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.
Yes, we love going to summer concerts at Wolftrap’s Filene Center. Where do we always sit? The lawn. Why? We can bring along wonderful picnic foods and along with a favorite bottle of Virginia wine. Here is a round up of the most recent concerts paired with Virginia wines:
America the Beautiful: Historic Americana captured by iconic photographer Ansel Adams. Food of choice? Chunky chicken salad seasoned with jalapeño/cilantro dressing. Wine pairing? 2011 Vidal Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards.
Gypsy Kings: We never miss the international sounds of the Gypsy Kings. It was a warm, sultry night; rain clouds threatened to dampen the evening. The missing ingredient? A bouquet of summer blossoms. Ok—let’s put the cliches aside. We never miss the Gypsy Kings, and this year we brought along grilled chicken topped with a spicy yogurt mint sauce. Our wine of choice? the aromatic 2012 Reflection from Breaux Vineyards.
Diana Ross: The Supreme Diva sings her classic Motown hits, but we heard that she only drinks bubbly. Our sparking of choice? The Thibuat-Janisson Sparkling Brut to pair with brie, fresh berries, and almonds.
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.
So we’re back on the wine trails and taking advantage of some crisp weather for this time of the year. Warm breezy days have replaced the usually hot muggy weather, and we’re not complaining! We still have summer activities planned, and we are still on the quest for summer wines. Here are a few recommendations from this weekend’s tastings:
8 Chains North: Our favorite summer white wine here was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc made from estate grown grapes. It was half fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels and half in stainless steel. We appreciated its aromas of lemon/lime and hay; we also detected a mineral note. Crisp and refreshing due to its nice acidity, this should be perfect on a hot day with shellfish or poultry. I also liked the dry 2012 Pink Lady, a rose wine with delightful strawberry aromas and flavors. Big juicy steaks on the grill? Try the 2010 Furnace Mountain Red, a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Elements of dark plum and blackberry and tobacco prevailed; I also detected some anise in the mouth. Full bodied and still young to boot, so open early or decant if you intend to enjoy this one now.
Breaux Vineyards: 2012 Reflection is a new release for Breaux Vineyards and called Reflection because it represents the best representation of Breaux’s terrior. A blend of Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Chardonnay, Reflection was very aromatic with notes of orange blossom and honeysuckle; tropical fruit flavors pleased the palate. I labeled this one the ultimate summer white wine. I must admit that we tasted this one as part of the complimentary tasting for club members; as part of that tasting, we also sampled the 2012 Zydeco, a blend of Chambourcin (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). Very fruity with tobacco notes, this softer and easy to drink red wine should be perfect for a summer barbeque or picnic.
Hillsborough Vineyards: The golden hued 2011 Carnelian earned my summer wine award here. The Carnelian is made from 100% Rousanne grapes. Floral aromas with notes of lime and fresh hay make for a wine that is perfect on a warm day and paired with fish, pork, or gamey cheeses. The Bloodstone 2010 made from Fer Servadou (94%) and Tannat (6%) should please red wine sippers who prefer a fruitier red wine to pair with grilled fare. A fruity nose and palate were complemented by whiffs of violet and dried herbs.
Be sure to visit these wineries to stock up on your own summer favorites. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.