End of the Monticello Trail

So finally we revisit the oldies—wineries that we visit frequently while on the Monticello Trail. This will be a quick rundown of our personal favorites based on our recent tastings:

Afton Mountain Vineyards—Unoaked Chardonnay was Paul’s fave; crisp and refreshing


Barboursville Vineyards—2005 Octagon; this Merlot-based Bordeaux-style blend is currently the subject of international acclaim. Also try the 2006 Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Viognier Reserve.


Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery—my own favorite was the 2008 A6, a crisp blend of Viognier and Chardonnay; Paul preferred the 2008 Quattro, an aromatic blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Traminette.


Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard—we still detest the test tubes, but we do enjoy the wines. The bubbly 2004 Blanc de Blanc was my favorite, but Paul was in the mood for summer wines and gave the nod to the 2008 Albemarle Rose.

White Hall Vineyards—a very nice tasting staff allowed us a tasting even though we arrived a few minutes before closing time. The lush 2007 Petit Manseng won my gold star for the white wines while the jammy 2007 Touriga earned my award for favorite red wine. (Be sure to try the port-style 2006 Edichi, too.)


Planning to visit these award-winning wineries soon? Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Back To Our Regular Program

So back on the Monticello Trail and re-visits to first timers the last time we were in the area. These would include Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards.

We continue to be impressed with the offerings at Sugarleaf Vineyards. The 2008 Viognier, blended with 20% Petit Manseng, was my own favorite and presented stone fruit and honeysuckle on the nose with a lovely fruit combination of papaya, fresh pineapple, and a citrus twist in the mouth. I noted some white pepper, too. Some aging in French oak helps to provide a longer finish. Paul placed a star next to the 2007 Petit Manseng and jotted down “floral” and “fruity” as aromatic notes and “peachy” for flavors. He described its finish as “crisp”.


Of the red wines, we both concurred that the 2006 Cabernet Franc (blended with 10% Petit Verdot) was the gold star winner. Extracted berry and dried herbs were detected on the nose with similar qualities in the mouth with some pepper to boot; I noted some vanilla at the end due to aging in both American and European oak. Looking for a decadent treat? Try the 2007 Neubia Nectar, a lush dessert wine that is a blend of Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc.


We always hear good things about Pollak Vineyards and for good reason. Here too, the lineup of wines continues to be quite impressive. The 2008 Durant White, a blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, is a crisp pour with characteristics of citrus, apple, and tropical fruit. A crowd pleaser by any means, this easy drinking white should prove to be versatile at the most formal or informal affairs. I appreciated the 2008 Rose with its tart berry characteristics. Dry and crisp, this rose is yet another example of nice roses being produced in Virginia.


Paul’s gold star was reserved for the 2007 Merlot with its ripe cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Paul found this one to be more fruit-forward and appreciated its longer finish. My own star was reserved for the complex 2006 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Darker fruit profiles here with pepper and cedar noted, too. Nice tannins here made me wish for a nice steak!


With our tasting done, we were ready to enjoy lunch with one of our favorite wines at Pollak Vineyards. We dined on sliced beef and wild rice salad with a hunk of Emmental cheese, and we paired this with the 2007 Merlot. The grounds at Pollak Vineyards offer stunning views which we enjoyed while munching and sipping.


Pollak is also known to be amongst the most “green” of vineyards and wineries, and we look forward to delving into this topic the next time we visit Pollak Vineyards. Of course, we also plan to visit Sugarleaf Vineyards to sample upcoming pours that will include the anticpated Cuvee Neubia. Let us know your favorites at Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards, but when you visit, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Pardon The Interruption

Pardon the interruption of our Monticello Wine Trail series. It will resume after this brief break.

Despite the nasty, rainy day, we decided to visit a few Loudoun County wineries to get a few more stamps in our passport for the Loudoun Wine Trail. We decided to visit a few that we hadn’t been to in a while. This won’t be a full on report of all the wines; Warren is the expert there. I’ll be sharing my impressions of our visits. We went to Loudoun Valley Vineyards, Sunset Hills, and Doukenie.

newlabelGreat things have been happening at Loudoun Valley. When we visited in the Winter we could see things were beginning to change. This time we saw lots of changes. The tasting room has a new air about it…fresh paint, new tables and chairs, and there was even live music! Of course we tasted all the wines and enjoyed them all but I’ll say the 2008 Pinot Grigio was awarded my gold star. It was crisp, floral, with citrus flavors. We also noted the new labels. Very nice! When you visit Loudoun Valley, and I’m sure you will, be sure to taste the 2008 Pinot Grigio.

Our next stop was Sunset Hills. We last visited Sunset Hills in February. At that time they had only been open a few months. Since then things have only gotten better at Sunset Hills. The tasting room was a buzz with tastings going on. They were setting up for a wedding reception as well. As busy as the tasting room was, there was someone available to help us with our tasting. She led us through the tasting and Warren put his stars next to the viognier and the cabernet franc. We were lucky to taste some of these reds in the barrels during our last visit. The big change to Sunset Hills that I noticed this time over our last visit was the addition of food. You can now order cheese and bread baskets with meats and other delicious items. They even have fudge! I had to have some of the peanut butter fudge. It was delicious! Keep in mind though that you can only bring your own food to the lawn for a picnic. The two large decks and the tasting room are reserved for food purchased at Sunset Hills.

Our last stop was at Doukenie. We’ve been there many times in the past and always enjoy their wines. The same was true this time, we enjoyed the wines, especially the 2008 Mandolin. What was different about our visit this time was the change in the tasting room. They have moved the old bar out and now have a huge rectangular bar pretty much in the middle of the room. You just about run into it when you walk in the door. Of course the new big bar does allow for more people to cluster around for tastings. I was just a little disappointed because so many times in the past we had made a connection with our tasting associate in a smaller, more personal way and that seems to be lost with this new arrangement. However, the new bar set up doesn’t effect the wines at all! The wines are what keeps us coming back!

The next time you find yourself in Loudoun County be sure to stop off at Loudoun Valley Vineyards, Sunset Hills, and Doukenie and be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you! Also, be sure to check our next post as we finish up our tasting notes from our visits on the Monticello Trail.

Back on the Monticello Trail: Item #3

So third on our agenda was to revisit wineries that were first timers for us last year: Blenheim Vineyards, Sugarleaf Vineyards, and Pollak Vineyards.

Since our last visit to Blenheim Vineyards, Kirsty Harmon has taken the reins as winemaker. Kirsty personally guided us through the wine tasting, and along the way we got to chat with Kirsty about her visions for Blenheim’s future. Of the white wines, Paul and I both place our gold star next to the 2008 Chardonnay. This crisp Chardonnay gives the impression of a stainless steel-fermented wine; however, this Chardonnay is indeed done in oak barrels—French, American, and Hungarian. How was this achieved? Portions of Chardonnay from each barrel were blended together to present flavors of apples and pears with a subtle lemon on the finish. Not to be missed, though, is the 2008 Viognier with its peachy aromas and flavors with some white pepper noted, too. Another crisp pour, the 2008 Viognier is a blend of Viognier fermented in oak barrels (40% from French, American and Hungarian oak).


Paul and I split decisions with the red wines. Paul’s star was awarded to the 2008 Seven Oaks Merlot; he noted full, rich cherry flavors; “fruity with a smooth finish” were Paul’s exact words. Aging in French oak did indeed give this 2008 Merlot a silky finish. My own gold star was awarded to the 2008 Blenheim Farm Cabernet Franc . Full cherry and pepper flavors with some earthy notes were also on display here with a nice acidity to boot. A fuller-bodied wine, it provided a lengthier finish.

As we sampled the 2008 offerings, we did observe a fruit-forward approach to making these wines, and Kirsty does admit to embracing this style of winemaking. A protégé of noted winemaker Gabriele Rausse, Kirsty’s wines are ready to drink now, and they could be enjoyed with food or simply on their own. Other changes include the labels which also reflect Kirsty’s artistic input and the use of screw cap enclosures instead of corks. Ten acres of vines now include Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot; however, Kirsty likes a challenge and has planted Pinot Noir. Virginia’s climate is usually not kind to Pinot Noir, but Kirsty relishes the chance to make quality wine from this fickle varietal.


Kirsty finished our visit to Blenheim Vineyards with a brief tour of the barrel room located beneath the tasting room. Small and immaculate describe the barrel room and quite cool to provide optimum conditions for fermenting wines. Kirsty described to us her commitment to making limited quantities of wine that also presented the highest quality possible; after our tasting, we believe that she has reached her goal.


Of course, we were hungry and eager to eat—light fare including cubed chicken tossed with pasta and herbs, and Swiss cheese with crackers awaited in the car. Now that Blenheim’s tasting room is open to the public, we decided to enjoy lunch and a mountain view from the lofty, spacious tasting room. What wine did we enjoy? The 2008 Chardonnay.


After lunch, we purchased wine to bring home, and bid our farewells to Kirsty; we also thanked her for being such a gracious hostess and promised to return soon. So what about Surgarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards? Item #3 continues on our next post. In the meantime, visit Blenheim Vineyards, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Upcoming Wine Cruises

Here is some information about some upcoming wine cruises. Read to the end for a special offer for Virginia Wine Time readers!

-Philip Carter Winery, in the running for Virginia’s Favorite Winery, will be hosting an Oceania Mediterranean cruise doing the same itinerary as this year’s Pearmund Cruise, except in reverse (sailing Barcelona to Rome). The cruise departs Barcelona on April 4, 2010. The 10-day cruise includes the French Riviera (with optional excursions to Avignon, Chateuneuf-du-Pope, wineries of St. Tropez, and a visit to the ancient village of Grimaud), Monte Carlo (with optional excursion to Old Nice and a fabulous wine cellar for a cheese-and-wine pairing), and the amazingly-beautiful Amalfi Coast of Italy (with a spectacular optional excursion to Chianti to include a multi-course Italian lunch/feast paired with numerous Italian wines including Chianti Classico). Vintner and lawyer Philip Strothers and his wife Danielle will be hosting the cruise. There will be 2 wine tastings on board, a food-and-wine pairing dinner, and cocktail reception. Because Philip is both a lawyer who specializes in representing wineries in Virginia, and himself the owner of a Virginia winery, Philip also will add a unique dimension to the cruise. Philip will be hosting a couple of lectures to provide insight to our guests about what is involved in starting a winery in Virginia and also speak about the history of Virginia wine making. It promises to be a spectacular experience. What is most amazing is the price. It starts at $2,699 per person. This rate includes roundtrip airfare from Dulles and many other major gateway cities. It also includes prepaid gratuities (worth $250 per stateroom), a $200 per stateroom spa credit, and all the onboard activities (wine tastings, food-and-wine pairing dinner, cocktail receptions, and lectures). To book requires a deposit of $750 per person, with no further payment due until 90 days prior to departure. Additional information about this cruise is located here. $700 of the deposit is refundable if cancelled for any reason at least one day prior to final payment.

-Veramar Vineyard & Winery. We’re thrilled that one of Virginia’s most established wineries, Veramar, will also be hosting an Oceania Mediterranean cruise. The Veramar cruise is also 10 days, and sails June 17-27, 2010, from Rome to Barcelona. The itinerary is different than Philip Carter’s itinerary, however, and is concentrated in France with several ports in Italy. It will visit unique ports such as Cinque Terre (Italy); Cannes, France; Sanary-sur-Mer, France; and Sete, France. Anyone who has met the Bogaty family who owns Veramar knows that they are in for a real treat if they sail on this cruise. Aside from the fact that Justin Bogaty, the family wine maker, makes awesome wines, Jim, Della, and Justin are all delightful, warm people who will be sailing onboard the cruise. They will be hosting onboard wine tastings, cocktail receptions, and a food-and-wine pairing dinner for their guests. They also will be leading some extraordinary wine-themed excursions to some of the finest wine regions in Europe, to include Chateuneauf-du-Pope. The rate on this cruise, especially for June on an upscale cruise line like Oceania, is unbeatable at $2,999 per person, which also includes roundtrip airfare from Dulles and other major gateways. It also includes prepaid gratuities (worth $250 per stateroom), and all onboard activities (wine tastings, food-and-wine pairing dinner, cocktail receptions, etc.). To book requires a deposit of $750 per person, with no further payment due until 90 days prior to departure. Information about the Veramar cruise is located here. $700 of the deposit is refundable if cancelled for any reason at least one day prior to final payment.

-Pearmund Cellars, Winery at LaGrange & Vint Hill Craft Winery. Chris & Lisa Pearmund will be hosting this wine cruise aboard Uniworld’s River Royale, a 134-guest river boat sailing the Rhone River through the Burgundy & Provence region of France. This promises to be a very rewarding and unique experience for guests. River boats are all about the destination. They truly are floating hotels, and dock right in the heart of the cities and towns they visit. Guests will enjoy long ports stays, often late into the night or early morning. On this cruise, a shore excursion is included in every port of call. Bicycles are also available for use by guests free of charge, and complimentary wine is served at dinner. This cruise will feature optional shore excursions to wineries of the Burgundy & Provence region, along with included onboard wine tastings and cocktail reception with Chris and Lisa. The cruise sails June 27-July 4, 2010. The rate begins at $2,799 per person, but when booked by September 30th, the cruise line is offering a $150 per person discount. To book requires a deposit of $200 per person, with no further payment due until 90 days prior to departure. Additional information about this cruise is located here.

In appreciation, for anyone who newly books with us during the month of August (through August 31st) and who states they are booking because they read about the wine cruises on Virginia Wine Time, we will offer an additional $50 per stateroom ($25 per person) shipboard amenity credit on any one of the above three wine cruises. Shipboard credit is like spending cash onboard the cruise. These cruises can only be booked through Cruise Holidays of Alexandria. Our number is 703-706-0011.