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Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year, New Wines For Our Sandwich Inn Guests

 Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Even though the holidays are over and we are closing for the season, I still need to look for that next great wine to serve guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast next season. The weekly wine tastings sponsored by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants are on hold since my friends Kris and Dave have gone to the Virgin Islands to run their other business, which provides fine wines to charter yachts for the winter months. Now that sound like tough duty.

Even without official wine tastings, I am lucky to have the opportunity to taste interesting wines because I have friends that like to share wine. Over Thanksgiving weekend, our friends Bob and Noreen invited us to dinner and to taste some of their favorite wines. They live in Virginia outside Washington and also have a house here in Sandwich. They stay with us at the Inn when their house by the Bay is rented and they are wine lovers. Bob is always raving about the great Virginia wines he has tasted. I wondered if I could really find wines to serve to my guest from anywhere in the United States, other than the West Coast.

I did find a Virginia wine in my Cellar, which I brought to the dinner. On our travels a few years ago, we stopped at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA. Jefferson spent time in France and loved their wines and may have been Americas’ first ‘oenologist’; he personally brought many of the first vines of the French grape verities to his home. I actually saw his restored vineyards on the beautiful grounds of this national park. Maybe it should not surprise me that Jefferson’s 1770s interest in wines has survived and thrived in Virginia. The official state industry wine website lists 191 wineries in nine geographic areas, with six Approved Viticultural Areas (AVA). 

We started our evening with Bob’s favorite, a 2002 Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo. He had recently done a multi-year vertical tasting at the Vineyard and felt the 2002s was nearing its peak. I have to agree; it was great and went well with the selected cheeses and nuts. Nebbiolo is a famous Italian grape verity that is obviously doing well in Virginia. The winery is located in Purellville, VA, in the Northern Virginia Region, the region nearest to the Washington, D.C. area.


I brought a non-vintage Monticello Claret which I purchased in the gift shop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  The Barboursville Vineyard in partnership with Monticello produces the wine, with a portion of the proceeds going to support Monticello.  As stated on their website:

‘In Thomas Jefferson's time the most esteemed red wines produced in France came from Bordeaux, and were called "Claret" by enthusiasts in England and America. Our Monticello Claret is based on the noblest red wine varietal from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, estate-grown at Barboursville Vineyards and aged fully 12 months in American white oak barrels.’

The Vineyard is located in the Central Virginia Region in the specific Monticello AVA. I have marked both of these wineries on my trip maps plus dozens more that need to be visited this year.

We finished the evening with a treat from Bob’s cellar, a 2003 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Napa Valley.  This wine stole the show. Chateau Montelena is located in Calistoga, CA at the North end of the Napa Valley.  It is famous for winning the historic 1976 Pairs Tasting that established California as a source of world-class wines. On a personal note, we learned that Noreen had dated a nephew of Jim Barrett, the founder of this winery, in the 1980s.  She recalled the cases of ‘good’ wine they served at family gatherings.  She may have been enjoying some of the award winning 1973 Chardonnay. Oh, what I would give to have some of that wine by the case today.


Although I still liked the California Zinfandel best, I have a whole new appreciation for Virginia wines. I will plan our trip this year to include visits to as many of these wineries as possible. We hope to meet up with Bob and Noreen and share more of their favorites at the source.

Happy New Year and Happy Wine-ing


Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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