Since July of this year, Gray Ghost Vineyards has hosted library tastings of red wines that they have literally kept in a wine library, and the oldest vintage dates back to 1993, the year that the winery opened. These events are held on the first Sunday of each month and will continue until December. This weekend, September 1st, they will be opening 3 vintages of Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: 1998, 2005 and 2008! $25 includes tasting of all current releases as well. You need to call to make reservations: 540-937-4869
We attended the August library tasting, and the featured wines included the 2002 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Cabernet Franc, 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s generally agreed that Cabernet Sauvignon ages well; however, we were impressed with the staying power of the Cabernet Francs. An additional incentive to attend the library tasting is the ability to also purchase favorite features from the library. Paul opted to grace his own wine library with a bottle of the 2002 Cabernet Franc, and I gave a bottle of the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon a new home. It was fun to chat with other wine lovers who appreciated these wonderful wines, and the wine library provides an elegant setting in which to enjoy them.
We recommend going to the library—the wine library at Gray Ghost that is. No library card needed. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Last week Lost Creek Vineyard and Winery released their 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. We thought this would be a good time to return to Lost Creek and taste the new release.
Lost Creek has become a popular place. As we entered the tasting room it was a buzz with tasters. We found a spot at the tasting bar and began a tasting. We had tasted all the wines when we visited in June but it was nice to see how the wines were developing in the bottle. The wines are developing nicely. The Genesis particularly has changed and we liked it even more this time than we did in June. It’s developing into a red that should be enjoyed with a thick juicy steak. During our tasting we had a chance to chat and catch up with owners Aimee and Todd Henkle. It was good to hear how things are progressing nicely at Lost Creek. Positive changes continue to happen at Lost Creek.
We returned to Lost Creek specifically to try the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, and its Burgundian style reflects the expert craftsmanship of French winemaker Sébastien Marquet. After our wine tasting, we enjoyed a glass of this one with a nice brie and a fresh baguette.
Before leaving we were sure to secure a bottle of the Reserve Chardonnay for our wine rack. Check out the newest release at Lost Creek and when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We last visited Granite Heights Orchard and Winery last summer and were impressed with the winemaking philosophy of winemakers and owners Luke and Toni Kilyk. We were also pleased with the wines that we tasted. This time around we noted a continued dedication to excellent winemaking, vineyard management and tasting room experiences.
Two new white wines were added on the tasting menu since our last visit, and these included a crisp 2012 Chardonnay that was fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels. Apple, pear and citrus elements prevailed, and its refreshing acidity made it an easy sipper. The 2011 Petit Manseng was likewise fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels with no malolactic fermentation. We noted ripe tropical fruit and pear characteristics with a fuller mouth feel than the Chardonnay. Residual sugar of around .5% elevated the fruit flavors without the cloying sweetness.
Two new red wines were also released this year, and these included my favorite, the 2009 Evening Serenade and Paul’s fave the 2009 End of the Road. The 2009 Evening Serenade is a blend of Merlot (84%) and Cabernet Franc (16%) and presented a smoky nose with flavors dark cherry and blackberry. End of the Road is a blend of Cabernet Franc (84%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (16%); Paul detected a smoky nose with notes of sweet tobacco; currants and plum flavors were also appreciated. Of course, it is still summer, and red wine drinkers may be more inclined to enjoy a rose instead. The 2012 Rose is dry (yay!) and made from Merlot grapes; nice strawberry and melon flavors and a crisp finish made for an enjoyable wine.
As readers can tell, our visit at Granite Heights began in the tasting room, and we were treated to a seated tasting. We’ve already reported on the tasteful, no-frill tasting room, and a knowledgeable tasting educator delivered an excellent tasting experience. We also got to chat with Luke and Toni Kilyk who graciously answered our questions and gave us a tour of the facility. Luke and Toni remain committed to producing wine and sharing it with customers in a quaint and intimate atmosphere. We tasted the commitment to quality winemaking, and we can attest to the consistent climate control of the barrel room as well as its immaculate cleanliness. The Kilyks have even invested in a bottling machine to insure quality control up to the final bottling. Of course, Virginia’s climate raises many challenges in the vineyard, and Luke informed us that a wine machine would be installed in the vineyard to minimize frost damage. New vines will also be planted and these include more Merlot as well as Vermentino, a white grape that is not widely planted in Virginia.
Granite Heights currently produces 900 cases of wine, and while case production may increase a bit over time, the Kilyks remain steadfast in their commitment to producing limited quantities of quality wines. The tasting experience will likewise remain wine-focused, and there are no plans to build an expansive tasting room. Weddings, bridal parties, and a dog park? These are also not part of the plan.
We applaud Luke and Toni Kilyk’s continued dedication to excellent wine making especially at a time when more and more newer wineries seem to place emphasis on themselves as events facilities or party destinations. We can gladly report that this is not the case at Granite Heights Orchard and Winery, and the results can be tasted in the wine glass. The wines continue to the reason to return to Granite Heights Orchard and Winery.
We purchased bottles of our favorite Granite Heights wines, and we will return very soon. Please plan to visit Luke and Toni Kilyk at Granite Heights Orchard and Winery, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Cana Vineyards is the 157th winery we have visited. Our friend Troy is a club member there and offered to meet us there for a tasting. We got there a few minutes early and walked around the property to enjoy the view.
Once our friend arrived we entered the large building to begin our tasting. A familiar face greeted us. Don, the tasting room manager, used to work at Chrysalis across the street. His daughter conducted our tasting on the patio. The patio provides a gorgeous view and there was a nice breeze cooler us on a warm day. During our tasting we found out Cana is a family owned winery with 43 acres of property with 5 acres under vine. They currently have viognier, cabernet franc, petit manseng, petit verdot, and merlot planted. Since their vines are so new, they have been purchasing grapes from different Virginia vineyards for their wines. They are hoping to have their own estate wines from the 2014 harvest.
After our tasting we took a tour of the facility. Cana hopes to be a popular wedding venue and has the private spaces and views to attract many couples. There are several different areas in the building and around the property to have different groups enjoy the wines and the views.
With our tour over we decided to enjoy a bottle of our favorite wine with some bread and cheese. Our favorite wine during the tasting was the 2012 Rkatsiteli. It’s a crisp white wine with citrus, peach, and stone notes. It was a perfect wine to enjoy on a warm afternoon. It paired nicely with our goat cheese and baguette.
Cana Vineyards has barely been open a year now and seem to be doing well as a wine destination. We enjoyed our time at Cana with our friends. If you haven’t checked out Cana Vineyards yet, give them a try. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Al Dente, an upscale Italian restaurant located in northwest DC, recently expanded its wine list to include a rather extensive offering of Virginia wines. We visited Al Dente last Friday to chat with Executive Chef Roberto Donna about his decision to include local wines on his wine list. Of course, we were also hungry and enjoyed an excellent meal with a favorite Virginia wine.
Al Dente provides a true Italian dining experience in DC. The menu features homemade pastas, fresh fish and meat selections, and gourmet Neapolitan pizzas prepared in a brick oven. The contemporary décor is hip yet inviting, and its open design provides an airy atmosphere. Executive Chef Roberto Donna hails from Turin located in northern Italy; he is a James Beard winner and twice declared DC’s “Chef of the Year” since 1984. Al Dente’s wine list is also top notch and offers a selection of mostly Italian wines that range from good yet inexpensive to outstanding and pricey.
So why did Roberto Donna, a heralded chef who knows a thing or two about wine, decide to include Virginia wines on his wine list? I was eager to know the answer since readers can just about imagine my excitement when I saw the wine list. We all know that bloggers can be a pesky lot with too many questions to ask, but the affable Donna was more than gracious and spent some time chatting with me. According to Donna, he has tasted his way through several Virginia wines over the past ten years and is impressed with the improved quality. He finds them to be food-friendly wines that do not over power the palate with high levels of alcohol associated with the heavily extracted fruit bombs of California. Therefore, an expanded wine list to include Virginia wines was kicked off in June; in fact, Al Dente features one Virginia wine by the glass each week to entice diners to try them out. For example, last week Delaplane Cellars’ Melange Blanc was the featured wine and available by the glass. So far, the response from diners has been very positive.
Which Virginia wines are on the list? Too many for me to recall; however, I can report that it represents an honor roll of Virginia’s best wineries and their wines from the best vintages. These include selections from Barboursville Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, Delaplane Cellars, Glen Manor Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Linden Vineyards, and Rappahannock Cellars. Of course, these are the ones that I can remember, and I am sure that I’ve left a few off of the list. However, you get the idea—some of Virginia’s best wineries are pouring their best wines at Al Dente.
The smell from the wood-burning brick oven and the scent of fresh tomato sauce made us very hungry. Our friend Matt joined us, and we dined on homemade fettucini with tomato-basil sauce tossed with garlic and cherry tomatoes. The wine of choice? The 2009 Barboursville Nebbiolo Reserve. An excellent Italian meal paired with an excellent Virginia wine—how much better can life get?
We hope that Al Dente and its Executive Chef Roberto Donna will inspire other DC restaurants to follow the lead and include Virginia wines on their wine lists too. As Donna aptly put it, local wines have vastly improved in quality and it is time for local restaurants to do their part by serving them. Plan to dine at Al Dente restaurant and ask for a Virginia wine to pair with your meal. And when you do, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Have you seen the latest issue of Virginia Wine Lover Magazine? Warren has an article about chardonnay in the Bloggers Imbibe column. Check it out here.
In other news, Virginia was given an A+ rating by the American Wine Consumer Coalition. You can see the PDF here. Way to go Virginia!