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.

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!