We just finished the Twitter Taste-off where participants tweeted about wines they just tasted. The premier wineries from Virginia and Maryland were pouring and even more importantly the winemaker\proprietor was available to discuss their products. Each winery poured a red and a white and not surprisingly Viognier was a common white varietal. There were also a couple Chardonnay, the Chrysalis Vineyards Albarino, the Ingleside Vineyards Pinot Grigio, and the Lovingston Winery Petit Mangseng - but in general it was a Viognier face-off. And yes, Virginia makes a mean Viognier. Many we tasted were old favorites, but for the first time we sampled versions from Pollak Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and the Michael Shaps Virginia Wineworks. In fact Shaps has been making Viognier way before it became standard among VA wineries. They were all very nice.
The selection of red wines was much more disparate. Some 100% varietals, but also many blends. Some Cabernet Franc, but also many Petite Verdot and Merlot. Sunset Hills Vineyard & Winery bucked the trend suggested in an earlier seminar and poured a Cabernet Sauvignon. Proprietor Mike Canney believes it works for their vineyard since the grape must struggle in the acidic soil. They also limit planting and prune excessively. So perhaps it works in selected vineyards, but not as a general rule. And as expected Jennifer McCloud was pouring the Chrysalis Vineyards Locksley Reserve Norton and Breaux Vineyards, their awesome 2002 Reserve Merlot. As much as we like single varietals, I think its the blends we prefer. The Barboursville Vineyards Octogon is always a favorite; Keswick Vineyards and Jefferson Vineyards poured nice Meritages as did Williamsburg Winery with their Adagio.
There was a smaller sample of Maryland wines. Black Ankle Vineyards continues to impress - their Syrah was very popular. Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard has always been a favorite destination of ours their wines make the trip worthwhile. Unfortunately we didn't get around to the other MD wines but will catch up with Kevin Atticks of Maryland Wine to hear more about the state's wine industry.
After tasting each wine, attendees were required to select a favorite white, red, and overall favorite. The latter was split so that members of the media chose the Media Favorite and the general public selected a People's Choice. The best White Wine was awarded to Chrysalis Vineyards for their Albarino - which shows that esoteric vinifera wines can thrive in Virginia. Hat's off to Jennifer McCloud for planting the grape and producing a 100% varietal. The best Red Wine was awarded to Breaux Vineyards for their 2002 Reserve Merlot. This wine is silky smooth. It was apparent that the media weighed heavily in these last awards, because the Michael Shaps Virginia Wineworks Viognier was awarded the Peoples Choice - no complaints here. Shaps also crafts an authentic Cabernet Franc. The overall Media Choice: Breaux Vineyards 2002 Reserve Merlot. And after another glass at dinner that evening - a very respectable decision. More photos are available at CompassTours and Facebook.