Paradise Springs 2009 Chardonnay Wins VA Governor’s Cup for Whites

Sep 30

From left to right: Jane Kincheloe, First Lady Maureen McDonnell, Kirk Wiles, and Chris Pearmund with the 2010 White Wine Governor's CupFor the first time, an awards ceremony for the Virginia wine Governor’s Cup was staged at Monticello instead of in Richmond or other venues. Since Monticello just produced its first-ever wine festival merely a week ago (a great success in attendance and style), it seemed appropriate that the Governor’s Cup awards ceremony would take place there, where Thomas Jefferson , the nation’s first wine connoisseur and wine prophet, planted vineyards over 200 years ago.

About 20 Virginia wineries were in attendance in the new  Visitors’ Center Wednesday evening 9/29, where tastes of medal-winning wines from the 2010 Governor’s Cup competition were served with impressively original hors d’ouevres from Monticello.

Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore read out Governor McDonnell’s proclamation naming October as Virginia Wine Month, then handed the podium over to guest of honor Maureen McDonnell, the First Lady. she dramatically asked Rock Stephens of the Virginia Wine Board for “the envelope”, and then revealed that the winner of the Governor’s Cup , White division for 2010 was Paradise Springs of Clifton, VA  for their 2009 chardonnay, oak style (a very delicate and elegant oak style).

The fruit was provided by Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Cellars who owns the noted Meriwether Vineyard  of 34-year old chardonnay vines in Fauquier County. Pearmund also acted as consultant, making the existing four vintages of Paradise Springs wines under his license.

Paradise Springs winery in Clifton, southern Fairfax County, is a venture between Jane Kincheloe and  her son Kirk Wiles. The land is a family farm that was deeded in a land grant from Lord Fairfax circa 1710. Although the county Board of Supervisors and the mayor supported the winery, the county zonindg office fought the winery tooth and nail; finally, the matter was taken to Richmond, where the state essentially told the zoning office to lay off. The rest, as they say, is now history…

Richard Leahy To Offer “Virginia Wine Expert” Winery Tours with Blue Ridge Wine Excursions

Sep 28

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA –Andrea Saathoff, President of Blue Ridge Wine Excursions, and Richard Leahy, a local authority on wines of Virginia, are pleased to announce that beginning on October 1, 2010 , coinciding with official “Virginia Wine Month”, Leahy will offer a “Virginia Wine Expert℠” tour of local wineries through Blue Ridge Wine Excursions℠,(a service of Albemarle Vintage Limousine).

“We are very pleased to be working with Richard by adding this new service for our winery tour clients,” says Saathoff.  “It’s a natural extension of how we already operate with our focus on offering custom- designed quality tours of select Virginia wineries. In this case, our clients’ experience will be enhanced by Richard’s personal presence on their tour, his considerable knowledge about the local industry and its wines, and the people involved.”

Leahy explains he was reviewing the existing winery touring companies in the Charlottesville area and decided to approach Saathoff because of her professionalism towards potential clients as well as the wineries. “We’re both dedicated to giving her clients a memorable, high-quality experience in their Virginia winery tours,” he says. He also found the reference to “vintage” in her limousine service name appropriate to wine touring. Leahy points out that he has no financial interest in recommending one winery over another; he and Saathoff will determine a tour itinerary based on the clients’ tastes and preferences, and he will give them “a personal, professional, and fun” guide to select Virginia wineries around the Monticello Wine Trail.

One of the ways Leahy will offer Blue Ridge Wine Excursion customers a specialized experience  is by offering “stock your cellar” tours to those who not only want to taste Virginia wine but stock their cellars with the best the Monticello wineries have to offer that will age gracefully. He points out that the ’09 vintage white wines are excellent, the ’08 and ’07 reds good to excellent, and the current 2010 vintage is shaping up to become “one of the best red vintages ever” in the state.

Richard Leahy has written on Virginia wine since 1986, and has a blog that focuses on wines of Virginia and eastern North America ( Mr. Leahy was East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, a wine trade publication, from 1999-2010. There he also coordinated the seminar program for Wineries Unlimited, a large trade show for the industry East of the Rockies, Mr. Leahy organized the Virginia Wine Experience in London which brought the top 64 Virginia wines there for leading British wine media and trade to taste in May 2007, and helped coordinate the visit to Virginia in early September of ten members of the London-based Circle of Wine Writers, to critical acclaim for Virginia wines. He was a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide, and was Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America. He is a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

Saathoff launched Albemarle Vintage Limousine, LLC in 2008.  They offer modern luxury and vintage cars available for wine tours, weddings and special events.  The fleet includes three rare, classic American limousines from the 1940’s.

Blue Ridge Wine Excursions was founded as an extension of the luxury transportation already featured by the company.

Stacy Slinkard of reviewed BRWE this summer:

“Whether it’s a special weekend for two, wine country tours, a picture perfect wedding or a prestigious option for corporate transportation, Albemarle Vintage Limousine has an array of rare, meticulously-kept vintage vehicles that turn up the sparkle factor on any drive. They’ve also recently added a Cadillac Escalade to use for touring and formal evening vintage limousine service for dinner out complete with long stem roses for the ladies. Knowledgeable chauffeurs, down-to-earth owners and an exceptional grasp on all of the hidden treasures that lie along the Monticello Wine Trail, make for a memorable, private, customized excursion of the local wineries, vineyards and choice historical venues.”

At Albemarle Vintage Limousine we bring style and grace to your experience and all the memories that follow, says Saathoff.

Saathoff and Leahy look forward to introducing both visitors and area residents to the “Virginia Wine Expert”℠ winery tour this fall; call 434 531 5802 for more information or visit


1st Monticello Wine Festival 9/18 Draws 400+

Sep 27

The first wine festival featured at Monticello was a thoroughly class aattracting over 400 ticket purchasers, and featuring Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell, a passionate supporter of Virginia wine.

The elegant affair featured a modest festival tent on the west lawn of Monticello, with participating members of the Monticello Wine Trail: Afton Vineyards, Gabrielle Rausse Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, Keswick Vineyards, Kluge Estate Winery, King Family Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, and Veritas Vineyards. Also featured were a few related, non-wine vendors.

Guests were driven from the Visitor’s Center to the House, and as the sun set, were greeted by the strains of a string quartet. Special commemorative tasting glasses were used for tasting the wines, and gourmet locavore cheeses were available for purchase consisting of local cheeses; Everona Dairy Pride of Bacchus (sheep’s milk soaked in red wine); Caromont Farm Green Mountain Chevre; Salami Bites with a Plum Apricot Mustard made by the Café at Monticello using fruits from the orchard at Monticello; Green Olives pickled with Orange & Fennel; Spiced Almonds; Dried Peaches/Pears; two Mini Baguettes; Gearhart Chocolates and a Dried Cherry White Chocolate Biscotti.

Although being a first-time event, the well-planned festival struck a note of appropriate celebration. Two hundred years after Thomas Jefferson had retired to Monticello after an extraordinary career of public service, he still declared that the greatest public service one could offer one’s country was the introduction of a useful new crop. The local Monticello AVA wineries at the festival showed off world-class wines, ranging from red Bordeaux blends in the classic Bordeaux (not Napa) style, to sauvignon blancs and viogniers, to chardonnays and gewurztraminers, cabernet francs and even petit verdots, which Jefferson would have been entranced with.

The event organizer was Kathy Del Rosso from Monticello. I’m pleased to say that this week Monticello will be host to another wine festival, that of the announcement of the winner of the White trophy from the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition that took place last month. The inside tip is that it will be either a viognier or a chardonnay. More news from here shortly…

Virginia Wines Win 3 Silver, 8 Bronze Medals in Decanter Competition

Sep 27

Virginia wines won three silver and eight bronze medals in the The Decanter World Wine Awards, one of the largest and most comprehensive wine competitions in the world.

Virginia wines were judged within the U.S. regional category. To give  you an idea of how difficult it is to win a silver medal in the U.S. category, there were only 43 total silver medals from wines submitted for the entire United States in this competition, and Virginia took an impressive percentage of the total. For example, there were only four silver medals for white wines in all of the U.S. awarded in this competition (the others being 2 for California and 2 fo1r Washington State), so Virginia won 25% of the total for white silver medals.

This sole white silver medal winner from Virginia was the Potomac Pointe Viognier Reserve, 2009. It was described as having “apricot and mandarin  fruit on the nose and  a rich but balanced palate with a lingering peachy finish.”  ($22 retail)

The two Virginia reds that won silver medals were the Veramar cabernet franc 2007, and the Williamsburg Winery Adagio 2007 (red Bordeaux blend). The Veramar cabernet franc was described as “Sweet juicy aromatic style. Rosemary aromas opening to warm, spiced fruit flavors.” The Adagio was described as having a “Bold nose of mint and figgy pudding. An elegant palate of pure plum fruit and a balanced, attractive finish.”

Virginia was the only U.S. state not on the West Coast to receive silver medals in this competition.

Virginia wines also received two bronze medals for white wines, and five bronze medals for red wines and one for dessert wine. The bronze medal whites wines were the Breaux Vineyards viognier ’08 and the Williamsburg Winery Acte 12 Chardonnay ’08. The former was described as having “aromas of jasmine and apricot compote reflected in the rich, juicy palete.” the Acte 12 Chardonnay was described as having “ripe citrus and apricot nosze with a hint of apple and balanced, fresh oakiness.”

The red Virginia bronze medals were as follows: Boxwood 2007, Kluge Estate “Simply Red” 2006 and “New World Red” Albemarle County  2005, Veramar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Williamsburg Winery Trianon Cabernet Franc 2007

The descriptions were as follows: for Boxwood 2007, “Eucalypt and liquorice nose, well-extracted black fruit and assertive, powerful length.” For the Kluge “Simply Red”, “Mocha and spiced plum nose. Savory, juicy forest fruit palate and long length.” For the New World Red, ” Evolved blackberry and tobacco nose. Lush, juicy palate with a solid harmonious finish.” For the Veramar Cabernet Sauvignon, “Green pepper and mint on a smooth, spicy palate.” For the Trianon Cabernet Franc, “Delicate blackberry nose with a whiff of banana. Attractive palate–a light, pretty style.”

The bronze medal-winning dessert wine was Breaux Vineyards’ Nebbiolo Ice 2008: “Earthy, rhubarb and strawberry, with a soft and creamy coffee palate.”

There were a number of Virginia wines that received “commendations” in the Decanter competition. Complete results can be found at

Wine of the Week: Lovingston “Rotunda Red” 2007

Sep 23

Lovingston Winery in the eponymous town in Nelson County has been a favorite of mine from their first ’05 releases. Lacking elegant tasting room facilities, when you go there, it’s all about the wine (and a bit rustic, but that’s part of the message, and the charm).

Another big plus for Lovingston is although their quality standards have not dropped, their prices have, in deference to the effects of the Great Recession. When you buy any of their wines, you’re drinking above the price point these days.

A great example is their 2007 “Rotunda Red” named after the trademark edifice of the nearby University of Virginia, designed by Thomnas Jefferson. While the ’06 vintage was lighter with some chambourcin, this is a rich, full-bodied and complex red Bordeaux blend from the great ’07 vintage. Purple colored, the wine has obvious influences from the petit verdot of violets, sage and rock rose, on the bouquet, along with crushed black fruits and a hint of clean earth.

On the palate, the wine is first smooth and rich, with lively black fruits, then the tannins and oak come in, to give you a lively kick of texture, balancing the rich dark fruit character with a bit of depth and punch. Think of this wine as a combination of Bordeaux in a good year with fine Argentinian malbec and Chilean merlot, but the best way to think of it is as a fine Virginia red Bordeaux blend, that drinks at over $20 for only $13.99. It’s still a t least 6 months away from fully integrating; I’d like to see it in a year. I’d also like to taste their high-end blend from this same vintage!