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!

New Reds At Piedmont

A few weeks ago on our way home from the Chrysalis Hottest Jazz event we stopped at Piedmont Vineyards and Winery to check out the new reds on the tasting menu. Gerhard Von Finck has been working hard the last few months and it was time to taste the fruits of his labor. A few of our friends joined us for the tasting. We had recently tasted the full menu so we decided to focus on the new reds. Our friends, however, tasted all the wines and enjoyed what they tasted.

The first new red for us was the 2010 Chambourcin. This was aged in oak for 8 months and is dry. We noted smoke, pepper, and berry flavors on the nose. In the mouth we picked up blueberry, plum, cherry, and black pepper. We noticed the acids were balanced as well.

The next new red to us was the 2009 Merlot. This one spent 18 months in oak. Right away we noticed the beautiful color and the cherry notes on the nose. This one is a fruit forward wine with lots of berry flavors in the mouth. While this one has already spent 18 months on oak, we think it could benefit from 6 months on your rack before enjoying.

Up next was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This one was aged for 18 months in new Hungarian Oak barrels. Gerhard suggests you age this one another 12 to 24 months before enjoying. We noticed earthy elements, blueberry, cherry, blackberry, and pepper. We also jotted down “a hint of vanilla on the finish.” We think this one is going to be beautiful in a year or so and would go very well with some nice steaks.

The final red we tasted was the 2010 Hunt Country Red, Chambourcin. This one is unoaked and has 3% residual sugar. Gerhard suggests this one be enjoyed chilled or can be used for the base of Sangria. Our friend and sometimes wine blogger, Michael, really enjoyed this one. We even wrong his name next to it on the tasting sheet. Michael even mentioned that he’d enjoy this one chilled on his deck on a warm afternoon.

While we only concentrated on the new reds during this visit, we can certainly recommend chardonnays that Gerhard produces. Piedmont is known for their chardonnays and you can’t go wrong with any one of the three on the tasting menu. We always enjoy our time at Piedmont Vineyards and Winery. Talking wine with Gerhard is always a joy. Plan a visit to Piedmont soon and when you do, tell Gerhard Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Countdown To Tranquility

And three (swirl), two (sniff), one (sip)—that is how to appreciate the 2009 Three2One Cellars Tranquility which made its debut this past Sunday at the an event hosted at the seven acre Tranquility Vineyards owned by Al and Mary Taylor. The 2009 Three2One Cellars Tranquility is the result of collaboration between three winemakers in Loudoun County—Ben Renshaw of 8 Chains North Winery and Vineyards, Clyde Housel of Hiddencroft Vineyards, and Jordan Harris of Tarara Vineyards. However, the event also provided an opportunity for the winemakers to showcase their own wines; in fact, the afternoon started with a flight of wines from the three wineries and culminated with the premiere tasting of the Three2One.

Participants in the event included bloggers (Drink What You Like and Cellar blog) and Virginia wine aficianados, but the most special guests were my parents, Warren and Carolyn, who were up for a visit from New Orleans. We all met at the Landsdowne Resort and then were transported by bus to the Tranquility Vineyard. And what a view greeted us! Rolling mountain landscapes painted green by continuous spring rainfall made for picturesque moments. The tastings were conducted in the vineyard beneath a tent that provided shelter from early sprinkles and then the later bright sunlight. Our first flight began with Ben Renshaw’s lineup of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (which actually grew on me as it warmed up a little bit), the refreshing LocoVino, and the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. We recently visited 8 Chains North, and our favorites remained the LocoVino and the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. Dad chimed in that his favorite was of this flight was the LocoVino; Mom does not drink wine, but she does have a very perceptive nose. She correctly detected the earthy elements in the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red and noted its tobacco aromas.

Clyde Housel then presented his flight which included the 2009 Traminette, the gold-medal awarded 2008 Cabernet Franc, and the Vitis Rubus, a blend of Raspberry and Chambourcin. The 2009 Traminette and its floral nose beg for summer weather, but a decadent chocolate cake should pair nicely with the Vitis Rubus. Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery conducted the final flight that included the 2009 Nevaeh White, the 2009 Tranquility, and the 2008 Nevaeh Red. The 2009 Nevaeh White was my ultimate white wine of the day; a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay, it was clean and crisp. Paul raved about the bold 2009 Tranquility, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat; buy now but drink later as this one will certainly benefit from time on the wine rack. Dad and I enjoyed the accessible 2009 Nevaeh Red with its rich berry and spicy notes.

Of course, the tasting ended with the 2009 Three2One Cellars Tranquility, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (77%) and Tannat (23%). Renshaw, Housel and Harris worked together as “like minded friends that all believe Tranquility Vineyard is one of the prized terroirs in Virginia. It is a blend of the top two barrels each winery produced from this vineyard in 2009.” Aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels, we all noted dark berries, licorice and tobacco on the nose; blackberry and plum flavors abounded with a nice acidity and lengthier finish. Tannic? Yes, but smoother than expected. Age-worthy? Absolutely. Save for a special occasion and serve with big beef dishes and roasted veggies.

Comradery between the three winemakers was evident throughout the day’s presentations, and an appreciation for the Tranquility Vineyard was quite obvious. Its elevation, rocky soils, and air and water drainage were credited for producing the quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat grapes that comprised the blend. Comradery was also on display between tasters who all seemed at ease comparing notes on favorite wines. Grilled fare that included sausage, shrimp, chicken and veggies paired well with the wines, and a troubadour strummed gentle rhythms on a guitar. Before we knew it, it was time to purchase favorite wines and bid adieu to the winemakers who made the event possible. Dad left with a few bottles of favorite white wines, and with a family vacation to the beach looming in the near future, I’ll be sure that these are packed along for the trip!

Be sure to visit the talented winemakers at 8 Chains North Winery and Vineyard, Hiddencroft Vineyards, and Tarara Winery, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

8 Chains North Visit

A few weekends ago we found ourselves on the Loudoun County wine trail. We decided to stop by 8 Chains North to see what had changed since our last visit and taste some wines. Upon entering the tasting room we noticed things had changed. They have added more tasting bars and rearranged the tasting room to accommodate more tasters. It was a nice change.

We started with the white wines. They currently have two whites. We started with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. This is a a Fume Blanc style sauvignon blank that is aged in neutral French oak for seven months. We noted citrus flavors and a nice round mouth feel. The other white wine was the LoCo Vino. This has been a favorite of ours in the past and we enjoyed it this time as well. We noticed a floral nose with citrus and melon notes. I jotted down lemon-lime twist and refreshing. The LoCo Vino received our gold star for the whites. It makes a perfect summer sipper.

We continued our tasting with the reds and began with the 2008 Merlot. This is actually a blend of 80% merlot, 10% malbec, 5% petit verdot, and 5% cab sauv. This is a solid merlot with decent tannins and fruit notes on the palate. Next up was the 2009 Otium Cellars Dornfelder. When we saw this one on the tasting sheet we were a little surprised. We only know of one other winery working with the Dornfelder grape. These grapes come from a vineyard in Purcellville. It’s 75% Dornfelder, 15% merlot, and 10% malbec. It has a dark, rich color with spicy notes on the tongue. Warren noted this one would go well with barbecue. The final red was the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. We remembered tasting this one back in the fall during a Twitter tasting. It consists of 34% malbec, 30% cab sauv, 29% petit verdot, 5% cab franc, and 2% merlot. We noted cherry, blackberries, violets, some smoke and black pepper. This quickly became our favorite red and received our gold star for the reds.

After our tasting we enjoyed a glass of the LoCo Vino on the patio. It was a warm day so the refreshing, zesty LoCo Vino was the perfect selection. Before leaving we purchased a few bottles to add to our wine racks. Did you know that 8 Chains North is part of the new wine Tranquillity? It’s a collaboration by 8 Chains North, Tarara Winery, and Hiddencroft Vineyards. The wine will be released soon. We’ll be attending the release party this coming weekend. Look for our post about the event sometime next week. If you happen to stop by 8 Chains North be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!