Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Month: August 2010 (page 2 of 4)

More on the Monticello Trail

So in this roundup, I’ll review our experiences at King Family Vineyards, First Colony Winery, and Virginia Wineworks.

King Family Vineyards: Mathieu Finot is one of Virginia’s premier winemakers, and this was confirmed earlier this year when King Family’s 2007 Meritage took the Governor’s Cup.  Mathieu joined us for our tasting today. And we were treated to a sample of the newly release 2009 Chardonnay.  This was my gold-star winner for the white wines.  Fermented and aged in French oak barrels, it presents aromas of lemon and pear with similar flavors in the mouth.  A creamier mouth feel and a longer finish were noted, too.  For summertime, it’s hard to beat the Crose 2009 done in a dry Provence style.  We stock up on this classic rose, because it is a versatile pour throughout the year.  The red wines were all well-crafted, and it was hard to select only one for our gold-star award.  The 2009 Cabernet Franc reminded us of the Chinon-style, and it was rich with bright red fruit and spice elements that are typical of Cabernet Franc. However, Paul gave his gold-star nod to the 2008 Merlot with its dark cherry, smoke and mocha characteristics.  I almost concurred with Paul until I tasted the 2008 Meritage with its complex aromas and flavors.  Dark fruit, violets and licorice made for an enticing nose, and layers of dark cherry, black plums, spice and vanilla revealed themselves in the mouth.  A lengthy finish suggests aging potential, too.  Port lovers should also try the brandy-fortified Seven 2008 which is made from Merlot; a hunk of blue cheese and/or a cigar should provide nice partners with this one.

In the midst of our tasting, Mathieu confirmed what other winemakers have noted—the 2010 harvest will be much earlier than usual for Virginia with white wine varieties either already harvested or about to be harvested very soon.  He also sees the 2010 harvest as a year for potentially complex, robust  red wines.

First Colony Winery:  We reached a split decision with the white wines.  Paul favored the floral 2008 Viognier with its tropical fruit characteristics, but I preferred the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve which is aged in Hungarian oak barrels for nine months.  Pear flavors end with a subtle toasted almond finish.  (In the past, we’ve enjoyed the Chardonnay Reserve at Kinkeads, the much-heralded seafood restaurant in DC.)  We did, however, concur on a favorite red wine—the yet-to-be released 2008 Merlot.  Dark cherries, plums and dried herbs with some chocolate at the end make for a more complex wine.  Early September is the scheduled release date for the 2008 Merlot.  Of course, it’s still grilling season, and steak lovers might want to sample the earthier 2006 Tannat.

Virginia Wineworks:  It’s always a pleasure to sample the latest releases by Michael Shaps, and it’s equally hard to find favorites since all of Shaps’ wines are well-crafted.  It’s hard to beat the Michael Shaps Viognier 2008, and we’ve written about this one in the past.  However, I was more intrigued with the Burgundian-style Michael Shaps Chardonnay 2008 with its apple and pear characteristics and toasted almond finish.  A creamier mouth feel and lengthier finish make for an elegant pour.  Paul’s vote remained with the 2008 Viognier, and that was fine with me!  Of the reds, Paul favored the Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc which was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels.  He observed elements of dark cherry, plums and anise that finished with a smooth tannic presence.  I gave my gold star to the Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2008 which presented dried fruit characteristics, tobacco and black pepper. 

We were able to chat with Michael for a bit, and his next experiment will be “bag in the box” wines that are currently catching on in Europe.  Finding alternatives to cork enclosures has led to these developments, and quality products are being poured from the “bag” containers.  We’ll check in with Michael to see how this innovation is progressing!

Want to read more about our finds on the Monticello trail?  Don’t despair—more will be posted in upcoming articles.  With a very hot summer winding down, be sure to plan a visit to these wineries on the Monticello trail.  Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

The Inn at Meander Plantation

We just spent the last five days staying at The Inn at Meander Plantation. We have stayed here before and have loved it. It’s a wonderful place to stay. We felt this was a central location to visit many of the wineries in the Charlottesville area. We will be sharing more information about the Inn and our stay here in the next edition of the Extra Pour. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, watch this short video showing you a little of The Inn at Meander Plantation.

Click on the picture to see a short video.

Take note of this:

August 27-28 2010

Wine snobs and wine snob “wannabes” are invited to participate in a fun wine-centric weekend, Aug. 27 and 28, offered by The Inns at Montpelier, a group of nine Central Virginia bed-and-breakfasts. The convenient all-inclusive “Wine Snob Weekend” package features unique Virginia wine tastings, transportation to all events, classes and creative regional fine cuisine. “Wine Snob Weekends” are designed to be paired with two nights at the luxury Inn of your choice.

Wine Snob Weekends start on Friday evening with a reception highlighting several Virginia sparkling wines. After Saturday morning’s Inn gourmet breakfast, the day offers a full range of fun activities and lunch. Relax at your chosen Inn before enjoying wine and discussion with guest Virginia winemakers in the vineyard at the Inn at Meander Plantation and dinner in the Inn’s acclaimed restaurant.

“We are pleased to launch these educational and fun August weekends for our guests, showcasing the Inns at Montpelier and Virginia wines,” says Suzie Blanchard, Inn at Meander Plantation Owner/Chef. “You select one of the nine Inns, make a phone call and reserve accommodations for a very special B&B and add this incredible wine experience package. The Wine Snob Weekend package makes it easy to plan a fun wine-filled weekend and unwind in the beautiful countryside in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Planned weekend activities include (transportation included):

Friday Evening:
‘Who has the Best Bubbles” ~ Comparison tasting of Virginia sparkling wines with an hors d’oeuvres buffet at Mayhurst Inn.

Saturday:
“Wine 101 Grapes to Glass” ~ General wine knowledge class and discussion led by wine snob, wine instructor and lecturer Warren Dunn at Inn at Westwood Farm.

“Wine Pairings” ~ General discussion on pairings along with Virginia wine and local cheese tasting at Holladay House.

“Picnic and Porch Wine” ~ Al fresco lunch with light summery “porch” wines at Ridgeview Bed and Breakfast.

“Blind Tasting” ~ Imagine tasting Virginia’s finest wines from a paper bag! There will be wine, fun and prizes at Inn at Poplar Hill.

“How to Host a Wine Tasting Party” ~ Learn how-to in your own home with session at Chestnut Hill

Dinner at the Vineyard ~ Pre-dinner wine and conversation in the Inn
at Meander Plantation vineyard, followed by five-course, candlelight wine-paired dinner in the Inn’s dining room.

Sunday:
Pick up Complimentary Winery Tasting Coupons & Touring Guide at Ebenezer House.

Southern tour ~ Sweeley Estate Winery, Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards and Keswick Vineyards.

Northern tour ~ Sweeley Estate Winery, Prince Michel
Vineyard and Winery, Old House Vineyards, Gray Ghost Vineyards and Pearmund Cellars

Wine Snob Weekend package price is $450. per couple plus your room rate for 2 nights

Call one of the Inns at Montpelier to make your reservation:

Chestnut Hill Bed & Breakfast 888.315.3511 www.chestnuthillbnb.com
Ebenezer House 888.948.3695 www.theebenezerhousebb.com
Holladay House Bed & Breakfast 800.358.4422 www.holladayhousebandb.com
Inn at Meander Plantation 800.385.4936 www.meander.net
Inn at Westwood Farm 888.661.1293 www.innatwestwoodfarm.com
Inn on Poplar Hill 866.767.5274 www.innonpoplarhill.com
Mayhurst Inn 888.672.5597 www.mayhurstinn.com
Ridge View Bed & Breakfast 866.852.4261 www.virginia-ridgeview.com
The Old Mill House 540.948.6287 www.virginiaoldmillhouse.com

Inns at Montpelier are nine luxurious Inns located in Central Virginia’s Orange and Madison County. All are a short drive from many award winning Virginia vineyards and James Madison’s Montpelier. This bucolic Virginia countryside is graced with rolling landscapes and incredible views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit www.innsatmontplier.com

NOTE TO THE MEDIA: Please contact Suzie Blanchard at 540.672.4912 or inn@meander.net.

Busy Day on the Monticello Wine Trail

We took advantage of the close clustering of wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail and planned an aggressive agenda for yesterday’s wine tastings. We’ll comment on each tasting by providing our gold star favorites and share other important revelations such as upcoming releases and the outlook for the 2010 harvest.

Jefferson Vineyards: Wines here are always well-crafted. Today’s tasting provided us with samples of a few new pours. My favorite white wine was the floral-nosed 2009 Viognier with its apricot flavors and weightier texture. Paul gave the nod to the 2009 Pinot Gris; he appreciated its crisp acidity and citrus characteristics. Of the red wines, my gold star was awarded to the 2007 Meritage, a gold medal winner in the 2010 San Diego International. I noted layers of dark fruit with complements of mocha and dried herbs. Quite complex, and a good candidate for aging, too! Paul favored the 2008 Petit Verdot with its notes of spice and tobacco.

Blenheim Vineyards: We’re always fans of Kirsty Harmon’s wines, and we were eager to sample the latest at Blenheim Vineyards. Mitzi conducted our tasting today; of course, we started with the white wines. Paul’s gold-star fave was the crisp 2009 Blenheim Farms Chardonnay which is a blend of wines from stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. Pear flavors with a slight lime edge make this one a refreshing pour. My own favorite was the heavier-bodied 2008 Blenheim Chardonnay with its pear flavors and toasted almond finish. This Chardonnay is actually the result of careful blending from American, French, and Hungarian oak barrels to present a more food-friendly wine. (I also enjoyed the dry 2009 Rose with its flavors of melon and strawberry.) Mitzi skillfully moved us on to the red wines, and we started with the light-bodied and accessible Red Table Wine. Candy bar aficionado Paul made note of Mitzi’s creative pairing with this one—a Snickers bar! He’ll be sure to give it a try, too. Anyway, as we began to sample the reds, we were joined by Kirsty Harmon who provided testimony to the fact that the 2010 harvest will be an earlier one than usual with white varieties coming in from the vineyard as we spoke. She also brought along two upcoming releases, the 2009 Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Merlot. The fruity 2009 Cabernet Franc ended up being our gold-star favorite. Bright cherry and raspberry flavors were noted with some characteristic spice notes, too. It should be the perfect partner for Thanksgiving dinner, too. The 2009 Seven Oaks Merlot was still a bit tight and revealed itself after a few swirls; however, we noted the dark cherry and earthy characteristics that will prevail with this one.

Kluge Estate: Tasting room manager Tammy warmly greeted as we entered the cottage that serves as the tasting room. We were very hungry, too; Tammy took our orders for food and wine tasting as we made our way to a table. Two flights are offered for tasting: a) the Albemarle flight, and b) the Kluge flight. The Kluge flight featured the sparkling wines, and it was this flight that we opted to enjoy with our lunch. We’re not fans of the tasting “test tubes”, though, and Tammy kindly obliged our request for wine glasses along with our rack of tasting tubes. We simply poured the contents from the tube into the glass, and all was made better. Lunch arrived in time for us to pair our sparkling wines with food which included crab cakes and cheeses. Our gold star favorite was the Kluge Estate SP Rose 2007; we’re going to review this one in an upcoming ‘back to school” post, so more on this sparkling wine later on. I will say that made for a perfect marriage with the crabcakes! With the harder cheeses, we both concurred that the Kluge Estate New World 2002 was the winner. Blackberry, dark cherry, tobacco, and mocha were noted characteristics. Tammy joined us for banter about the wines, and her sense of humor made for some lively conversation! We shared with her that in summer months, we like to make note of summer sippers, and Tammy provided us with samples of the classic Albemarle Rose 2009. Dry and crisp with bright berry and melon notes, it did indeed qualify as a quality summer sipper!

I’ll wrap up this post here, but we did manage to complete tastings at First Colony and Virginia Wine Works. Stay tuned for my next post about those wineries. In the meantime, visit the wineries presented in this article; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Viognier Epiphany

Back in March of this year we visited Pollak Vineyards. Jake Busching was conducting a barrel tasting the day we were there. Of course we decided to take part in the tasting. We love seeing where wines are in the barrel and how they change when they are bottled and eventually sold. That day we tasted a few wines from the barrels but our big surprise was the 2009 Viognier. It was just bottled and Jake gave us a tasting. At the time I wasn’t sure I liked it. I was so in love with the 2008 Viognier that I didn’t think the 2009 would be able to top it. I still had half a case of the 2008 on my rack at home. After tasting the 2009 right after bottling I decided I wasn’t going to like it. Jake was nice enough to give us a bottle of the 2009 before it went on sale to the public. I was very excited. He told me though not to open it for a few months. He warned us it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t give it time in the bottle. I didn’t think anything of this at the time though.

Jump ahead a few months to when I opened the 2009 Viognier. Well, I didn’t listen to Jake. I didn’t give it enough time to mature in the bottle. When we opened it, it wasn’t very good. I didn’t like the flavor profile at all. It wasn’t anything like I expected. I was expecting to taste the 2008 all over again. But no. It wasn’t the same. I was disappointed.

Jump ahead a few more months. We went back to Pollak yesterday for a tasting to check out the new wines. The second wine on the tasting menu was the 2009 Viognier. I already had my mind made up that I wasn’t going to like it. I even jumped the gun and put a sad face next it on the menu. Then it was poured into our glasses. I hesitated but then tasted. OMG! It was amazing! It was nothing like I tasted a few months previously! It had very similar characteristics of the 2008. We observed peach and apricot notes with a wonderful floral nose. I was so upset with myself. I instantly erased the sad face and replaced it with a smiley face. I also wrote down a three to show I wanted to bring home three bottles.

I have now learned my lesson. Listen to the winemaker. He knows his wines best. When you visit Pollak Vineyards mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you and listen to Jake.

Stone Mountain View

Click on the picture to see a short video of the view from Stone Mountain Vineyards.

New (To Us) and Newer

Today we visited two new wineries in the Monicello AVA area. One winery, Stone Mountain Vineyards, has been in business since 1998; however, we have never visited the tasting room. The other winery, DuCard Vineyards, just opened it’s tasting room to the public last weekend. Therefore Stone Mountain Vineyards, although it is an established winery, was a new experience for us, but DuCard is the newer winery and probably new to our readers, too!

Chris Breiner, owner and winemaker at Stone Mountain Vineyards, conducted our tasting. The tasting room at Stone Mountain Vineyards is situated at least 1700 feet atop the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greene Country. Of the white wines we both favored the 2008 Pinot Grigio with its floral aromas and melon flavors; it was crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day. Of the reds we both preferred the bolder 2007 Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in French oak. It presented characteristics of dark fruit and spice with an obvious earthy element. Buy now but age on the rack for a bit longer. It should pair well with prime rib.

A newer kid on the block is DuCard Vineyards. Vineyard manager Julien, native of Brodeaux, conducted our tasting. We sampled all five wines on the tasting menu at DuCard Vineyards. Of the whites we favored the 2009 Signature Viognier which presented elements of honeysuckle and peach. It should pair well with shell fish or poultry. The 2008 Popham Run Cabernet Franc offers a lighter bodied red wine with a fruitier nose and flavors that include cherry, raspberry, and pepper. Paul noted that this one makes for a bistro style wine best served with pizza or burgers. Norton lovers should sample the 2008 Virginia Native Norton with its violet notes and darker fruit flavors. It might pair well with duck and it certainly partnered well with the dark chocolates offered to us by Julien. Julien shared with us that DuCard Vineyards plans to produce up to 2000 cases by 2012. In the meantime upcoming releases include a Petit Verdot, a bolder Cabernet Franc and a port style Norton. DuCard should be commended for using solar power to produce the power needed to run their entire facility.

We’ll return to both Stone Mountain Vineyards and DuCard Vineyards in the future. If you visit either of them, please mention Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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