Schloss Biebrich Sekt

oenophilogical_munichaugustinerkellerLast fall l had the chance to get a quick trip in to Germany and Switzerland.  It had to be quick due to necessary commitments, but it was a wonderful trip.

The first leg we spent in Munich.  We could have gone gallivanting about Germany because there is so much to see and do, but we decided to focus on beautiful München.  Why?  Well, in part because I had lived in Munich as a young man just out of college.  Thus, I wanted to take a good look around and see just how much had changed.  I also wanted to share some of the gems I’d discovered previously with my sweetie.

Staying in a hotel close to (but not right at) the Hauptbahnhof allowed us to utilize the outstanding public transportation system to go everywhere. oenophilogical_munich_nymphenburgerschloss Whether by subway, commuter rail, bus or streetcar, we were able to get to all our destinations.  Our hotel was also within easy striking distance of the Altstadt (old city) area that includes the famous Rathaus with it’s glockenspiel, Marienkirche and the many shops and restaurants lining the Fussgängerzone (pedestrian zone) that links Karlsplatz, Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz.  Yes, we heard and watched the glockenspiel.  We also packed in a visit to the Olympic Center, Olympic Tower and Olympic Village (and my old apartment which was within walking distance).  oenophilogical_munich_englishegarten2We saw the Nymphenburger Schloss with it’s fascinating history and beautiful gardens.  We pondered the amazing collection of art in the Alte Pinakothek museum, part of a group of museums where you could spend days – weeks, even – appreciating the art.  We took a stroll around the Englisher Garten and stopped for lunch at the Chinesischer Turm/Chinese Tower.  In fact, we had plenty of Bavarian food and beer, dropping in at the Augustiner Keller Beer Garden one evening and the Hofbräuhaus another.  And perhaps most enjoyably, we discovered a wonderful pub/restaurant a few blocks from our hotel in a quiet residential neighborhood that served, among other tasty things, Münchner Schnitzel.  This was my favorite dish when I lived in Munich!  I thought it had perhaps been the specialty of the local restaurant (no longer in existence) where I had first discovered it.  Imagine my elation to accidentally rediscover it and be able to share it as well.

With memories of our trip still dancing in my head, it was no surprise that I was drawn toward a German label when considering options for “bubbly” to help celebrate this past holiday season.

oenophilogical_schlossbiebrichsektWinemaker:  Schloss Biebrich
Varietal:  Sekt
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Germany
Price:  $5.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This effervescent wine was a “barely there” straw with a very apple-y nose which held some citrus notes.  It was light-bodied and had good acidity.  Alcohol was at 11%.  On the flavor side it held what the nose portended – sweet apple with a touch of citrus.  I know this is very inexpensive wine, but I was disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong: I will drink it again if someone hands me a glass.  On the other hand, I probably won’t be buying another bottle.

It’s A Head Snapper Prosecco

I know the bubbles/bubbly wine writing challenge is past, but I wanted to post this anyway.  First, though, many congratulations to Traveling Wine Chick for coming out on top in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #27!  Her entry is quite an enjoyable piece.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.  Click HERE to view.  This post won’t be as fullsome or as well phrased, but it will be about bubbles nonetheless.

Winemaker:  It’s A Headsnapper
Varietal:  Prosecco
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Prosecco DOC, Italy
Price:  $12.00

Notes:  At 11% alcohol, this light straw-colored bubbly was a tad sweet.  It had good acidity, a light heft on the palate, and a bouquet of nectarine with floral notes and a hint of cream.  At least that’s what I smelled.  I can only share with you what my nose told me.  Flavors were gentle as was the effervescence.  It seemed like a light citrusade to my taste buds – a mix of citrus.  It was pleasant, and I actually thought the tart flavors balanced the sweetness pretty well.  It’s simple.  It’s easy to drink.

A Toast!

It has been quite awhile since last I posted.  I apologize profusely for the extreme delay, but I had a darned good (some might say extreme) reason.  I was presented with a surprise – a big surprise – health challenge.  Thus, as you might imagine, that subject has taken pretty much all my focus for a time.  It also prevented me from enjoying adult beverages for a bit.

Now that things are looking a tad brighter, I thought I’d pop a bottle of bubbly stuff to celebrate.  (Don’t worry, I have the doctors’ blessings) So ….  Cheers!

Oenophilogical_AvissiProseccoWinemaker:  Avissi
Varietal:  Prosecco (Glera)
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Prosecco DOC, Italy
Price:  $12.49

Notes:  On the nose of this extremely pale sparkling wine I caught a very sharp citrus scent.  On the tongue I thought acidity was good and the body characteristically light.  Flavors consisted of a citrus core with hints of almond and toast.  It was quite bubbly.  I’d even call it aggressively effervescent – almost too much for me.  Even so, I was more than pleased to have the opportunity to let it prick my tongue and tickle my nose.

Whole Foods Pub And The Wine Rangers

Wine Rangers?  That would be my friend, Heather, and I.  A short while back we got together for an unofficial wine tasting at our local Whole Foods.  Besides the nifty samplings WF does regularly on the store floor, they have a small pub on site that serves a selection of beers and wines by the glass.  Of course, they’re serving selections you can purchase in the store!  So, Heather and I each tried 3 wines they had on the menu that evening for a total of 6 tasted.  They’re listed below.  Neither of us had been to the pub previously, despite the fact that it is right in our neighborhood.  We were both quite pleasantly surprised at the competitive prices of the selections available by the glass as well as the very friendly clientele who make it their regular haunt.

Winemaker: Excelsior
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: South Africa
Price: $8.99

Winemaker: Skouras
Wine: Anassa
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Greece
Price: $13.99

Winemaker: Bodegas Belgrano
Varietal: Malbec
Vintage: NV
Apellation: Argentina
Price: $7.99

Winemaker:  La Cantina Pizzolato
Wine: Moscato Dolce
Varietal: Moscato
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Veneto IGT, Italy
Price: $15.99

Winemaker: McManis
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $13.99

Winemaker: Globerati (by BCC)
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: France
Price: $6.99

Notes:  In brief, here are the tasting notes we managed to record while enjoying ourselves thoroughly at this fun little in-store establishment.

Excelsior Chardonnay – It was a light-bodied Chardonnay with brisk, almost effervescent acidity, and 14% alcohol. On the tongue it presented as lightly sweet with core flavors of lemon, oak and grass. On the finish it brought some chalk and a zing of green apple.

Pizzolato Moscato Dolce – Dolce? Yes, indeed. We found this not surprisingly sweet – almost syrupy – with fruity flavor and low acidity.

Skouras Anassa – This Greek white blend was made of 70% Moscofilero and 30% Viognier. The body was light but had the slight coat-the-tongue quotient I associate with the Viognier. Alcohol was at 12.5% and acidity was fine. Flavors were fairly straightforward and pleasant pear, melon and grass.

McManis Pinot Noir – Very dark in the glass for a Pinot, this dry Californian (13.5% alcohol) was medium-bodied with plenty of tasty red berry flavors.

Belgrano Malbec – At 13% alcohol this medium-bodied Argentinian red had plenty of sweet plum, smoke and tea leaf on the tongue. Tannins were extremely light: notes said “gentle to none.”

Globerati Cabernet Sauvignon – Another medium-bodied red, this budget Cab was bottled for BCC at Chânes in the Saône-et-Loire department of Bourgogne.  At 12.5% alcohol this French selection had dark fruit flavors and oak with medium tannins.

Vintage Virginia 2013 – Where Vintners Battled At Bull Run

This past weekend I went out into the Northern Virginia countryside (not so country anymore, really) to taste what the Virginia wineries had to offer at Vintage Virginia 2013.  Held at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA, this year’s wine festival hosted some 40 wineries along with an assortment of food and goods vendors.

First, let me say that my experience was a little different than most.  Why?  Well (he said sheepishly), because I decided to bike to the event.  Ha!!  Never having been out to the venue before, I placed my trust in an online maps program to get me there safely via bicycle.  Unfortunately, the maps aren’t quite complete for bikers.  By that I mean I discovered on my trek out that the directions I had were missing large chunks of the route.  So what was slated to take me 1.5 hours in one direction took 3 as I wended my way through the streets of Northern Virginia looking for bicycle-friendly passages to get me to my destination.


Once I got there, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  It was well-planned.  As this was the 32nd iteration, I suppose they’ve had the chance to work out all the kinks.  For those who drove, there was ample parking with parking attendants helping people get to and from their spots in an organized fashion.  Check-in was a snap, in part because I had purchased my ticket online and printed it at home.  But the will-call and ticket purchase booths didn’t have extensive lines either.  The wineries and vendors were located in tents, stalls and trucks (food trucks!) thoughtfully arranged across a hillside that overlooked a big stage where music acts entertained while festival-goers tasted, sampled, drank, ate, learned, and bought.  They even had an awesome service allowing those who were buying in bulk (too much to carry around or through the festival grounds) to pick up their wine in a tent right in the parking area.

Of course, I didn’t get a chance to taste all the wines or even wines from all the wineries.  Still, I did my best to get to as many as I could reasonably sample.  It was great to see that the festival attracted a mix of old and new wineries – big and small.  Prince Michel of Leon, VA was there along with Williamsburg Winery (sharing a very yummy pre-release Merlot) and Horton Vineyards, too.  New to me were First Colony Winery (with two nice Chardonnays and a refreshing white blend called Zephry), Oak Crest Vineyards (using Symphony grapes to good effect in almost a Gewürtztraminer style and whose unexpectedly fun selection called  Hot Jazz is fortified with jalapeno peppers), Rosemont Vineyards (with a red blend of note called Kilravock), Trump Winery (their Blanc de Blanc was by far the best sparkling wine I tasted that day) and Lake Anna Winery (whose Cab Franc and Claret were both enjoyable wines and whose staff I found to be among the most knowledgeable at the tasting tables).

Since I was there at Vintage Virginia under one humanpower and no horsepower, I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of the bulk buying service.  Instead, I had to content myself with carrying away a mild sunburn along with  just a couple of select bottles and the wine glass I was issued for my day of tasting.  The glass was included in my entrance fee.  I promise to share my thoughts on those two wines when I have the chance to pop the cork on each.

Again, I had a very good time at the festival.  Kudos to everyone involved in putting Vintage Virginia 2013 together, and a special thanks to my fellow wine enthusiasts who kindly gave me plenty of clearance as they zipped past me on the road out of Bull Run Park.  One last note: I got completely soaked in a summer rain shower on the way home.  Well, it was a MEMORABLE day!!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Arrowine – A Trove of Bottled Treasures

Arrowine has been selling the fruit of the vine in the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA for many years now.

I can remember discovering the store myself quite some time ago, and it wasn’t new then.  In fact, I believe it was opened in 1985.  Despite having found my way there long ago, I haven’t been there in years … literally years.  Why?  Well, I don’t have any really good excuses.  Laziness, perhaps?  There are many wine merchants closer – in and near my own neighborhood.  So … this weekend I made my way back to Arrowine to refresh my memory.

OMG!  Why did I wait so long to return?  Their website says they are a neighborhood wine shop with a national reputation.  I think that’s a great summation of what they do.  They are a big shop, but not a huge big-box type store.  They stock a very large selection of wines from around the world with quite a few unusual, unexpected, hard-to-find wines.

On Saturday afternoons they have a free wine tasting, and I planned my visit accordingly.  That place was humming with activity when I arrived!  There were folks crowded around the wine tasting table where they were pouring six different wines.  There was also quite a bit of hub-bub around the cheese counter.  On the main floor across a sea of wine racks, I heard people greeting old friends and catching up.  I guess it really IS a neighborhood establishment.

As far as the tasting went, I was impressed.  The gentleman pouring was friendly and very knowledgeable about the wines he had on hand.  In fact, he clearly had been involved in finding those particular selections because he had some fun personal anecdotes about a couple of the boutique wineries represented.  He wasn’t pushy in the least.  But when asked a question, he was very forthcoming with pertinent and interesting info that he was excited to chat about.  His was not a dry regurgitation of memorized wine facts nor a hard-sell pitch.

I had a good time.  Browsing their inventory for a bit, I grabbed a couple of bottles while I was there.  Of course!  I could see how the store might seem a bit daunting if you aren’t comfortable in the world of wine.  Because they have a world of wine on hand, let me tell you.  But the staff is friendly and helpful, so there is no reason not to dive right on in.  I’m glad to have rediscovered Arrowine for myself.  I know I’ll be back soon.




Le Grotte Lambrusco dell’Emilia Bianco Dolce

Although I don’t know why, we never had Champagne in my parents’ house.  And so, born from lack of knowledge, I had a strong bias against bubbly wines when I first began my own wine journey.  With help from some friends, though, I was able to get past those preconceived notions.  Still, it’s not like I went hog-wild with sparkling wines.  To date my experience has been limited and largely with Champagne and wines in the Champagne style.    Thus, when I saw this Lambrusco on the shelf, I decided it was high time for a new bubbly beverage adventure!

Winemaker:  Le Grotte by Cantine Mederfil
Wine:  Le Grotte Lambrusco dell’Emilia Bianco Dolce
Varietal:  Lambrusco (Bianco)
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Lambrusco dell’Emilia Bianco IGT, Italy
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  As this was my first Lambrusco ever, I was very interested in seeing what this venerable Italian grape had in store.  Since the label clearly stated that the alcohol was at 8% ABV, I knew it was going to be sweet.  Yes, it was sweet.  The sweetness is constant, but it isn’t cloying.  Maybe that’s because it’s such a light wine.  In the glass – as in the bottle – this selection is almost completely clear with just the slightest tinge of green.  In keeping with it’s lack of color, this wine presents very, very light scents and flavors.  Drink it quickly, and it’ll be like drinking sweet, lightly-flavored club soda (but with more gentle effervescence).  On the nose I smelled floral and spice fragrances.  On the tongue, however, I got sweet white peach with notes of fresh apricot and a tart finish that was like grapefruit. And there is also a tiny bit of weight to the wine (viscosity), so you know you really aren’t drinking club soda.  I don’t really know what to make of this one.  I could see someone using this as a light aperitif on a hot summer day.  Or it could be a tad of added sweetness when paired with a fresh fruit dessert.  Bottom line: it’s sweet and very light.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.