The Beach House – 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

BeachHouseMany of us think New Zealand when we think about Sauvignon Blanc, but believe it or not, Sauv Blanc is done well in other places.  South Africa is now one of those places.  This wine is pleasant, and quite a nice value.  This wine is a product of the Western Cape area of South Africa, and offers up some pleasant aromas, like lemongrass, citrus (lemon and bitter orange predominate), the tiniest bit of floral and melon.  This wine treads a little lightly, perhaps a little too lightly, on some of the traditional Sauv Blanc characteristics, like that herby grassiness that is often prevalent in a Marlborough Sauv Blanc.  Flavors are softly citrus with just a little spiciness, and the finish is short but clean.  This wine was a nice accompaniment to fresh crab steamed in Old Bay.


Lake Chalice – NV Cracklin’ Savie

cracklinsavieLooking for something fun and sparkly to open on a Friday night?  You’re gonna love this one!

I was in a great little wine shop in Annapolis, Maryland (Mills Fine Wine & Spirits), and met Patrick Darr, a wine consultant at Mills with an amazing palate and knowledge of wine.  Pat pulled this one out and handed it to me, and I think I jumped back two steps in surprise.  A wine with a soda cap?!  What?!  Are you kidding?!  After I stopped laughing, Pat assured me that this one was truly worth trying.  So with bottle in hand, in a brown paper bag, I marched out of the store, feeling as though I just committed a crime of the highest order against all things wine.

When I got home I put the bottle, still in the bag, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and hoped that anyone who might open the door would never inquire about it.  Every day I’d open the door and see that bag, wondering if I’d ever actually try it.  If I did open it, I’d have to try it alone, of course.  After all, what would my friends say?

Fast forward to today.

After a long week that felt more like an aeon, I came home to realize that I only had one sparkling wine chilling.  After the horror movie music stopped playing in my head, I grabbed the bottle, stared at the label for a moment and ran to get the bottle opener.  No fanfare of popping a cork.  Just a the light sound of a little carbonation escaping.  I poured a glass and took a sniff.  It was light and familiar.  Nice.

The aromas of this wine are quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit with maybe a little meyer lemon, and definitely a little tropical with pineapple and passion fruit.  The herbs were there, too.  A little grassy, and eucalyptus.  Really nice.  Then the taste.  Very nice!  Modestly carbonated, and full of flavor.  The flavor perfectly matched the aromas.  The acidity was really nice and lasted throughout the long, mineral finish.

It went really well with a round of pot stickers, and even better with lime cilantro shrimp.  Unexpectedly fabulous!

I learned my lesson on this one.  Don’t judge a wine by its cork, or lack thereof.  It’s a great buy at under $20 (US), and I’m already looking forward to my next bottle!


Willm – NV Brut Prestige Crémant d’Alsace

willmThe cold, snowy months of this winter have certainly left many, including me, feeling blah.  But today was just what the doctor ordered – sunny and warmer, with a promise of spring in the air.  What better way to celebrate than to pop open a bottle of bubbly!  So pop I did!  I picked up this value with a day like today in mind.  Something to drink to celebrate just being happy.  This sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay (80%), Pinot Noir (15%) and Riesling (5%).  As soon as the bubbles hit the flute I just knew I was in for something special.  The bubbles were plentiful and as each one popped the aromas of crisp apple and pear floated up to my nose.  A hit of light citrus and honey were also mixed in.  The fruit-forward flavor was quite nice, and as the bubbles eased, the flavor of peach made its way to the top.  Very nice.  The acidity was very well-balanced, and the finish was clean.  And what could be better to pair this with than fresh strawberries with Brillat-Savarin Frais.  Delightful!

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 .

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.

Famille Perrin – 2012 Luberon


There are few wines that can truly be described with one word, but this wine is the exception to the rule.  The word?  Pears…sweet, delicious pears… If you’re like me, and love the smell of fresh, sweet, aromatic pears, you may find yourself lingering in the aroma for quite a while.   The flavor of this dry white is a perfect match to its aromas – delicious pear, touched with a slight grassiness.  Ugni Blanc and Clairette are blended with Chardonnay to create this wine.  The acidity is balanced and the finish is modest.  Smooth and beautiful, this wine is a perfect accompaniment to light appetizers like a white bean dip with a crusty baguette, but will easily go with a meal of poultry or fish.  I suggest that you even use any leftover wine (leftover?  really?) as a poaching liquid for pears to make an amazing dessert.

I would like to offer a special “Thank You!” to Mary Watson at Cookology ( in Sterling, VA, for introducing me to this lovely wine.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler – 2011 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spatlese

HB Spatlese

For some unknown reason, I rarely include Rieslings on my list of wines to taste.  Perhaps it’s that the wine world has this love-hate relationship with Rieslings, which, in my opinion, is unfounded.  I know that some of you have a love-love relationship with them, and I commend you – “Riesling” has become such a generic word for an amazingly wide range of wine experiences – it hardly does justice to everything that is out there under the name.

We had a little late summer gathering this evening, and wanted something cold and crisp, but decidedly fruity.  My personal bias is that I’ve tended to always stick to dry whites, so I was almost reluctant to open this semi-sweet, fruit forward wine.  Ah, but shame on me….open it I did, and I was so very nice.  The aromas of gooseberry, passion fruit and pineapple were lovely.  The flavors matched well, with a little vanilla creaminess mixed into the fruit.  The acidity was modest but remained crisp enough to offer a light, fruity finish without cloying sweetness.  This wine was just perfect  with our lightly spiced grilled shrimp.  I have no doubt I’ll revisit this wine very soon.