Wine: Articles

Wine Discoveries: Greece

A smell and sip of the Assyrtiko…a bite of the Spanakopita…the Greek music playing in the background…for a moment, I was back in the Greek Islands. Alas it was Winesdays at my Alexandria, VA Whole Foods. But for an hour, as I walked around with my grocery cart sampling the five different Greek wine varietals and food pairings, I was momentarily transported to Greece. And it was fabulous to try some new Greek wines!

 Elios Mediterranean

  • Varietal: 50% Moschofilero, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Roditis, 10% Savatino
  • Aroma: Creamy lemony almost creamsicle-like
  • Taste: Honey, vanilla, lemon with touch of oak
  • Price: $11.99
  • Thoughts: Elios name comes from Helios, the personification of the sun in Greek mythology. You can definitely pick up the Chardonnay in this wine that’s blended with the other Greek grape varietals. Nice dry white wine.

Yannis Assyrtiko Santorini

  • Varietal: 100% Assyrtiko
  • Aroma: Fresh, sand, slight smokey
  • Taste: Dry, crisp, sea salt, minerality
  • Price: $14.99
  • Thoughts: I first discovered Assyrtiko in Santorini, its native land. It’s a very interesting and unique grape and wine. Quite dry with a slight smokey aroma and taste that comes from the volcanic soil on Santorini. It grows throughout the island in these great little bushes of vines.

Foundi Naoussaia

  • Varietal: Xinomavro
  • Aroma: Bright cherry, cedar, licorice
  • Taste: Earthy, smokey, cherry
  • Price: $14.99
  • Thoughts: This was definitely a new grape varietal and wine to me.  The Xinomavro grape is indigenous to northwestern Greece. Wednesday night it was described as Greece’s Pinot Noir which is a good description.

Nostos Manousakis

  • Varietal: Syrah, Mouvedre, Grenache Rouge, Roussanne blend
  • Aroma: Jammy, smokey, sweet smell
  • Taste: Brown sugar and caramel with dark fruit
  • Price: $18.99
  • Thoughts: This wine comes from the island of Crete. Very neat wine described as Greece’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It paired perfectly with the Eggplant Moussaka…yum!

Kourtavi Mavrodaphne

  • Varietal: Mavrodaphne, Black Korinthiaki
  • Aroma & Taste: Sweet raisins and dates
  • Price: $11.99
  • Thoughts: This sweet red dessert wine comes from the foothills near Patras in the north west Peloponnese. Very Port-like but much more fruit forward.

Definitely pick up a bottle at your local Whole Foods, wine shop or order one when out at a Greek restaurant. For more information on Greek wine check out New Wines of Greece.

Yamas to Greek wine!

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Italy in Sonoma

Sangiovese, barbera, primitivo…the classic Italian grape varieties most cultivated across Italy. But grown in Sonoma, California?

Read my full article on Palate Press, the online wine magazine.

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March is Virginia Wine & Dine Month

Virginia Wine & Dine Month, with its Love by the Glass promotion, is a celebration of Virginia wines at more than 500 participating restaurants and wine shops across Virginia making March the perfect month to explore Virginia wine.

Visit Virginia Wine’s Wine & Dine site to find special events, restaurant offerings and retail promotions. Here’s a sample …

Virginia Wine’s website is a great place to find your closest of Virginia’s 200+ wineries to visit this month. And if your local restaurant or retailer isn’t carrying Virginia wine, March would be a great month to suggest they get in on the fun.

Cheers to Virginia wine!

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Virginia Wine Expo Wine Discoveries: Well Hung Vineyards

The 5th Annual Virginia Wine Expo last weekend featured 76 of Virginia’s now 210 wineries sampling over 400 wines. It was a great opportunity to hit 23 wineries and sample about 100 wines, some new discoveries and some old favorites. Over the next few articles I’ll share some of my finds.

Well Hung Vineyards

This is a fun one! In business since May 2009, Amy Steers has been growing grapes on her vineyards for 12 years selling to Cardinal Point Winery prior to starting Well Hung.

Tasting with Amy Sunday at the Expo she told me the story of how Well Hung came about. She was out in the vineyard one day checking on the grapes with her friend Tracy Verkerke who commented “the grapes are so well hung.” They thought what a perfect name for a wine especially because for Amy’s family “everything is below the waste.” Her husband is a urologist. ;)

They had a great name and Tracy designed the fabulous label (it’s Amy’s husband and sons) but now they needed wine. They thought about buying California wine to label but then realized they should make their own wine with the grapes growing right in front of them. It was the same time Michael Shaps was opening Virginia Wine Works with a custom crush facility so they became Michael’s first customer! Amy, Tracy and Kathy Rash officially started Well Hung Vineyard.

In less than three years they’ve grown from 200 to 1,000 cases. When you see their brand and taste their wine, you can see why. Their booth was packed at the Expo.

I tasted through six wines with Amy, 2010 Everyday Chardonnay, 2010 Viognier (Gold Medal Winner International Women’s Wine Competition), 2011 Blush, 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2010 Merlot-Verdot and her special Very Well Hung Chardonnay. My favorites…

2011 Blush

  • Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Tart fresh berry
  • Taste: Strawberries and cream
  • Price: $17.99
  • My thoughts: This is a great summer sipping rosé made of Cabernet Franc! Great way to use the grape. Was fun to taste next to their 2010 Cabernet Franc…same grape made in different ways, strawberry from both.

Very Well Hung Chardonnay

  • Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
  • Aroma: Fruit forward, hint of oak
  • Taste: Smooth lingering finish
  • Price: only made 19 cases
  • My thoughts: This is Amy’s pride and joy she snuck me a taste of. Excellent wine!

Well Hung is located in Charlottesville but doesn’t have a tasting room. On their site you can now buy their wine (and logo gear) and find out where to buy it locally.

Cheers to Well Hung…a fun and fresh take on wine!

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Tasting Virginia’s Gold

Last weekend was the fifth annual Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond, a three day event featuring 75 of Virginia’s 200+ wineries sampling more than 450 bottles of wine. Kicking off the weekend’s festivities Thursday night was the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards announcement. Nine of the eleven Gold medal winners attended the Virginia Wine Expo which gave me and thousands of others the chance to taste many of the award winners in one place.

And the winners I tasted…

Glen Manor Vineyards 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage… THE 2010 Governor’s Cup Winner

  • Grape Variety: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Dark red berries, eucalyptus
  • Taste: Multi layers of red berries, cassis, tea leaf, great tannins paired with bright acidity
  • Price: $35
  • My thoughts: WOW! This is an incredible wine! Glen Manor was a new winery to me but located only an hour outside DC. Jeff White, owner and winemaker, was sampling all weekend at the Expo. What a nice and humble man! When you taste this wine you’ll know why it won and know Virginia wine can rival any wine in the world! Congratulations Jeff!

* Thanks to Virginia Wine Time for the great photo from Glen Manor’s tasting room!

Bluestone Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Grape Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Aroma: Black currant, cedar
  • Taste: Smooth melow cassis with oak undertones and a slight sweet finish
  • Price: $25.50
  • My thoughts: A great example of Cabernet Sauvignon in Virginia…drinkable now or will be perfect after some aging. Bluestone was another new winery to me. Curt Hartman, owner, and his son Lee, winemaker, were on sampling at the Expo and couldn’t have been nicer. Only three years in they are doing some great work.

Veritas 2010 Vintner’s Reserve Meritage Blend

  • Grape Variety: 42% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Aroma: Cherry, chocolate and cedar
  • Taste: Cherry with a hint of pepper finished with vanilla and caramel
  • Price: $35
  • My thoughts: This is a great Meritage blend with each grape adding a nice complexity to the wine. Emily is a fabulous winemaker I met at the Virginia Wine Bloggers Conference last July. She is doing amazing work at her winery in red and white!

Potomac Point Winery 2009 Heritage Reserve Meritage Blend

  • Grape Variety: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Baked cherries and chocolate
  • Taste: Cherries, medium tannins
  • Price: $29
  • My thoughts: This wine is a nice Bordeaux style blend. This was my first tasting of Potomac Point’s wines. They have some different things in their line up like wines made from the Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional including their Rabelos Port 2010.

Other wines included in the Governor’s Case I haven’t yet tasted…

  • Delfosse Vineyards & Winery 2007 Blend
  • Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc
  • Keswick Vineyards 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Keswick Vineyards 2010 Merlot
  • King Family Vineyards 2008 Meritage Blend
  • Tarara Winery 2010 Honah Lee White Vinifera Blend
  • Trump Winery 2008 Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc Sparkling
  • White Hall Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer

The 2012 Governor’s Cups Medal Winners were chose by a panel of world class judges who sampled over 400 Virginia wines and handed out thirteen Gold medals based on a the 100 point Wine Spectator scale. The 12 highest ranking wines will be assembled into the Governor’s Case used to promote Virginia wine in the coming months by the Virginia Wine Marketing Office.

Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2011 with more than 462,000 cases, or more than 5.5 million bottles, sold. This volume marks a sales increase of more than 11 percent over the previous fiscal year. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 210. Virginia is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer.

In coming posts I’ll share more on this year’s Virginia Wine Expo, some new discoveries and more from my old favorites.

Cheers to Virginia wine!

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