Silver Oak is Touring the Country

From the Tower Tour website

Silver Oak, one of the most popular California wineries, is celebrating 40 great years of "life as a Cabernet" this year! In honor of their anniversary, they are touring the country with the Silver Oak Tower in tow. Calling it the Tower Tour 2012, the Silver Oak team including David Duncan, President & CEO, are winding their way from California to the east coast and back!

We visited the Oakville location while vacationing in Napa last year and I have previously sold Silver Oak while working in the wine retail industry. Needless to say when I heard of the tasting right here in DC, I just had to make time to go. Calvert Woodley hosted the FREE tasting of 4 wines: Twomey Sauvignon Blanc, Twomey Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet 2005, Napa Cabernet 2007.

People flooded the wine section, anxiously holding out their empty cups, waiting for another pour. David Duncan was signing bottles for those who purchased and the ladies pouring the wine a great job handling the mass of winos.

All the wines were outstanding but I knew that going into the tasting. My favorites were the two Cabernets. During the tasting, David explained that the 2007 vintage was one of the best they've seen in CA so far this century! Only releasing bottles after 5 years, this is their newest release.

After tasting the lineup, I just had to buy a bottle and have David sign it. Those kinds of opportunities don't happen often and despite the prices (even on sale) being a lot more than I usually spend, I knew it was worth it. I walked out with a bottle of the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet personally signed by the CEO himself!

I'm holding on to this one, for multiple reasons. It will age perfectly and it's my one and only personally signed bottle!

I wish them all the best with their continued tour and I highly suggest visiting them either in CA or on their Tower Tour.

Cheers and "Life IS a Cabernet",


Launching: French Wine Social

I have been lucky enough to assist in the launch of French Wine Social with JAO Wine Imports!! An extension of their current importing business, French Wine Social will be a wine events venture featuring their amazing French wines, mostly Burgundies. We will host events around DC and Northern Virginia to bring lesser known French wines to your fingertips. All events will be led by me and will consist of educational tastings, wine dinners and more.

We have already launched a blog, Facebook, Twitter and a mailing list. Follow us for great French wine events! Have an idea of a French focused event? Let me know!

Wine Events Planner
French Wine Social

First Look: Winery at Bull Run

The positive side to moving out to the ' there's TWO wineries within 10 miles of my house! One of my personal favorites, Paradise Springs, was claimed to be the closest winery to DC but now they have some competition with The Winery at Bull Run.

The Winery at Bull Run neighbors the Manassas Battlefield Park and has been open to the public since June 2. As you pull into the property, baby vines are growing to the left and the tasting room and patio area are straight ahead. Picnic tables are scattered about to enjoy wine and a picnic on a nice afternoon.

The property was originally an old farm house dating back to the 1800's. The new tasting room was built on those ruins. Gorgeous, intricate details were preserved in the stone work of the frame and patio. Inside, the tasting room is spacious, with a lounge area and high top tables for wine lovers to enjoy a glass. A large copper tasting bar grabs your attention and a beautiful mural behind it is a great backdrop.

Now, let the tasting begin! Normally priced at $12/person, the tastings include 3 whites, 1 rosé, 4 reds and 1 port. The tasting sheet was very informative including the vineyard, area, alcohol content, residual sugar, tasting notes and prices.

As the tasting began, we were told that the winemaker is Chris Pearmund of the award-winning vineyards, Pearmund Cellars and LaGrange. I'm sure you remember my love for Pearmund as I've written about it before. Currently, The Winery at Bull Run is sourcing their grapes from all over VA and Chris is making the wine off-site at Pearmund and LaGrange for now.

First of the whites is a 100% Chardonnay aged in French oak barrels. Typical Burgundian-style Chardonnay with vanilla and buttery notes, full-bodied but crisp enough to enjoy on a summer afternoon. The Chardonnay has gone through full maloactic fermentation giving it that buttery mouth feel. It is also sourced from Meriwether Vineyard in Broad Run, VA. This wine has already won a Bronze medal at the 2012 NextGen Wine Competition. Great job!

On to their "Cuveé Blanc" or a fancy way of saying white blend. 2010 Delaney is named for the youngest member of the Hickox Family (the owners). A blend of 40% Traminette, 30% Vidal Blanc, 20% Viognier, and 10% Riesling. This wine has 1.2 g/l residual sugar making it a semi-dry white wine. A little too sweet for my tastes but it does have a very fruity and juicy mouthfeel with hints of citrus and stone fruit. This wine won the Silver medal in White Table Wine Blends at the 2012 New York International Wine Competition.

The 2010 Viognier is a blend of 75% Viognier, 15% Chardonnay and 10% Gewurztraminer, having slightly more residual sugar than the Delaney at 1.5 g/l. Even though it has a little more residual sugar, I felt like it wasn't as sweet tasting, maybe because it wasn't as juicy. This Viognier is a great representation of what VA is known for, peachy, honeysuckle notes with a floral bouquet nose.

Sourced from the Glebe Vineyard in Eastville, VA the 2010 Rosé is 90% Merlot and 10% Chambourcin. During fermentation, the skins sit with the juice for only 4-5 hours leaving a light pink color. Light, crisp and hints of strawberry, this rosé would be perfect for the patio or light appetizers.

Now time for the reds. First up is the 2009 Cabernet Franc. The grapes came from Colucci Vineyards in Upperville, VA and this wine is 100% Cabernet Franc. Aged in American oak, this wine is medium-bodied with dark fruit flavors and hints of spice. Very typical of Cab Francs. The Cab Franc won the Bronze medal  at the 2012 New York International Wine Competition.

The next wine is the 2009 Merlot from Carter's Mountain Vineyard in Charlottesville, VA. Again 100% varietal aged in American oak, this wine is a bigger than the average Merlot. It has lots of black cherry and spice on the palate with a soft, easy finish.

Norton is the native grape of Virginia and gaining more traction so it's no surprise to see the 2010 Norton. Sourced from Keswick Vineyard in Charlottesville, VA, this wine is 77% Norton and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon which helps to round out the flavors. Dark fruit flavors with hints of vanilla from the American oak, the Norton has a long finish and will age well.

Last of the reds is their 2010 Meritage which is a Bordeaux-style blend of 15% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Petite Verdot, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The booziest of them all at 13.9% alcohol, this blend is complex and jammy. The tannin structure shows that it will age well. I'm always a sucker for VA Meritages. For some reason, the complexity, dryness, oaky flavors just suits my palate.Others agree, it won the Bronze medal at the 2012 NextGen Wine Competition!

The final wine on the list is the 2010 Fort, a port-style wine made from 100% Chambourcin also from Colucci Vineyards in Upperville, VA. This sweet wine is served with a small piece of dark chocolate which compliments the flavors perfectly. The cocoa flavor in the wine is showcased after you take a bite of the chocolate. Another award-winning wine, the Fort also won Bronze medal at the 2012 NextGen Wine Competition.

Wow, what a lineup! I wish we could have stayed longer but they close at 7pm. But that's all the more reason to make another visit! You should too, only 20 miles from DC and a few miles off 66, the location and wine are great. I'll see you there.


Special Thank You to Casanel

It's been a fun, crazy time planning our wedding this year. One of the remaining "big" things to-do was bridal portraits. It seems to be very rare to find people that have actually heard of bridal portraits. It's something my family and even friends have done for decades. It's a trial run for the big day, let's say.

A photo shoot at a vineyard just seems so fitting due to my love and passion for wine. But the amount of wineries in my area make it hard to choose. Having visited Casanel, and a memorable one at that, I reached out to see if I could use their property as a backdrop. They were very accommodating and welcoming, allowing me to use their vineyard and tasting room for such a special day. The old historical tasting room was a perfect backdrop for the vintage look I was going for. My photographer, David Nimorwicz of N-B Photography (awesome btw, he deserves his own post), took a walk around the property while I got into my dress. We took shots in multiple areas; vines, tasting room, gazebo. It was a great experience with my mom and sister along to assist and comfort me in front of the camera.

After the portrait session, we each enjoyed a glass of white on their patio. I chose the Viognier, a dry white that was perfectly chilled for a warm summer afternoon. I cannot thank Casanel enough for being accommodating and allowing me to have a dreamy portrait session that will forever be hanging on my wall.


Summer = Grilling = Wine!

Beer is usually the drink of choice on hot summer days by the bbq but not for some of us! There are great wine options to cool you off, pair perfectly with that burger or sip in the sunshine.

With Father's Day this weekend, the grilling season is in full swing. Whether you're grilling meats, veggies, or fish there are plenty of options for the perfect wine.

Riesling - A lot of people stray from Riesling because it can be too sweet, however, the sweetness of a chilled Riesling would be nice alongside a grilled sausage, chicken or a savory fish dish. The light, crisp finish brings some refreshment to the grilled meats. There are plenty of rieslings to choose from, most commonly German and New York State producers with the option of dry and semi-dry. I prefer dry rieslings myself, like Dr. Frank Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes in NY. This wine is well balanced with floral and citrusy notes and ideal with seafood.

Sauvignon Blanc - This varietal is known for it's herbaceousness and light body which makes it great for pairing with seasoned chicken and grilled veggies. Sauvginon Blancs are produced all over the world but the most popular are Sancerre's, New Zealand and South Africa. Tons of bargain wines to be found in South Africa and New Zealand. These regions produce light Sauvignon Blancs that display a green and floral nose with a refreshing palate, just perfect for the summertime. Price ranges from $8 and up. Who doesn't appreciate that?

Chardonnay - More of a full-bodied wine than the other whites, Chardonnay is always a good wine to pair with food. Chardonnay can stand up to those grilled fish entrees and can you imagine how well the buttery corn on the cob would taste? There are plenty of options for a buttery California Chardonnay. Depending on your price point, I'd recommend Rombauer ($35/bottle). This wine has a lot of fresh fruit aromas and the vanilla adds depth of flavor. Another popular option is the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from La Crema. It's readily available and similar to the Rombauer style.

Pinot Noir - Lightest of the reds, Pinot Noir is always a crowd pleaser and one of the best food wines. It's very diverse and can easily pair with numerous dishes. This is your best bet if you are invited to a cookout but not sure of the menu. There are a lot of popular Pinot regions but my favorite, especially for grilling, is Oregon. Oregon Pinot is very earthy and can compliment a grilled meat or fish very well. A good go-to Oregon Pinot without the Oregon price is Erath. Bright and vibrant, Erath has a smooth, silky finish and would be divine with grilled seafood.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Bigger and bolder than Pinot but yet still a soft finish, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great burger wine. This varietal is great with fattier, grilled meats because of the tannin structure.Top your burger with strong cheese and this varietal will shine even more! Chilean wines are up and coming so I recommend the Estampa Cabernet Sauvignon. It's at a great price point ($12) and showcases dark fruit with a rather large nose.

Syrah/Shiraz - Syrah produces a large, flavorful, tannic wine that will pair with any grilled red meats. Like Cabernet, the tannins help break down the tougher meats. When I think Syrah/Shiraz, there's none other than Mollydooker from Australia. As I wrote about last year, the team at Mollydooker is passionate about wine yet very down to earth. The Boxer is one of my go-to Shiraz's and retails for around $25. Very fruit forward with hints of spice make it a great pairing with meats right off the grill.

The options are unlimited when it comes to grilling wines. Maybe it's because I love to grill! Regardless, get out there this summer and enjoy fresh food with perfectly paired wines.



There's only a few places in the city that I never get tired of visiting, Ripple is one of those places. A great wine selection, mostly organic/sustainable and an amazing, eclectic menu always grab my attention. I know I can post up at the bar and not be disappointed. Glancing at the wine list and seeing new choices keeps me coming back. Mo does a fantastic job as the sommelier and keeps the selection fresh, new and of course, delicious.

When they announced a few weeks ago that they were launching a Grilled Cheese Bar during happy hour....I added a Ripple visit to my calendar right away. Half price wines by the glass AND the option to make your own grilled cheese using their selection of fine cheeses, what is not to love?!

Only running this special from 5-6:30 and again from 10:30-midnight, we got there right at opening. With the rainy weather outside, I felt like sipping red wine. Mo recommended a lighter-bodied red from France, marcel lapierre “raisins gaulois", which is made from the gamay grape. It was a perfect sipper while we chatted and contemplated what grilled cheese goodness we wanted to order.
The Grilled Cheese Bar has unlimited options! They have a few selections already combined which makes ordering and deciding a little bit easier. I went with the classic blt sandwich, melty cheese and bacon?! pshyeah! The thought of trying to make my own was a bit overwhelming and I know I would change my  mind a hundred times. I'm indecisive like that. They do make it easy for those who are unsure by providing a detailed tasting sheet of the cheese selection.

The smell of the melting cheese on the griddle is mouthwatering, your tastebuds just anxiously awaiting. To curb my appetite, I ordered more wine, of course.

Then it arrives! Warm, right off the griddle, and placed in front of me ready to be consumed. The crunchy bread is the perfect accompaniment to the ooey gooey goodness inside.

Needless to say, this is worth a trip! I hope the Grilled Cheese Bar is here to stay and I plan to visit again soon, real soon.

Christina, Zander, Mo, Myself
Ali, Zander, Mo, Myself

Shoutout to Mo! Great service and great wines which make my experiences so enjoyable.


*Cheese hat photos courtesy of Ali Lieberman

When You Hire a Personal Chef for your Birthday

Every year I celebrate my birthday with food and wine. In the past, I've gathered my closest friends and made reservations at the newest up and coming restaurant. Last year was Lincoln and that was fab! Having moved outside of the beltway this past year, something more intimate at home sounded better.

Kirstyn, One Chic Chef, is a great friend who I met while managing the wine shop a few years back. We met by chance and she began to prepare food for a few wine tasting events at the store. Since then, she has visited my home and gave my girlfriends and I cooking lessons multiple times. The idea of hosting a dinner party with her just seemed perfect.

Throwing around ideas of what food to serve, we settled on a summertime salad, homemade lobster ravioli with vodka sauce and individual molten chocolate cakes for dessert. YUM!

As always, I started the evening with Champagne and an appetizer; baguette and bacon fig jam. Sparkling wine is a must at any event, IMO ;) I served Claude Baron Champagne, given to me by a dear friend. It was a great way to welcome everyone to the celebration and light enough for even the beer drinkers of the group.

I also opened up a bottle of Chrysalis Mariposa (Rosé). This was great for the first course which was a mixed greens salad served with a grilled peach, slice of prosciutto, goat cheese and balsamic reduction drizzle. Kirstyn explained that peaches are usually in season a little later in the summer but due to the warmer winter, they are perfect right now. She was right! What a great addition to the salad. Chrysalis Mariposa is always a crowd pleaser and perfect for a light salad and summertime evening. The bright color comes from the Norton grape and is a full-bodied rosé that can be paired with a variety of dishes.

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad. Photo courtesy of Nancy Hott
On to the entree course, homemade lobster ravioli! She called this drunken ravioli because the lobster filling was made with sherry and the sauce was made with vodka. She knows me well :) Large raviolis filled with chunks of lobster meat and that creamy vodka sauce made for a perfect entree course. By this point, the rosé was gone and we were onto the next bottle. I opened the Girasole Organic Chardonnay which was a great accompaniment to the ravioli. Since the ravioli wasn't too heavy like a lot of pasta dishes can be, this chardonnay paired perfectly. It was full-bodied but not overly oaky, again, another crowd pleaser.

Lobster Ravioli with vodka sauce, basil and garlic bread. Photo courtesy of Nancy Hott
 Last but certainly not least, she served individual molten chocolate cakes with fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. This was melt-in-your-mouth good and quite the dessert! Cakey on the outside and ooey-gooey on the inside. The raspberries were perfect with the melty chocolate. As we were devouring our cakes, no one spoke a word. All you could hear was the mmmm's from everyone! It was a perfect way to the end the meal.

Molten Chocolate cake with fresh raspberries. Photo courtesy of Nancy Hott
Feeling like a queen, I could not thank Kirstyn enough for all that she did to prepare such a fantastic meal. It was amazing from start to finish. She served every course, explained each one and answered any questions we had. She's a great chef who does multiple things from catering to meal delivery to cooking lessons. She comes highly recommended! Look her up.

The group! Photo courtesy of Nancy Hott

If only my meals could turn out an A+ like this one was :)