2012 Virginia Wine Festival ‘You Be The Judge’ Tasting Notes

Stone Mountain Vineyards 2011 “Stainless Steel” Chardonnay – Appearance: Light straw Aroma: Green Apple, floral, Attack: Crisp sharp with nice acid bite Midpalate expand slightly to expose additional floral notes and a hint of citrus Finish; Brief with hint of granny smith apples

First Colony Chardonnay Reserve – This complex chardonnay was aged for eighteen months in a combination of new American and neutral French oak barrels. Appearance darker straw color Aroma: lemon peel, vanilla Attack: Subtle with undertones of spice Midpalate expands nicely to expose vanilla and pear elements, Finish lingers nicely with almonds and a touch of butter.

Wintergreen “Black Rock” Chardonnay – Barrel aged ten months.  Appearance rich straw, Aroma: Pear, apple Attack muted, Midpalate: Expansive includes nice light tannins with pear undertones, Finish: Lingers nicely with full buttery finish

Prince Michel Viognier 2007 – Appearance: Clear light straw, Aroma: tropical nose including melons Attack: more supple than anticipated Midpalate: continues tropical notes including MANGO Finish: surprisingly long with lemon undertones

Democracy 2011 Unum –Appearance is rich straw color, Aroma: Floral bouquet including geraniums and daisies Attack: nice slightly acidic bite with honey undertones Midpalate expands to expose tropical notes leading to Finish: crisp with a touch of granny smith apple

Horton Sparkling Vigonier – Now for something completely different Appearance light straw filled with bubbles, Aroma: pear and a touch of yeast Attack: bright as only a sparkler can be Midpalate; bubbles enhance the poached pear undertones Finish is delightfully light

Horton 2011 Petit Manseng – Petit Manseng, famous in southwestern France for being the only wine used to baptize a royal child, namely Henry IV, has shown to be the perfect grape for the Central Virginia winegrowing region.  Appearance: darker straw Aroma: honey suckle, rose pedals, Attack: rounded with good acidic balance Midpalate is round with toasted hazelnuts and acacia blossom, enhanced by a touch of guava and vanilla.

Democracy Vineyards 2011 Republic -100% Petit Manseng Apperance: Clean straw, Aroma: Green Apple Honey Dew, Attack: Bright with grape overtones Midpalate apricot and other tropical notes, Finish: Light does not linger but is clean.

Breaux 2011 Jolie’s Blonde– 100% Seyval Blanc  Seyval Blanc – A French hybrid varietal that is famous for its resistance to cold. Seyval Blanc buds and ripens early and provides a good alternative in cool climates to grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that don’t like the extreme cold. Crisp and dry versions have flavors and aromas of citrus fruits and a certain minerality that some compare to white Burgundies. Also takes well to oak and malolactic fermentation. Grown extensively in England and the cool Finger Lakes region of New York State. Appearance – Straw, Aroma – Lemon grass, Orange Blossom Attack – A little thin but sharp and bright, Midpalate – expands to include tropical notes, Finish – Lingers longer than anticipated with grapefruit and spice

James River 2011 Chardonel –Chardonel is a cold hearty hybrid created at Cornell University in 1953.  Parent grapes are Chardonnay and Seyval.  Stainless steel fermented.  Appearance: light straw, Aroma: spicy bananas Attack: sharp with tropical undertones midpalate expands slightly to include honeydew melon and honeysuckle Finish is brief but clean.

James River 2010 Devino – Made with the same Chardonel grape as the previous wine this is done in an Ice wine style where the grapes are crushed and fermented then frozen and thawed slowly.  When the winemaker likes the consistency the tank is drained.  Appearance: medium straw. Aroma: sweet tropical notes undercurrent of MANGO Attack: viscose and cool with honey and fruit sweetness.  Midpalate expands as the wine warms in the moth to include honeysuckle, par and honeydew melon, Finish: lingers nicely with citrus and bananas

Barboursville Phileo- Barboursville, who launched the modern Virginia Wine industry with its founding in 1976, submitted this one wine to the tent.  A propriety, non-vintage blend of Moscato Ottonel (60%) and Vidal (40%), fermented in stainless steel at the unusually cool temperature of 45 degrees F and at unusual length, 70 days. Aged on the lees in stainless steel at least four months, resting in bottle another five before release. Appearance: Goldenrod Aroma: roses and apricots Attack: muted but full Midpalate: complex filled with cascading tropical tones Finish: lingers nicely on the rear of the palate with apricot memories

Stone Mountain Bacon Hollow Revenuers Select – Built in this iteration from Chardonnay, this sweet wine is the wineries best seller.  Appearance: light straw Aroma: honeysuckle and rose pedals, Attack bright with good acidic balance Midpalate expands to expose peaches and pear undertones finish: sweet but brief including additional floral and tropical tones.

Breaux 2011 Rose’ – 54% Nebbiolo, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Chambourcin appearance is medium to light red, Aroma: Strawberry, Rhubarb, Attack Sharp with nice acid, Midpalate expands with tropical notes and cherry Finish is surprisingly tannic in structure but not in astringency.  The most interesting wine I have tasted this year.

Stone Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – A truly elegant and well-aged wine this wine is drinking very nicely right now.  Appearance:  Medium red Aroma: Dark plum and Bing cherry Attack: supple with a hint of leather in addition to an undercurrent of licorice Midpalate: more plum and black cherry, Finish: light tannins lingering nicely on the rear of the palate

First Colony 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – A vintage difference and a difference in altitude create a different (but equally good) flavor profile in First Colony’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Appearance: darker red in the glass Aroma:  vanilla and cherry Attack: Supple with cherry notes Midpalate: expands to showcase well-balanced flavors of rich cocoa and toasty oak Finish: full lingers nicely with just a hint of pipe tobacco.

Breaux 2009 Marquis de Lafayette – 30 months aging in 70% American Oak and 30% French oak, this wine is named after a French nobleman who was an American revolutionary war hero.  100% Cabernet Franc Appearance: medium Red Aroma: Plum and Black Cherry Attack: Supple with chocolate undertones, Midpalate Expands nicely to expose round tannins red cherry notes and a touch of leather.  Finish: Long with cascading flavors

James River 2011 Chambourcin – The winery says the wine is reminiscent of a light port.  I find it to be more than that it is a decadent delight.  Color – Deep red Nose – Herb filled with hints of green pepper Attack – Round tannins, slightly acidic Midpalate – jammy with strawberry tones Finish – lingers on the rear of the palate with licorice

Democracy 2011 Suffrage – 100% Chambourcin Lighter in style than the previous wine this has many of the same characteristics but not as pronounced (or as sweet).  Color:  Medium Red Nose: Jammy with strawberry dominance Attack: slightly muted and a touch thin Midpalate expands to expose coca and plum essence Finish: slightly shorter than anticipated but lingers with undertones of tobacco and strawberry

Stone Mountain 2007 Petit Verdot – One of the older vintages poured here today but only went into the bottle at the beginning of this summer.  Extended barrel ageing can be seen throughout the tasting profile Appearance: deep Red full core, Aroma – leather, toast and dark chocolate Attack; Is muted with subtle plum and dark cherry notes, Midpalate opens nicely to expose licorice, plum and anise Finish lingers nicely on the rear of the molars with undertones of smoke

Horton 2010 Tannat – historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the “national grape”  Appearance: Deep Red Aroma: Smokey and mysterious Attack: rounded with dusty character Midpalate: big tannic backbone Finish: Leather and smoke remain on the palate long after the wine is gone

Breaux Equation – Merlot 84%, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Petit Verdot 4%

Color – Dark, brooding, crimson, Aroma – Red cherry and plum undertones Attack – sharper than anticipated nice bite Midpalate – settles in to include black cherry, licorice and anise Finish – medium length includes rhubarb and strawberry

Democracy Velvet Revolution

25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Chambourcin, 25% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot

Color – Deep dark purple from rim to rim, Nose – well integrated with plum and black cherry

Attack – subdued and a touch thinner than anticipated, Midpalate – expands nicely with round tannins, plum and raisin Finish – long, lingers nicely on the back of the palate with undertones of dark chocolate and light tannins

James River Meritage – 70% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot

Appearance:  Deep dark maroon, Aroma: Plum infused with Licorice and Anise, Attack- round with a touch of acid and coffee undertones, Midpalate expands to expose dark cherry notes Finish Full and memorable with just a hint of  pipe tobacco

Prince Michel Vineyards 30th Anniversary Merlot Cabernet Reserve

Appearance:  Deep red  Aroma: Plum with Black Cherry and coca undertones, Attack- lush with nice round mouth feel, Midpalate expands to expose layers of flavors including plum, black cherry, dark chocolate Finish: Not as long as anticipated but delightful with hints of smoke.

About the You Be the Judge Tasting Tent:

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a wine judge? To have each award winning wine tasting brought directly to your table for your palate’s evaluation?Find out in the “You Be The Judge” Tasting Tent at the Virginia Wine Festival. This ticket limited event will be held from 11:30am – 4:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Neil Williamson, Chairman of The Virginia Wine Club Tasting Panel, will walk patrons through the UC Davis scoring system as the wines are served by varietal. Neil will share anecdotes from his decade in the Virginia Wine Industry as you enjoy the cool shade of the “You Be The Judge” Tasting Tent. Spend part or all of the day in the shade enjoying the individualized presentations and tastings with no lines and no waiting.

Tickets: http://www.virginiawinefest.com

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An Insider’s Guide to Wine Festivals

This article first ran in The Old Town Crier in May of 2011

By. Neil Williamson

We are well on our way into Virginia wine festival season.  For those not familiar with wine festivals, these outdoor events feature music and wine tastings as well as wine sales.  Some of the festivals include an educational seminar component as well.  As I am now entering my tenth season participating on both sides of the table, the Old Town Crier thought it might be fun for me to share festival strategy.

Photo Credit: Virginia Wine Festival

Don’t go it alone I can’t think of a single festival that I have enjoyed going to alone.  I strongly encourage you to bring a friend or a group of friends so that you can discuss the wines and enjoy the beauty that is the Virginia countryside.

Have a designated driver If one of your festival patrons will not volunteer, I have known friends to be bribed with wine purchase (usually a case) to serve as the designated driver for the group for the day.  While the primary benefit of the designated driver is safety, ancillary benefits include a clear headed friend to keep your group out of any incidents at the festival itself (stuff happens).

Choose the right day Do you like crowds, excitement and generally more rocking music choose to go to the Saturday of a two day festival.  If you prefer to have conversations with winemakers and shorter lines choose early Sunday.

Dress the partshoes Most festivals feature a center tent and then winery and craft tents in a field.  Shoes that work well in that environment are a must.  Many wine folks can tell the tale of the high heels festival goers had to put in the trash after a surprise afternoon rain created a mud bog.

Dress the part – hat As we start the festival season, the sun can sneak up on you.  I know I sound like your mother but a good hat (and sunscreen) are important to the enjoyment of the day.

Plan your attack – When I attend a festival, which are great opportunities to taste lesser known wineries, I always seek those out first.  It never fails to amaze me the ppatrons who choose to go to their old standby’s first.  In the industry there is a term known as palate fatigue – as you taste flavors (regardless of if you spit or not) your palate becomes increasingly less sensitive as you continue to taste.  As I know my favorite’s flavor profiles I tend to taste those later in the day.

Eat – Fesitvals tend to have some of the best “fair” food in the state.  I have been known to bring crabcake sandwiches home from festivals to rave reviews from the family.  Eating is an important part of the festival experience, whether you bring your own picnic (check with each festival) or select from the multitude of food vendors.  Both the break in tasting and the chance to sit down with friends and eat is a welcome respite.

Drink more than just wine (water) – Smart festival goers pack their own water into the event (usually permitted) beyond the potential heat, the tannins in the wine can deaden your scenes at the next winery you taste.  In addition if you did not like the previous wineries last pour you have your own water to rinse that from the glass.

Don’t smoke in the tasting line – Far be it from Grapevine (who has been known to enjoy a fat cigar every now and again) to tell you not to smoke; but don’t smoke in line.  This is a tasting event and if someone is blowing smoke rings from a nice thick Padron cigar, they people in front of them will have a tough time tasting the apricot undertones of the delightfully light Viognier.

Ask questions – When you are tasting with folks from the winery don’t accept the canned “it’s a full bodied red blend” ask questions.  What’s it a blend of?  Did this spend time in Oak?  How was the vintage year compared with others?   What would you serve with this? What’s your favorite wine?  These folks are pouring wine because they love wine, learn from them what they know.  And if they don’t know (or direct you to someone who does) – that says something too!

Wait your turn – You will never learn any of the fun stories if you are reaching over three other people to get served.  If the line is too long either find a less crowded winery or buy a bottle and sit and listen to the music.

Buy wine – The festival is designed to showcase Virginia wine in a manner that you will buy some.  While the wineries know you have paid to be there to taste wine, they have also paid to be there to pour wine.  Unless they sell wine it is unlikely they will be back.  Wineries often have festival specials that can’t be matched even at the winery tasting rooms seek them out along with six pack and case discounts.

Use will call/wine pick up – most of the larger festivals have a solid will call wine pick up service.  When you buy your wine they haul it over to a spot where you can pick it up and (often) have it loaded in your car.

Attend the seminars, cooking demonstrations and tasting tents – The festival coordinators work to develop educational opportunities that are generally undersubscribed.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION – I will also be serving as the host of the “Top Five” Tasting Tent at the thirtieth annual Vintage Virginia the first weekend in June at Bull Run.  I will also be a part of the Wine 101 seminar  at the Montpelier Wine Festival held in May in Orange County.

Whether you choose to be a part of the seminars or not, I strongly encourage you to attend a couple Virginia Vine Festivals and taste how Virginia wines have grown in variety and excellence. I do hope to see you along the Virginia Wine Trail.

 

Wine Festivals – Marketing Goldmine, Necessary Evil or Simple Drunkfest?

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Photo Credit: Virginia Wine Festival

Anyone that has been paying attention over the last twenty years has witnessed the growth of the wine festival.  The bulk of this post will focus on Virginia wine festivals but I have seen similar patterns in other states as well.  As a disclaimer, I have created festivals, worked with festival promoters, been a festival attendee and been an exhibiting winery.

One truth at the outset — All festivals are not created equal.

Back in the Industry’s early days, wine festivals were the hot spot to find the new wine meet the wine makers and hear good music (all of this is still true).  In addition these festivals were hugely profitable for the wineries because people would come and buy cases of Virginia wine that were not available at their local stores.

Then three major changes occurred:

  • Others saw the festivals were successful and fun and more festivals popped up
  • Virginia wineries started selling in the neighborhood wine shops
  • A bunch more Virginia wineries (now over 200) came on the scene

Photo Credit: Virginia Wine Festival

Does this mean festivals are no longer a good idea for consumers or wineries — absolutely not but how both consumers and wineries approach festivals should change.  In addition smart festival promoters are differentiating their festivals with additional programming, unique locations, and special top-notch entertainment and promotion.

First, consumers should change their methodology at a festival.  Rather than heading toward either the first tent or your favorite, I encourage festival goers to “start in the back and work forward”.  Seek out those wineries you don’t know before you head back to your well known favorites.  Secondarily, eat — trust me you need to eat.  After over a decade in the wine business, I can tell you the sun and the wine will catch up with you.  Finally and most importantly buy.  The wineries have come to the festival to sell you wine.  Don’t ask where you can buy it — look at the cases stacked behind the taster — you can buy the wine here!

The wineries need to be more selective about their pours.  Knowing you are headed to a festival where a number of wineries will be pouring do you think it is wise to bring all 14 of your wines?  An interesting study mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink tested consumers provided four options of jelly to taste versus 12 options of jellies to taste — which portfolio sold more?  The one with only 4 choices.  Take a good look at your wine inventory and determine which wines you can afford to pour and sell at festival.  In addition, after two years of festival going, wineries should take a good hard look at their festival profitability, not all festivals make money but those that cost a bunch should be considered for discontinuation.

Finally, the promoters must recognize two important realities first the people come to the festival for the wine so be really nice to the wineries and make it easy for them.  Secondarily, that the days of throwing a wine party in the field and having any crowd come are long gone.  You need to have a hook, a solid marketing plan (including social media), as well as hope for good weather.

Festivals are an important part of the Virginia wine business.  In addition to being a solid sales/marketing opportunity it also draws the industry together in a unique way.  You will never forget who was near you when the Tornado Warning came down from the hill or what wineries made it to the convention room floor despite over a foot of snow.

Above all else, all involved in wine festivals need to have a can do attitude and recognize that whether the event is like a Super Bowl winning team or the voyage of the Titanic, we are all in this together.

The answer to the question in the post headline is “Yes!”

Respectfully Submitted,

GMG