Hmm Cabernet or Malbec Watson?
Now if I could pick one talent to have (and comic book superpowers were off the table) it would be a toss-up between being able to play the guitar like a rock god, speaking several languages fluently or being a supertaster a la Robert Parker. Who, as an aside, claims that he can remember every wine he has ever tasted! One thing I’ve learned is that don’t improve on anything by sitting around, so I was really happy that I had a chance to attend one of the regular wine classes that the Frederick Wine House co-hosts. It was titled ‘Wine Detectives- The Art of Identifying Wine Blind.’
Not surprisingly it turned out to be a great evening with good company and a wonderful wine exercise. The host, Shawn Clopper, from Monument Fine Wines led about 80 of us through a tasting of eight different bottles of wine. He helped us break down the tasting process starting with appearance (clarity, color, brightness and viscosity) and then the smells and then finally tasting the wine. He gave everyone a wonderful handout with the categories and subcategories of flavors. Breaking it down into a standardized methodology allows you to isolate the variables with the goal of helping you to identify the wine. In this case we were going for the varietal. After we went through all eight wines and made our notes the winemaker’s tasting notes were provided to us. It was fascinating to see how divergent our notes were from the winemakers’. After that came the great reveal and then everyone made a bee line for their favorites and finished off all of the leftover wine. I could not believe how fast two hours went by. I am embarrassed to say that I went 1 for 8 while Mrs. F went 2 for 8. Of course there is only one solution for this situation practice! Reportedly one of the participants got 6/8
Lastly I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the nice hors d’oeuvres that were served with the tasting and that the evening started off very nicely with a vintage prosecco. An excellent way to spend an evening. I will post here when they announce the next class.
Sometimes you get the urge to splurge and for several reasons I found myself looking for such a bubbly. I selected the Champagne Claude Baron Cuvee Topaze 2006. Vintage Champagnes are a small subset of Champagne. The theory is that the wineries make these wines only in their best years when the grapes are of such quality that the usual blending is not needed. Vintage champagnes account for about 4% of champagne sales in the United States. This wine happened to be a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I was not blown away by it. The bubbles were very fine and disappeared quickly in the glass. I was looking for some of the characteristics of vintage champagne: nuttiness, dried fruits, toasted bread. I found none of this. Rather a delicate and fresh wine of lemons and nice acidity. Six years should have been enough time to impart some of these flavors. Bottom line: decent but not worth the price paid. You can get comparable champagnes for $20 less. Oh well the hunt and exploration of new bottles is a large part of what makes wine so exciting for me. Cheers!
Purchased at the Frederick Wine House for $49.99
Grocery stores seeking way around alcohol sales ban. I have mixed feelings about this. Comments anyone? I do admit that I stop at the Leesburg Costco from time to time to get wine.
Good op-ed piece in the Sun on this issue by Adam Borden president of MBBWL.
And finally on Monday I posted about the best rose I have had in ages. Well it seems that I am not the only one who feels this way. In today’s wine column in the Washington Post Dave McIntyre gives the Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Rose of Sangiovese the highest rating out of all the rose he reviewed. Refined palate or just plebeian tastes? I know which theory I’m going with.
Filed under Booze, Stores, Wine
I’m secure enough in my manhood to proclaim my love of a good rose. Of course not the blush, white zin type of crap. And boy did I love the rose I just had. Alexander Valley Vineyards “Dry Rose of Sangiovese” 2011. This was a bright scarlet wine, with tons of flavors of strawberry, watermelon and a touch of tropical fruit. Medium acidity with the barest hint of sweetness at the end. The best rose I have had in a long, long time especially at this price. I’m violating my rule of making sure I buy more before I post here, but I got it at the Frederick Wine House for around $12 if I recall. I’m going to get a bunch for the summer. 100% Sangiovese, fermented in stainless steel. 13.2% ABV
Channel 9 video on Adam Frey’s new Frederick county farm brewery. I’d card the reporter though.
Brewer’s Alley released a special wedding beer, Wedding Alt, with customizable labels. How about a divorce one? Should it be something dark and heavy or light and celebratory?
The Grateful Gourmet tries a Frederick County wine and finds he likes it.
This blog got a mention in the Marylander’s for Better Beer & Wine Laws 2012 Alcohol Legislative Roundup for my April 23rd post on some of the changes to Maryland’s alcohol laws. This is a good time to reaffirm what a great organization MBBWL is, and not just because they gave me a shout out. I’ve been plugging them on this blog from as far back as October 2009. They are the only organization in this state that fights for the consumer on these issues and they have been instrumental in the incremental progress that has been made in bringing a measure of sanity to Maryland’s alcohol laws. They wage a David versus Goliath battle against the beverage wholesalers lobby. Send them some love by liking them on facebook, following them on twitter and most importantly giving them a little money by going to their home page and clicking the please donate button on the right.
Nice article on Frederick County’s newest winery, Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, in the Frederick News Post. I can’t think of any other business where so many people go into the business out of sheer love for the product. Of course talking to Maryland winery owners you would be delusional if you were getting into it for the money. I look forward to sampling their wines.
West Frederick Farmer’s Market re-opens Saturday May 5th for the season!
This past legislative session saw some changes in the laws which will be of interest to readers:
Corkage: The practice of bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant to drink is commonly known as corkage. Up until now this has been illegal in Maryland (in fact I believe that Volt got into a bit of trouble last year for allowing this). As of July 1st, 2012 patrons of Maryland restaurants will now be permitted to bring that special bottle when they dine with a couple of conditions: the restaurant must allow it and have a permit to do so from the local liquor board, the wine must be consumed with a meal, and the wine is not available for sale on the restaurant’s wine list. As an aside the last condition should be honored simply as a matter of proper etiquette law or no law.
Middletown Wine Festival: A bill passed the legislature that allows a wine festival to be held within the municipal boundaries of the town for no more than two, one-day festival per year.
Packing Heat: Lastly I’m sure you will all feel better and safer that the Legislature will now allow Frederick County’s alcoholic beverage inspector(s) to carry firearms in the course of their duties. I predict that a SWAT team will not be far behind.
Anyone at the festival? I’d love some reports. Post them in the comments. I’ve never made it as this is always the crazy season for my wife so there’s a period of a week or two when I’m a single parent.
There are all sorts of boozy events coming up:
Toast to Frederick wine festival- April 21st and 22nd at the Frederick fairgrounds
The Maryland Craft Beer Festival at the Frederick fairgrounds. May 12th from noon to six.
Frederick Beer Week- May 12-19th. Events all over the Frederick area.
Wine in The Woods- May 19 and 20th at Merriweather Post Pavillion.
Great article about Black Ankle vineyards here. It’s only part one. I look forward to the second part and to see how she answers the question a lot of us, including me, have asked: are Black Ankle wines worth the price?
Also someone (or someones) else liked the Knob Hall Chambourcin as much as I did. It won the top award at the American Wine Society’s Annual National Conference in a competition of the top varieties and wines of the Maryland and New Jersey region. Article here.
This past weekend I had an opportunity to visit Knob Hall Winery. Located in North Western Washington County, the owner, Dick Seibert, has taken 30 acres of his 200 acre family farm and planted a number of different varieties of grape. The tasting room is situated in an 1860′s post and beam barn. I have a thing for old barns so I loved to look at the woodwork. However, I will have to admit it was quite rustic. Currently they have plans to renovate and update the tasting area though.
Quite frankly I do not care what the tasting area looks like as long as the wine is good. I did get to taste all of Knob Hall Winery’s current releases. As usual with my Maryland wine tasting adventures I am always pleasantly surprised, uncovering wines that can hold their own against others from better known areas. My two favorites were their Chambourcin and their semi-dry rose. The rose was only slightly sweet and had nice fruit and acidity. The Chambourcin was full bodied and very interesting, with lots of sour red fruit and hints of earth and leather. It is unusual to see a single varietal made from Chambourcin, a fairly obscure grape, and I was excited to try it. Defintely worth a trip and bringing home a bottle or two as well.
Knob Hall Winery is located at 14108 St. Paul Road in Clear Spring, Maryland. Their phone number is 301-842-2777.
The third thursday in November is tomorrow and that means beaujolais nouveau. Loyal reader(s) will know my conflicted feelings on the issue. As usual I will sample some and let you know. I am not aware of any special festivities planned for the Frederick area. Anyone have any news?
Previous thoughts on this event for 2010, 2009, 2008, more 2008, and 2007.
The Senate’s bipartisan plan to shore up the postal service’s shaky finances includes a provision to allow the USPS to ship wine and beer. Currently only UPS and FedEx do so. Sen. Lieberman is quoted as saying the plan would pull the mail service ”back from the brink of bankruptcy.” Alcohol has certainly saved me from the brink a few times so why not the mail?
Full article here.
Is this the future of the USPS?
Wherein I break my own rule and review a chain restaurant. I know this does not really fit my criteria of a chain: there is one Wine Kitchen in Leesburg and they opened one in Frederick last month. If you have been paying attention to my twitter feed you would know this review was coming. First impressions were very good: the space is tastefully decorated in what I’d call semi-modern style with lots of wood and metal. Plenty of tables overlook Carroll Creek and in the other direction the open kitchen. There also was a private room which looked like it could easily seat twenty or so. When I was there is was still under construction.
The food was very good. I started with the butternut squash soup which turned out to be the highlight of my meal. Rich creamy soup with fried goat cheese balls and a drizzle of olive oil. I came close to licking the bowl on that one. I also sampled the sheep’s milk agnilotti, the heritage pork belly and the Border Springs Farm lamb flatbread. All three of which were delicious. I cannot stand overcooked pasta and I am happy to report that the agnilotti was cooked perfectly. The pork belly had a nicely crisped exterior and a juicy inside. The menu is not huge, but there is plenty to choose from.
Of course, like the name implies this place is about wine. The best way to enjoy this is get one of their flights. These are groupings of three wines, thematically tied together. They come in high quality glassware and each flight was accompanied by a little set of cards explaining the three different wines. I ordered the Italian Renaissance, which was the only flight that had both white and red wine. I had the white (Fuso Verdicchio) with the soup, which made for a terrific pairing. The other two were reds. The only down note was that I felt like the last wine of the flight, the Marabino Noto Nero D’Avola, was a little old and flat tasting. I always have a little bit of a concern about freshness in places that have a lot of wine by the glass available on the menu, yet just keep the partially full bottles out on the counter with the corks stuffed in them. On the plus side there are lots of interesting flights to try: Pinot Evil and a flight of three bubblies caught my eye.
The service was good and the lunch with appetizer, entrée and a flight of wine each came to about $40 each including tip. All of us agreed that it is well worth a return trip. On the way out we noticed a nice set of leather sofa surrounding a fireplace. That would be the spot to while away some time while sampling their wines!!
Mionetto prosecco frequently pops up on lists of value bubblies. I’ve had it a few times over the years and enjoyed it but it hasn’t been in our regular rotation here at home, which was frustrating since I know its very widely distributed. It turns out it’s just really a matter of going to the right liquor store, and I found it this past week at Old Farm Liquors. It was on sale for $9.99. To be precise, since they make several varieties, I am talking about Mionetto Prosecco Brut D.o.c. I found it to be moderately bubbly, with lots of golden delicious apple flavors with a hint of pear. It winds up with a nice, crisp dry finish. It also had a little bit of champagne-like undertones that elevated it a notch above the usual prosecco. Had it with ham and cheese (Gruyère) crepes and it was excellent.
The Washington Post did a neat article on Maryland Wine in their food section yesterday. They report a couple of interesting tidbits. First that Maryland wineries are up from 15 in 2000 to 52 today, with 15 additional applications pending. I also liked the information that Black Ankle Vineyards was the first Maryland winery that sought out land (poor, rocky soils on relatively steep slopes) specifically for grape growing rather than planting on a previously owned farm. Exciting times and you as a Frederick County resident are living in the center of Maryland’s wine country.
Just saw an article that nearly 300 wineries are now signed up or in the process of signing up for direct shipping in Maryland. Check out the list, as of August 11th, here.
Per reports, even though Maryland’s new direct shipping law goes into effect on Friday, only eleven wineries have signed up so far. Most of them appear to be Maryland wineries. I wonder if more will sign up as this law becomes widely known?
Happy Maryland Wine week everybody! Apparently June 3rd through June 12th has been declared Maryland Wine Week by Governor O’Malley. Havent really heard of any special events in our area in response to this. Have you?
Just had a kick ass new white I’d like to pass along- Broadbent Vinho Verde NV. This non-vintage Portuguese offering comes from the noted British wine critic Michael Broadbent along with his son Bartholomew Broadbent. The Broadbents act as negociants- i.e. they don’t grow the grapes themselves but buy them and blend them to their satisfaction. Their website states that they ship all of this wine in refrigerated containers to ”enable the wine to taste as fresh and spritzy as it would ever taste in Portugal.” Boy did they succeed. Someone once coined the term ‘picnic wine’ and I think that beautifully captures the essence of this bottling. It has biting acidity, and big flavors of lemon and lime. Slightly effervescent it is just a superb summer wine. It may not be complex or profound but it does what it is designed to do and does it perfectly. Serve cold and enjoy! Heck I wouldn’t even be adverse to dropping an ice-cube or two in it.
At 9% alcohol the wine is a blend of Loureiro, Trajadura and Pedernã. I purchased it at the Frederick Wine House for $8.99 but it shouldn’t be hard to find as they make several hundred thousand cases of this a year. Get a case and make it one of your go to whites for the summer. Vinho Verde is meant to be drunk young. The Broadbent is bottled as a non-vintage wine, but if you look in the upper left corner of the vinho verde stamp of authenticity on the back of the bottle you can see the year it was bottled. Right now you should be drinking the 2010′s.
Drank the 2006 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbes with Easter dinner on Sunday. A good solid wine but didn’t blow me away, especially at $20 a bottle. Had a typical petrol nose with flavors of pineapple and kiwi. Very, very dry finish. I would rate it a solid 85. When I took the first sip after pouring I was really not impressed. As the meal wore one I came to enjoy it more and more. It really enforced what I’ve come to realize with Rieslings: they are truly food wines, especially the dry ones. What I mean by that is often when you just drink them by themselves they don’t come across as all that good. They don’t reach their full potential until you drink them with your meal. The food really seems to play off the flavors and harmonize some of the weirder notes that can be off-putting when they are on their own. What do you think?
Was this past weekend. Anyone go? I have not heard any feedback about this event. Didn’t even see a write up of it in the FNP come to think of it. Let me know.
Well it looks like a limited form of direct shipping is going to become law in Maryland. Ultimately a watered down version of the proposed legislation passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature. If signed the new law will take effect on July 1st and allow wineries to ship their products directly to Maryland consumers. With each consumer being limited to eighteen cases of wine per year.
Unfortunately the provisions allowing direct shipping from out-of-state retailers or on-line specialty Web sites as some consumers (me included!) had hoped failed. There was apparently enormous pressure from the alcohol wholesalers lobby who want to keep their monopoly. Both Virginia and West Virginia allow direct shipping from retailers to consumers and the sky has not fallen there. In anticipation of the new law I went online and signed up for half-dozen wineries’ mailing lists. I went a little nuts and if they all come through I’ll have to get a second job. And although proponents of direct shipping are vowing to push for expansion of the law next year I am also researching (purely for informational purposes, of course) where the nearest mailboxes etc type store is in Va or Wv.
UPDATE: Governor O’Malley signed the bill into law on April 13th.
I’ve been banging the prosecco drum on this blog for years but it now appears that I am not really saying anything that Americans don’t already know. Imports of sparkling wine from Italy to the United States are up 73.1 percent from 2005 to 2010, according to Impact Databank. That translates to 2.58 million cases brought in in 2010.