Back On The Loudoun Trail

On a warm spring afternoon, we decided to catch up on some wine tasting on the Loudoun County Wine Trail. Along the way we stopped at Corcoran Vineyards, Village Winery and Casanel Vineyards.

Our first stop was at Corcoran Vineyards, and we were warmly greeted by Lori Corcoran. Of course, we were eager to sample the latest releases, and Lori started our tasting. Corcoran Vineyards is currently pouring two white wines, the 2007 Chardonnay and the 2008 Seyval Blanc, and both are fairly new releases. The 2007 Chardonnay is done first in stainless steel and then in oak barrels; the result is a crisp Chardonnay that presents lots of green apple aromas and flavors. For those who prefer sweeter white wines, the 2008 Seyval Blanc is sure to please with its higher sugar levels and refreshing citrus flavors.

Of the reds, four reds were poured, and my favorite was the 2006 Cabernet Franc with its raspberry and spicy flavors; I also noted some smoke on the nose. A close second for me was the 2007 Chambourcin. A lighter-bodied red wine, this Chambourcin with its cranberry notes and flavors was easy to sip and should proved to be versatile with food from burgers to pizza to grilled meats. For our tasting, Lori created an interesting blend—a mix of the Seyval Blanc (1 part) with the Chambourcin (2 parts). We actually liked the result; though Lori suggested as a Sangria mix, I liked it as it was and compared to a light Italian wine suited for pizza.

Once we were done with our tasting, we decided to enjoy lunch with the 2007 Chardonnay. Though it was a warm day, it was breezy enough so that we could enjoy the outdoors with food and wine. What was for lunch? Simple deli-sliced ham with provolone cheese, a baguette, and almonds. As we sipped and nibbles, we met Holly and Dan who were also doing some wine tasting on the Loudoun Trail. With them was their adorable and well-mannered dog, Portia. Holly’s favorite sipper was the 2008 Seyval Blanc, and Dan enjoyed the 2007 Chambourcin. Of course, our topic of conversation was Virginia wine!

With lunch consumed and wine enjoyed, we bid our farewells to Lori and made our way to Village Winery. We’ll provide the details on our next post. Be sure to visit Lori Corcoran at Corcoran Vineyards and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.


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Paul and Warren

Philip Carter Winery Tasting Part Two

So our barrel tasting at Philip Carter Winery gave us something to look forward to in the summer and fall; however, what about the current pours? After our barrel tasting concluded, Philip Carter Strother led us through a tasting of wines now offered in the tasting room. Along the way, he shared with us his future plans for Philip Carter Winery.

Of the wine currently offered, by far the best was the 2006 Chardonnay with its apple flavors and spicy finish. A classic Old World Chardonnay with a lengthier finish, this one is just fine on its own, with light cheeses or a simple poultry dish. Of interest to Paul the Artiste was the 2006 Falconwood. The label was designed by a local artist and reflects the landscape of the area; in fact, Strother will continue this practice so as to present a unique opportunity for local artists to show their work. Falconwood is a white blend of Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay, and at 2% sugar is sweeter than the Chardonnay. It presented a floral nose and a mix of tropical fruit flavors and would be perfect for a warm summer day. Guest blogger Michael Tyler would be certain to add this one to his wine rack!

Of the reds, the 2007Chambourcin may appeal to those who are looking for a young, lighter-bodied red to pair with burgers on the grill. I preferred the more complex 2006 Meritage which is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush cherry and raspberry flavors were complemented by a spicy edge at the end to make this one a natural partner with steaks.

Paul’s own favorite was the 2006 Late Harvest made from late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes. Paul noted enticing aromas of honeysuckle and apricots and enjoyed its opulent stone fruit flavors. Sweet enough for dessert, consider the 2006 Late Harvest with a hunk of blue cheese. The 2006 Late Harvest is a source of pride for Philip Carter Strother as it will soon be poured in London as part of an international presentation of Virginia wines. Not to be missed is the 2007 Sweet Danielle, a port-style dessert wine made from a secret ingredient (my guess is Chambourcin). Sweet Danielle was named after Strother’s wife, Danielle, and was served to her as an anniversary surprise at a local restaurant!

So I had to ask these questions of Philip Carter Strother: If you were interested in making wine, why Virginia? Why buy Stillhouse, and winery and vineyard much in need of improvement? For Strother, it was a family matter. He is the direct descendant of King Carter, a wine collector who settled in Virginia in the 18th century; his son Charles made wines in Virginia that earned international recognition—and this was before Jefferson’s attempts at wine making! Furthermore, Strother’s family also maintains a farm in Delaplane, and so for him this continues a long-established family involvement in agriculture and winemaking. And why Stillhouse? Though in need of some TLC, the vines were mature and still rather vigorous, and the winery presented to him an existing operation that needed some re-organizing. The property includes 22 acres of which 11 acres are in vines, and the winery now produces 2300 cases of wine. New plantings of Viognier and Petit Verdot should eventually add to the future lineup of wines.

So with our tastings completed, we were ready for a snack and a glass of wine. We opted to sip a glass of the 2006 Chardonnay with some Swiss cheese and French bread; we were able to enjoy wine and cheese outdoors on a pleasant (and probably the last) sunny day. We compared notes and again marveled at the changes under way at Philip Carter Winery. We’ll return soon, of course; however, you all get out there before we do, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Beginnings At Philip Carter

We recently posted about the rebirth taking place at Loudoun Valley Vineyards, and yet another renaissance is occurring at Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Philip Carter Winery was once known as Stillhouse Winery, but Philip Carter Strother bought Stillhouse Winery last year. Stillhouse Winery’s vineyards and wines had been in decline for quite some time, but Strother was determined to improve both the condition of the vineyards and the quality of the wines. He invited us out to his barrel tasting held on April 18, and we eagerly accepted the invitation.

The first thing we noticed when we drove up to the winery was the renewed condition of the vineyards. Tall weeds were gone, vines were pruned and healthy, and we sensed that a positive change had occurred since the change of ownership. We were greeted by Philip Carter Strother who proudly declared that all wines now in the barrel were the first true Philip Carter wines— from the vineyards to the barrels. We were then led down to the barrel room, and our tasting was conducted by current winemaker, Seth Chambers. Seth started us with two barrel samples of 2008 Chardonnay; the first sample was from neutral oak barrels and the second from new oak barrels. The first sample seemed riper and fruitier than the second sample which presented the classic buttery texture of a Burgundy-style white wine. Seth informed us that he intended to blend the two to produce a Chardonnay that is indeed similar to a white Burgundy. I must say that I really enjoyed the second sample on its own; however, Paul preferred the first sample. I concluded that the blend will then appeal to both of us and that we would have to return to purchase a bottle upon its release! We also sampled a still-young and developing Vidal Blanc. Done in stainless steel, this one should settle into the fruity sipper that Virginia wine lovers enjoy in warm weather.

Up next were the red barrel sample, and up first was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Seth provided some background about the 2008 crop of Cabernet Franc, and he explained that the crop did survive a weather scare that occurred late in the summer. Unexpected rains threatened to dilute the fruit quality including brix levels to undesirable levels; however, a decision was made to let the fruit hang for as long as possible anyway, and the fruit was not harmed by weather events. Seth was proud of the result and justifiably so, and in fact, 2008 Cabernet Franc earned my gold star of the day. I noted characteristics of dark berries and pepper with vanilla on finish; Paul admired its dark garnet color, too. Paul seemed to prefer the blended version of the Cabernet Franc which included Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and he found it to be more rounded and structured. No arguments from me—it was quite good. The 2008 Cabernet Franc will be released in the fall.

Meritage fans will want to sample the release of the 2008 Meritage blend which will include Cabernet Franc (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). Still evolving, this sample presented a fruity nose with lots of plums and dark cherries. I should mention that the 2008 Meritage will not be released until next year, so tasters will have to be patient. Available now, though, is the newly released 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and this was the last of our samples offered in the barrel room. Rich cherry flavors with some spice were noted with this still young wine.

Our barrel tasting was now complete, and we easily concurred that Philip Carter Winery’s upcoming releases will present an impressive lineup of wines in the tasting room. This, of course, is due to the improved management of the vineyards and winemaking by Seth Chambers who learned the art of winemaking at Pearmund Cellars. We were guided upstairs to the tasting room by Philip Carter Strothers who personally gave us a tasting of current releases. This gave us a chance to chat with Philip about his goals and aspirations for Philip Carter Winery. What did we learn? Stay tuned for next week’s post to find out. Until then, pay a visit to Philip Carter Winery of Virginia and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Edible Chesapeake Spring 2009

Our latest article for Edible Chesapeake can be found in the current spring issue. It’s about hybrid varietals such as seyval blanc, vidal blanc and chambourcin and their success in Virginia. Edible Chesapeake can be found at Whole Foods; visit the wineries mentioned in the article and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Weekend Wrap Up

We had a busy wine weekend! We had two wine events to attend this weekend and they were both wonderful events. There’s so much to say about both but we’ve decided to mention a few things and show you the events through pictures.

On Saturday we attended the annual Nebbiolo Vertical tasting at Breaux Vineyards. The food was absolutely delicious and provided by Grandale Farms. We had three flights of wine with a course of food to enjoy with each flight.

We tasted the 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007 Nebbiolos. 2005, 2006, and 2007 are still in the barrels and won’t be released for a few years. Of those we tasted, the 2001 and the 2007 got our gold stars. They both had nice tannis, nice color and went well with the food parings.

On Sunday we attended the Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival. Several local wineries were in attendance and it was nice to taste many of the wines we enjoy at their wineries. One winery that we haven’t had the chance to visit was Rogers Ford. We really need to plan to visit them soon. At their table we really enjoyed the Sumerduck Rose. We actually picked up a bottle to bring home before leaving.

Another notable wine that received one of our gold stars was the 2008 8 Chains LoCo Vino which is a traminette/vidal blanc blend. It was crisp and fruity and perfect on a hot day like today. We secured a bottle of this one as well. Doug Fabbioli produced this wonderful wine.

After our tasting we wandered around the displays of artwork, photography, and antiques. We also enjoyed some delicious lunch items from the Knights of Columbus. It was a very warm day but we enjoyed the event and came away with some great wines. We hope this becomes an annual event. If so, it’s one you’ll want to put on your calendar next year.

Don’t Forget!

Don’t forget! The Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival is this weekend! The event takes place on the campus of St. John Evangelist School on Saturday April 25th noon to 6:00 pm and Sunday April 26th noon to 5:00 pm.

Several Virginia wineries will be attending the festival including Barboursville, Delfosse, Pearmund, Tarara, and many others. There will be local artists and photographers attending the festival as well as antique dealers, musicians, and authors.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time for $20.00 and at the gate for $25.00. Designated driver tickets are available for $10.00. Proceeds from the festival will benefit St. John Evangelist School, Church, and Knights of Columbus.

We will be attending the event and of course we’ll be writing about our experiences. Look for us there!

Excellence at King Family

Our recent visit to the Charlottesville area included a tasting at King Family Vineyards. In fact, the tasting room manager, Tracey Grimm, invited us over for a tasting, and of course, we accepted the offer. When we arrived at the tasting room, we were greeted by sounds of saws and hammers, and we quickly discovered that the tasting room was under renovation. However, King Family had created a makeshift tasting area in the barrel room complete with the current lineup of King Family wines. Tracey warmly greeted us and before we knew it we were tasting away!

We’ve always been impressed by the wines at King Family Vineyards, and the current offerings continue to prove our claim that King Family Vineyards produce some of the best wines around.The quality winemaking at King Family Vineyards is attributed to the talented and experienced winemaker, Mathieu Finot. A native of Crozet Hermitage of the Rhone Valley in France, Mathieu Finot leads the pack of Virginia winemakers who currently make some of the state’s best wines.

We travel with only a few gold stars in our pockets, so we really had to anguish over our decisions since any of the wines that we sampled could have earned the coveted awards. Of the white wines, our award went to the 2007 Viognier which is done mostly in stainless steel with some minimal time in oak barrels. A lush honeysuckle nose with notes of peaches and melon won me over, and a mouthful of citrus flavors with a nice honeyed texture confirmed my vote. However, my (close) second place favorite was the 2007 Roseland which is a perfect blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. Nice lemony and floral nose here with white stone fruit in the mouth makes for a lovely springtime and summertime pour.

Of the red wines, we did differ on opinions. Paul’s gold star was awarded to the 2006 Merlot with its dark fruit characteristics and firm tannins. “Steak wine” was Paul’s summary, and I did concur with this decision. My own favorite was the 2006 Meritage with aromas of dark cherry, black pepper and violets; I noted flavors of dark cherry and spice with mocha on the finish and a nice acidity. This Meritage is a blend of Merlot (60%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Petit Verdot (20%) and should only get better with age. Also in contention was the smoky 2007 Cabernet Franc which is yet another award winner for King Family Vineyards. We were treated to a sneak sample of this limited production, and it possesses plum and spicy characteristics with a lengthier finish. Paul gave this one his “close second” award!

On the lookout for summer wines? It’s never too early at this time of the year, so do not overlook the 2008 Crose, a Provence style rose that is very dry and produced from Merlot grapes. Strawberry and melons here and perfect for summer picnics, barbeques or by itself on the deck with friends! This one does sell quickly (as we found out last summer) so stock up now!

Tracy did give us a tour of the renovations that promise to provide a new and improved tasting room, and we also got to survey the Carriage House which is adjacent to the tasting room. This impressive space includes a fireplace that would make Henry VIII envious and can accommodate weddings, private parties and other special events. Of course, King Family wines are the main feature at all events! The featured event at King Family Vineyards continues to be polo, and details about upcoming polo matches can be found at

So we enjoyed a glass of the 2006 Meritage as we gazed upon the polo/equestrian field. It was a drizzly afternoon, but we did enjoy the Meritage with a block of Gruyere cheese and baguette. Needless to say, several bottles were purchased to enjoy at a later date, and we bid our farewells to Tracey and thanked her for the tasting and tour. We’ll be back very soon, but readers should visit even sooner—please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Sweely Estate Winery

On a recent trip to Charlottesville we planned a stop at Sweely Estate Winery. Previously known as Acorn Hill, Sweely Estate is not just a tasting room but an entire hospitality center for events of all kinds. The 16,000 sq. ft. center includes a tasting room, retail boutique, art gallery, culinary center, wine library and barrel room, and a large space for large events. The building is impressive. The estate sits on more than 300 acres of land with 40 acres in vine.

We made our way to the tasting bar and were lucky to be the only ones there for a tasting. Our tasting associate walked us through the list of wines available for tasting. We tasted six whites and four reds. Most of the whites and some of the reds are fermented in stainless-steel. Those that are oak aged spend time in French oak barrels. White wine drinkers, like sometimes guest blogger Michael Tyler, might enjoy the Wolftown White Blend 2007. It’s a semi-sweet blend of chardonnay and vidal blanc with a nice floral nose. After tasting the wines and asking many questions of our tasting associate, we decided on a glass of the 1867 Meritage 2006.

With glass in hand and notebook ready we headed to the patio to enjoy the views and the 1867 Meritage 2006. This wine is named after the old barn on the property that was built in 1867. It’s a blend of 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. It spends 12 months in new French oak barrels. We noted blackberry and black cherry on nose. In the mouth we were treated to blackberry and black cherry with a spicy edge and a long finish. Warren noted the color as dark garnet. This one would pair well with a thick steak.

After enjoying the 1867 Meritage 2006, we walked around the hospitality center to see the art gallery and all the amenities…all quite spectacular. Be sure to plan to stop at Sweely Estate Winery the next time you find yourself headed toward Charlottesville. And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Upcoming Event in Warrenton

Looking for an event to add to your April calendar? Consider attending the Warrenton Wine and Arts Festival. The event takes place on the campus of St. John Evangelist School on Saturday April 25th noon to 6:00 pm and Sunday April 26th noon to 5:00 pm.

Several Virginia wineries will be attending the festival including Barboursville, Delfosse, Pearmund, Tarara, and many others. There will be local artists and photographers attending the festival as well as antique dealers, musicians, and authors.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time for $20.00 and at the gate for $25.00. Designated driver tickets are available for $10.00. Proceeds from the festival will benefit St. John Evangelist School, Church, and Knights of Columbus.

We will be attending the event and of course we’ll be writing about our experiences at the event. Look for us there!

Mark your calendars and get your tickets now!