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Virgins In Virginia!

Virgins in Virginia!

My husband and I are on a summer adventure. We’re taking five weeks going up and down the east coast, tasting a bunch of wine and beer along the way. Neither of us had ever been to Virginia Wine Country before (we were calling ourselves Virginia Virgins!), so we decided on this region as our first wine stop!

The Monticello AVA is located around Charlottesville, VA (home to the University of Virginia). The area is absolutely gorgeous. I kept imagining that it looks like Napa may have looked 50 years ago!

We made the small town of Afton our home base. We spent 5 nights at a cozy cottage in the middle of the wooded mountains that I found on VRBO. We then spent another 4 nights at the Cottages at Afton Mountain Vineyards. The views here were spectacular. I loved sitting on the deck before dinner with a glass of bubbly and looking at the vineyards and the Blue Ridge Mountains!

There are a lot of wonderful wineries located nearby. I’m going to tell you about a few of our favorites!

Pollak Vineyards – Pollak Vineyards has a beautiful tasting room and beautiful grounds. They also have a great Cab Franc! My favorite thing about this winery??? They’re dog friendly! We had a great tasting with Adam. After we found out they like dogs, we enjoyed a bottle on their deck with our furry kids! http://www.pollakvineyards.com

Barboursville Vineyards – We opted for their Library Tasting, where we sat in front of a huge window that overlooks breathtaking views of their vineyards (pictured in the featured photo above) and the historic Barbour Mansion Ruins. This is another gorgeous spot, located about an hour from Afton on the other side of Charlottesville. Their Bordeaux blend (called Octagon) is excellent! Their other wines are wonderful too! I highly recommend this experience and their fabulous wines! https://www.bbvwine.com

Michael Shaps Wineworks – We tasted with Michael Shaps’ delightful daughter Hanna (who seems to love cheese as much as her father loves wine!). Many people in the Virginia wine world credit Michael Shaps with being a true goodwill ambassador of the region. Not only did he work for several area wineries after studying in Burgundy (where he also has Maison Michael Shaps, in Meursault!), but after starting his own winery also helps a lot of other wineries in the area. His story reminds me a bit of Robert Mondavi’s influence in Napa! The Michael Shaps wines are on the top of my list for the trip! http://www.michaelshapswines.com

Afton Mountain Vineyards – As I mentioned above regarding the cottages, the property is spectacular! Their wines are good too, especially the Cabernet Franc. Quinn helped us out in the tasting room and did a great job. They have a dog friendly patio area, so we headed down with a picnic lunch and enjoyed a bottle of their Cab Franc. Since we were staying there, we did the same thing the next day! We so enjoyed the beautiful views of the vineyards and the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to look into their cottages! You can find them on THEIR website or through Stay Charlottesville! http://www.aftonmountainvineyards.com http://www.staycharlottesville.com/vacation-rentals-homes.asp?cat=9644

This area of Virginia also knows how to make beer!!! Blue Mountain Brewery is located very close to both spots we stayed. They have so many nice beer options, why not try a flight as pictured below? They also have a great food menu! Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian, you’ll find plenty of things to eat! http://www.bluemountainbrewery.com

Another fun little tidbit about the area is King’s Gourmet Popcorn. We stayed in Afton for ten days, and in our travels we kept passing a little popcorn stand called King’s Gourmet Popcorn. On our way out of town heading north, we decided we had to try it. We bought a large bag of the Cajun White Cheddar and a small bag of the Caramel Kettle Corn. Good stuff indeed. I can see why they get such great reviews on TripAdvisor! http://www.kingsgourmetpopcorn.com

So … if you’re in the mood for wine, beer OR popcorn … Afton, Virginia is a great spot to be! The scenery is fabulous and the people are the best!

Take it from a former Virginia Virgin, don’t hesitate putting Virginia on your list of must visit wine regions!

You Scream For Ice Cream? I Scream For Beer!

You Scream for Ice Cream? I Scream for Beer!

I may be a wine pro, but I also love beer! Another thing I like??? Ice cream! So how excited was I to find a beer and ice cream pairing????? Helloooo!!!

My husband and I (along with our three dogs) are traveling up North for a month to get out of the Florida Summer heat. We’re in a little RV with a fridge big enough for some beer and wine we buy along the way!

One of our first stops was in Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is a great city! Surrounded by the Smoky Mountains it’s not only beautiful, but it’s also very fun and hip! Along with mountains, Asheville has many great breweries open to the public for tastings and/or a great place to enjoy a pint with friends.

One of those wineries is the Highland Brewing Company. Dog friendly on their roof top terrace, we headed up there with our menagerie and grabbed a pint. Later, we checked out the tasting room where they were having a beer and ice cream tasting. What??? Heck, we wanted to give it a try.

Along with The Hop Ice Cream Café’s yummy ice cream, they were pouring some beers!

The first pairing was Highland’s Gaelic Ale with The Hop’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream. The salted caramel balanced the hop flavor of the ale very nicely. The salt in this ice cream crunches in your teeth providing a really fun finish. This is good stuff! Although not my favorite pairing of the four, it WAS my favorite ice cream! In fact, we bought some “to go” for our tiny freezer in the RV.

The next pairing was Highland’s Daycation IPA with The Hops’ Grapefruit Sorbet. This was a fantastic pairing. The ruby red grapefruit flavor of the sorbet was a fantastic match with the pink grapefruit taste in the beer.

Next up was the Oatmeal Porter with Big Briar Raspberry Ice Cream. With lots of tobacco on the beer, the raspberry ice cream helped create smooth finish.

The final pairing was another great one. Black Mocha Stout with … you guessed it Black Mocha Stout Ice Cream! How could this NOT pair well? The pairing was best when we started with the ice cream and finished with the beer! So yummy!!!!

So … if you’re heading to the Asheville area and you like beer AND ice cream, you must check this out!!! You can find more info about Highland and The Hop Ice Cream Café here:

http://thehopicecreamcafe.com

https://highlandbrewing.com

Pairing France with … France!

Tonight’s dinner was a Provençal Zucchini and Potato Gratin Casserole. I wanted to pair it with a French wine (OF COURSE!), and was looking for something from Provence. When I went into our cellar, the ’08 Domaine du Cayron from Gigondas caught my eye! Okay, it’s not from Provence, but it IS from the Southern Rhone, which is pretty darn close geographically speaking. And it was a great match!Gigondas-France

A few years ago I was fortunate to visit Gigondas, a charming village located near Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone!  It is also an appellation that produces some fabulous wines, both red and rosé, with its vineyards sitting below the dramatic rock formation called the Dentelles de Montmirail.

For many decades all of the wines of Gigondas were simply Côtes-du-Rhône, but in 1966 they were elevated to Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages.  In 1971 Gigondas was deservingly awarded its own appellation.

By law, the red wines of Gigondas can be made of no more than eighty percent Grenache, and no less than fifteen percent Syrah and/or Mourvèdre.  The remaining blending varietal is usually Cinsault, but may be any other red Rhone varietal except Carignan. Confused yet??? One of the top producers of Gigondas is Domaine de Cayron, and I’m happy to tell you that their wines are distributed here in the U.S. Cayron-w-Glass gigondas-street

Now the 2008 vintage in Gigondas is not known to be stellar. The summer months were cool and had lots of rain, but I find this ’08 Domaine du Cayron to be fabulous. It has lovely plum, cherry and loads of licorice. There’s also a bit of garrigue, which pairs wonderfully with the Herbes de Provence I used in the casserole.

I have a 2010 (considered a great vintage) waiting for me next to the empty slot where this ’08 sat. I’m sure looking forward to pairing that with something special too!

 

WHO Knows? God Only Knows!!!

My husband and I have a wine problem! Okay, that’s not what I mean! We have a problem figuring out which wine to open at night. One of us, usually me, goes into the cellar and starts perusing our list! Do we want white, red or rosé? Do we want a Pinot, Cab, Tempranillo, Syrah? Do we want Old World or New World? Last night it was his turn, and once again it was a struggle. What wine should we open??? We only knew that we wanted something good. God only knows! That gave me an idea! Let’s open the God Only Knows!!!!

Cayuse is a great winery out of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. I’ve been on their waiting list for YEARS and still haven’t struck gold by being promoted to the actual list. Luckily there’s a wine store a couple hours away that has some in stock from time to time, so I have a couple of their wines in our cellar.

Cayuse’s founder Christophe Baron is originally from the Champagne region in France. His family owns the Champagne house Baron Albert and has worked the land there since 1677. He fell in love with the wines of Burgundy and had plans of opening a winery in Oregon to focus on the Burgundian varietals. After doing an internship in Walla Walla Washington, however, he discovered a vineyard that reminded him of the Rhone Valley in his home country of France. Being unable to resist this unique terroir of softball sized stones, reminiscent of the Southern Rhone, Monsieur Baron set up shop in Washington State!

Cayuse produces several wines, but the God Only Knows is considered a Grenache, as it contains at least 75% Grenache which is needed in order to label it Grenache! The other 25%? God only knows!!!!! That’s from where the clever name comes.

The 2012 Cayuse God Only Knows Armada Vineyard is a fabulous wine. It has lots of Old World “funk”, which I love. It has lots of black olive, which I also love! There’s also lovely rose petals and cherry on the nose. The palate has the olive, black cherry and some great minerality. The finish is long and lovely.

This bottle shouldn’t have been opened yet. I messed up! We should have waited a few more years, but it was still delicious. It’s only going to get better with more time in the bottle. I’m going to get online and try to hunt some more down for my cellar!

If you’d like to check out Cayuse Vineyards, and perhaps get on their massively long waiting list, check them out here:

https://cayusevineyards.com

 

A Not To Miss Tasting In Sonoma? Balletto!!!

They hadn’t been on my list. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before! A staff member at Gloria Ferrer (who’s become a friend because I visit so often!) told me about her favorite rosé in the world. She told me that she just couldn’t get enough of it! So … I had to check them out!

Balletto Vineyards is a family owned winery located in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. Started as a successful vegetable farming company, in 1999 they started the shift from vegetable farming to vineyards. Today they sell 90% of their grapes to other wineries, using the other 10% producing their lovely Balletto Vineyard wines!

So, the day after visiting Gloria Ferrer last month, my husband and I stopped by Balletto for a tasting. I couldn’t wait to try their rosé! This pretty pink wine (made of 100% Pinot Noir) has strawberry, a touch of rose and lively acidity to balance it perfectly. I can see why my friend finds it difficult to not finish the bottle in one sitting!

Rosé, however, is not all they do at Balletto! I also made sure to buy a couple bottles of their lovely (not too oaky) 2014 Sexton Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. They also make some rockin’ Pinot Noir (we bought some Burnside that tasted like Strawberry Twizzlers!), Syrah and Zin! A super nice bonus is that their prices are very fair!!!

Looking back I’m surprised and disappointed that I hadn’t heard of them before, but boy oh boy I’m thankful that I know them now! I also want to spread the word about their really nice wines and great tasting experience!

Don’t only PUT them on your list … bump them to the TOP of your list!

http://www.ballettovineyards.com

 

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