Welcome Home: #VAWineChat with Early Mountain Vineyards!

Ready for #VAWineChat with Early Mountain Vineyards
Ready for #VAWineChat with Early Mountain Vineyards

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.

Early Mountain Vineyards Foothills, Pinot Gris, and Rosé
Early Mountain Vineyards Foothills, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

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.

Cheers!
Beth

Bolen Family Estates

August 1, 2009: My Bolen Merlot Moment!
August 1, 2009: My Bolen Merlot Moment!

On August 1, 2009, I was visiting Napa for the second time in my life. I was staying at a friend’s home and we were tasting lots of wines that afternoon. Among those wines on the table was a Merlot that none of us knew anything about. It was almost a collective exclamation of astonishment when we tasted it. The friend with whom I was staying turned to Eric Bolen and said, “This is YOUR Merlot?” It was amazing. I will always recall that tasting as my definitive Merlot Moment.

Bolen Family Estates Selections
Bolen Family Estates Selections

Over the course of the past five years, I have purchased every vintage of what has been fondly called The World’s Best Merlot and I have my own vertical, 2006-2010. I think the phrase originated with Bolen, but found its way into a blog post by my friend Josh Wade, owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA, publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine, owner of nectarMEDIA, and writer at drinknectar.com. I remember reading Josh’s post in 2010 and thinking to myself, “Hell, yeah!” The phrase seems to have stuck and remained a goal of Bolen Family Estates, who has relentlessly focused on crafting the Best Merlot in the World. The winery is a partnership between Eric Bolen, his father, Mike Bolen, and Patrick McEvoy. The grapes come from the well-known Beckstoffer Orchard Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

Cave Tasting at Bolen Family Estates
Cave Tasting at Bolen Family Estates

Fast forward ahead to 2014 and finally, living in Napa, I was able to schedule a visit. Tastings at Bolen are always hosted by Eric or Mike, so they are only by appointment eight to ten times per month. Guests are vetted as buyers and collectors that are financially comfortable with the purchase prices of the wines, which start at $90 per bottle for the 2010 Merlot. The visit is personalized and intimate, taking place in their wine cave on property. All barrels used are French oak. Currently, the tasting includes:

Bottle:
2009 Merlot – 80% neutral oak, 20% new medium toast.

Barrel Samples:
Bolen keeps all wines in neutral oak for the first year. Then in the fall of each year, they do oak trials to make a decision regarding the toast levels and percentage of further oak aging.
2013 Merlot – This wine was still in neutral oak the day I visited.
2012 Merlot – 75% neutral oak, 15% new heavy toast, and 10% new medium toast.
2011 Merlot – 85% neutral oak, 15% new medium toast.
2010 Merlot – 85% neutral oak, 15% new medium toast.

Barrel Tasting with Eric Bolen at Bolen Family Estates
Barrel Tasting with Eric Bolen at Bolen Family Estates

When I was there, Eric allowed me to taste the wines in different oak barrels – neutral and different new oak toast levels – so I could experience the Merlot’s building blocks in various stages of aging. The Merlot is aged 36 months before release. For the 2010 and 2012 vintages, strong vintages for Napa Valley, Bolen held back some of the wine to spend 48 months in oak, and those wines will be referred to as their Long Barrel Reserve selections upon release.

The newest additions to my vertical: 2010 Bolen Family Estates Merlot!
The newest additions to my vertical: 2010 Bolen Family Estates Merlot!

All vintages of the Merlot are simply stellar. The grapes stay on the vine longer, resulting in lush, bold fruit aromas and flavors. Just the right amount of French oak at different toast levels gives the wines great spice, tannins, and structure. I hope that no one reading this is afraid of Merlot or thinks they dislike Merlot. However, if you are one of these people, I suggest trying Bolen Family Estates, as you may just be astounded at how incredible Merlot can be.

Bolen is sold out of the 2006-2008 vintages of Merlot, but they still have some 2009 ($105/bottle) and the 2010 is their current release ($90/bottle).

2008 Bolen Family Estates Red Field Blend, Mt. Veeder
2008 Bolen Family Estates Red Field Blend, Mt. Veeder

Bolen also now offers a very small production Bordeaux-style red blend, whose grapes come from the estate vineyard in the Mt. Veeder District of Napa Valley. The 2012 Red Field Blend is 35% medium toast new French oak. The 2010 Red Field Blend is 50% new medium toast French oak. They still have some 2008 ($180/bottle) and the current release is the 2009 ($160/bottle).

Beginning with the 2014 vintage, Bolen will add a white wine to their offerings, a Bordeaux-style white blend, with the grapes coming from the Gamble Family Vineyard in Yountville.

To schedule your visit, please contact Mike Bolen at 707-294-7540 or visit@bolenwine.com.

If you are a true oenophile, collector, and buyer, and are in search of some quality, small-production wines to add to your table or cellar, I recommend Bolen Family Estates. After all, as they say on their website, Our Legacy is our wine!

Cheers!
Beth

2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: Live Red Wine Blogging

Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)
Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)

In my previous post, I shared a bit about the live wine blogging experience. There’s also a part two every year, live red wine blogging. This year, I tasted 11 wines in an hour, almost 12, but I ran out of time. I am not sure if a few of the producers shared some extra wines or what happened, but below is my wrap-up of this very intense tasting. What was really cool about this tasting is that there was more variety, including wines from Arizona, California, Georgia (the country), and Italy. In this post, the wines are ordered in reverse, from the last wine tasted to the first wine tasted. What can I say? It was easier to organize. Lesson learned from the last post.

Aridus Syrah
Aridus Syrah

#AZwine in the house again! @ariduswineco #Rhone-style #Syrah: gorgeous, dark fruit, earth. #wine #wbc14 #willcox pic.twitter.com/Zq24siQo96

Mariani Saperavi
Mariani Saperavi

#wine from @GeorgiaWineUSA (country), Mariani #saperavi: huge fruit and tannins, w/acidity on the finish. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/ny8fqSV5bA

Centine Toscana
Centine Toscana

From @BanfiWines Centine for every day! #tuscan blend, $12: easy to drink, nice fruit & acid. #wbc14 #wine pic.twitter.com/KKRNl6ckXN

Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Punch California #springmountain #CabSauv: dark fruit, big tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/z9AuccvtOQ

White Hart Pinot Noir
White Hart Pinot Noir

Pinot from White Hart, #santaluciahighlands, #sonoma: nice red fruit, good acid, firm tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/uQsjX8m3xC

Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend
Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend

#napa! @CornerstoneNapa The Cornerstone Red: mouthwatering fruit and acid, integrated tannin. Nice. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/F3HAxrPmdj

Main & Geary Zinfandel
Main & Geary Zinfandel

Main & Geary, @BevMo‘s own label #zinfandel: jam on! #wine #wbc14 #drycreek #sonoma pic.twitter.com/7OO5P2nneX

Westerly Fletcher's Red
Westerly Fletcher’s Red

#sbcwine @WesterlyWines #happycanyon Fletcher’s Red: a balanced, gorgeous, #Bordeaux-style blend! #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/I0G4RkzO4Y

J Lohr Pinot Noir
J Lohr Pinot Noir

Up next, @JLohrWines 2012 Falcon’s Perch Pinot, #Monterey: floral aromatics, tart cherry & strawberry. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/obQOs0VSkh

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir
Davis Bynum Pinot Noir

Dijon Clone 155 Pinot from @DavisBynumWines: lots of red berry and my kind of spicy finish. #wine #rrv #sonoma #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/nGE3IO3UNK

Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin
Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin

#Zintastic! Sin Zin from @avvwinery! Nice black fruit, spicy, peppery finish! #alexandervalley #sonoma #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/09kXVN4T9s

A Trio of Reds for Virginia Wine Month and Beyond

Virginia Wine Month logo, http://www.virginia.org/winemonth/
Virginia Wine Month logo, http://www.virginia.org/winemonth/

This month, Virginia celebrates the 25th anniversary of Virginia Wine Month. Since 2010, sales of Virginia wine are up 23 percent. In 2012, Wine Enthusiast recognized Virginia as one of the 10 best wine travel destinations. This year alone, Virginia has sold more than a half of a million cases of wines. Virginia wine has never tasted better.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in #VAWineChat, a virtual tasting hosted by Frank Morgan of Drink What YOU Like and Boxwood Estate located in Middleburg, Virginia. Although I live in Virginia, I do not often have access to premium Virginia wines, so I was honored and thrilled when Frank asked me to participate. Half-bottle samples were graciously provided by Boxwood.

Topiary and Boxwood Samples
Topiary and Boxwood Samples

Boxwood currently produces red wines in three Bordeaux styles. During the tasting, I had the opportunity to taste the 2011 Topiary, produced in the Saint Émilion style, a blend of Cabernet Franc (68%) and Merlot (32%), and the 2010 Boxwood, produced in the Médoc style, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (43%), and Petit Verdot (7%).

Both wines were fantastic. The Topiary ($25.00 at the winery) is the lighter, refined, more feminine blend, if you will, a dark, clear red wine with aromas and flavors of red berries and violets and a sweet tannin, herbal finish. On the other end of the spectrum is the Boxwood ($25.00 at the winery), the more masculine blend, a full-bodied, dark red to purple wine, with aromas and flavors of blackberry and plum, and a long, velvety finish.

2011 Stinson Vineyard Meritage
2011 Stinson Vineyard Meritage

Last night and today, I tasted another Virginia wine, this one from Stinson Vineyards. Stinson is a sustainable, family-run boutique winery located in a repurposed garage in White Hall, Virginia, although the official address is Crozet, Virginia. The winery has planted five acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. The first harvest is this year, 2013, and grapes from previous harvests have been sourced from local growers.

The wine I tasted is the 2011 Meritage ($25.99 at the winery), a red blend consisting of Merlot (35%), Petit Verdot (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), and Cabernet Franc (20%). This wine is floral and feminine, with aromas and flavors of red and dark berries and a spicy tannin finish. I found it opened up quite nicely from last night to today. This wine was a sample provided by the winery through Folsom + Associates.

Virginia Wine Month runs through the end of October. If you will be in Virginia, I suggest planning a trip to one of Virginia’s more than 230 wineries. For event information around the state, please visit this link.

2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée (CVC)

2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée (CVC)
2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée (CVC)

I’ve had this wine for a while. I’ve tasted with Calluna Vineyards’ winemaker David Jeffrey twice, once in April 2012 at Vinoteca in Santa Rosa, California and again at the estate in September 2012. I purchased this wine during our first tasting and promised to review it. Life got in the way. A few times I selected the bottle to drink, but put it back. When I taste a wine I really like, I want to hold onto it and drink it at just the right time. During last night’s snowstorm, I decided it was time.

The 2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée (CVC), Chalk Hill AVA (Sonoma County), is a Right Bank (Bordeaux)-style red blend. Jeffrey learned to make wine under Dr. Alain Raynaud of Chateau Quinault in Saint-Émilion and he captures that style of winemaking in this wine. It is comprised of 43% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. It has a dark, purple-reddish hue. If I could describe this wine in one word, it would be balanced. It is not an over-the-top, in-your-face wine. It has aromas of black and red berries. It was aged in French oak barrels, 40% new oak, so there’s a nice balance between the oak and fruit, with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, raspberry, redcurrant, and warm spice. It is so elegant. I’m not sure being at home in a snowstorm was the appropriate venue for such a refined wine, but it sure was delicious.

Calluna Vineyards still has this wine available. Don’t let this one pass you by.

Calluna Vineyards

Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night. ~ Terri Guillemets

2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée

Earlier this year, I was asked to assist Regal Wine Imports with some of their internal scheduling in addition to managing their travel. In this capacity, I have been fortunate to connect with some new wine producers. One of those is Calluna Vineyards and winemaker David Jeffery. When I decided to visit Napa and Sonoma, I reached out to a contact at Regal and asked which producers I should try to see. Calluna was one of them. In my research I discovered that Jeffrey would be pouring his wines at Vinoteca, a cooperative winemaking and tasting facility in Santa Rosa, on the Sunday I would be in the area. I then reached out to him. He really wanted me to come to the vineyards, but at that point my schedule only allowed for the Vinoteca tasting.

On Sunday, April 29, I arrived at Vinoteca and experienced one of the most enjoyable wine tastings I’ve had since I started serious wine tasting in 2008. Jeffrey took me on a tour of Vinoteca’s winemaking facility where he makes his wines, showed me photos, and shared his story with me. He was a 20-year wine collector and enthusiast who had a career in corporate finance when in 2001, he had to make a life-changing decision: get a “real job” or follow his passion for wine. He decided to follow his passion and founded Calluna Vineyards. He studied Enology at Fresno State and worked in Bordeaux to prepare himself for his new career. He acquired property in the Chalk Hill AVA in 2004 and planted his first grapes in early 2005. The first vintage was in 2007 and his wines have already enjoyed some critical success. His 2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée, a Bordeaux-style red blend, earned a score of 92 and a best buy in Wine and Spirits Magazine. His 2008 Calluna Estate, another Bordeaux-style red blend, received a recommendation and a score of 91 in Wine Spectator.

Calluna Vineyards Barrel at Vinoteca

What made this experience so special was both witnessing the passion in his voice as well as tasting it in his wines. I tasted the aforementioned 2009 Cuvée, the 2009 Merlot “Aux Raynauds”, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon “The Colonel’s Vineyard” and the not-yet-released 2009 Calluna Estate, all stellar examples of Bordeaux-style wines. It’s a testament to his passion for wine and commitment to his craft that his wines are simply amazing in such a short time. My favorites were the two red blends. Since the 2009 Estate was not available, I purchased the 2009 Cuvée and plan to review it in a future post.

For more information about David Jeffrey and Calluna Vineyards, or to purchase the wines, the links and contact information are below. He has a guest house on the property, so maybe next time I’ll get to stay there and visit the vineyards!

Calluna Vineyards
11450 Brooks Road
Windsor, CA 95492
Email: info@callunavineyards.com
Telephone: (707) 239-1325
To purchase or read more about Calluna’s wines, visit this link.