At Fabbioli we enjoyed the food pairing wine tasting. Of the wines tasted our favorites were the recently released 2012 Tre Sorelle and the Governor’s Cup Gold winner 2011 Tannat. The Tre Sorelle presented violet, cherry, and dried herb notes while the bigger Tannat showed smoke, plum, and clove flavors. We can see why it won a gold.
After our tasting we got a chance to chat with Doug Fabbioli about his new plantings and other things wine. He informed us that he had just recently planted sangiovese in the vineyard closest to the road that leads to the winery. We also enjoyed the views and the new pergola while enjoying a glass of the 2013 Something White and the 2012 Tre Sorelle.
Next we visited The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek. Here we enjoyed the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2011 Genesis. The 2012 Reserve Chardonnay gave us notes of pear, citrus, and honey. It had a nice mouth feel with a fuller body. We noted tobacco and earthy notes on the 2011 Genesis. We enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay after our tasting. We also had the chance to taste the new 2012 Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Both show promise but could use a little more time on your wine rack.
Our final visit was to Creek’s Edge Winery. This one was new to us so we were curious to see what they had on the tasting menu. Creek’s Edge Winery has a gorgeous new building atop a sloped hill with a vineyard that sits right in front of the building. It was obvious to us the building was built with group events in mind. When we arrived we were the only ones in the tasting room so we got all the attention from new winemaker Melanie Natoli. Her volunteer wine pourer walked us through the current release of wines. There were five wines on the tasting menu. We found out that Ben Renshaw made these five wines but Melanie would be taking on the next vintage of wines released. Of the wines tasted we enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc with its raspberry, cherry, and spice notes. We also enjoyed the 2009 Chambourcin. This one presented smoke, ripe berry, anise, and a smooth oak finish. Creek’s Edge is heading in the right direction and we’ll plan to visit them again in the future.
If you visit any of the wineries mentioned, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
So what makes for an ideal growing season in Virginia? Hot, dry summers with growing seasons that extend into the fall. Oh, and no late or early frosts. Easy question, easy answer. However, what if winter is unusually brutal with sub-zero temperatures and frequent outbreaks of ice and snow that lasts well into March? It may be easy to dismiss winter as an influence on the vineyards; after all, the grapes have been harvested and the vines lay dormant, right? We weren’t so sure about that and asked four Virginia winemakers to offer their opinions on the Arctic winter and its possible consequences. And what about the 2013 vintage? How are things coming along in the tanks and barrels? In this post, we will compare opinions from two winemakers in northern Virginia: Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery and Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars.
1. This has been a winter of long-lasting, record-breaking cold weather. This week’s temperatures plunged to below zero in much of Virginia. Are you concerned about stress to the vines? Have you changed vineyard management (i.e. pruning) as a result?
Jordan Harris (JH): I am certainly concerned but I do not believe that there will be wide spread damage on our sites. The coldest we have gotten to is 3 degrees. I have been through that many times in Niagara and at that point there doesn’t tend to be a lot of damage. There may be some issues with really sensitive varieties like Merlot but I would guess it will be in the 15-20% bud loss range for them. In places where they may have got to -5 they could start to see more wide spread damage as you are then entering the temperature range that can harm buds in most varieties.
My biggest concern is actually that we planted a lot last year so I am not sure how the young vines will have stood up to the cold and if we will have significant attrition rates and have to replant those. Really I won’t be able to tell that until well after bud break.
As for pruning, if I were smarter, I probably would have changed it up a bit this year but hind sight is always 20/20. We are exclusively cane pruned VSP (Double Guyot) and we were done by mid January so there is not much we can do now. We do leave a third cane each year so we can replace one of the two that we lay down in case of frost or I guess now winter cold. This year we may just lay that cane down as a third right over top of another one for more buds but my concern is if they are all fruitful then we will have a lot of shoot thinning to do and wonder if we will be able to keep up and maintain a balanced and clean canopy.
Doug Fabbiolo (DF): We had a cold spell in December that got me scared. We did a brief, non scientific bud evaluation and decided to only do a rough pruning. We are leaving a lot of buds on the vines at this point and do not anticipate a final pruning until May when the fruit shows itself and we can make some cuts that will be sure to be fruitful.
2. Early bud break is always a concern when it occurs; however, are there worries about a later bud break? What is the optimal time for bud break? (The cherry blossoms are scheduled to bloom much later this year due to the long-lingering winter.)
JH: You mean like in 2013 when we were so late that there was no risk of frost ☺. After last year I say there is no ideal time in Virginia. I would personally like to see bud-break around the start of April to get a long enough growing season but at least get out of March which is very scary (2012). I actually think there is a good chance we will still see an early to regular bud-break anyway. The soil has a lot of moisture so as long as we get some warmth the vines will come on really fast this year I think. Not that we can accurate guess the weather for tomorrow, but long range it looks like Spring hits pretty well around the 15th which could very well give us bud-break sometime in the first week of April, but more likely the second or third week in many varieties is my guess.
DF: The optimal time for budbreak is after the last killing frost. That never happens. I am hoping with the later start, we will be closer to that situation. The vines will catch up if they have some warm days in late spring.
3. Now that the 2013 harvest is history, how is the 2013 vintage shaping up, and what are the comparisons to past vintages?
JH: I am actually really enjoying the wines, I just wish there was a lot more of it. The later reds struggled a bit to get as ripe as I would like, but varieties like Merlot and Tannat really have some great flavor and striking elegance. The whites (predominately Chardonnay since we got next to no Viognier this year) are beautiful. They are elegant but ripe and are really showing the results of either a great site or meticulous management or both. In the end, I don’t want a repeat of 2013 because it was very trying on my patience and stress level, but the wines are good. Once again, quality is not my concern as much as quantity in this case.
It really is hard to compare our 2013s to another vintage for me given I have only been here since 2007. The closest I can say to any of the vintages I have done would be 2008 but 2013 was a shorter and wetter year for us than 2008. That said I think we have a far better understanding of our site from 2008 so still made better wine. You could say structurally similar to 2012 for us, but the ripeness level is not quite as high.
DF: 2013 was challenging during the growing season but finished up in the best way possible with warm days, cool nights and no rain. I am very pleased with what we are tasting. We will be trialing more blends again today. I am tasting good ripe fruits, rich tannin structure and balanced acids. Some of this is from winemaking techniques done as the grapes came in, but most is because of a decent growing year.
And who are the other two winemakers and how did they respond? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, spring is hopefully in the air, and it is time to visit Virginia wineries. Plan a trip to Tarara Winery and Fabbioli Cellars to sample their excellent wines, but be sure to tell Jordan and Doug that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Yes, summer is here and it’s time to enjoy refreshing wines during the hot days ahead. We’ve visited a few wineries over the past couple of weekends, and here are some recommendations for wines to enjoy during the summer:
Fabbioli Cellars: We are big rose fans all year long but even more so during the summer. Fabbioli’s 2012 Rose Luna is dry and made from Sangiovese grapes; done in stainless steel tanks, its light pink hue and strawberry notes make for a versatile wine that can be enjoyed on its own, with a picnic, or at a cookout. A crisp finish makes it refreshing to boot. The 2011 fruit forward Chambourcin should pair well with grilled fare especially if spicy rubs and sauces are being used. Of course, we always recommend the popular Raspberry Merlot with any chocolate dessert especially brownies!
Gray Ghost Vineyards: I like crab cakes this time of the year, and the Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards is one that I always keep on hand to pair with them. The 2012 vintage presents citrus flavors and a mineral note too; a short time on Hungarian oak provides a rounded feel not unlike a Fume Blanc. A sweeter option might be the 2011 Vidal Blanc with its floral aromas and fruity palate. Steaks on the grill should pair well with the 2011 Petit Verdot, Paul’s personal favorite. Elements of blackberry, dark plum, and black pepper finished with nice tannins to make it perfect partner with a strip steak and grilled veggies.
Rappahannock Cellars: Since our last visit, Theo Smith has taken the helm as winemaker; however, the wines presented for tasting on our visit were mostly produced by Jason Burrus. Burrus is now winemaker at Chrysalis Vineyards. Our recommendations for summer wines here? Try 2012 Rose with its aromas of watermelon and strawberry; .5% residual sugar elevates the fruit to make for a fruity wine destined to pair well with cheeses, salads, and picnics. My own favorite was the 2012 Viognier. Its floral aromas and notes of peach and lemon zest led to a lengthier finish. This is a nice wine to have around if dining al fresco with seafood, poultry or pork on the menu.
Summertime is a fun time to visit Virginia wineries. Magnolias and honeysuckle scent the air, and butterflies flutter about the vineyards. Plan a visit to these wineries to find your own summer wines, and enjoy summer’s flora and fauna while sipping a glass of at the winery. Of course, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
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!