Only In Olney


Yes I’m now officially part of this exclusive club.  I got my first ‘Get Stained’sticker from the fine folks at Olney Winery.  And it only took my fourth visit to the Maryland Wine Festival to get there.  Funny how I built something up so significantly for years, and it was all about a sticker.  If you understand the sarcasm, you realize that anyone who wanted a sticker, got one.  But it’s fun to pretend that this is an exclusive group of wine drinkers and lovers of life, that it’s the ultimate badge of honor, and no less than that.  And maybe it is.

So here we go again.  Last year I did three recaps of some of my favorite booth visits at this most exciting of fiestas.  These posts can be found here, here, and finally this gem.

I had no set plan.  I never do.  I could have written two months worth of material from the event but certain scenarios, wine and dinner parties, and holidays steered course.  I love that.  Once again I have material to last me a couple of months but I don’t see it happening on consecutive weeks.  We shall see.  It’s what makes this blog fun.   So before I go on another tangent, I will go with the very first tent I stopped by, the aforementioned, Olney.

olneycabwinefestAt the event itself they only had two wines I had interest in trying, their For Your Eyes Only Cabernet Sauvignon and their X Brothers Pinot Noir.  The former I’ve had before and on a very first taste at their tasting room (more on that shortly) I was floored.  I bought a bottle immediately.  I may have had other wines but this was the standard bearer at the time.

Since then I’ve purchased this same wine at various retailers with mixed results.  Maybe it was a bad batch, bad cork, waiting too long, or the universe telling me not to try it again, but it’s not the wine I remember.   But on this day the recipe seemed different (as every vintage should be) but my palate was rejoicing once again.  This is the Cab I remembered. I see more tannins were added, that oak I remember, and my favorite inclusion of all, pepper was back and with a vengeance.  Oh how I love thee.


But just when I thought it could’t get any better, the X Brothers Pinot Noir really wowed me.  I almost thing it’s truly difficult to butcher Pinot.  And most are simple, easy to drink, and get the job done.  But this is on another level.   It’s still warm enough outside to have something light yet slightly cooler to appreciate this same bottle all the same. This is a wine for right now, in this moment.  The teases of fruit and spice are a nice segue into fall.  If you like fall.  I have mixed feelings but will make the most of the season where I can.

I would say that we’re done and this was a great first stop at the festival.  I got my sticker and went about my merry way.  Yet I had an inspired thought.  If the opportunity presented itself I would stop by the tasting room, which is near where I grew up and only about an hour away from me now.  I wanted to enhance this post and say thanks in person.


My one and only (Olney?!) visit was a couple of years ago by pure happenstance, or maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe all roads led to this.


Funny because Olney has changed so much since I was a kid.  You can still see the original footprints of a town that has now evolved.  Mom and pops are now chains, more chains are moving in, and the quaintness is there but not like before.  But the tasting room puts gives this town something bold, unique, and inspiring.  Not many places can say they have a winery within a shopping district.  Pretty cool I know.


So what  do you know?  One scenario into another brought me here, and just in the nick of time to put this post up.

A major thank you goes to Bryan who helped conduct the tasting and gave me a few extra pours for free.

olneypinotAnd instead of recapping every wine I had I will expound on another one that blew me away as well.  Yes I was all set to get the Pinot Noir but then the Tuscan Sunset Sangiovese had to rear its beautiful head.  Oh my goodness.  The no-so-subtle hints of strawberry and white pepper were more than enough to make which bottle to purchase a much more agonizing decision than it really needed to be.  But they’re both equal in quality and superiority.


So what did any irrational and indecisive person do? I went with both.  This is one of those times I decided to treat myself.  We need to treat ourselves more, within reason of course.


The Pinot at $19.95 and the Sangiovese at $17.95 will likely be the most expensive bottles I’ll buy this year and for a while.   I’ve always said around $20.00 is where my cut off will be, unless I’m feeling really ambitious.  And the wine has to be immaculate.  Both of these fall under that category at a reasonable price.  As an unexpected bonus, my $7.00 tasting fee was waived.  I hope I don’t get anyone in trouble for mentioning that.


Honorable mention goes to the Olney Mill White Chenin Blanc, which tasted like the tropics with some apple thrown in.

With a couple of exceptions, every wine I sipped went from good to magnificent.  And again, it’s all based on your palate and what you like.  It looks like mine is resuming back to my preference for the dry reds, even if the two I purchased were on the lighter end.  As we progress through the year, the full bodies is the likely scenario.

Bryan also gave me a tour of the winery and showed me the fermentation process up close. There’s a strong possibility that this will be revisited in a post late this year/early next year.  I won’t hint at much more than that.  But I may be taking part in something special.

This is a not your typical winery. There’s no vines or even an outside.  Everything is done in-house and it’s a concept that I could see becoming much more popular as time goes on. Yet many of of us, including myself, like tradition.  We like seeing grapes grown and an inspirational patio/backyard set up when we go to a tasting.    I like both, there’s room for both, and there’s room for everyone.  Here’s more information on their concept, their mission, and a brief synopsis of their history.

Here’s their contact info and the team of winemakers themselves.  And most important of all, where to find their wine.

Pictures of the various wines and the tasting room itself are all over this post.  Enjoy!


Until next time and there will be a next time here…



We’ll Be Seeing Ya


Life should be filled with as many  random, exciting, jubilant, and inspirational moment as possible.  You can throw in all the superlatives, synonyms, and dangling participles you can.  It’s supposed to be fun.  It’s short, it’s long, and everything in between.  This one is about all of that and so much more

A chance encounter with a long-time friend lead us to meet in glorious and historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

I was born in Alexandria and that adds to my sentiment.   We don’t choose where we’re born but it does choose us.  And each time I wander around this town I’m more and more grateful that I was one of those chosen ones.

This town fits me.  I appreciate it more as times goes by and I get older.  The cobblestone streets, the small shops, the walking paths, the mom and pop restaurants, the museums, the water, and everything else gives me that feeling of peace.  There’s plenty of beautiful towns in this country and world, and I’d love to explore more.  But this one is mine.

How I ended up here on this day I’ll chalk up to the universe. And the universe can be so kind. I’ve wanted to meet my friend several times over the past year or so, but circumstances and timing prevented it.  It all lead to this one.  And thank goodness, because this will likely be the last one for a while.

He suggested a tea shoppe but that sadly closed unceremoniously.  There’s the downside to local business.  Rent may be too high to justify attempting a new venture.


However, there’s a plethora of wine bars in the area and we walked into the first one we saw. That would be Sonoma Cellar on King Street, the heart of everything.

We walked in a few minutes early but the staff didn’t seem to mind.  We literally had no sense of time or direction which makes sense in context.   The wine literally took us where we were meant to go.

After some careful deliberation, we took a seat outside in their wine garden.

The menu is loaded with all kinds of fun and excitement.  And with that comes some pricier options.  Fortunately, we were only coming in for a glass and a small bite to eat.  I understand the location and prices, but some did look a bit steep for my taste.  Thankfully this was happy hour and there’s affordable options to be had as well.

I love that the majority of the wines are from California.  Makes sense of course.


My choice was the 2012 Chardonnay from Bluewing Vineyards.  My pal went with the 2015 Rose of Sangiovese from Barnard Griffin. Yes this is one of those rare posts where I talk about two separate wines from two separate wineries.  Very exciting I know.

I’ll let the menu do the talking on the descriptions.


The Chardonnay was good but I didn’t find it particularly memorable.   But I could tell right away that it was aged in stainless steel.  I dig that.  I couldn’t tell that it was finished in oak but it’s all case by case.   I may not always want my whites to be too oaky   That’s a matter of taste more than anything else.

Lemon meringue on the nose?  Hmm, I don’t know.  Apple and lime blossom flavors? The former I could taste.  The latter?  Well, maybe next time.


I was grateful to get a sip of the Rose of Sangiovese and this was the winner.  That color stood out immediately.  It looked even rosier than your typical rose.   I was happy to taste the cranberry and pomegranate before I even looked at the synopsis.  That made me happy. This is a wine you can drink all the time.  The weather encourages it even more so now.

Great wine means great food.  A cheese and charcuterie plate was the perfect second to our glasses.   It’s contradictory to say that the food never had a chance.  Wine and small plates are meant to be savored.  But I suppose we were hungry.   The rosemary focaccia bread was a brilliant touch.

Speaking of brilliant.  I love this place.  Our server was kind of enough to allow me to take pictures where I could.

There’s an aura and energy of a pricier experience, but I would love to come back.   Money shouldn’t always be an issue.    If you’re with good company, having a good conversation, and enjoying yourself you forget about finances.  And you can’t put a price on great experiences.

Life is short, it’s long too, but it’s also very short.   I’m grateful to have spent a little bit of time with a friend I may not see for some time.  It’s not a goodbye, more of a…

We’ll be seeing ya,






Tasting At The Terminal


This is a post based on at least a couple of firsts.  This is my first time doing a wine tasting at a terminal.  And it was my first time at this terminal, but more specifically Reading Terminal Market.   In all my times visiting Philadelphia, I never set foot here.  Was I even aware this place existed?  Ah the things we overlook.   I’m embarrassed to have written that fact.


When I was searching for a winery nearby to do a tasting I figured that the hear of a major city is not likely going to be the winery itself but a subsidiary of one, or a sister location. I’m not sure how to describe it but nestled in the back of the market was Blue Mountain Vineyards.

Pretty cool I know.  And at the same time I made myself feel intimidated.  I almost turned around and ran the other way when I saw the set-up.  I was afraid to ask if they did tastings.  Why was  I frightened?  They appreciate the interest and this is a business like any other.

I’m glad I walked in. Sophie was behind the counter and took care of me.  She said I would be able to do 5 tastings for $5.  That sounds reasonable to me and similar to what I’ve been accustomed to with Maryland winery tasting setups.


The Cabernet Franc was not available for tasting.  That was the one I wanted to try the most.  However, I’m happy with the 5 I chose and the results were a bit surprising.


First, the Pinot Noir was simple to drink like most Pinot’s should be.   The French Oak is what does it for me.  And oaky Pinot’s are not what I’m used to.  But I could get used to this.  The price of $25 was a bit out of my range for this wine.  I don’t see me paying that much for this even though I thought it was very good.  It mention being fruit forward which I did pick up on.  Earthy and smoky are not terms I love but I understand the sentiment.  This was just a great wine that I wish I would be able to buy.  But not that price.


The Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon I’ll put in the same breath.  Because usually I would be loving both.  The opposite happened here.  Neither wine did much for me.  And I love both grapes but it didn’t click here.  Many of the same components that helped make the Pinot didn’t make the Chambourcin.


My hunch with the Cabernet Sauvignon is that a fresh bottle that was aired out a little longer would make this full bodied varietal a lot more flavorful.  Wow I just sounded very knowledgeable there.  But I think you know what I’m saying.  Under the right mood and season this may work. It’s still hot out and this wine did not work in this setting.  But I could see it be delightful somewhere down the line.

And now the whites. Actually no, I did sweets.  Interesting call by me to avoid whites.  I didn’t even realize this.  This summer has been a time of me rekindling my interest in whites.  I doubt this is a regressing.


The Late Harvest Vidal Blanc is in demi (half) size and as charming as it looks again didn’t wow me.  This is within the context of understanding this is a dessert wine.  I may not be the best judge of dessert wines in general yet I know my tastes.  I would have bought this for the charming look alone but it wouldn’t be open anytime soon in my house.


The big winner was the Vignoles.  I’m surprised that this, along with the Pinot were my favorites.  I did taste pineapple at the beginning of my first few sips but then it just became a comfortable wine that could be had any day of the week with any kind of food. This is what I was looking for.  And as a bonus it can be used to make sangria.  It’s still summertime and many of us do love our sangria.  This is the bottle I bought.  At $13 this was reasonable, and worth it’s price.  Well I hope so. It may not be open for a little while.


My favorite part was that for buying the wine, the $5 tasting fee was waived.  See it sometimes pays to get a bottle or souvenir after a tasting.  I just think its proper form.

Speaking of proper form, the next time is to visit the main winery itself before I make any further judgments.   I expect to enjoy myself as many of us do when going to a vineyard.

A link to buy their wines online is here.


I hope to visit this winery before the year is out, or hopefully sooner without sounding too dramatic.  I expect to taste some more good ones, and under usual winery circumstances. Yet I did enjoy myself at the market.  Lets do it all again sometime.


I forgot to mention my other first was having the tasting done out of those disposable cups.  That was fun and funny even though I doubt that was their intention.  It’s the little things that make me smile.




Pretty Flamingo


Wine can be sipped in any form that suits us.  The traditional wine glass has always been my favorite.  But sometimes the universe (and dear friends) present you a pretty pink flamingo.  And the wine is a stellar Sauvignon Blanc from Pomelo, distributed by Mason Cellars.


By the looks of things it would seem that something fun and outdoorsy was going on.  You would be correct.  It was just a bunch of good pals enjoying a monthly free concert series, and more importantly, the comradery of the people you love  But on top of that is being at peace with ones self.  At least that’s how I felt about it.


I brought the wine, a few snacks, and everyone else brought something to the party as well.  The weather could not have been more delightful.

So what about the wine?  Everyone that had a taste seemed to like it.  I was in a great mood so the wine is going to flow much better than usual. But the lemon and lime zest with a hint of grapefruit enhanced the quality of this vintage.  That glass didn’t hurt either.  Only the crappiest of wines was going to diminish the experience of this day.


The tasting notes list aromas of orange blossoms and white peach.  I don’t recall any of this  I just had a wine that made me happy. But now that I know I will look for it the next time I get this bottle.  And flavors of passion fruit?  Oh this is going to bug me.  So many amazing fruits of Summer jam packed into this bottle?  I’m enamored.

This bottle can be found at many retailers for under $10.  I’ve spotted it in many stores in the Baltimore area.    You can purchase off their website for $12.00 here.

I think the price range of $8-12 is more than justified. It’s a simple drinking wine that works during the warm weather months, but I think it work at any time.  If it works for you than it works for you.


The lemons on the label are quite charming.  It’s a welcoming image that feels like home. Maybe it’s the reminder of a glass of lemonade, or cutting up lemons to add to some iced tea, or thinner slices of lemon used to add flavor to my favorite dish.  And maybe it hits a nerve in my subconscious that I’m not fully aware of on the surface.

I understand I’m writing this post Labor Day.  So the feeling of a new season is upon us and that leads to a lot more introspection and over sentimentality than maybe their needs to be.  For many people it’s just a nice glass of wine to share with the people you care about.  That’s a big point for me too but I look for signs bigger than that.  And I could be wrong on all levels but that’s the fun of this.


Fortunately, more festivals will be taking place in the coming months, which means even more opportunity for wine drinking, good food, and being outside with close friends and in this case, people I’m grateful to call my Baltimore family.   This is what I also mean when saying only the worst of wines was going to undermine this day.

This was a good day.