Aug 28, 2014

Road Trip 2014 - Day 2

We headed south from Roanoke to Attimo Winery on Saturday morning.
We arrived at the 11 AM opening time, and the winery was bustling with activity, setting up for a festival scheduled for the afternoon. But we were warmly greeted and took a seat at one of the tables to be served our choices.  
The standard tasting is $5, for your choice 8 wines (out of 12 listed). There were also 5 reserve wines that could be tasted for $1 each.   The Italian "Attimo" translates to "Moment" in English, and all the wines here are named for a moment in time. We were told the wines at Attimo are all done in oak, no steel tanks, with the exception of a Chambourcin named AD 325, which is done in clay and concrete.  
Whites choices: We enjoyed the Yesterday’s Song, a Chardonnay ($18), Sonnet 98, a crisp, dry Pinot Gris ($17), and our favorite white Wonder, a Viognier/Vidal/Traminette blend ($21).  I tried a couple more whites that were just too sweet, but it seems to be the wine culture in the area to go for sweet wines.

Red Choices: The AD 325 ($17) was a dry Chambourcin cherry bomb. Kurt tried 2 different Cab Francs and a Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Zinfandel blend, that were all lighter bodied than expected.
The high point was the last - Chrisma, a port style wine ($26, 500ml) a blend of Tinta madera/ Touriga nacional/ Souza.  While it was a bit on the sweet side, it was also smooth and warm (18% alcohol). Attimo normally has food and I could see it being a great hang-out if we lived in the area.

A lonnnnggg and windinnngggg road led us to Blacksnake Meadery.  This is only the second time we have been to a meadery.  I don’t think mead will ever be on my “must have” list, but it is interesting to taste all the variety out there.  We had 8 meads to try, ranging from pure local honey, to honey from Florida, and honey with additives, and dry to sweet. One stand out for us was named Squashed, made with wild flower honey, butternut squash and pumpkin pie spice. Our favorite was a dessert wine style mead - this one came home with us.
Just up the road from Blacksnake we found Foggy Ridge Cider.  Again we are novices here. We were told that Foggy Ridge was the first Cidery in VA.  
We were led through 5 ciders, ranging from dry to sweet. The first 4 were bubbly, and we enjoyed them all, but chose Foggy Ridge Handmade as our favorite. The 5th was the equivalent of an apple port, fortified with brandy.  We both agreed this was just too sweet.  I think Ciders are something we will continue to explore.
We planned our lunch stop for the restaurant at the Chateau Morrisette winery.  We have had wine there before, but the last time we were in the area the restaurant was closed.  It is a beautiful place and the food was very good.  In the interest of time, we by-passed wine tasting at Chateau Morrisette and headed the short distance to our next planned stop, Villa Appalaccia.
Villa Appalaccia is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but be prepared before you go or you will not find it, as they are not allowed to post signs on the Parkway.  We had our directions, and found our way down a gravel road to a very pretty setting. The wines here are Italian style, and mainly Italian grapes. We were told that this is the 25th anniversary year for the vineyards, which are located at another site, at a lower elevation from the tasting room.

We started with a flavorful Pinot Grigio ($17), and moved on to the Vermintino ($18).  This was one of our favorites. The other was “Alegra” ($17), a Proseco style wine, made with Vidal Blanc.
The whites concluded with Rosa, a white wine made with Primitivo grapes, and a Moscato/Pinot Grigio blend, done with 1.5 percent RS.
The reds started with Toscanello, 2008 ($18) a Cabernet Franc/ Primivito blend. Cabernet Franc, 2006 ($21) followed.  The Italian Aglianico, 2011 ($21) and then the Corvina, 2009 ($22) was next. Our host told us that Villa Appalaccia is the only vineyard growing the Corvina grape in the US, and it was truly a special wine.  We ended the tasting with a sparkling red made from Corvina and Cabernet Franc. ($17)
We didn’t find a bad wine in the bunch here, all were well made, but were totally astounded by how swiftly we were led through the tasting.  We literally were almost chugging the wine, as the host was urgently waiting to pour the next wine on the heels of what was in the glass. Just not sure what that was all about, but we didn’t protest as we were still hoping to fit in one more stop.
Valhalla Vineyards, we had heard, has one of the best views in VA. Indeed, we have to agree. 
Here, you have 2 choices for tasting - the Reserve wines and the standard wines.  We both chose the standard list, and were told to pick 5 from the ten on the list.  We started with 2011 “Row Ten” ($17) a Chardonnay/ Viognier blend. Very nice. We both had wanted the sold out 2012 Viognier, but were offered the Chardonnay off the reserve list instead - not a bad substitute! I went for the 2008 Merlot ($20) while Kurt had the same.  My next choice was the 2007 Syrah ($20), which I enjoyed so much I was offered the 2004 off the reserve list ($27) - truly special.  Kurt went on to  2006 Cabernet /Shiraz blend and finished with “Valkyrie” a 5 grape Bordeaux blend.  I finished up with Sangria, made with 2001 Syrah.  We both avoided the sweet red, and the Norton, but there is that option if you like them.
I know I haven’t gone into great detail here, but overall, this was also a place I could recommend to most anyone. It is quite impressive that the standard reds are all well aged and the reserve list shows their depth. We had a little time before closing, so we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the view, Kurt with the 2004 Syrah, me with the Sangria.
We found out when we arrived back home that Valhalla was put up for sale for $3.5 million.

Aug 27, 2014

Road Trip 2014 continues - Botetourt Wine Trail and Beliveau Estate Winery

After our visit at Barren Ridge, we headed south on I-81 to pick up the Botetourt County wine trail. First stop was Blue Ridge Vineyard, which was started in 1986.  
They were setting up for a wedding in the main tasting area, so we were directed up the hill to “the old hog barn”.  That kind of set the tone for the tasting……

Next stop, Virginia Mountain Vineyards.  

Here we were greeted by  a large red dancing “man”, their latest effort at bird control. Not sure if it will work for them, but it was fun to see.  
Virginia Mountain was established in 1998. They have 14 wines on the tasting sheet, and owner Marie said they were all estate grown. They do get out to the festivals, so you may have had their wine, even if you haven’t visited the winery.

My favorite was Acaia Gold ($14) made up of 2 white grapes and one red grape - Marie would not divulge which grapes are used.  But it was light and only slightly sweet, a good summer porch wine. Kurt’s favorite was the Petit Verdot ($17).

The last winery on the Botetourt Trail is Fincastle Vineyard and Winery
Here we were served by owner/winemaker Richard Classey. Today there were 7 wines to taste. First up, Viognier - mostly done in stainless, with just a short visit to the oak barrels. Very nice. The 2012 Chardonnay was also good. The Rose was from Chambourcin, and done more as a white zin style (3% RS). Another sweet white, the Hybrid Vigor, a blend of Chardonel, Vidal, and Traminette.  Richard told us that Chardonel was a great grower, but not a reliable grape producer (likes to take a year off every 3rd year or so), something I had not heard before.
On the red side, we had Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Kurt thought the Cabernet Franc was the better wine. And we finished with a sangria made from the Rose. Notes are getting sketchy by this time of day, so I don’t have vintages or prices here.
To end the day, we made a dash for Beliveau Estate Winery.  
The tasting list was quite impressive for a 2 year old winery, 10 whites, and 6 reds. Tasting fee is $5 for 7 wines.  We were told that most of the whites were estate grown, reds are still being purchased, all from VA, except the Zinfandel.  

The first wine we tasted was one of our favorites, Kaleidoscope ($18) a dry Pinot Gris (we also tasted a semi-sweet Pinot later on named Fleur D’Ete). We also had a dry Vidal Blanc ($18), which was nice. There was a Chardonnay on the list, but we didn’t try it. They do have a couple blends with Niagra or Concord grapes - not to our liking, but to each his own. On the red side they offer a Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), a Merlot ($20), a Zinfandel ($24) -why?, and dry and sweet Chambourcins.  There is also a large Bed and Breakfast on property, and a variety of food are offered in the tasting room.
The vineyards appear healthy and more grapes are being planted.  Keep an eye on Beliveau as they mature, but even now it is worth a stop if you are in the Blacksburg area.  

Time to find our hotel and get some dinner.

Aug 25, 2014

Road trip 2014 - CrossKeys and Barren Ridge

We hit the road to head to the Roanoke area, to explore wineries that were new to us.  But on the trip south on I-81 we first decided to stop for a couple repeats. These entries are going to be brief, as we have a very full agenda for the weekend, and want to get posts up before October!
Our first stop of the day was CrossKeys Vineyards.  We had visited here once before, Dec. 2011.  At that point, things looked quite stark.  What a difference today - the vines were lush and healthy looking, the landscaping was beautiful.  
We got to the tasting room at opening (11 a.m.)  Ryan greeted us from behind the bar.  Tastings range from $4-$8. We opted for the full tasting at $8.

On our last visit, CrossKeys was completely out of white wines.Today we got to start with a very nice 2013 Chardonnay ($20.5) We both liked this one a lot. Next was 2013 Joy White ($17.5), 100% Vidal Blanc.  Just a hint of sweet in this one. Then we had the Rose, which turned out to be our overall favorite ($17.5). This is one of the best Rose’s we had this summer, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.
Moving onto the reds.  We tried the 2012 Pinot Noir ($21).  A good effort for VA, but not quite the same as a western Pinot. 2013 Joy Red ($17.5) is a slightly sweet Chambourcin that called out for chocolate. Then came a 2011 Merlot ($22) - a typical 2011 red - need I say more? The Cabernet Franc ($23) was also a 2011, but worked a little better than the Merlot.  The final red wine was a 2012 Meritage ($28) made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. This one could use a little more bottle time. The last time we visited we purchased the 2010 Tavern ($38/500 ml) a port-style wine, made from Touriga Nacional.  Still a nice wine, not just not in a port frame of mind this time of year.

Ryan told us that CrossKeys Vineyards had lost at least an acre of vines due to the harsh winter, but that they had planted 3.5 acres this spring. Look for them to be adding Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Cabernet Sauvignon to their line up in a few years.

We enjoyed our time at CrossKeys Vineyards, and were glad we stopped in. We also found out that they now have a full restaurant, open the same hours as the winery - maybe another visit.
Next stop, another old favorite - Barren Ridge Vineyards.  We have loved this place since our first visit, and always recommend it to friends we know are heading down I-81 in search of wine.  Today did not disappoint.
The tasting sheet offers 4 white and 4 reds.  I opted just to do whites this stop, Kurt went for both. They also have several others that are available for sale, by the bottle or glass that are not part of the normal offerings.

We started with the 2012 Viognier($22). This slightly oaked Viognier was very complex.  The 2012 Traminette ($16) showed all the good qualities of this grape, and avoided the floral bomb that can show up if the winemaker is not careful.  The 2013 Chardonnay ($19) also went down easy.
The final white was 2013 Harmony ($17) a Vidal Blanc, Riesling, and Petit Manseng blend - a delight for the summer.

The Barren Ridge reds - a 2012 Touriga ($20), a 2012 Petit Verdot ($20), and a 2012 Red Baron ($17), a blend of Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot did not disappoint. They were also pouring the 2007 Albermarle Simply Red ($12) from the old Kluge Estate.  Kurt liked all the red wines and commented on the quality of the old Kluge Simply Red.  The Touriga was fruity and easy to drink.

We chatted with several customers while we were there, all from NoVA. We even found a friend of a friend - small world!  We shared a little 2012 Rose ($15) over sandwiches and again wished Barren Ridge was closer to home for us.
When you visit CrossKeys Vineyards or Barren Ridge Vineyards, tell them you read about them at Wine About Virginia.

CrossKeys Vineyards
6011 East Timber Ridge Road
Mt. Crawford, VA 22841
Phone: 540-234-0505

Barren Ridge Vineyards 
984 Barren Ridge Road
Fishersville, VA 22939
Phone: 540-248-3300

Aug 18, 2014

Ultimate Winemaker Experience at Epicurience Virginia

(Leesburg, VA) Epicurience Virginia attendees will have a chance to put their winemaking skills to the test this year as the Loudoun Winery Association unveils a wine blending competition where attendees vie to win the Ultimate Winemaker Experience.

The Speed Blending Competition will take place Saturday Aug. 30 during the Epicurience Virginia Grand Tasting at Morven Park. People interested in participating can enter the code EpicBlend when purchasing tickets and up to 48 winners will be randomly selected to participate.
Epicurience Virginia is all about delivering the most memorable food, wine, and Loudoun Virginia experience possible,” LWA member and Bluemont Vineyard  Co-owner and Co-winemaker Bob Rupy said. “We think the Ultimate Winemaker Experience is a unique, entertaining, and educational opportunity for Epicurience Virginia guests and a great way to extend the experience by participating first hand in the winemaking process and culture that makes DC's Wine Country one of the best in the country.”

Blending sessions will run from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with each session lasting one hour. During that time, participants will get to work with one of Loudoun’s winemakers to taste and create their own unique blend using three randomly selected Loudoun wines.

A winner will be selected from each group and entered into the final competition set to kick off at 4:30 p.m. LWA members and VIPs from the community will select one winner who will get to spend time over the next year working with a Loudoun winemaker to help create a wine to be released at Epicurience Virginia 2015.  

The ultimate winemaker experience is just one way to experience Virginia’s rich culinary scene at this year’s Epicurience Virginia. During this day-long edible showcase, savor Virginia’s finest wine and cuisine, attend wine seminars and watch notable chefs Nathalie Dupree, Shannon Overmiller, Todd Gray, Scott Drewno and Jason Alley cook up culinary creations in the chef demonstration tent. 

While the Grand Tasting is Aug. 30, extend your visit to participate in other culinary events throughout the weekend at Loudoun’s wineries and historic estates.  For tickets and additional information, visit