What happens when an innovative winemaker partners with one of D.C.’s hottest restaurants? A custom wine is born.
That’s exactly what occurred when [Michael Shaps Wineworks](http://www.michaelshapswines.com/) of Charlottesville, Virginia, paired up with the [Red Hen](http://www.theredhendc.com/). The new arrival is named Dahlia, a vanity label of rosé wine.
Virginia viticulture grows stronger every year, thanks, in part, to producers like Shaps. Making wine in Virginia since 1995, Shaps started a wine consulting business in 2000. In 2007, he launched his own independent winery, focusing on small-batch production.
Prior to his Virginia winemaking days, Shaps’s interests were in Burgundy, France, where he earned a BPA in oenology and viticulture from the Lycée Viticole de Beaune and worked at Chartron and Trebuchet in Puligny-Montrachet as an assistant wine maker. Since 2004, he’s been a partner in the boutique Maison Shaps Winery in Meursault.
Shaps travels to France every other month and enjoys applying Burgundy winemaking philosophies to his Virginia business. Ordinarily, all the traveling back and forth would be exhausting, but Shaps is clearly doing what he loves. “The passion of winemaking keeps me grounded,” he said.
Unique to Shaps’s impressive portfolio is his contract winemaking service and custom crush facility, the first of its kind in the state. With this service, independent growers and individuals interested in making their own wine can work with Shaps and his team from start to finish to create something unique, from sourcing grapes to designing a label and bottling for distribution. With access to Virginia’s finest vineyards, the team has many grape varieties to work with – from Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc to Viognier.
When the Red Hen in D.C.’s historic Bloomingdale neighborhood was looking to create a spring-to-summer rosé, something unique that would complement their summer menu, they knew just the person to call. Sebastian Zutant, co-owner of the Red Hen with the restaurant’s sommelier and beverage director, has known Shaps for many years.
“He’s one of the pillars of Virginia wine,” said Zutant, adding that Shaps is “more of a naturalist” when it comes to local winemakers. For example, his wines utilize natural yeast fermentation.
On March 23, after working with Shaps, the Red Hen’s Dahlia rosé launched, with the namesake flower on the label. “Stylistically it’s a very different rosé,” said Zutant. Strawberry-driven with red fruit flavors, the wine is pale in color: blush with a light orange tint. “It’s a hard-to-say-no-to, knock-back rosé,” he said.
The wine’s easy drinkability and fair price-point ($10 a glass, $40 a bottle) has made it a strong seller. It pairs particularly well with lighter fare, from scallops to fish. Zutant suggests trying it with the restaurant’s black linguini with squid; the dish’s pickled Fresno chilies add heat, but the wine’s crispness cools the palate.
“I’m definitely going to be making more next year,” said Zutant.
**Shaps Pairings in Great Falls**
On April 28, the celebrated [L’Auberge Chez Francois](http://www.laubergechezfrancois.com/) in Great Falls celebrated Michael Shaps with a special five-course meal prepared by chef Jacques Haeringer, each course paired with Michael Shaps and Maison Shaps wines.
A grilled breast of chicken with morel mushrooms paired beautifully with a Maison Michael Shaps Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru from 2012. Shaps actually lived in the French village of Savigny at one time. The wine he chose showcased the true essence of Burgundy Pinot Noir, with the firm tannins characteristic to the village.
Next, a roasted and coffee-crusted filet mignon with Bordelaise sauce was paired with a Michael Shaps Petit Verdot from 2010. This dark, inky wine brought diners back to Virginia and exuded blackberry notes with coffee and cocoa.