Monday Night Wines – 1/13/14

It was great to get back on the blind tasting saddle again!  My study group was pretty quiet for a few months, but fortunately, a couple of folks sent out feelers just before Christmas expressing an interest in practicing again.  On Monday night we had a few wine newbies and I learned a great deal from their tasting notes.

Our first tasting meeting took place last night at Local Root, where we also enjoyed some delicious locally sourced food thanks to our gracious host Issac.  Definitely recommended if you’re visiting the River North neighborhood.

The first wine was my contribution; the final guess was a SB from the Loire Valley, but another participant pegged it as New Zealand.  One of us said it was “too balanced to be from NZ.”  There was pretty solid agreement on most of the grid characteristics (Clear, Day Bright, Pale, Star, Greenish Hue, On the Nose:  Lime, kiwi, white flowers, pineapple – PLEASE write me if you think this is TMI!)  We all felt more minerality on the palate compared to the nose, and we were pretty split as to any oak treatment.

13.0 %

And the next wine up was (surprise!)



Now how weird was that?  We all noted more of that familiar NZ jalepeno on the 2012!

The wine I tried to identify was a very delicate white, with a combination of citrus and stone fruit.  I was all over the (Old) World in terms of ID-ing the grape; the lack of obvious oak and veggie (green beans, celery, radishes on the palate) took me without much confidence to Chenin Blanc from the Loire, but I could also argue for Riesling or Albarino.  Looking back, acid would have probably been higher if the wine were an Old World example of either of these grapes.

13.5 %

Really?  Well, at least I was correct about the very light touch of oak.

Our first red was one I am pretty sure I have tasted before, maybe not this vintage.  Our taster noticed the orange rim (should have been a major clue), a nose of cherries, mushrooms, cooked apple and some jamminess, which honestly confused me.  There was a certain barnyard quality on the palate, along with medium + tannins.  Another taster mentioned a “fast falloff.”  Very confusing!  I was suspecting a Grenache blend; was sure it was Old World, at least:


Next up was another Italian wine, I picked up on some bitterness almost immediately on the palate; our taster thought this one has a little age, American oak on the nose, and a nose a blue and black fruit with a touch of cinnamon.  Acid and alcohol were judged medium with more coffee and dark chocolate on the palate.  I thought Pinot Noir was a pretty logical conclusion but that bitterness put me Italy and was convinced it was some kind of Super Tuscan.


And we were all over the variety map on the last wine.  We all figured it was USA but split between Washington and California. Our notes included full body, black fruit, fried herbs, sage, potting soil, and a jammy, tart feel.  Definitely some American oak.  Merlot from Washington seemed very possible as did Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fortunately we all received partial credit on the grape!  The base was Cabernet Sauvignon but as you can see in this review (sorry, forgot to get a picture of this one), there’s a little bit of several grapes here!

(This review was for the 2009, but we tasted the 2011.  I suspect the blend is pretty similar).  13.6%

I hope these notes are helpful to you.  If you try any of these wines and have different notes, please share in the comments!


Thoughts on Charlie Trotter

tour10Just some random thoughts on Charlie Trotter.

Best move he made was on Day One in 1987, when he opened.  He named his first restaurant after himself.  Very brave.  At least you knew when you were dining there, you are getting a singular vision, not something cooked by committee.  I also loved walking by his space in Lincoln Park.  I moved a little slower when passing his restaurant on my way to the North Community Bank ATM carefully storing my $962.00 in checking.  Sometimes I would stop and daydream for a moment “Maybe one day . . . “. Mostly I just liked how the restaurant blended right into the neighborhood.  No big signs, (not much parking either), just another dude with a local business trying to make good.

I really wonder if he registered at all with the ninety-nine percent who teach our kids, build our structures, nurse us back to health.  The ninety-nine percent who are the pulse of this or any major city.  Did he personally connect with the masses like Jordan, Daley I, Ebert or Studs?

Tonight on Chicago Tonight, several reporters and past employees, now running establishments of their own, described working for Trotter, and the overall concept of his restaurant.  Just listening to them, it confirmed what I usually free-associated about the place.  It was just not me. When I dine out, I want a specialist.  I desire an intimate look at one, two cultures maximum, through their wine and cuisine.  I am not looking for all-night theatre.  I look at dining out as an appetizer on my way to the theatre.

I can applaud the drive, the work ethic, the never satisfied reach for perfection.  We could all use a little more of that.  Now I’m no psychiatrist, but you have to mix that in with joy, with humor, with grace or really, what is the point?  (And, honestly, if you work all the time with such a fearful look in your eyes, your customers will eventually notice).

I read the Tribune 90% Application for Sainthood/10% Hit Job that came out a year ago. Now look, when I die, I expect whoever writes about me to reverse those numbers.  But I just don’t get the screaming, the Don Corleone management style, the undercutting of employee overtime pay.  I’ve formerly (maybe futurely) worked in the human resources discipline.  Sorry, those tactics give you two strikes in my book almost immediately.

I wish he had the courage to expand a little bit.  No, I didn’t want to see two dozen Trotter’s across the country.  I know a move like that would dilute his brand, and because he was such a hands-on guy, he could never succeed as an absentee owner.  But I would have been first in line for a Trotter’s II; Same dedication to Fine Service, a little more predictability in the menus, maybe pitched to the Middle High rollers as opposed to the Ultra High Rollers who could afford the original.  Sort of like this place.

I’ll close with a video from one of my favorite performers.  We all contribute to or detract from our legacy every day.  For a long time this cooking school dropout nurtured his, and inspired and influenced dozens of cooks, hosts and hostesses, and sommeliers.  We are fortunate that many of them maintain their Chicago roots and haven’t pulled an Oprah. Let’s all inspire each other to reach for his level of greatness, and if possible, leave some of the Drama Stuff at the coat check.

Movie Review – “Somm” – Good Attack, Not Much Midpalate or Finish

SOMM pic

Now playing in Chicago, Somm opens in wide release June 21 Now playing in Chicago, Somm opens in wide release and on iTunes June 21.

If you have friends who fancy themselves wine experts, certain names roll off their tongue with admiration or are subject to vigerous debate, just like with people fascinated with movies, politics or sports.  Wine geeks (many actually like the phrase!) can extoll the virtues of superstar winemakers Cathy Corison or Randall Grahm, or argue whether Jancis Robinson or Robert Parker has the superior palate.

And they follow the career paths of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers; those who have reached the pinacle of academic knowledge about wine, and have demonstrated that knowledge over a series of increasingly stressful exams.

The movie Somm introduces us to four men, all I am guessing, in their late twenties or early thirties, as they approach the fourth and final exam in their pursuit to become a Master Sommelier.  Only 201 people have passed this exam, and multiple attempts at it are almost looked upon as a badge of honor within the wine community.

The exam involves an oral quiz about miscellaneous wine minutiae, a Wine Service demonstration, and a blind tasting of six wines; three red, three white.

We watch them at their study sessions, where they pour unknown wines and analyze them according to the official “grid” which offers various categories of descriptors, such as fruit, acid, tannin, and complexity.  The idea is to describe the wines with as much detail as possible, eliminate all but three possible grapes and then offer a final conclusion on the grape’s identity, along with the country of origin and vintage date.

Somm begins very strong, by quickly introducing the four contestants (and their innocent bystanders, aka wives/girlfriends in their respective lives).  Once we understand the gauntlet that’s been thrown in front of them, the film gives us close-up detail as they try to memorize and internalize all the information that may get asked at the exam.  Somm gives us lots of “how” (the score, by Brian Carmody, helps build the tension scene by scene).  If you’re interested in process, and watching seemingly ordinary people pursue a special goal and the pressure that hard work takes on them and their families, Somm will entertain and perhaps inspire you.

But if you work in the wine or restaurant industry, or dream of joining Ian Cauble, Brian McClintic, DLynn Proctor and Dustin Wilson at a Masters exam at some point in your career, you are bound to walk out of Somm wishing you could have been wielding the camera, asking the questions that director Jason Wise avoided or at least didn’t make this cut (we can always hope for more footage on the DVD).

We never see the four guys at work (you know, at their jobs that enable them to afford the $995 exam fee, not to mention airfare to Dallas and five days in a hotel).  There’s only brief footage of their respective managers, who I am guessing, must be comparing the upside of having their protegees passing this exam versus having them on the clock doing Sommelier stuff.  The words “customer” and “guest” are rarely spoken by anyone in this movie.

And there is no context provided, very little explanation of why the world needs Master Sommeliers to begin with, or how anyone on Planet Earth produced, tasted and enjoyed wine prior to 1969, when the program was created.

Somm’s most intriguing figure is not one of the main characters, or their female companions, but the fatherly Fred Dame, who earned his MS title in 1984, only the third American to pass the exam.  Mr. Dame is seen coaching these candidates in the arcane skill known as blind tasting, and there is one rather creepy scene where he role plays the part of an obnoxious restaurant customer with an oh-so-smooth student in order to demonstrate what might get demanded of him during the Service part of the three-part exam.

There’s a touching scene (which I wish could have played out longer) where Mr. Dame expresses a certain sadness at all the talented sommeliers he has been forced to fail over the years when he is called upon to serve as a judge at one of these exams.  

But in his role as a mentor and role model to the four men in Somm, you wonder if Mr. Dame enjoys the power he has to watch his charges suffer, all in the name of . . . what?

It’s the “what” and “why” questions that are missing in Somm.  In most fiction movies, you need heroes and villains (or at least adversaries).  Somm has the heroes, but the adversary is this exam, which, let’s remember, is written and administered twice a year by actual people.

And that’s a major missing piece (call it the mid-palate) in this movie.  We hear from several Master Sommeliers, in quick sound bites, but no one sits down with director Jason Wise, to give us the official lowdown from the Court itself.  How exactly is this test written and what separates the four people who passed most recently (May 2013), from the fifty-nine who attempted it but failed.  What exactly does the Court want?

Like many “New World” wines which start strong but don’t endure over the course of a long meal (or movie), Somm doesn’t follow through and develop its protagonists or explore the consequences of their hard work on behalf of the overall industry they represent.

My Certified Sommelier Experience – A First Growth Day

This is my dream.  You have to pass a three part exam to earn it.  One day I hope to wear this on my suit lapel while serving you a fine bottle!

This is my dream. You have to pass a three part exam to earn it. One day I hope to wear this on my suit lapel while serving you a fine bottle!

I am writing this the day of my niece’s graduation.  Such a special moment for Sonia!  She has worked very hard for today’s moment.  You could call this a First Growth Day for her; we all have days that mark special life milestones.  A graduation, a wedding, the first day of a new job; all events that allow us to celebrate, to reflect, to learn.

On June 2, I experienced a special day; my first attempt at the Certified Sommelier exam offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers.  This is the second in the series of four exams recognized by wine industry and restaurant professionals throughout the world.

I took my Level I (Introductory) course and exam last fall in Kentucky.  The Level I involves two days of lectures followed by a seventy question multiple choice exam.

Level I is basically a gift.  If you have read a comprehensive wine overview book before the class or highlight the PDF course guide the Court emails you before the class, you should easily pass Level I.

Level II is where the wine studying gets more intense.

Each of the three exams following Level I follow the same format:

Theory:  Multiple choice and short answer and matching questions (which is done orally at Level IV – Master Sommelier Exam).

Blind Tasting:  One red and one white at Level II; Three reds and three whites at Level III and IV (where you are reciting your analysis out loud, while being timed).

Service:  A twelve minute role play where you have to open a bottle of still or (more likely) sparkling wine, pour the contents into flutes on a wine tray and serve it to a Master Sommelier and his/her (imaginary) guests while being asked the most esoteric questions about food and wine pairing, cocktails, wine recommendations, etc.

Over the past year, I have been developing my tasting skills through a weekly study group (thank you Kendall College for hosting!)  And from my participation in WSET (a similar wine credentialing program that is very thorough, but de-emphasizes wine service), I was familiar with the types of questions that the Theory portion would include.

But I knew One Section of my test could keep me from achieving my Sommelier Dream.  The Tray.

Me and My Tray

Practicing with My Tray ($3.99 at Brown Elephant!)

I started to study wine store catalogs like the fancy one that Sherry-Lehmann puts out at Christmas (nice to know hard copy isn’t completely dead.)  You are expected to make wine recommendations at your Service exam and they should include name and location of the wine, the vintage, and why you believe in your choice.

And a couple of great friends who have already passed their Certified Exam offered their time to coach me and role play just like at the Real Thing.




You are asked to arrive at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio, by eight a.m.  Registration starts once there are about half a dozen of us tensely waiting.

There are only fourteen of us.  Nine guys, five women.  This is a much smaller group than typical for a Level II exam.  Perhaps many area wine students who thought they were prepared, took the Level II offered last February in Chicago.

(A quick word about the women at our test.  They all looked so sharp; they took the Court’s dress code very seriously.  Their suits were pressed, every hair was in place; just having them in the room forced you to bring your “A” game!)

We start promptly at 8:30 with our red and white wine tasting.  There’s a form to fill out where you are supposed to check off a certain number of descriptors but you are encouraged to elaborate more on your own (what KIND of stone fruit?  How LONG do you think the wine was aged in French oak?)

Technically, you are supposed to start your Theory exam after completing your tasting, but since you are given (I believe) forty-five minutes for both, you can spend more time on tasting if you think you’ll need it.  It seemed like enough time for me; I’m pretty sure we all finished both parts with time to spare.

When you turn in your test, you are given a time to return to the hotel ballroom (ever notice that all hotel ballrooms look exactly alike?) to get briefed for your Service exam.

You spend your free time pacing, looking up wine factoids on your Kindle (YES!  Salta IS in Argentina!) and debating with others the identity of the mystery wines (there seemed to be solid consensus that the white was Chardonnay and the red was Pinot Noir either from California or Oregon.)  But the actual wines will never be revealed by the examiners – a Court policy.

About twenty minutes past our scheduled time, three of us huddle with one of the Master Sommeliers administering the exam.  We are given some quick information about our “customer” and the wine he/she will be ordering, along with some last minute logistics about the Service exam.

Me at Certified

Striking my best sommelier pose before the Service finale of my exam. May I interest you in a 2011 . . . book?

We hold hands for a second or two, we double check our appearance (Is my suit buttoned?  Is my Level One pin on my lapel?) and then we enter the ballroom and report to our respective tables.

While inside, I try to remember everything my coaches taught me.  Always line your tray.  Always move clockwise around the table.  Don’t hit your imaginary guests with your all-too-real tray.  Smile, smile, smile!

And hopefully before your twelve minutes runs out, you are told your test is over.  You’re examiner tells you “Great Job”, and you can leave the ballroom while he/she writes notes about your performance.


We all return to the same ballroom at 1:30 p.m.  There’s some sparkling rose from Oregon waiting for us!  All of us are quietly stressing.  “If #1 wasn’t a Chardonnay, then WTF was it?”  At this point, if anyone in our group thought for sure they passed, they were keeping that to themselves.

The masters gather us in a circle.  We are congratulated for our hard work, and courage just for attempting this exam.  And then one by one, names of those who passed are revealed.  The last name read is always the highest score of the day, and this person receives a monetary gift from the online networking group Guild of Sommeliers.

Once we told there was just one name left to read, I knew my verdict.  I joined six of my fourteen colleagues in the “Not Pass” group (curiously, the Court never uses the word “Fail”).

I am disappointed with my test results, but am proud I passed Tasting and Theory on my first attempt.  I feel confident that as long as I consistently practice tasting and make new note cards about different wine regions, that I can ace those sections again.

Learning proper Service is my goal for the rest of this year.  My judge gave me several helpful nuggets of feedback.  The best note he wrote was “Great effort – love the passion!”  Hopefully I can moonlight at a wine bar or restaurant with a diverse wine program and can learn the basics of Service and how to move and react on the floor like a true wine professional.

Upon reflection, due to my lack of restaurant experience, I also would have “No Passed” me on my Service exam.   Nonetheless, I found the entire process over the last six months of blind tasting, studying, making note cards, even little things like not biting my nails and losing a few pounds so I would look more professional in my suit, I Loved All of It.  And I met thirteen very cool, very motivated folks, (one all the way from Vegas!) who took their best swing at this difficult exam.  I hope we meet up again, maybe at our Advanced Exam, or a future wine dinner or tasting.

Tasting the Wines of the Dogliani Family

Admiring the Color and Nose of the Batasiolo Moscato

Admiring the Color and                                                  Nose of the Batasiolo Moscato

Last week, with the help of a Twitter colleague, I had the honor of meeting one of her clients, Fiorenzo Dogliani, CEO of Piedmont wine producer Beni di Batasiolo.   The Dogliani family has grown wine for three generations and was one of the earliest exporters of Barolo to the United States, dating from the early 1970’s. Their main calling cards are the Barolos they make from single vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba and La Morra. They also make wine from the Barbera , Dolcetto and Moscato grapes, including their own Moscato Rose clone from Trentino Alto Adige and their own Moscato Bianco grapes from the Langhe.

Through Ricardo March, Batasiolo’s US Sales Director who also happens to be Mr. Dogliani’s interpreter, I was informed that  part of what makes the wines of his region so individualistic were the complex, multi-layered soils where his grapes are planted.  Marl, clay, fossils and sandstone all influence the grapes’ character and the textures of these wines once tasted.

We started with a Gavi (100 % Cortese grapes), which I would describe as having a straw color, a slight green rim, medium-plus body and aromas of white flowers (daisies?) and pears, and tart lemon on the palate.  This would make a natural apertif or a perfect pairing with antipasto.

The Barbera d’Alba featured black, sour cherries on the palate, medium plus (almost high) acid (think 4.5 on a five point range) and medium to medium plus tannins and complexity.  This one finished a little bitter for me.

We also tried one of their family’s Barbarescos, from the 2008 vintage. I could definitely make out a yellow rim around the ruby core of this one.  I picked up more of an herb and oak component immediately on the nose, and Mr. March  confirmed that this was aged in a combination of Slovenian oak and French barriques for one year, plus an additional one year of bottle aging.  This was the most complex wine in our tasting, and I would recommend strong aged cheeses to pair with it.

My favorites were the Moscatos we saved for last, both a white and a Rose. These were serious Moscatos, not like the more generic ones becoming popular in the North American markets. The nose on both of these evoked roses and violets and a brisk spring breeze, if that makes any sense!  The finish on both of these were long and lingering.

Thank you, Katie, for introducing me and my readers to the wines of Beni di Batasiolo.  If you try one of their wines here in Chicago, please send me an email with your tasting notes!  (We enjoyed these wines at Rosebud on Rush Street, where they are readily available.)

Virginia Wine 101

After reading my recent post summarizing the Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Charlottesville, Virginia, you might be a little curious about the wines made in the state that gave us those wine celebrities Thomas Jefferson and Dave Matthews.  Since October is also the start of Virginia Wine Month let’s start with some facts and figures the natives graciously provided me before I left for my trip.

Thomas Morgan who writes Drink What You Like, started me with some basics:

  • Virginia is the fifth largest wine producing state.
  • Virginia is home to over 180 wineries, and growing quickly.
  • Six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
  • Over 2,500 acres under vine.
  • Chardonnay is the most planted white varietal inVirginia; Cabernet Franc the most planted red.
  • Though the subject of much debate and opinion, the varietals that seem to thrive here inVirginia are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier, and Petit Manseng.

I sent emails with questions about Virginia wine to several local experts, and they all responded with very thoughtful, thorough responses:


“Virginians have made wine for more than four centuries. The Jamestown settlers had such hopes thatVirginia would become a major source of wine for the British Empire that in 1619 they signed into law a requirement for each male settler to plant and tend at least ten grape vines.  Little came of it.  Every effort to grow vinifera, or vines of European origin, met with failure from an unknown pest, Phylloxera, as well as diseases in a new environment.  The booming tobacco trade diluted British interest in the possibilities of American wine.  Americans themselves lost interest.  While fine wine could be had only from Europe, whiskey, beer and brandy were plentiful.”

“In hopes of one day realizing the promise of fineVirginia wines, Thomas Jefferson cultivated European grapes for more than 30 years.  His Monticello vineyards never produced a single bottle of wine from his years of vineyard trials. He wasn’t alone in trying.  After 11 years of efforts at Mount Vernon, George Washington too, had nothing to show for it.”

“In the 1820s, wines made from Native American grapes met with great success.  Then a Virginia Norton wine was named “best red wine of all nations” at the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873.  Plus a gold medal for Norton at the Paris World’s Fair of 1889 when the Eiffel tower was constructed.  The discovery in the late 1800s that native and European vines could be grafted gave Virginia’s nascent wine industry a lift – but in the early 20th century, Prohibition promptly brought it to a standstill.  The industry was slow to bounce back. Some 17 years after Prohibition’s repeal,Virginia had all of 15 acres of commercial wine grapes.”

“In the late-1950s, experimental plantings of vinifera showed promise.  With the establishment of six new wineries in the 1970s, the recovery was officially underway.  A renewed effort to grow a European Chardonnay succeeded at the Waverly Estate in Middleburg in 1973.  Then in 1976, Italian pioneer vintner Gianni Zonin hired Gabriele Rausse to grow and harvest vinifera grapes near Charlottesville.  He established Barboursville Vineyards and then helped other vineyards do the same.  By 1995,Virginia had 46 wineries.  By 2005, 107.  At 192 wineries and counting today, onlyCalifornia, New York, Oregon and Washington have more wineries thanVirginia.  The persistence of generations of winemakers is paying off.  And the vision of one ofVirginia’s most renowned native sons, Thomas Jefferson, is now coming true.”

Matthew Finot of King Family Vineyards


“Climate is a major issue in Virginiaand makes growing grapes very challenging.  And yes, these conditions vary across the state. Grapes are grown in all regions of the state, and there is one tasting room (Holly Grove) that has ocean views.  On the left side, grapes are grown in the Shenandoah Mountains where temperatures have dropped to allow one winery to produce a true ice wine.  These two areas benefit from large Diurnal temperature fluctuations – the cool sea air and wind cools the costal grapes whereas the Mountains produce the same affect for western growers.”

“However the majority of wineries and vineyards are located in the central part of the state surrounding Charlottesville and in LoudounCountyand the Route 66 corridor west ofWashingtonD.C.  These areas experience a much smaller Diurnal temperature fluctuation yet produce the most celebratedVirginia wines.”

“Yet all regions experience temperamental weather.  In the spring, a late frost after initial bud break is a possibility.  Two of our favorite wineries, Corcorcan Vineyards and Fabbioli Cellars, lost virtually their entire crop from a late spring frost.  Then, summer commences with hot and humid conditions.  The grapes must be pruned in order to allow for air flow between clusters to avoid moisture from turning into mold or rot.  One reason Cabernet Franc is so prevalent is that it has loose clusters and thick skins – alleviating some of the problems caused by humidity.  And finally, late summer and fall can also be associated with heavy rain and perhaps a hurricane.  If the grape ripens late, the increased rain may increase juice levels and dilute the overall concentration.”

Todd Godbout of Virginia Wine TV.Com


“I believe that the largest producers in Virginia are Williamsburg Winery (about 65K cases) and Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery (about 40K cases).  The winery of the most renown – and one of the originals, now several decades old – is Barboursville Vineyards, while Linden Vineyards earns tremendous respect and acclaim because of the winemaking practices of owner/winemaker Jim Law.  Horton Vineyards is known as a maverick for growing new varietals; they were among the first doing Viognier and Cabernet Franc, and of course those are now some of Virginia’s strongest growers.  Chrysalis Vineyards has the world’s largest Norton vineyard.  Boxwood Winery is gaining a following for its Bordeaux-style bottlings and its modern, chrome-and-glass (appointment only) winery and tasting room.”

Nancy Bauer of Virginia Wine in My Pocket


“Virginia has six AVAs and many microclimates, and different grapes do well in different vineyards, of course.  Even after decades of growing, winemakers are still expanding their knowledge in this area.  Cabernet Franc has been a star inVirginia for a long time, and Viognier has just been named the signature varietal for the state, so you’ll see even more of that being produced.  Petit Verdot is an up and comer that does well in many areas and winemakers are doing great things with it.  Lots of vineyards struggle with Cabernet Sauvignon here, though Chardonnay grows well.”

Nancy Bauer


 “Washington, DC restaurants are slowly becoming aware of Virginia wines, as are restaurants throughout our state.  Lately the First Lady, Maureen McDonnell, has conducted marketing tours to restaurants and retailers to showcase Virginia wines.  She has had some success, but with slow progress.  Some DC restaurants carrying our wines include OYA, SAX, Smith Commons and Cajun Experience.”

Todd Godbout

Thanks to all who participated in my interviews.  If you have tasted a Virginia wine recently (particularly if you were able to find one here in Illinois!), please email me your tasting notes, or comment in the space below.  And check out this gallery that Mr. Godbout kindly forwarded:

Wine Compass gallery