Casanel Vineyards and Winery had fallen off our radar over the past few years, but our friend and Casanel wine educator Kathy Lang Wiedemann convinced us that it was time for us to revisit the winery. We recently did just that and met with owner Katie DeSouza for a tasting of Casanel’s premiere wines; along the way, we learned of new changes at Casanel that has put the vineyards and winery on track to produce some wonderful wines.
Casanel Vineyards and Winery opened a new and more spacious tasting room since our last visit, and we were impressed with its wood floors and airy atmosphere. It is here where tasters can sample the Casanel vintages under the more familiar Casanel label. The older facility is now being used to taste the premiere wines, and these bear a cleaner, more elegant label. These were the most evident signs that a different yet better direction was being undertaken at Casanel. Katie De Souza, daughter of Casanel’s founders Nelson and Casey DeSouza, has taken on a more prominent role in managing both the vineyards and winemaking, and it was Katie who conducted our tasting. Katie explained to us that her decision to lead Casanel Vineyards and Winery in a different direction was taken after consultation with renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton who advised Katie to make needed improvements in the vineyards’ management. In addition, Katie has been learning the craft of wine making under the tutelage of French native Katell Griaud who has previously worked for Kluge Estate and then Trump Winery.
Proof is always in the pudding—-or the wine glass in this case, and after our tasting, I concluded that the new course taken by Casanel Vineyards and Winery has produced excellent results. All seven of the premiere wines that we tasted were clean and well crafted. My particular favorites included the 2014 Ellianna, a crisp Pinot Gris that was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It’s soft peach notes and subtle mineral element made for a refreshing pour that seemed perfect for enjoyment on a warm day. I also gave two thumbs up for the 2014 Chardonnay which is a blend of three styles—-stainless steel, neutral French oak barrels, and new French oak barrels. Pear and citrus elements prevailed with an acidic mid palate and toasty finish that suggested a food-friendly wine. In fact, I served this one with crab cakes and roasted summer squash at a recent dinner party! The 2013 Petit Verdot earned my nod for favorite red wine; this too was the product of a blend of wines aged in neutral and newer French oak barrels. An initial licorice note was then followed by aromas and flavors of dark currants and plum; a lingering finish made for a more complex wine. An extra treat was a taste of the smoky 2013 Carmenere with its fruit forward palate and whiffs of violet and tobacco on the nose. This is a limited production wine and available only to the wine club members.
Enhancing the tasting experience was a portfolio that presented each wine being tasted; in addition to descriptions of each varietal, technical details such as harvest date and ph levels are included. This encourages the customer to develop a conversation with the tasting associate about the wines; of course, we always ask questions, and the portfolio provided us with a wealth of information about the wines that we tasted.
After our tasting, we lingered for a while in the new tasting room and enjoyed a glass of the 2014 Ellianna. We took in the gorgeous vineyard landscapes while sipping and nibbling on cheese and baguette. We know that we will return to Casanel Vineyards and Winery soon. Plan your own visit to Casanel Vineyards and Winery and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
So this will be the last post about our celebration weekend in the Monticello area. Here I will give our perspectives on wines tasted at Gabriele Rausse Winery. Keswick Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards. Our focus at these wineries remained the same——wines to enjoy during the summer.
Gabriele Rausse Winery: We were very excited to finally taste a full line up of Gabriele Rausse wines. This was made possible due to the opening of a tasting room by Rausse! Gabriele Rausse has a long history in the Virginia winemaking industry starting back in the early 1980s, and his reputation for crafting excellent wines is well known. Our favorites of the ten wines that we tasted included the Pinot Grigio 2013 with its elements of soft peach and wet stone; I was more intrigued, though, with the Rousanne 2012 that was fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Its floral and spice notes were complemented by citrus flavors and a fuller mouth feel. Seafood, poultry or pork topped with a cream sauce should play well with this one. With grilled fare, it might be hard to beat the Cabernet Franc 2013 with its bright berry notes and subtle spice on the finish. I had an eye toward the colder months ahead along with the heartier menus that follow and made certain to purchase the more complex Nebbiolo 2012. As we sipped through our tasting, we enjoyed the woodsy views offered by the quaint tasting room that was obviously designed to blend in with forested surroundings.
Keswick Vineyards: It’s always a pleasure to see winemaker Stephen Barnard at Keswick Vineyards. Stephen offered us sneak samples of evolving 2013 and 2014 vintages from the barrels. This included the 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, the 2014 Pinot Gris, 2013 and 2014 Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon then finishing with the Syrah. Alas, I do not have particular tasting notes on these; however, I do recall giving two thumbs up for the Chardonnay Reserve and the Cabernet Sauvignon samples. Rest assured, however, that we will return to Keswick Vineyards in the near future to report on these wines as they are released!
King Family Vineyards: Another favorite winery and another tasting experience with the winemaker. Mathieu Finot guided us through a tasting of the latest pours at King Family Vineyards. We tend to enjoy all of the wines here, but with a focus on summer, the Crose 2014 is always a winner. This dry rose presents lovely strawberry and melon notes with a refreshing acidity; enjoy on its own, with a picnic, most grilled foods, etc. Dining al fresco with a seafood or poultry dish? Both the Chardonnay 2013 and Viognier 2014 can be recommended. I’m always partial to Chardonnay, and I appreciated the pear and citrus notes with this one; aged for nine moths in French oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation provides a full mouth feel to boot. Paul is a Petit Verdot fan, and the Petit Verdot 2012 was his favorite. Whiffs of violet and incense were complemented with elements of dark berries, plums and spice. Enjoy with heavier grilled steaks or chops or reserve for a later time with leg of lamb.
Our celebration weekend did indeed come to an end, and along the way we tasted some wonderful wines. Be certain to pay a visit to the wineries mentioned in this post; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
In the next two posts, I will conclude a wrap up of wineries that we visited while celebrating our marriage which took place in February. Since we were in the Monticello area in June, our focus was find summer-appropriate wines; of course, we kept an eye out for wines that could be poured during cooler weather or those we thought were aging in the cellar.
Barboursville Vineyards: We always plan to stop here for a tasting; however, we always put a visit here at the top of our itinerary for the day to avoid the crowds in the tasting room. As a result, we always enjoy our tasting experience and get to ask the pesky questions that we always ask. Anyway, a mix of warm weather and light fare requires fruity, crisper wines and the Chardonnay 2014 that is cold fermented in stainless steel gets the nod here. However, I appreciated the more complex Vermentino Reserve 2013 with its notes of lemon/lime, mango, and hay as well as the Viognier Reserve 2013 with its floral aromas and tropical fruit palate. Both of these reserve wines should partner well with poultry, pork, or shellfish. I did purchase a bottle of the Nebbiolo Reserve to rest a bit on the wine rack. Lovely aromatics of violet, tobacco and plum were noted; it’s still young, so I’d advise aging for a bit or decanting to those who are more impatient!
Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery: We were greeted by Sarah Gorman who invited to taste the latest releases in the tasting room. The 2014 Green seems destined to please in the midst of any heat wave; it is a mix of 50% Petit Manning and 50% Chardonnay. However, this is not a blend; rather, these are co-fermented. The result is a crisp wine that presents elements of lime, apple and pear. For those who enjoy vino verde wines, this one should be a pleaser. Spicy stir fry dishes or grilled poultry topped with a tangy sauce might pair better with the 2013 Quattro, a sweeter pour that is a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Traminette. It boasts a residual sugar level of 2 % along with a lovely floral nose and a fruity palate. Burgers or barbecued ribs on the grill? The 2014 Rockfish Red with its ripe cherry flavors and subtle spicy note would be the perfect partner; it is made from Cabernet Franc grape—-enjoy now!
Jefferson Vineyards: The Chardonnay 2014 was my pick for favorite summer sipper; fermented in stainless steel, it presented apple and soft peach notes as well as a refreshing acidity. Paul preferred the Rose 2014 and its palate of strawberry and melon; he envisioned a Wolftrap concert with this one, so a bottle of it made its way home. For fall or winter fare, we both thought that the Petit Verdot 2013 deserved a space on the wine rack. Its smoky nose and aromas of plum and leather gave way to flavors of plum and dark berries. I also caught a trace of mineral toward the end.
And I’m not done yet—-more wines to recommend! In my final wrap up, I will include a visit to the new Gabriele Rausse tasting room, special barrel tastings from winemaker Stephen Barnard, and favorites from King Family. Stay tuned——in the meantime, visit the wineries reviewed in this post, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Many Virginia wineries offer membership clubs, and readers may wonder if joining these clubs are worth the perks. I belong to three clubs at Virginia wineries, and I can report they are definitely worth a taste (or two.)
I have fully embraced winemaker Kirsty Harmon’s philosophy of making wines to enjoy now. The Blenheim wine club offers to members a chance to enjoy wines that the general public may not be able to purchase immediately. I get shipments 4 times a year. For example, my spring and summer shipments included (among others) the Red Table Wine NV, the Painted Red 2013, and the Painted White 2013. We recently enjoyed the Painted Red with a meal that featured grilled filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms. Its ripe berry and plum flavors were complemented by spicy elements that paired quite nicely with our meal. Past favorites have included Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne. Of course, the artist in me always appreciates the painted labels which change with each vintage.
This was the first wine club that I joined thanks to wine educator extraordinaire, Silvia Miller. Club members get to enjoy wines that are crafted just for them. My current club favorite is the Stone Barn White 2014; this wine screams summer! Floral notes lead the profile that include citrus elements and wet stone. A refreshing acidity gives way to a surprisingly honeyed finish. Elegant enough to grace a dinner party that includes shellfish but fun on its own with fresh fruit and cheeses. The new members only tasting room is complete and open for business. On a recent visit Bruce Miller poured the club wines for us to taste. It was nice to meet other club members and fun to chat about the current club wines.
I have been a Pollak fan for many years now and look forward to my tasting from wine expert, Casey. It’s always nice to enter the tasting room and be recognized. Perks here include 15% discount on all wine purchases, free tasting for me and my guest (usually my spouse), and prerelease on limited production and reserve wines. I recently visited the winery and can attest to the excellence of the Provence style 2014 Rose with its strawberry notes and subtle whiffs of dried herbs. This is a dry rose and its lively acidity demands warm weather and a picnic—we will be bringing this one to a Wolf Trap concert this summer.
If you’ve ever considered joining a wine club at one of the Virginia wineries, think about looking into one of these. More details about the clubs can be found on their websites. And when you do visit them, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
We celebrated our honeymoon last week with a trip to the Charlottesville area. We stayed at our favorite inn, the Inn at Meander Plantation, and visited favorite wineries. In the midst of celebrating our marriage, on Friday, June 26, we were excited to learn of the Supreme Court decision that confirmed marriage equality for all Americans. We were ecstatic with the news and used it to add to the celebration!
We began the day with bubbles at Trump Winery. Here we enjoyed the 2008 Reserve Sparkling with crab cakes.
Later that night, we dined at the Inn. Suzie and Suzanne always pair their menu selections with Virginia wines. The Gray Ghost Seyval Blanc, Barboursville Reserve Chardonnay, and the Rosemont Syrah were among the wines featured on the menu that evening.
We were not quite ready to finish our celebration, so we finished the night with a bottle of the Thibaut-Jannison Sparkling.
We will be posting more about the wineries that we visited. In the meantime, celebrate your own special occasion in the heart of Virginia wine country. Plan a stay at the Inn at Meander Plantation. Of course, please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.