Wine Blogging at Monticello!

After spending a day at the Omni Hotel on the Charlottesville downtown pedestrian mall ( I write this description for non-locals) we climbed on busses heading up curvy route 53 to Monticello for a dinner reception featuring Virginia wines. Extremely muggy hot weather was not the best conditions to show off our fair city and Blue Ridge Mountains. I still think despite the New Orleans Bayou-thick air, out of state visitors were impressed with the history and beauty of Monticello.  Efforts were made to keep the guests comfortable, hand-held fans printed with “Virginia Is For Lovers” were distributed and outdoor air conditioning was provided at strategic locations, fans with water reservoirs diffusing cool mist on the more aggressive heat relief seekers (Me!).  TJ look-alike mingled with the guests  along with celebrities like the Zonins, owners of Barboursville, just in from Italia! 

The wine makers were sheltered under a vast tent, keeping their bottles in coolers before opening them  for the bloggers. I couldn’t be more proud of our winery owners, wine makers and hosts-cheerfully pouring (more requested) whites  and reds and extolling the quality of their wines. Meanwhile, I shed my heels at Ankida Ridge’s table and walked barefoot in the grass,  meeting other wine bloggers and tasting wine.  As I wandered around, I couldn’t help but wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think about these techy wine lovers traipsing around his home and sharing thoughts regarding an industry that he started centuries ago  in Virginia!  

I was a little despondent about the demise of the 200+ years old White Oak and Poplar trees flanking the west side of Monticello. Noticeably missing, the large tree stumps look void and sad, so I toasted Thomas Jefferson quietly to myself.  The value of some of the wines attributed to his collection have reached record prices at auction!

Ankida Ridge, Glass House, Stinson, Gabrielle RausseFlying Fox and Pippin Hill Farm Vineyard were stops for me, unfortunately I missed several others due to waning energy. The food was excellent!  Shrimp and cheese grits, mini crab cakes, tiny stuffed red potatoes were all tasty pairings for the wines offered. Water bottles were the most coveted item on the menu, Keswick Hall did a fabulous job!

All in all, a lovely event and I overheard many guests discussing return travel plans to Virginia!

Great job, Charlottesville and Virginia Tourism!

Sweely Estate Winery in Madison, Virginia

One of the Wineries of Madison County!

After attending a party last weekend for our friends and cohorts in wine who are moving to Nashville, ( Yes, that would be you, Pam and Jeff!)  we returned to a winery we had visited together last year, Sweely Estate Winery in Madison County, formally known as Acorn Hill. 

 The last time we went to ,  we had a relaxing afternoon on the patio sharing a bottle of wine and my compadres razzing about my “level” of wine that I like to keep in my glass.  Yes, I have a “comfort level” of wine that visually I find is the correct level. Kind of like when you’re baking and have to get eye-level with the counter to make sure the measuring cup is accurate.  The color of the wine is beautiful at that volume and swirls against the glass creating  syrupy legs, nice.  This is all part of an enjoyable wine tasting experience, plus it’s an excuse to refill the glass!  Anyway, we headed to Sweely,  recently  rumoured to be heading in the same direction as Kluge.  Definitely Not! 

 With hands on attention from the owners, Jess and Sharon Sweely, we found the winery active and viable. In fact, I was delighted to see Margaret Prior, a friend,  smiling across the tasting bar!  Margaret has recently joined the Sweely staff and her pleasant personality is an excellent addition to the tasting room staff.  Leslie Weinhardt was guiding the tastings, a veteran of pouring and tasting,  previously hailing from Jefferson Vineyards and following the winemaker, Frantz Ventre (not literally).  Leslie offered  me a tour of the  winery and we headed through the immense “living room/ gift shop” complete with a magnificent fireplace and red leather chairs  toward the lower level event hall and cellar level library and conference room.  We passed through the slate floored art gallery featuring prized art on one side and the other side showcasing local artists.  Rock, slate and brick hard surfaces combine to create a beautiful site for events and has recently been used for weddings, graduation parties and meetings.   

Two towering fireplaces anchor each end of the soaring  Vintners Hall and opens onto a stone patio and lawn for wedding ceremonies and parties.  Additionally, the caterers have the opportunity to use the restaurant grade commercial kitchen outfitted with Vulcan Professional appliances.   Sweely offers cooking classes on a regular basis so be sure to check out their website for dates and menus. 

Leslie then showed me two other rooms below the main level used for dining after the cooking classes, small meetings and other smallish get-togethers.  Inside the wine library is the most magnificent table credited to the fine craftsmanship of Tom (Thomas) Pastore of Madison, Virginia. Inlaid fine woods and curved book cases make this cellar room warm and cozy.  Truly beautiful!

Completing the tour we returned to the tasting room and encountered Sharon Sweely, amiably chatting with visitors.  I mentioned the fact that I love wine but never claim to be an expert.  Sharon explained that theirs was a user friendly wine tasting room and they love getting novices to wine tasting.   Every one has personal tastes as to what they enjoy drinking and they are not “wine snobs”.

Their wines are less than 13% alcohol and fruit forward, the reflection of Frantz Ventre’s attitude about wine,  growing up in the world–renowned Bordeaux wine region near St. Emilion, France.   Two different labels, Sweely Estate  and Wolftown, from the Wolftown-Hood area of Virginia   (literally an eye catching label)  denote the complexity of the wines.  The Wolftown label are the lighter wines and the Sweely are the heavier, more complex wines.  Wolf enthusiasts love the Wolftown label with the peering eyes of the wolf staring at you.  We tasted several of the wines, most of which were bottled in 2007.  There are new wines being bottled (the couple of financial bumps encountered have past) and are available in several markets including Kroger stores and  the Virginia Shop, and many local restaurants. We settled on two favorites, the Wolftown White Blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, not oaky and with a spicy lingering finish and the Cabernet Franc which won three Gold Medals!  The Cabernet Franc was excellent! 78% Cab Franc, 14% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot!

If for some reason you have missed out on Sweely Estate Winery, we recommend a visit and support our local wineries, you won’t be disappointed!

They also serve light appetizers and bread to pair with your selection.  Pick up a bottle and head out back to the patio, Enjoy!

Don’t Be FOOLish, Visit These Virginia Wineries in April

Saturday April 2nd                                                 

White Hall Vineyards

Release and tasting of the 2009 Pinot Gris

They have joined with a few of our neighboring wineries to form the Appellation Trail.  Other wineries on the wine trail are Mountfair, Glass House Winery, Stinson Vineyards (opening 6/11) and Moss Vineyards (opening in 2012). Check back for more details on our April 16th Appellation Trail kick-off event!

Sunday April 3rd

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery

1:00 p.m. Wine and Food Pairing with menu by Genevieve Delfosse

$40 per person, reservations required.

Glass House Winery

2:15-5 p.m. Live Music with David Tewksbury

Paramount Theater “Big Night at the Paramount”

3:30 p.m. . The brothers in Big Night–chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and businessman Secondo (Tucci)–have come to New Jersey to open a bistro named The Paradise that serves the finest in traditional, authentic Italian cuisine.

Sample food and wine, meet winemakers and chefs before the movie. Special guests are Virginia winemaker Gabrielle Rausse and Tavola Restaurant owner, Michael Keaveny. 

Tickets are $12

Afton Mountain Vineyards

2009 Vintners Reserve Merlot Tasting one day only!

Tuesday April 12th

Barboursville Vineyards

Palladio Cooking class: Seafood

6:30 p.m. Enrollment is limited to 12 and admission is $95

 Friday April 15th TAX Day!

Keswick Vineyards Tax Free Zone zone for the day 🙂

Look for more events the second half of April, this should be a good start for enjoying early Spring in the Virginia vineyards!

 

 Virginia Wine Lover magazine has announced their First Annual “Best Of” Readers’ Choice Awards.

 One lucky voter will be gifted with a wine weekend getaway.

The polls close on April 15, 2011 so be sure to vote now!

Delfosse

I shall be telling this with a sigh                         
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost

I know this may be one of the most over used quotations, but it fits so perfectly that  I can’t resist.   For some unknown  reason I have procrastinated visiting Delfosse Winery in Nelson County, but after recently running into Yvette Okros, Tasting Room Manager for Delfosse, we decided to make it a priority.  With another winery also in mind, we travelled south on 151, the Rockfish Gap Turnpike,  toward Wintergreen.   We veered off at highway 6  in the direction of Delfosse Winery . Our GPS steered us left onto Old Roberts Mountain Road.  Surely, this wasn’t the way most people visit Delfosse!  Gravel road, rutted in many places and traversing over the crest of a small mountain?  Definitely this was the road less travelled by!

Arriving at our destination, we found a breath-taking Virginia valley flanked by European-style terraced vineyards. We were warmly welcomed by Yvette, who ushered us in and introduced us to the owner, Claude Delfosse.   Yvette arranged a table for us to sample wines and get to know Claude a bit. It was nice to have the opportunity to casually hang out with Claude and ask questions about wine making at our leisure.  

 Claude Delfosse,  a Fulbright Scholar,  decided to “take the road less travelled by”  himself  when he veered away from his professional career of Aeronautical Engineering.  French by birth,  he chose to make the U.S. his home and settle in Virginia .   He was relaxed and pleasant, sipping wine with us and expounding on the attributes of some of his wines. He lights up with a big smile when reflecting on some of his award-winning wines.  I really liked the way Claude named some of  the wines after his family members.  One stand-out wine, Reserve d’ Oriane, was named after his daughter.  A complex blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Viognier and Petit Manseng.  The Merlot was excellent also, but Claude seemed most proud of the 2006 Meritage , a Double Gold Medal winner at the Monticello Wine Cup!  We clearly agreed!  We enjoyed homemade crepes along with our wine for an added treat!

We closed out the day and headed out to explore the grounds. Not the best day, cloudy and overcast before bud break, so no lush vines to photograph. The winery sits at the foot of a hill across from a pond with a quaint bridge for photo ops.  A  generous elegant patio area  expands the dining space outdoors and features  a whimsical  frog sculpture fountain at the center.  This must be a wonderful spot in warm weather and we plan to spend some time here enjoying wine with friends in the Spring and Summer!  

Perched above the pond and winery and just below the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is a precious log cabin surrounded by perennial gardens and a flagstone patio. What a heavenly spot for a weekend getaway!  The cabin is perfect for a couple and you can invite friends or host a gathering from this vantage point. During the day, take advantage of the miles of hiking trails surrounding the property.

I can only say that I’m sorry I have missed out on this winery in the past and will rectify that in the future!

I highly recommend the drive south from Charlottesville on 29 with Delfosse as your final destination and enjoy the hospitality of Mr. Delfosse, Yvette and Dave ( our wine server who was knowledgeable and unintimidated while  pouring in front of his employer!).

Welcome to Delfosse!

Reflections of Afton Mountain Vineyards

                                     

Brothers Hanging Out

                 

“3” A Triple Play for Virginia Wine

If you can’t break away on Thursday March 3rd at 3:33, all is not lost!  There will be tastings of “3” at Pollak, Veritas and King Family Vineyards on March 6th.  This is an opportunity for a unique gift or collectable bottle of wine, all you oenophiles! I’m looking forward to tasting this on Sunday myself!  Below is the official press release and a bio on the winemakers. Enjoy!

Three's A Charm!

King Family-Pollak-Veritas Three Virginia Wineries Create “3”

"3"

Get your calendar out and checkbook ready!  A collaborative effort of three local winemakers: Matthieu Finot- King Family, Emily Hodson Pelton- Veritas and Jake Busching- Pollak will be released next week.  Apparently the three winemakers contemplated the idea while sipping beer . They decided to combine three varietals from each of  their three wineries to create one special wine.  Pollak Vineyards was chosen for their Petit Verdot which they have won several awards for in the past. Veritas Winery provided the Cabernet Franc, also an  Annual Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association award winner. King Family Vineyards contributed the Merlot grapes which they are well known for to complete the wine.  The blend is equal percentages, 33 1/3%  of the three varietals.  There are only 150 cases and each winery will have 50 case available for sale.

Aptly, the Release Party for “3” will be the third day of the third month at 3:30 p.m. and will be priced at  $33.30 a bottle. I’ll do the math for you:  the party will be at Pollak Vineyards on  3/3/2011 at 3:30!  No bottles will be sold prior to that date and they will definitely go fast!

Honey, I want a Vineyard…

Yesterday, while compiling listing data for a real estate client I quite  unexpectedly  found myself on the flip side of the realtor/client relationship.  I stumbled upon a unique  listing in our Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors multiple listing service.  It suddenly became a high priority to see it and Bob  (my indulgent husband) reluctantly got the car keys.  Seriously, he was emptying out the dishwasher rather than  have to visit a random house that tempted my curiosity.  The more often I spend time at wineries and vineyards, the more captivated I become about possibly tending vines myself.  Obviously, the easy route would be to volunteer at a local vineyard. But no, that would be way too simple! 

The House-Wakefield circa 1760

Kitchen of the Past

The original log cabin was built around 1760 on a hill overlooking a spring fed pond with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.  The house lies in the southwestern part of Greene County just north of the Albemarle County line, and  not too far from Stone Mountain Vineyards.  Charming, rustic features include four fireplaces, brick floors in the kitchen, an interior stone wall and an outdoor kitchen with fireplace and huge hearth.  It was later, in the early 1800’s, that an addition extended the square footage to its present day size of 1900 plus square feet.  Now you understand why Bob was dragging his feet, it wasn’t the size of the house, it was the age!  For me, the piece de resistance was a quaint fenced garden with grapevines, yes, Grapevines! growing over an arched gate to the side of the house!  Inside the garden was a large asparagus patch . That may not mean much to others, but my great-grandfather was an asparagus farmer. Does this property have my name written all over it or what?

Grapes!

 

10.69 Acres

The second story has a large deck with serene vistas that take you back to a quieter period of  time. The outdoor kitchen is flanked by an enormous blue spruce and a Savannah Holly just begging to be restored.  Below the house, a hay-field slopes towards the mountains and drops down to a pond. It was a sunny warm day with clouds rolling across the horizon and I giddily walked the property like a child in my flip-flops.  At this point I had already visualized my boutique vineyard and was mentally naming it! Unfortunately, I was prompted out of my dream state by my practical husband (darn it) who wasn’t  quite as captivated by the tiny narrow staircase in the house and the lack of central air conditioning.  Where did my pioneer man go?  Back to the conveniences of 2011, I imagine!

The Upper Deck

The Virginia Cooperative Extension has a very useful website for selecting property  suitable for cultivating grapes in Virginia.  It is a wonderful in-depth source of data but I highly recommend having an expert assess the site.  Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist  and Dr. John Boyer, Professor of Viticulture at Virginia Tech are experts in this subject.  In the publication Vineyard Site Selection, they explain that topography, including the absolute and relative elevations of a particular site, will greatly affect the suitability of a proposed site, particularly in the western Piedmont and mountain regions of the state.  Further, a slight to moderate slope is desirable because it accelerates the drainage of cold air from the vineyard. After reading this, I felt the hay-field could prove a possible site for growing grapes. Clearly an expert needs to be involved if this were a land use someone would be contemplating. I look forward to taking classes on site selection later this year to understand all the factors involved in  qualifying a property for use as a vineyard.

Can you picture rows of grapevines here?

Oh, well…sigh…if anyone is intrigued by this post enough to want to see this property, please contact me for a showing.  I’d love to take a stroll back in time with you and consider the potential of this delightful listing in Greene County, Virginia.

 

 

 

 

The House That Came With A Vineyard…

Accidentally but  purposefully,  I stumbled upon Stinson Vineyards!  Scheduled for a wine blending class taught by Matthieu Finot (love how the French spell Matthew!) and hosted by Stinson Vineyards, I drove towards White Hall in western Albemarle County.  I am a local realtor and know my way around the area quite well and had never even  heard of this vineyard!  We literally drove past it 3 times, before noticing the parking area between the Piedmont House and the newly transformed garage addition tasting room.  I actually asked for directions at the Piedmont Store at the corner of  810 & Sugar Hollow Road and was sent off in the opposite direction.  Surprisingly, it is located just past the store on the right, practically a stones throw away!  Recently,  Cathy Harding  had  written an in-depth article about it in Cville magazine.  She is (and should have been sooner)  now on my list of  absolute ” must reads”.    At this point I decided we need to get the word out about this up and coming winery.

Finally inside the tasting room,  I explained my difficulty in locating the winery.  I was smilingly informed by  Scott Stinson, owner/renovator/architect,  that if I had  just asked for him they would have directed me there. Well! If that’s not country living with lifelong locals! Ask them for directions and the ironic typical  response is, “You remember where the old Gentry place used to be…”!  If you knew all that you wouldn’t be asking for directions!  Sorry,  I digress…

The Vineyard

Stinson Vineyards, as described on their website,  is now on its way to becoming an environmentally sustainable, family run micro-vineyard. Piedmont House, the main house is  in White Hall, Virginia, a tiny country town with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Built in 1796, it was expanded to the current square footage in the 1840s.  Apparently,  rumor circulated  that General “Stonewall” Jackson occupied the home  during his Valley Campaign of 1862.  The Stinsons purchased  adjoining acreage to start their new five acre vineyard for a grand total of twelve acres. The original,  mostly Cabernet Sauvignon vines from the 1970’s on the property were sadly neglected  and have been  undergoing restoration, hence the need for newer healthier vines.  The Stinson’s plan to open the winery to the public June 16th and celebrate their grand opening on the 4th of July of this year.  Stinson,  Mountfair, White Hall, Glass House and soon to be winery, Moss  will combine to create The Appellation Trail, the newest  wine trail in the northwestern sector of Albemarle County.

The Class

This was my first class through PVCC towards a certificate in oenolgy and viticulture and was it ever fun! Several  class members hailed from Northern Virginia and a few are in the process of opening their own wineries with vineyards already in production. Dennis Vrooman, a veterinarian in Virginia Beach,  Christine Wells Vrooman and their son have a vineyard in Amherst, named Ankida Ridge Vineyard,  with their own winery soon to open!

M. Finot discussing our amateur wine blending efforts

Matthieu Finot, winemaker for King Family, led our class. He is serious about his vocation but had a good sense of humor in dealing with some of us not  as experienced oenophiles!  Many of the students were  already acquainted from previous classes and quite knowledgeable about wines which  created a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.

 

Rachel Stinson, Director of Operations, helped facilitate our class. She also happens to be Scott Stinson’s  daughter. He defers to her readily and has the utmost confidence in her abilities.

Rachel Stinson tasting Chardonnay prior to blending

She is an asset to the operation and an excellent ambassador for the family venture. Rachel is working alongside Matthieu learning about the entire wine making process.  She is also tech savvy and I believe is responsible for their blog and social media.  We enjoyed having her and Nathan Vrooman on our wine blending team! Look for good things to come from one of the newest wineries in our state of Virginia! I look forward to watching their progress and tasting their future harvest!

Loudoun, DC’s Wine Country: Clusters of Divine Wine and Dine!

Bon Appetit from Loudoun County

 Charlottesville  UnCorked is taking a detour to the North! 

 I was recently  invited to a most elegant and delightful dining experience hosted by Visit Loudoun! I have been enticed to venture back to  Virginia’s horse country,  drive the Snickersville Turnpike and revisit the charming historic town of Middleburg.  Emerging as a weekend destination for tourists and Virginians, Loudon County,  trademarked as DC’s Wine Country, is only 25 miles from Washington, D.C. and actively promoting their culinary and historic assets. The wine trail in Loudoun is divided into five geographic “clusters” for scenic and strategic driving experiences to clusters of wineries and vineyards.

It was my good fortune to be included at a dinner at the historic Bolling Haxall House in downtown Richmond for an evening of fine dining paired with some of Loudoun’s  finest wines!   The focus of the event was to garnish interest in Loudoun County for weddings, conferences and tourism by highlighting some of their  award-winning cuisine and wines offered in the heart of  The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  

 I was greeted by Jeremy Harvey, VP of Destination Marketing, Visit Loudoun and Jacqueline Toppings, Director of Public and Industry Relations. They immediately made me feel welcome and introduced me around while delicious hand crafted hors d’oeuvres were circulated and Chrysalis WineryBoxwood Winery and Breaux Vineyards wines were served. Heavenly! Jennifer Ritter, Director of Sales invited me to dine at their table and the combination of personalities with her hostess skills transformed it into  the best table in the room!  The renowned French Chef  William Walden of the Goodstone Inn and Estate  was introduced and subsequently presented a fabulous meal of fresh,artistic, locally sourced cuisine.

Enter to Win  Follow Your Heart to Virginia Sweepstakes and a stay at the Goodstone Inn & Estate!

Really Enjoying the Fruits of Loudoun!

 Each course was described in detail by Chef Walden followed by a “Bon appetit!” and toast as the plates were served.  The menu’s first course was an ever so velvety braised leek, garden potato with sherry  vichyssoise served with petite homemade rolls;  it paired very well with the Chrysalis 2009 Viognier. The  Viognier  had  melon and cantaloupe  flavors,  and aged in neutral oak barrels for a creamy texture.  The winter greens salad of roasted beets, spiced pecans and champagne vinaigrette had been  delicately enhanced with edible flowers, a delicious work of art. The salad was so exquisite that it unfortunately overshadowed  the Chrysalis 2009  Albarino.  When I get a chance  I will have to try it again.

Gorgeous!
The third course actually elicited an “Oh my Gosh!” from more than one of us. How anything so small can have that much flavor was an accomplishment in itself.  Home grown raspberries from the Goodstone Estate were used in the Raspberry Sorbet with Chambord served in a chilled porcelain cup.
Raspberry Sorbet
The Domestic Rack of Lamb, an award winning specialty of Chef Walden followed and was absolutely mouth watering and beautifully plated. The Boxwood Winery 2008 Topiary, selected to accompany the main course  was not only perfect, but my favorite wine selection of the evening!  A garnet red  blend of Cabernet Franc with Merlot and Malbec grapes.
I would definitely buy this wine!
The fifth and final course was a  feathery light chocolate souffle served with an  individual pitcher of warm chocolate sauce. This confection  capped off a perfectly grand evening. I wish I had taken more photographs, but honestly, if you were served this meal, wouldn’t you just want to enjoy it?  Well, I certainly DID!
I think whether you live in Charlottesville, our own tourist destination, or other areas of Virginia,  Loudoun County has a wealth of wining, dining and historic spots worthy of a weekend getaway and more! As they say in Loudoun County, Take It In!
Thank You Loudoun County Tourism for a sample of what Loudoun has to offer!
I plan on another post about additional features and links if you are planning a trip to DC’s Wine Country, look for it in the future..