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Mr. Putin’s Stash

At the IWINETC (International Wine Tourism Conference) this past spring in the country Georgia, one of the sessions was on Moldova wineries. The presentation was delightful and we inquired about visiting this small Southeastern European country located between Ukraine and Romania. While we have not been able to visit, we have the next best thing coming up later today – a Moldovan wine tasting in Washington DC.

In preparations for this special wine tasting, I researched additional information about the Moldova wine industry. I was surprised to learn that at one of Moldova’s wine caves, statesmen (politicians) who visit are allowed to store their wine.  According to the article “The tunnels that house Goering’s wine collection” by Stephen Sackur on BBC, “Mr Putin has his own cave in the Cricova tunnels. Every statesman who visits the winery is accorded the honour of a personal collection, but Mr Putin’s stash is noticeably bigger.”

According to the Cricova website, “… the Cellars are the summit place for everybody “who is who” in the world, from the first astronaut Yuri Gagarin to Jacques Chirac, from Vladimir Putin to Suleyman Demirel…. “

Today largely due to politics much of Moldova’s wine exports to Russia have ceased making an already poor country even poorer. The wine producers of Moldova are hoping to export more wine to other countries including the United States.

Everyone who enjoys wine may want to support the country of Moldova by asking for a wine from Moldova when visiting his or her favorite wine shop or restaurant.

Later this week we will be writing reviews of the Moldovan wines we taste today.


North Gate Vineyard Supports Numerous Causes Including Greyhound Rescue

North Gate Vineyard in Northern Virginia

North Gate Vineyard in Northern Virginia

Earlier this week we visited North Gate Vineyard in Purcellville, Virginia. North Gate is one of only two Virginia wineries with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. North Gate Vineyards is one of the many must- visit wineries in Virginia.

The winery is located in the Middleburg American Viticulture Area (AVA.) The emphasis for the owners, Mark and Vicki Fedor, is on producing quality wines, using green initiatives and helping philanthropic groups. Mark and Vicki support numerous groups including: music groups, health associations, animal organizations and many more. During our visit to North Gate Vineyard, we discovered that a portion of every bottle of NV Apple Wine is donated to the Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption (BRGA.) The owners are particularly fond of greyhounds and showed us a lovely painting featuring these special dogs.

The idea for North Gate Vineyard was to plant a vineyard and sell the grapes. Eventually Mark and Vicki decided to see if they could make wine at home. Using apples from their own property, they made an apple wine and declared it a good wine. Eventually they extended winemaking to wine grapes and today have created some delicious traditional wines.

They are also producing a NV Apple Wine that is similar to their first apple wine although it is now made with local apple varieties.

Check out the North Gate Vineyard website for more detailed information. An article with photos will be posted later this week on the Wine Trail Traveler website under winery reviews.

Cheers! Kathy

Our Daughter Erin Stars in Vodka Commercial

Our daughter’s Erin’s interest in wine began in ernest while she spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence during college. Upon returning home she taught us much of what she learned in a wine course she took while in France. Later she worked in New York City doing tasting. Occasionally her tastings included beverages other than wine. I recall one of her stories about taking a seminar on vodka. The attendees were tasting vodkas and Erin’s concern was whether to swallow or spit. She learned to spit!

Now Erin enjoys working as a mixologist in New York City. We also heard the term liquid chef. Erin is not afraid to experiment and she likes creating cocktails. She created one for Kathy and me on our 40th anniversary. Earlier this week, Erin sent us a link to a commercial she is featured in for Belvedere Vodka. This vodka is made in Poland using Dankowskie rye from the Mazovian plains. The company uses water from its proprietary wells. This is considered a luxury vodka.

Erin is certainly the star of the video. She mentions the bad reputation that vodka had and some of today’s trends. Check it out.


Two SLO Wines

My California Wine Appellation Specialist course continued this week with the content focusing on the appellations within San Luis Obispo County. For this class I opened a bottle of the 2009 Illuminatus that Kathy and I made with grapes we sourced from Paso Robles. Our first wine for this week was a Grenache from the Edna Valley AVA.

072514aQupé sources fruit from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley AVA of San Luis Obispo County. Qupé winemaker, Bob Lindquist along with Louisa Sawyer Lindquist planted the vineyard in 2005. In 2009 the vineyard and winery were certified biodynamic by Demeter. I tasted the 2011 Edna Valley Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache. The wine was a blend of mostly Grenache at 87% with 13% Syrah, from the same vineyard, added. The 13.5% alcohol wine costs $35 from the winery website.

This translucent red Grenache offered floral, cherries and spices on the aroma and taste. There was no sediment in the glass. The medium-bodied wine was dry. The wine had low tannins and medium acidity. I would give the wine a personal rating of 3.5 out of 5. The wine is a bit pricy for a Grenache,

072514bMy second wine was my 2009 Illuminatus a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles AVA. The 13.5% alcohol wine was crafted at Vint Hill Craft Winery in Vint Hill, Virginia. We sourced the grapes from Arciero Vineyard. The grapes were harvested and placed in refrigerated trucks, then shipped across the country. The wine is not for sale. You can view the wine’s sep page at.

The opaque dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon had aromas and flavors of blackberries, cassis, blueberries, black raspberries and a little cedar. This full-bodied wine was dry with medium-high acid and medium-high tannins. I would give the wine a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0. That rating may be a bit biased; however, my brother likes this wine and compares it to Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. My earlier review of a Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon had a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0.


National Hot Dog Month: Etiquette-Should you Have Wine with Your Hot Dog?

Yesterday I realized that this month is National Hot Dog Month. Who would have known, however; it does make a lot of sense, as July is a great month to barbecue. To verify that this is really the National Hot Dog Month, I visited the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) website.

For hot dog and sausage lovers, the NHDSC website offers an overwhelming amount of information. Visit the website to discover hot dog and sausage basics, culture, restaurants and resources.

Have you heard of hot dog etiquette? According to the hot dog website, there is an etiquette for hot dog and sausage eating. As I read through the list I was disappointed to read, “Don’t… Bring wine to a hot dog barbecue. Beer, soda, lemonade and iced tea are preferable.” This etiquette rule might go well with another piece of advice, “Use paper plates to serve hot dogs. Every day dishes are acceptable; china is a no-no.” Maybe it’s a case of no crystal stemware, no china, and no wine!

I have to admit something is not appealing about eating a hot dog while sipping a tasty wine but would you try it?


Steven Spurrier Blind Wine Tasting in SBC

Steven Spurrier led our tasting of 48 Santa Barbara County wines.

Steven Spurrier led our tasting of 48 Santa Barbara County wines.

We learned about renowned wine expert Steven Spurrier when we researched the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine competition. The competition involved wines from some of the most prestigious wine houses in Burgundy and Bordeaux matched against wines from California. Steven Spurrier was the British wine merchant and wine shop owner in Paris who organized the tasting. The Hollywood film Bottle Shock recounts the event and Spurrier’s role.

Last month, Kathy and I had the opportunity to taste 48 Santa Barbara County wines with five other people on the tasting panel including Steven Spurrier. An article I wrote yesterday recounts the event with the winning wines for each of the nine flights.


New York City Wine & Food Festival in October

The annual New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) will be here before we know it. This year the event is scheduled for October 16 -19, 2014. The net proceeds from this event goes to two charities, Food Bank for New York City and No Kid Hungry. Special events take place every day from Thursday thru Sunday.

Festival event categories include:

  • Intimate dinners
  • Walk-around tastings
  • Seminars
  • Hands-on Classes
  • Brunches
  • Late night parties
  • Grand tasting and demos
  • Family events

Check out the New York City Wine & Food Festival’s website. Individual tickets are available for each event. Anyone who plans to attend the festival may want to purchase tickets soon as some of the events are already sold out. Tickets are available online.

If you are concerned about hunger in society, you may want to consider attending one of the many events offered at the festival in NYC.


Nevada Law and Winery Development

Pahrump Valley Winery in Pahrump, Nevada

Pahrump Valley Winery in Pahrump, Nevada

On our first visit to Nevada, we wanted to add winery visits to our itinerary. For us it is hard to plan vacations without also adding winery visits. It’s almost but not quite an obsession to discover, visit and write about wineries. It’s also a lot of work with the planning, concentrating on the winery facts while visiting, and writing in the evenings or early morning.

So for our first visit to Las Vegas, we tried to locate local wineries and the closest winery was about an hour from Las Vegas in the town of Pahrump. After spending some time in Las Vegas, we found it very relaxing to drive through the dry landscape away from the lights and sounds of a big city. We discovered Pahrump Valley Winery that also has a wonderful upscale restaurant, Symphony’s, adjacent to it. We enjoyed the visit and a wonderful lunch.

On a return trip to Las Vegas, again there were no wineries to visit. Deciding to make a return visit to Pahrump Valley, we discovered a second winery had opened in Pahrump, Sanders Family Winery.

Why are there no wineries in or close to Las Vegas? One needs to look at Nevada’s law regarding wineries.

The Nevada law begins:

NRS597.240 Operation of winery authorized in smaller counties.

1. A winery located in a county whose population is 100,000 or less, if it is federally bonded, may:

(a) Import wine or juice from a bonded winery in another state, to be fermented into wine or, if already fermented, to be mixed with other wine or aged in a suitable cellar, or both.

Sell at retail or serve by the glass, on its premises and at one other location, wine produced, blended or aged by the winery. The amount of wine sold at a location other than on the premises of the winery may not exceed 50 percent of the total volume of the wine sold by the winery.

(c) Serve by the glass, on its premises, any alcoholic beverage.

It is the first sentence that stops people from starting a winery closer to Las Vegas. Located in Clark County, Las Vegas has approximately 375,000 residents and the county has about 2 million people. Washoe County has an estimated population of about 350,000 residents. Based on the above law, people in these two counties cannot establish a commercial winery on their property.

The Nevada Wine Coalition was formed to try to remedy this situation. According to the coalition website,  “Our mission is to build support for legislation to remove the population limitation (NRS 597.240) that restricts wine production in Washoe and Clark Counties so that we can open wineries that will create a thriving industry statewide to create jobs and grow our economy.”

On July 27 the Nevada Wine Coalition is holding a fundraiser in Reno, Nevada. The event will include food, wine, live music and an auction. Tickets are available online at http://nevadawinecoalition.com/youre-invited/ for $25. Tickets at the door will be $30.

Discovering the grapevines that will grow well in Clark County will take time, research and experimental plantings. However, vineyards and wineries provide a boost to the economy with more employment opportunities and more income (taxes) for the government. In addition vineyards tend to add to the preservation of the land.

If you were planning a visit to Las Vegas, would you include a visit to a winery?

Cheers! Kathy

Charity Run and Walk at Columbia Winery

Columbia Winery, Woodinville, WA

Columbia Winery, Woodinville, WA

On August 16, Columbia Winery in Woodinville just outside of Seattle is hosting a Charity Run & Walk  to support the Seattle Children’s Hospital. The organization notes on their website, “Of the 100,000 patients treated at Children’s each year, 65% need financial assistance.”

Participants can participate in the 10K run, 5K run/walk or the Kids Dash. The 10K run will have two water stations and the 5K run will have one water station. Medical care will also be available.

To register for the event go to http://www.runforchildrens.org/

Registration fees

  • Thru July 31: $30
  • August 1-14: $35
  • Race Day (August 16): $40

Participants in the Kids Dash do not need to register.


The Run for Childrens event needs volunteers for the event. Volunteers are needed for registration, parking, water and food station, guides and more. Visit the volunteer page to find out what they need and how to volunteer.

A few years ago we visited Columbia Winery in Woodinville. Check out our Wine Trail Traveler article with photos.

Cheers, Kathy

Wines from Monterey, California

My California Wine Appellation Specialist course continued this week with the content focusing on the appellations within Monterey and San Benito counties. One of the advantages of studying appellations is tasting wines from those particular areas. Prior to this class, I have not tasted a wine from either San Benito or Monterey counties.

071814aThe 2012 Muirwood Arroyo Seco AVA Chardonnay was fermented and aged sur lie in French and American oak barrels. The 13.8% alcohol wine had a price $12.99 at Total Wine in Laurel, Maryland. Muirwood is a private label wine brand owned and operated by Arroyo Seco Vineyards in San Martin, in Central Coast, California. These are limited production reserve wines grown and produced in Monterey. 

The medium yellow wine had no sediment in the glass or bottle. The aroma and taste reminded me of melon, citrus, hints of freshly baked bread and a caramel finish. Although the Arroyo Seco AVA is a cool terroir, this wine has a profile of a Chardonnay that benefited from longer hang time. The medium to full bodied wine was dry with medium acidity. There were no tannins. I would give this wine a 3.5/5 rating. It is screaming for risotto but will be paired with barbecued pizza with only fresh tomatoes, basil and grated Parmesan cheese toppings.

071814bThe 2012 Line Shack Petite Sirah, San Antonio Valley AVA was a 14.8% alcohol wine and cost $15.99 at Total Wine in Laurel, Maryland. The dark ruby wine had no sediment in the glass or bottle. It offered plums, black cherries, black raspberries and a hint of leather on the aroma and taste. The full-bodied wine was dry, but there was a perceived sweetness due to the fruit and alcohol. Acid was medium and the tannins were medium-high. I would give this wine a personal rating of 4 out of 5. It was the third Petite Sirah I have had from California for this course and the one I liked the best. It complimented last evenings dinner of barbecued hamburgers.

The San Francisco Wine School offers the California Wine Appellation Specialist course online and in San Francisco. The school just added The French Wine Scholar course that meets on Tuesdays in San Francisco from July 29th – October 14th, 2014.


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