Afternoon Sipper

Our late afternoon sipper today was the 2009 Vidal Blanc from Hume Vineyards. We had it with Cowgirl Creamery Buckaroo cheese with Gallettine Tuscan Crackers from Whole Foods. This vidal blanc is slightly off dry (1% RS). We noted a nice floral nose with peach and melon as well. On the palate we noted melon, apricot, a hint of lime and a touch of sweetness. It went very well with the cheese and crackers. Nice job Hume! We need to return to Hume Vineyards soon to see what’s new.

Dinner Wine

For dinner tonight Warren made turkey cutlets with pasta. We selected the 2009 Keswick Vigonier accompany the meal. It was the perfect selection. This viognier spends time in both stainless steel and oak. On the nose we noticed a nice floral presence with peach. On the palate Warren noted white peach, white pepper, stone fruit, and minerality. We enjoy all the Keswick wines and this one didn’t disappoint. It went well with the turkey cutlets and pasta.

Guest Bloggers

Caroline and Todd, long time readers of the blog, recently took a trip to visit several Virginia wineries. They decided to share their impressions with us. Thanks Caroline and Todd!

Davis Valley Winery – 1 September 2010

We visited the Davis Valley Winery, which is nicely situated just outside Rural Retreat and Groseclose, VA. The winery itself is located on top of the hill on the property. Of their 300 acres, 45 are currently planted. They started growing grapes in 2000, and opened the tasting room/gift shop in 2005. They make circa 8,000-12,000 cases per year, but expected this to be a smaller crop after the winter snows and a dry summer. We sampled six wines. First was the Chardonnay, which had a crisp, pleasing nose and a light finish. Their chambourcin was sweeter than most chambourcin, and would probably be best served below the average cellar temperature for most reds. Their corot noir, the product of a test vine the winery received some time back from Cornell, had an essence of plum. Todd found it more enoyable than most pinot noirs and felt that it would stand up to more robust or spicy dishes than the average pinot. We had a split decision on the Cabernet Franc, with Todd finding it fruitier and less tannic than the average cabernet franc. Their autumn red was a blend produced from the corot noir grape but was aged in oak, and was sweeter than the previous corot noir. While it was sweeter than most dry reds, it was not sticky sweet like some dessert wines. Last was the Virginia Breeze White sweet wine, which had hints of pears and was sugary, but not to the point of being cloying, and may be a good complement to most desserts. Our hostess said that they tend to get visitors from a wide range of locations – recent guests had come from New Orleans, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Florida. They have been regular participants in festivals in NoVa, such as Vintage Virginia.

(This is the Davis Valley entrance gate, with the winery on the hill in the background.)

Abindgon Winery – 1 September 2010

The second winery we visited on 1 September was the Abingdon Winery. We arrived late in the afternoon when the sun was angled through the trees. Their property is striking with a creek running along the front edge of the land and a small wooden bridge for vehicles to cross to the parking area. The winery has been open since 2001, and has a broad offering of 24 wines this year. A visitor can choose six to taste; we shared our tasting to afford us sips of circa ten wines. Their norton, unfortunately, was sold out, though I would look forward to tasting the next vintage.

(This is the entrance to the Abingdon Winery grounds.)

The first wine we sampled of which was the 2008 chardonel, a hybrid of chardonnay and sevyal. This wine was aged in oak for a few month and had hints of melon with a very light nose. Their oak-aged 2008 chardonnay indeed had a nice hint of oak, enough to be noticeable but not enough to overpower the butter or other aromas. The 2009 white pinot noir had an essence of pear, and was reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc. The 2009 viognier was very crisp, and is likely good with light dishes or cheeses, and would be particularly suitable on a hot day. The 2008 cabernet franc had a nice nose and a fresh taste with a hint of chocolate. Next was the 2008 cabernet sauvignon, which was light for a cabernet sauvignon but nonetheless very enjoyable. It had distinct but not excessive tannins. We both gave high marks to the 2008 chambourcin, as Todd found it to have the spicy finish typical of the best Virginia chambourcins and a smooth finish, while Caroline thought it had a ripe, full nose and a dry finish. Caroline found their 2008 Royal Blend red to have a rich and complex nose, and a smooth feel on the tongue. She felt it would go well with red meat or grilled vegetables. Their white Triple Duck dessert wine was sharp and would be enoyed by those who love thick, flavorful sweet wines. We were both quite impressed with this winery, as its wines were consistently high in quality. I would rank it at or near the top tier of Virginia wineries we have visited, up there with Linden, Jefferson, and Cave Ridge,

(This is our hostess at Abingdon, pouring a white dessert wine.)

(Pours at Abingdon Winery.)

MountainRose Vineyards – 2 September 2010

We had a good visit to MountainRose Vineyards, which is a closely-knit family operation. Their vineyards are on reclaimed land from an old coal mine, and all of their wines are named after coal veins in the area. They have 10 acres on-site, ten in Castlewood, and are planning to lease three acres of merlot for next year. They also plan a reisling varietal next year. They were, unfortunately, out of their dry Jawbone red, though the next release is in the bottle now and is expected out in November. Our hostess described the Jawbone as similar to a Shiraz.

(This is fhe MountainRose winery, with the tasting room and patio at the front.)

Our first sample was their Imboden white, which was similar to a chardonnay, and was a very dry mineraly white. Our hostess noted that chardonnay tends not to grow well in the area, but this was their closest-in-charachter white. It did indeed have some buttery hints like a chardonnay, and while very crisp and having less fruit than most chadonnays, was still very enjoyable. The Splashdam white is a reisling/traminette blend. It had citrus tones and a hint of pear, and its sweetness was well-balanced, making it seem less sweet than many reislings. The sweeter Banner white had essence of peach, and as advertised, was sweeter than the two previous whites. Their Darby blush exceeded our expectation, and had just the right amount of sweetness to match its perfect rose color. It is recommended for serving with eggplant parmesan or seafood. Their Sweet Mountain Rose is made from the Niagra grape, and is similar to a Muscadine. The hostess noted that it is less sweet than the previous year’s, and it got a bronze medal in the Indy competition. It would make a good sangria base or would be a good red wine for a hot day, thought Caroline.

(This is the hostess at MountainRose pouring Caroline a taste of one of their whites.)

The Dorchester red is named for the coal seam on which the winery sits, and while it has a sweet nose, this chambourcin/tannat blend is drier and more mineral in taste than one might expect, with hints of oak and cherry. The hostess suggested that it could make a good base for a steak marinade as well. The sweet Pardee red is a chambourcin/chancellor blend, which had hints of honey and an ample dose of sugar. It is one of the winery’s best sellers, and is good wine for none-wine-lovers to drink to lower their cholesterol. The hostess suggested using it for mulling or sangria. Their Autumn Gold, harvested in the style of icewine, would be best with non-sweet items such as dark chocolate or nuts. It won an award at the 2007 Virginia State Fair, and has won other prizes. Also notable was that the winery has redesigned their labels for this year. Again, we were pleasantly impressed with this winery – enough so to buy a case – and we will look forward to tasting the upcoming release of Jawbone Red.

Vincent’s Vineyard – 2 September 2010

We visited the new Vincent’s Vineyard outside Lebanon, VA, less than a year after their opening on 15 October 2009. This is a winery that will be a great attraction for fans of sweet wines. This being their first vintage, some of the wines did not have year designations for the vintage. Their cabernet franc was enjoyable, milder and less tannic than most cabernet francs, yet still robust enough to stand up to most red meat dishes. Their off-dry white wine, Angler’s Choice, made from chardonel grapes, would be good as recommended with fish dishes or desserts. Their traminette had a very sweet nose and could be described as floral in the taste. Again, this would be a great wine for lovers of sweet wines with pronounced sugars. The Make Me Blush, mande from chambourcin, had a tangy finish, and was also quite sweet. Their Shepherd’s White, a blend of chardonel and vidal grapes, was sweeter than the traminette. For a dessert wine, the Shepherd’s Red was drier than one might have expected, with a complex nose, and more tannins and less sweet than many dessert wines. Served cold, it reminded one of a chilled mulled wine, albeit with more subtle spices and sugars than a fully mulled wine. We bought one Cab Franc and one Shepherd’s Red, with the intention of serving the latter over the holidays. Our hostess mentioned that they plan to attend the holiday wine expo at Dulles in December.

(This is the Vincent’s Vineyard tasting room.)

(A sample poured at Vincent’s)

Another winery, Coltsfoot Winery, opened in the Abingdon area recently. They do non-grape fruit wines, including an off-dry cranberry wine, blueberry,strawberry and eldeberry sweet wines. We did not get a chance to visit them, but learned about them at the Abingdon farmers’ market and will seek them out when we are back in that area. We greatly enjoyed our trip down to this part of the state. Abindgon Winery and MountainRose were definitely the highlights – it is hard to beat their combination of high quality and reasonable prices. I do not know how often we will be down this way again, but we will definitely be placing orders from these two wineries in the not-too-distant future to supplement the purchases we made on the trip.

Iron Gate Winery, North Carolina – 7 September 2010

We arrived at Iron Gate just upon its opening at 10:00a. Our hostess, Kay, noted that they have 60 acres in all of vines, including eight acres on the farm. They started production in 2000. The first wine we tasted was the 2006 Sauvingnon Blanc. (Kay noted that 2007 was a difficult year for the vineyards, due to a bad frost during the winter and a dry growing season.) The ’06 had a very light aroma, and hints of grapefruit and minerals on the tongue. The 2008 sauvignon blanc had a fruitier aroma and a more floral taste. The 2006 chardonnay had well-balanced oak and butter, with hints of apricot at the finish as well. Their Pack House Red (no year given) was billed as an off-dry wine with 1% residual sugar. It had no real undesirable syrupy sweetness despite the residual sugar. It was recommended for Italian dishes and had cinnamon and cigar smoke overtones. The 2006 chambourcin was the best of the bunch, with light spice hints balanced with oak and cherry. The 2006 Merlot was very dry and well-made, while the Cabernet Sauvignon was solid with balanced tannins and hints of tobacco. The Rustic Blooming dessert wine was a Niagara/Chambourcin blend with just the right amount of sugar. The sweet Flue Fire white wine, their best seller, had hints of roses in the aroma and had a floral taste, again with a balanced amount of sweetness. Their Green Apple wine was a gewurztraminer with apple juice added for taste. At only 9% alcohol, it was light and slightly tart, but it had none of the bitterness one might have expected. It was remarkably smooth despite the combination of fruits. Similarly, their Blackberry wine is also a merlot with blackberry juice added. Also at 9% alcohol, it was light and enjoyable served cold – akin to a wine cooler. The winery has a very picturesque outdoor seating area, with a stage and a dance floor. The winery has events throughout the year at which musicians come to play.

Less Than Two Weeks Away

October is Virginia Wine Month. As we are informed of upcoming events in October we’ll try to post them here so you can plan ahead to celebrate Virginia Wine Month in October. Here’s one event to consider:

Yorktown Wine Festival…

Where: Yorktown Riverwalk Landing at Chisciak Green
When: October 2
Time: See Information Below

If you haven’t been to Yorktown lately, you will be pleasantly surprised. Historic Yorktown at Riverwalk Landing will be the site of the Yorktown Wine Festival 2010 – “The Best of Virginia in Yorktown.” Village Events, Ltd. is proud to host this event that will showcase some of Virginia’s finest wineries on October 2nd. This event promises to be spectacular and the biggest festival in Yorktown to day. 21 Virginia wineries will be with us and 8 will participate in our wine dinner at Nick’s Riverwalk Landing Restaurant. Buy your tickets to attend Saturday’s Wine Festival and the concluding Dinner with Your Favorite Winery. Go to both events for food, wine, and lots of fun.

After a beginning ceremony featuring the Fifes and Drums of York Town entertainment for the festival will be provided by The Calypso Nuts. The nightly menu consists of Pop and Rock, Reggae and Soca, Acoustic and Electric; all different, but the perfect ingredients to a great bowl of musical gumbo. A great group to listen to while sipping your favorite wine on the York River.

Come early and stay late so you will be sure to catch all the featured entertainment during the day!

Entertainment for the wine dinner will feature the fabulous Cheryl Sonderman on her sterling flute. Cheryl was instrumental in getting this festival started and we are delighted that she will be with us for the dinner event. Her music alone is worth the price of the dinner!

Payment options – we accept payments electronically (we use PayPal) below. You can also contact us by phone at (757) 877-2933 for payment. Please note that all payments include a $5 shipping & handling charge.

Wine Festival (age 21+): $25 in advance; $30 at the door – Must show proof of age at the gate. Cash sales only at the gate. Event on 10/02. Time is 12PM-6PM (tasting ends at 5:30PM although the festival will go on until 6PM)

Check out the website for more information.

Gemstones at Hillsborough Vineyards

It’s been two years since we have posted about a tasting experience at Hillsborough Vineyards, and we decided to update ourselves about the latest offerings at the winery this past weekend.

Tastings are now offered at tables and presented in four flights. The first flight presented the two white wines, Carnelian and Opal. Both are blends that include Chardonnay. Our star for this flight was the floral scented Carnelian 2007, a blend of Rousanne and Chardonnay. Pear and almond elements were apparent with a crisp, medium finish. Opal was also quite pleasant and currently features petit Manseng as well as Viognier and Chardonnay. Richer bodied, this aromatic wine would pair well with shellfish.

The second flight and third flights all featured red wines which ranged from the medium-bodied Garnet 2007 to the inky, bolder Onyx 2007. Garnet 2007 is a blend of traditional viniferous grapes that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Still young, this gemstone presents cherry and violet aromas and flavors. However, we split our gold star awards. Paul favored the Bloodstone 2006 with Fer Servadou (85%) prevailing in the blend. Supporting roles are played by Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) nd Tannat (5%). Earthy elements dominate in this full-bodied wine, and Paul noted ash and tobacco on the nose. Firm tannins and a nice structure make this one a perfect partner with steaks or game. My own star went to the Onyx 2007, the boldest of the red wine offerings at Hillsborough. Intense, inky color and layers of flavors that include dark plums, mocha and spice suggest a more complex wine. Definitely age worthy and from the classic 2007 vintage to boot, I’d serve this one with a very hearty meal on a very cold night!

The final flight featured the crips, Provence-style rose, Seferfina 2008. Roses are versatile and by no means are they meant to be enjoyed only during summer. Herbed poultry or baked ham are commonly found on holiday menus, and Serefina should pair quite nicely with them. In fact, we enjoyed a glass of the Serefina after our tasting with a cheese plate and spicy summer sausage! Heavy cheese courses, though, should be partnered with the Moonstone 2008 made from late harvest Viognier. Aromatic with rich apricot flavors, its honeyed texture would compliment blue cheeses served with a warm baguette.

With our tasting done, we chatted for a bit with winemaker and owner, Bora Baki. Future plans include a phasing out of Viognier, a variety that Baki finds difficult to grow in the Hillsborough vineyard. Instead, efforts will be spent on Rousanne and Petit Manseng; these will be the sole varietals found in future productions of Carnelian and Opal. We’re paying closer attention to Petit Manseng as it is appearing more frequently on the tasting menus and has the potential to rival Viognier as a flagship varietal in Virginia.

We promised Bora to return to Hillsborough Vineyards much sooner next time, and we know that readers will want to visit even sooner. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Twitter Tasting

Tune into Twitter this evening at 7:30 to participate in the LIVE tasting of the new release of the 2008 Wooloomooloo from Mountfair Vineyards. Several wine bloggers and industry people will all be tasting the wine at the same time and Tweeting about it LIVE! Join in the fun! Ask questions! Find out what we all think of the wine! Click over on the right side to follow us on Twitter! You can also follow the #mountfair hashtag to read all the Tweets about the wine.

New Whites at Breaux Vineyards

Over the weekend we went to Breaux Vineyards to pick up my cellar club selections. As you may or may not remember the wines in the Cellar Club at Breaux are created just for the club members. That’s what makes this wine club special. While at Breaux to pick up the wines, we decided to do a regular tasting with one of our favorite tasting associates, Sylvia. Many of the 2009 whites were recently released.

The Cellar Club selections included the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Water Bent Barrels. We noted smoke, citrus, and nice acids. The water bent barrels make this a really nice wine. The Cellar Club selections also included the 2007 Merlot. Here we noted extracted fruit, integrated tannins, and smoke. You can drink this one now or save it for years to come.

Here’s a rundown of the 2009 whites from the regular tasting and what we noted about each one. After tasting them all we decided we liked them all and couldn’t decide on specific gold stars.

2009 Jolie Blonde-lemon, grapefruit, crisp, and dry
2009 Viognier-honeysuckle, peach, tart, citrus
2009 Madeleine’s Chardonnay-pear, tropical fruit, pineapple, crisp
2009 Jennifer’s Jambalaya-1% residual sugar, crisp, nice acids, lime
2009 Nebbiolo Ice-peach, creamy, nice texture

During our tasting with Sylvia, Bruce came in with fresh barber juice. In the winery they were in the process pushing down the fruit and Bruce secured a taste of the fresh juice for us. It was very sweet and fibrous.

On another note we have to mention the Equation. Every time we taste the Equation we note something different. This wine is definitely changing with time. We appreciate the changes each time we taste it. It just keeps getting better. We even left with a bottle this time! Plan a visit to Breaux Vineyards soon and check out all the new white wines and re-discover some of the reds again and of course, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

The Wine Festival at The Plains

On Saturday we went to the Wine Festival at The Plains. Great Meadow is a beautiful location for a wine festival and the weather made it even more perfect. The event is always held under huge tents so even if there was a threat of rain, it wouldn’t stop anyone from tasting some wonderful Virginia wines. Besides all the Virginia wineries that attended the event, there were several food venders as well as booths full of items for shopping. And you can’t forget the Polo!

Of course we attended the festival for the wine. We stopped at many of the winery booths and tasted lots of Virginia wine. Here are some wines we made note of from the festival:

Cooper Vineyards-Chardonnay and the Petit Verdot

Loudoun Valley Vineyards-Pinot Grigio and the Vinifera Red

White Fences-Meteor Glow and the Meteor Bright Red

Bright Meadows-Rebellion Red

Fabbioli Cellars-Tre Sorelle, Rosa Luna, and the Cab Franc

Gadino Cellars-Barrel Select Chardonnay (NICE!), the Cab Franc and an extra star for the Dolce Sofia

Delaplane Cellars-Emerald Lake Viognier

Miracle Valley-Chardonnay and the Cab Franc

Aspen Dale-Mary-Madeleine’s Rose and the Rockawalkin’ Cabernet Sauvignon

Kluge Estate-the Viognier and the Blanc de Blanc sparkling

delFosse-Rose, Merlot, and the Cuvee Laurant

We always have a fun time at the festival and enjoy catching up with many of our wine friends. We encourage our readers to check out all these wines. And we hope you’ll plan to attend the next Wine Festival at The Plains. Here are a few photos from the day.

Tasting Roundup: Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellars

Today’s roundup features recent tasting at Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellars. These were done within the past two weeks, but back to work schedules created a bit of a backlog. So here we go:

Tarara Winery: This time around we participated in the regular tasting as opposed to the premier tasting, and six wines for sampling. Of the white wines, we awarded our gold stars to the Charval 2009; in fact, we were shocked at ourselves, because Charval was never a favorite of ours in the past. However, this version was a crisper yet fruity pour that includes a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris. Citrus notes abound with a nice acidity that makes it a pleasant sipper or a perfect mealtime companion if shellfish is on the menu. I also enjoyed the Rose 2008 with its notes of strawberries and crushed herbs. Salmon pink in color and quite dry, this is a Rose that should prove to be quite versatile with both summer and fall menus. The reds all seemed a bit tight, and of the three reds to sample, the Cabernet Franc seemed to spend the least amount of time on oak—15 months. All were aged in American oak, so the descriptors, “spicy” and “pepper” were scribbled frequently on our tasting sheet. These are all food wines, and our favorite was the Long Bomb Edition 1. A dense core suggested a bolder wine with aromas of violet and dark fruit. Tannins were “chewy.” Long Bomb Edition 1 is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but purists may be disheartened to know that the fruit used in this blend is not from Virginia; however, Long Bomb Edition 2 does indeed include fruit grown exclusively in Virginia.

As we sipped and savored, we received tweets about the $10 tasting fee and whether or not we thought it too steep. To be honest, it is one of the highest fees for a regular tasting that we’ve encountered; however, the tasting pours were quite generous, the wines were all well-crafted, and the tasting associate was very knowledgeable. We’ve also noticed overall improvements in the quality of Tarara’s wines thanks to talented winemaker Jordan Harris. Given those factors, I did not regret paying the tasting fee. In fact, we ended up staying a bit longer to enjoy a glass of the Charval 2009!

Pearmund Cellars: Lots to taste here, so we split a classic and a reserve tasting and were not bashful about spitting or dumping. Of the whites, I was most intrigued with the 2009 Petit Manseng, a brand new offering on the Pearmund lineup. Done in stainless steel, it presented aromas and flavors of apricot and pineapple. Pay attention to this variety as it is appearing more frequently in Virginia’s tasting rooms. Paul’s favorite was the 2009 Riesling. We enjoyed a sample of this one at the Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Warrenton, and the tasting here confirmed Paul’s favorable opinion. Pear notes dominate while soft lime flavors refresh the palate. Nice with spicy foods and do try this one with stronger cheeses, too. Of the red wines, we both converged on the 2008 Ameritage which is a Bordeaux blend. Lush flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum and anise prevail with this one, and it should prove to be a perfect match with steaks.

With summer fading away, plan fall trips to Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellar. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!