The Linden Barrel Tasting is an event that we always mark on our calendars. This year’s tasting featured some white wines from the 2011 vintage, a 2011 Claret, and special releases from the 2008 and 2009 vintages. Paired with the wines were delicious treats from the Ashby Inn and Restaurant.
Our tasting started on the right note with a sample of the 2011 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc paired with mussels. We’re big fans of the Avenius Sauvignon Blanc, and we were huge fans of this 2011 vintage. Lots of citrus and soft melon notes with a nice acidity made for a refreshing wine that is destined to please summer palates. From there we proceeded to the barrel room where we tasted samples from the 2011 Avenius Chardonnay, the 2011 Hardscrabble Chardonnay, and the 2011 Boisseau Chardonnay. Each offered a unique style—the Avenius presented a Chablis-style wine while the Hardscrabble seemed reminiscent of an Old-World, Burgundian white wine. The Boisseau offering most resembled a New World Chardonnay with a heavier mouth feel and pineapple flavors. All were lovely. Favorites? That might depend on what’s for dinner. Oysters? Avenius. White fish or chicken? Hardscrabble. Anything with a cream sauce? Boisseau.
The 2011 Claret was enjoyed with a sample of specialty sausages from Croftburn Market in Culpeper. Was 2011 the year of dismay for Virginia red wines? This Claret would answer, “No.” Fruity and light bodied, its mix included Merlot (44%), Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), and Cabernet Franc (20%). I thought that it paired best with the spiciest meat sample, the pepperoni. Like other 2011 red wine samples that we have tasted, I suspect that this 2011 Claret will be enjoyed upon release rather than later.
We moved on to the special release room where we were able to compare and contrast the 2008 and 2009 red blends from the Boisseau, Hardscrabble, and Avenius vineyards. I noted a distinct difference between the vintages that suggested something other than different years or blend composites, and it was in this room that I recorded the quote of the day from Jim Law. When asked about the more fruit-forward style of the 2009 vintages by another taster in the room, Law responded, “I lost the fear of my grapes.” Law explained that he learned from winemakers in Bordeaux that extraction is the ultimate key to crafting good red wine rather than intense ripening in the vineyard. With this lesson learned, Law described the 2009 season as a shift in his own winemaking style. The difference was most evident in the 2009 Hardscrabble Red. The 2008 vintage represented a style that was characteristic of the Hardscrabble wines— very structured with earthier nuances and berry flavors. The 2009 vintage, though, presented layers of fruit at the start with deep plum and dark cherry characteristics. A similar style was evident in the rounder 2009 Boisseau Red in which Merlot dominated (44%), and the Petit Verdot-led 2009 Avenius Red.
The tasting seemed to end too early; however, we took advantage of a nice spring afternoon to sit on the deck with a glass of a favorite Linden wine. Barn swallows fluttered about, and the scent of wisteria wafted from below. It could not have been a more perfect afternoon. Be sure to visit Linden for a tasting of Jim Law’s exquisite wines, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We always look forward to an afternoon at Linden, and we make certain to sign up for the cellar tasting. Linden fans know that these tasting are verticals of white, red and dessert wines, and they allow tasters to compare vineyard-specific wines from the Boisseau, Avenius, and Hardscrabble sites. On a recent occasion, we were able to sample three 2009 Chardonnays, three 2008 red blends, and one dessert wine. Our favorites are presented here.
Readers already know the differences between the three sites and the wines that they produce, so no need to repeat that information here. (See previous posts to find out more about them.) A brief summary, though, might provide some review and perspective. The Boisseau Vineyard is the warmest site with more vigorous soils; they tend to produce the most accessible wines. Avenius Vineyards are on higher elevations and features very rocky, flinty soils while the Hardscrabble site is located on rocky slopes that contain granite and clay soils. Hardscrabble wines tend to be more complex.
With that review in mind, I’ll present our favorites at the cellar tasting. Our first vertical presented three 2009 Chardonnays, one from each site. We both concurred on the 2009 Hardscrabble Chardonnay. A true Burgundian-style wine, this complex Chardonnay was truly exquisite with floral, citrus and pear aromas; a tart apple flavor component suggested a crisper wine. My second choice was the rounder Boisseau Chardonnay that seemed more New World compared to the Hardscrabble. A creamier texture and toastier edge suggested a more food-friendly wine, but I’d sip it on its own.
We reached a split decision on the red wines. I favored the complex 2008 Hardscrabble Red with its dried berry and cocoa flavors. I underlined the words firm and dusty on the tasting sheet, so I concurred with those notes. I’m a big Hardscrabble Red fan anyway, so my decision may have already been made before I tasted the 2008 vintage. Paul preferred the more fruit-forward Boisseau Red; Petit Verdot prevails here and may explain the darker fruit and spice components that he noted on the tasting sheet.
The 2006 Late Harvest Vidal concluded our tasting, and it was paired with a Gorgonzola cheese. Lovely apricot, citrus and honey elements prevailed here, and it was a decadent way to end the experience.
With our tasting done, we opted to enjoy summer sausage and cheddar cheese on the veranda while gazing upon Linden’s gorgeous mountain views. Jim Law promises a Zen experience, and he does indeed deliver. We enjoyed a glass of the featured library wine, the earthy 2003 Claret with our lunch. 2003? The year of Hurricane Isabel? Yes, it offered proof that experienced and diligent wine makers can make quality wines even in off years. Smoky aromas with dried fruit and tobacco notes were observed, and tannins were velvety smooth. It proved to be the perfect local wine to enjoy with local foods and local landscapes.
Plan a trip to Linden and be sure to participate in the cellar tasting. A knowledgeable staff member conducts these sessions, and you are sure to get an education in micro-climates, vineyard-specific sites, and the wines that are produced by the premier winemaker in Virginia. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We had a very busy weekend and had the chance to enjoy some really nice Virginia wines. Each evening there was one wine that stood out. While we normally write about all the wines we enjoyed, we thought we’d focus on just two this time. Unfortunately I didn’t have my big spiffy camera to take some nice photos. The first one was taken with the iPad and the second was taken of an older vintage of the same wine.
On Saturday evening we decided to have some nice filets for dinner. Warren selected the 2001 Cellar Selection Merlot French Oak Select from Breaux Vineyards. How many ten year old Virginia wines do you get excited about? This one was amazing. We opened it about an hour before dinner just to let it breath. We had thick filet mignon, roasted potatoes, and veggies for dinner. This wine went perfectly with the filets. It started with a dark fruit nose which gave way to dark fruit and tobacco flavors in the mouth. What amazed me was how smooth it was. Ten years in the bottle treated this wine well. Even after dinner we continued to enjoy just sipping it. It’s the kind of bottle you don’t want to end. The next time we’re at Breaux, we need to see if they have any more!
Sunday evening we had some friends over for dinner and served the 2009 Seyval from Linden Vineyards. We had this with soft cheeses, crackers, and olives. On the nose we noticed lime and melon. On the tongue we noted wonderful lemon flavors that complimented the cheeses and olives. The acidity and crispness of this wine was perfect for a warm evening. Our guests talked about how much they enjoyed it. I think I have one more bottle on my rack. Even though the weather has cooled down somewhat, this one still remains one of our summer favorites.
What wines did you enjoy this weekend? If you visit Breaux Vineyards or Linden Vineyards anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Our Friday evening began with the 2008 Seyval from Linden Vineyards. We realized that we still had this older 2008 gem from Linden on the wine rack. The rack life for seyval blanc may not be too long, and we should have popped this open a while ago. However, it still retains characteristic citrusy elements and made for a nice partner with soft goat cheese and baguette.
For dinner we selected the 2009 Chardonnay from Annefield Vineyards. When Michael Shaps is your winemaker, quality wines are the result. We enjoyed this one with parmesan encrusted tilapia and pasta. We noted elements of pear, apple, and honey. We also detected a mineral edge and some vanilla. We thought it paired nicely with our meal.