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Cabernet Franc Bracketology at Fabbioli

Date: Thu, May 10, 2012 Wine Tasting

In April I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a unique wine judging event held at Fabbioli Cellars. This was a judging of 2010 Cabernet Francs from across Virginia.

2010 was one of the best Virginia vintages in recent memory, even surpassing 2007. Given the prominence that Cabernet Franc plays within Virginia Wine, and that we were tasting 2010 vintage I was sure it was going to be a great event.

And it was, it was also a very interesting way to do a wine judging.

The judging was done bracket-style and was a mix of bloggers, professionals and lay people.

Our host, Jimmy, has a detailed write up here, here, here, and here.

The way it worked was that they broke us down into four groups, each group blind tasted a different set of wines, the winner from each of the groups advanced to the next round.

This means that not everyone tastes all of the wines, until it gets down to the final groups. I think this method helps remove some of the bias that can be inherent in a judging. For example, every one knows I am big an of Doug's Cabernet Franc, and it is one of the wines I can recognize blind - even amongst other Virginia Cabernet Francs. Since I wasn't in the group that initially tasted the 2010 Fabbioli Cabernet Franc my bias couldn't (subconsciously) inflate the score.

Each wine was judged on several different characteristics and the wines with the highest scores advanced to the next round.

In the end, the winner was the 2010 Jefferson Vineyards. You can see the progression in the chart above, provided by Chris at Beltway Bacchus.

Congratulations to Andy, at Jefferson Vineyards, and to the staff at Fabbioli Cellars for putting together a great judging and I look forward to future judgings like this.

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A Taste of TasteCamp 2012 at Breaux Vineyards

Date: Sun, May 6, 2012 Wine Tasting

TasteCamp was created in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, of The New York Cork Report. Its goal is to get journalists and bloggers together in a specific region to taste as much wine as possible, and speak to as many winemakers from that region over the course of a weekend. This weekend, TasteCamp 2012 was held in Northern Virginia, where I happen to live. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the majority of the events, but I was able to meet up with the group on Friday night for a wine dinner out at Breaux Vineyards that was catered by Tuscarora Mills Restaurant.
The group rode out to Breaux on a bus (yes, I was the last one on the bus, and if you ask Frank from DrinkWhatYouLike, I made us late!)and upon our arrival, the ever gracious host Jen Breaux greeted us with a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. After she greeted us, we had a chance to mingle on the patio and enjoy some delicious passed hors d'ouevres such as roasted pear an carmelized onion tartlets and seared scallop on lavosh with fennel salad and orange glaze. We also were able to taste 3 other wines as well. The ever popular 2010 Jen's Jambalaya, a great all around table white, the 2010 Viognier, and the 2002 Merlot Reserve.

After a while, we were directed to the barrel room where the tables were ready and waiting for our arrival. Our first course was a salad with local organic greens, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts and a balseto vinaigrette that was paired with the 2011 Breaux Rose. This is the first wine produced by the new winemaker, David Castano. It is a blend of nebbiolo, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. This rose is a bit drier than in years past, but was delicious!

The next course was Spiced Angus Beef Medallions with bacon fig sauce scented with chocolate, gorgonzola and risotto studded with currants and almonds. This was paired with the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc was done in all French Oak (mostly new) and went really well with the beef. The Cabernet Sauvignon I thought paired better with the risotto, but of the two, the Cabernet Franc was my favorite.

The third course was a variety of cheeses (morbier, valdeon blue, mahon, quince, and some hazelnut-onion marmalade) paired with the 2001, 2002, 2005 and a barrel sample of the 2007 Nebbiolos. I had recently attended the Nebbiolo Vertical at Breaux, so it was interesting to have them again, and note how even in that short time they had changed a bit. The 2007 Nebbiolo was much darker than the others, and definitely seems like it will be as good as the 2001 after it's been bottled for a while.

For dessert we were served a white chocolate-apricot cake with lychee sabayon. This was paired with the 2010 "Chere Marie" Vidal Blanc and the 2006 Soleil. Both great dessert wines, but my preference is the Chere Marie as it is not quite as sweet as the Soleil.
It was a fantastic evening of food, wine and meeting some other great bloggers that I normally only see online!! Thanks so much to Lenn Thompson for allowing me to join the party, even if it was just for an evening, and to Breaux and Tuscorora for putting together yet another Fantastic event! I can't wait to see what all the other bloggers have to say about the rest of the weekend! Cheers!

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2 New Releases at Doukenie

Date: Sun, Apr 29, 2012 Wine Tasting

Friday night I had the pleasure of being able to taste the two new releases from Doukenie. Winemaker Sabastian was on hand to discuss them, and answer questions.
The first wine we tried was Le Vin Rouge (2009). This was a light, but well balanced red that would be good for every day drinking. On the nose I got black currant and Plum, and upon tasting, I got a smooth berry taste that was well balanced. The wine is 64% Merlot and 36% Cabernet Franc with the grapes from Vino Volturno Vineyard.

The next bottle to be released was the Dionysus 2009(named after the Greek God of Wine). This was a rich, full bodied red that had a very smooth finish. On the nose I got tobacco and cherry, but when I tasted, I got the caramel and coffee on my palate. This is a 100% merlot all from "Block 1" at Doukenie. It was aged for 26 months in French Oak barrels from Cognac and Bordeaux. There were only 99 cases of this wine made, so if you want to get it, you should move quickly!

I asked Sebastian if there will be more vintages of the Dionysus because it came out so well, and he said yes, there is a 2010 vintage currently in barrels, but 2011 was too wet, so there was none made for that year. Hopefully 2012 will produce another vintage, because this was a fantastic Red.

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Virginia Attorney General Sues Scumbag Salahi Over Wine Tourism Scam

Date: Sat, Apr 28, 2012 Wine Tasting

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the Virginia Attorney General has filed suit against serial scumbag Tareq Salahi over his wine tourism scam:

Cuccinelli accuses Salahi and his companies of violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits the deception of consumers. He said in a statement that the lawsuit was filed based on complaints filed with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau and an investigation by his office.

Some customers reported their tours were cancelled the morning they were scheduled to begin due to a "vehicle malfunction," and that some never heard from the company again. Some complained they were not taken to the wineries they were promised or that the mode of transportation wasn't what was advertised. Others complained that refunds, even those promised in writing, were never delivered.

Cuccinelli said VirginiaWineTour.com's web site also displayed logos of several businesses as "official partners," including United Airlines, the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia and Facebook, but that he had reason to believe that many, if not all, were not partners.

In the lawsuit, Cuccinelli asks for civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation and requests that VirginiaWineTour.com be required to return money to those are deemed to have been defrauded.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, the Virginia Wine Tour website is still live, which means they can still rip people off. Please know, if you book a tour with "Virginia Wine Country Tours" you will be ripped off, they will steal your money, and it is not just me saying that, it is the Attorney General of Virginia.

If that is not good enough read what reviewers on Yelp have to say about Virginia Wine Country Tours and here is what reviewers on Trip Advisor had to say about Virginia Wine Country Tours.

Please stay away.

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Parker Releases 2011 Scores; Only One Red Rates 100 Points

Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2012 Wine Tasting

Robert Parker has released his 2011 scores and, as expected, the scores are significantly lower than in 2009 and 2010. He sums up the 2011 vintage thusly:

The bottom line is that it is hard to get emotionally pumped up over the 2011 vintage. To reiterate, the wines are better than expected. A lot of good winemaking has produced excellent wines throughout Bordeaux, but will they sell if prices do not drop significantly? I don’t think so, and neither do I have the answers, but let’s see how it plays out.

In 2009 he rated 20 wines 99 points or better, in 2010 he rated 12 wines 99 or better (though when he re-tastes I bet those numbers will go up). For 2011 only one wine was rated with the potential for 100 points: Château Ausone.

Here is what he had to say about the wine:
Not surprisingly, Alain Vauthier’s 2011 Ausone is one of the greatest wines he has produced. I know this sounds impossible, but it is the reason why I spend so much time tasting and reflecting on what is in front of me. The 2011 could turn out to be better than his 2009 – sacre bleu! Probably the wine of the vintage...

More on his ratings after I have a chance to review them.

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Château Lafon-Rochet Vertical at La Maison Française

Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 Wine Tasting

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of Château Lafon-Rochet. The wines that come from this estate continue to excite with the finesse and style. This is reflected in the positive reviews they receive, even in a difficult year like 2011.

Well, now everyone in the DC area has an opportunity to try the wine. Next Wednesday, May 2nd, at 7:00 PM La Maison Française will be hosting an incredible vertical featuring the following vintages:

  • Lafon-Rochet 2011 (magnum)

  • Lafon-Rochet 2005 (magnum)

  • Lafon-Rochet 2000

  • Lafon-Rochet 1995

  • Lafon-Rochet 1975 (magnum)

The best part is that the tasting will be led by Basile Tesseron. The tasting is $70 per person and includes charcuteries pairing by D’Artagnan. More information and tickets are available through the La Maison Française website.

This is truly a unique opportunity to try some great wines!

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Tarara Releases Boneyard Series

Date: Sun, Apr 22, 2012 Wine Tasting

A few weeks back Jordan Harris, winemaker at Tarara, invited the members of the wine club to a private tasting in Tarara's Great Room.

As always, Jodan did a great job of leading the tasting and did a nice job of showcasing current and older vintages of Tarara's wine.

He also introduced us to the new Boneyard series from Tarara. Boneyard is the name of the area within the vineyard where out of service, but cherished, vineyard equipment is put out to pasture (and not an attempt to cash in on the pirate craze).

The first releases are the 2011 Boneyard White and 2010 Boneyard Red, both priced at $15.

We got a chance to sample the Boneyard White before it was bottled at the Chili Cook-Off and I was impressed. The 2010 vintage is a blend of 42% Chardonnay, 28% Viognier, 19% Petit Manseng and 11% Pinot Gris. As you would expect the wine has a lot of citrus notes and great acidity creating a refreshing, but not effervescent wine. This wine easily serves double duty as a deck wine, to enjoy by itself, or as a companion to a wide array of foods from spicy Thai to oysters and even BBQ chicken.

The 2010 Boneyard Red was almost an afterthought. As they were preparing the Boneyard White, Jordan insisted they have a Boneyard Red to pair with it. The 2010 Boneyard Red is a blend of 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot, 21% Merlot, 11% Tannat, 11% Cabernet Franc and 5% Pinotage and is unquestionably the best value in Virginia Wine. 2010 was a powerful year for reds, in fact I would argue it is the best in modern Virginia viticulture. The 2010 Boneyard Red is a complex wine, with great black fruit notes followed by powerful tannins and a long, lingering finish.

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The 2012 Rosé-Off

Date: Fri, Apr 20, 2012 Wine Tasting

The unseasonably warm winter has given way to an early summer and that means wineries are releasing their rosés. We hosted a rosè-off with wines from several Loudoun County wineries: Breaux Vineyards, Boxwood Winery, Fabbioli Cellars, and Hiddencroft Vineyards.

The contenders:
Breaux Vineyards: a perennial favorite, this is the first wine made by the new winemaker at Breaux and it really reflects his style. Where previous Breaux rosés had a sweetness to them, this is a dry rosé. This dryness is a reflection of the vintage as well as David's style. The blend is also new, previous vintages were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon based, but the 2011 vintage is a blend of 53% Nebbiolo, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 13% Chambourcin. The wine had aromas of strawberry and cranberry with some spiciness. In the mouth the wine was bright with nice acidity and good red fruits that lead to a medium finish.

Fabbioli Cellars: We got this wine a week before its official release. This is the third year that Fabbioli has produced a 100% Sangiovese Rosé and the production of this wine is meticulously monitored by assistant winemaker (and CellarBlog favorite) Melanie. The wine is 100% steel-aged, which is reflected in the crispness of the wine. The wine is refreshing without being sweet. I got aromas of of strawberry and peaches, which carried over to the mouth. The wine had flavors of cherry with a surprising hint of cinnamon and soft tannins which lead to a smooth finish.

Boxwood Winery: The most complex of the wines, 2011 Boxwood is a blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and it is done in a Provencial style. The nose is particularly interesting on this wine with apricot, stawberry, and herbal aromas. The fruit in the mouth gives way to elegant tannins that provide structure without taking away from the fruit and acidity and lead to a nice long finish.

Hiddencroft Vineyards: Slated to be released in the next few weeks, this is the first rosé from Hiddencroft and it is 100% Chambourcin. Of the four wines, this wine had the sweetest feel, though it was by no means a sweet wine. There was red fruit on the nose and strawberry and cherry flavors in the mouth with a soft finish, a very good deck wine.

So, which one was the favorite? If you were part of the tasting panel, leave a comment with your favorites. Based on the comments and votes at the tasting, while all the wines were excellent (not surprising since they were selected based on their track record), the Breaux Rosé was the winner that night!

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Château Latour Halts En Primeurs

Date: Tue, Apr 17, 2012 Wine Tasting

I was traveling yesterday and didn't see the news until Late in the day and my Twitter stream had gone nuts. Château Latour announced they will no longer participate in En Promeurs. The always brilliant Jane Anson covered it best:

Instead, director Frederic Engerer says, the first wine, Chateau Latour, and the second wine Les Forts de Latour, will be sold – through negociants – when they believe they are becoming ready to drink.

Their last en primeur campaign will be with the 2011 vintage.

Engerer’s motivation, according to negociants who received the letter, is partly a response to the increasing desire of consumers for ready-to-drink wines that have been stored in optimal conditions, and partly to be able to offer vintages to the market over a longer period of time.

I stopped counting at 400 Tweets on this story, but the commentary is interesting, here are some sample Tweets:
@WineKFR Good news for wine buyers as Chateau Latour exits decades-old 'en primeur' system

@Vinalytics @DittonWineTrade @BvdV Re Latour killing off speculation. Using Lafite's China import figures what will be the effect on price based....

@bkwineper Biggest joke of the day? "From 2012 Latour will sell the wines when we think them ready to drink" (Latour chief) bit.ly/IW4ltC

@TheSpitter Latour breaks ranks, Lafite cuts its price in half. Has Bordeaux gone mad. ow.ly/akkiL

There seems to be two, almost diametrically opposed, views on this move: It will either be good for consumers or will raise Latour's already high prices even more.

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Bud Break in DC's Wine Country

Date: Sun, Apr 8, 2012 Wine Tasting

As promised, we took advantage of the fact that bud break is well underway in Loudoun County. Here are some images from Fabbioli Cellars:

And from Casanel Vineyards:

Finally, Breaux Vineyards:

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Fighting Frost at Fabbioli Cellars

Date: Tue, Apr 3, 2012 Wine Tasting

There was another frost warning for wineries in Northern and Central Virginia last night. Doug Fabbioli, of Fabbioli Cellars, posted that he was going to start anti-frost measures around 3:00AM. Foolishly, I asked if I could join him and he agreed.

When I got into the car at 2:45AM it was 36 degrees Fahrenheit, at the upper end of frost worries, but by the time I got out to the vineyard it was 32 degrees.

The first thing I noticed was the tarps covering the deer fence, protecting the vineyard from the wind. I stepped out of the car and immediately felt the crunch of frozen grass under my foot and heard the whirring of the anti-frost machine echoing throughout the vineyard.

The machine itself is an inverted funnel lifted about feet off the ground and situated in the middle of an open part of the vineyard. The machine is basically a large fan that sucks the cold air from the ground and allows it to circulate preventing it from settling on the vines.

Many thanks to Doug for giving me the opportunity to watch this process in action.

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More Frost Warnings for Virginia Wineries

Date: Mon, Apr 2, 2012 Wine Tasting

The National Weather Service has issued a Frost Warning for Northern and Central Virginia:







Good luck to all the Virginia Wineries, hopefully this will be another minor incident.

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Missing En Primeurs

Date: Sun, Apr 1, 2012 Wine Tasting

Unfortunately, I have developed a nasty cold and will not be able to attend En Primeurs. I was able to move my flight to May and I will be in Bordeaux during the week of the Weekend des Grand Crus, an event I have always wanted to attend.

Hopefully, I will get a chance to sample the 2011 then. In the meantime, I will keep you all up to date.

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Château Palmer Rolls Out New Music Site

Date: Wed, Mar 28, 2012 Wine Tasting

Château Palmer is well-known for the wonderful concerts they host and their unique program of inviting world-renown Jazz artists to compose music to pair with each vintage (separate music for their first and second wines).

They have now compiled their concerts from the last few years and placed information about them on a new website called Hear Palmer. Like their wine, the website is elegant and layered. It provides links to the concerts they have hosted over the last few years, and gives the listener the opportunity to listen to music specifically composed for certain vintages of Château Palmer.

The site is great, as is the music.

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