Cowboy Up to Desert Rose

Yes, another new winery has opened in Virginia, and this one is Desert Rose Ranch and Winery. We happened upon Desert Rose Ranch and Winery on its second day of opening, and the place was packed with visitors. We hitched our favorite horse, Honda, out in the parking lot and made our was to the tasting room to see what the buzz was all about!

The tasting room is indeed a unique experience for Virginia and it resembles a ranch commonly found in Texas. A decidedly cowboy motif dominates the interior decor right on down to the toilet seats which advise visitors to “cowboy up” when in use and to “cowboy down” when finished. In fact, the name Desert Rose recalls the crystalline formation known as the desert rose, an example of which can be found in a display case in the tasting room. Since I was sporting a pair of cowboy boots myself, I felt quite comfortable walking up to the tasting bar to sample the releases! (Paul felt oddly out of place in his sneakers.)

All of Desert Rose’s releases were from estate grown fruit, and the current pours represent the winery’s first releases. Of the white wines, we both favored the oak aged 2010 Hitch Hollow Chardonnay with its pear and apple flavors and butterscotch finish. (Hitch Hollow refers to a 19th century community located on the Desert Rose property.) With summer on the way, some sippers may find the rose called Sparky a refreshing pour. Created from the 2010 harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, its strawberry and melon flavors begged for a hot summer day and a picnic that included light cheeses, fruit salad, and spicy barbeque.

The red wines found us reaching another unanimous decision—the 2009 Cabernet Franc. We noticed brambleberries and spice characteristics that are unique to Cabernet Franc; aged for 15 months in American oak, it possessed a peppery finish. Port lovers should try the 2009 Starboard made from Northon grapes; dense in color and texture, it presented flavors of dark plums and licorice. A complimentary dark chocolate chip elevated the fruit characteristics. Starboard’s alcohol level clocks in at 18% with a sugar content of 8%; its port-like qualities were achieved by letting the Norton grapes hang on the vine for as long as possible. Once harvested, half of evolving Starboard is aged in American oak barrels with the second half aged in used whiskey barrels.

So cowboy up to the Desert Rose Ranch and Winery to enjoy this unique experience. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine sent you!

Sneak Previews at Glen Manor

Glen Manor Vineyards held a barrel tasting this weekend, and we attended the event so that we could sample the developing wines from the 2010 vintage. We keep hearing about the potential for the 2010 vintage to be among the best ever for Virginia, and this barrel tasting gave us the first opportunity to see how this vintage is progressing in the barrels.

We must admit that we are big fans of winemaker Jeff White, and we had high hopes going into the tasting. We were not disappointed at the end of our tasting. Four red wines and one white wine were offered for sneak peaks, and all were intense in aromas and flavors. We started with the 2010 Cabernet Franc, and we noted dark fruit and earthy characteristics; these elements along with a dash of spice were even more evident in the 2010 Hodder Hill, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Hodder Hill was developing in new French oak barrels for the tasting but the rest of the aging will eventually occur in older French oak barrels.

Stations III and IV allowed us to compare the 2010 barrel sample and the special release 2009 Petit Verdot that was already bottled. The 2010 will be a dynamite pour upon release—inky and jammy with lots of bold black fruit and spice, it was easy to conclude that this will be a blockbuster. However, only three barrels were produced, so it will indeed be limited. I must say, though, that I was as enamored with the elegant 2009 Petit Verdot offered at Station IV; it offered the characteristic dark fruit and spicy components that are associated with Petit Verdot but seemed more structured and refined. Candle lights and dinner parties with this one!

Our final sample was actually from a tank, and it featured the 2010 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Waves of tropical fruit flavors seemed to say “aloha” in the mouth; at only 5% residual sugar, it could serve as a dessert wine or a partner with a cheese course and some proscuitto on the side. Speaking of food, I must add that the barrel samples were offered alongside a variety of foods that included mousse truffle canapes, mushroom fritters, empanadas, and dark chocolate truffles. My favorite was the fig preserve and mascarpone serve atop savory walnut shortbread paired with the Petit Manseng.

So when to expect to see these wines in the tasting room? Probably in 2012; however, the tasting room menu now features enough current releases to keep Glen Manor fans quite happy. Jeff White continues his excellence with Sauvignon Blanc; the 2009 vintage featured classic elements of citrus and grass with a vibrant acidity and minerality that beg for springtime crabcakes. The reds included the 2009 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Hodder Hill, and the 2008 Vin Rouge. All were well crafted; however, we both concurred that the bolder 2008 Vin Rouge was our favorite; this blend was heavier on the Petit Verdot (33%) with other components including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. I noted aromas of blackberry, black cherry,tobacco and pepper with some anise to boot; similar fruit characters abounded in the mouth with a lenghty finish.

Needless to say, we left Glen Manor Vineyards with a few bottles of our favorite wines. We’ll be back soon, though, and we encourage readers to stop by for a tasting. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Dinner Wine

This evening for dinner we had chicken Parmesan with pasta and red sauce. Warren selected the 2007 Vault Field Red to go with the meal. When we first opened the bottle we noted some big oak but we decided to pour it through the Soiree. The oak smoothed at at that point and the berry notes showed through. We noted blackberry, vanilla, and cherry. Warren picked up some black pepper near the end of the meal. We did not know the makeup of the wine but suspect if has merlot, cab Sauvignon, cab franc and some chambourcin. We thought it complimented our meal very well. If you visit Vault Field on the northern neck of Virginia, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you.