Swirl at Twisted Vines

We always like to applaud local establishments that promote local wines, and Twisted Vines is just such a place. Twisted Vines is a wine bar in Arlington owned by Josh and Sybil Robinson, and they maintain a wine list that always includes at least eight Virginia wines; as an added “twist”, they also host a monthly program called Swirl. Swirl events pair local wine with local art, and we were able to attend this month’s showcase that featured wines by Annefield Vineyards and photography by artist Daniel Taylor. Annefield Vineyards owners Stephen Ballard and Michael Leary were on hand to pour their wines which included the 2010 Viognier, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2008 Annefield Red.

We’ve praised the wines from Annefield Vineyards in the past, and we were excited to sample these wines again at Swirl. The fruity Viognier, earthier Cabernet Sauvignon, and complex Annefield Red continue to show well and showcase the winemaking talents of winemaker Michael Shaps. We were also able to chat with Stephen and Michael about the 2011 season and their expectations for releases from that harvest. Their part of the state, which is in the south, was spared the constant rainfall and dismal weather that plagued vineyards in the eastern part of the state. Consequently, they were fairly optimistic about the wines that will be produced. Of course, we look forward to sampling them!

As we swirled away, we also took in the photography of Daniel Taylor. His photographs captured the action at bullfights that he attended while visiting the Yucatan Peninsula. Checkout his website to find out more.

After our tasting, we also chatted with Twisted Vines owner Josh Robinson. Josh is committed to a “local” philosophy that includes not only wine and art but also food. Meats and cheeses on his menu were also locally produced. Of course, we were interested in hearing how Virginia wines are received at the wine bar, and his assessment was pretty much what we expected. According to Josh, though it sometimes takes some encouragement (and educating) to convince customers to try Virginia wines, once they do, they are convinced that the state does indeed produce quality wines. He has also hosted wine dinners that feature Virginia wines; on one such occasion, Linden wines were poured with heralded winemaker Jim Law on hand to present his wines.

We completed our afternoon at Swirl by enjoying a glass of the 2008 Annefield Red with charcuterie that included mild salami and a plate of white cheddar cheese. The buzz continued to swell as customers came in to taste wine and view art. For Annefield Vineyards, an opportunity to reach new tasters was achieved.

Our afternoon of wine and art was both tasty and enlightening. We weren’t familiar with Twisted Vines before, but we now have them on our radar for future events. And getting to taste the Annefield wines with Mike and Stephan was a bonus! Be sure to check out Twisted Vines in Arlington and plan to visit Annefield Vineyards. Be sure to tell them both Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Heat Wave!

No, not the Motown hit by the Vandellas—the 100 degree weather that has us all wilting. These hot and humid days require wines that cool and refresh, and we found some wines at Barboursville that may just accomplish the task.

Warren’s summer picks:
Sauvignon Blanc 2010: crisp and citrusy with grassy notes
Viognier Reserve 2009: elegant with floral notes and fuller mouth feel
Phileo: Moscato and Gewürztraminer blend that should pair well with peach cobbler

Paul’s summer picks:
Chardonnay 2010: for stainless steel lovers like myself. Crisp and clean; serve well chilled.
Rose 2009: Strawberry Hills forever! Versatile for this time of year.

Be on the lookout for future releases of Petit Verdot and Vermentino. Bill, our tasting associate told us that Luca created a 2008 Petit Verdot that will probably only be seen at the restaurant, Palladio. Luca also made a 2009 Petit Verdot that should be released later this year. In the meantime, visit Virginia wineries to find your own summer favorites. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

The First Lady Of Virginia’s FLITE Winery Tour

Today we were privileged to join Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell on a tour and tasting of wines on the Monticello Trail. We were joined by forty other participants involved in promoting the Virginia wine industry, and these included familiar faces such as Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Patrick Evans Hylton editor of Virginia Wine Lover magazine. This memorable day began with a continental breakfast at the historic Old City Hall, and we then boarded a luxury bus destined for three Monticello wineries: Pollak Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.

We arrived at Pollak Vineyards amidst a flurry of media attention. Paul assumed that the television cameras were there to await his final word on Virginia wines; alas, they were there to greet First Lady Maureen McDonnell who has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia wine industry. Winemaker Jake Busching was also on hand to greet us all, and we made our way to the tasting room. We were first treated to a tour of the barrel room complete with barrel samples of the stellar 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The juicy Cabernet Franc has already won gold in a California competition, and we await its release.

We were then guided through a tasting in the main tasting room with the First Lady herself helping with the process. We are big fans of Pollak’s wines, so picking our favorites proved to be a tough task; however, we did favor the intense 2010 Viognier. The 2010 white vintages are already creating a buzz in the tasting rooms, and this Viognier present a reason why this is the case. Vibrant apricot and peach characteristics prevailed and it presented a full mouth feel no doubt aided by spending some time in neutral French oak barrels. Of the red wines, we enjoyed the smoky 2008 Merlot with its bold cherry flavors. However it is no longer for sale. Summer sippers will also enjoy the crisp 2010 Pinot Gris.

From Pollak Vineyards the entourage continued on to Barboursville Vineyards for lunch and wine at the heralded Palladio restaurant. Winemaker Luka Paschina guided us through the food and wine pairings, and what an exquisite experience! The salad course featured fresh greens tossed with morels and served atop asparagus spears; a sprinkle of grated pecorino completed the dish. Paired with this was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with it’s characteristic citrus, hay and mineral elements. The main dish was a lovely sweet pea risotto topped with seared rock fish, and this was partnered with the lush 2010 Viognier Reserve. Rich aromatics, exotic tropical fruit characters,and a creamy mouth feel best describe this perfect compliment to the equally rich risotto. A cheese course paired the decorated 2006 Octagon, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, finished the menu.

The afternoon’s event ended at Keswick Vineyards, and winemaker Stephen Bernard presented his platinum and gold medal winning wines beneath an outdoor canopy that allowed tasters to enjoy a glorious spring afternoon. Stephen is one of our favorite winemakers, and selecting a favorite was a tough decision. The 2010 Verdejo was crisp and clean and should prove popular during the upcoming summer months. I enjoyed the fuller-bodied 2009 Viognier Reserve done in the Condrieu style, and Stephen confirmed that this one will only taste better with time. The complex 2007 Heritage earned my star of approval for the red wines. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the elements of dark fruit, tobacco and cedar begged for a heavy beef dish.

As we sipped and savored through the afternoon, we learned that First Lady Maureen McDonnell has planted her own small vineyard at the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. McDonnell opted to plant 15 second year vines in the Mansion’s garden. Why second year vines? The First Lady wishes to produce a wine to commemorate the Governor’s Mansion’s 200th anniversary; therefore, vines in their third year of growth would be necessary. Viticultural expert Lucie Morton provided input into the decision, so look forward to wines produced from the Governor’s garden!

The day ended too soon, and we thanked Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia wine board, for organizing the event and then inviting us to attend. Plan your own visit to these excellent wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Newbie North Gate Vineyard

Well the tasting room at North Gate Vineyard is new; however, tasters may know that winemakers Vicki and Mark Fedor have been involved in vineyard management and winemaking since 1997.  Their tasting room opened this month, and we received a grand tour of the tasting room which was built to LEED specifications and a tasting of their impressive wines.

I will say that the interior design of the tasting room is a showcase for excellent taste.  Warm and earthy describe the color selections and furnishings.  I felt welcomed as soon as I walked through the door and did not want to leave once I settled in; all I needed was a good book and a glass of wine.  Speaking of wine, we did sample wine at the well-appointed tasting bar with a counter top that I would love to have in my own kitchen.  The counter top is a product made from epoxy resin and recycled glass and porcelain chips created by the company, EnviroGLAS.  Tasters are literally drinking atop broken glass chips some of which were once wine bottles!  Anyway, our tasting started with white wines and our unanimous favorite was the creamy 2009 Chardonnay which was aged for six months in older French oak barrels.  This one does undergo some malolactic fermentation, and this accounts for its creamy, buttery nose and mouth feel.  Classic pear, apple and honey elements abounded here.


 
Of the reds, we reached a split decision.  I preferred the complex 2008 meritage with its concentrated  fruit aromas and flavors of dark plum, blackberry and cherry.  Cabernet Franc heads the list of varietals used followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.  This gold-medal winner ends with a silky, lengthier finish.  Paul gave the edge to the 2009 Cabernet Franc with its vibrant brambleberry nose and flavors; of course, sippers should expect a peppery edge to Cabernet Franc, and this one will not disappoint.  I also detected a hint of dried herb on the nose.  An interesting twist on the upcoming rock star in Virginia, Petit Verdot, was presented, too.  For the 2009 vintage Vicki and Mark experimented with a Petit Verdot that included a twist (10%) of Viognier.  This is not so unusual in France or Australia where the spicy Syrah/Shiraz may indeed be blended with the aromatic Viognier. The result here is interesting—with constant swirling, the dusty nose allowed for the floral elements of Viognier to emerge.  The tasting notes suggest an “intense” wine, and that may be true.  I think food may be this wine’s best friend, and I’d suggest leg of lamb (in time for spring) or game (if held until fall).


 
I do want to plug the 2009 Apple wine made from 100% Stayman apples.  Since our hard cider tasting, I’ve been more keen on these apple wines.  This one is tart and full of flavor that may serve as a dessert wine, but I’d also think about a sip with a ham croquette.

The North Gate facility has received a gold level LEED certification. This means they are certified green from the foundation to the roof. The building includes many elements from reclaimed wood, local stone and mantle, and tile floors. They have thought everything out from the planning to the construction to the tasting bar associates’ work area. On the roof are 96 solar panels that most of the time produce all the electricity that is needed to run the facility and at some points sends electricity back to the power company. The facility is truly state of the art green. We only see success for North Gate in the years to come. Plan a trip to North Gate soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!