September marks the 61st monthly gathering of wine bloggers for the virtual wine tasting, Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW).
WBW founder, Len Thompson, served as the host for this month’s WBW, and the theme for this month is “at the source.” For this month, we were challenged to feature a wine based on a personal visit to a winery rather picking up a bottle at a local wine shop. Len noted that bonus points would be awarded if we taste with the winemaker.
Since there are now over 140 wineries here in Virginia, one would think finding time to visit one of the wineries nearby would be easy. Unfortunately, given my travel schedule I haven’t been home more than a day or two at time in the last couple of months so I wasn’t able to visit a Virginia winery. Instead, I visited a winery 3,000 miles away – I was able to carve out some time during a recent trip to Nor Cal to visit a few wineries including White Rock Vineyards.
White Rock Vineyards is a 36-acre property located in Napa, tucked off of the Silverado Trail. I met White Rock winemaker, Christopher Vandendriessche, via a mutual friend and thankfully he was available to meet during my trip. Christopher gave me the star treatment (or blogger friend of a friend treatment – which was really good) during my visit – gracious with his time, barrel samples, current release tasting, and lunch (ups to Kent Fortner for the lunch as well). Most importantly, he shared the story of his family and their vineyards, which is what I appreciated most.
The Vandendriessche family purchased the White Rock property in 1977. Christopher grew up on the property, and he, along with his brother, actually planted one of the vineyards as part of a high school project. (I think I recall him telling me that he did most of the work). Although the Vandendriessche’s planted all of the vines used for their current wines, vines have occupied space on the grounds since the 1860’s. To the Vandendriessche’s credit, no pesticides have ever been used on the land.
As part of his training to take over winemaking responsibilities at White Rock, Christopher studied the art of winemaking in France and Spain.
White Rock Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay – $30/bottle. Just under 1,000 cases produced. 13.9% alcohol. I took this bottle to a Labor Day seafood party at our friend’s house. I paired this one with the oyster course – wow, stellar pairing!!! I polled the partygoers who tried this wine, and the host’s first comment was “very well balanced.” I couldn’t agree more. On the nose I picked up hints of mineral, citrus along with buttered toast with peach preserves spread on it. A Chablisish mouthfeel if that makes sense – had a mouth of mineral supported by light peach, apricot and Werther’s candy. Although I picked up buttered toast throughout this wine, it wasn’t the over-the-top movie popcorn butter that victimizes so many California Chardonnays. This wine was slightly different than when I tasted at the winery – my tasting notes do not fully sync up with experience of tasting this wine last weekend. (of course I have a great moleskin tasting notebook, but I take really crappy tasting notes when I’m engaged in conversations). During our initial tasting at the winery, I recall much more flinty component on this wine.
I will admit that I cheated slightly on this one – I visited White Rocks a ‘few’ days before Len posted the details about this month’s WBW, however, I drank the wine that I purchased on that trip over the Labor Day weekend specifically for this WBW.
If you find yourself in Napa, I would highly recommend making an appointment at White Rock. You can also follow them on Twitter @whiterockcaves . A big thanks to Chris for his time and hospitality, and also Kent Fortner of Road 31 Wines for providing me lunch and wine and putting up with my questions. Thank you!