Adventure Farm Vineyard Debuts with Stylish Wines

Jul 22

Adventure Farm on Earlysville Road (you can see their vineyard from CHO) recently opened its winery tasting room, but is actually a multi-faceted working farm dating to 1950 that raises cattle and sells some of it from the tasting room.

The cozy tasting room, sitting at the edge of a pond and with a shady outdoor wine garden, seems a Shangri-La being almost walking distance to the CHO runway, and feels a world away from Forest Lakes Shopping Center and Rt. 29.

The branding of Adventure Farm’s 60 year-old history is featured on its wine labels, which show color photos from when the farm began. Whites include a chardonnay and a viognier, with a very juicy yet dry and quaffable summertime red, called “Gigi’s blend” after the young woman (now 89) who came to the farm with her new husband in 1950, featuring a photo of this charming lass smiling and sitting on a rail fence.

Adventure Farm’s wines are made by industry veteran Michael Shaps, and three of his signature red wines are for sale there. My favorite is the 2010 cabernet sauvignon, which is actually exclusively sourced from Adventure Farm’s own vineyard, designated as the single vineyard on the label. The wine was rich but surprisingly smooth and round with soft tannins and juicy black currant fruit, though with lots of vanilla and coconut on the nose.


Wines of the Week 7/20/14

Adventure Farm Gigi’s Red Blend 2012: A wonderfully juicy, dry and drinkable 50/50 blend of chambourcin and cabernet franc. The nose is seductively juicy with bramblefruit, and just enough tannin from the cabernet franc for balance and structure. The perfect red for summertime slightly chilled, full of flavor and very versatile.

Cooper Vineyards Chardonel 2013: This wine proves there’s no reason for “grape racism.” This hardy, prolific hybrid from Cornell University is 50% chardonnay, the rest from French hybrids, but on the palate there’s no way you can tell it’s not chardonnay. This wine has a delicate citrus nose with the pleasing fat mid-palate of chardonnay, ending with fresh pleasant pinot blanc-like lemon cream. A most excellent summer white especially for seafood, kind of like a ramped-up pinot grigio crossed with steel chardonnay.

Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc 2013: This is another wine that proves there’s no reason for “grape racism.” South African winemaker Riaan Rossouw has been excelling with this old French white hybrid for years; this is probably his best yet. If you like the dry tang of Marlborough sauvignon blanc but don’t like the “cat pee”, this is the wine for you. On the nose, loads of ripe, fresh pink grapefruit set your palate salivating. On the palate, the pink grapefruit is followed by ripe passion fruit, and lots of zesty citrus acidity. Probably the best all-around summertime dry white wine from Virginia.

Virginia Grappa from Montdomaine Now in ABC Stores

Jul 16

After a long, uphill struggle, the first commercial, craft distilled, Virginia Grappa now appears on ABC store shelves. Montdomaine Grappa is pot-distilled from single vineyard, old-vine Chardonnay at The Montdomaine Farm Distillery in southern Albemarle County.

Montdomaine proprietor and licensed distiller Michael Bowles explains the grappa is best served well chilled, and, in a proper grappa glass (see photo). “We call it the “GHOST of the GRAPE”, says Bowles.


A taste of this grappa revealed delicate aromas of chamomile, pear and apple. The spirit was quite smooth, with pear and apple flavors and a fresh finish.

Virginia ABC code for this product is 53o94. A list ofABC stores offering Montdomaine Virginia Grappa: Alexandria: 119 and 358; Ashburn: 73; Aquia: 35; Charlottesville: 185
and 202; Falls Church: 76; Fredricksburg: 121; Mclean: 267; Richmond: 36o; Vienna: 231 and 219.

Wines of the Week from Barrel Oak Winery

Jul 16

It’s no news that Barrel Oak Winery has gone to the dogs (BOW), but despite their loyal fans and fun canine atmosphere, Sharon Roeder and Rick Tagg have been making impressive wines for some time; their 2010 reserve chardonnay won a double gold medal in a major West Coast wine competition a couple of years ago, and three of their wines won silver medals in the VA Governor’s Cup Competition this year (2010 cabernets franc and sauvignon and 2012 chardonnay; the cab sauv is sold out though).

It’s been a year or more since I tasted BOW’s wines so I stopped by today and although some were better than others (2011 was a tough vintage), some new releases and new products were complemented by outstanding showings of existing wines.

I tend not to want to list more than 2 wines of the week from any one winery, so I’ll stick to a tough choice of 2 here, but will recommend trying a couple of others.

1) Barrel Oak Chardonnay Reserve 2011: There are 3 consistent things I like about Barrel Oak Winery’s chardonnays: high-quality, cool-climate fruit; minimal oak influence and an overall Burgundian style (I’m sipping one of the last bottles of the BOW aforementioned chardonnay reserve 2010 right now which drinks like fine Chablis in a warm vintage). This was a cool wet vintage compared to the warm 2010 but both reserve chardonnays are in a Burgundian style. This 2011 has firm acidity with apple and lime notes on the nose, but is then round and rich on the palate, with hints of pineapple and oak and a long lingering finish. It is only just reaching stride and will age well; buy a few and drink over the next 3-5 years.

2)  Norton 2012: Touted as “Virginia’s Best” on the tasting sheet, it’s hard to argue after tasting it. The nose has cocoa powder with some allspice hints, on the palate, it’s rich and smooth with plum and black cherry flavors and spice, but lacks that tart twang in the finish you sometimes get with norton; this is all velvety smooth and stylish. It makes me look forward to trying more 2012 Virginia nortons.

Other fine BOW wines to try: petit verdot 2010 (touted as “the monster” but smooth and elegant) and a brand-new product, their 2013 “Goldie”, a sweet traminette that isn’t too sweet.



Wines of the Week: Cabernet Franc 2012 and Rose 2013

Jul 06

Tasting around the wineries recently I found I was most impressed by the quality and consistency of cabernet francs from the warm 2012 vintage, and by roses from the cooler 2013 vintage. The cabernet francs all show well-ripened, forward and juicy fruit, with a mix of red and black cherry, smooth palate integration, and a refreshing lack of heavy-handed oak or the green “veggies” that have dogged this fine varietal in the past. With fruit forward and oak in the background, Virginia cabernet franc now has a new signature style, with fresh fruit, hints of black pepper and smoke, a smooth texture and a crisp finish, making it versatile and food-friendly.   I hope Virginia vintners taste around and see how successful this new style is, and save the big over-extracted style for the reserve wines and let cabernet franc just be itself. Here are three recent Virginia cabernet francs that showed this new, fresh style especially well:

Afton Mountain Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc: Explosive, fragrant bing cherries and roses; stylish.

Flying Fox Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc: Red and black cherries with hints of plum and spice, plump mid-palate.

Cooper Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc: Juicy cherry flavors, hints of vanilla, well-integrated fruit and oak.

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Afton Mountain Vineyards

By contrast, I like the 2013 roses because in this cooler vintage the fruit was bright and the acidity very fresh. Some of these roses are actually a little angular now and need another month or so but you can also decant them (chilled) for 10-15 minutes and watch them soften and evolve in the glass. My three favorites:

Flying Fox Vineyards Rose 2013: a Provencal style of mostly cabernet franc with some merlot, the wine is pale pink but the nose and palate are bursting with fresh strawberries, balanced by lively acidity. Very distinctive and rewarding.

Stinson Vineyards Rose 2013: The only Bandol-style rose I know of in the U.S., this is also a Povencal style wine with a pale pink color and hints of roasted dark cherries. On the palate the wine is gentle but dry with a pleasing lingering cherry hint.

Grace Estate Rose 2013: Bold and darker than most roses, this is mostly merlot but some tannat darkens the color and gives rich fruitiness and a punchy kick of tannins in the finish. A great food rose.

The Daily Meal Lists 101 “Best Wineries” of U.S.

Jul 03

The Daily Meal, a daily food, drink and travel newsletter at, has announced their list of the 101 “Best Wineries of America.”

As they explain in the online post (, “The wineries on our list were nominated by experts in the field: the wonderful sommeliers, wine writers, chefs, and restaurateurs who were kind enough to gift us with their opinions about wineries around the country.” What was the methodology? “After their initial nominations, these experts returned to vote on the wines based on the three values we deemed most important: wine quality, consistency, and value.”

The Daily Meal

While the overwhelming majority of the nominations were from the West Coast (especially California), the article admits “that in volume as well as overall quality, the number and variety of truly beautiful wines being made all over America has grown exponentially in recent years: wine is now produced in all 50 states.”

With the focus of this blog being in sync with the mission of Drink Local Wine, to raise the level of awareness of wines from the other 47 wine-making states, I’ll list the non-West Coast wineries that made the list, or 15.5% of the total:


Black Ankle Vineyards — Mt. Airy, Maryland


Chateau Grand Traverse — Traverse City, Michigan

New York

Channing Daughters Winery — Bridgehampton, New York

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars — Hammondsport, New York

Keuka Lake Vineyards — Hammondsport, New York

Red Newt Cellars — Hector, New York

Ravines Wine Cellars — Hammondsport, New York

The Red Hook Winery — Brooklyn, New York

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery — Warwick, New York

New Mexico

Gruet Winery — Albuquerque, New Mexico


Va La Vineyards — Avondale, Pennsylvania


McPherson Cellars Winery — Lubbock, Texas

Becker Vineyards — Stonewall, Texas


Barboursville Vineyards — Barboursville, Virginia

Linden Vineyards — Linden, Virginia

King Family Vineyards — Crozet, Virginia