Quality at Quievremont Vineyards

We enjoyed our first sample of wines from Quievremont Vineyards at our Mardi Gras party thanks to our friend Erika Johansen from Cellar Blog. Erika brought over a bottle of the 2012 Meritage and we (and our guests) were quite impressed. As a result, Paul and I decided to make an appointment for a tasting at Quievremont, and we concluded that quality best describes the current lineup of wines.
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We met owner John Quievremont on a chilly Saturday afternoon to taste wines in his very small storage/tasting room. The property can be described as classic bucolic with babbling brooks and mooing cows to transport visitors to a quieter time. John and wife Terri bought the property as a relief from the hectic life of work in the city; however, noted viticulture expert Lucie Morton convinced them to plant a vineyard. This was done in 2011, and the vineyard now grows chardonnay, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec. It looks like Morton was on to something. Their 2012 Meritage, for example, earned a silver medal at the 2014 Governor’s Cup competition.
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Our tasting began with white wines, of course, and we were treated to a side-by-side tasting of chardonnays from 2011 and 2012. The 2011 proved to be more acidic in nature; however, the 2012 vintage was my ideal. Minimal oak aging in neutral French oak barrels imparted a nice mouth feel with tropical fruit notes and flavors of apple and pear associated with a classic chardonnay. The 2012 Chardonnay earned a silver at the Governor’s Cup, too!
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We moved on to the red wines, and our favorite was indeed the 2012 Meritage, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. It presented elements of dark fruit, sweet tobacco, and spice. Smooth tannins made for a nice feel in the mouth. Looking for an everyday red wine? The 2012 Vin de Maison should fit the bill. Syrah is included in the mix of cabernet franc and merlot to produce a lighter-bodied red wine that is perfect on its own or partnered with meatloaf, pizza, or a mix of cheeses.
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John was gracious enough to answer our questions, and we learned that case production for 2013 was substantially lower than the 800 cases in 2012. The culprit? Late frost followed by hungry critters such as raccoon, turkeys, bears, etc. However, winemaker Theo Smith is dedicated to quality over quantity, and his craftsmanship is responsible for the current lineup of excellent wines. Future plans include a tasting room. John Quievremont opted to plant the vineyards first and then worry about a tasting room later—odd, isn’t it? Many new Virginia wineries boast expansive tasting facilities these days but not much to show in the vineyards. That is not the case at Quievremont where the emphasis is on quality fruit and excellent wines. If all goes according to plans, the new tasting room will open in time for harvest 2014.
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We completed our tasting and left with several bottles of wine. We know that we will return soon; however, readers should make an appointment to taste the award winning wines at Quievremont Vineyards. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

4 Winemakers 3(+) Questions

So what makes for an ideal growing season in Virginia? Hot, dry summers with growing seasons that extend into the fall. Oh, and no late or early frosts. Easy question, easy answer. However, what if winter is unusually brutal with sub-zero temperatures and frequent outbreaks of ice and snow that lasts well into March? It may be easy to dismiss winter as an influence on the vineyards; after all, the grapes have been harvested and the vines lay dormant, right? We weren’t so sure about that and asked four Virginia winemakers to offer their opinions on the Arctic winter and its possible consequences. And what about the 2013 vintage? How are things coming along in the tanks and barrels? In this post, we will compare opinions from two winemakers in northern Virginia: Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery and Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars.

1. This has been a winter of long-lasting, record-breaking cold weather. This week’s temperatures plunged to below zero in much of Virginia. Are you concerned about stress to the vines? Have you changed vineyard management (i.e. pruning) as a result?

Jordan Harris (JH): I am certainly concerned but I do not believe that there will be wide spread damage on our sites. The coldest we have gotten to is 3 degrees. I have been through that many times in Niagara and at that point there doesn’t tend to be a lot of damage. There may be some issues with really sensitive varieties like Merlot but I would guess it will be in the 15-20% bud loss range for them. In places where they may have got to -5 they could start to see more wide spread damage as you are then entering the temperature range that can harm buds in most varieties.

My biggest concern is actually that we planted a lot last year so I am not sure how the young vines will have stood up to the cold and if we will have significant attrition rates and have to replant those. Really I won’t be able to tell that until well after bud break.

As for pruning, if I were smarter, I probably would have changed it up a bit this year but hind sight is always 20/20. We are exclusively cane pruned VSP (Double Guyot) and we were done by mid January so there is not much we can do now. We do leave a third cane each year so we can replace one of the two that we lay down in case of frost or I guess now winter cold. This year we may just lay that cane down as a third right over top of another one for more buds but my concern is if they are all fruitful then we will have a lot of shoot thinning to do and wonder if we will be able to keep up and maintain a balanced and clean canopy.

Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery

Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery


Doug Fabbiolo (DF): We had a cold spell in December that got me scared. We did a brief, non scientific bud evaluation and decided to only do a rough pruning. We are leaving a lot of buds on the vines at this point and do not anticipate a final pruning until May when the fruit shows itself and we can make some cuts that will be sure to be fruitful.

2. Early bud break is always a concern when it occurs; however, are there worries about a later bud break? What is the optimal time for bud break? (The cherry blossoms are scheduled to bloom much later this year due to the long-lingering winter.)

JH: You mean like in 2013 when we were so late that there was no risk of frost ☺. After last year I say there is no ideal time in Virginia. I would personally like to see bud-break around the start of April to get a long enough growing season but at least get out of March which is very scary (2012). I actually think there is a good chance we will still see an early to regular bud-break anyway. The soil has a lot of moisture so as long as we get some warmth the vines will come on really fast this year I think. Not that we can accurate guess the weather for tomorrow, but long range it looks like Spring hits pretty well around the 15th which could very well give us bud-break sometime in the first week of April, but more likely the second or third week in many varieties is my guess.

DF: The optimal time for budbreak is after the last killing frost. That never happens. I am hoping with the later start, we will be closer to that situation. The vines will catch up if they have some warm days in late spring.

Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars

Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars


3. Now that the 2013 harvest is history, how is the 2013 vintage shaping up, and what are the comparisons to past vintages?

JH: I am actually really enjoying the wines, I just wish there was a lot more of it. The later reds struggled a bit to get as ripe as I would like, but varieties like Merlot and Tannat really have some great flavor and striking elegance. The whites (predominately Chardonnay since we got next to no Viognier this year) are beautiful. They are elegant but ripe and are really showing the results of either a great site or meticulous management or both. In the end, I don’t want a repeat of 2013 because it was very trying on my patience and stress level, but the wines are good. Once again, quality is not my concern as much as quantity in this case.

It really is hard to compare our 2013s to another vintage for me given I have only been here since 2007. The closest I can say to any of the vintages I have done would be 2008 but 2013 was a shorter and wetter year for us than 2008. That said I think we have a far better understanding of our site from 2008 so still made better wine. You could say structurally similar to 2012 for us, but the ripeness level is not quite as high.

DF: 2013 was challenging during the growing season but finished up in the best way possible with warm days, cool nights and no rain. I am very pleased with what we are tasting. We will be trialing more blends again today. I am tasting good ripe fruits, rich tannin structure and balanced acids. Some of this is from winemaking techniques done as the grapes came in, but most is because of a decent growing year.

And who are the other two winemakers and how did they respond? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, spring is hopefully in the air, and it is time to visit Virginia wineries. Plan a trip to Tarara Winery and Fabbioli Cellars to sample their excellent wines, but be sure to tell Jordan and Doug that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cabin Fever Remedy: Virginia Wine

After another polar invasion of snow and arctic air, we decided to defy Mother Nature and get out of the house at least for a little while. Paradise Springs isn’t far away from Paul’s house, so that is where we went for a tasting of current releases.
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Of the white wines, we enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay with its notes of pear and pineapple and fuller mouth feel. It was aged sur lie in French oak barrels for eight months. The 2013 Nana’s Rose was debuted on the day of our visit, and it presented flavors of strawberry and cherry; it’s dry, too! It also reminded us that spring is around the corner.
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On to the red wines, and Paul’s favorite was the 2012 Cabernet Franc that was blended with Tannat (5%). Raspberry notes with a whiff of dried herbs, it finished with a bit of spice. I liked the 2012 Norton with its plum and cherry elements and spicy edge. A prize winner in San Francisco, I found the Norton to be an elegant pour that would favor hearty meat dishes.
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We weren’t quite ready to return home despite the steady snowflakes falling outside, and so we enjoyed a glass of our favorite wines along with cheese and a baguette. My glass of choice was the 2012 Chardonnay while Paul sipped the 2012 Cabernet Franc. We sat on the spacious back patio that was enclosed for the winter, and a fire in the fireplace provided warmth.
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We’ll be back to Paradise Springs especially in the warmer months to come. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit to Paradise Springs. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine and Cheer at Sunset Hills

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On Superbowl weekend (and between snow flakes, ice pellets, and frozen rain), we decided to visit Loudoun County wineries. Sunset Hills Vineyard was at the top of our list of wineries to visit, and once there we found a very festive tasting room with club members celebrating recent releases; many sported shirts declaring a favorite team. Amidst the hoopla and good cheer, we were privileged to receive a full tasting by Meredith Wilson, the tasting room manager and a long time wine friend of ours. Meredith’s sports wear suggested that she preferred Denver in the big bowl game; however, at the end of our tasting, we favored team Sunset!
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We were treated to the full gamut of well-crafted wines at Sunset Hills Vineyards, so I will present a few of the highlights here.

White Wines:
Albarino 2012—Wow. This grape shows potential at some Virginia wineries with Jenni McCloud at Chyrsalis Vineyards leading the way, and this one from Sunset is quite nice. Citrus notes prevail with a noticeable mineral element and a crisp finish. Extremely limited production, though, with only about three cases made. We hope that the potential for this varietal will be expanded at Sunset, because we would like to buy a few bottles of it in the future.
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Chardonnay Vertical+ Petit Manseng: Yes, I am an unapologetic Chardonnay fan. Imagine my delight when Meredith gave us a side-by-side of two 2012 Sunset Chardonnays and a Petit Manseng all from the 2012 vintage. All three presented a similar fuller-mouth feel; however, both Chardonnays presented different nuances. The Petit Manseng exhibited the fullest body of the three. Although from the same vintage, the Chardonnays represented efforts from two different vineyards—the Shenandoah Springs vineyard located in a higher elevation in the Shenandoah, and the Vineyard One located on the Sunset property. The former was a bit leaner with citrus and mineral notes and tropical fruit elements. I noted some pear flavors too. The Vineyard One offered a fuller mouth feel along with a classic Chardonnay profile—pear and apple characteristics with a nice honey note. Which did I prefer? Depends on what’s for dinner. Shenandoah Springs with shell fish, but Vineyard One with poultry topped with a cream sauce. And the Petit Manseng? At less than 1% residual sugar, it has been the driest Petit Manseng that we’ve tasted in Virginia. Fuller-bodied for sure with tropical fruit notes and flavors with a hint of freesia on the nose. At the dinner table, this one could be an alternative to a full-bodied Chardonnay or Viognier.

Red Wines:
Petit Verdot: We were able to compare the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Different growing seasons=different results. Both were very good. The 2011 vintage, produced from a very challenging season, was quite nice. It was lighter-bodied than its older sibling and Paul suggested that he could even sip this on e on its own. I preferred the 2010 with its denser color and its characteristics of dark plum, sweet tobacco, and spice.

2010 Nebbiolo: The Superbowl champ for me. Characteristic Nebbiolo and an example of what Virginia can do with this grape. Earthy aromas with notes of clover and licorice and a whiff of violet were noted. Buy now but drink later—this will only get better with age. Another polar votext? Beef stew and the 2010 Nebbiolo will take the chill off.

Ready for spring? So are we. The Sunset White with its blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc will conjure images of warm breezes, lingering sunsets, and a crab feast. Dreams of barbeque? The 2012 Cabernet Franc will be a perfect partner for grilled fare. Until then, though, we can only stock up on the wines and wait for the seasons to change.
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Our tasting ended too soon, but we extended our stay with a basket of hard cheeses and salami. We also enjoyed a glass of wine and took in the Superbowl revelry that was all around us. We each sipped on a glass of the 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc. We reviewed our tasting and conversation with Meredith, and were impressed with the continued dedication to vineyard-specific wines. The different nuances, in the case of the Chardonnays, could be tasted in the glass. It was also obvious to us that winemaker Nate Walsh has dedicated himself to quality winemaking regardless of circumstances such as the rainy 2011 season. While we had our favorites, the wines here were well made.

We will return to Sunset Hills sooner rather than later. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit; tell Meredith that Virginia Wine Time sent you.