Swedenburg Estate Winery
Today marks the third anniversary of the death of Juanita Swedenburg. Munchkin and Pomeroy had the privilege of visiting with this elegant pioneer of the Virginia Wine Industry in her tasting room shortly before she passed away.
The vinyard and winery Juanita built with love and grit continues under the leadership of her son, Marc. He recently hired award-wining winemaker Curtis Vincent (formerly of Chrysalis Vineyards) to carry on the family tradition of producing fine wines in Virginia.
Mrs. Swedenburg was also the inspiration for the heroine in the series of mystery novels based in Virginia wine country by author Ellen Crosby (pictured with the Wine Dogs), whose tribute from the Washington Post can be found below.
"When Juanita Swedenburg died in her sleep at her home in Middleburg on June 9, , it tore a large hole in the heart of Virginia wine country. Though she was 82, no one thought she would be gone so soon... A gray-haired rebel with a cause in tweed suits and sensible shoes, Juanita became internationally known as the woman who decided in the late 1990s to do something about the fact that she could go to jail for shipping wine from Virginia to New York."
Philip Carter Winery
A second big second anniversary this weekend at Philip Carter Winery on Saturday, where they're also celebrating the 248th Anniversary of American Wine. Don't miss release of Cleve, a big red Bordeaux blend, that is complex and sophisticated (just like Munchkin).
Join hosts, Mr. Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Charles Carter as they speak of their personal connection to wine in young America. A Virtual Tweetup & Tasting will bring Twitter, Facebook & Foursquare fans together for the event. Activities include live music, delicious foods, hayrides, moon bounce, and much, much more.
Well behaved canine friends are welcomed. Of course, Munchkin and Pomeroy were at the original opening, where they were joined by PC Wine Dog Fairfax.
Barrel Oak Winery
BOWHaus is back and better than ever. After being sold out for months, Barrel Oak Winery releases the new versions of its popular BOWHaus wines for its anniversary over Memorial Day Weekend. This year's BOWHaus wines feature arty new labels, designed by Brian brother, Ben Roeder -- his art is showing at Barrel Oak.
The Wine Dogs snuck a preview during the Virginia Wine Festival at The Plains and they are tail waggers. The White is a refreshing blend aptly described as "sunshine in a glass" (perfect for those hot patio afternoons). And this may be the best BOWHaus Red ever, combining Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and Chambourcin for a wine that is rich and complex but still goes down easy.
Release of the BOWHaus is just part of the big doings this weekend, which kick off on Friday night. BOW is pulling out all the stops to celebrate two successful years -- special tours; great live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (and during the day on Sunday); hourly raffles; and awesome food service from Local 647 Saturday & Sunday (runners up for ABC Weekend's Best Food Cart in America Competition). Dogs and children are welcome. Munchkin can't wait!
Virginia Wine & Craft Festival
Front Royal, Virginia
Munchkin traveled incognito on Saturday for the Virginia Wine & Craft Festival, a wonderful street festival centered around Front Royal's Gazebo. GRR to festival organizers for the "no pets" policy – the Wine Dogs, of course, get a pass as working press.
And our favorite Yorkie certainly did work. As she made her way up and down the town’s historic Main Street, Munchkin was a pup with a purpose -- her mission, to sniff out the best CabFranc of the festival, with luck a new gem to add to her cellar.
An early stop at Unicorn Winery found two standouts – the '05 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were the stuff of pure fantasy – but no Cab Franc.
Indeed, Virginia’s signature CabFranc and Viognier grapes were in surprisingly short supply.
Many of the vintners brought their fruit wines, which were a tad on the sweet side for Munchkin's sophisticated palate. She did, however, find a number of pleasant surprises and made lots of new friends.
The Kluge Estate’s bubbly Blanc de Blanc tickled Munchkin’s fancy (and her nose). The winery also produced a spectacular Rose’, as did Bill Gadino with his dry Moonrise Blush, a two-Cab blend (Franc and Sauv). Munchkin is waiting for Pomeroy’s input to decide which to take to the beach this summer.
Chateau Morrisette was tasting their impressive Liberty, also a Cab Sauv/Cab Franc blend. It is one of a series of dog-labeled wines unleashed by the folks whose mascot, the Black lab Zulu Petals, is the reigning Wine Dog of the Year.
Cooper Vineyards had an outstanding Merlot (and a reminder that Lucy's Weekend is coming up May 29-30).
But it was trusty Wine Dog friend Rappahannock Cellars with the paws down favorite Cabernet Franc (we’ll be sipping on the deck listening to Robbie over Memorial Day weekend). No wonder owner John DelMare looked so content when he was spotted taking in the festival with part of his pack!
Munchkin did uncover a couple of new wineries to put on the Wine Dogs visit list. San Soucy Vineyards was tasting an excellent Viognier and Tempranillo. Wine Dog Cab (their Black Lab) will be hosting a Bark and Wine Festival on June 26.
The other gem was tiny Spring Creek Wine Cellar in Pamplin City, Virginia. Gene and Evelyn McCluney have a true farm winery. They produce 300 cases of wine totally from grapes grown in their vineyard. All are pure varietals (no blending).
Munchkin was so excited about her discoveries she stopped at a conveniently placed desk along the street (with a glass of wine, of course) to write Pomeroy about her finds. A special thanks to Uncle Jeff for filling in as guest photographer.
Devastating news from Loudoun County. Leesburg Today reports that Monday morning's May frost wiped out 90 percent of Doug Fabbioli's crop; other vintners also damaged. A reminder of just how fragile our industry is.
Leesburg Today - The Journal of Loudoun County - Late Frost Damages Wine Crop, Year's Income
A special bloggers tour brought Munchkin and Pomeroy on a return visit to Veramar Vineyards on an early spring afternoon. It is a winery wrapped up in family, and family history - the Bogaty family, that is. As founder James Bogaty says, "Wine is in the family genes -- part of the family code from back in Italy."
His son, Justin Bogaty, welcomed the Wine Dogs and treated them to a private reserve tasting. They were joined by fellow bloggers Christian from Schiller Wine Blog and Alisha "Gut Check" Salazar from Northern Virginia Magazine.
Justin has been making wine at the family winery for 8 years; and his 2007 Cabernet Franc recently was awarded 87 points from Wine Enthusiast, the highest rating given to a Virginia red. Daughters Ashley and Tiffany work in the tasting room and will be opening the family's new enterprise, the Bogati Bodega, in May.
The group tasted six wines - three whites and three reds. Among the whites, Pomeroy was enthusiastic about the Seyval Blanc, while Munchkin really enjoyed the Estate Club Chardonney. Justin explained that part of its distinctive taste is the result of primary fermentation in Virignia oak (coopered in France). Using this process, the wine stops absorbing oak at about 2% alcohol; when it is steel fermented then transferred to barrels, it "soaks up the oak like a sponge."
The reds featured two Cab Francs -- a "free run," meaning the juices were liberated from the grapes without using any mechanical processes, giving it less tanins and more of a traditional French feel and an "unfiltered" Cabernet Franc with a more Virginia nose. The Estate Club Ameritage is a "left Bank" style Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Merlot.
As the bloggers retired to the deck to enjoy their wine, they were met by the patriarch of Veramar Vineyard himself, who shared generously of his wine and his time.
Jim treated them to a glass of Mouvedre -- a dark, herbacious wine that paired beautifully with colorful tales of his life and Veramar's founding. The Wine Dogs lapped it up.
He led them on a tour of the vineyard, telling how Thomas Jefferson observed the Cherokees making wine from Virginia's summer grapes and hired Dr. Norton to domesticate them, giving birth to Virignia's Norton.
He took them into the barrel room where next year's vintage is aging to perfection.
He introduced them to his wife, Della, and described how he bought the property - sight unseen when she called during an out-of-town trip and declared, "I've found your farm."
He thought it would be a horse farm.
He recalled the rooster the couple spotted walking across the road, an Italian symbol of good fortune which became part of the Veramar seal and the name of their popular red blend.
He told of how the vineyard got its name -- from the North Carolina hotel where he and Della spent their honeymoon. A framed picture from the wedding, the hotel, and the bill $(23 including, dinner) hang on the tasting room wall.
Appropriately, the Bogaty's Veramar is a favorite of brides and brides-to-be. On the day of the bloggers event, Munchkin and Pomeroy found a bachelorette party already in progress, and jumped right in with the high-spirited ladies helping Shana enjoy her final fling.
On their earlier visit in July, the Wine Dogs found Veramar's idyllic grounds set for a wedding, putting ideas in Munchkin's head.
Whatever the occasion, the Wine Dogs promise you will have a Veramar-velous time.
Paradise Springs Winery
As the Wine Dogs approached the 200 year-old log cabin serves as the tasting room for Paradise Springs, owner Jane Kincheloe immediately began fussing over Munchkin.
History and Yorkshire Terriers reign supreme at Paradise Springs. The winery dog, Foxy, is a 3-1/2 pound, 11-month-old Yorkie. And Fairfax County's first modern farm winery sits on land that has been in Jane's family since 1716, awarded through an original land grant from Lord Fairfax.
Even the name has histroic roots. Paradise Springs was one of the early names of the Clifton area. Now, it is wine instead of spring water that is pouring into the bottles at Paradise Springs.
When she inherited the property from her aunt, Esther Podolnick, Jane knew she wanted to have a winery there. The idea started fermenting 20 years ago when she and her aunt discussed it as a way to save the house and keep the land in agriculture. "As Virginia wines got better and better, I knew it would work," Jane told the Wine Dogs.
It certainly seems to be working. Winemaker Kirk Wiles (Jane's son) already is producing award-winning wines, working with members of the Pearmund team including Chris, D.J. Leffen, and Jef Stebben. The 2008 Norton just claimed a Gold Medal in the 2010 Governor's Cup competition, and the 2007 Reserve Cabernet was awarded gold at last year's Virginia State Fair.
Munchkin and Pomeroy joined a group in the crowded upstairs tasting room as server Ashely offered tastes of these and six other wines. A second group was tasting down in the cellar below.
Roy was partial to the 2008 Chardonnay and the 2008 Nana's Rose, which Kirk made for his grandmother, who tends roses. Munchkin gave two paws up to the 2008 Viognier and couldn't get enough of the 2008 Norton, barking imperiously to demand another taste. Both Wine Dogs were enthusiastic about the rich red 2008 Cabernet Franc - Munchkin leaping up out of her bag.
The Cabernet Franc vines planted on the estate are expected to produce their first grapes this year (the current vintage is made from Rappahannock Cellars grapes).
The Wine Dogs and their paw-ty took a bottle out to the inviting tables spread along the hillside - just perfect for Yorkies and Poms looking for crumbs. Three new picnic tables were delivered during the the Wine Dogs' visit, and were quickly filled.
There is much speculation about the Paradise Springs label, but Munchkin and Pomeroy found a likely suspect out back, although with 36 acres spread between the park and Bull Run, it's hard to be certain.
One thing is certain -- the Wine Dogs look forward to returning for another day in Paradise.
Three Fox Vineyards
What's a girl to do when her fiance isn't around on Valentine's Day? Wine, of course.
So Europup Munchkin took a group of friends on a whirlwind tour of Paris (VA), then stopped in for a taste of Italy at Three Fox Winery.One lick of the Alouette Cabernet Franc and Munchkin's ears perked straight up, along with her spirits. It's clear why this rich wine scored 87 points from Wine Enthusiast (check it out in the February issue) -- one of the highest score ever achieved by a red wine from Virginia.
Piedmont Vineyards and Winery
The Virginia Wine Dogs stopped by the woods on a snowy January afternoon to visit Piedmont Vineyards and Winery.
Located halfway down Halfway Road (connecting The Plains and Middleburg), the winery is part of Waverly, a 95-acre pre-Revolutionary War estate. The distinctive manor house graces the label of most of Piedmont's wines.
Current owner Gerhard von Finck and his wife, Caroline, purchased the property in 1991"mostly because of the value of the real estate" and found themselves thrust full force into the world of wine. "I'm everything from winemaker to vineyard manager," Gerhard told Munchkin and Pomeroy, adding "today, I'm shoveling snow."
Piedmont boasts status as the first producer of Chardonney in Virginia. Vines were planted and the vineyard established in 1973, during the first wave of Virignia's wine renaissance. Today, there are 10 acres in grapes.
There is also a much more diversified offering. Gerhard's good friend, Mickey Holliday, led Munchkin and Pomeroy through a flight of eight wines.
True to the winery's roots, two Chards were featured - the very refreshing Hunt Country Chardonnay, done in stainless tanks allowing the full, refreshing fruit to shine; and the 2007 Special Reserve, aged 9 months in oak. Mickey told the Wine Dogs he had just tasted the 2008 vintage, still in barrel, and it was going to be delicious. A third version, the Native Yeast Chardonnay, will be released at the end of May (the 1995 vintage of this wine was a Wine Spectator 89-pointer).
There is nothing halfway about Piedmont's barrel aging program. Both the 2006 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon spent a full 30 months in oak before being bottled in July. The Cab is the "house favorite," with legs that crawl up to the top of the glass and back down again.
On the sweeter side were the Little River White (a semi-sweet Seyval which "makes a great sangria") and the Felicita (a dessert wine).
Mickey also introduced the Wine Dogs to a new website (www.fauquierwines.com) designed to make it easy for visitors to Virginia wine country to find up-to-date information about Fauquier County's 18 wineries and their events. Munchkin became the first subscriber!
It's a family operation at Piedmont. Munchkin's little heart thrilled as Caroline worked her decorating magic to transform the gift table into a virtual valentine.
The Wine Dogs settled on a bottle of the 2008 Cab Franc, a smooth wine that went down easy with the Minestrone being offered to visitors. There is ample seating in the rustic tasting room, as well as picnic tables outside for warmer days. Watch out for Wine Dog Annabelle, however. Piedmont's chocolate lab has a reputation as a sandwich thief, albeit a discriminating one who eschews Subway for the upscale offerings of the delis in the charming towns halfway up or down from Piedmont.