Wine: Articles

Rancho La Puerta: Local Wine

The Ranch believes “wine is an ancient, nutritious, and healthful (in moderation) food that has its place at the table and in life’s celebrations.” There are grape vines growing on the property that were here when the Ranch was founded, and in the early days, the grapes were used in treatments.

Wine is only served at the Ranch during Friday night’s celebration (you can bring alcohol to consume in your room), and it’s a great chance to try the local wine region, Baja California Wine Country.

In the northern part of Baja California, Mexico, where the Ranch is located, sits this wine region with 38 wineries and vineyards. The Mediterranean climate is ideal for grape growing combined with the soil and elevation. The valleys of Calafia, Guadalupe and San Antonio de las Minas make the heart of the wine route. White wines from the region are made with Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. Red wines are made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Carignan, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel.

The two wineries served at dinner are located about 43 miles south of the Ranch.

L.A. Cetto Blanc de Blancs

Cetto Wines dates back to grapes planted in the Valle de Guadalupe in 1928. The winery officially started in 1975.

  • Varietal: 50% Colombard, 50% Chenin Blanc
  • Aroma: Bright citrus and melon
  • Taste: Guava, papaya, melon with a hint of lime and slight sweetness
  • My thoughts: Nice! I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and the interesting flavors reminescent of the local fruits. Gabby, our fabulous La Cocina Que Qanta Cooking Class advisor, said the local wines have been developing and improving substantially over the last few years. This was a great example!

Barón Balché Mezcla de Tintos 2009

Barón Balché is also in the Valle de Guadalupe.

  • Varietal: Malbec, Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Red fruit, tobacco
  • Taste: Primarily leather taste
  • My thoughts: This one needs some work. I wasn’t a fan nor were those at my table. Had a tire aftertaste.

So I guess I did have one craving by the end of the week…wine. ;) It was great to be able to try some from the local region.

Salud to Rancho La Puerta and Baja’s Wine Country!

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Virginia Wine Expo: Some Old Favorites, Part 2

In this last article on the 5th Annual Virginia Wine Expo, I’ll cover my last five of my old favorite wineries, all located around Charlottesville, from the last year and my favorite wine they were tasting at the Expo.

Blenheim Vineyards Petit Verdot 2010

  • Varietal: 100% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Spicy, jammy
  • Taste: Blackberry jam with nutty caramel
  • Price: $24
  • My thoughts: I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know winemaker Kirsty Harmon over the last year and I just love all her wines! So approachable & drinkable. It was great fun to taste through Blenheim’s line-up with her and introduce them to friends at the Expo. This wine is delicious and I can’t wait to open the bottle I got with my wine club shipment.

King Family Vineyards Crosé

  • Varietal: 100% Merlot
  • Aroma: Grapefruit and cranberry
  • Taste: Crisp citrus and tart berry
  • Price: $16.95
  • My thoughts: This wine made me smile! :) It’s a dry rosé named after the town where King Family is located, Crozet. About five years ago, this was the first Virginia winery I visited with friends while spending a weekend in Charlottesville. I knew the wines in Virginia were up and coming.

Veritas Vineyard and Winery Viognier 2011

  • Varietal: 100% Viognier
  • Aroma: Peaches and orange blossoms
  • Taste: Rich peach and apricot with a nice acidity
  • Price: $22
  • My thoughts: As Virginia’s official grape, this is a great example of it! I met winemaker Emily at the Wine Bloggers Conference… so nice and doing great work!

Afton Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2009

  • Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Rich red berry
  • Taste:Deep raspberry and cherry with hints of vanilla and cinnamon
  • My thoughts: This delicious wine, great example of Virginia Cab Franc, was a 2012 winner in the Virginia Governor’s Cup.

The last winery of my favorites was Gabriele Rausse’s Pinot Noir. Gabriele is the father of modern Virginia wine! I was so excited to meet him last year at the Wine Bloggers Conference and it was great to see him at the Expo. I was so caught up in talking to him and tasting his wines with him and my friends that I didn’t make copious notes to share here but can tell you I loved his Pinot Noir. You are not seeing a lot of Pinot Noir in Virginia yet. All his wines are hard to find unless you’re in Charlottesville.

That’s a wrap on the 5th Annual Virginia Wine Expo! Hope you enjoyed the series and found some wineries to visit / wines to seek out. All of us living in Virginia should be drinking some of these great wines!

Cheers to Virginia wine!

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Virginia Wine Expo: Some Old Favorites

For the last year, I’ve been exploring Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry, now over 200 wineries strong. My journey started at last year’s 4th Annual Virginia Wine Expo. The neat thing about attending this year’s Expo is I had favorites to visit. In the next two articles, I’ll share my favorite wine each was tasting at the Expo.

Breaux Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

  • Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Aroma: Crisp citrus
  • Taste: Honeydew melon and green apple with hint of goat cheese
  • Price: $15
  • My thoughts:  Really like this wine! As a Sauvignon Blanc fan, I like that it’s familiar yet with a hint of something different…I got goat cheese. :) There Viognier, Virginia’s official grape, was named to Oz Clarke’s Top 250 Wines of 2012 list. Fun to see Jennifer and introduce Breaux to friends.

Chatham Vineyards Late Harvest Dessert Wine

  • Varietal: Cabernet Franc and Merlot
  • Aroma: Nuts and spice
  • Taste: Brown spice, hazelnut, tobacco
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: This is a yummy dessert wine…not too sweet with lots of layers! It would be perfect with a cheese plate. Unfortunately it was sold out so I couldn’t take it home. These grapes are naturally dehydrated on the vine and produce a wine with only 3% residual sugar (typical ice wine is 9%). Great to meet Jon and taste through his wines with him. I discovered Chatham at last spring’s Mount Vernon Wine Festival.

DuCard Vineyards 2009 Petit Verdot

  • Varietal: 100% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Big spice and red fruit
  • Taste: Dark red fruit, silky smooth with a hint of anise
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: I discovered DuCard at least year’s event. It was great to taste this lovely wine with their talented winemaker, who unfortunately after five years is headed back to Bordeaux.

Barren Ridge Vineyards 2008 Meritage

  • Varietal: 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Red fruit and spice
  • Taste: Silky combination of red berries, vanilla and spice
  • Price: $32
  • My thoughts: First met French winemaker Pauline Dubier at last summer’s Wine Bloggers Conference (she too is headed back to France). This lovely wine won Silver in the 2011 Virginia Governor’s Cup.

Next…wines from my other old favorites at the Expo. Click here for additional discoveries from this year’s Expo.

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Virginia Wine Expo NEW Wine Discoveries, Part 2

Yesterday and today I’m sharing NEW wine discoveries from The 5th Annual Virginia Wine Expo which featured 76 of Virginia’s now 210 wineries sampling over 400 wines.

Glen Manor Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

In Tasting Virginia’s Gold, I shared the BIG 2010 Governor’s Cup Winner, Glen Manor Vineyards 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage. What a fabulous wine! Glen Manor was a new discovery for me at the Expo. Located about 70 miles west of Washington, DC, Glen Manor is Jeff White and his family’s farm. The family has been farming the land since 1901…his mother was born here.

They established the vineyards in 1995, first vintage was in 2007 and the winery opened in 2008. Jeff has been a vineyard and winemaker since 1993 when he worked with Jim Linden of Linden Vineyards and then provided grapes for Linden wine. Jeff focuses on Sauvignon Blanc and red Bordeaux blends and varietals. His wines reflect the vineyard soils and the vintage from which the grapes are matured and harvested.

  • Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Aroma: Very aromatic…herbal, grassy, lime
  • Taste:  Tropical fruit and minerality, as Jeff said “this is a sassy little wine”
  • Price: $23
  • My thoughts: I love Sauvignon Blanc and I loved this wine and brought a bottle home! As I said in the Gold article, Jeff is doing fabulous work and you can taste it. He’s such a nice guy and when I asked him how it felt to be THE winner, he said, “It feels great. And I’m ready to go back home and be a farmer.” :)

Little Washington Winery George

Virginia’s 211th winery opened on 11/11/11 at 11:11. In Little Washington, on what owner Carl says is a beautiful spot with amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they are producing small-batch artisan wines with their grapes as well as some sourced from other Virginia vineyards. They have three wines in their line-up to start.

  • Varietal: 50% Cabernet Sauvginon, 50% Merlot
  • Aroma: Big red fruit
  • Taste:  Red currant and black cherry (from the Merlot) with leathery tobacco (from the Cab)
  • My thoughts: This wine is a nice showing for one of their first wines…soft and easy drinking. It’s named after George Washington himself. I had a great chat with Carl and look forward to getting out to visit them.

Ingleside Vineyards 2008 Sangiovese

Located near the Chesapeak Bay on Virginia’s Northern Neck, the winery looks like it’s in an idyllic spot. As our taster at the Expo said, “they are the only winery with a boat that comes to it.”

  • Varietal: 85% Sangiovese, 11% Charbono, 4% Graciano
  • Aroma: Dried red fruits like dark cherry
  • Taste:  Soft, medium bodied red fruit
  • Price: $19.95
  • My thoughts: I haven’t had many Sangiovese’s from Virginia, and its a favorite varietal of mine when from Tuscany and a few in Sonoma. This was a nice showing and my favorite wine in their line up. It won Bronze in this year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup.

Tomorrow and Friday, wines from some of my old favorite Virginia wineries.

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Virginia Wine Expo NEW Wine Discoveries

The 5th Annual Virginia Wine Expo featured 76 of Virginia’s now 210 wineries sampling over 400 wines. It was a great opportunity for me to hit 23 wineries and sample about 100 wines, some new discoveries and some old favorites. Today and tomorrow I’ll share some of the NEW discoveries.

Mountfair Vineyards 2010 Inaugural

Located 20 minutes west of Charlottesville, Mountfair Vineyards crafts small-batch, blended red wines using classic Bordeaux grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

  • Varietal: 65% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot
  • Aroma: Red fruit and oak
  • Taste: Very fruit forward with lots of cherry
  • Price: $25.00
  • My thoughts: This is my third time tasting winemaker Fritz Repich’s wines…what a great guy and great wines! You’d love to sit down with him over a bottle and hear all his winemaking stories. He’s doing a great job blending red Virginia grapes in Bordeaux style. This wine is very fruit forward thanks to 2010’s hot summer.

Pollak Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc

This small family-owned winery west of Charlottesville was founded in 2003 and opened their tasting room and patio in 2008. Today they have 27 acres of French vines and their focus is on making estate grown wine with “the finesse and balance of the traditional French varietals.”

  • Varietal: 100% Estate Grown Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Earthy black cherry
  • Taste: Smooth yet tart black cherry with earthiness and pepper
  • Price: $20
  • My thoughts: This was my first time tasting Pollak. Nick Dovel, tasting room director, tasted me through their wines at the Expo and I really enjoyed them. Cabernet Franc, a big grape and wine for Virginia…I like the fruit forward nature of this one with hints of pepper that aren’t overpowering.

Annefield Vineyards 2009 Viognier

Annefield is a boutique winegrower near the village of Saxe in Southern Virginia. Named after the Annefield Plantation dating back to 1770,  it was founded in 2005 on the land by Stephen M. Ballard and Michael T. Leary. Wines are traditional old-world style produced by winemaker Michael Shaps with Virginia Wineworks.

  • Varietal: 100% Viognier
  • Aroma: Bright honeysuckle
  • Taste: Crisp honeydew melons and citrus with silky mouthfeel
  • Price: $22
  • My thoughts: Really liked this wine! Also loved the wordle sheet they were giving out describing each wine. :)

Visit their websites to find out where you can buy them or if they ship to your state.

More NEW Virginia wine discoveries tomorrow.

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