Local Vacation to Virginia Wine Country

Paul and I opted not to travel too far this summer and decided instead to enjoy summer fun in the local area. For us, this always includes a visit to Virginia wine country, and our focus this past weekend was the Monticello AVA. Read on to discover our favorites at the wineries which we visited.

Day 1 of our trip included tastings at three wineries: Keswick Vineyards, First Colony, and Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Barnard is one of our favorite winemakers in the state, and our tasting here is one that we always anticipate with eagerness. A summer hit for any crowd or event has to be the 2016 V2, an blend of Verdejo (80%) and Vidal Blanc (20%). Its fruity palate makes for a wine that is perfect on its own on a very warm day or with light cheeses and a baguette. My personal favorite was the 2015 Signature Series Reserve Viognier with its pear and tropical fruit notes. A fuller mouth feel makes this Viognier a perfect complement to any dish that features a cream sauce. Serve with seafood, poultry or pork and accompany with a mango relish—-an ideal match at the dinner table! Of the red wines, it was easy to enjoy the superb 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve with its smoky aromas and flavors of black currants, dark plums and oaky nuances. Sparkling lovers should also try the Amelie Black label Chardonnay and the Amelie Sparkling Rose made from the Norton grape.

After our tasting, Stephen Barnard invited us to taste a few wines still in barrels in the barrel room. We tasted 2016s of Chardonnay, Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend and a 2015 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was Paul’s favorite from the barrels. When asked about food and wine pairings, Stephen had this to say:


 

First Colony Winery: This was our second tasting on Day 1, and I must admit that we were pleased with the improvements in the winemaking here. Gavin Baum, assistant winemaker, conducted our tasting (and answered our pesky questions, too!). The 2015 Riesling Reserve can be described as summer in a bottle with its floral aromas and notes of peach and orange zest. My nod for favorite white wine was the Burgundian-style 2015 Chardonnay Estate Reserve; I appreciated its aromas of chamomile, lemon zest, and wet stone. Shellfish came to mind as a food pairing—-oysters, scallops, crab, etc. Paul preferred the creamier 2016 Viognier with its peach notes and mango/tropical fruit flavors. Our favorite red wine was the 2015 Meritage; buy now but enjoy later with a fall or winter menu. If impatient, serve with grilled steaks and roasted veggies.

Michael Shaps Wineworks: Our last tasting for the day—-I look forward to Shaps’ Viognier whenever we plan to visit the Wineworks, and the 2016 vintage did not disappoint. Peach and wet stone characteristics were complemented by a fuller mouth feel and tropical fruit palate. Paul was captivated by the 2015 Merlot and noted its elements of smoke and dark cherry; he made note of its rounder mouth feel and commented that he would enjoy this Merlot with grilled lean beef. Michael Shaps also crafts wines from his Burgundy vineyards, and Pinot Noir lovers should enjoy the lighter-bodied 2014 Savigny-les-Beaune with a variety of food options to include grilled chicken, herbed pork chops, or a simple platter of sliced deli meats and cheeses.

Day 1 of our tasting through the Monticello AVA was our favorite of the trip. We made certain to purchase bottles of our favorites to enjoy at home. Be certain to visit these Virginia wineries to collect your own favorite pours; however, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Back To Charlottesville

Over the Memorial Day weekend we went to Charlottesville to re-visit some of our favorite wineries and to check out a new one.

Our first stop was King Family Vineyards. We last visited in October 2016. Since our last visit they have built a new area for tasting. The new room is called the Polo Room. It is available for events, overflow for the main tasting room, and large groups. It was empty when we arrived so we elected to do our tasting in the new room.


Our tasting associate was very knowledgeable about King Family wines and guided us through our tasting like a pro. Our favorite white was the 2015 Viognier and our favorite red was the 2014 Meritage. Another favorite was the Crose. We like to take the Crose to Wolf Trap to enjoy while attending a concert. The new Polo Room has a beautiful patio that wraps around the building. We decided to enjoy a glass of the Viognier while enjoying the views. It was a beautiful day and the King Family grounds provide an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.


We always enjoy our time at King Family. The wines are perfect, the view is memorable and the staff are always welcoming and full of information.

Our next stop was Pollak Vineyards. I’m a club member there so it’s always fun to return to see what is new. And it’s always nice to see staff we know and who know us.

Of course we did a tasting. We tasted many new wines and enjoyed all of them. Some stood out to us though as wines we’d like to bring home. We noted the 2016 Pinot Gris, the 2014 Chardonnay, the 2014 Merlot and the 2014 Petit Verdot. We were there on a Saturday and the 2015 Cabernet Franc was going to be released on Monday. Nick decided to let us taste it as well. We noted a fruity palate, some dust, nice acidity, cherry notes and a hint of herb. Nick also let us purchase a bottle early!

After our tasting we sat on the patio and enjoyed a glass of the 2015 Cabernet Franc with a baguette. We watched the clouds roll by and noticed the new planting in the front of the building. Nick later informed us that it was Sauvignon Blanc. What a surprise! But it won’t be ready to make wine with until probably 2020. Before leaving we ended up buying a case of our favorites.

Our final stop of the day was a new winery to us, Valley Road Vineyards. It’s not far from both King Family and Pollak Vineyards. Valley Road Vineyards was started by a group of friends who love Virginia and wine. Matthieu Finot from King Family Vineyards is the wine maker. They have a really nice tasting room with plenty of room for lots of tasters.


All the wines are solid, clean and ready to enjoy. We had a wonderful tasting with the tasting room manager. We both agreed the 2015 Chardonnay was a favorite. We noted pear, pineapple, with a citrus burst. It would be perfect on a warm spring or summer day. The 2015 Torn Curtain was our favorite red. It’s a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Chambourcin. I’m not a chambourcin fan but the flavors were so well integrated, I barely knew there was Chambourcin in the blend. We noted ripe red cherry, fruity palate. It was an easy drinking wine made for pizza, pasta or burgers.

We enjoyed our time at Valley Road and plan to return. Before leaving we purchased our favorites. Valley Road Vineyards is the 181st winery we’ve visited. It was worth the visit!

If you haven’t been in the Charlottesville area lately, plan a trip soon. When you do, consider visiting King Family Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, or Valley Road Vineyards. And when you do tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Location of Corse!

We were privileged to receive two more wines from the Locations lineup, and these were both white wines that included a Corsican Veremtino and a blend labeled CA (from California of course.) In this post, we review Corse, the Vermentino wine produced from the island of Corsica. We again thank Balzac Communications for the opportunity to enjoy these wines.

Quite simply, we both adored this wine. On the nose, I noted aromas of spring blossoms, lime, orange zest, and shale; flavors of pear, lime and citrus zest led to a full and fruity palate followed by a crisp finish. Corse fully expresses a Mediterranean climate with its cool, breezy nights and warm, dry days. Did Napoleon Bonaparte, Corsica’s most famous native, enjoy this Vermentino with his favorite meal—-chicken and pasta with parmesan cheese? We hope so, and I thought of Napoleon when I prepared dinner. Crab cakes were on the menu, but I did toss some bowtie pasta with butter and parmesan cheese to serve as a side dish It proved to be a lovely pairing!

We had not enjoyed Corsican wines, but I must say that this first impression was a hit. Seek out Corse at your local wine shop, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you. However, we are not done with Vermentino. In a future post, we compare Corse with a Virginia-made Vermentino; we’ll keep readers in suspense about that one. And what about CA? Stay tuned.

Linden Vineyards

Every couple of months we have to return to Linden Vineyards to check in and see what’s on the tasting menu and the cellar tasting menu. We hadn’t visited since December. It was time. The recent snow storm (only one this season) left some pretty snow around to enhance the view.

During this tasting we tasted the 2015 Chardonnay, the 2015 Riesling Vidal, the 2015 Boisseau Viognier, the 2014 Claret and the 2013 Petit Verdot. We did however select the 2015 Chardonnay as a favorite. We noted floral notes, minerality and a slightly creamy ending. It would go beautifully with crab cakes or other light fish dishes. We also selected the 2014 Claret as a favorite. We noted bright fruit, cherry, tight tannins and a dusty note. You could enjoy this by itself or with some beef.

After our tasting we descended the stairs to the cellar to enjoy the wines on the menu for the cellar tasting. The day we were there we were comparing the 2014 and 2015 Boisseau Chardonnay, the 2013 Avenius Red and 2013 Hardscrabble Red and for the desert wines we compared the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal and the 2010 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Of course they were all wonderful wines but we did select our favorites. Warren preferred the 2015 Boisseau Chardonny and I preferred the 2014. We both really enjoyed the 2013 Avenius Red and we both enjoyed the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal.

After both our tastings we retired to the enclosed deck to enjoy some lunch items and a bottle of the 2013 Avenius Red. While enjoy our wine and nibbles and the view, Jim Law stopped by and asked to join us. We absolutely agreed. Turns out he was also enjoying a glass of the 2013 Avenius Red. Great minds think alike! We enjoyed a great conversation with Jim about Linden wines, how things are going in the vineyards and wines in general. It’s always amazing getting time to talk with Jim. He’s such a fount of wine knowledge.

Before leaving we purchased several of our favorite wines and told Jim we’d return soon for another wonderful tasting. If you haven’t been to Linden Vineyards lately, it’s time to return. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Location, Location Continued

Readers may recall that we previously reviewed a rose, F, produced by Locations Wine. (A short recap of the Locations concept here—-these wines are crafted from grapes sourced from premier vineyards found in the world’s best locations.) In this post, we review I and P; in case you’re wondering, I is the product of grapes grown in Italy; P, from Portugal.

I is a blend of Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola, and Barbera, and these varietals represent fruit from Puglia located Southern region of Italy as well as Barbera located in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The result is a rich, complex wine with aromas of blackberry, charcuterie, fall spices and cedar. A fruity palate of dark berries gives way to spice and oak nuances. Enjoy with Italian fare or with beef dishes, a platter of sliced dried meats, and hard cheeses.

 

 

If roasted chops are on the menu, consider P, a blend of Portuguese grapes that includes Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Touriga Franca. P also presents a fruity nose and palate with notes of plum, cherry and blackberry; hints of anise and black pepper also come out to play. We enjoyed P with roasted pork chops and roasted potatoes sprinkled with basil, thyme, and rosemary.

 

 

We again thank Balzac Communications for the opportunity to enjoy these wines. Seek out these unique wines at your local wine shop and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Casanel Vineyards and Winery

I’m a club member at Casanel Vineyards and Winery. As a member I need to periodically pick up wines at the winery. Last Saturday we decided to head to Casanel and pick up some wines. At the same time we planned to meet our friend Renee Catacalos of On Our Plates Chesapeake and her sister, Stacy. Renee is the former editor of Edible Chesapeake. She is currently writing a book and wanted to get our take on local wines and experience a local winery.

We all met at Casanel and were delighted to find out that Katie DeSouza would be conducting our tasting. Katie is a font of knowledge and Renee gathered loads of information for her book during our tasting. Katie’s sister Anna was on hand to offer her expertise as well. We tasted through the entire line of wines and were thoroughly impressed once again! Casanel is really making some amazing wines and deserves some accolades for their hard work.

My favorite white wine from he lineup was the 2015 Ellianna. The Ellianna is a Pinot Gris fermented in stainless steel. I noted pear, melon, and citrus. It’s bright and fresh and perfect for the upcoming warm days. Warren mentioned this would pair well with summer light fair and even oysters!

My favorite red of the day was the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was aged for 20 months in French oak. I noted blackberry, cherry, and a whiff of violet. The tannins are a bit tight right now but will smooth with aging. I thought you could enjoy this wine now and into the future. And have it with a thick filet mignon. It was pair beautifully!

After our tasting we all shared a bottle of the 2014 K2 Red Blend. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. We enjoyed it with baguettes, a sharp cheddar cheese, and charcuterie. While enjoying the wine and nibbles we caught up on each other and chatted local wines and foods. Renee took lots of notes for her book all while enjoying the wine and conversation.

Before leaving we all purchased our favorite wines (almost a case!). We all agreed that winemaker Katell Griaud is teaching Katie some great skills and it certainly shows in the wines. There was not one wine we didn’t enjoy. We suggest you plan a visit to Casanel and taste the changes that have been taking place. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Granite Heights Winery

One of our favorite wineries in Virginia is Granite Heights. We enjoy returning from time to time to check in with Toni and Luke and see what’s happening with the wines. We always get such detailed information about what’s happening in the winery. It’s always great to see Toni and Luke.

We visited a couple of weeks ago and we weren’t disappointed, as usual. Of course we started with the white wines. We tasted the 2014 Petit Manseng, the Shadow White (NV), and the 2014 Chardonnay. Our favorite was the 2014 Petit Manseng. We noted pineapple, a full fruit palate and nice acidity. We thought of Spring and sitting outside with a plate of nibbles to enjoy this one.

We moved onto the reds and tasted the 2011 Evening Serenade, the 2012 Humility, and the 2012 Merlot. It was really hard to select a favorite here because they were all so good. I did, however, select the 2011 Evening Serenade. Yes, 2011 was a tough year for many wineries in Virginia but with Luke’s expertise, this red turned out beautifully. It’s a blend of 39% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Petit Verdot. It was barrel aged for 20 months. We noted smoke, raspberries, cherry, and an herby note. The ending was smooth and the tannins just barely touch the back of your tongue. We thought this would make a great pizza, pasta, or burger wine. And in fact, we had it just a few nights later with a spicy pepperoni pizza. It complimented the pizza beautifully.

Before leaving we enjoyed a glass of the 2014 Petit Manseng while enjoying the view of the pond and the vineyards beyond while sitting in the Adirondack chairs. We picked up our favorite wines to bring home. Luke had a few bottles left of the 2010 Cabernet Franc and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon that I couldn’t resist bringing home. We also purchased the 2011 Evening Serenade and the 2012 Merlot. Great reds to join the other reds on our wine rack.

As is always the case, we enjoyed our time at Granite Heights chatting with Toni and Luke and enjoying the well crafted wines. We will need to return sooner next time and maybe make a video with Luke. Until that time, get out to Granite Heights Winery and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Slater Run Vineyards

A few weeks ago we found ourselves in Middleburg visiting wineries. We realized that Upperville was just a bit farther up the road so we decided to visit Slater Run Vineyards. We’d heard good things about them from others so it was time.

Slater Run has 12 acres of vineyards on a family farm located in Upperville. The vineyards were planted in 2010 and their first wines were released in 2014. Lucie Morton is a consultant and the winemaker is Katell Griaud. We have tasted other wines crafted by Kate so we were looking forward to trying the wines here. Currently you can taste their wines at The Local Taste, their tasting room and wine shop, in downtown Upperville. That is where we tasted their current lineup of wines.

Julien Lacaze conducted our tasting. He’s a very knowledgeable wine steward. Of the white wines, Warren enjoyed the 2015 Pinot Gris with it’s lemon, pear and apple notes. We both really enjoyed the 2015 Chardonnay. We noted pear and apple and particularly enjoyed the creaminess on the finish.

The stand out red that we both enjoyed was the 2014 Roots. It’s a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot and 16% Petit Verdot. We noted dark fruit, leather, and some tobacco. We know this one will rest on our wine rack for several years and will get better with time.

Before leaving we purchased our favorites and promised to return. We left with half a case of wine! We’ll definitely be back. If you find yourself in Middleburg, continue up the road to Upperville and stop by the Slater Run Vineyards tasting room. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Location, Location, Location

Location means everything in the wine world, and the concept behind Locations wine is all about location. Winemaker and owner of Locations, Dave Phinney, has championed a concept that great wines can be made by sourcing grapes from the best vineyard sites located on the planets’ best wine producing regions. Phinney purchases quality grapes from various wine growing regions and then produces excellent wines from his facility in St. Helena, California. Thanks to Balzac Communications we were able to sample these wines.

The labels look like the alphabet chart that we all saw in kindergarten—-F, I, P, etc with some blends thrown in for good measure. These include OR, AR and TX. However, these wines are anything but elementary. We have been a fan of these wines for quite some time and appreciate their accessibility without sacrificing quality. They also are able to express a sense of place. We will be reviewing three of our favorites from this lineup starting with F.

So what is F? Well, it follows the letter E; in addition, F is a rose produced from France. Hence, it earns the F designation on the label. F is produced from the Grenache grape grown in the vineyards of southern France. It presents a translucent pink tone in the glass that suggests summer but in reality is quite versatile all year round. We recently enjoyed it on a colder winter evening with pasta tossed with olive oil, thinly sliced ham, parmesan cheese, and Italian herbs. Floral notes were accompanied by aromas of strawberry and peach fuzz. Bright red berry and melon flavors played well with a flinty edge that made for a refreshing, dry rose. I love these kinds of roses in the summer, but I always make certain to have a stash of these on hand for Thanksgiving or any larger gathering where a variety of dishes may be served but different wine palates will have to be satisfied.

Dry roses are versatile and can/should be served year round. Seek out F at your local wine shop, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you! Oh—-stay tuned for other letters of the alphabet!