Just the Bottle

One woman's adventure in beer, food, wine and spirits

Filtering by Tag: #winelover

Freedom to Express Great Wine at Big Cork Vineyards

There's something special about Big Cork Vineyards and it's evident when you enter. From the whimsical decor with big and small corks dotted around the room to the attentive and knowledgeable staff greeting you and finally to the breath taking views. Dave Collins serves as BIG winemaker (master winemaker and head of operations). His passion and dedication is evident in the wine and felt in the vibe of the place.

"We grow whatever we want." Dave explained as we began a wine journey through his storied career and what he's done at Big Cork. It's true. This man is the epitome of "I do what I want" shunning others' ideas to what should or could be done. He's one of the first to grow Nebbiolo when he was at Breaux Vineyards. That time allowed him to gain confidence and win many  awards. Dave doesn't do this by having an interventionist style, but by taking chances and risks that have taken others years to be willing to try.

I don't think Dave always wants to be known for his Nebbiolo (even though it is a rock star), but did have an almost holy experience visiting Piedmont. This brought I believe a newfound love into something he had already been executing beautifully. 

Dave seems most excited about "Russian Kiss." Russian Kiss is made up of three proprietary Russian varietals. These varietals are simply numbered with no names. They were brought into the United States in the 1970s by Purdue University as research varietals. These varietals have no American linage and are very Germanic in style. This was wine that I think will only grow with popularity and time as Dave continues to play with the varietals. 

There is something intriguing or enjoyable in every wine produced at Big Cork under Dave's guidance. We enjoyed another Italian varietal that is sometimes a forgotten gem - Barbera. Big Cork makes it a flag ship and there's a reason why. It shines here with great tannins and acidity. 

"That's kind of fun," Dave shares as he lights up talking about all that he's working on and what we can expect in the future. I expect more fun concerts, great wine, and laughter with friends with wine in a beautiful space.

Live a little more!

During the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa last year, there were two post conference excursions to choose from - Napa and Livermore. Both seemed like great options, but Livermore intrigued me. I didn't know much about the area, the wine, or the history. I went with Livermore and returned to DC with love for a new part of California.

As we departed Santa Rosa on a gloomy day after our conference concluded, we were greeted by an amazing team from Livermore Valley who along with serving us sparkling wine promised us sunshine, wine and a non pretentious, but informative wine trip. As we drove past Oakland and San Francisco, the clouds gradually melted away.

We entered a world that is growing in reputation as a place to visit for so many things like wine, food and even ice cream.  Every winery we visited had great value wines along with a unique story or passion that drove the owners or winemakers. One winemaker I met, shared how he was previously in construction and kept getting laid off from jobs or the pay would be sporadic. This spurred him to pursue a degree in oenology, and follow his dream. Another winery owner shared how she had been a pilot with an airline that went under. She decided she would rather be closer to her family and be in control of her own destiny.

These stories of work and determination led to a very genuine and thoughtful experience. Even though this was my first trip to California, I felt as if I were visiting home. Every person greeted me or treated me as more of a family guest as opposed to a tourist. 

If you are planning a California adventure especially one with wine, I would strongly urge you to visit Livermore Valley area. The wines and people have a story to share and it's one worth getting to know.

California Dreaming

I discovered the #winelover community through an ambassador who spoke highly of the group. There's a blog, hashtag on Twitter, but most of the online conversation occurs in a public Facebook page. It serves as a jumping off point for many when it comes to travel, sharing their love of wine, or asking questions. Besides the online discussion, they also organize various trips. I was lucky enough to go the Athens trip a couple years ago and met Tomilsav. Once I knew he was planning a special #winelover trip and conference on an indigenous Serbian variety, Prokupac, I was SOLD. Luckily, I have my special fella who loves wine and travel as much if not more than me. He was on board this time so I had someone else to participate in my silliness and adventures.

The #winelover trip always opens with a special BYOB dinner. This dinner is designed for us to bring something special and share it with others before we truly begin our trip within the region. Last time, I brought Chester Gap Cellars from Virginia. Many of the other #winelover-s are located within Europe and were quite surprised and astounded by a Virginia wine. However, before this trip I was torn. What do I bring as something special this trip?

Before we left, I stopped by Zachys DC location with the fella as he had purchased some wine from one of their recent tasting experiences. While there I talked with Tim about our desire to bring something special and being at a loss for ideas and time. He said, "why not a Napa or  Sonoma wine?" Zachys has set themselves apart by hosting a California Strong Initiative with the goal of raising $25,000 to be distributed equally among three initiatives. It was like a light went off.  We bought two California wines to the BYOB dinner Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast San Adreas Fault 2014 and Matthiasson Chardonnay.

Both wines were a huge hit as I also included why I brought them and why people should care about #SonomaStrong and #NapaStrong. A new friend who runs Wines of Balkans tweeted out the Hirsch wine and encouraged people to buy and donate to various charities.

I was so excited to see that I'll have the opportunity again to taste Matthiasson during the Wine Bloggers Conference as part of the live wine blogging experience. I'm looking forward to chatting with them to learn more about their wines and sharing the love I experienced for their wine while in Serbia.

I've only been home about two weeks, but I'm ready to get back on that plane (not really, but Xanax helps) and learn more about honing my writing, networking, and sharing the Napa and Sonoma love.  

 

#Winelover Athens Anniversary Welcome Dinner - Scala Vinoteca

I attended the #winelover anniversary trip to Athens, Greece in February 2016.  It was a great opportunity that I found from a friend I made from the International Wine Tourism Conference.  The #winelover community is based online, but is pretty simple - we love wine.  All are welcomed to join and members include industry, sommeliers, importers, winemakers, and simply wine lovers.  I had seen some of the members blog posts, tried some of their wines, and was excited to finally meet some of the members on the trip.  

The trip started off with a welcome BYOB dinner at Scala Vinoteca.  Scala Vinoteca was the perfect welcome to Athens and to the #winelover community.  Every member brought a special bottle of wine.  Before coming I heavily debated what I should bring.  I asked my friend who is also a #winelover ambassador and specialist.  I was concerned that perhaps everyone's bottles would be super rare or high end ($100 or more).  She stated it should just be something really interesting or important to me.  Therefore, I ended up going with Chester Gap Cabernet France 2012.   I have written about my love of Chester Gap and their wines before.   It ended up being a big hit!  Many people hadn't traveled to America or their travels were limited to New York or other cities.  They were incredibly excited to try a Virginia wine and also  appreciated my love of promoting local.  Others experienced that difficulty in promoting local wines and food especially when at times they may be pricer than others.

The Scala Vinoteca space was somewhat modern with an open kitchen design.  Our group took over multiple tables and moved around to socialize.  The food was a delicious evolution in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine.   Being part of a large party, we had pre-set menu for the dinner as we did for other meals.  Every course was a tasty surprise ranging from vegetarian friendly to meaty delights.  

After eating our fill, we returned late to the hotel and continued the after party in the hotel lobby just as R. Kelly sung.