This blog post marks the 100th weekly blog post that I’ve written for City Vino, and in celebration of that milestone, store owner Rita Allan suggested that I write about my “A-ha! wines”—the wines that got me interested in wine, that have impacted me, that have changed how I think about wine, and have left an indelible mark on me.
First a little background, my name is Kathy Wiedemann. About 10 years ago, I found myself deeply drawn to wine. Part of the attraction, for me, was the ability to drive out of the congested and chaotic Washington, DC, area to the beautiful Virginia countryside and be able to partake in locally grown and made wines. At that time, all I knew about wine was that it was made from fermented grapes, and that I liked some and didn’t like others, which is really, truly, all one ever really needs to know.
Within a year or so, I had already helped harvest grapes, and had started working in a tasting room on weekends. My thirst for wine knowledge was growing by leaps and bounds, and I started taking some very basic wine education classes through a local organization. Those classes fueled the passion, and I’ve gone on to having completed and being awarded a few wine certifications, and have attended many masterclasses in wine, every chance I get. I’d say that in these 10 years I’ve tasted thousands of wines, and for that I’m an overachiever!
As requested, here are a few of my “A-ha wines”:
1. The year was 2011 and I was at the beginning of my wine journey, and I was attending a class on wine storage. This was not slated as a class where wine tasting was part of the syllabus, but the instructor had dinner the previous evening with friends, and brought a few of the leftover wines to the class. Two of the wines were, at the time, some of the most astounding wines that I had ever tasted. Both of the wines looked like honey, smelled like marmalade and honeysuckle, were lusciously sweet, like tasting pure nectar, and had a mouthwatering tartness. The wines were a 2001 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes, and a 2009 Royal Tokaji Azsu. These are two of the most well-known and highly regarded dessert wines in the world, and I was gifted with the chance to try them as someone’s leftovers!
2. Over the years, I’ve attended the Virginia Wine Summits. The Summits are gatherings of the wine industry, from growers, winemakers, staff, journalists, media, restaurant wine buyers, sommeliers, and retail shop buyers. These are events to help grow the VA wine industry. The first one was held at the Marriott in Richmond, Virginia. I enjoyed all the events, and tried to take in all the information from each session. During the evening’s events, wines were being poured, but I happened to notice that a few times, a “secret” bottle came out from under a table, and a splash of wine was poured. I finally gave in and asked about the special wine, and I was poured a taste of the 2010 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is not a grape you see in wine from Virginia, as its climate isn’t well suited for this grape, which does best with cooler nights and warm days. Ankida Ridge is located in Amherst Virginia, which is south of Charlottesville and in mountains, and has the much-needed high altitudes that this grape needs to shine. This wine tasted as close to a Burgundy as I’ve ever had outside of that region. The wine was magical. Last year, we attended an event at the Ankida that featured several vintages of the Pinot Noir, including that 2010, and it was still as I remembered it.
3. In 2013, I attended a wine dinner at The Ashby Inn, featuring the wines of Chateau Musar, which is in Lebanon. I had heard of the winery before, but didn’t know its story. As I listened, I learned a long familial history of winemaking in times of peace and in war. While their iconic reds were poured, what attracted me was their white wines. We were served the 1975 and 2000 Musar whites with our protein courses, which included beef. I had never had white wines this old before, and they were unlike anything I had ever tasted. They were deep in color, and had nutty notes, not unlike a sherry gets due to oxidation. What I thought I knew about wine that day, changed dramatically.
4. Another wine dinner I attended, perhaps the same year as the Musar dinner, was also at the Ashby Inn, and featured the wines of Jim Law, of Linden Vineyards, here in Virginia. Jim has been making wine in Virginia for several decades and his wines are regarded as some of the best in the state. I remember this wine experience for not just the wine, but the wine pairings. One pairing featured Linden’s Hardscrabble Chardonnay, paired with a scallop with a tiny bit of honey, topped with a watercress vichyssoise. The wine and dish were lovely on their own, but together, the experience was incredible. This experience taught me that the perfect pairing doesn’t just merely have the wine and food complement each other, but they raise each other up to be something spectacular.