Visiting Veramar and Bogati Vineyards in Virginia

Veramar Vineyards, Berryville, VA

Veramar Vineyards, Berryville, VA

A few weeks ago we went to celebrate our 5th anniversary in and around Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. As history, hiking, and wine fanatics, this area had everything we wanted all in one spot. You may know Harper’s Ferry from the famous uprising of abolitionist John Brown, which would eventually lead to our nation’s civil war. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in nearby Charles Town that was built on George Washington’s first land purchased in the area. In fact, Charles Town was named for his brother. Our first morning we spent in historic Shepherdstown and then crossed the Potomac into Maryland for a visit to Antietam National Battlefield, rendered all the more somber and powerful from an overnight snowfall. And the state of Virginia is home to over 200 wineries, with a long history of vine cultivation, but we will get to that in a minute.

With the unexpected weather we had opted to postpone our hike and winery visits until the next day when things would have melted off a bit. This was more for hike safety than for the winery visit, but nevertheless, 1,200 feet up on Loudoun Heights there was still several inches of snow to be found. After heading back down the Appalachian Trail route across the Shenandoah into downtown Harper’s Ferry, we hopped in the car to visit some of the nearby wineries of Northern Virginia.

A friend of mine who lives in the area recommended Veramar winery in Berryville. In complete contrast to the snowy mountaintops, the sun was shining down on the rolling hills and vineyards of the seemingly endless estate, with the expanse of the Blue Ridge extending in the distance as far as the eye could see. This area of the state’s wine industry is Shenandoah Valley AVA. Vine cultivation in Virginia goes back as far as the original Jamestown colony, and Thomas Jefferson himself was growing the first vinifera vines here at his home in Monticello. For more on that subject, read one of my favorite books, “Thomas Jefferson on Wine,” by John Hailman. On this beautiful day, the owner and family were enjoying the weather as well and it sounds like there will be another generation of winemakers in the family. The scenery here is one you could imagine not looking all that different 250 years ago.

Veramar Vineyards' Rooster Red and 2013 Cabernet Franc

Veramar Vineyards’ Rooster Red and 2013 Cabernet Franc

After the tasting we bought a bottle of the Cabernet Franc 2013 and ‘Rooster Red’ blend as well as a few whites we enjoyed, particularly the Seyval Blanc. I am writing this on day two for the bottle of Rooster Red I brought home, so that wine has  opened up a bit since and really is showing well on the nose and palate.

The Rooster Red is a red Bordeaux-style non-vintage blend. On the nose are black currant and a seductive smokey oak and baking spices along with distinct soil/earth notes — softer on the palate than yesterday for sure. Some fig in there, and coffee bean. It paired nicely with food yesterday and is standing on its own quite well today. It has a medal from the San Francisco Wine Awards as well as commendations from Decanter’s World Wine Awards and 83 points from Wine Enthusiast.

I also bought a bottle of the 2013 Cabernet Franc. Like the Rooster Red, the oak on this wine and the aromas associated with it are really dialed in and integrated. I don’t think I noticed as much at the winery. Though maybe that was a result of all the visitors that day and us just relieved to finally be tasting after waiting 20 minutes for a bridal shower before us to make room at the tasting bar. I was impressed — these smell like some of the best from the west coast and Europe. It is rated at 87 points on the winery site, though I am unable to find the source. On the palate, this Cabernet Franc is a balanced, elegant wine with very little of the under-ripe or green notes I usually encounter in reds from our part of the country. We enjoyed some warm bread and a gouda as well which you can buy at the tasting bar.

IMG_6339As we were looking over the options for one more stop in the region’s winery list, the staff suggested their sister winery just 7 miles down the road, Bogati.The Bogaty family runs Veramar, hence the name of their sister winery Bogati. (I am unsure of why the spelling was changed in the winery name – perhaps to be more chic?) When they told us it had a modern, Argentian flare, we decided it was defintely worth a visit. I had yet to come across a winery in this part of the country that did South American wines (or rather, a South American style of Malbec, a French native grape finding much success in Argentina of late.)   A quick drive through a gap in the Mountains led us to Bogati. On the outside it looks like a modern art gallery space with some lovely views of its own. But inside it’s all about the wine, and plenty of style. Their wines have a few medals of their own, namingly for their Seyval Blanc, the light Pinot Gris-based wine known as “B-thin,” the “Tango Blu,” and their Malbec.  The Malbec is really what I was excited about most though and it was a tasty and promising example. But equally as unexpected and unique as a Virginia Malbec, was their Touriga Nacional. You may know this as the principal grape of Portuguese red wines, and this one completely surprised and delighted me. As much for the uniqueness as the taste. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by both of these fine wineries – they are each within an hour’s reach of Washington DC.


Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Chateau Peyros "Magenta" 2010

Chateau Peyros “Magenta” 2010

Please forgive my less-than-consistent updates as of late — between the holidays and other commitments, free time has been scarce. Busy is good, I suppose. But I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine, and I have a trip planned to a Virginia winery this weekend as well that I plan to share with you.

Today I’d like to tell you about a fantastic Madiran wine given to me in a wine exchange with my manager at work. I traded her a lovely 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir (natch) and in return received this delicious wine. Madiran AOP is located just 35 miles north of the Pyrenees and 50 miles east of the Atlantic in Southwestern France. The combination of the steep mountainside vineyards and the Mediterranean climate help to ripen the grapes properly.

Madiran wines wines are made from red grapes only and the rules require that at least 40% of the wine blend consist of the region’s primary grape Tannat, though some are actually 100% and this is also permitted, or rather not enforced. It is a very age-worthy wine style because of the concentrated fruit and substantial tannins (hence the origin of the grape’s name) but therefore also can be astringent and rough when younger. The addition of Bordeaux stars Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon or the local varietal known as Fer Servadou soften it and help make it more drinkable, especially in its youth.  After a few years time it becomes incredibly smooth and supple and this wine was showing well already. Newer winery techniques such as micro-oxygenization lend additional aid in the softening process as does oak maturation. The structure and elegance of these wines can easily stand up to their Bordeaux cousins, and some of the most famous fetch similar prices. While this is the original and most famous region for Tannat, it is now finding great success in Uruguay, similar to that of Malbec in Argentina.

This 2010 Chateau Peyros “Magenta” is a 50-50 blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc and on the palate also strikes a perfect balance of structure and fruit — blackberry, plum and cherry primarily. The name is derived from the purplish hue of the blend.  It also has a nice amount of baking spice, hints of smoke and an earthy, almost gamey note as well. A lasting finish included additional hints of spice that lingered on. Typical age before drinking is recommended at 4-8 years, so at five years old, this beauty was ready to drink. It’s also extremely affordable. I don’t know the price paid as it was a gift, but from a quick online search it looks like you can get them from $11-14.

Suggested food pairings are pork and lamb, or a fatty cheese like Roquefort — the fat easily cut through by the firm tannins. So we prepared braised pork chops with a dijon glaze and a spicy pilaf and it was a match made in heaven.

North Fork Live Blog Day 3: Lenz Winery & Bedell Cellars

Lenz Winery, Peconic, NY

Lenz Winery, Peconic, NY

For this last day at the North Fork of Long Island I am back at a few favorites to stock up ! I just left Lenz whose Blanc de Noir was on the top of my list (I reviewed it here last year) and I was impressed with their Gewürztraminer as well. I was also quite giddy seeing the workers out pruning the shoots on the vines in preparation for budburst as well as seeing head winemaker Eric Fry and his team working on the next vintage in the winery.

Tasting at Bedell Cellars, Cutchogue, NY

Tasting at Bedell Cellars, Cutchogue, NY

I am now at another favorite, Bedell Cellars whose 2010 first crush I reviewed as another favorite last year. Consider this my first vertical tasting as I just had the 2011 which has the addition of 20% Syrah which has added a nice spice to last year’s fruit-forward blend ( which I obviously loved). I like both a lot. 2010 was hot and the fruit really stood out in a way I adored, and while 2011 didn’t have as hot a year, this is a beautifully balanced wine and the Syrah addition is a nice touch. Their 2011 Cabernet Franc is also very nice as well as their 2010 Gallery white which is a pricier (but worth it) showcase blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay. The tasting room and feel here are more modern and contemporary. Visit both when you can.

North Fork Live Blog Day 1: The Winemaker’s Studio

The Winemaker's Studio

The Winemaker’s Studio

I am very happily camped out at The Winemaker’s Studio, a small shop and tasting room which is the result of many local winemakers’ getting to do their own private labels through a local crushing co-op. There are many to choose from, and the quality here shows their experience. The menu has each winemaker’s story and current wine offerings. The a la carte menu of 12 or so wines changes weekly. The best of many worlds all at once. We have passed here a few times on our last visits but were always under the impression that it was perhaps a private business.

Everything we’ve had here has been top notch and particularly the Anthony Nappa wines who was formerly the head winemaker at Shinn, who I reviewed here in October after visiting. The “Bordo” Cabernet Franc I just tasted is perhaps the best I’ve had in the region so far. So, so good. Cigar-box aromas and berry spice permeate the nose as well as the palate, and its nice and fruit forward like my other favorite Cabernet Francs. It is fermented ‘wild’ which I assume means in the bins left to macerate upon itself. The finish keeps on going. I am buying two of these. There was a fantastic white Pinot Noir which I will also be bringing home, some great Viogniers, Rieslings, a Cab/Merlot blend, and a very nice dry rosé as well as an ‘orange wine’ which is partially oxidized. Several of these are from Red Hook winery in Brooklyn, whose rosé was one of the first I wrote about on this blog when I tried it at a Brooklyn rooftop BBQ. We will be going to visit Red Hook, as everything we’ve tried of theirs is also very good.

They also do spirit tastings here. While it looks more like a coffee shop, everything here is the real deal, and the staff as knowledgeable as they get. And, there IS fresh coffee available as well as some local beer if that is your craving or a necessity. Next door is a gourmet food shop, and our cheese plate was prepared of gourmet fresh cheeses on the spot.

We have also just joined the Winemaker’s studio wine club. That’s about the highest recommendation I can give. Go!

Brooklyn Oenology 2011 Cabernet Franc Rosé

Brooklyn Oenology Winery and tasting room

Brooklyn Oenology Winery and tasting room

Over the weekend I was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for another event when I walked right past the Brooklyn Oenology Winery and School. Nothing like having an unexpected tasting on your way to do something else! My friend patiently waited while I did a flight. There were two flights that they offered, and one of them had a Paumanok and a Sparkling Pointe, much to my delight. But I am going back to the North Fork this weekend for a special occasion, and rumor has it they may even still be harvesting! So I will have lots more to say next week.

The flight I did had several nice wines made from grapes from either the North Fork of Long Island or the Finger Lakes up north. While they don’t have their own vineyards, everything is fermented and vinted in Brooklyn. The wines in the flight included a steel-fermented Chardonnay, an orange Pinot Gris, a Merlot, a “Motley Cru” (Rhône style red) and this wonderful dry Provence-style 2011 Rosé, made from Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc. This is the wine I bought and am enjoying right now. This is my favorite type of rosé and the first one I’ve had from a local winery this season. Its color is a pale orange, and on the nose were crisp citrus, watermelon, strawberry and floral notes. The palate was full of dried berries and blood orange, with medium acidity and body and refreshing minerality that made it very well-balanced and satisfying. The label features the painting ‘The Secret Life of the Forest (In The Moist Wood)’, by artist Rene Lynch. All of their labels feature the work of local artists, a trend in winemaking I love, as a former art major! I have had one other very nice Provence-style dry rosé from Brooklyn, from Red Hook Winery.

BOE 2011 Cabernet Franc Rosé

BOE 2011 Cabernet Franc Rosé

I paired it with a fresh quiche and salad from a farmer’s market in another part of Brooklyn I visited the next day. I also visited a local New York (Hudson Valley) winery who was operating a stand at the market and bought two wines and a half gallon of pure juice from their grapes. I will be taking that juice and making it into my first homemade wine, and I can’t wait to share that learning experience with you. I have to order some supplies so that will be an upcoming story, if not several.

I am looking forward to digging into more of what this place has to offer, from classes to a tasting event, and trying more of their wines. You can buy their wines online, in their store, or in over 150 stores all over NYC.  They also sell local craft brews and ciders, and have their own wine club. What a lucky find!

Brooklyn Oenology
209 Wythe Avenue  Brooklyn, NY 11211

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork, Long Island

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork Long Island

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork Long Island

Yet another highlight of my trip to the North Fork was Sherwood House vineyards. It was the last of the vineyards we visited on the trip, just before we made for the Briermere Farm stand (amazing, amazing pies!) and then the ferry. They have a beautiful old wooden barn with a magnificent fireplace in the back of the lot (which at the time was filled with sounds of live jazz music for the North Fork ‘Jazz on the Vine’ festival) as well as a large room full of antiques in the main building, adjacent to the main tasting room. The main room is a nice mix of quaint and modern; barn-like in feel but with all the modern appointments, including a modern tasting bar and just outside, a large deck. On this particular day, there was a raw bar set up on the deck as well. It was a perfect day and we took in some of the jazz, sun, antiques and a tasting of several wines. They also have pads of tasting note paper, so I did my due diligence as a student and filled out a few. As a result, I am able to tell you about a few of them today.

The 2007 ‘Oregon Road’ Merlot poured a medium ruby, and had a slight rim variation. On the nose there was black fruit and spice. Notably this wine has the shortest fermentation time of their wines, at 12 months. On the palate was smoke, an earthiness I loved, and more black fruit. The body, tannins, and finish were all about a medium. I don’t usually love 100% Merlot, but this had a nice distinct flavor that pleased my palate.

We next tried the 2008 Double-Gold Merlot. This too had similar color and rim variation as the Oregon Road, as well as the smoke, spice, and black fruit present in the former. However, there was a little more ‘smoke’ in the nose and it had a slightly fuller body, tannins, and finish. Very balanced and pleasant, and obviously good enough to win a couple of medals.

My tasting notes

My tasting notes

Next up was a fantastic Cabernet Franc. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this region is really where I discovered the full potential of Cabernet Franc all on its own, and they are doing great things on the North Fork with it. This 2008 vintage poured a medium ruby color, but on the nose there were fragrant baking spices, and a little bit of that floral and pepper aroma characteristic of the variety, and some cherry. The body, tannins and finish were all about a medium as would be expected in this true Chinon style wine. These are expensive at $40 and made in such small numbers they are each numbered on the bottle.

My favorite of all though was a white Merlot (also branded ‘Oregon Road’). It was a recent vintage, I believe a 2011, and my very first of this kind of wine. (Incidentally I have a white Pinot Noir from Lenz I will review this weekend once I’ve shared it with my father-in-law.) A pale straw color, it had distinct melon on the nose. On the palate, it was dry, with pear and more melon. Body, tannins and finish were light but overall it was refreshing and really delicious. This is one of those I wish I had bought more of. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back!

You can find almost all of these on their website.

The tasting Room is located at 1291 Main Road, Jamesport, NY 11947

Bedell Cellars First Crush (Red) 2010

Bedell First Crush 2010

Bedell First Crush 2010

I have decided that it’s more productive to cover the North Fork Trip as a general overview of the travel experience, and continue to hone in on specific wines that really made an impression on me in individual reviews. Last week I covered the Paumanok Assemblage, and I have another wine of theirs to review in the coming days. But today I am covering an unexpected little gem, the Bedell Cellars 2010 First Crush. The label says ‘red table wine,’ but it’s really much better than that. It is made from the first harvested grapes of the vintage, and is meant to serve a second purpose of being ‘a preview of the new vintage.’  They make this wine in both red and white, and there’s now a bottle of the white in my collection just waiting to be opened. I had gone through the First Crush red pretty soon after we returned from our trip in March. I was thrilled to find it in the wine shop just down the street from my sister-in-law’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn this past weekend. So I brought another one home, and a First Crush white, as we had not recalled trying that one at the tasting.  This wine was then and is now delicious. It’s reminiscent of a Beaujolais in that it is bursting with very bright fruit. The color was a ruby with a medium intensity. On the nose you are instantly struck with bright wild strawberry, raspberry and cherry. The tannins were noticeably firm and the body, alcohol, and acidity were also making a strong showing. You get the same bright, wild sweet red fruit on the palate as the nose, and a nice finish. Also like a Beaujolais, carbonic maceration is employed to maintain the youth of the wine so I’d expect this to be best young.  This one certainly won’t last the night! It is a blend of 76% Merlot and 24% Cabernet Franc. In fact this is the winery where I first had a Cabernet Franc on its own and it blew me away. Here I was thinking it was just a blend wine.  Here too the Cabernet Franc shines. I tasted through about 7 wines overall, picking one of their many flights, all reds in this case. This was my favorite in the flight.  Everything was wonderful and I brought home about 5 wines from Bedell that day. This one is just as good the second time.