Paradise Springs Grand Opening

This afternoon I had the privilege of attending the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony of the new tasting room and production facility at Paradise Springs Winery. For 15 months Paradise Springs has been tasting wine out of log cabin near the road on the property. After several months of construction the new tasting room will be open this weekend. The new building houses both the tasting room and the production facility. Adjacent to the tasting room behind a glass wall is the barrel room. On the opposite side of the room is a very long tasting bar, large enough to accommodate many tasters. At the end of the large tasting room are doors out to the large patio, which has a fireplace. It’s a very impressive building and should serve Paradise Springs well for many years to come.

At today’s event several members of the media, dignitaries, and wine industry people were present. I saw Jim Corcoran of Corcoran Vineyards, Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Cellars, Jenny McLoud of Chrysalis Vineyards, and Rob Cox, the new winemaker at Paradise Springs.

After being welcomed with a glass of wine and some mingling the program began. While mingling I ran into Kurt Jensen from Wine About Virginia, Todd Godbout from Wine Compass Blog and Virginia Wine TV. The program began with T. Robins Buck from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, welcoming everyone and introducing the speakers. The speakers were Sharon Bulova and Pat Herrity from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Timothy D. Hugo from the Virginia House of Delegates, Todd Haymore, the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the state of Virginia, and Kirk Wiles, proprietor of Paradise Springs Winery. After all the speeches it was time to cut the ribbon. Here are some photos from the event.

I was honored to be among the attendees for the opening. I enjoyed chatting with winemakers, bloggers, and others attending the event. They were serving the Governor’s Cup winning Chardonnay as well as their Cabernet Franc. I enjoyed a glass of the Chardonnay while mingling and having some nibbles. Towards the end the owners broke out a bottle of bubbly and toasted to the new tasting room. It was a wonderful afternoon. You need to plan a trip to Paradise Springs soon to experience their new tasting room for yourself. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Beaujolais Twitter Tasting

Regular readers know that we almost exclusively cover Virginia wines. However, every once in a while an opportunity comes along for us to spread out and taste other kinds of wine. One of those opportunities arrived this evening. We were able to participate in a Beaujolais tasting sponsored by Discover Beaujolais. They sent us four wines (two white and two red) to taste and we spent time getting to know the wines and Tweeting our impressions on a live Twitter tasting. We were actually surprised by the wines and pleased with the profiles.

The first wine was the 2009 Beaujolais Blanc from Chateau du Chatelard. It’s 100% Chardonnay and costs $14.99. On the nose we noted subtle floral aromas, pear, apple and melon. In the mouth we noted similar fruit characteristics and a crisp yet round mouth feel. This was our favorite of the whites.

The next wine was the 2009 Beaujolais Chardonnay from Terres Dorees, Brun. It’s 100% Chardonnay and costs $14.97. The nose on this one presented pear, apple, and mineral qualities. In the mouth noted more pear, apple, minerality and a fuller, honey mouth feel. We thought this one would go well with food.

Next up was the 2009 Beaujolais-Villages from Christophe Pacalet. It’s 100% Gamay and costs $11.99. We noted the deep garnet color of this one with a grapy nose. We thought it was very berry with anise as well. In the mouth we noted dark berries and tobacco. We’ve had this one before but thought it had changed since our last tasting.

The last wine we tasted was the 2009 Chateau du Chatelard Moulin-a-Vent. It’s 100% Gamay and costs $18.96. This one comes from 60 year old vines. It had a deep garnet color (more than the last one) with a tight nose with dark cherry, blackberry, and earth. We also noted very similar characteristics in the mouth with some minerality. This one became the our favorite of the reds.

It was fun evening following the other impressions on Twitter. We enjoyed getting to know some of the wines from the Beaujolais region. A big thanks to Discover Beaujolais for including us in this tasting. While we completely enjoy our Virginia wines, it’s always nice to try new wines.

Cooper Vineyards

On our recent travels between Charlottesville and Richmond we were able to visit three wineries. These are new to us and if I counted correctly we are up to 121 wineries visited in Virginia. One of the wineries we were able to visit is Cooper Vineyards. We’ll be posting about the other wineries soon.

Cooper Vineyards has been around awhile but they have a brand new building for tastings and wine production. The new building is completely “green” and will soon have a LEED certification. When we drove into the parking lot I was so pleased to see a sign designating special parking spots for hybrid vehicles. I felt special parking my Civic hybrid in one of the specified parking spaces. Just to the right of the parking lot you can see the solar panel field. The building is quite impressive with a spacious tasting room as well as an outside tasting bar and wrap around veranda with views of the vineyards. There’s also a baby grand piano in the tasting room! But how about the wines?

Cooper Vineyards had 12 wines on the tasting menu the day we visited. Of course we started with the whites. Of these I selected the 2009 Chardonnay for my gold star. Done in stainless steel, this chardonnay presents pear and citrus with a crisp finish. Warren selected the 2009 Viognier for his gold star. He noted honeysuckle, mango, pear and a lush mouth feel. Either of our selections would make a great warm afternoon sipper.

After the whites we moved on to the reds. Of these I selected the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc seems to be the red grape for Virginia and everyone seems to produce one however, I’d like to put a vote in for petit verdot. I think it will be the grape for Virginia but back to the franc. I noted smoke, cherry, and pepper with a classic cab franc color. Warren selected the 2008 Coopertage for his gold star. This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot. Warren noted blackberry, cherry, leather, and cedar on the palate.

Cooper Vineyards has a wine for everyone it seems. The new building also makes it a great place to visit. If you visit Cooper Vineyards anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Meritage Vertical

On April 13 2011 , third president and wine visionary Thomas Jefferson would have turned 268 years old; fittingly, Jefferson Vineyards remembered the event on April 16 with a Meritage Vertical Tasting. On display for tasting were Meritage blends from 2002 to 2009; of course, Virginia Wine Time was there swirl and sip!

Winemaker Andy Reagan greeted us in the refitted barrel room where the tasting was held. This facility is located across from the tasting room, and it now includes a fireplace with comfy sofas and bar space. Barrels continue to share some of the space to create a hip environment for tasters to enjoy these kinds of events. In keeping with this informal vibe, Regan wisely planned a decontructed tasting which allowed guests to visit different bar stations to sample Meritage vintages while noshing food pairings appropriate for each vintage. The result was an unpretentious evening of well-crafted wines, excellent food and great company!

Station #1 featured the 2004 and 2006 Meritage partnered with ham biscuits. Paul and I both favored the earthy 2004 Meritage with its mixed berry and dried herb elements. I found it to be elegant yet rustic enough to enjoy with the salty ham. Station #2 featured the 2005 and developing 2009 vintages, and these were paired with seared duck breast. Paul favored the rich 2005 Meritage blend with its amoras of dark fruit and spice. While I also enjoyed this one, I recognized the potential in the 2009 Meritage. Both the 2005 and 2009 vintages were products of hot, dry summers, and I suspect that the 2009 vintage will be a blockbuster wine. It was already rich with dark plum and cherry fruit complimented by earthy notes that will create a complex pour. Of course, this one is still in the barrel, but I expect that Reagan will earn several medals with this one.

So on to Station #3 where we sampled the 2008 and 2007 Meritage blends. Unlike the Merlot- based blends that dominated the Meritages at Stations #1 and #2, these featured Cabernet Franc in the starring role. This was a coin flip for me; however, I reached a more nuanced conclusion. Both were excellent, but the 2008 Meritage is more accessible and could be enjoyed now. If cellaring is the goal, then opt for the 2007 Meritage, the product of a stellar growing season with extreme drought conditions, reduced yields, but more concentrated flavors (sounds like 2010?). Complex fruit with earthy elements of tobacco and cedar made for a rich, bold wine that should age quite well. (I made a note to take home a bottle each of the 2007 and 2008.) Oh, and these were partnered with a sliced beef tenderloin—quite divine!

The tasting ended back in the tasting room with a sip of the 2002 Meritage and the blockbuster blend of Meritage 7.8.9 crafted by Reagan from a blend of the 2007, 2008, and 2009 Meritage vintages. The 2002 vintage was produced from yet another stellar growing season; dried fruit, licorice and tobacco characteristics prevailed here. The latter blend will be BOLD—wait for the release in April 2012 but anticipate the need to either decant or age. Of course, take my course of action and buy two bottles—decant one bottle to serve upon purchase and save the other for a future occassion. These were paired with strong cheeses and dried fruit.

As always, these events seem to fly by very quickly, and we were able to join this tasting with Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and the dynamic duo who write Sip Swirl Snark after the tasting. Andy gave us a preview tasting of the 2010 Viognier. Amazing! We can’t wait for the release! It might even rival the 2007! Andy was a gracious host and spent much time with us to present the vintages as they were poured. We always have a great time with our fellow wine bloggers and Andy and his crew. We could not think of a better way to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, and he would be quite proud of the Meritage blends poured in his honor at Jefferson Vineyards.  Plan a trip to Jefferson Vineyards, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

The First Lady Of Virginia’s FLITE Winery Tour

Today we were privileged to join Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell on a tour and tasting of wines on the Monticello Trail. We were joined by forty other participants involved in promoting the Virginia wine industry, and these included familiar faces such as Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Patrick Evans Hylton editor of Virginia Wine Lover magazine. This memorable day began with a continental breakfast at the historic Old City Hall, and we then boarded a luxury bus destined for three Monticello wineries: Pollak Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.

We arrived at Pollak Vineyards amidst a flurry of media attention. Paul assumed that the television cameras were there to await his final word on Virginia wines; alas, they were there to greet First Lady Maureen McDonnell who has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia wine industry. Winemaker Jake Busching was also on hand to greet us all, and we made our way to the tasting room. We were first treated to a tour of the barrel room complete with barrel samples of the stellar 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The juicy Cabernet Franc has already won gold in a California competition, and we await its release.

We were then guided through a tasting in the main tasting room with the First Lady herself helping with the process. We are big fans of Pollak’s wines, so picking our favorites proved to be a tough task; however, we did favor the intense 2010 Viognier. The 2010 white vintages are already creating a buzz in the tasting rooms, and this Viognier present a reason why this is the case. Vibrant apricot and peach characteristics prevailed and it presented a full mouth feel no doubt aided by spending some time in neutral French oak barrels. Of the red wines, we enjoyed the smoky 2008 Merlot with its bold cherry flavors. However it is no longer for sale. Summer sippers will also enjoy the crisp 2010 Pinot Gris.

From Pollak Vineyards the entourage continued on to Barboursville Vineyards for lunch and wine at the heralded Palladio restaurant. Winemaker Luka Paschina guided us through the food and wine pairings, and what an exquisite experience! The salad course featured fresh greens tossed with morels and served atop asparagus spears; a sprinkle of grated pecorino completed the dish. Paired with this was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with it’s characteristic citrus, hay and mineral elements. The main dish was a lovely sweet pea risotto topped with seared rock fish, and this was partnered with the lush 2010 Viognier Reserve. Rich aromatics, exotic tropical fruit characters,and a creamy mouth feel best describe this perfect compliment to the equally rich risotto. A cheese course paired the decorated 2006 Octagon, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, finished the menu.

The afternoon’s event ended at Keswick Vineyards, and winemaker Stephen Bernard presented his platinum and gold medal winning wines beneath an outdoor canopy that allowed tasters to enjoy a glorious spring afternoon. Stephen is one of our favorite winemakers, and selecting a favorite was a tough decision. The 2010 Verdejo was crisp and clean and should prove popular during the upcoming summer months. I enjoyed the fuller-bodied 2009 Viognier Reserve done in the Condrieu style, and Stephen confirmed that this one will only taste better with time. The complex 2007 Heritage earned my star of approval for the red wines. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the elements of dark fruit, tobacco and cedar begged for a heavy beef dish.

As we sipped and savored through the afternoon, we learned that First Lady Maureen McDonnell has planted her own small vineyard at the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. McDonnell opted to plant 15 second year vines in the Mansion’s garden. Why second year vines? The First Lady wishes to produce a wine to commemorate the Governor’s Mansion’s 200th anniversary; therefore, vines in their third year of growth would be necessary. Viticultural expert Lucie Morton provided input into the decision, so look forward to wines produced from the Governor’s garden!

The day ended too soon, and we thanked Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia wine board, for organizing the event and then inviting us to attend. Plan your own visit to these excellent wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Appellation Wine Trail

On Saturday we participated in the grade opening of the new Appellation Wine trail near Charlottesville Virginia. The trail consists of five wineries; White Hall Vineyards, Mountfair Vineyards, Glass House Winery, Stinson Vineyards and Moss Vineyards. Stinson had a preview opening this weekend and Moss Vineyards will be opening in 2012. We knew we wouldn’t have time to get to all the wineries so we will plan to visit the rest later this summer.

We began at Stinson Vineyards. We met Frank from at Stinson and began our tasting. We started with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. We noted some nice citrus fruit, a grassy element and some minerality. This one quickly became my favorite. Its not for sale right now because they haven’t received their labels yet. Look for this on the official opening weekend on June 16th. We then moved on to the 2010 Rose. It’s made from 100% mourvedro. Warren noted strawberry on the nose. I picked up red fruit on the tongue and some nice pink grapefruit notes. We then moved on to the refreshing 2010 Sugar Hollow White. This one will be nice for the summer with it’s apple and grapefruit notes. Next up were the reds. We started with the 2010 Sugar Hollow Red. It’s a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It was aged in stainless steel and was rustic and earthy. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was next. This one won’t be released until the opening day as well. We noted smoke and spice on this one.

While at Stinson Vineyards we met Nathan Vrooman who, along with his family, is starting a winery as well, Ankida Ridge Vineyards. He brought a sample of their Pinot Noir to taste. Considering how tough it is to grow Pinot noir in Virginia, this one was pretty good. We look forward to tasting more from Ankida Ridge in the future.

Next stop on the trail was Mountfair Vineyards. Mountfair has been around a couple of years and we’ve enjoyed their wines before. This visit was no exception. After surviving the downpour on the way there it was nice to see Fritz, Chris, Jacquline, and Ben once we entered the tasting room. After our hellos we got started tasting wines. While they only produce reds, they were pouring the Fizz and Brut from Thibout Janisson to begin the tasting.

We began the tasting with the smoky 2009 Merlot. We noted dark cherry tobacco,and beautifully smooth finish. This one became my favorite right away. We continued with the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This one had a velvety mouth feel with hints of bramble berries. Next up was the 2008 Belated. We noted bright red fruit characteristics. The 2008 Indigenous was nice. This is the first wine created using their own fruit. It’s a blend of petit verdot and cabernet franc. We noted a smokey nose, plum, tar, tobacco, and black pepper with a silky finish. The final wine was the 2009 Engagement. This is a meritage style blend. We noticed it was tight and needed a good swirl to get the cherry, ash, and coffee to appear.

After our tasting we joined Jacqueline, Ben, and Frank for some of the 2009 Merlot. This one stood out as my favorite at Mountfair. Before leaving we secured a bottle of the merlot for my rack. We always have a great time with the crew from Mountfair.

There are more wineries on the trail and we look forward to visiting them in the future. If you visit Stinson or Mountfair be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Friday Sips

Our Friday sips consisted of the 2009 Pinot Gris from Pollak Vineyards and the 2009 Syrah from Blenheim Vineyards.

We had the 2009 Pinot Gris with bread and cheese. I’m a big fan of the stainless whites and this one doesn’t disappoint. I. Noticed the flowery nose and lit color. In the mouth I noticed the crisp mouth feel, grapefruit flavors, and nice acidity. I thought it paired nicely with our before dinner nibbles.

We had the 2009 Syrah with pasta and red sauce. We weren’t sure of the pairing but it went very well with our meal. We noted a floral nose with bright red fruit and spice on the tongue. It’s a smooth, lighter bodied red. We tasted this back in February and enjoyed it then.

We will be back on the wine trail this weekend so stay tuned for updates from the road. And if you visit Pollak or Blenheim tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!