kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


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Featured Wine: 2010 Domaine Seguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru


I love, love, love Chablis. The flintiness, the minerals, the mouth-puckering citrus. This is my kind of Chardonnay--steely, crisp and food-friendly.

The 2010 Domaine Seguinot-Bordet has all that and and more. It exhibits some weight on the palate, as well as some honey and straw. It's not as assertively acidic and crisp as other examples I've tried, but I think that gives it broader appeal, able to be enjoyed both by white wine acid hounds as those who prefer rounder, softer wines. Serve it chilled--but not overly so--so the aromas can shine through. And if you plan on broiling lobster tails or lump crabmeat with butter for an intimate New Year's Eve dinner, this is the wine to pour (in-between all that Champagne, of course.)

Featured Wine: 2011 Bulgariana Winery Cabernet Sauvignon


Recently, I attended a dinner at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, D.C. that featured wines from Bulgaria. Many consumers may be surprised to know that the Bulgarians have been making wine for thousands of years; it's only been recently (read: after Soviet rule) that the country has been able to get their wines out to the rest of the world. Though many bottles still go to Russia, luckily an increasing number are being imported to the United States, by people like Robert Hayk, who founded G&B Importers in Bethesda. There is great value to be found in these wines, which offer freshness and great fruit with a dry finish, making them super food friendly.

One of my favorite reds from last night (and we did also try a lovely white blend as well as a Sauvignon Blanc) is the 2011 Bulgariana Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. It sees no oak, so it retains its vibrancy, but at the same time is very balanced, with approachable, fine tannins, a great balance between dark fruit and earth, and a medium body. It was a winning partner with Chef's Bone Marrow with Roasted Garlic. And it's a veritable steal, too: $9.99 at area Total Wine stores, and just a dollar or two more at other shops. Fellow Virginia residents: we won't be able to get our hands on a bottle (or a case) of it until December, when it will be available in VA Total Wine stores too. Not surprisingly, it's done very well in MD and DC among wine lovers seeking a great Cab under $10.

I'd love it with braised short ribs, or seared lamb chops. I can totally see this being one of my house wines for the upcoming fall and winter season.

Featured Wine: 2013 Bodegas Carrau Sauvignon Blanc "Sur Lie"

Bodegas Carrau Recently, I attended a Wines of Uruguay tasting at the Embassy of Uruguay in Washington, D.C. While I expected to taste a fair share of Tannat-based wines (and I did, ranging from easy drinking entry level options, to blends with Merlot, Cab and/or Tempranillo, to serious, dark bottles with grippy tannins), I was surprised to see some really well made white wines, too.

The 2013 Bodegas Carrau Sauvignon Blanc "Sur Lie" is lively and zesty, with a mouth feel that's spritzy and almost effervescent (similar to a Vinho Verde.) It has notes of lime zest, and a great line of minerality on the finish. The winery rep on hand told me it's a popular wine for oysters, and has been on the menu at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and other D.C.-area restaurants that serve bivalves. You can also get it at area Whole Foods stores. I'm definitely planning on stocking up on it--along with a bunch of oysters--and start shucking and sipping. It retails for around $14.

Featured Wine: 2011 Kuhling-Gillot "Quinterra" Riesling QbA, Rheinhessen

20130626_222421 Last night I caught up with the Riesling Mobile Wine Trip on its stop in Washington, D.C. outside Oyamel. The eight-day journey, organizing by Wines of Germany, hit up a bunch of U.S. markets, and it was designed to promote the Summer of Riesling (now in its 6th year) with members of the trade. We had the opportunity to taste five German Rieslings, in styles ranging from bone dry and mineral-driven, to aged bottles dripping with honey and petrol.

The 2011 Kuhling-Gillot "Quinterra" Riesling from the Rheinhessen is a perfect example of a bottle that's just dying to be chilled and enjoyed patioside this summer. It's vinified in a dry style, with mouthwatering acidity, appealing minerality and a hint of peach and peach blossom. While it may not have been the most complex example that we tried, I would deem it a great introduction to anyone who wrongly assumes all Riesling is sweet and/or a "dessert wine". It would be a fab food partner with raw or grilled oysters, or salad topped with goat cheese and grilled peaches.

Featured Wine: 2012 J Vineyards Pinot Gris

J Pinot Gris

For me, the appeal of Pinot Gris is indirectly proportiate to that of Pinot Grigio. Yes, I know they are made from the same grape, but the latter is all too often neutral, insipid and utterly forgettable.

Pinot Gris, on the other hand (especially that coming out of Oregon, and sometimes California), is just teeming with character, with a great balance of body and acidity, and mouth-watering stone fruit, floral and citrus aromas. (In other words, a willing alternative for this avoider of oaky Chard.)

California's J Vineyards produces the #1 best selling CA Pinot Gris in America. It's so hot right now that it's outpaced the entire category, growing by 50% in the last thirteen weeks of 2012 alone. (The trend away from said oaky, buttery, over the top CA Chardonnay is definitely helping their cause, and it always makes me happy when white wine lovers broaden their horizon.)

At around $15, it's a great option for anything from grilled shrimp, to crab legs, to chicken Caesar salad. Sourced from estate vineyards in Clarksburg, Lodi, Monterey and the Russian River Valley, the wine sees no time in oak, and no malolactic fermentation. It's at once crisp and lush, with lemons, limes and minerality on the palate, and aromas of apricots and tropical fruit. In a word, yum.

Featured Wine: Cabernet for a Cause

Cabernet for a Cause

Last fall, The Capital Grille held a contest for artists to submit original pieces of artwork to potentially become the label for the 2009 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon. The winning piece of art is "Golden Moments" by artist Sherry McAdams of North Carolina. Through April 28, for every bottle of this wine sold, The Capital Grille will donate $25 to Share Our Strength, to aid in their mission to combat childhood hunger. Also, starting last month, the original painting began a six-city tour at Capital Grille locations, where guest will have the opportunity to place a sealed bid to purchase the painting. You can also bid online at The tour makes its final stop at the Chevy Chase location on April 24, where the final bid will be announced.



Featured Wine: 2009 Ivanović Tamjanika

Ambar offers 50 Balkan wines, including many indigenous varietals. Photo courtesy of Goranfoto A few nights ago I checked out the recently opened Ambar, a Balkan-themed restaurant in D.C. Their eclectic wine list boasts over 50 wines from Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia (as well a a smattering from Italy and California), with 25 available by the glass. I was simply blown away by how unfamiliar the list looked to me--Ambar offers many indigenous, unfamiliar grapes, but luckily the wine list has a handy primer at the bottom. Most of the staff is also Balkan, and all very knowledgeable about their native offerings.

I tried several wines, including one made from a grape called Tamjanika. It produces a dry, full-bodied white with honeysuckle aromas similar to a Gewurztraminer or Viognier. Ambar feaurs the 2009 Ivanović Tamjanika from Serbia for $10 a glass, and $39 a bottle. The wine was highly aromatic, with great acidity and a long finish. It was a perfect pairing with Gibanica ($6)  a "cheese pie" wrapped in phyllo dough and served with cucumber yogurt and roasted pepper spread.

If you are a member of the Wine Century Club, a visit to Ambar will let you knock out a bunch of varietals in one sitting. I recommend going with a few friends, getting a bunc of wines by the glass and just tasting and experimenting (while noshing on can't miss faves like the bread basket, panko crusted peppers or Balkan kebabs...)

Featured Wine: 2010 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir

Primarius_Pinot_Noir_Oregon_2007 Over the holidays when we were in PA visiting family, a group of us went to one of our favorite area restaurants, River Grille in Easton. We wanted a wine that would pair with our various meat and fish dishes, and I was pleased to see this Oregon bottle on the menu at an affordable price point that allowed us to keep the wine flowing throughout the meal. I was taken with the bursting tart cherries, great acidity and soft tannins of the 2010 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir. While it wasn't terribly complex, we found it to be highly drinkable, super food friendly, appealingly earthy and varietally correct (i.e. no attempts to extract more color and tannin than you should from a Pinot...) The name, by the way, comes from the Latin word for "distinguished."

Flash forward to last week, when I was shopping at my local Harris Teeter. I was excited to come upon it on the shelf for $15...which means I can add it to to my repertoire of go-to, affordable, domestic Pinot Noirs. Enjoy.

Grape, Meet Grain: New Takes on the Wine Cocktail

Patrons torn between Malbec and a martini, or Syrah and a Sazerac, may no longer be forced to make that oh-so difficult wine-or-cocktail decision. Innovative mixologists are using wine in creative ways that lend drinks an enticing, yet entirely approachable complexity. Read more in my Proof Positive article that appears in the October 2012 issue of Wine Enthusiast.


Rediscover Retsina

Modern styles of retsina—the traditional Greek wine aromatized with pine resin—are far cries from the floor-cleaner-scented, high-alcohol and oxidized versions of the past. Crisp and herbal, these wines pair effortlessly with dishes containing rosemary, mint and dill, and can even be shaken up in creative gin cocktails. Those who have tried retsina years ago and vowed to eschew it forever, or have yet to discover it, should give these updated versions a sip. Read more in my Wine Enthusiast article.

Sommelier Profile: John Mitchell, Stella!, New Orleans

Offering a Bordeaux- and Burgundy-centric wine program in a francophilian-driven market like New Orleans isn’t exactly an unexpected choice for a sommelier. But now John Mitchell is game for a little round of spin the bottle; this fall he’s completely revamping his mainly French, 500-label list to incorporate much more of a Spanish focus. The ambitious wine director for New Orleans’ restaurants Stella! relishes the notion of giving guests a little bottle shock. Read more in my recent article in The Tasting Panel.

Perfectly Pinot

Pinot noir has been a favorite on restaurant lists for some time as it offers name recognition, pairs easily with a wide range of foods and has a variety of appealing aromas and flavors. Pinot noir styles run the gamut, from Burgundy's elegance and minerality, to fruit-forward, juicy, tannic styles from warmer appellations in California. Read on for wine professionals' thoughts on pinot's appeal, regional differences, food pairings and ideal marketing techniques in Cheers' July/August 2012 issue. 

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Grape Find: Laurent Reverdy Sancerre

When it comes to white wine, I guess you could call me a a stoner and an acid junkie. In other words, I love crisp, mineral-driven whites. And no wine epitomizes these two great qualities for me more than Sancerre. The Sauvignon Blanc-based wine from France's Loire Valley has everything I crave: high acidity, restrained fruit, and an enticing mineral/stone/slate quality. I could drink it every day.

The trouble is that much great Sancerre is priced out of what I would consider and "everyday wine", (i.e. upwards of $25). Perfect for a Saturday night, but not a Tuesday night (at least in my house.)

Last week I was doing some shopping at an area Trader Joe's. Though I admittedly have never been overly impressed with the selections in their wine department (with a few exceptions, including a delish Cremant de Bourgogne I recently picked up), I saw the 2010 Laurent Reverdy Sancerre on the shelf for $12.99. I was skeptical. However, I figured I would grab one bottle and see if it even had a smattering of the qualities I love about Sancerre.

I served it at a Bastille-themed wine and cheese party with some friends whose exposure to Sauvignon Blanc typically comes from those from New Zealand, Chile or California. We were all impressed with its balanced acidity, and restrained notes of lemon and minerals. Granted, the finish was not as lengthy or pleasant as higher end Sancerres, but for the price it's a great introduction to the wine style (and fitting for take-out Tuesday.)

Serve it well chilled, with goat cheese or shellfish. But it's also great all by itself.