Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blenheim Vineyards: August 20, 2011 (part 1 of 3)

I had planned to add this summary last week, but alas we had an earthquake followed by a hurricane/tropical storm. All is settled and as back to normal, for now.

Last Saturday Debbie and I had high hopes for a full day in Charlottesville; we had a full day alright, just not as full of relaxing vineyards as we had hoped. I was partially the idiot who thought 66 would be worse than 95 on a summer Saturday, big mistake. We spent over 2 hours going 8 miles and finally got off on to Route 1 at Stafford, from 1 we hit 3 and then it was smooth sailing, but it still took us 4 hours to get from DC to our first stop, Blenheim Vineyards, also known as Dave Matthews' vineyard, of yes, the Dave Matthews Band. I read Wine About Virginia's reviews that said to avoid concert weekends, but I might be a little bit of a fan. As in Under the Table and Dreaming was my first CD and I may have seen him live at no less than 4 venues.

As a concert weekend the vineyard was bustling, but they were prepared for it with extra tents and tables set up. We walked up to a table where the server had just finished serving a group and with just two of us conversation looked promising. I didn't want to drop all kinds of "Dave" questions since I figured they heard enough of that so naturally I asked about the wine. I asked our server how long she'd been there. I asked about the age of the vineyard. Their most popular wine. The wine club. Nothing. I repeat nothing could draw this woman out to tell us anything besides one word answers and she'd been there for over 3 years! I get that it was probably a busy day and we got there around 1pm, but she didn't even try to sell me on the wine club. Over the course of my interrogation we sipped on 6 wines for $5 and got to keep a nice glass, love the logo on the base. I was disappointed with the conversation, but not with my glasses. Dave must be doing something right, because the girl who doesn't like Chardonnay bought a bottle of his 2010 oak aged and sipped a cool glass on his porch with a stunning view. My second favorite was the 2010 Syrah, another wine I don't usually like. I found the 2001 Merlot too dry, the 2009 Chardonnay oakier and spicier while the 2010 Viognier was mild and average perhaps the white equivalent of their Red Table Wine blend.

We took our glasses to the porch off the back side of the tasting room to relax with some great sandwiches they were selling (turkey, brie & cranberry yum!).  Disappointed with our server (other staff members seemed  friendlier), but impressed with what we tasted, I would like to go back on a concert free weekend. After all there were no Dave sightings and we didn't win the ticket give away...although we did get to catch some songs on the Charlottesville Mall later that evening.

Vast vines and red, red dirt
Porch views
The tasting room: crisp & clean, light & airy
Wholesome Goodness!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard: August 14, 2011 (part 3 of 3)

Ah ha, part 3, the conclusion of last Sunday in Loudoun County. Before our leisurely lunch we thought we'd hit 2 more wineries, but after lunch realized that 2 would be a reach since one of needed to drive. So one more winery it was and Lori had picked out Zephaniah Farm Vineyard in the morning, based mostly on the name and a few yelp reviews. A word from the wise, don't trust your GPS for this one, it will guide you right past the tasting room. As a driver I was deeply focused on the very uneven gravel, luckily Lori was taking in the scene and caught the tiny sign right after I passed it. We were on a dirt road, it was easy to back up and pull into the rainbow drive. It was definitely unique. As we walked up to the house, as it is a farm house circa 1830, it was surrounded by an enticing garden that reminded me of the "Secret Garden" that just draws you in.

After a few minutes of poking and prodding about outside we entered. I was caught off guard upon entering since you are literally entering a family home, granted its not the one the owners live in, it is very comfortably lived in and I felt as though we might be intruding. We were promptly greeted and ushered into the tasting room, which was once the dining room and joined 6 other guests at the family style dining table. Still I felt a bit out of place. After the first 2 tastings were down, I don't even remember what they were like (a Sauvignon Blanc & Merlot) since I was still nervous taking in the scene and sitting next to complete strangers. That's the thing about DC, I have come to embody the typical DC'er ignoring strangers, keeping to myself and I can't stand it, but half the time when I do drop my guard and am my genuine friendly self I have found a rude awaking of well rudeness; once burned twice shy is the saying right?

Anyway after a bit a wine was drunk, we started chatting with our neighbors at the table who were quite nice, but on the tail end of their tasting and the other group left shortly after as well. Soon it was just Lori and I and we really got to talk to the proprietress. She was quite interesting and told us all about the family history of the place, we found it quiet remarkable the amount of wine they produce in such a small area. After we finished our tasting of 6 wines for $4 we decided we liked the 2009 Chambourcin Reserve the best, but then we headed south, to the cellar. Down there we got to see the bottling and aging process and we did a cellar tasting of the 2010 Chambourcin, which let me tell you, that is where its  at! Its aged in neutral French Oak as most of their wines are and it was tasty. Before leaving we poked around a little bit more in the library, if you are a history buff you'd love this place. Its full of old relics and as previously mentioned, tons of family history in a family run establishment. The name actually comes from the proprietor's grandfather and his picture is hung proudly next to his 3 following generations. If you are looking for a family operation take the time to veer off the main road to Zephaniah, it might just be your refreshing reprise, taking you back to a simpler time.
Don't pass it by!

Exploring the "Secret Gardens"
The goods

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hillsborough Vineyards: August 14, 2011 (part 2 of 3)

We passed so many vineyards on the way to Breaux that we decided to abandon our original plan to pick out specific vineyards and just stop at the next ones we saw. Just down the road we came to Hillsborough Vineyards, I hadn't heard anything about them but it was right in front of us so we stopped in. The view was also great at Hillsborough and their outdoor seating/porch area is decorated with dozens of hanging tea lights from the cross beams which I would love to see lit up at night. At first sight we thought the tasting room was just the front bar/register area you see when you walk in and we were a bit disappointed. We were quickly ushered into a large sunny dining room with white washed tables and light yellow walls. It was very inviting and we were glad to have a seat for the tasting. We were served two wines at time and each of their wines are named for a gemstone.   We did enjoy the reds here much more than at Breaux; our favorites were the 2007 Garnet and 2007 Bloodstone both of which we categorized as dark, rich reds until we had the 2006 Ruby & 2008 Onyx. Now those were some dark, dry reds, I don't know if I've seen a wine as dark as the Onyx which was 100% Tannat (the others were blends). We also liked the 2009 Carnelian, a Roussanne which was new to me. It was very light and as our server described it a "porch pounding" wine. Very true, it was one you could just sit outside and drink without a meal. All in all we were pleased with the 7 wines for $7.

The next stop was lunch since we hoped to hit 2 more and I could not survive on bread & cheese alone that day. About a mile down the road at the one stop light in Hillsboro we found the Stoneybrook Farm Market. We had passed it on the way out and it looked like a great little market, which it was & the food was great. It was like a mini country version of Whole Foods with homemade bread and chips. I highly recommend it for lunch if you are in the area, it may or may not be a hippie commune.

Deep, dark reds

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breaux Vineyards: August 14, 2011 (part 1 of 3)

This trip to wine country started at the wee hour of 5:00am when I rolled myself out of bed and into my fresh clean running gear that I laid out the night before. At 5:50am I was in front of my old row house picking up Lori and at about 6:05am we headed northwest to Leesburg. The drive there is nice and usually quiet, but those darn tolls get me every time! I can't stand to pay to drive on a road, isn't that what taxes are for?! Well at about 7:05am we arrived in Leesburg and found a place to park. At 7:30am when I thought the air seemed cool and light-for August in Northern Virginia-the gun fired and I was off and running the Leesburg 20k (that's 12.2 mi for you non-runners & Americans). I'll spare you the mile-by-mile recap and summarize to say that I will never, ever run another race in this area in August or July. After I finally hit my stride the semi-cool rain was hit by the sun and the humidity was over 80%. Horrendous. On top of that it was a very quiet course, mostly on the W&OD trail which made the hard spots that much harder without a cheering section. After I finished in just over 2 hours, dripping wet. I dried out and rewarded myself-and Lori-with some much deserved wine tasting.

I had heard great things about Breaux Vineyards so I'd been wanting to visit for awhile. As its one of the furthest wineries out we decided to start there. We arrived just before 11:30 and took a moment to take in the view. Gorgeous. Rolling hills, extensive 404 acres of vineyards & so peaceful, we saw several very large butterflies flitting about. The logo of Breaux is a crawfish as the owner hails from Louisiana, but the tasting room was very elegant and Italian. We wandered up to the bar and were met with a very friendly & knowledgeable server. For $10 we sampled 11 wines. Shockingly my favorite was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, it was crisp & clean from its steel barrel days. My second favorite was the 2010 Jennifer's Jambalaya which was also a white blend. It was just a little bit sweet with .5% residual sugar and had a little bite almost an effervescence to it that I liked.  Always the red fan, I really didn't like any of their reds and did the small wine taste followed by the snobby glass dump. I NEVER do that! Waste wine, heavens no! I thought maybe it was my post-race dehydration that had gotten to me and that's why I didn't like the dry reds, but Lori agreed the reds, just weren't that great. I did like the lesson on Meritage that we got as it cannot be called a Bordeaux unless from that region it is "marriage" and "heritage" combined.  To carry a Meritage you actually need to pay a licensing fee to use that name. Overall Breaux was a beautiful sight, but their wines left something to be desired; I was a little disappointed after we left, but excited for the next stop.

Looking out from the front of the tasting room. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Twitter

Ah yes, I finally joined the 21st century and signed up for twitter. So far it has accomplished distracting me with articles at my finger tips. I love the handy news and info without having to go to each website. But why did I really join? Well, to give you more. More notes and tips on tastings and specific wines while I am actually at a vineyard. As you've noticed I can get easily distracted and lose my instant thoughts of a wine when updating my blog a bit late at times. This will enable me to keep you up to speed, summarize my notes and provide a more comprehensive summary on the entire winery experience. I was also looking for a way to move my musings in the kitchen to a medium besides Facebook. There you have it, I'm now a tweeter. Gulp. Oh and more wine excursions coming soon!