Our late summer swing through the distant wines regions of Virginia brought us to the Southern Virginia Region and a trip to Annefield Vineyards. We’ve sampled Annefield’s wines at wine festivals, but we have never been able to trek out to the tasting room for a full tasting of wines. Owners Stephen Ballard and Michael Leary graciously accommodated a Monday tasting for us, and at the end of our tasting, a case of Annefield Vineyards’ wine found its way into the car!
The vineyards and tasting room are located on historic countryside property south of the James River. The tasting room was renovated by Ballard and Leary to reflect its 19th century elegance and grace and in fact was once a plantation house built in 1858. Ballard and Leary purchased the house in 2005 after it had been neglected for many years, and they restored the house so that it could be used as both a weekend home and tasting room. It is worth the effort to visit the winery’s website to compare photographs of the house in its dilapidated state with those of the current house in its restored glory. The contrast is quite remarkable! And the interior is well appointed with antique pieces that could fit quite easily into a traditional-contemporary setting. All that we needed to feel at home was a glass of wine!
And wine we did receive! On tap for tasting were four white wines that included the 2009 Chardonnay, 2009 Viognier, 2010 Viognier, and the Annefield White. All were well crafted. The elegant 2009 Chardonnay was an immediate favorite with its tropical notes and vanilla finish. Nice on its own, I’d like a glass of this one with shellfish. Of the Viogniers, Paul liked the 2009 Viognier with its melon flavors and crisper finish; however, I preferred the 2010 Viognier with its bright honeysuckle nose, tropical fruit flavors and fuller mouth feel. Poultry or fish served with a cream sauce should partner well with this more complex Viognier. While we expect summer to fade into fall, the Annefield White, a blend of Chardonnay, Rkatziteli and Vidal Blanc is a fruity crowd pleaser and could be served on the patio after work or before dinner alongside appetizers.
The red wines were likewise well made, and these included the 2009 Cabernet Franc, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2008 Annefield Red. We both agreed that the well-structured 2009 Cabernet Franc was the favorite; it presented classic raspberry and plum characteristics with nuances of dried herbs and black pepper. With fall around the corner, consider the 2009 Cabernet Franc as an option for Thanksgiving dinner! It’s still summer, though, and with steaks or chops still sizzling on the grill the 2008 Annefield Red should pair nicely. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this Bordeaux-style blend with its dark berry elements and tobacco notes was fuller-bodied yet accessible.
Owners Stephen Ballard and Michael Leary have assembled an outstanding team of experts who have created a solid line up of wines. Renowned winemaker Michael Shaps crafts the wines for Annefield Vineyards, and expert viticulturist Joyce Rigby serves as winery consultant. Of course, excellent wines are made in the vineyard, and the Annefield Vineyards benefit from excellent rocks and soils that date back to the Precambrian period. The soils profiles include descriptors as “strongly acid” and “low in natural fertility”, qualities that are much desired for wine-producing grapes. In addition, a 500-foot elevation provides for optimal air drainage., Ballard and Leary started the vineyards in April 2006 with plantings of Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and additional plantings were added in 2011 that include Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, and Vidal Blanc.
With our tasting done and case of wine procured, we bid adieu to Annefield Vineyards with a promise to return. Be certain to visit Annefield Vineyards and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Sunset Hills Vineyard is one of those wineries you could visit every weekend. We don’t get the chance to visit that often but when we do we always enjoy our time there. Meredith Wilson, the tasting room manager, follows us on Facebook and Twitter and has been encouraging us to make a return trip to Sunset Hills. This past weekend we found ourselves in Loudoun County and simply had to stop by to try the wines and visit with Meredith. Once again, we had a great time enjoying the wines and lunch. And I was so pleased to see a special Hybrid parking space up close! And you know I pulled right in there!
We were lucky enough to have Meredith guide us through out tasting. She’s very knowledgeable of the Sunset HIlls wines and was able to answer all our questions. The white wines came first as they always should. The stand out here was the 2010 Viognier. I don’t think it is currently on the tasting menu but we were able to try it. We noted a floral nose with fruity notes of peach, lemon, and melon in the mouth. While this viognier has only .5% residual sugar, it certainly gives the impression of sweet. We thought this one would pair nicely with seafood dishes. This is an excellent example of the viogniers being produced in Virginia.
Before moving on to the reds, we tasted the 2010 Sunset Rose. This is a blend of cabernet franc, syrah, and mouvedre. This one quickly received our gold star! The rose has a very aromatic nose with hints of raspberry and strawberry in the mouth. Warren even noted some lavender. We also noted a crisp finish with a hint of minerality. Even though the summer is over, this one made us think of the concerts we attend at Wolf Trap during the summer. We always take roses with us to the concerts and this one would fit right in on a warm evening.
We finished our tasting with reds. The stand out in this group was the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This is created by blending 86% cab franc, 8% petit verdot, 4% merlot, and 2% tannat. We noted cherry, black pepper, and smoke. We also noticed the long finish and subtle tannins. Sunset Hills is also tasting the 2006 Kluge New World Red and it is really tasting good right now. We have always enjoyed the New World Red and tasting it again after a while was a nice treat.
After our tasting we enjoyed a lunch of pepperoni, manchego cheese, warm bread, and some tapenade. We selected the 2010 Sunset Rose to enjoy with our lunch items. And of course it paired beautifully with our meal. Before leaving we chatted with Meredith again about their upcoming events. One that caught our eye is the Vine to Wine Harvest Series. On selected dates you get to learn about the 2011 harvest and taste the fruit and fermenting wine. I have my eye on the October 23rd event because they will be featuring Petit Verdot. Be sure to check out their website for full details. A HUGE Thank You to Meredith for making our visit a great one! And the next time you visit Sunset Hills, be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
We continue to recount our winery experiences in the southwestern part of Virginia, and this post will feature three wineries in the scenic Blue Ridge Region: Abingdon Vineyard and Winery, Attimo Winery, and West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery.
Abingdon Vineyard and Winery: This place gets an A+ for scenic beauty—a babbling stream, majestic trees, and a mountain view located in the quaint mountain town of Abingdon, the setting seemed like something out of the Waltons (that TV show in the 1970s about John Boy, Jim Bob, Mary Ellen, Bubba Joe, etc.) Lots of wines to taste here, and the winery offered six wines for a complimentary tasting; therefore, we each picked six different wines to taste and then compared notes. Of the dry white wines, Paul liked the crisp 2009 Viognier that was aged in stainless steel tanks and presented citrus notes and flavors. For those who like oakier white wines, the 2009 Chardonel was aged in oak barrels for 15 months, and it exhibited pear flavors and a toasty finish. Of the red wines, the 2009 Chambourcin with its smoky nose and dark fruit nuances might be one to serve with burgers or grilled beef. Abingdon Vineyard and Winery is located near the Virginia Creeper Trail enjoyed by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, so readers who plan to take a hike in that area should take advantage of that trail’s proximity to Abingdon Vineyard and Winery for an after-hike wine tasting!
Attimo Winery: Owners Rik and Melissa Obiso opened Attimo Winery in July 2011. Before opening the winery, they spent years learning the winemaking business and made certain to select only the best property to grow vines. The term Attimo roughly means “live the moment” and the wines are named after special moments. Our tasting was conducted at a small dining table in the new tasting room, and John, our tasting associate, wheeled the cart of wines to our table to provide us with an expert tasting. Of the white wines, our most special experience was with the Sonnet 98, a crisp Vidal Blanc with floral notes and tropical fruit flavors. The label also bears Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, so literature buffs may develop a personal connection to this one! Of the red wines, we preferred the 2010 Deep Silence made with Cabernet Franc. Aged for nine months in French oak barrels, we noted a smoky nose and raspberry flavors. It’s called Deep Silence because owner Rik Obiso was so impressed with the quality of the wine as it developed in the barrel that when he tasted it, the wine left him in a moment of reflective silence.
West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery: We were the first wine bloggers to visit West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery back in 2007, so we made certain to pay another visit this time around. David Manley was on hand to conduct our tasting, and this began with our favorite of the white wines, the 2010 Galena Creek White. This dry wine was made with Vidal Blanc with one-third of it fermented in Minnesota oak and the remainder fermented in stainless steel tanks. Nice melon aromas and flavors with a mineral finish made for a nice sipper especially on a hot day. Of the red wines, I found the 2008 Chambourcin to be quite nice. Its smoky/peppery nose and plum flavors was easy to sip but could be served with a barbeque dinner. Paul preferred the more complex 2009 Heritage Reserve made from selected lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It was certainly young, but swirling produced a whiff of violet along with notes of dark cherry, plum, and black pepper. Paul noticed a lengthy finish to boot.
We still have more to report from our swing through the southern-most portions of the state, so stay tuned for continued posts about the trip. In the meantime, be certain to visit these wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.