To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
– The Byrds
Let’s play a little game of word association. I say “Carneros” and you say… ___________.
Budding wine geeks and geekettes out there would likely answer “Pinot Noir” or “Chardonnay” or “Sparklers” or “Unimpressive-In-Recent-Vintages.”
But the answer we’re looking for today is… wait for it…
Our story today not only involves Carneros, it also involves turns, banks, and several groan-worthy, near-pun plays-on-words. Oh, yeah, and some very good wine as well (you didn’t think I leave that part out, did you?).
A couple of weeks back, I dragged my worn-out and slightly-hungover bones over to the fine Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena to meet up with former investment-banker turned wine brand owner (and first-class personality dynamo) Emily Richer. Over a “light” lunch of amazingly fresh garden produce made into phenomenal but artery-clogging, buttery delights, Emily and I chatted (and chatted, and chatted – we’re both talkers) about her new wine venture, Virage Napa Valley. Emily had come with a preview, label-less bottle of Virage’s inaugural release.
It’s from Carneros. But it’s not a Chard, a Pinot, or a sparkler.
It’s a blend made primarily from Cabernet Franc. And it’s pretty damn good.
Is Emily nuts for trying to establish a new brand in today’s hostile market – especially when she’s banking on a variety that still isn’t relatively well-known to most wine consumers (and even to some wine store employees)? Her backers don’t seem to think so…
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“Doing for Forgotten Grapes what Dancing With the Stars does for forgotten celebrities.”
Thus reads the tag line of Chris Kern’s website ForgottenGrapes.com, the purpose of which should hopefully at this point be glaringly obvious to you.
You’ve got to like a tag line like that.
Chris contacted me to invite me to one of his upcoming events in Arlington, VA, during which five different off-the-beaten-path wine varieties will be poured while Chris will “tell stories, cracks jokes, sings songs, dress up in costume, and relate each varietal [sic] to a pop culture icon as a way to introduce D.C. wine lovers to these exceptional wines that they really should be drinking.”
I don’t promote local events often enough here on 1WD – mostly because as the blog has become more successful, the chances of you not being in my general neck of the woods have increased. But it feels good to “go local” once in a while.
I can’t make the event, but I really dig what Chris is trying to do in highlighting some of the more unsung grape varieties. On his website, Chris pulls together fun info. about each grape including trivia and food pairing recommendations from chefs, and thoughts on the wine grape from winemakers (see an example).
According to Chris, “We’ll be pouring a dry Semillon, a Gruner Veltliner, a Carmenere, a Mourvedre/Monastrell, and a Brachetto d’Acqui. A pretty eclectic mix, to be sure, and something I really think the DC wine lovers’ community will enjoy.”
Vital details on the event are below. If you go, I’d love to hear about the experience!
“First pour for “Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes” will be at 6:30 p.m. sharp Wednesday, August 18th, and the cost of the event is only $35 per person, which includes the two-hour show, generous pours of each of the five Forgotten Grape wines, and a cheese plate paired with the wine. Reservations can be made by calling Twisted Vines directly at (571) 482-8581, but please note that seating for the event is very limited and it is expected to sell out, so if you are interested in attending, call Twisted Vines as soon as you can to make your advanced reservation. Twisted Vines is located at 2803 Columbia Pike in Arlington.”
All this got me thinking about “unsung” grape varieties – the “ABC: Anything But Chardonnay/Cabernet” set. What are YOUR fave “unsung” varieties? Shout ’em out in the comments!
If you take a map of the Bordeaux winemaking region and flip it upside down, it becomes a (more-or-less) mirror-image of the Delaware Bay area that houses the New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain (OCP) AVA.
Yes, that would be South Jersey.
Yes, they make wine there.
Better wine than you might at first imagine, actually.
Of course, the inverted mirror-image likeness is about as far as the comparison between South Jersey and Bordeaux can go – after that, you have (very) different soils, (wildly) different average temperatures, and (incredibly) different winemaking histories. But the point, which was being made to me by OCP winemaker and Amalthea Cellars owner Louis Caracciolo, was pretty clear: if you have a body of water to help mitigate the climate, why not try to make fine wines? Even if it is in Jersey.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Amalthea with fellow bloggers John and Lisa Howard-Fusco, who run the fine locavore-styled website Eating In South Jersey. I was tagging along as the wine guy, helping to assess what they considered to be some of the more promising wines being offered from S. Jersey. The payoff for me, aside from expanding my wine brain and getting to hang out with John and Lisa, was being introduced by John and Lisa to one of S. Jersey’s best worst-kept secrets – roadside BBQ joints (read John & Lisa’s take on the post-tasting BBQ goodness here).
At the time of the visit, I’d enjoyed enough of Amalthea’s wines to highlight the OCP region over at the Wine Crush Blog as a spot to watch – or, at least, as some evidence that no self-respecting wine geek should scoff at the notion of quality cool-climate, East Coast reds.
Which isn’t to say that all of the Amalthea whites are bad, or that all of the reds were great. But it is to say that I’m not sure if Amalthea’s Louis Caracciolo is a genius, or a nut-case…
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