Local Warming Event

The three-part event will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30th with a wine tasting and public fair intended to inspire action on lowering the carbon footprint in the community. Enjoy free organic snacks from MOM’s Market and unlimited sustainably brewed free beer from Sierra Nevada Brewery as you connect with other community members and get the scoop on options for greening locally. The three featured eco-friendly wineries are Barrel Oak Winery, Black Ankle Vineyards and Tarara Winery.

The film, a quirky hybrid of “I Love Lucy” and An Inconvenient Truth, follows the adventures of Abby Brouchard (Caroline Winterson), a stubborn mother of two who sets off to prove that combating global warming starts with local community involvement. Several of the key filmmakers will be present at the screening, including the director, Tom Reilly, musician, Rob Lynch, who wrote five original songs for the movie, and Director of Photography Jon Van Gorder.

#100: Vintage Ridge

Yes, we’ve reached that important milestone—winery #100!  For such a special occasion we, visited a winery that has been on our radar for quite some time; however, we never seemed to make it out to Vintage Ridge.  We then had two goals: 1) to hit #100, and 2) to taste the current offerings at Vintage Ridge.  Both were accomplished on this past Sunday.

We entered the tasting room at Vintage Ridge and were impressed by the well-appointed furnishings.  In fact, we thought we had entered a quaint café.  Tastings are done at tables and conducted by tasting associates/wait staff.  Indoor and outdoor seating is available; however, on a day that hit 99 degrees, we opted for an indoor table.  Scott was our tasting associate, and he provided us with a tasting menu that included food pairings.  Some of these pairings, though, were menu items to be served during the course of the tasting.  This interesting twist allowed us to observe how the wines complimented certain foods and seasonings. 

So plates of food were brought to our table, and Scott commenced with our tastings.  In the meantime, we prepared our gold stars for placement next to our favorites.  Of the white wines, the Maiden Voyage 2008 was our unanimous favorite.  This one was poured as an aperitif and was offered before the food trays appeared.  However, this blend of Vidal Blanc, Mouvedre (no kidding) and Pinot Grigio was an excellent way to start our session.  Mango and peach flavors were noted with a crisp finish; though nice as an aperitif, I’d be tempted to pour it with either picnic fare or even a crab cake.

The reds were all well-crafted, and our gold-starred fave was the 2007 Petit Verdot.  We both noted layers of dark berries (black berry was prominent for me), plums, mocha, and cedar at the finish.  This one was the perfect partner with the smoked turkey served atop stilton mayo and chutney on a thin baguette slice.  A spicy arugula leaf capped the mini-sandwich.  Though it was a hot summer day, I did not have a hard time imagining a slab of prime rib with this one.  Fans of lighter-bodied reds may prefer the 2006 Syrah.  Its nose of violets and dried herbs gave way to cherry flavors in the mouth to present a bistro-style wine that would pair with light grilled fare, burgers or pizza.

Of course, we always keep sweeter wines in mind for our friend and guest blogger, Michael Tyler.  We place an “MT” next to these wines, and the 2008 Summer Night earned this designation.  This is a slightly sweet Vidal Blanc offering that presented flavors of pineapple and coconut, and it paired quite well with the crostini with mango chutney, ham and manchego cheese. 

These wines and their food pairings were skillfully presented and explained by tasting associate, Scott.  With our session completed, we opted to enjoy a glass of wine while we compared our notes.  Paul was persuaded by the heat to enjoy the refreshing 2008 Maiden Voyage; similar conditions persuaded me to imbibe the lighter-bodied 2006 Syrah rather than the bolder 2007 Petit Verdot. 

Time seemed to fly at Vintage Ridge, and I made certain to purchase a bottle of the 2007 Petit Verdot to enjoy with a heavier fall or winter menu.  We also thanked Scott for providing us with an informative tasting session, and we know that we will return to Vintage Ridge soon.  In the meantime, be certain to pay a visit to Vintage Ridge for a food and wine tasting, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

(No—balloons did not fall from the ceiling, and we did not win luxury prizes for our achievement.  In fact, we reminded ourselves that there are probably 50 more wineries to visit!)

Wines of Lombardy

I felt very privileged to be invited to a wine tasting that featured wines from the Lombardy region of Italy. This was a media event, and we were thrilled to receive an invite from Tiffany van Gorder, general manager of Balzac Communications and Marketing.

The event was held at the Palomar Hotel in Washington, D.C., and a luncheon was included in this exclusive tasting event. The wines were outstanding, and the Italian tasting associates were friendly and knowledgeable. (They were also quite conversant in the English language.) I will present to you my personal favorites from the event, but I will say that all of the wines that I sampled were quite good; alas, only a few will receive the coveted gold stars.

Before I list my favs, I must provide a brief description of the region. Lombardy is located in the northern part of Italy, and vineyards there belong to tightly regulated consortiums. Grape varieties grown in this region can date as far back as the Roman Empire! However, I will spare readers the history lecture on this matter and declare that some of the varieties grown in Lombardy are unique to the region and have ancient roots. What I did discover is that most wineries in Lombardy are similar to local wineries/vineyards in that they are small producers and therefore overlooked in the grander scheme. For example, most wine drinkers may associate Italian wines with southern Italy or (regrettably) with the more generic offerings. found in straw-covered bottles—the pizzeria wines. However, the wines that I sampled were as terrior-focused as any French wine on the market. Tasting associates described soils that were optimal for the grape varieties grown in particular vineyards, and they emphasized the premium placed on limited yields that then maximized wine profiles. In short, the wines offered were those that were produced from well-managed vineyards. The result? Well-crafted wines, of course.

I should also describe how these wines were tasted. Guests were able to pre-sample wines that were going to be poured at the luncheon; once this tasting event was completed, tasters and tasting associates were seated for lunch. Given the number of wineries that participated, the dining tables were organized so that a cluster of Lombardy wineries could be represented at each table. I was seated at a table which featured such wineries as Sorsasso Winery and San Michele ai Pianoni . Tasting representatives were seated at these tables, and we, the tasters, were all able to interact with the reps as food and wine were served. After the luncheon, another tasting was available which featured wines not poured at the luncheon event. (Did I mention that coffee was offered, too?)

Ok—what were my favorites?

Cantina Cooperativa Villa Bianzone Valtellina Superiore DOCG Incontri 2003: 95% Nebbiolo, 5% local varieties—characteristic red-brick color with dark fruit, tobacco, and spice. Age worthy!

Sorsasso Terre Lariane Bianco Vigne del Largo 2008: blend of Verdesa and Sauvignon Blanc. Pear and stone fruit characteristics with minerality to boot. Best pairing with the smoked salmon that was served at the luncheon. Crisp and refreshing. Summer wine to sip on its own or with food. Did I mention smoked salmon?

Calvi Oltrepo Pavese DOC Barbera Tre 2006: 100% Barbera. Bramble berries and a peppery nose; violet notes, too. Favorite pasta dish with this one.

San Michele ai Pianoni Oltrepo Pavese DOC Pinot Nero Riserva Pynos 2004: 100% Pinot Noir. Yes, Pinot Noir from Italy but produced from vineyards located 350-380 meters above sea level. At the tasting,I thought this one needed decanting. By lunch time, it was ready to be served with both the salmon and the steak. (Filet mignon followed the fish course.) Dark currants and anise were noted here with a longer finish.

Lantierie Franciacorta DOCG Rose Arcadia 2006: 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Nice pink color. “Bready” with vibrant fruit notes.

Civielle Garda Classico DOC Chiaretto Pergola: 2008 Rose—My ultimate favorite. (It was 98 degrees outside!) Made from Groppello, Marzemino, Sangiovese, and Barbera. Lovely pink color with strawberry and melon characteristics. Yum!!! Again, the smoked salmon? Yes!

Torti Oltrepo Pavese DOC Ponot Nero Poker di Vino Re di Denari 2006: 100% Pinot Noir—Young, fresh and fruity. Drink now or later. Lovely!

So what up with the DOCG/DOC? DOCG means Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, and DOC means Denomination of Controlled Origin.

In search of unique wines from Lombardy? Inquire about these wines at your local wine shop to find out how they can be purchased. Mention that you read about them on Virginia Wine Time.

Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival

This past Sunday, we attended the Manassas Wine & Jazz Festival. At least 21 wineries were on hand to offer samples of their wares, and our quest was to find the best summer wines. These would be wines that complement a hot, balmy summer day and do not require food. They simply need to be well-chilled—a wine glass and shade tree, of course, are demanded! I’ll list our favorite summer wines that we sampled at the festival:

Delfosse Vineyard and Winery: 2008 Reserve d’Oriane (always a favorite of mine)

First Colony: 2008 Chardonnay; sweeter wine lovers like our friend Michael Tyler might prefer the Sweet Shanando

Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard: 2009 Albemarle Rose

The Winery at La Grange: 2008 Cuvee Blanc

Paradise Springs—Vidal Blanc

Philip Carter Winery: Governor Fauquier 2008 (although the newly released 2009 Chardonnay was our favorite of the festival)

White Fences: Meteor Firefly (off-dry rose)

Willowcroft Farm Vineyards: split decision here—I voted for the Riesling Muscat-Ottonel; Paul favored the 2009 Chardonnay Stainless Steel

We tend to avoid festivals, but I must admit that the Manassas Wine & Jazz Festival was a class act. We sampled artisan cheeses, appreciated local crafts, and tuned in to some fine jazz. In fact, we grabbed some crab cake sandwiches along a glass of wine and found a shady spot near the stage. It wasn’t long before Paul was bopping to the jazz beat of Marcus Johnson who performed a jazz arrangement of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Quite an unusual take on the grunge classic, but we (and the crowd) enjoyed it. So what about the glass of wine? Did we pick from our favorite summer sippers list? Not quite—we both went for the Philip Carter 2009 Chardonnay.

Looking for that refreshing deck sipper or that favorite Wolftrap wine? Visit the wineries listed here to find the perfect pour for you. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

You Are The Winemaker

Yes, at Vint Hill Craft Winery you are indeed the winemaker. Rather than try to explain this novel concept to you, I’ll simply cut and paste from the winery’s website:

You are the Winemaker! Choose to make wine with us as it is crafted to your specifications, in your style with your name, a label of your design and of course, your story behind it. Vint Hill Craft Winery provides the opportunity for individuals or small groups to participate alongside our expert winemaking team to ‘Craft’ their own wine at our specially designed, eco-friendly, ‘small lot’ winery. Customers will receive hands-on instruction in every aspect of the process; crafting their own personalized wine, beginning with the selection of your grapes from California, Washington and, of course, Virginia!

My Dad was in town this past weekend, and we decided to pay a visit to Vint Hill Craft Winery. The winery is off of the beaten wine path, but we did indeed find the winery and tasting room. The facility itself has quite a history, and it was once an intelligence gathering post operated by the US Army. This operation ended in 1997 after 55 years of service; however, the facility received a new life in 2009. Winemaker Chris Pearmund and businessman Ray Summerell opened the Vint Hill Craft Winery for the purpose of providing a facility for aspiring winemakers. As an extension of the process, the tasting room recently opened to allow consumers the opportunity to taste the finished products. The craft winery’s motto? Create, Taste, Learn.

Tasting was certainly on our agenda, and we were offered three flights to sample. Since there were three of us at the tasting bar, we each took a flight. Dad and I opted to sample the Chardonnay flight, Paul made a go of the Viognier flight, and we all tasted the red flight. Of the Chardonnays, Dad and I both concurred that the 2009 Chardonnay VHCW was the winner. Aged in both new and neutral French oak barrels, the pear flavors, and rich, honeyed texture made for an easy sipper or food-friendly pour. The grapes used, though were not grown in Virginia and come from the Russian River Valley of California. For those who favor a more buttery Chardonnay, the 2008 VHCW is the one to try, and the grapes were indeed grown in Virginia at the Broad Run vineyard. Paul weighed in on his favorite Viognier, and he preferred the 2009 VHCW crafted from grapes grown in the Pan d’Or Vineyard of Virginia. The honeysuckle notes were undeniable with characteristic stone fruit flavors in the mouth. Another nice sipper but could complement a shellfish dinner.

We let Dad select the favorite red, and he liked the 2008 VHCW Merlot from the Crown Orchard Vineyard in Virginia. This one was aged in American oak, so we were not surprised by the smoky aromas; I caught a whiff of dried herbs, too. Dark cherry, spice and tobacco were prevalent flavors, and we all noticed a lengthier finish. Dad likes to grill, and he thought this one might go well with grilled fare that featured a dab of barbeque sauce.

With our tasting done, we each purchased a bottle of our favorite wine. On another note, our visit to Vint Hill Craft Winery brings the number of wineries visited by Virginia Wine Time up to 99! Yes, we’re one winery away from #100! Which winery will it be? Well, we haven’t decided yet, so keep tuning in. In the meantime, visit Vint Hill Craft Winery, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Notaviva Vineyards

A few weeks ago we met some fellow wine bloggers Suzie, and Josh) at Notaviva Vineyards for a tasting and to celebrate my birthday. We were anxious to see what was new on the tasting menu. Notaviva was a very busy place but we found a spot at the tasting bar and checked out the new wines.

Of course we started with the whites. Notaviva has two viogniers-one that is fermented in stainless steel and one in barrels. The stainless steel version, Vincero, was crisp and tart with a floral nose. Even though it was our first wine, this one got my gold star. Next was the barrel fermented viognier, Ottantotto. Warren noted banana and peach here. This one became Warren’s favorite. We then tasted the Verano, a vidal blanc that is barrel fermented. This one has 1% residual sugar. We noted peach and a creamy mouth feel. The last white we tasted was the Calor Chardonnay. This one also had 1% residual sugar. We noted a nice floral nose with apple on the palate.

There were two reds to taste. We tasted the Celtico Chambourcin and the Cantabile Cabernet Franc. We noted jam, cherry, and cranberry tartness from the Chambourcin. This one was just recently bottled and was cloudy so we’ll need to give this one some time to get used to being in the bottle. The Cabernet Franc presented a fruity nose with raspberries noted. We also noted a spicy/herby quality. This was not one of my favorites but others in our group enjoyed it. We finished our tasting with the Gitano, a sweet red consisting of tint cao, merlot, and cabernet franc.

With our tasting complete, we secured two bottles for our lunch. We decided to have both the viogniers and do our own little comparison with our food items. Both viogniers went well with our cheeses and crackers and various other items. They even went well with the birthday cake Dezel brought for my birthday. As it turns out, it was a split decision. Some really liking the stainless steel and some really liking the barrel fermented version.

During our tasting we were able to chat with Stephen Mackey, owner and winemaker. We’ve talked with Stephen several times over the years while watching the winery grow. He caught us up on what’s been happening lately. He let us know several wines will be released in the coming months. It was great catching up with him. You need to plan a trip to Notaviva soon. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!