Virginia Wine Time

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Category: Winemakers (page 4 of 31)

The Sparkling Master

Claude Thibaut has earned a reputation for producing excellent sparkling wine. Claude is originally from France, and graduated from the University of Reims located in the Champagne region. He came to Virginia in 2003 to make the sparkling wines for Kluge winery; however, before then he had already sharpened his winemaking skills in California. While there, Claude worked at J, Iron Horse, and Kendall Jackson. The production of Claude’s sparkling wines currently takes place at Veritas winery. During a recent trip to the Monticello area, we were able to chat with Claude about the process of making sparkling wine from start to finish.


1. Grape varieties, vineyard sites, and preferred climates:
Chardonnay and pinot noir are the grape varietals that Claude uses to make sparkling wines. These are ready for harvest at least three weeks earlier than the same grapes used for still wines. Cooler nights, warm days, and low rainfall is what helps to provide the acid levels needed to produce quality sparkling wines that can age well. Claude considers the environmental challenges in Virginia on par with those he experienced in France.


2. Vintage versus non-vintage sparkling wines:
Most of the sparkling wine that Claude produces is non-vintage; however, grapes that are harvested during optimal growing seasons are used to produce a vintage sparkling. So does that mean that there will be a 2010 vintage sparkling from Claude? Remember, 2010 was very hot and dry. While those conditions are preferred for age-worthy red wines, they are not welcomed for sparkling wines. So which recent year produced a vintage harvest? 2011—while the year ended up being too wet for most Virginia winemakers, the 2011 growing season up until Hurricane Irene was quite favorable for production of a vintage sparkling wine.


3. Production:
From the vineyards, the grapes are crushed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks until bottling. However, at least 10% go to French oak barrels to produce a reserve sparkling wine. Once bottled, the tedious process of turning the bottles begins. This is known as remauge and is done so that the lees can eventually settle in the neck of the bottle. This task can be performed manually, but Claude uses a machine that allows for many bottles to be turned at the same time. While in the bottle, a second fermentation process that creates bubbles in the sparkling wines takes place, and this is known as the methode champenoise. Sediment is then removed from the neck of the bottle and the dosage is added. Dosage is the last chance to adjust the wine before labeling, and older wine is usually added to achieve this step; brandy can be added to boost the alcohol level. Once the wines are ready, they are labeled by hand and sent off to the wine shop. Claude’s current production level is about 3000 cases.





4. Future plans:
Claude continues to set goals for himself. He would like to have an independent facility that would allow him to boost production levels to at least 5000 cases. Thibaut-Jannison sparkling wines are now distributed in New York, and Claude would like to make what he called an “east coast blend” of wines from the best vineyard sites on the east coast. He also mused about making a Chablis-style still wine—-yes, Claude likes to stay busy making excellent wines.


Be sure to seek out Claude Thibaut’s excellent sparkling wines at your favorite wine shop, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Saturday Winery Visits

On Saturday we visited three wineries. We visited Fabbioli Cellars, Lost Creek Winery, and Creek’s Edge Winery. Creek’s Edge added to our total number of wineries visited. We have now visited 169 Virginia wineries.

At Fabbioli we enjoyed the food pairing wine tasting. Of the wines tasted our favorites were the recently released 2012 Tre Sorelle and the Governor’s Cup Gold winner 2011 Tannat. The Tre Sorelle presented violet, cherry, and dried herb notes while the bigger Tannat showed smoke, plum, and clove flavors. We can see why it won a gold.


After our tasting we got a chance to chat with Doug Fabbioli about his new plantings and other things wine. He informed us that he had just recently planted sangiovese in the vineyard closest to the road that leads to the winery. We also enjoyed the views and the new pergola while enjoying a glass of the 2013 Something White and the 2012 Tre Sorelle.




Next we visited The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek. Here we enjoyed the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2011 Genesis. The 2012 Reserve Chardonnay gave us notes of pear, citrus, and honey. It had a nice mouth feel with a fuller body. We noted tobacco and earthy notes on the 2011 Genesis. We enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay after our tasting. We also had the chance to taste the new 2012 Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Both show promise but could use a little more time on your wine rack.


Our final visit was to Creek’s Edge Winery. This one was new to us so we were curious to see what they had on the tasting menu. Creek’s Edge Winery has a gorgeous new building atop a sloped hill with a vineyard that sits right in front of the building. It was obvious to us the building was built with group events in mind. When we arrived we were the only ones in the tasting room so we got all the attention from new winemaker Melanie Natoli. Her volunteer wine pourer walked us through the current release of wines. There were five wines on the tasting menu. We found out that Ben Renshaw made these five wines but Melanie would be taking on the next vintage of wines released. Of the wines tasted we enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc with its raspberry, cherry, and spice notes. We also enjoyed the 2009 Chambourcin. This one presented smoke, ripe berry, anise, and a smooth oak finish. Creek’s Edge is heading in the right direction and we’ll plan to visit them again in the future.





If you visit any of the wineries mentioned, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Two Twisted Posts Winery

After the wonderful vertical tasting we had at Breaux Vineyards, we headed down the road a bit to a new winery in western Loudoun County, Two Twisted Posts Winery. Several of our wine friends had already visited Two Twisted Posts so it was our turn to find out about this new winery and taste the wines. Another reason for visiting Two Twisted Posts was because their 2012 Chardonnay won a gold medal in the Governor’s Cup and is included in the Governor’s Case!


Currently Two Twisted Posts is only open two weekends a month. They are working on a tasting space in the winery facility and have plans to build a separate tasting room in the future. Right now they taste in a tent set up at the end of the parking lot. Owners Brad and Theresa Robertson are passionate about their wines and about creating an experience for wine tasters. We were lucky enough to begin our tasting with Theresa at one of the barrels just under the tent. We began with the 2011 Chardonnay (which we both enjoyed very much) and then moved on to the gold medal winning 2012 Chardonnay. The 2012 spent 10 months in French and American oak. We noted pear, pineapple, honey and a buttery finish. While tasting the chardonnays with Theresa, we found out that Tom Payette is their consultant. That certainly explains the quality of the chardonnays. We are big fans of Tom’s work. We seem to always enjoy a wine that Tom has his hand in making.

We then moved to the tasting “bar” to finish our tasting with one of Theresa’s sons. Here we tasted the only non-sweet red wine they had available…the 2011 Cabernet Franc. We noted smokey notes, blackberries, pepper, and dried herbs. During this part of the tasting we found out Two Twisted Posts also has a Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot that won’t be released until sometime next year. We look forward to tasting those when they are released. All of their reds won silver medals at the Governor’s Cup.


Brad and Theresa planted their three acres of vines in 2008. They currently have chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and traminette. They plan to plant an additional two acres this spring. The current line up of wines were made with grapes purchased from vineyards in western Loudoun County.

We certainly enjoyed our time at Two Twisted Posts Winery. And we were happy to make this winery visited number 168! We think they are off to a good start and hope to watch them continue to succeed in the future. We will have to plan another visit once they have a tasting room complete and those red wines on their tasting menu. Until then, plan a trip to Two Twisted Posts Winery and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Nebbiolo Veritcal

On April 12th we attended the Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We’ve been attending the vertical tastings at Breaux for several years now and always have a great time. Several of our wine friends also attended the vertical. So how did the nebbiolo grape end up in the Breaux vineyards? Paul Breaux visited Italy’s Piedmont, tasted nebbiolo and fell in love with the grape. Now Breaux has four acres of nebbiolo grapes producing some really nice vintages of nebbiolo.


After a introduction by Jen Breaux Blosser, the tasting began. We tasted six different vintages of nebbiolos from Breaux. We tasted 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and a barrel sample of 2012. Winemaker David Pagan Castano was on hand to discuss the different vintages and answer questions about the wines we were tasting. The four course meal was provided by Grandale Farm Restaurant. Instead of pairing specific vintages with specific courses, David suggested we try different vintages with different courses.


The first course was an antipasto plate featuring a charred baguette, sliced cappicola, Genoa salami, Soppressata, Parmesan, Vermont white cheddar, aged Provolone with sun dried tomato pesto and fresh olive oil. With this course we preferred the 2000 and 2012 vintages of nebbiolo.


The second course was pan-braised shrimp and local cured ham over white bean rosemary risotto and Swiss chard. We enjoyed the 2005 and 2007 vintages of nebbiolo with this course.


The third course was salt-crusted rib roast over cauliflower and asparagus with truffle oil and fig jelly. The 2010 nebbiolo was our favorite for this course.


The final course was a raspberry white chocolate truffle paired with the 2012 Nebbiolo Ice. During the tasting we compared our notes with other tasters. Our favorite vintages ended up being the 2005, the 2000, and the 2007. I selected the 2007 as my favorite vintage. I was sure to secure a bottle before leaving. We had a great time chatting about all things wine with Jen Breaux Blosser as well as discussing the nebbiolos from Breaux. If you haven’t attended one of the vertical tastings at Breaux Vineyards, you should think about signing up for one. And if you do, tell the Virginia Wine Time sent you!


Winters Weirdness Wrap Up

So here I present the final installment of our recent visit to the Monticello area in the midst of Mother Nature’s topsy-turvy weather.

Grace Estate: This was our second visit to Grace Estate, and this time our tasting was conducted in the new tasting room located in the estate’s spacious mansion. This new tasting space allows for tasters to enjoy the lovely mountain views while swirling and sipping. On a cold, rainy day we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our tasting featured three whites, a rose and two red wines. Of the white wines, my favorite was the 2012 Chardonnay (of course) that was aged 11 months in 50% new steam bent French oak barrels. Ripe pear notes were complemented by a butterscotch kiss in the mouth. I also appreciated the fuller mouth feel. Paul preferred the 2012 Viognier; he likes his whites from a stainless steel tank, and this one was 100% aged in stainless steel. Rich floral aromas with peach notes and tropical fruit flavors ended with a steely finish yet presented a nice weight in the mouth. We were both fans of the dry 2013 Le Gras Rose; on a cold, wet day this one screamed spring. It was made from Merlot (80%) and Tannat (20%) and presented classic strawberry and cherry characteristics. Nice acidity with a crisp finish—-just how we like our roses! Of the red wines offerings, the 2012 Cabernet Franc earned our unanimous praise. Aromas of cherry, tobacco and cracked pepper were followed by flavors of cherry and blackberry as well as earthy nuances. It was barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.


After our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2012 Chardonnay; between raindrops, we enjoyed the mountain landscape from beneath the canopy that covered the patio. We also had a quick chat with winemaker Jake Busching who informed us that a new tasting room will be built at Grace Estate so that parts of the mansion could be used for events. He was also very excited about the release of 3, a red blend that was the product of three winemakers: Jake, Emily Pelton of Veritas and Mathieu Finot of King Family. Tasters will also want to sample the upcoming Vidal Blanc which was aged in neutral oak barrels. Jake gave us a preview bottle and we are looking forward to tasting it soon. Thanks, Jake!


Pollak Vineyards: It was crowded here, but our tasting associate Casey made us feel right at home with a superb tasting. We were interested in newer releases since our last visit, and that included the 2012 Viognier, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2013 Rose, and the 2010 Merlot. All were quite good. The 2012 Viognier presented aromas of honeysuckle and peach with tropical fruit flavors and a hint of white pepper. The 2012 Pinot Gris should be a summer favorite with its peach notes and rounded mouth feel. Rose is our wine of choice for summer, and the 2013 Rose will be poured with a favorite warm weather meal. Nice strawberry and melon elements here with a crisp finish. Dry too—-yay! Grilled meats should pair well with the 2010 Merlot and its characteristics of tobacco, cassis, black cherry, blackberry and a soft splash of blueberry. Look for some cedar notes too. Complex and should age well to boot; but pour now if you must. Give it some time to breathe, though.



Trump Winery: Sparkling wine is the forte here, no doubt about it. We tasted four sparklings as well as the Chardonnay 2012, Rose 2012, Meritage 2012, and the CRU. However, it was the sparklings that I was interested in sampling and therefore paid more attention to them. The Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008 earned top honors at the recent sparkling tasting hosted at Tarara Winery, and it was just as excellent this time around; however, my ultimate favorite was the Sparkling Rose 2008 with its nonstop parade of bubbles. Made with Chardonnay (95%) and Pinot Noir (5%) it was rich with strawberry notes and flavors with a round mouth feel and lengthy finish. I must admit that I found the Sparkling Reserve 2007 a bit better on this day than I did at the sparkling taste off. This time around I found the acidity that I thought was missing a couple of weeks earlier. It is aged in French oak barrels, so it does have a creamier feel with apple and pear flavors with oaky nuances.


Mother Nature did not deter us from tasting some wonderful wines, and it looks like spring has finally arrived with cherry blossoms, daffodils and pear trees in full bloom. The dogwoods are sure to follow. Bud break, 2014? It has to be around the corner and for some has already begun. Plan to visit this wineries to celebrate spring, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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