Blenheim Vineyards in Virginia Wine Country

Blenheim Vineyards Patio space

The day started as overcast.  We began with the amazing views from Monticello, without the sun, but without actual rain also.  The world was covered in the gorgeous bright green of spring.  It’s that shade that pops against the gray, turning even a completely overcast day into something bright!  It was spring in Virginia, with the ground covered in pink petals washed from the trees.  It’s especially magical for those of us who have been so long away from the green.

That changed as we drove our way to Blenheim Vineyards.  The sky started to leak.  Not a full on rain storm, just steady inconvenient rain.  But that was okay. We didn’t get to sit outside at the outdoor tasting bar at Blenheim, but wandered down into the main tasting room.  It is an A-frame building with the front full of windows as well as windows along the peak of the room. When you walk in you can also look down through the glass floor at the center to see the winery, it’s tanks and barrels.  The windows here allow for natural light even on this rainy day.

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The end of the tasting room holds the bar so you can enjoy your tasting looking out through the huge windows overlooking the vineyard.  The bar was full, so we were guided to a table.  I asked if we needed to go to the bar for our tastings and was assured that we did not.  They have pourers assigned to the tables who come around.  The staff, which seemed to be all female were helpful, friendly and knowledgeable about the wines and the vineyard.  Out came the glasses and the tasting menu.

The pours here were generous and the atmosphere was relaxed.  It was a place you could come and enjoy a tasting with friends, which was what we were doing.  Those types of tastings lean more toward conversation with your friends, and less about in-depth tasting and contemplation.  This of course is rather new to Michael and I, wine geeks who typically taste with just the two of us and take copious notes.  I did manage to scribble a few down and when I did ask about the blends, the staff were quick to pull out the vineyard map and show us where each block was located.

– A map of the vineyard blocks with all the varieties at Blenheim Vineyards

The grapes of Blenheim Vineyards

They are growing 13 varieties of grapes here.  You have the standard Cabernet Franc and Viognier which are the varieties that seem to grow best here in Virginia.  In addition they grow, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Roussanne and then surprisingly (at least for me) Pinot Noir.  Yes, I’m still two short.  They also have a block of Teroldego and a block of Garganega which are new and have only been in the ground for 3 years.  Teroldego is a deeply colored red grape from northern Italy in the Province of Trentino.  Garganega is a white grape also from Northern Italy from the Provinces of Verona and Vicenza.  It will be interesting to see how these grapes do.

The tasting at Blenheim Vineyards

I fell in love with the Rosé ’16.  It does 48 hours on the skins.  This is a blend of 46% Merlot, 31% Cab Franc, 12% Pinot Noir and 11% Syrah.  It was complex on the nose and tart on the palate. ($17)

The Chardonnay ’15 was partially (30%) aged in Hungarian and American Oak for 5 months.  While you got a little oak on the nose, the palate was clean and bright. ($17)

The 2015 Painted white has a totem on the label.  It is 58% Chardonnay, 21% Viognier, 12% Albarino, 9% Sauvignon Blanc aged for 9 months in French and Hungarian oak with 35% tank aged. ($25)

Petit Verdot ’14 was 10 months on mixed oak; 75% American Oak and 25% French Oak.  It had a yummy nose, was milder on the palate with a quick finish but was very nice. (My dear friend Mess, has discovered that she likes Petit Verdot and after searching for a term, decided that they were chewy!)($24)

The Painted Red ’15 also features a totem.  The Painted Red 2015 was 44% Cab Franc, 31% Petit Verdot, 13% Merlot, 12% Cab Sav, 76% aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian Oak. This was very nice but our favorite of the reds remained the Petit Verdot. ($30)

They also sell “growlers” here.  Yep, they have 2 wines, the Claim House White (83% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Noir and 7% Viognier (un-oaked) and the Claim House Red 84% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot (un-oaked) that are available at $6 per glass or you can buy a growler for $7 and fill it for $19. The growlers are becoming popular in this area.  You buy the growler itself once and then can return to have it refilled!  These wines are not all estate, but include fruit from some other vineyards.  Both are NV (non vintage).

Doesn’t Somebody Famous own this winery?

So here I am two thirds of the way through this post and I have just gotten around to telling you that Dave Matthews owns this vineyard.  I am a Dave Matthews fan from way back and was lucky enough to see them play on Brown’s Island in Richmond with Widespread Panic back in the ’90’s.  Dave draws the totems on the labels for the blends.

Blenheim Vineyard

The posters of the labels for the Blenheim Vineyard blends, drawn by Dave Matthews

Dave designed the winery with William Johnson and finished it in 2000.  The winery, that you see though the glass floor in the center of the tasting room is nestled into the hillside to help with climate control.  The place is made from reclaimed wood and those south facing windows mean that they don’t need to use lighting in tasting room at all in the summer.

Dave Matthews moved to Charlottesville when he was 19.  He formed the Dave Matthews band here.  Did you know their first concert was on Earth Day in 1991?  Without knowing the connection we had dinner (and great burgers and beer) at Miller’s in Charlottesville where he bartended before he started the band.

The Vineyard and Winery were meant to make good wine, not necessary to make money.  Success had hit and they had the luxury of not needing the money.  So they focused on the wine, and in my opinion succeeded.  Inspired by Farm Aid, he started out with the BOWA (Best of What’s Around) farm outside of Charlottesville that they rehabilitated and had certified organic. He planted Blenheim Vineyards on the remnants of an old vineyard that was on the property.

But why is it named Blenheim Vineyards?

Ok, while it seems like this should be an easy question, I found the answer to be a bit ’round about.

So…John Carter was the Secretary of the Colony of Virginia.  In 1730 he obtained a large parcel of land in what is now Albemarle County Virginia.  His son Edward, of Blenheim built the first Blenheim house, which was named for the Duke of Marlborough who won the War of the Spanish Succession for Britain.  The Duke’s family seat was Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  Blenheim Farm & Blenheim Vineyards are located on this property.

It is said that Thomas & Martha Jefferson stayed here when their coach had to stop nearby in a snowstorm.  The house burned down in the mid 1840’s.

The Women of Blenheim Vineyards

I mentioned that the tasting room staff was primarily women.  Well the winery staff is also female dominated, which is a rarity these days.  Their Winemaker and General Manager Kirsty Harmon, graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology in 1998.  She apprenticed with Gabriele Rausse (who has his own winery in Virginia and was the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello and is often referred to as “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry”).  She then studied at UC Davis in California getting a degree in Viticulture and Enology in 2007.  She spent a bit of time in France and New Zealand working in the industry and then became the Winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards in 2008.

The remainder of the major members of the staff are also female (I’m lovin’ the girl power!).  Tracy Love runs the Sales department, Ellen Houle is the tasting room manager, Amanda Gray is the Event Manager & Mimi Adams is the Vineyard Manager.

So if you are an environmentalist, a feminist and like good music, good people and good wine (like me) than you should definitely stop by Blenheim.  If it is a pretty day you can see the grounds, but even if it’s raining, it’s well worth the trip.

Blenheim Vineyards is located at 31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

They are open daily from 11 am to 5:30 pm, tastings are $7 per person and you can bring your dog, as long as they are on a leash and friendly.  They are on the Monticello Wine Trail

It is well worth it to make it a day!  Visit Monticello in the morning, stop at Blenheim Vineyards and have lunch at the Historic Michie Tavern.  Find another winery (there are plenty in the area) and then go for dinner downtown in Charlottesville.  We had amazing burgers the first night at Miller’s (you remember I mentioned the Dave Matthews connection there earlier) and the 2nd night we had an amazing meal at the Downtown Grill  (and a great bottle of Frank Family Pinot Noir from Carneros) followed by drinks upstairs at the Sky Bar.  This is a college town so it is eclectic and busy.  If the weather is nice I highly recommend enjoying a table out on the Downtown Mall which is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country.  It is located on Main Street and the center is set with tables for outdoor dining for all of the restaurants.

We will be posting more on our trip and of course on lots of other wine related things so stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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The Syrah Clones at Larner Vineyards

Larner Vineyard Syrah

Michael Larner has helped to champion Syrah in Ballard Canyon. He got the ball rolling on the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara.

We spoke with Michael last year about the Syrah planted on Larner Vineyard. We had discussed the different rootstocks that they chose for the vineyard and then went deeper into the Syrah clones that were grafted to those various rootstocks.

There are 23 acres of Syrah planted at Larner Vineyard, broken into 11 blocks of around 2 acres each. With his 3 root stocks he pairs a Syrah clone, so he has 11 different mixes of clone/root stock.

Blending a monovarietal Syrah from different Syrah clones

For his Estate Syrah he has a blend of Clones 877, Estrella, 174 and Clone 3. Each of these clones brings something different to the wine, the Estrella brings a Velvety softness, the 174 pulls up mid-palate strength, and the 877 and Clone 3 give you full body. So in essense he is making a mono-varietal blend. Add to this the variation in rootstock, in the placement in the vineyard and you have quite a bit of variety.

A little geekiness on these Syrah clones

Estrella: Gary Eberle of Eberle wines in Paso Robles planted suitcase cuttings from Chapoutier in Hermitage (in the Rhone Valley in France) This clone has become one of the most widely planted in the Central Coast region.

 174: This came in from France in 1995. It is a low yield clone which gives balanced aromatic fruit.

 877: This French clone brings in tannins that hit the mid palate.

Each year one of the clone/rootstock variations will stand out. This is where the Reserve wines come from, and the Dedication which is all Clone 3.  But all the blocks are treated as if they could be stand alone wines. These stand alone wines would be a wonderful expression of one thing…mid palate tannins or velvety softness.   The blending of these is what creates the depth and layers within the wine. The idea is to pull together the ultimate expression of Syrah in this vineyard to make a complete wine that fires on all synapses.

We spoke with Michael about this once before and at that time he shared with us the details of his experimental Syrah block.

You can taste some of Michael Larner‘s exceptional wines at their Los Olivos Tasting Room at 2900 Grand Avenue.

For more on the wines of  Santa Barbara visit Santa Barbara Vintners.

They will be holding their Vintners Spring Weekend April 20-22, 2017, where you can attend the Grand Tasting and taste wines from all over this amazing region.

And you will find plenty of information here at Crushed Grape Chronicles and lots of videos on Santa Barbara, it’s wines and people. As well as information on previous Vintners Spring Weekends.

And stop back to visit us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Michael Larner on choosing wine grape rootstock

Michael Larner, Larner Fête 2016

Last year after the fabulous Larner Fête we had a chance to sit down with Michael Larner and talk about wine grape rootstock.

Michael and his family did quite a bit of research before choosing what they would plant at Larner Vineyard.  Luckily Michael’s background is in Geology, so that had some inside expertise on soils.

Choosing which wine grape varieties to grow

The first decision of course was climate based, figuring out what they could realistically grow in this area.  This came down to Rhone or Italian varieties.  They already knew that Syrah did well, because Stolpman was already successfully growing it, so Rhone varieties were the way they decided to go.  After that it’s a matter of seeing what soils you have and how water is managed in those soils.

Choosing Rootstock

Rootstock is the footing for your vines, it is the foundation in your vineyard, and there is quite a bit to take into consideration when choosing a rootstock.

Own-rooted vs grafted rootstock

For the Larners, it was an easy decision to not go with own rooted varieties. Being a vineyard first, they grow grapes for many winemakers, all of whom stop by to visit the vineyard and check on their grapes.  Phylloxera is a tiny aphid that feeds on grapevine roots.  There is no cure.  Phylloxera hit Europe back in the late 19th century taking out most of the vineyards.  It was discovered that American rootstock was resistant to phylloxera and so grape vines all over Europe were transferred to American Rootstock.  This grafting of rootstock keeps vines safe.  Own-rooted vines are available, but you take the risk of your vines getting phylloxera.  With winemakers coming and going from other vineyards, this risk was unappealing to the Larners.

Choices in Wine Grape Rootstock

After determining that you are not going with own-rooted stock, you look at the soil.  There are differences in soil pH and water retention.  You find something that, in these soils, will not cause the vines to be overly vigorous (cause then they don’t want to produce grapes) and then also vigorous enough to keep the vines healthy.  They look at where they were planning on planting their blocks and looked at the soil pits.  Michael found 3 major soil types in the vineyard and chose 3 rootstocks based on that.  Of course there are slight variations in the soil within those areas, but that can be treated separately to compensate for the differences.

They chose Rootstocks 101-14, 5C and 110R.  I did a little research and found some information from UC Davis on the differences in these rootstocks. These rootstocks differ mostly in their drought tolerance but also somewhat in Wet soil tolerance, and tolerance of salinity and lime.

So the vineyard blocks are broken into 3 sections depending on the soil, which each have a different rootstock.  Then…you choose the clones that will be grafted to the rootstock.  With 4 different Syrah clones, they ended up with 11 blocks of Syrah that because of the differences in rootstock and clones are each farmed differently.  This makes farming a little harder, but in the end you want each block to perform to the best of it’s ability.  Even when the wine isn’t estate, your vineyard name is on their bottle and you want the wine to be the best it can be.

We had time to talk with Michael even further about the clones of Syrah he grows, so check back here for more on that!

You can taste some of Michael Larner’s exceptional wines at their Los Olivos Tasting Room at 2900 Grand Avenue.

 

For more on the wines of  Santa Barbara visit Santa Barbara Vintners.

They will be holding their Vintners Spring Weekend April 20-22, 2017, where you can attend the Grand Tasting and taste wines from all over this amazing region.

And you will find plenty of information here at Crushed Grape Chronicles and lots of videos on Santa Barbara, it’s wines and people. As well as information on previous Vintners Spring Weekends.

And stop back to visit us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Dean – CGC Wine reporter at Large – from McLaren Vale Australia

Vineyards in McLaren Vale Australia

I had a brief remote trip to McLaren Vale wine country the other day via my wine drinker in the field Dean! I was sitting at work when fantastic photos started popping up in messenger.

Dean is in Australia touring with Cirque du Soleil and had a little time off. He is not a “wine drinker” per se, but some of his friends tossed him in the back of the car and set out to explore some wine country. Mostly I got photos and a couple of videos and later saw a Facebook post by the friends he was travelling with of him asleep in the back seat. I imagine it was quite a day! So here I am going to research some of these wineries and fill in the gaps on his visit!

McLaren Vale Australia

So to begin, McLaren Vale is South Australia. About 45 minutes south of Adelaide. This area has a Mediterranean climate and is best known for Shiraz (Australian for Syrah). Grapes were planted here as early as 1838.

Because this is Australia, Harvest is January or early February here running into the end of April.

They have a wide variety of soils, in fact one of the most diverse in the world and there is a fascinating map on the soils of the region if you are into that kind of geekiness like me. Really the McLaren Vale site is brilliantly informative!

d’Arenberg Winery

They started the day with d’Arenberg Winery.

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Established in 1912 when Joseph Osborn and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, sold his stable of prize winning horses to purchase this property. Funny thing is, Joseph was a teetotaler! (Okay, if you are not familiar with Australian wines, this probably doesn’t mean squat to you. Here’s the deal: Thomas Hardy is known as the Father a South Australian Wine. He planted ¾ of an acre of Shiraz back in 1854. Thomas Hardy and Sons was the largest wine producer in Australia in the last 1890’s)

His Son Frank joined them and they acquired more vineyards and when Joseph died in 1921 and Frank took over the business.

In 1927 they built a winery to make their own wine, shortly after Francis Osborn (known as d’Arry) was born.

In 1943 d’Arry left school at 16 and worked full time in the winery since his father Frank was ill. He took control of the winery in 1957 when Frank died and launched his own label d’Arenberg in honor of his mother Helena d’Arenberg who died giving birth to him. d’Arry’s son Chester joined the biz in 84 and is the Chief Winemaker.

They crush grapes in small batches, and foot stomp two thrids of the way through fermentation. They use basket presses for both red and white wines.

On their website they have a charming video about the multitude of experiences you can choose from at the winery, include a full day with a scenic flight in a bi-plane over the region and beaches, followed by an interactive wine blending experience and finished with a leisurely degustation at their Veranda restaurant paired with their wines. (Dean didn’t do this one….)

Coriole

Coriole Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia

A selection of Shiraz at Coriole Winery

Next stop was Coriole

Coriole has shorter history, founded in 1967.  The cellar door (it’s what Aussies call a tasting room) is in the original farmhouses that were built back in 1860.  the original vineyards here date back to just after the first World War.

This is a much smaller spot than d’Arenberg, but they make Olive oil, Vinegars, Vico (their version of vin cotto or “cooked wine in Italy that is used as a condiment), and Verjuice (Verjus or Green juice, made from underipe grapes and used in place of acids or vinegars).

They primarily make Shiraz (65%) as you can see by the tasting.

Samuel’s Gorge

From there they were onto Samuel’s Gorge

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Okay, even newer still is Samuel’s Gorge established in 2003 by Justin McNamee.  Here the cellar door is in a farm shed that was built in 1853 (lots of historic buildings around here!).  The clincher is that the shed is overlooking the Onkaparinga River National Park.

Justin is farming Biodynamically, and feels great importance with staying connected spiritually with nature as you farm, following the phases of the moon.  He believes in staying traditional and tuning into what’s around you staying connected to the land.

The historic farm shed is beautiful as you cansee with an old press in the middle with glasses for the tastings.

Maxwell

The view at Maxwell Vineyards McLaren Vale Australia

Maxwell Vineyards McLaren Vale Australia

The final stop of the day was at Maxwell Wines where Mark Maxwell, the owner and manager, gave them a personal tour!

Red wine in the Winery at Maxwell McLaren Vale Australia

Red wine out of tanks at Maxwell Winery

This vineyard was founded in 1979, but the family is also well known for their Maxwell Meads. (Dean gushed about these).

Also, the Ellen Street Restaurant is onsite, with Chef Fabian Lehmann pairs “unpretentious, tasty food” with the wines of the region.

 

As harvest is just over, there were punch downs to do and they got a taste of how hard that is!

They also got a tour of the Lime Cave. The Lime Cave was dug out in 1916 and is a 40 meter cellar where they age wine and grow mushrooms.  Dean tells me they also rent the space out for private events.  Imagine a dinner party down here!

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So while I long for a trip to check out Australian wines, Dean provided me with a virtual trip…now to go pick up some Australian wine!

And stop back to visit us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more Chronicles of the Grape. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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How the Grenache King got his block

In Santa Barbara, Mikael Sigouin is known as the “Grenache King”.  This Island Boy has a winery called Kaena in Santa Barbara County where he makes some amazing Grenache as well as other wines.  He sources his grapes from local vineyards, many of whom specially farm his blocks to his particular specs. One of these vineyards is Larner Vineyards in Ballard Canyon.  He has the best Grenache block on this vineyard, but it wasn’t always that way.  Let’s hear him tell the story….

You can visit Kaena and try some of this amazing Grenache at their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2890 Grand Avenue.

For more on the wines of  Santa Barbara visit Santa Barbara Vintners.

They will be holding their Vintners Spring Weekend April 20-22, 2017, where you can attend the Grand Tasting and taste wines from all over this amazing region.

And you will find plenty of information here at Crushed Grape Chronicles and lots of videos on Santa Barbara, it’s wines and people. As well as information on previous Vintners Spring Weekends.

And stop back to visit us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds – The Event

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds

an interactive experience

Last August we held an event entitled “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds”. My friend RuBen with Act2Art by RuBen is an accomplished artist and created some works specifically for this event. The idea connected scent memory and art, both in the creation of the pieces and peoples reactions to them.

We chose 5 wines, a Champagne (A.J. de Margerie a Bouzy Grand Cru), a Sauvignon Blanc (Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand) a Syrah (Carhartt 2013 Estate Syrah Santa Barbara), 2 Zinfandels (Tobin James 2010 Fat Boy & French Camp Zin) and a Dessert wine (Chateau Megyer Tokaji Aszu 2010)

There was a station for each wine, with a pairing, aroma jars, the wine and of course the associated work of art. Cards to explain the pairings were located at each station.

Individuals bring their personal experiences and memories as they interpret a work of art. Scent memories are similar, an aroma can trigger a very personal memory. Mixing the two and stirring in a little wine and good food can make for a powerful experience.

We asked guests to smell the aroma jars, taste the wine, and look at the art, then jot down a word, a phrase or a memory that came to them.

A.J. de Margerie a Bouzy Grand Cru

 

We chose this Champagne for the bread on the nose. When we were sampling Champagnes, Cremants and Sparkling wines, we dipped our nose in this glass and got hamburger buns. Yep, hamburger buns. That yeasty smell of bread came across in a very approachable way that we thought would make this wine less intimidating for those new to finding aromas in wine, so it made a great start. This Champagne is mostly Pinot Noir so you also get berries on the nose and so there were scent jars of hamburger buns and berries for people to smell. For a food pairing we matched it with Salty potato chips. The salt and fat are a perfect pairing, the salt making you crave another sip of the champagne and the champagne’s bubbles and acid clean the fat off of your palate after each bite, making every bit as delicious as the first.

 

The Art – Champagne

Champagne Painting by Act2Art

Champagne

Some of the responses to this piece:  “A perfect first date” “Crisp pears – a cool spring afternoon” “Happy – like a picnic at an apple orchard” “Fields of dandelions – fresh grass” “A beautiful sun shower in late April or Early May”

 

 

Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds w/ Crushed Grape Chronicles.com

Starborough Sauvignon Blanc w/ Crushed Grape Chronicles.com

We had a bunch of Sav Blancs to choose from, but the nose on this one was just captivating! This wine, is not fancy, you can find it in your local grocery store. We had jars of lime, grapefruit, cut grass, stone fruit, and lemongrass and everyone found something different in the wine. We paired this with Guacamole and chips. The avocado is fatty which is nice with the acid in the wine and goes well with the lime and fresh greenness of the wine.

 

The Art – Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc Painting by Act2Art Ruben Permel

Sauvignon Blanc Painting by Act2Art Ruben Permel

“Blowing out candles on your birthday cake” “Very content and peaceful – smells like our smoothie day” “Blood splatter on the grass from when I split my lip” (I love this childhood memory)

 

Carhartt 2013 Estate Syrah Santa Barbara

We love the wines from this Winery and Syrah from Santa Barbara is almost always wonderful. These are the same “Carhartts” that make the work clothes. They owned a cattle farm in Santa Barbara that Mike Carhartt turned into a vineyard. His wife Brooke and their son Chase now make the wines and they have my favorite tasting room on the planet in Los Olivos.

Carhartt Syrah at Crushed Grapes & Open Minds

Carhartt Syrah

This wine has quite a bit going on with aromas of Black berries, dirt, allspice, tobacco, vanilla bean and beef jerky and we had scent jars with all of these. As to a pairing? Well there is a pig on the label, so bacon was the perfect pairing.

 

The Art – Syrah

Carhartt Syrah Painting by Act2Art.com Ruben Permel

Carhartt Syrah Painting by Act2Art.com Ruben Permel

“The calm after a winter storm – perfect tranquility” Dark – cosmos – blanketing” “Thirsty – the kind of thirst when flying” “A very tempestuous sunset”

 

Tobin James 2010 Fat Boy and French Camp Zinfandels

Tobin James Zin at Crushed Grape Open Minds Event

Tobin James Zin at Crushed Grape Open Minds Event

We were members of Tobin James for a while and pulled these two older Zinfandels from the cellar to try. Tobin James is in Paso Robles California and their wines tend to be pretty big. The aromas on these were earth, pepper, fruit jam, leather and chocolate. We paired them with chocolate fountain mini cup cakes from Retro Bakery.

 

The Art – Zin

Zinfandel Painting by Act2Art.com Ruben Permel

Zinfandel Painting by Act2Art.com Ruben Permel

“Making a picnic lunch for the family” “Costy – like a warm blanket wrapped around me during the winter” “tobacco warmth – a little earthy – comfortable”

 

Chateau Megyer Tokaji Aszu 2010

Chateau Megyer Tokaji at Crushed Grape Open Minds Event

Chateau Megyer Tokaji at Crushed Grape Open Minds Event

Tokaj is an area in Hungary and this wine is made from a grape called “furmint”. This is a wine made through “noble rot” or “botrytis cinerea” a fungus that shrivels the grapes like raisins. The raisins are then made into a paste which is added to a dry base wine. This is a sweet wine with citrus, apricot and honey on the nose. We paired it with Brie and Comte cheese.

 

The Art – Tokaji

Chateau Megyer Tokaji Painting by Act2ARt.com Ruben Permel

Chateau Megyer Tokaji Painting by Act2ARt.com Ruben Permel

“Oceanside Cliffs on a summer evening” “My first visit to Montreal – wonder and excitement – Christmas eve” “Tending to my fathers garden”

 

In addition to the wine stations, there was more to eat with a table filled with delicious things with notes to suggest pairings to try with the wine as well as more of RuBen’s beautiful art around the space.

Perfect pairings with wine at Crushed Grapes Open Minds Event

Perfect pairings with wine at Crushed Grapes Open Minds Event

This was an evening of exploration, discovery and animated conversations.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wine and the people behind the wines!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook

To have an evening like this created for you, contact 42Aspens Productions at…. 702.463.4242

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Red wine..not too dry

I often have friends come and ask me for wine recommendations.  Mind you, I love wine, but I am not a Somm.  My thoughts and recommendations come from the wines that I have tasted and most of those come from places I have traveled.  And for me, the story behind the wine is part of what makes it taste special to me.  But when you just need to go out and pick up a bottle and you don’t have the luxury of being anywhere near a vineyard as you are landlocked in Las Vegas…well, you have to look at this in a different light.

Most often people tell me that they like red wine, and quite often I also here that they don’t want it too dry.  For me of course dry is the opposite of sweet in a wine, but I think they often mean more than just that.  Often they are talking about astringency and tannins that “dry” your mouth out.  So, I’m hear to brainstorm on what type of wine they would like.  I know they often wish I could give them a name of a bottle to search for at the wine or liquor store, but usually I end up giving them a grape variety to look for.  California wines were where I first started delving into my wine education, so grape varieties are my way into deciphering what a wine will taste like.

Zinfandel

Typically I start with Zinfandel.  California grows alot of Zinfandel.  Paso Robles Zins can be warm and jammy (and likely high in alcohol) with blackberry jam, chocolate and smoky tobacco.  It is big and fruity and a crowd pleaser, medium bodied, but it does have medium tannins, so I thought I would dig deeper to find a few other suggestions.

Gamay

There is Gamay for a lighter fruitier wine, with berries on the nose this is the primary wine from Beaujolais in France and you can find this almost anywhere.

Barbera

Into medium bodied wines Barbera is a good bet.  It can be rich with cherry, blackberry, plum and licorice.  If it has been aged in oak you will also get some chocolate in there.  Of course the oak may strengthen the tannins also.  If you like all that big fruit, go with a Barbera from a warmer climate like California or Argentina.

Malbec

When you move into fuller bodied reds most have pretty heavy tannins.  Malbec often is a little lower in tannins and has delicious red plum, blackberry and blueberry notes.  Look for these with little to no oak aging to keep them juicy. Most of the Malbec in the world comes from Argentina, and much of that from the area around Mendoza.  Higher end Malbecs “Reserva” will have time in oak and you will get chocolate, darker fruit and tobacco notes on these.  I say grab one of each style and try them together!  See what you think!

Petite Sirah

I often mention Petite Sirah, which yes, can be high in tannins, but it’s just so tasty!  The blueberry and chocolate notes blend with black tea and make such a delicious wine to pair with cheese.  I say take the plunge, see if you like it!  And those tannins are healthy and full of antioxidants!  If you are looking at a big wine store (big box wine store), you will likely find these with “alternative reds”.  I had an amazing Petite Sirah in Paso at Vina Robles. If I close my eyes I can still taste it!

Syrah

Now onto Syrah.  This wine can be made in so many different styles (see our series on the multiple styles of Syrah in Santa Barbara County)  It is typically lower in tannins and a warm climate Syrah is rich and jammy.  You can find many of these from California, Argentina and then of course the Shiraz from New Zealand.

There are lots of wines out there.  Dive into the comments and give me your suggestions for your favorite “red wines that are not too dry”.

And stop back to visit us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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Virginia Wine Country – A young wine region with a long history

So we are planning a trip to the East Coast. A little time to catch up with some friends and visit some Virginia Wineries to enjoy some Virginia Wine.

A few years ago, I made a trip to visit my best friend from college and we met another college friend for a girl’s weekend in Virginia Wine Country. We had been in each other’s weddings back in the day and this was our first time since then being all together. One spouse, (knowing how we were back in the day), took care of us by surprising us with a Limo tour to 3 wineries. We lounged in the limo, talking non-stop while the driver took us down the winding roads of the Monticello AVA near Charlottesville Virginia. You can check out the original blog posts here:

Pippin Hill Farms – Tasting in Virginia

The beautiful Pippin Hill Farm in North Garden Virginia

King Family Vineyards, Crozet Virginia

The porch in front of the King Family Vineyard Tasting room in Crozet Virginia

In Vino Veritas, A Long and Winding Adventure

Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton Virginia

Well for this trip, we will have spouses along for the ride, and as we are planning just one winery a day, we will probably drive ourselves.

We are still planning, but I am hoping to check out a winery in the Loudoun County area near DC, at least one in the Monticello AVA and possibly one in the Blue Ridge region.

Maps and online information on Virginia Wine Country from virginiawine.org

But first….I need to delve into a little background on Virginia Wines. As I plan I am immersing myself in some research on the region with the help of VirginiaWines.org , some major web surfing and a couple of books!

 

The founding of the new world was about making wine (or at least partially)

Beyond Jefferson’s Vines – The evolution of quality wine in Virginia by Richard G. Leahy

In reading Richard Leahy’s book “Beyond Jefferson’s Vines: The Evolution of Quality Wine in Virginia” he notes that the original colonists with the Virginia Company at the Jamestown Settlement had come here in 1607 to make money for their shareholders. They were to create a supply of silk, olive oil and wine for English merchants as those things were currently in short supply due to wars

Well, grapes didn’t grow well and being under constant attack didn’t help. So no wine then.

They did however discover tobacco, which is a native Virginia plant, grew well and birds and deer didn’t try to eat it! So screw wine they said, lets grow tobacco. It turned out to be addictive, so…better for sales! Virginia continues to be a big tobacco state. (When I lived in Richmond, Dogwood Dell did a summer outdoor arts season. Which included an annual event with Larry Bland and the Volunteer Choir. This was a huge event with an amazing gospel choir and was sponsored each year by Philip Morris.)

“The Crown” was not pleased with this and in “Acte 12” of the Jamestown Assembly in 1619, they required each male colonist to plant and tend at least 10 (or was it 20? sources vary) European grapevines, with a punishment for failure to comply, determined by the governor. Still…pests and the climate made it difficult and most chose to bag grapes for the quick money of tobacco.

Leahy goes so far as to say that this disregard for the orders of the Crown was the genesis of the bad relations with the motherland that led eventually to war.  (First we refuse to make wine for them, then we dump tea in the harbor…we did start off as quite the rebellious bunch!)

Thomas Jefferson got into wine in college (don’t we all), but really became passionate about it while in France (this does really seem like a timeless story doesn’t it?).  The trouble was, that once he returned home he had to import good wine and at that time, that was a bit of an ordeal.  So…he worked to cultivate a native wine grape and worked to plant vineyards with Philip Mazzei, a Florentine Noble who had come to Virginia to make wine.

Ah Virginia.   With it’s rolling hills, it’s easy to see why Jefferson loved it so (so much that his bargaining chip for endorsing Hamilton’s “Assumption” issue with the Federal Government taking over the State’s debts).  So Mazzei brought in vines cuttings from Portugal, Italy, Spain & France and some Tuscan Vignerons to plant a vineyard near Monticello and  Jefferson hired them too. Sadly frost took out the young vines and managed to squeeze out just a couple of barrels a few years later.  Then the war started and Mazzei’s land ended up trampled by horses.

Jefferson continued, and at the end of his 2nd term as President, re-dedicated himself to the vineyards.  Unfortunately, he had little success.

There were others though that were having success, not with European Grapes but with native varieties.  And here also you find the story  of Norton a native Virginia grape named for Dr. Daniel Norton.  You can find the full story of this grape in “The Wild Vine – A forgotten grape and the untold story of American Wine”

Wild Vine – A forgotten grape and the untold story of American Wine by Todd Kliman

Time goes on and of course Prohibition happens…

Then in the late 1960’s, post Prohibition wineries popped up and planted French hybrids like Chambourcin, and Seyval Blanc.  Then in the 80’s things really got going with the Virginia Winegrowers Advisory Board and the Virginia Winegrowers Productivity Fund.  Then came the shift to European varieties which settled into Cabernet Franc being one of the varieties for the region.

Now in 2017 there are 260 Wineries in 10 Winemaking Regions in the state with 7 different AVAs.

I’m just getting started with this research folks.  Standby, while I get all geeky.  My next venture, to investigate the Virginia AVA’s, their soils and climates.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on Virginia Wine Country as I continue my research.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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The Art Installation – Crushed Grapes and Open Minds

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds, with Crushed Grape Chronicles and Act2Art

A few days before the “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds” event.  The Artist RuBen Permel came by to install the art works.  He brought the 5 paintings inspired by the wine, as well as a selection of other pieces.  Including his Upland Flight series, “Three Angles Walking”, “Landscape Series 6” parts of the “Whispering Goliath Series” and the beautiful “Open Minds”.  We spent the morning finding just the right spot for each work.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook

RuBen Permel – Act2Art – Wine Inspired Art

Crushed Grapes & Open Minds with Act2Art.com

RuBen Permel of Act2Art is an accomplished artist.  He’s actually quite the renaissance man, he is an actor and dancer, a puppeteer, a costumer, a painter, a writer, a film maker….and lucky for me, my friend.

Last year we worked together on a project called “Crushed Grapes and Open Minds”.  I had this idea of finding wine that would pair with some of RuBen’s beautiful art.  RuBen, ever the overachiever, decided he would paint a piece for each wine we chose.  We chose 5 wines and he painted a piece to pair with each.

We spent an afternoon with RuBen while he painted, actually priming a canvas for what became the signature piece for the event.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook