12/17/2009

Blenheim Vineyards: Yet Another Rocking Good Time!


Hello Friends,

Our next winery visit on the Monticello Wine Trail was to a “rocking” good winery that I had the pleasure of visiting back in February of this year – click here to read about that visit. As with that first visit, the previous night I again enjoyed a delicious dinner at the C&O Restaurant on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. As you can probably tell, I love the ambience and food there quite a bit. However, when it comes to enjoying warm ambience and tasty Virginia wine, Blenheim Vineyards is one of the destinations in Charlottesville that is doing it right. Joining me were fellow wine-blogging friends John Witherspoon of Anything Wine and Frank Morgan of DrinkWhatYouLike.

Blenheim Vneyards

For those who do not know, Blenheim Vineyards is owned by popular rock artist Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band. The winery and tasting-room is housed in an attractive timber-framed structure boasting large picture windows, sky lights providing an abundance of natural lighting, three tasting bars to facilitate Virginia wine lovers, and beautiful views of the surrounding Piedmont landscape and vineyard. There is also a glass paneled floor that gives visitors a view into the wine-making facility on the first floor. Truly a setting fit for a rock-star, and of course, Virginia wine lovers like you and me!

Winemaker Kirsty Harmon

On this visit, we had the pleasure of meeting with winemaker Kirsty Harmon, who took over wine-making duties last year. Kirsty is no stranger to Virginia wine though. She got her start at Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard, making wine with award-winning winemaker Gabriele Rausse. Following that successful stint, Kirsty attended the famed UC Davis viticulture program earning an MS Degree. Kirsty also worked in France (Burgundy), as well as and New Zealand, and now brings her passion, talents, and knowledge to Blenheim Vineyards – and I’m sure I speak for John and Frank when I say we like the direction in which she is taking Blenheim Vineyards.

Reviewing the Tasting Sheet

During my last visit with Kirsty in February, many of her wines were still in barrel and tank, so on this visit I had the pleasure of tasting some of her finished wines, as well as several barrel and tank samples. One change I noted from last time was the move to a screw-cap closure system for the entire wine portfolio. Currently, Blenheim, along with Tarara Vineyards in Leesburg, are the only two producers in Virginia I know of that have moved to 100% screw-cap closures for all of their wines. From chatting with Kirsty, the winery feels the screw-caps create a better closure than cork and it reserves the freshness and flavor of the wine. It is also more cost effective and there is no fear of TCA or other undesirables or contaminates into the wine from bad cork. The jury is still out on what has become a great cork debate in the wine world. This is a subject of its own and a story worth following – both sides have valid reasons for their worth and longevity, but natural cork has been around since the Roman period. If you look at statistics, most wines in the U.S. are consumed within 24 hours of purchase. That being said, the wines at Blenheim are made in an easy-drinking, accessible style and are meant to be consumed in their youth.

Pouring a Splash of Joy in the Glass

Moving to the tasting, the following wines were poured at the tasting bar: the Blenheim Chardonnay 2008 (fruit sourced from two nearby vineyards & estate fruit), the Blenheim Farm Chardonnay 2008 (100% estate fruit), the floral and nicely scented Viognier 2008, the herbal and dark fruit-scented Seven Oaks Merlot 2008, and the fruit forward and spiced Blenheim Farms Cabernet Franc 2008 (100% estate fruit). The Chardonnay wines poured were both well done. The Blenheim Farm was rounder and done in a more elegant style, while the Blenheim Chardonnay made my “Quick Sips”, so click here for the review. All the finished wines that we tasted were nicely done and competitively priced. A “tip of the hat” to Kirsty for a job well done!

Barrel Sampling

Following our tasting, Kirsty was kind enough to take us down to the winery to taste barrel and tank samples. Of note was her Petit Verdot 2008, showing blueberry, fig, and toasted notes, and a youthful, yet promising estate Petit Verdot 2009 sample. We also tasted a gamey, dark fruit, and minty Syrah 2009 that is showing a lot of promise – and really impressed us. Based on our overall barrel samples look for some very nice selections from Blenheim in the near future. In the vineyard, Kirsty also informed us that she is growing Pinot Noir, which, in my opinion is not well-suited for our warm climate, but I’m curious to taste this when the time comes. Kirsty is using a clone that she seems quite confident in, so I look forward to revisiting the Pinot Noir in the glass since it is a wine I thoroughly enjoy from cooler climate regions.
Beautiful View from the Tasting Room Deck

In closing, if your destination is the Monticello Wine Trail, Blenheim Vineyards should definitely be on your list of producers to visit. They do a great job in what I call the “Big 3” – the wine, the hospitality, and the atmosphere. New winemaker Kirsty Harmon is all about the wine and all about making sure you will have an enjoyable and memorable tasting experience. Pack a picnic basket, enjoy Blenheim wines, and waste the day away in their beautiful tasting room. When you visit Blenheim Vineyards be sure to tell the kind folks you read about them here on Dezel’s http://www.myvinespot.com/ wine blog. As always, Happy Sipping, friends!

Info: Blenheim Vineyards, 31 Blenheim Farm Charlottesville, VA 22902


Stay tuned friends ...We close out for a Quick Sip at Kluge Estate Vineyard!

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