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Tag: winemaker (page 2 of 2)

Winemaker For A Day

Readers may recall that we recently visited Sunset Hills Vineyard, and we were quite impressed with their lineup of wines. We then decided to participate in a subsequent blending session which featured Cabernet Franc as the dominant varietal. How did we do? Well, it was not an easy task, and we had to sample lots of wine to get our blend just right; however, we also had to compete with other amateur winemakers that day. The competition was fierce!

Participants were grouped and then seated at various tables in the tasting room, and each table was given the label of a certain wine producing region. For example, one table was called the “Napa” table; our table was the Virginia table! (Yes, it was purely coincidental.) Anyway, our winemaking partners were Troi and Derick. We all hit it off right away, and we quickly found out that Trois is a fan of local wines from Virginia and Maryland. With introductions completed, we were all eager to sip and blend. Our first samples were four tastings of Cabernet Franc picked from two different lots. An added twist was that the samples from each lot were then aged in different oak barrels—new American oak, French oak, and Hungarian oak. The Virginia table gravitated toward the French oak and Hungarian oak samples. We found these to be more fruit-forward with a softer oak finish. The sample from American oak tended to present more blackberry flavors with a noticeable woodsy character.

As we sipped, we took extensive notes so that we could compliment our favorite Cabernet Franc with an appropriate blend of other wines. Since the final product will be a Cabernet Franc, the blends had to include at least 75% Cabernet Franc. With this in minds, the Virginia table was ready to blend away, and we were presented with four other samples once we were done with our Cabernet Franc. These other samples included two offerings of the ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon from Tranquility Vineyard (each were treated with different yeasts), a 2009 Merlot from Sunset Hill Vineyard, and a 2008 Petit Verdot from Breaux Vineyards. What did we conclude? We all really enjoyed the Cabernet Franc samples and opted to create a 90% blend from the French and Hungarian oak tastings with a greater proportion coming from the French oak product. We then blended in 7% from the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (yeast sample #1) and 3% from the jammy, spicy 2008 Petit Verdot. Our final blend presented layers of mixed berries in the mouth with some violet and spice on the nose—the Virginia table was very pleased!

However, the other tables were also madly blending with pipettes and beakers operating at full speed. When all tables were done, we then had to sample all of the final blends and vote on our favorites. Without getting into the tasting notes for each blend, I’ll simply reveal that our particular blend place third out of the ten blends produced. The top-rated blend as well as the second place blend also favored the Cabernet Franc from the French and Hungarian oak barrels but in different proportions; though I was rooting strongly for the Virginia table’s blend, I did have to admit that the winning blend was the indeed the best. In fact, winemaker Nate Walsh revealed that the winning blend was very close to the one currently used to create the award-winning Cabernet Franc Reserve.

So we tried our hand at blending red wines, and we now understand how difficult a task it is to complete. We were intrigued by how different the same varietal, Cabernet Franc, tasted when produced from a different lot and aged in a different oak barrel. Terroir and winemaking methods do indeed make the wine! We also enjoyed meeting new friends Troi and Derick, and we hope to meet up with them on the wine trail soon.

Pay a visit to Sunset Hills Vineyard, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Another Visit To Narmada

Last Saturday after seeing the fall grape leaves at Gray Ghost, we stopped by Narmada to see what has been added to the tasting menu.

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Upon entering the gates we noticed they are now doing tastings in the winery among the tanks. Right away we ran into Rob Cox, the winemaker. He preceded to give us a tour of the facility. It’s just about complete. He took us to the unfinished tasting room that promises to be quite a space. We look forward to returning to see the completed tasting room.

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After our tour Rob directed us in tasting the line of Narmada wines. Many of them we tasted back in September but there were a few additions since our last visit. The three additions were the Chardonnay, the Viognier, and the Cabernet Franc.

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We enjoyed them all but the Viognier got our gold star on this visit. This viognier is steel fermented and it spends seven months on oak. I noted citrus fruit and melon. Warren noted honeysuckle and peach. We enjoyed this one so much we enjoyed a glass on the crush pad, which is set up with tables and chairs.

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While enjoying the our glass we got to chat briefly with Sudha Patil, one of the owners. She asked for any advice we might have for the winery. We informed her that they seemed to be doing everything right. We enjoy the wines, the scenery, and we’re sure we’ll enjoy the tasting room when it opens later this month. Plan a visit to Narmada soon and if you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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