, , , , ,

‘Introduction to Virginia Wine’ Tasting – Sonoma, CA

One of the few upsides of chronic travel is a vault of hotel points and airline miles, which means a nice trip to wine country each year (makes all the crappy 6am flights and travel-induced insomnia worth it, I guess).  Since our annual trip to Sonoma happened to fall during Virginia Wine Month coupled with the fact that Charlottesville, VA will serve as host to the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, I thought it would be a great idea to organize an ‘Introduction to Virginia Wine‘ tasting for a group of wine bloggers while we were there.

Having hosted several other Virginia wine tasting events while on travel (here, here and here), I’ve learned the hard way to plan early, plan often, and plan some more.

In the spirit of early planning, immediately after solidifying the date of our trip, I contacted friend and fellow 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference alum, Marcy Gordon, with the idea of a Virginia wine tasting while I was in California.  Thankfully, Marcy graciously offered to host the tasting at her home.  The venue was easy – the challenge was the guest list.  I wanted a group of blogging friends who had little or no experience with Virginia wine and who will likely attend the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference.

In total, 18 blogging friends attended the tasting, including – Thea (@WineBratSF) from Luscious Lushes, Jason (@20DollarWine) from 20 Dollar Wine blog, John from John On Wine, William (@SonomaWilliam) from Simple Hedonisms, Marcy (@MarcyGordon) from Come for the Wine, Fred & Eva (@NorCalWine) from NorCalWine, Sherry (@SLHousman) from Wine with SLHousman, Joel and Cailyn (@Cailynq) from Taste Live, Brian & Michelle (@NorCalWingMan) from NorCal Wing Man blog, and Mike (@MWangbickler) from Caveman Wines.

Out on Marcy's deck for the tasting - everyone looks busy taking notes. Photo courtesy of Marcy Gordon.


Eva checking out William's iPad, Jason and Thea on the couch with the best view.

Not only do the guests attending these tastings need ample advance notice to work events in to their calendars, I’ve learned that wineries also appreciate advanced notice – especially during harvest.  Since August and September are crazy busy months for everyone in the Virginia wine industry, I worried that the wineries might ban me for contacting them during this hectic time.

I’m grateful for the positive response from each of the Virginia wineries I contacted – Thank you! True to form, the wineries were more than eager to share their wines with the California blogger group.

Given the amount of Twitter activity about the event, several other Virginia wineries contacted me to send wine for the tasting in the week leading up to the tasting.  Since I actually planned ahead for this event (planning ahead for me is just a few weeks) our slate of wines filled up quickly. I truly appreciate each winery that offered to send wine to support the event, especially during the crazy busy month of September!  I will be back in Sonoma in a couple of months and plan to have a tasting for another group, and will be back in touch before the tasting.

I would like to sincerely thank each of the following Virginia wineries that provided wine for the event:

Virginia wines lined up for the tasting... (note - those plastic red cups were provided to each person as a spit cup, not for drinking 🙂 Photo by Marcy Gordon.


Since I spent most of the event pouring wine, providing an overview of each wine, and answering questions, I had little time to take notes.  Instead, I wrote one or two word thoughts on each wine as noted below.  (I copied the tweets below from the Twitter #VaWine feed, and lengthened several tweets by spelling out abbreviations when appropriate.  In the spirit of brevity, I’ve only included a few tweets for each wine.)

We kicked off the tasting with the Kluge Estates Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine:

JohnOnWine Lively carbonation, bright acid, steely fruit, lemon lime, 7up, Clean crisp citrus nose leads to decidedly citrusy mouth with tart green apple.

MarcyGordon Starting with @KlugeEstates bubbles dry & yeasty. @drinkwhatulike our host #VAWines

norcalwingman @KlugeEstate blanc de blanc 100% Chardonnay yeasty and crisp #vawine

SLHousman #VaWines really enjoying this Kluge Estate Blanc de Blanc Sparkling lots of citrus gr8 floral nose

SonomaWilliam #vawine tasting Kluge Estates blanc de blanc nice citrus, lemon. Very effervescent in mouth #wine nice

CreativeFurnace #vawine Kluge Blanc de Blanc delicious. Nice toasty yeast bright fruit

mwangbickler Enjoying #vawine with some of my favorite wine peeps.

20dollarwine @klugeestate blanc de blanc has interesting notes of citrus and minerals. #vawine

After the Kluge Blanc de Blanc, we moved on to the Virginia white wine flight staring with Viognier, followed by Chardonnay.  As I’ve stated many times here on this site and via Twitter, I feel Viognier can put Virginia on the global white wine map (if only more wineries would focus on this varietal and plant more of it of course).

The Virginia wine white flight (not shown, Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay and Kluge Estate Blanc de Blanc)


Rappahannock Cellars 2009 Viognier:

DrinkWhatULike Very nice tropical fruit.

JohnOnWine Really interesting fruit and spice nose. Oddly hollow mouth. Mouth does not deliver nose’s promise. Tart underipe pear.

norcalwingman @rcellars 2009 Viognier tropical fruits backed by Hubba Bubba bubblegum #vawine

MarcyGordon #vawines @rcellars Rappahannock Viognier peaches and cream bit of apricot.

SonomaWilliam 2009 Rappahannock Cellars Viognier lots of citrus and acidity; lemon in mouth not as floral or flabby as many others. #wine #vawine

20dollarwine Nice balance on @rcellars 2009 Viognier #vawine

Breaux Vineyards 2009 Viognier:

DrinkWhatULike Lots going on in this one. One of my favorite Viogniers.

JohnOnWine Floral and mown hay, just right, medium sweet edge. Steel citrus and crushed pineapple. Mouth watering acidity.

cailynq @breauxvineyards just tried the 09 viognier as part of #vawine west today…

MarcyGordon 09 Viognier from @BreauxVineyards citrus and lime tropical flavors. Bit thin on my palate. Need some thai spring rolls. #vawines

SLHousman Wow @DrinkWhatULike is putting on an awesome Pre WBC11 tasting of #VaWines Thanks Frank ( :

20dollarwine 2009 @breauxvineyards Viognier nice melon and lemon notes …also a bit too sweet #vawine

SonomaWilliam 2009 Breaux Vineyards again high acidity and citrus. I like the non flabbiness but not very viognier like #wine #vawine

Jefferson Vineyards 2009 Viognier:

DrinkWhatULike Apricot all over. Crowd pleaser.

JohnOnWine notes: Bigger nose than previous wines, sweeter wine. Much more apricot and pear fruit, and honeysuckle floral sweetness. Caramel.

MarcyGordon Jefferson Vineyards @ th_jefferson 09 Viognier. Unctuous smooth richness Silky soul of Viongier. #VaWines http://twitpic.com/2ug938

CreativeFurnace #vawine bubblicious with good acidity.

SonomaWilliam 2009 Jefferson Vineyards viognier more traditional nose, honey, stone fruit, nice finish. Wish was dry, slight RS, nice overall #vawine #wine

Linden Vineyards 2007 Hardscrabble Chardonnay:

DrinkWhatULike One of my favorite Chards. Werthers candy. Nice.

JohnOnWine Over barrel fermented, burnt crème brule caramel and green apple.

MarcyGordon Linden Vineyards 07 Chardonnay juicy and toasty I like the balance. Would pair this with S’Mores. #vawines

SonomaWilliam 2007 Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay nose of stone fruit, great acidity; oak and ml; very well balanced, nice finish #wine #vawine

norcalwingman Linden vineyards Chardonnay funky and oaky light and crisp acid finish #vawine

Doukenie Winery 2009 Chardonnay:

DrinkWhatULike Pineapple. Like the acidity.

JohnOnWine Lighter pineapple and cream, bright acid, off nose. Lemon and vanilla cream mouth. Acidic finish.

20dollarwine chard with little oak from @doukeniewinery #vawine

SonomaWilliam 2009 Doukenie Chardonnay tropical from oak comes thru on nose, + slight off smell; cellar to let oak integrate #wine #vawine

Blenheim Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay:

JohnOnWine Very drinkable, most familiar, similar to Chardonnays regularly enjoyed. NOT a barrel fermented malolactic monster, nice apple fruit expression, tartness, nice acid balanced by vanilla cream.

norcalwingman Dave Mathews @Blenheim Chardonnay soft and easy, light oak to no oak and decent minerality #vawine

marcygordon 08 Chardonnay @BlenheimWines appley and pineapply fruity creamy finish. Not too oaky. #vawines

SonomaWilliam 08 Blenheim Chardonnay fave wine so far; light straw, apple, stone fruit, balanced, great finish, kudos! #wine #vawine

Rappahannock Cellars 2008 Chardonnay:

DrinkWhatULike Love the tropical fruits!

JohnOnWine notes: Nice nose, fleshy tropical fruit. Lemon orange citrus.

cailynq 2008 Rappahannack cellars Chardonnay mellow and buttery…#vawine @rcellars

marcygordon Rappahannock 08 Chardonnay lemmony and fresh but my heart belongs to their Viognier @Rcellars #vawines

norcalwingman @rcellars 2008 Chardonnay very tropical on the nose surprising for a chard #vawine

mwangbickler Queen and King of the #vawine tasting in Cali. http://twitpic.com/2ughqy

SonomaWilliam 08 Rappahannock Chardonnay fragrant nose nice acidity w lemon, citrus in mouth, bit odd finish, cellar a tad? #wine #vawine

After finishing the white wine flight with four Chardonnay’s, we moved on to the red blends.  Although I feel Virginia could gain more recognition on the global wine stage by focusing on Cab Franc and Petit Verdot (just my opinion), the bordeaux style blends coming out of Virginia wineries are excellent, and easily comparable to other more notable regions.


Virginia wine red flight. Photo by Fred Swan.

Keswick Vineyards 2007 Heritage Reserve (Cabernet Sauvignion/Merlot):

DrinkWhatULike Violet (?), cedar. Nice. Got steak?

JohnOnWine Oak, fruit on nose. Slightly closed, yet nice cedar and berry burst comes through. Could be pretty good with a host of foods if allowed to open a little more.

marcygordon Keswick 07 cab/merlot nice nose of fruit and lavender. Chewy mouth and tabbaco notes, need some time with this one @KeswickVineyard #vawines

cailynq @keswickvineyard thanks for sending Heritage to the #vawine west fest

norcalwingman @keswickvineyard cab/merlot: tight and smoky sour cherry fruit comes out finish hints of the future #vawine

SonomaWilliam 07 @Keswickvineyards Keswick Cab, unfined/unfiltered nose of spice, red fruit, nice fruit mid palate, tad tannin on finish #wine #vawine

Rappahannock Cellars 2007 Meritage (63% Cab Sauvignon, 33% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot, 2% Malbec):

SLHousman #VaWines I’m really liking this @rcellars 07 Meritage Gr8 aromas full of dry fruit! Yum!

JohnOnWine Willy wonka cherry flavored Lik-m-aid sugar powder and oak. Nose is more complex than mouth.

marcygordon Rappahannock @rcellars 07 Mertiage– blast from the past grape & cherry Pixie Stix flavor. Makes me want to jump on a Sip n Slide. #vawines

20dollarwine Diggin the @rcellars 2007 . Structure, balance. Gimme a grass-fed steak frites #vawine

norcalwingman @rcellars meritage, interesting fruit notes on the nose reminiscent of Zinfandel light tannins eh… #vawine

SonomaWilliam 07 Rappahannock meritage vibrant dark red; soft in mouth, bright Red fruit but not Jammy, great finish, well done. #wine #vawine

Fabbioli Cellars 2008 Tre Sorelle (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Verdot):

JohnOnWine Blackberry and chocolate nose, lush, not overpowering mouth, nice acidity, cedar, tannin. Berry and plum fruit taste. Good food wine.

marcygordon 07 Fabbioli tre sorelli blend elusive nose with less structure than expected for this blend. @fabbiolicellars #vawines

norcalwingman @fabbiolicellars dry red wine. Reminds me of Alexander valley cab, me likey! #vawine

SonomaWilliam 08 Fabbioli meritage tad funky nose (blew off) bit thin, good acid #wine #vawine

Breaux Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve:

JohnOnWine Loved the nose, was surprised by the aggressive mouth. Dry tannic cedary wood. Others like it more than I do, but Can Franc is one of my least favorite varietals. 16.4% alc, we had to check the label twice, it didn’t seem like an alc bomb.

marcygordon @BreauxVineyards Cab Franc sweet as baby’s breath. Like to eat some duck with this. #vawines

norcalwingman @breauxvineyards cab franc, big tannins and big licorice with healthy backing of black fruits #vawine

cailynq @breauxvineyards jenn..congrats on the little one! Wish we had more 07 cab franc @drinkwhatulike s west #vawine event

DrinkWhatULike Moving on to reds – @BreauxVineyards 07 Cab Franc Res a big hit at ‘Intro to #VaWine ‘ tasting…

SonomaWilliam 07 Breaux Vineyards Cab Franc classic nose, lush mouth, bold Rex fruit,tad sweet mid palate, offset by slight tannin on finish #wine #vawine

Rappahannock Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc:

JohnOnWine Dusty cocoa and dry berry fruit. Vegetal and ripe blackberry. Vinuous.

marcygordon 08 Rappahannock Cellars Cab Franc string Green pepper and wheat grass element to nose. Palate a vegans dream. @rcellars #vawines

norcalwingman @rcellars cab franc smoky if not burnt overbearing on the red fruit #vawine

SonomaWilliam 08 Rappahannock cab franc, tad bell pepper on nose (softens); aerate to expose fruit, clean finish #wine #vawine

Gabrielle Rausse 2008 Cabernet Franc:

JohnOnWine notes: Less forward nose than other Cab Francs. Candied fruit berry flavor and drier oaky notes.

marcygordon Gabirele Rausse Cab Franc rose and blueberrys on the nose, escapes the norm & the form for a Cab Franc to my palate but I like it. #vawines

SonomaWilliam 08 Gabriele Rausse cab franc 13% alc (bravo) black fruit on nose, approachable, moderate red fruit, pair well w many foods #wine #vawine

Mountfair Vineyards 2008 Wooloomooloo (Petit Verdot 60%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 10%):

DrinkWhatULike This wine has character, character, character.

JohnOnWine Just when I note a nice round plum note, it clashes with a green woody note. So close to love, but too green.

norcalwingman #vawine@mfvvinotweets I think I’m getting to know the character of this AVA smoky and green tannins w/ red fruits

marcygordon Mountfair Vineyards Wooloomooloo 2008 Petit Verdot 60% Merlot 30% Cab Franc 10% & a dash of Wooly Mammoth w pepper @MFVvinotweets #vawines

20dollarwine Really liked @mfvvinotweets 2008 Wooloomooloo Bordeaux blend #vawine

Linden Vineyards 2006 Petit Verdot:

DrinkWhatULike Tight. Some funk on the nose.

JohnOnWine Not what I expected, sour cherry note. Not lovin’ it.

marcygordon Linden Petit Verdot from @drinkwhatulike personal stash. Complex nose w a deep coco puffs & earthy palate. I’m cucko for coco puffs #vawines

SonomaWilliam 06 Linden petit verdot funky nose, not my Fave varietal solo anyway. Others liked it me not so much #wine #vawine

To complete the tasting, we finished with one of Virginia’s premier hard apple ciders – the Foggy Ridge Cider.  I believe we should have started the tasting with this cider, but wanted to save until the end as a refresher.  The consensus was big thumbs up for this cider with pure, crisp green apple flavors. Interesting to note how many wine enthusiasts are also avid cider fans.  (To learn more about Virginia hard apple cider, please see ‘Virginia Cider 101‘ written by Diane Flynt, proprietor and cider maker at Foggy Ridge Cider).


Marcy kept us with a great cheese platter for the event. Thanks Marcy! Photo courtesy of John Cesano.

Overall, the group was very enthusiastic about trying Virginia wines and the wines were very well received.  I would like to thank each of the wineries that provided wine for this tasting, to each of the attendees who took time out of their Sunday afternoon to join us, to William Allen for providing stemware for the event, and especially to Marcy and Roger Gordon for opening their home to host the tasting.  John Cesano also posted a great recap of the tasting as well here.


Richard Dreyfuss stopped by for the tasting as well. By day, he goes by John Cesano.

The Wings chillaxin.

William and Mike - they look ready for Virginia wine...