Ingleside Petit Verdot ’07 Wins Double Gold, Best of Class in San Francisco

Jul 19

Ingleside Vineyards, one of Virginia’s oldest and largest wineries, recently won “Best Petit Verdot”/Double Gold in the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition for its 2007 Petit Verdot. Ingleside’s 2007 Reserve Petit Verdot also won a Gold medal.
Ingleside was the only American winery to win Gold or Double Gold in this year’s Petit Verdot category.

The San Francisco competition is America’s largest and most prestigious wine competition. This year’s event drew 4,556 entries from 29 countries and 26 states. From these, only 202 Double Gold medals were awarded.

According to Ingleside winemaker Bill Swain, “2007 was a spectacular year for Petit Verdot at Ingleside. The grapes averaged over 25 Brix sugar and had the best color and flavor intensity since our first Petit Verdot harvest in 2001.” Ingleside was the first Virginia winery to bottle Petit Verdot as a varietal wine, starting in 2001.

In addition to its medals for Petit Verdot, Ingleside also won Silver in San Francisco for its 2007 Virginia Gold.

Fauquier Wineries Reflect on New Restrictive County Ordiance

Jul 15

On Thursday 7/12, the Fauquier Co. Board of Supervisors, in a 4-1 decision, voted to adopt a new ordinance which would restrict the number of people a winery could invite to a food event to 25, and even then, put a limit of 2 such events per month per winery into effect.

Amongst the Fauquier wineries, opposition to the new ordinance was strong, although two wineries–Linden and RdV, which oppose on-site festivals and large events, supported the new ordinance.

Rutger de Vink, proprietor of the new RdV vineyards in Delaplane, says he supports the new ordinance because wineries should stay true to their agricultural roots as “farm” wineries instead of event centers. “As long as [vintner] are farmers, I’m OK with wineries doing events, but there should be a balance,” he says.

Nearby at Delaplane Cellars, Betsy and Jim Dolphin reflect on the impact of the new ordinance for their business. Jim explains that they are a small winery making a mere 3,200 cases last  year that is not event-centered, and considers himself able to see the merits of both sides of the debate, but feels the ordinance will still impact their business financially.

“We’ve tried very hard to make 100% Virginia grape wines. We rely on small, non-intrusive events to promote our wines,” explains Betsy. Delaplane hosts monthly wine appreciation classes combined with a food pairing. “If we do that just twice a month, we can’t also do another event like a new release party with food or ‘ll be in violation of the ordinance.” She adds that the 25 person per food serving event twice a month limit has been raised to 35. “We know that when regulations go into effect, it’s only a matter of time before they take away more farming rights.” She mentions a Fauquier farmer who raised tomatoes and honey, found themselves in violation of a different county ordinance and was fined $5,000 for the violation, and is now being defended by the Foundation for Land and Liberty.

Jim explains that land conservation is a passionate cause in Fauquier County, which has more land in conservation easements than nine states in the country! Although the wineries offered the recently-adopted Albemarle County winery ordinance which was less restrictive, a subcommittee of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors rejected it. Jim says the Fauquier Co. attorney has told the Board that this ordinance may not be legal, which was also the warning of Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore.

It is also a matter of speculation the degree to which the Board’s ordinance represents an actual farming community in Fauquier County in contrast to a powerful moneyed group who don’t actually farm themselves.

The ordinance  is likely to be challenged in court and the political fallout has only just begun.

Wine of the Week: Barrel Oak Reserve Chardonnay 2010

Jul 15

Im not often impressed by chardonnay, especially “reserve” labels which too often are an excuse for too much oak and too much of a price tag for my tastes. This fine and elegant Barrel Oak wine is a welcome exception, worthy of it’s “reserve” designation and of the double gold medal it earned in a West Coast wine competition.

On the nose, the wine has just subtle hints of ripe apple and pear with mineral notes and a faint hint of butterscotch. On the palate, the wine is multi-dimensional. First you get ripe pear, then dense lush depth of texture, some (but not too much) creaminess, great length and purity, with fresh and lingering finish.

The wine was fermented in stainless but then aged in neutral French oak, which explains its freshness and complexity without being heavy-handed. A great chardonnay in the Burgundian style, it will pair well with food and should age well for a few years.

Fauquier Co. Sups Vote 4-1 on New Ordinance to Restrict Winery Business

Jul 12

Despite the fact that with its 26 farm wineries which according to vintner Chris Pearmund makes it the third largest wine producing county in Virginia, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors is voting at this writing (here, at 7:15 PM, July 12th) on a proposed Farm Winery Ordinance that, if passed, would impose considerable restrictions on the operations of wineries in the county and, say local vintners, these in turn will hurt wineries’ business and discourage sales of existing wineries or construction of any new ones.

According to a story in the Star Exponent of Culpeper, some of these restrictions include limiting the number of special events wineries can hold, the number of people attending these events (proposed at a maximum of 25), and requiring wineries to renew their operating permits every three years. The exact of the proposed new ordinance provisions is as follows:

The proposed regulations allow each Farm Winery to have two events per month by-right during regular business hours (up to 6:00 p.m.), provided there are no more than 25 ticketed/reserved participants, or in lieu of one of these 25 person events each month, a Farm Winery may serve food to the general public. Extended business hours (up to 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. certain times of the year) and one additional event per month limited to 150 ticketed/reserved participants may be authorized by Administrative Permit subject to certain limitations and standards. Larger and more frequent events for 200-500 persons can be authorized by Special Exception under the proposed Ordinance.

Vintner Philip Carter Strother has a petition on his winery’s website inviting visitors to complete with their name and address; he describes the proposed ordinance as “unduly burdensome, [and] will adversely impact the wineries and unnecessarily interfere with their ability to operate successfully.”

The Virginia Wine Council, which lobbies on behalf of the industry and farm wineries, explains that “in contrast to Section 15.2-2288.3 of the Virginia Code, the proposed ordinance sets forth specific restrictions on the hours of operations of farm wineries, setbacks, lighting, noise and access requirements. It also sets forth excessive permitting processes for normal and customary activities without consideration of the cost or economic impact to farm wineries or to the County.”

The meeting started at 5PM and is apparently still going at 10:37PM, with standing room only. Philip Strother reports that wineries in attendance include Philip Carter, Molon Lave, Mediterranean cellars, Delaplane, Three Fox, Desert Rose, Hume, Blue Valley. Philip said that Kate Marterella, of the now-closed Marterella winery, testified at 5:22; they decided to close their winery due to legal expenses incurred in the fight to keep their winery open, which was opposed by homeowner association regulations, as detailed in my book Beyond Jefferson’s Vines. “Fox meadow just asked one of the board members to recuse himself because he is a competitor who sells wine,” tweeted Philip two hours ago.

Raising the dramatic stakes, Jim Law, one of the most respected and longest-standing members of the Fauquier Co. wine community, spoke in favor of the new ordinance, against the wishes of the other wineries present, at 6PM. Shortly afterwards, Jim Dolphin of Delaplane Cellars testified that the new ordinance would put him out of business. I’m just getting tweets at 11:21 that look like the ordinance will pass with at least 3 supervisors to 1 in favor. Those supervisors voting in favor according to Philip Strother include Peter Schwartz, Chester Stribling, Holder Trumbo, with Lee Sherbeyn speakign against it. The last tweet Philip sent confirmed earlier suspicions; the Board voted 4-1 in favor of imposing the ordinance with its new restrictions. Those of you on Twitter can follow Philip STrother (@PCWinery) for more details.

The Council has a link to a Facebook-based petition readers can sign which will be sent to the Supervisors. Consider linking to sign the petition and stay posted for more details. Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore has warned that this ordinance could be challenged in the courts as standing in the way of free commerce and existing farm winery legislation.

2010 Vintage of “3”, a Joint Blend of 3 VA Winemakers Released Today; It’s a Winner

Jul 03

Emily Pelton of Veritas Vineyards discussing "3" with a taster


“3” is a collaborative effort of three leading and talented Monticello AVA-based Virginia winemakers; Jake Busching of Grace Winery, Emily Pelton of Veritas Vineyards and Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards.

In April 2011 they released their first collaborative red Bordeaux blend appropriately titled “3”; an equal 33.33% blend (the angels got the missing 0.01%) that each of them contributed one of the three components to; merlot, cabernet franc or petit verdot. For the 2010 vintage, the cabernet franc was vinified by Jake Bushing; the merlot was vinified by Matthieu Finot and the petit verdot was vinified by Emily Pelton.

Both the 2009 and 2010 vintage wines received nearly identical post-fermentation treatment (about 50% aged in new vs. older oak, and 14-15 months in the barrel), but Emily says the wines are “expressions of the vintage” more than anything the winemakers did. The 2009 was austere and tight, but concentrated, with fruit and earth elements and oak that when tasted in April 2011 suggested laying down until late fall of this year, and stylistically brought Bordeaux to mind.

Tasting Notes on an “Expession of the Vintage”

This 2010 version of “3” is a winner, and should please almost any fan of fine Virginia wine or quality red Bordeaux blends regardless of origin. Reflecting the warmth of the vintage, this wine is very New World in style. The color is opaque dark purple; the nose is very forward with loads of ripe black fruits and licorice, and reminds me (ahem) of a Napa Valley cabernet without being over-oaked.

On the palate, there are loads of up-front ripe black fruits well-matched by generous but balanced oak. The texture is full-bodied and broad, but the fruit components are well-integrated. Acidity and tannins are firm but balanced, and the flavors change from rich fruit and oak to a smooth mocha/chocolate and licorice finish.

As Emily explains, this wine is an expression of a ripe and forward vintage, but for those who can appreciate a well-made New World style of a Bordeaux blend, this wine is capable of competing against fine Napa Valley meritage blends and winning accolades on style and finesse. Considering how many excellent wines are coming out of Virginia in this fine 2010 vintage, the “3” is definitely on the top tier. It’s a fine expression of a New World style without vulgarity. It is actually drinking suprisingly well now though I would wait until October just for the right air temperature at which to enjoy the wine.

The Collaboration

Naturally, the three winemakers are all friends, and Matthieu says that all of them work with all three grapes, which informs their collaboration on the blend. Emily confides that “this has been one of the more fun things I’ve done in the winery. I’ve learned so much from Jake and Matthieu. I hope the three of us get to keep doing this the rest of our lives.” “We’ll keep working with the same three red Bordeaux varieties in the future,” explains Matthieu. “In Central Virginia, we feel these three are consistently the best red grapes year to year.” He says they’ll skip the 2011 vintage which due to it’s light character in the reds due to weeks of rain in the fall, isn’t up to the high standards that the first two vintages of “3” have set.

“3” in the Future

Jake says that this year, they delayed releasing the “3” until July, and the extra 3 months in the bottle was worth the wait since the wine became more integrated than the 2009 version was when it was released in April 2011. In the future, they plan to release the red version of “3” two years after the vintage.

Hot news: they plan to debut a white version of “3” in the early spring next year, again using grapes that have proved themselves for the region: chardonnay, vigonier and petit manseng. “Instead of just doing a Bordeaux or Rhone blend, we want to do more of blend that works well as an expression of Virginia,” declares Matthieu. While we’re waiting for the release of a 2012 “3” red then, we can look forward to a 2012 release of the new white version next spring!