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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wine Dogs Make Wine: Lesson 6 (Put a Cork in It... We're Done!)

Three Fox Vineyards
Delaplane, VA

It's bottle and cork time! No surprise, Munchkin and Pomeroy have become teacher's pets, and in the last class, John uses our wine for the demonstration.

Everybody gets to taste "Wine Dog" wine!

Munchkin, ever the perfectionist, feared the team had "over-oaked."

Pomeroy assured her that it just needs time in a bottle for the flavors to blend and intensify.

And the classmates agree, giving Wine Dogs two paws up.

One minor issue -- the wine is a little short on mouth-feel. Additives to the rescue, this time in the form of a jammy substance called exberry, which is basically grapeskin. Mixed in 20 grams and it's ready to hit the bottle.

Once again, we set up a wine-pumping assembly line, with Munchkin and Pomeroy supervising the bottling process.

Uncle Jeff quickly learned it takes great precision to fill the bottles just to the neck.

He did a pretty good job... most of the time. Fortunately, Munchkin was on hand to take care of the spillage. In this case, it turns out the wine isn't really good to the last drop. We left the residue behind, but ended up with 28 bottles.

To close them up, we used a manual corking machine, which squeezes the cork then jams it in. John did everyone's bottles. Quite a workout!

Then over to the foil machine (there's one for that, too). Slip the cap on top of the bottle, and slide it into a really hot machine. Uncle Jeff never did get the in-out motion right, but everyone else seemed to master capping.

All in all, the Wine Dogs are proud of their first vintage. The cabernet is rich and complex, and goes down smooth. John predicts that when we serve it at our paw-ty, our guests will think we got the wine in France. We'll tell 'em it was bottled in a little town just outside of Paris... Paris, Virginia that is.

Cheers to all our classmates... keep up your wining ways!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BOW Wows the Wine Dogs

Barrel Oak Winery
Delaplane, VA

Munchkin and Pomeroy got so caught up in the grand opening excitment at Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) they almost forgot to post.

What a day! The big stone fireplace was still an open hole in the wall; the railing had yet to be connected upstairs; and there were bathroom glitches. But the tasting room and the wines were ready for the the crowds that came pouring in off I-66. Host Brian Roeder welcomed the Wine Dogs warmly, and led us through a tasting of seven basic-flight and five reserve wines in between greetings from his buds and even a congratulatory call from home.

Sharon serves as winemaker, and her basic wines are solid. The BOWHaus White recently took Gold at both the Virginia State Fair and again at the 2008 Indy International Wine Competition. We can attest that it's light and fresh and a great patio-sipping wine on a hot summer day. Even Munchkin, a confirmed red wine drinker enjoyed, although she is partial to the BOWHaus Red (note the pawprints on the bottle).

Pomeroy found the Merlot easy to drink, while Munchkin was torn between her usual fav the CabFranc (great peppery finish) and the velvety smooth Petit Verdot. Not to be missed are the dessert wines, the pineapply Late Harvest Viogner was great, but overshadowed by the Chocolate Lab. This rich red blend aged with real chocolate is a dessert in itself.

Flowers lined the tasting bar, including an arrangement bearing good luck wishes from Holli and John at neighboring Three Fox Vineyards. The Roeders are helping promote synergy among Fauquier County's wineries and businesses, even bringing in the alpacas from the Full Moon Farm. There are beautiful alpaca items for sale in the spacious tasting room as well. Brian has seen to every detail, playing up advantage of setting and incorporating rocks from the Blue Ridge and wood from barrels into the design.

The tasting room flows gracefully out to the patio, with its vista views of the vineyards, the mountains, and John Marshall's estate. The Roeder's new Golden Retriever, Justice, is named in his honor. Word is the young pup overindulged one day on strawberries that had fermented in the hot sun and got a little tipsy. He's going to make a great Wine Dog!

When it's good, you keep coming back. And the Wine Dogs think Barrel Oak Winery is the cat's meow. Munchkin's already visited three times, and the whole pack will return on Friday, July 18 for BOW's TGISunset under the Blood Moon. We can't wait to check it out, and to and see how Puppy Justice has grown.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wine Dogs Fall into the (Chester) Gap

Chester Gap Cellars
Front Royal, VA

The Wine Dogs made their second visit to Chester Gap this weekend to pick up more bottles of the their new summer standard... the 2006 Rose, an exquisite blend of CabFranc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot bled off the fine grapes grown on the estate.

It was April when Roy and Munchkin first fell into the Gap... actually, they decided to spring up on Chester Gap Cellars to check out the new tasting room and patio deck (the a picnic table was crafted by the local tech class). For years, owners Bernd and Kristi Jung had been doing their tastings under a canvas tent behind their home.

"We focus on the wine," Bernd told the Wine Dogs, and the results certainly show. This wine is Quality with a capital "Q." Merchants and restaurants in DC and across Virginia are lapping it up (as did the Wine Dogs). The Chester Gap label can be found in more than 80 establishments, including Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, or look for it when dining at Bistro Bis, the Georgetown Club, Charlie Palmer's and the Inn at Little Washington, among others. Not bad for a small vineyard that produces 1,500 cases a year.

German-born Bernd has been making wine since mid-1980s, arriving in Virginia via Florida. A five-year quest for a site more reminiscent of his native Bavaria, with rolling hills and and lush mountains brought the Jungs to Virginia. As soon as they saw the property "on the top of the world," with its eastern exposures for the grapes and stunning views of the Blue Ridge for their guests, the Jung's made an offer. They knew they had found their dream vineyard.

Bernd is an excellent and enthusiastic host. He led our pack through a tasting of seven wines and patiently answered every question barked out at him. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, kept cold to discourage malolactic fermentation. The 2006 Viognier has an exceptionally soft feel and was delicious, as is the 2006 Viognier Reserve, fermented in steel, then aged in oak. Even the reds are soft, especially the 2006 Merlot. We tasted both a 2005 and 2006 CabFranc, the former blended with 4 percent Petit Verdot and 4 percent Merlot; the latter only the Petit Verdot to produce a strong nose, excellent mouthfeel and the peppery finish Munchkin loves. She was also impressed with the silver spit buckets.

Meanwhile, Kristi took turns serving other customers and watching the couple's exuberant 3-1/2 year old son, Luke. The Wine Dogs took Luke off her hands, Pomeroy leading him in a lively game of chase and hide and go seek... more fun even than chasing ball.

Chester Gap can be a little hard to find as you approach off 522. Look for the barrel on the left-hand side of the street, right after you pass the turn-off to the right for the town of Chester Gap.

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