We were invited to attend a soft opening of another new Virginia winery aptly named Star in the Valley. We can say that the new tasting room offers a stunning view of the Virginia skyline which was aglow with stars on the night of the opening. A starlight backdrop accented the wall behind the tasting bar, and the winery’s name, Star In The Valley, seemed fitting.
The winery currently has eight acres of property planted in vines with varietals that include Chardonel, a hybrid that mimics the Chardonnay profile, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Star In The Valley now produces 400 cases of wines and can safely be classified as a small producer of wine.
We were treated to a tasting of the 2018 Field Star White, a Chardonel that was co-fermented with Chardonnay and then aged five months in neutral oak barrels, the 2018 Chardonel that was also co-fermented with Chardonnay but aged five months in new Hungarian oak barrels. Red wine offerings included the 2018 Cabernet Franc, and the 2018 Field Star Red, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin.
After our tasting, we enjoyed light fare that included cheeses, prosciutto, olives, and canapés. Readers who wish to experience a new winery under the stars should consider Star in the Valley Winery. Mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
The Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup announced the 2019 medal winners, and this year 68 wines from Virginia wineries earned gold medals. However, only one entry wins the coveted Gold Cup, and this year it was awarded to a true pioneer in the Virginia wine industry, Dennis Horton. Horton’s 2016 Petit Manseng garnered the competition’s top honor. Dennis Horton past away last year, but he will be remembered for playing a key role in Virginia’s renaissance in winemaking. Horton loved to experiment with grapes in order to determine which ones grew best in a state known for tricky weather and clay soils. It was Dennis Horton who revived the Norton grape and heralded Viognier as a viable choice for Virginia’s state grape. It is therefore fitting that his winery won the Gold Cup with another up and comer, Petit Manseng.
The Governor’s Cup case was also announced. The wines in the case consist of the 12 top scoring wines in the competition. In addition to the Horton 2016 Petit Manseng, the 11 other wines in the case are:
Barboursville Vineyards 2017 Vermentino Reserve
Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Eluvium
Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc
King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plains
King Family Vineyards 2016 Meritage
Paradise Springs Winery 2015 Meritage
Virginia Wine Works 2016 Hamlet Vineyards Eltham
Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Petit Manseng
Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Raisin d’Etre White
Virginia Wine Works 2015 Michael Shaps Tannat
Virginia Wine Works 2014 Upper Shirley Zachariah
Congratulations to all the medal winners, the Governor’s Cup case winners and to the Horton Vineyards team! If you get a chance to visit Horton Vineyards, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Photos courtesy of the Virginia Wine Marketing Office
On Sunday we had the opportunity to join in on the East Coast Wine Chat on Twitter. For this month’s chat we were tasting wines from Dr. Konstantin Frank located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The three wines they sent us to taste were the 2013 Blanc de Blanc, the 2016 Eugenia Dry Riesling and the 2017 Rkatsiteli.
Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like led the discussion on Twitter. There were two members of the winemaking team at Dr. Frank who helped answer questions submitted by the tasters on Twitter. Below is what we tweeted about each of the wines.
We enjoyed all three wines and the Twitter discussion. It’s a great way to learn about new wines we may not be familiar with. We hope to visit Dr. Frank’s winery sometime in the future. If you happen to visit Dr. Frank’s winery, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Being retired affords me the time to go to wineries on work days. Last Friday I met my friend George at The Barns at Hamilton Station. George is a club member so we were able to take advantage of his membership and do a tasting. We hadn’t visited them for several years.
We tasted three white wines and three red wines. They had many others on their full wine list but they were only tasting the six wines. Of the whites I really enjoyed the 2016 Viognier. It was tank fermented. I noted peach and honeysuckle. I was thinking of warmer times while tasting this one.
From the reds I really enjoyed the 2016 Petit Verdot. It had a nice ruby color and had notes of herbs and blueberry. The tannins were robust and made me think of a nice filet. I put this one on my purchase list. In talking with our tasting associate, I found out the grapes for this came from the Honah Lee vineyard in Charlottesville.
After our tasting we both enjoyed a glass of the 2015 Merlot. We noted the fruit forward nature and the smooth ending. Before leaving I bought my favorites and George picked up his shipment. It was nice to return to The Barns at Hamilton Station after so long and to see the wines progress nicely. Next time you visit them, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
On Saturday we headed out to Front Royal, Virginia to visit Glen Manor Vineyards. We were attending the December 2018 Cellar Tasting. We always enjoy tasting wines from the barrel to see how they are developing.
We started with the 2018 Dry Petit Manseng. It’s 100% petit manseng. Being so fresh in the barrel it’s obvious that it needs more time. However, we did note a nice level of acidity. We know when its released it will be a nice dry version of petit manseng.
The second wine was the 2017 St. Ruth. It’s a blend of 43% merlot, 35% cabernet franc and 22% petit verdot. The blend for 2017 is a bit different then it is for the current release, 2014. There is less merlot and more petit verdot. We think the blend is perfect and would easily enjoy a glass right now. But we’ll wait until it is released in the future.
The final wine we tasted from the barrel was the 2017 Hodder Hill. The 2017 Hodder Hill is a blend of 63% cabernet sauvignon, 21% merlot and 16% petit verdot. This may not even be the final blend. They will go through more blending trials to get to the final blend. The Hodder Hill has always been one of our favorites and this blend doesn’t disappoint. We know it will be a few years before it will be ready to enjoy but we’ll wait patiently knowing it will be worth the wait.
After the barrel tastings we went upstairs to the tasting room and tasted the other wines on the tasting menu. We then decided to enjoy a glass of the 2015 Cabernet Franc before leaving. We also bought several of our favorite wines. The next time you visit Glen Manor Vineyards, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
On Saturday we attended the Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration at Gray Ghost Vineyards. This event is their kick off to the holiday season.
We began with a tasting of the current wines on the tasting list. We love them all but the 2017 Chardonnay and the Ranger Reserve were among our favorites. We were given the Christmas glass for our tasting. This year the design is a castle, which is also the cork art that Al Kellert created for the event. One part of the event is guessing how many corks Al used to create the piece of art. We guess every year but never come close.
After our tasting we picked up our plate of cheese, crackers and bread and our glass of wine. While enjoying the cheeses, we looked at all the cork art and determined our guess for the year.
As usual, this is a very well attended event. We always enjoy ourselves. We purchased a few of our favorites before leaving. If you haven’t attended an event at Gray Ghost, you should think about putting one on your calendar. They have events all year long. And when you do attend one, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Warren’s parents visit us each year at Thanksgiving. We try to take them to a few wineries each visit. This year we decided to take them to Magnolia Vineyards on Black Friday.
We first visited Magnolia Vineyards when they first opened for business in the summer of 2014. At that time they were tasting their wines in the basement level of their home. During this visit we also tasted the wines in their basement but we found out a new tasting room and wine facility is almost complete. Hopefully early in the new year tastings will be taking place in the new tasting room and wine production will be taking place in the new wine facility instead of their garage.
Our tasting consisted of three white wines, a blush, three red wines and a dessert/port style blackberry merlot wine. Each wine was paired with a different kind of cheese as well. Our palates must have been in sync that day because we both enjoyed the 2015 Viognier with it’s melon and honey notes. Of the reds, we also both enjoyed the 2016 Cabernet Franc reserve. We noted cherry, raspberry and some black pepper. It paired nicely with the Manchego cheese. Warren’s father also enjoyed the Petit Verdot. He enjoyed the cherry and cranberry notes as well as the tannic presence at the end.
After our tasting we all enjoyed a glass of the 2015 Viognier. Magnolia Vineyards is a dog friendly facility and allows dogs in the tasting room. While we enjoyed our Viognier, we watched the dogs play with each other and run around the tasting room. Before leaving we bought all our favorites to enjoy at home. We plan to return in the future to see the new facility and check out the new tasting room. The next time you visit Magnolia Vineyards, let them know Virginia Wine Time sent you!
Thanksgiving approaches earlier this year, and it is time to think about food and wine pairings for Turkey Day. Of course, Virginia Wine Time always recommends Virginia wines. Here are some of our recommendations based on what we found on the wine rack at home:
Floral and Versatile White Wines:
VX2 2017 from Rappahannock Cellars (a blend of Vidal Blanc and Viognier)
Gewurzatraminer 2017 from Gray Ghost Vineyards
These wines present lovely floral aromas and offer the kind of flavor profile to pair with turkey and a variety of the trimmings. We always suggest selecting Thanksgiving wines based on side dishes as those will indicate whether a lighter bodied wine or a fuller-bodied wine is more appropriate. These Virginia gems pair perfectly with herbed dishes, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, yams flavored with fall spices——endless possibilities here.
Fuller Bodied White Wines:
Village Chardonnay 2016 from Linden
Patricia Marie 2017 from Casanel Vineyards and Winery (oaked Pinot Gris)
Poultry partnered with creamy sauces, mashed potatoes and gravy, or rich vegetable casseroles may require a wine with more body and a fuller mouth feel. These suggested wines should fit the bill.
Rhone to the Rescue:
Viognier 2017 from Breaux Vineyards
Roussanne 2017 from Blenheim Vineyards
Thalia 2016 from Muse Vineyards (blend of white Rhone varietals)
Viognier is a Rhone varietal that has helped to put Virginia’s white wines on the map. It is therefore the state grape. It should also shine very brightly on the Thanksgiving table. Poultry and any number of side dishes such as those recommended above will prove Viognier’s versatility. However, Rousanne is a Rhone sister to consider; for the full Rhone effect, pour the complex Thalia 2016 from Muse Vineyards.
White Wine or Red Wine? Can’t Decide? Go with Rose
Morales Rose 2017 from Glen Manor (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
Rose is the most versatile wine option to consider. It goes with pretty much anything, and that includes traditional Thanksgiving fare.
Lighter-Bodied Red Wines:
Cabernet Franc 2016 from Slater Run Vineyards
Cinq6 from Delaplane Cellars (blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot)
I am still a fan of Virginia Cabernet Franc, and I seem to trend toward lighter-bodied styles for Thanksgiving dinner. These are not heavily oaked and have proven to be versatile with turkey and traditional trimmings.
Fuller-bodied Red Wines:
Heritage 2015 from Keswick Vineyards (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot)
Octagon 2010 from Barboursville Vineyards (blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot)
So what if your Thanksgiving menu will serve beef instead of turkey? Consider these pairing options. Consider decanting first, even the Octagon 2010 if you happen to have a bottle on the wine rack. The 2010 vintage is highly regarded—-the growing season resembled Napa rather than Virginia. Therefore, I would advise letting it breathe for a while before serving.
Petit Verdot 2015 from Linden
Odo 2013 from Grace Estate (blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot)
These suggestions are for the mavericks who opt for gamier meats rather than turkey. Duck confit, leg of lamb, venison, etc. should all respond nicely to these wine options.
Ciders, Meads, Etc.
Blue Bee Cyser Apple Honey Wine
Another versatile option to serve with traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Offering baked ham instead of turkey? Give this suggestion a try.
Be sure to visit Virginia wineries soon to stock up on your Thanksgiving favorites. Check your local wine shop too as Virginia wines are may be sold there. If not, ask that they do! Wherever you go to purchase your Virginia wines, be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you!
October is Virginia Wine Month, and readers may want to consider joining the club at their favorite winery or wineries. Paul and I do belong to a few Virginia wine clubs, and we can attest to some of the benefits of club memberships. Here are some of them:
Flexibility—-Most wineries offer membership levels to make them affordable and/or convenient. For example, I prefer club memberships that offer a one case requirement and then you are “in”! Some wineries offer monthly or quarterly purchase requirements while others offer options that include all of the above.
Benefits—-The best memberships offer exclusive benefits such as the use members’ only (and usually quieter) quarters, exclusive members’ only wines, discounts on tastings, wine purchases and winery events such as barrel tastings, dinners, and concerts.
Experience—-Wine club members usually get to sample club wines poured by an educator who is dedicated to providing a quality experience. We appreciate the extra time given to us by educators who can answer our pesky questions about vineyard sites, microclimates, harvest experiences, etc. We are even treated to mini-verticals at times, and these allow us to know whether to drink now or hold on the wine rack!
Warren: I renewed my case club membership to Slater Run Winery. The winery does offer a quarterly option; however, I like the convenience of the “one case a year option.” A case of wine allows me to appreciate the excellent skills of winemaker Katel Giraud whenever I like. I enjoy free tastings and discounts on purchases; furthermore, I get ample notice of winemaker’s dinners and other winery events. My recent case included the excellent dry Rose, old-world style Chardonnay, and the complex Bordeaux blend called Roots!
Paul: I’ve been a club member at Breaux Vineyards since 2006. I appreciate getting sneak peaks of wines that are released to club members first. Each quarter we get three wines that represent a the best of Breaux wines. Breaux has several vertical wine tasting events each year and we always enjoy attending a few of them. And the wine club pick-up parties are always fun!
October is Virginia Wine Month! To kick off Virginia Wine Month, we joined several other bloggers and wine industry people for the October #VAWineChat hosted by Frank Morgan of the Drink What You Like blog. The event was held at Flight Wine Bar in Washington DC.
Frank Morgan was joined by Caroline Hermann, Master of Wine, and Swati Bose, owner of Flight Wine Bar to taste and discuss Virginia red blends. We tasted along with them and Tweeted our impressions of the wines. Flight Wine Bar treated us well with lots of wine friendly foods and a beautiful room for tasting and Tweeting.
The wines we tasted were:
Glen Manor Hodder Hill
King Family Meritage
Williamsburg Winery Adagio
In addition to these wines, we also tasted the soon to be released Virginia’s Heritage. It’s a blend of wine from 16 different Virginia wineries. All the wines were wonderful and really reflect what’s happening in red blends in Virginia.
Today VirginiaWine.org launched their updated website with a new logo and tons of information about Virginia wine. Check out their updated site! Thank you Virginia Wine.org!
If and when you visit any of these wineries or Flight Wine Bar, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!