Friday, December 24, 2010

Holidays Call for Good Wine

Merry Christmas to all Virginia wine lovers, Virginia winemakers and anyone and everyone else who may read this.

Whether or not you are looking to serve good wine during the holidays because it is a special occasion, or if you are entertaining relatives and in-laws and need a bit more bang for your buck, there are thousands of choices for both approaches. And Virginia wineries can help in both ways.

For quality Virginia wines to serve for the holidays, I am a fan of Fabbioli Cellars' Cabernet Franc and Paradise Springs' Chardonnay. Both are great wines that will please your wine-loving and wine-phobic guests alike.

Fabbioli Cellars' Cabernet Franc is a nice, medium-bodied red. It has a touch of sweetness reminiscent of raspberries and dark chocolate. It is not, however, a sweet wine. Rather, the sweetness gives way to an interesting complexity of pepper and nutmeg on the finish. The sweetness and spiciness work well together to give this medium-bodied wine a very well-balanced and enjoyable flavor.

I have sung the praises of Virginia Cabernet Franc in the past, and Fabbioli's is one of the best you can find. Plus, at $19, the wine is a great value for the quality.

As for white wine, if you haven't tried Paradise Springs' Chardonnay yet, you should definitely make it a priority. Not only did it win the 2010 Governor's Cup for white wine, but it is a robust, well-made white that would be a great addition to any meal regardless of official accolades. With crisp pear, green apple and brie flavors throughout, this wine would be a perfect accompaniment for appetizers or to serve at a holiday party.

Although I have been more impressed with Virginia Viogniers in the past, Paradise Springs' Chardonnay has convinced me that Chardonnay can do well in the state as well. At $29 the Chardonnay is a bit pricey, especially when compared to other chardonnays at the same price-point, but it is worth trying and sharing with guests.

This past year has been a good one for the Virginia wine industry, despite the sluggish economy. There are many options out there for very good Virginia wines that you can serve during the holidays.
Whatever you drink and serve this holiday season, have a safe and merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

8 Chains North: A New VA Winery that's not yet a 10

If you have ever asked yourself what wine and old refrigerators have in common, your answer can now be 8 Chains North winery in Waterford, VA. What struck me first about one of Virginia’s newer wineries is that it is decorated in two very distinct styles: one could be called “Cost Plus World Market Floor Model” and the other design theme is old refrigerators. The first one I can understand. Who hasn’t walked into a Cost Plus and thought: “I like all of these styles of furniture. I’ll take them all and decorating will be a cinch!” Putting all of them in the same space, unless it is in the store, feels a bit confused and jumbled.

8 Chains North in general is very much like its tasting room. There are a lot of good ideas but the overall execution is a little confused without any real purpose. And seriously, why all the old refrigerators?

I give a tremendous amount of credit to anyone who opens up a winery. The amount of time, effort and money needed to start a winery from the ground up is daunting. Yet the more wineries that open, the more good wine will be produced which will add to Virginia’s reputation as a wine-producing state in general. Like the tasting room, I felt that the wines being produced at 8 Chains North could use a little work.

Of the wines that Caitlin and I tried, their Furnace Mountain Red was the most enjoyable. With a pleasant aroma of blackberries and a hint of vanilla, I was expecting a bigger, heartier red than the light, soft one that it turned out to be. The body is on the thin side and the pleasant aromas give way to oaky hints that lead to an unexpected sourness on the finish. Like the winery itself, I was expecting one thing and got something totally different when I tired this blend.

The other wine worth mentioning is their LoCo Vino white. Like their Furnace Mountain Red, LoCo Vino is a blend, using traminette and vidal blanc grapes. As Virginia whites go, I could see drinking this one again. It had more complexity that I was anticipating, with a floral aroma that opened up nicely into a pleasant, albeit thin, body that accentuated its citrus and grassy flavors. This would be a good wine to take to a BBQ, or a picnic.

With so many things wine, experiences can change from sip to sip or from trip to trip. 8 Chains North does have a great space that could easily be modified to become a more welcoming tasting room. The views are beautiful, and I could tell that the person working the wine bar was very enthusiastic and excited about the winery. Also like wine, with a bit more aging and maturity, I know that 8 Chains North will reach its full potential.