Cabernet Franc Vertical at Gadino Cellars

We have attended a number of vertical tastings in Virginia, but they usually feature Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Meritage blends. Gadino Cellars offered a vertical tasting of Cabernet Franc, Virginia’s premier red grape, and we were intrigued by the opportunity to sample past vintages of the grape to see how they fared over time. On a very cold and snowy afternoon, we made our way to Gadino Cellars to attend the vertical.
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Owner and winemaker Bill Gadino started the event with a warm welcome to guests. He provided a short presentation on the Cabernet Franc grape, its characteristics, and its prominence in portfolio of Virginia’s red wines. Bill also presented the wines for tasting, and they included Cabernet Franc from the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 vintages. However, they were not necessarily poured in chronological order; rather, they were poured in contrasting pairs and with food that complemented each pairing. For example, the eldest 2006 partnered with a fruitier 2009 to pair with a first course of polenta topped with crumbled Italian sausage. Bill threw in a mystery wine alongside the 2008 vintage to pair with the second course that featured marinated mushroom and a cheese purse. A final course and pairing showcased the heavily awarded 2007 vintage beside the jammy 2010 vintage, and these were served with a lamb chop and cannellini beans topped with a scone.
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So what were our favorites? It was a tough decision as each vintage had its own unique and special qualities. A fact sheet explained the circumstances of each harvest that helped to put each vintage into perspective. Each year seemed to present challenges, and even seemingly best growing seasons should never be taken for granted. The 2006 season, for example, was described as typical with variable temperatures and normal rainfall until August that turned out to be too dry. Some beneficial rainfall saved the vines from stress without splitting or rotting the grapes. Even the heralded 2007 growing season produced some concern; although it was a very dry growing season, harvest began earlier, and that the concern then was lower than normal acid levels. In sum, managing a vineyard and then making wine is a tough business even in the best of years.
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With that it mind, we swirled, sniffed, sipped and savored. My own favorites were the 2007 vintage with its fruit-driven nose and palate; nuances of tobacco and oak were well integrated, and the finish was smooth and lengthy. My other preference was the 2008 vintage that I described on my tasting sheet as the most Old World of the Francs that we tasted. Its smoky nose and characteristics of cherry, raspberry and spice suggested a true French heritage. The most New World of the bunch was the jammy 2010 vintage that was picked at 24.5 brix, the highest level of the Francs that we sampled that afternoon. Oh, and what about the mystery wine? It was a Cabernet Franc from Gadino’s sister winery in Sicily. This one was by far the earthiest of the Francs with an initial impression of barnyard that faded away with some swirling. I actually grew to enjoy it at the second sip.
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Paul had his own favorites, and the 2008 topped his list followed by the 2006. The eldest statesmen of the group still showed well with elements of dried fruit, tobacco and spice. I detected a caramel note too. Paul was particularly fond of the marinated mushrooms that to him best complemented the 2008 Cabernet Franc when first delivered to the mouth with a forkful of the baked cheese purse. The food was indeed delicious and was prepared by Chef Chuck Arnaud at Main Street Bakery and Catering in Luray Virginia.
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Bill Gadino regaled guests with hilarious jokes and stories; however, it was his skill as an accordion player that moved us all. Italian classics, Beatles tunes, and Sinatra hits were all part of his playlist. I was most touched by Bill leading the group in singing Happy Birthday—to me! (Yes, it was my birthday on Saturday, and I can safely say that I am more than legal to drink wine at any Virginia winery!)
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The vertical ended with guests being led down to the barrel room to sample the still evolving 2012 Cabernet Franc which will be released in the spring of 2014. It was still very fresh as though it was just picked (which, of course, it was), and characteristics fruit elements were already on display. Derek Pross, Bill’s son-in-law and co-winemaker, also provided us with a sneak sample of the upcoming 2011 Cabernet Franc. This one will be more of a Chinon-style Franc with bright berry characteristics. Lighter in body, it should prove to be versatile and refreshing with summer and fall fare.

With our vertical tasting done, we made certain to purchase bottles of our favorite Gadino Cabernet Francs. We will return soon to sample the latest releases; however, we encourage readers to visit sooner. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Wines at North Gate

After the Cabernet Vertical we attended at Breaux Vineyards on Saturday we decided to go to North Gate Vineyards to see what was on the tasting menu. We hadn’t visited since May 2012 for the Taste Camp event and it was time to see what new wines were ready for tasting.
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(Photo from March 2011)

It’s always nice to walk into the tasting room and see familiar faces. Mark and Vicki Fedor noticed us right away and welcomed us to the tasting bar. After catching up a bit we began our tasting. I kept my tasting notes on my iPad so I will post them here as they were recorded on the iPad. Between each taste we chatted with Mark about each wine, how it was made, and the impressions we experienced.

2011 Viognier-Mineral, tropical fruit, melon, delicate wine with no residual sugar. Made from the French clone known as Aban. Aged in neutral french oak barrels. I really enjoy the lightness of this wine. This was my favorite white!

2010 Roussanne-We noted a pear nose and pear on the tongue with some almond notes. It had a nice hay color. Roussanne is different from your regular white wines. It has evolved since our last tasting in May. Warren enjoyed this one.

2012 Chardonnay-We didn’t get to taste this one but it should be released by early May. Stay tuned!

2011 Rose of Cabernet Franc-We noted watermelon, strawberry, and dried herbs. It has a very low .25% residual sugar and was finished in stainless steel.
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2010 Cabernet Franc-We noticed bright fruit with a light pepper finish, It was blended with 10% merlot to balance it out and smooth out that pepper finish. This one won gold at the 2012 San Diego Wine Competition and the Indy International. Congrats!

2011 Merlot-We got a sneak peak tasting as it’s not yet released to the public but will be soon. It has already won Bronze in San Francisco Wine Competition-This one has a beautiful color, a hint of petit verdot, all french oak, cherry, tight tannins, hint of spice, 5% cabernet sauvignon. We have a feeling this one will be very popular.

2010 Meritage-We noticed mineral upfront and then a fruity mid palate, and a slightly tannic ending. Cherry, plum, pepper, tobacco were the descriptors that were mentioned while tasting this complex wine with lots of layers. The tannins made me think of enjoying this one with some food.

2010 Petit Verdot-This has a beautiful rich, dark color. We noted sweet tobacco, dark fruit notes, and refined tannis. It’s blended with 10% cabernet sauvignon. We were able to try the exclusive dark chocolate mad with the North Gate Petit Verdot. This became my favorite red. It reminded me of their legendary 2008 Petit Verdot. This one also won a gold medal a the Atlantic Seaboard wine competition!

2011 Apple Wine-This award winning Apple wine is made from four kinds of apples. The apple flavors run from the front of your tongue all the way to the back. It’s filtered and fermented like a white wine. We thought a good food pairing would be soft cheeses. Warren even thought it would go with lamb or pork chops. Mark informed us others have used it in Sangria.

After our tasting we continued to chat with Mark and Vicki and discovered they are still selling their wines at the Falls Church Farmers Market. They began there and continue to go because the community knows them and would miss not seeing them. The community aspect keeps them going back. We also found out they have a chocolates and wine tasting option. You can select three chocolates to pair with three wines during a tasting. We were able to taste a few of the chocolates and they were delicious! The chocolates are made by The Perfect Truffle in Frederick Maryland. During our conversation we found out North Gate has an artist in residence program. The artist is able to display their work in the tasting room, conduct classes if they wish, promote their works and sell their pieces of artwork. It’s a great addition to the tasting experience and helps show the connection between local art and local wine. If I was a better photographer, I would think of becoming one of their artists in residence!
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We had a great time catching up with Mark and Vicki. It was nice to have some time to chat with them about all things North Gate. After our time at the tasting bar I enjoyed a glass of the 2011 Viognier and Warren enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Roussanne. We enjoyed our wine with the view from the patio while a warm fire burned in the outside fireplace. Before leaving we purchased a few of our favorites and said our Thank Yous and goodbyes. The next time you are in Loudoun County plan a trip to North Gate Vineyards and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Ginger Molasses Cookies

We are slowly working our way through the boxes of cookies we received a while ago. Recently we decided to try the Ginger Molasses Cookies from Cookies and Corks. We decided to pair them with the 2011 Green from Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery. The Green is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Petit Manseng. The wine wheel/cookie combination suggested a chardonnay. Even though the Green isn’t all Chardonnay, we thought we’d try it anyway.

Warren is the tasting expert. He suggested getting our palates wet with the wine and then tasting the cookie. The ginger of the cookie was pretty strong but notes of pineapple, pear, and mango were evident. The tropical notes from the petit manning as well as the ripe pear elements from the chardonnay play well with the ginger spice of the cookies. I thought the ginger was a bit overwhelming but Warren thought the flavors played well together.

We have plenty of cookies yet to taste so stay tuned for future posts. And we’ve been told the 2012 Green has been released so we will need to try this new vintage. If you visit Cardinal Point anytime soon be sure to check out the 2012 Green and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!