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Friday, August 14, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine Region: Wine Dog Preview and First Impressions

From left to right or right to left, Ecco agrees!
Corning, New York

Prosecco is making her debut at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC15), held this year in the Finger Lakes region of New York. This is the third conference for the Wine Dogs.

And guess what Virignia fans? Corning, the Southern gateway to the Finger Lakes, is a reasonable five-hour drive from Northern Virginia - closer than some wine regions in the Old Dominion.

Brudder tells the Wine Dogs all about the Finger Lakes
Ecco and Pomeroy got a preview of the region when they met up with the region's famous chef , Brud "Brudder" Holland, while visiting Marterella Winery in November. Note to Wine Dog friend KK - Corning is known as a Foodie Town and Brudder is considered the "Mad Scientist" of the Finger Lakes culinary scene.

Brudder told the Wine Dogs that there are more wineries in the Finger Lakes than they will have time to see. Indeed, the region has over 300 wineries (compared to just over 250 spread across Virginia). He highlighted several stars - many of whom had their wines on display at the WBC15 opening reception.

Meghan makes it 4 generations at
the winery her great-grandfather started
Dr. Konstantin Frank, an immigrant from the Ukraine, is considered the godfather of the Finger Lakes wine region. Like Virginia's Gianni Zonin of Barboursville Vineyards, Frank was one of the first believers that vino vinifera (European wine grapes) could be grown successfully in the Eastern United States.

The old vines are producing excellent fruit today for the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. Dr. Frank's great-granddaughter, Meghan, proudly poured the storied wines for the bloggers. Ecco enjoyed the dry Riesling from 1957 vines and gave paws up to the Pinot Noir from 1958 vines - the second oldest planting of Pinot in the country. She also enjoyed a very soft Gruner Veltliner - an Austrian varietal also grown at North Mountain in Virginia.

Carolyn introduces Ecco to Ravines wines.
Riesling is the region's signature grape, and a variety were on display at the opening reception. The 2013 Dry Riesling from Ravines Wine Cellars is a standout, and earned a top 100 spot from Wine Enthusiast. 
Len Wiltberger of Keuka Spring.
Len Wiltberger and his wife, Judy, started Keuka Spring Vineyards in the 1980s, at the beginning of the region's renaissance. He poured a refreshingly crisp and dry Rose from a blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger grapes. Ecco also enjoyed the Gewurtztraminer - a Finger Lakes staple whose name, literally, means "spicey grape from the town of Traminer."

Another staple of the Finger Lakes wine scene is Heron Hill, which dates back 37 year. Tasting Room Manager Tambi Schweitzer gave Ecco her first taste of Blaufrankish as a varietal (Lemberger by another name). She also discovered that Cabernet Franc is the number one selling red in the Finger Lakes (and we thought it was a Virginia phenomenon).
Nikki &Adam Folts recently opened
Vineyard View.

A new kid on the block, Vineyard View Winery opened only a year and a half ago. But the Folts family has been growing grapes in their vineyard for more than 100 years. Only a small part of the 125 acres go into their own wines - and some of their grapes even make their way to Virginia, where demand for fruit is outstripping supply. Again, Ecco was impressed with the Blaufrankish and enjoyed the Pinot and dry Riesling.

Ecco was surprised to learn that our Northern neighbors can produce grapes that have difficulty ripening in Virginia. The deep lakes have a tempering effect on the climate.

Overall, Virginia's little Wine Dog is getting a great introduction to the Finger Lakes at WBC15. She loves discovering the region's varietals, which draw heavily from Germany and Russia, and looks forward to her first taste of Saperavi.

The Finger Lakes' stars were out for the opening reception at WBC15.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Wicked Afternoon for the Wine Dogs

Wicked? Ask Ecco about the great chicken chase!

Star Tannery, Virginia

Pomeroy surprised his Daddy with a Wine Dog outing to a new venue for Father's Day (it had been a while).

Russell (l) and Randall (r) pouring for customers.
Now in its second full season, Wicked Oak Farms and Vineyard puts the farm in farm winery. Brothers Randall and Russell Anderson saw the land perched high in the Blue Ridge just before the West Virginia border and fell in love with it.

Dogs welcome - on a leash, please! 
Wicked Oak started with chickens, corn and beef  - "a winery was not on the radar," Randall says. But then he  heard about the need for grapes to support Virginia's rapidly expanding wine industry and planted Norton, Virginia's native vine.

It wasn't long before they were bitten by the wine bug. Supplementing the farm's crop with grapes from the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville regions, the Anderson boys turned to established winemaker, Justin Bogaty of Veramar Vineyards to make the wine.

Lining up for wine at Wicked Oak.
The result is solid lineup being poured in a simple tasting room, tastefully decorated by the wives and dominated by sturdy wood furnishings.

The whites include the Starlight (a Riesling/Vidal blend) and the Seyval (Paws up from Pomeroy), both with enough residual sugar to make them refreshing on a hot summer day. The pale Rose' was equally refreshing and earned Ecco's enthusiastic paws up when blended with strawberries and sweet tea to produce sangria.

Both pups raised their paws when the Vidal reappeared as a dessert wine (Rondea), balanced enough that the 9 percent residual sugar does not overpower. A unique white Port-style wine is soon to be released, completing the offerings. The reds are dry, and include a blend named Eagle Rock for the rock ledge on the property and a classic Virginia Cabernet Franc.
That's one wicked oak!
While on the subject of names, Randall and his youngest son, Tucker, discovered a massive 300-year-old tree growing out of a rock cropping on the far corner of the property. The boy  exclaimed, "Dad, that's one wicked oak!" and the name stuck.

Local favorite Robbie Limon performs on the patio.
At 250 cases a year, this is a tiny winery in the tiny town of Star Tannery, but the offerings are as immense as the wicked oak itself: farm products (eggs, meat, and poultry) and a nature trail, live music,
Randall, a retired minister, helps guests renew vows.

even Mongolian yurts that can be rented for overnight stays.
Scott Madigan campaigns for Frederick Co. Sheriff.

On the day of the Wine Dogs' visit, a local political candidate set up shop outside to greet people heading into the tasting room.
It's all part of the wicked good hospitality at this new Virginia gem. Paws up, Randall and Russell!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wine Dogs Sing the Valley Blues

Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery
Delaplane, Virginia

Winery Dog Jill, a beagle, leads
 guests to the tasting room
The latest addition to the Virginia wine family opened its doors today, with Ecco and Pomeroy on hand to provide a dogs' eye view of the celebration. Directional signs were just going up at Blue Valley as the Wine Dogs arrived, but corks were popping and wines flowing as friends and family inaugurated the new winery.

Sweeping vistas abound at Blue Valley Vineyard
Blue (for the Blue Ridge) Valley (for the Shenandoah Valley) Vineyard and Winery stetches across 63 acres in Fauquier County, Virginia. Sweeping vistas are shown to maximum advantage from the tasting room and deck.
Good Omen - A rainbow shines over the vines on opening day

Blue Valley's 20,000 square foot facility is one of Virginia's largest. 
The cavernous winery features over 20,000 square feet of space, making it one of the largest in Virginia. Father John and son Stergio Zissios built most of the building together. Blue Valley marks three generations of winemaking for the Zissios family, a tradition carried forward from the vineyard in Kozani, Greece where John grew up.

The atmosphere is upscale modern.
The tasting room colors are subdued, sepia brown and slate gray with blue accents. The atmosphere is upscale modern, designed as a place friends and family can come, relax, have a conversation and enjoy the wines.

The Wine Cave has a medieval feel.
Below in "the cave" the feel is medieval. High stone walls made of rocks from the property itself dominate. The Zissios are thinking big, with plans for producing 10,000 cases.
Stones from the property line the walls of the Wine Cave
The focus at Blue Valley is on premium wines, produced by the winemaking team of John Levenberg and Tyler Henley. Current offerings lean heavily to the whites (five of seven).
Tasting Room Manager Carrie pours
Ecco raised her paws to the Heritage, a toasty white blend with 50 percent chardonnay grapes. Both wine dogs enjoyed the elegant dry Rose. Tradition, a rich red blend that earned two paws up from Pomeroy.
Additional reds are in barrel for bottling later this month and release in the summer. These first wines are made from fruit from California. The Zissios planted grapes at Blue Valley three years ago (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chambourcin and Viognier), and look forward to the first harvest this year.
Ecco's new friend DeeDee helps with marketing

Roy's friend is a Pommie Mommy with two of her own. 
Blue Valley is a pet friendly winery. Ecco and Pomeroy made lots of new friends on their visit. Please note, you must park your paws outside. There will be a tasting bar open on the deck this summer. We hope to see you there!
Pomeroy and Ecco enjoyed a warm welcome from hosts Stergio and Antonia Zissios
The Zissios have a pair of Maltese pups and a Maltipoo.

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