Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro is one of the most underrated wine bars in the region. The food is consistently excellent and wine list is phenomenal. Jason, the manager of Vinifera, has a lot of contacts in the wine industry and those contacts are reflected in the unique selection of wines.
A few weeks ago Vinifera hosted a wine dinner featuring wines from Cakebread Cellars and hosted by Dennis Cakebread.
In addition to being a great winemaker, Dennis Cakebread is an entertaining story teller. Between each course he talked about the wine, answered questions, and shared stories about the wine.
It was great to get perspective on the Napa wine industry from a winemaking legend. He continually referred to most Napa Chardonnays as being produced by "Château 2 x 4". He also talked at length about night harvesting and the perils of biodynamic winemaking.
The story that really captured everyone's attention was the origin of the name Cakebread. The Cakebread family hired a genealogist to determine the origins of their family name. The name originates from a type of peasant food that was popular in England in the middle ages. The genealogist was able to track down a recipe and share it with the Cakebreads, who thought it would be cool to make it and serve it in the tasting room as a signature dish.
The only problem is that peasants in England in the middle ages did not eat very well, and Cakebread is awful.
Fortunately, the wine and food that evening were significantly better. Which shouldn't be a surprise. Cakebread Cellars makes excellent wines. For the dinner we were able to try the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Chardonnay Reserve, 2007 Zinfandel, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2007 Dancing Bear Ranch.
The standout for me was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine received a 90 point score from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker and had aromas of plum, cassis and tobacco. It was a nicely balanced wine with good black fruit up front and a soft finish with well-structured tannins.
The wine paired extremely well with the veal chop stuffed it's smoked shallots and cauliflower purée and purple potatoes that Chef Bo chose to pair it with.
I also really liked the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, it is a light wine with green apple and citrus notes. It is a bright wine, with lots of effervescence. Great fruit and acidity make this a really enjoyable wine.
The 2011 - 2012 winter has been exceptionally mild in Virginia, and this has some winemakers worried. With vines already starting to leak sap and budbreak around the corner, 2012 could be a nice long growing season. The challenge is that most areas in Virginia are in danger of frost through the end of April. Frost is something that Doug Fabbioli, of Fabbioli Cellars, knows something about. I asked him about the mild winter:
My biggest fears would be early bud break and then a cold snap that freezes the green shoots. You know about my frost issues 2 years ago. The machine I purchased will work when there is air stratification or layers of cold and warm air. When a front comes in like last October and drops a couple inches of snow, there is no protection against that. We want that when it does warm up that it stays warm or at least above freezing.
Next is the fact that once we have sap flow and water movement like this we can expect to start seeing bud-break within two weeks. A March bud-break around here is very scary because then you can't get frost of the shoots will be killed and you lose the years crop. If we do get bud break in the next few weeks you can bet I will have some sleepless nights and Helicopters on speed dial. Sounds pricey, but so is losing 42 acres of grapes. They draw the warm air down to help raise the temperature a few degrees if you are on the border. If we get 25 degrees after bud break, then I will think about making beer this year
With the mild weather we're experiencing the vines can experience accelerated development which leads to early bud break. The young buds and shoots are left vulnerable to spring frost. Frost and dramatic temperature can lead to damage or death of the vines or at best, delay harvest. It's really a "Hurry up and wait" game at this point. We're getting a heck of a lot of work done in the vineyard in this beautiful weather so for now, we're cautiously optimistic.
That all said, this is all pessimistic thinking. We could also get an early bud break which gives potential for a longer growing season. The long term from the La Nina shows that we could have a relatively cool summer. If that is the case the extra couple weeks of growing season might be great. We could have a long cool growing season that would give great fruit and moderate alcohols and bright acid.
So in the end, am I scared, absolutely. But, I like to be optimistic and especially when there is nothing that can really be done. I don't even have to play the realist card because it won't help the end resultanyway. So bring it on!
The other cool thing about looking at long term weather is I get to act like a weather man which is the ultimate job of no accountability.
Last week we wrote about the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Brazil. Stopping in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, the tasting was a huge success.
Brazil is a challenging market for Bordeaux, while there is an appetite for good wine, the tax structure makes Bordeaux wine prohibitively expensive. Henri Lurton, owner of Chateau Brane-Cantenac had this to say:
We had a very good tasting in San Paulo . The interest in Bordeaux wine is very important. There is big importers but also a lot of new ones following the growth of the market. The big problem at the time is the amount of taxes. We find BC 08 in shops at 400 reals so it means 200 €!
A lot of wine lovers use the fact that a family travelling can bring back 18 bottles/capita so a family of four can bring back from the US 4x18bt . It is very important for the very expensive wines.
It's a new market so there is a lot of education to do but there is a great interest and the coming of 80 châteaux of UGCB, for sure will make the interest grow again.
The tasting a Sao Paulo was fabulous. The wine enthusiasts are just that: enthusiastic for Bordeaux and all of its appellations! They loved the 2009 vintage and were a delight to meet and interact with; there was a wonderful exchange of information. The same could be said for Rio de Janeiro.
This trip has been eye-opening to me, a first time visitor. I've had the opportunity to meet Brazilian visitors in the past but to see them discover our wines in their home country is wonderful. We've been able to share with them our hard work and passion, while they have opened our eyes to a wonderful, rich culture of gastronomie and their love of wine.
Harvest is an exciting time of year full of anticipation and questions: How well did the fruit mature? Will there be enough rain to give the grapes that final boost? Will the grapes get to the right brix level before they start to wither? Of course, once the questions are answered and it is time to harvest, the real work starts. This year I was lucky enough to get to spend a day help Vicki
Bluemont Vineyard has always been a destination winery because of the amazing views (see below). The wines they produced seem to match that ideal, with the focus being on patio wines that pair well with a deck and good friends. As the winery has matured so have their wines and this latest batch of wines reflects a more mature wine making style. The first release is their Petit Manseng (
Over on the Boxwood blog they have a great write-up about the harvest process at their winery. There are some great pictures of their consultants, the vines and the Boxwood Team as well as some insight into the process of deciding when to harvest. Harvest begins at Boxwood today...can't wait to see what the 2009 vintage holds!
The list of winners from the 2010 Virginia Governor's Cup for white wines has been announced and Loudoun County wineries, once again, shine: Gold Winner: Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Dessert Wine Blends White Silver Winners: Casanel Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Oaked Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Albarino Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Chrysalis Vineyards 2009 Viognier Doukenie Winery
I am glad to see that the United States is not the only country with weird rules pertaining to wine. It turns out that until now China has not been able to import Sauternes: With much talk about the Chinese market for Bordeaux, one important segment has until now not been officially permitted in China: Sauternes and Barsac. The renowned Bordeaux sweet wines – and other dessert wines – contain
The bloggers over at Enjoy Bordeaux posted a link to this recipe for Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes: 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.5 oz) 6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder 3/8 teaspoons baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 oz unsalted butter, softened 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons red wineThat sounds amazing, I think I
If you are looking for something to do this Sunday (Sept 19th) you might want to check out Vintage Crystal in Crystal City. From their press release: While enjoying more than 30 different wines hailing from Spain and South America, visitors to the festival can taste complimentary dishes from local favorites including Cabot Creamery, Café Pizzaiolo, CC Bistro, Domaso, Hamburger Hamlet, Jaleo
' It is not often that I get to sit next to a wine legend, but that is exactly what happened on Saturday as I got to sit to the right of Lew Parker, winemaker at Willowcroft Winery and Virginia winemaking legend, at the Tuskies meet the winemaker luncheon. The luncheon was part of a series of "Meet the Winemaker" luncheons that Tuskies has been hosting this year, and it was a lot of fun.
While Virginia wine has exploded over the last few years our neighbor to the north has been sorely neglected. There are some excellent wineries in Maryland, but the state has not gotten the attention that Virginia has. On the other hand, the advantage Maryland wineries have is that they can experiment: As a start-up vineyard adventure on our Southern Maryland farm, the idea of becoming a
I write a lot about Virginia and Bordeaux on this blog, but there are other wine regions in the world. One of the most well-known is Champagne, and they started their harvest yesterday: “Due to a frost that we had earlier in 2010, the development of the grapes was slightly delayed this year,” remarked Champagne Bureau Director Sonia Smith. “Harvests are two to four days behind last year, except
Wine Spectator has another report on sales of Bordeaux 2009 futures: Leading Bordeaux négociants tell Wine Spectator that sales to the U.S. were down compared to past big vintages like 2005. Sales to European markets, especially London, and Asian markets, such as Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong, easily made up for the difference. Mainland China, a young market for futures, also showed