Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Travelin' Oenophile: Wine tasting in Virginia, day 1

So, intrepid oenophiles, our adventures have brought us to the beautiful hill country near Charlottesville, Virginia. We started our adventures by touring Michie Tavern (pronounced "Mickey") because what better way to kick off a wine drinking trip than by touring a drinking establishment? It's no longer serving alcohol, unfortunately, but we did get a good idea of what went on there in the past. They even offer a "Southern-style buffet lunch," which we passed on due to the fact that it was 90 degrees and humid, and a heavy lunch plus wine tasting plus winding mountain roads could spell disaster for me or for the rental car (or both).

Lunch was sandwiches picked up at Brix Marketplace, a cute little gourmet sandwich shop near Monticello and right across the road from Jefferson Vineyards Winery. This fortuitous circumstance led us to take the sandwiches up to the shaded, breezy patio outside the Jefferson Winery tasting room and have a pre-tasting picnic. It ended up being the perfect intro to a delightful tasting. Here's what we had:

Pinot Gris, 2007: Those of you who know my husband know his opinion of anything made from pinot gris or pinot grigio with the exception of a few lucky wines from Oregon. This ended up being a pleasant surprise for him. It has a nice, fruity nose, is crisp and dry, and then has a nice, long finish.
Rating: Very good to excellent

Viognier, 2007: The nose is all peach and melon, the middle a little acidic.
Rating: Very good

Chardonnay, NV: Subtle oak, but not overpowering
Rating: Not bad (this is a compliment coming from me for an oaked chardonnay)

Chardonnay Reserve, 2007: Also subtle, not overpowering, mild fruit and butter
Rating: Good (a very high compliment)

Terre Rouge: This is a blend of chambourcin, cabernet franc, and then traces of pinot gris and vidal blanc. It's light and smooth with a very nice finish.
Rating: Very good to excellent

Merlot, 2006: We were warned that this is a young wine, and the warning was true. It was very tannic and acidic.
Rating: Not bad

Meritage, 2006: Blend of cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon. I didn't write anything else about it because we got on a tangent about Malbec, and I got distracted.
Rating: Good

Petit Verdot, 2006: Smooth with dark fruit, mild tannins, and some smoke.
Rating: Good

Vin Blanc: This semi-dry blend of chardonnay, viognier, and vidal blanc is mild and sweet with flavors of tropical fruit.
Rating: Very good

Overall scorecard: A very good start to the tasting
Other info: Tasting fee $5/person, not applicable to purchases, but they do offer volume discounts on as few as three bottles. Oh, and you get to keep your glass.
Bottom line: we came away with two bottles of the Terre Rouge and one of the Pinot Gris.

Our next adventures of historical wine significance took us to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson himself. I loved all of it, but Hubby tells me that I can't imitate him and have my own wing of the house. Seriously, I think that Jefferson and I would have gotten along because he loved to buy books, and he got a dumb waiter installed specifically for bringing bottles of wine up from the center. I'd do the same, except wine doesn't stick around long enough at our house to cellar it. The tour guide irked me at first, but then I got to like his narrative style, which combined a children's story time tone with gossip and mild lecturing.

Next we went off the beaten path, then turned again to go off the off-beaten path to Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. Our mantra: just follow the grape signs. The tasting room is situated in a nice older-looking house with an open floor plan. The problems were that it was rather warm, and someone in the back kept whistling along with the radio. Oh, and the wine flight is served in this little test-tube tray of six conical wine glasses. I wonder if that kept the wines from showing to their full potential because it was impossible to adequately swirl them, and Hubby had a hard time getting the nose off any of them. Here are our ratings:

Kluge Sparkling Blanc de Noir, 2004: Had a yeasty nose and definitely had the "mild nutty and toasty notes" and "citrus flavors" mentioned in the tasting notes. We both liked it and rated it as "very good," but not good enough to fork out the $44 they were asking for a bottle.

Albemarle Viognier, 2006: The nose is so vanilla and floral it reminded me of a scented candle. The flavor went from floral to tamarind ("mature exotic fruits" in the tasting notes) to a buttery finish.
Rating: Not bad

Albemarle Rose, 2006: Berries on the nose. Dry and mineral with light fruit.
Rating: Not bad

Albemarle Simply Red, 2004: This one was a rich red color and had a dark berry/cherry nose. It definitely had lots of tannins with slight berry. Too tannic for me.
Rating: Good

Kluge Estate New World Red, 2004: This one smelled really green on the nose. That carried over to the beginning of the taste, but it did resolve to some fruit on the middle and a decent finish.
Rating: Good

Cru Aperitif: Smells peachy and tastes like peach liquer. Would probably mix well in a fruity drink.
Rating: Good
Bottom line: We didn't like them enough to buy them for ourselves, but we would drink them if they were put in front of us.

We finished up the day at Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe. The tour guide wasn't as polished as the others we'd seen, but it was a good experience.

Now we're at the B&B in Charlottesville waiting out a thunderstorm and getting ready for dinner. I'll review our accommodations as well as our restaurant experience on a later date.

Tomorrow: Go west, young oenophiles! (but not too far)

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