Saturday, August 6, 2011

Special Occasion Wine Bar

I just worked the fish station for a record week at Willow, in terms of attendance.  Having survived with only minor injuries, I was ready to celebrate.  Wendy had some job related success to celebrate, so it was off to our favorite wine bar! 

The Enoteca is located almost 45 minutes from our house in 'the burbs' of Northern Virginia, near Dulles Airport.  It is also inside a Whole Foods grocery store.  Not the most glamorous of locations, and it is almost always deserted, but the place is just amazing.  Sixty wines by the glass are in a series of Enoteca machines, available in 1, 3, or 5oz pours via a smart-card.  You can even order cheese plates from the store below.

Okay, so it' spacious, pretty and has a lot of options.  But let me tell you about the stock.  The guy who runs the place, Kyle, they pretty much let him do whatever he wants.  Once, he put six Leroy Grand Cru Burgundy's in the case.  He's always got Chateau d'Yquem for $25 per taste.  1982 Sassiacia?  Sure!  20 year-old Vouvray, vertical collections of Super Tuscans, inexpensive but rare wines like Portugese's a wine geek playground!

Here's what Wendy and I tasted:

2007 Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered - Napa
Pale gold.  Aromas of honey, apricot, orange blossoms, lots of oak treatment.  Surprisingly crisp (1/2 malo?), long finish.  Not acidic enough for food unless it's very bland.

2003 Vignobles Brisebarre Vouvray Moelleux Grand Reserve - Loire
Delightful.  Peaches, honey, apricots, lemon cream.  Medium acidity, it seems to be at its peak.  Drink it alone or with some angelfood.

2010 Joao Pires Muscat - Terres do Sado - Portugal
Very restrained nose.  Not much going on in the flavor department either.  This is muscat?  Lean cucumber and melon, lime and a bit of spice.  Short finish.

2009 Pierre Prieur & Fils Sancerre - Loire
Pale lemon with green highlights.  Very classic flavor profile, some oak treatment.  Lemon and lime.

2005 Jean-Michel Guillon Santenay "Les Bras" - Burgundy
Medium gold color, well developed aromas and lots of oak treatment.  Very well integrated.  There's an herbaceous quality here, a fresh note I've never gotten from Chardonnay, mint or eucalyptus.  Long finish.

2008 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley
This is Beaux Freres basic bottling using purchased grapes.  The texture is the fine grained tannins I expect from this producer, but it's way lighter than anything I've ever had from them.  This is despite the fact that 2008 was pretty much the best year ever in Oregon.  Good but disappointing.

2006 Jean-Michel Guillon Gevrey-Chambertin "Les Crais" - Burgundy
Bacon, savory, plums and smoke.  That looks like Syrah aromas, no?  Only the prickly raspberry aroma would prevent me from guessing it's a Rhone.  ...until I tasted.  Bright cherries, smoke, white mushroom, earth, lots of finesse.  Very classic and drinking at its peak now.

2006 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe - Piedmont
Profound aromas of red cherries and spices.  Tannins that threaten to dissolve my teeth.  If you can get past that, it's really lovely.  Gorgeous texture and flavors of rose petals, cherries and tar, with finishing notes of tobacco and pepper.  Give it another 5 years.

2007 Ramey Claret - Napa
Cassis.  Youthful nose with a bit of herbaceousness.  Medium-plus acid and pretty big tannins.  Very elegrant in style, as the name would suggest, with a creamy finish.   

2007 Domaine du Vieux Telegraph Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The nose is jammy, with black licorice, pepper and tar.  Infanticide!  Acid and tannin are holding back a tidal wave of flavors, but good luck parsing them.  Wait five years.

2006 d'Arenberg Shiraz The Dead Arm - McLaren Vale
Aromas are of lots of black fruits.  Pure and profound on the nose.  I had this shortly after release and the taste was quite a bit more forward.  It must be in a dumb period because it wasn't giving much.

2007 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa
Not much nose beyond faint cassis and blackberry.  Infanticide!  I've never tried Cakebread because I was turned off by it's cache, but this is the real deal.  Massive tannins, savage fruit.  Gonna be great is about three years.

2003 Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo - Tuscany
Creamy nose of red cherries and over-ripe red plums, spices, black olives, thyme, graphite, and tar.  In other words, smells great.  On the palate, not so much.  It's muddy, tired-yet-still-acidic, and unimpressive.  Over $100 a bottle?  Right.

2004 Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo - Tuscany
More of the same.  Kyle had a vertical going to 2006, but I passed.  For $10 an ounce, I can be disappointed elsewhere.

Okay, after this, Wendy and I switched to dessert wines.  It's tough for me to be critical of dessert wines because I love them all.  I didn't take careful notes on each, but here are the highlights.  The Taylor 20 year-old Tawny port tasted like a Tawny ought to, with excellent intensity.  The 1997 Fonseca Vintage Port was a bit confusing and muddled.  Out of balance and perhaps in a dumb period.  Steindorfer Cuvee Klaus Eiswein 2001 and Suduiraut Sauternes 1990 were both the freaking bomb.  

But here is the shocker of the entire tasting, in my opinion (and Wendy agreed)...Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2007 beat the hell out of Chateau d'Yquem 2003.  Yes.  That happened.  To be fair, both were proundly wonderful.  And 2003 was the big heatwave in France.  But still, the Canadian is perhaps a quarter of the price, and ungodly good.

A stellar tasting.  Really.  Visit poor lonely Kyle if you get a chance, and ask for a tour of the reserve room.  He's got about 20 bottles of Screaming Eagle stashed in there.


  1. Is this at the Reston Whole Foods? I definitely need to make a trip out that way to check it out. Sounds amazing.

  2. It's in Fair Lakes, you can get the address at