Gray Ghost Cabernet Vertical

On Saturday evening we went to Gray Ghost Vineyards to attend the Vertical Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. This is a black tie optional event for a limited number of guest who get to taste vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignons from odd number years back to 1993.

We saw some familiar faces at the event. And of course it’s always fun to catch up with Al, Cheryl, and Amy with the latest news at Gray Ghost. Al had selected Cabernet Sauvignons from 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. With the wines Cheryl had prepared many dishes that paired nicely with the wines. The chicken and pasta with red sauce was one of my favorites as were the meat balls. During the evening we had a chance to talk about each vintage and compare notes with other participants. We all had our favorites but it seems the years ending in 5s and 7s received must of the chatter. The evening ended with a delicious slice of double chocolate cake and a glass of the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone enjoyed this vintage!

If you haven’t attended one of the tasting events at Gray Ghost Vineyards, check out their events page and find one you might enjoy. And when you attend, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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Wine and Chocolates

Gray Ghost Vineyards was planning their big yearly Irresistible Chocolates and Cabernet event for Valentine’s weekend but a big snow storm was threatening to cancel it. They decided to move it to the next weekend. However, the snow didn’t last as long as expected so they had a special chocolates weekend on Valentine’s weekend instead. We decided we’d go to enjoy the chocolates and get this year’s Valentine glass. After a tasting of the current lineup of wines we each decided to enjoy a glass of the Ranger Reserve with our plate of chocolates.
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After our delicious adventure at Gray Ghost, we decided to stop at Unicorn Winery on the way home and check out the latest releases. We were so lucky to have owner Sandy Lepage conduct our tasting! We haven’t seen her in a long time. It was good to catch up and taste the new wines.
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Our favorite white was the Vicenza Gold. It’s a blend of chardonel and seyval. We noted pear and citrus and crisp edge. It made us think of the spring weather! Our favorite red was the 2010 Meritage. It’s a blend of 20% Cabernet Franc, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40% Merlot. We noted ripe berry fruit and smooth tannins.
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If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost Vineyards or Unicorn Winery recently, plan a trip soon. And when you visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Cabin Fever Remedy: Virginia Wine

After another polar invasion of snow and arctic air, we decided to defy Mother Nature and get out of the house at least for a little while. Paradise Springs isn’t far away from Paul’s house, so that is where we went for a tasting of current releases.
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Of the white wines, we enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay with its notes of pear and pineapple and fuller mouth feel. It was aged sur lie in French oak barrels for eight months. The 2013 Nana’s Rose was debuted on the day of our visit, and it presented flavors of strawberry and cherry; it’s dry, too! It also reminded us that spring is around the corner.
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On to the red wines, and Paul’s favorite was the 2012 Cabernet Franc that was blended with Tannat (5%). Raspberry notes with a whiff of dried herbs, it finished with a bit of spice. I liked the 2012 Norton with its plum and cherry elements and spicy edge. A prize winner in San Francisco, I found the Norton to be an elegant pour that would favor hearty meat dishes.
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We weren’t quite ready to return home despite the steady snowflakes falling outside, and so we enjoyed a glass of our favorite wines along with cheese and a baguette. My glass of choice was the 2012 Chardonnay while Paul sipped the 2012 Cabernet Franc. We sat on the spacious back patio that was enclosed for the winter, and a fire in the fireplace provided warmth.
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We’ll be back to Paradise Springs especially in the warmer months to come. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit to Paradise Springs. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine and Cheer at Sunset Hills

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On Superbowl weekend (and between snow flakes, ice pellets, and frozen rain), we decided to visit Loudoun County wineries. Sunset Hills Vineyard was at the top of our list of wineries to visit, and once there we found a very festive tasting room with club members celebrating recent releases; many sported shirts declaring a favorite team. Amidst the hoopla and good cheer, we were privileged to receive a full tasting by Meredith Wilson, the tasting room manager and a long time wine friend of ours. Meredith’s sports wear suggested that she preferred Denver in the big bowl game; however, at the end of our tasting, we favored team Sunset!
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We were treated to the full gamut of well-crafted wines at Sunset Hills Vineyards, so I will present a few of the highlights here.

White Wines:
Albarino 2012—Wow. This grape shows potential at some Virginia wineries with Jenni McCloud at Chyrsalis Vineyards leading the way, and this one from Sunset is quite nice. Citrus notes prevail with a noticeable mineral element and a crisp finish. Extremely limited production, though, with only about three cases made. We hope that the potential for this varietal will be expanded at Sunset, because we would like to buy a few bottles of it in the future.
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Chardonnay Vertical+ Petit Manseng: Yes, I am an unapologetic Chardonnay fan. Imagine my delight when Meredith gave us a side-by-side of two 2012 Sunset Chardonnays and a Petit Manseng all from the 2012 vintage. All three presented a similar fuller-mouth feel; however, both Chardonnays presented different nuances. The Petit Manseng exhibited the fullest body of the three. Although from the same vintage, the Chardonnays represented efforts from two different vineyards—the Shenandoah Springs vineyard located in a higher elevation in the Shenandoah, and the Vineyard One located on the Sunset property. The former was a bit leaner with citrus and mineral notes and tropical fruit elements. I noted some pear flavors too. The Vineyard One offered a fuller mouth feel along with a classic Chardonnay profile—pear and apple characteristics with a nice honey note. Which did I prefer? Depends on what’s for dinner. Shenandoah Springs with shell fish, but Vineyard One with poultry topped with a cream sauce. And the Petit Manseng? At less than 1% residual sugar, it has been the driest Petit Manseng that we’ve tasted in Virginia. Fuller-bodied for sure with tropical fruit notes and flavors with a hint of freesia on the nose. At the dinner table, this one could be an alternative to a full-bodied Chardonnay or Viognier.

Red Wines:
Petit Verdot: We were able to compare the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Different growing seasons=different results. Both were very good. The 2011 vintage, produced from a very challenging season, was quite nice. It was lighter-bodied than its older sibling and Paul suggested that he could even sip this on e on its own. I preferred the 2010 with its denser color and its characteristics of dark plum, sweet tobacco, and spice.

2010 Nebbiolo: The Superbowl champ for me. Characteristic Nebbiolo and an example of what Virginia can do with this grape. Earthy aromas with notes of clover and licorice and a whiff of violet were noted. Buy now but drink later—this will only get better with age. Another polar votext? Beef stew and the 2010 Nebbiolo will take the chill off.

Ready for spring? So are we. The Sunset White with its blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc will conjure images of warm breezes, lingering sunsets, and a crab feast. Dreams of barbeque? The 2012 Cabernet Franc will be a perfect partner for grilled fare. Until then, though, we can only stock up on the wines and wait for the seasons to change.
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Our tasting ended too soon, but we extended our stay with a basket of hard cheeses and salami. We also enjoyed a glass of wine and took in the Superbowl revelry that was all around us. We each sipped on a glass of the 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc. We reviewed our tasting and conversation with Meredith, and were impressed with the continued dedication to vineyard-specific wines. The different nuances, in the case of the Chardonnays, could be tasted in the glass. It was also obvious to us that winemaker Nate Walsh has dedicated himself to quality winemaking regardless of circumstances such as the rainy 2011 season. While we had our favorites, the wines here were well made.

We will return to Sunset Hills sooner rather than later. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit; tell Meredith that Virginia Wine Time sent you.