I’m a club member at Casanel Vineyards and Winery. As a member I need to periodically pick up wines at the winery. Last Saturday we decided to head to Casanel and pick up some wines. At the same time we planned to meet our friend Renee Catacalos of On Our Plates Chesapeake and her sister, Stacy. Renee is the former editor of Edible Chesapeake. She is currently writing a book and wanted to get our take on local wines and experience a local winery.
We all met at Casanel and were delighted to find out that Katie DeSouza would be conducting our tasting. Katie is a font of knowledge and Renee gathered loads of information for her book during our tasting. Katie’s sister Anna was on hand to offer her expertise as well. We tasted through the entire line of wines and were thoroughly impressed once again! Casanel is really making some amazing wines and deserves some accolades for their hard work.
My favorite white wine from he lineup was the 2015 Ellianna. The Ellianna is a Pinot Gris fermented in stainless steel. I noted pear, melon, and citrus. It’s bright and fresh and perfect for the upcoming warm days. Warren mentioned this would pair well with summer light fair and even oysters!
My favorite red of the day was the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was aged for 20 months in French oak. I noted blackberry, cherry, and a whiff of violet. The tannins are a bit tight right now but will smooth with aging. I thought you could enjoy this wine now and into the future. And have it with a thick filet mignon. It was pair beautifully!
After our tasting we all shared a bottle of the 2014 K2 Red Blend. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. We enjoyed it with baguettes, a sharp cheddar cheese, and charcuterie. While enjoying the wine and nibbles we caught up on each other and chatted local wines and foods. Renee took lots of notes for her book all while enjoying the wine and conversation.
Before leaving we all purchased our favorite wines (almost a case!). We all agreed that winemaker Katell Griaud is teaching Katie some great skills and it certainly shows in the wines. There was not one wine we didn’t enjoy. We suggest you plan a visit to Casanel and taste the changes that have been taking place. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Casanel Vineyards and Winery had fallen off our radar over the past few years, but our friend and Casanel wine educator Kathy Lang Wiedemann convinced us that it was time for us to revisit the winery. We recently did just that and met with owner Katie DeSouza for a tasting of Casanel’s premiere wines; along the way, we learned of new changes at Casanel that has put the vineyards and winery on track to produce some wonderful wines.
Casanel Vineyards and Winery opened a new and more spacious tasting room since our last visit, and we were impressed with its wood floors and airy atmosphere. It is here where tasters can sample the Casanel vintages under the more familiar Casanel label. The older facility is now being used to taste the premiere wines, and these bear a cleaner, more elegant label. These were the most evident signs that a different yet better direction was being undertaken at Casanel. Katie De Souza, daughter of Casanel’s founders Nelson and Casey DeSouza, has taken on a more prominent role in managing both the vineyards and winemaking, and it was Katie who conducted our tasting. Katie explained to us that her decision to lead Casanel Vineyards and Winery in a different direction was taken after consultation with renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton who advised Katie to make needed improvements in the vineyards’ management. In addition, Katie has been learning the craft of wine making under the tutelage of French native Katell Griaud who has previously worked for Kluge Estate and then Trump Winery.
Proof is always in the pudding—-or the wine glass in this case, and after our tasting, I concluded that the new course taken by Casanel Vineyards and Winery has produced excellent results. All seven of the premiere wines that we tasted were clean and well crafted. My particular favorites included the 2014 Ellianna, a crisp Pinot Gris that was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It’s soft peach notes and subtle mineral element made for a refreshing pour that seemed perfect for enjoyment on a warm day. I also gave two thumbs up for the 2014 Chardonnay which is a blend of three styles—-stainless steel, neutral French oak barrels, and new French oak barrels. Pear and citrus elements prevailed with an acidic mid palate and toasty finish that suggested a food-friendly wine. In fact, I served this one with crab cakes and roasted summer squash at a recent dinner party! The 2013 Petit Verdot earned my nod for favorite red wine; this too was the product of a blend of wines aged in neutral and newer French oak barrels. An initial licorice note was then followed by aromas and flavors of dark currants and plum; a lingering finish made for a more complex wine. An extra treat was a taste of the smoky 2013 Carmenere with its fruit forward palate and whiffs of violet and tobacco on the nose. This is a limited production wine and available only to the wine club members.
Enhancing the tasting experience was a portfolio that presented each wine being tasted; in addition to descriptions of each varietal, technical details such as harvest date and ph levels are included. This encourages the customer to develop a conversation with the tasting associate about the wines; of course, we always ask questions, and the portfolio provided us with a wealth of information about the wines that we tasted.
After our tasting, we lingered for a while in the new tasting room and enjoyed a glass of the 2014 Ellianna. We took in the gorgeous vineyard landscapes while sipping and nibbling on cheese and baguette. We know that we will return to Casanel Vineyards and Winery soon. Plan your own visit to Casanel Vineyards and Winery and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
This post will be a round up of reviews from visits done within the past month and will feature Casanel Vineyards, Doukenie Winery. and Fabbioli Cellars.
Casanel Vineyards: As the weather is warming up, white wines are bound to be more popular. At Casanel Vineyards, the fruity Batucada Viognier was rich with floral aromas and apricot flavors. The Batucada Norton is a rose made from the Norton grape and is fermented as a white wine. I got red hots in the mouth; Norton fans may appreciate this version of the grape with barbeque. The earthy 2007 Chegada Cabernet Sauvignon took a gold at the Virginia State Fair.
Doukenie Winery: A summer favorite is always the Mandolin, a blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc; however, this was not available for tasting on the day that we visited the winery. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was aged in acacia barrels and certainly had a fuller mouth feel; citrus flavors abounded here. Of the reds, the 2008 Petit Verdot presented the characteristic inky color with aromas of violet, dark fruit, and tobacco. Of course, Hope’s Legacy is the raspberry wine that all visitors enjoy especially with a piece of dark chocolate.
Fabbioli Cellars: It’s always a pleasure to taste Doug’s wines. We enjoyed the current tasting set up which allows guests to sit at a station with a personal tasting associate; Nadia conducted our tasting on this particular visit. Our notes suggest that Doug will be releasing a Traminette, and this may have already happened as of this writing. The 2009 Rosa Luna, a rose, was dry with characteristics of grapefruit and bright berries and should prove to popular for the summer. The juicy 2009 Cabernet Franc was Paul’s favorite red with its elements of brambleberries and spice. I preferred the more complex 2009 Tre Sorelle, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. An age-worthy wine, it should be enjoyed with a steak!
Pay these wineries a visit to sample the current releases. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!