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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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