Now that I’ve given you my general impressions, it’s time to talk about some of the wine.
The Boxwood rosé 2011 that welcomed us to TasteCamp was a fitting introduction: fresh, not too sugary, full of berries and with a light savory side. I would welcome the chance to drink it again on a summer patio.
Virginia is known for its Viognier, and while, as I have mentioned before, it is not exactly my favourite grape variety, I found several that deserve mention. When making Viognier, decisions about whether, and if so how much, to put in oak versus stainless steel, and whether to allow malolactic fermentation are crucial to the final style of the wine. I prefer the fresher styles that retain some amount of acidity. The White Hall Vineyards Monticello Viognier 2011 combined lovely tropical fruit and lemon flavours with a decent dose of acidity, and the Rappahannock Cellars 2011 Viognier had a lovely perfume on the nose, and was lush and full on the palate, just a bit sweet.
Barboursville poured a ten-year-old Viognier, from 2002, to prove that it can age. The result was a deep, dark gold colour. It had some intriguing oxidized and honeyed notes and a full texture. It had lost much of its fruit and had perhaps passed its peak, but it was interesting nonetheless.
It’s not the most common grape variety in the region, but I also found a couple of Sauvignon Blancs I really enjoyed: Veritas Vineyards‘ Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was fresh and fruity, with just a bit of that characteristic grassy Sauvignon Blanc character, but not too much. Stinson Vineyards‘ Sauvignon Blanc 2011 had a refreshing floral quality on the nose, and was easy drinking. At Tarara, I enjoyed the Petit Manseng 2011 that accompanied us on a wagon ride through the vineyards. It was a light, floral, citrus apéro-style white with just a hint of creaminess on the texture.
Turning to the reds, those of Rappahannock Cellars caught my interest: the Meritage 2009 was earthy on the nose, with cherry red fruit, chocolate, and a light savory side on the palate. It was tart with good acidity. And their Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 had an earthy green pepper nose and a concentrated red fruit and green pepper palate. Chatting with winemaker Theo Smith, we realized we were born in the same hospital – in small-town Fredericton, New Brunswick! Theo was actually one of a few Canadian winemakers we met in Virginia.
I knew the Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve 2005 from the Wine Bloggers Conference last year, and I liked it again, with its red fruit and green pepper notes; it was light and fairly well balanced. And the Tarara Syrah 2007 was a crowd-pleaser, with rich red fruit, smoky and spicy notes, and an animal side. Very good, well made and well balanced. Unfortunately the Syrah was sold out, but Tarara’s Boneyard Red, an eclectic blend, was also a great value at only $15.
Ankida Ridge‘s Pinot Noir 2010 caught my interest because it was one of the very few Pinot Noirs I saw all weekend. Given that this was their very first vintage, I’d say this winery is on to something. The Pinot had nice notes of cherry and spice. It was a bit rich for my taste in terms of Pinot, but I would be curious to see what happens in subsequent vintages.
I found his take on acidity interesting: he explained that in his white wines, he’s looking for a “mineral acidity rather than a green apple acidity.” He picks some berries and tastes the juice for acidity, waiting for the green apple acidity to diminish, which is when the mineral acidity starts.
The Linden Avenius Chardonnay 2009 did indeed have something of the mineral about it: an elegant wine with a hint of oak that didn’t overwhelm. Law explained that he was aiming for a “reductive style” – he didn’t want the oak influence, but he did want some influence from the lees. He avoids malolactic fermentation in an effort to preserve freshness and minerality. He tried his native yeasts, but didn’t like the result, and so inoculated instead (I appreciate his honesty on that point, given the trendiness of using native yeasts these days). The overall result is tight yet refreshing, with just the right amount of richness that doesn’t overpower.
More aromatic on the nose, the Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay 2009 was also a bit richer and more complex, with lots of fresh fruit and a good acidity. You could feel the oak a bit more in its light toasty notes, but the balance was still there. On this wine, he went with a mix of native and inoculated yeasts. The Hardscrabble Red 2008 is also worth mentioning for its fresh red fruit and hint of spice, and lack of overpowering oak.
If I make it back to Virginia, Linden Vineyards will be at the top of my list for a repeat visit.
Special thanks to all the wineries who poured for us. It can’t be easy pouring or a group of 40-odd wine bloggers, especially at the end of the day when everyone is experiencing palate fatigue.