winery review

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!


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Back to Roanoke Vineyards

Our first visit to Roanoke Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island was during Taste Camp 2009 last May when we tasted with owner/vineyard manager Richard Pisacano. (on the first visit post there is a video of Richard giving a good history of Roanoke) We had a fantastic time and used our visit to Long Island in October to revisit them and taste through the rest of their portfolio. We met up with Adam Ehmer aka @oldgrimy and he tasted us through about 7 wines including a few unreleased wines, in decanters labeled with masking tape. The experience was also paired with a nice cheeseboard and baguette. I don’t remember what cheeses they were, but the complimented the wines nicely – and helped keep the palate from getting fatigued.

….on to the wines!

2008 Rose (cab sauv, cab franc, merlot, 25% Chardonnay): lot of strawberry and watermelon on the nose with similar palate including hints of fresh hay and raspberry. Full body and crisp.

2008 Chardonnay (84% in stainless, 16% oak aged blended in): very tropical in nature, very fruity almost “sweet”. Bit of citrus in the mid-palate with hay and mineral notes leading to a clean finish.

2007 Marco Tulio (50% Cab Sauv, 50% Cab Franc, splash of Merlot – 12 months in oak): bright fruit leading off with black currant and boysenberry both on the nose and palate. Great layers of tobacco, leather and hazelnut with interesting touch of lavender towards the finish. Full bodied with rich leathery tannins.

2006 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc (92% cab franc, 8% merlot – 20 months in 50% new French oak): dark ripe fruit flavors, blackberry, black currant and baking spices dominating the nose. Similar fruit on the palate, but more red fruit coming through predominately raspberry with notes of cooked greens. Full body.

2006 “Blend One” (80% Cab Sauv, didn’t write down the rest of the blend): black fruit and earthiness on the nose. Leather, blackberry, mocha and coffee bean on the palate with an crazy note of mint chutney at the finish. Lovely flavor profile but felt a bit light/thin in the mid – palate.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (88% Cab Sauv, 9% Cab Franc, 3% Merlot): the aromatics greet you with black cherry, and boysenberry with dark chocolate interlaced. Full bodied palate with blackberry, eucalyptus and cardamom. Still young – think it will drink better down the road – huge tannins.

2007 Cabernet Franc (94% cab franc, 6% merlot): old world style, with red cherry, red currant and hints of earthy barnyard notes on the nose. More red currant on the palate with bing cherry, red clay and spice box flavors continuing through the finish. Still a baby (wasn’t released at time of sample) with huge tannins and great acid backbone – age worthy Cabernet Franc.

After tasting, Adam poured us a glass of our choice (cab franc for me) and took us on a tour of the vineyard. Sampling a few grapes here and there we walked up and down the vines, dodging the always startling blast from the bird deterring air cannons. It was the last tasting of our 2nd day in Long Island and a great finish to the day to say the least. I hope to get some of the ’07 Cabernet Franc before it runs out now that it is released but I did bring home some of my other favorites including the Gabby’s Cab Franc and the Marco Tulio. Both are resting nicely down in the cellar – I’ll try to hold on to them as long as possible, it’ll will be fun to see these guys age.

My first tasting of a Roanoke wine was at the first Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in October ’08 at an after hours tasting of New York wines provided by Lenn Thompson of The New York Cork Report. After meeting Adam he let me know that I was quoted on their release flyer for the ’06 Cabernet Franc, the wine that I had tasted at the WBC.

Here’s what I thought of it —

Having only had one or two unmemorable New York wines (before) I was excited to get the opportunity to taste a good sampling from the state. Being from Virginia where Cabernet Franc does extremely well I was most eager to see how New York compared. I have to say that I was impressed with the unhampered expression of the varietal. (The winemakers) aren’t trying to make a Cabernet Sauvignon from Cabernet Franc. The one that stuck out in my radar the most was 2006 Roanoke Vineyards Cabernet Franc from Long Island. Nice bright red fruit aromas on the nose laced with a touch of wet earth followed by raspberry-cherry and the tell tale raw green pepper flavors.

As you can tell, I’ve been a fan of their wines since my first tasting and couple that with a first class tasting room experience, I will definitely return the next time I am in Long Island.

Thanks to Adam for the great time – hope to visit again soon.


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Back to Shinn Vineyards – more than a winery

During our recent visit to the North Fork of Long Island, we had the pleasure of staying at the Shinn Vineyards Farmhouse B&B. Following a fabulous lunch at Shinn during Taste Camp back in May, Megan and I agreed that we MUST come back and stay at Shinn—six months later, here we were!


Cabernet Franc Grapes

We visited Shinn during harvest, so it was a lot of fun to see (and taste) all the action while we were there. Each morning we took a long jog along their country road lined with vines, while tractors and field hands (and birds and bees) buzzed back and forth between vineyards. Then we returned to the house to enjoy a cup of hot coffee while wandering lazily through Shinn’s vineyards, snacking on nearly ripe grapes. We also spent the mornings watching grapes get sorted and crushed on the crush pad, tasting fresh juice, chatting with their winemaker Anthony Nappa, and generally getting in the way.

Once we had worked up on appetite, we had the pleasure of an amazing breakfast prepared by owner David Page, a former professional chef. We had everything from homemade fruit smoothies to leek and mushroom risotto topped with a fried duck egg. Needless to say, these scrumptious breakfasts got our wine tasting days started on the right foot.


sampling '09 juice in the winery

Our tasting at Shinn began in the vineyard with owners Barbara and David. During the walk we learned more about their growing techniques while we sampled Cab Franc and Merlot grapes fresh from the vine. When fellow bloggers Lenn Thompson and Michael Gorton Jr. arrived, we headed into the winery with David and Anthony to sample their current works in progress. We tasted some of the ’09 juice that had already come in, including the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc. I was most impressed with the Pinot Blanc, which was produced as a wild ferment. It was wonderfully crisp, beautiful citrus with touches of petrol – very reminiscent of an Alsatian style.


In the "library" tasting back vintages

Tasting raw wine is a treat in itself, but we had the additional treat of sitting in the Shinn “library” and tasting some back vintage wines with the gang:

07 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion – lots of white tea, fully body and tropical fruit, with the addition of a nice briney, mineral quality.

04 Cabernet Franc – raspberry reduction on the nose with lots of cedar and spice, slight floral note on the palate with raspberry, green bean, cassis and a hint of brett(??). Very well integrated tannins and acid – beautiful.

05 Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of cherry, raspberry and red currant. Still a young with beautiful leather tannins and loads of ripe fruit

06 Cabernet Sauvignon – dark fruit with a great black tea component, black currant and nice earthy quality. Smooth and silky, a bit more “ready” than the ’05, hint of mint/eucalyptus on the back of the palate

07 Malbec – roasted chestnut, cocoa, black fruit with fairly racy acidity. Full bodied, young and vibrant.

David was also nice enough to pull out a 95 Cabernet Sauvignon from Bedell Cellars – barnyard and earth, leather, dark fruit and cedar. Ripe plum and blackberry. Still very big tannins and “spicy” acidity.


David and I in the vineyard

I appreciate Shinn’s wines not only for how they taste, but also for how they are made—hand-crafted, and with a dedication to sustainable vineyard practices. David, Barbara and Anthony take a very holistic approach to “wine growing.” Megan did a great post on Shinn after our visit during Taste Camp–here is an excerpt:

Shinn Estate Vineyards has embraced biodynamic principles, and continues to strive for complete sustainability. Shinn uses extensive cover cropping to maximize soil nutrition, to prevent erosion and to encourage biodiversity. They use solar panels to partially power their farmhouse and winery. They also work closely with Cornell University to explore the benefits and risks of various sustainable viticultural techniques and chemical alternatives, and thus contribute to both the knowledge of the field and to others in the region who are struggling with similar challenges.”

Over the next couple of days we sampled Shinn’s regular tasting room lineup — I will give you a tour of those wines in a future post.

Thanks to David, Barbara and Anthony for showing us a great time.


Categories: New York Wines, winery review | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

On the Monticello Wine Trail with Pollak Vineyards

A week or so ago I wrote about my visit to Blenheim Vineyards with Frank and Dezel. On the same trip we visited one of my Virginia favorites, Pollak Vineyards, and met up with friend and winemaker/GM Jake Busching. On this visit, we also had the opportunity to taste and visit with Dave Pollak, the owner of the winery. I have written about Pollak several times in the past and on the tasting menu there weren’t too many new wines since our visit back in May. We did get to sit down and taste some new releases though and a couple that I had not tasted before.

The wines…

pollakcfreserve2008 Viognier – floral with pear and apple on the nose; honeysuckle and tropical notes on the palate. Full viscous body with a dry and clean finish.

2006 Meritage – beautiful nutmeg, black currant, leather and mint on the nose; raspberry, red currant and spices on the palate with smooth fine tannins.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – lavender, blackberry, mint and red currant with touches of floral notes. Full bodied and young with leathery tannins.

2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve – (17 mos in French Oak, 60% new; picked at 25º Brix) – ripe raspberry and red currant, wet earth and vanilla on the nose; mocha, coffee, spice, cooked greens, red currant and cherry on the palate. Very smooth full body with a lush mid-palate.

The other cool part about visit, besides the special tasting with Jake and Dave, was that we got to taste a bunch of samples from the 2009 vintage.

Everything came in early and with better numbers than I have EVER seen on EVERYTHING. Incredible year for Pollak. We were done picking on Sept 30th and that included a Cab Franc at 26.5 brix and a late Viognier at about 31 brix. From the vineyard! Sept 30th! Needless to say I haven’t slept in 2 months…Jake Busching on the ’09 vintage


Jake unveiling fermenting Petite Verdot

The samples…

09 Viognier – already showing apricot and peach

08 Merlot (barrel) – smooth with red fruit and mint

08 Cabernet Sauvignon (barrel) – smoke, raspberry, “candy?”

09 Cabernet Franc (barrel) – lots of red fruit with a little blueberry

09 Petite Verdot (still fermenting after 2 weeks of maceration) – very dark, dark fruit – HUGE teeth coating tannins

09 White Port – flavor and texture of a slightly over ripe pear – very nice

Thanks to Jake and Dave for the visit – great time as usual!

Check out what Frank and Dezel had to say about the visit

Frank: Drink What You Like – Roaming the Monticello Wine Trail

Dezel: Dezel’s Vine Spot – Pollak Vineyards: Yes, Jefferson would be proud



Megan enjoying the fireplace at Pollak

Categories: virginia wine, winery review | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

From Poop to Juice

We sat in a van surrounded by large piles of poop, food waste and fish heads, while seagulls circled hungrily above. While some may see a garbage dump, others see a nutrient-rich (and highly coveted) compost pile and a key ingredient to fine wine production. We have visited many wineries and vineyards over the years, though we have never encountered such a monstrous pile of poop as that which resides on the Macari Vineyard site on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. (Don’t worry, this is nowhere near the tasting room!)


As we rode around the vineyard property (all 500+ acres; 220 under vine) with Alexandra (“Alex”) Macari, we learned of some of the Native American heritage the land holds, and the deep rooted respect for the soil. We also learned about the Macaris’ long-term efforts to be biodynamic and organic (at least to the extent possible) to nurture healthy and vibrant grape vines. Alex pointed to a wooded lot which holds hundreds of buried cow horns, a method for making natural fertilizing teas. She pointed to a contraption in the center of the vineyard which focuses positive energy into the soil. She drove us to the bluffs which overlook the Long Island Sound at the rear of the Macari property- an important source of cleansing breezes. And as we made our way back from the vineyard to the tasting room, we passed the animal paddocks housing steer, chickens, goats, and more – important sources for their homemade fertilizer.

It is important to note that, while Macari does follow many/all of the biodymanic farming practices, they are also very sensitive to the common exploitation of those terms. Macari admits that at times conventional chemical sprays are necessary, and as a result they avoid formally (or even informally) labeling their wines as biodynamic or organic.


After our tour around the property, Alex saddled up to the tasting bar with us and poured through their current lineup. Joining us for our tasting was one of Macari’s primary winemakers, Paula from Chile.  On the whole, we were impressed with consistent quality of the wines, not to say we loved every one, but the winemaking style was clean and unobtrusive.

On to the wines…

2008 Sauvignon Blanc – $22.99 – beautifully tropical nose, with a touch of “sweet” grapefruit on the front of the palate, followed by a bit of peach and Asian Pear. Great acid, clean finish!

2007 Estate Chardonnay – $18.99 – (stainless steel) apple, pear, hay field – beautifully round mid palate, crisp acidity with “mineral” finish. Clean and dry

2009 Early Wine – lots of green fruit, touch of sweetness which was surprising because of the bone dry finish. Appley aftertaste.

2007 Reserve Chardonnay -$22.99 – (12 mos. French Oak) hint of vanilla and baking spice, lemon custard, Asian Pear and hay. Full body, very well balanced.

2008 Rose – $14.99 – (45% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 14% Cab. Sauv, 7% Pinot Noir, 4% Malbec) bright red fruit with an interesting fresh cut hay note on the nose, with watermelon and pomegranate notes on the palate

Collina 48 Merlot – $12.99 – (3% Cab Franc) spicy with black fruit and leather notes, medium body with a soft velvety finish.

2004 Merlot Reserve – $35.99 – earthiness & black pepper, black cherry, black currant and boysenberry with hints of wet cedar. Full body, great tannins – very nice.

2007 Syrah – $34.99 – huge fruit up front, most dark with a hint of red currant shining through, black pepper, tar and graphite, all rounding out the mix. Very full body, kept expanding on the palate.

2007 Malbec – great cola and raisin on the nose, very cherry filled, but slightly “green” tasting and floral towards the finish.

2007 Dos Aguas – $26.99 – (45% Cab Sauv, 36% Merlot, 15% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec) tobacco on the nose with black fruit and mint. Red currant, green bean, pipe tobacco and blackberry on the palate. Silky but rich tannins

2004 Bergen Road – $42.99 – (42% Merlot, 29% Cab Sauv, 24% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot) – cocoa, mint, “sweet” black fruit, tobacco leaf (raw). Beautiful acid and tannin integration.



Alex and Joe Macari


After tasting we took a walk through the tank and barrel rooms with with Alex and Paula, and even saw a little fruit being pressed. Following the tour, we were honored to join Alex, and her husband Joe, and their biodynamics manager for lunch. They prepared an amazing lunch for us– a huge vegetarian spread, including a second course of pasta and a cheese course to finish it off. It was great to sit and talk with Joe and Alex and learn more about them, their family, and their wines. Thanks to them both for showing us a great time.


Categories: New York Wines, winery review | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Sparkling House in Long Island?

Yes it’s true there is a sparkling house on the North Fork of Long Island. Not that making sparkling on the North Fork is odd, there are actually a lot of good Method Champenoise sparklers being made on the island. The fact that they employ a sparkling only model is the odd/brave part. We visited Sparkling Pointe about 4 hours after they opened there doors this past Sunday and were greeted by a sparkling white facility complete with a VIP room with bubble chandeliers and an elevator (it was required for code). The idea of a sparkling only winery isn’t new, many reside in California (Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Chandon) it is just a new concept for the East coast.


We met with owners Tom and Cynthia Rosicki as they gave us the grand tour or their new facility, and tasted us on their wines. Wine maker Gilles Martin makes three different sparklers, a Brut, a Rose (Topaz Imperial), and Brut Seduction (an aged cuvee).

rosebottleshotMy Tasting Notes –

2005 Brut ($29) – baking biscuits, apple pie, sweet toast, and hazelnut. Full body, nice tight bubbles.

2005 Topaz Imperial ($33) (52% Chardonnay/48% Chardonnay) – black cherry, toast, dough, very tight bubbles. Full body with hints of strawberry and watermelon.

2000 Brut Selection ($50) – slight hints of wax on the nose with beautiful apple and pear, hints of summer hay, and toasted almonds. Creamy mid-palate, and extremely long finish.

I was super impressed with the selections but Sparkling Pointe doesn’t need my accolades as they have won many of their own. The beautiful setting and the wonderful bubbly are a great addition to the North Fork wine community, I wish Tom and Cynthia all the best in their sparkling endeavor.


Categories: New York Wines, winery review | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Blenheim Vineyards

View from the tasting room

View from the tasting room

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.

harvest fun!

harvest fun!

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.

sampling with Kirsty

Thanks to Kirsty for her hospitality, we all had a great time.


Check out Blenheim Vineyards

31 Blenheim Farm

Charlottesville, VA 22902

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #61- “At The Source” with Narmada Winery

WBWlogoThis months Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by the founder of WBW, Lenn Thompson of the blog “The New York Cork Report.” His topic for this month was to taste and or purchase a wine at the source rather than at your local wine shop, and you get bonus points for tasting with the winemaker.

This was perfect timing for me because this month I had several trips out to Virginia Wine country planned. One in particular was to a brand new winery, Narmada, who’s owners I met at a winery in Santa Cruz, California last year. That’s right I first met Sudha and Pandit Patil (owners) while tasting at Testarossa winery in California last November. The Patil’s kept my information and emailed me a couple of weeks ago to let me know that their new winery was opening soon and wanted me to come out try what they had.


The property that Narmada resides on was purchased in 1999 and the first grapes, 2 acres of Vidal Blanc, were planted in 2004. In 2005 additional grapes were planted, 3 acres of Chambourcin, 2.5 acres of Chardonelle and 1.5 acres of Traminette. Until this past vintage the grapes had been sold off but in 2008 they produced 44 tons of grapes to go into their first official bottlings. Also planted in 2008 were acreage of Vinifera varieties Cab Franc and Viognier. The winery is still under construction, so the tastings are currently being done in a beautiful pavilion next to the pond on their property. Narmada had a soft opening on Labor Day weekend and is currently open Fri., Sat. and Sun., but will have an official grand opening in November.


What we tasted –

momchardonnelle2008 “Mom” Chardonelle – aromas of honey and corn pudding, with flavors of cardamom, apple, honey and white pepper. Full bodied. – one of the few Chardonelles I have enjoyed

2008 “Reflection” Chambourcin – aromas of smoky blueberry, flavors were slightly muddled and metallic. Spicy mouthfeel and medium bodied.

2008 “Melange” 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Merlot – lots of cherry on the nose, with flavors of cooked green beans, red currant, and raspberry. Medium bodied with nice acidity.

2008 “Midnight” Chambourcin (<1% RS) – aromas of cardamom, baking spices and smoky cherry. Flavors were similar but added cranberry and raspberry. Medium to full body, no detectable sweetness. – one of the few Chambourcins I have enjoyed.

We also got taste a couple of wines that aren’t yet released, only because Narmada is waiting on TTB approval of the labels.

2008 Viognier – aromas of honey, slate and peach followed by flavors of honeysuckle, slate, and apricot jam. Good viscous mouthfeel and spicy acidity.

2008 Cabernet Franc – touch good funkiness on the nose paired with cherry and red currant. Flavors of rose, lavender, cherry, red currant and “baby powder”. Medium to full body and silky smooth with velvety tannins


For such a young winery I was very impressed with the offerings, especially the hybrid varieties that I am not usually a fan of. In addition to Pandit, who handles the vineyard management and Sudha who helps with wine making and lab duties, they have brought on Rob Cox as winemaker. Rob was formally of The Winery at La Grange and adds some great regional expertise to the Narmada team.

Check back later in the year when I can get back up to take pictures of the completed winery.


Narmada Winery

43 Narmada Lane,
Amissville, VA 20106-4170

Categories: virginia wine, Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine review, winery review | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Tasting Virginia Wine Country with Gadino Cellars

P9130057It was a beautiful weekend in Virginia this weekend, and Sunday was a great day to enjoy Virginia Wine Country. We started out with a trip to Gadino Cellars, in Rappahanock County. It had been a few years since our last visit, so we figured it would be good to revisit their offerings.

Gadino Cellars keeps production low, below 1500 cases, on purpose to focus on quality small lot wines. Gadino is a complete family operation, and we had the pleasure this time around to meet Stephanie, assistant winemaker and tasting room manager. We talked wine business for a while, and among other things she let us know the 2009 Vintage was looking good and the Seyval Blanc was brought in last week.

We tasted 10 wines (Free if you are a returning guest or $5), and I definitely had a couple of favorites.

2007 Viognier (5 months Hungarian Oak) $19 – nose highlighted by peach and nectarine, with a taste profile of Asian Pear, honey suckle and citrus. Medium bodied, good acidity with decent length finish.

2007 Moonrise Rose (54% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Viognier) $16 – with less than 1% residual sugar this a great fruit forward dry Rose, great for a picnic as you can see for our picture below! Filled with aromas of strawberry, watermelon and red currant, the fuller than expected body transports similar flavors to a dry, slightly flinty finish.

2007 Cabernet Franc – Riserva (88% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot) $24 – Nose was a bit tight, but opened after some intense swirling to predominately red fruit notes of raspberry and red currant. The palate was much more open and provided cherry, leather, green bean and slight vanilla notes with just a touch of toasty oak. Full bodied and slightly spicy – look for this to improve for the next couple years.


After we tasted we enjoyed a bottle of Moonrise Rose with our lunches, while sitting on the Gadino Cellars deck. Thanks to the Gadino staff, we had a lot of fun, hope to see you soon.


Gadino Cellars
92 Schoolhouse Road
Washington, Virginia 22747

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Virginia Wine Tasting Weekend – Day 2

Heading further North and West in Virginia Wine country, only a few miles from the West Virginia border we started our second day of our wine tasting weekend.


We arrived at Breaux Vineyards about 10 minutes to early to find the gate closed, while we waited patiently, we were surround by over 100 acres of vines on their 400 acre estate with the mountains in the background it was a beautiful site. The tasting room was a bustle of activity, as they were preparing for a club member party, but there weren’t too many people at the tasting bar. We actually saddled up next to another couple from Richmond and began our tasting. We got the full spiel since we were both Breaux newbies which was nice and dove right into the tasting. I was a bit put off by the fact that the tasting room associate made the point of telling us that the first thing we should know is that Breaux is the #1 winery in Virginia. Shocked by such a bold statement, we asked what she meant by this, she couldn’t really definite it, number 1 in sales, production, acreage?? “No, just #1 in everything” It’s great to be positive about the company you work for and I know they have won lots of awards and have been written about favorably but so have many other VA wineries. For example, Horton wines were poured for the Queen of England, Barboursville wine was served to President Obama and my families winery Woodland Vineyard won Gold at the State Fair. Okay enough of my nitpicking and on to the wines…

Breaux Wine Highlights –

  • 2007 Sauvignon Blanc – very crisp with great pear, apple, and asparagus on the nose followed by grassy notes on the plate surrounded by mineral overtones

  • 2007 Viognier – honeysuckle, peach, apricot and a nice “spicy” acidity, not as viscous as most but very nice

  • 2002 Nebbiolo – spicy and rustic, plum, leather, red currant and roasted bell pepper

The wines at Breaux were good but their prices were a bit high. I love the Nebbiolo but at $48 retail it was a bit much. Their 2002 Merlot Reserve was also quite nice, but the remaining reds were a little heavy on the Brett for my taste, and I like a good dose of barnyard!

notavivatastingrooomNext on our tour was another new winery for us, as well as fairly new winery to the Virginia Wine industry, Notaviva Vineyards. I had followed the building of Notaviva through their blog so I knew a little bit about how they got their start. The proprietors (also winemaker and vineyard manager) have their roots in the music industry and have built a winery that is a state of the art music “venue”. Don’t let me steer you wrong into believing that they have a huge facility but it was built with a first class audio system and acoustics. The music connection extends to their wines as well, on the back of each wine they “pair” their wine to a music genre, a pretty cool concept and the topic of the next Wine Blogging Wednesday. Notaviva is still new and are only pouring a few of their own wines which are mostly from sourced grapes, but in addition they pour some other local wines that don’t yet have tasting rooms.

Notaviva Wine Highlights –

  • 2008 Vincero (100% Viognier) – big round mouthfeel, apple, apricot and honey with a finish of honeydew melon

I enjoyed some of the other wines that Notaviva poured but they weren’t from their winery so I won’t talk about them here.

Traveling on to yet another new winery for us as well as another fairly recent VA Wine addition, we arrived at Sunset Hills Vineyard. Beautiful, rustic Amish restored barn surrounded by vineyards and adjacent to a horse farm. Our tasting associate Guy wins the award for “most enthusiastic” and was a delight to talk with and new his stuff, and if didn’t he knew where to look. I was impressed by that last point, the tasting room was equipped with a nice binder that had detailed specs on the wines for easy access. (Barrel Oak does something similar) I feel this is an invaluable tool, no matter how much you train your staff, you can’t remember everything.

Sunset Hills Wine Highlights –

  • 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay – interesting nose of canned corn and Granny Smith apple followed up with similar apple flavors and Asian pear and great acidity

  • 2007 Cabernet Franc – spicey black currrant, cherry and boysenberry with leathery young tannins

We decided to make use of the Sunset Hills patio and listen to their band they had for the Memorial Day Holiday and enjoy some Viognier and Cabernet Franc with our cheeses we brought. Check out the video below.

john_CorcoranLast up for the day we headed to Corcoran Vineyards to visit Lori and Jim, who we had met once previously but interact frequently with via the internet and social media. What started in her basement has turned in a great full time wine biz, that now resides in a small renovated 1750’s log cabin within site of their house. Lori was excited to see us and was a gracious hostess as usual, so after we tasted we took a glass of wine outside to enjoy by the pond and met up with her husband Jim. Our conversation revolved mostly about social media and blogging, it’s impact on the industry and what we thought of the Virginia wine industry in general. Jim was kind enough to offer us a taste of the Benevino Vineyards wines from James Benefiel, which they also sell but don’t have on the regular tasting menu. Corcoran also sources some their fruit from James’ vineyards. We had a great time, but had to run off to our dinner reservation at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg. Thanks to Lori and Jim for a great end to the day!

Corcoran Wine Highlights –

  • 2007 Chardonnay – tight nose of Asian pear, with apple, poached pear and nice minerality on the palate

  • 2007 Cabernet Franc – red currant, cherry and black pepper on the nose with seasoned meat, sauteed green pepper and blackberry on the palate, hint of menthol at the start of the finish with dusty tannins

  • 2007 Benevino Cabernet Franc – chocolate, boysenberry, and black currant, big leathery tannins and hints of dried herbs

Stay tuned for day 3 of our trip tomorrow….


Categories: virginia wine, wine tasting, winery review | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Virginia Wine Tasting Weekend – Day 1

If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably know that Megan and I were up in Northern Virginia Wine Country for the past few days. We visited a total of 9 wineries over the weekend, 6 of which were completely new to me (this was actually part of the point of the trip since Loudon County is a bit of a hike for a day trip).

Day 1 – Barrel Oak Winery, Vintage Ridge and Aspen Dale

barreloak_barrelshotI first wrote about Barrel Oak over a year ago, before the winery had even opened. We were invited up by owners Brian and Sharon to talk about their new project and the vision for Barrel Oak Winery (BOW). Now as they celebrated 1 year of being in business, we hung out with Brian, Sharon and Rick Tagg, talking about the past year, the new plantings and sampling both the wines at the tasting bar as well as those in progress in the barrel room. The first vines planted are under their 3rd leaf, and the hills surrounding the winery are now completely covered by vines, but the wines we tasted were produced from purchased grapes. The vibe at BOW was hopping and there was not a face without a smile on it in the entire place, including the staff. Brian and Sharon have a true joy for what they are doing and it is infectious to say the least.

My Barrel Oak wine highlights –

  • 2008 Traminette – tons of rose petal on the nose, apricot, peach and lots of Asian pear on the back of the palate, crisp acidity

  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – blueberry and hot cocoa on the nose, raspberry, cherry, sautéed green pepper with big ripe tannins

  • 2007 Cabernet Franc – raspberry and cherry on the nose, followed up by mint, fresh herbs, red currant and black pepper on the palate; nice acidity and velvety tannins

I didn’t take a ton of notes from the barrel tasting but I loved the Cab Francs, the Petite Verdot and their Viognier was killer. I look forward to seeing how these wines progress into bottle.


Thanks again to Brian, Sharon and Rick for showing us a great time as well as Kim who was our tasting room assistant.

Vintage Ridge

This was my first visit to Vintage Ridge, although I had wanted to go several times but always seemed to be in the area when they were closed. I was really excited about their concept of pairing wine and food together during the tasting, and didn’t realize how “intense” the experience was going to be. I imagined that they would give visitors a couple of cheeses or meats as pairing suggestions, but the actual experience was far more elaborate. The tasting was conducted in more of a restaurant style– you actually sit at a table and the wines are poured one by one along with an amazing platter of cheeses, sauces, mustards, nuts and even a mini Panini (it also came with meat, but we requested our plate sans meat).


Although the experience was fun and I was looking forward to it, I think I would have just rather done a tasting without the pairings (particularly since each tasting cost $12 and you are expected to tip your “waitress”). I don’t think they offer a wine tasting alone, though–we were told “they do things differently here” and weren’t given an option to just taste the wine. They were quite busy, so I won’t complain too much about attribute the time between wine pours (the entire experience took about an hour, with little information or dialogue about the wines). I do have a couple of complaints, though.

  • First, the foods, although very good, for the most part didn’t highlight the wines at all and actually detracted from most. The most absurd pairing was the hot, spicy mustard with Petite Verdot. Luckily I had tasted the PV before the mustard wrecked my palate, but if it is any indication of the PV quality, we actually chose to purchase the mustard (which incidentally was sold out). While the winery provides a FUN experience which people really seem to enjoy, the pairings were poor and made it difficult to evaluate the wines in and of themselves.

  • My second complaint will actually be the topic of a separate post later this week, though I feel I should mention it here, as it sparked the issue for us over the weekend. The winery owner actually poured one of our wines, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself as being part of a Virginia Winery, a wine store manager that sells VA wines, and a wine blogger. Surprisingly, the conversation ended there without further dialogue—the owner didn’t ask which winery I was associated with, the name of my wine shop, or about my wine blog. At the time I assumed that he was merely too busy at the moment and would stop back by over the next hour as the tasting room thinned out–NOPE! Not once did he come back by to talk, despite the fact that we work in the same industry, I could possibly put his product on a wine store shelf, and I could write about his winery on my blog, which gets steady readership among VA wine drinkers. I really couldn’t understand this, and was honestly baffled!

Vintage Ridge Wine Highlights –

  • 2005 Cabernet Franc – mocha, boysenberry and raisin with plum, roasted meat, black pepper and a hint of menthol on the palate

  • I don’t remember the name of the woman doing our pouring but she was very nice, relatively knowledgeable, and had a smile on her face the entire time despite the fact that she was extremely busy.

Aspen Dale Winery at The Barn

shay_aspendalewineryWe heard about Aspen Dale while we were at Barrel Oak—Aspen Dale was celebrating their grand opening that very day, so the folks at Barrel Oak asked us if we had heard about it (there was little or no fanfare or publicity around their opening). Intrigued, we snagged some directions from an email that Rick Tagg had, and after Vintage Ridge made our way over to check out the new “speak easy”. The place is an adorable old restored barn that has tons of charm and unassuming character. Shay, the owner and wine maker was doing our tasting, and explained her family’s history and her philosophy on simple, extremely small lot wine making. I won’t go into this much, as Megan will be writing more about this on her blog Wine Conscience in the next couple of days. Currently, all the fruit is being sourced and produced at Breaux Vineyards (we visited them the next day) but Shay oversaw the wine making decisions.

Aspen Dale Wine Highlights –

  • 2008 Hildersham Sauvignon Blanc – grassy with apple and Asian pear and asparagus and tons of minerality, crisp but full across the mid-palate

  • 2007 Rockawalkin’ Cabernet Sauvignon – baking spice, dark fruit highlighted by black cherry and leathery notes; full bodied with good acidic structure and dusty tannins


Thanks to Shay for showing us around, we were glad to be a part of their opening weekend and can’t wait to see what they offer in the future.

Stay tuned later this week for our visits to Breaux, Notaviva, Sunset Hills, Corcoran, Cross Keys and Pollack.


Categories: virginia wine, wine tourism, winery review | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Taste Camp tasting notes – Day 2: part 3

P5020241After leaving Paumanok Vineyards we headed over to Shinn Estates Vineyards for lunch and of course some wine tasting. Shinn Estates also doubles as a B&B and we ate in the dining room that separates the guest rooms and where the owners Barbara Shinn and David Page live. Prepared for us was a beautiful feast with quite a few vegetarian friendly items that I of course didn’t write down. But my friend and fellow Taste Camper Erika Strum put up the list of what we ate on her blog yesterday, so I snagged it.

What we ate: rocket salad with a mustard-thyme vinaigrette, peconic bay calamari, piccolini pasta with asparagus, spring onion, lemon and fire-roasted shiitake mushrooms with ramps and fregula and crescent duck breast with sea salt, pepper and apricot-mustard sauce.


To go with all this fabulous food we had 8 or so wines to pair with it all. Providing the wines were of course Shinn Estates as well as Jamesport Vineyards and Macari Vineyards. While we sipped and savored all the food and wine, wine makers from each of the estates gave us a good rundown of what they are all about, as well as their philosophies on sustainable viticulture.

shinn_SBWhat we drank:

2008 Shinn Estates Sauvignon Blanc (blended with 4% Semillion)

nose: grassy, gooseberry, lemon rind, slightly tropical

taste: lime, grass, general citrus note, touch of grapefuit

mouthfeel: clean and crisp, razor sharp acidity

finish: long and clean

2008 Macari Sauvignon Blanc

nose: “tight”, lemon, grapefruit

taste: citrus, minerality

mouthfeel: touch of effervescence, bright acidity

finish: medium in length, nice mineral note

2008 Jamesport Sauvignon Blanc

nose: tropical with apricot and guava

taste: lime, apricot

mouthfeel: softer acidity than the previous two, but still crisp

finish: short – medium in length, clean

2008 Macari Rose

nose: watermelon rind, strawberry

taste: fuji apple peel, mineral/slate

mouthfeel: slight effervescence, medium body

finish: long for a Rose

2006 Jamesport Pinot Noir (Sarah’s Hill)

nose: cedar, walnut, cherry, cassis

taste: cherry, slightly chemical, truffle and herbs

mouthfeel: medium body, beautiful acidity

finish: medium – long in length, bright red fruit flavors

2007 Shinn Estates Cabernet Franc (barrel sample, release date 2010)

nose: mushroom, red currant, raspberry and cherry

taste: hazelnut, caramel, boysenberry, clove, thyme

mouthfeel: full body, smooth and velvety with a nice hint of spiciness towards the back of the palate

finish: long with earthy mushroom and nut flavor lingering

2005 Jamesport Cabernet Franc

nose: earth, toast, black currant, fresh herbs

taste: cherry and spices

mouthfeel: slightly hot, full body with leathery tannins

2005 Shinn Estates Reserve Merlot

nose: mocha, black cherry, coconut and boysenberry

taste: cocoa, cranberry and cherry

mouthfeel: full body, big velvety tannins

finish: long and fruity

The wines are all very nice and the pairings worked out great with the delicious food. After lunch we headed out to the vineyard with David and Barbara to talk more about their vineyard practices. I wrote about it last week and put up a video here.

Next up was a trade style tasting in the Shinn barrel room with quite a few Long Island wineries including Lieb Family Cellars, Sparkling Pointe, Croteaux Vineyards, Harbes, Bouke, and the The Old Field. I was too diligent during this part of the tasting but did take a few notes here and there, and here are a couple of my highlights/legible notes!

2007 Croteaux Vineyards Merlot “3” Rose

nose: toast, vanilla, strawberry, coconut

taste: strawberry, watermelon rind, sour cherry, SLATE

mouthfeel: clean, crisp, crisp acidity

2007 Lieb Bridge Lane Chardonnay

nose: apple, “rich”, a slight bread yeast component (??)

taste: tropical, coconut, apple and pear

mouthfeel: full body, round and smooth

Thanks again to Shinn Estates for hosting us for lunch and to all the wineries that poured their wines for us. It was my pleasure.


Categories: Taste Camp, wine review, winery review | Tags: , | 4 Comments

If You Could Imagine Doing Anything Else, What Would It Be?

This was the question that Brian Roeder asked his wife Sharon while on a business trip in Key West. After thinking for a minute, Sharon responded that she didn’t know, but that she kept having a recurring dream of waking up in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee and going out to check the grapes. After giving this answer to the same question two years in a row, Brian deciding to do something about it, and started the process of building a top notch family winery and vineyard in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia (Delaplane).

Picture of the winery taken from the main house

This past Saturday Megan and I got the opportunity to meet Brian and Sharon at their home. We were able to sip some of the wines from their first vintage and were given a guided tour of their winery, which is currently under construction but will be ready for their grand opening of Barrel Oak Winery on Memorial Day weekend.

The Roeders jumped in feet first, garnering information and expertise from some of the big names in the Virginia wine industry such as Chris Pearmund, Jim Law, Chris Hill and Tom Payette to name a few. Brian is focusing on the business side of things, while Sharon has focused her attention on learning vineyard management and winemaking skills – working with the school of thought that the winemaker needs to be as connected to the grapes as possible.

The winery, designed by the Roeders with the help of acclaimed winery architect Kristofer Sperry, is truly amazing. The expansive 4000 sq ft tasting room will feature a stone fireplace, spectacular views and an upstairs loft for special wine dinners and educational tasting sessions. The goal of the tasting room and its well-trained staff will be to provide a unique and memorable experience focused on wine, fun and learning. Below the tasting room is a 9000 sq ft underground processing and storage facility, which will include tank rooms, barrel caves and case storage with a total of 5 different temperature zones. In addition, the winery will house an underground wine library and a supplemental tasting area for large groups. The entire facility was designed for optimal flow from grape to bottle, and every detail has been meticulously planned in order to maximize wine quality while minimizing energy usage. The Roeders designed the winery and tasting room using high efficiency building materials and geothermal heating and cooling systems. In addition, clerestory windows bathe the tasting room in natural light and can be opened or closed to control air flow and to maintain a comfortable temperature.

The Winery – patio in the forefront with the entrance to the production area to the right

The first vintage of Barrel Oak wines will not be estate wines. Rather, the Roeders purchased wines from several other highly regarded vineyards from the Northern Virginia area and blended and manipulated them in order to create finished wines in their own signature style. Barrel Oak Winery will have a 3-tier wine program consisting of the BowHaus series, the Bow Wow series, and the Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Series. The BowHaus series will be the house bottling and will feature artist-designed labels, while the Bow Wow labels will feature small paw prints of different colors to help sippers remember their favorite wines by color association. The varieties to first grace the tasting sheet will be Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Norton, Petite Verdot, Viognier, Seyval Blanc Late Harvest Viognier and a Chocolate Lab dessert wine (made with real chocolate!). Look to 2009 for the first estate bottlings of Traminette, Petite Manseng, Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin.

Brian and Sharon shared three of their upcoming wines with us as we sat around and chatted about the wine industry and the exciting things that Barrel Oak Winery has in store for it. We tasted the 2005 BowHaus Red, the 2005 Norton and the 2005 Cabernet Franc – here are my notes.

BowHaus Red – (the kitchen sink blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Touriga, Norton) – Nice cherry and cranberry aromas, darker fruit flavors with a hint of blueberry and a spicy finish.

Norton – blackberry and cocoa powder on the nose with the typical “grape” flavor profile of the Norton grape and a little green bean thrown in towards the finish. I am not usually a fan of Norton but this one did peak my interest.

Cabernet Franc (80% Cab Franc, 20% Chambourcin) – Cherry, anise and chocolate on the nose with a wonderful green pepper and raspberry flavor on the palate. Very Nice!

In addition to her passion for wine, Sharon has a passion for cycling and in particular the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Even though she wears her yellow wristband proudly on her ankle, she is taking her passion one big step further. The winery will offer a Tour Ga Franc (play on Tour de France), which will be a blend of Touriga and Cabernet Franc. The bottles will feature the signature yellow of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and $2 of every bottle sold will be donated to Lance’s foundation. How cool is that!!

You may have noticed the doggie theme that runs through the Barrel Oak Winery, thanks to the Roeders’ love for the canine species. We got a chance to meet Barley, the family’s winery dog, who was a bundle of energy and, as you can see, very photogenic. Also keep your eye out for a new addition to the doggie family on opening day!

Opening Day will be Friday May 23rd for Memorial Day weekend, so mark you calendars to check out Brian and Sharon’s awesome new winery. With a great line-up of delicious wines to taste, the fantastic views of the mountains, the neighboring John Marshall Oak Hill estate and the grazing horses at the farm next door, you are sure to have an excellent time in Virginia Wine Country.


Categories: barrel oak winery, virginia wine, wine review, winery review | 5 Comments