Thursday, April 24, 2008

When Good Wine Goes Bad

Rather than going to the Wine 101 class I decided to go to Ingleside Vineyards with one of my friends. I didn't want to drive all the way to Richmond again since I had just been there a few days before, and my friend Rachael needed to trade in a bottle of wine that didn't taste right. Of course, silly me, I seemed to have lost my tasting notes. So instead of writing about my visit (I plan on going back, of course!) I thought it would be interesting to do a little research about wine going bad.

I mean, how do you know if a wine doesn't taste right if you've never had it before? Maybe you ate or drank something before trying it and that's why it tastes funny. Maybe it's been stored for too long. Maybe it's just bad wine. How do you know?

I mean, we’ve all come home late one night in hopes of one glass of wine before going to bed, only to realize that the open bottle is pretty close to becoming vinegar. Sometimes you go for it and hope for the best, other times your eyes grow misty as you pour the wine down the drain, kicking yourself for not remembering to put in the wine saver (oh, the hours we could have spent together my sweet shiraz!). This is an instance where there’s no mistaken that the wine has turned.

The other night I had just gotten off work and went over to my friend's house for a little girls’ night. We had been sipping on a semi-sweet white when it started to look like we would need another bottle opened pretty soon. Rachael opened her bottle of Rosato di Sangiovese from Ingleside. When she opened it she thought the cork had a musty smell to it, so we both tried it and thought it tasted a bit moldy. Now I couldn't remember if I had tried this wine before, but I've never had anything from Ingleside that I didn't enjoy. We thought maybe something was wrong with the cork, but we couldn't tell. This, of course, is what spurred our trip out to Ingleside (that and the opportunity to spend an afternoon tasting wine).

After the tasting, we asked one of the employees if they would mind checking the wine for us. This being a day or two after we tried it, the smell wasn't quite so strong and the taste had gone from being moldy to reminding me of damp wood... still not something I would drink but less acrid. The employees did a side by side comparison and sure enough we were right. Rachael was given another bottle and every body was happy.

They mentioned something about the wine being "corked." I did a search to see what the actual term meant and came across a website that explained all sorts of issues you can have with wine you’ve purchased. Basically corked wine is caused by a bacteria in the cork that only affects the bottle and is harmless if you drink the wine, you may just have to let it breathe a bit to let out the mustiness. So we could have kept the wine to drink, but of course it would not have been as enjoyable as a fresh bottle would be.

So next time you’re trying a new wine and it doesn’t taste quite right, check this website out: It just might be a problem with the bottle.

-Wine Chic

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Birthday Celebration at a Wine Festival

Over the weekend we celebrated my best friend’s birthday by going to James River Cellars for their April Fools Wine Festival. There were three other vineyards there and we were excited for a Sunday of wining and dining. Unfortunately it was sprinkling and chilly most of the day, but as I may have mentioned before about this vineyard they do have an indoor area so we had a chance to warm up between tastings.

We started off with Grayhaven Winery because I heard they had white Sangria and I was eager to try it. If you’ve never been to a wine festival before, generally the visiting vineyards only bring a selection of their wines, such as the best sellers, award winners and employee favorites. Grayhaven brought two of their whites, five of their reds and a batch of each of their sangrias. The tasting tour began with their Vidal Blanc, which, for a white wine, it had the full body and aftertaste of a red. Next up was Moonlight White, which I enjoyed at the tasting because when you let it sit in your mouth for a second to warm it developed a creamy cherry/vanilla flavor. However, I bought a bottle for later and didn’t chill long enough so I didn’t enjoy it as much.

All but one of the reds they brought were pretty dry, the one not too dry being their Pinotage. However, I found the Pinotage to be pretty jammy and the high alcohol content was overwhelming the flavor. I did enjoy their Cabernet Franc, where as I am not normally a Cab fan. It was only slightly dry and had very nice cherry notes. This vineyard also makes a dry Chambourcin they call Rendezvous (see previous blog for info on James River’s Chambourcin), which had hints of mint leaves in its bouquet and a wonderful earthy flavor. I bought a bottle of this one too for further research but haven’t tried it since.

Finally we finished the tour with their Sangria. The White Sangria was cidery with a strong nectarine flavor. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it not been so cold out. Their Red Sangria was tasty, but a little heavier in the spices than I would season it myself. They used pear juice, which was something I haven’t thought about but definitely need to consider next time I make my own.

After a short break I moved on to Cooper. Unfortunately their abbreviated selection didn’t have much I was excited about except for one new addition since the last time I’d seen them: Noche. It’s a chocolate dessert wine! At first I was skeptical, but in one sip I was in love. I could see pouring it over a cake or drinking it with fresh berries. I picked up a bottle of this for my mother so we could enjoy it after Mother’s Day dinner.

Last I moved on to Lake Anna Winery, which really isn’t my favorite winery in Virginia. However, I wanted to see what was new so I could see if my mind could be changed about them. Unfortunately the guy running the table at this time didn’t seem very interested in being there and I basically stood there for a minute or two talking to one of the other tasters who was taking her tour without him even acknowledging me. I asked him a couple questions, hoping this would spur him to begin a tasting tour, but after a couple yes/ no answers I finally asked to taste two reds from their list that I thought sounded good. One was the Spotsylvania Claret, the other the Enigme. They were neither horrible nor memorable and after yet another bad experience with this vineyard I do not foresee myself giving them yet another chance.

There are many other delights at wine festivals to keep you busy if you’ve sampled a little more than you should and need to cleanse your palette. One particularly delightful booth I stumbled upon (not literally… I had to drive the birthday girl later on) was one that sold apple cider, apple spreads, and apple vinegar. Everything I tried was absolutely fantastic and the woman working was very nice and answered all of my questions. I wound up purchasing a couple bottles of the cider for my brother (a sparkling beverage fanatic) and a jar of their Apple Grilling Glaze, a zesty yet sweet sauce that I plan on grilling chicken or pork with as it warms up outside. Their website is great as well because it gives suggestions for using their items as well as a few recipes. The website is

There was also De Rochonnet Delights, a chocolatier that made wine truffles among other gourmet goodies. I visited their website, and normally the truffle center is blended with a cabernet, but the girl at the booth said they used James River Cellars’ Chambourcin for the wine festival. Naturally I bought a few for later, considering it was my best friend’s birthday after all.

I really could go on and on about this festival, but I don’t want to bore. All in all it was a fun day that ended with quite a few empty bottles that we had purchased at the festival and full bellies from snacking… sorry, “pairing,” and grilling up burgers later on that evening.

Next week I’m going to a Wine 101 course, so I plan on passing my knowledge on to you.

-Wine Chic