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Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail Continues

In addition to our new visits, we also sneaked in some re-visits to other wineries on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail.  Here are the reviews:

Athena Vineyards:  The favorite here was the Nightingale Chardonnay which was fermented in stainless steel tanks.  Crisp with pear aromas and flavors noted with this Chardonnay, and it should be prove to be a popular summer wine especially if served with shellfish.  Dessert wine lovers might enjoy Mellow Notes which is a fortified Vignoles.  Floral aromas, pear flavors and an almond finish make for a distinctive pour.  (Mellow Notes comes in a unique bottle that is shaped like a saxophone.)

Oak Crest Vineyards and Winery:  The Symphony wines continue to be the strongest offerings here, and this hybrid grape produces an Alsatian-style white wine. Symphony Dry has no residual sugar and presents a floral nose, pear flavors, and a crisp feel.  Moonlight Sonata is another wine produced from the Symphony grape but includes 3% residual sugar. 

White Fences: The Meteor Glow was our summer sipper favorite here.  Made from Chardonnay grapes, this lightly oaked (9 months) white wine offered lingering pear flavors and a subtle toasty edge.  Of course, the Blue Jimmy wines won our Michael Tyler designation; readers may recall that our friend Michael prefers sweeter wines.  Blue Jimmy Red is made from Chambourcin and aged in French oak barrels to produce lingering rich berry flavors with a sugar level of five percent.  Blue Jimmy White is produced from the Chardonel grape and is done in stainless steel with similar sugar levels as the red. We noted melon and apple flavors.

Planning a trip to any of these wineries? Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

New Visits On The Northern Neck

Paul and I completed a four-day swing through the Northern Neck wine country (The Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail), and we managed to add four more wineries to the “visited” list. I’ll compile a list and brief review of each winery in this post.

The Hague Winery: This is a newer winery, and it offers a very solid lineup of wines. Steve Madey is the owner, and renowned winemaker Michael Shaps makes the wines at The Hague Winery. All five wines here were well-crafted and reflect an Old World style. For summer sipping, the Rose was an instant favorite. Done in the Provence style, this Rose is bone dry with strawberry and melon characteristics. Our gold-starred was the 2008 Cabernet Franc which is blended with 10% Merlot. Rich cherry nose with earthy characteristics were noted along with a lengthier finish. We also enjoyed the Cynthia Dessert made from Muscat grapes. Its heady floral nose and peach flavors finished clean in the mouth—quite lovely! We enjoyed our tasting at The Hague so much that we returned the next day with our friends, Bob and Jackie Worthy.

New Kent Winery: We finally made it out to New Kent Winery, and the facility is incredible. Golfers and equestrians should feel at home here as the New Kent facility includes a gold course and equestrian center. We left our golf clubs and riding boots at home, but we were eager to sample wines in the spacious tasting room. The vineyards here are eight years in age, and winemaker Tom Payette is producing some very nice pours. Paul’s favorite was the crisp and fruity 2008 Chardonnay which spends very little time in oak barrels. I appreciated the Burgundian-style 2008 Chardonnay Reserve with its creamy mouth feel; however, I was more intrigued with the White Merlot. Yes, it is a white wine made from Merlot! Needless to say, this is only possible if the grape juice has almost no contact with the red skins, and we detected only a hint of color when our glasses were held up to the light and closely inspected. The result is a Riesling-style wine with pineapple and citrus flavors. Three percent residual sugar enhances the fruit flavors without a cloying mouth-feel. Our Gold-starred red? We both agreed on the 2008 Meritage with its darker fruit and black pepper qualities; we noted a velvety finish, too.

Saude Creek Vineyards: These wines are currently being sold at a temporary facility until the tasting room is officially opened this fall. Owner Jason Knight was very kind enough to provide us with a tasting although the tasting room was closed when we arrived on Sunday. Jason works with partner James Batterson of James River Winery to produce some clean, well-crafted wines. The most interesting pour was the Saude Creek White made from summer apples, and it’s a crisp, clean wine with obvious apple notes and flavors. Sip during the summer or serve with an herb-crusted pork loin for an interesting pairing. A favorite summer wine should be the Chardonnay that is done in stainless steel and possesses pear and apple flavors with a nice acidity. Our favorite red wine was the Merlot. Aged 12 months in older American oak barrels, we noted cherry and plum flavors and approachable tannins. We’ll provide details of Saude Creek Vineyards’ official opening date as the fall approaches.

Williamsburg Winery: By far the largest producer/bottler of wine in Virginia! We started off here with the regular tasting which included a sample of six wines. My favorite white wine here was the Barrel-aged Seyval Blanc, and this is actually a blend of seyval blanc from stainless steel and oak barrels. I noted subtle smoke and hay notes with pear and citrus flavors, and it should pair well with shellfish. Paul preferred the blended James River White which may have reminded him of the California pour called Conundrum. Done in stainless steel, it is a blend of Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Traminette, and Vidal Blanc to present a fruity wine that is perfect to serve before dinner. Our preferred red? Though we tasted red wines in the course of our regular tasting, we opted to sample some of the reserve wines; here is where we found our gold-star red wine. We both favored the 2005 Merlot Reserve with its concentrated dark fruit flavors and tobacco/earthy aromas. A lengthy finish makes for a food-friendly wine that may include a mixed grill. Williamsburg Winery produces/bottles at least 65,000 cases of wine, so there is certain to be something here for every wine lover.

At this rate, we’ll be approaching 110 wineries visited! However, with new wineries opening every month, we may never visit all of them. We will certainly return to the wineries reviewed here, but readers may want to visit them sooner; however, remember to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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.

Delaplane Cellars

After our recent visit to Vintage Ridge and Three Fox, we stopped at Delaplane Cellars. We last visited them in January. We were ready to taste the new wines that had been released since that last visit. They now have eight wines to taste, including two new roses that we had not tasted before.

As usual we began with the whites. We started with the 2008 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. Warren noted some toasted oak, along with some pear and apple. He enjoyed this one. We moved on to the 2007 Emerald Lake Viognier. This was my favorite white. We noted honeysuckle, a honey texture on the tongue, and a hint of peach. The 2007 Emerald Lake Viognier received our gold star for the whites. Between the whites and the reds was the first rose, the 2008 Rose. This is a dry rose. We experienced strawberry and a crisp feeling. This makes a nice summer sipper. We thought of Wolf Trap when tasting this one

The reds consisted of some we tasted before and a few new ones. We tasted the 2007 Old World Cabernet Franc, the 2007 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend, and we opted to taste the 2007 Shirland Syrah and the 2007 Springlot Reserve. We also tasted the second rose at the end of our tasting. Our gold star here goes to the 2007 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend. We noted this its like a meritage. We wrote down cherry, blackberries, mocha, and spice. This would go so well with a nice steak. We should add that the 2007 Shirland Syrah was new to us. We noted the earthy qualities with hints of dark berries. When you taste at Delaplane Cellars do opt to taste the two extra reds. It’s worth it.

After our tasting we each enjoyed a glass of the 2007 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend. With our wine we enjoyed some Piedmont cheese, sausage, and freshly baked bread. It was delicious! If you haven’t been to Delaplane Cellars recently, plan a trip soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Return To Three Fox

Last weekend after we visited Vintage Ridge, we decided to return to Three Fox Vineyards to taste the line up of wines on the tasting menu. We were sure there were some new ones we hadn’t tasted.

We were surprised and pleased to see Three Fox has added a sparking wine to their whites. We began with the T-J Blanc de Chardonnay. This is made by Claude Thibaut and Manuel Janisson. The bubbles went on and on.What a nice addition to the tasting menu. This one quickly garnered Warren’s gold star. My gold star went to the Leggero Chardonnay. The Leggero is a stainless steel chard that presents citrus notes, and a crisp finish. I think this one is a perfect summer sipper.

Most of the reds we tasted were new to us. One stand out was the Piemontese Nibbiolo with it’s spicy notes, and dark fruit flavors. And our gold star went to the Alouette Cabernet Franc. This is always a favorite when we visit. We noted hints of black cherry, chocolate, coffee, and some spice. We also noted they had very few bottles left.

After our tasting I enjoyed a glass of the Leggero Chardonnay and Warren sipped on a glass of the Alouette Cabernet France. While enjoying the wines we chatted with the owners Holli and John Todhunter. We found out they will be releasing a merlot and other reds in late August. We look forward to tasting that merlot. Plan a trip to Three Fox Vineyards soon and tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

#100: Vintage Ridge

Yes, we’ve reached that important milestone—winery #100!  For such a special occasion we, visited a winery that has been on our radar for quite some time; however, we never seemed to make it out to Vintage Ridge.  We then had two goals: 1) to hit #100, and 2) to taste the current offerings at Vintage Ridge.  Both were accomplished on this past Sunday.

We entered the tasting room at Vintage Ridge and were impressed by the well-appointed furnishings.  In fact, we thought we had entered a quaint café.  Tastings are done at tables and conducted by tasting associates/wait staff.  Indoor and outdoor seating is available; however, on a day that hit 99 degrees, we opted for an indoor table.  Scott was our tasting associate, and he provided us with a tasting menu that included food pairings.  Some of these pairings, though, were menu items to be served during the course of the tasting.  This interesting twist allowed us to observe how the wines complimented certain foods and seasonings. 

So plates of food were brought to our table, and Scott commenced with our tastings.  In the meantime, we prepared our gold stars for placement next to our favorites.  Of the white wines, the Maiden Voyage 2008 was our unanimous favorite.  This one was poured as an aperitif and was offered before the food trays appeared.  However, this blend of Vidal Blanc, Mouvedre (no kidding) and Pinot Grigio was an excellent way to start our session.  Mango and peach flavors were noted with a crisp finish; though nice as an aperitif, I’d be tempted to pour it with either picnic fare or even a crab cake.

The reds were all well-crafted, and our gold-starred fave was the 2007 Petit Verdot.  We both noted layers of dark berries (black berry was prominent for me), plums, mocha, and cedar at the finish.  This one was the perfect partner with the smoked turkey served atop stilton mayo and chutney on a thin baguette slice.  A spicy arugula leaf capped the mini-sandwich.  Though it was a hot summer day, I did not have a hard time imagining a slab of prime rib with this one.  Fans of lighter-bodied reds may prefer the 2006 Syrah.  Its nose of violets and dried herbs gave way to cherry flavors in the mouth to present a bistro-style wine that would pair with light grilled fare, burgers or pizza.

Of course, we always keep sweeter wines in mind for our friend and guest blogger, Michael Tyler.  We place an “MT” next to these wines, and the 2008 Summer Night earned this designation.  This is a slightly sweet Vidal Blanc offering that presented flavors of pineapple and coconut, and it paired quite well with the crostini with mango chutney, ham and manchego cheese. 

These wines and their food pairings were skillfully presented and explained by tasting associate, Scott.  With our session completed, we opted to enjoy a glass of wine while we compared our notes.  Paul was persuaded by the heat to enjoy the refreshing 2008 Maiden Voyage; similar conditions persuaded me to imbibe the lighter-bodied 2006 Syrah rather than the bolder 2007 Petit Verdot. 

Time seemed to fly at Vintage Ridge, and I made certain to purchase a bottle of the 2007 Petit Verdot to enjoy with a heavier fall or winter menu.  We also thanked Scott for providing us with an informative tasting session, and we know that we will return to Vintage Ridge soon.  In the meantime, be certain to pay a visit to Vintage Ridge for a food and wine tasting, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

(No—balloons did not fall from the ceiling, and we did not win luxury prizes for our achievement.  In fact, we reminded ourselves that there are probably 50 more wineries to visit!)

Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival

This past Sunday, we attended the Manassas Wine & Jazz Festival. At least 21 wineries were on hand to offer samples of their wares, and our quest was to find the best summer wines. These would be wines that complement a hot, balmy summer day and do not require food. They simply need to be well-chilled—a wine glass and shade tree, of course, are demanded! I’ll list our favorite summer wines that we sampled at the festival:

Delfosse Vineyard and Winery: 2008 Reserve d’Oriane (always a favorite of mine)

First Colony: 2008 Chardonnay; sweeter wine lovers like our friend Michael Tyler might prefer the Sweet Shanando

Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard: 2009 Albemarle Rose

The Winery at La Grange: 2008 Cuvee Blanc

Paradise Springs—Vidal Blanc

Philip Carter Winery: Governor Fauquier 2008 (although the newly released 2009 Chardonnay was our favorite of the festival)

White Fences: Meteor Firefly (off-dry rose)

Willowcroft Farm Vineyards: split decision here—I voted for the Riesling Muscat-Ottonel; Paul favored the 2009 Chardonnay Stainless Steel

We tend to avoid festivals, but I must admit that the Manassas Wine & Jazz Festival was a class act. We sampled artisan cheeses, appreciated local crafts, and tuned in to some fine jazz. In fact, we grabbed some crab cake sandwiches along a glass of wine and found a shady spot near the stage. It wasn’t long before Paul was bopping to the jazz beat of Marcus Johnson who performed a jazz arrangement of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Quite an unusual take on the grunge classic, but we (and the crowd) enjoyed it. So what about the glass of wine? Did we pick from our favorite summer sippers list? Not quite—we both went for the Philip Carter 2009 Chardonnay.

Looking for that refreshing deck sipper or that favorite Wolftrap wine? Visit the wineries listed here to find the perfect pour for you. Be sure to mention 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.

Notaviva Vineyards

A few weeks ago we met some fellow wine bloggers Suzie, and Josh) at Notaviva Vineyards for a tasting and to celebrate my birthday. We were anxious to see what was new on the tasting menu. Notaviva was a very busy place but we found a spot at the tasting bar and checked out the new wines.

Of course we started with the whites. Notaviva has two viogniers-one that is fermented in stainless steel and one in barrels. The stainless steel version, Vincero, was crisp and tart with a floral nose. Even though it was our first wine, this one got my gold star. Next was the barrel fermented viognier, Ottantotto. Warren noted banana and peach here. This one became Warren’s favorite. We then tasted the Verano, a vidal blanc that is barrel fermented. This one has 1% residual sugar. We noted peach and a creamy mouth feel. The last white we tasted was the Calor Chardonnay. This one also had 1% residual sugar. We noted a nice floral nose with apple on the palate.

There were two reds to taste. We tasted the Celtico Chambourcin and the Cantabile Cabernet Franc. We noted jam, cherry, and cranberry tartness from the Chambourcin. This one was just recently bottled and was cloudy so we’ll need to give this one some time to get used to being in the bottle. The Cabernet Franc presented a fruity nose with raspberries noted. We also noted a spicy/herby quality. This was not one of my favorites but others in our group enjoyed it. We finished our tasting with the Gitano, a sweet red consisting of tint cao, merlot, and cabernet franc.

With our tasting complete, we secured two bottles for our lunch. We decided to have both the viogniers and do our own little comparison with our food items. Both viogniers went well with our cheeses and crackers and various other items. They even went well with the birthday cake Dezel brought for my birthday. As it turns out, it was a split decision. Some really liking the stainless steel and some really liking the barrel fermented version.

During our tasting we were able to chat with Stephen Mackey, owner and winemaker. We’ve talked with Stephen several times over the years while watching the winery grow. He caught us up on what’s been happening lately. He let us know several wines will be released in the coming months. It was great catching up with him. You need to plan a trip to Notaviva soon. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Out and About

We’ve been out and about on the wine trail recently. Here are a few stops we made and photos from each stop.

One stop was at Naked Mountain. We always enjoy going to Naked Mountain and finding out about their new releases. Here are some pictures from that visit. I’ll note here that my gold star went to the 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay. Warren’s gold star goes to the 2006 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. This is typical for us. I prefer stainless and Warren prefers barrel fermented.

Village Winery is another winery we visited recently. Kent Marrs, the winemaker and owner, always treats us so well when we visit. We visited with our wine blogging friend Dezel from myvinespot. Our gold star here went to the combination of Elderberry Sparkling drink and the Apple wine. This was perfect the day we were there because it was quite warm and the drink was quite cool. Here are a few photos from the visit.

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