Weekend winery diversions

While the task of updating the maps and winery information in the new Handy Guide edition continues to move along (although a bit more slowly than anticipated), every now and then we get out to do something fun, which for us generally involves either wine, theater, or the beach now that the little grandsons (and their parents) are too far away to come over to spend the weekend with us.

This weekend was a wine weekend, and it was great!

On Friday night, we went to Sunset Hills for a blind Cabernet Franc tasting called “You Be The Judge.”  Nate Walsh, the winemaker, introduced us all to the UC/Davis 20-point wine ranking scale and had us rate five wines according to the eight categories on the scale:

  1. Color (is this the proper hue for this varietal?)
  2. Aroma (does it smell the way this varietal is supposed to smell?)
  3. Cleanliness (is the taste clear or is it muddled?)
  4. Dryness (is the level of dryness appropriate to the specific varietal?)
  5. Body (is the mouthfeel or viscosity appropriate to this varietal?)
  6. Flavor (does it taste balanced and rich?)
  7. Finish (is the length of finish appropriate for this varietal?)
  8. Overall (what is the overall impression of this wine?)

These events at Sunset Hills are great because they always teach me something new about wine…. but they are also humbling in a way.  It’s a lot harder to distinguish wines when there isn’t a label or other clue to go on, just your own response to that particular wine.  And it’s surprising how quickly you can get palate fatigue and have a harder time making a distinction between wines in terms of the finer points of their taste. It’s also easy to be influenced by others.  Although I liked wine #1, for instance, no one else at our table did, which made me start questioning whether I had misjudged it.  (Answer: No, drink what you like and don’t worry.)

The five Cab Francs that we tried were Jean-Maurice Raffault Chignon “Les Galuches” 2011, from the Loire Valley in France; Sunset Hills Vineyard “Block 29” Cab Franc 2010; Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cab Franc 2010; Sunset Hills Cab Franc 2010; and Raats Family Cab Franc 2009 from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Our table for the blind Cab Franc tasting at Sunset Hills

Our table for the blind Cab Franc tasting at Sunset Hills

The next day, we met up with Kurt and Carol Jensen and Erin Miuccio and her fiancé Dan for visits to Breaux Vineyards and Corcoran Vineyards.  Kurt and Erin are fellow Virginia wine bloggers, and this was our first outing with them.  (Kurt blogs about winery visits at WineAboutVirginia, and Erin blogs about wine, geocaching, and other interesting things at At the Lamppost.)  Kurt had contacted the wineries in advance to set up the visits (thank you, Kurt!), so we got a wonderful behind-the-scenes experience at both wineries.

We started at Breaux Vineyards, where we got a tour of the barrel rooms that are next to the tasting room.

In the barrel room at Breaux Vineyards

In the barrel room at Breaux Vineyards

We also got a tour of the new events facility and new wine production area that will be opening soon.  The events room will be used for parties (particularly weddings) and for private events, and the production area can also be used for private tastings.  And there are plans to expand the existing tasting room to accommodate the visitors who come on the weekends.

Great view of the vines from the new events room at Breaux

Great view of the vines from the new events room at Breaux

After the tour, we had a wonderful long tasting of Breaux’s estate-grown wines at the tasting bar.  Jennifer Breaux Blosser was there and talked to us about the winery and its plans for expanding production from their current 10,000-12,000 cases a year to  20,000-24,000 cases annually.  They currently have 18 different varietals planted on the estate but will be narrowing that range somewhat in the coming years.  (More details of the tasting will be posted on my Facebook blog.)

Then we went across the road to the Grandale Farms Restaurant, where we had a lovely lunch of locally produced food with a crackling fire in the fireplace at the end of the room.

After lunch, we all drove over to Corcoran Vineyards, where owner/winemaker Lori Corcoran took us to her production building and gave us a barrel tasting of her private white port-style wine (which she calls her “anniversary” wine).  This was very special, since this particular wine will not be sold to the public.

Lori Corcoran and her "anniversary" barrel of white port-style wine

Lori Corcoran and her “anniversary” barrel of white port-style wine

Lori ages this wine in a whiskey barrel, which gives it an absolutely fabulous caramel and vanilla nose and taste, with a lot of deep, complex layers of flavor.  This wine was to die for.  We all imagined coming home on a cold, snowy evening and curling up in front of the fireplace with a glass of this wine to warm up with.  Really fabulous!

Then we tried her USB port-style red wine.  Since only wines made in Portugal can be called “port” wines, she named this USB — after the USB ports on computers.

Sharing some USB port-style wine at Corcoran.

Sharing some USB port-style wine at Corcoran.

All in all, this was a fabulous weekend.  It was great to get out and get to know other bloggers who love Virginia wines as much as we do.  And it was equally great to be able to talk to the winery owners about their wines and plans for the future.  And now, back to work on the 2013 edition updates, inspired by this weekend of fabulous wine!

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