Still Green at Barrel Oak: One Year Later

About a year ago, I wrote about the green measures taken at the soon-to-open Barrel Oak Winery. This past week, John had a great post checking in on the wines Barrel Oak is producing one year after arriving on the seen.

John also talks about two wineries I have yet to visit — Vintage Ridge and Aspen Dale.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Highlights from a Jaunt Through Virginia Wine Country

Over this past holiday weekend, I had to work on Saturday and a little on Monday, but Sunday was another story. It was a perfect day (minus a couple of showers) for a quick trip into Virginia Wine Country, the Northern Virginia Region to be precise. Here are the highlights:

Chester Gap Cellars: This is a small, family-owned winery and vineyard with a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and forest. It’s worth the trip, particularly if you like Viognier.  Chester Gap makes three different 100% Viognier wines wines with varying degrees of oak aging. I personally preferred the first one I tasted, which was fermented entirely in stainless steel.

Linden Vineyards: The cellar tasting never disappoints. While I was sad they were not tasting their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc on this particular day (East Coast Wineries recently noted the Washington Post’s praise for this and other VA sauvignon blancs), my disappointment was tempered by sampling their 2006 Hardscrabble Chardonnay. It had excellent acidity and was not over-oaked.  You’ll want to grab multiple bottles of this well-balanced wine.

Chateau O’Brien: The Virginia Apple Wine really is ridiculously good. Oh, and if it is your first time I would recommend scheduling a Cellar Collection Tasting, as the winemaker does a mean Tannat. Unfortunately, if recollection serves, the 2005 is sold out. I think the 2006 is available at $69 per bottle.

Pearmund Cellars: Just my luck, the Malbec sold out mere hours before we arrived, but the Cabernet Franc was excellent. Their new vintage of Viognier was just bottled and shows some good potential.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Sangam Restaurant: Indian Food Done Right

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have probably figured out that I am basically a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy.  My food reviews have focused on American and Italian cuisines.  So, when you see me blog about something a little more . . . exotic . . . it’s probably a good idea to pay attention, right?  Well, read carefully, kids —

A couple of years back when I lived in Ballston just off of Route 66, I would occasionally get takeout from this Indian place on the corner named Sangam Restaurant.  I knew it was good, but I slipped out of the habit of eating there when I moved away from the area.  Well, I recently moved a little closer to my old stomping grounds and a few nights ago I found myself there again.  I had forgotten how good it was, but now I know how good it is.

Edward Dean opened Sangam Restaurant after retiring from his former professional life, which included 20 years as a Personnel Officer at the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India.  Mr. Dean had never owned a restaurant before, but he is evidently a fast learner.  Sangam has been the Grand Prize winner at the Taste of Arlington three years running.  Sangam has also earned praise from the Washington Post and DCFUD (see Nov. 24, 2006 entry).

The Sangam Team at the 2007 Taste of Arlington

Sangam’s dinner menu is extensive and the prices are reasonable.  The Post recommends skipping the appetizers and going right to the main courses and breads.  I have no reason to argue, since I did the same thing (though at some point I will have to try an appetizer or two).  From past experience, I can recommend the Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Chicken, Kashmiri Naan, and Garlic Naan.

Oh, and did I mention that they deliver?

Looking for lunch instead?  No problem, as Sangam has a daily lunch buffet to provide a brief escape from the office.  Sangam also has a banquet hall for private parties and offers catering for any occasion.

Mmmmmmm . . . tasty.

Did . . . did I mention that they DELIVER???

Sangam Restaurant is at 1211 N. Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia, about 6 blocks from the Ballston Metro.  You can call them at (703) 524-2728.

Appx. $16.00 per dinner entree.


Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on August 1, 2008 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Barrel Oak Winery: “Green” Wine is Good Business

After a couple of months of adjusting to a new day job, this past weekend I took a jaunt toward Leesburg to attend the wedding of a dear friend.  The location of the wedding provided for other interesting distractions as well.  As I have mentioned before, some of my favorite Virginia wineries are in the Leesburg area — Hillsborough, Corcoran, Breaux, and Willocroft, for example.  On this trip, however, I decided that I wanted to try some new and different producers.  While I will write more about the wines that I tasted soon, one winery in particular deserves special mention, not just for its wine, but for its environmentally friendly approach to its product and its business: Barrel Oak Winery.

When I clicked onto the Virginia Wines site, this new name appeared at the top of the alphabetical listing of wineries in the Northern Virginia region.  I was intrigued by what I read on Barrel Oak’s website, especially a note that it will be Virginia’s “newest and greenest hand-built winery.”  Being almost as into the environment as I am into wine, I decide that I wanted to learn a bit more about Barrel Oak’s “green” efforts.  Former vice president and 2007 Nobel Prize winner Al Gore recently praised the wine industry for being at the forefront of the fight against global warming, so I wanted to see how this local Virginia winery was contributing to this trend.

Brian Roeder, co-founder of Barrel Oak Winery, greeted a couple of friends and me on a sunny Saturday morning atop a small hill overlooking a beautiful green ridge.  He invited me in for a tour of the winery as his wife and co-founder, Sharon, and their team worked below us in the cellar and production area.  This close to the winery’s grand opening, every day is a week day.

Brian & Sharon Roeder

While a work in progress, it is already evident that Barrel Oak Winery will be a beautiful building.  Brian has overseen and undertaken the work himself, having been in construction in his prior life.  Features of the tasting room are a huge fireplace and long, elegant tasting bar as welcoming as any I have seen in Virginia.  The Roeders have taken a “start big and grow into it” approach to the winery, with high expectations that are sure to produce strong results.

As we meander through the tasting room, Brian begins to tell us about what makes his winery environmentally friendly.  Interestingly, he explains that the decision to go “green” was a practical, business decision rather than an environmentally motivated one.  With energy prices soaring, Brian saw an opportunity to keep his future costs as low as possible by building his winery the right way from the beginning.  His marriage of practical business considerations and environmentally conscious design are a model to be emulated.

Barrel Oak’s environmental efforts started with material conservation.  The vast majority of the rock used to construct the winery was obtained on-site during construction.  Furthermore, the flooring is made entirely from recycled wood, providing a beautiful foundation for the tasting room while conserving trees.  All of the equipment being employed in assembling these components into a world-class, hand-built winery are new and efficient, minimizing the fuel used and the carbon emissions during construction.

To use the recycled building materials to their fullest, the entire winery is protected from the elements by extra insulation and state-of-the-art windows.  Large glass doors and windows are carefully positioned so that they can be opened on hot summer afternoons and allow the refreshing ridge breezes in to cool off the winery’s patrons.

The Roeder’s also used the winery’s hill for more than its beautiful views.  While the tasting room on the upper floor is open to the air on all sides, the cellar and production areas on the lower floor are built into the hill, and are open to the air on only one side.  While cooling units will be installed in the cellar, it is evident from a quick walk downstairs that the power required to keep the temperature down will be minimal.  Barrel Oak’s wine will age gracefully in this naturally cool environment.

Sunset Over Barrel Oak Winery

Perhaps the most impressive “green” feature of Barrel Oak Winery, however, is its state-of-the-art geothermal energy system.  The system consists of a giant heat pump that uses the ambient temperature of the soil (appx. 58 degrees) surrounding the winery to heat or cool the winery, depending on the season.  For example, if it is 20 degrees in the winter, and the winery needs to be 68 degrees, the winery only needs to use enough power to make up the 10 degree difference between the soil and the desired temperature, rather than the 48 degrees between the desired temperature and the ambient air temperature.  Hence, the system uses much less energy, dramatically decreasing the carbon emissions of the winery, as well Barrel Oak’s energy bills.

Oh, yeah, and then there is the wine.  The Roeder’s ultimate goal is to produce about half of the 200 tons of grapes that they will require on site.  Rather than rush their first vintage to bottle, however, and sacrifice quality in the process, they have sought wines from several other well respected Virginia wineries and blended them with their own unique style for this first vintage.  (You can learn more about these wines from Dezel at the Virginia Vine Spot and John at Anything Wine.)  The winery’s Grand Opening on Memorial Day Weekend (May 23-26) promises to be an outstanding event.

A Bottle of Barrel Oak’s Bowhaus Red

The Barrel Oak story is proof that business and environmental concerns do not have to be at odds.  In building their “green” winery, Brian and Sharon Roeder acted as smart, conscientious businesspeople, not as environmentalists setting out solely to save the world.  Our society has reached the point where we do not have to choose between comfortable living and environmentalism.  From compact fluorescent bulbs for the home to energy efficiency for businesses, If we are smart and forward-thinking, we can start down the path toward having both.


Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on May 6, 2008 at 10:46 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Wasmund’s Whisky: A Local Twist on an Old Standby

I have to admit up front that I am not a big spirits guy. My tastes in alcohol are heavily weighted toward wine and beer. That said, I have been trying to open my palate to some new experiences. A recent tasting at a wonderful little wine & spirit shop in D.C., Pearson’s, provided me with an opportunity to do just that. Not only did I get to sip some whisky, I got to meet a local distiller who does things just a bit differently than everyone else.

Rick Wasmund is the Master Distiller at The Copper Fox Distillery, a Blue Ridge distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. He is a friendly guy who knows his craft, and he is more than willing to share his thoughts and experiences with you as you taste his Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky. Rick tells the story of Wasmund’s better than I can (as does the Washington Post), so I won’t go into the history. What I will tell you is what makes his whisky worth a try, and possibly worth a Christmas gift to your favorite alcoholic.

Wasmund’s in the Still
Just Another Day at the Office

When one thinks of single malt whisky, one thinks of Scotland, where the finest whisky in the world is made. The Scots, and just about everyone else on the planet, make single malt whisky by using peat in the kiln. The smoke from the peat filters up through the malted barley and imparts its flavor. The barley is then fermented and the alcohol aged in oak barrels for several years.

Rick Wasmund decided that he could create a unique product by doing things differently. He still uses barley (Thoroughbred barley from a private Virginia grower), but instead of employing peat in the kiln, Copper Fox burns cherry, apple, and oak woods. So far as Rick knows, Copper Fox is the only distillery in the world that does this. After being distilled in a relatively small pot still, Wasmund’s is barrel-aged in a patent-pending process that employs cherry, apple, and oak wood chips and results in a naturally accelerated maturation of the whisky.

Draining After Aging

The final product? Well, it is smooth with full, rich flavors while not being too harsh on the palate. It is different from the whisky you would normally sample, as the woods employed impart different flavors than your standard peat and oak barrels. While I may not be a whisky expert, I know what I like, and I liked this. If my word is not good enough for you, all I can tell you is that 20-30 people attended the Wasmund’s tasting at Pearson’s . . . they all left with smiles on their faces and bottles in their hands.

Distillery Dog
One Happy Distillery Dog

$35.00 per bottle.


Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on November 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm  Comments (17)  
Tags: , ,