Drinking Local (Once Again)

With the 2011 Wine Blogger Conference just around the corner, and it being in my own back yard, I thought it high time I bring out some of the VA wines that I have in my cellar and get you all excited for what you have to look forward to out here on the East Coast! One of my favorite VA wineries is Rappahannock Cellars. They are doing excellent things with both Cabernet Franc and Viognier, two of the wines that VA does best in my humble opinion. Tonight we opened up the 2007 Rappahannock Cellars Cabernet Franc, a wine I purchased in Sept. 09 on my last visit out there. It clocked in at 13.8% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and I can’t recall what I paid, but it retailed for around $25 I believe.

On the nose I found strawberry, raspberry, earth, forest, chocolate, chocolate syrup notes, herbs, and spice. Yum. The nose certainly made me look forward to tasting the wine.  In the mouth I got raspberry, fresh strawberry, earth, and a good herbal note. The wine had great structure and acidity and is an excellent example of what VA can do with this grape.

Virginia Viognier

Last fall Matt and I had a chance to go out to VA wine country and visit Rappahannock Cellars. While there, we of course had to buy some of our favorite wines to enjoy later. What kind of winos would we be if we didn’t?? One of my favorite wines that I’m seeing coming from Virgina is Viognier. VA wineries are doing really great things with the grape and I continue to be impressed with what I’m tasting. Tonight we pulled out the 2008 Rappahannock Cellars Viognier that we purchased at the vineyard. It had a Diam closure, clocked in at 13.6% alcohol by volume, and cost me about $22.

On the nose I found honeysuckle, flowers, tropical fruits, pineapple, candied pineapple, pear, and a hint of cream. The aromatic nose drew me in. I love the nose on Viognier. In the mouth I got tons of pineapple, including candied pineapple and pineapple jello. I also found pear, spice, flowers, and tropical notes. The Rappahannock Viognier is by far one of my favorites that I’ve tasted from the state. I highly suggest you check out what VA is doing with Viognier, it would be well worth your time and effort.

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!

Local Vino

A quick review this morning (have to go to work super early today!) of a local wine from Rappahannock Cellars. I owe you a review on our tasting experience at Rappahannock, which I will get around to eventually, along with a million reviews from Sonoma and the DC Wine and Food Festival!

The wine for the evening was a 2006 Rappahannock Cellars Vidal Blanc. We see quite a bit of Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc here in Virginia, both grapes grow fairly well in our climate. I’m pleased to notice that the quality has grown in leaps and bounds in the 5 years I’ve lived here and been drinking VA wines.

The wine had a nose of pear, honey, apricot, and tart tropical fruit. In the mouth, apricot and spiced pears dominated the flavors. The wine was tart, with good structure and solid acidity to keep the sweetness that this grape can demonstrate in check.

Oddly enough, I can only find information about the dessert variety of this wine on their website, and the bottle appears to have disappeared from my house. I believe we paid around $14 for this, it had a real cork closure, and was about 12.5% alcohol by volume.

Drinking Local

The wine for the evening was the 2006 Rappahannock Noblesse Blanc Table White from a winery we visited in Virginia recently. The bottle ran us $16.50 minus a 5% discount, had a real cork closure and oddly didn’t list the alcohol content on the label.

The wine smelled sweet, with aromas of apricots, tropical fruit, and pineapple dominating. In the mouth, I found mandarin oranges, pineapples, and other tropical fruit. The wine had a tangy element to it, a bit prickly, almost like the sensation slightly overripe pineapple leaves in your mouth.
It had good structure and acidity and would be really nice chilled for a summer quaffer.

Mmmm….Welch’s

It’s not often anyone describes a wine as tasting like grapes. In fact, I’ve heard and read that it’s considered poor form for a wine to taste like grapes. But since it’s made of grapes, it just doesn’t seem wrong to me for wine to actually taste like grapes on occasion, rather than the myriad of other fruits, vegetables, meats, leather, earth, spices, etc., that can be found in wine.

The wine was a 2006 Rapphannock Cellars Norton. We picked this bottle up at Rappahannock Cellars early this winter for about $17.50, it clocked in at 13.3% alcohol by volume, and had a real cork closure.

It literally smells like Welch’s Grape juice. I know grape juice is made of Concord grapes, but if I didn’t know this was wine, I would have thought it was Welch’s. In case you don’t know, Norton is a grape that is actually native to North America, and is grown primarily here in Virginia and Missouri, I believe. I’ve seen it at a few vineyards here and I haven’t been such a fan, but I really thought this was a fun version of it. In addition to the grape juice on the nose, I found grape Pixie Stix, so grape juice with a tart, sour note. It tasted exactly the same as it smelled.

Overall I’d describe the wine as adult Welch’s, grape juice with a kick. I really liked the slightly sour note. A fun take on the Norton grape.

A VA Cab Franc I Like

I do not care for Cab Franc much, at least the ones I’ve had produced here in the states. They are often thin, acidic, vegetal, and just not good. So it took me by great surprise that I liked this wine, and liked it enough to take a bottle home!

The wine was a 2006 Rappahannock Cellars Cabernet Franc. It clocked in at 13.4% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and cost us $22 at the winery minus a 10% discount.

On the nose the wine was peppery, with vanilla, currants, and spice. It was just a little bit vegetal, but not in a bad way at all. In the mouth I found spice, earth, and currants. The wine was tannic, but as it opened up, I got flavors of tart blackberries in the wine.

A VA Cab Franc I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend!

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