We Visited 8 Chains North

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!

Food and Virginia Wine

With the frigid temperatures and the snow we’ve had recently we haven’t been able to get to too many wineries this year. However, you don’t have to go on the Virginia wine trail to enjoy Virginia wines (however, we suggest you do). We’ve been pairing Virginia wines with several of our meals lately.

On a recent Friday evening we enjoyed a meal of chicken and mushrooms with corkscrew pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and lemon infused olive oil. We paired this meal with the Ankida Ridge 2011 Chardonnay. We noted rich, ripe pear, mineral elements of shale and graphite and a whiff of melon and nutmeg. It had a nice mouth feel with nice acidity. We consider it a Burgundian style chardonnay.
On another recent evening we selected the 2008 Reserve Furnace Mountain Red from 8 Chains North as our dinner wine. We had this wonderful red wine with filet mignon. We aerated it into a decanter before enjoying it. Bramble berry notes with a whiff of candied apple were complemented with flavors of blackberry, licorice and pepper.  Why did we decant this one? Our initial sip (and literally our first sip after opening) presented a higher acidity; aerating into a decanter and then some breathing seemed to settle the acidity. In the end, by dinner time we very much enjoyed the 2008 Reserve Furnace Mountain Red. How do we know? The decanter was emptied far too soon.
Over the weekend we went to Boxwood Winery’s Tasting Room Wine Bar to both pick up club wines and to have a bite for lunch. After a quick tasting of some of the current wines, we selected the 2011 Boxwood Trellis to enjoy with our flatbread pizza of prosciutto and goat cheese. The Boxwood Trellis is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. We noted the earthiness with herbal and mineral notes and tobacco and cedar. It paired nicely with our flatbread pizza.
What Virginia wines have you been enjoying with a meal lately? Consider some of the wines we’ve enjoyed lately. And if you do get through the snow and visit one of the Virginia wineries, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summer Fun on the Loudoun Trail

So we’re back on the wine trails and taking advantage of some crisp weather for this time of the year. Warm breezy days have replaced the usually hot muggy weather, and we’re not complaining! We still have summer activities planned, and we are still on the quest for summer wines. Here are a few recommendations from this weekend’s tastings:

8 Chains North: Our favorite summer white wine here was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc made from estate grown grapes. It was half fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels and half in stainless steel. We appreciated its aromas of lemon/lime and hay; we also detected a mineral note. Crisp and refreshing due to its nice acidity, this should be perfect on a hot day with shellfish or poultry. I also liked the dry 2012 Pink Lady, a rose wine with delightful strawberry aromas and flavors. Big juicy steaks on the grill? Try the 2010 Furnace Mountain Red, a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Elements of dark plum and blackberry and tobacco prevailed; I also detected some anise in the mouth. Full bodied and still young to boot, so open early or decant if you intend to enjoy this one now.
Breaux Vineyards: 2012 Reflection is a new release for Breaux Vineyards and called Reflection because it represents the best representation of Breaux’s terrior. A blend of Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Chardonnay, Reflection was very aromatic with notes of orange blossom and honeysuckle; tropical fruit flavors pleased the palate. I labeled this one the ultimate summer white wine. I must admit that we tasted this one as part of the complimentary tasting for club members; as part of that tasting, we also sampled the 2012 Zydeco, a blend of Chambourcin (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). Very fruity with tobacco notes, this softer and easy to drink red wine should be perfect for a summer barbeque or picnic.
Hillsborough Vineyards: The golden hued 2011 Carnelian earned my summer wine award here. The Carnelian is made from 100% Rousanne grapes. Floral aromas with notes of lime and fresh hay make for a wine that is perfect on a warm day and paired with fish, pork, or gamey cheeses. The Bloodstone 2010 made from Fer Servadou (94%) and Tannat (6%) should please red wine sippers who prefer a fruitier red wine to pair with grilled fare. A fruity nose and palate were complemented by whiffs of violet and dried herbs.
Be sure to visit these wineries to stock up on your own summer favorites. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

On the Loudoun County Trail

Our focus for the next few posts will be Loudoun County wineries and will include the newest winery in the county, The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards. This post, though, will feature updates on two familiar wineries: 8 Chains North and Loudoun Valley Vineyards. Of course, our focus continues to be on wines that are appropriate for the summer.

8 Chains North: Ben Renshaw always presents a solid lineup of wines, and we were not disappointed with our tasting experience. We both favored the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its lemon notes and refreshing minerality. Its vibrant acidity allowed for a crisp finish. This Sauvignon Blanc was half fermented and aged in neutral French oak and the other half in stainless steel tanks. Perfect partner with a tomato-basil salad, crab cake, or herb-seasoned poultry. Dry Rose fans will enjoy the 2011 Pink Link made from Merlot grapes; our taste buds were treated to strawberry and melon flavors. I have a soft spot for dry Rose as I do think that they are under-appreciated; however, they are versatile and will pair with almost anything. The 2011 Pink Link is an example and should prove to be a willing partner with light fare, salads, and anything on the grill. The popular LoCo Vino was also available for tasting, and the 2010 vintage was very fruity; serve well chilled while relaxing on the deck especially on a warm day.

Loudoun Valley Vineyards: Big changes continue at Loudoun Valley Vineyards. Winemaker Bree Moore will be breaking ground on a new tasting room soon and will be planting new vines to replace the depleted, older vines on the property. The new tasting room should be ready by the spring of 2013. In the meantime, though, the current tasting room offers wines for all seasons including the summer. The Classic White is a blend of Seyval Blanc and Traminette, and it breathes floral, fruity notes. Elements of citrus and subtle spice were noted too. Nice on its own, enjoy with crab cakes or poultry. Spicy barbeque and hot afternoon may require cooler reds, and the fruity Route 9 Red should do the trick. The Route 9 Red was crafted from Chambourcin grapes and presented cherry and cranberry notes with an earthy edge. With a 1.5% residual sugar level, I’d recommend a quick chill before serving with barbeque-laced fare, chili, or anything else that includes peppers. I became a quick fan of the Vin de Pomme, an apple wine made from granny smith, honey crisp and gala apples. Serve with dessert or as dessert—tart and crisp yet refreshing, I bought a bottle to have as a dessert option or possible a pairing for Thanksgiving dinner.

Be sure to visit these wineries during these toasty days of summer especially if you plan to host a cook out, crab feast, or wine and cheese party. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you. Stay tuned for our next post that will feature our visit to the newly opened Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards.

8 Chains North

After a recent stop at Breaux Vineyards to pick up my cellar club selections, we decided to stop at 8 Chains North to check out the latest wines. We hadn’t been there in quite some time. We needed to see what Ben Renshaw had in bottle.

It’s nice to be remembered when we head to the tasting bar. Our tasting associate remembered conducting our tasting the last time we visited 8 Chains North. She began with the white wines of course. First up was the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. This one quickly became our favorite white. We enjoyed the citrus, pear, and grapefruit notes as well as the well balanced acidity. We can see this one being part of our summer sippers.

Next we tasted the 2011 Pink Link. Now, this isn’t a rose or a blush. It’s made from merlot and is very light. It’s almost clear. We noted some strawberry on the nose. It’s crisp and dry and very light on the tongue. We then tasted the 2010 Loco Vino. This one has always been one of our favorites. We noted lemon and pear notes. It’s very lightly sweet. This will be another one on our summer sipper list.

The reds began with the 2009 Merlot. We noted smoke, dried herb, raspberry, and cherry. It was aged for 11 months in French and American oak. The 2009 Furnace Mountain Red was next. This is a true bordeaux blend. It’s a pretty big red with firm tannins. We thought of meat while tasting this one. The final red was the 2009 Furnace Mountain Red Reserve. Yet another big wine that could benefit from food. We noted chocolate, vanilla, and ripe black cherry. Just when we thought the reds were finished, we got a taste of the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. As I was expecting, I enjoyed the fruity smooth nature of this wine. It reminded me slightly of the reserve version which is no longer for sale. However, our tasting associate gave Ben a call and I was able to secure a bottle of the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red Reserve! I felt so special! I really enjoyed this wine when it was released and wished I had more of it on my rack. Now I do! I’ll be holding on to this one awhile longer.

After our tasting we each enjoyed a glass. Warren had a glass of the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and I enjoyed the 2009 Merlot. It’s always fun to see what Ben Renshaw has been working on and has in the bottle. We certainly enjoyed our time at 8 Chains North. If you haven’t been to 8 Chains North lately, consider planning a trip soon. And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

8 Chains North Visit

A few weekends ago we found ourselves on the Loudoun County wine trail. We decided to stop by 8 Chains North to see what had changed since our last visit and taste some wines. Upon entering the tasting room we noticed things had changed. They have added more tasting bars and rearranged the tasting room to accommodate more tasters. It was a nice change.

We started with the white wines. They currently have two whites. We started with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. This is a a Fume Blanc style sauvignon blank that is aged in neutral French oak for seven months. We noted citrus flavors and a nice round mouth feel. The other white wine was the LoCo Vino. This has been a favorite of ours in the past and we enjoyed it this time as well. We noticed a floral nose with citrus and melon notes. I jotted down lemon-lime twist and refreshing. The LoCo Vino received our gold star for the whites. It makes a perfect summer sipper.

We continued our tasting with the reds and began with the 2008 Merlot. This is actually a blend of 80% merlot, 10% malbec, 5% petit verdot, and 5% cab sauv. This is a solid merlot with decent tannins and fruit notes on the palate. Next up was the 2009 Otium Cellars Dornfelder. When we saw this one on the tasting sheet we were a little surprised. We only know of one other winery working with the Dornfelder grape. These grapes come from a vineyard in Purcellville. It’s 75% Dornfelder, 15% merlot, and 10% malbec. It has a dark, rich color with spicy notes on the tongue. Warren noted this one would go well with barbecue. The final red was the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. We remembered tasting this one back in the fall during a Twitter tasting. It consists of 34% malbec, 30% cab sauv, 29% petit verdot, 5% cab franc, and 2% merlot. We noted cherry, blackberries, violets, some smoke and black pepper. This quickly became our favorite red and received our gold star for the reds.

After our tasting we enjoyed a glass of the LoCo Vino on the patio. It was a warm day so the refreshing, zesty LoCo Vino was the perfect selection. Before leaving we purchased a few bottles to add to our wine racks. Did you know that 8 Chains North is part of the new wine Tranquillity? It’s a collaboration by 8 Chains North, Tarara Winery, and Hiddencroft Vineyards. The wine will be released soon. We’ll be attending the release party this coming weekend. Look for our post about the event sometime next week. If you happen to stop by 8 Chains North be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Chatting With Winemakers

On Saturday we joined Frank from DrinkWhatYouLike to visit some winemakers in Loudoun County. We began the day at Tarara Winery. We had the chance to taste wine and chat with winemaker Jordan Harris. He let us taste several wines including some that are no longer available for sale and some that aren’t even for sale yet. Warren favored the no-longer-for-sale 2008 Viognier while I really enjoyed the yet-to-be-released Nevaeh White. After our time at the tasting bar, we went to the cave to taste a few barrel samples. Jordan has some amazing wines developing in the barrels. We look forward to seeing how they turn out. Here are some pictures from our visit with Jordan.

We then traveled to 8 Chains North and had the chance to speak with winemaker Ben Renshaw. He conducted our tasting and guided us through the current selections. Warren and I both favored the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red Reserve. Once we finished at the tasting bar Ben showed us to the barrel room and let us taste several wines in the making. All are promising. During our time in the barrel room we had a great discussion about screw caps and corks. We began this discussion with Jordan but continued with Ben. It’s interesting how many different opinions there are on the screw cap vs cork debate. After our time with Ben we had some lunch and enjoyed a glass of the Furnace Mountain Red Reserve.

Our final stop of the day was at North Gate Vineyard. This is our 112th Virginia winery. We spoke with Mark and Vicki Fedor. They showed us around their garage winery as well as the new winery and tasting room under construction. The new winery will be a green building and have solar panels on the roof. They have been growing grapes since 2001 and have been making wine for several years. They were the winemakers at Corcoran at one point. We then had a chance to talk and taste their current offerings. They have a nice lineup of wines. However, we were really impressed when the brought out the 2008 Petit Verdot. This one really stood out. Here are some pictures from our visit to North Gate.

We ended our day at Tuscarora Mill restaurant. We met up with Allan from Cellarblog. We enjoyed some Virginia wine and some wonderful food. What a great way to end Virginia Wine Month!

8 Chains North

I’ve lost track of the latest count, but we crossed the #100 threshold earlier this year. With all of the new wineries opening these days, it really is hard to keep track of it all. However, we added to the total last weekend with a visit to another newbie, 8 Chains North.

8 Chains North is also an addition to the growing number of quality wineries in Loudon County. Tasters may remember that before the July opening of the winery, 8 Chains wines were available at Fabbiolo Cellars. Now with a tasting room open, winemaker Ben Renshaw is able to showcase a more complete lineup of wines, and these we tasted last Saturday. At the end of our tasting, we were quite impressed with what we sampled.

Three white wines were available for tasting one of which included the heralded 2007 Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc. The Glen Manor selection was on the list because the 8 Chains North 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was almost sold out. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was aged sur lies in neutral French oak barrels, and it was quite crisp with a characteristic grassy nose. In search of a favorite, though, Paul and I both concurred that the refreshing LoCo Vino fit the bill. On a very hot day, it was hard to beat this blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc. It presented a floral nose with notes of pear and citrus, and the 1% residual sugar only heightened the fruit characteristics.

On to the red wines, and we split decisions here. It’s no secret that Paul likes Merlot, and he preferred the smoky 2008 Merlot that was produced from the winery’s Furnace Mountain Vineyard. Paul noted cherry and plum flavors with oak nuances that make for a more structured wine. Aged 11 months in French and American oak barrels, this Merlot might pair well with barbeque. My own gold-star, though, was awarded to the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red. This one presented a denser core than the medium-bodied Merlot, and it is a blend of all five Bordeaux red varieties. (Can you remember what they are?) Grapes were used from the Furnace Mountain Vineyard, Tranquility Vineyard, and Hiddencroft Vineyards. I was intrigued by the complexity of this wine with its layers of berry and spicy flavors; a subtle mocha finish completed the experience. Aged in both American French oak barrels, the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red should age quite well.

Current production at 8 Chains North is 1500 cases, and the winery’s main vineyard, located near Fabbioli Cellars, produces Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. (So can you name those Bordeaux varietals now?) Traminette is also grown in this vineyard. Winemaker and vineyard manager Renshaw obviously places a premium on quality vineyard practices as is evidenced by the current lineup of wines.

So with our tasting done, we decided to share a glass of the LoCo Vino. It was a scorcher outside, and the LoCo Vino proved to be a refreshing sipper. We know that we will return to 8 Chains North this fall, but readers will want to visit sooner. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.