We Add To The List

Family obligations and a long weekend found us back in the Monticello area. Yes, we were just there; however, there are always too many wineries to visit there in one weekend. Of course, we found time to visit a few more while we were there. Visits to Byrd Cellars and Thistle Gate Vineyard allowed us to add to the list of wineries visited!

Byrd Cellars: Owner and winemaker Bruce Murray opened the winery two years ago, but he planted his first vines almost 10 years ago. Eleven acres of vine are planted on the Murray’s property. He prides himself on using no chemical pesticides or fertilizers in the vineyard. Over fifteen wines were for sale on the day of our visits, and we tasted 5 wines on the day of our visit. Off-dry Rose lovers would probably like the 2010 Vin Rose made from Merlot grapes. Its light pink color and strawberry notes made for a refreshing sipper with the 1% residual sugar adding just enough sweetness to bring the bright red berry and melon flavors forward. My favorite was the non-vintage Norton with its raspberry and blackberry characteristics and spicy edge. Paul was on the lookout for a light-bodied red suitable for pepperoni pizza and burgers. He found his match with Dahlgren’s Raid Red, so named after a Civil War incident in Goochland when a Union soldier plied a Confederate prisoner with just enough wine to get him talking about Confederate plans. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin and Concord grapes, this very fruity wine was also slightly sweet. An interesting blend for sure, and Concord does lend a very distinctive grapey flavor. I’d serve this chilled, too.

Thistle Gate Vineyard: The tasting room at Thistle Gate Vineyard opened about a month ago, but owners Leslie and George Cushnie planted their vines 6 years ago. Chambourcin is the flagship variety with 4 acres of the hybrid grape planted in the vineyard. Another acre of vines were also planted and include Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Daughter Christy poured for us at the tasting bar, and I was very impressed with the line up of wines. These wines were well-crafted and clean, perhaps due in part to the expertise of consultant Kirsty Harmon of Blenheim Vineyards. The off-dry Thistle White was a refreshing blend of Seyval Blanc and Viognier; it was crisp with nice pear and citrus notes. However, my favorite white wine was the oak aged Chardonnay 2010 with its pear and apple elements and fuller mouth feel. Paul preferred the 2011 Chardonnay (this was my second favorite). Oak aged for nine months, it possessed pear and pineapple notes. My favorite red wine? The St. George Chambourcin so named after the local church. Rich plum aromas and a generous dose of black currants were complimented by earthy nuances to present a bolder wine. Paul was a bigger fan of the 2010 Cabernet Franc with its classic characteristics of raspberries, blackberries, and black pepper.

We made certain to purchase our favorite wines at Byrd Cellars and Thistle Gate Vineyard, and we were glad to add these wineries to our growing list of wineries visited. I should also mention that both wineries offered lovely views that invite visitors to stay a while sipping a glass of wine. Do plan to visit these wineries, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Virginia Wine at Whole Foods

October is Virginia Wine Month and Whole Foods is celebrating with special wine tastings at all of the Virginia locations. We attended the Tysons store on Friday to check out the wines and the foods they paired with five Virginia wines. Whole Foods Fab Five Friday events showcase five wines with foods that go well with the wines. They have five stations set up around the store and move from station to station enjoying the foods and the wines. It’s a great way to get to taste wines you might not normally get to taste. Here’s what we tasted and the foods paired with each wine. Check out the poster at the end of the post to see when the Whole Foods near you will be holding their event.

The first course was a tomato bisque paired with the the Chatham Unoaked Chardonnay. I really enjoyed this chardonnay and left the store with a chilled bottle to enjoy later in the evening.

The second course was a Quinoa broccoli casserole paired with the Lovingston Rotunda Red.

The third course was classic chicken pot pie paired with the Gadino Cabernet Franc. Earthy, spicy, and blackberry were the notes we jotted down.

The fourth course was roasted fall vegetables with sage and thyme paired with the Tarara Viognier. It was light and fruity with a nice crisp edge.

The fifth and final course was a strawberries and cream cake paired with the Sans Soucy Ginger Dessert wine.

Monticello Sweep Part 2

We began Virginia Wine Month with posts about the upcoming Bluegrass Festival at Chrysalis Vineyards and our decision to kick off the special month a day early by enjoying a picnic with the crisp 2011 Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards. However, before we go further into the month, I do want to conclude our recap of visits to wineries in the Monticello area. So pretend that it’s still Labor Day weekend and read on!

Barboursville Vineyards: I always look forward to a tasting here, and no, the assembly line tasting process does not bother me at all. The wines here are consistently well made, and we always leave with a bottle (or two or three) of something. Favorites here: of the white wines, Paul liked the stainless steel Chardonnay, and I preferred the oaked Chardonnay Reserve. No surprises here, right? We did, however, concur on the Rose 2011 with its refreshing crispness and strawberry flavors. We recently enjoyed this one at Open Kitchen, too. Red wine faves included the Sangiovese Reserve 2010 for Paul, but for me it was the Cabernet Fran Reserve 2010 with its big raspberry, plum and cedar elements. Of course, the Octagon is always in a special category, and the 2008 vintage is noteworthy for its complexity and aging potential. Sharing a space in the special category is the Malvaxia Reserve 2007 with its rich palate of pineapple, apricot and honey.

Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Benard is a master winemaker, and a tasting here is another always on the “must do” list when we visit the area. Paul was a fan of the dry 2011 Rose with its vibrant acidity and red berry flavors. I liked this one too, but I am always a sucker for Old World-style Chardonnays. The 2011 Chardonnay was my winner. Fermented in both stainless steel tanks and new French oak barrels, I noted flavors of pear, pineapple and butterscotch with a honeyed mouth feel. Of the red wines, we both agreed on the 2010 Merlot. Paul the Merlot fan gravitated toward the complexity of this one; oak notes complimented rather than dominated the nose and palate. Dark cherry and raspberry flavors melded with a chocolate kiss; tannins were still a bit gripping but not unpleasantly so. Buy now and either decant or age. We bought bottles of each favorite.

Kilaurwen Winery: A first visit for us. We were able to taste the fruity Fiesta White, a mix of Rkatsetelli (96%) and Viognier (4%). A fun summer wine, we noted flavors of peach and citrus. At 2 ½% residual sugar, it was bright a fruity. Paul enjoyed the 2010 Cabernet Franc with its elements of blackberry, dark cherry, black olive, and pepper. I was more intrigued with the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve that was aged in American oak barrels for 8 months. Earthier elements prevailed here with notes of anise and violet. Owner Bob Steeves conducted our tasting, and we found out that the name of the winery is actually a blend of his daughter’s names, Kimberlee, Laura and Wendy. Steeves has maintained the vineyard since he purchased it in 1994; his first vintage, though, was bottled in 2009. His flagship varietal, Riesling, was sold out and therefore not available for tasting; however, we did learn that his Cabernet Francs have earned numerous medals and even beat a California Cabernet Franc in a blind tasting!

Stinson Vineyards: This was our third visit to Stinson Vineyards, and we both enjoyed the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in a concrete egg (that looks like an atomic bomb), it presented aromas of grapefruit and cut grass. Our red wine faves included the complex 2010 Meritage with its smoky nose and aromas o blackberry and raspberry; dark fruit flavors gave way to a peppery finish. If cheesecake is on the dessert menu, try pairing it with the 2010 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng seems to have a characteristic unctuous mouth feel, so at 9% residual sugar this offers a fuller mouth feel in spades. Notes of orange peel and sesame makes added to the profile, and this dessert wine presents a nice way to end a dinner party.

We always enjoy a trip to wineries in the Monticello area. Visit these wineries during Virginia Wine Month to select your own favorites. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Virginia Wine Month

October is Virginia Wine Month! There are lots of events happening this month to celebrate Virginia Wine Month. Whole Foods will even be having special tastings of select Virginia Wines. We’ll be busy enjoying lots of Virginia wines this month. We got started a little early. On Sunday we enjoyed the 2011 Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards. We enjoyed it with a picnic lunch at the Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral.

Our celebrating will continue this weekend when we head to Charlottesville to visit some of our favorite wineries. Stay tuned for more coverage of Virginia Wine Month! And if you visit any wineries, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!