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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
When you purchase a bottle of Virginia wine how can you be sure it’s of the highest quality? Many can tell by tasting it or simply opening the bottle. A new way to tell if you are buying quality Virginia wine is to look for the Commonwealth Quality Alliance label.
The Commonwealth Quality Alliance (CQA) program was established to both reward and raise awareness of Virginia grown wines. They want to raise the bar of Virginia wine quality and highlight the state’s elite wines. The CQA is a quality standards initiative of the Virginia Wineries Association and is endorsed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the Virginia Vineyards Association and the Virginia Wine Distribution Company.
Currently there are 14 wineries who participate in the program. In order to obtain approval by the CQA and Virginia wine must undergo several steps:
•A juice sample that will analyze the Brix of grapes
•A laboratory analysis of the ready-to-bottle or bottled wine
•A sensory panel evaluation of the ready-to-bottle of bottled wine
The CQA Label on a bottle of Virginia wine means:
•The wine was made with 100% Virginia grapes.
•The wine was produced and bottled in Virginia.
•The wine has been tested for quality and purity.
•The wine was produced by a CQA member winery.
Member wineries also receive benefits for being in the program:
•Bottle stickers for your CQA approved wines.
•Press release template to aid in the announcement of your winery joining the CQA. The release has space for you to provide information about your particular winery and the wines that have been selected for the CQA.
•11×17 inch customized poster to display onsite at your winery, complete with your logo and winery name. The file is designed to print in a standard printer, so this can be done in-house or at a printer.
•Tabletop display tents for you to disperse throughout your establishment, all of which contain information about the CQA and its participating wineries.
•Pocket maps that contain information about the CQA and participating wineries.
•The Commonwealth Quality Alliance Crystal, recognizing your winery’s acceptance into the CQA.
The CQA has attended several recent wine events and will be at events in the future. The events include:
•Virginia Wine Expo on February 23rd and 24th at the Richmond Convention Center
•CAA Men’s Basketball Championship on March 9th to 11th at the Richmond Coliseum. The CQA will have a table at the CAA Zone, the only area where the public can purchase alcohol during the games.
•Vintage Virginia on June 1st and 2nd at Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA.
Many wines have already been granted approval by the CQA. A full list can be found on the CQA website. The CQA program is only a few months old and wineries are joining the program each week. Overtime we expect a majority of Virginia wineries to join the program and have their wines analyzed by the CQA. To find out more about the program, the wineries participating, and updates to the list of wines approved by the CQA, visit their website. And look for the CQA label on the Virginia wine you purchase.