Monticello Trail Roundup

I’m going to present a general review of other wineries that we visited during our Columbus Day weekend trip to the Monticello area.  (We wrote about these wineries in August, so visit our posts from the summer to get more detail.)

Blenheim Vineyards:  Always a treat to see winemaker Kirsty Harmon.  It was near closing time when we arrived, but we were treated very well by the tasting staff.  We enjoyed a glass of the excellent 2008 Viognier, and I got to join Kirsty and the harvest crew at the sorting table to pick through Chardonnay grapes.  Since we had just harvested at Gray Ghost, I felt like a trained pro!

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Jefferson Vineyards: Looking for fall/ winter pours?  You can’t go wrong with the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve and the 2008 Viognier.  Prefer reds?  Give the 2007 Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Meritage a try. We noted that guest critic Michael Tyler would like the semi-dry Vin Blanc with its 1.5% residual sugar and Riesling-like profile.

Pollak Vineyards:  See the video posted earlier!  We always enjoy a trip to Pollak Vineyards.  This time we got to meet with winemaker Jake Bushing who gave us a tour of the barrel room.  Paul ended up purchasing a case of white wine, and these included five bottles each of the 2008 Durant White and the 2008 Viognier.  A bottle each of the 2007 merlot and 2007 Cabernet Franc were tossed in the case, too. 

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Virginia Wineworks: We just had to have second sample of the superb 2007 Michael Shaps Viognier.  I also enjoyed the 2007 Michael Shaps Chardonnay.  The 2007 Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc should be considered for the holidays, and the seductive Michael Shaps Merlot just begs for a warm fire place, a romantic steak dinner, and a special someone!

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As fall colors begin to fade and nature takes on the winter landscape, consider a wine tasting trip to the Monticello trail.  If you visit any of the wineries listed in this post, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

An Autumn Trip To Keswick Vineyards

Two weekends ago, we made a quick trip to Monticello wineries to take in the fall colors and to sample latest releases at the wineries. It had been quite a while since our last visit to Keswick Vineyards, and this time around, we were determined to pay a call; so, on a crisp fall day we made our way to Keswick Vineyards.

On tap were six wines to taste. Armed with gold stars, we seated ourselves at the tasting bar and sipped away. I thought all three of the white wines were very solid. Two white wine offerings were produced from Viognier—the 2008 Viognier and the 2008 Les Vent D’Anges; the other was a 2008 Chardonnay. When forced to decide the “one”, I settled on the French oak-fermented 2008 Viognier. It presented lovely aromas of honeysuckle and peaches with a honeyed texture in the mouth. Rich and full-bodied, it should pair quite well with any dish that featured a cream sauce. Paul favored the 2008 Les Vent d’Anges which is stainless steel fermented. At 1.3% residual sugar, it’s considered an off-dry wine and exhibits the same characteristics as its oak fermented sibling but without the full mouth feel. My close second place was the classic 2008 Chardonnay with its toasty nose and pear flavors. I also liked its buttery feel and full finish—I’m a sucker for this kind of Chardonnay.

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So on to the red wines. It was here that we reached a unanimous decision. The gold star went to the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. What a treat it was to taste this Governor’s Cup winner! “Dense” was Paul’s descriptor the rich garnet color, and we both noted blackberries and dark cherries on the nose with similar flavors in the mouth. I noted mocha at the end. This Cabernet is blended with 25% Merlot and aged in French and American oak barrels. One inhibiting factors? The price. At $60 a bottle, this Cabernet Sauvignon is well worth its hefty price tag, but tasters may want to reserve this one for a special occasion. For an everyday wine, try the fruity 2008 Touriga which is blended with 20% Chambourcin. Medium bodied and easy to drink, the 2008 Touriga was chock full of mixed berry flavors with a smoky edge to boot. Buy now and drink now with—might be a nice alternative for the holidays, too.

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Of course, with tasting done, we were hungry. We brought along grilled chicken breasts, white cheeses and baguette. Our wine of choice? I let Paul prevail and we selected the 2008 Les Vent d’Anges to enjoy with lunch and fall scenery. We marveled at the different shades of fall that included gold, rust, orange and red. In the process, we also nibbled and sipped.

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We made off with several bottles of wine that included a bottle each of the white wines. We also know that we will return to Keswick Vineyards to sample upcoming releases. Planning a visit to Keswick Vineyards? Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Extra Pour

ExtraPour01Welcome to a new feature at Virginia Wine Time. The Extra Pour will be a quarterly addition to Virginia Wine Time. The Extra Pour will allow us to spend more time and space on a particular topic that is too long for a blog post. You can download the Extra Pour to read at a later time. Click on the picture to download the first Extra Pour. In the future you’ll be able to click on the menu at the top of the page to take you directly to the Extra Pour page.

Veramar Vineyards

I’m a bit behind in my blogging, so I’ll try to catch up this week.  This post picks up with our trek to the Shenandoah area which featured visits to Glen Manor Vineyards and Veramar Vineyard.  I’ve already written about Glen Manor Vineyards; today, I’ll finish the detail of that trip with a wrap up of our impressions of Vermar Vineyard

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On a warm fall day, we noted signs of color changes with leaves taking on autumn hues.  As we made our way to the tasting room, we couldn’t help but notice spectacular mountain views, but in case we thought that we were lost, we were comforted by the word, Vermar, spelled in large rocks near the nearby pond.  On this particular day, we had the option of trying the reserve tasting, and these feature the best-crated wines at Veramar.  Wines sampled at the reserve tasting are available for purchase only to wine club members, and the session was hosted by wine maker Jim Bogaty.  Of course, we decided to participate in the reserve tasting, and with gold stars in hand, we made our way to the tasting bar designated for the reserve tasting.

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On hand for sampling were six wines—three whites and three reds.  We were treated to wine critic Steve Spurrier’s favorite, the 2007 Estate Club Chardonnay Shenandoah Valley, and this one presented a nose that I described as brioche—vanilla, toast and almonds with coated with sautéed pears.  Complimentary flavors were noted in the mouth with a lingering finish.  This Chardonnay was done sur lees which provides a rich texture to this complex wine.  While I’m a fan of big chardonnays, I did concur with Paul, though, that the gold star of the white wines was the Tres Blanc.  A lovely blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and Vidal Blanc, this fruity wine displayed a nice floral and subtle citrus aroma with heady fruit characteristics that included mango and peach.  Quite the crowd pleaser, the Tres Blanc should pair quite well with spicy fare, but I might even pop open a bottle of this one for Thanksgiving dinner if herbed turkey is on the menu.

On to the red wines, and we once again came to the same conclusion.  Our gold star was awarded to the 2007 Estate Club merlot Free Run.  Jim Bogaty explained that free-run means that the grape juice runs feely with no pressing; the grapes press on their own and by their own weight.  This Merlot is then aged in French oak to present a well-integrated wine.  Plum and cherry characteristics prevailed with notes of spice and mocha.  This one should age well, too!

With our tasting completed, we thanked Jim Bogaty for conducting our tasting, and he shared with us that Steve Spurrier will soon pay a visit to Veramar with other wine experts to sample the Estate Club Chardonnay.  We congratulated him on this exciting news, and we opted to share a glass of the revered Chardonnay to enjoy while appreciating the mountain landscape. 

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Since the reserve wines are available only to club members, tasters should also be aware that a regular tasting menu is available.  We were able to sample these wines, and a quick note of our faves include the citrusy 2008 Seyval Blanc and the earthy Cabernet Franc.

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We hope to return to Veramar Vineyard soon, but fall is here and readers should plan a trip to enjoy autumn’s pageant and Veramar’s nice wines. Of course, remember to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Must Read

Please read wine critic Dave McIntyre’s article in yesterday’s Washington Post. His article, “In Grape Shape”, features Loudon County wineries and includes his reviews of several wineries. Joining him in the experience is Todd Thrasher, sommelier and general manager of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria. Their conclusions? We’ll let you read all about it! (Hint: Virginia wine lovers will not be disappointed!)

Excellence at Glen Manor Vineyards

This past weekend, we decided to pay visits to wineries in the Shenandoah region. Our closest destination was Glen Manor Vineyards. We last visited Glen Manor Visits over a year ago, and at that time, winemaker Jeff White had two wines to sample. This time, though, he had five wines to taste; of course, we were eager to sip away, and in the process find out the latest news about Glen Manor Vineyards.

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Readers may recall that the property which comprises Glen Manor Vineyards is a family-owned site that has been farm property for generations. Jeff White continues that legacy and currently has planted several acres of vineyards on the site; he previously produced grapes for legendary winemaker Jim Law, but he now uses those grapes to create his own wines. We can acknowledge that Jeff White’s current lineup of wines is indeed quite impressive. Sauvignon Blanc is the white wine of choice for White, and he presents both the excellent 2007 and the 2008 for tasting. The difference between the two? The 2007 was produced in a warmer, drier year, but the 2008 vintage was crafted in a cooler, wetter year. The result? Two very fine Sauvignon Blanc wines. When pressed to decide, my pour of choice was the flinty 2007 vintage with its grapefruity characteristics and crisp feel. Paul, when his arm was twisted, settled for the 2008 selection which presented the “cat pee” aromas of a classic New Zealand-style wine. (For the record, Jeff White describes this scent as “boxwood”; I like the traditional cat-pee!) Grassy with a racy acidity, this ’08 Sauvignon Blanc should be familiar to sauvignon blanc aficionados.

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The red wines found us at a similar split decision. My gold star was awarded to the 2007 Cabernet Franc with its scents of dark cherries, black pepper, and eucalyptus. Quite a concentration of complimentary flavors, it finished with a velvety tannic presence. Paul correctly deduced that a small splash of “something” gave this Cabernet Franc a subtle complexity, and Jeff confirmed that a 3% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon did indeed complete this ’07 offering. However, Paul’s own favorite was the 2007 Hodder Hill. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the Hodder Hill (so named after the vineyard in which the grapes were grown) exhibits dark plum and blackberry characteristics with some spice to boot. Bold and complex, the Hodder Hill is destined to partner with a heavy beef dish that might be served in the fall and winter. (Stuck on a choice between white or red? Try the Provence-style Rose. Summer is done, but this rose is for year-round enjoyment!)

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As we sipped and savored, we learned from Jeff that his newer planting, located on a higher plateau on the Glen Manor property, were Bordeaux varieties. These will result in full-bodied single varietal wines such as Petit Verdot and/or blended wines in the same vein as the Hodder Hill. White remains committed to producing small quantities of wines from selective fruit, and he was quite optimistic about the 2009 harvest which promised to be a stellar harvest in terms of both quantity and quality. His rationale? Despite the heavy spring rains, the summer in northern Virginia was dry with moderate temperatures and thus ripe for another memorable vintage.

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So all of this wine talk and tasting made us hungry—of course! We opted to enjoy the 2007 Cabernet Franc with grilled chicken coated with herbs, smoked cheese, and baguette slices that we brought from home. As we snacked and sipped, we enjoyed the mountain views accented by large-winged hawks flying overhead. The wine, food, and scenery were perfect on a warm fall afternoon. When we were done, we relieved Jeff White of several bottles of wine, and we bid our farewells. We’ll return soon, but we encourage readers to sample Jeff’s quality wines at Glen Manor Vineyards. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine of The Weekend

muscatThe wine of the weekend is the Breaux Vineyards 2008 Muscat. This wine is only available to the Cellar Club members. Since I’m a member I received it in a recent shipment. We had it with some St. Andre’s cheese and fresh baguette. The muscat is a dry, fruity wine with a hint of lemon zest. It’s a blend of the Muscat Canelli and the Muscat Giallo grapes. It paired well with the St. Andre’s cheese and baguette.

Of course we had several other Virginia wines this weekend but this one stood out as one that needed a mention.

Dad’s Favorites

My parents came up from New Orleans to participate in the chardonnay harvest at Gray Ghost vineyards last weekend.  On the Saturday before the harvest, we took Mom and Dad out to Linden and Chateau O’Brien.  We let my Dad decide which were the favorite wines tasted that afternoon.

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In addition to the regular tasting, we also enjoyed the cellar tasting with Shari Avenius.  It’s easy to say, “all of the above” at Linden when assessing favorite wines, because all are excellent.  Our cellar tasting allowed us to sample wines from the three vineyards that produce Linden’s wines: Avenius, Boisseau, and Hardscrabble.  Of the three, the Avenius vineyards produce wines that reflect the minerality of the soil.  This was evident in Dad’s favorite, the 2007 Avenius Chardonnay.  Lean and sleek would be apt descriptors of this Chardonnay which may remind wine drinkers of Burgundy-style white wines.  Of the red wines, he was more partial to the fruit-driven 2006 Boisseau Red.  A blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, this accessible red wine is ready to enjoy now.  I preferred the 2006 Hardscrabble Red, a more complex Bordeaux-style blend that may need more time on the wine rack before pouring. The sampling of dessert wines included the 2005 and 2006 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc.  Lovely with the cheese sample offered with the tasting, Dad gave the 2006 Late Harvest the nod. After our cellar tasting, we all enjoyed a glass of the 2006 Boisseau Red with beef sausage, cheddar cheese and baguette.  (Mom is not a wine drinker did enjoy the 2009 vintage tap water with her lunch!)

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On to Chateau O’Brien and Dad was ready to name his favorites.  Of the white wines, he preferred, the 2007 North Point White which is a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.  A nice, fruity offering, this blend offered lots of fruit with a crisp presentation in the mouth.  Look for Chateau O’Brien to bottle a stand-alone Pinot Grigio in the near future!  Of the reds, Dad gave the Northpoint Red the edge.  He found this Bordeaux-style wine to be more complex and offered layers of berry fruits and silky tannins.  Not to be missed is Chateau O’Brien’s Tannat with its dense core and earthier characteristics.  This one is certainly worth aging!

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So Dad enjoyed his tour of Virginia wine country, and he even purchased wines to ship home.  We’ll be sure return to Linden and Chateau O’Brien.  In fact, since it’s Virginia Wine Month, readers should plan a visit, too—be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.