A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 536: Virginia

Monday, March 9: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent an email to the directors of Grapes for Humanity inviting them to a dinner at Pangea on June 12th to celebrate Grapes for Humanity’s 15th anniversary.

In the evening a meeting with Sam and Esther Sarick to discuss the Grapes for Humanity dinner at their home with Gaia Gaja. For dinner, lamb chops with Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013 from Sicily. Great value for $11.95 (deep ruby colour; spicy, blackberry nose with coffee bean notes; dry, medium body; blackberry and plum flavours with lively acidity and supple tannins (88)).

Tuesday, March 10: Worked on the updates to the Canadian entries for Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Book 2016. Then down to the Novotel Hotel to meet Peter Michel, whose family winery, Weingut Michel, was founded in 1685 in the Nahe. Seven generations of winemakers have been named Peter. He opened the following wines for me in the bar.

  • Weingut Michel Riesling Trocken 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, floral, citrus and white peach nose; dry, nicely balanced, clean and fresh with good length on the finish. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Chardonnay Trocken 2014 (stainless steel): pale straw colour; minerally, apple; lovely texture, crisp apple, medium-bodied, dry with fresh citrus acidity. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; grassy, elderberry, green bean notes on the nose; sweetish, elderberry and gooseberry, soft mid-palate; medium-bodied, finishing dry. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Riesling Feinherb 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; off-dry, fruity, soft on the palate, well balanced, honey, peach and lime; finishes cleanly with a long citrus finish. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Weissburgunder 2013: light straw colour; peachy, died apricot nose; sweet and mouth-filling, fruity, peach and honey flavours with balancing acidity. Very clean flavours. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Bacchus 2013: pale straw colour; grapey, aromatic, Muscat-like nose; sweet grapefruit and melon flavours, beautifully balanced with clean and fresh fruit flavours. (90)
  • Weingut Michel Grauburgunder 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; sweet and broad on the palate – sweet peach and melon flavours. (87)
  • Weingut Michel Rotling Halbtrocken 2013 (Dornfelder and Muller-Thurgau): amber-salmon colour; strawberry jam nose; mouth-filling , sweet strawberry puree flavour with an orange zest finish. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (87+)
  • Weingut Michel Spätbugunder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; earthy, beetroot, light floral note; medium-bodied, candied raspberry, earthy with a firm finish. Good tannin structure with a warm alcoholic finish. (88)
  • Weingut Michel Dornfelder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy-floral nose of blackberries; dry, mouth-filling, soft mouth-feel, plum and red berry fruit flavours; firmly structured, bitter chocolate finish. (88+)

After this tasting I walked over to Montecito restaurant on Adelaide to have a dinner tasting with Jim Doehring, Central Region Sales Manager for Far Niente.

  • Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with a spicy, vanilla nose of tropical fruit; full-bodied, rich, pineapple and toasty oak flavours with lively acidity and great length. (91)
  • EnRoute Pinot Noir Les Pommiers 2012 (Russian River): deep ruby colour; earthy, minty, black cherry nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, firmly structured with well integrated oak and great length. (90)
  • Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant nose; lean and firm (going through a dumb, close-down phase, I think, but all the elements are there). (90–92)
  • Far Niente John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and tobacco nose; richly extracted cassis flavour, firmly structured and vibrant. (92)

John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Wednesday, March 11: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then went down to the Acadian Room for a presentation of Virginian wines and lunch put on by the Virginian Tourism Corporation.

Virginia town crier greeting guests

Sebastien Marquet, who makes wine at Doukenie winery in Purcellville, and his French-Canadian wife, Isabelle (who consults with him to six other Virginian wineries), told me that there are 280 wineries in the State, mostly boutique. Marquet’s grandmother was a winemaker and his parents owned a restaurant. At the age of 13 he was sent by his parents, at his own request, to the Lycée Viticole et Oenologue de Beaune to learn winemaking. Students there have ten hours a week of wine tasting (only in France!). His first vintage in Virginia – having worked in Languedoc-Roussillon, the Caribbean island of Martinique (where he planted the island’s first vineyard), Sonoma and Napa – was in 2007.

Isabelle and Sebastien Marquet

For some reasons his wines weren’t at the tasting but before lunch I tried two wines from 8 Chains North, a winery in Waterford, 7.5 miles northwest of Leesburg in Loudoun County:

  • 8 Chains North Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with green tints; spicy, rich caramel and toast aromas with nutty, barnyard notes. Full on the palate with good length. (89)
  • 8 Chains North Malbec 2012: deep plum colour with a spicy, floral nose of black cherries; dry, elegant with a lovely mouth-feel; smoky, cherry flavour with ripe tannins and a clean finish. (89)

At the lunch prepared by a Virginian Chef (peanut soup and roast pork) I tasted Tarara Winery Chardonnay Viognier 2012: deep straw colour with a green tint; minerally, earthy, smoky nose of grilled lemons; spicy peach flavour with nicely integrated oak. (89)

At 4 pm I walked over to grano, where Ann Sperling had brought her 2013 wines for Zoltan Szabo, Andre Proulx and me to taste.

  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 ($22.95): straw coloured, minerally, apple and citrus bouquet; rich and full on the palate, lively lemony citrus acidity, fresh and zesty. (89)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013 ($21.95 – 5% Merlot): solid ruby colour; floral, leafy, white pepper, raspberry with a cedary note; creamy mouth-feel, well extracted fruit with a cinnamon finish. (88+)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($22.95 – with 11% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, red berries on the nose; spicy, redcurrant and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. Nicely integrated oak. (88)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Semillon 2013 ($34.95 – with 11% Chardonnay): golden straw colour; fragrant, lanolin, beeswax nose; full-bodied, Mirabelle plum and citrus flavours, lively acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy “Minerality” Chardonnay 2012 ($34.95) straw colour; oily, apple nose; spicy, minerally, orange and apple flavour, reductive note, firm, saline note. Reminiscent of a vin jaune. (91)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Franc 2012 ($34.95 – 3% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; floral, cedar, spicy, tobacco and cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, well balanced with livelt acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($34.95 – 7% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, Petit Château style, firm finish with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Petit Verdot 2012 ($34.95 – 13% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, black tea, spicy, blueberry and redcurrant nose; firmly structured, medium-bodied, fresh on the palate with lively acidity and supple tannins. Good mouth-feel. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lots Orange Wine 2014 (Vidal – $34.95?): cloudy amber; minerally, spicy, leafy-herbal nose; opens up on the palate with grapefruit with a lovely floral note that blossoms in the mouth giving crabapple and grapefruit with a chalky finish. A fascinating wine. Vidal never tasted so good. (89)
  • Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 ($49.95): deep straw colour; leesy, minerally, baked apple and caramel nose; rich and full on the palate, spicy with well integrated oak with apple and pear flavours. Will improve with bottle age. (90–92)
  • Southbrook Poetica Red 2012 (42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28.7% Cabernet Franc, 28.7% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; savoury, pencil lead, black fruits with vanilla oak notes on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, blackcurrant, elegant with expressive fruit. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy The Anniversary ($19.95 – fortified Chardonnay): deep amber colour; nutty, dried fig, rich and full on the palate, cashew nuts and dried peach on the palate with a touch of sweetness, great length. (91)

From grano I took the subway to King Street to join Deborah and some friends at Il Fornello for a quick dinner before the theatre: Blythe Spirit with the amazing Angela Lansbury.

Thursday, March 12: A tasting at Doug Towers’s for winerytohome.com. For dinner with pasta and a sauce made with smoked meat, Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Merlot 2013 (dense purple colour; cedar, vanilla oak and blueberry on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant blueberry and blackcurrant flavours with a lively acidic spine (88)).

Friday, March 13: Spent the day writing my Lexpert column on Virginia wine, citing Thomas Jefferson as the American president who was most passionate about wine. His famous quote: “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” For dinner, grilled salmon with Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (bright straw colour; grassy, guava on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, perfumed, green plum and melon flavours with a crisp finish (87)).

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