Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beaujolais: The red wine that drinks like a white!

I just have to rave about my obsession with Beaujolais for a little bit.  It's so light and refreshing and full of personality.  Beaujolais is a region in France known for the Gamay grape.  One thing that is so different about Beaujolais is that it is very light and low in tannins.  It's only fermented for a few weeks and is to be opened very soon after bottling.  In fact one of the most celebrated days each year in the wine world is "Beaujolias Nouveau"  which celebrates the first harvest of the gamay grape.  I recently was able to try the 2010 harvest and it was quite tasty and made for a great Thanksgiving wine.  However, if you have the opportunity I would reccomend getting any of the 2009 villages Beaujolais.  This is an extraordinary vintage and should not be missed!  Georges Deboeuf is an excellent shipper and is widely available in most liquor stores.  As far as food pairing, think picnic food and snacks.  If nothing else, Beaujolais is a terrific wine to drink on its own.  Well that's all from me for now.  Happy drinking!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Drovers Grill & Wine Bar

My husband and I finally had the privilege of visiting the new and renewed Drovers restaurant down the street from our house.  We had seen the new owner busy at work revamping the tired restaurant and were told that it would be reopening with a whole new dynamic.  He told us his goal was to open a Maryland themed restauratn with food and wine produced within 30 miles of the restaurant.  Needless to say we could not wait for the place to open.  Luckily our wish recently came true and we were able to finally see the new and improved Drovers.  We were greeted by friendly wait staff who seemed very knowledgeable about the menu and wine on the list.  Even though this was a reopening and the menu had only days before been written, it seemed to be running well.  The staff seemed eager and excited about what there was to offer.  The excitement of the staff seemed driven by the owner, Kevin whose enthusiasm and passion seemed to rub off on everyone in the restaurant.  "It all started with a Kubota tractor" according to owner Kevin Vanek.  The cute local restaurant located on Frederick Rd. in the Poplar Springs of Mount Airy was running into some financial problems and Kevin happened to be at the right place at the right time.  He was in the market for a tractor and got something more after hearing about the restaurant in need of a makeover.  His love of food and wine combined with a desire to make an investment in something he loved gave him the idea of starting his new venture.  Kevin is a trained opera singer, but decided that he was ready to make an investment in something else he was passionate about.  Thank goodness he did because the place is fantastic!  The first thing we experienced, to our delight, was a lovely wine sampling from several Maryland wineries.  All of the wines on the list are from Maryland, and Kevin himself gave us a brief introduction of each one we sampled.  This guy clearly did some major networking with some of the best farms and vineyards in the area and his efforts have really paid off.  My husband ordered the grilled romaine salad with blackened beef and I had the spaghetti squash pasta.  We were both extremely pleased with our meals.  I convinced Ben that we should also order dessert.  We were given a sample of the Chocolate Zin dessert wine (unfortunately I do not remember the winery).  It was Zin-ful to say the least.  This was paired with the baked apple dessert and was A-MA-ZING!  All I can say is what I told Kevin at the restaurant.  Wine and food is the best pleasure you can have in public!  ...And Drovers is the best public place to have this pleasure!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Resveratrol: As if I need another reason to love wine!

If you are having trouble choosing between beer or wine, maybe this little ingredient inherently found in red wine will help make your decision.  Resveratrol is the anti-aging ingredient I'm talking about and it is found in the skins of grapes.  According to Wikipedia, resveratrol is defined as "a polyphenol and phytoalexin produced naturally by several plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi." Well that sounds extremely boring.  So is this all a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but major research is being done on the subject and its coming out pretty good for us wine drinkers. The Mayo Clinic reported that "resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces "bad" cholesterol and prevents blood clots."  This could explain the theory of the French Paradox, which suggests that the reason the French suffer significantly less incidences of coronary artery disease despite their diet which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol is due to their large consumption of wine.  Sounds like a great diet to me:  Cheese, olive-oil, and wine!  Experiments have been done on mice that show better heart and artery health, better bone health, more agility, a longer life-span, and overall weight control.  Resveratrol appears to be equivalent to a calorie restricted diet in animals.  Now this doesn't mean that you should start drinking wine for every meal quite yet.  There is still much to be learned about resveratrol.  Many research facilities are beginning clinical research and hopefully we will be getting some results soon.  Some people have already taken it upon themselves to start taking resveratrol supplements on their own.  There are pills available right now boasting longer life and weight control that contain resveratrol.  However it is unknown what dosage is appropriate to make a difference in humans.  As for me though, I like my wine and if their are added health benefits attached to it, that's all the better for me. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gushing Over Wine: What else is new?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit a new bar in Hampden in Baltimore City called "13.5% Wine Bar".  It's located conveniently on the "Avenue" across from the Hon Bar.  The wine bar is very cozy and intimate with a wall of wines displayed in the dining area.  The wait staff is very knowledgeable and attentive.  The wines offered are reasonable in price and there are some tasty items to choose from.  Most interesting in the food selection was the pumpkin pizza.  This was very light and different and something I have been craving since.  I am a sucker for spanish wines so I started with a nice Tempranillo.  Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the wine and I forgot to write it down.  Unfortunately I did not see it listed on their online menu.  Anyway, it was delicious.  But I am always a fan of tempranillo and have yet to try one I haven't melted over.  The second selection I tasted was the Bodegas Tarima Monastrell 2009.  Aside from the fact that the label (seen above) is gorgeous, the wine itself was extremely memorable.  The first thing I noticed was the light fruity aroma with some floral notes.  The taste was that of licorice and chocolate.  Fabulous!  I am really hoping to find this in my local wine shop as its something I would love to have in my collection.  Another great thing about this wine is the fact that it was only $20 at the bar.  My guess is its much cheaper at the liquor store.  Great QPR (quality to price ratio) wine.  My pairing recommendation for this lovely wine is a nice pungent cheese, like blue cheese.  Needless to say, I think spanish wines are becoming my favorite very quickly.  At least this week they are.  Well, CHEERS and happy sipping!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rock Climbing, then Wine: But Never In the Reverse Order

Sensing that Halloween weekend might be the last decent weekend for outdoor enjoyment, my husband and I went to do a little climbing in Harper's Ferry at Balcony Rock.  What a fantastic place!  It's tucked away behind a railroad track (which seems to be where a lot of the best climbing rocks are) and overlooks the river.  Now I am a fairly novice climber but there seems to be enough rock for all levels of expertise.  After a couple hours of climbing and with my nerves shot we decided what better time than to go taste some wines!  My only concern was that my forearms were to worn out to hold a glass.  Nevertheless, we headed over to Frederick Cellars.  What a cool place!  The winery is located right in the heart of Frederick, MD and their vineyard (Mountain Creek Vineyard) is located elsewhere in Middletown.  Their tasting room opens up to the exposed winery.  You get to hear, smell, and taste everything going on in the process of the winemaking.  The winemaker even invited us over to check out what they were doing.  They were transferring the cabernet must to the de-stemmer at the time.  I found out that they actually grow their own cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grapes in their vineyard.  In fact their un-oaked Chardonnay and their 2008 cabernet were among my favorites served at the winery.  Another surprise for me was the Rose, which was made with chambourcin grapes and had a dry, spicy taste.  For those who enjoy something a little sweeter, look for the Trail's End.  This one is a Riesling blend with lovely floral notes.  Overall, I think this is a place to check out for sure.  Down town Frederick is just a cool place in general for foodies and winos.  I can't wait to go back!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cote de WHAT?

So I just started reading Windows of the World: Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly and I must say I am excited by what I've read so far.  I think I'm really going to learn a lot even though the first course was about the white wines of France, which is no easy task to learn.  Now let me preface by saying I never took French in school and am not familiar with how to pronounce any word that has more than 3 vowels in a row.  Thank goodness for the excellent pronunciation section in the back of the book.  I had to flip to that at least 50 times throughout this first lesson.  ANYWAY, I really do think that as far as learning the many regions where wine is produced, this book will be an excellent tool.  I will of course give a full review once I complete it. 

I've received the other books in the mail as well.  I am hoping to get through them sometime this century! :-)  Seriously though I think I'm going to get a lot of information out of them.  I am particularly excited to read about tasting wine.  This is after all what wine is here for anyway.  I can learn as many facts as I want, but ultimately the pleasure comes in the form of experience.  I am hoping to stick with the flow of learning and begin my tasting with French wines as well.  To be honest I have always made my wine selection based on the look of the label.  Does the wine have a colorful animal on it?  Done!  While this has gotten me through thus far I do realize that there's a lot more to picking out a good wine.  Picking out a French wine is a little mind numbing for many reason.  Mainly, the French wine labels are obviously not in English.  Secondly, they tend to look very plain.  But understanding what to look for is worth your while, or at least that's what I'm finding out. 

Another thing that makes selecting French wine very difficult for American consumers like me is that French wine is emphasized and labeled by the region (appellation) and not by the varietal (type of grape).  We are used to picking out a Cabernet Sauvignon for example or a Pinot Gris.  These are the actual types of grape for which the wine is made.  When selecting a French wine however, you may pick a Bordeaux.  A Bordeaux is not a type of grape but actually a region in France.  Other regions include Burgundy and Champagne.  The wines grown and produced in these regions are made from the various grapes grown locally to that area.  There are many other sub regions for which the wines may be named as well. 

Its a tricky business but I do hope to become more proficient.  And I will be coming to you and sharing as much as I can about my progress. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Maryland's Strict Distribution Laws Limiting for Newbies Like Me!

This is going to be a bit of a rant but I must say I am very frustrated with Maryland's strict laws on wine distribution.  I have been doing a lot of reading up on the wine blogs and have been interested in many of the recommended wines for tasting.  While in most states you could simply order most of these wines online from the distributer, in Maryland its considered a felony....a FELONY!  Why?  Well, of course teenagers will simply order wine online.  Now I was a teenager once and the last way I would have ever thought to buy my alcohol was from some fancy vineyard in Napa Valley.  Even if I had known that was an option I still would not have paid even $12.00 for one bottle of wine, paid for the shipping cost, and then waited a week.  Seriously, I'd do what most teenagers did and send someone who IS 21 to pick up a case of Natural Light.  If we really wanted wine then surely one of our parents had some box wine we could sneak.  Well, what about the other argument for the law in Maryland?  There are those that feel that buying wines online would decrease business for local retailers.  Fair enough, but if you ask me and most of my friends who don't have wine cellars there is still going to be business at the wine and liquor stores.  We are simply spontaneous people.  I don't often have the wherewithal to stock up on wine sometimes.  I would still have the need to drop in the store and would generally do that more often than not.  My gripe is that in learning about wine from different regions it would be nice to order from places directly at times.  Hell, I'd love to go to these various regions and be able to purchase wine from the vineyards and transport it back to Maryland with me, but guess what?  That's not happening either.

So what's the deal with this crazy law business?  Well its called the three-tier system of alcohol distribution
What can we do about it?  Write our representatives and tell them what you think.  I am including an easy formatted letter from "Free the Grapes" to make things simple below.

Thanks for hearing me out.  Now I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wine Meetups in Mount Airy, MD

I joined a wine meetup group in Mount Airy.  I hope this will give me a chance to do some regular tasting with others in the area.
In the past I have always purchased bottle after bottle for tasting, but it really can get to be an expensive hobby.  I'm hoping some group tastings will allow me to taste more wines at a time for comparison.  Fortunately, there are several wineries in the area that do regular tastings.  Black Ankle Vineyard is absolutely awesome.

Long road ahead

I have always loved the taste of wine and felt that there is something magical about the process of drinking it.  Unlike other beverages, wine seems to be more of a visceral experience.  The process of tasting wine requires you to use all of your senses from the visual inspection, the action of swirling, the smelling, and the tasting.  I must admit that though I can go through all these motions and do enjoy the process, I am still very much an amateur wine lover.  I have a general understanding of what I like and dislike.  But in selecting a wine I can still be tempted by a flashy looking label, which subsequently is a great marketing trick for people on my limited wine knowledge level.  My goal in starting this blog is to track my wine education process.  I am not trying to become the world's greatest sommelier or even the next Robert Parker.  I am simply trying to increase the pleasurable experience that is tasting wine.  My husband and I both have been experimenting with making homemade wine.  It's been a fun and interesting process which has really sparked our desire to do more.  We would love to consider starting our own vineyard some day.  But it would really help to have more of a grasp on the subject before we do.  I hope to be somewhat of a source for others going through the same process.  On the other end of the spectrum I do hope to gain advice from people who have a bit more of a sophisticated palate than I have.

So on that note I would like to share with you a few of the reference books I have ordered from Amazon to get started.

Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk From a Master Sommelier by Andrea Robinson
Wine Tasting Notebook by Steve De Long
Windows on the World Wine Course 2009 by Kevin Zraly
How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
 The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Winery by Thomas Pellechia