Dave Pickerell and George Washington Rye Whiskey

Last weekend I had my first opportunity to taste the Limited Edition George Washington Rye Whiskey ($185) distilled directly onsite at Mount Vernon at George Washington's Distillery® and Gristmill. The distillery is a fully functional reconstruction of our First President's distillery which in 1799 was one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America. At that time six distiller slaves operated five copper pot stills continuously throughout the year. In 1799, Washington’s Distillery produced almost 11,000 gallons of whiskey, valued at $7,500 (approximately $120,000 today) while the average Virginia distillery produced about 650 gallons of whiskey per year which was valued at about $460.

The whiskey I sampled is based on a recipe used by Washington and his farm manager, James Anderson, and was crafted by Master Distiller David Pickerell using original methods available at that time. The spirit was double distilled using a mash of 60% rye, 35% corn and ...

#TempranilloDay and Discovering Rioja in Three Letters with Bodegas LAN

"Rioja is a privileged region for growing grapes and making top-quality wines, with a unique personality and an exceptional aptitude for ageing. The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The local terrain perfectly delimits the region and sets it apart from surrounding territories. From an administrative point of view, however, its 63,593 hectares of vineyards are divided between three provinces on the Upper Ebro - La Rioja (43,885 ha), Alava (12,934 ha) and Navarre (6,774 ha)."....... DOCa Rioja

In 1972 Bodegas LAN was founded and named after the first initials of these three provinces of DOCa Rioja, but with the L representing Logroño - part of the larger La Rioja. Their estate, Viña Lanciano Vineyard, is set on 72 hectares that are nearly surrounded by a meander of the Ebro River. The river also acts as a natural frontier between ...

#TempranilloDay and Discovering Rioja in Three Letters with Bodegas LAN

"Rioja is a privileged region for growing grapes and making top-quality wines, with a unique personality and an exceptional aptitude for ageing. The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The local terrain perfectly delimits the region and sets it apart from surrounding territories. From an administrative point of view, however, its 63,593 hectares of vineyards are divided between three provinces on the Upper Ebro - La Rioja (43,885 ha), Alava (12,934 ha) and Navarre (6,774 ha)."....... DOCa Rioja

In 1972 Bodegas LAN was founded and named after the first initials of these three provinces of DOCa Rioja, but with the L representing Logroño - part of the larger La Rioja. Their estate, Viña Lanciano Vineyard, is set on 72 hectares that are nearly surrounded by a meander of the Ebro River. The river also acts as a natural frontier between ...

Chablis: Climats by Geography

Like many Medieval towns, Chablis is built upon a waterway, the Serein River, which provides the distinct characteristics based on the river's banks. Vines are planted on the hills overlooking both banks, with the right side receiving the evening sun and the left bank the morning sun. This means the right bank receives more exposure - providing a little more flavor to the Chardonnay grapes.  This was definitely true in past years but recently, with a warming climate, many vines on the left bank have been able to achieve full ripeness.  During a Climats by Geography Twitter tasting sponsored by The Chablis Commission, Christy Canterbury MW presented these facts as well as the history of four wines we sampled.

The Chablis region maintains an Appellation D'Origine Controllee (AOC) system with four classifications: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. The first two are broader in nature; ...

#VABreweryChallenge (#64): Chubby Squirrel Brewing Co. Opens in Fairfax City

There are nine craft breweries within Fairfax County with the newest finally populating Fairfax City: Chubby Squirrel Brewing Co.. This facility is located quite close to George Mason University and owners Boyd Harrison and Josh Paine plan to accommodate the thirsts of both age appropriate students and local residents. They also offer an interesting mix of brewpub cuisine such as wings, pierogies, poutine, sliders, and fries as well as wine and cider for those inclined.   Bu craft beer is the main attraction and out of the gate Chubby Squirrel created a diverse and tasty portfolio.  On our visit the lineup consisted of Hefeweizen, WereSquirrel Black IPA,  Squirrel In the Rye, Blonde Squirrel Blonde Ale, Pumpkin Eater (Nitro) Pumpkin - Yam Beer,  Golden Squirrel (Cask) Belgian Tripel.  The blonde, rye, and tripel were our favorites, but in general all were respectful for their styles and worth ...

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace – Offering Both Quality and Value

Americans have have a hard time relating to historical significance as our country is not even 250 years old with the Columbus voyage just 525 years ago.  Yet, almost 600 years ago -- in 1425 -- Romanus Albrecht started producing wine that would eventually evolve into one of Alsace's famous brands: Lucien Albrecht. The current winery traces its heritage to Balthazar Albrecht, who in 1698, settles in Orschwihr after the end of the Thirty Years’ War and cultivates vines. After the phylloxera epidemic and Alsace's return to France post WWI, Henri Albrecht replants vineyards by grafting rootstock to the vines and his success leads to Lucien Albrecht and Crémant d’Alsace. Albrecht leveraged the the work of Julien Dopff and began test productions of sparkling wines in 1971. Five years later the official AOC Crémant d’Alsace designation of origin is established mandating that the sparkling wine be made in the ...

Eastern European Moonshine: Rakija, Palinka, Slivovitz

Some of the greatest moments when traveling to Eastern Europe is when you are handed a vessel that doesn't contain its original liquid. Instead it is filled with homemade palinka or slivovitz, a fruit brandy distilled clear and usually at exceedingly high abv - sometimes reaching 70 proof. The liquid has heat, but in the best cases portrays the fruit nicely with a burn that evaporates rather quickly. The brandy is derived from a range of harvested fruit such as peaches, plums, Meggy (sour cherries), Quince, Grapes, Pears, or Apples and has different versions throughout central and eastern Europe: Albania, Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.

In most of these countries the spirit is called Rakija or the domestic equivalent to that word and is usually the most popular spirit in that country. In Serbia it is known as ...

Farmhouse Wines and Green Spring Farm – "Beyond Sustainable" Farming

We grow by the motto “50% for humans, 50% for nature,” maintaining an important balance between the vines grown for humans and crops grown for soil improvement, Bob Cannard & Fred Cline --Green String Farm

This method of “beyond sustainable” farming, was developed by Bobby Cannard and Fred Cline of Cline Family Cellars and is now known as the Green String method of sustainable farming.  Their laboratory, Green String Farm, is located in Sonoma - specifically in Petaluma - and "serves to teach students how to improve the biology of the lands that they steward while growing naturally healthy food".  This method includes natural remedies for pest management, fertilization, and weeding among others. For instance they use over 1500 sheep and 500 goats to remove harmful weeds from their vineyards.  They also use native root stocks which can be dry farmed (no irrigation) and friendly insects are ...

Ventisquero Grey GCM and Carménère

Ventisquero Grey has been operating in Chile since 1998 -- sourcing fruit from their vineyards located in Chile’s principal wine regions: Coastal Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua, Leyda and Huasco.  I recently received samples of two excellent and affordable wines from the winery. Cheers.


Ventisquero Grey Carménère 2014 ($20.00)
The fruit for this wine was grown in the Maipo Valley which is located just south of the capital city Santiago and as wine-searcher.com states "...is home to some of the country's most prestigious wines ... and is often described as the 'Bordeaux of South America'". Specifically the Maipo Valley is situated at the most northern end of the Central Valley separated from Mendoza by the Andes Mountains and blocked from the Pacific by the Coastal Range. The sun warms the valley during the day, followed by colder nights which slows ripening, extends the growing season, and leads to grapes ...

Bazin’s on Church Showcases Santa Barbara’s Foxen Winery and Vineyard

This autumn, Dick Doré, co-fonder and co-owner of Foxen Winery and Vineyard, conducted an east coast blitz showcasing their Santa Barbara County Wines at various establishments such as Vienna's excellent restaurant Bazin's on Church. At this tasting event, we were able to chat with Mr. Doré about his wines, the grapes sourced from famed Bien Nacido Vineyards, and the affects f two consecutive years of wildfires and mudslides. Regarding the last topic, tourism is slowly rebounding and the grapes show no affect as he predicts a stellar 2018 harvest.

Bill Wathen and Doré founded Foxen Winery in 1985 using a property purchased by Doré's great-great grandfather, Benjamin Foxen, in 1837. This property and most of the vineyards used by Foxen are located in the Santa Maria Valley AVA which is the most northern of Santa Barbara's six AVA's. This region receives the most rainfall, has sandy to clay ...

Exitus 2016 Vintage Bourbon Barrel-Aged Red Blend

Bourbon barrel-aged beverages have slowly seeped into the wine industry and O’Neill Vintners & Distillers entered the field with the Exitus Wines 2016 Vintage Bourbon Barrel-Aged Red Blend ($17.99). This wine is a majority Zinfandel blend incorporating lesser amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Merlot -- then aged in mature bourbon barrels for three months. The combination of wine and spirits come naturally for this family-owned wine and spirits company as they sourced the bourbon barrels from Kentucky and the grapes from estate vineyards or 15,000 contracted acres throughout California. These grapes are fermented in stainless steel before the barrel aging which helps the wine retain the dense fruit as the barrels add leather, vanilla, and chocolate notes. A side affect of the barrels and perhaps the Zinfandel is a little heat on the nose. And the tail falls slightly flat - but overall a worthy ...

Book Review: Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide

The Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide ($21), written by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack ,reflects many of the features that make their Wine Folly website so popular.  The book utilizes info-graphics and photos to simply yet clearly explain wine topics such as grapes and regions.  The book is most suited for wine novices but also provides easily accessible references for more experienced wine consumers. The book starts with Wine Basics such as how to taste and store wine in addition to how it is made. After a section on Food & Wine Pairings, the book guides readers through dozens of grape varieties and styles of wine -- such as the different categories of sparkling and dessert wine.  This section is quite informative as it includes information on the grape's lineage, tasting profile, serving recommendations, where it grows, and similar grapes. A nice quick and easy ...

Drinking Local with Corcoran’s Wine & Cider

Jim and Lori Corcoran have been a leader in the #DrinkLocal movement in both Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia as proprietors of Corcoran Vineyards & Cider. The couple established the winery in the early years of the Loudoun Wine Renaissance as Winery #11 when they planted the vineyard in 2001 and opened their doors three years later. Later, they were in the forefront of the local craft cider and beer, augmenting Corky's Farm with both beverages.   Their menu includes cider as well as both dry and sweet wines as Lori specializes in unique dessert concoctions. The winery is open only on weekends and encourage picnickers, dogs and children. There's plenty of outdoor space.

When visiting, Corcorans offers a separate cider or wine flight for $7 and a popular option for two is to split each flight.  The cider starts with the delicious dry hopped Hop'n'Pop which ...

A Pair of Iconic Cab Producers and a Sonoma linked Champagne

2012 Alexander Valley Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (750ml $72; 1.5l $199)
Jordan Vineyard & Winery has been an iconic producer of Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon since practically its first release in 1976.  Their estate is located in the Alexander Valley AVA - just north of Healdsburg - which is the largest wine region in the county. The AVAs boundaries have changed slightly over the years but the the original border extended from the banks of the Russian River eastward to the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and is sheltered by the moderating influences of the Pacific.  This means the day times are dry and hot whereas the colder night temperatures create a large diurnal temperature swing leading to slowly maturing grapes and intense acids. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon contains 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; and 2% Malbec from the Jordan estate and ...

New Zealand’s Wairau Valley and the Wairau River 2015 Marlborough Pinot Noir

New Zealand's modern wine industry began in Marlborough in the 1970s with growers planting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir vines in the southern Wairau Valley. Nowadays, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are world famous and the Wairau Valley is home to some of New Zealand's most famous producers. One of these early growers was the Rose family who planted their estate vineyards on the banks of the Wairau River.

"The Wairau Valley is one of three zones – along with the Southern Valleys and the Awatere Valley – which make up the heartland of New Zealand's Marlborough wine region. It accounts for approximately 45 percent of plantings within the wider region. It is a wide river valley that follows the Wairau River from the Spenser Mountains in the west to the Pacific at Cloudy Bay. The Richmond Mountains in the north separate it from the sunny region of Nelson, ...