Not too long ago, the first holiday of the fall season greeted us. As our neighbors prepared for Halloween with jack o’ lanterns, bags of candy, and dressed their miniature goblins and ghouls, we prepared for the end of Virginia Wine Month, which has been celebrated every October since 1988. We had a fabulous time celebrating: cook outs with friends at favorite Virginia wineries, volunteering at the Longbranch Wine and Hot Air Balloon Festival, discovering previously unknown Virginia wines on our grocery store shelves. You name it! Then, on the 26th, we joined other media folks, four excellent Virginia wineries, and several Virginia dignitaries to celebrate the successful 2011 “Discover Your Local Crush” Virginia Wine Month.
Now on to the center of the celebration: the wines!
We started and finished the evening with Chatham. You could say wine runs in this family’s veins, as owner and winemaker John Wehner is a second generation winegrower. John and his wife are passionate about wine, as one must be when growing vinifara grapes in the sometimes tumultuous Virginia climate, and this passion was clear when tasting their wines. They presented three of their wines that evening: the 2010 steel fermented Church Creek Chardonnay, the Church Creek Vinter’s Blend a blend of the 2009 and 2010 vintages, and the Church Creek Cabernet Franc also blended from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Our very first tasting of the night, the fresh and crisp steel aged Chardonnay won Emilie’s heart, which is not an easy thing to do if you are a white wine! Now which if their reds did we prefer? Very, very close tie, but if we must, the lush, ripe berry of the Cabernet Franc has our vote.
Considering how often we have traveled the Loudoun County wine region (and hit the Leesburg outlets and antique shops), we were quite surprised at never having happened across Breaux before. On their 104 acres of vines, they grow 18 different varietals, all of which are hand harvested and hand sorted prior to pressing the grape clusters. With 18 varietals, you can bet that they have quite the selection of wines. This evening, we were presented with Breaux’s 2010 Viognier, the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve, and the 2005 Nebbiolo. Now, Virginia is famous for its Viogniers, and Breaux adds a nice twist to this state “classic”. It has the traditional, beautiful bouquet, but watch out! There’s a nice little kick in the finish. On the reds, Emilie and I were split on which was the favorite. Emilie enjoyed the intense, bold flavor and the lingering finish of the Italian style Nebbiolo. I was delighted with the intense fruit of the Cabernet Franc and preferred its silky finish.
This vineyard is one of the best known in the state of Virginia. How can it not be when Barboursville’s success at finally getting European varietals to flourish in the state after 200 years of disappointment is what spear headed the Virginia Wine industry. No wonder they were chosen to help plant the Chambourcin vines in the Executive Mansion’s garden. Although Barboursville presented three wines that evening, the belle of the ball was the Octagon. Throughout the evening, we could hear the gathered telling each other, “You must try the Octagon!” A Silver Medal winner of Decanter Wine World Awards, this Bordeaux style wine is often referred to as Virginia’s “definition of red wine”. The intense, earthiness of the Octagon and its lush palate is definitely something to experience. The steel fermented Viognier Reserve 2010 and the lovely Malvaxia Reserve 2006 dessert wine did not seem to mind playing backup to Octagon’s place in the spotlight one bit.
Like Chatham, this winery is also a family business. They know they are a “young” winery, having released their first estate grown vintage in 2006, but they, “came in fierce!” as one family member proclaimed to us. There is no doubt that their wines make a fierce statement. Boxwood produces three wines, all in the Bourdeux tradition: the Topiary blend is lead by the Cabernet Franc with Merlot and Malbec, the Boxwood Blend focuses on the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is joined by Merlot and Petit Verdot. The third wine is the Topiary Rose blend, which is made from selected varietals that can change each vintage. The 2010 blend poured that evening was made from Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Both Emilie and I enjoyed this dry rose, which had a body not often found in rose style wines, but our favorite was definitely the Boxwood Blend. This beautiful wine was amazingly smooth, yet complex. The intense deep, dark fruit flavors were balanced nicely by a cleansing herbaciousness.
Now, don’t think you’ve missed your chance to try scrumptious, delectable Virginia wines because October is over and the days are getting shorter. The festivals may be few and far between until spring, but many tasting rooms are open all year round. How does a S’Mores Weekend sound or a Horse ride tour of a vineyard? Maybe your favorite winery is throwing a holiday dinner party with wines paired by the winemaker. Emilie and I also received a recommendation to visit Blenheim Vineyards in Charlottesville, so you know we’ll be making our way there. Maybe for the upcoming wine and cheese classes? Anyway, the best place to find out about what’s happening in the Virginia wine world is to check out the Virginia Wine Board’s website or the official Virginia tourism website. If something’s happening in Virginia, you’re sure to find out more about it from them. Here’s to another wonderful year of Virginia wine. Cheers, everyone!