29 Jul 2011
About an hour outside of Washington DC sits an amazing wine destination to rival those of Sonoma, Napa, Walla Walla and even France. Breaux Vineyards is on 404 acres among the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Producing 18 grape varieties and over 10,000 cases of wine, husband wife team, Christopher and Jennifer Blosser (owner’s daughter) oversee the operations of this beautiful facility.
Paul Breaux, a local real estate broker, found himself captivated with the 404 acres of property and in 1994 purchased the land (which included 3 acres of planted grapes) to fulfill the vision of Breaux Vineyards. With the help of winemaker Dave Collins, Breaux has blossomed and has been voted Virginia’s favorite winery 3 consecutive years.
I was first introduced to Breaux through their interactions on Twitter leading up to the 2011 Wine Blogger’s conference. Fellow tweeter @suzielin encouraged Jennifer Breaux-Blosser to reach out to me at the conference and boy am I glad she did. During a tasting of “the other 46″ (wines from other than California, Washington, Oregon and New York), I was introduced to their Cab Franc, Nebbiolo and Meritage blend. All three showed very well. I was excited to run into Jennifer as I was leaving the conference and she asked if I wanted to take home some wine…”duh,” I thought and politely stuffed three wines into my suitcase for the 3000 mile journey home.
The video is shot from my friend’s downtown condo with the rushing of the Spokane Falls in the background and highlighted by the great downtown skyline. Enjoy, and drink happy!
2010 Breaux Vineyards Viognier
This is classic tropical Viognier here folks. Love the amazing nose of peaches, papaya, and lychee fruit. In the mouth the wine is not quite as thick as some other Viognier I’ve had recently but does score well with a nicely balanced acidity. The price point is a little higher than I would want to see ($24) but overall this would pair well with a slightly sweet dish (pea salad, fruit salad), sweet-n-sour pork or a light chicken dish. Viognier has been named Virginia’s signature grape and this is a classic example of why! 3+/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
2007 Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Cab Franc is another of Virginia’s four prominent grapes (Viognier, Merlot and Petite Verdot being the others). Most of the Cab Franc I tried in VA was reticent of under ripe fruit and bell peppers. While the hearty grape grows well, there does seem to be quite a bit of vintage variation. This wine boasted a great complexity of flavors ranging from coffee to deep plums and tobacco. My full tasting resulted in the same score as my first impression at the conference. 3+/5
20 Jul 2011
I bet I taste over 100 wines this weekend! What will you be doing?
This coming weekend I will be attending the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA. Having been born in Roanoke, I’m excited to get back to my roots and sample the grapes grown in the one of the oldest planting regions in the country. Thomas Jefferson tried for years to establish Virginia as a wine growing region and with several failed attempts, Virginia is now the 7th largest wine producing region in the country.
After last year’s wine bloggers’ conference, I made note of five things that I wanted to do to the blog.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization: I began focusing efforts on maximizing SEO by paying attention to blog titles, first paragraph text, image titles, and tags. The results have led to several posts that have consistent daily traffic from Google searches.
- Improve the quality of my video: I migrated to an HD camera and invested in a third party video editing software. While my computer quality caused a five month delay in videos, I definitely saw an increase in quality once I made the switch.
- Improve the quality of my writing: I think the writing quality has improved but I still catch editing mistakes after the blog is already published. The true judge of quality, YOU. With over 100 posts since last year’s conference, I hope you’ve seen an improvement.
- Reorganize content: In September 2010 I spent an entire weekend re-organizing the blog content and investing in a new blog template. The result is a menu of drop down choices that are logical and easy to navigate. The front page is divided into featured headlines (top), Nectar Tasting Room news (left), wine reviews (right) and social media content (bottom).
- Improve wine reviews: I simplified my wine reviews providing the content that I would want to read when looking into various wines. The simple 5 point rating system helps users identify what my ratings are. I’m also very proud to be one of the contributors to the very popular Hello Vino iPhone app.
This year I go into the wine bloggers conference as a business owner and I am still very passionate about the field of wine writing. While my time to dedicate to writing is significantly reduced, I do plan to make more effort to get back to contributing to the blog. I’m amazed at how frequently customers come in who were first introduced to Nectar Tasting Room because they read this blog. My goal is to find the motivation and inspiration to bring this blog back to the 20,000 page view / month hay day.
The agenda in Virginia is jam packed and begins with an international wine tasting on Thursday night. Wine tasting begins as early as 10am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and officially doesn’t end until after 9pm (unless you head to the super secret private invitation parties). Wine for breakfast…just like every other day of the week, right? While networking is a critical component to the conference, my goal this year is pack in as much information and education that I can. Rarely does one have the opportunity to taste so much variety of wine in such a short amount of time. I’m particularly looking forward to Saturday’s “Virginia’s Wine History, Geology, and Business Climate,” and the vineyard tours.
How much wine will I taste? Not sure, but my guess is well over 100 different wines. My goal; document every one. I hope you look forward to reading about them as much as I look forward to tasting them.
Scenes From Last Year’s Conference
15 Jun 2011
Look at the back label of most American-made wines and you’ll most certainly see the phrase *CONTAINS SULFITES*. Oh no! Not sulfites! Why, out of all the compounds found in wine, does this little punk get his own shout-out on the bottle? Well, some people see red wine as an open door to a morning full of horrendous headaches and directly blame sulfites. Seeing the “warning label” only fortifies this belief. It seems odd, though, that these same people can drink sweet white wines (which scientists have declared often times contain more sulfites than red wine) without missing a beat the next day? It’s because although sulfites certainly affect a select few, they don’t affect most. Back in the 1980’s, the FDA did a study and found that “one in 100 people is sulfite sensitive to a degree, but for the 10% of the population who are asthmatic, only 5% of that group are at risk of having an adverse reaction to the substance.” (Sorry for the numbers, I know my readership goes down when I have too many numbers!) Long story short, sulfites are not the bad guy and the 1% that are affected don’t even list headaches as a symptom.
But Mr. Ben, why are sulfites added to wine at all? Let me preface this with a story. A few weeks back, some friends of mine in a wine production facility gave me a bottle of organic, NO ADDED SULFITE white wine called Siegerrebe. They did this not out of pure kindness, but because they couldn’t stand the stuff and wanted it out of their sight! I have a fairly decent cellar and many wines to choose from while I started to write this blog, but considering my subject, I popped open the “gift” that claims to possess fewer sulfites. Needless to say, I took two sips, poured the bottle down the drain and am now sipping on some robust Malbec to rid me of the awful taste.
Sulfites occur naturally in all wines regardless, but, continuing a tradition since the 17th century, are still often added to cease fermentation to the winemaker’s liking. As a bonus, they can also act as a preservative to prevent spoilage and hindering the introduction of oxygen to the juice while being transferred from a holding tank to the bottle. Bottle Shock, however, is often a side effect when adding SO2 to wine during bottling, but often dissipates with time (the longest being a few months). All in all, I wish I had an answer to the age-old question of “why does red wine give me a headache?”, but even science still can’t explain this phenomenon. Is it the tannins? Histamines (I’ve heard taking Sudafed helps)? A separate unknown naturally-occurring compound created during fermentation? Who knows, but sulfites are essential to the flavor and life of the wines you love so let the myth die!
For more information on Sulfite Sensitivity, check out these websites:
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker.
A year ago Spokane residents learned that the Washington Wine Commission canceled the popular long running event, Taste Washington. Many Spokanites felt that the wine commission turned their backs on our city. Conversation of east versus west and second city sprung up at wineries and wine bars around Spokane.
Enter Varsity Communications to save the day! Varsity Communications is the brains behind Taste Washington (Seattle, Portland and formerly Spokane). If anyone is familiar with hosting a grand tasting, Dick Stephens and his team are.
Sunday, June 5 the culmination of their efforts shone the spotlight on why Spokane is a perfect host city. With 60 wineries and dozens of food vendors, The Lincoln Center played host to the first annual Vintage Spokane. With each sip the memory of Taste Washington became more and more faint. Over 400 people plus volunteers, vendors, and wineries enjoyed the wines of Washington and Idaho perfectly paired with culinary creation.
Where Were The Spokane Wineries?
As a local business owner, I have to play the political balancing game but as I talked to several people leading up to and during the event, one question kept coming up, “Where are the Spokane wineries.” With 19 wineries producing wine in town, one would expect at least a 50% participation rate. As I walked around, I was happy to see Robert Karl, Arbor Crest and Knipprath Cellars proudly representing Spokane. I realize that Vintage Spokane got a late start in recruiting and several local events may be tying up the resources of local vintners, but the opportunity to show support and engage customers was missed. As I watched the hundreds of people enjoying wine and food, I couldn’t help but look forward to next year seeing 10-15 of our local quality wineries representing.
While I was there to work (a little), I had a goal to visit some new wineries and revisit some new releases from old friends. Below are some of the stand outs:
- Bergevin Lane She-Devil Syrah
- Cougar Crest Dedication
- Alexandria Nicole Shepherd’s Mark
- Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot
- Rotie Cellars Southern Syrah
- Kiona Winery Lemberger
The culinary delights were incredible as well. Cheese from local Saunders Market was a favorite as well as amazing presentation from Muckleshoot Casino (smoked salmon and marshmallow), and Kennewick’s Chef Frank Magana from Picazo 717 Restaurant (Gorgonzola stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped prawns and Dungeness crab chipotle mac n’ cheese).
If the 2011 Vintage Spokane event is any indication, Varsity Communications may need to look for a larger venue for the 2012 event. Spokane is a wine loving community and showed voracious support for the vintage vino.
See their Facebook page for pictures from the event
18 May 2011
Going wine tasting is one of my favorite past times. I love experiencing new wines. There is something very intriguing about how each wine offers its very own unique expression of place, people, and process. As a tasting room owner, it has been fun seeing all sorts of people come through. We’ve enlightened the palates of new wine drinkers and destroyed the preconceptions of many staunch snobs. In a previous post, wine slinger Ben shared some Wine Tasting Tips for Newbies. In today’s installment, I would like to share five things NOT to do while wine tasting.
The following tips come from recent experiences and believe it or not, they are ALL true. Wine is an alcoholic beverage and can be known to turn an otherwise normal person into something very different, as evidenced by the following list. I’m sure every winery owner or wine tasting room owner could add at least five more to this list too…
“Wine – How Classy People Get Trashed”
- Don’t pour your own wine.
I realize that during large tastings this could be tempting. After all, the wine is sitting on the counter just begging to be caressed and emptied. The guy behind the bar is busy pouring another wine. You just can’t wait and the magnetic pull of the bottle to your glass is overwhelmingly strong. DON’T DO IT. In addition to being against the law, it’s just a little rude. Yes, I realize we are friends and the space is cozy and you’re feeling pretty relaxed and at home. Be patient, we’ll get to you. I promise, we won’t run out.
- Don’t destroy my property.
Now this sounds simple enough and hopefully this isn’t a regular occurrence. When cleaning up after a large wine weekend recently, I noticed some weird dots on our nice paper flower centerpieces at one table. “Hmmm, this feels weird,” I thought. “Oh, my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me…GUM!” Who, in their right mind decides it is okay to decorate a paper flower with a little gum stigma? That is all I have to say about that.
- Keep your drama to yourself.
A day of drinking with the girlfriends can be fun. Unfortunately after about 18 little one ounce pours at 4 locations with little food and zero water, some old “she said, she said” drama can start to emerge. Come on girls, you’re too pretty to be grumpy. We’re not a bar. In our little space all the customers are in on your frequent trips to the bathroom and not so hushed jabs. There is no crying in wine tasting. Be friends and save your drama for another time, please.
- Don’t harass the other customers.
You think I’m kidding with this one, but NO – this actually happened. A group of happy people were enjoying their wine tasting recently when all of a sudden I hear, “What are you looking at b^!ch? I’ll knock your f&*king head off!” Whoa! What the heck. A quick analysis of the situation reveals a stunned group of young girls being accosted by someone from another group that just came in. Smartly the two young ladies didn’t react to the unsolicited abuse and sheepishly left. WAIT, those are my customers you just ran off. This is a winery not a biker bar. If I hadn’t been alone, I would have run off to apologize to the girls. As it was, I politely smiled to the remaining group and tried to give them the best experience I could. Not sure what happened and as the tasting progressed, the group seemed quite pleasant and we hit it off pretty well…hmmm…go figure.
- Don’t grope or kiss the owner.
I realize after a few glasses of wine and in dim lighting I can look pretty attractive, but kissing the help is generally frowned upon and usually won’t get you a discount on wine. This experience happened within the first three weeks of us being opened and I was thinking, “Oh my, what did I get myself into?” This customer and I can laugh about this now but needless to say I was pretty shocked at the time. Feel free to flirt, get sassy and bat your eyes all you want. It’s great for the ego. But it might be best for everyone if you found someone else to kiss (or spank or grope).
There you have it. I’m sure as time progresses I’ll have many stories to tell in this space. If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, don’t worry – your identity is safe with me and I only share because I can laugh about it now, hopefully you can too.