Virginia Sparklings Impress at Tasting

Paul and I were invited to a tasting of sparkling wines which was held at Keswick Vineyards. Stephan Barnard and his wife Kat hosted the event, but the logistics (including the procurement of sparkling wines) were superbly handled by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and the Dynamic Duo who write Swirl Sip Snark. A number of palates were on hand to lend their opinions on which sparkling bubbled most brightly, and these included: Swirl Sip Snark, John Witherspoon of the Wine Cellar Wine Shop, John & Jean Haggarty of Haggarty On Wine, Stephen Barnard, winemaker at Keswick Vineyards, Joel Timmons of Virginia Wine Snob, Richard Leahy of Richard Leahy’s Wine Report, Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like, and Rick Collier & Nancy Bauer of Virginia Wine in Your Pocket.

So twelve sparklings were poured for our critical judgments, and all but two were from Virginia. The tasting was done blind. How did Virginia fare? Quite well. In fact, the two non-Virginia sparklings did not show well at all with the offering from France scoring at the bottom. The other, a bubbly bearing the Barefoot label, ranked #6. Without further ado, here are the rankings based on the panel’s decision:

1. Thibaut-Janisson FIZZ, $21
2. Prince Michel Sparkling Wine, $30
3. Afton Mountain Vineyards Tete’ de Cuvee, $30
4. Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc, $24 (tie)
4. Veritas Scintilla, $30 (tie)
6. Barefoot Brut Cuvee, $9.99
7. Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, $30
8. King Family Brut, $30
9. Barboursville Brut, $18.99
10. Potomac Point Sparkling Wine, $0 (received as tasting sample)
11. Ingleside Vineyards Virginia Brut, $20
12. Chateau Gaillard Cuvee Charlette Voyant Touraine, $19

After tasting the wonderful sparkling we were able to taste several viogniers. We had three from Virginia and two from California. Stephen even shared a 2009 Viognier from the Keswick Signature series. We spent some time socializing and enjoying the wines. It was great getting to spend time with and getting to know our fellow Virginia wine writers. We would like to send out a huge Thank You to Frank Morgan, the folks at Swirl Sip Snark, Stephen Barnard and his wife Kat, and the Inn on Poplar Hill for providing the flutes. We appreciate all the help that went into creating a wonderful tasting afternoon!

Here are some pictures from the afternoon.

Please plan to sample these bubbling beauties at the Virginia wineries that produce them, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Busy Weekend

We had a weekend full of wine and friends in the Charlottesville area. On Saturday we visited Pollak Vineyards and King Family Vineyards. In the afternoon we met many other Virginia wine bloggers and others for a very special sparkling tasting hosted at Keswick Vineyards. The attendees were:

Swirl Sip Snark
John Witherspoon, Wine Cellar Wine Shop
John & Jean Haggarty, Haggarty On Wine
Stephen Barnard, Keswick Vineyards
Joel Timmons, Virginia Wine Snob
Richard Leahy, Richard Leahy’s Wine Report
Frank Morgan, Drink What You Like
Rick Collier & Nancy Bauer, Virginia Wine in Your Pocket

On our way home on Sunday we went to Blenheim Vineyards and had a great visit with Kirsty Harmon. We then stopped at Barboursville to check out some new wines. In the days and weeks to come we’ll be posting about all these weekend events. Stay tuned!

Friday Pours

Our evening sipper was the 2009 Pinot Gris from Pollak Vineyards. On the nose we noted peach. In the mouth we also noted peach but noticed a nice creamy mouth feel. Warren noted some apple as well. We paired this with white cheeses and crackers. It was a perfect sipper before dinner.

For dinner we had the 2008 Viognier from Jefferson Vineyards. On the nose we noted light mineral or stone. In the mouth we found honeysuckle, peach, and white pepper. This one also had a nice creamy mouth feel. We paired this one with grilled chicken a simple white wine sauce and rice. The viognier paired well with our meal.

Piedmont Vineyards

Recently we stopped at Piedmont Vineyards to visit with our friend and winemaker Gerhard von Finck. We always enjoy catching up with Gerhard and tasting his latest releases. This time he also treated us to some barrel samples!

The current lineup of white wines consist of three different chardonnays. Piedmont is known for chardonnay and this lineup doesn’t disappoint. We started with the 2009 Hunt Country Chardonnay. This one is unoaked and presents a crisp edge with fruit all around. This one received my gold star. Next up was the 2009 Native Yeast Chardonnay. Warren noted this was a complex wine with creamy notes. The final chardonnay is the 2009 Special Reserve Chardonnay. This one was aged nine months on the lees in Hungarian oak. It is a nice round, buttery chard with hints of oak and a long finish. This one received Warren’s gold star.

We started the reds with the 2008 Hunt Country Red. This one is merlot based. We noted ripe, red fruit, with an easy finish. I think this one would go well with pizza. Next up was the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This one is 100% cab franc and spent nine months on oak. We noted a raspberry nose and big, smooth raspberry notes on the tongue. This one became our gold star winner for the reds. Warren and I both enjoyed this one. Next up was the 2006 Merlot. This merlot spent 30 months in oak yet has enough fruit left to sit nicely on the tongue. The last red was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted some earthy elements, cedar, and nicely integrated tannins.

After our tasting Gerhard took us to the barrel room. We were able to sample a few wines still in barrels. We were able to taste chambourcin that was going through ML (malolactic fermentation) and was quite yeasty. However, you could see the direction it was going. We also tasted a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot. Both of these were really developing well in the barrels. I really enjoyed the merlot and look forward to it being bottled. It’s always fun to see wines in the process and attempt to figure out what they’ll be like when bottled.

Once we finished the sneak peek from the barrels, we selected the 2009 Cabernet Franc to have with lunch. We had a prosciutto and mozzarella roll with crackers for lunch. Gerhard joined us and chatted about wine the whole time. What a great afternoon! Plan a trip to visit Piedmont Vineyards soon and tell Gerhard Virginia Wine Time sent you!