May 29th is officially #varosé day! A celebration of the wonderful rosé wines that wineries across Virginia make and a day to appreciate this often maligned wine.
Rosé has an image problem in America. It is too often associated with White Zinfandel and other sweet blushes that have no character, substance or depth. But true rosé is not like that, even a sweet rosé can have a complexity to it if it is made correctly. And there are a lot of well-made rosé ones in Virginia, we will be highlighting one of them here over the next few weeks.
The great news is that he Virginia Wine Board is going to work with us and Drink What You Like, Virginia Wine Time, Wine About Virginia and (hopefully, now that they are blogging again) the awesome Swirl, Sip, Snark to make this day a huge success and put Virginia Rosé on the map. Several wineries have also expressed interest in participating.
If you tweet or blog and want to be involved let me know and use the hashtag #varosé to tell everyone how much you love Virginia Rosé.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Wine and Cheese Pairing class at The Piedmont Epicurean Arts Center (PEAC) in Leesburg, VA. The center is a fairly new venture organized by Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars, Lucinda Smith of A Perfect Pour and James F. Koennicke of Fabbioli Cellars. The PEAC offers classes for both industry professionals as well as enthusiasts of the epicurean arts including wine, food, agriculture and the businesses associated with them.
Our class was taught by James Koennicke, who is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and certified by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) holding their Advanced Certificate with Distinction (AC).
We started off the class by talking about the 5 different things that humans can taste:
Of course most of us were able to guess the first 4 on the list....but didn't know much about Umami. We were told that it was discovered in 1906 in Japan, and that the word Umami translates roughly to 'pleasant savory taste'. Umami balances and enhances flavor.
The wines we had in front of us for tasting this evening were:
Smoking Moon unoaked Chardonnay
Toasted Head oaked Chardonnay
2011 Fabbioli unoaked Chambourcin
2010 Fabbioli Cabernet Franc Reserve (17 months in Oak)
Fabbioli Pear Wine
The cheeses on our plate were:
Brie - sweet dominant
Goats milk Chevre - Acidic, more sour dominant
Cheddar (young) - Balanced, salt/sweet, Umami - Easiest to pair
Roquefort - Salty/Umami
While bud break may be a few weeks out, vineyards in Virginia are starting to see weeping vines. Weeping vines occur when it starts to warm up and the sap flows from the roots through the pruned canes. It only occurs for a few days a year and is easy to miss if you aren't watching out for it.
Fortunately, it was on full display today at Breaux Vineyards.
|March Max Temp||78° F||80° F||82° F||64° F|
|March Mean Temp||62° F||64° F||66° F||50° F|
|April Max Temp||95° F||89° F||87° F||64° F|
|April Mean Temp||78° F||78° F||70° F||50° F|
If it has seemed colder than usual to you in Virginia this year, you are correct. According to Weather Underground March of 2013 had a mean temperature 16° cooler than last year, and so far in April we are 20° cooler than last year (more details in chart above).
This time last year we were in full bud break, best estimate is that bud break is at least two weeks away last year. The question is what impact will this late start have on the growing season.
According to Ben Renshaw at 8 Chains North it is too early to know:
Yes, it is too early to know the impact on the vintage as a whole, so far I am just fine with a later bud-break. The last 3 vintages have all shown early bud break and that makes for early frost damage problems...which it did all three years. Moreover, while we had very early budbreak last year (first was march 19!) it did not mean an early harvest, we still carried the big reds into the end of October...and the vines were TIRED!
Incidently, after being in all my vineyards this week, I dont see budbreak coming in the next 2 weeks, maybe even month! Although the warm air arrives within a few days, so you never know.
I am actually comfortable with this cold weather. The buds of our vines are still dormant and waiting for the warmer weather. The later arrival of spring is actually good for the crop. Damage occurs to grapevines when the buds have opened and we get a hard frost.
Last year we ran our frost protection system 6 times to protect our vineyard during these exposed frost incidents. We had a very early spring but some late frost arrived to cause problems Many vineyards had low yields in their Cabernet Franc crop. I am convinced that these frost incidents caused undetected damage to these vineyards. We did quite well with our yields as we had frost protection.
Next year I hope you touch base to ask me if I am bored because the
spring seems so uneventful and that it looks like everything is going
I am now at the point of being concerned with the cold spring. We are
still several weeks out on the start of bud-break is my guess which
could take the first buds until close to the start of May. That does
not bode well for the later budding and especially those that are later
ripening. We still have to assume that we will have a frost event
sometime around October 15-20 since it is the norm. By having this late
of a start it could create some difficulty ripening Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. I think for it to be possible we will
need to have a combinations of low yields and a hot summer to excelerate
everything. That said, the hot short growing season will help with
ripening sugars, acid and to an extent flavor, but the tannins could
still be very rough because of having a short growing season.
No on the reverse side it could heavily benefit varieties like Merlot,
Chardonnay, Tannat, and especially Viognier. It could also help Syrah
if we have a warmer than usual summer. All of these varieties are more
mid season ripeners that we shouldn't have a problem getting fully
mature assuming no horrible rainy harvest :). The cool thing here is
that they could finish ripening a little later so they will benefit from
some cooler nights and therefore preserve a little more acidity as the
flavors, tannins and sugars ripen. We could end up with very balanced
but ripe mid season ripeners. Given a lot of people questioning
Viognier as a State grape right now it would do us some good to have a
vintage that it shines far more then anything else.
So, yes, while it is still too early to tell what the vintage will be
like, we always have to use all the information we have. With this cold
spring and extremely late bud-break I think it would be wise to thin the
yield pretty heavily to have a better chance of ripening across the
I am guessing you will post the blog on Sunday when it is 75 and sunny
so everyone will forget how cold it has been :). I know last year I
found it funny when someone interviewed me about the drought conditions
and then it was on TV during a complete rain out day. Next year we
should talk about all the potential struggles early so that they don't
Once we start warming up, lets hope we stay there. Frost is never welcomed once the vines come out of their dormant state. Think of the vines as a baby that is taking an extra long nap. The vines are sleeping too. While the babies sleep, we're getting as much done in the background to prepare for their awakening as possible.
We could indeed have a later harvest in '13 since we're about 5-10 days later than normal but it's anybody's guess and really too early to tell. Last year we were at least 3 week early so this year is no comparison.
There's several months of weather ahead to consider and in the spirit of VA winemaking, we take what Mother Nature gives us and roll with the punches. All in all, there will be green and grape on the horizons! Have no fear!
Long time readers know I am a big fan of wine writer Jane Anson, her writing style is engaging and her she has a deep knowledge of Bordeaux.
That is on full display in her new book Bordeaux Legends, which is now available in the United States.
Bordeaux Legends chronicles the 500+ year history of the 5 first growth Chateaux in Bordeaux. This is not a dry recitation of the history of these great properties, instead it is an engaging recount that shows how the history of these estates is intertwined. There are great stories that only someone with the kind of access that Jane has would be able to uncover and share.
The great writing is only one aspect of the book, Jane has paired with Isabelle Rozenbaum to provide the stunning photography included in the book. The book is filled with beautiful images that showcase the beauty of the estates as well as the wine itself. Again, these are images of parts of the chateaux that most people will never see.
This is a riveting and beautiful book and we are giving a reader a chance to see for him or herself. We are giving away a brand new copy of the book to one lucky reader of this blog.
Simply email me at email@example.com with the answer to the trivia question below and we will select one lucky winner. Entries must be received before Monday, April 8th at midnight EDT and the winner must live in the continental United States.
The question is: There are 6 red varietals that can be used in Bordeaux wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and _______?
Remember, send your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on Monday April 8th and you could win!
For the last few years Château Brane-Cantenac has thrown one of the coolest and unique En Primeur parties. They choose a photographer, commission that photographer to take pictures showcasing their take on the estate, and unveil the images with a big party one evening during En Primeur.
They call this series 'Brane seen through the eyes and lens of..." This year, the featured photographer is François Poincet and the party is being held the evening of April 10th.
The team at Brane was nice enough to share some sample images, but, based on previous years, these don't do the work real justice. I highly recommend checking them out in person.
More details are available in their press release below.
This year, for our series ‘Brane seen through the eye and lens of…’, Henri Lurton has invited the photographer François Poincet, winner of the Terroir d’Images Contest in 2011 and well-known in the wine industry for his photographic contributions to the Wine Spectator, Decanter or Vigneron magazines. Particularly pleased to be solicited for this project, François agreed to give HIS own vision of Brane-Cantenac, an original vision indeed, since he chose to pay homage to all those men and women who are usually invisible while contributing daily to the production of a great wine. “I really wanted to do something different, less conventional and out of the beaten track without the earnestness of the wine and vine world” François told us.
“And I really enjoyed very much taking these pictures because I had to push the people to their limits and extract the positive aspect of their personality. I aimed at looking at the work in the vine or in the vat room from an opposite angle, with humor, letting the people express themselves fully, while bringing out the love they have for their jobs. In the beginning, they were a bit bashful, but with the help of the ‘word of mouth’, it caught on and they participated naturally investing themselves into the project with lots of enthusiasm. On the third day, I was able to capture the best moments because I did not take myself seriously either and everyone involved let go, playing with the lens freely. The introverts remained introverted, the extroverts extroverted and it shows on each snapshot, however I managed to have them ‘drop their masks’ pushing the shyest ones around so that they finally expressed themselves. As a result, those photo sessions became like a real break for everyone.
I adhered to this project with great pleasure because for the last 3 years Brane has honored our work Before me, two excellent photographers had been selected, Patrick Durand and Eric Boissenot. I had to do something different! The château and its staff appealed to me for their friendliness and most importantly, the managing team supported me 100% in this endeavor, giving me carte blanche on the one hand, and all the means to shoot in optimum conditions. Everyone was involved and as a result, the enthusiasm spread around. I felt a sense of belonging to the staff, which by the way is yet to see the pictures. My greatest pleasure was the selection process, more so than the shooting itself, because I was under a lot of stress during the sessions. This experience for me was a very beautiful human adventure”.
The pictures of François Poincet will be on display at Château Brane-Cantenac from April 10 2013 through April 1 2014. Drawing their inspiration from Richard Avedon’s black and white portraits, with lots of light, and by having deliberately chosen to be strikingly different, they are totally opposed to the stiff, carefully studied Harcourt’s portraits. With a lot of humor, François Poincet brings out a side of Brane’s daily life that is rarely revealed where wine and vine give way to the men and women of the winery.
For the second year in a row we are working with several Virginia Wineries to raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis. This year we will be hosting a wine and cheese tasting. The event is May 5th from1:00 to 3:00 and is being held at the Syrah Restaurant at the Reston Sheraton.
Tickets are $15. The ticket entitles you to a tasting of two wines each from 7 (and counting) wineries plus a sampling of different types of cheese. All money from ticket sales and auction items will benefit the DC Chapter of the National MS Society
In addition there will be a silent auction, with great items donated by local merchants.
Participating wineries include:
8 Chains North
This is a great event and last year we raised over $7000 to fight MS, this year we are hoping for even more success!
Link for pre-registering will be available soon, but you can buy tickets at the door!
Stephen and Shannon Mackey from Notaviva Vineyards have been known for some great events, from their music and wine pairings to their comedy nights, and Friday nights Murdery Mystery Wine Dinner was no exception. Held at their new wine bar Concertino, located in Berryville, VA we were provided with an evening of good food, great wine, and lots of interactive fun and laughter trying to figure out who killed 'Elizabeth'. Was it her brother, who had been borrowing money from her and recently been cut off? Was it the guy whose romantic advances she had rebuffed? Or could it possibly have been a fellow actor, who was jealous of her success? With the great actors from StageCoach Theatre interacting around the room, and many of the diners participating in minor roles, there certainly was many opportunities for ad libbing and lots of jokes.
There are certain rules most people follow when it comes to shipping wine: Pack it well, only ship during certain temperature ranges, and watch for bottle shock. That last rule has alway been the hardest for me to follow, especially when it is a wine that I am really excited about.
That was the dilemma I faced a couple of weeks ago. I received my shipment of Opalie de Château Coutet on a Friday, separately I had planned a Herbes de Provence roasted chicken for dinner on Saturday. 24 hours is not enough time for bottle shock to wear off, but it seemed like a perfect pairing so I went with it. I am happy to report that it was definitely the right move!
Opalie is a new wine from Château Coutet and a new style of wine from the Barsac region. Rather than the botrytis-influenced sweeter wines that normally originate from Barsac this is a dry white wine. Opalie is a 50/50 blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc from vines specifically chosen for this wine and aged in French Oak.
The wine has wonderful citrus, vanilla and herbal aromas which lead to a balance elegant, fresh and mineral flavors. This is not a lightweight wine though. The oak aging gives the wine body, but it manages keep its freshness through the lingering finish.
I am not the only one excited about this wine, Peter Zavialoff at the Wine House San Francisco declared it the wine of Valentine's Day 2013 and had this to say:
It is special wine. It is such a special wine that I'm going to go out on a limb and declare it 2013's Valentine's Day wine! I've heard from more than one party that it will indeed be included in this year's Valentine's Day celebrations. It's that special. Now that it's here, you can see what all the fuss is about. Now that it's here, you can partake in the Valentine's Day festivities with a bottle yourselves. It's here now, but not for long if recent sales are any indication.
From the moment it was announced I have been fascinated by A Year in Burgundy. The idea of a movie that follows the for seasons of wine in one of the most complex wine regions in the world has a lot of potential, and this movie lived up to that potential.
What better way to watch the movie than with friends and a lot of Burgundy. So, we invited the wine club and told everyone to bring a bottle of their favorite Burgundy ( red or white ).
Surprisingly, given that we didn't put any restrictions on what people could bring, we only got one duplicate. The duplicate was the LaForêt, and while it was the same wine we managed to score two different vintages.
Back to the film. A Year in Burgundy followers importer Martine Saunier during the challenging 2011 vintage as she visits various estates and talks to the winemakers. The film dos a great job of showcasing different estates and highlighting their winemaking styles and different approach to the vines.
The film really brings the winemaking process to life, even its mundane aspects, such as racking. It manages to delves into winemaking techniques without getting bogged down to the point that it loses the focus on story telling.
However, the best part of the film is, hands down, the cinematography. The images the fly across the screen are stunning and the film really brings out the beauty in, around and under Burgundy.
It didn't hurt that we had a great selection of Burgundies to pair with the movie. It is surprisingly easy to find a good Burgundy at your local wine shop for under $30 and we had a range of estates represented during the tasting.
The hit of the afternoon was the 2006 Clos des Lambrays that Sebastien Marquet shared with us. It was an absolutely beautiful, complex wine. The wine blended aromas of red fruit and Indian spices on the nose and had a burst of fruit on the tongue that gave way to soft, structured tannins and a long finish. A rare and wonderful treat.
There has been a lot of interest in Lost Creek Winery since new owners Aimee and Todd Henkle took over last year and we got to see a preview of what is to come at the launch party on Saturday.
Aimee and Todd have been working with Sébastien Marquet, the winemaker at Doukenie Winery and owner of Burgundy Style. The result is two new wines: a 2012 Vidal Blanc and the 2011 Genesis. Both wines are excellent, and a welcome departure from the older wines from Lost Creek.
I've always admired the terroir at Lost Creek. With lots of sunlight, gently sloping hills and a close proximity to the Potomac River the winery seems well-suited to produce good wines and the two new wines live up to the potential of the land.
The Vidal Blanc is 100% Vidal and has a beautiful golden color with aromas of honeysuckle and mango. The stainless steel aged wine has lots of fruit on the Niue and a nice acidity that gives it a refreshing feel. It is a light wine that will pair well with fish, poultry, light cheeses or just a summer evening on the deck.
The 2011 Genesis is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Given how tough the 2011 vintage was, this is a very successful wine that blends the characteristics of each varietal and allows them to shine. The wine has black pepper, currant and black cherry aromas. It has an earthy feel to it and is surprisingly smooth but balanced with firm tannins. An excellent wine to drink now or age for a few years.
Given the initial releases I cannot wait to see what is in store for Lost Creek.
February and March are usually quiet time in a winery. The wine from the previous year's harvest is aging and winemakers existence is primarily about caring and feeding last year's vintage. That makes this time of the year the perfect time for award ceremonies. The two big ones in Virginia are the Governor's Cup and the Virginia Vineyards Association Grower of the Year.
The first award, The Virginia Vineyards Association Grower of the Year went to Len Thompson of Amherst Vineyards. Len has been growing vines in Virginia since 1989 and has won many accolades for the wines produced from his grapes. From the announcement:
"Len Thompson is one of the unheralded heroes behind the success of the Virginia Vineyards Association. For as long as I can remember he has donated freely of his time to support the association and the wine industry. He helps other growers and aspiring growers while producing grapes that have been utilized in wines that have won awards in international competitions," said J. Rock Stephens, chairman, Virginia Wine Board.
An independent grower, Thompson has been an extremely active member of the VVA for over a decade. He has served in many capacities at the VVA, including two terms as vice president, two terms as treasurer, one term as secretary and a term as communications chair. Retiredfrom the VVA board, Thompson, who is also an employee of Rockbridge Vineyards,continues to serve the wine industry as aboard member of the Virginia WineriesAssociation - he is currently serving as vice president.
Speaking at the Governor’s Cup awards, Governor McDonnell said, “I congratulate Luca Paschina, the Zonin family, and the entire Barboursville team for winning this year’s Governor’s Cup for their 2009 Octagon, one of Virginia’s most iconic red wines. Luca’s Octagon wines are personal favorites of mine, and I know this award winning 12th Edition will make the Virginia wine industry proud now and in the years to come. I also commend the winemakers of the other distinguished wines that comprise this year’s Governor’s Cup Case. I am confident that wine aficionados and enthusiasts alike will take notice of Octagon and the other impressive offerings in this case. The advancements in Virginia winemaking are on display in every bottle we have here tonight and the stringent requirements of the Governor’s Cup competition ensure that Virginia wines receiving medals have been through the most demanding evaluation process."
Barboursville’s award-winning Octagon is a Meritage-style blend of the winery’s best Bordeaux varietals. The wine is made only in top vintage years. The 2009 vintage is comprised of 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s tasting notes are as follows: It has a deep garnet color, with aromas of chocolate, red berries, cranberries, gaining further depth with tar, spice and a touch of forest floor. Dry yet somewhat fruity, medium to full body with a long finish of tannins. A wonderfully structured old world style red blend.
Parker has devoted extensive personal time as an active proponent of the growth and vitality of the Virginia wine industry. He has addressed legislative issues, such as direct shipping; and provided leadership on many levels, serving as a past president and treasurer of the Virginia Wineries Association, a member of the Virginia Winegrowers Advisory Board, and founding member of the Loudoun Wineries Association. He has served Virginia’s interest at the national level as a member of the Executive Committee and Treasurer of Wine America.
I am a big fan of the innovative marketing campaigns that Planet Bordeaux has put together, but their mot recent one has been my favorite, and it is coming to a close today.
The campaign is called "My Bordeaux Wine is..." and it consists of videos submitted by winemakers in Bordeaux talking about what makes their wine special. More than 20 videos have been submitted and they have garnered thousands of votes.
You can view and vote for the videos on the Planet Bordeaux Facebook Page. But, remember, voting ends today, so vote quickly!
Some quick thoughts on the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Washington DC last night: