Celebrating Virginia Wine Month

vwm25smallHow Are You Celebrating Virginia Wine Month?

October is Virginia Wine Month, and we are doing it right by enjoying Virginia wine with dinner, at restaurants, and at Virginia wineries. Here is how we kicked off Virginia Wine month:

Dinner at Al Dente in Washington DC: Pappardelle pasta with wild boar ragout braised in red wine paired with Breaux’s Nebbiolo 2007.
Harvest Salad as a first course at a dinner party: Crisp seasonal apples, chopped fennel, and slivered almonds tossed with a lemon vinaigrette then topped with crumbled blue cheese was served with Linden’s Riesling Vidal 2011

Steaks on Friday: We reserve Fridays as our red meat day. Filet Mignon topped with sautéed mushrooms was paired with Gray Ghost Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

Pumpkin Cake: My favorite seasonal dessert. Fall spices serve as supporting roles in this pumpkin-based delight. We enjoyed this with Naked Mountain’s Old Vine Riesling 2012 produced from the oldest Riesling vines on the property.
Need other suggestions to celebrate Virginia Wine Month? Hume Vineyards will release its 2012 Viognier; characteristic floral notes are accompanied by stone fruit elements and a white pepper undertone. This one should be perfect with poultry topped with a cream sauce. Planning to invite friends over for a hearty beef stew? We were impressed with the 2011 Petit Verdot with its whiff of violet as well as its brambleberry and dark fruit notes; it’s a bit chewy too!

So this is how we kicked off Virginia Wine Month. How are you celebrating Virginia Wine Month? We would like to know, so feel free to share with us. Visit the Virginia wineries mentioned in this post and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Wine and Lasagna

Every winter we enjoy visiting Naked Mountain Vineyards to take advantage of their lasagna and wine weekends. Even though we just visited in November and much of the tasting menu was exactly the same, we decided to head out to Naked Mountain this past weekend to enjoy some wine and lasagna.
Upon entering the winery we notice Seth Chambers would be conducting our tasting. We chatted with him about what was going on at Naked Mountain while enjoying the wines on the menu. One of our favorites turned out to be the 2011 Chardonnay with its pear and apple notes and creamy texture. Another favorite we found on the list was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. We noted lots of raspberry, some smoke on the nose, autumn spice, and a tart ending.
After our tasting, our lasagna was ready. We decided on the non vintage Raptor Red to accompany our lasagna. The Raptor Red is a blend of grapes from 2007 and 2008. We noted some bright fruit, decent tannins, and a long finish. It went very well with our lasagna. While we enjoyed the lasagna we had a great view of the vineyards on a snowy day. It made for a beautiful scene.
While chatting with Seth earlier we found out that Naked Mountain is coming out with a new line of wines later this spring. The line will be called Drink Naked and will begin with two white wines. Seth let us have a sneak peek of the new wines. The first is the 2012 Skinny Dipper which is made from mostly Vidal and blended with some chardonnay. It has 3% RS. It was fruity and crisp with nice acidity. We thought it would be perfect for a warm summer day. The other Drink Naked wine is the 2012 Birthday Suit. It is mostly chardonnay with some seyval and a splash of riesling. Its dry and would also be a nice sipper for summer time.
Seth also informed us Naked Mountain will be expanding their vineyards soon. With the success of Virginia wines, fewer growers are selling their grapes so Naked Mountain wants to expand their vineyards to be able to make more estate wines. It’s always nice to catch up with Seth to find out what’s happening at Naked Mountain. And of course enjoying their delicious lasagna is a plus! Be sure to get out to Naked Mountain this winter to enjoy their wine and lasagna weekend. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Thanksgiving Weekend and Virginia Wine

So the turkey has been eaten, and the pumpkin pie has been devoured. However, we know that leftovers are in the fridge. What to do with them? We like to make a picnic lunch with the turkey legs, cranberry sauce, and roasted veggies and head out to a local winery. We recommend Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards and Philip Carter Winery as possible destinations.

Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards: It’s hard to compete with the views here especially during the fall. Though the fall colors may be fading, enough of them remain to provide an artistic contrast to stark branches which herald the onset of winter. Such is the current scenery at Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards. If leftover turkey and trimmings are in the picnic basket, consider the aromatic 2011 Viognier with its flavors of pineapple, peach and citrus. Our tasting associate, Kim, recommended the 2011 Make Me Blush, a rose-style wine with full fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry. At 2% residual sugar, it’s a bit sweet but should complement a slice of herbed-turkey that is coated with a dab of cranberry compote. Paul prefers a red wine with leftovers and scenic autumn landscapes, and he recommends the smoky 2008 Scarlet Oak Red with its tobacco notes and flavors of cranberry and cherry.

Philip Carter Winery: A glass of history is always poured at Philip Carter Winery, and it’s even better paired with turkey leftovers and a favorite wine. I’m always a fan of the Chardonnays at Philip Carter Winery, and the 2011 vintage is quite good. This one is a blend of oak barrels and stainless steel to present notes of ripe pear with a twist of citrus. A nice acidity should help to cut through a creamy sauce that might be served with the turkey. Cranberry chutney in the picnic basket? Consider the 2011 Danielle’s Rose made from Tinta Cao. This rose is dry with elements of strawberry and fresh mint; it’s vibrant acidity makes for a refreshing wine to boot. Bring along a hunk of blue cheese and roasted nuts to pair with the 2010 1762, a port-style wine made from the Chambourcin grape. It is aged in bourbon whiskey barrels and presents characteristic elements of raisin-like fruits with a toasted edge.

Savor that Thanksgiving feast for one more day and plan a visit to a favorite Virginia winery to enhance the experience. Consider a visit to either Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards or Philip Carter Winery. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Open Kitchen Hosts Naked Mountain Vineyards

On Monday, Open Kitchen, a unique dining venue located in Falls Church, held its weekly wine tasting session, and Naked Mountain Vineyards was the featured winery. Owner Hue-Chan invited us to the wine tasting; of course, we accepted her invitation. In the process, not only did we sample the wines from Naked Mountain Vineyards but we also found out more about the exciting Open Kitchen concept.

Open Kitchen hosts a wine tasting every Monday starting at 5:30 PM, and this particular tasting was held on the breezeway in front of the restaurant. The weekly tasting event is well into its second month with Naked Mountain Vineyards being the first Virginia winery to pour at Open Kitchen. Naked Mountain winemaker Seth Chambers presented four current releases at the well-attended tasting, and these included the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008, the Chardonnay/Riesling 2011, Scarlet Oak Red 2006, and the Cabernet Franc 2007. My preferences were the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008 with its apple, pear, and butterscotch notes and the smoky Scarlet Oak Red 2006. This blend of Mourvedre and Tannat grapes presented tobacco notes with cherry/raspberry fruit flavors with spicy elements to boot. However, on a hot day it would be hard to resist the Chardonnay/Riesling blend 2011 with its floral nose and pear flavors. Paul enjoyed the Cabernet Franc 2007 and noted aromas of tobacco, raspberry. He savored full berry and earthy flavors in the mouth.

Of course, we are no strangers to Virginia wines and certainly not to Naked Mountain Vineyards. However, we were pleased to meet other tasters who likewise had frequented Virginia wineries. The comments on Virginia wines were all similar—the quality has improved tremendously, and an influx of expert winemakers has brought about this change. We can add that expert winemaking has been the result of growing the right grape varieties in the right vineyard sites. As we chatted about Virginia wines with our table mates, Paul and I availed ourselves to the snack menu and ordered gourmet treats that included skewered chicken served atop freshly made chorizo and a cheese plate of smoked gouda, brie, blue cheese, and olives. Of course, we needed wine to pair with our meal, and our first choice was the Scarlet Oak Red 2006. However, a quick glimpse around the long row of tables revealed that the Scarlet Oak Red was the most popular wine of the event; alas, we were informed that the last bottle of Scarlet Oak Red had been sold. Our next choice? The Cabernet Franc 2007. (We were later told that we bought the last bottle of that one!)

In the midst of our nibbling and sipping, we were able to chat with owner Hue-Chan who opened the Open Kitchen in 2009. Open Kitchen is really more than just a restaurant, and according to the website, “It all started with cookies!” In 2007, Hue Chan wanted to pursue a career in cookie making but ran into a huge obstacle—she could not find an appropriate facility to bake and then sell her cookies. The myriad of laws and regulations that control the food industry turned a seemingly simple pursuit into a headache-inducing problem. Not willing to give up on her dream, Hue-Chan founded the Open Kitchen concept “to provide licensed kitchen facilities for rent on a cost-effective and flexible basis.” It offers a restaurant with a full dinner and wine menu, cooking classes with master chefs, entertainment events and services, and timeshare kitchens for chefs. Hue-Chan also embraces a “local” philosophy, and her kitchen makes full use of local produce; this also includes local wine. In addition to weekly wine tastings that will include other Virginia wineries, Open Kitchen will hold a Wellness at the Winery event at the Winery at la Grange that will include an open field yoga session, a wine tasting and wine country picnic. (This event will be held on September 9, 2012.)

As the sun began to fade, our tasting experience seemed to be at an end; however, winemaker Seth Chambers had a surprise for tasters, and this was a preview sample of the upcoming Birthday Suit, a white wine blend that was created by Chambers to celebrate the one year anniversary of the new owners buying the winery and vineyards. This special blend included Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling. I described it as a dry alternative to the Chardonnay/Riesling 2011; it was crisp with lovely pear and melon notes. The Birthday Suit is a limited-production wine, so buy upon release—it will sell out sooner rather than later!

We bid our adieus to Seth Chambers and Hue-Chan, and we know that we will return to Open Kitchen to enjoy the unique experiences there. Be sure to check out the website and reserve your space at Open Kitchen; of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Time For Summer Sippers

Yes, it’s that time of the year to put away the bolder wines until the fall and to crack open the crisper, lighter-bodied white wines and fruitier red wines. Our mission to stock up on warm-weather wines brought us to Naked Mountain Winery.

The 2011 offerings at Naked Mountain seemed to meet our expectations for white wines from the 2011 vintage—fruity and refreshingly acidic. The 2011 Viognier presented one such example. Nice melon citrus aromas were matched with flavors of pear and melon. A higher acidity level led to a crisp finish. Perfect on its own or serve well chilled with light cheeses or shellfish. For sweeter wine lovers, the 2011 Chardonnay Riesling should fit the bill. A residual sugar level of 2.5% made for a fruity wine with peach and apple flavors. Our friend and guest blogger Michael Tyler, a fan of fruity white wines, would really love this one while grilling on the deck on a hot afternoon! He might even save a glass for me!

White wine lovers who find themselves in a dither at barbeques might appreciate the 2010 Catamount Run Red. Spicy barbeque sauces and char-grilled fare that once mooed may not seem like a match with sweet white wines; however, this fruity red wine should woo white wine drinkers. Slightly sweet with a bright, fruit forward presence should partner quite nicely with burgers, ribs, and sausages. If heavier meats are on the grill, Paul’s favorite, the Raptor Red, might be a better match. This non-vintage pour is a blend of wines from the 2007 and 2008 vintages. Its smoky nose gave way to aromas of dark seed berries and tobacco.

If a cheese course or cheesecake is on the dessert menu, opt for the 2011 Old Vine Riesling. At 6% residual sugar, it is certainly a dessert wine and presented floral aromas with apricot notes and hints of green apple.

It was indeed a hot day, and we refreshed ourselves with a glass of the 2011 Viognier. It proved to be the perfect pour to complement a warm, muggy afternoon. Be sure to consider Naked Mountain Winery when shopping for your own summer sippers, and please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

The Weekend Begins With Wine

Many Friday evenings are spent on my balcony enjoying food and wine. The weather wasn’t too hot on Friday so we continued the tradition.

We began with St. Andre’s cheese and a baguette. We paired it with the 2010 Jennifer’s Jambalaya from Breaux Vineyards. As you may already know, I’m a member of the Breaux Cellar Club and thoroughly enjoy all the wines from Breaux. This is a perfect wine for a warm evening on the balcony. It’s slightly sweet, floral, and fruity. It’s a blend of seven white wines and has just the right amount of acidity. It paired beautifully with our cheese and bread.

For dinner I cooked my mom’s famous meatloaf, baked potatoes, and green beans almondine. We already had plans to visit Naked Mountain Winery & Vineyards this weekend so we selected the 2007 Raptor Red from my wine rack. Some of the 2007 reds from Virginia are beginning to show really well so we wanted to see how well the 2007 Raptor Red was holding up. We were very pleased when we opened it and paired it with our meal. We noted blackberry, raspberry, sweet tobacco, and spice.

Both of our evenings wines turned out to pair very nicely with our food choices. If you haven’t been to Breaux Vineyards or Naked Mountain Winery & Vineyards lately, plan a trip soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summer Sippers at Naked Mountain

Naked Mountain Winery & Vineyards has been through somewhat of a renaissance in the past year. Randy and Meagan Morgan bought the winery last August and have been working hard to continue the tradition of Naked Mountain as well as introduce their own branding and ideas. There is a new logo, website, labels and winemaker. Seth Chambers is the winemaker at Naked Mountain. You might be familiar with his work. At one time he was the winemaker at Philip Carter. We were visiting Naked Mountain to check out the new wines and look for summer sippers. We found three!

The first sipper our our list is the 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay. This is 100% Chardonnay and didn’t go through malolactic fermentation. On the nose we noted apple, pear, and melon. On the tongue we noted green apple, lemon, and Warren jotted down banana. This is a nice crisp, fruity wine that would be perfect for a warm afternoon.

The next sipper was the 2010 Rose. It’s a blend of 73% Cabernet Franc and 27% Mourvedre. It weighs in at 2.5% residual sugar but you don’t notice it very much at all. On the nose we picked up strawberry and watermelon. In the mouth we noted melon and strawberry. We also got some cherry on the smooth finish. When we taste Rose`s we always think of a picnic on the lawn at Wolf Trap while enjoying a concert. This one would go well with picnic foods.

Our final sipper was the 2010 Riesling. It has 3% residual sugar but like the Rose it’s hardly noticeable. On the nose we picked up melon and peach. In the mouth we also noticed melon and peach but also noted lemon-lime. It has some nice crisp acidity as well. Another nice summer sipper.

During our tasting we were able to chat with Seth Chambers about the evolution of Naked Mountain and some of the upcoming changes taking place. We look forward to the new wines coming out soon and the changes in the labels. We love the new labels and logo. Nice job, Naked Mountain. So if you are looking for some summer sippers to add to your collection, consider the three mentioned here. And if you visit Naked Mountain anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!