Monday, December 9, 2013

Gift Giving: Virginia Wines for Gifts or Parties

Virginia Wines make the perfect gift for the Holiday Season or if you need to bring a bottle of wine to the company Christmas Party or on of those great "Tacky Sweater" Holiday Parties you have plenty of options to choose from and some at some really great value as well.

Some of my favorite Virginia Wine varietals to present as gifts or bring to Parties are Virginia Cabernet Franc and Virginia Viognier. Both of these will satisfy both the red and the white wine lovers in our circles and frankly are two varietals that express themselves beautifully in Virginia Wines.

Some of my Top Virginia picks this season are as follows:

Virginia Sparkling "Bubbles" Wines:
Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay

White Hall Edichi 2010
Cooper Vineyards Vida 2012

Virginia White Wines:
Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel Chardonnay
White Hall Gewurztraminer
Barboursville Vineyards Pinot Grigio
Blenheim Vineyards Painted White Blend 2011
Chester Gap Cellars  Viognier 2012
Veritas Chardonnay Saddleback 2012
Veritas Viognier 2012
 King Family Vineyards Chardonnay "Roseland" 2012
 Ox Eye White Ox 2012

 Cardinal Point Rose 2012
 Oxe Eye Shy Ox 2012
Red Wines:
Breaux Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve
Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Petit Verdot/ Red Blend
Cooper Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Glen Manor Hodder Hill 2009 or 2010
White Hall Cuvee des Champs Blend 2009
Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2011
King Family Vineyards Meritage 2010
New Kent Winery Meritage 2010
Rappahanock Cabernet Franc 2011

Some of the areas locations offering you the widest selections of Virginia Wines can be found in Richmond, Va. Various grocery retailers also have a focus on supporting Virginia wines.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Richmond Uncorked This Saturday at Virginia Historical Society

This Saturday, June 15ht Richmond Uncorked will be returning for the third year in a row, featuring Virginia wine and this year some new and old local breweries as well as a dozen or more RVA Food Trucks
As always the festival will be located in the backyard of the Virginia Historical Society located on Richmond's Boulevard.

Wine and beer will also be available for purchase by the glass, or in the case of wine, by the bottle.

Participating wineries for 2013 include:

Cooper Vineyards-- check out the Petit Verdot and Viognier
Mattaponi Winery
Annefield Vineyards
Boxwood Winery- Topiary
Amrhein Vineyard
Elk Island Winery- one of the newer wineries
The Williamsburg Winery- Gabriel Archer
Well Hung Winery
Lake Anna Winery

Some Taste The Local:

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery- Try the Cream Ale
Strangeways Brewing- Brown, Albino Monkey Wit and the new Honey Saison
Center of the Universe Brewing Company- Ray Rays and Crazy Bet
Legend Brewing- Hefe

Food Trucks include:
Mister Softee
King of Pops
Soul Ice
Pizza Tonight
Super Fresh Cart
Boka Truck
Mosaic Cart
Estes BBQ
Magna Carta
Thai Cabin
Station 2

This years Festival will benefit the YWCA of Richmond and is on for Saturday, June 15 at  428 North Boulevard, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the gate!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

August Briggs: Pure Expression of Great Fruit

Photo: We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a Meet & Greet with Jesse Inman Winemaker for August Briggs Wines out of Napa, California. This event will take place on April 10th Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm. The cost will be $20.00 a person and will include tasting Five wines as well as light hor’doerves.

Please RSVP at 564-4400 as soon as you can as we have to plan accordingly for wines to taste and foods.

We had the pleasure of sitting with Jesse Inman, Winemaker from August Briggs this week at Libbie Market and tasting the latest vintage releases from the winery has out in the market today and found these wines ripe with balance of acidity and fruit culminating in very approachable wines. These wines are an example of a wine making tradition of "craft producers of small lot wines" from  some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma.

Many savvy wine consumers may realize that August Briggs has been the consulting winemaker on the Castle Rock wines that offer incredible quality for the pricing and have become everyday wines to alot of our followers. If you have been impressed with the quality generated from the fruit that is provided for the Castle Rock wines than the wines that command August "Joe" Briggs name will take things to an entire different level of appreciation. This in large part because Jesse Inman is working with some of the most renowned vineyards in Napa and Sonoma producing some of the world's best fruit.

<PRE>2010 August Briggs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir</PRE> August Briggs 2010 Pinot Noir -Russian River Valley
If you have followed my blog for any amount of time you know I am not a huge fan of Russian River Pinot per say opting more for Oregonian Pinot. In large part this is due to many of the Pinots coming from Russian River are more earthy in nature, oaked heavily masking the subtleness of the layers of cherry fruit. These Pinots are certainly characteristically complex but the  2010 Russian River Pinot Noir from August Briggs has a juiciness quality of dark cherry, big floral tones and touches of orange peel with a slight whisper of spice on the finish. Very smooth and balanced and you can almost taste how much this wine has been nurtured. $36

<PRE>2011 August Briggs 'Leveroni Vineyard' Carneros Chardonnay</PRE> The August Briggs "Leveroni Vineyard" Carneros Chardonnay will certainly win over many of the Chardonnay drinkers looking for a more balance between fruit and oak. All too often, California Chardonnay is heavily oaked in some form or fashion but the trends in the last year are for more balance wines, less oak or even unoaked, but the creaminess of this one brings out the vanilla, melon and citrus to great levels. This is a very enjoyable Chardonnay and I would also say a "bridge" Chardonnay for those looking to move into more refined Chardonnays. $30

<PRE>2010 August Briggs 'Old Vines' Napa Valley Zinfandel</PRE> The "Old Vine" Napa Valley Zinfandel was the surprise wine of the day. There is a quality about this wine that creates a very enjoyable, fresh fruit mouth feel even while commanding some lofty ABV values. Many Zinfandels will be big bombs of fruit and alcohol and have always had a bit of a cult following but this Zin cuts between the Old World style and the more fruit forward- blended with Petit Sirah or other grapes- New Age style. Rarely do I purchase the New Age which typically will run in the under $20 range because if you want Zinfandel than you want ZIN and you usually have to pay a little bit more for quality Zinfandel. This one is no exception. $34

<PRE>2009 August Briggs Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon</PRE>Sonoma Valley "Monte Rosso Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon. Not your grandfathers Cabernet! Better, more refined and screams ripe plum and cherry fruit on the palette with a balance of acidity that permits this Cabernet to be enjoyed by itself as a treat after a long day or pairs nicely with some grilled foods. Monte Rosso produces some extraordinary fruit! Fabulous Cabernet. $50

A few other notables from August Briggs are "Dijon Clones" Napa Valley Pinot and the Napa Valley Petite Sirah----a must buy for anyone wanting to experience what truly in my view is pure California joy in a bottle. Your friends probably will have never had a Petit Sirah before and wouldn't you be their hero for introducing one of the finest grapes produced in California! The more Petit Sirah I have the more I fall deeply for this grape!
It was a pleasure to have Jess Inman with us this week at Libbie Market and be on the lookout for some new releases hitting the shelves in the coming weeks. We currently have the Carnernos Chardonnay and Petit Sirah ready for you this week and will be bringing in the remaining line in the next few weeks.
August "Joe" Briggs is also the winemaker of the Jeff Gordon line that we sell at Libbie Market as well. Next time you  stop in, I will talk to you about these wines because there is one that you absolutely will love if you prefer Bordeaux style blends!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Rise of Ramsay from the North Coast: California Value

There can be no denying the fact that Napa Valley pricing has reached some levels that are now creating great pause with consumers. That is not to say that there are not some fabulous wineries in Napa Valley when compared to other regions in California, but the quality to value ratio has been declining over the last decade. As wine pricing for Napa wines has risen other areas like the North Coast have been able to offer consumers great quality for lower pricing. For example, a Cabernet from Napa may fetch $20 for compared to its peers in Napa average quality or even moderate to below average where as a $20 bottle of North Coast may command greater quality for the money.

This is not to say that if you are looking for an outstanding, high quality Cabernet that you should not be looking at Napa Valley. You undoubtedly should be. However, if you are looking for value, everyday wines that you can enjoy with friends that you should pass on Napa Valley and look to other regions like the North Coast.

A few real gems from the North Coast come from no other than famed producers that originated in places like Carneros of the southern Napa Valley like Kent Rasmussen. Known for Pinot Noirs that are full of fruit and structure that offer more than your typical California Pinot these days which seem bent on jamminess first and refinement second. Look for the 2007 Pinot Noir but  Kent Rasmussen Winery's second label is the Ramsay Wines, so named for Kent's wife Celia Ramsay.

The North Coast Ramsay Pinot Noir consists of grapes from various vineyards within the North Coast appellation along with grapes from Carneros and Mendocino County. These grapes are exposed to near perfect weather culminating in very sunny days and cool overnight temperatures. There is cherry and raspberry aromas permeating from this wine in the glass that is rather unique and appealing. Less earthy in structure with silky-smooth tannins this Pinot is extremely approachable. You are hard pressed to fine such pure , simplistic expression of Pinot Noir at this price point than Kent Rasmussen's Ramsay Pinot Noir 2009. $12.99 Wineshops $15+

But the Pinot Noir is hardly the only creative wine being produced by Kent in the North Coast. The hidden gem very well may be his Ramsay Petite Sirah with its grapes from Bellestra Vineyard, Green Valley. The 2009 vintage is the first Petite Sirah under the Ramsay label and the wine should get top billing in any one's shopping cart for wines under $20. While Petit Sirah started out in Rhone (France) and is hardly even grown there anymore, California Petite Sirah is gaining in popularity and for good reason. Everyone seems to embrace this grape and love its character.The grapes are big and so is the flavor of the wine which is a perfect food pairing wine for those hearty dishes. $12.99 Wineshops $15+

Kent produces a third label as well in Esoterica. The Esoterica Petit Sirah belongs in your cellar! If ever there is a wine or Winemaker to bring Petit Sirah out of the California shadows it is Kent Rasmussen. The grapes for this brilliant expression of wine come from Rutherford in Napa and while the North Coast Ramsay Petit Sirah is perfect for your everyday wine, the Esoterica is your entertaining option. The 2007 Esoterica Petit Sirah was rated  a very well deserved 94 points by Wine Enthusiast and also uses 100% organic grapes (Chavez-Leed Vineyard and is aged for 12 months with fifty percent in new French oak and 50% in one year old French oak. It can still be had in some quarters but the 2009 is every bit as fabulous. $29 Wineshops $36+

So grab some Ramsay Pinot Noir and/or Petit Sirah they next time your looking for incredible quality to value. You will not be disappointed!

*Please be aware that pricing will differentiate from region to region and State to State. Please do your due diligence when shopping and take advantage of the multi-bottle deal that may be offered by retailers which will further reduce per bottle costs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Death of Wine Shops?

This latest economic recovery can't come soon enough for the thousands of  wine shops there are across the country. Whenever our economy enters a recession or remains flat in terms of growth, most consumers begin to reel in as much spending as they can and often this hits the Wine Industry very hard. No other segment gets rocked more than the independently-owned wine shop.

We see this trend with each dip in the economy. Here in Richmond, Virginia we have lost two of the most respected, premier wine shop destinations in Wine & Beer Westpark run by our friend Matthew Lake in the West End and The Wine Cellar over in the Southside in Midlothian off Midlothian Tnpk. Both closed up shop and have been sorely missed. Matthew Lake's  passion and drive was the very foundation of his store and his masterful series of events promoting both wine and beer has not been matched by any other here in Richmond. Sure there are other shops remaining, but there was certainly something special about Wine & Beer Westpark.

The catalyst for the recent downturn in consumer spending brought about mostly due to the banking and housing crisis the last decade has resulted in hundreds of closures throughout the region in terms of wine shops. Here in Virginia, its even that much harder on operators because we are a pay as you receive State. Unlike the District of Columbia, Virginia operators must inventory their wine and pay for them upon delivery so there are no terms or lines of credit like in other States. As we all know, these inventories can run in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for some stores and if consumers are not spending than that inventory is not being turned. This can result in operators being very tentative in taking on new arrivals or even new releases because of the expanding inventory levels of previous vintages. Sometimes this can be a very good thing for the savvy consumer in terms of finding some rare back vintages but  I would steer clear of older domestic Chardonnays, Sauv Blancs and Pinot Grigios that are older so be sure to do your due diligence in this situations. Caveat Emptor!

The economy may not be the only reason as to the decline of independent wine shops. Many shops have failed to evolve. In the 80's it was a very big deal and almost a thing of status to buy wine through a local wine shop. This was the era of the "power lunch" and a boom in high end French wines that seemed would never end. It did. Back then "grocery" stores were for the most part out of the game with the exception of some major domestic houses and larger scale importers. Many smaller vineyard operators could not even get into grocery stores and leveraged the small, independent wine shops to bring their wines to market. The winshops also catered to the higher end clientele seeking the First Growth Bordeauxs and the like from France that would never be seen on anything other than a premier wine list or at the wine shop.

The times have changed. Its not so much that the Wine Industry has changed; its just that the consumer has evolved. The biggest resource any of can have is "time". While in the 80's and 90's it may have been trendy to buy wines in winshops; lets face it the quality was indeed better in these locations than "grocery" store wines but soon as the culture was wept up with "Soccer Moms" and a majority of folks eating out and not at home and the arrival of the Internet boom to include wine sales things began to change. Consumers now have a different mindset in large part because of the context of "time".

Buying quality wine now in 2013 has never been more accessible. Wineries want to be where the traffic is in terms of exposure to the consumer. Wines that would have never dreamed (or preferred) to be positioned on "grocery" shelves now in 2013 actually design marketing programs specifically for these stores. Gallo for example has a very obvious if not explicit relationship with the wine sets here in Richmond, Va with the Kroger chain. You can typically see the majority of Gallo's immense portfolio on the shelves of Kroger, which has done a masterful job in exploiting the departure of Ukrops Supermarkets almost three years ago. Ukrops did not sell alcohol, which meant that the loyal consumer of these stores were forced to go elsewhere for wine and beer. Typically, there was a Wine & Beer Warehouse or other shop located near or next to most Ukrops to cater to these folks. In fact, Wine & Beer Westpark was one of these that captured the Ukrop's faithful by offering them a convenient place to stop in after grocery shopping.

Kroger, Wegmans, and Harris Teeter have changed the game regionally here in Virginia in terms of "grocery" wine sales. Not only are the more branded labels available, but now many wines that had been what the industry calls "on-premise" or for restaurant service are now readily available because many of these locations have VABC licenses that allow them to offer wines and beers by the glass on site. This opens up these wines to the cafes of these retailers and thus to their shelves like never before and is a huge draw, especially when consumers can go out and enjoy a glass of wine at a restaurant and then be able to find the bottle at the retail location as well.

This trend of buying and convenience offered by "grocery" stores fits more with today's consumer lifestyles than the wine shop. The wine shop requires a special and specific trip. A trip dedicated to one purpose; which of course takes "time". Some shops attempted to evolve and offer other items like cheese and now today some also offer butcher services locally but operators expose themselves to the potential of over extended themselves and leaving their comfort zone---wine!

Will the "wine shop" die? While many have closed in this latest downtrend, there is still a value that wine shops offer a community outside of the hurdles regarding convenience. The value is in the area of expertise. While "grocery" operators like Kroger and others have hired on specific wine stewards to assist the consumer. Many of these stewards are not as knowledgeable as their wine shop counterpart and a big part of this is passion. You can't coach passion! You can educate and manage people up but passion is one thing that is either there or it isn't, but it is also something that is rather obvious to the consumer.

Whether or not wine shops collectively survive this environment will in large part depend upon the operator themselves given the expanded competition. The rise of Internet wine sales, expanded "grocery" sets and the national roll out of "clubs" like Costco all pose a daunting challenge for wine shops in the future. If wine shops do not leverage their customer base, provide them with a unique buying experience or solve that little important thing known as "time"; than we will likely see more wine shops close than open in the coming years.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Williams Selyem Arrives at Libbie Market

Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs

New Arrival at Libbie Market on the Avenues is Williams Selyem wines from California with fruit from some of the best growing areas reflecting in superior quality wines driven by refinement.
The Central Coast Pinot Noir and Sonoma Pinots that have arrived are dynamite for that Pinot Noir lover and our first Chardonnay from WS has arrived as well:

Central Coast:

This wine offers a wonderful perfumed nose of Bing cherries, rose petal and nutmeg. There is a bright cherry/strawberry nose, with a hint of mushroom, spice, pie cherry, sage and toffee that are classic to this vineyard site. Mouth watering flavors of cherries, strawberry, root beer, rose petal and toasted vanilla beans give way to the balanced acidity. The prosperous textural mouthfeel helps to carry the rich and round tannins that follow through long into the finish.
—Director of Winemaking Bob Cabral
Sonoma Coast:
The wild raspberries, Asian spice, green tea and a mocha nose convey the classic Sonoma Coast Pinot characteristics. Your mouth will explode with flavors of ripe wild berries, cranberries, toasted marshmallow, graham cracker, toffee and white pepper. Rich tannins and acidity balance out the ripe wild berry flavors, citrus peel and fresh herbs. The long, rich mouthfeel finish this fantastic textural experience.
—Director of Winemaking Bob Cabral
Sonoma County: Incredible Pinot Noir!!

The fresh aroma of wild cherries, toasted vanilla beans, smoky bacon, fresh herbs and rose petal open up immediately in your glass. This medium bodied wine shows true pinot flavors of wild cherries, pomegranates, sassafras, fennel and black truffles. A blend of vineyards for the most part from the Russian River Valley with a few Dijon clones from the Sonoma Coast, the wine finishes clean & long with sweet notes of red fruits at the end.

—Director of Winemaking Bob Cabral
Wineshops $75-80
Libbie Market $60
Williams Selyem Chardonnays
100% stainless steel fermented wine, shows off the pure essence of Russian River Valley chardonnay. The aromas of ripe Pick Lady apples, Anjou pears, Sun Crest peaches, and fresh honeysuckle dominate the aromas of this blend. Bold flavors of ripe apples, nectarines, mineral and fresh pineapple fill your mouth. Refreshing acidity (no malo-lactic) gives this wine the ability to pair with almost and food. Most of this fruit was sourced from older chardonnay vineyards along Westside Road.
—Director of Winemaking Bob Cabral

Friday, March 8, 2013

New Wine Friday: Libbie Market

Its another Friday and now that the snow is behind us for now, its time to stop in and check out some of the new wines that have made their way into Libbie Market this week.

These Wines illustrate why Libbie Market should be your WineShop of choice. Offering incredible quality fruit-driven wines at reasonable, responsible pricing!

A few of my favorite arrivals include:

Mary Elke Chardonnay: (less than 100 cases produced)

Long, cool growing season is full expressed in this Chardonnay's cool-climate grapes.
The wine opens with intense wet-stone minerality, Meyer lemon, tart green apple and pennyroyal. That fresh, mouth-watering fruit note continues throughout, providing an elegant counterpoint to the creamy texture on the palate and a hint of pie crust on the finish. This is Chablis-style Chardonnay, so it is not an oaky, buttery, or high alcohol Chardonnay. It shines when paired with sushi, cooked shellfish dishes, or cuisine involving mustard or cream-based sauces.
Wineshops: 30+
Libbie Market:  Under $25.

Testarossa Pinot Noir: Santa Lucia Highlands

2011 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Ripe Black, Cherry and Plum fruit with just a touch of spicy tones really deliver for the Pinot Noir lover. Balanced acidity makes this a very approachable food-friendly Pinot especially paired with Roast Chicken, Duck or even Wild Salmon filets. This area is exploding with great Pinot Noirs and the cool climate and longest growing season in California coupled with rich soil contribute to perfectly expressed Pinot Noir.

Wineshops: $55+
Libbie Market: Under $40

Orin Swift Palermo:
Follow-up to Prisoner and Pappillon, this winemaker always seems to impress.

83% Cabernet Sauvignon
8% Merlot
5% Malbec
4% Cabernet Franc
Palermo opens with deep, rich, fruit driven aromas. Flavors of ripe plum, and currant with touch of mocha. Still a very big red, but tannin levels are balanced with an abundance of fruit.This wine can be thouroughly enjoyed today or can also be cellared for up to ten years and enjoyed along the way.

Wineshops: $40+
Libbie Market: Under $40

2011 Palermo
I am a huge fan of Orin Swift's Abstract release, which Libbie Market has acquired a  few cases of that will blow you away for the quality of wine for the price. For under $30, Abstract is an incredible value given the juice in the bottle. Consisting of a blend of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah , Abstract was one of the most impressive wines we tasted at the Market in the last year. Blackberry, plum, and mocha blend for a smooth finish with this one that will demand you buy another bottle to share with friends. Very limited!
 2011 Abstract

Arcadian Pinot Noir St. Rita Hills Fiddlestix Vyd 2005Arcadian Pinot Noir has arrived and is selling very fast given the quality and reputation of the Pinots produced by Joe Davis with his Burgundian style of winemaking abtly suited for the region. This wine is noticably lower in alcohol than many of the Pinots produced in the area and the cherry notes of the fruit coupled with the earthiness of the rich soil; almost tobacco in flavor are represented.
Highly rated Pinots from this producer are commonplace and this Pinot is no different. Very limted and perfect for that California Pinot Noir lover.

Wineshops: 70+
Libbie Market : under $50