Sunday, May 27, 2012

Molon Lave: Kosher Wine?

Hailing from the west coast I never knew many practicing Jewish folks growing up, having met a lot more of them on the east coast I still didn't realize that more than meat could be Kosher. Apparently there is a Kosher version of almost everything. From my basic understanding from something to be Kosher, wine included, it is made exclusively by Rabbis and made with machinery and equipment that is only used from the production of the Kosher product.  While visiting the Greek owned and operated Molon Lave Vineyards we found that they make "regular" wine as well as Kosher wine and are the only vineyard in the Commonwealth to produce the Kosher version in addition to 5 or 6 on the entire east coast. They currently produce 3 Kosher wines; 2010 Riesling which was a tart rather than sweet Riesling, 2010 Noiret a dry hybrid grape that has hints of pepper similar to a Cab Franc, and the best of the bunch, the newly released 2011 Chardonnay which was a nice oaky version. 
Greek handicrafts were also available for purchase. 
In addition to the Kosher versions, Molon Lave produces 8 additional wines. The most unique being the 2007 Kokineli, a traditional Greek wine that is made with pine resin which was once used to coat the ceramic urns that were used to make wine in Greece. The pine resin gave the wine a rosemary taste too, per Megan and her nose for wines she said "if I could wear a wine as a perfume this would be it." Other highlights were the 2010 Autumn Nectar with 3% rs was a refreshing blend of late harvest Riesling, Pinot Gris and Viognier, a buttery 2007 Chambourcin with a touch of fig and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. 
Megan enjoying the Kokineli
After our wine tasting we found that they also sell Greek olive oil and we couldn't turn that tasting down! I'm a sucker for Spanish olive oil, but let me tell you this was some of the best olive oil I've ever had. I think we all walked away with a bottle of one variety or another. There was the original version as well as infused options with lemon, orange, garlic, rosemary and basil. I picked up the rosemary which is so great to spice up some veggies. Molon Lave was a unique and enjoyable visit, especially for those who observe Jewish traditions. 
Spacious tasting room, with several bars to accommodate guests. 

Old House Vineyards

Outdoor fireplace on the patio space.
I'd heard good reviews of Old House Vineyards and all the pictures featured a giant chess set, so when we arrived to find good wines as well as a gorgeous pond view, I was pleasantly surprised. I like each wine on the Old House tasting list has its own unique font expressing the differences in the wines.  All grapes used are grown onsite and the tasting room is in the original "old house" for which the winery is named, however the spacious property seems anything but old especially during our spring visit.

I think we tried 10 wines for $8 or $10 and enjoyed several of them. Starting with the Petillante, a bubbly brut from Chardonnay grapes was just tart enough, moving to the Clover Hill a steel aged Vidal Blanc was just a touch sweet and we were off to a great start.

Pond and island for weddings and other events.

Our next pick was Rosie's Rose a Cabernet Franc that sits 3 days on the skins for its great color, after that the Wicked Bottom Chambourcin was a big hit and very dark red, finally the Bacchnalia blend of Cab Franc, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Chambourcin aged 2 years in oak was a nice smooth red. We picked up a bottle of the Clover Hill and wandered down to an almost finished patio with an outdoor fireplace next to the pond. It was a perfect spring day to sit outside with our lunch and enjoy the fresh, sunny day.

Locks of Love from weddings held at the winery.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Morais Vineyards: A European Escape

A big thanks to Kurt from Wine About Virginia and Maddie, the events coordinator at Morais Vineyards and Winery! Kurt connected me to Maddie who then organized a great visit for us along with Nancy from Virginia Wine In My Pocket.

Morais (pronounced "more-ice") was not only gorgeous, the wines were good, there was a great food to nosh while tasting and owner and staff couldn't be more hospitable! I often feel that wineries fall into the "don't judge a book by its cover" category since a lot of the small operations have quality wines and wineries housed in gorgeous tastings rooms don't always have wines that match the quality of their facilities. Well, Morais surprised and impressed us all!

Crab-balls, Croquettes & Cheeses! 
For $8 we leisurely tasted all 9 wines and enjoyed a plate of appetizers. The Morais family is of Portuguese decent and their winemakers (1 French, 1 Portuguese) incorporate old world practices in their wine making-meaning they actually stomp the grapes. Yes, that's right, they STOMP the grapes by foot in granite vats. We thought it was a joke, but no, we saw the vats, true story. There was a such a variety of wines to try that I think all those in my group-Megan, Debbie & Lori-found a favorite wine or 3. My favorites were the Select White Wine a Rkatsitelli that had a tart apple finish, Rose Wine a dry rose made from Cab Franc tasted like a crisp white, the 2010 Red Select a 50%-50% blend of Merlot and Cab Franc, and the 2011 Merlot a soft Merlot that was just released. Megan, in true "Nose" fashion, found the Battlefield White Wine to be the best smell of the bunch, it was a green wine and Morais is the only known producer of this wine in the states, its a blend of Vidal Blanc and Albarino. Lori loved the Moscatel and the Battlefield White as well while Debbie was drawn to the 2011 Touriga Nacional, the traditional Portuguese wine. All the grapes used here are grown on site too.

Mr. Morais discussing the winery history with Nancy
in the Cellar
After our tasting Mr. Morais took us for a tour of the event space, cellar and the winery's original tasting room. They still use the original tasting room while weddings or other events are going on at the facility. While we were in the cellar I couldn't help but notice how the smell took me right back to the wine cellars of Moldova. After the cellar tour we scoped out the property, which includes some farm animals and a wooden train for small children to play on.

As previously mentioned, we had a great visit and I think its impossible to take a bad picture of the stunning exterior of Morais. If Virginia wine tasting is on your agenda, try to squeeze this one in and you'll be happy you did! 

Granite Heights Orchard & Winery

In early February we joined Kurt & Carol of Wine About Virginia for a couple of tasting tours. Kurt let us know that Granite Heights Orchard and Winery had just opened so we made that our first stop. The tasting room was in a quaint old farmhouse on the property. For $6 we tried the 4 wines that were available and got to keep our glasses.  First up was the 2008 Evening Serenade, a blend of 52% Cab Franc, 40% Merlot and 8% Cab Sav, followed by the 2008 Merlot, the 2008 Lomax Reserve, a blend of 80% Cab Sav, 10% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc, and we finished off with the GH Ashby a Port-like dessert wine. My favorites were the Evening Serenade and the Lomax Reserve. While tasting we did get to meet Toni, the half of the ownership who manages the vineyard and planting. She told us about their rigorous planting efforts that involved soaking the new vines in seaweed water before pruning, re-soaking them and then planing them. While we visited they were working on plating Barbera, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for a total of about 13,000 plants! 
The GH mascot, Ashby
Granite Heights not only produces wines, as their name suggests they are also an active orchard. Since we had a full day of vineyards instead of walking away with bottles, we picked up some of their unique jam blends and local honey. Both the blackberry sage and blueberry cinnamon jams were winners! 

One of the several rooms available for enjoying a glass

Port City Brewery

In the past year and change two microbreweries have popped up in DC area, DC Brau and Port City Brewery. A few (ok several) weeks ago we made it to Port City in Alexandria, VA. For $7 you get to sample all 5 beers on draft, a tour and keep your tasting glass. The tasting room is fairly spacious and includes a mini-museum of beer history artifacts. The day were there there we tried the Essential Pale Ale, Monumental IPA, Optimal Wit, Tartan and Porter. The Porter and Optimal Wit are my favorites.

While touring the process we heard about the Revival and Oyster Stout that I need to track down and try. We also did the equivalent of barrel tasting and tested some unfinished beer, not sure its quite as good as barrel tasting wine.  Unlike wineries with in 4-6 beginning to brew a brewery can produce their first beer; in the case of Port City they opened in early January 2011 and had their first brew ready for the Super Bowl in early February 2011. In my humble opinion, microbreweries make the best beer and one should always drink locally so if you're out and find Port City on draft I suggest trying it out, you won't be disappointed.
Malt is key for brewing.
You can't have beer without hops either.
The finished product ready to be served a fine local establishments!