I visited Fabbioli Cellars for the first time right before Christmas. Yes, I’ve had this one in my pocket for a few weeks, but only because I did not want it to get lost in the holiday shuffle (Happy New Year, by the way!). We were headed to the Premium Outlet Mall in Leesburg, Virginia for some Christmas shopping. Since we were smack dab in the middle of DC’s Wine Country, we thought we’d hit a winery or two before giving our credit cards some exercise. Fabbioli Cellars was our first stop.
As we pulled up and got out of the car, the chilly winter air wafted the delicious smell of wood fires. Fabbioli had several fire pits going outside for patrons who may have wanted to brave the cold with a glass of wine. Maybe on a warmer day. Today we would stay inside!
Speaking of inside, Fabbioli has a good sized tasting room. Unlike most Virginia wineries where there is a standing tasting bar, Fabbioli has several long, kitchen island height tables set up with chairs to take your leisure. That is not all that is unique about a Fabbioli tasting. As I came up to purchase our tastings, I was informed that the $10 tasting fee included a food pairing. I had a choice between either chocolates or a savory platter. Since there were two of us, I went with one of each, a course of action I highly recommend if you are visiting in groups. Each tasting platter easily provides enough nibbles for two. We even got a special treat from Fabbioli’s resident blogger, James “Jimmy Cocktail” from At Least I’m Enjoying the Ride, when he heard a fellow blogger was on site: two special tastings and a recipe!
Now on to the tasting notes we go!
Rosa Luna (2011) – Sometimes called their “cat wine”, as this dry, 100% Sangiovese rosé is named after one of the owners’ late kitties. In its third iteration, the Rosa Luna we sampled is the lightest version of the wine produced to date. Fermented in stainless steel, this wine has a light and delicate nose and full of crisp flavors. You’ll taste lovely watermelon flavors in this wine, which is a nice difference from your typically strawberry found in most rosés.
Chardonnay (2011) – Although their vineyards grow both red and white wine grapes, the owners of Fabbioli Cellars began the winery with a focus on red wine production. This Chardonnay is Fabbioli’s second white wine in production (The Something White blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc was not on the tasting menu). As both Fabbioli 2011 white wines are now sold out, clearly they did not disappoint white wine lovers! The 2011 Chardonnay has (had) a beautiful, fruity nose. Aged in neutral French oak for four months, you will also find a light creaminess in the wine. This wine was also the first on the list to pair with food. With the Chardonnay, we tasted a crostini dressed in olive oil and sea salt. The fat from the olive oil along with the salt beautifully accented the creaminess of the Chardonnay.
Chambourcin (2010) – This wine is 96% Chambourcin with 2% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a deep and concentrated nose of dried fruit and dark berries. Dry with intense fruit flavors, the nose translates almost exactly onto the palate. Another wine with a food pairing, the Chambourcin was accompanied by a crostini with olive tapenade and a 63% cocoa chocolate truffle with a cherry ganache center. As can be expected when pairing chocolate and red wine, the cherry truffle intensified the fruit flavors, but what was amazing was how the olive tapenade played with the Chambourcin! The saltiness and fat from the tapenade mellowed out the intense tannins of the Chambourcin. It completely changed the character of the wine in your mouth. Okay, not completely changed, but if you try this at home (or at the winery!) you will understand what I mean lol.
Cabernet Franc (2010) - I am a huge fan of Virginia Cab Francs; I just love the red fruits (often cherry) and spice. This particular vintage is the lighter of the two Cab Francs made by Fabbioli, the other being the Reserve. Composed of 87% Cab Franc, 3% Cab Sauv, 5% Chambourcin, and %5 Petit Verdot, this wine is tart and dry, but smooth with nice clean spice. Lots of bright red cherry, too, my favorite part. Like the Chambourcin, this wine had both a savory and chocolate pairing to go with it. The chocolate was another dark chocolate truffle, but this time made with spicy ancho chili, Vietnamese cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Wow did it bring out the cherry notes of the wine! The savory pairing was a slice of salami. Again, the fat and salt tamed the tannins of the bold red while again accenting the cherry notes, softening them this time rather than amping them up as the chocolate had.
Tre Sorélle (2010) - Or “Three Sisters” in Italian, this wine is Fabbioli Cellar’s Bordeaux style blend comprised of three of the five (0r six depending on who you ask) Bordeaux red varietals, all estate grown: Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot. What a lovely and supple fruit forward wine, very much like a Merlot, but with the added lushness provided by the Petit Verdot and some earthy grounding courtesy of the Cab Sauv. Again, I had both a savory and chocolate pairing. Although the chocolate was delicious (a “plain” dark chocolate truffle this time), the savory pairing was both surprising and amazingly yummy. Mild Cheddar! Although I know there are many cheeses that go with red wine, I often forget it until it’s placed in front of me. Wow did it bring out all the fruit in this wine.
Raspberry Merlot - Not a dessert wine, but a “dessert inspired” wine. With 5% residual sugars, this wine is comprised of 1/3 [red] raspberry fruit wine and 2/3 merlot. If you love raspberries, you’ll love a cordial glass of this wine. It has a bold raspberry fragrance (of course, right?) and though sweet, it’s a fruit sweet tinged with raspberry tartness as well as an accompanying hint of dryness from the merlot. The dark chocolate truffle paired with this wine was actually made with the Raspberry Merlot itself. Definitely helped tame down the sweetness.
Rosa Nera – A port style wine made from [black] raspberries , this wine is fortified with brandy from Loudoun’s very own Catoctin Creek distillery. If you are a port fan, you definitely will enjoy this one with its rich and just a little tart dried fruit notes. As the last food pairing, we enjoyed a smoked almond chocolate truffle and a walnut tossed in a spiced glaze (Jimmy Cocktails’s own recipe). The natural fattiness of the walnut, along with the spices in the glaze definitely take the sweetness of the wine down a few notches. Now the chocolate…I can’t really read my notes, but I have OMG underlined with lots of exclamation points and something about the smokiness against the sweetness of the wine. I think OMG says enough, lol.
And now for the treats! In addition to the wines above, which is the normal tasting covered at Fabbioli Cellars, I had the privilege to sample the following two wines.
Pear Wine – This lovely aperitif wine won a gold medal at the 2012 Los Angeles International Wine Competition. Made from Asian and Bosc pears and fortified again with brandy from Catoctin Creek, this lovely wine definitely tastes of pears and even has a nice spice as well. Think baked pears with a little cinnamon. It’s aging process is also unique in regards to other Virginia wines (at least in my encounters), as it follows the Spanish solera system, an aging and blending system utilized by the sherry industry. I first encountered this system of wine blending while in Spain last year at the Tio Pepe bodega in Jerez. Using the solera system not only “pre-ages” the wine, but ensures a consistent flavor profile across the years. So, if you miss the 2012 award winning wine, it will still taste the same for years to come!
Royalty – This port style wine originated as hand crafted gifts for the owners’ friends and neighbors, but became so popular that they started bottling it. Aged for 22 months, this wine is made from Chambourcin, Tannat…and I apparently forgot to write the last half of which Cab grape (Sorry, there was a lot of chatting going on during the tasting, so my hand writing was much more horrid than usual!). I was wowed by this wine. Not overly sweet like many ports can be, it had beautiful and intense fruit flavors and a delicious spice. I ended up buying a bottle to take home with us.
Now, I did mention another treat earlier: a recipe. Do you recall the Rosa Nera pairing with a spiced walnut? Well, as I was checking out, I was given a print out of James’ recipe (also available at the winery if you stop by) to take home. I used this recipe as a basis for one of my dad’s Christmas presents, so you’ll probably be getting to see it sometime in the near future, too! :)