wine tasting

Interview with Jake Busching of Pollak Vineyards

Coming off a great showing at the Monticello Cup Wine Competition here in Virginia, Jake Busching, GM and winemaker of Pollak Vineyards granted me an interview talking about his wines that won at “The Cup”

1. AW: Congratulations on the win at the Monticello Cup! You had four wines place in the competition with the 08 Petite Verdot winning overall, Meritage 07 receiving gold, and the 08 Merlot and 09 Viognier winning Silver. With these representing three different vintages, how much did vintage variation play in the distinction of these wines.

JB: “Vintage is always key to the portrait perceived by the consumer. Especially with our red wines, time plays an integral part in both softening and sensorial profile. Each year being distinct, brings varietal diversity to our program as well. In 2008, for instance the tannins were soft and the fruit very juicy and bright whereas 2007 was all about heat induced ripeness and rugged mouthfeel. Vintage is one of the great things about winegrowing in Virginia; It gives us something to marvel at in a vertical of 3-5 years. Those wines will all be very different and unique.”

2. AW: This was a competition of your “direct peers”. How do you feel these wines would hold up on the national/international scale?

JB: “We enter our reds in International competitions and do quite well. We recently received a gold medal in California with our Merlot, meaning, we beat out a lot of CA and other worldly competition to place. Virginia wine is on its way to the international stage; Viognier, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and Merlot are all excellent wines in our region.”

Jake on the right

3. AW: I would assume that you go into a competition expecting to win, but were these the results you expected?

JB: “Truthfully, I assume nothing. Every competition is different and the palates of the judges are as varied as our vintages can be. We attempt to craft high quality wines. Pollak Vineyards is the most vital vineyard I have ever worked with. The land is very expressive in the fruit and the intensity carries over into the wine. I love to win acclaim for the wine. My heart and soul goes into winegrowing and a little nod from discerning palates is always nice.”

4. AW: As a continuation of question #3, of the wines you submitted, did you expect to win overall with the 2008 Petite Verdot?

JB: “Not at all. The PV 08 is an infant of a wine. Having just gone into bottle in February, it is still very tight and to my thinking, a bit numb. It is expressive now but in 6-10 months this wine is going to start unveiling itself. PV is a curious wine to make and even more bizarre to pair with food. Which makes it all the more fun. Having this medal hanging on it is going to make it disappear from our tasting room very quickly. I hope people give it time to become the wine it is meant to be.”

5. AW: Some winemakers have said that PV will take the reigns as VA’s red grape and surpass the quality that Cab Franc has shown. Do you think this to be the case?

JB: “PV is too unique to become our flagship wine. I think of it more as a cult following wine. People either love it or hate it. Petit Verdot is more of a little brother to Cab Franc or an unruly cousin maybe. It has a long way to go to get to the refined place Cab Franc can find here in parts of VA.”

6. AW: With the up and down start to the 2010 growing season, how is the vintage shaping up?

JB: “My standard answer to this question is “Ask me in December”. Beyond that, the vineyard is off to a great start and a touch ahead of where we were this time last year. I am ever hopeful, of course…”.

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Pinot from Patagonia

Yes, a Pinot Noir from Patagonia, Argentina. Yesterday I had the opportunity to taste this wine. It wasn’t knock your socks off good, but at $11.50 I was quite impressed. The wine region of Patagonia is growing as more winemakers are seeing the promise of producing cooler climate wines, such as Pinot Noir.  The southern Patagonia region includes the fruit producing regions of Río Negro and Neuquén (which is where this wine comes from) which has a considerably cooler climate than the major regions to the north which provides for a long, drawn out growing season in the predominately chalky soils.

Some specs…

Region: Neuquén, Argentina

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14% (high I think for cool climate and the balance this showed)

Total Acidity: 4.65 g/L

Oak: 6 months 50/50 – French/American

Bottled: February 2008

Price: $11.50

What I thought…

The nose was a bit tight, floral and black fruit notes that were indistinguishable snuck out of the glass ever so slightly. Very smooth with lots of plum, black cherry, hints of floral & cedar notes with edges of red currant and cranberry. Medium bodied and smooth all the way to the finish with lush velvety tannins.

Cheers!

Categories: $10-$20, wine tasting | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Virginia Wine Council Update

Albemarle County Adopts Farm Winery Zoning Ordinance; Likely to Serve As Statewide Model

From Matt Conrad Director of the Virginia Wine Council:

“Last week the Virginia Wine Council attended the 2:00 p.m. meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  This meeting represented an end to nearly two years of work by the VWC to shape a farm winery zoning ordinance that strikes a balance between the county’s need to protect the welfare of its citizens and farm wineries’ need for regulatory certainty and sustained economic viability.

Throughout work sessions and planning commission meetings, the VWC has consistently argued that the best way to preserve the rural character of Albemarle County and counties like it is to ensure that agriculture is profitable.  The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors did just that yesterday in unanimously adopting the proposed ordinance.

Effective immediately, the ordinance’s relevant provisions include:

* Definitions of “farm winery” and “agritourism” that mirror the State Code definitions (prior versions required contiguous parcels and made reference to commercial activities, respectively).

* Recognition of production, tasting, direct sale, shipment, and storage of wine as by-right activities.

*The ability of farm wineries to engage in/host usual and customary events and activities without regulation.

* Three specific classes of usual and customary events will be limited to 200 persons at any one time (rather than cumulatively).  There is no limitation in frequency.

*No limitation on tasting room hours other than in adopting the hours kept in the “normal course of business of the farm winery” by the farm winery itself.

* A one-time special use permit process for similar farm winery events where attendance will be greater than 200 persons.

*Fair application of the general noise ordinance as currently applied to rural areas throughout the county. Amplified music is permitted but may not be audible 100 feet from the property line.

Several Albemarle County wineries attended to show their support and appreciation of the professionalism and cooperation of planning staff and county leadership.  In attendance were representatives of Albemarle CiderWorks, Blenheim Vineyards, Keswick Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards. The Albemarle County Chamber of Commerce also spoke in favor of the ordinance as adopted.”

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TasteCamp Visuals – Day 1

A full story will come later about our first day in the Finger Lakes for TasteCamp East 2010, but I figured a little visual tour would be good for this morning.

TasteCamp organizers Evan Dawson and Lenn Thompson

Grand Tasting @ Heron Hill

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Vineyard Report – Pollak Vineyards

An update from Jake Busching GM/Vineyard Manager & Wine Maker at Pollak Vineyards

“Winters heavy with snow and a long periods of cold (cold being temps above 5F that is…) are good for our vineyards. The snow becomes ground water and the cold helps to moderate insect populations and viruses that feed on the vines. Spring rain continues to allow the plants to feed on the nutrients in the soil and begin the ripening process. Ask any winegrower and they will tell you, ripening starts at bud break. The faster the fruit develops the more complex the flavors and tannins are going to be in the wine.

Frost has taken its toll on some area vineyards but ours escaped by a marginal degree. 3 events at or slightly below freezing in the past 4 weeks have threatened to hamper our efforts at growing grapes this year. The south facing aspect of the vineyard coupled with the ever present breeze through the Rockfish Gap saved our skins… grape skins to be precise. In summary… so far so good.”

Cheers!

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Quick Sip – 2008 K Syrah “Pheasant”—Wahluke Slope

2008 K Syrah “Pheasant”—Wahluke Slope

Wine Facts –

Appellation: Wahluke Slope, Walla Walla Washington

Vineyard: Pheasant; sandy, gravelly soil

Grapes: 100% Syrah

Fermentation: native yeasts

Ageing: 100% French oak, 30% new

Production: 193 cases

Price: $35

My Tasting Notes –

Interesting start on the nose with smoky bacon, blackberry and plum followed up on the palate by fig, date, more blackberry and olive notes. Layers of black pepper and an unidentified meatiness kept showing up on the palate which was quite nice.  Full bodied, rich and spicy and very well integrated for just being released in April.

Cheers!

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TasteCamp East 2010

This time next week I will be in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York State, joining 30 other wine folks, all wine bloggers and/or their significant others.  The reason, TasteCamp, the purpose explore a lesser known wine region. You may remember last year TasteCamp East was in Long Island, New York and both Megan and I had a fabulous time learning about a new wine region, to us, so much so we went back at the end of ’09.  This year I’ll be flying solo, without my partner in crime, as being pregnant has thwarted her wine tasting!

In case you don’t know about TasteCamp, here is a primer from the TasteCamp website…

“The concept for TasteCamp is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.

Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world would love to get their wines in front new audiences, it can be a challenge.  With TasteCamp, the new audience comes to them.

This is not a junket — attendees pay their own travel expenses — including for their hotel rooms — and meals.  Through generous sponsors, some meals may be deeply discounted.

TasteCamp EAST 2010 will take place in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York State from May 7-9.”

I’m looking forward to seeing some old wine blogger friends as well as meeting new ones, and building relationships with a region I know little about. Keep it here for the action as I will try and post as much as I can while I’m there and then full recaps once I get home. I would like to thank all of the sponsors up front for what I’m sure will be a great event. Thanks also to Lenn Thompson and Evan Dawson for organizing this years event.

Cheers!

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Virginia Wine Twitter Smackdown

After the third and final session at the Drink Local Wine Conference we huddled into an adjacent conference room for the Virginia Wine Twitter Taste Off. With an InFocus projector displaying Twitter feeds from the #dlwva & dlwmd hash tags, Virginia and Maryland wineries were poised to present one white and one red wine in this fast paced Social Media showdown.  Well it wasn’t that fast paced, although I hadn’t finished all of the wines by the time we needed to submit our ballots for best red, white, media and consumer wines.  So I guess is better to say that it was fast paced but I wasn’t!

photo courtesy of Dezel Quillan, myvwinespot.com

A lot of my favorite players were in the room including Breaux Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, King Family, Jefferson Vineyards, Corcoran, and Michael Shaps.  The goal of this was to taste through the wines, tweet about them as you go along and in the end vote for your best. Fun concept!

I started with Tarara Winery, one that I have never been to, but have heard a lot about from fellow bloggers.  Jordan Harris, winemaker at Tarara was on premise to pour his wines and I started with his ’08 Chardonnay. It admittedly wasn’t my style, a bit oak dominated on the nose and front of the palate, but luckily it had plenty of great fruit to go along with it. Next I tried Jordan’s Syrah, a variety that you don’t see too much in VA but is starting to pop up here and there. The Tarara Syrah is done in the Cote-Rotie style, co-fermented with Viognier, I can’t remember the the percentage.  I was very impressed, it was full bodied with lots of dark fruit, and meaty notes with hints of classic Syrah green olive. As much as I liked it I don’t know if I liked $50 worth. Although it was an excellent effort for a non-typical variety in Virginia, $50 is a pretty steep pricetag, in my opinion.

I bounced around the tables a bit, catching up with my friends in the VA wine industry and re-tasting through some of the wines I’ve sampled in recent months.  I made my way over to Breaux Vineyards to taste their ’02 Merlot Reserve and their ’08 Viognier. Trying the latter first, it was a classic VA Viognier with beautiful honeysuckle and apricot notes with a crisp dry finish. Not be a huge Merlot fan, I was impressed with the ’02 Reserve Merlot, and voted for it as the best red wine.  It was dominated with layers of black cherry, plum, leather and hints of mocha. For being 8 years old the structure was still there and presented lively yet smooth tannins.

A few Rose’s were poured but I think the best effort went to the ’09 version Boxwood Winery. Made from Cabernet Franc it reminded me of classic French styles of dry Rose, although made from different grapes. Beautifully clean and crisp with light notes of strawberry, watermelon and hints of minerality and a bone dry finish.

In addition to the Syrah from Tarara the other most interesting variety that was poured was the 2008 Albarino from Chrysalis Vineyards, yes an Albarino.  I thought it was a very nice wine, but stylistically was a bit off from classic versions for the Rias Baixas region of Spain.  Tasted a bit too rich, closer for me to another native Spanish grape, Godello, or even a light Viognier with hints of honey that I was picking up.  It was a good wine don’t get me wrong, and I’m happy to see different grape varieties being tried in Virginia. It was obviously a crowd favorite as it won for best white wine of the day.

The white wine that I voted for was the ’09 Viognier from Pollak Vineyards, a wine that I’ve been following since it was a baby. I tasted this wine out of the tank not long after harvest last October and was as impressed then as I am now. Although still a young wine, it was showing classic flavors and aromas of honey, peach, Asian pear and apricot with the addition of floral notes. Lusciously rich with a refreshing backbone of acidity, the ’09 Viognier will be even better in 6 month to a year.

Here is a complete list of everyone who poured their wines for us…
• Boxwood Winery

• Breaux Vineyards

• Chrysalis Vineyards

• Corcoran Vineyards

• Fabbioli Cellars

• Pearmund Cellars

• Sunset Hills

• Tarara Winery

• Barboursville

• Jefferson Vineyards

• Keswick Vineyards

• King Family Winery

• Michael Shaps Wines

• Chatham Vineyards

• Ingleside Vineyards

• Williamsburg Winery

• Potomac Point (Eastern)

• Veramar Vineyard

• Lovingston

• White Hall

• Pollack

Thanks to the organizers of the events and to all the wineries that came out and poured for us.

Cheers!

Categories: Drink Local Wine Conference, virginia wine, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Wineries Unlimited to move to Virginia in 2011

Press release from the office of the Governor Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Wineries Unlimited trade show will relocate from Pennsylvania to Richmond, Virginia in 2011.  Wineries Unlimited is the second largest vineyard and winery conference and tradeshow in North America.  It is estimated that the 2011 event will bring over 2,000 visitors and $1.5 million in revenue to Virginia.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McDonnell remarked, “We are thrilled that Wineries Unlimited has decided to move to Virginia.  Virginia wines have seen their standing in the domestic and global marketplaces grow in recent years and having Wineries Unlimited in Virginia will help us as we continue our efforts to promote Virginia wines both here and abroad.  This is also a chance for us to showcase our first class wineries to people from across the nation.  It is estimated that this event will also bring 2,000 people from across the United States to Virginia and almost $1.5 million in new revenue to the state.  Tourism and support of the wine industry were two priorities of my ‘Jobs and Opportunities’ legislative agenda.  It is excitement for tourism growth and wine expansion in Virginia that helped us convince Vineyard & Winery Management to relocate the Wineries Unlimited trade show to the Commonwealth.  I look forward to this trade show returning to our great state for years to come and creating a lasting partnership with Vineyard & Winery Management.”

“The outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement we’ve received in the State of Virginia – from the wine industry up to the governor – has been tremendous,” said Robert Merletti, publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, and president of Vineyard & Winery Services, Inc. “Virginia vintners are eager to learn the latest winegrowing techniques as well as establish beneficial vendor relations.”

“The needs of Wineries Unlimited will be well served in Richmond,” said Ann Heidig, president of the Virginia Wineries Association. “Governor Bob McDonnell is very supportive of the Virginia wine industry as well as state agriculture and tourism.”

Annette Boyd, marketing office director of the Virginia Wine Board, said the move will create new opportunities for Virginia wineries: “Our growers and producers will have better access to the information provided by Wineries Unlimited, and the event will help showcase their wines to colleagues from other states.”

“Richmond lies in the center of Virginia’s rapidly-growing wine industry and is a prime location for Wineries Unlimited,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (RMCVB). “Wine industry representatives will enjoy our big-city amenities and small-town charm as well as Virginia wine.”

More information about the Wineries Unlimited trade show and conference can be found here: http://wineriesunlimited.vwm-online.com/index.asp

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Nothing plain about Delaplane Cellars

After the Drink Local Wine Conference, fellow VA wine blogger Dezel Quinlan of My Vine Spot headed South to visit a new winery to both of us, Delaplane Cellars.  Even on a cloudy day the views from this fairly new winery were amazing, surrounded by the rolling hills of Faquier County. Owner Jim Dolphin met us to give us a taste through his hand crafted wines and give us the background on his new labor of love.  Being a wine lover for some time, Jim, as many of us do got the dream to open his own winery. Before jumping in he took wine making and viticulture classes with Jim Law at Linden Vineyards, in addition to working several harvests with him, as well as taking several enology courses through UC Davis. He started by making wine at home, two of which got second and first in consecutive years at the VA state amateur winemakers competition.  Before deciding on the property and planting Jim had extensive soil analysis done to see which varieties and trellis systems should be used and found that his soil did change from top to bottom. The top section of the property contains more sandy, loamy soil and proceeds to turn to a more clay dominated soil near the bottom of his 7 acres under vine.

The tasting room is magnificent and attention to detail is key for Jim to provide the best possible tasting experience. From quality Schott Zwiesel crystal tasting glasses on the Black Walnut counter harvested from the property where the winery sits, to the odor free soap in the restroom.

The vines are currently in their 2nd and 3rd leaf so the wines that we tasted were produced from fruit purchased from selected vineyards around the state. The wine at Delaplane offers a range of taste from the rich Viogniers to their reds which run the gammot of “old world” and slightly funky to bigger more fruit forward “new world” styles.

We tasted the entire lineup that they have and I have to say I enjoyed every single wine they had, which is rare to find, especially here in Virginia. I take that back, they do have a Syrah/Viognier blush with 3% residual sugar that I didn’t care for.

What I tasted: 2008 / Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, 2008 Honah Lee Viognier, 2008 Maggies Vineyard Viognier, 2007 Emerald Lake Viognier, 2007 Old World Cab Franc, 2007 Left Bank Bordeaux Blend, 2007 Shirland Syrah and 2007 Springlot Reserve Single Vineyard

Notes on my favorites:

2008 Honah Lee Viognier – nice rich style Viognier with notes of citrus, apricot, peach and tangerine. Intereasting “chalky” component that I thought added interesting complexity to the palate. Acidity showed itself at the end to help brighten up the fruit and lean up the viscosity on the tongue.

2007 Old World Cabernet Franc – hints of barnyard laced between plum, cherry and red currant with notes of earthy funk (the good kind) and sautéed brussel sprouts. A bit of spice on the full bodied palate with lush leathery tannins. In inquiring about the funk, Jim did admit that the wine had a touch of brett – which I enjoyed. 🙂

2007 Springlot Reserve Single Vineyard – big and almost “sweet” fruit on the nose with aromas and flavors of boysenberry, black cherry, spice box and cocoa powder. Interestingly a dose of bright red fruit notes kept showing up in the mid-palate that was quite nice. Full bodied with big well integrated tannins.

Afterwards I enjoyed a glass of the Cabernet Franc and a nice local cheese platter with Dezel before I headed home. Interestingly enough, Jim used to live about a mile from where I now do and used to be a frequent customer of the wine shop I now manage. Small world!

Cheers!

Categories: virginia wine, wine tasting, winery review | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Drink Local Wine Conference 2010

The second Drink Local Wine Conference took place in Loudon County, Virginia this past weekend at the beautiful Landsdowne Resort. In attendance were bloggers, traditional print media writers, VA wine industry folks, consumers and other members of the wine trade. I had the interesting perspective of being four of the aforementioned attendee types. I as most people in the room am a consumer, I help run my in laws VA winery, I manage a wine shop and I write a wine blog.  The bulk of the conference was focused around three sessions on Sunday followed by a VA wine twitter taste off, aka speed tasting smack down!

The first session, titled Thomas Jefferson was right: The grapes that work best for Virginia was led by Moderator: Richard Leahy, Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. Panelists: Matthew Meyert, Williamsburg Winery; Jennifer McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyards; and Matthieu Finot, King Family Vineyards. I had the perception that the session would revolve around hybrid varieties that have shown to thrive in Virginia versus the typical Vinifera varieties. (some of which also thrive in Virginia) A few of us mentioned after the session that we found it odd that the Chambourcin grape was mentioned, not that it is one I typically enjoy but it is one that shows up in a lot of Virginia wineries.  Jenny McCloud’s passion for Norton was evident as she holds the largest planting of Norton in the world.  Jenny McCloud is also doing great things with typical Spanish varieties such as Albarino, of which hers won the best white wine at the Twitter Taste Off. Brief mentions were made of the grapes that are typically thought of Virginia’s “best”, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and a recent front runner Petite Verdot. There was a general consensus that blending is a key component of making great wine in Virginia (specifically reds) and that Virginia needs to keep exploring grapes that thrive in climates similar to that of Virginia, like Albarino.

The second session, titled Social media: How regional wineries can get the word out was led by Moderator: Michael Wangbicker DWS, CWE. Panelists: Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report; Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Breaux Vineyards;  and Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. This session was the highlight of the conference, I think because it had the most interaction with the audience. The key take away was social media is all about engagement versus promotion. Jen Breaux was revered by Lenn and others in the room for “doing it right”, keeping her tweeting about a conversation instead of PR promotion. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, blogging, or Foursquare, social media is just another tool in the toolbox for the wine industry.

The third and final session titled If local food, why not local wine? was led by Moderator: Dave McIntyre,Washington Post. Panelists: Mary Watson-DeLauder, Lansdowne Resort; Andrew Stover, Chef Wino and Todd Kliman, Washingtonian magazine. This is one I was most looking forward to, but have to say was most disappointed by. Nothing against the speakers, but I felt that the discussion never really got to the heart of the session title. It danced around it and went off on a couple of tangents, maybe because there is no clear answer to the question “why not local wine?”.  The subject of pricepoint came up briefly and I think that is a large part of wine you don’t see more VA wines of wine lists of VA restaurants. The other reason is that a large selection of VA wineries thrive on the tourism part of their business and basically sell out of their wine from the tasting room. Why would you make less money if you didn’t have to, just to get your wine on a wine list.  The reason they should, is for more exposure! That loss in revenue can be chalked up to marketing in my opinion. As a retailer, my VA wine customer is very different from every other customer. People come in for a specific wine that they had a festival, or at the winery and if I don’t have it, they usually don’t want another one, VA or otherwise. It’s quite impressive, that their experience with that particular wine was so powerful.  A lot of times it’s not the fault of the retailer for not stocking it, but more times than not, the winery doesn’t distribute.  I still find it interesting that consumers go out of their way to buy local produce, meat or seafood but don’t extend that passion to their wine.  An interesting point was made after the session by Lenn Thompson I think, that local food portrays a level of quality and local wine hasn’t achieved that status yet.

The best part of the conference was seeing old wine friends and meeting new ones, all of which have a palpable passion for local wine.  The discussions between sessions, at lunch and at dinner were fantastic and were definitely one of the highlights for me.

Stay tuned for my wrap up of the Twitter Taste Off and the dinner Magnolia’s restaurant.

Categories: Drink Local Wine Conference, virginia wine, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Home Repair Service – or lack there of!

Okay so this has nothing to do about wine but I needed a venue for a public rant so bear with me.  After the horrendous winter we have had here in Richmond we need some minor repair done to our roof, siding and a couple of window frames.  Seems pretty basic right?

Our first call was to someone that Megan’s parents have used and who they were pleased with. Things went well at first, they came out the day after our call to inspect, were very nice and professional, took plenty of pictures, explained what they needed to do and so on. This was a Wednesday, and he said he would try and get an estimate to us the next day but if he didn’t it would be the following Monday because he was headed out of town on Friday… well that was 4 weeks ago. In between then we called twice, finally getting a call back from their secretary to say that the person that was doing our repair needed to come back and look at something else, but it would be sometime next week because he is now on his honeymoon. WTF!!!!! This was last Monday.

So not having another referred option we just searched on Google for a company, found one and called to setup and appt. for Tuesday at 10am. I had a meeting in the morning but got home by 9:45, and there I sat until 10:45 before I called the company to ask why no one had shown up. “Oh, we double booked and needed to reschedule”, UM HELLO, HOW ABOUT A PHONE CALL! The gentleman who was supposed to come out, called after that to say he would be in the area, and apologized about the inconvenience, and would give me a call when he was near the house in the afternoon.  That was the last we heard from them. No call that day or any other day to setup an another appointment or apologize for stiffing us.  Again WTF!!

In between this time we have called three other people, left our information and had no return phone calls for the actual inspection visits.

Thursday last week we called another company, blindly, and the gentleman came out that day, was super nice, did an inspection and said we’d hear from him Monday. He was the most prompt and courteous of the bunch so I hope he works out.

Megan and I are completely baffled at how utterly hard it has been to get our house repair work looked at, much less done. You would think in these hard economic times companies would be jumping at the opportunity for work. Apparently the economic downturn hasn’t hurt the home repair business, because from our experience the last 3-4 weeks, nobody wants to do any work!

If anybody in Richmond knows a good company for home repair, we would be happy to know and contact them. Unfortunately the last guy that came out only does roof repair.

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A different approach!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting with the folks at Lovingston Winery in rural Lovingtson, Virginia. Far South on the Monticello Wine Trail, they are set off of a back road, nestled into a hill deemed “Josie’s Knoll”. To say that they are on the Wine Trail is a stretch, they are quite a bit away from their surrounding wineries and that’s okay, it works for their business model. Their model is completely different from any other winery I have visited here in Virginia. Instead of focusing on tourism, events and traffic through a tasting room, or attending festivals, their primary source of sales comes via the wholesale market in retail shops and restaurants. Not to say they don’t welcome visitors to their winery, they are more than happy for you to make an appointment. It’s an interesting concept for a Virginia winery and one that comes with an adjustment to their pricing structure. Honestly when they handed me their tasting/price sheet I thought it was the wholesale version. They are pricing their wines to be competitive on a global scale, with their most expensive wine selling for $19 retail, the Reserve Merlot, and the rest from $12-$14. Their Cab Franc is very tasty and retails for $12, pretty amazing considering the amount of hands on production they have. (gravity flow, double sorting, seed removal during fermentation, etc.)

Being in retail wine sales for my day job, I appreciate the lower prices as a lot of times comments regarding Virginia wines are negativity towards the pricing. I do hope they can afford to keep pricing wine this way, as they are pretty small. At around 2K cases, I imagine it’s hard to absorb the chunk that the distributor takes, especially at the low retail prices they are shooting for. In addition to the fact that this is the primary means of their sales vs. most VA wineries, where wholesale is a small percentage.

large tanks setup for gravity flow operations

Both Stephanie and her dad visited with me and gave me the full spiel on their wines and impressed me with their knowledge of wine and wine making. I didn’t get to meet the winemaker, Riaan Rossouw who is South African, a shame because I hear he is a hoot to talk with.

Some notes on a couple of favorites from my tasting…
2007 Cabernet Franc ($12) – (10% Merlot) – full of earthy notes (especially on the nose) black currant, sauteed green pepper, and raspberry. Juicy in the mid-palate but still maintained a nice “leanness”, with a medium to full body.

2006 Reserve Merlot ($19) – load of fruit up front, highlighted by black cherry and pomegranate, with leather and a hint of cigar box provided some nice earth tones at the back of the palate. Full bodied and well structured – nice effort (from a non-merlot fan)

2009 Petite Manseng ($13) – (2% RS) – very rich, ripe apricot and mango, very tropical. The slight sweetness is very balanced as the wine had some good back end acidity.

Cheers to Lovingston for a nice visit and some tasty juice!

Categories: $10-$20, virginia wine, wine review, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Virginia Wine Expo 2010

I attending the 3rd and final day of the Virginia Wine Expo yesterday and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overcrowded and that I wasn’t fighting with floundering drunks to talk to the winemakers. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the day, there were a few stumbling around, but not enough to bother anyone. Although I did hear Saturday was a different story, with record crowds.

My main plan for the day was to visit wineries I had never been too/heard of and also to stop and say hi to my favorite wineries and winemakers. The plan was achieved with great success and after 4 hours of talking about & tasting VA wine, I was horse and ready for a beer!

Some of my highlights will be no surprise to people that read this blog and know which wines always perform well with my palate but there are a few new ones.

Philip Carter – 2008 Chardonnay – beautiful, one of the best Chardonnay’s I have tasted in Virginia. Very Burgundian in style, similar to Saint Veran or Mersault. Slightly more toasty, but excellent and surprising minerality.

Well Hung Vineyards (I can’t wait until these ladies get a tasting room, they are a hoot) – 2008 Cabernet Franc – shows great promise, nice red fruit, green bean, and classic CF spiciness. Was a bit thin in the mid-palate but showed up again at the finish.

Rosemont 2007 Meritage (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot) – lots of dried fig, mocha and black currant, spicy with loads of tannins – will age well

BlenheimThe 2008 Painted Red is coming together, starting to integrate better even since my tasting 6 weeks ago. My favorites of the lineup that Kirsty brought were the 2008 Petite Verdot with beautiful structure, black currant, blueberry, menthol, spicy black pepper and a hint of chalkiness; 2008 Cabernet Franc with blackberry, green veggie medley and spicebox; and the new NV White Table Wine (this year 100% Chardonnay w/ .6RS) with a clean and ripe tropical fruit profile, melon and poached pear.

PollakPollak only brought three wines, all very nice, as I brought all three home. 2008 Durant White, excellent everyday white with citrus, apricot and granny smith apple; 2007 Cabernet Franc – still rocking – spicy with raspberry and red currant and hints of mint, cocoa and sauteed collard greens – is drinking really well; 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – lavender, blackberry, eucalyptus and red currant with touches of floral notes. Full and focused with still a lot of tannic structure.

MountfairFritz, winemaker and co-owner brought the only bottling that he had (sold out of everything else for the time being) which was the 2008 Inaugural along with Brad McCarthy’s Stick Dog Riesling and Chardonnay. As with our last tasting with Fritz, Brads wines are still showing extremely well and I still can’t believe his Riesling is from Virginia. The 2008 Inaugural had lots of dark fruit, hints of red clay and a touch of barnyard. After talking to Brad, he wasn’t too pleased with the “barnyness” of the wine (although i liked it) and hopes to isolate the barrel(s) that contain the barny causing Brett.

These were my favorites but this isn’t to say there wasn’t other good wines. On the event as a whole, I know I was there on the less crowded day but the amount of space that was used for the event was immense and very well laid out.  Being the freak about glasses that I am, I also really appreciate the fact that you get a nice Schott-Zwiesel glass with you entry fee.

Look forward to next year. Cheers!


Categories: wine tasting | 1 Comment

The approachable 08 Chateauneuf du Papes

Some call the 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape vintage challenging, others call it a return to normalcy or more typical. The later are mostly critics who lament the recent hotter, drier vintages that have produced bigger, higher alcohol wines. “The 2008 vintage appears to represent a distinct turn-around from the recent heatwaves, especially that of the hyped-up (and juiced up) 2007s. Rain through the late winter resulted in a late floraison; rain through the spring saw mildew add to the growers’ problems. July and August ran closer to form, and then a heavy rain storm in September might well have destroyed the harvest if not for the strong Mistral on its heels. Growers had to exercise “severe sorting” to minimize under-ripe fruit, with the result that production was down by 35% and special cuvees were generally put aside for the year. The better producers were able to manage these conditions to make good wine.” (Tony Fletcher)

Having not had some of the other vintages that 2008 is compared to (2004 & 1999) I can only say that 2008 is much more approachable now than either 2006 or 2007 that I have recently tasted. I am a big fan of the 2007 and it is commanding a large section of my cellar (don’t tell Megan), but I don’t plan on starting to drink those bottles for a few more years, at least. At a recent trade tasting I had the opportunity to taste some some very nice 2008s and they were very drinkable.

What I tasted…
2008 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape, La Reine des Bois (80% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 5% Vaccarese, 5% Counoise)(50% oak aging)($135) – beautiful interlacing of dark and red fruit flavors leading to more red fruit of currant and raspberry on the palate. Loads of secondary flavors on the palate including leather, mushroom, espresso bean with some more of those dark fruit flavors coming back towards the finish (blackberry). Structure was full bodied and intense, well integrated for such a young age.

2008 Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge ($50) – baking spice and black cherry dominate on the nose in addition to nice notes of anise. Palate is full bodied and surprisingly mature with similar flavors as the nose alluded to, with hints of mocha and suede. Long finish!

I can’t say which is the “correct” vintage, but I can definitely say if you are looking to enjoy some CdP in the near future and can’t find anything on the shelf prior to ’06, look for an ’08.

Cheers!

Categories: $40+, wine review, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment