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Monday, January 19, 2009

Wine Dogs Head South (to North Mountain)

Among their New Year's resolutions, Munchkin and Pomeroy pledged to branch out beyond their familiar Blue Ridge/Fauquier County wineries. Having met owner and winemaker John Jackson at the Shenandoah Balloon Festival and been impressed with his 2005 Chambourcin, the Wine Dogs put North Mountain at the top of their list for 2009.

North Mountain sits on 960 acres in Shenandoah County, one of the driest areas in the Eastern United States (good for letting the grapes get ripe and juicy on the vine). Most of the grapes are grown on the estate, with the vines tended by John’s stepfather, Brad Foster. The soil’s high limestone content gives the wines a distinctive taste. A good example is the Vidal Blanc, a unique expression of the wine that is dry, but not overpowering.

As they entered the tasting room, the Wine Dogs were greeted by John and Wolfie, a 4-month-old Belgian Sheep Dog, one of two new canine members of the North Mountain family. The other is Susie Q, a rescue beagle (Go Beagle!).

The lovely Lee led the Wine Dogs through a regular tasting of seven wines, followed by a sampling of seven limited production wines. When they were done, Lee remarked on Roy’s tongue hanging from his mouth, commenting “I don’t know if he’s had a lot of wine.”

The Wine Dogs found the 2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve had an especially nice finish. Lee told us the Mountain Midnight, a Port-style wine but softer and less sweet, made her “want to sing and dance,” but it was the 2005 Chambourcin that got Munchkin up on her hind legs. Not usually much for fruit, Munchkin couldn’t resist the Mountain Sunset Apple Blush, and the Spiced Holiday Wine, warmed in the microwave, was a great antidote to the winter chill.

After tasting the '07 Claret (100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon), which John said will mature nicely if you set it down a year, the Wine Dogs chose a bottle of the '06 to enjoy. The indoor facilities were comfortable, with fireplace and large windows overlooking the still domant vines.
As a special treat, John took the Wine Dogs down to the intimate Barrel Room, where congressmen and other VIPs are entertained. There they got to check out the 07 Cabernet Franc as well as Late Vidal, which was still suffering from bottle shock but showed excellent promise.

The Wine Dogs are planning a return visit to North Mountain on February 28 for the annual Chili Cook-Off, where Roy’s dad will compete for top chili dog.

INTRODUCING IZZY: No, you’re not seeing double. The third Wine Dog (in the middle) is Isabella. Like Roy, Izzy is a Pomeranian. Although new to winetasting, she is quickly developing a taste for the grape.

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