Saturday, October 30, 2010
The first wine was the 2008 Roccolo Grassi Soave Vignetta "La Broia" which we instantly took a bond to. We learned that at times Chardonnay is sometimes blended with Garganega - but this wine immediately reminded us of a chardonnay. It had plenty of apple and pear flavors, nice acidity - with a more than expected mid-palette. Doug Frost had first introduced us to wines from this region as very food friendly so this wine should work for the coming Turkey dinners. And priced around $15 - that's a good deal.
The Fattori Danieli Soave is composed of 100% Garganega from vines averaging 25 years old. True to its late ripening reputation, the grapes were harvested in mid October, processed and fermented in steal tanks. The result is a light bodied wine; citrus flavors, with plenty of acidity. This acidity provides a refreshing finish and with the late ripening grape is more like a new world wine than an old world. Time for a trip to Italy.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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.
Monday, October 25, 2010
a) Kluge Estate 2007 SP Rosé
b) Afton Mountains 2009 Gewürztraminer
c) Keswick Vineyards 2009 Viognier
d) Jefferson Vineyards 2009 Reserve Chardonnay
e) Blenheim Vineyards 2009 Merlot
f) Mountfair Vineyards 2008 Wooloomooloo
Saturday, October 23, 2010
During the Taste Live event, we tasted four wines selected to represent the region and which were widely available in this country. Specifically they were the Domaine Cheysson, Chiroubles; Henry Fessy, Brouilly; Charly Thevenet “Grain et Granit”, Règniè; and the Alain Coudert, Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, 2009.
Domaine Cheysson, Chiroubles, 2009
This wine, like all the others, is 100% Gamay and is made from grapes planted in the highest cru in the appellation. Chiroubles is home to approximately 80 winemakers and because of its attitude, cooler temperatures allow for a later harvest. I'm not sure if elevation had an effect, but the wine had a repugnant black tea aroma - that was tough to get past. Once I did, I found a tart, raspberry flavored wine; not bad - but not a good start to the evening.
Henry Fessy, Brouilly, 2009
Brouilly is the southern most region of the appellation and is comprised of six villages and four terroirs. Wine from Brouilly is the most popular in the United States, one reason is that the cru represents 20% of the Beaujolais region. The Henry Fessy had a slightly similar Back Tea aroma, but more red fruit which didn't allow the tea to overwhelm the nose. The flavor is silky smooth; some texture, with black fruit and some chocolate. Plus a longer smoother finish. This texture is mostly due to the manganese soils, which yield more robust wines. Since the first two wines retail for a similar price ($15-$18), it was a no brainer for me which I would select.
Charly Thevenet “Grain et Granit”, Règniè, 2009
This wine was the most expensive, $35, of the group; partly from its pedigree - crafted by Charly Thevenot, the son of Jean-Paul Thevenot. The wine is also crafted using Biodynamic methods and aged 12 months in 4 year old Burgundy barrels. Could be why locals consider this a "pinotfied" wine - even though Gamay is a relative to Pinot Noir. "Pinotfied" or not, this is a fine wine; red fruit flavors, and very smooth - not a great value - but a good wine.
Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, 2009
This region is named after a Roman legionary, not any flower; although the wines are more elegant than anything resembling a Roman soldier. The cru "backs up on to the a chain of peaks including Avenas, Durbize and Les Labourons". The Clos de la Roilette retails for $20 and after the tasting, this is a decent value. The wine is smokey, from the nose to the tail - but only subtly so. Fruit flavors eventually dominant but this is still the most earthy of the wines - dry and "minerally". Drinking the remainder right now, in fact, it remains nice even after three days opened on the shelf.
We felt very privileged participating in this event. We seemed to have ignored Beaujolais wines for awhile, but no longer. We've always liked Gamay, and the search will start to explore Beaujolais Gamay as well as more U.S. made Gamay. of the four, I think the Brouilly may have been my favorite with the Fleurie and Règniè close behind. Make sure to visit Inter Beaujolais to Discover Beaujolais.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
On Monday October 25, we are participating in the Discover Virginia Wine (The Monticello Wine Trail) tasting. Information about this tasting is available here; but check these handles on twitter: #WW #ttl #vawine @keswickvineyard @benatmountfair @MfVvinotweets @th_jefferson @KlugeEstate @BlenheimWines @AftonMountain @vawine.
Upon entering the tasting room I immediately became exciting when finding a very rare species on the tasting sheet. A Virginia grown Blau Frankisch - from what I know, they only one if its kind. This is a very popular grape in central and eastern Europe and we actually covered it in our Wine 101 series so long ago. We discovered it in Hungary, near Sopron, where its called Kékfrankos and makes full bodied, tannic, spicy wines. In the United States, its planting is limited to the Northwest, the Finger Lake, and pockets here and there. But now in Virginia, hurray, and not just at any vineyard, the famed Tranquility vineyard. The Otium Cellars Blau Frankisch was recently bottled and will mellow with age; currently its not as tannic as most and quite smooth already. But there's plenty of fruit, as expected - from the nose to the tail. I still can't get over the thought of having a Blaufränkisch so close to home.
We took our Blaufränkisch and headed to our final destination, Corcoran Vineyards. For Virginia Wine Month, Lori Corcoran had aged her traditional Cabernet Franc in Red Oak. Once again, the first of its kind in Virginia; and not just any Red Oak - Virginia Red Oak. The wine is very fruit forward; of course, since that is Lori's style. The finish is interesting, hard to get a handle on how it differs from the traditional CF. A smarter person would have conducted a comparison tasting - maybe next time. The other wine was the Hunter's Run Rosé. Their summer Rosé is made from Chambourcin; while this version is composed of Cabernet Franc. They must have a lot of this juice. It is a dry rosé, nice acidity, with strong, strong Strawberry flavors. This was my choice for the day and until their Viognier returns, perhaps my choice on our next visit. Now its time to tudor Jim on Blaufränkisch .
Monday, October 18, 2010
Join the wineries as they present:
Cove Point Winery
David Wardrup—The Happy Turner, fashioning antique pepper mills, cheese platters, nutcrackers and wine bottle stoppers, Owings, Calvert County
Fridays Creek Winery
Heavenly Chicken Catering, menu to include local produce items.
Local entertainer Joe Norris
Tons of pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips
Ch'Naca Fiberworks, Prince Frederick, Calvert County
Bag-O-Beads, Prince Frederick, Calvert County
Wild Willow Soaps, Huntingtown, Calvert County
Port of Leonardtown
Saturday: Cafe des Artistes, Leonardtown, St. Mary's County
Sunday: Thompson's Corner Café
Running Hare Vineyard
Saturday: Heavenly Chicken & Ribs / Rustic River Restaurant
Pax River Alpacas - Live Alpacas and yarn
Live acoustical guitar by Darrell Noyes
Sunday: Heavenly chicken & Ribs / Rustic River Restaurant
Live acoustical guitar by Gerry Swarbrick
Ruddy Duck Brewery, Solomons, Calvert County
Blue Wind Gourmet, California, St. Mary's County
and Just in Time Antiques.
Friday, October 15, 2010
After a short drive directly across Route 151 we arrived at Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery, home to the wines of Tim Gorman. Before starting the winery in 2002, Gorman was an acknowledged grower in the region - sourcing grapes to several area wineries. This experience provided Cardinal Point with a clear advantage when opening - an established estate vineyard. Combined with several interesting blends, this may become one of our favorite destinations. We started off with the Cabernet Franc based Rosé, followed by several other easy drinking whites: The 2008 A6, 2008 Barrel Select Chardonnay, 2009 Viognier, and 2009 Quattro. The common ingredient to most of these wines was Viognier - which showcases this grapes versatility from the dry single varietal to the semi-dry Quattro. These are the type of wines you want to keep stocked in the cellar to bring out on any occasion. The reds were just as good. The Rockfish Red is an easy drinking light-bodied Cabernet Franc. The Cab F. + Vio. (yes that's the actual name of the wine) is an interesting concoction since the Cabernet Franc and Viognier are co-fermented; not blended. This means that the grapes were dumped together and fermented instead of the traditional approach of fermenting and aging the varietal separately and then tasting different percentage of each to craft a blend. The result is an incredibly smooth and drinkable wine. The vineyard designate Clay Hill Cabernet Franc followed which comes from the vineyard located near Ivy in which Gorman helped plant the vines. This is a full bodied wine and was my favorite until trying the CS+PV+CF - yes another screwy name. This is a master Bordeaux blend, on the one hand fruity, but also earthy and peppery - plus plenty if tannins for aging. That's what ours is doing. And their Oyster Roast scheduled for November 13th & 14th looks very enticing.
By this time we were running very close to our scheduled appointment at DBCC, but chose to stop off at the tasting facility for Flying Fox Vineyard since it as right off the road. The estate is located closer to Afton Mountain Vineyards with some wine made from grapes grown at a family vineyard (Ridge Run Vineyard) in Stuarts Draft - near Stanton. Two wines made from this vineyard's grapes were very good, the single varietal Viognier and Cabernet Franc. This is another example how these two grape varieties excel in most corners of the state. Our favorite however, was easily the Trio, their Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Balanced, texture, tannins for aging - this wine is the complete package. Maybe we will forget about aging and taste along with the super blends accumulated from the previous visits. Now that would be a tasting event.
We had to rush out in order to meet Travis Book of The Infamous Stringdusters, his wife Sarah Siskind, and DBBC's brewer Jason Oliver for an episode of MyJoogTV. This also allowed us to sample the beers from the Devil's Backbone Brewing Company - many that were awarded medals at the 2009 & 2010 Great American Beer Festival as well as the 2010 World Beer Competition. For our tasting we started with the Gold Leaf Lager, which could be Oliver's most prized brew. Why, because in a lighter style lager and there is nothing to hide mistakes - it is what it is. he must be doing something right since it repeated this year as a Gold Medal winner at the GABF. Next was the beer of the weekend, The Stringduster, made specifically for The Festy. Most musicians aspire for fame and Grammys, but not many can claim a beer brewed in their honor. This beer is a harvest styled ale combining barley and wheat malt with flaked oats. The beauty with this beer is that it really does pair well with music. Sometimes festival beers are too hoppy or too malty for the heat of the day - this one has the perfect balance. We finished with the gold winning Baltic Coffee which combines the Danzig Baltic Porter and locally roasted coffee beans. However, the beer exudes just a hint of the coffee which meshed well with the chocolate overtones of the porter. I had to return later in the day for another one of these - and next time I'm bringing a growler. DBBC provides several other styles - so there is something for everyone and although we didn't indulge - the locals inform us the food is really good. We will be back.
This weekend showed why Nelson County is becoming our favorite Virginia destination. Next time we will venture further south into Lovingston to visit Democracy Vineyards, Lovingston Winery, and return to Virginia's oldest continually operated winery, Mountain Cove Vineyards. Plus there's the new Virginia Distillery Company that will be producing Scottish styled single malts sometime in 2011. There is something in the water down there.
And thanks again to the Acorn Inn for the hospitality and for promptly mailing my cell phone charger. As usual, more pictures are available at the WineCompass Gallery.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I started off with the closest winery to the festival fairgrounds, Wintergreen Winery. This is the oldest winery in the county, owned and operated by Jeff and Tamara Stone since 1999. We had enjoyed their Cabernet Franc and festival whites (The Thomas Nelson White and Three Ridges White) at previous festivals. The Cab Franc was just as nice as before, a lighter bodied wine with plenty of cherry, but it was their Merlot which was really nice. Maybe has a point. For whites, the Viognier was what you would expect from a Virginia winery now a days but I really enjoyed their use of Petit Mengseng, both as a 100% varietal in the new Thomas Nelson White and as a replacement to Vidal in the Three Ridges White. Much more aroma and flavor than Vidal. This is another white wine grape that appears to work in the state.
While driving to check-in to our room at the Acorn Inn (highly recommended), I noticed a homebrew shop that advertised growlers for sale. Making a quick detour I learned that Mary Wolf and her son Danny Wolf were planning on opening the third brewery in the county, Wild Wolf Brewing Company. For the moment they provide local brewer's with quality homebrew supplies and will soon be selling growlers of their own production beer out of the store. The eventual plan is to build a full production facility nearby, complete with a brewpub. And to show how its done, every Saturday afternoon Danny gives a demonstration outside the store, complete with crushing the grain, boiling the mash, and kegging. Like I say, this area is a nice place to spend the weekend. We will be back for a brewery tour to include Wild Wolf, DBCC, and Blue Mountain Brewery.
After checking into the hotel, I took a shortcut to the one winery not located off Route 151, DelFosse Vineyards & Winery. The winery was having their own party - live music and food - which also proves that there are plenty of opportunities for fun - even with a large music festival nearby. I didn't stay long since I had plans for interviews at The Festy, so I sampled a few wines, starting with their Viognier Reserve. This is a classic, full flavored (apricots) with low acidity and a mid palette to boost. Nicely done. They also pour a 100% Petit Manseng - note to self; need to start studying wines from Jurancon. This wine is more acidic than the Viognier and has a peach flavor - a nice afternoon wine. For reds, there is no need to talk about any other but the 2007 Grand Cru Olivier. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga, and Petit Verdot is full bodied, low tannins, raspberry flavors and very drinkable. Yes, their Meritage is the big guy; but I enjoyed this one more.
After this visit, it was back to the music. Check back for Day 2 and few pictures at the WineCompass Gallery.
Friday, October 8, 2010
If you are worried about government regulators, the new Temperance Movement, and Wholesalers restricting your access to hand crafted wine, beer, and spirits - join this organization.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
WineSur created this contest with the aim of spreading Argentinian wines through the web around the world. The idea is that Argentinian wineries present the story of their wines, telling something new, amusing and original in less than 100 words. For instance, how the wine arose, the origin of its name, its meaning, etc. These stories will be published in our website www.winesur.com and in our social networks (Facebook and Twitter). Moreover, the stories will be also spread by wine blogs, specialized journalists and media from all over the world. Readers themselves will vote the story they like most.
Just send the story of your wine together with the picture of the bottle or label to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information, please check here.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Topiary Release Party. Rachel Martin, Executive Vice President, was on hand to pour the new release and explain how it differs from the previous vintage. In brief, 2007 was hot and dry - thus allowing the vines to produce full flavor grapes; while 2008 was cooler and wetter, resulting in a more European style, earthy wine. The Topiary is made in the right bank Bordeaux style - thus a Cabernet Franc based wine and the 2008 vintage provides a greenish, peppery, food friendly wine. What's nice about the Boxwood tasting bar's is the enomatic system - where you can sample vertical tastings of the Topiary as well as Bordeaux wines crafted by wineries where Stephane Derenoncourt consults.
Next weekend we are heading down to Nelson County for The Festy music festival - held at award winning brewery Devil's Backbone Brewing Company. In between we plan on visiting a few of the area's excellent wineries and the other brewery in the county: Blue Mountain Brewery. Let us know which wineries you suggest we visit.