Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Month: February 2013

King Family

On our recent trip to Charlottesville we stopped at another one of our favorite wineries, King Family Vineyards. We have been familiar with Matthieu Finot’s wines for a few years now and absolutely love them. Whenever we visit, we enjoy all the wines on the tasting menu.
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We are not the only ones who enjoy Matthieu’s wines. When we entered the tasting room it was packed with tasters. Every spot at the multiple tasting bars was filled. We waited our turn and then found a spot at one of the tasting bars.

It was very difficult to find a favorite white wine. Warren enjoyed the 2012 Roseland with fuller feel, pear notes and partial malolactic fermentation. I enjoyed the 2011 Viognier. It was crisp and clean, with a wonderful floral nose and notes of melon and peach. We also both enjoyed the 2012 Crose which was full of strawberry, melon, and citrus notes. Of course we thought of concerts on the lawn at Wolf Trap while tasting this one.
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Once again it was tough to pick a favorite red. We enjoyed both the 2011 Cabernet Franc and the 2011 Merlot. We were lucky enough to get a taste of the 2010 Petit Verdot. This one became our favorite. We really enjoyed the black cherry, plum, berry notes and picked up on some tobacco. This is a big red that could easily age on your wine rack.
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After our tasting we enjoyed some cheese and baguette with a glass of the 2011 Viognier. We then purchased some of our favorites before leaving. If you haven’t been to King Family lately, it’s probably time to plan a trip. And when you do visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Pollak Vineyards

On our recent three day weekend trip to Charlottesville we stopped at one of our favorites, Pollak Vineyards. We were there last September but always enjoy our time at Pollak so we stopped by again. Plus, it’s always good opportunity to pick up some much needed white wines. For some reason, my white wine rack always needs some restocking.
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We always get a warm family feeling when we enter the tasting room and see so many familiar faces. Selecting our favorites from the tasting menu is always difficult because we enjoy all the Pollak wines. This time around though we were able to pick a few. Of the whites we really enjoyed the 2011 Viognier. Warren really enjoyed this one last time but I thought it had changed somewhat in the bottle and I really enjoyed it this time as well. We both noted the peach, apricot, and honeysuckle notes. Even though this was my favorite white of the day, I did end up leaving with a half case of the white wines. You can never have too many choices when looking for a white wine to serve.
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Not surprisingly, some 2012 wines are beginning to appear and Pollak just recently released their 2012 Rose. While we aren’t necessarily looking for Rose at this time of the year, we certainly thought about summer concerts while sipping this Rose. We noted strawberry and spice with a smooth mouth feel. It was created with Cabernet Franc. Nice job, Benoit!

As you may be aware, Pollak won a gold medal in the Governor’s Cup for their 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve. We were interested to taste the 2010 Cabernet Franc to see how it was developing. We really enjoyed this one back in September. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was again our favorite red. The blackberry, raspberry, and dark chocolate notes danced around on our palates with delight. This one may be our favorite for some time to come.
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Even though the 2010 Petit Verdot isn’t normally on the tasting menu, they had a bottle open and offered us a taste. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We noted plum, blackberry, and dust. It’s a bit hot and a bit tannic right now but in time this is going to be a perfect wine. As we often do, we thought of food while tasting this one.

With our tasting complete, our conversations ended, we enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Cabernet Franc with a baguette while enjoying the fire in the tasting room. Before leaving we purchased more than half a case of wine to add to our wine racks. If you haven’t been to Pollak Vineyards recently, it’s time to plan a trip soon. And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

2013 Governor’s Cup Winner

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Photo provided by the Virginia Wine Marketing Office.

We thought we’d jump on the bandwagon and announce the 2013 Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup was awarded to Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon 12th Edition. It was selected from the 12 top scoring wines from the competition. The 2009 Octagon will be included in the Governor’s Cup Case. The others that will be included are:

Cooper Vineyards – 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery – 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery – 2010 Cleve
Pollak Vineyards – 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars – 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards – 2010 Rendevous
RdV Vineyards – 2010 Lost Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery – 2008 Sparkling Rose

Congratulations to Luca Pachina, Barboursville, and all the other award winners!

New Owners, New Vision at First Colony

Our trek through the wine trails in the Charlottesville area brought us to First Colony Winery. A sign that declared, “new owners” intrigued us, and we knew that we had to get the scoop.
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No sooner had we approached the tasting bar, new owners Heather and Bruce Spiess extended their greetings to us. They were also gracious enough to answer all of our questions, too. Heather and Bruce and Jeff Miller had just recently purchased the winery and vineyard; although they live in the Richmond area, they felt a need to rescue First Colony, a winery that had a special connection to them. Their son, Austin, works at First Colony as a vineyard manager, and according to Heather, his hands had “touched every vine on the property.” This personal connection inspired them to purchase the property and to create a new vision for future success.

The first phase of this new vision is to focus on the wines and to improve their quality. Jason Hayman will remain at the helm as winemaker but in a new production facility that will offer an improved environment for winemaking. A special thatched roof will cover the facility to create a unique element. New barrels are already on order, and the vineyards will include new plantings that take advantage of First Colony’s own micro-climate. Bruce even envisions an experimental lot that will allow the winemaker to consider Italian varietals.
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The next phase will then be the construction of a new tasting room, and this will begin once the production facility is completed. Heather and Bruce foresee a tasting room that will be a bit more expansive yet welcoming to customers. Design features will allow tasters to take advantage of First Colony’s scenic view; in fact, Paul took a quick tour of the outdoor trail to snap picture of birds as they fluttered by his camera lens. Fans of the First Colony name, though may have to make an adjustment as a name change may also be in the future.

Owning and operating a winery is tough work, and Heather and Bruce, a physician, still maintain jobs in Richmond. However, we did not doubt their commitment to this new venture; their enthusiasm was almost contagious, and we felt excited for them. Indeed, they already have wines to help them move forward. Our own favorites were the upcoming 2011 Estate Reserve Chardonnay that was lighter on the oak and more generous with fruit notes such as coconut, citrus and melon. The 1670 Port made from the Touriga grape and fortified with brandy should prove to be an elegant way to end a dinner party, and maybe partner with a dense chocolate dessert.
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We will keep abreast of developments at First Colony Winery; in the meantime, be certain to stop by and meet the new owners of First Colony Winery. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Taking “Flight” at Early Mountain

Winter weekends are perfect for visiting local wineries. These are quieter times to visit wineries as opposed to summer or fall, and we had that in mind when we planned a President’s Day Weekend to the Charlottesville area. Our first stop was to Early Mountain Vineyards, and we each enjoyed a “flight” while we were there!
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So what’s up with all of this flight business? Readers may recall that we attended the opening of Early Mountain Vineyards last year, and we did report on the Early Mountain’s concept as envisioned by Jean and Steve Case. A short summary of that vision here—Early Mountain Vineyards celebrates the “best of Virginia” and therefore presents for tasting and purchase the quality wines produced by themselves and other participating Virginia wineries. Therefore, a tasting at Early Mountain Vineyards occurs in flights: 1) Early Mountain Ascent, 2) Bright Lights & Bubbles, 3) Red White & You!, and 4) Red Berry Pickings. These should be self-explanatory; however, I will provide a quick description of each: Flight 1: all Early Mountain wines both red and white, #2: bubbly!, #3: a mix of red and white wines from several vineyards, and #4: all red wines from various vineyards.

Decisions, decision! However, we each selected our own flight with Paul opting for the Early Mountain Ascent. My own choice was the Red, White & You!. Our tastings were seated, and we planted ourselves at a table facing the majestic mountain views; it was a very cold day, so the crackling fireplace created the right setting (and the right temperature) to enjoy our flights.
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Paul’s Early Mountain Ascent featured the 2011 Pinot Gris, 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Handshake Red (a blend), and the 2008 Merlot. He favored the Chardonnay that was blended with a bit of Viognier to present a complex wine with pear and citrus elements and a subtle tropical fruit note. Of the reds, Paul preferred the Handshake Red with its dark fruit flavors and earthy notes. It was a bit tight, though, so some swirling may be needed to coax the aromas to move forward.
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I had a hard time selecting my faves from the Red, White & You flight. This flight included the Ox-Eye 2011 Riesling, Chatham Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, Well Hung Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Franc, and Early Mountain Vineyards 2011 Handshake. I kept grabbing the glass of Chardonnay from Chatham Vineyards, and that normally indicates a winner. However, The Ox-Eye Riesling intrigued me since Riesling in Virginia tends to be subpar. However, elegant aromatics and softer notes of stone fruit that begged for a second (or third) sip drive this particular Riesling. Of the reds, I appreciated the Handshake Red but finished my sample of the 2010 Cabernet Franc from Well Hung Vineyard with its aromas of violet and seed berries. Bright Cherry and raspberry flavors ended with a peppery finish to make for a wine that could be enjoyed on its own or with food.

Patrick was our tasting associate; of course, we tend to ask lots of questions, and Patrick answered all of them. We did know that winemaker Franz Ventre has left Early Mountain Vineyards, and assistant winemaker Steve Monson currently overseas the winemaking. Future plans also include new plantings in the vineyard, and the Best of Virginia concept will continue to be the guiding philosophy.
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I was awed by the spacious yet tasteful facility with its warm earth tones and regretted finishing my last sip of wine. We snacked on a warm, homemade pretzel with a glass of the 2011 Petit Manseng and appreciated the winter’s landscape while wondering which colors spring would add to the pallet. We are certain that we will return to Early Mountain Vineyards soon. Be sure to schedule your own “flight” soon, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Round Up Time

Too many wineries and not enough time to write about all of our experiences—this seems to be the ongoing dilemma for us. I will use this post to play catch up on wineries that we have recently visited:

Delaplane Cellars: We always look forward to a tasting here if only to enjoy the gorgeous view from the windows; of course the wines are pretty good too. The 2009 Melange Rouge remains my favorite on the tasting menu; readers may recall that I enjoyed this Bordeaux-style blend the last time we tasted at Delaplane Cellars. Paul enjoyed the smoky 2009 Tannat with its notes of plum and dried herbs. The 2011 Cabernet Franc was the lightest-bodied red and yet the most versatile red wine on the menu. The bright fruit flavors and peppery elements make for a wine that can be served on its own, with fish or pork, or with Thanksgiving fare that features herbed turkey and cranberry sauce. White wines, you ask? Paul was a big fan of the 2011 Maggie’s Viognier with its floral notes and orange blossom notes. Looking for a reason to join Delaplane’s wine club? The cellar-worthy 2010 Syrah might provide convincing evidence. A smoky nose leads to dark plum and tobacco aromas with similar dark fruit flavors and spicy elements in the mouth. I detected a hint of caramel at the end too.
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Linden Vineyards: Too easy to say all of the above, but that would be the answer. We always sign up for the cellar tasting, too, and that complicates our decision to pick a favorite wine. From the regular tasting menu, we were fans of creamy 2010 Chardonnay and the jammy 2010 Petit Verdot. The cellar tasting usually brings out the split decisions. We both agreed that the fuller-bodied 2009 Boisseau Chardonnay was ready for prime time. Rich pear and vanilla aromas were matched by ripe pear and honey flavors. However, I own two bottles of the 2009 Avenius Chardonnay, and I was well pleased with its progression in the bottle. Drink now? Enjoy the Boisseau. Enjoy later? Be patient with the Avenius.

On to the red wines, and these included the 2009 Boisseau Red and the 2009 Hardscrabble Red. Ripe berry fruit and violet notes characterized the Merlot-driven Boisseau, and it was Paul’s immediate favorite. However, I preferred the complexity of the 2009 Hardscrabble Red. Cabernet Sauvignon (64%) dominates the blend, and Merlot (19%), Petit Verdot (10%), and Cabernet Franc (7%) serve as sidekicks. Still tight on the nose, swirling brought forward the dark berry and earthy elements. I made certain to purchase a bottle of this special wine before the left the winery! The cellar tasting always closes with a comparison of dessert wines, and the 2005 and 2008 Late Harvest Vidal were presented for our enjoyment. Paul preferred the fresh 2008 Late Harvest Vidal with its bright floral aromas and vibrant tropical fruit and ginger spice components. I appreciated the older 2005 with its more honeyed texture and dried apricot and citrus flavors.
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Three Fox Vineyards: The 2011 Gatto Bianco was an easy favorite. This white wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, and the 2% residual sugar brings forward the tropical fruit elements. The Leggero Chardonnay is also noteworthy for its pear and pineapple characteristics and crisp finish. We were also fast fans of the 2009 Piemontese Nebbiolo with its aromas of clover and tobacco. Swirling coaxed raspberry, blackberry and pepper notes to move forward. Port fans may also like the Rosso Dolce Chambourcin and its elements of dark cherry and black plum; a mocha splash at the end begged for chocolate; Paul suggested a tobacco treat, but I’ll let readers decide on that one. A dark chocolate brownie for me, and a cigar for Paul!
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We made certain to purchase our favorite wines at each of these wineries. Readers may have already concluded that Virginia wineries offer a diverse selection of quality wines, and the only right choices are the ones that best please the palate. Therefore, get out on the wine trails and discover which Virginia wines best suit your own palate! Start with a visit to these wineries, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine and Lasagna

Every winter we enjoy visiting Naked Mountain Vineyards to take advantage of their lasagna and wine weekends. Even though we just visited in November and much of the tasting menu was exactly the same, we decided to head out to Naked Mountain this past weekend to enjoy some wine and lasagna.
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Upon entering the winery we notice Seth Chambers would be conducting our tasting. We chatted with him about what was going on at Naked Mountain while enjoying the wines on the menu. One of our favorites turned out to be the 2011 Chardonnay with its pear and apple notes and creamy texture. Another favorite we found on the list was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. We noted lots of raspberry, some smoke on the nose, autumn spice, and a tart ending.
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After our tasting, our lasagna was ready. We decided on the non vintage Raptor Red to accompany our lasagna. The Raptor Red is a blend of grapes from 2007 and 2008. We noted some bright fruit, decent tannins, and a long finish. It went very well with our lasagna. While we enjoyed the lasagna we had a great view of the vineyards on a snowy day. It made for a beautiful scene.
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While chatting with Seth earlier we found out that Naked Mountain is coming out with a new line of wines later this spring. The line will be called Drink Naked and will begin with two white wines. Seth let us have a sneak peek of the new wines. The first is the 2012 Skinny Dipper which is made from mostly Vidal and blended with some chardonnay. It has 3% RS. It was fruity and crisp with nice acidity. We thought it would be perfect for a warm summer day. The other Drink Naked wine is the 2012 Birthday Suit. It is mostly chardonnay with some seyval and a splash of riesling. Its dry and would also be a nice sipper for summer time.
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Seth also informed us Naked Mountain will be expanding their vineyards soon. With the success of Virginia wines, fewer growers are selling their grapes so Naked Mountain wants to expand their vineyards to be able to make more estate wines. It’s always nice to catch up with Seth to find out what’s happening at Naked Mountain. And of course enjoying their delicious lasagna is a plus! Be sure to get out to Naked Mountain this winter to enjoy their wine and lasagna weekend. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Congratulations Tarara!

Tarara Vineyards just received news that three of the winery’s red wines earned 90 points in Wine Enthusiast magazine. These wines include the Cabernet Franc 2010, Tranquility Red 2010, and the CasaNova 2010. We recently visited the Tarara tasting room and can attest to the quality wines produced by winemaker Jordan Harris. We’ve become big fans of the nova series of wines, too.
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Jordan Harris was kind enough to answer our questions about the 2012 harvest and to reveal his expectations for the 2012 vintage. We hope that this will be the first in a series of several articles about the 2012 harvest, and we have been polling winemakers from various regions of the state about the 2012 season. Tarara Winery is located in the Northern region in Loudoun County. A huge THANK YOU to Jordan Harris for answering our questions!

How would you describe the 2012 growing season for:

White Grapes?

Overall I think that n most of the white varieties will really shine in 2012. I am finding the acidities are really crisp but are balanced with some of the best flavor development I have seen here including 2010 and 2007. They are wines that show a true sense of terroir by having very ripe characters but structures that still allow for minerality and freshness to shine. We only processed Chardonnay, Viognier and Rkatsiteli for whites in 2012. The Chardonnay is leaner but with an abundance of character. I think they will be expressive out of the gate but will also be some of our most age worthy expressions I have made so far in Virginia. Viognier was a welcome return to having riper stone fruit, floral and exotic characters with a full creamy mouthfeel after 2011. While they have the tell-tale aromatics and fruit characters and creamy mouthfeel I think they also have the best acidity I have tasted for balance in quite some time. Rkats was a first for us so it is hard for me to have any comparative statements. We processed Rkats in three wildly different ways and got three wildly different wines. We did some as simple cool fermented stainless only wines, some we fermented on the skins to make an Orange wine with 30 days on the skins and some we did barrel fermented and aged with full Malo. I love all three, but learned I still have no idea what Rkats should be.

Red Grapes?

The reds were far more selective, but by no means any less successful. We had an extremely long growing season starting almost a month early. That meant the hang time was superb for us in pretty much every block we harvested resulting in more supple tannins, great flavor development and good color. There were a couple scattered rain events that did not effect our Nevaeh Vineyard as much as many other sites just due to the weather patterns around our site. Tranquility needed the most time given the rain that hit randomly at harvest and we always like to wait 7-10 days after a rain event before harvesting (not always possible, but it is a goal). Overall I find that the wines have a more claret like leanness, but more new world style fruit characters. They have the tannins of 2007, the acid of 2008 or 2009, and the flavor development of 2010. There are a couple blocks that weren’t as exciting, but overall I think it was a great vintage for both reds and whites given the length of it assuming you had good vineyard management and reasonable yields.
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What factors contributed to the success/failure of the 2012 harvest?

The biggest helper was the early bud break and the fact that we did not get any severe frost damage. There were some blocks that had small amounts of frost that resulted not in shoot death, but simply a naturally lower yield which in my opinion was good. It meant for more balances and concentrated fruit in the end without the possibility of greed after the tough 2011 vintage. It was also a fairly moderate to cool year for most of the vintage except of the end of July and start of August when we hit 100 degrees for several days. The rain in most of our blocks nearing the end of the vintage I found refreshed the vines, but did not cause much of an issue with dilution if you were patient enough and your vineyard was healthy in the first place. It resulted in the ability to hang the fruit longer without having overly excessive sugars and better acidity then most years.

How does the 2012 harvest compare to previous harvests?

A somewhat stated above, 2012 is a year that will be held on its own. The long, moderate season allowed for the flavor development of 2010, tannin (both skins and seeds) of 2007, but the acidity and weight of 2008 or 2009. It is a true winemakers vintage in that I think the types of wines that are being tasted are those that we enjoy with complexity, structures and not wines that will overtake a meal. They are supple and almost lean but in a very good way.

What will the hallmarks of the 2012 wines?

This is the area that never really changes much for me here. Chardonnay and Viognier shined for the whites. Merlot and Syrah shined for the reds, although I am more partial to the Cabernet Franc we harvested from Nevaeh this year. I can only compare it to 2007 for quality in my mind for Cab Franc. I found with the midseason ripeners (Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah) and a little patience we were able to get some pretty incredible grapes that in my opinion will rival any vintage I have seen here.

The Inexhaustible Lori Corcoran

Lori Corcoran and her husband Jim seem to have an endless supply of energy, and they are always embarking on some new adventure or innovation in the beverage industry. In addition to their winery, the Corcorans also operate a brewery and now plan to open a tavern, the Leesburg Brewing Company! Lori is the winemaker; however, she can usually be found at the tasting bar serving customers and sometimes at the taproom. She also assists other vineyard managers and wine makers in Loudoun County and is now a hands-on planner in refurbishing the tavern that will open soon in Leesburg.
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Our primary objective in meeting Lori on a windy Sunday afternoon was to sample her latest wine releases since we had done a tasting at the winery in over a year. Of course, Lori was already behind the tasting bar when we arrived, and she bid us a very warm welcome. We were treated to a full complement of wines on the menu with at least six of them from the 2011 vintage. I became a fast fan of the 2011 Apple wine; in fact, I find myself liking these more and more each time I taste them. I think that I tend to forget that Virginia does apples as well as it does grapes! Anyway, this one was made from100% Virginia and was very crisp with a nice acidity. Versatile too—pour with Virginia ham, a summer picnic, or on its own on a it day. I also enjoyed the light-bodied 2011 Cabernet Franc with its bright strawberry notes and classic pepper nuances. Several of the 2011 Francs in Virginia do seem to be of this style due to the wetter-than-normal season, but they should not be dismissed. Compare them to a Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of France, and you might be surprised. These lighter, brighter style Cabernet Francs are very fruity and accessible making them quite versatile with food pairings. However, Paul and I both concurred that the 2010 Petit Verdot was the winner on the menu. Plummy aromas and flavors merged with spicy notes to reveal a fuller-bodied wine. Its tannic presence suggested a need for food, and I’d suggest a leg of lamb.
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Lori also treated us to a sampling of her dessert wines. Paul tends to shy away from these wines, but he did linger quite a while on the 2008 Cello with its lemony nose and herbal notes. It is made from 100% Petit Manseng that perhaps accounts for its fuller feel in the mouth. Flavor is not lacking with this one. My own favorite was the 2011 USB, a port style wine made from Chambourcin grapes. When seated beside a fireplace with a chocolate dessert (or a cigar), the USB should a perfect partner.

As we sipped and savored, Lori clued us in on future releases and plans for the Corcoran operation. Readers who were fans of Lori’s excellent Chardonnays will be glad to know that Chardonnay will return to Corcoran Vineyards! Look for Pinot Noir, too! These grapes were grown on the Swedenburg estate, and the Lori promises that this will be an excellent Pinot. We also learned that Lori plans to open a tavern in Loudoun County; in fact, the facility already exists and will be refurbished (and renamed) to comply with the new ownership. Of course, Corcoran wines and other Loudoun County wines will be poured there as well as beers brewed at Corcoran brewery.
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We also went over to the winery to get a special taste of Lori’s white port from “the barrel.”

And from there, we went to the brewery! The brewery was already crowded with tasters, and several beers from light-bodied to dark ales were on tap for sampling. We did sample a couple of brews, and one was a light-bodied holiday wine; the other, a darker brew flavored with vanilla. We’re not beer experts, and I tend to enjoy beer with summer fare like burgers or with Mexican fare. With that in mind, I did trend toward the lighter-style beer. We do intend to return for a more complete tasting (and maybe with a beer drinker in tow.)

In addition to various ventures in the food and beverage industry, Lori is also a full-time Mom, and I have to admire her unlimited supply of energy and enthusiasm. She is not afraid of innovation and seems to have a knack for understanding what works. We wish her luck in her new endeavor.

We know that we will return to sample the latest pours (and brews) at Corcoran Vineyards and Brewery. I, for one, am excited about a return of the Chardonnay and will be anxious to taste the upcoming release. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit to both the winery and brewery. Please mention to Lori that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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