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Category: Wine Trail (page 4 of 7)

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.

Eastern Shore

This weekend we added three more wineries to the list of wineries visited (now 111 visited). Frank at Drink What You Like organized this trip. Swirl Sip Snark joined us as well and cooked for the group! We visited Bloxom Winery, Holly Grove Vineyards, and Chatham Vineyards. Stay tuned for a full report on our visit to these wineries.

Yet More on the Monticello Trail

Yes, it was a busy week of wine tasting last week. Somebody has to do it, right? In this post, we detail our experiences at Afton Mountain Vineyards and White Hall Vineyards.

Afton Mountain Vineyards: We’ve written about the positive changes that are ongoing at Afton Mountain Vineyards since Elizabeth and Tony Smith purchased the vineyards and winery. During our previous visit, I became a fan of the Tete de Cuvee and was interested in purchasing another bottle. Of course, this was my excuse to revisit and sample the latest releases at Afton Mountain Vineyards. Tony and Elizabeth graciously conducted our tasting which featured some upcoming releases that were not available for tasting at the time. Of the white wines, we still favored the Tete de Cuvee with its nonstop bubbles and toasted edge. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and done in the Methode Champenoise. Of the red wines, Paul preferred the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its dark cherry and pepper characteristics. I, however, opted for the 2009 Pinot Noir. Yes, I liked a Pinot Noir made from Virginia fruit! It presented a dark garnet color and a nose of dark cherry, currants, and anise with a whiff of smoke to boot. Similar flavors in the mouth with a medium body completed the experience. Look for this one to be released on Labor Day Weekend. Another upcoming release will be the 2009 Sangiovese, and we noted dark fruit characteristics and smooth tannins.

Like other winemakers and winery owners, the Smiths were optimistic about the 2010 harvest; in fact, they had already harvested the Chardonnay grapes. With vineyard manager Robbie Corpora and winemaker Lucien Dimani as part of the team, we expect great things to continue at Afton Mountain Vineyards. (And yes, I did purchase another bottle of the Tete de Cuvee before I left!)

White Hall Vineyards: An extensive menu is offered here, but the wines are well made. The first offering of the white wine selections was the crisp Pinot Gris 2008. “Clean” was the word that came to mind, and I noted a refreshing palate of orange and pineapple with a mineral finish. We both concurred that this was our gold star winner of the white wines, and on a day that hit 97 degrees, it was the perfect choice. (In fact, we shared a glass after our tasting.) Our tasting of the red wines found us at odds, though. Paul placed a star next to the Cabernet Franc 2008 with its aromas of violets and brambleberries. He also appreciated its smoky edge and medium finish. My own favorite, though, was the Touriga 2008. I’ve been a fan of White Hall’s Touriga in the past, and I remained a fan at this tasting. Touriga is a grape grown in Portugal, but pockets of Virginia’s micro-climates do well with this variety as well. I noted rich aromas of blackberry, raspberry, anise and tobacco with similar flavors in the mouth but with a touch of cedar. For tasters who have been a fan of White Hall’s Syrah, the 2008 vintage will be the last; at the $10.00 sale price, it might be worth stocking up. Ligher bodied but fruity with a spicy kick, it’s an accessible sipper.

So we’re almost done with our round up of tasting on the Monticello Trail. We should have one more post to finish our experiences from the past week, including a review of a newbie, Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery. Of course, the weekend is upon us, so plan to visit these Virginia wineries if you have the chance. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

More on the Monticello Trail

So in this roundup, I’ll review our experiences at King Family Vineyards, First Colony Winery, and Virginia Wineworks.

King Family Vineyards: Mathieu Finot is one of Virginia’s premier winemakers, and this was confirmed earlier this year when King Family’s 2007 Meritage took the Governor’s Cup.  Mathieu joined us for our tasting today. And we were treated to a sample of the newly release 2009 Chardonnay.  This was my gold-star winner for the white wines.  Fermented and aged in French oak barrels, it presents aromas of lemon and pear with similar flavors in the mouth.  A creamier mouth feel and a longer finish were noted, too.  For summertime, it’s hard to beat the Crose 2009 done in a dry Provence style.  We stock up on this classic rose, because it is a versatile pour throughout the year.  The red wines were all well-crafted, and it was hard to select only one for our gold-star award.  The 2009 Cabernet Franc reminded us of the Chinon-style, and it was rich with bright red fruit and spice elements that are typical of Cabernet Franc. However, Paul gave his gold-star nod to the 2008 Merlot with its dark cherry, smoke and mocha characteristics.  I almost concurred with Paul until I tasted the 2008 Meritage with its complex aromas and flavors.  Dark fruit, violets and licorice made for an enticing nose, and layers of dark cherry, black plums, spice and vanilla revealed themselves in the mouth.  A lengthy finish suggests aging potential, too.  Port lovers should also try the brandy-fortified Seven 2008 which is made from Merlot; a hunk of blue cheese and/or a cigar should provide nice partners with this one.

In the midst of our tasting, Mathieu confirmed what other winemakers have noted—the 2010 harvest will be much earlier than usual for Virginia with white wine varieties either already harvested or about to be harvested very soon.  He also sees the 2010 harvest as a year for potentially complex, robust  red wines.

First Colony Winery:  We reached a split decision with the white wines.  Paul favored the floral 2008 Viognier with its tropical fruit characteristics, but I preferred the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve which is aged in Hungarian oak barrels for nine months.  Pear flavors end with a subtle toasted almond finish.  (In the past, we’ve enjoyed the Chardonnay Reserve at Kinkeads, the much-heralded seafood restaurant in DC.)  We did, however, concur on a favorite red wine—the yet-to-be released 2008 Merlot.  Dark cherries, plums and dried herbs with some chocolate at the end make for a more complex wine.  Early September is the scheduled release date for the 2008 Merlot.  Of course, it’s still grilling season, and steak lovers might want to sample the earthier 2006 Tannat.

Virginia Wineworks:  It’s always a pleasure to sample the latest releases by Michael Shaps, and it’s equally hard to find favorites since all of Shaps’ wines are well-crafted.  It’s hard to beat the Michael Shaps Viognier 2008, and we’ve written about this one in the past.  However, I was more intrigued with the Burgundian-style Michael Shaps Chardonnay 2008 with its apple and pear characteristics and toasted almond finish.  A creamier mouth feel and lengthier finish make for an elegant pour.  Paul’s vote remained with the 2008 Viognier, and that was fine with me!  Of the reds, Paul favored the Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc which was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels.  He observed elements of dark cherry, plums and anise that finished with a smooth tannic presence.  I gave my gold star to the Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2008 which presented dried fruit characteristics, tobacco and black pepper. 

We were able to chat with Michael for a bit, and his next experiment will be “bag in the box” wines that are currently catching on in Europe.  Finding alternatives to cork enclosures has led to these developments, and quality products are being poured from the “bag” containers.  We’ll check in with Michael to see how this innovation is progressing!

Want to read more about our finds on the Monticello trail?  Don’t despair—more will be posted in upcoming articles.  With a very hot summer winding down, be sure to plan a visit to these wineries on the Monticello trail.  Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Busy Day on the Monticello Wine Trail

We took advantage of the close clustering of wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail and planned an aggressive agenda for yesterday’s wine tastings. We’ll comment on each tasting by providing our gold star favorites and share other important revelations such as upcoming releases and the outlook for the 2010 harvest.

Jefferson Vineyards: Wines here are always well-crafted. Today’s tasting provided us with samples of a few new pours. My favorite white wine was the floral-nosed 2009 Viognier with its apricot flavors and weightier texture. Paul gave the nod to the 2009 Pinot Gris; he appreciated its crisp acidity and citrus characteristics. Of the red wines, my gold star was awarded to the 2007 Meritage, a gold medal winner in the 2010 San Diego International. I noted layers of dark fruit with complements of mocha and dried herbs. Quite complex, and a good candidate for aging, too! Paul favored the 2008 Petit Verdot with its notes of spice and tobacco.

Blenheim Vineyards: We’re always fans of Kirsty Harmon’s wines, and we were eager to sample the latest at Blenheim Vineyards. Mitzi conducted our tasting today; of course, we started with the white wines. Paul’s gold-star fave was the crisp 2009 Blenheim Farms Chardonnay which is a blend of wines from stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. Pear flavors with a slight lime edge make this one a refreshing pour. My own favorite was the heavier-bodied 2008 Blenheim Chardonnay with its pear flavors and toasted almond finish. This Chardonnay is actually the result of careful blending from American, French, and Hungarian oak barrels to present a more food-friendly wine. (I also enjoyed the dry 2009 Rose with its flavors of melon and strawberry.) Mitzi skillfully moved us on to the red wines, and we started with the light-bodied and accessible Red Table Wine. Candy bar aficionado Paul made note of Mitzi’s creative pairing with this one—a Snickers bar! He’ll be sure to give it a try, too. Anyway, as we began to sample the reds, we were joined by Kirsty Harmon who provided testimony to the fact that the 2010 harvest will be an earlier one than usual with white varieties coming in from the vineyard as we spoke. She also brought along two upcoming releases, the 2009 Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Merlot. The fruity 2009 Cabernet Franc ended up being our gold-star favorite. Bright cherry and raspberry flavors were noted with some characteristic spice notes, too. It should be the perfect partner for Thanksgiving dinner, too. The 2009 Seven Oaks Merlot was still a bit tight and revealed itself after a few swirls; however, we noted the dark cherry and earthy characteristics that will prevail with this one.

Kluge Estate: Tasting room manager Tammy warmly greeted as we entered the cottage that serves as the tasting room. We were very hungry, too; Tammy took our orders for food and wine tasting as we made our way to a table. Two flights are offered for tasting: a) the Albemarle flight, and b) the Kluge flight. The Kluge flight featured the sparkling wines, and it was this flight that we opted to enjoy with our lunch. We’re not fans of the tasting “test tubes”, though, and Tammy kindly obliged our request for wine glasses along with our rack of tasting tubes. We simply poured the contents from the tube into the glass, and all was made better. Lunch arrived in time for us to pair our sparkling wines with food which included crab cakes and cheeses. Our gold star favorite was the Kluge Estate SP Rose 2007; we’re going to review this one in an upcoming ‘back to school” post, so more on this sparkling wine later on. I will say that made for a perfect marriage with the crabcakes! With the harder cheeses, we both concurred that the Kluge Estate New World 2002 was the winner. Blackberry, dark cherry, tobacco, and mocha were noted characteristics. Tammy joined us for banter about the wines, and her sense of humor made for some lively conversation! We shared with her that in summer months, we like to make note of summer sippers, and Tammy provided us with samples of the classic Albemarle Rose 2009. Dry and crisp with bright berry and melon notes, it did indeed qualify as a quality summer sipper!

I’ll wrap up this post here, but we did manage to complete tastings at First Colony and Virginia Wine Works. Stay tuned for my next post about those wineries. In the meantime, visit the wineries presented in this article; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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