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Close Out Summer with the Loudoun Valley Vineyards Lobster Bake

Date: Fri, Aug 31, 2012 Wine Tasting

Summer is almost over and most wineries expect to do booming business over the weekend. If you are looking for a great way to close out the summer you should try the Loudoun Valley Vineyards Lobster Bake on Sunday.

Reservations are required, you can email Zan Dial with your RSVP.

Looks like a really great time!

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Jennifer Breaux Talks 2012 Harvest

Date: Sat, Aug 25, 2012 Wine Tasting



After a difficult 2011 and a scary start, 2012 is turning out to have great potential for Virginia Wine. The summer was hot and dry (more on that later) and while there has been some rain late in season it has not been enough to damage the grape crop.

Jennifer Breaux, from Breaux Vineyards, gives us a preview of this year's harvest.

While a few wineries started earlier harvest kicked in full swing around Virginia last Monday. Expect more harvest reports soon.

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2011 Sunset Hill Rosé

Date: Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Wine Tasting

Over the last few years the popularity of Rosé has grown in Virginia with good reason. Even in an off year, like 2011, winemakers can produce a quality Rosé. The Sunset Hills 2011 Rosé is a prime example of that. The wine is a blend 85% Cabernet Franc with 15% Merlot and it has bold red fruit flavors of strawberry, cherry and a hint of cranberry.

The wine hints at sweetness, but has very low residual sugar. The bright fruit and acidity make it very refreshing, and while I would consider it a summer wine the body is enough that you can drink it well into the fall.

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First Annual Virginia Craft Brewer Festival

Date: Mon, Aug 20, 2012 Wine Tasting

You can't throw a rock in Virginia without hitting a Virginia Wine Festival, but Craft Beer Festivals are much rarer. Fortunately, that is changing. One of the most promising festivals I have seen is the first annual Virginia Craft Brewer Festival, which is being held Saturday August 25th, from 2:00 to 8:00 at Devil's Backbone Brewery in Nelson.

The list of breweries who will be in attendance is impressive and it should be a great event.

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From the #vawine Rumormill

Date: Sun, Aug 19, 2012 Wine Tasting

We were out with wine friends on Monday; during the evening one of our dinner companions mentioned that they had been out to DelFosse Vineyards & Winery over the weekend and the pourer mentioned that DelFosse had purchased Piedmont Vineyards.

If the rumor is true it would be great to have Claude DelFosse's elegant style of winemaking in Northern Virginia. It would also be a huge turn around for DelFosse, who almost lost the winery two years ago.

We are still researching the story and will update as we find out more information.

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The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards

Date: Sun, Aug 5, 2012 Wine Tasting

I haven't been able to keep up with all of the new wineries opening in the area, so when fellow blogger Kurt, from Wine About Virginia suggested that the "Virginia Wine Mafia" gather for the opening weekend of a new winery, I jumped at the chance to cross at least one of the new wineries off my list. We gathered at The Barns at Hamilton Station, and entered the 102 year old barn for our tasting.
The main tasting room area was spacious and inviting, and had plenty of space for people to sit an enjoy wine. This old Dairy Farm has been refinished to create a very inviting space.
If you go out on the upper deck, you get an amazing view of the 10 acres of land, and we were assured that there is ALWAYS a nice breeze, which makes it a great place to hang out, even when its warm out.
Since our group was so large, we were invited to the tasting area in the basement, where it was, thankfully, much cooler!
A rundown of the wines offered by winemaker Michael Shaps:
All of the grapes are from Virginia, most being from the Charlottesville area.
2011 Chardonnay - 6 months in oak barrels, but did not have the buttery taste typical of a Chardonnay. It had hints of apple and pineapple and tasted more like a Chardonnay that had been done in a steel barrel. The grapes for this wine all came from Purcellville. A great summer wine.
2011 Viognier - spent 9 months in oak and had notes of peach and apricot, with a smooth finish. Another good white to enjoy in the hot summer months.
2011 Rose - made from 100% Cabernet Franc, it was a dry rose that still had some effervescence in the bottle. There was a tartness strawberry flavor, which was not my preference, but could be for some.
2011 Cabernet Franc - a lighter Cabernet Franc, that had aromas of strawberry and would make for a good summer red. It had 10% Chambourcin, and actually would have been good chilled as well as at room temp.
2011 Merlot -100% Merlot with fruity notes on the nose and spent 10 months in French and American oak.
2011 Petit Verdot - was an earthy wine with notes of spices, but not too overpowering.
(Coming Soon: 2011 Meritage)
Although all the wines are fairly young, the consensus among the group is that they are off to a good start, and will be improving over time.
Of the 10 acres of property, 2 are currently under vine...growing Petit Verdot and Viognier. There will soon be a 'cigar room' in the old milk processing building, and other additional space in the future. Thanks to Kurt for organizing a great group of wine lovers, all the bloggers that came out, and Craig and Andrew for their wonderful hospitality!

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Fauquier County Wineries Fight Back Against Board of Supervisors! Release Petition.

Date: Mon, Jul 9, 2012 Wine Tasting

As readers of this blog know the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors is considering legislation that would seriously restrict activities in which Farm Wineries are able to engage.

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors is planning to vote on the legislation this Thursday, July 12, 2012, at 6:30 PM. The BoS holds its meetings at:

Warren Green Building
10 Hotel Street, Suite 208
Warrenton, VA 20186

Ahead of the vote, Fauquier County wineries, and their supporters in other parts of the state, are trying to spread the word about the legislation and get people to write to the BoS in protest of the bill.

Jim and Betsy Dolphin, owners of Delaplane Cellars sent an email to their fans stating, in part:
While we believe that much of the proposed ordinance is illegal under State law, it is clear that the intent of the Board is to harm or possibly even eliminate the wine industry in Fauquier County.

Please show your support for the wineries of Fauquier County by writing to the Board of Supervisors and the Zoning Administrator listed to the left. We have provided suggested content for your message that you may copy directly into your email if you so choose.


Philip Carter Winery did not mince words when contacting their supporters, stating simply:
Fauquier County is trying to put Fauquier wineries out of business!!


Stephen Mackey, at Notaviva Vineyards has put up a petition to try to get 1000 signatures before the meeting on Thursday (as of this writing they are at 400 signatures).

Most of the time in politics it is difficult to get your voice heard, unless you have a lot of money. But this is a chance to affect a real change. Write to the members of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and let them know (politely) that you think the legislation is wrong-headed and could force a growing part of the economy in Fauquier County to slow down, or even shut down altogether.

In addition, sign the petition, let the BoS know that Fauquier County wineries don't just serve local residents but bring in people and money from all over the state, and around the country.

You letter, and signature will make a difference and can help Fauquier County wineries win this battle on Thursday.

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Top 5 Reasons You Don't Want to Own a Winery

Date: Sun, Jul 8, 2012 Wine Tasting

Like many wine bloggers, when I started writing about wine I had dreams about owning a winery. I even had the brilliant idea of blending two cultures by owning a small winery in Virginia and another in Saint-Èmilion.

Now that I am older and wiser I know better, but I still see a lot of people out there who think they want to own a winery. Let me tell you why you don't:

5. Weather is a bitch
Last year was a difficult year for Virginia Wineries because of weather. That was followed by a mild winter which lead to early flowering and then BAM, frost! Once Virginia Winemakers made it through the frost scare we hit extremely warm temperatures and last week a freaking Derecho Storm swept through the vineyards. Only two people in Virgnia had ever heard of a Derech Storm prior to last week, now it is all everyone can talk about it.

The point is, if you own a Vineyard, your life revolves around weather a mis-timed hailstorm, a dry hot summer or a wet autumn can ruin your crop for a year and you don't have a lot of control over any of that.

4. With Yelp, Twitter, CellarTracker and other forms of social media everyone is a critic, most of them are stupid.
Social media has made it easy for everyone to be a critic, and there has been a lot written about the democratization of wine critiquing. The fact is, most people don't know what they are talking about, which makes their wine and winery reviews worthless. But, it doesn't change the fact that they are out there for every one to see right alongside the reviews from people who know and understand the wine.

For example, this is from the first review about Breaux Vineyards on Yelp (emphasis mine):

But then they veer off with high priced (and well known) varietals like Cab Franc, Merlot, and Cab Sauv as well as the lesser known Nebiollo. They high priced and, IMHO, not that good and VERY expensive.

Given the number of medals Breaux has won for their reds it is unlikely this reviewer is right about the fact that they are not very good. But, it is ludicrous to claim that the Nebbiolo is "lesser known". Barolo is considered the "King of Wines" and has been sought after by people all over the world for hundreds of years. Just because this reviewer doesn't know about it doe not mean it is "lesser known".

And that is the first review as you go down the list of reviews you find error after error. But, as a winery owner, you just have to ignore them and hope you get more positive than negative reviews.

3. Professional wine critics are a pain too!
Every year after En Primeur finishes the waiting game in Bordeaux starts. Everyone is waiting for scores to be published, especially those of Robert Parker. Without high scores it is almost impossible for Chateaux whose names aren't Lafite or Margaux to get noticed on the market.

But that's fine, because wine critics are professionals, they taste blind and write based on the inherent attributes of the wine, not their personal biases. Surprisingly, that is true of most critics. Having been through En Primeurs a few times I can tell you that the majority of critics take the job very seriously. But, the top critics don't taste blind and they are well known to have biases, sometimes even vendettas, against certain Château.

Those are the problems facing the wines that do get regularly reviewed. There are a whole different set of problems for those regions trying to get noticed by wine reviewers. Last year the wine world erupted when it was found out that Jay Miller, formerly of the Wine Advocate, was soliciting money from wine regions in Spain to review their wines. Note well, he was not asking for money to publish good reviews, he was asking for money just to show up.

That's a problem for smaller regions: getting your wine in front of an international critic or wine magazine can be a challenge. Without that exposure it can be impossible to grow your business.

2. Middle men and regulations will take all of your money and time
The United States, and most other countries are filled with antiquated laws about how and where you can sell your wine. I am not just talking about the regulatory jumble you have to go through just to be able to make your wine and sell it in your tasting room, but stepping outside of your tasting room is expensive.

Say you open a winery and enjoy some success, local restaurants start coming to you about adding your wine to their menus and local wine shops want to sell your wine. The first thing you find out is that you probably can't sell to them directly. Most States have laws that require your wine to be sold through a distributor. Distributors know this, and know they have you over a barrel (pun intended), so they will pay you half of what you charge for your bottle of wine to distribute it for you.

That's right, the $20 bottle of wine n the tasting room is $10 to your distributor. The distributor will mark it up 50% in order to sell it the restaurant 2 miles from your winery who came to you in the first place.

To make your life even more fun as you build a following you find the rules vary from State to State. Have a fan in Utah who want you to send her a case of your wine? better know Utah's rules, which will be very different than the rules to ship to your fans in California. Overseas fans? Forget about it.

Because of Puritanical laws that are still on the books and enforced, operating a winery can be a regulatory nightmare.

1. You don't have enough money
Starting a winery is simple, right? You plant some vines, harvest them, age them and, tada, wine!

Not quite, first plan on 2-3 harvest before you can make your first wine, 4-5 before you can release your first red. That is literally years of work before you start seeing money from your investment. You can offset that by buying grapes from other vineyards in the short term, but then you are stuck with whatever you can get with no guarantee of quality.

Then you have all the problems outlined here: lawyers to help you with he regulatory issues equipment to protect the vines (do you know how much it costs to rent a helicopter to keep frost from the vines, ask a Virginia Winemaker, most of them know).

Add to that, the cost of equipment, hiring staff (and you want staff, trust me you are not in good enough shape to harvest by yourself), building the tasting room, and hundreds of hidden costs. Unless you are already a multi-millionaire you don't have enough money to run a winery the right way. That means short cuts that can compromise the quality of your wine, or releasing wines before they are ready.

Owning a winery is about passion, not profit. That's why they say the quickest way to make a little bit of money in wine is to start with a lot.

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Château Brane-Cantenac Vertical

Date: Wed, Jul 4, 2012 Wine Tasting

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Wine Spectator Grand Tour by Château Brane-Cantenac (more on that later). At the end of the evening there were a few bottles left. Corinne graciously allowed me to take them, with the understanding that I would share them with the wine club.

While the 2009 vintage is phenomenal, the truth is Brane-Cantenac has a long history of producing great vintages and I thought sampling those vintages would make for a more fun evening.

In addition to the 2009 vintage we also poured the 2008, 2005, 1995 and 1982 vintages.

The 2009 vintage continues to impress. For Americans who are used to big Napa Cabernets this wine actually drinks well right now, but it has a complexity that Napa Cabernets usually lack which will serve those who age it well.

The 2008 vintage is elegant and, to me, quintessential Margaux. It combines dark floral aromas with black fruit and well-structured but subtle tannins to make a wine that you can drink now, but that will really shine in 4-5 years.

The 2005 vintage was the one that worried me the most. Undoubtedly, 2005 is a great year but there have been reports of 2005 being in a dormant state recently. That was not the case at all. Luscious blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruits combined with Indian spices flowed from the bottle and overwhelmed the palate, filling the mouth with flavor and blending with the powerful tannins. The 2005 vintage is just starting to hit its stride, I cannot wait to see where it goes.

The 1995 vintage was the only disappointment of the evening. Clearly, the wine had not been properly aged and while it was not vinegar, it had a musty taste that turned everyone off.

The 1982 vintage is not as reliably great as it was a few years ago. Now that the wine is pushing 30, there are still some great bottles out there, but not as many. I was concerned when I removed the foil and there was some evidence of seepage, but my concerns were unfounded. The 1982 vintage was almost all fruit, with very soft tannins that still provided structure. Notes of blackberry, cassis, and violet on the nose and beautiful red cherry, pepper, dark fruit in the mouth. Still beautiful and elegant, but without the same power of a few years ago. It was also an excellent match for the dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses with which we ended the tasting.

It turned out to be a great evening and a lot of fun, many thanks to Corinne for the wine and the inspiration!

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Jackass Billionaire Fires Patricia Kluge

Date: Fri, Jun 22, 2012 Wine Tasting

In a move that surprised no one, Trump Winery has severed its relationship with Patricia Kluge:

At the time of the takeover, Kluge was offered the role of vice president of operations, but the one-year transitional contract has officially expired.

“We gave her a transition contract for the first year, and that has ended. We are still working with her a little bit, and we still have a good relationship with Patricia,” Donald Trump told the New York Post.

Hopefully, this closes the chapter on the Kluge winery saga. We all wish Patricia Kluge the best of luck in her future ventures, and appreciate her contributions to Virginia Wine.

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Notaviva Hires Local Radio Personality as Tasting Room Manager

Date: Sat, May 19, 2012 Wine Tasting

In a move that I would normally consider odd, but in this case it makes perfect sense, Notaviva Vineyards has hired 92.5 WINC-FM radio personality Paula Kidwell, as their tasting room manager.

Notaviva, who's tag line is Wine paired with music. Pour. Listen. Believe.®, has always been as much about great music as great wine. It makes sense that they would want a tasting room manager who is well-connected in the local music scene. It also helps that Paula has been working in the tasting room since 2011.

From the press release Notaviva distributed:

"This is an exciting time for Notaviva Vineyards," says Stephen Mackey, co-founder and wine composer. "With our globally unique brand identity of pairing wine and music, Paula's vast experience and talent brings an entirely new dimension to our operation. In addition to managing the tasting room, Paula will oversee our wholesale and restaurant sales channels as we aggressively expand those opportunities."


More from the release:
"Most encouraging however," Stephen continues, "is the potential that Paula brings as Notaviva strategically pursues new media initiatives with our other company, creative agency Mesh Multimedia. The wine industry is rapidly embracing social networking and multimedia technologies to build brand loyalty and create differentiation. With our in-house audio and video production capabilities we are well positioned to exploit cutting-edge technologies for enhanced customer experiences."


Congratulations to Steven, Shannon and the whole team at Notaviva.

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Friday Night #vawine Homework

Date: Fri, May 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

Nominations opened today for the 2012 Wine Blog Awards. Looking over the categories Iwas struck by the lack of nominations for best winery blog (full disclosure: I nominated the Boxwood Winery Blog).

I truly believe Virginia has the best wine bloggers. Not just in terms of quality of writing, but the people behind the blogs are great people.

However, our winery blogs leave a lot to be desired. I know part of that comes from the fact that you have mostly family run wineries who don't have time to take care of the wine and blog, but it would still be nice to see more pop up. I have already mentioned Boxwood, some of the other good Virginia Winery Blogs that I know about are:

Notaviva Blog
Virginia Wine Works
Pippin Hill
Keswick Vineyard
Veramar
Rappahannock Cellars
Annefield Vineyards

These are not updated frequently (ahem, Jordan and Sebastien):
Sebastien Marquet (winemaker at Doukenie)
Tarara
Naked Mountain

Your homework assignment, dear readers, is to tell the world what other Virginia Wnery Blogs are out there that everyone should be reading. If you know of one, post it in the comments!

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Jacques DuPont Names Brane-Cantenac to Coups de Cœur

Date: Wed, May 16, 2012 Wine Tasting

Jacques DuPont, wine critic for Le Point Magazine, has named 2011 Château Brane-Cantenac to his "Coups de Cœur" list.

Coups de Cœur roughly translates to "love at first sight," and is the annual list of DuPont's favorite wines from the vintage. The last time Château Brane-Cantenac was named to the list was with the 2000 vintage.

Images of the Coups de Cœur event are available on the Château Brane-Cantenac website.

Congratulations to Henri and the entire team at Brane on the well-deserved success!

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Wine & Soul in Bordeaux

Date: Tue, May 15, 2012 Wine Tasting

There is something special about a good wine bar and Wine & Soul is definitely a good wine bar. I learned about the bar while touring Chateau Pontet-Canet and had to check it put.

Located at 23 rue du Couvent, near the Quai, Wine & Soul has been open for about 18 months. The bar has a very cozy feel to it, with signs of music and wine all over the walls. There were no live bands on the nights I was there, but the music that was playing was fun and low key, enjoyable but not enough to drown out the conversation.

The wine selection is excellent, I found a 2006 Lafon Rochet the first night and a very nice 2001 Brane-Cantenac the second night.

The food is also excellent with an assortment of tapas a well as traditional French faire.

Of course, what makes any bar great is the people and here Wine & Soul really excels. The guys that run the bar are passionate about the wine they serve and are genuinely friendly. If you are looking for someplace to have an enjoyable evening of wine and food I highly recommend Wine & Soul.

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