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Wanna Join Me On The Albariño Train?

Wanna Join Me on the Albariño Train?

Are you looking to change up your wine world a little? Do you seem to be ordering the same glass or bottle of wine pretty much every night you go out? There are over 1300 varietals of grapes in the world used commercially for making wine, so why not take a risk and try something different?

If you’re searching for an alternative to Chardonnay, check out Albariño!

Rías Baixas, a region in the Galicia region of Spain, is located in the northwestern corner of this beautiful country between Portugal and France. This area has a cool & wet maritime climate, which isn’t the norm for Spain, but is exactly what Albariño likes!

At the moment I’m drinking a 2015 Vieira de Plata Albariño. I’m drinking it at an appropriate time, as Albariño is meant to drink young. This pale straw colored wine has lots of orange blossom on the nose. The juicy palate has yellow apple, tangerine, some saline and gobs of minerality. There’s also lots of lime and lemon! I kind of feel like I’m drinking “grown up” lime/lemonade! Yum!!!

Why do I think Albariño might be a fun alternative to Chardonnay? It’s full of aromatics, it has creaminess yet with mouthwatering acidity, and it pairs well with a wide range of foods! Add to that, it also works as a great aperitif at the beginning of the night!

Heck, I’m a lover of a good Chardonnay, as you’ve probably noticed in my previous blog entries. With a vast array of wine grapes in the world, however, I love to change things up and try fun and different things!!! Come along for the ride and check out some new wines! At only about $18 a bottle, you can’t lose with the Vieira de Plata Albariño! Cheers!

Liquid Farm … It’s A SOLID Hit!

Liquid Farm … It’s a SOLID Hit!

My husband loves poker the way I love wine! So while he’s off playing in a tournament tonight, I decided to crack open a nice bottle!

I’ve been eyeing a bottle of Chardonnay that I bought a couple of years ago while visiting the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember falling madly in love with it during the tasting, but wanting it to have some more time in the bottle before I opened this gem. Hoping that it’s ready, I decided to go for it tonight.

Before my visit to Santa Ynez in early February of ’15, I had been hearing a lot of buzz about a winery called Liquid Farm. I’m a huge lover of White Burgundy and I’d been reading that Liquid Farm focuses on Chardonnay and that they’re true believers in the fact that what happens above and below the ground produces the liquid in the bottle. Hence … Liquid Farm!!! Great name or what??? I love New World wines that adopt some of the Old World wine making philosophy.

I remember the tasting at their facility well, not only because Anna and Assistant Winemaker Tanner (and their awesome wine dog named Button) took great care of, but because of the wonderful wines! We tasted through 5 different Chardonnays that day, and there wasn’t a dud in the group! My personal favorites were the 2013 Golden Slope, named for the famous Côte-d’Or of Burgundy France and the 2013 Bien Bien, which had a wonderful finish and reminded me of a Chassagne-Montrachet! I’m a sucker for Chassagne-Montrachet, so you can imagine how much I loved this wine!

Tonight I decided to open the Golden Slope! I want that ’13 Bien Bien to sit a bit longer!

Light golden in color, the nose has white flowers, lemon, melon and pear. The well-balanced palate has a medium body, great acidity, lemon curd, a touch of oak! I’m munching on some brie cheese while drinking this (which is a great pairing!), but keep wishing I had a big plate of pasta with an Alfredo sauce. Something creamy like that would be another fabulous match with this Chardonnay!

So while my husband was doing something that HE loves, I was too! I just found out that he WON … and so did I, with this 2013 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay. And … I still have half a bottle left to share with him tomorrow night!

Are you interested in learning more about Liquid Farm and their wines? Click here:


Take Time To Smell The Rosés!

Take Time to Smell the Rosés!

There’s still summer weather ahead, especially here in Florida! And what’s a good wine for warm weather???? Why rosé of course!

Last week, while in Oregon for the Society of Wine Educators annual conference, one of the wineries we visited was Stoller Family Estates. Not only is this a beautiful property with a gorgeous tasting room, but they also have some darned good wine!

I couldn’t get enough of the rosé! My friends couldn’t either. We kept asking for “one more taste” and we each purchased multiple bottles to take home with us. I cracked one open last night, which was very easy because of their use of the Stelvin closure (also known as a screw cap), which I love, especially on a rosé! The wine was as delicious as I remembered.

Made of 100% Pinot Noir from their Dundee Hills vineyard, there is tons of grapefruit on the nose and palate, along with a touch of strawberry and some lime. The screaming acidity makes it dance in the mouth and enables it to pair with a plethora of dishes! I had it with a summer salad and it was a great match! Not only is this wine fun to drink, it’s delightful to view! The pretty pink color makes it as visually appealing as it is delicious.

So if you’re looking for a fun wine to enjoy while counting down the days until Fall, or heck THROUGHOUT the Fall and into Winter if you like (this would be a great paring with holiday meals!), check out the 2016 Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Rosé! And if you’re headed to Oregon, be sure to stop there for a tasting. The modern tasting room is happening, and the views are spectacular. They even have a huge outdoor fire pit and a tire swing hanging from an old oak tree for some extra fun!

Check them out here:

Falling In Love With The Finger Lakes!

Falling In Love With The Finger Lakes!

I’d always wanted to visit the Finger Lakes. I’d been to the great state of New York many times, but never to this beautiful wine region! It was time! So … my husband and I headed there last month while on our East Coast road trip looking for the ideal spot to spend our summers!

The Finger Lakes wine region goes back further than one might suspect. Reverend William Bostwick planted the first vineyard in 1829 in his rectory garden. Commercial viticulture officially began in 1862 and, as I mention below, Vitis vinifera makes an appearance 100 years later.

The area has eleven glacial lakes, but most of the vineyards are planted around four of these lakes: Canadaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga. Sadly we only had time to visit two lakes on this visit, and we chose Seneca and Keuka. We visited multiple wineries, breweries and restaurants and truly fell in love with the area. I’m going to tell you about a few of our favorites!

Our first stop was Standing Stone Vineyards. What a great place. The winery is located right on Seneca Lake and has beautiful views from the tasting room. The people were lovely (sales guru Gary Smith and owner Marti took excellent care of us!) and the wines were fabulous. The 2015 Gewurztraminer has a lovely floral nose and just a touch of residual sugar on the palate. I adored the 2015 Riesling, with Meyer lemon and a tangy finish. My favorite, however, was the 2015 Saperavi! One of only five wineries in the entire U.S. to grow this grape, Standing Stone also happens to have the largest acreage of Saperavi outside the Republic of Georgia, where it originates! What a treat indeed!!!!

Another “must hit” winery on my list was Hermann J. Wiemer. A native of Bernkastel in Germany, Wiemer immigrated to the Finger Lakes in the 1960s. His family had been making wine in Germany’s Mosel Valley for more than 300 years and he was looking for the right place to start his own winery. The cool climate and gravelly soils of the Finger Lakes reminded him of the Mosel Valley, and he felt that this is where he’d be able to grow vinifera varietals and produce great wines! Many people were skeptical, but he was right!!!! Today his long time apprentice (Fred Merwarth) owns the winery along with Fred’s college friend Oskar Bynke (a Swedish agronomist who I was fortunate to meet at our tasting). Together they are making Hermann J. Wiemer proud!

Located on the western shores of Seneca Lake, the winery is housed in a 90-year-old barn with modern interiors. The facility is amazing. So are the wines! There wasn’t a dud in the bunch but my favorites included the 2012 Cuvée Brut, made of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay! This may have been my favorite sparkling wine of our whole trip!!!! I also really enjoyed the ‘16 Gruner Veltliner and the superbly balanced Noble Select Riesling with great acidity! Stephanie, who is also an 8th grade English teacher in New York City, was absolutely fabulous! She’s the perfect “teacher”; super knowledgeable and beyond friendly and helpful. If I had a winery, I’d want her in it! If you get to the Finger Lakes region, be sure to stop at Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard for a tasting!

That night we had a lovely dinner at Dano’s Heuriger On Seneca. We felt like we were in Austria, visiting the Heurigen of Vienna and Dürnstein, of which we have such fond memories! Authentically Austrian, the menu is eclectic and the wine list has fun Austrian choices, with a fabulous representation of the Fingers Lakes as well! We had a very nice dinner and Dano and his wife Karen were lovely hosts.

Now to the “other” lake! We sadly didn’t have much time to spend in the Finger Lakes and wondered if we should stick with only Seneca on this trip. Well, we loved the region so much that we extended a day so that we could check out Keuka Lake too. Boy are we glad that we did. We absolutely adore Seneca Lake, but Keuka Lake is less populated and seems quainter. We fell in love!!!!

Ravines Wine Cellars has two tasting rooms, one in Geneva on Seneca and one on Keuka Lake. We decided to check out the latter. Again, the views are lovely!!!! As we tasted, our view was out of a large window that faced the view of the lake! Lovely indeed! The wines are great too! Our fabulous tasting was lead by a bubbly gal named Carolyn. She knew her stuff! My favorite of the tasting???? I’m sure you’re not shocked to hear it was a sparkling wine!!!! Their 2007 Sparkling Brut is fabulous!!!! A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this wine made is in the méthode Champenoise style and spends seven years sur lie. The hints of brioche and white flowers convinced me to buy a couple of bottles! Other favorites included the 2015 Dry Riesling from White Springs Vineyard and the 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé.

That night’s dinner was extra special. The food didn’t rock our universe (although it was fine). Perhaps we simply didn’t order the right thing! It was the location that put the experience over the top!!! The Lakeside Restaurant and Tavern has been around since 1936, so they obviously know what they’re doing. They have indoor seating, but we couldn’t resist sitting outside on the three level deck. We enjoyed a glass of local wine while taking in the spectacular view and watching fellow diners arrive via their boats. After dinner we walked down to the dock and sat in an oversized Adirondack chair while enjoying the cool weather and the fabulous view. It was the perfect ending to our Finger Lakes experience.

Soooo … if you find yourselves in the state of New York, and want to drink some wonderful wine in a gorgeous setting … head to the Finger Lakes!!! Who knows, if you love it as much as we do, we might just end up being neighbors one day.


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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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