Alcohol Free Wine?!?

Isn’t that grape juice you may ask? Actually, it’s wine with the alcohol removed. And for many who can’t drink alcohol, this is a viable alternative. My Dad is one of those people due to heart issues. So this Christmas, we set out to discover Alcohol Free wine.

I was pleasantly surprised by the vast selection at my local Total Wine & More where I picked up 8 bottles from three different brands.

  • Fre Wines from Sutter Home Winery: 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Merlot, 2011 Premium Red Blend, Brut Sparkling
  • ARIEL Vineyards from J. Lohr Vineyards: 2011 Chardonnay, Blanc
  • St. Regis Wine: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by their likeness to wine with alcohol. That must be credited to the way they are made…like regular wine then the alcohol is removed (more on that below). Here were our favorites…

White Wine

ARIEL Vineyards Chardonnay 2011

  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Aroma: Pear, vanilla, oaky/musky
  • Taste: Tropical fruit, pear, toasty
  • Price: $7.99
  • My thoughts: The white wines were interesting but this one rose to the top. It truly was the most Chardonnay-like with the true characteristics of the variety. It was my Dad’s favorite and one he wanted to get more of for regular drinking at home.

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, in California’s Central Coast, has owned and operated ARIEL Vineyards since 1985. ARIEL wines are made with grapes varieties grown in California and fermented as normal wines are. Then 99.5% of the alcohol is removed through their cold filtration process using reverse osmosis. It allows alcohol removal while retaining the qualities found in traditional wine.

Sparkling Wine

Fre Brut Sparkling 2011

  • Variety: Unknown
  • Aroma: Pear and apple
  • Taste: Crisp apple
  • Price: $7.49
  • My thoughts: This was the BEST of all the wines! You would have NO idea this was alcohol removed and doesn’t taste like a sparkling grape juice! It is a lovely sparkling wine alternative.

Sutter Home Winery produces Fre Alcohol-Removed Wines. After harvest, the winemakers craft the wine using traditional methods. Once the desired wine is achieved, they use the “state-of-the-art” spinning cone technology to remove the alcohol. Pioneered in Australia, the process uses a combination of centrifugal force and nitrogen gas to separate the alcohol and preserve the wine’s aromas and flavor creating a wine with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.

Red Wine

Fre Merlot 2011

    • Variety: Merlot
    • Aroma: Cherry and plum
    • Taste: Berry, cotton candy, plum with a touch of spice
    • Price: $6.99
    • My thoughts: This was definitely the best red wine with lots of depth, layers and characteristics, even more so than your typical Merlot actually.

Same alcohol removal process as above.

It was a great experiment and fun to try all the different wines. I’m very happy my Dad can join our wine toasts with something enjoyable in this glass!

Have you tried any you enjoyed?

Cheers to alcohol-free wine alternatives!

DC Wine Week: Explore the DC Area Wine Scene

Today marks the kick-off of the 2nd annual DC Wine Week…a week long celebration dedicated to enjoying wine, wine education and an opportunity to help support the DC area’s growing local wineries, wine shops, wine bars, restaurants and merchants.

There are hosted events each night this week, as well as paired menus and special offers from participating bars and restaurants. Learn more about the local wine culture and offerings…including Virginia’s 27 wine trails and 210 wineries, and Maryland’s 45 wineries.

Friday night’s event at the Washington Wine Academy is the perfect event for exploration. Food & Wine Magazine voted the Academy one of the top five places to study wine. Celebrating DC Wine Week and Virginia Wine Month, they’ll be pouring from some of Virginia’s best wineries, including twelve wines from Virginia’s Governor’s Case from 6:30-8:30pm.

At Saturday night’s Opening Party at Sonoma Restaurant and Bar, the wine was flowing. My favorite wine of the night…

Boxwood Winery’s Trellis 2010

  • Variety: 68% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec
  • Aroma: Cherry and spice
  • Taste: Cherry, clove and touch of white pepper on the finish
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: This just released wine is a great red blend and example of the fabulous wine you can find in Virginia at a good price point! Enjoy a glass at one of their Tasting Room Wine Bars in the area or you can order it online.

It’s a great week for drinking local during DC Wine Week!

Wine + Chocolate = ♥

Impress your friend or love this Valentine’s Day, or any day really, with a fun and delicious wine and chocolate tasting experience. Lindt, the Swiss chocolatier, has done all the work to help you pick the chocolate and type of wine to pair with it.

Take a step into Lindt’s kitchen to get started. Click on ‘the chocolate and wine’ for details on doing the chocolate tasting with your five senses then pairing the wines. Lindt suggests, “The pairing should begin with the chocolate tasting.  First, take a moment to appreciate the intense aromas of the chocolate.  Next, take a small bite. While the chocolate is slowly melting in your mouth, savor its different notes and flavors. As you are tasting the final lingering notes, slowly sip the wine.  The key to finding the ideal combination between a chocolate and a wine is when the taste notes harmonize, and neither the chocolate nor the wine dominates the senses.”

For our wine and chocolate pairing last night we had…

  • Merlot (2009 J. Lohr Estates Los Osos) + Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa: The pairing brings out the cherry and chocolate flavors in the wine, and the fruit and vanilla flavors in the chocolate.
  • Zinfandel (2007 Cellar No. 8 ) + Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa: This pairing brings out the raspberry and pepper of the wine and the chocolate’s herbal and red berry notes. The chocolate adds a nice smoothness to the Zin.
  • Port (Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve) + Lindt Excellence Chili: This was our favorite pairing! Alone you can’t taste much chili in the chocolate but pairing with the Port, the chocolate gets a kick and sweetness. The chocolate also cuts the alcohol intensity from the Port and dials up its cherry notes.

Lindt’s site also gives you details on each Excellence chocolate with a wine pairing suggestion. It’s also fun to print out wine tasting notes from the winery’s website to help guide you in the wine tasting.

This is also a great gift for the wine and chocolate lover in your life. Special thanks to my in-laws for doing all the hard work and putting together this birthday present…wine, chocolate and all the tasting notes! My husband and I were left to just enjoy. As he said, “Fun! Nice after dinner pairing.” 😉

Cheers to wine + chocolate!

Nine Virginia Wines Worth the Sip

My goal at Sunday’s 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival was two part…1) Buy a few great examples of Virginia wine for my upcoming girls’ weekend, and 2) Discover a few new Virginia wineries I haven’t tried.  Success on both fronts!!

The two-day event held in Centreville, Virginia (about 30 miles west of Washington, DC) brought together 40+ wineries sampling wine, workshops and seminars presented by the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association, and 100 artisans and vendors. Sunday was a great day to attend … smaller crowds = tasting table waits.

After visiting 12 winery tents and tasting 75 wines, I bought 9 bottles to share with my girlfriends. The wines below should give them, many who are skeptical about Virginia wine, a great taste of our state’s offerings. This is also a great list for those of you new to Virginia wine!

* Montdomaine

This was a great new discovery….a winery with a long Virginia history re-introduced in 2008. The wines are made by Michael Shaps of Michael Shaps Wines and Virginia Wineworks.

  • 2009 Chardonnay: Citrus aromas and taste, minimal oak, a result of the old French Oak cooperage. $20

* Breaux Vineyards

  • Equation Merlot “X”: This Merlot blend with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot is a fabulous wine! Red fruit aromas followed by a dark red fruit taste that’s round and smooth. $15

* Horton Vineyards

  • 2008 Cabernet Franc: Aromas of violets pair with spicy, peppery, cassis flavor. $15

* Barboursville Vineyards

It’s hard to showcase Virginia wine without the great wines from Barboursville so I had to pick up some of their festival offerings.

  • Barboursville Brut: This was my first time tasting their sparkling wine. A very nice blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Fruit aromas and a great pear taste. $18
  • 2010 Chardonnay: This wine is aged in stainless steel creating a crisp Chardonnay with apple aroma and flavor, and a touch of pear and lemon. $11
  • 2010 Chardonnay Reserve: This is a great contrast to the regular Chardonnay as its aged seven months in barrel creating a rich and complex Chardonnay with heavier apple aroma and flavor now adding pear and vanilla to the mix. $15
  • 2010 Pinot Grigio: True Italian style…aromas and flavor of apple, pear with a touch of pineapple. $15
  • 2009 Viognier Reserve: Great example of Virginia’s official grape. Smooth tropical fruit and floral aromas and flavor.$22
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: This wine is only created in the best vintages. Strong berry aromas combine with pepper and currant flavors. $30

(I’ll also take a few Virginia bottles from my wine rack this weekend…Blenheim Vineyards, Virginia Wineworks and Breaux. More to come after our tasting!)

Tomorrow an overview of the informative Wine Judging Seminar I attended at the Festival.

New entwine Made for Food Pairing

Today is the launch of a new wine label, entwine, that makes pairing wine and food easy. From Food Network and California’s Wente Vineyards, the initial line of entwine wines is now available nationwide with the 2009 vintage of four varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, retailing for $12.99 each.

Each wine is presented via the launguage of food and provides suggested pairing on the back of the wine label. We had a fun sneak peak tasting at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference two weeks ago and I enjoyed the Pinot Grigio.

Keep a look out at your local grocery and also check out their website for recipes and pairings.