Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? (Spring, that is … )

This is for faithful reader Norman Holly, who reminds me that I should be posting some wine recommendations. This is a wine blog, after all.

So in the hopes that warm weather is – or is about to be – here for good, I present some 2013 rosés from France and Italy. I’m impressed with the 2013 crop of pink, and expect to be recommending some more in coming weeks. That is, if Norman reminds me to post them.

photo (6)Sol’ Acantalys 2013
3 Stars
Tavel, Rhone Valley, France, $13
Tavel is an appellation that specializes in rosé, typically deep red in color and more full-bodied and sappy than other rosés. The Sol’ Acantalys is redolent of strawberries, raspberries and Rainier cherries. This is the bolder side of rosé that should appeal to a wide range of American palates. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Billette Bouquet de Provence, Cuvée Tradition 2013
3 Stars
Cotes de Provence, France, $15
Francophilic oenonerds (and yes, there are some oenonerds who are not francophilic) tend to idealize Provence for its food, its wine, its lifestyle. Well, at least I do. This wine, in an unusual bottle that looks like Mrs Butterworth on a diet, captures that fantasy. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali, Le Rose, 2013
3 Stars
Sicily, Italy, $14
Made from the Sicilian red grape nerello mascalese, this wine is vibrant and refreshing. ABV: 12 percent.

Le Petit Balthazar Cinsault Rosé 2013
2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE
Languedoc, France, $8
This pale pink beauty harkens back to the days not so long ago when good rosé was a wine lover’s secret and much of the enjoyment was thinking about how cheap it was. Worth stocking up on for the summer. ABV: 11 percent.

Leone de Castris Five Roses 2013
2-1/2 Stars
Salento, Italy, $17
The label claims this was the first Italian winery to produce a rosato, back in 1943. It is bright red in color, juicy and elegant in flavor. ABV: 12 percent.

Posted in France, Italy, Rosé, Wine | Tagged , | 9 Comments

How much local is too much?

I find it amusing when people accuse me of not covering local wine enough in my weekly columns for The Washington Post. If anything, I’m leery that I may spend too much attention on local wines, which I find quite exciting and rather accessible, since I don’t have to purchase a plane ticket and use up a week of annual leave to visit the wineries. Aside from frequent features and newsy columns about local developments, I try to include local wines in regular columns or recommendations, for they don’t need special dispensation simply because they’re local – just recognition of their quality.

So this exchange in the April 9 Free Rangers food chat on The Washington Post’s website took me a bit by surprise. Not because of the “hate mail” aspect of the initial question – we’re pretty sure this is some bitter guy who chimes in regularly without actually reading or paying attention to what he’s saying – but also for the reactions from other readers.

Here are the relevant excerpts. You can read the whole chat here.

VIRGINIA WINES

You all are as bad F&W. Come on now if you all are on the local bandwagon for meat, produce and seafood then you also ahve to be on the local bandwagon for VA and MD wines. The WP needs to devout at least one column a month to local winea. Next we can work on local hard liquor and espeically moonshine. They have been making shine in Bath and Highland counites for almost 400 years. Longer than anywhere else in the US.

Dave McIntyre says:

Interestingly, nowadays I get the opposite complaint more often – that I write too much about local wine.

Did you miss my column in early March on the Virginia Governor’s Cup, won by Williamsburg Winery, and the Governor’s Case of the “12 Best” Virginia wines from the competition? My recommendations that week featured two Virginia tannats that are included in the Governor’s Case. Over the past five and a half years I’ve been writing this column I’ve regularly included wines from Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Arizona. I’ve written features on Virginia and Maryland ciders, pairing Virginia wine with Szechuan cuisine, RdV Vineyards, Boordy Vineyards, the growth of a “Mid-Atlantic” wine region stretching from northern Georgia up the Blue Ridge through North Carolina into central and eastern Pennsylvania, the difficulty of finding local wines on local restaurant wine lists, efforts by Virginia’s (then) first lady to promote the state’s wines … Need I say more? Well, I am also co-founder of Drink Local Wine, the nation’s first locapour movement, which has held annual conferences in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado and Maryland to introduce bloggers and other writers to these regional wines. I’ve probably forgotten a few articles to mention here, but I think you get the picture.

It’s so much more than “local wine.” Our perception of “American Wine” is changing, because of the increase in quality of wines from Virginia, Maryland, and all the other states I mentioned above. A new generation of wine drinkers is receptive to wines that aren’t from California. This won’t diminish California’s dominance of US wine production, but it adds diversity, variety and interest. And we’re all better off for that.

And then another exchange:

THE WP NEEDS TO DEVOUT AT LEAST ONE COLUMN A MONTH TO LOCAL WINEA.

Oh please no. The rest of the wine-making world is making wines so superior even to Va’s (and Md wines, frankly, are largely lousy) that one column a month on local wines would cut out most of what most people like to drink.

Dave writes:

Well, here’s what I was talking about! I agree that there are many, many wonderful wines produced around the world, and I try to find those for you. It is not easy to keep up!
Yet while I agree that the world of wine is an extensive topic, what’s happening right around here is very exciting. I disagree with your premise that wine is inferior simply because it’s local, and hope you will try to search out the wineries that are making great quality strides. I will certainly be covering them in the column, as warranted, with no forced schedules. And remember, if I write about a local topic in the column, the recommendations may include wines from elsewhere.

And then the back-and-forth:

LOCAL WINES

Dave ever thought about running for office. Nice way to not answer the question lets strive for one column a month on local wines. actually it should be one column a month on none local wines. I make a $250 donation to a chatters favorite cahrity if in a blind tasting they can pick put thier favorite cult Cali cab from fines Virginny cabs.

Dave writes:

I believe I did answer your question – you complained that we never cover local wines. So there. And see my response to the chatter who disagrees with you. I’ll duck to get away from the cross-fire.

WHY?

Why do you keep posting Mr. Argumentative’s questions? Look, Dave covers some local wine, some US wine, and some international wine. (although I would like more coverage of US wine that’s not California, because it varies SO wildly, and I find it interesting.) But seriously, this guy has the same complaint every week. It gets old.

JOE YONAN  (Food section editor):

We want to make sure everybody’s complaints are heard — I never want to be accused of avoiding criticism. I think you’ll be able to find a way to live with it, right?

And these two came in right at the end, and I didn’t have an opportunity to answer, so I’ll include my thoughts here as asides.

IF I WRITE ABOUT A LOCAL TOPIC IN THE COLUMN, THE RECOMMENDATIONS MAY INCLUDE WINES FROM ELSEWHERE.

Which is good. If a local wine is compared to,say, a chenin blanc, which I don’t care for, that gives me more data points. If it’s compared to a California Cab, I’m going straight out to look for it.

[Hmm. Like I always say, I write for several audiences! :-)]

And finally, the second poster turns argumentative on me:

Q.

DISAGREE WITH YOUR PREMISE THAT WINE IS INFERIOR SIMPLY BECAUSE IT’S LOCAL,

This is certainly not my premise. You didn’t notice that I acknowledged that a lot of Virginia wines are good. And I certainly do not consider wine inferior merely because it is local. I do happen to have a palate.

[I never said he didn't have a palate, but he certainly isn't quoting himself correctly. Here's what he wrote: "The rest of the wine-making world is making wines so superior even to Va's (and Md wines, frankly, are largely lousy) that one column a month on local wines would cut out most of what most people like to drink. " I don't see an acknowledgement there that a lot of Virginia wines are good - rather a blanket statement that all Virginia and Maryland wines are inferior to the rest of the world's.]

As they say here in Washington, if they criticize you from both sides, you must be doing something right.

Posted in Local Wine, Rants, Wine | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The End of Wine Blah Blahgs

April 1 – DATELINE: ONLINE – The wine blahgosphere fell eerily silent today when William Zinsser emerged from the heavens and told wine blahggers that the world isn’t all about them and they can only write about wine from now on.

The Bible

The Bible

The revered author of “On Writing Well” left hundreds of the world’s most influential wine blahggers agape as they suddenly realized they had little if anything to say.

“Well that certainly sucks major donkey bong,” said 1WineDude Joe Roberts. “Wine is just a drink, after all, while I’m the Big Kahuna and all that brilliantastic shizz. I mean, its not like I wanna sell wine, or convince yaz to buy it just cuz I get a gigantuan boner off it, know what I mean?”

In New York City, Tyler Coleman, or “Dr. Vino,” stopped stirring his evil pot of brettanomyces, then gasped in horror and keeled over from the stench.

The Wine Blahggers Conference was canceled, because if they had to talk about wine instead of wine blahgging, well, what’s the point?

In Napa, Tom Wark of Fermentation wearily turned his high horse toward Safeway and said to his faithful sidekick, “Come on, Pancho, let’s get a box of generic chardonnay from the Southern portfolio and watch the sun set over the three-tier system.”

Throughout the afternoon, wine blahgs went inexorably blank as their authors realized they could no longer inflate their stats by cross-posting and commenting on each other’s blahgs about the rise of social media and the superiority of blahggers over “journalists” like Steve Heimoff and that Eric guy. They were left to wonder if the Gravy Train of free samples and luxury trips to the world’s most aspiring wine regions had been permanently shunted to a side track in wine’s railroad graveyard.

Terroirist.com founder David White shed a crocodile tear into his glass of Napa Valley ciliegiolo — fermented to precisely 12.8 percent in a concrete egg according to the Golden Mean and racked only when Mars was waxing over Jupiter but waning under Venus. He handed over the reins of his award-winning blahg to his colleague, Isaac Baker, saying,  “You’re the only one who actually writes about wine around here.”

As dusk settled, a virtual roar could be heard from Monkton, Maryland, where Robert M. Parker Jr. rattled his canes with mirth and yelled, “What? Nobody left to take potshots at me?? Shrivelled up by excess acid and left to wallow in the vapid flavors of grapes not even Jancis would catalogue, are you? Come on, cowards!! I dare’st ya! BWAHAHAHAAA!!”

Posted in Humor, Rants, Weblogs, Wine, Wine Humor, writers | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Wines to Defy Winter’s Last Blast

The calendar says Spring, but Ol’ Man Winter isn’t done with us yet. Tuesday’s forecast for the Washington, D.C., area calls for 1-2 more inches of the white stuff, timed not to give us a day off like that last storm, but to distract us into looking balefully out the window during the workday.

I keep chanting, “Opening Day is a week away!” but it’s still too damn cold. Anyway, I’m defying winter’s refusal to leave with some decidedly warm-weather wines, including some of the first crop of 2013 rosés.

These are from this week’s column in The Washington Post, which went online Friday. The stars express my overall enthusiasm for the wines, with one star for “very good,” two for “excellent” and three for “exceptional.”

Jean-Luc Colombo, Cape Bleue Rosé 2013

3 Stars GREAT VALUE

Mediterranée IGP, France, $15

Jean-Luc Colombo is a popular producer of syrah from the northern Rhone village of Cornas, but his rosé has been an annual favorite at my table. The new vintage is bracing and refreshing, with strawberry and watermelon flavors. Alcohol by volume: 12.5 percent.

Basa Bianco 2012

3 Stars GREAT VALUE

Rueda, Spain, $15

Star Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez has the Midas touch with his extensive line of wines. This delightful white is ideal for light seafood appetizers or entrees, or sipping by itself on the patio. In texture and flavor it most resembles a sauvignon blanc. ABV: 13 percent.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2012

2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Dolomiti, Italy, $16

I often joke that “pinot grigio is Italian for boring,” but I love anything produced by this winery. The key is the mountains of northern Italy, skillful viticulture and careful winemaking. This is racy and refreshing, ideal by itself or with light appetizers or pastas. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Domaine du Pere Caboche “Le Petit Caboche” Rosé 2013

2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Vaucluse, France, $10

Sappy, fruity, strawberry flavors with a touch of mint and a splash of summer. ABV: 13 percent.

Conde Villar Vinho Verde Rosé 2013

2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Portugal, $11

The pressed grapes were left on the skins for just 24 hours to make this vibrant rosé, then the juice was lightly carbonated to give it a satisfying spritz. It’s fresh and full of cherry and strawberry flavors, springtime in a glass. ABV: 11 percent.

Francis Coppola Winery, Coppola Rosso 2012

1-1/2 Stars

California, $10

The retro label signals a wine in the old California style, one where grape varieties in the blend and point scores don’t matter. The lifestyle on display here isn’t the luxury faux Tuscan villa of the wealthy and bored but the sweaty satisfaction of a good day’s work, the loving embrace of family, and a mutt under the dinner table. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Posted in California, France, Italy, Rosé, Spain, Washington Post, Wine | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut – A New Can’t Miss Virginia Sparkler That Most People Will Miss

Claude Thibaut, the man who helped legitimize Virginia wine for restaurant sommeliers, today released a new cuvée called Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut. Like his popular Blanc de Chardonnay, the Xtra Brut is 100 percent Chardonnay grown in the Monticello AVA near Charlottesville. But this new wine is one-third oak aged Chardonnay, compared to 10 percent of the Blanc de Chardonnay. And it has only 4 grams of residual sugar per liter, compared to 8g/l for the other. Therefore it is drier, more full-bodied and oaky. And as you might expect from Thibaut, it’s delicious. It should appeal to fans of a classical, dry Champagne style.

You’d better hurry if you want to taste it, however. Thibaut made only 100 cases.

The law firm of Thibaut-Janisson. (Just kidding!) That's Claude Thibaut on the left, with Manuel Janisson.

The law firm of Thibaut-Janisson. (Just kidding!) That’s Claude Thibaut on the left, with Manuel Janisson.

I tasted the Xtra Brut at Cork & Fork in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood Saturday afternoon, where Thibaut and his business partner, Manuel Janisson, were pouring for about 40 customers of Cork & Fork owner Dominique Landragin. It was almost like being in a small wine shop in Champagne, as Landragin and Thibaut grew up in the same village there. Janisson flew to DC for the weekend from his home where he makes his Janisson & Fils line of grower Champagnes.

Claude told me he will be able to release about 200 cases next year, but he has a dilemma – the same one faced by many Virginia winemakers. There simply aren’t enough grapes. “There are too many wineries and not enough vineyards,” he said.

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Posted in Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lessons from the Virginia Governor’s Case

This year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup was awarded last Thursday to The Williamsburg Winery for its 2010 Adagio, a Bordeaux-style red blend. And once again, the results of the competition show that Virginia wine’s strength lies with these blended wines rather than single-varietal wines such as Cabernet Franc. Frank Morgan has the view from the awards ceremony over on Drink What YOU Like.

The Governor’s Case, the top 12 scoring wines in the competition set aside to showcase what the Old Dominion is accomplishing in its vineyards, includes seven Bordeaux blends. No Cab Francs, once touted as Virginia’s most promising red grape, made the final 12, which included two Tannats, a Nebbiolo, a Chardonnay, and a dessert blend of Moscato Ottonel and Vidal. Here’s the list, in alphabetical order, courtesy of the Virginia Wine Marketing Board:

  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2008 Malvaxia Passito
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Octagon
  • Barren Ridge Vineyard – 2009 Meritage
  • Fabbioli Cellars – 2011 Tannat
  • Horton Vineyards – 2010 Tannat
  • King Family Vineyards – 2011 Meritage
  • North Gate Vineyard – 2011 Meritage
  • Rockbridge Vineyard – 2008 Meritage, DeChiel Reserve, unfiltered
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
  • The Williamsburg Winery – 2010 Adagio (CUP WINNER)
  • Two Twisted Post Winery – 2012 Chardonnay

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Posted in Cabernet Franc, Competitions, Eastern US, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Take that, Virginia wine!

Virginia wine took a slap in the face Thursday, in this article in The Washington Post. The article described how newly inaugurated Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is trying to establish good relations with legislators from both parties by hosting daily cocktail hours at the governor’s mansion with pretty good hootch he springs for himself.

McAuliffe is wealthy, you see, and can afford the best. He also has no experience in Virginia politics so has every incentive to establish good relationships on both sides of the aisle. And of course he has every right to serve whatever beverages he wants during his schmooze fests.

Some context is important: The previous governor, Robert McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife Maureen were tireless champions of the Virginia wine industry and much beloved by winemakers for their advocacy. They are also under federal indictment for allegedly accepting gifts from a pharmaceutical company executive seeking state approval for a nutritional supplement. Not much is known about McAuliffe’s preferences in wine, though winemakers were relieved when the new governor retained McDonnell’s agriculture secretary, Todd Haymore, who is also a fierce champion of Virginia’s wine industry.

So back to the Post article, which is about politics, not wine. (It was written by Laura Vozzella, who covers Virginia politics and used to be a food writer for the Baltimore Sun.) Buried within is this quote from state Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr., a Republican from the 22nd senate district, which zigs and zags across central Virginia from the western suburbs of Richmond up towards Louisa and then back down and across to Lynchburg:

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Posted in California, Current Affairs, Local Wine, Virginia, Washington Post, Wine | Tagged , , | 11 Comments