Cabernet and Chocolates

On Saturday we attended the annual Cabernet and Chocolates event at Gray Ghost. We always have a great time enjoying the chocolates and red wines. This year Gray Ghost released the Vidal Blanc on this chocolate filled weekend. We enjoyed the new Vidal with it’s melon and crisp fruity flavors. Of course we enjoyed the red wines as well. The merlot was my favorite paired with the chocolates. Here are some pictures from the event:

Loudoun Sweep

Our crazy winter weather continues to unfold; last week, I was able to jog outdoors wearing shorts and a t-shirt. However, a colder weekend at the end of January did bring the threat of snow and ice. The snow event never happened, and that gave us the chance to visit Swedenburg Estate Vineyard and Chrysalis Vineyards without worries about slick roads. (It also gave me a chance to wear my new sweater!)

Swedenburg Estate Vineyard: Curtis Vincent has assumed command of the winemaking at Swedenburg, and the white wines that we tasted were of his creation. The 2010 Chantilly made from Seyval Blanc was very crisp with citrus and mineral characteristics. Lean and clean indeed! This one should pair quite nicely with shellfish. I also enjoyed the 2010 Chardonnay that was fermented in French oak barrels. A fuller mouth feel and creamier texture suggested some malolactic fermentation. It presented pear and apple notes with hints of cedar to boot.

Although we missed Curtis on the particular visit, we did note improvements in the quality of the wines under his craftsmanship. We also learned that winery is up for sale, and we hope that any potential buyer will continue Swedenburg’s winemaking legacy that began with Wayne and Juanita Swedenburg over 25 years ago.

Chrysalis Vineyards: Our visit here was actually part of a VIP pick up party that featured wine tastings and food. Chrysalis fans may know that renowned chef Hump Astorga has left Chrysalis; however, there is no need to despair. VIP events will still include gourmet treats that will be prepared by guest chefs.

Of course, wine was our primary interest, and the current offerings were the creations of winemaker Alan Kinne. “Elegant” and “polished” were the words that I used to describe Kinne’s wines. The 2010 Chardonnay, done in stainless steel, was crisp and lean with apple notes and a no-holds-barred minerality. Of course, Viognier is the flagship white wine here, and the 2010 bottling presented the rich stone fruit flavors and luxurious mouth feel that defines Chrysalis’ Viognier. Kinne’s expertise, though, shined brightly with the 2009 Norton Estate Bottled and the complex 2009 Norton Locksley Reserve. Norton and its acidic nature can be difficult to tame, but Kinne accomplished the task and more with these world-class wines. The former was blended with some Petit Verdot while the latter usually includes Petit Verdot and other varietals; however, both were rich with dark fruit and spicy aromas and flavors. In the end, I leaned heavily toward the 2009 Locksley Reserve; earthy elements and a lengthier finish complemented a full-fruit presence in the mouth. Both are sitting on my wine rack, but I think the Locksley Reserve will be napping for quite a while.

We ran in to owner Jenni McCloud, and she updated us on her renovation plans. The new tasting room is on target to proceed, and current plans will provide for a versatile, taster-friendly facility. Tasters can opt for either a personally guided tasting of wines with a tasting associate or conduct a self-guided tour at a tasting station. The self-guided tastings will resemble the enomatic stations at a tasting bar, and tasters would use debit-type cards to sample Chrysalis wines. We will be sure to chart the progress of this development!

And so food and wine—Asparagus tarts and clam chowder were served at the tasting event, and I enjoyed both with the 2010 Chardonnay. In fact, I pleaded for a second serving of the clam chowder; it was the perfect comfort food on a very cold day.

Whether it’s warm or cold outside, a visit to Virginia wineries is sure to please. Visit Swedenburg Estate Vineyard and Chrysalis Vineyards to sample their latest pours. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine Storage

Swirl, Sip, Snark and Cellarblog have posted pictures of their wine racks. I’m very impressed with their wine storage. Frank from Drink What You Like also kicked in his photo on Twitter. They have issued a challenge for all Virginia wine blogs to post about their wine storage. Wanting to be part of the in crowd and participate I decided to show how I store my wine. I have two separate areas for my wine. I store them both in my dining room. I have one rack just for white wines and then on the other side of the room I have two racks for all my red wines. Both racks are organized by winery. My wine collection is almost exclusively Virginia wine so I can store them on the racks by winery. This works out well when I’m looking for a specific wine from a specific winery. So here are the pictures of my wine racks. How do you store your wine?

White wine rack…I also have several bottles chilling in the refrigerator.

Red wine racks.

Not to leave out Warren, I will say that he stores his wine in several places around his house. He has most of them in a closet that keeps a pretty constant temperature and lots of darkness.

Fox Meadow Barrel Tasting

Fox Meadow Vineyards and earned a gleaming place in the spotlight last year when its 2008 Le Renard Rouge won the coveted Virginia Governor’s Cup. However, we had not been to Fox Meadow Vineyards since that well deserved victory; so, we returned to Fox Meadow Vineyards a couple of weeks ago to participate in a vertical tasting to see how upcoming releases were progressing.

Owner Bob Mortland conducted the tasting which included a very young 2011 Merlot and four Cabernet Francs from the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages. The Merlot and the 2010 Cabernet Franc were sampled from the barrel. Bob took a risk in starting the event with the 2011 Merlot, a product of a very tricky harvest, and he acknowledged that the rollercoaster ride of a growing season made for some pretty serious headaches. The Merlot was obviously still young but was lighter in color with cherry and pepper notes. It will spend 15 months on oak and should produce a lighter-bodied wine.

Of the Cabernet Francs that we sampled, I concluded that the winner was the yet-to-be bottled 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc. I noted aromas of raspberry, cherry and forest floor; similar fruit flavors plus a subtle chocolate component were evident in the mouth along with a “dusty” tannic presence. I should not have been surprised since the 2010 growing season in Virginia was stellar. Paul favored the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc with its smoky nose and notes of cumin and dried herbs. Mixed berry flavors and oak nuances were also present.

Paul is a big fan of the 2008 Virginia reds, and the 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc was his second choice. He jotted down “fresh fruit” to suggest riper fruit flavors on the palate along with dried herb and a bit of caramel toward the finish. I noted a whiff of cedar to suggest shades of oak and spice. The 2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc is the current release and available for sale. Young and still tannic, it presented smoke and pepper on the nose and cherry flavors in the mouth.

We chatted for a bit with Bob after the tasting, and he was certainly relieved that the 2011 growing season was behind him. Bob was optimistic that quality will ultimately prevail even from a troublesome growing season, especially with winemaker Tom Payette in his corner. After all, it was Payette who crafted the award-winning Le Renard Rouge.

With our tasting finished, we lingered for a bit in the tasting room and shared a glass of the fruity 2010 Le Renard Gris, a blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. After sampling tannic red wines, it proved to be a refreshing way to conclude our visit at Fox Meadow Vineyards.

At this time of the year, visiting wineries that are in higher elevations such as Fox Meadow Vineyards can be impossible. However, our mild weather seems almost spring-like with clear roads and early blossoms in view. Why not plan a visit to Fox Meadow Vineyards to sample their latest releases? Remember to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Two New and One Revisit

In recent weeks we’ve visited two new wineries and re-visited another one. We’re always open to visiting new wineries and revisiting others to experience improvements. If I counted correctly the two new wineries are number 139 and 140. About 60 more to go!

Cobbler Mountain Cellars opened in June. Jeff and Laura McCarthy Louden have three acres of vines planted. They have cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and cabernet franc in the vineyards. They make about 600 cases a year. On the day we visited they had seven wines to taste. One of these was a unique hard apple cider produced from apples grown on the property. Of the wines we tasted I thought the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon showed promise. I noted dark cherry flavors, soft tannins, and a smooth ending. I even bought a bottle to enjoy later. Cobbler Mountain Cellars will be participating in the Virginia Wine Showcase on February 18 and 19 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington. Plan to visit them at the showcase and taste their wines. I’ll be looking for them there because Jeff told me he’ll be releasing his Petit Verdot. I look forward to tasting it!

Little Washington Winery is located in Washington Virginia and is owned and operated by Donna and Carl Henrickson. They have 25 acres of land with a beautiful view of the mountains. Currently there are two acres of Viognier planted with plans to plant an additional four acres of Bordeaux varietals will be planted this year. Currently they have three wines on the tasting menu. The first wine we tasted was the Mesmerized which is Viognier with 8% vidal. The Solstice which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier was our second wine. This one has 1.5 residual sugar. This one became our favorite. We noted lemon and apricot and enjoyed the crisp edge. The final wine was the George which is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Donna and Carl are interested in producing small lot wines. They are also conducting “Dirt Road Wines” from all over Virginia and the world. These are small lot wines that tasters wouldn’t normally be introduced to. Winemaker and sommelier Andrew Stover helps select the Dirt Road Wine selections. Little Washington Winery’s winemaker is Simone who you might know from Potomac Point. We think Little Washington Winery has a unique idea with the Dirt Road Wines. We look forward to returning and checking out the latest wines on the menu.

Imagine our surprise when we recently walked into Narmada Winery for a tasting and saw Lori Corcoran behind the tasting bar. We hadn’t been to Narmada for quite awhile and it was time to see what had changed. Lori is now the tasting room consultant. We were lucky to have her conduct our tasting. Most of the wines on the list were new to us. Of the wines we tasted there were some that stood out for their improvement since our last visit. Of the white wines I enjoyed the 2009 Chardonnay and Warren enjoyed the 2010 Viognier. The 2009 Melange is a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 10% Tannat, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted the fruit up front and a smooth, earthy finish. We consider this one a light bodied wine. A new wine to us was the 2009 Yash-Vir. It’s a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This Bordeaux style wine presented earthy, herbal notes with a lighter finish. I think the petit verdot brings complexity to this wine.

If you haven’t been to Cobbler Mountain Cellars or Little Washington Winery yet, give them a try. We’re sure you’ll find something you enjoy. And if you haven’t been to Narmada recently, return for another try. Maybe you’ll see Lori! And if you visit any of these wineries, be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!