Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Still Sipping?

April 2014, Fitz 8 weeks, Winery at Lagrange
It has been a year since my last post! A whole year! No wonder some of you were wondering if I
decided to kick the blog to the curb. I did not intend to, but it appears that way. I've been a social media slacker on the twitter too.

When I started this adventure I was frustrated with my job and ready to explore beyond the DC city limits. I decided that the vineyards of Virginia was a great way to explore, visit different counties and do so with a cost effective purpose (tastings are $2-$15).

Having made it to more than 70 of Virginia's 240+ vineyards in the past couple of years I feel like I made some serious progress. My blogging definitely started to scale back when my career picked up and writing on the weekends wasn't that appealing. Have no fear though I am still sipping at the vineyards.

October 2014, Fitz 8 mo with Aspen Dale's goats

I'd like to continue documenting my visits to "new" to me vineyards, but lately I've been at those that are tried and true. A few months ago I got an adorably energetic puppy whose first outing was to the Winery at Lagrange! He's also been to Rappahannock and Aspen Dale (two vineyards I've made a couple stops at in the past year). In addition to taking the pup out to those vineyards, I've been back to Corcoran, Fox Meadow and of course Chester Gap Cellars. Of course there are always new vineyards and at the top of my list right now are Stone Tower & Maggie Malick's wine caves...oh and Catoctin Creek distillery too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Furlough Friday at the Vineyards

What do you do when you are not allowed to work, unsure of when you'll be called back to work or even when or IF you'll get paid again on a rainy, rainy day? Why wine tasting of course! My friend Jessica and I ventured out to Vintage Ridge Vineyard in Delaplane, VA and were pleased with what we found. Not only did they have some fine wines in a nice space, quality music & they also have "Furlough Fridays" where Federal employees can receive half off their tastings and half off a glass of wine.

Vintage Ridge is off of a narrow, meandering road off 66 like many of their neighboring vineyards, they opened their tasting room in 2007 & began making wine in 2005. Five of the seven wines we tried were estate grown. There were two tasting bars and several tables ready for tastings. We were likely the first guests of the day and were given our choice of tables. Once settled we were given our tasting sheets, glasses and were told by our friendly server, Randy, that we'd be tasting two wines at time with the exception of their first white wine.

The first was the 2011 Maiden Voyage a blend of 65% Vidal Blanc & 35% Movedra. Round two was the
2010 Merlot and 2010 Syrah, both grown in Charlottesville. The Merlot had a really great, fruit forward nose and wasn't too dry. The Syrah was light, and easy to drink, but a little lighter bodied than I like my reds. Round three was the 2009 Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Petit Verdot, two very full bodied enjoyable reds, best paired with a high quality meal. The final round was the 2011 Ghost Train and the 2011 Summer Night; both blends the former was 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot named for the trains that travel through the area and the later was a 100% off dry Vidal Blanc. Jessica's favorite was the Ghost Train and mine was the Merlot, but we both enjoyed the Cab Franc & Petit Verdot. We settled in for a glass and enjoyed staying out of the rain. Vintage Ridge also offers food for purchase, but unfortunately we couldn't bring our own in so we headed for a second stop.

Our second stop was at the quiet & cozy Miracle Valley Vineyard, just a bit passed Barrel Oak Winery. We were also the only tasters for a bit until a second group wandered in just after we began our tasting. Miracle Valley planted their vines in 2004 and all their varietals are grown on site, similar to Vintage Ridge their tasting room opened in 2007.

Their tasting list changes regularly so on our visit we tried 6 wines and their hot mulled wine which was perfect for a cold, damp day. We began with the 2012 Chardonnay, which was clean, crisp wine. Next up was the 2012 Viognier which wasn't too fruit forward and very smooth. The last white was the Cobbler Mountain White a blend of Viognier, Vidal & Chardonnay with 2% rs, a nice light semi-sweet wine. On the red side we began with the 2011 Merlot a very light version, next was the 2010 Meritage, an unknown blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The 2011 Cabernet Franc was the final red a full bodied red. We finished everything off with their hot mulled wine that includes their Merlot, Cab Franc, Cranberry Juice & spices. As I mentioned before it was a nice touch to the rainy day. Jessica & I both favored the Meritage so we settled in with our lunch, a bottle & some lush fall views!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A New Beginning at Lost Creek

In September of 2012 Lost Creek Winery was purchased by new owners, Todd & Aimee; with the new ownership came a new name, The Vineyards & Winery at Lost Creek, and new wines. Stacy who writes Virginia Wine Know coordinated a visit for us earlier this summer. I hadn't been to Lost Creek in several years so I was interested to see what it was like under new ownership.

Aimee gave us a wonderful tour of the property and walked us through the ongoing changes to their event spaces and cellar. Its clear that the new owners have a passion for wine and plan to create quality & continuously improving wines. One of the facts that fascinated me was that the previous owners had barreled all of their wines in steel, even the reds! So one of the first things that the new ownership did was start barreling the reds in neutral and new oak. Currently the winery has 52 acres, of those 16 are vineyards and in 2014 all of the reds at Lost Creek are expected to be estate grown.

outdoor picnic spots
During our tasting we were able to try 5 of their new wines and 8 of the legacy wines. They are currently pouring and selling two new whites and two new reds. The new wines we tasted included the 2012 Vidal Blanc which was a crisp & spicy white that reminded me of a Viognier, that was followed by the 2012 Chardonnay, a young steel fermented but with hints of butter; we also had an early taste of the 2012 Serenity a softer slightly sweeter white. My favorite of the bunch was the Vidal Blanc, but the group also enjoyed the Serenity. On the red side the new wines we tried were the 2011 Cabernet Franc which was a smooth peppery red, with a hint of vanilla; the second red was the 2011 Genesis, Todd & Aimee's, first new wine hence the name, a blend of 47% Tannat, 43% Cab Franc and 10% Petit Verdot it has a very nice nose, smokey and smooth once you tasted it. While I enjoyed both reds the unique blend for the Genesis came out on top for me. The legacy wines we tasted were mostly sweeter wines, but of those that are still available I preferred the Chardonnay which had a touch of apricot on it.  

If you had been to Lost Creek in the past and their sweeter wines weren't for you, I'd recommend giving it a second try if in Loundoun County as you'll find the new wines quite different than the old and hopefully find something you enjoy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ingleside Vineyards: Keep Heading East!

First let me start by saying that Anthony from Virginia Pour House has been trying to get me to Ingleside Vineyards for about a year now. After our visit this month it was clear why, I wish I would have listened and visited this hidden gem sooner! Several of us Virginia wine bloggers meet up at Ingleside earlier this month thanks to Anthony, who coordinated the visit for us with their marketing director and part of the winery family, Chris Flemer.

Ingleside is about 1.5 hours south east of DC via Maryland, east of Fredericksburg on the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of the 5 oldest vineyards in the state and has a modest history museum on site. The first vines were planted on the 1970s and in 1980 began their commercial sales.  The museum includes wine bottles from George Washington's era and several Native American relics found on or near the property.  After viewing the museum, event space, tank and bottling rooms we headed into the barrel room for our tasting.

The team at Ingleside selected 10 wines for us including three for a vertical tasting (the typical tasting includes 12 wines).We began with their 2 whites. The 2012 Pinot Grigio was a young, blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonel and Petit Manseng with a hint of citrus on the finish. The second white was the 2012 Albariño to be released later this spring. Of the two whites I think the group favored the Albariño with its peach and banana nose, it went down smoothly, a nice summer wine.

The next seven wines were the reds, my favorites. We kicked things off with the 2009 Sangiovese that had a nice oak nose and smooth pepper finish. The 2007 Merlot followed, a lighter Merlot, not very dry at all, this could be an effect of the sandy soil it grows in.  The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that had 12% Petit Verdot blended in was a deep rich red; while most tasted cherry I found hints of strawberry. Someone had the brilliant idea to try this wine with chocolate and the result was like eating a dark chocolate raspberry truffle! Amazing! Next up was the 2007 Virginia Gold, a Meritage blend with Cab Sav, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cab Franc and Touriga Nacional. This blend was dry and spicy the kind that makes you say, "where's my steak?!"

Then it was time for the vertical, we had Petit Verdot from 2005, 2007, and 2009. The 2007 and 2009 were booth ages for 32 months in a variety of oak barrels. The 2009 was obviously the youngster in the bunch, it was slightly lighter and the driest of the three. The 2007 was a bit smoky and drier than the 2009. The 2005 was very smoky and rich. Most of the group favored the 2005, but I preferred the 2007. We were all disappointed to learn that Ingleside is sold out of both the 2007 and 2005! We finished with a NV Virginia Brut made from 100% Chardonnay, a nice dry bubbly. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Ingleside and walked away with much heavier trunks than when we had arrived!

Many of us were on the hunt for some sustenance and were directed to Denson's Grocery in Colonial Beach. This place was a perfect stop on such a nice day, they were serving up grilled oysters and crawfish at a couple of picnic tables outside. Unfortunately the oysters were in high demand and short supply so I failed to get my hands on any, but I'm sure there will chances in the future as this was a great way to wrap op our trip. Denson's was a nice local stop with fresh produce and local wines on hand too.
Awaiting Spring! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Playing Catch-Up: DuCard & Sharp Rock Vineyards

I have been a writing wine slacker of late. You know when things you like to do, start feeling like work? Well that's where I was with this blog for a bit, I just wanted to do the drinking and not the "homework" of writing them up, but have no fear I'm playing a little catch up today.

Back in November, possibly early December after driving several windy roads, Debbie, Scott & I found ourselves at DuCard Vineyards. DuCard is a former apple orchard that has been growing grapes for the past 12 years. They had 8 wines for us to try, 2 whites and 4 reds and 2 dessert wines.

The white wines were both from 2011, there was a Signature Viognier and the Gibson Hollow White which was a blend of Viognier and Vidal Blanc that had a very distinct taste of peach. The whites were fine wines, but we really enjoyed the reds. Starting with the 2010 Cabernet Franc Vintner's Reserve there were distinct notes of tobacco and blackberries that made this wine a rich, dry red. Next we sampled the Popham Run Red 2009/2010 bordeaux style blend with Cab Franc, Cab Sav and Merlot, a much lighter blend than the Cabernet Franc. Moving on to the 2010 Petit Verdot aged 2 years in the barrel, served from a decanter, this was another big favorite and would be great paired with a steak. The last red we tried was the 2010 Virginia Native Norton, that when tasted with chocolate really softened this wine. I am not the biggest Norton fan, but if you are, you would most likely enjoy this version. On to the dessert wines there was the 2009 Sweet Virginee Vidal Blanc with 6% rs an apple nose with hints of pear, it was light and refreshing and my preferred dessert wine. The second was the 2010 C'est Trop a port-style wine made with Norton grapes and fortified with brandy, a very rich wine that was a favorite for port lovers. We each picked a glass and found an outdoor table by a trickling stream to take in the mountain views on the unusually warm winter day.

 After our leisurely stop at DuCard, we meandered north to Sharp Rock Vineyards. Which seemed almost like a little village with a couple of  B&B cottages and old barns on the property. It is a 220 year old farm that has had the vineard going for 22 years with 14 varietals grown onsite.

We had a unique tasting table on the second floor of an overhang outside of one of the tasting bars with a great views. We were not given tasting sheets so I think we tried 7-8 wines and definitely enjoyed 5 of them. The Pinnacle Blanc started us off strong as a blend of 25% Sav Blanc and 75% Chardonnay, steel aged and just crisp enough without being tart. We also enjoyed the Rose made from a Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 2 days on the skins. Debbie really enjoyed the 2011 Reserve Chardonnay, oak
aged with a smoky nose and definite hints of bacon. The 2010 Synergy a Petit Verdot (55%) and Merlot (45%) blend was also one of my favorites. Scott's favorite of the day was the 2010 Old Rag Red, a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sav, Cab Ranc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. We also found the 2011 Chamois Rouge to be a very nice off dry blend of Chambourcin and Cab Sav.

The layout of Sharp Rock is great, its somewhat secluded off the main road, and it was frequented by picnickers and tasters of all ages. The views were refreshing and it inspired comments like "I think I'm gonna like this place...lay in the lawn and look into the sky..." or maybe that was just the earlier wine stops talking...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Early Mountain Vineyards

About a year after our first visit to what used to be Sweely Mountain Winery, Debbie, Scott and I made it back to what is now Early Mountain Vineyards. The tasting room had been renovated and tastings are now done at tables inside or out weather permitting. Wine is also brought to your table in the most unique, locally hand-made wine carriers made just for the vineyard.

Since Early Mountain is still building up their portfolio of wines, they are serving their wine in flights as well as other selected Virginia wines. We all opted for the "Early Mountain Ascent" featuring their four wines. We started with the 2011 Pinot Gris that we had barrel tasted in 2011, it had smoothed out and softened to a nice light white. Next was the 2011 Viognier with a hint of fruit, this was Scott's favorite. The 2011 Chardonnay was a nice buttery oak barrel aged white that Debbie and I both favored. Finally the 2008 Merlot was also a smooth and enjoyable red.

A delicious braut with peppers and oinions
After our tasting we ordered some amazing food and while Scott and Debbie opted for wine with their meals, I tested out the seasonal Cider Flight.  First up was the Farmhouse Dry from Potter's Craft Cider, the name doesn't lie, it was a dry and tart cider. Second was the Jupiter's Legacy from Albermarle CiderWorks which was a sweeter cider. The Celestial from Castle Hill Cider was a sparkling cider and my favorite of the bunch. I finished with First Fruit from Foggy Ridge Cider the sweetest of the flight. We finished noshing and made our way to the gift shop where I was happy to find the 2010 Chardonnay by Chatham Vineyards, one of my current favorites and I'm not a typical Chardonnay fan. Perhaps this summer I'll make a beach trip out to Chatham since its on the edge of the eastern shore.

Early Mountain has certainly upped the elegance and the seated tasting adds to a more relaxed experience to the tasting room, the staff was friendly and the food was great. It will be interesting to taste the additional wines they produce in the next couple of years as they expand their wine list.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marterella Winery

Patio Views
Lori and I had enjoyed a day on the trail, but thought we could sneak in one more stop before heading home. Checking out the map we decided Mediterranean Cellars would be the most logical stop. So as we twisted and turned I saw vineyard signs and took a left instead of a right and we found ourselves across the road at Marterella Winery. A few minutes into our tasting Lori said, "Your car turned in the right direction for a reason." We discovered a hidden gem, not listed on the 2012 Virginia Wine map, you can find it on the VirginiaWine.Org website.

With a full, jovial tasting room, Marterella is a local hot spot and hangout. Kate Marterella owns and runs the tasting room and seemed to have plenty of energy to keep simultaneous tastings going single-handed! Kate and her husband, who unfortunately passed recently, planted vines in 2000 and started making wine in 2003. The tasting room adjacent to her home is about 6 years old and features an outdoor fireplace on the patio with plenty of seating as she also serves Italian pizzas to hungry visitors.

Tasting Room, view from the bar
On our visit we tried 13 wines for $10, visitors have the option to do the full flight or just the reds or whites for $5. We started with the new, not yet bottled 2009 Vidal Blanc which was refreshing with a hint of tropical fruit. We also worked our way through the 2010 Pinot Grigio, NV Viognier, 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Barrel Select Chardonnay on the white side. While we enjoyed most of these wines our favorite aside from the Vidal Blanc was the steel & oak blended 2008 Chardonnay that had a touch of butterscotch.  The 2010 Rosalie's Rose was a sweeter rose made from mostly Merlot followed by the 2009 Heritage Dry Rose  which was quite the opposite with 100% Merlot and 24 hours on the skins it had a nose of rose petals.

Frankie could run around
For the reds we worked our way through the 2008 Merlot, 2007 Cabernet Fran, 2008 Meritage and the "Vegas Wedding." My favorites were the 2008 Merlot, it was jammy and not too dry, as well as the 2008 Meritage (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sav & Petit Verdot) it was a big red. Lori also enjoyed the Meritage as well as the Cabernet Franc which in my opinion was a softer, slightly fruitier Cab Franc that what I prefer. Now this "Vegas Wedding" is a Meritage blend of sorts, its the Cabernet Franc mixed with the Merlot (post bottling) to create a surprisingly smooth combination. Finally we tried some dessert wines, the 2010 Grace made from Vidal Blanc & Riesling and the 2010 Sweet Nothings, a sweet Chambourcin with raspberry hints. Lori loved both of these! I should also note that for the chocolate and dessert wine lovers, Marterella has local, custom made chocolates infused with their Sweet Nothings that you can purchase at the tasting room.

We had a great time at this stop and even though we made it in during the end of the day, the tasting room was full of life, human and canine. It was a cozy and welcoming stop, its too bad we didn't have time to cross the road to Mediterranean, on my next trek in that direction I'll just have plan time to go to both wineries!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Seeking Quality Reds? Found. In Virginia.

Last weekend I had an appointment to meet some fellow Virginia wine bloggers out at Berry Hill Vineyards in the afternoon (Berry Hill is by appointment only). Since I wanted to bring some fellow DC'ers with me to the vineyards I wasn't sure until the day before how early we could get out to the trail but mapped out some options of spots I hadn't yet visited.

With Lori and her little dog Frankie in tow we wandered into the hills to Cobbler Mountain Cellars in Delaplane. If heading there you really have to pay attention to your GPS since it doesn't seem to have as many signs along the way as some of the other wineries do. The grapes were planted here in 2006 and the tasting room opened in 2011 so its still a newer winery. We were the first guests to arrive that morning and found that Cobbler Mountain is very pet friendly, they had two friendly dogs that greeted us and found a cat curled up on a couch inside. The tasting room was cozy and decorated for the fall holidays. I really hadn't heard anything about Cobbler Mountain so I had no idea what was in store for us.

For $9 we worked through 9 wines; we did not try their Maple Reserves made from, you guessed it, maple syrups! We started the tasting with a Sparkling Hard Apple Cider where you could taste the Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious apples that were part of the blend. We really enjoyed this cider. We then tried the 2010 Cobblestone White a light, sweet white made from a blend of Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc & Viognier. Up next was the 2011 Chardonnay Reserve with just a touch of oak on the palate. As a picky white drinker I thought the whites were fine, but the reds were really something! 

As one of 5 vineyards in Virginia that produces Malbec the 2011 was the first we tried; now I'm usually not a Malbec fan since they can be very dry, but this one was not at all, it had just the lightest hint of fruit at the finish. Next up was the 2010 Meritage a blend of 4 of the 5 Bordeaux grapes, absent is Merlot, this blend was surprisingly drier than the Malbec. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was another great red, it was aged 24 months in French oak and  a solid red would be great with a steak. The 2010 Petit Verdot was a really big red with a nose of clove & spice, also another great wine. We finished with the 2010 Cabernet Franc which we tasted with chocolate, it was a slightly softer Franc than I prefer, I really love the peppery ones, and this reminded me more of a Merlot, still a very good wine. 

We were so overwhelmed with good wine it took us a while to pick out what we wanted to sit down with and take home. We finally worked it out and headed outside to take in the views next to one of the few camp fires they had set up outside. Overall we were really pleased with Cobbler Mountain, it was a surprise to have one quality red after the next. Hillary  even tried their wines and liked them so much she bought the entire line to serve at State dinners!  

Virginia tends to get a bad rap for poor reds, but our day uncovered a couple good spots for reds. After Cobbler Mountain we were excited to meet up with Anthony of Virgnia Pour House, Kurt & Carol of Wine About Virginia, Fred of This is Wine, Erin of At the Lamppost as well as Jaymie, Allison, Kathy & Dan over at Berry Hill. As mentioned, Berry Hill is by appointment only as it is a micro winery that the owner Dave, started out by selling his grapes to near by vineyards like Narmada, Gray Ghost and Rappahannock then started making his own wine. He definitely takes care in making his Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Here you will be able to try the wines and take some for the road, rather than sit down and stay awhile since it is a smaller operation.

Dave discussing the wines
We sampled 3 wines with Dave, his 2011 Cabernet Franc that was blended with 15% Petit Verdot, at the time of tasting this wine had only been in the bottle for 3 weeks. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was next and Kurt was like a kid in a candy store waiting to try this one since he had barrel tasted it the year before. See his write up at Wine About Virginia for his thoughts on this quality wine. It was 14.9% alcohol, but you couldn't tell that at all after its 20 months in the barrel. Finally we sampled the 2011 Petit Verdot which was blended with 15% Cabernet Franc. It was a big, soft wine and as Dave said "85% of good wine is made in the vineyard," so he just tweaks that last 15%. 

If you like red wines or know someone who likes reds and isn't sold on Virginia wines, Cobbler Mountain Cellars and Berry Hill Vineyards are a must! The service was great, the staff/owners are friendly and there really isn't anything bad you can say about the wines. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hiking & Sipping

Blue Ridge Views from the Appalachian Trail
Last weekend a friend and I made it out to Shenandoah National Park for a quality hike before Sandy blew all of the pretty leaves down. It was a gorgeous, crisp fall day, perfect for a rigorous hike. We went into to the park at Thorton Gap where 211 meets Skyline Drive. We got started early on an out and back trail, which was probably a good idea since on our way down we passed several more hikers than on our way up. By the time we finished we had plenty of time to hit the 2 wineries closest to the mountains, Little Washington Winery and Gadino Cellars

The Little Washington Winery had a very friendly & knowledgeable staff as well as a very inviting tasting room, but we were a little disappointed to find only two Virginia wines there. The were currently pouring their two Chardonnays one steel aged and the other oaked as well as several Spanish wines. It was interesting to try some international wines, but I prefer to try the local goods. After checking out the view, which is quite nice we decided to head down the road to Gadino Cellars. 

Enjoying live music at Gadino
Gadino Cellars was the first Virginia winery I had ever been to and that was about 5 years ago so I was excited to see what it was like now. We found a bustling tasting room, but service was great. We were greeted and told it would be few minutes before we could start tasting so we checked out some of the local crafts, cork stoppers and other items in the tasting room before beginning. For $5 we tried 6 wines and got to keep our glass. There was a nice 2011 Viognier that had the lightest hint of tropical fruit, a 2011 Chardonnay aged in steel then oak was nice and mildly oaky, a 2011 Sunset was a sweeter white made from a Traminette & Seyval Blanc blend. Their rose, the 2011 Moonrise is made by blending a red (Nebbiolo, Cab Franc) and white (Petit Mensang) wine rather than letting the skins of a red sit on the wine for a few days, it was surprisingly good & very interesting. The 2010 Cabernet Franc Riserva won us over as our favorite! It came from 22 year old vines and the dark cherry flavors really came through. We also really enjoyed the 2010 Merlot which was blended with 8% Peiti Verdot and 9% Cab Franc for a drier red than the Franc, but still a big, smooth red. 

We decided to buy some bottles of the reds and then pick up a glass of the whites to sit on the porch and enjoy what was left of the daylight before our long drive back to the city. It was a nice revisit to Gadino and perfect spot if heading back from the trails! 

Little Washington Winery porch views

Friday, October 26, 2012

Party Bus Wine Tasting?

Yes, we have a bit of school spirit
What happens when you mix a vineyard visit with WSU alums, 2 birthday parties, some Brits, and a party bus of said individuals all over the age of 25? A day that's surprisingly not as crazy as anticipated. Granted it was easy to spot the light-weights as the day went on. 

Overall this isn't the way I like to do my wine tasting, but it was a day of fun with friends and the first stop wasn't as bad as I expected (bad as in full of crazy drunk people or poor service for such a crowd), the second stop, however, was a little crazier. Its just a good thing there were only two stops! At 10:00am we were instructed to meet in Ballston to check-in and board our fabulously decked out (70s style) Boomerang Bus (a former school bus). Some folks were already enjoying mimosas and bloody Mary's. We were also told that we could BYOB on the bus. That's right. Our group started with some Hogue Cellers Gewurztraminer from Washington State, as we had gathered some alums for the trip. It was a good wine to start with, nice and light, not too sweet as many Gewurztraminers can be. 

Our first stop was Bluemont Vineyard, at 951 ft, one of the highest points in Northern Virginia. The views were breathtaking! The vineyard has a massive outdoor space so our crew was seated under a trellis away from the "regular" visitors. We tried 1 rose, 2 whites, 2 fruits, 2 reds and 2 dessert wines. With so many people and one server for our 10 tables and the other outdoor spots tasting was understandably slower than when at a tasting bar so we broke out the cheeses and picked some of the wines that weren't on our tasting list. Going down the line we tried the 2011 Petit Manseng, 2010 Rose "The Donkey" (100% Chambourcin), Farm Table White (Vidal Blanc, Viognier & Petit Manseng), The Sparkling Peach (unfiltered 50% Rkatsitelli 50% peach), The Peach (50% Rkat 50% peach), Farm Table Red, 2009 Merlot "The Ram," The Strawberry,and finally The Blackberry. All the wines were very different from one to the next. 

A few in our group of 8-10 really liked The Peach, but most of the group raved about the Farm Table Red which is a blend of 50% Merlot, 21% Cab Fanc, 14% Cab Sav, 10% Norton, 5% Petit Verdot. A couple of us, myself included, found Rose to be our favorite, it was more peppery like a Cab Franc than a fruit forward Chambourcin. One or two still picked The Blackberry as the best, its 82% blackberry wine and 18% red wine. It was almost unanimous that the second choice for all was the 2009 Merlot which was blended with 5% Cab Sav. The few notes about Bluemont that I was able to get is that they are celebrating 5 years this month and have 10 tons of estate grown grapes across Norton, Viognier, Merlot and Albarinio. 

After a couple of hours at Bluemont we moved on to Loudoun Valley Vineyards. We tried 10 wines here and that seemed like a few more than I remembered for my first visit. This tasting was much more chaotic as one might expect with a bus crew. We were sent outside to 3 tables set up in a U, it was really crowded and people were getting "distracted." Bluemont did well with the group, by having us all seated. 

At this tasting we had a 2010 Pinot Grigio, 2009 Viognier, 2010 Traminette, Vin de Pomme (100% apple), 2010 Pinot Noir, 2008 Merlot, 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve, 2008 Dynasty, Route 9 Red, and 2008 Legacy (Port). Not many of us liked the whites, but if we had to pick one the Traminette was the best of the bunch. The Vin de Pomme was a big hit, but we had trouble finding the answer to the difference between an apple wine, hard cider and sparkling cider. Many enjoyed the 2010 Pinot Noir on the red side, however my favorite was the 2008 Dynasty a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot & 25% Touriga. The second choice across the board was the 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve, it was a bold red. On my last visit I found I really enjoyed the Seyval and was bummed to not find it on the tasting list, but I was informed that it will be back in the near future. 

Oh yeah, this was our classy ride about 1/3 full!

By the time we all piled back on the bus it was only about 4pm and those light weights started dropping like flies, well a few of them "dropped it like its hot" in the standing or dancing room of the bus. It was a fun day, but I can't say I'll be going on another bus trip like this one in the near future.