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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
How 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.
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.
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.
We rarely attend wine festivals, but the Virginia Wine Festival at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia is one that we do try to visit. Gorgeous weather and numerous wine, food and art vendors made this year’s festival especially appealing.
Wine festivals in Virginia have a reputation for attracting party crowds who prefer to get a buzz rather than appreciate wine. However, the Virginia Wine Festival seems to generate a different vibe. A number of seminars held at various times of the weekend that include food and wine pairing sessions, wine tasting 101, and a wine judging crash course. One session delved into wine glasses and the differences between the various types of glasses—perfect for wine geeks!
Of course, wine tasting is the ultimate reason to attend the Virginia Wine Festival. Over 40 Virginia wineries, cideries, and meaderies poured their wares at the festival. We did not get to sample all of the wines; after all, we did have to drive home. However, we did try to focus on wineries that we tend not to visit due to distance in addition to some well known favorites. Anyway, some standouts from our tastings included:
Barboursville Vermentino Reserve, Nebbiolo Reserve 2010, and the Octagon 2009
Ingleside 2009 Petit Verdot
Potomac Point Chardonnay 2012, Abbinato 2011 and Norton 2011
Rosemont Pinot Grigio and 2010 Merlot
Trump Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008
Food vendors offered a variety of offerings including barbeque, Thai, crab cakes, and Mediterranean. I never turn away from a crab cake, so I enjoyed a crab cake from Sherri and enjoyed it with a glass of the crisp Pinot Grigio from Rosemont Vineyards. Paul sunk his teeth into a burger with another sample of the 2009 Petit Verdot from Ingleside.
Live music filled the air, but we did keep track of the bands that performed during the course of our time at the festival. However, Paul did snap some photos of the live action, and I saw him snap his fingers to the beat of some cool jazz tunes.
We enjoyed our time at the Virginia Wine Festival and intend to visit next year; I did not get attend the session on wine glasses, but will do so in 2014! Make your plans to visit the 39th Annual Virginia Wine Festival in 2014; in the meantime, try to visit some of the wineries that we featured in this post. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
The Inn at Vineyard Crossing, a bed and breakfast co-owned by Philip Carter Strother and Stephen Mills made its formal debut in Fauquier County with a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Saturday. Although Fauquier County boasts over 20 wineries, accommodations in the area were lacking; the Inn now fills that void.
Attendees gathered first at Philip Carter Winery and were shuttled over to the Inn for a tour. Of course, Philip Carter house wines were poured for guests who were allowed to freely walk about the Inn. The Inn itself is a renovated historic home that was built in 1787, and it includes five suites the largest of which is the Commonwealth suite. Luxurious best describes this suite; however, all of the suites were well appointed. For Virginia wine lover, the Virginia Viognier suite included a comfy king sized bed and as many pillows as one could ever need to take a snooze. All of the rooms include a private bath.
The kitchen caught my attention. It was roomy with all of the amenities needed for a truly gourmet experience. A chef-grade stove implied that delicious meals await Inn guests. These meals would be enjoyed in the elegant dining room with its master dining table; a contemporary yet style-appropriate chandelier lights the way for diners to enjoy a meal that we are certain will be paired with Philip Carter wines. We did not investigate the English garden and pool, but these were located directly behind the Inn.
After tours and wine, Philip Carter Strother gathered the guests to begin the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Inn’s entrance. On hand was Virginia delegate Webert who has made a commitment to promoting Fauquier County businesses including wineries and inns. The ribbon cutting signified a new dimension to Philip Carter Strothers’ devotion to the Virginia wine industry and what it can offer to customers who are now more likely to frequent local wine destinations especially if deluxe accommodations can be part of the plan.
So did we do a tasting at Philip Carter Winery? Of course we did. Favorites included the well-balanced 2012 Chardonnay that was not yet released; however, Dan Metzger, the operations manager, gave us a sneak preview. Its pear and apple characteristics gave way to a hint of toast and a lengthier finish. We also enjoyed the floral 2012 Sabine Hall Viognier with its peach notes and nice mouth feel. Fall is around the corner and time to consider bolder reds to pair with heartier fare. Consider the 2011 Corotoman, a Bordeaux-style blend. I first observed leather and tobacco notes and then plum and cherry elements; oak nuances were also noted.
If a trip to Fauquier County wineries is on your itinerary, consider a stay at The Inn at Vineyard Crossing. Needless to say, a tasting at Philip Carter Winery should be on the agenda. Be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Since July of this year, Gray Ghost Vineyards has hosted library tastings of red wines that they have literally kept in a wine library, and the oldest vintage dates back to 1993, the year that the winery opened. These events are held on the first Sunday of each month and will continue until December. This weekend, September 1st, they will be opening 3 vintages of Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: 1998, 2005 and 2008! $25 includes tasting of all current releases as well. You need to call to make reservations: 540-937-4869
We attended the August library tasting, and the featured wines included the 2002 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Cabernet Franc, 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s generally agreed that Cabernet Sauvignon ages well; however, we were impressed with the staying power of the Cabernet Francs. An additional incentive to attend the library tasting is the ability to also purchase favorite features from the library. Paul opted to grace his own wine library with a bottle of the 2002 Cabernet Franc, and I gave a bottle of the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon a new home. It was fun to chat with other wine lovers who appreciated these wonderful wines, and the wine library provides an elegant setting in which to enjoy them.
We recommend going to the library—the wine library at Gray Ghost that is. No library card needed. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
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.