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.

Nebbiolo Veritcal

On April 12th we attended the Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We’ve been attending the vertical tastings at Breaux for several years now and always have a great time. Several of our wine friends also attended the vertical. So how did the nebbiolo grape end up in the Breaux vineyards? Paul Breaux visited Italy’s Piedmont, tasted nebbiolo and fell in love with the grape. Now Breaux has four acres of nebbiolo grapes producing some really nice vintages of nebbiolo.

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After a introduction by Jen Breaux Blosser, the tasting began. We tasted six different vintages of nebbiolos from Breaux. We tasted 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and a barrel sample of 2012. Winemaker David Pagan Castano was on hand to discuss the different vintages and answer questions about the wines we were tasting. The four course meal was provided by Grandale Farm Restaurant. Instead of pairing specific vintages with specific courses, David suggested we try different vintages with different courses.

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The first course was an antipasto plate featuring a charred baguette, sliced cappicola, Genoa salami, Soppressata, Parmesan, Vermont white cheddar, aged Provolone with sun dried tomato pesto and fresh olive oil. With this course we preferred the 2000 and 2012 vintages of nebbiolo.

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The second course was pan-braised shrimp and local cured ham over white bean rosemary risotto and Swiss chard. We enjoyed the 2005 and 2007 vintages of nebbiolo with this course.

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The third course was salt-crusted rib roast over cauliflower and asparagus with truffle oil and fig jelly. The 2010 nebbiolo was our favorite for this course.

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The final course was a raspberry white chocolate truffle paired with the 2012 Nebbiolo Ice. During the tasting we compared our notes with other tasters. Our favorite vintages ended up being the 2005, the 2000, and the 2007. I selected the 2007 as my favorite vintage. I was sure to secure a bottle before leaving. We had a great time chatting about all things wine with Jen Breaux Blosser as well as discussing the nebbiolos from Breaux. If you haven’t attended one of the vertical tastings at Breaux Vineyards, you should think about signing up for one. And if you do, tell the Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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5th Annual Sparkling Tasting

After the Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards on Saturday we headed over to Tarara Winery for the 5th annual sparkling tasting organized by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. It is now our tradition to get together each year to do a blind sparkling tasting to rate different sparklings from both Virginia and around the world. This year we tasted eleven different sparklings. This year the attendees were Frank, Kathy, Nancy, Erica, Kimberly and Brandon, Allison and Tarara winemaker, Jordan Harris.
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Of the eleven sparklings, seven were from Virginia, two were from France, one from New York, and one from California.
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We gathered around the tasting table with about a dozen glasses placed in front of each seat. Jordan and his helpers poured the wines so we wouldn’t know which wines were which. We began our tasting, writing notes, and ranking the wines. When all the rankings were compiled, the results were announced. Here are the results:

1. Trump Blanc de Blanc
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar
4. Boneyard Blanc de Blanc
5. Flat Rock Cellars, Niagara (Tie)
5. Roederer Hermitate 2004 (Tie)
7. Trump Reserve
8. Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc
9. FIZZ
10. Piper-Hidseck
11. Grower Champagne – Louis de Sasy
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Our top three picks were:
1. Trump Blanc de Blanc
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar

Warren and I were quite surprised the Thibaut-Janisson ranked lower on the list. We absolutely love this sparkling. I have a bottle in my fridge right now! It might be our favorite. Maybe it was a bad bottle, it was too warm, or some other anomaly. We just can’t be sure. But we were surprised. We are very happy though that Virginia sparklings took the top four spots. Each year the rankings are a bit different but Virginia seems to do well each year.
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A huge THANK YOU to Jordan Harris and the staff at Tarara Winery for hosting the event and providing all the glasses, and the wonderful nibbles at the end of the tasting. We had a wonderful time and met some new wine friends along the way! After our tasting we all went to dinner at Palio in Leesburg for dinner. We had a great time!
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We are getting close to the time when people do a lot of celebrating…graduations, weddings, birthdays…so consider a Virginia Sparkling for your celebrating! When you visit one of the wineries that produces a sparkling, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Breaux Merlot Vertical

On Saturday we attended the Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We try to attend the verticals at Breaux as often as we can. We always have a great time and thoroughly enjoy the wines and the food pairings. This time, as usual, we weren’t disappointed. We were also so pleased to see so many of our wine friends attending as well. Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like, Erica and Kirsten from Cellar Blog, and our long time wine friend Susan were all in attendance.
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The vertical began with an introduction by Jen Breaux. We then heard from winemaker David Pagan Castano about the wines we’d be tasting. The years of merlot we tasted were 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and a barrel sample from 2012. The wonderful food pairings were provided by Grandale Farm Restaurant. Throughout the tasting we could taste the wines as we wanted and try different vintages with the different courses.
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The first course was local pulled pork and cremini mushrooms over a gruyere onion risotto cake with plum demi glaze. With this course we preferred the 2010 and the 2012 vintages.
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The second course was caper and mustard braised chicken over tarragon faro with frisee and scallion oil. The wines we preferred for this course were the 2006 and the 2002.
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The third course was beef and bacon stewed over angel hair pasta, Brussels sprouts, and basil in a red wine tomato sauce. This was my favorite course! Both Warren and I paired this course with the 2002, 2007, and 2010.
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The final course was a Breaux Lineage 1st Edition infused truffle. It was served with the Lineage 1st Edition.
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During the different courses we were able to ask David and Jen questions about the vintages and hear his take on the different conditions that helped produce each vintage. Jen Breaux treated everyone to a special treat in honor of Frank Morgan joining the vertical. We each had a glass of the 2002 Merlot Reserve. Everyone was impressed with what an amazing wine it is. I was pleased to taste it because I have one on my rack and was glad to see it can stay on the rack a bit longer.

David informally surveyed the crowd about our favorites. While there were lots of answers, it seemed the 2002, 2007, and 2010 were the favorites. They certainly were our favorites as well as the 2002 Reserve.
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Before leaving we purchased our favorites and posed for pictures. It was great to see Jen, David, Bruce and Silvia. And of course it’s always great to see all our wine friends! If you haven’t been to Breaux lately, check out their events page. You might find one you’d like to attend. And when you do, mention Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Gray Ghost Cabernet Vertical

On Saturday evening we went to Gray Ghost Vineyards to attend the Vertical Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. This is a black tie optional event for a limited number of guest who get to taste vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignons from odd number years back to 1993.

We saw some familiar faces at the event. And of course it’s always fun to catch up with Al, Cheryl, and Amy with the latest news at Gray Ghost. Al had selected Cabernet Sauvignons from 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. With the wines Cheryl had prepared many dishes that paired nicely with the wines. The chicken and pasta with red sauce was one of my favorites as were the meat balls. During the evening we had a chance to talk about each vintage and compare notes with other participants. We all had our favorites but it seems the years ending in 5s and 7s received must of the chatter. The evening ended with a delicious slice of double chocolate cake and a glass of the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone enjoyed this vintage!

If you haven’t attended one of the tasting events at Gray Ghost Vineyards, check out their events page and find one you might enjoy. And when you attend, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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Governor’s Cup

From the Press Release from The Virginia Wine Board: RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe tonight awarded the 2014 Virginia Wineries Association’s (VWA) Governor’s Cup to The Williamsburg Winery’s 2010 Adagio, a blended red wine. The Governor’s Cup was awarded Thursday evening, February 27 at the VWA’s Governor’s Cup Gala at the John Marshall Hotel.

AdagioSpeaking at the Governor’s Cup awards ceremony, Governor McAuliffe said, “I am honored to award the Governor’s Cup to The Williamsburg Winery, one of Virginia’s oldest and most prolific wineries. It is no secret the Commonwealth’s wine industry has experienced tremendous growth both in quantity and quality in recent years. Such growth has an enormous impact on Virginia in terms of economic development and job creation. The Virginia Governor’s Cup, now recognized as one of the nation’s most stringent competitions, helps to raise awareness of the world class wines grown and blended right here in the Commonwealth. My congratulations to The Williamsburg Winery for their long history of success and their most recent notable contribution to the Virginia wine industry.”

The Williamsburg Winery’s Adagio is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 28% Petit Verdot. Aged in French, American and Hungarian Oak, the ratio is 43% new oak, 14% one year old oak; 29% two year old oak; and 14% three year old oak. The winemaker’s tasting notes are as follows: The 2010 Adagio is a very bold upfront wine with loads of jammy fruit. The blackberries and blueberry notes are accentuated with some elegant mature darker fruit such as figs, dates and prunes. There is a hint of spice (warm cinnamon) with molasses and soy. The earthy notes come across with a touch of nuttiness. The oak is very integrated into the weight of the wine and the tannins are smooth and graceful. The wine has a wonderful finish that lasts for quite awhile.
“It is very satisfying and very humbling to be with my peers and the others who have won the Governor’s Cup. The 2010 Adagio was unbelievable, exceeding all expectations for quality, and it was nice for Adagio to get that recognition,” said Matthew Meyer, vice president and winemaker of The Williamsburg Winery. “Adagio, from the Italian ad agio, or ‘at ease’, is a musical term indicating the tempo of a composition that is meant to be slow and stately, so named in honor of the extraordinary depth, elegance and grace of this wine.”
The 2014 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over three weeks of preliminary tastings, held at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. The final round of tastings was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond in early February. The Governor’s Cup award winner was selected from the 2014 Governor’s Cup Case. The top 12 scoring wines of the competition, The Governor’s Cup Case, were selected from 410 entries of both red and white wines, from 96 wineries.

In addition to The Williamsburg Winery’s 2010 Adagio, the other 11 wines in the Governor’s Cup Case are:

Barboursville Vineyard – 2008 Malvaxia Passito
Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve
Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Octagon
Barren Ridge Vineyard – 2009 Meritage
Fabbioli Cellars – 2011 Tannat
Horton Vineyards – 2010 Tannat
King Family Vineyards – 2011 Meritage
North Gate Vineyard – 2011 Meritage
Rockbridge Vineyard – 2008 Meritage, DeChiel Reserve, unfiltered
Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
Two Twisted Post Winery – 2012 Chardonnay

The Governor’s Cup competition, revamped in 2011, is a result of a partnership among the gubernatorial-appointed Virginia Wine Board (VWB), the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA), and the VWA, which owns and manages the competition. Any wine made from 100% Virginia fruit was eligible for the competition, while ciders and fruit wines had their own category and medalists. All entries included an affidavit with a certification of 100% Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.

Wine included in the Governor’s Cup Case will be used by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for marketing purposes in Virginia, across the country, and around the world. A number of cases will be shipped to select wine media, promoting Virginia wines to a larger national and international audience. The award winning wines will be used for education purposes at Virginia winemaker roundtable discussions to improve overall quality of Virginia wines. Governor’s Cup Case wines will also be used by Governor McAuliffe on select domestic and international marketing missions and other events designed to promote Virginia wine and winery tourism.

Jay Youmans, one of only of 31 Masters of Wine (MW) in the U.S., directed the competition. Youmans, who is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and the owner and educational director of the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, recruited wine judges from the professional wine buying and wine media community. The judges were compensated for their time for a rigorous schedule of judging to ensure the competition maintained the highest level of professional evaluation. There were 30 judges in the preliminary round and 15 judges in the final round. A list of the judges along with their bios can be found at http://www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup

One of the most important aspects of the revised competition is the educational component of the judging. After the competition, regional forums for the winemakers will be held with the judging director. Notes with the judges’ blind comments will be shared with individual winemakers, so that they will get direct feedback on how their wines were received.
The Williamsburg Winery is located on Wessex Hundred, a 300-acre farm located in Virginia’s Historic Triangle. The winery has experienced continuous growth through an expanding portfolio of wines. The introduction of the 2007 Adagio was the culmination of a single-minded goal to produce the highest quality wines in the world. This is the second Governor’s Cup for Williamsburg Winery. The winery won in 1989 for its 1988 Chardonnay.

“Winning the Governor’s Cup is a testament to Matthew’s talent and to the dedication of our entire team, whose focus is on excellence in wines made 100% from Virginia grapes. Our goal is to grow as a leader in the industry, developing wines that reflect the character of our Commonwealth, neither Californian or European, but displaying elegance and interesting flavors,” said Patrick Duffeler, president and CEO, The Williamsburg Winery.

In addition to awarding Williamsburg Winery’s 2010 Adagio the 2014 Governor’s Cup, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore was named Wine Person of the Year for his contributions to this rapidly growing sector of the Commonwealth’s economy.

As Secretary, Haymore works closely with the Governor, General Assembly, and key stakeholders on numerous legislative and budgetary initiatives to integrate agriculture and forestry fully into Virginia’s overall economic development and jobs creation platform. A dedicated proponent of the Virginia wine industry, Secretary Haymore has worked in partnership with Virginia’s wineries and vineyards to proudly showcase Virginia wines during domestic and international trade missions. During his time as Secretary, Haymore has facilitated the first commercial shipment of Virginia Wine to China; helped to launch the Virginia Wine Summit, bringing national and international attention to Virginia wine; helped to almost triple the amount of funds placed in the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund for research, education and marketing; and worked with the General Assembly to establish a reimbursable tax credit program for the establishment or expansion of vineyards and wineries. His strategic focus has led to new sales and opportunities for Virginia wineries that will continue the industry’s growth in the years to come.

Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2013 with more than 511,000 cases, or more than 6.1 million bottles, sold. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 250 wineries. Virginia is also tied with Texas as the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producing state. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million to the Commonwealth’s economy on an annual basis.

For a complete list of previous Governor’s Cup winners and information about the Virginia wine industry, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office http://www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup/awards/ or call 804-344-8200.

Wine and Chocolates

Gray Ghost Vineyards was planning their big yearly Irresistible Chocolates and Cabernet event for Valentine’s weekend but a big snow storm was threatening to cancel it. They decided to move it to the next weekend. However, the snow didn’t last as long as expected so they had a special chocolates weekend on Valentine’s weekend instead. We decided we’d go to enjoy the chocolates and get this year’s Valentine glass. After a tasting of the current lineup of wines we each decided to enjoy a glass of the Ranger Reserve with our plate of chocolates.
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After our delicious adventure at Gray Ghost, we decided to stop at Unicorn Winery on the way home and check out the latest releases. We were so lucky to have owner Sandy Lepage conduct our tasting! We haven’t seen her in a long time. It was good to catch up and taste the new wines.
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Our favorite white was the Vicenza Gold. It’s a blend of chardonel and seyval. We noted pear and citrus and crisp edge. It made us think of the spring weather! Our favorite red was the 2010 Meritage. It’s a blend of 20% Cabernet Franc, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40% Merlot. We noted ripe berry fruit and smooth tannins.
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If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost Vineyards or Unicorn Winery recently, plan a trip soon. And when you visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Notaviva to Launch Cruise on the Danube

A fun yet elegant cruise down the Danube River which runs through historic cities like Vienna, Austria—what more could your ask for? A pairing with Virginia wines, of course. Notaviva Vineyards is planning just such a trip for November 2015. We stopped by Notaviva Vineyards to get the details from owners Stephen and Shannon Mackey; of course, we also wanted to sample the current releases.

The pairing of Virginia wine with historic sites and sounds has been dubbed “Melodies of the Danube”, and AmaWaterways will host the event. Stephen Mackey will host a number of wine and music pairings that will feature Notaviva wines. Also, Mackey will attempt to host a wine tasting from the cruise ship that can also be experienced in the Notaviva tasting room at the same time. The goal is to promote wine drinking as a multi-sensory experience while elevating the awareness of Virginia wines. Stephen Mackey’s passion for wine and music are well known, so this should be quite an event for participants. Notaviva wines that will be featured on the trip will be named after the famed German trio Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Imagine hearing strains of Beethoven on the Danube while sipping a wine named after the famed composer!
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Sounds like fun? There will be a number of teaser events between now and then to entice wine sippers/music lovers/history buffs to sign up for the cruise. Check out the website for information on these upcoming events, but we can report that the first mixer to promote the cruise will be held on February 9. There is plenty of time for interested travelers to plan for the trip; at least 64 cabins will be available.
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And what about the wines? Our favorite white wine was the yet-to-be released 2012 Sabado made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc. A classic Sauvignon Blanc, it exhibited notes of citrus and grass along with a refreshing acidity. With spring around the corner, the floral 2011 Verano which is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Traminette should be a pleaser. Pineapple and white pepper elements were noted along with a fuller mouth feel. Of the red wines, I was most pleased with the 2012 Vierzig Blaufrankisch. This is a blend of the German grape, Blaufrankisch, and Cabernet Franc (15%). I noted rich cherry and raspberry flavors along with a note of sweet tobacco. It was accessible and easy to sip; no coincidence that it was made to be listened to with the Mozart symphony by the same name, Vierzig.
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Notaviva will maintain its focus on wine, music and fun. In the coming months, guitarist Paul Rogers from the band Bad Company will be at the winery to host food, wine and music classes. Before then, Valentine’s Day will feature comedy and wine.

Readers who are intrigued by this opportunity should either visit the Notaviva website for more information or stop by the winery for updates and a wine tasting. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Birthday Wines

Warren turned 50 on Sunday! Happy birthday, Warren! On Saturday evening we had some friends meet us at Al Dente restaurant for dinner to celebrate. One reason we enjoy Al Dente is because they have a pretty good Virginia wine list. For dinner we selected a bottle of the Petit Verdot NV from Jefferson Vineyards and a bottle of the 2007 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards. Everyone enjoyed the wines and thought they paired well with their meals. After an informal survey of the wines, the 2007 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards was the favorite wine.
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After our delicious dinner we went back to Warren’s house for some cake and ice cream. We toasted the birthday boy with the Brut from Thibaut-Janisson. It seemed like the bubbles never quit! We love the Brut! Warren enjoyed his birthday very much as well as all the wines we celebrated with! Of course we’ll do this again in a few months when I turn 50!
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Gray Ghost Events

We attend many of the Gray Ghost Vineyards events all throughout the year. In the last month or so we’ve attend three of those events. Here is a short recap of those events.

On November 3rd we attended the Wine Library Tasting. The Wine Library Tasting is a chance to taste past vintages of some of their best wines. Since we have many of these on our wine racks, it’s a good chance to see how they are developing in the bottle. This time we had a chance to taste the:

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Cabernet Franc
2008 Merlot

Here are a couple of shots from the event.
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On November 16th we attended the Gala Release Party for the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a fun evening of great food, great friends and of course a great wine. Here are a few shots from the event.
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On December 1st we attended the Wine Library Tasting with Warren’s parents. They were in town for Thanksgiving and were able to join us in tasting the:

1993 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Gray Ghost’s Inaugural Release)
1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Here are a few shots from the event.
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We always have a great time at the Gray Ghost events. If you haven’t attended one, think about it joining in the fun. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!