St. Patty’s Day in Virginia Wine Country

Instead of spending my Saint Patrick’s Day at a faux-Irish pub drinking green beer and whiskey and trying to avoid being puked on by the amateur drinkers and college students, my wife and I decided to invite my parents down for the weekend and to head out to some vineyards to try some wines and make some purchases, in no small part because we decided to skip the Virginia Wine Expo this year.

We started out journey at Virginia Wineworks. I first got to sample some of their wines during last year’s Virginia Wine Expo and then got to visit the winery during the 2011 North American Wine Blogger’s Conference. Both the Wineworks line and the Michael Shaps wines were enjoyable when I was there in July, so I wanted visit them again.

We tasted the entire line of wines, and ended up leaving with the Bag in a Box of both the Wineworks Viognier and Cabernet Franc, but there were others that stood out to me as well. In addition to the Wineworks Viognier, which I found to have a great floral note on the nose and good notes of banana in the mouth, the Michael Shaps Chardonnay was a surprising standout for both myself and my wife. Having spent 2 years in New French Oak, the wine exhibited a buttery, toasted note on the nose and in the mouth, but still had enough acid to it that even my wife, who really doesn’t enjoy oaked wines, found it pleasant.

The Wineworks Rose’ was another standout to me, and in fact my parents bought two bottles to take home with them. A reddish orange color in the glass, the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and was light and crisp with good flavors of candied fruit, making it an excellent deck wine for this time of year. Michael Shaps had discussed the possibility of having the Rose’ as a Bag in a Box option in the future and I for one hope that he follows through and I like his brand of approachable but quality boxed wines and they’re perfect for parties or for when you just want a glass.

After making our purchases we got back into the car and headed down the street to First Colony Winery. In all honesty it’s almost insulting to visit one without visiting the other so if you plan to visit either one, plan on stopping at both – they’re that close to each other.

I had visited First Colony during the Wine Blogger’s Conference and at the time I wasn’t overly impressed with them. That being said, they also didn’t pour us their full line of wines and did let us sample a few that hadn’t been released yet to give an idea of what they were working on, so I wanted to give them a second chance.

A few of their wines really jumped out at me, and I brought home a few in fact, including their 2009 Reserve Chardonnay and 2010 Rose’, but I was impressed with the first one that was poured for us, the 2010 Seyval Blanc. On the nose I got a mix of tropical notes and some petrol, but in the mouth I got a nuttiness and light citrus combination that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It’s a nice alternative to Viognier if you don’t enjoy that.

The 2009 Reserve Chardonnay spend 14 months in oak (New American and Neutral French) and featured a lemon/toasted almond/vanilla note on the nose. In the mouth I got more citrus and lemon notes and, surprisingly, virtually no oak finish. While I do enjoy an oaked chardonnay, my wife doesn’t and she liked this wine so it was a win-win for both of us.

The 2010 Rose’ was a dark pink color and featured flavors of watermelon and pomegranate. The wine was light and refreshing with just a touch of light tartness on the finish that I enjoyed, making it a great deck wine, which is where I plan to enjoy some of the bottles I brought home with me.

The final wine that really jumped out at me was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. The wine was light in the mouth with a soft oak note on the nose and in the mouth. I found the wine smooth with just a hint of pepper on the finish that I’ve come to expect from Virginia wine. Had I honestly not just bought a box of Cabernet Franc from Wineworks I’d probably have a bottle of this too, so I do recommend it.

Our next stop was Blenheim Vineyards. I won’t go into too much detail with this tasting since I’ve been there several times and always enjoy it and really just recommend everything. I will say that the 2011 Chardonnay and 2010 Cabernet Franc are excellent (brought half a case of each home with me), as is the 2010 Painted Red (plan to get some the next time I stop in). While on the patio enjoying some lunch (and a bottle of the Chardonnay), I got great surprise.

I’ve made no secret of my love of the 2009 Rose’ I picked up during the Virginia Wine Expo last year, and I’d been hoarding my last bottle of it until the new vintage comes out. Kirsty, the winemaker at Blenheim, surprised my family and me by bringing us a bottle of the new vintage (which comes out April 1st) to try.

The wine is a darker pink than the previous year, in no small part because the blend is different than the previous year. I didn’t get a chance to write it down, but I do remember that Mourvedre was added to it this year. The wine was a big lighter in the mouth than the previous vintage, with some notes of strawberry and candied fruit, with a nice crisp finish that was refreshing on a warm day on the patio. In short, I can’t wait for the 1st to purchase some.

Our lunch complete, and our purchases placed in the car (and my father having signed up for the Blenheim Wine Club), we made our way around Charlottesville to visit Mountfair Vineyards. Mountfair is another vineyard that I’ve spent some time at, and written about on here at great length, so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that my parents enjoyed everything, we shared a bottle of the Wooloomooloo on the patio, and we managed to snag the last bottle of Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blanc for another time.

Our final stop of the day was Stinson Vineyards, in good part because you literally have to drive past it to get to and from Mountfair. I’d been there once right after they opened, and thought the wines needed some time to mature, so I was pleasantly surprised by what we tasted this time around.

Most notable was the 2010 Chardonnay, which was light and crisp with just a touch of roundness from having spent just a bit of time in oak. The 2010 Rose’ (made from 100% Mourvedre) was another standout, and another great deck wine during a day of great deck wines. Crisp with notes of strawberry it’s done in the Provence style and will pair great with some seafood.

All in all it was another great trip to Virginia wine country, and I look forward to visiting the area again soon. There are, as always, great wines being produced by the area, and I’m looking forward to the release of the wines still in tanks and barrels to see what else some of the hardest working winemakers in the country have produced.

About George Perry 834 Articles
A wine lover for as long as I can remember, I hope that my thoughts on wine can help others to make decisions on what they should drink as well.

1 Comment

  1. It was great to see Jeff win and it is absolutely well deserved. Great juice made by a great guy. I thought the whole evening went incredibly well.

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