Wine Basics: The Five Ss

Wine requires two assessments:  Subjective and Objective.  Just because we like a wine, doesn’t mean it’s a great wine.  One way to illustrate this point is with art.  You may not want to hang a reproduction of a Claude Monet painting in your home, but you agree that Monet is a great artist. So, getting to the point where you […]

Read More →

Ankida Ridge Vineyard: Where Heaven and Earth Join

Ankida Ridge Vineyards Amherst County, Virginia October 2018   With an elevation of around 1800 ft, a steep southeast aspect, and weathered granite soils over 500,000 million years old, Ankida Ridge’s name is befitting its breathtaking splendor—“Ankida,” an ancient Sumerian word which means where heaven and earth join. It’s definitely one of the most stunning vineyards I’ve visited.  Located in […]

Read More →

Berry and Red Wine Sorbet

A wonderful combination of berries and red wine, this easy and elegant sorbet has aromas and flavors of blackberry cobbler and strawberry preserves.  So refreshing, it’s the perfect light ending to any holiday meal. Plus, it’s a great way to use up leftover wine. 😉   Berry and Red Wine Sorbet: *Use organic ingredients whenever possible. Makes: 12 Servings Makes: […]

Read More →

Chateau Carbonnieux & Thomas Jefferson

Château Carbonnieux and Thomas Jefferson’s Visit in 1787     Jefferson himself said it best:  “…so ask the traveled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live?—certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of life.—Which would be your second choice?—France.”   In 1740, the estate was sold to the monks of the Sainte-Croix abbey in Bordeaux and a new era began for Carbonnieux.  Initially purchased to be ‘a mother earth’ for the abbey, the Carbonnieux estate soon became the major investment of the Benedictine monks who did not hesitate to borrow huge amounts of money to take their Carbonnieux growth to the very top of white Graves wine ranking.  Don Galléas was one of the first to blend varieties and to bottle wine which made it easier for it to be transported and kept for longer before being drunk.  His vinification methods and his cellars were among the most modern in the region.  In the ranking of the Guyenne Intendance, published in 1776, the white wines of the “Aux Bénédictins de Carbonnieux” were very much appreciated.  Although the “premier cru de Pontac” (Haut-Brion) was the reference for red wines at the time, Carbonnieux by far led the ranking of white wines from Guyenne.  Thanks to the talents and entrepreneurship of the Benedictine monks from the Sainte-Croix abbey for half a century, the domain […]

Read More →

Tuesday Tunes: The Grapevine

Meadows of Dan, Virginia  Blue Ridge Parkway   Recently, Farmguy and I participated in the grape harvest at a local winery just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwestern Virginia.  Located in the Rocky Knob American Viticultural Area (AVA), Chateau Morrisette Winery sits at an elevation of nearly 3500 feet.  Boasting spectacular views, it’s amid one of the most rugged and mountainous parts of the state.  Although the winery is at 3500 feet, most of its vineyards are down the mountain at 1600 feet. Chateau Morrisette Winery was founded by David Morrisette in 1978, making it among the oldest wineries in Virginia.  It has 13 acres of land and produces approximately 70,000 cases of wine each year. Chardonnay, Viognier, Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng, and Vidal blanc are among the varietals used in making Chateau Morrisette’s wines.  Besides growing many of its own grapes, the winery also buys grapes from other vineyards in Virginia.  Due to the state’s climate and growing season, Viognier and Cabernet Franc are some the winery’s most successful varieties. In the photos, Farmguy and I are harvesting Niagara grapes—a variety of the North American grape species Vitis labrusca.  Niagara grapes are one of the few grape varieties that can grow at such a high elevation. These green grapes are table grapes and are also used in making jams, juices, and wines.  They are mainly used in Chateau Morrisette’s sweet/dessert wines—Sweet Mountain Laurel and Red […]

Read More →

A World Class Wine from Virginia

    The dream of a world class Virginia wine began with Thomas Jefferson.  Although Jefferson knew that Virginia had the weather and terroir for grape growing and winemaking, he never saw his dream come to fruition. This is, in part, due to Phylloxera—an aphid-like insect that feeds on the roots and leaves of grapevines.  However, Virginia grape growers now understand that to successfully grow European grapes, they must first graft the vine onto phylloxera resistant American rootstock.  This was the first major hurdle to realizing the dream of a Virginia wine, the next, proving the viability of grape growing as an agricultural endeavor. Officially, the wine industry in Virginia began in 1976 with the Zonin family, one of Italy’s largest wine producers. They bought Barboursville in Orange, an area near Charlottesville, with the hopes of starting a vineyard.  Underlying this decision was the belief that European grapes could thrive in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  After the purchase of Barboursville, the Zonin family invited Gabriele Rausse, an Italian winemaker, who is currently the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, to assist in making the dream of a Virginia wine a reality. Today, the Commonwealth boasts hundreds of successful wineries and vineyards, many producing award winning wines–including Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia’s first commercial winery.  And, Gabriele Rausse is partially responsible, having consulted on 40 vineyards and 10 wineries in the Commonwealth, including his own.  He is considered the father of modern […]

Read More →

So, What Vintage Are You?

September is my birthday month, and thankfully, I’m turning another year older.  I am now firmly into my fourth decade–or as Farmguy corrected–fifth decade, because you count 0 to 10 as your first decade…..okay—whatever!  The bottom line….I am forty-something and well into the journey of my life.  And, with this understanding, I started considering the passing years and what “age” means to me. As someone who’s interested in wine and recently completed the WSET Level III Award in Wines through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust this year, I started thinking about aging in wine and aging in life.  I thought about the grapevine’s journey versus our own journeys.  Young grapevines have vigor and brightness, but it’s the older vines that are the most sought after to make the best wines.  This is partially because the vines take on the nuances of their environment:  herbs, mushrooms, and flowers as well as the minerality of the soil; and, as vines age, they produce a delightful complexity and intensity in their fruit.  These extra years are prized and celebrated, because in viticulture, time is allowed for character to express itself. It’s understood that many vintages will pass before a vineyard will start to show its magic.  From the vineyard to the cellar, respect for the aging process continues.  A particular set of environmental conditions is cultivated to help the wines age:  dark cellars, correct humidity, constant and perfect temperature, and no excessive […]

Read More →

Got Merlot?

  Farmgirl in Saint Émilion (right bank of Bordeaux) November 2016   “You had me at hello.” A line made famous by Dorothy Boyd, the love interest in the film “Jerry Maguire.” However, if Dorothy had been a sommelier, she may have said, “You had me at Merlot.”  And, with good reason. Merlot, French for little blackbird because of its very dark fruit, is naturally versatile, acclimating to different climate zones and soil compositions, which, over time and a lot of travel, have made it the second most planted red grape on the planet, behind its brother from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Merlot can be big and rich, but also fruity and soft, without being overly high in acids or tannins.  These characteristics make Merlot an elegant and easy choice to drink as well as pair with food. If that doesn’t spark your interest in Merlot, maybe this will.  You know all those famous red wines from Bordeaux? Wines that are considered some of the best in the world?  Well, they’re all blended with Merlot.  And, many are mostly Merlot—especially, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary in the Bordeaux appellation, where it’s the law that Merlot has to be the predominant grape.  Of course, the most famous Merlot wine is undoubtedly Pétrus (100% Merlot) from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux.  This highly collectable wine can fetch several thousand dollars, depending on its vintage. You may not be as familiar with Merlot’s positive […]

Read More →

Ruin Is a Gift

  Our new lambs–Tino, Sweet Pea, Butterbean, and Truffle Spring 2018   Please bear with this somewhat stream of consciousness post.  I kept going around and around about what to say, how to say it, and whether to even say it.  But here it is.  Suffering at the hands of someone you love and who is supposed to love you, […]

Read More →

Tuesday Tunes: Drops of Jupiter…And a Little Bit of Heaven

Fattoria della Talosa–Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Ornellaia–Super-Tuscan, Cordella–Montalcino   Last month, I spent a delightful week in Tuscany.  I wasn’t alone, though.  Melody, author of the blog, Meals With Mel accompanied me on this little adventure around Florence and the Tuscan countryside.  We had a fabulous time wandering around the beautiful city of Florence and marveling at the many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture—including the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. We visited The Galleria dell’ Accademia which displays Michelangelo’s, “David” sculpture as well as the Uffizi Gallery which exhibits Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus.” Once in the countryside, we enjoyed lots of sunshine and blue skies while truffle hunting at a beautiful farm and vineyard called, Fattoria Santa Vittoria.  And, of course, we had some of the most beautiful wines in the world—mainly, but not entirely, comprised of the Sangiovese grape, an Italian red grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter.” For those of you who may not be familiar with the wines of central Italy, The Apennine Mountains, which run the length of the Italian Peninsula, dominant the wine regions of this area. Grapes are planted in the hills and valleys of this mountain range with altitude providing a moderating influence on the hot climate.  It’s also important to mention that the coastal areas on both sides of the country benefit […]

Read More →