Friday, October 15, 2010

A Weekend in Nelson County (Day 2)

We followed Day 1 in Nelson County by started Day 2 by hitting three wineries located on the north end of Route 101. We had a scheduled appointment to film an episode of MyJoogTV at Devil's Backbone Brewing Company at 1:00 PM, and fortunately we were able to start the day off early since Afton Mountain Vineyards accommodated our schedule by opening at 10:00 AM. And we were not the only visitors that early. This winery is the second oldest in the county and is currently owned and operated by Elizabeth and Tony Smith. Upon acquiring the enterprise, the Smith family relocated the tasting facility to the former's owner's residence - providing an expansive view of the valley below. Almost all the grapes are estate grown and with the estate's long history, they have been able to test and cultivate several non-traditional Virginia grapes: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gewurztraminer and Muscat. During a tasting there are two alternative routes, a regular or reserve tasting. We chose the Reserve tasting we allowed us to enjoy a sparkler to start the day - the 2006 Tete' de Cuvee - a traditional blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay disgorged after aging two years on its lees. This was followed by their Estate Chardonnay and a single varietal Pinot Noir that is only produced in years when yields can accommodate both the sparkling and still wines. Single varietals Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon followed - although the cab includes some Merlot. The finale was the Super-Tuscan 2008 Festa di Bacco comprised of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. This wine is the bomb and shows why we seem to prefer blends over single varietals. There are plenty of tannins from the Cab and PV; but the majority Sangiovese provides enough smooth red cherry flavor to make this one drinkable now. If its not included in our October 25th tasting of Monticello Wines - I'm bringing a bottle with me.

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.

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