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Friday, November 27, 2009

Wine Dogs Swim (or Drink) with Dolphins at Delaplane Cellars

Delaplane Cellars

Delaplane, VA

The Virginia Wine Dogs were the second customers through the door on November 27 as Delaplane Cellars officially opened for business (Munchkin confesses to spending a tad too long on her topknot that morning, but a girl's got to look her best at an opening). They were warmly greeted by Jim and Betsy Dolphin, proprietors of the classy new winery, which they began creating in July of 2007.

The first thing that strikes one when entering the tasting room is the dramatic view. Floor-to-ceiling cathedral windows offer a panoramic sweep across vineyards (seven acres currently under vine) and picturesque farmland framed by the breathtaking Blue Ridge mountains.

Betsy planned it that way.

Indeed, Betsy's taste and attention to detail have created an environment that is sophisticated and inviting. Walls are painted soothing hues of gray and blue that complement the scenery outside and the room's clean architectural lines. An advocate of sustainable agriculture, when black walnut trees had to be removed from the property because they are toxic to grapes, Betsy had them milled down and used the rich dark wood for the bar and doors.

The staff, dressed in simple black, adds to Delaplane Cellar's sophisticated image, intended to appeal to GenB (for Baby Boom) wine connoisseurs. If tasting room manager Autumn looks familiar, you may have seen her at her former post at the Inn at Little Washington.

Munchkin and Pomeroy felt right at home as they settled in to try Jim's wines. Jim has been tiptoing around the periphery of the Virginia wine industry for years.
"The more I learned about it, the more interested I became," he explained.

Jim took a winemaking course with Linden's Jim Law and began making wine as an amateur, much like Munchkin and Pomeroy. In fact, Munchkin first met Jim last year during her grape adventure gathering fruit from BOW for her own first homewinemaking attempt.

Jim met with more success than his canine counterparts. His three refreshing whites include a barrel-fermented Chardonney and two Viogniers, the one from Maggie's Vineyard near Breaux set Pomeroy's tail wagging.

The reds had Munchkin begging for more. All three are from the superb 2007 Virginia crop. There is a CabFranc and a beautiful Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petiti Verdot, aptly named Left Bank. The star of the collection is the Syrah, which Jim has tagged as an up and coming grape in Virginia. Forget what you know about New Zealand's offerings, this wine is full bodied, rich and lush.

"Delaplane... I think they've got it!" yipped Professor Pomeroy. "Luverly," Munchkin agreed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Over Hill and on to Aspen Dale with the Wine Dogs

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
Delaplane, VA

Coming off the mountain, Munchkin gave a bark of delight as she spied a new winery off John Marshall Highway (Rt. 55).

Upon entering Aspen Dale, the Wine Dogs were transported back to Revolutionary War days. Guard-dog Roy kept a watchful eye on the door, expecting to see General Washington wandering into the charming barn-turned-tasting room for a drink at any moment.

Claud and Shay McNeal Poulen bought the 50-acre property “for the history” 12 years ago. Aspendale is one of the oldest farms in Virginia, with the earliest part of the house and barns dating back to the 1780s.

The wine-loving couple also began making wine for their own consumption. Soon, an idea took root. “It was her birthday,” Claud recalls. “We were at our favorite restaurant and I asked for a bottle of their best Carmenère from Chile.” The bottle that came out boasted an Aspen Dale label.

So amateur winemaker Shay (who is also a published author) turned professional, following in the footsteps of her ancestor who styled himself in his 1728 will – Thomas Parris, Vintner.

A once drafty barn has been transformed into a warm and inviting refuge.

Pomeroy is particularly fond of relaxing by the fireplace, as is his Dad, especially on chilly afternoons.

Munchkin fell in love with the décor –a blend of colonial Virginia and country French (Claud is French Canadian) – declaring it the perfect place to bring her Mom’s college pal, whose daughter is studying in France.

Vines were planted three years ago, dotting the picturesque landscape where Cromwell, a 7-month-old Great Dane, roams among the horses. The vines will “hang five,” spending two more years in the ground before grapes are harvested for wine.

In the meantime, Shay is producing award-winning wines using fruit from Breaux. Even before the doors opened in May, every Aspen Dale wine had medaled at the Mid Atlantic competition, including a gold for the Rockawalkin Cabernet Sauvignon, which Shay describes as “my personal baby; the one I made for myself.”

CabSauv also happens to be the name of what is perhaps Virginia’s first winery bird, who welcomed the Wine Dogs to Aspen Dale while Assistant Winemaker Daisy introduced them to Aspen Dale’s five wines.

Food hound that she is, Munchkin was wild about the unique pairings, which included pheasant and bison. Pomeroy gave a “hats off” to Sarah’s Chapeau, a Vidal/Sauvignon Blanc blend named for Shay’s great grandmother, Sarah Parris, who loved hats. Sweeter palates will also appreciate the Rose and the crisp and refreshing Sanscerre-style Sauvignon Blanc.

The Wine Dogs settled on the Parris County Blend, named for the ancestral plantation four miles away. This wonderful melding of Melot with a peppering of Cabernet Franc reflects the melding of wine and history throughout Aspen Dale.

* * * * * *
A Wine Dog shout out to furry fan Maxwell Keddie, a golden retriever they met at Aspen Dale. Max's Dad told Munchkin and Pomeroy: "I read the blog – that’s how we figure out which winery to visit."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wine Dogs Get Political

Alexandria, VA

Munchkin and Pomeroy have taken a break from their usual wine tours to bark the vote for Bob McDonnell in Tuesday's election.

For a pair of wine-loving pups, Bob McDonnell is a natural choice for Governor.

The former Attorney General (shown below with the Richmond SPCA's mascot, Nemo) received the 2008 National Humane Law Enforcement Award for his work to combat animal fighting in Virginia, and the enthusiastic endorsement of the Human Society in his bid to become the next Governor of Virginia.
Bob also appreciates Virginia's farm wineries and has made promotion of the industry a key plank of his plan to bring jobs to the Commonwealth.

"Not only is it good for agriculture, we're up to almost 7th leading wine producer in America, but for tourism all those wine festivals, wine tour is a great way to get all those out of state dollars here to Virginia to see the wineries, spend money on hotels and something we need to promote signifigantly," McDonnell said during a visit to Blue Ridge Vineyard in August.

And that's the word with the bark on it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wine Dogs Blogging Live from Rappahannock Cellars

Rappahannock Cellars

Huntley, Virginia

Munchkin and Pomeroy are finishing a great Columbus Day weekend of wining with all our good friends at Rappahannock Cellars.

Sam gave us a great tasting in the Club Room... love those reds! 2007 Cab Franc won international award.

Now enjoying a concert by Robbie Limon (click on video to enjoy his mellow sounds).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wine Dogs Harvest Friends and More at Gadino

Gadino Cellars

Washington, VA

The Wine Dogs reported for duty at Gadino Cellars just as a hearty group of volunteers were finishing up the morning harvest.

Pomeroy supervised the crush as thousands of sweet purple grapes poured from basket to machine to begin their transformation into fine 2009 vintage wine.

Meanwhile, Munchkin joined the gathering crowd in the colorful tasting room to catch up on the current vintages.

Aleta Gadino and her aide de camp, Heather, filled the Wine Dogs in on Gadino’s recent award winners. The 2007 Cabernet Franc fetched a well deserved gold. Pet named Antichi Viti Reserva because it is made from 20-year-old vines – the oldest on the property – the wine has rich flavors and the signature black pepper tones of mocha which the Wine Dogs appreciated since they are not allowed to drink coffee.

It was one of several standouts among Gadino’s 07 class, noteworthy as one of Virginia’s best ever wine-growing years. The Wine Dogs were disappointed to find the 07 Pinot Grigio had sold out during the summer, but found the 2008 to be a refreshing substitute for a patio white.

Pomeroy chose the 2006 Barrel Select Chardonney to enjoy on Gadino’s deck, where the Wine Dogs made lots of new friends and met fans who had read about them in Our Town magazine.

An autumn treat was the three-squash soup, served warm with a glass of the 2007 Viognier, a crisp wine fermented in oak then barreled in stainless steel to allow the fruit to shine.

Among the Wine Dogs' missions at the Gadino stop was checking on the progress of Petit Verdot vines they planted on Earth Day. Obviously 2009 was a very good year. Four months ago, the stock reached barely as high as a Yorkie's eye. Now, the vines were climbing like Jack's beanstalk and spreading across the trellises. Next year, grapes!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wasted Away in Pawgaritaville

Alexandria is known for being dog-friendly, and the Del Ray neighborhood is no exception. From late spring to early fall, the community celebrates the First Thursday in style with a street party along Mt. Vernon Avenue. With shops open late, humans stroll the streets and enjoy special entertainment with their children and pets.

A top attraction for September's "Taste of Del Ray" was the Pawgariteville celbration hosted by one of the Wine Dogs' favorite bow-tiques, Barkley Square.

Attracted by the festive Buffet music and the Biscuit Buffet, the canine crowd poured into the courtyard. Eager to get one last taste of summer, Munchkin donned her Hawaiian print dress and joined the paw-ty, where she was warmly welcomed by owner Kristina and her little ones, Gigi and Gracie.

Publicity hound that she is, Munchkin graciously consented to a couple of on-camera interviews, after which she had her photo snapped for the GW Slept Here blog (filling in for the absent Pomeroy). Kristina tells us that the next First Thursday (October 1) will be the big Barktoberfest. The Wine Dogs can't wait.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vino Vixen Interviews the Wine Dogs

The oh-so-fabulous Vino Vixen sat down to talk industry with the Virginia Wine Dogs last month. Read on for the full interview, which appears in the September 15 edition of Our Town Magazine.

Virginia’s Wine Bloggin’ Dogs
Mari Stull
The Vino Vixen

Pomeroy and Munchkin are the well-heeled dogs of refined taste and pedigree that only Old Virginia can believably breed. These good ‘ole Virginia dogs possess a penchant for the rolling hills Hunt Country, and a proclivity for the wines produced in the more genteel areas of our fair Commonwealth. Yes, if a pair of dogs could claim descendency from Thomas Jefferson’s four legged best friends, Pomeroy and Munchkin surely would.

Pomeroy and Munchkin’s fondness for Virginia Wine and their naturally acute palates led to their career as Virginia’s first (and only) wine blogging dogs ( It’s an appropriate gig for these galavanting bon-vivants - allowing Pomeroy and Munchkin the luxury of lazy country drives to Virginia’s finest wineries while enjoying the fruits of their vineyards. I had a chance to sit down, sip and chat with Pomeroy and Munchkin - wine critic to wine critic.


Munchkin: Well, my mother has a getaway house in Linden, Virginia, which is a great jumping off point to some terrific wineries. She’d take me to area wineries on the weekends and I’d scamper around the vineyards and tasting rooms. Mostly just to burn some energy and pee. Then one day, about three years ago, I lapped up a little Cabernet Franc that spilled out of a barrel - I was hooked. I’ve never gone back to bowls of warm water since.

Pomeroy: My father is friends with Munchkin’s mother, so we started going along with them. I happen to be a very good photographer, and Munchkin is a very good writer. The two of us decided to put our talents together and chronicle our wine adventures on our blog. We never really wanted to do the whole fetch a frisbee, chase your tail thing. We’re a bit more evolved than that.


Munchkin: Look Vixen, we can explain the entire malolachtic fermentation process and describe in detail vinification steps from primary fermentation to stabilization, to bottling. We took a winemaking course at Three Fox Vineyards. And our sense of smell is about 100 times more acute than your pathetic little human nose.

Pomeroy: Sorry. Munchkin gets a bit defensive when people question our wine knowledge. The fact is, we’ve visited hundreds of vineyards and wineries, sipped probably thousands of wines, and chatted with dozens of winemakers. And let’s face it. We’re furry and cute, so winemakers tend to really open up to us. Bet you can’t say that, Vino Vixen.

(At this point, a little growling and teeth-baring ensued. But, Pomeroy and Munchkin ignored me.)


Munchkin: Pearmund Cellars (, Barrel Oak Winery ( and Rappahannock Cellars (, and/or any winery where Robbie Limon ( happens to be headlining the entertainment.


Pomeroy: October is Virginia Wine Month. You owe it to yourself to take a relaxing country drive to our own beautiful wineries. The leaves will be turning, the air will be cool and crisp, and
harvest will have just concluded - perfect for exploring Virginia wine country.

Munchkin: With this horrendous economy, who has the means to make it out to Napa or Sonoma - much less Bordeaux or Tuscany. Your own backyard has some of the most magnificent vineyards and friendliest wineries. Take advantage of it.

And Vixen - scratch my tummy and refill my wine glass.


Check out Pomeroy and Munchkin’s latest wine adventures at


The Vino Vixen is
Mari Stull - Syndicated
wine columnist,
correspondent for Wine
Taste TV, member of
the Society of Wine Educators and wine
director for The Carlyle Club.
She’s off to Champagne this month
to tour the vineyards and sip the bubbly!
Have a wine question or comment for
Mari? She can be reached at

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beaching It with the Wine Dogs

Aqua S Restaurant

Duck, NC

Munchkin and Pomeroy are back in the Outer Banks for their annual beach vacation.

First stop as they pulled in on Saturday was Aqua S, a sassy new restaurant in Duck which opened last year. The sign out front said "Wine Tasting Saturday." How could loyal wine doggies resist? Especially when a Virginia wine -- Prince Michel's Rapidan River Riesling -- was featured.

Owner Lynette Sumner, a level 2 Sommelier, designed a delightful flight of four wines. The three whites and one lovely red started the vacation off just right. (Mom really liked the Four Sisters wine -- shout out to Karen, Ann, and Heather!)

The waterfront setting proved so enticing that the Wine Dogs stayed to watch the sunset and listen to music from the deck. A return visit is certainly a must.

Check out the Wine Dogs' adventures last summer. And stay tuned for more Carolina Wining in the days ahead.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wine Dogs Fill a Gap (in a Manor of Speaking)

Glen Manor Vineyards
Front Royal, VA

Last year, Munchkin and Pomeroy found their perfect summer Rose' at Chester Gap. So as they prepared for their annual beach jaunt, they dropped in to resupply.

Doggoneit! Berndt did not make a 2008 Rose (and the 2007 was long gone).

Never ones to waste a perfectly good winery visit, the Wine Dogs picked up a couple of bottles of Merlot and enjoyed a lovely bottle of Chester Gap Viognier while taking in the outstanding view of lush vines from Berndt's deck.

It proved to be a serandipitous choice. While the pups were drowning their disappointment, Munchkin pawed through a magazine and discovered an oh-so-timely feature on Virginia's best Roses. Excitedly, she told Pomeroy a trip to the new winery at Glen Manor Vineyards was in their future.

The next challenge was squeezing the visit into their busy schedule. Owner Jeff White came to the rescue by opening up an hour early on Sunday for the Wine Dogs. Jeff ushered the Wine Dogs into a clean and sleek tasting room, featuring blond wood, leather chairs, and oriental rugs. Following close behind was leading Virginia Tech viticulturalist Dr. Tony Wolf, a consultant and fan of the new winery, bringing friends from the 'Burgh.

Warren County's first winery opened last April on a 226-acre farm in a glen ringed by Skyline Drive (for the best view, check out Gooney Manor Overlook). The farm has been in White's family for more than a century, but it wasn't until 1995 that Jeff , who was working for Jim Law at Linden, planted his first vines.

Today, Glen Manor has 14-1/2 acres in grapes. The more recently planted, mostly red Bordeaux vines (2008-09), are on much steeper slopes than the earlier vines. Jeff currently produces 1,200 cases of wine a year, with plans to expand to between 3,000 and 4,ooo cases.

The oldest vines are the Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The Wine Dogs tasted both the 2007 and 2008 vintages. The former is Sancerre style, with great legs and a mineral taste. "This wine is all about the texture and weight," White explained. In contrast, the New Zealand style 2008 is a lighter, fruitier, flowery wine. He must have recalled the Wine Dogs were shopping for the beach, because he told them to think Buffet and the Beach Boys.

Yum-yum, said Munchkin as she tasted the 2007 Cab Franc, aged in 50 percent new oak. The final wine was the 2007 Hodder Hill -- the name of the older vineyard. The Bordeaux blend was leggy with excellent balance and structure.

Oh, and the Rose'... Munchkin and Pomeroy took a six-pack home after taking in the view of Skyline Drive from the back deck.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wine Dogs Find Hot Stuff in the PC Cellar

Philip Carter Winery of Virginia
Hume, VA

It turned out to be a day of wine and roses as the Wine Dogs stopped in for a Father's Day barrel tasting at the Philip Carter Winery.

Charles Carter - who could be called the father of winemakers in Virginia, having produced award winning wine in the 1700s - would be proud of the efforts of his decendent, Philip Carter Strother. Philip and wife Danielle purchased Stillhouse Vineyards last year. While the first PC Wines were introduced last May, the 08 vintage will be the first under the complete control of the new owners.[For bargain hunters, the final bottles of Stillhouse are a steal at $5/bottle.]

Prepare to be impressed. Based on what Munchkin and Pomeroy tasted, winemaker and vineyard manager Seth Chambers has some hot stuff going on in the PC Cellar. Seth, one of a growing list of proteges of Chris Pearmund in the Virginia wine industry, is the sole full-time employee at Philip Carter. That keeps him busy on a property that grows all its own grapes except the vidal (and is planting more), and which bottles 1,000 cases of wine a year, with plans to grow to 2,800.

Seth started by pouring the Vidal, followed by a Chardonney which exhibited a citrusy (apple-crispy) and oaky flavor with hints of butterscotch produced by a slow malolactic fermentation.

The real treat was the Cab Franc, an elegant vintage heightened with 5 percent Petit Verdot and aged in 50 percent neutral oak. Roy told Munchkin, "Cab Francly, my dear, this will be a wine to watch."

The Meritage, which will be bottled in February, features 80 percent of the same outstanding Cab Franc grapes, mixed with 18 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent Petit Verdot.

All in all, the Wine Dogs are excited about the latest developments at Philip Carter, and look forward to watching this new winery, and its wines, mature.

What a wonderful blog. Thank you so much. It is so good to have the support of you all. My best,



We always enjoy your visit! Thank you for the cutest blog!

Regards to all,

Donna Johnson
Tasting Room Mgr., Events Coordinator
Philip Carter Winery

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