Monticello Wine Trail Day Two

Our second day on the Monticello Wine Trail found us visiting Afton Mountain, Pollak Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards.

We arrived at Afton Mountain, and we were surprised with the changes that have already taken place under the new ownership. The most obvious change? The new tasting room. Current owners Tony and Elizabeth Smith have converted the previous owners’ home into a classy, sophisticated tasting room that includes antique furnishings and oil paintings. And the view from the new tasting facility cannot be surpassed—mountains, streams, and vineyards greet the eyes and need only to be appreciated. Nick Crutchfield directed our tasting, and the current offerings were quite impressive. Of course, we only carry a few gold stars to each tasting room, and we are very selective with our eventual winners. Our gold star for the whites went to the 2006′ Tete de Cuvee Brut. What an amazing bubbly! Crisp and effervescent with apple flavors and non-stop bubbles, we dreamed of Sunday morning mimosas. Warren had already determined that a bottle of the Cuvee was going home with him; however, we had other white wine to sample. Paul’s own award was presented to the 2008 Gewurztraminer with its pineapple and spice characteristics.

So on to the red wines, and here we reached a unanimous decision. Our gold star for the reds went to the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This award winning wine presented rich cherry flavors with some black pepper and finished with smooth tannins. Warren’s close second was the Festa id Bacco from the Bacchanal vineyard with its characteristics of dark fruit, anise, and violet.

After our detailed tasting we enjoyed a bottle of the 2008 Cabernet Franc with some warm bread and white cheddar cheese. We had a chance to chat with both Tony and Elizabeth Smith, the owners of Afton Mountain, and their son Hunter. Elizabeth and Tony shared with us that their plan to be winemakers within three to five years was accelerated with the availability of the Afton Mountain property. The three to five year plan became a three to five month dream come true. The result? Quality wines. At the end of our visit we made a few purchases and headed down the road to Pollak. If you find yourself in the Charlottesville area you simply MUST plan a visit to Afton Mountain. The changes are so evident in the surroundings and the wine. Get yourself to Afton!

Pollak Vineyards is one of our favorite wineries in Virginia. We always feel like family when we visit Pollak. This trip we began with a barrel tasting with Jake Busching. We were able to taste the 2009 Chadonnay, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Meritage, 2007 Meritage and the 2009 Mille Fleur. Jake also gave us a taste of the 2008 Mille Fleur. My white gold star for the barrel tasting went to the 2009 Chardonnay with it’s minerality, nice acidity at the end with citrus flavors. My red gold star went to the 2007 Meritage with it’s dirt nose, tight tannins, and dark fruit flavors. After our informative barrel tasting we decided to do a regular tasting. My gold stars went to the 2008 Durant White and the 2007 Cabernet Franc. Warren awarded his to the 2008 Rose` and the 2008 Native Yeast Chardonnay. After our tasting I enjoyed a glass of the 2008 Cabernet Franc and Warren had the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve. We enjoyed these wines with a warm baguette. When it came time to make our purchases I was disappointed to find out the 2008 Viognier was sold out. No problem though. I enjoy all their wines. I mixed and matched to make up a case. We have have plans to return in July when there will be many new releases.

King Family was our final stop for today. We love the wines from King Family and this time they did not disappoint. Ali was our tasting associate and she was so rehearsed, she knew everything about the wines. We both selected the 2009 Crose` for a gold star. I selected the 2007 Merlot and Warren selected the 2008 Meritage for gold stars. Even though it was a rainy cold afternoon, we enjoyed a glass of the Crose` on the covered patio. We were Tweeting about your experience at King Family. Before leaving we secured a few bottles for our wine racks. While make our purchases we ran into Matthiew Finot, the winemaker. We were able to chat with him about the 2007 Meritage which won the 2010 Governor’s Cup. We informed him we had just had the 2009 Crose`. We agreed the Crose` with it’s sauvignon qualities makes a great summer wine. We left with a few bottles for the summer. We plan to return to King Family in the summer to taste all the new releases.

Tomorrow our trip continues with a stop at Lovingston Vineyards, Cardinal Point, and First Colony.

New Website

There’s a new website specifically for Fauguier County wineries. When you visit you can find out all about the wineries in Fauquier County. They are divided by exits on route 66. You can also find out about the upcoming events at each winery. In addition to that information, you can also print out tasting sheets for each winery you plan to visit, and map out a trip to several wineries using tour tool. And on top of all that, you can join and be able to input your comments about each wine you tasted at each winery. You really need to check it out.

Gerhard von Fincke has this to say about the creation of this site:

“This site is an attempt to increase awareness and show visitors, mainly from the DC area east of Fauquier, how easy it is to reach “Virginia’s Wine Country” in Fauquier County in less than one hour by using I66 and their respective exits. The site is a combined effort by all wineries to show their locations and upcoming events with a user friendly format, so that visitors can plan winery tours through one single web site without going to each individual winery site to plan their route.”

If you are looking for information about Fauquier County wineries, check out the new website and sign up to save your comments!

End of the Monticello Trail

So finally we revisit the oldies—wineries that we visit frequently while on the Monticello Trail. This will be a quick rundown of our personal favorites based on our recent tastings:

Afton Mountain Vineyards—Unoaked Chardonnay was Paul’s fave; crisp and refreshing

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Barboursville Vineyards—2005 Octagon; this Merlot-based Bordeaux-style blend is currently the subject of international acclaim. Also try the 2006 Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Viognier Reserve.

barboursville

Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery—my own favorite was the 2008 A6, a crisp blend of Viognier and Chardonnay; Paul preferred the 2008 Quattro, an aromatic blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Traminette.

cardinalpoint

Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard—we still detest the test tubes, but we do enjoy the wines. The bubbly 2004 Blanc de Blanc was my favorite, but Paul was in the mood for summer wines and gave the nod to the 2008 Albemarle Rose.

White Hall Vineyards—a very nice tasting staff allowed us a tasting even though we arrived a few minutes before closing time. The lush 2007 Petit Manseng won my gold star for the white wines while the jammy 2007 Touriga earned my award for favorite red wine. (Be sure to try the port-style 2006 Edichi, too.)

whitehall

Planning to visit these award-winning wineries soon? Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Back To Our Regular Program

So back on the Monticello Trail and re-visits to first timers the last time we were in the area. These would include Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards.

We continue to be impressed with the offerings at Sugarleaf Vineyards. The 2008 Viognier, blended with 20% Petit Manseng, was my own favorite and presented stone fruit and honeysuckle on the nose with a lovely fruit combination of papaya, fresh pineapple, and a citrus twist in the mouth. I noted some white pepper, too. Some aging in French oak helps to provide a longer finish. Paul placed a star next to the 2007 Petit Manseng and jotted down “floral” and “fruity” as aromatic notes and “peachy” for flavors. He described its finish as “crisp”.

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Of the red wines, we both concurred that the 2006 Cabernet Franc (blended with 10% Petit Verdot) was the gold star winner. Extracted berry and dried herbs were detected on the nose with similar qualities in the mouth with some pepper to boot; I noted some vanilla at the end due to aging in both American and European oak. Looking for a decadent treat? Try the 2007 Neubia Nectar, a lush dessert wine that is a blend of Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc.

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We always hear good things about Pollak Vineyards and for good reason. Here too, the lineup of wines continues to be quite impressive. The 2008 Durant White, a blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, is a crisp pour with characteristics of citrus, apple, and tropical fruit. A crowd pleaser by any means, this easy drinking white should prove to be versatile at the most formal or informal affairs. I appreciated the 2008 Rose with its tart berry characteristics. Dry and crisp, this rose is yet another example of nice roses being produced in Virginia.

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Paul’s gold star was reserved for the 2007 Merlot with its ripe cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Paul found this one to be more fruit-forward and appreciated its longer finish. My own star was reserved for the complex 2006 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Darker fruit profiles here with pepper and cedar noted, too. Nice tannins here made me wish for a nice steak!

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With our tasting done, we were ready to enjoy lunch with one of our favorite wines at Pollak Vineyards. We dined on sliced beef and wild rice salad with a hunk of Emmental cheese, and we paired this with the 2007 Merlot. The grounds at Pollak Vineyards offer stunning views which we enjoyed while munching and sipping.

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Pollak is also known to be amongst the most “green” of vineyards and wineries, and we look forward to delving into this topic the next time we visit Pollak Vineyards. Of course, we also plan to visit Sugarleaf Vineyards to sample upcoming pours that will include the anticpated Cuvee Neubia. Let us know your favorites at Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards, but when you visit, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.