Virginia Wine Time

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Harvesting Grapes at Gray Ghost Vineyards

Old Favorites and an Old Friend

As summer begins to give way to fall, we conclude our roundup of winery visits to the Monticello area. Here we summarize our visits to two favorites and a meeting with an old friend. Read on to find out more!

Blenheim Vineyards: We always look forward to a tasting here. We enjoyed all of the wines that we tasted, but we must select favorites. Paul favored the Chardonnay 2013 with its characteristics of citrus, apple and pear. This Chardonnay was a blend of barrel-aged wine (25% barrel aged for 5 months) and tank aged (75%) to present a wine crisp yet presented a nice mouth feel. I preferred the Painted White 2012, a blend of Viognier (44%), Roussane (30%), and Marsanne (26%); it was aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Floral notes with elements of tropical fruit and hint of mineral made for a more complex white wine. We were both fans of the dry Rose 2013 which was produced from a blend of some unique grapes in Virginia—Mouvedre (21%), Petite Syrah(21%) and Pinot Noir (4%). Merlot made up the rest of the blend. The Painted Red 2012 captured our attention as we look forward to fall menus. A blend of Cabernet Franc (29%), Merlot (29%), Petit Verdot (21%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), and Mouvedre (3%), the Painted Red gave aromas of clove and nutmeg along with notes of blackberry and plum. Roasted fare should pair quite nicely with this one.

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King Family Vineyards: It would be easy to say all of the above here as all of Mathieu Finot’s wines are well crafted. I was a fan of the Chardonnay 2013 that was aged for 9 months in French oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation. Pear notes and a fuller mouth feel were complimented by a hint of fall spices. With fall about to arrive, it was hard to ignore the plumy Petit Verdot 2012 with its whiff of violet and notes of cedar and spice. Game meats should play well with this Petit Verdot. However, summer is still hanging on, and we did not forget the sample the Crose 2013. Dry and crisp with flavors of strawberry and melon, this versatile rose is always a crowd pleaser regardless of the season.

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Old House Vineyards: It was here that we met an old friend, Andy Reagan. Andy is now the winemaker at Old House, and we got to catch up with Andy while we were in the tasting room. Andy seemed eager to take the helm as winemaker at Old House, and we know that the vintages crafted by Andy will be as superb as his wines at Jefferson Vineyards. We also got to sample the current releases at Old House, and our favorite was the Clover Hill, a dry Vidal Blanc with peach notes and a mineral presence on the finish. Chambourcin fans will love the smoky Wicked Bottom 2012 that was aged for one year on American oak. Flavors of candied cherry presented an approachable red wine; however, a bit of spice on the finish provided some complexity that made it very food friendly wine.

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Celebrate the final days of summer with a visit to these wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Otium Cellars

Over the weekend we went to Otium Cellars in Loudoun County. Here’s a short video of our visit.

Labor Day Wines

Summer is indeed coming to a close, and what a wonderful summer it has been with few days above 90 degrees, humidity levels in check, and rainfall at near average levels. A few weeks of summer still remain, and it’s not too late to enjoy favorite Virginia sippers as summer fades into fall. Here are a few recommendations that we can make as a result of our recent trip to the Monticello area.

First Colony Winery: Lots of changes here with a renovated tasting room since our last visit. We enjoyed the crisp Rose 2013 with its bright strawberry aromas and flavors and refreshing acidity. Rose is excellent any time of the year, but we made sure to purchase a bottle for our last Wolftrap concert of the summer season. (Paul plans to sip this one while gyrating to the beat of the Gipsy Kings!) With an eye on fall menus, be sure to taste the 2012 Petit Verdot with its aromas of violet, dark berry and tobacco; plan to serve it with roasted meats and game.

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Moss Vineyards: It was a treat for us to revisit this winery since our initial impressions were quite favorable. Once again, the Rose 2013 was our winner for the summer sipper award. Classic strawberry notes and a crisp finish suggest a pairing with a late summer sunset and a picnic. The Cabernet Franc 2012 was a lighter bodied offering that presented elements of raspberry, dried herbs and spice. Nice to sip on its own, but should partner well with Virginia ham and light cheeses.

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Stinson Vineyards: Now is the time to enjoy tomato salads with fresh basil, and the Sauvignon Blanc 2013 should be the go to wine with this treat. Classic aromas of boxwood and citrus were noted along with a crisp, mineral finish. And yes, we liked the Rose 2013 here too. Stock up on dry rose and enjoy them year round—these are very versatile and tend to be crowd pleasers. We added a bottle of this one to our collection.

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Plan a trip to Virginia wineries this Labor Day weekend. If you plan to be in the Monticello area, give the wineries listed here a try; be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Food and Wine Pairing

In this video we present a food and wine pairing featuring the 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Barboursville Vineyards. Check out the video and subscribe to our channel.

The Sparkling Master

Claude Thibaut has earned a reputation for producing excellent sparkling wine. Claude is originally from France, and graduated from the University of Reims located in the Champagne region. He came to Virginia in 2003 to make the sparkling wines for Kluge winery; however, before then he had already sharpened his winemaking skills in California. While there, Claude worked at J, Iron Horse, and Kendall Jackson. The production of Claude’s sparkling wines currently takes place at Veritas winery. During a recent trip to the Monticello area, we were able to chat with Claude about the process of making sparkling wine from start to finish.

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1. Grape varieties, vineyard sites, and preferred climates:
Chardonnay and pinot noir are the grape varietals that Claude uses to make sparkling wines. These are ready for harvest at least three weeks earlier than the same grapes used for still wines. Cooler nights, warm days, and low rainfall is what helps to provide the acid levels needed to produce quality sparkling wines that can age well. Claude considers the environmental challenges in Virginia on par with those he experienced in France.

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2. Vintage versus non-vintage sparkling wines:
Most of the sparkling wine that Claude produces is non-vintage; however, grapes that are harvested during optimal growing seasons are used to produce a vintage sparkling. So does that mean that there will be a 2010 vintage sparkling from Claude? Remember, 2010 was very hot and dry. While those conditions are preferred for age-worthy red wines, they are not welcomed for sparkling wines. So which recent year produced a vintage harvest? 2011—while the year ended up being too wet for most Virginia winemakers, the 2011 growing season up until Hurricane Irene was quite favorable for production of a vintage sparkling wine.

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3. Production:
From the vineyards, the grapes are crushed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks until bottling. However, at least 10% go to French oak barrels to produce a reserve sparkling wine. Once bottled, the tedious process of turning the bottles begins. This is known as remauge and is done so that the lees can eventually settle in the neck of the bottle. This task can be performed manually, but Claude uses a machine that allows for many bottles to be turned at the same time. While in the bottle, a second fermentation process that creates bubbles in the sparkling wines takes place, and this is known as the methode champenoise. Sediment is then removed from the neck of the bottle and the dosage is added. Dosage is the last chance to adjust the wine before labeling, and older wine is usually added to achieve this step; brandy can be added to boost the alcohol level. Once the wines are ready, they are labeled by hand and sent off to the wine shop. Claude’s current production level is about 3000 cases.

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4. Future plans:
Claude continues to set goals for himself. He would like to have an independent facility that would allow him to boost production levels to at least 5000 cases. Thibaut-Jannison sparkling wines are now distributed in New York, and Claude would like to make what he called an “east coast blend” of wines from the best vineyard sites on the east coast. He also mused about making a Chablis-style still wine—-yes, Claude likes to stay busy making excellent wines.

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Be sure to seek out Claude Thibaut’s excellent sparkling wines at your favorite wine shop, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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