From Lombardy to Linden

So we’re back to reporting on our more local wine adventures, and this time our focus will be the barrel tasting held at Linden Vineyards exclusively for case club members. At the event, club members were able to taste barrel samples from the developing 2010 vintage as well as comparison tastings of 2007 and 2008 reds. We also nibbled on excellent gourmet snacks prepared by L’Auberge Provencale located in Boyce, Virginia. Between sips, we enjoyed a brief chat with winemaker Jim Law.

We were greeted to the tasting event on the crush pad with a sample of the 2010 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc paired with a king fish prepared seviche-style and topped with caviar. The Avenius Sauvignon Blanc is always a treat, and the 2010 vintage offered brighter fruit but lower acidity than previous vintages. Perfect for summer and lovely with the fish. From there we proceeded to the barrel room for samples of the 2010 Boisseau Red, 2010 Hardscrabble Red, and 2010 Avenius Red. All three were blends that featured Cabernet Sauvignon as the main component. Of the three, the Boisseau Red will be the most approachable upon release. The Boisseau vineyard holds loamy soils to produce fruitier wines, and the 2010 offering was blended with 35% Merlot to present a more fruit forward, rounded wine. The sloped Hardscrabble site features granite soils and older vines; there is no doubt that the 2010 Hardscrabble Red will be one to age. Boasting 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and only 15% Merlot, it was tight and complex. Plan to buy upon release, but enjoy at a later date. In between the two was the 2010 Avenius which was a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. Dark fruit and spice were evident; not quite as accessible as the Boisseau but also not quite as inaccessible as the Hardscrabble. So I plan to buy a bottle of all three—one to enjoy ASAP, one to enjoy to end the decade, and another to sip at some point in between!

From the barrel room we made our way to the special release room, and here we were able to compare 2007 and 2008 vintages from the three vineyards. My general conclusion after sampling them all was that the 2008 vintages are ready to enjoy now while the 2007 vintages still need some time. I did find the 2007 Hardscrabble Red much more approachable this time around and was my overall favorite of the day. I enjoyed my sip of this one with a grilled lamb chop, and it was lovely pairing. Paul gave his nod to the 2008 Avenius Red, a blend of Petit Verdot (72%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (28%). He enjoyed its flavors of plum, dark cherry and black pepper and thought it paired perfectly with the barbequed pork belly.

As we moved from station to station, we were able to chat with Jim Law who, along with his father, guided tasters through a sample of the 2010 Hardscrabble. I asked Jim how he felt about the 2010 vintages, and while he felt confident that these were going to be excellent wines, Jim confided that he prefers to work with vintages produced from “classic” years. As readers know, the 2010 growing season was exceptionally dry and hot with similarities to California as opposed to Virginia. Therefore, the 2010 wines may be jammier and higher in alcohol levels. For that reason, Law prefers the 2008 wines that were the product of a more typical growing season in Virginia. I also asked Jim if he planned to join the Viognier bandwagon; though I already knew that the answer would be “no”, I did want to hear his opinion on the matter. Of course, the answer did not disappoint; however, Jim did add that while Viognier was not really his passion, he did appreciate its place in the ever-improving (and expanding) Virginia wine industry. In the meantime, look for Jim Law to continue the focus on his excellent Chardonnays; in fact, I took home a bottle of his 2009 Chardonnay!

With our tasting done, we did enjoy a glass of the 2010 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc with a baguette while appreciating a lovely spring afternoon on the deck. We watched barn swallows flutter about busily making nests and took in aromas of wisteria. No better way to spend an afternoon. Plan to visit Linden Vineyards or perhaps a visit to L’Auberge Provencale for dinner—it’s a B&B too, so maybe plan a weekend getaway for wine and dinner. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Sneak Previews at Glen Manor

Glen Manor Vineyards held a barrel tasting this weekend, and we attended the event so that we could sample the developing wines from the 2010 vintage. We keep hearing about the potential for the 2010 vintage to be among the best ever for Virginia, and this barrel tasting gave us the first opportunity to see how this vintage is progressing in the barrels.

We must admit that we are big fans of winemaker Jeff White, and we had high hopes going into the tasting. We were not disappointed at the end of our tasting. Four red wines and one white wine were offered for sneak peaks, and all were intense in aromas and flavors. We started with the 2010 Cabernet Franc, and we noted dark fruit and earthy characteristics; these elements along with a dash of spice were even more evident in the 2010 Hodder Hill, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Hodder Hill was developing in new French oak barrels for the tasting but the rest of the aging will eventually occur in older French oak barrels.

Stations III and IV allowed us to compare the 2010 barrel sample and the special release 2009 Petit Verdot that was already bottled. The 2010 will be a dynamite pour upon release—inky and jammy with lots of bold black fruit and spice, it was easy to conclude that this will be a blockbuster. However, only three barrels were produced, so it will indeed be limited. I must say, though, that I was as enamored with the elegant 2009 Petit Verdot offered at Station IV; it offered the characteristic dark fruit and spicy components that are associated with Petit Verdot but seemed more structured and refined. Candle lights and dinner parties with this one!

Our final sample was actually from a tank, and it featured the 2010 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Waves of tropical fruit flavors seemed to say “aloha” in the mouth; at only 5% residual sugar, it could serve as a dessert wine or a partner with a cheese course and some proscuitto on the side. Speaking of food, I must add that the barrel samples were offered alongside a variety of foods that included mousse truffle canapes, mushroom fritters, empanadas, and dark chocolate truffles. My favorite was the fig preserve and mascarpone serve atop savory walnut shortbread paired with the Petit Manseng.

So when to expect to see these wines in the tasting room? Probably in 2012; however, the tasting room menu now features enough current releases to keep Glen Manor fans quite happy. Jeff White continues his excellence with Sauvignon Blanc; the 2009 vintage featured classic elements of citrus and grass with a vibrant acidity and minerality that beg for springtime crabcakes. The reds included the 2009 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Hodder Hill, and the 2008 Vin Rouge. All were well crafted; however, we both concurred that the bolder 2008 Vin Rouge was our favorite; this blend was heavier on the Petit Verdot (33%) with other components including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. I noted aromas of blackberry, black cherry,tobacco and pepper with some anise to boot; similar fruit characters abounded in the mouth with a lenghty finish.

Needless to say, we left Glen Manor Vineyards with a few bottles of our favorite wines. We’ll be back soon, though, and we encourage readers to stop by for a tasting. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Gray Ghost Barrel Tasting

Last Saturday we went to the annual barrel tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards. Each year we enjoy seeing how the wines are progressing in the barrel and get a sneak peak at what they’ll be like when they are in the bottle. This is a popular event at Gray Ghost and we never miss it.

We started with the 2010 Chardonnay. We noted tropical fruit, apple, and a hint of oak. This one will be bottled in June. Next was the 2010 Merlot. We jotted down cherry, black cherry, light oak, and smokey characteristics. This one will be bottled in July or August. The next red was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. We noted cherry, and a smooth mouth feel. This one should be ready by mid July. Next up was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted smoke, pepper, and dark fruit. This one won’t be released until sometime in 2012. We then tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is being aged in both American oak and French oak. The American oak sample presented berry flavors, a hint of cranberry and some tannins. Of course it will smooth out with more time in the barrel. The French oak sample was supple, smooth and also presented berry flavors. Our taste showed how time in the French oak will make the final product a wonderful wine.

The blending was next. We started with a blend of the 2010 Cabernet Franc and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a nice blend that presented smoke, pepper, and dark berry flavors. Our next blend was the star of the day. We blended the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon American barrel sample with the French oak sample. OMG! This was quite a blend. We noted eucalyptus, berry flavors, smooth tannins, and a beautiful color. This one will be released to the public in October but those who purchased futures will get their hands on it in September.

If you are at all interested in how wines develop in the barrel, you need to attend a barrel tasting. You get to see where the wine is going and you get a good idea of what the final product will be when it’s bottled. We always enjoy getting a sneak peek of the wines to come. Plan to attend a barrel tasting soon. And if you visit Gray Ghost, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Gray Ghost Barrel Tasting

Before our trip to Charlottesville we attended the barrel tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards, in my opinion the most medaled winery in Virginia. Have you checked out the medals they’ve been winning lately?

At the barrel tasting, Al Kelert opened the barrel room and a few barrels to allow us to taste certain wines in their current state. We started with the 2009 Chardonnay. We noted apple and tropical fruit flavors. We can’t wait for this one to make it in the bottle.

We moved onto the reds and started with the 2009 Merlot. We noted lots of cherry, smoke, and smooth tannins. I’ll be getting a case of this one when it is released. We then moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Franc. Here we noted raspberry fruit and smooth tannins. Another one I’ll be adding to my case list.

Next up were the two 2008 Cabernet Sauvignons…one in French oak and one in American oak. The French oak presented bright berry fruit flavors on the nose and on the palate. We noticed smooth tannins. The American oak was a bit more tannic and presented blackberry fruit, and a spicy edge. Warren wrote down chewy tannins. We were then able to blend the two together. The blend consisted of 60% from the French oak barrel and 40% from the American oak barrel. This made an amazing blend. The two compliment each other. The blend softened the tannins and brought out the fruit. Warren noticed some smoke as well. We look forward to this one making it in the bottle in the future.

After the barrel tasting we had a regular tasting conducted by Amy. We were able to taste the most recent releases: the 2009 Riesling, the 2009 Vidal Blanc, and the 2009 Adieu. All of the wines were wonderful and made it difficult for us to pick a wine for lunch. We finally decided on the 2008 Chardonnay. It went well with our grilled chicken. We finished the day with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with a handful of chocolate kisses…SO GOOD! If you haven’t been to Gray Ghost lately, you need to plan to visit them soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!