29 Jul 2011
About an hour outside of Washington DC sits an amazing wine destination to rival those of Sonoma, Napa, Walla Walla and even France. Breaux Vineyards is on 404 acres among the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Producing 18 grape varieties and over 10,000 cases of wine, husband wife team, Christopher and Jennifer Blosser (owner’s daughter) oversee the operations of this beautiful facility.
Paul Breaux, a local real estate broker, found himself captivated with the 404 acres of property and in 1994 purchased the land (which included 3 acres of planted grapes) to fulfill the vision of Breaux Vineyards. With the help of winemaker Dave Collins, Breaux has blossomed and has been voted Virginia’s favorite winery 3 consecutive years.
I was first introduced to Breaux through their interactions on Twitter leading up to the 2011 Wine Blogger’s conference. Fellow tweeter @suzielin encouraged Jennifer Breaux-Blosser to reach out to me at the conference and boy am I glad she did. During a tasting of “the other 46″ (wines from other than California, Washington, Oregon and New York), I was introduced to their Cab Franc, Nebbiolo and Meritage blend. All three showed very well. I was excited to run into Jennifer as I was leaving the conference and she asked if I wanted to take home some wine…”duh,” I thought and politely stuffed three wines into my suitcase for the 3000 mile journey home.
The video is shot from my friend’s downtown condo with the rushing of the Spokane Falls in the background and highlighted by the great downtown skyline. Enjoy, and drink happy!
2010 Breaux Vineyards Viognier
This is classic tropical Viognier here folks. Love the amazing nose of peaches, papaya, and lychee fruit. In the mouth the wine is not quite as thick as some other Viognier I’ve had recently but does score well with a nicely balanced acidity. The price point is a little higher than I would want to see ($24) but overall this would pair well with a slightly sweet dish (pea salad, fruit salad), sweet-n-sour pork or a light chicken dish. Viognier has been named Virginia’s signature grape and this is a classic example of why! 3+/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
2007 Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Cab Franc is another of Virginia’s four prominent grapes (Viognier, Merlot and Petite Verdot being the others). Most of the Cab Franc I tried in VA was reticent of under ripe fruit and bell peppers. While the hearty grape grows well, there does seem to be quite a bit of vintage variation. This wine boasted a great complexity of flavors ranging from coffee to deep plums and tobacco. My full tasting resulted in the same score as my first impression at the conference. 3+/5
30 Dec 2010
Folie à Deux, French for shared fantasies; I can think of a few shared fantasies I’d like to have, but they may be a little more than PG-13 for this blog. Folie à Deux is an Oakville California winery focused on creating wines that deliver a memorable shared experience. Many know Folie à Deux from their racier little sister label, Ménage à Trois (lower cost red and white blends). The Folie à Deux label offers varietal focused wines at a good price point.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Napa Valley vineyards in Oak Knoll, Oakville, and Atlas Peak. 6 months on 65% new French and American oak. ½ the juice was fermented in stainless steel and ½ in small oak barrels. 14.2% ABV; 25,000 cases made.
- The Swirl: In the glass the wine presents a muted golden color.
- The Sniff: The Chardonnay features typical chardonnay characteristics of apple juice and buttered toast. Not a lot dynamic aromas here, but still very nice.
- The Sip: I really enjoyed the flavor profile on this wine. More is happening on the palate than on the nose. A soft apple flavor gives way to a gentle coconut and almond. There are also interwoven characteristics of citrus fruit. The finish provides a slightly disjointed burnt flavor and the acidity seems relatively mild.
- The Score: At $18 retail (typically $15 in stores), a lot of people will enjoy this wine. The flavor characteristics are typical of what chardonnay lovers enjoy. For me, I was mostly pleased with the structure but didn’t care for the finish of the wine. 3/5
Cellar Tracker score of 87 points with 2 reviews
- The Stuff: 86% Napa Valley Merlot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7 months of barrel aging in a combination of American and French oak; 14.5% ABV, 7,750 cases made
- The Swirl: A thin plum color defines the center of the wine but the edges are slightly watery.
- The Sniff: Pleasantly surprised by the pop of aroma on this Merlot. Very easily distinguishable as a smooth cherry and cocoa merlot. A nice hint of spice rounds out the nose.
- The Sip: The Folie a Duex Merlot has a soft initial attach but then opens up to a touch of sweet cherry on the mid palate. Good layers of flavor that evolve from cocoa to coffee and then a hint of spice on the finish. This is an easy drinking flavorful wine. The high alcohol slightly burns on the finish. At just $18 retail this is a great buy! 3+/5
Cellar Tracker score of 85 points with 2 reviews
- The Stuff: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Syrah from Napa Valley vineyards. After fermentation the wine spent an additional 14 days on the skins (extended maceration) before being aged for 15 months in a combination of French and American oak; 14% ABV, 20,500 cases produced.
- The Swirl: In the glass the wine has an inky core with a cloudy plum color around the edges.
- The Sniff: Very muted nose with hints of dried plums and a very mellow cigar box aroma.
- The Sip: I expected more from this wine and maybe I am being too harsh on it but the aroma and flavor profile doesn’t seem overly complex. The wine offers a good initial flavor of plums but to me that’s all the wine has. The tannins are very well integrated making this a drink now, drink often wine.
- The Score: At $24 retail, I’m not too hot on this wine. Give it a go at the tasting room or sample a glass before committing to several bottles. For the money there are more interesting options for affordable Cabernet Sauvignon. 3/5
15 Dec 2010
Turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and apple pie; the traditional Swanson TV dinner. Since 1953 Swanson has been synonymous with bachelor living, working families and modern convenience. In 1985 the Swanson family purchased 100 acres between Silver Oak and Opus One. W Clarke Swanson planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet country, CA and that gamble paid off. Swanson built a reputation with quality Merlot and now expands that production to Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and a few red blends.
While Swanson TV dinners have become equated with microwaves and convenience, the wines have proven themselves to be associated with quality. Recently selected as one of the top 100 wines of the world and winery of the year, 2010 by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Swanson is a winery to be considered on your list of top contenders. The three wines reviewed here will be released in the spring.
You’ve had the dinner, how is the wine?
Visit Swanson Vineyards on the internet www.swansonvineyards.com
2009 Swanson Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio to me is usually either crisp thin and tart, or slightly flabby but still light on fruit. The 2009 100% Napa Valley Pinot Grigio (13.6%ABV) is a nice balance of flavor, fruit, and mouth feel. 100% stainless steel fermented to bone dry with no malolactic fermentation, the sip reveals a nicely structured wine that is pleasing to the palate without being flabby or tart. Flavors of melons, lychee and citrus are softly interwoven. At $21 this is typically more than I would pay for a Pinot Grigio. Give this wine a try at the tasting room (or order it by the glass) before committing to the whole bottle. 3+/5
Scores on Cellar Tracker are 89 points from 3 different reviews
2007 Swanson Merlot
It’s no secret I love a well made Merlot. I love the combination of aromas and soft subtleties of fruit that can often times have flavors of coffee, cherry, and chocolate. Merlot makes for a great dinner pairing or just relaxing in the evening. The $36 Swanson Merlot is sourced primarily from their Oakville estate vineyard. Winemaker Chris Phelps gave the fruit a cold soak extended maceration before laying it down for 20 months in 40% new French and American oak. The color in the glass has a fairly dark plum center and soft colors of muted ruby at the edges. The aroma out of the glass is a bright combination of fruit, licorice, and cola. From what I’ve seen and smelled the anticipation was very high. This wine, on the sip, lived up to the expectations. The fruit was slightly thin on the front palate but opened up to a medley of flavor. I loved the play between cola and coffee and the fruit flavors were not over the top but nicely balanced. This merlot also boasted some modest muscle with a hint of thickness on the finish. At $36, worth the price for merlot lovers. 4/5
2007 Swanson Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon
The 07 Swanson Alexis stands tall above everything else. Literally…the bottle is like two inches taller than your standard wine bottle. Do you get more? At $75 you should, but sadly it’s just a marketing play. The pedigree here is strong; 26 day extended maceration, 22 months in 60% new French oak, Napa Valley fruit from Schmidt Vineyards and a moderately tame (for California) 14.8%ABV. The Alexis is 81% Cabernet and 19% Merlot. The swirl showcases the deep color of the fruit but the wine is not opaque. Like the merlot, the aromas jump out of the glass. This wine is deep and lush with a bouquet of dried flowers, baking spices, dark berry fruit, and subtleties of toasted oak. On the sip, I was surprised by the soft strength of the wine. For a young bold California Cabernet, Alexis is very approachable and velvety while still offering well integrated tannin that you would expect. I would expect this wine to be in its prime in just about 5 years. I liked the wine but I didn’t LOVE it and for $75, I need to LOVE it to recommend it. From a quality perspective, the Swanson Alexis is an extremely well made wine with great aroma and flavor. Proceed with caution even with a 4/5 score.
Only 500 ½ cases of this wine were produced so chances are your only experience will be at the tasting room or very select restaurants.
Previous vintage of this wine scores 92 points with 3 reviews on Cellar Tracker.
Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review and for fun…here is a flashback to the 80’s with some TV Dinners by ZZ Top!
17 Nov 2010
Virginia is home to some of our country’s early history, 8 US presidents (including 4 of our first 5), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a strong military ship yard, beautiful beaches, and some of the most amazing Fall scenery in the U.S. With some of our countries earliest history of wine, Virginia is not just for lovers, it is for wine lovers.
38 years ago I was born among the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Roanoke, Virginia. The childlike fondness I have from living there for 10 years remains with me. While we occasionally go back to VA to visit my mom’s side of the family, it’s been eight years since I’ve been back. Apart from a small sip from Sean Sullivan a few months back, I’ve yet to experience the wine of my forefathers…and mothers, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I was recently invited to participate in an online wine tasting of six Virginia wines. Needless to say, I was excited. For me, this was a chance to connect with the wine my family drinks and a little family heritage. Sadly, shipping was delayed and I wasn’t there to receive the wines the day of the tasting. Over the days that followed I casually made my way through the six wines (three whites, two reds, and a sparkling wine).
*Note to distributors and representatives, when introducing new wines and wine regions to a group of people, please include winery information and winemaking notes.
Since I tasted these wines a few weeks ago, I’ll share my brief notes and my overall impression of the wines that I received. The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference is in Charlottesville, VA July 22-24. You can count on me being there and then enjoying a nice return visit with my family in Roanoke. If you are interested in learning more about Virginia wine, I suggest you check out the following blogs.
The Virginia Wines
The 2009 Monticello Gewurz had medium flavor but lacked a strong acidity which left the wine lingering in the mouth. A hint of sweetness is present on this mostly dry wine along with average flavors of peaches and stone fruit. Overall a nice first impression. The winery web site prices this wine at $19. 3/5
Wow! My notes indicate that I really enjoyed this wine. 14%ABV, 420 cases, combination of oak and barrel fermentation. Awesome flavors of melons and pears coupled with a great acidity make this a pleasant sipping wine or paired with food. At $22, I will definitely keep my eyes out for this wine on the trip back east! 4/5
This wine didn’t do much for me. It came across a little flabby, light in flavor and heavy handed on the oak. The label leaves a little to be desired. At a retail price of $23, I would give it a test sip before you commit. 3-/5
This Seven Oaks Merlot is a little thin on fruit and comes across very young, green and under ripe. Flavors start smooth but then move to a little tartness on the palate. The finish is rough on the edges. 75% of the wine is aged 10 months in French and American oak. $18, 3/5
60% Petit Verdot, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc – This is a very dark and moody wine with colors of dark plum and black. Good aroma of flowers and fruit jump out of the glass getting me very excited for the sip. In the mouth the wine is slightly gamey along with deep fruit flavors. Under-ripe bell peppers and a slight minerality make the mid-palate slightly disjointed. Really enjoyed the layers of flavor. $25, 3/5
95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir – Lively bubbles that race to the top of the glass. Good aroma of strawberry toast and yeast. While the wine is made dry, there is a nice hint of sweetness on the front palate. I’m not a sparkling wine expert, but this was a very tasty wine that went down very quickly. With only 12%ABV, the bottle was quickly empty. $28, 3+/5
Overall, I was most impressed with the Viognier and the Sparkling wine. I look forward to exploring more Virginia wines in a few short months to see what else is coming out of the region. A few of these wines were rough around the edges, and the whites were better than the reds, in my opinion.
From time to time we come across a wine that sticks in our mind and becomes the benchmark by which we judge the others. For me, these include the Belle Glos Pinot Noir, Seghesio Zinfandel, Barrister Rough Justice (affordable blend) and the Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc. Recently I received a bottle of Bolen Family Estates 2007 Merlot. This wine has made a strong case for being the benchmark merlot in my memory banks.
Eric Bolen makes one wine, 1000 cases, of single vineyard Oak Knoll Merlot. Bolen partners with esteemed winemaker Tom Rinaldi of Duck Horn fame to craft a stellar 100% Merlot from Beckstoffer Orchard. Bolen’s drive is to make the best Merlot in the world and from the bottle I received, he’s well on his way to that legacy. Bolen Family Estates started in 2006 under the name B. Legacy but after copyright pressure from Kendall Jackson, Eric relented and changed the name to Bolen Family Estates. The name has changed, the wine is the same, but the fire has been fueled even more to succeed.
2007 Bolen Family Estates Merlot
At $60, the 2007 Merlot is full of amazing berry flavor and aroma. You can smell the wine before you even put it to your nose. Subtle hints of cinnamon are intermingled with the bright fruit. In the mouth you get a sense for the careful attention given to this wine. The fruit was fermented in 3 different methods to achieve the desired balance and character. About 20% of the wine spent 26 months in French oak. The flavors are full and big without being obnoxious. A velvety texture covers the entire palate and layers of fruit, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla erupt from front to back. The finish is lingering and brings good structure with the perfect amount of tannins. There is a slight heat coming off the 15.2%ABV.
For most, this is not your daily drinking affordable wine, but the Bolen Family Estates 2007 Merlot is worth the price for your special occasion or if you just want to impress the hell out of someone to prove how good merlot can be. If the 2007 vintage is any indication of the future, merlot has made a comeback and Bolen Family Estates is establishing the legacy they intended. 4+/5
- Excellent interview on Corkd.com with Gary Vaynerchuk and Eric Bolen >> CLICK HERE
- Eric Bolen explains to Hello Vino readers how they use three different fermentation methods to achieve the desired character and flavor of their wine >> CLICK HERE
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
UPDATE FROM ERIC BOLEN
Thanks for the kind words and I am glad you enjoyed the wine. As a thanks to you and your readers, I would like to offer a coupon discount at our website on purchases of this wine. Use the code “NECTAR” and receive a 15% discount and free shipping, no minimum. Rock on!