Just a quick post about the 2006 Reserve Merlot from Lovingston Winery. We had this tonight with filet mignon and rice. It was amazing. First of all I was upset that we even opened it so soon after getting it. This one could have laid down for several years.
The color is beautiful. I think it might have a splash of petit verdot to give it the rich color but I can’t be sure. Warren disagrees. However, Warren believed this merlot benefitted from decanting thanks to the convenient Soiree aerator. I noted extremely smooth tannins. Warren noted dark cherry and plum with a dry earthy/herbal quality. It complimented our steaks well. Koodos to Riann.
Now the weather has warmed up, we’re officially back on the wine trail, and we celebrated an early spring-like weekend at Sunset Hills Vineyard. We were impressed with the lineup of wines there on the last visit, and we were eager to sample the latest releases.
We continue to be pleased with the quality of wines produced at Sunset Hills, and we know that owners Diane and Mike Canney are dedicated to vigilant maintenance of the vineyards. Winemaker Nate Walsh likewise remains committed to the craft of winemaking, and the results are evident in the bottle. In fact, we were hard pressed to find any wines that were truly weak—all were well-crafted. Our hardest choices were deciding which wines would earn the coveted gold star awards!
Our tasting began with the white wines, and tasting room manager Christine started us off with wine glasses and pours. The white wines were all very solid. Paul’s own favorite and gold star winner was the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay. Full pear flavors with a twist of citrus made for a pleasing wine, and the cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks made for a crisp wine. My own gold star, though, was presented to the bolder 2008 Reserve Chardonnay which was aged nine months in French oak. I noted ripe pear and honey flavors with a buttery texture—just my kind of Chardonnay! Be assured that there was the requisite “toastiness” but not in an overwhelming sense. I’d sip this one on its own but would serve the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay with poultry, pork or shellfish especially if cream sauces were involved. Not to be outdone, though is the lush 2008 Viognier that is begging for a crabcake dinner. Look out for the Sunset White which is a blend of 90% stainless steel Chardonnay and 10% Viognier that was aged in neutral French oak barrels. Christine obliged us with a sampling of this very slightly sweet with (1.5% residual sugar). This one should be a perfect summer sipper or picnic wine.
Before we moved on to the reds, Christine also surprised us with another sneak preview, and that was the Sunset Rose. Here we found our Wolftrap wine! We’re big Wolftrap fans, and we’re already stocking up on our concert wines—a bottle of this rose will be coming along for music under the stars. Nate Walsh had been diligent in his preparation of this rose which he made from Cabernet Franc. Its clear pink color suggested a crisper wine, and a .5% residual sugar provided a refreshing feel. Cool strawberry and melon flavors were noted.
Now on to the red wines! More solid pours and very tough decisions. However, Paul did award his gold star to the lighter-bodied 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc with its distinctive minerality and cherry flavors. Easy to drink and perfect to sip on its own, the Benevino Cabernet Franc should also prove to be a pleaser with pizza or a sampling of dry meats and roasted nuts. My own decision was likewise not easy, but I did end up favoring the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc with its layers of blackberries, raspberries, spice, and mocha. Aged for 18 months in both French and American oak, it also presented a lengthier finish. I’d favor a leg of lamb with this one! A close second for me was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with its dark fruit characteristics and spicy edge. Enjoy with a rib roast!
Diane Canney poured most of our red wines, and she was able to share with us the secret to Sunset Hill’s success. Diane and husband Mike place a priority on vineyard management, and they use such Old World methods as hand sorting to make certain that only quality fruit from the best lots are used to produce their wines. They’re also confident in their young winemaker, Nate Walsh, who began his career in the Virginia wine industry at Horton Vineyards. Joined by a quality tasting room team, Sunset Hills Vineyards seems destined for even greater success.
Of course, we were hungry, and we opted to enjoy some of the viands from the “Lite Fare” menu offered at Sunset Hills Vineyard. We selected the deli-style pepperoni with manchego cheese and crusty French break. Our wine of choice? The 2008 Benevino Cabernet Franc. We enjoyed lunch and wine in the cozy Amish farmhouse that serves as the tasting room.
We left Sunset Hills Vineyard with several bottles of favorite pours, and we will return quite soon. In fact, we plan to attend a blending session to be held next Sunday; so, stay tuned! In the meantime, maybe we’ll see some of our readers at Sunset Hills. Be sure, though, to tell Christine or Diane that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
So it’s that time of year to enjoy lasagna and drink wine at Naked Mountain Vineyard and Winery. Last weekend, we brought along my sister Cindy, brother-in-law Travis and my nephew Ellis. Travis is a fellow wine lover and foodie; needless to say, he was game for lasagna and wine.
Of course, we all had to figure out which wine to pair with our lasagna, and that required tasting wines. We were certain that we wanted a red wine, but why not try the white wines, too? Paul’s favorite of the white wines was the Sauvignon Blanc, and it definitely conjured images of springtime flowers and warmer temperatures. Citrus flavors and a crisp finish highlighted this pour. Travis and I favored the full-bodied Black label Chardonnay with its apple and pear notes. I appreciated its toasted nut finish.
Now on to the red wines, and a potential pairing with lasagna was on our minds. Our choice was the 2005 Scarlet Oak Red. This is a Rhone-style blend with Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tannat, and it presented a denser core with aromas and flavors of dark fruit and black pepper. I also detected some tobacco on the nose. The Tannat provided a nice backbone, too, and the Scarlet Oak Red finished long. We all concluded that the Scarlet Oak Red had what it took to meet the weight and spice of the sausage lasagna.
With our tasting done, we settled down for a wonderful meal but made certain to claim a table near the glass doors that allowed us to view snow-capped mountains. A nearby bird feeder was quite busy with all sorts of birds including cardinals and tanagers. I must also mention that my sister Cindy is not a wine drinker but was very patient with us as we completed the arduous task of wine tasting. She and my teen-aged nephew did keep track of the many varieties of birds that frequented the bird feeder, and they even braved the cold outdoors to appreciate the lovely winter landscape while we completed our task to select the perfect wine. Eventually, we all dined on lasagna and garlic bread, and the wine drinkers acknowledged that the 2005 Scarlet Oak Red was the perfect partner with the meal.
Take advantage of the winter lasagna menu at Naked Mountain Vineyard and Winery; of course, enjoy lasagna with a bottle of Naked Mountain Wine. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.