Chapin Family Vineyards – Incredible service with a smile and a story

Chapin barrels on Porch

 

It’s always a joy to walk into a tasting room, for a wine tasting, be warmly welcomed and find that you have someone pouring for you that loves to talk about his or her winery and obviously loves the wines.  Such was the case when we arrived early on a Friday morning to the Chapin Family Vineyards tasting room.  We were the first to arrive that morning and as we walked in Leroy greeted us and offered us a spot at the tasting bar.

The Chapin Family Vineyard is the furthest Winery and Vineyard on Rancho California Road.  Located next to Doffo, the winery property is filled with palm trees, the owner Steve’s first love.

While they do not grow grapes for white wines here at this point, they do work with a winery in Marche, Italy where they import their Passerina white wine.  This wine has a golden color and is dry with mineral notes as well as floral notes, apricot and peach with a small hint of spice.

As we tasted the 2009 Syrah, Leroy filled us in on the history of the winery.  The Chapin Family (Steve’s parents) bough the property here and the property across the street where Doffo now stands in 1980.  It was 15 years later as they watched vineyards pop up all over the valley when they decided to plant some grapes.  They now grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Montepulciano, Petite Verdot and Viognier.  (Yes I know Viognier is a white wine and I said they didn’t grow those.  They only grow enough Viognier to add to their red blends). The Montepulciano is scattered throughout the vineyard.  You will notice blue tags on vines indicating that is it is this variety.  The Syrah borders the vineyards.

As we tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is delicious with fruit and chocolate, decidedly low tannins and very approachable, Leroy filled us in on vineyard techniques.  They use a single cordon method here to intensify the flavors.  Leroy asked us to think of the vine as the trunk, as it grows it sends out a branch, which in double cordon growing would spread out to the opposite side of the original trunk.  Here they clip that branch working only with the trunk itself.  They do all hand picking here and carefully destem all fruit.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was 75% Cabernet, 10% Petite Verdot for some color (inking they call this) and 15% Zin for zing. This is lighter and leaner than the 2009 and slightly less complex.  2008 was a wet year with less sun on the grapes and the grapes were juicier and less intense.  They think of this wine as a more Bordeaux style wine.

The 2010 Merlot had just been release a month before and was still young but you can see the potential.  This is only the 2nd Merlot they have done.  It is spicy with red fruit and cedar, medium tannins and a little mocha.  This wine was made from sourced fruit, as they do not yet grow Merlot.

Their 2010 Zinfandel is medium bodied with bright spice and light tannins.  You get big fruit up front, no heat (which is great for a Zin) and it has a shorter finish.

The 2009 Chapin Family Summit is a Cabernet based blend with Montepulciano and Merlot.  There is a lovely little bit of barnyard on the nose and a slight herbal quality.  The tannins are deeper and the wine has tartness.

While we were there, two wine club members arrived and Leroy set them up with a glass of wine out on the patio.  They carry Boars Head products in their deli and they picked something out and he plated it for them and took it to them on the patio.  Now that is service!  So many places have a deli and you end up eating out of a plastic container.  Leroy wants you to enjoy your experience, so he takes great care of the people who come in.  They offer to do your tasting on the patio if you prefer.

We next tasted the Marche Rosso, which they bring in from Marche Italy.  A blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Syrah, is an example of the style of Montepulciano that they hope to produce.  It  had spice and leather and wet earth on the nose and quite and a bit of depth.  The tannins were tangy and the wine leaves your mouth watering for more.  There was also good tartness on the sides of my tongue.

The last wine we tasted was a Late Harvest Zin Tawny Port, put in port barrels in the sun and do them in a solera style.  You get caramel, but it is not too sweet.  With deep fragrances of hazelnut and brown sugar this was hot on my nose as it is fortified,  but was not hot on the palate.  This is one of the more approachable ports I have had.

Chapin Family Vineyards  a great place for a tasting or just a glass of wine.  Leroy makes you feel pampered making sure that you are comfortable and having a great experience.   The afternoon before the entire patio was filled, so word must be out.  If you are in Temecula Wine Country, don’t miss stopping here.

Frangipani, a piece of paradise on the De Portola Trail

Frangipani Winery

Frangipani…for me I immediately think of the musical “South Pacific”.  Frangipani is the word they use for plumeria the island flower that I grew up making leis with in Hawaii.  So…I envisioned a tropical paradise.  I thought, this winery must be owned by someone creating their own paradise.  Well…it’s a bit simpler than that.  The owner/winemaker is Don Frangipani.  He has however created his own piece of paradise here on the De Portola Wine trail.

We stopped by Frangipani on our final morning in Temecula on our last trip.  They had Sunday Brunch advertised on their website and it seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

Frangipani Dog Frannie

Frangipani Dog Frannie

We were greeting in the parking lot by “Franni” dog and greeter.  After getting a good scratch he led us to the door.  We were early (as usual) and it was pretty quiet when we arrived.  JoAnn Frangipani, Don’s wife set us up with Mango Mimosas with their house sparkling and pointed us to the buffet.  There were fresh muffins and pumpkin bread as well as bagels with lox. The cook made us fresh pulled pork benedicts and we enjoyed the granola fruit parfaits while we waited for that to finish.  Several groups came in while we were there.

Frangipani Patio

Frangipani Patio

They have an outdoor patio with a great view and bocce ball courts.  JoAnn says the patio stays pretty full in the summer.  We didn’t taste here as we were getting on the road to head home.  I look forward to coming back, tasting and enjoying the patio.  The atmosphere here is warm and friendly and JoAnn immediately makes you feel welcome and at home.

Frangipani View

Frangipani View

Don began working with wine in 1995 at Cilurzo Winery in Temecula.  He opened Frangipani in 2003.  He loves red wines and mixes classic French varieties of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with old world Italian styles.  They grow Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah on their estate.

Foot Path Winery & farm

Footpath Winery

Foot Path is not your typical winery.  It’s off the beaten path on Glen Oaks Road.  The property and drive are marked by a banner.

Footpath Tasting

Footpath Tasting

This isn’t a shiny tasting room that you are driving into, it is a working organic farm.  Grapes are just part of what they do.  As you pull up you see the horses and then the metal warehouse that is the winery.  Stroll in and you find barrels on one side and a tasting bar set up in the center.

In all likelihood the person behind the bar is Deane Foote the owner and winemaker.  It’s $10 to try 5 of their wines and they are all reds.  Mr. Foote makes a small amount of white, but it is all for his wife!  This is a family run farm and winery and Deane’s daughter came in while we were there to bring her dad lunch.  Bandit one of the farm cats came in and wandered down the tasting bar.  They are dog friendly, but with the cats…you have to have your dog on a leash.  They do also sell produce from the farm and usually have that listed on the home page of their website so you can see what is in season.  They grow pomegranates figs tangelos lemons grapefruit limes orange.

The wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a couple of blends.  You won’t find lots of oak or extra stuff in the wines.  The wines tend to be fruit forward, are unfiltered and are ready to drink now.  In September family comes in from all over to harvest. This place is not shiny and it makes for a lovely contrast to some of the larger corporate wineries.  It’s quieter, or maybe the noises are just different, horses munching on hay, cat meowing, the buzz of humming birds.  This is farm and family and Deane Foote is making wines that he likes.

In Vino Veritas, A Long and Winding Adventure

Veritas was another winery that Kathy recommended.  Located in Afton not far from 64 this winery is a stunning location for an event.  The winding roads going in made us grateful for the driver.  The tasting room is big and boldly designed in contrast to the white washed farmhouse looking exterior.  The flower baskets in bloom hanging on the porch speak of a simplicity that disappears when you enter the tasting room.    We peeked into the back event room which is tented in silky white fabric for weddings.

Verias Wedding Room

The tasting room opens up 2 stories with a large hanging cork sculpture that reads “LOVE” above the tasting bar.  There is also an elegant (while large) glass sculpture that graces the center of the tasting bar.  There are large leather couches to sit in and enjoy a glass if you like.

Here we tasted 8 wines beginning with the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  This Sav Blanc was clean and not too tart and I enjoyed it.   It boasts a little minerality alongside the grapefruit and lemongrass.

Next we tasted the 2011 Saddleback Chardonnay.  Modeled after the french Chablis they ferment this in stainless steel and then put it into neutral French oak for 4 months.

Their Viognier was lovely as I have found most Virginia Viogniers to be.

The White Star is a fascinating blend of Viognier, Traminette (which was a new varietal to me), Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc (again new to me).  This is a simple fun white blend.

The 2011 Rose was very nice.  This almost salmon colored Rose is Cab Franc & Merlot.  Again a fun rose.  Fun enough that they are shipping me a bottle.

The 2011 Cab Franc was my favorite.  It has a smokiness that I am a complete sucker for.  It is tart with low tannins with a lighter than usual mouth feel for a  Cab Franc due to the late rains of the 2011 season.  Still this easy drinking Cab Franc was on my list to take home.

Love Bar, Veritas Winery in Virginia

The 2010 Vintner’s Reserve is a blend of 42% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is barrel aged so you get vanilla, caramel and mocha as well as black fruits and a little hit of tobacco.  Kathy & Lisa picked up a few of these.  As much as I enjoyed this wine, I was still more enamored by the Cab Franc. Perhaps because of the difference in price ($18 to $35).

The final wine that we tasted is their most popular red blend called the Red Star.  It is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chambourcin (again a new varietal for me).  This is an easy drinking lighter bodied red.  Very easy drinking.

After our tasting we had a little time before the car service was due to return us to our hotel, so we grabbed a bottle of the Vintner’s Reserve and headed out to the patio to enjoy the company the wine and the view.

Over the course of the day we had asked about other local vineyards and one name popped up consistently Pollak.  This is a newer winery but everyone mentioned it.  So they either have great wine or a great marketing team or perhaps both.  It will be on my list for my next trip.

It was a wonderful trip, but I feel like I have just scratched the surface of wines in Virginia.  This state has sooo.. many varietals that I have not explored and I am deeply regretting not having an opportunity to taste some Norton.

 

King Family Vineyards, Crozet Virginia

From Pippin Hill Farm we headed to King Family Vineyards in Crozet.  As we headed out our driver pointed out that our last vineyard was actually closer, but…we had checked the times and the last vineyard was open the latest, so off to King Family Vineyards we went.

This vineyard is family owned and a smaller and more intimate winery.  After the fact I saw that they have a gallery with art showings!  We were so busy with the wine that I missed that while we were there.  The are also known for their Polo matches

Kings-Family-Polo

which begin each year on Memorial Day weekend.The tasting room has a 3 sided bar. The girl who was pouring for us was very knowledgable and was getting ready to graduate with a nursing degree.  When we asked how she came to work here, she said she loved their Chardonnay and would come here, get a glass and study on the porch.  They saw her so often they finally offered her a job.  She really loves the wine and the winery and was passionate about sharing information on the grapes, the vineyards and the vintages.  She began with trying to speak to all of us around the bar who began the tasting together, so as to not leave anyone waiting and give us all great information.  Of course as we began tasting we were all at a different pace, so she broke off to give attention to the individual groups.  She was indeed working the entire bar by herself, but never left us waiting too long and was always happy to provide information.

 

My friend Kathy had recommended this vineyard from a previous trip and she loves their Chardonnay.  Evidently lots of people do because they were sold out and the next vintage doesn’t come out until July!  They did however have a lovely white blend that we tried called Roseland.  Roseland is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Viognier.  40% of the volume is aged in oak so you get a butteriness that is not overpowering mixed with the peach and honeysuckle from the Viognier and a little lemongrass.  Even with the oak it has a clean finish.

Next we tasted the Crose.  This is a 100% Merlot Dry rose and a play on the name of their city.  Lots of tart grapefruit on this one with red fruits coming through.  It is bright crisp and fun.

Their 2010 Merlot was lovely with mocha, deep cherry and wet stone.  Very enjoyable and this one will just get better.

The 2010 Meritage is 43% Merlot, 27% Petit Verdot, 22% Cab Franc and 8% Malbec.  This wine is bright and young.  It had just recently been bottled.  You could see it’s potential, but I think it needs a little more time before drinking.

The 2009 Seven is a fortified wine in the port style.  It is 100% Merlot.  While it sits at 18% alcohol it does not feel hot on the palate.  It does however evaporate faster than almost anything I have ever put in my mouth.  With a bit of dark chocolate this could be lovely for after dinner.

 

King-Family-patio

The final wine we tasted was the 2010 Loreley which is 50% each Viognier and Petit Manseng.  This late harvest wine is fermented and aged in the barrel.  Sweet without being cloying it would again be nice after dinner.   We looked at our watches and knew we had to head out to our final stop of the day at Veritas.