Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Old Town Food & Wine Festival

On October 11th we attended The Old Town Food & Wine Festival, held at various locations in historic Alexandria Virginia. For two days visitors were able to attend wine seminars and dinners as well as sample Virginia wine at several stations throughout the city and at two grand tasting locations. This is a great concept, were people can grab a glass of wine and stroll the streets as long as they entered a neighboring establishment. Plus having two tasting rooms spread the tasters - although we heard Saturday was extremely crowded nevertheless. Fortunately for our friend Dezel, from My Virginia Vine Spot, he had allocated two days for the festival.

Our purpose for attending Sunday was to sample wines from two newer wineries and one that doesn't have a tasting room - as of yet. These are Narmada Winery, Democracy Vineyards, and DuCard Vineyards. Narmada is located in Amissville, off 211 West, about 13 west of Warrenton. Sudha and Pandit Patil first planted vines on their property in 2004, increasing the acreage every year. Eventually the developed plans to build a winery and hired Rob Cox, formerly of the Winery at La Grange and Pearmund Cellars as their winemaker. This year saw the first vintage. The wines they produce consist of about 50/50 from grapes grown on the estate and those sourced elsewhere - included Cabernet Franc from Benevino Vineyards. This ratio will change more in favor to their estate as the vineyard matures. They produce traditional Virginian wines - Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin as well as a Chardonel. What I liked most about these wines is what they were not. Cox doesn't try to mask characteristics by over-oaking or try to make a grape into something it's not suitable for. For instance, their dry Chambourcin is exactly what you would expect from the grape - a medium bodied smooth wine. The Viognier was nice - but a little light - yet Cox throws it out there without playing gimmicks. Narmada is probably the only northern Virginia winery to vinify Chardonel - and is good. They plan to pair this wine as well as an off dry Chambourcin with spicy Indian dished favored by the owners. From our taste, the winery is off to a good start. Like any new establishment, they have room to grow, and it will be interesting to see how the character of their wines change as they start using more estate grown fruit. Narmada is also planning a Grand Opening Celebration sometime in November. Check their website for details.

Down the hall, Scott Elliff was pouring his small batch wines courtesy of his vineyards in Madison County. Virginia. Wines from DuCard Vineyards are not available through normal channels, consumers purchase either by mail, farmers markets, or like we did - directly at DuCards home after ordering via email. Yet, the wines have sold out the past two years. DuCard is best known for his Viognier grapes, in which Rappahannock Cellars have produced many award winning wines. His version is fruity with just a slight hint of oak - leaving texture without being overbearing. The Popham Run Red - a blend of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is one of my favorite Virginia wines and shows why both these grapes excel in the state. And, DuCard produces one of the best Norton wines in the state. As evident on this day, his Norton is full bodied and a bit jammy - but with little affects of abundant acidity found in this variety. His secret, don't let the juice sit too long with the skins and stems; with Norton you never have to worry about not having enough color concentration. Mr. Ducard also informed us that he plans to benefit from the Virginia agri-tourism boom and is building a tasting room overlooking the vineyards. The tasting room will be ready by Spring 2010 - we will be one of the first to visit.

We had to walk a short distance to the other grand tasting room in order to sample the wines from Democracy Vineyards. This small winery is located in Lovingston - centrally located between Charlottesville and Lynchburg - beautiful country. The proprietors are Jim Turpin and Susan Prokop who both have "long histories in local, state and national political circles: - hence Democracy Vineyards. Their two flagship wines are blends, the white Declaration Reserve and red Velvet Revolution Reserve. The later is named after the Czech revolution in honor of Ms. Prokop's heritage. It consists of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Merlot; what a combination - almost all our favorite grapes. This is a nice wine - full bodied, smooth, with just a slight tannic finish. This is a wine for drinking now and priced to sell at $15 - a great bargain. The Declaration Reserve contains equal amounts of Chardonnay, Tarminette, and Seyval Blanc and is a nice everyday table wine. Also priced at $15, we couldn't get a feel for this wine, as well as their Cabernet Franc based Rose because it was served too cold. The temperature masked the aroma and flavors and even rubbing the glass for a few seconds failed to warm it. Hopefully these issues will be a distant memory as they become more accustomed to these events; in the meantime we are planning a trip to Nelson county - there are so many excellent wineries and breweries situated in condensed area.

We had to cut short our The Old Town Food & Wine Festival because of family obligations, but this is an event that is sorely needed in this area. We look forward to next year's.
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