Almost every good winery in Virginia has a winery dog, but winery sheep? Surprisingly, winery sheep are a growing trend. Here in Virginia, Tarara Winery is the first winery to make widespread use of sheep to maintain the vineyard.
The sheep are an environmentally friendly way to keep growth between the vines to a minimum. The sheep are voracious eaters and work around the clock. In addition to managing growth between the vines, the sheep are insect eaters, so they help cut down on the use of pesticides in the vineyard.
Of course, you can't use just any sheep because they loves grapes as much as we do. That's why vineyards that are going to keep the sheep year round, need to use a flock that has been specially trained to ignore the juicy grapes as they ripen.
Next time you are heading out to Tarara, take a second to stop and see the sheep wandering between the vines.
Editor's Note: The title is a play on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and, yes, I am awarei should leave the cute titles to the actually funny team at Swirl, Sip, Snark
A wine can still be labelled a Virginia wine with up to 25% of out of state grapes blended into it. Normally, wineries don't use out of state grapes, but with rapid growth of the Virginia wine industry there is a shortage of Virginia gapes. New wineries are going to have trouble getting Virginia grapes at a price that allows them to make a profit.
Even more critical, with the late start to the growing season and relatively mild summer so far, there could be serious shortage of Cabernet Sauvignon come harvest.
The lure of cheap out of state grapes may be too much for new wineries to resist.
25% of non-Virginia grapes is a lot. It is enough to alter the character of the wine to the point that it will no longer reflect the 2013 vintage in Virginia, whatever that ends up being.
So, my question is: is 25% too much? As a young industry should Virginia winemakers worry preserving the character of the vintage, or should the primary concern be surviving and growing the industry?
There is no denying that environmental factors can impact your perception of a wine. Food you have eaten, temperature at which it is served, even the outside temperature and the company you are with can impact what you think of a wine.
However, there are certain characteristics that inherent to white versus red wines. You don't get aromas like raspberry, blackberry, and cassis from white wines. Similarly, you won't find flavors of citrus, pear, and honeysuckle in a red wine.
In 2001 Frédéric BROCHET conducted an experiment wherein he served the same white wine to wine students. However, he added food dye to one of the wines, so it looked like a red. The students described the dyed wine in terms normally associated with red wines. The study is here. Here you can also read a good write-up of the study here.
My problem with the study is that every jackass who thinks wine lovers don't know what they are talking about cites this study as proof. However, there are flaws with the study, not the least of which is the fact that if your professor invites you try a wine you are more likely to describe the wine in the way you think he wants to hear.
So,I decided to replicate the study, but without the coercion aspect. I invited 10 members of the wine club to participate in a "marketing study". I told them that a overseas winery wanted to break into the Virginia market and wanted to get feedback on their wines. The first wine I served was a 2006 Bordeaux. The second wine was a 2012 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, to which I added a combination of flavorless red and blue food dye.
Each person was handed a tasting sheet and asked to write down their thoughts -- including aroma and taste -- anonymously while everyone tasted. After I collected the notes we opened up the evening for discussion.
As I expected, without the element of coercion present in the original study, the drinkers inevitably used white wine descriptors to describe the second wine (I have included images below). Despite the food coloring, the tasters used terms like grapefruit, citrus, and cotton candy to describe the wine.
While this was not an exact replica of the original study, it was close enough to demonstrate that wine lovers really do know what they are talking about.
Thanks to the members of the wine club and to my brother Michael (and his company Rampancy Productions) for participating in the study.
Dn't forget that Monday, June 17th, at Vinexpo in Bordeaux Château Brane-Cantenac will be hosting a charity auction to benefit Philippe Chastan's important charity, Solidair.
They will be auctioning off several of Eric Boissenot's photos from around Brane-Cantenac a well as select vintages pulled directly from their cellar.
Details of the auction are available through their Flip Book.
If you are not able to make it to Vinexpo, you can still donate to the charity by sending a check to:
c/o Brane Cantenac
33640 Margaux, France
This is a worthy cause that deserves more attention!
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) held their 8th annual Weekend des Grands Crus the weekend of May 18th. The highlight of the weekend was the Grand Tasting, where the 120 members of the UGCB showcased the 2010 vintage as well as one other.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite wine event every year and this year the chateaux continued to impress. 2010 remains a powerful vintage, with the reds still displaying strong tannins, with just a little bit of fruit starting to show through. This is definitely a vintage to age.
The Weekend des Grands Crus is a great event and I definitely recommend taking the time to visit Bordeaux during next year's tasting!
The big day is finally here! Welcome to #varosé day! And what better way to celebrate the first annual #varosé day than with a bottle of Boxwood Winery Rosé.
The 2011 Boxwood Rosé is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot. The wine is a salmon color with strawberry, cherry and a little bit of pepper on the nose. In the mouth it has good red fruit flavors and lots of bright acidity. The Malbec gives it a nice structure and it manages a long soft finish without overwhelming the up front acidity.
The continued rain and lower than average temperatures have left Bordeaux vines about 2-3 weeks behind schedule. While the weather is concerning the good news is that, after two drier than average years, the rain has fully restored the water table throughout much of Bordeaux.
Fortunately, when summer finally does arrive the vines will very quickly catch up.
The Sunset Hills 2012 Rosé is a blend of 83% Chambourcin and 17% Vidal Blanc. It is an interesting blend that combines the strawberry of the Chambourcin with with pear and acidity of the Vidal Blanc to make a unique rosé.
The grapes were harvested and fermented separately, with cold fermentation occurring in stainless tanks. Blending occurred post-fermentation.
The wine has a nice acidity with 1/2 percent residual sugar that gives it just a bit of sweetness. The flavors from the two grapes blend well and complement each other nicely.
Chambourcin is one of my favorite rosé producing grapes, done right it makes a refreshing easy to drink rosé. With the 2012 vintage, North Gate Vineyard most definitely got it right.
The rosé has an inviting ruby color that actually shimmers in the sun, followed by aromas of cherry and blackberry. On the palate there are refreshing strawberry and plum flavors that fill your mouth and the 1/2 percent residual sugar provides just enough sweetness to add to the freshness without overwhelming the acidity.
The rosé was made from free-run juice directly into cold-fermented steel tanks which helps preserve the freshness and acidity of the wine through the aging process.
This Wednesday, May 29th, is #varosé day and the 30th is a #vawinechat sponsored by the Virginia Wine Board featuring rosé wines. With all this rosé talk I thought it would be a good idea to feature a different rosé each day.
We are going to kick off #varosé week with a Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Rosa Luna. No winemaker in Virginia is more passionate about making the perfect rosé than Melanie Natoli, the assistant winemaker at Fabbioli and it shows in the wine.
The 2012 Rosa Luna is 100% Sangiovese that was hand harvested on September 10th. The grapes are crushed and pressed in the style of Provence. Post harvest the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel for 2 months before being left alone to finish aging in the bottle.
The wine is bright and acidic with strawberry, cranberry and peach notes. In the mouth the brightness continues with citrus flavors that lead to a light smooth finish.
When Paul Breaux, of Breaux Vineyards, returned from Italy he decided to plant Nebbiolo. When Paul Breaux returned from London he decided to build an English Pub.
The Cork & Key is a beautiful little surprise hidden under the Acadia -- the new tasting room at Breaux. The room is a nod to English Pubs with dark mahogany colors contrasting against white stucco walls, leather furniture and light fixtures that resemble British lamps.
The room has a warm, cozy feel, perfect for hosting an intimate gathering. Surprisingly, there was no dart board though.
Separately, I think Paul should travel more, it seems every time he does he comes home with a great idea!
If you have not been by Casanel Vineyardss lately, you should definitely stop by an see the construction on the beautiful new tasting room. The work is coming along quickly and the is really taking shape. When the tasting room is complete, there will be plenty of space for tastings, plus a large room to host events and two patios that will look out over the lake.
Nelson is doing most of the work himself and has plans to make a functional and multi-use environment that will be able to host weddings, wine dinners and handle the rush of visitors during the fall.
The space is great and I am looking forward to seeing the finished space
Virginia just loves to test the mettle of its winemakers and, unfortunately, yesterday was no exception. After getting a late start to the season because of the cold weather, vineyard managers were excited about the prospect of a growing season without frost concerns.
The frost arrived Tuesday morning, impacting many vineyards in central and northern Virginia. It will be a few weeks before we know the full extent of the damage, but if the pictures popping up on Facebook and Twitter are any indication it is not good.
We'll keep you updated
I have been intrigued by the skybar wine system since it was first introduced. I like the idea of preserving a bottle wine at the perfect temperature after it has been opened. With diabetes limiting my wine intake this has become even more important.
Last month I took the plunge and invested in the skybar one, the single bottle wine preservation system. So far, I am impressed.
The skybar wine system is a countertop system and it is about an inch shorter than the cabinets in our kitchen. For the most part this is okay, but if you need to change the type of wine you want to preserve you have to pull the system out to change the settings.
This is a good problem to have though, the strength of the skybar one system is its versatility and ease of use. The system allows you to set the preserving temperature based on wine type or you can manually set the temperature. I cools the wine down quickly, and except for when it is first starting up, it is quieter than other wine chillers I have used. Loading a bottle is simple, as is serving the wine.
The big test comes with the taste. We've loaded a bottle into the system each week, switching between red, white and rosé. Each bottle has lasted for the full week, in fact the red wine we tested was significantly better by the end of the week than at the start.
I definitely feel the skybar one was worth the $229 we paid for it on Amazon, especially if you only drink a glass or so a night.