Friends, Burgers, and Rose

It’s that time of the year when friends gather for cookouts on warm summer days. Local wineries sometime provide the cookout, and friends meet to enjoy food and wine. We met our friends Matthew and Troy for an afternoon of wine and food at Zephaniah Vineyard; we then extended our leisurely wine and dine afternoon with a tasting at Willowcroft Winery.

We recently met Matthew and Troy at Chrysalis Vineyards and found out that they are fans of Virginia wines. We eventually made a plan to meet them on another weekend at Zephaniah Vineyard. We’re big fans of Zephaniah Vineyard, and we were certain that Matthew and Troy would become fans as well. As luck would have it, our visit there coincided with their Angus Burger weekend; in fact, we all became instantly hungry when we pulled up in the parking lot and smelled the burgers on the grill! However, we all remained focused and knew that we first had to taste wines. How else would we know which wine would pair best with burgers?
On tap for tasting were six wines, these included two white wines, a rose and three red wines. Of the white wines, we all were big fans of the Viognier 2012 that was aged for seven months in neutral French oak barrels and blended with 6% Petit Manseng. Floral notes, stone fruity element and a lush mouth feel made for a complex wine. With burger in mind, though, we all gravitated to the dry Rose 2012, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. Bright strawberry flavors with a hint of dried herb made for a refreshing pour; aged in French oak barrels for seven months, it also presented a creamier texture. Perfect with burgers and always perfect on a hot summer’s day! On another note, I was likewise impressed with both the Chambourcin 2010 and the Chambourcin Reserve 2010. The latter was poured from a magnum bottle to suggest an age worthy wine produced from a unique vintage.
I must also mention that our tasting was done in the library of the 19th century home that serves as the Zephaniah tasting room. It provided a quaint setting in which to sample wines done in an Old World style.

However, we were indeed quite hungry, and the scent of grilled food only made us hungrier. We all concurred that the Rose 2012 was the perfect partner to pair with burgers, and so a bottle of the Rose 2012 made its way to our picnic table.

Lunch and conversation made the afternoon fly by, and we decided to extend the afternoon with a tasting at Willowcroft Winery. One of our favorite tasting associates, Kelly, was on hand to conduct our tasting. With warmer days ahead, our focus was on refreshing sippers that could be enjoyed on their own or with light/grilled fare (like burgers!) The crisp Cold Steel Chardonnay is always a winner on a hot day, and the 2012 vintage presented fruity notes with a touch of minerality to make for a refreshing wine. Matthew and Troy appreciated the off-dry Cabernet Blanc with its strawberry aromas and flavors. For those looking for a different wine to serve with picnic sandwiches, try the non-vintage Applause, an apple wine that should prove to popular with July 4th fireworks; however, it could also be poured with Mr. Turkey on Thanksgiving!
We do know that steaks are often on the grill during the summer months, and if strip steaks and grilled veggies are on the menu, try the 2007 Merlot. Paul remains a fan of this one with its sweet tobacco notes and dark cherry flavors. He bought another bottle to replace the one that we had enjoyed a week earlier.

After our tasting, we all shared a bottle of the Cabernet Blanc and enjoyed the mountain views from our outdoor picnic table. Of course, the time did arrive when we had to leave Willowcroft Winery with our bottle of favorites in tow. Plan a trip to Zephaniah Vineyard and Willowcroft Winery, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Friday Wines

Our evening began with the 2011 Albarino from Willowcroft Farm Winery. We enjoyed it with manchego cheese and crackers. This wine had a predominately lemon presence. I really enjoyed the lemon nature of this wine and thought it paired nicely with our cheese and cracker selections.

For dinner we had the 2009 Meritage from Jefferson Vineyards. We enjoy this one with thick filets and herbed potatoes. This wine absolutely blew us away. We noted tobacco with a wiff of carmel/vanilla, blackberry, pencil shaving/cedar edge at the end. It paired absolutely beautifully with our filets. If you do not have this wine on your rack, you need to plan a trip to Jefferson and get a bottle before they run out. Have we ever mentioned that Andy Reagan is an awesome winemaker?

Two More Visits in Loudoun County

To round out our trip to Loudoun County wineries, we stopped at Willowcroft and Casanel. As we have been noting lately, we hadn’t visited either winery in quite a long time and it was time to find out what was new and what would tease our palates.

Almost all the wines were new at Willowcroft. While we enjoyed them all, there were a few stand outs for us. We were surprised to see an Albarino on the tasting menu since so few wineries in Virginia produce an Albarino wine. This one quickly became our favorite white on the tasting menu. This Albarino is dry and stainless steel aged. We noted citrus flavors of lemon and lime with a crisp mineral finish. We enjoyed a glass of this one after our tasting.

Of the reds, we found two that were leaving a spark on our palates. The 2007 Merlot has really grown into its own. Its medium bodied with flavors of plum and berries. It has a smooth finish and would go well with red meat. Before leaving I secured a bottle for my wine rack. While its ready to drink now, it can hang out on the rack for another year or so.

Another red that got our attention was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This one is a bit bigger with medium tannins. We noted lots of flavors; smoke, tobacco, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and licorice. It has a smokey finish that would also pair well with red meats.

During our tasting we had a chance to talk with Kelly, one of our favorite tasting associates at Willowcroft, about the 2012 season and the current wines on the tasting menu. We always enjoy talking wine with the tasting associates.

As with Willowcroft, Casanel‘s tasting menu included wines that were almost all new to us. We were lucky to have Katie DeSouza (the daughter of owners Casey and Nelson DeSouza) as our tasting associate. She filled us in on all the happenings at Casanel. At the time of our visit there were just about ready to open the new bathrooms in the new winery building. At this point, they are probably open for business. Having the new bathrooms open will save you from having to go down the spiral staircase. That never bothered us though. It is part of the charm of Casanel.

During our tasting with Katie we made note of our favorite wines. The 2009 Chardonnay Mas Que Nada is aged in neutral French oak barrels for eight months. This imparts a smooth lightly buttery ending. We noted an aromatic nose, with notes of melon and herbs on the palate. We thought this chard would pair well with fish and chicken dishes.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Batucada was notable for the earthy nose and hints of blackberry, plum, and tobacco. We noted the smooth ending and the light to medium tannins. We can see why this one has won several awards. While this one would pair nicely with red meat, we also think enjoying a glass by itself would be appropriate.

We would also like to note the 2010 Don Lorenzo White. This is Casanel’s first estate wine and quickly is racking up the awards. It is a blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It is slightly sweet and has notes of apple, pear, peach, and honeysuckle. We think this one would pair nicely with slightly spicy foods.

After our chat and tasting with Katie, we enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 Don Lorenzo White with a pizza prepared by Chef Miriam, who often shows up on weekend to provide the perfect food to pair with Casanel wines. We also enjoyed the live music on the patio…along with many others!

We always enjoy revisiting wineries in Loudoun County. Our trips become both educational and tasty! If you haven’t been to Willowcroft or Casanel lately, you need to plan a trip soon. And if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Hot Days and Cool Wines at Willowcroft

Our post about Big Cork Vineyard mentioned that winemaker Dave Collins began his career at Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, and we thought it would appropriate to visit the site where Collins perfected his winemaking talents. On a hot and humid day, we visited Loudoun County’s oldest winery, Willowcroft Farm Vineyards.

Winemaker Lew Parker opened Willowcroft Farm Vineyards to the public in 1984. At the time, it was the only winery in operation in Loudoun County; today, there are over 30 wineries in the region with more to scheduled to open. Today’s newer wineries feature state of the art facilities and tasting rooms; however, Willowcroft has maintained its rustic appeal and continues to taste in its renovated barn which pre-dates the Civil War. Once in the air-conditioned tasting room, we were ready to sample with a continued focus on summer wines. On a hot, muggy day, who can blame us?

The white wines that we sampled ranged from very dry and crisp to sweet; all were appropriate for picnics and fireworks. The 2009 Chardonnay Cold Steel was crisp and clean with apple and pear notes. Refreshing too! Nice on its own but should pair well with shellfish and other seafood. The 2010 Albarino was similarly dry with a noted crispness thanks to stainless steel aging. Fruity Peach notes and flavors with a cooling minerality were noted. Again, not only nice on its own but also food friendly. Sweeter offerings included the floral 2010 Riesling Vidal Blanc; its 1.6% residual sugar elevated its apple and pear flavors to present a fruity wine. Even sweeter was the 2010 Traminette which boasts a 3.7% residual sugar level. Floral notes with pineapple and spice flavors should please those who prefer sweeter wines; in fact, our friend Michael Tyler came to mind when we sampled this one. Dessert wines should not be overlooked especially with fruit tarts or cheesecakes on the menu, and the 2009 Claire with its honeysuckle and apricot notes should provide a perfect way to end a summer dinner party. The Claire is made from late harvest Petit Manseng and blended with Riesling and Muscat Ottonel.

Grilled burgers on the grill? The lighter-bodied 2009 Fitzrada’s Red might be an option. A blend of Merlot, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon, we found it to be a fruity pour full of bright berry flavors. White wine lovers might enjoy a glass of this one as an alternative, especially with burgers or other grilled fare on the dinner table.

We ended our tasting at Willowcroft Farm Winery and opted to share a glass of the 2009 Chardonnay Cold Steel. It proved to be the right choice as relaxed at a shaded table in the old barn. Plan to celebrate summer with a visit to Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.