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!