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Category Archives: Virginia

Getting Your Viggy On

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In recent years the Virginia wine industry has adopted Viognier as the state grape. And, as we are wont to do, wine bloggers took to exploring it, and giving it a nickname – “viggy”. (Hattip to Lenn Thompson, SwirlSipSnark and Drink What You Like – not sure which of you coined the term – claim it in the comments, y’all!)

Many of my favorite wineries down south are producing beautiful viogniers, and MissWineOH loves to share so that others will fall in love with all this slightly misunderstood grape has to offer. While this wine originates in the Rhone Valley and is best known as the grape found in Condrieu, Virginia is where I first experienced the floral nuances and bright acidity reminiscent of evenings with a glass of chilled white wine in a garden of southern flowers. You should not confuse this with midnights in gardens of good and evil, though there may have been some of that as well in the distant past. On this particular evening on a Cleveland rooftop, we gathered a group of  friends and colleagues, and 6 viogniers from around the world, and then paired them with some great summer dishes – and it was very good.

The Line Up:

Pillitteri 2010 (Canada)
Tarara Winery 2010 (Virginia)
Gerard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale 2010 (France)
Ferrandiere NV (France)
D’Arenburg 2006 – The Last Ditch (Australia)
White Knight 2008 (California)

The Menu:

All of these dishes were selected to pair with Viognier, without pairing with a specific wine’s flavor profile. I would also recommend seafood (shellfish or meaty fish), pork, or pasta dishes. These crisper wines would be beautiful with an alfredo sauce. The talented Caitlin Ziegler (@thatcaity) is a budding chef, and my daughter – and she did all the hard work that went into creating the food for this event.

Brie with Apricot Marmalade (if I can coerce the marmelade recipe from @thatcaity, you’ll get it on WineOH recipes!) 

Spinach Dip with Chunked Challah Bread

Fruit Infused Pasta Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Curry Chicken Appetizers

White Chocolate Lemon Cupcakes – with lemon garnish.

My thoughts: 

This tasting was inspired by finding a bottle of D’Arenburg, 2006 The Last Ditch at Viaduct Lounge in the cooler case, which I promptly absconded with at a decent price on an evening out with friends. This wine was probably the least viognier like of all of them – crisp with oak and cedar undertones and very little floral on the nose – almost like an unoaked chardonnay in profile. I wondered at first if I was tasting a pinot gris. Perhaps the age played a part in that flavor profile, but it was a very different style than the other wines. Try newer releases of this one. (2008 – $17)

The White Knight was playful and yet crisp – delicious lavender, orange and peach on the nose, with a smooth mouthfeel and bright acidity. I like the honeysuckle and slightly spicy finish on this wine. Its unique as a viognier on my palate, but a great wine. ($12)

Tarara showed as what I’d call “classic viognier” to me, but I’ll acknowledge a bias toward Virginia wines. It was one of the three I could identify immediately. (the other two being those above) The floral notes on the nose call to me, with melon and a buttery mouthfeel rounding out a pleasing finish with just a hint of wood. I wouldn’t call it an oaky finish, the taste is too subtle for that. I would say it was a stand out for me – very pleasing. (not sure this is still available)

Gerard Bertrand was a label I found at a trade tasting a few months ago and is readily available at an under $13 price point. It brings strong hyacinth and orange on the nose, with continuing citrus mid palate. Dry, with a bit of a short finish, not complex, but a great sipping or dinner wine at the price.

Pilletteri produces a viognier that was all pear and melon and then a slightly spicy finish. I expected a bit more oak based on some of the other Pilletteri wines I’d tasted – but this one is a perfectly beautiful specimen. A buttery mouthfeel and some vanilla on the nose, but I found no notes indicating aging in oak. ($18.20 CAN)

Ferrandier was a last minute addition to the party, and I was happy that I added it. This viognier from Domaine de la Ferrandier is out of the Pays de’Oc region of France. Its aged two to three months on the lees with a highly aromatic floral nose, full mouthfeel and strong pineapple and peach finish. Beautiful classic viognier which rightfully earned its place at the top of the lineup. It also comes in at $11.99 retail. 

All of the wines were served at about 65, and were wrapped in opaque plastic and numbered. While I knew what the lineup was, they were randomly numbered, so not even I knew which was which without tasting first.

The Results:

Our guests were asked to taste each one and then vote on each with a chip. Green (like) Red (don’t like) and White (on the fence).

And the winner, well…. that turned into a tie – with a very close second.

Ferrandiere and Pillitteri took top honors – with Tarara coming in close (by 1 vote)  – the others did well, as in none fell solidly into the “omg, I won’t drink this now, much less ever again” category – and all received at least 2 don’t likes. There were a few minds changed as participants went back and tasted a second time – there may have been an attempt at ballot stuffing, but that was promptly halted by one of our felines chasing a shadow, instead of playing with the chips.

So what do the results tell you?

Everyone’s palate is different. It’s a combination of good food, good wine and good company that makes your experience a memorable one!

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Sipping Sweetness – Dessert Style

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Sipping Sweetness – Dessert Style

I am a sucker for a good dessert wine during the holiday season. I’ve been known to open up a late harvest wine while preparing a holiday season meal or party appetizers. While these wines can – and should – be enjoyed any time of the year – they are particularly endearing during this season. Late harvest wine, Icewine, Port and Sherry are all included in this category. While true port and sherry is particular to specific regions of the world – this is a great opportunity to explore varieties from the “Other 46”.

Chocolate Lab from Barrel Oak Winery

courtesy of Vinoshipper

Chocolate Lab, Barrel Oak Winery, Delaplane, VA – $31

Chocolate Lab is my recommendation for anyone who would like to experience something in the “chocolate wine” catagory, but isn’t enthused with the idea of merlot blended with chocolate syrup. This is a totally unique port style wine infused with essences drawn from cocoa beans added to the wine during secondary fermentation. Its not terribly sweet at 5% RS, and its been aged in recovered American oak whiskey barrels. I’ve paired with berry tarts. This is one of a kind and delicious.

Gray Ghost Winery - dessert wine

Adieu, Late Harvest Vidal Blanc, Gray Ghost Vineyards, Amissville, VA – $23-25

This one is produced only in exceptional years, so its not always available, but when it is – wow – a special wine!  With an RS of 11.5%  – although it really doesn’t taste like its that high, it makes for a perfect after dinner sipper. Rich peach, honey, Muscat and apricot aromas compliment a light cheese platter or your holiday pumpkin pie.

Ferrante Cab Franc Ice Wine

Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Ferrante Winery, Harpersfield Township, OH – $34.99

One of the sweetest ice wines I’ve tried recently is the Ferrante Cab Franc Ice Wine. This one is from select estate grown grapes frozen on the vine. Aromas and flavors of sweet raspberry and cherry. 17% Residual Sugar. While it is definitely a sweet one, the cab franc flavor from Ferrante’s wonderful estate grapes is obvious, and a red dessert wine is still a unique experience at most parties. I pair this one with savory tarts, mince meat pies or créme brule. This is a red wine, but please chill it down for the best experience.

Seven port wine - King Family VineyardsSeven, 2009, Port Wine from Merlot grapes, King Family Vineyards, Crozet, VA $29.95

At the American Wine Bloggers Conference, we encountered some folks in the atrium pouring a Virginia post style wine that I’d never seen. Named for the 7th chukker in polo ~ like the 19th hole in golf, its made in the traditional Porto style with an American twist. This port wine is made with 100% Merlot and is fortified with brandy. Aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for 2 years and bottled as a 500mL – slightly larger than most of these. 3% residual sugar. 18% alcohol.  If you are a port fan, this wine will tickle your fancy.

Hanover Park Winery Port HanoverPort Hanover, Chambourcin port style wine, Hanover Park Vineyards, Yadkinville, NC – $17

As a fan of the Chambourcin grape, I was really impressed with this port when I first experienced it. It is a beautiful example of all of the characteristics of the Chambourcin, a grape showing some serious success in North Carolina  – and showcased in a port style. An easy port wine to pair with an asiago cheese ball or dessert pieces from Lilly’s Chocolates, like the Cinnabunny.

The Virginia and North Carolina wines are available to be shipped to Ohio, and while Ferrante is only available in Ohio, the winery’s location close to Lake Erie, and many other wineries make for a great day trip. I have not seen the ice wine in retail stores in Cleveland, but it may be available if your wine shop carries Ferrante wines.

Do you have a favorite dessert, icewine (eiswein), or domestic port? Share them in the comments!

Regional Wine Week: I heart Virginia Wine

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Drinking local started for me while living in the heart of Virginia wine country, though at the time, I didn’t know I was. I was recently single, working way too many hours as an HR manager for The Home Depot, and my days off were Tuesdays or Thursdays. I needed something to do that didn’t involve thinking about work. So when I overheard someone talking about great hiking trails, I started asking questions, and the set out on a few day hikes. Exercise in the beautiful hills of the Shenandoahs was just what the doctor ordered.

Low and behold, I discovered there were wineries on the way to and from my hikes. I’d grown up with wine, having had many a holiday meal with my family where wines of varying degrees of “excellence” were poured (remember Blue Nun?) But even having lived in California for 6 years, I wasn’t much of a wine drinker… until I walked into Gray Ghost Winery, just outside of Warrenton,Virginia.

Grey Ghost wine labelGray Ghost Vineyards is just off Hwy 211 from Warrenton, heading to Amissville. They are well known and loved in Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties, and do holiday events and a volunteer harvest program that draw enthusiastic wine drinkers from miles away. This is not your mom and pop winery however, as they have been producing award winning wines since the mid 90’s, as recognized by some of the most prestigious international competitions in the country.

I have spent many an afternoon in the upstairs loft of the tasting room at Gray Ghost, nestled in with a bottle of their Cabernet Franc ($24). The Adieu ($24 for 375ml), a lovely late harvest vidal blanc, graces my holiday tables every year that it is produced. That is… if I haven’t sipped through the bottle as I am preparing my meals. 🙂 Their Reserve Chardonnay ($25) is one of my go-to wines when I want to show off what Virginia is really capable of in the wine world.

Gray Ghost consistently produces incredible wines. And the owners, Al and Cheryl Kellert, and their staff have always made me, and any guests I’ve ever brought to the winery, feel welcome. Wine tastings are $3 for their current 11 wine offering, and the logo glasses are $6. This winery is easy to get to if you are on the Northern Virginia to Charlottesville route of US Rt. 29. I highly recommend stopping in for a tasting and tour.

In the years I lived in Warrenton, I probably visited about 90 wineries of the almost 200 currently operating. I’d love to talk about each and every one, but I’ll include 2 more here that have shown to be outstanding for their own unique reasons.

front entrance to breauxBreaux Vineyards in Purcellville, Virginia (that’s purcy-ville, if you stop for directions) is one of the most customer service oriented wineries I’ve encountered. They take great pride in their wines, and equivalent pride in their customers. It’s as if Jen Breaux-Blosser and her husband Chris Blosser strive to bring each of their customers into the family. They were awarded “Virginia’s Favorite Winery” for the 4th consecutive year recently and its obvious why folks love this place. Jen has set a standard for winery activity on social media, engaging with a customer base that spreads nationally and internationally – for good reason.

Breaux has a reputation for making some truly beautiful wines. Their Nebbiolo ($38) is one I covet regularly, and their Viognier ($24) tends to improve on an already existing deliciousness with each vintage. The Merlots are some of the finest I’ve tasted anywhere, especially if you can get your hands on the older vintages. The 2002 was a dream. Their 2004 is available for $26. The Equation X – on the lower end for $15 is a great sipping wine, and their Cellar Club will spoil you senseless with their offerings. If you want great events, a beautiful venue in the Virginia countryside, and outstanding customer service. This is your winery.

There are so many wonderful winemakers out there on the Virginia wine trails. People who are passionate about what they do in the Commonwealth and are very willing to share that passion. I hesitate to pull one of these winemakers out as standing above the rest. They all bring a unique perspective, incredible experience, and passion for wine to the industry in Virginia. Some of my favorites, in no particular order are Luca Paschina at Barboursville, Andy Reagan at Jefferson Vineyards, Kristy Harmon at Blenheim Vineyards, and Lori Corcoran at Corcoran Vineyards.

One of the most approachable winemakers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet is Stephen Barnard at Keswick Vineyards just outside of Charlottesville. Keswick is on the beautiful Edgewood Estate, in an area where “estate” still means big old house on lots of land. Once inside the tasting room, the staff is quick to greet you and pour their beautiful wines. Stephen will occasionally emerge from the depths of the winery or the vineyard to answer questions or chat with guests. He’s easy to spot, as his South African accent stands out as much as his love of winemaking. The wines of Keswick, under his guidance, are creative, minimalist and beautifully crafted.

Keswick usually sells out of their wines faster than most wine lovers would like. This is another one of those Virginia wineries where you greatly benefit from joining their Wine Club.

Some of my favorites include the Verdejo and the Petit Verdot (simply divine!) – both of which are sold out right now. Still available is the 2010 Viognier ($22.95) – a prime example of why Viognier has been declared the state varietal.

Keswick also has a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that defies my usual opinion of Virginia Cab Sauv. Its bold, complex and fruity, and the tannins will mellow beautifully as it ages.

No discussion of Keswick Vineyard would be complete without mentioning Kat Schornburg, Stephen’s wife. She is light and laughter in the tasting room and manages the social media efforts at the winery – among other things! Regular tastings are $5, and select tastings $8. Its worth a trip to the Charlottesville area wine trails to stop at Keswick, and then continue to any of the other wineries in the area.

I have a deep appreciation for Virginia Wine, and the personalities within it. There is beauty to be found there. If you are looking for more information on Virginia wineries, I suggest reading Swirl Sip Snark, and VirginiaWineTime. They are friends with similar palates and love of the Virginia wine industry… and they write about VA wineries all the time!

I’ll be posting profiles of my Virginia winery experiences as they fit into the events of MissWineOH.

Regional Wine Week

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Or… the Crazy Things Bloggers do to win prizes. 

Regional Wine Week is the brainchild of the DrinkLocalWine folks, Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. Two writers I read regularly, and I highly recommend them. The idea here is to focus, for one week, on spotlighting wine that is from US states other than California, Washington or Oregon… ie. “the Other 47”.

The folks at Drink Local Wine wanted Drink Local advocates to start Regional Wine Week by writing  a 47 word essay. Here’s my attempt.

Started with Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio
Tried the good, the bad
the bad can be really bad,
but the good; that can be amazing.
Not good “for an east coast wine”
Its good, from the East Coast.
Award winners, RP 90+, good QPR from the Other 47.

Yadkin Valley, NC

A view into the Yadkin Valley, NC Wine Country

I don’t think I’m winning any fabulous prizes, but I can’t ever pass up an opportunity to talk about drinking the wine that is grown where you live. Its not just #locavour any more – eating local, but #locapour – drink local. You never know what you might find!

I have posts scheduled every day this week on some of our Other 47 adventures. Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina will be featured of course, as well as Michigan and New York. Sunday’s round up will be my Top 5 Other 47 wines. Stay tuned!

Ferrante Wine and the #WBC11

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Today I’m at the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA to participate in a wine extravaganza – talking about blogging, wine, wine tastings – and to experience once again the amazing things that are happening with Virginia wine.

We’ll also be pouring Ohio wine at the Other 46 Wine Tasting on Friday night. We’ve always been big proponents of the Drink Local Wine movement, encouraging our customers to embrace the excellent wines made in the state they live in, and Ohio wine is no different.

Look for the details about the wines of Ohio that will be poured at the tasting on Friday – until then:

Dinner this evening was a group affair at Maya Restaurant – 12 bloggers and industry folks sitting down to enjoy some great southern cuisine and conversation. The fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese sauce were delicious. I enjoyed Gabriele Rause Chardonnay (unoaked) with my meal. The wine list was well paired with the menu, although with as many great wines as are available in the area, I was disappointed to discover only the one Chardonnay from Virginia. This is a southern cuisine restaurant… they should be serving some of that great southern wine! Many, many thanks to Winebow for dinner. Y’all just generally rock, and are incredibly generous with all you do.

We later went down the open air mall to one of my favorite Charlottesville wine tasting spots.  Siips has a cool vibe, and a chocolate lava raspberry cake that is TO DIE FOR.

Blenheim Viognier, Keswick Vineyards Verdejo, Mountfair Vineyards Cabernet Franc and Pollak Merlot were on hand to be poured by the winemakers.

Each was lovely, and the winemakers who came out to meet us and pour, thanks to the efforts of George Benford, demonstrated incredible winemaking talent.

I recommend each and every one of these wineries when you visit Charlottesville. They all produce superior wine and each has an incredible commitment to customer service.

The conversations evolved throughout the evening, landing on topics like winemaking ingredients, how to swirl without swirling, marketing to millenials, and why Frank would volunteer me to be interviewed by the local tv station. If anyone sees that sound bite, I apologize in advance for looking all heat melty, and sounding incomprehensible. I’m honored to spend time talking to such intelligent and generous people – this is going to be a good weekend!

Drink well, my friends!

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