Cardinal Point Vineyard, Afton, VA

Another winery visited in the Monticello region was Cardinal Point Vineyard. It’s family owned and operated and started ‘years ago, while stationed in the small city of Bad Kreuznach, Germany on the banks of the Nahe River, Paul and Ruth Gorman discovered a passion for the Riesling wines that were crafted with care in the little vineyards surrounding the town. It was then and there that they decided to add their own vineyard to their retirement plans.’

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The tasting at this winery was $10 for five wines. Between the two of us we covered the menu. That cost seems a bit high for a VA winery. And come the end of the tasting, far too high for the quality of the wine.

2015 Green. 50% Petit Manseng/50% Chardonnay. This is no blend; these grapes were co-fermented. Aromatic, approachable and addictive. $20. No bubbles, like vino verde.

2015 Hopped Chardonnay. Totally original. Totally unique. Totally familiar. Herbal/tropical nose, fresh fruit with citrus near the finish. $20. The hops added herbs to the nose but there was just some citrus to the taste.

2016 A6. 58% barrel fermented Viognier blended with 42% steel fermented and aged Chardonnay. Peach flavors and aroma, subtle oak, creamy mouth-feel lifting to light minerality on the finish. $25. This wine was named for a highway in France. The peach notes were present.

2016 Quattro. Riesling/Gewurztraminer/Viognier/Traminette. Latest version of a CPV favorite. Apple/pear aromas with sublime sweetness. Best yet? $18. 10.4%. Mildly sweet.

2015 Frai Rose. The fermentation on this Rosé was stopped just short of dry, and the results are stunning! Fruit forward and not too sweet. $20. Tastes like a slushy.

2015 Rose. Cabernet Franc rose featuring the potential for warm sunsets, fun with friends, and an ever-ready companion to grilled chicken and veggies. $18. Nice nose. Taste of strawberries.

2015 Rockfish Red. Short-vat C. Franc and P. Verdot. Youthful and round easy drinker with pedigree. It pairs well with many foods. Great utility player for your summer. $20. Fruit forward. Way too light.

2014 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc. This fruit comes from our friends, the Peltons, at nearby Clay Hill Vineyard. Boasting flavors of cherry and black pepper, this is a great wine from a great place. 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold and Governor’s Case Selection. $35. Peppery.

2014 Union. 63% Petit Verdot/19% Cabernet Franc/18% Tannat. Concentrated flavors of wild cherry syrup and pomegranates, dense mouthfeel, and spicy vanilla tannin. Winner of 2017 Monticello Cup and 2017 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold. $35. Syrupy nose, not a great taste.

Definitely not my favorite winery, but fun to check out the local ones.

Billsboro Winery, Finger Lakes, NY

As I was checking out some wineries in the Finger Lakes, another one visited was Billsboro Winery.

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They are “committed to crafting dry classic European varietal wines grown by Seneca Lake’s best vineyards.  We are dedicated to focusing on small scale production, allowing us to devote more attention to providing a high quality product for our customers.  Our commitment to quality is evident both in the glass and the experience we provide in our tasting room.”

It was quite busy when we were there and we had to wait in line for a bit to get up to the tasting station. We were close to leaving, then finally got a spot.

They charge $5 for a tasting and we also chose to each taste different wines so we could cover the menu together.


A Billsboro first! This sparkling dry Riesling pops with aromas of lime and bright citrus, followed by a surprising burst of black cherry and nectarine across the palate. Brilliant acidity and intense fruit flavors follow right through to the finish. This bubbly, dry Riesling is our recommendation for your next celebration!  $18  – This wine uses 2 Riesling (grapes). Doesn’t taste like Rieslings, fun with the bubbles.

2016 Pinot Gris

This 100% Pinot Gris has aromas of orange blossom and honeysuckle, giving way to crisp Golden Delicious apple and mouthwatering honeydew melon that lasts right through the finish. With its zesty and refreshing acidity, this Billsboro favorite pairs well with fish tacos, lobster rolls, or roasted chicken.  $17 – Very good fruit, smooth and dry.

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Crisp and fruit forward this Sauvignon Blanc bursts with ruby red grapefruit. Notes of lemon zest and peach dance across the palate in this cool climate wine. Enjoy this wine with fresh oysters or local goat cheese.  $18 – Not much nose and not overly citrusy. Just very crisp.

2015 Chardonnay

Back by popular demand, this bone dry Chardonnay is fruit forward at the start followed by undertones of oak balancing out the finish.  A highly constructed wine, 30% of the grapes were fermented on their skins in an Orange Wine style.  The remaining fruit was pressed with 56% of the juice sent directly to the tank to ferment, and the remaining 14% spending the next 9 months fermenting and aging in neutral French oak barrels. Pairs well with pan seared salmon or Moroccan spiced chicken.  $18. – No nose, was nice that it was more of a non-oaked Chard.

2015 Barrel Fermented Dry Riesling

This special release Riesling is 100% barrel fermented and aged for 8 months in neutral French oak barrels, giving this wine a weighty mouthfeel and roundness on the palate.  Subtle citrus and slate flavors abound. $20 – No thanks, that’s all I can say.

2016 Kashong White

This perfect lakeside sipping wine is 100% Vidal Blanc. A crisp and fruity wine with notes of grapefruit and lime zest. Enjoy this wine with Asian stir fry or Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad with Raspberry Dressing. $12 – Subtle notes of citrus. Nice crisp bite.

2014 Riesling

This medium-sweet Riesling, offers a whisper of sweetness amid vibrant tropical fruit. A versatile food partner, this wine is a natural for taming the heat of spicier foods while leaving a touch of sweet on the palate. Try pairing this wine with pulled pork or spicy Thai coconut soup.  $17 – Super sweet.

 

2016 Dry Rose

This classic representation of Finger Lakes rosé opens with crisp acidity balanced intense fruit for a refreshing finish that is sure to invigorate the taste buds. These grapes were destemmed and soaked for just 6 hours on the skins. Pair this versatile wine with a sharp Italian cheese or asparagus and prosciutto.  $17 – Had a subtle smoke note to it. Very nice.

2015 Pinot Noir – Sawmill Creek Vineyards

Warm cedar delicately frames notes of smoke and clove, followed by a burst of cranberry across the palate. A hint of truffle lingers as it finishes. Pair with Wild Mushroom and Burrata Bruschetta or Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin.   $25 – Very light, was almost ‘cheesy’.

 

2015 Cabernet Franc

A toasty bouquet precedes complex notes of ripe raspberry, orange zest and clove, followed by a savory and peppery finish.  Pair this Bordeaux varietal with   Wood-fired pizza or duck breast with a cherry reduction.  $25 – Light, not much to it.

*90 points, Wine Enthusiast Magazine 

2014 Cabernet-Syrah

This unique blend (66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Syrah) projects a fragrant nose of dark fruit and vanilla bean.  The palate is a generous mix of lush plum with an underlying hint of Applewood smoked bacon and spice.   $30 – Heavier, not bad.

*90 points, Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Not bad but not great. Regardless, very fun to check out.

Treveri Cellars

While in the Yakima Valley awhile back, I visited Treveri Cellars, which produces only bubbly. Too bad! Their exact location is Wapato. They have been around for six years and aim to put WA state sparkling wines on the map. They have also been served at US State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation.

You go to their lovely tasting room and you must sit at a table (vs standing at the bar). They kindly come around and pour your tasting. And, come the end, the tasting is free (so uncommon).

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(note on the dosage — a 0 dosage is SUPER dry)

Blanc de Noirs Brut
Small bubbles give way to a delicate color with a hint of strawberries and brioche on the nose. The minimal dosage allows the true palate complexity of this wine shine through, leaving rich acidity with a creamy finish.
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir | AVA: Yakima Valley |Vintage: Non-Vintage | Total Acid: 7.5g/L
pH: 3.32 | Dosage: 8g/L | En Tirage: 23.5 months | PRICE: $20.00
*Very crisp, not overly sweet. Prefer this over the Blanc de Blanc. My favorite.

Blanc de Blancs Brut
The most well-known of sparkling wines, our Blanc de Blancs captures hints of green apple and brioche, balanced out by a cool, crisp finish.
Blend: Chardonnay | AVA: Yakima Valley | Vintage: Non-Vintage | Total Acid: 8.2g/L
pH: 3.3 | Dosage: 12g/L | En Tirage: 24 months | PRICE: $15.00
*Traditional ‘champagne’.

Sparkling Rosé
Crisp and complex, Treveri Cellars Sparkling Rosé boasts hints of berries and citrus, creating a blend of delicious and enticing flavors. Rosé pairs well with any dish, and its versatile profile is sure to lavish your meal with luxury and class.
Blend: Syrah/Chardonnay | AVA: Yakima Valley | Vintage: Non-Vintage | Total Acid: 8.1g/L | pH: 3.32 | Dosage: 22g/L | En Tirage: 24 months | PRICE: $18.00
*Very sweet.

Brut Rose (not on the tasting list)
No details on it other than – Blend: 100% Pinot Noir | Dosage: 6g/L
*Nice and dry!

Sparkling Gewürztraminer
A delightful combination of spice and exotic fruit aromas, Treveri Sparkling Gewürztraminer ignites a spark of variety with every sip. Easy to recognize but hard to put down, this bubbly will captivate your senses and enlighten your experience.
Blend: 100% Gewürztraminer | AVA: Yakima Valley | Vintage: Non-Vintage
Total Acid: 7.5g/L | pH: 3.34 | Dosage: 35g/L | En Tirage: 24 months | PRICE: $17.00
*Almost beer/cider-like.

Sparkling Syrah Brut
With devotion, care, and careful attention, Treveri sparkling Syrah exudes sophistication and elegance, making it a paradigm of perfection. Red effervescence cascades through this sparkling, matched equally by dark fruit and complex yeast tones.
Blend: 100% Syrah | AVA: Yakima Valley | Vintage: Non-Vintage | Total Acid: 7.5g/L
pH: 3.38 | Dosage: 12g/L | En Tirage: 24 months | PRICE: $20.00
*Not as many bubbles as the whites. Very smooth for a Syrah. Light but syrupy. Too grape-y. Not my favorite sparkling red, and I seek these wines out.

This winery has great potential. Many options, fair prices and amazing tasting room if you’re on site. Look forward to seeing them grow and glad I was able to visit them.

Hogue Cellars (reserve)

When checking out Yakima Valley awhile back, in the Prosser Region, we visited a relatively well known (I assume, because I see it fairly often) winery/wine maker — Hogue Cellars.

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Now jumping ahead a bit, I like splitting tastings because when you hit several wineries a day you’re going to taste a lot and drink a lot. You’re going to lose your taste and obviously have some alcohol… And somebody has to drive. But then, you start talking to these people. It’s a quiet day and they talk and talk, understand your love of wine and say ‘Oh, but you have to try this. And oh, but then…’ You don’t end up splitting a tasting.

We arrived, fairly quiet and opted to split the Reserve Tasting, for $5. You chose 5 of 9 wines you want to sip. These aren’t the wines you see on the store shelves with the label in the logo as noted above. They hold these labels:

We opted for:

2015 Terroir Viognier, Wahluke Slope — Our Viognier opens with fresh flora and exotic fruits aromas. Peach cobbler, citrus and a touch of pineapple intertwined with tropical mango and starfruit. It features a mouthfeel that is clean and crisp with soft acidity. $20 — Very nice nose, a bit sweet, definite starfruit taste (because you know, we know this off the bat because we eat it everyday).

2014 Terroir GSM Lonesome Springs Vineyard — 21% Grenache/40% Syrah/39% Mouverdre.  In the glass, the wine is young purple in color with a tint of red on the rim. Lively aromas of black raspberry, black pepper and spice with touches of vanilla cream. $28 — A bit oakey, chocolatey.

2013 Reserve Merlot Columbia Valley — This wine opens with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry, blueberry and dark meaty plum. Rich and weighty on the pallet with great structure and integrated oak. Flavors of black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg linger with a lasting finish. $30 —  NICE!!!! Bought a bottle for later. Fruit on the nose. Very fresh and fruity on the tongue. I have always avoided this varietal because of the movie Bottleshock and I wish I didn’t have that in my mind. This grape can be good.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain — Our Cabernet Sauvignon has amazing color and depth, along with some unique and exciting fruit flavors. Dried cherry, cocoa, fig and nutmeg balance the huge earthy, minerality Red Mountain wine. $32 — Nice and light for a cab.

2013 Terroir Petit Verdot Horse Heaven Hills — The inky Petit Verdot has a pleasantly massive richness and vibrant acidity. This wine starts out with black fruit, plum and cassis. Gamey undertones, bacon, black pepper and spice round out the mid-pallet along with flavors of dark chocolate and creamy coffee. Silky tannins with a chewy finish. $32 100% Petit Verdot. This is an ooohhhh so smooth wine. Very creamy. I didn’t find that it had a very chewy finish. You tasted this wine from start to finish. Very nice.

These were the first 5 and then I didn’t scribble down notes on the balance of them. We were poured at least 3 or 4 more. In the end, my friend ended up joining the Wine Club, option for the 3 bottle option. With that you get 3 bottles of wine from the exclusive Terroir and Reserve tiers on a quarterly basis. Cheers to that. We also got our $5 tasting fee refunded. Cheers!

Dead Head Red

There is a joke in my family about the Grateful Dead because of a Santa mistake that happened years ago. So anytime we see anything related to the band, we tend to get it. Normally it has to do with those cute little dancing bears. Well, now life is getting so much better! My Christmas present from my aunt and uncle was Grateful Dead wine. I’ll take that. The name is ‘Steal Your Face’ and it’s a blend (85% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah) from Mendocino County. Great table wine, perfect for any dinner.

Got a box of three. One was enjoyed over Christmas with the family, one stayed with the (immediate) family and one came home with me and is still waiting a bit to be enjoyed. Have to pick the right people to share it with. Who should I tell the story behind the bottle with?

Also, the place that distributes this is Wines that Rock — they have various other wines from well known bands. Pretty fun and great gift ideas.

NY Wine

We have wineries across across the country and New York is ranked #3 in the country size-wise in grape production per Wikipedia (where is Oregon?? — CA and WA are 1 & 2).  Commercial production started in the state the 19th century. Also, some fun tidbits from Wikipedia — New York is home to the first bonded winery in the US, Pleasant Valley Wine Company. It is also home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson Valley, which has been making wine for almost 175 years.

I visit the Finger Lakes area annually and last year, after not having gone for a decade (at least), stopped by the New York Wine & Culinary Institute in Canandaigua. In addition to the cooking school and restaurant, they have a tasting room.

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There were 3 of us there so we opted to each get different flights so we could get a good feel for the current stance of NY wines. Out of the 15 wines we tasted, I would say maybe 4-5 were decent/good. And the downside is they aren’t wallet-friendly ones for what they offer — $20+. New York wines are still generally very sweet, both reds and whites. Two of us were more red people and one was an oaky chard lover so there was a bit of a difference in tastes, but overall, same thought on NY wines.

We did, however, try some of the their of sparkling wines, and left with 2 bottles. That was quite good and was enjoyed later in the evening.

Overall for the day, very fun location to visit and worth the time.

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Winery Stop 1, Yabby Lake Vineyard

Sunny day, time to start the wine adventures in Mornington Peninsula.  The first stop was Yabby Lake Vineyard.  It opened in 1998 and they have 200 acres.  They use all their own grapes for their wines.  We had the opportunity to try many of their vinos that day, some from their Red Claw Collection, some from their Yabby Lake Collection.

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2015 Red Claw Pinot Gris (A bright, refreshing style of pinot gris – bone dry and the perfect partner for fresh local seafood)  – very light

2015 Red Claw Chardonnay (Beautifully focused and fine, this is a lovely modern expression of Mornington Peninsula chardonnay) – light on the oak, nice chard

2015 Yabby Lake Pinot Gris (A fine, refreshing style of pinot gris with delicate aromas and beautiful natural acidity) – could use a bit more body, not much taste

2014 Yabby Lake Chardonnay (A terrific year for chardonnay. The wine shows great purity, beautiful natural acidity, line and length) – WOW, not too oaky at all

2014 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir (Incredibly perfumed, finely structured and silky pinot noir)  – earthy nose, tannic

2014 Yabby Lake Syrah (A perfumed and spicy Syrah, medium-bodied in style) – WOW, on the nose especially

2013 Heathcote Estate Shiraz  (One of Heathcote’s best known Shiraz producers, concentrated yet beautifully balanced and fine) – OK

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So, of course we can’t get these in the US.  But if you’re visiting Australia or anywhere that has them, definitely give any of these wines a try.

 

Cheers to the Weekend

Have been sipping a range of drinks recently so thought I would pass them along as we enter the weekend.  They hit all the choices out there — beer, wines, liquor.  The rundown as the 5 o’clock whistle approaches.

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Beer:  It’s Flying Dog’s 25th Anniversary and I heard about their anniversary brew, Tropical Bitch.  It’s a Belgian-Style IPA, 8.0% ABV.  Per the description, “pineapple and mango dominate with subtle passion fruit and sticky sweet, yet crisply bitter, hop notes.”  Was finally able to snag a 6-pack.  Yeah, it’s ok.  Fairly bronze in color and just off in taste, for me.  Not that impressed (personally, keep that in mind).  I keep opening more to see if I like it and not so much, but the color is very cool.  It’s about $8-$10/6 pack.

White Wine:  Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.  Nice and light, with subtle citrus notes.  Has just a perfect body to it.  Also has the convenient screw top.  Perfect to enjoy with some cheese or seafood, or totally on its own.  This is around $10-$15/bottle.

Red Wine:  Napa Cellars Pinot Noir. I’ll let you guess where it’s from. It has just a nice balance of subtle chocolate and berries.  Perfect.  What I loved is that I was able to pick some up for $10/bottle vs. the normal $20!

Margaritas:  Jose Cuervo Light Margaritas (pre-mixed).  Addiction in a bottle.  Only 95 calories a serving.  Just don’t read how small the serving is, ok?  It’s just perfect to throw some ice in a glass and pour this on top.  Then grab the chips, salsa and guac.  Can usually find this for $12-$15/bottle.

 
Drink on, my friends.

Blinder than Blind

Wine tasting on weekends are some of the best things to attend.  Recently a wine shop in DC presented a blind tasting.  They admitted when we got there that maybe they could have made it a bit easier and made it one region, one varietal or narrowed it down in some fashion.  Why?  Because we felt like we were taking the test for a Master Somm.  It was awesome.

IMG_3693We had one bubbly, 3 whites and 3 reds.  This store sells mostly old world wines and everything we tasted was sold in house.  It was tough for me because I lean new world.

All I can say is I got a huge F on this test.  I was writing/spelling wrong at some points because I was confused and failing so badly! I was close on some, region-wise.

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Does that mean I need to take it again and taste more wine?  I was definitely blinder than blind is this one.

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Bordeaux Walking Tour

While exploring France had to determine the best way to explore what was at my fingertips.  Was referred by a friend to a great way to explore the city of Bordeaux and of course enjoy their great drink — Bordeaux Walking Tours.  I enjoyed an afternoon exploration of the city.

Got to see the city on foot and learn about historic sites along the water and throughout the town.

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Then we visited the Wine & Trade Museum.

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DSC_0850At the end of this visit, we got to taste several French wines.  We received the full rundown on history, varietal, region, etc.

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IMG_3158IMG_3159(Chateau LaJarre was definitely my favorite)

IMG_3160IMG_3161After this great tasting we headed off to our next stop after learning much about wine at the museum.  During our tour we learned about the Bordeaux region and how the Gironde River determines a lot of the ‘taste’ of the grapes — earthy vs fruity.  Those on the Right Bank of the river tend to be fruitier, those on the Left Bank tend to be earthier.

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Turns out our next stop was a blind tasting to apply what we learned about the banks.

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I got 2 out of 3 right, and mostly only loved one of them, the Chateau Bardin, from the Right Side.  This was such a fun way to learn more about wine and I did learn that old world wine really isn’t that bad.  I can expand my horizons beyond new world.