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Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival Includes Basque Wine

This year, the nation’s massive system of museums known to most as the Smithsonian will be hosting the Annual Folklife Festival. This is an outdoor festival that is held each year that celebrates people around the world. The 2016 festival will focus on Spain’s Basque region and include some Basque wine tastings. Also important to this years festival are the Sounds of California.

The Smithsonian’s website offers a vast amount of information. It’s a good idea to check it out before attending the festival where you will be inundated with lots of great information.

Each year the folklife festival offers visitors a look a the culture of a region. Attendees have the opportunity to learn about the regional foods and discover the music and customs of the inhabitants. The festival includes demonstrations, workshops, narrative sessions and performances. Several Basque wine tastings are planned for the festival. Check the schedule for days and times of the wine tastings.

According to the Smithsonian website: “At the 2016 Folklife Festival, Sounds of California will present a series of evening concerts as well as daytime performances and activities, offering a glimpse into how musical culture mirrors the movements reshaping the state and the nation today. We will feature artists who contribute to the soundscapes of California, who demonstrate the social power of music and cultural heritage.”

The 2016 Folklife Festival covers two long weekends. It begins today, June 29 and continues on until July 4. The festival the picks up again on July 7 and continues on until July 10.

It has been many years since I attended the Folklife Festival but I still remember the bright, beautiful colors, the congeniality of the visitors. It was a fun-filled day.

For anyone who likes to discover a unique keepsake or small gift, consider the marketplace associated with the festival. According to the Smithsonian website, “Since its founding in 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has supported thousands of traditional artists and musicians from around the world by selling their arts, crafts, and music at the Marketplace. Stop by to pick up something special for a loved one, to watch an artist demonstration, or to discover new music from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.” The marketplace is scheduled to take place in the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.

Plan to spend a day exploring Basque culture and enjoying the Sounds of California in our nation’s capitol.


Big Cork Vineyards Entertains Media in a Big Way

Last week we joined photographers and bloggers for a media event at Big Cork Vineyards in Washington County, Maryland.  Upon entering we were treated to a glass of Russian Kiss wine. Big Cork is a winery we visited and wrote an article about when it opened in 2015. We were happy to attend the event where the owner, winemaker and general manager were welcoming and talked about the vineyards, winery and wines.

Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland

Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland

The owner,  Randy Thompson first welcomed us to Big Cork. Dave Collins followed up talking about his excitement with the winery opening in this region of Maryland. The second speaker was from Washington County Tourism. Referring to Washington County, she said, “We have everything here.”

Dave talks about the vineyards

Dave talks about the vineyards

Dave had been a winemaker at a winery in Virginia and often traveled these roads wondering why there were no vineyards here in Maryland. Dave asked the media group to follow him to the 30 plus acres vineyards where we saw prolific vinifera grapes thriving. He noted that farther away in the vineyard, he had Russian grape varieties. The Russian grape varieties are known by numbers rather than names such as XIV and the SK-77.

Dave led us into the winemaking area of the winery and explained the winemaking process for those who were not familiar with it. He added that the winery is using oak barrels from different regions of the world.

appetizers prepared by Canopies Catering

appetizers prepared by Canopies Catering

We returned to the Big Cork tasting room where we enjoyed appetizers prepared by Canopies Catering and with the appetizers we tasted several of Big Cork’s wines at the tasting counter. The general manager, Jed Gray poured our wine tastings and talked about his experiences with wine in California. He now refers to Maryland as his home and appears to really enjoy his position at Big Cork. Regarding the tasting room, he noted that he tries to bring unique things into the tasting room – things that people cannot find elsewhere.

At the end of the evening, Randy Thompson commented, “We want to create a vibe; like the one we have at home.”


Tasting room at Big Cork Vineyards

Tasting room at Big Cork Vineyards

Russian Kiss with a light yellow color was a blend of Muscat, XIV, and the SK-77. Orange blossoms were predominant on the aroma and taste along with some peach and citrus. The crisp finish was refreshing. This is a good 3P (porch, patio or pool) wine. Also a light yellow color was the Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon offered lemon, lemon grass, grapefruit and a hint of minerality. The finish was crisp.

The Rosé of Syrah was a light pink color with an orange hue. This perfect for summer weather wine had notes of strawberries and red raspberries.

062816eWe were treated to a club only wine. Twisted Franc was a blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with a splash of raspberries. The grapes and fruit were co-fermented. The raspberries were from the property and were a combination of red and black berries. The resulting wine was an opaque dark purple color with a black fruits profile. The wine had bold tannins and was full bodied. The finish was very crispy. The 2014 Cabernet Franc was a dark ruby color. It offered black fruits especially blackberries, black raspberries and black cherries. Bold tannins were accompanied by a full-body. The fruit finish was crisp and yielded to leather.

Another treat for the group was a Black cap port. With 18% alcohol this raspberry port had no alcohol heat. The dark ruby to black colored wine was very raspberry-like and simply delicious. It had a long raspberry aftertaste.

Big Cork Vineyards reminded us of some of the beautiful wineries we visited in Santa Barbara County, California. Plan to spend some time relaxing and taking in the views.

Terry & Kathy

Rhubarb Wine, A Summer Hit


Rhubarb makes a delightful fruit wine.

A few years ago we visited several Tennessee wineries. One of these special wineries was Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge where we discovered a Rhubarb wine. As Terry was looking through our wine room a couple of days ago, he came across a bottle of this Rhubarb wine. After refrigerating it, we enjoyed it with tasty barbecued grilled pork, rice and a salad.

The Rhubarb wine was a dark gold color with, as might be expected aroma notes of rhubarb. The taste was authentic rhubarb. The wine was sweet and would also do well as an aperitif. Perhaps enjoying a glass of it on a deck or porch on a warm summer day. The wine reminded me of a rhubarb pie. I couldn’t help wondering if I added a frozen strawberry, if it would be more like a delicious strawberry-rhubarb pie. While enjoying the wine, Terry was strongly encouraging me to bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Perhaps I will later this week.

If you visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee this summer, be sure to stop by Mountain Valley Winery and taste a few of their wines.

After our visit to the winery, we wrote an article review for Wine Trail Traveler. Check it out before you go.


July’s Annual L’Eté du Vin Charity

Each year the Nashville Wine Auction sponsors events throughout the year to generate funds for the fight against cancer. The mission statement for the Nashville Wine Auction organization is, “Nashville Wine Auction unites the wine community to fund the fight against cancer. Nashville Wine Auction engages local and world wine communities to produce wine related events which raise money to fight cancer. Increased appreciation of wine through Nashville Wine Auction results in an influential charitable organization of importance to its constituents and beneficiaries.”

This year, at the end of July, Nashville Wine Auction will be busy hosting three separate events in Nashville to support its goal of fighting cancer. The guest of honor this year’s is Gaia Gaja from Gaja, an Italian wine producer. Tickets are available online.

Thursday, July 28
l’Eté du Vin Vintners’ Tasting

The special wines available:

  • Rossj-Bass 2014
  • Vistamare 2014
  • Brunello de Montalcino 2011
  • Barbaresco 2012
  • DaGromis 2011
  • Darmagi 2010
  • Magari 2013

Location: Richland Country Club, 1 Club Drive, Nashville, TN
Business Attire is requested
Includes Valet Parking

Friday, July 29

l’Eté du Vin Patrons’ Dinner

This special evening begins with a champagne reception. The dinner will be prepared by Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen with Chef Cory Untch of Capitol Grille

Location: The Hermitage Hotel, 231 Avneue North, Nashville
Attire: Black Tie
Valet Parking provided
Cost: $1,000 ($865 is tax-deductible)

Saturday, July 30

l’Eté du Vin Vintners’ Auction and Dinner

5:30pm: Silent Auction and Wine Reception
7:00pm Live Auction and Seated Dinner

Location: Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, 2100 Est End Avenue, Nashville, TN
Attire requested: Cocktail
Valet Parking provided
Cost: $325  ($200 is tax-deductible)
Groups of 10 people can purchase a table and will receive a complimentary magnum of champagne.

While deciding whether to participate, keep in mind that these are fundraising events to support the fight against cancer!



Taste of Mendocino 2016 in San Francisco

Getting to the Mendocino region is not quite as simple as it is to visit Napa Valley or Sonoma; however, it is worth the extra effort. If you love wine and can’t make it to the region itself, numerous wineries will be present in San Francisco at the Taste of Mendocino event this Saturday, June 25.

Taste of Mendocino will take place at the Gallery 308 building at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

Attendees at the event will have access to numerous wines and artisanal foods from Mendocino. Ticket holders are entered into a drawing to win one of two round trip tickets to any Surf Air destination including Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs.

Tickets are $60. More information is available online.

Taste of Mendocino 2016 Wineries

  • Barra of Mendocino
  • Bonterra
  • Edmeades
  • Frey Vineyards (features certified Biodynamic Wines)
  • Goldeneye Winery
  • Handley Cellars
  • Husch Vineyards
  • Kimmel Vineyards
  • Lula Cellars
  • Maple Creek
  • Mariah Vineyards (a unique winery in an unusual appellation)
  • Murder Ridge
  • Navarro Vineyards
  • Panthea
  • Parducci Wine Cellars
  • Phillips Hill Winery
  • Philo Ridge Vineyards
  • Roadhouse Winery
  • Scharffenberger Cellars
  • Seebass Vineyards
  • Signal Ridge
  • Tahto
  • Theopolis Vineyards
  • Waits-Mast Family Cellars

Taste of Mendocino 2016 Vendors 

  • Bee Bold Mendocino
  • Gowan Heriloom Ciders
  • Groundswell Institute
  • Kemmy’s Pies
  • Little River Inn
  • Olive Oils of Mendocino County
  • Pennyroyal Farm
  • Princess and the Peasant
  • Starchild Chocolate
  • Stella Cadente
  • Thanksgiving Coffee

The next time you are planning a vacation, consider an itinerary that includes Mendocino County. Be sure to check out the information about Mendocino County and 21 of its wineries on the Wine Trail Traveler website.


Wines of South Africa Chenin Blanc Tasting

Live stream, photo by Andy Neumeier

Live stream, photo by Andy Neumeier

On Friday June 17th,  we participated in tasting six Chenin Blancs from different producers from South Africa. Winemaking has taken place in South Africa for close to four centuries. One of the most widely planted grapes is Chenin Blanc. This grape is used to make a variety of different wines.

Accompanying our tasting was a live streaming broadcast hosted by Jim Clarke, a sommelier and a wine ambassador for Wines of South Africa, WOSA. Jim talked about the wines and answered posted questions. Winemakers in South Africa chimed in with posting to the broadcast’s stream that automatically posted to Twitter.

Our group started the wines a bit earlier not wanting to pass up available wines for a meal. We paired two of the wines with baked salmon and baked vegetables. Both wines painted a background for the food and their acidity helped cleanse the palate.

During these events, I like to write haikus rather than traditional wine notes. Jim mentioned the haiku format a couple times. For the wines tasted, here are the haikus.

2013 Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc haiku:

Old Vine Chenin Blanc
Smooth mouthfeel and full-bodied
Peaches, caramel.

Chenin Blanc pairs with many different foods.

Chenin Blanc pairs with many different foods.

2015 Bellingham Old Orchard Chenin Blanc haiku:

Old orchard Chenin,
Stone fruit, minerality
Lively in the mouth.

2014 River’s End Chenin Blanc haiku:

River’s End Chenin
Emphasis on juicy pears
Velvet for seafood.

2015 Terre Brûlée Le Blanc haiku:

Aftertaste lingers
Honeysuckle highlighting
Citrus enlivens.

2015 Solms-Delta, Chenin Blanc haiku:

Solms-Delta, Chenin
Ripe juicy pears and sweetness
With or without food.

2014 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc haiku:

Apricots surround
From aroma to finish.
Rocking chair on porch.

Of course, everyone in our group had their favorites. My two favorites were the 2015 Terre Brûlée Le Blanc and the 2014 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc. I thought that both of these wines were a bit more complex and very food friendly. All of the wines are wonderful to pair with a rocking chair on a porch especially during the summertime. These Chenin Blancs are available throughout the United States; however, you may need to do some hunting. They also have great price points ranging from about $10 to less than $25. Most were priced in the mid-teens.

If you are looking for refreshing white wines for summer gatherings, consider Chenin Blancs from South Africa.


Beef Brisket Sliders for Father’s Day!

Why not celebrate Father’s Day with preparing Beef Brisket Sliders, a recipe from Ferrari-Carano in California? This brisket recipe calls for red wine.

Beef Brisket Sliders

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the Rub

1 tsp kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 4-lb beef brisket
Olive Oil
1 onion cut into chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks

Ingredients for Brisket

1/2 c cherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 c red wine
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup prunes, lightly macerated in the red wine
3 star anise
1 tsp espresso powder
1 cup brown sugar
4 fresh rosemary stems
4 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions for the Rub

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, fennel seeds and garlic to a mortar and pestle and grind. Rub the beef with the spice mixture and cut into big chunks.
  2. In a large, heavy roasting pan, or a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat add olive oil, then add beef and sear until brown crust forms on all pieces. Remove and set aside. Add vegetables and brown the vegetables.

Directions for the Brisket

  1. Put beef back into pan with the vegetables and add the vinegar, wine, stock, prunes, anise, espresso powder, brown sugar and herbs. Cover tightly with lid and cook for 3 ½ hours, or until beef is fork tender.
  2. Remove beef from pan, reserving the cooking liquid and shred beef with two forks. Put shredded beef back in the pan and mix with cooking liquid, reducing liquid if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Make a celeriac and fennel rémoulade with sour cream, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Use to top your beef when placed on individual small butter bun rolls. Serve.

Wishing Your Dad Happy Father’s Day!

61216IMG_0095Father’s Day is an important day for many families around the country. Check out some of these ideas for celebrating Father’s Day in 2016.

Wineries Celebrate Father’s Day!

Many wineries offer special events at their wineries. Check out the wineries in your backyard or where ever your Dad lives to see what they are offering. Below are three ideas that your father might enjoy.

Vint Hill Craft Winery, Virginia
Event: Port & Cigars in the Wineyard
Date: June 19
Website Info

Plus a Vint Hill Craft wine special!
Daddy-O Goody Bag $59.99
1 bottle Coco (a Port-style dessert wine)
1 bottle 2013 Petit Verdot
2 Vint Hill Craft Winery glasses
1 cigar from humidor

Grand River Cellars, Madison, Ohio
Event: Father’s Day (entrée and dessert specials)
Website Info

Youngberg Hill, Oregon
Event: Father’s Day Lunch & Wine Tasting
Website Info

If your nearby wineries do not have a special event for Father’s Day and your father enjoys wine, then perhaps he would enjoy visiting a winery and tasting wine with you.

More Father’s Day Ideas

Another idea is to pack a picnic lunch and take your dad our for a picnic or perhaps a picnic in your backyard.

Other ideas for Father’s Day include: buying a particular wine your father enjoys, giving your dad a set of nice stemware or perhaps he would like a decanter. This weekend while visiting Narcisi Winery in Pennsylvania we browsed the wine shop and saw wine bottle holders in various shapes, sure to please some fathers. The shapes included: vintage cars, fish and dogs.

Tim Tam Slams

Another fun idea is to enjoy Tim Tam slams with your father. Apparently the idea comes from Australia. We learned about Tim Tam slams while visiting a New Jersey winery. Check Target stores in the cookie section for Tim Tams. To make Tim Tam slams purchase a bottle of Port or port-style wine and a package of chocolate covered wafers. We prefer using the Tim Tam labeled original. For a tasty and fun treat, follow the directions below for Tim Tam Slams.

1. Cut or bite off two diagonal corners of the Tim Tam.
2. Pour the Port into a shallow dish.
3. Place the Tim Tam in the Port and use as a straw sucking up the Port. As soon as the Port reaches your mouth remove the Tim Tam from the Port.
4. Immediately eat the Port filled Tim Tam.

There is still time to figure out the special way to celebrate Father’s Day this year, but just don’t wait too long.


A Delicious Complex Wine: Ciban’s Pinot Crni

A Croatian wine from Ciban

A Croatian Wine from Ciban

A few years ago we visited a small, quaint winery located about half an hour outside of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Ciban offers lodging and has a boutique winery with onsite vineyards. The views of the vineyards, the rustic country-feel, the food and the friendliness of our hosts were incredible.

Earlier this week we opened a bottle of Ciban’s wine for dinner. The wine was paired with grilled salmon.

San Paolo Rose

This wine was produced with Pinot Crni which is also known as Pinot Noir. The 12.9% alcohol rosé wine was an orange color with a red hue. The wine was very aromatic with notes of red berries including strawberries and raspberries. The mouthfeel was smooth. The taste was of red berry fruit. The wine offered a crisp finish with hints of earthiness.

The front label is an artist’s rendition of fall’s colorful grape leaves,a ripe purple bunch of grapes and an image of the Ciban lodging and winery site.

Translated, the back label reads, “Proizvedeno iz sorte Pinot crni.Vino osebujna okusa i mirisa, a nadasve o?aravaju?e boje. Vino za zaljubljene i one koji ?e to tek postati. Razgaljuje dušu i slama srca.”

A rough translations is, “Made from Pinot crane. The wine has a distinctive taste and smell, and above all fascinating color. Wine lovers and those who are yet to become, fills the soul and breaking hearts.”

After visiting Ciban we wrote about the visit including details of the lodging and winery. It also includes the folklore associated with the 1800’s building that has now been renovated. To find out the details, read the Wine Trail Traveler online article.

If you plan to visit Croatia, contact Ciban for information about their friendly and welcoming lodging availability.


Monkey Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc

Yesterday we visited one of the Union Jack restaurants in Maryland. We met with a group of Howard County residents to have a relaxing conversation during the very late afternoon. Conversations covered many topics including references to a recently started book club that had just met earlier to discuss Wallace Stegners’s Crossing to Safety. Information was shared about wine, gardening (including Aerogardens) and shopping online.

While we talked we ordered beverages and different foods. Many people ordered the delicious looking pizzas, gourmet soft pretzels or taco chips. Beverages included cocktails and wines.

Terry and I ordered the Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was a light yellow color. The wine was light, fruity and refreshing. The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc at Union Jack was $8 per glass.

Since I enjoyed the wine I decided to check it out online and discovered that Total Wine has the wine available for $6.97 for a 750ml bottle and $14.99 for 1.5L

In addition to Sauvignon Blanc Monkey Bay winery produces: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rosé and Merlot. Check out the Monkey Bay website where you will discover the legend of Monkey Bay.



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