On Saturday evening we joined many of our wine trail friends for the annual Gray Ghost Winemaker’s Dinner at The Marriott Ranch. We enjoyed a delicious five course meal with Gray Ghost wines paired with each course. Al and Cheryl Kellert introduced each wine and talked about each vintage. The pairings were perfect of course. My favorite course and pairing was the trout schnitzel with the 2011 Gewürztraminer. I liked the trout schnitzel so much that I asked the chef after the dinner how he made it. I have a good idea of how to replicate the dish later. Everyone had a great time enjoying the food, the wine, and the company. I took a few pictures but not enough to completely document the meal. I was too busy enjoying the evening!
The Wine Trail Table
As many of you might know, March is Virginia Wine and Dine month. This is a time to celebrate Virginia wine by enjoying a glass of Virginia wine by itself to with a meal at a participating restaurant or wine shop. Visit VirginiaWine.Org for more information and a list of participating restaurants and shops.
We participated in Virginia Wine and Dine month by enjoying a glass of wine on Friday evening. Our choice was the Solstice from Little Washington Winery. We visited them a while ago and purchased this bottle. My thoughts were to save this bottle for a warm spring day but we were in the mood for something different and selected the Solstice.
While sipping the wine we noted pear, melon, and a hint of pineapple. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier and is a slightly sweet wine that presented the fruit flavors at a very chilled temperature. We enjoyed this wine with manchego cheese and crackers.
We plan to visit some participating restaurants this month to help celebrate Virginia Wine and Dine month. Plan to visit one of the participating restaurants or wine shops and enjoy a glass of Virginia wine. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Yes, our focus during our latest trek to the Monticello area was sparkling wines; however, we did manage to sneak in a few visits to wineries that weekend. Here were our impressions:
Glass House Winery: This winery has been on our “places to visit” list for a while, and we finally managed to get there this time around. This is our 141 winery visited! Glass House Winery offers a unique tasting experience in a hot house that grows an assortment of tropical plants including banana trees. Our favorite pours included the off-dry 2011 Pinot Gris with its pear and citrus aromas and the smoky 2010 Barbera that presented a whiff of violet and full blackberry flavors. Norton lovers may appreciate the 2010 Meglio del Sesso that is a blend of Norton, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. It is then aged with 82% ground chocolate. Needless to say, it is indeed dessert in a bottle. Oh—the fresh bananas are divine! Naturally sweet with a firm texture, they beat anything you will ever buy from the supermarket.
Mountfair Vineyards: Our tasting here began with the two sparklers from Thibaut-Janisson—the current release of the dry Blanc de Chardonnay and the sweeter Fizz. I liked Fizz, but I loved the dry Blanc de Chardonnay with its non-stop racing bubbles, apple notes, and crisp finish. (It also ended being my second favorite sparkling at Sunday’s tasting.) Of course, Mountfair is known for its focus on Bordeaux-style reds, and we favored the 2009 Belated, a bend of Merlot (65%), Cabernet Franc (25%), and Petit Verdot (10%). We noted dark fruit, cedar and sweet tobacco on the nose with plum and spice in the mouth. After our tasting, we enjoyed bubbles and conversation with Ben and Jackie of Mountfair Vineyards. Ben assists with the winemaking, and Jackie does the marketing; they are also married to each other!
Stinson Vineyards: This was our second visit to Stinson, and here we reached split decisions. Paul enjoyed the 2010 Rose with its characteristics of strawberry and dried herbs. It certainly possessed an earthiness that would pair well with gamy cheeses and meats. I preferred the 2010 Chardonnay that presented pear notes and a vanilla finish. We did concur on our choice of red wines and that was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. Nice cherry, raspberry and pepper flavors were evident here with some smoky notes to suggest oak aging.
White Hall Vineyards: An impressive line-up of wines was tasted here with an equally impressive list of price points. Everything that we tasted was under $20. I was eager to taste the 2010 Gerwurztraminer, a gold medal winner at the 2012 Governor’s Cup. I was not disappointed—lovely floral aromas with notes of orange peel led the way to intense flavors of citrus, white pepper and nutmeg. Do not be afraid to warm the glass up a bit with your hands before sipping as the rich aromatics and flavors will only intensify. I’m a proud Chardonnay fan, and the 2008 Chardonnay was an absolute steal at $11.99 per bottle. Apple and pear elements prevailed with hints of vanilla at the finish made for an elegant wine that could be enjoyed on its own or with light fare. Paul added to his Petit Verdot collection and snagged a bottle of the earthy 2009 Petit Verdot that is blended with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. (Between the two of us, we walked out with six bottles of wine.)
Spring is now upon us and daylight is lasting longer, so plan to visit these wineries sometime soon. Enjoy your favorite wine while gazing upon spring blossoms and lasting sunsets, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like planned the second annual tasting of sparkling wines. Last year the event was held at Keswick Vineyards; however, winemaker Andy Reagan of Jefferson Vineyards hosted this year’s tasting. Other bloggers included the team from Swirl, Sip, Snark and Allan Liska from CellarBlog. Pia Mara Finkell, Megan Headley, Anthony from VaPourHouse, and Melissa from Uncork Virginia also loaned their palates to the occasion.
The tasting was done blind and included sparklings from Afton Mountain Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Kluge Estate, Old House Vineyards, Paradise Springs Winery, Prince Michel Vineyard, Thibaut-Janisson Winery, and Veritas Winery. Tasters were asked to use their own rating system to score each sparkling and then to rank them in order of preference. In addition, a Gruet brut from New Mexico was tossed into the ring to create an interesting twist.
So how did the bubbles rate? Before I present the overall list, I will offer my top three rankings:
1. Veritas Scintilla NV
2. Thibaut-Janisson Virginia Sparkling NV
3. Gruet BrutNV
Paul’s top three were as follows:
1. Veritas Scintilla NV
2. Gruet Brut NV
3. Thibaut-Janisson NV
How did our preferences stack up with the rest of the palates in the room (including Andy Reagan!)
1. Gruet Brut
2. Veritas Scintilla
3. Thibaut-Janisson Virginia Sparkling
4. Thibaut Janisson Fizz
5. Horton Sparkling Viognier And Kluge Blanc de Blanc 2008 (tied)
7. Barboursville Brut
8. Prince Michel Blanc de Noir
9. Paradise Springs Apres Sparkling Viognier
10. Afton Mountain Tete di Cuvee 2008
11. Old House Petillante Brut
The surprise was that the Gruet from New Mexico seemed to best the Virginia sparklers; however, the Veritas Scintilla earned a number of first place rankings, so it showed quite well as did the Thibaut-Janisson Virginia Sparkling. The bottom scorer, the Old House Petillante Brut, was the event’s unanimous last place finisher. Off characteristics abounded with this one.
After the taste-off of sparklings, Andy Reagan treated us all to a sample of his upcoming Pinot Gris as well as the current release, the 2010 Pinot Gris. He also sprung for gourmet deli platters that included fresh pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and a most divine pate paired with crunchy cornichons. Andy also provided us with a full tasting of current releases as well as barrel samples; however, we will be attending a vertical meritage tasting at Jefferson in April, and I will save my notes for that special occasion. I will say, though, that both the 2008 Meritage and 2009 Meritage were showing quite well. The 2010 Chardonnay Reserve likewise remains quite solid.
Be sure to check out sparkling wines coming out of Virginia wineries, and do stop by Jefferson Vineyards for a tasting of Andy Reagan’s quality wines. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Recently on Facebook Allan Liska from Cellarblog suggested a chili cook off with wine pairings from Loudoun County wineries. While we usually know what to pair with most of our food choices, we weren’t exactly sure which wine would pair best with chili. We decided to attend. I brought my mild chili to add to the mix. The Cellarblog crew, Swirl Sip Snark, Wine About Virginia and Virginia Wine In My Pocket also brought their chili. Several Loudoun County wineries offered their wines to pair with the different chilies.
The wine that was enjoyed the most was the 2007 Boxwood from Boxwood Winery. Everyone enjoyed this wine on it’s own and thought of other food pairings but we all agreed it wasn’t the best wine for chili. The wine chosen that paired best with most of the chilies was the Route 9 Red from Loudoun Valley. The residual sugar in the wine helped cut the spice in the chilies. My personal favorite was the 2009 Meritage from North Gate Vineyards. I appreciated the upfront fruit and smooth finish on this one.
Two white wines were also high on our list of wines that paired well with the chilies. We enjoyed the Jennifer’s Jambalaya from Breaux Vineyards and the Loco Vino from 8 Chains North. Again here, we believe it is the small amount of residual sugar that helped cut the spice in the chilies.
Jordan Harris from Tarara Winery was the winemaker guest of honor. He brought samples of his 2011 Viognier, which everyone agreed is a winner, as well as a new wine he’s creating called Boneyard White. It’s a blend of Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Viognier, and the last of the Pinot Gris from Tarara’s vineyards. Both of these wines were very well received and we look forward to them when they are released. Jordan also brought a 2007 Syrah and a bottle each of the 1997 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc from Tarara.
The final gem at the tasting was a 1994 Meritage from Oasis. Words aren’t enough to describe this wine. If you happen to come across a bottle like this, just pour it down the drain. Enough said.
We had a great time catching up with our wine blogging friends, enjoying several different chilies, and the wines paired with them. A huge thanks to all the Loudoun County wineries that participated in the event and of course a huge thank you to Allan for hosting the event. If you find yourself serving chili, check out the Loudoun County wines mentioned here. You’re sure to find one that pairs well with your chili. And if you visit the wineries, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!