Virginia Wine Time

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Month: July 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Picnic and Wine at Gray Ghost Vineyards

So we are back from our summer travels and now on the Virginia wine trails again. We decided to resume our quest for summer sippers with a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards this past weekend.

Ten wines were offered for tasting with five of them from the 2011 vintage. My favorite of these was the crisp 2011 Seyval Blanc with its lemon notes and dry finish. Minimal aging in Hungarian oak provided a bit of roundness to boot. Perfect for summer menus that feature shellfish or any other pairing that might call for a Sauvignon Blanc! Paul favored the 2011 Vidal Blanc with its tropical fruit elements. Another great summer wine, this one should pair well with spicy foods; however, it’s also just fine on its own especially on a hot summer’s day.

It’s never too late to think about Thanksgiving dinner especially if you fear that your favorite Virginia wines might sell out before Mr. Turkey hits the dinner table. The 2011 Gewurztraminer with its tropical fruit flavors and spicy edge would do well with a summer salad topped with fresh ham or grilled shrimp; however, I’d consider this one with herbed turkey and stuffing. Likewise, the very berry 2011 Cabernet Franc with its spicy nuances could be served now with grilled fare but would be a classic pairing with any Thanksgiving meal.

Of course, Gray Ghost Vineyards is known for its dessert wine called Adieu that is made from late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes, and the 2011 vintage delivers rich peach flavors with a honeyed texture. The Adieu is always a crowd pleaser at dinner parties, and I’ve even served it with heavier cheeses.

We always look forward to chatting with Amy Payette, Gray Ghost’s marketing director and daughter of winemakers Al and Cheryl Kellert. Amy was very pleased to inform us that Gray Ghost wines took gold medals in the 2012 NextGen International Competition that was held in California. The wines in this competition were judged by millenials, the up and coming wine consumers who lately have been the focus of attention by the wine industry. Gold-medal winners include the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2011 Gewurztraminer (which also won best in class.) Amy also shared with us this year’s harvest appears to be on track to be earlier than usual with the Seyval Blanc potentially coming in within the next couple of weeks. This seems to coincide with other reports that we have heard from other winemakers in Virginia, so it may indeed shape up to be an early harvest season statewide.

With our tasting done, we shared a bottle of the 2011 Seyval Blanc with grilled chicken filets, a block of Swiss cheese and melon slices beneath an apple tree. As we sipped and nibbled we spotted gold finches, cardinals, and a quickly fluttering hummingbird. Butterflies of all colors were likewise on full display. We made certain to purchase some of our Gray Ghost favorites before we left (a case in fact). Be sure to pay a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards to stock up on your own summer sippers, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Classic Pairing

A classic pairing for the summer. Tomato, basil, and mozzarella drizzled with a bit of olive oil paired with the 2011 Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc.

Annefield 2008 Red

Lately I’ve been enjoying reds on my wine rack. I’ve been looking for wines that are sippers and won’t really need food. I’m trying to take advantage of the idea that red wine has many health benefits by enjoying two glasses each evening. Reds that can be enjoyed without food help with this idea.

I found my last bottle of the 2008 Red from Annefield Vineyards and decided it would be my evening sipper. We have mentioned this wine before but usually with food items in mind. I remembered it’s smooth ending and decided it would be fine for an evening sipper. The 2008 Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It presents dark berry notes with hints of tobacco with round tannins. It was a perfect sipper! Again it reminded me of why I love the 2008 reds from Virginia. It’s a perfect example of a typical growing season in Virginia. I need to get myself a few more bottles. Luckily Annefield reminded me on Twitter that you can get their wines on their website or from the Twisted Vine Bottleshop and Bistro in Arlington. I will need to plan a trip there soon to stock up on the 2008 Red before it’s gone! If you visit Annefield Vineyards, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Brownie Wine

As I have mentioned before, I have lots of Virginia red wines on my wine rack. Lately I’ve been randomly selecting red wines to taste and enjoy. One evening last week I was finishing up some brownies that Warren made and thought a red wine would really compliment the brownies. I perused my wine rack and decided on the 2007 Lot 751 Virginia Red Table Wine from Breaux Vineyards Cellar Selection. This wine is only available to Cellar Club members.

Lot 751 is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc grapes from the 2007 vintage. The dark color and dark cherry nose made me think that maybe this wine was meant for bigger foods. But once I swirled it in my glass and gave it a taste, I knew it would be perfect for the brownies. I noted cherry, extracted fruit, firm tannins, and a relatively smooth ending. With a bite of the brownie, the cherry notes really came through. Since this wine is from 2007 and has some firm tannins, it could benefit from more time on the rack. Or enjoy it now!

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. There are benefits to being a Cellar Club member at Breaux Vineyards. I enjoy having access to wines the general public won’t get to purchase. I need to get to Breaux soon to pick up my most recent Cellar Club Selections. And if you visit Breaux Vineyards anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

2008 Lomax Reserve Red

I have over 100 bottles of wine on my wine racks. Probably 80% of it is red wine. And probably 98% of it is Virginia wine. There are always lots of choices when it comes to picking out a red dinner wine. Recently we decided to have sirloin steaks and wild rice for dinner. But what red wine would we select? We settled on the 2008 Lomax Reserve Red from Granite Heights Vineyard.

The 2008 Lomax Reserve Red is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. It’s aged in American oak for eleven months. It’s named after a neighbor of Granite Heights Vineyard. Once we poured a glass and paired it with our meal, we realized it was the perfect selection. We noted the bright fruit, the smooth ending and that it was very approachable. It reminded me of the smooth 2008 reds that I have come to enjoy. I probably could have kept this on the rack a little longer but I do so enjoy my smooth 2008 reds that I couldn’t let this one sit any longer. If you haven’t made it out to Granite Heights yet, plan a trip soon. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Think Local For A Summer Getaway

“We view ourselves as a wine country destination.”
Neal Wavra, Innkeeper and sommelier at Ashby Inn and Restaurant

Summer usually means vacation time for most of us; however, gas prices may have thrown a wrench into summer travel plans. Why not consider a trip to more local destinations? The Piedmont area has much to offer including historical sites, postcard-perfect landscapes, and award winning wineries. Plan to stay at a local inn to complete the getaway experience.

Ashby Inn and Restaurant
Vacationers who wish to focus on the museums, monuments, and other historic sites of the nation’s capital yet retreat to a more peaceful rural setting in the evenings may want to consider The Ashby Inn and Restaurant. The Ashby Inn and Restaurant is located in Paris, Virginia and about an hour from Washington DC. It includes ten guest accommodations and offers a view of Paris Mountain, Ashby Gap and Sky Meadow State Park. The building itself was established in 1829, and the inn’s rooms are furnished with period furnishings and antiques. Innkeepers Neal and Star Wavra also operate a restaurant on the property with Neal serving not only as the innkeeper but also the sommelier. While chef Tarver King serves up such delectable fare as popcorn sweetbreads, rockfish seviche and smoked beef rib loin, Neal stocks the wine cellar with an impressive international collection that includes Virginia wines. In fact, a sample dinner menu included a pairing of crab cakes with a viognier from Chester Gap Cellars, the rockfish seviche with a sauvignon blanc from Linden Vineyards, the smoked beef rib loin with a meritage from Glen Manor Vineyards, and a cheese plate partnered with a pear wine from Fabbioli Cellars.

Neal and Star Wavra opt to include local wines on the wine list because they are “distinctive and delicious. Why would any Virginia restaurant not have at least some wine selections from here?” Neal describes Virginia wines as “approachable” with a fruit expression similar to California’s but with more moderate alcohol levels and brighter acidity. Therefore, he finds Virginia wines to be food friendly.

The Ashby Inn and Restaurant is also located near award winning wineries, and museum-weary travelers may wish to take a break from the touristy mayhem and relax with a favorite bottle of Virginia wine. Nearby wineries include Delaplane Cellars, Linden Vineyards, Chester Gap Cellars, and Barrel Oak Winery.

Inn at Meander Plantation
The Monticello area also offers historic landmarks such as Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, as well as the homes of other early presidents such as James Madison and James Monroe. Monticello was also the site of Jefferson’s failed experiments with winemaking. However, Jefferson would be quite pleased with the quality of wines now being produced in this area. Therefore, summer travelers who wish to explore these more distant colonial landmarks may want to factor in a tour of Monticello’s acclaimed wineries. Where to stay? Try the historic Inn at Meander Plantation.

A member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses established plantation in 1726, but at the time it was named Elim. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, winemaker and future president, was a guest at the home. The plantation was later renamed after an adjacent river, the Meander. Meander eventually fell into disrepair and was even slated for demolition; however, current owners Suzie Blanchard and Suzanne Thomas bought the Meander property in 1991 and restored it with a renewed purpose—to operate a country inn that captured the charm and history of colonial and post-colonial America.

In addition to their duties as innkeepers, Suzie and Suzanne also don chef’s hats to prepare a multi-course dining experience with a Virginia wine accompanying each course. Hoping for a bottle of California chardonnay instead? Not at the Inn at Meander Plantation. Suzanne explained that a decision to support the local wine industry was made at the beginning because “it was the right thing to do.” She and Suzie saw the potential of Virginia wine early on and have marveled at the industry’s growth in size and quality over the past two decades. Suzie and Suzanne also conduct a semi-monthly Virginia Wine Academy at the Inn.

The Monticello area is also home to some of the best wineries and winemaking talent in the state. These include (but by no means limited to) Barboursville Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Keswick Vineyards, King Family Estate, and Pollak Vineyards.

Sharp Rock Inn
Work-weary vacationers may simply want to get away from it all and not be concerned with mobs of tourists at museums or monuments. Virginia wine country can come to the rescue! This kind of vacationer may want to consider a stay at Sharp Rock Inn bed and breakfast; as an added bonus, the Inn also functions as a working vineyard and winery. Sharp Rock Inn is situated adjacent to the ever-babbling Hughes River and offers a stunning view of Old Rag Mountain. The Inn once functioned as a farm in the late 1700s, and owners Jimm and Kathy East renovated the property and its structures to offer charming accommodations as well as a quaint tasting room.

Jimm opened the Sharp Rock winery in 1998 with a commitment to produce small quantities of quality wines. All Sharp Rock wines are produced from grapes grown on his 25-acre property, and these include sauvignon blanc and chardonnay as well as the red Bordeaux varieties such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot. Jimm East’s wines earn numerous national and international awards; however, the most prized accolades come from guests who give the Sharp Rock Inn and its wines rave reviews.

Nature lovers may want to pack a pair of hiking boots for scenic walks on nearby nature trails. Hoping to avoid exercise? Plan to unwind with a favorite book and a glass of Sharp Rock wine to enjoy besides the soothing rush of the Hughes River. Hoping to extend the wine tasting experience? Several other heralded wineries are close by and include Gadino Cellars, Rappahanock Cellars, and Gray Ghost Vineyards.

Historical sites, mountain landscapes, and award-winning wineries are only a short trip away. Use these recommendations to plan a nearby (and affordable) summer getaway that is certain to provide memorable moments.

This article appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of the Piedmont Virginian magazine.

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