Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day Four: November 5th, 2014: King Family Vineyards. Albemarie Ciderworks. Peppin Hill Farm, Lovingston Winery, Rodes Farm/Mark Addy Inn, Veritas Winery Dinner

November 5th, 2014: Holiday Inn, Charlottesville, Virginia
It was another of those mornings where the announced cloud and rain proved to be absent. The sun shone and the sky was basically blue with a few tufts and the temperature was hovering around 4 or 5 degrees Centigrade. It was fresh but not uncomfortable. Bus driver par excellence Devan was there to help us into the bus and soon after a great breakfast, we were off to our first stop of the day.
King Family Vineyards  
6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet, Virginia 22932

If things can happen "almost by accident" then the story of this vineyard certainly leans to that conclusion. New to the area and arriving from Texas, the Kings bought a farm with a sizable acreage. There was no intent on any wine being made on the property until a stranger asked them if he could do so. That implanted thought led to the developing of what is now a ten thousand case business with sixty-five full and part-time employees.
The scenery as with most other wineries in this area was stunningly beautiful with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It was morning and the mist shrouded these distant hills in a beautiful transparent veil that allowed tiny streams of sunlight and peeks of blue to appear. Lovely.
With an average height of about 800 feet above seal level and with an excellent fertile/gravelly soil structure that ensures good drainage, the vines grow very well.
Brut Non Vintage 100 % Chardonnay Traditional Method
On the nose:  baked bread, toast, apple, some hint of oak and citrus/melon
Palate: apple, toast, vanilla, melon and citrus. Crisp and elegant finish.

Viognier 2013
On the nose: Melon and white fruit with some citrus/vanilla and herbal spice
Palate: Nice mouth feel, bit of peach and apple with citrus touch and spice. Nice soft pleasant finish.
Chardonnay 2013
On the nose: Citrus lemon, apple, tropical fruit, herbal/vanilla spice, oak
Palate: Medium body with vanilla, citrus, peach, mango, pineapple and nutty/butter finish.
Cabernet Franc 2013
On the nose: Black fruit, raspberry some tea, spice..
Palate: Black fruit, chocolate spice, hint of  tea,  nice body and medium length to finish.
Merlot 2012
On the nose: Ripe black fruit, raspberry, pepper spice, tobacco and oak
Palate: Ripe red and black fruit, pepper and oak with anise and a lingering finish.
Meritage 2012 (Merlot 42%, Cabernet Franc 27%, Petit Verdot 25%, Malbec 6%)
Young---On the nose: Red fruit with tea, vanilla and pepper spice, mint
Palate; Medium to full bodied, ripe wild berries, long tannins, oak on the finish.
Meritage 2007  (Merlot 56%, Petit Verdot 20%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Malbec 8%)
There is one percent missing in the above and I suspect is CF but not sure!
On the nose: Ripe black fruit, tobacco, smoke,
Palate: Black fruit, ripe cherry, smoke, chocolate, anise and clove spice with long, long finish.
Meritage 2008 (Merlot 52%, Petit Verdot 25%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Malbec 8%) 
On the nose: Clove, oak, black fruit, vanilla and wild berries
Palate: Nutmeg, clove spice, plum,  chocolate, tobacco smoke, fig. Wine is medium to full in body with a very pleasant and persistent  finish.
Petite Verdot: 
On the nose: Cedar, red fruit, floral perfumes, vanilla oak
Palate: Similar to nose. Soft and smooth mouth feel with pleasant soft finish.
Port Style: 100 % Merlot: Seven 2012
Fortified with Brandy and aged two years Kentucky Bourbon Barrels.
On the nose: Fig, bananas, vanilla, honey, some black fruit
Palate: Fig, vanilla, black fruit, plum, caramel, coffee. Long and powerful finish.
Straw Wine Style:  Loreley 2012 100% Petit Manseng
Fermented and Aged in Oak and Acacia Barrels
On the Nose: Apricot/peach/pear/lively citrus, with honeysuckle floral notes and vanilla backgrounder.
Palate: Nice body, natural sweetness with noted nose flavours. Balanced acidity/sugar. Gorgeous finish.  
The King Family Vineyards were truly enjoyable but we had to bid our adieu to this lovely spot and then off to our next wine adventure at the Albemarle Ciderworks.
Albemarle Ciderworks
2545 Rural Ridge Ln, 
North Garden, Virginia 22959
Vintage Virginia Apples  was founded in 2000 (originally purchased in 1986) and comprises of many types of apples and other fruit. The company produces a wide variety of apples-----many of which have been replaced by other, more in demand, apples. These so called "Heirloom" apples have special or unique flavours and varied uses such as cider making or apple butter.
Family head Bud Shelton actually started this company first as a hobby farm but his daughter Charlotte, now CEO, went further and in 2009 opened the Albemarle Ciderworks.
A nursery on the property produces hundreds of cultivars which are produced from cuttings and graftings of the many apple, pear, peach and other fruit trees on the property.
I was amazed to learn of so many different kinds of apples and an equal amount of uses. Not all apples are made for eating and not all apples can make good cider and not all apples are meant for making pies----in other words, an apple is not just an apple!
Jupiter's Legacy: crab and bittersweet  apples   
On the nose: apple spice, citrus
Palate: nice mouth feel, citrus, nice fresh acidity and pleasant effervescence. Tart finish.
Royal Pippin: 100% Pippin Apple
On the nose: cinnamon apple, citrus
Palate: sweet, cinnamon, pineapple, pleasant acidity, nice effervescence
Goldrush: 100% Goldrush Apple
On the nose: citrus
Palate: citrus grapefruit, spice, lingering acidity
Red Hill: Blend of Winesap/Pippin
On the nose: apple, cinnamon spice, cherry
Palate: bittersweet, tart, cherry, cinnamon
Arkansas Black
On the nose: strawberry, honey, vanilla with some mushroom overtones
Palate: semi sweet, strawberry,vanilla, earth
Old Virginia Winesap: 100% Single Variety Winesap
On the nose: cinnamon, apple pie, citrus, strawberry
Palate: baked apple, citrus, berry flavours, wood spice
Ragged Mountain: Blend primarily of Pippin, Goldrush, Pink Lady, Virginia Gold
On the nose: summer garden flowers, mango, pineapple, banana
Palate: semi-sweet, vanilla spice, honey, tropical melange
Pomme Marie: Blend of Pippin/ Goldrush
On the nose: tropical melange, honey, apricot
Palate: sweet with pineapple, mango, honey and apricot on palate

It was fun tasting the various types of ciders and actually something that I would not have ordinarily done. This tasting also initiated an interest in a fruit that for the most part I have ignored. Never was an apple person------until now. Thank you Albemarle for opening up my closed mind!!
Next on our agenda was a visit and lunch at Pippin Hill Farm!
Pippin Hill Farm
5022 Plank Road, 
North Garden, Virginia 22959
One of the newest wineries in Virginia is just over two years old. However it has already achieved notoriety for its well made wines by winemaker Michael Shaps. The winery and building are "spanking" new but their staff is well seasoned to the trade in both the wine and food areas.
The food is superbly designed and produced by Executive Chef Bill Scatena  (His sister, Amelia Scatena who was the Executive Chef when I visited, has moved on to Pippin's "sister" business restaurant called "Cannon Green" in Charleston, South Carolina.

Michael Shaps is a decorated winemaker who operates a "Crush" known as the Virginia Wine Works. His partnership with Pippin Hill Farm Winery has flourished and Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon , Petit Manseng, Meritage blends, Sparkling Blanc de Blanc and Rosé wines are made at/for Pippin Hill. Here are some notes on wine tried and tasted!
Viognier 2013
On the nose: apple blossoms, apple, peach, apricot,citrus   
 Palage: peach/apricot, pear, citrus, honey. Medium bodied and pleasant acidity.
Chardonnay 2013  
On the nose: Fruit forward with apple/pear/tropical flavours, some smoke and citrus
Palate: Smooth, white fruit with butter, tropical nuances pleasant acidity.   
Chardonnay Reserve 2013    
On the nose: vanilla oak, toast, smoke, butter and butter scotch, walnut, citrus some minimal nuances of stone fruit.
Palate: vanilla, pear, honey, mineral.  Very pleasant and lingering finish.
2013 Winemaker's Select Blend: 80% Chambourcin/20% Merlot
On the nose: cherry, red berries, earth with some mushroom/barn aromas.
Palate: red fruit with a touch of plum, some earth and tobacco. Easy sipping and nice clean finish.
2012 Red Pump: Blend of 50% Merlot/50% Chambourcin
On the nose: ripe red fruit with fruity sweetness, earth, woodsy.
Palate: red fruit sweetness, soft forward tannins, medium acidity----easy drinking.

Cabernet Franc 2013
On the nose: red/black fruit with ripe black cherry prominent, woodland/burning leaves, currants, smoke
Palate:black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, pepper spice, tobacco, nice finish.
The wines indicate that this winery has a great future in store for it. And the food-----!!!!!
I remembering ordering the Buffalo Creek Striploin but do not remember what the rest of the group had. Here is the menu and please do not dribble as your mouth waters. BTW: I had the Cabernet Franc with the .meat  

Cheese Board, three local & international cheeses, spiced nuts, fig mostarda, seasonal jams | 18
Charcuterie, three local & international cured meats, marinated olives, arugula pesto, grape must | 17
Tapas, Olli chorizo, Cabrales blue, aged Manchego, olives, Marcona almonds, date & brown butter jam | 17
Chicken LiverPaté, Cabernet Sauvignon jelly, house cured pickles, toast | 10
Fried Polenta, local fall Chicories, gorgonzola espuma, saba | 14
Curried Ancient Red Quinoa, tempura avocado, grilled scallion, charred salsa | 13
Roasted SquashCappellacci, sage, duck confit & cracklings, crispy chestnuts, brown butter | 16
Carpaccio of Buffalo CreekStriploin, potato gaufrette, puntarella, queso Zamorano, chimmichurri | 16
Rainbow Trout, shaved Brussels sprout, guanciale, baby leek brodo, crispy shallots, tōgarashi | 18
Croque Monsieur, Virginia Country ham, gruyère, merlot & onion jam, garden herb salad | 14
Pippin Sliders, Bundoran Farms grass-fed beef, McClure cheese, caramelized shallots,
grape vine smoked ketchup, parmesan frites | 16
Warm Honeycrisp Apple Crumble, wildflower honey gelato, cider reduction | 8
Petit Verdot Cupcakes, dark chocolate, thyme frosting, Chambourcin reduction | 7
House-Churned Gelato and Sorbet, made with seasonal ingredients & Pippin Hill wines | 5
after 3:00 pm
House-made Kettle Chips, caramelized Rossa Lunga onion dip, Jacobsen sea salt | 10
Roasted GarlicHummus, red sea salt, rustic bread | 8
Crispy Chesapeake Oysters, Sambal aioli, celery slaw | 11
Cheese Board, three local & international cheeses, spiced nuts, fig mostarda, seasonal jams | 18
Charcuterie, three local & international cured meats, marinated olives, arugula pesto, grape must | 17
Tapas, Olli chorizo, Cabrales blue, aged Manchego, olives, Marcona almonds, date & brown butter jam | 17
Chicken LiverPaté, Cabernet Sauvignon jelly, house cured pickles, toast | 10
Petit Verdot Cupcakes, dark chocolate, thyme frosting, Chambourcin reduction | 7
House-Churned Gelato and Sorbet, made with seasonal ingredients & Pippin Hill wines | 5
Executive Chef Bill Scatena
vineyard-to-table cuisine | Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards | Tuesday - Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm

 For scenery and atmosphere I would highly recommend this newest of wineries in Virginia.
Next we were onto a real and interesting treat at Lovingston Winery.
Lovingston Winery
885 Freshwater Cove Ln
Lovingston, Virginia 22949

Lovingston Winery
The recipe for this winery goes something like this: You take a heaping amount of prime land, add owners who really want to do something with their wines, one cupful of Bordeaux, a pinch of South Africa and a big helping of rock star and you get Lovingston.
Chief winemaker Riaan Rossouw has all the makings of a rock star turned winemaker. Young, flamboyant, expressive, spontaneous, probably a bit impulsive and most of all passionate,this fellow is what makes individuality individual.
When he talks, what he says is not memorized but from the thoughts that are there right now. Yet, he makes sense and is probably the most "off the top" interesting people that I have met. It works for him and I am glad because he is a breath of fresh air and is very likeable.
There is nothing fancy here. The tasting was done within the production area on tables with the Stainless Steel tanks behind us. The money here goes into the making of wine.
Seyval Blanc 2013
On the nose: citrus grapefruit, apple, pear,
Palate: Light, crisp, pronounced melon, grapefruit, apple, mineral with refreshing acidity
Seyval with Carbonic Maceration 2013
On the nose: Fresh, citrus, honey, tropical flavours
Palate:melon, tropical papaya, cantaloupe, banana 
Cabernet Franc 2012
On the nose: red fruit, rhubarb, pepper, herbal spice
Palate: Medium body, red fruit, vegetable flavours, soft tannins and finish
Pinotage 2011
On the nose: Earth, mushroom, strawberry, rhubarb,
Palate: red/dark fruit, earth, balanced acidity, pleasant fresh finish
Estate Reserve 2010:Blend of 90%Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc 5% Pinotage 
On the nose: floral violet, red fruit, chocolate, strawberry with the beginnings of a mushroom, woodland earth nuance.
Palate: Full bodied, nice mouth feel, soft tannins, blackberry, caramel, wild berry, chocolate, light nuances of mushroom/barn developing in the lower nasal. Long finish. 
There was no fancy dinner----though I did create some excitement when my camera strap caught onto the glass stem and I spilled red wine over my pants----however it was a visit worth the price of admission and I found Riann utterly charming and so very straight forward honest. Love to get the guy on camera!!!!
Next on the agenda was a quick visit to our lodging for the next two nights and then to Veritas Vineyards for a lovely dinner.
Rodes Farm     
826/939 Rodes Farm Drive
Nellysford, VA, 22958 
Some of the most breath-taking scenery I have seen anywhere exists at this location nestled amidst the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Now you remember what I told my daughter Taryn about how at least I was going to get away from horses and barns and stables----well, you may remember what my initial surprise was at the Salamander Resort----here was the other shoe falling. This is the very accurate description of what was written on the Rodes Farm website.
" Historic Rodes Farm sits on five manicured acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by horse-filled pastures and stunning panoramic views. Dating back to the 1840s, Rodes Farm is nestled into, and quietly embraces, the glorious Rockfish Valley of Nelson County, Virginia. "
This place was a horse haven and stable in addition to being an amazingly well renovated early 19th Century location that is full of history and scenery that doesn't stop! But---so much for no horses etc. etc. They were everywhere.
During its past it was used as a Civil War hospital as well as a girl's boarding school. Now it is a phenomenal place for everything from a Bed & Breakfast to a special event location to weddings. Several of us registered there while several others registered at the Mark Addy Inn located down the road at 96 Rodes Farm Drive.
Veritas Winery Dinner  
72 Saddleback Farm
Afton, VA  22920
We arrived at Veritas approximately at around 7 PM. How many good things can one take in one day. Here was a six room Bed and Breakfast farmhouse built in 1839 that was impeccably kept since it belonged to the same family for over 200 years.
The history of Veritas began in 2002 when Andrew and Patricia Hodson opened their winery. To assist them their three children assisted them with one of them, Emily, obtaining her Masters Degree in Oenology and became a full time member of the business. Her work shows for itself since her wines are turning heads wherever they appear. Emily won the "Judges Choice" as top national female winemaker in 2007.
The Dinner
We arrived ready for a dinner but what was waiting for us was so much more than "just a dinner" as the better description for it would have been "a marvelous, first class feast"!
First Course
Butternut Squash Bisque With Candied Papitas, Herb Bread Crumbs And Siced Bacon
Wine: Veritas Viognier 2006 and 2012
Second Course
Arugula Salad Tossed In An Apple Cider Vinaigrette With Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese And dried Cranberries
Wine: Veritas Rose 2013
Third Course
Kalimotxo-Braised Short Ribs Over Whipped Sweet Potatoes And Roasted Brussel
Wine: Veritas Cabernet Franc 2007   
Fourth Course
Apple Brown BettyWith Cinnamon Ice Cream, Black Berry Syrup And BrownSugar Whipped Cream
Wine: Veritas Petit Manseng 2005 and 2013
Emily gave a masterful description of the wines, the food and the eventual match quality. She answered without uttering a word the question of how and why Virginia is producing such astounding wine--------winemakers such as she is the answer. Thank you so much for such a great experience.
Wine Descriptions
Viognier 2006
On the nose: Pronounced peach/apricot with ripe fig and mandarin
Palate: Medium body, apricot/peach with dried fig nuances, low acidity 
With Food: Preferred 2012---would have loved to try it with fish/rice dish 
Veritas Viognier 2012 Viognier 93% and Petit Manseng 7%
On the nose: citrus, ripe peaches, apricots, honey, orange peel
Palate: Medium body, peach/apricot/honey/melon flavours with good acidity and finish.
With Food: The wine complemented the flavours of the squash and acidity cut through the heavier flavour of the bacon and squash. Nice  
Veritas Rose 2013  50% Blend Each of Merlot/Cabernet Franc
On the nose: strawberry, raspberry with cherry on the end with some herbal characteristics.
Palate: similar, dry with medium body and berry flavours. Prominent acidity.
With Food: Rose is made for a dish such as the above. The lightness does not challenge the dish itself and the herbal characteristics of the blend goes well with the salad while the fruit and acidity certainly complements the nutty/creamy, tart and tangy taste of the goat cheese. Neither the apple vinaigrette nor the wine blend challenges the other.
Veritas Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007 
On the nose: Dark fruit mainly currant and blackberry, some smoke and leather
Palate: Full bodied, again dark fruit, herbal characteristics and touch of chocolate. Lovely smooth finish.
With Food: Classic example of a perfect wine match.
Veritas Petit Manseng 2005
On the nose: tropical fruit, pineapple, vanilla, fig
Palate: sweet, excellent mouth feel, dried fruit, peach, apricot, fig 
With Food: Fruit of the wine and dessert mingle well. Wine's sweetness/acidity melds well with the ice cream.
Veritas Petit Manseng 2013 
On the nose: tropical fruit, vanilla spice, tropical melon
Palate: coconut, pecan, exotic tropical fruit and fig. Sweet finish.
With Food: as above but with certain flavours more pronounced.
Both wines were a nice match for the dessert.
Other Wines
Veritas produces some other fine wines such as a great Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, a unique blend of Viognier, Traminette, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng called "White Star", Kenmar a dessert wine which is made from Traminette (Gewurztraminer hybrid) and named after the family grandparents (Kenneth and Marjorie), Othello 75% Tannat and 25% Merlot Blend,   Claret and Vintners Reserve, both Bordeaux blends, Red Star, light blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin, Merlot and two Traditional Method Sparklers: Mousseux made from 100% Merlot and Scintilla made from 100% Chardonnay. 
The evening was full of fun but soon it was time to depart for our lodging and off we went. Much of the gang gathered at the Manor house which is the main building at Rhodes Farm and decided to ---Oh my God! They decided to try more wine! Me----I had enough for that evening---even though none of us was inebriated since the amounts we consume at one time was minimal! I went out on the porch as it was a reasonably warm night and looked upon a massive 100 foot high Magnolia Tree growing in front of the Manor house.
"What history this tree must have witnessed!" I thought to myself. I do not know how long I stayed out on the porch, sitting on a very comfortable chair but I then got up and bid adieu to the group as I knew that tomorrow would be just as busy a day as this was.
End of Day Four             


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day Three: Salamander Market, Barboursville, Tom's Monticello, Jefferson Vineyards, Trump Vineyards And Onto Charlottesville!

Oh Sunny Day! November 4th 2014
While the weather forecasts were rather gloomy---predicting rain, I was awakened to a bright and gorgeous day. An early start to the day (7:30 AM) allowed us to stop at the Market Salamander where we were treated to a fine breakfast by the market's staff. It was here that I first learned about the Norton grape and how it had been for quite awhile "The" grape of Virginia.
More about the Norton later but I did use this stop to purchase some bottles of Norton wine to bring home.
Market Salamander 
Walter Bichey, the General Manager of Market Salamander told us the story for the usage of the term "Salamander" for the Resort, Market, Farm and Touch. It seems that the "farm" was originally owned by Mr. Bruce Sundlun, who was shot down along with his B17 bomber over Nazi occupied territory during WW2!
He became a part of the resistance who gave him the code name "Salamander". When he returned to the United States, he bought a 200 acre farm which he named as such. He went on to having a successful like in law as well as politics as both an Assistant US Attorney and a two time Governor of Rhode Island.
The present owner, Ms. Johnson, renamed the farm "Salamander" ----a name that stands today to symbolize courage, strength and fortitude.
Barboursville Winery   
One of the highlights of my trip to Virginia was the visiting of this winery and tasting its wines!
The history of the winery goes back to 1814 when then Governor James Barbour began building his estate whose mansion was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The building was finished in 1821 and was dedicated to sustainable agriculture.
In 1976, Gianni Zonin of the famous wine family from Veneto purchased the property and against all advice to grow tobacco, he planted grapes. He saw what others did not see and did what many others failed to do and that is: the growing of quality grapes to make quality wine.
The wines of Barboursville are famous throughout Virginia and have been given accolades by such wine magazines such as Wine Enthusiast. Recently the winery was named among the top 101 wineries in the United States and its wine maker, Luca Paschina, was awarded the Italian Order of Merit for his work in in the field of wine and wine making.
Luca Paschina casually walked towards our group as we stepped out of our travel bus. He was tall, svelte and movie star handsome. He introduced himself in a harmoniously melodic voice that in many ways reminded me of Thomas Bachelder formerly of Le Clos Jordanne fame and now making his own brand of wine. Speaking with authority that only comes with experience and initiative, Luca described the vineyards and the wines. He had the group quite mesmerized.
It was easy to see why Barboursville Vineyards had such a high reputation behind it and why the estate has won so much recognition.  Even famed wine specialist Bartholomew Broadbent, son of the amazing and famous wine consultant/critic Michael Broadbent, dropped in to check on the group. He was as much of a class act as his dad.
We gathered in the dining lounge for a magnificent lunch matched with Barboursville wine. I remember saying to myself, this can't go on or I will not be recognized by the time I get back to Canada. The food was exquisite and wines superb!
As far as the wine was concerned, there was not one that tasted either white or red that I did not like! The wines were well made and individually crafty.
White Wine 
The wines were quite agreeable however two stood out!
Vermentino Reserve: This wine was rated quite high by me. The Italian Vermentino (Cosrsica/Sardinia) does not seem  to be common in many regions which is a shame since it does produce a citrus driven, mineral, light to medium bodied wine certainly has many things going for it.  The example tasted at Barboursville was exceptional and prompted me to purchase!   
Viognier: There is no oak or malolactic fermentation in this wine but that may be a credit to the wine maker since what one gets is citrus, white fruit and concentrated Kiwi or Dragon Fruit. Lovely wine1
I also purchased! Incidentally, the Viognier is the official grape for the State of Virginia.
Chardonnay Reserve: In general, I found that Chardonnay does not have the status here in Virginia that it does in other countries. It is very well made and the example I tasted was full of vanilla, pear, apple flavours with nuances of tropical fruit. The wine was concentrated and certainly one that would develop with time. I think that Chardonnay has become so common a grape that it even when it is so very well made by this wine maker, it does not carry the same clout that it used to. I liked it but did not purchase! Why?  There were other examples that I wanted to share with others and only had so much to spend and-----after all----there are excellent examples of Chardonnay everywhere! Enough said!
Red Wine     
While the whites are excellent, here is where Barboursville shines brightly. The reds are amazing in concentration, power, elegance and complexity.  I certainly would have bought much more  but only could take so many back to Canada with me!
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and like were so very well made but I opted to seriously try some grape varieties that I did not expect to see in Virginia.
Barbera: I found this wine refreshing and red berry flavours with an accent on the cherry. While I am not a fan of the Barbera grape, this wine would certainly make my list for a light entree to a Risotto dinner.
Nebbiolo Reserve:The moment I placed the glass to my nose I said "Wow!". A wine for at least ten to 20 years of aging potential. Dense, concentrated with crushed and aging leaves, dark fruit, smoke/tobacco, violets and a complexity that had your senses being purged and revamped almost on a continuous level. This wine would bring me back for more! I absolutely love it!
Sangiovese: I did not find this wine in the same class as the Nebbiolo but it was well made and a delicious representation of the grape variety. I learned that it was blended with up to 25% of Cabernet/Merlot and/or Petit Verdot. This gave the wine a bit more body and elegance I would think.
Petit Verdot: Certainly a wine for aging (up to 20 years) with an assertive manner about it, it lets you know that it is around. Dark fruit dominate with anise with an ever so tiny hint of chocolate (unless someone was brewing coffee etc. in the building). Big tannins assured of future development but the wine was approachable at present to those who like bold young wines.
Cabernet Franc Reserve: A wine made for the terroir of Virginia and in my opinion from what I have tasted from other wineries, the true grape of Virginia. This wine was full of levels of ripe cherry/raspberry fruit with a pinch of fig and plum to round out the nose with a similar level of flavour on the palate with a bit of chocolate thrown in.  It was inviting for a younger wine but quite pleasing as the flavours melded onto the palate. While it also could live for at least another ten years it was highly drinkable now and should not be just wasted on sipping. This is a food wine!
Octagon: This type of  wine is the reason why wine lovers spend a fortune to visit wineries. Totally amazing and made only in premium years. This wine has it all. It is a blend of  Merlot majority, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon,  The wine is a cornucopia of flavours and nuances with a ripe dark and red fruit, plum, chocolate, fig on both nose and palate. Mouth feel is full and inviting. Full bodied with a finish that never goes away for quite some time. I loved it and wish I had brought home more!
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Thomas Jefferson has always been one of my heroes! The man was bigger than life and reflected all that was/is good about the United States. It's not because he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. It's not that he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.It's not that he was President or held many of the most important positions in the U.S. Government. No! These facts just attracted me to him. What I liked most and what drew me so much to admire him was that he never stopped learning and his interest in life made him what he still is to this day-----an inspiration to any who aspire to learn, create and initiate.
This tall (for his day and age) six foot two man cast an image over his country that lasts to this day.
He was born in Charlottesville, Virginia in April of 1743 (which made him an Aries and very apropos for his celestial sign).  The man was inquisitive and strong willed.
Jefferson was a scholar par excellence who spoke five languages and studied many others. He had a renowned  interest in the sciences and his interest in architectural design remains known to this day.
He also loved wine and was so fascinated by it that he went to great lengths to establish it in Virginia.
He was not entirely successful as it seems that for all the vines he planted, he never had a single harvest----or so they say but it was he who wrote, inspired and encourage about anything that had to do with wine.
You can imagine my delight on the knowledge that I was going to visit his home and see his vineyard and go down to his wine cellar. What an amazing chance to at least meet this man via his own surroundings!
Inheriting the rather large property from his father, Jefferson built a home in 1768 but set forth to remodel it in 1794. Designed the home according to designs he learned about in Europe during his tenure as a United States Minister (Ambassador) to France. He subsequently redesigned his home using many of his won inventions that still can be viewed in working order at Monticello to this day!
Monticello is a unique piece of Americana that I would not have missed seeing for the world.
Visit to Monticello   
We were met by Gabrielle Rause, Director of Gardens and Grounds for the estate. He briefly discussed Monticello's history and toured us around the grounds which included a vineyard. Not far from our discussion, excavations regarding its historical buildings were still being performed by historical students.The outside of the building was as interesting and well restored as the inside. Gardens dedicated to historical plants as well as a "Jefferson Garden" consisting of identical species of vegetables that were grown by Jefferson himself.  This garden was located  not far from the vineyard .
One thing that I found fascinating was the Octagon Room. Jefferson designed an Octagonal Globe that he place above a room by the same name. The Alcove Bed in the room had a closet over head culminating to form an Octagon. I now understood the relationship between Barboursville Vineyard's epic wine called Octagon and the Octagon shape in this building. Jefferson was Governor James Barbour's good friend and had designed his mansion for him. The other thing that impressed me was the wine cellar which showed wines stacked up as they had been years prior. 
Monticello was a grand experience and while the commercial atmosphere that  surrounded the estate in general, it is understandable that  the money to keep this place looking as grand as it di when he first built is must come from some place. While there were many school children viewing it, I wondered if they really appreciated what had transpired and the legacy that this great man left to History, Geography, Science and  Culture and-------all that is involved with Wine!
Jefferson and Wine
 From reading the information pamphlets issued by Monticello, one could see that Jefferson's tastes in wine were changeable but one has to keep in mind that he was on a lifelong journey of discovery and he never lost his wonder with the world and especially wine of which there were and still are many types of. As a great friend of mine would say when asked the question which wine is the best---his reply would be, "The wine you like best on the particular day that you drink it!"
Jefferson did manage to do some amazing things with wine. First he began somewhat of a revolution against the usual drink of the day which was Port. His experiences throughout Europe especially France introduced a different level of wine that was not as appreciated in the Americas. Another observation made by Justin Sarafin at Monticello in 2011 was that Jefferson had in his writings listed the top chateau of Bordeaux in almost direct parallel to the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux Wines which still stands to this day. He did it some 80 years prior.
Jefferson was indeed a "man for all seasons" and a man so ahead of his time -----in some ways ahead of this time period. The only sad thing is that a man such as he was limited by mortality!
We left Monticello much more enlightened and inspired! I will return some day!
Jefferson Vineyards
We left with Thomas Jefferson and began our visit with Jefferson Vineyards with him. Jefferson Vineyards is located on the same land that Thomas Jefferson owned. He was/is so interconnected with the history of Virginia's wine that he left his stamp almost everywhere. In this case, an Italian viticulturist by the name of Filippo Mazzei was given a parcel of land by Jefferson after he visited Monticello. He not only took up to building a home, living on and planting vines on that land but he also became involved in the politics of the time which meant of course----the Revolution.
Although Mazzei's original building is no longer there, the homestead and land was purchased by Shirley and Stanly Woodward rebuilding a home and repatriating the land which became a favourite visiting place of important politicians  and guests.
In the early 1980's, Gabriele Rause (now of Monticello above) was hired to plant a vineyard. The vineyard has remained in the same family's charge and is now managed by third generation Alexia and Attila Woodward. They continue to improve and make further additions to the property and vineyard.
White Wine
Pinot Gris: Citrus, apple and Lychee on nose and palate
Chardonnay:  White fruit with wood/vanilla on nose and palate
Red Wine    
Vin Rouge: Cherry/raspberry/cranberry on nose and palate.
Cabernt  Franc: Nost of cherry, raspberry with similar palace  of cherry,, anise spice.
Petit Verdot: Coffee, Black fruit on nose and palate with wood nuances throughout.
Meritage: Wet leaves, earth, cedar, some dark fruit and herbal spice on nose  with dark fruit, liquorice spice on palate.
Not Tasted 
Vin Blanc--a blend of Traminette and Petit Manseng    
After we tasted the wines at Jefferson Vineyards we were off to Trump Winery
Trump Winery 
At 1300 acres with over 200 of these planted with grape vines, Trump Winery is the largest in Virginia. The winery initially owned by Patricia Kluge and known as the Kluge Estate was purchased by Donald  Trump in 2012 with his son, Eric, as its President. Eric and I have never met but his reputation as a business person and a meticulous organizer reminded me of the saying "Like Father Like Son!" Mr. Trump also surrounded himself with very capable people.
Kerry Woolard, General Manager of the property was on hand to meet us and described the workings of this ultra modern and impressive estate.
It became apparent very quickly that Kerry was no slouch to wine. She was/is a Level 2  WSET certified with distinction and well known for her columns, and involvement with the wine boards and associations of Virginia.
Kerry gave us a tour of the 50,000 square foot facility then then along with winemaker Jonathon Wheeler, tutored us to  a massive sparkling wine tasting that blew my mind.
Sparkling Wine
If Trump Winery were in Champagne, it would be renowned as a Champagne House since all the sparkling wine made at Trump was made via the Traditional Method or as some still call it, Methode Champenoise. Of course very generally that is the method used where a secondary fermentation takes place in the same bottle that it is sold in. Somehow the name Sparkling Wine House (since Virginia is not Champagne) does not "cut" it-----especially with such classic wine as produced by Trump.
Trump Sparkling Wine comes in an assortment of styles.
We tasted the Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noir, Sparkling Reserve, Sparkling Rose. I leaned to the Blanc de Noir with its "toastiness" and aromas of anise and pear with a touch of citrus slightly more than the other favourite called Sparkling Reserve.with its. multitude of flavours consisting of Caramel toffee, white fruit, cinnamon apple and honey. The latter wine was made from 100 % Chardonnay and kept in contact with the yeast for five years. The Blanc de Noir by contrast is only left on the yeast for two years but the Blanc de Blanc and Rose Sparkling (which also was amazing with citrus, cherry and strawberry flavours) were in contact with the yeast for three years!
We had the crux of the Sparkling tasting on the patio adjacent to the boutique and dining lounge. The night was mild and the atmosphere---electric. We were then asked to be seated for dinner.
Dinner at the Trumps
Ist Course
Seasonal Vegetable Salad with Housemade Tofu, Black Cocoa and Garden Herbs
Wine: Meritage 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)
Before the Meritage was served I asked for a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc 2013  to compare to the experience.  The Sauvignon Blanc, I thought, went very well with the salad--- its herbal characteristics melded well with those of the garden herbs and the concentration made up for the slight challenge of the Cocoa---in fact the tropical fruit exhibited (pineapple, mango, some banana) complemented it. 
The Meritage with its red/black fruit/berries, some coffee/cocoa and herbal qualities proved to be excellent also as a companion to this dish.
2nd Course
Roasted Terres Major with Braised Maitake Mushrooms, Roasted Broccoli, Farro and Melted Onions
Wine World Reserve 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)
While the percentage of the varieties in this wine were roughly the same, this wine showed more concentration than the Meritage above. It was more powerful and certainly complemented the meal it was matched with. The herbal qualities certainly complemented the vegetable entrees and the wine itself with dark fruit, currants and forward tannin was superb with the "Shoulder Steak".
3rd Course 
Dark Chocolate Creamuex with Fennel Red Wine Sauce, Puffed Rice and Pear
2009 Sparkline Rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
The Sparkling Rose's fruit and creaminess certainly went well with the anise like flavour of the fennel matched with the pear fruit and creamy mouthfeel of the puffed rice. The wine "cut" through the cream and exhibited its fruit value. The added flavours of cherry and strawberry contributed to the organoleptic enjoyment of the dessert and the millions of tiny bubbles made the experience so very enjoyable.
The evening ended with some coffee and I thought it was one of those most enjoyable and memorable experiences. To add another delight to the whole evening, a parting gift of Trump "Zippered" Sweaters came in my size----X Large. I have used it many times since!
We soon bed our adieu to those at Trump and our driver  Devon, soon had us on our way to Charlottesville, where we registered at the Holiday Inn for a much relaxing and needed sleep.
End of Day Three   

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Virginia Day Two--------Beyond Jefferson's Vines and Further!

Beyond Jefferson's Vines
There is absolutely no challenge to the fact that the very main reason why the State of Virginia is what it is concerning wine  centers around the passion of one man-----Thomas Jefferson. Without his enthusiasm, dedication, travels and writings I would dare say that much less would have been accomplished. Jefferson, in his portrayal of the French wine industry during his lifetime, induced to the common man a legacy of "what could be" and in his attempts to produce wine in Virginia "what was to be!"
Richare Leahy is a well known historian, wine writer, sommelier and  author of  "Beyond Jefferson's Vines" a book describing the advent and production of wine in Virginia. Richard's knowledge on and about wine goes much further than just Virginia.
His experience as Mid Atlantic and South  Editor for the Oxford Companion of Wines in North America and his editorial experience with Vineyard & Winery Management (East Coast) in addition to his participation in the organizing of wine events in the United States  have made him invaluable as an addition to any group involved in the field of wine.
Richard quickly became a trusted and very caring friend in whom I have great respect for. The man was and is awesome when it comes to listening a knowledgeable person speak so fluently about one's favourite subject. His words flowed so easily and his knowledge is so very wide.
My friend, you have my very well earned respect. Incidentally, Richard's "Beyond Jefferson's Vines" is now updated and in its second printing. Congratulations my friend.
Loudoun County
Loudoun County is 521 square miles of American History.  Echoes of the past intermingle with the sounds and sights of the present almost everywhere one goes. Always quite rich in agriculture, it was known as "The Breadbasket of the Revolution" for having sustained George Washington's army with its grain during the American Revolution.Loudoun County is also known for its battles during the American Civil War.
While Loudoun remains a notable agricultural community with strong ties to the equine, food and wine industries, it also has a very powerful service economy. Due to its proximity to Washington and also Dulles International Airport many major companies have their operations in it.      
Morining At The Salamander      
My room at the luxurious Salamander Hotel was well situated to display the serene beauty of the scene outside my room's window balcony. When I awoke  the morning after I arrived, the sun was just starting to push its way through the mist that had befallen the gorgeous grounds of this 350 plus Equestrian Themed Resort and was reflecting itself off the left sides of several buildings.   It could have been a page out of any number of romantic novels and I actually had to pinch myself as to how breathtakingly gorgeous the scene of sunlight fighting its way onto the green, slightly frosted lawns. Pencils of light were illuminated and reflected from the minute crystals that formed with the frost covered greenery. I could have looked at this sight for much longer period of time had my growling stomach advised me to search in an other direction.
Breakfast was the quick version of a muffin and a copious amount of coffee, it was time to head out for our first winery of the day. Our first stop was to be Northgate Winery.
Northgate Winery
16031 Hillsboro Road
Purcellville, VA 20132

 Situated on approximately 26 acres in the northwest part of Loudoun County, Virginia  at the east base of the Short Hill Foothill Mountains, North Gate Vineyard produces high quality wine grapes for its wines. North Gate's Tasting Room is LEED Gold Certified, and is 100% solar powered. It features indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a covered patio, and amazingly scenic mountain and vineyard views .
We were met by husband and wife wine making team of Mark and Vicki Fedor who have been growing grapes since 2002 and making wine since 2003.
"We take pride in growing the best grapes possible and making them into the best wine possible!" said Mark. "You can make a good wine from a recipe but to make a great wine one must strive  to exceed that formula by understanding his vines, the soil they grow in and everything that goes into making it. Indeed both he and Vicki have done just that.    
 While grapes are grown on their estate, not all the wines are made from estate grown grapes. However, both winemakers know as much about the estates where their grapes come from as their own.
The Wine
Viognier 2013 (Loudoun County)
This is a 100% single variety with tropical flavours, some citrus/floral notes on both nose and palate.. Immediately appealing to the senses with an accent on vanilla spice.  The wine is made up partially 
of wines grown locally and from vines grown elsewhere in Loudoun County.
I do prefer the above as both an aperitif and meal wine.
Chardonnay 2013 (Loudoun Couty)
A 100% Chardonnay with apple/pear/peach on the nose and ripe apple, citrus mix and tropical/vanilla on palate. Citrus taste carries through to finish. Vines are not estate grown but all from Loudoun County appellation.
Cabernet Franc 2012 (Virginia)
While a single variety on "paper", the wine contains 2.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice raspberry/cherry on nose with currant nuances. Touch of mint in the background and pepper on the nose. Red fruit with medium body on the palate. Pleasant finish with a recurrence of the mint. Vines are not estate grown.
Merlot (Loudoun County) 2012
Another "single" variety with a touch of other wine available. 95% Merlot versus 5% Cabernet Sauvingon. The vines are not estate grown but are Loudoun appellation.  On the nose there is black fruit of some ripeness, tobacco smoke  plus cassis with a touch of pepper. On the palate the wine is medium to full in body, similar fruit as nose. Smoke permeates the lower "back of throat" nasal after swallowing and there is a lingering oak on the finish.
Meritage (Loudoun County) 2012 
This wine is definitely a blend similar to that of the Bordeaux style. 50% Cabernet Sauvingnon, 30% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc. This Meritage had a nose full of berries and currants but also it exhibited mint, coffee and chocolate nuances which were repeated on the palate. The wine was medium to full bodied with a lingering finish. Once more the appellation here was Loudoun although none of the wine was produced by the estate.
Petit Verdot (Loudoun County) 2012  
This wine was produced entirely from grapes cultivated at the winery by the winemakers and staff.
The wine had cedar/tobacco smoke and floral on the nose. Medium bodied with blackberry/raspberry notes plus tobacco/smoke and plum on the palate. The wine was definitely on the verge and attracted a small following prior to our visit ending.
Apple Wine 2012
Fresh, clean and luscious juice was my first thought when I tasted the apple wine. A nice pleasant drink that, when appropriately cold, would be perfect for a warm, steamy summer night.  

North Gate was a very inspiring winery to visit and basically started our journey in a most excellent manner. The group of wine writers from the USA, Britain and Canada were now anticipating what was around the next corner! Our next stop, Breaux!

Breaux Vineyards
36888 Vineyards Lane
Purceville, Virginia 20132
If great wine was synonymous with fine scenery, then the wines of Breaux would be classed as the best anywhere. The scenery one encountered as the bus dusted its way down the winery driveway towards a dining area was one of the best that I had seen anywhere with a plethora of multicolored flower bushes surrounding the landscaped perimeters of the winery.
We were met by Jennifer Breaux Blosser, daughter to Breaux's President and CEO, E. Paul Breaux Junior. She had set up a luncheon for the group-----matching Breaux's fine wine to the meal. First she described a bit about the winery's history and philosophy.
Apparently Breaux started its life as a log cabin circa 1750. What was a hobby turned into a serious winery which eventually reached a capacity of some 50,000 gallons with a current 10,000 case capacity. Presently the winery is undergoing expansion.
Jennifer took over the day to day operations from her father several years ago and is now the Director of Sales and Hospitality.
Jennifer also introduced us to winemaker Heather Munden, U of Davis graduate who acquired a great reputation as a wine consultant for wineries in Italy, Australia, Chile,New Zealand and California. Heather explained the philosophy behind the Breaux wine making.
The Wine
Sauvignon Blanc (2013)
On the nose the wine had herbal spice, green apple and citrus lime. On the palate it was medium bodied, green apple, peach and vegetal flavour. Nice acidity led to a crisp, dry finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)
On the nose this wine expressed red fruit, anise, clove spice. On the palate it was full bodied with some red/black fruit flavours especially cherry along with a touch of black pepper. Oak was slightly present and the finish lengthy.
Meritage (2007)  

Nose expressed chocolate, coffee, dark fruit with some mint.The wine palate was full bodied with ripe dark fruit, oak, pepper. Long in finish.
Cabernet Franc Reserve (2007)
Highly concentrated with concentrated dark fruit, liquorice/anise, tobacco smoke, walnuts on both nose and palate. Palate was also full in body. Very powerful and lengthy finish.
Soleil (2006)     
Nose has full of lychee, honey, melon pear, ripe fig and citrus flavours with  a palate of jam, lychee, honey, apricot, peach and fig flavours.

The Meal
The group was also treated with a lovely lunch provided by Bluewater Kitchen, a first class catering company, matched with three other Breaux wines.
First Course
Roasted Chilly Hollow Farm Squash & Spice with Spring Farm Bacon
Accompanying Wine: Viognier (2013)
Nose: floral, melon, tropical fruit and tropical spice. Palate was medium, concentrated, some toastiness with smoke, white fruit, citrus and pebbles on the finish.
Second Course
Coq Au Vin with Braised spring farm chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, fall vegetables, oyster mushrooms.
Accompanying wine: Nebbiolo (2006)

Nose: cherry, fig, licorice, smoke with a palate of  red fruit, chocolate/coffee. Forward tannins and very pleasant mouth feel. 
Challah and Brioche Bread Pudding with raisins, honey crisp apples, bourbon creme Anglaise.
Accompanying Wine: Lineage 
Nose: Port like made using the Solera system! Coffee, ground nuts, chocolate, plum, dark plums and a soft, delicate finish.
The wine and meal went very well and every wine was an excellent example of a wine/food match.  Our next destination was to  Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg.
Fabbioli Cellars

Owner University of California Davis educagted Doug Fabbioli acquired his skill as a wine maker through his employ at such vineyards as Buena Vista in California, Tarara, Windham and a number of other wineries in Virginia. His experience in working with such renowned wine makers as  Andre Tchelicheff and Anne Moller-Racke (who is now President and Winegrower of Donum Estate in California) enabled him to move forward with his plans for making first class wine in Virginia.
In 2000  along with his wife, Colleen, he purchased 25 acres of land near Leesburg, Virginia planting  Merlot and Petit Verdot in 2001.
On our first meeting, he reminded me of the former wrestler Jessie Ventura in his enthusiastic speech and passion for wine. He immediately stuck me as being an innovator and leader----definitely not a follower. His commanding voice and "western-edge" in his demeanor communicated his style and determination. No wonder this guy was/is a success.
His philosophy of wine circulates around education and the environment with the end result being a saving that is passed on to the consumer but eventually allowing the winery to make a profit. Organic or sustainable agriculture is the key which allows a balance between the growing of the vines and producing excellent crops/wine and allowing nature to rule rather than using artificial methods to secure a successful product. Nothing is left for chance. Vines are carefully monitored. The soil is naturally replenished. Geothermal units are used for hot water production and climate control. Natural pesticides and fungicides are used. Education and updating for staff is a priority.
The result is a superior product of Bordeaux style wine that any winery would be proud of.
The Tasting
 Wine: Something White 
A blend of Viognier, Vidal, Chardonnay was paired with Cream Cheese and Pumpkin Spread on Crackers.
Wine: Chambourcin
Light and spicy red with with an earthy/dark fruit flavour matched with stuffing.
Wine: Cabernet Franc Reserve 
Medium to full bodied wine with red and dark fruit, pepper and oak flavours matched with Peppered Turkey.
Wine: Tre Soreille
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc in descending order of percentage. Red fruit and floral on nose and red fruit on the palate. Matched with Wensieydale Cranberry Cheese.
Wine: Zinfandel 
Rich and jammy red fruit on nose with dark fruit, figs, anise spice on palate matched with Dried Pomegranate/Brie on Crackers.
Wine: Raspberry Merlot
Medium sweet Raspberry/Merlot blend. Fruit, cinnamon spice and wood matched with Raspberry/Merlot Truffles.
Wine:Pear Port
A sweet Port style wine matched with Pumpkin Fudge.

The wines at Fabbioli showed what talent and passion could do if applied well. However we still had one more winery to view on our second day in Virginia and that was Tarara!
Tarara Winery
The historic and beautiful surroundings of the Potomac River is the site of 475 acres devoted to Tarara Winery's vines. Here owners Whitie and Margaret Hubert set up shop in 1985 with the intent of developing first class vines and wines. Starting with Chardonnay, they moved on to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot,
We were welcomed to the winery by the winemaker/general manager, Jordan Harris. Jordan is Canadian and was educated at Niagara College in St. Catherine's Ontario. He was a top sommelier taster placing first in a National Sommelier Competition and also place third in the World in a similar contest.
Jordan was very gregarious and friendly as he discussed his wines and philosophy of wine making. He believes that "less is more" which basically means that the less you tamper with a wine and make wine that you like to drink, you will get a far better product. He prefers his white wines to show "delicacy, complexity and density" with good "mouth feel".  As for his reds, The reds are vinified to produce greatest extraction of ripe fruit. The cap is gently managed via a system of gentle bubbles versus heavy punch downs. Punch down in certain lots is done by hand.
The reds are aimed to be complex and balanced with little or no fining/filtration. This allows for greater development and longevity.
White Wine
Blend of Chardonnay, Rkatsiteli (Georgian ancient white grape), Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng.
Has good acidity, citrus lemon, pineapple, herbal/grass.
A Chardonnay/Viognier blend with floral notes on both nose and palate. Tropical fruit and citrus with great concentration.
Citrus orange/apple pie/tropical fruit on nose with pleasant acid freshness on the mouth palate. Nice wine that shows promise for future development.
Red Wine
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Tannat with black fruit, cedar wood, blackberry and cassis on nose and palate with a rich concentration of tannin with subtle smoke and currant. Great ager!
Navaeh (Red):
A Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend with red and black fruit namely blackberry/plum on nose. Palate is similar with a great deal of ripe fruit flavours and smoke on the finish.
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Dark and red fruits with plum concentration and cedar wood. Palate is similar with ripe forward tannins and blackberry flavours. Chocolate underscores the fruit flavours with a nice smokey/vanilla finish.
Once again the wines proved to be inspiring to say the least. The thing to keep in mind here is that the all with wines from all the wineries tasted so far revealed a penchant for food pairing.
This was the last winery of the day but the fun was not over yet since a grand dinner awaited us at the great Salamander Resort where we were staying.
It was a nice way to end a long day. A five course dinner with matching wine at the Salamander Resort. We watched the group of chefs prepare a sumptuous meal that culminated in one of the nicest feasts that ever existed. The wine and food matches were amazing and the fabulous fillet mignon was one of the best I ever tasted. The dessert---a Creme Brulee---was sumptuous and though I am not usually a dessert person, I finished it to the very last spoon. One of my colleagues actually commented that it was the first dessert that she saw me eat totally.  The end to a perfect and very busy day.
End of Day Two.  





Monday, December 1, 2014

Rocky Mountain High------A Visit To Virginia`s Wine Country

Beginnings: Day One Of Virginia Wine Country  November 2nd 2014  
Be advised that I abhor airports! It used to be fun---this traveling! The airport used to be a point of pleasurable anticipation. One could go and lounge around---checking a few stores and eventually wander to a dining spot to have a breakfast or lunch or dinner or just a quiet drink. That is now all gone because of some cowardly asses who think that they can strike fear into travelers with their threats of destruction. It used to be fun----it used to be!
Now, the fun and anticipation has been changed to a rush! Get to the airport! Check your bags and don`t be late as you walk through the security lines and check points---removing belts, shoes and emptying your computer bags, purses and wallets into a tray. Once through one form of security, if one is going into the United States, a second even more time consuming line of security and protocol has to happen. All because of some misguided persons wishing to disrupt the lives of many innocent individuals just wanting to get from point a to point be quickly. It`s not quick anymore. The fun really has gone out of air travel and going to the airport was not on my top experience lists.
The limo picked me up very early (around 6 am) for a ten thirty flight to Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. I tend to be very anal when it comes to airports and travel. Enough time must be given to potential problems which could seriously alter the flight plans. Thus I was at Pearson some three hours earlier. My first quandary presented itself immediately upon arrival. I found my way to the Air Canada flight monitor to check for my flight to the USA. No flight was listed. I checked the main monitor and found a flight going to Dulles at ten thirty am but it was a United flight. Upon checking with an agent walking by at the time, I found out that this was my flight and that Air Canada Flight 3910 was actually United Airlines Flight 5098. No one had informed me of that and no one had written any such material on the ticket.
I waited, read and waited some more before my time came to head for the security area. In went with the usual----remove belt, remove shoes, remove jacket, empty computer case, empty pockets etc. etc. and was escorted to the gate where I had to remove my shoes, my jacket, my belt, my pocket change and empty my computer case etc. etc. That took almost an hour and a half of additional search time.
Once through I made my way to the gate which seemed at the far reaches of the airport. It was almost the last gate.
My flight was on a 72 passenger jet which would take about an hour and a half to fly to Washington.
The flight left on time and we actually made great time----arriving about ten minutes early.
I certainly was not prepared for Dulles which was one confusing airport for a first time visitor. I had checked the Dulles website which made no mention of a train that had to be taken to a different terminal. If it wasn`t for some very nice people, I would have ended up wherever but not where I was supposed to go.
I found my way around then it hit me! THIS was the airport of Die Hard 2 fame---you know the one with the caption ``Die Harder``  and featuring the plot to ``rescue`` a drug dealing general from a South American country on his way to be incarcerated within the United States. You know the plot! It was snowy, cold and the ``bad guys`` took over the control of the tower ---holding a large number of fuel deficient flights in the air over Washington hostage.
Yep I was in that airport and while there were a great deal of people, there wasn`t any great excitement going on! I waited for several hours until the shuttle bus picked me up and then circled until all the wine writing group was picked up.
 It took some time for the British wine writer members of the Circle of Wine Writers to clear customs but after much waiting, we were on our way to the hotel-----an ultra new. ultra luxury hotel in Virginia.
The Salamander         
 I remember telling my daughter Taryn that I was "at least going to be away from horses and barns for a few days" since I usually spent most of my time catering to her "hobby" related to the Equestrian past time. Little did know of the surprise that awaited me.
The Salamander hotel describes itself in this manner 
"Set on 340 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains amid Virginia’s famed horse country and lush vineyards, and just 35 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport"
"Horse Country"----"famed" at that! I got that certain queasiness in the pit of my stomach that said, "Oooops, I think you are IN horse country!" That all came to fruition when I got to the hotel.
The hotel was amazing------actually better than amazing! Recently built it is an ultra luxury hotel that is immersed in the local equestrian history. It consists of twenty five acres dedicated to equestrian activities with a 14,000 square foot stable with 22 stalls, nine paddocks of at least one acre, trail ride areas, a huge outdoor riding area with ThorTurf footing and dining/viewing areas within the stable. The resort itself has a state-of-the-art kitchen supervised by top chefs. The rooms all have tremendous views of the some 340 acres of scenic beauty ----200 of which are dedicated to conservation.
Inside the hotel are reminders of the equestrian influence area through pictures, paintings, ribbons and statues of riders and horses. This place is a Mecca for any rider but for those of us lowly persons who do not ride (and especially for "broke" fathers whose daughter's compete in the Hunter/Jumper category) there was so much to see and do. For wine lovers, the wineries close by and the excellent cooking at the hotel would keep any gourmet, wine expert and/or life aficionado enjoyably busy for months if not years! 
I laughed at myself as I thought of the prophetic yet ironic statement I made to my daughter Taryn as I prepared for this trip to Virginia. "At least I am going to be away from horses and barns-----!" I laughed as I sat down at the side of my bed and stared right at a picture of a horse jumping over an "Equestrian Eventing" obstacle!  Since the group was so late in leaving the airport we opted to go to our first winery late rather than put it off until the next day so after we registered and freshened, we were off to the first of many wineries on this trip, Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Virginia.
Boxwood Winery
The group of Circle of Wine Writers was basically familiar with each other since many of them had traveled with each other before. This was with the exception of two of us plus our driver Devon. I was made to feel immediately comfortable and the other, a young Russian lady by the name of Tanya, was also well received. Our driver with his excellent personality and driving skills was to become a very appreciated and contributing member to our team. There were two other individuals whose hard work made our trip possible and who accompanied us on this tour: Annette Boyd, Director of the .
Virginia Tourist Corporation and Christi Braginton, International Media Manager for the same.
Boxwood is located not far from the Salamander Hotel in Middleburg. Priding itself on its Bordeaux style blends, it grows five  varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Four styles of wine are produced: "Boxwood", "Topiary", "Trellis" and "Rose".   Boxwood is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Topiary consists of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Trellis consists of  mainly Merlot with small proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot added.  The Rose wine is produced from a blend of all the varieties grown at the winery. 
The winery which started in 2001 was the brainchild of  entrepreneur Jack (John) Kent Cooke, son of theti former Canadian business person who made it very big in the United States. Mr. Cooke invested a huge amount of money in Boxwood in order to make it a "star" attraction compared to other wineries around the Globe. He obtained the best French Bordeaux Clones in order to make wine that was similar in style to that of the French Bordeaux.  
Boxwood's winemaker is Adam McTaggert is a Canadian winemaker educated at Brock University in St. Catherine's Ontario who was hired by Mr. Cooke to oversee the wine production. Cooke's daughter Rachel Martin is the Executive Vice President and chief spokesperson for Boxwood. She studied Oenology and Wine Evaluation at colleges in Napa and Bordeaux.
Presently there are some 16 acres under vine. The winery is State-of-the Art with a magnificent tasting area.  Great care is taken to make sure that the grapes are hand harvested and berries hand selected for berry fermentation and eventual French oak aging.
CWW group were given a tasting of several wines made at Boxwood. 2008 Boxwood Red (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot), 2009 Topiary (50% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec), 2011 Trellis (60% Merlot, 40% blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot), 2011 Topiary (68% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot) and 2012 Boxwood Red (56% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot).
While all the wines were excellent, my favourite was the Trellis which had both power and elegance combined.  
It should be noted that famed viticulturist and consultant Lucie Morton was also involved with the success of this vineyard. More about this famed person later on in my blogs.

It was quite late when we finished our tasting at Boxwood and then we were off to a delicious meal at the Grandale Restaurant in Neersville. This four star restaurant is noted as being one of the top 50 restaurants in Northern Virginia. After a fine meal with matching Virginia wines, it was back to Salamander Hotel for a good night's sleep.
End of Day One