Notes from the Shenandoah Region

This past week, Paul and I ventured west to the Shenandoah Valley AVA to visit wineries. Cave Ridge Vineyard was first on our list of wineries to visit; we sampled the wines at Cave Ridge Vineyard when owner and winemaker Randy Phillips first opened the winery in 2007. At that time, we were very impressed with the lineup of wines, and we were eager to see how things had progressed since that initial visit.

Since our 2007 trip to Cave Ridge Vineyard, a tasting room with a patio has been added. The shaded front patio includes a lovely fountain, and tasters can enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the mountain landscape. A walk through the patio brought us into the tasting room where we availed ourselves to a tasting of current releases. We were pleased with the Viogniers during our 2007 visits, and the current 2009 vintages are likewise quite solid. The crisp Viognier 2009 was done in stainless steel and presented melon and pear flavors; food friendly, it could also be enjoyed on its own. We both preferred the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009. Aged for eight months in French oak barrels, this one offered more floral aromas with tropical fruit characteristics, and a fuller mouth feel. I also detected a bit of vanilla at the end. Any creamy dish like risotto should pair nicely, but I’d also enjoy a glass with a nice brie and fresh fruit.


The red wines were also well crafted. With grilling season still in high gear, burgers and other grilled fare should match up well with the lighter-bodied 2008 Chambourcin and its berry and tobacco aromas. Our ultimate favorite, though, was the Fossil Hill Reserve 2008. Fossil Hill is not only the home to the vines that produced this more complex pour, but it is also the gravesite for ammonite fossils that are millions of years old. (How is that for some history!) Anyway, the more complex Fossil Hill Reserve 2008 blends Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Chambourcin to present elements of dark cherry, plum, spice and mocha. Paul described the tannins as smooth, and I concurred. This one could age on the rack for a bit, but it is certainly ready for immediate enjoyment with a nice steak dinner. Randy Phillips offered us a sneak peak of the upcoming Fossil Hill 2009, and earthy aromas prevailed with this one complemented by brambleberry flavors in the mouth. It will be released in October 2011 and in time to celebrate Virginia Wine Month.

We chatted with Randy for a bit as we sipped at the tasting counter. His case production is currently at 2600 cases, and he will soon add a Cabernet Sauvignon to the tasting menu. Also, Cave Ridge wines can be tasted and enjoyed at Wine on the Water, a wine bar in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When I asked Randy about the 2011 growing season, his assessment was similar to other winemakers in the state—early! In fact, the Chambourcin was already in veraison. This then led to my next question—did the Shenandoah region have any particular challenges in regard to growing grapes? Randy Phillips replied, “Shenandoah is the future of the Virginia wine industry. Our limestone soils and elevations are most similar to Bordeaux and we have low rainfalls.” It seems to us that Randy Phillips has exploited these advantages to produce some solid wines.

With our tastings done, we shared a glass of the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009 while relaxing on the patio. With the splashing sounds of the fountain and butterflies aflutter, it was hard for us to imagine a better way to spend the afternoon. However, all good things must end, and we made sure to purchase our favorites before we left the winery. Plan to visit Cave Ridge Vineyard, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

By The Numbers

As most of you know we just completed a trip to visit wineries in the western and southern part of the state. We also had a side trip to Knoxville Tennessee to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday with my family. We had a great time visiting new wineries, talking with winemakers, tasting new wines, and checking out new tasting rooms. As I have mentioned before, we will be posting soon about our experiences on the road. Until then, here are the numbers from the trip:

1405-Total number of miles traveled.
$3.79-The highest price paid for gas.
$3.23-The lowest price paid for gas.
42.7-Miles per gallon (hybrids get great gas millage).
12-Wineries visited.
9-New wineries visited.
3 1/2-Tanks of gas purchased.
2-Cases of wine purchased.

The last three wineries we visited were Annefield, San Soucy, and Molliver.


Moving On

After a few days in Tennessee celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday, we got back on the road today and traveled nearly 400 miles to Villa Appalaccia Winery, Chateau Morrisette Winery, and Foggy Ridge Cider.

We tasted lots of wine and cider, and took lots of notes. We have plans to post about our experiences in the near future. We’ve gathered so much information lately that we’ll have to digest it before posting our impressions. Stay tuned for more regular updates of our travels to different parts of the state. We have visited 132 wineries to date! We have plans to visit three new wineries tomorrow!

On The Road Again!


After a quick visit to the Woodrow Wilson birthplace and museum in downtown Staunton Virginia, we got in the Virginia Wine Time car and headed to our first winery. Our first stop was Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room in downtown Staunton. They have a very interesting business model. They do not have a tasting room at the vineyards, instead they have a tasting room in Staunton. We’ll write more about it in the near future.

Our second stop was Attimo Winery just east of Radford Virginia. It took us awhile to get there because of all the construction on I-81 south. They have a beautiful tasting room and an interesting way of tasting at tables and not at the tasting bar…kind of like what they do at Hillsboro. Again, we’ll be posting more about Attimo in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.

Our final stop of the day was at West Wind Vineyard and Winery located just east of I-81 in Max Meadows Virginia. We visited them once three years ago and David remembered us when we were at the Monticello tasting during the wine bloggers conference. It was good to see him and Jason. We tasted the wines and will be reporting about them soon.

We have plans to visit two more wineries tomorrow before heading to Tennessee for a family gathering on Saturday. We’ll return to the trail on Sunday. We have now visited 131 wineries in Virginia! Stay tuned! If you happen to visit any of these wineries, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Veraison

Yesterday we started a wine trip to visit wineries in the Shenandoah AVA and in the southern part of the state. We will post about each winery in the weeks to come. On the first day we visited Cave Ridge Vineyard, CrossKeys Vineyards, Bluestone Vineyard, and Barren Ridge Vineyards. We tasted some really nice wines and enjoyed our visit to each winery. Here’s a picture from the Cave Ridge Vineyard. As you can see the grapes are almost finished with veraison. The grapes are developing nicely! We’ll post again tomorrow with the wineries we visited and maybe a few teaser pictures

Road Trip!

Today we begin a five day wine trip. We are heading to the western part of the state to visit wineries in the Shenandoah region. We have plans to visit about 12 wineries in the western part of the state and the southern part of the state. We’ll be updating the blog along the way. If you happen to see the Virginia Wine Time car on Interstate 81 South, wave and say hi!

More Catching Up: Loudoun Trail

This post will be a round up of reviews from visits done within the past month and will feature Casanel Vineyards, Doukenie Winery. and Fabbioli Cellars.

Casanel Vineyards: As the weather is warming up, white wines are bound to be more popular. At Casanel Vineyards, the fruity Batucada Viognier was rich with floral aromas and apricot flavors. The Batucada Norton is a rose made from the Norton grape and is fermented as a white wine. I got red hots in the mouth; Norton fans may appreciate this version of the grape with barbeque. The earthy 2007 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon took a gold at the Virginia State Fair.

Doukenie Winery: A summer favorite is always the Mandolin, a blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc; however, this was not available for tasting on the day that we visited the winery. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was aged in acacia barrels and certainly had a fuller mouth feel; citrus flavors abounded here. Of the reds, the 2008 Petit Verdot presented the characteristic inky color with aromas of violet, dark fruit, and tobacco. Of course, Hope’s Legacy is the raspberry wine that all visitors enjoy especially with a piece of dark chocolate.

Fabbioli Cellars: It’s always a pleasure to taste Doug’s wines. We enjoyed the current tasting set up which allows guests to sit at a station with a personal tasting associate; Nadia conducted our tasting on this particular visit. Our notes suggest that Doug will be releasing a Traminette, and this may have already happened as of this writing. The 2009 Rosa Luna, a rose, was dry with characteristics of grapefruit and bright berries and should prove to popular for the summer. The juicy 2009 Cabernet Franc was Paul’s favorite red with its elements of brambleberries and spice. I preferred the more complex 2009 Tre Sorelle, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. An age-worthy wine, it should be enjoyed with a steak!

Pay these wineries a visit to sample the current releases. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

The First Lady Of Virginia’s FLITE Winery Tour

Today we were privileged to join Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell on a tour and tasting of wines on the Monticello Trail. We were joined by forty other participants involved in promoting the Virginia wine industry, and these included familiar faces such as Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Patrick Evans Hylton editor of Virginia Wine Lover magazine. This memorable day began with a continental breakfast at the historic Old City Hall, and we then boarded a luxury bus destined for three Monticello wineries: Pollak Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.

We arrived at Pollak Vineyards amidst a flurry of media attention. Paul assumed that the television cameras were there to await his final word on Virginia wines; alas, they were there to greet First Lady Maureen McDonnell who has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia wine industry. Winemaker Jake Busching was also on hand to greet us all, and we made our way to the tasting room. We were first treated to a tour of the barrel room complete with barrel samples of the stellar 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The juicy Cabernet Franc has already won gold in a California competition, and we await its release.

We were then guided through a tasting in the main tasting room with the First Lady herself helping with the process. We are big fans of Pollak’s wines, so picking our favorites proved to be a tough task; however, we did favor the intense 2010 Viognier. The 2010 white vintages are already creating a buzz in the tasting rooms, and this Viognier present a reason why this is the case. Vibrant apricot and peach characteristics prevailed and it presented a full mouth feel no doubt aided by spending some time in neutral French oak barrels. Of the red wines, we enjoyed the smoky 2008 Merlot with its bold cherry flavors. However it is no longer for sale. Summer sippers will also enjoy the crisp 2010 Pinot Gris.

From Pollak Vineyards the entourage continued on to Barboursville Vineyards for lunch and wine at the heralded Palladio restaurant. Winemaker Luka Paschina guided us through the food and wine pairings, and what an exquisite experience! The salad course featured fresh greens tossed with morels and served atop asparagus spears; a sprinkle of grated pecorino completed the dish. Paired with this was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with it’s characteristic citrus, hay and mineral elements. The main dish was a lovely sweet pea risotto topped with seared rock fish, and this was partnered with the lush 2010 Viognier Reserve. Rich aromatics, exotic tropical fruit characters,and a creamy mouth feel best describe this perfect compliment to the equally rich risotto. A cheese course paired the decorated 2006 Octagon, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, finished the menu.

The afternoon’s event ended at Keswick Vineyards, and winemaker Stephen Bernard presented his platinum and gold medal winning wines beneath an outdoor canopy that allowed tasters to enjoy a glorious spring afternoon. Stephen is one of our favorite winemakers, and selecting a favorite was a tough decision. The 2010 Verdejo was crisp and clean and should prove popular during the upcoming summer months. I enjoyed the fuller-bodied 2009 Viognier Reserve done in the Condrieu style, and Stephen confirmed that this one will only taste better with time. The complex 2007 Heritage earned my star of approval for the red wines. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the elements of dark fruit, tobacco and cedar begged for a heavy beef dish.

As we sipped and savored through the afternoon, we learned that First Lady Maureen McDonnell has planted her own small vineyard at the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. McDonnell opted to plant 15 second year vines in the Mansion’s garden. Why second year vines? The First Lady wishes to produce a wine to commemorate the Governor’s Mansion’s 200th anniversary; therefore, vines in their third year of growth would be necessary. Viticultural expert Lucie Morton provided input into the decision, so look forward to wines produced from the Governor’s garden!

The day ended too soon, and we thanked Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia wine board, for organizing the event and then inviting us to attend. Plan your own visit to these excellent wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Appellation Wine Trail

On Saturday we participated in the grade opening of the new Appellation Wine trail near Charlottesville Virginia. The trail consists of five wineries; White Hall Vineyards, Mountfair Vineyards, Glass House Winery, Stinson Vineyards and Moss Vineyards. Stinson had a preview opening this weekend and Moss Vineyards will be opening in 2012. We knew we wouldn’t have time to get to all the wineries so we will plan to visit the rest later this summer.

We began at Stinson Vineyards. We met Frank from Drinkwhatyoulike.com at Stinson and began our tasting. We started with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. We noted some nice citrus fruit, a grassy element and some minerality. This one quickly became my favorite. Its not for sale right now because they haven’t received their labels yet. Look for this on the official opening weekend on June 16th. We then moved on to the 2010 Rose. It’s made from 100% mourvedro. Warren noted strawberry on the nose. I picked up red fruit on the tongue and some nice pink grapefruit notes. We then moved on to the refreshing 2010 Sugar Hollow White. This one will be nice for the summer with it’s apple and grapefruit notes. Next up were the reds. We started with the 2010 Sugar Hollow Red. It’s a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It was aged in stainless steel and was rustic and earthy. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was next. This one won’t be released until the opening day as well. We noted smoke and spice on this one.

While at Stinson Vineyards we met Nathan Vrooman who, along with his family, is starting a winery as well, Ankida Ridge Vineyards. He brought a sample of their Pinot Noir to taste. Considering how tough it is to grow Pinot noir in Virginia, this one was pretty good. We look forward to tasting more from Ankida Ridge in the future.

Next stop on the trail was Mountfair Vineyards. Mountfair has been around a couple of years and we’ve enjoyed their wines before. This visit was no exception. After surviving the downpour on the way there it was nice to see Fritz, Chris, Jacquline, and Ben once we entered the tasting room. After our hellos we got started tasting wines. While they only produce reds, they were pouring the Fizz and Brut from Thibout Janisson to begin the tasting.

We began the tasting with the smoky 2009 Merlot. We noted dark cherry tobacco,and beautifully smooth finish. This one became my favorite right away. We continued with the 2009 Cabernet Franc. This one had a velvety mouth feel with hints of bramble berries. Next up was the 2008 Belated. We noted bright red fruit characteristics. The 2008 Indigenous was nice. This is the first wine created using their own fruit. It’s a blend of petit verdot and cabernet franc. We noted a smokey nose, plum, tar, tobacco, and black pepper with a silky finish. The final wine was the 2009 Engagement. This is a meritage style blend. We noticed it was tight and needed a good swirl to get the cherry, ash, and coffee to appear.

After our tasting we joined Jacqueline, Ben, and Frank for some of the 2009 Merlot. This one stood out as my favorite at Mountfair. Before leaving we secured a bottle of the merlot for my rack. We always have a great time with the crew from Mountfair.

There are more wineries on the trail and we look forward to visiting them in the future. If you visit Stinson or Mountfair be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Bloggers Invade the Eastern Shore

Frank Morgan of drinkwhatyoulike.com organized a bloggers’ tour of wineries on the eastern shore of Virginia, and we gladly tagged along; we were also joined by the dynamic duo who write swirlsipsnark.com. On the agenda for the merry band of bloggers was tastings at Bloxom Winery, Holly Grove Vineyards, and Chatham Vineyards. With pens (and iPad) in hand and palates ready, we embarked on our mission.

Bloxom Winery: The first thing we noticed was the wood-fired outdoor oven. Owners and winemakers Robert and Francesca also make authentic Italian pizza in the oven as well as fresh Italian bread, and we can attest to the excellence of the pizza. In fact, Francesca treated us to a freshly-baked pizza as we tasted at the bar—YUM! Robert conducted our tasting, and we learned that the winery opened in 2004. Bloxom Winery produces about 900 cases of wine, and all of the fruit used in the wines are grown on the estate. Robert started winemaking as a hobby while he lived in New York, and he became proficient enough to plant his own vineyard in Virginia. Our preferred wine here was the 2009 Chardonnay with its ripe pear notes and honeyed texture. All of the wines at Bloxom Vineyards are done in stainless steel including the Chardonnay. Sweet wine lovers may find the Some Like It Blush an interesting pour; it contains 3% residual sugar and is very, very pink. A bit too candy-like for my tastes, but I know that our friend and guest critic Michael Tyler would appreciate this one.

Holly Grove Vineyards: Paul and I sampled these wines a while ago at a wine festival, and we recalled being impressed with what we tasted. We were no less impressed with the current lineup this time around. Warm greetings were extended to us by assistant winemaker and enologist Paula Paschall, and our tasting was conducted in the barrel room so that we could also experience some barrel samples. Awaiting us was an impressive spread of cheeses, chutneys, chocolates, crackers and bread that paired with the wines to be tasted. Winemaker and owner Jonathan Bess met up with us to conduct the tasting and to provide some background about the vineyards, the wines, and the winery. Our tasting actually started with some tank samples of white wines, and the most impressive of these was the upcoming Coastal Trio, blend of Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, and Viognier. We noted a floral nose with some tropical fruit characteristics and a refreshing minerality. Look for this one to sell quickly upon released! Of the bottled whites, our gold star favorite was the 2008 Chardonnay with its pear notes and toasty finish. It presented a creamy mouth feel but does not undergo secondary malolactic fermentation. I’m always on the lookout for roses, and the 2009 Sunset Rose was fruity and refreshing; made from Merlot, I noted raspberry and strawberry aromas and flavors. It was slightly sweet but still crisp—one to keep on hand for the upcoming holiday gatherings when a variety of wine preferences may be visiting for dinner. The red wines were likewise well-crafted, and we both favored the Genesis, a non-vintage blend of the 07 Cabernet Franc, the 08 Merlot, and the 08 Petit Verdot. I detected a hint of violet on the nose with abundant dark fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of dried herb. A plummy pour indeed! Merlot lovers might appreciate the lighter-bodied and accessible 2008 Merlot with its smoky nose and dark cherry flavor. Of the barrel-sampled reds, I was most partial to the 2009 Cabernet Franc; it’s a lighter-colored pour, and Jonathan and Paula may decide to blend it with a bit of Petit Verdot for color. However, I’d leave it alone; the lovely raspberry, strawberry, and spice characteristics recalled some of the Cabernet Francs from the Chinon region. The 2009 offering from Holly Grove should prove to be a classic.

Chatham Vineyards: This was our final stop of the day, and winemaker and owner John Wehner conducted our tasting. We had never sampled the wines from Chatham Vineyards, so this was a first-time experience for Virginia Wine Time. On a gorgeous fall day, John guided us through the tasting menu outdoors, and a very generous deli platter awaited us at the table. Cheeses ranged from hard, smoked gouda squares to soft brie wedges; also included were slabs of chicken pate, bowls of olives and almonds, and drops of dried quince. Of course, the white wines were presented first for tasting, and Paul and I reached split decisions here. Paul opted for the 2009 stainless steel Chardonnay with its citrus notes, pear flavors, and crisp minerally finish. I preferred the 2009 Church Creek Chardonnay which is a blend of Chardonnay that was aged in both French and Virginia oak for nine months. Ripe pear characteristics were noted with creme-brulee at the finish. A perfect food wine, this one should complement shellfish and pork. Of the red wines, we both favored the 2008 Church Creek Cabernet Franc with its violet nose, brambleberry flavors and spicy edge. Aged for two years in French oak barrels, this one had a longer finish. I should also note that it is blended with some Merlot and Petit Verdot, so it does offer more complexity. Port lovers may appreciate the Late Harvest Dessert Wine made from Merlot. Serve at the end of a meal or on a cold day with dried fruit and strong cheeses. As we sipped and nibbled, John presented to us some of the history of the Chatham estate. It does indeed have a long history dating back to the 17th century. John and his wife planted vineyards on the property in 1999 with a first vintage produced in 2001. Twenty acres of the historic property are planted in grape vines with Merlot being the most planted grape. John Wehner learned winemaking from his parents who had a vineyard on their property in Great Falls, and we must say that John learned the craft quite well. These wines were all well-made, and John’s dedication to the best vineyard practices and winemaking methods shined brightly in the bottles.

So ended the wine tour with our blogging colleagues. But were we done with food and wine? Of course not! We made our way to the B&B where we all stayed for the evening and began phase two of our writers’ meet and greet. More on that in our next post. With fall colors now beginning to peak through, plan a trip to the eastern shore and visit these wineries, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.