Archived entries for Virginia Wines

Five Years of Wine Blogger Conference Recaps: #WBC16 Fun Begins Next Week

Tis the season (and the week of the Wine Bloggers Conference) for wine bloggers to take the easy way out with recap posts.  Color me guilty and enjoy the story behind the stories for each conference.  I always have such an amazing time discovering the region, bonding with my friends who I don’t see enough and laughing so hard that I cry.  So, I’m about to attend my sixth wine blogger’s conference next week.

Let’s start with 2010 in Walla Walla, Washington.  As you can see from the post, this was my first wine bloggers conference and I was really playing by the rules.  To me, the moment by moment recap is amusing, but I still had glimpses of the type of coverage I write today, but without the #goingrogue experience.

In 2012, we were in Portland.  The bus outing featured a handsome police officer that pulled the bus over on the way to Carlton, Oregon.  Hence, we had Carlton without handcuffs.

I missed the 2013 event due to a family trip to Costa Rica, which was amazing but I did really want to experience the wine of Canada.

Santa Barbara was the site of the 2014 conference.  We had an amazing pre-trip that was hosted by the San Francisco Wine School and certain wineries.  It definitely established 2014 as the year to come for the private events, stay for the conference.  I walked into this conference with a great understanding of the region.


In 2015, we traveled to the Finger Lakes.  This year, we were on the pre-trip, but first a side journey to Philadelphia where Jeff Kralik opened his home for a birthday celebration with his family.  Special note: his birthday falls this year during the conference.


And now we move to 2016.  The pressure is on for me because I am actually debuting Masthead, a wine made by four bloggers (one being yours truly), and the pressure is on because we had the right grapes (Mohr-Frye vineyard), the right coaches (Mitch Costenino and Paul Scotto) and every tool for success to make this great.

We will see if this is a humbling or well received experience this week. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Virginia Wine Chat: A Taste of Early Mountain Vineyards

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to experience Virginia wines, which I first got to try at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2011 (#wbc11).  I was recently asked to join the 30th episode of Virginia Wine Chat #VaWineChat, which was facilitated by one of my favorite bloggers, Frank Morgan.  This episode featured Early Mountain Vineyard’s new Winemaker Ben Jordan and Vineyard Manager and Winemaker, Jonathan Hollerith, for a discussion about Early Mountain, which is located in Charlottesville, VA, and has a storied history.  

The winery sent three wines – a Pinot Gris, a rosé and a red blendWe started with the 2014 Early Mountain rosé, which made my stock in rosés immediately rise.  It was delicious – full of mouthwatering fruits like apple, pear and strawberry.  It was dry and evolved in the glass over the night.  I loved it.

The 2014 Early Mountain Pinot Gris was also delicious.  It had great notes of pear, crisp golden apple, spice and a great minerality that made it go down way too easy.

The 2013 Early Mountain Foothills was a solid red blend.  I think if I had paired other food besides sushi with it, it would have showed a little better.  It had deep berry flavors, herbs and was earthy.

These wines all had Old World style with a New World charm.  If you have an opportunity to try Virginia wines – especially those from Charlottesville, VA, I’d definitely seek them out.


WBC 11: Bus Trip, Virginia Wine Takeaways and General Musing

The tough thing about doing a series on an event like the Wine Blogger’s Conference is that by the time you reach the fourth article, your story is old news.  You already know about the well received keynote from Jancis Robinson, who has a list of accomplishments including, writer for the Financial Times, and editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine and co-author with Hugh Johnson of The World Atlas of Wine.  That was a good thing for me as I was stuck in my room on a work conference call and was glad it was well documented.  Also, Eric Asimov of The New York Times had some great things to say about responsible journalism, democratization of wine and paths of wine knowledge and appreciation.

You already know that it was unseasonably hot – even for a Texan — in Virginia, at the wineries and at Monticello.  If you’ve been following closely, you might even know who decided to learn about Virginia wines and those who decided they had better things to do and ignored all things Virginia while attending the conference. 

You’ve heard that speed tasting was met with mixed reviews.  It’s hard to put a box wine up against a $90 reserve Cabernet and expect positive results.  There has to be a better way to make this a fair game.

My biggest takeaway on Virginia wine was the European influence on its winemaking.  From Barboursville to Tarara to Breaux, European winemakers and wine consultants are the norm here, and Virginia seems to be on the map as a destination for U.S. entry. Winemakers like Dennis Horton of Horton Vineyards traveled to Southern France before planting a single Viognier grape. Bordeaux, Portuguese and Spanish varietals are abundant.  Wines I would consider to be non-traditional to this region like Albarino, Nebbiolo and Petit Manseng are being offered.  This will be an interesting place to watch as some of the top European wine makers and wine families are playing here.

And now for the fun stuff – the winery bus tour.  Attendees are broken into seven groups and each group visits two wineries and has lunch.   Last year, we had a great experience at one winery and the other seemed to be bothered that they had to deal with us.  This year karma smiled upon us as we found out we would be visiting Horton Vineyards and Barboursville Vineyards.  Score! 


Dennis Horton, Horton Vineyards

We started our tour at Horton Vineyards and got to meet one of Virginia’s innovators, Dennis Horton.  Dennis started with a home vineyard in 1983 and founded Horton Vineyards in 1989.  Horton Vineyards is a 110-acre estate that has more than 20 grape varieties.  He is credited for the first viognier from Virginia (1992), the first cabernet franc (1991) and reintroducing the Norton grape (1992).  I also had a chance to try the Norton Sparkling Viognier during a Twitter tasting prior to the conference.  It was my favorite viognier that night and it remains my favorite of the Horton wines.


We started with a demonstration of methode champenoise to show the hand-crafted nature of the Sparkling Viognier.  In Dennis’ own words, “It’s hard to label this shit. “  Yes, Dennis, I agree – what a labor of love!




We tried the following nine wines – six reds and four whites.

  • NV Sparkling Viognier, entitled Dom Virginion, um… ok.  Again, this was a great sparkler and one I definitely appreciated, $25
  • 10 Rkatsiteli – this was very fruity tasting of banana and anise, $15
  • 10 Viognier – tropical fruit, crisp and light, $20
  • 08 Petite Manseng –  tropical, creamy and dry, $20
  • 08 Cotes d’Orange – interesting wine that used the Tablas Creek clone from Chateau Beaucastel; $15
  • 08 Nebbiolo – lots of cherry, plum and smokiness, $20
  • 07 Pinotage – berry and acidity with mocha on the end, $20
  • 09 Tannat “The Art of Darkness” – lots of leather, spice and dark fruit, $20
  • 09 Norton – stone fruit with some spiciness.  As a said before, I really wanted to love this grape for its history, but I couldn’t, $15


Winemaker-General Manager Luca Paschina

Our next stop was Barboursville, which was exciting enough until we found out about lunch at Palladio, its James Beard award-winning restaurant.  Winemaker-General Manager Luca Paschina and Owner Gianni Zonin, greeted us at the front of the winery and talked to us about the history of Barboursville Vineyards.  The second-generation estate house at the Barboursville plantation was designed by Thomas Jefferson for his friend, James Barbour, who became the governor of Virginia and a Senator.  Sadly, the estimate burned down in 1994 and the family returned to the residence that today is the 1804 Inn.

Barboursville Vineyards is Virginia’s first wine estate dedicated to growing European, vitis vinifera wine varietals.  Zonin’s family has been involved in wines since 1821.  Barboursville is the family’s only venture outside of Italy (they have seven estates there) and consists of 900 acres. 

I had the chance to meet Luca, who has been at Barboursville for 21 years, at a conference event prior to the tour.  He told me, “Like a chef loves to work in the kitchen, I love to work in the cellar.”  His passion for wine and dedication to the vineyard showed immediately and I was thrilled to have chosen my bus well. 


Gianni’s Toast

We were led through the winery into a room where several culinary stations were set up and Chef Melissa Close Hart and her fabulous team enticed us with an antipasta station, a pasta station, a pork loin with a cherry sauce and a to-die-for dessert table.  My heartbeat sped up when I found tables set with verticals of most Barboursville wines.  Gianni Zonin led us in a lovely toast in Italian, that was translated by Luca, with the Barboursville Brut sparkling wine.


Chef Melissa Close Hart






I didn’t try everything as there were so many to try, but  David Honig and I had a fabulous time trying to describe the wines.  I think if there’s ever a market for a comic duo to taste wines, we might get to quit our day jobs.  And, we tried to some fabulous wines – ranging from Viognier to Cab Franc to Nebbiolo to the much lauded Octagon wines and with reason.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I also shipped home a case of Barboursville wine because I enjoyed them so much.




Some of the verticals of wines that I tried included:

-          02 Viognier Reserve, (also 04, 09, 10) which was my favorite white.  This was a classic Virginia viognier and found interesting the changes in fruitiness and minerality depending on the age.

-          98 to 09 Cabernet Franc – the smokiness eased and I really liked this wine in both vintages.

-          02, 06, 07 Octagon, their Bordeaux blend wines that were labeled flagship for a reason. 

  • The 02 had notes of licorice, earthiness and “murderous blueberry” notes that would be perfect with game. 
  • In the 06, we tasted spearmint, espresso and dark chocolate.  This wine would be perfect with a steak.
  • The 07 was full of tobacco, violets, floral and the same dark chocolate finish, but muted.

-          01, 06 and 07 Malvaxia Reserve Passito, the dessert wine.  The 01 was darker, caramelized with butterscotch notes and more acidity.  The 06 was much fruiter, but less floral with notes of orange blossom and honey.  The 07 had a tough of clover honey, was less aromatic and had more floral notes.

We also had the chance to sit with viticulturist Fernando Franco, who has been at Barboursville for 13 years and very patiently answered any question we had and suffered through David and my descriptions of the wine.  It was a delightful day.

WBC After The Fall

The Remnants of Our Afterparty on Sunday Night

Now some conference advice for next year.  For those who are new, I would urge you to immerse yourself in the experience.  Get out there, meet folks, watch Twitter for party updates and put yourself out there.  Bring wine and host a party in your room if you want to meet folks (and apologize profusely if it is corked)!  While the wine experience is fun, it’s the people that make the best memories.  Also for the love of god, attend the pre-conference!  I can’t emphasize this enough. Twenty bloggers are much easier to manage than 300, and I can’t tell you the value that $95 bought for my Loudoun County wine experience.  I walked in the conference with a familiarity that can only be gained through experience of tasting wines from some great wineries I may have missed.  I dare say that I would have had a very different Virginia conference experience if I had missed this trip.



Andy Reagan, Jefferson Vineyards

Stay on Sunday after the conference.  We had a delightful visit with Andy Reagan from Jefferson Vineyards who hosted a small group of remaining bloggers for lunch and poured his lovely Pinot Gris, 07 Cabernet Franc, 07 Estate Reserve, 07 Cabernet France Reserve and the 01 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was a fun, non-pressure gathering of good friends and good wine.  Again, another positive Virginia wine experience gained in a small, casual setting.

Loudoun County Wine Pre-Trip: Continues to Bring Great Surprises

Shaun T

I came out of my early morning haze with two words running through my mind – Dig Deepa! You see, I brought along the Shaun T Insanity workouts and I knew that I was about to sweat out the wine, cheese, dessert, nuts and other sins of yesterday. After a very ugly workout session, I was ready for day two.

Our first stop was Chrysalis Vineyards. This was to be my first experience with Norton and I was excited. I had read the “The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine,” by Todd Kliman and was very intrigued to taste the native Virginia grape that was such a labor of love for Dr. Norton. The Norton grape was almost destroyed during the Civil War and then again during Prohibition.

Chrysalis Vineyards is a 412-acre farm that is known for being the world’s largest grower of Norton, deemed by owner Jennifer McCloud as the “real American grape.” In addition to Norton, McCloud has planted a variety of Spanish and French varietals in addition to the usual line-up. The vineyard also has several American milking Devon cows and will be making cheese and ice-cream soon.


We were split into two groups and our hostess, Pat, was born to showcase Chrysalis wines. She introduced us to “Sarah,” namesake of several blended wines and the vineyards gorgeous outdoor patio. Sarah, who died an untimely death of “consumption” or tuberculosis at the age of 16 in 1855, was the daughter of the property owners of the estate in the 1800s. Based on what I saw, she’s definitely resting in peace.


We tried 15 wines – all except for two were grown on the estate:

- 10 Chardonnay – this was made in the Old World almost Chablis-like style with lots of acidity and green apple. This is one of the wines sourced from grapes outside the vineyard, $17.

 - 09 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay – more New World in style. Citrus and oak abounded, $24.

 - 10 Viognier – very refreshing with notes of vanilla, melon, floral and peach notes, $29.

 - 10 Mariposa – a dry rose with notes of raspberries and strawberries. Not my favorite wine as I struggle with rose wines that do not sparkle, $15.

- 10 Sarah’s Patio White – I tasted citrus, honey and almost a Chinese spice, $15

- 10 Sarah’s Patio Red – This 100 percent Norton had almost a hint of sweetness to it. Big cherry, raspberry and a note of Asian spice. Pat talked about how good this is as a base to sangria and I’m inclined to agree, $15.

 - 08 Rubiana – This wine combined Spanish and Portuguese varieties and tasted of black fruits and pepper, $17.

 - 07 Norton Estate – I really wanted to love Norton especially after reading about its resurrection and knowing this vineyard brought back Norton in 1992, but the earthiness combined with fruitiness made me pause, $17.

- 10 Norton Barrel Select – This wine was made in a Beaujolis style and was very fruity, n/a

- 08 Norton Locksley Reserve – Aged for three years in the bottle, this blend of Norton (75 percent), Petit Verdot and Nebbiollo was very earthy with pepper and chocolate. I would have been interested to see what happened to this wine had it been decanted.

- 06 Petit Verdot – I tasted chocolate, pepper and earthiness, $35.

- 07 Tannat (or poker playing wine) – I tasted mocha, currant, vanilla and blackberry. This wine could benefit with several more years in the bottle, but had nice structure, $35.

 - 08 Papillon – Had notes of mocha, cedar, pepper and pine, $35.

 - 10 Albarino – An explosion of white peaches, floral and even a bit of mango. This was one of my absolute Virginia favorites at $24.



Then it was time for the pinnacle – the 10 Petit Manseng, reserved for only the VIP wine club members and it usually sells out instantly. Chrysalis was the first to bring this wine to the Americas. I tasted honey, candid fruit, spice and orange. It was a very special wine and as much as I tried, I couldn’t convince anyone to sell me a bottle.


Our next stop was Boxwood Winery. Rachel Martin, EVP of Boxwood and the daughter of Rita and John Cook, former owners of the Washington Redskins, greeted us and talked about the history of the winery. Designed by Architect Hugh Jacobsen, it’s an airy, light filled and cheery place to experience wine. The 16-acre winery was first planted in 2004 and focuses on French Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The focus is producing fine wines in a French style with Virginia terrior.

Stephane Derenoncourt, a French winemaker, consults with Adam McTaggart, Boxwood’s day-to-day winemaker. Boxwood was Derenoncourt’s first U.S. consulting venture.



We tried several wines:

- 09 Topiary Rose, a dry sipping wine with tasted of strawberry. You guys know I struggle with roses, but the rest of the bloggers enjoyed this wine, $14-16

 - 08 Topiary, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, was done in a right bank style. It had a deep purple color, dark fruits, berry, smokiness, spiciness and eucalyptus notes, $25-27.

- 08 Boxwood was done in the left bank style and was a blend of petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. I tasted blackberries, black cherries and almost a sandalwood essence, $25-27. – 09 Topiary, muted berry, cedar and earthiness. This wine will be released in the Fall, n/a.

- 09 Boxwood had big berry, a powerful structure and benefitted from a quick whirl in the Wine Soiree (actually both 09 wines did). I brought home a bottle of the 08 and 09 to compare at a future tasting, n/a.

A few things struck me after spending these two days tasting Virginia wines. First, I was surprised at the number of European influences on the wine styles and the grapes being planted. Second, it is clear that no expense has been paid to bring in some of the world’s top wine consultants. And finally, Virginia is an area that is making the commitment today to make some serious wine in the future.

The Experience of Loudoun County: Award-Winning Wines Take Bloggers by Surprise

I remember the crowd reaction last year during #wbc10 when Virginia was named as the host city for the next Wine Bloggers Conference in 2011.  There was skepticism, puzzlement and I heard the comment that the conference was clearly sold to the highest bidder.  I encouraged those around me to give the state a chance and that some of the wine there just might be a well-kept secret.  I was correct.

Fast forward a little over one year and I found myself at the Dulles airport at the pre-conference tour of Loudoun County.   Stacey and Wendy served as our very generous and knowledgeable hosts and we had no idea what a fabulous time we were about to have.  I was also thrilled to see some old friends from last year and those I connect with often on Twitter.  Our first stop was a tour and tasting of Tarara Winery.  Jordan Harris, general manager and winemaker, served us a variety of local meats, cheeses and fresh-picked blackberries.  I had to exercise a great deal of willpower to not eat the entire blackberry bowl single-handedly.



Jordan Harris, general manager and winemaker


Tarara Winery was founded in 1989 by Whitie and Margaret Hubert.  It is one of the oldest wineries in Virginia and focuses on artisan wines.  The winery has three main vineyards – Nevaeh (estate vineyard), Tranquility (in Purcellville) and Honah Lee (in Orange).  In Jordan’s opinion, these three vineyards best represent the terrior of Virginia and are defined by their place, not their varietals.  Interestingly, all of the wines produced by Tarara have screwtops.

We tried the following wines:

-          09 Charval, a blend of chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier and sauvignon blanc.  I tasted tropical fruits, floral notes and a little lemon on the nose, $20.

-          10 Viognier, a classic Virginia viognier (and that is meant as a compliment) with peach, melon and honeysuckle.  A very elegant wine for $15.

-          09 Navaen White, which is a blend of viognier and chardonnay.  I got mandarin oranges, floral, cinnamon and a little minerality.  This elegant wine was borne from a hobby that got out of control, $30.

-          09 Three Vines Chardonnay, full of pears, butterscotch, fennel and citrus.  This is a classic chardonnay for $20.

-          97 Chardonnay.  This was an interesting wine as we wondered how well Virginia wines could age.  Unfortunately this was past its prime and I couldn’t get over the musty smell, n/a.

-          09 Tranquility Red, this is a blend of the top two barrels that three wineries – Tarara, 8 Chains and Hiddencroft Vineyards – produced from Tranquility Vineyard.  It’s a great example of the collaboration that you find between Virginia winemakers.  I tasted blackberry, licorice and pine.  I’d like to have some time for this to open up to truly experience the flavors and in fact the winemaker recommends holding for 5-7 years, $40.

-          08 Nevaeh Red.  I tasted berry, cassis, mineral, plum and oak.  This wine is one of the first east coast wines to be named a Rhone Ranger, $40.

-          09 TerraNoVA, this allocation-only wine tasted of big currant, eucalyptus, menthol and red raspberry.  The fruit was harvested from several vineyards from Loudoun County.  Tarara selects its two favorite barrels of cabernet that best represents Loudoun’s terrior.  At $45, this is a very nice wine.

-          08 CasaNoVA.  This was the biggest wine of the bunch and therefore, my favorite red.  I tasted chocolate, mint, tobacco and cedar.  It was lovely, complex and well-rounded.  It was also $45.

-          07 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was very Old World with earthiness, plum, cooked raspberries and strawberry notes.  It aged better than the white, but wouldn’t be my first choice to pull out of the cellar.

We ended with the 10 Honah Lee LH Petit Manseng, the winery’s first late harvest wine.  I tasted floral, honey and tropical notes.  It was a great dessert wine, but wasn’t for sale. We also tried an 08 syrah that was cold fermented with viognier – also not on the regular wine list yet.


Our next stop was Breaux Vineyards, which was founded in 1994 and opened to the public in 1997.  It has 104 acres planted with 18 different grape varieties – half red, half white — with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Owners, Paul and Jennifer Breaux, welcomed us with a hayride around vineyard.  It was scorching weather, but of course I had to participate as did most of our blogging crew. 



Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Sales & Hospitality Director 

We then moved into the cool cellar where we got to taste amongst the barrels and see how Virginia winemakers are encouraging experimentation with lesser known varietals like nebbiolo. 



We tried the following wines: 

-          10 Sauvignon Blanc – the perfect “after hayride” wine.  At $17, it was very crisp with citrus, melon and green apple notes.

-          10 Viognier – Lots of apricot, honey and floral notes with a touch of oak on the finish.  A very nice elegant wine for $24.

-          07 Nebbiolo Barrel Sample – Lots of promise in this wine.  I tasted deep berry, violet, roses and a bit of terrior-driven chalkiness.  It was a soft wine – even in the barrel – and one I can’t wait to try in the bottle, n/a.

-          07 Meritage – Definitely an Old World style with spice, pepper, blackberries and chocolate and oak on the finish.  It was a nice mosaic of Bordeaux varietals, which is priced at $28.

-          07 Cabernet Franc Reserve – very soft tannins with spice, blackberry, vanilla and raspberry.  Two bottles of this came home with me.

-          10 Cabernet Franc Barrel sample – I tasted raspberry and mocha.  This had a nice structure and it will be interesting to see what the end result brings, n/a.

-          10 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel sample – Blackberry, chocolate, mocha, cassis and mint were the dominant flavors in this blend.


David Pagan Castaño, winemaker

We then got to try a few others including the 08 Nota Viva Viognier, which was refreshing with tropical notes, but a nice minerality and the Corcoran Seyvel Blanc, which wasn’t my personal taste.


After that, we took a short bus trip to Grandale Farm Restaurant. The restaurant is located on a Historic Operating Farm in Loudoun County.  The mission of the restaurant is to source locally as much as possible and the picturesque garden showcased some great looking herbs, fruit and vegetables.  The dinner was fabulous and paired with Loudoun County wines.  I enjoyed the first two whites – a Viognier and a Chardonnay, but the dessert wine pairing tasted to most of us at the table like it had turned.


Wine Soiree Came to the Rescue Many Times This Weekend, But Couldn’t Save the Dessert Wine


After eating way too much food, we were transported back to one of two hotels where we either hit the bar, pool tables or if you were smart, got a full night’s sleep.  I wasn’t.

The Similarities of the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference and Comic-Con

I wasn’t originally going to write such a tongue in cheek perspective as my first post from the Wine Bloggers Conference (#wbc11), but over the past 24 hours there has been virtual gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and pulling of hair.  That’s not typical of the wine blogger community that I’ve gotten to know and it bothers me.  So, instead of kvetching, I thought it would be fun to discuss the top 5 reasons why Comic-Con, the largest comic convention in the world, is similar to the Wine Bloggers Conference.  I promise that more serious posts will come soon discussing what I learned about Virginia wine and the conference.  And, clearly I need a new camera or to drink less wine before taking any pictures.  But, try to visualize in spite of bad photography.

wbc elephant in room

The Elephant in the Room

1. Comic-Con had the deadliest warrior competition: vampires vs. zombies episode where “authorities” held endless debate on which of these mythical creatures would come out on top in a fight to the finish.  The Wine Bloggers Conference had the pretentious wine pose off with a fight to the finish between @suburbanwino @thewinesleuth and myself.  The competition was so tough a winner was never decided or everyone quickly lost interest.

Wbc pretentious pose

The Wine Sleuth Rocking the Pretentious Pose .. So Sad I Didn’t Get Joe

Pretentious Wine WBC

And then my try

2. Ballroom 20, a normally bland conference room was transformed into a masquerade party, sponsored by HBO’S True Blood at Comic-Con.  The meeting room behind the bar at the Omni was transformed from a room with florescent lighting to a club scene that went until after 4 a.m.  We even had a robed guest.


Comic-Con’s Masquerade Winners

wbc ceasar

Who IS That Robed Man?

wbc empty room

Richard Rocking the Before Pic

wbc happy room

Fast Forward a Few Hours

wbc happy happy

Last Call!

3. Cartoonist and author Patrick McDonnell, creator of the award-winning Mutts comic strip was a speaker at Comic-Con.  We actually had a live dog who may or may not have received a scholarship.


Mutts Creater, Patrick McDonnell


Wbc dog

Unofficial Mascot and Winner of Aromas Tasting

4. A main focus of Comic-Con’s seminars was how to create a character-driven story.  The main focus of the Wine Bloggers Conference was how to find your voice.  Both were designed to capture the hearts and clicks of readers.

5. Pop culture icon, Pee-wee Herman, took the stage at Comic-Con.   Hell, we had Thomas Jefferson in costume.  I now appreciate Thomas more.  And, the Monticello tour alone with @pmabray and @palatepress was worth the heat.



No Caption Needed


wbc thomas jefferson

Thomas Jefferson .. Not The Costumed One

Again, this was just meant to get folks to lighten up a bit.  We went to a conference with good wine and some amazing folks – bloggers, winemakers, top wine writers and industry people.  Yes, at times, it did feel a little like the Wayne’s World sponsor clip.  But, at the end of the day, as bloggers, we are offered an unbelievable deal to attend.  I look forward to turning those 20 pages of notes into some tangible blog posts about Virginia wine and I’ll see you in Portland next year.

wbc Sad baby

Need Wine, Will Travel

A Preview of Virginia Wines: Surprises Abound (the Good Kind)!

It’s just about lights, camera, and action time for the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA. To whet our palates and educate many bloggers who aren’t familiar with wine from Virginia, the Virginia Wine Council and my Twitter friend, Frank Morgan, put together several Twitter Taste Live opportunities to get a group of us familiar with what the state has to offer. Last week, it was all about Virginia Viognier.

I am a big fan of viognier, but shared some trepidation with the group of seven girls who I gathered for the tasting. Boy, were we wrong. Virginia makes some great Viogniers in a variety of styles from sparking to fruity to mineral in nature.

Lego Land 038

We started with the NV sparkling viognier, a 100 percent viognier wine. I got green apple, pear, mango and apricot in this wine. Winemaker Mike Heny told us that he wanted to do something unique that had not been done before. Well, he succeeded and beautifully. At $25, this was my favorite of the tasting.

Our next wine was the 2010 Blenheim Vineyards Viognier. This wine was full of honey, tropical fruits and had a minerality that made it a perfect match for the spicy shrimp we were eating. At $19, this was a great food friendly white.

We then tried the King Family Vineyards 2010 Viognier. This was elegant and well balanced with melon, honey and peach flavors. At $24.95, this wine was a delightful pairing with sushi.

We followed up with the 2009 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve. This was a very floral wine with peach, apricot and some minerality. It was interesting to see the change in flavor as the wine spent more time in the bottle. This wine was $22.

While there were six wines in the tasting, my sixth wine from Delaplane Cellars didn’t arrive until after the tasting, so our last wine was technically the fifth wine – the 2010 Cooper Vineyards Viognier. I tasted of peach, apricots, tropical and floral notes. While the wines shared many of the same qualities, they were all very different.

VA Viognier

My friends, who usually are tougher than most wine critics, universally said that they enjoyed all of them. It was a reminder to me that there are some great wines out there and it often pays to go off the beaten path and experiment. I look forward to sharing my adventures with you during my time in Charlottesville beginning today through July 25. The Wine Blogger’s Conference is always good for new discoveries and good friends.  I look forward to sharing my adventures.

Summer Whites: Virginia Wines Offer a Refreshing Alternative

I recently participated in the Summer Wines of Virginia Taste and Tweet that consisted of a group of twelve bloggers who will be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Virginia in July.  Like usual, I invited over my group of good girlfriends who happily opened their palates to a new experience.  And, they came bearing food in overwhelming quantities. 

I did some research and according to Virginia’s Department of Agriculture, the state ranks number eight nationally in commercial grape production and eighth for bearing acreage.  However, I’m from Texas and while we are making better wines than in the past, what was important to me was the taste.

Va wine menu


Va wine line up

We tasted six white wines – all pretty well priced in nature and all new to me.  We started with the 2010 Keswick Vineyards Verdejo, a light, crisp summer wine that tasted of citrus and green apple with a hint of floral.  It was nice, but seemed a little overpriced for an everyday wine at $20.

The second wine was the 2010 Veritas Sauvignon Blanc Reserve. If I tasted this blind, I would have guessed New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  I really liked this wine and it had some structure, but with a New World style with grapefruit, grassiness and lemon.  It’s a natural with oysters.

The third wine was a rose.  You guys know that I have a hard time personally with roses unless they sparkle, so I definitely let the guests provide the more objective review.  The 2010 Boxwood Winery Topiary Rose, was described as “dusty strawberry” in taste – a mix of strawberries and minerality – and is priced at $14. 

We then shifted to the 2010 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier, which was rated very highly by other bloggers in the tasting.  Unfortunately, my bottle was corked, so I look forward to trying the wine at WBC in July.  This is priced at $25.

Va wine holly

An unnamed guest with a good sense of humor

The fifth wine was the 2010 Chrysalis Viogner, which was definitely the favorite of my group’s tasting.   This wine was almost creamy with layers of pineapple and citrus along with some minerality.  This was priced at $29.

The final wine was the 2010 Lovingston Petit Manseng.  Priced just under $17, it was my first experience with petit manseng.  And possibly my last.

First VA Wine Release on Twitter: Let the Spirit Move You

From the moment that I heard that the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 (#wbc11) was going to be in Virginia, I was a little surprised.  I figured that Paso Robles had the leg up on hosting the next gathering of more than 300 wine bloggers that came from around the country. 

Either way, last year was my first year to attend the conference and I decided that I want to arrive at next years’ event much better informed about the region and its wines than I did in Walla Walla.  My first stop was to do research on grape varietals – and I learned about the Norton grape by reading The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman.  It’s a fascinating story about a doctor that basically loses everything that he has in his quest to make a world-class Virginia wine using the Norton grape. 

My second stop came by happenstance and a friendship with @drinkwhatulike, who coordinated the tasting.  I was invited to be one of the first bloggers to experience the release of a Virginia wine via Twitter.  Mountfair Vineyards took a chance and gave about ten of us around the country the opportunity to debut the 2008 Wooloomooloo.  The wine is named after a mythical spirit that roams the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Like Dr. Norton, perhaps the spirit is seeking awareness and passion for Virginia wines.

The wine arrived in a nail biting day of delivery.  I didn’t have the chance to chill and decant it the way that I would have because was a young wine.  The red blend was 60 percent Petit Verdot, 30 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc.  It had a big berry taste with an almost “Cherry Icee” finish (which was a good quality) and almost a floral essence that I later identified as violet.  The more that I let it open, the more it evolved in the glass.   At $25, it definitely peaked my interest for the other wines in Mountfair’s portfolio.

I’m going to continue to do my research on Virginia wines and look forward to discovering the other treasures the state has to offer.

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