As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to catch up on a couple of celebratory events that occurred at local wineries in the past couple of months. In early November, Old Westminster hosted a “vine” cutting event to celebrate the official opening of its new tasting room; later in the month, Gray Ghost Vineyards held a gala to toast the release of its gold-medal winning 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Paul and I try to frequent Maryland wineries when the calendar allows us to do so. One Maryland winery that is always on our must visit list is Old Westminster. We’ve written about this winery in the past and always with glowing remarks. On November 5, Old Westminster cut the vines to open a new tasting room to accommodate the growing crowds that visit the winery. Mother Nature provided a crisp fall afternoon for the ceremony that opened with remarks from Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association. Al Spoler, host of the radio program Cellarnotes, continued the accolades first offered by Kevin Atticks. Finally, Drew Baker, vineyard manager and spokesperson for the Baker family, took to the podium to extol the virtues of value added farming and its future in Carroll County, Maryland; he also thanked sister Lisa for her expert winemaking. Drew also acknowledged that the success of Old Westminster was due to a family effort to craft wines in a state that is just appearing on the radar as one that can indeed produce quality wines.
The Baker family and other guests then cut the “vine” to officially open the tasting room. Guests were then treated to a buffet lunch paired with the winery’s Greenstone, a blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, and Revelry, a red wine blend.
Gray Ghost Vineyards’ fans were excited to celebrate the gala release of the winery’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. A reserve cabernet was not produced in 2011 because Cheryl and Al Kellert, owners and winemakers at Gray Ghost, did not feel that the 2011 vintage met the standard for a reserve wine. However, the 2012 vintage was a different story, and the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has already taken a gold medal at a California wine competition. The gala proved to be an wonderful evening with lovely fall table settings providing an elegant atmosphere for the event. Heavy hor d’oeuvres and decadent chocolates paired well with the complex Cabernet Sauvignon and its notes of dark cherry and plum. Silk tannins presented a wine that can be enjoyed now but will be appreciated more if aged for a few years.
Plan a visit to these local wineries and sample their award-winning wines. Purchase their wines to serve over the holidays or to give as gifts. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Warren’s parents came in town last weekend to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend with us. We had a great Thanksgiving day with some wonderful wines. On Black Friday we decided to do some shopping like half of the United States. We visited Gray Ghost Vineyards and Gadino Cellars.
Our first stop was Gray Ghost Vineyards. As long time readers know, Gray Ghost is one of our absolute favorites. We always get a warm greeting when we enter the tasting room. Every year Warren’s mother brings Al Kellert a pecan pie and this year was no different. Al was very happy to see that pie in her hands.
After catching up with Amy and Al and Cheryl, we did a tasting of the current line up of wines. We love all the wines at Gray Ghost but of course there are always stand out wines. In my opinion the 2014 Chardonnay is one of the best. It presents tropical flavors with creamy notes and subtle oak notes. My favorite red is the 2013 Ranger Reserve. This is a true Bordeaux blend. I noted lots of dark fruit and coffee notes. The tannins were smooth and nimble. I thought of big red meats and some hard cheeses. I wanted a small chunk of dark chocolate to enjoy with this one. The Petit Verdot was not on the regular tasting but it was another stellar wine.
After our tasting we enjoyed some lunch nibbles with a bottle of the Ranger Reserve which we thoroughly enjoyed and paired well with our lunch items. Before leaving we purchased our favorites and picked up a case for Warren’s parents. We said our goodbyes knowing we’d be returning in one week for the Holiday Open House on December 5th and 6th.
Our second stop was Gadino Cellars. We hadn’t been there in a very long time. We began our tasting and then Stephanie entered the tasting room. We always enjoy talking wine with Stephanie. She told us how the 2015 harvest was and what upcoming wines we might want to check out. Gadino is another winery where we enjoy all the wines on the tasting menu. Of course we have our favorites as well. We all really enjoyed the 2014 Pinot Grigio. Light and crisp and reminded us of warm Spring afternoons. We were all also big fans of the 2012 Cabernet Franc Riserva. We noted lots of cherry, spice, and pepper. A classic cab franc from Virginia. After our tasting we each enjoyed a glass of the cab franc on the deck while taking in the last moments of the sunny Friday afternoon.
10 Years ago today we began Virginia Wine Time. Since then we’ve posted 914 articles and racked up 602 comments and visited 178 Virginia wineries. We’ve gained more than 5000 followers on Twitter and over 1200 followers on Facebook. We thank you all for sticking with us all these years.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary we went to Eno Wine Bar to attend the tasting of the Breaux Vineyards Eno Cuvee’ Meritage. Winemaker Heather Munden was there to talk about the wine. We had a great time chatting with her about what’s going on at Breaux. We really enjoyed the Eno Meritage. If you get to Eno, be sure to ask for a glass. You won’t be disappointed.
In the months to come we plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the blog with special posts. Return often to keep up with the posts.
Thank you for all the love over the years!
Warren and Paul
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.
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.
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.
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!