Pour Virginia Wines for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving season is upon us, and there is no greater need for versatile wines than Thanksgiving dinner. Deciding what to pour can be as challenging as deciding what to serve especially if dinner guests have different food and wine palates. Turkey seems to be the meat of choice, but it’s the sides that vary and hence the wine offerings. Some like mashed potatoes but others prefer oyster dressing; some like sweeter white wines while others crave a red wine with the meal. We can’t help you cook dinner, but we can make a couple of suggestions for wine pairings that might make these weighty decisions seem a little lighter!

We were out in wine country in northern Virginia this past weekend, and we sampled some wines that should provide readers with some choices for the upcoming holiday.

Chester Gap Cellars: Winemaker Bernd Jung has to be one of the few (if not only) Virginia winemakers to grow the Roussanne grape, a white varietal grown in Rhone region of France. The 2010 Roussanne might be an option if the meal will begin with either seafood bisque or feature a creamy sauce with the main meal. Aged for fifteen months in French oak barrels, the 2010 Roussanne exhibits tropical fruit characteristics. It is a bit higher in alcohol, so pair with something that can stand up to it. My own preference is the earthy 2009 Petit Verdot aged for two years in French oak barrels. Aromas of ripe dark plums and flavors of dark fruit and berries should complement dishes that are heavy on herbs and spices; non-traditionalists who opt to serve duck or game meats instead of turkey should consider this one.

Glen Manor Vineyards: Governor’s Cup winner Jeff White is now featuring 2011 wines on his tasting room menu. The four wines that we sampled would all have a place on the Thanksgiving Day table; of course, all of the wines were well-crafted. Serving shellfish before the main course? Can’t go wrong with the classic 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its elements of grass, citrus and mineral that are characteristic of the varietal. White wine lovers who don’t drink reds? Red wine lovers who don’t drink whites? Offer the 2011 Rose with its aromas of red berries and fresh mint. This one can be served with just about anything on the menu. A nice acidity makes this rose refreshing (and it’s not sweet!) The 2011 harvest was considered quite challenging, but Jeff White has managed to produce excellent red wines from this tricky vintage. There was nothing wimpy about the weighty 2011 Cabernet Franc and its notes of dark cherry, cranberry and menthol. This would be my go-to wine for the main meal on Turkey Day especially if sides included cornbread dressing and fresh cranberry sauce. Going for beef stew instead of poultry? Try the 2011 Vin Rouge, a blend that is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and complemented by Petit Verdot (36%), and Merlot (14%). Smoky notes give way to aromas of plum, licorice and spice.

Still confused as to which wines to pour? I always recommend opening more than one bottle of wine for Thanksgiving dinner and then let guests decide which glass to sip with the meal. This option encourages guests to sample a few wines instead of only one. Who knows what will happen—that white wine lover may fall in love with a Virginia red wine!

We will post one more article about wine Thanksgiving wine options featuring two more Virginia wineries. Check in later for that one! In the meantime, be sure to try these wines at Chester Gap Cellars and Glen Manor Vineyards, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Mind The Gap

Yes, mind the wines at Chester Gap Cellars—they are quite good. We made a pre-spring break visit to the winery, and as always, Bernd Jung’s wines continue to impress.

Our tasting started with the two dry white wines, the stainless steel fermented 2009 Viognier and the creamier Viognier Reserve that is aged in oak barrels. Guess who preferred the oaked version? I did, of course. The eight months of aging in oak barrels imparted a weightier mouth feel while presenting peachy fruit characteristics. Paul goes for the crisper white wines that stainless steel fermentation tends to produce. I actually liked this one too with its intoxicating floral notes and, as Paul noted, “really peachy flavors.”

The red wines were likewise very solid. We both enjoyed the 2009 Merlot and appreciated its aromas of cherry, raspberry, dried herbs and sweet tobacco. We also noted similar fruit characteristics in the mouth, and Paul observed a “smooth finish.” Paul is the Merlot fan, and he jotted down, “daily sipper” on the tasting sheet. The 2009 Cabernet Franc proved to be a bit bolder but also well crafted with characteristic dark berry, eucalyptus and spice elements. However, the ultimate red wine had to be the young 2009 Vintners Red. Aged for 24 months in oak barrels and just bottled in February, this blend includes 53% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot, and 20% Petit Verdot. Earthy elements prevailed; however, swirling coaxed dark fruit and spicy aromas to appear. Buy now but drink later is my advice; in fact, I purchased a bottle for a future dinner that may feature leg of lamb!

Our tasting finished with the 2010 Petit Manseng. We are starting to hone our knowledge on this upcoming varietal in Virginia as it is appearing more frequently on tasting menus in the state. This one was presented as more of a dessert wine with residual sugar just under 6%. We also learned that Bernd Jung has planted Rousanne vines, and we were treated to a sneak pour of a newly bottled Rousanne. We’re not sure of Jung’s plans for the Rousanne grapes, but we intend to keep up with this development.

So as we tasted away at the tasting bar, Paul and I made note of the ever-present crack in the tasting room’s cement floor, and our tasting associates confirmed that indeed the crack had become a conversation piece as well as a permanent fixture. In fact, a future plan may be some sort of social media site entitled, “Mind the Gap.” We liked the idea as much as we enjoyed the wines. Paul and I shared a glass of the 2009 Merlot while enjoying a warm afternoon on the winery’s deck. Of course, we made sure to purchase some of our favorite wines. Plan a visit to Chester Gap Cellars, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

2008 Chester Gap Merlot

We of course enjoyed some Virginia wine this weekend. We enjoyed the 2010 Galena Creek White from West Wind Farm as our sipper for the evening. You can see a video about the wine if you scroll down. For dinner Warren made roasted veal chops and wild rice. He also picked out three wines from which to pick our dinner wine. I opted for the 2008 Chester Gap Merlot. I know I’ve mentioned in the past but I’ll say it again. I’m really enjoying the 2008 reds. I wanted to find out if the 2008 Chester Gap Merlot would live up to what I’ve come to enjoy about the 2008 reds.

The wine paired beautifully with our roasted veal chops and wild rice. We noted a biig cherry nose with a hint of blackberry and lots of earthy elements…like a forest floor. We noticed similar fruit characteristics in the mouth with spicy nuances and a lingering dark fruit finish. As I suspected, this 2008 Merlot lived up to my expectations of a 2008 red. The longer it was opened and breathing, the better it got with each sip. If you haven’t tried the 2008 Merlot from Chester Gap, give it a try. And if you visit Chester Gap anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

So Much Wine Too Little Time

I’m seriously backlogged with posting about our experiences, but I’ll try to get caught up in the next couple of weeks. I will start with the most recent experiences and feature Chester Gap Cellars and Hume Vineyards.

I’ll begin with Chester Gap Cellars. We always looks forward to running into Bernd Jung in the tasting room at Chester Gap Cellars, and this time was no exception. In fact, Bernd conducted our tasting; of course, he began with the white wines. Viognier is a specialty at Chester Gap, and Bernd produces both a stainless steel and barrel-aged version. Paul preferred the crisp 2008 Viognier with its floral nose and fruity flavors; however, I always tend to prefer barrel-aged over stainless steel. These always seem more substantial to me, and Bernd treated us to a comparison of the 2007 Viognier Reserve and the 2008 Viognier Reserve. Both were very good, but I kept reaching for the 2007 vintage. It presented a nice integration of floral aromas, stone fruit elements and oak nuances. However, the 2008 vintage was equally nice with citrus notes and a honeyed texture. With spring in the air and summer not so far away, do try the slightly sweet 2009 Cuvee Manseng and its heady tropical fruit characteristics.

Of the red wines, we both enjoyed the fruit forward 2008 Pettit Verdot with its dark berry and tobacco/earthy characteristics. Enjoy with roasted meats, leg of lamb or on its own with strong cheeses! We enjoyed a glass after our tasting—sans food.

We were eager to make our return to Hume Vineyards since several months had passed since our first visit. We recalled an unfinished tasting room but quality wines on the racks. This time around, we witnessed a finished facility and a crowded tasting bar; therefore, lots of things are going right at Hume Vineyards. Owner and winemaker Stephane Baldi guide us through a tasting of wines, and we were very pleased with the newly released 2010 Seyval Blanc. Crisp with a refreshing minerality, it presented notes of pear, melon and hay. Crabcakes should be served with this one! Of the reds, I was still a fan of the 2008 Detour which seems to be opening up quite nicely. Dark fruit and earthy elements prevailed here, and decanting would still be advised for those who wish to pour this one now. Chambourcin fans may be pleased with the 2010 Chambourcin, another new release at Hume Vineyards. The tasting notes suggest that this one is bold, and I will not argue with it! Big and jammy with 15.1% alcohol, it makes for an assertive wine. This was the first 2010 bottled red that we sampled, and when winemakers claim that 2010 may be the year for Virginia to rival California for big reds, this may be proof positive. Serve with big steaks and baked potatoes loaded with cheese and bacon—and then plan to hit the gym for about a week!

With spring already here and summer not so far away, think about picnic and barbeque fare with your favorite Virginia wines. Out of Virginia wine? Plan a trip to Cheaster Gap Cellars and Hume Vineyards to replenish your wine racks, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

All Of The Above

That would be the answer to a multiple choice question that reads, “Which Chester Gap wine is your favorite?” On a lovely spring afternoon, we ventured out to visit Bernd Jung at Chester Gap Cellars; in the past, we have trumpeted Bernd’s outstanding winemaking skills, and after today’s tasting, we conclude that Bernd is one of Virginia’s excellent winemakers. So how could we make such a claim? The proof was in the wine glass, and we could only reach conclusions on our gold star rewards after much debate and deliberation. All of the wines that we tasted were well crafted and reflected careful attention to vineyard and barrel room management.

Bernd offers three Viogniers for sampling, and each one presents a different twist. Paul’s favorite was the stainless steel fermented 2008 Viognier with its crisp finish and characteristics of honeysuckle and lemon. I noted a “steeliness” that reflected a refreshing minerality. My own gold star was presented to the 2008 Viognier Reserve which presented a creamier mouth feel. Characteristic floral and peach aromas. Peachy flavors with a nice acidity and a lengthier, toasty finish qualifies this one as a food wine. Lobster? Poultry with cream sauce? Here is the perfect partner. Bernd shared with us that he only uses high-quality French barrels to ages this Viognier; his 2008 Viognier Boisseau Vineyard is aged in French oak barrels used for cognac, and this one was my close “second” for the white wines. Smoky and full-bodied, this Viognier and its Reserve sibling are built to age for a few years.

Bernd currently offers two red wines for tasting and sale. In a rare moment of concurrence, Paul and I both agreed that the 2007 Merlot was superior. I noted blackberry and menthol characteristics; Paul suggested some earthiness to boot. This Merlot is an example of the excellent 2007 vintage in Virginia, and it should age quite well. The tasting notes suggested a pairing with lamb, and I could not have agreed more heartily with this recommendation. Not to be missed is the 2007 Cabernet Franc with its dark cherry flavors and chewier tannins.

In our chat with Bernd, it was clear to us that his focus is wine. His tasting room is utilitarian—nothing fancy at all, but it does offer exquisite views of the Shenandoah mountain range. However, the wines are excellent, and we learned that he plans to plant more vines that may include Merlot. We applaud Bernd’s efforts to produce limited quantities of wine are well-crafted and worthy of accolades that include an inclusion on restaurant wine lists in the local area.

With spring in the air, plan a visit to Chester Gap and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!