The Loudoun Trail Continues

So after our tasting and lunch at Corcoran Vineyards, we headed off to nearby Village Winery. We’ve been following the progress of Village Winery and its winemaker, Kent Marrs since the winery opened. Kent is always a gracious host and spent lots of time educating us about elderberry products that now include an elderberry wine, syrup, and sparkling beverage. (You can read all about it in our article which was published last fall in Edible Chesapeake.) On this day, we were interested in latest releases; of course, Kent was more than happy to oblige us!

With summer now upon us, Kent has released his Viognier. We actually had a sneak sample of this one out of the barrel last summer, and we noted its potential then. This is a barrel-fermented Viognier that exhibits stone fruit qualities with a floral aroma. I found it nice to quaff on its own but can be enjoyed with a poultry or shellfish dish. Paul likes crispy-fried tilapia, and I think this one might be a nice partner with such a dish. Another summer favorite will be the current Cabernet Franc Rose with its bright berry aromas and flavors; I noted a spicy edge to this one, too. Another nice sipper yet can be served with spicy barbeque dishes.

Of the reds, Paul and I had split decisions. Paul favored the Merlot (of course) with its rich dark cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors; however, I preferred the raspberry-inflected Cabernet Franc that ended with a peppery flourish. I found this one to be a bit heavier than the Merlot and can be enjoyed now or later—might be a keeper for a heavier meat dish most likely to be served in the fall. We finished with a sampling of elderberry wine, syrups (to include an elderberry syrup with chocolate) and sparkling beverage. The elderberry-chocolate blend will be available in the near future, and the sparkling elderberry was already sold out; however, we were able to purchase the beverage mix to create our own sparkling beverage to enjoy on a hot afternoon!

So we shared a glass of the Viognier in Kent’s rustic tasting room and determined to purchase a bottle of the Cabernet Franc Rose and Cabernet Franc for storage on our wine racks. (The Rose should not get too comfy, though!) We said our good-bye to Kent and promised to return soon; however, readers may want to visit even sooner. Just mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Up next? Our first visit to Casanel Vineyards. Between posting, though, be sure to check out this past Wednesday’s wine column in the Washington Post. Wine critic Dave McIntyre reports on the success of Virginia wines at a London Expo!

Back On The Loudoun Trail

On a warm spring afternoon, we decided to catch up on some wine tasting on the Loudoun County Wine Trail. Along the way we stopped at Corcoran Vineyards, Village Winery and Casanel Vineyards.

Our first stop was at Corcoran Vineyards, and we were warmly greeted by Lori Corcoran. Of course, we were eager to sample the latest releases, and Lori started our tasting. Corcoran Vineyards is currently pouring two white wines, the 2007 Chardonnay and the 2008 Seyval Blanc, and both are fairly new releases. The 2007 Chardonnay is done first in stainless steel and then in oak barrels; the result is a crisp Chardonnay that presents lots of green apple aromas and flavors. For those who prefer sweeter white wines, the 2008 Seyval Blanc is sure to please with its higher sugar levels and refreshing citrus flavors.

Of the reds, four reds were poured, and my favorite was the 2006 Cabernet Franc with its raspberry and spicy flavors; I also noted some smoke on the nose. A close second for me was the 2007 Chambourcin. A lighter-bodied red wine, this Chambourcin with its cranberry notes and flavors was easy to sip and should proved to be versatile with food from burgers to pizza to grilled meats. For our tasting, Lori created an interesting blend—a mix of the Seyval Blanc (1 part) with the Chambourcin (2 parts). We actually liked the result; though Lori suggested as a Sangria mix, I liked it as it was and compared to a light Italian wine suited for pizza.

Once we were done with our tasting, we decided to enjoy lunch with the 2007 Chardonnay. Though it was a warm day, it was breezy enough so that we could enjoy the outdoors with food and wine. What was for lunch? Simple deli-sliced ham with provolone cheese, a baguette, and almonds. As we sipped and nibbles, we met Holly and Dan who were also doing some wine tasting on the Loudoun Trail. With them was their adorable and well-mannered dog, Portia. Holly’s favorite sipper was the 2008 Seyval Blanc, and Dan enjoyed the 2007 Chambourcin. Of course, our topic of conversation was Virginia wine!

With lunch consumed and wine enjoyed, we bid our farewells to Lori and made our way to Village Winery. We’ll provide the details on our next post. Be sure to visit Lori Corcoran at Corcoran Vineyards and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.


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Paul and Warren

Philip Carter Winery Tasting Part Two

So our barrel tasting at Philip Carter Winery gave us something to look forward to in the summer and fall; however, what about the current pours? After our barrel tasting concluded, Philip Carter Strother led us through a tasting of wines now offered in the tasting room. Along the way, he shared with us his future plans for Philip Carter Winery.

Of the wine currently offered, by far the best was the 2006 Chardonnay with its apple flavors and spicy finish. A classic Old World Chardonnay with a lengthier finish, this one is just fine on its own, with light cheeses or a simple poultry dish. Of interest to Paul the Artiste was the 2006 Falconwood. The label was designed by a local artist and reflects the landscape of the area; in fact, Strother will continue this practice so as to present a unique opportunity for local artists to show their work. Falconwood is a white blend of Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay, and at 2% sugar is sweeter than the Chardonnay. It presented a floral nose and a mix of tropical fruit flavors and would be perfect for a warm summer day. Guest blogger Michael Tyler would be certain to add this one to his wine rack!

Of the reds, the 2007Chambourcin may appeal to those who are looking for a young, lighter-bodied red to pair with burgers on the grill. I preferred the more complex 2006 Meritage which is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush cherry and raspberry flavors were complemented by a spicy edge at the end to make this one a natural partner with steaks.

Paul’s own favorite was the 2006 Late Harvest made from late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes. Paul noted enticing aromas of honeysuckle and apricots and enjoyed its opulent stone fruit flavors. Sweet enough for dessert, consider the 2006 Late Harvest with a hunk of blue cheese. The 2006 Late Harvest is a source of pride for Philip Carter Strother as it will soon be poured in London as part of an international presentation of Virginia wines. Not to be missed is the 2007 Sweet Danielle, a port-style dessert wine made from a secret ingredient (my guess is Chambourcin). Sweet Danielle was named after Strother’s wife, Danielle, and was served to her as an anniversary surprise at a local restaurant!

So I had to ask these questions of Philip Carter Strother: If you were interested in making wine, why Virginia? Why buy Stillhouse, and winery and vineyard much in need of improvement? For Strother, it was a family matter. He is the direct descendant of King Carter, a wine collector who settled in Virginia in the 18th century; his son Charles made wines in Virginia that earned international recognition—and this was before Jefferson’s attempts at wine making! Furthermore, Strother’s family also maintains a farm in Delaplane, and so for him this continues a long-established family involvement in agriculture and winemaking. And why Stillhouse? Though in need of some TLC, the vines were mature and still rather vigorous, and the winery presented to him an existing operation that needed some re-organizing. The property includes 22 acres of which 11 acres are in vines, and the winery now produces 2300 cases of wine. New plantings of Viognier and Petit Verdot should eventually add to the future lineup of wines.

So with our tastings completed, we were ready for a snack and a glass of wine. We opted to sip a glass of the 2006 Chardonnay with some Swiss cheese and French bread; we were able to enjoy wine and cheese outdoors on a pleasant (and probably the last) sunny day. We compared notes and again marveled at the changes under way at Philip Carter Winery. We’ll return soon, of course; however, you all get out there before we do, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Beginnings At Philip Carter

We recently posted about the rebirth taking place at Loudoun Valley Vineyards, and yet another renaissance is occurring at Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Philip Carter Winery was once known as Stillhouse Winery, but Philip Carter Strother bought Stillhouse Winery last year. Stillhouse Winery’s vineyards and wines had been in decline for quite some time, but Strother was determined to improve both the condition of the vineyards and the quality of the wines. He invited us out to his barrel tasting held on April 18, and we eagerly accepted the invitation.

The first thing we noticed when we drove up to the winery was the renewed condition of the vineyards. Tall weeds were gone, vines were pruned and healthy, and we sensed that a positive change had occurred since the change of ownership. We were greeted by Philip Carter Strother who proudly declared that all wines now in the barrel were the first true Philip Carter wines— from the vineyards to the barrels. We were then led down to the barrel room, and our tasting was conducted by current winemaker, Seth Chambers. Seth started us with two barrel samples of 2008 Chardonnay; the first sample was from neutral oak barrels and the second from new oak barrels. The first sample seemed riper and fruitier than the second sample which presented the classic buttery texture of a Burgundy-style white wine. Seth informed us that he intended to blend the two to produce a Chardonnay that is indeed similar to a white Burgundy. I must say that I really enjoyed the second sample on its own; however, Paul preferred the first sample. I concluded that the blend will then appeal to both of us and that we would have to return to purchase a bottle upon its release! We also sampled a still-young and developing Vidal Blanc. Done in stainless steel, this one should settle into the fruity sipper that Virginia wine lovers enjoy in warm weather.

Up next were the red barrel sample, and up first was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Seth provided some background about the 2008 crop of Cabernet Franc, and he explained that the crop did survive a weather scare that occurred late in the summer. Unexpected rains threatened to dilute the fruit quality including brix levels to undesirable levels; however, a decision was made to let the fruit hang for as long as possible anyway, and the fruit was not harmed by weather events. Seth was proud of the result and justifiably so, and in fact, 2008 Cabernet Franc earned my gold star of the day. I noted characteristics of dark berries and pepper with vanilla on finish; Paul admired its dark garnet color, too. Paul seemed to prefer the blended version of the Cabernet Franc which included Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and he found it to be more rounded and structured. No arguments from me—it was quite good. The 2008 Cabernet Franc will be released in the fall.

Meritage fans will want to sample the release of the 2008 Meritage blend which will include Cabernet Franc (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). Still evolving, this sample presented a fruity nose with lots of plums and dark cherries. I should mention that the 2008 Meritage will not be released until next year, so tasters will have to be patient. Available now, though, is the newly released 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and this was the last of our samples offered in the barrel room. Rich cherry flavors with some spice were noted with this still young wine.

Our barrel tasting was now complete, and we easily concurred that Philip Carter Winery’s upcoming releases will present an impressive lineup of wines in the tasting room. This, of course, is due to the improved management of the vineyards and winemaking by Seth Chambers who learned the art of winemaking at Pearmund Cellars. We were guided upstairs to the tasting room by Philip Carter Strothers who personally gave us a tasting of current releases. This gave us a chance to chat with Philip about his goals and aspirations for Philip Carter Winery. What did we learn? Stay tuned for next week’s post to find out. Until then, pay a visit to Philip Carter Winery of Virginia and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.