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
07 Jun 2011
Back in November I tried my very first Virginia wines. A quick review of the post reminds me that I was blown away by 2009 Keswick Vineyards Viognier and moderately surprised by the Kluge Brut Rose. With the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in late July, Virginia is poised to be the center of the online wine world for 3 days.
Smartly, members of the Virginia wine community are getting wine into the hands of wine writers ahead of the event. As I often teach, the blog posts that come out of the tasting will jump to the top of search engine results when bloggers and consumers start to do some research. Frank Morgan of @drinkwhatulike / DrinkWhatYouLike.com was one of the main tasting hosts in the online tasting.
The speed tasting of six wines in a sixty minute span included such world renowned bloggers as @lenndevours of New York Cork Report, @suburbanwino of Suburbanwino.com and @wineharlots of WineHarlots.com. If anyone was up to the task, it would be these guys.
As usual the tasting event bumped into a private event that was scheduled at Nectar. And, as even more usual, this post is way delayed as the event happened on May 24.
As these wines were tasted in a very quick fashion, I’ll share my brief synopsis, initial impressions and overall score. I did enjoy the wines for a few days after the online event and some of the added notes come from these experiences.
2010 Keswick Vineyards Verdejo
The first wine of the night came from the makers of the Viognier that wowed me back in November. It is great to see the Spanish grape Verdejo coming out of Virginia. The wine was cold fermented for 29 days until it was bone dry. A modest aroma of tart citrus and alfalfa come out of the glass. The mouth is very Sauv Blanc’ish’ and boasts a great acidity. The low 12.8% alcohol is a welcome site. I really enjoyed this wine, and for $18.95 it is a good price point for a crisp citrus summer wine. 3+/5
2010 Veritas Sauv Blanc Reserve
While, I’m not in the habit of paying $25 for a Sauvignon Blanc when there are many great ones to be had for under $20, the Veritas did shine a little truth into my world about the potential of this grape in Virginia. This bone dry Sauv Blanc came across very much like it’s New Zealand cousins as grassy with a little grapefruit and cat pee (trust me, not as bad as you would think). Most wine drinkers would be able to pick this out of a line up as a Sauv Blanc with the traditional tart acidic finish. At this price, only going 3/5
2010 Boxwood Topiary Rose
Ahhh, nothin’ says summer like sippin on a dry Rose! This blend of 75% Cab Franc and 25% Malbec has an extremely orange hue to it. Aromas of rhubarb, melons and herbs came out of the glass. In the mouth the wine seemed a little light overall on flavor but the mellow fruit and herbs balance made for a great experience. Like most dry Rose this wine would pair extremely well with all kinds of light summer food. $14, 3+/5
2010 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier
A very curious blend of 75% Viognier, 14% Riesling, 7% Chardonnay and 4% Petit Manseng. Three-quarters of this wine spent six months in neutral oak and an interesting aging of adding the lees (skins) of the remaining grapes back to the wine make for some very bold flavors and aromas. The plain branded label is rescued by the strong aroma of honey, guava and lemon. The mouth feel has a hint of oak but is a nice addition to the thickness of the wine. At $25 this is a fantastic Viognier, 3+/5
2010 Chrysalis Vineyards
This 100% Viognier spends 5 months in oak (95% neutral and 5% new). Very traditional flower fragrance and tropical fruit present itself in this wine. After coming off the Jefferson Viognier, this wine is a little less dramatic. The nearly $30 price tag is a big turn off for me. 3/5
This is my first experience with Petit Manseng. At first sniff the wine strikes me with apricot and a slightly sweet pineapple. After sipping the wine, I was shocked to learn that the wine had only 1% residual sugar. The apparent sweetness in the mouth made me think at least 3-4% RS. The wine had a fantastic balance of tart citrus acid and sweet peach, pineapple and apple. At $17, I can very strongly recommend this wine if you can find it. With only 150 cases produced, you may want to make a trip to Lovingston winery soon. 3+/5
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.
19 Aug 2010
Thirty-five wineries in a one minute radius? That is where you’ll find Woodinville’s William Church Winery. Located on NE N Woodinville Way, you’ll find a wine lovers walking Mecca. In a single afternoon, you can explore all areas of the states wine growing regions and the diversity that Washington wine has to offer. Don’t forget your designated driver…all that sipping can sneak up on you.
William Church winery is the second career for Rod and Leslie Balsley. Rod left the high-tech corporate world in 2004 and he and Leslie immediately looked to expand their garage wine hobby. With the help of some friends, they jumped into the booming Woodinville wine scene in 2005. Rod and Leslie enlist the help of assistant winemaker Marcus Rafanelli to craft big bold Bordeaux style wines and Syrah. With a case production near 2000, the Balsley’s are getting some top notch recognition for their wine. It doesn’t hurt that they are WSU alums either…GO COUGS!
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier slow cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. 14.1%ABV, less than 1% residual sugar, 240 cases produced
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw color with a thin viscosity
- The Sniff: Moderate aromas of tropical fruit and apricots. Beautiful and floral through and through
- The Sip: All aboard for a taste bud trip to the South Pacific. I love the layers and layers of tropical fruits that keep coming in waves like the ocean. Guava, melon, cantaloupe, papaya and more. A very well balanced acidity keeps everything in check.
- The Score: At $21 this is one of the better made Viognier’s that I’ve had. While you may be able to pick a good Viognier up for $15-$18, the extra few dollars here are worth it. 4+/5
2008 William Church Bishop’s Blend
- The Stuff: A proprietary blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc, 14.1%ABV, 750 cases produced
- The Swirl: Big bright purple colors with a thick plum center
- The Sniff: Blueberry vanilla pie in the nose. If you’re not careful you might sniff a blueberry up your snout.
- The Sip: The blueberry comes through on the palate with a pinch of sweet blackberry on the front of the tongue. Good fruit flavor continues on the mid-palate as a slight pencil lead settles and then opens up to finish with medium spice. The finish is rounded without having any strong tannins.
- The Score: At $20 this is a very approachable wine that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. A slight bitterness (probably from the oak) comes through on the finish but all in all this is a very well done wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: A left bank inspired blend of 40% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot; 18 months in a combination of French and American oak, 12 months in bottle, 14.2%ABV, 250 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dark in color with good structure out to the edge of the glass. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: The wine is alive with aroma before you even get your nose to the glass. Big notes of dark berry fruit, violets and cassis. The alcohol comes out just a hint on a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Elegant and full of fruit and structure from the front of the palate to the end. Good layers of dark berry fruits along with deep ripe cherries. A velvet texture lines the mid-palate with a finish of medium tannin on the finish. This wine rivals some I’ve had at twice the price in complexity and depth of flavor.
- The Score: At only $28 this is a steel of a Bordeaux style blend. The marriage of fruit is well done resulting in a fantastic wine to sip or to pair with strong hardy meals. 4/5
06 May 2010
On Memorial Day weekend Spokane will officially welcome its 17th winery, Overbluff Cellars. I recently stopped and talked with John Caudill and Jerry Gibson about their opening and upcoming release in preparation for Spring Barrel tasting weekend. While some logistics keep them from having a fully operational tasting room for the weekend of May 7-9, you can get a sneak peek of their wine at Hotel Lusso.
Overbluff Cellars will be pouring their four releases at Hotel Lusso (on Post) from 11AM – 5PM, Friday through Sunday. In a previous post I outlined how you can attempt to hit ALL sixteen participating wineries over the weekend. Check out the post which includes a map you can download and print.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy the world’s first review of Overbluff Cellars wine (I think)!
2009 Overbluff Viognier
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 16.5%abv, about 90 cases made, vineyards are Spofford and Les Collines
- The Swirl: A walk down the yellow brick road. This wine shines pure yellow gold with hints of viscosity and some wicked legs (attributed to the high ABV); enclosed with a glass closure.
- The Sniff: Ripe cantaloupes, tubarose flower and that baked sugar cinnamon smell from an apple pie. Take a deep sniff and you’ll pick up on the strong alcohol aroma
- The Sip: Beautiful flavor profile with very nice mouth feel and tropical fruit flavors. A rippin’ acidity and overwhelming heat (from the alcohol) unfortunately throw off the initial flavors.
- The Score: At $19, I can only score this wine a 3 minus out of 5. The effort and fruit are spectacular but the misfortune of elevated sugar levels during harvest have resulted in too much alcohol during fermentation for my tastes. If you like your whites to have a sense of elegance and sophistication, then you may be surprised by the alcohol level.
2007 Overbluff Duality
- The Stuff: A blend of 50% Cabernet from two Walla Walla vineyards (LaTour and Windrow) The wine spent a full two years in oak (not specified) and is enclosed with a glass closure; 13.8%abv, 50 cases made
- The Swirl: Deep purple with excellent coloration at the edges that shine like jewels. The wine is about 70% opaque
- The Sniff: The immediate aroma on this wine is a beautiful cherry and blackberry. A rich fruit forward nose that lightens to subtle notes of dark chocolate. Lacks a definitive spice on the smell.
- The Sip: The fruit gently jumps across your tongue but is almost immediately encroached by some sharp tartness and tannin on the mid-palate. The acidity and finish are both nicely balanced. My general take is that this is still a very young wine that could see another five years before being opened. If opening early, decant for at least 30 minutes to allow the wine to breathe.
- The Score: At $31 retail, I score this wine a solid 3+ out of 5 for having good fruit presence and strength on the back end. My recommendation would be to buy and hold. If you want to open a bottle make sure that it is being accompanied by food and friends (as all good wine should be).
As a side note, I tasted the Duality Cabernet with a dinner that included strong garlic pasta with red sauce and a tomato basil garlic bread. The wine made the dinner better!