Weekend Round-Up

As we round the corner of fall, I thought I would start up my weekend round-up for the Northern VA area again as things get back in full swing.

At Arrowine in Arlington:

Friday Wine Down
Friday, August 31, 5:30 – 7:30

Bill McKenney of Michael Downey Selections will be presenting a delicious range of wines from Italy. Take advantage of special discounts during the tasting.

Saturday Tasting
Saturday, September 1, 1-4 pm

Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions will be showing a wonderful selection of French wines. There are some wonderful values in this lineup and the prices get even better with our discounts during the tasting. Ed brings the wines from the estate to Arrowine. Fewer middle men means you save!

At Out of Site Wines in Vienna, VA:


During the Summer, the purpose of wine is often just to quench our thirst and divert attention from hot weather. With the Fall season just around the corner, it’s time to think a bit more seriously about good food and wine pairings. This Friday we’ll have two “old reliables”, Sancerre and Cotes du Rhone, open for tasting and discussing. Stop by and get reacquainted.


Continuing with Friday’s theme of refreshing whites and transition weather reds, we welcome Reta Smith of Potomac Selections for her debut on our tasting bar.

  • 2006 Dom. des Trois Toits Gros Plant du Pays Nantais. Captures the smell and taste of the Atlantic- sea salt and shells. If you’re not at the beach, close your eyes and let this wine transport you there.
  • 2006 Joel Delaunay Touraine “Estate”. Riveting Sauvignon Blanc that is at once juicy and flavorful, while displaying cleansing minerality on the finish.
  • 2005 Dom. la Bastide Merlot VDP d’Hauterive. This wine has as much juicy and pure cherry and plum fruit as any value-priced Merlot, without sharing any of the chocolate, vanilla, and creaminess of New World Merlots. Amazingly inexpensive when there’s no oak involved and cheap vineyard land available.
  • 2005 Dom. Le Roc des Anges Cotes du Roussillon Villages. Delicious blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah, much from old vines. Tastes like a serious Southern Rhone, say from Vacqueyras or Gigondas.

That’s it for this weekend, expect more next weekend and hopefully info from a new wine shop that contacted me, Il Vino in Fairfax Corner.


Reaching New Heights

At 16.9% alcohol by volume, this wine is the most alcoholic (besides a port) that I can ever recall drinking. Thankfully, it didn’t seem over-extracted or have any of the qualities I tend to see in some overly-alcoholic wines.

The wine was a Mazzocco 2004 Zinfandel from Alexander Valley out of Stone Ranch Vineyard. It cost $24 at the winery and had a real cork closure.

On the nose I found spices, cedar, oak, and blackberries. The spice was really very pungent and I know I’ve come across the aroma before, but I can’t place it. It triggers a memory, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. In the mouth the fruit was incredibly fresh and dark. There were blackberries and raspberries and a bit of spicy cedar in the mouth.

Naked Chardonnay Again!

Moving really screwed up my entering shipments of wine into Cellartracker. So when it came time for WBW 36 I thought my only “naked” Chardonnay was the one I had just purchased at Breaux Vineyard. I was mistaken and overlooked this bottle of 2006 Marimar Estates Acero Chardonnay from Don Miguel Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

The wine came in a club shipment, cost $29 minus a club discount and was 14.2% alcohol by volume, on the higher end for a white wine in my experience. It also had a screw-cap as this is a lower-end Marimar production.

I’m beginning to think that my nose might be off these days. On the nose of the wine I was knocked over to find an overwhelming aroma of peanut butter. I thought I was losing my mind, but Matt concurred with my assessment. Under the peanut butter was lemon, green apple, and pineapple with a touch of cream. In the mouth I found green apples and lemons. Overall I would say the mouthfeel of this wine was tingly, almost as if it had tiny bubbles in it. The wine was crisp, but smooth at the end. A pretty good bottle of naked Chardonnay.

I’ve been a bad Wino

It’s not so much that I forgot to report on the Key West Wine Fest at Breaux Vineyards that we went to on July 21, it’s that we got incredibly busy as soon as we got back from it. And I simply never got around to reporting on the lovely day we spent at Breaux! We headed out to VA Wine Country to celebrate (slightly early since I was going to be away on business) my birthday! There’s nothing more I like to do to celebrate events than use them as an excuse to go wine tasting! And it just so happened that Breaux was having a Festival the day we could go!

This was their second annual fest and it was fabulous! I believe the fee at the door was $15 to get in, but you could have purchased your ticket earlier for less money. Your ticket got you a wine tasting, lei, mardi gras beads, take home glass, entertainment and a raffle ticket. At the fest they had food vendors and craft stands in addition to the Jimmy Buffet cover band that was fabulous for the warm weather we were having. Matt tried the Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya from the Jambalaya shack and said it was very tasty. I opted for some brie and crackers from the winery as cheese and crackers is one of my favorites with wine.

Breaux had ten wines available for tasting under a huge tent that day, including the 2006 Jolie Blend that was just released that day!

2006 Jolie Blond $13-Grapefruit, lemon, citrus, light and dry, great really cold. We took home 3 bottles.

2006 Viognier $22– Peach, honey, tropical, smooth and light. A little pricey.

2005 Madeline’s Chardonnay $18– Honeysuckle, pear, very aromatic, nutty. We took home a bottle which I drank for WBW!

2003 Barrel Select Chardonnay $20– Oak, charcoal (very odd), buttery, smooth, but lots of butter.

2006 Syrah Rose $22– Pretty salmon color, strawberries, not too sweet. I really like this one, but thought it was too pricey.

2006 Chere Marie $13– Dessert-likie, orange, tangerines, pears, sweet. We took home 2 bottles.

Sweet Evangeline $11-Oranges, tropical, too sweet for me.

2002 Lafayette $18– Raspberries, cherries, black pepper, very light red, solid red effort for VA.

2002 Meritage $29– Smoky meat, oak, spicy, raspberries.

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon $24– Cherries, raspberries, oak, light.

Overall, we had a fantastic day and I wouldn’t hesitate to head back out for another fun day in the sun next summer!

A Better Review

It has been quite a while since we drank a bottle of the 2005 Preston Viognier. I have a few bottles of it hanging out, and my last review of this wine didn’t do it justice as it was the 3rd or 4th wine of the evening on Thanksgiving last year and we were battling it out at Trivial Pursuit while drinking it. You can check out my paltry review here.

This time we drank the wine just sitting around one hot evening (a theme around here this summer, given the temperatures!). This is my third summer spent in the DC area and my 4th in Virginia. I am still not used to the heat!

The wine had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.7% alcohol by volume and was made of grapes from Dry Creek Valley.

On the nose I found peach, honeysuckle, spice, and a bit of a topical note. In the mouth the wine was light and crisp. The flavors were peach, honey, and a bit of spice. The wine had silky feel in back of palate, I really enjoyed it. Overall an excellent wine and another great offering from Preston.

We made a brief return to Preston on our last Sonoma trip to pick up some olive oil and were disappointed to find that Preston was entirely sold out of all their white wines and hardly had any reds left either. I hope that they have released some new vintages by now! Preston was a cool place to visit, I think the most intriguing part, besides the wine of course, were the cats in the yard by the tasting room. There are just a ton of cats that live there!

Drinking locally

We’ve been buying and drinking quite a few locally produced wines this summer. I love to visit the vineyards in the beautiful weather and I have some extra wine dollars as I needed to stop my clubs for the summer due to the heat, so what better way to spend them than on local wines?

I picked up this bottle of 2006 Breaux Vineyards Jolie Blond when we went to Breaux for their Key West Wine Fest, which I’ve been extremely negligent in writing up. You can hop on over to DC Gastronome where I noticed Leah had put up a very timely review of the event! I believe the wine cost around $16, was newly released that day, is 12.6% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. The wine is actually a Seyval Blanc, a grape I am not altogether familiar with, though I understand it is a French hybrid grape.

On the nose I found peach, lemon, and just a slight hint of oak. I would describe the nose as crisp. I didn’t notice any oak in the mouth at all. I got citrus flavors, mostly orange and lemon. Overall the wine was crisp and light and quite dry. We drank this on its own late on a hot Virginia night when no amount of AC would cool our house down. It was really refreshing and a great end to the evening.

Anniversary Wine!

In some other year we will do the whole Champagne thing, but since I figured we had done a fair amount of Champagne lately with the new house thing and we had been saving this bottle for the occasion, a bottle of 2005 Brutocao Feliz Vineyard Dolcetto was used to toast the evening.

We were given this bottle by our excellent server at the Lion’s Den Bistro where we dined one Friday evening on our honeymoon. It was our favorite over the 4 course food and wine pairing meal and our server had indicated he would give us the remainder of the bottle to take back to our B&B. When we arrived back at the B&B we went to drink it and discovered he had kindly given us a brand new bottle and we decided to save it for our first anniversary. A little reminder of our honeymoon since we weren’t going to be able to make it back out to Sonoma for the occasion.

So with that said, the wine was free, had a real cork closure and clocked in at 13.8% alcohol by volume. We decided to eat in our dining room with all the fancy crystal and china and I served a meal of parmasean/honey dijon/breadcrumb encrusted rack of lamb with blue cheese polenta and green beans. It was a good match to the dinner, though the rack of lamb could have easily stood up to a really big wine. But I thought this was a good choice as the lamb with the crust and fresh herbs and such is really flavorful and I didn’t want a wine that was going to take away from those flavors.

Anywho, the wine. On the nose I found plums and sweet candy. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but I would describe it as a sweet candied aroma. In the mouth the wine was fruity and had a medium-light body. Mostly sweet plums in the mouth. Overall, a nice, lighter red wine that was easy drinking on a warm summer night. And a bottle with really great memories.

Crab Cakes and Riesling

*Disclaimer: I received this bottle of wine from a PR firm that is promoting the pairing of the wine with recipes from Chef Todd Gray.

This bottle of 2006 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Riesling from South Australia arrived on my doorstep last week. It also came with a recipe for crab cakes by Chef Todd Gray. At 12.5% alcohol by volume, closed with a screw-cap, and with a recipe that didn’t actually seem too difficult, I figured I’d give this a try on a weeknight, especially when I saw that hand-picked Maryland Blue Crab was on sale at my grocery this week.

My crabcakes are the ones on the Corelle plate with the broccoli. The PR shot is the fancy one on a green salad. Not too bad if I do say so myself. And as I measure all my cooking adventures, I would say this one was a success as Matt requested seconds! I’ll post the recipe at the end of the post, but overall, it was really easy to make, perhaps a half hour total between prep and cooking, the hardest part was finding the ingredients. I must say I still have NO earthly idea what preserved lemon is, so I just used fresh lemon. And Skipjack spice? I Googled that one and discovered it’s actually another name for an Old Bay type spice. The crab cakes needed a little more cooking time than recommended, I’d say 5 minutes per side and I think perhaps they needed another bonding agent as they fell apart a little as I flipped them. I like the contrast of the salty drawn butter (apparently the fancy chef term is clarified butter in the recipe) on the outside and the sweet Maryland crab on the inside, not to mention the kick that cayenne pepper gave it, even though it was only 1/8 tsp!

On to the wine. Since I already gave the specs, let’s get on with the review. On the nose I get creamy lemon with a bit of an orange undertone. It smelled a bit like a lemon pastry tastes. Limes after I stick my nose in a bit further. Crisp, clean, and refreshing in the mouth. Mostly lemon and lemon zest. A nice little wine for everyday drinking which can be found online for $9.99. Not a bad price for the easy drinking wine. It matched really well with the crab cakes. They were a bit buttery on the outside and the crisp citrus of the wine was an excellent combination. Also great was the cooling nature of the wine next to the kick of the Cayenne in the crab cakes!

Chef Todd Gray’s Lump Crab Cake:
Makes 6 crabcakes


1 lb Jumbo Lump Crabmeat; cleaned of all shells

1/3 cup Fresh Mayonnaise

1 Tbs Whole Grain Mustard

1 Tbs Preserved Lemon, small dice

½ c Brioche Bread; crust removed and small diced

¼ c Chives, minced

1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper

¼ tsp Skipjack Spice

tt Salt & Pepper

1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ c Clarified Butter


In a large stainless mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except for clarified butter); mix well but be careful not to break up lumps of crab. Form mix into six 3-ounce cakes. Heat a large sauté pan to medium temperature; add a clarified butter and brown cakes on both sides (approx. 3 minutes per side).

Serve cakes warm with your favorite green salad.

FYI for you DC area folks: Chef Todd Gray is the head chef at Equinox in downtown DC.

Birds of a Feather

And a very round-a-bout way to get a bottle of wine back to Virginia. I picked this bottle up on my work trip in New Orleans. One of my coworkers and I were going to celebrate my birthday a little more, but after gorging ourselves at the RedFish Grill on Bourban Street we simply couldn’t fit even a drop in our stomachs. So the bottle got stashed in my suitcase to be checked through on the plane. And thus arrived this $13.99 bottle of 2004 Sonoma County Ravenswood Zinfandel.

On the nose I found blackberries, oak, spices, and alcohol. I’m not sure this bottle was ready to drink. The alcohol needed quite a bit of time to blow off the aroma of the wine. In the mouth I would describe the wine as hot. After some time I found blackberries, black currants, and oak. Comparatively, this was a low alcohol Zinfandel, coming in at only 14.5%. So I’m not sure where all the heat on this one came from, but boy was it there. Wait to drink it or decant it.

I served this with four cheese ravioli and fresh tomato sauce. I was in a cooking mood the other day and made us our fall’s supply of tomato sauce! It was actually a really good match for the acid of the tomato sauce.

It’s our 1st Anniversary!

One year ago today, Matt and I were married! And today appears to have held out with beautiful weather for us to celebrate our anniversary. We are heading out to VA Wine Country to go tasting for the day, seems appropriate given we spent our honeymoon in Sonoma doing the same thing!

For dinner we will be drinking a bottle of wine we’ve saved for a year that was given to us by our server at the Lion’s Den Bistro at Brutocao Cellars. We were the only guests that evening and he told us to pick our favorite bottle from the food and wine pairing and gave it to us to help celebrate. Nothing terribly fancy, but a special bottle nonetheless!

Happy Anniversary honey!