Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Month: May 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Bloggers Meet Cicadas in Charlottesville

We decided to spend the Memorial Day weekend in the Charlottesville area, and we can confirm that the totally creepy but very cool cicadas can be seen and heard not too far from DC. The drone of the cicadas was relentless throughout our stay, and we often wondered whether we were trapped in an episode of the Twilight Zone or some other sci-fi show from the 1960s. In time, we did come to appreciate their unique sound. However, we did also taste some wonderful wines, and we even got to visit some new wineries. Today’s post, though, will focus two wineries that we’ve already visited: Reynard Florence and an older favorite, Keswick Vineyards.

Reynard Florence: This was our second visit to Reynard Florence, but this time we got to meet owners Roe and Dee Allison. Readers may recall that the Petit Manseng is a specialty here, and it appears as either part of a blend or on its own in all five of the white wine offered for tasting. The 2012 releases of the Reynard Blanc, a white wine blend, and the Petit Manseng Monticello were less sweet than 2010 and 2011 vintages; we both preferred the off-dry versions. The Reynard Blanc 2012, a blend of Traminette (36%), Vidal Blanc (44%) and Petit Manseng (20%) was fermented dry and presented floral aromas with notes of grapefruit and melon. The Petit Manseng Monticello 2012 contained less than 2% residual sugar; we noted pear and honey flavors with a lengthier finish. These complex white wines should be perfect for summer especially if white fish or poultry were on the menu.
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The red wines were next on the tasting sheet, and I continue to classify the Reynard Florence Cabernet Franc 2010 as a classic from Virginia. Lighter bodied with berry and spice elements make for a perfect wine with light grilled fare including chicken and pork. We both gravitated to the Merlot 2010, a more fruit forward wine with characteristics of mixed berries, tobacco and anise. A tannic presence suggested a wine suitable for a heavier steak dish with a side of grilled veggies.
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Keswick Vineyards: We always look forward to visiting with Stephen Benard, and were lucky to find Stephen behind the tasting bar at Keswick Vineyards. Our tasting began with a creamy 2012 Barrel Select Rose made from Touriga grapes; we’re big rose fans, and this one was an immediate hit for us. However, the 2012 V2 seems destined to be the summertime wine from Keswick Vineyards. A blend of Verdejo (51%) and Viognier (49%), the V2 presented citrus and apple elements with a grassy note to boot. Its refreshing crispness will take the edge off of any warm summer afternoon. Red-wine drinkers who prefer an easy sipper during the hot weather may like the 2012 Consensus, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah (30%) and Norton (20%). Club members create this blend each year, and this year’s version is very fruity with softer tannins. We were also given a sample of the 2010 massive Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve—yum! Dark fruit, tobacco notes, and noticeable tannins suggest an age-worthy wine.
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Stephen also took us to the barrel room where he treated us to sneak previews of 2012 white wines. Look for more complex Chardonnays and Viogniers from the 2012 vintage as compared to the leaner 2011 releases. Paul noted that the oak-aged 2012 Chardonnay was “beautiful.” Paul is the stainless steel guy when it comes to white wines, so this was quite the endorsement! I agreed—the rich pear notes and full mouth feel were indeed quite beautiful.
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We finished our afternoon with a glass of the V2, and this we enjoyed with cheeses and a baguette. The din of cicada noises provided us with musical entertainment.

Of course, we purchased bottles of our favorites from both Reynard Florence and Keswick Vineyards. Plan a visit to these wineries to find your own summer favorites. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Friends, Burgers, and Rose

It’s that time of the year when friends gather for cookouts on warm summer days. Local wineries sometime provide the cookout, and friends meet to enjoy food and wine. We met our friends Matthew and Troy for an afternoon of wine and food at Zephaniah Vineyard; we then extended our leisurely wine and dine afternoon with a tasting at Willowcroft Winery.

We recently met Matthew and Troy at Chrysalis Vineyards and found out that they are fans of Virginia wines. We eventually made a plan to meet them on another weekend at Zephaniah Vineyard. We’re big fans of Zephaniah Vineyard, and we were certain that Matthew and Troy would become fans as well. As luck would have it, our visit there coincided with their Angus Burger weekend; in fact, we all became instantly hungry when we pulled up in the parking lot and smelled the burgers on the grill! However, we all remained focused and knew that we first had to taste wines. How else would we know which wine would pair best with burgers?
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On tap for tasting were six wines, these included two white wines, a rose and three red wines. Of the white wines, we all were big fans of the Viognier 2012 that was aged for seven months in neutral French oak barrels and blended with 6% Petit Manseng. Floral notes, stone fruity element and a lush mouth feel made for a complex wine. With burger in mind, though, we all gravitated to the dry Rose 2012, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. Bright strawberry flavors with a hint of dried herb made for a refreshing pour; aged in French oak barrels for seven months, it also presented a creamier texture. Perfect with burgers and always perfect on a hot summer’s day! On another note, I was likewise impressed with both the Chambourcin 2010 and the Chambourcin Reserve 2010. The latter was poured from a magnum bottle to suggest an age worthy wine produced from a unique vintage.
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I must also mention that our tasting was done in the library of the 19th century home that serves as the Zephaniah tasting room. It provided a quaint setting in which to sample wines done in an Old World style.

However, we were indeed quite hungry, and the scent of grilled food only made us hungrier. We all concurred that the Rose 2012 was the perfect partner to pair with burgers, and so a bottle of the Rose 2012 made its way to our picnic table.

Lunch and conversation made the afternoon fly by, and we decided to extend the afternoon with a tasting at Willowcroft Winery. One of our favorite tasting associates, Kelly, was on hand to conduct our tasting. With warmer days ahead, our focus was on refreshing sippers that could be enjoyed on their own or with light/grilled fare (like burgers!) The crisp Cold Steel Chardonnay is always a winner on a hot day, and the 2012 vintage presented fruity notes with a touch of minerality to make for a refreshing wine. Matthew and Troy appreciated the off-dry Cabernet Blanc with its strawberry aromas and flavors. For those looking for a different wine to serve with picnic sandwiches, try the non-vintage Applause, an apple wine that should prove to popular with July 4th fireworks; however, it could also be poured with Mr. Turkey on Thanksgiving!
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We do know that steaks are often on the grill during the summer months, and if strip steaks and grilled veggies are on the menu, try the 2007 Merlot. Paul remains a fan of this one with its sweet tobacco notes and dark cherry flavors. He bought another bottle to replace the one that we had enjoyed a week earlier.

After our tasting, we all shared a bottle of the Cabernet Blanc and enjoyed the mountain views from our outdoor picnic table. Of course, the time did arrive when we had to leave Willowcroft Winery with our bottle of favorites in tow. Plan a trip to Zephaniah Vineyard and Willowcroft Winery, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Stone Tower Plans for Continued Success

This past weekend was quite gloomy with dense fog and constant rain and drizzle; however, that did not dampen our enthusiasm to visit Stone Tower Winery to catch up on the latest developments. We attended the groundbreaking ceremony at Stone Tower last year, so we were eager to discover the latest happenings there. We met with Bryan Toy, the General manager at Stone Tower Winery, this past Sunday; we were treated to a tour of the winery and vineyards and then a tasting of current releases.
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Bryan’s warm welcome made us feel right at home at Stone Tower Winery, and he conducted a tour of the vineyard as well as the winery’s new construction site via golf cart. (I had never been on a golf cart, so I was excited!) Owners Michael and Kristi Huber own over 200 acres of property on the Stone Tower Winery site, and over 20 acres are currently planted as vineyards. Chardonnay and Viognier make up at least six acres of the vineyard with plans to expand white varietals to include Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. Red grape plantings include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Vineyard practices favor tight spacing to manage nutrients and moisture, and these decisions are made in consultation with viticulture expert Lucie Morton. The vineyards enjoy a high elevation to maximize proper airflow and drainage. However, like all Virginia vineyards, there are indeed challenges in the vineyard at Stone Tower Winery. Unpredictable weather, rot, and disease can throw a curve ball to any vineyard, and Stone Tower Winery stays ahead of the game with a management program that blends both traditional and organic methods to ward off dangers to healthy vines.
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Our on tour was the construction site for the new tasting room and events facility. Space will be cleared in the future for this facility, and it has been designed so that an event such as a wedding and daily business such as wine tasting for costumers can proceed without interfering with each other. In addition to this facility, a new production building is also in the works with an emphasis on state of the art equipment and a sterile environment. The footings have already been poured and construction will begin soon. The goal here is to continue the winemaking excellence associated with Stone Tower Winery. In fact, Napa winemaker Tim Crowe will assume the helm as winemaker at Stone Tower Winery on June 1. Crowe’s appreciation for Virginia’s unique opportunities (and challenges) as well as his dedication to a team effort in the winemaking process suggest that great wines will be poured at Stone Tower Winery.
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Of course, we are all about the wines. Grand tasting rooms and scenic views are one thing, but quality wines to support it all are more important. Bryan led us to the tasting room and guided us through a sample of the current releases at Stone Tower Winery. Three whites were offered for tasting, and these included the 2012 Lacey’s Chardonnay, the 2012 Viognier (a blend of neutral oak and concrete egg), and a 2012 Viognier produced from a concrete egg. (Yes, a concrete egg. It looks like an atomic bomb and is used most often in France.) We both agreed that the 2012 Lacey’s Chardonnay was the best white wine. Abundant pear notes with a fuller mouth feel made for a wine that was not only a sipper on its own but also a food friendly wine. I’d serve this one with poultry or white fish. Of the two Viogniers, we were split. Paul preferred the blended Viognier with its floral notes and spicy finish; however, I really enjoyed the more fruit forward Viognier done in the concrete egg. Characteristic floral aromas were noted but with a richer palate of stone fruits.
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Two red wines were offered for tasting, and these included the 2011 Sanglier Noble and the 2009 Sanglier Noble. Both were blends under the Wild Boar label; label is used to designate wines that were produced from fruit not entirely grown on the Stone Tower estate. Paul and I reached a split decision on the reds. Paul preferred the fruitier, lighter-bodied 2011 Sanglier Noble, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. He noted bright berry aromas and flavors with a note of lavender. My own preference was for the 2009 Sanglier Noble; though a similar blend of grapes, this one was more complex with elements of cherry, sweet tobacco, and dried herbs. I also caught a whiff of violet.
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With our tastings done, we concluded that Stone Tower Winery is indeed making quality wines with a plan to continue a path to winemaking excellence; newer facilities will only enhance the ability to enjoy these wines. This sort of undertaking is only successful if qualified individuals work together to make it happen, and this is certainly the case at Stone Tower Winery. Before we left the winery, we made certain to purchase bottles of our favorite wines. We encourage readers to plan an appointment at Stone Tower Winery, and please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Wine Tourism Day at Chrysalis

Our second stop on Wine Tourism Day was Chrysalis Vineyards. Warren’s parents hadn’t been there yet and it was close to Boxwood so we decided to take them there. Tastings at Chrysalis are so popular that they now have timed tastings. Upon entering the tasting room we signed up for the 1:30 tasting. We had a few minutes to kill so we walked around and showed Warren’s parents the grounds.
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As usual, our tasting started with the white wines. The three of were split on our favorite white. I preferred the 2011 Chardonnay. I enjoyed the stainless steel crisp edge with notes of green apple, minerality. Warren favored the 2011 Albarino with it’s notes of apricot, peach, and tartness. Warren’s father enjoyed the 2011 Viognier with its floral notes, creamy mouth feel, and toasted nut finish. While we had our favorite whites, these would all make wonderful summer sippers.
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We moved on to the reds and again we were split but this time Warren and I selected the same favorite red. We both enjoyed the 2009 Petit Verdot. We noted blackberry, cherry, firm acids, and solid tannic finish. Warren’s father enjoyed the 2011 Barrel Select Norton. He enjoyed the jammy flavors of cherry, blueberry and blackberry. He was thinking of food items to pair with this wine.
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With our tasting complete and our favorites recorded, we selected a bottle of the 2011 Albarino to enjoy with lunch items while enjoying the view of the vineyards. After lunch we purchased a few of our favorites and said our goodbyes. We will return to Chrysalis soon and encourage you to do the same. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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Wine Event

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Wine Tourism Day at Boxwood

Saturday, May 11th was Wine Tourism Day across the country. Of course we had to be part of this day. Luckily Warren’s parents were in town as well. We decided to take them to a few wineries they hadn’t been to before. The first winery we took them to was Boxwood Estate Winery.
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Warren’s parents were impressed with the beautifully designed tasting room and winery building. We’ve always thought it was one of the best we’ve seen. We conducted our tasting at the circular tasting bar right inside the building. Warren’s father joined Warren and I during the tasting. All three of us really enjoyed the 2012 Rose with it’s crisp edge, strawberry and white peach flavors, and the long finish.
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The reds were a different story. Warren’s father found a favorite different from ours. Warren’s father favored the 2009 Topiary. He enjoyed the pepper and tobacco notes. Warren and I favored the 2010 Boxwood. We noted dried herb, tobacco, and mineral notes. We thought it was a bit young still and enjoyed it now but think it will be even better in a year or so.
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After our tasting Warren’s father and I shared a half bottle of the 2010 Boxwood and Warren enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Rose. Even though there was a light sprinkle in the air, we did enjoy our wine at the picnic tables with a nice view of the vineyards. Before leaving we purchased some of our favorite wines. Our first stop on Wine Tourism Day was a success. When you next visit Boxwood, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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Gray Ghost Blending Class

On May 4th we attended the third annual Blending Class at Gray Ghost Vineyards. The outcome of the class was to create a Meritage or Bordeaux style blend using at least three of the five Bordeaux grapes. To be considered a Meritage (or Bordeaux blend), a wine must consist of a combination of any or all of these varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. No single varietal can make up more than 50% of the blend. We were trying to create a blend that was similar to the award winning Ranger Reserve. Our class began with winemaker Al Kellert teaching us about the different Bordeaux grapes. We learned about the flavor profiles for each grape and some history before getting started.
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After our lesson on the individual grapes, we got to work on our blends. We began by tasting each of the five grapes separately. All the wines were from the 2011 vintage. As we tasted each of the grapes we kept notes about each one. We wrote down what we thought was prominent in each wine. We thought about things like the nose, the color, the flavors we were getting, the ending, and the tannins. After taking our notes and thinking about the individual wines, we then began the process of putting certain percentages together to create our blends. Since Al had not told us what the blend percentages were for the 2011 Ranger Reserve, we had no idea how much to include from each wine. It was up to our palates to decide what percentages of the wines we liked best. We used our pipettes to put different percentages in our beaker to create the final blend. We were able to blend two different times to get to the one we liked best. After testing and tasting a few times I came up with my final blend. My final blend was actually VERY close to the final blend of the 2011 Ranger Reserve.
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My blend consisted of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Malbec, and 15% Petit Verdot. The 2011 Ranger Reserve blend is 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 16% Malbec, and 16% Petit Verdot. Al was pretty impressed how close I got to the 2011 blend. I was pleased with the outcome.
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My favorite individual varietal was the 2011 Malbec. I think most participants enjoyed the malbec as well. The only problem with using malbec as the main ingredient is that Al doesn’t produce enough to create a malbec dominated blend. He informed us that if we used a high percentage of malbec, he’d only have one barrel of the blend to sell. Knowing this, many of the participants changed their blend in the second round to reflect this. I preferred my first blend as my finest. Warren joined me for the class but his allergies were keeping him from truly enjoying the nose and flavor profiles of each wine. He still came up with a pretty decent blend.
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After our class we enjoyed a box lunch and a glass of wine on the patio. Al and Cheryl joined us during lunch. It was fun chatting about the class and about Virginia wine. We always have a great time at Gray Ghost. If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost lately, plan a trip soon. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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Bud Growth

Bud growth at Gray Ghost on May 4th.

Bud growth at Gray Ghost on May 4th.

Miracle Valley

We hadn’t visited Miracle Valley for more than a year. It was time to check out the changes and find out what was new. Upon driving up to the winery we noticed the new pavilion. Since we follow Miracle Valley on Facebook we knew they were opening the pavilion the weekend we visited.

Tasting Room at Miracle Valley

Tasting Room at Miracle Valley


There was a good crowd enjoying the live music and the wines under the pavilion and on the stone patio. We entered the tasting room and joined the crowd at the tasting bar. Our tasting soon began and we worked through the tasting menu. Our favorite on the menu was the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay. We noted pear, pineapple, and a hint of fig. We decided to enjoy a glass on the patio while listening to the live music.
At the tasting bar.

At the tasting bar.


While talking with our tasting associate we found out about new wines that will be released this summer. The very popular Sweet Michelle will return in the summer months as well as the Symphony Dessert Wine. A new port style wine will be released as well. We look forward to the new releases. If you haven’t been to Miracle Valley lately, it’s time to plan a visit. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
The new pavilion at Miracle Valley

The new pavilion at Miracle Valley

Delaplane Cellars

After the special release tasting we attended at Linden Vineyards recently, we decided to visit a few other wineries in the area. Our first stop was Delaplane Cellars. Being a club member and electing to pick up the shipments instead of having them shipped makes it possible to visit Delaplane often to see what’s new and taste the most current wines. Warren had a shipment to pick up so we decided to visit Delaplane.
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Jim Dolphin was there that day and conducted our tasting. The day we attended they were having a special pairing with some of the wines on the tasting menu. Our first wine was the 2012 Rose paired with a pork roulette with strawberry preserves. We noted strawberry, melon, and spice. This would make a nice sipping wine for a concert at Wolf Trap. The second wine/food pairing was the 2012 Viognier paired with toasted cornbread and local honey. Warren and I both thought this was a classic viognier with a floral nose, and honeysuckle and apricot in the mouth. The cornbread was a nice touch with the viognier. We really enjoyed this viognier. The final wine/food pairing was the 2011 Cinq3 paired with Caromont Red Rowe cheese. This one presented some bright fruit flavors with notes of smoke, coffee, and menthol. While I enjoyed the wine, I didn’t care for the cheese so I let Warren finish my piece with his wine. While not paired with foods, we also tasted the 2012 Melange Blanc and the 2011 Merlot.
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During our tasting we chatted with Jim about wine of course and he said of the 2010 and 2011 vintages, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” That pretty much sums up the differences between the two seasons. Some of the 2010s still aren’t quite ready while the 2011s are wines to enjoy right now. During our conversation with Jim, he let us taste the 2012 Petit Manseng. The petit manseng has 5% RS but is integrated so well you are barely aware of the sweetness. We noted tropical fruit and a nice mouth weight. Jim also let us taste the 2010 Williams Gap. I remember loving this one at the barrel tasting a few years ago so I was curious to see how it was developing in the bottle. The first sip informed me it was coming along nicely. I enjoyed it now as much as I did then. We noted some nice fruit, anise, tobacco, and developing smooth ending. We’ll need to try to get a bottle of this for the wine rack sometime.
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With our tasting and conversation complete, we decided to enjoy a glass of the 2012 Viognier with the wonderful views. We enjoyed the viognier so much that we included it as part of the #vawinechat Twitter tasting on May 2nd. Lots of Virginia wine bloggers and winemakers joined in for a Twitter tasting of Virginia viogniers. We enjoyed the 2012 Viognier as part of the tasting. We shared our impressions of the wine on Twitter for others to enjoy. Join us on Twitter sometime and participate in the #vawinechat events. The next one is on May 16th. We’ll be tasting and Twitting about Virginia red blends. And the next time you visit Delaplane Cellars be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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