No Wind, No Rain, Nor Winter’s Cold….

Can stop us, babe—from the wine trails, of course. We have been eager to get back on the wine trails, but this year’s winter weather has ranged from an icy mix to snow to thunderous downpours with fog all along the way. Needless to say, these conditions have limited our time on the road. However, we donned our raincoats and wellingtons and managed to visit Delaplane Cellars and Philip Carter Winery of Virginia this past weekend.

Delaplane Cellars: We always enjoy visiting here if only to admire the gorgeous views from the tasting room. And the wines are pretty good to boot! The 2012 Chardonnay remains a favorite of mine and presented pear notes with a hint of toast and a creamy mouth feel. Only five bottles remained as of Saturday, but they were down to four when we left—guess why. The 2011 Merlot and 2011 Cinq3 remain on the tasting menu, and these were both lighter bodied and fruity with earthy elements. However, the 2012 Tannat proved to be more complex. This was bottled in August 2012 and is therefore still quite young— it is tannat after all. Smoky aromas with a whiff of coffee and sweet tobacco were noted with along flavors of blackberry and blueberry; it was also quite chewy. Buy now and drink later; if you can’t wait, I’d follow the advice on the tasting sheet and decant at least 30 minutes before serving.
Philip Carter Winery: It was a busy afternoon here, and we ran into winemaker Jeremy Ligon as we entered. Jeremy was about to conduct a wine class (hence the crowd), but he did take time to give us a warm welcome. We were left in the hands of Lauren Forlano (her father owns Forlano’s Market), our very capable tasting educator. The well-balanced 2012 Chardonnay remained our favorite of the white wines with it flavors of ripe pear and melon. A touch of Viognier (25%) provided a tropical note. Partial malolactic fermentation and aging in neutral French oak barrels produced a creamier mouth feel with a hint of toast at the end. Dreaming of spring or summer? The citrusy 2012 Falconwood White or the fruity 2013 Governor Fauquier will fit the bill. Both conjured dreams of warm breezes and picnics. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be our favorite red wine. This is a more recent release, and it took quite a bit of swirling to coax the nose; however, we did note aromas of violet, chocolate, and dark fruit. It was also quite tannic, but the tannins will soften over time. As advised above, buy now and drink later; however, if you insist on drinking now, decant and serve with a nice steak and roasted veggies.
After our tasting, we enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay beside the cozy fireplace as we watched the cold rain cascade from ominous dark clouds.
Stay tuned as we navigate the ever-changing winter weather to sample the current releases at local wineries. Oh—the title of this post? Perhaps we will let readers guess. Clue—a famous Motown hit sung by a legendary diva at Wolftrap last summer. Ponder the possibilities over a favorite glass of Virginia wine and let us know. In the meantime, visit these Virginia wineries and mention know that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Ribbon Cutting at the Inn at Vineyard Crossing

The Inn at Vineyard Crossing, a bed and breakfast co-owned by Philip Carter Strother and Stephen Mills made its formal debut in Fauquier County with a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Saturday. Although Fauquier County boasts over 20 wineries, accommodations in the area were lacking; the Inn now fills that void.
Attendees gathered first at Philip Carter Winery and were shuttled over to the Inn for a tour. Of course, Philip Carter house wines were poured for guests who were allowed to freely walk about the Inn. The Inn itself is a renovated historic home that was built in 1787, and it includes five suites the largest of which is the Commonwealth suite. Luxurious best describes this suite; however, all of the suites were well appointed. For Virginia wine lover, the Virginia Viognier suite included a comfy king sized bed and as many pillows as one could ever need to take a snooze. All of the rooms include a private bath.
The kitchen caught my attention. It was roomy with all of the amenities needed for a truly gourmet experience. A chef-grade stove implied that delicious meals await Inn guests. These meals would be enjoyed in the elegant dining room with its master dining table; a contemporary yet style-appropriate chandelier lights the way for diners to enjoy a meal that we are certain will be paired with Philip Carter wines. We did not investigate the English garden and pool, but these were located directly behind the Inn.
After tours and wine, Philip Carter Strother gathered the guests to begin the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Inn’s entrance. On hand was Virginia delegate Webert who has made a commitment to promoting Fauquier County businesses including wineries and inns. The ribbon cutting signified a new dimension to Philip Carter Strothers’ devotion to the Virginia wine industry and what it can offer to customers who are now more likely to frequent local wine destinations especially if deluxe accommodations can be part of the plan.
So did we do a tasting at Philip Carter Winery? Of course we did. Favorites included the well-balanced 2012 Chardonnay that was not yet released; however, Dan Metzger, the operations manager, gave us a sneak preview. Its pear and apple characteristics gave way to a hint of toast and a lengthier finish. We also enjoyed the floral 2012 Sabine Hall Viognier with its peach notes and nice mouth feel. Fall is around the corner and time to consider bolder reds to pair with heartier fare. Consider the 2011 Corotoman, a Bordeaux-style blend. I first observed leather and tobacco notes and then plum and cherry elements; oak nuances were also noted.
If a trip to Fauquier County wineries is on your itinerary, consider a stay at The Inn at Vineyard Crossing. Needless to say, a tasting at Philip Carter Winery should be on the agenda. Be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cleve, Barrel Tasting, and More at Philip Carter

The last weekend of March was very chilly, but that did not deter us from partaking in a barrel tasting at Philip Carter Winery. We also got to sample the very special 2010 Cleve and the newly released 2012 Rose called Rosewell. An extra highlight of our visit, though, had to be the personal barrel tasting conducted by winemaker and native Virginian Jeremy Ligon.
Our purpose for visiting Philip Carter Winery was indeed to sample the 2010 Cleve. Why? It just won a gold medal at the Virginia Governor’s Cup, and we are determined to try each gold medal winner as they are released to the public. The Cleve line is usually a blend, and this award-winner was a 50-50 mix of Tannat and Petit Verdot. The 2010 harvest in Virginia was one for the record books, and we expect this particular wine to age quite nicely. It possessed a smoky nose with dark fruit elements and a bit of caramel to finish; we noted firm tannins too. I purchased a bottle to rest on the wine rack and will serve with roasted meat. However, for more immediate consumption, we enjoyed the 2012 Rosewell, a dry rose wine made from Tinta Cao grapes and named after the Rosewell mansion that became home to one of Robert Carter’s daughter’s, Judith Carter. Floral notes and strawberry flavors along with a crisp acidity make for a wine that is both refreshing and versatile. Stock up on the Rosewell and enjoy during the warmer months!
Our visit to Philip Carter coincided with a weekly program during March that featured barrel tastings each Saturday. We just happened to be there on the last Saturday of the program; of course, we just had to participate. Lucky for us, winemaker Jeremy Ligon was on hand to conduct our tasting. Jeremy has been at the winemaking helm at Philip Carter for a year, and he certainly has a vision for Philip Carter wines. We sampled 2012 Chardonnays in both neutral and newer French oak barrels, 2011Bordeaux-style blends, four 2012 Cabernet Francs pulled from both neutral and new oak barrels, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Jeremy’s goal is to blend the unblended wines to produce more nuanced and complex wines. The Cabernet Franc samples, for example, ranged from soft and fruity to smoky and earthy depending on whether they were aging in neutral or newer oak barrels. Jeremy anticipates blending these to produce more balanced yet complex wines that beg for another sip.
We also learned from Jeremy that a Viognier will be released this month, and future plantings in the vineyard will include Tannat and Petit Verdot. A follow up to the 2010 Cleve will be a tough order; however, we have no doubt that Jeremy Ligon is up to the task.
We did linger for a bit at Philip Carter Winery and shared a glass of the 2012 Rosewell. Fire pits warmed the air, so it felt just fine sitting outside and nibbling on cheese as we sipped away. Now that spring is in the air, why not plan a visit to Philip Carter Winery? And when you do, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Celebrating 250 Years!

Philip Carter Winery celebrated the 250th anniversary of winemaking in Virginia. A black tie event kicked off the celebration on Friday, May 25 and then continued into Saturday with more casual events that included carriage rides, barbeque, fencing, and live music.

The black tie event featured a “history through tasting” that showcased wines from some of the state’s oldest wineries. These included Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards, Jefferon Vineyards, Philip Carter Winery, and Williamsburg Winery. However, we attended the Saturday event, and while Paul was anxious to wear his period clothing (powdered wig included), we enjoyed a very warm afternoon in our summer attire. In addition to celebrating an important milestone, we also took advantage of an opportunity to sample the latest releases from Philip Carter Winery.

I’ll get into the wines first. I’ve always been a fan of Philip Carter’s Chardonnay, and I really enjoyed the 2011 Chardonnay that was released on the anniversary weekend. Like its 2010 sibling, the 2011 vintage exhibited a creamy texture on the mid-palate due to malo-lactic fermentation; however, a partial blending with Chardonnay from stainless steel tanks also provided a degree of crispness. It presented ripe pear and citrus characteristics with a nice acidity that we increasingly associate with the more positive elements of the 2011 vintage. Just in time for summer, the 2011 Governor Fauquier is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay; done in stainless steel, it is full of bright apple flavors.

Of the red wines, I enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc. This is the first bottled red wine that I’ve experienced, and it met my expectations for the 2011 reds. Fruity and lighter bodied, this Cabernet Franc is blended with Petit Verdot (10%) and Tannat (9%) and then aged for nine months in both French and American oak barrels. I noted lots of cherry aromas and flavors with a peppery finish. The smoky 2010 Meritage, though, presented a more complex pour. This blend of Cabernet Franc (42%), Petit Verdot (32%), Cabernet Sauvignon (21%) and Merlot (5%) exhibited elements of dark fruit, sweet tobacco, and black pepper with a notable tannic presence to suggest that an age-worthy wine. Serve now but decant; better yet, buy now and wait to enjoy at its peak.

Other new releases included the full-bodied 2011 Sabine Viognier, a first-ever release of a Viognier from Philip Carter Winery and the fruity 2011 Late Harvest made from Vidal Blanc. The 2011 Rose was also poured, and we’ve written about it in an earlier post; I do think it is a very good Rose and made sure to purchase a bottle for the summer.

In the midst of our tasting, we met up with Philip Carter Strother, owner of the winery. It was certainly a proud day for Philip Strother, whose ancestor, Philip Carter, acquired the original deed to the property on which the first vineyards in Virginia were planted. In fact, Strother can now exhibit both the originial charter and a recent legislative proclamation that recognizes the Carter wine legacy. Strother also shared with us the bottle for the soon to be released port called 1762. Wine expert Richard Leahy was also on hand to help with the celebration, and Richard was available to chat about Virginia wine and to sign copies of his newly released book, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines.

We completed the anniversary celebration with a glass of the 2011 Chardonnay, and an outdoor seat beneath a shady umbrella allowed us to watch antique-style carriages drawn by horses and ponies taxi riders about the vineyards. Fencers in full attire made lunges toward each other, and Paul bemoaned a missed opportunity to wear his velvet knee-britches, buckled shoes, and powdered wig. I assured him that there is always Halloween! We made certain to purchase our favorite Philip Carter wines. Be certain to celebrate the 250th anniversary of wine making in Virginia with a visit to Philip Carter Winery, but be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

May Events

It’s that time of the month again….events! There are several Virginia wine events coming up soon. If you don’t have plans on any of the following dates, consider attending one of the events to enjoy some Virginia wine!

May 12 – Central Virginia Wine Festival – This event will feature 15 wineries from around the state as well as live music, food and beverage concessions, beer sales, and speciality-item arts and crafts vendors. It will be held from 12:00 to 6:00 rain or shine at the SnagAJob Pavilion located in Innsbrook. Visit the website for more information and tickets.

May 12 – Wine Festival at Monticello – The third annual Wine Festival at Monticello celebrates Thomas Jefferson’s lasting influence on the Virginia wine industry—and kicks off Saturday, May 12, 2012, 6-9 p.m., on the West Lawn of Monticello. During the Wine Festival at Monticello, visitors can enjoy the splendor of spring, taste Virginia’s best selection of wines and stroll through the restored vineyards at Monticello by twilight. The event also includes tours of Jefferson’s home, live music on the West Lawn and wine tastings from local Virginia vineyards. Virginia winemaker and Monticello’s Assistant Director of Gardens and Grounds Gabriele Rausse—often referred to as the “Father of Virginia Wine”—will be on hand to answer questions about our region’s finest wines and how they compare to the vintages that Jefferson enjoyed. There will be several Virginia wineries pouring wines at the event. Check out the website for more details and tickets.

May 24 thru 26 – The Philip Carter Winery of Virginia will host a series of events in celebration of the 250th Anniversary of American Wine. The Carter family, celebrated throughout the early colony and in Virginia history, made significant achievements in commerce and industry in the 1700’s. In 1762, Charles Carter was honored and celebrated for ‘the first spirited attempt at wine in America’, receiving a gold medal from the Royal Society of Arts in London. Since 2008, Philip Carter Strother has sought to re-establish the Carter legacy and make a connection to the burgeoning wine industry in Virginia.

Events to celebrate this significant historical occasion include a cultural evening, “Of Wine & Words…the Carter Wine Legacy” at the Historic Christ Church, Lancaster County, VA (founded by the Carters) on Thursday the 24th of May 2012. Following on Friday the 25th a colonial dinner paired with Philip Carter Wines will be held in Cleve Hall at the winery in Hume. On Saturday the 26th of May, a festive celebration will conclude the Anniversary events.

The 250th Anniversary of American Wine will be celebrated in Lancaster County, VA and in Hume VA between the 24th and 26th of May 2012. For more details, call (540) 364-1203. Some events are by invitation or reservation only. Check out the website for more details.

Rose Tasting at Philip Carter Winery

Valentine’s Day is now a fading memory, but we hope that love for Virginia is still in the air as we head toward spring. A recent visit to Philip Carter Winery found us participating in a blind tasting of roses from Virginia. The event was held on the snowy weekend before Valentine’s Day, and it featured four rose wines from across Virginia including Philip Carter’s 2011 Rose.

Tasters were asked to evaluate the wines based on color, aroma and taste. The blind tasting included the following wines: 2011 Danielle’s Rose from Philip Carter Winery, 2010 Make Me Blush from Naked Mountain Winery, 2010 Rose from Veritas Vineyards, and the 2010 Fiore from CrossKeys Vineyards. (For novices, blind means that although we knew which wines were being poured, we did not know one wine from the other when they were poured into our glasses. The labels were hidden from view.) Our panel of four tasters judged wine #4 to be the best in all categories. Its salmon-pink hue and strawberry/melon aromas were classic characteristics of Old World rose wines. In the taste category, it again earned the unanimous “best in show” award. Crisp and bone dry, it presented flavors that mirrored the enticing aromas that wowed the small group of tasters. Wine #3 likewise earned praise from the group with some banter between Paul and another taster about the possibility of Wine @2 scoring higher in the aroma category. In the end, though, it was #3 that won second place. Like wine #4, it was crisp and dry, but its tone was a much fainter pink; the aromas and flavors were likewise quite similar but less vibrant.

Wine #2 did induce conversation. Paul and another taster really liked the more fruit forward aromas with this one; however, a sip revealed a sweeter wine that, while refreshing, put it at odds with Wines #3 and #4. Its color was also the darkest of the four wines and on par with some Spanish roses that are popular during the summer. However, I do tend to tire of these sweeter rose wines rather quickly unless paired with really hot, 5-alarm barbeque sauces served with grilled fare on a 105-degree day in August. After some discussion, we all concurred that while wine #2 had its place, a winter’s afternoon (though a warm one by Virginia standards) was not one of them. That meant wine #2 placed third in the pecking order. Unfortunately, one of the rose wines had to finish last, and that was wine #1. Its color was somewhat similar to wine #3, but its nose suggested very sweet. And a taste revealed that it was sweetest of the contenders. I jotted down, “strawberry short cake in a glass.” Paul drew a frown face next to it. I do believe that this rose wine can be best appreciated in the summer and like wine #3 is best suited for a hot day; in fact, I’d serve this as a dessert wine with cheesecake. However, next to the drier rose wines that were poured, it did seem less elegant and sophisticated.

Okay—so which wines were which? Here they are:

1. Wine #4—2010 Rose from Veritas Vineyards
2. Wine #3—2011 Danielle’s Rose from Philip Carter Winery
3. Wine #2—2010 Fiore from CrossKeys Vineyards
4. Wine #1—2010 Make Me Blush from Naked Mountain Winery

Rose wines have made a comeback in recent years, and we hope that the sickly sweet White Zinfandel craze that tarnished the reputation of rose is well behind us. As this tasting proved, Virginia wineries can produce some excellent rose wines. Before we left Philip Carter Winery, we made sure to purchase a bottle of the 2011 Danielle’s Rose made from the Tinta Cao grape. I also made a note to procure a bottle (or two) of the 2010 Rose from Veritas Vineyards.

Whether your tastes for rose wines are dry or sweet, Virginia wineries are certain to have a rose or blush wine to please. Of course, you need to get on the wine trails to find out where your favorites are being produced. Visit the wineries mentioned in the post to conduct your own comparison but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.