We Add Reynard Florence to Visits List

Yes, we are getting to yet another milestone in our growing list of wineries visited. To date, we have visited 148 wineries, and we hope to reach 150 by the end of the year. During a recent visit to the Monticello area, we were able to add relative newbie Reynard Florence Vineyard the list.

Sue Haney was our tasting associate on the day of our visit, and she proved to be quite skillful in presenting the wines at Reynard Florence Vineyards. Sue also provided us with information about the vineyard and winery, because we always ask those pesky questions! Anyway, our tasting began with four white wines including two white blends that featured Petit Manseng. The first white offering was also my favorite, the crisp Reynard Blanc 2010. This is a blend of Riesling (33%), Traminette (33%), Petit Manseng (25%), and Viognier (89%) and presented a full floral nose and tropical fruit aromas; nice citrus flavors and a vibrant acidity made it an easy sipper. A residual sugar of 3% served to enhance the fruit characteristics of the wine without making it cloyingly sweet. The Reynard Blanc Monticello 2011 was likewise aromatic and fruity with a slightly more weight in the mouth. The blend includes Traminette (33.3%), Vidal Blanc (33.3%), and petit Manseng (33.3%) and spent some time in neutral oak; it likewise has a 3% residual sugar.

The next two white offerings were Petit Manseng from two different vintages— 2010 and 2011. Petit Manseng is the esoteric varietal that is catching on in Virginia in much the same way as Viognier did several years ago. Of the two, I preferred the 2010 vintage. It offered a rich palate of pear, lychee nut and straw; although the residual sugar clocked in at 6%, I thought that it had a leaner edge than the 2011 counterpart. Paul favored the 2011 version that shared the same characteristics as the older vintage but I noted a more viscous mouth feel. We’re paying more attention to Petit Manseng, and I must admit that I still educating my palate about the grape. However, it is beginning to emerge from its usual designation as a dessert wine as winemakers are experimenting with Petit Manseng as a possible rival to Viognier a leading grape in Virginia.

Of the red wines, the Cabernet Franc 2010 was described as a “Virginia classic”, and it indeed it was. Light bodied with flavors of raspberry and cherry, it also presented subtle earthy nuances with a peppery finish. The Reynard Rouge 2010, a blend of Merlot and Malbec with a “touch” of Viognier, presented more complexity with elements of blackberry, cherry, tobacco, and vanilla.

As we swirled and sipped at the tasting bar, Sue provided us with a brief background about the vineyard and winery. Owners Roe and Dee (Florence) Allison planted their vineyard, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in 2006 with a first harvest of grapes in 2009. By 2006, both earned certificates in viticulture, and they maintain that good winemaking begins in the vineyard. They are therefore dedicated to appropriate vineyard practices that include growing varietals that are appropriate to their site. They currently have less than one acre of property planted in vines, and these yield a production of 500 cases; however, the goal is to increase production to at least 1000 cases. Their flagship grape? Petit Manseng, of course. The Allisons also grow Grenache, a grape that is widely planted in France’s Languedoc region. Michael Schaps is the winemaker.

With our tasting done, we purchased our favorite Reynard Florence wines, and we know that will return to Reynard Florence Vineyard to taste their latest releases. Plan a visit to Reynard Florence Vineyard and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Gray Ghost Harvest

On Sunday we went to Gray Ghost to help harvest the chardonnay grapes. We do this every year and always have a good time. Here are some pictures from the day.

We all gathered very early in the morning.

Al Kellert told us all about the process.

Amy showed us what this year’s T-shirt looked like.

These are the grapes we were harvesting.

Here’s Warren harvesting the grapes.

During a break, Amy reminded us of a few things to remember when harvesting.

Al estimated we brought in more than 10 tons of grapes.

The grapes were put through the de-stemmer.

Then they were fed into the bladder press.

Here’s Al working the bladder press.

When we were all done we had a congratulatory toast.

And this is why we work so hard to harvest the grapes.

Two More Visits in Loudoun County

To round out our trip to Loudoun County wineries, we stopped at Willowcroft and Casanel. As we have been noting lately, we hadn’t visited either winery in quite a long time and it was time to find out what was new and what would tease our palates.

Almost all the wines were new at Willowcroft. While we enjoyed them all, there were a few stand outs for us. We were surprised to see an Albarino on the tasting menu since so few wineries in Virginia produce an Albarino wine. This one quickly became our favorite white on the tasting menu. This Albarino is dry and stainless steel aged. We noted citrus flavors of lemon and lime with a crisp mineral finish. We enjoyed a glass of this one after our tasting.

Of the reds, we found two that were leaving a spark on our palates. The 2007 Merlot has really grown into its own. Its medium bodied with flavors of plum and berries. It has a smooth finish and would go well with red meat. Before leaving I secured a bottle for my wine rack. While its ready to drink now, it can hang out on the rack for another year or so.

Another red that got our attention was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This one is a bit bigger with medium tannins. We noted lots of flavors; smoke, tobacco, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and licorice. It has a smokey finish that would also pair well with red meats.

During our tasting we had a chance to talk with Kelly, one of our favorite tasting associates at Willowcroft, about the 2012 season and the current wines on the tasting menu. We always enjoy talking wine with the tasting associates.

As with Willowcroft, Casanel‘s tasting menu included wines that were almost all new to us. We were lucky to have Katie DeSouza (the daughter of owners Casey and Nelson DeSouza) as our tasting associate. She filled us in on all the happenings at Casanel. At the time of our visit there were just about ready to open the new bathrooms in the new winery building. At this point, they are probably open for business. Having the new bathrooms open will save you from having to go down the spiral staircase. That never bothered us though. It is part of the charm of Casanel.

During our tasting with Katie we made note of our favorite wines. The 2009 Chardonnay Mas Que Nada is aged in neutral French oak barrels for eight months. This imparts a smooth lightly buttery ending. We noted an aromatic nose, with notes of melon and herbs on the palate. We thought this chard would pair well with fish and chicken dishes.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Batucada was notable for the earthy nose and hints of blackberry, plum, and tobacco. We noted the smooth ending and the light to medium tannins. We can see why this one has won several awards. While this one would pair nicely with red meat, we also think enjoying a glass by itself would be appropriate.

We would also like to note the 2010 Don Lorenzo White. This is Casanel’s first estate wine and quickly is racking up the awards. It is a blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It is slightly sweet and has notes of apple, pear, peach, and honeysuckle. We think this one would pair nicely with slightly spicy foods.

After our chat and tasting with Katie, we enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 Don Lorenzo White with a pizza prepared by Chef Miriam, who often shows up on weekend to provide the perfect food to pair with Casanel wines. We also enjoyed the live music on the patio…along with many others!

We always enjoy revisiting wineries in Loudoun County. Our trips become both educational and tasty! If you haven’t been to Willowcroft or Casanel lately, you need to plan a trip soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Wines at Zephaniah

We last tasted some wines from Zephaniah Farm Vineyard during TasteCamp back in May. We learned then they would be releasing new wines early in the summer. Since we hadn’t actually visited the winery in such a long time, we decided to put them on our list during our recent visit to wineries in Loudoun County.

We enjoy entering tasting rooms like Zephaniah because we get recognized. They always remember us at Zephaniah when we walk in. They are also very knowledgable of their own wines as well as wine in general. We were pleased to see we hadn’t missed tasting the white wines when we looked at the tasting menu. Here are the wines we tasted and our tasting notes.

2011 Viognier – This beautifully crisp viognier is aged for seven months in neutral oak barrels and presents notes of peach, subtle citrus, lime and a nice mineral ending. This is one of the best representations of viognier in our state we’ve ever had.

2011 Rose – This rose is a blend of cabernet franc and chambourcin and is aged for six months in French oak. We noted cherry, strawberry cream, and a crisp ending. I also noted watermelon but Warren didn’t note watermelon from his taste. This rose would be perfect for an outdoor concert with picnic foods on the lawn.

2010 Adeline – This off-dry dessert wine presented orange peel on the nose and notes of almond and hazelnut on the palate.

2009 Cabernet Franc – This cabernet franc is aged in neutral French oak barrels for 16 months and is a Governor’s Cup 2012 silver medal winner. We noted smoke, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and tobacco. This one quickly became my favorite red of the tasting.

2010 Chambourcin – This chambourcin was aged in Hungarian and neutral French oak barrels for 12 months. I usually don’t care for chambourcin but I did enjoy this one. It was smooth and fruity. We noted smoke, plum, currents, blackberry, spice and a hint of earth floor.

2010 Chambourcin Reserve – This one became Warren’s favorite red. He noted smoke/tobacco, dark fruit; plum, blueberry, raspberry, and moderate tannins. This is the food worthy chambourcin.

We always enjoy our time at Zephaniah. We chat about wine, education, and technology. And we get to taste some great wines. We learned the 2012 season was a good one for Zephaniah. In fact, on the day we visited, they had just finished harvesting viognier. We also learned they will be releasing two new reds this fall; Steamship Red and Mill Road Red. We will have to plan another trip soon to taste those! Before leaving I purchased a few bottles to enjoy at a later date. If you haven’t been to Zephaniah recently, you are due for a return trip. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!