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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wine Dogs Go Clubbing at Rappahannock

Rappahannock Cellars
Huntley, Virginia

There are wine clubs, and there are wine clubs, but the Wine Dogs have found few compare to the Wine Club at Rappahannock Cellars, where Munchkin is in her fifth year of membership.

On Saturday, the Munchkin and Pomeroy joined fellow Wine Club members at the club’s Progressive Soup Party. That's the special thank you that proprietor John Delmare hosts every year for Wine Club members.

Marketing Director Allan Delmare runs the 850-member club, and Kelly Delmare, Rappahannock’s tasting room manager, was responsible for the event. “It’s a great gift to have your son and daughter come back and engage in the business,” their proud papa said, admitting “It is a lot more fun to come to work every day.”

Even the youngest of the 12 Delmare pups (nine girls and three boys) got involved as daughters Grace, Sophia, and Maura saw that check-in ran smoothly and kept tables supplied with bread.

The complimentary wine starts flowing as soon as guests arrive at the soup event (this year’s selections, the Noblesse Blanc and North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon). A four course meal follows, with soup and wine paired to perfection.

The Wine Dogs agreed that the Chardonnay was an excellent complement to the rich Champagne Brie soup (a perennial favorite), and the New World Red balanced nicely with the Spicy Black Bean and Italian Sausage soup. But the Chapelle Charlemange Cab Franc, paired with Wild Rice and Mushroom soup, stole the show, earning a full eight paws up.
Fresh baked pecan cookies and the amber-hued Solara finished the meal.

Wine Club members also get a taste of what’s happening in the vineyard and the barrel room at the soup event.
Winemaker Jason Burrus said the buzz around Virginia this year is excellent grapes courtesy of the drought, producing high-quality/high alcohol wine. He expects the stars of 2010 to be the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Viognier (2009 is definitely the year for Cab Franc, Jason says, and the winemaker says he’s bottling a Glenway Vineyard CF and “it is divine”).

Big wines weren’t the only big news at this year's event. Wine Club members Rob and Lynn had their first date at Rappahannock Cellars two-and-a-half years ago; on Saturday, Rob popped the question (and the cork); Lynn said yes; and the happy couple will probably hold their wedding at Rappahannock as well.

Membership has its privileges, as Pomeroy knows.

Rappahannock has a club room where Members can bring guests for complimentary tastings or a glass of wine (is Munchkin drunk under the table?).

The Wine Dogs love the special Members-only section of the deck, where the paw-ty never stops. You never know who is going to pop up (or pop out, as this Wine Club member did to hear Robbie Limon play).

Wine Club members get discounts on wine and first notification to all events held at Rappahannock Cellars. Munchkin and Pomeroy highly recommend the Barrel Tastings with Jason and Vineyard Manager Tom Kelly. That’s where the Wine Dogs’ began to train their sensitive canine noses and sophisticated little palates to fully appreciate the great grape.

So how can you join the club? Just buy two bottles of yummy Rappahannock Cellars wine every month at a 15 percent discount, and you're in. That's right. No membership fees, and unlike a cellphone contract, you can cancel whenever you like with no penalty.

The club is exceptionally flexible. If like Munchkin your palate runs to reds, you can go red-only - or just swap out the white when the mood strikes you (a woman's prerogative and all). Don't like sweet wines - substitute.
Rappahannock will ship your monthly selections, but why pass up an excuse to visit Virginia Wine Country and pick up your wine personally. Perhaps you'll run into your favorite Wine Dogs there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wine Dogs Uncover the Naked Truth

Naked Mountain Vineyard and Winery
Markham, Virginia

One of Virginia’s oldest wineries is under new ownership. Randy and Meagan Morgan visited Naked Mountain in February, enjoyed the wines, and then learned the winery was for sale.

Jumping at the opportunity to own their own business and follow their passion for wine, they purchased Naked Mountain from founders Bob and Phoebe Harper in August – just in time for harvest. “We survived,” Meagan said. “The staff were patient, coaching us through it.”

On Sunday, the Virginia Wine Dogs sat down with the young pups for an interview (at 27 and 26, respectively, Randy and Meagan are probably the youngest winery owners in Virginia). While they have plans for taking Naked Mountain on to a new generation, the Morgans see themselves as stewards of a great tradition.

For starters, the barrel-fermented Chardonnay – once served at the White House – will continue as Naked Mountain’s flagship wine. “Naked has a great white wine tradition,” Randy told Munchkin. The new owners intend to maintain the current production level of about 2,500 cases a year, while broadening the selection. One of the first areas to be replanted will be the 35-year-old Chardonnay grapes.

The staff stayed on, including Cellar Master Brooke Walter. She led the Wine Dogs through a tasting of six Naked Mountain wines. Munchkin was delighted to find solid reds in the line-up, including the 2006 Cab Franc and the Scarlet Oak Red (a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre, and Tannat). Pomeroy loved the new Chardonnay/Riesling, an off-dry white with fruit perfectly balancing the 2% residual sugar. “It is the first vintage I was responsible for,” Brooke beamed.

As part of taking Naked Mountain into the next generation, the Morgans plan to update the logo. They also want to open up the tasting room to host more people, while keeping the homey, warm feel of the ski-chalet setting. “Virginia wine crowds are getting bigger and bigger,” Randy said, noting the synergy among area wine owners and the support given to the industry by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his team. “We want people to think of visiting the winery like visiting our home,” Meagan added.

Randy also hinted at an expansion of the deck that overlooks the vineyards and offers a remarkable view of the Blue Ridge, as well as additional parking.

The Wine Dogs were delighted to learn that the famous Naked Mountain lasagna lunches, a mainstay of their winter wining, will continue.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wine Dogs Fall (Again) for Philip Carter

Philip Carter Winery of Virginia
Hume, Virginia

It was like homecoming when the Wine Dogs dropped by Philip Carter for an impromptu visit during the winery's fall festival. They spent an enjoyable autumn afternoon catching up with old friends and sipping fabulous wine.

Dick Zweber welcomed Munchkin and Pomeroy warmly as they hopped out of the jeep, letting them know that fellow wine dogs Cortoman (American Mastiff) and Fairfax (Shih Tzu) were waiting by the fire pits.

Owner Philip Strother treated the thristy travelers to a glass of Cab Franc and filled them in on the program, which included the moon bounce, a book signing by Counterfeit Farm Girl Susan McCorkingdale, and barrel tastings by winemaker Rob Cox.

Pomeroy was tempted until Munchkin learned that the one and only Robbie Limon was performing downstairs(she swears she didn't know). So the Wine Dogs opted for Cleve Hall and a bottle of Cleve (a lush, velvety blend of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon which earned Platinum at the Virginia Wine Lovers Classic in June).

As they whiled away the afternoon, they caught up Karen and Amanda and PC Event Coordinator Donna Johnson, who shared photos of weddings at the winery as well as First Lady Maureen McDonnell's visit in August. Munchkin is thinking sunset ceremony...

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