A Perfect Score-The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21-Century Winery by Craig and Kathryn Hall

perfectscore_3d_compAre you a wine novice and interested in knowing more about wine and wine making process? Maybe you are an aspiring winemaker who wants to up your game to produce better wine. Or maybe you are the wine geek who always wants to know more about terroir or the finer details of making quality wine. A Perfect Score is the read for you. It presents the story of Craig and Kathryn Hall, owners of HALL and WALT wineries in California. Their journey into the world of wine and winemaking eventually earned them perfect 100 scores from wine critic Rob Parker.

How did they earn the perfect score? I pulled out four important ingredients that came together to produce perfection for the Halls:

1)Vision: Kathryn Hall grew up in California wine country, and her parents Bob and Dolores Walt owned a vineyard in Sonoma. She became a lawyer and in the 1990s was appointed by President Clinton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Austria; however, despite her career successes, Kathryn yearned to be back in the vineyard. Her husband, Craig, had been a successful business man and entrepreneur. Together, they agreed to combine their unique talents and areas of expertise to pursue the art of winemaking. Perfect Score takes the reader through the history of Napa as a winemaking region starting in the early 20th century and then into the groundbreaking years of the 1970s when California wines proved to be on par or better than wines from France. Of course, Napa wine trails are cluttered with well-established wineries; adding to the list in the early 2000s was probably taking a risk. However, the Halls established a goal to produce wines of high quality that expressed terroir, and this lead them to purchase the Sacrashe Vineyard in Napa Valley. They were determined that their wines would be unique and distinctive and unlike others found along the Napa trails.

2) Precision: As time would tell, the Sacrashe Vineyard proved to be the correct site for the Halls to realize their vision. They also grew varietals that were suited to their particular site in Napa, and these included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Their Sonoma site produces wines under the WALT label, and grapes grown here include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A team of expert winemakers that include Steve Leveque and vineyard manager Don Munk allowed the vineyards to express themselves in the bottle while utilizing organic methods that avoided interventions with chemicals.

3) Perseverance: Vineyard managers and winemakers are basically farmers; their crop depends a lot on mother nature. The consumer adds another layer of stress——will they embrace the vision by purchasing the product? Will their pocket books allow them to do so? The Halls had established themselves as players in the winemaking field by racking up 90+ scores by wine critics, but the Great Recession of 2008 demanded that wine drinkers who appreciated fine wine make sacrifices. Those sacrifices included wine. However, despite tolls that the economic downturn played on the wine business, the Halls remained true to their vision and their commitment to quality vineyard and winemaking practices. In the end, their perseverance to paid off as demand returned while the wines continued to score 90+ points.

4) Access: The Halls learned early on that potential customers could be found beyond those who scoured traditional wine industry media. They realized the potential in social media earlier on to create a welcoming presence for a growing legion of HALL and WALT fans.

So what were the results of the Halls’ vision, precision, perseverance, and business acumen? A Perfect Score. In 2010, the HALL Exzellenz Cabernet Sauvignon earned 100 points from renowned wine critic Robert Parker. Parker then awarded 100 points to the 2013 HALL Rainin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker’s tasting notes noted qualities in both wines that were unique to the sites where the grapes were grown; of course, 100 points must also be a testimony to expert winemaking and vineyard management.

A Perfect Score should prove to be an insightful and inspiring read for anyone especially those readers who have any sort of interest in wine, wine making, and the wine industry. It presents an intriguing story mixed with personal stories from both Craig and Kathryn. Give it a read so that you too can aspire to your own perfect score!

Changes at Virginia Wineworks

Michael Shaps Wineworks announced today (June 12, 2015) that Jake Busching has joined the winery as the new Head Winemaker & General Manager.  Jake Busching comes with 17 years experience and an outstanding reputation in the Virginia wine industry. He most recently held the position of General Manager, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Grace Estate, and prior to that he performed similar roles at Pollak Vineyards and Keswick Vineyards.  Working alongside Jake, our current enologist Joy Ting will take on a more elevated role of Production Manager & Head Enologist.  Joy will work closely with Jake to ensure that the logistics of the production facility and the cellar crew are managed efficiently.  Working directly under Joy, Jessica Trapeni will be our new full time lab technician, performing the daily functions of the laboratory to maintain and ensure our high standard of wine quality.

“I have known Jake both personally and professionally for nearly twenty years in his various roles of vineyard manager and winemaker and am very enthusiastic about the future of our winery” comments owner Michael Shaps. “Jake’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge has already made him a key addition to the Wineworks family. The increasing demand from our custom winemaking clients led us to look for an addition to our team who will fit in with our standards of innovation and exceptional service and quality. I feel very fortunate to work with such a talented team and have the utmost confidence in them.”

Michael and Jake photo

Located just south of Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Shaps Wineworks is Virginia’s largest custom contract winemaking operation, with a total production reaching 30,000 cases per year with over a dozen clients. Known for his innovation in the industry, Michael Shaps introduced the “bag in a box” to Virginia wine consumers and most recently introduced a refillable wine growler. In addition to the Virginia winery, Michael owns a winery in Burgundy, France (www.maisonshaps.com) and imports these wines to the United States, where they are sold throughout Virginia and in the tasting room at Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Breaking News!

BREAKING NEW: VIRGINIA WINES HIT 90 POINTS IN WINE SPECTATOR!

Yes, the headline is correct. The current issue of the well-respected wine magazine reviewed nine Virginia wines in its current issue. Of the nine, one scored 91 points, three others scored 90 points, and the rest earned between 87-89 points. These results are excellent and prove what we have been writing about for almost nine years—Virginia makes excellent wines. So who’s on the honor roll?

1. 91 points Barboursville Octagon 2010
2. 90 points RdV Vineyards Lost Mountain 2010
3. 90 points RdV Rendezvous 2010
4. 90 points Sunset Hills Mosaic 2010
5. 89 points Barboursville Malvaxia Passito 2008
6. 89 points Barren Ridge Meritage 2009
7. 88 points Keswick Viognier Monticello Signature Series
8. 87 points King Family Meritage 2011 (yes, 2011)
9. 87 points Virginia Cellars Viognier Viognier Annefield Vineyards 2013

Congratulations to these talented winemakers who produced these stellar wines. Plan to visit these wineries soon to taste them for yourself, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

October Is Virginia Wine Month!

Virginia Wine Month logoOctober is Virginia Wine Month! Wineries and restaurants that serve Virginia wine will be having activities all month to help celebrate Virginia Wine Month. To help you plan your month, here are a few resources to look into. There are lots of activities for you to participate!

Nancy and Rick from Virginia Wine In My Pocket has put together “31 Days of Virginia Wine” to help you celebrate and enjoy Virginia Wine all month. Check out their ideas!

Virginia.org has put together a list of events happening at Virginia wineries for almost every day of the month. Check out their list and plan to attend some events!

Virginiawine.org also has a long list of winery happenings for the whole month of October. Check out their list and plan your celebration of Virginia Wine Month!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook and check back on the blog to see what we will be doing for Virginia Wine Month. We’ll be Tweeting and Facebooking our winery visits as well as the different Virginia wines we’ll be enjoying this month. Happy Virginia Wine Month!

Bingler & Brown

During our most recent visit to King Family Vineyards we chatted with one of our favorite tasting room managers, Matt Brown. He has transitioned out of his role as Tasting Room Manager at King Family Vineyards and has begun a new adventure in the wine industry. Along with his business partner, Melissa Bingler, he is starting a wine management, consulting, and education firm in Charlottesville called Bingler & Brown.

binglerbrown

There are essentially three components to their business:

(1) They provide storage and management of private wine collections in their climate controlled warehouse. These collections can range from 1 case to 100 cases. Each case in their care is cataloged and clients will have access to their staff to discuss the ins and outs of their various bottles (value, when to drink, how to serve, what else they may like to try, etc..)

(2) They consult with local wine shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars about purchase decisions, wine lists, and proper wine service. They can provide training not only for owners but also for front line staff on how to present their wine programs in the best light.

(3) Knowledge is power! They will be offering numerous casual level classes for consumers who want to have a stronger understanding of what wine is all about. In addition, they will also be leading professional level classes for those who want to start a wine career or for people in the industry who want to take their careers to the next level. Initially this will start by offering a prep course for the Certified Specialist of Wine designation through the Society of Wine Educators. In the Spring, in conjunction with some other people, they will begin leading some of the Level I and Level II courses that are a part of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust curriculum.

Matt grew up in a family owned business, then graduated college to work for another family owned business, and is now starting his own small business. He is very excited about this new venture! Check out their website and see what they can do for your wine collection. And when you do, tell Matt and Melissa that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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.

Virginia Wine In My Pocket

Virginia Wine in My Pocket announces the launch of a first-of-its-kind wine travel website – a new “virtual home” for the more than 1.6 million annual visitors to Virginia wine tasting rooms. The new vawineinmypocket.com includes free tools to help visitors plan, track, and log their wine country visits, designed specifically for visitors to Virginia’s booming wine country.

Launched in October to help celebrate Virginia Wine Month, the new website features secure online storage for visitors’ private tasting notes and trip diaries. Travelers can easily “favorite” and mark wineries, cideries, and meaderies they’ve visited; color-coded icons on Google-style maps show the checked-off wineries, along with those still on the “hit list.” And, as members of the Virginia Wine in My Pocket community, users can share their experiences by leaving a winery review, as well as rate the wine, the service, and the venue. The website also features descriptions and photos of more than 50 hand-picked, highly-rated restaurants and lodgings–many scenically located among the vineyards–making “winery weekend” travel planning easier than ever.

vawineinpocket

Commonwealth Quality Alliance

VWA_cqa_logo_final-bWhen you purchase a bottle of Virginia wine how can you be sure it’s of the highest quality? Many can tell by tasting it or simply opening the bottle. A new way to tell if you are buying quality Virginia wine is to look for the Commonwealth Quality Alliance label.

The Commonwealth Quality Alliance (CQA) program was established to both reward and raise awareness of Virginia grown wines. They want to raise the bar of Virginia wine quality and highlight the state’s elite wines. The CQA is a quality standards initiative of the Virginia Wineries Association and is endorsed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the Virginia Vineyards Association and the Virginia Wine Distribution Company.

Currently there are 14 wineries who participate in the program. In order to obtain approval by the CQA and Virginia wine must undergo several steps:
•A juice sample that will analyze the Brix of grapes
•A laboratory analysis of the ready-to-bottle or bottled wine
•A sensory panel evaluation of the ready-to-bottle of bottled wine

The CQA Label on a bottle of Virginia wine means:
•The wine was made with 100% Virginia grapes.
•The wine was produced and bottled in Virginia.
•The wine has been tested for quality and purity.
•The wine was produced by a CQA member winery.

Member wineries also receive benefits for being in the program:
•Bottle stickers for your CQA approved wines.
•Press release template to aid in the announcement of your winery joining the CQA. The release has space for you to provide information about your particular winery and the wines that have been selected for the CQA.
•11×17 inch customized poster to display onsite at your winery, complete with your logo and winery name. The file is designed to print in a standard printer, so this can be done in-house or at a printer.
•Tabletop display tents for you to disperse throughout your establishment, all of which contain information about the CQA and its participating wineries.
•Pocket maps that contain information about the CQA and participating wineries.
•The Commonwealth Quality Alliance Crystal, recognizing your winery’s acceptance into the CQA.

The CQA has attended several recent wine events and will be at events in the future. The events include:
•Virginia Wine Expo on February 23rd and 24th at the Richmond Convention Center
•CAA Men’s Basketball Championship on March 9th to 11th at the Richmond Coliseum. The CQA will have a table at the CAA Zone, the only area where the public can purchase alcohol during the games.
•Vintage Virginia on June 1st and 2nd at Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA.

Many wines have already been granted approval by the CQA. A full list can be found on the CQA website. The CQA program is only a few months old and wineries are joining the program each week. Overtime we expect a majority of Virginia wineries to join the program and have their wines analyzed by the CQA. To find out more about the program, the wineries participating, and updates to the list of wines approved by the CQA, visit their website. And look for the CQA label on the Virginia wine you purchase.