Jake 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.