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Category: Wines (page 5 of 72)

1 Winemaker, 3(+) Questions Continued:

So we continue to ask winemakers their assessment of the long-lasting winter and its possible impacts on the 2014 growing season. In this installment, winemaker Jake Busching of Grace Estate offers opinions.

Jake1. This has been a winter of long-lasting, record-breaking cold weather. This week’s temperatures plunged to below zero in much of Virginia. Are you concerned about stress to the vines? Have you changed vineyard management (i.e. pruning) as a result?

Winter cold has to reach serious extremes (well, by Virginia standards, said the Minnesotan…) to damage grapevines. Most vinifera isn’t damaged until you get down to temperatures close to -4F. Buds go first then damage to the vascular system can occur. Luckily here at my site our low was only -1F. I’ve checked buds in the vines by slicing into them with a knife to see if they are still green following the coldest days we’ve had and so far we are in good shape. Areas of NOVA and all states north of us are going to see bud and cane damage this spring. February 5th, 1996 saw temperatures as low as -22F in areas around Monticello AVA many vineyards were killed down to the snowline that night. A fellow winemaker in NY state reports losses in excess of 80% this spring as they had temperatures around -12F. In that situation you hope the snow was deep enough to shield buds in the trunks so you can start new growth without having to replant an entire vineyard!

The beauty of a cold snowy winter for growers, besides fireside evenings and sledding, is a plentitude of ground water coming into spring and a natural extermination of some vineyard pests. We have bugs like Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit flies and vine diseases like Pierces Disease which are both killed off at repeated temperatures below 7F which means we are going into a vintage where bugs will have to reinvade from the south. Perhaps this will allow vines to recover and put less pressure on us in the fall for protecting our fruit from damage.

We had a very good grapevine growing summer last year. 2013 had lots of moisture and thus, vigor, which allows the vines to uptake and translocate food into storage for use this spring. I am expecting good vine growth and a heavy crop this year, frost willin and the creeks don’t rise…

2. Early bud break is always a concern when it occurs; however, are there worries about a later bud break? What is the optimal time for bud break? (The cherry blossoms are scheduled to bloom much later this year due to the long-lingering winter.)

Bud break has been early for many years now. Back when I started taking care of vines in the mid-nineties budbreak in Chardonnay was expected around April 9th. It is my opinion that bud break doesn’t really happen ‘late’ as the sun always runs on time… I would love to see bud break begin on April 5th every year. However, we’ve lately become accustomed to buds waking up as early as march 19th on some sites which creates weeks of fear of frost damage or even cold damage. The only down side to a normal bud break period is if we have a cool, cloudy summer and our ripening energy is slowed or shadowed in our red wine vineyards. This delaying action can push harvest dates into late October when the vines are naturally shutting down and stopping work on ripening fruit. Then all we have to increase quality is hang time which is mostly dehydration to concentrate fruit flavor.

3. Now that the 2013 harvest is history, how is the 2013 vintage shaping up, and what are the comparisons to past vintages?

Now that my red wines have been racked and my early wines are in bottle, I am happy to say that 2013 was, for the most part, an excellent vintage. The summer long supply of rain had us on the ropes all year until, against all Virginia weather logic, we had a drought through harvest. The result of that weather pattern was early season varieties having slightly less concentration, mid-season varieties being good to very good and late season varieties being excellent. We are looking at red wines with early season elegance and late season structure for 2013. I am looking forward to blending this year and playing mixologist with varieties like Tannat and Petit Verdot. The bottled wines are showing very well with nice acid to mouthfeel balance and beautiful floral qualities. I finally made a rose that I respect in 2013 as well from some early pick Merlot with a bled lot of Tannat added for depth and complexity.

Plan a visit to Grace Estate to taste Jake’s excellent wines; in fact, we did just that this past weekend. What were our favorites? Check in next time to find out. If you get to Grace Estate before our next post, mention to Jake that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

5th Annual Sparkling Tasting

After the Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards on Saturday we headed over to Tarara Winery for the 5th annual sparkling tasting organized by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. It is now our tradition to get together each year to do a blind sparkling tasting to rate different sparklings from both Virginia and around the world. This year we tasted eleven different sparklings. This year the attendees were Frank, Kathy, Nancy, Erica, Kimberly and Brandon, Allison and Tarara winemaker, Jordan Harris.
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Of the eleven sparklings, seven were from Virginia, two were from France, one from New York, and one from California.
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We gathered around the tasting table with about a dozen glasses placed in front of each seat. Jordan and his helpers poured the wines so we wouldn’t know which wines were which. We began our tasting, writing notes, and ranking the wines. When all the rankings were compiled, the results were announced. Here are the results:

1. Trump Blanc de Blanc
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar
4. Boneyard Blanc de Blanc
5. Flat Rock Cellars, Niagara (Tie)
5. Roederer Hermitate 2004 (Tie)
7. Trump Reserve
8. Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc
9. FIZZ
10. Piper-Hidseck
11. Grower Champagne – Louis de Sasy
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Our top three picks were:
1. Trump Blanc de Blanc
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar

Warren and I were quite surprised the Thibaut-Janisson ranked lower on the list. We absolutely love this sparkling. I have a bottle in my fridge right now! It might be our favorite. Maybe it was a bad bottle, it was too warm, or some other anomaly. We just can’t be sure. But we were surprised. We are very happy though that Virginia sparklings took the top four spots. Each year the rankings are a bit different but Virginia seems to do well each year.
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A huge THANK YOU to Jordan Harris and the staff at Tarara Winery for hosting the event and providing all the glasses, and the wonderful nibbles at the end of the tasting. We had a wonderful time and met some new wine friends along the way! After our tasting we all went to dinner at Palio in Leesburg for dinner. We had a great time!
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We are getting close to the time when people do a lot of celebrating…graduations, weddings, birthdays…so consider a Virginia Sparkling for your celebrating! When you visit one of the wineries that produces a sparkling, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Breaux Merlot Vertical

On Saturday we attended the Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We try to attend the verticals at Breaux as often as we can. We always have a great time and thoroughly enjoy the wines and the food pairings. This time, as usual, we weren’t disappointed. We were also so pleased to see so many of our wine friends attending as well. Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like, Erica and Kirsten from Cellar Blog, and our long time wine friend Susan were all in attendance.
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The vertical began with an introduction by Jen Breaux. We then heard from winemaker David Pagan Castano about the wines we’d be tasting. The years of merlot we tasted were 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and a barrel sample from 2012. The wonderful food pairings were provided by Grandale Farm Restaurant. Throughout the tasting we could taste the wines as we wanted and try different vintages with the different courses.
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The first course was local pulled pork and cremini mushrooms over a gruyere onion risotto cake with plum demi glaze. With this course we preferred the 2010 and the 2012 vintages.
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The second course was caper and mustard braised chicken over tarragon faro with frisee and scallion oil. The wines we preferred for this course were the 2006 and the 2002.
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The third course was beef and bacon stewed over angel hair pasta, Brussels sprouts, and basil in a red wine tomato sauce. This was my favorite course! Both Warren and I paired this course with the 2002, 2007, and 2010.
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The final course was a Breaux Lineage 1st Edition infused truffle. It was served with the Lineage 1st Edition.
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During the different courses we were able to ask David and Jen questions about the vintages and hear his take on the different conditions that helped produce each vintage. Jen Breaux treated everyone to a special treat in honor of Frank Morgan joining the vertical. We each had a glass of the 2002 Merlot Reserve. Everyone was impressed with what an amazing wine it is. I was pleased to taste it because I have one on my rack and was glad to see it can stay on the rack a bit longer.

David informally surveyed the crowd about our favorites. While there were lots of answers, it seemed the 2002, 2007, and 2010 were the favorites. They certainly were our favorites as well as the 2002 Reserve.
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Before leaving we purchased our favorites and posed for pictures. It was great to see Jen, David, Bruce and Silvia. And of course it’s always great to see all our wine friends! If you haven’t been to Breaux lately, check out their events page. You might find one you’d like to attend. And when you do, mention Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Quality at Quievremont Vineyards

We enjoyed our first sample of wines from Quievremont Vineyards at our Mardi Gras party thanks to our friend Erika Johansen from Cellar Blog. Erika brought over a bottle of the 2012 Meritage and we (and our guests) were quite impressed. As a result, Paul and I decided to make an appointment for a tasting at Quievremont, and we concluded that quality best describes the current lineup of wines.
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We met owner John Quievremont on a chilly Saturday afternoon to taste wines in his very small storage/tasting room. The property can be described as classic bucolic with babbling brooks and mooing cows to transport visitors to a quieter time. John and wife Terri bought the property as a relief from the hectic life of work in the city; however, noted viticulture expert Lucie Morton convinced them to plant a vineyard. This was done in 2011, and the vineyard now grows chardonnay, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec. It looks like Morton was on to something. Their 2012 Meritage, for example, earned a silver medal at the 2014 Governor’s Cup competition.
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Our tasting began with white wines, of course, and we were treated to a side-by-side tasting of chardonnays from 2011 and 2012. The 2011 proved to be more acidic in nature; however, the 2012 vintage was my ideal. Minimal oak aging in neutral French oak barrels imparted a nice mouth feel with tropical fruit notes and flavors of apple and pear associated with a classic chardonnay. The 2012 Chardonnay earned a silver at the Governor’s Cup, too!
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We moved on to the red wines, and our favorite was indeed the 2012 Meritage, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. It presented elements of dark fruit, sweet tobacco, and spice. Smooth tannins made for a nice feel in the mouth. Looking for an everyday red wine? The 2012 Vin de Maison should fit the bill. Syrah is included in the mix of cabernet franc and merlot to produce a lighter-bodied red wine that is perfect on its own or partnered with meatloaf, pizza, or a mix of cheeses.
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John was gracious enough to answer our questions, and we learned that case production for 2013 was substantially lower than the 800 cases in 2012. The culprit? Late frost followed by hungry critters such as raccoon, turkeys, bears, etc. However, winemaker Theo Smith is dedicated to quality over quantity, and his craftsmanship is responsible for the current lineup of excellent wines. Future plans include a tasting room. John Quievremont opted to plant the vineyards first and then worry about a tasting room later—odd, isn’t it? Many new Virginia wineries boast expansive tasting facilities these days but not much to show in the vineyards. That is not the case at Quievremont where the emphasis is on quality fruit and excellent wines. If all goes according to plans, the new tasting room will open in time for harvest 2014.
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We completed our tasting and left with several bottles of wine. We know that we will return soon; however, readers should make an appointment to taste the award winning wines at Quievremont Vineyards. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

A Visit To Pearmund Cellars

On the way home from Gray Ghost over the weekend, we decided to stop at Pearmund Cellars to check out the latest offerings and to see if they had any of the Governor’s Cup gold medal winning 2010 Ameritage.
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We were lucky to have Tammy Davis as our tasting associate. She walked us through the current line up of wines and even treated us to a few others that happened to be opened on the day we visited. While we enjoyed all the wines there were a few that did stand out as our favorites.
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Our favorite white was the 2011 Old Vine Chardonnay. This one was aged for 8 months on neutral and French oak, sur lie style. The grapes came from the Meriwether vineyard in Fauquier County. We noted pear, vanilla, and a honey feel. Warren was thinking of seafood for this wine.

Our favorite red was in fact the gold medal winning 2010 Ameritage. This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, cabernet franc, malbec, and merlot. It was aged for 14 months in American oak. We noted blackberry, cherry, and tobacco in this very balanced wine. Of course we thought of a nice filet mignon as a pairing for this one. After our tasting Warren enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Ameritage and I enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Merlot (one of my favorites!) with a baguette while sitting on the patio.
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We had a fun time chatting with all the staff. All the staff members signed a bottle of the 2010 Ameritage for us to take home. Thank you! After purchasing some of our favorites we said our goodbyes. A huge THANK YOU to Tammy for the wonderful service and hospitality. We had a great time during our tasting! If you haven’t been to Pearmund Cellars lately, plan a trip soon. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
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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.

Notaviva to Launch Cruise on the Danube

A fun yet elegant cruise down the Danube River which runs through historic cities like Vienna, Austria—what more could your ask for? A pairing with Virginia wines, of course. Notaviva Vineyards is planning just such a trip for November 2015. We stopped by Notaviva Vineyards to get the details from owners Stephen and Shannon Mackey; of course, we also wanted to sample the current releases.

The pairing of Virginia wine with historic sites and sounds has been dubbed “Melodies of the Danube”, and AmaWaterways will host the event. Stephen Mackey will host a number of wine and music pairings that will feature Notaviva wines. Also, Mackey will attempt to host a wine tasting from the cruise ship that can also be experienced in the Notaviva tasting room at the same time. The goal is to promote wine drinking as a multi-sensory experience while elevating the awareness of Virginia wines. Stephen Mackey’s passion for wine and music are well known, so this should be quite an event for participants. Notaviva wines that will be featured on the trip will be named after the famed German trio Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Imagine hearing strains of Beethoven on the Danube while sipping a wine named after the famed composer!
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Sounds like fun? There will be a number of teaser events between now and then to entice wine sippers/music lovers/history buffs to sign up for the cruise. Check out the website for information on these upcoming events, but we can report that the first mixer to promote the cruise will be held on February 9. There is plenty of time for interested travelers to plan for the trip; at least 64 cabins will be available.
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And what about the wines? Our favorite white wine was the yet-to-be released 2012 Sabado made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc. A classic Sauvignon Blanc, it exhibited notes of citrus and grass along with a refreshing acidity. With spring around the corner, the floral 2011 Verano which is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Traminette should be a pleaser. Pineapple and white pepper elements were noted along with a fuller mouth feel. Of the red wines, I was most pleased with the 2012 Vierzig Blaufrankisch. This is a blend of the German grape, Blaufrankisch, and Cabernet Franc (15%). I noted rich cherry and raspberry flavors along with a note of sweet tobacco. It was accessible and easy to sip; no coincidence that it was made to be listened to with the Mozart symphony by the same name, Vierzig.
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Notaviva will maintain its focus on wine, music and fun. In the coming months, guitarist Paul Rogers from the band Bad Company will be at the winery to host food, wine and music classes. Before then, Valentine’s Day will feature comedy and wine.

Readers who are intrigued by this opportunity should either visit the Notaviva website for more information or stop by the winery for updates and a wine tasting. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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