Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’

Old House Vineyards Tasting Room

Granted there are many “old houses” in Culpeper, but only one houses a vineyard and winery with a talented, young winemaker by the name of Damien Blanchon.  As I drove up to the stately farm house of Old House Vineyards, I was brought back in time, and as Damien led me through the tasting room and private event dining room, both with fireplaces, the ambience of the exterior architecture continued within.  It feels like a B&B, and in fact they do have some rooms to let, if you are attending a private wine dinner in the dining room. It is marvelous that owners, Pat and Allyson Kearney, decided to keep the rooms as they were.  Just some painting and floor refinishing, and what they created is a most inviting and charming series of tasting areas.  I can only imagine that it is next to impossible to get people to leave!  Granted, I am a sucker for classic old farm houses with big sweeping porches, dark wood mouldings and fireplaces.  I just wanted to move in!  And combine that classic homey ambience with fabulous wines and a picnic lunch.   

Damien told me that Old House has 22 acres under vine and he only uses Estate grapes in the 3,000 case production.  Planted in the vineyard is Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and some newly-planted Tannat, not yet in production. BTW – Tannat is a main varietal from where Damien hails from in Peripignan, Southwest France.  Born into a family of viticulturists, Damien started his education in his Grandfather’s vineyard. He then went on to receive his  degree in viticulture and enology at the College of Agriculture LEGTA Charlemagne in Carcassonne.  Coming to the United States to make wine was a decision led by his desire to experiment with different growing conditions, varietals and the freedom to blend any range of varietals that he so desires.

Damien Blanchon

The first wine we tasted in the cellar was the ’09 Vidal Blanc Clover Hill. Aged in stainless steel and with a malolactic fermentation this wine sang of pear on the nose.  Fresh and lively, it is the dry VB of the portfolio. 

The first Chardonnay ’09 was barrel femented in a neutral barrel and is resting ‘sur lies.’  Damien also stirred the lies to prevent oxidation, and then did a malolactic fermentation. So you can imagine the roundness on the palate, yet acidity bounced in at the  back end.  The second Chardonnay ’09 is aging in a ‘toastier’ barrel and that showed in a nice way.  These Chards will age  for one year in the barrels.  

The Cabernet Franc ’09 is bright, light and fruity, and well-balanced.  It will be a great picnic & BBQ red.

Chambourcin ’09 is blended with some Cabernet Franc and is just wild strawberry fruity!  It reminded me of picking wild strawberries in the field behind my childhood home in Maine.  The second Chambourcin ’09 went through a cold soak and longer maceration.  This will be used in the Bacchanalia blend….a favorite of Old House’s customers.

Damien Blanchon

The Late Harvest ’09 Chambourcin grapes were immediately refrigerated, then de-stemmed and put into a stainless steel tank, and is now aging in a barrel.  I really like red dessert wines and this is soooo South of France!  And even for the summer, it would be great with a cheese course of Blues and Cheddars, oh throw in some Epoisses, too.

Ahhh…the Petit Verdot ’09….I am becoming a fan of this varietal as a single-varietal wine.  This PV is still in a fresh, young stage and showing good acidity.  PV is a grape that delivers a good level of acidity, another good reason for its blending capacity, but works in its favor as a single varietal.  This wine will be aging for another year.   In the meantime, The Petit Verdot ’08 is a classic inky, full bodied PV that will be released in the Bacchanalia blend this summer.  Damien is still deciding on the final blend, but it may be something like 50% Petit Verdot, 30% Chambourcin, 25% Cabernet Franc…you heard it here first.    

The ’09 Vidal Blanc Late Harvest has been fermenting since December and has about 3 more weeks.  Then it will be racked and held in a stainless steel tank; then racked again and transferred to barrels to age for maybe one year….for as long as Damien decides it needs to.  He is planning to release it towards the end of 2010…. maybe in time for Christmas.

I have never tasted a Port made from Chambourcin, and I was surprised to see that it’s amber color.  The ’09 has brandy added to stop the fermentation….and that is called ‘mutage’…en Français.  This is a very South France style, Vin du Naturel.  Two barrels will be aging for 3 years….oh, take off that frown, because Damien is aging another batch for 1.5 years, that of course, will be available sooner.  Besides, the ’08 Port is available in the tasting room.  Although, I can’t wait for that 3-year aged batch…let’s see 3 years aging, bottled, released oh sometime around 2013.  Yikes!! Considering the Ancient Mayans predicted total earthly devastation in 2012…pffft, never mind.  I shall remain positive that we will be imbibing in this nectar. I don’t think even the Ancient Mayans prediction will convince Damien to decrease the time of aging. 

Current Releases – no more teasing of wines to come.  These are now available!  ’09 Vidal Blanc, this is the semi-sweet VB of the portfolio.  Damien did a skin maceration with this and delivered a 3% Residual Sugar.  BTW – it’s fructose sweetness vs. saccharin, which would result from adding sugar. Just thought you might want to know that.  The fermentation was stopped at 12.3% alcohol, so even though it’s semi-sweet wine, it’s not any higher in alcohol.  Yes, that is a license to drink more.  I’m planning to try this wine with grilled shrimp that I’ll marinate in a medium-spice curry paste, as a first course on greens.  Vidal Blanc is aromatic and expressive, and it’s semi-sweet nature should be an interesting pairing with the spicy shrimp.

2007 Bacchanalia, a blend  of Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Chambourcin.  I undersand why I had so many customers asking for this when I was on the floor at Frenchman’s Cellar in Culpeper.  A bold wine, but that strawberry thing with the Chambourcin softens it a bit and brings some female to the wine.  Along with the earthiness of the Cab Franc and tannic blackberry of Tannat in the blend, it really paired nicely with a Chicken Marsala I recently made, using Crimini mushrooms.  The richness of the Marsala wine sauce stood should-to-shoulder with this wine.

2008 Port – this is the older brother of the ’09 that is still aging in a  whiskey barrel.  Again, Damien used Chambourcin and it really works well for Port.  Perfect with a cheese course, or chocolatey dessert.  I can see just sipping it on late wintry evenings.

2006 Petillante, which translates as “bubbly, sparkling.”  This is a yeasty, biscuit-like sparkling with a long finish.  This elegant Sparkling is made every two years, and only 100 cases.  As you may know, it is a rather tedious endeavour to make premium Sparkling in the ‘methode traditionelle” style, hence the price tag generally. But at $35 for Petillante, it delivers for the price.  I can see this with foie gras as a first course; or with a lobster dish.  Today, I came across a suggested pairing of Dom Perignon with BBQ  ribs.  So, go for it!

"The Island" at Old House Vineyards

The biggest news from Old House is the introduction of their Lake Pavilion, an events venue that overlooks the “The Island,” which is perfect for wedding ceremonies.   This is the newest and most unique wedding venue addition to the region.  Imagine….dial in to your romance gene…strolling across the foot bridge over to the small island to say those vows. The Lakeside Pavilion is still having some final tweaks done, but will be ready in time for this season.  As an event planner in Napa and on the East End of Long Island, I’ve done lots of weddings in beautiful locations, and Old House Vineyards certainly delivers a top notch site that offers a gorgeous view and setting without any puffery.

Check out their upcoming winery events.

Cheers,

Anita

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Finally we are breaking out of the winter doldrums.  Spring is in the air!  The smell of damp soil is one of my favorite Spring aromas.  Laugh if you must, but I think that is why two of my favorite wine aromas is earthiness and barnyard.  Wet earth is the pretext to the first floral aromas of the season, and the initial sign that blooms are around the corner. 

As Spring descends upon us (I am ignoring that the Farmers Almanac says that we are in for a last snowstorm at the end of March), my eating habits begin to change, which affects my wine choices, as well.  Recently I presented 8 wines as part of a wine education class at The Tasting Room Wine Bar in Reston.  When I selected the wines from the wine menu presently offered, I was dreaming about Spring and so the line-up reflects that.  Well, what does that mean?  It means I leaned towards lighter, crisp whites, and one light semi-sweet white; and reds that are medium to full bodied, with prominent fruit, and not heavily oaked.

 2007 DOMAINE ROBILN SANCERRE (SAUVIGNON BLANC), FRANCE   

CHEESE PAIRING:   FLEURS VERTS – GOAT CHEESE WITH HERBS

I began with a 2007 Sancerre from Domaine Robiln, and it turned out to be one of the two favorite whites from the line-up.  For those of you not familiar with it, Sancerre is a wine region in the Loire Valley of France and Sauvignon Blanc is the main white grape. Hence, Sancerre on the label means Sauvignon Blanc in the bottle.  Sancerre characteristics are typically crisp, meaning a good level of acidity, with aromas ranging from grassy, herbaceous, lemon/lime to grapefruit, and minerally/flinty.  The Domaine Robiln was very lemon/lime on the nose, flinty, crisp and fresh –  just the way I like it.  It paired perfectly with the goat cheese.  Why? Because fresh goat cheese pairs best with light white wines, and possibly light bodied reds, like a Beaujolais or Gamay.   

2008 SANTIAGO RUIZ ALBARINO, RIAS BAIXAS, SPAIN                                    

CHEESE PAIRING:  FLEURS VERTS – GOAT CHEESE

Albarino has gained more notoriety in this country during the past 8 years or so.  Rias Biaxas is the region in Northwest Spain that is recognized for producing great Albarinos.  It has sometimes been described as Viognier-like, but I think that really depends upon the producer.  The Santiago Ruiz was not very aromatic, and had less acidity than I expected from an Albarino, but it was still a very pleasant fresh tasting white wine that also paired well with the goat cheese.  Another wine that I would categorize as a ‘deck sipper.’  I am a fan of Albarinos, especially during warmer months, and to pair with grilled fish dishes.

2007 TRIENNES, VIOGNIER, PROVENCE, FRANCE                                                

CHEESE PAIRING:   BELLETOILE – COWS MILK

 I have presented this wine before, and it does not disappoint.  It was the favorite white by the class participants. The owners of Triennes are two well-known vintners from Burgundy, who have revived a decaying vineyard in Provence and are now producing a lovely Viognier.  I’ve written about Viognier before, and its growing popularity as a leading Virginia wine, and my admiration for its ability to pair with a variety of foods.  I am a fan of Triennes for its balance and flavors; the nose captures apricot, violet or lavender, honeysuckle and importantly, the palate has just enough roundness to enable this wine to carry through as a dinner wine.  The Belletoile, a triple crème cheese, did not overpower, but I would not pair it if the cheese had been left out longer and had developed a riper flavor profile.

2008 J. ORDONEZ  BOTANI MALAGA (MOSCATEL), ANDALUCIA, SPAIN                

CHEESE PAIRING:   COMTÉ – COWS MILK

I chose the Moscatel for the line-up to make the point that semi-sweet table wines, when well-made, are one of the loveliest warm-weather apéritifs.  And they are also a great pair with Thai, Moroccan, or Asian spiced grills of fish or chicken. 

Semi-sweet table wines have received a bad rap because of some of the badly made American sweet table wines.  Varietals like Moscatel, Muscat (as called in France), Moscato (Italy), Vouvray (Chenin Blanc grape) are examples of semi-sweet to sweet wines that have that characteristic because of the grape varietial, not a trumped-up sweetness.  The key to a sublime semi-sweet wine lies in the balance of acidity, so that it doesn’t drink like syrup. 

Sooo, back to the Moscatel.  Anadalucia is a region in south of Spain that is widely known for Sherry production, and Malaga is right on the Mediterranean.  This Moscatel had an aromatic nose of honey that leapt out of the glass, but a rather neutral palate; not quite as expressive as I would want it to be.  The nuttiness of the Comté was a yang to the Moscatel’s ying.

2007 DOMAINE DROUHIN PINOT NOIR, WILLAMETTE VALLEY                    

CHEESE PAIRING:    DRUNKEN GOAT – WASHED IN A FRUITY SPANISH RED WINE.

Drouhin is as big a name in Oregon Pinot Noir, as it is in Burgundy.  This 2007 lived up to what we always expect from Pinot Noir, regardless of what region it comes from.   Bright raspberry, sweet spice, mild toast was prevalent and the palate carried through to a fine finish.  I chose the Drunken Goat Cheese to pair because it was washed in a fruity Spanish red wine, had an appropriate richness, and was aged enough so that it wasn’t tangy like a fresh goat cheese.  Not that I am comparing a fruity Spanish red wine to a Drouhin Pinot Noir.  The pairing point is that the feminine lushness of the Pinot Noir relates more to this cheese than, say, a cabernet sauvignon. 

2006 SYRAH, RUDI SCHULTZ, STELLENBOSCH                                                      

CHEESE PAIR:   PARMESAN – SEMI-HARD, COWS MILK

This is the first South African Syrah that I’ve tasted and I liked it!  It had the bold blackberry and spice that we love about Syrah, and a medium body with a satisfying finish.  The Parmesan was a nice pair.  For those of you who care, Spectator gave this wine a 93, and I think its deserving of it.

2007 BOXWOOD WINERY, MIDDLEBURG, VA                                                          

BLEND:  42% CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 42% MERLOT, 16% PETIT VERDOT

CHEESE PAIRING:    MONTASIO – COWS MILK

This was the favorite red of the line-up.  I’m not just saying that because Boxwood hires me to give these classes!  I took a ‘hands up’ poll at the end of the class to review the wines for feedback as to what were their favorites.  And what about the 2003 Giscours?  I’ll get to that  next.  The majority agreed that, yes, the Ch. Giscours is indeed an excellent wine, but not one they would drink as often as the Boxwood.  Why?  Well, pricing aside, it isn’t as drinkable now as the Boxwood.  And the Boxwood delivers everything that you are looking for in a Bordeaux-style red…complexity, power on the nose of rich black cherry, plum and the inky, black currant of Petit Verdot that carries through to  a rich mouthfeel.  This wine has a solid structure and flawless balance.  Recently, this wine received a Spectator rating of 88  (Very Good – A wine with special qualities), which is very meaningful for a first submission from an American winery.  88 seems to be the highest that Spectator typically gives a wine from an American wine region, other than California, Washington or Oregon.  Glass raised to Boxwood and Stephane Derenoncourt!

2003 CHATEAU GISCOURS, MARGAUX, FRANCE                                                   

BLEND: CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CABERNET FRANC, MERLOT

CHEESE PAIRING:             ST. PETERS FARIBAULT BLUE         

The pedigree for this wine is clear.  It’s located in the Margaux region, with many Premier Cru Chateaux; Ch. Giscours is a 3rd Growth property that dates back to the 16th Century; and 2003, although not the 2005 vintage, was a very hot growing season, which is always good in wine regions that don’t typically get long, hot growing seasons.   It still has some chewy tannins, but not overwhelming to me; not as fruit-forward as the Boxwood, which is not unusual in many Bordeaux, even at 7 years old.  But, the fruit was apparent, just not as up front.  Certainly, it is an outstanding wine that will continue to benefit from further aging.  Having said that, in hindsight, I would not have paired it with the Faribault Blue.  The cheese was a tad too big for the wine and overpowered it.  I, instead, would have done the Blue with the Boxwood and the Montasio with the Giscours.  This can be a challenge, because so many people want to pair Blue cheese with a big, bold red…so, one tries to deliver what the people want.  At first, I was going to leave out the Blue altogether….but, I caved in.  Cheese professionals always recommend that those big Blues be paired with Sauternes/White Dessert wines, or the very least, a Port.  So, keep that in mind!

The next class is on Saturday, April 10th from 3pm-5pm. 

Cheers,

Anita

“Beauty is worse than wine; it intoxicates both the holder and the beholder”  Aldous Huxley

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: