Virginia Wines Before Dinner

We had friends over for dinner this past Saturday, and we decided to pour Virginia wines as aperitifs.  After all, it is Virginia Wine month!  Guests were greeted with the Governor Fauquier from Philip Carter Winery and Sarah’s Patio White from Chrysalis Vineyards.  Both were off-dry wines and produced from the Vidal Blanc grape, a Riesling-like hybrid that grows very well in Virginia.  Like Riesling, Vidal Blanc is very fruity and refreshing, so some of the appetizers that I served with these wines were a bit spicy. Some of these dishes were captured by Paul, the cameraman.

Cheeses: Brie topped with hot peach chutney, or for the faint of stomach, plain brie and red grapes.
Nuts: Chili-lime flavored almonds; plain almonds for the wimps.  Not sure if olives pair with these wines, but the gourmet olives were stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and were absolutely delicious! 
Meats: Smoked salmon

So what was on tap for the rest of the evening? I did splice in a couple of Napa wines from Clos Pegase winery; one was a Sauvignon Blanc that I sampled at a wine tasting and thought it was unique—tropical fruit flavors (as opposed to cat pee/grapefruit) with a refreshing acidity that seemed a perfect match with an acidic tomato dish.  The other was a Cabernet Sauvignon that has been resting on the wine rack for several years, but according to the wine mags, needed to be appreciated now.  And indeed it was appreciated!  It was quite good with the beef; however, the fruitier Virginia offering was very well-received by my dinner guests. A number of Virginia meritage blends would have paired quite nicely with my beef dish; however, I went with the Gray Ghost option based on my experience at the Gadsby’s Tavern winemaker dinner which featured the Ranger Reserve with a very similar beef dish.  Empty wine bottles indicated that the Virginia option was as popular as the California one. 

Anyway, here was the menu:

Fresh tomato soup paired with Clos Pegase Sauvignon Blanc 2009 
Garlic-herb crusted beef tenderloin with roasted potatoes and squash paired with Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2005; Gray Ghost Ranger Reserve 2008
Pumpkin bundt cake served with Gray Ghost Adieu 2006
Community Brand Coffee and Chicory (found only in New Orleans)

Harvesting at Gray Ghost

Yesterday we spent a good chunk of the day at Gray Ghost Vineyards helping to harvest the chardonnay grapes. This has become an annual event for us. This was my 6th year and Warren’s 8th year harvesting. We always have a good time and enjoy meeting new people.

As usual, we got up really early and met others at the winery and enjoyed some breakfast treats before heading out to the vineyards.

Al gave us a quick lesson on how to harvest the grapes.

We then headed out to the vineyards to begin harvesting the grapes.

Here’s Warren hard at work snipping the stems.

We found a small bird nest IN the vines!

A few hours later the lugs were weighed and 11 TONS (yes, tons) of chardonnay grapes had been harvested.

At the end we toasted and cheered for the record breaking harvest and what a good job we had all done! We look forward to repeating this again next year!

More Summer Sippers

So we continue our mission to find the right wines for summer enjoyment. On Sunday, this quest took us to Gray Ghost Vineyards and Rappahannock Cellars.

Gray Ghost Vineyards: We always enjoy catching up with Al and Cheryl Kellert at Gray Ghost Vineyards. We also enjoy sampling their wines! For summer weather, it’s hard to beat the 2010 Vidal Blanc which recently garnered 93 points at the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition. I got a whiff of banana and melon with this slightly sweeter pour; lovely on its own, it could also be paired with picnic fare or spicy foods. For those who are thinking ahead to holiday menus (it’s around the corner!), consider the lush 2010 Gewurztraminer with its vibrant floral and pineapple notes. This one always sells out fast and would be fine with Thanksgiving turkey or holiday ham. We were lucky enough to visit Gray Ghost Vineyards on the day that they released the 2010 Cabernet Franc. Full cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors with characteristic spice at the end make for a classic, Old World-style wine. Lighter-bodied and versatile, I’d also consider this one for lighter beef dishes done on the grill but it’s also a contender for herbed turkey and cranberry sauce.

Rappahannock Cellars: The 2010 Viognier was given a pre-release sampling this weekend, and it was lovely. Like the other 2010 whites we’ve tried this year, the full fruit presence was on display with this luscious pour. Melon and stone fruit characteristics made for a flavor-rich wine; some aging in French oak barrels provided very subtle oak nuances and a honeyed texture. Summer brings out the sweeter palates, and the 2009 Noblesse Viognier should prove to be a crowd pleaser at any summer gathering. The Noblesse is actually a blended wine and includes Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay. Fruity and refreshing, our friend and guest blogger Michael Tyler would enjoy a glass of the Noblesse on his deck paired with shellfish and a sunset! Heavier meats done on the grill should partner well with the jammy 2009 Cabernet Franc, a newer release at Rappahannock Cellars.

Summer is the time to favorite Virginia wines with picnics, cookouts and friends. Visit Gray Ghost Vineyards and Rappahannock Cellars to find some of your favorite summer sippers, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Gray Ghost Barrel Tasting

Last Saturday we went to the annual barrel tasting at Gray Ghost Vineyards. Each year we enjoy seeing how the wines are progressing in the barrel and get a sneak peak at what they’ll be like when they are in the bottle. This is a popular event at Gray Ghost and we never miss it.

We started with the 2010 Chardonnay. We noted tropical fruit, apple, and a hint of oak. This one will be bottled in June. Next was the 2010 Merlot. We jotted down cherry, black cherry, light oak, and smokey characteristics. This one will be bottled in July or August. The next red was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. We noted cherry, and a smooth mouth feel. This one should be ready by mid July. Next up was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. We noted smoke, pepper, and dark fruit. This one won’t be released until sometime in 2012. We then tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is being aged in both American oak and French oak. The American oak sample presented berry flavors, a hint of cranberry and some tannins. Of course it will smooth out with more time in the barrel. The French oak sample was supple, smooth and also presented berry flavors. Our taste showed how time in the French oak will make the final product a wonderful wine.

The blending was next. We started with a blend of the 2010 Cabernet Franc and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a nice blend that presented smoke, pepper, and dark berry flavors. Our next blend was the star of the day. We blended the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon American barrel sample with the French oak sample. OMG! This was quite a blend. We noted eucalyptus, berry flavors, smooth tannins, and a beautiful color. This one will be released to the public in October but those who purchased futures will get their hands on it in September.

If you are at all interested in how wines develop in the barrel, you need to attend a barrel tasting. You get to see where the wine is going and you get a good idea of what the final product will be when it’s bottled. We always enjoy getting a sneak peek of the wines to come. Plan to attend a barrel tasting soon. And if you visit Gray Ghost, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!