Thursday, August 7, 2014

Savor the Flavors of Virginia’s Best Wine, Beer, & Cider at Epicurience Virginia

If you are staying at home this Labor Day weekend (Aug. 29-Sept 1) and want to enjoy a complete farm and wine to table experience then check out Epicurience Virginia - which brings a one-of-a-kind edible showcase that brings Virginia’s award-winning wines and farm-to-table cuisine to the grounds of historic Morven Park."  This event is a partnership with SAVEUR Magazine and connects attendees directly to the winemakers and farmers.  During the main event on Aug. 30th, - from noon to 6pm - Virginia’s finest wine, beer, spirits and cuisine will be available in the Grand Tasting Tent.  The tent is sponsored by VirginiaTourism Corporation, and attendees can watch celebrated chefs cook up culinary creations and attend seminars on Virginia’s wine and cider scene in the education tent sponsored by Virginia Wine. These chefs include TV host, author and chef Nathalie Dupree, Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant (DC), Shannon Overmiller from The Majestic (Alexandria), Scott Drewno of The Source by  Wolfgang Puck (DC) and Jason Alley with Pasture  & Comfort (Richmond & Charlottesville). Ingredients for the demonstrations are being sourced from Ayrshire Farm.

One of the coolest events during the Saturday Aug. 30 Grand Tasting at Morven Park is the Speed Blending Competition. People interested in participating can enter the code EpicBlend when purchasing tickets and up to 48 winners will be randomly selected to participate. Blending sessions will run from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with each session lasting one hour. During that time, participants will get to work with one of Loudoun’s winemakers to taste and create their own unique blend using three randomly selected Loudoun wines.A winner will be selected from each group and entered into the final competition set to kick off at 4:30 p.m. LWA members and VIPs from the community will select one winner who will get to spend time over the next year working with a Loudoun winemaker to help create a wine to be released at Epicurience Virginia 2015. How cool is that?

General admission tickets cost $85 per person, whereas a VIP ticket is $125 per person includes a food and wine pairing at Early Mountain Vineyards’ airstream, modeled after its tasting room, and the VIP tent furnished by Bella Villa and featuring exclusive tastings.

Additional culinary events will take place throughout the weekend at Loudoun’s wineries and historic estates including wine and cocktail pairing dinners, farm-to-table picnics and the opening night event at the Marshall House. One such event is the Catoctin Creek Distillery dinner at Magnolias on Sunday August 31st. Information for these events can be found at you there.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Annual WineMaker Magazine Conference set for Virginia Wine Country in 2014

Do you make your own wine or our thinking about starting? Then...
"Join fellow hobby winemakers from across North America in Northern Virginia's wine country for three days packed with seminars and special events to help you make your own great wine. "
From June 5-7th, WineMaker Magazine is hosting their annual conference at the Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg in DC's Wine Country - Loudoun County Virginia. The conference includes workshops, seminars, and a keynote address from Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars. There are also several boot camps lead by consultant Tom Payette; Wes Hagen of  Clos Pepe Estate; Daniel Pambianchi of Maleta Winery; Chik Brenneman from UC-Davis; Robert Herold, Winemaker for M&M Wine Grape Co.; Tim Vandergrift, Technical Services Manager for Global Vintners International; and BobPeak, Partner in The Beverage People home winemaking retailer shop.  The conference also includes a day trip to a few Virginia Wineries and admission to the 2014 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition Awards Dinner as well as the Friday night Wine Share & Tasting Party. That's the event I want to attend; but sounds like an informative weekend. Cheers.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Local Beer & Wine Pouring at the 7th Annual Wine and Food Festival at National Harbor

One Spring event I always anticipate is the annual Wine and Food Festival at National Harbor, now in its 7th year - held May 3rd & 4th. The reason: always a wide selection of wine, beer, spirits, cigars, fresh food (oysters), as well as numerous cooking demonstrations and food. Lots of food. There will be also be plenty of wine, beer, & spirits options (over 150) including local options from Boordy Vineyards, The Winery at Olney, Detour Vineyard and Winery, Fenwick Wine Cellars, Far Eastern Shore Winery, Harvest Ridge Winery, Fordham Brewing Company, Heavy Seas Brewing Company, Bold Rock Cidery, Devils Backbone Brewing Company, and Starr Hill Brewing. And the night before the festival, on May 2nd, the Old Hickory Steakhouse is hosting a wine dinner featuring Barboursville Vineyards. On Sunday I am looking forward to Theo Rutherford - Craft Whiskey Specialist for Beam Global presentation, but over the course of the weekend there will be presentations from Shannon Shaffer, Executive Chef, Design Cuisine; Michael Schlow; Victor Albisu - Del Campo & Taco Bamba; Scott Drewno - The Source by Wolfgang Puck; Chef Bryan Voltaggio - Volt | Lunchbox | Family Meal | Range; Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper; and Mike Isabella - Graffiato, Washington D.C.. Here's the promotional video from Drink.Eat.Relax:


Monday, March 31, 2014

Corcoran Brewing Re-opens in Purcellville

This weekend Corcoran Brewing Company reopened at their new Purcellville brewery, after outgrowing their Waterford barn next to the family's winery: Corcoran Vineyards. The brewery had been idle for the past four months constructing and moving to the new location, yet all that has changed is the volumes of beer - the selection is the same and the increased capacity means inventories will remain more constant. Although looking at the picture, Saturday may have depleted quite a bit of inventory since brewer Kevin Bills mentioned it was their biggest sales day ever. Whereas the standard lineup is intact, a new beer added to the menu is the John Champe, an English style barley wine coming in at 9.7% abv. Despite the high alcohol, the beer is quite smooth with a nice malt-hop balance. Also, the brewery continues the tradition of including detailed information in the tasting sheets such as style, ABV (Alcohol by Volume), IBU (International Bittering Units - hops), and SRM (Standard Reference Method for color). In the future expect food trucks, an outdoor seating area, and perhaps some local live music. And as always, theCompass Winery, Brewery, and Distillery Locator app can guide you to Corcoran's Brewing Company and the other area wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Cheers.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Much Belated Return to Willowcroft Farm Winery

This weekend I realized that it had been almost eight years since I last visited Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, located just southwest of Leesburg in Loudoun County Virginia. Don't know why the long hiatus, but Sunday night we used theCompass mobile application to navigate to the winery.  Good timing, since the winery is celebrating it's 30th anniversary in 2014 - one of the oldest in the Commonwealth. Once a space opened at the tasting bar, our tasting room rep, Lydia, guided us through the winery's portfolio and history.  (We also found a couple books in the tasting room that describe the history of the properties on Mt. Gilead.)

All the wines we tasted were harvested directly from the estate, except for the Petit Manseng which is sourced further southwest in the Shenandoah Valley.  We sampled most of their wines, and in general, I was quite impressed. Almost all possessed the characteristics you would expect from each grape.  The estate grown Albarino was my favorite white (floral with nice acidity), followed by the Harmony and Cabernet Blanc. The former is an semi-dry blend of Petit Manseng, Vidal Blanc and Traminette (great acidity to balance the sugar); whereas the later is a lightly pressed Cabernet Franc that tastes of the lighter side of cherries. Moving on the reds, the Petit Verdot was medium bodied with mellow tannins; the Chambourcin was also medium bodied with a spicy tail, and the Merlot was full bodied - very smooth and tasty.

I plan on returning very soon, particularly when the medal winning Cabernet Franc and Apple wine are released to the public. Lydia almost talked me into the Wine Club, and I think I can be persuaded on my next visit. Since the strength of their portfolio encompasses the breadth of the wine selection, I think I can be assured that every two months I'll receive a wine I enjoy. Cheers.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Taste of Science at Doukenie Winery

The first Saturday of every month Doukenie Winery (Hillsboro, VA) hosts a very informative and interesting event: A Taste of Science at Doukenie Winery. Led by geologist Leanne Wiberg, the program starts with a tour and wine tasting in the depths of the facility followed by a vineyard tour of the winery's experimental vineyard. After a year of urging I finally found a free Saturday to participate. The tour costs $18.00 for general public, but free for  Heritage Club members, and starts with an overview of the winery's Greek Heritage: Doukenie=Dutchess.  Once in the basement we then learned about winemaker Sébastien Marquet and his Burgundian background followed by a tasting of eight wines. Most of these wines were made from estate grapes with the others sourced from a vineyard near Fredericksburg. And the wines were quite pleasant, with the Riesling, Pinot Grigio, "Le Vin Rouge", and Cabernet Franc selected as the group's favorite. In fact, the Pinot Grigio, was the nicest I can remember tasting in quite some time. After the tasting we learn about the winery's use of oak and the source of their French oak barrels.

Finally it was time for the vineyard tour and Leanne led us to the experimental vineyard where Marquet grafts various grape vines on another varying set of rootstock. Leanne described to the group the history of phylloxera and reason for rootstock and interpreted the different combinations of rootstock to grape vines.She then showed us geological maps of the area and described how Short Hill and the plateau to Leesburg were created. Then on to sunshine, rain runoff, soil, you name it; pretty interesting stuff - even in the cold weather. 

After the program I realized there was plenty to appreciate about Doukenie; the obvious being that they provide a geologist to host this program. The others is the dedication to quality - having an experimental vineyard - and even Marquet selecting the specific trees for the cooperage. And this reflects in their wines - as a whole they are much nicer than my last visit many years ago - and their are a few standouts that I'd like to partake on a daily basis.  Cheers to that.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Governor McAuliffe Announces Williamsburg Winery’s 2010 Adagio Awarded 2014 Governor’s Cup

~Adagio Joins 11 Other Fine Virginia Wines from 9 Wineries to Comprise Governor’s Cup~
Secretary Haymore Awarded Wine Person of the Year by the VWA

RICHMOND Governor Terry McAuliffe tonight awarded the 2014 Virginia Wineries Association’s (VWA) Governor's Cup to The Williamsburg Winery's 2010 Adagio, a blended red wine.  The Governor’s Cup was awarded Thursday evening, February 27 at the VWA’s Governor’s Cup Gala at the John Marshall Hotel.

Speaking at the Governor’s Cup awards ceremony, Governor McAuliffe said, “I am honored to award the Governor's Cup to The Williamsburg Winery, one of Virginia’s oldest and most prolific wineries.  It is no secret the Commonwealth’s wine industry has experienced tremendous growth both in quantity and quality in recent years.  Such growth has an enormous impact on Virginia in terms of economic development and job creation.  The Virginia Governor's Cup, now recognized as one of the nation's most stringent competitions, helps to raise awareness of the world class wines grown and blended right here in the Commonwealth.  My congratulations to The Williamsburg Winery for their long history of success and their most recent notable contribution to the Virginia wine industry."

The Williamsburg Winery's Adagio is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 28% Petit Verdot. Aged in French, American and Hungarian Oak, the ratio is  43% new oak, 14% one year old oak; 29% two year old oak; and 14% three year old oak. The winemaker's tasting notes are as follows:  The 2010 Adagio is a very bold upfront wine with loads of jammy fruit.  The blackberries and blueberry notes are accentuated with some elegant mature darker fruit such as figs, dates and prunes.  There is a hint of spice (warm cinnamon) with molasses and soy.  The earthy notes come across with a touch of nuttiness.  The oak is very integrated into the weight of the wine and the tannins are smooth and graceful. The wine has a wonderful finish that lasts for quite awhile. 
            "It is very satisfying and very humbling to be with my peers and the others who have won the Governor's Cup.  The 2010 Adagio was unbelievable, exceeding all expectations for quality, and it was nice for Adagio to get that recognition,” said Matthew Meyer, vice president and winemaker of The Williamsburg Winery.  "Adagio, from the Italian ad agio, or 'at ease', is a musical term indicating the tempo of a composition that is meant to be slow and stately, so named in honor of the extraordinary depth, elegance and grace of this wine."
The 2014 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over three weeks of preliminary tastings, held at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C.  The final round of tastings was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond in early February. The Governor's Cup award winner was selected from the 2014 Governor's Cup Case. The top 12 scoring wines of the competition, The Governor’s Cup Case, were selected from 410 entries of both red and white wines, from 96 wineries.

In addition to The Williamsburg Winery's 2010 Adagio, the other 11 wines in the Governor’s Cup Case are: 

The Governor’s Cup competition, revamped in 2011, is a result of a partnership among the gubernatorial-appointed Virginia Wine Board (VWB), the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA), and the VWA, which owns and manages the competition. Any wine made from 100% Virginia fruit was eligible for the competition, while ciders and fruit wines had their own category and medalists. All entries included an affidavit with a certification of 100% Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.

            Wine included in the Governor’s Cup Case will be used by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for marketing purposes in Virginia, across the country, and around the world.  A number of cases will be shipped to select wine media, promoting Virginia wines to a larger national and international audience.  The award winning wines will be used for education purposes at Virginia winemaker roundtable discussions to improve overall quality of Virginia wines.  Governor’s Cup Case wines will also be used by Governor McAuliffe on select domestic and international marketing missions and other events designed to promote Virginia wine and winery tourism.

            Jay Youmans, one of only of 31 Masters of Wine (MW) in the U.S., directed the competition. Youmans, who is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and the owner and educational director of the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, recruited wine judges from the professional wine buying and wine media community. The judges were compensated for their time for a rigorous schedule of judging to ensure the competition maintained the highest level of professional evaluation. There were 30 judges in the preliminary round and 15 judges in the final round. A list of the judges along with their bios can be found at

One of the most important aspects of the revised competition is the educational component of the judging. After the competition, regional forums for the winemakers will be held with the judging director. Notes with the judges’ blind comments will be shared with individual winemakers, so that they will get direct feedback on how their wines were received.
            The Williamsburg Winery is located on Wessex Hundred, a 300-acre farm located in Virginia's Historic Triangle.  The winery has experienced continuous growth through an expanding portfolio of wines. The introduction of the 2007 Adagio was the culmination of a single-minded goal to produce the highest quality wines in the world. This is the second Governor’s Cup for Williamsburg Winery. The winery won in 1989 for its 1988 Chardonnay.
            "Winning the Governor's Cup is a testament to Matthew's talent and to the dedication of our entire team, whose focus is on excellence in wines made 100% from Virginia grapes. Our goal is to grow as a leader in the industry, developing wines that reflect the character of our Commonwealth, neither Californian or European, but displaying elegance and interesting flavors," said Patrick Duffeler, president and CEO, The Williamsburg Winery.

In addition to awarding Williamsburg Winery’s 2010 Adagio the 2014 Governor’s Cup, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore was named Wine Person of the Year for his contributions to this rapidly growing sector of the Commonwealth’s economy. 

As Secretary, Haymore works closely with the Governor, General Assembly, and key stakeholders on numerous legislative and budgetary initiatives to integrate agriculture and forestry fully into Virginia’s overall economic development and jobs creation platform. A dedicated proponent of the Virginia wine industry, Secretary Haymore has worked in partnership with Virginia’s wineries and vineyards to proudly showcase Virginia wines during domestic and international trade missions.  During his time as Secretary, Haymore has facilitated the first commercial shipment of Virginia Wine to China; helped to launch the Virginia Wine Summit, bringing national and international attention to Virginia wine; helped to almost triple the amount of funds placed in the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund for research, education and marketing; and worked with the General Assembly to establish a reimbursable tax credit program for the establishment or expansion of vineyards and wineries.  His strategic focus has led to new sales and opportunities for Virginia wineries that will continue the industry’s growth in the years to come.

Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2013 with more than 511,000 cases, or more than 6.1 million bottles, sold. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 250 wineries. Virginia is also tied with Texas as the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producing state. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million to the Commonwealth’s economy on an annual basis.

For a complete list of previous Governor’s Cup winners and information about the Virginia wine industry, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office or call 804-344-8200.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Love by the Glass: Virginia Wine & Dine Month - Begins Saturday March 1st

We just received this press release announcing Love by the Glass: Virginia Wine & Dine Month. Hope you can travel around the Commonwealth to sample excellent Virginia wine and food. And as always, theCompass mobile app can guide you to your favorite Virginia winery. Cheers.
Richmond, Va. (February 27, 2014) - The Virginia Wine Marketing Office and the Virginia Tourism Corporation today announced March as Love by the Glass: Virginia Wine & Dine Month, a celebration that showcases Virginia wines at more than 500 participating restaurants and wine shops across the Commonwealth. Special wine and food pairings along with wine travel packages make March an ideal time for wine lovers to visit Virginia.

Across the state, restaurants and wine shops alike will be showcasing Virginia wines by carrying a minimum of five Virginia wines either by the glass or the bottle, as well as offering special packages and events including winemakers' dinners, pre fixe menus paired with Virginia wines, Virginia wine and food pairings, Virginia wine dinners with local B&Bs, Virginia wine flight/comparative tastings and educational events.

Virginia, home to more than 250 wineries statewide, is fifth in the nation for wineries and for wine grape production and was recently named one of the 10 best wine travel destinations for 2012 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

"Love by the Glass: March Wine and Dine Month is a great way for consumers to try new and exciting Virginia wines, which rank among the best in the world. From regional food and wine pairings to flight/comparative tastings, March Wine and Dine Month gives wine connoisseurs and wine neophytes everywhere countless reasons to fall in love with Virginia wines for the first time or all over again," said David King, chairman of the Virginia Wine Board.
Virginia Wine and Dine Month is a partnership between the Virginia Wine Marketing Office and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to encourage Virginia restaurants and wine shops to feature more Virginia wines by the glass.  Love by the Glass started as Virginia Wine Week in 2010.  It quickly grew in popularity, so much so that the state has expanded the event to the entire month of March.
Select hotels, resorts and inns have created special travel packages for visitors who want to partake in Virginia Wine and Dine Month.  Highlights of these travel packages are below with more found on

Consumers can also learn about Love by the Glass: March Wine and Dine Month on social media:

·         Virginia Wine Twitter:
·         Virginia Wine Instagram: vawine    
·         Pinterest:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Boneyard Wines Take Over #VAWineChat

Last week Tarara Vineyard & Winery winemaker Jordan Harris presented a selection of his new brand, Boneyard Wines to the monthly twitter chat #VAWineChat. These wines diverge from the traditional Tarara brand in that they are more experimental and consist of entry level as well as "uber" luxury options. The labels are very cool - earth movers digging up the boneyard - which respects Tarara's tradition by honoring a field where old wine making and vineyard equipment are sent to rust. The tasting for the evening consisted of the Boneyard 2012 Skins (Rkatsiteli orange wine), the Boneyard Boneyard Bubbles Blanc de Blanc, the Boneyard 2012 Cabernet Franc, and Boneyard 2010 Syrah.

We started with the much anticipated Boneyard 2012 Skins ($20), much anticipated in the sense that I am a deep believer in Rkatsiteli. In order to create an orange wine, the juice was macerated on its skins for 31 days, followed by mild oak treatment. In general, this type of wine possesses a floral aroma, with spicy characters in the palette and finish - with plenty of acidity. Unfortunately, the Boneyard Skins did not live up to my expectations; the floral aroma was present but the wine lacked both acidity and the spicy characters.  Yet, I applaud Jordan for his experiment - keep on digging....

The Bubbles Blanc de Blanc ($35), on the other hand, nailed all expectations. The wine was produced from Chardonnay grapes harvested in 2009 and then vinified using methodoise champagne traditions.  The wine was then bottled aged on its lees for 3 and a half years, developing texture and creaminess, before being disgorged and undergoing secondary fermentation. There sparkling wine is clean, fresh with plenty of effervescence, as well as gentle green apple and citrus flavors. Well done.

Only 26 cases were made from the Boneyard 2012 Cabernet Franc so this wine is only available for Case Club members. The wine spent 12 months in oak and despite the oak, is a medium bodied, fruit forward wine with very smooth tannins. The nose has a little smoke and tobacco, but the palette is a mixture of blackberries and raspberries. I enjoyed this one, but so long - unless I join the Case Club.

We finished with the Boneyard 2010 Syrah ($100) - yes the most expensive Virginia wine to date - more than those from RDV Vineyards.  The Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier and then aged 38 months in oak;  Jordan is a self-described Rhône geek.  Like the Cab Franc, the tannins are smooth - yet the flavor is more plum and finishes with plenty of spice. Like the other wines, this one is closed with the screwcap and it needed to breathe for awhile to allow the Viognier floral notes and fruit to develop. Before breathing, the wine raced straight to the spicy finish. The price point speaks for itself, and we will let buyers express their rational. Cheers.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Notaviva Vineyards Hosts Melodies of the Danube 2015 - a European River Cruise

Stephen Mackey, owner of the Virginia winery Notaviva Vineyards (Purcellville), is hosting a wine and music European river cruise next year where travelers can enjoy fine European and Virginia vinifera and Central European music. The Melodies of the Danube 2015 starts in romantic Budapest where you spend the day touring Buda and Pest. I highly recommend an hour in the Central Market Hall and the Tokaji wine bar.  Learn to appreciate dry Furmint as I did many years ago. Also, if you have a chance to sample Soproni Kekfrankos or anything from Villany - drink it.

From Hungary, the boat travels to Austria and while gently cruising along the Danube, Mackey will be leading several wine lectures throughout the journey.  He will be pouring wine from Notaviva and showcasing why Virginia is a rising wine region as well as leading comparative tasting between the Virginia and Austrian wine.
1) Onboard Wine Tasting - "Austrian Varietals in America" Host Stephen Mackey leads a discussion of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and Gruner Veltliner. Enjoyed with Notaviva Vineyards "Vierzig" Blaufrankisch inspired by Mozart's 40th symphony.
2) Onboard Wine Lecture #1 - "Wine and Music Pairing Experience" -- Led by host Stephen Mackey, guests will enjoy two blind tastings of Virginia wines, accompanied by diverse music playlists and and engaging, interactive evaluation of how various musical genres accompany different wine styles. Includes discussion on the science of cognitive neurology and emotional receptors as they relate to the sensory perception of wine.
3) Onboard Wine Lecture #2 - "Introduction to Music Theory" -- Enjoy a carefully chosen selection of Virginia and Austrian wines while host Stephen Mackey analyzes works from Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss and explains the core technical elements of Western music such as melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, dynamics, form and tone color. Each composer's work will be paired with an appropriate wine, and there will be fun quizzes and prizes!
4) Paired Wine Dinner - "Ottantotto" barrel-fermented Viognier, "Vierzig" (Mozart) Blaufrankisch, "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven) Meritage
5) Onboard Wine Lecture #3 - "TasteLive!" -- Host Stephen Mackey will conduct the first-of-its-kind live International tasting of Austrian and Virginia wines from the ship while connected via social media and video conferencing with passengers' friends, family and Virginia wine industry colleagues back in Loudoun at the Notaviva Vineyards tasting room.

Wachau - courtesy of AWMB / Gerhard Elze
The boat spends four days in Austria - Vienna, Krebs, Durnstein, and Linz where the spotlight remains on wine but the classical music of Strauss and Mozart as well as traditional folk music are introduced. There are several opportunities to explore medieval villages and sample wine from various Austrian wine regions: Wein, Wachau, Kremstal, Wagram, and more. Here you will get your fill of Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and perhaps a smooth Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder). The final destination is Passau, Germany where Octoberfest and beer come into play. And for even more fun, AMAwaterways, the host travel agency, is also offering pre and post cruise tours of Budapest, Munich, and Prague. To learn more about the host winery, Notaviva Vineyards, check out this profile in Northern Virginia Magazine. Cheers and happy cruising.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Three Keswick Vineyards Viogniers for #VAWineChat

Last week we were invited to participate in the monthly twitter tasting #VAWineChat, feauring a trio of 2012 Viognier from Keswick Vineyards.The winery is situated due east of Charlottesville and with 16 acres,  has one of the state's largest planting of Viognier - perhaps the largest.  The three wines were produced from 100% estate fruit and are 100% single varietal. 2012 was a typical growing year for Virginia and winemaker Stephen Barnard also explained that they "backed off on ripeness for racy lower alcohol wines". In the winery, Barnard believes that neutral oak gives the palate some lift and  enhances the texture and using a small percentage of new oak adds to complexity.

We started off the tasting with the 2012 Viognier ($24, 13.5% abv), where 70% of the juice was tank fermented, the other 30% fermented in neutral. The fermented juice then maturated for 6 months on lees.  The result is an assertive fruity wine with a mouthful of citrus cream followed by a clean, refreshingly acidic finish. A rather nice start to the evening.

Next was the 2012 Reserve Viognier ($27.95, 14.2% abv) , where the juice was whole cluster pressed and then fermented wholly in neutral barrels.   This wine possesses more of the peach & apricot notes usually associated with Virginia Viognier as well as more oak creaminess with hints of coconut on the nose. There's a bit of white pepper as well, which initially threw me off, but as the wine breathed, integrated nicely into the overall sensation.

The final Viognier was the 2012 Signature Series Viognier ($34.95, abv), a bold project where the juice was whole cluster pressed and racked straight to barrel without being inoculated with custom yeast strains or primed with sulpher. The hardest part for Barnard was waiting for the various yeast strains moving about the winery to begin fermenting the juice. These yeast strains could be natural strains that exist in all around us or perhaps commercial yeast that is still floating in the winery. 30% of the oak used in fermentation and aging was new French oak; thus the resulting wine is heavier than the other two with more of a toasted vanilla and honey character. The finish is still citrusy with plenty of balancing acidity - definitely the best of the bunch.

The Keswick wines showed why Viognier has great potential to be the Commonwealth's signature grape. If only the grape was not so finicky in the vineyard, more wineries could participate in the Virginia Viognier movement. But cheers to those who do, particularly Keswick Vineyards. Pair with Charlottesville based rock band Sons of Bil and Green PA Broadleaf cigars from Cigar Volante.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Virginia Vineyards Association Names Jeff White Grower of the Year

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore today presented the Virginia Vineyards Association’s Grape Grower of the Year award to Jeff White, owner and winemaker of Glen Manor Vineyards, Front Royal, VA. 
“I’m very pleased to honor one of the leaders of the Virginia wine industry,” said Secretary Haymore. “Virginia's burgeoning wine industry is making a significant and growing contribution to the Commonwealth’s economy, and that’s because of leaders like Jeff White who are producing world-class wines. I congratulate Jeff for his work to make Virginia one of the world's emerging wine production and tourism regions.”
Tom Kelly, president of the Virginia Vineyards Association, echoed Secretary Haymore’s comments, adding that the association selected Mr. White for the award not only to recognize his contributions to the Virginia wine industry, but his support for the VVA as well.
“Two years ago, he won the Governor’s Cup with his 2009 Hodder Hill, a Bordeaux-style red wine, and last year, he was gracious enough to volunteer his vineyard for a session at our summer technical meeting,” Mr. Kelly said.  “Jeff is one of the industry leaders who is helping put Virginia wine on the map, and he is more than deserving of this honor.”
The award was presented to Mr. White during the Association’s Winter Technical Meeting.
Mr. White was chosen based on criteria established in 2005 with the first presentation of the award. The criteria requires that the recipient be an active member of the Virginia Vineyards Association with at least seven years of experience managing or operating a commercial vineyard of at least five acres. The nominee must also be an active participant in the Virginia viticulture community with a history of service to our industry and must be well respected by his or her peers.
“Jeff met and exceeded the criteria for this award,” said Mr. Kelly. “He has always gone the extra mile in promoting wine grape growing and the Virginia wine industry.”
As a young boy growing up in Fairfax County, Mr. White spent summers working on his grandfather’s farm, which has been in his family for 113 years now. As an adult, he eventually tired of the corporate life as a financial analyst and decided to move full time to the family farm in 1990.  The farm was originally a Christmas tree and cattle operation.  But as the Whites struggled to make a living off the farm, Mr. White’s father wondered if grape production was a viable option. Mr. White began researching the possibility.
In 1993 he found a job with Virginia Tech’s Tony Wolf for a season at the Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Winchester. Shortly after working for Dr. Wolf, he began working with Jim Law at Linden Vineyards. He became Jim’s assistant and worked at Linden for 12 years.
Mr. White’s first six acres of vines were planted in 1995 and with them a new vineyard came to Virginia, Glen Manor. He planted classic Bordeaux varieties; Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot along with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. All of the early harvests were sold to Linden Vineyards. The Chardonnay that Mr. White originally planted was pulled out in the early 2000’s and replanted to Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2006, the Whites made the decision to start their own winery. From 2006 to 2009, the vineyards were expanded, with plantings of Petit Manseng, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon bringing the total to 14.5 acres.  The new plantings are on an extremely steep portion of the property, high up the slope from the original vineyard.
Mr. White has learned his craft well and his attention to detail in his vineyard and winery has produced wines of exceptional quality. In 2012 Glen Manor Vineyards won the Virginia Governors cup with their 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage blend. In 2013 Glen Manor’s 2010 Hodder Hill was awarded a Gold medal at the Virginia Governors Cup.
Along with his passion in the vineyard and winery, Mr. White has been a mentor and friend to many of the members of the Virginia Vineyards Association. He has given freely of his knowledge and experience in seminars to his fellow grape growers, and was one of the hosts of the VVA’s summer technical meeting in 2013.