I hope everybody had a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend filled with friends, family, cookouts, and good wine. On Saturday my wife and I decided to jump on the Virginia Wine Trail and hit a few vineyards – some we had been to before and others we hadn’t visited yet. Four vineyards, several bottles, and a wine club membership later and we lived to tell the tale, and now I get to share it with you.
We started out our tasting at White Hall, partly because of the area we were looking to go tasting in, they were the first one open, but also because I we hadn’t actually been out to the tasting room in many years. On the Saturday morning we stopped in they were pouring 9 different wines and my wife and I were happy to sample them all.
We started out with two Chardonnays, the 2008 Chardonnay ($15) and the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve ($24). The stainless steel Chardonnay featured all the usual citrus and pear notes I would have expected, but had a smoother finish than I anticipated, though certainly not “oaky”. The 2008 Reserve featured a bit of oaky nuttiness on the nose and while it had the “oaked” finish I would expect, it was subtle and even my wife, who doesn’t usually care for oaked Chardonnay, preferred it to the stainless steel.
Next up was the 2009 Viognier ($17) which offered a good floral nose with rose and honeysuckle in the mouth with just a hint of sweetness on the finish. This is a great summer wine and my wife and I did actually bring a bottle of it home with us. Following the Viognier was the 2008 Pinot Gris ($17) which didn’t have much nose to it but was a nice dry wine with a good minerality on the finish. Our final white was the 2008 Petit Manseng ($16) which like the Viognier had a floral nose with tropical notes in the mouth. The best way to describe this wine is as a less floral and more sweet Viognier. A good dessert wine though.
Moving on to the reds. We started with the 2008 Merlot ($15) which had a smoky nose but was lighter in the palate with raspberry flavors. I really enjoyed this one and we made sure to grab a bottle to bring home. Following that was the 2009 Touriga ($18) with a jammy nose and soft tannins. The 2008 Petit Verdot ($20) was a stand-out for me. It was a dark reddish-purple in the glass with smoke and pepper on the nose that carried through to the palate to mix with raspberry and a nice soft tannic finish. This was arguably my favorite wine of the tasting and we made sure to grab a bottle to bring home.
We finished up the tasting with the 2007 Soliterre ($17), a dessert wine with floral and apricot notes on the nose and candied fruit on the palate. With 6% residual sugar you had better make sure to pair it with something, but I will say that had I not known how much residual sugar was in the wine I might have guessed less as it certainly wasn’t syrupy.
Our tasting complete and some wines purchased we moved on to our next stop.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that Mountfair was a big reason we headed out to do some wine tasting. Everybody in Virginia that’s been there has nothing but good things to say about it, and what’s not to love about a vineyard that specializes in small-batch red wines?
We started off our tasting with a few sparkling wines from Thibaut-Janisson, the Blanc de Chardonnay and the Virginia FIZZ. Mountfair sells these wines for them as they don’t have their own tasting room. They were both enjoyable, one a champagne style and the other a prosecco style.
As for the actual Mountfair wines, we started off with the 2009 Merlot ($20) which is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. With a peppery nose I expected more of it in the palate, but the Merlot does a good job of smoothing it out and makes this a great wine for just sipping on. We grabbed a bottle of this as well, bringing our Merlot total up to 2 in as many vineyards. Next was the other of their single varietals, the 2009 Cabernet Franc ($20) which is the opposite of the Merlot at 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. The wine was heavier in the mouth than I expected with a subtle pepper and smoke finish with good cherry notes leading the way in. We didn’t buy this one, but mostly because it lost the coin toss against the Merlot.
Next was the 2008 Indigenous ($25) a blend of 50/50 Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc with a velvety pepper nose and a tart finish that I attributed to the Cabernet Franc. Finally we sampled the 2009 Engagement ($25) a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a great wine for grilled food with a lot of the Cabernet Franc notes coming through, but with more body thanks to the Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
I really enjoyed Mountfair and before we left my wife and I even signed up for their wine club so that we’ll get shipments of their wine as their released. If you visit Mountfair or have at least tasted their wines I certainly recommend it as it’s a great value and a good way to get their signature wine, the Wooloomooloo, which pretty much sells out as soon as it’s released.
My wife and I had visited Pollak a few years back just after they opened their new tasting room (which is beautiful and has a patio and deck area perfect for a picnic lunch), but wanted to head back now that the new vintages were out, especially since I enjoyed what of them I was able to taste back in February at the Virginia Wine Expo. We started out with the 2009 Chardonnay ($19) which had a creamy nose with citrus and vanilla notes on the palate and a soft, light oak hint on the finish.
Next was the 2010 Viognier ($20) with a nose of honey and peach and floral notes on the palate. This was a light wine that will be good on a hot day. Next was the 2010 Pinot Gris ($18) which was so light in the glass as to be nearly clear. This was a medium dry wine and the only thing I can really say about it is that it was so-so, and nothing to get too excited about. Next was the 2009 Durant White ($16) a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Viognier, and 10% Pinot Gris. With a subtle floral nose and good tropical flavors this was easily my favorite white of the tasting and the only reason I didn’t grab a bottle to bring home is that I already have one.
Moving on to the reds we started with the 2009 Durant Red ($12) which is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Light red in the glass with pepper and a “meaty”, smoky aroma and a tart finish this is a good value wine, especially for those big cookouts that come up this time of year. Our next wine was the 2008 Cabernet Franc ($20) with a nose of pepper and generic red fruit with cherry on the palate.
Next was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) with a nose full of dark fruit and a juicy palate with soft tannins on the finish. This wine is just begging for a grilled steak and I bought a bottle to take home for just that reason. Our final sample was the 2008 Meritage ($25) a blend of 44% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, and 13% Petit Verdot that has a lot of dark fruit on both the nose and the palate with a nice smooth finish. It’s very “petit verdot-y” (according to my notes) and another great steak wine that we only didn’t buy because we decided to go with the Cab Sauv.
After staying at Pollak for a bit to eat some lunch on their deck area, it was on to our final stop.
I always have a soft spot in my heart for Veritas as my wife’s brother got married there and we had, quite frankly, one helluva time. Veritas lets you select either a white tasting or a red tasting, but since my wife and I were both there, we picked one of each and shared, starting off with the whites.
First was the Scintilla ($30) a French style brut sparkling wine with apple on the nose, big bubbles and a nice dry finish. Next was the 2010 “Saddleback” Chardonnay ($18) which is done in the Chablis style and has lots of tropical notes as well as some vanilla and apple. Following up that was the 2009 “Harlequin” Chardonnay ($25) which has spent 6 months in French oak. With a buttery/oak nose I was almost surprised at how much acid I found on the palate, though it certainly wasn’t a lot. That being said both my wife and I liked the “Harlequin” much better than the “Saddleback”.
Next we tasted the 2010 Viognier ($20). Floral and honeysuckle notes on the nose with peach on the palate and a slight hint of sweetness on the finish (.7% residual sugar) made this a very typical, but very enjoyable, Virginia Viognier. The 2009 Petit Manseng ($25) had kiwi on the nose and even with 10% residual sugar was sweet without being syrupy. The 2009 Kenmar ($35) is an ice wine style made from Traminette and offering rose aromas on the nose with honey and rose water on the palate. This is a very sweet wine, but a good dessert wine if paired correctly with something like pound cake.
Moving on to the reds, we sampled the Mousseux ($30) a sparkling wine using Merlot grapes with notes of strawberry and a tartness that I actually found rather refreshing. The 2010 Rose’ ($14) is made with 46% Cabernet Franc and 54% Merlot and features .5% residual sugar. A medium-light pink in color with a strawberry nose and a dry, slight pepper/spice note on the finish that makes this a good summer wine for pairing with something like grilled chicken.
The Red Star ($18) is a blend of 37% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, and 26% Chambourcin. A nose of dark fruit and pepper and a palate of smoke and cherry make this a good wine to pair with burgers. The 2009 Claret ($18) is a blend of 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Petit Verdot. The petit verdot really came through on this wine, with a nice juiciness to the wine and aromas of smoke and pepper that will make this another great wine for drinking with some gourmet burgers off the grill – which is why my wife and I grabbed a bottle.
Finally, the 2009 Vintner’s Reserve ($25) a blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Petit Verdot that spent 18 months in mostly new French oak barrels. A smoky aroma with tons of dark fruit notes on the palate a nice soft tannic finish makes this a great wine to pair with a steak.
My wife and I had a great time tasting all these wines, and everybody that we dealt with at the vineyards was incredibly pleasant, knowledgeable, and friendly. If you have the chance to visit any of these vineyards I highly recommend it, and I’m already looking forward to another trip out to Virginia Wine Country to visit some other vineyards and taste some more wines.