Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Author: Warren (page 2 of 69)

The Sparkling Master

Claude Thibaut has earned a reputation for producing excellent sparkling wine. Claude is originally from France, and graduated from the University of Reims located in the Champagne region. He came to Virginia in 2003 to make the sparkling wines for Kluge winery; however, before then he had already sharpened his winemaking skills in California. While there, Claude worked at J, Iron Horse, and Kendall Jackson. The production of Claude’s sparkling wines currently takes place at Veritas winery. During a recent trip to the Monticello area, we were able to chat with Claude about the process of making sparkling wine from start to finish.

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1. Grape varieties, vineyard sites, and preferred climates:
Chardonnay and pinot noir are the grape varietals that Claude uses to make sparkling wines. These are ready for harvest at least three weeks earlier than the same grapes used for still wines. Cooler nights, warm days, and low rainfall is what helps to provide the acid levels needed to produce quality sparkling wines that can age well. Claude considers the environmental challenges in Virginia on par with those he experienced in France.

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2. Vintage versus non-vintage sparkling wines:
Most of the sparkling wine that Claude produces is non-vintage; however, grapes that are harvested during optimal growing seasons are used to produce a vintage sparkling. So does that mean that there will be a 2010 vintage sparkling from Claude? Remember, 2010 was very hot and dry. While those conditions are preferred for age-worthy red wines, they are not welcomed for sparkling wines. So which recent year produced a vintage harvest? 2011—while the year ended up being too wet for most Virginia winemakers, the 2011 growing season up until Hurricane Irene was quite favorable for production of a vintage sparkling wine.

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3. Production:
From the vineyards, the grapes are crushed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks until bottling. However, at least 10% go to French oak barrels to produce a reserve sparkling wine. Once bottled, the tedious process of turning the bottles begins. This is known as remauge and is done so that the lees can eventually settle in the neck of the bottle. This task can be performed manually, but Claude uses a machine that allows for many bottles to be turned at the same time. While in the bottle, a second fermentation process that creates bubbles in the sparkling wines takes place, and this is known as the methode champenoise. Sediment is then removed from the neck of the bottle and the dosage is added. Dosage is the last chance to adjust the wine before labeling, and older wine is usually added to achieve this step; brandy can be added to boost the alcohol level. Once the wines are ready, they are labeled by hand and sent off to the wine shop. Claude’s current production level is about 3000 cases.

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4. Future plans:
Claude continues to set goals for himself. He would like to have an independent facility that would allow him to boost production levels to at least 5000 cases. Thibaut-Jannison sparkling wines are now distributed in New York, and Claude would like to make what he called an “east coast blend” of wines from the best vineyard sites on the east coast. He also mused about making a Chablis-style still wine—-yes, Claude likes to stay busy making excellent wines.

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Be sure to seek out Claude Thibaut’s excellent sparkling wines at your favorite wine shop, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Seven From ‘07 at the Millers

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Bruce and Silvia Miller, wine educators extraordinaire at Breaux Vineyards, invited us over to their lovely home for a food and wine pairing that featured Virginia wines from the stellar 2007 vintage. Fellow bloggers Alan Liska, Erica Johansen, and Kirsten Gansulous of Cellar Blog, and other wine guests joined us all for a wonderful evening of wine, food, and cheer.

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Bruce and Silvia greeted guests with a glass of the Wild Board Sparkling Wine from Stone Tower Vineyards. However, this was simply the precursor to the evening’s main attractions—red wines from the 2007 harvest. Readers may recall that the 2007 growing season was hot and dry which allowed red grapes more time to hang on the vine before harvest. Robust red wines with depth and complexity were the result. Silvia prepared a plate of small bites that included flank steak, duck, beef tenderloin, cheeses, and macaroni and cheese. These were paired with the following 2007 red wines from Virginia:

2007 Rappahannock Vineyards Meritage
2007 Jefferson Vineyards Meritage
2007 Pollak Vineyards Meritage
2007 Pearmund Cellars Ameritage Reserve
2007 Octagon from Barboursville
2007 King Family Meritage
2007 Avenius from Linden

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I did not take any notes on the wines, but I can say that the 2007 Pollak Vineyards Meritage generated the most buzz. Other comments suggested that the Jefferson Meritage and the King Family Meritage were also quite popular. After the seven from 2007 were poured, Silvia then opened up a buffet of food platters that included flank steak, beef tenderloin and potato salad; desert included chocolate cups filled with fresh berries. Bruce likewise expanded the wine buffet to include the following:

2007 Fratelli from Fabbioli Cellars
2007 Gray Ghost Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Hodder Hill from Glen Manor Vineyards

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We enjoyed the flight of 2007 red wines from Virginia; for me, it was a good opportunity to taste some 2007 wines that are still on my own wine rack. I can assure readers that the 2007 red wines from Virginia can be enjoyed now but still have time to rest in the wine cellar. (In my case, that would be the closet in my office.) So you already drank your 2007 red wines from Virginia? Then visit the wineries listed in this post to replenish your stock with current releases. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Virginia Wine at Wolf Trap

wolftrapwineAttending concerts at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center has become a summer ritual for us, and we start looking forward to our first concert as soon as spring arrives. We also try to attend and experience at least one new or unknown act each year. This year we decided that our first concert would be the performance by the Italian trio, Il Volo. We had never heard of them, but apparently they are billed as “popera” artists who mainly appeal to an older audience. I guess we qualify since Paul and I just turned 50 this year!

So did we bring Virginia wine along for the concert? Of course we did. The dry 2013 Blenheim Rose accompanied our picnic that included bowtie pasta tossed with chunks of grilled chicken, fresh Italian herbs and parmesan cheese. It all paired well with the young Italian trio who belted Italian classics as well as popular standards by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand. We sometimes bring along an extra bottle of wine in case we want an extra splash to go with fruit and cheeses; this time, we enjoyed an extra pour from the 2012 Pollak Rose. This Rose was dry too; both shared similar profiles to boot—strawberry notes with a citrus twist and a crisp finish. Leftovers were taken home and enjoyed the next day!

Plan to attend a concert at Wolf Trap, and be sure to sit on the lawn so that you can enjoy food and Virginia wine at your leisure. Visit Virginia wineries beforehand, though to sure to stock up on favorite summer pours. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Tasting Wines Of America

logoI attended the Wines of America event hosted by WineAmerica, an advocacy group that “serves the interests of wineries in all 50 states by leveraging its formidable grassroots strength to benefit the entire industry.” The event was held at the Longworth House Office Building, and this year 25 wineries participated in the event. These included wineries from the Northeast, Midwest, and Rocky Mountains. Yes, wines are made in states other than California, Washington, Oregon—and Virginia. Here is a brief wrap up of some standouts:

Arizona: 2011 Caduceus Cochise County “Sancha” Red Wine; 2012 Pillsbury Wine Company Viognier

California: 2011 Dierberg Chardonnay

Colorado: 2012 Stone Cottage Cellars West Elks Gewurtztraminer

Finger Lakes: 2013 Anthony Roads Rose

Idaho: 2009 Bitner Vineyards Snake River Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz

Missouri: 2011 Les Bourgeois Vineyards Chardonel; 2012 St. James Winery Ozark Highlands Norton

Nebraska: 2012 James Arthur Vineyards Vignoles

North Carolina: Biltmore Chardonnay (I neglected to record the vintage)

Oregon: 2012 Firesteed Pinot Gris; 2012 Cliff Creek Cellars MRV; 2010 Van Piezer Pinot Noir

Pennsylvania: South Shore Wine Company Gruner Veltliner

Washington: 2012 Basel Cellars Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion; 2011 L’Ecole Merlot

And how do wineries participate in this event? Public Affairs Director Michael Kaiser explained to me that WineAmerica puts out an all call to the state winery associations to send wines, and WineAmerica members also contribute wines to the event. The goal is to get at least 20 states to represent their wines at the event; needless to say, that goal was exceeded in 2014. I sampled wines from Georgia, Iowa, New Mexico and Texas. It was exciting to observe (and taste) the ever-expanding wine industry in America.

The event was well attended, and I was able to chat with wine critics Dave McIntyre and Richard Leahy who were also in swirling and sipping across America. I was also able to stand out on the building’s porch to enjoy a gorgeous view of the Capitol building; from here, I could also witness a spectacular horizon. Did I take any pictures? Well, Paul the photographer did not come along, and though I brought a camera with me, I neglected to snap a few shots. Use your imaginations—it was a lovely spring evening in the nation’s capital.

I did not get to taste every wine that was being poured, and yes, I did taste wines from Maryland and Virginia; however, we write about those wine all of the time. I though it would be an educational experience to focus on wines outside of my own comfort zone. Every state in the country boasts at least one winery; plan to visit any of the wineries mentioned in this post while travelling this summer. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

We Visited 8 Chains North

Yes, spring is here and summer is not too far away; in fact, we’ve already purchased some of our tickets for upcoming Wolftrap concerts. Of course, we need Virginia wines to enjoy out on the lawn. We found some wines that we will be bringing along with us at 8 Chains North.

The white blend called LoCo Vino is always a summer favorite, and we enjoyed the 2012 vintage. This was a blend of Vidal Blanc (45%), Traminette (35%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%). Citrus notes prevailed with a twist of lemon in the mouth; it was crisp too. Perfect for a warm evening with light cheeses, fresh fruit, and a crab cake! We’re big rose fans, and we did like the dry 2012 Pink Link made from Merlot; these were grown in the Furnace Mountain vineyard. Notes of strawberries and spice were evident; I detected a creamy notes too. We’d pair this with anything in the picnic basket.

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Grilled meats should pair well with the 2012 Furnace Mountain Red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Tannat. Initial aromas of coffee and caramel led to notes of blackberry and cherry. Nice now but readers may opt to age for a bit to enjoy with heartier fare during autumn. During our tasting our wine friends Kurt and Carol from Wine About Virginia entered the tasting room. It was great to see them and they joined our tasting.

We enjoyed a glass of the 2012 LoCo Vino after our tasting and then made certain to purchase bottles of our favorites. Plan a visit to 8 Chains North and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Winters Weirdness Wrap Up

So here I present the final installment of our recent visit to the Monticello area in the midst of Mother Nature’s topsy-turvy weather.

Grace Estate: This was our second visit to Grace Estate, and this time our tasting was conducted in the new tasting room located in the estate’s spacious mansion. This new tasting space allows for tasters to enjoy the lovely mountain views while swirling and sipping. On a cold, rainy day we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our tasting featured three whites, a rose and two red wines. Of the white wines, my favorite was the 2012 Chardonnay (of course) that was aged 11 months in 50% new steam bent French oak barrels. Ripe pear notes were complemented by a butterscotch kiss in the mouth. I also appreciated the fuller mouth feel. Paul preferred the 2012 Viognier; he likes his whites from a stainless steel tank, and this one was 100% aged in stainless steel. Rich floral aromas with peach notes and tropical fruit flavors ended with a steely finish yet presented a nice weight in the mouth. We were both fans of the dry 2013 Le Gras Rose; on a cold, wet day this one screamed spring. It was made from Merlot (80%) and Tannat (20%) and presented classic strawberry and cherry characteristics. Nice acidity with a crisp finish—-just how we like our roses! Of the red wines offerings, the 2012 Cabernet Franc earned our unanimous praise. Aromas of cherry, tobacco and cracked pepper were followed by flavors of cherry and blackberry as well as earthy nuances. It was barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.

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After our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2012 Chardonnay; between raindrops, we enjoyed the mountain landscape from beneath the canopy that covered the patio. We also had a quick chat with winemaker Jake Busching who informed us that a new tasting room will be built at Grace Estate so that parts of the mansion could be used for events. He was also very excited about the release of 3, a red blend that was the product of three winemakers: Jake, Emily Pelton of Veritas and Mathieu Finot of King Family. Tasters will also want to sample the upcoming Vidal Blanc which was aged in neutral oak barrels. Jake gave us a preview bottle and we are looking forward to tasting it soon. Thanks, Jake!

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Pollak Vineyards: It was crowded here, but our tasting associate Casey made us feel right at home with a superb tasting. We were interested in newer releases since our last visit, and that included the 2012 Viognier, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2013 Rose, and the 2010 Merlot. All were quite good. The 2012 Viognier presented aromas of honeysuckle and peach with tropical fruit flavors and a hint of white pepper. The 2012 Pinot Gris should be a summer favorite with its peach notes and rounded mouth feel. Rose is our wine of choice for summer, and the 2013 Rose will be poured with a favorite warm weather meal. Nice strawberry and melon elements here with a crisp finish. Dry too—-yay! Grilled meats should pair well with the 2010 Merlot and its characteristics of tobacco, cassis, black cherry, blackberry and a soft splash of blueberry. Look for some cedar notes too. Complex and should age well to boot; but pour now if you must. Give it some time to breathe, though.

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Trump Winery: Sparkling wine is the forte here, no doubt about it. We tasted four sparklings as well as the Chardonnay 2012, Rose 2012, Meritage 2012, and the CRU. However, it was the sparklings that I was interested in sampling and therefore paid more attention to them. The Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008 earned top honors at the recent sparkling tasting hosted at Tarara Winery, and it was just as excellent this time around; however, my ultimate favorite was the Sparkling Rose 2008 with its nonstop parade of bubbles. Made with Chardonnay (95%) and Pinot Noir (5%) it was rich with strawberry notes and flavors with a round mouth feel and lengthy finish. I must admit that I found the Sparkling Reserve 2007 a bit better on this day than I did at the sparkling taste off. This time around I found the acidity that I thought was missing a couple of weeks earlier. It is aged in French oak barrels, so it does have a creamier feel with apple and pear flavors with oaky nuances.

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Mother Nature did not deter us from tasting some wonderful wines, and it looks like spring has finally arrived with cherry blossoms, daffodils and pear trees in full bloom. The dogwoods are sure to follow. Bud break, 2014? It has to be around the corner and for some has already begun. Plan to visit this wineries to celebrate spring, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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