The following is a guest post from George Minor who reports on the release party of Orphan No. 1, a new collaborative wine.

Winemaking is a team effort.

Typically that team is working at the same place, under the same roof from the beginning, with a clear goal in mind.  Occasionally, the process deviates from this mode.  Sometimes, it takes a confluence of good timing, meeting of like minds, some creative sustained spark, and a bit of unfinished business.

Such is the case with Central Virginia winemaker Jake Busching’s latest wine project, The Orphan No.1, a skin contact Pinot Gris that also had help from some other notable local talent.   

I was very happy to be present at the big release party held at Tavola restaurant’s Cichetti bar in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 30.  Each member of the group responsible for Orphan were present for the release. And all attending were fortunate to enjoy the Orphan with delicious hors d’ouvers prepared by Brasserie chef Tyler Teass.    

To understand the origin of the Orphan No.1, we need to turn back the clock a bit. Jake first started working with Pinot Gris while the winemaker at Pollack Vineyards.  During that time, he became fascinated with the color changes of the grape from white to pale purple and began to wonder about the distinct possibilities the grape could hold. (for those not familiar, ripe Pinot Gris has a beautiful, pale purple color when ripe, although the pressed juice is, initially, white).

In late Fall of 2015,  Busching and Joy Ting (then enologist and production manager) of Michael Shaps Wineworks, were trying to find a final home for two barrels of Pinot Gris. The wine had had some extended skin contact, and wound up to rest in neutral barrels.

Fast forward over a year to February 2017.  Busching, now working as manager for Vineyard Management Services (sister company of Michael Shaps Wineworks) was holding his first ‘Jake Busching Wines’ release party at The Wine Guild of Charlottesville to release his first wines under his eponymous label – Jake Busching Wines.  

Also in attendance were Joy Ting (now winemaker and enologist of Shaps Wineworks), her husband Paul Ting, and Will Curley, wine director of Brasserie Saison restaurant (part of Will Richey’s 10 Course Hospitality group).   Over a few glasses of wine, talk turned to the fate of the errant Pinot Gris.    

Curley’s strong belief was that an extended skin contact wine — ‘orange wine’ — could be easily sold and appreciated in a restaurant.  Curley and his wife, Priscilla Martin, wine director at Tavola in Charlottesville, both had ready outlets for the wine.

Will had recent success with selling an orange wine, and that experience, along with the rise in popularity of ‘natural’ wines, led him to advocate that day for a new purpose for the two barrels.   

With that firmly held opinion, plus the collective wisdom assembled, it was agreed that the group would work together and move forward to finish the wine (also enlisting Priscilla).  The goal was to make an approachable, food friendly wine that could be served in Brasserie Saison and Tavola, and making the wine available for retail purchase.  And, to create something fun and different.  

I would say they delivered! There was no shortage of accolades for the wine at the release party.

The grapes were destemmed, crushed, and then fermented on skins for the first half of fermentation ( 4-5 days), then pressed to stainless steel tank and finished in tank.  The juice was then transferred to two neutral oak barrels for 13 months before the ‘O’ team convened and did some blending trials.   

The wine was blended with 10% Viognier, to add some aromatic lift and body, and 10% Riesling, to add some acidity.  The wine was then bottled, allowed to rest for a minimum of 30 days, and then was released to the public shortly after.  The unique bottle label was designed by Priscilla Martin’s father, who is an architect, and is loosely based on the French children’s book Madeline, a book about a young French schoolgirl away from home.

The group decided to add the No.1 moniker to leave open the possibility of this becoming a continuing project. (I certainly hope so !).   Just 57 cases were made.

Besides the unique color, it’s all about texture and structure and unique flavor.   A beautiful, striking pale orange/salmon color in the glass, Orphan hints at some kind of rose, but different. It definitely captures your eye.  On the nose, soft dried strawberry, creamsicle, pear, golden delicious apple, delicate floral aromas.

On the palate, fresh tart dried strawberry and lemon, and pear with hint of under-ripe mango along with a gentle spiciness. To continue, a bright, zesty lemony acidity followed by a beautiful round, and supple mid-palate that surprises and delights (and this is where the magic of extended skin contact white wines shines through), followed by a smooth, clean finish.  The wine is clean, fresh and refreshing, and is really wanting to be with food.  And it has a surprising and deliciously distinctive savoriness; think fresh herbs, like sage and cumin.    

The wine is versatile and pairs nicely with a wide range of foods.  Will Curley said, at Brasserie Saison, the wine has been paired nicely with just about everything on their menu; from their (amazing) shrimp cocktail, grilled sea bass, wood fired pizzas, and meat dishes.   Certainly it is begging for seafood of all kinds. With its bit of added weight, it will also certainly match up with flavors of the Fall.

So, if you haven’t had Orange wine before or looking for a great new local example, consider Orphan No. 1.

The Orphan No.1 Pinot Gris is available for purchase on premise at Brasserie Saison and Tavola restaurants in Charlottesville, as well as retail at The Wine Guild of Charlottesville.  To contact the Wine Guild, please email info@wineguildcville.com  or call Tuesday – Friday at (434) 202-4223.  

It may not be the first from Virginia but is a pleasurable, memorable example, and you can remind yourself that not one, but five experienced palates were behind it.  I think this is one Orphan that has quickly, thankfully, found a home!

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George got his start in the wine business under Cat Silirie, a James Beard award winning Sommelier who works with Barbara Lynch, in Boston, and quickly graduated to being a Sommelier there.  After a short spell in the music business, he got back into wine, via restaurant work, working as a retail wine consultant,  then as a vineyard manager and assistant winemaker, all in Virginia.   He achieved his Certified Sommelier certification and has taken numerous trips to wine country here and abroad.  He is a strong supporter of Virginia wines and is currently the operations manager for the Wine Guild of Charlottesville.

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