Michael Shaps Double Header, Ingleside’s Barrel Tasting on 4/20

Apr 22

I had the pleasure of tasting through the product lines of the esteemed and well-established Ingleside Plantation Vineyards in Oak Grove on the Northern Neck AVA, and the Virginia Wineworks (home of Michael Shaps wines), the latter in the company of the distinguished Lindsey Parris of Alexandria, he having recently earned a Diploma in the advanced WSET program.

There were two sets of wines that stood out for me at Virginia Wineworks, despite the merits of the others. The first two were both of the top Michael Shaps label, both of the fine 2010 vintage, and both having earned high marks in the 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition. These were the Michael Shaps Chardonnay Wild Meadow Vineyard, and the Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc Red Hill Vineyard.

The Wild Meadow Vineyard chardonnay (in Loudoun County) consistently produces a high-acid, green apple Burgundian style, accentuated by lots of lees stirring and native yeast fermentation. Despite the fact that chardonnay is Virginia’s most planted commercial grape, there were very few top awards for that grape in the 2013 Governor’s Cup, but this wine shows what it takes to earn that accolade. Flinty, smoky, loads of minerality and rich mouthfeel without any new oak, the viscosity is balanced by lively long lingering citrus and green apple acidity. Eat your heart out, California. Even at two and a half years, it has the rest of the decade ahead of it; a classic.

The Red Hill Vineyard cabernet franc (Albemarle County) is an amazing concentration of the best varietal components of Virginia cabernet franc; black cherry and pencil lead, and vibrant acidity uncluttered by new oak. This wine is only just coming into its own and can last until 2020. For anyone who is either a fan of fine Loire Valley Chinon or Virginia cabernet franc, this is the model by which they should both be judged. Powerful but not heavy. And for those who gave up Virginia cabernet franc a couple of decades ago, this will change your mind!


To be fair to Virginia Wineworks, I was equally impressed with their new box wines, for the quality they deliver at (substantially less) in price. The Bag-in-the-box format (Wineworks was the first Virginia winery to adopt the format) is a win/win: it costs much less in packaging for the winery, when you open it, no oxygen penetrates the bag and it remains in a vacuum seal; it saves space in the fridge, and the kicker is, per ounce, the wine is half what it would be in a standard glass bottle.

I had already tasted the 2009 viognier and cabernet franc that Wineworks had released in this format two years ago, and was impressed for the price ($39 for a 3 L box, or four 750 ml bottles). The new box wines are a spring green labeled white wine (which actually tastes like the color green), a 2011 red blend (hey, it’s actually good!) and a 2011 rose (untasted).

The new 2012 white is a fun blend of petit manseng, viognier, chardonnay, and traminette. It’s fresh, fruity (but not too much) with lively acidity, tastes like spring green, and reminds me most of semi-dry Austrian white blends. Great for spring and summer, solo or with food.

The 2011 red was MUCH better than I expected from the crummy quality of that vintage. It smelled and tasted like fresh raspberries, bright and lively and clean, much like a Beaujolais, and considering we’re coming back into warm weather, this is the PERFECT red for summertime, esp. chilled or served with a little soda water in late afternoon.

I admire an operation that gives you great wines for the money both at the top and at the entry level of their product line.

Going back to Ingleside’s barrel tasting Saturday:

Driving east on Rt. 3 into King George County east of Fredericksburg on down the Northern Neck, is a lot like driving on the Eastern Shore, only sideways (east/west). You rapidly leave I-95 and over-developed Fredericksburg behind, and after about 20 or 30 miles, wonder why you haven’t driven into the Potomac yet, but then are grateful to find someplace so close to No.VA and yet so far away….

The two whites at the barrel tasting were both 2012 tank samples: the viognier and the chardonnay. Apparently rot has been a problem with the viognier, and after a hard hit in the vineyard and a re-planting, this is the first varietal release in at least half a decade.

Ingleside Vineyards 2012 Viognier (not yet bottled): Great nose of citrus, orange blossom, vibrant peach. On the palate: rich, round, fine peach and red apple, ripe orange flavors, solid and plump mid-palate, but with balanced acidity.

Ingleside Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay (not yet bottled): served from a carboy, cloudy as with apple cider from lees (yeast cells). Was aged for a time in neutral oak, a hint of butterscotch confirms this. Nicely balanced between fruit, lees, and acidity.

Ingleside Vineyards Petit Verdot 2010: (not yet bottled)a spicy oak nose (blend of U.S., Hungarian and French cooperage). Nose is still closed, but POW! on the palate, a huge punchy hit of spice, rich black fruits and long tannins. Fine, subtle flavors, fresh finish. AVailable soon.

Ingleside Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012: (not yet bottled): Forward, fresh boysenberry/blueberry fruit, lots of unintegrated oak in the background. Great purity of fruit, needs time but very promising.

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