Monday, February 13, 2012

What's in the Barrel at Paradise Springs Winery?

During our Wednesday night #winechat featuring Viognier, we tasted and tweeted at Paradise Springs Winery. After the discussion, Kirk Wiles invited us to sample their 2011 vintage aging in barrel. Now, 2011 will be a challenging year - across the United States - even Mediterranean Napa Valley was affected by late season rain. In Virginia, the summer started off hot - with many grapes beginning to ripen on schedule. Then, in September, the weather cooled and the late season rains arrived. The grapes stopped maturing. Even worse, the grapes for one of the wines we tasted during #winechat, the 2011 Keswick Vineyards Les Vents d'Anges, were harvested the day after a hail storm. Can you image the condition of that fruit? Stephen Barnard performed admirably with that wine, and other winemakers will have work just as hard for their 2011 vintage.

At Paradise Springs, winemaker Rob Cox and assistant winemaker Michael Chang, are paying close attention to the wines in the tank and in the barrel. This evening we tasted Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tannat, and Norton - all aging in different cooperages. For instance, they are aging Chardonnay in neutral and medium oak and will blend the components together before bottling. Most of the red wines are being aging in a reductive manner - where the wine may not be racked until bottling. The Cabernet Franc displayed this reductive character immediately, but once past the nose, the cherry fruit presents itself nicely. And the reduction will dissipate when racking at bottling. We also saw how the winery is the only Virginia winery to utilize a Chinese barrel. Yes, Chinese, from the Mongolicus forest. I believe it was the Malbec - and so far - so good. Yet, the biggest surprise was their Norton. Sourced from Chrysalis Vineyards, these grapes shrugged off the volatile weather as if laughing at the viniferia outsiders. Heat, humidity, cold, rain - so what. In barrel less than a couple months, the wine is already deep garnet in color with bright fruit flavors with none of the astringent acidity associated with new or poorly made Norton. This wine could be bottled today - it is that good now. And this wine, and how the grape responded to the 2011 season, justifies Jennifer McCloud's passion for Norton.

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