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.

Wineries In The Blue Ridge Region

We continue to recount our winery experiences in the southwestern part of Virginia, and this post will feature three wineries in the scenic Blue Ridge Region: Abingdon Vineyard and Winery, Attimo Winery, and West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery.

Abingdon Vineyard and Winery: This place gets an A+ for scenic beauty—a babbling stream, majestic trees, and a mountain view located in the quaint mountain town of Abingdon, the setting seemed like something out of the Waltons (that TV show in the 1970s about John Boy, Jim Bob, Mary Ellen, Bubba Joe, etc.) Lots of wines to taste here, and the winery offered six wines for a complimentary tasting; therefore, we each picked six different wines to taste and then compared notes. Of the dry white wines, Paul liked the crisp 2009 Viognier that was aged in stainless steel tanks and presented citrus notes and flavors. For those who like oakier white wines, the 2009 Chardonel was aged in oak barrels for 15 months, and it exhibited pear flavors and a toasty finish. Of the red wines, the 2009 Chambourcin with its smoky nose and dark fruit nuances might be one to serve with burgers or grilled beef. Abingdon Vineyard and Winery is located near the Virginia Creeper Trail enjoyed by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, so readers who plan to take a hike in that area should take advantage of that trail’s proximity to Abingdon Vineyard and Winery for an after-hike wine tasting!

Attimo Winery: Owners Rik and Melissa Obiso opened Attimo Winery in July 2011. Before opening the winery, they spent years learning the winemaking business and made certain to select only the best property to grow vines. The term Attimo roughly means “live the moment” and the wines are named after special moments. Our tasting was conducted at a small dining table in the new tasting room, and John, our tasting associate, wheeled the cart of wines to our table to provide us with an expert tasting. Of the white wines, our most special experience was with the Sonnet 98, a crisp Vidal Blanc with floral notes and tropical fruit flavors. The label also bears Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, so literature buffs may develop a personal connection to this one! Of the red wines, we preferred the 2010 Deep Silence made with Cabernet Franc. Aged for nine months in French oak barrels, we noted a smoky nose and raspberry flavors. It’s called Deep Silence because owner Rik Obiso was so impressed with the quality of the wine as it developed in the barrel that when he tasted it, the wine left him in a moment of reflective silence.

West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery: We were the first wine bloggers to visit West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery back in 2007, so we made certain to pay another visit this time around. David Manley was on hand to conduct our tasting, and this began with our favorite of the white wines, the 2010 Galena Creek White. This dry wine was made with Vidal Blanc with one-third of it fermented in Minnesota oak and the remainder fermented in stainless steel tanks. Nice melon aromas and flavors with a mineral finish made for a nice sipper especially on a hot day. Of the red wines, I found the 2008 Chambourcin to be quite nice. Its smoky/peppery nose and plum flavors was easy to sip but could be served with a barbeque dinner. Paul preferred the more complex 2009 Heritage Reserve made from selected lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It was certainly young, but swirling produced a whiff of violet along with notes of dark cherry, plum, and black pepper. Paul noticed a lengthy finish to boot.

We still have more to report from our swing through the southern-most portions of the state, so stay tuned for continued posts about the trip. In the meantime, be certain to visit these wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Shenandoah Valley AVA Roundup

As our twitter followers may know, we made additional stops as we journeyed through the Shenandoah Valley AVA. Here is a summary of our tasting experiences:

Barren Ridge Vineyards: Owners John and Shelby Higgs converted this apple orchard into a vineyard, and it is located on a high ridge (1400 feet) between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. A semi-arid environment brings lower rainfalls and persistent breezes to create an excellent climate for growing grapes. Our favorites here included the crisp 2009 Tinkling Spring that is a blend of Viognier and Vidal Blanc grapes. Clean and fruity, a perfect wine to sip on its own or with light fare. We also enjoyed the 2009 Rose, a perfect summer wine that presented strawberry and melon flavors. Paul placed an extra star next to the 2009 Traminette with its floral nose and tropical fruit characteristics. At the end of our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2009 Rose and took in the breathtaking mountain views from the patio.

Bluestone Vineyard: This one is definitely a newbie. Owners Curt and Jackie Hartman planted grapes in 2003 and within five years the vineyard expanded to include thousands of grape vines. The winery was built in 2010, and the vineyard now produces 2000 cases of wine. Michael Shaps consults on the winemaking, and his expertise was evident in our favorite, the 2010 Viognier. Done in stainless steel, it presented white peach, apricot and citrus zest aromas and flavors. Sweet wine lovers should appreciate Beau, named after the winery’s golden retriever. The Vidal-Traminette blend has 3% residual sugar.

Cross Keys Vineyards: An expansive facility with a European feel to it, Cross Keys Vineyards opened its winery in 2008. Eleven wines were available for tasting, and a favorite white included the barrel fermented 2009 Chardonnay with its pear notes and soft, toasty finish. For those who yearn for sweeter rose wines, the 2010 Fiore may fit the bill. Made from juice pressed off of skins from Pinot Noir grapes, it includes 1.5% residual sugar along with bright red berry aromas. The focus at Cross Keys Vineyards seems to be red wines, and we preferred the 2009 Petit Verdot with its whiff of violet and notes of plum, dark cherry, and spice. Still young and tannic, so plan to age for a bit. We also liked the 2008 Meritage, a blend of Merlot (43%), Cabernet Franc (30%), and Petit Verdot (27%). Aged for 15 months in new and aged oak barrels, we noted cherry and raspberry elements with nuances of crushed herbs and spice. Tannins here were smoother, too. Dessert wine lovers should try the 2009 Ali d’Oro produced from late harvest Traminette. I referred to it as Bit-0-Honey in a glass and imagined it with a hunk of blue cheese!

We did make one other new discovery on the Shenandoah trail, but I’ll save that experience for the next post. In the meantime, be sure to experience these wineries in the Shenandoah Valley AVA, but be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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.