We always look forward to the holiday party at Gray Ghost Vineyards; in particular, we look forward to counting the corks on winemaker Al Kellert’s latest holiday creation. This year’s cork creation was candy canes, and the party attendee who correctly guessed the number of corks used to create the piece will win an assortment of Gray Ghost wines. I’ve been attending these for the last twelve years or so, and I’ve never won. However, I feel good about my chances this year after I simply copied Paul’s number and added a few more corks to the count. Paul had just won $14 in the lottery, so I felt confident Paul was on a winning streak that could only be broken by one person—me!
Anyway, a twist to this year’s holiday party at Gray Ghost was the pairing of Gray Ghost wines with locally produced cheeses and meats. In the past, co-winemaker Cheryl Kellert prepared hors d’oerves and sweet treats for the event; this year, though, the Kellerts opted to promote local food products as complements to their wines. The participating dairies included Culpeper Cheese, Everona Dairy, and Marshall Farms. Crofton Market provided the meats. Dessert items included brownies and mini-cheese cakes. Guests were able to enjoy the foods with the full menu of Gray Ghost wines including the newly released 2011 Reserve Chardonnay, and these were sampled in logo glasses with a holiday design created just for the holiday event. Listed below were the cheeses offered for tasting at the event:
Herbs de Provence
Cracked Peppercorn Cheddar
Amish Butter Cheese
Black peppercorn and red wine salami
So what were our favorite wine and cheese pairings? I found the cheeses to be amazing versatile with any of the Gray Ghost wines that were poured. I’m a big fan of the Reserve Chardonnay, and the 2011 vintage paired well with the harder Farmstead Cheddar from Marshall Farms. Paul preferred the 2011 Chardonnay with the Amish Butter Cheese from Culpeper Cheese. My favorite cheese was the cracked peppercorn cheddar from Marshall Farms, and this paired well with the slightly sweet Victorian White (or the sweeter Vidal Blanc) and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Paul’s favorite cheese was the Stoney Man, a manchego-style cheese, from Everona Dairy partnered with the 2010 Ranger Reserve. And what about wines and sweets? The brownies were delicious and played well with both the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Ranger Reserve; however, we did enjoy these with the rose-style Victorian Red. And the mini-cheese cakes? Of course, these can only be savored with the 2011 Adieu.
The Gray Ghost holiday party helped us to kick off the holiday season, and we left fully confident that a basket of Gray Ghost wines will be won by one of us. To be on the safe side, though, we left with bottles of our favorite Gray Ghost wines. We applaud Al and Cheryl Kellert’s efforts to promote the eat (and drink) local concept, too. Plan a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards soon, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
So we are back from our summer travels and now on the Virginia wine trails again. We decided to resume our quest for summer sippers with a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards this past weekend.
Ten wines were offered for tasting with five of them from the 2011 vintage. My favorite of these was the crisp 2011 Seyval Blanc with its lemon notes and dry finish. Minimal aging in Hungarian oak provided a bit of roundness to boot. Perfect for summer menus that feature shellfish or any other pairing that might call for a Sauvignon Blanc! Paul favored the 2011 Vidal Blanc with its tropical fruit elements. Another great summer wine, this one should pair well with spicy foods; however, it’s also just fine on its own especially on a hot summer’s day.
It’s never too late to think about Thanksgiving dinner especially if you fear that your favorite Virginia wines might sell out before Mr. Turkey hits the dinner table. The 2011 Gewurztraminer with its tropical fruit flavors and spicy edge would do well with a summer salad topped with fresh ham or grilled shrimp; however, I’d consider this one with herbed turkey and stuffing. Likewise, the very berry 2011 Cabernet Franc with its spicy nuances could be served now with grilled fare but would be a classic pairing with any Thanksgiving meal.
Of course, Gray Ghost Vineyards is known for its dessert wine called Adieu that is made from late harvest Vidal Blanc grapes, and the 2011 vintage delivers rich peach flavors with a honeyed texture. The Adieu is always a crowd pleaser at dinner parties, and I’ve even served it with heavier cheeses.
We always look forward to chatting with Amy Payette, Gray Ghost’s marketing director and daughter of winemakers Al and Cheryl Kellert. Amy was very pleased to inform us that Gray Ghost wines took gold medals in the 2012 NextGen International Competition that was held in California. The wines in this competition were judged by millenials, the up and coming wine consumers who lately have been the focus of attention by the wine industry. Gold-medal winners include the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2011 Gewurztraminer (which also won best in class.) Amy also shared with us this year’s harvest appears to be on track to be earlier than usual with the Seyval Blanc potentially coming in within the next couple of weeks. This seems to coincide with other reports that we have heard from other winemakers in Virginia, so it may indeed shape up to be an early harvest season statewide.
With our tasting done, we shared a bottle of the 2011 Seyval Blanc with grilled chicken filets, a block of Swiss cheese and melon slices beneath an apple tree. As we sipped and nibbled we spotted gold finches, cardinals, and a quickly fluttering hummingbird. Butterflies of all colors were likewise on full display. We made certain to purchase some of our Gray Ghost favorites before we left (a case in fact). Be sure to pay a visit to Gray Ghost Vineyards to stock up on your own summer sippers, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
As is often the case, Warren and I don’t exactly agree on what’s for dinner. Friday night Warren made crab cakes for himself and tilapia that was breaded and spiced with parmesan cheese for me. I don’t happen to like shell fish so having the tilapia solved that problem. We also had bow tie pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and herbs. But what wines to pair with our meals?
Warren likes big buttery chardonnays but I prefer lighter crispier white wines. He selected the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay from Gray Ghost to accompany his meal. He noted ripe pear, subtle grilled pineapple, and a toasty lingering finish.
I opted for the 2009 Viognier from Rappahannock Cellars. It had crisp tropical notes, honeysuckle, and a delightful fruity ending. Warren picked up some spicy elements.
Both wines complimented both our meals. Of course I’m partial to the crisp whites and voted the 2009 Viognier as the winner. Warren voted for the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay. If you visit Gray Ghost or Rappahannock Cellars anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!