6 Tasters, 5 Cabernet Francs, 1 Winner

Paul and I hosted a blind tasting of five Cabernet Francs from Virginia (of course). Our amateur team was provided with a simple scoring sheet and after a brief discussion about the Cabernet Franc grape and its characteristics, the tasting began. The wines were wrapped in paper bags so that our tasters did not know which wines they were tasting, and these included the 2012 Barboursville Reserve, the 2013 Marquis de Lafayette by Breaux Vineyards, Gadino Cellars’ 2012 Cabernet Franc, a 2013 offering by King family, and 2013 Cabernet Franc by Zephaniah. Light fare was served as the tasting and scoring was conducted, and these allowed our team to see how the wines paired with cheeses, dried meats, and prosciutto-wrapped dates.

So which Cabernet Franc won the contest? Here is how they ranked:

Gadino Cellars 2012
Barboursville Vineyards 2012 Reserve
Breaux Vineyards 2013 Marquis de Lafayette
King Family Vineyards 2013
Zephaniah Vineyards 2013

Our team of sippers appreciated the brambleberry and tobacco notes of the Gadino Cabernet Franc; it also offered a generous length. I found it to be very lively with vibrant fruit elements. The Barboursville Reserve was a close second but was a bit tight at the beginning compared to the winner; lots of swirling coaxed out the cedar and pepper notes and eventually dark berry aromas and flavors.

Once the official tasting was done, we feasted on braised lamb shoulder chops flavored with fresh mint and green olives, couscous, and roasted green beans topped with roasted almond slivers. These paired quite well with the wines that were poured for the tasting.

It was fun to showcase one of Virginia’s premier grapes at this taste off. We did not take ourselves too seriously, and we enjoyed the conversation that the wines engendered.

Seek out these or other Cabernet Francs and hold your own wine tasting with family, friends, and food. Of course, always mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you! Watch the video of our tasting below and subscribe to our NEW YouTube Channel!

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.

New Wines at Zephaniah

We last tasted some wines from Zephaniah Farm Vineyard during TasteCamp back in May. We learned then they would be releasing new wines early in the summer. Since we hadn’t actually visited the winery in such a long time, we decided to put them on our list during our recent visit to wineries in Loudoun County.

We enjoy entering tasting rooms like Zephaniah because we get recognized. They always remember us at Zephaniah when we walk in. They are also very knowledgable of their own wines as well as wine in general. We were pleased to see we hadn’t missed tasting the white wines when we looked at the tasting menu. Here are the wines we tasted and our tasting notes.

2011 Viognier – This beautifully crisp viognier is aged for seven months in neutral oak barrels and presents notes of peach, subtle citrus, lime and a nice mineral ending. This is one of the best representations of viognier in our state we’ve ever had.

2011 Rose – This rose is a blend of cabernet franc and chambourcin and is aged for six months in French oak. We noted cherry, strawberry cream, and a crisp ending. I also noted watermelon but Warren didn’t note watermelon from his taste. This rose would be perfect for an outdoor concert with picnic foods on the lawn.

2010 Adeline – This off-dry dessert wine presented orange peel on the nose and notes of almond and hazelnut on the palate.

2009 Cabernet Franc – This cabernet franc is aged in neutral French oak barrels for 16 months and is a Governor’s Cup 2012 silver medal winner. We noted smoke, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and tobacco. This one quickly became my favorite red of the tasting.

2010 Chambourcin – This chambourcin was aged in Hungarian and neutral French oak barrels for 12 months. I usually don’t care for chambourcin but I did enjoy this one. It was smooth and fruity. We noted smoke, plum, currents, blackberry, spice and a hint of earth floor.

2010 Chambourcin Reserve – This one became Warren’s favorite red. He noted smoke/tobacco, dark fruit; plum, blueberry, raspberry, and moderate tannins. This is the food worthy chambourcin.

We always enjoy our time at Zephaniah. We chat about wine, education, and technology. And we get to taste some great wines. We learned the 2012 season was a good one for Zephaniah. In fact, on the day we visited, they had just finished harvesting viognier. We also learned they will be releasing two new reds this fall; Steamship Red and Mill Road Red. We will have to plan another trip soon to taste those! Before leaving I purchased a few bottles to enjoy at a later date. If you haven’t been to Zephaniah recently, you are due for a return trip. And tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Tasting at Zephaniah

On a recent trip to Loudoun County we decided to visit Zephaniah Farm Vineyard. We hadn’t been there in a few years and thought it was time to catch up with their wines and see what was on the tasting menu. As most of you know, our summer search is for sippers to enjoy during the summer. Having this in mind we were looking for white wines. Unfortunately Zephaniah was sold out of their Chardonnay. Instead, they were pouring the Glen Manor 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. After a quick taste we moved on to the reds.

We started with the 2009 Merlot. It’s aged in neutral French oak barrels for 16 months. We noted a big fruity presence that gives way to medium tannins. We noted black cherry and a lengthy finish. This is a food wine.

We then moved on to the 2008 Cabernet Franc. It’s aged in neutral French oak barrels for 14 months. We noted cherry, raspberry, black pepper, a hint of spice and light to medium tannins. This one got my gold star.

Next up was the 2009 Cabernet Franc. Aged in neutral French oak barrels for 16 months. This one starts out with some nice fruit up front but then the tannins hit you. We noted more spice on this one than the 2008. This one is also blended with a little chambourcin and norton. It’s a young wine and will benefit from time. Save this one on your rack for a good year.

The 2009 Chambourcin was next. This one is aged in neutral French oak for 11 months. We noted dark fruit…plums, current, cherry. We picked up some smoke up front and a medium earthy body. It had a very inky color as you would expect from a Chambourcin.

The final wine was the 2009 Chambourcin Reserve. This one is also aged in neutral French oak barrels for 11 months. We noted concentrated dark berry flavors with some smoke. We also noted the smooth finish.

After our tasting we had the chance to talk with Bill Hatch, the winemaker and vineyard manager. We were able to get a barrel sample of the 2010 Chambourcin. Right now it’s fruitier than the 2009 but it still has time in the barrel. He showed us the barrel room and explained their process from vineyard to bottle. You can tell Zephaniah has a passion for wine. They take their time during the tasting, letting you enjoy the wines and ask questions. You should plan a trip to Zephaniah Farm Vineyard soon and when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!