Archive for July 2013

Virginia is for Lovers? Perhaps….   Leave a comment

File:Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving.jpg

Travelling through Virginia recently, I was reminded of a Constitutional Law class I had taken a few years ago as a young law student, when I came across a case that appeals to me on many levels, the aptly named, Loving vs. Virginia. 

The case involved what was then Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law.  OK, I don’t really expect most people to know what that is.  Miscegenation is the mixing of races– in this case the Virginia law prohibited the marriage of people of the “white ” race and people of “colored” races.  The case was brought by Mrs. Loving, a Black Woman who had married a White Man.  The Wikipedia write-up of the case sets out the facts rather nicely (Gracias, Wikipedia!):

At the age of 18, Mildred became pregnant, and in June 1958 the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, thereby evading Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage a crime.  They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia.  Based on an anonymous tip, local police raided their home late one night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law.  When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall.  That certificate became the evidence for the criminal charge of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth” that was brought against them.               

*                             *                           *

On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pled guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia.  They did so, moving to the District of Columbia. 

In June of 1967 the US Supreme Court’s decision, in Loving v. Virginia, invalidated the Virgina law putting an end to race based restrictions on marriage. 

  220px-US_miscegenation_svgDates of repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws by state:
   Grey: No anti-miscegenation laws passed
   Green: Repealed before 1887
   Amber: Repealed from 1948 to 1967
   Red: Repealed 12 June 1967 (the day Loving v. Virginia was decided)

The Loving case, even if it did not specifically address the right to privacy, in my mind is all about privacy and what happens within the sanctus sanctorum of the bedroom, of the home. 

Yes, thanks to that 1967 Supreme Court, we can now say that Virginia is for Lovings.  But as good as that result was 46 years ago, as a society we need to deal with volatile social issues regarding race relations and marriage.

I like to think that our country is a more open place now, but am reminded that in some respects it is not and that there are private places that the Government continues to seek to regulate and monitor.  Think of the laws in a number of states prohibiting same-sex marriage.  (Think also of the recent disclosure of the NSA’s efforts to track our electronic communications– but don’t think too hard about that one…)

The 2013 Supreme Court moved the needle toward nationwide equal recognition of gay marriage.  But unlike the Loving case, there is still work to do on the gay marriage front since the court did not directly decide that prohibitions on gay marriage are unconstitutional.  After these recent cases, only about 30 percent of Americans will live in states where gay marriage is legal.  Virginia has yet to legalize it.

DFP Same-sex marriage ruling

While I appear to have been beating up on Virginia, here, let me say that I have a very favorable impression of the state and the people I have met there.  To me Virginia is in many respects a microcosm of the values of our country.  

Painted CornerHaving painted myself into a corner, how do I get back to the real purpose of this blog?  WINE.  A Sybarite has to do what Sybarite has to do…

Gather a bunch of our hetero, homo, black, white, latino, you name it, friends and have a picnic with lots of great food and some Virginia wines. 

During our recent trip to Virginia from Linden Vineyards.  Located in the Virginia Blue Ridge, Linden has been producing wines in Virginia since the 1987 vintage.  Not a very long history, but the wines have a nice energy to them.  Owner-winemaker, Jim Law (whom we did not have a chance to meet), is clearly interested in putting out a quality product.  We tasted through a number of Linden’s current releases and were particularly impressed by three of them that made it back to Connecticut with us.

Seyval 2011 ($20).  The Seyval is made from seyval blanc, a hybrid grape that is, interestingly, outlawed in the EU because it contains non-vinifera genes.  No matter.  In Virginia, this varietal produces an energetic and minerally white wine with citrus notes that is reminiscent of Sauvignon blanc.  Built to be drunk with shellfish or milder cheeses, we grabbed a half case of this before we left the winery.   Rated ** 1/2 out of 4*

Vidal Riesling  2010 ($19).  A blend of Riesling and Vidal (another hybrid varietal).  This wine had an engaging energy and an immediacy that, coupled with the pear and tropical fruit (think lychee) notes, is a joy to sip to the last drop.  Rated **1/2 out of 4*

Petit Verdot 2010 ($28).  This is a hefty effort with a goodly amount of black and blue fruit with enticing aromas that jump out of the glass.  Equally at home with an aged Gruyère as with a grilled pork chop, this is a handsome food wine.  Rated *** out of 4*

We are looking forward to our next visit to Linden.  If you live in the D.C. area, put it on your list.

Posted July 24, 2013 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (or at Least Some Good Wine)   2 comments

Marilyn & Jackie 2It may be a little bit too early for Christmas, but I feel as though I have been given a very nice gift.

A couple of years back, Jancis Robinson wrote about a wine revolution occurring here on the East Coast of the U.S. in the state of Virgina, home to and burial place of T Jeff– an 18th century French Wine Geek, who also happened to pen Declaration of Independence and served as our young nation’s third president– yeah, THAT Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson, an avid gardener, planted Bordeaux varietals in Monticello, but it appears he was never able to produce enough grapes to make any wine there.  Given that I am writing this on the eve of Independence Day, as well as the 187th anniversary of T Jeff’s passing, it seemed an appropriate time to speak out about Virginia wine.

Now, Virginia is not the first place you would think to produce wine.  First off, it’s generally quite warm which results in early ripening (and often over-ripening) of the fruit.  But the real problem is rainfall which in wet vintages dilutes the fruit and can promote the growth of molds and mildew– none of which are good ingredients if you want to make a tasty wine.  But a few winemakers, and one in particular, seem to have figured it out by placing his vineyards at higher elevations on soils with a base of drainage-friendly fractured granite underneath.

About 1 hour’s drive west of Washington D.C., stands RDV Vineyards, a small property with a mere 16 acres of vines planted.  Located in Delaplane, Virginia, this operation with a very dedicated staff will become a standard-bearer for high quality East Coast wine and in time world-class wine.  Given its short history– I believe the first vintage to be released was the 2006– the rise of the quality of the wines produced here is remarkable. 

ProprietorRutger de Vink, Rutger de Vink (in case you were wondering where the winery got its name), has set out to create a world-class wine that can hang in the same stratosphere with the finest Bordeaux and California wines.  There is no question that his wines express their sense of place, even if Bordeaux  is the inspiration.  The winery produces a “mere” two offerings a year, a Right Bank style merlot-dominated fruitier wine, which in marketed as Rendezvous, and a Left Bank style cabernet-dominated more structured one previously known simply as RDV.  Right Bank and Left Bank, and the letters R and L now play prominently in the marketing of the wines.  In vinous genuflection to the French inspiration, starting with the 2009 vintage, the two wines are called Rendezvous and Lost Mountain.

The tasting room, a well-appointed, airy and modern space, is the perfect place to quietly ponder the beauty of these wines.   Recently, I opened the 2008 RDV (renamed Lost Mountain for the 2009 vintage) and was impressed by the level of restraint this wine exhibited– good concentration of flavors and fruit, certainly, but balanced by tannins resulting in an elegant wine.  And as good as the 2008s are, the improvement in the 2009s– the first RDV wines benefitting from the expertise of Eric Boissenot, wine consultant to 4 of Bordeaux’s 5 first growths– is readily apparent.  The 2009 Lost Mountain is a wine that, while drinkable now, has yet to really stretch its legs out.  Still as the wine opened up it released a magical perfume.  The wine has an insistent finish that Ms. R and I can’t wait to experience again.  The folks at RDV will know her as the sun goddess since she managed to keep the rain away while we were there…

Having also tried the 2008 Rendezvous which, to be honest, seemed a bit over extracted or over baked and almost coffee-like, I was pleasantly surprised by the 2009 Rendezvous which has a more solid core of fruit without appearing to be too New World.  The folks at the winery will tell you that the Rendezvous is for more immediate drinking and that the Lost Mountain is for long-term aging.  While I cannot disagree with that advice, I would put it a little differently: Although it does not have the same presence as the Lost Mountain, the 2009 Rendezvous has its own fleshy elegance, playing the role of Marilyn Monroe to the Lost Mountain’s Jacqueline Kennedy, if you know what I mean. 

Let’s cut to the chase here– the 2009s are the ones to get your hands on.  But to do so, you will need to visit the winery since the internet allocation is sold out.  Visit, if you can– you will not be disappointed.  Oh, and don’t be thrown off by the $40 per person fee for the tour, tasting and light food parings.  It is worth it.

Which brings us to the bottom line– in absolute terms, these wines are not inexpensive.  The 2009 vintages of Lost Mountain and Rendezvous, are sold for $88 and $75, respectively.  The pricing for the 2010s, which are to be released in September 2013, are $95 and $75, respectively.  But relative to Napa wines of comparable quality, there is value there.  There may come a time when we may look back on these early RDV vintages and sigh at what great values these wines were “Way Back When”…

Sybarite Sauvage 4 Star Rating System:

RDV2008 Rendezvous Rated **1/2

2009 Rendezvous Rated ***

2008 RDV Rated ***

2009 Lost Mountain Rated ***1/2

Posted July 3, 2013 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love