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!