Cooper Vineyards Tasting Room Now Certified LEED Platinum

Jun 28

Cooper Vineyards Tasting Room, completed in early 2011, is has formally achieved LEED Platinum certification, according to the winery and Baskervill, a Richmond, VA-based international, full-service architectural, engineering, interior design and sustainable design firm who did the construction work.

The U.S Green Building Council’s LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — that correspond to the number of points accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. Platinum denotes the highest level of certification. This is Baskervill’s first project to earn platinum designation.

To attain LEED Platinum certification, Baskervill utilized on-site renewable energy with both active and passive solar techniques and geothermal water-cooled heat pumps. This strategy provided an 87% reduction in heating and 46% reduction in cooling. The nature-inspired material finishes palette includes extensive use of stone, wood, and glass.

Ankida Ridge Winery, the “Jewel of Amherst County”, to Open End of July

Jun 28

Those of you who follow the Virginia wine scene remember that a brand new, very small production winery high in Amherst County caused a stir at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in the scorching heat wave a year ago when both Dave McIntyre and Jancis Robinson were impressed with their pinot noir. Pinot is not only notoriously difficult to get done well anywhere, but ESPECIALLY so in hot, humid Virginia, so when someone nails it on their FIRST attempt, it’s worth taking note.

An Inspiring Site

Ankida Ridge vineyard and winery are perched on a steep mountainside high in Amherst County. Their production is about 1000 cases and will top out at 1,500. Their tiny winery (cut into bedrock granite) will open (by appointment only) in about a month, at the end of July. The floorboards, tasting room table, and tasting bar are all reclaimed antique wood. For those who like Stone Mountain’s breathtaking deck and view, this is similar only with a view of a distant mountain ridge instead of a valley, and much smaller but cozy and dream-like.

The winery is at 1,700 ft. elevation and the vineyard (2 acres of vines, 2/3 pinot noir and 1/3 chardonnay) is 100 feet higher, right at the altitude limit recommended by state viticulturist Dr. Tony Wolf.

The winery is owned by Christine and Dennis Vrooman and their son Nathan is the winemaker, with Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards as consultant.

The name “Ankida” explains Christine, comes from the ancient Sumerian and means “place where heaven and earth join” and Christine confesses she fell in love with the word before they even found the property. “When we first came out here,” she says, “the place was so filled with fireflies, I couldn’t tell where they ended and the stars began,” so she found a way for Ankida to be used appropriately. On the winery’s label there are four stars, one for each of her and Denny’s children.

A Slippery Slope

Christine explains that the couple bought the property with no thought of a winery in mind but as a getaway. Once two acres of land had been cleared on a ridge below where their house was sited, they pondered what to do with the land. Viticulture consultant Lucie Morton was a friend; she dug some soil pits and examined the soil which was degraded granite and schist, fine vineyard soil, and she recommended pinot noir and chardonnay, planted in tight spacing and cane pruned, her normal recommendation.

An Example of Integrated Pest Management

Christine takes an integrated and green approach to viticulture. The day of my visit in late June Denny had delivered four hens and a clutch of guinea hens, which would be used to remove climbing cutworms and bugs, with dogs to protect them, cats to prey on the voles  and other rodents, swallows to eat flying insects via a purple martin house; she laughingly calls it “The peaceable kingdom goes to war!” In fact, Christine is preparing a presentation on her IPM program for the Virginia Vineyards Association, which is working on a sustainable vineyard certification.

Burgundian Style and Quality in the Blue Ridge

The model for the winery’s wine style is Burgundy, although they will release other wines on a second label. Currently, wine quantities are tiny. The initial 2010 chardonnay only had 48 cases made, or less than one barrel, although quantity almost doubled to 86 cases with the 2011 vintage.

The 2010 chardonnay and pinot noir are surprising not just for quality on a first go, but on balancing fruit and elegance in a big, warm vintage. The 2010 Ankida Ridge chardonnay is a blend of purchased fruit and estate fruit (from a small-berry, low-vigor clone from Tablas Creek  named “La Vineuse”) and was fermented in neutral French oak with one half only going through malolactic fermentation. On the nose and palate it is rich and ripe but still restrained and elegant, with hints of hazelnut and butterscotch on the nose and palate, a lush round mid-palate, and a fresh finish. This is a chardonnay that will please almost everyone, with complexity from barrel and MLF treatment but enough restraint and acidity to make it very versatile, with alcohol only at 13%. On the American scale of chardonnays, this is very Burgundian without being too austere. With only 48 cases made, better grab it while you can. Actually this wine is drinking well now and will be at its best through Thanksgiving (hint).

The 2010 Ankida Ridge pinot noir: Nathan explains that this was a blend of estate fruit and purchased fruit of higher Brix, but the blend works well in a New World style suited to Virginia, only with moderate (13.7) alcohol and no planky oak.  The nose was a brilliant mix of red and black cherry with some exotic spices; cardamom and anise with a hint of pepper.  On the palate, intensely bright and vivid flavors of cherry mixed with the spice elements, and a vibrant crisp acidity, crucial to any successful pinot emulating a Burgundian style. The fruit and palate dimension were full but the finish was fresh and long. Stylistically, this was close to the Marlborough style of pinot noir from New Zealand, i.e. fully ripe but with lots of vibrant acidity to balance.  This wine is still coming together and will be well-knit by mid-fall; definitely a must for pinot fanatics who have given up on Virginia or the East Coast in general to deliver the goods.

Ankida Ridge 2011 chardonnay: I was surprised with this wine, as with others from the lousy 2011 vintage, how good it was and how much like the 2010, accounting for vintage variation. The fruit was 50% estate, 50% Albemarle County, and produced in the same way except with a higher proportion of stainless steel. On the nose there are hints of mineral green apple, then hazelnut/butterscotch. On the palate, the wine is surprisingly like the 2010, with a richly layered texture from the neutral oak and malolactic influences, but finishes with a lively green apple crispness like a good white Burgundy.

This chardonnay is the one that you’ll love to drink as this summer scorches out the temperature records, and has the chemistry to last another few years if you can keep your hands off it. Until October I recommend decanting it (chilled) before drinking for 10 minutes. Remember, only 86 cases made, and if you want elegance and finesse in Virginia chardonnay, here’s one you don’t want to miss.

The Burgundian flagship chardonnay and pinot noir from Ankida Ridge will be the only wines under that label, says Nathan. Meanwhile, they have in barrel a couple of other noteworthy wines that will carry a second label.

Unnamed Red Bordeaux Blend 2011 (barrel tasting), blend of vineyards in Bedford and Albemarle Counties.

Attractive violet hue for a difficult vintage. Nose: like high-end St. Emilion without garagiste oak; lavendar, violets, cassis, all floral and herbal with red fruits. On the palate, the wine is nicely layered, with fresh firm but lively fruit and no hard green notes. Stylish for a difficult year and will drink well by late fall.

Chambourcin port 2011 (barrel tasting)

Nose: lively plum and spice notes with a hint of clean earth and white pepper. Palate: still young and coarse (but this is normal), needs time but will integrate well and meet an enthusiastic audience in six months or so when winter is upon us. Promising and has surprisingly port-like fruit and mineral/oak elements for such a young wine.

So if Ankida means “Where the earth and sky meet”, where does the term “The Jewel of Amherst County” come from? Well, if you don’t know by now…


Certified Quality Virginia Wine: Officially 250 Years Old

Jun 25

If you’ve been to the Philip Carter winery (the old Stillhouse Vineyards north of Hume in Fauquier Co.) you’ve heard the slogan “Before Jefferson, there was Carter.”

As my book Beyond Jefferson’s Vines details in the chapter on history, owner Philip Strother, a descendant of Robert “King” Carter, had read that the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London had presented a medal to “King” Carter’s father, Charles, in 1762 for successfully producing 10 barrels of Virginia wine, half from the white “Lisbon” or “Portugal” grape, and half from the native red “winter” grape.

Strother began a correspondence with the Society in London, which dutifully produced detailed documentation of the event, including a graphic drawing of the medal presented to Carter.

As described in my book, the Virginia General Assembly decided to promote viticulture by putting up prize money as an incentive for the cultivation and production of native grapes and wine. The money was put up by “public-minded gentlemen” which included such worthies as Richard Henry Lee, James Blair, George Wythe, Charles Carter himself, and George Washington.

When Carter announced he had fulfilled the conditions of the contest, it was validated by then-Governor Francis Fauquier, and the Royal Society in London was notified, confirmed by documents the Society has today.

Bottles of each of the wines was sent to officials of the Society in London, where the quality was pronounced “excellent”;  a gold medal was then sent to Carter for his achievement.

Last month a series of events commemorated this carefully documented proof of fine Virginia wine now celebrating 250 years.  On May 24th the Historic Christ Church in Irvington on the east end of the Northern Neck, the historic seat of the Virginia Carters, held the annual meeting of the church’s foundation, at which Strother spoke about his research on the medal and noting that 2012 is the 250th anniversary of certified quality Virginia wine.

On May 25th, the Philip Carter Winery hosted the Virginia Wine Council Fundraising Kick-off (the Council lobbies on behalf of the Virginia wine industry in Richmond). Honorary guests included Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore, Jill Vogel, State Senator, 27th District, and the Honorable Michael Webert, Delegate, 18th District.

Vogel and Webert were both patrons of  joint resolution of the General Assembly #114 this year, which was read to the guests. The resolution noted that this was the 250th anniversary of Charles Carter’s receipt of the gold medal for being the first person to “make a spirited attempt towards the accomplishment of their views respecting wine in America,” making his wines the first internationally recognized wines of America, it was there fore resolved that the General Assembly “hereby commend the Virginia Wine Industry on the occasion of its 250th anniversary of producing internationally recognized fine wines in the Commonwealth.”

On May 26th, a winery open house was treated to a historic re-enactment, not of a Civil War battle, but of Charles Carter receiving the medal. Members of today’s Royal Society of Arts etc. were on hand as the proclamation of the award was read, and today’s fine wines of Philip Carter Winery were enjoyed by all.

The night of the fundraising gala, secretary Haymore, who had just returned that evening from London where Virginia wines were on show at the London International Wine Fair, told attendees that “250 years ago Virginia wine was proclaimed ‘excellent’ in London, and those were the same words that Steven Spurrier and Oz Clarke were using to describe today’s Virginia wines.”

Hear a Podcast of Lynn Chamberlain Interviewing Me on Wine & Dine Radio

Jun 24

Lynn Krielow Chamberlain, the “wine fairy” based in New Bern, NC, has a  podcast program  on iTunes (iWineRadio), and she interviews guests on wine and food topics, posting downloadable podcasts on her website, iWineRadio can also be found on YouTube.

Last week she interviewed me on Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, and the podcast is now available on her home page and can be played with iTunes as the default player.

Did Donald Trump “Fire” Patricia Kluge?

Jun 18

The New York Post, part of the Fox News Network, ran a piece in its online edition on 6/18 titled “Donald Trump Fires Socialite Patricia Kluge from her Own Former Winery.”  Kluge’s winery was foreclosed on and sold at auction last year to Trump for $6.2 million.

On further examination, the article quotes Trump as saying that when he bought the winery, he gave Kluge a year’s “transitional” contract to guide Trump’s son and winery owner Eric as he assumed responsibilities, and that her contract has expired and will not be renewed, which is considerably less of a sensational story than the headline would suggest.

Bill Moses, Kluge’s husband who had been general manager of the winery prior to its sale, remains in that position, says the article.

Tracy Nolke, a spokesperson for the Trump Winery, when asked to confirm details of the story, would say only that “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates,” which would imply that Donald Trump would not be in a position to “fire” Patricia Kluge himself in any case.