Local Vacation to Virginia Wine Country

Paul and I opted not to travel too far this summer and decided instead to enjoy summer fun in the local area. For us, this always includes a visit to Virginia wine country, and our focus this past weekend was the Monticello AVA. Read on to discover our favorites at the wineries which we visited.

Day 1 of our trip included tastings at three wineries: Keswick Vineyards, First Colony, and Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Barnard is one of our favorite winemakers in the state, and our tasting here is one that we always anticipate with eagerness. A summer hit for any crowd or event has to be the 2016 V2, an blend of Verdejo (80%) and Vidal Blanc (20%). Its fruity palate makes for a wine that is perfect on its own on a very warm day or with light cheeses and a baguette. My personal favorite was the 2015 Signature Series Reserve Viognier with its pear and tropical fruit notes. A fuller mouth feel makes this Viognier a perfect complement to any dish that features a cream sauce. Serve with seafood, poultry or pork and accompany with a mango relish—-an ideal match at the dinner table! Of the red wines, it was easy to enjoy the superb 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve with its smoky aromas and flavors of black currants, dark plums and oaky nuances. Sparkling lovers should also try the Amelie Black label Chardonnay and the Amelie Sparkling Rose made from the Norton grape.

After our tasting, Stephen Barnard invited us to taste a few wines still in barrels in the barrel room. We tasted 2016s of Chardonnay, Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend and a 2015 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was Paul’s favorite from the barrels. When asked about food and wine pairings, Stephen had this to say:


 

First Colony Winery: This was our second tasting on Day 1, and I must admit that we were pleased with the improvements in the winemaking here. Gavin Baum, assistant winemaker, conducted our tasting (and answered our pesky questions, too!). The 2015 Riesling Reserve can be described as summer in a bottle with its floral aromas and notes of peach and orange zest. My nod for favorite white wine was the Burgundian-style 2015 Chardonnay Estate Reserve; I appreciated its aromas of chamomile, lemon zest, and wet stone. Shellfish came to mind as a food pairing—-oysters, scallops, crab, etc. Paul preferred the creamier 2016 Viognier with its peach notes and mango/tropical fruit flavors. Our favorite red wine was the 2015 Meritage; buy now but enjoy later with a fall or winter menu. If impatient, serve with grilled steaks and roasted veggies.

Michael Shaps Wineworks: Our last tasting for the day—-I look forward to Shaps’ Viognier whenever we plan to visit the Wineworks, and the 2016 vintage did not disappoint. Peach and wet stone characteristics were complemented by a fuller mouth feel and tropical fruit palate. Paul was captivated by the 2015 Merlot and noted its elements of smoke and dark cherry; he made note of its rounder mouth feel and commented that he would enjoy this Merlot with grilled lean beef. Michael Shaps also crafts wines from his Burgundy vineyards, and Pinot Noir lovers should enjoy the lighter-bodied 2014 Savigny-les-Beaune with a variety of food options to include grilled chicken, herbed pork chops, or a simple platter of sliced deli meats and cheeses.

Day 1 of our tasting through the Monticello AVA was our favorite of the trip. We made certain to purchase bottles of our favorites to enjoy at home. Be certain to visit these Virginia wineries to collect your own favorite pours; however, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Always A Favorite

We haven’t been on the wine trail since Columbus Day weekend! Yesterday we decided to go to Linden Vineyards. We’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we wanted to relax and enjoy some wonderful wines. As usual, Linden didn’t disappoint.
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As we drove up the driveway we saw Jim Law out in the vineyard he had just ripped up. He pulled out 20 to 30 year old Cabernet vines and plans to replace them in 2018 with new Cabernet vines. The vines that were ripped up and been grafted from Chardonnay vines. Some took, some didn’t. Over the years they had vines ripening before others in the same field. Jim made the decision to start over. This time he’ll plant them in a north/south orientation to take advantage of the sun. According to his newsletter and Jim himself, look for this vineyard to be in the bottle by 2022 or 2023.
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Upon entering the tasting room we saw Shari Avenius, always smiling and ready to talk wine. We were lucky enough to have her begin our tasting. But before the tasting began we signed up for the cellar tasting. This time it would be with Jim Law himself. On the tasting menu we tasted the 2015 Rose, 2015 Riesling Vidal, 2014 Claret, 2011 and 2013 Petit Verdots. Of course all the wines were wonderful but the 2014 Claret stood out to me. It was smooth and fruity and definitely a food friendly wine. It was my kind of red. Not too heavy and not too light. It was just right.
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After our tasting we joined Jim Law in the cellar. Here we tasted the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc compared to the 2015 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc, then the 2012 Hardscrabble Red compared to the 2013 Hardscrabble Red and finally the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal with the 2012 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Warren and I actually came to the same conclusion on these. We both enjoyed the 2015 Avenues Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed the citrus (lemon-lime) and mineral notes. It was fresh and crisp! We both also enjoyed the 2012 Hardscrabble Red. We found it to be soft and fruity with bright berry notes. Jim described it as feminine and we agreed. We thought the 2013 needed a bit more time to enjoy. We finished the cellar tasting by agreeing the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal was the winner of the dessert wines.

We were so lucky to have Jim do our cellar tasting. We were the only ones at that tasting time so we had the opportunity to chat with him about all sorts of things. We always enjoy spending time with Jim. We suggested he come to DC and we’d take him out to dinner!
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After our cellar tasting we enjoyed a nibbles tray with a bottle of the 2012 Hardscrabble Red. Perfect pairing with the cheeses and meats on the tray. Of course we enjoyed the view as well! Linden Vineyards is definitely very high on our favorites list. We always have a great time and always enjoy the wonderful wines. If you haven’t been Linden Vineyards lately, it’s time to return. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

We’re Baaaack!

We resumed our treks on the wine trails in style with a weekend stay at The Inn at Meander Plantation. We always reserve the well-appointed Madison Cottage with its European-style shower, and I look forward to sporting the plush robes that await guests in the cottage’s closet. Owners Suzie Blanchard and Suzanne Thomas also have a commitment to serving only Virginia wines in their dining room, and we made certain to reserve a table for a night of elegant fare and excellent Virginia wines. The Inn also offers gorgeous views of mountains framed by glorious sunrises and vivid sunsets. Early morning fog called to mind a scene from a Gothic novel.

What were our menu selections for dinner?

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What did we order? I enjoyed the salad of romaine lettuce; the shaved fennel and citrus vinaigrette was the perfect match for the vino verdhe-style Green 2013 from Cardinal Point Vineyards. I love summer squash so the zucchini with basil soup was a no-brainer for me; its creamy texture matched that of the Chardonnay Reserve 2013 from Barboursville. Paul delighted in the tempura fried shrimp and noted that the batter-coated crustaceans were quite marvelous with the same Chardonnay.

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We both ordered the same entree- – -the black angus filet mignon. The wine pairing was quite a mysterious yet wonderful surprise—-a Cabernet Sauvignon from Crow Mountain Vineyards. The vintage? 2011. I admit to not knowing anything about Crow Mountain Vineyards, but I do know quite a bit about the 2011 vintage. Hurricane Irene dumped tons of rain in the state that year, and red wine grapes took quite a hit throughout most Virginia vineyards. However, this 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibited a depth in its color as well as its aroma and flavor profiles that we have not experienced from other 2011 red wines from Virginia. We would love to know more about this vineyard, so if any reader out there can enlighten us, we are eager to learn all about it! The dinner ended with the La Bete Noir, a flourless cake with fresh raspberry, and its pairing with the Gray Ghost Vineyards Adieu was classic.

We never look forward to ending our stay at the Inn at Meander Plantation; however, having to say good-bye always prompts us to look ahead to future visits. Looking for an elegant weekend in Virginia wine country? Plan to stay at The Inn at Meander Plantation; however, please mention to Suzie and Suzanne that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Winters Weirdness Wrap Up

So here I present the final installment of our recent visit to the Monticello area in the midst of Mother Nature’s topsy-turvy weather.

Grace Estate: This was our second visit to Grace Estate, and this time our tasting was conducted in the new tasting room located in the estate’s spacious mansion. This new tasting space allows for tasters to enjoy the lovely mountain views while swirling and sipping. On a cold, rainy day we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our tasting featured three whites, a rose and two red wines. Of the white wines, my favorite was the 2012 Chardonnay (of course) that was aged 11 months in 50% new steam bent French oak barrels. Ripe pear notes were complemented by a butterscotch kiss in the mouth. I also appreciated the fuller mouth feel. Paul preferred the 2012 Viognier; he likes his whites from a stainless steel tank, and this one was 100% aged in stainless steel. Rich floral aromas with peach notes and tropical fruit flavors ended with a steely finish yet presented a nice weight in the mouth. We were both fans of the dry 2013 Le Gras Rose; on a cold, wet day this one screamed spring. It was made from Merlot (80%) and Tannat (20%) and presented classic strawberry and cherry characteristics. Nice acidity with a crisp finish—-just how we like our roses! Of the red wines offerings, the 2012 Cabernet Franc earned our unanimous praise. Aromas of cherry, tobacco and cracked pepper were followed by flavors of cherry and blackberry as well as earthy nuances. It was barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.

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After our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2012 Chardonnay; between raindrops, we enjoyed the mountain landscape from beneath the canopy that covered the patio. We also had a quick chat with winemaker Jake Busching who informed us that a new tasting room will be built at Grace Estate so that parts of the mansion could be used for events. He was also very excited about the release of 3, a red blend that was the product of three winemakers: Jake, Emily Pelton of Veritas and Mathieu Finot of King Family. Tasters will also want to sample the upcoming Vidal Blanc which was aged in neutral oak barrels. Jake gave us a preview bottle and we are looking forward to tasting it soon. Thanks, Jake!

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Pollak Vineyards: It was crowded here, but our tasting associate Casey made us feel right at home with a superb tasting. We were interested in newer releases since our last visit, and that included the 2012 Viognier, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2013 Rose, and the 2010 Merlot. All were quite good. The 2012 Viognier presented aromas of honeysuckle and peach with tropical fruit flavors and a hint of white pepper. The 2012 Pinot Gris should be a summer favorite with its peach notes and rounded mouth feel. Rose is our wine of choice for summer, and the 2013 Rose will be poured with a favorite warm weather meal. Nice strawberry and melon elements here with a crisp finish. Dry too—-yay! Grilled meats should pair well with the 2010 Merlot and its characteristics of tobacco, cassis, black cherry, blackberry and a soft splash of blueberry. Look for some cedar notes too. Complex and should age well to boot; but pour now if you must. Give it some time to breathe, though.

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Trump Winery: Sparkling wine is the forte here, no doubt about it. We tasted four sparklings as well as the Chardonnay 2012, Rose 2012, Meritage 2012, and the CRU. However, it was the sparklings that I was interested in sampling and therefore paid more attention to them. The Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008 earned top honors at the recent sparkling tasting hosted at Tarara Winery, and it was just as excellent this time around; however, my ultimate favorite was the Sparkling Rose 2008 with its nonstop parade of bubbles. Made with Chardonnay (95%) and Pinot Noir (5%) it was rich with strawberry notes and flavors with a round mouth feel and lengthy finish. I must admit that I found the Sparkling Reserve 2007 a bit better on this day than I did at the sparkling taste off. This time around I found the acidity that I thought was missing a couple of weeks earlier. It is aged in French oak barrels, so it does have a creamier feel with apple and pear flavors with oaky nuances.

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Mother Nature did not deter us from tasting some wonderful wines, and it looks like spring has finally arrived with cherry blossoms, daffodils and pear trees in full bloom. The dogwoods are sure to follow. Bud break, 2014? It has to be around the corner and for some has already begun. Plan to visit this wineries to celebrate spring, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Final Monticello Sweep

Yes, we close out our focus on the Monticello area with this post. Here we review our favorite wines at some oldies (but goodies):

Afton Mountain Vineyards: Gewurztraminer has been a solid grape for this winery, and the 2010 vintage continues to showcase this varietal at its best. Heady tropical fruit and orange peel aromas lead to similar flavors in the mouth perhaps with an extra splash of pineapple. Thanksgiving is not too far away, and this one will pair nicely with turkey and dressing. We also concurred on the favorite red wine, and this was the smoky 2010 Petit Verdot with its notes of dark plum, blackberry and vanilla; we noted caramel on the finish. The 2010 Petit Verdot was offered for club members, so we felt privileged to be given a sneak preview. I’d buy this one now and store on the rack for a couple of years. (In fact, Paul made off with a bottle or two himself.) Nice with hearty winter fare!



Blenheim Vineyards: We always enjoy tasting Kirsty Harmon’s wines, and this time was no exception. We both gave accolades to the crisp 201 Chardonnay with its pear and lime notes and a streak of mineral. Its nice acidity made for a refreshing finish, too. We reach a split verdict on the red wines. I preferred the Cabernet Franc 2011 and its cranberry nose; flavors of seed berries and black pepper presented a versatile, light bodied wine that should prove popular for holiday dinner parties that featured roasted chicken, turkey or pork. Paul was a fan of the Petit Verdot 2011 and noted aromas of cherry and pomegranate complimented by a palate of dark cherries, blackberries, black pepper, and a trace of mineral. For tasters in search of a bolder red wine, we both appreciated the complex Painted Red 2010 with its layers of dark cherries, blackberries, plum, tobacco, and then toffee at the finish.


DelFosse Vineyards: It had been two years since we visited the DelFosse Winery, so we were eager to sample the current releases here. There were 15 wines to try, so we made certain to hone in on certain favorites with careful note taking (and judicious use of the dump bucket). Of the white wines, my fave was the Reserve d’Oriane, a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Petit Manseng. The blend is owner Claude DelFosse’s unique creation, and it is a heavenly cocktail of tropical fruit notes with just the faintest suggestion of vanilla. This is a dry, complex white wine with a fuller mouth feel that presents an alternative to a Chardonnay done in a similar style. And yes, another wine to consider with Mr. Turkey especially if served with a rich sauce. Paul’s preference was for the crisper 201 Sauvignon Blanc. He noted elements of citrus, mowed grass, and mineral. We did reach a joint decision on the red wine, and we gave the nod to the 2008 Grand Cru Olivier, a Merlot-based blend that includes all of the Bordeaux grapes. Elements of cherry, raspberry, licorice, sweet tobacco, and black pepper abounded with this one. Tired of turkey? Beef tenderloin with the Grand Cru Olivier might be an alternative. Our close second was the 2007 Merlot with its blackberry, cherry, and earthy characteristics. Paul likes Merlot, and you can be sure that a bottle of this one went home with him.



Fall is now in the air, and autumn hues fill the skylines. It’s time to consider wines appropriate for holiday menus, heartier meals, or a gathering of friends by the fireside. Consider some of these recommended wines or plan a visit to these wineries to find your own favorites. Please be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.