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Regional Wine Week – A Limerick and Top 5

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Its been a fun week highlighting regional wineries, wine and winemakers from a few of my favorite places.  We successfully launched Wine and Cupcakes here in Cleveland, and we are taking our pairing experience  on the road to Winston-Salem, NC next week. Plenty of tastings coming up, and they will be on the  calendar as they are confirmed.

I’ve been asked by several folks for my Top 5 regional wines.

Without further ado, in NO particular order.

Miss WineOH Top 5 Regional Wines

From Ohio:

2007 Markko Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay ($27)

2008 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc

From Virginia:

2005 Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo

2007 Linden Vineyards Hardscrabble Red ($42)

From North Carolina:

2008 Grove Winery Norton ($16.99)

There are about 5 more on my list of wines I’d go back to again and again…

2007 Benmarl Winery Baco Noir from New York

2009 Ferrante Winery Signature Series (GRV) Cabernet Franc ($15.99) from Ohio

Winery at Blackstar Farms Dry Cherry ($10) from Michigan

2009 Keswick Vineyards Verdejo from Virginia

2008 Hermes Vineyard Aglianico ($11.99) from Ohio

There are plenty of incredible wines out there. Discover what may be just around the corner! Tell me your favorites – I love finding new wines.

And in honor of the end of Regional Wine Week:  31 words about Drinking Local – because I’ve tasted from 31 states.

There once was a girl who drank whiskey.

In bourbon or beer she saw beauty

Then she found local wine,

And called it divine,

Its dry, she declared; not just fruity.

No more poetry… I promise!

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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.

Carolina Wining

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North Carolina has three distinct geographical areas. The mountains, the Piedmont and the beach. Each of those areas are distinctive in their grape production. Primarily vinifera in the mountains, a blend of vinifera and french-american hybrids in the Piedmont, and native grapes along the coast. Let it not be said that North Carolina is not a hospitable state – they can provide any wine drinker with the right wines, in the perfect settings.

The Beach

Entrance to Duplin Wine Cellars

Massive Production, with southern hospitality

The wines you will find along the coast of North Carolina will primarily be from the native grapes of muscadine, catawba and scuppernong. The most popular (and largest winery in the state) is Duplin Winery, just off I-40 in Rose Hill, heading toward Wilmington. Bottle prices on their wines are mostly less than $10 per bottle, and the winery is an extremely popular local destination. They have over 1800 acres in 4 states under vine, and a multitude of growing partners to keep up with the demand of the winery. Duplin is distributed in 10 states, and can ship to any state that permits direct shipping. You can pick up a bottle of their wine at Professor Market in Tremont, as well as several local supermarkets in the Cleveland area.

This winery has been doing what it does since the 1970’s as a family run business, and they produce 1.5 million gallons, or 650,000 cases a year. Many of their wines sell out on an annual basis. These types of wines are not really my thing, but its obvious that they are doing something right for this wine style. 1.5 million gallons a year can’t be wrong. If you want to see an incredible wine production facility, its worth a stop in Rose Hill. They have a restaurant for a mid-day meal, and tasting and tours are free.

The Piedmont

Arial view of Grove Vineyards.

Vineyard along the Haw River

I consider the Piedmont wine area to be east of I-77, and west of I-95. Others have a slightly different definition, but this is my website, so it’s my definition. Wineries in the Piedmont typically produce vinfera, french-hybrid wines and fruit wines.You will also find a cidery or two in the area. The Piedmont encompasses the Haw River Valley AVA and a sizable chunk of the Yadkin Valley AVA. You can get a little bit of everything in the Piedmont, including the beautiful cities of Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

One of the most notable wineries south of the Yadkin area is Grove Vineyard and Winery just north of Greensboro on Highway 29. The folks there are always pleasant and very enthusiastic about their winemaking. Grove opened in 2004, and produces about 3000 cases of wine a year. They are great supporters of area canoeing and biking events because of the winery’s proximity to trails and the Haw River. Their primary wines are vinifera grapes of Cabernet, Cab Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Chardonnay and Tempranillo. They also do well with their popular Traminette and an incredible Norton, grown from vines on a winery owned southwestern Virginia property. I am (perhaps overly) fond of their 2006 Merlot, the Nebbiolo, 2009 is currently available, and their Norton.

Grove also produces popular fruit and sweet wines that typically sell out before most folks even realize they were released. This is an award winning winery with easy access from the interstates and highways, and definitely worth the trip. Grove wines are widely available in stores throughout North Carolina, with prices in the $12-20 range, reserves a bit higher, but definitely worth it. Tasting fees run $5 for 6 wines, and you keep the glass.

The Mountains

Round Peak Vineyards

Round Peak has 12.5 acres of grapes

The mountain areas of North Carolina are west of I-77. Most of these wineries are small production, boutique wineries that specialize in vinifera. The further west you go into the mountains, you may encounter wineries that are importing juice from world sources. However, there are many wineries in the Yadkin Valley AVA that are growing their own grapes, and most wineries south of Charlotte are also in the vineyard business.

One of my favorites in this area is Round Peak Vineyards, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Mt. Airy. They embrace the outdoor lifestyle, with so many beautiful trails nearby; the spirit of cooperation in the wine community in Yadkin Valley; and they make some creative and delicious wines.

Les Trois Chiens, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot is one my favorites in their lineup at $19, and their Cab Franc is definitely a must try at $16. They also bottle a line under the Skull Camp label – these wines are their sweeter vinifera varietals, all with a residual sugar above 1% and they are very popular. The Barbera and Petit Manseng blend in “Flirtation”, selling for $13, has 1% RSV, and is a great representation of what can be done with Petit Manseng in North Carolina. Sean McRitchie is their winemaker, owner of McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, and he brings incredible experience to winemaking in the Yadkin Valley. New winery owner Ken Gulaian has completed the Surry Community College Viticulture program, so I can’t wait to see his signature in the Round Peak wines. They do their tastings by flights, 6 wines for $6. The beautiful tasting room and surrounding countryside make this a complete NC wine country package.

You can find more information on North Carolina wineries, get a wine map, and plan a visit. There are over 100 wineries throughout the state. A good one isn’t too far off your path.

If you’ve visited North Carolina wine country, what’s YOUR favorite winery? These are only a few of mine… there are some real hidden gems.

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!

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