Monthly Archives: August 2008

Holy Barbera Batman!

We hit the Barrel Thief for lunch on Sunday with our friends Paul and Warren who were in town for the day. While we were selecting our wines for lunch, owner Ross, pulled me aside and showed me this Barbera that he was raving about, and recommended it to me knowing my love for Piemonte wines. At 30 bones, the 2005 Ronco Malo Barbera d’ Asti was a little pricey but Ross hasn’t steered me wrong yet so I picked it up.


Ronco Malo Barbera d’ Asti is produced by Piemontese vintners Vittorio Bera et Figli which is located in the Langhe hills in the town of Canelli. Bera et Figli is most famously known as the first family owned vineyard to start bottling and marketing Moscato d’ Asti in 1964. Again, this is another vineyard producing their wines organically, although I didn’t know that until I was doing a little research on the internet. A quote from one of their exporters: “In the Azienda Bera vineyards the ecosystem is alive: an abundance of snails is proof of a harmonious environmental balance.”


Well organic or not the Ronco Malo did not disappoint, I was thoroughly impressed as we had it with some fabulous homemade (wife made) sun-dried tomato Risotto and braised brussel sprouts.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Cherry, blueberry, leather/coffee, currant, bacon, green olive

Taste – prune, fig, earthy funk, cooked veggies, cranberry sauce (thanksgiving style)

Mouthfeel – medium to full body, with generous but balanced acidity

Finish – long with leathery tannins


The acidity in the wine paired nicely with the creamy Risotto and the brussel sprouts heightened the cooked veggie notes in the wine and vice versa. With very smooth tannins that I wrote down as leathery but bordered on velvety, you could enjoy this wine by itself or with a dish that exemplifies the flavors of the Piemonte region as I did. Although the 2005 is drinking great now, based on its structure you could definitely hang on to it for a while longer.


Bravo Ross, great pick!



Categories: $20-$30, barbera, Barrel Thief, wine review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Riding the Rhone train, Organically!

Finding a really good Rhone wine for $15 dollars or under can be a hard enough challenge, but finding one that is $15 and organic would seem near impossible. Not that I went looking for a wine that fulfilled these two requirements, but it did peak my interest when I saw an organic Cotes du Rhone at a Barrel Thief tasting back in June. We decided to pull out the 2006 Perrin & Fils Cote du Rhone “Nature” with some of our Tofu Parmesan the other night.


The fully organic Ecocert certified grapes come from a single vineyard located in the commune of Tulette. Soil on this site consists of a chalky clay consistency and lies at an elevation of 144 meters. The 2006 “Nature” is a blend of primarily Grenache (95%) and Syrah (5%).


My Tasting Notes

Color – garnet

Nose – Boysenberry, spiced meat, barny, marshmallow, suede

Taste – Eucalyptus, cherry, plum, thyme

Mouthfeel – Medium body, dry smooth velvety tannins

Finish – lots of cherry flavor, and long in length


This was a great wine, and a great value, and a bonus for this tree huggin’ environmentalist that it was produced organically. Not that I think it tasted better because it was organic, but I just appreciated that it was. This was the 7 layer cake of wines, dark fruit, good earthy “stinkiness”, herbs, and vegetables and even the unusual marshmallow note. Not a bad deal for fifteen bucks. This is very well distributed so you should be able to find it in your local wine shop.


Categories: $10-$20, Rhone Wines, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Getting Technical Taking Wine Notes

Recently the wife and I were bit by the iPhone bug and went out and purchased two of them.  Always looking for easier ways to take notes on the wines I taste while I am out and about and I don’t feel like carrying around my current wine notebook,  I did some research and found a few websites reviewing some of the wine “apps” for the phone including Tim over at Winecast.  I decided to try one and bucked up the $4.99 for the Wine Snob app for my new iPhone. 




Although I don’t like the name of the app very much, so far I have loved its functionality.  Although it is knocked down by some reviewers for its lack of information contained in the program, it does give a great interface for taking notes and even pictures of your wine.  Personally I would highly recommend it if you have the iPhone and need a good way to catalog your wine notes while you are on the go.  Plus some of the varietal and food pairing information contained within the program is quite helpful when you having a wine info brain fart.


Give it a whirl if you are a wine geek with an iPhone and need a new way to take notes.



Categories: wine tasting | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Figuring Out Restaurant Wine Pricing

Ever wondered why there is so much disparity in wine prices at restaurants? And I am not just talking about the difference from retail to restaurant, but from restaurant to restaurant.  A cool article in the Wall-Street Journal came out today talking about this very topic and gives some insight into how the pricing structure works for restaurant wine lists.  It also has a cool interactive map that has 5 different wine bottles and looks at the huge variance in price as you move across the country.  I know that here in Richmond, there is a very big difference between restaurants, even on the same street, much less the other side of town.


A brief excerpt from the article:

“The first step to finding better deals on wine is understanding the formula behind most restaurant wine pricing. The standard restaurant markup is about three times the wholesale cost, or about twice the retail price. In most restaurants, the markup decreases as the wholesale price of the bottle increases: An inexpensive bottle might be priced three to four times its wholesale cost, while a pricey wine may be marked up only 1.5 times. This so-called progressive markup helps sell more expensive wines.”


Check it out, it is a good read.



Categories: wine industry issues | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #48 – Back to your roots! – Happy 4th B-day!!

This Wednesday WBW celebrates its 4th birthday and befittingly the founder of WBW (Lenn Thompson) has selected the topic for this month, Back to your roots. For #48 Lenn wanted us take a trip down memory lane and find the wine that started our journey into the wine world, re-taste it and of course right about it, then and now.


I had a hard time with this one, first because I forgot about it (not the first time) and second because I really can’t pinpoint my “Ah Ha” moment with wine to a single bottle.  So I veered off topic slightly here, but my magic bottle is more like a magic experience.  I had heard of this magic thing called “wine tasting”, where you could visit a winery, taste their wines, talk about them with the winemaker perhaps and see exactly where the grapes came from that provided the juice for your glass of wine.  I was in disbelief but soon found out that this was in actuality happening all over the state and all over the world. So with my in-laws and my wife we proceeded West to the Monticello region of Virginia to partake in some wine tasting.


On that day we visited one of the largest and probably the most celebrated winery in Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards. It opened my eyes completely to the scene of “wine enthusing” and I have been hooked ever since.  An addict for information, I was amazed at all that I could learn about who, what, when and where when it came to what I was drinking.


So at the time I didn’t take notes, so I don’t have anything to compare notes to, but I did drink a Merlot while I was there, and I luckily happened to have a bottle in my cellar from a visit a few months ago. If I did have notes, I am sure they would have been something like this: “um, it’s red, tastes pretty good, I like it” or something to that effect. Haha


My notes on the current 2006 Barboursville Merlot

Color – Garnet

Nose – Blackberry, cherry, vanilla, leather, tomato paste

Taste – Blueberry, cherry cola, kale, black peppercorn

Mouthfeel – medium body, decent amount of acidity, smooth tannins

Finish – Medium to long in length with thyme and cherry tomato and clove flavors lingering on the palate 

This was a great Merlot in a world that has been harsh to the varietal lately.  Barboursville produces a very approachable version, that is definitely ready to drink now but could hang around for a few more years if you can resist temptation.  Fruit forward but not in your face, with good vegetal and herb notes providing complexity and depth not often found in a Merlot costing $14.99 from Virginia.


So Happy Birthday WBW!!



Categories: $10-$20, virginia wine, Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine review | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

20th Anniversary of Virginia Wine Month Coming This October

This coming October, Virginia will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Virginia Wine Month.  In 1988 when Virginia Wine Month was launched there were only 40 wineries producing wines in the Commonwealth, now there are almost 140. Wow what a jump!  With the increased wine production, and a greater focus on wine being a key industry for the state of Virginia, quality of wine has increased at an even greater rate than the launching of new wineries. 


To celebrate the 20th Anniversary the Virginia Tourism department has a quite a few activities to get everyone hyped and ready to check out what the state has to offer.  Check out the list of “20 things to do to celebrate Virginia wine month” that gives a great list of starting points for October wine adventures or “Ten New and Refreshing Wine Trips in Virginia”. Here are a couple of examples:


TJ’s Stomping GroundsTravel the Monticello Wine Trail and see how Thomas Jefferson’s vision for great American wine is thriving all around his homestead. The 21 wineries around the Charlottesville area are an homage to TJ and are surrounded by history, beauty and outstanding inns and restaurants

Kayak Winery Tour – Paddle your glass off on a kayak trip to Chatham Vineyards with SouthEast Expeditions in Cape Charles. This outfitter on the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore combines outdoor adventure with wine tasting at the winery and on a picnic lunch on a nearby barrier island.

Wine and Bluegrass – Two of Virginia’s greatest exports make great music together in Southwest Virginia. Soak in the mountain music of The Crooked Road – Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail while tasting at Chateau Morrisette, Abingdon Vineyard, Villa Appalaccia and other nearby wineries.  Stay at the historic Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, the brand-new Hotel Floyd, or the suite at the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, one of the only museums in the country where fans can spend the night.

If the great wines of Virginia aren’t reward enough, check out the contest at where you can have a chance to win the Grand Prize of a trip for two to Williamsburg Winery, lodging in Norfolk, tickets to the Town Point Wine Festival and a 6 day cruise to the Bahamas.



Make sure to check out the new Virginia Wines website that is still under construction but is MUCH more user friendly than the old site. Greater search-ability and mapping features make it much easier for planning your weekend wine adventures.


Get out and support the growing Virginia Wine Industry and drink Local!!



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

P.V. and Pizza

For some reason the past few Fridays have been pizza nights for us at the Witherspoon household. I guess we have either had things going on Saturday or Sunday night and just wanted to stay in with an easy meal or at least last Friday I was just really in the mood for a good pizza pie.  Long gone are my college days of getting two medium pepperoni pizzas from Domino’s (buy one get one free of course) and settling down with my friends and a six pack of Miller High Life.  These days, no meat of course and I load the thing up with veggies, and I have come to really enjoy wine with my pizza although a cold beer is never far from my thoughts.  Usually we choose Zinfandel as our go to pizza wine but this week we pulled a Petit Verdot out of the stable and one from Virginia to boot.  We chose the 2006 PollakVineyards Petit Verdot.  We picked this up back in May when we went to Pollak’s winery, you can read about our visit HERE.


The 2006 Petit Verdot production was only 70 cases, produced from all estate grown grapes, harvested from their Mountain Vineyard which sits at an elevation of 870 feet and is mostly comprised of a rocky clay-loam soil.  Blended with 5% Cabernet Franc the ’06 spent 13 months in a mix of 50/50 new and old French oak barrels.


My Tasting Notes


Color – Dark Purple

Nose – Blackberry, roast beef, cherry and lavender

Taste – Raspberry reduction, mint, raw green pepper, leather

Mouthfeel – Medium body, round and robust across the mid-palate, dusty dry tannins

Finish – medium long in length and dry



I continue to be impressed by Pollak’s wines.  The extra few months of this wine being in my cellar did nothing but good things, although I think another 6 months to a year and this wine will really start to peak.  It really started to open up after about 45 minutes of being open so if you grab a bottle and can’t wait to drink it, I would suggest dumping it into the decanter.  The dark fruit flavor and slight vegetal notes went great with our veggie pizza but this could definitely stand up to some meat if that suits your fancy.  At $20 I think it is definitely worth picking up and enjoying a bottle of your own.



Categories: $20-$30, wine tasting | 1 Comment