America Eats Tavern and Virginia Wine

Jose Andres is well known in the area for his fine restaurants that include Jaleo and Zaytinya. His latest culinary venture is America Eats Tavern located in the Ritz Carleton Tysons. America Eats manager David Strong invited us to the restaurant for a food and wine dinner. In the course of eating and sipping, we learned more about Andres’ concept behind America Eats and the critical role that Virginia wine plays in putting that concept into practice.
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America Eats presents itself as a no pretense establishment. Patrons at the bar sported business casual attire with sleeves rolled up; others were dressed in more comfy but appropriate summer attire. David Strong explained to us that Andres’ goal for America Eats was to attract a no-nonsense clientele who was more interested in experiencing the possibilities of classic American cuisine prepared with interesting culinary twists. Only seasonal foods are served at America Eats, so don’t expect to find asparagus on the menu in February. However, do expect to find local wines to pair with a dinner selection that may also feature fresh local ingredients. America Eats boasts a selection of excellent Virginia wines that include such labels as Michael Shaps, Barboursville, Linden, Early Mountain, Ankida Ridge, Glen Manor, and RdV. Other American wines include those from New York, Texas, New Mexico as well as selections from better known wine producing states such as California, Oregon, and Washington.

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AmericaEats0 - 1Our niche, of course, is Virginia wine, and David Strong did not disappoint us. Awaiting us was a plate of raw oysters from both the Rappahanock and Washington coasts, and these were paired with a very nice 2013 Riesling from Rockbridge Vineyards. This was followed by a lovely crab cake created from Chesapeake crab; the cake was topped with a lemon foam and partnered with a fuller-bodied 2012 Chardonnay from Early Mountain. Next up was a dish after my own heart——a pork jambalaya prepared with suckling pig and topped with fried pork skins. I’m from Louisiana and couldn’t wait to dig into this. I must admit, I’ve never eaten suckling pig jambalaya; Cajuns usually make pork jambalaya with pork chops and andouille sausage, so this was a first for me. I can report that this rendition was absolutely delicious, and it was served beside the complex 2010 Hodder Hill from Glen Manor. The final entree was braised mutton served with the Jose Cuvee. The Jose Cuvee is a Merlot-based blend prepared for Andres by RdV. This cuvee also happens to be the house wine and bottled in huge bottles that make magnums look small by comparison. For dessert we enjoyed the Martha Washington chocolate cake, and it was a decadent treat that ended our dining experience.
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Our evening came to a close, but not before we received a tour of the restaurant to reveal its private dining area that can be used to host wine and dinner events as well as its state of the art wine cellar where the full selection of Virginia wines are stored.
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Looking for a full culinary experience that features American cuisine, fresh seasonal ingredients, and excellent Virginia wines served in a no-attitude-required environment? Consider Jose Andres’ America Eats Tavern located in the Ritz Carleton Tysons. Mention to the maitre-de, table server, bartender, and sommerlier that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Directions at Casanel Vineyards and Winery

Casanel Vineyards and Winery had fallen off our radar over the past few years, but our friend and Casanel wine educator Kathy Lang Wiedemann convinced us that it was time for us to revisit the winery. We recently did just that and met with owner Katie DeSouza for a tasting of Casanel’s premiere wines; along the way, we learned of new changes at Casanel that has put the vineyards and winery on track to produce some wonderful wines.
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Casanel Vineyards and Winery opened a new and more spacious tasting room since our last visit, and we were impressed with its wood floors and airy atmosphere. It is here where tasters can sample the Casanel vintages under the more familiar Casanel label. The older facility is now being used to taste the premiere wines, and these bear a cleaner, more elegant label. These were the most evident signs that a different yet better direction was being undertaken at Casanel. Katie De Souza, daughter of Casanel’s founders Nelson and Casey DeSouza, has taken on a more prominent role in managing both the vineyards and winemaking, and it was Katie who conducted our tasting. Katie explained to us that her decision to lead Casanel Vineyards and Winery in a different direction was taken after consultation with renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton who advised Katie to make needed improvements in the vineyards’ management. In addition, Katie has been learning the craft of wine making under the tutelage of French native Katell Griaud who has previously worked for Kluge Estate and then Trump Winery.
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Proof is always in the pudding—-or the wine glass in this case, and after our tasting, I concluded that the new course taken by Casanel Vineyards and Winery has produced excellent results. All seven of the premiere wines that we tasted were clean and well crafted. My particular favorites included the 2014 Ellianna, a crisp Pinot Gris that was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It’s soft peach notes and subtle mineral element made for a refreshing pour that seemed perfect for enjoyment on a warm day. I also gave two thumbs up for the 2014 Chardonnay which is a blend of three styles—-stainless steel, neutral French oak barrels, and new French oak barrels. Pear and citrus elements prevailed with an acidic mid palate and toasty finish that suggested a food-friendly wine. In fact, I served this one with crab cakes and roasted summer squash at a recent dinner party! The 2013 Petit Verdot earned my nod for favorite red wine; this too was the product of a blend of wines aged in neutral and newer French oak barrels. An initial licorice note was then followed by aromas and flavors of dark currants and plum; a lingering finish made for a more complex wine. An extra treat was a taste of the smoky 2013 Carmenere with its fruit forward palate and whiffs of violet and tobacco on the nose. This is a limited production wine and available only to the wine club members.
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Enhancing the tasting experience was a portfolio that presented each wine being tasted; in addition to descriptions of each varietal, technical details such as harvest date and ph levels are included. This encourages the customer to develop a conversation with the tasting associate about the wines; of course, we always ask questions, and the portfolio provided us with a wealth of information about the wines that we tasted.
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After our tasting, we lingered for a while in the new tasting room and enjoyed a glass of the 2014 Ellianna. We took in the gorgeous vineyard landscapes while sipping and nibbling on cheese and baguette. We know that we will return to Casanel Vineyards and Winery soon. Plan your own visit to Casanel Vineyards and Winery and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Ending Our Celebration Weekend

So this will be the last post about our celebration weekend in the Monticello area. Here I will give our perspectives on wines tasted at Gabriele Rausse Winery. Keswick Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards. Our focus at these wineries remained the same——wines to enjoy during the summer.

Gabriele Rausse Winery: We were very excited to finally taste a full line up of Gabriele Rausse wines. This was made possible due to the opening of a tasting room by Rausse! Gabriele Rausse has a long history in the Virginia winemaking industry starting back in the early 1980s, and his reputation for crafting excellent wines is well known. Our favorites of the ten wines that we tasted included the Pinot Grigio 2013 with its elements of soft peach and wet stone; I was more intrigued, though, with the Rousanne 2012 that was fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Its floral and spice notes were complemented by citrus flavors and a fuller mouth feel. Seafood, poultry or pork topped with a cream sauce should play well with this one. With grilled fare, it might be hard to beat the Cabernet Franc 2013 with its bright berry notes and subtle spice on the finish. I had an eye toward the colder months ahead along with the heartier menus that follow and made certain to purchase the more complex Nebbiolo 2012. As we sipped through our tasting, we enjoyed the woodsy views offered by the quaint tasting room that was obviously designed to blend in with forested surroundings.
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Keswick Vineyards: It’s always a pleasure to see winemaker Stephen Barnard at Keswick Vineyards. Stephen offered us sneak samples of evolving 2013 and 2014 vintages from the barrels. This included the 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, the 2014 Pinot Gris, 2013 and 2014 Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon then finishing with the Syrah. Alas, I do not have particular tasting notes on these; however, I do recall giving two thumbs up for the Chardonnay Reserve and the Cabernet Sauvignon samples. Rest assured, however, that we will return to Keswick Vineyards in the near future to report on these wines as they are released!
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King Family Vineyards: Another favorite winery and another tasting experience with the winemaker. Mathieu Finot guided us through a tasting of the latest pours at King Family Vineyards. We tend to enjoy all of the wines here, but with a focus on summer, the Crose 2014 is always a winner. This dry rose presents lovely strawberry and melon notes with a refreshing acidity; enjoy on its own, with a picnic, most grilled foods, etc. Dining al fresco with a seafood or poultry dish? Both the Chardonnay 2013 and Viognier 2014 can be recommended. I’m always partial to Chardonnay, and I appreciated the pear and citrus notes with this one; aged for nine moths in French oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation provides a full mouth feel to boot. Paul is a Petit Verdot fan, and the Petit Verdot 2012 was his favorite. Whiffs of violet and incense were complemented with elements of dark berries, plums and spice. Enjoy with heavier grilled steaks or chops or reserve for a later time with leg of lamb.
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Our celebration weekend did indeed come to an end, and along the way we tasted some wonderful wines. Be certain to pay a visit to the wineries mentioned in this post; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Celebration and Summer Favorites

In the next two posts, I will conclude a wrap up of wineries that we visited while celebrating our marriage which took place in February. Since we were in the Monticello area in June, our focus was find summer-appropriate wines; of course, we kept an eye out for wines that could be poured during cooler weather or those we thought were aging in the cellar.

Barboursville Vineyards: We always plan to stop here for a tasting; however, we always put a visit here at the top of our itinerary for the day to avoid the crowds in the tasting room. As a result, we always enjoy our tasting experience and get to ask the pesky questions that we always ask. Anyway, a mix of warm weather and light fare requires fruity, crisper wines and the Chardonnay 2014 that is cold fermented in stainless steel gets the nod here. However, I appreciated the more complex Vermentino Reserve 2013 with its notes of lemon/lime, mango, and hay as well as the Viognier Reserve 2013 with its floral aromas and tropical fruit palate. Both of these reserve wines should partner well with poultry, pork, or shellfish. I did purchase a bottle of the Nebbiolo Reserve to rest a bit on the wine rack. Lovely aromatics of violet, tobacco and plum were noted; it’s still young, so I’d advise aging for a bit or decanting to those who are more impatient!
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Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery: We were greeted by Sarah Gorman who invited to taste the latest releases in the tasting room. The 2014 Green seems destined to please in the midst of any heat wave; it is a mix of 50% Petit Manning and 50% Chardonnay. However, this is not a blend; rather, these are co-fermented. The result is a crisp wine that presents elements of lime, apple and pear. For those who enjoy vino verde wines, this one should be a pleaser. Spicy stir fry dishes or grilled poultry topped with a tangy sauce might pair better with the 2013 Quattro, a sweeter pour that is a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Traminette. It boasts a residual sugar level of 2 % along with a lovely floral nose and a fruity palate. Burgers or barbecued ribs on the grill? The 2014 Rockfish Red with its ripe cherry flavors and subtle spicy note would be the perfect partner; it is made from Cabernet Franc grape—-enjoy now!
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Jefferson Vineyards: The Chardonnay 2014 was my pick for favorite summer sipper; fermented in stainless steel, it presented apple and soft peach notes as well as a refreshing acidity. Paul preferred the Rose 2014 and its palate of strawberry and melon; he envisioned a Wolftrap concert with this one, so a bottle of it made its way home. For fall or winter fare, we both thought that the Petit Verdot 2013 deserved a space on the wine rack. Its smoky nose and aromas of plum and leather gave way to flavors of plum and dark berries. I also caught a trace of mineral toward the end.
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And I’m not done yet—-more wines to recommend! In my final wrap up, I will include a visit to the new Gabriele Rausse tasting room, special barrel tastings from winemaker Stephen Barnard, and favorites from King Family. Stay tuned——in the meantime, visit the wineries reviewed in this post, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Celebrating!

We celebrated our honeymoon last week with a trip to the Charlottesville area. We stayed at our favorite inn, the Inn at Meander Plantation, and visited favorite wineries. In the midst of celebrating our marriage, on Friday, June 26, we were excited to learn of the Supreme Court decision that confirmed marriage equality for all Americans. We were ecstatic with the news and used it to add to the celebration!

We began the day with bubbles at Trump Winery. Here we enjoyed the 2008 Reserve Sparkling with crab cakes.
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Later that night, we dined at the Inn. Suzie and Suzanne always pair their menu selections with Virginia wines. The Gray Ghost Seyval Blanc, Barboursville Reserve Chardonnay, and the Rosemont Syrah were among the wines featured on the menu that evening.
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We were not quite ready to finish our celebration, so we finished the night with a bottle of the Thibaut-Jannison Sparkling.

We will be posting more about the wineries that we visited. In the meantime, celebrate your own special occasion in the heart of Virginia wine country. Plan a stay at the Inn at Meander Plantation. Of course, please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Old Westminster Pours at Eno

Wine bars are the rage right now, and one of my favorite wine bars is Eno located in Georgetown. Eno boasts a very eclectic wine list that also includes local wines, and last Wednesday, the bar hosted a wine tasting for Old Westminster located in Westminster, Maryland. We’ve written about Old Westminster’s excellent wines in the past, so I was excited to attend the tasting at a favorite wine bar.
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Drew Baker was on hand to pour three Old Westminster wines, and these included the 2013 Albarino, the NV Tapestry, and the 2013 Crushed. I became an immediate fan of the 2013 Albarino that took a gold medal in the Maryland Governor’s Cup competition. Citrus and melon notes and a refreshing acidity gave way to a more complex, creamier finish due to lees contact for six months. Albarino is a varietal that seems to do well in local vineyards, and Drew shared with me that Old Westminster has planted more of the grape on its estate. He cited its winter hardiness as a key factor for its success in the area’s vineyards. The Old Westminster 2013 Albarino is destined to please during the hot summer months especially if shellfish is to be enjoyed at the dinner table.
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The non-vintage Tapestry is actually a blend of red grapes from several vineyards and vintages, and it features Syrah as part of the mix. It presented black fruit aromas along with a tobacco note; Merlot added a brighter cherry note to the palate. I’d pair this one with barbeque fare. In fact, I enjoyed it with the mushroom bruchetta that I ordered from the Eno menu.
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The third wine poured was also my favorite, and it was the 2013 Crushed created from a blend that includes the Bordeaux varietals with Cabernet Franc and Merlot taking on the star roles. A whiff of cedar as followed by aromas of blackberry, currants and licorice; accessible tannins and a generous length supported a very juicy entry. Grilled steaks with mushrooms should shine with this one. The 2013 Crushed is also poured at Eno, so consider a glass with a charcuterie and cheeses. It was my wine of choice with a margherita flatbread served from the Eno kitchen.

Plan a visit to Eno during the summer to enjoy a favorite wine; I suggest trying any of the wines from Old Westminster. Going on the Maryland wine trail this summer? Plan a stop at Old Westminster, and mention to Drew Baker that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Birthday Weekend Wines

Paul celebrated his birthday this past weekend with Virginia wine. Is there any other way to celebrate a special occasion?

IMG_1505Paul’s birthday was on May 29, and I took him out to dinner at Chef Geoff’s. We feasted on crab cakes and the Barboursville Viognier—the same white wine that was poured at our dinner celebration in February. It still presented the same floral aromas and full mouth feel that we enjoyed three months ago!

IMG_1518On Saturday, I cooked an Italian dinner with beef and Italian sausage ragu, a large Italian salad and garlic bread. We paired this with the earthy 2010 Nebbiolo from Chrysalis Vineyards. The tannins seemed to soften with the tomato-based ragu, and we enjoyed the brambleberry elements too.

IMG_1509The weekend finished with a picnic on Sunday and a bottle of the Aerie White from Naked Mountain Vineyards. A perfect wine with picnic fare on a very warm day!!

Make Virginia wines a part of your celebrations. Visit local wineries to find your own special favorites. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine time sent you!

The Wines of America

WineAmerica.Logo_-300x129Every spring I look forward to attending The Wines of America event sponsored by WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America in conjunction with the Congressional Wine Caucus. It is at this event that tasters get to experiences wines from all over the country. Thirty eight wineries from 25 states poured their best at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, and while I did not come close to tasting all the wines poured that evening, I did keep notes on wines that I thought were quite good.

The Northeast Region includes wineries from Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The stunner here was the 2012 Gruner Veltliner from South Shore Wine Company located in the Lake Erie area of Pennsylvania. Nice stone fruit and spice notes were accompanied by a mineral element—it was quite good! From Maryland, my fave was the 2014 Boordy Vineyards Dry Rose with its strawberry elements that heralded the arrival of spring.

The New York Wine Selections featured a refreshing 2013 Rose Sparkling wine from Bedell Cellars as well as a 2013 Cabernet Franc from the same winery; it presented characteristic aromas of fresh berries and spice. The Great Lakes Region presented very good examples of hybrids done well; one such case was the 2013 Blue Sky Vineyard Seyval Blanc (Illinois) and the 2013 Wollersheim Winery “Prairie Fume” Seyval Blanc (Wisconsin). Illinois Sparkling Company’s “Franken French Hybrid” is indeed a sparkling wine produced from the Chambourcin grape, and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. However, it was the 2013 Ferrante Grand River Valley Gruner Veltliner that most impressed me with its heady floral aromas and subtle peach notes.

After a break to nibble on cheeses and bread, I sampled the ware from the Midwest Region. Here I enjoyed the 2011 Les Bourgeois Vineyards Norton from Missouri and the 2013 Haak Vineyards Dry Blanc du Bois from Texas. The Blanc du Bois is a hybrid grape that mimics Alsatian varieties, and it can be rather acidic; it paired well with the cheeses on my plate. The Rocky Mountain Region finished my tasting across America, and here I enjoyed the 2014 Dos Cabezas WineWorks Meskeoli from Cochise County in Arizona. Lovely floral notes and tropical fruit flavors were the result of a blend that included Viognier, Muscat and Riesling. One sniff made me want to head out to the beach with a bottle of the Meskeoli, a fruit and cheese plate, and a good book! Anyway, I also enjoyed the complex 2012 Bookcliff Vineyards “Ensemble” Red wine from Colorado and the 2012 Bitner Vineyards Dry Riesling from the Snake River Valley in Idaho.

Yes, I did sample at least one Virginia wine, and that was the 2013 Viognier from Breaux Vineyards; my mission was to try wines from other states, so I did not make a point to try the range of Virginia wines. Likewise, I avoided offerings from California and Oregon. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zones and was glad that I did.

Planning a trip to any of the wineries mentioned in this post? Let us know what you think; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Just Married!

Paul and I have not posted lately because we’ve been preoccupied with a very special event—our wedding! Yes, we got married on February 20 and then hosted a celebration dinner on February 21 at Chef Geoff’s restaurant in DC. And yes, Virginia wines helped to make the event very memorable.

weddingWe were officially married at the DC Courthouse on February 20 at 11:30 AM. Our good friends, Jill and Michael Dail as well as family members that included my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and Paul’s mom joined us to witness the brief ceremony. The Dails then treated us all to a spectacular lunch at Black Salt restaurant. ShapsA round of bubbles paired nicely with fresh oysters from both the New York and Rappahannock beds; seafood entrees that included crab cakes and pasta topped with ahi tuna proved to be perfect matches with the Michael Shaps Wild Meadow Vineyard Chardonnay 2010.

The celebration dinner was held on the next day, and Mother Nature threw a day’s worth of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures our way. However, we were not deterred, and family and friends gathered at Chef Geoff’s restaurant that evening. Dinner options included crab cakes, hanger steak, and pasta tossed with a walnut pesto. Cabernet Franc Reserve_230x627 Viognier Reserve_230x627Barboursville’s Viognier Reserve 2012 and Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012 were poured for our guests. We all had a wonderful time in spite of the wintry mix falling outdoors; in fact, the evening seemed to fly by all too quickly. Before we knew it, Paul and I were cutting the wedding cake and bidding adieu to guests who made us feel very special.

Virginia wines have always played a special role in our relationship, and we were very excited to be able to enjoy these special wines during our very special weekend. Hosting a special occasion at a favorite venue? Ask the events planner to serve Virginia wine, and mention that Virginia Wine Time made the suggestion.

Wining and Dining at Williamsburg Winery Pt. 2

So our extraordinary weekend at Williamsburg Winery included a four-course dinner prepared by chef Ika Zaken and held in the Wedmore Place’s Café Provencal. The menu including wine pairings are presented here:

First Course:
Vol-Au-Vent—creamed mushrooms, puff pastry, port reduction
Paired with: 2011 Matthew’s Chardonnay

Second Course:
Monk Fish with artichoke and Winter Green Risotto, snow peas, lobster cream
Paired with: 2013 Viognier (This was my favorite course and pairing of the night.)

Third Course:
Lamb Saddle with cannellini beans, baby kale, roasted tomatoes, lamb jus
Paired with: 2010 Trianon

Fourth Course:
Wild boar, daube provencal with carrots, pearl onions, forest mushroom, butternut squash polenta
Paired with: 2010 Adagio (ok—this ties with the second course as my favorite course and pairing of the night.)

Dessert:
Crème caramel with caramel sauce

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Our appetites were certainly sated after the day’s culinary delights. However, a special word must be mentioned for the Wedmore Place and its wonderful staff. The Wedmore Place took us back to a colonial period but with modern amenities. Our room was decorated with period furnishing and warmed by a fireplace; the bathroom was first rate with refreshingly scented body products. Breakfast was continental style with the world’s fluffiest croissants and a wonderful quiche that complemented fresh-brewed coffee. The Wedmore staff could not have been more polite and accommodating, and we look forward to a future visit to the Wedmore Place.

The 6th Annual Virginia Sparkling Tasting concluded our weekend of food and wine; however, before we left the Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place, I made certain to purchase a few bottles of our favorite wines. Looking for a local getaway that includes world-class cuisine, wines, and accommodations? Then plan a visit to Williamsburg Winery and then book a stay at the Wedmore Place. Of course, please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.