Archive for the ‘Wine Tasting’ Category
It’s that time of year where everyone wants to know which wine goes with the Thanksgiving Turkey..
Here are some fun wine classes around Thanksgiving that offer more than just the usual suspects like Beaujolais Nouveau and German Rieslings – both great, but there are so many fantastic and fun pairings to consider! The key to Thanksgiving is to consider the whole family..or at least those over 21 years of age – I mean does Aunt Harriet really want some complex pairing partner to her pumpkin pie with marshmallows? Maybe something not too heavy, and even a touch sweet works better! I always say bring 2 bottles to the Thanksgiving meal – one cheap for everybody who just wants something fun to drink and one for yourself..who’s going to notice anyway – just put your favorite bottle under the table, grab and pour when needed..
In this walk-around style event, you will be “Thankful” to taste 15 of our most sought-after. Those wines are hand-selected by our Chef and Sommelier Staff and beyond Beaujolais with 3 stations of wine styles that are perfect compliments to a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Whether you are planning dinner at your own home or want advice on what to bring to a party, our 3 sommeliers will assist you while you taste delicious, great value wines.
This is with Wine Workshop which not only does excellent tastings but some pretty awesome (pricey too!) wine dinners with some of the world’s greatest wine producers..Since Turley’s debut vintage of 1993, it was quickly established that Turley Cellars was deadly serious about making blockbuster Zinfandels from some of California’s oldest, pre-prohibition, head-pruned vineyards. The wines are made from super ripe grapes that express the essence of Zinfandel. Larry Turley’s wines are extraordinarily rich and clearly the most concentrated and powerful Zinfandels ever made. As Robert Parker has stated many times in the past, “Turley Cellars’ offerings have become the reference point for Zinfandel, as they are the most complex, concentrated, hedonistic wines ever produced from this varietal.”
Taste among these classics:
1996 Aida; 2002, 2003 Dragon; 1998, 2001 Duarte, 1999 Estate; 1997, 2001 Moore ‘Earthquake’; 2001 Pesenti; 1999, 2001 Pringle Family; 2003 Rattlesnake Ridge; 1999, 2000 Tofanelli and 2001 Vineyard 101. Fantastic Fortified Flavors of Port, Sherry and Madeira, Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 at Chain Bridge Cellars, McLean, VA
As Fall turns to Winter and Thanksgiving and the December Holidays come close, it’s a fine time to explore the warming wonders of the world’s best fortified wines. They can be dry and savory (like Rainwater or Sercial Madeira) or sweet and unctuous (like Bual Madeira or Port). Some are complements to a fine meal, while others are the crowning touch after dessert. But all are fascinating, fun to explore, and very, very, delicious.
Join us on Sunday, November 23, as we explore the world of sweet and savory fortified wines from Port and Medeira. We’ll taste four Ports, ranging from a wood-aged white Port to a rare single-vintage Tawny and two wines from the great 2011 Vintage Port release:
Rozes Porto White Reserve NV
Quinta Dona Matilde Vintage Port 2011
Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2011
Quinta Dona Matilde Colhieta Port 2004
For the Madeiras, we’ll travel back in time to the 18th Century, when Madeira was the most popular drink of our Founding Fathers. The Rare Wine Company and Madeira producer Barbeito have created a line-up of wines that showcase styles most popular in various cities of Colonial America – we’ll try four of them:
Barbeito New York Malmsey Reserve
Barbeito Boston Bual Reserve
Barbeito Baltimore Rainwater Reserve
Barbeito Charleston Sercial Reserve
We’ll serve you some wonderful pairing bites like walnuts, dried fruit, salty bleu cheeses, and even a little dark chocolate so you can enjoy how well the wines play with food. You’ll learn how they were created, are made, and the best way and time to enjoy each wine. Most of all, though, you’ll enjoy eight delicious fortified wines and a rousing good time!
I’ve loved attending wine dinners in the Washington, D.C. area (Northern Virginia and Maryland too!) for the past 15 years over at TasteDC . I’m sort of a wine dinner specialist – so what exactly does that mean? It basically means that I understand and consume plenty of wine, and the whole concept of creating a dinner around wine and food pairing just seems natural to me – and quite enjoyable!
My baby TasteDC just got hired to promote a series of wine dinners for a very reputable local Spanish restaurant chain – La Tasca Restaurants. I like both their concept and their willingness to use wine dinners and cooking classes as a smart way to extend their brand. Today’s restaurant goer has so many choices, but what will get her attention in the crowded restaurant scene. How about treating going out to eat as an experience for all the senses and not just an excuse to fill the belly? Just from experience, people who attend wine dinners are generally not only Foodies, but they’re also more intelligent, better paid, travel more and appreciate the nuances of pairing food and wine in a multi-course dinner. Sound snooty? Actually, wine dinners can be really fun, and often the banter and conversations are very interesting and entertaining!
Here’s a series of Washington, DC wine dinners, Virginia wine dinners and Maryland wine dinners that TasteDC is promoting/marketing for La Tasca:
4-Course Torres Spanish Wine Dinners,$75 inclusive of food, wine, tax & tip
Various Dates and La Tasca Locations – See Below
Fall Torres Wine Festival Dinners
8 Wines * 4 Course Dinner * Prize Trip to Spain * Flamenco Show
La Tasca — Washington, DC 722 7th Street NW, November 13th, Wednesday (6-9 pm)
La Tasca – Arlington, VA 2900 Wilson Blvd, November 14th, Thursday (6-9 pm)
La Tasca-Baltimore, 201 E Pratt St, November 16th, Saturday (6-9 pm)
La Tasca – Rockville 141 Gibbs St, November 19th, Tuesday (6-9 pm)
La Tasca – Alexandria 607 King St, November 24th, Sunday (6-9 pm)
Fall Torres Wine Festival Dinners
8 Wines | 4 Course Dinner | Prize Trip to Spain | Flamenco Show
An Exciting Evening!
We are thrilled to invite you to join us for an incredible evening, complete with tastings of eight notable wines led by the passionate and amazing folks at Torres Wines. In addition, enjoy a four-course dinner prepared by executive chef Josu Zubikarai, an open bar, an exclusive flamenco performance, and a small gift to take with you. And let’s not forget that, as part of the Torres Wine Festival, all guests will be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to Barcelona, Spain!
Have you ever thought of wine as art? Now is your chance. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss!
When and Where?
We are hosting Torres Wine Dinners at all of our La Tasca locations. Every event will be held from 6-9pm. If events reach capacity, we will add additional dates.
It’s Cocktail (Half) Hour
For the first half hour, from 6–6:30, a choice of sangrias and signature appetizers will be served. During this time we will also introduce our Torres host, who will lead the wine tasting for the evening.
Wine, Anyone? Oh, and Dinner Too
Paella Square Prepared by Chef Josu, dinner will be served over three courses. At moments during dinner, guests will be led through a tasting (and a fascinating history) of some of Spain’s most interesting wines, stretching across various regions and including popular varietals like verdejo and tempranillo. Not a wine connoisseur? No worries, this is a perfect way to learn and get excited about wine.
Dessert will be served following dinner, along with coffee and teas and a featured dessert wine.
During dessert, watch the passion and the heritage of Spain come to life with a spirited flamenco performance from the most well-known dancers and musicians in the area.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
The cost of the event is $75 per guest and is all-inclusive — the wine tasting, dinner, all beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), dessert, flamenco performance and all taxes and gratuities are covered in the ticket price. Dress is casual and accommodations will be made for guests with any dietary restrictions.
To register for the event, please select one of the event dates shown on the calendar to the right. After selecting a date, scroll down the event details and click on “Book Now”. All guests will be entered for the chance to win a trip for two to Barcelona in 2014. Details on this contest and prize are being finalized, but information will be updated at the link on the right.
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 I attended a fun wine tasting for the Trade put on by Vibrant Rioja who were showcasing the wine region at a tasting put on at Ripple Restaurant in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. Aaron Gordon was representing Vibrant Rioja and let’s just say – he’s a character! The wine trade always has attracted the artsy and the intellectual, and maybe the slightly off-center – I would say this guy fits the bill! The other speaker was a more traditional sommelier.. well almost David Denton who was also at one time a punk rock guitar player – but now he works as the sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capital Hill. But the presentation was very good – well, actually I couldn’t see the tv screen presentation (was it a slideshow?), but the layout of the wine tasting was really excellent and easy to follow – numbered glasses, white in front of red.
So what did I gain from this Rioja tasting?
-Tempranillo can be white – yes, I had probably my first white Tempranillo – and it was very good! I would say it was a medium-bodied white and I think it had some oak, but it was also unusual in that it was slightly oxidized even though it was a young wine – so it had those sherry-like features/burnt almond that made it seem much older.
-there are many indigenous varietals I had never heard of and I tried one that made me pretty excited – Maturana Tinta – a gamey/blackberry fruit red grape that had quite a bit of life and a touch of gaminess! After tasting so many steady Cabernets and even Tempranillo’s in my wine tasting career, it’s always nice to find a red varietal that has life and potential – this wine (albeit this was a better-made more expensive version by Dinastia Vivanco (2009) shows how there is more great wine to explore even from well-known regions like Rioja.
-a red wine over 10 years old isn’t necessarily brickish in color or aged in taste – I’m still amazed at the vibrancy and purple color of the Bodegas Ontanon Reserva 1995 (Tempranillo and Garnacha) – my understanding is that this wine had been kept in the winemaker’s cellar until recently which may explain alot – the color suggested a relatively young wine and the fruit was still noticeable on the palate, although there was quite a bit of that aged cedar box you get from slightly older wines. I think more than anything, Tempranillo can age amazingly well, but proper treatment and storage of your wines can make a HUGE difference when you go to open something over a decade old – consider improving or maintaining quality wine storage!
Overall, the event was very nicely laid out and had a festive feel. I also like the fact that they chose a wine bar – Ripple – vs. a traditional fancy schmancy fine dining restaurant – it gave this a more festive air. Rioja is almost an exclamation point for Spanish wine – you can simply walk in to pretty much and decent restaurant and ask for a “Rioja” and the server will know that you mean a Tempranillo from the region. Tasting Graziano, Garnacha, Maturana and many other varietals opens up this traditional wine region to new experiences. Also, the traditional blending of Cabernet and Merlot with everything is a choice here – some traditionalists in Spain are trying to bring more local character to their wines by avoiding the overly oak, rich, modern style. One last point – traditionally, Rioja uses American oak barrels vs French for aging of wines – this also gives them a slight “coconut” aromatic that sets them apart from other European wines. Cheers to Rioja!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
I attended a wonderful Spanish Wine Dinner from part of the Tradewinds Specialty Imports Portfolio – the Wine dinner was from Bodegas Ismael Arroyo, a great historic winery from the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. Here’s a photo of their 16th century wine cellar – pretty impressive!This event was held on Wednesday, May 29th at Taberna del Alabardero – the Top Rated Spanish Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and for good reason – their food, chef, management and sommelier Gustavo together make this a destination for Foodies and wine lovers – and they know how to throw a wine dinner!
Below is the menu with details – overall, I really enjoyed the wines, but especially enjoyed the aged Valsotillo Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva 2004 D.O. Ribera del Duero – and the importer Estebe explained it best – it had quite a bit of acidity to balance the tannins and American oak after aging and made the wine sing on my palate! This says alot about high alcohol levles of today’s wines: they may be enjoyable for a few sips or a glass, but acidity helps to refresh your palate and make them pair better with food. I also really enjoyed the aromatically “barnyardy” 1999 Valsotillo Gran Reserva – this was an unusual wine in that it had alot of funk on the nose, but it had a pretty delicate structure – something kind of pensive, maybe a wine to discuss philosophy or to cellar for many years and share with only close friends..there’s something to be said for that!
Food-wise, Taberna really excels, but the steak stood out for it’s simplicity, tenderness and good salty flavor – it’s rare that a steak wakes up my palate, but the flavors of this with the Tempranillo revived my tastebuds and actually I was hankering for more!
Enjoy perusing the menu..and remember..
I’m Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler !
Taberna del Alabardero Presents: Bodegas Ismael Arroyo Wine Tasting Dinner
Executive Chef Javier Romero, In collaboration with Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta, invite you to a unique Wine Tasting experience, where you are going to discover the Wines from One of the most Important Wineries in Ribera Del Duero Region: Bodegas Ismael Arroyo Featuring: Estebe Salgado Bodegas Ismael Arroyo Ambassador and Tradewindsspecialty, Inc Owner Price Per person: $95.00 (Tax and Service Included)
Friday, May 29th 2013 Reception 6:30pm Dinner 7:00pm Cocktail Reception Endivia, Mollejas y Mousse de Pato Endive, Sweetbreads and Duck Mousse Mejillones Tigre Stuffed Mussels Shells Ajoblanco de Gambas al Ajillo Cold Garlic and Almond Soup with Garlic Shrimp Flavor Bohigas Brut Nature Reserva D.O. Cava
First Appetizer Ensalada de Pochas, Codorniz a la frambuesa y lascas de Foie White Bean Salad, raspberry-quail Stew and Foie chips Valsotillo Crianza 2009 D.O. Ribera del Duero
First Course Rabo de Toro en Estofado de Noras, Calabaza Liquida y Cogollos en Tempura Nora (Sweet Pepper) Stewed Oxtail, Liquid Pumpkin and Heart Lettuce in Tempura Valsotillo Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva 2004 D.O. Ribera del Duero
Dessert Queso de Cabrales en Texturas con Helado de Membrillo Cabrales (Blue Cheese) in Textures with Quince Ice Cream Alexandro Pedro Ximenez D.O. Jerez-Xerez-Sherry
Portugal is Unique in that they produce 250 grape varietals unique to their region..
OK, I didn’t actually try to taste 250 new grape varietals (can you say “Alvarinho”, “Baga” “Trincadeira” or “Touriga Nacional” ?) but I did try to better understand the wonderful variety of wines coming from a country with a unique language and known more for fortified wines – their Ports – than for their still wines.
The best part of my tasting was the seated seminar with Evan Goldstein
– I had seen him in videos, but it was great to actually meet the wine powerhouse in person. Passionate is not a wasted word on this wine lover – he really presented with energy and humor and a keen sense of fun and adventure – he popped a few key Portguese words into the presentation but for the obvious effect – few people understand the language!
-Vinho Verde which translates as “Green Wine” does NOT mean green-hued wine, but rather a wine meant to be consumed “young”.
-Portuguese “Verdelho” is NOT the same as Spanish “Verdejo”
-There is a Rose Vinho Verde
-There are many micro-climates and the wines from the southern planes tend to ripen very evenly from year to year.
-Moscatel de Setubal is a Muscat Fortified wine other than Port from the southern Peninsula and has more of a golden raisin/apricot flavor than Ports more prunish, dark fruit flavors.
Overall I was impressed by the consistency of the wines – most had abundent acidity and enough fruit and flavor for backbone. Some of the reds such as the pure Touriga Nacional’s were quite tannic and “cedar box” spice, but still the average quality of wines was quite good.
I do want to mention that TasteDC was affiliated with the Consumer Grand Tasting that evening and helped to sell it out – although the wines were the same in the consumer tasting, the food was much better than the Trade got which is actually a good thing. Also the food was quite good – really tender carved Roast Beef, Ham Table, Specialty Taco Table and something I hadn’t seen before – a Ramen Noodle table with the chance to choose your own noodles and fixings- this kept the Vegetarians happy – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
“In Order to Make Great Wine, the Vines Must Suffer..”
I attended a recent trade tasting given by the Bureau of Burgundy Wines on Tuesday, April 23rd at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. – it was taught by a very affable and precise Jean-Pierre Renard who took us through history, philosophy and ultimately a tasting of 9 wines from the lowest classification up to a Grand Cru – Corton Grand Cru, les Renardes, 2008 Domaine Maillard.
We covered the basics of Burgundy which can actually be quite confusing. In a nutshell, Burgundy is a region and the wines are named from their location in that region. The basic breakdown is Regional wines, Village wines, Premiere Cru wines and Grands Cru wines, each respective layer being more rare and specific to a smaller number of wines and thus normally costing more as well. If you purchase a regular Bourgogne with little more information on the bottle, it most likely can come from grapes grown anywhere in that region. Village wines have regionality, but are not specific to any site while Premiere Cru and Grands Cru grapes come from specified parcels. Add to this the complexity rule-wise of “climats” which loosely translates according to the speaker as the “DNA of the individual Bourgogne Vineyards” – I actually found a site in English that delves deeper into the climats concept – the “climats”. Climats equates closely with “terroir”..
OK, now that you’re probably totally confused, let me say that much of what the speaker said rang true with what I had learned over the past 15 years at various wine classes and courses.
Burgundy has been producing serious wine since the Roman times, and afterwards the plots of land came from Church donations by nobles – they always gave their worst sites (poorest and rockiest soils) to the local Monasteries. Ironically, the rocky soils and hills they donated actually produce the world’s greatest wines!
The concept of “terroir” has really been developed from the wines of Burgundy more so than any other region – why?
1)They pretty much only use Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white wines (a few exceptions like Aligote, but these are not blended)
2)hillside vineyards grow very different quality grapes from vineyards grown in the valley – hillier/higher sites produce more intense wine flavors, valley grapes are more generic.
3)Each vineyard site has it’s own weather patterns, geology, geography and even human/historical conditions. This last point is very confusing to most Americans: wine is made by humans, NOT by nature! Choosing the right site and propagating the best grapes is a human endeavor, but Nature is always adding chance to the equation. There is science as well as mysticism in the vineyard, maybe even some witchcraft..
“People can’t wait for aging wine any more, they want to drink everything young..”
A sad refrain by Jean-Pierre, but the reality of the modern wine drinker – people today don’t want to age their wines, so they want to drink young vintages before they’re ready to shine. There is so much history in Burgundy and even though winemaking today is better than ever, to truly understand and appreciate a fine age-worthy Burgundy, you simply must wait – Patience!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Upcoming French Events on TasteDC April/May 2013:
-April 30th – French Cooking: French Basics 101 at Cookology, $65
-May 1st – Wine Maker Dinner at Eola, featuring Château Léoville-Poyferré, $135
-May 20th – French Classics: The Suckling Pig, $60
From Jancis Robinson…”the thing I hate is limiting the mouthfuls”….of wine that is 😉
It was a fascinating evening of back and forth banter on Thursday, March 21st, 2013 when Jancis Robinson “performed” at the event “Jancis Robinson Toasts American Wines at the Smithsonian”
Dave McIntyre of both the Washington Post and his own Wine Line Blog interviewed and cajoled Jancis on a comfortable stage setting – the two seated in “comfy chairs” (OK – bad Monty Python reference! )
The discussion related to wine, specificially American, and Jancis’ latest book (with the fellow authorship of Linda Murphy) American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United StatesJancis has a very British speaking style and a dry wit that is best appreciated with a glass of wine. She mentioned that there are now 8,000 wineries in the US – the majority outside of California – and this is part of why America has become a great wine producing region on the international scene. I haven’t read the book, but she mentioned that it was primarily written by Linda Murphy who is a sports writer – and there is very little technical information about wine, the book was designed to be a fun read. I want to say – it is VERY difficult to make talking about wine interesting..Dave McIntyre did a very good job by broadening the topic from just American wine into lifestyle (mentions of wine tourism and also Dave’s own organization DrinkLocalWine ) as well as an interesting word association back-and-forth at the end:
Overall, an excellent evening and the finish was a wine tasting in the famous Natural History Museum Auditorium with the elephant..nobody probably noticed, but the famous dinosaur Shark Jaws were hiding behind the wine exhibition..sort of like the evening – a subtle discussion of wine with amazingly delicious wines by American wineries from Idaho to Virginia – is America “biting back” at the French/Italian wine dominance of the past? Who knows – Cheers!
Dave: “Natural Wines” ?
Jancis: “Very trendy right now..They have to be good!” (approximation of a quote!)
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Wine Events Coming Up Over at TasteDC:
–DrinkLocalWine Conference, Saturday April 13th, Tremont Suites Hotel, Baltimore MD
–Local Wines from Local Vines, Thursday April 25th – Anne Arundel Community College
–Wines of Portugal 2013 Annual Grand Tasting (Special Discount..) National Tour comes to Washington, D.C., Thursday May 2nd, “W” Hotel Washington D.C.
Professionals Spit Their Wines Out for a Reason..
How many times have I heard at a wine tasting – “why should I spit out or dump my wine out – I paid good money to attend this event?” Well, at a recent wine tour that came to DC Around the World in 80 Sips presented by Bottlenotes everyone behaved pretty orderly, but I had to recant tales to fellow wine lovers what the point of the spit bucket is – to prevent being bombed! What I always find entertaining about 100+ person walk-around wine tastings is how formal people are at the beginning of an event..maybe even a bit uptight..but how much they loosen up after the first hour or so.So Is There Proper Etiquette at a Wine Tasting?
You know what they say about Americans – Anything Goes we take our democratic freedoms seriously, and we don’t like when people tell us to behave. Having said that, Americans often feel directionless when it comes to cultural events and particularly wine – what is the “proper” way to behave at a wine tasting? Believe it or not, I think many people are TOO polite at wine tastings, so here are some fun rules which you may feel FREE TO BREAK:
Rule #1: “Thou Shall Not Drink Everything In Thy Glass” The purpose of a spit bucket is 2-fold: first, so you can spit out wine so that you can drink more and not get drunk; second, so you can dump out excess wine for the same reason – not to get drunk! The wine professionals pouring the wine EXPECT you to dump out excess wine..they’re hoping you do so, they don’t want people to drink too much! Maybe it seems wasteful to Americans to throw away wine, but there’s a reason these are called “tastings”..dump away..
Rule #2: “Thou Shall Rinse Thy Glass Between Wines, But Not With Water” You rinse your wine glass so that the next wine tastes like the wine should. If you rinse your glass with water, that water will DILUTE the wine you’re about to taste..and it’s usually a pretty small pour. The way the PRO’s do it, is we ask for a little pour of the wine we are about to drink, we swirl and pour that excess into the bucket, and then we wait for the wine to be poured..in this way, the wine you’re tasting tastes like the..well, uhh..wine you’re tasting – not a blend of water/wine or wine and something else..I know, it seems like YOU’RE WASTING WINE..get over it..
Rule #3:“Thou Shall Move Close to the Pourer and Put Thy Wine Glass Out To Receive a Pour” I actually have a funny story in my book I Drink on the Job about a woman who walked up to receive a pour of wine, but never put out her glass..she just stood in front of the table..thinking..about what, I have no idea, but when she was offered a pour of wine, she acted like it was an offense! Don’t use your time at a wine tasting to ruminate..you’re there to taste (NOT DRINK) wine..yes, of course take a few breaks, talk with your friends, get some food, etc..but use your time EFFICIENTLY. Walk up to the wine table and find a little space to stand, put out your wine glass (do not hold it close to your body..this is how you get wine on your clothing, and that’s a BAD THING!), and either wait for the wine to be poured or request a wine to be poured..this is NOT RUDE – this is actually proper..it’s efficient too..Personally, I’m a machine when I taste: stand, offer glass, swirl, look, sniff, taste, spit or swallow, spend moment in reflection on the wine, dump wine, REPEAT..
Rule #4: “Thou Shall Not Wear Perfume, Cologne or Anything That Has an Aroma at a Wine Tasting”I’m smelling coconuts in my wine..but, it’s not emanating from the glass – somebody wore a body lotion that smelled like coconuts! Actually, I spoke with her and she was very nice, but whenever she was within 5 feet of me..ALL I COULD SMELL WAS COCONUT LOTION!
Hopefully, you take this post with good humor – none of the above mentioned Rules is really written in stone. We Americans love our independence and freedom, but when we try to behave at a cultural event, maybe we’re actually too polite..I’m not saying you should be a hillbilly and come into a wine tasting with a cavalier attitude, but it’s OK to loosen up, enjoy, and even have lively banter at a wine tasting. Within the confines of a wine tasting, there is room for self-expression, creativity, and of course conviviality, but it’s best to get the etiquette down pat first – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Some Upcoming Wine Events on TasteDC:
– 4-Course Wine and Soul Wine Dinner, Tuesday, March 19th at The Fairfax Hotel at Embassy Row
– Cheese Class with Rogue Creamery’s Cheese Maker, Wednesday, March 27th, Ici Urban Bistro, 806 15th St., NW, Washington DC 20005
– Wines of Portugal 2013 Annual Grand Tasting (Special Discount..), Thursday, May 2nd, W Hotel Washington D.C. 515 15th St NW , Washington DC 20004
Sometimes You Get More Than You Expected at a Wine Tasting..
I’ve been to alot of low-priced wine tastings – and normally, the price of the event and the quality of food/wine/ambiance match – but not this time! Redwood Restaurant in Bethesda, MD which is right in the heart of the burgeoning retail sector on Bethesda Ave (anchored currently by Barnes and Noble) is a beautiful high-ceilinged restaurant with plenty of redwood (surprise!) and glass fronting on a lovely outdoor open-aired pedestrian atrium.
Although there was not actually a private area for this walk-around tasting (no seating) it was in the back of the restaurant and began at 6 pm before the hordes of diners and bar loungers came in. It was a simple basic setup of regular tables with wine reps pouring a selection of their wines at each table based on a theme: Table 1 – South Africa, Table 2 – Italy, Table 3 – France/Germany/Spain and Table 4 – Argentina/Australia/California. Each table had 5 wines, so that adds up to 20..the 20 wines for $20 title..but really, this event had more: generous hors d’oeuvres! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos of the food, but it was well-prepared, presented by servers with a napkin (nice touch..funny how important a napkin can be when you are trying to drink wine in a glass!).
The Wines (my apologies for forgetting vintages!): Since I find reviewing wine boring and frankly hard to follow, I’ll focus on what caught my attention. I started at the South African Table with wine rep Matt Leemhuis of Cape Classics, a well-known importer from that region. Two wines were really noticeable – the Kanonkop Pinotage and the Detoren Fusion V, both over $50 retail in Montgomery County. Pinotage is a funky, earthy smokey kinda wine, but it goes great with food. Detoren was it’s polar opposite with a Bordeaux Blend that was luscious rich black fruit and soft tannins and extremely accessible.
At Table 3 which was a mix of European wines, the Leitz Dragonstone Riesling really stood out – all the things I like about a German Riesling with a hint of petrol, but lots of minerality and acidity to balance a bit of sweetness – although Rieslings are great food wines (think Asian food), this one was actually so vibrant on the palate that me a Red wine drinker was just savoring it!
At Table 2 Italy, there was a very interesting white, but I was really enjoying the Argiano Non-Confunditor which is a blend made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese – a Super Tuscan wine, and it actually tasted like a blend of Old World and New World – earth and soil from Italy, but roundness from Cabernet – a really interesting contrast!
Table 4 had contrasting Malbecs: Finca Sophenia Malbec Reserva vs Voodoo Moon Malbec – the first was pretty traditional with a touch of rough tannins and earthy overtones, while the latter was all perfume and weirdly candy-like – unexpected but delicious!
Food: I didn’t try everything, but all hors d’oeuvres were passed – the chicken wings were especially good and enormous – they were in a sweetish BBQ sauce that was decadently good, thumbs up (I ate them to the bone!). The fried foods were served hot, an although the pimento cheese biscuit was only OK, I was overall impressed by service and the food in general.
Conclusion:If they do another 20 for 20 event, snap up a ticket – it’s a great deal, great food and really decent setup and service. If I could Yelp this event (I probably could!), it would be 5 Stars, no caveats. Forgot to mention..even the wine glasses were very nice and big allowing for good swirling..Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Upcoming Wine Tastings at TasteDC:
I attended a really fun Sparkling Wine Comparison Tasting of Champagne vs. The Rest at the Hill Center as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. There were actually 2 speakers at the event: Burnie Williams of Chat’s Liquors who did most of the educational component of the event and a French gentleman I only remember as “Charles” who spoke about the specifics of the 4 wines we tasted because he imported them.
The Wine: There were 4 sparkling wines poured of which 2 were non-Champagne (one Italian, one French Cremant) and two “true” Champagnes. (I’ve included “suggested retail price” which usually means you can get them for a bit less..)
- Ca’ dei Zago DOC Proseccor Coi Fondo 2010 – Prosecco is actually made in a less expensive method than traditional Champagne – the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tank. This was also a pretty dry version of Prosecco – they usually are a bit more sweet.
- Klein “Cremant d’Alsace” Chardonnay Extra Brut (Alsace, France), $29.99 – very nice Chardonnay based sparkler – pretty good value.
- Champagne Francois Diligent Rose Cote de Bar, NV (Champagne, France), $36.99- this wine was a bit funky, but I think the cork had ruined it..
- Laherte Freres “Les Vignes d’Autrefois-A Chavot” Extra Brut, 2006 (Champagne, France) $74.99 – My favorite by a long shot – price doesn’t always determine quality, but this wine had the wine on the lees for 3 years in bottle and this created that nutty, smokey, yeasty complexity that I LOVE in Champagne – by this one for me!
The Education: Burnie Williams, the owner of Chat’s Liquors did an excellent job of covering a pretty involved and complex topic. You see, sparkling wines are created different from other wines – they must go through a second fermentation to create the bubbles, the first fermentation creates the “wine” and alcohol. He did an excellent job of covering both the history (yep, Dom Perignon was NOT the inventor of sparkling wine!) and the process of making sparkling wines. I’ve attended many sparkling wine classes so rather than bore with you with all the details, the most interesting parts of making this type of wine are:
Lees – these are the dead yeast that drop to the bottom of the barrel or bottle, depending on how you’re aging your wine. If you let them stay with the wine and age, they create a yeasty/nutty flavor and aroma, if you take them away (slightly different than “filtering” a wine, but similar process), then the wine will have a cleaner more fruit-driven expression.
Riddling – this is the process of turning the bottles a few turns every so often for maybe a year or two to get the dead yeast from the 2nd fermentation out of the wine. This was once done by humans wearing cages on their face to prevent chards of glass from cutting their faces if the bottles exploded (19th century bottles had poor technology!), but now often done by machines.
Disgorging – After riddling, the dead yeast/lees are now upside down in the bottle and form a plug of..dead yeast! This has to be removed or “disgorged” – the way it’s done today is by freezing this gook but putting the bottles part way into an ice bath with salted water – the low temperature freezes only the plug and thus it is pulled out.
Dosage – This is after the dead lees are taken out, the final flavor and sugar level is added back – Brut is less sugar than Extra Dry, so the type of flavor/sweetness is determined at this point.
Overall, had a really fun time at this event and it was a helluva deal at such a low price! I’m chatting it up with Chat’s Liquors to do more tasting events – DC has very few wine tastings right now, and the demand is there. As always, keep drinking good sparkling wine, Champagne or whatever is in your glass..you only live once – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler