Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bluemont Vineyard

Today we visited the newest winery to open in Virginia, Bluemont Vineyard. Located in Loudoun County the winery is located between Berryville and Leesburg off Route 7. For those who are familiar with Great Country Farms, the winery is directly across from the farm, half way up the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is no coincidence, since Bluemont Vineyard is owned and operated by members of the same family. Besides visiting the Farm, the drive up the mountain is worth the amazing views of the Loudoun Valley below. This may be the best views provided by any Northern Virginia winery. Let's not forget the wines.

Currently the winery sources its grapes from other local vineyards, including Chrysalis Vineyards award winning Viognier and Norton. They hope to start producing wines from the Bluemont Vineyard in a couple years. There were four offerings today - two whites, a rosé styled wine, and a dry red: Norton - "The Pig". This is a solid wine for a first time Norton. The grapes are from the 2005 and 2006 vintages and aged in oak. The fruity nose is followed by a fruit forward flavor and slightly spicy finish. The beauty is the Bluemont was able to remove the acidity from the wine and showcase the grape itself. On the other side, their 2006 Viognier - "The Goat" is the winery's dry white wine. It has a nice citrus flavor with a mild acidic finish. Another great alternative to your standard Chardonnay. The 2006 Vidal Blanc - "The Cow" is semi-dry even at 3% residual sugar. It has a citrus nose and flavor like the Viognier, but more acidity at the finish. This wine should find a balance between dry wine drinkers and those who prefer a sweeter wine. Finally, our favorite was the "wine stew", their 2006 Rosé- "The Donkey". This wine is a blend of five varieties - Tannat, Tinta Cao, Nebbiolo, Viognier, and a splash of Norton for color. It is a full, dry wine at 1/2 percent sugar, and has a balanced structure. This is just a good wine to sip slowly on their deck - enjoying the amazing views of Loudoun County.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

October Wine Festivals

The event database contains over 1,029 upcoming events in the United States and Canada. For those looking for wine festivals in October, here is a short list of events in several states:

Scottsdale 5th Avenue Fine Art & Wine Festival - Scottsdale: October 26th-28th

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

23rd Annual Food, Wine, and Micro-Brew FestCosta Mesa: October 4th
Loose Goose Wine Festival
Valencia: October 4th-7th
Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival - Half Moon Bay
: October 13th-14th
Paso Robles Harvest Wine Tour - Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance: October 19th-21st

Epcot Int'l Food & Wine Festival - Lake Buena Vista: September 28th-November 11th
The Biltmore Great South Florida Wine FestivalCoral Gables: October 12th-14th
18th Annual Stone Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival – Longboat Key: October 25th-28th

4th Annual Smyrna Hops & Barley Beer Tasting - Smyrna: October 6th
All-American Wine Celebration - Three Sisters Vineyards: October 6th-7th
Annual Harvest Festival -
Crane Creek Vineyards: October 20th

Riverside Winefest at Sotterley - Hollywood: October 6th-7th
Vintage Jazz Wine Festival –
Linganore Wine Cellars: October 20th-21st
St. Mary's County Oyster Festival
St. Mary's: October 20th-21st
Autumn Wine FestivalSalisbury:
October 20th-21st

Food, Wine and All That Jazz - Mackinaw City: October 26th

New Jersey
Agora Greek Food and Wine Festival
Cherry Hill: October 4th-7th
Cape May Wine FestivalCape May: October 6th-7th
Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival
Atlantic City: October 12th-14th
Grand Harvest Festival
– Alba Vineyard: October 13th-14th
Blues & Pumpkin Festival -
Alba Vineyard: October 27th-28th

New York
BeerFest 2006 "Beer on the Pier 3"New York: October 6th
Sanborn Winetique Festival – Sanborn: October 14th

North Carolina
Great GrapesCharlotte:
October 6th
World Beer FestivalDurham: October 6th
Lighthouse Beer & Wine FestivalWilmington: October 20th

Guthrie Art & Wine Festival - Guthrie:
October 6th-7th
Grand Wine Country Fall Festival – Grand Wine Country:
October 13th

Wine by the River 2007Bend:
October 5th-7th

Vintnerís Post-Harvest CelebrationBrandywine Valley Wine Trail: October 27th
1st Annual Food & Wine Festival Groundhog Wine Trail: October 6th

South Carolina
Big Band Sounds & Tastes of the Strand - La Belle Amie Vineyard: October 13th
Rock Back The Clock Music & Wine Fest - La Belle Amie Vineyard: October 27th

Tennessee Wine FestivalNashville: October 10th-14th
11th Knoxville Brewers JamKnoxville:
October 13th
Manchester-Coffee County Wine FestivalManchester: October 20th

The Heart of Texas Wine & Food Festival - Waco: October 13th
South Shore Dockside Food & Wine Festival - South Shore: October 20th
Katy Stomp & Wine Fest - Houston: October 27th
Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest - Fredericksburg: October 27th

Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival & Sunset TourMount Vernon: October 5th-7th

Fredericksburg Area Wine Festival
Fredericksburg: October 6th-7th
The 2007 Monticello Wine Trail Festival
Monticello Wine Trail: October 7th
Oktober BrewfestVirginia Beach:
October 13th-14th
Mount Jackson Annual Apple and Grape HarvestMount Jackson:
October 13th-14th
17th Annual Virginia Wine & Garlic Festival -
Rebec Vineyards: October 13th-14th
Black Dog Wine and Beach Music Festival -
Chateau Morrisette: October 13th
Taste of Culpeper – Culpeper: October 14th

Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival – Millwood: October 19th-21st

Cingular Wireless Town Point Virginia Wine Festival
Norfolk: October 20th-22nd8th Annual Wine Festival - Unicorn Winery: October 20th-21st

Lake Chelan Crush Festival - Tsillan Cellars: October 5th-12th
West Coast Oyster Shucking ChampionshipShelton: October 6th-7th
Hallowine in Rattlesnake Hills -
Rattlesnake Hills: October 27th-29th

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wine Fest at the Beach - Ocean City Maryland

On September 28th-29th several mid-Atlantic wineries will participate in the Thirteenth Annual Wine Fest at the Beach. This event will take place at the Inlet Park - right on the boardwalk and will include a couple micro-breweries and local food\craft vendors. As for the wineries, this is a great opportunity to sample various vinifera, labrusca, and hybrid wines from some of the best wineries from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The New York contingent includes America's oldest continually operating winery, Brotherhood Winery. Make sure you sample their Catawba and Pinot Noir. There will also be excellent Riesling from the three Finger Lake wineries: Goosewatch Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, and Hazlitt Vineyards. Hopefully these wineries will bring samples of their labrusca wines made from the Diamond, Delaware, and Isabella grapes.

There will be one winery representing Pennsyvania: Chaddsford Winery. Red wine drinkers should enjoy their Chambourcin and Due Rossi - made from Sangiovese and Barbera - while white wine drinkers will enjoy their Chardonnay.

Maryland will be represented by the 2005 and 2006 Governors Cup winners, Linganore Winecellars and Frederick Cellars. These wineries will probably not bring their award winning Maryland Merlot and Frederick Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, but will provide excellent alternatives. Linganore also makes a great Chambourcin wine as well as their Terrapin White and several great fruit wines. Frederick Cellars should be pouring their Riesling and Eye of the Oriole, which are great summer wines - perfect for those trying to hang on to a few more weeks of warm weather.

Two of Virginia's better known wineries will be attending, Williamsburg Winery and Horton Vineyards. Not too long ago Horton was listed as one of America's top 40 wineries and is one of the best vinifera wine-makers in the state. Hopefully they will provide samples of their Viognier, Malbec, Tannat, Nebbiolo or Marsanne. Plus they may have on hand their excellent Norton and fruit wines. Williamsburg Winery is best know for their Chardonnay and hopefully the will bring their Blackberry Merlot.

Finally, two little known, but excellent wineries from West Virginia will make the trip to the shore. West-Whitehill Winery makes excellent wines from the hybrid grapes: Aurore, Chambourcin, and Seyval Blanc. Make sure you don't leave the festival without trying their Aurore wines. Then there's Forks of Cheat Winery, from picturesque Morgantown. The Deal family has won us over with their colorful labels, charming personalities, and of course - good wine. They make wine from many interesting varietals including Van Buren, Villard Blanc, Villard Noir, Leon Millot, DeChaunac, Marechal Foch, Catawba, Chambourcin, and Niagara. This list doesn't include their vinifera and fruit wine offerings. From this large selection there is a gift waiting for anyone.

We are looking forward to this year's Wine Fest at the Beach. The weather may even be warm and with the excellent wine and beer - so what if it's a little chilly. Plus, this may be you last opportunity for summer crabs.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wine and Dine Radio

This month we stumbled upon an interesting source for wine news: Wine and Dine Radio. Hosted by Lynn Krielow Chamberlain, the show is "the first internet radio broadcast devoted to wine and food... facts, news and newsmakers, trends, and lifestyle issues in one-on-one interviews and group discussions." Past guests include Dave Eckert (PBS television Host and Producer of Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert) and Fred Plotkin (author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler). This week Ms. Chamberlain interviews Nicolo' Mascheroni Stianti of Castello Di Volpaia, producers of organic Chianti Classico and Super Tuscan wines. And next week, Karen Ross, President, California Association of Winegrape Growers, will discuss the differences between Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic wine and updates on the continued growth and success of the organization's signature concept, California's Sustainable Winegrowing Program. We recommend bookmarking this site.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fox Meadow Winery Cabernet Franc

We try many different wines and sometimes we open one that makes us say, "Wow, that's really good." That happened this week when we opened Fox Meadow Winery's 2002 Cabernet Franc. The wine is medium->full bodied with a nice cherry flavor. But its the finish that does it. The wine moves slowly from the cherry fruit to a spicy - peppery finish - that is not overpowering - it just balances the fruit. This is another example of quality Virginia Cabernet Franc. I'm not sure if the 2002 is still available - but their 2005 is available at the winery - in addition you can take home amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Monday, September 10, 2007

National Norton Festival

On Saturday September, we were fortunate to attend the First Annual National Norton Festival in St. Louis Missouri. Organized by the Missouri Wine Country The event provided the general public a chance to sample a wide array of Norton wines from 25 wineries from Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. This event was the culmination of activities that began in August, at the 2007 National Norton Wine Competition.

We made it a point to visit the Gold medal winners first, and after tasting, agreed with the judges decisions; these were excellent wines. Best in Show Sugar Creek Vineyards & Winery's 2006 Cynthiana was smooth and fruity and somewhat similar to Westphalia Vineyards' 2006 Norton Reserve. Mary Michelle Winery's 2006 Norton was fruity with a little more spiciness at the finish. Bethlehem Valley Vineyards' 2004 Norton and Chrysalis Vineyards' 2005 Barrel Select 100% Virginia Norton and 2004 Locksley Reserve Norton where fruity, but possessed a little more character at the finish. Finally, we tasted the best dessert wine this side of Tokaji, Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery's 2002 Missouri Red Port. This may have been our favorite wine of the day.

Besides tasting these wines, we enjoyed tasting wines we normally would not be able to try such as Stone House Vineyards' (TX) 2005 Claros Norton, Tiger Mountain Vineyards' (GA) 2002 Mountain Cynthiana, Mary Michelle Winery's 2006 Illinois Cellars Norton, and Stone Hill Winery's (MO) 2005 Norton, Cross J Vineyards. The last was made from grapes from one of the winery's oldest vineyards. Plus, there were excellent wines from some of our favorite Missouri producers: Crown Valley Winery, Montelle Winery, St. James Winery, Les Bourgeois Winery, Baltimore Bend Winery, Cave Vineyard, Augusta Winery, Hermannhof Winery, Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, and the previously mentioned Stone Hill Winery. We will definitely be planning a trip Herman and Saint Genevieve next year.

We will post pictures and a longer description of this event at Compass Tours and a review of Chrysalis Vineyards and other Virginia Norton producers in the October edition of Virginia Wine Lover.

For those who are familiar with Norton or Cynthiana we strongly recommend this event. For those who have never tasted a Norton, try to find one in your area. You will soon learn why it is referred to as the Cabernet of the Ozarks.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wine 101 - Chokecherry Wine

Chokeberry was an essential ingredient in the native American diet, either dried for winter use or mixed with fat and buffalo meat in pemmican - a staple of the native Indian’s of the prairie. Wild chokecherries were not only abundant; they are also loaded with nutrition. Chokecherries are a better dietary source of potassium (269mg/100g) than blueberries and strawberries, and contain 4.7g of fiber, 1.5g of protein, and 0.3g of fat per 100g of fruit. Today chokecherries are used to make syrups, jellies, jams, and wine - although winemaking is difficult because the berries are highly acidic and quite tart. Plus the seed accounts for over 50% of the berry’s volume. Despite this trouble and from its winter hardiness it is the fruit of choice for many vintners in the northern United States and Manitoba, Canada.

The first winery to vinify chokecherry commercially and perhaps privately was Prairie Berry Winery in South Dakota. The Vojta family had been creating wine from chokecherry ever since the first family members immigrated to South Dakota from Moravia in the late 1880’s. The recipe was passed to succeeding family members up to the present, where current winemaker Sandi Vojta (the 5th generation) decided to share the family wine. And why not, she grew up knowing how chokecherry wine should taste and was certain the public would accept this unique product. She first, though, had to convince the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agency to allow production of commercial wines from the fruit. Once this was accomplished, other wineries were able to follow suit. Prairie Berry Winery’s “bread and butter” chokeberry wine is their Great Grandma’s Chokecherry, a wine made almost exactly from the original family recipe. This wine is made semi-dry and has a strong fruity flavor. The winery also creates a port-style chokeberry wine in their Great Grandma’s Chokecherry Bliss. In this wine, the chokecherry wine is fortified with cherry Kirsch which produces a great dessert wine. The chokeberries are also blended with grapes to create the Pheasant Reserve and with honey to make Chokecherry Honeywine. The Vojta family deserves our recognition for paving the path for the general public to enjoy this fruit wine.

In neighboring North Dakota, Chokecherry wine is one of Maple River Winery’s top sellers. According to Greg Kempel, Chokecherry wine is popular in North Dakota because “Everyone that grew up in the Midwest on a farm either made or knew someone that made chokecherry wine”. And since traditional vinifera grapes do not fare well in the Dakota’s harsh climate, fruit wines, such as chokecherry, must truly stand out to grab the public’s attention. Maple River Winery’s version is semi-sweet and they recommend serving with red meat dishes. Even though the wine is popular locally, the winery is seeking to alleviate the national "Grape" obstacle, i.e. the belief that all quality wine is produced from grapes. Mr. Kempel sees that, “with education, our chokecherry wine is gaining tremendous popularity...even in wine country”.

Further west, in Mt. Pleasant Utah, Native Wines specializes in creating wines from wild fruit. Chokecherry is one of their products, not only from its flavor, but also from its healthy side effects. Each year the winery sends samples of their red wines to a laboratory for antioxidant testing and chokecherry wine always tests near the top in its antioxidant scores. Chokecherry also has a long tradition in Utah, from the Native Americans and early pioneers to the present. Mr. Bob Sorenson, Native Wines owner\winemaker, says that many middle-aged and elderly customers are pleasantly surprised to find Chokecherry wine available. Mr. Sorenson’s Chokecherry wine is rather unique in that he adds a few pits of the fruit, which creates a “warm spicy/nutty” aspect to the flavor. He admits that since the pits contain a certain amount of cyanide some people may be worried about drinking the wine. However, Mr. Sorenson reply’s that “many old recipes include the nuts of the stone fruits and as long as the products are consumed in reasonable quantities there will be no adverse effect”. We for one will take him at his word and look forward to trying his version of Chokecherry wine.

Traveling north into Manitoba Canada, D.D. Leobard Winery started making Chokecherry wine in 2005 after three years of trials. The winery is located in Winnipeg and specializes in producing wines from locally grown or wild fruit. Their Chokecherry wine is made from wild berries and made off dry, with a strong cherry flavor. Although the wine has been well received by critics (it was awarded a bronze medal at the 2006 All Canadian Wine Championships) it has been demanding to produce commercially. First, the winery has found it troublesome to find someone to pick their supply of wild berries. Second, Chokecherry wine is difficult to produce. The berries are small and initially highly acidic and quite tart. The winemaker must reduce these properties while simultaneously extract the natural cherry flavor of the fruit. Finally, although Chokecherry wine is very popular in Manitoba, it is difficult to sell because of this popularity. Many people either make their own Chokecherry wine or know some family member or friend who makes it; thus, according to Denis d'Eschambault, one of the winery’s co-owners, “why pay for it!”

Chokecherry wine is produced by a little over a dozen wineries in North America, most likely from wild berries and family recipes. The styles range from the semi-dry version offered by Colorado Cellars Winery to the sweet, port-style Chokecherry wine offered by the Lil' Ole Winemaker Shoppe in Wisconsin. We are certain, regardless of the style, that the majority of wine consumers will appreciate this wine, once the opportunity to taste one, presents itself.