Better than we remembered.

We opened two bottles of wine this past week, one white and one red. Both were better than we remembered.  Both were purchased from Veritas on our trip last fall.

The Veritas White Star was a blend of Viognier, Traminette, Chardonnay, and Petite Manseng.  It seems to be sold out at Veritas, which is a shame as it is delicious and we want to purchase some more. 

The Veritas Red Star was an off-dry a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chambourcin.

The Red Star went very well with a simple dish of pasta with Marinara sauce topped with Parmesan and Romano cheeses.  The fruit flavors paired well with the sauce.

The White Star was a crisp, flavorful wine with complex flavors like peach and apple coming through.

Both are very good wines.  We love it when we open wines at home that are better than we remembered, don't you?

Susan Enan visits Fabbioli Cellars

Susan Enan made a video of her recent house tour. At the one minute mark she visits Fabbioli Winery. A very nice video tour of the vineyard with Doug follows. Susan's song Bring on the Wonder was played on the TV series Bones to critical acclaim.


Virginia Wine Showcase

February 12-13 are the dates for the next Farm Wineries Council event, Virginia Wine Showcase, to be held at Westfields Marriott Conference Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Tickets are available at http://www.vawineshowcase.org/

Sneak peak available here: VWSschedule.pdf


White Fences

My daughter's last post from their trip.

Our third winery visit was to White Fences. This winery in the Northern Neck is going out of business due to the owner's recent move to Minnesota. This is a shame really, because they are producing some good wine.

White Fences is really just a vineyard. They grow all their grapes and then ship them to Prince Michel, where their wines are actually produced. Most of what they grow is Chambourcin, which is used in three of their four reds. We bought all three of these. The Meteor Bright Red is a blend of Merlot & Chambourcin. It is smooth and smokey and would pair very well with red meat of any kind. The Meteor Midnight Red is 100% Chambourcin with about 2.5% residual sugar. It is well balanced with deep berry flavors. The final wine we purchased is called the Blue Jimmy Hard Shell Red. This was also 100% Chambourcin, but had more residual sugar than the Midnight Red. It is aged in oak. The additional sweetness gave the wine a hint of black cherry flavor, and the oak gave it a spiciness reminiscent of mulled wine.

The winery also makes a semi-sweet Rose, a Chardonnay, and a sweet white wine  made with a hybrid Seyval/Chardonnay grape. Hopefully the current owner will find a buyer to pick up where he left off.


Williamsburg Winery

More from my daughter and son-in-law's week-end trip. 

Our second winery was The Williamsburg Winery. As soon as we arrived we could tell that this was an even more commercial winery than New Kent.

The winery bills themselves as the largest in the state, and it is quite apparent that they are operating on a larger scale than most I have visited. A tasting and tour was $20 for the two of us and began with a decade-old video about the history of wine, Virginia, and the winery. While on our tour, we noticed that many of the wines are made with grapes from other wineries and vineyards.


The winery has 27 wines listed on their tasting notes. We tried ten of these and were not overly impressed. The opening wine was a dry Riesling made in a French style which was so dry that it tasted like lemon & grapefruit juice.  It was so tart that I don't think I could drink a full glass (and I've been known to eat lemons).

The Sir Christopher Wren White was a nice blend which featured Traminette. It was sweet and light with a hint of roses. We also liked the Barrel Aged Claret and the Barrel Aged Seyval Blanc.

Overall, though, our impression of the winery was that it is there to attract the tourists coming to Williamsburg with a casual interest in wine, not to draw wine lovers to Williamsburg.

New Kent

A guest post from my daughter.  She and her husband made a trip to Williamsburg. Here is their first report.

The first winery we visited was New Kent Winery.

This was an interesting winery, as it is the centerpiece of what was to be a planned community. The winery is absolutely beautiful, which tends to indicate that the wine will be sub-par. This wasn't entirely true at New Kent. Their red wines, a Meritage and a Merlot, were a bit anemic and seemed to lack body and flavor, but their white wines were quite good.
The Chardonnay Reserve was amazing. Aged for 2-3 years in oak, it has a wonderful smokey flavor without being buttery or heavy. We bought both this and the standard '05 Chardonnay (which we did not taste, but was described as being midway between the all-stainless '09 that I loved and the reserve).

Fans of sweeter whites, like my mom, would also enjoy the Vidal Blanc. It is light and fruity, with peach and pineapple evident throughout. Even I could imagine drinking this on a hot summer evening. We found the other two sweet wines, their White Merlot and Sweet Virginia, to be just too sweet up front and slightly syrupy. All in all, though, the Chardonnay and beautiful location make this well worth a visit. Tasting was $10 for two.


Paradise Springs one-year anniversary

We went with a friend to Paradise Springs for the One Year Anniversary. We had a tasting of unreleased wines, held in the new winery building. On the menu for the evening were 2009 Petite Mansang (Siver Medal, Governor's cup),  2009 Chardonnay (Winner, Govenrnor's Cup), 2009 Cabernet Franc (we had this one brand new in the bottle last fall and loved it), and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. 
New winery building is nearly complete
Tickets were $15 per person and included one glass of Hot Mulled Wine (or a glass of one of their current tastings) and discounts on sales.  At Paradise Springs you keep your glass a souvenir following a tasting.  I had the Sauvignon Blanc, my wife had the Nana's Rose', and our friend had their mulled wine.  We all enjoyed those too.

Inside the new winery in the event/tasting area
We didn't stay for the champagne toast at 7 PM as we had dinner reservations. As usual, the new Paradise Springs wines are all fine examples of Northern Virginia wines. I enjoyed them all, but was particularly pleased with the delightful Cabernet Franc, with cherry flavor and nice finish.
The Governor's Cup

Congratulations to Paradise Springs on their first anniversary. 



Great story at the Voice of America today. Are we becoming the Napa Valley of the East?& The story profiles Hillsborough and Narmada Wineries. The video, which covers the Northern wine scene, including Lake Anna, Narmada, and Hillsborough, is definitely worth watching.



Marterella 2007 Chardonnay

We opened our bottle of Marterella 2007 Chardonnay this weekend.  It was better than I remembered.  Bracing acidity, with the buttery aftertaste, results in a very tasty, well-balanced Chardonnay. 

Interesting side note.  When we pulled the cork, the name Prince Michel was the logo we saw on the cork itself.  I would love to know the story behind that.


New Northern Virginia wineries in 2011

Here are the new northern Virginia wineries I have seen some sort of announcement about.

Berry Hill Vineyard in Flint Hill, VA is open by appointment only.  They make just one wine, Cabernet Franc.

Capitol Vineyards Tasting Room in Deleplane will open in Spring 2011. The tasting room is a newly renovated historic 1850's General Store on Red Oak Mountain.

Catoctin Creek Winery in Purcellville, Loudon County is owned by local photographer and winemaker, Jim Hanna.  It is open by appointment only.

Cobbler Cellars winery in Deleplane will open in Spring 2011.

Desert Rose Ranch and Winery  in Hume is opening in Spring of 2011.  Desert Rose is a working Arabian Horse ranch which is adding a boutique winery.

Granite Heights is located just outside of Warrenton, Virginia and is open by appointment only.

Little Washington Winery in Washington, VA is planning to open the in fall of 2011.

North Gate Vineyard new tasting room in Purcelleville, Loudon County is opening February, 2011.


Mattaponi Winery

Mattaponi Winery is located in Spotsylvania County, not too far from Lake Anna winery.

We visited on a Friday, on New Year's Eve and saw a sign saying they were open Saturday and Sunday.  One of the owners saw us turning around and waved us in for a tasting.  The tasting room is at the back of the owner's house.  They getting ready for a party for their workers that evening and you could see boxes with liquor in them, which was a strange sight. 

Tastings at Mattaponi are $2.00 each.  We tried a Chardonnay, a Merlot, a Riesling (which is almost sold out), a Concord and four berry wines: a blueberry, a dry blackberry, a strawberry, and a chocolate-infused strawberry.

All of the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon was boxed up for delivery to a customer.  The Mattaponi Cabernet Sauvignon was served at a function hosted by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  They have a copy of the menu on display at the winery.

Our favorite wine was the Riesling, which they are not normally offering now as they are nearly sold out.  The owner was kind enough to let us taste it and we wound up purchasing a bottle.  He had to go downstairs and label a bottle for us.  It tasted much like a German Riesling, with a bit of residual sugar.

If you like fruit wines, you really should visit Mattaponi.  Our favorites, the Blueberry (named Tibik-Kizismin)  and Strawberry (named Odeimin) wines, are very well-made and very well-priced. 

Mattaponi is a pleasant, small family-owned winery well worth a visit.


Lake Anna Winery

I have been wanting to visit Lake Anna Winery ever since I tasted their wines at Vintage Virginia last June. The Lake Anna tasting room is large and is set up almost like a bar, with seats on either side and tables in one room. 

 This was the last stop on our Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.  However, regular tastings at Lake Anna are only $3.00, $5.00 if you want to keep the glass.

We tasted 12 different wines at Lake Anna. While there, we discovered that Lake Anna's winemaker, Graham Bell, is also the winemaker at Cooper Vineyards.  Lake Anna has two "lines"  the Lake Anna labeled wines, which are dry, and the sweeter Lake Side label. 

Our favorite wine was the 2008 Barrel select Chardonnay ($18).  This is an oaky, buttery type Chardonnay, with a long finish.  The 2007 Bell Haven Cabernet Franc ($23) was also notable.  This wine was released in May 2010.  It had dark color, ripe berry, and a hint of vanilla.
We liked many of the wines at Lake Anna and we certainly liked the reasonable prices. Many good table wines are priced at $12.  If you are visiting in the area you should stop on by.


Cooper Vineyards

Cooper Vineyards is in transition.  They are nearly complete with a LEED-certified tasting room which will move them up the ranks from a small tasting room to a state-of-the-art facility.

 When we arrived, the previous tasters were nearing completion of their visit.  They wound up purchasing two cases of wine.  A good sign.

Cooper Vineyards had 12 wines available for tasting, although we both tried fewer than that.  General impression is Cooper Vineyards is making some very good fine wines. 
We tried a very interesting 2009 Chardonnay ($15), which had some citrus and even coconut flavor.  Our favorite white though was the 2009 Viognier ($23).  This was some great Viognier, with papaya and mango leaving you with peach flavors on the finish.  We both tried the tasty 2008 Cabernet Franc ($18).  It is medium bodied, with cherry flavor.  I detected a hint of peppery finish too. One of the better Cabernet Francs in Virginia.

I tasted two other reds-the Petit Verdot 2008 ($20), and the Coopertage 2008 ($23).  The Coopertage is a  blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 17% Petit Verdot.  It is a full-bodied, complex, dry red wine with a long finish. The Petit Verdot is a powerful, dark red wine.  Again, one of the better ones in the state.

Next, with rinsed glasses, we tried the sweet wines.  Cooper does sweet well.  I particularly liked the Vida ($20), a "ice-wine" style Vidal Blanc with 10% residual sugar.  This wine was light with apricot and peach flavor. I enjoyed the how the sweet and harshness played together.  My wife really enjoyed the Noche ($17).  This wine is a chocolate-infused Norton.  I am not a big fan of these kinds of wine, but I have to admit this is one is surprisingly good.

All in all, a great visit.  Cooper has a small tasting room now, but soon will relocate to a much larger facility.  So, if visiting anytime soon, understand that you may have to wait a bit.  Its worth it though.


Grayhaven Winery

We went to Grayhaven as part of our tour of the Heart of Virginia wine trail.  Grayhaven is a small boutique winery.

As you can see, the tasting room is attached to house.  The room is small, but has a certain charm.

 Unfortunately, our tasting was limited to just four wines and a mulled wine.  All of Grayhaven's seven white wines, their blush wine, and about half of their red wines are sold out.

The winemaker is from South Africa, which explains why Grayhaven is the only winery currently known to growing and producing Pinotage, the big, red wine from South Africa.

We tasted a Cabernet Franc ($16), a blended red wine named Trekker ($20) made mostly of Chambourcin, and two Pinotages-a 2008 Pinotage ($35) and a 2007 Pinotage Reserve ($40).  We liked the Cabernet Franc the best.  It was a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc, with cherry and plum flavors.  We also liked the 2008 Pinotage, mainly because it didn't taste like the harsh South African one I tried once.  This wine was more easy drinking, although it was a full-bodied, spicy red.

We left with a bottle of Cabernet Franc.  We hope to have a chance to taste some of Grayhaven whites someday.


James River Cellars

We decided to visit the wineries of the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.  We purchased Passport Tickets for $10 each on line.   With this you receive a souvenir wineglass, tasting at the four Heart of Virginia Wineries and a chance to win a gift. You can complete the trail anytime.

We had visited James River Cellars about three years ago.  Things have improved. 

Although the winery is behind a golf driving range, the facility is actually quite nice.  There is a patio area, an upstairs deck, and tasteful indoor seating area.

 James River is small winery with a large tasting menu. We tasted 14 wines that day. Our favorites were the Reserve Chardonnay ($16), the 2008 Hanover ($13),  and the 2008 Chambourcin ($14). The 2009 Chardonnay ($12) is quite nice too, for those that prefer a stainless steel chardonnay without oak.

The tasting notes for Hanover said it is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Chancellor.  We had never had Chancellor in any wine before.  It is apparently grown widely in northern and mid west states.  The red wine had a hint of sweetness, pronounced cherry and raspberry flavor, and a hint of a smokey taste. 
The Reserve Chardoonay was apple-flavored, crisp, with a touch of oak and a buttery finish.
The Chambourcin is made on the sweeter side at James River, which we think makes this wine easy drinking, with raspberry flavor coming through. 
We also liked the Divino dessert wine ($16).  This wine is made using the Vidal Blanc and Traminette grapes in an ice-wine style.  At $16, this wine is a bargain.

All in all, a very pleasant visit to James River Cellars.