I spent Sunday and Monday touring around Virginia Wine Country with Dezel Quillen of My Vine Spot and Frank Morgan of Drink What U Like, meeting with wine makers and vineyard managers, exploring what was in bottle as well as the newly pressed ’09 vintage. You know it’s awesome when you meet wine makers who inspire you. The ones that truly craft wine they believe to be great, and have a palpable love for the grape, both on the vine and in the bottle. I met a few such wine makers this weekend touring the Monticello wine trail, some of whom I met before, others for the first time. (not that I haven’t met many others over the years)
One of the new wine makers that I met was Kirsty Harmon of Blenheim Vineyards. I have been to Blenheim before but not since Kirsty took over last year. Not that I disliked like what was being done at Blenheim before, I was actually a big fan, but I must honestly say I really love the new approach and the wines are fabulous.
A little background on Kirsty:
“Kirsty developed an appreciation for wine through a job that allowed her to apprentice for famed Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse.
After making wine for several years in Virginia,(for Kluge) Kirsty moved west to pursue formal training at the University of California at Davis, where she graduated with an M.S. in Viticulture and Enology in 2007. After graduation, Kirsty spent six months at Domaine Faiveley in Nuits St. Georges, France as a recipient of the 2007 Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Scholarship. In Spring 2008, she worked as a harvest intern at Craggy Range Winery in New Zealand as recipient of the Doug Wisor Memorial Scholarship.”
As I stated her passion is palpable, and a lot of her inspiration comes from the time she spent in Burgundy and New Zealand which can be seen in the style of wines she crafts. The first thing you might notice while tasting at Blenheim is that all of their wines are screwcaps, the only winery in Virginia to bottle all their wines with that closure system. It was pretty shocking actually! She believes that it is a much better closure for two reasons, cost and safeguarding of the wine. She quoted numbers on what she is saving per bottle with the screw caps and it is quite impressive, a cost savings that she is directly relaying to her bottle prices. I did question on her on how she thought the closure would affect the aging potential of her bigger red wines and she said that they should still age very well. When I pressed a little more, questioning the polymerization of tannin molecules without the assistance of micro-oxygenation through a cork she quickly told me that the molecules don’t need oxygen to do that. That is something I did not know! I guess only time will tell!
On to the wines…
2008 Blenheim Chardonnay- $15 – (fruit from Honah Lee Vineyards and Mt. Juliet Vineyards, 35% barrel fermented in French, American and Hungarian oak) – lots of fruit, full of apple, ripe pear and hazelnut. Medium to full body with bright acidity and a clean finish
2008 Blenheim Farm Chardonnay – $20 – (all estate fruit, 100% barrel fermented) – Slightly tropical in nature, with apple, ginger and tangerine with notes of melon and almond at the back of the palate. Full body, again great balanced acidity.
2008 Viognier – ( fruit from Honah Lee Vineyards and Mt. Juliet Vineyards, 40% barrel fermented for 5 months) Honey and fresh flowers on the nose, followed by honeysuckle, fuji apple, and more floral notes. Round full body with a touch of spice.
2008 Seven Oaks Merlot – $18 – (fruit from Seven Oaks Vineyards) – loved the nose, full of black tea, black cherry and cranberry. Palate was a little awkward, hints of candied fruit. Medium body with nice leathery tannins.
2008 Blenheim Farms Cabernet Franc – $22 – (estate fruit, not sure of oak program) – cherry raspberry and red currant and notes of dried herbs on the nose. Similar flavor profile with the addition of black pepper notes.
Kirsty took us down to the winery, and had us taste some ’09 samples out of the barrel and tank as well as ’08 Petite Verdot that has been bottled yet. As I stated in yesterdays post I was very impressed with what we tasted from the ’09 vintage. The baby Blenheim wines were showing great fruit and structure and Kirsty is working with some interesting Rhone varieties that show some nice promise.
Thanks to Kirsty for her hospitality, we all had a great time.
Check out Blenheim Vineyards
31 Blenheim Farm
Charlottesville, VA 22902