Stinson Vineyards

This was a new adventure for us, as Stinson Vineyards have only been open for a few months.  It is a small family operation.  They do have vines planted on the property, (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Sauvignon Blanc) but are currently getting their grapes from Woodstock and Mt Juliet.   We were served by wine make Rachel Stinson, and her dad.

2010  Sauvignon Blanc $22  This was an interesting Sauvignon Blanc.  This was not at all like a big New Zealand-style SB.  Rather it was more understated, yet flavorful. 

2010 Rose $17  100 percent Mourvedre -  Nice summer wine.  A Rose in the Southern France style  (dry).  We were told there would be no 2011 Rose, due to crop loss of the Mourvedre this fall from all the rain

2010 Chardonnay -$20  Nice blend of new oak and neutral oak aging.  Silver Medal in governor’s cup competition.

2010 Sugar Hollow White $20  A blend of Petite Manseng and R-Kats, 1 percent residual sugar, so lightly sweet, but not overpowering.  One of their best sellers this past summer.

2010 Cabernet Franc  $ 22  This was a full bodied Cabernet Franc with cherry flavors and pepper.

2008 La Tour d’Afton  $25– unfiltered red table wine from Turk Mountain Vineyards. This is a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec made in a very natural way (no commercial yeasts, not filtered, etc).

2010 Petit Manseng Desset wine  $25/ 375ml  Very flavorful, yet not cloying. We were told this wine is fermented and aged in acacia barrels.

We really liked Stinson Vineyards.  The wines were very good, especially for a new winery.  They have a great view, a nice facility, and were great folks to meet.  We look forward to stopping there again in the future.
Stinson Vineyards 4744 Sugar Hollow Road
Crozet, 22932

Phone Number:  434.823.7300


White Hall

This was our second visit to White Hall, and once again we found them to be friendly and helpful. They also have a number of wines not on the tasting , but available for sale.
Out Tasting:

2008 Chardonnay $15  Nice drinking Chardonnay
2009 Gewurtztraminer  $ 18  This wine was Carol’s choice.
2008 Petit Manseng  $16
Breakheart Red (NV)  $13   80% Merlot, 20% Chambourcin
2008 Merlot $15 (sale $100 case!)
2009 Touriga  $15  A good, smooth, fruity red.  Very drinkable.
2009 Petit Verdot  $18
2006  Edichi $20/375 ml,  Port-style made from Touriga and fortified with brandy.

White Hall Vineyards makes many very nice, well-priced wines.  We enjoy visiting when we are in the area.

White Hall Vineyards   
5282 Sugar Ridge Rd.
Crozet, Virginia 22932

Phone Number:434-823-8615


Mountfair Vineyards

We next travelled to another Appellation wine trail winery.  Mountfair Vineyards produces red wines exclusively.   The currently are growing both Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  They do pour two sparkling whites from Thibaut Janison: Blanc de Blanc ($28) and Virginia Fizz ($23), which is made Proseco-stlye.  Both wines are made from Chardonnay and were pretty decent wines for the price.
Next we tried Montfair’s 2009 Merlot ($20).  Aged 22 months in oak, it was smooth and very fruity and had a long finish.  The Merlot has a little bit of Cabernet Franc blended in.  This was followed by the 2009 Cabernet Franc ($20). The Cabernet Franc was mellow with a light peppery finish.  It has a little bit of Merlot blended in.

Next came the right-bank Bordeaux-style blend called Engagement ($25).  Engagement is 60 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet Franc, and 10 percent each for Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
Our final tasting was the 2009 Wooloomooloo ($25) A red blend made of 60 percent Petit Verdot, 30 percent Merlot, and 10 percent Cabernet Franc.  This was my favorite red wine at Montfair.  The excellent Petit Verdot is enhanced by the fruitiness of the Merlot.  This was a keeper and should age well for a number of years.  The pourer told us this particular vintage has only been in the bottle for three weeks.

If you enjoy red wines, Montfair should definitely be on your really-ought-to-visit list.  The prices are quite good for wines of this quality.

 Mountfair Vineyards   
4875 Fox Mountain Rd
Crozet, Virginia 22932

Phone Number:


Next stop, Glass House

Our next stop on a rainy Friday was Glass House Winery .  This was our second visit to this truly unique winery. It was still raining, but this time we were greeted at the car by Dogbert, and she didn’t bring umbrellas. We met Jeff Sanders, one of the owners, when we arrived in the tasting room.

  We had a nice chat with Jeff, and were well served by Sabrina.  In our opinion, all of the vintages are better than the previous year. 

The tasting included:
2010 Viognier $24  - Estate grown.  As an added bonus, we got to taste the first crop of Glass House bananas with this wine.  The banana is a variety that grows around New Orleans.  It was sweet and tasted very much like other bananas.  The Viognier was quite good, better than last years vintage.

2010 Vino Signora $ 15  This is an Estate grown Traminette with 3 percent residual sugar, but good  balance.  This is a really well-made Traminette that will appeal to many wine drinkers.
Jeff said he had managed to get all his white grapes in before the almost constant rain, but had not had the opportunity to harvest any red yet.

2010 Caihailina Vidal Blanc –$20  produced at Glass House by Bob Ramsey
2010 21st  $23 – Bordeaux blend, made from Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.   Bold and fruity, nice acid
2010 C-Villiain - $17  Chambourcin, with a touch of Merlot and Cabernet Franc
2010 Meglio del Sesso- $21/ 375 ml- (translation – Better than Sex)  Chocolate dessert wine.   Made from Norton, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc, aged with 82 percent ground chocolate  and with 13 percent residual sugar.  Served with a sample of hand made espresso chocolate.

We also got to try the Caihailian Vidulce 2009, another wine by Bob Ramsey – 100 percent Vidal Blanc.  This wine won the State Fair competition in the Dessert wine category.

Last, but not least, we tried the Concord grape Juice that Jeff makes for fun.  I’d drink this for breakfast every day, if I could.

We took our lunch to the greenhouse with some Traminette and with Dogbert for company.

Glass House Winery
5898 Free Union Road,
Free Union, Virginia 22940


Reynard Florence Vineyard

We started off driving into the rain, heading south toward Charlottesville.  Our first stop was Reynard Florence Vineyard  in Barboursville VA.  They advertise being open by appointment and by chance.  We had made arrangements to visit, and were in fact met at the car by Roe Allison, carrying umbrellas.  He walked us down a hill to the tasting room (be forewarned – there are no public restrooms at this point.)  We did stop by a couple vines, where Roe offered  up tastes  of the Petit Manseng and Grenache grapes still hanging.  Roe and Dee planted their first fines in 2006, and have added more each year.  They are working with Chris Hill, and making their wine at Virginia Wine Works.  They produced 530 cases last year, hope to eventually get to about 1500.

The Reynaud Florence Vineyard wines we tasted:
2010 Reynard Blanc –$18 - a blend of Traminette, Riesling, Petit Manseng  and Viognier.  2.5 percent residual sugar. You get an explosion of flavors when you taste this. 

2010 Petit Manseng $24  - Estate grown 5.0 percent residual sugar.  One of the best Petit Mansengs we have tasted.

2010 Cabernet Franc $22 - A very nice wine.

Reynard Rouge - $18 Cabernet Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc  An easy drinking red.
Also for sale, but not tasting:  2009 Petit Manseng, $24,  2009 Grenache - $30

So, if you are planning a visit to the Barboursville/Burnley area we recommend giving Reynard Florence a call to make an appointment or to see if you can swing by to try their wines.  You won't be disappointed.

Reynard Florence Vineyard
16109 Burnley Road
Barboursville, VA 22973
(540) 832-3895


An Ideal Wine

I just finished reading An Ideal Wine: One Generation's Pursuit Of Perfection - and Profit - In California by David Darlington.  The book tells the story of the last decades of California wine making from the post Judgement of Paris time period to now. 

David Darlington tells his story through the lives of two major figures in California wine: Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards and Leo McCloskey of the wine analysis firm, Enologix.  Randall Grahm is, of course, the first protagonist representing terroir-based wines and lately, biodynamic farming.  Leo McCloskey is the other protagonist representing the scientific, materialistic approach, using databases of wine critics scores like Robert Parker's and Wine Spectator's along with the chemical compound measurements that make wines achieve those scores.

 Other figures are covered of course, and the story includes the rise of Yellow Tail from Australia,  the sale of Glen Ellen, the arrival of Two-Buck Chuck, and the rise of the school at UC Davis.  It is a great read about how the California industry  was transformed from a collection of family wineries to corporate giants of today.

The book talks about everything and any wine drinker is sure to discover many things are not as simple as they first appear.  I finished thinking both sides are right--and wrong.

As I was reading the book I couldn't help but think to myself that the description of the California wine scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s sounds familiar to the situation in Virginia (and to a lesser extent North Carolina and Maryland) today.  How the vineyards and wineries here will proceed remains to be seen.  But I think this book offers some clues about how it might move forward.

I recommend the book highly.  It is a very revealing look at the wine industry today as seen through the eyes of two still major figures in the wine world.


Village Winery

We were in the area and decided to visit Village Winery again. Last time we visited they were all out of their Viognier. We wanted to see if they had released a new vintage. They had, plus some other new wines.

As you can see, Village Winerey is not a fancy place.  It will never be a big destination winery.  The owner/winemaker says he is a farmer.  He told us he was putting in 100 apple trees, so that he will have his own source of apples for the apple wine.   It is a plaesant and friendly palce to visit and the wines are nice.

We tasted Village Winery's Viognier ($18), Merlot ($17), Cab Franc ($17), Merlot and Cabernet Franc Blend ($17) and a Petit Verdot ($20).   We particularly enjoyed the Viognier and bought a bottle.

We also tried an Apple Wine ($13), Apple and Elderberry Wine ($17), a Raspberry Apple Wine ($16), and an Elderberry Vinaigrette,which was quite tasty. Village Winery also makes Elderberry Syrup, an Elderberry Chocolate Syrup, and an Elderberry Beverage mix.

Village Winery 40405 Browns Lane
Waterford, Virginia 20197


29 Vines

29 Vines is a new winery in Loudoun County.  The winery has a tasting room in Purcellville.  29 Vines will host a Grand Opening on Saturday, Sept. 17. The tasting room offers other Virginia wines in addition to its own.  Right now they are pouring and selling wines from Tarara and Fabbioli Cellars.

29 Vines is now pouring and selling four wines of their own: Sweet Rebecca Lynn (a blend of Tramminette and Seyval Blancwhich is not sweet) ($18), White Chambourcin ($18), Reserve Chardonnay ($22), and Karma ($28).  A Chambourcin  is coming soon.  They are also pouring two Tarara whites: Viognier and 3 Vineyards Chardonnay; two Tarara reds: Cabernet Franc and Long Bomb 2; and Fabbioli Cellars Raspberry Merlot. 

Co-owner Mary Beth Barbagallo
We really liked the 29 Vines Reserve Chardonnay. It was soft and fruity with a lingering finish. We took a bottle home with us. Mary Beth also poured us a taste of their Cabernet Franc which they have blended with Merlot in the Karma. She explained that they really didn't have enough Cabernet Franc for a separate bottling, which is too bad because it was wonderful. The Karma was just bottled so it needs time to recover from bottle shock.

The tasting room is very nice.  It is pleasant place to stop for a tasting and maybe a glass of wine.  Mary Beth said their plans include adding some other Virginia wines and having these available for tastings and sales.   It was nice to taste the Tarara wines as we hadn't been to Tarara in some time.

Wine tastings are held Friday – Monday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.  They cost $10 for 9 wines (soon to be 10).  Active duty and retired military have a sponsored tasting costing only $1. 

We had a pleasant time at 29 Vines and think you will too.

29 Vines, 105 E. Main St. Purcellville, VA 20132


Herndon Labor Day Festival

Wineries: Barboursville Vineyards,   Chateau Morrisette, Cooper Vineyards, Davis Valley Winery, DelFosse Vineyards, Horton Vineyards, Loudoun Valley Vineyards, North Gate Vineyard, Peaks of Otter Winery, Rebec Vineyards, Thistle Gate Vineyard,  and  Williamsburg Winery.

(Alexandria, VA), (Williamsburg, VA)
(Ashburn, VA), and (Downingtown, PA).
I liked all the beers I tried. We received three tasting tickets so I only selected the Indian Pale Ales.

Highlights of the wine tastings:

Thistle Gate Vineyard is a new winery not yet open to the public.  We liked all their wines, especially their Chardonnay.

North Gate Vineyard is one of our favorites.  Mark introduced us to their new Petit Manseng.  We still love his Chardonnay.  Mark told us the 2010 Viognier was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2011 VA Governor's Cup for White wines so he is not pouring it for tastings.  He is also out of his Petit Verdot.

Other wines that caught our attention:  Cooper Vineyards Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot; Loudoun Valley Vineyards Vinifera Red; Davis Valley's White (made from Chardonelle) and Autumn Red; and Delfosse 2008 Grand Cru Olivier.

All in all we had a nice time despite the rain.  Old town Herdon is a nice place to visit and more so with a festival. 


Virginia Wine Bloggers Blind Tasting Party

We hosted a Virginia Wine Blogger blind wine tasting party the other evening.  It was a lot of fun and a chance to meet and talk to each other.  Some of our guests have been blogging for years.  Some, like us, are fairly new to Virginia Wine blogging.  Even with several regrets, we hosted a large and diverse group at the party.
This party was Carol's idea.  We invited many of the Virginia wine bloggers we knew about to participate in a Virginia wine tasting party featuring blind tastings of different varietals. We asked that they help by contributing to the tastings by bringing at least 2 bottles of the same varietal (or same/similar blends) from different Virginia wineries. We planned to compare our 2 Albarinos, and later added 2 Petit Verdots.

Carol thought it would be really interesting if we did this as a blind tasting, so we asked everyone to  mask their bottles, and just label with the varietal/blend and "A" or "B" ( and "C" if they really wanted to get crazy, as many of them apparently did ).

We also asked that each blogger brought some kind of snack/ tidbits that would go well with the wine they brought.  We made up score sheets for everyone, put some turkey meatballs in a spicy BBQ sauce in the crock pot and prepared the house for a fun evening.  Our guests brought some cheeses, spinach cheese dip and chips,  chocolate covered grapes, special cookies that go with wine varietals, fresh breads, a prosciutto and cheese plate, olives, flatbread crackers, and gourmet pretzels. We included some dark chocolates which were supplemented by others during the evening.

Virginia Chardonnays revealed
Kristy Wine Vine  and the Swirl Sip Snark team each brought two Chardonnays to taste. There was probably more variation in the Chardonnays than in any other grouping that evening  Here were the Chardonnays we tasted blind: 2009 Veramar Reserve, 2009 Blenheim, 2010 Willowcroft, and 2010 La Grange.  Winner: 2010 Winery at La Grange Fletcher's Chardonnay by a rather overwhelming majority.
Virginia Viogniers revealed.
Colleen and Andrew from Wine Cruisers and Frank from Drink What You Like each brought two Viogniers.  I liked each of the Viogniers and each received at least one vote.  Viogniers tasted: 2009 La Grange, 2010 Paradise Springs, 2009 Delaplane Cellars, and 2008 Annefield. 
Winner: 2008 Annefield Vineyards.  This was the clear favorite. 

Loudon County Albarinos revealed
Carol and I supplied the Albarinos.  We tasted the 2010 Chrysalis and the 2010 Willowcroft.
Winner: The 2010 Chrysalis in a close vote.  One taster wrote "Chrysalis Honeysuckle.  Apricot.  Sweet finish."  Most everyone liked the Albarinos and asked if other Virginia wineries planned to grow it.

Allan from Cellar Blog provided three Nebbiolos:  2007 Breaux, 2001 Breaux Barrel Select, and Barolo from Italy.  Winner: The 2001 Breaux Nebbiolo.

John from Hagarty On Wine provided three Cabernet Francs.  I liked all three Cabernet Francs.  They all had good fruit and good after taste.  The winner received the vast majority of the votes.  Cabernet Francs tasted included a 2009 Desert Rose, a 2010 Hagarty Cellars from John's private collection, and the 2009 Rappahannock.  The winner was the 2009 Rappahannock Cellars Cabernet Franc by a wide margin.  But again, most folks really liked all three.  The Rappahannock Cellars had a fuller body and slightly more intense flavors.

Carol and I provided two Petit Verdots for this tasting including a 2008 Chester Gap and a 2008 Pearmund Cellars.  The winner was 2008 Pearmund Cellars by overwhelming vote.  One blogger said the Pearmund was "very approacable."  I had written "very fruity."
Virginia Petit Verdots revealed

Allan from Cellar Blog provided two Meritage-like blends and  Kristy Wine Vine provided a Cabernet Sauvignon which we placed in this group.  Wines in this group included 2007 Breaux, 2007 Delfosse Grange Cru Oliver , and a 2009 La Grange Cabernet Sauvignon (a varietal, not a Meritage-like blend).
Red "blend" revealed
The decisive winner was the 2007 Delfosse Grange Cru Oliver. Again, one blogger commented "very approachable."

We all had a great time.  Many of the participants were open to the idea of having another VA Wine Bloggers blind tasting party sometime soon and hope to include several other bloggers who couldn't attend this one.


Wine Myths and Realities

Benjamin Lewin's Wine Myths and Reality is probably the best overall book on wine I have ever read.  It could easily be used as a college textbook, but is written to read like a serious, but entertaining, book on the subject of wine.  It is broad in scope and impressive in depth.  The book is divided into five main sections: Growing grapes; Making wine; The world market; The New world; and The Old World. 

The book covers ancient history and modern genetics; plonk to cult wines; the different and sometimes useless classification systems; global warming, sweetness; modern grape varieties; to aromas and tastes, to marketing.  The range of the book is impressive.  Every page is filled with more wine facts than I have ever encountered. For example, many people know Cabernet Franc is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon but until I read this book I did not know it is also a parent of both Merlot and Carmenere. 

This is an excellent wine book.  The pictures, graphs, maps, and charts are all very informative and help summarize the many points being made in each chapter.  Dr. Lewin has written an informative, challenging, yet entertaining book on everything wine.  I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about wine.


A wine by any other name.........

................would have been left on the shelf.

Others have written about buying wine bases on just the label, and I admit I have done it with mixed, but mostly good results. I do much prefer buying wine I have just tasted, so rarely purchase anything on a whim anymore. On a recent trip to Michigan, I was in the small town of Chelsea and wandered into the New Chelsea Market just to check out the wine selection. They had a good selection of Michigan wines (and Michigan beer) and then wines from the world. On one shelf, right at my eye level a single bottle called out my (maiden) name in big bold letters - MERCER. It was a 2007 Pinot Grigio from Mercer Estates (http://www.mercerwine.com) in Prosser, WA. It was only $10, so I felt it a gamble I could afford to take. When I was at the check out, I said I hoped I would enjoy this wine, and was told it was very good, a customer had just ordered 3 cases for a wedding.

I am sad to say, my experience with the wine was not very good, or even semi good. I am usually one to complain about many Pinot Grigios (Gris') being too watery, no body or flavor. This one was golden in color, had an off nose and a worse taste. I can't describe it as much more than sour. So maybe it had been mistreated somewhere in its life, or maybe 4 years was just too old for this white, but I ended up pouring the bottle down the drain. Had I been at home, I may have
tried to figure out some way to use it for cooking, but since I couldn't fly
with an open bottle of wine in my luggage it had to go.
I did save the label, however. So, I now have a $10 refrigerator magnet!   -  Carol