Wine Kegs? Whaaaat?

Yes, wine kegs. Wine tanks, or wine that is stored and then poured out of keg-like containers, appear to be a small yet growing phenomena in local restaurants and wineries.

We went no farther than nearby Chef Geoff’s restaurant on New Mexico Ave. in Washington DC to taste wines poured out of a device that looks no different than a line up of beers streamed out of a keg. Wines on tap included chardonnay, pinot grigio, pinot noir, and malbec. Of course, I had to sample at least one of these and tasted the chardonnay. I will admit that my note taking on the chardonnay was a bit sketchy——I was using the phone as opposed to my tried and true quill and parchment; however, I do think that this was a Chef Geoff’s private label chardonnay with the grapes sourced from Edna Valley in California. My impressions? I was pleasantly surprised. It was a fruit-forward wine with a lovely palate of pear, apple and subtle citrus notes to make for a fresh, crisp pour. Versatile too—-enjoy with white wine-friendly foods or on its own while chatting with friends at the bar. I also sampled the pinot noir on a second occasion; of course, I was wearing a disguise so that the bartender would not recognize me and then confuse me for a food/wine critic. Not really—-it was my Halloween costume. Anyway, the pinot noir was likewise fruity and enjoyable; I sipped it with a side of potato fries but would have appreciated it by itself while glancing at the tennis match being shown on the TV above the bar.
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So some technical details that I gleaned from my conversation with the bartender and some brief online research. The wine tanks are chilled with white wines kept at 46 degrees (F) and red wines at 56 degrees (F). Furthermore, wine tanks can store up to 26 cases of wine. However, might wine snobs balk at such a concept? According to Geoff Tracy, owner and chef at Chef Geoff’s, consumers have responded in a positive manner to wines poured from the tanks. And for those who want wine by the glass at a restaurant, the wine keg might be the way to go. Tracy’s reasoning for taking this direction made perfect sense to me. Opening bottled wines to pour by the glass require maintenance that includes storing at the right temperature and then dumping wines that have gone over the hill after being opened for a while. Another hazard includes the expensive risk of opening wines that may be corked or tainted in some other way. Steel tanks allows for the restauranteur to maintain wines at their proper temperatures and eliminate such hazards as unpleasant oxidation. This can occur if wines are kept open for too long. For the consumer who wants to enjoy wine by the glass, these wines are well crafted,fresh,and always ready to enjoy.
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At least two local wineries are likewise tapping into this concept. Winemaker Kirsty Harmon offers growlers of wine to consumers who visit Blenheim Vineyards. A white and red blend are both offered from a tap; customers simply buy the bottle and have it filled from the tap. When the bottle is empty, he/she can return to the winery with the bottle to have it refilled. My impressions? Much like my experience at Chef Geoff’s. Both of the growler blends were fresh and versatile. I particularly enjoyed the white with its floral notes and fruity palate; a nice mouth feel made for a deck sipper or a food-friendly wine. Why offer growlers at a winery? In my conversation with Kirsty, she seemed to second Geoff Tracy’s opinions about maintenance but added another dimension. There is an earth-friendly component to the growler idea that means fewer bottles and enclosures being purchased and then thrown away. Michael Shaps is another winemaker who also serves a growler, and I sampled the rose on tap. It was quite nice, and I ended up enjoying a glass after my tasting at the winery this past summer.
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Wines on tap? Don’t discount them. Taste for yourself before you turn your nose at them. Why not visit the establishments mentioned in this post? Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Newbies (or new to us)

We are always eager to try wines at new (or newer wineries); however, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the new wineries that are opening in Virginia. We do our best, though, and we did sample the offerings at a new establishment called Terra Nebulo and a relative newcomer Winery 32. Winery 32 opened about a year ago.

Terra Nebulo: The name is Latin for “land of the rascals”, but owners Michael and Cheryl Morrison are anything but rascals. The winery is located west of Waterford and opened earlier in the fall. Tastings were being held on the ground level of the three story facility which appeared to still be in construction. Randy Philips, winemaker at Cave Ridge, is the winemaker here. Of the three white wines, the floral-scented Riesling was my favorite. It presented elements of soft peach and melon and paired well with the spicy peanuts offered to us by Cheryl Morrison. Paul favorited the unique Traminette Slightly Sparkling with its yeasty nose and effervescent palate. Serve as an aperitif with cheeses! The Chambourcin was a fruity pleaser with raspberry notes and earthy aromas; this should serve well as a versatile, every day wine. Now that fall is here, heavier menus might pair better with the Blended Red, a mix of Cabernet Franc (60%), Petit Verdot (20%), and Cahmbourcin (20%). Aromas of smoke, tobacco, and dark berries give way to a fruity palate of dark cherry, blackberry, and currants. A hint of spice finishes things off. Heavy cheeses, dark chocolates, or cigars might beg for the Chambourcin, Port Style. This one is aged for a year in oak barrels and then finished in used bourbon casks to impart the aromas and flavors that one would indeed experience from a port wine.

Oh—-why “land of the rascals?” According to the website, they were “the rapscallions and ne’er-do-wells famed for plundering travelers in Colonial Virginia along the old Carolina Road…” However, Michael and Cheryl are very friendly and eager to chat about wine, food and history. We enjoyed a glass of our favorites and from the tasting room beheld the lovely landscape that the “rapscallions” terrorized in a time gone by.

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Winery 32: This winery opened in July 2014; therefore, it a winery that is new to us! The vineyard on the 32 acre property is four years old, and the 2015 vintage will be the first to feature grapes produced from the estate vineyard. However, peaches are grown here and they are used to make delicious fruit wines. Gloria’s Sunshine Light Peach is blended with Vidal Blanc to produce a light, fruity wine that is surprising not overly peachy! The other wine to feature the Gloria peach is the Gloria Peach Dessert Wine, a heavier wine that I found intriguing as a dessert option. It might also pair well with a savory cheese; I enjoyed it with the white chocolate chip offered to us at the tasting bar. The 2013 Chardonnay was also well-crafted and presented elements of pear, apple and subtle spice. Neutral french oak barrels imparted a fuller mouth feel without the overly-oaken impression that can left by new oak barrels. The 2011 Cabernet Franc can be described as a lighter-bodied sipper destined to be enjoyed with light fare. Blended with a bit of Tannat, its bramble berry and herbs notes make for a wine that can be enjoyed on its own. Winemaker Michael Moosher is also a chef, and the winery offers a daily lunch menu to enjoy along with the wines.

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We enjoy following up with newer wineries to chart their success, and we know that we will return to Terra Nebulo and Winery 32 to see how thing progress. In the meantime, be sure to schedule your own visit to these wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Directions at Casanel Vineyards and Winery

Casanel Vineyards and Winery had fallen off our radar over the past few years, but our friend and Casanel wine educator Kathy Lang Wiedemann convinced us that it was time for us to revisit the winery. We recently did just that and met with owner Katie DeSouza for a tasting of Casanel’s premiere wines; along the way, we learned of new changes at Casanel that has put the vineyards and winery on track to produce some wonderful wines.
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Casanel Vineyards and Winery opened a new and more spacious tasting room since our last visit, and we were impressed with its wood floors and airy atmosphere. It is here where tasters can sample the Casanel vintages under the more familiar Casanel label. The older facility is now being used to taste the premiere wines, and these bear a cleaner, more elegant label. These were the most evident signs that a different yet better direction was being undertaken at Casanel. Katie De Souza, daughter of Casanel’s founders Nelson and Casey DeSouza, has taken on a more prominent role in managing both the vineyards and winemaking, and it was Katie who conducted our tasting. Katie explained to us that her decision to lead Casanel Vineyards and Winery in a different direction was taken after consultation with renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton who advised Katie to make needed improvements in the vineyards’ management. In addition, Katie has been learning the craft of wine making under the tutelage of French native Katell Griaud who has previously worked for Kluge Estate and then Trump Winery.
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Proof is always in the pudding—-or the wine glass in this case, and after our tasting, I concluded that the new course taken by Casanel Vineyards and Winery has produced excellent results. All seven of the premiere wines that we tasted were clean and well crafted. My particular favorites included the 2014 Ellianna, a crisp Pinot Gris that was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It’s soft peach notes and subtle mineral element made for a refreshing pour that seemed perfect for enjoyment on a warm day. I also gave two thumbs up for the 2014 Chardonnay which is a blend of three styles—-stainless steel, neutral French oak barrels, and new French oak barrels. Pear and citrus elements prevailed with an acidic mid palate and toasty finish that suggested a food-friendly wine. In fact, I served this one with crab cakes and roasted summer squash at a recent dinner party! The 2013 Petit Verdot earned my nod for favorite red wine; this too was the product of a blend of wines aged in neutral and newer French oak barrels. An initial licorice note was then followed by aromas and flavors of dark currants and plum; a lingering finish made for a more complex wine. An extra treat was a taste of the smoky 2013 Carmenere with its fruit forward palate and whiffs of violet and tobacco on the nose. This is a limited production wine and available only to the wine club members.
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Enhancing the tasting experience was a portfolio that presented each wine being tasted; in addition to descriptions of each varietal, technical details such as harvest date and ph levels are included. This encourages the customer to develop a conversation with the tasting associate about the wines; of course, we always ask questions, and the portfolio provided us with a wealth of information about the wines that we tasted.
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After our tasting, we lingered for a while in the new tasting room and enjoyed a glass of the 2014 Ellianna. We took in the gorgeous vineyard landscapes while sipping and nibbling on cheese and baguette. We know that we will return to Casanel Vineyards and Winery soon. Plan your own visit to Casanel Vineyards and Winery and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Ending Our Celebration Weekend

So this will be the last post about our celebration weekend in the Monticello area. Here I will give our perspectives on wines tasted at Gabriele Rausse Winery. Keswick Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards. Our focus at these wineries remained the same——wines to enjoy during the summer.

Gabriele Rausse Winery: We were very excited to finally taste a full line up of Gabriele Rausse wines. This was made possible due to the opening of a tasting room by Rausse! Gabriele Rausse has a long history in the Virginia winemaking industry starting back in the early 1980s, and his reputation for crafting excellent wines is well known. Our favorites of the ten wines that we tasted included the Pinot Grigio 2013 with its elements of soft peach and wet stone; I was more intrigued, though, with the Rousanne 2012 that was fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Its floral and spice notes were complemented by citrus flavors and a fuller mouth feel. Seafood, poultry or pork topped with a cream sauce should play well with this one. With grilled fare, it might be hard to beat the Cabernet Franc 2013 with its bright berry notes and subtle spice on the finish. I had an eye toward the colder months ahead along with the heartier menus that follow and made certain to purchase the more complex Nebbiolo 2012. As we sipped through our tasting, we enjoyed the woodsy views offered by the quaint tasting room that was obviously designed to blend in with forested surroundings.
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Keswick Vineyards: It’s always a pleasure to see winemaker Stephen Barnard at Keswick Vineyards. Stephen offered us sneak samples of evolving 2013 and 2014 vintages from the barrels. This included the 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, the 2014 Pinot Gris, 2013 and 2014 Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon then finishing with the Syrah. Alas, I do not have particular tasting notes on these; however, I do recall giving two thumbs up for the Chardonnay Reserve and the Cabernet Sauvignon samples. Rest assured, however, that we will return to Keswick Vineyards in the near future to report on these wines as they are released!
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King Family Vineyards: Another favorite winery and another tasting experience with the winemaker. Mathieu Finot guided us through a tasting of the latest pours at King Family Vineyards. We tend to enjoy all of the wines here, but with a focus on summer, the Crose 2014 is always a winner. This dry rose presents lovely strawberry and melon notes with a refreshing acidity; enjoy on its own, with a picnic, most grilled foods, etc. Dining al fresco with a seafood or poultry dish? Both the Chardonnay 2013 and Viognier 2014 can be recommended. I’m always partial to Chardonnay, and I appreciated the pear and citrus notes with this one; aged for nine moths in French oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation provides a full mouth feel to boot. Paul is a Petit Verdot fan, and the Petit Verdot 2012 was his favorite. Whiffs of violet and incense were complemented with elements of dark berries, plums and spice. Enjoy with heavier grilled steaks or chops or reserve for a later time with leg of lamb.
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Our celebration weekend did indeed come to an end, and along the way we tasted some wonderful wines. Be certain to pay a visit to the wineries mentioned in this post; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Memberships Have Benefits

Many Virginia wineries offer membership clubs, and readers may wonder if joining these clubs are worth the perks. I belong to three clubs at Virginia wineries, and I can report they are definitely worth a taste (or two.)

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I have fully embraced winemaker Kirsty Harmon’s philosophy of making wines to enjoy now. The Blenheim wine club offers to members a chance to enjoy wines that the general public may not be able to purchase immediately. I get shipments 4 times a year. For example, my spring and summer shipments included (among others) the Red Table Wine NV, the Painted Red 2013, and the Painted White 2013. We recently enjoyed the Painted Red with a meal that featured grilled filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms. Its ripe berry and plum flavors were complemented by spicy elements that paired quite nicely with our meal. Past favorites have included Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne. Of course, the artist in me always appreciates the painted labels which change with each vintage.
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This was the first wine club that I joined thanks to wine educator extraordinaire, Silvia Miller. Club members get to enjoy wines that are crafted just for them. My current club favorite is the Stone Barn White 2014; this wine screams summer! Floral notes lead the profile that include citrus elements and wet stone. A refreshing acidity gives way to a surprisingly honeyed finish. Elegant enough to grace a dinner party that includes shellfish but fun on its own with fresh fruit and cheeses. The new members only tasting room is complete and open for business. On a recent visit Bruce Miller poured the club wines for us to taste. It was nice to meet other club members and fun to chat about the current club wines.
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Pollak Vineyards
I have been a Pollak fan for many years now and look forward to my tasting from wine expert, Casey. It’s always nice to enter the tasting room and be recognized. Perks here include 15% discount on all wine purchases, free tasting for me and my guest (usually my spouse), and prerelease on limited production and reserve wines. I recently visited the winery and can attest to the excellence of the Provence style 2014 Rose with its strawberry notes and subtle whiffs of dried herbs. This is a dry rose and its lively acidity demands warm weather and a picnic—we will be bringing this one to a Wolf Trap concert this summer.
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If you’ve ever considered joining a wine club at one of the Virginia wineries, think about looking into one of these. More details about the clubs can be found on their websites. And when you do visit them, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Changes at Virginia Wineworks

Michael Shaps Wineworks announced today (June 12, 2015) that Jake Busching has joined the winery as the new Head Winemaker & General Manager.  Jake Busching comes with 17 years experience and an outstanding reputation in the Virginia wine industry. He most recently held the position of General Manager, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Grace Estate, and prior to that he performed similar roles at Pollak Vineyards and Keswick Vineyards.  Working alongside Jake, our current enologist Joy Ting will take on a more elevated role of Production Manager & Head Enologist.  Joy will work closely with Jake to ensure that the logistics of the production facility and the cellar crew are managed efficiently.  Working directly under Joy, Jessica Trapeni will be our new full time lab technician, performing the daily functions of the laboratory to maintain and ensure our high standard of wine quality.

“I have known Jake both personally and professionally for nearly twenty years in his various roles of vineyard manager and winemaker and am very enthusiastic about the future of our winery” comments owner Michael Shaps. “Jake’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge has already made him a key addition to the Wineworks family. The increasing demand from our custom winemaking clients led us to look for an addition to our team who will fit in with our standards of innovation and exceptional service and quality. I feel very fortunate to work with such a talented team and have the utmost confidence in them.”

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Located just south of Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Shaps Wineworks is Virginia’s largest custom contract winemaking operation, with a total production reaching 30,000 cases per year with over a dozen clients. Known for his innovation in the industry, Michael Shaps introduced the “bag in a box” to Virginia wine consumers and most recently introduced a refillable wine growler. In addition to the Virginia winery, Michael owns a winery in Burgundy, France (www.maisonshaps.com) and imports these wines to the United States, where they are sold throughout Virginia and in the tasting room at Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Wining and Dining at Williamsburg Winery Pt. 2

So our extraordinary weekend at Williamsburg Winery included a four-course dinner prepared by chef Ika Zaken and held in the Wedmore Place’s Café Provencal. The menu including wine pairings are presented here:

First Course:
Vol-Au-Vent—creamed mushrooms, puff pastry, port reduction
Paired with: 2011 Matthew’s Chardonnay

Second Course:
Monk Fish with artichoke and Winter Green Risotto, snow peas, lobster cream
Paired with: 2013 Viognier (This was my favorite course and pairing of the night.)

Third Course:
Lamb Saddle with cannellini beans, baby kale, roasted tomatoes, lamb jus
Paired with: 2010 Trianon

Fourth Course:
Wild boar, daube provencal with carrots, pearl onions, forest mushroom, butternut squash polenta
Paired with: 2010 Adagio (ok—this ties with the second course as my favorite course and pairing of the night.)

Dessert:
Crème caramel with caramel sauce

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Our appetites were certainly sated after the day’s culinary delights. However, a special word must be mentioned for the Wedmore Place and its wonderful staff. The Wedmore Place took us back to a colonial period but with modern amenities. Our room was decorated with period furnishing and warmed by a fireplace; the bathroom was first rate with refreshingly scented body products. Breakfast was continental style with the world’s fluffiest croissants and a wonderful quiche that complemented fresh-brewed coffee. The Wedmore staff could not have been more polite and accommodating, and we look forward to a future visit to the Wedmore Place.

The 6th Annual Virginia Sparkling Tasting concluded our weekend of food and wine; however, before we left the Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place, I made certain to purchase a few bottles of our favorite wines. Looking for a local getaway that includes world-class cuisine, wines, and accommodations? Then plan a visit to Williamsburg Winery and then book a stay at the Wedmore Place. Of course, please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wining and Dining at Williamsburg Winery

So the day before the 6th Annual Sparkling Tasting, bloggers, writers, and other wine industry folks were invited to a lunch, wine tasting, and dinner at Williamsburg Winery. The event allowed winemaker Matthew Meyer to showcase his excellent winemaking talents; however, chef Ika Zaken’s superb skills in the kitchen allowed for Meyer’s wines to shine even more brightly.

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The food and wine event began with lunch at the Gabriel Archer Tavern located across from the Williamsburg tasting room. Winemaker Matthew Meyer treated guests to a glass of Thibaut-Jannison sparkling wine as we all mingled. The lunch began with a BLT accented with guacamole and served with the 2011 Acte Chardonnay; ripe pear and mineral notes gave way to a rich mouth feel that matched well with the smoky bacon and creamy avocado. The next course featured a favorite concoction that chef Ika Zaken learned while in the army, and it can only be described as a stewed tomato dish topped with a poached egg and served with fresh herbs. It was a hit when paired with the 2007 Gabriel Archer Reserve with its smoky notes and aromas of dried fruit and cedar. I also caught a whiff of licorice. Lunch ended with a medley of cheeses served with the 4 Barrel Cuvee, a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. (This cuvee is offered to club members—perhaps an incentive to join!)

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As we sipped and noshed, Matthew Meyer fielded questions from guests and provided the best quote of the afternoon when asked to compare Virginia wines and Williamsburg wines in particular to other wines regions. He replied, “Virginia can bridge both old world and new world.” Meyer forecasted a bright future for Petit Verdot and held high hopes for Tannat.

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After lunch, guests were lead through the barrel room to a private tasting room where we sampled Williamsburg’s premier wines. These included the Viognier 2013, Traminette 2013, Malbec 2012, Petit Verdot 2012, Trianon 2010, and the Governor’s Cup Winner and flagship wine, the Adagio 2010. So which ones were my preferences? It was tough to beat the 2013 Viogner with its rich floral aromas, stone fruit notes, and tropical fruit flavors topped with a coconut finish. Its full mouth feel makes for a food friendly wine, too. Of the red wines, these were all very good; however, the top two for both Paul and me were the 2010 Trianon and the 2010 Adagio. The 2010 Trianon is comprised of mostly Cabernet Franc (78%) with Merlot (12%) and Petit Verdot (10%) serving as sidekicks. Lots of juicy seed berries were noted on the nose and palate along with aromas of tobacco and dried herbs. I noted a caramel kiss at the finish. (History buffs may know that Trianon was the retreat frequented by the ill-fated queen of France, Marie Antoinette; it was also the site of one of the settlements that ended the First World War.) The 2010 Adagio was by far the most complex of the red wines that we tasted. It was still quite tight, but lots of swirling coaxed elements of dark plum and black cherries to emerge along with more evident notes of sandalwood and cedar. This is certainly an age-worthy wine, and it must be noted that has been one of the few Virginia wines to be poured in London.

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The tasting concluded with a tour of the barrel room and then tasters were led to a tasting of other wines from wineries along the Colonial Trail. These included James River Winery, New Kent Winery, and Saude Creek Vineyards. My favorites here included the Gewurztraminer from James River, the newly bottled Chardonnay from New Kent, and the Traminette from Saude Creek.

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So much wine and food—what did we do next? Rest. A few hours of rest preceded the feature event of the day—a food and wine dinner at the Café Provencal located in the King Alfred Room at the Wedmore Place. What was served? What wines were poured? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, seek out the wines mentioned in this post at your local wine shop; better yet, plan a visit to Williamsburg Winery to taste them for yourself. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Breaux Kicks Off Its Vertical Tastings

Breaux Vineyards host three vertical tastings every year, and these present tasters a chance to compare vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Nebbiolo. This year’s vertical started with a lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon that included the 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012 vintages. The 2012 was a tossed in as a pre-release, and also included in the lineup was a barrel sample of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. A Cajun flare was added to the mix with the 2013 Zydeco, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chamourcin. Cuisine from Grandale Farm restaurant was served with the stellar cast of Cabernet Sauvignons.

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Winemaker Heather Munden introduced herself and the wines that were served alongside the courses of food. A twist to this year’s Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting was that no particular course was intended to pair with a particular vintage; the intent was to allow tasters to decide which wines paired best with which course. So what did we all conclude? The run away winner for best and most versatile Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2008 vintage with its ripe mixed berry nose and flavors; silky tannins and an oak kiss made for a nice yet lengthy finish. Its fruity profile certainly made for a perfect play partner with the first course, a spicy sausage and shrimp brochette over celeriac puree with port reduction. However, I also enjoyed the fruit-driven 2013 Zydeco with this spicy dish; the fruitiness tended to cool down the kick provided by the peppery first course.

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The second course presented pork lollipop raised with fig and cippolini onions served overt tarragon gnocci and ginger oil. Here again, the 2008 paired quite well, but the chewy nature of the lollipop tended to favor the chewier wines—the still young 2010 and the even younger 2012. I kept returning to the 2010 vintage as I nibbled on this course. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was still tight on the nose but swirling coaxed elements of tobacco and dark fruit. Tannins were still a bit on the chewy side too—no wonder it paired with the braised pork.

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The third course featured grilled lamb chops over stewed carrots and brussel sprouts with chimi churri and demi. More spices meant more opportunities for the fruit-driven 2008 vintage to shine; however, I gave a nod to the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with its notes of dark plums and cherries and whiffs of cedar and sandalwood; it presented a full mouth feel and a nice length to complement the chops and stewed veggies. Paul is a fan of both lamb chops and brussel sprouts, and he favored the 2013 Zydeco with this course.

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Of course, a Cajun feast would not be complete without something extra or lagniappe. Here the lagniappe was the port-style lineage, 1st edition. Enjoy a sip of this on its own or pair with a strong cheese; dark chocolate should also pair quite well.

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Other Virginia wine lovers attended the vertical tasting including our friends Susan McHenry and Erica Johannsen. The next vertical tasting at Breaux Vineyards will feature a cast of Merlot vintages followed by a lineup of Nebbiolo vintages in April. Plan a visit to Breaux Vineyards and be sure to sign up for a vertical tasting; please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Sophistication and Elegance Offered at RdV

We finally made it out to RdV Vineyards! The winery has been on our list of wineries to visit for quite a while, and we made an appointment for the weekend after a wintry week of snow and frigid temperatures. We bundled up and headed out to the winery; as we wound our way up to the facility, we were awed by the beauty of the wintry landscape. Before long, we were at the gates of RdV Vineyards, which gracefully swung open to welcome us.

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As we drove up to the parking area, we were immediately impressed with the architecture of the facility. At the center was a silo that serves as the hub for other refurbished structures that include the tasting room. The white snow on the ground and surrounding mountainside complemented the white structures to create a wintry glow that suggested both warmth and sophistication. We were not disappointed when Connie, our tasting associate, greeted us and invited us into the well-appointed tasting room and gave us a moment to warm up next a roaring fire. Glasses of champagne were handed to us, and these said, “hello” as their bubbles danced to the top of the glass as though to compete with the rising flames within the fireplace.

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Connie rejoined us to begin our tour of the facility, and this included a brief biography of owner Rutger de Vink, a man of Dutch heritage who gave up the 9 to 5 life of a .com executive to establish a vineyard in Virginia. De Vink tutored under wine master Jim Law in the early 2000s and by 2006 found a vineyard site thanks to the expertise of noted viticulturist Lucie Morton. De Vink’s vineyard is located on a former farm site noted for its graphite soil composition—poor stuff for most fruits and vegetables but perfect for a vineyard. Graphite is the stuff that makes vines struggle for water and nutrients and thus well suited for producing grapes that produce world-class wines. Sixteen acres of the RdV site is devoted to growing four of the five Bordeaux varietals, and these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. And the name RdV? These are the initials of owner Rutger de Vink!

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The tour continued into the wine caves where tanks, barrels, and caged bottles are stored. State of the art tanks include individual digital monitors; it was here that we learned that grapes are harvested in lots and therefore ferment in tanks when the lot is picked—grapes for each lot are harvested only when they are ready. From tanks the grape juice continues to evolve in French oak barrels some of which are new while others are older and therefore more neutral. From barrels the wines then go into bottles where they age in cages until ready for release. Wines typically age for about two years in French oak barrels before they are bottled and released.

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So what about the wines, you ask? Connie returned us to the tasting room and its roaring blaze; windows encased the entire room to allow for the full afternoon sun to provide further warmth and ambiance. On coffee tables rested two wine glasses and a plate of cheeses, bread, and olives. The glasses were filled with samples of the two wines that RdV produces—the Merlot-based Rendez-vous and the right-bank inspired Lost Mountain. Rendezvous 2010 was the more accessible of the two with dark cherry notes and a rounder mouth feel; dark fruit flavors were noted in the mouth with soft tannins to boot. The blend included Merlot (44%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), Petit Verdot (20%), and Cabernet Franc (12%). The 2010 Lost Mountain presented more complexity with a denser hue; swirling coaxed out elements of blackberry, dark cherry, and tobacco. The tannins were also more evident yet still velvety. Plan to cellar this one! The blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon (64%) and Merlot (36%).

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The wines matched the elegance and sophistication of the RdV facility. As we sipped and savored our wines, it was not hard to imagine that we had been whisked away to a Swiss chalet as we beheld the snow-covered landscape from the tasting room. In time, our tour and tasting came to an end, and we made certain to purchase a bottle each of the 2010 Rendezvous and the 2010 Lost Mountain. Be sure to reserve your own tasting at RdV, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!