Monday is definitely a special occasion!

I was doing some serious research last night, and by that I mean I was drinking wine and enjoying it. Thanks to Andy Regan [winemaker of Jefferson Vineyards], I was enjoying his latest Meritage from the  2009 vintage. Based mainly on the Cabernet Franc grape, this is sure to be crowd pleaser with dark fruit on the nose complimented by well-integrated oak and good acidity. It is a stellar effort from one of Virginia’s best wine makers. Andy, you owe me a beer for that endorsement!

Monday’s are mostly low-key affairs and with my brother and sister-in-law coming round for dinner along with her significant other and a good friend of ours, Aaron Watson [who just happens to be an amazing local photographer],  I decided to pull out all the stops for dinner. This involved a quick call to the local Chinese restaurant, ensuring that dinner was indeed half decent. With the Jefferson Meritage freshly out, a new bottle was called for and the Keswick Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was thought to be the ideal candidate. This was a special vintage and this was indeed a special wine as it was the lucky winner of the Virginia Governors Cup in 2009.

Who says Cab and Chinese food cannot work

There really is no better time to crack open a special bottle of wine than with people you enjoy being around, on some random for no good reason day. I would be lying if I said it went well the Chinese food but that really is not the point. With a quick decant to remove the heavy sediment, glasses were duly filled, accompanied by gasps of “You opened what” I have not tried this wine for a while now; and I was not disappointed. It clearly has some life in it with big firm tannins, accented by smoky undertones. Blended with 25% Merlot, this wine is distinctly fruit forward with dark berries, plums and just a hint of cigar box. What I enjoyed most about the wine though was the long finish and the supple overall texture of the wine. Let me be totally honest and say there is a definite hint of biasm here due to me making it, but if you have a few bottles of this wine lying around  why not crack one open now, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

With my mantra of drinking special bottles of wine on random days with funny foods, crack that bottle you have been saving open, while sitting in your pajamas with a big bowl of ice cream. If the wine is as good as you think it is, it will make any day a special day, even a Monday!



Keswick Vineyards


4 Wineries, 1 Initiative

The passport, available at each of the participating wineries and cidery

Blenheim, Jefferson Vineyards, Castle Hill Cidery and Keswick Vineyards are pleased to announce the launch of the Winter Wonderland passport program, which runs up until April 1st 2012.

The concept of this marketing effort is simple, purchase a passport at one winery and taste for free at the others. This is a wonderful opportunity for customers who plan on making a day out of visiting and tasting some fantastic Virginia wines and ciders.
Available for $15 at any of the participating wineries, this card saves you $10 on the normal tasting room fees you would incur.

I think it is important to promote other wineries and businesses within the State and I have known Kirsty [winemaker for Blenheim] and Andy [winemaker for Jefferson] for a long time and am a huge admirer of the wines they have been producing. We are also excited that Castle Hill Cidery has come on board and Stuart [Cider Maker] is doing some wonderful things and everyone should go and taste their products in what is a beautiful tasting room.

All the wineries are within about 20-30 minutes driving distance, so visiting each in a single day is easily doable. Stop in at Keswick Hall or the Clifton Inn for lunch; take in Monticello [about a mile from Jefferson Vineyards] to break things up.
visit us all on one day or take your time, just bring your passport with you and your tasting will be complimentary upon your arrival.

I can promise you, having these wines and ciders recently that you will not be disappointed


Keswick Vineyards

Keswick Vineyards
Castle Hill Cider
Jefferson Vineyards
Blenheim Vineyards

Don’t forget about the bubbles

The common perception is that Champagne is reserved only for the finest of celebrations, that it is too special an elixir to consume on a Monday evening for no reason whatsoever. Well I am an advocate for bubblies and think they are fantastic wines to drink with a variety of foods or just for the heck of it.
Champagnes come in a variety of styles [Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir amongst others] as well as a variety of sweetness levels from dry [Brut Nature] to sweeter [Sec or Demi Sec].

Already it makes a strong case for consumers, as the range in styles really appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers. You do not find too many sweet Syrah or Cabernet wines, so for the sweet tooth this is just not an appealing wine type. I may happen to think that Syrah and Cabernet represent the best of what wine can bring to the table, but someone just entering into the world of wine might not like the idea of feeling that they swallowed a desert.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets discuss Champagne and what it is all about. There are many sparkling wines made throughout the world, but the use of the word “Champagne” is reserved strictly for those wines made in the area of Champagne in France. The use of the word is actually protected by the Treaty of Madrid [1891] and reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles. The United States acknowledges the use of the term and only those producers who had permission before 2006, may continue to use the term although most do not. In other countries sparkling wine is known as Cava [Spain], Spumante [Italy] and Cap Classique [South Africa].

The traditional method in producing “Champagne” is known as Methode Champenoise, whereby a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle trapping the by-product Carbon Dioxide [bubbles]. After extensive aging, the bottle is manipulated so that the lees [spent yeast] settles in the neck of the bottle, a process known as rumage. After a quick freeze of the bottle neck, the cap is removed and the pressure forces the ice and lees out of the bottle, after which some syrup is added [dosage] and the cork inserted to trap the Carbon Dioxide. Sounds pretty technical right? Well yeah it is, I have a great admiration for producers of this type of wine, it is not as easy as it looks. I do talk after having made one bottle of sparkling wine in my life, in preparation for my wife’s graduation. Silly me, I did not think it would take her 7 years to get her PhD and the bottle was less than fizzy, it would have been better had I used a Chardonnay and a bicycle pump. It will be the most memorable bottle of bubbly ever though. By the way, very proud of your Dr.Kathryn Schornberg.

It is true that you can make a sparkling wine out of any grape, I have had some wonderful bubblies made from Viognier in Virginia, Syrah from Australia and even a Cabernet Franc from Ohio. But for the purists though, “Champagne” is made from either Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. The particular style of the wines refer to the way in which the grapes were used; Blanc de Blanc [white from white], Blanc de Noir [white from red] and Rose whereby pigmentation is derived from contact with the skins of the dark skinned grapes.

Ever wondered why Champagne bottles are so freaking heavy? Well, since Champagne wines are made by trapping carbon dioxide in the bottle, the bottle has to be of sufficient strength to be able to withstand those pressures. They are so heavy and thick, they could make a wonderful self defense weapon.

So we have well established that there is a lot of finesse that goes into creating this extraordinary wine, but the real treat is in drinking these beauties. There is definitely a Champagne for everyone, from the cheap and fruity to the expensive and complex, the bone dry to the sweetest of the lot.
Champagnes are definitely food friendly, and are a great accompaniment to cheeses in the appetizer course, to shell fish and pork as the entree. Aged Gouda, Parmesan or Cheddar pair wonderfully with Blanc de Blanc, while pork and Rose Champagne is a wonderful treat. I have even heard that Champagne and eggs Benedict are to die for, you now also have an excuse to drink Champagne in the morning.
They do pair with desserts but try to stay away from sticky or overtly sweet dishes, try angel food cake or berries as a wonderful compliment to a demi sec.

Champagnes are vibrant and fun, with flavors ranging from green apples with beautifully focused acidity, to creamier versions with hints of biscuit and butterscotch. They can be smoky and elegant or tart and citrus driven. These are fun wines to drink. My prediction for 2012, more people will start drinking Champagne, just for the heck of it, and you know what? THEY SHOULD.

Some of my personal favorites include the
– Mumm Brut “Cordon Rouge”
– Piper Heidsieck “Piper”
– Krug “Grande Cuvee”
– Schramsberg J Schram and Mirabelle Rose [also my wife’s absolute favorite]
South Africa
– Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage
– J.C.Le Roux Pinot Noir
– Peregrine Ridge Sparkling Shiraz

– Thibaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay
– Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc
– Veritas Scintilla

And YES, at some point in time I have had every one of these bottles, and NO, I do not have a drinking problem!

Local versions are fantastic and there are many other great options out there and provide fantastic value for money
I constantly preach that we have to keep expanding our palates and try different wines, so what better reason than that to dive into the fascinating world of the wine with the bubbles, because today is Tuesday, and it is a special day.

For as Winston Churchill so graciously put it
“In success you deserve it, and in defeat you need it”.

Fun little fact [quoted]
Contrary to popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne.


Keswick Vineyards