2/26/2009

A Rocking Good Time at Blenheim Vineyards


Hello Friends,

After a delicious dinner at the C-and-O restaurant in Charlottesville and a good night’s rest, we were up bright and early and ready for round two on the Monticello Wine Trail. Just minutes from Charlottesville, in Albermarle County, past beautiful country scenery along twisting roads, sits Blenheim Vineyards. I have been told by friends more familiar than I with the winery, that this is one “rocking” place. I wonder if that has anything to do with that Matthews fellow, huh?

Blenheim Vineyards

Well, the Matthews fellow, for the two or three who do not know, is Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band. He is the proud owner of Blenheim Vineyards. Blenheim Vineyards just recently opened its doors to the public for regular tastings. Up until now, interested parties were serviced by appointment only. This bit of news should bode well for Virginia wine lovers this spring and summer.

Beautiful Views from the Tasting Room

Since this was my first visit, I was more than eager to check out this “rocking” place and sample their wines. Stepping into the tasting room, the exterior belies the tasteful mixture of spaciousness, style, and grace found on the inside. The environmentally sound, timber framed tasting room exudes rural elegance and comfort, boasting large picture windows, sky lights that supply an abundance of natural lighting, picturesque views from every chair and table in the room, and a glass paneled floor where guests can see the wine making facility on the first floor. Rock star quality, indeed!

Glass Paneled Floor - Check the Wine Facility out below!

We were warmly greeted by Tasting Room Coordinator, Nora White, and Blenheim’s new winemaker, Kirsty Harmon. Kirsty has roots in Charlottesville, making wine in the area alongside notable winemaker Gabriele Rausse. Kirsty expanded her horizons and attended the famed UC Davis viticulture program earning an MS Degree. Kirsty has also worked in France and New Zealand before returning to the Commonwealth to produce small lots of quality hand-crafted wine from Blenheim Vineyards estate fruit.

Winemaker Kirsty Harmon

We kicked the tasting off with Nora, tasting through Blenheim’s array of red and white wines (vintages 03-06), which were made by previous winemaker Brad McCarthy. It made for a great tasting experience sitting in the attractive sun-filled tasting room taking in the spectacular Piedmont landscape as Nora guided us through each swirl, sniff, and sip. The wines from the previous winemaker currently offered are three styles of Chardonnay, two Cabernet Franc wines, a Merlot, Meritage blend, and a nice 2006 Petit Verdot.

Preparing to taste Blenheim wines...

There is a definite contrast in styles from old to new winemaker, as we moved downstairs to sample some of Kirsty’s developing wines from the 2008 harvest. Kirsty wines appeared more fruit oriented, more expressive, and the inky, chewy, concentrated Petit Verdot showed great promise. Kirsty also has a nice Cabernet Sauvignon in the barrel, which is a variety regarded as finicky and difficult here in Virginia, that is developing nicely, displaying good flavors and structure. A floral and perfumed Viognier, which should be bottled sometime soon, is a wine I can see guests enjoying this spring and summer while basking in the sun and enjoying the countryside.

Bring on the "Pours of Joy"

In closing, this is another winery on the Monticello wine trail I recommend you put on your wine radar. Blenheim Vineyards just opened its doors to the public, so hop in the car and enjoy the gorgeous country drive, and find a spot on the outdoor deck this spring or summer to savor the moment – and the wine! This winery has a lot of character and charm, and new winemaker Kirsty Harmon, should have some of her new wines bottled and ready to go by the time the seasonal warmth flows in. Bring a picnic basket and camera, and thank me later. You are going to love this place. When you visit Blenheim Vineyards be sure to tell the kind folks you read about them here on Dezel’s www.myvinespot.com wine blog. As always, Happy Sipping, friends!

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


Stay tuned friends ...Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail.

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

Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

2/23/2009

White Hall Vineyards visit

Hello Friends,

Our final stop of the day on the Monticello wine trail was to White Hall Vineyards. White Hall is located just outside of Charlottesville and sits at an elevation of 800 feet, boasting spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding area. If I didn’t tell you before, I’m telling you now, bring your camera, a big memory card, and lots of batteries on this trip, as there are oodles of picturesque views for the snap-happy wine lover.

White Hall Vineyards

White Hall is owned by Tony and Edie Champ, who left the hustle and bustle of New York for the pleasures of rural country living in Charlottesville. Their love of wine, and travels to a then young and budding California wine industry would set the stage for the Champ’s preferred wine style and the pursuit to own their own winery one day. Opening doors for public tastings in 1996, today White Hall is producing a wide range of wines from fun, fruity, and easy drinking, to elegant and complex – something for every palate preference.

Tasting Room

White Hall Vineyards boast a handsome and charming tasting room with an octagon-shaped wrap around tasting bar, large windows that fill the tasting room with natural light, and a view of the winemaking facility on the first floor allowing guests can see where the wine is made. We were greeted in the tasting room by Tony, and opted to take a tour of the vineyard and winery, where we were joined by Edie. Since there are no grapes on the vines, Tony used pictures from past harvests to walk us through the wine making process at White Hall Vineyards, which was enlightening and entertaining. From chatting with Tony and Edie, we learned that they both share a genuine enthusiasm for the future of Virginia wine, as well as producing high quality wine for Virginia wine lovers to enjoy.

Touring the Winery Grounds with Tony Champ

Following our tour, we headed back to the tasting room, for what else, but to taste some wine! Tony led us through a tasting of White Hall’s full lineup of red and white wine selections. Outside of several common varietals found in many Virginia tasting rooms such as Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, White Hall offers a Touriga, Gewürztraminer, Petit Manseng, and what’s becoming a popular varietal for more inky colored, intense, and high quality wines, Petit Verdot. White Hall also offers several nice blends and a port style dessert wine named after Edie Champ, aptly titled Edichi. This one is lip smacking, so if this is your type of wine, stock up!

At the Tasting Bar with Tony

In closing, be sure to make a date with White Hall Vineyards the next time you are on the Monticello wine trail. Spend a weekend day or take a day off and enjoy a glass of wine in a relaxing and charming atmosphere. When the seasonal warmth arrives, you will want to pack a picnic basket and enjoy a glass of wine in the picnic area while taking in the views. When you visit White Hall Vineyards be sure to tell the kind folks you read about them here on Dezel’s www.myvinespot.com wine blog. As always, Happy Sipping, friends!

Enjoy Vineyard Views in the Spring

Winery Info: White Hall Vineyards, 5184 Sugar Ridge RoadWhite Hall Virginia 22987

Stay tuned friends ...Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. To see my last visit to White Hall Vineyards CLICK HERE.

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

Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

2/17/2009

A visit to King Family Vineyards

Hello Friends,

Our next stop on the Monticello Wine Trail was to King Family Vineyards. King Family Vineyards is located just west of Charlottesville in Crozet, Virginia, and offers an enchanting setting to enjoy good wines and spectacular views. Trust me!

King Family Vineyards

King Family Vineyards is a small family-run operation, owned by Ellen and David King. Winemaker, Mathieu Finot, who is from the Rhone Valley, made wine in France, Italy, and South Africa, before embarking to Virginia to practice his art and craft. I had heard great things about Mathieu’s wines, so was eager to taste them. The wines produced are made from 100% estate grown fruit, produced and bottled on property. Although we missed Mathieu this time, I look forward to tasting with him upon my return this spring.

King Family Vineyards Barrel Room

We were greeted by David King and led to the barrel room for our tasting. It was an unusually sunny and warm winter day, and we couldn’t stand at the tasting bar if we had wanted to. King Family Vineyards is a popular destination for Virginia wine lovers, who were out in full effect enjoying the rural and beautiful countryside. David started us off with a nice dry Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine that made my mouth water for sautéed scallops. We moved onto an aromatic and lush Viognier, then a fruity Roseland white wine blend consisting of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay, and a tasty Chardonnay that displayed nice integration of oak and fruit.

Tasting in the Barrel Room with David King

Moving on to the reds, we started off with Cabernet Franc, a popular French variety generally used as a minor bending grape that has adapted well to Virginia’s soil and climate type. The Cabernet Franc wine offered red fruit flavors, spice, and a light dusting of black pepper, and is sipping nicely right now. We moved to a firmer structured Merlot and a refined and elegant Meritage blend consisting of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petit Verdot. This wine highlights the best of each varietal used in the blend, which is heightened by extended French oak aging. This is a delicious wine with structure, complexity, and zest that you can either enjoy now or hold on to for a few years. Last but not least, was a Late Harvest Viognier, which is an ice-styled wine that offers good stone fruit and soft honey flavors with pinches of cooking spice tossed in at the finish. Enjoy this sweet sensation after dinner, or quite frankly, anytime you like!

Virginia Wine Lovers enjoying a Sunny and Warm 'Winter' Day

In closing, be sure to make a date, or two, with King Family Vineyards this spring and summer. My pictures do this symphony of nature little justice. When the seasonal warmth arrives and things turn green again, this place is simply stunning. King Family Vineyard is the perfect place to pack a picnic basket and take in the spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, green rolling hills, horse farms, and surrounding area. Be sure to check the events page too, I hear they host great polo matches and other fun-filled outdoor events. I warn you, don’t be the Virginia wine lover who misses a visit to Kings Family Vineyard this spring and summer. When you visit, tell the kind folks that you heard about them on Dezel’s http://www.myvinespot.com/ wine blog.

Winery Info: King Family Vineyards, 6550 Roseland FarmCrozet, Virginia 22932

Stay tuned friends ...Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. Also, be sure to see what Todd of Wine Compass has to say about the Monticello Wine Trail - CLICK HERE. To see my last visit to King Family Vineyards CLICK HERE.

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

Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

Pick One Up: Virginia Wine Lover Spring 2009 Edition


Hello Friends,

Just a friendly reminder – be sure to pick up a copy of the new spring 2009 edition of Virginia Wine Lover magazine with Virginia’s own wine superstar sommelier, Mary Watson, gracing the cover. In this issue, Mary responds to questions about the Virginia wine industry, wine and food pairings, and much, much more. Mary also recommends a few Virginia wines for you Virginia wine lovers to try and enjoy. Additionally, there is a nice article that jumps into the heart of Central Virginia wine country, as well as many other good reads.

Find out what Mary has to say in VWL 2009 Spring Edition

And can you believe, even with a different hairstyle, sometimes a cap, sun glasses, sans the vine dress; Mary was still recognized as the Virginia Grape Goddess in the Charlottesville tasting rooms during our group tour on the Monticello Wine Trail. Now, that is a wine super star, friends! Magazines can be found in most Virginia tasting rooms, local wine stores, boutique shops, etc. If you have trouble finding a copy, try requesting one at the Virginia Wine Lover website.

Happy Sipping!


Stay tuned friends ...Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. Also, be sure to see what Todd of Wine Compass has to say about the Monticello Wine Trail - CLICK HERE.

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

Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

2/11/2009

Veritas Vineyard & Winery: Barrels of Red & White Delights!


Hello Friends,

This past weekend I saddled up with a motley collection of industry professionals, budding wine enthusiasts, and those darn wine bloggers to take a great-grape ride on the Monticello wine trail. Good and bad news here, friends. Bad news first - of the 23 wineries on the Monticello wine trial we made appointments to visit only six of them. The good news - we have seventeen left to go, so Monticello wine trail, look out, you will see us again! Our first stop of the day was to Veritas Vineyard and Winery.

Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Veritas Vineyard and Winery is located in Afton, Virginia, and situated amidst beautiful surroundings at the foot of the wondrous Blue Ridge Mountains. Veritas is a family-run operation owned by Andrew and Patricia Hodson, who opened for business in June of 2002. Their daughter Emily, who recently won the Judges Choice Award in a national competition, shares the winemaking duties with her father. Let’s step into the tasting room, shall we?

Tasting Bar

The Veritas tasting room is beautifully designed, exuding elegance and luxury in a relaxing atmosphere. Tall ceilings, wooden floors, comfortable leather sofas and chairs, eating areas, a large fireplace, and a long tasting bar are some of the niceties offered to make your wine tasting experience and visit enjoyable. A trained and knowledgeable staff is on hand to answer any of your questions and to tell you all about Veritas Vineyard’s full spectrum of red and white wine selections.

Tasting Room

We were greeted upon arrival by winemaker Emily Pelton and in-house sommelier Thomas Roberts. We were all led down to the barrel room to sample some of Emily’s developing wines. Barrel tasting is both enjoyable and enlightening, and is an excellent way to gauge where the ine is in its maturation process.

Barrel Tasting with Emily Pelton and Thomas Roberts

The following brief notes are from several of the barrel samples I thoroughly enjoyed. Although these wines are in their developmental stage, they reflect the care that went into them in the vineyard and winery. Our tasting began with a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, which I found to be very attractive. This is a variety that I believe could do well here, but I do not run across too many (varietal) examples during my travels. Of the few local examples I have tasted, this is clearly one of the best, in that it is a nice wine with very good varietal character. This example is more Loire Valley - (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) like than the New Zealand-style many Sauvignon Blanc drinkers have become accustomed to. This is a wine of delicacy, with clean, fresh fruit, good acidity, and a smidgen of grassiness for added complexity. This wine is meant to be consumed young, so don’t be shy, pop the cork and enjoy upon release!

Tasting a little bubbly with winemaker Emily Pelton - Yum!

Also enjoyed were three barrel samples of Cabernet Franc from fruit harvested weeks apart. Time on the vine certainly makes a difference in flavor / aroma profile, as the first sample pulled displayed Cabernet Franc’s distinct violet and red berry aroma, while the second sample was more neutral, but had a fuller mouth feel. The third sample was more rounded and had desirable spice components and earthy nuances about it. Not sure what the final bottled result will be, but Emily has three good base wines to work with based on our tasting, and I look forward to the release of the 2008 Cabernet Franc wine(s).

We are smiling because we had a GREAT TIME at Veritas!

Another high quality red wine grape variety we enjoyed that is also generating a lot of excitement among Virginia wine lovers is Petit Verdot. This is a grape grown mainly in France’s Bordeaux region that is finding its legs here, so to speak. The sample we tasted displayed a gorgeous deep rich color and a pleasant fragrant and spicy character with good definition and structure. Not sure if this will be made into a varietal wine or not, but it sure would be nice if it is.

Barrels of fun (Yes, I mean that, literally)

Last but not least is the sweet ending. Veritas has a popular dessert selection named Othello, which is a blend of Tannat and Touriga Nacional. We had the opportunity to taste each wine on its own prior to blend, and it became quite apparent why they marry so well. One is rich and lush and full of boysenberry and blueberry flavors, yet teetering on the sweetness line of being cloying. The other has less flavor intensity, but more acidity, highlighted by baked fruit flavor components and pinches of cinnamon. Blended, I can see these two wines combining to create a hedonistic pleasure.

Enjoy wine and beautiful views

In closing, and I think I speak for the tasting group, we would like to thank Emily and Thomas for the enlightment, education, great wine, and good times. Every nose and palate in our tasting group unanimously agreed that Veritas Vineyard’s future releases are on their way to being solid Virginia wines. Congratulations on your 2008 vintage, Emily!

Info: Veritas Vineyard & Winery, 145 Saddleback Farm. Afton, Virginia 22920. 540.456.8000


Stay tuned friends ...Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. Also, check out my previous visit to Veritas Vineyard here. And, be sure to see what Todd of Wine Compass has to say about the Monticello Wine Trail - CLICK HERE.

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

Happy Sipping Friends - Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !

Dezel


Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

2/02/2009

Cabernet Franc Blind Tasting Results II

Hello Friends,

This past Saturday, we held a blind Cabernet Franc tasting at one of my favorite Loudoun County wineries, Corcoran Vineyards. This tasting pitted several Virginia Cabernet Franc varietal wines, against Cabernet Franc wines from New York, California, and the grape variety’s homeland, France. In total, we selected 11 wines for this tasting.

Bottles dressed in the best brown bags money could buy!

While Cabernet Franc is a minor blending grape in France and just about everywhere else it is grown, it has been known to salvage some Bordeaux vintages during years when Cabernet Sauvignon was less than average due to unfavorable weather conditions. On the other hand, or shall we say vine, in wine producing regions like New York, and here in Virginia, Cabernet Franc is made into a varietal wine and is usually the leading grape in most red wine blends. This is because Cabernet Franc grows well in cooler climates and ripens early, which bodes well for east coast growers.

Evaluating the Wines

Evaluating these wines, was a great cast of palates, ranging from sommeliers, Virginia winemakers and grape growers, winery owners, and wine enthusiasts like myself. One common bond amongst this tasting group, was that they all have an appreciation and enthusiasm for Virginia wine, and are all avid Virginia Cabernet Franc drinkers – you may be able to recognize a few in the pictures. Well, enough of my rambling; check out the rankings and enjoy the pictures below: (Scores based on a 100 point system)

Homework Time!

1. Score 76, Carmody McKnight CF 2004, (Paso Robles, CA)

2. Score 74, Cave Ride Vineyard CF 2005, (Mt. Jackson, VA)

3. Score 71.4, Pellegrini Winery CF 2002, (North Folk Long Island, NY)

4. Score 71.1, Benevino Cellars CF 2007, (Loudoun County, VA)

Swirl, Sniff, Sip, and Score

5. Score 69, Sunset Hills Vineyard Reserve CF 2006, (Loudoun County, VA)

6. Score 66, Williamsburg Winery Trianon CF 2005, (Williamsburg, VA)

7. Score 63, Tarara Winery Reserve CF 2006, (Loudoun County, VA)

8. Score 62, Doukenie Winery CF 2006, (Loudoun County, VA)

The Winner - Carmody McKnight Cabernet Franc 2004 (CA)

9. Score 59, Domaine , Domaine de Coussergues CF 2005, (Languedoc, FR)

10. Score 58, Domaine des Corbillieres CF 2006, (Touraine, FR)

11. Score 55, Dom Semellerie CF 2007, (Chinon, FR)

Hard to believe that the wine that came in last place was the same wine that came in first place at a blind Cabernet Franc tasting I held in 2006. It was the Dom Semellerie 2005, which was a good overall vintage for the Loire Valley; whereas, 2007 was not. Vintage matters! So, do you notice any trends or surprises amongst the rankings? For me it would have to be the French wines. I enjoy Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, especially the fruit driven Chinon examples, so I was somewhat surprised to see these wines positioned near the bottom. I knew the Virginia examples would do fairly well, not only because the tasters are Virginia wine lovers (smirk), but because these were some very good Cabernet Franc wines. I would like to thank Lori and Jim for hosting this tasting at their winery, and everyone for taking the first half of their Saturday to come out and do a little wine tasting homework. Check back, we look forward to setting up another blind tasting sometime soon – perhaps a blind horizontal tasting since 2007 was a good vintage year for Virginia.


Stay tuned ...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 © 2007-2009. All rights reserved.

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