The Washington Post Celebrates Local Vintners

The Food section of Wednesday’s edition of the Washington Post featured an article by expert Dave McIntyre entitled, “Local Vintners Are Trying to Grow Respect”. I’ll just briefly summarize here—according to McIntyre, local winemakers are making high-quality wines that can now compete with the likes of Napa. The downside? According to McIntyre, it’s availability. He does mention price but notes that even there, quality Virginia wines are priced on par with counterparts produced from California. His suggestion? Ask for locally produced wines at restaurants and wine shops. Perfect advise to follow during October which is Virginia Wine Month.

I should also mention that Dave McIntyre reviewed three Virginia wines, all of which earned a rating of “excellent”. These include the Linden Vineyards Hardscrabble Chardonnay 2005, the Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2005, and the Kluge Estate SP Rose 2004.

So how have you celebrated Virginia Wine Month? I dined at a local restaurant, Chef Geoff’s, and ordered a glass of Barboursville’s Rosado, a nice rose that paired nicely with a salad. Chef Geoff’s also offers Barboursville’s heralded Viognier; though not sold by the glass, a bottle of this one could be shared with friends over crab cakes. Of course, wine bars are the craze now, and a newer one, Enology, on Wisconsin Avenue offers a menu dedicated to domestic wines including Virginia wines. I recently sipped on a glass of White Hall’s Petit Manseng while there with friends.

So celebrate Virginia Wine Month! (This is Virginia Wine Time, and we approve of this message!)

Oasis Is For Sale

It saddens us to report that Oasis Winery is for sale. Award winning Oasis Vineyards has been producing fine Virginia wines for 30 years. 2007 is their 30th year. The 108 acre estate, 60 of which are vines, is now up for sale. We found out about the sale in the Sun Gazette newspaper. You can read the article here. We hope that whoever purchases the vineyard will continue to produce award winning wines.

Sad News

We are saddened by the news that Juanita Swedenburg, founding member of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association, from Swedenburg Estate Vineyard passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 82.

Photo Credit: By Rich Lipski — The Washington Post

A memorial service in the vineyard, “Celebrating Juanita Swedenburg’s Life,” will be held on Wednesday, June 20th, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., 2007, at the Swedenburg Estate Vineyard, 23595 Winery Lane, Middleburg, Virginia 20117.

In lieu of flowers, the family will establish a Juanita Swedenburg Memorial Viticultural and Enological Educational Fund for the annual awarding of a grant to help promote the sustainable growth of the Virginia wine industry. Contributions can be made to J.S. Memorial Educational Fund c/o VWGA, P. O. Box 10045, Alexandria, Virginia 22310. The VWGA will contribute $1,000 to begin the fund.

Information provided by Gordon Murchie and John Witherspoon. The Washington Post obituary can be found here.

Revisiting Wine Distribution

Well, it looks like Virginia wineries may get something of a break from the currently restrictive self-distribution laws. Senator John Watkins and Delegate Chris Saxman appear ready to propose relaxations on these prohibitive laws to allow Virginia wineries to self-distribute up to 3000 cases per year. This proposal should benefit small to mid-scale wineries in Virginia. There are at least two important ways readers can get involved:

1) write your legislator and let him/her know how you feel about the current self-distributions laws, and

2) continue to purchase Virginia wines and ask the associates at your local wine shop to stock Virginia wine.

Steps one and two equal the critical result: DEMAND!

In the meantime, Virginia Wine Time is ready to hit the wine trail after a holiday break. Stay tuned—we have several visits planned for the upcoming weeks!

Piedmont Vineyards

Washington Post Critic Likes VA Chardonnays!

Yes, it’s true! As many readers may know, the Washington Post’s Wednesday edition always includes a section for food and wine. Post wine critic, Ben Giliberti, posted an article this past Wednesday that recommended New World wines as Old World counterparts. Virginia Chardonnays appeared on his list of alternatives! Of course, we at Virginia Wine Time already knew this but to have this fact confirmed by a renowned wine critic made our day! We concluded a long time ago that the superior Virginia wineries must at least be able to produce a quality Chardonnay and a quality Cabernet Franc. Our blog entries provide testimony to this fact—most Virginia wineries do indeed produce excellent wines from these varietals. In fact, our recent visit to Piedmont Winery not only proved our point but also supported Giliberti’s recommendation. Read on to find out more!

The last time we visited Piedmont, we were told that new releases would be available for tasting in September. We marked our calendars in anticipation, and we returned last weekend for an update. Of course, the Chardonnays shined brightly! Piedmont always produces quality Chardonnays, and the latest releases lived up to that tradition. In particular, we enjoyed the 2005 Native Yeast Chardonnay. Now, we must admit that we enjoyed a bottle of the 2002 Native Yeast Chardonnay the night before with seafood. Did the 2005 Native Yeast live up to its older sibling? Absolutely. In fact, Paul is not a Chardonnay fan, but he fell in love with the 2005 release. John Fitter, winemaker, informed us that the 2005 was fermented in older barrels; the result was a Chardonnay rich with pectin fruit aromas and flavors supplemented by a soothing honey texture. Though oaked, this Chardonnay did not present the vanilla/nutty/woodsy characteristics associated with an oak-aged Chardonnay. We purchased a bottle for lunch. What did we have for lunch? Leftovers from the previous night’s seafood feast—baked fish with herbs and roasted almonds, crab cakes, and seasoned rice. The pairing was superb!

We must note that the red wines also shined at Piedmont. In particular, the Cabernet Franc was truly noteworthy.; John Fitter was quite pleased with this first production of Cabernet Franc at Piedmont, and we understood the reason—lovely raspberry flavors with hints of spice that are characteristic of the Franc varietal dazzled the senses. Wondering what to serve with Thanksgiving turkey? Give this one a try. However, act soon—Piedmont only produced 48 cases of the Cabernet Franc, and we doubt stocks will last long. They hope to release this Cab Franc to the public in the coming weeks. Also try the Cabernet Sauvignon—another nice red from Piedmont that demands a place on the wine rack. Nice dark cherry and plum characteristics describe this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and we had a glass of this one with dark chocolates and blue cheese. That steak dinner is just mooing for this Cabernet!

Our trip to Piedmont confirmed what we already knew before we read the Post article. Virginia wineries do indeed make high-quality Chardonnays. Piedmont took a step further—Virginia wineries make high-quality Chardonnays and dynamite Cabs! Taste for you yourselves! If you visit Piedmont, tell them you read about them on the Virginia Wine Time blog.