11/30/2007

Thanksgiving Sipping in the Peach State

Hello Friends,

While visiting my mother over the Thanksgiving holiday in Georgia, or the Peachtree state as it is sometimes referred to, it was only appropriate that Dezel visit one of the states premier winery resorts, right? As much as I love a ripe juicy peach, I also have a hankering for ripe juicy grapes …preferably the healthy fermented beverage they produce.
Chateau Elan Winery & Resort

The state of Georgia has about 20 or so operational wineries with some new ones on the horizon. Georgia has a rich history in growing wine grapes dating back to the late 19th century when immigrants began showing up with vine plantings and a thirst for fermented wine and spirits. Like a number of states, including Virginia, prohibition somewhat put an end to the early Georgia farm wineries and vineyards. Georgia now finds itself on the rebound, and since I only had a few hours to get a winery visit in, I paid a visit to what several reliable sources told me was the cream of the crop and largest producer in the state.

So off we were on a sunny, yet nippy Saturday morning, to visit Chateau Élan, the popular 4 diamond winery and resort located in the North Georgia foothills, just on the outskirts of Atlanta. The resort is spitting distance from interstate 85, however, once you make the turn into the Chateau, it’s a pleasant transition from traffic, office buildings, and more traffic, to a relaxed old world French setting.

Tasting Bar

The tasting room is housed in a spacious building that boasts an expansive gift shop, a cozy and quaint café, and a more intimate fine dining restaurant. There are two tasting bars to accommodate the large crowds drawn to this popular resort. Château Élan has nearly 75 acres of French-American hybrid and vinifera vine plantings on the estate and offers about 20 wines. There is something for every palate preference – dry, off-dry, sweet, red, white and blush. Several of their wines titled “Founder’s Reserve ” are made solely from Georgia grapes, while others titled “American ”, are produced from percentages of Georgia, North Carolina, and California, etc grapes. The tasting fee is $5 to sample 4 wines of your choice. No other options were offered, but I’m sure if you want to taste all 20, something could be worked out. The prices of the wines vary from pocket pleasing to nominal.

My Mother and I at the Tasting Bar

What I found to be the best bang for the buck is a $6 Founder’s Reserve Georgia Chambourcin. Although, light in body, this smooth wine has nice subtle flavors with good balance. This is a good wine to pair with an assortment of food dishes since the flavors are not overwhelming and there is a good level of acidity. Another reasonably priced selection is the American Sauvignon Blanc, which is light bodied with good stone fruit flavors and priced right at $9. Unfortunately, their Viognier, which is made from Georgia grapes and retails for $13 was sold out. I really wanted to taste a Georgia example to compare it to some of the local Virginia examples I have locked in memory. Oddly enough, I was informed that the Viognier grape variety is quite a challenge for the winery to grow, due to unpredictable yields and ripeness levels, as well as the weather. The latter does not improve conditions and needless to say, they may stop carrying this varietal all together that does so well here in Virginia. The winery also produces an “American” and “Founder’s” example of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. These wines are light to medium in body offering soft and neutral flavors with little complexity, but albeit tasty wines. Also offered, is a port styled wine, a White Zinfandel, four differing sweet muscadine wines, Pinot Noir and a local Riesling. Oddly enough, when I attempted to mail a few bottles of Chambourcin to myVirginia address, I learned that GA law prohibits such sales. The majority of their sales are out of the tasting room. Another oddity is that we could not buy a bottle and enjoy it there at the winery unless we went to the restaurant where there would be a corkage fee. I cannot believe that during the spring and summer months that you cannot pack a picnic basket, buy a bottle of wine and waste the day away on the lovely manicured grounds. That is truly part of the fun in visiting the local Virginia wineries.

Long ago, beautiful women with delicate feet danced on grapes...

Overall, I had a good tasting experience at Château Élan, and some of their prices are very reasonable for the quality of the wines. The next time I visit my mother, I hope to get out to some of the smaller farm wineries in Georgia. If you are ever in the Peachtree state pay the Chateau a visit and enjoy their wines and fine dining. I would have enjoyed the fine dining myself, but we are from New Orleans, and my mother, the Cajun chef, kept us as stuffed as the turkey you had on your table. Gobble...Gobble!!!


  • Stay tuned friends, I have a tasty Chambourcin recommendation and lots more!

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

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2007. All rights reserved.

11/20/2007

Breaux Vineyards: Gumbo Weekends!

Hello Friends,

As some of you may know, or may not know, Dezel is a native New Orleanian. Therefore, when I found out that Beaux Vineyards was hosting “Gumbo Weekends”, my weekend lunch plans were sealed. For those not familiar with Breaux Vineyards, they are located in Loudoun County off Route 9 and have a catchy Cajun theme. There is Mardi-Gras paraphernalia and carnival colors in the tasting room, as well as the occasional toe-tapping sounds of zydeco music playing in the background.

Piping Hot Louisiana Gumbo!


Now friends, gumbo is an essential New Orleans dish, and is perfect for the cooler fall temperatures. Dezel knows, however, that just like grits, someone will say, “Dezel, what the heck is gumbo?” Well, gumbo is a unique type of specialty stew that originated in Louisiana. It is usually flavorful, but not overwhelming, with a hint of Cajun spiciness. Yummy! The main meats used in gumbo include seafood, chicken and sausage, etc. The vegetables used can include okra, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and any other ingredients and spices you think will work. No rules here, be creative, but be creatively good. My great-grandmother, Maw-Maw (as she was known), mastered this dish and spent many hours over a large pot cooking up some of the best gumbo in all of St. John Parish. Unfortunately, her kids never picked up on the recipe, so Dezel is left to savor the memories.

Breaux Vineyards autumnal photo

The Cajun gumbo served at Breaux this past weekend was pretty good (not like Maw-Maw’s, however), and what is even better is this holiday weekend is the last weekend they are hosting Gumbo Weekends, so you have a chance to check it out for yourself. With a flavorful and sometimes spicy dish like gumbo you want to select a wine that’s balanced, with good acidity, soft to medium flavors, and a hint, and just a hint of residual sugar does not hurt. For whites, I suggest the Chere Marie (Vidal Blanc). Its good acidity, neutral flavors and sweet finish makes it the perfect match. For reds, try the Lafayette, a Cabernet Franc based lighter bodied wine with soft cherry flavors, spice, and good balance. This wine pairs nicely with the gumbo and the subtle flavors does not compete with the gumbo.

I'm Dezel, see you on the wine trail friends ...

In closing friends, experience a little Louisiana in Loudoun, and be sure to let the folks at Breaux know you read about them here on Dezel’s Virginia Vine Spot. (Gumbo: $6 per bowl)


  • Stay tuned friends, I have a tasty Chambourcin recommendation and lots more!

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 !

Dezel



Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2007. All rights reserved.

11/15/2007

Sunset Hills Vineyard: Coming Soon! Fine Wines & Spectacular Sunsets


Hello Friends,

This past Saturday Dezel hopped back on one of his favorite and most frequented wine trails to visit a new winery that is on pace to open doors to the public in June of 2008. Located in western Loudoun County at the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sunset Hills Vineyard is the latest winery to join the burgeoning Loudoun County wine trail. The winery is owned by Mike and Diane Canney who first planted vines in 1998. They are currently in the process of restoring an eye-catching 19th century barn on their historical and picturesque farm property into a charming and warm tasting room. From what was described, the tasting room is going to be beautiful … perhaps the perfect place to enjoy fine wines and spectacular sunsets.

Mike extracting barrel samples with the handy wine thief

I was on hand at Sunset Vineyards to attend their very first barrel tasting event. The event was hosted by Mike Canney, vineyard manager Ben Renshaw, and staff. Barrel tasting for me is all about the 3 E’s: enlightenment, entertainment, and education. This informative wine tasting event satisfied each. As we tasted the developing wines right out of the oak barrels, Mike and Ben did a great job of stepping everyone through the winemaking process, as well as describing Sunset Vineyard’s winemaking philosophy. Mike appears to put a lot of emphasis into his desire to produce flavorful, structured and harmonious wines, while Ben oversees vineyard duties and strives to deliver high quality fruit each year.

Ben explaining the winemaking process to eager tasters

During the tasting we sampled and evaluated Sunset Hill’s 2006 Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from the barrel. The wines are in their developmental stages right now, but showing good progress. The color, aroma, concentration, and varietal characteristics were all there. As these wines mature they will improve, and some light blending may be exercised for added structure and complexity. We also tasted a lightly oaked Viognier that is developing well, and an expressive Late-Harvest Chardonnay, which should make for a tasty sweet ending. The barrel tasting drew a generous crowd and everyone was pleased with the wines sampled as well as the warm southern hospitality. While the 2006 reds were well received, even in their youthful stage, I hear the 2007 harvest is something to get excited about. I look forward to revisiting these wines I tasted when they are bottled and ripe for the picking.

Satisfying Sips & Spectacular Sunsets coming the Summer of 2008

Currently, Sunset Hills offers a flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, a Chardonnay 2006, and a Reserve Chardonnay 2006. For a young producer, Sunset Hills has already received medals for both of their Chardonnays at the 2007 Virginia Governors’ Cup Competition. For further winery information and to purchase their wines, visit their web site or give the winery a call at 703.725.3546. Besides the new tasting room, there are a number of exciting projects going on at Sunset Hills Vineyard to make it the perfect setting for enjoying your favorite glass of Sunset Hills wine while basking in the pastoral splendor and bountiful beauty of the Loudoun countryside.

  • Stay tuned friends, I have more local wine news to deliver!

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 !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2007. All rights reserved.

11/11/2007

Sweet Sip: Keswick Vineyards Late Harvest Norton 2005


Hello Friends,

Have a sweet-tooth? If the answer is yes, then no doubt this one is for you. What we have here is a dessert wine produced by Keswick Vineyards that is made from 100% Norton grapes. I personally have had some pretty good local Norton offerings of late, and for the most they are usually off-dry to desirably dry. However, this is the first Norton dessert wine I have come across here in the Commonwealth. If you are a fan of this native grape variety you may want to get this sweet selection on your Thanksgiving table for an after dinner sipper – just a thought.

Let’s talk a little about these sweet droplets of concentrated juice for a second. Dessert wines usually come packaged in tall and slender, attractive half bottles (375 ML). These wines are perfect after dinner sippers on their own, or can be paired with a number of decadent desserts. You can also enjoy a bottle just because … just because you like sweet wines. Either way, the end result is a sweet, yet preferably balanced dessert wine with delectable nectars.

Keswick Vineyards Late Harvest Norton 2005


Typically, dessert wines are produced in one of four basic ways {ice wines, late-harvest, noble rot and fortified}. This particular wine is as the label suggests, late-harvest. Late-harvest dessert wines are wines produced from grapes left hanging on the vine toward the end of the harvest for maximum ripeness. Thus, where grapes for our more dry and off-dry wines are picked for balance, late-harvest grapes are left on the vine and picked for their brix measurement, also known as sugar levels. High sugar levels are desirable here. This translates into wines that are capable of reaching higher alcohol levels, higher sugar levels or even both. For that reason, these wines can vary in body and richness, and can be light in color to a beautiful deep golden color. In our case, with this late-harvest Norton, we have a garnet colored wine that is high in residual sugars and low in alcohol. Let’s talk about what’s in the glass, shall we?

Review: The Keswick Vineyards Late Harvest Norton 2005 is a very sweet dessert wine that displays a clear garnet color with a light orange tinge. The wine clocks in at 10% alcohol by volume, and has a real cork enclosure. On the nose are inviting notes of dark cherry, plum, spice, vanilla, and hints of Norton’s signature grapey aroma, which is more desirable, or better yet tolerable, in a dessert wine than a dry red table wine. The aromas follow through to a medium, flavorful palate, with a deliciously sweet splash of fruit up front, but falling off. Nevertheless, the wine has great expression and is definitely lip smacking. This wine was aged in neutral French oak barrels for 14 months and at 20% residual sugar is more suitable for serving as an after dinner wine with or without a complementing dessert. As you can see, I chose to have a few Godiva milk chocolate pearls with mines - Yummy! Price: $32

Producer: Keswick Vineyards - 1575 Keswick Winery Drive, Keswick, VA 22947

  • Stay tuned friends, I have a new Loudoun winery to tell you about!

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

Dezel

11/04/2007

A fun wine cork idea !!!

Hello Friends,

First off, how do you like my wine cork vase? Not exactly a vase made of cork, but a tall and attractive glass vase over-filled with some of this year memories; at least what is left, which boils down to the cork and some tasting notes for me. And, you know, I am not going to stuff a vase with a bunch of tasting notes.

Like my vase?

I usually keep one vase filled with fresh flowers, and like most people, we tend to collect vases over the years after the flowers die. So why not put your corks and those vases you have stored away to good use. Hey, you don’t have to add water or those packs of flower food, and to a wine enthusiast, it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye; about as pleasing as a vase of fresh cut flowers. Why, you can even add some color with synthetic corks if you like – they come in every color of the rainbow.

I think the cork vase is a fun and interesting way to present the corks of bottles that have come and gone. My cork vase is on my serving table, and has become a nice little conversation piece. Someone either heard of this wine or tried that wine, or is motivated to save their corks to make something creative themselves.


So after, or before, you do some other neat things with your corks like the cork bulletin board or the cork coaster, try my idea - the cork vase. The hardest thing you may have to do is to drink enough wine to build your cork collection up – I know, tough job, right? By the way, my cork vase is mainly made up of Virginian corks, so I guess it’s a ‘local’ vase too!

  • Stay tuned friends, more to come!

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 !

Dezel




Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2007. All rights reserved.

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