Concerts at Tarara

In the past we have visited Tarara to enjoy the concerts they have on Saturday evenings during the summer months. We decided to get back to the concert series on Saturday the 24th of August. That evening they had three bands playing music from the 1990s grunge era. Warren is a big fan of this type of music so he was looking forward to hearing the bands.
Before the concert though we decided to do a tasting in the tasting room. Our favorite tasting associate Keri was on board to conduct our tasting. Most of the wines on the list weren’t new to us so Keri was nice enough to share some of the 2012 Charval. It’s very crisp and clean. It’s Rkatsiteli based and it shows on the palate. We thought this one was the most improved wine from previous versions. We also enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc. I enjoyed the fruity nature. We thought it would pair nicely with some turkey at Thanksgiving.
After our tasting we headed over to the concert venue. We enjoyed some BBQ from Mans BBQ. We selected the Boneyard Unrefined Red as our wine for the evening. At the concert they were only selling the Boneyard series of wines that were released that day. The Unrefined Red paired nicely with our BBQ. We met a bunch of women sitting at a table near us and they introduced us to the Bad To The Bone Bubbles, the first sparkling wine in Loudoun County. We enjoyed it so much we decided to get a bottle of our own. Once it was poured in a champagne flute, the bubbles went on and on. We noted some nice apple and pear and citrus zest. We also noticed some toasty notes. It was crisp and acidic. It’s a nice bubbly.
The evening continued with the grunge music of the 90s and the bubbles. The concert series in the summer is a great way to enjoy a warm evening. There are only a few concerts left this year. If you haven’t gotten to Tarara lately, plan a trip soon. Or plan to attend one of the upcoming concerts. When you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Chatting With Winemakers

On Saturday we joined Frank from DrinkWhatYouLike to visit some winemakers in Loudoun County. We began the day at Tarara Winery. We had the chance to taste wine and chat with winemaker Jordan Harris. He let us taste several wines including some that are no longer available for sale and some that aren’t even for sale yet. Warren favored the no-longer-for-sale 2008 Viognier while I really enjoyed the yet-to-be-released Nevaeh White. After our time at the tasting bar, we went to the cave to taste a few barrel samples. Jordan has some amazing wines developing in the barrels. We look forward to seeing how they turn out. Here are some pictures from our visit with Jordan.

We then traveled to 8 Chains North and had the chance to speak with winemaker Ben Renshaw. He conducted our tasting and guided us through the current selections. Warren and I both favored the 2008 Furnace Mountain Red Reserve. Once we finished at the tasting bar Ben showed us to the barrel room and let us taste several wines in the making. All are promising. During our time in the barrel room we had a great discussion about screw caps and corks. We began this discussion with Jordan but continued with Ben. It’s interesting how many different opinions there are on the screw cap vs cork debate. After our time with Ben we had some lunch and enjoyed a glass of the Furnace Mountain Red Reserve.

Our final stop of the day was at North Gate Vineyard. This is our 112th Virginia winery. We spoke with Mark and Vicki Fedor. They showed us around their garage winery as well as the new winery and tasting room under construction. The new winery will be a green building and have solar panels on the roof. They have been growing grapes since 2001 and have been making wine for several years. They were the winemakers at Corcoran at one point. We then had a chance to talk and taste their current offerings. They have a nice lineup of wines. However, we were really impressed when the brought out the 2008 Petit Verdot. This one really stood out. Here are some pictures from our visit to North Gate.

We ended our day at Tuscarora Mill restaurant. We met up with Allan from Cellarblog. We enjoyed some Virginia wine and some wonderful food. What a great way to end Virginia Wine Month!

Tasting Roundup: Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellars

Today’s roundup features recent tasting at Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellars. These were done within the past two weeks, but back to work schedules created a bit of a backlog. So here we go:

Tarara Winery: This time around we participated in the regular tasting as opposed to the premier tasting, and six wines for sampling. Of the white wines, we awarded our gold stars to the Charval 2009; in fact, we were shocked at ourselves, because Charval was never a favorite of ours in the past. However, this version was a crisper yet fruity pour that includes a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris. Citrus notes abound with a nice acidity that makes it a pleasant sipper or a perfect mealtime companion if shellfish is on the menu. I also enjoyed the Rose 2008 with its notes of strawberries and crushed herbs. Salmon pink in color and quite dry, this is a Rose that should prove to be quite versatile with both summer and fall menus. The reds all seemed a bit tight, and of the three reds to sample, the Cabernet Franc seemed to spend the least amount of time on oak—15 months. All were aged in American oak, so the descriptors, “spicy” and “pepper” were scribbled frequently on our tasting sheet. These are all food wines, and our favorite was the Long Bomb Edition 1. A dense core suggested a bolder wine with aromas of violet and dark fruit. Tannins were “chewy.” Long Bomb Edition 1 is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but purists may be disheartened to know that the fruit used in this blend is not from Virginia; however, Long Bomb Edition 2 does indeed include fruit grown exclusively in Virginia.

As we sipped and savored, we received tweets about the $10 tasting fee and whether or not we thought it too steep. To be honest, it is one of the highest fees for a regular tasting that we’ve encountered; however, the tasting pours were quite generous, the wines were all well-crafted, and the tasting associate was very knowledgeable. We’ve also noticed overall improvements in the quality of Tarara’s wines thanks to talented winemaker Jordan Harris. Given those factors, I did not regret paying the tasting fee. In fact, we ended up staying a bit longer to enjoy a glass of the Charval 2009!

Pearmund Cellars: Lots to taste here, so we split a classic and a reserve tasting and were not bashful about spitting or dumping. Of the whites, I was most intrigued with the 2009 Petit Manseng, a brand new offering on the Pearmund lineup. Done in stainless steel, it presented aromas and flavors of apricot and pineapple. Pay attention to this variety as it is appearing more frequently in Virginia’s tasting rooms. Paul’s favorite was the 2009 Riesling. We enjoyed a sample of this one at the Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Warrenton, and the tasting here confirmed Paul’s favorable opinion. Pear notes dominate while soft lime flavors refresh the palate. Nice with spicy foods and do try this one with stronger cheeses, too. Of the red wines, we both converged on the 2008 Ameritage which is a Bordeaux blend. Lush flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum and anise prevail with this one, and it should prove to be a perfect match with steaks.

With summer fading away, plan fall trips to Tarara Winery and Pearmund Cellar. Be sure to mention that 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!

Loudoun County Round Up

This post is devoted to the tastings we’ve done at other Loudoun County wineries in the past couple of weeks.  With the barrage of snow hitting the area, it’s been hard to get out on the wine trails; however, we do keep material in reserve for just such occasions. 

Fabbioli Cellars—Always a treat to taste the latest pours here and to chat with winemaker, Doug Fabbioli.  As usual, the lineup here is impressive, and tasters cannot go wrong with any of the selections on Doug’s tasting menu.  Winter sippers who are tired of heavy reds but not quite ready for white wines may want to try the 2008 Rosa Luna, a dry rose made from Sangiovese grapes.  Bright strawberry and melon flavors make for a fruity and versatile pour.  The 2008 Chambourcin is a raspberry delight in the glass; I’m picky about Chambourcin, but a bottle of this one ended coming home with me.  Doug is devoted to Cabernet Franc, and both the 2008 Cabernet Franc and the 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve are gems.  The Reserve is aged longer in both French and American oak barrels, and the result is a bigger-bodied wine with extracted fruit characteristics and a lengthier finish.  Be sure to try the pear wine—we tasted this one out of the barrel last year and made a prediction that it was destined to be a crowd pleaser.  We were not disappointed.  Blended with a bit of brandy, the Aperitif Pear Wine needs only a cozy fireplace and a special someone.

Tarara Winery—We had not been to Tarara Winery in quite a while, and the current pours are the handiwork of winemaker Jordan Harris.  We decided to participate in the premium tasting; it was 20 bucks a piece but worth the experience.  This tasting is conducted in a private tasting room that provides a spectacular mountain view, and participating palate are seated around an ample yet elegant dining table.  We were served a plate of snacks that would complement the pours, and we concluded that the premium pours were all quite solid.  Of the whites, my own favorite was the 2008 Viognier with its peachy nose and floral aromas.  Aged in French oak, this Viognier is a fuller-bodied white wine that should be a hit with shellfish; I make an herb-crusted turkey breast that would partner quite well with this one.  Of the red wines, it was hard to beat the Long Bomb Edition 2.  Violets and tobacco on the nose noted here with dark fruit in the mouth and nice tanning make this a natural partner with anything that moos.  Serve now if you wish, but decant first.  The Long Bomb Edition 2 is enclosed with a screw cap, so it can age for a while; however,  drink within the next 10 years.  The value pour of the event had to be the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.  At 20 bucks a pop, I thought it was worth every penny given its quality—plum and blackberry notes with spice and tobacco on the nose, here was yet another partner for a steak dinner beside a roaring fire.

Corcoran Vineyards—We always look forward to seeing Lori in the tasting room and to sampling her latest pours.  I’ve always been a fan of her Chardonnay, and I was not disappointed with the apple-inflected 2008 Chardonnay that was aged in both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels.  Paul preferred the more floral 2008 Viognier.  “Dry” and “tropical” were his descriptors, and he noted that fish fillets would be a nice pairing with this one. We moved on to the red wines, and we both enjoyed the rich 2008 Malbec. I suspect that this one may have a cult following since very few Virginia wineries produce Malbec as a single variety much less at this quality. The 2008 offering from Corcoran Vineyards is quite good and packed with dark cherry and plum flavors with some mocha at the end.  We noted a lengthier finish, too.  Since it’s wintertime (duh), serve now with roasted meats; however, save for later to pour with grilled steaks when the weather warms up. For a more complex and truly age-worthy wine, though, try the 2007 Meritage.


So when the snow lets up and you need to get out of the house, visit these outstanding Loudoun County wineries.  We promise to get back on the trail once Frosty the Snowman melts for good.  In the meantime, put these wineries on your “to visit” list; mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.