Local and regional wines were in the spotlight at the Masters of Food and Wine event early this month. It was the Park Hyatt Washington’s second time participating in this event, which occurs throughout the year at several of the hotel chain’s outposts around the world.
The hotel’s beverage director, German Broggi, who came to the District last summer, has developed an entire page of Virginia wines for the Park Hyatt’s restaurant, Blue Duck Tavern, and he made sure local vintners were well represented in the three-day event.
The opening reception on Blue Duck’s small patio along 24th Street NW on June 2 (luckily, before our heatwave began) was crowded as partygoers met and mingled with Jeff White of Glen Manor Vineyards, Emily Pelton of Veritas, Jason Burrus of Rappahannock Cellars, and Rachel Martin of Boxwood — three of Virginia’s top wineries. Barboursville’s Luca Paschina held court among the crowd in advance of a winemaker’s dinner he hosted later that evening.
The Masters event was not entirely local, of course. Such famous names as Caymus, Duckhorn and Jordan were represented. One enthusiastic fan gushed to me after stopping at Alma Rosa’s table, “Oh my gosh, that’s Richard Sanford! He’s a pioneer!”(Sanford planted the first pinot noir vines in the Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County back in the 1970s.)
At the Barboursville dinner, Paschina poured two vintages of his viognier reserve to support his belief that viognier ages well and should not be consumed too young. The 2002 was rich and unctuous and deep golden in color, but I still preferred the crisper, fresher 2009, which showed the flowery aromas and austere structure that makes Barboursville one of my favorite viogniers year after year. Perhaps nine years is a little too long for aging it, but the richness of the 2002 did pair nicely with chef Brian McBride’s lobster dish. (I also attended the wonderful America Farm to Table dinner the next night, with guest chef Brian Huston from The Publican in Chicago. The kitchen staff in Blue Duck Tavern was magnificent both nights.)
The highlight wine of the evening, however, was the Octagon, Barboursville’s signature wine. This merlot-based Bordeaux blend was showing beautifully in the 2001 and 2006 vintages, bolstering Paschina’s argument that Virginia can consistently produce world-class wine.
Other local wines shared the spotlight on Friday. After a brief appearance on News Channel 8’s “Let’s Talk Live” (see above) that morning, I conducted a small tasting of 10 Virginia and Maryland wines for about a dozen people at the Park Hyatt. The idea was to showcase some of the region’s best wines in a setting more congenial than the typical summer wine festival — after all, barrel-fermented anything doesn’t taste very good in 100-degree heat. (The link is to a writeup of the tasting on BrightestYoungThings.com, which definitely marks a first for me.)
My guests enjoyed some unusual wines, such as the Chester Gap 2009 Petit Manseng, as well as more traditional offerings, such as Black Ankle Vineyards’s excellent 2008 Bordeaux blend called Crumbling Rock, or Michael Shaps’s stunning 2007 Cabernet Franc. The tasting ended with a bang — the Boxwood Winery 2007 Topiary, a 50-50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc that may be hard to find retail now but should still be on some restaurant wine lists. If you can find it, don’t pass it up. The Topiary is drinking beautifully.
Locavore/locapour does not mean focusing exclusively on local wines. It means giving props to the quality wines our local vignerons are producing. And Park Hyatt Washington did exactly that in its annual showcase of our local bounty.