Back To Breaux

Despite the rain, fog, and chill on Sunday, we went to Breaux Vineyards to pick up my Cellar Club selection. They were having a little pick up party for those who go to the winery to pick up their wines instead of having them shipped. At this party they were serving some spicy gumbo. They were also tasting the Cellar Club selections, the 2009 Water Bent Viognier and the 2007 Meritage.

The 2009 Water Bent Viognier was a wonderful wine filled with fruit on the nose and on the palette. Warren noted pear. We thought this one went really well with the gumbo being served.

The 2007 Meritage showed characteristics of a wine meant for aging. The tannins were tight and you could easily tell that it is a young wine. We suggest you lay this one down for a few more years. It promises to be quite nice in a few years.

I talk about these Cellar Club selections as if you can buy them. You can if you are a Cellar Club member. I’ve been a member for more than a year now and haven’t found one wine I didn’t like. They have all been amazing. The greatest advantage to being a member is the wines they select are created JUST for the club members. How many other wineries do this? I’m not sure but I do know I like having some wines that no others will have. I’m greedy like that.

In this months’ Cellar Club Newsletter there was a coupon for 30% off a case of select wines from the regular tasting. Since Warren and I hadn’t done a regular tasting in awhile, we decided to check out the current selections and consider getting a case of the ones we really liked. We were looking forward to spring and summer and what wines would be appropriate for the seasons.

Our tasting associate Carole, walked us through our tasting, expertly describing each wine. My gold stars went to the 2007 Madeleine’s Chardonnay and the 2002 Merlot Reserve. Warren’s gold stars went to the 2008 Viognier and the 2006 Meritage. Isn’t it interesting that we usually have different selections for our gold stars?

Our next decision was what to include in our case. With the coming seasons in mind, I selected equal amounts of the 2007 Madeleine’s Chardonnay, the 2008 Syrah Rose`, and the 2008 Jennifer’s Jambalaya. We usually take rose` with us to Wolf Trap in the summer and the 2008 Syrah Rose` will be perfect while enjoying a concert.

Before leaving we caught up with Jen Breaux. It was great to see her and the other Breaux staff we’ve come to know and enjoy. Plan a trip to Breaux Vineyards soon and be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Springtime at Sunset Hills

Now the weather has warmed up, we’re officially back on the wine trail, and we celebrated an early spring-like weekend at Sunset Hills Vineyard.  We were impressed with the lineup of wines there on the last visit, and we were eager to sample the latest releases.

We continue to be pleased with the quality of wines produced at Sunset Hills, and we know that owners Diane and Mike Canney are dedicated to vigilant maintenance of the vineyards.  Winemaker Nate Walsh likewise remains committed to the craft of winemaking, and the results are evident in the bottle.  In fact, we were hard pressed to find any wines that were truly weak—all were well-crafted.  Our hardest choices were deciding which wines would earn the coveted gold star awards!

Our tasting began with the white wines, and tasting room manager Christine started us off with wine glasses and pours. The white wines were all very solid.  Paul’s own favorite and gold star winner was the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay.  Full pear flavors with a twist of citrus made for a pleasing wine, and the cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks made for a crisp wine. My own gold star, though, was presented to the bolder 2008 Reserve Chardonnay which was aged nine months in French oak. I noted ripe pear and honey flavors with a buttery texture—just my kind of Chardonnay!  Be assured that there was the requisite “toastiness” but not in an overwhelming sense.  I’d sip this one on its own but would serve the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay with poultry, pork or shellfish especially if cream sauces were involved.  Not to be outdone, though is the lush 2008 Viognier that is begging for a crabcake dinner.  Look out for the Sunset White which is a blend of 90% stainless steel Chardonnay and 10% Viognier that was aged in neutral French oak barrels.  Christine obliged us with a sampling of this very slightly sweet with (1.5% residual sugar).  This one should be a perfect summer sipper or picnic wine. 

Before we moved on to the reds, Christine also surprised us with another sneak preview, and that was the Sunset Rose.  Here we found our Wolftrap wine!  We’re big Wolftrap fans, and we’re already stocking up on our concert wines—a bottle of this rose will be coming along for music under the stars.  Nate Walsh had been diligent in his preparation of this rose which he made from Cabernet Franc.  Its clear pink color suggested a crisper wine, and a .5% residual sugar provided a refreshing feel.  Cool strawberry and melon flavors were noted.

Now on to the red wines!  More solid pours and very tough decisions.  However, Paul did award his gold star to the lighter-bodied 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc with its distinctive minerality and cherry flavors.  Easy to drink and perfect to sip on its own, the Benevino Cabernet Franc should also prove to be a pleaser with pizza or a sampling of dry meats and roasted nuts.  My own decision was likewise not easy, but I did end up favoring the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc with its layers of blackberries, raspberries, spice, and mocha.  Aged for 18 months in both French and American oak, it also presented a lengthier finish. I’d favor a leg of lamb with this one!  A close second for me was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with its dark fruit characteristics and spicy edge.  Enjoy with a rib roast!

Diane Canney poured most of our red wines, and she was able to share with us the secret to Sunset Hill’s success.  Diane and husband Mike place a priority on vineyard management, and they use such Old World methods as hand sorting to make certain that only quality fruit from the best lots are used to produce their wines.  They’re also confident in their young winemaker, Nate Walsh, who began his career in the Virginia wine industry at Horton Vineyards.  Joined by a quality tasting room team, Sunset Hills Vineyards seems destined for even greater success.

Of course, we were hungry, and we opted to enjoy some of the viands from the “Lite Fare” menu offered at Sunset Hills Vineyard.  We selected the deli-style pepperoni with manchego cheese and crusty French break.  Our wine of choice?  The 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc.  We enjoyed lunch and wine in the cozy Amish farmhouse that serves as the tasting room.

We left Sunset Hills Vineyard with several bottles of favorite pours, and we will return quite soon.  In fact, we plan to attend a blending session to be held next Sunday; so, stay tuned!  In the meantime, maybe we’ll see some of our readers at Sunset Hills.  Be sure, though, to tell Christine or Diane that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Winery At La Grange

With winter’s tight grip finally letting go, we have been able to slowly get back on the wine trail.  A more recent visit was paid to The Winery at La Grange.

Up for tasting were eleven wines, and our knowledgeable associate, Michael, started us off with the white wines.  I thought all of the white wines were all quite solid.  My own favorite, though, was the 2007 Fletcher’s Chardonnay which made an impression of crispness on the nose.  Aged six to nine months in French oak, it had not undergone malolactic fermentation.  I noted apple and pear flavors with some butterscotch on the finish.  Paul’s award went to the 2008 Viognier which was fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in Hungarian oak.  It presented a floral nose with soft peach flavors.  We placed the initials, MT, next to the 2008 Cuvee Blanc, because we knew that our friend and occasional guest blogger Michael Tyler would appreciate this one.  It is a blend of white grapes and results in a Riesling-style wine that includes a hint (1.2%) of sugar. It had me dreaming of summer!

So on to the red wines with gold stars in hand.  My award went to the 2007 Meritage with its characteristics of dark plums and cherries with tobacco and cedar on the nose.  Tannins were definitely present here, so drink now but feel free to age this one for a while.  This Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec—a true Bordeaux-style wine. It was aged for 14 months in both American and French oak barrels.  The 2007 Merlot received Paul’s award.  The Glebe Vineyard produced the grapes for this American-oak aged Merlot which presented flavors of currants and black pepper.  Paul detected some tobacco on the nose, too, and he noted that it finished “smooth.” For a truly bold wine, try the 2007 Tannat with its dense core—dark plums and cherries with a spicy edge, I found it to be “chewy”.  Drink now if you must but decant before drinking and be sure to pair with a steak.  (Now I’m hungry!) Not to be missed, though, is the 2007 Norton which was co-fermented with Cabernet Sauvignon.  This light-bodied pour reminded me of cherry jam with a touch of cinnamon. Perfect to sip, but nice with pizza, too.

So with our tasting done, it was time to sip and nibble.  We brought along some grilled chicken filets with white cheeses and a baguette.  What wine did we choose to pair with lunch? The 2007 Fletcher’s Chardonnay, of course.  We enjoyed our light lunch on the back patio which was enclosed and therefore allowed us to enjoy the receding snowy landscape.  We even noted some green patches where the snow had melted!

Now that a long winter is slipping away, plan to visit local wineries, and put The Winery at La Grange on your agenda.  Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Kinkead’s Serves Virginia Wines

Acclaimed seafood restaurant and meeting place for the politically connected, Kinkead’s, always includes some Virginia wines on the wine list.  We dined there this past weekend, and we were excited to see that a current feature pour was the 2006 Chardonnay Reserve from First Colony Winery.  Our friend and favorite bartender, Jeff, gave us a sample, and we were pleased by its pear and apple characteristics.  It finished with toasted almonds and honey.  It’s always a thrill for us to see Virginia wines on area wine lists, and we suggest that readers seek out Virginia wines when they dine out.  Plan a visit to Kinkead’s for an elegant night out, and ask for a glass or bottle of the 2006 Chardonnay Reserve from First Colony Winery with your meal.  Mention that Virginia Wine Time made the recommendation!

Eat Lasagna, Drink Naked

So it’s that time of year to enjoy lasagna and drink wine at Naked Mountain Vineyard and Winery.  Last weekend, we brought along my sister Cindy, brother-in-law Travis and my nephew Ellis.  Travis is a fellow wine lover and foodie; needless to say, he was game for lasagna and wine.

Of course, we all had to figure out which wine to pair with our lasagna, and that required tasting wines. We were certain that we wanted a red wine, but why not try the white wines, too?  Paul’s favorite of the white wines was the Sauvignon Blanc, and it definitely conjured images of springtime flowers and warmer temperatures.  Citrus flavors and a crisp finish highlighted this pour.  Travis and I favored the full-bodied Black label Chardonnay with its apple and pear notes.  I appreciated its toasted nut finish. 

Now on to the red wines, and a potential pairing with lasagna was on our minds.  Our choice was the 2005 Scarlet Oak Red.  This is a Rhone-style blend with Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tannat, and it presented a denser core with aromas and flavors of dark fruit and black pepper.  I also detected some tobacco on the nose.  The Tannat provided a nice backbone, too, and the Scarlet Oak Red finished long.  We all concluded that the Scarlet Oak Red had what it took to meet the weight and spice of the sausage lasagna.

With our tasting done, we settled down for a wonderful meal but made certain to claim a table near the glass doors that allowed us to view snow-capped mountains.  A nearby bird feeder was quite busy with all sorts of birds including cardinals and tanagers.  I must also mention that my sister Cindy is not a wine drinker but was very patient with us as we completed the arduous task of wine tasting.  She and my teen-aged nephew did keep track of the many varieties of birds that frequented the bird feeder, and they even braved the cold outdoors to appreciate the lovely winter landscape while we completed our task to select the perfect wine.  Eventually, we all dined on lasagna and garlic bread, and the wine drinkers acknowledged that the 2005 Scarlet Oak Red was the perfect partner with the meal.

Take advantage of the winter lasagna menu at Naked  Mountain Vineyard and  Winery; of course, enjoy lasagna with a bottle of Naked Mountain Wine.  Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cabernet and Chocolates

On Sunday we went to Gray Ghost for their annual Cabernet and Chocolates event. Warren’s sister, her husband, and their son were visiting from New Orleans. After a regular tasting we headed back to the tank room to enjoy some reds with lots of chocolate. It was a great way to spend Valentines Day. Here are a few pictures for the event.