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!


Today we started a trip to Virginia wine country. We are concentrating on the Monticello AVA. One of our first stops was Barboursville Winery. Well crafted wines provide a consistent hallmark at Barboursville.

All of the wines are very strong at Barboursville. We were able to taste several new wines…many were 2009s. Warren and I both selected the 2009 Pinot Grigio for a gold star for the whites. On a rare occurrence, we both selected the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve for a gold star for the reds.

After our tasting we selected the 2009 Pinot Grigio for a closer look. On the nose we noted pineapple and pear. In the mouth we detected a stone fruit, melon, and pear. It was crisp and perfect for a warm afternoon.

If you visit Barboursville please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you. We will continue to post from the Monticello AVA for the next few days.

Warm Wednesday Whites

Man, is it hot! As we sweat through a record-breaking summer in which 95 degrees is considered cool, we decided to sample some summer sippers sent to us by Kluge estate Winery and Vineyard. The package included the 2009 Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Albemarle Viognier, and the 2007 Kluge SP Rose. On this warm Wednesday, we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and the Viognier; we’ll save the Rose for our “back to school” special review.

Our summer menus tend to be fairly light, and this afternoon we snacked on white cheese and crackers as we sipped a glass of the 2009 Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose we noted lemongrass and melon with a refreshing minerality with similar attributes in the mouth. It was perfect on a hot day and paired well with our cheese and crackers.

As the sun began to set, Paul prepared a simple supper that consisted of herbed chicken with aromatic jasmine rice. Our wine pairing with this meal was the 2009 Albemarle Viognier. It offered the floral aromatics that reminded us of summertime honeysuckle blossoms, and we both observed flavors of mango and apricot. It finished with a very subtle toasty edge reminiscent of a Condrieu-style Viognier. As the sun began to set and temps lowered to a more comfortable 91 degrees, the 2009 Albemarle Viognier was the best way to end a hot summer’s day.

Stay tuned for our upcoming review of the SP Rose. In the meantime, plan to purchase some summer sippers from Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. Be sure to mention,though, that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Releases at Gray Ghost Vineyards

Gray Ghost Vineyards has released several new wines, and this gave us the perfect excuse to pay the Kellerts a visit. Recent releases include the 2009 Cabernet Franc, the 2009 Seyval Blanc, and the 2009 Merlot.

Winemaker Al Kellert conducted our tasting, and that gave us the opportunity to catch up with Al about the latest happenings at Gray Ghost Vineyards. Of course, the newest releases were our chief interest, and the 2009 Seyval Blanc was the first to be poured into our glasses. Fermented for a short time in Hungarian oak, it resembled a California-style Fume blanc with a very faint smokiness and citrus characteristics. Perfect for summer, this Seyval Blanc should pair nicely with anything that would partner favorably with a Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2009 Cabernet Franc was the latest red to be released on the day of our visit. Gray Ghost Vineyards produces a stand-alone Cabernet Franc that is not blended with any other variety, and it presents qualities more akin to a Chinon-style Cabernet Franc. Aged ten months in French oak barrels, vibrant cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors abound with a characteristic spicy edge. I’d consider this one for fall menus, especially Thanksgiving dinner. Now what about the 2009 Merlot? Paul reserved a case of it in March when we participated in the barrel tasting; based on this sneak preview, he went ahead and ordered a case. However, on the day of our visit, the Merlot was not yet released and therefore not available for tasting. Not to worry, though, because Paul picked up his case while we were at the winery, and we had a bottle with dinner that evening! We decanted it first, and we noted a deep garnet color. After swirls, sniffs, and sips the word, “deep” came to mind for both of us. Rich, dark cherry and black berry characteristics prevailed with some vanilla at the finish. We enjoyed it that evening with filet mignon, and it was the perfect pairing.

As we sipped away at the tasting bar, Al Kellert revealed to us that all of the 2009 releases were produced from 100% estate grown fruit. This had been a goal of his for quite some time, and for the Kellerts, it represents a statement about quality. Anyone who has visited Gray Ghost Vineyards can attest to the immaculate state of the vineyards, and careful maintenance and management of the vineyards have allowed the Kellerts to achieve this milestone. We were also curious about the 2010 season and what appears to be an early veraison in the vineyards. Al acknowledged that the extreme heat that has been characteristic of the 2010 spring and summer led to early developments in the vineyards; however, he was confident that the upcoming harvest has the potential to produce complex and robust red wines. (Of course, that assumes no extreme circumstances like hurricanes!)

With our tasting done, we decided to enjoy a glass of the 2009 Seyval Blanc out on the veranda with a hunk of goat cheese and bread. We will return to Gray Ghost Vineyards soon, and readers should visit even sooner—just mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Unicorn Winery

Last weekend we went to Unicorn Winery. It was time to check in and see what was new and chat with Sandy LePage, one of the owners of Unicorn Winery.

The white wines we tasted were the 2008 Pinot Gris, the 2008 Chardonnay, the Table Rock White, and the 2008 Traminette. We also tasted the Slightly Embarrassed, the blush wine. Warren and I both agreed the gold star for the whites went to the 2008 Traminette. Its a light white wine with hints of pear and melon. We thought this one would be a good summer sipper on a warm day.

During our tasting we were able to sample the different flavored pita chips, sauces, and olive oil they now sell at Unicorn. Warren even left with a bottle of the olive oil. The olive oil is from Greece and can be purchased in 250 ml or 500 ml bottles.

On to the reds. We tasted the 2005 Merlot, the 2005 Chambourcin, the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2005 Cabernet Franc, and the 2005 Crimson Sunset. While they were all nice wines, Warren and I agreed again the gold star should go to the 2005 Merlot. Its medium bodied with black cherry notes and an easy finish. We thought this one would go well with pizza.

To finish our tasting we tried the Frappe Vino. Its like a wine slushy. They serve it in two flavors; pinot gris and merlot. I really enjoyed the pinot gris version. It was refreshing considering how warm it was that day. Its always fun to catch up with Sandy at Unicorn Winery. If you stop by, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Evening Sipper

Our Friday evening before dinner sipper is the white Merlot from New Kent Winery. The color is very light rose pink. On the nose we got stone fruit, mineral, peach, and pineapple. In the mouth we detected stone fruit and minerality again with some nectarine, pineapple and peach.

This is a refreshing sipper on a warm afternoon. We had it with St. Andre’s cheese and sliced peaches.

Tasting at Sunset Hills Vineyards

Readers may recall that the last time we were at Sunset Hills Vineyards, we found ourselves blending away at a wine-blending session with winemaker Nate Walsh.  This time around we resumed our familiar roles as bloggers at the tasting bar with gold stars at the ready.

Of the white wines, our favorite was the 2009 Viognier which was done in stainless steel; however, it possesses a heavier mouth feel that some tasters might associate with light treatment on oak.  It presented a lovely nose of honeysuckle and peach.  Flavors of peach and honey prevailed, too.  Those who favor Burgundian-style Chardonnays might prefer the buttery 2008 Reserve Chardonnay with its pear and almond notes.

We reached a split decision on the red wines.  I presented my gold star to the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its rich dark berry and black pepper flavors.  Tannins were certainly noticeable, too.  Aged in both American and French oak for two years, this Cabernet Franc has enough body to pair with heavier steak meals.  Paul’s award went to the 2008 Merlot with its layers of dark cherries, plums and spice.  It’s blended with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon which accounts for the complexity and tannic presence. 

With the record-breaking heat we’ve experienced this summer, light sippers might be more popular than fuller-bodied wines.  The fruity 009 Sunset White with its floral nose might fit the bill as well as the crisp 2009 Sunset Rose with its strawberry aromas.  It’s quite dry and should be a versatile pour, too.  Pair this one with anything from picnic fare to barbeque. 

Of course, we were hungry after our tasting, and we availed ourselves to the gourmet food basket that included French bread, a cheese selection, and Italian meats.  I let Paul select the wine, and I was not surprised when he opted for the 2008 Merlot. We sipped away out on the shady veranda and observed butterflies, dragonflies, cardinals, and blue jays as the fluttered about the grounds. 

With lunch consumed and bottles purchased, we bid our farewells to Sunset Hills Vineyard with promises to return.  Check out the current offerings at Sunset Hills Vineyard, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Narmada Winery

Over the weekend we got back on the wine trail after a few weeks away. One of the wineries we visited was Narmada Winery. There were a couple of new wines since our last visit. We were eager to taste the new wines. Our gold stars went to the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc.

Added to the line up of white wines is a traminette called Dream. It’s done in stainless steel and has 1.5% residual sugar. This one is a platinum medal winner in the Virginia Wine Lover’s Classic. We noted floral aromas, sweet peach and mango. We also noticed a bit of spice on the tongue. This one would go well with Indian dishes.

The addition to the red wines is a merlot based wine called Gulabi. In the language of India Gulabi means Rose. Concord makes up 3.3% of this wine. On the nose and in the mouth we noticed the grapiness from the concord grapes. It has 1% residual sugar. This one can be chilled and served at barbecues. Our tasting associate described it as the white wine drinkers red. We would agree.

After our tasting, we enjoyed a glass of the Viognier while playing games on the iPad. If you stop by Naramada to check out the latest releases, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Membership Has Its Benefits

We went to Breaux Vineyards on Friday to pick up my Cellar Club selections. We went ahead and did a full tasting while we were there. My gold star for the whites went to the 2009 Madeline’s Chardonnay and Warren’s gold star went to the 2008 Viognier. Our gold starred favorite for the reds was the 2006 Meritage. Warren’s close second was the cellar-worthy 2005 Nebbiolo.

If you are a Cellar Club member you will enjoy wines every two months to which the general public is not privy. The first selection was the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. Done in stainless steel, it presented a nose of citrus and hay. In the mouth we noted a refreshing minerality with citrus flavors and a crisp, clean feel. Perfect for summer either on it’s own or with a shellfish dinner. The second selection was the 2007 Petit Verdot. How nice! Upon tasting this one, we instantly decided it should be cellared for a while. Its dark inky color suggested a bolder pour; however, it was still tight on the nose. Several swirls eventually allowed us to note aromas of dark plum, tobacco, and coffee. In the mouth we noted dark plum, dark currents, black pepper and a chewy finish. Drink now but be certain to decant.

On Saturday evening we went to Wolf Trap for a concert and enjoyed the 2008 Syrah Rose. We must note here that the 2009 Rose is made with Cabernet Sauvignon and gives a sweet impression while the 2008 is very dry.

If you decide to become a member of Breaux’s Cellar Club or if you visit Breaux and do a tasting, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!