Posted by: runningwinegirl | September 29, 2010

Stone Mountain – Great Times, Views & a Must Visit for VA Wine Month

I swear the days go faster and faster with every month. Friday is October and I’m still wondering where September went as well as the gorgeous fall weather that’s disappeared. Virginia Wine Month officially begins and I’ve been asked what I plan to do to celebrate it. To begin, I’m going to return to a winery I first enjoyed this past June at Vintage Virginia and then again on a couple of lazy, summer Friday’s. Stone Mountain not only has a gorgeous view of the mountains and vineyards but this winery produces one of my absolute favorite Malbecs.

When I first tweeted that I was planning to visit, a number of wine bloggers warned me about the one lane, gravel road that takes you up the mountain to the entrance. I grew up driving roads like that and after my fair share of trips up I-70 in white-out conditions to get to Vail, little scares me. However, this road is one to take seriously but the end of it is well worth it.

It’s a gorgeous tasting room and I was greeted immediately upon entering it. On this particular Friday, no one was there and I admit it was nice having the place to myself. I immediately went outside to the deck to enjoy the view before starting my tasting and picked out the table I’d be sitting at with a glass of something later.

I tasted all 10 wines but will only run through my favorites. To begin, I tasted the 08 Pinot Grigio aged in stainless steel. This was crisp with tropical fruit on the palate and a refreshing finish. I wrote a perfect summer wine next to it although I could honestly enjoy this coming off a day of serious skiing. The 08 Chardonnay Reserve was another white favorite as I’m a girl who loves a creamy, buttery wine. This wasn’t too rich but had a great balance of vanilla and apple on the palate. The 08 Chardonnay aged in stainless steel was also tasty and for those who don’t want the vanilla and creaminess, that’s definitely worth trying. I was intrigued with the Maquillage, a blush wine that I really enjoyed. It’s off-dry but well-balanced and overall a refreshing wine that I’d serve as an aperitif or a late night sipper.

Onto the reds and no matter how hot it is, I’m a girl who loves her big reds. At Vintage Virginia I brought home the 07 Reserve Cabernet as it’s full, smooth, with blackberries and intensity I look for in a Cab. The 08 Malbec was the star for me and it’s my standard glass of wine every time I go to the winery. This is full with black cherry, great intensity and a delicious finish. I love it alone but it was wonderful with steak too. I was fortunate to taste the 05 Nebbiolo before it sold out and I’m looking forward to the next release. This was a delicious wine with a nice balance of spice and dark fruit. I enjoyed the end of the day with a glass of Malbec and had a lovely conversation with some people who came in late that afternoon.

I have every intention of getting back to this winery in October to enjoy the view from 1700 feet and the fall weather. It is a bit of a trek from Northern Virginia but a pretty one. If you haven’t been here yet, I highly recommend visiting. It’s a different world and a great way to enjoy Virginia Wine Month. Cheers!

Posted by: runningwinegirl | September 20, 2010

Sunday Hiking/Wine Adventure: Old Rag & Rappahannock Cellars

This past weekend was another sunny gorgeous one in Virginia and I’m loving the crisp fall air. For almost two years a friend and I have been doing a Sunday hiking/wine adventure. Taking advantage of the weather, we decided to hike Old Rag, a 7.5-mile hike complete with a serious rock scramble. This was my third time hiking the trail and I love it more every time. There are so many vineyards near it and it was time to visit a new one. I’ve been tweeting with @rcellars for a few weeks and I decided to visit Rappahannock Cellars to see what this winery was all about.

It was easy to get there from Old Rag’s parking lot and I loved how pretty and charming the scenery was driving into the winery. Upon entering the tasting room we were immediately greeted and directed to the tasting bar. The tasting was $7.50 for seven wines and the choice of one of two dessert wines.  We started with the 09 Seyval Blanc, fermented in Stainless steel. On the nose I got tropical notes and it was crisp and clean on the palate. Those who like a dryer wine will love this white. It had me thinking of seafood. The second wine was the 09 Viognier, aged in neutral French Oak barrels. The wine had a floral nose and was medium bodied with apricot and a nice clean finish. I have delish written once next to it and would love to have had this earlier this summer on one of the hot, humid days that had all of us melting. The 08 Chardonnay was yummy and my kind of Chardonnay. I loved the caramel and butter I tasted on my palate. It was medium bodied with a nice creamy finish. The 08 Noblesse Viognier was the final white and with 1.6% residual sugar, this wine wasn’t too sweet but very well-balanced. I’m not one for the sweeter wines but thoroughly enjoyed this wine. It’s perfect for a hot summer day or the hot tub after a day on the ski slopes.

I was excited to move onto the reds. This is the first winery I’ve been too that offered different glasses for the reds and whites. It was nice to see glassware being taken into consideration while tasting wine. The 08 Cabernet Franc was the first, aged 14 months in Eastern European oak barrels and it was a nose full of pepper. On the palate it had a nice balance between spices and dark fruit. Those who love peppery or spicy wines will want to give this a try. The 07 Meritage, aged 16 months in French and American oak, consists of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot and 2% Malbec. Oh yes, this was my favorite. I do love my Cab based wines and this was truly delicious. I tasted black cherry and raspberry and loved the structure and smooth finish. I ended up having a glass after the tasting and brought a bottle home with me. The 08 Norton was the final red and consists of 75% Norton and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for six months in French Oak. I got raisins on the nose and on the palate this was an inky, intense, wine with plenty of dark fruit. It was super smooth and had a nice finish.

We were fortunate to taste all of the dessert wines including one not on the tasting sheet.  The first dessert wine was the 08 Vidal Blanc and I have delicious written twice next to this wine in my notes. It was perfect in sweetness and I got apricot on the nose followed by peaches on the palate. The 07 Port style Red Dessert wine blew me away. I do not like port anything but this was wonderful and something I could easily sip after dinner. The Solera was the surprise dessert wine. It is Vidal Blanc but, according to the girl doing out tasting, they take the grapes and let them bake in the sun. I was a little scared when it reminded me of port on the nose but on the palate I tasted a wonderful burnt caramel and toasted pecans. This was very rich and delectable.

It was great to finally meet Allan Delmare, who is the son of the owners, the marketing director and doing the tweeting for the winery. He opened up two Cabernets for us to taste as an extra treat. Both are wines for club members only and I’ll be looking into joining. The first Cabernet is made from estate grapes in Virginia. The second Cabernet is made from grapes that come from Allan’s Uncle’s vineyard in Napa Valley. It was fun to do a side by side tasting and I have to say, I enjoyed both Cabernets but they were different.  My friend preferred the Virginia Cabernet. I liked them both equally and wouldn’t know which to choose over the other.

We also tasted the 08 New World Red, a blend of 75% Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Estate grown Cabernet Franc. I have delicious written three times next to this wine. It was full, smooth with dark fruit and a wonderful long finish. The 08 Chapelle Charlemagne Cabernet Franc was the final bonus wine and it was smoother with less spice than the 08 Cabernet Franc. For me, this was my favorite out of the two Cab Francs.

I was intrigued to learn a little of the history including the story of this family coming to Virginia from California. They owned and ran a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  I love the passion I saw for Virginia and enjoyed meeting winemaker, Jason Burrus.  It was a great time and a great way to relax after an awesome hike. I can’t wait to come back and enjoy the views and wine outside on the deck. I was thrilled to see a pet area and for sure, Baxter will be with me next time. This is a great winery to pack up a picnic with friends or family and spend the afternoon. If you haven’t visited, I recommend going and for those who love to hike, this is a great recovery place after a day playing at Shenandoah. Cheers!

Posted by: runningwinegirl | September 8, 2010

Enjoying a Delicious California wine for Cabernet Day

I continue to love how wine and social media connect people. Thursday, September 2 was Cabernet day, where, thanks to Rick Bakas and St. Supery, wine lovers from all over this world gathered to enjoy their favorite Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s no secret Cabernet is a favorite and I can’t get enough of it. I was so excited when a friend of mine out in Paso Robles gifted me with the 06 Pomar Junction Cabernet. I’d never heard of this winery and I love a good California Cab so I was so excited to try this wine.

I was enjoying this day with friends who also appreciate wine. However, upon opening the Pomar, I admit, I was given a pilsner glass to drink it out of and knew I wouldn’t get the full benefits of tasting this wine from the wrong glassware. Happily a wine glass was discovered but it wasn’t until later when I got home that I truly tasted this wine and it was delicious. I broke out my Riedel glass and yes, it really does make a difference. On the nose I got blackberry and it was a gorgeous ruby red in the light. On the palate, I tasted blackberry and black cherry. This wine is intense, full and has a delicious velvety finish. I love it and will be ordering more. That night we paired it with Bison burgers and garlic mashed potatoes. It was yummy.

The next night I finished the bottle, pairing it with grilled chicken I marinated in a garlic, balsamic, white wine marinade. It was wonderful with the balsamic, which surprised me. I need to continue to explore the wineries in Central California. While talking to my mom and looking at a map, we realized that we’d be around that area when I was a child and are now talking about going back to visit the wine country. In the meantime, I’m looking into other wineries and seeing what I can get my hands on. No doubt California is continuing to produce excellent reds.

As for Cabernet day, it was a huge success and shows how much wine and social media connect this world. When looking at stats from the day on WTHashTag here’s what I found for the past seven days:

In the last 7 days:
6,280 tweets
1,615 contributors
897.1 tweets per day
10.5% come from “The Top 10”
33.1% are retweets
68.6% are mentions
22.0% have multiple hashtags

I learned about so many new Cabernets and connected with so many new people. It’s a great opportunity to get together with fellow wine lovers and mingle while sipping something delicious. I’m excited for the #Holidaywines event coming up in November. Come out and join us!

Posted by: runningwinegirl | September 1, 2010

Hume Vineyard, A New Winery and A Must Visit

I’m an adventurous girl who loves to explore and try new things. It was on my way to Chateau O’Brien that I first saw a sign for Hume Vineyards and my curiosity rose as I’ve not seen or heard a thing about this winery. This past weekend I had Saturday free, which is rare, and decided it was time to explore some more Virginia wine country. Off to Hume I went and I was excited to see what this brand new winery had to offer.

A perk to this winery is it’s close to so many others. You pass Philip Carter and there are signs to both Oasis and Rappahannock Cellars on the way. The trip into Hume is pretty and again has it’s own charm and beauty like many VA wineries. Upon entering a cute but simple barn with a tasting bar and nothing else, the owners, Stefan and Andrea Baldi, greeted me and let a group of us know they’d be right with us. It was a warm and fun atmosphere with energy and I couldn’t wait to start tasting.

I was happy to have Stefan pouring for the group and we started with the 09 Vidal Blanc. I immediately picked up grapefruit on the nose and was surprised when sipping to find this is more medium bodied than I expected. I tasted kiwi on the palate and found this to be really refreshing and delicious. Everyone at the bar was smiling about it when tasting. Next we moved to the 09 Chambourcin, aged six months in neutral oak, and I was a little nervous after getting raisins on the nose. However, on the palate I tasted dark fruit, a touch of spice and a velvety finish. I had to swirl this a lot and while doing that Stefan told me that he typically recommends people aerate it first. I agree but regardless this was a wonderful red.

The third wine of the day was the 08 Detour, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot and aged 18 months in neutral oak.  I have delicious written twice on my tasting sheet for this one, which isn’t a surprise being that this blend is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a little tight at first but the dark fruit came out with the wonderful structure. There is complexity in this wine that will come out with age and I’ll be laying a bottle down for a few years. I really loved it.  The 08 Cabernet Sauvignon finished the tasting and this was my favorite. It was earthy with black cherry and vanilla to balance that out followed by a velvety finish. I did bring a bottle of this home with me and I’ll be bringing more home the next time. All of these reds can be laid down for 3-5 years. I loved everything I tasted and watching other’s taste and leave I’m not alone. Everyone had a glass or two there and left with bottles of wine.

Towards the end of the day, I had the pleasure of talking to Stefan, who is from the wine country of France.  The winery had its grand opening this past July 10, so they are still in the midst of constructing around the grounds. He will be harvesting grapes this year and is currently buying grapes from Breaux. He is also consulting with Dave Collins, Breaux’s winemaker. What I loved hearing is that the wines being offered are the grape that are growing. This winery knows what they are doing and when I asked if he was growing in a more old world or new world style, I was told it was more old world style.  Currently Stefan is growing Merlot, Voignier, Petit Verdot, and Chambourcin. He plans in the spring to plant Sauvignon Blanc and down the road Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. I look forward to it all and can’t wait to go back. This is a dog friendly winery, which means Baxter can join me. I always like that.  If you haven’t made it here yet, I recommend packing a picnic and visiting.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | August 30, 2010

Girls Day, Sunset Saturday, Delicious wines at Delaplane Cellars

It’s been a busy summer and I can’t believe it’s September on Wednesday. Virginia has been hot and I’m still not use to the humidity. However that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the wineries and I had two awesome visits to Delaplane Cellars over two Saturdays. I was long overdue for a girls day and after talking to my friend Melissa, we decided to head back to Delaplane Cellars to replace our bottles of the Left Bank Bordeaux and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at one of our favorite wineries.

I was thrilled to see the parking lot full when we arrived and while it was cloudy, the view was still gorgeous and it was dry. I’d been to Delaplane back on July 4th so I didn’t need to do a tasting this time around. We got ourselves a bottle of the 07 Left Bank Bordeaux, an order of fresh bread and broke out our cheese for a delightful day. I always meet the nicest people at Delaplane and it was great to see Autumn, the tasting room manager, as well Jim Dolphin, the owner.

Back in July Jim let me know he was pulling what he had left of the 07 Syrah and aging it as well as offering it to club members only. I was fortunate to taste it that last time and see how much it improved from the first time I tried it back in January. I brought home a bottle and will be aging it as well. However, while asking Jim about the 07 Left Bank Bordeaux and how much was left, he offered to take Melissa and I down for a barrel tasting of the 08 Left Bank Bordeaux as well as the Syrah and a new red blend.

The 08 Left Bank Bordeaux has Tannat in the blend unlike the 07, which consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 08 Left Bank is more fruit forward than the 07 and I loved how full it is along with a delightful finish. There is a slight earthiness to it but not as much as the 07. I loved it.  Next we were spoiled with the Syrah. Unlike the 07 Syrah, this wine is aged in New American Oak and is 86% Syrah and 14% Tannat.  This was so yummy and while I’m excited to age and enjoy the 07, I can’t wait till this is released. Last, Jim let us taste the Williams Gap, a delicious red Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This was my favorite of the three.

The following weekend was my first time going to Delaplane’s Sunset Saturday where they bring in live music and stay open until 9 pm. I was out with my good friends and we were surrounded by a lively group of people. Two birthdays were celebrated that night and we all sang Happy Birthday.  Logan Kraft and Katie Ribik were performing and I have to say they were singing some of my absolute favorite songs that included Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffet.  These two harmonize well and are wonderful entertainers. Logan has his own band and Katie performs around the DC/VA area at events as well as teaches guitar and piano. I look forward to seeing these two perform again. This is the second live music act I’ve seen at Delaplane and I can’t wait to come back to the next one. I love the style and it’s clear there are a lot of talented musicians in Virginia.

It’s rare I go back to a winery two weekends in a row but that says something about Delaplane as a newer VA winery. I was so excited when Jim came out to say hello and to let us know the wines we’d tasted that last week are now bottled. I’m ready for them and if you haven’t been to Delaplane yet, I highly recommend visiting. The tasting room is gorgeous as are the views from outside. The fall is going to be an amazing time to get there and if you’re a red wine lover, watch for the release of the 08 Left Bank Bordeaux, Syrah and William’s Gap. You won’t regret it.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | August 26, 2010

Fun Sunday at Gadino Cellars

I continue to love the way social media connects people, businesses and really all walks of life. I wrote a guest blog post a few months ago on Adam Vincenzini’s blog highlighting how wineries were utilizing social media and I am impressed in how many here in Virginia are doing a great job interacting and engaging. I connected with Gadino Cellars on Twitter and immediately knew this was a winery I needed to visit.  I learned Derek, the son-in-law of the owners, was the person behind the Tweets and he does a wonderful job.  After a couple of weeks of tweeting, it was time to get to this winery. Given the risky nature of the weather I decided to skip hiking this past Sunday and instead head out to Gadino and see what this winery was all about.

Gadino is tucked away behind a school and down a little gravel road. It’s a gorgeous setting and I fell in the love with the windmill in the middle of the vineyard. Walking inside, Bill Gadino, the owner, greeted us and informed us there were seven wines to taste for $5 and we could keep our glasses. We began with the 09 Pinot Grigio that was crisp, refreshing and very tasty. Aged in Stainless steel, I tasted apricot and apple with a nice finish. Next was the 09 Chardonnay, aged in 2, 3, 4 yr old French Oak barrels for 12 months and released to the public only two weeks ago. This is made sur-lie style and does not go through malolactic fermentation. It was delicious and had the perfect balance of a little vanilla and apple. It’s a medium bodied wine and very refreshing.

The 09 Luminoso was next  and was created due to the rains of 2009. This is a blend of Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc. Bill explained that due to heavy rain in September last year, the grapes started to break down so the winery decided to make an off-dry wine. I’m so happy they did. I’m not a sweet wine drinker but this wine was perfect for the hot humid summer we’ve had here. The nose is floral and while there is a slight sweetness on the palate this is a fruity well-balanced white table wine that would go with a variety of foods or alone at the end of a long work day.

I was intrigued to learn the Moonrise Rosé was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. I’ll have to check my notes but I can’t remember tasting a Rosé using that blend of grapes. Being a girl who usually passes on Rosés, I can say that this is one I won’t turn down. I loved how smooth and refreshing it was but also how much fuller it is than the average Rosé. It had me craving BBQ.  Following that was the Cabernet Franc and I have delicious written three times next to it on my tasting sheet. These grapes come from vines planted back in 1990  and for the second year won the Gold in the Taster’s Guild International. This was full, smooth, lots of dark fruit and only the slightest taste of pepper. Bill let us know this is his baby and there’s no doubt about that. I brought a bottle home.

The tasting ended with the 08 Dolce Sofia, which has the image of Bill’s granddaughter on the bottle. It’s a blend of late harvest Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc grapes. I’m not a fan of sweet but really enjoyed this wine. It has 11% residual sugar but you’d never know it. The balance is perfect and on my palate I tasted peaches with a wonderful finish. For me it is the perfect dessert at the end of a luscious dinner. The 08 Imagine, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin is what Bill called, a “playful wine.”  His grandson is on the label and this wine has 3% residual sugar. I agree it’s playful and unique.  For those who like a smooth, medium bodied wine, this is sure to please.

It was great to hear that the family members are involved in the winemaking process and it’s a cute story on how this winery came to be opened and started in 2004. I love the atmosphere and had a glass of the Cabernet Franc while enjoying the scenery on the outside deck. I’m excited for the release of the Meritage later this fall and look forward to visiting this winery again to play some Bocce ball. If you are heading out to hike Shenandoah National Park or looking to escape the city, this is a winery worth visiting.

Life continues to keep me busy and I’m working hard to get back to posting at least three days a week. Needless to say after a long week, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind then at Chateau O’Brien for happy hour. I’d received an email announcing the release of the 07 Cellar Collection and I’d admit, I’ve been waiting for these wines for a long time. It would take something like this to get me to tackle I-66 on a Friday evening but it was well worth sitting in traffic for these wines.

I was thrilled when I walked into Chateau O’Brien to run into a crew of friends who were there to relax and taste the wines too. It was great to see Debbie and all the wines lined up with glasses next to them. I couldn’t wait to get started. Upon the arrival of another group, the bar filled up and we got the tasting underway.

To start, Debbie poured us the new 08 Northpoint white, which consists of 12% Viognier, 8% Petit Manseng and 80% Pinot Grigio.  This is different from the 07 and I like it so much better. I didn’t take notes as it was a super small pour and I was far more focused on getting to the reds. Needless to say I liked it and will be going back to taste it again.

The reds began with the 07 Cabernet Franc and I could tell from the deep ruby color this was going to be different. I loved how full and smooth this wine was on my palate. There is a slight spice at the start but the black cherry and this wonderful intensity take over on the finish.  All around the bar you could see people nodding their heads in agreement that this was delicious. Next up was the 2007 North Point Cellar red, a blend of all five of the Bordeaux grapes. This wine is 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot, 20% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc. This is a full but jammy wine with a touch of pepper followed by black cherry and plum allowing for a long, smooth finish. I have delicious written four times next to this one. It’s so smooth and had me craving prime rib. The 07 Vintner’s Reserve was next and I’d had the pleasure of tasting this earlier in the year. This wine is 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Tannat and 12% Petit Verdot. Need I say more? I got raspberries on the nose and on the palate it was super smooth, full with lots of dark fruit and a delicious velvety finish. I love, love, love it! Big red wine lovers, you want to come taste this wine before it sells out!

The tasting finished with the 2007 Reserve Tannat and I’ve wanted to try this since Jason, the winemaker, filled me in the difference between this vintage and the 06. This Tannat is jammy and super smooth. The structure is there but the 06 is a bit earthier. It is intense with blackberry and other dark fruit and a delicious finish that lingers. I’m laying a bottle down next to the 06 I have. I can’t wait to see how this wine ages. The 2007 Late Harvest Tannat was the biggest surprise. The 06 was the first Chateau O’Brien released and it was a little too sweet for me. This is nothing like the 06. It wasn’t as much of a port style and not as sweet. I really enjoyed sipping it and could see this as the perfect after dinner drink. You only need a little of this wine as it is 18% alcohol. Overall my favorites of the night in order are the Vintner’s Reserve, Northpoint Red Cellar, Tannat, Cab Franc and Late Harvest Tannat.  The night ended with a glass of the Vintner’s Reserve, some wonderful live music and great conversation.

Chateau O’Brien continues to impress me with delicious, big reds. The cellar collection is made from estate grapes that come from the premium area on the northern base of the hill at the winery. I highly recommend getting to this winery soon to try these wines. You can taste them all for only $10 and it’s worth it. People weren’t just buying one or two bottles but mix cases of the different wines if not a case of each. This is a special winery and you will always receive the best service and learn something when you come here. I always make new friends and there’s nothing like enjoying the views from the deck with some delicious cheeses, bread and of course wine.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | July 28, 2010

Key West Festival at Breaux with the “Va Wine Mafia”

The longer I’m in Virginia the more I grow to love it. The world of wine is amazing here and those planning to attend the wine bloggers conference next year are in for a treat. With every event I attend, I get to try a newly released wine and I’m consistently discovering new and impressive Va wines. Jen Breaux Blosser is a good friend and a few months ago she invited me to the Key West Festival at Breaux Vineyards on July 17, as part of the “Va Wine Mafia.” This was my first time going to this event and well, Breaux really knows how to put on a show.

Upon arrival, I was impressed with the staff in place to help direct us with the parking. Tickets were $25 and included a complimentary tasting of eight wines: 08 Voignier, 09 Madeleine’s Chardonnay, 09 Cabernet Rosé, Equation Merlot “X”, 05 Marquis De Lafayette, 04 Merlot, 09 Jen’s Jambalaya and the 09 Nebbiolo Ice. Guests also had the option to taste the library selection for $5 that included the 01 Lafayette, 02 Cabernet Sauvignon, 02 Merlot Reserve, 03 Nebbiolo and 06 Meritage.  In an effort to keep this short, I’m not reviewing the wines but past posts I’ve written on Breaux cover many of these and I recommend trying them all.

Entering, the blogger community was given tickets, a gift from the winery, and glasses to start the tasting.  I was so excited to see that the Cabernet Rosé  was released and couldn’t wait to taste it again. The first time I tried it was at the end of the Cabernet vertical back in the winter when it was still in the barrel and looked like pink lemonade. That was not the case this time and it’s even better now.  Joining fellow bloggers, @myvinespot and @drinkwhatulike, we went inside for the library tasting before heading to our reserved table.  It was great to enjoy a summer afternoon with friends who are wine lovers and two of my favorite wine bloggers in VA.

Our table consumed the Cabernet Rosé, 09 Madelein Chardonnay and the Equation, Breaux’s version of an everyday Merlot. All are delicious but for the first time I chose a Rosé over a red wine. This is a Cabernet based Rosé that is medium bodied with strawberry on the palate and is a refreshingly fruity but not sweet. I love that it’s not as dry and light like many of the Rosés I’ve tasted.  It is truly one I love and will automatically go to on a hot summer day. There was food but I wasn’t overly impressed with the choices and felt it was on the expensive side.  Earlier this year at Breaux, I got a delicious pulled pork sandwich for $6 and that’s what I was wishing for at this event.

We were blessed with a gorgeous, sunny day filled with great hats, lots of good wine and a conga line at the end of the day. I loved seeing people get into the hat contest and one girl was creative enough to make a hat out of a Frisbee and wine glass. Two great bands, Conscious Vibes, a reggae band and Key West, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, played throughout the day. There were frisbees and beach balls in the air non-stop giving off the perfect beach vibe to go with the music.  This is a great event, worth going to and I look forward to next year.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | July 26, 2010

Cellar 4201 – A young gem in the Yadkin Valley

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted and I admit the job hunt has had me stressed and distracted. However, I managed to escape back to North Carolina this weekend for my birthday and to explore some more of the Yadkin Valley. I’ve been doing my fair share of researching and upon visiting Cellar 4201’s website, I knew it was one I had to visit. I was in love with the setting but also intrigued to see the winery offered a Sangiovese.

Upon arrival at Cellar 4201, I immediately fixed on the grapevines and a beautiful array of rose bushes that were set at the end of each row. Greg Hutchins, the owner, greeted us as we walked towards the tasting room, leading us inside talking about the winery and preparing us for our wine tasting. The tasting room was dark and romantic and like nothing I’ve seen yet.  We learned this husband/wife team started growing grapes back in 2003 but only opened the tasting room a year ago.

We tasted a total of eight wines for a modest price with the glass included. I was pleasantly surprised with the 09 Stainless Steel chardonnay as well as the 06 Chardonnay. I’m not a Chardonnay girl but enjoyed both of these wines. The 09 Chardonnay was medium bodied and had a nice balance of acidity with apple and a smooth, clean finish. The 06 Chardonnay, aged in both French and American Oak barrels for nine months, was buttery with apple and vanilla but not too heavy and overall a refreshing wine.

Onto the reds we went starting with the Sangiovese and it did not disappoint. I learned this wine is a combination of 07 and 08 grapes. In 2007 the winery only produced a small amount but didn’t want to waste it so the 07 was aged for two years in French oak. The 08 vintage was aged for a year and then the two were blended. Greg told us this was his wife’s favorite varietal but also the hardest to grow. This received the first delicious, delicious, delicious on my tasting sheet and a bottle did come home with me.  I loved the dark fruit, medium body and smooth finish. I admit I liked this better than many of the Italian Sangiovese’s I’ve had recently.  The 06 Merlot continued this impressive tasting. Aged in French oak for 10 months, this was medium bodied with black cherries and low tannins. The finish was long and smooth. The 06 Merlot Reserve, aged 20 months in French oak, was a step up from the Merlot with a fuller body and more velvety finish. Again all I have on my tasting notes next to the Reserve is delicious three times. The 06 Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 10 months in French oak, was medium bodied with plum on the palate and a smooth finish. I have many dinners in mind to pair with this wine. The 06 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, aged 20 months in French oak, like the Merlot reserve was a step up in body and intensity and I have delicious written twice next to it. We finished with the 06 Sweet Native, a Rosé made from Sangiovese grapes. The fruit balanced well with the medium body for an overall enjoyable Rosé. I could see myself drinking this on the beach or poolside.

Overall I enjoyed every wine I tasted here. We ended the tasting with a bottle of the Sangiovese to enjoy at the winery while I was introduced to my first game where I attempted to throw sandbags onto a cheese shaped box and through the hole. It was a delightful afternoon and I can’t wait to get back to this winery. I definitely recommend visiting this one. You’ll be so happy you did.

Posted by: runningwinegirl | June 23, 2010

Westbend Vineyards – A Delightful Intro to North Carolina Wines

Being a native Californian like my mom, I grew up with California wines that my parents still prefer to this day. As a college graduation gift, they gave me a membership to the California Wine Club, which started my journey to becoming passionate about wine beyond just drinking it. When I moved to Virginia I was surprised to learn about the wine industry and as I’ve been writing about, I love so many VA wines.  I was skeptical about the Yadkin Valley wineries in North Carolina but when I was offered a chance to explore them I couldn’t say no. I had one North Carolina wine when I first moved to VA and was out to dinner with one of my best friends. We’d ordered an NC Sauvignon Blanc. I wasn’t overly impressed but remember thinking it wasn’t terrible.

I was excited to start my North Carolina wine experience at Westbend Vineyards located in Lewisville. The winery released its first commercial wine in 1988 and grows its grapes on 60 acres of land that seem to go on forever. Driving in was gorgeous and I fell in love with the large outdoor seating and different views of the vineyard. Walking in, we were greeted and offered a tour of the winery with another couple that had just finished tasting. I wasn’t about to turn that down and I enjoyed learning the history of the winery.

Back in the tasting room, it was time to start tasting my first round of North Carolina wines. In total I tasted 12 wines and was surprised at what ended up being my favorites. I began the tasting with the 08 Viognier that was recently released and aged in stainless steel. It was a gorgeous pale yellow in the glass. On the palate I tasted apricot and pears with a clean, refreshing finish. I enjoyed this wine and it was a perfect one for the hot day outside. Up next was the 08 Sauvignon Blanc, which caught my interest when on the nose I got grapefruit. On the palate I tasted melon and lemon with some acidity and a clean finish. Those looking for a nice Sauvignon Blanc and not much Grapefruit should give this wine a try. I had the 09 Riesling next and it was a tad too sweet for my palate.  However, it’s a well-done wine for those who like that. The First in Flight was poured last for my whites and it was the surprise white for me. This wine is a blend of 68% Seyval Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 2% Riesling and is around 2% in residual sugar.  I have delicious written twice on my tasting sheet. It was perfect for a hot summer day.

Reds were next and here’s where my curiosity really came alive. I’m a big red girl and had no idea what to expect.  We started with the 08 Chambourcin and I admit I was a little nervous. I got pepper and blackberry on the nose and on the palate it was smooth, elegant with plenty of dark fruit, a touch of spice and blueberry on the finish. I loved the soft tannins and it was a delightful introduction to North Carolina reds.  The 07 Merlot was next and I learned that like Virginia, 2007 was a great year for NC. This was a medium-bodied red with black cherries and a slight smokiness. Overall it was delightful. I have a huge smiley face on my tasting sheet for the 06 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is full, smooth, lots of dark fruit, great structure and a long finish. We then tasted the 07 Reserve “Les Seurs” Cabernet Sauvignon, which took the 06 to a next level. Delicious is written three times next to this wine and yes, that means it’s a big red with a long, smooth finish. We finished the red wine tasting with the Cabernet Franc and Vintners Signature.  The Vintners Signature is a blend of 22% Cabernet Franc, 68%Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. I got raisons on the nose and cloves on the palate. The finish was velvety and this wine made me hungry. I can think of numerous dinners I’d pair this with. I loved the Cab Franc.

The tasting ended meeting with the owner who showed us a book of labels over the years starting with the first in 1988. I love looking at stuff like that so it was awesome to gain insight on the changes and feedback that influenced the labels currently on the bottles. We were also fortunate to catch up with Mark Terry, the winemaker who got us to taste the dessert wine as well as a sparking wine.  Both were delicious. But the sparking, a Blanc de Noir, really stood out.

For my first North Carolina vineyard I can’t think of a better place to have started. The people at Westbend were friendly, knowledgeable and the atmosphere was happy and relaxing. I can’t wait to go back to enjoy a glass of wine outside with a picnic. There’s no doubt that North Carolina, like Virginia, is a hidden gem on this side of the country. This winery is worth a visit and has a wine for every palate.

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