Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel Germany

Riesling is one of the most food friendly wines on the planet and a no-brainer when looking for the perfect pairing for spicy food.  I tend to gravitate to German & Alsatian Rieslings, but Washington State and New York are also producing some great ones too. If you think Rieslings are too sweet, think again! Rieslings run the full flavor spectrum from bone-dry all the way to succulent sweet dessert wines. This little charmer is a great value with great flavor and just a touch of residual sugar.

The Dr. L by Dr. Loosen is a great everyday Riesling to keep on hand for your next take-out meal. Dr. Loosen is an exceptional producer in Germany and has earned the nickname “King of Riesling” by many in the wine industry. The Dr. L is considered his “table” wine.

I love this wine paired with spicy Chicken Ka Pow! I really like the way a Riesling cools the palate with a touch of residual sweetness and also makes the flavors pop with its vibrant acidity. I also paired this with dark chocolate covered candied ginger for a chocolate tasting event and it was smashing success!

Tasting Notes: 2013 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12) 

Aromas of white flowers, citrus & stone fruit dance in your glass. This off-dry wine boasts vibrant acidity, honey, peach, lemon & a hint of lingering spice on the palate.

Perfect Pairings: Sushi, Spicy Thai Food, Seafood, Chicken Satay & Picnic Fare 


2012 GIFFT Chardonnay

The long list of celebrities with their own wine labels seems to be growing at a steady pace. Many of these celebrities including the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Donald Trump, Dave Matthews and Kathie Lee Gifford are turning to the fruit of the vine for their next big project.

After all, wine can mean big business! Americans are spending more on their weekly wine consumption than ever before. According to the Wine Institute, Americans consumed nearly  900 million gallons of wine in 2013 and spent an astounding $37B in sales the same year.

People like a sense of familiarity, so it’s no surprise that these products sell well. However, it begs the question – is it really good quality? Do they truly have a passion for the love and labor involved with creating a great quality wine? Is it all marketing? Is it all hype? Or is it truly a good product worth checking out?

I decided to put one of these new labels to the test. A friend recently suggested that I check out GIFFT wines from Kathie Lee Gifford, so I happily obliged and immediately placed an order online. After all, it’s my job! While I’ve enjoyed watching Gifford over the years, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to her wine venture.  With the first aromas lifting from the glass, I was immediately impressed by the layers of complexity on the nose (tasting notes below). Upon further research, I found out that she collaborated with Scheid Family Vineyards, in Monterey, California on her label. The Scheid Family has a forty year history of making exceptional wine in California and this partnership seems to be a culmination of a shared vision to bring affordable wine that tastes great to your dinner table.

I was also excited to learn that we share a similar philosophy on wine and the way it brings people together. In my opinion, there is simply nothing better than bonding over a glass of wine and a meal with your loved ones.

In a world filled with so much chaos, wine has the innate ability to make us slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. “Wine has a been a huge part of every civilization throughout history. A glass of wine says, ‘Slow down, savor your blessings, enjoy your family and friends, and give thanks for the harvest of life.'” ~ Kathie Lee Gifford

A beautiful hue of pale lemon greets your eyes as you pour this wine into your glass. On the nose, you’ll experience tantalizing aromas of candied lemon peel, Gala apple, pear skin, pineapple and hint of mango. The fruit notes are quickly followed by a kiss of a salinity reminiscent of the scent of waves crashing against a rocky seashore and a touch of sweet spice of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. On the palate, the bright lemon, apple and pineapple flavors are dominant. The wine has a touch of creaminess mid-palate, vibrant acidity and a lingering finish. With an ABV of 12.5%, this Chardonnay is more reminiscint of an Old World Chardonnay. It pairs perfectly with crab & corn chowder. The piercing acidity acted like a soft napkin gently cleansing my palate in between bites and the bright citrus brought out the sweetness in the lump crab. Overall, a nice pairing wine and a great value for $20.

Perfect Pairings: Roast Chicken, Crab Cakes, Lobster Rolls & Chesapeake Chowder 

Michael Shaps Chardonnay

Our celebration of Virginia wine month continues with a classic varietal from Michael Shaps Wineworks. Michael Shaps has been making wine in Virginia for nearly 20 years.  He spent time working for two legendary vineyards (Jefferson Vineyards and King Family Vineyards) prior to opening his own operation in 2007.  Shaps has a love for old world wines and is using that passion to create fine wines in Virginia with an old-world flare, including a spectacular Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes:
The Russian River Valley collides with Mersault in the 2010 Wild Meadow Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine is everything a Chardonnay should be and more.  Aromas of sweet meyer lemon, baked apple, pear skin, hazelnut and kettle corn dance in your glass. The palate echoes the aromas and adds a touch of sweet spice and toffee. The wine has a creamy mouthfeel, refreshing acidity and a long lingering finish. (SRP: $26)

Perfect Pairings: 
I paired this with the Barefoot Contessa’s Engagement Roast Chicken, it was a match made in heaven.  It’s also perfect with lobster, crab cakes, swordfish with tropical salsa and nutty gruyere cheese.


2008 Horton Port

Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, Virginia has an impressive portfolio of varietals. While they specialize in Rhone varietals like Viognier, the Horton Vintage Port really got my attention. The 2008 Vintage Port is a wonderful dessert wine. Horton was the first winery in Virginia to make a Port after prohibition – beginning with the 1995 vintage. It’s also a great value at $20 for a standard 750ml bottle.

Tasting Notes:

The color is vibrant ruby with a slight garnet rim. This is a bold, rich, full bodied, sweet dessert wine with aromas of cassis, cherry and plum. The palate echoes the aromas and adds a nice touch of raisin, fig, toffee, burnt caramel and sweet spice.

Perfect Pairings: 

The Horton Port is wonderful on its own or paired with a dessert like pecan pie. I also love this wine with a savory option like a cheese plate featuring stilton and figs.

Serve this wine at 60 degrees to achieve an optimal drinking experience.


Jefferson Vineyards Viognier

a href=”http://foryourloveofwine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/JeffersonBottles.jpg”>The American Wine Revolution began in the heart of Virginia wine country.  Thomas Jefferson had a vision of producing world class wines in the new colony that would rival its old world counterparts. Jefferson’s love of the European Vinifera began a 3o year old pursuit that didn’t end very well in his lifetime.

Fast forward two hundred years and Virginia is now being recognized as a top 10 wine destination in the world. Jefferson would be proud!

We continue our celebration of Virginia wine month with a stop in Charlottesville for a sip of Jefferson’s Viognier.  Viognier is an aromatic white grape that’s  indigenous to the Rhone Valley of France and it’s now become Virginia’s signature grape!

Depending on the vintage, the winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards typically blends in small amount of other varietals to create the perfect balance. Other varietals often include Riesling, Traminette, Petit Manseng and Pinot Gris. Keep in mind there will always be a minimum of 75% Viognier in the blend to adhere to American wine laws.

Tasting Notes

This is an exotic wine with aromas of sweet jasmine, honeysuckle, nectarine, candied lemon, tangerine zest and tropical fruit. The palate echoes the aromatic profile and finishes with hints of cardamom, ginger and white pepper. This medium bodied wine has a round mouthfeel, good balance and a soft lingering finish. It’s a real crowd pleaser!

Perfect Pairings

Try switching up your traditional Thanksgiving wine and feature a Viognier for your feast.  It’s also delicious with grilled swordfish and tropical salsa, fried oysters, roast duck with orange sauce and triple cream brie cheese with quince paste or fig spread.




Valerie Hill Bellaria

Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery is named after the historic home Valerie Hill in Stephens City, Virginia, about an hour outside of Washington DC. The Federal style brick manor house was built in 1807 and remains the centerpiece of the property.

Valerie Hill is producing an exceptional dessert wine called Bellaria. Bellaria is an aromatic white dessert wine made from the Vidal Blanc grape which is a French-American hybrid.

The wine comes in the half format bottles and retails for under $20. Bellaria is the perfect ending to any meal.

Tasting Notes: 

Succulent aromas of candied lemon, juicy peaches, tropical notes of pineapple and mango and a hint of honey jump from the glass.  This is a sweet wine with balanced acidity.

Perfect Pairings:

While this wine is perfect with fruit tarts, lemon meringue pie, peach cobbler and pineapple upside down cake, it’s also fantastic with an after dinner cheese plate of Stilton or Maytag Blue Cheese, quince paste, honey and candied walnuts.




Chatham Vineyards Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay

Sometimes the best things in life can be found down the road less traveled. Chatham Vineyards on Virginia’s historic Eastern Shore is no exception to this rule. The 400 year old farm is nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  The maritime climate and sandy loam soil create the perfect dynamic for world class wines.

We are kicking off our celebration of Virginia wine month with Chatham’s Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes

Aromas of meyer lemon, quince, honeydew melon and slight tropical undertones of pineapple are present on the nose along with honeysuckle, wet stone and a hint of salinity.

The palate echoes the aroma profile and provides a perfect foil for briny oysters and other shellfish.  This is a crisp dry balanced wine with refreshing acidity.  The minerality and flavor profile is reminiscent of an old world Chablis. A true expression of what the Chardonnay grape should taste like.

The best part, this wine retails for under $20!

Perfect Pairings

This wine is a classic pairing with oysters. In fact, Chatham is hosting its annual Merroir & Terroir event coming up in November where they pair local oysters with the “Steel” Chardonnay.

In addition to oysters, this is a perfect pairing with an array of seafood, poultry dishes and my Chesapeake Crab & Corn Chowder.  The sweet briny crab meat brings out the fruit characteristics in the wine and the refreshing acidity cleanses your palate in between bites. This is a marriage made in heaven!

In addition to the “Steel” Chardonnay, the Wehner family is having some great results with Bordelais varietals, most notably the Cabernet France.  We will review that wine later this month. It’s definitely worth the short detour of Highway 13 to stop in and savor some of the great wines from Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

I had the opportunity to spend the day with the winemaker, watch the video.

2008 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz

The Penfolds name is synonymous with winemaking in Australia. This year, Penfolds celebrates 170 years as a pioneer in the industry.  Penfolds wines run the spectrum from affordable every day wine all the way to the iconic Penfolds Grange. This wine exemplifies the true terroir of South Australia.  Grange generally retails for roughly $800 upon release and the value only goes up from there.

Another label in the “luxury” collection from Penfolds includes the St. Henri Shiraz also know as Penfolds “other” Shiraz.

I recently opened a bottle of the 2008 and was blown away by the complexity and true aging potential of this wine.  The St. Henri Shiraz retails for a fraction of the Grange at $99, but exemplifies all that is truly wonderful about Australian wine. While most Shiraz coming out of Australia tends to rely on new oak to develop tannins, structure and flavor, the St. Henri is aged in neutral oak vats.

The wine is beautiful deep ruby to purple in color. On the nose, aromas of sweet blueberry pie, baked plum and black cherry abound. There are also notes of dusty earth, leather, cedar chest, applewood smoked bacon, anise, mint, a  hint of black pepper, asian five spice and mocha.

The palate bursts with flavors of blueberry and plum followed by spice box and chocolate covered espresso beans. While this wine was decanted 2 hours before drinking, the tannins were still very chewy and rugged.  The finish was long and lingering. This is a truly complex wine that will only improve with long term cellaring. In fact, I would recommend holding this bottler for at least another 3 years before opening. If you are impatient, I would recommend decanting at least 6 hours before your meal and make sure to pair it with something fatty like a ribeye. Keep in mind, patience is often rewarded when it comes to wine.

This wine can age every bit as long as Grange.  According to Penfolds the peak dates are 2012-2038. A small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is added to improve structure. The breakdown for this vintage is is 91% Shiraz, 9% Cabernet.

The 2008 St. Henri was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator.

2012 Stag’s Leap Chardonnay

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (SLWC) became one of the premiere California wineries after its 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon took home top honors at the 1976 Judgement of Paris in its respective category. This prestigious recognition put America on the international wine map. For nearly two decades Stag’s Leap enjoyed a tremendous following and accolades from critics and consumers alike.

In the early 2000’s SLWC faced quality issues in the cellar that left a bitter taste on many palates.  After a challenging few years, cellar upgrades and new ownership in 2007, Stag’s Leap is making quite a come back. Wine Spectator’s James Laub profiles the evolution of Stag’s Leap in this article from 2012 and discusses how an unflattering yeast spoiled many past vintages.

Long Renowned for its robust and elegant Cabs, SLWC also produces cool climate Chardonnays worthy of a place at your next dinner party. After an austere vintage in 2011, the 2012 vintage was deemed outstanding by the Wine Institute.

The 2012 Stag’s Leap Chardonnay has robust notes of lemon curd, granny smith apple, crisp pear, white peach and a touch of pineapple with a hint of salinity on the nose. The vibrant citrus flavors coupled with the bright acidity provide a beautiful foil for luscious lobster or decadent crab meat. The mouthful has a medium weight with a medium long finish thanks to the lees aging and subtle oak aging.

Pairs perfectly with crab cakes, lobster rolls, swordfish and roast chicken.


2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner

The 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner from Alto Adige, Italy is this week’s feature wine.  Kerner is a an aromatic white grape that was created in 1929 by crossing two German grapes (Riesling and Trollinger).  Abbazia is one of the world’s oldest wineries dating back more than 800 years.  It was founded by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular in 1142 and has a steep tradition in making exceptional wines.

Seared scallops over a bed of bacon corn salad paired with Kerner


This wine is made from 100% Kerner grapes and is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. It offers exotic aromas of white flower, juicy apple, ripe peach, lemon curd and a hint of tropical fruit. The palate bursts with ripe juicy fruit and offers refreshing acidity with a crisp finish. It simply reminds me of summer in a glass. Pair this with an array of seafood from sushi and seared scallops to crab cakes. I also really love this wine with baked lemon ricotta. The cheese makes the sweet lemon and tropical fruit burst on your palate. Consume within 1-2 years.

Check out my video review on the 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner.

2011 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a top tier Napa Cabernet without the hefty price tag? Try reaching for a second label of one of the most esteemed Napa Valley producers.

Faust is the second label of the sought after Quintessa.  Over the years, many winemakers have realized that there is a big market for the juice that simply falls short of their highly esteemed premier label.

While this wine tends to be outstanding in its own right, it just misses the mark to be worthy of the top label.  This is actually great news for you and me! We get a lot of the beautiful nuances and sought after Napa fruit of the premiere label at a much lower price point. While the Quintessa Cabernet tends to fetch roughly $150 per bottle, you can get your hands on the Faust for about a third of the price.  Many wine makers have established second labels that are attracting their own cult calling. Opus One is just another example. They recently launched a second label called Overture.

I have had many vintages of the Faust and have always been pleased. I was anxious to try the 2011 vintage because it was an exceptionally challenging year in Napa.  In fact, it was the most challenging season in decades with spring frosts and plentiful rainfull throughout spring & summer. The vintage was essentially saved by a warm September and a long Indian Summer. While many critics have completely written off the juice of this season, there are others that are intrigued by the elegant balance many of these wines have been able to accomplish despite a miserable lashing from Mother Nature.

I fall into the latter category. I tend to like my wine a little more restrained with more balance and layers upon layers of subtle nuances. I love Old World wines and coming from that frame of reference, this wine did not disappoint. This is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% each of Malbex and Cabernet Franc. The wine is vibrant ruby red in color with aromas of dark cherry, cassis, spice box, anise, dark chocolate and the lingering notes of that earthy Rutherford dust with silky smooth tannins on the palate. This wine is more reminiscent of a Left Bank Bordeaux. There was a hint of green bell pepper indicating a touch of underripeness, but overall this is an excellent wine considering all of the obstacles of the season. The wine improved throughout the evening. Decant for atleast 30 minutes before drinking.