Monticello Sweep Part 2

We began Virginia Wine Month with posts about the upcoming Bluegrass Festival at Chrysalis Vineyards and our decision to kick off the special month a day early by enjoying a picnic with the crisp 2011 Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards. However, before we go further into the month, I do want to conclude our recap of visits to wineries in the Monticello area. So pretend that it’s still Labor Day weekend and read on!

Barboursville Vineyards: I always look forward to a tasting here, and no, the assembly line tasting process does not bother me at all. The wines here are consistently well made, and we always leave with a bottle (or two or three) of something. Favorites here: of the white wines, Paul liked the stainless steel Chardonnay, and I preferred the oaked Chardonnay Reserve. No surprises here, right? We did, however, concur on the Rose 2011 with its refreshing crispness and strawberry flavors. We recently enjoyed this one at Open Kitchen, too. Red wine faves included the Sangiovese Reserve 2010 for Paul, but for me it was the Cabernet Fran Reserve 2010 with its big raspberry, plum and cedar elements. Of course, the Octagon is always in a special category, and the 2008 vintage is noteworthy for its complexity and aging potential. Sharing a space in the special category is the Malvaxia Reserve 2007 with its rich palate of pineapple, apricot and honey.



Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Benard is a master winemaker, and a tasting here is another always on the “must do” list when we visit the area. Paul was a fan of the dry 2011 Rose with its vibrant acidity and red berry flavors. I liked this one too, but I am always a sucker for Old World-style Chardonnays. The 2011 Chardonnay was my winner. Fermented in both stainless steel tanks and new French oak barrels, I noted flavors of pear, pineapple and butterscotch with a honeyed mouth feel. Of the red wines, we both agreed on the 2010 Merlot. Paul the Merlot fan gravitated toward the complexity of this one; oak notes complimented rather than dominated the nose and palate. Dark cherry and raspberry flavors melded with a chocolate kiss; tannins were still a bit gripping but not unpleasantly so. Buy now and either decant or age. We bought bottles of each favorite.


Kilaurwen Winery: A first visit for us. We were able to taste the fruity Fiesta White, a mix of Rkatsetelli (96%) and Viognier (4%). A fun summer wine, we noted flavors of peach and citrus. At 2 ½% residual sugar, it was bright a fruity. Paul enjoyed the 2010 Cabernet Franc with its elements of blackberry, dark cherry, black olive, and pepper. I was more intrigued with the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve that was aged in American oak barrels for 8 months. Earthier elements prevailed here with notes of anise and violet. Owner Bob Steeves conducted our tasting, and we found out that the name of the winery is actually a blend of his daughter’s names, Kimberlee, Laura and Wendy. Steeves has maintained the vineyard since he purchased it in 1994; his first vintage, though, was bottled in 2009. His flagship varietal, Riesling, was sold out and therefore not available for tasting; however, we did learn that his Cabernet Francs have earned numerous medals and even beat a California Cabernet Franc in a blind tasting!



Stinson Vineyards: This was our third visit to Stinson Vineyards, and we both enjoyed the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in a concrete egg (that looks like an atomic bomb), it presented aromas of grapefruit and cut grass. Our red wine faves included the complex 2010 Meritage with its smoky nose and aromas o blackberry and raspberry; dark fruit flavors gave way to a peppery finish. If cheesecake is on the dessert menu, try pairing it with the 2010 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng seems to have a characteristic unctuous mouth feel, so at 9% residual sugar this offers a fuller mouth feel in spades. Notes of orange peel and sesame makes added to the profile, and this dessert wine presents a nice way to end a dinner party.


We always enjoy a trip to wineries in the Monticello area. Visit these wineries during Virginia Wine Month to select your own favorites. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Monticello Sweep

Our few posts have featured harvest (always fun at Gray Ghost Vineyards) and new winery openings; however, be assured that we were also on the wine trails too. We spent the Labor Day weekend in the Charlottesville area; of course, our purpose was to visit wineries. No newbies in this post—here we feature some oldies but goodies.

Jefferson Vineyards: We’re big fans of Andy Reagan’s wines, so it was no surprise that we had a tough time identifying only a few favorites. Of the white wines, Paul was a fan of the 2011 Pinot Gris with its stone fruit and citrus elements and vibrant acidity. I remain a diehard fan of the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve with its lush notes of pineapple and pear. A close second for me was the aromatic 2011 Viognier 2011 that was loaded with floral aromas, tropical fruit flavors, and a honeyed texture. We reached a unanimous decision on the red wines, and that was the smoky 2009 Meritage with its characteristics of dark plum, black cherry, anise, and pepper.



Pollak Vineyards: It is always a treat to taste here especially with our favorite tasting educator, Casey. This was our first tasting at Pollak since Jake Bushing left to being his own venture at Mt Juliet Vineyards, but we can report that current winemaker Benoit Pineau continues the tradition of excellence at Pollak Vineyards. Selecting favorites was difficult as the wines here were all well crafted; however, we did reach some decisions. Of the white wines, I preferred the 2011 Viognier with its floral aromas and lively tropical fruit flavors. Extended maceration provided a fuller mouth feel. Paul’s preference was the 2011 Durant White; he observed lemon/lime notes with pear and melon flavors as well as a crisp finish. The 2011 Durant White is a blend of Chardonnay (60%) and Viognier (40%). Paul was in a mood for lighter bodied reds that day, so he enjoyed the fruity 2011 Durant Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Cabernet Franc (38%), and Petit Verdot (5%). Crafted from a tough vintage, the 2011 Durant Red can be described as very berry with hints of sweet tobacco and spice. I was more partial to the 2010 Cabernet Franc produced, of course, from a stellar harvest. Aromas of pomegranate, blackberry and black pepper led to flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, and mocha. My close second? The 2009 Merlot with its intense juicy berry flavors and nuances of tobacco and spice. We were also treated to a sneak peak of the 2012 Pinot Gris with winery owner David Pollak. What a treat! Thank you, David!




White Hall Vineyards: We’re always amazed at the price points here given the quality of the wines. All of the wines that were available for tasting were priced under $20.00. We once again reached a split decision on the white wines with Paul favoring the minerally Pinto Gris 2010 with its subtle floral notes and flavors of citrus and pear. My own preference was the 2011 Petit Manseng. At .9% residual sugar, it was by far one of the driest Petit Mansengs that I’ve tasted. Aromas of peach and pineapple were complimented by similar flavors in the mouth along with a note of honey, too. The characteristic acidity was on full display. We did agree on the Petit Verdot 2009 as our favorite red wine. A smoky impression led to other aromas of plum, tobacco, and licorice. We noted similar flavors in the mouth with a peppery finish.



So where else did we visit? We’ll keep readers in suspense until the next post. In the meantime, fall is in the air. Why not plan a visit to these wineries? Be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Monticello Sweep

Yes, our focus during our latest trek to the Monticello area was sparkling wines; however, we did manage to sneak in a few visits to wineries that weekend. Here were our impressions:

Glass House Winery: This winery has been on our “places to visit” list for a while, and we finally managed to get there this time around. This is our 141 winery visited! Glass House Winery offers a unique tasting experience in a hot house that grows an assortment of tropical plants including banana trees. Our favorite pours included the off-dry 2011 Pinot Gris with its pear and citrus aromas and the smoky 2010 Barbera that presented a whiff of violet and full blackberry flavors. Norton lovers may appreciate the 2010 Meglio del Sesso that is a blend of Norton, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. It is then aged with 82% ground chocolate. Needless to say, it is indeed dessert in a bottle. Oh—the fresh bananas are divine! Naturally sweet with a firm texture, they beat anything you will ever buy from the supermarket.



Mountfair Vineyards: Our tasting here began with the two sparklers from Thibaut-Janisson—the current release of the dry Blanc de Chardonnay and the sweeter Fizz. I liked Fizz, but I loved the dry Blanc de Chardonnay with its non-stop racing bubbles, apple notes, and crisp finish. (It also ended being my second favorite sparkling at Sunday’s tasting.) Of course, Mountfair is known for its focus on Bordeaux-style reds, and we favored the 2009 Belated, a bend of Merlot (65%), Cabernet Franc (25%), and Petit Verdot (10%). We noted dark fruit, cedar and sweet tobacco on the nose with plum and spice in the mouth. After our tasting, we enjoyed bubbles and conversation with Ben and Jackie of Mountfair Vineyards. Ben assists with the winemaking, and Jackie does the marketing; they are also married to each other!

Stinson Vineyards: This was our second visit to Stinson, and here we reached split decisions. Paul enjoyed the 2010 Rose with its characteristics of strawberry and dried herbs. It certainly possessed an earthiness that would pair well with gamy cheeses and meats. I preferred the 2010 Chardonnay that presented pear notes and a vanilla finish. We did concur on our choice of red wines and that was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. Nice cherry, raspberry and pepper flavors were evident here with some smoky notes to suggest oak aging.



White Hall Vineyards: An impressive line-up of wines was tasted here with an equally impressive list of price points. Everything that we tasted was under $20. I was eager to taste the 2010 Gerwurztraminer, a gold medal winner at the 2012 Governor’s Cup. I was not disappointed—lovely floral aromas with notes of orange peel led the way to intense flavors of citrus, white pepper and nutmeg. Do not be afraid to warm the glass up a bit with your hands before sipping as the rich aromatics and flavors will only intensify. I’m a proud Chardonnay fan, and the 2008 Chardonnay was an absolute steal at $11.99 per bottle. Apple and pear elements prevailed with hints of vanilla at the finish made for an elegant wine that could be enjoyed on its own or with light fare. Paul added to his Petit Verdot collection and snagged a bottle of the earthy 2009 Petit Verdot that is blended with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. (Between the two of us, we walked out with six bottles of wine.)


Spring is now upon us and daylight is lasting longer, so plan to visit these wineries sometime soon. Enjoy your favorite wine while gazing upon spring blossoms and lasting sunsets, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Finding Some Favorites

After our stop at Trump Winery on Veterans Day weekend, we visited two more of our Charlottesville favorites, Blenheim Vineyards and Jefferson Vineyards.

At Blenheim they only had five wines to taste because of great sales lately. Of those we tasted, we really enjoyed the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2010 Cabernet Franc. The 2010 Chardonnay presented notes of pear and melon and had a crisp, refreshing ending. This one is 38% Chardonnay that is aged for five months in French and Hungarian barrels. The 2010 Cabernet Franc had a candy fruit nose and presented notes of dry herb, toffee, and a pepper end.

Towards the end of our tasting, Kirsty Harmon joined in and told us how challenging the 2011 season was for Blenheim. The amount of rain they got at the end of the season made it a difficult harvest. However, Kirsty is confident they’ll have some nice wines when they are released later this year. Kirsty also gave us a sample of the yet to be released 2010 Petit Verdot. I love Petit Verdots and this one promises to be just as nice as the 2009. After our chat with Kirsty we enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Chardonnay on the balcony. The views were beautiful with the fall colors coming to an end.

After our stop at Blenheim, we headed over to Jefferson Vineyards. We hadn’t been there since the bloggers conference in July. Unfortunately Andy Reagan wasn’t there. However, Allison, who we met at the bloggers conference was and she conducted our tasting. We always enjoy the wines at Jefferson.

From the tasting menu our favorites were the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve 2010.This is Warren’s kind of chardonnay. It presents notes of pear, apple and honey with just enough of an oak presence to stand up to food. This one always makes us think of a creamy pasta dish. Our other favorite was the 2008 Meritage. We noted dark fruit, herbs, cassis, and a smooth ending. As with other vintages of Jefferson Meritages, we think of thick filets. What a nice compliment a big piece of meat.

After our tasting I enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Chardonnay and Warren enjoyed a glass of the Chardonnay Reserve 2010. The fall colors and crisp afternoon went very well with the wines.

On your next trip to Charlottesville be sure to plan a visit to Blenheim Vineyards and Jefferson Vineyards. And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Final Roundup: Southern Virginia

This post will wrap up our reviews of wineries in the southern portion of the state.

Molliver Vineyards and Winery: The winery opened a year ago and currently has 10 acres planted in vines. Twelve wines were available for tasting including a vin chocolat. Our tasting occurred on a hot August day, so we were in the mood for chilled wines; our favorite, then, was the Traminette with its tropical fruit and ginger spice notes. In fact, we shared a glass after our tasting. The Vin Chocolat would certainly make for an interesting dessert offering if served with fresh berries.


Sans Soucy Vineyard: Sans Soucy Vineyards began to sell its own wine in 2008, but before then, it had been selling its grapes to other wineries. Six acres are currently in vines, and this includes the only tempranillo vines in the state! Paul was a fan of the Chat-o, a fruity Viognier with lots of peach and mango flavors. We both enjoyed the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its notes of raspberry and anise. Aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, it finished with a bit of vanilla. Lovers of Legacy, a blend of Chambourcin, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc grapes, will be pleased to know that the 2009 vintage of this complex reserve wine will soon be released.



Villa Appalachia Winery: I was a big fan of the Simpatico back in 2007, and I remain a fan today. Its floral nose and tropical fruit flavors make for an easy sipper that does well on its own or with spicy food. Simpatico is a blend of Vidal Blanc, Malvasia, and Pinot Grigio. We were also able to sample the Rustico Reserve made from 50% dried Corvina grapes. It presented a raisiny nose with dried plum, anise and tobacco aromas. Since our last visit, the winery added a 2008 bottling of Aglianico and will soon release a barrel-fermented Trebbiano. After our tasting, we enjoyed a glass of Simpatico (of course!)



We hope to return to these more distant wineries in the future. In the meantime, plan a visit to these wineries, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.