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!

Fancy Food Show Wine Discoveries: Greece

As mentioned in my last article, I discovered some great wines from Greece and Italy at the Fancy Food Show in DC. The second Greek discovery was Sokos Wines.

Sokos Wines is located in central Greece on the north slopes of the Kitheronas mountain at Erythres. In the caves of this mythical mountain Kitheronas, it is said Zeus and Semeli gave birth to Dionysus-Bacchus, the god of grapevine and wine. What a perfect place to grow grapes and make wine!

Making wine since 1960, they have a large portfolio of wines currently only distributed in Europe (I’m almost positive I tried a few when we lived there), but are working on U.S. distribution. The Show was their first time in the U.S.

I tasted three of their white wines with Argiris Sokos…

  • Drykos Kefalai – Assyrtiko & Chardonnay: This was a very interesting blend of the Greek variety, Assyrtiko, and Chardonnay. In this wine, the Chardonnay added a round full body to the bright acidity of the Assyrtiko. Very nice combination!
  • Malagouzia: These grapes come from the slopes of Mount Kitheronas. It was very peach and apricot forward in aroma and taste with a full body and fruity touch of sweetness.
  • Savatiano: This Greek variety made a nice crisp yet round wine that reminded me of a Seyval Blanc or white Burgundy.

Greek wines are very fun to explore! The grape varieties are new and different to most of us and you can just dream of sitting on a Greek island while you sip them. 🙂 For more on Greek wine, visit New Wines of Greece.

Yamas to Greek wine discoveries!

Taste Camp 2012: The Wine Stand Outs, Part 2

In The Wine Stand Outs, Part 1, I covered five of the eleven stand out wines from Taste Camp 2012, focusing on wineries I was tasting for the first time. Now let’s take a look at the six wines from wineries I’ve tasted and/or covered before.

Boxwood Winery Boxwood 2007

  • Variety: 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42.5% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Dark red fruit with hints of spice
  • Taste: Nice concentrated spicy cassis
  • Price: No longer available
  • My thoughts: 2007 was a very good year for their signature wines, Boxwood and Topiary. I like this Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend (Topiary is a Right Bank style). Adam McTaggart told us this was a huge turning point vintage for them…it set their style for going forward. I loved the big fruitiness of this wine. Rachel told us there may still be a few bottles out there to find. For more on Boxwood and our time Taste Camp visit, see Loudoun County, DC’s Wine Country.

Blenheim Vineyards Rosé 2011

  • Variety: Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Mourvedre
  • Aroma: Big bouquet of strawberry, honey and a touch of cinnamon
  • Taste: Refreshing red fruits with a watermelon finish
  • Price: $14
  • My thoughts: Regular readers know I love Rosé and I love Kirsty Harmon, the fabulous winemaker at Blenheim. I’m always thrilled when I see Kristy and Greg Hirson, assistant winemaker, pouring their wines at events or in their gorgeous tasting room in the country outside Charlottesville. Every wine they make is approachable, easy to drink and delicious. On by BEST of Virginia wine list!!

Veritas Winery Vintner’s Reserve Meritage Blend 2010

  • Variety: 42% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Aroma: Cherry, chocolate and cedar
  • Taste: Cherry with a hint of pepper finished with vanilla and caramel
  • Price: $35
  • My thoughts: I tasted this 2012 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold winner back in late February at the Virginia Wine Expo and it was even better this tasting! It’s really opened up nicely…a great Meritage blend with chocolate, red fruit, vanilla and caramel hints. What more could you ask for! This again is one of my Virginia winery favorites… Emily is a fabulous winemaker and she is doing amazing work at her winery in red and white! Located outside of Charlottesville.

Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo 2007

  • Variety: 100% Nebbiolo
  • Aroma: Red fruits with hints of tobacco
  • Taste: Spicy dried red fruits
  • Price: Coming 2014
  • My thoughts: Another 2007 wine shaping up very nicely and it’s not even bottled yet. We were lucky enough to have a barrel sample during our Friday evening dinner at Breaux. They will bottle it this year and then hold for two years before selling. This was a grape Paul Breaux really wanted to grow after his visit to Piemonte, Italy. As Jen Breaux Blosser told us over dinner, “it’s a hard grape to grow and always changing.” Breaux is another one of my Virginia favorites…with their breadth and variety, they have a wine for everyone and their 475-acres are worth the visit for a sip on their patio. For more on our time Taste Camp visit, see Loudoun County, DC’s Wine Country.

Tarara Winery Petit Manseng 2011

  • Variety: 100% Petit Manseng
  • Aroma: Pineapple & citrus
  • Taste: Refreshing crisp citrus and pineapple notes
  • Price: $20
  • My thoughts: This grape is becoming a specialty of Virginia. Most versions I’ve tasted are sweet but this one was perfect! As we boarded the wagon at the winery for a ride into vineyards with winemaker Jordan Harris, he poured us a glass of this. It hit the spot…crisp and refreshing…as we rode in the sun! Jordan said they don’t usually do this wine but with the conditions of 2011 (cloudy & wet September), they decided to try it. Great results! I brought home a bottle and its chilling in the fridge. You can buy it on their website. Located in Loudoun County.

Linden Vineyards Avenius Chardonnay 2009

  • Variety: 100% Chardonnay
  • Aroma: Tropical bouquet with hint of oak
  • Taste: Peach, pear with hints of white pepper
  • Price: $28
  • My thoughts: We had the great pleasure of tasting five wines with Jim Linden, owner/winemaker and one of Virginia’s greats, on his crush pad after our vineyard walk. They were all fabulous and really demonstrate the terroir in which they are growing. I really like this Chablis-style, nice balance of fruit with hints of pepper which Jim said is due to the Avenius vineyard it comes from. Bottled August 2010. This wine should plateau from 2013 to 2017. Guess I’ll have to cellar the bottle I bought. 🙂 Located in Fauquier County.
  • Cheers to some of Virginia’s best wineries and winemakers showing Taste Camp writers everything Virginia wine has to offer!

Germany, China & Portugal Wine Discoveries

Epcot Food & Wine Festival is a great opportunity to discover new wines. Among the 28 wines and champagnes I sampled last week, here are three new interesting discoveries from Germany, China and Portugal.

Germany’s Kloster Pinot Grigio

You don’t see many Pinot Grigio’s from Germany. This one was served at Epcot’s Germany Weinkeller and comes from the Rheinhessen, the largest of Germany’s 13 wine producing regions. It’s 100% Pinot Grigio grapes fermented in stainless steel and stored in stainless.

  • Aroma: Clean and fruity.
  • Taste: Crisp citrus with hint of nut. Soft yet medium bodied (more so than your usual Italian Pinot Grigio).
  • My thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine. I’m a Pinot Grigio fan so was fun to find one from Germany.

China’s Dragon Hollow Chardonnay

We’re hearing a lot these days about China’s growing consumption of wine. Well here’s a wine made in China. This was the wine served at the China International Marketplace. Their website says they are the first premium wines produced in China. No pesticides, clean water and modern winemaking technology are used. And the Ningxia Helan Mountain Eastern region where the wine comes from is same parallel as Napa and Bordeaux.

  • Aroma: Granny Smith apple and alchol.
  • Taste: Clean tart apple with hint of almond.
  • My thoughts: It was exciting to try this wine and while it has potential, particularly as an un-0aked Chardonnay, it doesn’t yet fully live up the the websites description. I found it overall flat after the first sip and pretty high in alcohol yet its only 12.9%.
This is a fun one! Port is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Duoro Valley in northern Portugal. Croft has been making Port for four centuries and now created something totally new..a rose style. Typically Port is thought of as a heavy after dinner drink. Croft Pink is best served chilled or over ice AND perfect for cocktails. This was served at the Intermission Café hosted by Kobrand.
  • Aroma: Berry and floral.
  • Taste:  Raspberry and cherry with some heat, due to the almost 20% alcohol content.
  • My thoughts: WOW! This a great new spin on the classic Port which I don’t usually drink. I preferred Croft Pink with bubbles…soda water or Prosecco. Try adding a lime too.

 More to come on Champagne and additional Italian wine discoveries. Cheers!


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.