Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Crusing the Crooked Run Valley: Delaplane Cellars

After the 2010 DrinkLocalWine.com two fellow bloggers, MyVineSpot and Anything Wine visited Delaplane Cellars and enjoyed their stay. A few days later I had a chance to follow their footsteps and caught the winery just before closing. Fortunately the Jim and Betsy Dolphin were willingly to stay open a tad longer to accommodate my visit. Delaplane Cellars is an infant, having opened officially this year. However, Jim Dolphin has been making wine and studying viticulture and vinification for years, even studying under esteemed winemaker Jim Law of Linden Vineyards and taking oenology courses through U.C. Davis. Thus, he didn't have to rely on other winemakers to solely craft his initial batch - he was able to borrow different facilities to craft his wine style while the winery was being constructed. No slapping another wineries product with a different label here.

The winery and estate is located in the scenic Crooked Run Valley. The tasting room\winery building was constructed to match the Sporting Library in nearby Middleburg, but that fact is quickly forgotten once you witness the panoramic scenery from the tasting room. The view is simply amazing as the valley stretches out from their vineyards to the Cobbler Mountains in the distance. The winery's label characterizes that mountain range. And the Dolphin's never tire of that view. The estate is planted with traditional varieties that excel in the Commonwealth; Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Tannat, Merlot; as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Menseng. Until the vineyard comes of age, their fruit is sourced from several highly regarded vineyards. In fact, the winery is so proud to be associated with these vineyards, that the vineyard name is used in the wine's name whenever possible. We applaud this designation, great wine starts with good fruit, and vineyards that provide these should be getting the appropriate accolades.

Delaplane Cellars offers a solid portfolio of wines, yet one of my favorites wasn't even one of theirs. It was the Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc which the winery provides to round out their portfolio. Winemaker Jeff White has crafted a winner here. Delaplane specializes in Viognier and I was able to sample three: 2008 Honah Lee Viognier, 2008 Maggies Vineyard Viognier, and the 2007 Emerald Lake Viognier. Each of the wines are aged in neutral French oak barrels which provide a fuller mouthful all the while trying to maintain a balance between the fruit and oak. These are all nice wines, but I am still not sold on oaked Viognier; for my palate, I enjoy those imprisoned in stainless steel.

On the other hand, I had no issues with their red portfolio, unless you include their Pink Rose, which is a 3% r.s. concocted for a particular audience. But their dry reds are memorable. Their 2007 Old World Cab Franc contains a small amount of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the fruitiness of the Cabernet Franc is prevalent - assisted by a nice acidic finish. This is a nice example of a medium bodied Cab Franc - typical cherry with some plum flavors and a smooth finish. Their 2007 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend is fuller and consists of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon (Tranquility Vineyards), 29% Merlot (Bella Luna Vineyard) and 4% Petit Verdot (Springlot Vineyard). The nose to this wine is almost overpowering; it then eases into a nice blackberry mid palette and then a pepper finish. Nice. During one conversation at the DrinkLocalWine.com we discussed how winemakers love Syrah, but in general, the public doesn't know enough about the varietal to constantly purchase it. Well, here's another worthy example made in the Northern Rhone style that includes a small dose of Viognier to soften the wine. This wine is toasty and earthy - an old world wine crafted in the new world. Yet the best was still to come in their 2007 Springlot Reserve Single Vineyard - a classic Bordeaux blend of CF, CS, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The fruit comes from Springlot Vineyard, a two acre lot of granite based soil located at 1200 feet above sea level and meticulously maintained by John Everson. A perfect storm of soil, elevation, and vineyard management. Plus the grapes were harvested in 2007, the closest year that Virginia gets to the average California season. The result is a dark fruit flavor, velvet mid palette and smooth finish. This wine may be priced a little high for the average consumer ($40), but its worth every cent.

I wish I good of extended my stay and enjoyed a glass of one of these reds, but I had already overstayed my visit. Regardless of what brings me out Route 66, a visit to Delaplane Cellars is on the agenda. A fabulous view and nice wines, what more do you need?

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