Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Discover Virginia Wine (The Monticello Wine Trail)

Monday October 25th, we were privileged to participate in the inaugural Virginia wide Taste Live twitter event, Discover Virginia Wine (The Monticello Wine Trail) tasting. Our good friend Dezel from @myvinespot and My Vine Spot organized and moderated the event. He invited me to participate at his house along with several other wine bloggers, all who have a better palate for wine then me: @grapevine4wine from The GrapeVine; @Alleigh from A Glass After Work; @SuzieLin from Runningwinegirl's Blog; and @elizabethdehoff from Crushworthy Wines. I learned from just listening to their commentary. Participants tweeted from all corners of the county, from the great northwest, to New York, south to Florida and regions in between. In Charlottesville, CBS 19 also broadcast the event after visiting some of the participating wines. And finally, throughout the evening, the great Virginian wine grape - Viognier - trending on twitter. Which is ironic in that at our table, the Keswick Vineyards 2009 Viognier was the least popular wine.

The tasting involved five wines from central Virginia. We started with theKluge Estate 2007 SP Rose, which I thought slightly off-dry; but my tasting partners corrected as completely dry. The sparkling wine is made in the traditional méthode Champenoise using estate grown 95% Chardonnay (95%) and Pinot Noir (5%) and aged on the lees for 21-24 months. The result is a complex wine, alot going on - plenty of sour cherry; I may have mistook fruit flavors for sweetness, but in general this is a nice sparkler. The only issue is the price; is it worth $25-$30; we shall see.

The aforementioned
Keswick Vineyards 2009 Viognier followed and received mixed reviews. Some enjoyed it; others didn't - the presence of oak probably contributed to that outcome. I, along with Dezel, were the contrarians and enjoyed the wine, although I don't think its as good as many offered in the state. Keswick's winemaker, Stephen Barnard, crafts many wonderful wines, this just didn't seem to be his best.

Since our visit to
Jefferson Vineyards over two years ago, we have been extremely impressed with Andy Reagan's wines. Normally we prefer his reds, but tonight we sampled his 2009 Reserve Chardonnay. The grapes were sourced from a few different vineyards, 30% were estate grown - harvested from 25 year old vines. The wine starts with a toasty nose, followed by a slight oak flavor ending with nice acidity in the tail. Not only did we think it was a fine wine, but it recently received a Gold Medal at the 2010 LodiWine Awards. Nicely done.

The next wine was a real surprise; the Afton Mountains 2009 Gewürztraminer. We didn't taste this wine on our recent visit to the winery, but it was a hit during the evening - surprising in that an off dry wine was praised by several wine "experts". Gewürztraminer can be translated into "Spice Traminer"or "Perfumed Traminer" so its not a surprise that this wine had a little spice flavor. About a third of the wine was aged in barrels that previously housed their eiswine style dessert wine. I think the acidity makes this wine - it tones down the sweetness and allows the fruit flavors to dominate.

We then moved on to reds, starting with Kirsty Harmon's
Blenheim Vineyards 2009 Seven Oaks Merlot. Since becoming winemaker a couple years back - she is finally able to release her own vintages. Now, the first thing to know about this wine is don't fear the screw-cap as Blenheim is one of two Virginia wineries to use that enclosure device on all wines - red and whites. The second is this grapes are 100% Merlot harvested from the Seven Oaks Vineyard near Crozet. After fermentation, 50% of the wine is aged in stainless steel, the other half for 9 months in new French barrels. This is another nicely done wine; complex, but fruit forward and a smooth tail. Maybe Merlot is a Virginia grape.

The final wine for the evening was the Mountfair Vineyards 2008 Wooloomooloo. We had just visited Mountfair and were well aware of this wine. It is primarily Petit Verdot (60%), with Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) added to make this an interesting Bordeaux style wine. The wine is then aged 2 years before bottled and released. And "Wooloomooloo" - that's evidently a spirit that roams the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like any wine composed of Petit Verdot; this wine has some tannins - but the other grapes must contribute enough structure and fruit to tone these down. Regular readers know how much we prefer blends so its no surprise that this is one of my favorite wines tasted this year from Virginia.

Thanks Dezel, the participating wineries, and Taste Live for an entertaining evening.
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