Is 25% Too Much?

A wine can still be labelled a Virginia wine with up to 25% of out of state grapes blended into it. Normally, wineries don't use out of state grapes, but with rapid growth of the Virginia wine industry there is a shortage of Virginia gapes. New wineries are going to have trouble getting Virginia grapes at a price that allows them to make a profit.

Even more critical, with the late start to the growing season and relatively mild summer so far, there could be serious shortage of Cabernet Sauvignon come harvest.

The lure of cheap out of state grapes may be too much for new wineries to resist.

25% of non-Virginia grapes is a lot. It is enough to alter the character of the wine to the point that it will no longer reflect the 2013 vintage in Virginia, whatever that ends up being.

So, my question is: is 25% too much? As a young industry should Virginia winemakers worry preserving the character of the vintage, or should the primary concern be surviving and growing the industry?

The Best Virginia Wine to Mull?

December in Virginia Wine Country means it is time for mulled wine. Pretty soon you will not be able to walk into a tasting room without enjoying the aromas of cinnamon, cloves and orange peels.

It seems that every winery has a favorite wine for mulling. Some, like Swedenburg, even sell bottles of pre-mulled wine. Just heat and serve.

A good mulling wine is one with lots of fruit and soft tannins. You don't want the mulling spices to overwhelm the wine. Similarly, you don't want a mulled wine so astringent that you cannot enjoy the spices.

We are hosting a holiday open house this weekend during which we'll be serving mulled wine as the drink of choice. So, I posed the question to Facebook: Which Virginia Wine is the bet for mulling.

There were two recommendations: Loudoun Valley Vineyards 2008 Dynasty and the Casanel Vineyards 2008 Merlot.

Given that these are both great wines, we had to have a taste off.

The Dynasty is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Touriga Nacional. It has great vanilla aromas, lots of red fruit and smooth tannins.

The Casanel 2008 Merlot has black cherry and currant flavors with tannins that have softened nicely with age.

Both wines are great options for mulled wine.

While you can create your own spice pack, I prefer to use pre-made spices, in this case from Williams Somoma. They recommend 2 tablespoons of spices per bottle, plus 1/3 cup of sugar. I simmered the two wines for 20 minutes in a saucepan and they were ready to go.

Both wines came out really well, it was a close call. But, to find out the winner you have to come to the open house.

Do you have a favorite Virginia Wine for mulling?

Bring Notaviva Wines to Your House

When Notaviva Vineyards announced their Host a Wine Show last year I was intrigued. I have never been a big fan of "wine shows" like the Traveling Vineyard, but this is completely different.

I finally got to host one of their shows in July and it was an incredible event. The Notaviva "Host a Wine Show" brings Notaviva wines to your home or business along with Stephen or Shannon to tell you about the wines.

The cost is only $15 per person and not only do attendees get to taste the wonderful wines that Notaviva produces, but they get to hear about the wines and the winery from one of the owners. For those interested, they can even by wines (which a lot of people did).

Notaviva is a beautiful winery and worth the trip, but it is hard to beat the intimacy of an in-home wine tasting with a winery owner, it makes for a great event.

Virginia Harvest Report

"Gun Shy" is the word that appears to be defining the 2012 harvest in Virginia. I have heard that phrase from more than a dozen winemakers and vineyard managers around the state. After the difficult 2011 vintage many wineries are concerned about the September rains and their potential impact on the harvest. In fact, many wineries started their harvest a few weeks early in order to avoid a repeat.

The 2012 growing season started in 2011 with what turned out to be the mildest winter in recent memory. The mild winter lead to longer than usual growing season, and unfortunately, also lead to several frost scares. While there was some minor frost damage across the state, it was not nearly as bad as the damage from frost in 2010.

2012 was a dry year with only 14.43 inches of rain between April 1st and August 31st in Loudoun County and 17.82 inches during the same period in Charlottesville. Compare that to an average rainfall of 18.73 inches during the same time period over the previous 5 years in Loudoun and 16.94 over the same period in Charlottesville.

Loudoun County experienced 36 90+ degree days between April 1st and August 31st. Down from 42 and 46 in 2011 and 2010, respectively. This meant that in Loudoun there was a longer growing season that was dry an warm, but not too hot.

Charlottesville had 46 90+ degree days between April 1st and August 31st, including a stretch of 5 strait 100+ degree days between July 4th and 8th. This is also down from 47 in 2011 and 59 in 2010.

While it is never a good idea to make predictions about the wines from a harvest, this is definitely shaping up to be a good year for Virginia wines; provided we avoid the deluge of rain we experienced in 2011 and wineries don't jump the gun and harvest too soon.

Good luck to all Virginia wineries!

Jennifer Breaux Talks 2012 Harvest

After a difficult 2011 and a scary start, 2012 is turning out to have great potential for Virginia Wine. The summer was hot and dry (more on that later) and while there has been some rain late in season it has not been enough to damage the grape crop.

Jennifer Breaux, from Breaux Vineyards, gives us a preview of this year's harvest.

While a few wineries started earlier harvest kicked in full swing around Virginia last Monday. Expect more harvest reports soon.

Fauquier County Wineries Fight Back Against Board of Supervisors! Release Petition.

As readers of this blog know the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors is considering legislation that would seriously restrict activities in which Farm Wineries are able to engage.

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors is planning to vote on the legislation this Thursday, July 12, 2012, at 6:30 PM. The BoS holds its meetings at:

Warren Green Building
10 Hotel Street, Suite 208
Warrenton, VA 20186

Ahead of the vote, Fauquier County wineries, and their supporters in other parts of the state, are trying to spread the word about the legislation and get people to write to the BoS in protest of the bill.

Jim and Betsy Dolphin, owners of Delaplane Cellars sent an email to their fans stating, in part:
While we believe that much of the proposed ordinance is illegal under State law, it is clear that the intent of the Board is to harm or possibly even eliminate the wine industry in Fauquier County.

Please show your support for the wineries of Fauquier County by writing to the Board of Supervisors and the Zoning Administrator listed to the left. We have provided suggested content for your message that you may copy directly into your email if you so choose.

Philip Carter Winery did not mince words when contacting their supporters, stating simply:
Fauquier County is trying to put Fauquier wineries out of business!!

Stephen Mackey, at Notaviva Vineyards has put up a petition to try to get 1000 signatures before the meeting on Thursday (as of this writing they are at 400 signatures).

Most of the time in politics it is difficult to get your voice heard, unless you have a lot of money. But this is a chance to affect a real change. Write to the members of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and let them know (politely) that you think the legislation is wrong-headed and could force a growing part of the economy in Fauquier County to slow down, or even shut down altogether.

In addition, sign the petition, let the BoS know that Fauquier County wineries don't just serve local residents but bring in people and money from all over the state, and around the country.

You letter, and signature will make a difference and can help Fauquier County wineries win this battle on Thursday.