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.

Glen Manor Barrel Tasting

Recently we attended the Spring 2012 Barrel Tasting at Glen Manor Vineyards. It’s always interesting to get a peek at what the future wines will be like when they are released. Tasting the wines right from the barrel gives you a good idea of what’s to come. Last year we tasted the 2010s and really enjoyed them. This year the focus was on the 2011s of course and as expected we enjoyed them as well. We ran into Kurt and Carol from Wine About Virginia in the tasting room. They were having a regular tasting. It’s always good to run into fellow wine bloggers.

Four red wines and two white wines were offered at the tasting. Each wine had a special food pairing. We began with the 2011 Cabernet Franc. It was paired with pork belly on tortilla chip with dried cherry and red grape olivada. This first wine ended up being my favorite. It was bright and fruity and had a smooth ending. Anyone who follows my wine tastes knows that I enjoy a fruity beginning and a smooth ending. It paired very well with the pork belly.

The next two stations were to taste the Vin Rouge. We tasted the 2011 Vin Rouge from the barrel. We thought this one is ready to enjoy now. We noted fresh berry fruit with moderate tannins and a smooth ending. The 2010 Vin Rouge was up next. This one was tasted from the bottle because it was released that day. We think this one could age well. We noted dried fruit, light tannins, and considered this one the everyday red drinker. We could enjoy a glass of this with almost anything. This one was paired with rabbit and pork rillettes.

At the next station we tasted the 2011 Petit Verdot. This one won’t be released until sometime in 2013. It was very young and clearly needs more time. It was a bit astringent but with the strong fruit characteristics, you can see where it will be in the future. I’m a big fan of petit verdot and am looking forward to the future release of this one. It was paired with chocolate, ancho, blueberry & pecan pain d’Epices with honey butter & cajun-spiced pecan.

The final two stations offered the Petit Manseng desert wine Raepheus. We were able to taste the 2011 and the already in bottle 2010. The 2011 was very sweet and the alcohol was a bit high for me. We noted tropical fruit and high acids. We thought this will calm down with time in a bottle especially since it won’t be released for a while. A small glass would be nice though. The 2010 from the bottle was floral and more delicate. It also has high alcohol but you don’t notice it at all with the low 5% residual sugar. This one is more complex with delicate flavors. It was paired with thyme-pecan-pecorino shortbread with apricot-mango-ginger-chipotle chutney & gorgonzola.

We had a chance to speak briefly with winemaker Jeff White about his recent Governor’s Cup win as well as the barrel tasting and the current growing season. Bud break has occurred and so far his vineyards have escaped the frost issues. We enjoyed our time at Glen Manor as we always do. We are looking forward to the future releases as well. If you visit Glen Manor Vineyards anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Excellence at Glen Manor Vineyards

This past weekend, we decided to pay visits to wineries in the Shenandoah region. Our closest destination was Glen Manor Vineyards. We last visited Glen Manor Visits over a year ago, and at that time, winemaker Jeff White had two wines to sample. This time, though, he had five wines to taste; of course, we were eager to sip away, and in the process find out the latest news about Glen Manor Vineyards.


Readers may recall that the property which comprises Glen Manor Vineyards is a family-owned site that has been farm property for generations. Jeff White continues that legacy and currently has planted several acres of vineyards on the site; he previously produced grapes for legendary winemaker Jim Law, but he now uses those grapes to create his own wines. We can acknowledge that Jeff White’s current lineup of wines is indeed quite impressive. Sauvignon Blanc is the white wine of choice for White, and he presents both the excellent 2007 and the 2008 for tasting. The difference between the two? The 2007 was produced in a warmer, drier year, but the 2008 vintage was crafted in a cooler, wetter year. The result? Two very fine Sauvignon Blanc wines. When pressed to decide, my pour of choice was the flinty 2007 vintage with its grapefruity characteristics and crisp feel. Paul, when his arm was twisted, settled for the 2008 selection which presented the “cat pee” aromas of a classic New Zealand-style wine. (For the record, Jeff White describes this scent as “boxwood”; I like the traditional cat-pee!) Grassy with a racy acidity, this ’08 Sauvignon Blanc should be familiar to sauvignon blanc aficionados.


The red wines found us at a similar split decision. My gold star was awarded to the 2007 Cabernet Franc with its scents of dark cherries, black pepper, and eucalyptus. Quite a concentration of complimentary flavors, it finished with a velvety tannic presence. Paul correctly deduced that a small splash of “something” gave this Cabernet Franc a subtle complexity, and Jeff confirmed that a 3% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon did indeed complete this ’07 offering. However, Paul’s own favorite was the 2007 Hodder Hill. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the Hodder Hill (so named after the vineyard in which the grapes were grown) exhibits dark plum and blackberry characteristics with some spice to boot. Bold and complex, the Hodder Hill is destined to partner with a heavy beef dish that might be served in the fall and winter. (Stuck on a choice between white or red? Try the Provence-style Rose. Summer is done, but this rose is for year-round enjoyment!)


As we sipped and savored, we learned from Jeff that his newer planting, located on a higher plateau on the Glen Manor property, were Bordeaux varieties. These will result in full-bodied single varietal wines such as Petit Verdot and/or blended wines in the same vein as the Hodder Hill. White remains committed to producing small quantities of wines from selective fruit, and he was quite optimistic about the 2009 harvest which promised to be a stellar harvest in terms of both quantity and quality. His rationale? Despite the heavy spring rains, the summer in northern Virginia was dry with moderate temperatures and thus ripe for another memorable vintage.



So all of this wine talk and tasting made us hungry—of course! We opted to enjoy the 2007 Cabernet Franc with grilled chicken coated with herbs, smoked cheese, and baguette slices that we brought from home. As we snacked and sipped, we enjoyed the mountain views accented by large-winged hawks flying overhead. The wine, food, and scenery were perfect on a warm fall afternoon. When we were done, we relieved Jeff White of several bottles of wine, and we bid our farewells. We’ll return soon, but we encourage readers to sample Jeff’s quality wines at Glen Manor Vineyards. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.