Monday is definitely a special occasion!

I was doing some serious research last night, and by that I mean I was drinking wine and enjoying it. Thanks to Andy Regan [winemaker of Jefferson Vineyards], I was enjoying his latest Meritage from the  2009 vintage. Based mainly on the Cabernet Franc grape, this is sure to be crowd pleaser with dark fruit on the nose complimented by well-integrated oak and good acidity. It is a stellar effort from one of Virginia’s best wine makers. Andy, you owe me a beer for that endorsement!

Monday’s are mostly low-key affairs and with my brother and sister-in-law coming round for dinner along with her significant other and a good friend of ours, Aaron Watson [who just happens to be an amazing local photographer],  I decided to pull out all the stops for dinner. This involved a quick call to the local Chinese restaurant, ensuring that dinner was indeed half decent. With the Jefferson Meritage freshly out, a new bottle was called for and the Keswick Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was thought to be the ideal candidate. This was a special vintage and this was indeed a special wine as it was the lucky winner of the Virginia Governors Cup in 2009.

Who says Cab and Chinese food cannot work

There really is no better time to crack open a special bottle of wine than with people you enjoy being around, on some random for no good reason day. I would be lying if I said it went well the Chinese food but that really is not the point. With a quick decant to remove the heavy sediment, glasses were duly filled, accompanied by gasps of “You opened what” I have not tried this wine for a while now; and I was not disappointed. It clearly has some life in it with big firm tannins, accented by smoky undertones. Blended with 25% Merlot, this wine is distinctly fruit forward with dark berries, plums and just a hint of cigar box. What I enjoyed most about the wine though was the long finish and the supple overall texture of the wine. Let me be totally honest and say there is a definite hint of biasm here due to me making it, but if you have a few bottles of this wine lying around  why not crack one open now, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

With my mantra of drinking special bottles of wine on random days with funny foods, crack that bottle you have been saving open, while sitting in your pajamas with a big bowl of ice cream. If the wine is as good as you think it is, it will make any day a special day, even a Monday!



Keswick Vineyards


4 Wineries, 1 Initiative

The passport, available at each of the participating wineries and cidery

Blenheim, Jefferson Vineyards, Castle Hill Cidery and Keswick Vineyards are pleased to announce the launch of the Winter Wonderland passport program, which runs up until April 1st 2012.

The concept of this marketing effort is simple, purchase a passport at one winery and taste for free at the others. This is a wonderful opportunity for customers who plan on making a day out of visiting and tasting some fantastic Virginia wines and ciders.
Available for $15 at any of the participating wineries, this card saves you $10 on the normal tasting room fees you would incur.

I think it is important to promote other wineries and businesses within the State and I have known Kirsty [winemaker for Blenheim] and Andy [winemaker for Jefferson] for a long time and am a huge admirer of the wines they have been producing. We are also excited that Castle Hill Cidery has come on board and Stuart [Cider Maker] is doing some wonderful things and everyone should go and taste their products in what is a beautiful tasting room.

All the wineries are within about 20-30 minutes driving distance, so visiting each in a single day is easily doable. Stop in at Keswick Hall or the Clifton Inn for lunch; take in Monticello [about a mile from Jefferson Vineyards] to break things up.
visit us all on one day or take your time, just bring your passport with you and your tasting will be complimentary upon your arrival.

I can promise you, having these wines and ciders recently that you will not be disappointed


Keswick Vineyards

Keswick Vineyards
Castle Hill Cider
Jefferson Vineyards
Blenheim Vineyards

Opening up the world of Cider making

Ciders from Albemarle Cider Works

  As you may or may not know, Castle Hill (across the street from us) is starting to produce cider, which has prompted me to want to take a crash course in Virginia ciders!  It was with this in mind that I gladly accepted an opportunity to attend a cider tasting at Albemarle CiderWorks this past Saturday with a group of bloggers, friends and colleagues. Those in attendance were, and in no particular order of favorites or preference.

Andy [winemaker Jefferson Vineyards] and Neely Regan, Paul and Warren of Virginia Wine Time , Frank Morgan Drink What you Like; Grape Envy guy and VA Wine Diva of Swirl Sip Snark; Rick and Nancy of Virginia Wine in my Pocket; Jacquelin and Ben of Mountfair Vineyards; Amy Ciarametaro of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office; Mary Ann Dancisin, contributor to the Virginia Wine Gazette, and our friends at flavor magazine.  Frank should have been at the bottom of this list for making a dig at the South African Wine Industry and the lack of terroir, NICE!

I must confess I know less about Cider making than I do about speaking Chinese [of which I do not know one word], throw in the fact that I was going to be drinking [nay tasting] and I was going to learn something. We tasted the products of 2 cider producers, Albemarle CiderWorks owned and operated by Chuck and Charlotte Shelton and Foggy Ridge Cidery, with Diane Flint [cider maker] in attendance.

Diane from Foggy Ridge


Before I go into the actual tasting, I have to give major props to both producers in the manner in which they conducted the tasting and spoke of their products. Passion is not lacking and for that I have to tip my hat, for agriculture is hard work and you have to love it, and both the Sheltons and Diane do. 

We tasted 8 different ciders, made from curious apples such as Graniwinkle, Black Twig and Winesap. Most of them were in the 6-8% alcohol range with residual sugar [which determines how sweet it is] from 0.2% to 2.3%. Both Cider makers spoke of tannins and acids, food pairings and age worthiness [sounds a lot like wine-making] which later on I found to be true. I have to admit that I could not pick up any flavors per se, some tasters spoke feverishly about tropical notes and citrus tones, all I could clearly pick up was the differences in acid levels and the  presence of astringency. When asked to pick a flavor, I was going to play it safe and say I could definitely pick up APPLE.

I was very interested to learn about the process of making the cider, and how it differed to making wine. First difference is that cider making is far less forgiving than wine-making. Great care is taken in producing this product, it is definitely an art form, big eye opener. I was also intrigued to find out that apples are sometimes stored for a period of time prior to processing, sometimes a few months, where in my field of work grapes degrade fairly quickly and processing is done soon after picking. Pretty cool fact is that there are 16 000 apple types out there [no that was not a typo] although I am drinking a 15% alcohol Napa Cabernet while typing this blog and my memory is a bit fuzzy. Should have taken notes [a real blogger would have, but I am not one- a fact that I am constantly reminded of].

Chuck, cider maker for Albemarle Cider Works

After tasting the ciders, I honestly had to give the edge to Foggy Ridge, just because there was a far greater difference in the ciders that I tasted, from the color to the acid levels and the texture in the mouth, all three ciders tasted different. I really liked the Albemarle Ciders but they were far more similar across the board and thus the edge to Foggy Ridge [hey I bought all of them so I did not play favorites]. Furthermore, the notion of cider as sweet and generic was completely destroyed [wood chuck cider may not be the best representation]. These ciders are food friendly, have their own unique character and thanks to Chuck, Charlotte and Diane will begin to have a bigger market presence. I for one support the growth of this sector of Agriculture and wish them both the very best of luck, and to Castle Hill too when they open their doors to the public on June 1st!

So it was with a new sense of perspective that the group retired to the cottage where burgers were thrown on the grill and many a bottle of wine and cider were tasted, some good and others not. Good times were had by all and ultimately this is why we do what we do, to enjoy the fruits of our labors with people we enjoy being around.

The carnage that followed, bottles finished

So my thanks to Chuck and Charlotte for hosting us, to Diane for driving all that way to present her ciders and to Frank Morgan [a.k.a Mr. Boeing] for organizing this wonderful event.

So support our local Cider producers, they are doing an amazing job, you will be glad you did.

Albemarle Cider Works, Foggy Ridge 



Keswick Vineyards