Wineries That Keep Us Blogging

The tenth year of Virginia Wine Time has given us cause to celebrate, and our visits with the wonderful winemakers who inspired us to blog has been a pleasure. We will also take time to honor wineries and winemakers who inspire us to continue blogging, and these will be either newer wineries that have recently opened or wineries that have experienced a renaissance due to a new direction and renewed purpose. The two wineries featured in this post belong in the latter category, and they are Casanel Vineyards & Winery and The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek.

Casanel Vineyards & Winery: There is no doubt in our minds that Katie de Souza has a passion for winemaking, and the wines there have taken a profound turn for the wonderful under her leadership. We visited with Katie last fall, and we were very impressed with the line up of premiere wines. In addition, the new tasting room offers a more accessible yet elegant tasting experience. I was most impressed with the Chardonnay; Paul favored the Petit Verdot, and we both fell in love with the limited edition Carmenere. Pay attention to this winery; we plan to visit very soon to sample the latest releases.

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The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek: We remembered the old Lost Creek Winery as a place to go to enjoy picnic wines that tended to be on the sweeter side. We also admired the landscaping! However, the new and improved Lost Creek Winery under the direction of Aimee and Todd Henkle features more serious wines. Dry, complex, nuanced—-these are the descriptors that can now be used in association with these wines. Aimee Henkle conducted our tasting when we visited the winery in January, and I was a fan of the 2014 Reserve Chardonnay with its pear notes and buttery finish. The Genesis, a red blend, was rich and complex with a smoky nose and dark fruit flavors. Drink now or age for later; I have opted to age for a while. We were also treated to a barrel sample of the 2014 Provenance which spent 26 months in oak barrels. Bramble berry notes with a whiff of cedar were quite evident; we intend to return upon release of this one.

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We plan to visit these wineries very soon and know that they continue to strive for excellence. Plan to visit Casanel Vineyards & Winery and The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek too; mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Winery Happenings

We have managed to attend some winery events in the midst of our 10 Anniversary (Blogiversary) celebration in addition to some wacky and unpredictable winter weather. Two relatively recent events that we attended included an enhanced tasting at Veramar Vineyard and a Nebbiolo Vertical tasting at Breaux Vineyards.

veramarOn March 5, we accepted an invitation to attend the Enhanced Tasting experience at Veramar Vineyard. The enhanced tasting is a re-vamped version of the reserve tasting held at the winery in the past. This tasting includes foods paired alongside limited production (reserve) wines and wines featured on the regular tasting menu. At this particular tasting, a 2014 Fume Blanc was partnered with french olives, a chambourcin-based rose was paired with prosciutto, the 2013 Merlot stood alongside duck rilles, and a non-vintage Bordeaux blend called Rooster Red made fast friends with manchego cheese and fig spread. In the end, I found that all of the foods paired well with each of the wines; however, the wines that impressed me the most were the 2014 Fume Blanc and the 2013 Merlot. The Fume Blanc, made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in Loudoun County, presented elements of citrus and fresh grass along with a mineral note. It was aged in neutral oak for 17 months so it possessed a richer mouth feel than the leaner Sauvignon Blancs that most drinkers may associate with the grape. The 2013 Merlot presented a smoky nose with notes of tobacco, bramble berry and cherry. The Merlot grapes were estate grown and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, with some time in neutral oak barrels. In the end, I thought that all of the food items paired just fine with all of the wines; so, I felt free to play around and enjoyed the olives with the rose but noshed on the salty prosciutto with the Rooster Red.

Anyway, we enjoyed our enhanced tasting at Veramar Vineyards and made off with bottles of the Fume Blanc and Merlot.

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Breaux Vineyards always hosts a series of vertical tastings that include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo. On April 2, we attended the Nebbiolo tasting that featured Nebbiolo wines from the 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010 vintages. We both were impressed with the staying power of the older vintages from 2000, 2001, and 2005. Of these, I favored the classic 2005 vintage with its characteristics of spice, tar, clover, and bramble berries. Tannins were still quite pronounced too! Of course, the 2001 is Breaux’s champion vintage of the grape, and it did not disappoint either. How did these compare with the younger vintages? I will predict that the 2010 vintage will be one of the classic on par with the older siblings. 2007 still needs time; harvested from a very hot growing season, the alcohol level was the most pronounced of the lineup. (We’ve enjoyed this one at home but made sure to decant for a while before serving; pair with something fatty too! ) The 2006 vintage proved to be the most fruit forward, most versatile, and most ready to drink now. The food pairings were delicious and included a pork-stuffed cannelloni, duck with polenta, and a roasted lamb chop with roasted veggies. So what paired well with the cannelloni with its shredded pork and rich cheese? Any of the older vintages particularly the 2001. The duck with the creamy texture of polenta? I seemed to keep grabbing the 2005 and 2010. The fattier, gamy lamb chop? 2007 shined. The 2006 seemed to play well with everything that was served.

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Plan an enhanced tasting at Veramar Vineyards or sign up for a vertical tasting at Breaux Vineyards. Experiment with food and wine; do be afraid to go rogue while you’re at it! However, please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

2016 Sparkling Tasting—-A Tradition Continues

Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like has organized a sparkling tasting for several years now, and this year the annual event continued. This year the tasting off was held at Stone Tower Vineyards in Loudoun County. Winemaker Jordan Harris landed his expertise to the whole affair, and other palates included fellow bloggers Terry and Kathy Sullivan, Pam Riley, and wine distributor Lucinda Smith.

This year’s lineup featured only Virginia sparkling produced from the Chardonnay grape (or blanc de blanc), and nine sparkling were offered by local wineries for the taste off. These included:

Boneyard Bubbles by Tarara
Greenhill Blanc de Blanc
King Family Brut
Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar
Thibaut-Janisson NV
Trump 2008 Blanc de Blanc
Trump 2008 Reserve
Trump 2009 Blanc de Blanc
Veritas Scintilla NV

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So how did they rank? My personal top three were: 1) Trump 2009 Blanc de Blanc; 2) Boneyard Bubbles, and 3) Trump 2008 Reserve. Paul’s top three included: 1) Trump 2008 Reserve; 2) Thibaut Jansson NV, and 3) Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar. Overall ranking were as follows:

1. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar
2. Trump 2009 Blanc de Blanc
3. Boneyard Bubbles
4. King Family Brut
5. Trump 2008 Reserve
6. Thibaut Jansson NV
7. Veritas Scintilla NV
8. Greenville Blanc de Blanc
9. Trump 2008 Blanc de Blanc

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Virginia wineries are producing some excellent sparkling wines; visit these wineries to taste these bubblies for yourself. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Black Friday Shopping

Warren’s parents came in town last weekend to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend with us. We had a great Thanksgiving day with some wonderful wines. On Black Friday we decided to do some shopping like half of the United States. We visited Gray Ghost Vineyards and Gadino Cellars.
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Our first stop was Gray Ghost Vineyards. As long time readers know, Gray Ghost is one of our absolute favorites. We always get a warm greeting when we enter the tasting room. Every year Warren’s mother brings Al Kellert a pecan pie and this year was no different. Al was very happy to see that pie in her hands.
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After catching up with Amy and Al and Cheryl, we did a tasting of the current line up of wines. We love all the wines at Gray Ghost but of course there are always stand out wines. In my opinion the 2014 Chardonnay is one of the best. It presents tropical flavors with creamy notes and subtle oak notes. My favorite red is the 2013 Ranger Reserve. This is a true Bordeaux blend. I noted lots of dark fruit and coffee notes. The tannins were smooth and nimble. I thought of big red meats and some hard cheeses. I wanted a small chunk of dark chocolate to enjoy with this one. The Petit Verdot was not on the regular tasting but it was another stellar wine.
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After our tasting we enjoyed some lunch nibbles with a bottle of the Ranger Reserve which we thoroughly enjoyed and paired well with our lunch items. Before leaving we purchased our favorites and picked up a case for Warren’s parents. We said our goodbyes knowing we’d be returning in one week for the Holiday Open House on December 5th and 6th.
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Our second stop was Gadino Cellars. We hadn’t been there in a very long time. We began our tasting and then Stephanie entered the tasting room. We always enjoy talking wine with Stephanie. She told us how the 2015 harvest was and what upcoming wines we might want to check out. Gadino is another winery where we enjoy all the wines on the tasting menu. Of course we have our favorites as well. We all really enjoyed the 2014 Pinot Grigio. Light and crisp and reminded us of warm Spring afternoons. We were all also big fans of the 2012 Cabernet Franc Riserva. We noted lots of cherry, spice, and pepper. A classic cab franc from Virginia. After our tasting we each enjoyed a glass of the cab franc on the deck while taking in the last moments of the sunny Friday afternoon.
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What a great way to spend our Black Friday! If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost Vineyards or Gadino Cellars in awhile, plan a trip soon. And when you visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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