A Little Something Different (or, Our Visit to Otium Cellars)

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for something different.

Before I say more, I should note that I am a creature of habit, almost to a fault.  I eat the same salad every day for lunch.  I do the laundry on Mondays and Fridays.  I drink Irish Breakfast Tea at least once a day.  I read every night before I go to sleep.  When these things don’t happen, I get a little…anxious.  Graham would say hard to deal with, but I’m giving myself a break.

I’m not quite so particular about wine.  I like trying different varietals from different places, and I don’t really have a wine-drinking schedule (does anyone?).  But I do have a level of comfort with the grapes that are commonly used at Virginia vineyards and wineries.  I’m all about a peppery Virginia Cabernet Franc.  I love the way smoky Virginia soil brings out the minerality in a Viognier.

But sometimes, like I said, you’re just in the mood for something different.  Which is why Graham and I found ourselves at Otium Cellars last weekend.

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This place is picturesque.  Otium is a Latin word for leisure, peace, rest, and tranquility, and it fits the setting.  Rolling hills, silos, mature trees, and even horses, because, you know, Loudoun County.  It’s conveniently located right outside of the town of Purcellville, and for a fun side trip on the way, take a quick drive through the historic village of Lincoln, a little gem in the Loudoun County countryside.

We wanted to try Otium Cellars because of their reputation for German varietals, and particularly German reds.  Uncommon in Virginia, and executed very, very well at Otium.  Their tasting is well worth the cost, as it’s pretty extensive and the tasting room is a comfortable spot to relax on a weekend afternoon.  There wasn’t a single wine on the menu we wouldn’t have bought.  We ended up bringing home bottles of 2014 Blaufränkisch, 2014 Dornfelder (both reds), and 2015 Grüner Veltliner (a white).

We opened the Grüner Veltliner tonight.  We figured this would be one of the last 90 degrees days of the year (please, oh please!), and so a cold white wine seemed like the most logical choice.

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I’d never tried this varietal before.  This grape is grown primarily in Austria, and the grapes for this particular bottle were grown in Washington State.  It’s robust for such a crisp wine – a light, bright nose of citrus, with hints of apples and stone fruits (and I think just a touch of honey), light acidity and a bit of spiciness on the palette, and a delicate finish of white pepper.  Lovely, and absolutely perfect for a hot day like today.

I’ll feature the two reds that we bought a little later in the year.  I’m excited to pair them with some classic fall flavors (sage, cinnamon, cloves…how long until Thanksgiving?).  For now, I’ll enjoy my cold white wine, dream of cooler days and changing leaves, and heartily recommend a visit to Otium Cellars.

Cheers!

 

*If you’d like to check out Otium Cellars, here’s their website:  Otium Cellars

Thirty < Sixty (Or, Why I’m Drinking Rum Tonight)

Happy birthday to this guy!

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The best dad in the world, and my favorite partner in (musical) crime!

It didn’t sink in for me until I was in my mid-twenties that, when I was born, it meant he had a child and turned thirty within one week.  That’s adulthood punching you in the face, right there.  But he seems to have coped pretty well.  And in honor of his birthday tonight, we’re drinking his favorite: rum.

We bought a bottle of Amber Rum from Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery in Middleburg, VA about a year ago, and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to open it.  If my dad’s birthday isn’t the right opportunity, I don’t know what is.  Now, my dad’s favorite way to drink rum is to mix white rum with Coke over ice, but I decided to get a little creative tonight, and make my favorite cocktail with a rum twist.

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Yeah, so I made an Old Fashioned with rum.  Hopefully, I won’t be chased down by an angry mob of rye whiskey devotees, because I drink a lot of wine and I eat a lot of pasta and running isn’t really my thing.  I’m also not sorry, because this is a delicious cocktail, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate my dad’s birthday from across the state.

Usually, when my dad and I get together and have a drink or two, this is what happens:

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Since it’s just Graham and me tonight, we’ll have to settle for raising our glasses in a toast.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Dad, today and for many, many years to come!  Cheers to you!

 

Post Script – Regarding Mt. Defiance:  They make a wide variety of ciders and spirits, they’re located right on the main street in Middleburg, and their rum tastings are really fun (they make mini-cocktails!).  Here’s their website, if you’d like to learn more, or plan your visit:  Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery.

Beaching and Wining

I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no better accompaniment for relaxation than a good glass of wine, and there’s no better place to relax than the beach.  So, basically, Beach + Wine = Paradise.  Add in some family, board games, and good food, and I think we’ve officially made it into Heaven territory.

We’ve opened several bottles of wine since we got here on Monday (what can I say…we’re a family of wine lovers), but I set aside a bottle of Breaux 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon for today.  I wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to taste a good Virginia red.

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A little bit of history on this one – we’re going back in time today.  A couple of years ago, Graham and I were members at Breaux Vineyards.  Breaux is a large(r)-scale operation located just outside of Purcellville, VA.  Their tasting room is always busy, but they have a wide variety of wines to taste, and their sommeliers are knowledgeable and friendly.  The grounds are also lovely, and they have lots of outdoor seating to use on nice days (you know…if you can’t make it to the beach).  We dropped our membership in an effort to cut some costs before my big writing adventure, and also because we were members at over ten wineries and it was time to cut back a little.  We’re still working down our bottle backlog, so a Breaux wine was a natural choice for our beach week.

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon went over really well with everyone.  It’s got a robust nose of black cherry, black pepper, and hints of smoke and tobacco.  It’s smooth, though, with notes of smoke and plum on the palate.  As Virginia Cabernet Sauvignons go, this one is done much more in the Bordeaux style than others – smooth, structured, lightly tannic, and it’s aged very well.  It would pair nicely with red meat, or with pretty much anything grilled.  It would be great for a cookout on the beach.  Then, you could have both wine and smores, and wouldn’t that be awesome?

It’s just too bad that time flies when you’re having fun (read: drinking wine), because I don’t think I’m ready to head home yet.  Like, ever.

Cheers!

Bourbon at The Brown

We’re all settled in at the first stop on our road trip, and I think Louisville has treated us well so far.  We’re staying at the Brown Hotel, a 1920s beauty and the birthplace of the Hot Brown, a legend among sandwiches (no, really, it is).  We’ve not tried one yet, but we did spend some time at the Lobby Bar yesterday enjoying that old Kentucky favorite – bourbon.  When in Rome, right?

I went for an Old Fashioned, which is actually my favorite cocktail.  Unfortunately, no Old Fashioned will ever compare to the one I enjoyed here in Kentucky.

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Graham had a bourbon flight, because contrary to what the politics of the day would indicate, we can have nice things.

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If you’re ever in Louisville, I would definitely recommend spending at least one night at the Brown, and I would also heavily encourage you to spend some time in their Lobby Bar getting to know their bourbon selection.

We’re off to a wedding tonight, and then it’s full speed ahead to Asheville tomorrow.   As the song says, the road goes on forever and the party never ends…

Wine is the Best Medicine

Said no doctor, ever.  But tonight, it’s exactly what Graham and I needed.

We’ve been searching for some time for a historic home somewhere in Loudoun County, and this week, we found the perfect place.  Unfortunately, another buyer did too, and, though we put our best foot forward, their offer was accepted.  We’re both disappointed, because this was pretty much our dream house – perfect location, perfect front porch, casual with character, and ready for our personal touch to make it a really beautiful, comfortable Virginia farmhouse.  But we’re getting through it.  There will be another house for us one day, and in the meantime, there’s Virginia wine.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 50 West 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese.

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I know, I know…I featured 50 West just a few weeks ago (here’s the post: 50 West Post), but this past weekend, we stopped by again to check out their newly renovated clubhouse.  It was definitely worth the stop, because it’s awesome.  The care and time they’ve put into making this mid-century modern house into everything it should be is, at the very least, admirable.  But, really, it’s more than that, because they’ve put the same effort and attention to detail into this house as they put into making their wines (which is to say, impeccable and impressive), and it shows.  While we were there, Diane, one of the owners, was kind enough to show us around the house and around some of their new grapevines.  They’ve just planted Albariño and Suavignon Blanc.  I expect great things in the future.

The rosé we opened tonight was light, crisp, and perfect for a hot summer day – a refreshing nose of strawberries and citrus with leafy notes, citrus and fruitiness on the palate that give way to a pleasant sweetness and fresh strawberries on the finish, and just a hint of minerality.  This one is a staff favorite at the tasting room, and I can see why.

Sometimes, life hands you lemons.  If you’re Graham and me, you take those lemons and…drink wine instead.  It’s not been a good day, but that’s okay.  We might not have our dream house, but we do have each other.  And wine.

Cheers!

Hot Day = Cold Wine

It’s hot tonight.  It was hot today.  And a hot day calls for a refreshing drink.  And in our house, that means cold white wine.

Summers in Northern Virginia tend to be somewhere between oh-so-unpleasantly-sweltering and Death Valley but humid.  A friend of the family describes this kind of weather as “close,” which, as I understand it, means “it’s so hot I feel like I’m crammed into a sauna with 1,000 other sweaty people who like hugs.”  I’m happy to be home after all of our travels so far this summer, but man, I hate the heat.

I’d actually picked out a red wine for tonight (welcome to our house…red wine everywhere), but when Graham got home, I felt the heat coming through the door and changed my mind.  I was also baking a pie and the kitchen was hot, so white wine it was.  We opened a bottle of Greenhill 2014 Seyval Blanc.

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I’ve featured Greenhill before (here’s the post: Greenhill Wine Post) so I won’t go on about the winery.  I will say, though, that it’s a nice place with good wine and a pretty view that’s worth a visit or several.

If you’re unfamiliar with Seyval Blanc, it’s a hybrid grape used to make white wines, and it grows particularly well in cooler climates.  It’s widely grown in Virginia, though I’ve heard upstate New York grows it, as well.  This particular Seyval Blanc was pretty on character for the grape – a delicate nose of citrus, with honeysuckle, sweet citrus, and black currant on the palate, and a sour citrus finish.  It was light, yes, but with a minerality that added some complexity and depth.  I can think of few better wines for a hot summer evening, and we certainly enjoyed it.

I checked the forecast earlier today, and it looks like we’re in for a heat wave for the foreseeable future.  Knowing us like I do, I predict there will be more cold white wine in our future.  So, damn the heat, and bless the wine, and thank God for air conditioning.  Cheers!

Bob Dylan Wrote Every Song and Wine Is Good

One of these statements is true.

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a trip, especially if the getting home has been hectic and tiring, is get ready, rush to make it to something on time, and sit for several hours (airplane flashbacks, right here).  But that’s exactly what Graham and I did last night, and it was the best decision we could have made.

We spent a lovely weekend in Alabama with family, and getting home on Tuesday turned out to be an epic journey.  A three hour delay in Mobile, a mad dash through Atlanta to catch our connecting flight home, unpacking at midnight.  Then, Graham picked up the Annie-dog at 6:00 a.m. yesterday and worked all day.  When he got home at 5:00, we packed a bag in a hurry, for what felt like the millionth time.  But this time, we packed it with bread, cheese, salami, and wine.  And this time, we drove just thirty minutes away from home to see Mavis Staples and Bob Dylan at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA.

A couple of obligatory wine photos, since I missed my Wine Wednesday post this week and attended a concert instead (worth it, obviously).

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For me, we opened a bottle of Butter Chardonnay.

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For Graham, a bottle of Sunset Hills Sunset Red.

Both are good for a picnic, and both will please a crowd. (Though…we didn’t share.  Don’t judge!  Our friends brought their own wine!)

I don’t know what better “welcome home” there is than a picnic with good wine, good food, good friends, and good music.  Travel is one of my greatest pleasures, but I’m grateful and lucky that coming home is wonderful, as well.  Cheers!

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Homecoming (to Wine!)

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Graham and me.  After a week and a half in Seattle and Alaska (the post is coming, I swear), we were home for less than a week before heading to New Jersey for a beautiful wedding (congratulations, Andy and Dan!), and we’ll head out again this Saturday for a trip to Mobile, Alabama to see family and celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.

I like to travel.  Wanderlust is real, and I’ve got it.  But I also like coming home again.  I feel secure in the world with my feet on Virginia ground.  It’s always nice to sleep in my own bed after spending time away, and I miss cuddling with my giganti-cat, Gatsby, when I’m gone.

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He requires a lot of attention.  And purrs like a monster truck motor.  And makes coming home worth it.  And I’m definitely not a crazy cat lady.

Moving on, this is the first week in several that we’ll be home for five whole days(!).  So, we grilled some steaks, and we’re celebrating with wine.  (Of course.)

50 West Vineyards opened back in the fall, and it’s owned by the same people as Sunset Hills, where Graham and I have been members for years.  I’ve featured Sunset Hills before (here’s the link: Sunset Hills Wine Post), and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to write about 50 West.  It’s located, no joke, less than ten miles from our house, so it was the perfect choice for our brief homecoming.

A lot of effort went into opening this vineyard.  After purchasing the property, the owners renovated the facilities, pulled up dead vines (it had been a vineyard before), and planted new ones.  They’ve paid attention to every detail, and you’ll feel welcomed by the team once you step up to the tasting bar.  Even the name, simple as it is, was carefully chosen – Route 50 West is an old thoroughfare with lots of history, dating way, way back before it became a paved, named highway.

The best thing about 50 West Vineyards, aside from the wine, is the view.  From a table on the patio, you can look out at rolling mountains and pastoral countryside while you enjoy a glass of something cold in the summer sunshine.  It’s a little piece of heaven.  The staff are friendly, the wine is good, and the location is unbeatable for Graham and me, given its convenience and amazing views.  That’s like the holy trinity for Loudoun County wineries.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 2013 Aldie Heights Cuvee, a red blend which won a gold medal in the 2016 Governor’s Cup, Virginia’s foremost wine competition.

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This is a good wine, and it should be.  A blend of Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Cabernet Franc, it’s got a robust, aromatic floral nose with hints of black pepper and blackberry.  It hits the palate with notes of black currant, black pepper and green bell pepper, and cloves.  The finish is rich and round, and almost a little chocolate-y.  Truly delicious!

It’s nice, after so many busy days and so much travel, to spend a quiet evening at home sipping a glass of wine and chatting about our next adventure.  See you soon, Mobile!  Cheers!

*Brief but useful Post Script: I read an interesting article about 50 West around the time that it opened, and if you’d like to read it, too, here’s the link: Loudoun Times 50 West Article.  One thing to note as you read the article, 50 West has since released their label, and the wines are fantastic!

This Wine Post Brought to You By…

…the Space Needle!  Did you know they have a wine bar at the top of the Space Needle?  I sure didn’t!

Let me back up a little bit.  We woke up at about 4:30 this morning, caught a flight out of Dulles, and headed to the Great Northwest.  We didn’t quite have a full day in Seattle today, since our flight landed in the late morning, but we did have enough time to stroll down the streets a little bit, walk through the Olympic Sculpture Garden, and see the Space Needle.

I’d been debating for most of the day whether to worry about finding a wine for my weekly post, so I was really happy (and excited!) to find a little wine bar once we got to the top of the Space Needle.  And…there’s a Space Needle label!

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We tried a red blend, and got a couple of glasses of the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were smooth and easy to drink, and both were pretty full-bodied.  The red blend was a little fruitier – cherries and cherries on the nose – and I think we both liked it a bit better.  But the Cabernet was nice, as well.  I asked the talkative young man working at the counter what he liked best about it before I took my first sip, and he said “The fact that you’re drinking it at 520 feet!”  It was good wine, certainly worth buying and drinking, but I kind of have to agree.  It’s not every day you find yourself sipping wine and looking out at the Puget Sound from one of America’s most recognizable landmarks.

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Tomorrow, we’ll head out on the San Juan Clipper to see some islands and (hopefully also) some whales.  Friday, we’re hoping to explore the markets and museums.  I’ve always heard people say that Seattle is an amazing city, and they’re right.  Cheers to new adventures!

Blah Day, Fun Wine

It’s been kind of a blah day.  After a busy (but fabulous!) Memorial Day weekend, it turns out that two days of quiet is both nice and a little bit boring.  But that’s okay.  All you need to take a day from meh to magnificent is a fun wine! (Did you see what I did there?  I bet you did.  And then I bet you shook your head and thought “Really, lady?”  And I’m right there with you.)

We opened a bottle tonight from Tarara Winery, which is located right outside of Leesburg, VA.  I would, without hesitation, recommend a visit to Tarara.  The tasting room is in a cave under the owner’s house, and there’s a deck with a nice view for warm, sunny days.  They also host a series of concerts over the summer.  A side-note and plus for all those who struggle with corkscrews – all of their wines have screwcaps, rather than corks.

Tonight we opened a bottle of 2013 Long-Bomb, Edition 7.

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Long-Bomb has been a staple at Tarara, a red table wine that speaks to their winemaking philosophy of “less is more,” and their drive to make “wines with soul.”  You can learn more on their website, if you’re interested: Tarara Philosophy.  The story behind the Long-Bomb name (quoting from the bottle here):

“Our founder, Whitie Hubert, once told a story that years later depicted his character and the inspiration for creating Tarara.  During his college years at Catholic University, he was a Hall of  Fame wrestler who was never pinned until the State Championships.  Whitie was a year-round athlete and played quarterback for the football team.  His team was not noted for their victories but Whitie proclaimed football as the greater sport.  He would rather be part of a team than a winner alone.

Whitie used this philosophy to create Tarara Winery, blending his passion for people and wine.  We are players on Whitie’s Winning Tarara Team and with every glass, we invite you to share in our victory.”

I couldn’t remember what grapes were part of Edition 7, so I did some poking around online and found a review for it that lists: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Tannat.  I would say this is a fairly light-bodied red, and it would be great for a summer barbecue.  I would pair it with smoky, dry-rubbed ribs or a really good cheeseburger right off the grill.  Hints of blackberry and new leather on the nose give way to a really bright flavor – strawberries, cocoa, and cinnamon on the finish, but almost tangy.  Really perfect for a warm evening on the patio.

Or, you know, just to brighten up a boring Wednesday evening.  Cheers!