So Much Wine Too Little Time

I’m seriously backlogged with posting about our experiences, but I’ll try to get caught up in the next couple of weeks. I will start with the most recent experiences and feature Chester Gap Cellars and Hume Vineyards.

I’ll begin with Chester Gap Cellars. We always looks forward to running into Bernd Jung in the tasting room at Chester Gap Cellars, and this time was no exception. In fact, Bernd conducted our tasting; of course, he began with the white wines. Viognier is a specialty at Chester Gap, and Bernd produces both a stainless steel and barrel-aged version. Paul preferred the crisp 2008 Viognier with its floral nose and fruity flavors; however, I always tend to prefer barrel-aged over stainless steel. These always seem more substantial to me, and Bernd treated us to a comparison of the 2007 Viognier Reserve and the 2008 Viognier Reserve. Both were very good, but I kept reaching for the 2007 vintage. It presented a nice integration of floral aromas, stone fruit elements and oak nuances. However, the 2008 vintage was equally nice with citrus notes and a honeyed texture. With spring in the air and summer not so far away, do try the slightly sweet 2009 Cuvee Manseng and its heady tropical fruit characteristics.

Of the red wines, we both enjoyed the fruit forward 2008 Pettit Verdot with its dark berry and tobacco/earthy characteristics. Enjoy with roasted meats, leg of lamb or on its own with strong cheeses! We enjoyed a glass after our tasting—sans food.

We were eager to make our return to Hume Vineyards since several months had passed since our first visit. We recalled an unfinished tasting room but quality wines on the racks. This time around, we witnessed a finished facility and a crowded tasting bar; therefore, lots of things are going right at Hume Vineyards. Owner and winemaker Stephane Baldi guide us through a tasting of wines, and we were very pleased with the newly released 2010 Seyval Blanc. Crisp with a refreshing minerality, it presented notes of pear, melon and hay. Crabcakes should be served with this one! Of the reds, I was still a fan of the 2008 Detour which seems to be opening up quite nicely. Dark fruit and earthy elements prevailed here, and decanting would still be advised for those who wish to pour this one now. Chambourcin fans may be pleased with the 2010 Chambourcin, another new release at Hume Vineyards. The tasting notes suggest that this one is bold, and I will not argue with it! Big and jammy with 15.1% alcohol, it makes for an assertive wine. This was the first 2010 bottled red that we sampled, and when winemakers claim that 2010 may be the year for Virginia to rival California for big reds, this may be proof positive. Serve with big steaks and baked potatoes loaded with cheese and bacon—and then plan to hit the gym for about a week!

With spring already here and summer not so far away, think about picnic and barbeque fare with your favorite Virginia wines. Out of Virginia wine? Plan a trip to Cheaster Gap Cellars and Hume Vineyards to replenish your wine racks, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Return to Philip Carter

On a recent rainy Saturday on the wine trail we stopped at Philip Carter to see what was new. Before starting out tasting we found out that the winemaker Rob Cox has left Philip Carter and moved over to Paradise Springs. A new winemaker for Philip Carter will be selected soon.

Upon examining the tasting sheet we noticed and were told that Philip Carter will be releasing some new wines soon. In the mean time they are pouring some of the leftover Kluge wines. On the list is the Kluge Albemarle Rose and the Albemarle Simply Red. Instead of writing about those wines we’ll concentrate on the Philip Carter wines.

We began with the 2009 Chardonnay. We noted citrus on the nose with notes of vanilla, pear and apple in the mouth. It’s got a crisp rounded mouth feel with a light oak presence. Next up was the Governor Fauquier. This is an off dry white made from 100% Vidal Blanc. We noted tropical fruit and melon.

Next up was the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This one has a beautiful color. We noted blackberry and cherry on the nose and similar flavors in the mouth. It has some tobacco notes and smooth tannins. I really like this cab franc. I could see sipping this none by itself or enjoying it with lite fair.

Before leaving we enjoyed a glass of the 2009 Cabernet Franc while we waited for the rain to break. We are sad to see Rob cox go but will continue to enjoy the Philip Carter wines. If you visit Philip Carter soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Gray Ghost Vertical

On Saturday evening we joined some of our wine friends to attend the Gray Ghost Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical tasting and dinner. After Al, Cheryl, and Amy Kellert spoke, we began the tasting. We tasted vintages from 1998 to 2007. They were all wonderful vintages but a few stood out for me. I really enjoyed the 2003 (even though it was a wet year), the 2001, and the 1998. We enjoyed wonderful dishes prepared by Cheryl Kellert with each vintage. Here are some photos from the evening:

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.