Virginia Wine Time

We Enjoy Virginia Wine

Category: Winemakers (page 2 of 31)

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.)

Blenheim Vineyards
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.
Breaux Vineyards
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.
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.
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.”

Michael and Jake photo

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 ( 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.)

Crème caramel with caramel sauce


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.



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!)





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.



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.





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.




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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.

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