When 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.
Tarara Vineyards just received news that three of the winery’s red wines earned 90 points in Wine Enthusiast magazine. These wines include the Cabernet Franc 2010, Tranquility Red 2010, and the CasaNova 2010. We recently visited the Tarara tasting room and can attest to the quality wines produced by winemaker Jordan Harris. We’ve become big fans of the nova series of wines, too.
Jordan Harris was kind enough to answer our questions about the 2012 harvest and to reveal his expectations for the 2012 vintage. We hope that this will be the first in a series of several articles about the 2012 harvest, and we have been polling winemakers from various regions of the state about the 2012 season. Tarara Winery is located in the Northern region in Loudoun County. A huge THANK YOU to Jordan Harris for answering our questions!
How would you describe the 2012 growing season for:
Overall I think that n most of the white varieties will really shine in 2012. I am finding the acidities are really crisp but are balanced with some of the best flavor development I have seen here including 2010 and 2007. They are wines that show a true sense of terroir by having very ripe characters but structures that still allow for minerality and freshness to shine. We only processed Chardonnay, Viognier and Rkatsiteli for whites in 2012. The Chardonnay is leaner but with an abundance of character. I think they will be expressive out of the gate but will also be some of our most age worthy expressions I have made so far in Virginia. Viognier was a welcome return to having riper stone fruit, floral and exotic characters with a full creamy mouthfeel after 2011. While they have the tell-tale aromatics and fruit characters and creamy mouthfeel I think they also have the best acidity I have tasted for balance in quite some time. Rkats was a first for us so it is hard for me to have any comparative statements. We processed Rkats in three wildly different ways and got three wildly different wines. We did some as simple cool fermented stainless only wines, some we fermented on the skins to make an Orange wine with 30 days on the skins and some we did barrel fermented and aged with full Malo. I love all three, but learned I still have no idea what Rkats should be.
The reds were far more selective, but by no means any less successful. We had an extremely long growing season starting almost a month early. That meant the hang time was superb for us in pretty much every block we harvested resulting in more supple tannins, great flavor development and good color. There were a couple scattered rain events that did not effect our Nevaeh Vineyard as much as many other sites just due to the weather patterns around our site. Tranquility needed the most time given the rain that hit randomly at harvest and we always like to wait 7-10 days after a rain event before harvesting (not always possible, but it is a goal). Overall I find that the wines have a more claret like leanness, but more new world style fruit characters. They have the tannins of 2007, the acid of 2008 or 2009, and the flavor development of 2010. There are a couple blocks that weren’t as exciting, but overall I think it was a great vintage for both reds and whites given the length of it assuming you had good vineyard management and reasonable yields.
What factors contributed to the success/failure of the 2012 harvest?
The biggest helper was the early bud break and the fact that we did not get any severe frost damage. There were some blocks that had small amounts of frost that resulted not in shoot death, but simply a naturally lower yield which in my opinion was good. It meant for more balances and concentrated fruit in the end without the possibility of greed after the tough 2011 vintage. It was also a fairly moderate to cool year for most of the vintage except of the end of July and start of August when we hit 100 degrees for several days. The rain in most of our blocks nearing the end of the vintage I found refreshed the vines, but did not cause much of an issue with dilution if you were patient enough and your vineyard was healthy in the first place. It resulted in the ability to hang the fruit longer without having overly excessive sugars and better acidity then most years.
How does the 2012 harvest compare to previous harvests?
A somewhat stated above, 2012 is a year that will be held on its own. The long, moderate season allowed for the flavor development of 2010, tannin (both skins and seeds) of 2007, but the acidity and weight of 2008 or 2009. It is a true winemakers vintage in that I think the types of wines that are being tasted are those that we enjoy with complexity, structures and not wines that will overtake a meal. They are supple and almost lean but in a very good way.
What will the hallmarks of the 2012 wines?
This is the area that never really changes much for me here. Chardonnay and Viognier shined for the whites. Merlot and Syrah shined for the reds, although I am more partial to the Cabernet Franc we harvested from Nevaeh this year. I can only compare it to 2007 for quality in my mind for Cab Franc. I found with the midseason ripeners (Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah) and a little patience we were able to get some pretty incredible grapes that in my opinion will rival any vintage I have seen here.
As readers may know, Fauquier County held hearings to debate the merits of passing an ordinance that would restrict certain business practices at Fauquier County wineries. These include limiting the number of events held by wineries and curtailing hours of operation during certain days of the week. According to the details that I gleaned from Swirl, Sip, Snark and other sources, county citizens who demanded the ordinance did so out of frustration over the less than neighborly behavior of Martarella, Oasis, and Pearmund wineries. (Oddly, Marterella is open again, Oasis is defunct, and Pearmund is currently for sale.) However, numerous Fauquier residents actually spoke against the ordinance citing the positive relationships between themselves and other county wineries. Unfortunately for the Fauquier wineries, though, the ordinance passed by a vote of 4-1.
The most shocking development, though, had to be Linden winemaker Jim Law’s decision to speak in favor of the ordinance. We appreciate Law’s decision to forego events, and we do enjoy the quiet, Zen-like atmosphere at his winery. However, we also understand the decision of other winemakers to host events in order to promote their wines; in an industry that may require at least ten years to break even, holding the occasional music event or wedding helps to keep the doors open.
Lawsuits over the matter seem inevitable; however, strained relationships between the highly respected Law and his colleagues may be the other tragic consequence. We will be certain to keep track of these developments to see how thing progress.
In the meantime, enjoy a glass of wine from a favorite Fauquier County winery. Here is a list of Fauquier County wineries to visit:
Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
Cobbler Mountain Cellars
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery
Fox Meadow Winery
Granite Heights Winery
Miracle Valley Vineyard
Molon Lave Vineyards
Naked Mountain Vineyard
Philip Carter Winery
Piedmont Vineyards and Winery
Rogers Ford Farm Winery
Vintage Ridge Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards
Visit these Fauquier County wineries and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Jen Breaux Blosser is General Manager of Sales, Marketing and Hospitality at Breaux Vineyards. She is also a very familiar face to Virginia wine lovers. Jen is a visible face in the tasting room at Breaux Vineyards, and she constantly interacts with wine lovers on Facebook and Twitter. Her energy and passion for Virginia wine is limitless. When Jen is not at the helm of a winery that has earned numerous national and international awards, she is also a mom to three boys. We’re so pleased she agreed to answer some questions for us. Click on the Women and Wine tab to read her answers. Thanks Jen!
Also check this out:
Wine critic Dave McIntyre’s article in Tuesday’s Washing Post is a must read for wine lovers. The article features chef Peter Chang and his decision to pour Virginia wines at the James Beard House in Manhattan to celebrate Monday’s start of the Year of the Dragon. Winemaker Andy Reagan will undertake the task of pairing Chang’s spicy cuisine with Virginia wines. NcIntyre then reports on a New Year’s dinner that he hosted at Peter Chang’s Charlottesville restaurant, China Grill, and invited several Virginia winemakers to attend. The purpose? To test Andy Reagan’s wine pairings with Chang’s menu. The results? Read the article to find out!
Wine expert Richard Leahy is indeed the go-to guy for anyone who wants to know anything about Virginia wine. The Charlottesville resident is passionate about wine and in particular, Virginia wine. His involvement in the industry runs the gamut from wine consultant to wine judge to wine historian, and to wine reporter. In fact, Richard even has his own backyard vineyard! Richard also coordinates with Blue Ridge Wine Tours to offer expert tours of wineries on the Monticello Trail.
We asked Richard to provide for us and our readers a brief comparison of Virginia’s AVAs and wine regions, a review of the past several vintages from Virginia, and a few details about his upcoming book about the past, present, and future of the Virginia wine industry.
(Before you read on, a brief definition of AVA, the acronym for American Viticultural Area from Karen McNeil’s The Wine Bible: a ‘delimited grape-growing region distinguished by geographical features, the boundaries of which have been recognized.’)
1. There are six AVAs and 9 wine regions in Virginia. How do the soils and climates compare and contrast in some of these regions?
In the Eastern Shore and Coastal plain there are sandy loam soils, much like Bordeaux without the gravel morain. West of the fall line (basically Rt. 1/I-95) you’re in the lower piedmont, mainly distinguished from the upper Piedmont from the Southwestern Mountain/Monticello to the Blue Ridge by topography. If you look at a Virginia soils map, it’s a very diverse complex mix in the Piedmont. Soils there are on the acid side of the scale with lots of clay in the central Piedmont but less so in the northern Piedmont. The Shenandoah Valley is markedly different with limestone-based soils dominating. Drainage is the main quality aspect for soils and wine in Virginia, so the role of topography is important or being located where there are well-drained soils such as Eastern Shore, and the Valley. The Shenandoah Valley is compelling in both limestone-based soils and cooler, drier climate and you can tell wines from that region have a cooler climate character than just over the mountain in Monticello, for example.
The Monticello AVA has the advantage of warmer temperatures and lots of elevation for the vineyards as well as for aeration and water drainage, so that area can produce big reds. However, the lower vigor and better acid retention in the reds from the Northern Piedmont (as well as the noticeably higher acid and fresher character in the whites from there) shows that this region should be recognized with an AVA. You may know that a Middleburg AVA is now pending.
The other AVAs frankly don’t have enough of a track record in the market or with critics to be able to stand out in a blind tasting in a coherent way, as I believe Monticello and Shenandoah. Valley can. As you know politics plays as much of a role in AVAs as anything else.
2. Do the different climates/soils, elevations make for varying flavor profiles? For example, would a viognier or cabernet franc in one Virginia wine region have features that are different from the same varieties grown in another region in the state?
I have noticed that wines from the Eastern Shore are very fresh and clean but light bodied, where wines from the complex soils of the Piedmont have more depth, and the Shenandoah Valley gives both whites and reds a fine minerality. I think my answer above suffices for more.
3. Since Hurricane Isabel struck this area in 2003, Virginia has produced some outstanding vintages due to optimal weather conditions. If you had to rate some of the past vintages, since 2003, which ones would be at the top of your list?
2005 (B+ but not long-lasting; drink up for most); 2007 was ripe and juicy but low acid, drinking hedonistically well now. Reds with tannic grapes will last up to a decade. 2008; very mixed bag (viogniers pretty much wiped out), some reds are world-class. Meritage blends promising, also norton. 2009: good for high-acid whites, very spotty for reds esp. merlot and cab franc, but this varies widely, and surprisingly cabernet sauvignon the best of the reds. 2010: Very good all around; ripe but balanced whites, and forward, very fruity reds. Tannins and acids a bit low like ’07; a vintage you can glug and enjoy now across the board, but look carefully for tannic based wines for what to lay down. I should say people shouldn’t write off 2011; early-ripening varieties like chardonnay, pinot grigio, riesling, gewurztraminer and pinot noir (!) have been excellent since they came in before the long September rains.
4. Isabel’s younger sister, Irene, paid us all a visit last year just in time for harvest. How have you assessed the 2011 vintage?
It seems to us that the eastern most regions of the state were hit hard by heavy rain and then came the botrytis and sour rot, but the western regions of the state were a bit more fortunate. See above. It was highly variable by location and by ripening cycle of the variety. People should buy carefully but taste widely. Consensus is that due to the heat spike in July/August it will be better (for early-ripening varieties and then sheltered regions) than 2003 and could have good value for smart shoppers.
5. We know that you have a book coming out about Virginia wine. Can you give us some details about the book? When will it be released?
The title is Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, because it goes back in time to 17th century Jamestown, and up to the present. Jefferson is often portrayed as a protean figure, bringing European vines, and culture, to the frontier, but in fact he was on a continuum. I reveal some chapters of previously unknown 18th century Virginia wine history, but most of the book is both a travelogue through the Commonwealth visiting individual wineries, and a focus on the various issues of the “evolution of quality wine in Virginia” (the book’s subtitle). These chapters range from “The blessings and challenges of nature” (a more in-depth discussion of soil and climate issues), to the changing perception of Virginia wine by the American wine media (now including bloggers), “Richmond roots for the home team” about the importance of the support of state government and our current administration in particular; and “what the British think of Virginia wine and why it matters.” I also have a profile of two very different Virginia wineries, both new in 2011, and how they illustrate the versatility of Virginia wine today, and what the Virginia wine industry means to whom. The book will be available for purchase in May of this year, and your readers can find details of when I’ll be doing scheduled book signings at Virginia wineries and bookstores by early February by visiting BeyondJeffersonsvines.com.
I recently attended a wine maker’s dinner at a local restaurant, and the topic of Virginia wine came up. My table partner who brought up the topic was rather derisive about the notion that Virginia made quality wines and even scoffed at articles written by local wine experts who compared the best local wines to those of Bordeaux or Burgundy. Of course, yours truly chimed in that Virginia did indeed make some outstanding wines and suggested to my table mate that before dismissing local wines perhaps she should get out on the wine trails and try a few. I then mentioned that many Virginia wines earn medals at international wine competitions with several earning high scores in Wine Spectator magazine. And right on cue, this month’s edition rated wines from Lovingston Winery and Tarara Winery. Entries from both wineries rated in the 85-89 range, and a wine that earns a score in this range is described as “very good: a wine with special qualities.” Here are the wines and their scores:
Lovingston Merlot Monticello Josie’s Knoll 2010 – 87 points
Lovingston Cabernet Franc Monticello Josie’s Knoll 2010 – 86 points
Tarara Honah Lee Virginia 2010 – 86 points
Tarara Nevaeh White Virginia 2010 – 85 points
Congratulations to winemakers Riaan Rossouw and Jordan Harris of Lovingston Winery and Tarara Winery respectively for the diligent efforts both in the vineyards and the barrel room. And next time you come across a naysayer about Virginia wines, remind him/her that even internationally recognized and widely read wine magazines have taken notice of Virginia wines.
It’s been an interesting week in the Virginia wine world. Dave McIntyre has a very interesting post about a few things. One of the things he writes about is viognier becoming Virginia’s signature grape. Check out the article here.
On top of Dave McIntyre’s piece, Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like has written about this topic as well. There is a huge string of interesting comments with the post. Check out his post here.
The folks over at Virginia Wine In My Pocket are helping make today (Friday the 13th) a little less scary by offering their iPhone/iPad app for only 99¢. That’s a deal! If you don’t already have the app, you might want to get it today. It is only on sale today! You can learn about the app here.
And finally, you might be looking for something to do next weekend. The annual Wine Festival at the Plains is taking place next weekend. We usually attend this event but are unable to this year. Think about going and if you do, let us know how it was. You can check out the event here.
On Friday Breaux Vineyards announced their new winemaker to their club members. The press and the rest of the world will hear about their new winemaker on Monday. The new winemaker at Breaux Vineyards is David Pagan Castaño. Turns out we sat right next to him at the recent Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards. He was still a candidate at that time. Here’s a picture of Warren next to David’s wife, David, and Chris Blosser. We are looking forward to talking with David more at the Club members pick up party on May 22nd. We are also looking forward to the wonderful wines we’re sure he’ll produce at Breaux Vineyards.
We just spent the last five days staying at The Inn at Meander Plantation. We have stayed here before and have loved it. It’s a wonderful place to stay. We felt this was a central location to visit many of the wineries in the Charlottesville area. We will be sharing more information about the Inn and our stay here in the next edition of the Extra Pour. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, watch this short video showing you a little of The Inn at Meander Plantation.
Take note of this:
August 27-28 2010
Wine snobs and wine snob “wannabes” are invited to participate in a fun wine-centric weekend, Aug. 27 and 28, offered by The Inns at Montpelier, a group of nine Central Virginia bed-and-breakfasts. The convenient all-inclusive “Wine Snob Weekend” package features unique Virginia wine tastings, transportation to all events, classes and creative regional fine cuisine. “Wine Snob Weekends” are designed to be paired with two nights at the luxury Inn of your choice.
Wine Snob Weekends start on Friday evening with a reception highlighting several Virginia sparkling wines. After Saturday morning’s Inn gourmet breakfast, the day offers a full range of fun activities and lunch. Relax at your chosen Inn before enjoying wine and discussion with guest Virginia winemakers in the vineyard at the Inn at Meander Plantation and dinner in the Inn’s acclaimed restaurant.
“We are pleased to launch these educational and fun August weekends for our guests, showcasing the Inns at Montpelier and Virginia wines,” says Suzie Blanchard, Inn at Meander Plantation Owner/Chef. “You select one of the nine Inns, make a phone call and reserve accommodations for a very special B&B and add this incredible wine experience package. The Wine Snob Weekend package makes it easy to plan a fun wine-filled weekend and unwind in the beautiful countryside in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Planned weekend activities include (transportation included):
‘Who has the Best Bubbles” ~ Comparison tasting of Virginia sparkling wines with an hors d’oeuvres buffet at Mayhurst Inn.
“Wine 101 Grapes to Glass” ~ General wine knowledge class and discussion led by wine snob, wine instructor and lecturer Warren Dunn at Inn at Westwood Farm.
“Wine Pairings” ~ General discussion on pairings along with Virginia wine and local cheese tasting at Holladay House.
“Picnic and Porch Wine” ~ Al fresco lunch with light summery “porch” wines at Ridgeview Bed and Breakfast.
“Blind Tasting” ~ Imagine tasting Virginia’s finest wines from a paper bag! There will be wine, fun and prizes at Inn at Poplar Hill.
“How to Host a Wine Tasting Party” ~ Learn how-to in your own home with session at Chestnut Hill
Dinner at the Vineyard ~ Pre-dinner wine and conversation in the Inn
at Meander Plantation vineyard, followed by five-course, candlelight wine-paired dinner in the Inn’s dining room.
Pick up Complimentary Winery Tasting Coupons & Touring Guide at Ebenezer House.
Southern tour ~ Sweeley Estate Winery, Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards and Keswick Vineyards.
Northern tour ~ Sweeley Estate Winery, Prince Michel
Vineyard and Winery, Old House Vineyards, Gray Ghost Vineyards and Pearmund Cellars
Wine Snob Weekend package price is $450. per couple plus your room rate for 2 nights
Call one of the Inns at Montpelier to make your reservation:
Chestnut Hill Bed & Breakfast 888.315.3511 www.chestnuthillbnb.com
Ebenezer House 888.948.3695 www.theebenezerhousebb.com
Holladay House Bed & Breakfast 800.358.4422 www.holladayhousebandb.com
Inn at Meander Plantation 800.385.4936 www.meander.net
Inn at Westwood Farm 888.661.1293 www.innatwestwoodfarm.com
Inn on Poplar Hill 866.767.5274 www.innonpoplarhill.com
Mayhurst Inn 888.672.5597 www.mayhurstinn.com
Ridge View Bed & Breakfast 866.852.4261 www.virginia-ridgeview.com
The Old Mill House 540.948.6287 www.virginiaoldmillhouse.com
Inns at Montpelier are nine luxurious Inns located in Central Virginia’s Orange and Madison County. All are a short drive from many award winning Virginia vineyards and James Madison’s Montpelier. This bucolic Virginia countryside is graced with rolling landscapes and incredible views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit www.innsatmontplier.com
NOTE TO THE MEDIA: Please contact Suzie Blanchard at 540.672.4912 or firstname.lastname@example.org.