Wine Made Simple

The Grand Opening of Wine Made Simple, a new fine wine retail store on the west side of Charlottesville is opening this weekend!

The concept is simple and elegant. They will feature hand-selected wines for $20 and less, in an aesthetic and friendly atmosphere. Wines will be stored in hand-crafted wooden racks, arranged by style descriptors. They will feature gourmet cheeses, weekly events/tastings and wine and food pairing lessons.

Wine Made Simple is also the only store we know of in the Charlottesville area owned and operated by a woman (Joyce Watson). Richard Leahy will be the store manager and in charge of ordering wines and wine education. They will feature fine Virginia wines as well as those from other states. They will feature some local wines during April to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (4/13).

The store is opening on April 2 for a soft opening; April 5 officially and the grand opening is April 9. If you are in the Charlottesville area, plan to attend one of the opening dates. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Wine Made Simple
2214 Ivy Rd. – Townside Suite 108
Charlottesville, VA. 22903

The above information was provided by Richard Leahy.

Newbie North Gate Vineyard

Well the tasting room at North Gate Vineyard is new; however, tasters may know that winemakers Vicki and Mark Fedor have been involved in vineyard management and winemaking since 1997.  Their tasting room opened this month, and we received a grand tour of the tasting room which was built to LEED specifications and a tasting of their impressive wines.

I will say that the interior design of the tasting room is a showcase for excellent taste.  Warm and earthy describe the color selections and furnishings.  I felt welcomed as soon as I walked through the door and did not want to leave once I settled in; all I needed was a good book and a glass of wine.  Speaking of wine, we did sample wine at the well-appointed tasting bar with a counter top that I would love to have in my own kitchen.  The counter top is a product made from epoxy resin and recycled glass and porcelain chips created by the company, EnviroGLAS.  Tasters are literally drinking atop broken glass chips some of which were once wine bottles!  Anyway, our tasting started with white wines and our unanimous favorite was the creamy 2009 Chardonnay which was aged for six months in older French oak barrels.  This one does undergo some malolactic fermentation, and this accounts for its creamy, buttery nose and mouth feel.  Classic pear, apple and honey elements abounded here.

Of the reds, we reached a split decision.  I preferred the complex 2008 meritage with its concentrated  fruit aromas and flavors of dark plum, blackberry and cherry.  Cabernet Franc heads the list of varietals used followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.  This gold-medal winner ends with a silky, lengthier finish.  Paul gave the edge to the 2009 Cabernet Franc with its vibrant brambleberry nose and flavors; of course, sippers should expect a peppery edge to Cabernet Franc, and this one will not disappoint.  I also detected a hint of dried herb on the nose.  An interesting twist on the upcoming rock star in Virginia, Petit Verdot, was presented, too.  For the 2009 vintage Vicki and Mark experimented with a Petit Verdot that included a twist (10%) of Viognier.  This is not so unusual in France or Australia where the spicy Syrah/Shiraz may indeed be blended with the aromatic Viognier. The result here is interesting—with constant swirling, the dusty nose allowed for the floral elements of Viognier to emerge.  The tasting notes suggest an “intense” wine, and that may be true.  I think food may be this wine’s best friend, and I’d suggest leg of lamb (in time for spring) or game (if held until fall).

I do want to plug the 2009 Apple wine made from 100% Stayman apples.  Since our hard cider tasting, I’ve been more keen on these apple wines.  This one is tart and full of flavor that may serve as a dessert wine, but I’d also think about a sip with a ham croquette.

The North Gate facility has received a gold level LEED certification. This means they are certified green from the foundation to the roof. The building includes many elements from reclaimed wood, local stone and mantle, and tile floors. They have thought everything out from the planning to the construction to the tasting bar associates’ work area. On the roof are 96 solar panels that most of the time produce all the electricity that is needed to run the facility and at some points sends electricity back to the power company. The facility is truly state of the art green. We only see success for North Gate in the years to come. Plan a trip to North Gate soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Merlot Vertical Tasting

On Saturday we attended the Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We arrived a few minutes early and had time to do a regular tasting. While we were tasting we were able to chat with Jen Breaux. It was great catching up with her. She informed us that Breaux will be announcing their new winemaker in about a week. They’ve had some great candidates and are excited about the new energy coming to Breaux. She also told us that famed winemaker Michael Shaps will be consulting with Breaux over the next year to help make the transition a smooth one. We were excited to hear that Michael Shaps would be conducting the Merlot Vertical Tasting. As our tasting came to an end and the vertical about to begin, Jen told us of the plans to expand. There are plans to build a new inventory building and tasting room. There will also be a club room! We are looking forward to the additions coming to Breaux.

After an introduction from Jen Breaux and a taste of the 2010 Cabernet Rose (pre-release) the Merlot Vertical began. Michael Shaps informed us about the wines we’d be tasting. We tasted merlots from 2000, 2001, 2002 (reserve), 2004, 2006, and 2007. The wines were presented in pairs with a delicious course to enjoy with each pair of wines. We began with the 2000 and 2001 vintages. These were served with grass fed beef stewed with shitake mushrooms and grape tomatoes served with roasted turnips and grilled zucchini. Of these two both Warren and I enjoyed the 2000. We noted extracted fruit, anise, plum, and toffee. I thought this one paired perfectly with the grass fed beef.

The second course of free range chicken over gnocchi tossed in pumpkin sage cream sauce and dusted with smashed pecans and served with sliced pecorino-romano cheese was served with the 2002 reserve merlot and the 2004 merlot. Of these two vintages the 2002 reserve merlot was the hands down winner. We have written about the 2002 reserve before and absolutely love it. We noted raisin, dates, tobacco, anise and plum. I only have one bottle of this vintage left on my rack and I’m hanging on to it. It only gets better with time.

The 2006 and the 2007 merlot vintages were served with grilled lamb and roasted onion terrine served with warm over rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes and peas with lamb gravy. The 2007 merlot stood out during this course. We noted its dark color, dark fruit characteristics and light tannic presence. Once again the pairing was perfect.

After each course Michael Shaps surveyed the participants to determine their favorites. The consensus was pretty much on target. Warren and I both selected the 2002 Merlot Reserve as our favorite of the day. Our second and third selections were split. I selected the 2007 as my second and Warren selected the 2000. In third place I selected the 2000 and Warren selected the 2007. We thought all these vintages were excellent examples of the merlots being produced by Breaux.

We finished the event with a taste of the Lot 816 Merlot barrel sample. While tasting the sample we chatted with other attendees and Breaux friends. Before leaving we picked out Cellar Club selections. Michael Shaps did a wonderful job leading us through the vertical. With all the news of changes coming to Breaux, the future looks bright! The next time you visit Breaux Vineyards be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Friday Sips

Our Friday evening began with the 2008 Seyval from Linden Vineyards. We realized that we still had this older 2008 gem from Linden on the wine rack. The rack life for seyval blanc may not be too long, and we should have popped this open a while ago. However, it still retains characteristic citrusy elements and made for a nice partner with soft goat cheese and baguette.

For dinner we selected the 2009 Chardonnay from Annefield Vineyards. When Michael Shaps is your winemaker, quality wines are the result. We enjoyed this one with parmesan encrusted tilapia and pasta. We noted elements of pear, apple, and honey. We also detected a mineral edge and some vanilla. We thought it paired nicely with our meal.

Virginia Wine Week

Even though we had a busy schedule, we decided to carve out some time and enjoy a glass of Virginia wine for Virginia Wine Week. We went to Grapeseed in Bethesda, MD. It wasn’t Virginia but they serve Virginia wine by the glass.

Our before dinner sipper was the 2009 Viognier from Horton Vineyards. Horton’s viognier is one of our favorites and the 2009 didn’t disappoint. Right away we noticed the floral aromatics. We picked up subtle peach and a hint of lemon, like a twist of lemon. In the mouth we got very similar qualities with the addition of tropical fruit flavors. It had a nice, creamy mouthfeel. We’re sure the Horton Viognier will be one of our favorites for a long time. We hope you were able to enjoy a glass of Virginia wine this week. What did you enjoy?

Gray Ghost Barrel Tasting

Last Saturday we went to the annual barrel tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards. Each year we enjoy seeing how the wines are progressing in the barrel and get a sneak peak at what they’ll be like when they are in the bottle. This is a popular event at Gray Ghost and we never miss it.

We started with the 2010 Chardonnay. We noted tropical fruit, apple, and a hint of oak. This one will be bottled in June. Next was the 2010 Merlot. We jotted down cherry, black cherry, light oak, and smokey characteristics. This one will be bottled in July or August. The next red was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. We noted cherry, and a smooth mouth feel. This one should be ready by mid July. Next up was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted smoke, pepper, and dark fruit. This one won’t be released until sometime in 2012. We then tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is being aged in both American oak and French oak. The American oak sample presented berry flavors, a hint of cranberry and some tannins. Of course it will smooth out with more time in the barrel. The French oak sample was supple, smooth and also presented berry flavors. Our taste showed how time in the French oak will make the final product a wonderful wine.

The blending was next. We started with a blend of the 2010 Cabernet Franc and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a nice blend that presented smoke, pepper, and dark berry flavors. Our next blend was the star of the day. We blended the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon American barrel sample with the French oak sample. OMG! This was quite a blend. We noted eucalyptus, berry flavors, smooth tannins, and a beautiful color. This one will be released to the public in October but those who purchased futures will get their hands on it in September.

If you are at all interested in how wines develop in the barrel, you need to attend a barrel tasting. You get to see where the wine is going and you get a good idea of what the final product will be when it’s bottled. We always enjoy getting a sneak peek of the wines to come. Plan to attend a barrel tasting soon. And if you visit Gray Ghost, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!