Local Vacation to Virginia Wine Country

Paul and I opted not to travel too far this summer and decided instead to enjoy summer fun in the local area. For us, this always includes a visit to Virginia wine country, and our focus this past weekend was the Monticello AVA. Read on to discover our favorites at the wineries which we visited.

Day 1 of our trip included tastings at three wineries: Keswick Vineyards, First Colony, and Michael Shaps Wineworks.

Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Barnard is one of our favorite winemakers in the state, and our tasting here is one that we always anticipate with eagerness. A summer hit for any crowd or event has to be the 2016 V2, an blend of Verdejo (80%) and Vidal Blanc (20%). Its fruity palate makes for a wine that is perfect on its own on a very warm day or with light cheeses and a baguette. My personal favorite was the 2015 Signature Series Reserve Viognier with its pear and tropical fruit notes. A fuller mouth feel makes this Viognier a perfect complement to any dish that features a cream sauce. Serve with seafood, poultry or pork and accompany with a mango relish—-an ideal match at the dinner table! Of the red wines, it was easy to enjoy the superb 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve with its smoky aromas and flavors of black currants, dark plums and oaky nuances. Sparkling lovers should also try the Amelie Black label Chardonnay and the Amelie Sparkling Rose made from the Norton grape.

After our tasting, Stephen Barnard invited us to taste a few wines still in barrels in the barrel room. We tasted 2016s of Chardonnay, Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend and a 2015 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was Paul’s favorite from the barrels. When asked about food and wine pairings, Stephen had this to say:


 

First Colony Winery: This was our second tasting on Day 1, and I must admit that we were pleased with the improvements in the winemaking here. Gavin Baum, assistant winemaker, conducted our tasting (and answered our pesky questions, too!). The 2015 Riesling Reserve can be described as summer in a bottle with its floral aromas and notes of peach and orange zest. My nod for favorite white wine was the Burgundian-style 2015 Chardonnay Estate Reserve; I appreciated its aromas of chamomile, lemon zest, and wet stone. Shellfish came to mind as a food pairing—-oysters, scallops, crab, etc. Paul preferred the creamier 2016 Viognier with its peach notes and mango/tropical fruit flavors. Our favorite red wine was the 2015 Meritage; buy now but enjoy later with a fall or winter menu. If impatient, serve with grilled steaks and roasted veggies.

Michael Shaps Wineworks: Our last tasting for the day—-I look forward to Shaps’ Viognier whenever we plan to visit the Wineworks, and the 2016 vintage did not disappoint. Peach and wet stone characteristics were complemented by a fuller mouth feel and tropical fruit palate. Paul was captivated by the 2015 Merlot and noted its elements of smoke and dark cherry; he made note of its rounder mouth feel and commented that he would enjoy this Merlot with grilled lean beef. Michael Shaps also crafts wines from his Burgundy vineyards, and Pinot Noir lovers should enjoy the lighter-bodied 2014 Savigny-les-Beaune with a variety of food options to include grilled chicken, herbed pork chops, or a simple platter of sliced deli meats and cheeses.

Day 1 of our tasting through the Monticello AVA was our favorite of the trip. We made certain to purchase bottles of our favorites to enjoy at home. Be certain to visit these Virginia wineries to collect your own favorite pours; however, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Early Mountain Vineyards

On our way home from Charlottesville over the Memorial Day weekend we decided to stop at Early Mountain Vineyards. We hadn’t been there in awhile so we wanted to see what was new.

Our tasting associate Julie, guided us through a tasting of all the Early Mountain wines. Of the whites we really enjoyed the 2016 Pinot Gris. We noted peach, wet stone, and mineral. Warren described it as clean and delicate. I agreed!

We were split on the reds. I really enjoyed the 2015 Foothills. I noted smoke, cherry, blackberry, and pepper. It made me think of beef! Warren favored the 2014 Novum. He noted seed berries, a hint of leather and smooth finish. I enjoyed it as well but preferred the Foothills. Our tasting associate Julie said of the Novum, “Wine is my favorite color.”

Julie was such a good tasting associate that I decided to join the wine club! We each enjoyed a flight of wines and some nibbles before making our purchases. We left with a case of wine but not before saying our goodbyes and recommending she check out our blog.


If you haven’t been to Early Mountain Vineyards lately, it’s time to return. If Julie is your tasting associate, tell her we said hello! And tell her that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Gray Ghost Vineyards

Last weekend Warren’s parents were in town from New Orleans. They were here to celebrate Father’s Day. We decided to take them the Gray Ghost Vineyards. Not only was it a special Father’s Day weekend, Gray Ghost was also releasing their latest Cabernet Franc.

During our tasting we were able to taste the 2016 Cabernet Franc. We loved it! We noted lots cherry and raspberry flavors and a very smooth finish. We thought it would pair perfectly with our light picnic fair. But we also thought it would pair nicely with some light pasta dishes and even turkey.


After our tasting we enjoyed our picnic items with a bottle of the 2016 Cabernet Franc. We enjoyed the live music while enjoying the views. I got a close look at the grapes and they are coming along nicely. The vineyards are looking great too!


Before leaving we ended up buying almost two cases of wine. We said our goodbyes with promises to return soon. If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost lately, plan a trip soon and when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Back To Charlottesville

Over the Memorial Day weekend we went to Charlottesville to re-visit some of our favorite wineries and to check out a new one.

Our first stop was King Family Vineyards. We last visited in October 2016. Since our last visit they have built a new area for tasting. The new room is called the Polo Room. It is available for events, overflow for the main tasting room, and large groups. It was empty when we arrived so we elected to do our tasting in the new room.


Our tasting associate was very knowledgeable about King Family wines and guided us through our tasting like a pro. Our favorite white was the 2015 Viognier and our favorite red was the 2014 Meritage. Another favorite was the Crose. We like to take the Crose to Wolf Trap to enjoy while attending a concert. The new Polo Room has a beautiful patio that wraps around the building. We decided to enjoy a glass of the Viognier while enjoying the views. It was a beautiful day and the King Family grounds provide an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.


We always enjoy our time at King Family. The wines are perfect, the view is memorable and the staff are always welcoming and full of information.

Our next stop was Pollak Vineyards. I’m a club member there so it’s always fun to return to see what is new. And it’s always nice to see staff we know and who know us.

Of course we did a tasting. We tasted many new wines and enjoyed all of them. Some stood out to us though as wines we’d like to bring home. We noted the 2016 Pinot Gris, the 2014 Chardonnay, the 2014 Merlot and the 2014 Petit Verdot. We were there on a Saturday and the 2015 Cabernet Franc was going to be released on Monday. Nick decided to let us taste it as well. We noted a fruity palate, some dust, nice acidity, cherry notes and a hint of herb. Nick also let us purchase a bottle early!

After our tasting we sat on the patio and enjoyed a glass of the 2015 Cabernet Franc with a baguette. We watched the clouds roll by and noticed the new planting in the front of the building. Nick later informed us that it was Sauvignon Blanc. What a surprise! But it won’t be ready to make wine with until probably 2020. Before leaving we ended up buying a case of our favorites.

Our final stop of the day was a new winery to us, Valley Road Vineyards. It’s not far from both King Family and Pollak Vineyards. Valley Road Vineyards was started by a group of friends who love Virginia and wine. Matthieu Finot from King Family Vineyards is the wine maker. They have a really nice tasting room with plenty of room for lots of tasters.


All the wines are solid, clean and ready to enjoy. We had a wonderful tasting with the tasting room manager. We both agreed the 2015 Chardonnay was a favorite. We noted pear, pineapple, with a citrus burst. It would be perfect on a warm spring or summer day. The 2015 Torn Curtain was our favorite red. It’s a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Chambourcin. I’m not a chambourcin fan but the flavors were so well integrated, I barely knew there was Chambourcin in the blend. We noted ripe red cherry, fruity palate. It was an easy drinking wine made for pizza, pasta or burgers.

We enjoyed our time at Valley Road and plan to return. Before leaving we purchased our favorites. Valley Road Vineyards is the 181st winery we’ve visited. It was worth the visit!

If you haven’t been in the Charlottesville area lately, plan a trip soon. When you do, consider visiting King Family Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, or Valley Road Vineyards. And when you do tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

The Gifts of Horse Heavens Hills

This post reviews two red wines from the Mercer label, and they include the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2014 Red Blend. The grapes that comprise these wines are grown in vineyards located in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation of course, this appellation is located in Washington state.

2014 Mercer Canyons Cabernet Sauvignon: No surprise that if the Mercer whites reviewed in a previous post were the product of a hot growing season, then the reds developed in the same hot environment Aromas of smoke, candied cherries, ripe blackberries, and spice greeted the nose; similar flavors were observed in the mouth the an oak note on the finish. We found this Cabernet Sauvignon to be quite accessible; however, we opened at least 30 minutes before serving with strip steak and roasted potatoes.

2014 Mercer Canyons Red Blend: We enjoyed this one quite a bit and dubbed it a crowd pleaser. Merlot leads the blend (59%) that includes Syrah (16%), Grenache (10%), Sangiovese (6%), Petit Verdot (6%), and Viognier (2%). Smoky notes led on the nose followed by ripe red fruit and spicy aromas. The palate recalled mixed berry jam which lingered quite a while; dusty tannins provided structure. I enjoyed this one with lamb chops seasoned with rosemary and thyme. Feel free to keep this Red Blend on hand for summer fare done on the grill and lightly coated with barbecue sauce.

We thank Brenda Mercer, marketing manager for Mercer’s wines, for giving us the opportunity to sample the wines (and thus the terroir of their slice of the Horse Heavens Hills appellation.) Please seek out these wines at your wine shop or their website and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Glen Manor Vineyards

It was gloomy and rainy on Saturday.  We decided to head to Glen Manor Vineyards to brighten our day. We didn’t want to miss the Sauvignon Blanc this year.

Luckily when we stepped up to the tasting bar, the Sauvignon Blanc was still on the menu. We tasted the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc first. We noted citrus and fresh herbs. However the 2016 was available for case club members. We decided to have a half bottle of the 2016 and a glass of the 2015 to do a little comparison. After our tasting we enjoyed both with our lunch items. While the 2015 was lovely, we decided we preferred the 2016 with food. We noted citrus, a weightier mouth feel and a whiff of stone fruit. It paired well with our Gruyere and Manchego cheeses.

Of course the Sauvignon Blancs were not the only wines we tasted. We were surprised by the 2014 Cabernet Franc. It’s 100% Cabernet Franc. We noted dark fruit through the palate with a medium tannin structure. It would compliment a lean cut of beef. Drink now or let it rest on the rack awhile.

If you are looking for a pizza, pasta, burger wine you can’t go wrong with the 2014 Vin Rouge. This is always one of our favorites. Grab this off the rack to go with pretty much any during the week meal.

And we are heading into warmer weather. You can’t forget the 2015 Morales Rose. Rose goes with everything! Ripe berry flavors dominate this rose. If you haven’t been to Glen Manor recently, it’s time to return. Even though it was a rainy day for us, there are sunny days ahead. Plan a visit to Glen Manor soon and when you do visit, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!