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Wine Dogs on Vacation

Date: Tue, Aug 19, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Wine Dogs are enjoying some well deserved R&R at the Outer Banks. We'll fill you in on the local wine scene. On day one, Munchkin and Pomeroy discovered they like Pina Coladas. It's a ruff life!

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Wine Dogs Visit Virginia's New "PC" Winery

Date: Sun, Aug 3, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Hear ye, hear ye: The winery formerly known as Stillhouse shall henceforth be known as The Philip Carter Winery. Huzzah!

Markham, VA

After running into PC-PR Maven Donna at the Linden Shell Station, Pomeroy and Munchkin decided it was time to check back in at the winery formerly known as Stillhouse and see how our friend Fairfax the Shih Tzu was doing in her new role as wine dog.

Fairfax is very proud to have been named for Lord Fairfax, who granted 300,000 acres of land to King Carter, father of Charles Carter, maker of the first internationally recognized wine in Virginia and ancestor of Philip Carter Strother, the current owner. Talk about a name with history (both Fairfax and The Philip Carter Winery)!

So it was little surprise that Charles Carter and Thomas Jefferson were on hand for official renaming on May 24th. It attracted quite a crowd, including of course the Virginia Wine Dogs.

This latest visit was all about the wine. Philip and Danielle greated us warmly, and Philip patiently introduced us to the new PC offerings of two whites, four reds, and two dessert wines.

Falconwood is the PC white table wine, a fruity blend of Vidal, Seval, and Chardonney. The label features a beautiful Fauquier County landscape (one of several paintings by artist Adrei Kushnie that can be found around the tasting room). One dollar from each bottle goes to the Leeds Ruritan Memorial Scholarship fund for a student who pursues an education in vitaculture.

The other white, a light citrussy Chardonney, was just perfect for the Dog Days of August, and our choice for enjoying out on the patio surrounded by the lush vines with the Blue Ridge in the background. But first... the reds. The line-up included a Chambourcin; a dry, peppery Cabernet Franc that Munchkin sniffed and confirmed "smells like Virginia"; as well as an earthy Cabernet with cherry undertonse and nice legs. The Meritage with its nice tannins set Munchkin's tail waggin', while Pomeroy enjoyed the locally produced Darby cheese.

There is also an oh so PC late harvest Vidal with the usual sweetness but a less syrupy consistency than is common.

Sweet Danielle is the name given to PC's port-style offering, and the label features a wedding cameo of Danielle. Philip worked secretly with an artist for months on the design, then invited his wife to dinner and "selected" the wine which was presented at the table to an emotional Danielle (Pomeroy, are you paying attention?). Is it coincidence that the new owners have added an event wing, perfect for weddings, including a bride's room?

The Wine Dogs spent an enjoyable afternoon at PC. It was great to catch up with Fairfax, and to meet her boys, the five-year-old twins Carter (left) and Pierce (right), who kept us entertained with peaches and cheese to compliment our wine. Thanks, boys!
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Dog Days of August Begin

Date: Fri, Aug 1, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

As the summer heats up, so does the Wine Dogs' social calendar. Munchkin and Pomeroy recomend a couple of fun doggie events this weekend.

Pomeroy's Paw Signing

Come to Pomeroy’s official “Paw Signing” of his very own Hallmark Birthday Card.

Saturday, August 2, 10:00a - noon
JJ’s Hallmark
610 King Street, Alexandria

Thanks to everyone who came, and don't forget to vote for "Happy Boy" Roy.

Barrel Oak Winery

Our friends Brian and Sharon Roeder at BOW are hosting a Dawg Days of Summer weekend, and those who come with their best friends get 10% off all take out bottles of wine and 15% on all cases!

Friday nite, August 1, from 6-9pm is TGISunsets. You can play in the grass or lie quietly cooling on your belly watching the sun fall lazily behind the beautiful Piedmont. Wonderful wine and lite fare on the patio and a great way to wine down the week!

Saturday, August 2 is a Dawg Day with Paws n Claws pet photographers taking dog shots from 1 till 5pm. They''ll have hot dogs BBQing on the patio for a donation to our friends at Middleburg Humane. And there'll be a Doggies in Drag competition with prizes and snacks for all!

Sunday, August 3 is a Dawg Day! The fur flies with more photography by Paws n Claws, BBQ'd hot dawgs on the patio and prizes for the uggliest best friend and handsomest mutt. Of course, snacks for all of fuzzy friends!

Downtown Frederick
Downtown Frederick goes to the dogs with "Dog Days of Summer," on Saturday, August 2. The festivities begin at 5PM, featuring a dog contest, dog friendly stores, animal art & more and conclude with a Yappy Hour doggie after party that runs til 9 PM. Also enjoy live entertainment, guest artists and extended shopping hours at 80+ downtown stores. A portion of Dog Days proceeds benefit the event's co-organizer, the Frederick County Humane Society.

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Wine Dogs Make Wine: Lesson 6 (Put a Cork in It... We're Done!)

Date: Tue, Jul 29, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Three Fox Vineyards
Delaplane, VA

It's bottle and cork time! No surprise, Munchkin and Pomeroy have become teacher's pets, and in the last class, John uses our wine for the demonstration.

Everybody gets to taste "Wine Dog" wine!

Munchkin, ever the perfectionist, feared the team had "over-oaked."

Pomeroy assured her that it just needs time in a bottle for the flavors to blend and intensify.

And the classmates agree, giving Wine Dogs two paws up.

One minor issue -- the wine is a little short on mouth-feel. Additives to the rescue, this time in the form of a jammy substance called exberry, which is basically grapeskin. Mixed in 20 grams and it's ready to hit the bottle.

Once again, we set up a wine-pumping assembly line, with Munchkin and Pomeroy supervising the bottling process.

Uncle Jeff quickly learned it takes great precision to fill the bottles just to the neck.

He did a pretty good job... most of the time. Fortunately, Munchkin was on hand to take care of the spillage. In this case, it turns out the wine isn't really good to the last drop. We left the residue behind, but ended up with 28 bottles.

To close them up, we used a manual corking machine, which squeezes the cork then jams it in. John did everyone's bottles. Quite a workout!

Then over to the foil machine (there's one for that, too). Slip the cap on top of the bottle, and slide it into a really hot machine. Uncle Jeff never did get the in-out motion right, but everyone else seemed to master capping.

All in all, the Wine Dogs are proud of their first vintage. The cabernet is rich and complex, and goes down smooth. John predicts that when we serve it at our paw-ty, our guests will think we got the wine in France. We'll tell 'em it was bottled in a little town just outside of Paris... Paris, Virginia that is.

Cheers to all our classmates... keep up your wining ways!
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BOW Wows the Wine Dogs

Date: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Barrel Oak Winery
Delaplane, VA

Munchkin and Pomeroy got so caught up in the grand opening excitment at Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) they almost forgot to post.

What a day! The big stone fireplace was still an open hole in the wall; the railing had yet to be connected upstairs; and there were bathroom glitches. But the tasting room and the wines were ready for the the crowds that came pouring in off I-66. Host Brian Roeder welcomed the Wine Dogs warmly, and led us through a tasting of seven basic-flight and five reserve wines in between greetings from his buds and even a congratulatory call from home.

Sharon serves as winemaker, and her basic wines are solid. The BOWHaus White recently took Gold at both the Virginia State Fair and again at the 2008 Indy International Wine Competition. We can attest that it's light and fresh and a great patio-sipping wine on a hot summer day. Even Munchkin, a confirmed red wine drinker enjoyed, although she is partial to the BOWHaus Red (note the pawprints on the bottle).

Pomeroy found the Merlot easy to drink, while Munchkin was torn between her usual fav the CabFranc (great peppery finish) and the velvety smooth Petit Verdot. Not to be missed are the dessert wines, the pineapply Late Harvest Viogner was great, but overshadowed by the Chocolate Lab. This rich red blend aged with real chocolate is a dessert in itself.

Flowers lined the tasting bar, including an arrangement bearing good luck wishes from Holli and John at neighboring Three Fox Vineyards. The Roeders are helping promote synergy among Fauquier County's wineries and businesses, even bringing in the alpacas from the Full Moon Farm. There are beautiful alpaca items for sale in the spacious tasting room as well. Brian has seen to every detail, playing up advantage of setting and incorporating rocks from the Blue Ridge and wood from barrels into the design.

The tasting room flows gracefully out to the patio, with its vista views of the vineyards, the mountains, and John Marshall's estate. The Roeder's new Golden Retriever, Justice, is named in his honor. Word is the young pup overindulged one day on strawberries that had fermented in the hot sun and got a little tipsy. He's going to make a great Wine Dog!

When it's good, you keep coming back. And the Wine Dogs think Barrel Oak Winery is the cat's meow. Munchkin's already visited three times, and the whole pack will return on Friday, July 18 for BOW's TGISunset under the Blood Moon. We can't wait to check it out, and to and see how Puppy Justice has grown.
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Wine Dogs Fall into the (Chester) Gap

Date: Sun, Jul 6, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Chester Gap Cellars
Front Royal, VA

The Wine Dogs made their second visit to Chester Gap this weekend to pick up more bottles of the their new summer standard... the 2006 Rose, an exquisite blend of CabFranc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot bled off the fine grapes grown on the estate.

It was April when Roy and Munchkin first fell into the Gap... actually, they decided to spring up on Chester Gap Cellars to check out the new tasting room and patio deck (the a picnic table was crafted by the local tech class). For years, owners Bernd and Kristi Jung had been doing their tastings under a canvas tent behind their home.

"We focus on the wine," Bernd told the Wine Dogs, and the results certainly show. This wine is Quality with a capital "Q." Merchants and restaurants in DC and across Virginia are lapping it up (as did the Wine Dogs). The Chester Gap label can be found in more than 80 establishments, including Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, or look for it when dining at Bistro Bis, the Georgetown Club, Charlie Palmer's and the Inn at Little Washington, among others. Not bad for a small vineyard that produces 1,500 cases a year.

German-born Bernd has been making wine since mid-1980s, arriving in Virginia via Florida. A five-year quest for a site more reminiscent of his native Bavaria, with rolling hills and and lush mountains brought the Jungs to Virginia. As soon as they saw the property "on the top of the world," with its eastern exposures for the grapes and stunning views of the Blue Ridge for their guests, the Jung's made an offer. They knew they had found their dream vineyard.

Bernd is an excellent and enthusiastic host. He led our pack through a tasting of seven wines and patiently answered every question barked out at him. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, kept cold to discourage malolactic fermentation. The 2006 Viognier has an exceptionally soft feel and was delicious, as is the 2006 Viognier Reserve, fermented in steel, then aged in oak. Even the reds are soft, especially the 2006 Merlot. We tasted both a 2005 and 2006 CabFranc, the former blended with 4 percent Petit Verdot and 4 percent Merlot; the latter only the Petit Verdot to produce a strong nose, excellent mouthfeel and the peppery finish Munchkin loves. She was also impressed with the silver spit buckets.

Meanwhile, Kristi took turns serving other customers and watching the couple's exuberant 3-1/2 year old son, Luke. The Wine Dogs took Luke off her hands, Pomeroy leading him in a lively game of chase and hide and go seek... more fun even than chasing ball.

Chester Gap can be a little hard to find as you approach off 522. Look for the barrel on the left-hand side of the street, right after you pass the turn-off to the right for the town of Chester Gap.

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Wine Dogs To Attend Another Opening, Another Show

Date: Thu, May 22, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Big wine happenings in the Blue Ridge over the Memorial Day holiday, and Munchkin and Pomeroy will be on the scene to check it out.

Barrel Oak Winery opens its tasting room this weekend, and they're pulling out all the stops with everything from live music to Full Moon Alpacas. You just know a winery whose slogan is BOW-WOW has to be pretty doggone friendly. The Wine Dogs can vouch. We met owners Sharon and Brian Roeder at Fox Meadow last year and they told of us their plans to open a new winery just off I-66. We've enjoyed watching it go up, and we can't wait to meet their trusted but loopy golden retriever, Barley, and new fluffy retriever pup, Justice, on Saturday. Look for baby pics!

Not quite new, but with a considerable facelift is the winery formerly known as Stillhouse. It reopens on Saturday as the Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Celebration includes music, pony rides, a fencing tourney, and VIP vistors including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carter (perhaps Virginia's first winemaker), and yours truly. This is a winery heavy with hsitoric overtones... Carter is an ancestor of new owner Philip Carter Strother.

Munchkin and Pomeroy met Philip and his wife Danielle and their wine dog Fairfax (as in Lord) last month when we dropped by to inspect the progress on the tasting room and can be seen here supervising Danielle's clean-up efforts. We left Fairfax in charge.

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Wine Dogs Make Wine: Lesson 5 (Rack and Roll)

Date: Sat, Apr 26, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Three Fox Vineyards
Delaplane, VA


In a frightening development, Munchkin made an interim trip to check on the wine and turned her sensitive little Yorkie nose up in disdain. John reassured her it was not uncommon for wine to develop hydrogen sulfide (H2S) notes while fermenting, and through the magic of chemicals (a 50 ppm dose of copper sulfate), corrected the problem.

Apparently the Wine Dogs were not alone. John reported to class that almost everyone's batch had been treated, and all wines were in good nose by the time class began.

This week's assignment was racking the wine... actually, double racking from carboy to bucket and back again. Why all this back and forth? Too get the wine away from the sediment, and, because it's red, expose it to a little air. The class had quite an assembly line going.

The Wine Dogs' plan had been to go from our 6 gallon carboy to the new 5 gallon jug, but Munchkin and Pomeroy had too much wine, even after the team enjoyed a healthy sample.

So Uncle Jeff got to B-Brite the 6 gallon one for retransfer. Again, the pack followed the Wine Dogs.
Back to the chemicals, all of us stabilized our wines with a little potassium metabisulfite, which also protects against the growth of film formers and organisms that can produce "volatile acidity"... known as VA in wine circles, but not to be confused with the great VA vintages produced in the Commonwealth.

Once the wine was settled down, Pomeroy tasted again and determined it required more time "in barrel." In homewinemaking, that means adding the rest of the French oak that came with the wine kit.

With all the tasting, everyone was feeling pretty good by the time class ended.

Munchkin and Pomeroy stopped at the top of the vineyard on the way back down to the winery to marvel at how lush and green everything had become.
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What's the Buzz? A New Coffee House for Wine Dogs

Date: Fri, Apr 18, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Alexandria, VA

Wine Dogs have a new hang-out in Northern Virginia. Munchkin was on hand to kick off the Buzz Bark Bash Weekend, aka the grand opening of the new dog-friendly patio at Buzz on Slaters.

For those who unfamiliar with Buzz, it's a great addition to the local scene in North Old Town. Already a hit with the mommy crowd and the wired-in set, Buzz's savvy owners are now catering to canines (and their people).

The kickoff featured yummy biscuits and great Spanish wines provided by Planet Wine in Del Ray. The Marques de Caceres rose was perfect for a sizzling spring evening.

Buzz regularly offers wine by the glass, and some special cocktails. This is not your father's coffee house. But it may very well become Munchkin's!

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Wine Dogs Make Wine: Lesson 4 (Mellowing Out)

Date: Sat, Mar 29, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs

Three Fox Vineyards

Delaplane, VA
Not to worry. Munchkin is as tart as ever, but our wine is getting mellower as it ages.

Today's a big day... Munchkin and Pomeroy are going to transfer our wine from the primary fermentation unit (aka bucket) to the "barrel" (aka carboy), where it will undergo malolactic fermentation, oaking, and aging.

Step one, as always, involves cleaning our equipment and the carboy. While we're washing up, John explains we'll be using VP41, a freeze-dried bacteria known as enocoucus oeni that produces malolactic fermentation. Putting bacteria in wine seems a little like putting botulism in your face, but John assures us it will do good things... enhance "mouthfeel" and introduce good tanins.

A little 2.5 gram envelope produces enough bacteria for about 66 gallons of wine - plenty for our 10 6-gallon batches. John mixes some with hot water and passes it around for the smell test. Ummm. Smells milky, and everyone knows Munchkin loves cream. John says we want to make sure we don't throw diacetyl acid (which produces a buttery taste; good for Chardonney, but we've got Cabernet). Pomeroy says if you're going to throw butter, he'll be happy to catch it.
Time to check out the wine. Appropriately, we appoint Uncle Jeff our Hydrometer or is that "High-drama"-ter expert. The wine measures in at 1.005, meaning almost all the yeasties are done.

Of course, we have to taste again. Classmate Dave asks "How much of a gulp do I need?" John replies, "Just enough." Ours is still a little fizzy, but starting to taste like real wine. We may have taken too much... but the team doesn't let it go to waste.

Now we take our siphon and transfer to the carboy. It looks like a blood bank with all that red fluid flowing. John says to position for max air flow. The more oxygen the better at this point (for reds; deadly for whites), because it helps malolactic and yeast do their thing.

Meantime, it's time to oak the wine. No Munchkin-size oak barrels; instead, we put oak into the wine.
The Wine Dogs opt for a 50/50 combination of the French oak that came with our kits and the Hungarian oak that John has provided. The former looks like shavings; the latter are actual chips.
John says they will sink to the bottom as they get saturated. We put the airlock back on, and get a couple of gurgles as the wine starts to release CO2.

Well, the carboy's nearly full and we have some left over. Only one solution... pour it into our glasses and drink up!

The Wine Dogs will be back in a month to see how the wine's aged.
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