15 June 2010

Vintage Virginia Part 1

Last weekend Lauren and I went to the Vintage Virginia wine festival in field somewhere in Virginia. I heard a rumor that it was a field in Centerville but all I know is that I got on a bus and (after much wrong turning because apparently the bus drivers were given poor directions) we arrived in a field in Virginia. There were close to 50 wineries represented at the festival along with vendors selling nuts, cheeses, oils, art, jewelry, etc and carnivalesque food stands (the gyro was horrendous).  While we did not make it to all almost 50 tastings, we did a good job considering the almost 90 degree heat and thousand percent humidity.

I tried to grab a tasting sheet from each place but may have missed a couple so we'll just tour those I have. Also in no particular order except the order in which I haphazardly stacked them on my desk.

First up is the Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery. They're tasting list was much longer than there were tastes to be had...but I suppose it would be a teaser to venture out to Nellysford, VA and try the rest. Their Virginia Blackberry Wine was first and is apparently made with blackberries that they not only grow themselves but that are frozen before being crushed. I don't know what kind of a difference that makes but holy tartness Batman! Maybe it's because I don't like blackberries? But wow. We were given absolutely no time to recover before the Mountain Apple Wine was splashed into our glasses. I believe I heard him say that there were six different kinds of apples in the wine. All I tasted was some apple up front and then nothing terribly special after. Next came the Sweet Cherry wine. As our wine splasher said, don't let the name fool you. My only note on the sheet was TART!! which I also underlined a couple times.  What really attracted us to this particulary tent was their sign.

They also make mead! For those of you unfamiliar with mead...it's fermented honey. Have I mentioned that I don't like honey? We tried the Blue Ridge Mountain Mead, the Perry, the Lavender Metheglin, and the Dragon's Blood. My notes for the first two were just HONEY, for the third I took no notes and just shuddered (I also dislike lavendar) and the Dragon's Blood which is a pomegranate melomel (mead with fruit) was both tart and honey. Hill Top also mixes their own sangria and that was pretty good. Very fruity and crisp and much appreciated on such a hot day. I did actually buy a bottle of the lavender but it was for a gift.

The Mattaponi Winery from Spotsyvlvania (no I didn't make that up) somewhat underwhelmed us at first. The chardonnay was meh as chards tend to be-although Lauren pointed out that it kind of tasted not so much oaky as wood chippy. I never thought I would think about the difference between the taste of wood in barrell versus chip form. She was kind of right though and then I started thinking about rabbit warrens and hamsters...and was then jarred back to reality with a merlot that was actually hot. Ok so two things wrong with this. One, as a small winery why waste your time with what is possibly the most disdained wine at the moment and still suffering from Sideways's slam...and two, yes I know it's 200 degrees out here and red wines are (generally) not served chilled but it's 200 bloody degrees out here! It's ok to chill it a bit. We then had the first of their two dessert specialty wines. The first was a blueberry. No. That's all I have to say. The second was the Odeimin or strawberry wine. The Odeimin made up for the first three magnificently. It had a really interesting amber color from the berries and tasted like strawberry heaven. We bought a bottle.

Horton Cellars was up next. I take away points from them right at the beginning because their people were giving us contradictory information and no one seemed to be communicating. Onto the wine then. They had an impressive selection of 25 wines. We did not try all of them. We began with the reds which were fairly typical of reds. A cab franc which was pretty good actually, quite jammy which I like in a red. A malbec which I was predisposed to enjoy because, well I like malbecs. The raspberry notes in this one were particularly strong. A pinotage which must not have impressed me since I didn't write down anything, and a Norton (native Virginian) which had a nice spciness to it. I'm sorry we didn't try the whites as Horton offers a rkatsiteli which is a Georgian (think country not state)/Russian type wine and I am curious how they did with it. Next up were their fruit wines which is what drew us to the tent in the first place. All of them were a blend of fruit with a wine (unlike the Mattaponi Odeimin) and there was:
  • Pear/viogner
  • Peach/Viogner
  • Strawberry/grenache
  • Raspberry/cab franc
  • Pomegranate/syrah
  • Blueberry/petit verdot
  • Blackberry/petit verdot
  • Cranberry/cab franc
The last three all made me shudder but possibly I was a) still suffering the after effects of the Mattaponi blueberry wine and/or b) I just don't like balckberries and crandberries. And yes mom, I am a picky eater but I'll at least try anything once. I didn't see you clamouring to eat fish eyes and fried bumblebees in Taipei. The pear I enjoyed as did I the peach (I heart peach) and the strawberry was good but could not hold a candle to the Mattaponi. What was a revelation though was the raspberry. I was pretty bowled over by it. It was tart and mixed beautifully with the cab franc and perfect. I bought a bottle of that. Then we tried two of their dessert wines. The Xoco blanco and rojo. Wines infused with chocolate. I know what you're probably thinking. That is is freaking brilliant, right? I totally get it because I was thinking that too. Then I tried them. The Xoco blanco tasted...like peanuts. *cricket cricket* Peanuts. I was actually intrigued because I cannot recall ever having drunk anything that tasted like peanuts. Peanut butter sure but not peanuts. And the blanco turned out to be my favorite. Lauren rightly stated that the rojo tasted like stickers. Remember scratch and sniff stickers? Have you ever smelt one that was supposed to be chocolate but really smelled like the fake chocolate of stickers, candles, and body dust? That's what this tasted like. A for effort I guess but...fail.

We decided to take a break and have a gander at some of the vendors. One of the hottest commodities at the fair, other than the wine itself, were wine caddies.

(Lauren's pic)

Tons of vendors had these and you could get them made out of all sorts of things. Some were fancy and made of copper, others knitted or crocheted, some leather, and so on. The point being that you wear the loop around your neck and nestle your wine glass in the caddy so as to keep your hands free and make sure to not lose your glass.

We also stopped by Oil & Vinegar from Charlottesville.

Some interesting flavors but I find that I vastly prefer the oils offered by Fig & Olive in New York. Oil & Vinegar did have a bruschetta mix that was to die for though. I could have stood there eating the sample all day. Or until I needed more wine.

So by about the halfway point of our day we were feeling pretty good. It was, as I mentioned, about 500 degrees out with about 3000% humidity but it was overcast so at least we weren't feeling the sun. Lauren had cleverly bought some bottled water before we arrived to prevent our being gouged for a basic need out in the middle of nowhere Virginia, we'd had some wine and some oil and were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

(Us feeling good about ourselves)

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