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

Monday, January 1, 2024

I'll Have This Merlot Anytime

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Bluestone Vineyard was started near Bridgewater twenty or so years ago when Curt and Jackie Hartman started growing grapes to make wine for personal use. They found that once you start planting vines, what's a few thousand more? Lee Hartman is the winemaker, making it a true family operation.

The 2021 Bluestone Vineyard Shenandoah Valley Merlot has alcohol at 13.2% abv and sells for about $27.

This wine has a medium-dark purple color and a fruity nose, draped with oak spice. The blackberry and cassis aromas are joined by notes of cedar, clove, allspice, anise and a touch of smoke. The fruit-forward palate boasts a strong earthiness and a savory aspect. Tannins are firm and acidity is refreshing. The finish lasts a good long while. I like it with pork, but a nice New York strip steak is also a good pairing.


Follow Randy Fuller on X

Friday, December 29, 2023

Sweet Wine From Virginia Grapes

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Rockbridge Vineyard and Brewery is in Raphine, VA, not far from Charlottesburg, Lynchburg and Appomattox, in the Shenandoah Valley. Winemaker Shep Rouse became interested in wine while in Germany. He has a Masters Degree in Oenology from UC Davis and has crafted wines in Germany, California and his home state of Virginia.

The 2019 Rockbridge V d'Or is an award-winning dessert wine, made in the style of ice wine from Vidal Blanc, Vignoles and Traminette grapes. Alcohol sits at 13.7% abv and it sells for $31 for the 375ml bottle.

This wine has a lovely, rich, copper color. The nose bursts forth with honeyed apricot and orange aromas, with a trace of caramel. The palate has medium viscosity and very lively acidity. The sweetness is not cloying, but balanced with a beautiful tartness. It is dessert all by itself, but it pairs wonderfully with other desserts or a cheese plate.


Follow Randy Fuller on X 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Wine Country Virginia - Bluestone Vineyard

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place nationally in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Bluestone Vineyard is in Bridgewater, VA, right in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. Their name is derived from the type of limestone found in their soil. Bridgewater Crimson 2021 Virginia Red Wine is a Bordeaux-style blend of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Alcohol rests easy at 13% abv and the retail price is just under $25.

This wine pours up purple in the glass and gives off a savory aroma package. The red fruit is heavily colored by a delicious earthiness. Oak is present, but not obvious. On the palate, there is brambly red fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries - and a fine set of tannins with zesty acidity. This is a fine food wine - I had mine with pumpkin pie - but also one that allows the sipper to ruminate on what is found there. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Wine Country: Virginia - Jump Mountain Vineyard

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little farther behind, in eighth place. 

Jump Mountain Vineyard is in the unincorporated community of Rockbridge Baths, in the southwestern part of the Shenandoah Valley. They admit that the mountain they call Jump is really a sandstone knob, but it protects the estate which has soil and a microclimate that makes vinifera grapes want to grow. 

The 2019 Jump Mountain Vineyard Borderland Red Blend is from the Shenandoah Valley. The grapes are 50% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. They also grow Syrah, Grüner Veltliner and a handful of grapes with an Italian pedigree. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the retail price is $26. 

This wine is medium-dark in the glass. The nose provides plenty upon which to ruminate. There is red plum and raspberry abetted by a raft of spices: clove, nutmeg, allspice and anise among them. On the palate there is mainly raspberry and blueberry with enough oak spice to make things interesting but not enough to take over the show. Big tannins make the sip a bit raspy, but this wine is made for pairing with beef. 

The 2021 Jump Mountain Livia Italian Style Red Blend is made with an interesting array of Shenandoah Valley grapes. The blend is 60% Refosco, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Lagrein and 5% Sagrantino. Owners Mary Hughes and David Vermillion say the wine was named for Roman empress Livia Drusilla Augusta, who made public her love of the Refosco grape. Alcohol is a low 13% abv and the retail price is $26. 

This wine is a medium-dark garnet in color. Its nose suggests savory aspects of the red fruit which is present. There is a smokiness that hangs over the plum, cherry and raspberry aromas, with some oak spice thrown in for good measure. On the palate are big red fruit notes, but little of the oak influence detected on the sniff. It is a rustic wine, with tannins that lie waiting for a bolognese sauce or a plate of sausage and peppers.


Follow Randy Fuller on X





Friday, July 2, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Movies That Aren't Really Movies

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week, a "very special" Blood of the Vines for the celebration of the USA's birthday.  The special that's not really special concerns movies that aren't really movies.  Pass the popcorn.

The 1974 film, Pardon My Blooper, presents the same sort of broadcast "misteaks" compiled by Kermit Schafer in his record albums of years previous.  Schafer probably popularized the word "blooper" - a flub or mistake by an announcer or actor - all by himself.  I had the "Pardon My Blooper" record in my teens, and was often amused by the entertaining cover art depicting a TV camera holding its lens, as if it had been punched in the face, and a radio microphone plugging its ears.  Well, I was easily amused in my teens.  I don't think that even then, the film version of Blooper would have held my interest for ten minutes.  It is amusing, though, to watch the staged segments in this movie.  The bad lighting is the same in all of them, and I think it's even the same actress in about half of them.

Yes, Virginia, the bloopers are phony.  Although Blooper is billed in the credits as a documentary, many of the gaffes were recreated in the studio, with limited casting and awful lighting.  Oh, the humanity.  

Celebrate the 4th of July with many clips of a guy who sounds like a newscaster saying "take a leak," instead of "take a look."  Spoonerisms, transposed words and saying "shitty" instead of "city."  That's blooper comedy, my friend.

You'll need booze to get through this one.  Fortunately, one of the more famous bloopers from early YouTube days concerned Georgia's Château Élan winery.  You can see it by Googling - or Binging, if you prefer - Grape Lady Epic Fail.  The TV reporter was trying to foot-stomp some grapes and took a tumble while doing so.  Try a Chambourcin, since that's what she stomping on when she slipped and fell.

Columbo Meets Scotland Yard was actually just a long TV show.  It aired in 1972 as the Columbo episode, "Dagger of the Mind," as one of the movie-length shows from the series.  This one has the disheveled detective in London, helping to investigate a murder.  What, not enough action in L.A. to suit Columbo?  At least his raincoat finally comes in handy.

Have a Scotch with Columbo, if only because of the meme showing a Columbo lookalike holding a Chivas Regal, under the words "so good if you have something to forget."  Of course, Columbo always remembered, if at the last minute.

Now, more television, as The Meanest Men in the West is actually two episodes of  "The Virginian" from the early '60s, TV's Western Era.  The trailer boasts that "Lee Marvin is mean, Charles Bronson is meaner."  What no mention of Chuck Norris?  The Mean Academy will have something to say about that. 

Is it just me, or was "The Virginian" the only TV series without any hooks at all?  (No offense to Lee J. Cobb fans).  I don't recall any Virginian catch phrases, running jokes, theme song or special episodes, even these two.  On a high note, one of the episodes was written and directed by Samuel Fuller and Charles Grodin appears in the other one.  Well, the series drew some great talent, so someone must have been watching it.

Gotta have a Virginia wine for the mean guys.  Stinson Vineyards makes a tough-guy rosé, from the brawny Tannat grape.  Rosé for The Meanest Men in the West?  That's why they started calling it Brosé, bro. 


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, August 21, 2017

Virginia's Barboursville Vineyards

James Barbour initiated the vineyards that carry his name today. He was a Governor, a Senator and the Secretary of War, but he is best remembered for his contributions to Virginia's agrarian heritage. He, like his neighbor Thomas Jefferson, struggled to buck the tobacco trend and grow rotated crops that didn't use up the soil. An Italian bought the parcel in the 1970s, Gianni Zonin, whose name you have probably seen on bottles of Prosecco. Zonin, also bucking the tobacco advice, planted grapes and made wine. The Zonin family still owns the vineyards, and wines are produced by winemaker Luca Paschina.

Scheduling changes on my trip prevented me from trying the restaurant at the estate, Palladia, but it gets raves from all over. Next time. I was able to make the half hour or so drive out of Charlottesville for a tasting of the Barboursville wines. Here they are.

Pinot Grigio 2016 -A very refreshing wine, although the grape is not one of my favorites.

Vermentino Reserve 2015 - Lovely acidity and the mark of the earth on it.

Viognier Reserve 2015 - Very nice acidity, but the wine was not a favorite.

Chardonnay Reserve 2016 - It's the only white they make with oak, and it's Hungarian wood. Quite a show that oak makes, if you ask me. A little too much in the wood.

Vintage Rosé 2015 - Rich pink, made from Petite Sirah, Barbera and Merlot. The acidity is great and the palate brings beautiful, light fruit with herbal touches.

Barbour’s Reserve 2015 - Fantastic red fruit and mocha
are a real kick.

Sangiovese 2015 - Big, earthy, smoky. Love it.

Merlot 2015 - Another earthy red.

Cabernet Franc 2015 - This is really good, with great acidity, white and bell pepper notes.

Merlot Reserve 2013 - This is what I want from Merlot - big smoke, earth and a savory coffee
expression.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - Tons of earth that reminds me a bit of Paso
Robles Cab.

Cabernet Blanc - A sweetie, with 2% residual sugar.

Rosato - Even sweeter, with 4% residual sugar.

Phileo - Sweet Traminette, Vidal Blanc and Moscato blend, 10% residual sugar. This is a lovely dessert wine with floral notes, good with cheese.

Paxxito 2013 - The sweetest, with 12% residual sugar. It's simply beautiful, made in the passito process in which the grapes are air-dried over time. You get raisins and caramel, and since when it that not a great dessert?


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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wine Country: Virginia - Stinson Vineyards

We have covered Virginia, briefly, before.  Click to read my article on Virginia's Rappahannock Cellars.  Here is another entry into the Virginia section of Now And Zin's Wine Country series.

Stinson Vinyards is a family-owned estate in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their publicity material is emblazoned with the slogan "Life is best savored in small batches."  It's a catchphrase worth remembering, and one to which they adhere.  Small-batch wines with a flair for the French is their specialty.

The father/daughter team of Scott and Rachel Stinson get inspiration from the garagistes of. France, and they implement that inspiration literally.  Their small winery is located in a three-car garage.  Rachel, the winemaker, tinkers with the wines minimally, preferring to let the grapes put their feet on the gas.

It's fitting that the Stinsons take a cue from French wine, since their vineyards and winery are located in the Monticello AVA of Central Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson was a great fan of French wines, and tried his best - without success -  to make wine in Virginia.  I am sure he would be proud that they have been able to do with Virginia grapes what he could not.

Quoting from the Stinson website, "The first vines at Piedmont House [built in 1796] were planted over 40 years ago by the 'Father of Modern Virginia Wine,' Gabriele Rausse.  Primarily consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the vineyard fell into disrepair through multiple changes in owners. After tearing the disease-ridden vines out on the recommendation of renowned viticulturist and vineyard consultant Lucie Morton, the long neglected soil has been returned to a growable state."

Five acres of the 12-acre estate are planted to grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat.  Fruit sourced from other Virginia growers adds the complexity of different terroirs and microclimates to the wines.

Stinson Vineyards Meritage 2011

This blend of Bordeaux grapes is 35% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc.  All four grapes come from growers in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and the label bears the Virginia AVA.  The wine carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv and retails for $26.  Aging took place in French oak over 14 months and about 30% of that oak was new.  260 cases were produced.

The winery says the 2011 vintage was difficult, with rain from tropical storms delaying ripening.  These grapes from the northern part of the valley - a cool, dry microclimate - received less of that effect.

The Stinson Meritage is a deep ruby delight which wears its cool-weather markings proudly.  The nose features blueberries riding all the way from Bordeaux on a worn leather saddle, and the longer you sniff, the more the leather has its way.  A trace of funk winds in and out, but quite pleasantly.  Take a sip and it's dark fruit, for sure, but throw in some black olives and anise for savory's sake.  There is a smokey note on the fruity finish that lingers nicely.

This wine presents itself in fine fashion, with the tannic structure for steak and the complexity for sipping.  Big aromas, big flavors, mouth-watering acidity and limited production make me scratch my head in wonder that it doesn't cost twice as much.  The Stinsons say that it could benefit from a few years resting, and I suspect they are right.  It's certainly good enough for my glass right now.

Stinson Vineyards Monticello Chardonnay 2012

This wine is 100% Chardonnay grapes, which are French Dijon clones grown near Stinson Vineyards - at Mount Juliet Vineyard, a 50-plus acre plot.  The fruit was plucked from the vines at two different times due to ripening inequality in separate vineyard blocks.  None of the grapes were overly ripe at harvest, and minimal intervention was employed during vinification.

The wine has a restrained alcohol number of 13% abv and received partial malolactic fermentation.  Aging took place over six and a half months in French oak, and only one-fifth of it was new.  The wine was aged with the spent yeast still in it.  Sur lie aging imparts more texture, weight, aromas and flavors to wine,  only 200 cases were made and it sells for $22.

Monticello Chardonnay is a rich golden color.  Its nose offers up a bouquet of flowers, but don't just think of roses or violets.  These posies are stemmy and herbal with pineapple and an undertow of vanilla - quite a complex set of aromas.  The flavors run from pears to apricots to fennel, with a distinct earthy quality weaving the palate into a tapestry of terroir.  The crisp acidity is sufficient to make pairing with light dishes a natural.

It is not California Chardonnay by a long shot - not the soft buttery kind, nor the angular sort that lacks the softening power of oak.  This wine brings those two sides of Chardonnay together in the middle, a product of its place.  The longer I sip it, the more it reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc.


Stinson Vineyards Monticello Rosé 2012

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