Wednesday, August 29, 2007

September Wine Festivals

The event database contains over 1,441 upcoming events in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in September, here is a short list of events in several states:

Weinfest - Chateux Aux Arc :September 28th-30th
Wiederkehr Village Weinfest - Wiederk Wine Cellars: September 29th

British Columbia
Okanagan Fall Wine Festival – Okanagan: September 29th-October 7th

Millbrae Art and Wine Festival – Millbrae: September 1st-2nd
26th Annual Harvest Wine Celebration - Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association: September 2nd-3rd
L.A. County Fair – Los Angeles: September 7th-30th
Mountain View Art and Wine Festival - Mountain View: September 8th-9th
West Fest 2007 - Hwy 46 West Wineries: September 8th
Lodi Grape Festival and Harvest Festival - Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape
: September 13th-16th
Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival - Santa Clara: September 15th-16th
Lafayette Art & Wine Festival - Lafayette: September 15th-16th
Paso Robles Taste of Downtown - Paso Robles: September 15th
Art Bark Fest - Animal Art, Wine & Music Festival - Olympic Valley: September 15th-16th
5th Annual Montclair Jazz & Wine Festival – Montclair Village: September 16th
American Wine & Food Festival – Los Angeles: September 29th

16th Annual Colorado Mountain Winefest - Palisade: September 13th-16th
Great American Beer Festival – Denver: September 28th-30th

6th Annual Miami Intl Wine Fair – Miami: September 8th-10th
Epcot Int'l Food & Wine Festival - Lake Buena Vista: September 28th-November 11th

Wine South Atlanta - Atlanta: September 28th-30th

Windy City Wine Festival – Chicago: September 7th-8th
Naperville Wine Festival – Naperville: September 14th-15th
Festival of the Vine – Geneva: September 14th-16th
Illinois Wine Festival – North – Chicago: September 29th-30th

4th Annual Lakes Brew Fest - Casco: September 29th

Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine Festival - McHenry: September 8th
The Maryland Wine Festival – Westminster: September 15th-16th
2007 Wine Fest at the Beach – Ocean City: September 28th-29th

Hopps of Fun Beer & Wine Festival - Mackinaw City: September 7th-8th
Annual Wine At The Harbor - Pentwater: September 8th

Minnesota Wine & Food Festival - Carlos Creek Winery: September 7th-9th

The National Norton Wine Festival – St. Louis: September 8th
St. Louis Wine Festival – St. Louis: September 28th-29th

New Jersey
"Jazz it Up" - Allaire: September 1st-2nd
Annual Cape May Food and Wine Festival – Cape May: September 18th-23rd
Great Grapes – Princeton: September 22nd-23rd

New Mexico
Wine and Lifestyle Expo - Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque: August 31st-Sept 2nd
Santa Fe Wine and Chile Festival – Santa Fe: September 26th-30th

New York
Saratoga Wine & Food Festival – Saratoga: September 6th-8th
Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival – Red Hook: September 8th-9h

North Carolina
Third Annual North Carolina Muscadine Harvest Festival – Kenansville: September 28th-29th

Nova Scotia
Third Annual Autumn Food and Wine Festival - Gaspereau Vineyards : September 22nd-23rd

Grape & Wine Festival - Slaughterville: September 28th

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival – Amherstburg: September target="new"7th-9th
Niagara Wine Festival – Niagara: September 21st-30th

Gettysburg Wine & Music Festival – Gettysburg: September 8th-9th
Wine Country Harvest Festival – North East: September 28th-30th
2007 Harvest Festival – Brandywine Valley Wine Trail: September 29th-30th

Rhode Island
Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival – Newport: September 27th-29th

South Carolina
Groovin' in the Grapes Harvest Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: September 8th
Autumn Magic Blues & Jazz Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: September 22nd

21st Annual GrapeFest - Grapevine: September 13th-16th

Discover Virginia Food and Wine Festival – Ruckersville: September 1st
Herndon Jazz and Wine Festival – Herndon: September 3rd
13th Annual Rockbridge Wine Festival – Lexington: September 8th-11th
Annual Neptune Festival Wine Tasting – Virginia Beach: September 15th-16th
19th Annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival – Moneta: September 29th-30th

Lake Chelan Wine Festival - Lake Chelan: September 15th
Kiwanis Wine Country Trek – Yakima: September 29th-30th

Lake Geneva Wine Festival - Lake Geneva: September 6th-9th

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cove Point Winery

Frequent readers of the Wine Compass Blog, Compass Tours, and Wine 101 are familiar with our fascination with different grape varieties. They would also appreciate our yearning to visit a winery that makes wine from over twenty different grapes - in this case, Cove Point Winery. The winery started like most small family owned wineries – as a hobby – that gradually progressed to a commercial venture. This winery is still so small that the tasting occurs in the proprietor’s kitchen – just like hanging at a friend’s house. However, small does not describe the amount of wines or their quality.

Cove Point Winery produces over twenty wines from viniferia, native labrusca, and hybrid grapes. We were able to taste some of our favorite lesser known varieties are included, such as Blaufrankisch (Lemberger), Symphony, Isabella, Landot Noir, De Chaunac, and Chancellor, to name a few. At this tasting, I concentrated on their semi-dry white and dry red wines. Plus their port. I started with perhaps their best wine, the semi-dry Symphony, a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. The wine has the fragrance of a Muscat and the fruitiness of the Grenache. Throw in a refreshing acidity and you have a great drinking wine. Next was the Isabella, or sipping wine, as it is marketed. This wine doesn’t have the heavy foxiness normally associated with labrusca grapes – but possesses the grapiness of the fruit. This wine may not be for everyone – but for those who like labrusca made wine – this is an excellent version. I next tried their Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer, both contained the aromas and flavors you would expect from these grapes. Their Cayuga White was also very typical of that variety – although they do an excellent job extracting the flavors of the Riesling parent. I ended the semi-dry tasting as I started, with one of my favorite choices – the Peach Chardonnay. This is a blend of Peach wine and Chardonnay wine, where the chardonnay provides a fruit forward grape flavor and the peaches provide a lasting finish. Of all the fruit wines, I usually avoid the peach, but this wine is a perfect blend.

We moved on the reds, where I tried one of my favorite red viniferia grapes, Blaufrankisch. This wine is full-bodied with string black berry flavors. The finish is only slightly spicy – unlike the heavily-oaked Austrian styles. This is a great wine, both for dinner and sipping. I then tried their Pinot Noir, a medium bodied wine that had cherry flavors and a finish as smooth as the Blaufrankisch. I still preferred the Blaufrankisch. They were pouring two vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2004 and 2005. The 2004 was a little spicier, whereas the 2005 was more fruit forward. I still preferred the Blaufrankisch. The final red was the Very-Berry Port - a Port blend of Chancellor and Landot Noir fermented with Blackberries and Raspberries and aged in French oak. These were obtained in nearby St. Mary’s County, which is fast becoming a valuable resource in the Maryland wine industry. The port has an amazing nose – where the aromas move generously into the cherry flavors and last into the tail. Besides having the opportunity to purchase a wine with Chancellor and Landot Noir, the wine is well worth the price.

Not only does Cove Point Winery make excellent wine from dozens of grapes, but they are minutes away from several of southern Maryland’s best tourist attractions. I’m referring to Calvert Cliffs, Cove Point Lighthouse -Maryland's oldest operational lighthouse – and Solomons Island. Each is worth a visit, singularly, and as a group along with Cove Point Winery.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mountain Cove Vineyards

While travelling home from North Carolina, I stopped at Virginia’s oldest winery, Mountain Cove Vineyards. Located half way between Lynchburg and Charlottesville, the winery is situated within the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent to the Fortunes Cove Preserve, a large Nature Conservancy property. In 1973, Al and Emily Weed planted several varieties of hybrid grapes on their property and began selling wine commercially a few years later. In 1997 they re-planted most of the vineyard with viniferia Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat; Norton; and the hybrids, Chambourcin, Villard Blanc and Traminette.

I started with the Tinto, a blend of Norton and Cabernet Franc. The wine is dry, medium-bodied and extremely smooth. The Cabernet Franc introduces a cherry flavor that moderates the grapey flavor of the Norton. This is an excellent blend. Next was the Mountain Cove Chardonnay, a dry wine made from grapes grown from the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in Bedford County. The wine was aged partly in stainless steel and partly in oak - which produced a refreshing wine with a silky finish. Mountain Cove offers two semi-dry wines – the Skyline White and the Skyline Rose. The Skyline White is a blend of Villard Blanc, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, and Muscat made in the Vouvray style (think of Loire Chenin Blanc). The Skyline Rose is basically the Skyline White blend with Norton added for color and CO2 added in the bottle. This provides a nice acidic feeling on the tongue. Both these wines are refreshing, great sellers, and perfect for an afternoon in Mountain Cove. Finally, I tried their two fruit wines, Blackberry and Apple. The Apple wine is made from Winesap apples harvested from neighboring Mountain Cove Orchard. The apples are prevalent from the aroma to the finish. CO2 is also added in the bottle, giving the wine a bit of a sparkling-wine feel. The Blackberry wine is slightly sweeter, but not gritty. It has a full blackberry flavor – just like shoving the fruit into your mouth when picking directly from the vine. But this time, no worries about staining your fingers or clothes.

Mountain Cove is a great attraction – from the views of the surrounding mountains to the excellent wines – made from local fruit. The winery is only a short drive from Charlottesville and only a few couple of hours from Washington D.C. and Richmond. I hope to visit again in the fall, maybe during their October Blues Festival, to hike the Fortunes Cove Preserve.

You can view pictures of the winery at the Compass Tours section of

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Secret Garden & Chatham Hill Winery

This past weekend I was able to visit two very good, but completely different wineries near Raleigh, North Carolina. The first, A Secret Garden Winery, is located a few mile east of Route 95, in rural Pikesville. The winery makes organic muscadine wines, from grapes grown in their local vineyard - just across the street from where the proprietor, Linda Hall was born and raised. Along with her husband, Gerald, she has turned a family hobby into a small, but growing winery. Not only do the Hall's not use pesticides, but they do not add sulfite or yeast to the wines. Instead, the Carlos and Noble grapes are allowed to ferment naturally. The winery offers several dry to sweet wines, and my favorite was right in the middle: the semi-dry Golden Harvest made from Carlos grapes at 2.5% r.s. This wine wasn't too sweet and allowed the grapey flavor of the muscadine to flow from the nose to the tail.

I then traveled along route 70 to Raleigh in order to visit Chatham Hill Winery. This winery is one of the increasing number of urban wineries, in this case, the owners purchase grapes from various vineyards and vinify the wine in an industrial warehouse in the city's suburbs. In fact, the winery is located less than a mile from Raleigh's beltway and a steady stream of visitors attested to the accommodating location. Chatham Hill makes several styles of wines from full-bodied vinifera wines to fruit wines. The winery purchases 80% of their grapes from North Carolina vineyards, and only supplements these grapes when local sources are not available. Thus, the Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling are purchased outside the state - from California. At this tasting I tried four of their whites and liked the 2005 Chardonnay the best. The wine was aged half in steel and half in oak which produced a silky, slightly buttery wine, but one with a nice, refreshing acidity. Chatham Hill's reds were even better; the 2005 Merlot has a full cherry flavor sandwiched between a spicy nose and finish. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Zinfandel were also smooth, with strong berry aromas and smooth finishes. Finally, I tried a very interesting a refreshing fruit wine, the Sweet Carolina Pomegranate. The wine is not especially sweet, but the tart finish is very refreshing. Imaging eating cherries, then granny smith apples. I am truly jealous of the Raleigh resident's who can try and purchase excellent wines right in their backyard.

We will have more information and pictures of these trips in our Compass Tours section of

Monday, August 6, 2007

2007 National Norton Competition Winners

Today, the winners of the 2007 First Annual Norton Competition were announced with Missouri's Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards winning Best in Show and Best of Class – Dry Norton. Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery, also from Missouri, won Best of Class – Port Norton for their 2002 Missouri Red Port. A handful of other wineries were awarded Gold medals. Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards won two golds, one with their 2005 Barrel Select 100% Virginia Norton and the other for their 2004 Locksley Reserve Norton. Mary Michelle Winery was the other non-Missouri winery to win Gold, this from their 2006 Illinois Norton. The other gold medals were awarded to Missouri's Bethlehem Valley Vineyards, Sugar Creek Vineyards & Winery, and Westphalia Vineyards.

In total 67 wines were awarded medals, representing Norton produced in ten states. Predictably Missouri made Norton won the majority of medals, followed by Norton's native state Virginia. But other states were well represented. Every Kansas winery that entered a wine were awarded medals, with Holy-Field Winery winning two and Kugler's Vineyard and Davenport Winery winning Bronze medals. Spirit Knob Winery and Piasa Winery joined Mary Michelle Winery as Illinois medal winners and neighboring French Lick Winery, from Indiana won Bronze for their 2002 Heaven's View Port. Finally, medals were awarded to our friends at Hinnant Family Vineyards (NC), Tiger Mountain Vineyards (GA), Summerside Vineyards (OK), and Stone House Winery (TX). Congratulations to all.

We look forward to attending the grand tasting on September 8th to try several of these medal winning wines. And check back later for more articles on the Missouri and Virginia winners.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Target® Wine Cubes

At a recent birthday party, the hosts served Target® Wine Cubes, produced exclusively for Target® by Trinchero Family Estates. These wines are made from California grown grapes and the offerings consist of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and a Cabernet/Shiraz. We had the Cabernet/Shiraz, a 50/50 blend that was really good - a dry, full bodied wine with berry flavors and a slightly spicy finish. In the past the major advantages of boxed wines has been their convenience and price: Wine Cubes are currently available in two sizes: 3-liter (4 bottle equivalent) for $15 and 1.5-liter (2 bottle equivalent) for $10. But as the quality of these wines improve, they are becoming much more competitive to their bottled cousins. And Trinchero has come full circle from their Sutter Home heritage - producing bulk wines close to the quality of their Napa Reserve wines.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chrysalis Vineyards - Norton

One of the participants of this week's Norton competition is Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards, the largest grower of Norton in the world. Jennifer McCloud, the owner of Chrysalis, intends to "restore Norton to its position of eminence among fine wines". In doing so, the winery offers several types of Norton, from the whole clustered Sarah's Patio Red to their flagship wine - Locksley Reserve. In between, Chrysalis also produces an estate bottled as well as a barrel select Norton. The 2003 Chrysalis Vineyards Norton - Estate Bottled is our everyday table wine - full of grape flavors - and with a smooth finish. Their Norton - Barrel Select is a bit smokier with a heavier finish. Finally, their Locksley Reserve is the best, but a bit pricey at $35 a bottle. The grapes are grown from the home vineyards at Locksley Estate. The result: a strong grapey flavor balanced with a smooth smoky finish. I recently spent an hour at the winery savoring and analyzing every taste of this wine. Chrysalis should be very competitive this week.