Over the Memorial Day weekend we went to Charlottesville to re-visit some of our favorite wineries and to check out a new one.
Our first stop was King Family Vineyards. We last visited in October 2016. Since our last visit they have built a new area for tasting. The new room is called the Polo Room. It is available for events, overflow for the main tasting room, and large groups. It was empty when we arrived so we elected to do our tasting in the new room.
Our tasting associate was very knowledgeable about King Family wines and guided us through our tasting like a pro. Our favorite white was the 2015 Viognier and our favorite red was the 2014 Meritage. Another favorite was the Crose. We like to take the Crose to Wolf Trap to enjoy while attending a concert. The new Polo Room has a beautiful patio that wraps around the building. We decided to enjoy a glass of the Viognier while enjoying the views. It was a beautiful day and the King Family grounds provide an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.
We always enjoy our time at King Family. The wines are perfect, the view is memorable and the staff are always welcoming and full of information.
Our next stop was Pollak Vineyards. I’m a club member there so it’s always fun to return to see what is new. And it’s always nice to see staff we know and who know us.
Of course we did a tasting. We tasted many new wines and enjoyed all of them. Some stood out to us though as wines we’d like to bring home. We noted the 2016 Pinot Gris, the 2014 Chardonnay, the 2014 Merlot and the 2014 Petit Verdot. We were there on a Saturday and the 2015 Cabernet Franc was going to be released on Monday. Nick decided to let us taste it as well. We noted a fruity palate, some dust, nice acidity, cherry notes and a hint of herb. Nick also let us purchase a bottle early!
After our tasting we sat on the patio and enjoyed a glass of the 2015 Cabernet Franc with a baguette. We watched the clouds roll by and noticed the new planting in the front of the building. Nick later informed us that it was Sauvignon Blanc. What a surprise! But it won’t be ready to make wine with until probably 2020. Before leaving we ended up buying a case of our favorites.
Our final stop of the day was a new winery to us, Valley Road Vineyards. It’s not far from both King Family and Pollak Vineyards. Valley Road Vineyards was started by a group of friends who love Virginia and wine. Matthieu Finot from King Family Vineyards is the wine maker. They have a really nice tasting room with plenty of room for lots of tasters.
All the wines are solid, clean and ready to enjoy. We had a wonderful tasting with the tasting room manager. We both agreed the 2015 Chardonnay was a favorite. We noted pear, pineapple, with a citrus burst. It would be perfect on a warm spring or summer day. The 2015 Torn Curtain was our favorite red. It’s a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Chambourcin. I’m not a chambourcin fan but the flavors were so well integrated, I barely knew there was Chambourcin in the blend. We noted ripe red cherry, fruity palate. It was an easy drinking wine made for pizza, pasta or burgers.
We enjoyed our time at Valley Road and plan to return. Before leaving we purchased our favorites. Valley Road Vineyards is the 181st winery we’ve visited. It was worth the visit!
Paul and I hosted a blind tasting of five Cabernet Francs from Virginia (of course). Our amateur team was provided with a simple scoring sheet and after a brief discussion about the Cabernet Franc grape and its characteristics, the tasting began. The wines were wrapped in paper bags so that our tasters did not know which wines they were tasting, and these included the 2012 Barboursville Reserve, the 2013 Marquis de Lafayette by Breaux Vineyards, Gadino Cellars’ 2012 Cabernet Franc, a 2013 offering by King family, and 2013 Cabernet Franc by Zephaniah. Light fare was served as the tasting and scoring was conducted, and these allowed our team to see how the wines paired with cheeses, dried meats, and prosciutto-wrapped dates.
So which Cabernet Franc won the contest? Here is how they ranked:
Our team of sippers appreciated the brambleberry and tobacco notes of the Gadino Cabernet Franc; it also offered a generous length. I found it to be very lively with vibrant fruit elements. The Barboursville Reserve was a close second but was a bit tight at the beginning compared to the winner; lots of swirling coaxed out the cedar and pepper notes and eventually dark berry aromas and flavors.
Once the official tasting was done, we feasted on braised lamb shoulder chops flavored with fresh mint and green olives, couscous, and roasted green beans topped with roasted almond slivers. These paired quite well with the wines that were poured for the tasting.
It was fun to showcase one of Virginia’s premier grapes at this taste off. We did not take ourselves too seriously, and we enjoyed the conversation that the wines engendered.
Seek out these or other Cabernet Francs and hold your own wine tasting with family, friends, and food. Of course, always mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you! Watch the video of our tasting below and subscribe to our NEW YouTube Channel!
As summer begins to give way to fall, we conclude our roundup of winery visits to the Monticello area. Here we summarize our visits to two favorites and a meeting with an old friend. Read on to find out more!
Blenheim Vineyards: We always look forward to a tasting here. We enjoyed all of the wines that we tasted, but we must select favorites. Paul favored the Chardonnay 2013 with its characteristics of citrus, apple and pear. This Chardonnay was a blend of barrel-aged wine (25% barrel aged for 5 months) and tank aged (75%) to present a wine crisp yet presented a nice mouth feel. I preferred the Painted White 2012, a blend of Viognier (44%), Roussane (30%), and Marsanne (26%); it was aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Floral notes with elements of tropical fruit and hint of mineral made for a more complex white wine. We were both fans of the dry Rose 2013 which was produced from a blend of some unique grapes in Virginia—Mouvedre (21%), Petite Syrah(21%) and Pinot Noir (4%). Merlot made up the rest of the blend. The Painted Red 2012 captured our attention as we look forward to fall menus. A blend of Cabernet Franc (29%), Merlot (29%), Petit Verdot (21%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), and Mouvedre (3%), the Painted Red gave aromas of clove and nutmeg along with notes of blackberry and plum. Roasted fare should pair quite nicely with this one.
King Family Vineyards: It would be easy to say all of the above here as all of Mathieu Finot’s wines are well crafted. I was a fan of the Chardonnay 2013 that was aged for 9 months in French oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation. Pear notes and a fuller mouth feel were complimented by a hint of fall spices. With fall about to arrive, it was hard to ignore the plumy Petit Verdot 2012 with its whiff of violet and notes of cedar and spice. Game meats should play well with this Petit Verdot. However, summer is still hanging on, and we did not forget the sample the Crose 2013. Dry and crisp with flavors of strawberry and melon, this versatile rose is always a crowd pleaser regardless of the season.
Old House Vineyards: It was here that we met an old friend, Andy Reagan. Andy is now the winemaker at Old House, and we got to catch up with Andy while we were in the tasting room. Andy seemed eager to take the helm as winemaker at Old House, and we know that the vintages crafted by Andy will be as superb as his wines at Jefferson Vineyards. We also got to sample the current releases at Old House, and our favorite was the Clover Hill, a dry Vidal Blanc with peach notes and a mineral presence on the finish. Chambourcin fans will love the smoky Wicked Bottom 2012 that was aged for one year on American oak. Flavors of candied cherry presented an approachable red wine; however, a bit of spice on the finish provided some complexity that made it very food friendly wine.
Celebrate the final days of summer with a visit to these wineries, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
On Friday evening we continued enjoying the nice weather on my balcony by enjoying our sipping wine as well as our dinner wine. There was a cool breeze perfect for sipping and enjoying the sunset.
We selected the 2008 Chardonnay from Pollak Vineyards as our sipper. We enjoyed it with a creamy St. Angels cheese and baguette. We noted pear, apple, and honey on the nose with very similar notes on the tongue as well as slightly toasted edge on the finish. It paired perfectly with our nibbles. You can’t go wrong with any of the wines from Pollak.
For dinner we had filet mignon, wild rice, and mixed veggies. Warren selected the 2008 Merlot from King Family Vineyards. When I taste a wine like this I wonder what it would be like if I had left it on the rack a little longer. On the nose we noted smoke, dark cherry, blackberry, and dried herbs with a whiff of tobacco. In the mouth we noted dark berry flavors, similar fruit as the nose with the addition of vanilla. We also took note of the long finish. Of course this wine paired perfectly with our meal. Just like the Pollak wines, you can’t go wrong with any of the wines from King Family. They happen to be one of our favorite wineries.
If you haven’t been to Pollak or King Family, you simply must plan a visit soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!