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									As seen in   , april/may 2010 •
                                                                                                                  B l I n D TA S T I n G

     The Capital’s
      hot Somms
 The Commonwealth’s
      hot Wines
                                                             Bill Plante

                                         Photographs by Molly McDonald Peterson

                           Flavor invited some of the Capital foodshed’s
                           most influential sommeliers over for a drink
                         to see which Virginia wines would impress them.

People have been making wine in Virginia since the 17th century.        Ten volunteer servers ringed the large round table in the Sul-
So why don’t diners see more Virginia wines on restaurant lists in   livans’ kitchen, pouring wines, changing stemware, and refilling
and around the nation’s capital?                                     glasses of water and plates of crackers to help clear the panel’s
   Flavor publisher Melissa Harris hears this very question from     taste buds.
both consumers and winemakers. “We convened this tasting
panel,” she explains, “because we wanted to expose some of the       Blinded by the Flight
area’s top sommeliers to what we believe are wines that would pair   Sound like fun? Sure! But remember, this was a tasting. Swirl,
well with high-end food.” (For more from Harris, see page 10.)       smell, sip, savor, and spit 63 times while keeping it all straight in
   Harris asked more than 20 Virginia winegrowers to send            your notes. From start to finish, the tasting took four hours.
samples of their work—the best red and white wines for pairing          Each wine was given a number that identified its flight and
with food—and then invited a panel of sommeliers to taste and        glass. For example, “WB3” was a white wine in the third glass
evaluate the 63 wines that were submitted.                           of the second flight. Several hundred white and red wine glasses
   Five of the Capital foodshed’s most popular sommeliers made       were brought in from a catering company and tagged with these
up the tasting panel: Derek Brown of The Passenger (D.C.),           same codes. Then the panel was given forms with these same
Scott Calvert of The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, Vir-      codes for recording their tasting notes. The results were not
ginia), Gina Chersevani of PS 7’s (D.C.), Andy Myers of CityZen      revealed to anyone—until now.
at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (D.C.), and Todd Thrasher of          Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio
Restaurant Eve (Alexandria, Virginia).                               The tasting began with five wines made from Sauvignon Blanc or
   The tasting took place on a Monday morning in the spacious        Pinot Grigio grapes. It was an auspicious beginning.
country kitchen in the Georgetown home of Beverly and John             The clear winner was the Veritas 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.
Fox Sullivan. Dozens of red wine bottles, sheathed in brown          “Excellent fruit,” noted Calvert, adding “great acid in the middle
paper bags to completely obscure their labels, stood at attention    and follows into the finish.” Thrasher noted “honey on the
on the sideboard. Dozens of whites waited in cartons out in the      nose” and “mouth-filling.” There was a tie for second: The Glen
chilly garden.                                                       Manor 2008 Sauvignon Blanc garnered “grapefruit, medium-

                                       As seen in          , april/may 2010 •
                                                   The Tasting Panel
 Derek Brown
q                           Having gained
                           p                           Scott Calvert,
                                                      q                          After a four-year
                                                                                p                         q  master Todd
is a wine and spirits      national recognition for   former president          stint as the assistant    Thrasher currently
professional who has       her cocktail creations     of Tastevin, Inc.,        sommelier, caviste,       serves as the general
become a leading           at D.C.’s Rasika and       a consulting and          and captain at the Inn    manager, sommelier,
voice in the new           Arlington’s EatBar,        wine wholesale firm       at Little Washington,     and liquid savant for
cocktail renaissance.      Gina Chersevani            in New York City,         Andy Myers became         Restaurant Eve. He is
His latest project is      is now the master          currently serves as the   the head sommelier        also a partner in PX in
a cocktail club and        mixologist behind the      wine director for the     for CityZen, at the       Alexandria, Virginia.
laboratory called          bar at D.C.’s PS 7’s.      world-famous Inn at       Mandarin Oriental
the Columbia Room,                                    Little Washington in      Hotel in D.C., in 2006.
inside his D.C. bar, The                              Washington, Virginia.

                                     As seen in         , april/may 2010 •
                                                                                                                                        B l I n D TA S T I n G

dry” in Chersevani’s notes and “light regal characteristics” in
                                                                                      Remember, this was a tasting. Swirl, smell,
Brown’s. Thrasher’s notes on the 2008 Barboursville Pinot
Grigio included “orange blossom, dry, good acidity,” and Brown
                                                                                                    sip, savor, and spit 63 times
described it as “clean, tart, grassy.”
                                                                                        while keeping it all straight in your notes.
Chardonnay, the next flight, spurred a debate around the table.                         First up was Cabernet Franc, generally regarded as Virginia’s
(Should it be grown in Virginia’s hot, humid climate?) No                           most successful red grape. In Bordeaux, it’s generally blended
consensus was reached on a clear winner, but four were highly                       with Cabernet Sauvignon. But in the Loire, Cab Franc shows off
praised. Brown liked the “lemon curd, cut apples” and oaky finish                   as a lighter-weight wine with delicious dark fruit, the same result
of the panel’s favorite, the Gadino 2007. According to Thrasher,                    it can produce in Virginia.
the King Family 2008 was “rich in the nose,” which Calvert also                         The crowd pleasers: the Rappahannock Cellars 2007, “light
said was “very lush and soft in back.”                                              spice . . . medium bodied, quite tasty” (Brown); the Sunset Hills
   Brown liked the Tarara 2008, too, describing it as “spicy and                    2007 Reserve, “sweet blackberries, sage—a mouthful” (Cherse-
woody.” Calvert praised the Linden 2007, which tasted of apple,                     vani); and the Veritas 2008, “ruby red, spicy, and sweet on the
“a bit of cinnamon, a bit of mineral, too.”                                         palate” (Thrasher).
                                                                                    Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petit Verdot
Viognier, the perfumed white grape of the Rhône Valley, was                         In the next group, we tasted three classic red grapes—Cabernet
almost extinct a half-century ago. But it has since made a come-                    Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, another Bordeaux blending
back, and it seems to do very well in Virginia. The panel sampled                   grape particularly suited to the Virginia climate.
13 different Viogniers and found some too high in alcohol,                             The Sugarleaf 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon edged out the other
overripe, or funky on the nose. But Viognier’s unmistakable                         wines in this flight. Brown found it full of “black cherry juice”
tropical-fruit, peach, and apricot lushness brightened many of the                  and “juicy on the palate.” Three more wines were close behind:
other samples.                                                                      Calvert remarked that the Gadino 2007 Petit Verdot was full of
   With no wine clearly in the top spot, Chersevani noted the                       “spice, cardamom, clove” and that its palate “is sweet cassis.” The
“stone fruit” of the Rappahannock 2008 Noblesse, Brown noted                        finish of the Chester Gap 2007 Merlot was “long-lasting [with]
the “floral characteristics” of the DelFosse 2007, Calvert noted                    a bit of violet” in Thrasher’s notes. Brown tasted “cinnamon,
the “peach” and “wood spice” of the Chester Gap 2008 Boisseau,                      vanilla, cherry, plum,” and a “peppery finish” in the Rausse 2007
and Thrasher noted the “sweet finish” of the Sugarleaf 2008.                        Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc
Two hours in, the tasters and their tired palates took a much-                      By this flight, the winter sun had begun to abandon the garden
needed break for a buffet lunch. Then they went back to work on                     beyond the kitchen, but the tasters’ perseverance was rewarded
three flights of red wines.                                                         by the final flight of 15 Meritage wines. The term Meritage was

At the blind tasting—which was graciously hosted by Beverly and John Fox Sullivan (above) in their Georgetown home—servers presented 63 wines over four hours.

                                               As seen in               , april/may 2010 •
B l I n D TA S T I n G

                                         The Standouts
                                  Whites                                                                 R eds
                   Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio                                                 Cabernet Franc
                   Veritas 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, $18.00                       rappahannock cellars 2007 cabernet Franc, $24.00
                Glen Manor 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, $22.00                         Sunset hills 2007 cabernet Franc reserve, $40.00
                   Barboursville 2008 Pinot Grigio, $14.99                             Veritas 2008 cabernet Franc, $18.00
                               Chardonnay                                     Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petit Verdot
                     Gadino 2007 chardonnay, $20.00                                Sugarleaf 2007 cabernet Sauvignon, $30.00
                   king Family 2008 chardonnay, $19.95                                   Gadino 2007 Petit Verdot, $27.00
                     tarara 2008 chardonnay, $30.00                                      chester Gap 2007 Merlot, $19.00
                      linden 2007 chardonnay, $28.00                            rausse 2007 cabernet Sauvignon, not yet released
                                  Viognier                                                            Meritage
               rappahannock 2008 noblesse Viognier, $17.50                          Boxwood Winery 2007 Boxwood, $25.00
                      delFosse 2007 Viognier, $25.00                                  linden 2006 hardscrabble red, $39.00
                chester Gap 2008 Boisseau Viognier, $19.00                               delaplane 2007 left Bank, $28.00
                      Sugarleaf 2008 Viognier, $27.00

    coined by the California wine industry for wines blended in the      described it as “woody and cedar notes, sweet in the mouth.”
    Bordeaux style, using traditional Bordeaux grape varieties.          Thrasher also lauded the Delaplane 2007 Left Bank: “Comes
        The Boxwood Winery 2007 Boxwood bottling won praise              together nicely.”
    from Chersevani, who wrote simply, “Green peppercorns, wood.
    I like it.” (This was a leap beyond the usual wine descriptors.)     The Road Ahead
    Brown called it “full-bodied, luscious.” Chersevani also praised     It’s important to note that over these four hours of intense focus
    the Linden 2006 Hardscrabble Red, writing, “Cherry, tobacco. I       and concentration, the tasting panel frequently disagreed. Take
    like it.” Myers and Thrasher preferred this one as well. Thrasher    their comments as a guide, but trust your own palate. The more
                                                                         you taste, the more tuned in you’ll be to the nuances in the glass.
                                                                             Our professionals all agreed that Virginia isn’t the easiest place
                                                                         to grow grapes and make wine. As Myers put it, “Jefferson gave
                                                                         up [on growing vines] a long time ago, and he was a very smart
                                                                             But they also agreed that the Virginia wine industry, while
                                                                         still in its infancy, has made tremendous strides in recent years
                                                                         as growers figure out which varietals do best on which parcels
                                                                         of land. And these sommeliers expect Virginia wine to continue
                                                                             Harris, Flavor’s publisher, points out that some restaurants are
                                                                         fond of Virginia wines but find them too expensive. “Most win-
                                                                         eries in this region are small, so they find it difficult to match the
                                                                         price of other wines on the restaurants’ lists.”
                                                                             As diners committed to local food begin to request local wine,
                                                                         the industry will see increased sales in the district, says Harris.
                                                                         “People will pay more for a meal made with sustainably raised
                                                                         local ingredients. Our hope is that they do the same for locally
                                                                         made wine.”
                                                                         Journalist Bill Plante is CBS’s senior White House correspondent.
                                                                         A 30-year resident of D.C., he is also a well-known wine aficionado.

                                                                        Find articles about many of the standout                    ENHANCED
                                                                                   vineyards at

                                           As seen in          , april/may 2010 •

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