Wine Wonderings – Bubbles and All Things Briny

oysters-champagne2Sometimes you need to treat yourself to something special – just because.  And what could possibly make you feel more special than a glass of something bubbly?  Come on, you know what I mean.  You keep a bottle of bubbly in the fridge in case something “special” happens, or an unexpected important guest shows up.  Don’t you?  And for many of us, that bottle sits there, day after day, week after week, and you keep telling yourself, “One day”, but you never let YOU be that special guest, and you never let TODAY be that “special” something.  Well, my friends, that needs to change!

Recently we had the chance to indulge our palates with an evening of Champagne & Oysters at one of our very favorite haunts, The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  We’ve enjoyed some of the most wonderful wine and food pairings at The Bavarian Inn, and that evening, like so many others, was just fabulous.  On the menu was a selection of seven sparkling wines, and a variety of delicious dishes from the sea and land.dibon-cava-nv

We started our trip around the sparkling wine world with Bodegas Pinord Dibon Brut Reserve Cava, NV, from Spain.  The extra fine bubbles popped from this wine’s pale surface and released aromas that were filled with clean apple and just a hint of citrus.  This wine has a pleasant, reserved acidity, and the finish was short with a hint of mineral.  All in all, a very nice wine.  The citrus let this wine pair just wonderfully with curried deviled eggs.

masuretproseccoFrom Spain our wine experience took us to the Treviso hills of Italy.  We indulged in a glass of Marsuret Prosecco DOC Treviso, NV.  This wine gave us creamy feel and light apple and pear aromas that included just a hint of floral.  Oddly enough, there was a slight hint of Parmesan cheese on the nose as well.  As peculiar as that sounds, it worked very well.  This wine had a clean, short finish, and went very nicely with the sweetness of lightly friend scallops, and stood up to the herbed tartar sauce.

LSN570_NV_phMoving up into Germany, our next glass of bubbly was Loosen Brothers Dr. L. Riesling Sekt Mosel, NV.  This wine had quite a bit of pear on the fruity nose, which was so very nice.  The lingering acidity was particularly enjoyable, as was the modest finish.  The acidity made this wine a great accompaniment to the subtle saltiness of the oyster bisque.df-gruet-blanc-de-noirs_300

After spending time so many delicious European sparkling wines, it was time to try something a little closer to home.  Our hosts poured Gruet Winery Blanc de Noirs, NV, from New Mexico.  What?  New Mexico?  Really?  YES!  And it was just delightful!  This pale salmon sparkling wine is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, and exudes creamy pear and light berry aromas, accented by a slight bitter lemon.  This wine also lends a slight nuttiness to its earthy, modest finish.  This bubbly was just delicious with an olive and herb focaccia bread.  We since shared this find with friends, and they’ve loved it too.  It’s on our list of must-haves for parties, and is a tremendous value.

hugo_rose2009Heading back over to Europe, our trip around the sparkling wine world led us to Weingut Huber Hugo Sparkling Rose, NV, from Austria.  This wine is a lovely blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, and offered up lovely strawberry and fresh raspberry aromas with just a tiny bit of floral accent.  The acidity was very nicely balanced, and counter-balanced with slight earthiness and minerality.  This wine had a modest and pleasant finish, and paired very nicely with caviar as well as fresh raw oysters.fitz-ritter-riesling-sekt

From Austria our trip took us back to Germany, with Fitz Ritter Extra Trocken Riesling Sekt, NV.  This wine comes from old vine Riesling, and offers up much of the fruitiness that we expect from an off-dry Riesling.  What was particularly intriguing, however was the distinct aroma of a creamy rice pudding that also mingled with the fruit.  It was unexpected, and delightful.  The acidity was very nice, and let this wine pair very well with fresh fruit and an assortment of cheeses.

degeorgisOur evening was quickly drawing to a close, and what would be more appropriate than to finish off with something sweet.  Our trip took us back to Italy for one final sparkling experience.  Our last wine was DeGiorgis Moscato d’Asti, 2012, from the Piedmont region.  This is a fruity and sweet wine with amazing aromas of guava and mango.  Despite its sweetness, it had a wonderful, persistent acidity that balanced the sweetness and let the flavors just shine.  This wine easily pairs with fruit and light custard, but you can enjoy it all by itself as a sweet end to a fabulous meal.

Every wine we tasted that wonderful evening was delicious in its own way, and every single one was reasonably priced, and within reach for those “special” occasions, like a Friday night after a long week, a Tuesday night after a tough day, when a friend stops by and wants to treat you to pizza, or went you want something fun to have when watch your favorite movie.  So open the fridge, grab that bubbly, and make today special.  You deserve it!

Wine Wonderings – The Hills Are Alive…With Austrian Wine

What could be better than a wine dinner?  Just thinking about it makes me smile.  So when one of my favorite restaurants announced that they were planning a wine dinner, my fingers couldn’t dial the number fast enough to make that reservation.

The restaurant?  The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  A beautiful inn with an exceptional menu and wine cellar (one of the best in the region), that overlooks the Potomac River.  Their formal dining room is perfect for a romantic dinner, and the Rathskeller offers a more casual environment for friends to gather.  The service at the Bavarian Inn is exceptional, and I can honestly say every visit has been absolutely enjoyable.

The wines?  All things Austrian.

Klaus Austrian?  Really?

Oh, yes.  And if you haven’t had the chance to experience Austrian wines, you may just want to head to your local wine shop and explore their selection.

Our tour guide for the event?  Klaus Wittauer.  Klaus is a native Austrian who truly loves sharing his wine journey.  Klaus developed his knowledge of wine throughout his years working with some of the world’s top restaurants.  He also spent many years traveling throughout Europe’s finest wine regions, learning all he could in each.  You can learn more about Klaus at www.kwselection.com .

This wine dinner began with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, paired with 2011 Leo Hillinger First Hill White.  This crisp, dry wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc, with 20% Welschriesling and 10% Gruner Veltliner.  The notes of passion fruit and pear on the nose were prominent, and the fruit melded with a slight spiciness on the tongue.  Nicely leesy with persistent acidity, it paired wonderfully with the selection of earthy bites, including mushroom strudel, vegetable crostini, scallops on endive, and duck confit with chestnut puree.

Next up, 2012 Tegernseerhof T 26 Gruner Veltliner Federspiel.  Think kabinett when you think about this wine.  The aromas of passion fruit and guava were stunning, and set off with just a hint of stone fruit.  The acidity was really nice, and set off by a slight pepperiness.  The finish was lovely, with a hint of minerality.  The pairing selection was fish duo that included West Virginia trout mousse on a rosti potato blini with horseradish cream.  Perfection.

BVPairOur next wine was a 2011 Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner Bergdistel Smaradg.  The lovely aroma of stone fruit and elegant florals was matched by flavors of pineapple and apricot swirled with spice.  The rich, clean finish offered a nice balance.  This wine paired so very well with grilled lobster atop lobster wild rice risotto with tropical fruit chutney.

And now, the reds.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and admittedly, was just a little skeptical about the potential of Austrian reds.  But I happily pressed on.

The first red was a 2010 Leo Hillinger Pinot Noir Eveline.  The aroma was very jammy – mostly raspberry – with a slight smokiness.  A hint of herb lingered on the nose.  Not bad at all.  This medium to light bodied wine had dark berry flavors and was notably herby.  Juicy and peppery, I enjoyed this wine with a petite wienerschnitzel a la Holstein.  I would hold this wine for just a while longer to let the tannins soften, but all in all, very enjoyable.

The next red was a 2011 Leo Hillinger HILLSide Syrah blend.  This is a wine from Austria’s Burgenland, and is 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, and 10% Zweigelt.  I found the aromas here to be just beautiful.  The plum and berry was a lovely backdrop to the tobacco and vanilla aromas that enveloped my senses.  The long finish was smooth and velvety.  This paired well with a braised short rib in a a syrah reduction.

The last wine on the menu was Leo Hillinger Secco Sparkling Pinot Noir.  Fun and enjoyable, this sparkling rose offered bright berries on the nose, including strawberry.  The flavors were delicate and balanced,  with a crisp, dry finish.  It was the perfect accompaniment to a dessert of Austrian fruit tart with raspberry flan.

BVFlightThe evening would have been a total success if it ended there.  Six lovely wines, six delicious courses.  Who could have asked for more?  But my evening was about to have an unexpected surprise.  Klaus came over to my table and we struck up a little lively wine conversation.  The next thing I knew I was being treated to yet one more wine.

This was a 2010 Hillinger Blaufrankisch Leithaberg.  One good whiff and I was pulled in.  The intense dark fruit aroma was heavenly.  The flavors of dark berries and black cherry were topped off with a light spiciness that hit my palate just right.  The finish was long and smooth, and just beautiful.

What a perfect end to a fabulous evening.