Bud Break

We were at Linden Vineyards this weekend and got a chance to look closely at the bud break that must have happened sometime last week we’re guessing. It’s the beginning of another vintage!

All Of The Above

That would be the answer to a multiple choice question that reads, “Which Chester Gap wine is your favorite?” On a lovely spring afternoon, we ventured out to visit Bernd Jung at Chester Gap Cellars; in the past, we have trumpeted Bernd’s outstanding winemaking skills, and after today’s tasting, we conclude that Bernd is one of Virginia’s excellent winemakers. So how could we make such a claim? The proof was in the wine glass, and we could only reach conclusions on our gold star rewards after much debate and deliberation. All of the wines that we tasted were well crafted and reflected careful attention to vineyard and barrel room management.

Bernd offers three Viogniers for sampling, and each one presents a different twist. Paul’s favorite was the stainless steel fermented 2008 Viognier with its crisp finish and characteristics of honeysuckle and lemon. I noted a “steeliness” that reflected a refreshing minerality. My own gold star was presented to the 2008 Viognier Reserve which presented a creamier mouth feel. Characteristic floral and peach aromas. Peachy flavors with a nice acidity and a lengthier, toasty finish qualifies this one as a food wine. Lobster? Poultry with cream sauce? Here is the perfect partner. Bernd shared with us that he only uses high-quality French barrels to ages this Viognier; his 2008 Viognier Boisseau Vineyard is aged in French oak barrels used for cognac, and this one was my close “second” for the white wines. Smoky and full-bodied, this Viognier and its Reserve sibling are built to age for a few years.

Bernd currently offers two red wines for tasting and sale. In a rare moment of concurrence, Paul and I both agreed that the 2007 Merlot was superior. I noted blackberry and menthol characteristics; Paul suggested some earthiness to boot. This Merlot is an example of the excellent 2007 vintage in Virginia, and it should age quite well. The tasting notes suggested a pairing with lamb, and I could not have agreed more heartily with this recommendation. Not to be missed is the 2007 Cabernet Franc with its dark cherry flavors and chewier tannins.

In our chat with Bernd, it was clear to us that his focus is wine. His tasting room is utilitarian—nothing fancy at all, but it does offer exquisite views of the Shenandoah mountain range. However, the wines are excellent, and we learned that he plans to plant more vines that may include Merlot. We applaud Bernd’s efforts to produce limited quantities of wine are well-crafted and worthy of accolades that include an inclusion on restaurant wine lists in the local area.

With spring in the air, plan a visit to Chester Gap and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival

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!

Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to attend the Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We accepted and were looking forward to attending the event along with our fellow wine bloggers, Suzie, and Frank. After a glass of the Equation Merlot and an introduction from Jen Breaux, Dave Collins took over and we began a evening of six vintages of wine and three courses of food.

The first two wines we tasted were barrel samples of the 2008 and 2007 vintages. The 2008 spent a year and a half in French oak and the 2007 spent two and a half years in new American oak. I was expecting the 2007 to have some rough tannins but the opposite was the case. I really enjoyed the berry nose, dark fruit palate, smoother tannins and wonderful color. We had these wines with beef tenderloin. The dark fruit of the 2007 complemented the beef very well. While the 2007 made music in my mouth, the 2008 needed some more time. I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

With our second course of sauteed tiger shrimp, tasso ham and andouille sausage we had the 2006 and 2005 merlots. Of this couple I appreciated the 2006. This one was smooth, fruity, and went well with the spicy sausage. It was ready to drink now. Contrasting the 2006 was the 2005. To me this one fell flat. It didn’t make me want to drink it. It was a bit earthy for my taste.

Our last paring, the 2004 Merlot and the 2002 Merlot Reserve went with free range chicken braised with capers. The 2004 presented dark fruit, raisins and was smooth. The star of this pairing, however, was the 2002 Merlot Reserve. OMG It was so smooth with tons of dark fruit flavors and a beautiful color. I’m not one to have red wine with chicken but the 2002 Merlot Reserve went perfectly with the chicken. I had no problem finishing this glass. I wouldn’t mind having some more!

As we all finished our last course we started to compare our notes and talk about our favorites. Dave Collins asked for volunteers to talk about each wine after each course. We remembered this notes as we discussed our favorites. If I remember correctly we all came to the consensus that the 2002 Merlot Reserve was the winner of the evening. Even though the 2007 is still in the barrel, this one came in second. My final lineup was 02, 07, 06, 08, 04, 05. After our discussions we moved to the tank room to enjoy a barrel sample of the 2008 Malbec. I’m beginning to enjoy malbecs and this one impressed me. I’m ready for it to be bottled.

Our evening ended with a glass of the Nebbiolo Ice with Jen Breaux on the patio. We chatted about our evening, our favorites, and about wine and social media. We always have such a great time at Breaux. Jen Breaux knows how to make you feel welcome! Thanks Jen! Visit Breaux Vineyards soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Gray Ghost Barrel Tasting

Before our trip to Charlottesville we attended the barrel tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards, in my opinion the most medaled winery in Virginia. Have you checked out the medals they’ve been winning lately?

At the barrel tasting, Al Kelert opened the barrel room and a few barrels to allow us to taste certain wines in their current state. We started with the 2009 Chardonnay. We noted apple and tropical fruit flavors. We can’t wait for this one to make it in the bottle.

We moved onto the reds and started with the 2009 Merlot. We noted lots of cherry, smoke, and smooth tannins. I’ll be getting a case of this one when it is released. We then moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Franc. Here we noted raspberry fruit and smooth tannins. Another one I’ll be adding to my case list.

Next up were the two 2008 Cabernet Sauvignons…one in French oak and one in American oak. The French oak presented bright berry fruit flavors on the nose and on the palate. We noticed smooth tannins. The American oak was a bit more tannic and presented blackberry fruit, and a spicy edge. Warren wrote down chewy tannins. We were then able to blend the two together. The blend consisted of 60% from the French oak barrel and 40% from the American oak barrel. This made an amazing blend. The two compliment each other. The blend softened the tannins and brought out the fruit. Warren noticed some smoke as well. We look forward to this one making it in the bottle in the future.

After the barrel tasting we had a regular tasting conducted by Amy. We were able to taste the most recent releases: the 2009 Riesling, the 2009 Vidal Blanc, and the 2009 Adieu. All of the wines were wonderful and made it difficult for us to pick a wine for lunch. We finally decided on the 2008 Chardonnay. It went well with our grilled chicken. We finished the day with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with a handful of chocolate kisses…SO GOOD! If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost lately, you need to plan to visit them soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!