Meet Me in Sonoma

Hmmm…apparently you can’t use strike-through in a title! I wanted to title this post Meet Me in St. Louis Sonoma!  Oh well.  But really.  Come meet me in Sonoma next week!  Matt and I will be attending several events and if you’d like to come, I’d love to meet you.

First, on April 14, Patrick kindly scheduled a Happy Hour for Healdsburg area folks at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill from 4-6.  We’ve got a good group of people signed up so far, but would love to have a bigger crowd!  You can get all the details here. RSVP now and come enjoy some happy hour specials!

And then, on April 17, the biggest live internet tasting of wines ever for Twitter Taste Live!!  Wine Bloggers, retailers, and TTL have partnered with Hospice du Rhone to taste Rhone varietals in 3 different time zones.  On the West Coast, Estate in Sonoma is hosting a food and wine event for all who want to participate.  From 7-10, for $12, enjoy food from The Girl and the Fig! Bring a bottle of a Rhone varietal to share and join in the fun.  Patrick, Thea, Shana, Matt, and I will be there!  Details here.

Meet Up Virginia: Piola Again

The Virginia Wine Club Meet-Up is having a gathering again at Piola in Rosslyn. April 30, from 5:30 pm on. Last time we all stayed for dinner and made a night out of it.

Matt and I are closing on our house that day, or else we’d be there for sure. I loved the last happy hour we had and it was great to see many new wine club members. Happy Hour runs from 4 pm through 7 pm and includes a variety of great (free!) appetizers. Last time we got pasta salad, pizza, various bruschettas, cheeses, crackers….lots of stuff and it was all tasty. You could pretty much make a meal on all the appetizers the restaurant provides. Also, their house red is pretty tasty and is half price by the glass during Happy Hour.

If you haven’t gone to a VA Wine Club event, I urge you to check it out. For the events I have attended, there’s been a great turn-out and each time it seems that more people come!

We’ll attempt to make it, but I can’t make any promises. I have no idea how long a house closing takes to be honest and I fear I am going to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off that day. (Who knew that you don’t find out the exact amount of your closing costs until the morning of your closing?? What a pain, it means I have to dash to the bank to get a certified check right before the closing.)

Meetup VA at Piola

Both of our fearless leaders, Allan of Cellarblog and Leah of DcGastronome, were in attendance at the wine club happy hour! It was great to see Leah again and to meet Allan for the first. And I must say, Leah picked a fabulous place for the event.

Piola is in Rosslyn and specializes in thin crust pizzas of every possible variety. They also have an awesome happy hour where wines by the glass are half price and appetizers are free and plentiful.

I arrived just after 5:30 and already there were at least 6 wine club members in attendance. Over the course of the evening we had about 20 members attend, including several new people. It’s always great to et the chance to meet more wine lovers! I started out with a glass of the house white, which is literally, the house’s. Piola offers both a white and a red house wine, produced and blended in Italy with their name. The white Blanco Piola was light and fruity with notes of lemon and spice. On first taste I thought it had Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc in it. It had those and Garganego and Seprino. It came in at $3.50 a glass with the special, which I thought was a decent value for an easy to drink white.

I moved on from there to the Rosso Piola, also $3.50 with the discount. The wine was 12.5% alcohol by volume and more complex than the white. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This one had all spice and cherry on the nose. In the mouth there were cherries, raspberries and raisins, plus a bit of an earthy quality. I liked this one better than the white, and over the course of the evening our group consummed several bottles.

The free appetizers at happy hour were great! When I came in there were cheese trays out on the bar and the wine club had taken over the couch area for the evening. Soon, trays of hot appetizers came around and the servers were incredibly attentive to us, bringing us full trays of everything! My favorite was the gorgonzola and prosciutto bruschetta, followed by a a prosciutto sandwhich on nice salty flat bread. Then they came around with full plates of pasta salad that was done with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and olive oil. It was great. I also saw pizza and they put an entire appetizer of toasted pita triangles and eggplant dip on our table. You could really have made a meal on all the free appetizers, and I was really impressed with the service and variety.

Ten wine club members decided to stay for dinner after happy hour and we were seated very quickly at a big table that was easily able to accomodate our party. Many different pizzas were ordered and enjoyed by the group. Matt had the Pizza Carbonara, which literally had bacon, eggs, cheese, etc. on it. It looked great. I believe Leah and Jeff also had one of these. It looked like Allan enjoyed his prosciutto pizza and I had a pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and brie which was delicious. I just finished eating some of the leftovers for lunch.

I think everyone had a great time and I am looking forward to our next event. Piola was a great choice and I would definitely return. The appetizers alone made it fantastic, but that combined with low prices on the pizza, good service and good food pushed it over the top. The wine list does need help, but everything else was up to snuff.

Happy Hour at Piola!

On Wednesday, April 4th, starting at 5:30, the Virginia Meetup Wine Club is meeting at Piola in Rosslyn for Happy Hour.

Piola is located at 1550 Wilson Boulevard, a mere 3 blocks from the Rosslyn Metro, so very easy to get to for those without cars or who prefer the Metro. Barring snow (please no, it’s supposed to be 80 out today, I don’t think I can take any more changes back to winter weather!), Matt and I will actually be there this time and I am much looking forward to attending as I enjoyed the first event we attended several months ago.

Happy Hour runs from 4pm-7pm (I always wondered why it was called Happy Hour if it ran for several hours….) and includes some great specials. Wine is half-price during Happy Hour and free snacks are provided, yum. The menu looks great, I am all about wood-fired pizza and inexpensive. I think the most expensive entree is $16.95, with most much less than that. The wine list is a little short, at least what is listed online, only about 10 wines total, so we shall see.

Please join me and our lovely leader Leah of DcGastronome at Happy Hour! Hope to see you there! I don’t know which suit yet, but I’ll be the blonde with bad roots (yes, still, havea n appointment next week) in a suit.

Out and About

On Friday we accepted the very kind invitation of one of Matt’s former coworkers to attend a happy hour that he was hosting at the Army Navy Club downtown. After several glasses of wine (no idea what it was beyond Merlot and Chardonnay since it was dressed up in fancy Army Navy Club labels) we decided to head with the host and another former coworker (whom we also knew from college) out to McCormick and Schmick’s for a late dinner.

While there, I had a glass of Penfolds 2005 Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet. At the restaurant it was selling for $9.25 a glass and $37.50 for the bottle, but I see you can find it here for as little as $8.68 a bottle. For that price, this would be an excellent value as an easy to drink wine that would please a crowd at a party with no trouble.

My tablemates all had the Guiness special at $3.00 a pint, but I really only feel the need to drink Guiness when eating corned beef and cabbage, not with my seafood. Though I guess I shouldn’t talk since I paired a big red with my seafood….

I’d never been to McCormick and Schmick’s before, and didn’t realize it was a chain until I just went and looked it up. However, for a chain, the food and service were excellent and I loved the decor/ambience. We were seated immediately and put in a tucked away booth with curtains to close if you wanted more privacy.

I had the Maryland Crab Soup, which was a little spicy for my taste (just a little too much tabasco it felt like) but Matt really enjoyed it. My main course was the Crab, Shrimp and Artichoke Dip, which was fabulous. I love this creamy concoction in all its forms at various restaurants, but this one was especially tasty. And it was huge. There was more than enough for me and at least one other person to make an entire meal out of it. The pita chips were crispy and thick enough to scoop up the dip nicely.

Now, the food wasn’t a fabulous match with the wine, but that’s okay, I really wanted this glass. Overally, the restaurant had a really good selection of wines by the glass and a fairly large selection of wine overall, ranging from decently priced huge producers to smaller, more expensive selections.

The Penfolds had a nose of vanilla, cedar, dark fruit and spices. It really jumped out of the glass. In the mouth I got black currants and blackberries. Overall, it had a good mouthfeel and is definitely a drink it now kind of wine. It’s smooth and structured nicely, but seems clearly to be a wine that was bottled with immediate drinking in mind. I would really like to have some of this on hand for a backyard bbq this summer, as I can see it going over really well with a crowd. Good sized pour for the glass as well.

This was the first glass of anything from Penfolds that I have had and I would be very interested in trying some of the other offerings. I know over on Wino-Sapien there are many reviews of the various levels of the Penfolds collection (and it looks like there are many, many tiers to their offerings) and lots of them sound like excellent bargains if they can be found here in the US. I see that several stores in the NY/NJ area have good deals on the particular wine I tasted, I will have to keep my eye out for some more of the offerings in my area. Perhaps on my trip to the wine store next week….I need some everyday wines again!

Virginia Wine Club Meetup Tonight

ETA: We are going to have change our answer here, the weather will be keeping us at home. I hope everyone has a great time and we will catch you at the next one!

The most recent email for the Virginia Wine Club Meetup event managed to get lost in my inbox. Possibly due to the fact that my once spam-free email has in recent months become home to all varieties of spam, which saddens me greatly. (No, really, I don’t need cheap Xantax or whatever else you are peddling….)

However, our kind assistant organizer Leah, of DcGastronome, sent out a reminder email last night which caught my eye.

Tonight there are around 20 of us who have rsvp’d “yes” to attend the Meetup at Cafe Saint Ex in DC at 6:00pm. It’s close to the U Street Metro, so easily accessible by both Metro or car if you are so inclined to brave driving into DC (a task I try to avoid at all costs, really people, the car manufacturers installed turn signals on your vehicle for a reason, not just so you could watch pretty blinking lights on your dashboard, learn to use them!).

Happy hour specials run from 4:00pm through 7:00pm which includes $4 glasses of house wine, and I’m not sure what else since the happy hour section of the website is unpopulated. The wine list looks interesting, though I wish there were a larger selection of wines by the glass. It appears a bit unbalanced with only 5 reds by the glass and 7 whites. Hear that DC area restaurants? Offering wines by the glass (and not just plonk!) in greater variety would be an appreciated factor when composing your wine lists! Or how about flights of wine? Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but I think I”ve only been to one restaurant with that option!

So come join us! I’ll be there at 6 and Matt will be joining me shortly thereafter. Last month’s Meetup was a blast and it was great to get out and meet new people, I hope to see some familiar faces and some new ones this time. I’m the brownish-blonde with bad roots (help, I need a new salon!) wearing a chocolate brown suit. Hope to see you there!

Drinking with the Guys

We had plans last night to go out with one of Matt’s new coworkers and the coworker’s girlfriend, but the girlfriend wasn’t feeling so well, so there was a last minute change of events. Instead we ended up out with around 10 of Matt’s coworkers and me. All of his coworkers are men, and they (including Matt) were drinking Budweiser by the pitcher like it was going out of style. Now, you’ll be hard pressed to get me to drink a beer to begin with, but if they had gone with the Blue Moon which the bar also had on tap, I might have been tempted. But Bud, no thanks, I’ll pass.

Which puts me in a precarious position….I don’t really drink hard alcohol and the wine lists at bars are usually extrodinarily underwhelming. So color me surprised when I took a look at the menu and found an albeit short, but really well thought out and pretty exciting wine list! Last night found us at Hamilton’s Bar and Grill, which doesn’t appear to have a webpage beyond it’s myspace page.

I really liked the place. It’s a little out of the way on Constitution and 2nd, right by the Department of Labor, but I thought it worth the trip. The atmosphere was kind of college bar meets Capitol Hill (though I suppose that can be said for many places in this neck of the woods) with plenty of TVs, a hug bar, lots of cozy booths and pretty cool bartenders. Our bartender was attempting to kill the keg of Bud and kept giving the guys free pitchers (he really wanted to get the keg of Magic Hat tapped).

So the food and wine. I first chose a glass of Grove Mill Riesling. It was okay, but I was in the mood for something a little more fruity. This glass tasted really reserved and was a bit too cold at first (and, that, coming from me, is saying a lot, as I love my wine fairly chilly). I also thought that perhaps it was a bottle that was a couple days old. So from there I moved on to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile!! And that’s where I stayed for the rest of the night. I wish I had my pen with me so I would have written down the name, but it was delicious and perfect with the creamy and tasty crab and artichoke dip I had ordered. It had bracing acidity, goseberries, hints of citrus and a great structure. I will go back to this place just to find out what it was. Overall, the wine list had about 10 wines on it, a great mix of varietals and locations (seriously, I was shocked to find a sauvignon blanc in a bar (it’s usually an oaky chardonnay or a flabby pinot grigio) and flabbergasted when I found out it was from Chile!). All glass were $6.25 and on Wednesdays they have half-price wine night.

My crab dip was excellent. Really creamy with great parmesean flavors to complement the crab and artichoke, plus really generous on the amount of crab in the dip (and a huge portion overall). It was served with hot toasted pita triangles which made great scoopers. Matt had a cheeseburger, which he gobbled down (so I can only assume it was good) with fries (which were great, nice and crisp and salty). Great prices, good wine list and excellent grub. I recommend it.

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