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Drinkmuse: Very Late Virginia Wine Festival Post

March 11, 2012

About a month ago, Ashe and I wound up at the Crystal City VA wine festival. I don’t have long notes on these, but a few thoughts on each of the wineries we tried:


Rosemont of Virginia –  This was one of the best ones for Ashe and I of the day. I very much liked their Syrah, and their Cabernet Franc, which Ashe even liked a bit. Their Traminette was surprisingly dry, if you have tasted other VA Traminettes, and was quite nice. Ashe really liked their Rose, but I found it a bit too sweet – I typically like a dryer Rose. Finally, their sweet wine, the Lake Country Sunset, was a bit hit with Ashe.

Savoy Lee – Sadly, we weren’t that impressed. Their Riesling/Vidal was nice, but the rest of the wines didn’t really stand up for us. They did have a great sangria recipe using a bottle of their wine, but I suspect that any fruity lighter red could fulfill the role just as well.

Well Hung Vineyard – This was the winery of the day for us. They had five wines there, a Chardonnay, a Viognier, a Blush, a Cab Franc, and a Merlot-Verdot, and we liked all of them. Particular highlights were the Blush and the Merlot-Verdo, which stood out to us. Ashe even liked the Merlot-Verdot, which considering how she feels about a lot of red wines, says something. The person conducting the tasting was one of three women who own the vineyard (I think), and was great. They don’t have a tasting room, which is sad – would visit if they did.

Ingleside – Another mixed bag for us. Do need to shout out to the taster – he was pretty great, once he started paying attention to us. Wine was up and down – the Blue Crab Red, a fruity wine with Cab Sav, Merlot, and Syrah was good for me, and Ashe really liked. I liked their Merlot, and their Sangiovese, but was not a fan of their whites at all. Ashe did like their sweet whites, however, although I wasn’t impressed. They do recommend a very cute bay cruise for the day – take the cruise to the winery, then drink, then travel back with the same cruise. Seemed like a fun day trip.

Athena Vineyards – I’ll be brief. We were excited, as Athena plays a big role at Ashe’s alma mater. However, none of the wines were worth it. My only note is a big “NO” at the top of the sheet. Very disappointed.

Cooper Vineyards – This was the perfect example of one where Ashe and I really disagreed. I liked their Coopertage, which I thought was complex and interesting, but didn’t really like much else – the Chardonnay and the Norton reserve were both ok, with the reserve having some nice tartness to it, However, Ashe loved their Rhapsody and their Noche, and liked several other of their sweet wines.

Horton Cellars – This was the first one we visited, as I am very familiar with their wines. I am a very big fan of their Port,which I try to buy whenever I can. Ashe picked out the Rkatsiteli (an odd Georgian grape), the Niagara, a typical “grape” tasting wine, and their Xoco chocolate wines.

Oddly enough, we left buying no wine, but picking up some Spice Rack Chocolates, which are out of this world amazing, as well as some chip dips.




Drinkmuse: St. Michaels Winery – Maryland Quest pt. 2

February 25, 2012

As you will remember from the Knob Hall post, I am currently working on a quest to taste wine at every Maryland vineyard. St Michaels was next on the list (since Ashe and I had a Livingsocial deal), so one dreary day we make the trip from DC across the Bay Bridge and south to St. Michaels. The town itself is gorgeous and very cute, even on a day of rain and generally unpleasantness, and I’d love to see it (and further down that peninsula) when it is nice out.

St. Michaels Winery

First off, I have to admit that I’ve tried some of the StM wine before.. and I was not completely looking forward to this tasting. The wine I have had was mostly extremely sweet, and lacking in character. Ashe however, had liked the sweet wine that we had had from the winery. So, in short, I had low expectations.

The winery itself is actually a tasting room (I don’t know where the vineyards are) inside the town. I believe the tasting room is at the site of an old mill, but I am not sure. A small bar and room with 4-5 tables is basically all the space they have – and it was packed, mostly with folks who livingsocial deals. The staff was great though – well spread out, and moving everyone through their tastings with good speed, without rushing anyone. Everyone we talked to took the time to chat about the wine, about their favorites, and share stories if they had them. Cute setting and good staff was a very good start.

The Wine

First up was the Chenin Blanc. It had a very nice nose, with a distinct tangerine taste. Was a great first impression wine. My only complaint was that it was a little thin, even for a summer wine. That said, it wasn’t overly sweet, it was nice to drink…. no need to be wary apparently.

Next up was the Long Splice. This was a bit more disappointing. It had a very nice, initial crisp burst of fruit, but after that start, the wine really disappeared, and tasted pretty thin. Both this and the Chenin Blanc both fit the “summer wine” category quite well.

Third was the Viognier, which was quite nice. Light and crisp, I got some apple on this wine, and a bit of butter at the back end of the palate. Of the three first wines, my favorite (and my favorite of the summer wines).

I tasted Ashe’s Chardonnay as well – I didn’t get a sample because I generally don’t like MD chards. This was a bit thin, but better than the first two, and was aged in stainless steel, so it was not overly buttery. Citrus was the most prominent flavor for me. Improving with each wine so far.

The Rose however, confused us a bit. I couldn’t figure out the nose, and Ashe called it “funny”. The taste was actually quite nice, with a nice bit of strawberry, but there was an out of place flavor at the end, somewhat buttery, so possibly oak based, but it was hard to tell.

Next was a very smokey Merlot. In fact, there was smoke on the nose, and the palate, both on the front and the back end. Lots of oak at the back, and very little fruit. I like a smokey wine, but this was a bit much for me.

The next two were my favorites of the tasting, with the Syrah, coming next. Bit of oak on the nose which scared me, but it was a very nice red fruit blend on the palate, with a bit of spice kick to it which was really really good. I thought it was a bit expensive for the flavor profile, but really tasty.

The other favorite was the Island Beauty, a red blend, which had a big pop of fruit right as you tasted it – I couldn’t figure out what it was reminding me of, although it seemed to be a bit of red AND black fruit. Very little sugar, with some nice tannins at the end. Really liked this.

Moving through the reds, we came to the Chambourcin, which was incredibly fruity. I think we were mostly getting cherry, but it was not particularly tart. The wine had a very slight smoke flavor to it as well. Liked this.

The final normal red was the Cab Sauv, which was very solid. It did not blow me out of the water, but was very nicely balanced, only needing perhaps a bit more fruit to shine through to be really good. Would be happy to drink this most anytime.

Gollywobbler Red was the first of two sweet wines, with the red version basically being welch’s grape juice. Ugh.

After that was the Pinot Blanc. I don’t really remember this wine… but my notes for it are “first wine today that matches my impression of the grape. Tasty, Clean.”

Finally, our last wine was the Vidal, which the pourer described as being their closest wine to a Riesling. Didn’t really remind me of a Riesling, however, as it was too “grapey”, if that makes sense. Bit sweet, but not overwhelming. This was Ashe’s favorite, along with the Chenin Blanc, and we got a bottle of this to take with us.

I look forward to stopping by here again, perhaps in connection to trying out the brewery that was just down the street. Considering how scared I was of the winery, I was nicely surprised. Nothing that made me want to jump for joy, but a handful of wines I would be happy to drink at any point.

Drinkmuse: Paradise Springs Winery, Clifton Virginia

January 11, 2012

Credit to Ashe

This past weekend, due to a LivingSocial deal, Ashe and I had the chance to head to Paradise Springs Winery and go through their tasting menu. The winery is located right outside Clifton Virginia, a cute very small town (village?), and right next to a park, which makes it convenient if you want to do some hiking/nature watching around your wine tasting. It is a relatively new winery – I’m not sure how long the team has been making wine, but they have just this past year moved into their current building and winemaking facilities. It’s very well put together – nice photos on the wall, big glass wall allowing you to look into the barrel room, and surrounded by woods, with a large area for sitting outside and picnic benches. Previous to their move, they were gypsy-winemaking at a couple wineries in the area, including La Grange. The winery uses all Virginia grapes, but buys the majority of their grapes. They only have one planted at the winery, either Cab Sauvignon or Cab Franc… I can’t remember which.

Credit to Ashe

Our tasting was handled by Richard, who led tastings for one half of their tasting bar, the other handled by a woman whose name I didn’t catch. Richard was very good, knowing both his wines, as well as being able to talk intelligently about other wines, wine aging, and wine growing. Each leader had about 10 people (5 couples generally) per session. While we were there they were constantly busy. We got in and immediately tasted, but by the time we left there were lines waiting for tastings to begin – most likely due to the LivingSocial deal, which was in evidence everywhere. The deal was great by the way – two tastings, a cheese plate, and the glassware for 51% off. We are keeping an eye out for more winery deals.

Sorry for the lighting - I'm working on Iphone photography

Onto the wines: the tasting started with the 2010 Chardonnay, which was “aged in light french oak for 9 months Sur Lie”. The 2009 vintage won a governer’s cup for best white wine in VA. I was pleasantly surprised – the oak was tastable, but not overwhelming. They describe this wine as having apple characteristics – I got more lemon, to be honest. It was very smooth, nothing disjointed, very nice. I can see it being a regular and easy seller for them.

2010 Viognier – 100% Viognier, which is a classic Virginia grape. This delivers on the provided tasting note – I get lots of honeysuckle on the end. Aged for 8 months in french oak, this felt more oaky to me than the Chard… which means I didn’t like it as much, as I’m not a big oak fan.

2010 Petit Manseng – Love the nose on this, but the taste was a bit sweet than what I normally like. Surprisingly, this actually hit the spot, and I am not sure, but I was getting distinct citrus, but mostly orange, on the palate. Not a taste I am used to at all.

2010 Somment Blanc – Trying to be a German style blend. Was def sweet, too sweet for me (Has 34% Traminette and it showed). Nose was great, but taste just didn’t excite me.

2010 Nana’s Rose – A sweet rose, but not cloying like many american roses. Tasted less sweet as I got through the sample. Ashe loved this.

2010 Petit Verdot – The first of the reds, this was my favorite wine of the tasting. Distinct black fruit impression immediately upon tasting, with spice on the back end. Really really enjoyed this – not complex at all, but very easy to drink, and at $27, would buy a bottle to have around.

2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 13 months in 1-4 year old oak barrels, this was supposed to be their big wine. I wasn’t getting heavy tannins (although Ashe gave me her tasting because it was too tannic). Lots of cherry on the palate, but that was about it for me.

2009 Meritage – Their blend of five Bourdeaux varietals. 10 months in american oak, the nose seemed closed to me, but this had some great fruit, and some testy tannins. Could see this evolving over time.

Drinkmuse: Dogfishhead Ta Henket

January 6, 2012

As part of a celebratory beer tasting, we picked up a 750 of this beer. Traditionally DFH is one of my go to breweries- I can count on them being solid, no matter what. However, that rule has now been broken.

Not a single one of the four of us tasting this beer liked it. Only one finished their glass. It was utterly horrible. The smell was unbearable. The taste was described as old bacon, burnt coffee grinds, and piss. It actually turned tasters stomachs and made people come close to puking.

I got a distinct wheat flavor to it, but not wheat beer wheat- pure wheat, like from eating a piece of grain. Really really odd.


Bookmuse: Playing the Moldovans at Tennis

December 30, 2011

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks is the story of Hawks’ attempt to a win a bet. A bet, which, to any sane person, would sound utterly ridiculous: that he could beat all of the players that were on the field for the Moldovan national soccer team, in tennis (one on one). Why this bet, of all things? As he and his buddy were watching the game on TV, they decided to debate if athletic ability wins out over skill and knowledge of a game. As Mr. Hawks used to play tennis at a very low competitive level, he was adamant that he could beat athletic individuals, like these soccer players, at his game. So adamant that he was willing to agree to stripping naked and singing the Moldovan national anthem if he wasn’t able to beat all 11 players. Pretty daring, but somewhat expected – Mr. Hawks wrote one book previously, Round Ireland with a Fridge, where apparently he walked around Ireland while carrying a fridge, also on a bet.

I wasn’t really sure what the expect when picking up the book, but I found a nice easy reading, quite humorous (Mr. Hawks is a comedian by trade) story. What was even more impressive to me was how he captured the feeling of the ex-Soviet Union so well. In particular, throughout the novel appear his host family that he lived with and their story of warming up to him. It perfectly mirrors what I have been told, and somewhat experienced in Russia, of Russian/ex-soviet union citizens being very hard to get to open up, but when you do, they are amazing and dependable friends. That seems to have been the author’s experience as well.

Overall, I’d recommend the book to someone looking for an easy read dealing with the former Soviet Union. It won’t be life-changing, but you’ll enjoy it and think about it for some time afterwords.

Techmuse: How not to do Social Media or Customer Service

December 27, 2011

I have several friends who work now in the social media sphere – they’ve been hired to understand how to communicate on social media to get your message across in the best way possible. As part of my job I do a large amount of social media searching, to see what information I can find. In both cases, one of the things that is driven home is that the internet is forever. If you screw up, the information will be out there, and findable, so you need to be aware of that possibility, and be ready to apologize/explain/commit seppeku.

At 12:30 AM this morning, Penny Arcade broke the latest in public relations screw-ups online. In a nutshell, the company OceanMarketing are responsible for marketing a PS3/Xbox controller. A customer pre-ordered one, and the shipping dates kept on getting pushed back. That’s somewhat normal, so not a big deal. However, the customer service rep, which seems to be the president of the company, Paul Christoforo, handled this situation quite poorly. The customer got frustrated, and Paul went after him, claiming he knew all sorts of important people, etc. So the customer cc’ed a bunch of the big tech sites (Penny Arcade, Engadget, Kotaku, IGN), on one of his e-mails. Which of course the President liked – more publicity! The trick is, the adage about all publicity being good publicity doesn’t seem to hold as true as it used to. The internet changes that.

So what has happened since PA posted this wonderful e-mail exchange about 12 hours ago? Kotaku has an article, and the story is #3 on reddit at the moment. The #OceanMarketing and #OceanMarketting hashtags are blowing up (oh, yea, the twitter for the company is OceanMarketting, and he’s ridiculous on there too). IGN and Engadget have stated that they do not have a relationship with OceanMarketing. Multiple memes have started. Oh, and the Amazon page for this project is getting pretty beat up. Finally, this isn’t the first time he’s done this, even: see Nate’s Network.

Ok, the story isn’t good. What really flabbergasts me is the security this guy had around his social media stuff. At the start of all this, his twitter was open (Makes sense), but had his full name and personal e-mail. His facebook was unlocked. His linkedin was not private. His youtube page has videos of him threatening youtube viral action cause of the noise outside his apartment building (it’s a terrible video, and when I saw it today had 301 views, many of which come from this hooha, I’m sure, so fail job there getting it to go viral). If you are working on social media, you should know better.

This SHOULD be a lesson for customer service people (be nice!), for social media people (Make sure you have permissions/controls on your personal stuff), and for denizens of the internet (anything you post can be found). Of course, this is just one in a series of examples of social media and customer service ridiculousness, so I expect to see more soon.

Shortmuse: Credit Unions

December 23, 2011

So, I wanted to briefly explain how I love my credit union. First off – I’m not someone who encourages others to switch their accounts to CU’s, or any of that. I’ve always belonged to a credit union and only recently have I come to appreciate how awesome that is. A couple of thoughts:

1. Awhile ago I needed a loan (of a somewhat significant amount). I called my CU up, explained what I needed, and within a day had approval, and within two and half days had the money in my account. Literally zero stress.

2. One of the big problems with my bank (now fixed), was that I could not deposit checks anywhere south of the PA-Maryland border, as my credit union is in PA. Lo and behold, that has changed. Now you can go into any credit union in the U.S. and just say which one you belong to, your account number, and then you can deposit checks. Just did this last week, in and out in now time at all. It’s almost like expanding the number of branches my CU has exponentially. I was flabbergasted.

3. You can now also use any credit union’s ATM without fee, anywhere in the U.S.

4. I’ve never gone into a credit union that wasn’t mine and had them try to sell something to me. Every single time I went into a capital one to get quarters, they gave me a marketing spiel.

Really, that’s it. Just wanted to detail the wonderful virtues of my credit union.