Casanel Vineyards

Last weekend we went to Loudoun County to visit a few wineries. We started at Casanel Vineyards. We hadn’t been there since June. It was about time we checked out the new wines.

You might remember the name of the winery is a combination of the two owners names…Casey and Nelson…Casanel. They also named each vintage of wines with special words. The 2007 vintages began with the word Chegada which means arrival. The 2008 vintages begin with the word Batucada which means samba. Casanel is a family run winery as well. We were lucky enough to have one of the daughters conduct our tasting.

Our tasting began with the whites. Casanel has two whites to taste; the 2008 Batucada Chardonnay and the 2007 Chegada Viognier. Some words that were jotted down next the chardonnay were “crisp” and “tropical”. The viognier received the words “peachy”, “floral”, and “honey textured”. We enjoyed them both and thought about each one for our lunch. We agreed on our gold star here. It went to the 2007 Chegada Viognier.

We tasted three reds from Casanel. The 2008 Batucada Norton was tart with cherry jam flavors. The 2007 Chegada Merlot presented notes of smoke, cherry, dried herbs, and pepper. Our final red was the 2007 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon. Warren noted cherry, plum, and leather for this one. We were split on the reds for our gold stars. I gave my gold star to the 2007 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon and Warren presented his gold star to the 2008 Batucada Norton.

With our tasting finished, we decided on the 2007 Chegada Viognier to go with our herbed grilled chicken. We thought this one went well with our chicken. We decided the acidity gives the impression of crispness when we really didn’t detect its presence. We noted lots of peach on the nose and on the palate as well as the honeysuckle texture. Overall a very nice wine.

We had a nice time visiting Casanel once more. We encourage our readers to plan a visit to Casanel soon and when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Paradise Springs

Recently we took a trip to visit one of the newest wineries in Virginia, Paradise Springs Winery. After some legal troubles, Paradise Springs opened in January of this year with hopes of becoming a destination for Fairfax County residents and visitors from around the world. Paradise Springs is Fairfax County’s only winery. It’s also very close. We only had a 35 minute drive to get there.

In the quaint, historic tasting room we were able to taste the full array of Paradise Springs wines. They currently have one acre of grapes planted on the property but have plans to expand in the future. They hope to plant albarino and petit verdot. The grapes to produce the current wines were purchased all over the state of Virginia. The wines were created by several winemakers (listed on their website) with Chris Pearmund and Rob Cox being the most familiar to Virginia Wine Time. They currently produce about 5000 cases of wine but we’re sure that will increase in the future.

Our tasting associate was very knowledgeable and guided us through our tasting. Of course we marked our gold stars along the way. We placed our gold star for the whites next to the 2008 Viognier. It’s aged for six months in French oak and presented peach and honeysuckle on the nose with peach and mango flavors on the palate. Our gold star for the reds went to the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted blackberries, dark cherry, and smoke on the nose with dark fruit flavors, nice tannins, and a long finish on the palate. This one would sit nicely on your rack for a few years as well.

With our tasting complete we decided on the 2008 Cabernet Franc to compliment our chicken and pasta lunch. And of course it paired perfectly. We enjoyed our lunch in the lower level. It’s got a cave like atmosphere…and watch your head! We asked the tasting associate at the lower level bar about the tree on the label and she informed us it was modeled after a tree right on the property. You can see it out the window in the lower level as well.

After our lunch was finished and our purchases made, we bid farewell to Paradise Springs. We promised to visit again in the future. If you find yourself visiting the only Fairfax County winery, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Events of Note

It’s Spring and the wineries are open for business. There are a couple of events coming up that we’d like to share with you.

Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival-For the second year in a row the Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival will take place on Saturday April 24 and Sunday April 25 at St. John the Evangelist school in Warrenton Virginia. At the festival you’ll be able to taste wines from about 20 Virginia wineries, hear music from local musicians, see and purchase art from several local artists, and browse the merchandise from several local and regional vendors. Be sure to check out the website and get your tickets now. We attended the festival last year and really had a great time. We tasted some wines we couldn’t taste unless we visited the wineries. We look forward to attending the festival again this year! If you see us, say hi!

Virginia Wine Week-Love By The Glass-March 22-28 is Virginia Wine Week. During this week more than 100 participating restaurants and wine shops across the state will be serving Virginia wines by the glass. Look for the Virginia Wine Week decal at the locations participating in this event and stop in and enjoy a glass of Virginia wine! Check out the website to find a list of the places where you’ll be able to enjoy a glass of Virginia wine.

Grand Opening-Saturday March 27th from 11 to 4 is the Official Grand Opening of Delaplane Cellars. It promises to be a wonderful event. Guests will enjoy live music, food pairings and the release of their 2007 Emerald Lake Reserve Viognier, their 2007 Springlot Reserve red Bordeaux blend and their 2007 Shirland Syrah. We’ve been to Delaplane Cellars before and absolutely loved the wines. If you are free on Saturday, plane to attend the grand opening!

Oh, and one more thing. Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like participated last week in the Colorado/Virginia Wine Smackdown with Jacob Harkins of Coloradowino.com. Check out the articles on both the blogs and find out just how well Virginia did in the competition. Thanks Frank and Jacob!

Roundup Time

Over the past couple of weekend, we’ve visited a few other wineries, and we wanted to post our reviews of these visits.

Chrysalis Vineyards—It’s always a treat to do a tasting here. Our gold star faves in the white category was the 2008 Viognier, the flagship white wine at Chrysalis Vineyards. We were allowed a “sneak” of the 2008 Albarino—Wow! This would be my double star favorite. Soft peach, a hint of lemon zest, and a noticeable minerality sums up the flavor profile. Of the red wines, my own gold star was presented to the 2005 Locksley Reserve; of course, I was not swayed by the fact that it won gold at the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. Paul preferred the smoky 2005 Petit Verdot. We can also report that owner Jenni McCloud is making progress with her plans to build an on-site dairy and restaurant. We’ll follow these developments and keep track of latest releases as the spring and summer progresses.

Loudoun Valley Vineyards—The renaissance continues here! Our favorite white continues to be the crisp and refreshing 2008 Pinot Grigio, but the 2008 Vinifera White should prove to be a summertime crowd pleaser. The red wines produced another split decision. Paul favored the 2005 Cabernet Franc with its blackberry and spicy notes. My own preference was the 2005 Dynasty Reserve, and I noted dark berry, plum, and spice characteristics with some vanilla to boot. A more complex and “layered” pour, I opted to enjoy a glass of this one after our tasting.

Piedmont Vineyards—New releases planned in late May, and these include a Hunt Country Chardonnay and a Native Yeast Chardonnay. We were given “sneaks” of the Native Yeast, and for lovers of an oak-aged Chardonnay, this one should be popular. The current Hunt Country is still available and was Paul’s gold star winner. He favors the stainless steel Chardonnays, and this one is still crisp and refreshing. We both concurred on the Cabernet Franc with its raspberry and spice flavors. This one is limited in quantities, so buy now for future enjoyment.

Plan springtime visits to these wineries soon, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Website

There’s a new website specifically for Fauguier County wineries. When you visit you can find out all about the wineries in Fauquier County. They are divided by exits on route 66. You can also find out about the upcoming events at each winery. In addition to that information, you can also print out tasting sheets for each winery you plan to visit, and map out a trip to several wineries using tour tool. And on top of all that, you can join and be able to input your comments about each wine you tasted at each winery. You really need to check it out.

Gerhard von Fincke has this to say about the creation of this site:

“This site is an attempt to increase awareness and show visitors, mainly from the DC area east of Fauquier, how easy it is to reach “Virginia’s Wine Country” in Fauquier County in less than one hour by using I66 and their respective exits. The site is a combined effort by all wineries to show their locations and upcoming events with a user friendly format, so that visitors can plan winery tours through one single web site without going to each individual winery site to plan their route.”

If you are looking for information about Fauquier County wineries, check out the new website and sign up to save your comments!

Back To Breaux

Despite the rain, fog, and chill on Sunday, we went to Breaux Vineyards to pick up my Cellar Club selection. They were having a little pick up party for those who go to the winery to pick up their wines instead of having them shipped. At this party they were serving some spicy gumbo. They were also tasting the Cellar Club selections, the 2009 Water Bent Viognier and the 2007 Meritage.

The 2009 Water Bent Viognier was a wonderful wine filled with fruit on the nose and on the palette. Warren noted pear. We thought this one went really well with the gumbo being served.

The 2007 Meritage showed characteristics of a wine meant for aging. The tannins were tight and you could easily tell that it is a young wine. We suggest you lay this one down for a few more years. It promises to be quite nice in a few years.

I talk about these Cellar Club selections as if you can buy them. You can if you are a Cellar Club member. I’ve been a member for more than a year now and haven’t found one wine I didn’t like. They have all been amazing. The greatest advantage to being a member is the wines they select are created JUST for the club members. How many other wineries do this? I’m not sure but I do know I like having some wines that no others will have. I’m greedy like that.

In this months’ Cellar Club Newsletter there was a coupon for 30% off a case of select wines from the regular tasting. Since Warren and I hadn’t done a regular tasting in awhile, we decided to check out the current selections and consider getting a case of the ones we really liked. We were looking forward to spring and summer and what wines would be appropriate for the seasons.

Our tasting associate Carole, walked us through our tasting, expertly describing each wine. My gold stars went to the 2007 Madeleine’s Chardonnay and the 2002 Merlot Reserve. Warren’s gold stars went to the 2008 Viognier and the 2006 Meritage. Isn’t it interesting that we usually have different selections for our gold stars?

Our next decision was what to include in our case. With the coming seasons in mind, I selected equal amounts of the 2007 Madeleine’s Chardonnay, the 2008 Syrah Rose`, and the 2008 Jennifer’s Jambalaya. We usually take rose` with us to Wolf Trap in the summer and the 2008 Syrah Rose` will be perfect while enjoying a concert.

Before leaving we caught up with Jen Breaux. It was great to see her and the other Breaux staff we’ve come to know and enjoy. Plan a trip to Breaux Vineyards soon and be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Springtime at Sunset Hills

Now the weather has warmed up, we’re officially back on the wine trail, and we celebrated an early spring-like weekend at Sunset Hills Vineyard.  We were impressed with the lineup of wines there on the last visit, and we were eager to sample the latest releases.

We continue to be pleased with the quality of wines produced at Sunset Hills, and we know that owners Diane and Mike Canney are dedicated to vigilant maintenance of the vineyards.  Winemaker Nate Walsh likewise remains committed to the craft of winemaking, and the results are evident in the bottle.  In fact, we were hard pressed to find any wines that were truly weak—all were well-crafted.  Our hardest choices were deciding which wines would earn the coveted gold star awards!

Our tasting began with the white wines, and tasting room manager Christine started us off with wine glasses and pours. The white wines were all very solid.  Paul’s own favorite and gold star winner was the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay.  Full pear flavors with a twist of citrus made for a pleasing wine, and the cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks made for a crisp wine. My own gold star, though, was presented to the bolder 2008 Reserve Chardonnay which was aged nine months in French oak. I noted ripe pear and honey flavors with a buttery texture—just my kind of Chardonnay!  Be assured that there was the requisite “toastiness” but not in an overwhelming sense.  I’d sip this one on its own but would serve the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay with poultry, pork or shellfish especially if cream sauces were involved.  Not to be outdone, though is the lush 2008 Viognier that is begging for a crabcake dinner.  Look out for the Sunset White which is a blend of 90% stainless steel Chardonnay and 10% Viognier that was aged in neutral French oak barrels.  Christine obliged us with a sampling of this very slightly sweet with (1.5% residual sugar).  This one should be a perfect summer sipper or picnic wine. 

Before we moved on to the reds, Christine also surprised us with another sneak preview, and that was the Sunset Rose.  Here we found our Wolftrap wine!  We’re big Wolftrap fans, and we’re already stocking up on our concert wines—a bottle of this rose will be coming along for music under the stars.  Nate Walsh had been diligent in his preparation of this rose which he made from Cabernet Franc.  Its clear pink color suggested a crisper wine, and a .5% residual sugar provided a refreshing feel.  Cool strawberry and melon flavors were noted.

Now on to the red wines!  More solid pours and very tough decisions.  However, Paul did award his gold star to the lighter-bodied 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc with its distinctive minerality and cherry flavors.  Easy to drink and perfect to sip on its own, the Benevino Cabernet Franc should also prove to be a pleaser with pizza or a sampling of dry meats and roasted nuts.  My own decision was likewise not easy, but I did end up favoring the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc with its layers of blackberries, raspberries, spice, and mocha.  Aged for 18 months in both French and American oak, it also presented a lengthier finish. I’d favor a leg of lamb with this one!  A close second for me was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with its dark fruit characteristics and spicy edge.  Enjoy with a rib roast!

Diane Canney poured most of our red wines, and she was able to share with us the secret to Sunset Hill’s success.  Diane and husband Mike place a priority on vineyard management, and they use such Old World methods as hand sorting to make certain that only quality fruit from the best lots are used to produce their wines.  They’re also confident in their young winemaker, Nate Walsh, who began his career in the Virginia wine industry at Horton Vineyards.  Joined by a quality tasting room team, Sunset Hills Vineyards seems destined for even greater success.

Of course, we were hungry, and we opted to enjoy some of the viands from the “Lite Fare” menu offered at Sunset Hills Vineyard.  We selected the deli-style pepperoni with manchego cheese and crusty French break.  Our wine of choice?  The 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc.  We enjoyed lunch and wine in the cozy Amish farmhouse that serves as the tasting room.

We left Sunset Hills Vineyard with several bottles of favorite pours, and we will return quite soon.  In fact, we plan to attend a blending session to be held next Sunday; so, stay tuned!  In the meantime, maybe we’ll see some of our readers at Sunset Hills.  Be sure, though, to tell Christine or Diane that Virginia Wine Time sent you.