Time To Drink Naked

Well, we kept our clothes on, but at Naked Mountain winter season is lasagna and wine time.  We look forward to the sausage lasagna with garlic bread served up at Naked Mountain, and of course, we also look forward to sampling current offerings on the wine menu.

Paul and I both agreed that the 2005 Barrel Select Chardonnay was the gold star white wine.  Pears and honey on the nose and a creamy texture makes this one a classic.  We were more interested in the red wines since we already knew that lasagna was on the lunch menu.  In a rare moment, we again both agreed that the 2005 Cabernet Franc was the best red wine.  Dark cherries and spice on the nose gave way to similar flavors in the mouth with a smoky finish.  Small portions of Merlot, Tannat, and Petit Verdot are blended into this lush Cabernet Franc.
For those who are tired of winter’s chill and promises of snow that never seems to fall, the 2008 Cabernet Franc rose may bring summer closer to home.  Strawberry characteristics abound here with a nice tart finish that conjured images of summer concerts, picnics, and barbeques!

Feeling the cabin fever this winter? Get out to Naked Mountain and enjoy lasagna and wine; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Virginia Wine Showcase

This past weekend we attended the Virginia Wine Showcase held at the Dulles Expo Center. While more established wineries were represented at the Showcase, our intent was to sample wines either from newer Virginia wineries or from more distant wineries that are difficult for us to visit. Included at the Showcase were other venders that offered food, arts and crafts. (However, our focus was wine!)

We made a quick scan of the expo and then began to settle on wineries stations to visit. Our first visit was to newbie Rosemont Vineyard and Winery located in LaCrosse, and this was also the most promising of the newer wineries represented at the event. In fact, Rosemont’s tasting room officially opened in November. Winemaker Justin Rosemont has been bottling some excellent wines. Rosemont’s crisp Traminette with its notes of peach and spice compared favorably to a Gewurztraminer, and it earned my gold star for best white wine on the menu. Of the reds, my own favorite was the 06 Cabernet Sauvignon with its dark cherry and plum characteristics. Eighteen months on French oak provides both body and longevity. Paul was torn between the 06 Merlot (0f course) and the Cabernet Franc. When pressed for a decision, he declared the Cabernet Franc to be his winner. “Cherry” and “pepper” were characteristics that Paul noted with this one. Paul also thought that the finish was lengthier yet “silky”. For those looking for a lighter red wine, then Paul suggests the 06 Merlot as an option. Justin Rosemont did chat with us, and we learned that he was trained in California; his return to Virginia was to continue a 150-year family history of farming. We think Justin is off to a great start. We also noticed that he is not afraid to think outside of the box, and his dessert wines prove the point. Rosemont’s LaCrosse, produced from LaCrosse grape, has quickly become a signature wine. LaCrosse is a hybrid from the seyval blanc family and is slightly sweet. For those wanting to sample wine made from a real North American native, try Blackridge Red made from the Catawba grape. Packed with a grapey nose and bright berry flavors, this dessert wine should be quite popular with a favorite Southern dessert.

Another first sample for us was White Fences. This vineyard and winery is located in the Northern Neck of Virginia; these wines tended to be lighter-bodied. The Meteor Bright White with its floral nose and pineapple flavors was slightly sweet and was best appreciated with the spicy peanuts provided by the tasting associate. A unique offering was the Meteor Midnight Red. This dessert wine is made from chambourcin grapes and presents intense blackberry flavors with a touch of sweetness.

We were pleased to pay another visit to the New Kent tasting station. Paul sampled the Merlot and declared it to be a Chianti-style, lighter bodied red wine. The Chardonnay Reserve, my own favorite from the last Showcase, was sold out; however, I did appreciate the unique and versatile White Norton with its strawberry nose. New Kent’s spacious tasting room and facility is still relatively new, and we briefly chatted with managing partner Pete Johns. Pete filled us in on New Kent’s successes with the Chardonnay Reserve, Vidal Blanc, and White Norton qualifying as the winery’s top sellers.

Readers may recall our favorable impressions of Sugarleaf Vineyards. Needless to say, when we caught sight of Lauren Taylor at the tasting booth, we knew that we had to say hello. We also opted for a tasting of Sugarleaf’s quality wines. Be sure to try both the 07 Vidal Blanc and the excellent 07 Petit Manseng; however, my own favorite remains the 06 Cabernet Sauvignon. A full-bodied offering packed with dark fruit characteristics, this one is an age-worthy keeper.

Fruit wine lovers should enjoy Bright Meadows Farm Vineyard. Though in operation since 2001, we had never visited the winery, and we did not neglect a chance to sample their fruit wines. The Halifax Red presents yet another true Native American grape, the Concord grape. Dry and bold, there is no doubt that this one is indeed King Concord. Paul enjoyed the Apple wine made from a blend of apples that provided an array of apple characteristics.

So what other wines made our all-star list? From Rebec Vineyard, we preferred the Riesling. Davis Valley Winery presented a blend of hybrids (chardonnel, vidal blanc, and seyval blanc) in its White that should prove to be a crowd pleaser for the summer time. We’ve reviewed Cooper Vineyards’ Norton, and the 2006 Norton is still one of my favorite Virginia Nortons. And finally, Cabernet Franc lovers may want to try the current offering by First Colony.

And so ended our trip to the winter edition of the Virginia Wine Showcase. For the record, we do pick and choose what to taste and how much to taste. For those who wish to navigate these events without getting inebriated, remember that you do not have to taste everything on the tasting menus. For example, I do not like sweet wines and do not taste them. Paul avoids most Chardonnays, and we both say “no thanks” to so-called hot tub wines. Also, do not be afraid to dump into the buckets even if you enjoy the wines you are tasting. Tasting portions do tend to be quite minimal, but if an associate is pouring too much into your glass then speak up! Finally, drink lots of water and be sure to eat. (Your palate will tell you when you’ve sampled too much wine—when Merlot tastes like Chardonnay, it’s time to call it quits.)

Be sure to visit any or all of the wineries featured here, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Bright Horizons at Sunset Hills

While on our recent Loudoun County winery tour, we decided to visit Sunset Hills Vineyard. Though owners Diane and Mike Canney established their first Chardonnay vineyard in 1997, the winery is very new and opened for business two months ago; in fact, the facility is a restored 130-year old Amish farm. Of course, we were eager to taste current offerings, and in the process we got a sneak barrel tasting from Mike Canney.

Three white wines were available for tasting, and all three were very good. My own favorite was the Viognier with its pineapple and honey characteristics. I noted a longer finish, too. This Viognier is finished in neutral French oak and therefore has more body and structure without an overwhelming oak feel. Paul preferred the stainless steel Chardonnay and appreciated its flavors of apples and pears. Not to be missed is the Reserve Chardonnay. Aged in French oak barrels, the Reserve Chardonnay exhibits hazelnuts on the nose and roasted pineapple in the mouth; a nice buttery finish is the product of partial malolactic fermentation.

Of the red wines, we both placed a star next to the 2006 Cabernet Franc with its notes and flavors of rich red berries, dried herbs and spice. Aged 18 months in oak, this one is built for longevity. A pairing with any favorite beef or game dish would do just fine. Of its 20 acres of planted vines, the largest planting is Cabernet Franc. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was likewise quite good and another age-worthy pour. This one offered darker fruit characteristics with smooth tannins. Seventeen months in French oak will allow this Cabernet to age very well.

We did get to meet owner Mike Canney who offered us a barrel tasting of developing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. We saw great potential with these evolving wines, and we noted Mike’s passion for making quality wines. His dedication was reflected in the immaculate barrel room located beneath the tasting facility. Mike was also mindful of soils and environment when he selected his property for use as a vineyard. The results are the quality wines that are available in the tasting room. We also discovered that Mike is a race car driver, so perhaps he also knows how to keep a competitive edge!

At the end of our tasting and tour, we shared a glass of the Viognier and watched a spectacular sunset as we sipped and savored. Before we left Sunset Hill Vineyard, I was sure to purchase a bottle of the Viognier with a shellfish dinner in mind. We do intend to return to Sunset Hills, but we do recommend a visit to readers; of course, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.