Friday, August 3, 2012

Visiting Fauquier County Wineries with Northern Virginia FLITE Tour

Last week we participated in the Fauquier County day of the two day Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell FLITE (First Lady's Initiatives Team Effort) tour of northern Virginia wineries. The purpose of FLITE  is to "bring attention to the great work being done by selfless people around the Commonwealth who are taking the opportunity to leave Virginia a better place than they found it". In addition, the First Lady uses these tours as a Bully Pulpit to encourage retailers and restaurants to include local Virginia wine in their portfolio. Thus, our tour was primarily composed of members of those markets as well as a few members of the media, a blogger or two, as well as First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Todd Haymore.

Left Bank Vineyard at Delaplane Cellars
Tasting at the Wine Bar
The first stop for our bus was Delaplane, Virginia and Delaplane Cellars where proprietors and winemaker Jim & Betsy Dolphin met us along with State Senator, Jill Vogel. After a few introductory remarks Jim gave us a tour of the facility as well as his wine making philosophy. Delaplane normally specializes in the Rhone varieties Syrah and  Viognier; but with supplies limited, we sampled their red Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Melange Blanc white blend, and an estate Petit Manseng late harvest. Delaplane has always given center stage to the vineyards where they source their fruit and this year's vintage is no exception, and they are finally able to showcase their estate Left Bank vineyard. Their 2010 Left Band Reserve is more of a left-right combo because of the significant amount of Merlot. Their Splinglot and Williams Gap Bordeaux blends are both fuller, courtesy of the more mature vineyards, with the Williams Gap Reserve my favorite - big blackberry flavors, a chewy mid palette, and a spicy - tannic finish. Their estate Late Harvest Petit Manseng show why that grape has promise in Virginia as it's inherent acidity nicely balances the sweet juice. Petit Manseng is also an input to the Melange Blanc (plus Chardonnay and Viognier), a nice summer wine - particularly for that100 degree day.

We then headed just down the road to Paris, Virginia and lunch at the Ashby Inn And Restaurant. Here our sweet and sour radish soup and crispy port belly were paired with the Pearmund Cellars 2011 "Vinecroft" Viognier and the Chester Gap Cellars 2009 Cabernet Franc respectively.  This magnificent lunch definitely gave the sommeliers in our group inspiration to pair local wine with local produce.

Jim Law
Hardscrapple Vineyard at Linden Vineyards
Our final stop was to Linden Vineyards where famed winemaker Jim Law and Shari Avenius, Linden’s director and owner/winegrower of Avenius Vineyard, received us with a glass of the 2011 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was highly appropriate not only to soothe our group from the day's heat index but also to showcase that white Bordeaux can be produced in the region (Glen Manor Vineyards). This is one of my favorite Linden wines; bright, crisp, with a nice combination of citrus and grass.  In the cellar we followed up with the 2009 Hardscapple Chardonnay, 2010 Claret Merlot, 2008 Hardscrapple Red, and 2006 Late Harvest Vidal. Notice how Linden holds back releasing vintages in order for the wine to mature in the bottle. At Linden there is obviously no need to rush vintages out the door. And we learned how meticulous Law is in the cellar by juice to the Claret and in the vineyard by ripping out entire blocks when disease or low quality ensues. No wonder, Linden is considered one of the top - if not the top - producer in the Commonwealth.

And this tour was another example of the McDonnell Administration promoting these excellent wines to local establishments. Several Linden, Chester Gap, and Pearmund wines are available in my area - hopefully they will be available in yours very soon.

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