Wine of the Week: Wine Deals For Restaurant Week

Posted on: Friday 8/10/2012 8:15pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Most of us can't wait to get out of Washington, D.C. in August. But if you're considering sticking around next week, there are two things that will work in your favor; less traffic and the annual summer Restaurant Week dine-a-thon.

From August 13th through the 19th, over 200 of the area's finest restaurants will offer three-course meals for set prices during the 18th biannual Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week. Participating restaurants will offer a three-course lunch for $20.12 (get it? 2012) and a three-course price-fixed dinner for just $35.12.

Further adding to the value-oriented experience, many of these restaurants will also offer up wine tasting specials that you can pair with lunch or dinner.

Click here for a complete list of restaurants taking part in the promotion.

Art and Soul, at 415 New Jersey Ave, Northwest is the brainchild of restaurateur Art Smith. Art grew up in a small southern town where he says, "... My cuisine is certainly a reflection of my upbringing."

But Smith has come a long way since his youth, cooking for some of the world's most famous celebrities, including a ten year stint as the personal chef for Oprah Winfrey. Art and Soul celebrates Art's southern roots with a modern spin.

Continuing with the southern theme, Vidalia restaurant, at 1990 M Street, Northwest, is planning of offering some of chef and owner Jeff Buben's classic dishes, such as shrimp and grits, on the week-long menu.

Sommelier Ed Jenks has put together a list of red and white wines that represent great quality and value, including an Argentinian Torrontes from Don Manuel Villafañe, as well as a selection of craft beers and artisanal cocktails made from small production American craft spirits.

All three of the local outposts of the Capital Grille steakhouse, in McLean, Chevy Chase and the District, are currently featuring their "Generous Pour" concept along with dry aged steaks and fresh seafood. The Generous Pour allows patrons to select any number of tastes from a pre-set list of nine premium wines for $25. During Restaurant Week, the steakhouse will also offer a three-wine tasting option for $9.

Owner Dean Gold of Dino's, at Connecticut Ave, Northwest, is extending Restaurant Week through September 6th. The free corkage policy featured Monday through Wednesday is suspended during Restaurant Week. But, Dean will be offering special wine pairings as well as 33 percent off of wines over $50 on Sunday and Monday.

And speaking of corkage policies, if you are celebrating a special occasion and have been patiently waiting to open an extraordinary bottle of wine, Restaurant Week might be the time to consider taking it out to dinner. But there are a few things you need to know before you tote your wine along with you.

Patrons should remember that corkage is a privilege, not a right. Policies vary widely from restaurant to restaurant and from state to state, so call ahead of time to let them know that you are planning on bringing in your own wine and confirm restaurant's corkage policy.

By the way, I recommend that you always offer a taste of the wine to both the sommelier and your server. A little kindness goes a long way and a sip of a unique wine just might help the server forget the bottle of wine your table didn't buy. Another tip, I always try to order at least one bottle of wine off of their wine list as a way of showing my appreciation.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

A case for Virginia wines

Posted on: Friday 7/27/2012 6:45pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Virginia's wine industry is getting a lot of attention these days. In just the past year, the former 776-acre Kluge Wine Estate was purchased by Donald Trump and the Virginia wine country was listed as one of the top ten wine destinations by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

But are the wines any good? Rest assured, many of them are delicious. Earlier in the year, I was asked to participate as a judge in the annual Virginia Governor's Cup wine competition. Over 400 wines were submitted to the competition. They ranged from traditional table wines to fruit-centric dessert wines and only wines made from 100 percent Virginia-grown fruit were allowed to participate in the competition.

After two days of swishing, sniffing, slurping and spitting, the results from the initial round were tabulated and sent off to the event organizers, who then whittled the list down for the final judging in Richmond.

Recently, the Virginia Wineries Association announced the winner of the 2012 Virginia's Governor's Cup and put together a "sample case" of the winning wines for wine journalists and critics to try.

I assembled a panel of amateur wine enthusiasts and asked them to evaluate the Governor's Cup case. The wines were evaluated based on appearance, aroma, taste and overall quality and scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). The identity of the wines was kept concealed until the end of the tasting.

Here are the top six results from my informal panel of judges (scores have been averaged):

  • 2009 Glen Manor Vineyards Hodder Hill Meritage, Front Royal, Va. Score 9.3 - This wine took first place in the 2012 Governor's Cup competition as well as in my amateur competition. It is a blend of traditional Bordeaux varietal wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Comments from the panel included, "long finish, really well-balanced," "impressive flavors of dark fruit and roasted coffee," and my personal favorite, "it's yummy." ($40)

  • 2008 King Family Vineyards Meritage Blend, Crozet, Va. Score 9.1 - According to the winery's website, grapes for the wine are "estate-grown merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot blended with locally sourced malbec." My panel liked the "earthiness" and "expressive nature" of the wine and flavors of "cherry compote" and "cocoa and coffee." I liked the structured finish. ($30)

  • 2009 Keswick Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Keswick, Va. Score 8.8 - This wine was my personal favorite. My favorite comment about this wine was "it tastes like it was made for steak." The firm tannins and dark fruit could certainly hold their own against any sirloin. ($40)

  • 2007 Delfosse Vineyards & Winery Meritage Blend, Faber, Va. Score 8.7 - Produced in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson's old stomping grounds, this wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc. The common consensus among the panel was "really smooth" and "easy to drink." ($40)

  • 2010 Veritas Vineyard & Winery Vintner's Reserve Meritage Blend, Afton, Va. Score 8.3 - The meritage (blends) were a bit hit with the panel. This particular one elicited remarks such as "spicy," "refined" and "fruit-driven." ($25)

  • 2010 White Hall Vineyards Gewürztraminer, Crozet, Va. Score 8.2 - I was really happy that a white wine made it into the top five and even more thrilled that it was a gewürztraminer. This almost bone-dry style stimulated the group and the palate. Comments included "orange blossom and rose water, all in one" and, my favorite, "lychee nuts dipped in honey." ($20)

Other wines included in the Virginia Governor's Cup Case included:

  • 2008 Trump Winery Kluge Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine Score 7.9
  • 2010 Bluestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Score 7.8
  • 2010 Keswick Vineyards Merlot Score 7.5
  • 2009 Potomac Point Winery Heritage Reserve Meritage Blend Score 7.5
  • 2010 Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc Score 7.3
  • 2010 Tarara Winery Honah Lee White Vinifera Blend Score 6.8

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Calistoga finally gets its AVA

Posted on: Saturday 7/21/2012 2:23pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

While many California wine lovers know that the town of Calistoga is located at the northern most edge of Napa Valley, most probably did not realize that until recently, wines produced in or near Calistoga could not reference the area on the label. That's because Calistoga and the surrounding area was not recognized as a separate American Viticultural Area (AVA). The wines were traditionally labeled as "Napa Valley."

An AVA is a specific geographic region that is demarcated by unique characteristics such as soil type, climate and physical landmarks such as rivers, lakes and valleys that clearly distinguish it from other surrounding areas. It can be large or small and can cross political and administrative borders, such as county and state lines.

However, a bottle labeled with a specific AVA must contain wine that was produced in the AVA from grapes - at least 85 percent - that were grown in the AVA. "Produced" means that the grapes must be crushed, fermented, and vinified into wine in the AVA.

Calistoga is known as an area that has large swings in daytime and nighttime temperatures and contains rich volcanic soils. This combination produces very structured wines with ripe fruit and high acidity. Now it is a place that Calistoga wineries can finally call their own.

Consulting winemaker August "Joe" Briggs knew that he could capitalize on his experience and contacts in Napa to produce exceptional wines, so in 1995 he and his wife Sally founded August Briggs Winery in Calistoga.

Today, winemaker Jesse Inman carries on the tradition of producing hand-crafted wines.

The 2010 August Briggs Zinfandel is a charming wine with balance finesse. The fragrant nose of blueberry liqueur, blackberry and cherry is a tantalizing precursor to the full, ripe flavors of spicy cherry, raspberry and red plum. The wine is kept in balance by loads of soft tannins and noticeable acidity. Characteristic notes of black pepper and dried sage slide in on the lengthy finish. $33

In 2002, Randy and Lisa Lynch where looking to crush some grapes that they were growing on their second-home property when they stumbled on a facility for sale. They ended up buying the winery and naming it Bennett Lane Winery. Today, the Lynch's own vineyards located throughout Napa Valley, but the 2008 Lynch Family Estate Cabernet is made exclusively from the best grapes grown on the 12 acre parcel surrounding the their home in Calistoga. The wine possesses intoxicating aromas of dark red fruit, violets and cocoa. Richly textured flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and blueberry jam jump out on the front of the tongue while subtle notes of black plum and vanilla fill in on the supple, incredibly lengthy finish. $95

Chateau Montelena is one of the most famous wineries in Calistoga. Jim Barrett, along with his son Bo, began making wines at Chateau Montelena in 1972 and quickly gained fame when their 1973 Chardonnay was voted the best white wine over other famous French wines at a tasting in Paris in 1976. Today, Bo heads up the winemaking team and continues to produce world-class wines. The 2008 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a big splurge, but the expansive flavors of cassis, dark plum and black cherry, and the powerful-yet-elegant finish is definitely worth the price. Lingering notes of dark chocolate and rich espresso complete the picture. $140

Other wineries in Calistoga that have plans to incorporate the Calistoga AVA on their label in the near future include:

  • Sterling Vineyards
  • Frank Family Vineyards
  • Von Strasser Winery

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Pinot gris or pinot grigio - two sides of the same coin

Posted on: Friday 7/13/2012 7:33pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Last week we talked about the allure and versatility of pinot blanc wines.

I received an interesting email from a reader asking me if pinot gris and pinot grigio were wines made from the same grape, and if either of them are related to pinot blanc.

A perfectly legitimate question.

As it turns out, pinot grigio and pinot gris are actually the same white wine grape, just with two different names. And while pinot gris/grigio is not technically related to pinot blanc, it is thought to be a mutation of the pinot noir grape just as pinot blanc is - so I guess they share a distant parent.

When pinot gris is fully ripened it makes a golden yellow to blush colored wine. It is very popular in Alsace, France where it is sought after for both its bright, clean flavors as well as the dessert wines made from late harvest grapes, called Vendange Tardive.

The confusion over the name is a result of where the grapes are grown. For example, in Italy and California, wines produced from the grape are called pinot grigio, however, in France, Canada and Oregon it's referred to as pinot gris. The main difference in the style is a result of the climates the grapes are grown in and how the wines are produced. In Italy, pinot grigio tends to be dry, with a citrus-centric core and a minerally finish. In France, the wines lean more towards stone fruits and white flowers. Both styles are found throughout the grape-growing world, so it's just a matter of finding the variety that appeals to your palate. Retail prices are approximate.

In 1870, Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino had a dream of starting a winery dedicated to making the best wines possible from Tuscan grapes. Today, the Folonari family runs the winery and their 2009 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio from Venezia, Italy steals the show with an aromatic nose of orange blossom, grapefruit and pineapple. Crisp notes of nectarine, peach and lemon/lime fill the mouth while bracing acidity keeps the finish fresh and lively. $10

For six centuries, the Albrecht family has been making wine in Alsace, so they know a thing or two about pinot gris. Their 2010 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus from Alsace is one of the most well-known white wines from that region. The intense bouquet explodes with scents of white flowers, juicy stone fruits and wet stone. This extraordinarily easy-drinking wine emphasizes flavors of nectarine, white peach and melon highlighted by abundant acidity. Citrus notes provide a tangy and refreshing finish. $18

Oregon was the first state in America to grow pinot gris and Adlesheim was one of the first wineries to make it a regular part of their portfolio. Their 2011 Adelsheim Pinot Gris is the 28th vintage they have produced in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The nose is full of ripe green apple, melon and honeysuckle aromas. The slightly creamy mouthfeel supports luscious flavors of green apple, pear and tropical fruit. The textured finish is long and crisp with hints of tangerine acidity on the back of the palate. $22

J Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, California is known for their refreshing sparkling wines, but their 2010 J Vineyards "Cooper Vineyard" Pinot Gris may just change that. Blessed with a fragrant bouquet of honeysuckle, lemon meringue pie and apricot on the nose and a succulent mouthfeel featuring flavors of tropical fruit, kiwi and honeydew melon, this wine is an elegant version from first sip to last impression. The hint of orange clove honey on the finish is particularly memorable. $26

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Versatile, charming Pinot Blanc

Posted on: Sunday 7/8/2012 8:32am

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Pinot Blanc originally hails from the Burgundy region of France, where it was commonly mistaken as chardonnay. Through modern DNA testing, it was discovered that pinot blanc is actually distantly related to pinot noir.

Today, pinot blanc is very popular in the Alsace region of France where it tends to be more aromatic and floral. However, it has also found a home in Austria, Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe and the United States, predominately in California and Oregon.

Pinot blanc is a remarkably versatile grape that can produce wines with different personas depending on region and winemaking techniques employed. They range from dry and refreshing to almost dessert-like.

Regardless of the country of origin, one common theme is their extraordinary fragrant bouquet and bright acidity, making them one of the most food-friendly white wines around, particularly when paired with seafood, pork and mild cheeses.

Jean Trimbach is from one of the most knowledgeable wine families in the Alsace region of France. He should be, considering that he is the 13th generation of the Trimbach family in the business. With that wealth of generational history, it is no wonder that the 2010 Trimbach Pinot Blanc from Alsace is one of the best values in France. It displays a wonderful bouquet of green melon and orange citrus blossom. Flavors of pear and crisp apple attacked the front of the palate while creamy flavors of apricot, citrus and peach combine with a touch of mineral to provide a long, memorable finish. $16

Oregon's Willamette Valley is famous for their fruit-driven pinot noir wines, but the 2011 Bethel Heights Pinot Blanc is an excellent example of how brightly pinot blanc can shine in this region. It is a lighter styled version that features a fragrant bouquet of citrus, apple blossom and Asian pear scents. Flavors of green melon, pear and apricot shine through on the core of the palate while notes of smokey undercurrents combined with nice acidity that leaves a lasting impression on the finish. $18

The wine that inspired this column is the 2009 Weinbach Pinot Blanc Reserve from the Alsace region of France. What I really like about this wine is the aromatic nose of fresh melon and ripe stone fruit and the remarkable balance between the refreshing acidity and the luscious flavors of apple, pear and apricot fruit. Tangy minerality on the long, mouth-watering finish keeps the tongue invigorated. $22

The central coast of California has been a hotbed for pinot blanc for several decades. One of the oldest wineries in California to plant pinot blanc is Chalone Vineyards, who began planting the varietal in 1946. Today, the 2009 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Blanc from Monterey County, California is made with newer rootstock but the same dedication, showing off pure flavors of orange blossom, white peach, pineapple and Kadota fig on the front of the palate. Notes of vanilla are enhanced by crisp acidity on the complex finish. $26

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Sparkling wines make perfect Fourth of July beverages

Posted on: Friday 6/29/2012 9:53pm

Scott Greenberg, Wine Columnist for the Washington Examiner

American Sparklers for the 4th of July

Posted on: Friday 6/29/2012 6:36pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

I was recently part of a three-person panel of judges at the 32nd San Francisco wine competition. Since there are 16 panels, you never know what your group will be asked to evaluate. Fortunately, our panel was blessed to begin the second day of judging with an assortment of Brut Rose sparkling wines.

After working our way through the first dozen entries, I commented that there were definitely some "keepers" in that flight. I then made the mistake of wondering out loud if there were any really good domestic sparkling wines.

I literally regretted making the comment before the words had left my mouth. Of course, I know that the good ol' U-S-of-A produces some of the best sparkling wines around, but it was too late and my fellow judges pounced on my faux pas faster than I could retract my statement.

So, I thought with the Fourth of July just around the corner, what better way to make amends for my foolish statement and celebrate the founding of our country than with a few all-American sparklers.

The Non-Vintage Chandon Brut Classic from California is all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Sporting a festive red, white and blue bottle, this sparkler is made in the traditional method, or méthode champenoise as its famous Champagne parent, Moet & Chandon, refers to it. The wine is blended with 10 to 20 percent reserve wines from prior harvests in order to produce a consistent "house" style that exhibits aromas of brioche and nectarine and flavors of apple and pear that leads to a soft, dry finish. $17

While Cristal may be the most well-known wine in the Louis Roederer portfolio in France, the Non-vintage Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley in Sonoma, Calif. is definitely getting a lot of attention here at home. It is made from chardonnay and pinot noir, with small amounts of previously vinified reserve wines blended in for consistency. The nose is full of pear (chardonnay) and red apple scents (pinot noir). Flavors of ripe green apples and nectarines mingle with nuances of pineapple, toasted hazelnuts, and honeysuckle. The finish is long and elegant with hints of ripe pear and vanilla notes. $20

The legendary Champagne house of G.H. Mumm has been making sparkling wine in Napa Valley for over two decades using the same méthode champenoise as their French counterpart. Their Non-vintage Mumm Napa Valley Sparkling Wine Cuvee M was a Double Gold winner at the 2009 San Francisco International Wine Competition and it's easy to see why. Starting with the elegant bouquet of white peach and baked bread on the nose and heading in to the flavors of pear, nectarine and peach on the palate, the wine sparkles and shines. Bright acidity holds up the telltale hints of brioche and vanilla on the crisp finish. $20

I know that I have praised the virtues of the Non-vintage Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Sparkling Wine from Charlottesville before in this column but it is definitely worth mentioning again. Made by French expats Claude Thibaut and Manuel Janisson, this delicious sparkler is produced exclusively from chardonnay grapes. The wonderfully yeasty nose boasts scents of Gala apple and ripe pear while the tiny, fine bubbles deliver waves of delicious apples, peach and brioche highlights. The finish is balanced, crisp and refreshing. $26

Many people consider Jack and Jamie Davies the founders of the high-end American sparkling wine movement. In 1965, after painstakingly restoring the historic Napa Valley Schramsberg winery in St. Helena, they introduced their Blanc de Blanc sparkler. Today, the Schramberg portfolio includes a variety of sparkling wines, but my favorite is the Non-vintage Schramsberg Brut Rosé. Made from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, it displays gorgeous flavors of strawberry and bright cherries on the front of the palate and notes of mango and papaya on the back end, adding delicious depth to the lovely, long finish. $38

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Summer sippers: She said, he said

Posted on: Sunday 6/24/2012 1:27pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

According to the sun's position, the summer season officially began at 7:09 p.m., June 20 when the summer solstice sun reached the furthest distance north of the equator, providing the longest daylight hours of the year. This can only mean one thing: More sunshine to chill out with the right summer wine.

But which wine to tame the high temperatures with is a constant source of heat in our household.

She likes white wines that are crisp and dry, he prefers wines that are off-dry and refreshing. Since both styles definitely have a place in the wine bucket and on the palate, so I will each share both of our favorite picks so you can decide which wine style will help you keep your cool this summer.

She said: 'Crisp and Dry'

I can't think of any better way to beat the heat than with a glass of well-chilled dry white wine. White wines that have higher acidity act like a natural fire extinguisher for the tongue, refreshing the palate with every pass and leaving the impression of crispness on the finish. Here are a few that I reach for when the heat is on.

Torrontés is one of my favorite summertime heat busters. Traditionally grown in Argentina, it is usually produced in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh fruit flavors. The 2011 Andeluna Torrontés from the Mendoza region of Argentina is produced in collaboration with world-renowned winemaking consultant Michel Rolland. It has lovely aromas of acacia flowers, jasmine, peach and grapefruit. Abundant acidity keeps the bright flavors of tropical fruits, nectarine and citrus fresh and the finish crisp. $10

I also like the 2010 Neal Family Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley, Calif. Produced exclusively from organically framed grapes, this wine is a beautiful example of warmer climate style. The fragrant bouquet of papaya and kiwi paves the way for the lovely tropical fruit and pineapple flavors that glide across the tongue. Pitch-perfect acidity refreshes the palate with each sip. $18

He said: 'Off-Dry'

I want my off-dry wines to be refreshing but not cloyingly sweet. The secret is balance. When there is balance between the fruit, the residual sugar and abundant acidity, few wines shine as brightly on the tongue as these wines do when it comes to beating the steamy temperature of summer or the heat of spicy fare.

Semi-sweet sparkling wines are one of the best kept secrets when it comes to taming summer's heat. I'm sure that the 2010 Fratelli Moscato d'Asti Moscato d'Asti, Italy DOGC won't be a secret for long. Fragrant aromas of acacia and white peaches explode on the nose and in the mouth, where notes of apricot nectar and nectarine join the fun. The pop of acidity and the bright bubbles keeps the palate refreshed. $17

I am usually not one for gimmicky wines, so I approached the 2011 Kung Fu Girl Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington State with a healthy degree of skepticism. I was knocked out by the juicy apple core and bright citrus flavors. The balancing act between sweetness and acidity is perfect, giving the finish a delicious highlight of lemon zest and ripe nectarine. $14

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Father's Day wine recommendations

Posted on: Friday 6/15/2012 6:24pm

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

"Live from San Francisco, It's Wine of the Week!"

I am in San Francisco for the fourth year to judge the three-day long San Francisco International Wine Competition.

This year, there are over 4,500 entries, but fortunately, I am only responsible for about 450 of them. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

So in between sips and spits, I thought I'd call in and provide a few recommendations for Father's Day.

If all dad wants to do this Father's Day is hang out in a hammock, then bring him an ice bucket with a bottle of 2011 Chateau de Segries Tavel Rosé from the Rhone Valley, France in it. Made from a blend of grenache, cinsault, mourvedre and a touch of syrah, this dry rosé features strawberry, cherry and watermelon on the nose and on the palate. A hint of orange peel on the pretty finish gives it a little lift on the end and keeps you coming back for another sip. $16

If dad needs to chill out, try the 2010 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc from the Dry Creek region of Sonoma, California. This wine is a perennial favorite around our house. We love the scents of green melon, citrus and passion fruit. The crisp, clean flavors of grapefruit, melon and nectarines stay bright on the palate and the lemony hints on the back end make this a perfect pairing with fresh shellfish. $17

I am in the land of fresh seafood, so grilled salmon is on the menu for my Father's Day dinner. I plan on pairing it with the 2009 Forrest Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. This Down Under beauty is bursting with flavors of plum and red cherry up front and loads of wild strawberry and red raspberry on the beautifully balanced finish. The wine has remarkable structure, so it will cut through the richness of the salmon but still feel delicate in the mouth and on the charming finish. $25

A big, fat juicy steak is always a sure-fire way to reward dad on his special day, especially if you pair it with the 2009 Paraduxx Napa Valley Red Wine, Napa Valley, California. The blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc make this wine sing. The palate, driven by red plums, cherries and boysenberry, is medium-bodied and balanced by the sweet tannins. Notes of spice, roasted coffee and dark chocolate carry the lush finish. $50

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

White wine tour of Italy

Posted on: Saturday 6/9/2012 10:18am

Scott Greenberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Last week, I talked about touring Italy with red wines, which is great, but Italy, the second-largest wine producing country in the world also makes world class white wines.

When most people think of Italian white wines, they think of Soave and Pinot Grigio - which is fine, but there is so much more to explore in Italy.

The grapes used to make Italian white wines are numerous and include both native and non-native varietals, including Arneis, Cortese, Moscato, Chardonnay, Picolit, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo, Muller-Thurgau, Nosiola, Traminer, Garganega, Trebbiano, Vespaiola, Malvasia, and Vernaccia.

While it may seem like a challenge to keep them all straight, the broad assortment of white wines gives consumers the luxury of selecting wines that pair with a plethora of cuisines and taste preferences.

Abutting the Swiss border at the northern edge of Italy is the region of Trentino where Torre di Luna excels in producing value-oriented wines. The cooler daytime temperatures provide an ideal climate for the 2011 Torre di Luna Sauvignon Blanc Delle Venezie IGT. The straw colored wine has an intensely aromatic bouquet filled with aromas of tropical fruit and citrus blossoms. The bright acidity accents the grapefruit and lemon/lime flavors and gives the wine a refreshing boost. The medium-bodied finish is crisp and light and just cries out for a plate of seafood risotto. $10

Also located in Trentino is the Istituto Agrario San Michele, where the vineyards are dedicated to the education, experimentation and preservation of native varietals. The winery of San Michele is located as an extension of the research facility and focuses on the modern production of wines from indigenous grapes, like the 2011 San Michele Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC. The nose has distinctive scents of peach and nectarine fruits and wet stone. The fruity-yet-dry mouthfeel supports notes of peach nectar, pear and citrus flavors. The bright finish displays a nice mineral undertone that allows this wine to stand on its own or enjoyed with roasted chicken. $16

Immediately to the south of Trentino is the Veneto region, home to the Bisol family, where over 21 generations have been involved with the historic winery located in the ODGC area of San Stefano di Valdobbiadene. From their 300-plus acres of vineyard comes the stunning white sparkling 2010 Brisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOGC. The blend of glera, pinot bianco, and verdiso come from a single vineyard where the sub-soil is composed of marine sandstone, known as "crede." The terrain acts as a reservoir for the vines, pulling water away and giving it back as the fruit needs it. The elegant nose offers up honeysuckle and bright apple while the medium-sized bubbles carry flavors of apple, pear and baked bread over the entire palate. Perfect for making Bellinis (the famous sparkling cocktail with pureed peaches) or paired with sushi. $18

In the northwest corner of Italy is the famous wine region of Piemonte, best known as the home of the red grape nebbiolo. But this is also where the Broglia family estate of La Meirana makes the delicious 2011 Broglia La Meirana Gavi di Gavi DOGC from 100 percent Cortese di Gavi grapes from a single vineyard. The wonderfully aromatic nose is filled with scents of wildflowers and ripe peaches. In the mouth, the wine feels richly textured as layers of ripe peaches, apricots and nectarines vie for attention on the tongue. The bold structure and substantial acidity make this wine a candidate for aging a few years, but if you must drink it today, try it with grilled Branzino. $17

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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