2012 Virginia Wine Expo

Three weekends ago (I had a lot of notes and pictures to pour through), The Rib and I headed south to Richmond for the 2012 Virginia Wine Expo.  We attended the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions.  At our best count, we sampled over 120 wines.  That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind, we are both former active duty Marines.

A few quick thoughts:  This year’s Expo seemed to have drawn a lighter crowd than last year.  I haven’t checked any official attendance numbers to compare, but being on the floor both Friday and Saturday for two years in a row, it seemed to both me and The Rib that it was easier to maneuver from booth to booth.  The entire atmosphere in the Richmond Convention Center felt a bit more subdued to me than I remember from last year.  Maybe we were just laser-focused on tasting as many wines as possible (taking water and snack breaks, of course).  Either way, we once again had a great time and tasted some great, good, and a few not-so-great wines.

In an effort to distill our entire 10 or so hours on the tasting floor, I’ve listed every booth we visited, the number of wines we tasted at each, and then a quick note about a standout or two from each winery that we sampled.  The wineries listed are in no particular order, other than the order in which I picked up the tasting notes I had for each one.  I should also say that the wineries we chose to visit were a mix of 1) wineries we haven’t tasted, or 2) wineries that we have tasted and compelled us to revisit for new releases.  Ooh, and there’s pictures!

Byrd Cellars

Byrd Cellars

Number of wines tasted:  8

Standout(s):

  • 2010 Chardonnay ($18) with notes of candied pear and a slight buttery-ness
  • 2010 Petit Verdot ($18) with nice smoky dark fruit notes

 

Virginia Wineworks/Michael Shaps Wine

Virginia Wine Works/Michael Shaps Wines

Number of wines tasted:  6 (including a “Bag In Box” Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc)

Standout(s):

  • Viognier ($19.95) with nice honey and pineapple notes
  • Meritage ($40) with a nice, big finish of cocoa that sneaks up on you a bit

** Note: I would give an honorable mention to the Merlot, which was well-balanced with comforting oak notes

 

Blenheim Vineyards

Blenheim Vineyards

Number of wines tasted:  6

Standout(s):

  • 2011 Chardonnay ($15) with an almost effervescent quality
  • 2010 Petit Verdot, which was a bit toned down for my personal tastes, but a very smooth, easy drinker

 

Belle Mount Vineyards

Belle Mount Vineyards

Number of wines tasted:  3

Standout(s):

  • Merlot ($18) which had some unique maple/nut notes

 

DuCard Vineyards

DuCard Vineyards

Number of wines tasted: 5

Standout(s):

  • 2010 Petit Verdot (of which The Rib and I have two bottles from last year’s Expo)
  • Signature Viognier ($22) with wonderful honeyed citrus notes

 

Boxwood Estate Winery

"MMM... Boxwood wine!"

Number of wines tasted: 4

Standout(s):

  • Boxwood ($25)
  • Topiary ($14)

 

Burnley Vineyards

Burnley Vineyards

Number of wines tasted: 4

Standout(s):

  • Chardonnay ($15) had a unique smoky character to it that made me want to have it with a cigar (yeah, a cigar with a Chardonnay—go figure)

 

Glen Manor Vineyards

Glen Manor

Number of wines tasted:  2

Standout(s):

  • 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) with nice lime, mineral, and grassy notes
  • 2009 Hodder Hill ($35) with beautifully-balanced dark fruits and oak (2012 Governor’s Cup Winner)

 

Little Washington Winery

Little Washington Winery

Number of wines tasted:  2

Standout(s):

  • Solstice—a white blend of primarily Sauvignon Blanc with nice tropical and grassy notes
  • George—a well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend with nice notes of dark fruit and tobacco (it has been said that this should be called “Carl” instead of “George,” but it’s good with either name on the label)

 

Fox Meadow Winery

Fox Meadow Winery

Number of wines tasted: 5

Standout(s):

  • 2009 Cabernet Franc ($25) with ripe berry and cherry tempered with vanilla, tobacco, and cocoa
  • 2009 Le Renard Rouge with dark berry and spice notes

 

Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery

Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery

Number of wines tasted: 5

Standout(s):

  • 2010 Quattro ($17)—a fruit-forward Riesling/Gewurtztraminer/viognier/Traminette blend
  • 2010 Union ($25)—a Petit Verdot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend with excellent black cherry and tobacco on the nose and ripe dark fruits on the palate

 

Bluestone Vineyard

Bluestone Vineyard

Number of wines tasted: 6

Standout(s):

  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26) with dark fruit complemented by lovely oak and cocoa notes.  I would decant this one or age it for a year or two

 

Mountfair Vineyards

Mountfair Vineyards

Number of wines tasted: 4

Standout(s):

  • 2009 Merlot ($25) with a nice bite and a smooth mouthfeel and finish
  • 2009 Wooloomooloo ($25) with great fruit and smoke that is very accessible

 

Cooper Vineyards

Cooper

Number of wines tasted: 10 (yeah, 10)

Standout(s):

  • 2009 Cabernet Franc ($19) with nice spice and leather notes on the smooth finish
  • 2010 Norton Reserve ($22)

 

Trump Winery

Trump Winery

Number of Wines tasted: 8-10 (Not sure, as there were no tasting notes provided and the booth was packed several people deep)

Standouts:

  • Kluge Estate SP Blanc de Blancs ($28) a nice, crisp 100% Chardonnay sparkler

 

Gabriele Rausse Winery

Gabriele pouring for a couple of delighted tasters

Number of wines tasted: ~10

Standout(s):

  • Nebbiolo- A favorite of The Rib.  We grab at least 2 bottles of this one at every opportunity.
  • Vin Gri de Pinot Noir- A “white Pinot” that never disappoints (like the mythical “cougar,” which also never disappoints)

 

King Family Vineyards

David King of King Family Vineyards pouring for satisfied tasters

Number of wines tasted:  ~5

Standout(s):

  • 2009 Meritage ($27)
  • 2009 Seven ($30) 100% Merlot Port-style wine that is an excellent sipper after dinner, with a cigar, or just because.  This wine wasn’t being poured at the Expo, but it’s excellent nonetheless.

 

Annefield Vineyards

Another couple of Annefield wines going home with a delighted customer!

Number of wines tasted: ~4

Standout(s):

  • 2009 Chardonnay ($18) The Rib and I have had several bottles of this one since discovering it last year.
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc ($24)

Sugarleaf Vineyards

Number of wines tasted:  6

Standout(s):

  • 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) with an oaky start and a fruit-forward finish

 

Lake Anna Winery

Number of wines tasted: 8

Standout(s):

  • Spotsylvania Claret ($15)
  • Enigme ($25), which is bold while maintaining a subtlety

 

New Kent Winery

Number of wines tasted: 5

Standout(s):

  • Vidal Blanc ($16) with crisp fruit and a subtle sweetness

 

Good Luck Cellars

Number of wines tasted: 6

Standout(s):

  • Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) with nice dark berry notes riding a heavy oak

 

A Couple of Other Takeaways

  • Trump Winery should’ve had 1) the foresight to know that anything with the “Trump” name on it would have had a rash of curious visitors to its space and rented (and staffed) at least a double booth, and 2) Tasting notes, a wine list, or a flyer about the winery.  The people working the Trump booth were as hospitable, nice, and friendly as could be hoped, but were totally overworked—AND had nothing to give out in the way of literature.
  • I appreciated the events that were planned around the Virginia Wine Expo this year—tasting dinners at various restaurants around town, specials at the sponsor hotel (Richmond Marriot), and a seemingly more diverse list of “bonus sessions” during the day.  While we didn’t take advantage of (or pay to participate in) these “extras,” I like the increased opportunities to learn about (and enjoy) Virginia wines.

Some Final Thoughts

I am already looking forward to next year’s Wine Expo, if for no other reason than to see the beginnings of what Virginia’s winemakers are doing to make the most of what was a challenging 2011 season for viticulture in the Commonwealth.

Virginia wine is coming along.  Maybe not as quickly as those in the business of promoting the state’s wine industry would like, but not as slowly as those in “other” winemaking regions would have you think, either.  Like anything, there is good and bad all around.  I’m fairly certain a smoked ham from Virginia will always be chosen over one from California, Oregon, Washington, New York, or even France.  That said, there are fine producers of pork products in all of those areas, I am sure.  It’s a matter of time, effort, and production of consistently great wines that will allow wines from Virginia (or any number of the “other 46”) to be considered potential “equals” in a national (or even global) market.  And Virginia is getting there.

On a personal note, I have recommitted myself to visiting wineries in the Commonwealth and getting to know the proprietors, vineyard managers, and winemakers who work tirelessly to produce the best wines possible—right here in the Old Dominion.

Cheers from the Corkpit,

Stub