Taste Camp East 2012 – To each their own!

This year I attended the 4th annual Taste Camp, which was hosted in Virginia for the first time (Northern Virginia wine country to be specific). This year what really stood out as unique were the marked differences in grape growing and vineyard management techniques between the winemakers with whom we had the pleasure of taking vineyard walks.

Each winemaker is so passionate about his/her reasoning for using a particular trellis system, vine spacing, row spacing, etc. that one could easily be convinced that this must be THE WAY to do it in this part of Virginia. That is until a conversation with the next winemaker, who easily debunks the previous method and convinces you of a new ONE.

It seems that a lot of the winemakers in the region tend to use the Smart-Dyson (SD) type of trellis system or a variant of SD called Ballerina trellising versus Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP). I have known about SD for years as we implemented it on several rows at my families’ vineyards about 5 years ago. It seems that over time it has become increasing popular in the Commonwealth, although I know it has been used here for quite some time.

smartdyson vsp

I didn’t think about it at the time we were viewing these vineyards, but one winemaker who doesn’t use SD mentioned that he feels the reason these systems were used was to help thwart problems with vigor and that it was more of a band-aid fix, versus a real solution to the problem. Funny enough, that was the reason we decided to do it at our vineyard, because we had such vigor issues that we couldn’t seem to keep under control, so SD was our attempt at a fix.

Either way you slice it, the winemakers, vineyard managers, etc. are doing what they feel is proper for their site. I think the best thing to do is to continually evaluate your techniques, although it can be time-consuming and costly to rip up vines and replant or re-trellis. We saw a great example of this at Linden Vineyards with Jim Law. After 20 years of doing what he felt was right with some of his Chardonnay vines, a few years ago he decided to rethink things. He planted them based on what he knew then (trellis style, orientation, slope, etc.) and now with his extensive hands-on knowledge about soil type, he is moving things around to give what he feels is a better expression of the grape and the terroir. Pretty amazing – but it seems logical. I mean nobody can get anything exactly right on the first try!

It’s a risky proposition though and an expensive and time consuming one, that I’m sure is hard to swallow no matter how right you think you might be.

The dialogue about vineyard techniques discussed above is one of the great things about Taste Camp. In addition to the immersion in wine, it offers the chance to connect with the people involved, to learn how and why use particular techniques, and to TASTE the results of those techniques. I’m glad there are a variety of styles being used, because that’s what lends variety to the experience and to the wines (for better or worse).

I would like to thank everyone who gave us their time and shared their stories and passion over the weekend. More posts to follow on some of the wines and individual people who are, or WILL be, putting Virginia Wine on the map.

TasteCamp East Coming to Northern Virginia

After attending the first two years, last year I wasn’t able to attend TasteCamp in the Niagara region of both Canada and New York. I guess life got in the way or something, where are my priorities right? Well this year TasteCamp is coming to my neck of the woods, to explore the Northern Virginia wine region of the Commonwealth and I’ll be there.

Below are the details….


TasteCamp 2012 heads to Northern Virginia

Fourth edition of wine bloggers and wine writers’ meeting heads to Loudoun County, May 4-6.

The organizers of TasteCamp are proud to announce that after exploring the regions of Long Island, the Finger Lakes and Niagara (US and Canada), the event will hold its fourth edition in Northern Virginia wine country on May 4-6, 2012. Several important partners and sponsors have confirmed their participation and are working together to create an exceptional opportunity to discover the very best that Virginia wine has to offer.

The 2012 program will feature the combination of vineyard visits, grand tastings, conversations with winemakers and camaraderie that has made the event so successful over the last three years. Participants will also take part in what has become a TasteCamp tradition, a BYO dinner where wine lovers share special bottles in a freestyle evening of discovery and one-upmanship.

TasteCamp founder and New York Cork Report executive editor Lenn Thompson said that there was much reason for the event to head for the vineyards of Virginia: “The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference was a great opportunity for both Virginia and bloggers, but I wanted to bring TasteCamp to Northern Virginia to offer a truly immersive experience. We want attendees to eat, drink, sleep and breathe Virginia wine for three days. It’s of course impossible to fully explore a region in just a weekend, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.”

Over its three first years, TasteCamp has generated significant attention for the wine regions where it has taken place, generating dozens of stories and articles every year. It also offers emerging wine regions an exceptional opportunity to have their wines tasted by a passionate outside audience that brings a different light to local wine production and creates new conversations with local winemakers.

Essential Virginia partners

Three of the region’s top wineries will be hosting TasteCamp participants for lunches, dinners and grand tastings of Virginia wines, where many other wineries will provide a portrait of what this increasingly important wine producing state can offer. The three confirmed host wineries are:

  • Breaux Vineyards, in Purcellville overlooking the valley between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill Mountains, is one of Virginia’s most popular estates, with over 100 acres under vines.

  • Boxwood Winery, founded by former Washington Redskins’ owner John Kent Cooke, is located in the historic village of Middleburg, and produces Bordeaux blends from 100% estate-grown fruit, in collaboration with renowned consulting winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt.

  • Tarara Winery is located in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains on 475 acres along the Potomac River in Leesburg. One of Loudoun County’s oldest wineries, Tarara focuses on single-vineyard wines.

TasteCamp 2012 organizers are also excited to be counting on partnerships with two key Virginia organizations. The Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office (Virginia Wine) and the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association (Visit Loudoun) will both be partners of the event, offering logistical, financial and/or transportation support.


Rooms have been set aside at the National Conference Center, in Leesburg, Virginia, only 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and a short drive from most of the vineyards visited over the weekend. A special room rate is offered to TasteCamp guests at this large-scale facility located on a quiet 110-acre campus.

TasteCamp 2012 organizers will have more announcements as the wine weekend approaches.

About TasteCamp

The concept for TasteCamp, created in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, executive editor of the New York Cork Report, is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them, to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.

Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world would love to get their wines in front of new audiences, but it can be a challenge. With TasteCamp, the new audience comes to them.

This is not a junket — attendees pay their own travel expenses, including their hotel rooms and meals. Through generous sponsors, some meals may be deeply discounted.

Follow the Latest updates on TasteCamp 2011:

• On Twitter: #TasteCamp

To participate as an attendee, contact Lenn Thompson at lenn (at) newyorkcorkreport.com

To participate as a sponsor, contact Frank Morgan at frank.j.morgan (at) gmail.com.

For more information, contact co-organizers Remy Charest (remycharest (at) mac.com) and John Witherspoon (vcuspoon1 (at) comcast.net)

Media and interview requests:

Lenn Thompson at lenn (at) newyorkcorkreport.com or

Frank Morgan at frank.j.morgan (at) gmail.com.



Wednesday random wine reviews…

As I was going through some tasting notes to write up for work, I came to the conclusion that I should start posting some of these once a week. Mostly because it is such a random mix of wines, and thought it might be fun…. and I have to type them up anyway! :)


2006 Château de Pibarnon Bandol les Restanques de Pibarnon

Region: Bandol (Provence, France)

Grapes: Mourvedre

Price: $27

Notes…Aromas of black currant, bit of oak, boysenberry, leather and a hint of chocolate followed by flavors of black and red currant, cherry, eucalyptus and black pepper.  Full bodied with huge chewy tannins, great value for a Bandol wine.

2007 Dender Patton “Wisdom” Old Vine Zinfandel

Region: Mendocino County, California

Grapes: 90% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Barbera

Price: $30

Notes…Aromas of raisin, plum, fig and dried currants followed by flavors of blackberry, plum, raisin, tobacco and cocoa powder. Full-bodied, bit of spiciness at the back of the palate with velvety lush tannins.

NV Roncier Bourgougne Rouge

Region: Burgundy (mostly all declassified Mercurey fruit)

Grape: Pinot Noir

Price: $10

Notes…Aromas of cherry, plum, cola and a bit of red clay followed by flavors of plum, spicy clove, smoked mushrooms and black cherry. Medium to full body (for a Burgundy Pinot), long finish. Awesome value!!

Stay tuned for some more random wine reviews…



2009 Macari Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

This time last year I was in Long Island Wine Country with Megan, enjoying some great wine and food, visiting with friends and making new ones. Since we aren’t in Long Island this year I decided to open some wine from the region to help relive the memories from last year. We have lots of red wine in the cellar from that trip, but we were making Indian food last night and I needed a white. I perused around and found the ’09 Macari Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($23). (Check out my post “From Poop to Juice” on our visit to Macari Vineyards last year)

My Tasting Notes…

Nose: pear, citrus, grapefruit, fresh cut grass, slate

Taste: sweet pea, lemon zest, minerality, green apple, grapefruit

Mouthfeel: smooth and crisp with racy acidity on the back of the palate

Finish: medium in length with lingering notes of citrus and sweet pea

Final Thoughts….

This is a very nice and complex Sauvignon Blanc that reminds me of a combination of ones from New Zealand and Touraine. You have great fruit forward nature of New Zealand and the racy acidity and minerality of Touraine. In addition it was a great pairing for the Indian food which was Channa Masala and Palak Aloo.



Revisiting some Kluge Wines

Being an owner at a wine shop has many advantages, one if which is tasting A LOT of wine. Most of what I taste is from all over the world with a small percentage of it being from here in Virginia. ( I should write a post about that!) Recently a new “rep” for Kluge winery presented myself and my staff with their current lineup. Having not had it in quite a while I was eager to give them a taste.  Over the years I have enjoyed Kluge wines but have had certain concerns in the past. One was their pricing when they got started about 5 years ago – they were crazy! That was quickly and thankfully corrected and I think their prices are excellent for the quality the wines deliver.  The second is the sort of sterile turn the tasting room took with the presentation of their wines. When they first started the wines were tasted with an associate in nice stems. Now they are handed to you with a tasting sheet and served in tulip shaped test tubes, seriously. So needless to say, it is hard to really “evaluate” the wines. Last I checked that this was still the case.

That being said I was glad to taste them in my “home” environment in decent glasses with a person who was well versed in their juice. My two standouts were the 2005 Kluge Estate New World Red ($25) and the Kluge Estate SP Blanc de Blancs ($28). The New World Red is a traditional Bordeaux blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a splash of Malbec. It has some good age on it, and the tannins show it as they have integrated very nicely. A fruit forward style, especially for Virginia, with a nice balance of leather and dried herb notes, graced by a hint of mocha.  The Blanc de Blancs is a traditional Methode Champenoise made from 100% Chardonnay.  Lots of straw and sourdough notes mostly on the nose with rich pear, apple and persimmon notes on the palate. Balanced structure and beautiful tight bubbles.

Needless to say these are two wines I’ll most likely be adding to the Virginia Wine wall at the shop.


Interview with Jake Busching of Pollak Vineyards

Coming off a great showing at the Monticello Cup Wine Competition here in Virginia, Jake Busching, GM and winemaker of Pollak Vineyards granted me an interview talking about his wines that won at “The Cup”

1. AW: Congratulations on the win at the Monticello Cup! You had four wines place in the competition with the 08 Petite Verdot winning overall, Meritage 07 receiving gold, and the 08 Merlot and 09 Viognier winning Silver. With these representing three different vintages, how much did vintage variation play in the distinction of these wines.

JB: “Vintage is always key to the portrait perceived by the consumer. Especially with our red wines, time plays an integral part in both softening and sensorial profile. Each year being distinct, brings varietal diversity to our program as well. In 2008, for instance the tannins were soft and the fruit very juicy and bright whereas 2007 was all about heat induced ripeness and rugged mouthfeel. Vintage is one of the great things about winegrowing in Virginia; It gives us something to marvel at in a vertical of 3-5 years. Those wines will all be very different and unique.”

2. AW: This was a competition of your “direct peers”. How do you feel these wines would hold up on the national/international scale?

JB: “We enter our reds in International competitions and do quite well. We recently received a gold medal in California with our Merlot, meaning, we beat out a lot of CA and other worldly competition to place. Virginia wine is on its way to the international stage; Viognier, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and Merlot are all excellent wines in our region.”

Jake on the right

3. AW: I would assume that you go into a competition expecting to win, but were these the results you expected?

JB: “Truthfully, I assume nothing. Every competition is different and the palates of the judges are as varied as our vintages can be. We attempt to craft high quality wines. Pollak Vineyards is the most vital vineyard I have ever worked with. The land is very expressive in the fruit and the intensity carries over into the wine. I love to win acclaim for the wine. My heart and soul goes into winegrowing and a little nod from discerning palates is always nice.”

4. AW: As a continuation of question #3, of the wines you submitted, did you expect to win overall with the 2008 Petite Verdot?

JB: “Not at all. The PV 08 is an infant of a wine. Having just gone into bottle in February, it is still very tight and to my thinking, a bit numb. It is expressive now but in 6-10 months this wine is going to start unveiling itself. PV is a curious wine to make and even more bizarre to pair with food. Which makes it all the more fun. Having this medal hanging on it is going to make it disappear from our tasting room very quickly. I hope people give it time to become the wine it is meant to be.”

5. AW: Some winemakers have said that PV will take the reigns as VA’s red grape and surpass the quality that Cab Franc has shown. Do you think this to be the case?

JB: “PV is too unique to become our flagship wine. I think of it more as a cult following wine. People either love it or hate it. Petit Verdot is more of a little brother to Cab Franc or an unruly cousin maybe. It has a long way to go to get to the refined place Cab Franc can find here in parts of VA.”

6. AW: With the up and down start to the 2010 growing season, how is the vintage shaping up?

JB: “My standard answer to this question is “Ask me in December”. Beyond that, the vineyard is off to a great start and a touch ahead of where we were this time last year. I am ever hopeful, of course…”.

Two years goes by fast

When I first visited Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Virginia it looked like this…

…now they are about to celebrate their 2 year anniversary this Memorial Day weekend.  Being a bit of a distance away I don’t get up to see the winery as often as possible but when I do, I always have a great time.  Sharon and Rick (the winemakers) invite me up from time to time to taste what they have going on the cellar.  It’s always fun, because they love hearing the good and the bad about their creations.  This weekend as you would imagine they are having a HUGE celebration, and I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to make it. If you are in the area, stop by for the fun, it is sure to be a great time. Check out the list of activities for the weekend below…

1.  Releasing their most popular wines this weekend:  BOWHaus White and BOWHaus Red as well as the highly anticipated Rose.

2.  Opening the new art show by Ben Roeder: “Traces of Memory, an Abstract Introspective”.

3.  Featuring great live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights!

4.  They are giving a Golden Ticket to every purchaser of a case of Barrel Oak wine.  These Golden Tickets contain the gift of a free tasting for two, a combo platter, a bottle of wine, or a membership in the BOWClub.  These gifts range in value from $18 to $175.

5.  Raffling off TWO Aged Barrels with memberships in our Barrel Club.  Each membership has a value of over $1300.  Everyone tasting wines over the weekend will receive a raffle ticket.

Additionally, on Saturday and Sunday they will have awesome food service from Local 647, serving the best locally sourced farm-fresh organic foods and runners up winners of ABC Weekend’s 2009 Best Food Cart in America Competition.

There will be great music Friday from 6-9 with Demetrios and Curtis and dancing to the sunsets on Saturday 6-9pm to local favorites eNVee and Sunday 6-9pm to the Fabulous Exaggerations!  And Sunday they will have old-timey music during the day with Poor Ellen Smith.