Kicking-Off Virginia Wine Month with a VA Wine Overview (Part 1)

October is Virginia Wine Month, and while I’m behind in my month of blogging about Virginia wines, I’m looking forward to focusing on them over the next few weeks. Blogging about VA wines couldn’t be more timely, as Virginia is one of the largest wine producing states in the US, and the quality of VA wines has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, which means there are some yummy wines to share.  In addition, the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference is going to be held in Charlottesville, VA, which means that wine bloggers will be paying a lot more attention to the Commonwealth’s wines before heading out here next summer.  With all of that in mind, blogging about the September Virginia Wine Festival seems like the perfect way to begin Virginia Wine Month.

Back in the middle of September, several friends and I met Dezel (from My Vine Spot) for a fun, relaxing afternoon of wine tasting at Bull Run Regional Park.  Three of us took the Washington Wine Academy’s shuttle from Vienna Metro station.  If you’re thinking about going to this annual wine festival next year, I highly recommend taking the shuttle.  For $25, we had a comfortable, 20-minute minibus ride to Bull Run, and five hours later, when we were ready to leave, we were given a bottle of water as we boarded the bus and were safely dropped off at the metro 20 minutes later.  Not that any of us were drunk, because we weren’t, but it was nice not to have to worry about driving after a very full day of wine tasting.

View of the VA Wine Festival Tents at Bull Run Regional Park

The three of us who took the shuttle arrived at the festival before everyone else, but we decided to dive right into the tasting.  The first stop for was Rosemont Vineyards and Winery tasting table.  Rosemont is a family-owned winery in Southern Virginia that released its first vintage in 2007.  Unfortunately, the winery doesn’t have a DC distributor, but their wines are for sale on their website.  The 2008 Cabernet Franc and the Meritage were my favorite Rosemont wines, and if you see either (or both), grab a bottle.

Rosemont 2008 Cabernet Franc ($21)—cedar, earth, molasses, vanilla, with some dark berries; medium tannins, good body.
3.5 Corks


Rosemont Meritage ($30)—dark berries, cedar, smoke, vanilla, & tealeaves; good tannins with a full body; would be nice with a soy sauce marinated steak.
3.5 Corks


2009 Rosemont Pinot Grigio ($16)—Granny smith apples & limes; good acidity.
3 Corks

2008 Rosemont Traminette ($15)—stone fruits with a hint of limes; very dry, but somewhat non-descript.
2.5 Corks

2009 Rosemont Rosé of Chambourcin ($13)—dark pink color; strawberries & something herbaceous.
2.5 Corks

Rosemont Lake Country Red ($15)­—smoke, oakiness, & dark cherries; medium body.
2.5 Corks


Rosemont NV Merlot ($19)—dark plums, cherries, & vanilla; medium body and tannins.
2.5 Corks


Rosemont Lake Country Sunset ($13)—juicy pears, flowers, & honey; very sweet with little acidity; not my style.
2 Corks

After tasting all of the wines available at the Rosemont table, we headed down a few tents to the Delfosse Vineyards and Winery table.  Delfosse is located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 30 minutes from Charlottesville.  Having opened in 2000, they are relatively new VA winery.  While their wines show potential and they had one of the nicest people we met all day pouring, there weren’t any wines that I fell in love with.

2008 Delfosse Chardonnay ($18)—apples & pears with some vanilla oakiness.
3 Corks

2006 Delfosse Cuvee Laurent ($18)—blackberries & oak; good acidity.
3 Corks

2007 Delfosse Deer Rock White ($15)—pears & pineapples with some residual sweetness.
2.5 Corks

2006 Delfosse Merlot ($18)—plums, cherries, & oak.
2.5 Corks

2007 Delfosse Deer Rock Red ($15)—flowers with a vegetal hint; sweetish.
2 Corks

2007 Delfosse Grand Cru Olivier ($18)—cranberries, vanilla, & twigs.
1.5 Corks

The Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard tasting table was our next stop.  Kluge is located in Charlottesville.  They were one of the only tables that charged an additional fee in order to taste several of the wines, but since the whole purpose of the festival was to taste, we all shelled out the additional money to taste both the 2007 Kluge Estate Blanc de Blanc and the Cru aperitif.  The Blanc de Blanc was well worth the extra fee; Dezel even bought a bottle for us to drink with lunch. My surprise favorite wine, though, was the 2009 Albemarle Rosé.  I actually purchased a bottle to review separately for VA Wine Month.

2007 Kluge Estate SP Blanc de Blanc ($25)—100% Chardonnay; persistent, tiny bubbles; lemons & cream with a touch of toastiness; high acidity.
4 Corks

2009 Albemarle Rosé ($13)—cherries, strawberries, limes, & peaches; slight effervescence; bright acidity.
4 Corks

2005 Kluge Estate New World Red ($25)—blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec; blackberries & black currants; full body with good tannins.
3.5 Corks

2009 Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc ($20)—light, greenish-yellow; citrus galore; good acidity.
3 Corks


2004 Albemarle Simply Red ($14)—blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot; blackberries, vanilla, & smoke; medium body and tannins.
3 Corks

Cru ($25)—100% Chardonnay; strong bourbon flavor mixed with sweet peaches, pears, and vanilla; not my style.
2.5 Corks

After tasting everything at the Kluge table, we met up with a few more members of our group and decided to visit a few more tables before breaking for lunch.  The next stop was Tarara Winery.
*See Part 2 for reviews of Tarara Winery, Davis Valley Winery, Wintergreen Winery, and Mountfair Vineyards.
*See Part 3 for reviews of Veritas Vineyard and Winery, Villa Appalaccia Winery, and Unicorn Winery.
*See Part 4 for reviews  of Cooper Vineyards, Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery, Paradise Springs Winery, and Château Morrisette.


Falling For The Alluring Ondine

2004 Oriel Ondine Sauternes

Friday was a fairly quiet day at work.  I had a few meetings, but, for the most part, I was able to spend the day reading emails, returning phone calls, and just generally catching up on the work that I put aside over the last two crazy weeks.  For as unusually quiet as my workday was, my night at home was even quieter, as Hubby went on an overnight trip to Atlantic City with some of his guy friends.  Therefore, on my way home, I stopped by Harris Teeter to grab dinner for myself and the local wine store to buy a bottle that I thought would be perfect for a quiet night with a good book and a girlie movie.

The 2004 Oriel Ondine Sauternes (company, snooth) was 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and had a beautiful, dark gold color.  On the nose, there were lemon, smoke, caramel, and honey aromas, followed by a touch of pink grapefruit, apricots, and hand-wipes.  In the mouth, there were canned mandarin oranges, apricots, lemons, and a touch of burnt caramel.  The wine had a voluptuously full body with nice acidity to keep it tasting fresh.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $30 for 375 ml, the Oriel Ondine was a luscious dessert wine that lives up to the stories of the mythological water nymph that it’s named after.  While I drank most of the wine on its own, it paired nicely with the fried chicken breast I had for dinner, as the sweetness balanced out the grease and salt in the chicken.  As someone who generally drinks regular wines instead of dessert wines, the Oriel Ondine was a nice break in routine and definitely a wine that I would buy again.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco at The Wine Academy of Spain’s DC Class

Our last tasting on the second day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course was all beautiful wines from Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco. One of the employees of the winery was actually in the US looking for an American importer, so he joined us for 2 out of the 3 days. My understanding is that, unfortunately, as Dinastía Vivanco does not have an importer yet, the wines aren’t available for sale in the US, but they’re hoping to remedy this soon…and when they do, I encourage you to go buy a bottle. If you’re elsewhere in the world, go look for the wines now. The wines were wonderful both in taste and in price.

Obviously, there was some self-promotion happening and, as students, we were a captive audience, but what Dinastía Vivanco had to offer was worth hearing. Apparently, they’re not only a winery, but also a museum of wine culture and a foundation dedicated to the research and promotion of wine. The facilities include a tasting room, a restaurant, a conference center, and a wine shop. During the discussion of Dinastía Vivanco’s wines, we saw a video that had some interesting footage from inside the museum. Apparently, the museum, which covers both Rioja and general wine culture, has the largest exhibition of corkscrews in the world.

Tasting #8 on Day 2
Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco

4 Corks
Dinastía Vivanco Crianza (winery, snooth)
$17 (suggested retail)
100% Tempranillo
Medium-to-deep ruby
Cherry, strawberry, smoke, cedar, and a little bit of meat on the nose
Cherry, strawberry, cedar, and a little bit of earth and dust in the mouth
Medium-to-high tannins and acidity
Medium body

4.5 Corks
2008 Vivanco – White Rioja (winery, snooth)
$12 (suggested retail)
80% Viura, 20% Malvasia
Pale lemon
Apple, apricot, floral, and dried rose petals with a touch of mango on the nose
Granny smith apple, nectarine, and mango, with a touch of minerals in the mouth
Crisp acidity

2004 Dinastía Vivanco Reserva (winery, snooth)
$25 (suggested retail)
90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano
Medium-to-deep ruby
Black pepper, blackberries, cedar, smoke, and tobacco on the nose
Nice fruit mixed with smokey, earthiness in the mouth
Medium tannins, acidity, and body

2005 Colección Vivanco (winery, snooth)
70% Tempranillo (from Rioja Alta), 15% Graciano (from Rioja Baja), 10% Garnacha, 5% Mazulo
Deep purple with a bluish rim
Strawberry, blackberry, licorice, coffee, leather, and smoke on the nose
Plums, berries, earth, and leather in the mouth
Medium-to-high tannins, high acidity, and medium body
Very complex, with a long finish
Described as a “Modern Rioja”

*This is the first vintage of this wine. Each variety is one of the 4 traditional grapes from Rioja. The harvest and fermentation of each is done separately, so the blending of the wine takes place immediately before bottling.

As you can tell from the empty wine bottles, the 30 of us taking the course had a great second day of wine tasting!

Powerful, Pretty Priorats

The Priorats were the biggest surprise for me during The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course, as I actually tended to prefer them to the Riojas. These wines were the last of the Catalonia wines we tasted, and there wasn’t a bad wine in the group. As I mentioned in my first post about this course, by tasting the wines from Priorat back to back, I was really able to understand as Jesus explained what characteristics were uniquely regional and what characteristics were more likely the result of the winemaker’s techniques. Priorats have nice fruity and flowery flavors, with a depth and intensity that is ideal for the red wine lover. The wines aren’t thick and jammy, but are still chock full of bold flavors, so if you love powerful reds, you should definitely look into these wines. They’ll offer you something that is a little different, while still giving hints of the comforts of the red wines that you enjoy.

Tasting #5 on Day 2

4 Corks

2005 Cruor (snooth)
Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot
Ruby with purple flecks
Strawberry, raspberry, violet, and white pepper
Medium-to-high acidity, medium tannins, and medium body
Long finish

4.5 Corks

2004 Prior Scala Dei (winery, snooth)
50% Garnacha, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah
Deep purple with ruby flecks
Red fruits, rosemary, thyme, with a touch of anise, menthol, dust, and earth
Intense tannins and medium acidity
Finish very different from attack

*Jesus said this is a very good example of a Priorat

2004 Cartoxia Scala Dei (winery,snooth)
41% Garnacha 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah
Medium-to-deep purple with a ruby rim
Black plum, black cherry, blackberry, red roses, violets, white pepper
Intense minerality on the finish
Strong tannins and good acidity
Very aggressive
Needs a couple years of aging

2003 Morlanda Criança (snooth)
50% Garnacha, 50% Cariñena
Medium Ruby
Strawberry, red currant, mineral, cedar, leather, pen ink, white pepper
Medium acidity and tannins

Castilla y León and Ribera del Duero in the Evening

The first day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course ended with a comprehensive look at Castilla y León. For more than an hour, we watched videos, discussed the climate and soil types, learned about the white and red grape varieties, and talked about various food pairing options that match both the wine and the culture of the area.

There are 6 major regions of Castilla y León, all of which make wines that are worth a second look. Whether it’s the reds from Ribera del Duero, from Toro, from Bierzo, and from Arlanza; the rosé from Cigales, or the whites from Rueda, this region of Spain is one for the wine world to notice. Admittedly, wines from Rueda, which are made from the Verdejo grape, emerged as one of my new favorite types of wine, so expect to see more in the future. These wines were reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a little more body and very strong acidity.

Tasting #4 on Day 1

Castilla y León

The Whites

3.5 Corks

2008 Analiva Pagos del Rey (snooth) from Rueda
Pale lemon gold
Pronounced grapefruit and lemon zest, plus grass, white pepper, and granny smith apples
Lime-like acid, very dry, medium body, long finish

4.5 Corks

2008 Shaya Old Vine Verdejo (snooth) from Rueda
Very pale lemon
Fresh cut green grass, grapefruit—overall, very light on the nose
Bright lemon and grapefruit, green apple, wet stone, minerals—overall, very rich in the mouth

The Reds

3 Corks

2006 Segundo Motivo (winery) from Toro
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with big legs
Black plums, smoke, cedar, earth, dust—almost dried out
Medium tannins and acid

2007 El Arte de Vivir (winery, snooth) from Ribera del Duero
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with flecks of purple
A little closed on the nose, so could have used decanting
Leather, raspberries, and violets on the nose
Sour cherries in the mouth
A little rough, not elegant, but enjoyable

3.5 Corks

2006 Tercer Motivo (winery) from Bierzo
100% Mencia
Very deep purple with big legs
Cherry, blackberry, mint, rosemary, and licorice
Fruity, but not complex
Medium tannins and acidity
A little different

2005 Condado de Oriza Crianza (snooth)
Very purple
Strong red fruit aromas—strawberry and raspberry—with a touch of white pepper
Big strong tannins and high acidity
Would pair well with lamb chops

Tasting #5 on Day 1
Ribera del Duero

2 Corks

2003 Valdubón Crianza (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Nice ruby color with garnet rim
Raspberries, strawberries, white pepper, and smoke
Medium tannins and acidity
Short finish—it just falls off a cliff

2003 Valdubón Reserva (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Ruby with garnet rim
Paprika, spices, and strawberries
Medium tannins and acidity
Something funny on the finish
Missing personality

3.5 Corks

2004 Honoris de Valdubón (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Deep purple with flecks of ruby
Vanilla and cherry
Strong tannins and high acidity
Long finish
Could definitely spend some time aging and will likely be beautiful in a few years
Pairing with heavily flavored meat might make it less aggressive

4.5 Corks

2005 Neo (winery)
Deep purple
Smoke, cedar, blackcurrant, blackberries, and touch of leather
Flavors border on jammy
Medium tannins, high acidity, surprisingly light in body

…and that was the end of Day 1 of my Spanish wine course!