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.
On September 14th and 15th the 38th Annual Virginia Wine Festival will be held at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia. Festival goers will be able taste wine from more than 50 Virginia wineries, hear music from some great bands, and attend seminars to increase your knowledge of wine. There are several different ticket levels and festival goers can even purchase a ticket to catch a van from the Vienna Metro to the event. Many more details about the festival can be found at the website.
We are planning to attend the event on Sunday. We’ll be posting about our experience. If you don’t have any plans this weekend, consider visiting the Virginia Wine Festival at Great Meadow. And if you see us there, say hello!
In the past we have visited Tarara to enjoy the concerts they have on Saturday evenings during the summer months. We decided to get back to the concert series on Saturday the 24th of August. That evening they had three bands playing music from the 1990s grunge era. Warren is a big fan of this type of music so he was looking forward to hearing the bands.
Before the concert though we decided to do a tasting in the tasting room. Our favorite tasting associate Keri was on board to conduct our tasting. Most of the wines on the list weren’t new to us so Keri was nice enough to share some of the 2012 Charval. It’s very crisp and clean. It’s Rkatsiteli based and it shows on the palate. We thought this one was the most improved wine from previous versions. We also enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc. I enjoyed the fruity nature. We thought it would pair nicely with some turkey at Thanksgiving.
After our tasting we headed over to the concert venue. We enjoyed some BBQ from Mans BBQ. We selected the Boneyard Unrefined Red as our wine for the evening. At the concert they were only selling the Boneyard series of wines that were released that day. The Unrefined Red paired nicely with our BBQ. We met a bunch of women sitting at a table near us and they introduced us to the Bad To The Bone Bubbles, the first sparkling wine in Loudoun County. We enjoyed it so much we decided to get a bottle of our own. Once it was poured in a champagne flute, the bubbles went on and on. We noted some nice apple and pear and citrus zest. We also noticed some toasty notes. It was crisp and acidic. It’s a nice bubbly.
The evening continued with the grunge music of the 90s and the bubbles. The concert series in the summer is a great way to enjoy a warm evening. There are only a few concerts left this year. If you haven’t gotten to Tarara lately, plan a trip soon. Or plan to attend one of the upcoming concerts. When you do, tell them 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.
Virginia Wine Time is going on vacation! We will be traveling outside of Virginia for the next few weeks so there won’t be any updates to the website. Check back in late July for our latest winery visits. Until then, have a great few weeks!
Saturday, May 11th was Wine Tourism Day across the country. Of course we had to be part of this day. Luckily Warren’s parents were in town as well. We decided to take them to a few wineries they hadn’t been to before. The first winery we took them to was Boxwood Estate Winery.
Warren’s parents were impressed with the beautifully designed tasting room and winery building. We’ve always thought it was one of the best we’ve seen. We conducted our tasting at the circular tasting bar right inside the building. Warren’s father joined Warren and I during the tasting. All three of us really enjoyed the 2012 Rose with it’s crisp edge, strawberry and white peach flavors, and the long finish.
The reds were a different story. Warren’s father found a favorite different from ours. Warren’s father favored the 2009 Topiary. He enjoyed the pepper and tobacco notes. Warren and I favored the 2010 Boxwood. We noted dried herb, tobacco, and mineral notes. We thought it was a bit young still and enjoyed it now but think it will be even better in a year or so.
After our tasting Warren’s father and I shared a half bottle of the 2010 Boxwood and Warren enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Rose. Even though there was a light sprinkle in the air, we did enjoy our wine at the picnic tables with a nice view of the vineyards. Before leaving we purchased some of our favorite wines. Our first stop on Wine Tourism Day was a success. When you next visit Boxwood, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
On May 4th we attended the third annual Blending Class at Gray Ghost Vineyards. The outcome of the class was to create a Meritage or Bordeaux style blend using at least three of the five Bordeaux grapes. To be considered a Meritage (or Bordeaux blend), a wine must consist of a combination of any or all of these varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. No single varietal can make up more than 50% of the blend. We were trying to create a blend that was similar to the award winning Ranger Reserve. Our class began with winemaker Al Kellert teaching us about the different Bordeaux grapes. We learned about the flavor profiles for each grape and some history before getting started.
After our lesson on the individual grapes, we got to work on our blends. We began by tasting each of the five grapes separately. All the wines were from the 2011 vintage. As we tasted each of the grapes we kept notes about each one. We wrote down what we thought was prominent in each wine. We thought about things like the nose, the color, the flavors we were getting, the ending, and the tannins. After taking our notes and thinking about the individual wines, we then began the process of putting certain percentages together to create our blends. Since Al had not told us what the blend percentages were for the 2011 Ranger Reserve, we had no idea how much to include from each wine. It was up to our palates to decide what percentages of the wines we liked best. We used our pipettes to put different percentages in our beaker to create the final blend. We were able to blend two different times to get to the one we liked best. After testing and tasting a few times I came up with my final blend. My final blend was actually VERY close to the final blend of the 2011 Ranger Reserve.
My blend consisted of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Malbec, and 15% Petit Verdot. The 2011 Ranger Reserve blend is 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 16% Malbec, and 16% Petit Verdot. Al was pretty impressed how close I got to the 2011 blend. I was pleased with the outcome.
My favorite individual varietal was the 2011 Malbec. I think most participants enjoyed the malbec as well. The only problem with using malbec as the main ingredient is that Al doesn’t produce enough to create a malbec dominated blend. He informed us that if we used a high percentage of malbec, he’d only have one barrel of the blend to sell. Knowing this, many of the participants changed their blend in the second round to reflect this. I preferred my first blend as my finest. Warren joined me for the class but his allergies were keeping him from truly enjoying the nose and flavor profiles of each wine. He still came up with a pretty decent blend.
After our class we enjoyed a box lunch and a glass of wine on the patio. Al and Cheryl joined us during lunch. It was fun chatting about the class and about Virginia wine. We always have a great time at Gray Ghost. If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost lately, plan a trip soon. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Winemaker Jim Law held a special release tasting of upcoming wines at Linden. We look forward to attending this annual event, and this year was no exception. Gorgeous spring weather, bursting blossoms, and fluttering birds provided an idyllic setting to boot.
The event featured five tasting stations, and the first station was located on the outdoor crush pad and appropriately named First Sip. Chardonnay was the star attraction here, and there were four of them to sip. These included the 2011 and 2010 Avenius Chardonnay followed by the 2011 and 2010 Hardscrabble Chardonnay. The Avenius site is known for its rocky soils and thus produces leaner wines with mineral characteristics; we both agreed that the 2011 better presented these unique qualities of the Avenius vineyard. Shellfish will be perfect with one! The Hardscrabble site with its clay soils produce fuller-bodied wines; of the two, I preferred the 2010 Hardscrabble Chardonnay with its richer mouth feel.
From the white wine station, we moved on to the red wines held in the barrel room. We moved through four tables that presented a total of seven red wines. The first table featured a 2010 Cabernet Franc, and this will be the first time that Law has released a single-varietal bottling of Cabernet Franc in quite some time; however, the 2010 Cabernet Franc proved to be jammier and more muscular than in previous years. Law therefore opted to bottle it on its own. We approved of the decision and enjoyed our sample with a spicy lamb meatball.
The other tables provided more opportunities to sample wines from the 2009 and the 2010 vintages. In all cases, we tended to prefer the 2009 pours. The most accessible was the 2009 Boisseau Red, a blend of 43% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, and 26% Petit Verdot. The 2009 Hardscrabble Red proved to be the most complex and was dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (64%) then Merlot (14%) and Petit Verdot (3%). Paul was a big fan of the 2009 Avenius Red with its plum notes and earthy elements.
Though we did enjoy the 2009 vintages, it was hard to ignore the potential for the 2010 red wines. The 2010 harvest was best since the heralded 2007 season, and it was telling that Cabernet Sauvignon heavily dominated all of the 2010 blends. I am always a fan of the Hardscrabble reds, and once again the 2010 Hardscrabble Red was my favorite of the still evolving 2010 blends. Remember, though, that the 2009 blend contained 64% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 version? 83% I have no doubt that the 2010 Hardscrabble Red will have great cellaring potential once it is released.
We completed our release tasting and then opted to try the current releases in the tasting room. Here again we were able to taste a contrast of seasons. Law has released a 2011 Red, a bright and light bodied red blend that would be suitable with a pizza, burger, or spicy fare. (I called this one a Beaujolais-style wine due to its soft, fruity nature, but I’m not sure if Jim would consider it a complement.) Anyway, it was the product of a very rainy and difficult year yet it was very quaffable. Be sure to enjoy soon, though. It might be an option for Thanksgiving dinner, too. (Paul ended up buying two bottles!). On the other hand, the 2010 Claret was more complex with smoky notes and ripe dark fruit flavors. Steak on the grill? This would pair nicely. Unlike its younger sibling, this one will be able to hang out on the wine rack for a while.
Our tastings were done, and we decided to linger for a while with a glass of our favorites. I savored a glass of the 2009 Hardscrabble Red, and Paul enjoyed a glass of the 2009 Avenius Red. We munched on a smoky gouda cheese, summer sausage, and a baguette, and Paul snapped pictures of barn swallows as they flew back and forth between a dark space beneath the deck and nearby trees.
We enjoyed our special release tasting and made sure to purchase some very special wines. Plan a trip to Linden, and mention that Virginia Wine time sent you.
Yes, we are back on track with our regular posts about Virginia wine, and this entry will present the results of a tasting that featured sparkling wines. This has become something of a tradition for Virginia bloggers, and we thank Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like for his continued efforts in putting this contest together. Other Virginia wine bloggers in attendance were VWD and GEG from Swirl Sip Snark, Anthony and Jaymie from Virginia Pour House blog, Megan Headley who writes for CVille Weekly, Allan and Kris from Cellar Blog, and Pia Mara Finkell from The BuzzBin. This year’s tasting was held at Early Mountain Vineyards, and thirteen bubblies were tossed into the ring.
Of the thirteen, ten were from Virginia, one was from the Finger Lakes, another was from New Mexico, and a final outside entry hailed from Spain.
The judging was done blind. What were the results? How did Virginia’s sparkling fare? When all was tasted, here is how they ranked:
1. Thibaut-Janisson 2008 Cuvee D’etat: This was also my own personal favorite with nice yeasty notes and elements of apple and pear.
2. Thibaut-Janisson NV Blanc de Chardonnay: This also earned the second spot on my own list.
3. Trump 2008 Blanc de Blanc
4. Thibaut-Janisson NV Fizz: This one earned my third place finish.
5. Veritas NV Scintilla
6. Dr. Frank Winery 2006 Chateau Frank (from the Finger Lakes region)
7. Barboursville NV Brut
8. Prince Michel Winery NV Sparkling Wine
9. Gruet Winery NV: Last year it earned the top spot; I placed this one at #11 on my own scorecard. Off aromas and a flatter palate led to a dramatic fall in the ratings this year.
10. Paradise Springs Winery NV Apres
11. Afton Mountain 2010 Bollicine
12. Horton NV Sparkling Viognier: This one earned my #13 rating. It had no characteristics of a sparkling wine. Not one bubble, and I searched in vain for at least one to dance its way to the top of the glass. It tasted like a flat Viognier, and I do mean flat.
13. Jaume Serra Christalino NV Brut Cava: Off aromas and an odd finish sent this one to the bottom of the rankings. It did bubble, though, and for that reason I gave it an edge over the Horton Sparkling.
So cheers to Virginia: in particular, kudos to Claude Thibaut-Janisson for his continued excellence in producing premier sparkling wines. Special thanks must be extended to Michelle, Jacob, and the entire Early Mountain team for not only hosting the event at their wonderful facility but also for providing us with the stemware, cheeses, breads and deli meats to nibble as we sipped.
This is the time of year for graduations, weddings, engagements, and other special events. Celebrate a special occasion with a bottle of sparkling wine from Virginia. The local wine shop may sell the Thibaut-Janisson selections; if not, ask that they do. Mention that Virginia Wine Time recommends them!