Since this posting category has been vacant awhile, I’m posting two today to represent the last 2 weeks.
#1: Hermann J. Wiemer Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest 1999, Finger Lakes, NY
Readers of this blog know I’m a major riesling fan, and also a fan of Finger Lakes riesling. Hermann Wiemer Vineyards on west Seneca Lake is one of the few of the leading riesling producers in the region who offers library vintages of riesling for sale at the winery. This does a service to those who want pre-aged riesling, and also demonstrates that Finger Lakes riesling can age very well.
There’s a big focus in the riesling world these days on dry rieslings, and it’s good we can all appreciate them as such, but Wiemer does us aservice by offering late harvest classics like this that can show how much style and dimension you can find in classically sweet (German auslese style) rieslings that can match the Germans for finesse, even if made in the New World.
The 1999 vintage was a warm one with ripe grapes, but especially good for late harvest rieslings, as was the recent 2008 vintage. The wine seemed vibrantly youthful, just coming into its prime at 11 years. The bouquet was complex, with some petrol hints of age, but mostly sappy ripe yellow and red apple fruit, with yellow peach and even a hint of tropical/tangerine fruit. On the palate, it seemed racy and young; vibrant fruitiness danced over a taut and typical Finger Lakes acidity, which kept the 4.5% residual sugar perfectly balanced. While this particular vintage may no longer be for sale at the winery, look for others; great “keeper” vintages should be 2006 and 2008, but 2001 and 2005 will also reward those who want to enjoy in the near term.
#2: Hiddencroft Cabernet Franc 2007, Loudoun County, VA
The first Hiddencroft wine I tasted was their excellent petit verdot, also from the outstanding ’07 vintage, so I wasn’t too surprised to find this small production wine up to the same artisanal standards, but I felt thi swas quite possibly the juiciest, richest (but fruit-forward) caberent franc I’ve ever had. The dark spicy plum was there, also some cardamom hints, smooth tannins, and not a hint of green “veggies” anywhere. Since I also liked their petit verdot so much, it wasn’t surprising to learn that this was actually a blend, (88% Cabernet Franc/12% Petit Verdot)aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels for 12 months. Maybe this proves that the best cabernet franc in the world (like Ch. Cheval Blanc?) isn’t all cabernet franc, but has a strategic portion of a fellow red Bordeaux grape added in. Hiddencroft is a small winery in Loudoun County
Two Saturdays in a row (August 7th and 14th) saw the official public openings of two new Virginia wineries; DuCard Vineyards in northern Madison County, near Old Rag Mountain; and WindSong Winery, in Columbia, VA, between Richmond and Charlottesville.
DuCard’s owner and winegrower Scott Eliff describes the operation as “A hobby gone wild”, and sold grapes to neighboring wineries for the past decade before deciding to become a winery. The tasteful chalet-style winery is spacious, welcoming and relaxing, with an outdoor patio furnished with wrought iron tables, chairs and umbrellas with views of the green slopes of the Shenandoah National Park with Old Rag nearby.
The product line focuses on strong suits for Virginia; two versions of viognier, a red Bordeaux blend of cabernet franc and petit verdot, a norton, and a dessert vidal (all except the vidal are estate grown on the winery’s 7 acres of vineyards). There’s an emphasis on sourcing materials locally and on sustainability. Some examples include sustainable farming with as little chemical spray use as possible (“lutte raisonee”), use of reclaimed hardwoods through Mountain Lumber Co. in Ruckersville, and use of foster dogs through the SPCA to keep the deer away during harvest. Eliff also points out that DuCard is the first Virginia winery to be 100% solar powered.
Eliff also teaches a canopy management course through Piedmont Va. Community College using his vineyard as the classroom, for their Workforce Services wine industry professional development program. Aspiring winegrowers “adopt a row” to manage through the growing season.
WindSong’s ownership team includes Jim and Sherry Ramey, Bob Blansfield and David Terrill. The winery’s first releases include Dornfelder (a red German crossing), a light bodied peach wine as well as a round plum wine. By focusing in small production lots, the winemaker uses old school techniques to extract the full flavor profile from the grape.
The tasting experience at both DuCard and WindSong is laid back and peaceful, designed to integrate the visitor with the gentle landscape.
DuCard Vineyards is roughly halfway between Sperryville and Madison off Rt. 231, following Rt. 643 from Etlan then briefly on Rt. 719. DuCard is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays plus Monday holidays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information visit www.ducardvineyards.com or call 540.923.4206.
WindSong is located 50 miles west of Richmond and 40 miles east of Charlottesville. Starting August 14th, WindSong will be open weekends from 11 am to 5 pm. For more information visit www.windsongwinery.com or call (804) 457-2865.