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The month of April provided us with the opportunity to experience wines in two different ways: from the barrel and from the library. Glen Manor Vineyards hosted a barrel tasting which featured developing wines from the 2017 vintage; later in the month, Gray Ghost Vineyards hosted a vertical tasting of their reserve and non-reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Both events allowed us to revel in the fact that Virginia winemaking has evolved to the point where Virginia wine enthusiasts can discuss vintages and their particular circumstances! Who needs Napa?

Paul and I were eager to sample the sleepers at Glen Manor Vineyards. The 2017 harvest in Virginia has earned glowing reviews from winemakers. Seasonal temperatures (rather than too hot) and a dry harvest (no hurricanes during harvest time) provided winemakers with fruit that ripened on time in Virginia. Winemaker Jeff White was thrilled with the 2017 harvest and used the barrel tasting to feature the components of his red blends. These included the St Ruth and two options for his award-winning Hodder Hill. These blend components were paired along side gluten free and vegan pairings by The Element in Front Royal and local cheeses by Fields of Grace in Remington.

Blend #1 featured the 2017 Merlot and 2017 Cabernet Franc components of St. Ruth. We tasted each individual component and then tried our hands at blends the two. We both enjoyed the Cabernet Franc with its rich seed berry characteristics and smoky aromas. After blending, the Franc-heavy mix prevailed. Partners included a curried raisin bar and smoked tomato jam cornbread canapes. Paul devoured the curried raisin bar and declared a success when paired with his own Merlot-dominant blend. As Paul savored the raisin bar, I moved on to Blend #2. This presented another component tasting but this time for the Hodder Hill, and this station provided tasters with the first of two suggested options for the acclaimed Hodder Hill red blend. The first option featured the 2017 Merlot (part feral) and the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, feral. Feral? Wild? Yes, natural yeasts are allowed to do their thing (ferment). The second option showcased the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2017 Petit Verdot but with added yeast (not natural) yeast. Our preference? On its own, I was a big fan of the feral Cabernet Sauvignon; likewise, Paul, the Merlot fan, gave a nod to the feral Merlot. However, the Blend #2 garnered our vote for favorite blend. Perhaps food had something to do with it. Components of Blend #1 paired well with Gouda cheese and mushroom sushi—-smoky, earthy foods; Blend #2 dazzled with Virginia Monterey Jack cheese and quinoa rice cakes topped with rillette of roasted tomato, carrot, and sweet potato—-texture, tannins, and savory.

We share the enthusiasm for the 2017 vintage due to our experience at Glen Manor, and The Gray Ghost vertical event allowed us to step back in time to appreciate past vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon. This event features both reserve and non reserve Cabernets from the 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2009 vintages. The reserve wine benefit from extra oak aging and malolactic fermentation; however, the non reserve wines more than held their own. I was a fan of the 1999 and 2009 vintages of both styles. In 1999, winemaker Al Kellert was using both American and French oak barrels which explained the spicier elements of the eldest statesman in the lineup. A transition to all French oak barrels was completed after 2005; both the 2007 and 2009 presented fruitier profiles while maintaining a fuller mouth feel. Paul was a fan of the 2007 Reserve and the 1999 non reserve. We both appreciated the age-worthiness of these wines.

The wines were paired with a complement of foods prepared by co-winemaker Cheryl Kellert, and the menu included venison teriyaki, London broil with mushroom sauce, chicken with bowtie pasta and tomato sauce, and meatballs simmered in salsa. The evening concluded with a chocolate mousse cake for dessert partnered with the award-winning 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Oh, and who says that Virginia can’t produce quality Cabernet Sauvignon? Location makes the difference, and Glen Manor Vineyards and Gray Ghost Vineyards seem to benefit from excellent vineyard sites. Both events provided us with the ongoing educational experience that is Virginia wine. Visit these excellent Virginia wineries to taste their current releases; perhaps even sign up for a library, barrel, or vertical event! Please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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On Saturday we had the chance to chat with Luke Kilyk, winemaker at Granite Heights Winery. Check out the video!

Luke Kilyk of Granite Heights Winery - YouTube

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On Good Friday I had the chance to visit the Walsh Family Wine in Loudoun County to tour the vineyards, taste some wines and hear what’s going on from Nate Walsh.

I met our wine friends Kurt and Carol from Wine About Virginia on a very windy hill at Walsh Family Vineyards. We made plans to meet up with our wine friend Susan McHenry. She was running late. We said our hellos and followed Nate Walsh out to the vineyards. The site we visited is known as Bethany Ridge. Nate told us there are 20 acres planted with Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Manseng, (and a teeny bit of Gruner Veltliner), Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Tannat.

Nate told us of another vineyard not far away called Twin Notch Farm. This site has 8 acres planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Nate talked about the recent deal with Northgate Vineyards. He will be making the wine there and keeping the winery running since Mark and Vicki Fedor have decided to move on to their next chapter. He plans to keep things the same and maybe eventually have Walsh Family Wines involved in some way.

After our vineyard tour and talk, we joined others at the picnic tables to taste some wines. We were able to taste the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 Rosé, the 2016 Viognier and finally a red blend created from tannat and cab sauvignon that was blended for the Tarara wine club. All of the wines were very good and I favored the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2017 Rosé.

After tasting the wines and chatting more with Nate, it was time to buy some wines and head home. We hope to see more of Nate soon at Northgate and we look forward to tasting the wines he creates. If you visit Walsh Family Wine or see Nate, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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Seven years ago we attended the groundbreaking event for Big Cork Vineyards. We had not been back since then. After the most recent snow we made plans to visit and were so glad we finally made it back to Big Cork Vineyards.

Randy Thompson and Dave Collins have certainly created an amazing experience at Big Cork Vineyards. While they made almost two dozen different wines, the tasting menu is tastefully limited to six nice choices. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting at the expansive tasting bar. We particularly enjoyed the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2015 Nebbiolo. We were very impressed with the wines crafted by Dave Collins. We were already familiar with his work because of our membership at Breaux Vineyards where Dave was the winemaker for 14 years. We wanted to try the 2016 Reserve Chardonnay but it was only available to club members. I was very curious about the 2016 Reserve Chardonnay that I decided to join the club so that we could enjoy the chardonnay with some lunch items.

After our tasting we crossed the tasting room to the market area. We selected some items for lunch and picked up the bottle of the 2016 Reserve Chardonnay. It was everything we had hoped it would be. And it paired well with our lunch items. In the market area there is a comfortable seating area. There is also a covered patio area for warmer times. The day we were there they had live music out on the patio. The patio has wonderful views of the vineyards.

Before leaving we picked up our club wines and purchased a few more. We do plan to return to Big Cork Vineyards but sooner than seven years. If you happen to visit Big Cork Vineyards in Maryland, please tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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Crawfish Bisque and Gray Ghost Gewurztraminer - YouTube

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I posted recently about our third anniversary dinner being complemented with the 2012 “3”; today, I post about another trio but this time the focus is on three wines which we received from Rosemount of Virginia. Rosemount of Virginia has always impressed us; however, we have never visited the winery—-it’s located in the very southern part of the state and therefore quite a drive for us. Our tasting of these wines occurred at events or festivals where Rosemount of Virginia wines are poured. We were therefore very excited to find this trio greeting us at our front door!

The first of the trio that we enjoyed was the 2017 Rose produced from the Chambourcin grape. This dry rose was fermented in stainless steel tanks and presented fruity notes of red berries and a refreshing fruity palate. This rose should be perfect for summer barbecues; however, I enjoyed it with spicy shrimp creole.

On a colder winter’s evening, we poured the 2015 Kilravock, a blend of Merlot (40%), Cabernet Franc (36%), and Petit Verdot (24%). It was aged in both new and used oak barrels; of the new oak, 75% of aging time occurred in French oak barrels with the remainder spent in Virginia oak. On the nose it presented brambleberries, dark cherry, and licorice. Flavors of blackberry, cherry, and anise finished with caramel to suggest oak nuances. It paired quite well with our winter comfort meal that included roasted eye of round roast, mashed potatoes, and roasted carrots flavored with tarragon. (I will add that I decanted this one before pouring.)

The 2015 Merlot was the last of the three wines, and it was also our favorite. It was aged for 18 months in barrels (some new and some used; some time in Virginia oak barrels and some time in French oak barrels.). I decanted the Merlot before serving, and this seemed to open the aromas of cherry, plum, forest floor, and cedar. The palate was greeted with cherry, blackberry, and licorice flavors; Paul caught a taste of blueberry, and we both enjoyed an oak kiss on the finish. It paired quite well with filet mignon, roasted potatoes seasoned with parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning, and roasted asparagus.

We do appreciate the trio of lovely wines sent to us by Rosemount of Virginia, and we know that we will visit Rosemount of Virginia to sample these and their other well-crafted wines. In the meantime, readers may want to visit the winery sooner rather than later. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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Wintry mixes, gale force winds, and wild temperatures have not deterred us from hitting the wine trails in 2018. In recent weekends, we visited Tarara Winery, Gray Ghost Vineyards, and Rappahanock Cellars; along the way, we met up with fellow bloggers Kurt and Carol of Wine About Virginia and supreme oenophile/good friend Susan McHenry.

Our trip to Tarara Winery was threatened by a winter advisory that was issued for later in the afternoon. However, we decided to go with the intent to get their early and then leave early before the winter weather arrived. Danielle, our wine educator, gave us an expert tasting of winemaker Jordan Harris’ excellent wines. Of the white wines, the 2015 Viognier and the 2013 Neveah White were my favorites. The Viognier presented floral aromas with notes of tropical fruit and honey. On the palate, I noted tropical fruit with a nice, round mouth feel. The Neveah White is a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier; it displayed ripe pear and pineapple characteristics with a touch of oak on the finish. Favorite red wines included the 2015 Long Bomb 9, a red blend led by Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Syrah and Tannat. Notes of tobacco, clover, blackberry and anise gave way to a fruity palate with pepper on the finish; it was also a bit “chewy”. I’d recommend decanting before serving. The 2012 Neveah Red was a juicy treat with elements of blackberry, currants, tobacco and cedar. Oh—-the wintry mix? In keeping with the fickle winter that has been 2018, it never materialized.

However, our winter hurricane did strike the area, and many wineries were closed due to power outages. Gray Ghost Vineyards was able to operate thanks to a generator, so we were able to attend their annual barrel tasting. Here we met bloggers Kurt and Carol Jensen and dear friend Susan McHenry. Group favorites were the 2016 Petit Verdot and the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. I was also a fan of the lighter-bodied and fruity 2017 Cabernet Franc that was still in the barrel but oh so ready to enjoy. From Gray Ghost Vineyards we made our way to Rappahanock Cellars. Rappahanock Cellars has added sparkling wines to their lineup of quality wines, and I enjoyed the Sparkling Rose with its strawberry flavors and bright acidity. The dry Rose Reserve and the 2015 Cabernet Franc were other standouts; however, at the end of our tasting, the group was in the mood for Chardonnay, and the 2015 Chardonnay did not disappoint. Pear flavors with a rich mouth feel and an oak kiss paired well with the platter of cheeses that we ordered to finish the wonderful (and less windy) afternoon.

Spring is around the corner, and the finicky winter of 2018 will be history. Plan to visit these wineries as we transition to warmer days and spring landscapes colored with fragrant blossoms. Of course, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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Congratulations to outstanding winemaker, Matthieu Finot, for winning the Virginia Governor’s Cup. It was Finot’s 2014 Meritage that earned the coveted Cup!

We are fortunate to already have a bottle of the big winner on our wine rack, and we intend to hold on to it for a while longer. Merlot leads the way with this blend (50%) followed by Petit Verdot (23%), Cabernet Franc (21%), and Malbec (6%).

Be sure to visit King Family Vineyards to experience this top of the class red blend for yourself, and please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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Virginia Wine Time by Warren - 3M ago

Time flies when you are having a blast with your best friend who also happens to be your spouse. That is the only way that I can describe the past three years with my best friend and husband, Paul. Well, to be completely honest, it has been 13 years since we have been friends and partners; however, three years ago we decided to marry on the exact date of our first date. That occurred on February 20, 2005 when a reluctant Paul agreed to a date with me to view art exhibits at the National Gallery of Art. Later that evening, we had charcuterie and cheeses with a bottle of red wine—-a Merlot from Gray Ghost Vineyards to be exact. This year is our third wedding anniversary and we thought it appropriate to celebrate with a Virginia red wine aptly named 3.

3 was a joint venture of three highly regarded Virginia wineries that included King Family Vineyards, Veritas Vineyards, and Grace Estate. The 2010 vintage was our last bottle of this joint effort. Virginia wine aficionados may remember that the 2010 growing season resembled Napa more so than Virginia. The summer was hot and dry, and drought was the word being bandied about by weathermen at the time. Virginia red wines from this vintage tend to be fuller bodied but higher in alcohol; in fact, we have opened very few Virginia red wines from the 2010 vintage. However, 3 struck us as appropriate for the occasion, and we were not disappointed with our decision to open it. I plopped an aerating device atop the bottle and then poured it into the decanter about an hour before dinner; we gave 3 a lot of time to breathe. Dinner included filet mignon served beside potatoes au gratin and roasted asparagus.

So what were our impressions? We poured 3 from the decanter into Bordeaux glasses (ok—-we were trying to be pretentious), and I noted aromas of blackberry, menthol and cedar. Generous blackberry jam greeted the palate with a bit of blueberry noted at mid-palate. A nice, lengthy finish complemented our meal. Our only regret was that this was the last bottle of 3 in our collection. Note to readers who still have 3 on the wine rack—-this is still aging well, so hang on to it for a bit longer if you wish.

We enjoyed celebrating three years of marriage with 3. It gave us the chance to visit memory lane to recall our time together. Virginia wines have always been a special part of our lives together. We hope that readers can recall similar special moments. Visit these three excellent wineries, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

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I was a member of the Casanel Vineyards and Winery wine club for a year and then a few more months went by and I was out. You need to buy a case within the year to be in the club. Well I had forgotten. So we went back to Casanel to get back in the club.

We began at the tasting bar. Our very knowledgable tasting associate Erik, guided us through our tasting. Between the two Pinot Gris’ they have, we both preferred the Ellianna. We noted a full palate with notes of pear, apricot and some lime zest. It was lean and ended with some mineral notes. It’s perfect for a late spring day or summer time. But we’ll enjoy it year round.

We really enjoyed the 2016 Chardonnay. It’s a blend of stainless and oak aging. We noted pineapple, pear and lemon with a lingering finish and a kiss of oak at the end. As I tasted this one, I knew I’d be adding several bottles to my case.

Onto the reds. We tasted the 2015 K2 Red Blend, the 2013 Bergerac Red, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2015 Petit Verdot. While all the reds were wonderful, my favorite was the 2015 Petit Verdot. I noted plum, blackberry, cedar and a whiff of violet. I could see this one as both a sipper and pairing well with beef. We were also treated to a taste of the 2014 Carménère. Warren wrote down fleshy red fruit, plum, black pepper and thought it would pair well with a flank steak.

After our tasting we shared a bottle of the 2016 Chardonnay with cheese and a baguette. While enjoying out wine and snacks, Nelson joined us and told us his life story and shared his words of wisdom. It was great talking with him and hearing his stories.

Before leaving we made our decisions for the case. We liked the wines so much we’ll probably be back sooner than later to get another case! I’m back in the club now! Be sure to visit Casanel soon and when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!

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