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!

History Lesson at Philip Carter Winery

This past Saturday, we attended a vintage Virginia tasting held at Philip Carter Winery to commemorate the 249th anniversary of American wine. Mark Parsons, Director of Hospitality and Operations at the winery, conducted the unique tasting that featured wines from the oldest vineyard sites in the state. These included wines from Williamsburg Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, Philip Carter Winery, Horton Vineyards, and Barboursville Vineyards. The wines were presented in a chronological order to represent their place in history.

With the state’s burgeoning wine industry in full swing, it is very easy to forget that Virginia’s wine making history goes back to the early settlement days when colonial subjects of the Stuart King James I were ordered to plant grape vines that could then be used to make wine. The 2006 Williamsburg Gabriel Archer Reserve, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, is aptly named for the co-captain of the Godspeed; this ship brought English settlers to Virginia in 1607. It was these settlers who would have eventually bore the responsibility to plant and maintain vineyards. Given Archer’s significance to this event, it was the first wine to be poured at the tasting. Next, though, was the 2009 Philip Carter Governor Fauquier; it was in 1763 that Fauquier acknowledged that Virginia wine was being produced at the Carter Plantations on the colony’s northern neck. Off-dry and fruity, this Vidal Blanc was made for a warm spring day.

Third on the list was Jefferson Vineyards’ 2010 Viognier. Thomas Jefferson was most determined to prove that Virginia could produce world-class wines, and this Viognier was crafted from vineyards originally chosen by Jefferson in 1774. He would most certainly be proud of this offering by winemaker Andy Reagan with its fruit-driven nose and palate. Our timeline progressed, though, with red wines, and these began with the 2007 Norton from Horton Vineyards. Named for Richmond’s Dr. Daniel Norton, this storied grape was first made known to the public in 1830 and won international acclaim less than fifty years later. Norton fans should appreciate this offering and just in time for barbeque season! A more traditional Old World style red was presented with the 2006 Barboursville Octagon so named for the octagonal-shaped dining room in Governor Barbour’s mansion. The Barboursville Winery opened in 1976 to bring about the renaissance in the Virginia wine industry. Complex and well integrated, the 2006 Octagon has earned the praises of international wine critics. The 2009 Cleve from Philip Carter Winery ended our history timeline, and it represented the most recent red wine on the tasting sheet. Though the Cleve name recalls the ancestral Carter home of Charles Carter, the Philip Carter Winery represents the continued efforts of Philip Carter Strother to reinvigorate the current vineyard site once known as Stillhouse Vineyards. Within the past three years, steady improvements have been made, and this was evident in the bolder 2009 Cleve with its dark fruit and tobacco aromas.

As we sipped our way through history, Mark Parsons shared with us that plans for the momentous 250th anniversary of American wine making are already underway. Parsons bring to the Carter team an impressive resume that includes stints with Robert Mondavi Winery and the Spier Estate in the Cape Winelands of South Africa. His presentation at the tasting exhibited an expert’s awareness of wine and its place in history; I’m a history teacher, and he earned an A+ in my grade book!

With wine/history class adjourned, Paul and I compared notes on favorites. As is sometime the case, we reached split decisions. I favored the 2009 Governor’s Fauquier and the 2006 Barboursville Octagon. Paul preferred the 2010 Jefferson Viognier and the 2009 Philip Carter Cleve. However, we did reach a concurrent decision at the tasting bar where we both agreed that the 2010 Danielle’s Rose was a winner. We sampled this one after the vintage tasting, and we noted vibrant grapefruit aromas with flavors of strawberry, melon and citrus. A true Rose, it presented a pale pink color most often seen in French Roses—and bone dry, too.

We decided to enjoy a glass of the Rose while outside on the patio. Here we observed reenactors walking about the grounds, and owner Philip Carter Strother was engaged in a round of fencing! Between rounds, Strother warmly greeted us, and we learned that acclaimed winemaker Matthieu Finot is the winery’s master wine consultant and the genius behind the 2010 Danielle’s Rose. Pierre Eggert, also from France, will soon be on board as full-time apprentice and winemaker.

We made certain to purchase our favorite Philip Carter wines before leaving, and we will return soon to sample the release of the 2010 Chardonnay. Plan a day of wine and history at Philip Carter Winery, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!