Wines To Celebrate Summer

With summer officially under way, we continue our focus on wine to enjoy during the season. This past weekend our quest took us to Paradise Springs Winery, the only winery in Fairfax County. This also was our first visit since the dedication of the new tasting room; although Paul was on hand for the celebration, I was not able to attend. So our visit had two purposes—to scout out summer pours and to check out the new tasting facility.

The new tasting room is indeed spacious and elegant. It was hard for me to believe that tastings were once conducted in the small cottage on the historic property. From the tasting room, the barrel room was in clear view thanks to a windowed wall that divides the two facilities. Our immediate intent, though, was to taste wines and to ascertain which would best refresh on a warm summer’s day. Tasting associate Corima skillfully guided us through our tasting as we began to swirl, sniff and sip.

A trio of wines made the cut for our summer sipper designations. How exactly do we define a “summer sipper?” From our own tastes, we tend to prefer fruitier wines that are very dry or off-dry and best served very cold. We also look for versatility—a nice summer wine should be enjoyable on its own or with a range of foods. With these factors in mind, we tasted away and concluded that three wines from Paradise Springs Winery were indeed summer sippers. They were:

2009 Petit Manseng: 100% varietal and aged in stainless steel with some time minimal time in French and Acacia oak barrels. Very dry but fruit forward with aromas of orange peel; of the three listed here possessed the weightiest mouth feel. Serve with creamy cheeses and a fruit plate or with a seafood entrée.

2009 Sommet Blanc: A blend of Vidal Blanc, Traminete, Viognier, Chardonnay and Riesling. Less than ½% residual sugar but very fruity with melon and stone fruit elements. No oak aging here. Serve to enjoy on its own but can pair nicely with light cheeses or picnic fare. A crabcake may not be out of the question!

2010 Nana’s Rose: Made from 100% Merlot and very dry. My favorite of the trio. Done in the dry French style, it was rich with ripe strawberry aromas and flavors with a hint of tart cherry in the mouth. Roses are the ultimate in versatility and pair with just about anything and every palate. (More dry roses in Virginia, please!)

With our tasting done, we decided to share a bottle of the 2010 Nana’s Rose with a cheese plate and crackers. This was enjoyed while out on the back patio that included a large fireplace. No need for extra warmth right now, but these accommodations should strike the right note in fall and winter when cooler weather calls for heavier wines and extra heat. We’ll return soon to report on new developments and releases at Paradise Springs Winery; in the meantime, plan a visit to Paradise Spring Winery and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Friday Evening Selections

We began the evening with the 2008 Chardonnay from Gray Ghost. We paired it with a creamy St. Andre’s cheese and baguette. On the nose we picked up pear and apple and subtle toasty notes. In the mouth we noted similar fruit characteristics. The six months in oak provides a nice round mouth feel. It certainly complimented our choice of nibbles.

For dinner we had sirloin steaks, veggies, and wild rice. We selected the 2008 Cinq from Delaplane Cellars. Upon opening this one I wondered if it would live up to the fruit of the 2008 reds that I’d been noticing lately. On the nose we noted raspberry, cherry, anise, carmel toffee, and crushed herbs. On the tongue we noticed raspberry, cherry, and I noticed an oak presence at the end that manifested itself as tasted carmel. I also noticed the color had a purple edge even though it only had 1% petit verdot. I think this one did live up to the fruit of the 2008 reds that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Cinq is a very nice red wine that paired well with our meal.

Enjoy these wines and more from Gray Ghost Vineyards and Delaplane Cellars. And if you visit them anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summer Sippers from Hume

Our quest for summer sippers continued this weekend with a visit to Hume Vineyards. We ran into our wine blogging friends from Swirl Sip Snark (who, by the way, have been selected as finalists for the Wine Blog Awards, congrats!) and decided to tag along while chatting with winemaker Stephane Baldi. He told us about the changes to the tasting room (air conditioning!) and the barn being used for large groups. But we were there for the wines so it was time to taste.

We began with the 2010 Seyval Blanc. This crisp summer sipper was dry with mineral notes, citrus, and melon. We noticed the similarities to a sauvignon blanc. We picked up a hint of grassiness. We thought this one would help the heat of summer and go well with seafood. Up next was the 2010 Rose. This one has a pretty salmon pink color with notes of strawberry, melon, and crushed herbs. As we sipped this Rose we thought about a Wolf Trap concert.

The final white was the 2010 Vidal Blanc. Stephane said he wasn’t sure exactly where this one should go in the tasting. It has 1% residual sugar but it’s a white. Does it go before or after the Rose. Since the Rose is dry he thought it should go after the Rose. We thought it was placed appropriately because of the RS. We found this one to be crisp with notes of orange and apricot with a floral nose. Yet another summer sipper to enjoy on a warm afternoon.

All of these wines would make perfect summer sippers. If you’re looking to increase the number of summer sippers on your wine rack, be sure to check out these from Hume Vineyards. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

More Summer Sippers

So we continue our mission to find the right wines for summer enjoyment. On Sunday, this quest took us to Gray Ghost Vineyards and Rappahannock Cellars.

Gray Ghost Vineyards: We always enjoy catching up with Al and Cheryl Kellert at Gray Ghost Vineyards. We also enjoy sampling their wines! For summer weather, it’s hard to beat the 2010 Vidal Blanc which recently garnered 93 points at the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition. I got a whiff of banana and melon with this slightly sweeter pour; lovely on its own, it could also be paired with picnic fare or spicy foods. For those who are thinking ahead to holiday menus (it’s around the corner!), consider the lush 2010 Gewurztraminer with its vibrant floral and pineapple notes. This one always sells out fast and would be fine with Thanksgiving turkey or holiday ham. We were lucky enough to visit Gray Ghost Vineyards on the day that they released the 2010 Cabernet Franc. Full cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors with characteristic spice at the end make for a classic, Old World-style wine. Lighter-bodied and versatile, I’d also consider this one for lighter beef dishes done on the grill but it’s also a contender for herbed turkey and cranberry sauce.

Rappahannock Cellars: The 2010 Viognier was given a pre-release sampling this weekend, and it was lovely. Like the other 2010 whites we’ve tried this year, the full fruit presence was on display with this luscious pour. Melon and stone fruit characteristics made for a flavor-rich wine; some aging in French oak barrels provided very subtle oak nuances and a honeyed texture. Summer brings out the sweeter palates, and the 2009 Noblesse Viognier should prove to be a crowd pleaser at any summer gathering. The Noblesse is actually a blended wine and includes Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay. Fruity and refreshing, our friend and guest blogger Michael Tyler would enjoy a glass of the Noblesse on his deck paired with shellfish and a sunset! Heavier meats done on the grill should partner well with the jammy 2009 Cabernet Franc, a newer release at Rappahannock Cellars.

Summer is the time to favorite Virginia wines with picnics, cookouts and friends. Visit Gray Ghost Vineyards and Rappahannock Cellars to find some of your favorite summer sippers, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Time for Summer Sippers

With summer’s heat upon us, I find myself gravitating toward more refreshing wines. Virginia produces white and lighter-bodied red wines that are perfect for summer; however, don’t ignore rose wines. Virginia wineries are now producing rose wines that range from bone dry to sweet. In recent tastings, then, we’ve been focused on wines more appropriate for summer. In this post, we will present our findings at Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn and Breaux Vineyards.

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn: Winemaker Shay McNeal continues to make solid wines at Aspen Dale at the Barn. Our favorite summer pour here was 2010 Sarah’s Chapeau, a blend of Vidal Blanc (60%) and Sauvignon Blanc (40%). Its floral nose and fruity elements of melon and lemon zest make for a perfect sipper while at the deck or at a summer concert. The 2009 Mary Madeleine is a rose and likewise destined for enjoyment on a hot summer day.

Breaux Vineyards: Paul was able to enjoy his membership benefits which allowed us to taste in the tank room! The folks at Breaux also accommodated my parents; Dad, in particular, was eager to try the wines at Breaux Vineyards. Lots of summer offerings here, too! The 2009 Jolie Blond produced from Seyval Blanc presented grapefruit flavors and a refreshing minerality that mimicked Sauvignon Blanc; in fact, we were able to sample the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc! Made only for members, the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was all citrus fruit with some grassy notes; acids here were rather muted. My own favorite was the 2009 Viognier with its rich aromatics of honeysuckle and peach. Great for summer seafood dishes like crab cakes, too. Chardonnay lovers may like the steel fermented 2009 Madeleine’s Chardonnay with its pear notes and crisp finish. For those who prefer summer wines on the sweeter side, the slightly sweet 2010 Jennifer’s Jambalaya with its notes of honeysuckle, peach, and orange peel should fit the bill. (Residual sugar is .5%.) We left Breaux with almost two cases of wine. A huge THANKS to Breaux for the wonderful hospitality.

In a note about changes at Breaux Vineyards, we were able to chat with new winemaker David Castano during a previous visit to the winery. David Castano was truly excited to be part of the Breaux team, and I asked him what he found most challenging about making wine in Virginia. His reply? The weather—humidity, persistent rainfall, hurricanes all can create problems for the winemaker; however, he added that experienced winemakers know how to overcome these challenges. This past spring seems to confirm David’s point with constant rain in April and early May and then scorching heat in early June. David Castano brings experience as an oenologist and wine consultant to Breaux Vineyards, and we’re confident that he will continue Breaux’s legacy of producing quality wines.

If your stock of summer wines is running low, visit these wineries to replenish the wine racks. Be sure, though, to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Musical Notes at Notaviva Vineyards

Warren’s parents have been in town for the last week and we thought it would be a good idea to show them some wineries in Loudoun County. One of the wineries we visited was Notaviva Vineyards. We have visited them several times before and have enjoyed our visits. The tasting menu has expanded since our last visit so it was time to try the new wines.

We started the white wines with the 2009 Vincero Viognier. We found this one crisp, refreshing, and full of fruit. This viognier was fermented in stainless steel. Warren’s father put his gold star next to this one. We continued with the 2009 Ottantotto Viognier. This second viognier was fermented in French oak barrels and contains 1% chardonnay. We noted some nice fruit flavors and a round mouth feel. We also noticed the oak presence. We finished the white wines with the 2009 Calor Chardonnay. This one was fermented in French oak barrels, contains 1% viognier, and has 1% residual sugar. We barely noticed the 1% residual sugar but did note the pear and apple flavors.

The first of the reds was the 2009 Celtico Chambourcin. This is actually a blend of 92% Chambourcin, 4% Merlot, 1% each of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. We noted bright fruit and smoke on this one. The next red was the 2009 Cantabile Cabernet Franc. This one gets our gold star. We noted tobacco, currents, spice, and black pepper. We all agreed that this one will only get better with time. The next red was completely new to us. It was the 2008 Johann Petit Verdot Reserve. We noted blackberry and vanilla. We thinking this one has aging potential. It will surely change each time you taste it. The last red was the 2009 Gitano Chambourcin. I skipped this one but Warren noted cherry and spice. This one has 7% residual sugar.

Once we finished our tasting we decided on the 2009 Cantabile Cabernet Franc to enjoy with lunch. It paired well with our ham sandwiches, hard cheeses and crackers. It certainly deserved the gold star we awarded it. As you can tell from the names of the wines, Notaviva weaves their wines with music. Each year they have a music event to celebrate their anniversary, The Notaviva Experience. It’s an evening of music paired with their wines. The event is coming up soon. We won’t be able to make it but you should try to attend. You can find out more information about the event here. The next time you visit Notaviva be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!