was a great tasting regardless of any prejudice. Alberto was a great host, displaying the passion that is evident in the quality of his wines. Make sure to stop by the Barrel Thief to pick up these wines as well some of the high end single vineyard Barbaresco’s that I didn’t get a chance to taste.




ps… keep your eyes open for a new Barrel Thief coming late this summer (hopefully) at Patterson and Libbie.

Categories: wine tasting | 1 Comment

What the Hecula! Monastrell That Is!

I discovered Monastrell a little while ago, and have quickly recognized that it is a great wine and offers some great values. The 2004 Hecula Monastrell is another fine example and comes to us from the Yecla region which is located in Southeastern Spain. The Yecla D.O. resides in the municipality of Yecla North of Jumilla and West of Alicante. The primary grape in this region is the Monastrell grape as it makes up about 85% of zones planted acres. Monastrell incidentally is the Spanish name given to the Mourvedre grape of France.


The largest producer in Yecla and the maker of the Hecula Monastrell is Bodegas Castano who has approximately 300 hectares of Monastrell grapes under vine. Originally conceived in the 1950’s by Ramon Castano Santa, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the winery really took off with the help of his sons. The families focus is primarily 2 things, quality and the Monastrell grape, combining the two in their commitment to produce superior wines. Castano operates four vineyard sites that pretty much break up the Yecla region nicely into 3 distinct areas. Most of the vineyards are comprised of a lime stone, well drained soil that is low in organic nutrients except for the southern most vineyard of El Espinal that has more of clay based composition.


 The Hecula is of course 100% Monastrell grapes coming from 35 year old vines. After approximately 10 day fermentation the wine is aged in a combination of French and American Oak for 6 months.


My Tasting Notes

Nose – Blueberry, raspberry, cherry and vanilla bean

Taste – Raspberry, basil, green pepper and leather

Mouthfeel – very smooth and round, dry velvety tannins and slightly spicy

Finish – Medium in length and oddly a hint of citrus and black olive (seriously)


This was a very nice wine, especially at the price of $13 dollars. Very approachable, lots of fruit up front with a nice back end lace of herbs and green veggies adding good complexity and depth. At the price, I don’t think you could go wrong picking up a bottle for yourself, and even if it was a few dollars more it would still be a good value.  If you haven’t been drinking Monastrell, keep you eye out for them because they really do offer great value in a versatile red wine.




Categories: $10-$20, wine tasting | 3 Comments

Good Rosé Under $10

With warmer weather approaching, a few weeks ago we decided to pick up a few new Rosé’s from the Wine Cellar. We had our eye on a couple but the 3rd was a recommendation from Jeff and was the 2006 Vina Robles Roseum from Paso Robles. Doing a quick run through in my head I remembered that we had had the Vina Robles Petit Syrah at our dinner at Verbena and liked it so why not give the Rose a try, and for $7.99, it seemed like an awesome deal.


This Rosé is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah that was co-fermented cold for 4 weeks after being soaked on the skins for 8 hours for color and flavor extraction.


My Tasting Notes

Color – Dark Pink

Nose – Strawberry, banana, sliced cucumber

Taste – Pink grapefruit, watermelon

Mouthfeel – light to medium body, refreshingly crisp

Finish – short to medium in length, left the palate clean and refreshed


This was a great summertime Rosé, perfect for the back porch or served with lighter summertime fare.  It wasn’t overly complex and was a little lighter bodied than I like my Rose’s but all in all it was good wine.  And for $7.99, it is definitely affordable enough to have a couple around when friends come over to enjoy the sun on the deck.




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Tons of Tastings Around Richmond

The next couple of weeks we have some big tastings going on around the Richmond area in addition to the regular Friday and Saturday tastings at the local wine shops.

Thursday May 15th at the Barrel Thief

Barrel Thief is proud to host Alberto Di Gresy, owner and winemaker of Tenute Cisa Asinari Dei Marchesi Di Gresy ( From 5pm-7pm, try a broad selection of his wines for only $10. The wines available to taste and their retail prices are:
2006 Langhe Chardonnay $25
2001 Langhe Gresy Chardonnay $34
2007 Moscato dAsti La Serra $20
2006 Dolcetto dAlba Monte Aribaldo $25
2005 Barberra dAsti $24
2006 Langhe Nebbiolo $29
2004 Barbaresco Martinenga $65

I am really excited about this tasting as regular Anything Wine readers know I am HUGE fan of the Piemonte region of Northern Italy.

Sunday May 18th at the Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar will hold a special big red wine tasting from 6:00 to 8:00 after the store closes. The is $30/person and includes cheese, salami, crackers and other apps. Up for tasting will be 18 big reds ranging in price from $25 to $50 from the West Coast. Some new wineries will be represented, as well as some the hottest big reds currently on the market.

Wine List




















I love BIG reds so I can’t wait for this event!!


Thursday May 29th at Bella Vino (Stony Point Location)

From Bella Vino’s website:

Great Unknowns of California: May Elite Tasting

Forty years ago California had no reputation for producing world-class wines, but today it produces some of the greatest wines in the world. Unfortunately, many of these wines have prices that boggle the imagination and are only available to a select few. We believe that the best way to get wines from California that are phenomenal AND affordable is to seek out relatively unknown producers. Their wines are more a labor of love than of profit. We’ll offer some of these wines for tasting on May 29th so that you can buy superstar wines without paying superstar prices!Tickets: $15 for one; $25 for a pair($5 discount with Bella Vino Amanti tag)(Further $5 discount if you attended the previous tasting)PLEASE RSVPThere will be limited spaces available!Pre-payment will be requiredFor reservations, call:Bella Vino Stony Point Bella-(804) 272-3202

I hope to see you all at these events as they all sound fantastic.



Categories: Barrel Thief, piemonte, wine cellar, wine tasting | Leave a comment

New Virginia Winery is Bringing the Thunder

On our second day in the Charlottesville area, we headed towards Afton Mountain. First on the agenda for the day was a new winery, Pollak Vineyards which is currently conducting a “soft opening” prior to their grand opening on May 17th. The winery, owned by David and Margo Pollak was in full effect though, with tasting room manager Nick Dovel running us through the full line of Pollak’s first vintage of wines. Pollak has 25 acres of planted vines that were put in the ground in 2003, and currently has about 2200 cases in production with plans to ramp up to no more than 5000 cases in the future. Winemaker/vineyard manager Jake Busching utilizes a ballerina style trellis system in the vineyard. The lower trellis wire is 4 ft off the ground vs. the typical 3 feet, which allows for better airflow and more resistance to frost and/or mold damage. The trellis system gets its name because it allows for some of the shoots to be positioned upwards, leaving the remainder to fall open like a ballerina skirt. This type of system maximizes the amount of sunlight that is exposed to the canopy and fruit, with the hope of maximizing the grape quality– by the way the wines tasted, I think it is working.

All of the seven varietals that make up the wine collection at Pollack are grown on site under the watchful eye of Jake.

Here is what we tasted –

2007 Pinot Gris – round body, different from most Pinot Gris I have had, apple, lime and big mineral finish

2007 Viognier – beautiful lush mouthfeel, apricot, honeysuckle on the nose with loads of fresh peach and citrus notes on the palate

2007 Estate Chardonnay – medium body, toasty notes followed by starfruit, oak, pear and almond flavors

2007 Virginia Chardonnay – (due to the frost in early spring of ’07 they did not have the crop they needed to make only the Estate chardonnay so Pollack bought some grapes from Breaux vineyards in Loudon County to help supplement this wine) – crisp wine with citrus and green apple notes, bit too much oak on the finish for me

2007 Rose (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot)– medium to full bodied Rose, strawberry and watermelon notes, with fresh cranberry towards the finish, soft mouthfeel on the palate with a crisp refreshing finish

All the red wines are Unfiltered

2006 Cabernet Franc (extended 45 day maceration) – full round mouthfeel, solid weight in the mouth, raspberry, black pepper, currant with long finish

2006 Merlot – full body, black cherry, mint, and blackberry flavors, long finish with a hint of floral (maybe rose), extremely smooth

2006 Petit Verdot – plum, green pepper, and blackberry very smooth and round mouthfeel

2005 Meritage (44% Cabernet Franc, 43 % Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot) – Cedar, caramelized bananas, raspberry reduction sauce, and a mushroom fungus finish. Nice medium to full body with soft dusty tannins

I am always nervous trying out new wineries because they sometimes are still just getting their feet wet, such that the wines and the tasting process may be a bit awkward. Not the case here though—all of the wines were extremely well crafted, and with the exception of the non-estate Chardonnay, I truly loved all of the wines. Now this glowing review is coming straight from the heart and the palate- unfortunately I am not getting any kick-backs from Pollak, although they can feel free to send me any wine they want me to review. Haha!

As I said earlier, the tasting was conducted by the tasting room manager Nick who answered every wine geek question I could throw at him, barely blinking before he gave me the answer. In addition to Nick, Jake stopped by the tasting room so I was able to chew his ear off for a good 20 minutes, learning about his philosophy on wine-making and vineyard management, which was quite impressive. Jake follows the principal of crafting wines in the vineyard and not in the winery, handling the juice as little as possible and allowing the grapes to fully express themselves. Jim also got me excited about the newly bottled but not yet released Cabernet Sauvignon, which he said will knock my socks off and definitely bring the thunder- I can only imagine this prediction is true on the basis of the wines I tasted.

As you can see from the pictures, the winery is beautiful in both form and function, with a beautiful wrap-around porch overlooking the lake for enjoying wine and a picnic while you take in the majestic views of Afton Mountain. After we had made our rounds to the other wineries of the day, we reconvened at Pollak to enjoy the afternoon sun and to share a bottle of Rose with my sister Elizabeth and her husband Jeff.

John, Megan and Elizabeth

Make sure to check them out on your next trip to the Afton area, you won’t be disappointed.



Categories: wine tasting | 5 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 Old World Riesling

The wine for this Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 is the second wine in my WBW blogger pack from Domaine547. This months WBW topic was supplied by Tim at Winecast and was any Riesling from the “Old World.” The blogger pack Riesling was the 2006 Max Ferd Richter “Graf Zeppelin” from Mosel – Saar – Ruwer.  From the winery website, the history of the title of this wine, “Graf Zeppelin” is that is was the wine poured most on Zeppelin flights during the 20’s and 30’s. The grapes from this wine are grown in the Mülheimer Sonnenlay vineyard which consists of soil composed of gray slate soil resting on steep slopes along the Mosel river.  We ate this today (WBW) with General Tso’s “Chik’n” and it paired nicely being slightly off-dry counteracting the spiciness of the dish.


My Tasting Notes

Nose – Petroleum, rubber, pear

Taste – Fuji apple, pear, citrus, petrol, honey

Mouthfeel – medium viscous body, touch of sweetness

Finish – clean, long with mineral and honey flavors


This was a fun textbook Riesling that was a great pairing for the Chinese food. Classic food friendly flavors, a hint of sweetness and great viscosity on the palate would make this great for any spicy dish.


Thanks again to Tim for a great May WBW topic.




Categories: Mosel Saar Ruwer, riesling, Wine Blogging Wednesday | 2 Comments


Post written by guest blogger and friend – Stephanie Plunkett


My good friend John Witherspoon has taught me much about wine.  He’s never been off in his recommendations for wines to try and wine bars to visit.  The latest recommendation was to visit Barrel Thief in Richmond Va for the Kermit Lynch tasting.  The owners of Barrel Thief (Ross and Ned)  were in perfect form, handling all the behind the scenes work careful not to intrude upon the ambience of the experience.  As typical, Barrel Thief does not disappoint.  The French visiting winemakers had stellar selections, and in the end, it was hard to make a choice for what to bring home.  I have to confess as well that I have been disappointed by the French wines I’ve tried.  My flavor profile seems more akin to Spanish wines, Argentina Malbecs, and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley.  Needless to say, this experience has opened my palate to a whole new world of wine, and my husband and I visited that world last night with a bottle we bought, The St. Joseph VV.  


As you see from John’s blog on April 25, 2008 the St. Joseph VV 2005 is a wine made from 60 year old vines of 100% Syrah.  The alcohol content is 13%.  On the back of the bottle is a statement from Thomas Jefferson, which I couldn’t agree with him more:  “Good wine is a necessity of life for me”.   On the nose is a slightly overpowering woody cedar spice so I couldn’t really detect anything else.  This same spice hits you in the first taste, but soon the cranberry comes through, and on the finish the experience turns to a dusty and earthy note.  Overall I really liked the wine.  It was definitely unique to anything I had previously tasted.  For the first time, the following Friday at our usual tasting at the Caboose in Ashland Va my husband and I visited the selection of French wines and picked out a nice Sancerre. 


Perhaps I’ll write about that one in the future, but I wanted to get this one out there for my good friend John to help celebrate his Birthday in the only way I know how, and that is to celebrate the enthusiasm of wine with him!  Thanks John and have a great Birthday!


P.S.  For all you wine and beer lovers in the Richmond area, the Caboose in Ashland will have a beer and wine tasting special (free tasting of 5 wines and 5 beers) on Friday June 6.  Come out and visit Ian Kirkland who’s been an owner there 10 years now.  Sample exquisite cheeses picked out by Shannon Cook and experience this quaint little shop by the railroad tracks in the old town of Ashland.

Categories: Barrel Thief, Rhone Wines, wine review | Leave a comment

Lunch at Palladio

This past weekend Megan and I hit the road, traveling out to the Charlottesville wine country to celebrate my upcoming birthday. Saturday we went to Palladio at Barboursville for lunch, followed by a cruise through their tasting room, went on to “a bad winery experience” (click to read) and then headed on to White Hall Vineyards. Sunday, Jeff and Elizabeth joined us as we headed further West to the Afton mountain area to taste at four more wineries. On the schedule for the day were Pollack Vineyards, Veritas, Afton Mountain and Flying Fox wineries. I am not going to post about all the wineries but I will say that I had an excellent time and couldn’t have asked for better weather.

First up on the review is our lunch at Palladio. Palladio is the restaurant attached to Barboursville winery, named for Andrea Palladio and his influence on the Jeffersonian Mansion. Palladio is run by head chef Melissa Close and Alessandro Medici, who truly provide an awesome culinary experience. Being quite pricey (but reasonable for what you get) we definitely go only for special occasions. This was our second time there and this time was every bit as good as the first. The experience is what you would expect from a fine dining establishment with excellent, almost choreographed service and fabulous food both in taste and presentation. Prior to what is listed below our meal started with a lovely glass of sparkling wine and some lovely marinated olives and fresh baked bread.

Here is what we had –


~Tortino di Spugnole~
Morels & Spring Garlic Tartlet with Salad of Local Greens,
Fava Beans, Vidalia Onions & Fresh Lemon

Paired with the Barboursville 2006 Rose (Strawberry and faint peach, lovely medium body with crisp finish – bit tight on the nose)

First Course

~Risotto con Taleggio e Verdure~
Risotto with Roasted Italian Eggplant,

Roasted Sweet Red Peppers, Taleggio & Opal Basil

Paired with the Barboursville 2007 Reserve Chardonnay (nose: honey, apple, pear and toast; taste:pineapple, hay and oak)

Second Course

~Melanzane Ripiene~
Baked Ricotta filled Eggplant with Local Baby Greens,
Sundried Tomato Pesto & Basil Chutney

Paired with the Barboursville 2006 Merlot (nose: black cherry, currant, spice; taste:coffee, smoke, caramel, blackberry – good acidity, round and smooth)


~Crostata al Limone~
Lemon Soufflé Tartlet served with Prosecco Sorbet
& Blueberry Compote

~Torta alla Gianduia~
Hazelnut Chocolate Molten Cake
with Vanilla Gelato & Fresh Raspberries

Both were paired with the Barboursville Philéo n.v. (honey, almonds and flowers)

All I can say is that each course was fabulous and the pairings were spot on, highlighting the components of each part of the meal. The tart was quite nice, the warm earthy flavors were complimented nicely by the cold fava beans that were on top, combining both unique flavors as well as texture profiles. The risotto was cooked to perfection, just slightly al dente and seasoned perfectly. The eggplant dish was extremely flavorful and not overly rich despite its description. Being baked and not fried, the eggplant was a component of the dish rather than being the dominant flavor element, and it was complimented by the nuttiness and garlic of the pesto- a truly mouthwatering combination. The desserts were too awesome to describe, our empty plates spoke for themselves.

You can choose from 2 courses up to 4 (what we did) and can also choose to forgo any wine pairings, but that would just be silly. J If you feel like treating yourselves, the trip to Palladio is definitely worth the drive.

Stay tuned for our review of Pollack Vineyards.


Categories: palladio, virginia wine | 2 Comments

Customer Service?

You shouldn’t expect rude service at any establishment where you plan to spend money, though you might not be surprised to encounter it at a fast food joint or a clothing retailer during the Christmas rush.  One place Megan and I never imagined we would receive actual rude customer service was in a winery tasting room.  While you may encounter less than ideal service at a winery (such as the tasting room staff not knowing much about the wine they are pouring), you would never anticipate being treated poorly.  Customer service is an amazing thing – in one foul swoop it can turn a winery you have really enjoyed in the past to one that you question visiting again.


This weekend we are traveling around Charlottesville visiting some wineries for my 31st birthday activity (my b-day is actually Wednesday) and we decided to hit some old favorites yesterday and a few new ones today. The winery we were visiting yesterday closes at 5:00 and we drove into their 200 acre property at around 4:10. As we were enjoying the views we failed to notice the tiny 8.5×11 sign taped to one of the fence posts stating they would be closing at 4:30 for a wedding. We strolled in the tasting room at approximately 4:13 and were immediately glared at by the tasting room associates, one of whom looked to her colleague and stated “we must not have put the signs up” and continued to scurry around in a huff. Megan and I looked at each other confused, thinking that maybe we had read the brochure AND website incorrectly and they closed at 4:00 instead of 5:00.  When we asked, they confirmed that they typically close at 5:00 but were closing early for a wedding, again exclaiming “you didn’t see the signs?”  Despite the fact that we hadn’t seen the signs, we still had more than 15 minutes before the earlier closing time to go through the tasting. The tasting room staff scowled and said, “I guess we can do a quick tasting,” poured the first wine and bellowed “it will be $3 per person to taste.” We suggested that maybe we should just leave, to which the tasting room associate replied “well it’s up to you, but I’ve already poured the first wine, and it will be $3 per person.”


Luckily we were both keeping our emotions in check, because the rudeness at this point was about hip deep and we both felt like we were about 1 inch tall.  We received a “splash” of each of the next five wines, and were told the name of the wine before the associated turned her back to us, walked away with no further explanation, and continued to clean up and shut down the bar. We were both astonished and actually couldn’t believe it– were we on candid camera or something? After the 5th wine with 3 more to go, we had had enough and decided to just pay and go on to the last winery of the day (at this point it was 4:22, still 8 minutes to go). I pulled out my wallet, and said I would just like to pay – the women who had been our tasting associate had disappeared for a moment, and the other woman was kind of taken aback that we didn’t want to finish and we said with an extra helping of sarcasm “that they were CLEARLY too busy to be helping us and we didn’t want to be in their way any longer.” At that point our tasting associate had come back and, realizing that she had been extremely rude to us, offered to pay for our tasting (though she wasn’t very gracious about it). We thanked them and left, relieved that we didn’t just pay $1/minute of wine hell.


At this point I am really contemplating putting the name of the winery in the article, but I think I won’t. I am however going to email the link of this post to them to let them know the impact that this experience had on us.  If you are an astute Virginia wine lover, you can probably figure out which Charlottesville winery we are talking about.



Categories: virginia wine, wine tasting | 2 Comments

Friday Tastings in Richmond

Here is the info on tastings tonight in Richmond. I know that there are more, but these are the only two that I get emailed information about on their Friday tasting offerings.

At the Wine Cellar, Jeff will be offering up value wines from Chile as well as the D’Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia. Come check it out, FREE from 5:00 to 8:00 tonight.

And on the other side of the river at River City Cellars is their FREE tasting that will be tonight from 5:00 – 7:00.

Nessa 2007 Albarino: Crisp and fragrant, this dry white wine produced in the temperate and verdant Rias Baixas appelltation of northwestern Spain has flavors that recall apricots and nectarines.

Medina 2007 Rueda: Citrus skin, melon and herbal notes characterize some of the aromas of this dry but rich white wine made from the Verdejo grape in the Rueda zone north and west of Madrid.

Marques de Caceres 2007 Rioja Rosado:  Produced in Rioja, Spain’s most famous wine region, this dry yet fruity rose has strawberry and floral notes.  
Arbanta 2007 Rioja Tinto:  This medium-bodied, flavorsome red is made from Spain’s reigning indigenous varietal, Tempranillo.  

Loma Gorda 2005 Almansa Tinto:  Full-bodied red from southeastern Spain made from 65% Garnacha (Grenache) and 35% Syrah.


Lots of good juice to sample, as well as the multiple other FREE tastings around town to help you expand your palate and fall in love with new wines.  If any of the other shops in town want me to post their tasting lists, feel free to shoot me an email and I will put it up.



Categories: wine tasting | 1 Comment