Time for Summer Sippers

With summer’s heat upon us, I find myself gravitating toward more refreshing wines. Virginia produces white and lighter-bodied red wines that are perfect for summer; however, don’t ignore rose wines. Virginia wineries are now producing rose wines that range from bone dry to sweet. In recent tastings, then, we’ve been focused on wines more appropriate for summer. In this post, we will present our findings at Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn and Breaux Vineyards.

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn: Winemaker Shay McNeal continues to make solid wines at Aspen Dale at the Barn. Our favorite summer pour here was 2010 Sarah’s Chapeau, a blend of Vidal Blanc (60%) and Sauvignon Blanc (40%). Its floral nose and fruity elements of melon and lemon zest make for a perfect sipper while at the deck or at a summer concert. The 2009 Mary Madeleine is a rose and likewise destined for enjoyment on a hot summer day.

Breaux Vineyards: Paul was able to enjoy his membership benefits which allowed us to taste in the tank room! The folks at Breaux also accommodated my parents; Dad, in particular, was eager to try the wines at Breaux Vineyards. Lots of summer offerings here, too! The 2009 Jolie Blond produced from Seyval Blanc presented grapefruit flavors and a refreshing minerality that mimicked Sauvignon Blanc; in fact, we were able to sample the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc! Made only for members, the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was all citrus fruit with some grassy notes; acids here were rather muted. My own favorite was the 2009 Viognier with its rich aromatics of honeysuckle and peach. Great for summer seafood dishes like crab cakes, too. Chardonnay lovers may like the steel fermented 2009 Madeleine’s Chardonnay with its pear notes and crisp finish. For those who prefer summer wines on the sweeter side, the slightly sweet 2010 Jennifer’s Jambalaya with its notes of honeysuckle, peach, and orange peel should fit the bill. (Residual sugar is .5%.) We left Breaux with almost two cases of wine. A huge THANKS to Breaux for the wonderful hospitality.

In a note about changes at Breaux Vineyards, we were able to chat with new winemaker David Castano during a previous visit to the winery. David Castano was truly excited to be part of the Breaux team, and I asked him what he found most challenging about making wine in Virginia. His reply? The weather—humidity, persistent rainfall, hurricanes all can create problems for the winemaker; however, he added that experienced winemakers know how to overcome these challenges. This past spring seems to confirm David’s point with constant rain in April and early May and then scorching heat in early June. David Castano brings experience as an oenologist and wine consultant to Breaux Vineyards, and we’re confident that he will continue Breaux’s legacy of producing quality wines.

If your stock of summer wines is running low, visit these wineries to replenish the wine racks. Be sure, though, to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Winemaker at Breaux Vineyards

On Friday Breaux Vineyards announced their new winemaker to their club members. The press and the rest of the world will hear about their new winemaker on Monday. The new winemaker at Breaux Vineyards is David Pagan Castaño. Turns out we sat right next to him at the recent Merlot Vertical at Breaux Vineyards. He was still a candidate at that time. Here’s a picture of Warren next to David’s wife, David, and Chris Blosser. We are looking forward to talking with David more at the Club members pick up party on May 22nd. We are also looking forward to the wonderful wines we’re sure he’ll produce at Breaux Vineyards.

Merlot Vertical Tasting

On Saturday we attended the Merlot Vertical Tasting at Breaux Vineyards. We arrived a few minutes early and had time to do a regular tasting. While we were tasting we were able to chat with Jen Breaux. It was great catching up with her. She informed us that Breaux will be announcing their new winemaker in about a week. They’ve had some great candidates and are excited about the new energy coming to Breaux. She also told us that famed winemaker Michael Shaps will be consulting with Breaux over the next year to help make the transition a smooth one. We were excited to hear that Michael Shaps would be conducting the Merlot Vertical Tasting. As our tasting came to an end and the vertical about to begin, Jen told us of the plans to expand. There are plans to build a new inventory building and tasting room. There will also be a club room! We are looking forward to the additions coming to Breaux.

After an introduction from Jen Breaux and a taste of the 2010 Cabernet Rose (pre-release) the Merlot Vertical began. Michael Shaps informed us about the wines we’d be tasting. We tasted merlots from 2000, 2001, 2002 (reserve), 2004, 2006, and 2007. The wines were presented in pairs with a delicious course to enjoy with each pair of wines. We began with the 2000 and 2001 vintages. These were served with grass fed beef stewed with shitake mushrooms and grape tomatoes served with roasted turnips and grilled zucchini. Of these two both Warren and I enjoyed the 2000. We noted extracted fruit, anise, plum, and toffee. I thought this one paired perfectly with the grass fed beef.

The second course of free range chicken over gnocchi tossed in pumpkin sage cream sauce and dusted with smashed pecans and served with sliced pecorino-romano cheese was served with the 2002 reserve merlot and the 2004 merlot. Of these two vintages the 2002 reserve merlot was the hands down winner. We have written about the 2002 reserve before and absolutely love it. We noted raisin, dates, tobacco, anise and plum. I only have one bottle of this vintage left on my rack and I’m hanging on to it. It only gets better with time.

The 2006 and the 2007 merlot vintages were served with grilled lamb and roasted onion terrine served with warm over rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes and peas with lamb gravy. The 2007 merlot stood out during this course. We noted its dark color, dark fruit characteristics and light tannic presence. Once again the pairing was perfect.

After each course Michael Shaps surveyed the participants to determine their favorites. The consensus was pretty much on target. Warren and I both selected the 2002 Merlot Reserve as our favorite of the day. Our second and third selections were split. I selected the 2007 as my second and Warren selected the 2000. In third place I selected the 2000 and Warren selected the 2007. We thought all these vintages were excellent examples of the merlots being produced by Breaux.

We finished the event with a taste of the Lot 816 Merlot barrel sample. While tasting the sample we chatted with other attendees and Breaux friends. Before leaving we picked out Cellar Club selections. Michael Shaps did a wonderful job leading us through the vertical. With all the news of changes coming to Breaux, the future looks bright! The next time you visit Breaux Vineyards be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Celebration Wines

Last night we had some friends over to help celebrate Warren’s birthday. I’m not a cook so Warren created a wonderful meal. Of course we had to serve Virginia wines with the meal.

We began the evening with white cheeses, baked shrimp wontons, and fruit. We paired these items with the 2008 Durant White from Pollak Vineyards. We enjoyed the crisp, fruity, mineral nature of this wine. It went perfectly with our food choices.

Warren then served a garden salad with a lemon vinaigrette. We paired the salad with the 2008 Sarah’s Chapeau from Aspen Dale Winery. This is a blend of vidal blanc and sauvignon blanc. The fruity, off-dry nature of this wine paired well with the salad.

For the main course Warren prepared a hearty beef stew with carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, and fresh thyme. We selected the 2008 Petit Verdot from Pollak Vineyards. We noted blackberry and plum notes and an earthiness. We poured the last two bottles I had on my rack. Unfortunately the Petit Verdot is sold out and I won’t be able to get any more. I’m looking forward to the next vintage!

We finished the evening with a very moist, chocolate birthday cake. I selected the 2009 Nebbiolo Ice Water Bent Barrels from the Cellar Selection from Breaux Vineyards. The delicious sweet strawberry notes complimented the chocolate cake. Everyone mentioned how much they enjoyed this one.

At the end of the evening we all decided that the 2008 Petit Verdot from Pollak Vineyards should get the gold star.

Warren and I continued his birthday celebration today by visiting Gray Ghost VIneyards, one of our favorite wineries. We are very familiar with their wines but always enjoy a tasting. We also enjoy chatting with Al, Cheryl and Amy about all things wine.

After our tasting we enjoyed some lunch nibbles with a bottle of the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. What a wonderful bottle of wine. We noted dark fruit, tobacco, ash, and a lingering finish. We can always count on a great time at Gray Ghost.

If you visit any of these wineries anytime soon, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Paul’s Pick

I had an early dinner tonight without wine so I decided to peruse my rack for something different. I had several things to choose from but decided on the 2007 Merlot French Oak Select from the Cellar Selection from Breaux Vineyards. I was really looking for just a sipper but ended up with a bigger wine than I was expecting. On the bottle it says it was aged in new French oak barrels for 31 months. It being from 2007, I probably should have left it on the rack longer. Over all though, I really enjoyed this one but should have had food as well.

I see my ChapStick left a lip print on my glass!

On the nose I got a hit of coffee at first and then it gave way to some dark fruit and tobacco. In the mouth I noted dark fruit, prune, mocha, and tobacco. I also noted some pretty big tannins. They coated my tongue pretty strongly. The bottle does mention firm tannins so I should have been expecting them. There is a lingering finish with fruit characteristics. I know I’ve mentioned it many times before but being a club member at Breaux really does have it’s benefits. Having access to wines like this is just one of the many benefits. Next time you visit Breaux Vineyards tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Pick Up Party at Breaux

On Sunday we went to Breaux Vineyards to pick my Cellar Club selections. The selections were the 2008 Malbec and the 2007 Lot 751. We picked up the wines at the Pick Up party for club members. Breaux treats their club members very well. They set up the tank room with a long table on one side and smaller round tables on the other. There was a wonderful selection of foods that paired well with the wines. They also had a large screen showing photos from recent events at Breaux. Jen Breaux was there to welcome guests as well as many Breaux tasting associates.

Silvia waved us over to taste at her table. We started with the 2008 Malbec. I really enjoyed this one. It had a dark rich color, fruit forward in the mouth with a hint of tobacco. I think this one is ready to drink now but I’ll probably let it sit on the rack awhile. Next up was the 2007 Lot 751. This is a meritage style blend. Warren jotted down rich and complex. I liked the dark fruit on the nose and in the mouth with a hint of spice. It is young and will definitely be better in a few years. I would suggest putting this one on the rack and forget about it for a few years. With the nibbles they provided we enjoyed a glass of the 2002 Cellar Club Meritage. We noted dark fruit aromas, violet and licorice, tobacco and similar flavors in the mouth. We both noted a longer finish. This one is ready to enjoy now. We could see this with a nice thick steak.

One of the benefits of membership is access to some nice library wines on sale. After purchasing a few of my favorites, we said our goodbyes and headed back out on the wine trail. Next time you visit Breaux Vineyards tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Dinner Wines

Last night we had the 2008 Viognier from Horton Vineyards as our sipper. We had a very buttery brie with crackers. We notice its light straw color. On the nose we noted pear, citrus, and melon. In the mouth we picked up grapefruit and lemon zest as well as the characteristics we noted on the nose. We thought this was a very nice pairing with the cheese an crackers.

For dinner we had the 2008 Jen’s Jambalaya from Breaux Vineyards. We had ham steaks with green beans and mashed potatoes. The wine went well with our meal. We noted floral notes and mango on the nose and pineapple, melon, and peach in the mouth. We know this wine is a blend of whites but we’re just not sure which whites. Warren noted it was alsatian style with maybe vidal, traminette or gwurtztraminer. Either way, it was very nice. I was sad to see my last bottle go but it was the perfect pairing with our meal.

Breaux Vineyards

Warren’s parents are in town for Thanksgiving so we decided to take them to a few wineries in Loudoun County on Sunday. I also needed to pick up my Cellar Club selection at Breaux Vineyards so we stopped there first. We always have a great time at Breaux. Our favorite tasting associates Bruce and Silvia, were at the tasting bar and Bruce conducted our tasting. We also ran into our wine friends Susan and Stacy.

Since we visit Breaux on a regular basis there usually isn’t anything new for us to taste but this time there was a new cab franc and several barrel samples to try. After sampling all the regulars, we go to the 2006 Marquis De Lafayette. It was released about two months ago. It’s 100% Cabernet Franc and we noted dark plums, raspberry, pepper, and spice. It has a smooth ending as well. We thought this one would be perfect with turkey on Thanksgiving. While at the tasting bar we were also able to taste the 2009 Viognier. We really enjoyed the floral and honeysuckle notes on this one. There is so little left that it’s not even on the tasting menu. If you want a bottle you need to get to the tasting room soon. The 2009 Viognier received one of our gold stars!

After our regular tasting we moved on to the barrel samples. We were able to taste samples of the 2008 cab franc, the 2008 malbec, the 2008 syrah, the 2008 petit verdot, and the 2007 nebbiolo. We’re not sure if these barrels will be blended to make other wines or if they will become stand alone wines. It’s too early to tell. However, we did enjoy the 2008 cab franc. It’s really fruity right now with hints of jam and spice. We think this one will turn out to be really nice. We decided to award a good star to this one. We look forward to tasting it in the bottle.

After tasting all the wonderful wines and chatting it up with Bruce and Silvia and Susan and Stacy, Warren opted to enjoy a glass of the 2008 Barrel Select Chardonnay and his dad selected the 2004 Merlot to enjoy on the patio. If you stop at Breaux anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Breaux Vineyards’ Cabernet Vertical Tasting

This past Saturday, we attended a vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon at Breaux Vineyards.  Samples from previous and current vintages were paired with appropriate food courses. On hand to present the wines and their profiles was winemaker David Collins.

For those who may not know, a vertical tasting is a tasting of wine of the same variety but from different years.  In this case, Breaux Vineyards presented a vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon that included the 2001, 2002, 2005, and 2006 vintages with barrel samples from the 2007 and 2008 vintages.  However, the event started with guests receiving a sample pour of the 2006 Meritage as they made their way to the tables.  This younger, fruit-forward blend was the perfect way to begin as it prepared palates for the more full-bodied offerings to follow. 

The first wines offered for sample were the barrel samples, the 2008 and 2007.  Both were still very young with the 2008 very tight on the nose; of course, this is to be expected with such a young wine still in its developmental stages. The 2007 barrel sample has signs of potential greatness with its characteristics of dark fruit and cedar. A tannic presence still prevails, but this will smooth with time.  Both wines paired nicely with the braised beef rib served over polenta; this course included a sinful chocolate truffle that I thought took the tannic edge off of both barrel samples while bringing forward the fruit characters.

The second course featured my favorite dish of the evening—pork wellington served over wild rise and a pomegranate crème fraiche.  An interesting twist to the wellington was the inclusion of a layer of mushroom slices between the pork and pastry shell.  This added a layer of earthiness to the flavor profile which perhaps was why this course was partnered with the earthier 2006 and 2005 vintages.  Of these vintages, my preferred the 2006; however, both vintages offered aromas that I described as leather and tobacco with tannins still more pronounced in the mouth.

The third course featured my favorite wines of the evening—the 2002 and 2001 vintages.  In fact, my gold star of the evening was given to the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Here now was the melding of fruit character and tannins to present a more complex wine with a nice, long finish.  I detected some smokiness on the nose with dark plum, black cherry, and mocha in the mouth.  Nice, silky tannins, too! “Excellent” sums it up!  Oh—the food pairing was just as excellent.  Grilled salmon over saffron rice served aside a chive rosewater-infused oil pecorino-romano.  The 2001 was a close second for me; the fruit profile here was more extracted than the 2002 which no doubt came with the extra year of aging. 
The evening ended with lagniappe, which in New Orleans means “bonus”.  Our bonus pour was the 2009 Cabernet Rose, a tank sample of an upcoming rose offering.  Another “still young” sample, this rose should settle down quite nicely in time for summer. 

So what was the final vote for the vertical tasting?  Did Paul award any gold stars?My final verdict was as follows: *2002, 2001, 2007, 2006, 2005.  Paul’s vote went like this: *2001, 2002, 2007, 2005, 2006.  Neither of us included the 2008 in the mix since it was still too young to judge; we wanted to be fair to the 2008 vintage!

These events are always fund and informative.  For winemakers, it’s an opportunity to showcase wines from several vintages with each vintage the result of varying circumstances not the least of which is the weather.  It was to surprise, for example, that the 2007 barrel sample presented quite nicely; that year was one of the best in Virginia with weather conditions resembling those of Napa in California. 

The evening flew by too quickly.  We caught up with Jennifer Breaux Blosser who heads the hospitality and events team at Breaux Vineyards and Sylvia Miller, one of our favorite tasting associates at Breaux Vineyards.  We also met SuzieLin (one of our Twitter buddies) and Joel Timmins for the Examiner. It was great meeting them and chatting about the vertical tasting.

Be sure to visit Breaux Vineyards, and do inquire about events such as this vertical tasting to learn more about Virginia wines through the years.  Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.