Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Month: April 2013 (page 2 of 2)

Italian Bubbles

I attended a tasting of Lombardy’s version of bubbly from Franciacorta. The tasting was held at the Capital Wine School and conducted by Michael Franz, a local wine writer, educator and consultant.
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Readers may recall that I have tasted sparkling wines from Franciacorta in the past as part of a Taste of Lombardy event in DC. However, this particular tasting focused exclusively on Franciacorta. So what did I think? Well, I’ll first provide some background about Franciacorta and the wines that is produces. Franciacorta is located in northern Italian region of Lombardy; in particular, in the foothills of the Alps. Still wines have been made in this region since the 1500s; sparkling wines, though, have been produced within the past 50 years. Franciacorta sparkling wines are produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Bianco. The styles range from Saten (blanc de blanc), Rose, Vintage, and Reserve. In Virginia, reserve wines are those that the wine maker deems to be deserving of the reserve label. In Italy, though, it is not that simple. Italian laws dictate which wines can classified as reserve wines, and in Franciacorta, reserve wines (labeled Riserva) are those that stay “on its lees for a minimum of 60 months.”

So what did we taste, and what did I like? We sampled five sparkling wines from Franciacorta, and they included the Ricci Curbastro Saten 2007 ($40), Bellavista Cuvee Brut ($40), Ricci Curbastro Brut ($36) Montenisa Brut Rose ($38), and Bellavista Grand Cuvee Rose 2007 ($65). The Saten was described as a consumer category wine and one that would appeal to an American market. I would compare it to the least favorites of the Virginia sparkling tasting—very fruity with limited acidity and a few bubbles. It suggested sweetness, and I thought of Sunday brunch at a non-descript café. However, the NV Bellavista Cuvee Brut stepped forward to show off what this region can produce. This one spent seven months on oak and was crafted from grapes of several vintages. Fruit elements were more delicate and nuanced; yeasty notes, a firmer mid-palate structure, and bright acidity resulted in a more classic sparkling wine. Exceeding this one was the Bellavista Grand Cuvee Rose 2007, reserve made from both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Recall the definition of reserva—it stayed on the lees for a minimum of 60 months; more finesse and better balance were my top descriptors. Not to be outdone, though, was the Montenisa Brut Rose with its strawberry aromas, bready notes, and refreshing acidity. The Ricci Curbastro Brut rated above the Saten but below the other three sparkling wines.

So its NYE and I have a house full of guests. Which Franciacorta sparkling wine do I chill? For $40 it was tough to beat the Bellavista Cuvee Brut. Let’s say it’s a tenth year anniversary or some other very special occasion; then I would vote for the Bellavista Grand Cuvee Rose. At $65, it was on par with Champagne wines (and perhaps a few bucks less.)

This was certainly a nice, intimate tasting with a handful of industry folks who were far more knowledgeable than I. Michael Franz was indeed the expert on the Franciacorta region; in fact, he explained that global warming might be playing a role in that region’s ability to produce quality sparkling wines. This phenomenon has been observed in Champagne, and Franciacorta may be on the verge of adjusting its regulations on where grapes intended for sparkling wines can produced. Franciacorta sparklings are now made from the region’s cooler climates; however, there is a concern that warmer temperatures at these altitudes may produce flabbier wines; therefore, new regulations may require that these grapes be grown at a higher altitude. (Climate change and the impact on wine regions is itself a fascinating topic.)

I also had the pleasure of meeting Jay Youmans, the master sommelier who has revolutionized the judging at the Virginia Governor’s Cup. He is the managing director of the Capital Wine School in Washington DC; in particular, it is near the Friendship Heights Metro. The school offers a number of courses that range from winetasting 101 to master-level, and I may just check out some of these courses for my own enrichment.

Conduct your own tasting of sparkling wines and toss in some samples from Virginia and Italy. Can’t find them at the local wine shop? Ask the manager to stock them. Want to know more about wine tasting? Take a class at the Capital Wine School. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cleve, Barrel Tasting, and More at Philip Carter

The last weekend of March was very chilly, but that did not deter us from partaking in a barrel tasting at Philip Carter Winery. We also got to sample the very special 2010 Cleve and the newly released 2012 Rose called Rosewell. An extra highlight of our visit, though, had to be the personal barrel tasting conducted by winemaker and native Virginian Jeremy Ligon.
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Our purpose for visiting Philip Carter Winery was indeed to sample the 2010 Cleve. Why? It just won a gold medal at the Virginia Governor’s Cup, and we are determined to try each gold medal winner as they are released to the public. The Cleve line is usually a blend, and this award-winner was a 50-50 mix of Tannat and Petit Verdot. The 2010 harvest in Virginia was one for the record books, and we expect this particular wine to age quite nicely. It possessed a smoky nose with dark fruit elements and a bit of caramel to finish; we noted firm tannins too. I purchased a bottle to rest on the wine rack and will serve with roasted meat. However, for more immediate consumption, we enjoyed the 2012 Rosewell, a dry rose wine made from Tinta Cao grapes and named after the Rosewell mansion that became home to one of Robert Carter’s daughter’s, Judith Carter. Floral notes and strawberry flavors along with a crisp acidity make for a wine that is both refreshing and versatile. Stock up on the Rosewell and enjoy during the warmer months!
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Our visit to Philip Carter coincided with a weekly program during March that featured barrel tastings each Saturday. We just happened to be there on the last Saturday of the program; of course, we just had to participate. Lucky for us, winemaker Jeremy Ligon was on hand to conduct our tasting. Jeremy has been at the winemaking helm at Philip Carter for a year, and he certainly has a vision for Philip Carter wines. We sampled 2012 Chardonnays in both neutral and newer French oak barrels, 2011Bordeaux-style blends, four 2012 Cabernet Francs pulled from both neutral and new oak barrels, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Jeremy’s goal is to blend the unblended wines to produce more nuanced and complex wines. The Cabernet Franc samples, for example, ranged from soft and fruity to smoky and earthy depending on whether they were aging in neutral or newer oak barrels. Jeremy anticipates blending these to produce more balanced yet complex wines that beg for another sip.
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We also learned from Jeremy that a Viognier will be released this month, and future plantings in the vineyard will include Tannat and Petit Verdot. A follow up to the 2010 Cleve will be a tough order; however, we have no doubt that Jeremy Ligon is up to the task.
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We did linger for a bit at Philip Carter Winery and shared a glass of the 2012 Rosewell. Fire pits warmed the air, so it felt just fine sitting outside and nibbling on cheese as we sipped away. Now that spring is in the air, why not plan a visit to Philip Carter Winery? And when you do, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Drink Local Wine in Maryland!

dlw-drink-local-wine-logoIn 2010 we attended the Drink Local Wine conference held in Landsdowne Virginia. We had a great time meeting many people in the Virginia wine community and many fellow wine bloggers. We also learned a lot about Virginia wine. As you know from our blog, we support local wine. Drink Local Wine supports local wine as well. They have held conferences in states that don’t normally get the national media attention that other areas of the country receive. We fully support Drink Local Wine’s mission of bringing attention to lessor known wine producing states. They have held conferences in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, and this year Maryland.

3097_75222944159_5443754_nThe 2013 Drink Local Wine conference will be held in Baltimore Maryland on April 13 to focus on Maryland wine. Like Virginia, Maryland has a growing wine industry. There are now 61 wineries producing thousands of cases of wine each year. The conference will focus on the growing Maryland wine industry, drinking local, and who the movers and shakers currently in the Maryland wine industry. We’ll hear how they are doing it and what direction they are taking to continue the growth that has started in Maryland.

The conference will conclude with the Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off taking place at The Warehouse at Camden Yards. The Twitter Taste-off is a great opportunity to taste wines from 20 Maryland wineries. Participants are able to taste the wines and “tweet” their impressions live on Twitter. We are looking forward to this event!

Are you a wine blogger, wine writer, or someone interested in local wine? Will you be attending the Drink Local Wine conference in Maryland? If not, think about attending the conference this year. You can find out more on the Drink Local Wine website or the Maryland Wine website. And if you are planning to attend, how about leaving a comment to let us know so that we can plan on meeting you there! We will be there representing Virginia Wine Time and our sister site, Maryland Wine Time. See you there!

Revisiting Cobbler Mountain

We first visited Cobbler Mountain in January of 2012. Since that time Cobbler Mountain has grown and is producing more wines and enjoying the growth. Jeff and Laura McCarthy Louden have been working hard over the last year. We decided to revisit Cobbler Mountain and see what was new. On the day we visited they were doing a jelly bean pairing with their wines. This was definitely a unique tasting experience. It was fun pairing the jelly beans with the wines.
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One of the wines we tasted that we enjoyed was the Sparkling Hard Apple Cider. It was tart and bubbly and made us think of pork. Another one of our favorites was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. We noted cherry, raspberry, cranberry, and spice. I liked it so much I brought a bottle home with me.
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Cobbler Mountain is now making two maple drinks. One is the Maple Reserve Amber which is a port style dessert wine that would go well with cheesecake. Warren enjoyed this one and thought it would go well with pumpkin pie. The second is the Maple Reserve Special Dark which is suggested to be used as finishing glaze meats. Both are made from maple syrup from their family’s Vermont Farm.
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If you haven’t been to Cobbler Mountain recently its time to revisit them. They have a very welcoming staff, and array of wines to taste, and friendly and knowledgable tasting associates to help with the tasting. And when you do visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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