Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Viognier finds a new style at Corcoran Vineyards

In 2011, the Virginia Wine Board designated Viognier as the Commonwealth's Signature Grape in order to better market Virginia's growing wine industry. On one hand the policy made perfect sense, since the grape excelled in the Virginia climate and personally, Virginia Viognier is one of my favorite wines. On the other hand, the decision was criticized because only about a third of Virginia wineries produced a Viognier wine and at times the grape can be very temperamental in the vineyard.

For instance, Corcoran Vineyards (Waterford Virginia) lost their entire 2010 harvest to frost, came back strong in 2011 with a wonderful dry Viognier, but in 2012 - - -. Well last year, the fruit composition was just too high in sugar for a dry wine. What is a winemaker to do?  Looking at the success of their red port styled wine - the Chambourcin USB - Lori Corcoran thought, why not a white port? She fortified the wine to 18% with grape brandy - just under the legal 20% threshold - and then aged the wine and used A. Smith Bowman Distillery bourbon barrels. The result is initially, a hot wine with a little burn, but very quickly the butterscotch\vanilla flavors subdue the flames and the wine coasts to a smooth finish. This is a truly unique flavor and a style I never imaged for Virginia's signature grape. The white port is not available yet - this was a sneak preview - but keep checking the Corcoran website for a release date.

And beware, do not consumer too much white port before walking over to the twelve beers on tap at Corcoran Brewing Company. It could lead to an early night. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is the Best Virginia Wine?

We are often asked the difficult question: "What is the best Virginia wine?".  And in fact, Tom Wark asked me a variation of that question at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference -"If I had one wine to bring home from Virginia, what would it be?. And obviously there is no simple or correct answer. Palettes differ among consumers; vintages differ among wines; and some wines may be one year wonders.  Plus, has anyone actually tried every Virginia wine produced? But here goes.

On an annual basis, check out the results of the Virginia Governor's Cup - where a panel of experts determine the best Virginia wines for each year - all from wines produced from Virginia grown grapes. Instead of a vintage approach, my standard answer consists of wines that are commendable year after year.

Now, I understand everyone has different opinions and will find fault with these selections; so - what is your best Virginia wine?

Best Virginia Red Wine
Barboursville Vineyards Octagon
Linden Vineyards Avenius or Hardscrapple
Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Chrysalis Vineyards Norton
Virginia Wineworks Boxed Cabernet Franc

Best Virginia White Wine
Glen Manor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Linden Vineyards Avenius or Hardscrapple Chardonnay
Veritas Vineyards Viognier
Tarara Vineyard & Winery  Charval
Horton Vineyards Viognier

Best Virginia Rosé Wine
Boxwood Winery Rosé
Linden Vineyards Rosé
Paradise Springs Winery Nana's Rosé
King Family Vineyards  Crosé

Best Virginia Sparkling Wine
Thibaut-Janisson Winery Blanc de Chardonnay, Virginia Sparkling Wine
Thibaut-Janisson Winery  Virginia FIZZ
Castle Hill Cider Levity
Trump Winery Blanc de Blanc

Best Virginia Fruit & Honey Wine
Corcoran Vineyards Apple Wine
Village Winery Elderberry Wine
Blacksnake Meadery Wildflower Honey Wine
Coltsfoot Winery Elderberry Wine
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery  Blue Heeler

Best Virginia Dessert Wine
Potomac Point Winery Rabelos
Corcoran Vineyards USB
Fabbioli Cellars Raspberry Merlot
Horton Vineyards Vintage Port
Veritas Vineyards Othello

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Wedding at Cana Celebrated at Cana Vineyards and Winery

According to the Gospel of John, the first miracle performed by Jesus was at the Wedding at Cana in which at the request of his mother, he turned six stone containers of water into wine. Biblical scholars can debate the fact or allegory of the story, but  Cana Vineyards and Winery, a new northern Virginia winery just outside of Middleburg, celebrates the historic event:

People ask us why we chose the name Cana (“Cay-nuh”) for our winery. In Cana of Galilee, at a wedding feast, Jesus performed the first of His many miracles: He turned water into wine! In the course of the feast, the wine was depleted. If this situation were disclosed, the groom would be shamed. But Jesus showed compassion. At His command, six stone jars were filled with water. A little was drawn out and taken to the master of the banquet. When he had tasted the wine, the banquet master pulled the groom aside and praised him for going against tradition by saving the very best wine for last.
Cana Vineyards also incorporates the Wedding story throughout their operation. Their logo consists of six stone jars and the winery grounds are populated by actual jars and even fountains. And they turn grape juice into wine. Their first decision was to hire wine consultant Alan Kinne (Chrysalis Vineyards) to be their executive winemaker and to source fruit from Loudoun County while their estate vineyard matures. Another decision that caught our fancy was their use of Garbellotto and TW Boswell fermenting tanks for red wines. Fermenting Chardonnay in barrels is a common technique, but for the past 40-50 years red wines have been fermented in concrete or stainless steel before being aged in barrel. But Cana Vineyards has shown that old practices are new because they utilize these fermenting tanks for the Petit Verdot used in their Le Mariage ($34) blend. You would think that the extra oak treatment would produce more tannic content, but in reality, the opposite occurs, the tannins become smoother and more mellow.

The other wines in their portfolio are pretty standard fare for Virginia wineries. There is a rather tasty Apple wine, a Viognier, Traminette (sourced from the Shenandoah Valley), Riesling, Rosé, and my favorite, their Cabernet Franc. This is an earthy wine, a little green pepper and a little tobacco, which is balanced with red cherry flavors. Nicely done.

The tasting room is spacious - particularly the loft, with live music on weekends streaming inside and out. With a view of the Bull Run mountains to the south, this is a nice destination to hang for the day. Check out their live music schedule to choose a day.