Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2020

Now And Zin Wine Country Series Stands At 45 States

What started as an idle thought - "can I taste wines from all 50 U.S. states?" - has become a personal mission.  Now And Zin's Wine Country series debuted nearly a decade ago, and we have now tasted wine from 45 states.  Just five to go - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Now And Zin's Wine Country started with a series about wines made from America's Norton grape, in which I sampled wine from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia for the first time.  I was surprised by the quality and fascinated by the notion of wine tasting across America.

If you can make good wine in California, that's expected - not that it's easy, but it seems that's what you're supposed to do with great soil and perfect weather.  Making good wine in areas of the country where nature isn't quite as accommodating is a real achievement.

I've heard from American winemakers about Indiana limestone, Cornell grape creations and moderating winds from - of all places - Lake Erie.  I've heard winemakers cry in anguish, "I want to make dry wines, but all my customers want is sweet!"

I've sampled mead from Montana and Maine, Muscadine from Alabama and Kentucky Cabernet Franc.  I've had a Super Tuscan-style blend from Arizona, mile-high wine from Colorado, amazing bubbles from Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, Zinfandel from Nevada and New Mexico, New York Riesling, New Jersey Merlot and North Carolina Chardonnay.

I've tried wine made from Vermont apples, Florida blueberries, North Dakota rhubarb, West Virginia blackberries and Hawaiian Maui pineapples.

There have been plenty of unexpected grapes, like Petit Manseng from Georgia, Carménère from Idaho, Traminette from Indiana, Eidelweiss from Iowa, Marquette from Minnesota and Catawba from Pennsylvania.

Two Nebraska wines are named after pelicans; a South Dakota winemaker uses Petite Sirah to take the acidic edge off the Frontenac.  There's Touriga Nacional growing in Tennessee.

Most of the wines for this series have been supplied by the winemakers for the purpose of the article, while some have been sent by friends of mine who had travel plans to a state I had yet to taste.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

It has taken nine years to sample wine from 45 states, so the end is in sight.  Shipping wine in the United States has proven to be a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Contacts made in Utah and Oklahoma have dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Wyoming and Mississippi.  I am sure for some of these states, I'll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistes out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in the states which haven't been covered in Wine Country yet - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - please pass this article along to them.  Even if they can't ship to me, I'd love to hear from them.

Also, one state which has been left blank is California.  Of course, I sample a lot of California wine, so finding it isn't the problem.  I want to determine one wine or winery which is representative of California for this series.  If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.  Comment here, email or contact me on Twitter.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tasting Wine at Jefferson Vineyards

There’s been much wine-related writing about Thomas Jefferson over the past decade or so. His love of fine wine, his travels through Europe to feed that love and his own desire to make a great American wine have been well documented. However, it’s hard for me as a modern-day person to overlook the obvious flaws that a man of his stature exhibited in those Colonial days. I'm talking about slaves.

The man for whom my high school was named, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the country's third president - he had issues that were pervasive at the time. He owned people, had them living in squalid rooms on his beautiful estate, had them do the work that the sprawling grounds required while he sat back and enjoyed life. They didn't spend a whole lot of time addressing that at Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Texas. They didn't spend any time addressing it, as I recall. Perhaps it’s worth noting that the school no longer exists, that a predominantly African-American town still has a school named for Abraham Lincoln, but TJ bit the dust in favor of a more generic name, Memorial High.

So, when I recently visited Monticello in Virginia, I was rather surprised at how matter-of-factly the tour guides deal with the slavery issue, among other shortcomings of Jefferson the man. I was also surprised that his wine obsession wasn’t more thoroughly documented by the docents. I wouldn’t have heard a word about it had I not asked a question during the garden tour.

Down the road from Monticello, a little off the beaten path - or, with a beaten path of its own - lies Jefferson VIneyards. The estate is situated near Charlottesville on land that was given by Jefferson to an Italian viticulturist from Tuscany named Filippo Mazzei. He was reportedly drawn to the U.S. by no less than Ben Franklin and John Adams, and Jefferson wanted him as his neighbor. Jefferson even copped a line from Mazzei for a paper he was writing. I think it went something like, "all men are created equal."

The cozy, wood beamed tasting room at Jefferson Vineyards features a rack full of wines, some of which are estate grown, some of which are not. Here is what was on the tasting menu in June 2017 when I was there.

Chardonnay 2016 - Mostly stainless steel fermentation and aging, with only 5% done in oak. Tropical fruit and apples, with a slight effervescent quality.
Viognier 2016 - White flowers and summer fruit. Nice acidity, aged in oak and steel.
Rosé 2016 - Light salmon color, the result of only six hours of skin contact. An unusual mix of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc with some Merlot.
Vin Rouge 2015 - Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very light - earthy, yet sweet, 0.9% residual sugar.  It has an almost tart, plum and pinot noir taste and weight. It sure takes a chill well.
Cabernet Franc 2015 - Nine months aging in 80% neutral oak. It's a little light, with the expected pepper notes somewhat diminished. I was surprised by how unimpressed I was by it..
Merlot 2014 - Very light in color, slight smokiness, nice light cherry palate. A pretty good summer red.
Petit Verdot 2015 - This is a heavier red, deeper in color and not as tannic or bold as usually found n the variety. Cherry notes are a hit with chocolate.
Meritage 2014 - Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dirty earth, nice savory angle. Rich, but would work with pork. 22 months in oak.
Vin Blanc - This dessert wine has only 4% residual sugar. It's a fairly earthy blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Petit Manseng and other grapes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wine Country Virginia: DuCard Vineyards

During the effort of trying to taste wine produced in all fifty states, some states bear another visit - and another.  DuCard Vineyards is our third sampling of Virginia wine in Now And Zin's Wine Country series.  The Old Dominion state was one of the first in the series, and one of the more recent.

DuCard owner Scott Elliff says he started out innocently enough, growing grapes for sale to a neighborhood vintner.  On the winery's website, Elliff remembers, "We initially sold our grapes to a winery up the road, and wines that included our grapes won a number of awards, including the Virginia Governor’s Cup as the best wine in the state and the Best Wine in the East (out of 1,400 entries) in another competition."

Elliff avoided the proverbial ton of bricks and put two and two together quickly.  "We decided to begin bottling a small amount of wine under our own label, exclusively for friends and neighbors and a small but growing email list of “fans and followers.”  The value of his decision was realized when his wines sold out in his first three vintages.

Not only is DuCard a source of great wine, they are also a leader in Virginia's green business community.  DuCard was Virginia's first solar powered winery, and was awarded the Virginia Green Travel Star designation for its environmentally sound and socially conscious practices.

The winery composts grape waste for use in fields and gardens, uses reclaimed hardwoods from barns and other Appalachian sources for flooring and tasting room bar, employs organic alternatives to  chemical sprays whenever possible and recycles wine bottle corks for use in their flooring.

The label on DuCard's 2013 Signature Viognier reveals that grapes from the estate are whole-cluster pressed, then barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak.  Alcohol tips the meter at 13.7% abv and the retail sticker of $26 per bottle may price the wine out of some "everyday wine" budgets, but there's always the weekend.

The wine's very pale, golden color is not too inviting - but don't stop after a glance.  The nose send showers of vanilla peaches out in a cloud of soft oak and floral scents.  On the palate, rich peach and pear mix with a slight taste of orange peel.  The acidity is striking, and a citrus note clings to the lengthy and delicious finish.  If all it had going for it were the acidity and the citrus angle, the DuCard Signature Viognier would be worth purchasing.  With all its other attributes, it should be in every wine rack in Virginia - and beyond.

Pair the DuCard Viognier with all the seafood you love - scallops, crab cakes and oysters come to mind - or a nice Gouda cheese plate with apple slices.  And, if you can't wait for lunch, have it with a late breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked bacon.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, April 18, 2014

Drink Pink: Stinson Vineyards Monticello Rosé 2012

Spring is official now, although it may not feel like it yet where you are.  In Southern California, the shading between seasons is not so dramatic as it is elsewhere, but we still know when it feels like a rosé.  Yes, it feels like a rosé pretty much all the time.  Look for some great rosé wines to be featured under the "Drink Pink" heading on Now And Zin Wine as we work our way towards summer.

This pink wine comes from the great state of Virginia.  Stinson Vineyards is run by the father/daughter team of Scott and Rachel Stinson - she's the winemaker.  Located in the Monticello AVA, the Stinson's are showing that Thomas Jefferson was right - great wine can be made in ol' Virginny.  Stinson Vineyards provided a sample of their rosé to me for the purpose of review.  Next week the full article on Stinson Vineyards in the Now And Zin Wine Country series will run.

This rosé is made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes, soaked on their skins for 72 hours, fermented and aged in steel tanks.  The wine is aged for three months on the lees (spent yeast) which imparts body and creaminess to the wine.

A Rhônish 13% abv in alcohol, only 220 cases were produced, in keeping with the artisanal concept of the winery.  The wine sells for $17 per bottle.

Intermittent rain during the 2012 harvest made ripening difficult for red grapes.  The Mourvèdre - from Horton Vineyards in Virginia's Madison County - was harvested in early October, when the weather cooled and rains let up.  Vineyard owner Dennis Horton is well-known to Virginia wine lovers.  He planted some of the first Rhône varieties in the state in 1988.

Stinson Vineyards says their Monticello Rosé is styled after the pinks of the Southern Rhône, Bandol in particular.  They're not just whistling La Marseillaise, either.  It looks, smells and tastes like a Rhône wine.  Strawberry and cherry aromas are filtered through a significant funky earthiness, while the flavors are soaked in minerality, too.  The acidity is a delight, and the finish carries a bit of smoke with it.  This is a serious rosé - there is certainly no mistaking it for White Zinfandel.  Thomas Jefferson would be proud.

Follow. Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Infographic: Wine Country Getaway

I ran across a cool infographic I thought I'd share with you.  I think all infographics are cool, and I suppose it's that kind of acceptance that makes organizations like keep making them and getting them out there.  Anyway, it's a snapshot of several US wine country areas and some pertinent information about them, like how many bed and breakfast inns there are.  Oh, there are some facts about the wine, too.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Donald Trump

Virginia's Kluge Winery has come under new management.  Businessman Donald Trump and his son Eric now head the respected estate winery after Donald snapped it up after it went bankrupt.  In a report from a television station in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dannika Lewis says Eric - Trump The Younger - will be the president of the winery.  The facility will operate under the new name of Trump Vineyard Estates.

The father-son team plans to bring the winery back from bankruptcy by utilizing 100% Virginia grapes and a staff which will retain many of the people who know the estate vineyard best, including former owner Patricia Kluge.  The winery's website now sports a big picture of Eric, out in the vineyard.  Presumably, his office will have a nice view of that vineyard.

The Trumps plan to put Virginia wine on the national map through nationwide distribution.  If they use Trump's chain of hotels for this purpose, they could be on the right path.  There is some speculation as to whether or not the winery can attain that high profile using only Virginia grapes, but time will tell.

Trump's involvement with the winery will no doubt bring more recognition to Virginia wine, and many are hoping his success will lift the wine industry statewide.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Sunday, October 9, 2011


AC/DC The Wine

Baby boomer rock'n'rollers are exploring wine as an additional revenue stream these days.  The California Bordeaux blend Doobie Red is spearheaded by the Doobie Brothers longtime manager B.R. Cohn, while Whitesnake Zin brings the '80s hair band back intothe spotlight.  Tool and Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan makes Arizona wine under his Caduceus label and DaveMatthews has his Blenheim Vineyards right outside his Virginia recording studio.  Sting produces Chianti at his Tuscan estate.
Now, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees AC/DC have joined forces with Australian winery Warburn Estate for a national release of AC/DC The Wine.  This rockin' vino is sourced from Australian wine regions in the Barossa and Coonawarra.  The line will include Back in Black Shiraz, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato.  What, no Whole Lotta Rosé?

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Wine words

Russ Kane, in his great Vintage Texas Blog, has issued a plea to the government of the Lone Star State - "Don't forget about the Texas wine industry!"

Kane recounts how Texas Governor Rick Perry made a little wager with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the outcome of the NCAA women's basketball championship game.  McDonnell is a Notre Dame graduate, and Perry was backing the ladies from Texas A&M University.

Perry wagered a case of Texas wine - Viognier from Becker Vineyards - against a mixed case from Virginia's Barboursville Vineyards.

Kane points out that Governor Perry's current budget proposal calls for slashes to funding for the Texas wine industry.  An investment of just over two million dollars, says Kane, has helped turn Texas wine into a $1.7 billion cash cow for the state.  Kane - and many others - don't want to see that growth stopped in its tracks.

The article states that this funding is not a subsidy.  The funds for research, marketing and education is money that is generated by the taxes on wine sales in Texas.  Quoting Kane,
"The influx of dollars to the industry have helped to (1) identify the grape varieties best suited for the Texas soils and weather, (2) devise methods to handle vineyard diseases particular to Texas like Pierce’s Disease and Cotton Root Rot and (3) helped to investigate improved wine making techniques for the grapes that can grow in Texas.  Most importantly, these funds have also gone to developing programs that are educating the vineyard and winery personnel critical to the new agricultural jobs in Texas."

The upshot is, according to Kane, that the Texas legislature is trying to save 2 million dollars a year by cutting the legs out from under a business that generated $78.5 million dollars in tax revenue for the state in 2009.  That doesn't sound like good business to Kane, and it shouldn't sound like good business to anyone else.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Norton Wine From Virginia - Rappahannock Cellars

Some folks probably questioned the sanity of Rappahannock Cellars’ owner John Delmare when he uprooted his family from California's Santa Cruz Mountains to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  Huntly, Virginia was not exactly showing a big blip on the winemaking radar screen in 1998.  He and his family have never looked back, though.  His 20 acres of vineyard land - Glenway Vineyard - bear Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Norton, and others.  Delmare calls his style "old world" and notes that "Virginia fruit style is very similar to Bordeaux."  Like most great vintners, he believes "great wines are made in the vineyard.  Vintage-to-vintage variation is a struggle in Virginia, but it also tends to define the personality of Virginia wine."  Winemaker Jason Burrus and vineyard manager Tom Kelly receive due props from Delmare for the inestimable contribution they make to Rappahannock’s wine.

These wines were provided as samples by Rappahannock Cellars for the purpose of this article.

Rappahannock Norton WineNorton Virginia 2008
This blend of 75% Norton and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon has an alcohol level of 13.9% and  retails for $21.

The nose of this wine very much reminds me of Cabernet Franc.  Its very bright and fruity aromas stand as a counterpoint to the dark, brambly Norton wines of Missouri.  This blend really brings the fruit strongly.  The taste is fruitier than the Missouri Nortons, but that earthy tartness I found so intriguing is here in abundance, too.  The Cab, believe it or not, is almost buried beneath the qualities of the Norton.  There’s plenty of that mouthwatering acidity, which plays directly from the luscious blackberry-meets-raspberry flavor profile.  As the wine opens and breathes, good things happen.  On the third - and final - night the bottle was open, the wine stood in the glass for three hours before I touched it.  To say it was magnificent is an understatement.  The flavors turned positively primeval.  The darkness and intensity of the blackberry left me aghast.  Paired with Santa Maria tri-tip, it was exquisite.  No wonder it is the best seller in the cellar.

Rappahannock Cellars Dessert Norton WineRappahannock Cellars Virginia Red Dessert Wine 2007
This Port-style wine comes in at just under 18% in alcohol content, but really doesn’t feel boozy at all.  It’s produced in what the label calls “traditional European method” at 8% residual sugar.  Not an overly sweet wine, it strikes me as off-sweet.  And as with the Missouri “Port”, there’s no need to reserve this for dessert.  It will pair well with a variety of meat dishes, especially if you like to eat meat which is somewhat unadorned with a sauce - like a steak right off the grill.  It retails for $39.

The richness and density of the nose throws me for a loop.  Simply citing a thick blackberry aroma wafting past the alcohol seems so insufficient.  The fruit is so dark and earthy it almost masquerades as something else.  It’s definitely a pure and concentrated bouquet.  The palate is as aromatic as the nose, tasting floral - but not at all delicate.  Blackberries and black plums are jammy and thick, with what has by now become familiar to me in the Norton grape: that extreme streak of minerality which makes the taste so interesting.

See previous posts on Norton wines.

Monday, January 3, 2011



In the land of grapes, Norton is not exactly a household name.  Not in the American wine mecca of California for sure, and not even in places like Missouri and Virginia, where the Norton vine has its roots.

Those roots go back to 18th century America.  Paul Roberts of Deep Creek Cellars in Friendsville, Maryland has much to say about Norton - or Cynthiana, as it is also known - and he is reprinted at length on the website for Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards.  He also has a book on the subject: From This Hill, My Hand, Cynthiana's Wine.

The grape known scientifically as vitis aestivalis is believed to have been produced by a Dr D.N. Norton of Virginia, who - probably by accident - crossed two other still unknown grape varieties.  Many grape varieties native to North America have aromas and flavors too sweet and "grapey" from which to make good dry wine.  Norton does not generally exhibit those properties, and makes some very fine wines that are legendary to folks in the midwest and eastern U.S.

In 1873, a Missouri Norton wine was proclaimed "the best red wine of all nations" at a competition in Vienna.  Roberts says, "Zinfandel is often described as America's first and most original gift to the world of wine.  Actually, it's Norton."

Todd Kliman’s book, The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine, deals with the origin of the Norton Grape, its heyday and its status as an outsider in the wine industry.

The book was reviewed on Palate Press, and in the interview with Kliman following the article the author talks about the Norton grape.
“I still don’t think Norton will ever be a dominant wine," he says.  "That’s just not its place. America’s palate, since Norton’s heyday, has changed too much.  But it could be much more than it is.

"You either love Norton or hate Norton," Kliman continues.  "It is a wine of extremes. Someone new to the grape and the wine must understand that.  If you are used to the wines that currently represent what America is, according to the West Coast definition, Norton is going to be very different from that.  Norton is not the kind of wine that you drink while curled up with a book by the fire.

"Norton should be kept in context with the sort of expression of American culture that it could have represented.  I think of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain and even jazz music, and how they have come to define American culture.  Norton was born of the same soil, and yet it is almost unheard of.  It should be understood as a similar expression of that American experience."

Still today, wineries in states from Virginia to Georgia to Texas to Missouri produce Norton wines that are well worth seeking out and trying.  However, Norton wines are not so easy to find in much of the western part of the country.  I was fortunate enough to receive some samples of various Norton wines from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia.  In the coming few days - beginning Thursday - my impressions and tasting notes for those wines will be published here on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.   I hope you’ll look for them.  And for some Norton wine.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Wine Report

Do you have wineries in your area?  If you live in the United States, the answer is probably “yes,” because there are now wineries in all 50 states.  These wineries and the associated businesses that serve them are making a huge contribution to their states’ economies, and to the nation’s economic health.

The annual Vintage Virginia Festival is a good example of how tourism affects the wine industry.  The Virginia Wineries Association depends in great part on this festival for revenue.  The only other revenue stream the VWA has is dues from members, and they only have 54 members, according to Wine Business Monthly.  This wine festival is marketed heavily all along the East Coast and its success in large part determines how much good the organization can do for its member wineries.

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association says that the wine and grape industry now has a 1.35 billion dollar impact on the Lone Star State.

Missouri shows that Missouri’s economy sees a boost of some $700 million dollars annually from wine. - and those are 2007 figures.

The king of wine states in the U.S., California, receives an economic infusion of around 52 billion dollars a year from the wine industry, according to the Wine Institute, and the nation as a whole gets a 162 billion dollar shot in the arm from wine. reports that wine is responible for three billion dollars a year to the state of Washington’s economy.  

A recent study, cited by Wines & Vines, showed how even local economies benefit from wine.  The study claims that hotels in Walla Walla, Washington have experienced a 25% growth in room occupancy since wines from their area have been receiving high scores in Wine Spectator magazine.