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  • #DrinkLocal at Whole Foods Market -- Well sort of

    Posted: 2019-03-19 06:00
    This weekend we visited our local Whole Foods Market Brew & Brau Pub intending to try the Big Poppa Biggie S'mores Imperial Stout produced by Charlottesville's Three Notch'd Brewing Company. Unfortunately, their tap system had failed, so it was time for wine. Examining the wine list, I noticed several possible local wines from New York, Oregon, and Mendocino in California. After returning home and further research yes, the grapes were indeed, mostly sourced from within local wine regions, but not necessarily estate driven.

    Madame Liberté Brut ($16.99)
    There isn't much information about the wine except that it is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using American grapes. Thus not a local wine except it is apparently made by Gruet Winery even though the winery doesn't list it on their website. In any case, it is a delicious sparkling wine: creamy apples and depth.

    Empire Estate 2017 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes  ($19)
    Empire Estate sources fruit from across the Finger Lakes - a cool climate region well known for their Riesling production as it is very similar to Alsace and Western Germany. (See Viticulture in the Cold Climate Finger Lakes) This wine is excellent, dry with racy minerals, some petrol. and uplifting acids.

    Elouan 2017 Pinot Noir ($24)
    Elouan is a brand that sources their grapes from three terrains in Oregon’s Western vineyards that are well suited for growing cool climate varietals. The first is the NW region - most likely including the Willamette Valley AVA -- with a temperate climate and cooling marine influences. The second is the West-Central Hills consisting of diverse microclimates through the many mountains and valleys. And finally, SW Oregon, where the elevated landscape and volcanic soils are derived from the convergence of three mountain ranges. The grapes were fermented separately, blended, then aged ten months in a mix of new and seasoned French oak. The result is fantastic: the cherry fruit turns to chalky dirt with a long lingering tail.

    The Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel ($21.99)
    Part of the Terlato Wines family, Federalist Vineyards produces several wines from throughout The Golden State. This Alexander Hamilton labeled wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Merlot sourced from Mendocino County and aged six months in American oak and finished six months in bourbon barrels. The later barrels impart noticeable vanilla, baking spices, and caramel with the dark black fruit rounded out by approachable tannins.
  • Budweiser Budvar Brewery vs Anheiser-Busch

    Posted: 2019-03-16 11:05
    Who's familiar with the famous Budweiser trademark dispute between Czech brewery Budweiser Budvar and Anheiser-Busch InBev? In 1907 Budvar and Anheiser-Busch agreed that Budvar could use the name Budweiser in Europe (the can) but that A-B could use the name in North America. Since then there have been over 100 trademark disputes or procedural issues. In countries where A-B InBev has Budweiser rights, Budvar uses the Czechvar brand name. I usually prefer German style pilsners, but this Bohemian style works nicely. And you can read more about the trademark dispute at Budvar and Time. Cheers.









  • Explore #WeAreMarylandWine During Maryland Wine Month

    Posted: 2019-03-13 21:11
    The Maryland Wineries Association has designated March as Maryland Wine Month and to follow the action they are promoting the #WeAreMarylandWine (in addition to #MDWine #MDWineTrails & #MDWineMonth) tag on all social media platforms. There are also numerous events and activities scheduled at various wineries and retailers across the state -- all listed on the MD Wine website. So we decided to dedicate more time this month to visit the Free State and visited two that are open seven days a week - navigating with theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

    We started at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, located north of Frederick on the Route 15 Wine Road. Being a club member, our tastings were complimentary so we went through both their Signature ($10) and Sweet ($8) tastings. After previous visits, I have discussed their wonderful dry Estate Syrah, Estate Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay among others. So let me venture into the Sweet Wine tasting and the first impression is that out of the five, only the two meads comes across as sweet. For instance, the 2016 Rhapsody ($24) contains only .5% RS which is easily balanced by the Chardonnay's acidity. The sugar just rounds out the wine. The same is also true with the 2016 Bolero Blend ($22), a 50-50 blend of Syrah and Merlot. And finally, the 2017 Prelude Vidal Blanc ($20) has a Riesling character in that once again is balanced by the grape's acids. The two meads are definitely sweeter but the 2010 Honeymoon Mead ($25) is cut with orange juice providing more relief and the spices in the 2010 Amber Mead ($23) blend nicely into the honey flavor.

    From Catoctin Breeze, we navigated the back roads, through a couple covered bridges to Linganore Winecellars. Interestingly, this winery is traditionally known for its sweeter festival friendly wines but has mad a concerted effort to enhance its dry wine portfolio. These wines were our focus through the Reserve Tasting ($10), which consisted of nine wines. These ranged from the dessert 2015 Midnight Bramble ($46) through a couple off-dry to several dry.  The 2017 White Raven ($14; Cayuga & Chardonnay) and 2018 Terrapin ($14; Melody & Vidal) were both light and refreshing with the later providing a distinct apple profile. The crux of the whites was the 2017 Reserve Chardonnay ($27) fermented in oak then aged an additional six months in barrel. This is a full bodied wine, depth and creamy with lifting acids. Nicely done. The reds were Chambourcin centric with three wines showing the flexibility of that prolific grape. The 2016 Exposure ($46) is a classic Bordeaux blend but I preferred the 2017 Cabernet Franc ($35) that we received a sneak peek and has more creamy texture than green character.  The fact that Linganore produces 50,000 cases of wine using practically all estate grapes is worth a visit and tour - whether festival season, Maryland Wine Month, or year round. Cheers.
  • Revisiting the 2011 Ventosa Vineyards Estate Lemberger

    Posted: 2019-03-04 21:01
    In August 2015 the annual Wine Bloggers Conference was held in New York's Finger Lakes and consisted of a pre-conference excursion to the Seneca Lake AVA. I participated in this trip which included a visit to Ventosa Vineyards - located on the Northeast shore of the lake. At this winery, we tasted their 2011 Estate Lemberger. Now as readers know, we are immediately drawn to this grape varietal whether named Lemberger, Blaufränkisch, or Kekfrankos. And we particularly gravitated to this wine when we learned that it had just been awarded the 2015 New York Governors Cup. That day winemaker Jenna Lavita (co-owner of Lake Drum Brewing) mentioned that the "blue" grape is planted on warmer sites because of its early budding nature, although it ripens later - translating to longer maturity time. My tasting notes refer to a dark black cherry wine, with subtle spice and tobacco, decent tannins, and generous acids. Naturally, I purchased a bottle to bring home and four and a half years later I pulled the cork. The acids have kept the wine fresh, with similar dark cherry fruit, textured, with more leather and spice instead of tobacco. The wine finishes with chewy tannins and still decent acidity. Nicely done Jenna.
  • Caboose Commons: Cashless, Coffee, and Craftbeer

    Posted: 2019-03-01 15:53
    This week I finally allocated time to visit Caboose Commons, a new craft brewery located in the Fairfax Mosiac District. This stand-alone facility with adequate parking maintains several other characteristics that differ from its older sibling, Vienna's Caboose Brewing.  First, it is cashless. Not a problem until you ask to open a tab. The brewery is strictly pay as you go - one beer at a time.  Also, flights are not an option; tasters yes, a flight no. Second, the brewery acts as a typical coffee house. On this visit, most of the visitors were occupied staring into laptops or devices, coffee cups adjacent to the screens. The wifi must be powerful for the amount of devices. Next, the facility is more spacious than the Vienna brewery - or at least it appears as such with a larger outdoor space and two levels of loft seating. And finally, the menu is larger - regarding both food and craft beverages. While still sourcing from local artisans, the restaurant provides breakfast at 7AM as well as an all-day menu and then a combined lunch and dinner selection. As for craft beverages, there's an expanded wine list and during our visit 14 craft beers available. Caboose's strength is their German and Czech styled ales and lagers -- particularly their Schwarzbier.  I tasted their relatively new Slam Dunkel and Stop Drop & Doppelbock (both stylistically accurate) before settling on the session-able Earl of Hops. This IPA is clean with loads of fresh citrus. Nicely done. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder contains information for both Caboose locations. Cheers.

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