I just spent a dream-like pair of Saturdays in the sunny Virginia countryside visiting wineries and enjoying the Blue Ridge scenery. Today I descended the Blue Ridge Parkway at Montebello to cross I-81 and just a mile beyond was Rockbridge Vineyards in Raphine. I had the pleasure of meeting Jane and Shep Rouse, proprietors, in a busy tasting room, and going through the ample product line with them and one of their growers, Isabelle.
The first Wine of the Week is the Rockbridge Pinot Blanc de Noir 2012. Some people think “If all wines could be red, they would be.” This wine proves that sometimes, the best red wine is white. We all know by now that pinot noir is famously unsustainable in Virginia (with like two exceptions), and Rouse, who is a long-standing Virginia winegrower, confides that he would not plant the variety if he had to do it again, since it can only get fully ripe without rot problems maybe one year in four. However, being trained in the classics, he decided to make a non-carbonated version of a champagne blanc de noir, and he’s succeed brilliantly. As I’ve written 2 years ago here, Heart & Hand winery on east Cayuga Lake in New York is doing the same thing with equally impressive results. Nose: wow! loads of lively fruit, peach and hints of pineapple, very much like pinot gris (note: these two grapes are actually different clones and are identical in the vineyard). On the palate, bright, lively, juicy apple and peach fruit flavors with firm acid finish. Stylish, versatile and a fine food wine.
There was lots of competition for the second Rockbridge wine of the week but it has to go to the reserve label DeChiel syrah 2008. Impressively dark ruby in the glass, the nose is classically Rhone, with roasted bacon, white and black pepper, and red cherries. On the palate, loads of ripe briar fruit with vibrantly balanced acidity. Hard to believe a six year old Virginia syrah is still this good.
I was also impressed with the DeChiel merlot 2009 and the DeChiel meritage 2009, and I need to let you know that the quality-for-price ratio at Rockbridge is about as good as I’ve seen in Virginia wineries (no $70 tannat here). However the tasting room is small so be prepared to wait to get in the door on weekends in summer or fall.
DuCard Vineyards is a gem of a small winery off the beaten path offering strictly estate bottled wines with notably fresh, vibrant fruit and acid, in northern Madison County. A benefit of visiting is getting maps and directions to trailheads in the nearby Shenandoah National Forest and finding the Old Blue Ridge Turnpike with wonderful views.
These two wines of the week are being released to the wine club now and will be available to the rest of us in a month or so.
The DuCard Chardonnay 2013 reminded me right away of the 2013 Ankida Ridge chardonnay I reviewed just a week or so ago. Mineral, lime and green apple aromas with surprising round mid-palate with a hint of toastiness and custard, then a lively crisp finish. This had partial malolactic fermentation in mostly neutral oak following tank fermentation. This wine is a bit backward now and will be more open by August; I recommend decanting it and being careful not to chill it too much. I agree with winemaker Julian who compares it to Puligny-Montrachet. Isn’t fun that Virginia is now making this style of chardonnay?
The DuCard Viognier 2013 is original and impressive in a vintage that was difficult for this signature Virginia grape. A vibrantly fruity nose suggests peach and apricot but also red apple. On the palate, it has the full broad fruit profile from the nose, but then instead of falling flat like many viogniers, it ends with a crisp vibrantly fruity finish. If it’s this good now, what will it be like by the end of summer?
Also of interest: ATWATER SYRAH FINGER LAKES 2010
Deep ruby color. Nose: damson plum, briarfruits and white pepper. On the palate, wow! Electric, focused and taut fruit/acid balance, zippy acidity and a long clean finish. Very stylish, showing promise for this classic variety in limited (warm, protected) sites in the Finger Lakes.