Springtime Splendor at Chateau O’Brien Northpoint Winery and Vineyard

Hello Friends,

This past Saturday Vine Spot saddled up and rode into the small and charming country town of Markham, Virginia, to pay a visit to one of Virginia’ s most recent additions to the Fauquier County wine trail. Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard is quietly settled atop a hill of vine plantings and ideally located in the heart of the Blue Ridge, boasting picturesque and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard

Chateau O’Brien opened doors for tasting in November of 2006, celebrating the first commercial vintage of their exclusive estate bottled 2005 offerings. The tasting room is housed in a mid 1900’s renovated farm house that exudes old world charm combined with a fine integration of modern elegance and sophistication. From the rustic stone fronted exterior and entranceway, to the aged furnishings, and dribbling fountains, the ambience is suggestive of a rural French chateau or noble manor home, and offers a delightful atmosphere for enjoying fine wine and nibbles.

Howard O' Brien pouring the Chateau's finest

Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard is owned and operated by the personable and cheerful Howard O’ Brien. Vineyard management and winemaking duties are assumed by Jason Murray, who previously served as Loudoun County’s extension agent for commercial horticulture. Upon entering, we toured the spacious tasting room, where there appeared to be 3 levels, and as many tasting bars, as well as an attractive indoor dining area filled with natural lighting, complimented by a stone-fronted fire place for the cooler months. After being warmly greeted by Howard, we were made our way to the tasting bar to sample some of Chateau O’ Brien's inaugural 2005 offerings.

Spacious Indoor Dining Area

The tasting fee is $3 per person, and a new glass is provided after each taste. Prior to our first pour, Howard offered a brief history of the Chateau and some of the winemaking techniques and practices utilized at Chateau O’ Brien. Following our chat with Howard, it was apparent his enthusiasm and appreciation for fine wine, and, more importantly, he’s equally as passionate about the land which bears the fruit. As Howard put it, “Great wine is made in the vineyard.”

Beautiful vineyard views

Moving onto our tasting, all from the 2005 vintage, Howard started us off with the Virginia Chardonnay. This Chardonnay is done in a smooth and elegant style, offering pleasant tree fruit flavors that are heightened by French oak barrel aging and ending in a nice toasted lingering finish. Aptly named, the next selection poured, Buddy’s Bistro Red, is named after the Chateau’s mascot, Buddy, a French bulldog, and is made from 100% estate grown Cabernet Franc. The Buddy’s Bistro Red exemplifies the easy-drinking fresh fruit reds from the historic Village of Chinon in the Loire Valley, and offers a distinct raspberry bouquet with spicy hints that follow through on the taste with desirable berry and red cherry flavors. The future estate wine, the Northpoint Red, is a nicely balanced blend of Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This is a smooth textured, fuller red, offering velvety tannins with succulent fruit flavors and complexity. The next wine poured, Tannat, is a grape grown predominately in southern France and is at the height of popularity in Uruguay. Tannat is known for its high tannin levels, hence the name, but Virginia examples tend to be pleasantly tamed and easy drinking. This wine is medium to slightly full in body, offering complex aromas and good fruit flavors with delectably smooth tannins sustained in a solid structure. The last wine poured, somewhat of a sweet ending, but more fruit than sweetness, is the Virginia Apple Wine, which is made from apples grown in Northpoint apple orchards. This "country wine", as I coin it, is served well-chilled and is crisp and refreshing and is well deserving of a picnic basket or other warm weather outdoor festive events.

Spacious outdoor deck with stunning views

Following our pleasant and informative tasting with Howard, we opted to sit out on the spacious deck and bask in the sun-filled splendor of the beautiful Blue Ridge countryside. For our wine selection we decided on the Virginia Chardonnay and ordered a cheese platter, which was dangerously delicious, consisting of a variety of fine cheese selections, oven roasted walnuts, and heavenly fresh baked baguettes. Yummy!

Delectable cheese platter and fresh baked baguettes!

While sitting out on the relaxing deck we joined in conversation with other Virginia wine enthusiast and enjoyed our wine, tasty nibbles and spectacular views, as well as the gorgeous weather. As with all good things, our day was coming to an end and it was time to say good-bye to what had been an overall picture perfect-day. We look forward to visiting this young winery that appears to be committed to hand-crafting a limited production of estate bottlings that best reflect the terrior of their vineyard in the near future.

Ahh...What wonderful views! See you on the wine trail friends ~

In closing, I highly recommend readers visit Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard, and enjoy their picturesque views, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and fine wines. Also, be sure to bookmark their webpage and pay attention to their events calendar, as they hosts a number of fun-filled and elegant dinner events throughout the year. In addition, after enjoying a bottle of Chateau O' Brien wine you will want to save the cork. Why should I save the cork, you ask? The innovative Howard O’Brien has a fun cork collection program going called the “Cork Club,” where prizes are awarded based on the number of corks collected; prizes range from signature wine glasses to t-shirts and coffee mugs, and, for the true collector, a weeks stay at the owners Outer Banks beach house – so save those corks, friends, and enjoy your visit to the Chateau!

Be sure to let the kind folks at the winery know you read about them here on Dezel’s Virginia Vine Spot!

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      Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



      Tarara’s Winds & Wine Festival 2007 – Fun in the Sun!

      Hello Friends,

      This past Saturday, Vine Spot took full advantage of a picture perfect spring weather day to pay a visit to Tarara Winery to join in the festivity and jollity of the 2007 Winds and Wine Festival. We have visited Tarara Winery several times in the past to relish in other festive events, wine tastings, and tours, as well as the annual summer concert series.

      Wine Tasting Tent

      Tarara is one of several event-driven wineries that lead the way in combining family friendly and fun-filled events with their award winning wine selections. These events are as accommodating for children as they are for adults and there is something for everyone. Almost like the circus, Virginia Wine Festivals, “attracts children of all ages, even those in their 30’s, 40’s, etc.!” Read on, friends, and find out how Vine Spot enjoyed the day at the Winds and Wine Festival 2007.

      Pouring Tarara's finest Reds at the Reserve Wine Tasting Tent

      Tarara recently released their Pinot Gris 2006 and Viognier 2006, which are right in time for the warmer spring and summer months. These two dry white wines were popular among the festival goers. I leaned toward the Pinot Gris, which offered an inviting floral bouquet with good acidity and pleasant tree fruit and citrus flavors. The Viognier 2006, which I was looking forward to, was chilled a bit too much during our tasing, so we will talk about that one when I open my bottle sometime in the near future. Another popular selection among those who crave a sprinkling of sweetness was the Charval 2005. This is a Seyval Blanc-based blend, and at $12.99 per bottle, is a nicely done refreshing and festive sort of wine, which offers pink grapefruit, hints of tropical fruit, with a squirt of lime on the taste. Turning the sweetness meter up a notch is the Vidal Blanc 2006. I picked up on touches of pineapple and honeysuckle in this viscous dessert like wine, which for $12.99 is a good buy for those with a sweet tooth on a nice sunny spring or summer day. Now that I had the Pinot Gris 2006 in hand, it was time to enjoy some of the festivities!

      Pick your own asparagus!

      As with wine, asparagus boasts health benefits and dates back to the Greek and Roman period, so Dezel was eager to grab a plastic bag and visit Tarara’s asparagus fields where guests were encouraged to pick their own asparagus. I will admit, even if it means sporting the dunce cap for a day, that I had no idea that asparagus sprung up out the ground like grass. Hopefully a reader will email me and say, “Dezel, I did not know that either,” to make me feel better. With a few stalks in my tote, it was time to turn our attention to another fun activity!

      Kite Flying Demonstration at Tarara's

      How about flying a kite? Sounds like fun, thus we were off to the kite flying demonstrations hosted by Wings Over Washington. This festival is not called the Winds and Wine festival for nothing, as the wind was out and had those kites dancing all over the place. Kites have changed since I was a chap. I recall one string and a simple kite. These skilled kite flyers had large complex kites with 2 or more strings and were executing all sorts of twirls and tricks. Looked fun, and I would have tried it out, but for the safety of those around me some things are best left to the professionals.

      Okay, time to visit the craft vendors and check out all the wine related gift ideas and items, as well as sample some fine nibbles. Rumored Creations, a Loudoun-based business specializing in gift box and baskets gave me a great idea for the asparagus I picked. Rumored Creations offered samples of an asparagus dip they made using Tarara’s asparagus. Yummy! They also offered several asparagus-based recipes that I may try out some time this week. I recommend readers check their web site out for unique gift box and basket ideas. The next stop worth seeking out is Marco’s Not Yet Famous, who offers all natural gourmet sauces and salsa. These products can be found in some stores and the mango and pineapple salsa and chunky corn and black bean salsa were outstanding. Hats off to Marco, who is well on his way to becoming famous!

      Tarara's Winery Cave

      Keeping things in perspective, we decided to opt for the self-guided tour through the winery cave at Tarara. Winery cave, you ask? Yes, Tarara has a 6,000 square foot man-made winery cave which retains its dampness, moisture, coolness, and Old World ambience. On non-festival days, this tour is guided and well worth a visit to sharpen your wine knowledge.

      The kids really enjoyed The Karl Stoll Band !!!

      About this time, I was well into my bottle of Pinot Gris 2006 and feeling rather festive. Over on the music stage the Karl Stoll and The Danger Zone Band were jamming out and it was the kiddies who were showing the adults all the latest boogie-woogie moves on the dance floor. Why, if it was not so crowded on the dance floor, Dezel was going to show everyone how to do the Funky-Chicken! Oh well, perhaps at another festival.

      Catch a Hay Wagon Ride

      Lastly, it was time to hop aboard for a hay-wagon ride through the vineyards. The hayrides are fun, and for a moment, if you are like me, you feel like a kid again. What fun! By the way, there were many food vendors at the festival that I did not mention. This is because I saved my appetite for one of Loudoun’s top restaurants, Tuscarora Mill – An American restaurant and café that is a restored, 19th century grain mill that serves up some delicious food! I highly recommend a visit there following a Loudoun wine tour or festival.

      I'm Dezel, see you on the Virginia Wine Trail friends!

      In closing, there was much more to see and do at the festival - I simply touched on a few things we found pleasure in. You can rest assured that these enjoyable Virginia Wine Festivals are fun events for the young and old – wine drinker or not. I recommend securing a Virginia Wineries 2007 passport to assist you in finding a number of Virginia Wine Festivals , as well as book-marking Tarara’s homepage to stay abreast of the events and festivals they host out on their beautiful 475 guest friendly acres.

      By the way - 10 Points to the Rock & Roller who can name the group on my T-Shirt!

      • Stay tuned, more winery visits upcoming and one of VA's top 05 Viogniers.

      Click Here to vote VA Vine Spot as your wine favorite blog - You can vote 1x per day!

        Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



        Vine Spot’s Viognier Blind Tasting Results

        Hello Friends,

        This past Saturday Virginia Vine Spot hosted a blind Viognier tasting, pitting several Virginia examples against a number of other popular regions, including the highly acclaimed Condrieu. Much like the successful Cabernet Franc tasting we hosted last year, where the lesser known and least expensive Cabernet Franc from the small Village of Chinon located in the central Loire Valley took first place, the end result of this blind tasting was quite a shocker.

        Purple Pens, Tasting Sheets and a Glass - We are Ready to Roll!

        The wine line-up prior to being wrapped up

        Without further adieu, allow me to introduce our tasters, who, by the way, are all Virginia wine oenophiles, hence the blind tasting. Tasting at this evenings event were our friends John and Megan of Woodland Vineyards and Anything Wine web site, Pete Bazzel of American Health & Fitness, Paul and Warren of VA Wine Time, Meg Doppee of Wine Shop at Home, and blossoming Virginia wine lovers Brian and fiancé, Deon.

        The fine nibbles - Yummy!

        Following some friendly chatter and fine nibbles we were ready to proceed with the evening’s fun-filled events. The tasters assessed the quality of 10 wines, and also judged these wines based on how well the varietal represented the Viognier grape variety. The tasters were given the tasting list which displayed all 10 wines being tasted, as well as prices and descriptions. They had no idea, however, which wines were being poured as Dezel had all the bottles concealed! As a side bonus, after each wine tasted the tasters were asked to write down which wine they thought they were tasting, and the person with the most correct guesses at the end of the evening won a prize. It might be interesting to note the wide range in prices - the least expensive Viognier was $5.99 and the most expensive was a stingy $48.99. Let’s see what the tasters thought about these 10 Viognier examples.

        Based on a 100 Point Scoring System the following wines are ranked in order 1 thru 10 with their calculated score, which includes a culmination of the taster’s notes, and the order in which that wine were tasted. The results were surprising to say the least.

        Honey Moon Viognier - She's a Beauty, as well as a cheap date

        1. Honey Moon Viognier 2005 (California) ** WINNER **
        This is a wine I discovered at Trader Joes several weeks ago, and from the first sniff and sip I knew that this $6 wine would hold its ground among the more expensive selections. I did not think it would be the leader of the pack however. The tasters described this wine as pale to straw in color with an inviting bouquet of pear, stone fruit and tropical fruit, honeysuckle and hints of butterscotch and spice. The aromas carry over to the palate, with some richness and candied fruit in this pleasant mouth-filling and fully-flavored wine. Overall, this was a very nice wine, which all the tasters equally enjoyed.

        SCORE: 84 PRICE: $5.99 ORDER TASTED: 5th

        2. Waterford Viognier 2005 (Virginia)
        Waterford, now Corcoran Vineyards, finds itself in familiar territory as their delicious Cabernet Franc 2002 placed 2nd in our Cabernet Franc tasting last year. Tasters described this selection as pale to straw in color with a highly aromatic nose of floral, melon and cedar aromas, with sprinkles of apricot and peach. On the palate are citrus flavors mingling with soft peach and melon, framed in a solid burst of oak. The wine ends in a pleasant stone fruit finish and was enjoyed equally among the tasters.

        SCORE: 81 PRICE: $ 18.00 ORDER TASTED: 7th

        3. Oak Grove Viognier 2006 (San Martin, California)
        This wine is pale in color with inviting honeysuckle, nectarine, apple and stone fruit aromas. Upfront this wine offered classic Viognier personality and characteristics. Nice and smooth, viscous on the tongue, with stone fruit and honey flavors. Several tasters tagged this wine as finishing slightly tart, but it had enough going upfront and mid-palate to safely slide into 3rd.

        SCORE: 79 PRICE: $ 9.99 ORDER TASTED: 2nd

        4. Alamos Viognier 2006 (Argentina)
        This wine is pale in color with an inviting nose of honeydew and apple aromas. On the taste are ample fruit flavors of apple and pear with hints of banana and spice. The wine, although light, was lively with good racy acidity, and overall a nice well balanced, and easy drinking Viognier.

        SCORE: 77 PRICE: $12.49 ORDER TASTED: 6th

        5. Horton Viognier 2006 (Virginia)
        This wine is pale in color with a highly aromatic nose of apricot, nectarine and citrus aromas. On the taste this wine displays bountiful fruit intensity, with apricot and melon flavors being over-shadowed by citrus fruit. Several tasters compared the crispness and grapefruit like flavors to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This is an easy drinking wine with a good level of racy acidity that shines through layers of citrus fruit flavors.

        SCORE: 76 PRICE: $17.99 ORDER TASTED: 1st

        6. Bridgman Viognier 2005 (Yakima Valley, Washington State)
        This wine is straw in color with a medium bouquet of banana, apple, butter, and oak; almost reminiscent of some Chardonnays. On the taste were ample fruit flavors of apple, banana and pear. Not a bad wine, just simple and more Chardonnay like, opposed to Viognier.

        SCORE: 73 PRICE: $ 12.99 ORDER TASTED: 9th

        7. Chester Gap Viognier 2005 (Virginia)
        This wine is pale in color with a medium nose of citrus and stone fruit with some grassy qualities. On the taste are citrus like flavors, spice and oak with touches of pineapple and light canned peach. Overall this is a nice wine, but of a lighter shade of Viognier.

        SCORE: 70 PRICE: $16.00 ORDER TASTED: 4th

        8. Veritas Viognier 2005 (Virginia)
        This wine is pale in color with a soft nose of peach, honeydew and oak. On the taste oak dominates the gentle flavors of apricot, melon and citrus-like fruit. This wine finishes peppery and slightly hot and was not to the taster’s preference. Not very exciting, perhaps a better taste when served very well chilled.

        SCORE: 65 PRICE: $19.99 ORDER TASTED: 3rd

        9. E. Guigal Condrieu 2005 (Rhone Valley)
        This wine is pale to lemon in color with soft to medium peach, mint, spice and oak aromas. On the taste the soft tree and stone fruit flavors with mineral hints were outdone by assertive oak characteristics. The tasters tagged this wine as being slightly hot mid-palate onto the finish and too overly oaked for the soft fruit, as well as their personal taste preferences.

        SCORE: 62 PRICE: $48.99 ORDER TASTED: 8th

        10. Yalumba Viognier 2006 (Australia)
        This wine is pale to lemon in color with very soft fruit {peach, apricot} and plastic-like chemical aromas. This carries through to the palate with slight mineral notes and crispness, but does nothing to improve the quality of the wine. Not unpleasant, but simple and completely lacking, and finishing slightly bitter.

        SCORE: 59 PRICE: $10.99 ORDER TASTED: 10th


        Following the tasting everyone was surprised to learn that the $6 Californian selection outshined the pricier selections. That is the beauty of a blind tasting however, ones expectations and perception of a wine based on its price, origin, producer, and other considerations are completely abandoned. The wine is assessed solely on its quality and structural elements.

        Dezel pouring for the tasters - notice the bottle is bagged.

        The tasters hard at work analyzing the wine

        Ahhh, what pleasant aromas ...

        In relation to perception, it is interesting to note that over ½ of the tasters guessed that the Condrieu was the least expensive wine on their tasting sheet. On the flip side of the coin, the wine the tasters enjoyed the most, the Honey Moon 2005, was selected as the most expensive of all the wines listed. So who guessed the most wines correctly? It was Paul! Paul correctly guessed 3 of the 10 wines, and for his efforts was awarded a bottle of Virginia Cabernet Franc. Yummy!

        And the Winner is Paul !!!!

        We wrapped the evening up by enjoying a bottle of Woodland Vineyards first vintage of Viognier (2006), which John and Megan were kind enough to share with the group. Everyone was enamored with the beautiful label Megan designed for the bottle, as well as the results inside. After a toast to friendship and happy-times we dove into some delectable desserts, flavored coffee, and chatted the night away.

        Woodland Vineyard Viognier 2006

        In closing, Dezel would like to send a ‘Big Thank You’ to Janet of Janet Java’s Coffee Shop located at 5735 Telegraph Rd., Alexandria, VA 22303. Janet was kind enough to allow me to host this event at her delightful and sunny coffee shop after business hours. She also catered the event for us, and you can ask anyone that attended, the food was plentiful and delicious. Anyone who enjoys a good cup of coffee, home-made desserts, breakfast muffins, croissants, smoothies, frappuccinos and sandwiches, etc., should definitely pay Janet a visit. She is opened daily from 6:30am – 2pm, and the warmness of the shop equals the tasty food items and java. Every Friday the coffee shop is opened late for 'Happy Hour', and there is usually live entertainment and good spirits to go around. Also, look for a Virginia wine tasting hosted by 'yours truly' in the near future at Janet’s charming neighborhood coffee shop! Stay tuned for the red and white details.

        Some of the bright and sunny tasters - Thanks!

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          Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



          Piedmont Vineyards: Forging a love for Chardonnay

          Hello Friends,

          Vine Spot recently saddled up and rode into the quaint and charming town of Middleburg, VA, a town well known for its small town atmosphere and character, as well its prime horse and fox-hunting competitions. Right outside of Middleburg, among eye-catching rolling hills dotted by picturesque horse farms and beautiful green landscapes, is where we find the Old Dominion’s top Chardonnay producer, Piedmont Vineyards and Winery, located in The Plains, Virginia.

          Piedmont Vineyards & Winery

          Piedmont Vineyards and Winery is situated upon the attractive and historic Waverly estate, which dates back to the 18th century. For nearly three decades of the property’s more recent history, it operated as a dairy farm. In 1973 a local horsewoman would change the fate of the dairy farm forever when she established Piedmont Vineyards.

          Piedmont’s winemaker John Fitter

          The horsewoman, Elizabeth Furness, a well-traveled and scholarly woman, is considered to be one of the early pioneers of Virginia’s wine resurgence. According to Piedmont’s winemaker John Fitter, Elizabeth Furness planted 15 acres of vines in her latter years consisting of Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, and Semillon. Over the years, the Semillon died out and the Seyval Blanc was regrettably pulled up, but the Chardonnay, although lower in yield, is still producing great Chardonnay today. The efforts of Elizabeth Furness during an experimental time in Virginia viticulture inks her name in the pages of Virginia history as establishing the first commercial planting of a vitis vinifera variety in the Commonwealth. Because of her efforts, Piedmont Vineyards boasts the oldest Chardonnay vines in the state today and has won numerous awards under winemaker John Fitter and the quality of the mature fruit.

          In fact, Chardonnay is the focal point of Piedmont Vineyards and the only variety grown on the estate. Piedmont Vineyards, does however, produce a couple of nice reds and a few country wines, so let’s take a stroll into the tasting room and sample some of their wines.

          Tasting Bar area

          The attractive tasting room is housed in a renovated country stable that is spacious with ample seating and natural lighting. Throughout the tasting room you will find wine-based gifts, local spreads and dip, and handcrafted artisan jewelry. For the cooler months there is a warming fireplace and a cozy sectional sofa that makes a perfect place to enjoy light to gourmet fare and a glass of your favorite Piedmont wine. Are you ready to taste, friends?

          Tasting Room area

          Piedmont offers two options for tastings; a $3 fee to sample any 4 wines, or a $6 fee to taste through all the wines, which usually amounts to 8-9 selections. Moving to their wines, in exceptional years you will want to try their Native Yeast Chardonnay. Currently, the 2005 vintage is in limited production and not available for tasting, but is an exceptional full bodied, creamy textured wine boasting tropical and subtle tree fruit flavors framed in a delightful vanilla laced toastiness. To my dismay, the Special Reserve Chardonnay made from the mature vines was not being tasted and there was no release date noted on this sumptuous wine. When available, I advise securing a few bottles as I did during my last visit. The Hunt Country Chardonnay 2005, done in stainless steel, is a fruit driven, clean and crisp wine with refreshing acidity and serves as a perfect spring and supper sipper. The Merlot 2004 is of a lighter style, indicative of the wet year, but all around a softer and gentler Merlot with nice subtle fruit characteristics. The 2004 is the perfect accompaniment to oily fish such as Salmon, since it won’t overwhelm the flavor of the fish. The Merlot 2005, the fuller of the two Merlots, offers red fruit, spice, and a nice integration of oak on the taste. Piedmont also produces two sweet and fruity country style wines made from homegrown raspberries and peaches – perfect for those long hot summers! For the sweet ending we will turn the sweetness up a notch. The Felicita, an ice styled dessert wine made from Vidal Blanc and Muscat grapes offers lush and rich tropical fruit flavors with citrus hints that, for me, would do well over vanilla bean ice cream! For an additional $10 fee you can opt for a reserve tasting consisting of three exceptional reds from their stated “Outstanding 2005 vintage.” These reds consist of the oak aged Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 vintages. Yummy!

          Piedmont Vineyards patio area

          During the warmer months you will certainly want to pack a picnic basket and commit yourself to the relaxing and accommodating patio area. There are also several picnic tables in the lawn area that are perfect locales for enjoying fine nibbles and Piedmont’s hand-crafted wines while enjoying the tranquil country surroundings and the two calming ponds.

          I’m Dezel, see you on the Virginia Wine Trail !

          In closing, friends, I recommend making a trip to Piedmont Vineyards, as well as the nearby wineries, Chrysalis Vineyards and Swedenburg. Look for the upcoming release of the Hunt Country Chardonnay 2006, which is lightly oaked in comparison to the 2005 vintage, as well as, the Hunt Country Red 2006, which is a Cabernet Franc based blend. Taste history and sample the standout Native Yeast Chardonnay, pending availability, while basking in the splendor of the rural Fauquier countryside. When you visit the friendly folks at Piedmont Vineyards, be sure to let them know you read about them on Virginia Vine Spot

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            Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



            Virginia - We have more Pinotage!

            More Pinotage finds in Virginia

            Hello Friends,

            Last month I commented on and reviewed the Horton Vineyards Pinotage 2005. This was their first varietal bottling of the popular South African grape variety, which is a welcomed rarity here in Virginia.

            Since that time I have received a number of emails from readers interested in local Pinotage, as well as South African Pinotage. In response to that I would like to share two more local producers who are doing a 100% varietal bottling of Pinotage that you may not be aware of.

            Pinotage Grapes

            The first source, a new winery located in Lovingston, Virginia, and aptly named Lovingston Winery, is currently selling their 2005 vintage, which is also their first. One of their winemakers, Stephanie Puckett, who shares duties with South African winemaker Riaan Rossouw, informed me that the Pinotage 2005 is one of their best sellers and that there are not many cases left. Lovingston Winery opened doors for tasting early this year and is on the Monticello Wine Trail, and from looking at the wine list, Dezel is also interested in trying their Petit Manseng – one of my favorite summer time varietals that I’m glad to see more plantings of here in Virginia.

            The second source, Grayhaven Winery, is located in Gum Springs, Virginia and is currently sold out of their first Pinotage 2005 vintage and awaiting their 2006 release early summer. Be sure to check out Grayhaven’s events calendar for their South African Food and Wine Festival in July. Grayhaven winery is also a member of the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.

            For those readers new to Pinotage, I recommend seeking out the inexpensive, rustic and smoky signature South African examples, as well as the more elegant and pricier bottles to see the range of style and diversity in Pinotage.

            I would also like to thank Peter May, founder of The Pinotage Club, for tipping me off to these finds and renewing my interest, not only in the rustic bargain brands, but the more elegant examples of Pinotage, from not only South Africa, but California and New Zealand – and even our very own Virginia. I think, like Petit Manseng, Pinotage may popularize in Virginia since the grape appears to take a likeness to Virginia’s soil and climate type.

            In the near future I look forward to visiting these wineries and tasting their Pinotage examples. For those truly interested in the popular South African cross grape variety, I suggest visiting Peter’s wine blog, The Pinotage Club – the name says it all friends!

            • Stay tuned, a winery visit where Chardonnay is the focal point coming next.

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              Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



              Cabernet Franc: The Local Red Wine Alternative

              Cabernet Franc

              Hello Friends,

              The more Dezel talks to people about Virginia and East Coast wines the more Dezel realizes that most people are only familiar with the more common Bordeaux red wine grape varieties - Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I will be the first to say that those two grape varieties make excellent wines, hence their popularity. However, on the East Coast Cabernet Franc is the more consistent and reliable selection for growers out of the bunch. Therefore, Dezel is putting Cabernet Franc on center stage and recommending a few selections that I have enjoyed. If you have any Cabernet Franc recommendations for me, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment. Well friends – Lights, Camera, Action! Let’s talk about your local red wine alternative: Cabernet Franc!

              Cabernet Franc is a classic European red wine grape variety that is primarily used for blending in French Bordeaux. In the Loire Valley (Chinon), Cabernet Franc has been grown for centuries and regarded as a fruity, smooth, and soft everyday village wine. Unlike desirable grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc thrives in cooler climates and ripens fairly early which explains why this grape is a popular selection for Virginia and other East Coast growers.

              At its best, Cabernet Franc offers a signature violet and raspberry bouquet with pleasant red fruit-filled flavors, hints of black pepper, and spice with mild nuances of fresh herbs. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc lacks the fullness, body, acidity, and tannins, and is usually approachable young, but can also age well pending style. Where Cabernet Sauvignon can be described as King of the European Reds, Cabernet Franc is the tasteful Prince who has won over many a Virginian palate.

              Grab a Cabernet Franc friends!

              In Virginia, you will find that Cabernet Franc is being made in a wide range of styles. This variance can be attributed to the quality of the harvested fruit, winemaking technique, and what may or may not be blended with the Cabernet Franc. One thing is for sure, however; Virginia is producing some good to great Cabernet Francs. As a matter of fact, many locals in and out of the industry hail Cabernet Franc as the states flagship red wine, with Petit Verdot and Norton to follow.

              Pending style, Cabernet Franc can be served with a little chill (fruit forward style) or at room temperature. Most Cabernet Francs are food friendly and can be paired with foods such as poultry, turkey, pizza, lasagna, roasted lamb and braised veal, and sips nicely on its own.

              The pinnacle of Cabernet Franc's success can not only be found in Virginia, but in Saint-Émilion, where Cabernet Franc holds noble court. Cabernet Franc is the primary grape used in Cheval Blanc, and these sought after elegantly structured wines of Château Cheval Blanc can fetch a pretty penny. Try one if you get a chance!

              Cabernet Franc has also been linked as one of Cabernet Sauvignon's parent grapes (crossed with Sauvignon Blanc). Although not as big, or bold, as child, Cabernet Franc overwhelms in expression and attracts the palates of many.

              The Cabernet Francs I recommend trying, but not limited to, are the following:

              Horton Vineyards 2000 Cabernet Franc - My good friend Terry of Mondosapore wine blog just reviewed this wine; check it out!

              Waterford Vineyards 2002 Cabernet Franc – Has aged nicely, complex and elegant. A must buy if still available.

              Waterford Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Franc – Young and solid, opens up nicely, top rated 05 VA Vintage.

              Rappahannock Cellars 2005 Cabernet Franc – Nice red fruit flavors, soft tannins, drinking nicely now.

              Doukenie Winery 2004 Cabernet Franc – Nice integration of soft fruit, herb and spices.

              Pearmund Cellars 2003 Cabernet Franc – Dark cherry flavors, mild herb, aging nicely.

              Winery at La Grange 2005 Cabernet Franc – Subtle fruit, spicy, peppery, soft herb notes.

              Tarara Winery 2003 Cabernet Franc Reserve – dark cherry, spice, with a pinch of pepper, supple tannins.

              Veritas 2004 Cabernet Franc – easy drinking, soft, fruit forward style.

              Breaux 2002 Lafayette - Cabernet Franc based wine; soft red fruit, spicy and peppery - a Cajun delight!

              And for the sweet ending friends! Try the Kings Family Late Harvest Cabernet Franc 2005 dessert wine – Lovely, slightly sweet, with dark cherry and cocoa notes. Yummy!

              Also, Dezel recommends a trip to the wine store (Total Wine, Unwined, etc.) and trying the Loire Valley (Chinon) Cabernet Franc examples. These varietal wines range from $10 - $14 and have never disappointed me. You will not find Cabernet Franc on the label, but you will find Chinon, one of the few villages of the Loire Valley that focuses on red wines. Buy with confidence and enjoy! Expect a fruit forward, pure / clean and easy drinking example. Yummy! Great quality to price ratio.

              Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine - Dessert Wine

              In closing, the next time you treat yourself, Dezel recommend this hedonistic pleasure wine - Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine from the Niagara Peninsula, Canada. This wine is a tad pricey ($85), but worth every rich and flavorful drop and penny. And you will want to savor each drop, because, like most dessert wines this one comes in a ½ bottle (375ml). This wine is vibrant and rich with inviting aromas and intense flavors of baked apple, red berry fruit, balanced by refreshing acidity. The only warning I have for you is that it can be addicting!

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                Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !



                Virginia Vine Spot turns 1 !!!

                Hello Friends,

                This post marks the 1 year Blog Anniversary of Virginia Vine Spot. Wow! Over 125 posts, many friends, and a countless number of memorable bottles later, this journey into the wonderful world of wine continues to be an educational and enjoyable ride that I frankly did not see coming. I have toyed with train sets, model cars, RC Planes, guitars and numerous other short lived hobbies. Wine, however, has been my mate for 2 years now and we have many happy corks and screw caps ahead!

                The picture below was taken of me mid April of 2005 while visiting Jefferson Vineyards. This is a memorable photo for me because it was my very first visit to a winery of any sort and my first taste of wine. Dezel admits to being a late bloomer to wine, but better late than never, right? Actually, had it not been for the Virginia grape sign we saw from the road, we would have never stopped at the winery. Good thing for those darn grape signs, friends!

                Yeah, I was green as a Leprechaun, but slowly ripening!

                Since many people ask me the how and why regarding Virginia Vine Spot, here is the lengthy short spill on how and why it came about. During that tasting at Jefferson Vineyards in 2005, I can look back and say now that I had not a clue what the Tasting Associate was talking about. They very well could have told me that Norton, Merlot and Chardonnay were brothers who ran a barbeque outfit up the road, and I would have said, “Great, let’s go eat!” My wine knowledge was zilch, but on the bright side, I sure did enjoy the atmosphere and ambience of Charlottesville, Virginia.

                One of many Charlottesville picturesque views!

                For me, the trip to Jefferson sparked a desire to learn more about wine. The following year we spent many weekends attending wine festivals, wine events and paid many visits to local Virginia wineries. Through those intimate local experiences it was apparent that there were a number of family-run farm wineries here in Virginia that was passionate about producing small lots of quality handcrafted wines.

                Also, following some self-study and research on the history of wine and the importance of various wine producing regions, namely the Old World and California, I decided a trip to a large wine store such as Total Wine was necessary. Upon walking into Total Wine I realized that I was living smack dab in the middle of the golden age of wine. Just about every wine producing region was represented in that store and I was on a tear to learn all about the past, present and future of these places, as well as their wines. Although I’m convinced that I may not be able to learn it all, or taste all in one lifetime, I’m certain that I can have fun trying.

                The only homework Dezel enjoys ...

                I have found that reading various wine books, listening to informative podcasts, visiting wineries, and most importantly – swirl, sniff, sip – over and over and over - have been key in my attempts to demystify and learn more about wine. Although I love Virginia wine, I also consume wines from all over our great globe and there are truly some special wines out there today. Learning more about these regions, their history, their winemaking techniques, climate and terrior, etc, in relation to the grape variety can add greatly to the appreciation and perception of that wine.

                A year into all this self-study I uncovered this new thing called a blog. I thought this would be the perfect way to share with friends and family my wine adventures here in Virginia. After all, this is a beautiful state, especially wine country. So I launched Virginia Vine Spot with that in mind; but wait, there was still one little problem. Well, let’s just say I did not make a “F” “C-“ in writing for nothing all throughout college. Thus, learning more about wine and writing are still a work in progress, it is highly fun and entertaining for me. To become good at something you have to practice, and I guess somebody has to taste those wines and read and sift through all those books, right? Fun stuff!

                Beware! These signs can be life changing.

                It was no more than a month or so into the site when I began receiving emails and comments from people other than family and friends and it dawned on me that other people were checking out Virginia Vine Spot. Since we were visiting a lot of wineries and developing friendly relations with the passionate people in the local wine industry, I decided that part of the wine site would be geared towards supporting and promoting the Virginia wine industry we had come to love. Nowadays, based on the number of considerate emails, comments, and kind face-to-face exchanges, I’m happy to be one of the many local supporters and promoters of our burgeoning wine industry.

                The other part of what I try to get across through Virginia Vine Spot is the education and enjoyment of wine on the global front. Think, learn, and taste globally – there is room for everyone in this world of red and white. However, it is a crowded and competitive market and that is where your education will lend itself to further your enjoyment of wine. For example, in my humble opinion, Virginia produces some standout Viognier, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc, New Zealand does a great Sauvignon Blanc, Oregon an exceptional Pinot Noir and Australia a dazzling Shiraz, with the South Africans reinventing a new style Syrah. Our friends in Chile are producing the best reds for the dollar, in my opinion, and Argentina is doing one heck of a Malbec (local: Waterford and Pearmund are to!). Let’s not forget the Californian Zinfandels and prized Cabernet Sauvignons and German Rieslings. Last, but not least, are those great French wines that I enjoy, where the fruit is more restrained, but lending itself to more complex wines with earthy and minerality nuances. Yummy! Mostly all the aforementioned grape varieties were founded by the French and are definitely worth seeking out! We can go on and on, but you get the picture I’m trying to paint.

                To be continued ....

                In closing, I would like to thank all the kind people I have met through this wine blog from as nearby as Alexandria, to as far away as New Zealand, for their pleasant words and support. Remember, there exists a story inside every bottle of wine, be it a story of elegance and sophistication, simplicity and commonplace, those handled with care, or more sadly, those left in neglect. I look forward to sharing some of those stories with you as best as I can translate them and will continue to promote and support the Virginia wine industry we have come to enjoy so much.

                Click Here to vote VA Vine Spot as your wine favorite blog - You can vote 1x per day!

                  Happy Sipping to many more fun-filled years, friends!


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