AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Familia Zuccardi - Argentine Value DATE: 5/19/2008 07:57:00 PM ----- BODY:
Wine lovers seeking value for their house tipple should look to Argentina, and to Familia Zuccardi. This family-owned winery produces a bewildering array of wines that combine consistently high quality with extremely reasonable prices.
José Alberto Zuccardi is currently at the helm—the winery near Mendoza, in the Andean foothills of western Argentina, was founded in the early 1960s by his father—and José Alberto’s eldest son, Sebastián, is in line to take over as the third generation. A gregarious man in his late fifties, José Alberto is a walking party. Fun follows him around the way paparazzi swarm TomKat.
Zuccardi is a tinkerer, too, experimenting with different grape varieties in much the same way Dennis Horton in Virginia constantly tries to discover which grapes work best in the Old Dominion. He even invented his own grape-trellising system, a variation on a rarely used technique that has vines growing overhead instead of low to the ground.
Zuccardi is a leading exponent of organic viticulture in Argentina. At about $10 a bottle, the Santa Julia Organica line of wines represents the best value—worldwide—in the increasingly popular organic category. My favorite is the 2007 Torrontés, a white varietal that combines some of the flowery characteristics of Gewurztraminer with the body and zest of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2007 Chardonnay is unoaked, a nice unpretentious expression of fruit. The 2006 Malbec is a soft, stylish red that should pair well with anything from the grill this summer or next.
The winery has just launched a new line, Zuccardi Serie A, which retails at about $13. The 2007 Chardonnay-Viognier blend is zesty and refreshing, while the 2006 Bonarda and 2006 Malbec are worthy reds. The Malbec, however, tastes a bit closed now, revealing its blueberry fruit and enticing tannins only towards the end of the bottle—a sure sign that it needs another year or so to reach its full potential.
The winery does have higher ambitions. The Zuccardi Q line, retailing at $17 to $20, features dense fruit and lots of new oak in the Tempranillo and Malbec. Zeta, the winery’s top wine, is a powerful and sophisticated blend of those two red varietals. It retails in the $40s and competes well in its price range.
But it is in the lower price ranges where Familia Zuccardi excels.
Familia Zuccardi wines are imported by Winesellers Ltd., Skokie, Ill.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Don't Give Up on EUROpean Wines! DATE: 5/09/2008 10:49:00 AM ----- BODY:
Just because the dollar is tanking against the euro doesn't mean we should forsake European wines when hunting for bargains. Yes, we may have to pay a little more than we used to, but that enticing $8 Minervois you bought at the start of this decade is still a good value at $12. In my May column for Washingtonian, I give some suggestions of where to look for Europe's best values under $20. You can find it on my newly revamped Web site,

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Pollak Vineyards - A New Star in Virginia DATE: 4/12/2008 10:27:00 PM ----- BODY:
A new winery opened for business near Charlottesville this week, and it appears destined to become a must-stop on the Monticello Wine Trail. Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood, Va., is opening strong with some stellar early releases.
Owners Margo and David Pollak are not new to the wine business. David was a founding partner in Napa Valley’s Bouchaine Vineyards. When they decided to return to the wine business, they looked not to California but instead to Virginia, where they found an exciting wine industry and much more accommodating real estate prices. The couple, who currently live in Ohio, bought 100 acres just west of Charlottesville in 2003, and planted 25 acres to vines.
The site would seem to be ideal - just off I-64 (to attract tourists), the vines are thriving on gently sloping land with a south-southeast exposure. When I visited late last month, a week before they opened their doors to the public, a steady wind blew in from the west through the gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Winemaker Jake Busching said the breeze is fairly constant throughout the growing season, helping keep the grapes dry against Virginia’s humidity and lessen the chances of rot. The mountain breeze also cools the grapes, especially at night, helping keep acids and sugar in balance as the grapes ripen, he explained.
This is Busching’s first turn as chief winemaker. He has worked the past 11 years with Michael Shaps, the Charlottesville area’s leading consulting winemaker who has been influential in the early successes of several wineries and last year opened the state’s first custom-crush facility, Virginia Wineworks. (See my profile of Shaps in the March 2008 issue of Washingtonian.) Shaps is also consulting at Pollak.
My first impressions of the Pollak wines were uniformly positive, and best of all, the prices of these initial releases are not in the stratosphere, as happens all too often. All Pollak wines are estate grown, with the Monticello AVA.
Pinot Gris 2007 $16. In bottle just a few weeks, this wine’s aromas were all over the place at first, but the flavors came into focus on my palate - lean and crisp with pear and some apricot and good structure.
Viognier 2007 $18. A fruit bowl in a glass, with apricot, peach and lime zest. Leaving the grapes to soak overnight on the skins - a favorite technique of Shaps’ with Viognier - gives the wine a little extra body without running the risk of letting it get flabby by leaving the grapes on the vine too long, or by using oak. Virginia is making a name for itself with Viognier, but hasn’t quite figured out its best style or price. The Pollak would be an excellent ambassador - priced so that it could be served by the glass in an ambitious wine program, and showing Virginia at its best.
Rosé 2007 $14. A deep red, attractive rosé color, and more cherry in flavor than the typical strawberry. This wine won’t make Pollak’s reputation, except in that bleeding off 5% - 10% of all the reds helps concentrate those wines.
Cabernet Franc 2006 $20. Virginia’s 2006 reds are being touted as soft, early drinking wines to enjoy while waiting for the 2005s to mature (with 2007 apparently being in the 2005 camp). This Franc is jammy, juicy, almost Californian in style (without the lavish oak, thank you, Jake!), with the peppery nose characteristic of the grape. A fun wine to bring a lip-smacking smile.
Petit Verdot 2006 $18. As he poured me a barrel sample of the 2007, Busching admitted that he has a strained relationship with Petit Verdot. “This is a varietal I don’t like until it hits bottle,” he said, tapping his nose. The grape has an unpleasant gaminess, he explained, that needs strict education in wood to overcome. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about - the barrel sample certainly needed some time to settle down, but “gaminess” was barely apparent to me, if at all. The 2006 in bottle was round and juicy, certainly more mellow, with a dry, tannic finish. Quite nice for Virginia’s new trendy red grape, and also modestly priced.
Merlot 2006 $18. Juicy, cocoa and plum, soft yet with some depth. Quite nice.
Meritage 2005 $24. The winery’s star, Cabernet Franc 44%, Merlot 43%, and Petit Verdot 13%. Quite stylish and tannic, with blackberry and currant flavors from the fruit buttressed by cola and dill from the barrels, and an extremely long, luxurious finish. This wine will indeed reward some aging, if you can wait.
Pollak Vineyards, 330 Newtown Road, Greenwood, VA 22943. (540) 456-8844. .


----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Virginia's Garagistes DATE: 3/15/2008 02:18:00 PM ----- BODY:
Virginia wine gets more exciting all the time. We have celebrity sightings and Falcon Crest-style soap operas (the recent saga of Oasis winery), our wedding palaces and a lot of successful people living out their dreams of owning vineyards and producing their own wine. And the quality level is rising as well, despite the state's reputation for inconsistency. (Hey, I've tasted a lot of bad California wine lately.) As the Old Dominion continues to thrive, with more than 130 wineries, there are some smaller ones that deserve attention. They don't seek out the limelight, they don't host polo matches and they won't appear in glamor shots in hunt country lifestyle magazines. Show up at their door, and they'll gladly pour you a taste of wine, but please don't show up in a bus or limousine and by all means don't ask them to host your wedding. I call these winemakers "Virginia's garagistes." We've seen some of this type before, who have succeeded and grown fairly big - Jim Law at Linden Vineyards and Shep Rouse of Rockbridge come to mind - artisans whose focus is on the wine, not the lifestyle, and who sometimes act as though selling their wine is a necessary evil, an unpleasant flip side to the joys of mucking around in the vineyard and tinkering with ornery equipment in the winery. In the March issue of Washingtonian magazine, I profile two of these garagistes. Bernd Jung of Chester Gap Cellars near Front Royal is very much in the Jim Law mold - a winegrower above all, who does his work in the vineyards, sometimes even with a rifle! And Michael Shaps, who made a reputation as Virginia's premier consulting winemaker when he helped several Charlottesville wineries in their early days, is setting out on his own with Virginia Wineworks, the Old Dominion's first custom-crush winery. The March issue is on news stands now, and should be posted late this month on But my detailed tasting notes of wines from Chester Gap and Virginia Wineworks are available online now.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Global Warming - Friend or Foe? DATE: 2/17/2008 04:54:00 PM ----- BODY:
Global warming may still be a controversial theory in politics and science, but winemakers are believers. Rising temperatures and changing climates are being credited – at least in part – with improvements in wine quality in unusual or new regions, while vintners in more established regions are worried that Mother Nature will pass them by. Virginia has had four strong vintages in a row, unprecedented in the Old Dominion’s 400 years of winemaking (or at least, in the 30 years they’ve been really serious about it). The 2003 vintage looms as global warming’s flip side – record rainfalls, including a hurricane at harvest time that left many wines dilute. California’s grape sugars – and alcohol content in the wine – have been rising slightly but perceptibly in recent vintages. Vineyard practices contribute to this trend, as do market forces, but temperatures remain a factor. "I like global warming,” Bruno Eynard, winemaker at Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien, told me last year, giving climate change partial credit at least for a string of good harvests this decade. “But I want it to stop now,” he said, “or I’ll be making Bordeaux in England!” Last week, Dr. Richard Smart, the famed Australian viticulturist, raised the possibility that our favorite wines may already have been irreparably altered by global warming. "I would ask anyone with a cellar full of known value wines, have you thought about the fact that in Bordeaux, we may have already seen the best vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon?" Smart said at the 2008 Climate Change and Wine Conference in Barcelona, Spain. According to, Smart said many famous wine regions may soon be unsuitable for their most noted grape varieties. He predicted that Argentina and Chile will be “lucky” because the preponderance of oceans in the Southern Hemisphere will moderate the changes. And China’s cold, barren north may be the Napa Valley of the future. At least then, we’d know what wine to drink with Chinese food.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: The Perfect Chocolate Wine DATE: 2/12/2008 09:02:00 PM ----- BODY:
With Valentine's Day approaching, wine columnists are busy telling us what wines to drink with chocolate. I'm no exception, this time, as my February column in Washingtonian magazine is on this very subject.
My conclusion? While I like exploring dry red wines with various flavored chocolates, the most compatible pairing was Brachetto d'Acqui, a charming red bubbly from the Piemonte region of northern Italy. Brachetto has juicy flavors of strawberry and raspberry, low alcohol (typically around 5%), and it fairly dances with chocolate.
Brachetto is a niche wine to be sure, but adventurous retailers should have at least one on hand. The most widely available is probably Rosa Regale, which is imported by Banfi Vintners and retails for about $22 for the 2006 vintage. This delightful wine will help set the Valentine's mood, and if you have any leftover, keep it chilled for breakfast.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: A Bargain Charmer DATE: 2/06/2008 02:56:00 PM ----- BODY:
These days, it’s hard to get excited about a $7 bottle of wine. Too many are pleasant enough, but simple and, ultimately boring. So it’s a pleasure to discover one that’s a real gem - with enough verve and energy to interest even the most jaded oenophiliac. The Domaine des Hospices de Canet 2005, a “simple country wine” - or vin de pays - from the Cotes Catalanes in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of southwestern France, is one such find. A blend of 60% Carignane, with the rest split evenly among Syrah and Merlot, the wine is like a softened version of a Cote du Rhone. Juicy, grapey and fun, it still has enough structure and grip to keep it interesting. The winery is owned by Domaine Cazes, one of the largest, if not the largest, producer of biodynamic wines in France. Biodynamic is beyond organic - farming is conducted according to the phases of the moon and some bizarre rituals sanctioned by a German organization called Demeter. The Domaine des Hospices de Canet is not certified biodynamic, but the farming practices are essentially the same. So what you have here is an inexpensive charmer that is ideal for simpler foods such as charcuterie, cheeses, burgers, pizza, even stir-fries - in other words, a weeknight dinner at home. And it’s organic, to boot. I’m going back for a case. Currently, the Domaine des Hospices de Canet is available in the DC region only at Cleveland Park Wines on Connecticut Ave NW, across the street from the Uptown Theater. But it can be ordered by any store in the DC, MD and VA markets through Country Vintner.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Europe Acts Against American "Champagne" DATE: 1/10/2008 09:12:00 PM ----- BODY:
Illegal immigration may be a hot issue in this year's US elections, but European Union authorities took action recently against an illegal entry into their territory - American "Champagne." Customs authorities in Anvers, Belgium, acted swiftly when they discovered a shipment of more than 3,200 bottles of André sparkling wine that was labeled "California Champagne" from "André Champagne Cellars." That's a no-no in the EU, where the name Champagne is legally protected and can be used only for sparkling wine from the Champagne region in northern France. The wine was destroyed after the European owner relinquished rights to the product rather than face any further legal action. The US agreed two years ago that its sparkling wines should be called "sparkling wines," but the law grandfathered an exception for some older brands, such as André, that are still allowed to use the word Champagne on their labels. Never mind that these are the wines that bear the least resemblance to the French ideal. The wine's destruction was ballyhooed today by the Office of Champagne USA, established to promote the real deal while protecting its trademark name. Perhaps someone at Gallo, the company that owns and produces André, forgot about the Europeans' sensitivity and shipped some wine with the wrong labels. But the incident highlights a major American hypocrisy. We insist on genuine products and protection of intellectual copyrights. Yet we also want to be able to call our sparkling wine "Champagne" when it isn't, the French be damned. I'm on record as touting the quality of America's top sparkling wines. I believe they should be celebrated not as Champagne knock-offs but as excellent bubblies that express the terroir and character of the land where they're grown and the people who make them. It's notable that the top U.S. brands do not use the word Champagne on their label. Good for them! The brands that do continue to usurp the Champagne name, such as André, continue to sell because they are inexpensive and because people like them. I'd wager they don't sell because of the word Champagne on their labels. But the cynical companies continue to abuse the Champagne name because they believe their customers are susceptible idiots and because they don't have enough confidence in their own products to sell them on the merits. Champagne (or a good US sparkling wine) for real friends, real pain for sham friends!

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Jeff Siegel DATE:1/13/2008 08:51:00 AM It's not news that the American wine industry, and particularly too many of those in California, are hypocritical. The news is that they still don't see anything wrong with it.

You and I, Dave, taste a lot of $18 wine that barely resembles what it is supposed ot be. And no one especially cares, as long as they can get that $18. ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: New Year's Resolutions? Bah, Humbug! DATE: 1/10/2008 09:03:00 PM ----- BODY:
Wine writers love to use their first column of the year telling the future what to do – what wines will be hot, which ones not, what cool people will be drinking, and what they’ll be thinking about what they’re drinking. Usually, the writers predict that the wines they’ve written about last year will suddenly be all the rage, thereby proving their self worth.
Well, here’s my prediction: I predict you’re fed up with that nonsense.
And I’ll wager that after the holidays you just may be tired of opening those special occasion bottles to impress friends and family and are eager to return to simple wines with simple foods. After looking at your credit card bills, you may even have resolved to loosen the connection between your thirst and your wallet. (True wine lovers never resolve to cut back their consumption of wine, just how much they spend on it.)
So for January, I’ll focus each week on bargain wines that pack surprising quality for the price. These wines will help you re-establish some equilibrium just in time to splurge for Valentine’s Day.
Let’s start with two nice reds from Castello Banfi. The Col di Sasso 2006 ($10), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, offers fruit and heft at a price rarely seen in a red from Tuscany. It’s great for burgers, pizza and hearty pasta dishes.
Banfi’s sister winery, Vigne Regali in Piemonte, offers L’Ardì 2006 Dolcetto d’Acqui ($12). This light, juicy red features flavors of cherry and raspberry, with a happy balance that allows you to appreciate the wine’s quality without genuflecting.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Washingtonian Magazine's Best 100 Restuarants 2008 DATE: 1/05/2008 11:48:00 AM ----- BODY:
Washingtonian magazine's January issue contains its annual roundup of the Best 100 restuarants in the metropolitan DC area. Having joined the magazine as its freelance wine columnist last summer, I had the pleasure of participating in this in-depth survey of capital dining, along with the magazine's full-time restaurant critics, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert and Cynthia Hacinli. I also contributed a column about positive trends in wine service at area restaurants. There may not be a whole lot of surprises to this year's list (Michel Richard Citronelle remains #1 for the second year), but there is definitely some movement. Twenty new restaurants made the list, including several that just opened their doors in 2007. This was the year of the bistro in DC, with top chefs such as Michel Richard and Robert Weidmaier opening second restaurants themed as bistros or brasseries to give diners a chance to taste their creations without going totally luxe. Central Michel Richard debuts at #10 on the list, while Weidmaier's Brasserie Beck comes it at #36. What's fun is to see who changes from one year to the next. Ristorante Tosca surged dramatically under its new chef, Massimo Fabbri, from #85 in 2007 to #20 this year, going from 2 stars to 3. (Four stars is the highest rating, given this year only to Citronelle, CityZen and Komi.) Oval Room ascended from #49 to #13, adding half a star to climb to 3 stars. Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong were named Restaurateurs of the Year for their expanding empire that has made Old Town Alexandria a dining destination. The husband-and-wife team operate Restaurant Eve (#4, 3.5 stars), and their latest venture, The Majestic, debuts at #42 with 2.5 stars. They also own Eammon's A Dublin Chipper and the speakeasy PX. One notable newcomer: Cynthia's in Severna Park, Md., which should be a mecca for foie gras lovers. And chocolate soufflé lovers ... It opened at #25, with 3 stars. To read the entire list and the reviews, you'll need to get a copy of the January issue of Washingtonian, now on newstands. The magazine's Web site,, is counting down the top 25 restaurants and will post the entire list at the end of the month.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Celebrate American Fizz! DATE: 12/30/2007 11:33:00 AM ----- BODY:
Earlier this year I visited the Champagne region at harvest time, and I've enjoyed tasting several different Champagnes in the months since. At the same time, I explored the current range of American fizz for my December article in Washingtonian magazine. Just as the finest Champagnes are a complex expression of the place, soil and time they are made, some top U.S. sparkling wine producers are focusing on specific appellations and achieving top quality. Which areas are top for U.S. bubbly? Think Carneros, Green Valley, Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley - and one you probably don't know yet: Carter's Mountain. Details in WineLine #63, now available on Cheers, and Happy New Year!

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Disgorge Yourself! DATE: 12/18/2007 10:22:00 PM ----- BODY:
When buying a champagne or sparkling wine this holiday season, consider disgorgement. No, that’s not a spam e-mail offering you paradise in bed, but an important phase in making sparkling wines by the traditional champagne method. These wines undergo a second fermentation in the bottle – the process that gives them the bubbles – and are “disgorged” to remove the yeasts and add a dosage of sweetened wine to finish the overall product. Most fizz producers don’t tell you when the bottle was disgorged. Should you care? Yes, especially if you're buying a non-vintage blend, the style that accounts for most sparkling wine produced in the world, including champagne. Non-vintage bubblies contain juice from two or three vintages blended to produce a consistent house style and the label does not specify a vintage year. Veuve Cliquot yellow label Brut is an example of a popular “NV” (for non-vintage) blend. When you pay $40 for this wine, you would expect it to be as good as the wine you bought last year. But there are two reasons why it won’t be identical. First, even non-vintage blends are subject to vintage variation. A particularly hot, ripe year, such as 2003, will influence the blend differently than a more classically structured vintage such as 2004. Admittedly, this distinction might be noticeable only to people who drink too much champagne, if that is possible. (I, for one, don’t drink enough.) The major champagne houses pay their winemakers to make a product so consistent that most people can’t tell the difference. Another, more important reason to care about the disgorgement date, is that you don’t know how long this bottle has been gathering dust in a store window or an overheated warehouse waiting for someone to get a raise, get engaged, have a birthday, or most likely, waiting for New Year’s to roll around again. A recently disgorged wine will be fresher, more lively than one that’s been going stale on a shelf for several years. Terry Theise is one importer who insists that his champagne producers put a disgorgement date on their labels. “I want retailers and consumers to know that they are tasting the same wine I tasted – or the wine writers tasted – when raving about a particular wine,” Theise says. A disgorgement date is an important piece of information in judging a wine before opening it – because once you’ve popped the cork, it’s too late. “When you buy a bottle of non-vintage champagne, it could have been disgorged three months ago, or it could have been sitting in the sun in a shop for three years,” says Charles Philipponnat, president of Champagne Philipponnat, which puts disgorgement dates on all its labels. “It is important information for sommeliers and for consumers – it tells you what to expect when you open the bottle.” A disgorgement date is not as crucial with a vintage sparkling wine – usually, they are aged for three or four years on the yeast before disgorgement. So a California sparkling vintage dated 2003 or 2004 will still be quite fresh. But that non-vintage brut could be from … well, who knows when?
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Champagne! DATE: 12/18/2007 10:16:00 PM ----- BODY:
Dear Friends - The holidays, when we gather with friends and family to celebrate good times in the year just past and fresh hopes for the year to come, are made for sparkling wine. If you live in the DC region, I hope you saw my Washingtonian column on US sparkling wines in the December issue. (If not, I'll be sending an expanded version of that as the next WineLine.) Please visit for my latest WineLine #62, in which I report on my harvest visit to Champagne and reveal a surprisingly earthy way the growers know when to pick the grapes. And it has nothing to do with brix. Cheers, and all the best for the holidays and a wonderful 2008! Dave McIntyre
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: This Nifty Gizmo Swirls and Spits for You - Well, Sort Of ... DATE: 12/05/2007 09:07:00 PM ----- BODY:
If you’re looking for a gift to give your wine-loving friends this holiday season, consider the Vinturi Wine Aerator. This nifty little gizmo tries to do away with cellar aging, decanting, “breathing” – all the curses of wine lovers who have trouble planning ahead.
Here’s how it works: Just hold the Vinturi over your glass and pour wine through it. The wine fizzes and gurgles with a sound not unlike when you draw air through your teeth while swishing wine around your mouth. The name of the device is a pun on the venturi effect, which explains the flow of liquid through a constricted opening.
The idea behind aerating wine is to allow oxygen to soften the wine’s harshness or tannin and allow the fruit to emerge. The most common way of accomplishing this is to decant a wine and allow it to “breathe” for a half-hour or more. The Vinturi accomplishes this in seconds.
Or does it? Well, I think so. I poured some wine into a glass, then poured a second glass through the Vinturi. The second glass tasted less tannic, more fruity than the first. It reminded me of the last glass of a nice bottle, when the wine has begun to emerge and I wish I hadn’t drunk it so fast. Of course, I knew which glass was which. When I offered the same glasses to two other people who had not seen me pour them, they could not tell the difference.
After trying the Vinturi several times, I believe it works. There is a gimmicky quality to it that makes some people skeptical, however. And the noise could be mistaken for a certain bodily function, as my 7-year-old daughter noted. If that bothers you, just pour the entire bottle through the Vinturi into a decanter.
One thing to keep in mind, though: It won’t make a bad wine good.
Vinturi Wine Aerator is available from Wine Enthusiast at for $40.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Sigh ... it's Thanksgiving Again ... DATE: 11/17/2007 09:01:00 PM ----- BODY:
Are you scared of wine on Thanksgiving? If not, you probably haven’t been reading enough wine columns! One of the biggest canards about wine writing is the annual Thanksgiving article. For some reason, bland, boring turkey is touted as a difficult food for wine. Then of course there's the tart or sickly sweet cranberry sauce, the lumpy gravy, and the oysters in the stuffing. And everyone knows those tiny marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole are just murder on your palate. The Keepers of the Keys to the Kingdom (a.k.a., wine columnists) waste their ink and our time every November reinforcing this supposed fear of wine on Turkey Day with their vinous dicta of what not to drink with this or that item on the menu. Come off it folks. With so many different flavors on the table, any wine is going to pair well with something. We may need to be careful about what we eat just before taking a sip, but if there's a theme to wine with Thanksgiving dinner, it should be, "Open One of Everything!" I typically enjoy a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau with Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, I know, Nouveau is a tacky marketing gimmick, and I just urged you in my November column in Washingtonian to look beyond Nouveau to the delicious, intriguing wines of the Beaujolais crus. But think about it – Beaujolais Nouveau is a celebration of the recent harvest, just as is Thanksgiving. And its light grapey sweetness can be mitigated by, even as it pairs well with, the various flavors of the Thanksgiving table. If there’s an indispensable wine with Thanksgiving dinner, it surely has bubbles. A Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco for an aperitif, or a Californian sparkler or Champagne with the meal – what a wonderful combination of celebration and food. (The acidity in sparkling wine is a great palate cleanser, making it ideal with a lot of different cuisines.) From California, look for sparklers by Iron Horse, Domaine Carneros or Roederer Estate (especially the rosé). From Champagne, look for Jacquesson (pronounced “Jackson”), Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, Gaston Chiquet or Chartogne-Taillet.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: A Wine & Food Tasting Drives Home a Point DATE: 10/14/2007 09:20:00 PM ----- BODY:
Not many winemakers would chortle and say, “Fantastic!” when their wines come in last in a blind tasting. But that was precisely the reaction of Steve Smith, winemaker of Craggy Range Vineyards in New Zealand, when his Sauvignon Blanc was rated sixth out of six at a tasting this past Tuesday at Per Se restaurant in New York. The judges were some of the Big Apple’s most persnickety wine writers, and yours truly representing DC. The last-place finish for his wine helped Smith prove a point.
What is a great wine? One that wows you with its point score, aroma, fruit, complexity, and long finish, perhaps with some “minerality” thrown in? (Wine-geek alert: Tossing about the word “minerality” will earn you entrée into all sorts of exclusive wine circles.) Or is a great wine one that complements your dinner, enhancing a flavor here and there, and rendering the whole of food-plus-wine greater than the sum of its parts?
Perhaps more important, can those two wines be one and the same? Does a wine that wows by itself inherently pair well with food? One might think so—if it’s a great wine, it’s a great wine. Right?
Well, not necessarily, Smith would say. Smith is also a Master of Wine, which is not just someone with a PhD in oenogeekdom but more like a Nobel Prize winner. He argued that wine reviewers, geeks, writers, and judges tend to look for characteristics in a wine that don’t necessarily make the wine food-friendly. Aggressive, intense fruit flavors, sappy ripeness, and soft acid can make a wine stand out in a suspect’s lineup but maybe not at the dinner table. Smith prefers to look for “texture” and “balance,” two characteristics that can be hard to describe and, unless you’re looking for them, easy to dismiss.
“Any wine that is out of balance in its components will tend to taste even more out of balance with food,” Smith said. “Wines that taste a little acidic by themselves taste more acidic with food, and wines that are flat taste even more flat and insipid when paired with a meal. Wines that impress with in-your-face fruit do not always hold up well with food.”
Smith had the “judges” do a blind tasting of six award-winning New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs—“Savvy” to the Kiwis—followed by the same six in a different order, with three dishes prepared by Thomas Keller’s kitchen crew. (Chef-groupie alert: Before the tasting, I saw Keller inspecting his Bouchon bakery one floor below. I even overheard someone whispering, “Look—there goes Daniel Boulud!”)
How did the wines fare with and without food? Well, the Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2006, which finished last in the initial tasting, was the group’s favorite with food. (I rated it fifth and second, respectively.) By itself, I found the wine reticent in that it had virtually no aroma—extraordinary for a New Zealand Savvy—but just when I was prepared to dismiss it altogether, some appealing nectarine flavor emerged on the palate and finished rather strong. Smith described it as having a “talcum powder” texture, something I chalked up to antipodean jet lag. My favorite wine from the initial tasting, the Kim Crawford 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, did not fare as well with food.
The Te Muna shined with a salad of sturgeon with horseradish cream and little pea-size balls of Granny Smith apples that played hide and seek with my fork. This was a dish that wreaked havoc on the other wines. The Te Muna also paired well—as did all of the others—with a dish of shaved fennel and butter-braised lobster knuckles.
So what were my takeaways from this tasting, other than the startling realization that lobsters have knuckles? My rankings differed widely from those of the group, suggesting that either New York wine writers are idiots or I’m an idiot or reasonable palates may differ. Fennel shares an affinity with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of any style. And Craggy Range’s red wines are even better than their whites. But more on them some other time . . . .
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:10/15/2007 10:02:00 AM Lobsters have knuckles? Whodda thought?

Does this tasting suggest a "Parkerization" of another category of wine? I look for lots of oomph on the nose -- being a big fan of wine itself. But the antagonist here has a point: wine should be food friendly, and points systems don't usually take that into account. Thanks for the report.

Richard Best - The Frugal Oenophile
Ontario Canada ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Transitions in the Washington DC Wine Scene DATE: 9/23/2007 09:13:00 AM ----- BODY:
The wine scene in our nation's capital has changed dramatically this month. We've lost a beloved retailer, Mike Tilch, of Silesia Liquors. Bell Wine Shop has changed hands as the Luskin brothers, Bob and Fred, begin a slow exit from the M St NW store they took over from their father in the 1960s. You can read about these changes here on Washingtonian magazine's Best Bites blog. We've lost one of our favorite sommeliers, too. Michael Flynn, who has run the wine program at Kinkead's American Brasserie and the now closed Colvin Run Tavern, has departed DC for a bigger challenge as wine and beverage director at the newly renovated Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. I hope he took his Redskins jersey with him.


----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Still Time for Al Fresco Dining (and Drinking!) DATE: 8/30/2007 07:36:00 PM ----- BODY:
As summer winds down, there’s still time to find new, interesting white wines for patio dining. Never a white without a red to follow, never a red without a white before it. Why settle for the same old, same old? Saint André de Figuière “Cuvée Valerie” Côtes de Provence 2006 evokes the south of France with its sunny, rejuvenating acidity and slight, enticingly herbaceous flavor. The blend is unconventional: 60 percent Ugni Blanc, 25 percent Rolle (the French name for Vermentino), and 15 percent Semillon, which gives it some body. Enjoy it by itself, with patio finger food (olives, cheese, chips and dip), or grilled seafood. Imported by the Country Vintner and available in the D.C. area for $14 at The Vineyard, 1445 Laughlin Ave., McLean, Va.; 703-288-2970.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Support Your Local Wine Industry!!! DATE: 8/23/2007 09:28:00 PM ----- BODY:
Like many DC wine lovers, I eagerly awaited the opening of Proof restaurant in the Penn Quarter district, with its avowed emphasis on wines. More than 30 selections by the glass, a reserve list based on the owners personal collection of the best and most exclusive wines of the world - all this seemed too good to be true for the vinoscenti of DC. However, I was dismayed to find on my first visit that the list featured a mass-produced Viognier from California, despite the number of outstanding examples of that grape from nearby Virginia. My first impression is online at's Best Bites blog. Cheers! Dave McIntyre

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Good Reds for Summer DATE: 8/23/2007 08:56:00 PM ----- BODY:
Wine writers would have you thinking that drinking red wines in summer is a major faux pas. This would be the season for crisp refreshing whites and rosés and nothing else. Well, I agree that those wines are great for summer, but as Kermit Lynch says (paraphrased), "Never a white without a red to follow, never a red without a white before it." Summer foods - such as burgers or steaks on the grill - call out for reds. My August column in the Washingtonian magazine explores some good summer reds. I hope you enjoy it! Cheers, Dave Mc
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Pretty in Pink - Summer Rosés for 2007 DATE: 8/05/2007 10:54:00 PM ----- BODY:
My first monthly column in Washingtonian magazine, on the new popularity of rosé, appeared in the July issue and is now online. Regular readers of Dave McIntyre's WineLine will not be surprised that rosé is gaining in popularity, given its refreshing qualities and its ability to pair with nearly everything we like to eat in summer. (Except perhaps burgers and steaks from the grill - that's the subject of my August column!) Read more here. And I hope you'll check out my Thursday postings on's Best Bites blog for more suggestions of good wines to try. Some of these I've reposted here, but you can get them directly from the source! Cheers! Dave McIntyre
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: The Enticing Aromatics of Omrah .... DATE: 8/05/2007 10:51:00 PM ----- BODY:
Most of our sense of taste is actually in our nose. You’ve probably heard that before, but if you want proof, check out the red wines of the Omrah line produced by Plantagenet Wines in Western Australia. These display beguiling aromas of cologne (Old Spice!), orange peel and tropical fruit aromas, with a remarkable consistency across grape varieties. Most enticing for me was the Omrah Pinot Noir 2006 ($18), from a cool vintage that made the wine lighter than it could have been, while emphasizing its aromas. This is neither an earthy Burgundy nor a California fruit bomb, yet it is unmistakably pinot – a pinot potpourri, of sorts. The Omrah Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 and Shiraz 2004 (both $18) are from a stronger vintage, and while they display the finesse and brawn of their varieties, they also offer the same aromatic profile of the Pinot Noir. These are delicious wines that will have you sticking your nose further and further into your glass as you try to identify each flavor. Great values, too. Omrah is the middle of three tiers produced by Plantagenet; I like it better than the slightly more expensive Plantagenet Estate wines, which tend toward overripe, compote flavors in the reds. (Fans of Aussie Riesling should seek out the $20 Plantagenet 2006 Great Southern.) The Hazard Hill line retails for $14, and is quite fine, especially a crisp, refreshing white made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Plantagenet Wines are imported by Robert Whale Selections, Inc., of Washington, DC, and distributed in DC and Virginia by the Henry Wine Group.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Oh, Canada, Where Are Your Wines? DATE: 7/20/2007 11:51:00 AM ----- BODY:
Spending a few days recently in Montreal and Ottawa, I was excited at the chance to taste some Canadian wines. Ontario and British Columbia are known in this country for their sweet, dessert ice wines, but they also produce some dynamite dry wines that are not widely available south of the border. Unfortunately, Canadian restaurants – at least the ones my wife and I were able to patronize with a picky-eater 7-year-old – are not very enthusiastic about the local product. My difficulty in finding top Canadian wines in Canada reminded me of the blind eye DC-area restaurants turn toward the increasingly good wines from Virginia. More’s the pity. We did, however, enjoy two nice Canadian wines. We found the Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2006 from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley region at a state-run store outside Montreal for about $17, then took it to a BYO restaurant nearby. It was a delightful wine, fist-thumping good, lush with stone-fruit flavors of apricot and peach, maybe even a tropical note of mango, with great acidity and wonderful balance. It would do well in any market at that price. At Stella, a trendy Italian osteria near Ottawa’s Byward Market (think Dupont Circle meets Eastern Market) we enjoyed a grilled sirloin steak with a Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2005 from Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. This wine was light and lean, not as lush and exciting as other Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from Niagara, but with the steak it flashed some bright cherry and spice flavor. While I may have shrugged it off in a quick blind tasting, we enjoyed it more with every sip, the hallmark of a successful wine. Alas, Canadian wines are not widely available here in the DC market, thanks to economics (they sell rather well at the wineries, even if not in the restaurants I found) and regulation (it is costly and laborious to import wines to the various U.S. states). That’s too bad, because I believe they would do well here if the economics were favorable – their quality is outstanding. One other note that struck me: At that BYO near Montreal, I asked the waiter if we would be allowed to walk out with any unfinished wine we had brought. He looked startled at the very question and said, “It’s your wine!” Then he thought an instant and added, “But I’m sure we could figure out something to do with it if you don’t want to take it.” We had a nice nightcap that night in our hotel, without cracking the minibar.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Marcus DATE:7/20/2007 01:36:00 PM Hey Dave,

Which BYO did you go to? I like to post about them whenever I can work it into a wine review.

Montreal really is a wine-friendly (and wallet-friendly) place when it comes to dining out. I hope you'll be back again soon, and maybe try more BYOs... There really are so many worthwhile ones.

Marcus ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:8/05/2007 10:50:00 PM It was called L'Academie, in the Laval neighborhood up near the new end of the subway line. A nice restaurant, a happening scene - very popular with the locals, especially the young and hip crowd - good service, merely OK food. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Daniel Speck DATE:1/02/2008 02:46:00 PM Hi Dave

Thanks for the note. I agree, the 2005 Reserve Pinot is still fairly tight right now. It's actually from a rather warm year but we (Niagara generally with notable exceptions, Henry of Pelham specifically) tend to make wines in a more slow-to-unwind style. Case in point: the similar 2002 Pinot is just nicely out of its shell now but will develop further.

In any event, you'll be happy to know that the fine wines from Henry of Pelham are now accessible widely in the US via

All the best and please look me up on your next visit to the Niagara Peninsula -- you're not going to believe the 2007 Pinots!!!!!!!

Daniel Speck
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:1/05/2008 11:44:00 AM That's good news about the increased availability of Henry of Pelham wines in the US! I hope more Niagara and Okananagan Valley wineries follow suit - I believe they will do well in the US market once people learn about them.

And I'm looking forward to tasting 2007s up and down the US East Coast, Niagara - anywhere. I've heard a lot of excitement from winemakers about this vintage. ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Summer's Sweet Fruit in a Glass DATE: 7/20/2007 09:44:00 AM ----- BODY:
Summer is a time for enjoying desserts made from fresh berries, peaches, and other glorious fruits of the season. It’s also a great opportunity to linger over dessert wines that echo the same flavors. (Oh, all righty—any season is great for these wines. They work just as well in winter when fresh fruit isn’t available and we can savor its flavor in a glass.)
Whether with a fruit dessert, a savory cheese, or by itself, a well-chilled dessert wine can be a great ending to any dinner. One I especially enjoyed recently was Wölffer Estate 2005 Late Harvest Chardonnay, from the Hamptons on Long Island. It’s a faux ice wine, in that the grapes were frozen after harvest—rather than picked frozen from the vine—to concentrate the juice and the sugar. It features peach, pineapple, and apricot flavors with a long finish. Simply outstanding. (The 2006, now available on the winery's Web site, sells for $37 for a 375ml bottle.)
Wölffer Estate has limited distribution in the Washington region, unfortunately—I picked up the dessert wine while traveling. But several delicious stickies produced locally are worth seeking out. Look for Rockbridge Vineyard’s V d’Or, a consistent winner from Virginia available at Arrowine in Arlington (4508 Lee Hwy.; 703-525-0990) and Total Wine & More in Alexandria (6240 Little River Tpk.; 703-941-1133) or the Elk Run Vineyards Vin de Jus Glacé, a Riesling-based stunner from Maryland available at Beltway Fine Wines (11325 Seven Locks Rd.; 410-668-8884) in Potomac.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Spigots and Other Outlets DATE: 6/24/2007 03:44:00 PM ----- BODY:
Wine in a box is something we wine geeks love to hate. (Remember those boomerang hangovers in college that drove us back to beer?) But there's something to be said for wine by the spigot, and more wineries are vying for our attention and our palates with better juice in a box. So it pays to check them out from time to time. That's what I did for the Sunday Source section in The Washington Post. And my new outlet is with Washingtonian magazine, the leading monthly in the D.C. region. My debut column on rosé ran in the July issue, now on newstands. I'll post a link to it when it goes online at the end of the month. In the meantime, however, I'll be contributing to's "Best Bites" blog every Thursday. I kicked off this new feature with a couple of dynamite summertime "house white" picks: Santa Julia Torrontès 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, $8. Torrontès is an obscure grape from Argentina that is becoming more prominent on our shelves. Yet no winery hits the value/quality quotient quite like Santa Julia, a winery known for value in all its wines. The Torrontès features exotic fruitiness like a Gewürztraminer without the flowery sweetness. A delightful quaff or appetizer wine with patio nibbles. (Imported by Winesellers Ltd, Chicago.) Tegernseerhof T26 Grüner Veltliner 2006, Austria, $14. A deceptive wine – light and refreshing as water, but just as you want to shrug it off there comes an echo of mango, lime and spice with the backbeat of a steel drum and the flicker of a bonfire on the beach. (KWSelections, Select Wines, Chantilly, Va.)
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Anton Bauer Zweigelt 2005, Austria $14 DATE: 6/10/2007 01:28:00 PM ----- BODY:
Here's a lovely summer red, an ideal foil for grilled burgers, chicken or sausages. Serve at least lightly chilled to accentuate the black cherry fruit and render this wine's acidity even more refreshing on a warm day. At 13% alcohol, it is not too weighty for summer. A KW Selection, imported by Select Wines, Chantilly, Va.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Wyncroft: Winning Wines from Michigan DATE: 6/10/2007 01:19:00 PM ----- BODY:
I’m an alcohol snob. If I see 14.8% on a label for most wines, especially a white, I’ll put it back on the shelf and buy something else. Most wines I’ve tasted in that range are out-of-balance, weighty, over-oaked monstrosities that make me want to cry over the wasted potential of those grapes. Of course, there are a rare few that are carefully made with exceptional fruit where the alcohol is integrated and the final result is a full-bodied, complex wine that stimulates the palate, the imagination, and conversation.
Like Wyncroft Chardonnay from Avonlea vineyard.
In Michigan.
Read more in WineLine #61.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Heart's Delight - La Delice de Coeur DATE: 5/21/2007 09:07:00 PM ----- BODY:
This month I had the pleasure of attending Heart’s Delight, the 9th annual wine auction extravaganza put on in Washington by the American Heart Association. I wrote about the event last year, and became involved this year for personal reasons, hoping to advance the cause of research into heart disease. I’m pleased to say the event earned nearly $1.2 million for the AHA, and that I may have contributed to some very small part of that. (My personal lot of an in-home wine tasting, with the Washington Wine Academy, had attracted exactly zero interest in the silent auction about 20 minutes before the end of bidding – but I won’t take that personally.) Heart’s Delight is sponsored primarily by Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Liquors, one of D.C.’s premier wine retailers, and enjoys tremendous support of winemakers from Bordeaux. The event covers three evenings: Thursday features dinners at restaurants, embassies and private homes with winemakers, winery principals or ambassadors. This year, I enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Chilean embassy, hosted by Ambassador Mariano Fernández and his wife, María Angélica Morales, and featuring the wines of Cousiño-Macul. Friday evening is a grand gala that features the wines of a Bordeaux first-growth château and a live auction. This year’s featured Mouton-Rothschild. Saturday’s events began with a tasting of 27 Bordeaux from 2004. This was touted as a “classic” vintage, which to me is winemaker speak for “average.” But after the super-hot 2003 with its alcoholic and flabby wines, and before the superb 2005 with its skyrocketing futures prices, the 2004 Bordeaux could indeed be a relative bargain. My favorites from the tasting: Château Palmer on the high end, at $110, and Château Corbin, a modest but delicious St. Emilion, at the low-end of the price scale at $20. There were no wines I disliked, suggesting that 2004 is indeed a strong vintage to buy, but others that especially impressed me included Château Lagrange ($40), Châteaux Pontet-Canet ($50), Château Cos d’Estournel ($69), Château d’Issan ($35), and Château La Couspaude ($45). Which, if you know your Bordeaux wineries, pretty much straddles the appellations and the Cabernet or Merlot-dominated areas. The festivities culminated with tastings of food from restaurant chefs around the country and many more wines, a silent auction, and finally another live auction to raise money for a very worthy cause. I hope that if you live in or near DC and have an interest in (and wallet for) fine wine, you will join the party next May. And if you are in the trade, please consider contributing to Heart’s Delight and helping someone dear to me and, perhaps, someone dear to you. Cheers! Dave McIntyre
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Canada, eh? DATE: 4/03/2007 07:49:00 PM ----- BODY:
I’m a big fan of Canadian wines, and I don’t mean just their ice wines. A few years ago at the Niagara Wine and Food Festival, I tasted an Inniskillin Pinot Noir that had my knees buckling with its fruit, intensity and balance. The Niagara Peninsula, a lovely wine region just a short drive north of the tourist mecca at the falls, produces top-notch Riesling and great cool-climate Merlot, Chardonnay, even some Syrah. They are rivaled in quality by their counterparts in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The problem, of course, is that these wines are not readily available in the United States. Blame two factors: Smaller wineries can sell out to their home markets, and the U.S. makes it so darn difficult to import wines here that it really isn’t worth the effort. So we get some bigger wineries, such as the Vincor-owned Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs, but primarily in their ice wines, where competition is light and prices are high. So imagine my surprise and joy when I was at a local Wheaton, Maryland, store that doesn’t really even specialize in wine (in Montgomery County, which would be the worst place in the entire country for a wine lover to live, except that we’re close to D.C.), when I spied a Cave Spring Riesling. It was the semi-dry from 2004, and I would have preferred a younger dry wine on principle, but I quickly snatched a bottle and complimented the store manager for taking my $14 for it. I half expected it to be cooked, oxidized, vinegared from poor storage and being passed around from place to place until it found me, but no, when I opened it I tasted peach, apple and apricot, with decent acidity and depth. It was a lovely partner to Asian food or light casual fare. I had visited the winery during my sojourn in the region in 2003, and this lived up to my memory. (Now, if I could just find their Chenin Blanc ice wine …) Henry of Pelham, another Niagara Peninsula winery, also makes excellent wines and sends some south of the border, but I really don’t know where, because their distributors, Bayfield Importing of Long Island City, N.Y., won’t answer my queries. So maybe there’s a marketing issue, too.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:8/16/2007 12:58:00 PM Henry of Pelham is distributed in the New York area through Height's Chateau in Brooklyn (718) 330-0963 ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Quinta de Cabriz Reserva 2003, Dão, Portugal, $20 DATE: 4/02/2007 07:07:00 PM ----- BODY:
Portugal's table wines are great values, and we tend to think of them in the inexpensive category. These days, some of Portugal's more serious table wines are reaching our shelves, and they still represent great value even at loftier prices. Quinta de Cabriz is made from Touriga-Nacional (one of the main Port grapes from the Douro), Alfrocheiro and Tinta-Roriz (Tempranillo). It features a core of blackberry fruit, surrounded by compoty, dried-fruit flavors with hints of earth and ... well, you get the picture. It's beautifully complex for this price and a great value. Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors, Newark, N.J.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Marcus DATE:4/03/2007 10:47:00 AM It's rare I look up a wine that I enjoyed the previous evening and I find someone had posted to their blog about it virtually the same moment I uncorked it!

Definitely got the compote notes -- clove and maybe cinnamon. On the nose it makes you think more of cabernet franc but it's a silky and elegant Portuguese wine boasting characteristic fruit and tannins with refinement.

And read someone else saying that it was lacking complexity. I agree with you. Cheers! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:5/21/2007 09:17:00 PM Glad you liked the wine - I love these Old World, old-fashioned type of wines that show different flavors and complexity than we are used to here in the States. Such variety and diversity is what makes wine so enticing, and life a little bit better.

Dave Mc ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Forgotten Varietals DATE: 3/25/2007 08:40:00 PM ----- BODY:
Chenin Blanc and Gewurtztraminer are what I like to call “forgotten varietals,” because most people don’t think of them until reminded. (I used to place Riesling in this category, but thankfully that grape has become more popular in recent years. So I’ll continue to plug away on behalf of the other two.) Of Chenin and Gewurz, Chenin is by far the more food friendly. It is an impressively versatile partner to food, from snacks and appetizers to seafood and slightly spicy Asian cuisine. It is also impressively varied in terms of its sweetness, power and minerality, a character that may be a marketing disadvantage for average consumers. Much US-produced Chenin used to be rather sweet and plodding, lacking acidity or interest, a filler for American “Chablis.” French Chenin Blanc doesn’t really help in the market consciousness department. It is the main grape of the central-western Loire Valley, with appellations such as Vouvray and Saumur. It can come in a full-bodied semi-dry (demi-sec) style, or a racy dry version that smacks of stones and earth. Or it can be unctuously sweet as a dessert wine. The problem is, the labels don’t usually tell you which is which. Here are two dry Chenin Blanc wines I’ve enjoyed recently: Domaine de Saint-Just, La Coulée de Saint-Cyr, Saumur, 2002. ($20). Stony minerality, with pears and apples underneath. Good complexity and depth. Still young, actually. Imported by J. Cambier Imports, McLean, Va. Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, 2006. ($12). A perennial favorite. This new release is fresh with flavors of melon, pear and apple, and good acidity. Being Californian, it favors fruit over mineral qualities. It is beautifully balanced and an excellent partner to mildly spicy Asian cuisine or salty olives. Gewurztraminer, of course, excels in Alsace. Anyone who’s tasted a Gewurz from Domaine Weinbach knows that it is possible to float to heaven on a lychee blossom. The problem, of course, is these are very expensive and hard to find. Some American producers are just iconoclastic enough to make stellar Gewurztraminers, and the joy of these wines is that they often come from unexpected places. They may not be very easy to find, but when you do find them, they tend to be affordable One of my favorites is the White Hall Vineyards Gewurztraminer from Virginia. The 2006 ($18?) is lean and dry with ample floral notes and lychee flavors, without being over the top. It pairs well with Asian cuisines, and would probably stand up to mildly stinky cheeses. Other Gewurz producers I like include Fox Run, Dr. Konstantin Frank and Lenz (New York), Carlson (Colorado), Columbia (Washington), and of course Navarro (California – Mendocino).
Dave Mc
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:3/26/2007 04:19:00 PM Dave, I love Chenin Blanc and all its diversity. I was first introduced to the varietal as a steen from South Africa, and wasn't impressed. After trying some from the Loire, I was hooked. Also had some interesting ones from Argentina (sometimes blended with Chardonnay). Are there any tricks for figuring out from the label whether a Loire Chenin Blanc is dry or sweet (other than trial and error, or asking for help)? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:4/02/2007 07:07:00 PM Hi Theresa -
Unfortunately, from my experience the Loire Chenins do not indicate style on the label. Some will specify "sec" (dry) or "demi-sec" (half-dry, or, for American palates, dry enough), but this is not consistent. That means we have to resort to trial and error, or rely on an importer or retailer to know the product. Of course, some appellations, such as Quarts de Chaume, are by definition sweet and can be unctuous dessert wines, but they don't necessarily tell us that on the lable.

It's a Catch-22 in a way - how ignorant do they need to assume we are?

Still, some pretty nice wines out there!

Dave Mc ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Quod Erat Demonstrandum DATE: 3/13/2007 08:25:00 PM ----- BODY:
Most people don't notice bylines on a newspaper article, but as a (recovering) journalist, I tend to pay attention. This article and byline from today's Washington Post Health section made me spew my coffee:
Getting to The Heart Of ED Sexual Problems in Men Are Often Tied To Vascular Disease By Ben Harder Special to The Washington Post Tuesday, March 13, 2007; Page HE01
But then I got to thinking. The ... er, thrust ... of the article is that cardiovascular disease is linked to sexual dysfunction in men. And we all know that red wine contributes to cardiovascular health. So ... by the transitive property of equality (if I remember high school math correctly) ... If A = B, and B = C, then ... RED WINE = VIAGRA! Q.E.D.

----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Michel Rolland - Can He Find Virginia's Key to Success? DATE: 3/07/2007 12:12:00 AM ----- BODY:
No doubt you've heard of Michel Rolland, the famous peripatetic "flying winemaker" who consults at more than 100 wineries across the globe and is lauded by his fans as a winemaking genius, even as he's reviled by his detractors for making wines conform to a uniform recipe. One of Rolland's clients is quite close to home, for me - Kluge Estate winery in Virginia. Not content to listen to the gossip, I decided to check out Rolland's work in the Old Dominion for myself, and for Wines and Vines magazine. Read More ...
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz 2004, $15. DATE: 3/04/2007 12:50:00 PM ----- BODY:
Grant Burge produces some outstanding Shiraz. Remember when Australia first caught your fancy with juicy fun wine at rock-bottom prices, before those wines got trendy and expensive and created a gap underneath that Yellow Tail could fill? Well, this lovely value from Grant Burge comes in with a moderate price and more than a mere taste of what all the fuss is about. It’s rich, spicy, dark and long, and at 14% alcohol, well balanced. Imported by Wilson Daniels, St. Helena, Calif.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Virginia Wine Heads to London! DATE: 2/27/2007 09:46:00 PM ----- BODY:
Can the “first colony” impress the mother country with its wine? That was the question last Monday, when nine wine experts met at White Hall Vineyards west of Charlottesville to taste 100 Virginia wines and select some to present this Spring in London as part of the Jamestown 400 anniversary celebration. Virginia styles itself “First in Wine,” since the original Jamestown settlers made wine from native grapes in 1608. Male colonists were required by law to plant grape vines as part of their crops. Today, winemakers are hoping their European-styled wines can impress a potentially skeptical British wine trade that equates “American” wine with “Californian.” The judges, including three winemakers, three retailers, a restaurant wine buyer, a distributor and one wine writer (yours truly), evaluated the wines for the quality of winemaking and whether they would show Virginia in a favorable light as a wine region. “Our goal is to select and showcase the finest Virginia wines on the world stage in London,” said Richard Leahy, an editor with Vineyard and Winery Management magazine and the organizer of Monday’s tasting. Virginia’s wine industry has experienced dramatic growth over the past decade, with more than 120 wineries now in operation. The organizers of the London tasting – to be held for media and trade at the Vinopolis wine expo center on May 2 – are not so much looking to crack the British market as to generate publicity and added buzz about Virginia wines back here at home – especially in the DC market. The Virginia Wine Experience in London was sponsored by six wineries – White Hall, Veritas, Kluge Estate, Williamsburg Winery, Pearmund Cellars and Keswick – and underwritten by Farm Credit of Virginia. More than 30 wineries submitted the nearly 100 wines for consideration. Sixty-five wines were selected to present at the London tasting. The list if available at From my personal observations, the Meritage category showed strongest. These red wines, blended from the Bordeaux grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, were consistently strong. (Vintages ranged from 2002 through 2005, though very few 2003’s were submitted as that was an extremely rainy and difficult vintage in Virginia. A few wines from older vintages were also entered, including a 1999 Chardonnay from Linden Vineyards, a 1993 Gabriel Archer Reserve Meritage from Williamsburg Winery and a 1988 rosé sparkling wine from Oasis Vineyards, which was remarkably fresh for its age. All three received a thumbs-up from the tasting panel.) The quality of these wines shows Virginia’s progress in making top-quality wines. A few of the wines eliminated showed the old Virginia style – aromas of rubber hose, asphalt and vinegar, with flavors of stewed tomatoes. “That’s what we were making ten years ago,” in the words of Bruce Zoecklin, Virginia Tech’s enologist, who assisted at the tasting. But these winners should help establish Virginia’s reputation as a quality wine producing region. Cheers! (This post appeared in nearly identical form on
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Benvenuto Brunello! DATE: 2/26/2007 09:00:00 PM ----- BODY:
Buon Giorno, amici! I’ve just returned from Italy, where I was lucky enough to visit Montalcino in Tuscany for the annual Benvenuto Brunello event celebrating the new vintages – the last harvest plus the new releases of Brunello di Montalcino (2002) and Riserva Brunello (2001), and Rosso di Montalcino (2005). I plan to report in more detail later, but here’s the skinny: Winemakers in the Brunello DOCG are celebrating a string of strong vintages, with the 2006 earning five stars, or top marks for an “outstanding” vintage from the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the trade group that represents all 200-plus producers of Brunello. This follows four-star (excellent) vintages in 2005 and 2003, with another outstanding rating for 2004. The rating for 2006, announced Saturday, was commemorated with a plaque designed by Adam Tihany installed on the town square. The bad news for these producers was that the new release of Brunello comes from the merely “fair” two-star 2002 vintage. (By law, Brunello must be aged at least four years, two years of which must be in cask or barrel, and at least four months in bottle. Riservas are aged five years from the vintage.) Heavy rains hit Tuscany at harvest time that year, resulting in an uneven vintage. Many producers decided not to make a Brunello that year, pouring all their wine into their Rosso instead. Even so, in my tastings I found several producers that managed to reduce yields and preserve enough good fruit to make very appealing wines. My favorites included Argiano, Banfi, Barbi, Castello Romitorio, Talenti, La Fiorita, Tenuta Caparzo, Tenute Silvio Nardi, Tenuta Oliveto, and San Filippo. The 2005 Rossos were exceptionally strong as a category. These wines should do well on restaurant wine lists and be a favorite of home consumers, too. Look for these mini-Brunellos on your retail shelves soon.
After I came back, I read that wine is not the only attraction these days at Castello Banfi. It seems workers there discovered the intact skeleton of a prehistoric whale. Now that’s terroir! Ciao!
(The photos show fog shrouding vineyards around Montalcino, as seen from a parapet of the hill town's fortezza, and a sommelier presenting wines for tasting at the annual Benvenuto Brunello event.)


----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:3/08/2008 02:49:00 PM Castello Romitorio is seriously one of the worlds most evolved brunello producers! ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: More D.C.-Area Restaurant Reviews DATE: 2/13/2007 06:41:00 PM ----- BODY:
The Washington, D.C., suburbs continue to offer some exciting new dining opportunities. In Silver Spring, Md., across the street from the newly restored Silver Theater (home to the American Film Institute) is Ray's the Classics, which strikes a cinematic note with its black-and-white decor, champagne and cocktails, and classic steak and seafood dishes. In Old Town Alexandria, Va., D.C.'s Iron Chef Morou Outtara has opened Farrah Olivia, where he is challenging diners with sophisticated cuisine based on flavors of his native West Africa, France and the Middle East. I hope you'll enjoy my reviews from DC magazine. And if you happen to find yourself in Arlington, Va., near Fort Myer, stop by EatBar for some great bar snacks such as roast olives, mini burgers, or bacon-wrapped figs. There's a great selection of wines by the glass, beers, and cocktails. If you want a more formal dinner, dine at Tallula next door. Happy Dining! Dave

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: A Tale of Two Rieslings DATE: 2/08/2007 10:37:00 PM ----- BODY:
It’s always fun to compare wines of the same grape but from different countries or regions. Tonight for dinner (smoked pork chops from the Amish market, sautéed with onions and mushrooms) we opened two Rieslings, just for fun. We probably drank them in the wrong order, but oh well. First up was Lemelson Vineyards Adria Vineyard Dry Riesling 2003, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a producer better known for its rich, fleshy Pinot Noir. We’d tasted this wine two years ago when it was young and crisp; now the acid has softened and the stone-fruit flavors have broadened – fattened even, in a good way. There was delicious peach, apricot, papaya and still a hint of tropical mango, with good minerality – not the “petrol” character of Riesling so much, but wet stones after a cleansing spring rain. Lovely wine. We followed this with Craggy Range Fletcher Family Vineyard 2005 from Marlborough in New Zealand. A year-and-a-half younger than the Lemelson, this still had its bracing, refreshing acidity that dominated but could not conceal a core of apricot and citrus flavors. Tight, focused, mineral and young. That’s four words (not counting the conjunction). In a single word, delicious. (Imported by Kobrand Corp., New York, NY.) Now, if I’d been less lazy about washing wine glasses, I’d have tasted them side-by-side and had even more fun comparing. But I’m still going to sleep happily tonight. No matter how cold it is outside (and tonight is bitterly cold here in DC), I just love Riesling …

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Some New Wines from Chile DATE: 2/03/2007 04:29:00 PM ----- BODY:
Chilean Ambassador Mariano Fernández hosted a “Chilean Farm Market” at his residence recently, showcasing meats, cheeses, produce and wine from his country. Chilean fruits and vegetables are no strangers in these parts, of course, having been winter staples for years. But I hope we begin seeing some of these meats – chewy, rich beef tenderloin that bore little resemblance to the corn-fed beef we’re used to, and dense rack of lamb that tasted of the grasslands of the Andes foothills. (Here’s my new food fantasy: Icelandic lamb from September through November, then Chilean lamb from February through April. Why can’t meat be seasonal?) he wines on display featured two producers, Montes and Haras, with whom I was familiar, but also some others that were new to this market. Here are some wines to look for: Ventisquero, a winery in the Casablanca Valley northwest of Santiago, had two wines for tasting – a Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006 with nice mango and red currant flavors and crisp acidity; and a Pinot Noir Reserve 2005, light and aromatic with lovely strawberry fruit. Both should retail for about $13 and represent good values, especially the Pinot Noir. As Pinot Noir is rare in Chile, this was a personal favorite in the tasting. Casas del Bosque, also in Casablanca Valley, poured a nice 2005 Chardonnay and a 2004 Merlot Reserve that was Bordelais in character, with a hint of green flavors and the familiar Chilean flint. There was a little too much oak for my taste, but I suspect that will integrate in another year. Falernia, from Elqui Valley, a small wine region south of Casablanca. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was soft and fleshy, looking more to California as a model than New Zealand. The 2004 Syrah Reserva was big, with smoky Northern Rhone flavors of bacon and blueberry matched with California body and ripe sweetness.True Rhone snobs might find it a bit cloying, but if you like the California style, look for this one. Echererria, in the Central Valley, offered a 2003 Limited Edition blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carmenère. It was well-balanced, with good acidity and fruit. Haras, from Maipo Valley just south of Santiago, was pouring a 2005 Chardonnay that at the $10 level represents a nice value. The 2002 Elegance Cabernet Sauvignon, at $35, was big, rich and soft in the new international style. It was a bit cloying for my taste. Montes offered its Leyda Vineyard 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, which was crisp, lean, refreshing and bracing, with grapefruit and mango flavors, and, at $12, a bargain if you can find it. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Apalta, from the winery’s premier vineyard in the Colchagua Valley, is also a terrific bargain at $20, rich, with soft, spicy mocha and blackberry fruit. For more on Chilean wines, click here. The photo shows the Apalta vineyard and the Montes winery in the distance at the right, in March 2005.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Conte Brandolini Treanni, $19 DATE: 1/30/2007 09:44:00 PM ----- BODY:
Here's a fun concept: Create a non-vintage red blend, similar in concept to an NV brut Champagne, with the idea of achieving consistency year to year independent of vintage variation, while achieving complexity by combining some wine with a little age with the fruitiness of young juice. That's the idea behind Treanni, a blend of Merlot, Refosco and Cabernet Franc from the Veneto wine region north of Venice. The current release, from the 2003 through 2005 vintages (you can tell by the 2006 bottling date stamped in painfully small type on the back label), offers enticing aromas of raspberry and white pepper, with a silky, fleshy mouthfeel and appealing fruit flavors. "The idea is to combine the freshness of young wine with the complexity of the older wine," says Count Brandino Brandolini, owner of the estate, who visited Washington recently. "It's a wine meant to be drunk very informally, but with some complexity to give it interest." Conte Brandolini is best known for its powerful Merlot, called Vistorta. Count Brandolini also is president of Chateau Greysac in Bordeaux. Imported by Palm Bay Imports, Port Washington, N.Y.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Marcus DATE:1/31/2007 10:25:00 AM Interesting to hear about something from these guys other than the Vistorta, which I have tried and love -- the only wine I've considered a revelation uncorking it.

And Brandolini do make fantastic labels for their wines too, don't they? Much to admire, all around. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:2/03/2007 04:38:00 PM Indeed, the labels are nearly as classy as the wines! Count Brandolini also owns a wine bar in Venice called Naranzaria, not far from the Rialto bridge. It's on my list if I ever get to Venice! ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2004, Douro, $23 DATE: 1/21/2007 11:55:00 AM ----- BODY:
Continuing on my Portugal kick, this red table wine from the Douro is a collaboration between the Symington Port family and Bordeaux legend Bruno Prats. Thus the name, P and S, with the post scriptum as a second wine to their ultra premium wine called Chryseia. Using traditional Port varietals and new French barrels, the P.S. offers creamy aromas of vanillin and cherry, which open up with about a half-hour's worth of air to reveal some leathery characteristics and a long finish. While meant to be an early drinker compared to Chryseia, I think this won't really reach its peak for another year or two. But don't be scared in the meantime - just decant it for an hour before drinking. Imported by Premium Port Brands, San Francisco. .

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Martha Clara Riesling 2004, North Fork of Long Island DATE: 1/15/2007 02:26:00 PM ----- BODY:
Every now and then it really pays to rummage around in the cellar.
When I first tasted this wine two years ago for my article on New York wines in The San Francisco Chronicle, my reaction was "yeah, nice." But it was outshone by the same winery's Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah and especially the Bordeaux blend called 6025. When I found another bottle in my cellar recently I was quickly seduced by charming aromas and flavors of rose petal and guava. Sure, the acidity has faded somewhat, leaving an almost off-dry feel on the palate, but this little beauty is a winner.
Martha Clara is owned by the Entenmann family of bakery fame, and is definitely a Long Island winery to watch.


----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Craving Port Tonic! DATE: 1/09/2007 11:14:00 PM ----- BODY:
During my visit to Portugal last Fall, I fell in love with Port Tonic, a refreshing cocktail made of one part white Port and two parts tonic water, over ice, with a sprig of mint. It's more bracing than a gin and tonic (less alcohol, so less heavy), and deceptively easy to knock down in mass quantities. It's the favored aperitif before lunch or dinner at Vargellas, the flagship estate of The Fladgate Partnership, the second-largest exporter of Port to the United States.
White Port of course is a bit of a stranger to U.S. wine lovers, as very little of it is marketed here. Most white Port is off-dry, but Taylor Fladgate makes a dry version called Chip Dry that shines in a Port Tonic. Alas, Chip Dry is not sold in the U.S. But we can get Fonseca's Sirocco white Port, another Fladgate Partnership product; it is a bit sweet but still makes a smashing P.T.!
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:1/16/2007 04:20:00 PM Hello, Thanks for the suggestion--during the holidays we cracked open a "bottle of Port" to discover it was white Port--one that my husband had brought back on one of his many business trips to the Douro valley. It was good on its own--as an apertif but now I am going to try the Port Tonic--especially since I love Gin and Tonics--this will be a welcome change! Thanks again for your WineLine The Soul of Port.

Julie ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:1/21/2007 12:08:00 PM Thanks, Julie - I hope you like the P.T.! ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Castello delle Regine: Stylish Wines from Umbria DATE: 1/06/2007 11:28:00 AM ----- BODY:
This winery in Umbria produces stylish wines that are modern, yet still identifiably Italian. If that sounds anachronistic, try to remember the last time you enjoyed a wine but couldn’t really tell where it was from. It probably wasn’t that long ago. Sangiovese stars here, of course, on its own in a wine called Podernovo, blended deliciously with Merlot in a Rosso, or with the additional component of Cabernet Sauvignon in a blend called Princeps. The top of the line bottling is a powerful yet elegant Merlot that should be proof that Italy is producing some of the most interesting wines from this varietal. There's also a crisp, refreshing white to remind us that white wine isn't always an afterthought in Italy. Classy, delicious wines. Prices range from about $13 for the Rosso to $45 for the Merlot. Opici Imports, Glen Rock, N.J. . .


----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Best Dishes and Memories, 2006 DATE: 12/29/2006 09:05:00 PM ----- BODY:

The food blogs and newspapers are full of their "Best of 2006" lists, which to some extent is a writer's cheap way of saying "don't you wish you were me" instead of putting actual work into a fresh column. But after I thought about it for awhile, I realized I had eaten some pretty special dishes this year, too. Some were spectacularly delicious; others make the list because of the memories they invoke:

  1. Michel Richard's Begula pasta at Citronelle - Already a classic, I know, but it was the first time I'd had it
  2. Roasted marrow - and duck-fat fries (Blue Duck Tavern)
  3. Hangar Steak (Ray's the Classics)
  4. Peruvian seafood stew (BlackSalt)
  5. Scottish langoustines (Maestro)
  6. Pan-roasted Sweetbreads (Restaurant Eve)
  7. Icelandic lamb (from Whole Foods, cooked at home, except for the one time I overcooked it)
  8. My mother-in-law's jiaozi and congyoubing (scallion pancakes), rivaled only by those at A&J
  9. Pommes souflées at a smoky bistro near Les Halles in Paris
  10. Macarons au chocolat from Paul in Paris
  11. Pain de compagne from the little boulangerie next to the famous patisserie (Stohrer) in Paris, a couple blocks north of Forum des Halles
  12. The Crèpes à Nutella my 6-year-old daughter ate in Paris, for the sheer joy on her face and the way she wore it
  13. (In short, anything in France ..... )
  14. "Pud" with Taylor's 20-year-old tawny port
  15. Almond tart, with Taylor's 40-year-old tawny port, at Quinta de Vargellas in the Douro, by the pool, at midnight after treading grapes on the last day of harvest (but that's another story ...)

(Restaurants noted, unless otherwise obvious, are in the Washington, DC, area. See the links at the left for my reviews in DC magazine.)

Comments welcome on your favorite dishes of the year.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger ::Alejandro:: DATE:1/01/2007 02:07:00 AM First time reading your blog, and glad to see a Peruvian seafood stew on your Best Dishes 2006 list. It sounds like a dish called parihuela. I just came back from Peru and had some great seafood as well. I'll be posting pictures on my Peru Food blog, stop by if you get a chance.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Peru Food
. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Dave McIntyre DATE:1/21/2007 12:12:00 PM Indeed, I believe it was called parihuela. Unfortunately I cannot verify that, as BlackSalt's online menu does not list the Peruvian version of the stew at this time. The restaurant typically has three or four versions, such as a Provencal bouillabaise or a San Francisco cioppino. It's a nice place for shellfish should you find yourself in D.C.! ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Wine Camp 2006 DATE: 12/28/2006 10:22:00 PM ----- BODY:
Last year I wrote about my family's Christmas ritual, which we call "Wine Camp" - a Stump the Chumps bacchanalia of blind tasting wines from all over the world, especially inexpensive stunners and outré offerings from unusual areas. I always look forward to spending time with Dave Johnson, my sister's husband's sister's husband, who always has some good wines to share. This year's bargain from Dave was Fauna 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $8, a crisp beauty that avoided going over the top with the ol' grassy-herbals. Not complex by any means, but a great value at the price and good for parties or even as a house white. My ringer this year was Tiger Mountain Vineyards Tannat 2002, from Georgia. No, not "former Soviet" Georgia, our Georgia. Nobody pinpointed the grape or the region, but everyone was impressed by its light, fruity taste and food-friendly body - after enjoying it, we put the rest aside to finish with the Christmas ham! The Tiger Mountain actually was part of an accidental theme this year, as we had more East Coast wines than usual. We enjoyed a Wölffer Pinot Gris 2005 from Long Island ($24), though it was crisp and fruity enough to suggest Italian Pinot Grigio than an Alsatian version. We also had a Pindar 2001 Merlot from Long Island's North Fork, which was a bit heavy with black pepper aromas and flavor, but featured good color, body and just enough fruit to carry it off. Everyone was wowed with the Barboursville Octagon 2004 from Virginia ($40), a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. After an unsettling whiff of barnyard blew off (we were not decanting or airing these wines as we should have to do them justice), this developed beautifully and showed what I thought were Bordeaux characteristics. Everyone else stayed in the New World, guessing California or Washington. Both of those states were represented though - with Chateau Ste. Michelle Estate Reserve 1989, from the Columbia Valley, another Cab-Merlot blend that was probably better five years ago but was still showing well; and the Pax Syrah Cuvée Catherine from Sonoma County. This huge, inky blockbuster cemented my conclusion from 2006 (which actually began with last year's Wine Camp and my first taste of Pax, courtesy of Dave Johnson) that Sonoma County is heaven for Syrah. More on that theme in 2007! Cheers, and Happy New Year! Dave McIntyre

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: TN: Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, 2003, $17 DATE: 12/28/2006 10:17:00 PM ----- BODY:
The 2004 vintage of this wine will probably be released soon, so the '03 may even be on sale. In any event, it's drinking quite nicely now, with good cassis and cocoa and just enough depth to give it interest and value.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Blue Duck Tavern DATE: 12/17/2006 11:36:00 PM ----- BODY:
The talk among Washington's foodies the last few months has been about the fries ... the duck fat fries, that is, at Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt Hotel. BDT is DC's hottest new restaurant of 2006, even though Chef Brian McBride has been a city favorite for nearly two decades. With a new restaurant and lots of cool, high-tech cooking toys to play with, McBride is turning out some of the capital's tastiest food.
----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Wine Democracy Run Amok? A Heartfelt Debate DATE: 12/03/2006 12:04:00 PM ----- BODY:

I'm all against wine snobbery and for poking fun at the common wisdom and stereotypes of wine that supposedly make it intimidating. But this egalitarianism can go too far, and when it does, I end up having one of these dialogues between my head and my heart, especially if I’ve had too much wine.

Head: Have you noticed lately that in almost every photo accompanying a wine article, people are shown holding their glasses by the bowl?

Heart: So what? They're smiling, they're having fun, and they're not worried about the ‘proper’ way to hold a wine glass. Wine shouldn’t be intimidating, with all sort of social pitfalls in the way of enjoyment. Remember what the wise old wag says: ‘Life is too short to be scared of wine!’

Head: Okay, okay. But the problem is, that's the WRONG way to hold a wine glass. Fingerprints smudge the glass, detracting from the clarity and the color; and the warmth from our hands can raise the temperature of the wine. I don’t think that’s snobbery.

Heart: Sure sounds like it to me.

Head: Snobbery is the imposition of rules that make no sense other than to demonstrate one's false sense of superiority. Holding a wine glass by the stem instead of the bowl is not snobbery. It is clean. It is polite. And it enhances the pleasure of the wine. Similarly, grabbing the glass by the bowl does not demonstrate a devil-may-care, democratic attitude toward wine. It is dirty. It is rude.

Heart: And it shows that one is not hide-bound by silly rules. If you’re so knowledgeable in the ways of wine, why don’t you chastise people at dinner parties who grasp their glasses by the bowl?

Head: Because that WOULD be snobbery. And rude. And you won’t let me.

Heart: Look – the main purpose of a glass is to transport liquid to one’s lips. Who cares if someone grabs the bowl or the stem, or even if there isn’t a stem at all?

Head: Please, don’t get me started on those sniveling idiots who invented the stemless wine glass! These are the companies that elevated wine jerkdom to a fine art by convincing us we need a separate set of expensive stemware for each varietal or style of wine to direct the individual flavors to the appropriately corresponding taste buds on our tongues. The elites who demanded we mortgage our houses to buy the best stemware were now telling us wine could be fun, no strings or stems attached!

Heart: There’s another reason people like stemless glasses: They fit in the dishwasher.

Head: Hmmmmm. Back to my point. That pamphlet from a major boutique hotel chain extolling their wine program? Virtually every photo shows people grabbing their glasses the wrong way, except for the series labeled ‘Taste Like an Expert.’ Suddenly hands are holding the stem for swirling, sniffing and sipping. Then the final shot, labeled ‘Enjoy!’, shows them grabbing the bowl again. Look at all the holiday party articles in the newspapers and magazines lately. People are always shown holding the glass incorrectly. It’s as if the photographers or food stylists are telling them to do it that way.

Heart: And this angers you because … ?

Head: My point is this: The media should show its readers and viewers the proper way to enjoy wine. We don't have to make a big deal out of it. But showing smiling people enjoying their wine while holding the glass by the stem will reinforce that lesson and make it second nature. We teach by example. Let's teach the right lesson.

Heart: How about the lesson of enjoying wine without intimidation?

Head: You wouldn’t recommend Cabernet Sauvignon with shrimp scampi, would you?

Heart: Oh, goodness no! But if someone wanted to wash it down with Grechetto served in a tumbler, I wouldn’t object.

Head: Harumph.

Heart: Cheers!

----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:12/28/2006 11:13:00 AM Hmmm...

Could there be a parallel with other comestibles and their associated tools? People don’t hold ice cream by the bowl, nor do they eat soup with a fork (usually). The wineglass was designed with a purpose and using it appropriately merely makes sense. For me, head and heart both say “Do you like warm wine? Do you like fingerprint covered glasses?”

Richard Best – The Frugal Oenophile ----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Michel Richard Citronelle - Decadence at the Table DATE: 11/19/2006 04:47:00 PM ----- BODY:
Decadence is the theme in the November issue of DC magazine, so we sought out the most decadent meal in the city. Join me at the chef's table at Michel Richard Citronelle, where one of the world's most acclaimed chefs flirts, cajoles and beguiles diners with whimsical, delicious food. Bon appetit! And in October, DC celebrated the city's nightlife. My review profiled Lima, a night club-cum-lounge-cum restaurant, where the food is better than expected and sommelier Daniel Mahdavian presides over a top-notch wine list.


----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: White Wine Season Over? Bah, Humbug! DATE: 11/19/2006 01:16:00 PM ----- BODY:
If you’ve read much of my wine rantings over the years, you know that I don’t buy into the crapola about white wines going out of style once the leaves turn color. White wine will always have a place on my table (even if it is followed by a red) in any season, and here are two that I’ve enjoyed recently while wearing a sweater: Esporão Reserva 2004, Alentejo, Reguengos D.O.C., Portugal. I was first served this wine at lunch at the Fonseca port headquarters in Vila Nova de Gaia in September, a setting where anything was bound to taste good. But I was just as thrilled with it when I found it at Potomac Wines and Spirits in Georgetown for $11. Made with Portuguese grape varieties Roupeiro, Arinto and Antão Vaz (didn’t he have a bit part in The Legend of Zorro?), the wine is rich and creamy in texture (from American oak) with loads of stone fruit flavor. A great bargain, imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors in New Jersey. Konrad Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand. I bought this beauty a year or more ago at Schneiders of Capitol Hill on the recommendation of co-owner Jon Genderson. Then I forgot about it. Noticing the vintage recently, I figured I should drink it up before it lost too much of that acidity that makes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc so delicious and develops the stewed asparagus flavor they can get after a few years. I needn’t have worried. This wine still packs plenty of zest and that grapefruit flavor we’ve come to love, along with more of what wine geeks call “minerality” than I’ve ever tasted in a Sauvignon Blanc produced outside the Loire. This wine was still a puppy, and a downright bargain at $16. No doubt the 2004 has given way to the ’05 or even the ’06 on retail shelves, but I will look for this one, buy several bottles, and do my best to forget about it again! Imported by Southern Starz Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif.

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----- -------- AUTHOR: Dave McIntyre TITLE: Rosé of Distinction from Virginia DATE: 11/01/2006 09:51:00 PM ----- BODY:

I’ve judged many Virginia wine competitions over the past decade, and one category I always dread is rosé. As much as I champion Virginia wines, when these wineries make a pink or “blush” wine it typically seems like they’re trying to make the best of a mistake. “Oops, we took the juice off the skins too soon and there’s no color. I know, let’s call it rosé!” Or, “Well we couldn’t ripen the Franc again, so let’s blend in a little of this vegetal Seyval Blanc and call it a blush.” They’ll tell you it sells like wildfire at the winery tasting room, but man, it tastes like sweet, unbalanced dreck.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the maturity of the Virginia wine industry that I tasted two dry rosés this past weekend that would do the Old Dominion proud. Albemarle Rosé 2005 from Kluge Estate just south of Charlottesville is made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Essentially, the winery bleeds off about 20% of the juice from its premium New World Red and its second label, Albemarle Simply Red, to concentrate their flavors. That means it makes about 1,000 cases each year (aiming for production of 5,000 cases when the winery reaches its planned capacity) of this juicy rosé, deep pink in color in the new style that’s reaching a most welcome vogue – finally! – in the U.S. market.

Paler in color and more delicate in flavor, the Barboursville Rosé 2005 is winemaker Luca Paschina’s first effort at a pink wine. Paschina hails from Piemonte, and his rosé reminds this Francophile of the Provencal style just across the border, packing much more flavor than the color might suggest. Crisp and refreshing, this wine is made from Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc, and I do not mind saying that it is among the best rosés I’ve ever tasted.

With the Fall weather turning cool, you’re probably in a red-wine frame of mind. But I urge you to keep rosé in mind – and these two in particular if you happen to be near Charlottesville or elsewhere in Virginia – for your Thanksgiving table. Both of these fine wines will accompany any variety of foods. And, as any true self-respecting Virginian will tell you, the first Thanksgiving was actually in Virginia, at Berkley Plantation. But I don’t want to get into that silliness.


Dave Mc

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