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.
Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
Coming off the mountain, Munchkin gave a bark of delight as she spied a new winery off John Marshall Highway (Rt. 55).
Upon entering Aspen Dale, the Wine Dogs were transported back to Revolutionary War days. Guard-dog Roy kept a watchful eye on the door, expecting to see General Washington wandering into the charming barn-turned-tasting room for a drink at any moment.
Claud and Shay McNeal Poulen bought the 50-acre property “for the history” 12 years ago. Aspendale is one of the oldest farms in Virginia, with the earliest part of the house and barns dating back to the 1780s.
The wine-loving couple also began making wine for their own consumption. Soon, an idea took root. “It was her birthday,” Claud recalls. “We were at our favorite restaurant and I asked for a bottle of their best Carmenère from Chile.” The bottle that came out boasted an Aspen Dale label.
So amateur winemaker Shay (who is also a published author) turned professional, following in the footsteps of her ancestor who styled himself in his 1728 will – Thomas Parris, Vintner.
A once drafty barn has been transformed into a warm and inviting refuge.
Pomeroy is particularly fond of relaxing by the fireplace, as is his Dad, especially on chilly afternoons.
Munchkin fell in love with the décor –a blend of colonial Virginia and country French (Claud is French Canadian) – declaring it the perfect place to bring her Mom’s college pal, whose daughter is studying in France.
Munchkin and Pomeroy have taken a break from their usual wine tours to bark the vote for Bob McDonnell in Tuesday's election.
For a pair of wine-loving pups, Bob McDonnell is a natural choice for Governor.
The former Attorney General (shown below with the Richmond SPCA's mascot, Nemo) received the 2008 National Humane Law Enforcement Award for his work to combat animal fighting in Virginia, and the enthusiastic endorsement of the Human Society in his bid to become the next Governor of Virginia.
Bob also appreciates Virginia's farm wineries and has made promotion of the industry a key plank of his plan to bring jobs to the Commonwealth.
"Not only is it good for agriculture, we're up to almost 7th leading wine producer in America, but for tourism all those wine festivals, wine tour is a great way to get all those out of state dollars here to Virginia to see the wineries, spend money on hotels and something we need to promote signifigantly," McDonnell said during a visit to Blue Ridge Vineyard in August.
And that's the word with the bark on it!
Alexandria is known for being dog-friendly, and the Del Ray neighborhood is no exception. From late spring to early fall, the community celebrates the First Thursday in style with a street party along Mt. Vernon Avenue. With shops open late, humans stroll the streets and enjoy special entertainment with their children and pets.
A top attraction for September's "Taste of Del Ray" was the Pawgariteville celbration hosted by one of the Wine Dogs' favorite bow-tiques, Barkley Square.
Attracted by the festive Buffet music and the Biscuit Buffet, the canine crowd poured into the courtyard. Eager to get one last taste of summer, Munchkin donned her Hawaiian print dress and joined the paw-ty, where she was warmly welcomed by owner Kristina and her little ones, Gigi and Gracie.
Publicity hound that she is, Munchkin graciously consented to a couple of on-camera interviews, after which she had her photo snapped for the GW Slept Here blog (filling in for the absent Pomeroy). Kristina tells us that the next First Thursday (October 1) will be the big Barktoberfest. The Wine Dogs can't wait.
The oh-so-fabulous Vino Vixen sat down to talk industry with the Virginia Wine Dogs last month. Read on for the full interview, which appears in the September 15 edition of Our Town Magazine.
Virginia’s Wine Bloggin’ Dogs
The Vino Vixen
Pomeroy and Munchkin are the well-heeled dogs of refined taste and pedigree that only Old Virginia can believably breed. These good ‘ole Virginia dogs possess a penchant for the rolling hills Hunt Country, and a proclivity for the wines produced in the more genteel areas of our fair Commonwealth. Yes, if a pair of dogs could claim descendency from Thomas Jefferson’s four legged best friends, Pomeroy and Munchkin surely would.
Pomeroy and Munchkin’s fondness for Virginia Wine and their naturally acute palates led to their career as Virginia’s first (and only) wine blogging dogs (vawinedogs.blogspot.com). It’s an appropriate gig for these galavanting bon-vivants - allowing Pomeroy and Munchkin the luxury of lazy country drives to Virginia’s finest wineries while enjoying the fruits of their vineyards. I had a chance to sit down, sip and chat with Pomeroy and Munchkin - wine critic to wine critic.
VV: HOW DID YOU GET INTO WINES? I MEAN, IT'S NOT A TYPICAL LOVE FOR MOST DOGS.
Munchkin: Well, my mother has a getaway house in Linden, Virginia, which is a great jumping off point to some terrific wineries. She’d take me to area wineries on the weekends and I’d scamper around the vineyards and tasting rooms. Mostly just to burn some energy and pee. Then one day, about three years ago, I lapped up a little Cabernet Franc that spilled out of a barrel - I was hooked. I’ve never gone back to bowls of warm water since.
Pomeroy: My father is friends with Munchkin’s mother, so we started going along with them. I happen to be a very good photographer, and Munchkin is a very good writer. The two of us decided to put our talents together and chronicle our wine adventures on our blog. We never really wanted to do the whole fetch a frisbee, chase your tail thing. We’re a bit more evolved than that.
VV: BUT, YOU ARE A DOG! WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT WINE?
Munchkin: Look Vixen, we can explain the entire malolachtic fermentation process and describe in detail vinification steps from primary fermentation to stabilization, to bottling. We took a winemaking course at Three Fox Vineyards. And our sense of smell is about 100 times more acute than your pathetic little human nose.
Pomeroy: Sorry. Munchkin gets a bit defensive when people question our wine knowledge. The fact is, we’ve visited hundreds of vineyards and wineries, sipped probably thousands of wines, and chatted with dozens of winemakers. And let’s face it. We’re furry and cute, so winemakers tend to really open up to us. Bet you can’t say that, Vino Vixen.
(At this point, a little growling and teeth-baring ensued. But, Pomeroy and Munchkin ignored me.)
VV: DO YOU HAVE FAVORITE WINERIES?
Munchkin: Pearmund Cellars (pearmundcellars.com), Barrel Oak Winery (http://www.blogger.com/www.barreloak.com/) and Rappahannock Cellars (http://www.rappahannockcellars.com/), and/or any winery where Robbie Limon (http://www.robbielimonband.com/) happens to be headlining the entertainment.
VV: ANYTHING WLSE YOU WANT TO TELL THE READERS OF OUR TOWN MAGAZINE?
Pomeroy: October is Virginia Wine Month. You owe it to yourself to take a relaxing country drive to our own beautiful wineries. The leaves will be turning, the air will be cool and crisp, and
harvest will have just concluded - perfect for exploring Virginia wine country.
Munchkin: With this horrendous economy, who has the means to make it out to Napa or Sonoma - much less Bordeaux or Tuscany. Your own backyard has some of the most magnificent vineyards and friendliest wineries. Take advantage of it.
And Vixen - scratch my tummy and refill my wine glass.
VV: WHO'S MY GOOD L'IL WINE DOGGY!!? YOU ARE! YES, YOU ARE...
Check out Pomeroy and Munchkin’s latest wine adventures at http://vawinedogs.blogspot.com/
Aqua S Restaurant