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Category: Winemakers (page 5 of 15)

Drink Local Wine Comes to Maryland

dlw-drink-local-wine-logoDrink Local Wine, established in 2008 by Jeff Siegel of The Wine Curmudgeon and Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre, held its fifth annual drink local conference in Maryland on April 13. In previous years the conference was held in Texas, Virginia, Missouri and Colorado. We attended the event and concluded that it was a wonderful way to showcase the great strides made by Maryland’s winemakers. The next two posts will capture the highlights of the conference that culminated in a twitter tasting held at Camden Yards.

Our participation in the conference actually began with a media tour of Maryland wineries on Friday, April 12. We boarded a bus with other bloggers, columnists, and writers from the Tremont Suites Hotel in Baltimore. Our first destination was Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard located in Dickerson, Maryland. Winemaker Benoit Pineau was on hand to conduct a tasting of Sugarloaf’s wines; however, Elk Run Vineyards’ representatives were also on hand to likewise showcase their best wines. A buffet of cheeses, olives, breads and deli meats were offered for enjoyment. Favorites included the 2011 Comus, a lush Bordeaux blend created in a difficult year. Yes, Maryland got the same copious amounts of rain in 2011 that plagued Virginia that summer. My ultimate favorite, though, was the 2010 EVOE!, so named after the excited cries of ancient Bacchanalians to honor the god, Bacchus. In a contrast of seasons, the 2010 EVOE! was more dark-hued and complex. Like Comus, it is a Bordeaux-style blend. From Elk Run, I enjoyed the Alsatian-styled 2011 Gewurztraminer. Tours were offered, and an added treat was the ability to vote for an upcoming release. Benoit Pineau asked us all to sample four red wine samples and then to vote on a favorite, and these included a Cabernet Franc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc (75%) and Merlot (25%) blend and then a Merlot (75%) and Cabernet Franc (25%) blend. These were all from the 2012 vintage. My vote? The Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend. Benoit will be the ultimate judge on which will be finally bottled, but I will definitely follow up to see if I picked the winner!
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By lunchtime, it was time for the press junket to leave Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards; our next destination was Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy. Did I mention lunch? It was here that we were treated to a lunch prepared by Woodberry Kitchen of Baltimore, a restaurant devoted to eating and drinking local. We were greeted by a glass of an outstanding 2012 Gruner Veltliner (yes, Gruner in Maryland) that complemented seasonal tartines. Lunch began with a warm greeting from owners Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron. They gave a brief synopsis of their story and the decision to make wine in Maryland. The couple opted to purchase farm property with the rockiest, least fertile soil possible; not good for corn or tomatoes, but great for a vineyard. Anyway, we tasted the excellent results of their decision. With grilled Chesapeake oysters we sipped the floral 2011 Bedlam, a blend of Chardonnay, Albarino, Muscat, Viognier and Gruner Veltliner. Wheat berry salad with radishes, pea shoots and pecans was paired with a berry-driven 2010 Rolling Hills, a red blend that included all of the Bordeaux grapes. The main event, though, was a platter of whole Maryland Suffolk grilled lamb, lamb sausage, scallions, and potatoes. The lamb was indeed fresh and local; Woodberry Kitchen’s George the Butcher butchered the lamb, and it was absolutely divine. Equally divine was the 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah with its elements of tobacco, dark plum, and blackberries. (This was my favorite pour of the day.) A dessert course rounded out our dining experience, and we were served Beiler’s Heritage Acres cornflour cake made from locally produced flour. This was partnered with a port-style Terra Dulce II.
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With our appetites satisfied, we departed for the last leg of our tour that concluded with a visit and tasting to Boordy Vineyards located in Hydes, Maryland. Vineyards here are nestled in the Piedmont Plateau and the Blue Ridge Province. Robert Deford greeted us and provided a brief history of the winery. Boordy Vineyards is the oldest commercial winery in Maryland, and Philip and Jocelyn Wagner established the winery in 1930 to protest Prohibition. Deford bought the property in 1980; however, he replanted the vineyard in 2005 to maximize its potential to produce world-class wines. We tasted the results in the tasting room. The buzz-worthy wines were the rich 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2010 Landmark Reserve, an award winning blended red wine. Also on hand to pour their wines was Cygnus Wine Cellars and Fiore Winery. Fiore Winery offered two grappas, and these were an interesting twist to the traditional line up of white, red and dessert wines.
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The day ended with a dinner at the Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point, an event hosted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Wineries Association. Yes, more food and wine. However, I will provide details about this experience in the next post. Before I sign out, though, I must thank Nomacorc for sponsoring the very comfy bus that took us hither and yon. I’ll write more about Nomacorc in a future post.

Start your own tours of Maryland wineries soon. The wineries mentioned in this post are great places to begin. Just mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Another Take on the 2012 Harvest

jakeJake Busching earned a reputation as an excellent winemaker while at the helm of Pollak Vineyards. He is now the winemaker at a new venture called Grace Estate Winery that will open in April of this year. Grace Estate Winery is also the home of the heralded Mt. Juliet Vineyard that is located in Crozet. The winery is located in the Monticello AVA. We asked Busching to offer an early assessment of the 2012 vintage.

1. How would you describe the 2012 growing season overall?

2012 was a peculiar year; it was an early, yet cool spring, and a blazing hot dry summer, followed by intermittent rains during harvest. I didn’t like it. There were too many odd variables within a given vintage including: 1) too close to frosting early; 2) too close to drought late; 3) July Derecho winds, and 4) too close to hurricane rains on ripe fruit. The plants seemed confused. Timing for bloom was off in the reds. Shoot growth was slow. And overall the cropload was down about 30% based purely on berry size.

2. In particular, how was the season for white grapes?

For the whites all of this strange weather had less effect than I would have thought. The aromatics are rich and the mouthfeel is lush. Acid was lower than I like but that is true in nearly every vintage.

3. And what about the red grapes?

The reds had more of a reaction to the vintage. Tannins are in short supply in almost all of the reds. Color isn’t bad but not as deep as I like due to sun intensity. The wines are good and better than many vintages I’ve worked; time will cure most of my rather exacting concerns. I think on a consumer level the wines will be received as being quite good.

4. What will be the hallmarks of the 2012 wines?

For the wines from Mount Juliet vineyards, Viognier and Chardonnay are both showing very well. The Merlot and Tannat are my top reds this year.

Futures at Gray Ghost

We recently attended the futures tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards. This used to be called a barrel tasting but because of some changes at the state level, most wineries have changed the name of their barrel tastings. We have always enjoyed the barrel tastings at Gray Ghost so a name change didn’t bother us at all. We were still able to taste the wines that will be released in the future.
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At this tasting we were able to taste the 2012 Chardonnay right out of the barrel. Of course it’s not quite ready yet but we noted pineapple and granny smith apple. This will be a nice vintage when it’s released.
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The first of the reds we tasted was the 2012 Petit Verdot. Yes, Al is finally doing a stand alone petit verdot. The 2012 presented berry notes, spice, and tart cranberry. This one will spend more time in the barrel before it is bottled. Look for it in another year or so.
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The next red we tasted was the 2011 Petit Verdot. This one will be released probably sometime in the fall. Of course I thought it was ready now and wanted Al to just put a barrel of it on the back of my car. We noted plum, spice, blackberry, and tobacco on the finish.
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We then tasted the 2011 and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons. The 2011 was a lighter wine with cherry notes and a smooth ending while the 2012 presented big cherry notes with a few earthy elements. The 2012 will spend more time in the barrel before it is released. Both will be nice wines in the future. Al informed us there would not be a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for 2011.
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After tasting the individual wines we were given the chance to blend the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon with the 2012 Petit Verdot. The PV only made up 15% of the blend but came through pretty strong in the mix. We also got to blend the 2011s and the combined wine was earthy, smooth, with some red fruit notes.
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Once our blending and tasting was complete we placed our orders for our favorite wines to pick up in the “future” once they are bottled and released. I ordered a case of the 2011 Petit Verdot and Warren ordered a case of the 2012 Chardonnay. We know we’ll be enjoying them well into the future. If you missed the futures event at Gray Ghost, plan to attend one of the many events they have on their calendar. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

DuCard On The Way Home

We finished our Presidents’ Day Weekend trip to the Monticello area with a visit to DuCard Vineyards. We first visited DuCard when the winery was newly opened in 2010. Owner and winemaker Scott Elliff was on hand to conduct our tasting on a frigid day.
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DuCard Vineyards has made quite a splash with its Signature Viognier with its 2010 version earning accolades at a recent blind tasting held in Richmond. One of the judges was wine expert Steve Spurrier; when the judging was done, the 2010 Signature Viognier scored a tie with a heralded 2010 Condrieu from E. Guigal Vineyards in the Rhone Valley of France. Unfortunately, we have not tasted the 2010 Signature Viognier; however, the 2011 Viognier went toe to toe with the 2012 Viognier that was offered for a side-by-side comparison. My nod went to the very aromatic 2011 Viognier with its peach flavors and bright acidity. The still-evolving 2012 Viognier is destined to find fans; right now, it presents a very fruity nose and palate with a distinct banana note.

Of the red wines, my favorite was the 2010 Petit Verdot. This Petit Verdot was the product of a hot, dry growing season and presents a very dense color in the glass. I detected a whiff of violet with dark fruit elements that include black currants, dark plums and blackberry. A firm tannic presence suggests aging potential; however, if leg of lamb or thick, juicy steaks beckon for this Petit Verdot, open early or decant. I made certain to purchase a bottle for a future dinner party; of course, future could mean next week or five years from now! In any case, Norton lovers should enjoy the jammy 2010 Norton from DuCard. Paul, though, preferred the lighter bodied 2010 Cabernet France with its brambleberry aromas and flavors and spicy finish. I enjoyed this one too, and it could pair well with herb-crusted poultry or pork; however, I think that it could be enjoyed just by itself either beside a fireplace on a cold day or on the deck on a warmer spring afternoon.
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Speaking of a warm afternoon, the 2012 Rose should be a hit in the spring and summer. I like dry roses, and this one was can be considered off-dry with less than 1%residual sugar. This was produced from Cabernet Franc grapes with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bright pink color and strawberry nose reminded me that warmer days, fragrant flowers, and lasting sunsets are just around the corner!

Scott Elliff was a very gracious host, and we learned that he remains dedicated to producing limited quantities of quality wine. To celebrate the success of the 2010 Signature Viognier, Elliff will include a copy of the wine-themed movie Bottle Shock with case orders of the 2011 Signature Viognier. Why Bottle Shock? This movie recalled the 1970s judging event that put California wines on the international wine map, and it was Steve Spurrier who hosted it. Spurrier likewise judge the so-called Judgment of Virginia in which Virginia Viognier went up against the best from France. It was the 2010 Signature Viognier from DuCard that showed most brightly!
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We made certain to purchase our DuCard favorites and promise to return soon; with spring weather just around the corner, plan a visit to DuCard Vineyards, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Michael Shaps Works Wine

While the title is a twist on Shaps’ Wineworks , it is literally true. Michael Shaps produces wines for his own successful venture, Virginia Wineworks, but he also either makes wine or consults for a number of wineries in the state. This would include the winemaking at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards located nearby his Wineworks tasting room. During our recent visit to the Monticello area, we made an afternoon by visiting both wineries.

We always enjoy the no-nonsense tasting experience at Virginia Wineworks, and this time around we got to sample wines in boxed containers. Yes, wines in boxes. There is a trend underway to reconsider how traditionally disreputable methods of packaging wine (and that includes screw cap enclosures) are being viewed. However, we’ve had boxed wines from Bordeaux that were very good, and so we tasted the Wineworks boxed wines with open minds. We both concluded that they were very good, and for the amount of wine that they hold (four bottles) well worth the price. The Box Wineworks White Blend is a perfect aperitif; however, Paul favored the Box Wineworks Red, a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Tannat. This was a fruity, lighter-bodied wine that is perfect on its own or with simple meals such as meatloaf, grilled chicken, or pork chops.
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We also got to sample the Michael Shaps-labeled wines, and these are his premium wines. I remain a fan of his Viognier, and the 2009 vintage was my favorite of the white wines. Nice aromatics and a fuller mouth feel make for an elegant wine. However, I also enjoyed the Chardonnay 2008 with its pear notes and creamy finish. Of the red wines, my preference was for the Meritage 2008. Petit Verdot leads the blend at 44% and contributes to the earthy/spicy notes and dark fruit aromas. Merlot (33%) and Cabernet Franc (23%) add elements of cherry and raspberry. Paul favored the Petit Verdot 2009 and its characteristics of black currants, dark cherry, tobacco and pepper.
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Vintner and wine educator Santa Rava conducted our tasting and expertly answered our questions (which can be numerous). Santa hails from the Sonoma area and is herself a winemaker. The quality of Michael Shaps’ wines and his reputation as a winemaker attracted her to the area in order to become part of the winemaking team at Wineworks. She also share with us that Michael is a full owner of a winery in Burgundy; in fact, Michael and his wife Christie also own and rent a 200-year old home in the winemaking village of Meursault, France. The home boasts two master bedrooms, a large kitchen with a private chef upon request, and heated towel racks. Perfect for a wine-tasting trip to Burgundy, a relaxing European getaway, or a honeymoon—or all of the above!

With our tasting completed, we were ready for lunch and decided to enjoy a bite at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards. The focus here is wine, too, and Michael Shaps is the winemaker. Before lunch, though, we had to select a wine to pair with lunch. This, of course, required a trip to the tasting bar. Our favorites? Of the white wines, the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve earned my top honors with its pineapple and pear notes and fuller mouth feel. Paul liked the 2011 Viognier and noted fruity aromas and peachy flavors. The red wines brought us to a joint conclusion—the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was our favorite. Smoky notes with cherry, blackberry, and earthy elements made for a more complex yet accessible wine. We opted to enjoy this one with lunch. So what was for lunch? For me, it was the steak frites with parmesan fries; for Paul, it was the homemade pizza. The foods are all the products of local farms, too! A bluegrass trio provided entertainment.
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Plan a trip to the Monticello area to sample Michael Shaps’ wines, and then enjoy wine and lunch at Pippin Hill. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

King Family

On our recent trip to Charlottesville we stopped at another one of our favorite wineries, King Family Vineyards. We have been familiar with Matthieu Finot’s wines for a few years now and absolutely love them. Whenever we visit, we enjoy all the wines on the tasting menu.
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We are not the only ones who enjoy Matthieu’s wines. When we entered the tasting room it was packed with tasters. Every spot at the multiple tasting bars was filled. We waited our turn and then found a spot at one of the tasting bars.

It was very difficult to find a favorite white wine. Warren enjoyed the 2012 Roseland with fuller feel, pear notes and partial malolactic fermentation. I enjoyed the 2011 Viognier. It was crisp and clean, with a wonderful floral nose and notes of melon and peach. We also both enjoyed the 2012 Crose which was full of strawberry, melon, and citrus notes. Of course we thought of concerts on the lawn at Wolf Trap while tasting this one.
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Once again it was tough to pick a favorite red. We enjoyed both the 2011 Cabernet Franc and the 2011 Merlot. We were lucky enough to get a taste of the 2010 Petit Verdot. This one became our favorite. We really enjoyed the black cherry, plum, berry notes and picked up on some tobacco. This is a big red that could easily age on your wine rack.
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After our tasting we enjoyed some cheese and baguette with a glass of the 2011 Viognier. We then purchased some of our favorites before leaving. If you haven’t been to King Family lately, it’s probably time to plan a trip. And when you do visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Pollak Vineyards

On our recent three day weekend trip to Charlottesville we stopped at one of our favorites, Pollak Vineyards. We were there last September but always enjoy our time at Pollak so we stopped by again. Plus, it’s always good opportunity to pick up some much needed white wines. For some reason, my white wine rack always needs some restocking.
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We always get a warm family feeling when we enter the tasting room and see so many familiar faces. Selecting our favorites from the tasting menu is always difficult because we enjoy all the Pollak wines. This time around though we were able to pick a few. Of the whites we really enjoyed the 2011 Viognier. Warren really enjoyed this one last time but I thought it had changed somewhat in the bottle and I really enjoyed it this time as well. We both noted the peach, apricot, and honeysuckle notes. Even though this was my favorite white of the day, I did end up leaving with a half case of the white wines. You can never have too many choices when looking for a white wine to serve.
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Not surprisingly, some 2012 wines are beginning to appear and Pollak just recently released their 2012 Rose. While we aren’t necessarily looking for Rose at this time of the year, we certainly thought about summer concerts while sipping this Rose. We noted strawberry and spice with a smooth mouth feel. It was created with Cabernet Franc. Nice job, Benoit!

As you may be aware, Pollak won a gold medal in the Governor’s Cup for their 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve. We were interested to taste the 2010 Cabernet Franc to see how it was developing. We really enjoyed this one back in September. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was again our favorite red. The blackberry, raspberry, and dark chocolate notes danced around on our palates with delight. This one may be our favorite for some time to come.
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Even though the 2010 Petit Verdot isn’t normally on the tasting menu, they had a bottle open and offered us a taste. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We noted plum, blackberry, and dust. It’s a bit hot and a bit tannic right now but in time this is going to be a perfect wine. As we often do, we thought of food while tasting this one.

With our tasting complete, our conversations ended, we enjoyed a glass of the 2010 Cabernet Franc with a baguette while enjoying the fire in the tasting room. Before leaving we purchased more than half a case of wine to add to our wine racks. If you haven’t been to Pollak Vineyards recently, it’s time to plan a trip soon. And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

2013 Governor’s Cup Winner

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Photo provided by the Virginia Wine Marketing Office.

We thought we’d jump on the bandwagon and announce the 2013 Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup was awarded to Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon 12th Edition. It was selected from the 12 top scoring wines from the competition. The 2009 Octagon will be included in the Governor’s Cup Case. The others that will be included are:

Cooper Vineyards – 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery – 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery – 2010 Cleve
Pollak Vineyards – 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars – 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards – 2010 Rendevous
RdV Vineyards – 2010 Lost Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery – 2008 Sparkling Rose

Congratulations to Luca Pachina, Barboursville, and all the other award winners!

New Owners, New Vision at First Colony

Our trek through the wine trails in the Charlottesville area brought us to First Colony Winery. A sign that declared, “new owners” intrigued us, and we knew that we had to get the scoop.
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No sooner had we approached the tasting bar, new owners Heather and Bruce Spiess extended their greetings to us. They were also gracious enough to answer all of our questions, too. Heather and Bruce and Jeff Miller had just recently purchased the winery and vineyard; although they live in the Richmond area, they felt a need to rescue First Colony, a winery that had a special connection to them. Their son, Austin, works at First Colony as a vineyard manager, and according to Heather, his hands had “touched every vine on the property.” This personal connection inspired them to purchase the property and to create a new vision for future success.

The first phase of this new vision is to focus on the wines and to improve their quality. Jason Hayman will remain at the helm as winemaker but in a new production facility that will offer an improved environment for winemaking. A special thatched roof will cover the facility to create a unique element. New barrels are already on order, and the vineyards will include new plantings that take advantage of First Colony’s own micro-climate. Bruce even envisions an experimental lot that will allow the winemaker to consider Italian varietals.
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The next phase will then be the construction of a new tasting room, and this will begin once the production facility is completed. Heather and Bruce foresee a tasting room that will be a bit more expansive yet welcoming to customers. Design features will allow tasters to take advantage of First Colony’s scenic view; in fact, Paul took a quick tour of the outdoor trail to snap picture of birds as they fluttered by his camera lens. Fans of the First Colony name, though may have to make an adjustment as a name change may also be in the future.

Owning and operating a winery is tough work, and Heather and Bruce, a physician, still maintain jobs in Richmond. However, we did not doubt their commitment to this new venture; their enthusiasm was almost contagious, and we felt excited for them. Indeed, they already have wines to help them move forward. Our own favorites were the upcoming 2011 Estate Reserve Chardonnay that was lighter on the oak and more generous with fruit notes such as coconut, citrus and melon. The 1670 Port made from the Touriga grape and fortified with brandy should prove to be an elegant way to end a dinner party, and maybe partner with a dense chocolate dessert.
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We will keep abreast of developments at First Colony Winery; in the meantime, be certain to stop by and meet the new owners of First Colony Winery. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine and Lasagna

Every winter we enjoy visiting Naked Mountain Vineyards to take advantage of their lasagna and wine weekends. Even though we just visited in November and much of the tasting menu was exactly the same, we decided to head out to Naked Mountain this past weekend to enjoy some wine and lasagna.
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Upon entering the winery we notice Seth Chambers would be conducting our tasting. We chatted with him about what was going on at Naked Mountain while enjoying the wines on the menu. One of our favorites turned out to be the 2011 Chardonnay with its pear and apple notes and creamy texture. Another favorite we found on the list was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. We noted lots of raspberry, some smoke on the nose, autumn spice, and a tart ending.
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After our tasting, our lasagna was ready. We decided on the non vintage Raptor Red to accompany our lasagna. The Raptor Red is a blend of grapes from 2007 and 2008. We noted some bright fruit, decent tannins, and a long finish. It went very well with our lasagna. While we enjoyed the lasagna we had a great view of the vineyards on a snowy day. It made for a beautiful scene.
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While chatting with Seth earlier we found out that Naked Mountain is coming out with a new line of wines later this spring. The line will be called Drink Naked and will begin with two white wines. Seth let us have a sneak peek of the new wines. The first is the 2012 Skinny Dipper which is made from mostly Vidal and blended with some chardonnay. It has 3% RS. It was fruity and crisp with nice acidity. We thought it would be perfect for a warm summer day. The other Drink Naked wine is the 2012 Birthday Suit. It is mostly chardonnay with some seyval and a splash of riesling. Its dry and would also be a nice sipper for summer time.
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Seth also informed us Naked Mountain will be expanding their vineyards soon. With the success of Virginia wines, fewer growers are selling their grapes so Naked Mountain wants to expand their vineyards to be able to make more estate wines. It’s always nice to catch up with Seth to find out what’s happening at Naked Mountain. And of course enjoying their delicious lasagna is a plus! Be sure to get out to Naked Mountain this winter to enjoy their wine and lasagna weekend. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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