After my series of posts about Thomas Jefferson it seemed only appropriate that I quench my thirst with some wine from Virginia. Tarara Winery celebrated their 25th anniversary last year. Though I was unable to attend the celebration, Shawn Sisson sent me samples so I could join in on the fun. You may recognize the name because it was two summers ago that the vibrant 2011 Boneyard White became a fixture at my house. This time I started with a pair of wines from the balanced 2012 vintage. The 2012 Tarara Winery, Nevaeh White offered toasted accents with green apple that had a fair vein of acidity. I thought the 2012 Tarara Winery, Cabernet Franc was a good reflection of the vintage with its aromatic nose and flavors bearing both weight and racy hints. It had a good mix of fruit and greenhouse florals which was, quite frankly, rather enjoyable. From a hot and dry vintage came the 2010 The Bone Yard, Syrah. This was a mouth filling, savory, and textured wine that took me away from locality. This powerful wine bears its long upbringing in Virginian oak well but it does need some time to integrate the flavors. It will already appeal to many people but I recommend you hold on to your bottles to see how it develops.
2012 Tarara Winery, Nevaeh White – $35
This wine is a blend of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Viognier that was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for ten months. Alcohol 13%. There was a light, golden yellow color that matched the nose with its toast accented aromas of yellow fruit. In the mouth were some tart green apple flavors in the start followed by a toast hint in the middle. There was a fair zing from the acidity that was felt on the front and sides of the tongue. The wine took on a rounded feel along with a hint of stones and a long finish with salivating acidity. ** Now-2016.
2012 Tarara Winery, Cabernet Franc – $25
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 12 months in new and used Virginian oak. Alcohol 13%. The nose revealed cherries and greenhouse scented fruit. In the mouth was brighter red fruit accented by a greenhouse floral start, tart fruit, and a black fruited finish. With air the wine took on some weight, racy black hints, and showed attractive salivating acidity. This opened up well. ** Now-2018.
2010 The Bone Yard, Syrah – $100
This wine is a blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier that was co-fermented with indigenous years in stainless steel then aged for 38 months in Virginian oak. Alcohol 15%. There were mouth filling flavors of savory, black fruit, stones, and generally salivating flavor. The ripeness played it close but with extended air the tart black fruit developed a red hint and took on more texture. This savory black wine had stones in the finish, smooth tannins, and a vanilla hint at the end. It needs a little time to integrate the oak. *** Now-2020.
Inspired by my Thanksgiving wine research I decided to serve American wines for our Thanksgiving meal. I opened up a pair of bubbles, a pair of whites, and a pair of red wines. While this allowed us to match the variety of dishes and account for personal preferences, my real motive was to allow comparison amongst the wines. Judging by the amount of wine left in the bottles the NV Thibaut-Janisson Winery, Blanc de Chardonnay Brut, Monticello and 2010 Keswick Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Reserve, Monticello tied for favorite wines. The Thibaut-Janisson was refreshing and so easy to drink while snacking on shrimp and cheese as we finished up the meal. The 2007 Trump Winery, SP Reserve Brut, Monticello is not without its merits, the biggest one is that this is a mature sparkling wine. It might be more of an acquired taste. No one paid much heed to the white wines but I did. For me there was too much of the sweet tropical notes to the 2013 The Vineyards at Dodon, Sauvignon Blanc, Anne Arundel County. I preferred it several days later at room temperature. I tasted the 2013 Linden, Chardonnay, Hardscrabble over four days. It remained fairly tight, just losing its creamy start, so I would cellar this another year before trying again. I had everyone taste the 2010 Keswick Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Reserve, Monticello first due to its younger flavors. This was a big hit with people taking big pours. It was easy to see why for the dense fruit overlay everything providing a seductive drink. I would try this again next year so that it can shake off some baby fat. The 2009 Weese Family Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile, Sonoma County was too old-school for most people which meant there was more to me to drink. This was my favorite wine of the night and the next night and even the next night. The wine proved young on each night but the flavors were spot on for their complexity transcended fruit descriptors. If you try a bottle this winter be sure to accompany it with some food, otherwise cellar it for a few years. The Trump and Keswick wines were purchased at the estates, everything else came from MacArthur Beverages.
NV Thibaut-Janisson Winery, Blanc de Chardonnay Brut, Monticello – $25
This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light white straw. The nose had a delicate toast which eventually took on yeasty aromas of apple cider. There was an immediately, bubbly mousse in the mouth followed by white fruit and a tangy finish. The wine became rounder with air with a pleasing balance between apple flavors and some spices. This solid wine had a lot of presence on the tongue and proved generally refreshing. *** Now-2016.
2007 Trump Winery, SP Reserve Brut, Monticello – $45
This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was aged on the lees for four years in a combination of French oak and stainless steel. Alcohol 12%. The medium golden-yellow color was a prelude to the rich aromas of spices and yeast. In the mouth were robust flavors with very fine, bursting bubbles. The flavors were clearly mature with a biscuit note. With air there were fallen orchard fruit and a smoky hint. ** Now.
2013 The Vineyards at Dodon, Sauvignon Blanc, Anne Arundel County – $22
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc aged for five months on the lees in stainless steel. Alcohol 12.6%. The color was a very light, green straw. The nose bore sweet, tropical flowers. In the mouth the good, up front acidity made way to tropical fruit. There was some ripe fruit, a rounded feel, some stones, and salivating acidity in the aftertaste. Not really my style. * Now.
2013 Linden, Chardonnay, Hardscrabble – $30
Alcohol 13.5%. The nose revealed gently toasty white fruit. The wine was round, almost creamy in the mouth with tart, green apple fruit and a good mouth feel. The good acidity outlived the creamy mouthfeel. With air a slight hint of oak came out. **(*) 2016-2022.
2010 Keswick Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Reserve, Monticello – $75
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 22 months in French and American oak. Alcohol 14%. There was a rather dark color of black cherry. There were fresh herbs on the nose that preceded the dense, fresh, young fruit in the mouth. The wine was seamless with savory hints, cranberry and black fruit, and a tart, almost puckering finish. This was a very fruity wine with lots of supporting oak, acidity on the sides of the tongue and a salivating finish. **(*) Now-2020.
2009 Weese Family Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile, Sonoma County – $44
This wine is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot that was aged for 24 months in 50% new American and French oak. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium plus black cherry. In the mouth were old-school flavors from the very first glass. The red fruit had some riper flavor before black fruit and drying tannins came out. There was a good balance of cocoa, some vanilla, and extract. This should clearly develop well in the cellar but was quite enjoyable with food. ***(*) Now-2022.
Jenn and I celebrated our latest wedding anniversary by spending a family weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The one person I happen to know there is Erin Barbour Scala (Thinking-Drinking). We previous met in New York City during her days as sommelier at Public NYC followed by The Musket Room. Having had diverse and fantastic wines with her before I knew there was no other choice than to dine at Fleurie restaurant where both she and her husband are now based. As Wine Director, Erin’s wine list focuses in on France and Virginia but she is far too curious to neglect the rest of the world as was evidenced by her selections that night. We were greeted to glasses of NV Rolet, Crement de Jura for ourselves and locally made sparkling grape juice for our daughter. The Rolet was great by itself, accessible with a nice balance of yeast and fruit. It left me thirsty for more wine.
I select the wines we drink at home on a daily basis so it is nice to step away from making any choices. We gave no direction to Erin as to what we felt like drinking or avoiding. With Coravin in hand Erin proceeded to pour a utterly fun variety of wines. To go with our shrimp risotto with carrots and shellfish sauce she poured the 2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes. It was utterly satisfying and drank spot-on with its balance of maturity, fruit, and supportive toast. Jenn’s herb crusted halibut was joined by the 2010 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling trocken Grosses Gewächs, Nahe. The glass was incredibly and persistently aromatic with herbs, stones, and some petrol with great balance in the mouth. Great stuff! For my venison Erin poured two different red wines. The 2011 Avennia, Sestina, Columbia Valley is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc blend with fruit sourced from the Bacchus and Red Willow vineyards. It was forward and complex with darker, racy fruit that was hard to resist. Avennia was only launched in 2010 so if this second vintage is an example of their other wines this is a new name to follow. My second red wine was completely different being the 2010 Cambridge Road, Dovetail, Martinborough. As Erin pointed out this field blend of mostly Pinot Noir with Syrah is not such an oddity given the affinity for these varieties to perform in cooler climates. Its oscillation between Pinot Noir and Syrah aromas was rather intriguing.
With our trio of desserts and petit fours came the King Family Vineyards, Loreley, Monticello. This pure Petit Manseng wine was made in the vin de paille style. She poured this wine because it shares the same name as our daughter. It was a touching end to our meal. If you are in the Charlottesville area or need a break from the city I strongly recommend you dine at Fleurie. Due to the Coravin you can drink almost anything on the list by the glass. With a large order of wines soon to be added there will be even more reasons to stop by.
Lou texted me that he tried one of the wines he received in the inaugural shipment from Sandlands Vineyards. It was special. Sandlands Vineyards is the project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. Tegan has been making wine at Turley Wine Cellars for some time. These Sandlands wines are made with fruit from old, head-trained and dry-farmed vines in California. Lou mentioned he had a bottle of the Trousseau Noir so I knew I had to acquire a bottle of William Allen’s Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris. We then added in wines of Fausse Piste from Washington, Linden Vineyards from Virginia, and Edmunds St John from California. Our tasting was born.
I will keep this brief by just posting my thoughts. The wines of Sandlands are indeed special and exciting. You must get on the waiting list right away! I am digging Trousseau Gris and Trousseau Noir from California. Those in Washington, DC, are fortunate that you can buy the Two Shepherds wines at Weygandt Wines. Ask Tim or Warren if there is any Trousseau Gris left because William Allen has no more of the 2012 vintage. While you are at the shop pick up the Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel. You will be strongly satisfied drinking it now but be sure to cellar some as well. Over the years I have felt there was a certain funk or lurking flavor that I did not like in the red wines of Virginia. The Linden, Claret moves beyond that and lives up to the classic Claret name. Thanks to Phil at MacArthur Beverages for putting this in my sights.
2012 Two Shepherds, Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Trousseau Gris. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was of a bright copper kettle. The nose was beautiful with ripe, floral aromas. In the mouth the round flavors became racy in the middle then took on dry red flavors with integrated acidity. The flavors were well supported becoming ripe and gentle in the finish. On the second night there was a lovely, dense body to this unique wine. ***(*) Now-2017.
2013 Fausse Piste, Garde Mange, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.1%. This began with raisin-like, savory flavors, integrated acidity, and structure in the finish. It even had a little thickness. On the second night this showed better balance with bramble, some herbs black fruit, and ruggedness. ** Now-2017.
2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Trousseau, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Trousseau Noir. Alcohol 13.2%. The color was a light garnet. The nose was aromatic with vintage perfume and aromas familiar to the Trousseau Gris. In the mouth were serious flavors. The structure was there and matched the flavors in the finish. It was a little salty, expansive, and beautiful. It took on a little tart fruit. The acidity was lovely, crisp and matched the eventually tangy flavors. **** Now-2019.
2012 Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre. Alcohol ? The nose had some enjoyable funk with red fruit but remained tight. There were lively flavors of ripe, mixed berries that picked up intensity. It continued to drink like a brighter Rhone-styled wine. *** Now-2025.
2011 Linden, Claret
This wine is a blend of 44% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 13.2%. The nose revealed dried herb and wood overlaying bright fruit and some meat. The flavors followed the nose with bright acidity, ripe tannins, and some Big Red notes. This was a youthful wine with young tasting fruit. It became a little herbacious with black graphite, and spicy, drying tannins that coated the mouth. With air this showed dry flavors of bright fruit. **(*) 2015-2019.
2010 Sandlands Vineyards, Mataro
This wine is 100% Mataro. Alcohol 13.6%. The nose remained right. In the mouth there was more fruit than the Trousseau Noir along with an interesting note of polished old wood. In a sense it was similar to the Trousseau Noir in profile. There were enjoyable dense aromas, a little savory flavor, black fruit, attractive graphite, and old-wood notes. Needs cellar time. Lou reported this was great on the third night. ***(*) 2016-2026.
Over ten years ago my wife took a welcome break from her law school studies for us to spend a weekend visiting wineries in Virginia. The wines of Linden Vineyards stood out to us then as they do now. We still do not drink much wine from Virginia but through my friendship with Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like) I have tried and become aware of more wines. As a result it was not with complete ignorance that I walked into Virginia Wine True To Our Roots tasting. I could only attend the last hour so after conversing with Dave McIntyre (DM Wine Line) I set out to taste what I could. What is more important than reading my short notes is to try some of these wines.
If you could try only one from each winery I would suggest 2012 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Pinot Noir. I was unaware there was Pinot Noir based wines in Virginia and this was very good. There is, of course, the famous 2010 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon. There was good depth of flavor and it is poised to develop in the cellar. The iconic 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Red showed very well out of decanter. It is hard to believe this wine is 15.3% alcohol but it was balanced with meaty flavors, herbaceous notes, and the ruggedness of youth. It should develop really well. Waves of flavor come out of the 2010 RdV Vineyards, Rendevous so much so that you’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor but also feel the urge to drink more. The 2013 Michael Shaps, Viognier 2013 Michael Shaps, Viognier offers both ample floral aromas with weighty mouth feel but also good acidity and mineral notes. I should note that the tasting was held in Washington, DC at Range, a proud supporter of Virginia wine.
Ankida Ridge Vineyards
2013 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Rockgarden Vert
This wine is a blend of 85% Vidal Blanc and 15% Pinot Noir which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 10.3%. There was highly lively acidity on the tongue. This tangy wine still had CO2 with drying tannins and dry chalk notes.
2013 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Rockgarden Rouge
This wine is a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 20% new French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. This had more greenhouse aromas that mixed with vintage floral perfume. The vintage flavor continued in the mouth with a persistent old-school aspect.
2013 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was aged in 12% new French oak. Alcohol 12%. The flavors had a ripe hint before a yeast note came out and the structure firmed up. It became creamy with supportive oak in the middle and stone notes in the finish.
2012 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Pinot Noir
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was aged in 25% new French oak. Alcohol 13%. The red and black fruit had that Virginia hint. The fuzzy/fluffy flavors filled the mouth with structure underneath and fine tannins evident in the aftertaste.
2010 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon – $55
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.8%. This was a balanced blend in the mouth showing good depth, black fruit, floral notes, and a little cocoa. It had a racy finish and some grip.
2013 Linden, Avenius Sauvignon Blanc
There was a textured, aromatic nose of grassy and ripe aromas. The texture repeated itself in the mouth complementing the good flavor.
2011 Linden, Hardscrabble Chardonnay – $35
There was a tight nose with very subtle toast aromas. There was a lot of acidity on the tongue, flavors of baking spice, and firmer acidity in the finish. It developed brighter fruit.
2011 Linden, Claret – $25
This wine is a blend of 44% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc declassified fruit sourced from the three vineyards. It was aged for 20 months in older French barrels. There was good, clean fruit in the mouth. The wine tasted young with moderate structure, acidity, and some spice flavor adding to the black and red fruit.
2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Red – $50
This wine is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot that was aged for 21 months in 60% new French oak barrels. Alcohol 15.3%. There were slightly meaty flavors with racy fruit. It was black and almost inky with a slight herbaciousness and dry spices. It bears the attractive roughness of youth.
2010 RdV Vineyards, Rendevous – $75
This wine is a blend of 44% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, and 12% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Alcohol 14.9%. There were dense, youthful aromas that came out of the glass. The flavors were concentrated and racy with black fruit, ripe texture, and a spicy hint. The wine was big but so tasty. There was a long, black fruit aftertaste with just a hint of cocoa powder.
2010 RdV Vineyards, Lost Mountain – $95
This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot which was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Alcohol 14.7%. The nose was dark with low-lying aromas. In the mouth dense, red and black fruit mixed before red notes poked out. The wine was drier with spicy tannins that continued into the finish. There was some minerality, baking spice, and a chewy aftertaste.
2013 Michael Shaps, Viognier – $26
This wine is 100% Viognier which was fermented with native yeasts then aged in stainless steel. Alcohohol 13.7%. The aromatic nose brought right, floral aromas. The ripe start continued to build in flavor with an almost honied feel. Minerals came out in the finish before the wine left a lip-smacking sensation.
2013 Michael Shaps, Petit Manseng
This wine is 100% Petit Manseng sourced from a single vineyard. It was barrel fermented then aged in 30% new French oak. Alcohol 14.6%. The tight nose made way to good, focused fruit in the mouth. There was a hint of almonds, almost tart fruit, and a little spicy, dry finish. A youthful wine.
2010 Michael Shaps, Cabernet Franc – $28
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc which was fermented with native yeast then aged for 24 months in 100% French oak of which 50% was new. Alcohol 13.7%. There was focused bright fruit that has that Virginia taste. The wine had a tart side with dense, red and black fruit, and ripe, gum-coating tannins.
2010 Michael Shaps, Petit Verdot – $35
This wine is 100% Petit Verdot which was fermented with native yeast then aged for 24 months in 100% French oak of which 75% was new. Alcohol 13.7%. There were bright black and red fruit, a racy nature, and a citric finish. The flavors stood out.
Frank Morgan is in town and having organized a Virginia Versus Other Regions tasting with David White, I found myself taking the Metro across the Potomac River to Crystal City to join them. While I have driven through Crystal City over the years the last time I walked around was over two decades ago. Of course I was hopelessly turned around. Fortunately Frank texted my way to an intersection where we met up to begin the evening. A small group of us gathered at the Washington Wine Academy to taste the seven white and seven red wines blind. The goal had been to taste wines of matching vintages and to open them all up at the start of the tasting so as to even things up as much as possible. Not that there was an expectation that a particular vintage in Virginia was similar in California or Burgundy. While we managed to have all white wines from the 2010 vintage, the red wines were another story so we ended up with 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Present for the tasting were six people all with websites: Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like), David White (Terroirist), Christian Schiller (Schiller-Wine), Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours), Isaac James Baker (Reading, Writing & Wine), and myself (Hogshead Wine). Many thanks to Jim Barker, President of the Washington Wine Academy for graciously letting us taking over his facility.
All of the wines were served blind in brown paper bags. The white wines were simply popped and poured. The red wines were popped and poured save for the two Bordeaux which had been double-decanted an hour or two ahead of time. Being at the Academy we each had our own table and two glasses to taste from. After completing a flight we individually revisited any wine of interest. We were asked to rank the wines from 1 being our favorite to 7 being our least favorite using our own criteria. Once everyone had completed their rankings we read them off to Frank who tabulated the results. You may read about Frank’s view on ranking in Results from the Oregon vs. Virginia Viognier and Cab Franc Tasting. For Frank’
You may read about Isaac’s experience at Virginia vs. The World – A Blind Taste-Off. For Frank’s post about this tasting please check out The Virginia Wine Trials, Con’t – Virginia Chardonnay and Red Blends Take On France and California. You may read Christian Schiller’s post Virginia versus The World – A Blind Taste-Off.
The overall rankings were:
- 1st – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru
- 2nd – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Chardonnay and 2010 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay
- 4th – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse
- 5th – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Karia, Chardonnay
- 6th – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay
My personal top three wines and those of the group were the same. I was pleased to see the Domaine des Moirots come out on top as they produce accessible and affordable wines. While Linden and Ankida Ridge were tied in the group results, I preferred the Linden. This vintage of Linden reflects the heat of the year but also flavors which come from the specific parcels planted in 1985 and 1988. While it is drinkable now I imagine it should develop over the short-term. On a much younger front, the Ankida Ridge is produced from 25% estate from a vineyard which was only two years old at the time. I thought it a good inaugural wine. Below you will find my white wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.
1 – 2010 Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros – $20 – (Not Ranked)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the estate vineyard. The fruit was whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 29% undergoing malolactic fermentation. It was aged for nine months in 27% medium-toast French oak barrels. Batonnage occurred every three weeks for six months. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a similar light yellow gold as #2. Off bottle. Not Rated.
2 – 2010 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay, Virginia – $32 – (My #3, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay of which 25% is estate fruit from the Tablas Creek clone La Vineuse and 75% fruit from Bedford County. It was whole-cluster pressed and fermented in oak barrels with inoculated yeasts of which 50% underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for nine months in barrel where it underwent regular batonnage. The color was a light yellow gold. The subdued nose had a hint of toast. There was good weight to the start with a bit of acidity then some creamy and a touch ripe fruit and toast. This was driven by the mouthfeel with white fruit and ripeness in the finish. ** Now.
3 – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble, Chardonnay – $33 – (My #2, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was lightly pressed then fermented in new and used barrels with cultured and indigenous yeasts. Some barrels underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for 10 months on the lees with batonnage. Alcohol 14.2%. The color was a light to medium gold yellow. The nose bore subdued heavier aromas. The flavors were more expansive from the start showing some barrel toast which was well-integrated. The wine was weighty but crisp with chewy acidity. There were sweet spices, interesting flavors, and a richer style which was done well. *** Now-2018.
4 – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru – $25 – (My #1, Group #1)
Imported by Weygandt- Metzler. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from half of the 9 ha Le Vieux Chateau vineyard. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light straw yellow. The subdued nose was a touch flora with a hint of the sea. The flavors were the brightest yet with apples, a tart finish, and salivating acidity. This tastes a bit young. Eventually some clove came out in the long aftertaste. *** 2014-2019.
5 – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Chardonnay, Karia, Napa Valley – $30 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from vineyards in and near the Oak Knoll District. The fruit was fermented in 83% barrels and 17?% stainless steel tanks of which 55% underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for 8 months on the lees in 29% new French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light yellow. There were barrel toast aromas at first. In the mouth the flavors were a bit flabby then turned hollow towards the finish. The yellow fruit lacked verve. * Now.
6 – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse – $30 – (My #5, Group #4)
An Alfio Moriconi Selection imported by Saranty Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines 40-65 years of age. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light yellow gold. There was not much on the nose. In the mouth there was a crisp, focused start with tangy grapefruit and yellow flavors. The aftertaste bore some texture. Young. *(*) 2014-2018.
7 – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay, Shenandoah Valley – $18 – (My #4, Group #6)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines at 1,830 feet. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged in barrels. Alcohol 13.2%. The color was a light straw yellow. There was a light but decent fruit nose. There was some lively acidity followed by white nuts, juicy fruits, some toast, and spice. ** Now.
The overall rankings were:
- 1st – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous
- 2nd – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon
- 3rd – 2008 Dry Creek, Meritage
- 4th – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux
- 5th – 2008 Barboursville, Octagon
- 6th – 2007 Boxwood Winery, Topiary
- 7th – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red
My personal top four selections were the same as the group but there was generally strong consensus amongst them all. I did clearly prefer the top two wines and had convinced myself that wine #1 was RdV Vineyards and wine #3 was a Bordeaux. What fun to be wrong and prefer the inaugural vintage of RdV! I would recommend cellaring it a few more years. Below you will find my red wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.
1 – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon – $35 – (My #2, Group #2)
Imported by Pearson’s Wine & Spirits. This wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 28-year-old vines. The fruit was destemmed and fermented in temperature controlled wooden vats for 25-30 days. It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged on the lees in up to 80% new oak barrels for 15-20 months. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium cherry. The nose revealed berries then a ripe blackness with air. The mouth was similar with some racy, ripe fruit and minerals. A decent wine with good expansion, chewy tannins, and a fresh finish. It tightened up some in the finish. I guessed RdV Vineyards. **(*) Now-2018.
2 – 2007 The Boxwood Winery, Topiary, Virginia – $25 – (My #5, Group #6)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was a medium garnet, looking of age. On the mouth there was red fruit and a greenhouse, menthol aspect. The flavors were similar in the mouth with focus and quite a nice mouth feel. There was tart acidity on the tip of the tongue. I guessed Boxwood Winery. ** Now-2016.
3 – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous – $55 – (My #1, Group #1)
This wine is a blend of 62% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. The color was a medium to dark cherry garnet. The nose was light and tight with brine aromas. In the mouth the fruit was wrapped in structure with plenty of acidity, and some good mouthfeel. There were fine, spicy tannins in this decent but young wine. I guessed Bordeaux. **(*) Now-2023.
4 – 2008 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon – $48 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It was fermented in stainless steel tank, macerated for 10-20 days, then aged 12-14 months in new Gamba barriques. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light to medium cherry. The light nose bore some fruits along with old perfume, and greenhouse notes. There was ripe fruit in the mouth then focused black and red fruit. It tasted like a Virginian wine. The acidity was there followed by a short finish with black and red fruit. The dry tannins were present on the lips. *(*) Now-2015.
5 – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red, Virginia – $24 – (My #7, Group #7)
This wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.9%. The color was a light to medium garnet showing age. There was mixed fruit on the nose and just a hint of greenhouse. In the mouth there was a mature aspect with soft, expansive overripe fruit. The finish was soft with some tannins. * Now.
6 – 2008 Dry Creek Vineyards, Meritage, Sonoma County – $25 – (My #3, Group #3)
This wine is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in French and American oak. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium cherry. The nose was subdued. In the mouth there was sweet fruit with a touch of ripeness as it softened up with black cherry that filled the mouth. There was a core of fruit in the finish along with vanilla, and drying, coating citric tannins. ** Now-2018.
7 – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux – $36 – (My #4, Group #4)
Imported by Saranty Imports. This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot which was aged for 12 months in 20% new barriques. Alcohol 13%. The color was a medium garnet with some age. There was red and black cherry flavors in the mouth, some maturity, and a lighter aspect which hinted at being hollow. There was a cool, gentle finish with some ripe tannins. ** Now-2015.
After tasting through the sake selection Lou and I took a little break by eating some food. Like last year there was an impressive selection of constantly replenished food. There was plenty of game meat including partridge, pheasant, venison, ostrich, and squirrel. Though the meats were diverse the cheeses alone numbered in the dozens and merited a seven page descriptive handout. The oysters of last year were replaced by a sushi station. There were salads and other sides but I could not help but eat my weight in venison. Fortified, we cleaned up our glasses, drank some water, then set to work on the Champagne and white wines. In addition to the perimeter of tables heavily laden with wine bottles there were a few more tables in the middle of the floor. I think the additional tasting space and reduced number of people made it much easier to taste the wines. Last year there were so many people at the first session that we had to taste several wines in a row then retreat to jot down notes from memory. This year we were always able to get a spot in front of a table, though we did have to wait at times. This meant we were able to taste a single wine, spit, and write down notes without moving.
Of the sparkling wines I thought #370 Charles Duret a good value but it was the #377 Chateau Gaudrelle from Vouvray which was really well done. A big surprise was the lovely #378 Colmant from South Africa. It tasted French and indeed the winemaker Joel Follet has a family winery in Champagne. Moving on to actual Champagne I thought the best of the available selections from Roland Champion was the #382 2007 Special Club. The biggest treat was the 1959 Brut. I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the bottle so I double-checked with both Carole Champion and Jeremy Sutton. This is the 1959 vintage and not a Cuvee 1959? Yes, it was the real thing. A few bottles from the cellar were recently disgorged and brought over as a treat. It was like drinking a fresh, mature white wine with a little bubbly lift. It was a fitting way to end the Champagne tasting and move on to the white wines.
The selections from Grand Veneur/Alaine Jaume are so numerous as to require two tables. Therefore we only tasted a small portion. Of the whites I enjoyed the Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs namely #157 2012 Grand Veneur, Blanc and the #158 2011 Grand Veneur, La Fontaine….just like last year. The #118 2010 Perchaud, Fourchaume was very good and a contrast to the #119 2010 Perchaud, Vaucoupin. Similarly priced I really liked #123 2011 Guillemont-Michel, Quintaine. Now a Vire-Cleese I also enjoyed last years offering of 2009 when it was a Macon-Villages. The #124 2010 Saumaize Michelin showed strongly being the first glass from a just opened bottle. It was good to taste #326 2010 Pearmund, Old Vines Chardonnay again. I should like to try it again in a year. We had meant to return for the Pearmund red wines but ran out of time. The #332 2011 Buty, Chardonnay was interesting with good grip.
Below you you will find 34 notes split sparkling wines, Champagne, and white wines. I think the notes are best read in order and not individually. Or at the very least a note should be compared amongst its neighbors. I should note that Fran Kysela provides proper wine glasses and the wines were poured at good temperatures. I tried to note color this year. Again read individually the description will lead you astray as the industrial lighting appeared to add green to the lighter wines. Please find my notes in tasting order.
#370 – NV Charles Duret, Crement de Bourgogne – $20
This wine is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The color was a very light yellow. The light nose was of ripe apple. In the mouth the flavors were firm with floral and pastille flavors mixing with the bubbles. There was bright acidity and a firm mousse. Good value.
#367 – NV Caveau du Mont July, Methode Ancestrale, Bugey Cerdon – $24
This wine is a blend of 95% Gamay and 5% Poulsard. The color was a very light salmon rose. The subtle nose had aromas of apple cider. In the mouth there were fine, firmly popping bubbles, sweet apple cider fruit, ripe flavors, and a spiced finish.
#368 – NV Charles Duret, Rose, Crement de Bourgogne – $20
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. The color was a light rose. The nose was tight and subtle. There were rather fine, firm bubbles which popped into a big mousse in the mouth. There was some sweet spiced fruit and a sweeter finish.
#369 – NV Wolfberger, Brut Rose, Crement d’Alsace – $22
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. The color was a light rose. The nose bore very fine vintage perfume. In the mouth there was an acidity driven start, finely popping bubbles, and subtle vintage floral fruit.
#377 – NV Chateau Gaudrelle, Sparkling Brut, Vouvrey – $19
This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc. The color was a light yellow green. There was a light and tight nose. In the mouth there were rather fine, firm bubbles which popped into a nice mousse which ended by the middle. This was a balanced, easy to drink wine with integrated fruit.
#378 – NV Colmant, Brut Reserve, Cap Classique – $26
This wine is a blend of 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Chardonnay. 10% is of reserve wine and 12% is barrel fermented. The color was a very light yellow green. The very light nose bore floral apples. In the mouth the fine, firm bubbles persisted. There was a subtle yeast note to the fruit, mouthfilling mousse, and drying tannins. Tastes French.
#381 – NV Roland Champion, Brut, Cuvee d’Aramis, Chouilly, Champagne – $50
This wine is a blend of 70% Pinot Meunier, 20% Pinot Noir, and 10% Chardonnay. The color was a light yellow. The light nose made way to gently firm bubbles which quietly popped in the mouth. The white fruit flavors were gentle in the mouth. There was a touch of yeast note.
#380 – NV Roland Champion, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly Grand Cru, Champagne – $54
This wine is 100% Chardonnay aged for at least 30 months. The nose was tight. There was a firm start in the mouth with very fine bubbles, good acidity, and good presence.
#382 – 2007 Roland Champion, Special Club, Chouilly Grand Cru, Champagne – $80
This was a light golden yellow. There was good up-front power to the fruit which mixed with the bubbles. The good fruit was of spiced apple and white fruit. There were drying tannins which coated the inside of the lips. Nice. Young.
#379 – NV Roland Champion, Brut, Rose, Chouilly Grand Cru, Champagne – $58
This wine is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay of which 70% is from 2007 and 30% 2006. The final wine is 15% red wine from Verneuil aged at least four years. There was a light rose color. The light nose showed some funk and lactic aromas. In the mouth there were very fine, firm bubbles which quietly pop. There was tart red fruit, apple acidity, and drying aspect towards the finish.
1959 Roland Champion, Brut, Chouilly, Champagne –
This was disgorged at the end of 2012. There was a light yellow color. The light nose was of a mature white wine, complex with wood box aromas. In the mouth there were very subtle bubbles and mature flavors in this fresh and very complex wine. There was some toast and wood box notes in the finish. A real treat.
#155 – 2012 Grand Veneur, Blanc Reserve, Cotes du Rhone – $15
This wine is a blend of 50% Roussanne, 40% Viognier, and 10% Clairette. The color was a very light yellow. The nose was floral with honeysuckle like aromas and good fruit. In the mouth the flavors were fruit driven, gentle, and a touch soft.
#156 – 2012 Grand Veneur, Blanc de Viognier, Cotes du Rhone – $25
This wine is 100% Viognier. The light nose had finer, floral aromas. In the mouth the fruit was initially soft but then honeysuckle and structure came out. It was still a bit soft compared to the acidity. There was a drying, citric finish.
#157 – 2012 Grand Veneur, Blanc, Chateauneuf du Pape – $47
This wine is a blend of 60% Clairette and 40% Roussane. The color was a very light yellow. There was a light, refined nose with a touch of sweet florals. The mouth follows the nose but adds vintage perfume, some roundness, and good length.
#158 – 2011 Grand Veneur, La Fontaine, Blanc, Chateauneuf du Pape – $70
This wine is 100% Roussanne. There was good mouthfeel to this oily, easy to drink and almost brambly wine. The fruit was yellower with spices. Served cool but not cold.
#117 – 2010 Perchaud, Chablis – $15
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from 25 year old vines. The color was a very light straw yellow. The light nose had yellow fruit with some fat to it. There were flavors of toasty apple which became drier towards the finish where there were dry tannins.
#118 – 2010 Perchaud, Fourchaume, Chablis 1er Cru – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from 35 year old vines. The light nose was of fine, yellow fruit in a structure. In the mouth the acidity driven flavors were lively, almost masculine. The yellow and white fruit had good presence and mouth feel. Young with good potential.
#119 – 2010 Perchaud, Vaucoupin, Chablis 1er Cru – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from 35 year old vines. The color was a very light yellow green. The nose was more austere. The fruit had tang with good acidity, stones, and plenty of focus. There were some tannins and more structure than the Fourchaume. There was an apple-like finish.
#120 – 2011 Courtault, Petit Chablis – $16
The nose was fresh with good, green veggies and white fruit. The flavors were simpler in the mouth with a yeasty, earthy note. Good acidity.
#121 – 2010 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, St. Veran – $23
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 40 parcels averaging 45 years of age. Vinified in stainless steel and underwent malolactic fermentation. The color was a light yellow. The light nose had low-lying, darker fruit. There was a soft and gentle introduction followed by shorter flavors.
#122 – 2010 Domaine Delorme et Fils, Sur la Roche, Puilly-Fuisse – $29
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 40 year old vines. This was acidity driven with brighter, fresh fruit that showed both weight and tang. The flavors were lighter.
#123 – 2011 Pierrette et Marc Guillemot-Michel, Quintaine, Vire-Clesse – $33
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 45 year old vines, vinified in stainless steel, and underwent malolactic fermentation. The very light nose was apple-like. In the mouth there was white and yellow fruit which was lively with good grip. Nice wine.
#124 – 2010 Domaine Saumaize Michelin, Vignes Blanches, Pouilly-Fuisse – $39
The color was a very light yellow green. The flavors were fat in the mouth with a wood note and old-school taste. There was a core of fruit. Good weight, apple grip, and tangy flavors in the finish. The first pour from a freshly opened bottle.
#125 – 2010 Domaine Saumaize Michelin, Vieilles Vignes, St. Veran – $37
The color was a very light straw yellow. The nose was rather light and tight. The soft fruit made way to white fruit but there was not enough acidity. There were some spices in the finish.
#126 – 2009 Domaine Saumaize Michelin, Pentacrine, Pouilly-Fuisse – $43
This The color was a very light yellow straw green (wow!). There was a very light but good nose. In the mouth the grippy yellow fruit had some soft edges but was certainly structured. There were dry, ripe tannins.
#331 – 2011 Buty, Semillon-Sauvignon, Columbia Valley – $26
This wine is a blend of 60% Semillon, 21% Muscadelle, and 19% Sauvignon. The color was a light yellow. The light nose was of ripe, white fruit. There was good mouthfeel then the flavors dried up. This was a bigger wine with structure and tannins. Not quite sure what it was.
#332 – 2011 Buty, Chardonnay, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley – $36
This wine is 100% Chardonnay. The color was a light yellow. The light nose was almost earthy with yellow fruit. There was fresh, grippy, driven yellow fruit which had some spices to it. The grip continued into the finish. Well done.
#327 – 2011 Pearmund, Viognier, Vinecroft Vineyards, Fauqier County – $23
This had a light nose of drier yellow fruit and hot dogs. The mouth followed the nose with sweeter fruit, acidity, and some spice.
#326 – 2010 Pearmund, Old Vines Chardonnay, Fauqier County – $20
The color was a light, to medium golden yellow. The nose was of yellow fruit and yeast. In the mouth there was tropical fruit, a creamy mouthfeel, and a subtle toast note. It took on a soft edge towards the finish where there were spices. Young.
#325 – 2011 Pearmund, Riesling, Fauqier County – $20
This was a very light yellow straw color. The light+ nose was of tropical fruit. The mouth followed the fruity nose with grip and spices. Off-dry.
#254 – 2011 Leopard’s Leap, Chenin Blanc – $14
This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc. The color was a light yellow. The very light nose revealed some fruit. There was light fruit in the mouth, old wood?, lively acidity, and some grip.
#252 – 2011 Leopard’s Leap, Chardonnay-Viognier – $14
This wine is a blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier. The color was a very light straw yellow. The light nose was very pure with grassy and ripe fruit. In the mouth the flavors were acidity driven with a powdery, chalky note, and a clean, drying finish.
#264 – 2011 Mullineux, White Blend, Swartland – $28
This wine is a blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Clairette Blanche, and 9% Viognier which was aged for 11 months in older French oak barrels and one foudre. The color was a very light yellow. The nose was very tight with a yeast note. In the mouth the wine was shutdown with yeast, old wood, vintage perfume, and fruit. There was very bright acidity and a chunky nature. I imagine this needs some age.
#261 – 2012 Kloof Street, Chenin Blanc, Swartland – $20
This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc which was aged for 11 months in used French oak barrels. The color was a very light yellow. The very light nose was of yellow and tropical fruits. There were smokey, minerally white fruit then yellow fruit with a bacon note.