Favorites from Lombardy

In a continuation of my previous post, I will provide some of my favorites from last week’s Taste of Lombardy wine tasting. The tasting (and luncheon) was held in the W Hotel’s elegant Great Room beneath a canopy of grand chandeliers shaped like clusters of stars. The wines were stellar too!

Rather than review all of the wines that I tasted, I will simply provide a list of those that I thought were most unique and outstanding; of course, I posted about the wines served at my table during the luncheon.

White Wines:
Calvi: Pinot Grigio—not like the stuff you find in the supermarkets. Stone fruit elements with a refreshing finish; clean and well crafted.

Perla Del Garda: Madonna Della Scoperta (100% Trebbiano)—receives some oak treatment and aged for 13 months before bottling; it presents a creamier mouth feel; citrusy aromas with a bit of minerality.

Red Wines:
Monte Cicogna: Don Lisander (Gropello 60%, Sangiovese 10%, Barbera 20%, and Marzemino 10%)—complex with aromas of dried red fruits, cinnamon, and tobacco; full bodied. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.

Peri: Marzemino—100% Marzemino and produced in stainless steel tanks. Floral nose with aromas of red cherries and brambleberries; rich berry flavors, too.

Averoldi: Chiaretto 2010 (Gropello 70%, Sangiovese 10%, Marzemino 5%, and Barbera 10%)— Light pink color with flavors of strawberry and a twist of citrus; bright acidity.

Civielle: Chiaretto Garda Classico “Pergola” (Gropello 60%, Marzemino 20%, Sangiovese 10%, and Barbera 10%)—lovely rose color with vibrant flavors of red strawberries and melon. Dry and crisp; perfect with just about anything!

Lantieri: Franciacorta Rose Arcadia (60% Pinot Nero and 40% Chardonnay)—pleasantly yeasty and fruity!

These unique wines from Lombardy can be found at the these retailers. Visit them and ask for a taste of Lombardy, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Off To Italy

Well, not really. Last week I was invited by Tiffany Van Gorder, general manager of Balzac Communications & Marketing, to attend a luncheon and wine tasting at the W Hotel. Featured at the event were wines from Lombardy. Readers may know that I enjoyed last year’s Taste of Lombardy event at the Palomar Hotel, so I could not refuse an invitation to attend the again this year. A history of wines and winemaking in Lombardy was provided in last year’s post, so rather than repeat that information again, I will simply provide the link to that article here for readers to enjoy. My focus now will be this year’s event and the wines that I sampled.

Tasters were greeted to the event with a glass of Franciacorta, a wine which looks like a sparkling wine but is labeled Franciacorta. Sippers may be familiar with Prosecco, another style of Italian bubbly; however, the tasting notes explained that Franciacorta “names the growing area, the production method and the wine…” It can be made from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir although Pinot Blanc may also be used. Franciacorta is produced by secondary fermentation in the bottle, and in an interesting historical note, the process goes as far back as the Middle Ages when Benedictine monks first produced the wine. The growing region, located in the northeastern region between Lombardy and Venetia, was officially approved in 1967 with the boundaries similar to those that were defined in a statute approved in 1429. Of course, it is served in a flute so that its bubbles can race to the top of the glass. Crisp and refreshing with bright apple notes, it was a nice way to start the event.

The dining tables were organized according to the various wineries representing the Lake Garda territory at the event with three wineries listed per table. Wines from the designated wineries were then served their wines with the courses served at the luncheon. A creamy risotto topped with shrimp was served for the first course, and this was paired at my table with an offering from the Monte Cicogna label, the aromatic 2007 Il Torrione made with 100% Riesling Renano. Fruity with a nice mouth feel, it paired well with the risotto. Feel free to also serve this with a brie-style cheese. The second course featured a braised beef topped with fresh dill partnered with a 2009 Gropello from Averoldi. This presented a dark garnet color with elements of juicy berries and spice on the nose and palate. Quite nice with the beef, it should also pair well with summer sausage and tangy cheeses. Lamb chops were served with the third course alongside the more complex 2005 Akros Riserva from Cantina Bergamasca. Aged for three years in French oak, this blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon was rich in dried fruit aromas and flavors with additional nuances of anise and vanilla. Though fine with lamb chops, I’d serve this one with almost anything that moos, quacks or oinks. Cheesecake finished the luncheon and served with the delightful Moscato di Scanzo; a red Moscato, the lovely floral nose was truly intoxicating! Chocolates or blue cheese might also be a match for this rich dessert wine.

Representatives from the wineries sat at our tables during the luncheon, and this provided an opportunity for tasters to learn more about the wines from the Lombardy region. Of interest to me was the conversation about reaching a larger American consumer base as it recalled many conversations that I have had with local winemakers. Both share a number of similar obstacles. Wineries in both regions tend to be small and therefore yield limited productions. Furthermore, varietals that grow well in these regions are not necessarily ones that have immediate name recognition. When was the last time you looked for an Italian Gropello, for example? Probably the last time you were in search of that Petit Verdot from Virginia! The perceived American palate is yet another dilemma. There is no doubt that Americans may be more willing to sip beyond California these days; however, the Napa region with its familiar styles and varieties still captivates the American consumer. And the Italian wines that are most familiar to Americans tend to be low-end, vast productions of Pinot Grigio and Chianti. Therefore, part of the marketing model for both Virginia and Lombardy winemakers has to be educating the American consumer to encourage them to “drink” outside of the box. Price inevitably came up as yet another inhibiting factor—how much will the American consumers pay for a bottle of wine? High quality but limited productions tend to make for a more expensive bottle of wine. This is probably the chief issue that Virginia wineries grapple with, but it was also the issue shared by the Lombardy winemakers. (However, I will say that some of the price points that were quoted to me seemed more than reasonable given the quality of wines that I tasted.)

Lunch came to end, and Tiffany invited us all to visit the 16 stations which represented the various wineries of the Lombardy region. Each station offered wines that best expressed the vineyards’ terroir. With glass in hand, I made my rounds to the various stations to swirl and sip away. What were my favorites? That will be the focus of my next post. Until then, visit your local wine shop and ask for a wine made in Lombardy; be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Wineries

Several weeks ago while between Charlottesville and Richmond, we were able to visit a few new wineries. We visited WindSong Winery and Grayhaven Winery. While these wineries are not new, they are new to us. And just this past weekend we were about to vista Nova Ridge Vineyards and talk with the owner/winemaker. By my count our list of visited wineries is up to 122!

WindSong Winery is located in Columbia Virginia. It’s a small winery but they produce lots of different wines. They focus on small batch winemaking. On the tasting menu you can taste chardonnay, muscat, several reds, whites, and fruit wines. From our tasting we must say the most interesting wine was the Dornfelder. This is produced from the German varietal Dornfelder. You will certainly notice the black licorice and plum while tasting this one. I think WindSong will become known for the peacocks. There are several on the property and make amazing sounds. And they are so pretty to look at!

Another winery new to us is Grayhaven Winery. We have known about Grayhaven for years but just haven’t had the chance to check them out. They make 27 kinds of wine that are mostly limited runs and low on the case count. Their fist planting was in 1978 and they mostly use stainless steel tanks with few wines seeing oak barrel treatments. The tasting menu was limited on the day we visited Grayhaven. We were able to taste the Eventide (a blush wine), the 2008 Cab Franc, the Trekker, and the 2008 Pinotage. The interesting wine here was the Trekker. It’s a red blend with spice and pepper notes. We’ll have to return to Grayhaven when they have more wines available for tasting.

The final new winery isn’t really a winery. Nova Ridge Vineyards happens to be located near Corcoran Vineyards. We spoke with Tom Johnson, owner/winemaker. He currently has one wine available, the 2009 Cabernet Franc. He gave us a taste and we noted raspberry on the nose as well as in the mouth. The raspberry gave way to more structure with smoke and spice notes. We thought it would pair well with food—cheeses and even a big steak. You can only purchase it from Corcoran Vineyards. Tom has some other wines in the works and we look forward to tasting those when they are released. We look forward to great things coming from Nova Ridge Vineyards in the future!

If you visit WindSong Winery, Grayhaven Winery, or Nova Ridge Vineyards at Corcoran Vineyards, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Friday Wines

On Friday evening we continued enjoying the nice weather on my balcony by enjoying our sipping wine as well as our dinner wine. There was a cool breeze perfect for sipping and enjoying the sunset.

We selected the 2008 Chardonnay from Pollak Vineyards as our sipper. We enjoyed it with a creamy St. Angels cheese and baguette. We noted pear, apple, and honey on the nose with very similar notes on the tongue as well as slightly toasted edge on the finish. It paired perfectly with our nibbles. You can’t go wrong with any of the wines from Pollak.

For dinner we had filet mignon, wild rice, and mixed veggies. Warren selected the 2008 Merlot from King Family Vineyards. When I taste a wine like this I wonder what it would be like if I had left it on the rack a little longer. On the nose we noted smoke, dark cherry, blackberry, and dried herbs with a whiff of tobacco. In the mouth we noted dark berry flavors, similar fruit as the nose with the addition of vanilla. We also took note of the long finish. Of course this wine paired perfectly with our meal. Just like the Pollak wines, you can’t go wrong with any of the wines from King Family. They happen to be one of our favorite wineries.

If you haven’t been to Pollak or King Family, you simply must plan a visit soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

More Catching Up: Loudoun Trail

This post will be a round up of reviews from visits done within the past month and will feature Casanel Vineyards, Doukenie Winery. and Fabbioli Cellars.

Casanel Vineyards: As the weather is warming up, white wines are bound to be more popular. At Casanel Vineyards, the fruity Batucada Viognier was rich with floral aromas and apricot flavors. The Batucada Norton is a rose made from the Norton grape and is fermented as a white wine. I got red hots in the mouth; Norton fans may appreciate this version of the grape with barbeque. The earthy 2007 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon took a gold at the Virginia State Fair.

Doukenie Winery: A summer favorite is always the Mandolin, a blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc; however, this was not available for tasting on the day that we visited the winery. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was aged in acacia barrels and certainly had a fuller mouth feel; citrus flavors abounded here. Of the reds, the 2008 Petit Verdot presented the characteristic inky color with aromas of violet, dark fruit, and tobacco. Of course, Hope’s Legacy is the raspberry wine that all visitors enjoy especially with a piece of dark chocolate.

Fabbioli Cellars: It’s always a pleasure to taste Doug’s wines. We enjoyed the current tasting set up which allows guests to sit at a station with a personal tasting associate; Nadia conducted our tasting on this particular visit. Our notes suggest that Doug will be releasing a Traminette, and this may have already happened as of this writing. The 2009 Rosa Luna, a rose, was dry with characteristics of grapefruit and bright berries and should prove to popular for the summer. The juicy 2009 Cabernet Franc was Paul’s favorite red with its elements of brambleberries and spice. I preferred the more complex 2009 Tre Sorelle, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. An age-worthy wine, it should be enjoyed with a steak!

Pay these wineries a visit to sample the current releases. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Saturday Sips

On Saturday evening we decided to have our first meal on the balcony this season. It was warm enough even though we had some cloud cover. We selected the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Breaux Vineyards to have with our nibbles and the 2009 Corcoran Vineyards Hunter’s Run Rose for our meal.

We had the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese and baguette. This sauvignon blanc is from the cellar club selection from Breaux Vineyards. You have to be a member of the wine club to get a chance to taste this one. We noted the crispness, a floral nose, and a nice mouth feel. It had a weightier mouth feel that made us think it spent time in oak but this one is from 100% stainless steel. It complimented our nibbles perfectly.

For our dinner wine we had the 2009 Corcoran Vineyards Hunter’s Run Rose. We paired it with parmesan encrusted tilapia and wild rice. It’s created from 100% Cabernet Franc. We noted strawberry and melon characteristics with a nice crisp finish. We thought it paired beautifully with our meal. It also made us think of warmer afternoons. This one would be perfect for those warm summer days. Chill it well and it will keep you cool on those hot summer days.

The selections for our Saturday sips were just right. We always enjoy the wines from Breaux Vineyards and Corcoran Vineyards. If you visit them anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Winemaker at Breaux Vineyards

On Friday Breaux Vineyards announced their new winemaker to their club members. The press and the rest of the world will hear about their new winemaker on Monday. The new winemaker at Breaux Vineyards is David Pagan Castaño. Turns out we sat right next to him at the recent Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards. He was still a candidate at that time. Here’s a picture of Warren next to David’s wife, David, and Chris Blosser. We are looking forward to talking with David more at the Club members pick up party on May 22nd. We are also looking forward to the wonderful wines we’re sure he’ll produce at Breaux Vineyards.