Virginia is the state I call my second home. I spent 24 years there, most of them without knowing about Virginia wine. It was around 2010 when I became aware of it, when I first visited my closest winery, Abingdon Vineyard & Winery. When I would travel around the state for conferences, I would try to find Virginia wine or beer to taste. In 2011, I began this website, partially because I wanted to attend the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, and learn more about Virginia wine.
Earlier this month, Virginia wine advocate and writer, Frank Morgan, reached out to me to ask if I wanted to participate in #VAWineChat, a Twitter/Ustream virtual tasting which features wines from Virginia wineries. Without hesitation, I said yes. On June 25, 2015, I virtually returned to my Virginia roots with wines from Early Mountain Vineyards.
Early Mountain is not only an outstanding winery in its own right, but is also a proponent of Virginia wine through its Best of Virginia experience, where one can explore a plethora of wines from across the Commonwealth. It also sets an example with its biodynamic, ecosystemic, and sustainable farming practices. Early Mountain crafts wines that exemplify Virginia terroir and are drinkable now, yet have the potential for ageability. I am pleased to share three Early Mountain wines with you as part of my virtual Virginia homecoming.
2014 Early Vineyards Rosé, $22, only 640 cases produced, Stelvin closure (sample)
This rosé is comprised of 75% Merlot, 20% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Syrah. Most of the grapes for this wine are produced specifically for making this rosé, with only a 15% coming from saignée. The color is eye-catching, a gorgeous pale orange-salmon. The mouthfeel is light and crisp, yet textured. On the nose and palate, layers of stone fruits, tree fruits, melon, and red berries intertwine with spice, herbs, and tangy acidity.
2014 Early Vineyards Pinot Gris, $24, only 500 cases produced, Stelvin closure (sample)
Pinot Gris is not typically my go-to grape, but the uniqueness of this one makes me think I should revisit Pinot Gris. The grapes for this wine come from two vineyards: block 1, fermented in stainless steel with wild (native) yeast, and block 9, fermented with yeast 58W3 to enhance spice. Throw in a some wild-yeast, neutral barrel-fermented juice and partial malolactic fermentation and you have a complex, food-friendly wine with a rich mouthfeel , good minerality and acid, and juicy fruit flavors such as green apple, pear, and sweet lemon (Citrus limetta).
2013 Early Vineyards Foothills, $27, only 428 cases produced, choice of cork or Stelvin closure (sample)
My immediate reaction to this wine is what a beautiful example of a Virginia-made, Bordeaux-style, Right Bank blend. While made from 64% Merlot, and 36% Cabernet Franc, it is the Cabernet Franc which shines, offering dark berry, pepper, and spice. The Merlot completes the blend with red berry acidity and fine, soft tannins. The judicious use of barrel aging (35% new French oak) for 12 months adds a slight cedar quality and a lush, silky mouthfeel.
You, my readers, have no idea how much joy this tasting brought to my soul and my palate. I truly felt like I had been reconnected with my past. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to be there in person. Thank you, Early Mountain Vineyards, and Frank Morgan, for welcoming me back into the #VAWineChat fold.