Sunday, November 6, 2011

Perfectly Stuffed: A White Wine for Turkey Day

Thanksgiving presents a truly American festive meal, laden with starch, spice, sugar, and the inevitable turkey roast—the ultimate tryptophan rush.  Splashes of burnt orange, crimson red, pecan brown, and pine green decorate the table and mirror the fall foliage outdoors. This time of year sets the mood for cozy afternoons indoors where warm, winter light floods bay windows, and a glimpse outside reveals a picturesque setting of falling, painted leaves. The brisk chill in the air only prepares the heart further for comfort food served up hot and the ever-charming glass of wine.
Thanksgiving will always be my favorite family holiday, and not just because of the food and the fact that no presents are needed; but, mainly because Thanksgiving is a true wine meal. The wine choices, though, are limitless and daunting at some levels, especially for folks who are just looking to adorn the table with some good tasting juice and leave the vino contemplation for the snobs. So rather than name off all the usual culprits that you see listed in every food magazine and wine editorial,  I’m going to say the opposite: stay away from Sauvignon Blanc, don’t bother with Cabernet Suavignon, skip the Italians, forget the Pinots, Malbecs and Zinfandels save for another day. Keep it simple this year, and explore the broad, stylistic wine selection from one small region, the Loire Valley. I promise you, it offers all the stuffing you need and more…
This majestic region sits farther up the Loire Valley just south of Paris and can be compared to other renowned places of beauty such as Venice, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Grand Canyon! Otherwise known as the Garden of France, this region between the cities of Angers and Tours stretches along a slow-churning river flanked by 300 chateaux, vineyards, and gardens, and was named a UNESCO world heritage site. This beautiful region is home to the Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes.
The Chenin Blanc grape is what we shall focus on for the Thanksgiving meal. Yes, I say, even if it is just a white wine. Chenin is especially versatile and comes in many different forms from dry to sweet, sparkling, rosé, and decades-old (possibly longer-lived than Riesling). In other words, red-wine drinking fans, this will be the perfect wine to indulge in during the meal, and after turn to your reds as you sit back in Turkey Lovers Lane swooning in a food coma. This chameleon of a grape pairs so perfectly at the Thanksgiving feast, and sadly, it is so unfamiliar to Americans. It is the Old World’s answer to California Chardonnay, but on a much eloquent, refined scale. No big oak-bombs represent this category. Rather, the wine itself is highly extracted (like Chardonnay) and highly acidic (unlike Chardonnay), making it a great food pair. Plus, it is susceptible to the famous “noble rot” that glorifies the vineyards of Sauternes (the honey-like, age-worthy dessert wine from Bordeaux). You can spend as little or as much as you like on it, and Loire Chenin Blanc can even be found at your local grocer. While you are out label-hunting for Thanksgiving, have a quick chat with the wine retailer you frequent, ask for Vouvray, Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume, or Bonnezeaux (listed in relative order of increasing price). None of these are easy to pronounce, so Google it! Or rely on your handy Iphone or Droid apps to peruse the wine cellar jargon. Either way, it’s simple to go to the French section and spot one of these names, even if you just point and don’t utter.
You will not regret the aromatic qualities of a good Chenin Blanc: ripe Georgia peach topped with whipped cream, quince paste and succulent apricot, Fuji apple and Bosc pear. Top this with a touch of marzipan cake framed by toasted nuts, and you have a mouth-watering Chenin Blanc just full-bodied enough to match with your roasted fall vegetables, seasoned turkey, and sweet potato casserole.
Just so you won’t get lost in the French aisle, I will list a few of my favorites you can spot around town:
Bernard Fouquet Domaine des Aubuisiers Cuvée de Silex Vouvray, Loire France $18 (at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park)
Domaine de Baumard Savennières, Loire France $18 (Whole Foods and Red, White & Bleu)
Domaine Jo Pithon Coteaux du Layon, Loire France $22 (MacArthurs)
Domaine Jo Pithon Quarts de Chaume, Loire France $100 (MacArthurs)
Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux, Loire France $70 (Schneiders)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

La Vida Dolce in the Fall

Crinkly, dry fall leaves crunching underfoot always put me in the mood for fall. The seasons hover on the verge of change, but the lazy days of summer have been ushered out with the earlier setting sun and the onset of school schedules, grueling rush hour traffic, and daily work lives. The offices are now packed, everyone has had their vacations. Congress hammers away on Obama’s Job Plan—the economy and deficit ceilings fill the docket with the dismal stock market setting the tone for a volatile season ahead. As the leaves cling to their last shades of green, the temperature drops and the air electrifies with hustle and bustle before the year-end holidays impact the frantic, fall pace. This is the perfect time to turn your mind to more serious wines, wines with more soul, both red and white, before the Northern Hemisphere descends upon its great slumber.
With the change of nature’s clock, dusk comes earlier and the dinner hour demands more cozy cuisine. The fruits of summer wane, while the Brussels sprouts bloom into abundance with a final surge of asparagus, green beans, squash and root vegetables. Kitchens turn out cuisine dominated by earthy undertones and gamy meats. Time to turn to full-bodied whites with luscious weights underscored by bosc pears, sour apples, blasts of acidity, and bitter-almond finishes.  Rieslings, Rhone whites and Oregon Pinot Noirs exhibit the autumnal flavors. But, nothing cries out fall season to me more than Italian wines and Italian cuisine. Mushroom ragout compiled of exotic shrooms plucked fresh from the farmer’s market screams for mascarpone polenta gnosh; or a nice fish stew with butternut squash entices the palate for some aromatic Italian whites collected from the coastal towns of the Marche, or mountain-entrenched Soaves and Gavis from the Veneto and Piedmont regions, respectively.
My love for everything Italian—my partiality to fall and brilliant fire reds painted with burnt orange colors—inspires me for a new educational series at Red, White and Bleu Wine Shop during the months of September, October, and November. Venture out on a gastronomic Tour of Italy—pictorially, mentally, and sensory.  Once a month, learn how to eat, drink, and live the Italian lifestyle inspired by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch’s guide: Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy.  We explore a different geographic region each month and dive into one specific food and wine culture. Last month, we explored Lombardy and the fashion mecca of Milan. Participants indulged in Nebbiolos, Barberas, Chardonnay, and Sparkling wines indigenous to the area, while they stuffed their bellies with regional cheeses, charcuterie, and main fare from the streets of Milan.
October brings even more delectable intrigues from a quiet, seaside village in the Marche province, tucked behind cliffs of the Monte Cònero massif. Scores of crudo (raw seafood) and porchetta (stuffed suckling pig) work their way to the Marche dinner table. We intend to sample cave-aged, sheep’s milk Pecorinos and savory prosciuttos sourced from the mountain village of Carpegna. The wines will abound from the towns of Jesi, Matelica, Pesaro, and Urbino, like Rosso Piceno and Rosso Cònero crafted from the Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes.

Come delve into Italian goodness at Red, White and Bleu Sunday, October 16th at 4:00pm, check out details online at the new website Live la vida dolce!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Milk Maid

Tommorow is the summer finale of Cheese Boot Camp at Red, White & Bleu Wine Shop--until January 2012. We will taste how the milk source affects the flavor of the cheese. Not to be sexest by using the milk maid comparison, I couldn't help but to think of Michelle Bachmann's hats-off to submissive wives. Despite the milk maid imagery, two factors play an important role in the final flavor of a cheese: the breed of animal and the land on which it munches. We will ignore cheeses crafted from the milk of "exotic" animals, such as reindeer, yak, and camels. The animals we will focus on are cows, sheep, goats, and water buffalo.

We won't be using any processed cheese. We learned in the Cheddar Whiz class that mass-market "cheese food" is a process of cooking curd and mixing it with various preservatives, fats, flavorings, colorings, and water. In turn, "processed" cheese is reconstituted in blocks, slices, or wedges and then shrink-wrapped in plastic, only to be flooded in refrigerator cases at your local grocery. Rather than using prepackaged cheese, we will be tasting real cheese--good cheese--made from milk, starter cultures, rennet, and occasionally a natural coloring or a mold culture.

The key to this course will be the flights of cheese and how they are ordered.  Three flights will be organized with a sampling of three different milk styles within each flight: goat, sheep, and milk. Each cheese flight will vary by cheese style. So the first flight will consist of only soft or soft-ripened cheeses--one made from goat's milk, one from cow's, and one from sheep's milk. Got it? This is a great way to taste the variation of flavor derived from milk type. A cylindrical mound of goat fluff brought on by Cherry Glen, tasted against a soft, creamy sheep's milk by Boschetto and a delicate, soft-ripened Fromage d'Affinois cow's milk cheese is an eye-opening experience. Here's why.

Cow's milk is not as concentrated as sheep or goat. Cows produce more milk than sheep or goats, but not proportionally more milk. Only 13% of cow's milk is solid, the rest is water. Cow's milk does contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is an orange or yellowish substance--think carrots. Thus, cow's milk is off-white or ivory-colored and darker in the summer months when the cows are digesting more beta-carotene from the pasture fodder.

Sheep's milk is more hearty and concentrated, comparable to the animal itself, which can survive in sparser conditions than cows. Ewe's milk contains up to 20% solids with more fat and protein than cow's milk. Since cheesemaking is a process of concentrating milk (through dehydration)--ewe's milk is one step closer to the end goal: cheese. Sheep's milk is pure white.

Even hardier than sheep, goat's are known to be the ultimate diners. What won't a goat eat? Despite this belief, the goats that produce many of the world's most famous cheeses graze in lush green pastures and sport a mellow temperament. Goats produce the most milk proportionate to their body weight. They birth their babies in mid-late winter lactate for at least 10 months, but don't make it out to pasture until spring or summer. Goat's milk has slightly less the same fat and protein content as sheep's milk.

These rules are very generic and many factors play into the ultimate flavor and fat content of the milk, like lactation cycles and time of day of milk collection, and seasonal animal diets. Overall, it's often said that goat's milk is best for drinking, cow's milk makes the best butter, and sheep's milk the best cheese. In the end, Pierre Androuet sums it up in the Guide du Fromage, "Every region has its own special magic which chemistry and technology have thus far been unable to duplicate. The character, subtlety and perfection of a cheese attest to centuries of refinement in individual cheese-making methods within limited geographical areas sometimes no larger than a few fields. Vegetations, climate, rainfall, subsoil, and breed all contribute to the production of a cheese which is unique and inimitable."

It will be interesting after tomorrow if I can say cow's milk cheese is sweeter, or sheep's is richer, etc. I will type those conclusions soon.

Flight One (Soft Cheeses):
Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash Maryland Goat's milk
Boschetto Al Tartufo Spain Sheep's milk
Fromage d'Affinois France Cow's milk
Wine Pairings: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscan Sangiovese, Ribera del Duero Tempranillo

Flight Two (Hard Cheeses):
Cabra Buenalba Spain Goat's milk
Grand Old Man Pecorino Spain Sheep's milk
Meadow Creek Virginia Cow's milk
Wine Pairings: California Barbera, Austrian Pinot Noir, Alsatian Pinot Blanc

Flight Three (Blue Cheeses):
Valdeon Spain Goat's milk
Roquefort France Sheep's milk
Cashel Ireland Cow's milk
Wine Pairings: Beaujolais Cru, Sauternes

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cheddaring It Out

Yesterday's third session of Cheese Boot Camp: Summer 2011 was an awesome affair. We cheddared it out with eight different cheddar cheeses paired with two beers and six wines. Farmstead cheddaring took center stage--an art that was resurrected in the 60's by the hippies. Disillusioned by national politics and the controversial Vietnam War, humble people seeking land and rural farm life left their occupations to craft cheese. After the Industrial Revolution and both World Wars, cheddar had lost its identity and had become the homogenized American orange, creamy, pasteurized cheese block found in every supermarket.

Cheddar originated in Somerset, England in the caves of Cheddar Gorge, but the process crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in the Mid West and went on to Australia and South America. The name Cheddar was never protected by the Brits, so it became widely used by many cultures. Unfortunately, very few cheddars were true to the original style made famous in the West Country of England in the departments of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset. Due to the rising population, food demands drastically increased and companies were encouraged to produce large quantities of fast-ripening cheese. Small producers were quickly forgotten and hard to access during the Industrial Era in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before World War II, Britain boasted 15,000 cheesemakers. In 1959, only 130 cheesemakers could befound in the British nation.

Everything comes full-circle though, and cheese makers are crafting more phenomenal cheddars by the day. A range of flavors can be experienced when you have the opportunity to nibble a small cheddar wedge crafted from purists. Mostly flavors of toffee, nuts, caramel, grass, burnt sugar, butter, spice, salt, and pungent sensations pop in mind when tasting cheddar cheese. The beauty of cheddar is the bold, rich flavor you inevitably experience. Sure, I like stinky, washed-rind cheeses or an occasional soft-ripened Brie with its earthy, shroomy undertones; but a cheddar cheese is generally a sure bet for hedonistic pleasure. Most importantly, they pair so well with beer and bold, robust red wines. White wines can work if you look to full-bodied grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Semillon, Roussanne/Marsanne, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc; but reds work better, in my opinion.

Below, I have listed the pairings and cheeses sampled at our Cheddar Whiz session. The class conveyed that cheddar is not a specific cheese, but rather a process that some cheeses are fated to undergo. Cheddaring is a method of stacking small, compact curds to create pressure; thereby, eliminating moisture and dehydrating the aging cheese. End results produce hard cheeses with sharp, mouth watering flavors.

Cheese Pairings:

mildest in flavors:
Double Gloucester Singleton, UK
Saxon Brown Semillon Mendocino, California

fruit and spice:
Beehive Cheese Co. Big John's Cajun Rub Promontory, Salt Lake City, Utah
Green Flash Brewery Trippel Belgium-style, San Diego, California

chocolate on chocolate:
Rogue Creamery Chocolate Stout Cheddar Oregon
Rogue Brewery Chocolate Stout Oregon

fruity, tangy, mild:
Fiscalini Cheddar Rodesto, California
Worthy Sophia's Cuvee Napa Valley, California

goaty, earthy, medium:
Snow White Goat's Cheddar Carr Valley, Wisconsin
Elizabeth Spencer Chenin Blanc Mendocino County, California

horseradish, herbaceous, pasteurization of cheese:
Quicke's Cheddar Devon, UK
Familia Mayol Quatro Primos Mendoza, Argentina (Syrah, Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon)

sharp, buttery, nutty, caramel, Vermont style (meaning no coloring):
Quebec 7 year aged Canada
Tierra Rioja Crianza, Spain

sharp, firm, pungent, grainy, rich:
Cabot Clothbound Reserve Cheddar Vermont
Goose Ridge G3 Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Iconic Wine in the Making

Thomas Jefferson, America's first wine connoisseur and gourmet, dreamed Virginia would one day make wines comparable to his most beloved French imports. I witnessed his dream come true this past weekend in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In observance of our nation's birthday, I wish to share a tale of wine, legendary in the making.
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

Six am the alarm clock, better known as my daughter, started chattering away. The day peaked through the windows, crystal blue skies and no rain clouds on the horizon. Anticipation and intellectual curiosity stirred within. I threw off the sheets--and the dog--to prepare for an excursion into the Virginia countryside in search of an iconic wine in the making.
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

Fast-forwarding through set-up and group assembly, the shuttle bus rolled down the highway. While passing gently rolling hills coated in wildflowers and meadow grass, I couldn't help to wonder how RdV vineyards would be situated on any slope of significance, where grapes could receive maximum exposure to light. The landscape appeared too flat. Soon enough, though, the bus wheeled on a narrow, curving road and slowly motored its way through a perfect, rural setting.  Driving underneath a lush canopy of green forestry, trees blocked our view for the most part, until suddenly, a clearing in the trees revealed a gate on the left. A quick glance led to an unexpected sight. A steep, south-facing slope loomed ahead of us, marked by emerald green vertical stripes. These parallel rows of vines lined the hillside, forming nature's own rendition of solar panels. Nestled at the bottom of the hill, wedged against a more easterly facing slope sat the winery itself, divided in half by an impressive silo with two stark white wings extending outward.

Upon entering the facility, the group immediately felt the raw force of architectural impact. Structured lines bounding open spaces without exact symmetry proved truly fascinating in scope. A centered stairwell descended to a lower level leading to the tank room, cellar, and underground cave. Natural, welcoming light illuminated the center of the foyer and penetrated the wings, highlighting a skylight silo grounded in a concrete base left unpolished by paint or surfacing. The dualism of natural, raw elements intertwined with man-made elegance took center stage for the remainder of the day.

The man himself, Rutger de Vink, approached the group in towering confidence. His aura quickly overtook the gathering and his energy seethed with sheer focus and determination. I could envision the silent dialogues within his mind, an invisible stream of ideas and philosophical curiosities, defining a man of great depth and drive. He reviewed the agenda for the day and quickly set forth to take the first group up the "mountain" while the second group departed for the wine cave with de Vink's winemaker, Joshua Grainer.

I promptly set off to the kitchen and missed the wine cave tour while my brother and I prepped for the afternoon's luncheon. Luckily, my roommate was all eyes and ears for the tour led by Joshua. She happened to glimpse minute aspects of the winery that added to its captivating tranquility. I have included her photographs below and a link to her Tumblr feed. She felt the magic and gentle peace that pulses from the very walls of a wine cave. She captured a couple's mumblings to each other and felt compelled to share them with me. An older lady whispered to her husband, "Honey, if we weren't already married, I would marry you in this room." How else can I describe the overwhelming power of standing in the depths of Mother Earth? Joshua Grainer simply states, "For me, wine is perhaps life's greatest intellectual and sensual pursuit. The environment at RdV allows me to take this quest to the pinnacle."
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

After lunch preparations were well underway, I joined the second group for the winery tour. We set out for an authentic hay ride. While we slowly inched up the hill, Rutger shared his wine beginnings and his vision for RdV. He explained his search for soil and viticultural experts worldwide who visited his land and provided consulting expertise. They all said he has the soil and site to produce magnificent wines, but they were too inexperienced with the Virginia climate to guarantee his success. He dared to forge ahead with his dreams, and now eleven years after his first plantings, we stood at the pinnacle of his vineyards and absorbed the fruits of his labor.
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

The sheer, impressive landscape spread out before us lay testament to his noble intentions. The vines were expertly manicured and standing astute, ready to perform their duty, like Roman legions anxiously awaiting Cesar's next call-to-arms. A gentle breeze glided over the butte and the serenity of nature settled in as if the vines were practicing their vinyasa. I imagined how often I would come here just to sit and reflect. I listened eagerly as de Vink discussed terroir and the importance of water availability to the vines. He spoke to his past failures and immediate corrections and the current status of the grapes and weather. But, I felt transposed. I did not recognize this as my Virginia and homeland. I could have been standing in Napa or Piedmont, but never had I witnessed such undertakings and potential at any other Virginia winery until now. This fact was proven after we descended the hill and indulged in a tasting of RdV's 2008 vintage poured against a 2005 Chateau Montrose, a classified second growth of the Bordeaux 1855 classification, and a 2007 Opus One.
Portraits Courtesy of Emily Plimpton EmFlash Tumblr

My personal tastes ranked Chateau Montrose as the most complex, but the RdV was a close second still not showing all in its youth. A good portion of the group, though, preferred the RdV over the Montrose and Opus. A few enjoyed the Opus the best, but with the RdV ranking second instead of third. The RdV was predominantly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The juice lapped lusciously over my tongue, revealing powdery tannins, pristine fruit, balanced acidity, refined levels of alcohol, and a finishing touch of finesse. The aromas were a bit closed down at that moment in time, but the wine still rang of purity. No remnants of herbaceous elements lingered on the edges as are usually evident in most Virginia reds. The body and texture of the wine was seemless and somewhere perfectly in between the body and texture of the Montrose and Opus--the Montrose offering loads of minerality behind the fruit, while the Opus was fortified with oak tannins and vanilla tones.

Regardless of how the wine was ranked, the RdV was clearly in its class as an iconic wine. Just as the 1973 Stag's Leap changed the path for Napa wine and placed the region on world class wine maps, RdV scales uncharted territory and redefines the world's perspective on Virginia's capability of producing fine wine. I cannot wait to buy more RdV for my cellar and experiment with its age-ability, and learn more intimately the evolution of its flavor profile.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cheese Whiz on Cheddar

Cheese Whiz on Cheddar

Imagine a world without cheese. Visit Whole Foods without sorting through towers of cheddar looming over wrinkly, ashen pyramids of fermented goat’s milk. Picture empty cases once laden with downy-soft, ivory disks of soft-ripened, creamy bliss. Balk at Farmer’s Markets scarce of cheesemakers, tranquility fractured by haunting echoes of vast silence supplied by cheese dearth.  Envision a world lacking in magic from the absence of wine and cheese pairings; the ultimate sanction suffered from cheese coiffures gone dry. Too heavy a burden the world would bear…Oh Cheese, forever would I lament you, a world of senseless whirling gone awry.
Drastic measures of which I speak, exaggerated with descriptive language I admit. But, truly, cheese industrialization almost put farmhouse cheddars out to pasture. The ravages of the Second World War devastated the British cheese industry and paved the path for tons of mass-produced American Cheddar to fill the bellies of Americans and Brits alike. Few men remained to pass on age-old cheesemaking traditions. A country once blessed with 15,000 cheesemakers crafting “territorial” cheeses was left with 126 farmhouse cheesemakers.  The British were not alone. America experienced the same plight. Flooded by European immigrants in the 1800s, America feared the population’s food demands would outpace the slow, local process of cheese production. In 1877, John Jossi, a Wisconsin cheesemaker of Swiss origin, developed a process to emulate English Cheddar by using two bricks to squeeze fresh curd, resulting in a firm, more rubbery cheese ideal for cutting. The process quickly inspired Britain’s Ministry of Food to rule all excess milk be used to make fast-cultivating “National Cheese.”
By the 1970s, farmhouse cheddar was all but forgotten. Large companies stamped out most small co-operatives as cheese became a commodity to be distributed as cheaply and efficiently as possible to supply the increasing number of supermarkets. Where had all the cheddars gone? Millions only knew cheddar as the orange or white, velveeta-like, manufactured cheese, sterilized and standardized. But, the Vietnam War partnered with the hippie movement sparked the dawn of a new age. A generation of people, who harbored aspirations to shrug off the disillusioned world, decided to lay testimony to the rural, farm life. Cheese was to be revolutionized.
July 17th at Red, White & Bleu, another session of Cheese Boot Camp forges ahead with a close-up view on the history of British farmhouse cheddars and today’s movement to revitalize artisanal and farmstead cheesemaking. This educational tasting session will expose American supermarket shelves as the bearer of ready-to-go shredded or sliced Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby and Swiss processed cheese, marketed as “fresh” by the power of preservatives. Pique your senses with the opposite of factory flavors ranging from bland to sharp and venture into farmstead flavor including caramellike, fruity, nutty, tangy, grassy, and spicy.
Cheddar production dates back to the medieval times, and the name itself is no longer associated with a village in southwest England’s Somerset County. Rather, the name refers to a technique and is not a protected designation of origin. Cheddaring is a process by which the curds are pressed and stacked resulting in a characteristically smooth, firm, tight texture of Cheddar. Everything Cheddar will be discussed Sunday, July 17th at Red, White & Bleu Wine Shop at our 1pm and 3pm reservation openings. Seven farmstead cheeses will be tasted from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Plus, seven wines that pair classically with Cheddar will be sampled. Call the shop at 703.533.9463 to reserve your spot, and anticipate finishing the course as a true Cheese Whiz on Cheddar.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cheese Rules

The first Cheese Boot Camp class the other week went extremely well. Everyone love the cheese and enjoyed the wine pairings immensely. So, I thought I would share some tips on how to match a wine with a particular cheese. In a world where you can choose from thousands of cheese and even more wine, the concept of picking the perfect wine for a cheese can proof daunting. First rule, lighten up and go with the flow. The best is to enjoy overall and accept that no definitive rules exist for such a subjective topic. It's hard to find a wine that doesn't work well with cheese. You might come across some clashing pairs, but follow some easy guidelines listed below and you'll be on your way to cheese and wine bliss.

Consider the cheese selection first and then go for the wine pairing. If you have the option for a cheese plate, make sure your wine bridges the various flavors between the different cheeses, even if you have one or two odd balls the accoutrements might ease the pairing. There are seven styles of cheese and usually each category pairs with particular classes of wine. When considering cheeses from France, Spain or Italy, go for a wine from the same region if you want to keep it simple. Like Crottin de Chavignol and Loire Valley whites or reds (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, or Gamay). Munster with Alsatian or German Rieslings. Manchego with an inexpensive, fruity Spanish Tempranillo or Grenache/Mourvedre blend. Cow's milk semi-firm cheeses from Colorado, Wisconsin, or California with California Chardonnay, California Syrah, or Oregon Pinot Noir.

So how do you determine category or style of cheese by appearance? The rind depicts the style; hence your visual clue.

1. Fresh Cheeses have no rind. Think mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, ricotta (although that's slightly different as it's made from whey and not curd). They also have the most moisture and least complexity. Best to go for light to medium bodied wines or rosés (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, unoaked Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Dolcetto, Beaujolais, rosés from the Loire or Provence).

2. Soft cheeses with fuzzy, white rinds made from Penicillium candidum form your soft-ripened category of cheese . The rind forms because the cheeses are stored in humid, warm facilities attracting the mold that makes the cheeses we know as Brie, Camembert, Explorateur and Pavé d'Affinois. The rind imparts an earthy, mushroom aroma and flavor but the good gooeyness in the middle ranges in flavor from mild, tangy, salty to rich, buttery and more strongly flavored. Best to consider texture of these cheeses and match to a wine. I love Pinot Noir with Bries or Camemberts. Any wine with smooth texture from high glycerol content gives the sensation of silk, satin sheets. A sheer softness can be found in medium-priced Cabernet Sauvignons ($18-$35), Chiantis with volume, rich Bordeaux mostly from the Right Bank. But, there is nothing better than slicing a warm baguette and slathering it with fresh, creamery butter, topped with Fromager d'Affinois (or any triple-cream, soft-ripened cheese) and guzzling a glass of decadent red like Australian Shiraz that's over-the-top with fruit and jam, delivering a velvety mouthfeel. Sparkling wines not heavy on the sur lees aging pair quite well, or even New Zealand Sauv Blancs and French Sancerre.

3. Natural rind cheeses exhibit blue-grey molds with a wrinkly rind. This style encompasses all your small-sized French goat cheeses, and some American styles like the Wabash Canonball, Crocodile Tears, Crottin de Chavignol, for instance. They are harder to source in the states, but they're phenomenal with Loire Valley reds and whites (Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre, Touraine, Anjou, Saumur, Vouvray, Chinon, Bourgeuil) Chenin Blancs, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay. Quintessential pairings would be your tangy Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre, Quincy, Menetou-Salon, New Zealand or South Africa.

4. Semi-soft/Semi-firm cheeses cover all the cheeses in the middle such as Edam, Sonoma Jack, Fontina, Lambchopper, P'tit Basque, Abbaye de Belloc, Tomme de Savoie. They are not hard and they have pinkish brown to dark grey rinds, some or waxed or covered in herbs & spices. They have a somewhat "elastic" feel. The key is they do not have sticky, stinky orange rinds, or the fuzzy, bloomy white rind. They are more distinctly flavoured and can be made from goats milk, sheep or cow. So, they pair well with wines from around the world. Go for bolder flavors found in Rioja, Priorat, Argentina or Cahors Malbecs, Chiantis/Sangiovese, California Zinfandels, Cabs or Syrahs, Oregon Pinots, Burgundy. Truthfully, they are incredibly versatile with a range of medium to full-bodied reds and whites. This category is more experimental. Best to taste the cheese first and determine how aromatic, mild or robust in flavor it is to match a wine with equal complements.

5. When you're brave you explore the washed-rind cheeses which have an orangey-brown sticky rind. They are pungent in smell and flavor and most always have to be enjoyed with wine (in my opinion). Think Chimay, Munster, Epoisses, Grayson, Taleggio. Difficult cheeses to pair only because so many people will buy wine in the lower price-range, a category that fails to deliver in this case. Washed-rind cheeses are so complex aromatically, and in the organoleptic sense, that you must pair with a complex red or white wine, something that stimulates conversation for hours, a wine to truly ponder due to its layers of flavor and complexity. Aged Bordeaux, northern Italian wines such as Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d'Alba, Super-Tuscans, domestic Meritages, Rhone reds. In the white realm, think aged Chenin Blancs or white Bordeaux, possibly even high-quality Gruner Veltliner from aged vines, or Grand Cru Alsatian Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer. In other words, the wines can't just be fruity and tangy, they need to be developed with secondary and tertiary aromas coming forth with great viscosity (not in a sweet wine sense but from pysiologically ripe grapes sourced from quality winemaking). Price point does matter in this case I believe.

6. Hard cheeses are fairly simple to identify for obvious reasons, they're hard. Pairing a wine is not so simple though. They range from mild to outrageously tangy or salty, so almost any wine can be a potential match. Rule of thumb is the stronger the cheese the bigger the wine required. Milder flavored cheeses do so well with Chilean reds like Carmenere or American Merlots. Cotes du Rhones, Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape taste great next to Mahon, Gruyere, Pecorino, Romano, and Roncal. Big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons do nicely with aged Goudas, aged or cloth-bound Cheddars, Mimolette, Beaufort, and Jack.

7. Blues are simple. They are usually wrapped in aluminum foil because the molds constantly release liquid that collects on the outside, the wrapper prevents a rind from forming. This category is the strongest and also the saltiest. Thus, the world of sweet and fortified wines awaits. Classic pairing would be Sauternes with Roquefort, but you can find sweet wine from anywhere. You typically want to go with white sweets that exhibit tropical fruits versus nuttiness or marzipan found in Sherry (there are exceptions of course). Botrytized wines prove to be a great pair. Red dessert wines pair nicely, including Port with Stilton or Shropshire, late harvest Zinfandels.

Below, I have listed the seven cheeses and pairings that we matched in the shop, all of which were fantastic according to the cheesemongers in attendance.

Fresh Cheese: Cypress Grove Purple Haze Arcata, California
Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley, Chile $11.99

Soft-Ripened Fuzzy Rind: Old Chatham Nancy's Camembert Old Chatham, New York
Elizabeth Spencer Chenin Blanc Sonoma, California $22.99

Semi-firm: Istara P'tit Basque Sheep's Milk Pyrenees Mountains, France
Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Taupes Bourgogne Rouge $22.99

Washed-Rind: Chimay Trappiste with beer Mont du Secours, Belgium
La Rivalerie Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, Entre-deux-Mers, Bordeaux, France $24.99

Flavored Cheese (Semi-firm Category): Red Dragon made with Welsh brown ale, mustard seeds, Wales
Lucien Albrect Gewurztraminer Reserve Alsace, France $17.99

Hard: Beemster XO Gouda, Holland
Baron Philipe de Rothschild Escudo Rojo Cabernet/Carmenere Maipo, Chile $20.99

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Trip to Terroir

After many months of planning a wine field trip to a winery that understood my prerogatives, my efforts are beginning to sprout. I wanted to provide the public with a venue at which they could touch terroir, see it, feel it, and most of all, understand  this most elusive crux us wine-o's like to use in our winespeak arsenal, terroir. I live in Virginia and I must confess, our wineries are low on the todem pole of grand cru greatness. In fact, I will go so far as to say non-existant (for now) in the terroir world of outstanding soils that give the backbone to iconic, age-worthy wines. After emailing a handful of wineries, I was disappointed that I was only being offered a classic tour and tasting, nothing more elaborate to entice my inquiring mind. I wanted a picture painted of how and why their wines were of any interest in the mass conglomeration of wine coffures.

To me, a wine that records a place in time as well as exhibits a sense of place by leaving a footprint of its origins on my palate and ultimately my organoleptic perceptions, is a wine worth savouring. Very few wines deliver these qualifying measures, and scarsely any I can recall from Virginia.

To date, my closest encounter with terroir in the romantic sense greeted me at the doorstep to Quintessa--a phenomenal biodynamic winery I visited in Napa Valley back in May 2009. There I raptured in the meaning of Rutherford dust. I even put a few bits of stone and earth in my shorts pocket while I gazed over vineyards in full bloom to the backdrop of valley haze and a lazy river coiling beneath the terrace on which I stood. Those rocks decorated my nightstand for a few months to come...weird, yes, but the point I'm trying to drive home is that magical moment you can experience when a wine forever imprints upon your memory, leaving behind much more than taste; but, rather the wine envelops every tangible and untangible aspect particular to that moment in time. Now, when I drink Quintessa, my mind evokes much more than flavor, but feelings and memories with greater scope than minerality and taste adjectives.

Besides this romantic side of terroir, the word itself translates to physical attributes a wine encompasses due to every external input the grapes encounter on their journey from vine to wine. This is what I want to see, and this is what I hope to deliver right here on the rolling hills in Delaplane, Virginia. This hope was realized as I spoke to Rutger de Vink on the phone for the first time.

Now I can say, experience Virginia’s newest winery in the limelight. Winemaking maverick, Rutger de Vink, demonstrates why he crafts Virginia’s first iconic wine. He believes the formula to making exemplary wine lies in vineyard site selection, or namely, terroir.  We will travel by bus to his vineyards where de Vink will host a private seminar and blind tasting of RdV wines against globally renowned wines from noteworthy wineries in Bordeaux, Napa, Burgundy and New Zealand. Similar to the tasting Dave McIntyre described in The Washington Post with Citronelle’s Sommelier and Master of Wine, Jay Youmans, de Wink intends on replicating the same experience ( He will then take us outside to conduct a behind-the-scenes tour of his land and winemaking facilities. The soils will be touched and talked over in order for you to experience first-hand its role in quality winemaking and how it distinguishes a wine’s pedigree.  The RdV state-of-the-art facility will serve as the perfect backdrop as he reveals his story of winemaking pursuits in a state that's missed the mark on legendary winemaking. Following tour and tasting, RdV wines will be enjoyed over a gourmet lunch at the winery made with ingredients sourced from the Falls Church Farmers Market.

I believe de Wink truly understands the feat that lies before him. Thomas Jefferson dreamed big for Virginia, hoping it could one day take its place next to Bordeaux. We quietly laugh now, but consider how The Judgment of Paris in 1976 shocked the world when California exited its anonymity and proved capable of producing wines of equal quality to the French grand crus. Before the renowned tasting stifled the world, wine lovers scoffed at California efforts to craft fine wine. Today, Virginia wines draw the same perception as California wines did forty years ago; an afterthought in the world of wine class hierarchy. Wine professionals and aficionados share an unspoken understanding of Virginia winemaking--it attracts more entrepreneurs afflicted by the “wine bug” with money and means than winegrowers with viticultural or oenological expertise.

A handful of mavericks, like Luca Paschina at Barboursville and Jim Law at Linden, successfully craft preeminent wines. Now, the most daring of all, Rutger de Wink, tills the path to producing terroir-driven wines that bridge the elegance of Bordeaux and Thomas Jefferson’s dream of wine in the New World (aka Virginia). I still scoff at the undertaking of Patricia Kluge and her high falutin expectations for her over-priced wines. Her magnificent tale of winery management or mismanagement and her spectacular exiting bow in the throes of bankruptcy leaves a bitter taste with not just me I imagine. But, after reading this de Wink's credentials and merits, backed by Jim Law's endorsement, I am eager to see his venture first-hand. Furthermore, he has managed to entice Eric Boissenot to venture overseas, away from his most beloved land and first-class growth clients, such as Chateau Margaux and Latour.

So, join us Saturday, June 25th for a trip to TERROIR. Meet the man with the vision to produce world-acclaimed Virginia wines, Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards in Fauquier County ( Tour a state-of-the-art winery, participate in an objective blind tasting of wines that exhibit terroir in its truest sense. Pair wines with a gourmet luncheon. Encounter wines that stand up to the classed growths of Bordeaux and Napa Valley’s stars, as demonstrated in Dave McIntyre’s Washington Post article March 16th (
All inclusive trip package:
Transportation to and from winery in Delaplane, Virginia
Catered luncheon and wine pairing of RdV wines
Blind Wine Tasting
Private seminar and vineyard tour

Experience terroir first-hand. Taste world-class wines blind. Discover the journey of wine from grape to glass.
Saturday, June 25th 9:30am – 5:00pm
$75 all inclusive

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heart Unmelting

My wine passions seem to parallel my sentiments towards life. They can change at any moment, but in general they trend cyclically. As the frost from winter melted away, my desire for bold Bordeaux, extracted Napa Cabs, oaky Spanish gems, ancient Madeira, decadent Ports, warming Washingtonian Syrahs and alcoholic Aussies waned. Symbolically my heart melted to the tune of Chinon roses, Languedoc Lascaux, supple Malbecs, peppery Zins, and velvety Sauvignon Blancs (more like musque clones and old vine Gruner). Over a glass of 2000 vintage Chartogne-Taillet, immediately followed by a 2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Sauvignon Blanc, I listened to my heart pound with nervous energy. The events of the past two years flashed before my eyes, and I reluctantly started to unwind. Solitude provides a sense of security to which I could always cling. The past four years, I welcomed solitude with open arms, just like the arrival of spring and the release of the 2009 roses, like the delicate peach-rose tinted Baudry-Dutour Cuvee Marie Justine I cracked last week over a Wisconsin Carr Cardona (snow white goat's milk rubbed with cocoa). I'd forgotten how lush rose and mouth-watering. But my seasonal wine habits opened a latched door. A passage to my denied desires, a frenzy of relentless soul chatter. An awakening to life unbridled, risky, and unknown. Solitude slumped on my stoop outside, hunched over waiting for me to change my mind, but the bottle had already been uncorked and the wine poured forth.

I survived my daughter's first year of life. Yes, me, not her. The challenges of child-rearing always present mental hurdles, especially as a single mom. I feel I can stand the test of time raising her on my own, as a certain security settles in my soul. She revolves my universe, even though I'm completely bound, trapped in the duties of motherhood, I'm still free and rhythmically attuned to her needs. No restrictive relationship, or cumbersome battles over what's best for her. I own the remote control and I sprawl between my sheets carefree. Loneliness seeps in from time to time, but nothing that cannot be abated, stomped out with busy schedules, child demands, friendly comaraderie, tasting groups, study rituals, and just good ol' "me" time over a glass of wine and cheese indulgence. Most of all, no distractions churn my thoughts in a downward spiral, no anxious doubts of "he likes me, he likes me not." No thumb twitching over anticipated texts or phonecalls. 

Really? Yes the walls were built, mounted behind a deep, wide moat while the town disposed of ropes and lumber long ago. But as the spring aromas fill the air, and my daughter's independence grows with each passing day, I can't help to notice a floundering change of sentiments. The blue Rhododendrons nourish their blooms. Irises border the drive, yellow, white and purple. My all-time favorites spring mid-June, wild and free: orange tiger-lilies. The orange petals spotted brown mark the savage dreams, the internal burning flames, the silent cries stifled deep within, passions rearing to be unleashed. Full-circle, a year gone by. Now I wonder what new philosophies should I live by? I think it's time, to share a bottle of most beloved wine with a new love. Yearning to covet a fledgling desire, the wines will turn to bubbly Champagne, sapid Italian whites, lovely Vouvrays, white Bordeaux, Gru-Vs, and chilled Beaujolais. The list of zest and thrills goes on and on, but the choices for decent companionship do not. Men do not line the dusty rows of a wine shop waiting to be plucked, and if they did, how would you know the complex layers of flavor inside from the outside label alone?

The truth be told, wine shared is more cherished. As quoted in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jannie's heart was like the seashore, shaped and molded with each crashing wave--forever changing with each new chapter of her life. Now, for my change in the tide. What bottle dare I pick? Who dare I let inside?

2008 Chateau de Lascaux Coteaux de Languedoc J.B. Cavalier
spring garden, loaded with herbs, lavender, lilac, purple flowers. Bright red fruit, underlined with some baking spice, minerality, smooth, fine-powdered tannins. Full-bodied, huge flavor profile for the inexpensive price. find out afterwards it was a 2010 TOP 100 and mostly sold-ou

2009 Baudry-Dutour Chinon Rose
Absolutely mouth-watering, delicate, yet savoury. rose petals, dried cranberries, crisp acidity. most darling of a rose paired with cocoa cardona goats milk cheese and framani nostrano salame--very fragrant meat, but paired nicely with the cab franc rose.

2000 Chartogne-Taillet
no longer Japone-shaped cork, bit oxidized, sherry-like qualities, but the nose was so fragrant of floral and fruit, not as yeasty as I would have expected. not the best vintage for Champagne, but great experience, none-the-less. Acidity still bright with delicate mousseaux

2010 Merry Edwards Russian River Sauvignon Blanc
musque clone leading to explosive tropical fruit of pineapple, mango, papaya, very little gooseberry or grassy, cat-pee sensations. maybe a bit of asparagus and jalapeno hints, but mostl pure fruit with amazing mouth-feel. viscous and velvety. full-bodied, delicious.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Birthdays Come True

For Kate Middleton, dreams come true, princes marry commoners like Cinderella. Love stories still swoon the world. Fairytales do come true. Now, with spring in the air, azaleas raging bloom, will my Birthday wish come true? I didn't think turning 30 would bother me so much. It did on the eve of my last night in my 20s. With my baby girl tucked away in bed with visions of sugar plum fairies hopefully dancing in her head, I sat at my desk in all my state of fatigue and mustered up the will to dream.

The days get shorter with punctuated moments of relief, the chores pile high, the demands seep in where your cozy thoughts cower, hiding from the cacaphony ever threatening to conquer your reason. To erase, for a moment, the outside world and just think, what do I want? What would fulfill me from within, burst forth, and shout to the world: Here I am! Quickly, I just think, I want to read a book on historic romances, like Diana and her young Henry in the castle of Chenonceau. Or flip through moving poetry, pour over Eustache Deschamps and Geoffrey Chaucer, ponder the satire of Le Miroir de Mariage or the beginnings of iambic pentameter.

Noooo, instead I must study in every spare moment. I dream to be enraptured by wine at a level where expertise commands respect. I want to be a Master of something, namely wine. So, I march on to the tune of my birthday song. What a party it was, friends of yesterday come aglow, martinis clinking to the chatter of wine free-flow. The 1977 Magnum of Dow's Port, perfectly paired with chocolate and blue cheese smatterings. Even the Inflourescence Champagne was unforgettable, next to my birthday dinner at Palena where a 2005 Guigal Brune et Blonde came to visit after Kim Crawford's 2006 Central Otago Pinot Noir.

The cupcake confections linger wantonly everyday another bite of cookies n' cream pure delight. The 2004 Chateau Montrose roused the band, with cheerings of full-bodied cocoa, coffee, chimney-sweep scents packed in lovely textured tannin sippings. Mmmmm, my birthday was one for the decade to be sure. Now, to move on and focus, the goal is not yet within reach, but as Confuscius said it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.

How to make my birthday wish come true?....dare to dream, and dream BIG. Master of Wine will I greet you the next decade birthday bash? I venture to take heart, birthday wishes do come true. And I am determined, settling in to my long lost imagination.

2004 Clos du Marquis Saint-Julien
Herbaceous, cocoa, bitter upfront, needed to open more. Delivered rustic mouthfeel. 2nd wine of Leoville Las Cases. Supple though, through and through, backed with power, bit of cassis, not singing to me really, a bit too bitter.

2006 Chateau Talbot Saint-Julien
So accessible even though quite young. Velvety smooth, bodacious red fruits, chimney place in my living room, cold ash murmurings, refreshing--mouth-watering, balanced acidity, black fruits rampant, chocolate dustings. Mouth-smacking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

5x7 Folded Card

Love My Grandma Mother's Day 5x7 folded card
To view Shutterfly's popular Mother's Day designs, click here.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Garden Preoccupation

The time of year is here, the roomie and I anxiously anticipate harvesting the fruits of her labor from her plotted terrace in the backyard. All winter long we've thoughtfully added to the compost pile with our recyclable wastes. Creating, we hope, a garden to be envied. Never do you taste vegetables and fruits so fresh, then when plucked ripe from your own tilled earth. Squash, carrots, melons, peas, greens of chard, lettuce, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, assorted herbs....mmmm. My mind is turning with images of recipes churning from our homey kitchen. The only trick is to keep the roving hound, Stella, out of the heaping mounds of glorious dirt--great for digging I presume, and wolfing down scrumptious, succulent veggies.

Last night, poignant memories of garden goodness instilled indelible tastes in my mouth while I salivated over an aged Rioja. Paired with a simple whole wheat rotini pasta tossed with zuchhini, tomatoes, red peppers, and pecorino cheese, my 2003 Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva, imported by Frederick Wildman, wrapped flavors of garden fresh aromatics around my olfactory senses. As the words flow, images of fresh turned soil penetrate savory reminisce of dill, tomato leaf, and sun-tanned fruits. So good on which to finish a Thursday night after Ab Ripper X and a long, hard week of Tony Horton, my goal of P90X.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nose your Spring Fragrance

When speaking of aromas, wine blesses us with a myriad of fragrant bouquets. How to interpret these smells and identify them with savvy wine speak remains the elusive gift wine-o’s spend a lifetime attempting to master. So, what is in a nose of wine, and what does that really mean? Why do wine critics write florid descriptions in wine reviews that read to the tune of: soft, velvety, rich in chocolate, blackberry and smoky oak flavor? How does wine, an alcoholic beverage, exhibit flavors of fruit, spice, wood, herbs, and flowers?

First, let’s start with the primary organ of taste, your tongue. The human tongue detects five primary tastes—acidity, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, and umami, or savoryness. When molecules from food or wine touch the palette, they bind to receptors specific to each taste. Acids set off sour receptors, sugars trigger sweet receptors, etc. With the survival of the fittest in mind, humans have evolved to like sweet tastes, since sugars/starches provide primary sources of calories. On the other hand, poisons taste bitter, so humans harbor distaste towards bitter flavors. Perceptions can be altered, though, and tastes can be acquired; the very phenomenon that takes place when an adolescent sips coffee or wine for the first time. Over time, as a youth matures and repeatedly exposes him- or herself to certain flavors, acquired tastes are born.

The tongue supplies only part of the story, the nose completes the picture with the sense of smell. Taste buds determine the degree to which something is salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or umami; but, the nose qualitatively assesses thousands of smells that the brain computes into words. Molecules giving rise to flavors and aromas are volatile, meaning they pass easily into the gas state. When you sniff or sip a wine, the volatile flavor molecules waft through your nasal passages to the olfactory bulb where they are interpreted. A wine becomes one dimensional if your sense of smell is incapacitated, like when you have a stuffy nose.

Putting the technical talk aside, this process fails to explain why aromas of chocolate, cherries and blueberries spill forth from a glass of Malbec. Little attention do we pay to the thousands of aromas we “visually” memorize. A vanilla bean smells like vanilla because an ester molecule called “vanillin” gives the bean its characteristic smell. When considering wines, the aromas depicted originate from the grape varietal itself, yeast fermentation and the chemical reactions incurred while wine ages in a bottle. The resulting aromas are the same compounds found throughout nature, just in smaller quantities, and out of context. Pass a blueberry plate under your nose before sniffing Malbec, your chances of identifying hues of blueberries will increase. But swirl a little Malbec without the presence of a blueberry plate and see if you pull out blueberry. It’s there, just out of our vernacular reach.

Aroma molecules in wine span the families of fruit, spices, herbs, flowers, minerals, earth, and more. Consider Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. This white wine commonly exhibits ester molecules that dominate the following organic forms of life: bell pepper, tomato leaf, asparagus, grapefruit, gooseberry and passion fruit. How to train your brain to identify aromas present in your glass remains the ultimate talent. Practice proves best. I recommend lots of wine tasting. Common aroma groups repeatedly occur in every grape species. For instance, Merlot gives plum, Cabernet Sauvignon boasts currants, Pinotage reveals tar, and Pinot Noir renders mushrooms and cherries. This month at Red, White and Bleu Wine Shop in Falls Church, I host the first aroma class of a series: Le Nez du Vin. Thursday evening April 21st feel free to attend the Spring Series. We will pair every one off and blind fold you for a short time to taste you on foods you can’t visualize: a brain boot camp of sorts! Spring aromas and flavors will be a focus. Fruits, greens, and herbs sourced from the local Farmer's Markets will be sniffed in their natural states, followed by a wine tasting of wines which exhibit the selected scents. Aroma education proves humbling, but great fun is definite! Phone the shop for more information 703.533.9463 or email me at