On Saturday evening we went to Gray Ghost Vineyards to attend the Vertical Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. This is a black tie optional event for a limited number of guest who get to taste vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignons from odd number years back to 1993.
We saw some familiar faces at the event. And of course it’s always fun to catch up with Al, Cheryl, and Amy with the latest news at Gray Ghost. Al had selected Cabernet Sauvignons from 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. With the wines Cheryl had prepared many dishes that paired nicely with the wines. The chicken and pasta with red sauce was one of my favorites as were the meat balls. During the evening we had a chance to talk about each vintage and compare notes with other participants. We all had our favorites but it seems the years ending in 5s and 7s received must of the chatter. The evening ended with a delicious slice of double chocolate cake and a glass of the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone enjoyed this vintage!
If you haven’t attended one of the tasting events at Gray Ghost Vineyards, check out their events page and find one you might enjoy. And when you attend, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
A fun yet elegant cruise down the Danube River which runs through historic cities like Vienna, Austria—what more could your ask for? A pairing with Virginia wines, of course. Notaviva Vineyards is planning just such a trip for November 2015. We stopped by Notaviva Vineyards to get the details from owners Stephen and Shannon Mackey; of course, we also wanted to sample the current releases.
The pairing of Virginia wine with historic sites and sounds has been dubbed “Melodies of the Danube”, and AmaWaterways will host the event. Stephen Mackey will host a number of wine and music pairings that will feature Notaviva wines. Also, Mackey will attempt to host a wine tasting from the cruise ship that can also be experienced in the Notaviva tasting room at the same time. The goal is to promote wine drinking as a multi-sensory experience while elevating the awareness of Virginia wines. Stephen Mackey’s passion for wine and music are well known, so this should be quite an event for participants. Notaviva wines that will be featured on the trip will be named after the famed German trio Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Imagine hearing strains of Beethoven on the Danube while sipping a wine named after the famed composer!
Sounds like fun? There will be a number of teaser events between now and then to entice wine sippers/music lovers/history buffs to sign up for the cruise. Check out the website for information on these upcoming events, but we can report that the first mixer to promote the cruise will be held on February 9. There is plenty of time for interested travelers to plan for the trip; at least 64 cabins will be available.
And what about the wines? Our favorite white wine was the yet-to-be released 2012 Sabado made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc. A classic Sauvignon Blanc, it exhibited notes of citrus and grass along with a refreshing acidity. With spring around the corner, the floral 2011 Verano which is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Traminette should be a pleaser. Pineapple and white pepper elements were noted along with a fuller mouth feel. Of the red wines, I was most pleased with the 2012 Vierzig Blaufrankisch. This is a blend of the German grape, Blaufrankisch, and Cabernet Franc (15%). I noted rich cherry and raspberry flavors along with a note of sweet tobacco. It was accessible and easy to sip; no coincidence that it was made to be listened to with the Mozart symphony by the same name, Vierzig.
Notaviva will maintain its focus on wine, music and fun. In the coming months, guitarist Paul Rogers from the band Bad Company will be at the winery to host food, wine and music classes. Before then, Valentine’s Day will feature comedy and wine.
Readers who are intrigued by this opportunity should either visit the Notaviva website for more information or stop by the winery for updates and a wine tasting. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Can stop us, babe—from the wine trails, of course. We have been eager to get back on the wine trails, but this year’s winter weather has ranged from an icy mix to snow to thunderous downpours with fog all along the way. Needless to say, these conditions have limited our time on the road. However, we donned our raincoats and wellingtons and managed to visit Delaplane Cellars and Philip Carter Winery of Virginia this past weekend.
Delaplane Cellars: We always enjoy visiting here if only to admire the gorgeous views from the tasting room. And the wines are pretty good to boot! The 2012 Chardonnay remains a favorite of mine and presented pear notes with a hint of toast and a creamy mouth feel. Only five bottles remained as of Saturday, but they were down to four when we left—guess why. The 2011 Merlot and 2011 Cinq3 remain on the tasting menu, and these were both lighter bodied and fruity with earthy elements. However, the 2012 Tannat proved to be more complex. This was bottled in August 2012 and is therefore still quite young— it is tannat after all. Smoky aromas with a whiff of coffee and sweet tobacco were noted with along flavors of blackberry and blueberry; it was also quite chewy. Buy now and drink later; if you can’t wait, I’d follow the advice on the tasting sheet and decant at least 30 minutes before serving.
Philip Carter Winery: It was a busy afternoon here, and we ran into winemaker Jeremy Ligon as we entered. Jeremy was about to conduct a wine class (hence the crowd), but he did take time to give us a warm welcome. We were left in the hands of Lauren Forlano (her father owns Forlano’s Market), our very capable tasting educator. The well-balanced 2012 Chardonnay remained our favorite of the white wines with it flavors of ripe pear and melon. A touch of Viognier (25%) provided a tropical note. Partial malolactic fermentation and aging in neutral French oak barrels produced a creamier mouth feel with a hint of toast at the end. Dreaming of spring or summer? The citrusy 2012 Falconwood White or the fruity 2013 Governor Fauquier will fit the bill. Both conjured dreams of warm breezes and picnics. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be our favorite red wine. This is a more recent release, and it took quite a bit of swirling to coax the nose; however, we did note aromas of violet, chocolate, and dark fruit. It was also quite tannic, but the tannins will soften over time. As advised above, buy now and drink later; however, if you insist on drinking now, decant and serve with a nice steak and roasted veggies.
After our tasting, we enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay beside the cozy fireplace as we watched the cold rain cascade from ominous dark clouds.
Stay tuned as we navigate the ever-changing winter weather to sample the current releases at local wineries. Oh—the title of this post? Perhaps we will let readers guess. Clue—a famous Motown hit sung by a legendary diva at Wolftrap last summer. Ponder the possibilities over a favorite glass of Virginia wine and let us know. In the meantime, visit these Virginia wineries and mention know that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We spent this past weekend with fellow blogger Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. He turned 40! Frank and his lovely wife Acada celebrated the milestone in the Charlottesville area with wine, food and friends.
We helped Frank ring in another new decade with a cellar tasting at Veritas Vineyards. Elliot, assistant to winemaker Emily Pelton, conducted our tasting and answered all of our questions. Sneak previews of newly harvested 2013 grapes now resting in their tanks begged us to ponder the possibilities of the 2013 vintage.
After our tasting at Veritas, we headed to Afton Mountain Vineyards. Owner Tony Smith conducted our tasting. Lingering fall colors were appreciated through the windows that lined the tasting room. We later decided to share a bottle of the 2012 Cabernet Franc with cheeses and a baguette.
The grand event was a birthday dinner at Tastings of Charlottesville. Keswick winemaker Stephan Benard and his wife Kat met us as did Bob Garsson, and his wife, of Project Sunlight. A gourmet feast awaited us along with a menu of excellent wines. I did not copy the labels and vintages, but I can attest that all of the wines poured that evening were excellent. They included a Cruet, a Mersault (my personal favorite), a Chenin Blanc from South Africa (selected with the help of South African native Stephan Benard), and a knock out Bordeaux. The evening’s highlight, though, was the intricate cake shaped like a wine bottle cradled in a straw-line box. Perfect for the occasion and also for the birthday boy who is indeed passionate about wine.
We wish Frank Morgan all the best; however time does fly, and before we know it, he will turn 50! Yikes! By then, we will be hitting 30 (times 2). Anyway, plan your own special celebrations with a trip to Virginia wine country. Visit these wineries and a special dinner at Tasting of Charlottesville. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
It’s hard to believe that another Virginia Wine Month is over! We made sure to enjoy as much of it as possible. We opened the month with a swing through the Monticello area, and we posted about some of the wineries that we visited. Today we finish our write up about that trip.
Blenheim Vineyards: We always look forward to tasting the latest releases by winemaker Kirsty Harmon. On this particular visit, Paul enjoyed the crisp Viognier 2012 with its tropical fruit characteristics. I preferred the Chardonnay 2012 and its fuller mouth feel and pear flavors. We both concurred that the Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite red. Juicy with lots of plum and berry flavors, it was quite delicious. We got a chance to chat with Kirsty, and we asked her about the 2013 harvest that was then toward its grand finale. She echoed what many winemakers have shared with us—the biggest challenge was not the late frost or the early summer rains. It was the hungry wild life such as raccoons and bears that caused the biggest headaches. However, Kirsty was pleased with the way that the summer trended toward warm, dry days and cooler nights and expressed optimism that the vintage would be a good one.
King Family Vineyards: Another favorite of ours—we are big fans of Mathieu Finot’s wines. It really is not hard to simply state “all of the above” when pondering our preferred wines here. Matt is our preferred wine educator at King Family, and he skillfully guided us through our tasting. Paul was a fan of the 2012 Viognier, 10% of which was done in a concrete egg. It spent time in both stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels and presented elements of peach, melon and white pepper. I was a bigger fan of the 2012 Chardonnay (no suprises here—I do enjoy Chardonnay.) Citrus notes were complimented by characteristics of pear and spice; a creamy mouth feel led to a longer finish. My kind of Chardonnay! We both enjoyed the 2012 Crose, a dry rose with notes of grapefruit, bright berry, and peach. With Thanksgiving around the corner, a light-bodied Cabernet Franc might be in order, and the 2012 Cabernet Franc should fit the bill. Red berry flavors with characteristic pepper notes make for the perfect partner with turkey and cranberry sauce. Matt also took us on a private tour of the new facility showing us all the new equipment, the huge barrel room, and new crush pad. Thank you, Matt!
Pollak Vineyards: Okay—so we visit this lots and lots too. Casey, as always, provided us with an excellent tasting experience. We can report that the 2011 Chardonnay is still tasting quite well; however, we were both impressed with the 2012 Pinot Gris with its floral notes and stone fruit elements. The dry 2012 Rose caught my attention, and it displayed aromas of strawberry and spice that should delight any rose lover. This one should prove to be a popular option for Thanksgiving, but the lighter bodied 2011 Cabernet Franc might also be a quite choice. We were given a sample of the 2010 Meritage, and it ended up being my favorite of the red wines. I have a bottle of this one on my rack, so this gave me a chance to monitor its progress. Concentrated fruit aromas with hints of anise and tobacco led to flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and spice. Nice tannins too. I noted a subtle vanilla note at the end to boot. (Note to self—age for a bit longer and enjoy with prime rib.)
White Hall Vineyards: The price points always impress us here. I liked the Pinot Gris 2011 that was fermented 50% in neutral oak and 50% in stainless steel. Pear and soft apricot notes led to a whiff of hay on the nose. I was surprised that Paul preferred the crisp Chardonnay 2012 with its pear and citrus aromas and flavors. It was fermented and aged in both French and American oak barrels; however, it still proved to more crisp than creamy—probably why Paul enjoyed it so much. Of the red wines, the Merlot 2012 was very accessible. It was blended with small amounts of Malbec and Chambourcin and presented aromas of violet, tobacco, and dried herbs. Spice notes complemented the cherry and blackberry flavors. Nice on its own or with a beef dish.
Moss Vineyards: Our final stop was Moss Vineyards. It was also winery number 163 for us. They have been open for a bit more than a year. Our favorite white here was the 2012 Viognier. It was crisp and elegant. Our favorite red was the 2010 Architettura Reserve. We noted dried plum, concentrated flavors and tight tannins. They have 52 acres of property with 9 acres cleared and 7000 vines planted. They grow cab suav, cab franc, merlot, petit verdot, viognier and vermintino. We will plan to visit them again soon to see how the wines are developing and what new wines they have on the tasting menu. We had a great time chatting about wine and their adventure into Virginia wine.
We always enjoy visiting wineries in the Monticello area. Plan to visit these and other nearby wineries to stock up on holiday favorites. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We took advantage of the long weekend to visit with Paul’s family and to sample wines in the Monticello area. Here is a summary of our favorite pours:
Barboursville Vineyards: We are pleased to report that the tasting set up has changed since our last visit, and an additional tasting station has been added to ease the bottleneck that occurred during hectic times. Our tasting experience was much more enjoyable, and we hope that the management continues to explore efficient ways handle the growing crowds that visit the winery. Paul favored the crisp Pinot Grigio 2012; I preferred the more complex Chardonnay Reserve 2012—no surprises here, right. However, we did appreciate the Viognier Reserve that is aging quite nicely. Of the red wines, it was tough to beat the Nebbiolo Reserve 2010 with its smoky notes and aromas of violet, tobacco and black currants. Paul thought that the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2011 did just that and notes its nose of cedar, blackberries, and cherries. We agreed to disagree.
Jefferson Vineyards: This is our first visit here since winemaker Chris Ritzcovan has taken the helm. We enjoyed several wines here poured by one of our favorite tasting associates, Allison. Paul is not a Riesling fan, but he did enjoy the Johannisberg Riesling 2011 with its stone fruit aromas and subtle hay note. I preferred the 2011 Chardonnay Reserve 2011 and its weightier mouth feel. We reached another split decision on the red wines. Paul was most enthusiastic about the earthy Petit Verdot 2012 and its smoky nose and elements of dark berries, coffee, and dried herbs. My own favorite was the complex Meritage 2010. A whiff of violet led aromas of dark fruit, tobacco and anise. Components include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Keswick Vineyards: We always enjoy Stephen Benard’s wines and look forward to sampling his latest releases. We both appreciated the 2012 Viognier that was fermented in a combination of tank and French oak. Peach and tropical fruit notes with a bit of vanilla at the end made for a luscious wine; it had a nice length too. I was a bigger fan of the 2012 Chardonnay that I characterized as a classic Burgundy style wine. Lovely pear flavors accented by hints of oak and a long-lasting finish make for a food-friendly yet elegant wine. The 2012 Consensus is created by wine club members and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Norton. We found this one to be an accessible wine with smoky notes and elements of tobacco, mixed berries, and black pepper. Stephan also treated us to several of the Signature line of wines available to club members. We really enjoyed the chardonnay and viognier. We also got to sample a few of the 2013s in the barrels. They will be quite nice! Stephan and I also posed for a silly picture that Paul posted on Twitter. We always have fun chatting about wine and catching up with Stephan. Thank you, Stephan!
Trump Winery: Hard to beat the Sparkling Blanc de Blanc with its nose of apples, pears, and toast. Paul enjoyed the crisp Chardonnay 2012 that was fermented 90% in stainless steel tank and 10% in French oak barrels. These leaner Chardonnays tend to be his style and are certainly easy to sip on their own. Fans of the simply red will be pleased to know that the 2008 vintage is still available and tasting quite nicely.
More on our visit to the Monticello area next time. Until then, plan your own visit to these wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
It seems like a new winery opens in Loudoun County every week. I know that’s not true but there are a lot of new wineries in Loudoun County. On Sunday after our trip to Breaux Vineyards, we decided to check out a few of the new wineries in the area. Just up the road from Breaux Vineyards two new wineries recently opened. Cardamon Family Vineyards and Maggie Malick Wine Caves are those two wineries.
Cardamon Family Vineyards is a family owned and operated micro winery that produces just about 200 cases of wine each year. Owners Chuck and Ana are committed to producing hand crafted wines from the 400 vines planted in their front yard. All of their wines are produced from their fruit or from locally grown fruit. The day we visited they were tasting five of their wines. They are currently conducting their tastings in a small out building. A new tasting room is currently under construction and will be open for tastings in the spring of 2014. We tasted the Vino di Mele, the Macha, the Myshells, the Nicolosanto, and the Batoria. Most of their wines are named after their children. That was a nice touch. Of the wines we tasted we really enjoyed the Vino di Mele. This is 100% apple juice. It was crisp and clean and had distinct golden apple flavors. As the tasting notes state, this would make a great BBQ wine. We were also intrigued with the Rkats (100% Rkatsitelli) wine but unfortunately they weren’t pouring that wine. We’ll have to be sure to return to get a taste of that one. Also they were sold out of their Cuvee Blanc. We’ve had several Rkats wines in the past and were curious to see how this one tasted. All of their wines are paired with salsas. We tasted the Ana’s Apple with the Vino di Mele. You can find the recipe below. If you are looking for more information about Cardamon Family Vineyards, check out their Facebook page. Their website is still under construction and lacks detail.
1 c Cucumber, Peeled and Seeded and Chopped
1 c Apple, Honeycrisp, Chopped
1 c Apple, Yellow, Chopped
1 c Zucchini, Chopped
1 bu Onions, Green, Chopped
1 ea Chile, Serrano, Seeded and Chopped
¼ c Key Lime Juice, Fresh Squeezed
3 T Honey
1 T Basil, Chiffonade
Salt and Pepper to taste
Maggie Malick Wine Caves is right next door to Cardamon Family Vineyards. Its located on a 215 acre estate with 20 acres of grapes planted. They have been growing grapes for years and selling them to other wineries. They decided to begin producing their own wines under the Maggie Malick Wine Caves label. They grow several white and red varieties including viognier, chardonnay, albarino, petit manning, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, tannat and garnacha tinto. The tastings take place in an actual man-made cave. They dug out the side of a hill and created a concrete and rebar cave. The cave helps maintain temperature and provides a cool place to conduct tastings. We tasted five white wines and six red wines. Of these we preferred the 2011 Albarino with its crisp, dry edge. As the tasting notes state it would pair well with seafood. We also thought it would make a good evening sipper. Warren also seemed to enjoy the 2012 Chardonnay. He noted apple and pear and a creamy mouth feel. He enjoyed it so much that he purchased a bottle to bring home. It will make a nice addition to his wine rack.
We certainly enjoyed our time at Cardamon Family Vineyards and Maggie Malick Wine Caves. Each winery has a unique quality that makes them wineries to visit. If you are looking for something different, plan to visit either one of these wineries and add them to your list of wineries visited. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
We last visited Granite Heights Orchard and Winery last summer and were impressed with the winemaking philosophy of winemakers and owners Luke and Toni Kilyk. We were also pleased with the wines that we tasted. This time around we noted a continued dedication to excellent winemaking, vineyard management and tasting room experiences.
Two new white wines were added on the tasting menu since our last visit, and these included a crisp 2012 Chardonnay that was fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels. Apple, pear and citrus elements prevailed, and its refreshing acidity made it an easy sipper. The 2011 Petit Manseng was likewise fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels with no malolactic fermentation. We noted ripe tropical fruit and pear characteristics with a fuller mouth feel than the Chardonnay. Residual sugar of around .5% elevated the fruit flavors without the cloying sweetness.
Two new red wines were also released this year, and these included my favorite, the 2009 Evening Serenade and Paul’s fave the 2009 End of the Road. The 2009 Evening Serenade is a blend of Merlot (84%) and Cabernet Franc (16%) and presented a smoky nose with flavors dark cherry and blackberry. End of the Road is a blend of Cabernet Franc (84%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (16%); Paul detected a smoky nose with notes of sweet tobacco; currants and plum flavors were also appreciated. Of course, it is still summer, and red wine drinkers may be more inclined to enjoy a rose instead. The 2012 Rose is dry (yay!) and made from Merlot grapes; nice strawberry and melon flavors and a crisp finish made for an enjoyable wine.
As readers can tell, our visit at Granite Heights began in the tasting room, and we were treated to a seated tasting. We’ve already reported on the tasteful, no-frill tasting room, and a knowledgeable tasting educator delivered an excellent tasting experience. We also got to chat with Luke and Toni Kilyk who graciously answered our questions and gave us a tour of the facility. Luke and Toni remain committed to producing wine and sharing it with customers in a quaint and intimate atmosphere. We tasted the commitment to quality winemaking, and we can attest to the consistent climate control of the barrel room as well as its immaculate cleanliness. The Kilyks have even invested in a bottling machine to insure quality control up to the final bottling. Of course, Virginia’s climate raises many challenges in the vineyard, and Luke informed us that a wine machine would be installed in the vineyard to minimize frost damage. New vines will also be planted and these include more Merlot as well as Vermentino, a white grape that is not widely planted in Virginia.
Granite Heights currently produces 900 cases of wine, and while case production may increase a bit over time, the Kilyks remain steadfast in their commitment to producing limited quantities of quality wines. The tasting experience will likewise remain wine-focused, and there are no plans to build an expansive tasting room. Weddings, bridal parties, and a dog park? These are also not part of the plan.
We applaud Luke and Toni Kilyk’s continued dedication to excellent wine making especially at a time when more and more newer wineries seem to place emphasis on themselves as events facilities or party destinations. We can gladly report that this is not the case at Granite Heights Orchard and Winery, and the results can be tasted in the wine glass. The wines continue to the reason to return to Granite Heights Orchard and Winery.
We purchased bottles of our favorite Granite Heights wines, and we will return very soon. Please plan to visit Luke and Toni Kilyk at Granite Heights Orchard and Winery, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Fellow blogger Kurt Jensen and his wife Carol organized a bloggers’ social at Early Mountain Vineyards this past Saturday. Those in attendance included Kurt and Carol from Wine About Virginia, Erin and Dan from At the Lamp Post, Anthony from Virginia Pour House, Stacey from Virginia Wine Know, and Frederick and Allison from This Is Wine.
The social began with a tour of the winery and vineyards by new winemaker Steve Monson. We learned that the late frost did no real damage to the vineyards but that the current rain patterns did lead to more vigor in the vineyards. Also, the Early Mountain team and Monson in particular are dedicated to producing quality Bordeaux-style red blends; the focus on white wines will remain on Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Fans of the Early Mountain Viognier may be disheartened to know that the 2011 vintage will be the last. Viognier vines do not perform well at the Early Mountain site, and these vines will be removed.
Once the tour was completed, we returned to the gorgeous tasting room and each selected a flight of wines to enjoy. I opted for the Rose flight, and these included Early Mountain Malbec Merlot Rose, Stinson Vineyards Rose, King Family Crose, and Sunset Hills Vineyards Rose. All were from the 2012 vintage. My favorite of the flight was the 2012 King Family Crose—a classic dry, Old World rose with a light pink color; strawberry and citrus elements prevailed.
Paul sampled the Early Mountain Ascent Flight that featured the 2012 Pinot Gris, the 2011 Chardonnay, the 2011 Handshake Red (a blend), and the 2008 Merlot. The champ here was the 2012 Pinot Gris with its bright, fruity elements and rounder mouth feel. He noted that it was perfect for the summer and a fresh, crisp salad!
We also enjoyed light fare with our wine; I convinced Paul to skip the salad and go for the warm pretzels with caramel sauce. They were quite yummy!
Of course, we compared tasting notes, socialized and chatted about winery visits and other happenings on the wine trails.
We had a great time at Early Mountain Vineyards and thank Kurt and Carol for organizing the outing; special thanks to the Early Mountain team for hosting us. Plan a visit to Early Mountain Vineyards and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.