Happy Birthday Frank Morgan!

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.

Monticello Wrap Up

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.

Celebrating Virginia Wine Month in the Monticello Area

vwm25smallWe 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.

Two New Wineries

vwm25smallIt 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.
Ana’s Apple
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!

Granite Heights Continues to Impress

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.

More Virginia Wines at Wolftrap

Yes, we love going to summer concerts at Wolftrap’s Filene Center. Where do we always sit? The lawn. Why? We can bring along wonderful picnic foods and along with a favorite bottle of Virginia wine. Here is a round up of the most recent concerts paired with Virginia wines:

America the Beautiful: Historic Americana captured by iconic photographer Ansel Adams. Food of choice? Chunky chicken salad seasoned with jalapeño/cilantro dressing. Wine pairing? 2011 Vidal Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards.
Gypsy Kings: We never miss the international sounds of the Gypsy Kings. It was a warm, sultry night; rain clouds threatened to dampen the evening. The missing ingredient? A bouquet of summer blossoms. Ok—let’s put the cliches aside. We never miss the Gypsy Kings, and this year we brought along grilled chicken topped with a spicy yogurt mint sauce. Our wine of choice? the aromatic 2012 Reflection from Breaux Vineyards.
Diana Ross: The Supreme Diva sings her classic Motown hits, but we heard that she only drinks bubbly. Our sparking of choice? The Thibuat-Janisson Sparkling Brut to pair with brie, fresh berries, and almonds.

Bloggers Meet Up at Early Mountain Vineyards

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.

Summertime is Virginia Wine Time

Yes, summer is here and it’s time to enjoy refreshing wines during the hot days ahead. We’ve visited a few wineries over the past couple of weekends, and here are some recommendations for wines to enjoy during the summer:

Fabbioli Cellars: We are big rose fans all year long but even more so during the summer. Fabbioli’s 2012 Rose Luna is dry and made from Sangiovese grapes; done in stainless steel tanks, its light pink hue and strawberry notes make for a versatile wine that can be enjoyed on its own, with a picnic, or at a cookout. A crisp finish makes it refreshing to boot. The 2011 fruit forward Chambourcin should pair well with grilled fare especially if spicy rubs and sauces are being used. Of course, we always recommend the popular Raspberry Merlot with any chocolate dessert especially brownies!
Gray Ghost Vineyards: I like crab cakes this time of the year, and the Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards is one that I always keep on hand to pair with them. The 2012 vintage presents citrus flavors and a mineral note too; a short time on Hungarian oak provides a rounded feel not unlike a Fume Blanc. A sweeter option might be the 2011 Vidal Blanc with its floral aromas and fruity palate. Steaks on the grill should pair well with the 2011 Petit Verdot, Paul’s personal favorite. Elements of blackberry, dark plum, and black pepper finished with nice tannins to make it perfect partner with a strip steak and grilled veggies.
Rappahannock Cellars: Since our last visit, Theo Smith has taken the helm as winemaker; however, the wines presented for tasting on our visit were mostly produced by Jason Burrus. Burrus is now winemaker at Chrysalis Vineyards. Our recommendations for summer wines here? Try 2012 Rose with its aromas of watermelon and strawberry; .5% residual sugar elevates the fruit to make for a fruity wine destined to pair well with cheeses, salads, and picnics. My own favorite was the 2012 Viognier. Its floral aromas and notes of peach and lemon zest led to a lengthier finish. This is a nice wine to have around if dining al fresco with seafood, poultry or pork on the menu.
Summertime is a fun time to visit Virginia wineries. Magnolias and honeysuckle scent the air, and butterflies flutter about the vineyards. Plan a visit to these wineries to find your own summer wines, and enjoy summer’s flora and fauna while sipping a glass of at the winery. Of course, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.


Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery is experiencing a rebirth under new ownership, and the winery’s fliers declare a “new look, new wines, new style.” We met co-owner Aimee Henckle at the winery to receive a tour and tasting of the new Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery to determine if indeed a new direction was taking place. At the end, we concluded that indeed a new Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery was born.
We met Aimee at the Harvest House, the facility that once served as the home for the previous owners but now re-purposed for club members and events. Aimee and her husband Todd bought Lost Creek last year; they got the wine bug several years ago while visiting the wine regions of Bordeaux and Napa. They also explored wineries in Oregon and contemplated a go at winemaking in the Portland area. However, the couple eventually wanted to part of an emerging wine region with all of its challenges, and Virginia seemed to fit the bill. Aimee and Todd visited Virginia wineries and were particularly inspired by Jordan Harris, winemaker at Tarara. In fact, their experiences with Harris’ wines encouraged them to pursue the purchase of Lost Creek Winery.
There is no doubt that the Harvest House will provide club members with an comfy yet elegant environment in which to appreciate the new wines at Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery. An open floor plan, earth-toned walls and gleaming hard wood floors highlight the well-appointed facility. Aimee shared with us that the new focus at Lost Creek will be on Bordeaux-style dry wines, and these will be sampled at the Harvest House’s all-wood bar. An open indoor kitchen and outdoor grill complete with brick oven will allow for cooking classes and other culinary events to be held at the House.
From the Harvest House, Aimee led us to the tasting room for a sample of current releases at the new Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery. New wines and new style were not understatements. Readers may recall that the old Lost Creek produced mostly sweet wines made in stainless steel tanks. The sugar bowl has been put away, and French oak barrels can now be found in barrel room. Furthermore, Doukenie winemaker Sebastien Marquet serves as the consulting winemaker, and he brings to the new Lost Creek not only a background in French winemaking but also experience with the challenges of winemaking in Virginia. The results of these changes spoke for themselves. A new dry Vidal Blanc 2012 was made from estate- grown grapes and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Melon notes and a refreshing minerality made for a perfect summer wine. Our favorite white, though, was the Chardonnay 2012 that was also done in stainless steel tanks. Honey, pear and citrus notes were evident; yes, we noted a nice minerality here too. And yes, no sugar added! Sweet wine lovers need not despair as the Serenity (made from Vidal Blanc) boasts 1.5% residual sugar and its bright fruity characteristics are destined to please sippers with a sweeter palate.
On to the reds, and the first one was our favorite, the 2011 Cabernet Franc. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels, it presented a smoky nose with cherry notes and tobacco aromas; spice elements reminded us that indeed we tasted Cabernet Franc. The final red wine was likewise well made, and that was the Genesis 2011, a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, we detected a whiff of violet with dark plum flavors and earthy/spicy aromas.
And so the Genesis 2011 ended our tasting, and it confirmed for us that this is indeed a reborn Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery. Aimee shared with us that future plans include the release of a barrel-aged Chardonnay; in fact, we got to sample this one, and it will be quite good upon release. Expanded wine production is also on the agenda, and more planting in the vineyard will boost acres planted in vines from 16 to 21. Also, Lost Creek is now part of a new Potomac cluster that includes Tarara and Fabbioli Cellars—good company to keep!

With our tour and tasting done, we decided to each enjoy a glass of our favorites, the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc; guitarist Nate Davis provided soothing entertainment on a gorgeous late spring afternoon. We plan to visit Lost Creek very soon, and we encourage readers to experience the “new look, new wines, and new style” at Lost Creek Vineyards and Winery. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

A Visit to “Little Burgundy”

We finally made a trip to Ankida Ridge Vineyard, the small winery located in Amherst, Virginia that has made a very big name for itself in a short amount of time. Nestled atop a steep slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ankida Ridge Vineyard is the only Virginia winery that we know of that produces high-quality Pinot Noir. Positive reviews from such experts as local critic Dave McEntyre have created quite the buzz around this winery that only produces 700 cases of wine each year. Our Memorial weekend plans, then, included a trip to this slice of Burgundy.
So why is Ankida Ridge Vineyard referred to as “Little Burgundy?” When owners Christine and Dennis Vrooman purchased the property, they had no intention of planting a vineyard; however, a tasting of local wines got them to thinking that maybe a vineyard was the smart use of their property. Consultations with viticulturist guru Lucie Morton confirmed that the property’s rocky soils and 1800 ft. elevation made it one of the few sites that could successfully grow Pinot Noir, the grape grown in the Burgundy region of France. The Vroomans planted their vineyard in 2008 with the intent to specialize in the Burgundy varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They produced their first crop in 2010.
Christine Vrooman gave us a tour of the vineyard, and from the vineyard’s peak elevation, we noted the lower humidity and brisker breezes. When Christine informed us in the tasting room that they only had two acres of vines planted, we expected to see a relatively small number of vines in the vineyard; however, tight spacing per Morton’s recommendation revealed a different story. We were amazed at how many vines were actually planted. We also observed guinea hens roaming about the vineyard, and they delivered their own unique greeting to us as we walked through the vineyard. These, we learned, thrive on insects and provide a natural way of reducing pests in the vineyard. Less humidity and a regular breeze due to a higher elevation also provide more optimal (or more Burgundian) conditions to produce the ever-fickle Pinot Noir grape. Christine manages the vineyard, and as she conducted the vineyard tour, Christine picked leaves and either separated clustered shoots or secured wayward-growing ones. We got the feeling that these were her babies, and Christine confided to us that her work in the vineyard is indeed conducted with a motherly passion.
So how does this translate to wine in the bottle? We sampled the latest releases in the tasting room; in addition to the Ankida Ridge-labeled wines, the Vroomans have added the Rockgarden label to their lineup. These can be described as second-label wines that feature grapes grown at other sites. Christine’s son Nathan conducted our tasting, and we began with the crisp Rockgarden Cellars Voyage de Vert 2012 that was not unlike a Vino Verde with its green tone and green apple notes. Made from Vidal Blanc and white Pinot Noir, it can be described as the perfect summer wine. Up next was my favorite, the Ankida Ridge Chardonnay 2011 that was aged in neutral oak barrels. Half of the barrels underwent malo-lactic fermentation to provide a creamy mouth feel. Classic pear and apple notes and subtle minerality did indeed conjure images of a classic Burgundy-style Chardonnay.
We then moved on to the Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir 2011. Pinot Noir is typically picked early in the harvest season; that fact coupled with the vineyard’s location farther west and beyond reach of Hurricane Irene’s rainy visit allowed the Vroomans to produce another excellent Pinot Noir. Lush strawberry notes prevailed with flavors of dark cherry and currants, and spice at the end made for a nice finish. The Rockgarden Cellars Voyage de Rouge 2011 followed and featured Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Elements of cherry, plum and tobacco were noted along with a more tannic presence. A whiff of violet provided a floral note too. Drink now especially if steaks are on the grill! Our final sample was the Rockgarden Cellars Vin Doux, a port-style wine made from Chambourcin grapes. I always enjoy tasting these “smoking jacket wines” and probably do not have enough of them on my wine rack. Dark fruit and pepper characteristics suggested a cigar was in order or at least some dark chocolates.
I must mention that the rustic tasting room did make me daydream about a trip to Burgundy. With doors and windows open even on a warm (and cicada-filled) day, the soothing breezes and low humidity made me forget that I was in Virginia on the eve of summer. We decided to enjoy a glass of the Ankida Ridge Chardonnay 2011 with baguette, cheeses and sliced deli meat while basking in the lovely weather and gorgeous view.
We made certain to purchase our favorite Ankida Ridge wines and know that we will return soon. In the meantime, readers should plan a visit to “Little Burgundy” and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.