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Discover DC’s Wine Country: Loudoun County

Virginia Wine Bloggers Unite to Promote DC’s Wine Country – the Wines of Loudoun County

Virginia wine bloggers – Frank from DrinkWhatYouLike.com, Va Wine Diva & Grape Envy Guy from SwirlSipSnark.com, and Paul & Warren from VirginiaWineTime.com – along with the Virginia Wine Board and Loudoun County wineries will host the first ever TasteLive! event dedicated to showcasing the wines of Loudoun County, VA.

TasteLive! is the world’s premiere online wine and beer tasting community that leverages the increasingly powerful social media tools of Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, and other services to create a community that brings together consumers, bloggers, press, suppliers, and winemakers from across the world to taste and discuss wine virtually.

On Thursday, December 9, the wines of Loudoun County will take center stage in a TasteLive! virtual wine tasting dedicated to showcasing the wines of DC’s Wine Country – Loudoun County. Wine bloggers and wine enthusiasts throughout the US will come together online at 8pm Eastern Time to taste & tweet about the wines of Loudoun County. This event will serve as an introduction to Virginia wine for several participants and is a prelude to the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference which will be held in Charlottesville, VA in July.

Located just 25 miles from Washington, DC, Loudoun County – referred to as DC’s Wine Country – is home to 27 wineries and tasting rooms organized into four clusters sprinkled throughout bucolic countryside.

This tasting features wines from five different Loudoun County wineries, and winemakers from each will be joining in the virtual discussion. The five featured Loudoun wineries and wines are:

Notaviva Vineyards
2009 Ottantotto Viognier
Part of the Loudoun Heights cluster, Notaviva Vineyards is one of Loudoun’s newest wineries. Husband and wife team Stephen and Shannon Mackey were brought together by their love of music, which is expressed further through their wines. Notaviva is from the Italian nota – music note and viva – with life. In keeping with their love of music and wine, each Notaviva flagship wine is named after musical terms to represent the emotions they inspire.
Follow Notaviva on Twitter: @Notaviva

Tarara Winery
2009 Nevaeh White
Part of the Potomac wine cluster, Tarara Winery is a terroir-driven winery crafting artisanal, hand crafted wines to best showcase their vineyards through single vineyard blends capturing the essence of the unique sites and classic varietals around Virginia.
Follow Tarara on Twitter: @TararaWinery

Breaux Vineyards
2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Part of the Loudoun Heights cluster, Breaux Vineyards overlooks the beautiful valley between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill Mountains. The 404-acre Breaux estate has over 100 acres planted in 18 different grape varieties. Be sure to check out the Breaux Vineyards introduction video at VisitLoudoun.org.
Follow Breaux Vineyards on Twitter: @BreauxVineyards


8 Chains North
2008 Furnace Mountain Red Reserve
8 Chains North Winery, located in Waterford, Virginia, showcases handcrafted wines made from Loudoun County grapes. At 8 Chains North we spend 8 intense months in our vineyards on the Potomac River and in the Short Hill Mountains of Loudoun County, allowing us to draw out the very best of every vintage.’
Follow 8 Chains North on Twitter: @8ChainsNorth

North Gate Vineyard
2008 Petit Verdot
North Gate Vineyard is situated in on approximately 26 acres in the northwest part of Loudoun County, Virginia. Nestled against the eastern base of the Short Hill mountains (foothills to the Blue Ridge), North Gate Vineyard produces high quality wine grapes for its own set of wines as well as other wineries in Virginia. Husband and wife team Mark and Vicki Fedor have been growing grapes since 2002 and have been part of the winemaking scene in Loudoun since 2003.
Follow North Gate on Twitter: @NorthGateWines

We’re sure many of you are fans of Loudoun County wine, these wineries, and even these specific wines, so we hope that you’ll join us for this tasting. A major benefit of a virtual wine tasting is that everyone can become a participant.

You can tweet along (or follow the tweet stream if you’re shy). You can do this by logging into the TasteLive! Platform or following the twitter stream for the hashtag #vawine through your favorite twitter platform (e.g., TweetDeck). If you don’t tweet, you can also follow the twitter stream by searching on the hashtag #vawine from the twitter home page since you do not need to have a twitter account to look at tweets.

Please join us; this would be a great time to gather your wine friends and celebrate the wines of Loudoun County. After all, how often do you have the opportunity to chat about wines with both the winemakers and some of your favorite bloggers all at the same time?

Hume Vineyards’ Debut

The Virginia wine industry seems to expand with every year, and now we can add Hume Vineyards to the list of newbies. Paul and I were invited by owner and winemaker Stephane Baldi and his wife, Andrea to visit their tasting room. We accepted the offer and visited Hume Vineyards on July 4. The grand opening is Saturday, July 10th.

It was a very hot afternoon on the day that we visited Hume Vineyards, and we were warmly greeted by Stephane who escorted us to the tasting room. We must admit here that the actual opening of Hume Vineyards will occur on July 10; so, the tasting room was still in the finishing stages. In fact, Stephane explained to us that materials from an old barn on the property were used to construct the rustic tasting room. Remnants from an old tin roof provided a half-covering for the walls and lent an antique charm to the space. Of course, our mission was to taste wine, and we were drawn to a simple tasting bar where the current offerings were lined up for sampling. Andrea joined us for the tour and tasting, and before long we were sipping away. In the process, we learned more about Stephane and his mission as a winemaker in Virginia.

Hume Vineyards offers four wines for tasting, and all were rather impressive. Vidal Blanc produces wines that are destined for enjoyment on a hot summer day, so we were not disappointed with the 2009 Vidal Blanc. My first impression was kiwi with a delicate floral aroma. Paul noted peach flavors, too, and the 1% residual sugar makes for a classic summer sipper without the cloying sweetness. However, summer is also grilling season, and the 2009 Chambourcin should pair well with any barbequed fare. Fruit-forward with a smoky nose with some anise to boot, I appreciated its plum flavors and peppery finish. Aging in neutral American oak barrels for six months provides structure, too.

Heavier reds finished our tasting. The 2008 Detour proved to be my favorite of the two bolder offerings. The tasting notes describe Detour as “tight”, and I could not agree more. Do not be afraid to swirl and swirl and swirl before sniffing and sipping. Dark fruits characteristics will emerge along with an earthiness to suggest an age-worthy, complex wine. I noticed some cedar notes, and we both noted chewier tannins. The 2008 Detour is the result of a blend which includes 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. Drink now but decant first; I opt for aging. Anyway, Paul’s preference was for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. More accessible than the Detour, it displayed a dark cherry nose and flavors with smoky/leathery aromas. Five percent Cabernet Franc provides some spicy characteristics, too.

As we sipped and savored, we learned that Stephane is from France, and he was surrounded by vineyards and wines; therefore, he always had an interest in winemaking. In fact, he grew up drinking wines from the Loire valley. So why Virginia? Stephane explained that he wanted to be a part of something big, and for him that could only be Virginia which shares the Old World climates and challenges. His vineyards are still fairly new with plans to plant more vines which may include Grenache. Therefore, current wines were produced from grapes grown from local vineyards; however, the Chambourcin does include grapes grown on the Hume estate. The ultimate goal for Stephane is to produce all wines from estate grown fruit, and these will include Merlot, Viognier, and Petit Verdot. Stephane worked very closely with Dave Collins of Breaux Vineyards to produce the current lineup of quality wines. He also credits neighbor s Brian Roeder of Barrel Oak Vineyards and Philip Strother of Philip Carter Winery for providing advice and word-of-mouth marketing.

When they are not building a tasting room, tending vineyards and making wine, Stephane and Andrea work as researchers; therefore, they have an intense appreciation for the history of their property. The property and its facilities date back to the 1800s, and they have discovered the original deed to the property which was dated in 1862. They intend, then, to preserve the historic charm of the property while producing wines with an Old-World, Rhone-style appeal. With this mission in mind, it’s easy to see that Stephane and Andrea will succeed.

Make a plan to visit Hume Vineyards to celebrate the opening on July 10. Be sure to mention to Stephane and Andrea that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

You Are The Winemaker

Yes, at Vint Hill Craft Winery you are indeed the winemaker. Rather than try to explain this novel concept to you, I’ll simply cut and paste from the winery’s website:

You are the Winemaker! Choose to make wine with us as it is crafted to your specifications, in your style with your name, a label of your design and of course, your story behind it. Vint Hill Craft Winery provides the opportunity for individuals or small groups to participate alongside our expert winemaking team to ‘Craft’ their own wine at our specially designed, eco-friendly, ‘small lot’ winery. Customers will receive hands-on instruction in every aspect of the process; crafting their own personalized wine, beginning with the selection of your grapes from California, Washington and, of course, Virginia!

My Dad was in town this past weekend, and we decided to pay a visit to Vint Hill Craft Winery. The winery is off of the beaten wine path, but we did indeed find the winery and tasting room. The facility itself has quite a history, and it was once an intelligence gathering post operated by the US Army. This operation ended in 1997 after 55 years of service; however, the facility received a new life in 2009. Winemaker Chris Pearmund and businessman Ray Summerell opened the Vint Hill Craft Winery for the purpose of providing a facility for aspiring winemakers. As an extension of the process, the tasting room recently opened to allow consumers the opportunity to taste the finished products. The craft winery’s motto? Create, Taste, Learn.

Tasting was certainly on our agenda, and we were offered three flights to sample. Since there were three of us at the tasting bar, we each took a flight. Dad and I opted to sample the Chardonnay flight, Paul made a go of the Viognier flight, and we all tasted the red flight. Of the Chardonnays, Dad and I both concurred that the 2009 Chardonnay VHCW was the winner. Aged in both new and neutral French oak barrels, the pear flavors, and rich, honeyed texture made for an easy sipper or food-friendly pour. The grapes used, though were not grown in Virginia and come from the Russian River Valley of California. For those who favor a more buttery Chardonnay, the 2008 VHCW is the one to try, and the grapes were indeed grown in Virginia at the Broad Run vineyard. Paul weighed in on his favorite Viognier, and he preferred the 2009 VHCW crafted from grapes grown in the Pan d’Or Vineyard of Virginia. The honeysuckle notes were undeniable with characteristic stone fruit flavors in the mouth. Another nice sipper but could complement a shellfish dinner.

We let Dad select the favorite red, and he liked the 2008 VHCW Merlot from the Crown Orchard Vineyard in Virginia. This one was aged in American oak, so we were not surprised by the smoky aromas; I caught a whiff of dried herbs, too. Dark cherry, spice and tobacco were prevalent flavors, and we all noticed a lengthier finish. Dad likes to grill, and he thought this one might go well with grilled fare that featured a dab of barbeque sauce.

With our tasting done, we each purchased a bottle of our favorite wine. On another note, our visit to Vint Hill Craft Winery brings the number of wineries visited by Virginia Wine Time up to 99! Yes, we’re one winery away from #100! Which winery will it be? Well, we haven’t decided yet, so keep tuning in. In the meantime, visit Vint Hill Craft Winery, but mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cleve Is A Winner!

Last Saturday we were invited to Philip Carter Winery for the release of their big Bordeaux red, Cleve. As part of the release party, they conducted a Twitter taste off of their current wines and the new Cleve. A few other wine bloggers joined the fun. Rob Cox, the newest member of the winemaking team at Philip Carter, conducted the Twitter Taste-off.

We began with the 2008 Chardonnay. This one got our gold star. It’s been their solid white for a while now. It’s the white wine we always go for when we visit Philip Carter. We always note the crispness, the fruit, the hints of lemongrass with a touch of oak. It’s also a winner. It’s gathered a handful of medals. Next up was the Governor Fauquier 2008. We tweeted nutty, off dry, tropical fruit, and melon flavors. We noted it has 1% residual sugar.

We then moved to the reds. We were looking forward to trying the Cleve but first we had the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This was not of our favorites but we did note it had a nice color for a cab franc. We tweeted it had an acidic nose, with black cherry and pepper on the palate. We then moved on to the Cleve! The Cleve is a Bordeaux style red with 50% cab franc, 35% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon. Again, we tweeted extracted fruit on the nose, smoke, violets, bramble berry, big fruit, lengthy finish, and that you can chew on it awhile. We declared Cleve was a winner! We could see keeping this one on your rack for a while. It will on get better with time. Philip Carter Winery certainly has a winner on it’s hands with Cleve! Nice job winemakers!

The last wine we tasted was the Late Harvest Vidal 2008. It’s 8% residual sugar but isn’t overly sweet. We noted baked apple and honey. Perfect ending to the taste off.

After the Twitter taste off we had a chance to chat with Rob Cox. We always enjoy chatting with Rob Cox…we’ve followed him from winery to winery. We chatted about the Philip Carter wines and the wine industry in Virginia in general. Rob noted how many Virginia wineries are employing professional winemakers to help develop the wines they want to produce. He said, “The days of owner made wines are numbered.” He went on to say, “Virginia doesn’t need more wineries making wines, we need wineries making better wine.” He certainly has his opinions about the future of Virginia wines.

Philip Carter Winery is again teaming up with Luxury Cruise Counselors to plan a spectacular cruise to the Mediterranean in August 2011. Check out their website for more information. You simply must plan a trip out to Philip Carter Winery to taste that Cleve. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

New Releases Continue Renaissance at Piedmont

We’ve chronicled the steady improvements at Piedmont Vineyards since Gerhard von Finck took the helm as winemaker. Gerhard invited us to a weekend gala that celebrated his new releases, and we gladly accepted the offer. We can report that the improvements continue at Piedmont Vineyards, and Gerhard has much to celebrate.

As usual, our tasting began with the white wines, and we samples four wines here. (Although the tasting sheet listed the Hunt Country Chardonnay 2008, we were given a sneak sample of the upcoming 2009.) The official new releases included the Native Yeast Chardonnay 2009 and the Special Reserve Chardonnay 2009. My own favorite was the Native Yeast Chardonnay 2009. As the name suggests it is fermented in native yeasts, and for the wine maker this process can induce a degree of anxiety. Why? It is a non-interventionist approach that depends on the natural fermentation process, and much can go wrong along the way. California’s Frog’s Leap Chardonnay is an example of a wine created in this fashion. Anyway, Gerhard’s version is aged in French oak for nine months and presents aromas of pineapple and honey with similar characteristics in the mouth. A longer finish was noted with some toasted nuts at the end to suggest a more complex wine. Paul preferred the Special Reserve Chardonnay 2009 which was aged for nine months in Hungarian oak. He appreciated its more floral nose and fruitier presentation but did not mind the soft oak at the finish. Now for those who enjoyed the Hunt Country Chardonnay 2008, we can report that the 2009 is also unoaked and as crisp as the 2008 version; however, we observed a sharper fruit focus to the 2009 offering. It should prove to be quite popular upon release!

On to the red wines, and the Hunt Country Red 2008 was first in the glass. This Merlot-based offering was Gerhard’s personal favorite of the red wines, and I enjoyed this one, too. Aged 18 months in oak, this blend also includes 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and can be characterized as a very nice, fruit-driven bistro wine. Nice cherry notes and a smooth feel make for an easy drinker to enjoy with pizza, burgers, beef, or a simple platter of deli meats and cheeses. Paul’s favorite was the Cabernet Franc 2009 which was very similar to its 2008 sibling. Aged ten months in French oak, it offers bright cherry flavors with a spicy edge and silky finish.

As we completed our tasting, we chatted with Gerhard and learned that these new releases were the result of hard work and a determination to learn the winemaker’s craft. To this end, he consulted with other winemakers including Doug Fabbioli; we applauded his efforts, and we look forward to a potential autumn released of the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.

So of course we were hungry for lunch, and we opted to enjoy a bottle of the Native Yeast Chardonnay 2009 with cheese, bread, and toasted almonds. In the process we were entertained by the band, Expanded Waistlines. After nibbles and wine, we made certain to purchase bottle of our favorite releases and bid adieu to Gerhard von Finck. Of course, we will return to Piedmont Vineyards soon; be sure to visit Piedmont Vineyards and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Cellar Tasting at Linden

Last Sunday we went to Linden Vineyards to see what wines were new since our last visit. We also decided to do a cellar tastings as well.

During our tasting we were able to sample the 2008 Seyval, the 2008 Chardonnay, the 2007 Claret, the 2006 Petit Verdot, and the 2008 Vidal Riesling. As many of you know Jim Law is like the guru of Virginia wines. We were unable to single out any wines for our gold stars….they all deserved gold stars!

After our tasting we had some time before our cellar tasting so we decided to enjoy a glass of wine on the deck. Since Warren is a club member we were able enjoy the view. I had a glass of the 2008 Seyval and Warren took advantage of the library wine weekends (where a different library wine is opened on the weekends for sale) and had the 1998 Rush River Red, a red blend. I wrote down grapefruit and lemon and dry for my notes on the Seyval. Warren noted black pepper, dark fruit, and dried herbs from the Rush River Red. We suggest tasters take advantage of the library wines available on the weekends.

During our cellar tasting we tasted the 2008 Boisseau Chardonnay, 2007 Hardscrabble Chardonnay, 2006 Avenius Red, 2006 Hardscrabble Red, 2005 Late Harvest Vidal, and the 2006 Late Harvest Petit Manseng. Warren and I both put gold stars next to the 2008 Boisseau Chardonnay. We noted orange peel, honeysuckle, and a long finish. The rest of our stars were split. I put a star next to the 2006 Avenius Red and the 2005 Late Harvest Vidal while Warren put his gold stars next to the 2006 Hardscrabble Red and the 2006 Late Harvest Petit Manseng.

During the cellar tasting we realized one of the other participants was Curtis Vincent, the former winemaker at Chrysalis. We had a great chat about wine of course and found out he’ll be starting at Swedenburg in May. We are looking forward to the wines he’ll produce at Swedenburg. After the cellar tasting we got to meet Curtis’ new wife (congrats on your wedding!). We had a chance to say hello to Jim Law as well who was enjoying a glass with Curtis and his wife.

We always enjoy our time at Linden Vineyards. The wines are simply wonderful. Consider visiting Linden Vineyards and tasting their wines. You won’t be disappointed. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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