Barrel Oak Surprise

In certain circles Barrel Oak is known as the place to go for the experience. And that’s true. You can have a great time there with all the music, the dog policy, and the people. But what may not be known is that they also make some great wines. I think most people know that we prefer to concentrate on the wines and not necessarily the experience. Well, we actually had a nice experience with Barrel Oak wines last night.

For our sipping wine we selected the 2009 Viognier Reserve from Barrel Oak. We enjoyed it with a creamy cheese and crackers while watching the sunset on the balcony. Right away we noticed honeysuckle on the nose. In the mouth we noted tropical fruit, a subtle minerality on the finish; it suggests a full mouth feel. It paired very well with our creamy cheese.

The big surprise for me came with our dinner selection. We selected the 2008 Petit Verdot from Barrel Oak. We’ve tasted their reds many times before and while they are very solid, we don’t always opt for them with a meal. However, this time the selection was correct. I have been enjoying petit verdots lately (notice Friday evenings selection) and have really been enjoying petit verdots from 2008. I mentioned this before but 2008 reds appeal to me for the fruit notes and smoother tannins. I wondered if this petit verdot would live up to what I had in mind for a 2008 petit verdot. We paired it with pasta and red sauce with meat. As I expected this one had a nice fruity nose like many 2008s. We noticed the beautiful amethyst color. On the nose we also picked up violet notes. On the tongue we noted similar full fruit notes, dark cherry, plum, and cocoa, with a spicy edge. It paired well with our pasta dish. I was surprised and pleased to find the 2008 Petit Verdot fulfilled my expectations. Barrel Oak does indeed make some nice wines!

Even though Barrel Oak has the “experience” reputation, they also make some nice wines. Brain Roeder tells me the 2009 Petit Verdot is even better. I’ll definitely be checking it out at some point. If you are one who has fallen for the “Barrel Oak is known for the experience and not the wines” line then its time to do another tasting. You might be as surprised as I was. We plan to return to Barrel Oak soon for both the experience AND the wines. Plan to visit Barrel Oak soon and be in for a surprise and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Jazz and Wine Weekend

Last Saturday we attended the 9th Annual Hottest Cool Jazz event at Chrysalis Vineyards. Friends Duwayne Frank and Michael Tyler joined us for a fun afternoon at the winery. The afternoon began with a tasting of current releases; of the white wines, Duwayne and Paul preferred the Chardonnays. While Duwayne gave his nod to the 2009 Barrel Chardonnay, Paul favored the crisp stainless steel offeringfrom the 2010 vintage. My gold star favorite was the aromatic 2009 Viognier, but Michael Tyler seemed to like the sweeter Sarah’s Patio White.

We moved on to the red wines, and Duwayne and Michael were drawn to the lighter-bodied 2007 Rubiana, which is a blend of Spanish varieties Fer Servadou, Graciano and Tempranillo. Paul and I, though, agreed that the fruit-driven 2008 Norton Locksley Reserve was excellent. The blend features the Norton grape, of course, but the 2008 vintage also includes Nebbiolo. It earned our gold star for the red wines. The Norton grape is also used to produce the Sarah’s Patio Red which is technically a rose. Always a popular Chrysalis wine, Michael Tyler enjoyed the fruity nature of this sipper.

With tastings done, we reached a consensus on a bottle of wine to enjoy with jazz and food. The occasion and the weather seemed to demand a white wine, and we all had our favorites; however, we did opt for the 2009 Barrel Chardonnay. As we sipped and dined on grilled fare from the food vendor, we enjoyed the live jazz sounds that filled the air. Also on hand were various food vendors including Chrysalis chef, Hump Astorga who offered samples of his creamed cheeses. The creamy cheddar and chardonnay was the group favorite, and we purchased a container to enjoy with our bottle of Chardonnay.

We had a wonderful time and we all made certain to purchase our favorite Chrysalis wines before we left. Plan a visit to Chrysalis Vineyards, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Friday Sips

Our Friday sips begin with the 2009 Chardonnay from Pollak Vineyards. We noted pear and apple on the nose. In the mouth we got similar fruit with a oak presence with a hint of vanilla. We had this with a creamy St. Andres cheese and baguette.

For dinner we had the 2008 Petit Verdot from Doukenie Winery. We had this with thick steaks, roasted potatoes, and roasted squash. On the nose we picked up violets and dark fruit. On the tongue we noted plum, cherry, violet, and herbs. After some initial green pepper upon the first pour, it gave way to some beautiful fruit that I am enjoying from the 2008 Virginia reds. We do think this one benefits from some air before serving.

I have been enjoying petit verdots lately and I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. At first I didn’t think this one would stand up to a big steak but it held up quite well. However, this brings up a question for me. Am I enjoying petit verdots or am I enjoying 2008 reds. I find the reds from 2008 to be more accessible with nice fruit and less tannins and oak. However, the 2007 reds seem to be much bigger and in need of more time on the rack. Most of the petit verdots I’ve tried and liked of late are from 2008. Clearly I’m in need of more research.

Summer Wines of Virginia Taste and Tweet

With these warm days it’s time to think of summer wines. On Tuesday evening we had the chance to participate in the Summer Wines of VIrginia Taste and Tweet with other bloggers and wine people all over the country. We invited Virginia Wine In My Pocket and Cellarblog to join in the fun. We enjoyed lots of nibbles and some great Virginia wines. Here are the wines we tasted and a few of our Tweets from the tasting. Enjoy the pictures as well!

Keswick Vineyards 2010 Verdejo

“On the nose we get citrus, grapefruit…hint of hay on the nose as well as melon…crisp, refreshing, nice acidity, Warren would have it with melon, goat cheese…It went very well with goat cheese. Warren wants to have it with a crab cake.”

Veritas Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

“On the nose we get grapefruit, early grassy nose…in the mouth we get grapefruit, lime, something on the edge, lengthy finish…Really enjoying this Sauvignon Blanc!”

Boxwood Winery 2010 Topiary Rosé

“The color is a pale pink, salmon color, a hint of orange…on the nose we get watermelon, a hint of spice…On the tongue we get watermelon, some strawberry, nice acidity here too. Very dry…Warren says this would go with almost anything. Makes me think of a concert on the grass at Wolf Trap.”

Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Viognier

“On the nose we are getting a hint of straw…but it’s very light on the nose…on the tongue we’re getting some apple and pear. We are getting a sweet component that we can’t figure out.”

Chrysalis Vineyards 2010 Viognier

“On the nose we are getting some tart fruit, pear, and honeysuckle…we get a honey texture in the mouth with pear, vanilla toward the end…we like this viognier. It’s an excellent example of a Virginia Viognier.”

Lovingston Winery 2010 Petit Manseng

“Pineapple nose, and it smells sweet…tart puckery mouth, seems sweeter than it actually is…we think this one would pair well with something spicy.”

We enjoyed all the wines and think they’d be great summer wines. We had a great time with the other bloggers who attended and really liked interacting with the winemakers on Twitter. A HUGE THANK YOU to the Virginia Wine Board, Frank Morgan from, and the folks at Swirl Sip Snark for organizing this event. And of course we need to thank all the wineries for providing the wines we enjoyed during the evening. If you are looking for some summer wines, consider these wines. And if you visit any of the wineries to pick up the wines, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Toast of the Town: Washington DC

Since 2001, Wine Enthusiast has hosted a series of wine and food tasting events called Toast of the Town, and these are held in various American cities throughout the year. On Friday, May 20, Paul and I attended the Washington D.C. event that was held in the historic National Building Museum. Over 500 wines were available for tasting, and more than 30 restaurants participated.

Paul and I walked into the spacious Great Hall amidst the jazz sounds of the David Bach Consort; at the center of the Hall was the majestic fountain that provided an appropriate centerpiece to the layout of tasting tables, couches, and dining areas. The building’s soaring columns and sky-bound ceiling added an element of elegance and historic charm. The crowd itself ranged from hipster to the well-heeled; however, pretense did not seem to be on the menu.

With so much wine and food to sample, we obviously needed a plan of action. In regard to wines, we decided to taste only those wines that we would not ordinarily be able to sample. California chardonnays from well known labels were not going to make the cut, for example, even though those may have been well worth the effort. Paul sipped the white wines, and I tried the red wines (though we did make some exceptions as the evening wore on.) As far as food, I tend to be the more adventurous and will try just about anything; Paul opted to stick with more familiar fare such as mini-burgers.

So what were our favorites? I was most impressed with the Italian wines. These included:
Rocca delle Macie: the crisp 2009 Occhio al Vento Verementino and the complex 2006 Roccato Toscano

Catello Banfi Montalcino: the 2008 Centine Rosso and the 2006 Brunello di Montalcino (raisiny fruit, anise and tobacco)

Casa Vinicola Zonin: Yes the same family that owns Barboursville! The Prosecco was excellent, but a unique find was the 2009 Insolia with its elements of citrus and hay and refreshing minerality. Favorite red was the earthy 2008 Nero d’Avola

Other favorite wines from around the world included:
Austria: Anton Bauer 2009 Rosenberg Gruner Veltliner Reserve should be considered as an alternative to Riesling or gewürztraminer.

France: Chateau Potensac Medoc 2008 was bold yet fruit-driven

Greece: Kouros 2009 Rhoditis was a dry, crisp white wine; perfect with shellfish or poultry.

Yes, we did try a couple of pours from California, and our favorite was the Ghost Pines 2009 Zinfandel with its blackberry, cherry and spice elements.

I must add that wine was not the only beverage on tap at the event. Spirits, sake, and dim sum were available for tasting, and Starbucks was on hand to serve tasters with a needed coffee break.

So what were some favorite foods, especially with wines? The most interesting dish had to be the pigtail croquettes courtesy of Jackie’s Restaurant, and this was enjoyed with one of the reds from Rocca dell Macie. My taste of the Zonin Nero d’Avola had to be matched with the eggplant parmigiana from Carmine’s. However, I had to sneak a second sample of the sliced filet mignon with onions and mushrooms served by Capital Grille—delicate and decadent! Paul made quick work of the mini-burgers offered by Matchbox, and he was not particular about wine pairings, though the Ghost Pines Zinfandel might have worked just fine. Of course, cheese was offered at various tables, and we enjoyed some of these with bread samples prepared by Canela Bakery.

In the course of the evening, we met other writers, bloggers and wine experts. One of them was Jane Hermansen who taught me the 5 “S-es” at her wine academy known as the Greater Washington Wine School several years ago. I was thrilled to see Jane and to compare tasting notes with her.

As we left the event, the David Bach Consort was in rare form, and tasters created a dance floor in front of the band. Even Paul was “Dancing in the Streets!” The Toast of the Town series truly offers a unique yet unpretentious experience that allows for the novice and expert alike to celebrate fine wine and food. If travelling to Chicago or Miami, look for other upcoming Toast events in those cities. In the meantime, be sure to check out Wine Enthusiast magazine for the latest wine news and reviews.
Of course, seek out some of the wines mentioned in this post and frequent these fine restaurants too, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Twitter Tasting LIVE!

This evening we’ll be participating in a live Twitter tasting of Virginia wines. We’ll be joined by bloggers all over the country and several here in Virginia. We’ll be tasting the wines and Tweeting our impressions of the wines live on Twitter beginning at 8:00 PM Eastern time. You can follow along and find out what we all think of the wines. Are you on Twitter? If so, follow us and you will find out what we think of the wines. You can follow us by clicking on the word Twitter in the column to the right. Also, if your Twitter program can follow hashtags, set up a search for #vawine and you’ll be able to see what all the participants think of the wines.

The wines in the tasting are:

We hope you’ll follow along on Twitter and enjoy these wines as well!

Dinner Wine

Last night for dinner we had parmesan encrusted tilapia and wild rice while enjoying the setting sun on the balcony. We survived the rapture and were ready to enjoy some Virginia wine.

We selected the 2009 Northpoint White from Chateau O’Brien Winery and Vineyard. This crisp white is a blend of 70% pinot grigio and 30% chardonnay. We noted peach and melon on the nose and similar fruit flavors on the tongue with a hint of minerality. We thought it paired very well with our meal. If you haven’t been to Chateau O’Brien lately, plan a trip soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Wines at Corcoran Vineyards

A few Sundays ago we headed to Corcoran Vineyards to get a taste of the recently released wines they have on their tasting menu. Lori and Jim Corcoran have been working hard on some new wines. It’s always great to see Lori and Jim. We enjoy chatting with them about the Virginia wine industry. When we got there the tasting room was full of tasters and the lawn outside the tasting room was full of people enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Lori was conducting the tastings that day and walked us through the new wines. Of course we began with the whites. First up was the 2009 Benevino Riesling (named for the vineyard where it is grown). This one is dry with hints of lemon-lime with some nice acidity. The next white was the 2010 Apple wine. It has 1% residual sugar and tastes like you just bit into a juicy apple. The 2009 Traminette was next. This wine had some mandarin orange zest added and it really comes through on the nose and on the tongue. I also noted a hint of spice as well. We finished the white wines with the 2008 Cello. This one is Corcoran’s version of an Italian Cello. It’s made from Petit Manseng with lemon-zest. It’s very lemony. It will be featured at Landsdowne as an aperitif. We could see having this one with some goat cheese on a slice of baguette. All of these whites made me think of warm summer days on the deck, patio, or balcony. I could see enjoying a glass of any of them on my balcony. All of the fruit wines are produced in limited quantities so make sure you get yours soon!

We then moved on to the reds. We began with the 2009 Hunters Run Rose. You know we enjoy this one since we’ve written about it before. You can’t go wrong with this Rose. You’ll enjoy it. Next up was the 2009 Chambourcin. We have enjoyed Lori’s Chambourcin in the past and this one didn’t disappoint. I’m not a huge Chambourcin fan in general but enjoyed this one. We noted cherry, cranberry, nice acidity and a smooth finish. Lori informed us that the 2010 Chambourcin has been bottled but will not be released for some time. The 2009 is ready to enjoy now and we agree. Next up was the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This is a classic cab franc. We noted dark cherry, raspberry, with some hints of spice and pepper. Yum! Next up was the 2010 RAZ. This is a blend of merlot and raspberry. When you bring this one to your nose you get the raspberry right away. It follows through on the tongue as well. This one should be served cold and maybe with some dark chocolates. The final red was the 2010 USB. This is Corcoran’s port-style wine created from 100% Chambourcin and aged in Whiskey barrels. I was expecting high alcohol on this one but it’s only 13%. Of course you get the hint of whiskey but mostly I noted bramble berries. The name is interesting as well. Jim Corcoran said USB doesn’t stand for Universal System Bus but that it means Universal Sweet Beverage. I got quite a chuckle from this because I know what a USB port is…from the computer world. Love it!

After our tasting we were able to chat more with Lori and Jim and (as noted before) we met and chatted with Tom Johnson from Nova Ridge Vineyards. Lori was telling us about how her new labels. They are greener because they only appear on the front of the bottle. I think you’ll enjoy the new look. We left with several bottles of wine with promises to let Lori and Jim know when we enjoy them. If you haven’t been to Corcoran lately, this is the time to plan a trip. With such a diverse tasting menu, there’s something for everyone. And by the way, did you know Corcoran also has a brewery? We’ll plan to visit the brewery soon. When you visit Corcoran Vineyards be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

From Lombardy to Linden

So we’re back to reporting on our more local wine adventures, and this time our focus will be the barrel tasting held at Linden Vineyards exclusively for case club members. At the event, club members were able to taste barrel samples from the developing 2010 vintage as well as comparison tastings of 2007 and 2008 reds. We also nibbled on excellent gourmet snacks prepared by L’Auberge Provencale located in Boyce, Virginia. Between sips, we enjoyed a brief chat with winemaker Jim Law.

We were greeted to the tasting event on the crush pad with a sample of the 2010 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc paired with a king fish prepared seviche-style and topped with caviar. The Avenius Sauvignon Blanc is always a treat, and the 2010 vintage offered brighter fruit but lower acidity than previous vintages. Perfect for summer and lovely with the fish. From there we proceeded to the barrel room for samples of the 2010 Boisseau Red, 2010 Hardscrabble Red, and 2010 Avenius Red. All three were blends that featured Cabernet Sauvignon as the main component. Of the three, the Boisseau Red will be the most approachable upon release. The Boisseau vineyard holds loamy soils to produce fruitier wines, and the 2010 offering was blended with 35% Merlot to present a more fruit forward, rounded wine. The sloped Hardscrabble site features granite soils and older vines; there is no doubt that the 2010 Hardscrabble Red will be one to age. Boasting 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and only 15% Merlot, it was tight and complex. Plan to buy upon release, but enjoy at a later date. In between the two was the 2010 Avenius which was a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. Dark fruit and spice were evident; not quite as accessible as the Boisseau but also not quite as inaccessible as the Hardscrabble. So I plan to buy a bottle of all three—one to enjoy ASAP, one to enjoy to end the decade, and another to sip at some point in between!

From the barrel room we made our way to the special release room, and here we were able to compare 2007 and 2008 vintages from the three vineyards. My general conclusion after sampling them all was that the 2008 vintages are ready to enjoy now while the 2007 vintages still need some time. I did find the 2007 Hardscrabble Red much more approachable this time around and was my overall favorite of the day. I enjoyed my sip of this one with a grilled lamb chop, and it was lovely pairing. Paul gave his nod to the 2008 Avenius Red, a blend of Petit Verdot (72%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (28%). He enjoyed its flavors of plum, dark cherry and black pepper and thought it paired perfectly with the barbequed pork belly.

As we moved from station to station, we were able to chat with Jim Law who, along with his father, guided tasters through a sample of the 2010 Hardscrabble. I asked Jim how he felt about the 2010 vintages, and while he felt confident that these were going to be excellent wines, Jim confided that he prefers to work with vintages produced from “classic” years. As readers know, the 2010 growing season was exceptionally dry and hot with similarities to California as opposed to Virginia. Therefore, the 2010 wines may be jammier and higher in alcohol levels. For that reason, Law prefers the 2008 wines that were the product of a more typical growing season in Virginia. I also asked Jim if he planned to join the Viognier bandwagon; though I already knew that the answer would be “no”, I did want to hear his opinion on the matter. Of course, the answer did not disappoint; however, Jim did add that while Viognier was not really his passion, he did appreciate its place in the ever-improving (and expanding) Virginia wine industry. In the meantime, look for Jim Law to continue the focus on his excellent Chardonnays; in fact, I took home a bottle of his 2009 Chardonnay!

With our tasting done, we did enjoy a glass of the 2010 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc with a baguette while appreciating a lovely spring afternoon on the deck. We watched barn swallows flutter about busily making nests and took in aromas of wisteria. No better way to spend an afternoon. Plan to visit Linden Vineyards or perhaps a visit to L’Auberge Provencale for dinner—it’s a B&B too, so maybe plan a weekend getaway for wine and dinner. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Check Out These Links!

It’s been an interesting week in the Virginia wine world. Dave McIntyre has a very interesting post about a few things. One of the things he writes about is viognier becoming Virginia’s signature grape. Check out the article here.

On top of Dave McIntyre’s piece, Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like has written about this topic as well. There is a huge string of interesting comments with the post. Check out his post here.

The folks over at Virginia Wine In My Pocket are helping make today (Friday the 13th) a little less scary by offering their iPhone/iPad app for only 99¢. That’s a deal! If you don’t already have the app, you might want to get it today. It is only on sale today! You can learn about the app here.

And finally, you might be looking for something to do next weekend. The annual Wine Festival at the Plains is taking place next weekend. We usually attend this event but are unable to this year. Think about going and if you do, let us know how it was. You can check out the event here.