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Monticello Sweep Part 2

We began Virginia Wine Month with posts about the upcoming Bluegrass Festival at Chrysalis Vineyards and our decision to kick off the special month a day early by enjoying a picnic with the crisp 2011 Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards. However, before we go further into the month, I do want to conclude our recap of visits to wineries in the Monticello area. So pretend that it’s still Labor Day weekend and read on!

Barboursville Vineyards: I always look forward to a tasting here, and no, the assembly line tasting process does not bother me at all. The wines here are consistently well made, and we always leave with a bottle (or two or three) of something. Favorites here: of the white wines, Paul liked the stainless steel Chardonnay, and I preferred the oaked Chardonnay Reserve. No surprises here, right? We did, however, concur on the Rose 2011 with its refreshing crispness and strawberry flavors. We recently enjoyed this one at Open Kitchen, too. Red wine faves included the Sangiovese Reserve 2010 for Paul, but for me it was the Cabernet Fran Reserve 2010 with its big raspberry, plum and cedar elements. Of course, the Octagon is always in a special category, and the 2008 vintage is noteworthy for its complexity and aging potential. Sharing a space in the special category is the Malvaxia Reserve 2007 with its rich palate of pineapple, apricot and honey.



Keswick Vineyards: Stephen Benard is a master winemaker, and a tasting here is another always on the “must do” list when we visit the area. Paul was a fan of the dry 2011 Rose with its vibrant acidity and red berry flavors. I liked this one too, but I am always a sucker for Old World-style Chardonnays. The 2011 Chardonnay was my winner. Fermented in both stainless steel tanks and new French oak barrels, I noted flavors of pear, pineapple and butterscotch with a honeyed mouth feel. Of the red wines, we both agreed on the 2010 Merlot. Paul the Merlot fan gravitated toward the complexity of this one; oak notes complimented rather than dominated the nose and palate. Dark cherry and raspberry flavors melded with a chocolate kiss; tannins were still a bit gripping but not unpleasantly so. Buy now and either decant or age. We bought bottles of each favorite.


Kilaurwen Winery: A first visit for us. We were able to taste the fruity Fiesta White, a mix of Rkatsetelli (96%) and Viognier (4%). A fun summer wine, we noted flavors of peach and citrus. At 2 ½% residual sugar, it was bright a fruity. Paul enjoyed the 2010 Cabernet Franc with its elements of blackberry, dark cherry, black olive, and pepper. I was more intrigued with the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve that was aged in American oak barrels for 8 months. Earthier elements prevailed here with notes of anise and violet. Owner Bob Steeves conducted our tasting, and we found out that the name of the winery is actually a blend of his daughter’s names, Kimberlee, Laura and Wendy. Steeves has maintained the vineyard since he purchased it in 1994; his first vintage, though, was bottled in 2009. His flagship varietal, Riesling, was sold out and therefore not available for tasting; however, we did learn that his Cabernet Francs have earned numerous medals and even beat a California Cabernet Franc in a blind tasting!



Stinson Vineyards: This was our third visit to Stinson Vineyards, and we both enjoyed the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in a concrete egg (that looks like an atomic bomb), it presented aromas of grapefruit and cut grass. Our red wine faves included the complex 2010 Meritage with its smoky nose and aromas o blackberry and raspberry; dark fruit flavors gave way to a peppery finish. If cheesecake is on the dessert menu, try pairing it with the 2010 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng seems to have a characteristic unctuous mouth feel, so at 9% residual sugar this offers a fuller mouth feel in spades. Notes of orange peel and sesame makes added to the profile, and this dessert wine presents a nice way to end a dinner party.


We always enjoy a trip to wineries in the Monticello area. Visit these wineries during Virginia Wine Month to select your own favorites. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

More Favorites in Charlottesville

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over we can get back to our regular posting schedule. On the second day of our Charlottesville trip over the Veterans Day weekend we visited more wineries. Three of the wineries we visited were King Family Vineyards, Sugarleaf Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.

A beautiful crisp fall day greeted us as we began our tasting at King Family. As with other Virginia wineries, King Family is low on their white wines. Of course we enjoyed both the 2010 Viognier and the 2010 Chardonnay. The 2010 Viognier presented melon flavors with the addition of peach and apricot in the mouth. We also noted the full mouth feel of this wine. We thought we might be enjoying it later with the fall colors.

Of the reds we were split. Warren really enjoyed the 2009 Meritage and jotted down violets, cigars, sandalwood, and earthy elements. I really enjoyed the 2010 Cabernet Franc and wrote down earth, spice, and raspberry.

After our tasting we enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 Viognier with nibbles on the grounds at King Family. The fall colors were perfect. While enjoying our wine, winemaker Matthieu Finot joined us for some wine chat. We always enjoy chatting with Matthieu. Before leaving we promised Matthieu that we’d return when we had more time to talk and taste some barrel samples.

Next up is Sugarleaf Vineyards. We hadn’t visited Sugarleaf for a while and it was time to see what was new at Sugarleaf. Sugarleaf also only had two white wines to taste and of these we put our star next to the 2008 Chardonnay. We noted apple and vanilla and a nice crisp finish. Of the reds we really enjoyed the 2010 Petit Verdot. Here we noted plum and spice with some solid tannins. I thought of some red meat with this wine.

While we were tasting we were recognized by our tasting associate and she insisted that we head down to the barrel room to meet the new winemaker Romulus Pascall. He’s been with Sugarleaf for five years and studied under the previous winemaker Dan Neumeister. He allowed us to enjoy a barrel sample of the 2010 Cuvee Neubia. He was just about to move it into more aggressive barrels to import a more buttery/smooth finish. It was quite tannic and will need more time but you could see this is going to be a very nice wine when it is released in the future.

Our final stop of the day was Keswick Vineyards. Keswick is one of our favorites. We always have a good time chatting with Stephan and Kat. And Stephan always gives us a sneak peek of the wines still in the barrel. Unfortunately this time they were both at a wedding. We missed seeing them of course but still enjoyed the wines.

Like many other Virginia wineries Keswick is low on white wines. We only tasted the 2010 Chardonnay. We have already enjoyed this one and enjoyed it again on this visit. We noted pear, green apple, and butterscotch. Of the reds we actually put stars next to the 2010 Touriga and the 2009 Merlot. The 2010 Touriga presented notes of cherry, raspberry and smoke. I instantly enjoyed the fruit characteristics of this wine. The 2009 Merlot presented cherry, coffee, and an almost creamy vanilla finish. We were thinking of which wine to bring home for dinner and ultimately decided on the 2010 Touriga. Now I wished I had gotten a second bottle for the wine rack!

We enjoyed our time in Charlottesville. Revisiting old favorites is always fun. If you haven’t been to King Family Vineyards, Sugarleaf Vineyards, or Keswick Vineyards, you need to plan a trip to Charlottesville soon! And be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summer Wines of Virginia Taste and Tweet

With these warm days it’s time to think of summer wines. On Tuesday evening we had the chance to participate in the Summer Wines of VIrginia Taste and Tweet with other bloggers and wine people all over the country. We invited Virginia Wine In My Pocket and Cellarblog to join in the fun. We enjoyed lots of nibbles and some great Virginia wines. Here are the wines we tasted and a few of our Tweets from the tasting. Enjoy the pictures as well!

Keswick Vineyards 2010 Verdejo

“On the nose we get citrus, grapefruit…hint of hay on the nose as well as melon…crisp, refreshing, nice acidity, Warren would have it with melon, goat cheese…It went very well with goat cheese. Warren wants to have it with a crab cake.”

Veritas Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

“On the nose we get grapefruit, early grassy nose…in the mouth we get grapefruit, lime, something on the edge, lengthy finish…Really enjoying this Sauvignon Blanc!”

Boxwood Winery 2010 Topiary Rosé

“The color is a pale pink, salmon color, a hint of orange…on the nose we get watermelon, a hint of spice…On the tongue we get watermelon, some strawberry, nice acidity here too. Very dry…Warren says this would go with almost anything. Makes me think of a concert on the grass at Wolf Trap.”

Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Viognier

“On the nose we are getting a hint of straw…but it’s very light on the nose…on the tongue we’re getting some apple and pear. We are getting a sweet component that we can’t figure out.”

Chrysalis Vineyards 2010 Viognier

“On the nose we are getting some tart fruit, pear, and honeysuckle…we get a honey texture in the mouth with pear, vanilla toward the end…we like this viognier. It’s an excellent example of a Virginia Viognier.”

Lovingston Winery 2010 Petit Manseng

“Pineapple nose, and it smells sweet…tart puckery mouth, seems sweeter than it actually is…we think this one would pair well with something spicy.”

We enjoyed all the wines and think they’d be great summer wines. We had a great time with the other bloggers who attended and really liked interacting with the winemakers on Twitter. A HUGE THANK YOU to the Virginia Wine Board, Frank Morgan from DrinkWhatYouLike.com, and the folks at Swirl Sip Snark for organizing this event. And of course we need to thank all the wineries for providing the wines we enjoyed during the evening. If you are looking for some summer wines, consider these wines. And if you visit any of the wineries to pick up the wines, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

The First Lady Of Virginia’s FLITE Winery Tour

Today we were privileged to join Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell on a tour and tasting of wines on the Monticello Trail. We were joined by forty other participants involved in promoting the Virginia wine industry, and these included familiar faces such as Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Patrick Evans Hylton editor of Virginia Wine Lover magazine. This memorable day began with a continental breakfast at the historic Old City Hall, and we then boarded a luxury bus destined for three Monticello wineries: Pollak Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.

We arrived at Pollak Vineyards amidst a flurry of media attention. Paul assumed that the television cameras were there to await his final word on Virginia wines; alas, they were there to greet First Lady Maureen McDonnell who has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia wine industry. Winemaker Jake Busching was also on hand to greet us all, and we made our way to the tasting room. We were first treated to a tour of the barrel room complete with barrel samples of the stellar 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The juicy Cabernet Franc has already won gold in a California competition, and we await its release.

We were then guided through a tasting in the main tasting room with the First Lady herself helping with the process. We are big fans of Pollak’s wines, so picking our favorites proved to be a tough task; however, we did favor the intense 2010 Viognier. The 2010 white vintages are already creating a buzz in the tasting rooms, and this Viognier present a reason why this is the case. Vibrant apricot and peach characteristics prevailed and it presented a full mouth feel no doubt aided by spending some time in neutral French oak barrels. Of the red wines, we enjoyed the smoky 2008 Merlot with its bold cherry flavors. However it is no longer for sale. Summer sippers will also enjoy the crisp 2010 Pinot Gris.

From Pollak Vineyards the entourage continued on to Barboursville Vineyards for lunch and wine at the heralded Palladio restaurant. Winemaker Luka Paschina guided us through the food and wine pairings, and what an exquisite experience! The salad course featured fresh greens tossed with morels and served atop asparagus spears; a sprinkle of grated pecorino completed the dish. Paired with this was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with it’s characteristic citrus, hay and mineral elements. The main dish was a lovely sweet pea risotto topped with seared rock fish, and this was partnered with the lush 2010 Viognier Reserve. Rich aromatics, exotic tropical fruit characters,and a creamy mouth feel best describe this perfect compliment to the equally rich risotto. A cheese course paired the decorated 2006 Octagon, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, finished the menu.

The afternoon’s event ended at Keswick Vineyards, and winemaker Stephen Bernard presented his platinum and gold medal winning wines beneath an outdoor canopy that allowed tasters to enjoy a glorious spring afternoon. Stephen is one of our favorite winemakers, and selecting a favorite was a tough decision. The 2010 Verdejo was crisp and clean and should prove popular during the upcoming summer months. I enjoyed the fuller-bodied 2009 Viognier Reserve done in the Condrieu style, and Stephen confirmed that this one will only taste better with time. The complex 2007 Heritage earned my star of approval for the red wines. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the elements of dark fruit, tobacco and cedar begged for a heavy beef dish.

As we sipped and savored through the afternoon, we learned that First Lady Maureen McDonnell has planted her own small vineyard at the Governor’s Mansion. Mrs. McDonnell opted to plant 15 second year vines in the Mansion’s garden. Why second year vines? The First Lady wishes to produce a wine to commemorate the Governor’s Mansion’s 200th anniversary; therefore, vines in their third year of growth would be necessary. Viticultural expert Lucie Morton provided input into the decision, so look forward to wines produced from the Governor’s garden!

The day ended too soon, and we thanked Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia wine board, for organizing the event and then inviting us to attend. Plan your own visit to these excellent wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Monticello Wine Trail Day One

We are in Charlottesville! Today we visited Barboursville, Horton, Keswick, Jefferson and Blenheim. Here’s a quick recap of the gold stars we handed out and a few notes we made during our visits.

At Barboursville I gave my gold star to the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and Warren awarded his to the 2008 Viognier Reserve. For the reds I gave my gold star to the 2008 Sangiovese and Warren gave gave out two gold stars. One to the Octagon 2005 and one to the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007. All the wines at Barboursville are strong. We enjoy them all. However, something must be done with the flow of the tasting room. Big crowds slow things down and hamper the tasting experience. It might be time to consider a different plan or layout for tasting. There’s got to be a better way to conduct their tastings. Just a thought.

It’s always an adventure at Horton Cellars. They have so many wines to choose from. We have to be selective or we’ll have to get a driver. We did try a few of the whites and a few of the reds. This time our gold stars went to the same wines. We awarded the 2008 Viognier a gold star and the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve a gold star. We purchased a few bottles before leaving.

Our next stop was Keswick Vineyards. We always enjoy our tastings there. They had six wines to taste this time and they were all new to use. I gave my gold star for the whites to the recently released 2009 Verdejo and my gold star for the reds went to the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Warren selected the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve and the 2008 Consensus for his gold star winners. After our tasting we enjoyed a bottle of the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Warren noted currents, plums, dried herbs on the nose and similar qualities on the palate. He said, “It tastes like it smells.” We enjoyed it with some delicious white cheddar cheese and crackers.

Our next stop was at Jefferson Vineyards. Jefferson was packed! It was a very popular place today. We found a spot at the tasting bar and began our tasting. We met some nice ladies from California next to us and enjoyed chatting about wine with them. Once again our choices for gold stars were split. It’s probably a good thing we like so many different Virginia wines. I gave my gold stars to the 2008 Pinot Gris and the 2007 Meritage while Warren gave his gold stars to the 2008 Viognier and the 2007 Merlot. Usually Warren likes the meritages and I like the merlots but we mixed it up this time. The weather was beautiful today so we shared a glass of the 2008 Viognier on their deck.

Trying to make the most of the beautiful weather and squeeze in as many wineries as we can on this trip, we finished the day at Blenheim. Kirsty Harmon is doing some wonderful things at Blenheim. It’s another winery that has become very popular. Our tasting associate, Pete, guided us through the current offerings at Blenheim. There were two new wines on the list: White Table Wine and Painted Red 2008. The Painted Red 2008 intrigued us with his big fruity nose and flavors. We described it as beaujolais style. Warren and I both gave our gold stars to the 2008 Viognier but for the reds we were split again. I gave mine to the Blenheim Farm Petit Verdot 2008 and Warren gave his to Painted Red 2008. After our tasting we enjoyed a glass of the Painted Red 2008 on the deck. Kirsty came out and joined us and we chatted about wine of course. We always have a great time at Blenheim.

That was our first day in Charlottesville. A lot of wineries, I know but we have to make the best use of our time. Tomorrow we are headed to three more wineries. I’ll update you then with our findings. If you find yourself at any of these wonderful wineries, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

An Autumn Trip To Keswick Vineyards

Two weekends ago, we made a quick trip to Monticello wineries to take in the fall colors and to sample latest releases at the wineries. It had been quite a while since our last visit to Keswick Vineyards, and this time around, we were determined to pay a call; so, on a crisp fall day we made our way to Keswick Vineyards.

On tap were six wines to taste. Armed with gold stars, we seated ourselves at the tasting bar and sipped away. I thought all three of the white wines were very solid. Two white wine offerings were produced from Viognier—the 2008 Viognier and the 2008 Les Vent D’Anges; the other was a 2008 Chardonnay. When forced to decide the “one”, I settled on the French oak-fermented 2008 Viognier. It presented lovely aromas of honeysuckle and peaches with a honeyed texture in the mouth. Rich and full-bodied, it should pair quite well with any dish that featured a cream sauce. Paul favored the 2008 Les Vent d’Anges which is stainless steel fermented. At 1.3% residual sugar, it’s considered an off-dry wine and exhibits the same characteristics as its oak fermented sibling but without the full mouth feel. My close second place was the classic 2008 Chardonnay with its toasty nose and pear flavors. I also liked its buttery feel and full finish—I’m a sucker for this kind of Chardonnay.

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So on to the red wines. It was here that we reached a unanimous decision. The gold star went to the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. What a treat it was to taste this Governor’s Cup winner! “Dense” was Paul’s descriptor the rich garnet color, and we both noted blackberries and dark cherries on the nose with similar flavors in the mouth. I noted mocha at the end. This Cabernet is blended with 25% Merlot and aged in French and American oak barrels. One inhibiting factors? The price. At $60 a bottle, this Cabernet Sauvignon is well worth its hefty price tag, but tasters may want to reserve this one for a special occasion. For an everyday wine, try the fruity 2008 Touriga which is blended with 20% Chambourcin. Medium bodied and easy to drink, the 2008 Touriga was chock full of mixed berry flavors with a smoky edge to boot. Buy now and drink now with—might be a nice alternative for the holidays, too.

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Of course, with tasting done, we were hungry. We brought along grilled chicken breasts, white cheeses and baguette. Our wine of choice? I let Paul prevail and we selected the 2008 Les Vent d’Anges to enjoy with lunch and fall scenery. We marveled at the different shades of fall that included gold, rust, orange and red. In the process, we also nibbled and sipped.

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We made off with several bottles of wine that included a bottle each of the white wines. We also know that we will return to Keswick Vineyards to sample upcoming releases. Planning a visit to Keswick Vineyards? Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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