This weekend I attended the 21st annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival in Norfolk, VA. There were about 40 wineries on hand along with a dozen other vendors. Saturday was rained out, but Sunday was sunny and cool, nearly perfect for a wine fest.
I have a love/hate relationship with wine festivals… on the one hand I really like them and look forward to trying lots of different wines in one day, but really despise the crowds of people who only come to the festivals to drink as much as possible for their $30. I’ve also come to not like the ‘volunteer’ aspect of many wine festivals. I respect the fact that many wineries are operating on shoestring budgets and rely on volunteers to do the grunt work of mindless pouring at these festivals since many attendees are just there to drink and mingle, but there are however, many people like myself who go to these festivals looking for new and interesting wines and am always disappointed when I ask questions about the wines or winemaking process only to get that ‘I have no clue I’m only here for the free bottles of wine’ look.
For the sake of brevity and future carpal tunnel considerations, I will limit my review to just a few wines that I sampled during the festival. There were a couple of wineries at the festival that I found to be worthy of mentioning in this esteemed and widely read online wine journal:
In particular, I have to give Valhalla Winery, located in Roanoke, VA, the Mega Gold Star of Marketing Award! Valhalla is owned by the Vascik family and had two family members on-site pouring and fielding questions about their wines and any other asinine questions I could think of. What I really liked was their ‘Reserve’ tasting that they conducted at the rear of their tent which featured many of their older, reserve wines. How clever! When I commented on their marketing savvy, the winegrower (the husband) noted that the vast majority of the festival goers couldn’t/wouldn’t appreciate his reserve wines and it would be a waste to serve them to the masses (I agree!). Since I will take any occasion to be in ‘the club’ or participate in what could be construed as elitist activity, I was more than willing to pay $10 to sample the four reserve wines from the ’98 vintage and one more from their ’02 and ’04 vintages as well.
Of the six reserve wines sampled, I especially liked the following three:
1998 Sangiovese, $20
Brick color. Like many Virginia wines, this wine had a nice cranberry component along with cherry and spice aromas. I liked the tannins which had likely mellowed in the 10 years spent in bottle. In the mouth I picked up lighter fruits like strawberry, rose petal, spice and good ‘ol Virginia soil.
1998 Syrah, $50
Very well done. Purple in color. Sediment in the glass, which I like to see. Definite tobacco and pepper on the nose along with blackberry. The tannins worked well with the blackberry in the mouth. The tobacco was prominent on the finish for a good while. Great mouth feel – silky wine with little bits of sediment rolling around.
2001 Alicante Bouschet, $20
This is a ‘true’ red grape – meaning the juice is actually red. Valhalla is apparently the only grower of Alicante outside of the state of California. On the nose, I very pungent bacon fat aromas along with plum and ripe currants. This was like blending plums, currants and bacon for a morning smoothie. Both the plum and bacon fat continued on the palate. A truly interesting wine.
Valhalla is all that is good about Virginia Wine and small wineries – family owned, real passion, creativity and true wine! If you are ever in the Western, VA area, be sure to stop by Valhalla for a tasting.
The next winery I especially liked was Veritas – which is located in Afton, VA. This is another one of Virginia’s gems that I feel is under rated. Although they did not offer their best wine (in my opinion) for tasting at the festival, Cab Franc, I feel I should make mention of it here because it’s a great Virginia wine.
My favorite of the Veritas tasting was the 2007 Claret. This is great ‘simple’ Virginia wine (simple used in a positive sense) for $17. This is a blend of 50% Cab Franc, 35% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. The sour (dry) cherry aromas were most prominent on the nose along with blackberry and raspberry. Soft tannins. In the mouth I picked up a tinee-tiny amount of vanilla, earth and lots of cherry that continued long on the finish. As I talked to the volunteer about the wines, I got more cherry for nearly a minute.
The final mention from the wine fest is the Barboursville Winery/Vineyard Octagon VIII. Barboursville, located in Barboursville, VA, is one of the largest and oldest wineries in the state of Virginia.
Barboursville seems to have the widest distribution of any Virginia winery as I’ve come across their wines in Texas, New York, California and Florida among other states. Barboursville is good for the Virginia Wine industry given their wide distribution along with the positive press the winery has received. Most notably, Barboursville’s 2001 Octagon was served during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Virginia during the founding of Jamestown anniversary celebration last year.
Octagon is only produced in years when the grapes are deemed worthy by the winemaker. This vintage, called Octagon VIII goes for about $40/bottle – which is on the high end for a Virginia wine. This is a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Nebbiolo. On the nose, I picked up that resident Virginia sour cherry, blackberries, leather and good ‘ol Virginia dirt. The sample I tasted was too tight and needed more time to unwind (may have been a bit too cold due to weather that morning). In the mouth the earth and dark fruit were evident along with a smoky component. I’ve had other versions of Octagon which were better than this one.
I will certainly be back next year again, but hope the weather is better and that more wineries participate.
October is Virginia Wine Month – drink Virginia wine!