So the 4th annual Virginia Wine Expo has come and gone and after going over my notes and trying to remember the heady mix of wines and crowds, I think I’m ready to share my overall thoughts on it. Before I delve into the wine itself, I feel as though I should address the expo itself.
While anything could be better than the first year of the expo (not using the entirety of the venue was a major misstep), I felt as though the 2nd and 3rd year of the event were better than this one. That’s not to say that this year was bad – quite the opposite, just that a few regulars that I was hoping to see and some of my favorite vineyards bringing a limited selection of wines was somewhat of a let down.
All that being said, I had a great time at the 2011 Virginia Wine Expo, the staff and volunteers were great, and the venue continues to be a great choice with a great layout that facilitates the large number of people (10,000 people were expected through the weekend) that are looking to sample Virginia wine.
Now…on to the wines.
The Homeplace Vineyard
While I don’t plan to share my thoughts on the sampling in any particular order, I did want to start with the first vineyard we stopped at. I was unfamiliar with The Homeplace Vineyard before walking up to their table to sample some wines. Overall I was underwhelmed by their wines, with their reds (a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chambourcin, and a blended red of the cab and chambourcin) all having hints of mint/spearmint on the finish that I found….unpleasant. Part of that is because of my general distaste for mint, but either way it just wasn’t enjoyable to me.
I’ve tried a few Mountfair wines before, and unfortunately at the Expo they weren’t pouring their 2008 Engagement (65% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 10% Petit Verdot) or their 2008 Wooloomooloo (60% Petit Verdot; 30% Merlot) as they are sold out of them which gives you an idea of how enjoyable they are.
As for what they were pouring, the 2009 Merlot was full of dark fruit flavor and the 2008 Belated (60% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 10% Petit Verdot) had a nice jammy, peppery flavor to it, while the 2008 Indigenous (50% Petit Verdot; 50% Cabernet Franc) had the pepper flavors of the Cab Franc with the nice velvet finish of the Petit Verdot.
While I didn’t walk away with anything from Mountfair, they are high on my list of vineyards to visit if only so I can get my hands on a bottle of Wooloomooloo.
Fox Meadow Winery
While I had tasted their Governor’s Cup winning wine the night before, I wanted to see what else they had to offer. They were offering two more robust wines and two sweeter wines. Being as I’m not a sweet wine drinker as a general rule, I avoided the latter two, sticking to the more robust wines.
The 2008 Reserve Chardonnay and nice notes of pineapple with less of a buttery finish than you would expect from a wine that had spent 20 months in oak. The 2008 Le Renard Rouge still had the flavors of black cherry that I’d found the night before.
Gabriele Rausse Winery
Gabriele Rausse was another winery that I was unfamiliar with walking up to their table, but looking at their tasting list I couldn’t help but give them a try. Their 2009 Vin Gris de Pinot Noir was an interesting white made from Pinot grapes that had hints of pear.
The 2009 Viognier was more robust than I was expecting with a nutty finish that wasn’t bad, but just unexpected. Paired with the right food it could be an amazing wine. The 2008 Malbec was bright in the mouth but the finish was just off to me – can’t put my finger on what it was, only that something about it was just off.
The 2008 Pinot Noir was the reason that I walked up to the table, and while it wasn’t a Pinot like I was hoping for, it was nice to see a Virginia winery trying to make a grape that doesn’t really grow here, so for that alone I applaud them.
The 2008 Cabernet Franc had a nice bell pepper finish and I ended up taking a bottle of it home with me, and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was nice and smooth and cried out for a steak….or rather it would have for less than the $35.
Another one I had never tried before (this will be a trend). Offering two Viogniers – a 2009 “Honah Lee” and a 2008 “Maggie’s Vineyard” – I preferred the 2009 as it had great floral notes that I associate with Virginia Viognier.
All three of their reds were enjoyable, but of the 2008 Cinq, 2008 Syrah, and 2008 William’s Gap, the Cinq was my favorite. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat was juicy with a deep garnet color and just generally appealing.
Ingleside is a table that I swing by every year. While I always grab some of their Blue Crab Blanc, this year I wanted to try their whole offering to see if there was something new that would catch my eye. While their Petit Verdot was a standout of the tasting, I ended up taking home the Blue Crab Blanc and the Blue Crab Red, mostly because of its versatility.
Blenheim has quickly become one of my favorite Virginia vineyards, not the least of which is because Kirsty, their winemaker, is doing great things there. Everything I tasted was great, but some deserve mention. Of the whites, the White Table Wine and the Rose’ were both excellent and I brought home 3 bottles of each. Of the reds, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2008 Petit Verdot were both amazing and 3 bottles each of those also came home with me.
I’ll be doing longer reviews of all four of those wines, but you should definitely go visit Blenheim and check them out for yourself before I get around to writing more about them.
Philip Carter Winery
I was familiar with Philip Carter, though it had been a while since I had tried any of their wines. They were pouring four different wines, 2 white 2 red, of which the 2009 Chardonnay of the whites was my favored with a subtle butter finish, and the 2009 Cabernet Franc of the reds with its bright flavors and good pepper.
Wineworks/Michael Shaps Wines
As soon as I saw the table for Wineworks I knew I wanted to visit them as they are the first winery in Virginia to offer a boxed wine, and I support boxed wine. While I tasted their whole selection, I have to say that their 2009 Wineworks Viognier and their two boxed wines – a 2009 Chardonnay and 2009 Cabernet Franc – were all excellent. I bought one of the 2009 Cabernet Franc boxes, but would recommend any of the three and plan to make a trip out to Wineworks in the near future to try spend more time with their wines.
Afton Mountain Vineyards
Another of the gold medal winning vineyards, and one that I enjoy thanks to their Gewurztraminer. They were pouring that at the Expo, and I would recommend it to anybody, and especially to those that are wary of the grape because of their belief that it has to be sweet.
I found their Steel Chardonnay to be a bit pithy, though still good, and their 2009 Cabernet Franc to be bright and full of berry flavors. They weren’t pouring their gold medal winning 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, but I do recommed it if you get a chance to try it.
Flying Fox Vineyards
The 2010 Fox White lied to me on the tasting sheet when it said it was semi-sweet as I found it to be far sweeter than just “semi”. The 2008 Cabernet Franc was spicy with bright red fruit flavors. The 2008 Trio (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot) was just smooth. The 2008 Petit Verdot was loaded with dark cherry flavors. I skipped the 2008 Fox Red as it too was listed as “semi-sweet” and I refused to be lied to again.
I’ve been out to Pollak and really enjoy their wines. Of the four they were pouring, I truly enjoyed the 2008 Durant White (60% Chardonnay; 30% Viognier; 10% Pinot Gris) with its floral notes, roundness from the Chardonnay, and just a hint of effervescence. I also found the 2008 Cabernet Franc to be great with good pepper and berry notes. Both of these came home with me and you can look forward to longer reviews in the future.
Lake Anna Winery
Lake Anna is another winery that I was familiar with walking up. Typically I visit them for their Spotsylvania Claret, but I have to say that this year I wasn’t as impressed with it as in years past. I was, however, impressed with their Totally White with some cinnamon on the nose and nice crisp flavors, the 2007 Morgan Merlot with a great pepper profile that would pair well with a bold dinner, and the 2007 Bell Haven Cabernet Franc with great green bell pepper flavors (which as you can tell I really like).
Keswick is another vineyard that I really enjoy and have had a great time at when visiting their tasting room. Of the four wines they were pouring, the gold winning 2009 Cabernet Franc was far and away my favorite. That, coupled with a great 2009 LVD Viognier that had great floral notes, made them one of my favorite tables to visit.
I was disappointed that Jefferson Vineyards didn’t have their Petit Verdot to pour and buy, but of the wines they were pouring, I would recommend their 2009 Cabernet Franc.
Phew…alright…great Expo. Lots of great wines were sampled, and again I salute Virginia Wine and the organizers of the event for putting this together and look forward to next years’ Expo. If you didn’t make it this year there’s always next year, and if you live in or around Virginia, I recommend going out and supporting Virginia Wine as all of the winemakers are doing great things and should be rewarded by having their wine purchased in great quantities.