Open That Bottle of Virginia (or Local) Wine Night


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Frank Morgan at DrinkWhatYouLike has been working overtime supporting the Virginia wine industry during the CV pandemic – primarily using his VAWineChat platform for nightly webinars featuring Virginia winemakers. Last week he suggested an Open That Bottle of Virginia Wine Night for Saturday, March 28th where consumers share on social media (using #vawinenight) a specific Virginia wine and why they selected it. A great idea borrowed from Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher’s Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). And on a separate thread, Lenn Thompson and Gina Shea of The Cork Report were organizing a Drink Local Night stressing east coast and midwestern wineries — the same concept just using the #openlocalwine hashtag.

Please participate in these campaigns, and in addition, raise a glass to toast Juanita Swedenburg, one of driving forces behind the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision forcing states to allow shipping from out-of-state …

Distilleries Helping in a Crisis: Converting Alcohol to Hand Sanitizer Gel


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After Italy, Spain is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus and like most countries, their supply of cleaning solutions and sanitizers are being depleted. To help alleviate this problem our friends at González Byass have converted their three production facilities (Chinchón (Madrid), Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) and Bodega Las Copas in Tomelloso (Ciudad Real)) to manufacture and supply sanitary alcohol and hydro-alcoholic gel across Spain. Another famous producer, Bacardi, has begun distribution of over half a million 10-ounce hand sanitizer units to local communities, focusing initially on USPS workers, firefighters, police, and its own employees and contractors (Shanken News).

Closer to home, smaller American craft distillers are also diverting spirits production to hand sanitizers. Initially, distilleries were required to get explicit permission from both the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this week …

Over the Ridge from Napa – Berryessa Gap Vineyards


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As I mentioned in a previous post concerning Scattered Peaks, winemaker Nicole Salengo also attended our wine dinner at Officina and introduced us to her Winters, California based winery: Berryessa Gap Vineyards.

The winery sprang from Martinez Orchards, a grapevine rootstock nursery started in 1969 by Dan Martinez, Sr., father of the current owners of Berryessa Gap, and winemaker and wine historian Ernest Peninou. Thus the Martinez family has a strong grasp of the microclimate within their western corner of Yolo County, located off Route 128 between the town of Winters and the Vaca Mountains – with Napa County on the western side of the ridge.

The Berryessa estate – Coble Ranch vineyard — planted along the eastern ridge of the Vaca Mountains and benefits from a climate that resembles the hot and dry conditions of Mediterranean climates. In addition, the eastern-facing slopes provide well-draining soils and are …

Extreme Viticulture: Combating the Spotted Lanternfly


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Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Agriculture is at the heart of the wine industry and every wine region faces some type of peril. On the east coast, the newest threat is an invasive species native to China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam: the Spotted Lanternfly (also surfacing on the west coast as well).

According to Dr. Joe Fiola, of the University of Maryland Extension, the “pest was first detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania and was accidentally imported from China through a shipment of decorative stone. The pest quickly spread and has decimated vineyards in southeastern Pennsylvania and has the capacity to inflict major damage to hop fields and hardwoods as well. Dr. Joe says the pest has spread into Maryland’s Cecil and Harford Counties, West Virginia, and in Winchester Virginia at a stone and block company site. Here is how the University of Maryland Extension describes …

Dinner with Joel Aiken and Scattered Peaks 2017 Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon


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Scattered Peaks is a relatively new Napa Valley brand created by Derek Benham who is leveraging long-time Napa winemaker Joel Aiken to “curate” exemplary Napa Valley Cabernet. The first two vintages featured a Napa Valley wine blended from three vineyards scattered through the AVA. In 2017 Aiken continued that tradition but also introduced a Small Lot version derived from two select Napa vineyards.

During a short east coast tour, Aiken visited D.C. and briefed several media influencers on the Scattered Peaks brand — all over a delicious meal at Officina at the Wharf. Aiken related that the brand’s name is derived from Benham’s love of surfing and extreme skiing – helicopter skiing. That’s intuitive with skiing, but with surfing, Benham refers to the waves between the best rides as scattered peaks.

Another anecdote Aiken relayed was that because of the Scattered Peaks brand name, Benham preferred sourcing exclusively from …

IPAs and Braggots at The Farm Brewery at Broad Run


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We recently visited The Farm Brewery at Broad Run, a Northern Virginia farm brewery located just west of Haymarket and home to an apiary, raspberry & blueberry fields, a hop yard, and a small vineyard. Plus lots of chickens. The brewery is spacious with plenty of tables, a small stage, a kitchen, food trucks, and dog-friendly. There’s also a fishing pond in the rear. The Farm Brewery also provides a large portfolio of beer (and a few wines) with plenty of diversity of styles.  Here’s a sampling of the beers we tried and as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to all your craft beverage destinations.

Mom’s Raspberry Kolsh – this is a lighter interesting beer because its sweet and tart up front but dry and lingering on the tail.

Hop Harvest Pale Ale – brewed using Copper Fox malt and estate Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, & …

Lost Boy Cider – Virginia’s First Urban Cidery


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This weekend we leveraged a Four Mile Run fishing trip into a visit to Alexandria’s Lost Boy Cider. Tristan Wright recently opened Virginia’s first urban cidery using apples sourced from Glaize Orchard – a four-generation grower located outside Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. This is the epicenter for Northern Virginia apple growing with Frederick County hosting its own Apple Trail. Wright also hired David Briun, a respected cider and winemaker, who leverages his experience from the Eden Ice Cider Company and Bellwether Cider & Wine to produce a wide portfolio of ciders – a dozen to be precise.

Many of these ciders are co-fermented with various fruit, peppers, botanicals, spices, and hops. But our focus was on the dry side of the house specifically the Comeback Kid, Gold Digger, Barrel Aged, and Andre the Giant – Petillant Naturel Cider.

The Comeback Kid is made from a blend of table apples …

Dão Wines: The Hidden Gem of Portugal


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This title was the byline for a brilliant tasting sponsored by Vinhos Dão Wines and Wines of Portugal and featuring numerous wines from this “hidden gem”. The tasting started with Wines of Portugal US Ambassador Eugenio Jardim discussing Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula before transitioning to the Dão. Most pertinent is that Portugal has the largest number of microclimates per square kilometers in the world and hosts over 250 indigenous grape varieties. In fact, these grapes are from the species Vitis Silvestris which developed isolated from the world as the Iberian Peninsula remained glacier free during the Quaternary glaciations which froze North and Central Europe over the last 2.58 million years.

That being said, the modern indigenous grape varieties grown in Portugal are Vitis Vinifera and includes grapes such as Malvasia Fina, Encruzado, Jaen (Mencia), and Baga, as well as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). These grapes excel …

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Gran Reserva Tempranillo


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In Spain, Gran Reserva wines are prized for their dense fruit, structure, and integrated tannins – all the result of appellation regulations where the wine is aged for at least five years, of which 18 months (24 in Navarra, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero) are spent in oak casks.  Markus and Liz Bokisch (plus winemaker  Elyse Perry) honored this heritage by following the same regulations when producing the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Gran Reserva Tempranillo ($60).   The grapes were grown in the silty sandy loam of the Las Cerezas Vineyard and the volcanic clay loam of the Liberty Oaks Vineyard. After fermentation, the wine was then aged 36 months in new American and new French oak followed by an additional 20 months in bottle.

The result is a beautiful wine, both chewy and luscious with dark cherries surrounded by chocolate, subtle leather, and baking spices. Expect a long, lingering …

Cheers to Robert Burns and Speyburn Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky


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On January 25th, revelers in Scotland will be toasting Robert Burns – the famed poet and Scots bard during Burns Night.  He was born on that day in 1759 and at the end of the century, his poems captured Scottish identity and nationalism at the time when government, culture, and industry were moving to or emanating from London.

One of his famous works, ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That‘ was sung at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament in 1999. This poem is a powerful statement relevant today: ‘That man to man the world o’er, / Shall brothers be for a’ that.’ Another relevant, powerful, yet playful poem, Scotch Drink, is shown on the left.

We will be toasting Burns with the Speyburn 10 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($30) sent to us courtesy of Speyburn Distillery. This distillery was founded in 1897 by John …

Virginia Wine Chat – Virginia Governor’s Case Wines – Part II


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Last week we posted on the first phase of the Virginia Wine Chat in Virginia Wine Chat – Virginia Governor’s Case Wines – Part 1. A couple days later we focused on the second half dozen wines with most affiliated with longtime Virginia winemaker Michael Shaps.  The tasting started with two white wines, one from Virginia’s always reliable Barboursville Vineyards, the other from Michael Shaps and another example of how Petit Manseng is rising in stature.  These were followed by three red wines – all made by Michael Shaps – but for three different wineries.  And finally, the session ended with a dessert Petit Manseng which illustrates how the grape’s natural acidity elevates the addition of residual sugar.  Next month the results of the 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition will be released.  I’m sure Shaps and Barboursville will be among the gold medalist winners.


Barboursville …

Virginia Wine Chat – Virginia Governor’s Case Wines – Part 1


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The 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition is currently being judged and the results will be released next month, so the 2019 Case Club Awardees are taking a final victory lap appearing in Frank Morgan’s Virginia Wine Chat.  The specific chat actually involves two sessions with the first held January 12th at Horton Vineyards, the reigning Governor’s Cup winner for their 2016 Petit Manseng. Shannon Horton, daughter of founder Dennis Horton, represented the winery and was joined by two winemakers – Ben Jordan of Early Mountain Vineyards and Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards.  Their presence provided participants the opportunity to present questions on a range of topics particularly on the nature of Virginia Petit Manseng and the methodology behind blending trials.

The three presenters described the merits of Petit Manseng with Shannon Horton describing her loose clusters which provide an easier opportunity for the grapes to dry …

River Outpost Brewing – the Hudson Valley’s Entertainment Center


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River Outpost Brewing may be the most entertaining family venture brewery in the U.S. This New York brewery features about a dozen craft beers, a kitchen, an adventure park with a rock-climbing wall and rope course, and a full-throttled gaming area including virtual reality stations. There’s also plenty of live music and big-screen televisions – making this as much an adult escape. As for the beer, the Beast-Club Porter is delicious. Its development is reminiscent of the stories where porters would grab a quick beer by combining a portion from each tap. In this case, the porter is a 50/50 blend of their Basic Beast and Dub-Cub, the former a stout brewed with pumpkin, spices, vanilla, coffee, and milk sugar and the later a rather interesting English Brown Ale on its own. The Toad Alley ESB is an extra special bitter that also nails the English pub-style – …

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery – The Everything Store for Craft Beverages


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Francesco Ciummo is a pioneer – yes they still exist. He learned how to graft vines at 17, moved to Belgium at 20 to work as a coal miner, then emigrated to Venezuela and learned the auto body trade. In 1961, at 26 years old, he came to the United States eventually purchasing a body shop in Bergenfield, NJ. Ciummo retired at 55, and soon afterward purchased 135 acres in Warwick, NY where he planted a vineyard. He opened Demarest Hill Winery in 1998 then started tinkering in other craft beverages such as distilled products in 2006 and hard cider more recently. Not satisfied with a limited portfolio, Ciummo has explored the boundaries of wine, spirits, vinegar, and flavorings currently offering over 90 distinct products for sale – 33 of which are distilled spirits and liquors.

During a Christmas Break visit, we sampled many of these offerings with a keen …

Dry Petit Manseng Ascends in Virginia During 2019


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“Petit Manseng is one of the key white grape varieties of South West France. Used predominantly in Jurancon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, it is most commonly vinified as a richly sweet wine with stonefruit characters such as peach and apricot, citrus and sweet spice.” — Wine-searcher.com

Twenty years ago, two Virginia wineries planted plots of Petit Manseng using cuttings from Virginia Tech’s Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center experimental vineyard near Winchester.  The extension agents recognized that the grape’s thick skins and loose clusters would be advantageous during Virginia’s humid summers.  Soon afterward Jennifer McCloud of Chrysalis Vineyards petitioned the precursor to the Alcohol and Trade Tax Bureau (TTB) to approve Petit Manseng as a valid grape variety so that the grape’s name could be used on a wine label. However, before approval was granted,  Horton Vineyards was able to label their first …

Tenth Ward Distilling Company and Christmas in Frederick


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Christmas is celebrated in remarkable fashion on December Saturday nights in Frederick Maryland with lighted streets, smores stations, photo ops, boat lights, and local craft beverages like those produced by Tenth Ward Distilling Company. The name “Tenth Ward” is a reference to the division of Frederick City during the late 19th century and recently the distillery moved to that city’s historic epicenter: near Patrick and Market Streets. On a placard located just down Patrick Street from Tenth Ward is a copy of the only known photograph of Confederate troops as they marched through Frederick, most likely on their way towards either Antietam or Gettysburg.

This woman-owned distillery – thanks to Monica Pearce — produces an interesting range of spirits like Smoked Corn Whiskey, Caraway Rye, Genever Style Gin, Applejack, and Absinthe. This last shows its quality by turning cloudy and releasing aromatic while using the French …

The Albeisa Bottle – A BOCG for Langhe


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Photo Credit: Please The Palate

Alba, Asti, Barolo, Barbaresco, Dogliani, Langhe, and Roero. These are a few of the iconic Piedmont regions where, in the late 18th-century, wine producers desired “a unique and recognizable bottle of their own, a Bottiglia d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (BOCG) for their own wines. And requested it from the master glaziers of the renowned Vetrerie di Porino firm just outside the city of Turin”. This effort lead to the Albeisa Bottle – a hand-made bottle, produced piece by piece, and included elements of the popular a Bordeaux and Burgundian bottles. The bottle enjoyed a brief period of popularity but suffered due to ill timing as the industrial revolution ushered in large scale glass manufacturing pricing the Albeisa Bottle out of existence.

Photo Credit: Please The Palate

That changed in 1973 when 16 wine producers resurrected the “BOCG” of the Langhe region not just to reproduce …

Bodegas Fundador Pedro Domecq Brandy de Jerez


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We’ve been augmenting our eggnog with Portuguese or Spanish brandies this Christmas season; they just seem to blend in nicely.  This Bodegas Fundador Pedro Domecq Brandy de Jerez ($22) should be widely available as this is Spain’s largest export brandy. Fundador is the oldest bodega in Jerez, founded in 1730 and they were the first brand to be marketed as “Brandy de Jerez” in 1874. Hence the Domecq family choose Fundadour which translates to founder.

 The brandy itself is made from the Airen grape with lesser amounts of Palomino. The distilled spirit is then aged in the traditional Solera system in used sherry casks. At the price, there’s plenty of rich flavors complimented by the smooth finish with little burn.

Belgium Beer: Gueuze Lambics with the Gueuze Tilquin à l’ancienne


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Belgium has provided the world with a plethora of historic beer styles most likely because the industry wasn’t hampered by government degrees like the German reinheitsgebot. Their brewing history, starting with Trappist Monks, has supplied us with Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, Saison, Witbier, Flanders Red, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Belgian Blond Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Oud Bruin, and Lambic beer styles. American consumers most likely think that the last style must contain fruit, however, that is not necessarily so. In fact, Lambics can be further segmented into framboise (raspberries), kriek (cherries), straight lambics, and gueuze.

Gueuze beers are created when blenderies purchase freshly brewed worts from different producers, combine them into oak barrels, and allow them to naturally ferment. Then 1, 2 and 3 years old lambics are blended together and because the young lambics are not fully fermented, the blended beer contains fermentable sugars, which allow …

Why is Saint Nicholas the Patron Saint of Brewers?


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St. Nicholas giving dowry gold
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky

And that is not a rhetorical question, I honestly do not know why Saint Nicholas is considered one of the many patron saints of brewers? Today, December 6th is the feast day for this Greek saint who eventually morphed into the Nordic Christmas legend. Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara in the late 3rd century to wealthy parents and was raised in Myra – a port city now known as Demre, Turkey. Tragically his parents died during an epidemic and Nicholas was raised by his uncle – the Bishop of Patara.

The youngster vowed to distribute his inheritance through works of charity and his most well-known effort led directly to his reputation for giving gifts and indirectly to a possible claim for being the patron saint of brewers. Here is Catholic Online to describe the traditional story of the …