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Fauquier County Wine Tasting & Competition
Photos: Faith Maddox Photography

Fauquier County Wine Tasting & Competition

Get your ballots (and glasses) ready! The third annual Fauquier County Wine Tasting and Competition returns this year on Saturday, February 25.

“There are many wine events in the spring and fall, but we wanted to do something in the winter [when not a lot else is going on],” explains Fauquier County Tourism Coordinator Catherine Payne.

The day long event will be held again at Airlie, a hotel and conference center located on 300+ acres in Warrenton, Va. While only about an hour from DC, the retreat offers stunning landscapes amid charming old-world style buildings. Once an elite destination for world leaders and diplomats, the estate is now making itself open to the public and hosting events such as the Tasting Competition.

There are two wine tasting shifts – one beginning at 12:30 p.m. and one at 3:30 p.m. – and each is 2.5 hours. During the tasting, guests will have the opportunity to taste through signature wines from 15 Virginia wineries. The wines will also be paired with featured hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Airlie kitchen. Some highlights from the 2016 event included Barrel Oak Winery’s reserve chardonnay paired with beet and chèvre mousse garnished with beet greens and candied apple, and Morais Vineyards and Winery’s touriga nacional alongside duck breast prosciutto with figs, sweet and sour shallots, and a grape glaze.

Enjoy live music while you stroll among the wine booths, and if you need a little break from tasting, you can visit the wine experience area where you can learn about different wine-related topics. If you find some new favorites, you’ll also be able to purchase bottles to take home.

There will also be a number of professionally-judged awards, including an additional category for the best rosé, dessert or sparkling wine. The favorite “Tasters’ Choice” red wine in 2016 was Barrel Oak Winery’s 2013 cabernet sauvignon, and the winning white was Desert Rose Ranch and Winery’s 2015 Ole Moo Moo – a vidal blanc/viognier blend. The professional judges awarded Best in Show to Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards for their quality white and red wines.

If the tasty hors d’oeuvres caught your attention, you’ll also want to participate in the intimate wine pairing dinner later in the evening. The five-course meal will again be prepared by Airlie chefs, and each course will be showcased alongside wines from the participating wineries. Tickets for the main tasting and competition are $35, and dinner tickets are $95.

The event is a fantastic way to taste through the great variety of wines being produced throughout Virginia without having to drive from tasting room to tasting room. This annual event continues to grow and improve – last year’s event attracted more than 350 wine lovers to participate in the competition and tasting. Tickets for both the tasting and dinner must be purchased online via Eventbrite in advance; there will be no sales at the door.

Tickets are $35-$95, and can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com. This year’s participating wineries include Arterra Wines, Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn, Barrel Oak Winery, Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery, Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint, Desert Rose Ranch & Winery, Miracle Valley Vineyard, Molon Lave Vineyards, Naked Mountain Winery & Vineyards, Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, Three Fox Vineyards, Pearmund Cellars, Vint Hill Craft Winery and Narmada Winery.

Airlie: 6809 Airlie Rd. Warrenton, VA; 540-347-1300; www.airlie.com


Inside Scoop with Brian Roeder
Owner, Barrel Oak Winery

On Tap: What is new at this year’s wine tasting competition?
Brian Roeder: This year, there will be a series of tables set up where people can truly learn about the winemaking and growing process.

OT: Tell us about the competitive aspect of the event.
BR: For us, we’re not competing against other wineries around the world, it’s more just the local places. It’s more of a gathering of family, friends and peers.

OT: What makes this event special?
BR: You’re on this rural campus in an old building with all this charm. All the winery owners are here together. We’re in a beautiful location, we’re all together and we’re all drinking wine

german wine

Celebrate Oktoberfest with Grapes, Not Hops: Try Five Tasty German Wines

While there’s no denying that a stein of German beer is an easy choice for celebrating Oktoberfest, you shouldn’t forget that Germany is also known for making some truly world-class wines – many of which are not sweet! If beer isn’t your thing, or if you just want to try something new this month, you’re in luck. Check out these spots for quality German wines in the DMV. Prost!

Sparkling Wine
2011 Hofgut Falkenstein Riesling Sekt Brut
Region: Mosel
Where to get it: Schneider’s of Capitol Hill
Price: $29.99/bottle
Why you’ll love it: This sparkling riesling is dry and complex, with savory ginger notes that shine alongside the racy acidity. For lovers of sparkling wine, this is likely to become your new go-to; it’s easy to drink alone and has endless versatility with food pairings. Can’t make it into the store? You can also order online.  Schneider’s of Capitol Hill: 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC; www.cellar.com

Dry White Wine
2014 Hild Elbling Trocken
Region: Mosel
Where to get it: Eatbar
Price: $35/bottle
Why you’ll love it: This varietal, elbling, is rarely seen on its own, so head to new Barracks Row hotspot Eatbar to check it out. If you love the summertime favorite Vinho Verde, this is a great wine to try. It’s light but flavorful, showing notes of tart lime, apple and chalky minerality alongside the refreshing acidity that makes it all too easy to drink a couple of glasses with no problem.  Eatbar: 415 8th St. SE, DC; www.eat-bar.com

Off-Dry (i.e., a little sweet) White Wine
2014 Dönnhoff Riesling
Region: Nahe
Where to get it: Northside Social in Arlington
Price: $13/glass or $55/bottle
Why you’ll love it: This complex riesling is spicy, mineral-driven and to put it rather simply, just plain delicious. The soft sweetness is never cloying and the lively acidity keeps the wine fresh and crisp, with notes of citrus zest and herbs shining on the long finish. This producer consistently makes stunning wines, and this one is no exception. Think you don’t like riesling? This Dönnhoff might just change your mind.  Northside Social: 3211 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.northsidesocialarlington.com

Rosé
2015 Schäfer Fröhlich Blanc de Noir Trocken Rosé
Region: Nahe
Where to get it: Cafe Berlin
Price: $15/glass or $60/bottle
Why you’ll love it: Enjoy these final warm days on Cafe Berlin’s patio with a glass of this dry rosé made exclusively from pinot noir grapes. It’s incredibly light in color – somewhere between a white and rosé at first glance – but packed with fruity flavors of apricot, strawberries and white flowers. Cafe Berlin will also have a special Oktoberfest menu; keep an eye on their website for details.  Cafe Berlin: 322 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC; www.cafeberlin-dc.com  

Red
2011 Becker Family Pinot Noir
Region: Pfalz
Where to get it: MacArthur Beverages
Price: $17.99/bottle
Why you’ll love it: Also known as spätburgunder, this pinot noir has an amazing value. The wine has something for all pinot lovers: it’s fruity and spicy – with highlights of dark cherry, cranberry and baking spice – and also earthy, showing flavors of truffles, bramble and a twinge of peppery minerality. Enjoy it on its own or pair with all the Oktoberfest brats you can get your hands on. MacArthur Beverages: 4877 MacArthur Blvd. NW, DC; www.bassins.com

WineDogDays

Wines for the Dog Days of Summer: Beat the DC Heat with These Cool Finds

August is here and DC is sweltering. But no matter how high the mercury rises, there is plenty of cool wine to help you make it through the summer heat. Check out these spots around the District featuring delicious wines to satisfy every oenophile’s appetite.

A Glass at La Jambe
This quaint new spot in Shaw combines the style of a Parisian bistro with a touch of eclectic charm. Owned by husband-and-wife team Anastasia Mori and Dave Bloom, La Jambe specializes in vin, fromage and charcuterie. What else does one need?

The wine list is all French, but it doesn’t just stick to the classic regions. To get through these muggy days, try a glass of the staff favorite – the Faustine Rosé Abbatucci Ajaccio ($12/glass). It’s a Corsican rosé made from sciaccarellu and barbarossa  varietals that’s crisp, dry and brimming with strawberry, citrus and mineral flavors. La Jambe just opened its doors about a month ago, but you wouldn’t guess that from the smooth service, thoughtful menu and packed seats.

La Jambe: 1550 7th St. NW, DC; www.lajambedc.com

A Flight at Slate Wine Bar
Chef and sommelier Danny Lledó organizes a recurring wine series at his Glover Park mainstay each month, and since May, these tasting events have been dedicated to summertime wines. The featured flights have included rosés, unique whites and bubbles, and smooth reds from all over the globe.

Attend the next tasting on Tuesday, August 23 – Summer Wines from Around the World ($20/flight). You’ll be able to sip your way through a lineup of five wines that are perfect for the dog days of summer. Wines will include prosecco, Vinho Verde, Oregon pinot gris, Spanish garnacha and a French syrah/grenache blend. The tasting runs from 5-8 p.m., and reservations can be made online.

Slate Wine Bar: 2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.slatewinebar.com

A Bottle at Grand Cata
New retail spot Grand Cata opened mid-March in Shaw (located right next door to La Jambe), and has brought the wide world of Latin American wines (and beers, spirits and gourmet snacks) to DC. Owners Julio Robledo and Pedro Rodríguez worked on the concept for five years before opening, and it shows. The architecture and design are breathtaking, and the selection of wines is equally impressive.

Just because it’s hot out doesn’t mean you have to write off all red wines. Grab a bottle of the 2015 Aupa Pipeño ($19/bottle), a blend of país and carignan from Chile. The wine is light and fruity with lively acidity and soft tannins. It’s best served slightly chilled, and is perfect for patio sipping or BBQ get-togethers. Grand Cata offers free tastings every day and classes a few times a month, so you can always expect to experience something new at the shop.

Grand Cata: 1550 7th St. NW, DC; www.grandcata.com

A Jug at Jug & Table
Go big! Jug & Table is sister to upstairs restaurant Roofers Union, and is a welcome addition to the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The space is small and intimate, and the vibe is unpretentious. The wine list is organized by music types, ranging from Classic Rock Whites (crisp, light and fresh) up to Heavy Metal Reds (bold, luscious and intense), and the music theme carries through with tunes playing from a turntable behind the bar.

Jug & Table offers eight rotating wines on tap. Currently, there are three whites, one rosé and four reds. All these wines are available by the “jug,” equivalent to about 2.5 bottles. Order a jug of the Roli & Ryan Gavi di Gavi ($60/jug), a white from Italy’s Piedmont region that’s crisp, fruity, floral and perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. Grab some friends and check out Jug & Table on a Wednesday night when all jugs are half off.

Jug & Table: 2446 18th St. NW, DC; www.jugandtable.com

Photos: Sam Vasfi
Photos: Sam Vasfi

Spotlight on Bar à Vin: French Wine in the Heart of Georgetown

If a summer trip to Provence is out of the question this year, the relatively new Bar à Vin in Georgetown is sure to satisfy all the Francophiles out there. Sister to the larger Chez Billy Sud restaurant right next door, Bar à Vin, which translates to “wine bar,” is a more casual alternative that focuses on French wines, cheeses and charcuterie in a cozy, parlor-like environment so inviting that losing track of several hours is not unlikely.

The entrance to the bar isn’t loud or obvious, and it almost feels like venturing into a secret hideaway. Once inside, however, the décor will definitely leave an impression. Designed by Joe Reza, the bar boasts wood paneling throughout, velvet chairs, ornate wallpaper, a wood-burning fireplace and a beautiful copper-topped bar – the atmosphere will quickly transport you to a different time and place. And you haven’t even had a glass of wine yet!

Since opening earlier this year, Bar à Vin’s inspiration for the wine program has been terroir-focused smaller producers from classic French wine regions such as Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as from lesser-known regions popular among sommeliers and enthusiastic imbibers alike, such as the Jura, Loire Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Non-French wines and craft cocktails are also well-represented if you feel like mixing it up.

Chef and partner Brendan L’Etoile was curating the Bar à Vin wine list earlier this summer, keeping the large selection of French classics fresh and updated. However, a new wine director joined the Bar à Vin team in late June, so expect the wine program to be continually evolving and growing with exciting new additions.

There’s a cheerful happy hour selection and well-designed wine flights that allow you to sip through a number of regions. When you get a bit hungry, feast upon the cheese and charcuterie boards and gourmet bites; the spiced walnuts are a dangerously decadent little treat.

Also not to miss: Chef Brendan’s new small plate, Lou Cachat, a specialty from Provence that’s popular in cafes throughout the south of France. The snack is made of fresh Provençal goat cheese whipped together with brandy and olive oil and then topped with a drizzle of honey and lavender, served with crunchy crackers to dip (and a spoon to make sure you get every last bite). There’s no better summertime snack than an order of Lou Cachat paired with a glass or two of one of the crisp rosés on the menu.

Chez Billy Sud’s next door garden, or the bar’s intimate patio seating, may be better for sipping rosé and Chablis this summer, but lounging amidst the Renaissance era décor by the wood-burning fireplace inside will be the place to be when the rainy, cooler nights come around. Whether you’re celebrating Bastille Day or just have a hankering for some old school classics, Bar à Vin certainly won’t disappoint.

Bar à Vin: 1035 31st St. NW, DC; 202-965-2606; www.chezbillysud.com

Photos: Sam Vasfi
Wines on the Go
Vino Rosso Toscana IGT photo: Tess Ankeny All other photos: Courtesy of respective brands

Deliciously Convenient Wines on the Go

With winter finally behind us and a long season of warm days and sunshine ahead, it’s time to start planning all your outdoor activities, concerts and parties (and the accompanying beverages, of course). It’s no secret that canned beers are a convenient choice for all your outdoor gigs, but there are options yet for all the wine lovers out there. Many reputable producers have started using eco-friendly and convenient packaging – from screwcap closures to boxes and cans – which means you can now find convenient wines that are also delicious. Check out these wines that are easy to transport, easy to open, easy to find and above all, easy to enjoy.

The scene: Outdoor concert
The wine: Union Wine Company’s Underwood Pinot Noir ($7.99/375 ml can)
What it tastes like: Keep it casual and sip out of the can, or pour it into a glass – either way, you’ll enjoy this Oregon pinot noir’s silky texture, lively acidity, and aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, plum, baking spices and cocoa. The wine is light but flavorful and pairs with a variety of foods, from simple cheese and charcuterie to more hearty fare. Pack a few of these Cola-sized cans to enjoy alongside a picnic on the venue’s lawn while you listen to your favorite band.
Where to find it: At various Whole Foods locations ( www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

The scene: Lazy Sunday on the patio
The wine: Rebel Coast Winery’s “Sunday Funday” White Blend ($18.99/750 ml bottle)
What it tastes like: This aptly named sipper is a California blend of 90 percent steel barrel chardonnay, eight percent sauvignon blanc and two percent viognier. This isn’t your big, buttery, oaky wine: it’s crisp and fruity, with tons of juicy flavors of pineapple, pear and lime. It’s so easy to sip it’s a little bit dangerous, and the screwcap closure makes it even easier to open up a second bottle.
Where to find it: At Screwtop Wine Bar (1025 N. Fillmore St. Arlington, VA;www.screwtopwinebar.com)

The scene: Beach getaway weekend
The wine: Alloy Wine Works’ Grenache Rosé ($11.99/500 ml can; 15 percent off while supplies last)
What it tastes like: Not only is the can cute, this California Grenache rosé is really tasty: it’s both creamy and refreshing, with flavors of grapefruit, guava, flowers and wild strawberries. Pack it in the cooler and sip while you lounge in the sand with your feet in the ocean. The 500 ml can size is ideal for two to share, or for one to…not share. The other Alloy Wine Works canned wines (chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon) are also worth checking out.
Where to find it: At Union Market’s Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits (1309 5th St. NE, DC;www.cordialwine.com)

The scene: Bridal shower garden party
The wine: Leo Hillinger’s Secco Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé ($8/187 ml mini-bottle)
What it tastes like: This Austrian bubbly is soft and fruity, with lively acidity, tongue-tickling bubbles, and notes of ripe strawberries and red raspberries. This little single-serving bottle with an easy twist-off cap makes a perfect favor for bridal showers or bachelorette parties. Or just keep a bottle in your purse for sparkling wine emergencies.
Where to find it: At DCanter – A Wine Boutique (545 8th St. SE, DC;www.dcanterwines.com)

The scene: Backyard BBQ
The wine: Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini’s Vino Rosso Toscana IGT ($30-$35/3-liter box)
What it tastes like: Boxed wines have always been convenient, but it’s all the better when the wine inside is actually good, too! This Sangiovese blend from Tuscany is bright ruby red, with smooth tannins and notes of red cherry and dried cranberries, and floral and earthy hints on the finish. It’s simple and light, and a hard-to-beat value at $30 for a 3-liter box. It’s great sipped solo or paired with meats or veggies fresh off your backyard grill.
Where to find it: At various Whole Foods locations ( www.wholefoodsmarket.com) and DCanter – A Wine Boutique (545 8th St. SE, DC; www.dcanterwines.com)

Vino Rosso Toscana IGT photo: Tess Ankeny

All other photos: Courtesy of respective brands

sparkling wines

Bubbly in Our Backyard

What truly distinguishes a proper brunch from a hearty breakfast is certainly the beverage you’re sipping. Bloody Marys and other brunch cocktails will always have a place at the table, but bubbly is the staple of any worthy brunch. After all, it’s never too early to indulge in sparkling wine. Most winemaking regions produce some sparkling wine, including those that are right in our backyard. Enjoy spring and make a day trip to these Virginia and Maryland wineries to try some local bubbly. Forget the myth that sparkling wines are only for celebrations and pop open a bottle today!

Cobbler Mountain Cellars
Bubbly to try: 2009 Blanc de Blanc, $45/bottle
This 100 percent chardonnay sparkler showcases ripe tropical fruit, lush apple and pear, and a creamy, rich texture. It’s “semi brut,” meaning it has enough sweetness to be soft on the palate and crowd-pleasing, whether you’re enjoying it on its own or mixing it into a mimosa. Cobbler also produces a semi-sparkling vidal blanc ($32/bottle, $7/glass), which has a light effervescence and is perfect for any spritzers or cocktails. Though not sparkling wines, Cobbler Mountain’s sparkling ciders are also tasty options for your next brunch feast – definitely check out the seasonal Ginger Peach Cider. Cobbler Mountain Cellars: 5909 Long Fall Ln. Delaplane, VA; www.cobblercellars.com
Greenhill Winery & Vineyards
Bubbly to try: Blanc de Blancs 2013, $39/bottle
Chardonnay is the signature grape of many sparkling wines worldwide for a reason: it produces elegant, rich wines with delicate fruit flavors. Greenhill Winery’s Blanc de Blancs is no exception. This sparkling wine is creamy and fruity, with notes of ripe apples, pears and freshly baked bread. Pair this sparkling wine with a springtime picnic to enjoy on one of the winery’s several outdoor spaces. Greenhill Winery & Vineyards: 23595 Winery Ln. Middleburg, VA; www.greenhillvineyards.com
Paradise Springs Winery
Bubbly to try: Aprés Sparkling Viognier, $45/bottle
Made with 100 percent viognier – Virginia’s signature grape – and using the traditional champagne method, this sparkling is rich, luscious and aromatic, with fine bubbles and a dry finish. Visitors can also try another sparkling wine in the tasting room: a vintage-dated sparkling made from chardonnay and pinot noir that the winery acquired at an auction of a closed Virginia winery back in 2011. Fans of pink wine should also keep an eye out for a possible 2016 sparkling rosé. Paradise Springs Winery: 13219 Yates Ford Rd. Clifton, VA;  www.paradisespringswinery.com
St. Michaels Winery
Bubbly to try: Sparkling Vidal Blanc, $35/bottle
This Maryland wine is made with early harvest vidal blanc grapes from Hemsley Fortune Vineyard in Queenstown, Md. Vidal blanc is a hybrid grape that was developed to combine the elegant flavors of European varietals with the hardiness of American varietals, and is grown throughout Virginia and Maryland.  This vintage is currently in production at the winery – make a trip to St. Michaels to be among the first to sample this year’s wine. St. Michaels Winery: 609 S. Talbot St. St. Michaels, MD; www.st-michaels-winery.com
Thibaut-Janisson
Bubbly to try: Blanc de Chardonnay, $35/bottle on average
Claude Thibaut and Manuel Janisson have combined the champagne tradition with Virginia terroir with their flagship Blanc de Chardonnay, a sparkling made in the traditional champagne method with chardonnay grapes grown in Monticello. The wine is soft, delicate and fruity, perfect as an aperitif or paired with a variety of foods. You can contact the winery to schedule a private tour, or buy bottles at locations throughout the DMV, including DCanter Wine Boutique in Southeast DC, Glen’s Garden Market in Northwest and Del Ray’s Planet Wine. Thibaut-Janisson: Charlottesville, VA;   www.tjwinery.com
Trump Winery
Bubbly to try: 2009 Sparkling Rosé, $32/bottle
Trump Winery produces a variety of serious, vintage-dated sparkling wines made traditionally from estate-grown grapes. This sparkling rosé has won a number of awards, and was rated at 86 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes grown in the foothills of Carter’s Mountain in Monticello, this wine is a beautiful, salmon-pink color, with ripe flavors of strawberry and cherry and a creamy texture – it’s like summertime in a glass. Trump Winery:3550 Blenheim Rd. Charlottesville, VA; www.trumpwinery.com