Best of 2013

So earlier this year, I recapped my amazing year of 2012 and at the end asked, "ok 2013, what do ya got?!"

So here's how 2013 went:

  • Continuing my experience at Boxwood, I learned about the bottling process. With their own state-of-the-art bottling line, I watched and assisted in bottling the popular 2012 Rosé! Working for a winery really taught me the behind the scenes of how the juice gets into the bottle and on the shelf.

  • We took our first trip to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend and had a great time drinking and dining all over the city, complete with Veuve!

  • At the end of the summer, I took another career jump into the sales side. I took a full-time job as a wine sales rep in the DC/Arlington region and am loving this side of the business.

Overall, 2013 has been a great year! However, not as eventful as 2012 but I planned that! Life has been too crazy the past couple of years so 2013 was just what I wanted. Who knows what 2014 will bring!

Carménere, the Forgotten Grape

Carménere has recently been rediscovered in Chilé and now you can find it on just about any retail shelf. But what is it and how did it gain it's comeback?

Carménere originated in the Medoc region of Bordeaux and is thought to be one of the original six red grapes. However, it's not rarely found in Bordeaux but rather in Chilé. When the vines were transferred to Chilé, they were planted with the Merlot grapes and was thought to be Merlot for decades. Since it was really another varietal mixed in with the Merlot, Chilean Merlot was unlike any other. It wasn't until 1994, when a researcher found that some of those grapes were actually Carménere. Since then it's be labeled as such and gaining popularity.

I opened a bottle of Casa Rivas Gran Reserva Carménere recently and truly enjoyed it. Very easy to drink on its own but easily paired with many foods. Big, bright fruit with a medium finish, this wine was a perfect sipper to enjoy in front of the tv. This wine comes from the Chilean region of Maipo, closest region to Santiago.

Curious? Pick up a bottle of Carménere and taste for yourself!

A New Favorite...Vellum

Working in distribution, I come across A LOT of new finds. Most recently, I met the winemaker of Vellum Wine Craft based in Napa, CA.

Jeff Mathy visited us in the DC area to showcase his 3 wines: Vellum White, Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon & Vellum Black. The Cabernet is the flagship wine and what started the entire brand. Jeff and his business partner, Karl, made their first vintage of Cabernet in 2007. And their inaugural vintage was quite a hit with a "result of the highest rated and most age worthy Napa Cabernet in 2007"!

But how did this company come about?

Karl is a war veteran and moved west when he returned, studying enology and viticulture from UC Davis. Jeff has a history as a mountaineer, completing the 7 Summits and in the process he met a Master of Wine who spiked his interest in the wine industry. A friendship was born and ultimately (and good for us!) wine production began. If you're wondering about the name, Vellum is the decorative canvas that is said to be what the Bible, Declaration of Independence and other significant documents were printed on. "Like true vellum canvas, Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine made for the ages." 

The most recent vintage, Vellum produced ~1400 cases total, now that's small production! They do have a wine club and have began distribution this year. With such small production at the moment, there is not a lot of these wines to distribute so get it while you can!

So now about the wines. They are all made in the Bordeaux-style, which is exactly what I like! They are also all unfiltered, unfined and organic.

2012 Vellum White - 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon - 8 barrels produced - Similar to a Bordeaux Blanc with notes of citrus, ripe gooseberry with a complex finish.

2009 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon - 80% Cabernet 10% Petit Verdot 10% Merlot - 50 barrels produced - Received the Silver Decanter World Wine Award - Deep ruby in color with notes of dark fruits and spices.

2010 Vellum Black - 85% Petit Verdot 15% Cabernet - 8 barrels produced - This big, bold wine has notes of dark fruit, cassis and a hint of spice. Tasting notes quote "the highest expression of Petit Verdot, age worthy 25+ years and the crown of an unforgettable vintage!"

Who's Behind Food Network's Wine Label, entwine?

If you're an avid Food Network lover like I am, you've recognize that they have their own wine under the label Entwine. I've seen it in cooking shows as well as their competition series. I've also seen it on the shelves at some retailers.

Each label showcases the Food Network logo and are single varietal; Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This isn't breaking news, entwine has been around for a few years and sadly, I've overlooked these bottles when making wine purchases. All my fault, but I never researched where this wine came from. I assumed it was sourced grapes from all over CA to make an approachable, easy to pair wine, slapped with a Food Network label.

Little did I know that the nation's oldest, continuously operated, family-owned winery, Wente Vineyards, works with Food Network on their entwine product.

Recently, I was able to have lunch with Christine Wente herself. We sampled numerous wines including  Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc, Morning Fog Chardonnay, Riva Ranch Chardonnay and Charles Wetmore Cabernet. While learning about more about this iconic family and vineyard, entwine was introduced.

This family is known as the "First Family of Chardonnay". They have been producing CA Chardonnay for 100 years and have been producing wine for over 130 years! Wow!

Entwine should not be overlooked, as I have done in the past. It just goes to show that a little education about the winery/vineyard/label goes a long way. I now have another great, go-to, everyday wine to add to my collection. I look forward to tasting the entwine lineup and will be posting reviews in the future.

Thank you to the Wente family for inviting me a great luncheon where I was able to learn so much more about the wines, location, vineyard and more!

A Night at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner

*I received a complimentary one night stay with meals, this was my experience!

Sometimes a "staycation" is the ideal date night here in the DC metro area with great hotels, restaurants and entertainment options. Bryan and I did just that over the weekend.

We enjoyed an overnight stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, complete with dinner, wine, cocktails and a buffet breakfast. Upon arrival, the valet and front desk were welcoming and helpful, making us feel very appreciated. The superb customer service continued throughout our stay.

The cheese and charcuterie in our room was also a nice touch! (They know how to please us Winos)

We made reservations for dinner at the Entyse Bar & Lounge where we enjoyed soups, entrees, dessert, and wine of course! I ordered the shrimp pad thai, something I was not expecting on the menu, and truly enjoyed it. He ordered the salmon filet. The food and service were spectacular. We were able to enjoy at our leisure and received prompt and friendly service from the wait staff.
But no meal is complete without wine! The extensive list showcased wines from all regions of the world and a few selections from Sommelier Vincent Feraud, including 1er Cru Burgundy! However, I began the evening with a crisp, refreshing Sancerre which paired perfectly with the small nibbles and my main dish of pad thai. Later, I enjoyed a glass of that 1er Cru Burgundy because who can pass that up?!
Entyse also has their own wine club, which is free to join (email Vincent to sign up)! Benefits include priority invites to wine dinners and events, priority to purchase new and limited release wines from Entyse retail wine shop and a complimentary glass of wine when you purchase a dinner entree! Needless to say, I signed right up and look forward to hearing about the upcoming wine dinners and events. 
This is the card to you have yours?
Speaking of events, check out their event calendar for all of the happenings coming up in the Fall/Winter.

Weekly events at Entyse Wine Bar & Lounge include:
Wine'D Down Wednesdays ~ wines by the glass with a raw bar
Sushi Thursdays ~ I will definitely be attending one of these!
Jazz Fridays ~ With Christopher Linman Jazz Ensemble

We sipped cocktails while listening the Christopher Linman Jazz Ensemble

The adventure continued in the Bistro for breakfast where you can order a la carte or the buffet. After taking a glance at the buffet, it was an easy decision for us! Again, the food and service were spectacular and was a fantastic way to end our staycation at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner.
The Bisto's lovely decor
Meet me at Entyse Wine Bar, I'm looking forward to visiting Vincent again soon!

A Weekend Trip to VA Wine Country

Ever thought of staying in West Virginia and exploring Virginia wine country?

Probably not your first thought.

Charles Town is known for the horse races and Hollywood Casino. A few miles from there is a quaint, cozy and historical bed and breakfast, Hillbrook Inn. And a short drive from there is VA wine country.

Built on George Washington's first land purchase, this b&b is also known for it's fine dining experiences featuring 3 and 5 course dinners and 2 course breakfasts. The staff was very welcoming and gave us the grand tour upon arrival. The amenities are high-end and I must say, the bed was most comfortable! Perfect after a day of winery hopping.

Virginia wineries are within a short drive; plan a trip to visit Breaux, Hillsborough, Doukenie, Veramar, Bluemont and many more!


J&G Steakhouse Launches a New Look

J&G Steakhouse, located in the W Hotel, has been a Top 100 Restaurant in DC for many years. Although it's a hotel restaurant, J&G has managed to attract tourists and locals alike. DCers are well-versed in steakhouses as well as hotel restaurants but J&G has gone through an extensive remodel over the summer.

They reopened this week and I was there to see the new look! First off and most importantly, they have launched a wine bar inside called Bar 515. The bar is inside, off the patio and beneath the main steakhouse. Quiet and cozy, this is an ideal location for a first date, catching up with old friends or making new ones. A sleek background behind the bar showcases bright white light and antler accents, very trendy. At the other end of the bar, there is a warm fireplace; the perfect spot to get cozy this Fall.

The patio has also had a renovation. Enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir next to the firepits scattered about. Again, ideal for this Fall season.

J&G also had a martini cart showcasing craft cocktails! How gorgeous is this patio?

The renovation inside the main steakhouse has made it feel more welcoming and modern with a pop of color.
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of
I cannot wait to come back and enjoy more wine on that patio and inside Bar 515!


Maryland Wine: More Than the Fruity Stuff

Maryland wine is where Virginia wine was about a decade ago. Starting to gain traction, some really great producers making great wines and then those that are producing the fruit wines. But hey, evidently those sell too! This shouldn't discount all MD wine, there are some fantastic wineries out there, you just need to know where to look. And Jarrod at Adega Wine Cellars was just the person to ask.

The Young Winos held a tasting event in Silver Spring at Adega Wine Cellars focusing on those great producers in MD. Adega is a casual, cafe-style environment and was a great experience. A large menu featuring burgers, appetizers, flatbreads and pastas were available as well as wines by the glass, by the bottle and also beers. 

Jarrod, the manager, led the tasting of 4 MD wines; 2 whites and 2 reds. The first wine was from Cygnus Wine Cellars in Carroll County. Manchester Hall is a Vidal Blanc, which is a flagship grape in the state. A very balanced, off-dry wine with melon and notes of minerality. This wine has 1.2% residual sugar but still finishes dry. This bottle retails at Adega for $15.99

The 2nd white wine was from Black Ankle Vineyards in Frederick County. The 2012 Bedlam is a blend of pretty much everything they can find. A blend of Chardonnay, Albarino, Muscat, Viognier, Gruner Vetliner and Syrah! Wow! No wonder it's called Bedlam ("craziness"). This complex wine is very tropical, full bodied with a crisp, long finish. I enjoyed this one but it did get some comments from others at the tasting that it was too complex and had a lot going on. With only 131 cases of this wine produced, the retail price is $32.99!

The first red was from Fiore Winery in Hareford County. The Proprietor's Reserve is a Chambourcin, which is a grape that has taken off in MD. This wine is non-vintage but rather a blend of 2 vintages. This helps with the volatility from vintage to vintage. Bright red fruit notes, mostly cherry and only light tannins, this is a great wine to pair with many foods or sip on it's own, as we did after the tasting! 

The last and final wine in the flight was Black Ankle 2011 Rolling Hills red blend. A blend of 76% Merlot and 24% Cab Sauv. Aged in new French oak, this wine is very rich, full bodied and balanced. Again, soft tannins and a lot of red fruit.

This was quite the lineup of MD wines and a great job by Jarrod of Adega! (ps - get the Adega fries: truffle and sweet potato)


A Mexican Gem in Vienna

(not wine related)

After moving to Fairfax 2 years ago, Bryan and I have been hunting for great restaurants in the suburbs. Inundated with chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, TGIFridays, etc, it's been quite the task to find a great go-to place to enjoy date night.

Having loved Bazin's on Church in Vienna a few weeks ago with the in-laws, we've been wanting to try their sister restaurant, Alegria, a casual Mexican joint.

A superb Saturday evening, we headed to Alegria on the quaint Church St in Vienna. Much smaller than Bazin's, there is a bar serving up fantastic margaritas, a few tables on the patio and a cozy dining room. While we waited (not even 5 minutes), we ordered margaritas to start off the dining experience.

We took advantage of the great weather and dined al fresco. You can't go to a Mexican restaurant and not order the Queso Fundido, ooey gooey deliciousness with soft tortillas and meaty chorizo. Another great way to start off the dining experience.

Attentive servers kept our table manicured, drinks filled and made sure we were enjoying every minute.

Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines so it was hard to decide on what to order for my entree. However, there were a few items that stood out on this menu; short rib enchiladas, Oaxacan-style Carne Asada and pork confit tacos!

Enchiladas are my go-to choice any day and stuffed with short ribs, are you kidding me?! No question about that. They were rich and flavorful and served with black beans and rice. The portion size was rather large too!

The slow-roasted pork confit tacos were a great addition to my meal. They were served with pickled jalapenos and chunks of pineapple. (Tacos can be purchased individually and they have a great selection to choose from)
Bryan ordered the carne asada. It was tender and full of flavor. Served with rice and crispy plantains. It was another hefty portion!
As we wrapped up our great date night, we were already thinking about when we will be returning! This is quite the gem outside the beltway. It's worth the trip :)


"Fun Was Never So Pink"

So says McPherson Cellars.

Their 2012 Dry Vin Gris Rosé is a must have as this summer season is winding down. Crisp, acidic and BRIGHT pink, this rosé is a blend of Cinsault, Mouvédre and Grenache. There's no short finish here, this wine is not only bright in color but has bright flavors of berries. This wine is versatile and pairs wellwith a patio, light dinner or your favorite summer dish.

I'm no newcomer to this Texas (yes,Texas) winery. Les Copains, a white blend, was served at my Thanksgiving dinner last year and I've been purchasing a bottle of their wine every time I come across it.

It's no secret that Kim McPherson has figured out the perfect balance, quality, and flavors needed to make successful, popular wines from the Lone Star state. He is spearheading the movement that wine can be made (and made well) in unlikely places. As their website says "Texas Wines with a Pioneering Spirit".

Another great advantage to McPherson wines are their reasonable prices, most under $20! Here in the DC/MD/VA region, you can find these wines in numerous wine shops and restaurants. If you haven't tasted these wines before, seek them out, you won't be disappointed.


Expanding My Wine Career

I've taken a short hiatus from the wine industry over the summer but it's back to a full-time wine career for me in September!

I'm excited to start working with Global Wines Distribution covering DC, Arlington and Alexandria. After years of working in wine retail, I'm ready to be on the other side of the table! Global Wines is a locally owned wine wholesaler focusing on high value wines from the US and around the world.

Looking forward to learning, tasting and blogging more about wine!

I'm back!

Cheers :)

A Love, Hate Relationship: Happy Hour Wine

I love it because I feel like I'm getting a deal and saving money (aren't we all?!) And that always occuring, "yeah I'll just have 1 more".

But I hate it because usually this means an oaky Chardonnay or another run of the mill wine (think Kendall Jackson).

Also, most places only offer 1 white and 1 red which really limits the wine lover. Granted, wine bars and higher end places, if they even offer a happy hour, have a much wider and more palatable selection, even during happy hour.

(Maybe I'm just a little cynical now that I'm out in the burbs, trying to find a place with decent wine)

I get that sports bars, dive bars and the like aren't going to have a Gigondas by the glass but there are some great options that are on the cheaper end to highlight. Wine is a fast-growing "hobby" and more and more people are becoming interested in more than just Chardonnay and Cab Sauv.

Granted, not all places have chosen this route. Most recently, I visited The Coupe in Columbia Heights for the DC Food Blogger Happy Hour (yeah, it's a thing). They have great happy hour specials including 50 cent bites and $5 wines. Again, only 1 white and 1 red.

My first question: "What is the happy hour white?" Expecting a New World, fruit forward, possibly an oak bomb; she handed me the bottle.

It was a vin de pays from Cotes de Gascogne. Hmmm....wasn't expecting that! Especially in a 24/7, wi-fi haven, "No Corporate Coffee No Matching Silverware" place, as they describe it.

"I'll take that!"

Now, this wine isn't one to go writing home about but it's definitely a great value wine and something different to offer patrons.

There are hundreds of options for great value, happy-hour-worthy but off-the-beaten-path wines, New and Old World alike. Having been on the wine bar side (and an accountant), I understand the cost and financial impact of even having a happy hour.

I'm hoping to see more diversity as customers learn about wine and want to expand their palates,

at happy hour or not.

Exciting Things Happening at Philip Carter!

It's no secret that I've always been a fan of Philip Carter. Not only do I enjoy the wine but the people are fantastic and welcoming and I've loved to see them grow over the past few years. 2013 is no exception.

Photo courtesy of their Facebook page
With my most recent visit, I sat down with Philip Strother, CEO of PC, and also Dan, the Operations Manager. This particular day they were bottling one of their brand new labels: Corotoman, 315 cases of a Meritage blend. Another great wine added to their lineup! Carter Charter members were invited to exclusively help with bottling, just another perk of being their wine club member.

I also noticed some new vines had been planted in three separate areas of the vineyard. I was told Viognier, Petit Verdot and Tannat have been planted this year. With a current case production around 3,000 this year, they plan to ramp up to 5,000 or more in the near future. The planting of these vines will help in the increased production, however, they will still be sourcing 40% of the grapes used as their portfolio continues to expand and evolve.

The growth doesn't stop there! They've also acquired a new property about a mile down the road. It will open in September as the Inn at Vineyards Crossing! This inn has 6 rooms available to rent and you can stay in the heart of Fauquier wine country. This property dates back to the 1700's and ideal for those interested in local food, wine and history. They are even working on educational programs and a wine camp! Sign me up! Like them on Facebook to stay informed.

With their wine club, Carter Charter, steadily growing, production increasing, and wine education opportunities at the Inn, Philip Carter Winery is place to keep your eyes on!

Perfect Pairing with Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde has been in the spotlight recently and I see why. It's a great buy and perfect to enjoy during the hot summer months. As NY Times describes it "cheap and cheerful", I went on the hunt to find a great Vinho Verde and a nice dinner pairing.

Vinho Verde has a crisp, refreshing character and some even have those green notes similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (another favorite warm weather wine). Gaining a lot of popularity in the American market, Vinho Verdes are a fantastic buy ranging in prices from only $4 to around $12. Up there with rosé, this is becoming a go-to patio wine for the remainder of this super hot, muggy DC summer.

I came across this Portuguese Vinho Verde at only $8.99 (!) and paired it with cedar plank salmon and asparagus. Casa de Vila Verde is a single estate wine in the sub region of Sousa described as dry and fresh with citric fruit acid and a crisp finish. Talk about a great summer dish and wine; easy, palate pleasing and budget-friendly.

Cedar Plank Salmon is by far one of the easiest ways to prepare fresh salmon. All you need is cedar planks, salt, pepper and some lemon juice. Place the filets on the planks on the upper rack in a heated grill for 12-15 minutes. Use the rest of the lemon on the asparagus and roast in the oven until tender. Dinner is ready in about 20 minutes!

This dry, minerally wine is a great compliment to the flaky tender salmon. The crisp finish cleanses the palate after every bite, with the desire to take another forkful and sip. and repeat

Have yet to experience Vinho Verde? Find a bottle at your local wine shop, enjoy it with food or on its own. You will not be disappointed, nor will your wallet!


Sushi, Sparkling, Tartare, Oh My!

Birthdays are always a great time to celebrate your favorite things. Hey, it is your day!

It's no secret that sparkling wine is one of my favorite things and sushi is my favorite food. The Source by Wolfgang Puck has the perfect "date night deal" on Friday and Saturday nights; Sushi and Sparkling! They feature sushi rolls and a glass of sparkling for $20.13 per person, not a bad deal. They have a great sushi selection as well as a few different sparkling wines by the glass. We went with the Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé from Alsace, one of my favorite sparkling wines. Sushi and sparkling wine are an ultimate pairing; the bubbles help cleanse the palate after every bite and the crunchy vegetables inside the roll are a great accompaniment to that effervescence.

The Source is a sleek, modern Japanese restaurant and is the first fine dining restaurant by Wolfgang Puck in DC. Currently led under the direction of Chef Scott Drewno, this restaurant has won numerous awards over the years including Washingtonian's Top 100 Restaurants and 3 Rammy awards!

Highly recommend the Sushi and Sparkling menu at The Source for your next date night.

From there, we visited Fiola by Fabio Trabocchi, only a block away, how convenient. Another modern, upscale restaurant, Fiola focuses on fresh ingredients for their ever-changing Italian menu. After hearing so many amazing things about Fiola, it's been on my list to visit for quite a while. What better evening to visit than for a celebratory dinner?!

We started with a bottle of wine, a Super Tuscan. Love Italian wine? This is the place to be. There were so many options!

After deliberating over the menu for a while, we ordered the bison tartare (first time eating tartare and loved it!) and the tortellini of baby lamb with seared fois gras. Everything was superb, delicate, service was fantastic, and the ambiance was ideal for our date night.

Obviously, I enjoyed my birthday evening. If you haven't visited, make plans to go, you're missing out!


A Weekend in Chicago

Chicago: the Windy City. Known for their hot dogs and deep dish pizza. I learned there are plenty more food options than those!

We visited for the first time over Memorial Day weekend and it was filled with wine, food and more wine! With numerous trendy restaurants popping up all over the city, it wasn't hard to find great food and wine pretty much any neighborhood you were in.

We started our long weekend at the Little Goat Diner, owned by the James Beard award winner Stephanie Izard. The eclectic menu was trendy, eye opening and a little bizarre.

I went with the "Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing" Ha! Kimchi, bacon, pancake and eggs, it was delish. The decor was stunning as well.

What does a Wino do when it's clear blue skies and celebrating with her sister-in-law? Veuve Clicquot on the roof of course!

On to dinner...Mexican food is one of my favorites, paired with a margarita of course! So, we visited Cantina Laredo, a modern Mexican restaurant in downtown Chicago. I'm a sucker for good enchiladas and they had barbacoa enchiladas! Delish.

A fantastic weekend brunch spot is Wishbone. Self described as "Southern Reconstruction Cooking", this place has the best cheesy grits and southern favorites that reminds me of being in Charleston, SC. I ordered the BBQ benedict which was biscuits, topped with BBQ and topped with eggs served with those cheesy grits of course. My husband and I split the crunchy french toast and I must say, that was the best french toast I've ever eaten! Everything was fantastic, just wish I wasn't hungover from the night before so I could have enjoyed their tasty mimosas.

Being the Wino that I am, I was searching for a great, local wine bar and my sister-in-law knew just the place. Lush Wine & Spirits, a neighborhood joint that's serious about their wine. Only one complaint, it was wayyy too bright in there for being a Saturday night at 10pm. BUT the food  was quite good. We ordered a glass of wine and some light fare, including popcorn popped in duckfat! Yep, you read that right. SO good. We also got the deviled eggs and who drinks wine without cheese?! They had a great wine selection on their retail side and a lot of lounge seating, perfect for a cozy evening with friends.

We also visited other restaurants including Butterfly Sushi and The Breakfast Club.

And it's not a trip to Chicago without visiting the famous art structure, Cloud Gate (aka the Bean)! Until next time Chicago....

Learning in the Vineyard: Bud Break

An advantage to working at a winery is learning more about the grape growing and winemaking process. What better way to spend a sunny, Spring afternoon than traveling around the vineyard with the 2 winemakers at Boxwood Winery?!

We stopped at rows for each of the 5 varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. I learned some characteristics about the buds/leaves as well.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the last to bud and the last to be harvested. 

Merlot leaves are said to have a "big tongue", a large, wide leaf  

Petit Verdot has a whitish film on the back of the leaves

Malbec has a very distinct, round leaf shape which helps to recognize this varietal.