Keswick 2021 Chardonnay and Barboursville Octagon make Wine Enthusiast's Top 100... Jump Mountain Borderland 2019 (Red Blend) wins Shenandoah Cup... Delfosse 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage wins 2023 Governor's Cup... #VAWines capture 80 medals; 7 double golds @SF Int. Wine Competition... MV@MV - Muse Vineyards at Mount Vernon

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Wine Dogs Get a Taste of Texas

Texas Hill Country AVA, TX

Your favorite Virginia Wine Dog is reporting from deep in the heart of Texas where the wine is flowing in a region that "feels like Napa in the 1960's" - growing fast and producing some really good wine according to Dave Bryant, 4.0 Cellars new General Manager who comes from the vaunted California region. Sound familiar, #VAWine fans?

Similarly situated to Virginia’s Monticello AVA, the Texas Hill Country AVA begins just west of Austin where the University of Texas is located and spreads across 22 counties. At 15,000 square miles, it is the second largest AVA in the country. Wine Enthusiast named it one of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World in 2015.

Wineries line the highway along U.S. 290 (aka Wine Road290), where Ecco’s tour began. There are some 88 wineries between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, not to mention the breweries and distilleries.

Ecco managed to take in four during her two-day visit:

Becker Vineyards, the big dog, produces more than 100,000 cases of wine a year. Check out the vintage log cabin and the estate’s lavender field (the Lavender Festival is the first weekend in May).

4.0 Cellars represents the marriage of three solid High Plains producers who combine forces in a tasting room in Hill Country. The modern facility showcases wines from McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Lost Oak Winery.

Barons Creek Vineyards opened in 2016 by Chase brothers Mike, Chris, and Marc. The dramatic tasting room opens onto a spacious back courtyard framed by villas which are available for rent.

Duchman Family Winery lies off the 290 Trail in Driftwood. Founded by Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman in 2004, the winery showcases Italian varietals and was featured on HGTV as one of the one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country. Ecco was enchanted by the 2015 Tempranillo, recently awarded a double gold and honored as the Best Tempranillo at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The Virginia Wine Dogs left with a few observations.
  • Most Texas Hill Country Wineries use grapes grown in the Texas High Plains. Tempranillo shone among the reds; Roussanne was a favorite white.
  • Pets are generally welcome on the patio but not in tasting rooms (seems that Texas law is behind Virginia, where a 2018 law made it the winery's choice on whether dogs can visit tasting rooms). 
  • Don’t want to drink and drive – take the 290 Wine Shuttle from downtown Fredericksburg or one of 18 wineries on the loop. 
  • Many wineries also operate storefront tasting rooms in the town of Fredericksburg. 
  • Tastings tend to be pricier than in Virginia.

No visit to Texas Hill County could be complete without a stop in Luckenbach, Texas. 
Feeling no pain!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wine Dogs Meet the Briede' Bunch

Briede' Family Vineyards
Winchester, Virginia

Always on the trail for a new adventure, the Wine Dogs set out to explore Briede' Family Vineyards and loved the hospitality!

Built in an old horse stable, the tasting room is small but delightfully decorated with a French country flair. Owners Paul and Loretta Briede' purchased the property in 2000 then decided to start planting and established the vineyard in 2013.

Paul's pride and joy is the Arandell, with Briede' being the only place in the world it is produced. The grape's tiny red-black clusters create an inky wine that delights the palate. Ecco gave the 2017 vintage, produced by Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, an enthusiastic two paws up. The entire crop was lost in Virginia's devastating 2018 season - but a good harvest this year means Arandell will return in 2020, this time teaming up with Nate Walsh (Walsh Family Wine).

The flower that adorns the label was painted by neighbor and local artist Janis Smith.
A second unique grape in the Briede' lineup is the Cayuga, used to produce the Verde, a clean, crisp, slightly effervescent white. The vines are still recovering from 2018, but about 30 cases are expected from the current harvest. Coming attractions not often seen in Virginia include Marquette, Pinot Meunier, and La Crescent.

Sparkling wines also feature prominently on Briede's tasting menu, and they recently debuted their own Sparking Winchester made from the Cayuga grapes. A portion of the proceeds go back to the community - most recently $1,000 to support Shirley's Angels Animal Rescue.

The Wine Dogs November 10, 2018, visit was an afternoon as unique as the Briede's wine - the electricity went off but the show went on, including a performance by singing duo Chuck and Sherrie.

Paul and Loretta believe in sustainable agricultural practices, including an insectary on the property for resident "good bugs." They also have two resident wine dogs, aptly named Chardonnay (yellow lab) and Bordeaux (black lab).

Friday, March 15, 2019

Pawsome Wine Events Springing Up in Virginia

Virginia Wine Country
Linden, Virginia

With the warming weather, Pawsome wine events are starting to sprout. Two of special note to Wine Dog fans this weekend.

Saturday, March 16, from 11-3, the Humane Society of Warren County is hosting a pet adoption event at Philip Carter Winery  Word has it that they are bringing adoptable animals and baby bunnies will be on site. And PC will have crockpots with stews, soups and chilis to chase away the last of the winter blues.

Also on Saturnday, March 16, from 6-9, Barrel Oak Winery is hosting Barks & Barrels. This is the spring fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. Tickets include two complimentary drinks (wine or beer), an AWLA 75th anniversary "Paws off my wine" wine glass, delicious vegan snacks, and, best of all, the proceeds from each ticket sold will directly benefit animals in need at AWLA! Barrel Oak Winery will also donate 10% of all additional drink purchases to AWLA. Tickets can be purchased here.

Of course, just about every winery will be wearin' green this weekend.

Hope you find your Pot of GOld on the Wine Trail!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Horton Hears a Hoo-Whee!

Main Street Station
Richmond, VA

For the first time since the Virginia Governor's Cup Competition was revamped in 2012, a white wine has claimed Best in Show. Horton Vineyards' 2016 Petit Manseng bested over 500 wines from 102 wineries to earn the 2019 Governor's Cup.

The Horton Petit Manseng is 100 percent dry, finished with a touch of Viognier and Rkatsiteli (5 percent each) to produce an aromatic wine with intense flavors. The wine is modestly priced at $25.
Sharon Horton, who runs the agricultural side of the venture, called the entire team up to celebrate Horton's Governor's Cup Victory.
Horton Vineyards is one of the pioneers in the modern Virginia wine world, currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Founder Dennis Horton passed away last summer, but his legacy lives on in his wines and wines throughout the Commonwealth. It was Horton who brought Petit Manseng to Virginia in the late 1990s. He also is responsible for bringing Viognier (now the official state grape) to Virginia in 1989.
Caitlin, Shannon and Dennis Horton in 2017 with Virginia's signature Viognier, the only dry white to make the Governor's Cup Case that year.
Two other pillars of the Virginia wine industry also were honored at the Governor's Cup Gala. Mitzi Batterson of James River Cellars was recognized as the 2019 Virginia Wineries Association Wine Person of the Year. Batterson is a former President of the Virginia Wineries Association and has been a leader in revamping the Governor’s Cup Competition and starting the Virginia Wine Co-op.
Mitzi Batterson of James River Cellars receives the Wine Person of the Year award from Justin Rose (Rosemont of Virginia), President of the Virginia Wineries Association.

The Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jim Corcoran of Corcoran Vineyards and Cidery (Wine Dogs Ecco and Pomeroy had a wonderful visit to Corcoran in 2014). Corcoran was instrumental in creation of the Virginia Wine Distribution Company and has chaired the Virginia Wine Council. Since 2010 he has served on the Loudoun County Chamber Board of Directors, representing the Virginia Wine Industry in the county that today boasts the largest number of wineries in Virginia. 
Jim Corcoran receives the Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award from Wine Board Chairman Kirk Wiles (Paradise Springs Winery),
All 68 Gold Medal wines from the competition were showcased at the Gala, with special recognition given to the top 12 (including the Horton Petit Manseng), which will comprise this year's Governor's Cup Case. Read about them here
Sharon Horton shares a Governor's Cup moment with York, who was well into his cups by the Gala ended.

Just in Case You Want the Best Wine in Virginia

Main Street Station
Richmond, VA

Representatives of the nine wineries in the Governor's Cup Case await Governor Ralph Northam's announcement of the winner of the 2019 Governor's Cup.

With upwards of 300 wineries in Virginia, sniffing out the cream of the crop is no easy task, even for the most seasoned Wine Dog. Virginia’s Governor’s Cup Competition assembles a distinguished panel of judges under the direction of Master of Wine Jay Youmans to help shine a spotlight on the top-producers in the industry and on emerging trends. A Wine Dogs “paws up” to each of the nine wineries whose 12 wines make up the Governor's Cup Case this year.
York (serving as stunt double for Ecco at the Governor's Cup Gala) consults with Jay Youmans, judging director for the 2019 Virginia Govenror's Cup Competition.
A few observations from this year’s case. Red blends continue to be palate pleasers. This year’s top Reds include six blends (with Merlot the dominant grape in five of them), along with a Cabernet Franc and a Tannat. Petit Manseng is living up to expectations as a rising star in Virginia, claiming two spots in the case as a pure varietal (including the Governor’s Cup winner from Horton) and a third spot as the base of a desert wine. Vermentino rounds out the case.

The man with the golden touch, Michael Shaps (Virginia Wineworks), with a view of his gold medal winners.
As noted in an earlier post, Michael Shaps has become King of the Golds in Virginia. He crafted five of the wines in the case (and 22 of the 68 gold medal winners), including wines for case first-timers Hamlet and Upper Shirley.

If you are looking to sample Virginia's finest, follow the Wine Dogs' lead and put these on your list.

Barboursville Vineyards earned four golds this year, claiming a spot in the case with the 2017 Vermentino Reserve, which the Wine Dogs predict will be a fabulous summer sipper.

Barboursville’s associate winemaker Daniele Tessora treats York to tastes of Barboursville’s golden wines, including the signature Meritage blend, Octagon (the 2009 vintage won the Governor's cup in 2013). 
Early Mountain Vineyards blended Merlot from some of its oldest vines with Petit Verdot for the case-winning 2016 Eluvium, one of the winery’s four gold-medal winners.

Early Mountain General Manager Dave Kostelnik and Associate Winemaker/Vitaculturist Maya Hood White let York compare the 2016 Eluvium to the 2015 vintage, a repeat gold medal winner which also made the case last year.
Glen Manor Vineyards claimed a spot in the case for its 2015 Cabernet Franc (the most planted red grape in the Commonwealth and a Wine Dog favorite) and brought home gold for the 2015 St. Ruth. Glen Manor won the Governor’s Cup in 2012 for its 2009 Hodder Hill Red blend.

Glen Manor owner and winemaker Jeff White shares a taste of the 2015 Cabernet Franc with York.
Horton Vineyards chose to make a completely dry Petit Manseng from its 2016 vintage, earning its first-ever Governor’s Cup for the effort. Founder Dennis Horton helped introduce Petit Manseng to Virginia. Read the Wine Dog report here.

Horton’s Gilta Sekhri and Josh Sabatrinic can’t wait for the Wine Dogs to visit - and show off their wines.
King Family Vineyards claimed two spots in the case this year for Red blends –the 2016 Mountain Plains and the 2016 Meritage. The 2014 Meritage won the Governor’s Cup last year.

York congratulates King Family Winemaker Matthieu Finot on an impressive two wines in the case and four gold medals in the competition.
Fairfax County’s only winery, Paradise Springs in Clifton, produced an outstanding Meritage from four of the Bordeaux noble varieties, leading with Petit Verdot.

Paradise Springs’ Yorkie-loving founder Jane Kincheloe serves York a taste of the Meritage on a silver platter.
New to the case this year is Hamlet Vineyards in Martinsville. The 2016 Eltham is a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot produced by Michael Shaps. That the wine’s name is an anagram for the winery is purely coincidental.

“This is what I was meant to do,” owner Virginia Hamlet says of her conversion from architecture to wine. Hamlet is dog friendly and features a vineyard dog, Enzo.
The Governor’s Cup Case includes three wines under the Michael Shaps label – the 2016 Petit Manseng, the 2015 Tannat, and the 2016 Raisin d’Etre (the Petit Manseng that forms the wine’s base was air-dried in tobacco barns, essentially “raisining” the grapes, thus the name).
York photobombs Michael Shaps in conversation. The man with the golden touch may be shy about standing with dogs but stands behind his wines.
Completing the case is a second newcomer and another member of the Michael Shaps stable, Upper Shirley Vineyards in Charles City, with the 2014 Zachariah.

The Upper Shirley team, led by Tayloe and Susie Dameron (center), were bubbling over with excitement when they met York at Old City Bar before the Gala and continued celebrating all night.

Friday, February 15, 2019

68 Virginia Wines Strike Gold in the Governor's Cup Competition

We are days away from learning who will win the 2019 Virginia Governor's Cup. What we do know is that 68 wines earned gold in the competition. This year's spirited competition included 510 wines from 102 Virginia wineries. For a full list of medal winners, click here.

Paws up to Winemaker Michael Shaps whose Virginia Wine Works made nearly one-third (22) of the golden wines under his own label and for other wineries. Shaps purchased Shenandoah Vineyards, Virginia's second-oldest winery, in November. He believes the Shenandoah Valley has the state’s best grape growing potential and has thus far been under the radar.

Michael Shaps continues to be King of the Golds, besting his 2018 performance with 22 winning wines.
For the present, Central Virginia continues to dominate the competition, and Barboursville, Early Mountain, King Family, and Trump Winery each brought four golds back home to the region.

The Wine Dogs will be reporting from the scene next Tuesday night to let you know who wins the cup and who makes the case this year.

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