A Reason To Pop Some Champagne! …Hero of War of 1812 revealed in book written by Frederick man – The Frederick News-Post : Frederick

This is one post that you won’t be reading about whatever I think about this wine or that wine, or what might (or might not) pair with asparagus.  Rather, I wanted to share an article about something – someone – near and dear to my heart – my wonderful husband.  He just wrote a book (It’s on Amazon, and you can read more at SamSmithBook.com)!  His first one!  The local paper decided to do a feature article on him, so I’m sharing it with you.  I will tell you though, this is reason to celebrate!  And so as a celebration of Robert’s wonderful accomplishment, and a celebration of the 200th anniversary of America’s victory in its second war of independence, we will offer up a toast tonight!

Hero of War of 1812 revealed in book written by Frederick man – The Frederick News-Post : Frederick.

A toast!  To one man that I love very much! And to the blessings of liberty – may we never forget what it means, and may we always be willing to stand for it!  Cheers!  And God bless!

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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.

Wine Wonderings – Kevin Z. and the Brunellos

Zraly Brunello

Kevin Zraly is, by most accounts, the master of wine education.  Yes, the premier rock star of the wine education world.  So when I had the opportunity to participate in a master class that he was teaching, I jumped at the chance.

The wines?  Brunello di Montalcino.

Ah.  It just rolls off the tongue.  Brunello di… Mon..tal…cin…ooo.

Heaven, I tell you.  Heaven.

For anyone who has isn’t familiar with Brunello di Montalcino, this is a wine from the town of Montalcino, a small medieval village in the Tuscany wine region of Italy.  Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most famous wines, made with 100% Sangiovese grape, and it tends to be some of Italy’s most expensive wine.  The hot, dry days under the Montalcino sun bring the grapes to ripe perfection earlier there than in other regions of Tuscany.  The result?  After fermentation and over 4 years of required aging in the bottle, Brunello di Montalcino is a lush, deep, intense wine, that maintains its acidity.

And the wines from that amazing class?  All 2007’s.  They are:

1.  Brunello di Montalcino Poggiolo

2.  Brunello di Montalcino Fanti

3.  Brunello di Montalcino Nicale

4.  Brunello di Montalcino Castiglion del Bosco

5.  Brunello di Montalcino Pertimali Livio Sassetti

6.  Brunello di Montalcino Fuligni

7.  Brunello di Montalcino Nardi

8.  Brunello di Montalcino La Casa Caparzo

Brunellos

As in any wine tasting, there is a certain subjectivity involved, especially with a room filled with wine wonks.  But sometimes wines stand out, for any number of reasons.  There was, in short, the good, the bad and the ugly.

The ugly?  With such beautiful wines?

Yes.  Even a lineup like this offered up at least one that was, shall we say, funky.  Lost its mojo.  Maybe never had it.  Bottle shocked?  Corked?  I don’t know.  Funky.

And how about the bad?  Well, maybe not bad as much as perhaps just not ready.  And that’s ok.  We’ve all had those wines that were still developing.  Maturing.  Toning down.  You have them today – yuck, or maybe just meh.  You have them a year from now – delicious.  So yes, we had a few that needed some time.

But ah… the good.  The good were very good.  Mmmm…

One stand-out, for me, was Brunello di Montalcino La Casa Caparzo.  It had a beautiful fruit and spice balance.  Heavy, dark wild berries mingled with cassis.  Full and luscious, with an amazing finish.  Kevin noted that this wine “smells like Brunello”, and oh how right he was.  If this was everything a Brunello di Montalcino is supposed to be, sign me up.

The other notable wine, for me, was the Brunello di Montalcino Castiglion del Bosco.  Dark red and black fruits were simply beautiful.  The fruit danced with flavors of anise and spice, and the acidity was perfect.  The long finish was beautiful.  Very nice.  Very nice.

As the tasting went along I could have just closed my eyes and imagined a Tuscan sunset.  Every sip brought me that much closer to tasting the Tuscan terroir.  What a perfect day.

Kevin noted that Brunello di Montalcino is considered to be a best value of the great wines of the world.  How very true.  The wines we tasted ran anywhere from $40 a bottle to $70 a bottle.  Not an every day range, but very accessible.

I do have to offer a special thank you to Kevin Zraly, who opened my eyes to wine education through his book, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, all those years ago, and who gave me one of the best wine experiences ever in this master class.  You can learn more about Kevin on his website, http://www.KevinZraly.com.  I would also like to thank my dear friend, Wendy Dubit, for making my experience with Kevin possible, and whose amazing work can be read in Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.  You can also learn about Wendy on her website, http://www.TheSensesBureau.com.

Wine Wonderings – Wonderful Westchester

Westchester FWF

Looking back at the busy but wonderful summer I couldn’t resist telling the world about the most amazing time I had at this year’s Westchester Magazine’s Food & Wine Weekend, in White Plains, New York.  I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special “Thank You!” to my dear friend, Wendy Dubit, Founder of Vergant Media, for making my time at this event possible – Wendy, you’re the best!

Now, about the foods… absolutely delicious.

The wines… oh the wines… just heavenly.

The experience… spectacular!

Believe it or not, I ordinarily don’t start my day with a flight of the finest sparkling wines, but I did here.  So delightful, and with one hand toting my 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut Rose, I began my stroll through the Grand Tasting.  So many pairing possibilities… ceviche…oh, yes.  Fresh crudites… very nice.  Succulent lamb, perfectly herbed and sauced… just perfect… and yes, all before noon.

But wait… as wonderful as the Grand Tasting was, there was so much more!

Did I mention the Bartender Shake-off?  No?  Really?  If you’re devout “stir” person, just pretend you like it shaken, not stirred… and loosen up with beautiful cocktails!

Love cooking?  There were so many things to learn watching world-class chefs do their stuff.  Cooking demos went on and on throughout the day.  The aromas wafted throughout the venue, and you could find yourself floating away on the heavenly scents.

And the best thing of all for those of us who are wine devotees?  The wine classes.  I simply had to spend my time in wine classes that were hosted by one of the world’s foremost wine aficionados and educators – Kevin Zraly.  My first class was a tasting of superb wines that were all under $30, and it was held in the Sky Lounge of the Ritz Carleton – on the 43rd flood.

What a view!  What an experience!

NY View

The line-up was just wonderful.  My personal favorites?  On the white side, a 2012 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay from South Africa, and in the red family, a 2010 Petalos Desciendientes De Palacios Bierzo from Spain.  Stunning.

You’ll be hearing more about my tastings with Kevin, but let me assure you that I learned a lot, and had the very best time that a wine lover could possibly have.

If you have the chance to join the fun next year, I encourage you to do whatever you can to get to Westchester County, New York to be a part of this wonderful event!

See you there!

Wine Wonderings – A Perfect Blend

Earlier this spring a friend invited me to go with her to Doukenie Winery, in Purcellville, Virginia, to attend a fun afternoon of personal wine blending.  We arrived a little early, but had no trouble filling the extra time with wine tasting and fabulous conversation with other “blenders”.   When the time for blending arrived, we were escorted downstairs by Doukenie winemaker, Sebastien Marquet.

Sebastien, who grew up in France, knew very early in his life that we wanted to be a winemaker.  He learned winemaking in the Burgundy region of France, and brought his talent and love of wine to the Caribbean, of all places, and then the US.  How fortunate Doukenie is to have Sebastien as their winemaker!

The room was filled with the chatter of excited winemakers-for-a-day.  Bottles filled with unknown wines sat before us in the center of each table, alongside beakers and mixing rods.  Each of us had a collection of glasses in front of us, begging to be filled with new blends of wine.

We started with a tasting – it was Doukenie’s 2010 Vintner’s Reserve.  Ah, and just like I like ’em – deep, red and rich…so perfect for that chilly spring day.  This was a moderately leggy wine, with an almost velvety look to it.  Dark red and black fruits were strong, with dried currant and raisin.  There was a modest oakiness, with an almost cedar characteristic.  Acids were still lively, and the tannins were very strong.  The finish was long as well.  This is a wine that will likely be very nice after resting in the cellar for a while longer.

So our task?  Make the newest Vintner’s reserve!

My very newest friends and I popped open the bottles on the table, sampling each one, and taking notes on the flavors and aromas we were experiencing.  And then the blending began!  At first we carefully mixed and measured….and of course, sampled.  After we lost track of which glasses contained which blends, we decided that perhaps the best blend on the table was the blend of new friends, laughter, and the experience of loving wine, talking about wine, sampling wine and living life with the joy of wine.

When the blending was proclaimed to be over, we made our way back up to the tasting room, where the conversation and fun continued.

What a wonderful day… yes, a perfectly blended day!