WBW #61 At the Source

Oh yes folks, it’s that time of the month again: Wine Blogging Wednesday! I’m trying my best to participate in as many this year as I can, I’ve done a fairly decent job since I started the blog, though some months just get away from me or I can’t find a suitable bottle for the topic.  This month, our fearless leader Lenn has taken back the reins for the 61st edition of WBW. Ever the champion of local wines from the New York area, he has set us to the task titled “At the Source.” By this, he asked us to go taste wine at a vineyard local to us and write about the experience.  I almost didn’t think I could make this happen.  While the vineyards aren’t TOO far from  my house in VA, it’s still a 45 minute -1 hour drive each way to the closest ones depending on traffic. And yes Virginia, your traffic is still miserable on the weekends.  So I really have to plan to be able to get out there..plus, I have to cajole the husband into going, and he seems to think that the several trips I/we take to CA each year should satisfy my vineyard visiting desire…silly man.

Fate intervened and the heavens smiled down and I had the happy circumstance of connecting with Rappahanock Cellars on Twitter (though I had visited in the past), my brother in law(BIL) and sister in law (SIL) visiting, and a husband who didn’t mind driving us that day. Rappahannock is about an hour and half from where we live, so a bit of a hike. But all in the name of wine and WBW, right? Turns out, the voice behind Rappahannock Cellars on Twitter is actually Allan Delmare, one of the 13 12(yes, 13 12) children of the Delmare family, the owners of Rappahannock Cellars.  We arrived promptly at 11:30am on Sunday morning, found Allan and were whisked down to the cellar. Very exciting and different for my BIL/SIL who had never been in a winery cellar before nor had a winery tour! Allan had set up a table in the cellars with 3 glasses each, water bottles, and what looked like a case or more of wine.

While we tasted through the wines, I peppered Allan with questions (poor guy) and he did a fabulous job of explaining the operation especially to my BIL/SIL who weren’t so familiar with winemaking and cellaring and all the goes into the production of wine.  The Delmare family hails from Santa Cruz where they owned a vineyard before moving to VA in 1998 and purchasing the property in Rappahannock County.  They built the vineyard from the ground up and released the first vintage in 2000 with purchased fruit. I learned that about80% of the fruit Rappahannock uses comes from either Estate vineyards or vineyards they leased, planted, and manage from other folks.  They have 30 acres of vineyards and produce between 6,000-8,000 cases of wine a year.

Now, the wines. Overall, Rappahannock Cellars is producing an extremely solid line up of wines. They seem to have really figured out what works in VA and what isn’t so hot. Our climate here is a little tough on most vinifera grapes, though folks persistently grow them, with mixed results overall. Rappahannock seems to even have that down, refusing to produce a wine when the fruit isn’t perfect. For example, the 2007 vintage is the first Cabernet Sauvignon they have produced since 2000! (I know, you’re thinking, Cab Sauv from VA? But I promise, it was actually a very good effort.)

2008 Seyval Blanc: $17. Orange blossom, orange, lemon, citrus, crisp, dry, light, refreshing. A great picnic wine.  VA does really well with hybrid white grapes.

2008 Viognier: $22. Floral, apricots, honeysuckle, crisp, citurs, orange, grassy. I’m extremely pleased to see so many VA wineries getting serious about Viognier. They produce some fantastic examples of the grape…I’d say it should be the flagship wine from VA, though I know everyone seems to think that’s Cabernet Franc. We purchased two, and the BIL/SIL bought a chilled one for us to drink over lunch.

2007 Chardonnay: $22. Grass, pear, apple, flowers, butter, creamy on the finish, mid palate shows crisp apple.

2007 Headwaters Vidal Blanc: $16.50. Sweet on the nose, honey, candied orange, lemon, a little sweet. This has a touch of residual sugar, but isn’t overwhelming n any way.

2008 Noblesse Viognier: Another wine with some residual sugar. Candied sugar, apricot, candied honey, honeysuckle.

2007 Claret: $20. Raspberry, spice, pepper, strawberry jam, very light, red fruit.

2007 Cabernet Franc: $24. Raspberry, pepper, oak, cedar, roses, tight, raspberry, tannins, spice, peppery. We bought 1 bottle.

2006 Meritage: $29. Pepper, smoky, dusty, blackberry, black cherry, juicy, spice. BIL/SIL purchased one of these.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Honestly surprised by this one. I didn’t expect much, but really, well done.  Vanilla, cream, smoke, spice, mulberry, juicy, raspberry, nice acidity and structure. Certainly not a monster Cab Sauv, a totally different style.

2008 Chapellet Charlemagne Chardonnay: Pineapple, tropical notes, pears, orange, orange zest, lemon. I liked this best of the two Chards, this one was done all in stainless steel.

2007 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon: From what I understand, a family member owns a vineyard out in Mendocino and sends fruit back East for this wine. It’s 97% Cab Sauv, 3% VA Cab Franc. Spice, pepper, blackberry, cedar, spice, big nose, herbs, red fruit, tannins to spare.

2008 Norton: Chocolate, spice, mint, juicy, tannic, big fruit.

2008 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc: $18.50 375 mL. Pear, pineapple, apricot, honey, peach, pineapple, tropical fruit.

2007 Port Style Wine: $39. Raisin, sweet, chocolate, blackberry, Welches grape juice. You’d have to taste this to believe it. We bought a bottle for my dad.

Solera: $32 375mL. Quite possible the oddest wine I have ever tasted. This is made by placing barrels of wine on the roof of the building and letting them bake in the summer sun. Then all the barrels are mixed together and one full barrel is pulled out to be put into next year’s wine…that way there’s always a continuation of vintages. Toffee, maple, nutty, almonds, caramel, pecan pie, peanuts. Goodness, not my thing at all, I hate nuts, but it sure lingered in your mouth and nose.

After we finished up our tasting, Allan toured us around the facility where we saw barrels, lots of cases of wine, a destemmer, and lots of other fun wine related things.  We made our way up to the tasting room to make some purchases and headed outside to one of the many tables to enjoy the picnic lunch we packed. While Rappahannock sells cheeses and crackers in their tasting room, they also let you bring your own lunch to enjoy outside.  The weather was perfect, and we lounged outside enjoying the chilled bottle of Viognier and our picnic lunch. The vineyard cat even joined us and politely waited until I’d finished my rib before jumping onto the table, grabbing the entire bone and running off with it. Never seen that before!

Brazen kitty.

Brazen kitty.

All in all, a great day. Thanks to Lenn for kicking my butt back out to the VA vineyards. If Rappahannock is any indication, things have come a long way since I last visited VA wine country about 2 years ago. I’ll have to get out some more this fall to see what everyone else has going on!

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9 Responses

  1. It sounds like you had a great experience. I’ve really enjoyed Rappahannock when I’ve been there, but the average tasting experience is quite different from your as you only taste a subset of their wines (a few white, a few red, and one or two sweet wines) that they rotate out from time to time. I knew they made a wine variety of wines, but I’d never really seen them laid out so clearly.

  2. I’ve heard a lot of good things about VA wine! We’ve never been (yet), but it’s a hobby of ours to visit wineries from different states. If we can’t do that, then we try to get our friends to pick up a bottle or 2 on their visits. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone going to VA anytime soon…

    We have Seyval Blanc, Norton, & Vidal Blanc here in MO.

    Soleras are really interesting, but I’ve only had them from Spain. I’m a fan.

  3. Oh, one more thing. We adore a good Cab Franc, so I’ll have to remember that when we finally get to VA!

  4. I wonder if that “grassy” descriptor is indicative of (south)east coast wines…I got it a lot in the Georgia wines, particularly the Chardonnay and Viognier. I described it as “herbal”, but I think “grassy” is more accurate. Not bad, just different.

  5. Great blog and pictures!

    Thanks again for coming out – it was a real treat to have you. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip. It certainly does take a lot of work to get the word out about Virginia Wines and the progress we’ve made as an industry, so whenever someone such as yourself is able to make the trip, it really helps.

    Also, I gotta say – you did do an A+ job with your note taking … only one correction though: There’s only 12 of us kids (but I might have said “12″ when you asked how many siblings, so that’s probably my fault) …I mean, hey, 12 kids is one thing…13 though? That’s just ridiculous! :D

    Thanks again, and be sure to let me know next time you are able to make it out our way again.

    Allan Delmare
    Director, E-Marketing
    Rappahannock Cellars
    @rcellars
    facebook.com/rcellars

  6. I love the post! Thanks so much for setting this up, Megan, it was amazing. What a lucky SIL I am :) And yes, she was a verrry brazen kitty.

  7. I’m the lucky BIL who got to tag along…thanks all for such a wonderful experience!

  8. Oh, and about that brazen kitty (I laughed pretty hard at that caption) — for anyone considering visiting the cellars:

    doh! This kitty is NOT supposed to be around. She hops from our house to the winery every once in a while, and I always end up calling my sisters to come get her…brazen is the right word…

    btw, she just birthed a new litter of kittens. My sisters will be set up on the front porch trying to give them away as soon as they are old enough. PLEASE come take them! :) … (you will know them by the adorable little girls holding kittens with a sign that reads: “FREE KITANS”)

  9. Hey VA Wine Diva-it was nice to be able to taste through everything. If I remember from my last visit you do get to taste around 8 wines if you visit, so that’s a fair number of the wines!

    Claire-Cab Franc and Viognier seem to be doing really well here. Hope you get to visit soon!

    Joe, I don’t know. I’ve not had many wines from other southeast states…

    My mistake Allan, I’ll correct it ;)

    Thanks Phil and Ella. Glad you got to come with us!

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