50 States of Wine – Le Metro Underground Goes Cross Country

Earlier this year, after I wrote about the difficulty of finding the so-called “New California” wines, I was introduced to Aaron Epstein, a San Diego-based entrepreneur and new father who operates Le Metro. Wine. Underground, a subscription direct-to-consumer retailer. To use the modern lingo, Epstein “curates” a monthly selection of six wines according to various themes. March was New California, and July is “From Sea to Shining Sea.” He has put together a great selection of wines from across the country other than the West Coast.

Aaron and I traded some emails as he was putting this collection together, and I could sense his enthusiasm as he tasted the wines and asked me for suggestions. (“There’s only room for six!” he reminded me at one point.) Here’s what he came up with:

Each edition of Le Metro. Wine. Underground features an original illustration by Elaine Chukan Brown and tasting notes by Aaron Epstein.

Not only did Epstein come up with a great selection, but he even found one (the Garagista) that I’d never even heard of. I love it when the youngsters school me on something.

Epstein’s selection, and his enthusiasm for it, demonstrate again the increasing acceptance of regional wines both on the West Coast and among younger consumers. I can’t stress this point enough, and have a recent anecdote to illustrate the generational difference and how millennials are the best market-driving audience for these wines.

I was at a recent Rhone Rangers dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, sitting between a 20-something winemaker from a Northern Virginia winery and an acquaintance of mine I first met in the late 1980s when I had more time to loiter in wine stores. As we discussed the impressive growth of Virginia wines, my friend sniffed, “I tried Virginia wines when I first came to Washington in the 1970s, and I didn’t like them.”

No, really, I swear this actually happened. She said that. There are still people out there with that attitude. But attitudes are changing, more rapidly now than ever, and people like Epstein and his customers, with their curiosity and adventurous palates, are helping fuel that change.

 

Posted in Cabernet Franc, California, Colorado, Eastern US, Local Wine, Rants, Riesling, Sparkling Wine, Texas, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peter Chang’s Return to DC – Coming Soon

Peter Chang is known as the finest Chinese chef in the United States, and one with a sense of wanderlust. He made his name disappearing from restaurant after restaurant in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Knoxville to Atlanta, fleeing whenever he was discovered, elusive as the wok qi of a fine stir fry. In the last three years, Chang has returned to Virginia and built a five-restaurant empire that seems to expand faster than my waistline.

After opening restaurants in Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg and Virginia Beach, Chang appears ready to return to the Washington, D.C. area. He told me Sunday his next restaurant will be in Rockville Town Square, his first foray into Maryland.

Gen Lee, Chang’s business partner, told me Wednesday they have agreed on a lease for an existing restaurant space. While Chang said the new outpost should open in late September, Lee said October was more realistic.

Chang said he knows Rockville has a lot of Chinese restaurants popular with the local Chinese community, but he hopes his cuisine will appeal to a broader audience. He wants to introduce “authentic” Chinese cuisine to Americans who have become accustomed to Americanized Chinese food. He also intends to open in Fairfax, but Rockville will be first because the space requires less renovation.

Chang’s followers are sometimes skeptical of his burgeoning empire, convinced his mastery cannot be taught to other chefs. I admit to an added satisfaction when I know he’s in the house, but I’ve also eaten at his restaurants when he wasn’t there and always had a delicious meal. And as I explained in that blogpost linked above, I love his food not simply for the spice, but for the complexity and nuance he achieves with his flavors.

I met Chang when I wrote this feature for The Washington Post about his first appearance at the James Beard House in Manhattan, featuring Virginia wines from Jefferson Vineyards. On his subsequent Beard House dinners he featured wines from Trump Winery and ciders from Foggy Ridge. I helped select the pairings for those events.

Learning about his Rockville opening was a stroke of luck. I was in Virginia Beach to visit family and offered to take my Dad to lunch for the best Chinese he’d ever have. As it turned out, Peter was there preparing to cook for a wedding reception that afternoon. My Dad now has a new favorite chef. And I, with a day job just a 10-minute drive from Rockville Town Square, am contemplating an even more expansive waistline.

Peter Chang and Dad

Peter Chang and his new fan, John McIntyre

Posted in Cider, Restaurants, Virginia, Washington Post | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

DC Chefs Love Virginia Wine

(In the “Trying to catch up on really good blog material I haven’t had time to post” department … )

Virginia wine has gotten some prominent loving recently from two of DC’s top toques.

Robert Wiedmaier, chef-owner of Marcel’s, Brabo, two Brasserie Beck and a few Mussel Bar locations, featured Virginia wines at a week-long “pop up” he did in London, as well as a dinner in honor of the new U.S. ambassador to the Court of Saint James. And José Andrés took a flamboyant tour across Virginia wine country with Food & Wine magazine’s wine editor, Ray Isle, looking for wines for his new restaurant, America Eats, which opened in Tyson’s Corner, Va., in early June.

Remember when, just a few years ago, it seemed like Lee had an easier time crossing the Potomac than Virginia wine? Things are definitely changing.

Wiedmaier previewed his pop-up at Marcel’s in late March, and it was one of the better meals I’ve ever had. He allowed me to interview him in the kitchen beforehand, while he was wearing a GoPro camera to film a video for Jason Tesauro, who emceed the evening. (Luckily, I did not make the final cut, which you can view here.)

Worst selfie ever ...

Worst selfie ever …

Wiedmaier told me he was not new to Virginia wines, though his enthusiasm had really kicked in recently, especially after attending last October’s Virginia Wine Summit in Richmond. He had an interesting perspective on why Virginia is gaining popularity now.

“Ten years ago I wasn’t such a big fan of Virginia wines,” he said. “Back then you had so many other wines emerging from around the world that weren’t Italian and French – you had the whole South African thing going on, and the Australian thing, then Spanish wines went through an explosion. People weren’t thinking about Virginia wines. But in the past four or five years, through blind tastings with Moez (Ben Achour) and Ramon (Narvaez – Wiedmaier’s two sommeliers), I’ve tasted wines that are absolutely delicious, and I thought, My God, that’s a Virginia wine?”

Like many Virginia wine fans, Wiedmaier compared the Old Dominion’s new quality spurt to the frontier spirit of Napa and Sonoma three or four decades ago. He also pointed out that he makes a special effort to source local ingredients for his menus, so featuring local wines makes sense. And he realizes that he doesn’t have to give his entire list over to local wines.

“I’m embracing Virginia wines,” he said. “I like that they’re in my back yard, down the road here…. I’ve already got all the great French, Italian and Spanish wines on my lists, why not have a few great wines that are local? I can have my sommelier walk up to a table of customers from Europe and offer them something different.”

José Andrés and Ray Isle toured several Virginia wineries in early May, and thanks to Twitter those of us not lucky enough to be along for the ride (which reportedly included a helicopter flight from Glen Manor Vineyards to Charlottesville) were at least able to follow along.Screenshot 2014-06-29 14.56.13

Lucas Paya, who was Andrés beverage director before leaving the company in early June, told me that the list at America Eats will feature several Virginia wines.

So I’ll be gearing up to brave the Beltway rush hour traffic and get to Tyson’s soon.

 

 

 

Posted in Local Wine, Restaurants, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Grape American Road Trip

Andrew Stover is taking his regional wine portfolio on a road trip around the DC area this summer

This post is especially for Washington D.C.-area readers. Andrew Stover, known to wine lovers around the region for his advocacy of wines from unexpected places around the country, is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his Vino50 portfolio with “The Grape American Road Trip,” a summer-long series of events showcasing wines and winemakers from New York, Missouri, Arizona, Texas, Michigan, and probably a few other places that would have you saying, “They make wine there?”

Over the years I’ve written about Stover for Washingtonian (2007) and for The Washington Post (2010). Back when it was extremely rare to find local wines on D.C. restaurant wine lists (not so long ago!), Andrew was already evangelizing for wines from Georgia, Ohio and Texas at Oya restaurant in Penn Quarter, where he was sommelier. As a millennial, he was quick to tap into that generation’s thirst for new wines unencumbered by preconceptions and prejudices.

The Grape American Roadtrip features a recurring Southwest Wines Flight at Green Pig Bistro in DC, several events with Brooklyn Enology winemaker Alie Shaper, a Texas BBQ dinner and several wine tastings and seminars at local stores. The calendar is still evolving, so check here for updates.

Posted in Eastern US, Local Wine, Texas, Uncategorized, Virginia, Washington Post, Washingtonian, Wine | Tagged | 2 Comments

DC Hails Two New Master Sommeliers

Just a quick post to celebrate this remarkable achievement by two of DC’s most respected sommeliers: Andrew Myers of CityZen restaurant, and Jarad Slipp, formerly of CityZen and now with RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Va., became Master Sommeliers on Wednesday.

This is also a big coup for CityZen, Eric Ziebold’s restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in SW DC. Last year, Carlton McCoy, who now works at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, became an MS. He had worked at CityZen and mentored under Myers in his MS studies.

Andy Myers (left) and Jarad Slipp, are DC’s newest Master Sommeliers. In this photo from Washingtonian.com, they are wondering if a special Redskins cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon should have been called something else.

Washington’s restaurant scene is churning out top-notch somms, and we should be proud. Kathy Morgan, who reached the top rank in 2010, was DC’s first homegrown MS. She now works the floor at Range along with Keith Goldston, MS, and the two have helped several DC-area somms prepare for the grueling examinations required to become an MS. (Fran Kysela, now a wine importer based in Winchester, Va., became a Master Sommelier in 1989.)

Congratulations are also in order for three other newly minted Master Sommeliers: Alexander LaPratt of Atrium DUMBO in New York City, Lindsey Whipple of Vegas Vine in Las Vegas, and Pascaline Lepeltier of Rouge Tomate in New York City. Lepeltier is a media darling and will get lots of (deserved) press for her achievement, but let’s not forget the others.

Woot Woot for the home team!

Andrew Myers, Master Sommelier.

Posted in Current Affairs, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , | 2 Comments

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