Yay, it’s here! Yes, folks, October has arrived and with it, the 26th annual Virginia Wine Month. As many of you know, one of our favorite things to do here at Cork and Spoon is travel around, visiting local wineries (and distilleries, and breweries). I mean look at Emilie. She didn’t move to just anywhere in Texas, but to Texas Hill Country, which is that state’s wine country. No worries, though. Emilie and I already discussed whether we’d have an issue with dueling wine countries. Though it would be fun, we both love our Virginia wine too much. I even put together a Virginia wine care package for her before she left D.C. (Rest assured there was a Norton in there!). So why don’t we move along to this year’s first stop, Hartwood Winery (…before I start crying).
Hartwood Winery is a cozy little spot in the southern part of Stafford County, just a hop, skip, and a jump from I-95 and U.S. Route 17. That means, its super easy to get to, so you have no excuses if you’re driving up or down the East Coast through Virginia! One of my favorite things about Hartwood is that you’ll lfeel like you’re visiting family. Though getting rarer at wineries further north and west, at Hartwood don’t be surprised if you find yourself chatting with the owners, the Livingstons, during your visit. Of course, Jim Livingston would say it’s the other way around: he doesn’t own the vineyard, the vineyard owns him! With over 30 years experience in the Virginia wine industry, assisting other wineries in the 70’s before planting his own vines in 1981, I have no doubt he knows what he is talking about!
As I mentioned, Livingston planted the first Hartwood vines, (Cabernet Sauvignon) in 1981. That era was the very beginning of today’s Virginia wine industry. Today there are over 200 wineries in the state, but back then? Literally no more than a dozen. Why? Well, growing wine grapes in hot, humid climates is tricky business as our friends further south in the Carolina’s know very well. Those first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were wiped out by fungus. Rather than give up, though, Livingston switched course and experimented with heartier hybrids, like the Seyval Blanc. Through the years, the original few Virginia wineries like Hartwood used their experience along with agricultural research conducted by Virginia Tech to figure out how to make vitis vinifera flourish. Today, you can find Cabernet Sauvignon growing in Hartwood’s vineyard. Take that fungus!
So when you stop by Hartwood Winery this Virginia Wine Month (Or any time! They are open all year round), be sure to ask Jim what made him, at the time a school teacher, decide to begin a winery. That’s exactly what Mr. Hansford Abel, a long time member of the Stafford Board of Supervisors asked him when Livingston applied for his permits…
(The secret’s out of the bag, folks, teachers do drink wine!)
Hartwood Winery Tasting Notes 2014
For $7, Hartwood Winery offers about 12 wines for the tasting dependent on availability. I tasted 11, because the Petit Verdot was nearly sold out. This is not uncommon during the early fall as Virginia wineries draw huge summer crowds. (The Chardonnay and Merlot weren’t even on the list anymore as they had already sold out.) I liked every single wine I tasted during my Hartwood visit, but if you want to know more details, here are the notes I jotted down during my tasting.
Seyval Blanc (2013) – Recently released over Labor Day weekend, this refreshing and crisp white probably would not have lasted the summer if it had been released earlier. Aged in stainless steel, this wine is clean, light and citrusy. Great for laid back summer picnics.
Hartwood Station White – This white is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and the Georgian (as in the country not the state) varietal Rkatsiteli. Though aged in stainless steel, the Chardonnay in the blend did receive some oak aging. If malolactic fermentation isn’t your thing, never fear. The little bit of oakfrom the Chardonnay gives this wine a bit more body than the Seyval Blanc, but no butter here. Instead you’ll taste another crisp white, though more along the lines of an apple than a lemon. The nose is sweet and fruity, like golden raisins, courtesy of the Viognier. On the palate, along with the apple from the Chardonnay, you’ll get a very light floral prettiness from the Viognier, and a feint hint of spice from the Rkatsiteli.
Rappannock Rose – Hartwood has a series of wines named for the Rappahanock River, which forms a natural border along southern Stafford County where Hartwood is located. This rosé style wine is made from mostly Chambourcin and is processed like a white wine (i.e. the juice is pressed from the grapes and then the skins are discarded). The Rappahanock Rose also has an itty bitty bit of Seyval Blanc. You won’t find the mainstream, sweet strawberry profile in this wine, which, over the past two or three years, seems to be disappearing from many Virginia rosés. Instead, you’ll get red cherry, a bit more body, and some spice. I’d say this is a good choice for a mixed party of white and red wine lovers.
Rappahannock White – A 50/50 blend of Seyval and Vidal blanc, with 3% Residual Sugar (RS), this wine is just sweet enough and reminds me of a German Riesling. Of course the nose is sweet, but an interesting twist is that it might remind you of cinnamon sugar. The spice follows through onto the palate, which compliments the wine’s soft, pear flavors. Definitely a wine to sit back and relax with, I brought this wine home to have with my spicy, Thai inspired recipes.
Deweese White – Another Riesling like wine, the Deweese, made from Vidal Blanc, is more along the lines of a semi-sweet wine than the Rappahannock White. At 3.8% RS, this wine was a bit too sweet for me, but I can appreciate it for what it is. I definitely tasted the tropical notes (lots of banana) and the melon (think perfectly ripe cantaloupe). This wine could easily take on the spice found in the other Hartwood white wines I tasted, but it’s perfectly enjoyable as it is. Now that fall has finally arrived in Virginia, I’ve got mulled wine on the brain and I think the Deweese White could be used to make make a wonderful warm, fall punch.
Blushing Hart – This is Hartwood’s first foray into dessert style wine. Mostly Seyval Blanc, the Blushing Hart blend also has a touch of Chambourcin and Niagra. I loved the nose of this wine: cinnamon! (Different, don’t you think?). Being a dessert wine, it is a sweet blend. However is has a nice tartness that keeps it from tasting like pure sugar, which reminded me of a cherry jolly rancher. You’ll get a lot of dried apricot and cherry flavors after which I tasted a little nuttiness in the finish. The characteristics of the Blushing Hart reminded me a lot of port style wines, but without the fortified punch. I can definitely picture a cordial of this with an after dinner cheese platter.
Rappahannock Red – The first red on the tasting list is this Beaujolais style wine for which the Chambourcin is aged in stainless steel. This is pretty different, as most Virginia Chambourcin takes to oak very well. For some reason, though, the vines from the Hartwood vineyard do not. To me, it’s all good. Gamay, which most Beaujolais is made from, is one of my favorites, and this wine reminds of those fruit forward, light red blends. In this wine you’ll taste black cherry and licorice and even a hint of chocolate in the finish. You can even serve this red lightly chilled, which always gets a thumbs up from Emilie and me! I had to bring this one home.
2012 Claret – A claret wine is, at its simplest, a wine made from one or a blend of the five classic Bordeaux grapes. This claret is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 10 months in American oak. You’ll notice that the ruby red Claret is a cloudy wine, rather than clear, which is the complete opposite of it’s sister vintage, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvginon (We’ll get to a in a bit). A dry, medium bodied red, this wine has a nice smokiness with notes of tobacco, leather, cherry, and spice.
2012 Cabernet Franc – One of my favorite Virginia grown varietals! Aged in American Oak, this wine has a lot of similarities to to the Claret, but lighter bodied. This wine is clean, with lots of bright cherry and peppery spices as a good Cab Franc should. A very enjoyable, dry red, the softer tannins in this wine is perfect if you’d rather your wine not punch you in the face!
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Believe it or not, this wine and the Claret are twins. It’s the perfect example of barrel variation in wine making and why barrel tastings are so important to the process. Both the Claret and the Cab Sauv are 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vines grown and harvested in 2012. They were pressed, fermented, and barreled together, too. For whatever reason after that, though, each wine went its own independent way. Typically, a winery will blend the varied wines to get a single vintage, but Hartwood decided to let these two do their thing. As I mentioned earlier, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is clear, not cloudy like the Claret, and much deeper in color. It has a raisen-like, dried fruit nose, but don’t be fooled. This wine, which can be aged for a few more years, is crisp and clean with lots of cherry accompanied by bell-pepper.
2012 Tannat – The last of the day is a beautiful, deep garnet colored wine that you could enjoy now, but for the patient, a few more years will likely bring you reward. Our red wine only friends will definitely appreciate this wine. The nose of dried fruits, which is more potent than the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, will fool you. This wine is dry and earthy, rather than fruity, with evenly balanced tannins and a clean minerality. The umami (Thank-you, Kathy, from Casanel!) will make you salivate and crave a big hunk of steak! If I had room in my budget, I would have bought a bottle to “cellar”.