Fox Meadow Winery Le Renard Rouge Wins 2011 Virginia Governor’s Cup Award (Red)

Feb 28

Fox Meadow Winery’s Meritage®, Le Renard Rouge (The Red Fox), a registered member of the Meritage Alliance, has been awarded the 2011 Virginia Governor’s Cup for Red Wines.  The 2008 vintage is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot grapes grown at the vineyard.

The Governor’s Cup was selected from the six Gold medalists:  Afton Mountain 2009 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon;  Barboursville Winery 2008 Petit Verdot; Cooper Vineyards 2008 Norton; Fox Meadow Vineyards 2008 Le Renard Rouge Meritage;  Hiddencroft Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc and Keswick Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc.

Twenty nine representatives from import and export wholesalers, wine retailers, and chefs were among the judges.  The Virginia white wines will be judged later this year and announced in conjunction with October Virginia Wine Month.

The rapid growth of Virginia’s vibrant wine industry has made it one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the state.  In 1979, there were only six wineries in Virginia. Today, there are over 190 wineries, with growth escalating as fast as the state’s advancements in wine quality and reputation.  For a complete list of winners and further information about events, tours and tastings, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office’s website at http://www.virginiawine.org/

or call 1‐804‐344‐8200.

The Virginia Winery Association’s (VWA) mission is to actively encourage and support the production, quality, promotion, and appreciation of Virginia Wines. The VWA, representing all Virginia’s farm wineries, is the go-to-resource and focal point within the wine industry for local, state and national issues that affect its members.

The Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition has been held in Virginia since 1982. Sponsored by the VWA, the competition is open to Virginia appellation wines and ciders that use 95% or greater fruit grown in Virginia.

Fox Meadow Winery is located at 3310 Freezeland Road in Linden, Va. and is currently open seven days a week, Monday through Friday 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM  and on weekends from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. For more information, call (540)-636-6777 or visit http://www.foxmeadowwinery.com/.

Bank of America Trumps Trump for Kluge’s “Albemarle House” (But “The Donald” Reportedly Interested in Vineyard & Winery)

Feb 23

When it first went on the real estate market last year, socialite Patricia Kluge’s Albemarle House caused a stir by setting a record for county real estate with an asking price of $100 million.

An auction of the estate’s furnishings by Sotheby last summer raised some $15 million, but the property’s asking price was finally dropped, first to $40 then to $24 million (although Bank of America held a lien on the property for $23 million in unpaid mortgage fees).

Last Wednesday, February 16th, the auction for Albemarle House proceeded, as reporters and local real estate magnates gathered to watch. A dramatic twist ensued when, according to Hawes Spencer, editor of The Hook weekly magazine, local real estate attorney Steve Blaine announced he was bidding representing Donald Trump. Would the Charlottesville/Albemarle community see one high-visibility socialite owner of Albemarle House replaced by another?

When the bidding war dust settled, Bank of America claimed victory, trumping the bids of Donald Trump for a winning $15.26 million, a mere 15% of the fantastical original opening price. However, Trump is still interested, and as Spencer points out in his issue of 2/24-3/01, Blaine explains that Trump owns  first-right-of-refusal by virtue of having bought an option on an adjacent piece of property held in trust for Kluge’s son. Another attorney representing Trump’s interests, one Les Goldman, says that Trump has made offers on all the Kluge properties including the now defunct vineyard and winery.

Meanwhile, the future of the winery, vineyards and farm shop are still unclear. An auction last December found no one other than the lien holder (Farm Credit of Virginia) willing to pay to acquire the operation, which sold for $19 million (a little more than half of the outstanding debt of $34.7 million owed to Farm Credit by the winery operation).

The vineyard, which had expanded to nearly 170 acres (the state total is some 2,200), will need to be maintained throughout the growing season if a crop is to be harvested in good condition and sold to wineries. A trade auction of bottled inventory to license holders was abruptly canceled soon after it began when, with no minimum bid having been set, wine was reportedly being sold for a mere 18 cents per bottle, and the organizers realized they would not even pay the state excise tax per case at that level.

Reportedly the vineyard and winery have been put back on the market by Farm Credit, and with Trump expressing an interest, could we see Kluge Estate transformed into Trump Estate? Stay tuned for developing news.

VA Sparklers Blind Tasted, Ranked by Bloggers

Feb 07

On Saturday February 5th, Keswick Vineyards hosted a tasting of Virginia sparkling wines organized by bloggers M.J. and David of “Swirl, Sniff, Snark” and Frank Morgan of “Drink What You Like”. Other Virginia wine bloggers and writers included Warren and Paul of Virginia Wine Time, John Witherspoon of the Wine Cellar Wine Shop, John & Jean Haggarty of “Haggarty On Wine” blog, Stephen Barnard, winemaker at Keswick Vine yards, Joel Timmons, Virginia Wine Snob blog, myself, and Rick Collier, of the “Virginia Wine in Your Pocket” phone app.
We tasted 12 sparkling wines blind, in three flights of four wines each. No pink sparklers were included, and we tasted wines labeled “brut”, for stylistic consistency.  Here were the contenders, including two non-Virginia “ringers”:

Contenders, Virginia Sparkling Wine Contest
·    Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay
·    Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc (sic) 2007
·    King Family Brut
·    Veritas “Scintilla”
·    Afton Tete de Cuvée 2006
·    Prince Michel 2005 Brut
·    Barboursville Brut
·    Ingleside Virginia Brut
·    Thibaut “Virginia Fizz”
·    Potomac Point 2006 Sparkling
(non-Virginia “ringers):
·    Barefoot Bubbly (California)
·    Charlette Voyant (Tourraine, France; mostly sauvignon blanc)

Before you read on, consider what your likely ranking would be, given the contenders. Would the top wine be a Virginia wine? Would the top three, or top half? Would vintage wines with some age win out over the non-vintage wines, or methode champenoise wines win out over bulk/transfer method?
The ranking was a simple “rack-and-stack” method Frank Morgan used; everyone ranked each wine from 1 to 12 (1 being favorite). Usually we had a favorite in each of the three flights, and went back to re-taste the three favorites against each other.

Champagne native Claude Thibault, who had two of the 12 wines under his own label, was the favorite for top scores. We were not disappointed, but were surprised that his new “Virginia Fizz” label out-performed his “blanc de chardonnay” label of White House dinner fame; the “Fizz” was the group favorite and top ranked wine of the tasting.
The complete group consensus ranking is as follows:

Group Ranking, Virginia Sparkling Wines

1    Thibaut “Virginia Fizz”
2    Prince Michel Sparkling 2005
3    Afton “Tete Cuvée” 2006 (pinot noir/chardonnay)
4    Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc 2007
4    Veritas “Scintilla” (50/50 cabernet franc, chardonnay)
6    Barefoot Bubbly (California)
7    Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay
8    King Family 2008 blanc de blancs
9    Barboursville Brut
10    Potomac Point 2006 Sparkling
11    Ingleside Virginia Brut
12   Chateau Gaillard – Charlette Voyant (Tourraine, France; mostly sauvignon blanc)

(wines are all non-vintage unless a year is specified)

I was impressed with all three of my final favorites, although there were stylistic and quality differences. My three favorites were the Thibault “Virginia Fizz”, the Prince Michel sparkling, and the Kluge SP blanc de blanc (sic) 2007. The first two were both blanc de blancs from chardonnay; the third was a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, but noticeably less dry than the first two (it was also non-methode champenoise-process). My notes on the “Fizz” were: “fine mousse, nose of green apple and yeast, on the palate, vibrant and rapier-like acidity, a good blanc de blancs style.” For the Prince Michel 2005 Brut, I wrote “fine bead mousse, clean, fresh, some yeast/age, but mostly green apple on the nose. Palate: dry, green apple with a hint of almond in the finish.” For me, this was the vintage sparkler that had aged the best, retaining freshness but gaining some complexity from age.

My third favorite was the Barboursville NV Brut (although less dry than most other wines in the tasting). Though it was non-methode-champenoise, it was well-made, fruity, crisp, and a clear middle-of-the-road medium-dry style most reminding me of Spanish cava.

The clustering of vintage-dated wines in the top four (aside from the NV “Fizz”) can either point to the success of this style in Virginia if aged for a few years, or that like most New World producers, Virginia vintners don’t have the space and resources to add older reserve lots to make a traditional non-vintage blend as is done in Champagne.

In any case, the group were pleased and impressed with the top wines, particularly the Thibault Virginia Fizz, and with the success of early-picked chardonnay in Virginia to make a delicate high acid and creamy blanc de blancs style with green apple and biscuit notes. The group also agreed that the quality of Virginia sparkling wine has come a long way in the past five years, likely owing much to the work of Claude Thibault.

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