Wacky Winter Weather Doesn’t Stop Bloggers!

Wintry mixes, gale force winds, and wild temperatures have not deterred us from hitting the wine trails in 2018. In recent weekends, we visited Tarara Winery, Gray Ghost Vineyards, and Rappahanock Cellars; along the way, we met up with fellow bloggers Kurt and Carol of Wine About Virginia and supreme oenophile/good friend Susan McHenry.

Our trip to Tarara Winery was threatened by a winter advisory that was issued for later in the afternoon. However, we decided to go with the intent to get their early and then leave early before the winter weather arrived. Danielle, our wine educator, gave us an expert tasting of winemaker Jordan Harris’ excellent wines. Of the white wines, the 2015 Viognier and the 2013 Neveah White were my favorites. The Viognier presented floral aromas with notes of tropical fruit and honey. On the palate, I noted tropical fruit with a nice, round mouth feel. The Neveah White is a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier; it displayed ripe pear and pineapple characteristics with a touch of oak on the finish. Favorite red wines included the 2015 Long Bomb 9, a red blend led by Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Syrah and Tannat. Notes of tobacco, clover, blackberry and anise gave way to a fruity palate with pepper on the finish; it was also a bit “chewy”. I’d recommend decanting before serving. The 2012 Neveah Red was a juicy treat with elements of blackberry, currants, tobacco and cedar. Oh—-the wintry mix? In keeping with the fickle winter that has been 2018, it never materialized.

However, our winter hurricane did strike the area, and many wineries were closed due to power outages. Gray Ghost Vineyards was able to operate thanks to a generator, so we were able to attend their annual barrel tasting. Here we met bloggers Kurt and Carol Jensen and dear friend Susan McHenry. Group favorites were the 2016 Petit Verdot and the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. I was also a fan of the lighter-bodied and fruity 2017 Cabernet Franc that was still in the barrel but oh so ready to enjoy. From Gray Ghost Vineyards we made our way to Rappahanock Cellars. Rappahanock Cellars has added sparkling wines to their lineup of quality wines, and I enjoyed the Sparkling Rose with its strawberry flavors and bright acidity. The dry Rose Reserve and the 2015 Cabernet Franc were other standouts; however, at the end of our tasting, the group was in the mood for Chardonnay, and the 2015 Chardonnay did not disappoint. Pear flavors with a rich mouth feel and an oak kiss paired well with the platter of cheeses that we ordered to finish the wonderful (and less windy) afternoon.

Spring is around the corner, and the finicky winter of 2018 will be history. Plan to visit these wineries as we transition to warmer days and spring landscapes colored with fragrant blossoms. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Rappahannock Cellars

A few weeks ago we visited Rappahannock Cellars. We don’t visit too often but we always enjoy our time at Rappahannock when we do visit.

Of course we were there to taste the current line up of wines. From the few white wines that were on the tasting menu we both enjoyed the 2015 Viognier. We noted peach, tropical notes, and a full mouth feel. Warren also really enjoyed the 2014 Chardonnay. He noted pear, pineapple, and a honey feel.

There were more reds to taste than whites. From the reds we tasted we both enjoyed the 2012 Meritage. We noted pencil shavings on the nose and plum, currents, berry notes on the palate and tight tannins and leather notes. This one made us think of a thick filet mignon.

After our tasting we spoke with our tasting associate about the wine club. Of course I’m thinking I don’t need to join another wine club. But what hooked me was that most wine club shipments are wines not available to the general public. I belong to a handful of wine clubs and I enjoy wines that exclusive to the club. I decided to join the club.

We then entered the club room and did a little comparison of the club chardonnay vs. the regular chardonnay. We both enjoyed the club chardonnay. This little comparison was evidence enough for us to know we made the right decision to join the club. This is not to say the regular chardonnay isn’t good, we enjoyed it, but the club chardonnay was a step above.

We have many wine friends who are already club members at Rappahannock and now we are club members too! We enjoy joining them for events and tastings in the club room at Rappahannock. If you haven’t been to Rappahannock Cellars recently, return to see what’s new. And who knows, you might join the club! When you do return, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Summertime is Virginia Wine Time

Yes, summer is here and it’s time to enjoy refreshing wines during the hot days ahead. We’ve visited a few wineries over the past couple of weekends, and here are some recommendations for wines to enjoy during the summer:

Fabbioli Cellars: We are big rose fans all year long but even more so during the summer. Fabbioli’s 2012 Rose Luna is dry and made from Sangiovese grapes; done in stainless steel tanks, its light pink hue and strawberry notes make for a versatile wine that can be enjoyed on its own, with a picnic, or at a cookout. A crisp finish makes it refreshing to boot. The 2011 fruit forward Chambourcin should pair well with grilled fare especially if spicy rubs and sauces are being used. Of course, we always recommend the popular Raspberry Merlot with any chocolate dessert especially brownies!
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Gray Ghost Vineyards: I like crab cakes this time of the year, and the Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Vineyards is one that I always keep on hand to pair with them. The 2012 vintage presents citrus flavors and a mineral note too; a short time on Hungarian oak provides a rounded feel not unlike a Fume Blanc. A sweeter option might be the 2011 Vidal Blanc with its floral aromas and fruity palate. Steaks on the grill should pair well with the 2011 Petit Verdot, Paul’s personal favorite. Elements of blackberry, dark plum, and black pepper finished with nice tannins to make it perfect partner with a strip steak and grilled veggies.
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Rappahannock Cellars: Since our last visit, Theo Smith has taken the helm as winemaker; however, the wines presented for tasting on our visit were mostly produced by Jason Burrus. Burrus is now winemaker at Chrysalis Vineyards. Our recommendations for summer wines here? Try 2012 Rose with its aromas of watermelon and strawberry; .5% residual sugar elevates the fruit to make for a fruity wine destined to pair well with cheeses, salads, and picnics. My own favorite was the 2012 Viognier. Its floral aromas and notes of peach and lemon zest led to a lengthier finish. This is a nice wine to have around if dining al fresco with seafood, poultry or pork on the menu.
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Summertime is a fun time to visit Virginia wineries. Magnolias and honeysuckle scent the air, and butterflies flutter about the vineyards. Plan a visit to these wineries to find your own summer wines, and enjoy summer’s flora and fauna while sipping a glass of at the winery. Of course, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Holiday Wines at Rappahannock Cellars

Time for more holiday menus, and this time it’s Christmas parties and dinners. Of course, that means celebrating with the perfect Virginia wines. Our recent visit to Rappahannock Cellars presented a few options.
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2011 Viogner from Ducard Vineyard: Newly released on the day of our visit to Rappahannock Cellars, this aromatic wine with its honeysuckle notes and soft peach flavors would be a natural pairing with roasted turkey.

2011 Noblesse Rouge: I really enjoyed this one. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, this accessible red wine with its raspberry and blackberry flavors should prove quite the partner with pork roast.
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2010 Meritage: Bold!! Of course, this Bordeaux-style blend is from the very warm and dry 2010 vintage, and tasters may want to buy now but drink later. However, if you plan to serve up a rib roast for the holidays, consider this one; however, decant before pouring. Aromas and flavors include blackberry, dark cherry, and spice with a whiff of tobacco to boot.

2011 Rose: Ham is always a favorite this time of year, so consider the 2011 Rose. Paul liked this one a lot and he seemed to enjoy the fizzy mouth presence. It was a bit odd for me, though, since this is not a sparkling wine. However, I do think it would work well salty smoked ham that has been spiked with cloves and glazed with honey. Cranberry sauce on the side, of course!

Solera: Sugared pecans, dried fruit, and blue cheeses for dessert? Solera might be the dessert wine to offer guests. This sherry-like wine is made from Vidal Blanc grapes and presents aromas of honey, nuts, and orange peel.
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We made certain to purchase our favorite wines for the holidays once our tasting concluded. Be sure to pay a visit to Rapahannock Cellars to find your own holiday favorites, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Out and About in the Rappahannock Area

Two weeks ago we attended a winemaker’s dinner at Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia, and the dinner featured wines from Gray Ghost Vineyards. Paul posted the pictures and menu from that lovely event; however, we also used that weekend to visit a couple of wineries in the area. They included Rappahannock Cellars and Sharp Rock Vineyards.

Rappahannock Cellars: Always a treat to sample the wines here. Of the white wines, our favorite was the 2011 Viognier that was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in oak for six months. Paul noted that the alcohol level on this vintage was lower than the 2010 vintage, and perhaps this explains the more accessible even playful nature of this particular Viognier. I noted bright citrus notes and softer aromas of orange and peach. This is certainly a wine to enjoy on its own but could be enjoyed with light fare, shellfish or simple poultry dishes. It should also prove to be quite popular for the spring and summer. Of the reds, I enjoyed the 2010 Noblesse Rouge, a lighter-bodied Bordeaux style wine. Nice cherry aromas with cedar and pepper notes were noted with a hint of vanilla to finish. Paul checked off the bolder 2010 Cabernet Franc as a favorite. We have not tasted many 2010 red wines, but we anticipate releases to rival the heralded 2007 season. This Cabernet Franc may provide a clue as to what to expect. “Jammy” was my primary descriptor, and full raspberry and blackberry fruit characteristics were noted. Spicy elements prevailed on the nose and palate. Definitely a buy now but drink later wine! Oh, and sparkling lovers should look for the release of a sparkling rose this Easter.


Sharp Rock Vineyards: It had been a long time since our last visit to Sharp Rock Vineyards, and winemaker Jimm East greeted us in the tasting room. Two very adorable dogs, of which one was a rescue animal, also welcomed us. The pleasant and unusually warm weather found us enjoying the crisp 2011 Chardonnay. This one is not oaked, and it presented nice pear and apple flavors with a pleasant acidity. We also concurred on our favorite red wine, the 2010 Synergy. A blend of Petit Verdot and Merlot, we observed plum and dark cherry flavors with elements of sweet tobacco and pepper. The tannins were surprisingly smooth for a 2010 vintage; we will be comparing notes on the 2010 red wines now that they are being released. While the Synergy could be enjoyed now, I would not be afraid to keep it on the wine rack for a couple of years. We enjoyed a glass of the Chardonnay and appreciated the view of nearby Old Rag Mountain and the hypnotic gush of the Hughes River. Jimm East joined us for a bit of conversation, and we learned that the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc will soon released. He is also considering a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to create a crisp summer sipper. Jimm also shared with us that while the 2011 season was certainly a challenge for him, it was not at all a disaster. He does anticipate that quality wines will indeed be made from the 2011 vintage.



Vacationers may want to consider a stay at Sharp Rock’s bed and breakfast. Two cottages that are part of the Sharp Rock property are available to rent for a relaxing weekend getaway. Bring your hiking boots for a scenic walk and then plan to unwind with a favorite book and a glass of Sharp Rock wine; enjoy besides the babbling Hughes River, and you may just doze off for an afternoon nap.

Now that spring (or early summer) has sprung, get out to these two wineries to sample their latest releases. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.