We always have our sights set for new wineries to visit when we travel throughout the state, and a recent trip to the historic town of Staunton allowed us to hone in on the newly opened tasting room for Ox-Eye Vineyards.
The experience was indeed a unique one as the tasting room is located in the town of Staunton instead of near the Ox-Eye vineyards. The vineyards are actually in Shenandoah farm country and several miles away from downtown Staunton. Visitors to Virginia wineries may find this unusual, but it is par for the course in Europe. We actually enjoyed this slice of Old World in a historic town like Staunton (historic because it is the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson), and there is no doubt that the tasting room’s downtown location creates a greater potential to attract more customers. And the closing time on Friday and Saturday is 7 PM. End of work week/happy hour crowds in Staunton who seek an alternative to cheap beer and watered down liquor now have a place to unwind. The quaint tasting room itself as well as the out door café tables and chairs only enhance the Euro vibe.
So what about the wines? Overall, we found them to be well-crafted wines. Three white wines from the 2010 vintage and three reds from the 2009 vintages were offered for tasting. Of the white wines, we both enjoyed the crisp Chardonnay that was fermented in stainless steel tanks. It presented aromas and flavors of pear and citrus zest, and its refreshing finish was made for a hot summer’s day. Nice on its own, this Chardonnay should pair nicely with poultry or shellfish.
Of the red wines, I favored the 2009 Cabernet Franc with its notes of raspberry, tobacco, and black pepper. This was aged in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Grilled chops seasoned with fresh herbs might partner nicely with this one. We were both intrigued with the 2009 Lemberger, an Austrian grape that grows well in the cooler climate and higher elevations of Ox-Eye vineyards. With a smoky nose and flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and black pepper, this unique offering might be destined for a meal that features grilled steaks.
As we sipped away in the tasting room, we met Susan Kiers who owns Ox-Eye Vineyards along with her husband, John. They have managed the Ox-Eye Vineyards since 1999 and began selling grapes to other wineries after 2000. In 2010 a tasting room was built in downtown Staunton; March 2011 was the grand opening of this facility. The Ox-Eye Vineyards enjoys an elevation of 1830 feet and benefits from a limestone foundation. Continuous breezes create optimal airflow to combat frost and diseases. In fact, John and Susan compare their site to those of the Finger Lakes region rather than Virginia’s Piedmont! And where did they derive the name, Ox-Eye? From the ox-eye daisies that decorate the property and surrounding landscape.
With our tasting done, we shared a glass of the 2010 Chardonnay and relaxed beneath the shade of the back patio. We envision a bright future for Ox-Eye Vineyards and hope to visit the tasting room to follow the progress. In the meantime, visit the birthplace of President Wilson and then enjoy a glass of wine at the Ox-Eye tasting room. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We survived hurricane Irene last night. We had lots of wind and rain but very little damage and the power never went out! While weathering the storm we decided to enjoy some Pollak Vineyards wines with our nibbles and dinner. We haven’t been to Pollak Vineyards in awhile so we need to see what new wines are on the tasting menu.
To begin our evening we started with the 2009 Durant White from Pollak Vineyards. We selected cheese and crackers to accompany this wine. We noted apple, pear, and citrus on both the nose and in the mouth. It paired well with our cheese and crackers. We wondered if the 2010 is as crisp as this one. This was my last bottle so we’ll have to get some more soon.
For dinner we made a chicken and pasta dish. Since we just had a white wine with our nibbles, we decided we needed something a little bigger but not too big. We selected the 2008 Merlot from Pollak Vineyards. This is a medium bodied wine with lots of fruit characteristics. Since I’m currently enjoying the 2008 reds, this one was just as I expected. We noted lots of dark fruit…plum, dark cherry, blackberry…with a really smooth finish. It was the finish that made it possible to continue to sip this one well after we finished our meal. Yet another reason to get to Pollak Vineyards soon and check out the latest vintages. If you visit Pollak Vineyards anytime soon, tell them VIrginia Wine Time sent you!
We have been preparing for hurricane Irene. Warren bought caned foods, water, and batteries. He’s a veteran hurricane survivor and knows just what to do to prepare for such a storm. As part of our hurricane preparedness, we enjoyed some Virginia wines last night around dinner time.
Our hurricane preparedness sipper was the 2009 Hunt Country Chardonnay from Piedmont Vineyards. We enjoyed this wine with some swiss cheese and crackers while sitting on the balcony trying to enjoy the humid weather. We noticed a whiff of pineapple and pear on the nose and a touch of citrus and a crispness in the mouth. Of course it paired beautifully with our cheese and crackers. It also helped manage the humid temperatures on the balcony.
For dinner we opted to move indoors and enjoy the air conditioning. We were having steaks and roasted potatoes for dinner and we selected the 2007 Petit Verdot Cellar Selection from Breaux Vineyards. This was a perfect wine to prepare for the oncoming hurricane. We noticed characteristics of concentrated dark fruit, lots of dark plum, dark cherry, leather, tobacco, and carmel. Warren even noticed some pepper. We did pour it through the Soiree to help give it some air as we filled our glasses. When we poured the last drops into our glasses, we were wishing we had another bottle! The wine paired wonderfully with our dinner choices.
Are you prepared for the hurricane? Make enjoying some Virginia wine part of your preparing for the storm. If you happen to visit Piedmont Vineyards or Breaux Vineyards in the near future, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
As our twitter followers may know, we made additional stops as we journeyed through the Shenandoah Valley AVA. Here is a summary of our tasting experiences:
Barren Ridge Vineyards: Owners John and Shelby Higgs converted this apple orchard into a vineyard, and it is located on a high ridge (1400 feet) between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. A semi-arid environment brings lower rainfalls and persistent breezes to create an excellent climate for growing grapes. Our favorites here included the crisp 2009 Tinkling Spring that is a blend of Viognier and Vidal Blanc grapes. Clean and fruity, a perfect wine to sip on its own or with light fare. We also enjoyed the 2009 Rose, a perfect summer wine that presented strawberry and melon flavors. Paul placed an extra star next to the 2009 Traminette with its floral nose and tropical fruit characteristics. At the end of our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2009 Rose and took in the breathtaking mountain views from the patio.
Bluestone Vineyard: This one is definitely a newbie. Owners Curt and Jackie Hartman planted grapes in 2003 and within five years the vineyard expanded to include thousands of grape vines. The winery was built in 2010, and the vineyard now produces 2000 cases of wine. Michael Shaps consults on the winemaking, and his expertise was evident in our favorite, the 2010 Viognier. Done in stainless steel, it presented white peach, apricot and citrus zest aromas and flavors. Sweet wine lovers should appreciate Beau, named after the winery’s golden retriever. The Vidal-Traminette blend has 3% residual sugar.
Cross Keys Vineyards: An expansive facility with a European feel to it, Cross Keys Vineyards opened its winery in 2008. Eleven wines were available for tasting, and a favorite white included the barrel fermented 2009 Chardonnay with its pear notes and soft, toasty finish. For those who yearn for sweeter rose wines, the 2010 Fiore may fit the bill. Made from juice pressed off of skins from Pinot Noir grapes, it includes 1.5% residual sugar along with bright red berry aromas. The focus at Cross Keys Vineyards seems to be red wines, and we preferred the 2009 Petit Verdot with its whiff of violet and notes of plum, dark cherry, and spice. Still young and tannic, so plan to age for a bit. We also liked the 2008 Meritage, a blend of Merlot (43%), Cabernet Franc (30%), and Petit Verdot (27%). Aged for 15 months in new and aged oak barrels, we noted cherry and raspberry elements with nuances of crushed herbs and spice. Tannins here were smoother, too. Dessert wine lovers should try the 2009 Ali d’Oro produced from late harvest Traminette. I referred to it as Bit-0-Honey in a glass and imagined it with a hunk of blue cheese!
We did make one other new discovery on the Shenandoah trail, but I’ll save that experience for the next post. In the meantime, be sure to experience these wineries in the Shenandoah Valley AVA, but be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We had a very busy weekend and had the chance to enjoy some really nice Virginia wines. Each evening there was one wine that stood out. While we normally write about all the wines we enjoyed, we thought we’d focus on just two this time. Unfortunately I didn’t have my big spiffy camera to take some nice photos. The first one was taken with the iPad and the second was taken of an older vintage of the same wine.
On Saturday evening we decided to have some nice filets for dinner. Warren selected the 2001 Cellar Selection Merlot French Oak Select from Breaux Vineyards. How many ten year old Virginia wines do you get excited about? This one was amazing. We opened it about an hour before dinner just to let it breath. We had thick filet mignon, roasted potatoes, and veggies for dinner. This wine went perfectly with the filets. It started with a dark fruit nose which gave way to dark fruit and tobacco flavors in the mouth. What amazed me was how smooth it was. Ten years in the bottle treated this wine well. Even after dinner we continued to enjoy just sipping it. It’s the kind of bottle you don’t want to end. The next time we’re at Breaux, we need to see if they have any more!
Sunday evening we had some friends over for dinner and served the 2009 Seyval from Linden Vineyards. We had this with soft cheeses, crackers, and olives. On the nose we noticed lime and melon. On the tongue we noted wonderful lemon flavors that complimented the cheeses and olives. The acidity and crispness of this wine was perfect for a warm evening. Our guests talked about how much they enjoyed it. I think I have one more bottle on my rack. Even though the weather has cooled down somewhat, this one still remains one of our summer favorites.
What wines did you enjoy this weekend? If you visit Breaux Vineyards or Linden Vineyards anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
This past week, Paul and I ventured west to the Shenandoah Valley AVA to visit wineries. Cave Ridge Vineyard was first on our list of wineries to visit; we sampled the wines at Cave Ridge Vineyard when owner and winemaker Randy Phillips first opened the winery in 2007. At that time, we were very impressed with the lineup of wines, and we were eager to see how things had progressed since that initial visit.
Since our 2007 trip to Cave Ridge Vineyard, a tasting room with a patio has been added. The shaded front patio includes a lovely fountain, and tasters can enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the mountain landscape. A walk through the patio brought us into the tasting room where we availed ourselves to a tasting of current releases. We were pleased with the Viogniers during our 2007 visits, and the current 2009 vintages are likewise quite solid. The crisp Viognier 2009 was done in stainless steel and presented melon and pear flavors; food friendly, it could also be enjoyed on its own. We both preferred the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009. Aged for eight months in French oak barrels, this one offered more floral aromas with tropical fruit characteristics, and a fuller mouth feel. I also detected a bit of vanilla at the end. Any creamy dish like risotto should pair nicely, but I’d also enjoy a glass with a nice brie and fresh fruit.
The red wines were also well crafted. With grilling season still in high gear, burgers and other grilled fare should match up well with the lighter-bodied 2008 Chambourcin and its berry and tobacco aromas. Our ultimate favorite, though, was the Fossil Hill Reserve 2008. Fossil Hill is not only the home to the vines that produced this more complex pour, but it is also the gravesite for ammonite fossils that are millions of years old. (How is that for some history!) Anyway, the more complex Fossil Hill Reserve 2008 blends Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Chambourcin to present elements of dark cherry, plum, spice and mocha. Paul described the tannins as smooth, and I concurred. This one could age on the rack for a bit, but it is certainly ready for immediate enjoyment with a nice steak dinner. Randy Phillips offered us a sneak peak of the upcoming Fossil Hill 2009, and earthy aromas prevailed with this one complemented by brambleberry flavors in the mouth. It will be released in October 2011 and in time to celebrate Virginia Wine Month.
We chatted with Randy for a bit as we sipped at the tasting counter. His case production is currently at 2600 cases, and he will soon add a Cabernet Sauvignon to the tasting menu. Also, Cave Ridge wines can be tasted and enjoyed at Wine on the Water, a wine bar in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When I asked Randy about the 2011 growing season, his assessment was similar to other winemakers in the state—early! In fact, the Chambourcin was already in veraison. This then led to my next question—did the Shenandoah region have any particular challenges in regard to growing grapes? Randy Phillips replied, “Shenandoah is the future of the Virginia wine industry. Our limestone soils and elevations are most similar to Bordeaux and we have low rainfalls.” It seems to us that Randy Phillips has exploited these advantages to produce some solid wines.
With our tastings done, we shared a glass of the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009 while relaxing on the patio. With the splashing sounds of the fountain and butterflies aflutter, it was hard for us to imagine a better way to spend the afternoon. However, all good things must end, and we made sure to purchase our favorites before we left the winery. Plan to visit Cave Ridge Vineyard, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.