This past Sunday Dezel attended the 32nd annual Virginia Wine Festival – “The Granddaddy of them all,” as it is called. Where does Dezel begin? This is the most popular wine festival in Virginia, and featured were 60 award winning wineries, a number of local art and craft vendors, excellent food, educational and enlightening seminars, and toe tapping, finger- snapping live entertainment. Mother Nature blessed the Old Dominion with picture perfect weather, which was a delight to the many who attended – Thank You Mother Nature, may we please have another? With so much offered, let’s dive right into the red and white fun as I highlight a few of my finds. Although I missed a number of wineries (shame, shame), I made it to many, and highly recommend attending both days next year if you really want to experience all this fun-filled mega fest has to offer.
Every year when I attend the local wine festivals there are always new and aspiring wineries looking to merge into Virginia's blossoming wine market. I found three at this festival, and can you believe - one is situated in one of my favorite ‘hot spots’, Loudoun County.
Sunset Hills Vineyards
Sunset Hills Vineyard, expected to open in 2008, is located in western Loudoun County and was on hand pouring a clean and crisp Chardonnay 2006, as well as a fuller and creamy textured example, and a nice Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Next to the 2002 vintage, 2005 is a good vintage for Virginia reds so secure some while you can. Owned by Mike and Diane Carney, Sunset Hills also grows Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, so look for a nice selection of wines offered when they open for tasting. The tasting room will be housed in a renovated 1870’s barn, and for further information about this new addition to the Loudoun County wine trail, visit their updated and informative website.
?????????? Vino Curioso ??????????
Another newer winery that was a big attraction, partly due to their clever marketing strategy, which includes trendy wine labels and catchy wine names such as Franc the Tank, Snake’s Den and 954, is Vino Curioso. Once drawn in by the large question mark sported on their banner, you will find that this newcomer has some tasty wines - a nice Viognier, a good naked (unoaked) Chardonnay, an exceptional Cabernet Franc, and a well done Sangiovese, which is a grape variety I found to be done consistently good among several producers at the festival. I’m not sure if Vino Curioso conducts regular wine tasting out of a tasting room or not; however, if you’re curious about Vino Curioso wines you can visit their website for additional information.
Watch out for the Meteor shower .....
Following similar suit is White Fences Vineyard and Winery, who uses the name Meteor as the name of their wine series. Located in Irvinington, VA, the fine folks at Meteor say that on a beautiful night you can see meteor showers over the vineyard, hence the name and wine label. Meteor has 4 estate bottled selections that are decent wines with a lot of character. I recommend the Meteor Bright Red 2005 – a Chambourcin and Merlot blend with good upfront fruit, baked blackberry cobbler and toasty notes. Visit their website for further information on what is going on at White Fences Vineyard and Winery.
There were also several other newer wineries such as DuCard Vineyards and West Wind Vineyards present at the festival and some of these young wineries are coming out the gates with some rather appealing wines. Despite the talk about Virginia’s erratic climate and shorter growing season, grape growers are producing quality fruit in the Old Dominion and winemakers crafting casual to premium wines, and the list of wineries continues to grow.
Challenging the erratic climate and short growing season is Fabbioli Cellars, who are committed to only producing high quality red wines. Doug, Colleen and company were on hand pouring their recently released Cabernet Franc 2006 and Chambourcin 2006; two excellent selections. Also offered were the Tre Sorelle 2005, their flagship wine, and their famous Raspberry Merlot. I recommend all you red wine lovers seek out Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County – ask about the Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – great stuff!
A beautiful day for enjoying Virginia Wine
Can you say Viognier? Let us try again … Vee-On-Yay – Good you got it! Now grab these: Wintergreen Winery’s newly released Viognier 2006 was the 1st of several examples that in my opinion were nicely done and true to the charter of the noble French white wine grape variety of Condrieu. Aromatic, honeysuckle, stone fruit, and citrus notes are all words that can be used to describe this pleasing selection.
Additionally, Cooper Vineyards also offers a very nice Viognier 2006 that fits the aforementioned descriptors, as well as a pretty tasty Norton 2005 wine for those of you who crave Virginia’s own red wine grape variety.
A must try is Corcoran Vineyard’s (formerly Waterford) newly released Viognier 2006. Inviting aromas and bountiful fruit characterize this excellent offering. I also had the opportunity to check out Corcoran Vineyard’s new wine labels, which are highly attractive and elegant, and are sure to catch your eye. As for their wines, they are sure to catch your palate! Visit their website for additional information on their wines and upcoming events. Other good Viognier examples to note from wineries that were in attendance are Chrysalis, Horton (the pioneering winery that introduced Viognier to Virginia), First Colony, and Williamsburg Winery.
Attractive label or what?
Other things to note in no particular order are as follows:
Fiona, of Doukenie Winery in Loudoun County was on hand pouring a very nice Sauvignon Blanc 2006, and a barely naked (lightly oaked) Chardonnay 2006 (good balance and fruit flavors) that were both really nice wines. In addition, Doukenie was also pouring their newly released Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 that is a nice example of what the grape variety can do here in good vintage years. Look for a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend from the award winning winery, and be sure to visit their web page for upcoming event information.
Old House Vineyards recently released a tasty Cabernet Franc based blush wine, and popular selections like the Chambourcin based ‘Wicked Bottom’ and Vidal Blanc were crowd favorites. Owner, Pat Kearney informed me that he would be releasing a sparkling wine in the near future and reminded me of the Chili cook-off next month; be sure to visit their web site as Old House hosts a number of events on their beautiful Culpeper farm.
Old House Vineyards
Kent Marrs, owner of Village Winery in Loudoun County is doing so well with his Elderberry wine that he informed me at the festival that he is considering making syrup out of the native fruit. A little Elderberry drizzled on a hot stack of pancakes sure sounds good to me. Yummy! Kent is also doing very well with his Cabernet Franc Rosé, dry Apple wine, Cabernet Franc, and several other selections. Visit Village Winery’s web site for further information and look for Village Winery kiosk at Leesburg Outlet Mall.
General Manager Chris Breiner of Stone Mountain Vineyards, the winery located at an elevation of approximately 1700 ft. atop the Blue Ridge Mountains was on hand pouring a nice Pinot Grigio, a nicely done stainless Chardonnay, and an oak aged Chardonnay, as well as a pleasing Cabernet Franc and several other good selections. I have heard from many on the wine trail that Stone Mountain Vineyards also offers awesome views, which I’m eager to see for myself. Check out their website for information on the winery and their wines.
Cabernet Franc, Norton, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon … these are reds that you are subject to find at most Virginia wineries, but how about Sangiovese. Yep, Sangiovese; I know you think of Italy when you hear Sangiovese, and you very well should. However, there were several local wineries on hand pouring their signature brand of Sangiovese at the festival that are definitely worth seeking out. These examples are more fruit forward, easy drinking in style, middling acidity, and were all consistently good wines. If you are accustomed to Italian examples, you may not get that earthiness, but you will get to experience what this long lived grape variety can do in the Old Dominion. Wineries to look at for Sangiovese wines are Ingleside, Barboursville, Vino Curioso and Afton Mountains.
Some other notables that received the purple pen star were Mountain Cove Vineyards for their signature Skyline White off-dry blend, as well as their Norton blend, which goes by the name of ‘Tinto’. By the way, Mountain Cove Vineyards was founded in 1973, and is Virginia’s oldest operational winery – wow!
Willowcroft Vineyards poured a beautifully scented Traminette 2006 and a flavorful Merlot 2002. Willowcroft also hosts a number of entertaining and educational events at their Loudoun County winery so be sure to visit their website for further information.
North Mountain Vineyards
North Mountain Vineyard poured a really nice Claret that received a purple pen star, as well as a fruity Cabernet Franc that has Thanksgiving written all over it. For the sweet ending, I really enjoyed Athena Vineyards Sweet White; a late harvest white wine blend that pairs nicely with chocolate, or sipped on its own. The long…very long finish of the day award goes to Bright Meadows Farm in Nathalie, Virginia. When the tasting note of the Halifax Red said “assertive” and “strong finish” I should have took heed of this full bodied concord based wine. This is a unique wine, so it piqued my interest. I will say that like Norton or a rustic Pinotage it does take some getting used to. The finish on this young warrior stayed with me for nearly 35 minutes, and was the last wine I tasted – young warrior leaves a lasting impression! For lovers of fruit wines and native varieties check out Bright Meadow’s Apple, Blackberry, and other fruit wines.
While that aforementioned strong finish was still working on me I decided to attend an educational seminar that was hosted by Virginia wine enophile and President of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association Gordon Murchie and supporting members. It is always great hearing Gordon speak, especially about the history of Virginia wine. Great job VWGA! Also, after Virginia voted for their favorite winery, and there were over 9500 votes, Pearmund Cellars took home the Peoples Choice Award. Congratulations Pearmund! And congrats to Savoy-Lee winery, who kept the race close to the finish and was the second place winner.
Virginia Wine of the Month Club
Ever wanted Virginia wine delivered to your front door? The Virginia Wine of the Month Club can make that happen for you, friends. Along with the wine you will receive tasting notes, and information on the producing winery + more! Visit their website for additional details.
I’m Dezel, see you on the wine trail, friends!
In closing, this years Virginia Wine Festival was another great grape experience that I would recommend to anyone. The picture perfect weekend weather and beauty of the Loudoun countryside provided the perfect setting to enjoy a number of award-winning Virginia wines, local arts and crafts, live entertainment, and delicious foods. The organizers of this popular event did an excellent job this year, and everyone I asked was highly pleased with all facets of the fun-filled festival. It was great seeing old friends, and meeting new, and I look forward to the 2008 Virginia Wine Festival already.
Attend the festival? Feel free to share some of your favorite selections as well.
- Stay tuned friends, more to come!
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