Virginia Wine

New Virginia Wine Lovers: Fine Wine Divas Trip to Early Mountain Vineyards

Our July Fine Wine Divas event took the Ladies on a field trip to Virginia wine country. As most live in the DC area, it was time to immerse them in this great wine region in their backyard. Most came in skeptical … all walked away convinced … Virginia has great things to offer wine lovers!

The Venue

We set out to Early Mountain Vineyards, about 90 miles south of DC, on Saturday. It’s a great spot to take anyone interested in Virginia wine. Not only can you taste Early Mountain’s great wines, but they also have the Best of Virginia program. Best of Virginia is an initiative created to celebrate and champion the finest wines of Virginia by featuring them in the tasting room. This is your virtual tour across the state. Their partner wineries include Thibaut-JanissonKing Family VineyardsLinden VineyardsBarboursville VineyardsChatham VineyardsBreaux Vineyards and Ankida Ridge Vineyards. Wines from the partner wineries are tasted in flights, offered by the glass and sold by the bottle, along with the local curated food program of panini, salad, cheese, charcuterie and sweets.

The History

On our ride down, we gave a little on the history of Virginia wine. It dates back four centuries to the original English settlers of Jamestown in 1607. They were required to grow 10 grapevines each of European origin when they arrived in Virginia, but diseased vines prevented anything from coming of it. Thomas Jefferson, with the help of his Italian viticulturist Filippo Mazzei, tried for over 30 years to grow vines at Monticello, but again wine was never produced. The mid-1800s showed promise when the Virginia Norton wine, made from Native American grapes, was named “best red wine of all nations” at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair and received a gold medal at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. Unfortunately Prohibition in the early 20th-century stopped all wine production. But in the 1970s with six new wineries, Virginia’s wine comeback began. Watch this great video from Virginia Wine for more details.

The Tasting

Early Mountain put together a fabulous wine tasting and food pairing afternoon for us. The Virginia wine tour included…

  • 2012 Early Mountain Pinot Gris
  • 2012 Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc
  • 2012 King Family Vineyards Crosé
  • 2012 Early Mountain “Block 11” Petit Manseng
  • 2011 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Early Mountain Handshake
  • 2011 Sunset Hills Vineyard Petit Verdot
  • 2012 Glen Manor Petit Manseng

And the top 3 favorites…

2011 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Round black cherry and cassis
  • Taste: Fresh cherry and white pepper
  • Price: $42
  • My thoughts: This is a Virginia stand out. They say Virginia can’t grow Pinot Noir but Ankida Ridge shows they can. One of our Ladies is a huge Pinot fan and said, “Virginia has done well!”

2012 Early Mountain “Block 11” Petit Manseng

  • Variety: 65% Petit Manseng, 35% Muscat
  • Aroma: Apricot and floral
  • Taste: Honey and apricot
  • Price: $24
  • My thoughts: Everyone loved this wine! It’s fruit forward taste was also a great pairing with the foods.

2012 Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc

  • Variety: 100% Seyval Blanc
  • Aroma: Citrus
  • Taste: Citrus and white fruits
  • Price: $20
  • My thoughts: As a cousin of Sauvignon Blanc, this is a great option to that wine. It’s got more floral and fruit notes then the typical Sauvignon Blanc’s grassy and citrus flavor.

This is also the first tasting I can remember that we’ve had several Ladies like each of the wines. Very good news for Virginia wine!

Cheers to Early Mountain for a fabulous afternoon! Mission accomplished..we have more Virginia wine ambassadors spreading the word!

Visit these pages for more on Grape Occasions on Virginia wine and Early Mountain Vineyards.

Finding Your New Favorite Summer White Wine

Our June Fine Wine Divas event set our members up for summer entertaining success as we tried a variety of white wines – perfect for sipping on your back patio, front porch, or in a nice air-conditioned room.

Throughout the evening, we tasted the following sparkling and still white wines:

  • J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV), California, USA ($28)
  • Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru (NV), Champagne, France ($37)
  • 2011 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, California, USA ($19)
  • 2012 Bayten Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa ($14)
  • 2012 Colomé Torrontés, Argentina ($13)
  • Fuzelo Vinho Verde (NV), Portugal ($9)
  • Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio (NV), Friuli, Italy ($13)
  • Veritas Vineyard White Star (NV), Virginia, USA ($18)
  • 2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spätlese, Germany ($19)

And the evening’s favorites were…

Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru (NV)

  • Variety: 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier from Champagne, France
  • Aroma: Red fruits, citrus, herbs
  • Taste: Honey, yeast and apple
  • Price: $37 (available at Whole Foods)
  • Pair with: Salty appetizers, light summer salad
  • My thoughts: This is one of my favorite Champagnes and it did not disappoint.

 Veritas Vineyard White Star (NV)

  • Variety: Blend of Viognier, Traminette, Chardonnay, Petite Manseng from Virginia
  • Aroma: Apricot, slight florals
  • Taste: Mango, pineapple and coconut
  • Price: $18 (available at www.VeritasWines.com)
  • Pair with: Spicy Asian cuisine
  • My thoughts: With a touch of sweetness and the blend of whites, it’s perfect for a hot summer day.

2012 Colomé Torrontés

  • Variety: 100% Torrontés from Calchaqui Valley, Argentina
  • Aroma: Rose, spice and grapefruit
  • Taste: Round and full bodied with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and elegant tropical fruit
  • Price: $13 (available at www.HessCollection.com)
  • Pair with: Fresh seafood and grilled chicken
  • My thoughts: This was a winner with everyone and much more full bodied than other Torrontés I’ve tried.

As a Virginia wine lover, I was thrilled to see a wine from Charlottesville make the top 3 for the evening!

Check out this handy infographic categorizing the 20 words most often used to describe white wines – making it easy to describe (and find!) what you like!

Cheers to Summer!

Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold: Best Wines of Virginia Named for 2013

Virginia’s top wines were named a few weeks ago with 2013 Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup top honors going to Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon 12th Edition. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 230 and 93 of the wineries submitted 377 red and white entries for this year’s competition.

Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon 12th Edition is a Bordeaux-style Meritage (70 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, 10 percent Petit Verdot, and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) that’s made in only the best vintage years. It’s the fourth Governor’s Cup that Barboursville’s won, but the first for the Octagon, which Governor McDonnell called “one of Virginia’s most iconic red wines.”

Governor Bob McDonnell presented the award at the Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup Gala. Governor McDonnell championed major changes to the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition in 2011 that made it one of the most stringent and comprehensive wine competitions in the United States.

The 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over two weeks of tasting. The preliminary tastings were held over ten days at the Capital Wine School in Washington DC, while the final round of tastings was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. The Governor’s Cup award winner was selected from the 2013 Governor’s Cup Case, the top 12 scoring wines of the competition. The other 11 wines…

Cooper Vineyards: 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards: 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery: 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery: 2010 Cleve
Pollak Vineyards: 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery: 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars: 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Rendezvous
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Lost Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard: 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery: 2008 Sparkling Rose

Accepting for Barboursville Vineyards was Luca Paschina, Barboursville’s General Manager and Winemaker. “It has been a pleasure and a reward to follow the evolution of the 2009 vintage of Octagon. Since harvest I took notice of its promising characters, and I was not shy to share with many that it was destined to be among the best wines I will ever produce in my life,” said Luca. “The Virginia Governor’s Cup award is an honor and further validates the character of a wine that has already won 90 points at Wine Enthusiast, the Gold Medal of the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, of the Winemaker’s Challenge and Critics Challenge in California, and the Platinum Medal of the Sommelier Challenge, also in California.”

Barboursville Vineyards is located in the Monticello American Viticulture Area of Central Virginia, in and around the Charlottesville region. The historic Virginia winery is located on the estate of James Barbour, former Governor of Virginia, in Barboursville. The winery was founded in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, a prominent Italian winemaker whose family has roots in Italian viticulture going back to 1821. The Zonin Group is based in Vicenza, Italy. Barboursville is Zonin’s sole American venture.

Noticeably missing from this year’s winner list…white wine and Virginia’s offiical white variety, Viognier. There’s been much talk about it online. Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like spoke to Virginia Governor’s Cup competition head judge, Jay Youmans, MW on the topic. Jay said, “It is not that Viognier has performed poorly; it has more to do with the fact that many of the reds simply reflect the strength of the 2007, 2009, and 2010 vintages. While Viognier may perform well in Virginia, it is not as commercially important in the global market as full-bodied red blends.”

Gold Cup winner 2009 Octagon 12th Edition, along with the other 11 highest scoring wines above, will comprise the Governor’s Case, and serve as drinkable marketing ambassadors for the local industry throughout the year.

The Virginia wine industry continues it’s unprecedented growth. Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2012 with more than 485,000 cases, or more than 5.8 million bottles, sold. Virginia is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis.

For more information on all the winners, here’s a great site from Virginia Wine.

Congratulations to the 2013 winners!

A Colonial Williamsburg Christmas

This month for a little pre-Christmas celebration, we headed to Colonial Williamsburg…the 18th-century capital city of Virginia.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, Virginia was Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost in the New World. Today Colonial Williamsburg brings to life the story of a revolutionary city on 301-acres of Historic Area with hundreds of restored, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings and costumed interpreters telling the stories of the men and women of the time.

Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was a very festive time that really kicked off on Christmas Day…the twelve days of Christmas lasted until January 6, also called Twelfth Day or Epiphany. Colonial Virginians thought Twelfth Night a good occasion for balls, parties, and weddings.

On Christmas Eve, locals and visitors alike gathered at the Courthouse steps on Duke of Gloucester Street for the annual Williamsburg Community Christmas Tree Lighting and the traditional retelling of the city’s first Christmas tree. This is still reenacted today.

We spent two-days immersing ourselves in Colonial Christmas on Duke of Gloucester Street, the main road through the eight block by six block city:

  • Christmas decorations of the time consisted of wreaths, candles and greenery. Replicated today, over 10 miles of pine roping is used around town. We enjoyed the 53rd Annual Christmas Decorations Walking Tour where we learned all about the festivities of the time and took in some of the gorgeous wreaths still judged today. Materials for the wreaths today must be natural, found now and then in Virginia like seashells, cotton, yarrow, hops, wheat whiskers, magnolia leaves, peanuts and mistletoe (who knew it was a parasite that grows in trees?). My favorite was also the judges, the 9 out of 10 year winner…The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.
  • Firing of the Christmas Guns – a tradition dating back to the 18th-century in which guns are fired in salute to the Christmas season as an expression of joy and celebration – complete with the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums.
  • Strolling the streets, we toured the Capitol at one end and the Governor’s Palace at the other end. We visited the Apothecary, Printing Office & Bindery, Post Office, Milliner & Tailor, Silversmith, Blacksmith, Courthouse, Shoemaker, Weaver and Magazine (where weapons and artillery were stored). Local shops are also open on Duke of Gloucester Street like the John Greenhow Store that sells baskets, porcelain, fabrics, copper items, craftsmen tools and other goods similar to those sold by Mr. Greenhow in the 18th century. We found lots of unique Christmas gifts for friends and family.
  • We even saw the house where the first Christmas Tree was introduced, the Tucker House. Dr. Charles Minnigrode, a political exile from Germany who immigrated to America in 1839, came to teach at the College of William & Mary. A good friend of Judge Beverly Tucker and his family, Minnigerode decorated a tree at the Tucker house in 1842 for children of the family. The Christmas Tree has it’s origins in Germany.

My favorites of the trip were the dining and accomodations.

  • We stayed in a Colonial House, Chiswell-Bucktrout House on Francis Street, that was very lovely. All the houses are historic and immerse you in the times. Another bonus is you check in and enjoy the amenities of the award-winning Williamsburg Inn. When the doors opened in 1937, the Williamsburg Inn was meant to host guests, including kings, queens, and dignitaries, in the elegance, comfort, and style of a Virginia country estate.
  • We dined with the colonists at three of the local Taverns…Christiana Campbell’s Tavern (George Washington’s favorite for seafood), Chowning’s Tavern (opened in 176 for the ‘ordinary sort,’ this people’s tavern also serves Gambols, or late night light fare), and King’s Arms Tavern (the town’s finest gentry dined here). Every meal was cuisine of the time and dining by candlelight with great wine (try some Virginia wine!).
  • For more photos of our trip, see the Gallery. For more information on Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg, visit here.

    We wish you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving Perfect Wine Pairings

There are no shortage of wine recommendations out there for what to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. Rather than sharing a lengthy list (I stick by my list from last year), I thought I’d share what I’m serving (or bringing to friends, as is our tradition) this year.

Sparkling & Rosé

This is a great way to start the Thanksgiving festivities. My choice in both categories is my favorite Sonoma winery discovered last December, VJB Vineyards & Cellars. Both wines just arrived in their new tasting room when I visited again last month.

  • Sparkling: The new VJB Prosecco is produced in the Valdobbiadene district near Veneto, Italy and is imported directly. It’s a dry, light-bodied, sparkling wine with a refreshing aroma of apples, citrus and flowers and well-balanced acidity ($28).
  • Rosé: VJB Le Due Rosé, 2011 Tempranillo Rosé is full of strawberry and watermelon with nice spice and tannin. Not your typical Rosé, it’s perfect with Thanksgiving ($24).

White

Depending on your mood and preference, you can go with white wines…

Red

Depending on your mood and preference, you can go with red wines…

  • Beaujolais Village: Unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, this Louis Jadot 2011 has been aged. While still 100% Gamay grape variety, it has more structure with notes of dark red fruit and spice. And it’s a great value ($10).
  • Pinot Noir: This is my special wine for Thanksgiving this year, picked up in Oregon this summer, Pfeiffer Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Blue Dot Reserve. Pinot Noir is a perfect red for Thanksgiving, especially one that has aged perfectly. Pfeiffer’s 2007 is also called the Presidential Pinot as it was chosen to be served at Blair House as part of Obama’s 2009 pre-Inauguration festivities.

For more recommendations, here are resources I use…

Happy Thanksgiving!