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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Why I am Sweet on Your Wine Portfolio

By. Neil Williamson, The Grumpy Marketing Guy

Imagine walking into a home improvement store and all of the hardware and tools were only available in metric sizes.  In this example it is clear the home supply store is ignoring a significant potential market that demands US/Imperial tools.  Now look at your wine portfolio, does it reflect consumer demand or the owner’s personal preferences.

Often when I am meeting with new winery owners they have a limited scope of their wine portfolio.  In every case, I ask, beg, cajole them to include at least one “sweet” wine.    Interestingly, when clients take this advice, it almost always becomes their best seller.   Why?  As your winery will likely offer a number of dry wines for the roughly 50% of the wine drinking public that prefers a dry wine and you force the sweet wine drinker to choose the one wine you have made for that population cohort.

Recently my vision on this was tested by my philosophical position regarding be true to your identity. I was chatting up a Virginia winery owner about his vision for his new wine portfolio.  He did not like sweet wines but recognized the consumer demand for such product, his decision was not to make a wine that he would not drink but to make it at the far edge of his sweetness tolerance.  The resulting 1% residual sugar wine is consistent with his winery vision (and palate) while providing a sweeter wine for that percentage  of the wine consuming public that only buys sweet wines.

Master of Wine Tim Hanni (who spoke at a number of Virginia Wineries Association seminars this year) has written a treatise on Why Wineries Owe Sweet Wine Drinkers and Apology.  Hanni draws on recent research indicating that people are genetically predisposed to prefer sweeter wines based on the arrangement of their taste buds on their tongue.

In the end your wine portfolio should represent not only who you are but also who your customers are; if you only make wine you like, you may ignore significant potential consumers and sales!

That’s why I am sweet on your wine portfolio!

Respectfully Submitted,

GMG

Photo Credit: Kobalt-USA

Why Wineries Should Charge Their Highest Retail Price in the Tasting Room

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Over the past couple of years there has been a great discussion about where wines in tasting rooms should be priced.  There are some who believe the tasting room is like a “factory outlet” store and should have the lowest prices anywhere.  Based on the title of this post you can see that I fall in a different camp.

If you have your wines in distribution, whether you are distributing them yourself or not, the retailers are a primary sales channel.  The retailers are your partners.  Why would you undercut your partners?

Please let me explain.

The shop owner perspective – When you, or your distributor attempt to place the wine with a wine shop (or grocery chain) price will be a key issue.  If you are a local winery you may have a leg up on getting attention but one of the first questions will be “What do you sell it for at the winery”.  In the shop owner discussion you are competing with every other wine that is available in distribution.  If you are 5 miles away and selling the wine $3 cheaper than he/she can, why should you get a placement in the shop?

The customer perspective – In the retail shop, your wine must compete with all the other wine in the establishment.  If  a customer has been a guest at your winery and purchased your Chardonnay for $21 and sees it at their “regular” wine shop at $17.99, they perceive increased value, as they enjoyed the Chardonnay at $21.

The Grumpy Marketing Guy perspective –  Wine purchased at the winery provides the winery three profit margins (producer, distributor, retail).  If we accept that guests that visit the winery like wine (not a big leap) and regularly shop for wine somewhere other than the winery, then capturing all three profit margins maintains your pricing integrity in all channels.  In addition, it helps build credibility with your retail partners.

It is important to recognizing winery guests are wine lovers who have a variety of only your wines to choose from during their visit but its all your wine.

Important exceptions

  • Multiple bottle/Case discounts – just as your retail partners have such discounts you should as well usually at 3, 6 and 12 bottle increments.
  • Inventory Issues – there are times when a wine does not move in the market and you have a significant inventory, creating a special price for such wines as needed is a great idea.
  • Festival Pricing – I encourage wineries to play with their pricing at festivals.  If you are sold out of a wine at the last festival, bump it up a $1 a bottle see if it still sells out.  If something was a slow mover drop the price $2 as a festival special.

Wine prices at the winery should be designed to recognize the significant capital costs you have in the winery and to capture the maximum revenue the market will bear.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, GMG

Photo Credit: Winecountry.it

 

Winery Weddings — I Do or I Don’t

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Wineries, like any other business, are often looking for ways to diversify their income by maximizing their assets.  Vineyards and wineries tend to be romanticized and provide a great backdrop for a wedding where the goal, not unlike wine, is for the relationship to grow better over time.

Photo Credit: First Colony Winery

Constructed properly weddings (and other private events) can add significantly to the bottom line of a winery.  A quick review of the central Virginia wine market found  banquet room rentals can be between $2,000 and $8,000.  This is before you add in any wine minimum.  Several wineries do over forty weddings a year, this can generate over $200,000 gross revenue annually.  Even just one wedding a week in the three summer months would equal $60,000.

In addition, you are introducing a large number of individuals to your property, selling a large amount of wine (many wineries have a minimum), all during time your tasting room would usually be closed.

Residual sales also benefit as folks marrying at the vineyard tend to return and purchase.

So it is clear there are several reasons wineries consider doing weddings.  Why would a winery not want to serve as a nuptials host?

Winery location is too remote
Not enough space vineyard for a tent
Staffing demands
Wear and tear on facility
Security issues
Neighbor concerns
Fear of Bridezilla
Does not fit personality of the owner
Takes away from other guests’ experience

In my years in the wine business, I have often found that the very characteristics that make a great winemaker are not always the same features of an accomplished wedding planner.  The most successful “wedding” wineries tend to have dedicated staff willing to work with the Bride [and the family] for a year or more prior to the event and most comfortable holding their hand through the planning, decision making and the actual event.

If you are planning a winery, determine if you believe your personality fits hosting events, if not, can you afford someone on staff with these skills?  Then prior to even laying out the vineyard, no less the winery, visit several wineries that do weddings.  Read their websites, meet with their approved caterers, understand their challenges and try to build your venue to be both different than theirs but learn from their comments.

Just as with marriage, weddings aren’t for everyone.  The best way to minimize risk, is to go in with eyes wide open — that’s pretty sound matrimony advise as well.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy