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.