It’s no secret to those who know me well how much I love Colorado and still call it home. I was thrilled this past weekend to finally visit Book Cliff Vineyard’s tasting room in Boulder following a great morning of hiking. I’ve been following this winery on Twitter for a while as well as receiving the newsletter to stay on top of events and harvest news. It’s been a long time since I last tasted a Colorado wine and having worked in the wine industry and developed a palate, I’ve been itching to taste wines made from grapes grown in the state.Image

BookCliff Vineyard’s tasting room is next door to the Upslope Brewing Company off of Lee Hill Road in North Boulder. The winery grows all of its grapes in Palisade and brings them to the Boulder facility. I loved seeing the stainless steel barrels upon walking inside. It’s a smaller tasting room and the bar was nearly full when we got there. We were greeted upon entering and immediately told tastings are $5 for five wines. That tasting fee is waived with the purchase of two bottles of wine. I loved the relaxing atmosphere and was thrilled to see a great selection of wines from whites, reds and sweeter wines all made with grapes grown in Colorado. After examining the wine list, it was time to taste.


I started with the 2011 Viognier having tasted so many in Virginia and most recently a new one here in Arizona from Lawrence Dunham, so my curiosity was at a high for one from Colorado. The wine was a beautiful pale yellow in the glass with green apple on the nose. On the palate it was medium bodied with honeydew, a touch of vanilla oak and lemon zest. Overall I enjoyed sipping this and could see it pairing well with many summer dishes. Next was the 2010 Muscat Blanc, which really had me intrigued following the description received when asking about it. The nose on this wine was honeysuckle and a delicious floral fruitiness that had me thinking sweet. However, on the palate it was fruit forward with a very crisp, refreshing and clean finish. This is something I’d love to sip on a hot summer day or after a fun powder day on the slopes. I enjoyed it so much and found it so different from many whites it came back to Arizona with me. The last white before moving onto reds was the Lucky Twenty that won the bronze award of Best of the Fest 2012 at the Colorado Mountain Winefest. This is a blend of Muscat Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier and Orange Muscat. For all those who love a well done sweeter wine, this is your wine. On my palate I tasted peach and honeysuckle with a nice smooth off-dry finish. I admit I’m not one for sweet wines but this one is well done and worth trying.


Onto the reds and being a girl who loves her big, full-bodied reds this was the truly exciting part for me. Staples in my wine fridge are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec and red blends. First up was the 2011 Zinfandel, which was a pretty ruby red in the glass and had plenty of Bing cherry on the nose. However, on the palate, this had character, raspberries and black cherries with some complexity and delicious tannins on the finish. I initially got some white pepper but as I swirled the wine and let it breathe a little in the glass, I noticed the pepper disappeared and only tasted a touch of spice. This is a wonderful red for the summer or winter and will pair well with many foods or do well alone as an end of day sipping wine.

The next red tasted was the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve. I admit I’ve tasted many Cab Francs so I was so excited to try one from Colorado. This was a tad tight when I first tasted it and it needed some swirling in the glass to get it to open a bit more. I loved the structure and velvety finish of this wine. On the palate I tasted dark fruit with a very smooth finish. Next choice was the Malbec, which I’d over heard the crowd next to us saying was their favorite. It was a gorgeous garnet color in the glass and on the palate I got plum, spice, and blackberries with a smooth finish. It was a nice medium body wine especially for those who like Malbec. Up next came the Cabernet and wow was this delicious and truly Colorado. I loved this wine, as I do most Cabs, but what made this stand out is that it tasted like Colorado and nothing like California, Virginia or Washington State. This was medium to full body with black cherries, blackberries and nice tannins on the finish. I loved it and will be back to get some more of this. A bottle was brought back for dinner and poured into the decanter, which had it drinking beautifully. The last wine of the tasting was the 2010 Ensemble, a blend of 56% Merlot, 34% Cabernet, 9% Cab Franc, and 1% Malbec. I’d overheard this wine being described and knew I had to try it. I do love a good blend and was excited to learn the 2012 vintage would include Petit Verdot. This had a delicious nose that I could smell all day. It seriously had my mouth watering and of course thinking of a juicy steak or prime rib to pair with it. On the palate it was full, complex with blackberries, nice structure and smooth finish. A bottle of this came back to Arizona as well.


The tasting ended with a tour out back to see all the grapes as they were fermenting and yeast was about to be added into the giant bins. I’m a giddy girl anytime I get to see the wine making process or am around barrels. For my first Colorado wine tasting I don’t think I could have started anywhere better. There’s something special about Boulder and these wines all around were really delicious. I can’t wait to come back and will be keeping an eye out for the next vintage release of the Syrah and Petite Syrah. I missed tasting the 2010 vintage by a day due to customers coming in earlier and buying the rest of it. If you’re passing through town or haven’t visited yet, I recommend stopping in to sip some wine. There is something here for everyone and you won’t regret it.


It’s hard to believe that next month will mark my first year here in Arizona. It’s been a busy and adventurous year as I continue to acclimate to the desert climate. I’m having fun exploring the wineries down in the southern part of the state. Recently I had the opportunity to attend Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Syrah vertical tasting and knew as soon as I got the email I had to go. I first tasted their wines back in November at the Festival at the Farm at South Mountain. I brought home the 2007 Three Sisters Syrah, which was a standout red from that festival for me.

I also met winemakers and owners Jan and Rod at that festival and was fortunate to see Jan again at a wine festival last month. I’ve been staying in touch with Rod’s daughter Cecilia via Twitter and was thrilled to discover she’d be at the vertical tasting with her sister Connie helping out.

Keeling Schaefer Vineyards is in Pearce, Arizona, an hour south of Tuscan and truly in farm country. The winery has a tasting room in downtown Willcox and holds club member events at the vineyard. I was so excited to visit Pearce and not only see the vineyard but this is the first time I’d taste at a vineyard and not just a tasting room in town. Arizona is different in that right now, wineries have tasting rooms offsite of the vineyards, which for me, is very different. In Virginia, it’s all right there and that’s part of the fun of visiting wineries all over the country. My FIT held up so well going down the very rocky, dirt road that led into the winery. I was early and got a full tour from Jan while everyone was still setting up.

Three stations were set up for the vertical tasting and inside the tasting room was a gorgeous buffet of hor d’oeuvres prepared by Café Roka in nearby Bisbee. It was recommended I begin with the Three Sisters Syrah, which consisted of the ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09 and ’10 vintages. All were unique but I’ll stick to my standouts. The 05 was drinking fantastic. Rod told me as I was sipping it was how he wanted it to be and was far better than when originally released. This was a pretty ruby red and was medium bodied with plenty of dark fruit and a smooth finish. I had to bring this home as well as the 09 and the 2010. I’m laying both of those down. They were both a tad tight but had great structure, fruit and complexity. I can’t wait to try them down the road.

I decided after tasting the six wines to give my palate a break and eat some of the delicious food. The stuffed red peppers with goat cheese were by far and away my favorite out of everything but the food was outstanding. Onto the second station to taste the 06, 07 and 08 Home Place Reserve Syrah. Sadly only the 08 was available to buy but wow these were all three delicious. The 06 was my standout favorite and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have grabbed a bottle of the 08 to lay down. I hate to admit this but the tasting notes I took for these somehow disappeared. All I know is they were all fuller-bodied wines, with a touch of spice, each had different notes of dark fruit and structure. I am usually so careful with my notes but simply put, the wines are made from Arizona estate grown grapes grown at 5,000 feet above sea level in the Chiricahua Mountains. If you haven’t tried them, you must!

The final station featured the 07, 09 and 2010 Keeling Brothers Shiraz. All I can say is, if there is any 2010 Shiraz left, go get it. Wow, what a wine and it’s still young. This is full-bodied, lots of dark fruit, a tad tight but I love the touch of vanilla spice with a velvety finish. Two bottles of this came home with me as I talked to Rod about aging it. He recommended laying the 2010 down for a year but says it can be aged for far longer. My plan will be to open a bottle next year and go from there. That’s part of the fun of aging wine, at least for me.

The end of the tasting brought us to the best part of the event. A live auction of a half case of wine consisting of two bottles of the 07, 09 Keeling Brothers Shiraz and two bottles of the 2010 Keeling Brothers Shiraz, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Caitlin Robb Foundation for Pediatric Cancer in Tempe.

I continue to be impressed with the young wine industry here in Arizona. It always baffles me when people ask me where Pearce, Willcox and Elgin are here in Arizona. I can’t believe as a newbie to the state I’m answering that question. It’s such an easy and pretty drive from the greater Phoenix area as well as a tad cooler. I had a wonderful meal and wine tasting at Coronado Vineyards that night following the event. I got a great run in the next morning and Baxter was welcome everywhere with me. I do keep him on a leash. I had so much fun visiting the tasting rooms in Willcox and of course started at Keeling Schafers. I highly recommend going. However, if you can’t make the trip, I know you can find the wines at AJ’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Total Wine and at restaurants throughout Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.

I will always remember the first time @Sipthegoodlife reached out to me a few years ago on Twitter. It was from that communication that I started learning about The Sustainability In Practice (SIP) Certified program that grew from decades of people striving to understand and implement sustainable farming practices.  It is also how I continue to learn about new wines that aren’t widely distributed.  As I started writing this post, it hit me that I’ve tasted six SIP Certified wines that include Pomar Junction, Halter Ranch and Ampelos.

It was on March 15, Central Coast Wine day (#CCWineDay) where I learned about another SIP Certified wine from Hahn SLH Estate.  My twitter stream was exploding with compliments from wine drinkers/bloggers about how good the Pinot Noir tasted. I’m thankful @SiptheGoodLife tweeted at me with the hashtag to make sure I was aware of the day.  I ended up enjoying Pomar Juntion’s  07 Syrah for the event but my curiosity peaked at seeing the response to this Pinot.  I’m very picky when it comes to Pinot Noir and often, it’s too earthy or too light bodied for my palate. When I received a direct message from @HahnWines offering to send me a bottle, I was flattered and of course accepted.

That was two months ago and it was only last week that I finally opened the Hahn SLH Estate 2010 Pinot Noir and wow I had no idea what I was in for with this wine. It was a warm Sunday evening and one of my favorite ways to end the weekend is to curl up outside on my balcony with a glass of wine and a good book. When I first poured this wine it was this gorgeous dark granite red. The nose was earthy at first with a little bell pepper. After a couple of swirls, I could tell it was opening up and I got plenty of dark fruit. On the palate, it was still a tad tight but fuller bodied then most Pinot’s I’ve had from California, which was a pleasant surprise. I  enjoyed two glasses that Sunday night and closed up the wine and into the refrigerator it went and stayed until Wednesday night. After a busy day at work and a great workout, I remembered it was still in there and decided to pour myself a glass while cooking dinner.

I right away saw a difference in this wine after three days. It was delicious with raspberries, cola and a little earth on the palate. I paired it that night with gourmet hamburgers I created with a creamy Syrah soaked cheese, BBQ sauce and various seasonings. It paired beautifully with the food and I actually tweeted that night with a picture it was drinking better than the first night. Needless to say, I look forward to another bottle of this wine and I’m hearing good things about 2011.

A huge thank you to @HahnWines for sharing a bottle of this with me, which led me to check out their website to learn more about the winery. I was unaware of all the wines within the Hahn Family Wines but the Pinot from the (Santa Lucia Highlands) SLH vineyards is something I plan to have in my wine fridge again. I definitely recommend trying this if you haven’t yet as it won’t disappoint.  I look forward to trying more wines from the Hahn Family Wines  and in the meantime, it’s time to plan a trip to visit California.

It’s been a little over a year since I last blogged and I do miss writing. Last year at this time, I was in the midst of an intense and ambitious job hunt that I’m thrilled to say led me here to Arizona and a new wine industry to explore. The wineries here aren’t as easy and accessible as Virginia but I see this as an advantage. When the heat, known as Arizona Summers hits, I can escape north or south to slightly cooler temperatures and enjoy good wine.

I admit when I started reading up on the wine industry here I was scared it was going to be all sweet wines. I also grew tired quickly of everyone asking me if I’d tried Maynard’s wines. Ok, yes I’m a fan of Tool but really, that’s not the only winery in Arizona. Since moving to Scottsdale, I’ve been to my fair share of wine festivals trying many Arizona wines. This past Tuesday night I attended my first winemaker’s dinner with Curt Dunham and Peggy Fiandaca, of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, hosted at Baratin in Old Town Scottsdale.


I’m still learning my way around and was thrilled when Baratin owner Pavle Milic called out my name, upon arriving, directing me where to go. I’d just connected with him via Twitter and it was great to meet him in person.  He immediately poured me a glass of Rosé and pulled Peggy over to introduce us. However, I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy two weeks earlier at the Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival, Kief-Joshua Winery hosted, in April. I poured for Carlson Creek Vineyards who was set up next to Lawrence Dunham and took advantage of meeting Peggy. We caught up and once it appeared everyone was there, Pavle gathered us all to his attention and introduced Curt and Peggy to the crowd.  Curt ushered Peggy forward to speak to us first. Peggy is the president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association and updated us on how the industry is really heating up and there are now 60 licensed and bonded wineries in the state. She noted there aren’t enough grapes in the state to meet demand so many are still buying but many are planting as well.


The vineyard is 5,000 feet above sea level in the Chiricahua Mountain foothills and made up primarily of volcanic soil. It’s a unique climate close to the mountains providing for cool, cloudy conditions and all four seasons. Grapes hadn’t ever been planted there before and part of the work to plant required the removal of 1300 mesquite trees. I loved seeing the passion and excitement in Curt’s eyes as he talked about how the conditions are perfect for the vines and will produce some unique flavors. This winery leans towards education and has a great website based on a journal Peggy had Curt keep from day one of this adventure. Curt let us know dinner was soon explaining the three wines we were going to taste and I was so excited to learn one of them would be their Petite Sirah. This would be my first time tasting Lawrence Dunham’s wines and I do love a big, bold red.


Pavle knew I was alone and sat me next to Peggy and Curt. I was delighted to find I had actually met everyone at our table before dinner. It was a fun group of great people and there wasn’t an empty seat anywhere. First course was a grilled shrimp, basil, mint and pink peppercorn salad paired with the 09 Lawrence Dunham Sky Island Grenache. Curt let us know this was his lightest red and right away my nose picked up the classic pepperiness of Grenache. However, on the palate I only got a touch of the spice and the fruit took over that matched beautifully with the shrimp. We were all amazed at how well the wine paired with the citrus flavors of the grapefruit along with the basil and mint. This was something different for sure and I wanted more. It’s always fun to see how everyone responds to wine and food but I think this pairing got us all thinking of new and creative dishes we could pair with the tasty red.


Second course was a prosciutto, goat cheddar, focaccia dish paired with the 09 Lawrence Dunham R.E.D Blend. The wine is a blend of 58% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre aged in neutral barrels and 22% Petite Sirah aged in new French oak. From the moment I smelled this I knew I’d love it and the first words out of my mouth after my first sip were, a bottle of this is coming home with me. I have to be honest here. I was so busy talking with everyone I didn’t ever combine the cheese with the wine. No doubt they would have paired wonderful together but I really loved this by itself. While it is a medium bodied wine, it had some structure to it along with blackberries and a smooth, velvety finish.


The third and final course of the night was ribeye, salsa verde, shaved parmigiano and purple potatoes paired with the 09 Lawrence Dunham Petite Sirah. Steak is my favorite food and I love Petite Sirah so yes this is the standout for me and a bottle of this wine came home. Talk about heaven in your mouth if you like a big red that can stand up to bold flavors. This Petite Sirah is aged 16 months in half neutral oak barrels and half new American oak barrels. This is full bodied, a tad inky, great structure and complexity with dark fruit and I got lost in flavors when combining with the steak.


For an introduction to this Arizona winery, I’d say this was a huge success and a really fun way to try wine. I enjoy festivals but sitting down with a bunch of people and the winemaker sipping wine with food is really a great way to really experience the wine. I had a great time talking to Curt and Peggy about how we like to pick the wine and plan a meal around it. Curt told me later he’s always enjoyed cooking. I look forward to tasting the rest of their wines in a couple of weeks at the Willcox Wine Festival.  A huge thank you to Pavle for making me feel so welcomed and to Chef Charleen Badman, who is an amazing cook. I look forward to attending more winemaker dinners there in the near future. These types of dinner events are always done differently and I’m always interested to hear from others their experiences. No doubt though, Arizona is making some truly high quality and very delicious wines. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore, learn and write again.

This past Thursday, the Barone Fini blind taste challenge took place and wine drinkers from all over gathered together and online to taste two different Pinot Grigios. I was excited when Steve from @winetwits invited me to participate. It’s no secret I’m a red wine drinker but I do enjoy a good white and Pinot Grigio is my savior when I’m at a sports bar cheering the Bronco’s on. We were fortunate to be joined by winemaker Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini who led us through the tasting.

Everyone was welcome to participate in this event and all you had to do was visit, order a tasting kit and jump online Thursday night.The tasting kits included two bottles of wine in paper bags marked with 1 and 2,  tasting sheets for notes on each wine as well as placemats for glasses.

At 8pm, corks were popped and we all gathered online following the #tastechallenge hashtag. I was joined by my parents and some friends who are huge Pinot Grigio fans but had never heard of Barone Fini. I opened both bottles and away we went sipping.

About the wine:

Wine #1

This was a pale yellow in the glass with apple and citrus fruit on the nose. I loved the minerality and crispness of this wine. The fruit was there but the balance and acidity were perfect. It was a light to medium body and reminded me more of a Sauvignon Blanc.

What other’s had to say on Wine #1

Wine #2

This was also a pale yellow but I got a vanilla, grassy nose on the wine. This was the more elegant wine of the night with apple, lime and a medium body. It was smooth and I immediately wanted to pair this wine with food.

What other’s had to say on Wine #2

  • @amateurwino The Barone Fini pinot grigio is very fresh, very smooth. I’m not the biggest pinot grigio fan but this one is nice. #tastechallenge

I admit, I’m in the country and it took the video portion of this tasting a bit longer to pull up so I missed the opening part of Giovanni talking to all of us about the winery. What I did catch was  Giovanni’s description of the terroir. He discussed where the vines are located and the difference between DOC and IGT wines. I was fully aware of DOC but had never heard of IGT so I was intrigued to learn more. Evidently, IGT vineyards are located in the valley below the DOC however there is not a huge difference in taste between the two. To be DOC the government has restrictions on the varietal to ensure it is top quality and meets Italian standards of excellence.  Barone Fini’s vineyards are on terraces along the sides of the Alps where the mountain is made up of many things including seashells and is calciferous. According to Giovanni, this gives the wines tremendous character as well as a mineral aspect. He also confirmed his wine is 100 percent Pinot Grigio.  It was fun listening to Giovanni and you could feel his passion for the wine when he spoke.

I was surprised at the end of the tasting to learn that Wine #1 was the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio and Wine #2 was the Barone Fini. My family and friends tasting felt there was a big difference between the two wines. The Chardonnay drinkers loved the Barone Fini. Those who like a lighter, crisper wine preferred the Santa Margherita. For me, I enjoyed both and would drink either on a hot day. I was thrilled to finally taste the Barone Fini as it’s a wine that was very popular at Total Wine in Virginia. Price wise it’s the winner and really, it’s a very nice, easy drinking Pinot Grigio with a smooth, delightfully clean finish. Barone Fini retails around $11-$13 and Santa Margherita is around $18. In reviewing all the tweets from the night, it’s clear Barone Fini picked up many new wine fans. I know I’ll be shopping around up here in NY to see where I can get this wine.

Here’s a great picture from the night via: @foodwinechickie Barone Fini winemaker holding the two unveiled wines – one lovingly, one not so much 🙂 #tastechallenge

Thank you to @WineTwits for putting on a great event and to Giovanni for taking his time to provide us with great information. I can’t ever learn enough and it’s always special when the winemaker is the one educating on the wine. If you haven’t tried the Barone Fini, I recommend giving it a try. Again, I’m not a white wine girl, but I’d be thrilled if someone offered me a glass of this while being out and about. It’s a good quality,  under $15, everyday kind of wine.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | March 21, 2011

Are you taking the Barone Fini Taste Challenge?

I’ve been fortunate to participate in many online tastings and no matter what, it’s always fun to enjoy wine with friends and wine lovers from all over. This Thursday, March 24, WineTwits is holding the Barone Fini Taste Challenge at 8PM EST and I’m excited to participate in this Twitter event. Blind tastings are a great way to discover new wines.

I received my tasting kit this weekend that included two bottles of premium DOC Pinot Grigio in brown paper bags marked with the numbers 1 and 2. This is a fun opportunity to bring a group of friends together to try these wines. I’m also excited to have my parents participating with me as they are always asking me what these online tastings are all about. My mom is a huge Pinot Grigio fan once warm weather hits and she’s never heard of Barone Fini. I must admit, I know of the wine as it’s a big seller at the Total Wine I worked for in Virginia. I’ve never actually had it so I’m really looking forward to trying the wines. We’ll be joined online by producer Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini as he leads us through this tasting. I’m also excited to learn more about Barone Fini.

All are welcome to join in this event. If you’re interested in participating, tasting kits are available here:

Hope to see you online Thursday night!

Posted by: runningwinegirl | March 3, 2011

My Top 20 Virginia Wineries – with a twist

It’s been far too long since I’ve written and I apologize for that. I’ve missed writing but following a car accident, being laid off and recently moving, life has kept me busy. I haven’t stopped my wine adventures and will miss having easy access to Virginia wineries. However, upon reading my friend @drinkwhatulike Top 20 VA wine post and seeing that a couple other bloggers posted their top 20, I felt this was a great time for me to get back to my blog.

I love top 20 kinds of lists and it’s no secret I have my favorite Virginia wineries. But it’s hard to put them in a certain order because I love different things about each. With that said, I’m posting my top 20 based on not only the wines I love but also the experiences each offered. I’ll post my top six and the rest are in no specific order. I have so many wineries still to visit but for now, I’m thankful for the wonderful times I had at the following vineyards.

Suzie’s Top Six:

1.    Chateau O’Brien – This shouldn’t be a surprise. I love everything about this winery and have had so many awesome times here from wine tastings to Howard’s birthday party. You can’t beat the reds winemaker Jason Murray is making and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the Petit Verdot and Malbec I tasted this past winter.

2.    Gray Ghost Vineyards – A consistent stop after hiking Old Rag up in Shenandoah National Park. I love the reds but you can’t beat the Adieu for a well-balanced desert wine. I enjoy the Civil War history, upstairs couches and there’s a wine here for all palates.

3.    Stone Mountain Vineyards – 1700ft above sea level with gorgeous mountain views and vineyards. I have so many happy memories at this winery. I first tasted the wines at Vintage Virginia and was impressed with everything. I prefer reds but loved the Rose. The Cabernet Sauvignon hands down is my favorite followed by the Malbec.

4.    Tarara Winery – I’ll never forget meeting winemaker Jordan Harris in person at a wine festival. I first connected with him on and he’s doing amazing things at Tarara. Jordan always educates me on wine and I can’t learn enough. Tarara is producing some of the best reds and whites in the state. I can’t wait for the next release of his Syrah.

5.    Breaux Vineyards – This is the first winery I visited in Virginia. When Jen Breaux Blosser invited me to my first ever vertical tasting at the winery, I discovered just how good the wines are here. You can’t beat the Key West Festival & this is truly a special place.

6.    Pearmund Cellars – What can I say, Chris Pearmund is a blast! I’ve been fortunate to barrel sample so many wines and I’ve had so many great times here. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Ameritage are standards for me when visiting.

Here are 14 more top favorites:

Gadino Cellars – Another favorite post Old Rag hiking stop. I love the Cabernet Franc here.

Delaplane Cellars – One of the newer wineries in VA and it speaks to my love of full-bodied red wines. I love the Sunset Saturdays, views and what winemaker Jim Dolphin is doing.

Hume Vineyards – Another newbie and I’m so happy I got here before moving. I loved every wine I tasted and it was hard to not buy multiple bottles. They offer two reds worth laying down.

Philip Carter Winery – Wine maker Rob Cox is raising the bar here and I love the Cleve and Cabernet Franc. Of course I’m highlighting reds but this winery offers many delicious whites. I had so much fun at the tweet-up held last summer.

Three Fox Vineyards – Baxter’s favorite winery! Need I say more? This is dog friendly, has one of the best outdoor tasting bars, a gorgeous setting and a Sangiovese I can’t get enough of =)

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn – The first winery that offered bites of food to taste with the wine. My brother and I loved it all along with the views. His favorite was the Sauvignon Blanc and I loved the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Unicorn Vineyards – Another I was inspired to visit following tasting the wines at Vintage Virginia. I love the Cab Franc and you can’t beat the wine slushies on a hot summer day.

Mountfair Vineyards – How can I not love a vineyard with a wine that has a sexy, fun name like Wooloomooloo =) I can’t wait for the next vintage of its release but I loved every red this winery offers.

Narmada Vineyards – This winery has a wonderful setup for musicians along with awesome Indian food and oh yes, delicious wines.

Dry Mill Vineyards – I’m sad I didn’t get back to this winery more than the one visit. I loved the wines, especially the Cabernet Franc and believe it or not, the Rose was delightful too.

Paradise Springs Winery – A winery easy for DC peeps to get to that offers some tasty wines. I love the 08 Norton and the cheddar cheese ball sold here is to die for =)

Rappahannock Cellars – Loved the Cabernet Sauvignon at this winery as well as the views outside on the deck.

Chrysalis Vineyards – I had so much fun working at the Annual Norton Wine and Bluegrass Festival last year. I love the wines, staff and its views. The Papillon and Tannat are my two favorites.

Linden Vineyards – This winery has a deck and views I love but I’m not a fan of the weekend rules. The wines are delicious and I’m a huge fan of the Hardscrabble Red.

I thank all of these wineries for wonderful memories and I will be back to visit! However, I’m very excited for the next adventures that await and will be exploring NY and surrounding areas. Already I’m seeing new wines in stores I haven’t had and couldn’t get in Virginia. I’m also almost fully healed from a severe hamstring strain and back on track to train for my half marathons and marathons. Stay tuned as the Running Wine Girl is coming back and I’m excited to get back to writing.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | November 17, 2010

My Brother’s First VA Vineyard – Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn

For me, there’s nothing better than family and I’m lucky to be so close to mine. This past weekend my brother came to visit for the first time since I moved to Virginia. He loves to explore as much as I do and for sure I was planning to introduce him to VA wine country. After a fun Saturday morning of ski movies, we headed out. I planned to take him to Chateau O’Brien, a favorite, but also wanted to try something that was new to us both. Many recommended Aspen Dale Winery and when I saw how close it was to Chateau O’Brien I decided it was time to visit.

Aspen Dale is a cute, 200-year-old barn tucked into the mountains that surround it. The views were beautiful and we were blessed to still have the pretty fall colors. We were greeted entering the tasting room and upon confirming we wanted to do a tasting directed to the end of the bar where a group was finishing up. I loved the friendliness and organization. The tasting room was very pretty and comfortable with plenty of indoor seating. My brother was impressed and excited to see how his first tasting at a VA winery would go. He’d only been to wineries in Long Island before this trip.

The tasting was $7 for five wines and we could keep our glass. We were also presented with a small plate of cheeses and meats to pair with the wines. This is the first winery I’ve been too in Virginia to do this and I was thrilled about it. We started with the 08 Mary-Madeleine’s Rose, a blend of Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s 2 percent residual sugar and was paired with the cheddar cheese. On the nose I got strawberry but was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t as sweet as I expected. More medium body, this was fruit forward but well-balanced and made me want to be at the beach. The cheddar was delightful, balancing well with the sweetness and an awesome introduction to the wines. Sarah’s Chapeau was the second wine, a blend of Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with 2.5 percent residual sugar.  This wine was paired with the Brie cheese. The nose was floral with honey. On the palate, this was light, crisp with lots of melon. The cheese brought out more of the fruit and balanced out well with the sweetness. I loved the pairing.  We moved onto the Hildersham Sauvignon Blanc and this was paired with a white chocolate chip and sage derby cheese. This was a crisp white with a flinty taste that was clean and refreshing. When paired with the white chocolate chip, I found a delicious surprise in my mouth. Next, I tried it with the sage derby cheese and yum, this was amazing with the wine. I got so many ideas for food pairings. My brother loved this wine and he like me, is a red wine drinker. In his words:

“I don’t know why I have a glass of white but I love this. It’s my kind of wine.”

The last two wines were the reds and I was impressed at this point to see our glasses rinsed with the wine we were about to taste each time. We were poured the Parris Country Blend 08 Merlot. Primarily Merlot, a little Cabernet Franc is blended and we paired this with pheasant sausage. On the nose I got pepper with a little dark fruit. On the palate, I got bacon, pepper and blackberry. This had great complexity to it but the finish was smooth and it was delightful with the sausage. The last wine was the Rockawalkin’ Cabernet Sauvignon blended with some Petit Verdot and Malbec. This wine was my favorite overall. I loved the structure, dark fruit, complexity and smooth finish. This was paired with goat cheese and dark chocolate meant to be eaten together. I was a good sport and tried a little piece of the pair but it confirmed how much I really don’t like chocolate.  It was awesome with the goat cheese solo. My brother loved it so if you’re a chocolate fan, you want to try this pairing.

Live music was playing and to finish the day I had a glass of the Cabernet while my brother had the Sauvignon Blanc. We sat outside to enjoy the views and warm fall day. The music was playing through speakers and it was a delightful afternoon filled with great conversations.  I can’t think of a better way to introduce my brother to a VA winery. We had so much fun and for sure I’ll be going back. If you haven’t made it here yet, I recommend visiting. Not only are the wines wonderful but it’s also close to Chateau O’Brien, Linden, Fox Meadows, Philip Carter and Hume.

I was excited when @myvinespot invited me to join a crew for the “Discover Monticello” first ever Virginia Taste Live event this past Monday. Up until then, the only wine from the Monticello region I’d had was from Stone Mountain, one of my favorites in VA. The wineries participating in this event were Afton Mountain, Mountfair, Blenheim Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Keswick Vineyard and Kluge Estate. I’d been tweeting on and off with both Afton and Keswick for a while but still haven’t made it to any of these wineries. I was thrilled to join fellow VA winos @alleigh, @winecompass, @elizabethdehoff and @grapevine4wine.  We were also lucky to have the wineries online to answer questions throughout the night about the wines.

@myvinespot was a wonderful host and gave us some fun details on Monticello including:  “Monticello consists of 22 wineries — overall we have 160+ — these guys in Central VA (Monticello AVA) are rocking premium wines!”

The night began with the 07 SP Rosé from Kluge Estate and it was a gorgeous pink in the glass. The nose didn’t win me over but I was impressed when sipping as I found this to have some body and complexity to it. It was a doughy wine with plenty of red fruit and while crisp it wasn’t as light as so many others. I’ve said it before I’m not a Rosé fan but this sparkling Rosé is one I’d take home for the holidays or open to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Kluge Wine Tweet:
@KlugeEstate @RobBralow This wine ages on the lees for 21-24 months giving it complexity

The second wine of the night was the 09 Viognier from Keswick Vineyards. I got a lot of pear on the nose and on the palate tasted apple and lemon. For me this is a food wine and I can think of a number of chicken and fish entrées that would pair wonderfully with this wine.

Keswick Wine Tweet:
@Keswickvineyard @robwineconsigliere We wanted to keep the wine crisp and clean but still get the richness that the barrel imparts

The 09 Reserve Chardonnay was wine #3 for the night from Jefferson Vineyards. I was curious about this wine but cautious asking for a small pour due to being tired of Chardonnay. However, this had a toasty nose with apple and the smell was amazing. When sipping I tasted apple pie with cinnamon and loved that it was medium body with a delicious finish. This was a pleasant surprise for me and I asked for a second pour while time allotted.

Jefferson Wine Tweet:
@th_Jefferson @amateurwino The fruit in this Chard varies. We use the best from our estate and the best from our partner growers.

Onto the 09 Gewürztraminer from Afton Mountain and I was super excited to finally taste a wine from this vineyard. I tweeted immediately that I could smell this wine all night it was so yummy. I got kiwi on the nose and on the palate tasted a touch of spice with fruit and some lemon. This was delicious and I will get a bottle before it’s all gone, which means a trip to the winery. No doubt this is a great Thanksgiving wine but I’d drink it year round.

Afton Wine Tweet:
@AftonMountain: Three different harvests of Gewurz in ’09, separate harvests to ensure acidity, flavor, and ripeness across the board

That was the last of the whites and onto the reds we went for wine #5, which was the 09 Seven Oaks Merlot from Blenheim Vineyards. This has a lovely nose of dark fruit and I was thrilled to discover it was a fuller bodied Merlot than most. I tasted black cherry and loved the structure and intensity of this wine. I tweeted that it had me craving red meat, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. A bottle or two will find its way into my wine fridge at some point.

Blenheim Wine Tweet:
@BlenheimWines: 100% Merlot from a vineyard called Seven Oaks in Crozet, VA, 75% aged in older french barrels for 9 months

The last wine of the night was one I’ve wanted to taste and have been hearing about for a while. I love saying the name and a bunch of us tweeted how fun and sexy it is for a wine. Of course I’m talking about the Mountfair WooLooMooLoo, a full-bodied red wine that was gorgeous in the glass. On the nose I got lots of dark fruit and tea. It made me want to sip immediately. On the palate I tasted plum, currant and a little raspberry. I loved the dark fruit and complexity of this wine. It was decanted beforehand although I’m not sure for how long and will have to find out.

Mountfair Wine Tweet:
@MfVvinotweets @winecompass Partner vineyard 3 miles down the road – mature vines, great quality 4 years straight

The participation for this event was great and the local CBS channel in Charlottesville covered it. Viognier trended on Twitter while tasting the Keswick Viognier and I think many of those who aren’t familiar with Virginia are seeing that great wines are made in this state. A huge thank you to all the participating wineries and to @myvinespot for being an awesome host and providing us with some tasty treats to end the night. I can’t wait for the next taste live event.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | October 28, 2010

Enjoying VA Wine Month – Sunday Doggy Wine Day at Narmada

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I can’t believe October is almost over. Sunday’s are normally for hiking/wine adventures but this last week wore me out and happily my hiking companion agreed to have a lazy Sunday of wine tasting. I got a seven mile run in using that time to figure out where to go for the day – yes, that’s still lazy for me lol. I had received a note on Facebook earlier in the week from my friend, who is also part of the duo known as Chatham Street, saying they’d be playing at Narmada. I always pass that winery when driving to Old Rag and decided it was time to see what it was all about and say hello to my friends.

Narmada is in Amissville and not far past Gray Ghost Winery. When pulling into the long driveway, I wasn’t sure what to expect but upon parking and looking around, all you could see were beautiful views and fall colors. I was thrilled to see Baxter could sit outside with us. The winery is pet friendly as long as dogs are on leashes and they don’t go inside the tasting room. I left Baxter in the car with water and the windows down. Tastings are short & I told him I’d be right back, which had him smiling. I was happy to see others doing the same thing and we all commented we’d be back fast to get our dogs.

Walking up to the tasting room, the winery was decked out for Halloween and my friends of Chatham Street were walking out while setting up to perform later that day. Walking inside, we were greeted and I was in love with the beauty and comfort of the tasting room. Winter is coming and I’m always looking for wineries with lots of indoor seating as well as outdoor. Narmada has a gorgeous tasting room with plenty of tables and a stage for live music. I also had the pleasure of catching up on football with the flat screen TV that was playing the Redskins game.

The tasting consisted of 10 wines; five red and four whites with the choice of either the red dessert wine or white for $5. If we wanted to keep the glass the tasting was $7.  The tasting started with Chardonnay aged in French Oak for nine months and going through partial malolactic fermentation. I got apple and butter on the nose and on the palate tasted apple and touch of oak that was perfectly balanced and delicious. I’m not a big Chardonnay fan but this was wonderful. Next was the Viognier aged seven months in French Oak. This had a floral nose and I tasted melon on my palate. It was a refreshing wine. Mom was the name of the next wine and this is a Vidal Blanc/Chardonel blend dedicated to all mothers. I loved this off-dry white that was full of tropical fruit. My favorite of the whites was the last one of the group, the Traminette. Fermented in stainless steel, this had a floral nose and I have delicious written three times next to it. It was fruity but not sweet and it made me want cheese.

The first wine for the reds was the Gulabi, a Rosé that is a blend of Merlot and the Concord grape. The Concord only comes out slightly on the palate otherwise this is a medium bodied Rosé that to me tasted like cherry pie. With food I think this will be wonderful. Reflection was next and this is 100 percent Chambourcin. I enjoyed this wine although it is lighter in body but has plenty of dark fruit. The Mélange, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot was next. Yes, this is my favorite out of all the wines. I love my big reds and this was delicious. I tasted lots of dark fruit including raspberries with a long, velvety finish.  The Cabernet Franc was also delicious with just a touch of spice but overall smooth with black cherry and raspberry. The reds ended with Midnight, an off-dry Chambourcin with 1.5% residual sugar. This is the perfect wine to make Sangria.

I had a chance to meet Sudha, who owns the winery with her husband, and enjoyed talking to her about the winery and her plans. She let me know around Father’s Day next year the winery will release its first Port, first to wine club members. She also filled me in on the differences between the two dessert wines, which I appreciated as it lead me to decide on the white wine. My friend went with the red, which apparently goes well with chocolate. I’ll trust people telling me that since I don’t like chocolate. The white dessert wine was amazing. Not too syrupy and not too sweet. I have delicious written three times next to it.

The tasting ended with a glass of the Mélange and I decided to try one of the Indian dishes. This winery has an impressive list of food options and I noticed that everyone was buying not only wine but also ordering food. It’s not expensive and all looked delicious. Choices range from Indian fare to gourmet cheeses and meats. I had the Aloo Tikki, two handmade spicy mashed potato and vegetable cakes with an Indian yogurt sauce for $5. It was so yummy and went well with my wine although the spices paired even better with the Traminette. Baxter joined us on the gorgeous deck while we listened to Chatham Street play. I first saw this Duo at Paradise Springs earlier this summer and try to see them whenever I can. They just released their first album with all original songs they wrote.

I am so happy I finally made it to Narmada and it was the perfect place to enjoy the gorgeous, warm day we had last Sunday. Everyone was so friendly and the staff was delightful.  The winery is still fairly new and has only been around for a year. It’s a perfect place to go to relax or stop by when heading back from Shenandoah National Park. Gray Ghost and Gadino Cellars are also close by making for a fun day of wine tours. I can’t wait to go back and recommend visiting.

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