Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

“Meritage” does NOT rhyme with “garage”… and here’s the proof. October 31, 2013

Filed under: Communication,VA Wine,Wine — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:39 am
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One of my biggest pet-peeves in the wine industry is the way some people pronounce the word “Meritage”. With permission, I am posting an explanation that was crafted by my Assistant General Manager at James River Cellars (Alexander Morgan) for distribution to the staff and volunteers of our winery. Since nowhere near enough people had the opportunity to read this information, I wanted to extend its reach… I hope you take this to heart and share it with as many people as possible. Together, we can make things right… right?
∞ alison

This is a long time coming, but I just heard the most outlandish justification for why “mer-i-taaaaaaaahge” is most DEFINITELY a French term (it’s not), so I called, read, and googled all kinds of sources, and here you go – proof:

Meritage – “MEHR-i-tidj” or “Summation”

Open Scene — It’s 1988, and a group of CALIFORNIAN winemakers, specifically from Napa Valley, are having trouble with their local ABC and ATF enforcement laws (shocking) concerning the official blend % of a wine in order to print said wine on the label.

Example – if a wine is only 60% Merlot juice, can the label state “Merlot?”

No – the law then, and still today, states that at LEAST 75% of any given wine, red or white, must be of the specific grape, in order to print it on the label.

Example – the wine MUST be a volume of >/= 75% Merlot to print “Winery’s 2013 Merlot”

So, a wine can be … 80% Merlot, with 20% …say, Cabernet Franc (or even 10 other wines at small %), and legally still be labeled as “Merlot”

These winemakers decided to take action and exploit loopholes in the law, in order to showcase the rising appeal of blending, much like the Europeans did. The most proficient blending region in Europe? Bordeaux, France.

So, a contest was held. Over 6000 entries answered the call for a collective term that could be used to describe BORDEAUX-style BLENDS, which were made OUTSIDE of Bordeaux.

One participant suggested combining the very-American terms “merit” and “heritage,” to reference the quality, resiliency, and history of winemaking.

“Meri-“ + “-tage” = “Meritage”
Remember, think “herit-I-ge Merit-I-ge”

And thus, the “Meritage Association of CALIFORNIA” was coined and founded. In 2007, the name was changed to the “Meritage Alliance.”

A Meritage MUST be:
1) a blend of at least 2 or more Bordeaux grape varietals, within no varietal comprising 90% or more of the blend
2) the participating winery’s highest quality wine juice
3) produced and bottled by a U.S. winery, using U.S. grapes
4) limited to a 25,000 case production, per vintage year

A Meritage must be ALL-INCLUSIVE of the following grapes. If blended with even 0.01% of any juice from an outside source, the wine cannot be labeled as “Meritage.”

Official red Bordeaux varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec

Unofficial red Bordeaux varietals: Carménère, Gros Verdot (no relation to Petit Verdot),and St. Macaire

Official white Bordeaux varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillion, and Muscadelle

Unofficial white Bordeaux varietals: Sauvignon Gris, Ugni Blanc (French term for Trebbiano, and parent to Vidal Blanc), Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc, and Mauzac.

Bordeaux’ regions: Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Médoc, and Graves

The five ELITE Bordeaux wineries are:
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (Médoc),

Chateau Margaux (Médoc),

Chateau Latour (Médoc),

Chateau Haut-Brion (Graves), and

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (Médoc)

Other Bordeaux’ wines you may have already drank: Sauternes (Graves)

Outside of the United States, the term “Claret” or “Clairet” is used to describe a Bordeaux-style wine that was created outside of Bordeaux

The Meritage Alliance website – http://www.meritagealliance.com/

There — proof that not only “Meritage” is an American creation, but also that it indicatively CANNOT be a French term (see stipulation #3 above)

 

From the Bottom of a Wine Bottle August 7, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,VA Wine — beatitudesofmylife @ 11:19 am
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I’ve just started another blog.  This one will be focused on wine, recipes, tastings, etc… all the things that people have been asking me about for the past year, but I’ve dismissed as something that was either too involved or would take up too much time.

After much thought, I decided that this was something I wanted to do.  I’m not going to link the winery where I work at this point, nor will I link their twitter account.  I just want to post some information that I’ve been collecting over the past few years… and hopefully de-mystify “wine” in general.  I hope people will consider following this new blog and sharing it with others.  The address is:

fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com

Thanks for taking a moment to check it out…

 

This is the busiest summer ever! June 27, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,Lacrosse,Life Balance,Parenting,Sports,VA Wine — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:31 pm

I have been incredibly busy this summer… more so than any in recent memory… and I really do love it.  I don’t always have the time to cook or bake or create as I have in the past, but it’s ok.  I’m trying to make time for everything that truly matters, and isn’t that what life is all about?

I started working at a winery this past fall.  I help run the Tasting room at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen, VA and I truly love my job.  I’ve been given the tasks of our Constant Contact messages, decorating the chalkboards for our in-house special events, updating our business Facebook page (James River Cellars Winery) and our twitter account (JamesRiverWine), and helping my co-workers in their tasks as needed.  I don’t have any specific title or job description… while it’d be fun to have an actual title other than “ABC Manager”, I really don’t need one.  I am learning to look around and find things that I can do to make things run better or be more organized.   I adore taking time with our customers to find wine that makes them happy… I have learned to cook with each of our wines and enjoy sharing this information whenever I have the opportunity.  This job has become a part of me and I am having a fabulous time!  Note:  the photo here was taken by Sarah Haussen of the VTC.

Both my sons are home this summer, which adds another element to our day-to-day activities.  D graduated from Hood in May and, two days later, he began taking classes that will help him in his ultimate goal of becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer.  My heart swells when I think of how far he’s come in the past four years… I even got teary with one of his professors when they proceeded to not only tell me how great he’d be as a trainer but they went into detail on his many attributes.  Proud mama could barely keep from sobbing.  E applied for, and got, an internship in an Anti-Money Laundering program.  He’s earning money, learning how hard it can be to work a full 8 hour day, and more appreciative of his “off time” than ever.  Additionally, both boys are playing in a men’s summer league lacrosse program AND coaching youth lacrosse travel teams – getting to see them each excel in their own ways in similar activities has been a blast.

Lest you think that we don’t have enough going on, M is playing softball again!  Not only was he asked to join a locally sponsored team but he was also talked into playing for a work-sponsored team… it’s been interesting trying to add in all the games of both teams AND try to attend as many of everyone’s games as possible.  Yikes… My camera is getting a great workout!

Busy is great… wish I had more hours in the day so I could get caught up on sleep, but I’ll have enough years later when we’re not following the boys all over hither and yon, so I’ll suck it up for now.  Gotta cut this short cuz we’ve got an RSLL lacrosse game again tonight… and M has a doubleheader softball game… good thing I have tomorrow off, right?

Cheers, all!  Come visit me at the winery sometime… I’ve got some great wines to offer you!

 

 

A Post-Valentine Menu February 15, 2012

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article and create four recipes, using wines from the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail wineries, that would be sent out with the February VA Wine Lovers e-newsletter.  I got to work on both very quickly and soon had an upbeat article to accompany my recipes (AND photos) of food suggestions for a soup, salad, dinner, and dessert to make for Valentine’s Day.  Imagine my disappointment when the e-newsletter was posted without the article… and missing an important piece of one of the recipes.  Sheesh!  In light of this frustration, I decided to simply post my efforts here, for all to enjoy.

USE VIRGINIA WINE FOR YOUR VALENTINE!

Let’s face it… it’s easy to go to a store to pick up chocolates and a card for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.  It’s what many people will do this February 14th.  A more personal idea is to make a meal for your special one instead… and here are some suggestions, using wines from the wineries on the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.

Start with a deliciously wintery soup…. a Butternut Squash Crab Bisque.   Even if you delete the crab, this bisque has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that combines well with the James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine used in this recipe.

For your main course, I suggest making a light Salad and an Italian Pot Roast.   A simple salad of chopped romaine, dried cranberries, and toasted slivered almonds compliments the white wine vinaigrette, using Lake Anna Totally White wine and becomes the perfect introduction to a simple dinner.  If you cannot find Lake Anna’s wine, any dry or semi-sweet white wine will do.  Something crisp will pair well with the mixture of berries and nuts, so I’d suggest James River Cellars Chardonnay (or even a grocery store brand).   The Italian Pot Roast is hearty and homey… a meal that can be made in the oven OR crock pot. This one pairs well with mashed potatoes to warm you up from the inside out, using Grayhaven Sojourn wine.   I’ve made this recipe with James River Cellars’ Cabernet Franc and it’s equally good with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Mertitage (word rhymes with “heritage”).  Any dry, heavy red wine will do.

Plan to end your special evening with a wonderfully decadent dessert.  Cooper Vineyard makes a Noche wine that yields a lovely reduction which you can make days ahead to top a light cake and make it incredibly special.  Pictured is a sponge cake, topped with fresh berries and drizzled with this richly sweet treat.  A sprinkle of powdered sugar just adds a touch of “snow” to this Valentine dessert.  I’ve also made this sponge cake and topped the berries with Cool Whip before drizzling the reduction to make the effect that much more dramatic.  It’s absolutely stunning.  Add some chocolates and you’ve got the perfect meal.

Since you’ve been so kind as to read all this, I’ll also include the recipes here.  I hope you enjoy trying these simple and timeless recipes as much as I did creating them.  As Julia Child would have said… “Bon Appetit!”

Butternut Squash Crab Bisque (with James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine)

½ onion, diced

1t olive oil

1 ½ c Vidal Blanc (semi-dry white wine)

1 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock (or water with 2 bouillon packets)

1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed, approximately 4 cups)

1t dried marjoram

1 t Old Bay seasonings

Cracked black pepper, to taste

½ recipe Crab Dip **

  1. In large saucepan, sauté onions in oil until translucent.  Add liquid, squash and seasonings to onions. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until squash is very tender.
  2. Puree squash in pan with stick blender (can also use blender or food processor in batches) until smooth.
  3. Add crab dip and heat through but do not allow to boil.

Note:  This recipe can be a tad sweet.  Feel free to add more Old Bay or some Tabasco for a bit of heat.

**Crab Dip Recipe:

1 block cream cheese

1 stick butter

1 lb crab meat (I prefer lump crabmeat)

1T parsley

1t Old Bay seasoning (to taste)

Melt in butter and cream cheese in double boiler, add remaining ingredients and serve warm with crackers.  I like to heat this in the oven for 20 minutes to get it a bit bubbly.

White Wine Vinaigrette (with Lake Anna Totally White Wine)

2T Semi-dry White Wine (suggested:  Lake Anna Totally White)

2T lemon juice

½ t honey

1 T agave nectar

½ t mustard

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve over a salad of crisp romaine, craisins, and toasted slivered almonds.

Italian Pot Roast (with Grayhaven Sojourn wine)   

Ingredients:

2 ½-pound London broil

1 t salt

½ t pepper

1 t extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, sliced or chopped

½ -pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1t dried basil

½ cup dry red wine (Suggested: Grayhaven Sojourn, a blend of Touriga and Cabernet Franc)

Directions:

  1. Cut beef into large chunks, then sprinkle with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper.  Heat oil in large stock pot over medium high heat and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Remove beef.  Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 6-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and wine along with remaining salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes.  Replace the beef in the stock pot and place in oven, at 250 degrees.  Cook for 4-5 hours.
  3. Remove beef once fork-tender and keep warm.  Cook all remaining ingredients on stovetop until thickened, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve beef and sauce with mashed potatoes and a crisp, green salad.

Note:  Can use Crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours OR on low for 6-8 hours

Noche Chocolate Reduction (with Cooper’s Noche wine)

Bottle of Cooper’s Vineyard Noche Chocolate wine

1/8-1/4 c sugar

1T butter

Simmer wine in a saucepan over medium low heat until reduced by half.  Add sugar and butter and allow to reduce again.  You’ll know it’s reduced enough when the spatula leaves a slight wake when drawn across the bottom of the saucepan.

This is lovely when served with a sponge cake topped with fruit.  Would also be yummy over ice cream.

Cheers!

 

Writing about my (then) volunteer postition at a winery… January 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized,VA Wine,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:30 pm

From August 2011:  Thoughts about working at a winery…

I volunteer at the James River Cellars winery.  It’s almost laughable until you realize just how much I love working at this place.  I work when it fits my schedule, I teach people about the wines we offer at our winery, and I get paid in “wine dollars” for the hours that I’m there.  It’s the perfect job for me.  I started visiting wineries with my best friend about 2 years ago when she gifted me with a wine tasting/tour and lunch at a nearby winery.  This seemingly small event opened up an entirely new world to me.

Wine had always been something of a mystery to me.  I’d have a great-tasting wine somewhere and then search in vain to find something similar in my price range at the grocery store.   Visiting wineries started to take some of the mystery out of what I liked in the wines I enjoyed.  I learned about tannins (I don’t like strong ones), dry/sweet/off-dry wines (I’m somewhere in the middle, depending on the season), and oak vs stainless steel casks (I typically like stainless but can enjoy light oak).  The difference from one winery to another can be like traveling between different countries.   They all make wine, but each wine maker puts his or her own spin on things to make them unique.    Add to that the impact caused by the weather on individual vintages (the year a wine is made) and you have another reason to visit your favorite wineries at least once a year!  It was a lot to absorb as I started learning about wines, but I’ve found out some wonderful tips that I’d like to share.

  • You don’t have to be an expert in wine to know what wines are good.  If a wine tastes good to YOU, that’s all that is really important.
  • At a winery, as in life, the only truly “stupid” question is the one that you don’t ask.  TALK with the person pouring the wines at your tasting and ask questions.  If they don’t know the answer, or aren’t willing to find out the answer for you, then you don’t ever have to return.
  • Wine is for EVERYONE (of legal age, of course).  Red wine is not just an “adult wine” and Sweet wine is not just for “Kids or beginners”.    Each person has their own unique taste buds and their own preferences.   If your friend’s choice doesn’t coincide with yours, then buy your own bottles.  You don’t HAVE to share.
  • Do a little homework and visit wineries that offer tastings.  The people pouring for you should be able to share their personal experiences with the wines being offered and give you suggestions on wines you will enjoy at their winery.

When I do a wine tasting at James River Cellars, you get MY opinion of the wines we offer.  I will tell you how I’ve used our wines…. I’ll share recipes…. I’ll give you my nicknames for some of my personal favorites (Our Hanover Red wine is my “I have to call and talk with my mom for an hour” wine)…. and I’ll try and make your visit to our winery as memorable as I would want it to be if I were on the other side of the bar.  Come visit James River Cellars winery (it’s on Rt 1 in Glen Allen, VA, just north of the Virginia Center Commons mall) and see for yourself.  Hopefully I’ll be the one doing the pouring for you!

Cheers!

Alison Althouse of James River Cellars Winery

 

 
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