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.

On the Loudoun County Trail

Our focus for the next few posts will be Loudoun County wineries and will include the newest winery in the county, The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards. This post, though, will feature updates on two familiar wineries: 8 Chains North and Loudoun Valley Vineyards. Of course, our focus continues to be on wines that are appropriate for the summer.

8 Chains North: Ben Renshaw always presents a solid lineup of wines, and we were not disappointed with our tasting experience. We both favored the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its lemon notes and refreshing minerality. Its vibrant acidity allowed for a crisp finish. This Sauvignon Blanc was half fermented and aged in neutral French oak and the other half in stainless steel tanks. Perfect partner with a tomato-basil salad, crab cake, or herb-seasoned poultry. Dry Rose fans will enjoy the 2011 Pink Link made from Merlot grapes; our taste buds were treated to strawberry and melon flavors. I have a soft spot for dry Rose as I do think that they are under-appreciated; however, they are versatile and will pair with almost anything. The 2011 Pink Link is an example and should prove to be a willing partner with light fare, salads, and anything on the grill. The popular LoCo Vino was also available for tasting, and the 2010 vintage was very fruity; serve well chilled while relaxing on the deck especially on a warm day.

Loudoun Valley Vineyards: Big changes continue at Loudoun Valley Vineyards. Winemaker Bree Moore will be breaking ground on a new tasting room soon and will be planting new vines to replace the depleted, older vines on the property. The new tasting room should be ready by the spring of 2013. In the meantime, though, the current tasting room offers wines for all seasons including the summer. The Classic White is a blend of Seyval Blanc and Traminette, and it breathes floral, fruity notes. Elements of citrus and subtle spice were noted too. Nice on its own, enjoy with crab cakes or poultry. Spicy barbeque and hot afternoon may require cooler reds, and the fruity Route 9 Red should do the trick. The Route 9 Red was crafted from Chambourcin grapes and presented cherry and cranberry notes with an earthy edge. With a 1.5% residual sugar level, I’d recommend a quick chill before serving with barbeque-laced fare, chili, or anything else that includes peppers. I became a quick fan of the Vin de Pomme, an apple wine made from granny smith, honey crisp and gala apples. Serve with dessert or as dessert—tart and crisp yet refreshing, I bought a bottle to have as a dessert option or possible a pairing for Thanksgiving dinner.

Be sure to visit these wineries during these toasty days of summer especially if you plan to host a cook out, crab feast, or wine and cheese party. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you. Stay tuned for our next post that will feature our visit to the newly opened Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards.