State of the Vine

State of the Vine

Maxwell Park: My New Favorite DC Wine Bar!

Last night we finally made it out to Maxwell Park, a new wine bar in DC's Shaw neighborhood...and it is officially my new favorite DC wine bar!

At Maxwell Park, the theme changes every month and so does the wine list. When I first heard about it opening, and that the theme of their first month was "ABPG, Anything But Pinot Grigio," I knew it would become another home away from home. A little background: I've had a few decent Pinot Grigio's but I am staunchly against the idea that most restaurants and importers think that PG its the only white Italian varietal Americans want to drink. If we only had access to more varietals like Vermentino, Arneis, Grillo and Cortese (the grape in Gavi di Gavi), I think wine drinking Americans would become just as obsessed as I am!

The August theme at Maxwell Park, "How Big is My Bubble?" highlights bubbly, my favorite type of wine, and anything that isn't Champagne, Cava or Prosecco. It was phenomenal. In fact, it kind of blew my mind (or bubble)!

The Founder and sommelier Brent Kroll came to our table to take our order and patiently answered all of our (ok- mainly my) questions and provided excellent recommendations.

I think my absolute favorite was the first bottle we had, a Pet Nat wine*, the 2016 Channing Daughters, “sylvanus,” from Long Island.

This wine was unlike any I've ever had. It was cloudy and unfiltered and had notes of peach, tangerine and lemon zest, and a very juicy and mouthwatering finish. 

Pet Nat, which stands for Petillant Naturel, is a bubbly made with an ancient ancestral method, similar to Champagne, but a little different too. 

With this wine, the grapes are hand harvested and whole cluster pressed, fermented in stainless steel tanks and then coarsely filtered and bottled, with no sulfur dioxide or stabilization in sparkling wine bottles and sealed with a crown cap, and fermentation is continued in the bottle. 

There is some sediment in the bottle from yeast lees because it isn't disgorged like the traditional Champagne method, which gives it its cloudiness!

I was also totally tickled to see a bubbly version of a fantastic Txakolina Rose I had in New Orleans on the list, which I ordered a 2.5 oz pour of- it was excellent. I love that they have this option in addition to the option of a bottle or glass. 

They also had excellent food to snack on. We tried the Burrata and the salmon crudo.

Some of the other wines we ordered, all his recommendations and all fantastic:

We were lucky enough to snag a big table inside because we had a larger party, and got there on the early side, but they have outdoor seating also. And for those who don't like bubbly, they have another by the glass list with interesting non-bubbly selections that changes every month as well. 

Bottom line, I would highly, highly recommend this place- its my new favorite DC wine bar, and I absolutely can't wait to go back! 

More on Pet Nat wines in a future post.


Skylark wines: Pinot Blanc and Grenache

Did you know Pinot Blanc, a white wine grape, is a genetic mutation of Pinot Gris, which comes from Pinot Noir? It originated in Burgundy, France and is widely grown in Alsace and Austria. 

The Skylark Orsi Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2016 is a dry white wine with notes of green apple, pear and lemon zest and refreshing minerality and acidity. It's medium bodied and unoaked with slightly tart but crisp, clean finish. 

The Grenache grape, also known as Garnacha in Spain, is one of the most widely planted red grapes, and is a key grape found in the French Cotes du Rhone wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It does best in hot climates where it can be left on the vine for late ripening.

The Skylark 2012 Grenache is medium alcohol, low acidity, but medium to full bodied red, with notes of black cherry, strawberry, dark chocolate and mint, with a smooth grippy finish. It was aged in French oak and bottled without fining or filtration. 

Make sure to decant this wine for at least a half an hour before drinking, it really opens up the flavors! 

The wines come from the Mendocino AVA is part of the North Coast of Cali, which has a similar climate to the Mediterranean. 

They were part of this month's traditional and Club Red wine clubs at Screwtop Wine Bar in Arlington. Cheers! 

July 4th Wines

July 4 is almost upon us. If you're looking for some wine and food pairings, look no further!

Hamburgers, steaks and other red meats: These foods pair well with red wines that are medium to full bodied and have a little spice to them. Look for a wine made with Cabernet Franc grapes, a Cotes du Rhone red from France (usually a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes), or a Zinfandel.

Scallops, shrimp, crabs, white fish, other seafood: A curveball suggestion is a Soave Classico, a dry and light-bodied white wine from Northern Italy's Veneto region made with the Garganega grape. Classico means it is made in the most traditional style and more tightly regulated. Since this region was once mainly for bulk grape production, the designation is a good indication the wine will be of higher quality.

Soave is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris but has a little something extra, and is certainly a great conversation piece.
Bonus: If you see a "Superiore" on the bottle, it means it was made with higher quality grapes and aged for at least eight months. 

Another unique white wine from Italy is made with the Vernaccia grape, a dry acidic white wine that also pairs excellently with seafood.

All-around crowd pleasers: Dry sparkling wine pairs well with salty food because the bubbles cleanse the palate, similar to the way that beer does. It also pairs well with almost anything aside from a dessert (go for a Demi-Sec or Sec, which means partially, or wholly sweet). 
I would suggest Champagne from the region in France, or Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain, made with native Spanish grapes, also in the same method. 
Look for the words Brut, Extra Brut or Brut Nature (the driest) on the label. With Cava, look for 'Reserva' on the label, and a green sticker on the bottle. The aging requirements are similar to Champagne, producing a higher quality wine. 
Rose wines are also a great choice and go with almost anything. For heavier dishes, go with a darker colored rose, so it can stand up to the food, like one made with Garnacha grapes from Spain. Or for lighter dishes, a lighter rose pairs nicely. And sparkling rose is always an excellent choice.

These are just some of the possible combinations. Throw the rule book out the window and start sipping and eating. Its the only way to find out what you like. Cheers!

Wine Conversations: Amanda Page, Kysela Pere et Fils, Part One

Amanda Page works for a fine wine importer and distributor, Kysela Pere et Fils, and teaches wine classes at Screwtop Wine Bar, too. As one of her students at several of these classes, I could see her passion for the subject matter and loved how she made the classes super fun and interesting! After learning that she started out as a chef, my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to know more about her story. She was nice enough to sit down with me over a few glasses of Zweigelt rose at Screwtop and fill me in. This is part one of my interview with her!

Amanda said it all started with a cooking class in high school, which led to attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, where she met her now husband, who also used to be in the restaurant industry. 

She moved to DC in 2004 to help open the restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental. But some changes in the kitchen and a tough schedule left her wanting more. She decided to try her hand in the beverage business and got a job at a now-closed wine store in Clarendon called Best Cellars. Her goal was to someday return to the kitchen, but...that never happened.

However, she does still cook. She said her favorite thing to make is coconut curry broths, with chicken or tofu. She also teaches cooking classes: ranging from sushi making, to food and wine pairing, and she comes up with all of the recipes herself. 

Amanda ended up becoming the general manager at the Clarendon store and then she moved to the company's Dupont Circle store in DC. She said she loved the concept of making wine something everyone can relate to, not something snobby. When the store was sold to another chain, she found herself replying to an ad for Screwtop, and was part of the team that opened the wine bar for the first time during a winter snowstorm about 7 years ago! 

Now, Amanda works in distribution as a fine wine sales rep, and holds a DWS, or a Diploma of Wine & Spirits, which is the highest level of certification from Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which is based in London. (These courses are no joke, I just finished my level 2 exam and it was not easy at all)!

She said at first she was hesitant to enter a sales-related job, but she ended up loving it because of the flexibility of the schedule, which has brought her more of a work life balance, and the part about establishing and building relationships with her customer base. And obviously, because she gets to deal with awesome wine for her job!

Her career has also taken her all over the world to places like South Africa, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Cotes du Rhone region of France and to her favorite place of all so far, Champagne, France, which she referred to as the happiest place on earth.

Part two of my interview with Amanda will be coming soon, as part of a new project.Cheers!

Bordeaux: A great rainy day wine

Bordeaux is great wine to drink on a rainy day! 

The Chateau Plaisance 2014 comes from St. Emilion on the right bank of Bordeaux in France, which means it is made mostly of Merlot grapes. Wines that come from the left bank are predominately Cabernet Sauvignon.

This one is blended with 20% Cab Sauv and 10% Petit Verdot and is classified as a second tier wine, a Bordeaux Superieur, which is one level up from regional, the most basic classification. The second best is Cru Bourgeois, and the best, Grand Cru.

With Cru Bourgeois, the vintage (year) of the wines are tasted by a panel who decide if the wine from that heat is worthy of this classification. Grand Cru wines are actually based on a designation established in 1855.

This wine is spicy and has a nose and palate of blackberry and black cherry with a little oak and smooth tannins. It pairs very nicely with grilled meats and hamburgers, and is quite nice to drink on its own as well.

It retails for around $20 and was part of the Screwtop Wine Bar wine club last month. Cheers! 

This wine was imported and distributed by Kysela Père et Fils.

Ostatu Rioja Blanco: A True Gem

The Bodegas Ostatu Blanco 2016 Rioja comes from Rioja Alavesa, one of the three sub-regions of Rioja in Spain.

Most Riojas are red wines made with the Tempranillo grape, Rioja Blanco only makes up about 10% of the region’s production, which makes this wine a total gem!

Rioja Blanco must be made with at least 51% Viura grapes, and this one is made with a blend of that and Malvasia, making a light, refreshing and dry wine with a nose and palate of citrus, and a long finish.

This wine comes from vineyards that are between 30 and 80 years old! Ostatu is a family owned winery in Samaniego that is over 200 years old.

Most of these wines are meant to be consumed young or fresh, but a small percentage are aged in oak and have more nutty and oaky flavors.

The Ostatu has not been aged and is meant to be enjoyed right away. Although, you could age it for 4-6 years.

It's available at Arrowine in Arlington and is a total steal at $16 a bottle.

Imported by DeMaison Selections, also the importer of the amazing Txakolina Rose I had in New Orleans, and based in Chapel Hill, NC, my hometown. Cheers!