Our few posts have featured harvest (always fun at Gray Ghost Vineyards) and new winery openings; however, be assured that we were also on the wine trails too. We spent the Labor Day weekend in the Charlottesville area; of course, our purpose was to visit wineries. No newbies in this post—here we feature some oldies but goodies.
Jefferson Vineyards: We’re big fans of Andy Reagan’s wines, so it was no surprise that we had a tough time identifying only a few favorites. Of the white wines, Paul was a fan of the 2011 Pinot Gris with its stone fruit and citrus elements and vibrant acidity. I remain a diehard fan of the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve with its lush notes of pineapple and pear. A close second for me was the aromatic 2011 Viognier 2011 that was loaded with floral aromas, tropical fruit flavors, and a honeyed texture. We reached a unanimous decision on the red wines, and that was the smoky 2009 Meritage with its characteristics of dark plum, black cherry, anise, and pepper.
Pollak Vineyards: It is always a treat to taste here especially with our favorite tasting educator, Casey. This was our first tasting at Pollak since Jake Bushing left to being his own venture at Mt Juliet Vineyards, but we can report that current winemaker Benoit Pineau continues the tradition of excellence at Pollak Vineyards. Selecting favorites was difficult as the wines here were all well crafted; however, we did reach some decisions. Of the white wines, I preferred the 2011 Viognier with its floral aromas and lively tropical fruit flavors. Extended maceration provided a fuller mouth feel. Paul’s preference was the 2011 Durant White; he observed lemon/lime notes with pear and melon flavors as well as a crisp finish. The 2011 Durant White is a blend of Chardonnay (60%) and Viognier (40%). Paul was in a mood for lighter bodied reds that day, so he enjoyed the fruity 2011 Durant Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Cabernet Franc (38%), and Petit Verdot (5%). Crafted from a tough vintage, the 2011 Durant Red can be described as very berry with hints of sweet tobacco and spice. I was more partial to the 2010 Cabernet Franc produced, of course, from a stellar harvest. Aromas of pomegranate, blackberry and black pepper led to flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, and mocha. My close second? The 2009 Merlot with its intense juicy berry flavors and nuances of tobacco and spice. We were also treated to a sneak peak of the 2012 Pinot Gris with winery owner David Pollak. What a treat! Thank you, David!
White Hall Vineyards: We’re always amazed at the price points here given the quality of the wines. All of the wines that were available for tasting were priced under $20.00. We once again reached a split decision on the white wines with Paul favoring the minerally Pinto Gris 2010 with its subtle floral notes and flavors of citrus and pear. My own preference was the 2011 Petit Manseng. At .9% residual sugar, it was by far one of the driest Petit Mansengs that I’ve tasted. Aromas of peach and pineapple were complimented by similar flavors in the mouth along with a note of honey, too. The characteristic acidity was on full display. We did agree on the Petit Verdot 2009 as our favorite red wine. A smoky impression led to other aromas of plum, tobacco, and licorice. We noted similar flavors in the mouth with a peppery finish.
So where else did we visit? We’ll keep readers in suspense until the next post. In the meantime, fall is in the air. Why not plan a visit to these wineries? Be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Yes, it was a busy week of wine tasting last week. Somebody has to do it, right? In this post, we detail our experiences at Afton Mountain Vineyards and White Hall Vineyards.
Afton Mountain Vineyards: We’ve written about the positive changes that are ongoing at Afton Mountain Vineyards since Elizabeth and Tony Smith purchased the vineyards and winery. During our previous visit, I became a fan of the Tete de Cuvee and was interested in purchasing another bottle. Of course, this was my excuse to revisit and sample the latest releases at Afton Mountain Vineyards. Tony and Elizabeth graciously conducted our tasting which featured some upcoming releases that were not available for tasting at the time. Of the white wines, we still favored the Tete de Cuvee with its nonstop bubbles and toasted edge. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and done in the Methode Champenoise. Of the red wines, Paul preferred the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its dark cherry and pepper characteristics. I, however, opted for the 2009 Pinot Noir. Yes, I liked a Pinot Noir made from Virginia fruit! It presented a dark garnet color and a nose of dark cherry, currants, and anise with a whiff of smoke to boot. Similar flavors in the mouth with a medium body completed the experience. Look for this one to be released on Labor Day Weekend. Another upcoming release will be the 2009 Sangiovese, and we noted dark fruit characteristics and smooth tannins.
Like other winemakers and winery owners, the Smiths were optimistic about the 2010 harvest; in fact, they had already harvested the Chardonnay grapes. With vineyard manager Robbie Corpora and winemaker Lucien Dimani as part of the team, we expect great things to continue at Afton Mountain Vineyards. (And yes, I did purchase another bottle of the Tete de Cuvee before I left!)
White Hall Vineyards: An extensive menu is offered here, but the wines are well made. The first offering of the white wine selections was the crisp Pinot Gris 2008. “Clean” was the word that came to mind, and I noted a refreshing palate of orange and pineapple with a mineral finish. We both concurred that this was our gold star winner of the white wines, and on a day that hit 97 degrees, it was the perfect choice. (In fact, we shared a glass after our tasting.) Our tasting of the red wines found us at odds, though. Paul placed a star next to the Cabernet Franc 2008 with its aromas of violets and brambleberries. He also appreciated its smoky edge and medium finish. My own favorite, though, was the Touriga 2008. I’ve been a fan of White Hall’s Touriga in the past, and I remained a fan at this tasting. Touriga is a grape grown in Portugal, but pockets of Virginia’s micro-climates do well with this variety as well. I noted rich aromas of blackberry, raspberry, anise and tobacco with similar flavors in the mouth but with a touch of cedar. For tasters who have been a fan of White Hall’s Syrah, the 2008 vintage will be the last; at the $10.00 sale price, it might be worth stocking up. Ligher bodied but fruity with a spicy kick, it’s an accessible sipper.
So we’re almost done with our round up of tasting on the Monticello Trail. We should have one more post to finish our experiences from the past week, including a review of a newbie, Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery. Of course, the weekend is upon us, so plan to visit these Virginia wineries if you have the chance. Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.