Yes, spring is here and summer is not too far away; in fact, we’ve already purchased some of our tickets for upcoming Wolftrap concerts. Of course, we need Virginia wines to enjoy out on the lawn. We found some wines that we will be bringing along with us at 8 Chains North.
The white blend called LoCo Vino is always a summer favorite, and we enjoyed the 2012 vintage. This was a blend of Vidal Blanc (45%), Traminette (35%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%). Citrus notes prevailed with a twist of lemon in the mouth; it was crisp too. Perfect for a warm evening with light cheeses, fresh fruit, and a crab cake! We’re big rose fans, and we did like the dry 2012 Pink Link made from Merlot; these were grown in the Furnace Mountain vineyard. Notes of strawberries and spice were evident; I detected a creamy notes too. We’d pair this with anything in the picnic basket.
Grilled meats should pair well with the 2012 Furnace Mountain Red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Tannat. Initial aromas of coffee and caramel led to notes of blackberry and cherry. Nice now but readers may opt to age for a bit to enjoy with heartier fare during autumn. During our tasting our wine friends Kurt and Carol from Wine About Virginia entered the tasting room. It was great to see them and they joined our tasting.
We enjoyed a glass of the 2012 LoCo Vino after our tasting and then made certain to purchase bottles of our favorites. Plan a visit to 8 Chains North and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!
After the wonderful vertical tasting we had at Breaux Vineyards, we headed down the road a bit to a new winery in western Loudoun County, Two Twisted Posts Winery. Several of our wine friends had already visited Two Twisted Posts so it was our turn to find out about this new winery and taste the wines. Another reason for visiting Two Twisted Posts was because their 2012 Chardonnay won a gold medal in the Governor’s Cup and is included in the Governor’s Case!
Currently Two Twisted Posts is only open two weekends a month. They are working on a tasting space in the winery facility and have plans to build a separate tasting room in the future. Right now they taste in a tent set up at the end of the parking lot. Owners Brad and Theresa Robertson are passionate about their wines and about creating an experience for wine tasters. We were lucky enough to begin our tasting with Theresa at one of the barrels just under the tent. We began with the 2011 Chardonnay (which we both enjoyed very much) and then moved on to the gold medal winning 2012 Chardonnay. The 2012 spent 10 months in French and American oak. We noted pear, pineapple, honey and a buttery finish. While tasting the chardonnays with Theresa, we found out that Tom Payette is their consultant. That certainly explains the quality of the chardonnays. We are big fans of Tom’s work. We seem to always enjoy a wine that Tom has his hand in making.
We then moved to the tasting “bar” to finish our tasting with one of Theresa’s sons. Here we tasted the only non-sweet red wine they had available…the 2011 Cabernet Franc. We noted smokey notes, blackberries, pepper, and dried herbs. During this part of the tasting we found out Two Twisted Posts also has a Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot that won’t be released until sometime next year. We look forward to tasting those when they are released. All of their reds won silver medals at the Governor’s Cup.
Brad and Theresa planted their three acres of vines in 2008. They currently have chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and traminette. They plan to plant an additional two acres this spring. The current line up of wines were made with grapes purchased from vineyards in western Loudoun County.
We certainly enjoyed our time at Two Twisted Posts Winery. And we were happy to make this winery visited number 168! We think they are off to a good start and hope to watch them continue to succeed in the future. We will have to plan another visit once they have a tasting room complete and those red wines on their tasting menu. Until then, plan a trip to Two Twisted Posts Winery and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
On April 12th we attended the Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We’ve been attending the vertical tastings at Breaux for several years now and always have a great time. Several of our wine friends also attended the vertical. So how did the nebbiolo grape end up in the Breaux vineyards? Paul Breaux visited Italy’s Piedmont, tasted nebbiolo and fell in love with the grape. Now Breaux has four acres of nebbiolo grapes producing some really nice vintages of nebbiolo.
After a introduction by Jen Breaux Blosser, the tasting began. We tasted six different vintages of nebbiolos from Breaux. We tasted 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and a barrel sample of 2012. Winemaker David Pagan Castano was on hand to discuss the different vintages and answer questions about the wines we were tasting. The four course meal was provided by Grandale Farm Restaurant. Instead of pairing specific vintages with specific courses, David suggested we try different vintages with different courses.
The first course was an antipasto plate featuring a charred baguette, sliced cappicola, Genoa salami, Soppressata, Parmesan, Vermont white cheddar, aged Provolone with sun dried tomato pesto and fresh olive oil. With this course we preferred the 2000 and 2012 vintages of nebbiolo.
The second course was pan-braised shrimp and local cured ham over white bean rosemary risotto and Swiss chard. We enjoyed the 2005 and 2007 vintages of nebbiolo with this course.
The third course was salt-crusted rib roast over cauliflower and asparagus with truffle oil and fig jelly. The 2010 nebbiolo was our favorite for this course.
The final course was a raspberry white chocolate truffle paired with the 2012 Nebbiolo Ice. During the tasting we compared our notes with other tasters. Our favorite vintages ended up being the 2005, the 2000, and the 2007. I selected the 2007 as my favorite vintage. I was sure to secure a bottle before leaving. We had a great time chatting about all things wine with Jen Breaux Blosser as well as discussing the nebbiolos from Breaux. If you haven’t attended one of the vertical tastings at Breaux Vineyards, you should think about signing up for one. And if you do, tell the Virginia Wine Time sent you!
So here I present the final installment of our recent visit to the Monticello area in the midst of Mother Nature’s topsy-turvy weather.
Grace Estate: This was our second visit to Grace Estate, and this time our tasting was conducted in the new tasting room located in the estate’s spacious mansion. This new tasting space allows for tasters to enjoy the lovely mountain views while swirling and sipping. On a cold, rainy day we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our tasting featured three whites, a rose and two red wines. Of the white wines, my favorite was the 2012 Chardonnay (of course) that was aged 11 months in 50% new steam bent French oak barrels. Ripe pear notes were complemented by a butterscotch kiss in the mouth. I also appreciated the fuller mouth feel. Paul preferred the 2012 Viognier; he likes his whites from a stainless steel tank, and this one was 100% aged in stainless steel. Rich floral aromas with peach notes and tropical fruit flavors ended with a steely finish yet presented a nice weight in the mouth. We were both fans of the dry 2013 Le Gras Rose; on a cold, wet day this one screamed spring. It was made from Merlot (80%) and Tannat (20%) and presented classic strawberry and cherry characteristics. Nice acidity with a crisp finish—-just how we like our roses! Of the red wines offerings, the 2012 Cabernet Franc earned our unanimous praise. Aromas of cherry, tobacco and cracked pepper were followed by flavors of cherry and blackberry as well as earthy nuances. It was barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
After our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2012 Chardonnay; between raindrops, we enjoyed the mountain landscape from beneath the canopy that covered the patio. We also had a quick chat with winemaker Jake Busching who informed us that a new tasting room will be built at Grace Estate so that parts of the mansion could be used for events. He was also very excited about the release of 3, a red blend that was the product of three winemakers: Jake, Emily Pelton of Veritas and Mathieu Finot of King Family. Tasters will also want to sample the upcoming Vidal Blanc which was aged in neutral oak barrels. Jake gave us a preview bottle and we are looking forward to tasting it soon. Thanks, Jake!
Pollak Vineyards: It was crowded here, but our tasting associate Casey made us feel right at home with a superb tasting. We were interested in newer releases since our last visit, and that included the 2012 Viognier, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2013 Rose, and the 2010 Merlot. All were quite good. The 2012 Viognier presented aromas of honeysuckle and peach with tropical fruit flavors and a hint of white pepper. The 2012 Pinot Gris should be a summer favorite with its peach notes and rounded mouth feel. Rose is our wine of choice for summer, and the 2013 Rose will be poured with a favorite warm weather meal. Nice strawberry and melon elements here with a crisp finish. Dry too—-yay! Grilled meats should pair well with the 2010 Merlot and its characteristics of tobacco, cassis, black cherry, blackberry and a soft splash of blueberry. Look for some cedar notes too. Complex and should age well to boot; but pour now if you must. Give it some time to breathe, though.
Trump Winery: Sparkling wine is the forte here, no doubt about it. We tasted four sparklings as well as the Chardonnay 2012, Rose 2012, Meritage 2012, and the CRU. However, it was the sparklings that I was interested in sampling and therefore paid more attention to them. The Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008 earned top honors at the recent sparkling tasting hosted at Tarara Winery, and it was just as excellent this time around; however, my ultimate favorite was the Sparkling Rose 2008 with its nonstop parade of bubbles. Made with Chardonnay (95%) and Pinot Noir (5%) it was rich with strawberry notes and flavors with a round mouth feel and lengthy finish. I must admit that I found the Sparkling Reserve 2007 a bit better on this day than I did at the sparkling taste off. This time around I found the acidity that I thought was missing a couple of weeks earlier. It is aged in French oak barrels, so it does have a creamier feel with apple and pear flavors with oaky nuances.
Mother Nature did not deter us from tasting some wonderful wines, and it looks like spring has finally arrived with cherry blossoms, daffodils and pear trees in full bloom. The dogwoods are sure to follow. Bud break, 2014? It has to be around the corner and for some has already begun. Plan to visit this wineries to celebrate spring, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Yes, the last weekend in March brought with it a variety of weather phenomena. We checked the forecast that predicted sun and warmth then cold and rain for the weekend in preparation for our trip to the Monticello area. We were indeed prepared for anything that Mother Nature could throw at us. At it turned out, it never really got that warm, the sun never came out, and the weekend ended with unexpected snow. Oh well—at least we got to sample some excellent wines while we were there. Here is a round up of three wineries that we visited:
Barboursville Vineyards: Despite the cold drizzle, we went to Barboursville with spring in mind. Perhaps that is why we both enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013 with its notes of fresh boxwoods, lemon/lime, and shale. I also appreciated the Chardonnay Reserve 2012 that was barrel fermented and aged in oak for eight months. Pear and pineapple flavors were complimented by a fuller-mouth feel and lengthier finish. Rose lovers should checkout the dry Rose 2012 with its fruity palate and refreshing acidity. Regardless of the weather, the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2011 should be an option when considering a red wine for dinner. Classic berry elements merged with earthy nuances to present a well-balanced wine that should pair well with any grilled meats.
Blenheim Vineyards: It’s always a treat to sample Kirtsy Harmon’s well-crafted wines. All five of the wines that we tasted were quite good, and it was tough to pick favorites. We did reach some split decisions, though. Of the white wines, Paul preferred the White Table wine, a blend of tank aged Chardonnay (53%) and Viognier (47%). Peach notes and tropical fruit flavors gave way to a fuller mouth feel than expected. Quite elegant, too—this one should prove to be versatile either as a sipper in its own right or on the dinner table. My favorite was the more complex Painted White 2012. This blend of Viognier (44%), Rousanne (30%), and Marsanne (26%) was aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. It presented a floral nose with a whiff of white pepper; a flush of tropical fruit flavors swept the palate at the end. I also enjoyed the fuller mouth feel. Elegant and complex yet unpretentious—the current label for the Painted White features something that resembles a mosh pit! The crisp, dry Rose 2012 featured strawberry and citrus characteristics; we love these kinds of Roses during the summer! Of the red wines, Paul preferred the Petit Verdot 2012 with its rich dark fruit and blueberry notes; I opted for the Painted Red 2012 (maybe I was taken back to a younger time when mosh pits were a regular part of my social life.) This blend features a twist of Mouvedre (3%); I noted scent of violets with a berry mix of blackberry and blackberry in the mouth. Other components of this complex blend are Cabernet Franc (29%), Merlot (29%), Petit Verdot (18%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (18%). We had the chance to chat with Kirsty about all things wine. She also let us sample the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Melon and Kiwi were notes we jotted down. It’s always fun chatting with Kirsty! Paul even joined the wine club during this visit. We’ll have Blenheim wines all year round!
Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery: A steady rain did not deter us from visiting Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery. The Green 2012 should prove to be a hit for the spring and summer. Petit Manseng (50%) and Chardonnay (50%) were co-fermented to achieve a crisp wine with grapefruit aromatics and flavors. Serve wellchilled and enjoy with shellfish. Paul is always a fan of the A6 , and this time was no exception. A blend of Viognier (59%) and Chardonnay (41%) makes for a richer wine with flavors of ripe pear and stone fruit; a hint of mineral on the finish was also detected. Grilled fair should pair well with the earthy 2012 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc with its cherry and raspberry flavors; expect a spicy finish, too. We both enjoyed the union 2012, a blend of Petit Verdot (72%), Cabernet Franc (17%), and Tannat (11%). Initial aromas of tobacco and coffee gave way to blackberry and plum notes with a tannic finish. Serve with a meaty steak and roasted mushrooms! Towards the end of our tasting Sarah Gorman arrived. We had the chance to sit and chat about what’s going on at Cardinal Point. We enjoyed the new deck at Cardinal Point. While it was raining that day, we could see how it would be a great place to enjoy spring and summer wines. Thanks for the chat Sarah!
Check in for our next post to find out which other wineries we visited during the topsy-turvy weather weekend. In the meantime, plan to visit these wineries now that warmer weather and spring blossoms are in full swing. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
In a weekend that can best be described as a tug of war between spring and winter, we planned a visit to wineries in the Charlottesville area. This included visits to Chateau MerrillAnne and Honah Lee Vineyard, and that means we upped our count of new wineries visited to 167.
#166: Chateau MerrillAnne—A cool rain fell as we made our way to the tasting room at Chateau MerrillAnne; however, we were warmly greeted by owner Kenny White who guided us through a tasting of their well-crafted wines. Heralded winemaker Michael Shaps is the winemaker here, and we were instant fans of the 2013 Palace White. This is a blend if Seyval Blanc and Cayuga. What is Cayuga? It is a hybrid grape that mimics the same characteristics as Seyval Blanc. The result of this blend? A crisp, fruity wine with citrus notes and a pleasant minerality. The Palace White should prove to be quite popular in warmer weather when seafood seasoned with a twist of lemon are on the menu. We also enjoyed the 2012 Governor Spotswood Red, a blend of Merlot (60%) and Malbec (40%). Smoky notes were complimented by cherry flavors and a spicy finish. I must add that Kerim Baki of Hillborough Vineyard crafted the fuller bodied 2012 Chardonnay; its creamier texture should prove to be a perfect match with dishes that feature a creamy sauce.
Kenny White entertained our questions as we tasted, and he shared with us that the property known as MerrillAnne belonged to his parents; his father in particular favored life in the country. Kenny eventually purchased the property and then planted a vineyard in 2010; he yielded his first crop in 2012. The old barn on the property was refurbished into a tasting room that opened this year. The vineyard now grows Chambourcin, Cayuga, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Norton will be planted in the future. This is a small winery with case production less than 500; this may increase over time but remain below 1000 cases in the near future. I might add that the price points are excellent—nothing over $20 here. We made off with a couple bottles of the Palace White ($17) and the Governor Spotswood Red (19$).
#167: Honah Lee Vineyard—Yes, the well known vineyard that has supplied grapes to countless premium wineries in the area is now a winery. Actually, they are currently pouring wines by Michael Shaps, and these include wines made under both the Wineworks and Michael Shaps labels. Shaps has contracted with Honah Lee for exclusive use of their grapes, so no wonder that his excellent wines are being tasted there. The tastings are currently being conducted at the Berrywood Farm Market, and guests can not only taste wines but also purchase baked goods prepared by Brandy Hopwood and her mother-in-law Vera Preddy. Vera and her husband Wayne own the vineyard too!
Brandy and her husband Eric conducted our tasting. The tasting included pairings with homemade jellies and sauces, cheeses and Vera’s famous fudge. We enjoyed the Michael Shaps Chardonnay 2012 with its Burgundian characteristics and fuller mouth feel. The red wines were likewise outstanding with the 2012 Merlot topping our list. It presented notes of tobacco and dark cherry with a round mouth feel and spicy finish. Of course, we had questions, one of which was why the Honah Lee property seems suited to producing quality grapes. He explained that the combination of elevation (around 900 feet), excellent soil composition and drainage, and excellent aeration provide the perfect micro-climate to support their 30-acre vineyard. We tasted the results and concur that wine produced from the Honah Lee site are quite good. (Oh—the fudge was Paul’s favorite treat; he bought some to snack on in the car.) Look for wines with the Honah Lee label sometime in the near future.
So where else did we visit while in the Charlottesville area? Tune in next time to find out. In the meantime, visit these wonderful new Virginia wineries and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!
So we continue to ask winemakers their assessment of the long-lasting winter and its possible impacts on the 2014 growing season. In this installment, winemaker Jake Busching of Grace Estate offers opinions.
1. This has been a winter of long-lasting, record-breaking cold weather. This week’s temperatures plunged to below zero in much of Virginia. Are you concerned about stress to the vines? Have you changed vineyard management (i.e. pruning) as a result?
Winter cold has to reach serious extremes (well, by Virginia standards, said the Minnesotan…) to damage grapevines. Most vinifera isn’t damaged until you get down to temperatures close to -4F. Buds go first then damage to the vascular system can occur. Luckily here at my site our low was only -1F. I’ve checked buds in the vines by slicing into them with a knife to see if they are still green following the coldest days we’ve had and so far we are in good shape. Areas of NOVA and all states north of us are going to see bud and cane damage this spring. February 5th, 1996 saw temperatures as low as -22F in areas around Monticello AVA many vineyards were killed down to the snowline that night. A fellow winemaker in NY state reports losses in excess of 80% this spring as they had temperatures around -12F. In that situation you hope the snow was deep enough to shield buds in the trunks so you can start new growth without having to replant an entire vineyard!
The beauty of a cold snowy winter for growers, besides fireside evenings and sledding, is a plentitude of ground water coming into spring and a natural extermination of some vineyard pests. We have bugs like Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit flies and vine diseases like Pierces Disease which are both killed off at repeated temperatures below 7F which means we are going into a vintage where bugs will have to reinvade from the south. Perhaps this will allow vines to recover and put less pressure on us in the fall for protecting our fruit from damage.
We had a very good grapevine growing summer last year. 2013 had lots of moisture and thus, vigor, which allows the vines to uptake and translocate food into storage for use this spring. I am expecting good vine growth and a heavy crop this year, frost willin and the creeks don’t rise…
2. Early bud break is always a concern when it occurs; however, are there worries about a later bud break? What is the optimal time for bud break? (The cherry blossoms are scheduled to bloom much later this year due to the long-lingering winter.)
Bud break has been early for many years now. Back when I started taking care of vines in the mid-nineties budbreak in Chardonnay was expected around April 9th. It is my opinion that bud break doesn’t really happen ‘late’ as the sun always runs on time… I would love to see bud break begin on April 5th every year. However, we’ve lately become accustomed to buds waking up as early as march 19th on some sites which creates weeks of fear of frost damage or even cold damage. The only down side to a normal bud break period is if we have a cool, cloudy summer and our ripening energy is slowed or shadowed in our red wine vineyards. This delaying action can push harvest dates into late October when the vines are naturally shutting down and stopping work on ripening fruit. Then all we have to increase quality is hang time which is mostly dehydration to concentrate fruit flavor.
3. Now that the 2013 harvest is history, how is the 2013 vintage shaping up, and what are the comparisons to past vintages?
Now that my red wines have been racked and my early wines are in bottle, I am happy to say that 2013 was, for the most part, an excellent vintage. The summer long supply of rain had us on the ropes all year until, against all Virginia weather logic, we had a drought through harvest. The result of that weather pattern was early season varieties having slightly less concentration, mid-season varieties being good to very good and late season varieties being excellent. We are looking at red wines with early season elegance and late season structure for 2013. I am looking forward to blending this year and playing mixologist with varieties like Tannat and Petit Verdot. The bottled wines are showing very well with nice acid to mouthfeel balance and beautiful floral qualities. I finally made a rose that I respect in 2013 as well from some early pick Merlot with a bled lot of Tannat added for depth and complexity.
Plan a visit to Grace Estate to taste Jake’s excellent wines; in fact, we did just that this past weekend. What were our favorites? Check in next time to find out. If you get to Grace Estate before our next post, mention to Jake that Virginia Wine Time sent you!
After the Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards on Saturday we headed over to Tarara Winery for the 5th annual sparkling tasting organized by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. It is now our tradition to get together each year to do a blind sparkling tasting to rate different sparklings from both Virginia and around the world. This year we tasted eleven different sparklings. This year the attendees were Frank, Kathy, Nancy, Erica, Kimberly and Brandon, Allison and Tarara winemaker, Jordan Harris.
Of the eleven sparklings, seven were from Virginia, two were from France, one from New York, and one from California.
We gathered around the tasting table with about a dozen glasses placed in front of each seat. Jordan and his helpers poured the wines so we wouldn’t know which wines were which. We began our tasting, writing notes, and ranking the wines. When all the rankings were compiled, the results were announced. Here are the results:
1. Trump Blanc de Blanc
2. Green Hill Blanc de Blancs
3. Stone Tower 2009 Wild Boar
4. Boneyard Blanc de Blanc
5. Flat Rock Cellars, Niagara (Tie)
5. Roederer Hermitate 2004 (Tie)
7. Trump Reserve
8. Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc
11. Grower Champagne – Louis de Sasy
Warren and I were quite surprised the Thibaut-Janisson ranked lower on the list. We absolutely love this sparkling. I have a bottle in my fridge right now! It might be our favorite. Maybe it was a bad bottle, it was too warm, or some other anomaly. We just can’t be sure. But we were surprised. We are very happy though that Virginia sparklings took the top four spots. Each year the rankings are a bit different but Virginia seems to do well each year.
A huge THANK YOU to Jordan Harris and the staff at Tarara Winery for hosting the event and providing all the glasses, and the wonderful nibbles at the end of the tasting. We had a wonderful time and met some new wine friends along the way! After our tasting we all went to dinner at Palio in Leesburg for dinner. We had a great time!
We are getting close to the time when people do a lot of celebrating…graduations, weddings, birthdays…so consider a Virginia Sparkling for your celebrating! When you visit one of the wineries that produces a sparkling, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!