A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 565: Virginia

Albemarle Estate on a foggy morning

Sunday, September 27th: A 10:17 am flight to Washington DC. It took an hour to get through US customs and immigration (they took away the pear Deborah had packed for me). Rented a Honda Civic to drive from Dulles Airport to Charlottesville. Should have taken the GPS for $20 a day. Got lost leaving the airport but eventually found my way to Charlottesville, having driven along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Checked in to Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery, a private country estate that sits among nearly 1,300 acres of lush countryside with vineyards, lakes, and spectacular scenery. The 26,000-square-foot, 45-room mansion has been renovated and is palatial in rococo style. The most luxurious B&B I’ve ever stayed in – ten guest rooms located in the main estate, the pool house (where I’m staying), and a rustic cabin with twin king-size beds.

Corridor in the world’s most luxurious B & B

Drove into Charlottesville for dinner at C&O restaurant on Water Street. Ordered sweetbreads in Madeira sauce with raisins and green pepper corns followed by grilled trout with almonds. No wine because I had to drive back to the Albemarle Estate in the dark. Got lost trying to get out of Charlottesville and eventually found the road south, praying that it was the right route since there were no signposts. Eventually arrived back at the Trump estate.

Monday, September 28th: A hearty breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, confit of duck breast and hash brown potatoes with two poached eggs, toast, coffee and orange juice – a fitting meal before a day of five winery visits and tastings.

Bit Pressley (yes, Bit is his name) from Blue Ridge Wine Excursions picked me up in a Mercedes so I wouldn’t have to drive. The first tasting was at the Trump Winery. Planted in 1999 and nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Trump Winery is situated on a 1,300-acre estate just a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the birthplace of American viticulture, and James Monroe’s Ashlawn-Highland. Trump Winery’s 200 acres of vinifera is Virginia’s largest vineyard.

Trump winemaker Jonathan Wheeler

Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler started with a tasting in the cellar of wines in tank – the Chardonnay that will make the Blanc de Blancs, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Then into the tasting room for the bottled wines:

  • Trump Blanc de Blanc Sparkling 2009: pale straw colour with an active mousse; a nose of apple and honey with a biscuit note; dry and elegant, well balanced with a crabapple finish. (91)
  • Trump Rosé Sparkling 2009: pale pink in colour; a nose of raspberries with a leesy note. Round on the palate, dry with a cherry flavour and a good acidic spine. (90)
  • Trump Sparkling Reserve Brut 2008 (100% Chardonnay): pale straw colour; white flowers, toast, citrus and apple aromas; mouth-filling, creamy, green apple and toast flavours with a long, lingering finish. (92)
  • Trump Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; leesy apple nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, apple flavour. (88+)
  • Trump Viognier 2014: pale straw colour; a nose of peach and passionfruit with a top note of honeysuckle; full-bodied, dry, full on the palate with good length. (90)
  • Trump Rosé 2014 (Merlot): Light pink in colour with a hint of barnyard on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted cherry and strawberry flavours. (88)
  • Trump Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour with a nose of black cherries; medium to full-bodied, dry with lifted flavours of cherry and violets. Firm tannins – needs 2–3 years. (87–89)
  • Trump Meritage 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec): deep ruby in colour with a spicy, red berry nose; dry, fruity redcurrant flavour finishing with firm tannins. (87+)
  • Trump New World Reserve Red 2012 (Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate this Bordeaux blend): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and spicy oak on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, with well-extracted blackcurrant flavour that finishes with evident tannins and a dark chocolate note. Needs 2–3 years. (89–91)

Pollack Winery

Next stop, Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood. Pollak Vineyards is a small family-owned winery founded in 2003 with the purchase of a 98-acre farm west of Charlottesville and Crozet. Today they have 27 acres of vinifera.

  • Pollak Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2012: straw colour; spicy, floral nose; dry, full on the palate, round with a peach and pear flavours; a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Pollak Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2013: pale straw colour; spicy, toasty nose; rich pineapple and peach flavours – full in the mouth. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Viognier 2014: very pale in colour; honeysuckle and whote peach nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, spicy peach flavour that thins out on the finish. (87+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014: pale straw colour; spicy-floral nose of nectarines; floral, honeyed grapefruit flavour with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate. Easy drinking. (88)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014: pale pink colour with a bluish tint; minerally, spicy, redcurrant nose with a floral note. Soft on the palate with good length. (87+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013: ruby colour; floral, cherry with spicy oak on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced, good mouth-feel. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: deeper ruby colour than the 2013; spicy, floral, vanilla oak nose; firmly structured, red and blackcurrant flavours; still tight, needs 2–3 years. (91–92)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; vanilla oak, rose petal, cedar, red berry nose; elegant, fruity redcurrant and cherry flavours with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; elegant and beautifully balanced, firmly structured with good mouth-feel and a minty finish. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Merlot 2013: ruby colour; minerally, struck flint nose of blueberries; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cherry flavours with a firm, tannic finish. (88+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Merlot 2012: ruby colour; floral, spicy, vanilla oak and blueberry nose; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with well-integrated oak and supple tannins. A note of cinnamon on the finish. (91)
  • Pollak Vineyards Meritage 2012 (40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot): ruby-purple colour; blackcurrant, cedar and vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and well structured; quite forward with ripe tannins and affirm finish. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012: deep purple colour; high toned, spicy, rose petal, smoke and cherries on the nose; dry and full on the palate with a peachy note and a long acidic finish. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Mille Fleurs 2010 (Viognier and Chardonnay in white port style, 17% alcohol): sweet, smoky peach, honey and nut flavours. Well-made and delicious. (90)

Next stop, King Family Vineyards, a family owned and operated winery located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Crozet, fifteen minutes from Charlottesville in the Monticello AVA. They have a polo ground on the property.

  • King Family Viognier 2014 (10% Petit Manseng): medium straw colour; spicy, white peach nose with a honeysuckle note; mouth-filling peach flavour nicely balanced with acidity. Good length to a minerally finish. A well-balanced wine. (89+)
  • King Family Chardonnay 2014: straw colour with a greenish tint; leesy, nutty, apple nose with spicy, vanilla oak notes; custard apple flavour, full in the mouth with a firm finish. An attractive touch of bitterness on the finish to cut through the fruity-sweetness and give structure. (89)
  • King Family Crosé Rosé 2014 (76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon): salmon colour; wild strawberry, forest floor, citrus peel nose; medium-bodied, dry, light and fresh with a grapefruit acidity. (87)
  • King Family Cabernet Franc 2014 (87% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, leather, vanilla oak and redcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, well extracted ripe currant fruit, well structured. More in Bourgeuil style. Elegant and nicely balanced. With a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • King Family Merlot 2013 (20% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec): deep ruby colour; floral, blueberry nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry flavour with a fine spine of acidity. Well balanced, finishing with supple tannins. (89+)
  • King Family Meritage 2013 (49% Merlot, 24% Petit Verdot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose with dried rose petal and barnyard notes; dry, medium-bodied with an orange peel and floral note. Hold 2–3 years. (90–91)
  • King Family Meritage 2009 (52% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec): deep ruby; floral, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, rich and full on the palate but graceful and well balanced. Sweet currant fruit with tobacco notes. Firm finish with enough tannin to age well. A keeper. (92)
  • King Family Petit Verdot 2013: deep ruby colour; rose petal, cedar, vanilla oak nose; full-bodied, dry, muscular and firmly structured, sweet black fruit flavours backed by vanilla oak. (90+)

Finished the tasting with a picnic lunch in the tasting room.

Thomas Jefferson’s statue at Monticello

Next stop, Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, a family-owned winery and vineyard in Charlottesville located where Thomas Jefferson and Philip Mazzei first began the American wine revolution.

  • Jefferson Vineyards Viognier 2014 (8% Riesling, 6% Petit Manseng, 4% Chardonnay, 1% Traminette): aromatic, spicy, white peach nose; medium-bodied, peach and pear flavours; touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (stainless steel): minerally, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, pear flavour with a firm finish. (87)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014 (12% Petit Manseng, 8% Riesling, 1% Traminette): pale straw colour; pear skin nose; dry, medium-bodied, green pear and peach pit flavours. (86)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2014: straw colour; apple and apple blossom bouquet with a light oak note; dry, medium-bodied, forward oak with pear and apple flavours. (87+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Petit Manseng 2014 (16% Riesling, 4% Viognier, 3% Traminette): pale straw colour; minerally nose, star fruit with a light floral note; more assertive on the palate with spicy, green pineapple and lemon flavours. Finishes firmly. (88)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Rosé 2014 (38% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec): very pale pink; minerally, redcurrant nose with a struck flint note; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavours carried on lively acidity to a cheery put finish. (86+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Vin Rouge 2014 (44% Chamburcin, 43% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot): ruby colour; fruity, black cherry and plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh acidity. Easy drinking. (86)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014 (9% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; black cherry and white pepper on the nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry with good tannic structure. (87+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Petit Verdot 2014 (3.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Merlot): deep ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, currants on the nose with a floral top note; well balance, fruity currant flavours with lively acidity. (88+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Meritage 2013 (47% Petit Verdot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; smoky, toasty, vanilla oak with redcurrant aromas; lean and sinewy redcurrant flavour; Bordeaux petit château style, light and easy drinking with a firm tannic finish. (88)

Flowers at Monticello

Final stop for the day, Blenheim Vineyards. The winery was established in 2000 by Dave Matthews, 20 minutes southeast of Charlottesville. The three vineyard sites grow seven varieties. Winemaker Kirsty Harmon’s philosophy is to make “approachable, fruit forward, softer, in the now” wines. She’s a hands-off winemaker: “My job,” she says, “is to squish grapes and not make vinegar.”

  • Blenheim Vineyards White Table Wine (Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot): light straw colour; minerally, pear and citrus bouquet; dry, medium-bodied, green pear and lemon flavours; fresh and lively. Easy drinking. God value. (87)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Viognier 2013: straw colour; floral, peach with a touch of oak; full-bodied, dry and aromatic, white peach and citrus flavours. Good length. Good value. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Roussanne 2013: bright straw with a greenish tint in colour; spicy, white peach, forest floor and oak nuances; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, peach and citrus flavours. Good length with a peach pit finish. (89)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Painted White 2013 (Marsanne, Viognier, Pinot Noir): straw colour; lifted, white peach and citrus nose with a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry, pear skin and peach flavours. Good length. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Rosé 2014 (Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot): salmon colour with an amber note; earthy, strawberry nose; full-bodied, dry, cranberry flavour with citrus acidity. Good length. (88)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Red Table Wine (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): light purple-ruby colour; fruity, redcurrant, leafy nose; raspberry flavour with lively acidity that finishes on a tannic note to give structure. Chillable. Good value. (87+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Grenache 2013 (with Syrah and Mourvèdre): ruby colour; cedar, black raspberry nose; spicy, sweet and savoury, full on the palate, peppery, blackberry with herbal notes. Well balanced with lively acidity. (90)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Painted Red (Petite Verdot, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec): deep ruby colour; pencil lead, cedar, vanilla oak, black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, forward, easy drinking with a cinnamon finish. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Petit Verdot 2013: ruby-purple colour; lifted red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury black cherry with a lively acidic spine with a cherry pit finish. (88+)

Dinner at the Albemarle Estate, provided by the Trump Winery tasting room. I was meant to drive into Charlottesville to have dinner at the Clifton Inn but the idea of dining along without a glass a wine and having to find my way back to the B&B in the dark didn’t appeal.

Dining room at Albemarle Estate

Tuesday, September 29th: A blustery, rainy day. After breakfast at the Albemarle Estate I packed and drove to Monticello to Meet with Gabriele Rausse, known as “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry.” He’s been involved in the creation of several Virginia wineries and started his own label, Gabriele Rausse Winery, in 1997. Today he is Monticello’s assistant director of gardens and grounds. After a tour of Jefferson’s house I met with Gabriele, who toured me around the grounds, showing me the Sangiovese vines he planted there.

Drove on to Pippin Hill Vineyards in North Garden to have lunch with Brigitte Belanger-Warner and to taste the wines made there.

  • Pippin Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; smoky, green plum nose; minerally, dry,medium-bodied, kiwi and green bean flavours that finish crisply dry, good length. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Chardonnay 2014 (60% neutral oak, 40% stainless steel): pale straw colour, minerally, spicy golden apple nose; dry, medium-bodied, spicy, citrus and apple flavours; crisp and lingering. (89)
  • Pippin Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, savoury blackcurrant flavour with a floral top note. Lively acidity and supple tannic finish. (88+)
  • Pippin Hill Meritage Reserve 2013 (50% Petit Verdot, 25% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon): pruple-ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, oak spice nose; dry and lean blackcurrant flavour – savoury, licorice notes, nicely balanced. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Petit Verdot 2013 (100%): deep, dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla oak, iodine and blackberry nose with a floral grace note; dry, savoury black fruit flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Bin 21 (ruby port style made with Chamburcin): dense purple colour; smoky plum and black cherry nose; medium-sweet with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)

After lunch I drove to Loudon County in the rain (Tropical Storm Joaquim is on the way, apparently). Checked into Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a luxury hotel decorated throughout with horse and hunting motifs. Jennifer Sigal from Visit Loudon picked me up at 6:25 pm to drive to the Wine Kitchen restaurant in Leesburg, half an hour away. We dined with Jason Miller, the restaurant owner, and Jordon Harris, the winemaker of Tarara Winery in Leesburg. Jordon is a graduate of Niagara College’s winemaker course. He brought along some of his wines and other Loudon County producers’. With the meal we tasted the following wines:

  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2009 (Nevaeh is “heaven” backwards – 70% Viognier and 30% Chardonnay): pale straw colour; aromatic, white peach nose with a mineral note; well extracted, dry, peach, pear and citrus flavours. (89)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2012 (62% Chardonnay, 38% Viognier): straw colour; minerally, bright white peach nose with a floral note; great balanced of fruit and acidity. Elegant and fresh with great length, finishing on a spicy tangerine note. (90)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2013: Not up to the 2012 – minerally, apple flavour; a little short on the finish. (87+)
  • Tarara Winery Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; apple with spicy oak on the nose; full-bodied, soft on the palate with apple and apple blossom flavours that fill the mouth, finishing dry. (88)
  • Hillsborough Bloodstone 2012 (a blend of 94% Fer Servadou and 6% Tannat): deep ruby-purple colour; tobacco, pepper and rose petal bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, leather and cherry flavours with a lively acidic spine and a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • 8 Chains North Hot Donkey Reserve 2010 (Malbec, Petit Verdot with 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco, vanilla oak with a barnyard note on the nose; dry, medium to full-bodied with flavours of tar and blackfruits. Very Bordelais in style, reminiscent of a St. Estephe; firmly structured and very dry. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Tarara Tranquility 2010 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon , 40% Tannat): dense purple-ruby colour; high toned, leather, chocolate nose with a note of violets; full-bodied, dry, savoury fruit and dark chocolate flaovurs with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Sunset Hills Tannat Estate Club Select 2009 (22% Merlot): dense purple-black colour; vanilla oak, blackberry with savoury-herbal notes on the nose; dry, lean and sinewy, compact on the palate with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh Red 2010 (70% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc): dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, smoky, vanilla oak with a floral top note; dry, black fruit flavours, well balanced, and firmly structured with a dark chocolate finish. (90)
  • Tarara Winery Meritage 2007 (46% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, vanilla oak and blackcurrant with a floral note; dry, savoury, tobacco flavour with a chalky mouth-feel; drying green tannins of the finish. (88)

A real adventure returning to the Salamader Resort & Spa in a stretch limo, as the storm blew in and made driving through deep pools of water on the road really hazardous.

Wednesday, September 30th: A car from the Salamander dropped me at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards to meet winemaker Sebastien Marquet. Jennifer Sigal joined me there. Greenhill, a 4000-case winery, opened in August 2013 and features 11 acres of vitis vinifera vineyards set against a stunning backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have Charolais cattle on the property and plan to sell the meat.

Guest house at Greenhill

  • Greenhill Blanc de Blancs 2013: pale straw colour with tiny bubbles; a nose of white flowers, apple and pear with a honey note and a touch of oak; light-bodied, dry, clean, winey flavour; round on the palate with good length. (89)
  • Greenhill Chardonnay 2014: pale straw colour; spicy, smoky, toasty oak with apple and white flowers on the nose; well-extracted green apple flavours, rich mouth-feel; medium- to full-bodied, well balanced with good length. (90)
  • Greenhill Viognier 2014: light straw colour; rich honeysuckle, white peach nose; dry, medium-bodied, dry, aromatic, well balanced fruit (peach and apricot flavours), lively acidity with a touch of bitterness on the finish to give interest. (89)
  • Greenhill Riesling 2014: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, floral, grapefruit; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit flavour with fresh citrus acidity, great length. (89+)
  • Greenhill Seyval Blanc 2014: very pale colour; minerally, green plum nose; more expressive on the palate – medium-bodied, white flowers, stone fruit flavour, finishes firmly on a peachy note. (Best Seyval I’ve tasted!) (89)
  • Greenhill Superstition 2013 (60% Mourvèdre and 40% Tannat): deep ruby colour; spicy, smoky, black cherry nose with a floral note; dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity. A fascinating blend. (89)
  • Greenhill Ontology 2014 (100% Chamburcin): deep ruby colour; earthy, smoky cherry nose with spicy oak; full in the mouth, dry, dark cherry flavour. (88)
  • Greenhill Philosophy 2013 (16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 71% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, violets with just a suggestion of vanilla oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced, blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours. A Virginian claret. (91)

Sebastian Marquet at Greenhill winery

After the tasting we all drove over to Purcellville, where Sebastian’s wife, Isabelle Tourchon, joined us for lunch at Magnolias at the Mill. “Maggie’s,” as the locals refer to it, is housed in a 1905 restored mill; the millworks are still visible throughout the restaurant.

Next stop, Doukenie Winery in Hillsboro, where Sebastian makes the wine from 12 acres of vineyards on a 500-acre farm in the town of Hillsboro.

  • Doukenie Sauvignon Blanc 2014: light straw colour; floral, green plum, leafy nose; good mid-palate fruit, pear and green plum flavours, grassy, citrus acidity; finishes firmly with good length. (88)
  • Doukenie Chardonnay 2014 (100% oak fermented, 35% new oak): pale straw with a green tint: spicy, salty-butter, toasty oak with caramel and peach and pineapple flavours, Rich and full on the palate, toasty New World style. Good length. (90)
  • Doukenie Mandolin 2014 (Traminette, Vidal): pale straw colour; spicy aromatic, lychee with a floral note; off-dry, lychee, orange and rose petal. Exotic, off-dry with balancing acidity. A fascinating hybrid blend. A very commercial wine. (88)
  • Doukenie Cabernet Franc 2014: ruby colour; leafy, inky nose of cedar and peppery redcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, herbal red berry flavours. Firm finish. (87+)
  • Doukenie Zeus 2013 (53% Tannat, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby-black colour; leather, spicy oak, blackberry nose; full-bodied, dry, lively acidity carrying blackberry with a greenish note to a firm tannic finish. (87)
  • Doukenie Vintner’s Reserve 2013 (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with an oak note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, blackcurrant with lively acidity and firm tannic structure. Claret style. (89+)
  • Doukenie Petit Verdot 2013 (100%): dense purple-black colour; lifted, tobacco, smoky, toasty vanilla oak and rose petal nose; full-bodied, well-extracted, mouth-filling plummy, dark chocolate note. Firm structure. (88+)
  • Doukenie Dionysus 2009 (100% Merlot): deep ruby colour; creamy, spicy, sweet tobacco, vanilla oak nose; richly extracted, medium to full-bodied, beautifully balanced, seamless with flavours of blackcurrant and black raspberry. Very St. Emilion in style, still youthful with a firm tannic finish. Hold 3–5 years. (91–93)

Mandolin Doukenie founder brought with her from Greece. Now the winery logo.

Next stop, Breaux Vineyards in Purceville to meet with Jennifer Blosser. The 404 acre estate has 105 acres planted in 18 different grape varieties. Nestled between the hills, the vineyard plantings extend up the Short Hill Mountain.

  • Breaux Vineyards Breauxmance Sparkling 2013 (Vidal and Chamburcin): pale pink colour; minerally, yellow cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cranberry and rhubarb flavours; fresh and lively on the palate with a red berry flavour and a citrus finish. (88)
  • Breaux Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; fresh grapefruit, cut grass, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, pear and grapefruit flavours with lemony acidity and lemon rind finish. (88+)
  • Breaux Vineyards Grand Oak Sauvignon Blanc 2014: light straw colour; spicy oak, lanolin, nectarine bouquet; white Bordeaux style, rich on the palate, coconut, peach flavours nicely balanced with citrus acidity. (91)
  • Breaux Vineyards Viognier 2014: light straw colour; honeysuckle, peach and peach pit nose; full-bodied, unctuous creamy mouth-feel, off-dry, beautifully balanced peach flavour. (89)
  • Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo 2010: tawny ruby colour; tobacco, rose, dried cherries, toasted herbs nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, cherry and plum flavours with firm tannins. Youthful, needs 3–5 years. (89–91)
  • Breaux Vineyards Meritage 2012 (40% Merlot, 40% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Fanc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby colour; cedar, violets, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, curranty flavour with lean and sinewy flavours of blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours. Good tannic structure. Keep for two years. (89+)
  • Breaux Vineyards Equation (NV) (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): dense ruby colour; spicy, vanilla oak, black fruit nose; full-bodied, sweet black fruits with tobacco and leather notes, earthy on the palate, chunky mouth feel. Easy drinking with good structure and a chocolate note on the finish. Good value. (88)
  • Breaux Vineyards Lineage V3 (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon – with spirit made from Nebbiolo. Made in solera): dense ruby-black in colour; mulberry, vanilla oak, coffee bean nose; sweet black fruits, firmly structured. LBV style with a firm tannic finish. A touch bitter on the finish. (89)

Jennifer Blosser of Breaux Vineyards

Final tasting of the day at Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, dedicated to red wines only. They make 3500 cases, using 30% new oak.

  • Boxwood Estate Trellis 2012 (Merlot 47%, Cabernet Franc 28%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22%, Petit Verdot 3%): deep ruby colour; spicy, vanilla oak, cedar, red berry fruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, earthy, blackberry and plum flavours; firmly structured, coffee bean and cocoa powder finish. (89)
  • Boxwood Estate Topiary 2012 (Merlot 55%, Cabernet Franc 45%): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, tobacco, black fruits; medium to full-bodied, richly extracted, curranty flavours with grainy tannins. Good mouth-feel. Firm structure. Hold 3 years. (89–91)
  • Boxwood Estate 2012 (Merlot 56%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Petit Verdot 11%): deep ruby colour; cedar, spicy oak, blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, very Bordelais in style with tobacco and blackcurrant flavours, lovely mouth-feel. Well-balanced, earthy with a firm finish. (92)

Boxwood Estate 2012

Back at the Salamander, Christina Kozich gave me a tour of the property followed by dinner in their Harrimans restaurant.

Thursday, October 1st: Christi Braginton of the Virginia Tourism Corporation picked me up at the Salamander to drive to Chrysalis Vineyard not far away in Middleburg. Met with the exuberant owner, Jennifer McCloud, who toured us around the newly constructed winery and cheesemaking facility in the basement. She is incorporating a fascinating electronic system in her tasting room – using cards that, when activated, will deliver selected tasting portions at stations. Jennifer is known as the “Queen of Norton” – a much-vilified North American variety for which Riedel has designed its own glass. Chrysalis has 40.35 acres of Norton planted.

The irrepressible Jennifer McCloud of Chrysalis

  • Chrysalis Albarino Verde 2014: pale straw colour; fresh, citrus and mineral notes on the nose; dry, light on the palate green plum flavour. (88)
  • Chrysalis Albarino 2014: pale straw colour, minerally, grassy, green plum nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry; good length. Light in the mouth. Reminscent of Muscadet. (88)
  • Chrysalis Viognier 2013: pale lemon colour; honeysuckle, apricot nose; full on the palate, sweet, peachy with enough acidity to give it balance. (88+)
  • Chrysalis Viognier 2014: pale straw colour; honeysuckle, peach and apricot nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well balanced with good length with a bitter almond finish. (89)
  • Chrysalis Mariposa Dry Rosé 2013 (Petite Verdot, Tannat, Nebbilo, Norton): deep pink colour; strawberry with an earthy note; dry, richly extracted strawberry and cranberry flavours. Lively acidity, good mouth-feel. (88)
  • Chrysalis Sarah’s Patio White 2014 (Vidal, 5% Petit Manseng): pale straw colour; honey, melon nose; sweet melon and apple flavours, nicely balanced with acidity. (87)
  • Chrysalis Sarah Patio Red 2014 (100% Norton): deep ruby colour; grapey, black cherry nose; richly extracted, off-dry, grapey. Not complex, touch of sweetness but nicely balanced with acidity. Enjoyable when served chilled. (87+)
  • Chrysalis Shitz & Giggles 2014 (Norton): dense purple colour; evident oak, grapey, rose petal nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, grapey with some tannins to give structure. (88)
  • Chrysalis Rubiana 2013 (Fer Servadou, Tinta Cao, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Tannat): deep ruby colour; floral, black fruits with a raisiny note; medium-bodied, dry, acidic. (87)
  • Chrysalis Estate Bottled Norton 2013: dense purple colour; light oak note, floral, with blackberry aroma; medium-bodied, dry blackberry, black cherry flavours with an orange peel note. (88+)
  • Chrysalis Petit Verdot 2013: dense purple colour; pencil lead, violets, black cherry nose; medium- to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Chrysalis Papillon 2013 (Tannat and Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; a nose of tobacco, black cherry, vanilla oak with a note of tar; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with chalky tannins. Needs time, 3–5 years. (90)
  • Chrysalis Norton Locksley Reserve 2013 (a touch Tannat and Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; tobacco, vanilla oak, floral, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with lively acidity to a firm finish. What a revelation this wine is! (91)

A label we’ll probably never see at the LCBO

At noon, lunched with Christi Braginton at the Fox Inn & Tavern in Middleburg, an old stone coaching in that dates back to 1728 and is purported to be the longest continuously serving tavern in the country.

Fox Inn and Tavern in Middleburg

Drove to Dulles airport in the rain, returned the rental car and flew back to Toronto.

This was a real eye-opening wine tour. I had no idea that Virginia produced such a range of interesting wines, beyond the usual Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties. I really enjoyed the blends with Tannat, Fer Servadou, Chamburcin, the 100% Petit Verdot, the Petit Manseng, Albariño and, course, Norton in the hands of Jennifer McCloud.

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