Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Last weekend Warren and I decided to visit a Maryland winery. Our choice was Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard just 40 minutes outside of DC. We visited them once about 3 years ago but never wrote about them.


Sugarloaf is located on 92 acres in Montgomery County Maryland. The tasting room is in a tent permanently set up next to the winery. Next to the tasting tent is an old barn. They have renovated the lower level of the barn for retail sales and seating.


For our tasting Warren chose the premier wines and I selected the classic wines. Warren was able to taste two whites and four reds and I was able to taste three whites and four reds. A gold star was awarded to the 2007 Chardonnay is a light bodied wine with aromas of melon and grapefruit with lemon and pepper on the tongue. It spends 16 months on oak. Another gold star was given to the 2006 Merlot. This one had raspberry on the nose with flavors of black cherry on the tongue.


After our tasting, our tasting associate introduced us to the owner who showed us around the winery facility and told us all about their vines, wines, and future plans. Once our tour was complete we opted for a bottle of the 2007 Chardonnay to enjoy with our lunch. It was a perfect match.



We enjoyed our time visiting a Maryland winery. We hope to visit a different Maryland winery soon. If you visit Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!


The Foodie Guide to Pairing Wine & Cheese

by Sara Kahn, Founder of The Cheese Ambassador.

Whether you are hosting a soiree or a casual get-together this holiday, your mission is to provide your guests with warm hospitality, lively conversation and a delectable spread of food and drink. Whether the menu is complicated or simple it better be delicious. Serving a sumptuous gourmet cheese course is perfect as a starter or centerpiece of the meal. Not only is the preparation simple (no cooking!) but more importantly, your guests will enjoy discovering and savoring new favorites. As a wine lover, you want to impress with the right pairings but the overwhelming selections of wine and cheese can make your head spin. Relax. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing the right combinations of cheese and wine. Just keep in mind a few simple considerations.

Med Simple2A cheese course is about observing and enjoying contrasting and complementary flavors. For a foolproof gourmet cheese course, select 3 – 5 cheeses that vary in texture and flavor. Add some crusty bread, fresh or dried fruit, olives and nuts and voila!

Remember, wines are meant to cleanse the palate, wash away the tongue-coating richness of the cheese and prepare your mouth for the next delicious bite. It’s important that your selections don’t overwhelm the cheese and vice versa. Essentially, you’ll want to match wine and cheese of the same intensity level. Just remember “like for like”.

Take a look at the gourmet cheese categories and wine recommendations below for guidance. You’ll see how easy it is to serve an elegant wine and cheese course. For best results, just add friends and family.

Fresh – These cheeses are not aged and usually are white and light in flavor, smooth and sometimes tangy. Try chevre (goat cheese), feta and smoked mozzarella.

Beverage Pairings – Acidic white wines stand up to the tang and milky flavors of fresh cheese. Try a Viognier or a lightly oaked Chardonnay with French goat cheese, Boutari (a white Greek wine produced on the island of Santorini) with Greek Feta and Pinot Grigio with mozzarella.

Bloomy – Encased in a whitish, edible rind, bloomy gourmet cheeses are often velvety, gooey with a mild flavor. Add Brie, Camembert or Pierre-Robert to the cheese board for a decadent treat.

Beverage Pairings – Seek out a carbonated beverage to refresh the mouth from the rich and creamy flavors. Traditionally, bloomy cheeses are served with French Champagne but also try Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy.

Washed Rind – During the aging process, washed-rind cheeses are usually bathed in a brine or washed with liquor such as wine, beer or a spirits. It’s this brining process that gives the cheese an aromatic quality. Almost all have orange or reddish hued rinds. Not mild and not sharp, washed rind cheeses are full-flavored. Give Taleggio, Drunken Goat, and Epoisses a taste.

Beverage Pairings – The fruity and tannic flavors of red wines work well with the stronger flavors of washed rind cheeses. Try Italian reds such as Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino with Taleggio, a Spanish Rioja with the Drunken Goat and a Cabernet Sauvignon with Epoisses.

Semisoft – These supple cheeses are rich, creamy with stronger flavors. Fontina is herbal and nutty while Morbier offers sweetness with greater pungency.

Beverage Pairings – Sample these with light and fruity reds such as a Pinot Noir or fruity whites such as Sancerre.

Firm – Typically, firm cheeses are still pliable and packed with flavor. The best are a bit crumbly and aged for robust, nutty goodness. Cheddar, Gouda and Gruyere are crowd pleasers.

Beverage Pairings – A pint of English ale is the traditional beverage of choice for Cheddar but a Sauvignon Blanc is complex enough to complement. Gouda is great with a Syrah/Shiraz and drink Beaujolais with Gruyere.

Hard – Hard cheeses are dry, crumbly and aged for intensity. Piave, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Aged Comte boast salty, caramelized, nutty flavors.

Beverage Pairings – You’ll find hearty wines can hold their own against these cheeses. Try a Barbera or Chianti with the Piave and Parmigiano and Merlot with the Comte.

Blue – The bluish-green veins give blue cheese its punch. Listed from strong to strongest in pungency are creamy Gorgonzola, nutty Stilton and salty Roquefort.

Beverage Pairings – Intense gourmet cheeses like blues can be tamed with sweet dessert wines, liqueurs and even a fruity beer. Port and sherry are traditional blue libations. For a unique treat, try a raspberry flavored beer like Belgian Lambic (look for Lindeman’s Framboise). All can be savored while lingering over dessert.

About Sara Kahn
Even though her passion for gourmet cheese was undying, Sara Kahn found shopping for it to be overwhelming, time consuming and confusing. She established The Cheese Ambassador to offer a simple way to select and serve the world’s finest cheeses. By providing the perfect combination of exquisite cheese along with a comprehensive cheese course guide, enjoying gourmet cheese is now a deliciously enriching experience.

Looking for wine and cheese options for Thanksgiving? We think that this article will provide some ideas. Hoping for some pairing ideas with Virginia wines? With gouda, Linden’s Claret might be a possibility. With the hard cheddar cheese, I’d prefer the latest Octagon bottling by Barboursville. Blue cheese? You sure to please with the Michael Shaps 2007 Raisin d’Etre, a port style offering made with a blend of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. -Warren

Drink This!

coverWine, of course! Actually, I’m referring to Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Grumdahl’s purpose for writing Drink This is to bring the potentially bewildering (and pretentious) experience of wine tasting to a very basic level. Written for both the novice oenophile and the experienced sommelier and everyone else in between, Drink This offers wine tasting and pairing tips, debunks myths and mistakes about wine, and presents easy-to-understand facts about wine regions and varietals. Wondering what kind of wine to bring to a dinner party? Want to splurge on bubbly for a special event but your wallet has the recession flu? Drink This offers practical advice for these circumstances and many others. Grumdahl’s wise words for the budget weary allow the consumer to buy quality wines at value prices; at the same time, she offers savvy selections that present creative alternatives to California Chardonnay or French Champagnes.

I also appreciate Grumdahl’s no-nonsense approach to the wine experience. Her clever style and straight-forward approach disarms the wine snob and puts the beginner at ease. So you like Merlot? So does Grumdahl! No Sideways poseurs allowed in her book; however, if Merlot is not your thing, Grumdahl has a suggestion for you. Don’t know the difference between Bordeaux, Burgundy or any other wine region? Dara is glad you asked. Structured in a concise, clearly organized yet complete fashion, your questions are answered.

With the holiday season upon us, consider giving Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s Drink This: Wine Made Simple as a gift for that favorite wine collector or budding aficionado on your list. Should anyone wonder where you heard of this excellent wine source, mention that you read about it on Virginia Wine Time.

Wine Tasting Roundup

Our last post featured the elegant Reserve Cabernet release party at Gray Ghost Vineyards; however, we also got to enjoy tastings at other wineries that weekend.  These included Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, Marterella Winery, and Mediterranean Cellars.  We also got to sample wines at a new winery, Molon Lave Vineyards.

We were eager to sample the latest releases at Philip Carter Winery of Virginia.  We previously posted about the renaissance taking place under the direction of Philip Carter Strother, and we are pleased to report that the rebirth continues in the right direction.  Of the white wines, I favored the 2008 Chardonnay with its apple/pear flavors and pleasant nutty finish.  Easy to sip or pair with a favorite poultry dish, I really enjoyed this one.  Paul’s favorite was the recently released Governor Fauquier made from Vidal Blanc grapes but presents Riesling characteristics.  Fruity with a vibrant acidity, this one will replace the Falconwood, a pleasant sipper that is a blend of white wine grapes.  Gold star for the reds?  No doubt, it was the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its abundant dark berry flavors and peppery finish.  We tasted this one out of the barrel, and we were not surprised that this one earned our gold star award.


It had been a while since our last visit to Marterella Vineyards, so we were determined to sample the latest offerings at this popular winery.   The white wines were all very solid, and my own favorite was the 2007 Barrel Select Chardonnay.  It was described as a “classic”, and I could not agree more with this descriptor. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees in French oak barrels, this Chardonnay would partner nicely with a dish that featured cream sauces or rich gravies—poultry, lobster, pork, etc.,  We both enjoyed the Merlot-based 2008 Heritage Dry Rose, a Provence-style rose that rewards with bright strawberry and melon characteristics.  A versatile pour that will please picnics, dinner parties, or upcoming holiday feasts, this dry rose must not be confused with sweeter White Zinfandels that seem more appropriate for a hot tub party.  Red wine winner?  It was hard to deny the 2006 Meritage our gold star.  Rich dark fruit dominated the nose and mouth with an earthy component that begged for a bold roasted meat such as beef or venison (poor Bambi, but I did see a nice venison tenderloin with this one.)



So across the street from Marterlla Winery is Mediterranean Cellars.  How could we refuse?  We were warmly greeted by Matina Papadopoulos who guided our tasting which also included the reserve wines.  Our favorites included the rich 2007 Viognier Reserve with its floral/apricot nose and tropical fruit flavors. It rewards on the finish with a nice honeyed texture.  For lovers of real Greek wine, the 2005 Rechina is now available, and Matina recommends serving this one with grilled seafood; I have my eye on a grilled chop, though!  Of the red wines, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was the winner with its blackberry and dark cherry aromas and flavors. 

Matina informed us that a sister winery, Molon Lave Vineyards, had recently opened, and we were graciously provided with a coupon for free tastings at the winery.  This we did on Sunday in the early afternoon.  The style of winemaking here is similar to that at Mediterranean Cellars; in fact, Louis Papadopoulos and his son are also winemakers for this new venture.  The fruit-forward  Cabernet Sauvignon was our favorite here, and we intend to return to Molon Lave Vineyards to sample other releases as the tasting menu expands.  After all, the term Molon Lave in an ancient Greek battle cry that means, “come and take it”; so, we might as well go and sample the wines at a future date!




Planning to visit any of these wineries?  Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Elegant Evening at Gray Ghost Vineyards

We never miss the release party for the Gray Ghost Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; this special wine is only produced from the best vintages, and this year’s release featured the 2006 harvest. As always, the Kellerts treated guests to a fabulous evening of wine, dinner, dessert, jazz and more wine!


The 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from free-run juice and aged in French oak for three years. The result is a rich, complex wine that presents black berries and dark cherries to the nose and mouth; I detected a layer of dark chocolate, too. Expect a lengthy finish, too! Already awarded 13 medals including a platinum and several golds, this limited production wine will sell out quickly!

And so what sacrificial creatures were served with this opulent wine? Prime rib served with horseradish sauce, pork tenderloin, and Chesapeake crab cakes. Roasted veggies were served on the side. All that was missing were complimentary cigars and smoking jackets! For dessert? Cheesecake partnered with the much-acclaimed Adieu.


With strains of the jazz ensemble still playing, we made certain to purchase a bottle (or two) of the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon before we bid our own adieus to Gray Ghost Vineyards. If planning a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards, be aware that the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will not be available for tasting, but trust us—it’s excellent. Of course, while tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyard, do mention to the Kellerts that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Another Visit To Narmada

Last Saturday after seeing the fall grape leaves at Gray Ghost, we stopped by Narmada to see what has been added to the tasting menu.


Upon entering the gates we noticed they are now doing tastings in the winery among the tanks. Right away we ran into Rob Cox, the winemaker. He preceded to give us a tour of the facility. It’s just about complete. He took us to the unfinished tasting room that promises to be quite a space. We look forward to returning to see the completed tasting room.




After our tour Rob directed us in tasting the line of Narmada wines. Many of them we tasted back in September but there were a few additions since our last visit. The three additions were the Chardonnay, the Viognier, and the Cabernet Franc.


We enjoyed them all but the Viognier got our gold star on this visit. This viognier is steel fermented and it spends seven months on oak. I noted citrus fruit and melon. Warren noted honeysuckle and peach. We enjoyed this one so much we enjoyed a glass on the crush pad, which is set up with tables and chairs.


While enjoying the our glass we got to chat briefly with Sudha Patil, one of the owners. She asked for any advice we might have for the winery. We informed her that they seemed to be doing everything right. We enjoy the wines, the scenery, and we’re sure we’ll enjoy the tasting room when it opens later this month. Plan a visit to Narmada soon and if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!