Happy Birthday Frank Morgan!

We spent this past weekend with fellow blogger Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. He turned 40! Frank and his lovely wife Acada celebrated the milestone in the Charlottesville area with wine, food and friends.

We helped Frank ring in another new decade with a cellar tasting at Veritas Vineyards. Elliot, assistant to winemaker Emily Pelton, conducted our tasting and answered all of our questions. Sneak previews of newly harvested 2013 grapes now resting in their tanks begged us to ponder the possibilities of the 2013 vintage.
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After our tasting at Veritas, we headed to Afton Mountain Vineyards. Owner Tony Smith conducted our tasting. Lingering fall colors were appreciated through the windows that lined the tasting room. We later decided to share a bottle of the 2012 Cabernet Franc with cheeses and a baguette.
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The grand event was a birthday dinner at Tastings of Charlottesville. Keswick winemaker Stephan Benard and his wife Kat met us as did Bob Garsson, and his wife, of Project Sunlight. A gourmet feast awaited us along with a menu of excellent wines. I did not copy the labels and vintages, but I can attest that all of the wines poured that evening were excellent. They included a Cruet, a Mersault (my personal favorite), a Chenin Blanc from South Africa (selected with the help of South African native Stephan Benard), and a knock out Bordeaux. The evening’s highlight, though, was the intricate cake shaped like a wine bottle cradled in a straw-line box. Perfect for the occasion and also for the birthday boy who is indeed passionate about wine.
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We wish Frank Morgan all the best; however time does fly, and before we know it, he will turn 50! Yikes! By then, we will be hitting 30 (times 2). Anyway, plan your own special celebrations with a trip to Virginia wine country. Visit these wineries and a special dinner at Tasting of Charlottesville. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Monticello Wrap Up

It’s hard to believe that another Virginia Wine Month is over! We made sure to enjoy as much of it as possible. We opened the month with a swing through the Monticello area, and we posted about some of the wineries that we visited. Today we finish our write up about that trip.

Blenheim Vineyards: We always look forward to tasting the latest releases by winemaker Kirsty Harmon. On this particular visit, Paul enjoyed the crisp Viognier 2012 with its tropical fruit characteristics. I preferred the Chardonnay 2012 and its fuller mouth feel and pear flavors. We both concurred that the Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite red. Juicy with lots of plum and berry flavors, it was quite delicious. We got a chance to chat with Kirsty, and we asked her about the 2013 harvest that was then toward its grand finale. She echoed what many winemakers have shared with us—the biggest challenge was not the late frost or the early summer rains. It was the hungry wild life such as raccoons and bears that caused the biggest headaches. However, Kirsty was pleased with the way that the summer trended toward warm, dry days and cooler nights and expressed optimism that the vintage would be a good one.
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King Family Vineyards: Another favorite of ours—we are big fans of Mathieu Finot’s wines. It really is not hard to simply state “all of the above” when pondering our preferred wines here. Matt is our preferred wine educator at King Family, and he skillfully guided us through our tasting. Paul was a fan of the 2012 Viognier, 10% of which was done in a concrete egg. It spent time in both stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels and presented elements of peach, melon and white pepper. I was a bigger fan of the 2012 Chardonnay (no suprises here—I do enjoy Chardonnay.) Citrus notes were complimented by characteristics of pear and spice; a creamy mouth feel led to a longer finish. My kind of Chardonnay! We both enjoyed the 2012 Crose, a dry rose with notes of grapefruit, bright berry, and peach. With Thanksgiving around the corner, a light-bodied Cabernet Franc might be in order, and the 2012 Cabernet Franc should fit the bill. Red berry flavors with characteristic pepper notes make for the perfect partner with turkey and cranberry sauce. Matt also took us on a private tour of the new facility showing us all the new equipment, the huge barrel room, and new crush pad. Thank you, Matt!
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Pollak Vineyards: Okay—so we visit this lots and lots too. Casey, as always, provided us with an excellent tasting experience. We can report that the 2011 Chardonnay is still tasting quite well; however, we were both impressed with the 2012 Pinot Gris with its floral notes and stone fruit elements. The dry 2012 Rose caught my attention, and it displayed aromas of strawberry and spice that should delight any rose lover. This one should prove to be a popular option for Thanksgiving, but the lighter bodied 2011 Cabernet Franc might also be a quite choice. We were given a sample of the 2010 Meritage, and it ended up being my favorite of the red wines. I have a bottle of this one on my rack, so this gave me a chance to monitor its progress. Concentrated fruit aromas with hints of anise and tobacco led to flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and spice. Nice tannins too. I noted a subtle vanilla note at the end to boot. (Note to self—age for a bit longer and enjoy with prime rib.)
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White Hall Vineyards: The price points always impress us here. I liked the Pinot Gris 2011 that was fermented 50% in neutral oak and 50% in stainless steel. Pear and soft apricot notes led to a whiff of hay on the nose. I was surprised that Paul preferred the crisp Chardonnay 2012 with its pear and citrus aromas and flavors. It was fermented and aged in both French and American oak barrels; however, it still proved to more crisp than creamy—probably why Paul enjoyed it so much. Of the red wines, the Merlot 2012 was very accessible. It was blended with small amounts of Malbec and Chambourcin and presented aromas of violet, tobacco, and dried herbs. Spice notes complemented the cherry and blackberry flavors. Nice on its own or with a beef dish.
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Moss Vineyards: Our final stop was Moss Vineyards. It was also winery number 163 for us. They have been open for a bit more than a year. Our favorite white here was the 2012 Viognier. It was crisp and elegant. Our favorite red was the 2010 Architettura Reserve. We noted dried plum, concentrated flavors and tight tannins. They have 52 acres of property with 9 acres cleared and 7000 vines planted. They grow cab suav, cab franc, merlot, petit verdot, viognier and vermintino. We will plan to visit them again soon to see how the wines are developing and what new wines they have on the tasting menu. We had a great time chatting about wine and their adventure into Virginia wine.
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We always enjoy visiting wineries in the Monticello area. Plan to visit these and other nearby wineries to stock up on holiday favorites. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Celebrating Virginia Wine Month in the Monticello Area

vwm25smallWe took advantage of the long weekend to visit with Paul’s family and to sample wines in the Monticello area. Here is a summary of our favorite pours:

Barboursville Vineyards: We are pleased to report that the tasting set up has changed since our last visit, and an additional tasting station has been added to ease the bottleneck that occurred during hectic times. Our tasting experience was much more enjoyable, and we hope that the management continues to explore efficient ways handle the growing crowds that visit the winery. Paul favored the crisp Pinot Grigio 2012; I preferred the more complex Chardonnay Reserve 2012—no surprises here, right. However, we did appreciate the Viognier Reserve that is aging quite nicely. Of the red wines, it was tough to beat the Nebbiolo Reserve 2010 with its smoky notes and aromas of violet, tobacco and black currants. Paul thought that the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2011 did just that and notes its nose of cedar, blackberries, and cherries. We agreed to disagree.
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Jefferson Vineyards: This is our first visit here since winemaker Chris Ritzcovan has taken the helm. We enjoyed several wines here poured by one of our favorite tasting associates, Allison. Paul is not a Riesling fan, but he did enjoy the Johannisberg Riesling 2011 with its stone fruit aromas and subtle hay note. I preferred the 2011 Chardonnay Reserve 2011 and its weightier mouth feel. We reached another split decision on the red wines. Paul was most enthusiastic about the earthy Petit Verdot 2012 and its smoky nose and elements of dark berries, coffee, and dried herbs. My own favorite was the complex Meritage 2010. A whiff of violet led aromas of dark fruit, tobacco and anise. Components include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Keswick Vineyards: We always enjoy Stephen Benard’s wines and look forward to sampling his latest releases. We both appreciated the 2012 Viognier that was fermented in a combination of tank and French oak. Peach and tropical fruit notes with a bit of vanilla at the end made for a luscious wine; it had a nice length too. I was a bigger fan of the 2012 Chardonnay that I characterized as a classic Burgundy style wine. Lovely pear flavors accented by hints of oak and a long-lasting finish make for a food-friendly yet elegant wine. The 2012 Consensus is created by wine club members and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Norton. We found this one to be an accessible wine with smoky notes and elements of tobacco, mixed berries, and black pepper. Stephan also treated us to several of the Signature line of wines available to club members. We really enjoyed the chardonnay and viognier. We also got to sample a few of the 2013s in the barrels. They will be quite nice! Stephan and I also posed for a silly picture that Paul posted on Twitter. We always have fun chatting about wine and catching up with Stephan. Thank you, Stephan!
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Trump Winery: Hard to beat the Sparkling Blanc de Blanc with its nose of apples, pears, and toast. Paul enjoyed the crisp Chardonnay 2012 that was fermented 90% in stainless steel tank and 10% in French oak barrels. These leaner Chardonnays tend to be his style and are certainly easy to sip on their own. Fans of the simply red will be pleased to know that the 2008 vintage is still available and tasting quite nicely.
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More on our visit to the Monticello area next time. Until then, plan your own visit to these wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Celebrating Virginia Wine Month

vwm25smallHow Are You Celebrating Virginia Wine Month?

October is Virginia Wine Month, and we are doing it right by enjoying Virginia wine with dinner, at restaurants, and at Virginia wineries. Here is how we kicked off Virginia Wine month:

Dinner at Al Dente in Washington DC: Pappardelle pasta with wild boar ragout braised in red wine paired with Breaux’s Nebbiolo 2007.
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Harvest Salad as a first course at a dinner party: Crisp seasonal apples, chopped fennel, and slivered almonds tossed with a lemon vinaigrette then topped with crumbled blue cheese was served with Linden’s Riesling Vidal 2011

Steaks on Friday: We reserve Fridays as our red meat day. Filet Mignon topped with sautéed mushrooms was paired with Gray Ghost Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

Pumpkin Cake: My favorite seasonal dessert. Fall spices serve as supporting roles in this pumpkin-based delight. We enjoyed this with Naked Mountain’s Old Vine Riesling 2012 produced from the oldest Riesling vines on the property.
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Need other suggestions to celebrate Virginia Wine Month? Hume Vineyards will release its 2012 Viognier; characteristic floral notes are accompanied by stone fruit elements and a white pepper undertone. This one should be perfect with poultry topped with a cream sauce. Planning to invite friends over for a hearty beef stew? We were impressed with the 2011 Petit Verdot with its whiff of violet as well as its brambleberry and dark fruit notes; it’s a bit chewy too!

So this is how we kicked off Virginia Wine Month. How are you celebrating Virginia Wine Month? We would like to know, so feel free to share with us. Visit the Virginia wineries mentioned in this post and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.