Friday Wine of Note

As is often the case we found ourselves having nice thick filets and red potatoes for dinner Friday evening. The question always arises as to what wine to pair with our meal. We perused the wine rack and selected several possibilities but ultimately decided on the 2008 Meritage from King Family Vineyards. You know how much I’ve been enjoying the 2008 reds. I wondered if this 2008 would live up to the characteristics that I enjoy most from the 2008 reds. Sure enough, it did. A swirl and a sniff revealed plum, cherry, a hint of tobacco, and some anise. On the tongue we noted plum, cherry, and some spice at the end (maybe cinnamon or maybe even cedar). The fruit up front was what made me think of the 2008 reds that I enjoy. The mouthful of flavors complimented our meal very well. How could it not? If you haven’t tried the 2008 Meritage from King Family, be sure to put it on your list of 2008 reds to enjoy. And if you visit King Family Vineyards, tell them Virginia WIne Time sent you!

Reflections on The Drink Local Conference

Paul certainly captured the spirit of the Drink Local Wine Conference that was held at the Lansdowne Resort this past Sunday. I thought that I would add a few of my own thoughts on the event:

1. We’re on the verge of something really big!
Readers of our blog know that we’ve been heralding Virginia wines for five year now, and the treat for us has been to witness the tremendous growth in the local wine industry. The number of wineries and vineyards in the area has exploded in the past few years; however, the most successful wineries have kept a focus on wine quality. It was fascinating to me to listen to and even interact with successful owners and winemakers such as Mathieu Finot of King Family, Jenni McCloud of Chrysalis, Luca Paschina of Barboursville and Jordan Harris of Tarara. Their quest is to discover what varietals work for Virginia, to experiment and take risks, and to ultimately put Virginia on the map as a region that produces unique yet world-class wines. Which ones will be the flagship grapes? Opinions seem to converge on Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot with Merlot and Chardonnay in the running. The panel discussions with wine makers and social media experts confirmed what I have known for years now—Virginia is on the verge of something big!

2. Social Media connects consumers to local wines.
Ok—I must admit that I am not a Twitter or Facebook fan. Paul handles all of that for Virginia Wine Time. However, after Sunday’s panel discussion on social media, I am now a fervent believer that Twitter, Facebook, and blogs fill the gap between local wineries and traditional media. Virginia wineries may not be headlining Wine Spectator, but then again most wine drinkers don’t really care. A tweet about a favorite Virginia wine creates a buzz that Wine Spectator could never create. Jenn Breaux Blosser of Breaux Vineyards is by far the most engaged with social media, and she had never been shy about networking via Twitter and Facebook. I do believe the testimonial that she delivered at the conference—social media pulls in customers that she could never reach via traditional media.

There are exceptions, though. I was thrilled to meet Dave McIntyre, wine critic for the Washington Post. Dave’s wine column in Wapo’s food section is one that I never miss, and he has been an active promoter of local wines. I’ll take Dave’s word about wine over Robert Parker’s any day of the week. However, I’d apply the same standard to bloggers and “tweeters” and admit that an expert palate like Dave McIntyre’s certainly trumps mine; so, if Dave recommends a Virginia wine, trust him—it’s really good and worth seeking out!

3. Virginia (and Maryland) makes some excellent wines.
The highlight of the day had to be the wine “Twitter Taste-Off” when we all got to sample the best wines that 21 local wineries had to offer. Paul noted that Breaux Vineyards’s 2002 Reserve Merlot and Chrysalis’ 2008 Albarino took top honors, and those were certainly excellent pours. However, there were a number of outstanding wines that included Michael Shaps’ Viognier (my own personal fave), King Family’s 2008 Meritage (which may give the successful 2007 vintage a run for its money), and Boxwood’s 2007 Topiary. The sleepers of the event had to be the 2005 Petit Verdot from Ingleside and the current Syrah from Maryland’s Black Ankle. (For those who like a fuller-bodied Chardonnay, Maryland’s Elk Run offering may be worth a try, too.)

I was definitely inspired by the day’s events, and now I am even more anxious to hit the wine trails to discover the quality wines that Virginia wineries have to offer. And now I am determined to visit Maryland wineries, too! Of course, another pleasure was to meet other bloggers, and who knew that we would be dubbed the “wine mafia”! Could this be a movie in the making? The Winefather?

Be sure to visit Virginia wineries this spring, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Monticello Wine Trail Day Two

Our second day on the Monticello Wine Trail found us visiting Afton Mountain, Pollak Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards.

We arrived at Afton Mountain, and we were surprised with the changes that have already taken place under the new ownership. The most obvious change? The new tasting room. Current owners Tony and Elizabeth Smith have converted the previous owners’ home into a classy, sophisticated tasting room that includes antique furnishings and oil paintings. And the view from the new tasting facility cannot be surpassed—mountains, streams, and vineyards greet the eyes and need only to be appreciated. Nick Crutchfield directed our tasting, and the current offerings were quite impressive. Of course, we only carry a few gold stars to each tasting room, and we are very selective with our eventual winners. Our gold star for the whites went to the 2006′ Tete de Cuvee Brut. What an amazing bubbly! Crisp and effervescent with apple flavors and non-stop bubbles, we dreamed of Sunday morning mimosas. Warren had already determined that a bottle of the Cuvee was going home with him; however, we had other white wine to sample. Paul’s own award was presented to the 2008 Gewurztraminer with its pineapple and spice characteristics.

So on to the red wines, and here we reached a unanimous decision. Our gold star for the reds went to the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This award winning wine presented rich cherry flavors with some black pepper and finished with smooth tannins. Warren’s close second was the Festa id Bacco from the Bacchanal vineyard with its characteristics of dark fruit, anise, and violet.

After our detailed tasting we enjoyed a bottle of the 2008 Cabernet Franc with some warm bread and white cheddar cheese. We had a chance to chat with both Tony and Elizabeth Smith, the owners of Afton Mountain, and their son Hunter. Elizabeth and Tony shared with us that their plan to be winemakers within three to five years was accelerated with the availability of the Afton Mountain property. The three to five year plan became a three to five month dream come true. The result? Quality wines. At the end of our visit we made a few purchases and headed down the road to Pollak. If you find yourself in the Charlottesville area you simply MUST plan a visit to Afton Mountain. The changes are so evident in the surroundings and the wine. Get yourself to Afton!

Pollak Vineyards is one of our favorite wineries in Virginia. We always feel like family when we visit Pollak. This trip we began with a barrel tasting with Jake Busching. We were able to taste the 2009 Chadonnay, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Meritage, 2007 Meritage and the 2009 Mille Fleur. Jake also gave us a taste of the 2008 Mille Fleur. My white gold star for the barrel tasting went to the 2009 Chardonnay with it’s minerality, nice acidity at the end with citrus flavors. My red gold star went to the 2007 Meritage with it’s dirt nose, tight tannins, and dark fruit flavors. After our informative barrel tasting we decided to do a regular tasting. My gold stars went to the 2008 Durant White and the 2007 Cabernet Franc. Warren awarded his to the 2008 Rose` and the 2008 Native Yeast Chardonnay. After our tasting I enjoyed a glass of the 2008 Cabernet Franc and Warren had the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve. We enjoyed these wines with a warm baguette. When it came time to make our purchases I was disappointed to find out the 2008 Viognier was sold out. No problem though. I enjoy all their wines. I mixed and matched to make up a case. We have have plans to return in July when there will be many new releases.

King Family was our final stop for today. We love the wines from King Family and this time they did not disappoint. Ali was our tasting associate and she was so rehearsed, she knew everything about the wines. We both selected the 2009 Crose` for a gold star. I selected the 2007 Merlot and Warren selected the 2008 Meritage for gold stars. Even though it was a rainy cold afternoon, we enjoyed a glass of the Crose` on the covered patio. We were Tweeting about your experience at King Family. Before leaving we secured a few bottles for our wine racks. While make our purchases we ran into Matthiew Finot, the winemaker. We were able to chat with him about the 2007 Meritage which won the 2010 Governor’s Cup. We informed him we had just had the 2009 Crose`. We agreed the Crose` with it’s sauvignon qualities makes a great summer wine. We left with a few bottles for the summer. We plan to return to King Family in the summer to taste all the new releases.

Tomorrow our trip continues with a stop at Lovingston Vineyards, Cardinal Point, and First Colony.