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!

Black Friday Shopping

Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall on Black Friday, we decided to do our shopping at some wineries. We decided to head to two of our favorites, Gray Ghost Vineyards and Gadino Cellars.
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It’s become somewhat of a tradition to go to Gray Ghost Vineyards the day after Thanksgiving. Warren’s parents visit for Thanksgiving each year. His mother makes Al a pecan pie and we take it to him the day after Thanksgiving. During this visit we did just that. Al always enjoys the pie and we enjoy catching up with the Kellerts. Al even did our tasting!
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We always enjoy all of the wines at Gray Ghost but this time we were there to taste the newly released 2014 Petit Verdot. It was the released the day before Thanksgiving. I’m a huge fan of Petit Verdot and Gray Ghost’s is one of my favorite. We noted blackberry, dark currents and blueberries as well as a lengthy finish. We think this vintage will stand up to aging and maybe could even use a little time before enjoying it. Do what I did and get a case so that you can enjoy the changes over time.
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After our tasting we enjoyed some lunch nibbles with the 2014 Reserve Chardonnay, another of our favorites. I opted for a glass of the Petit Verdot as well, you know, for research and note taking. Before leaving we purchased our favorites and promised to return December 3rd or 4th for the Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration. We always enjoy our time at Gray Ghost. And we always encourage our readers to give them a visit sometime.

Our second stop on our Black Friday shopping was Gadino Cellars. After a time since our last visit, it’s always nice to see Stephanie when we walk in the tasting room. We
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Stephanie conducted our tasting. One of our favorite whites on the menu was the 2014 Petit Manseng. We noted the bright pineapple and citrus palate and the dry style. Another favorite was the 2013 Chardonnay. Warren noted the granny smith apple and the creamy finish. The favorite red on the menu was the 2013 Delfino Rosso. This is a blend of cab franc, petit verdot, and cab sauv. We noted blackberry, cherry, anise, and fruit through the palate. Warren noted some vanilla on the finish. I noted the smooth ending. I quickly decided I needed to bring some of this home.
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After our tasting I enjoyed a glass of the Delfino Rosso and Warren enjoyed the Chardonnay on the deck while we watched the sun lower in the sky. The view was gorgeous. Before leaving we purchased our favorites and said our goodbyes. We had a great time shopping on Black Friday! We hope you’ll check out the wines at Gray Ghost Vineyards and Gadino Cellars soon! And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Always A Favorite

We haven’t been on the wine trail since Columbus Day weekend! Yesterday we decided to go to Linden Vineyards. We’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we wanted to relax and enjoy some wonderful wines. As usual, Linden didn’t disappoint.
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As we drove up the driveway we saw Jim Law out in the vineyard he had just ripped up. He pulled out 20 to 30 year old Cabernet vines and plans to replace them in 2018 with new Cabernet vines. The vines that were ripped up and been grafted from Chardonnay vines. Some took, some didn’t. Over the years they had vines ripening before others in the same field. Jim made the decision to start over. This time he’ll plant them in a north/south orientation to take advantage of the sun. According to his newsletter and Jim himself, look for this vineyard to be in the bottle by 2022 or 2023.
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Upon entering the tasting room we saw Shari Avenius, always smiling and ready to talk wine. We were lucky enough to have her begin our tasting. But before the tasting began we signed up for the cellar tasting. This time it would be with Jim Law himself. On the tasting menu we tasted the 2015 Rose, 2015 Riesling Vidal, 2014 Claret, 2011 and 2013 Petit Verdots. Of course all the wines were wonderful but the 2014 Claret stood out to me. It was smooth and fruity and definitely a food friendly wine. It was my kind of red. Not too heavy and not too light. It was just right.
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After our tasting we joined Jim Law in the cellar. Here we tasted the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc compared to the 2015 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc, then the 2012 Hardscrabble Red compared to the 2013 Hardscrabble Red and finally the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal with the 2012 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Warren and I actually came to the same conclusion on these. We both enjoyed the 2015 Avenues Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed the citrus (lemon-lime) and mineral notes. It was fresh and crisp! We both also enjoyed the 2012 Hardscrabble Red. We found it to be soft and fruity with bright berry notes. Jim described it as feminine and we agreed. We thought the 2013 needed a bit more time to enjoy. We finished the cellar tasting by agreeing the 2009 Late Harvest Vidal was the winner of the dessert wines.

We were so lucky to have Jim do our cellar tasting. We were the only ones at that tasting time so we had the opportunity to chat with him about all sorts of things. We always enjoy spending time with Jim. We suggested he come to DC and we’d take him out to dinner!
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After our cellar tasting we enjoyed a nibbles tray with a bottle of the 2012 Hardscrabble Red. Perfect pairing with the cheeses and meats on the tray. Of course we enjoyed the view as well! Linden Vineyards is definitely very high on our favorites list. We always have a great time and always enjoy the wonderful wines. If you haven’t been Linden Vineyards lately, it’s time to return. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

A Perfect Score-The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21-Century Winery by Craig and Kathryn Hall

perfectscore_3d_compAre you a wine novice and interested in knowing more about wine and wine making process? Maybe you are an aspiring winemaker who wants to up your game to produce better wine. Or maybe you are the wine geek who always wants to know more about terroir or the finer details of making quality wine. A Perfect Score is the read for you. It presents the story of Craig and Kathryn Hall, owners of HALL and WALT wineries in California. Their journey into the world of wine and winemaking eventually earned them perfect 100 scores from wine critic Rob Parker.

How did they earn the perfect score? I pulled out four important ingredients that came together to produce perfection for the Halls:

1)Vision: Kathryn Hall grew up in California wine country, and her parents Bob and Dolores Walt owned a vineyard in Sonoma. She became a lawyer and in the 1990s was appointed by President Clinton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Austria; however, despite her career successes, Kathryn yearned to be back in the vineyard. Her husband, Craig, had been a successful business man and entrepreneur. Together, they agreed to combine their unique talents and areas of expertise to pursue the art of winemaking. Perfect Score takes the reader through the history of Napa as a winemaking region starting in the early 20th century and then into the groundbreaking years of the 1970s when California wines proved to be on par or better than wines from France. Of course, Napa wine trails are cluttered with well-established wineries; adding to the list in the early 2000s was probably taking a risk. However, the Halls established a goal to produce wines of high quality that expressed terroir, and this lead them to purchase the Sacrashe Vineyard in Napa Valley. They were determined that their wines would be unique and distinctive and unlike others found along the Napa trails.

2) Precision: As time would tell, the Sacrashe Vineyard proved to be the correct site for the Halls to realize their vision. They also grew varietals that were suited to their particular site in Napa, and these included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Their Sonoma site produces wines under the WALT label, and grapes grown here include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A team of expert winemakers that include Steve Leveque and vineyard manager Don Munk allowed the vineyards to express themselves in the bottle while utilizing organic methods that avoided interventions with chemicals.

3) Perseverance: Vineyard managers and winemakers are basically farmers; their crop depends a lot on mother nature. The consumer adds another layer of stress——will they embrace the vision by purchasing the product? Will their pocket books allow them to do so? The Halls had established themselves as players in the winemaking field by racking up 90+ scores by wine critics, but the Great Recession of 2008 demanded that wine drinkers who appreciated fine wine make sacrifices. Those sacrifices included wine. However, despite tolls that the economic downturn played on the wine business, the Halls remained true to their vision and their commitment to quality vineyard and winemaking practices. In the end, their perseverance to paid off as demand returned while the wines continued to score 90+ points.

4) Access: The Halls learned early on that potential customers could be found beyond those who scoured traditional wine industry media. They realized the potential in social media earlier on to create a welcoming presence for a growing legion of HALL and WALT fans.

So what were the results of the Halls’ vision, precision, perseverance, and business acumen? A Perfect Score. In 2010, the HALL Exzellenz Cabernet Sauvignon earned 100 points from renowned wine critic Robert Parker. Parker then awarded 100 points to the 2013 HALL Rainin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker’s tasting notes noted qualities in both wines that were unique to the sites where the grapes were grown; of course, 100 points must also be a testimony to expert winemaking and vineyard management.

A Perfect Score should prove to be an insightful and inspiring read for anyone especially those readers who have any sort of interest in wine, wine making, and the wine industry. It presents an intriguing story mixed with personal stories from both Craig and Kathryn. Give it a read so that you too can aspire to your own perfect score!