Tasting at Hillsborough

On Sunday we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weekend weather and visit Hillsborough Cellars for a Barrel Tasting. Hillsborough is known for their perfection in the fine art of blending, and we would be tasting several of their wines prior to being put in the next release of blends.

We were given a brief history of the winery by winemaker Kerem Baki (son of owner Baka) and then led off for the tasting. There we were served a nice cheese and craker platter and given a brief lecture on blending and the family’s philosophy on wine making. We were a group of about 10, and everyone was very friendly, eager to learn, sip, have a good time and sip some more.

Hillsborough currently has four blends: Opal (Chardonnay and Viognier), Garnet (Bordeaux style blend), Ruby(Tannat, Petite Verdot and Touriga Nacional blend), and Moonstone (Viognier, Chardonnay blended dessert wine). We were to be treated to a new release for late 2006 titled ‘Bloodstone’, which is a blend of Fer Servadou, Cab Sauvignon and Tannat. Fer Servadou is a varietal from the Southwest region of France that is very similar to an Argentinean styled Malbec. The group really enjoyed this smooth, low tanic Malbec twin and thought it could do very well on its own here in Virginia. The Cabernet Sauvignon was medium to full bodied, supple in tannins with flavors of black berry, spice and oak. The Tannat was big and bold and by adding a mere 5% still has the ability to make its presence known. This was my first Tannat experience and this youthful puppy had a big bite, big tannins and would definitely need some aging if not blended with something to round it out. Afterwards Karem blended the three and gave us a sneak peek at what to expect from the long awaited Bloodstone blend. It was full, quite tasty and will be a food wine, and given some time in the bottle I expect wonderful things to come in it’s initial year. The upcoming Ruby will be consistent with the 2003 vintage so I really look forward to its release next year. This tasting was not only fun, but packed with lots of information and helped me better understand why some varietals are better off blended, even though Argentina does a really good job with a mellow, softer Malbec on its own.

Having only four wines to their collection, with Bloodstone soon being the fifth, some fellow tasters wondered why so few. The answer at Hillsborough lies in quality and not quantity and I can appreciate the slow grow process to success. Kerem did share with us his future vision to make a Port and/or Sparkling wine in the near and dear future. Also to my surprise they are growing newly Petite Manseng and plan on using this in a future blend or perhaps another new wine (??). I appreciate this varietal on it’s own, so I eagerly await the finished product be it alone or blended.

After the fun, we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful views, had lunch, a glass of Opal 2004 and could not believe how many people had arrived since we had been away. I made friends with a wonderful little chihuahua who appreciated the aromatic qualities of her owner’s 2004 glass of Opal. While the weather is still nice I encourage you to pack a picnic basket, and give this place a try. The views of the Blueridge, streaming koi ponds and rolling hills will wow you : )

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