Virginia Wine Time

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Month: March 2013 (page 2 of 2)

DuCard On The Way Home

We finished our Presidents’ Day Weekend trip to the Monticello area with a visit to DuCard Vineyards. We first visited DuCard when the winery was newly opened in 2010. Owner and winemaker Scott Elliff was on hand to conduct our tasting on a frigid day.
DuCard Vineyards has made quite a splash with its Signature Viognier with its 2010 version earning accolades at a recent blind tasting held in Richmond. One of the judges was wine expert Steve Spurrier; when the judging was done, the 2010 Signature Viognier scored a tie with a heralded 2010 Condrieu from E. Guigal Vineyards in the Rhone Valley of France. Unfortunately, we have not tasted the 2010 Signature Viognier; however, the 2011 Viognier went toe to toe with the 2012 Viognier that was offered for a side-by-side comparison. My nod went to the very aromatic 2011 Viognier with its peach flavors and bright acidity. The still-evolving 2012 Viognier is destined to find fans; right now, it presents a very fruity nose and palate with a distinct banana note.

Of the red wines, my favorite was the 2010 Petit Verdot. This Petit Verdot was the product of a hot, dry growing season and presents a very dense color in the glass. I detected a whiff of violet with dark fruit elements that include black currants, dark plums and blackberry. A firm tannic presence suggests aging potential; however, if leg of lamb or thick, juicy steaks beckon for this Petit Verdot, open early or decant. I made certain to purchase a bottle for a future dinner party; of course, future could mean next week or five years from now! In any case, Norton lovers should enjoy the jammy 2010 Norton from DuCard. Paul, though, preferred the lighter bodied 2010 Cabernet France with its brambleberry aromas and flavors and spicy finish. I enjoyed this one too, and it could pair well with herb-crusted poultry or pork; however, I think that it could be enjoyed just by itself either beside a fireplace on a cold day or on the deck on a warmer spring afternoon.
Speaking of a warm afternoon, the 2012 Rose should be a hit in the spring and summer. I like dry roses, and this one was can be considered off-dry with less than 1%residual sugar. This was produced from Cabernet Franc grapes with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bright pink color and strawberry nose reminded me that warmer days, fragrant flowers, and lasting sunsets are just around the corner!

Scott Elliff was a very gracious host, and we learned that he remains dedicated to producing limited quantities of quality wine. To celebrate the success of the 2010 Signature Viognier, Elliff will include a copy of the wine-themed movie Bottle Shock with case orders of the 2011 Signature Viognier. Why Bottle Shock? This movie recalled the 1970s judging event that put California wines on the international wine map, and it was Steve Spurrier who hosted it. Spurrier likewise judge the so-called Judgment of Virginia in which Virginia Viognier went up against the best from France. It was the 2010 Signature Viognier from DuCard that showed most brightly!
We made certain to purchase our DuCard favorites and promise to return soon; with spring weather just around the corner, plan a visit to DuCard Vineyards, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Michael Shaps Works Wine

While the title is a twist on Shaps’ Wineworks , it is literally true. Michael Shaps produces wines for his own successful venture, Virginia Wineworks, but he also either makes wine or consults for a number of wineries in the state. This would include the winemaking at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards located nearby his Wineworks tasting room. During our recent visit to the Monticello area, we made an afternoon by visiting both wineries.

We always enjoy the no-nonsense tasting experience at Virginia Wineworks, and this time around we got to sample wines in boxed containers. Yes, wines in boxes. There is a trend underway to reconsider how traditionally disreputable methods of packaging wine (and that includes screw cap enclosures) are being viewed. However, we’ve had boxed wines from Bordeaux that were very good, and so we tasted the Wineworks boxed wines with open minds. We both concluded that they were very good, and for the amount of wine that they hold (four bottles) well worth the price. The Box Wineworks White Blend is a perfect aperitif; however, Paul favored the Box Wineworks Red, a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Tannat. This was a fruity, lighter-bodied wine that is perfect on its own or with simple meals such as meatloaf, grilled chicken, or pork chops.
We also got to sample the Michael Shaps-labeled wines, and these are his premium wines. I remain a fan of his Viognier, and the 2009 vintage was my favorite of the white wines. Nice aromatics and a fuller mouth feel make for an elegant wine. However, I also enjoyed the Chardonnay 2008 with its pear notes and creamy finish. Of the red wines, my preference was for the Meritage 2008. Petit Verdot leads the blend at 44% and contributes to the earthy/spicy notes and dark fruit aromas. Merlot (33%) and Cabernet Franc (23%) add elements of cherry and raspberry. Paul favored the Petit Verdot 2009 and its characteristics of black currants, dark cherry, tobacco and pepper.
Vintner and wine educator Santa Rava conducted our tasting and expertly answered our questions (which can be numerous). Santa hails from the Sonoma area and is herself a winemaker. The quality of Michael Shaps’ wines and his reputation as a winemaker attracted her to the area in order to become part of the winemaking team at Wineworks. She also share with us that Michael is a full owner of a winery in Burgundy; in fact, Michael and his wife Christie also own and rent a 200-year old home in the winemaking village of Meursault, France. The home boasts two master bedrooms, a large kitchen with a private chef upon request, and heated towel racks. Perfect for a wine-tasting trip to Burgundy, a relaxing European getaway, or a honeymoon—or all of the above!

With our tasting completed, we were ready for lunch and decided to enjoy a bite at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards. The focus here is wine, too, and Michael Shaps is the winemaker. Before lunch, though, we had to select a wine to pair with lunch. This, of course, required a trip to the tasting bar. Our favorites? Of the white wines, the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve earned my top honors with its pineapple and pear notes and fuller mouth feel. Paul liked the 2011 Viognier and noted fruity aromas and peachy flavors. The red wines brought us to a joint conclusion—the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was our favorite. Smoky notes with cherry, blackberry, and earthy elements made for a more complex yet accessible wine. We opted to enjoy this one with lunch. So what was for lunch? For me, it was the steak frites with parmesan fries; for Paul, it was the homemade pizza. The foods are all the products of local farms, too! A bluegrass trio provided entertainment.
Plan a trip to the Monticello area to sample Michael Shaps’ wines, and then enjoy wine and lunch at Pippin Hill. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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