Return To Dry Mill Vineyards

In an effort to visit many Loudoun County wineries that we haven’t visited in a long time, we found ourselves in Loudoun County last weekend tasting wines at Dry Mill Vineyards and Winery. It had been awhile since we visited and it was time to taste what was new on the menu. We were lucky enough to have owner and winemaker Dean Vanhuss conduct most of our tasting.

As is usually the case, we began with the white wines and continued on with the read wines. Here are my notes from our tasting:

2009 Barrel Chardonnay – Lemon, oak, tart ending
2010 Viognier – Floral nose, oak, but 25% stainless steel chard is blended in, citrus on the end
2008 Chambourcin – cranberry, fruity nose, smooth, cherry, earthy ending. Lighter than most Chambourcins we taste.
2008 Merlot – tobacco, lighter bodied, cigar box, cherry at the mid palate, smooth ending
2009 Petit Verdot – plum, smokey, moderate tannins, tartness, blueberry, tobacco
2009 Merlot – Opened by the owner – dark fruit, has a more concentrated feel, moderate to heavy tannins, blueberry
2009 Traminette – light, fruity nose, short finish, citrus, lime .5 to 1% RS
2010 Chambourcin Rose – 2% RS, plum, summer sipper on a warm afternoon

During our tasting we chatted with Dean about the 2012 growing season. He said 2012 has been a good year and has high hopes for a nice harvest. He doesn’t think the late summer rains will have much of an effect on the harvest like it did last year. 2012 should yield some nice wines.

After our tasting we both enjoyed a glass of the 2009 Merlot with cheese and bread. Before leaving we purchased a few of our favorites to add to our wine racks. The next time you visit Dry Mill Vineyards and Winery, be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

2011 Mandolin

We recently visited Doukenie Winery. While we enjoyed many of the wines on the tasting menu, we zeroed in on the 2011 Mandolin White Table Wine. We thought this one was a good representation of a summer sipper to enjoy one of these last days of summer.

Last Friday evening we enjoyed a bottle of the 2011 Mandolin on the balcony with hard cheeses and crackers while watching the sunset and enjoying one of our last days of summer. The 2011 Mandolin is a blend of traminette and vidal. We noted lemon, orange, and a slightly sweet ending. It paired perfecting with our cheese and crackers. If you visit Doukenie anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

On another note, did you know we have another wine blog? We sometimes visit Maryland wineries. When we do, we write about them on our other blog, Maryland Wine Time. We recently visited Black Ankle Vineyards and wrote about it on the blog. Check it out!

Summer Sippers at Sunset

After our stop at Breaux Vineyards we headed over to Sunset Hills to continue our search for summer sippers. We hadn’t been to Sunset Hills for almost a year. Not only did we want to find some summer sippers but we also wanted to check out the full tasting menu.

We had no problem finding several summer sippers at Sunset Hills. We began with the 2011 Chardonnay. It was crisp and bright with hints of pear, apple, and a nice acidic finish. The 2011 Viognier is a lighter viognier this year. We noted a floral nose….orange blossom with a nice mouth feel and melon, apricot, and white flower notes. On the slightly sweeter side at 1.2% RS, the 2011 Sunset White would be perfect for a hot afternoon. We noted honey, tropical fruit, and a nice lingering mouth feel.

If Rose interests you, and it should, think about the 2011 Rose. We recently brought this one to Wolf Trap to enjoy during a concert. It’s 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. It was all about the cherry and raspberry. It paired very nicely with our picnic fair at Wolf Trap. We finished our tasting with two reds: the 2011 Merlot and the 2010 Sunset Red. The merlot presented notes of cherry, blackberry, and plum. It’s medium bodied and would make a great sipper come this fall. The 2010 Red was a bit bigger and may need some more time on the rack. We noted tobacco, raspberry, and pepper with moderate tannins.

Before leaving we purchased a few of our favorites and promised we’d return sooner than later. If you stop at Sunset Hills anytime soon, tell Meredith we said hello and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summer Sippers at Breaux Vineyards

I’m probably not the best Cellar Club member at Breaux Vineyards. I was two shipments behind. It was time to go to Breaux to pick up the last two shipments and check out the new wines. We were particularly looking for summer sippers as well. We went to Breaux on a Wednesday so the tasting room wasn’t busy at all. While we were tasting we got a chance to talk with Chris Blosser about the recent Fauqier County ordinance as well as how things were moving along in the vineyards. Things are looking good for harvest at Breaux. They have begun harvest and the grapes are looking great!

There were several new 2011 white wines that we hadn’t tasted on the Breaux tasting menu. They would all make great summer sippers. The 2011 Julie Blond is a crisp white with lemon and stone fruit notes. The 2011 Viognier presented peach, apricot, and a creamy finish. We thought it was crisper than the 2010. Nice for a food or as a sipper on its own. The 2011 rose is a blend of mostly nebbiolo, cabernet sauvignon, and chambourcin. We noted strawberry and cherry. We thought this would make a perfect Wolf Trap wine.

On the slightly sweeter side, the 2011 Jennifer’s Jambalaya presented honeysuckle and stone fruit. If you like just a hint of sweetness, this one is for you. Again, it would be perfect for a warm summer afternoon. The 2011 Chere Marie is just a bit sweeter with grapefruit and pineapple notes. And if you are looking for a yet sweeter wine, the 2010 Nebbiolo Ice would satisfy that sweet tooth without that syrup texture. We noted some very nice almond and vanilla notes.

Before leaving, we enjoyed a glass of the 2011 Viognier with a baguette. The 2011 Viognier quickly became our favorite wine tasted during that visit. We also picked up my club wines and bought a few extras for the wine rack! All of these wines would be perfect for the few weeks that are left of summer 2012. Be sure to stock up now because many of them sell out fast. And when you visit Breaux Vineyards, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Open Kitchen Hosts Naked Mountain Vineyards

On Monday, Open Kitchen, a unique dining venue located in Falls Church, held its weekly wine tasting session, and Naked Mountain Vineyards was the featured winery. Owner Hue-Chan invited us to the wine tasting; of course, we accepted her invitation. In the process, not only did we sample the wines from Naked Mountain Vineyards but we also found out more about the exciting Open Kitchen concept.

Open Kitchen hosts a wine tasting every Monday starting at 5:30 PM, and this particular tasting was held on the breezeway in front of the restaurant. The weekly tasting event is well into its second month with Naked Mountain Vineyards being the first Virginia winery to pour at Open Kitchen. Naked Mountain winemaker Seth Chambers presented four current releases at the well-attended tasting, and these included the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008, the Chardonnay/Riesling 2011, Scarlet Oak Red 2006, and the Cabernet Franc 2007. My preferences were the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008 with its apple, pear, and butterscotch notes and the smoky Scarlet Oak Red 2006. This blend of Mourvedre and Tannat grapes presented tobacco notes with cherry/raspberry fruit flavors with spicy elements to boot. However, on a hot day it would be hard to resist the Chardonnay/Riesling blend 2011 with its floral nose and pear flavors. Paul enjoyed the Cabernet Franc 2007 and noted aromas of tobacco, raspberry. He savored full berry and earthy flavors in the mouth.

Of course, we are no strangers to Virginia wines and certainly not to Naked Mountain Vineyards. However, we were pleased to meet other tasters who likewise had frequented Virginia wineries. The comments on Virginia wines were all similar—the quality has improved tremendously, and an influx of expert winemakers has brought about this change. We can add that expert winemaking has been the result of growing the right grape varieties in the right vineyard sites. As we chatted about Virginia wines with our table mates, Paul and I availed ourselves to the snack menu and ordered gourmet treats that included skewered chicken served atop freshly made chorizo and a cheese plate of smoked gouda, brie, blue cheese, and olives. Of course, we needed wine to pair with our meal, and our first choice was the Scarlet Oak Red 2006. However, a quick glimpse around the long row of tables revealed that the Scarlet Oak Red was the most popular wine of the event; alas, we were informed that the last bottle of Scarlet Oak Red had been sold. Our next choice? The Cabernet Franc 2007. (We were later told that we bought the last bottle of that one!)

In the midst of our nibbling and sipping, we were able to chat with owner Hue-Chan who opened the Open Kitchen in 2009. Open Kitchen is really more than just a restaurant, and according to the website, “It all started with cookies!” In 2007, Hue Chan wanted to pursue a career in cookie making but ran into a huge obstacle—she could not find an appropriate facility to bake and then sell her cookies. The myriad of laws and regulations that control the food industry turned a seemingly simple pursuit into a headache-inducing problem. Not willing to give up on her dream, Hue-Chan founded the Open Kitchen concept “to provide licensed kitchen facilities for rent on a cost-effective and flexible basis.” It offers a restaurant with a full dinner and wine menu, cooking classes with master chefs, entertainment events and services, and timeshare kitchens for chefs. Hue-Chan also embraces a “local” philosophy, and her kitchen makes full use of local produce; this also includes local wine. In addition to weekly wine tastings that will include other Virginia wineries, Open Kitchen will hold a Wellness at the Winery event at the Winery at la Grange that will include an open field yoga session, a wine tasting and wine country picnic. (This event will be held on September 9, 2012.)

As the sun began to fade, our tasting experience seemed to be at an end; however, winemaker Seth Chambers had a surprise for tasters, and this was a preview sample of the upcoming Birthday Suit, a white wine blend that was created by Chambers to celebrate the one year anniversary of the new owners buying the winery and vineyards. This special blend included Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling. I described it as a dry alternative to the Chardonnay/Riesling 2011; it was crisp with lovely pear and melon notes. The Birthday Suit is a limited-production wine, so buy upon release—it will sell out sooner rather than later!

We bid our adieus to Seth Chambers and Hue-Chan, and we know that we will return to Open Kitchen to enjoy the unique experiences there. Be sure to check out the website and reserve your space at Open Kitchen; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Blue Mountain Mist

On Sunday we were invited to join our friend Duwayne enjoy a bottle of the recently released 2011 Blue Mountain Mist from Fox Meadow Winery. Duwayne is an amateur Virginia wine collector. When he finds something new, he likes to enjoy it with others. We haven’t had the Blue Mountain Mist so we were interested in finding out more about it. Duwayne set out lots of cheeses, crackers, and finger sandwiches to enjoy with the wine. Thank you for inviting us, Duwayne!

After tasting the wine we shared our notes. We found pear and melon notes on the nose. The bottle doesn’t list what grapes are used but we think it might be a blend of chardonnay and vidal. In the mouth we noted pear, melon, and crisp apple on the end. It’s slightly sweet and would be perfect for a warm summer day. The wine paired very well with goat cheese stuffed peppers. We also think it would pair nicely with any spicy food.

Yet another summer sipper to enjoy! If you visit Fox Meadow Winery soon to pick up some Blue Mountain Mist, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Bloggers Meet at The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards

This past Sunday wine bloggers converged on the newest winery in Loudoun County, The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards. They included: Kurt and Carol, Frederick, Julie, Christian, Stacy, Kirsten, Anthony, and Hagan (not pictured), as well as significant others.

We all got to meet owners Andrew and Maryann Fialdini and Craig and Kim Garten and were given a tour of the facility. Also on tap was a wine tasting.

The winery and vineyards is located in Hamilton, and the tasting room itself is a restored barn that dates back to 1910. Additions to the barn/tasting room include a back deck and patio that overlooks a pond. Craig Garten conducted our tour and pointed out the various renovations to the barn; of particular interest was the cow stall that is now being converted to a cigar room. The deck and patio offer gorgeous views of majestic mountain landscapes that are just perfect with a glass of wine.

The tasting was given in a basement-level room, and seven wines were offered for tasting. All were from the 2011 vintage, and renowned winemaker Michael Shaps produced them. Grapes are currently sourced from the Charlottesville area, but the future plan is to produce wine from estate grown grapes. Both of the white wines were very nice; Paul favored the 2011 Chardonnay with its abundant apple and pear flavors, and I preferred the vibrant 2011 Viognier and its notes of stone fruit and melon. Crisp with a nice mouth feel, it was a classic Virginia Viognier. Of the red wines, we both enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc. It presented flavors of raspberry and cherry as well as earthy/spicy elements. Buy now to enjoy with grilled summer fare, burgers, or pizza! Merlot lovers might prefer the smokier 2011 Merlot that was aged in both French and American oak. Its dark cherry and plum characteristics and spicy finish should make for a match with steaks.

With our tasting completed, Kirsten Rarich Gunsolus of CellarBlog invited us to share a bottle of the 2011 Viognier with her, and this we did over a cheese plate and fresh bread. Andrew Fialdini also joined us for a chat, and we were able to glean from Andrew the future goals for Hamilton Station Vineyards. Of course, a continued focus on the vineyards is highest on the list with the intent to produce grapes from estate grown grapes. Of course, this will take time since vines typically need at least three years before their grapes are mature enough to produce quality wines. Another goal is to increase production to 3000-4000 cases per year; current production is less than 1000 cases. Finally, the owners want to create an atmosphere at the Barns that encourage friends to gather, relax, and savor the various sensory experiences offered by the wine, food, views and vistas. In fact, weddings have already been booked at the Barns.

Needless to say, we will return to The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards to check up on the latest developments. In the meantime, we encourage readers to visit for a tasting; remember to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you.