TasteCamp 2014 in Hudson River Valley 10/10-12 to Start Drink Local Wine Week

Oct 01

TasteCamp, an annual event that immerses writers and bloggers in a new-to-them wine region will take place in the Hudson River Valley October 10-12, 2014 and be the kickoff event for Drink Local Wine Week 2014.

“DLW and TasteCamp have had very similar missions from the very beginning,” said Michael Wangbickler, President of the Board of Directors for Drink Local Wine. “With the decision not to hold a Drink Local Wine Conference this year, it made sense for us to partner with TasteCamp for this year’s event. It provides us with the opportunity to continue our focus of highlighting local wine and supporting a great event.”

Founded in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, executive editor of New York Cork Report,TasteCamp invites influential drinks writers and bloggers on a weekend-long immersive experience in a specific wine region. The annual event has generated significant media attention for the areas in which it has taken place, offering emerging wine regions an opportunity to present their wines to a passionate outside audience, and an opportunity to shine a different light on local wine production and create new conversations with local winemakers. After the inaugural year in Long Island wine country, TasteCamp has taken place in the Finger Lakes, Niagara (both Canadian and New York sides), Virginia, and Quebec.

“I’m quite thrilled to have DLW involved in TasteCamp this year,” said Lenn Thompson. “While the objective of TasteCamp has been more focused than that of Drink Local Wine, the ultimate goals have been the same: to bring greater attention to wines outside of the biggest and most recognized regions. This will help DLW extend its reach and allowTasteCamp to gain a wider audience.”

TasteCamp 2014 will take place in the Hudson River Valley of New York state, and will include winery and distillery tours, local wine and food pairing, and optional dairy tour and cheese tasting. Hudson Valley Wine Country is the title sponsor for the event.

“The winemakers, distillers and cidermakers of the region are thrilled that the first combinedTaste Camp/DLW destination is the Hudson Valley,” said Carlo DeVito, co-owner of Hudson-Chatham Winery and president of the Hudson Valley Wine Country. “As the birthplace of American wine, where we have the oldest continuously functioning winery and the oldest continuously producing vineyard in America, it is an affirmation of all the hard work this region has done to create a quality farm beverage culture in the backyard of New York City.”

TasteCamp 2014 will be the kickoff to the 2014 Drink Local Wine Week (formally known as Regional Wine Week). Drink Local Wine Week is an annual event that recruits and encourages bloggers and wine columnists to write something about their local wines. It is the original activity on which Drink Local Wine was founded, and continues to this day to increase attention for local wines among both the wine trade and consumers.

TasteCamp is an event for the trade and media. Space is limited, but those interested in attending TasteCamp 2014 may visit www.tastecamp.com or www.drinklocalwine.com to register or find out more information.

Disclaimer: Lenn Thompson is also a member of the Drink Local Wine board of directors.

Drink Local Wine is an organization founded on the principal that there are great wines to be found everywhere, not just in the best known regions. A non-profit organization, the DLW mission is to promote the wines of these lesser known regions throughout the United States and Canada.  The brainchild of Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and Jeff Siegel, who writes the Wine Curmudgeon blog, the organization holds events highlighting local wine and hosts Drink Local Wine Week, when bloggers and writers from across the continent write special pieces about their favorite local wines.

George Mason Offers “Exploring the Business of Wine” Class

Sep 30

George Mason University, coinciding with the current grape harvest in Virginia, is offering a non-credit course on “Exploring the Business of Wine” that takes place through Monday Oct. 13 at the Manassas campus.

The class is open to anyone in the community who wants to expand their general knowledge of wine and to Mason students looking to complement their degree program.

Some who have registered for the course are already in the wine and beverage industry, but want to expand their knowledge, says Jeanne Spencer, Office of Continuing Professional Education program manager at Mason.

This writer will be at the class signing copies of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines from 6:00-6:30, and will then present a segment of the class on the Business of Wine in Virginia today.

For more information visit http://newsdesk.gmu.edu/2014/08/pour-class-wine-registration-open-masons-wine-industry-course/

VA Wine Sales Grew 2% in FY 2013

Sep 25

Governor Terry McAuliffe  announced on Sept. 24th that sales of Virginia wine reached another record year, increasing by almost 2% from fiscal year 2013. Virginia wineries sold more than 521,000 cases of wine, or approximately 6.25 million bottles, in fiscal year 2014 versus just over 511,000 cases in fiscal year 2013. Sales of Virginia wines increased by almost 26% since fiscal year 2010.

“I’m pleased to see continued sales growth of Virginia wines,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This new record is a testament to our grape growers and winemakers, who are producing world-class wines and further establishing Virginia’s position as a top wine and wine tourism region.”

Total sales of Virginia wine contributed to more than $1.7 million in wine liter tax collections during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The Virginia wine liter tax is applied at a rate of $3.60 per case of wine sold in Virginia. In addition, Virginia wine sales at wineries increased by 6.7% in fiscal year 2014 from the previous fiscal year. The increase indicates solid visitor traffic to wineries and Virginia wine events. However, due to adverse wine grape production factors, sales through other channels have flattened or decreased as wineries focus sales to meet growing demand at wineries.

Virginia Norton Film Wins First Place with Wine Spectator

Sep 20

According to the Virginia Wine Marketing Office, Virginia’s native grape, Norton, received a significant boost in public awareness this week as the historical grape was featured in Norton, the Most American Grape that You’ve Almost Never Heard Of, the winning video in the 2014 Wine Spectator Video Contest. The short film, featuring Chrysalis Vineyards‘ owner Jennifer McCloud, tells the story of Norton, a red grape named after Daniel Norborne Norton of Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Norton was a physician-turned-vineyardist, and first grew the grape sometime around 1820. McCloud’s Chrysalis Vineyards is the largest Norton producer in the world.

The video was produced by Marina Cracchiolo and Pierre Marcelin, and filmed onsite at Chrysalis Vineyards, in Middleburg, Virginia and in their studio in Washington, DC. The video received the most votes in a field of 9 finalists, and according to Wine Spectator, this year’s contest had a record number of entries, with submissions received from around the globe. “Narrowing the field to the top nine finalists was very difficult”, stated Gloria Maroti Frazee, Director of Education and Video for Wine Spectator.

Ms. Cracchiolo, a CNN news assistant, was thrilled when she heard the news. “Pierre and I are honored that the video, which started off as a fun project for the two of us, has been so well received and generated so much buzz for the Norton grape and Chrysalis Vineyards.”

McCloud remarked, “I’m so happy Marina and Pierre won the contest, not only for the recognition and acknowledgment they received as young filmmakers, but for the exposure their wonderful short film offers our native grape, Norton. Their great storytelling, along with the educational theme made their piece very interesting and engaging. It certainly helped my mission in spreading the word about Norton, The Real American Grape!”

The video is featured on Wine Spectator’s website at http://www.winespectator.com/videocontest2014.

Food and Wine Courses for Stratford Hall Benefit Dinner 9/19 Made Public

Sep 12

A blind tasting – pairing candidate Virginia wines with the elegant courses planned for a beautiful outdoor dinner in front of the majestic Great House At Stratford Hall on September 19, 2014, prior to the 2014 Stratford Hall Wine & Oyster Festival has resulted in a fine and eclectic blend of top Virginia wines and adroitly imagined and prepared local Virginia delicacies.

This exciting evening will include an oyster demonstration by celebrated Assistant Chef Pete Woods of Rappahannock River Oysters and Merroir Tasting Room while guests enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and half shells. A four-course gourmet dinner will follow featuring Stratford Hall and Northern Neck sourced ingredients.  Virginia wines were selected by a committee in a blind tasting with the featured dishes, presided over by Virginia wine expert and author Richard Leahy. “I’m very impressed by the chef’s creative menu and the excellent Virginia wines that the panel determined made the best matches,” says Leahy. “We tasted the wines with the courses and I’m confident the dinner guests will be impressed with the quality, diversity and compatibility of these fine Virginia wines with the fine food.” Leahy adds that by coincidence wines range across the state in origin and include both well-known varieties and new versions of same, such as the rose of cabernet sauvignon, and even a blaufrankisch (an Austrian grape) from the fairly new Glass House Winery. “It’s one thing to pick fine wines but another to ensure that they match every course and I’m looking forward to enjoying these wine and food matches with the dinner guests,” says Leahy, who will be signing copies of his book on Virginia wine, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, at the Stratford Hall Wine & Oyster Festival on Saturday Sept. 20th from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Ingleside Vineyards tent. The wine and food menu for the gala dinner will feature:

  • Beet Carpaccio with Truffled Microgreens and Shaved Pecorino Ramano, paired with Ingleside Vineyards Rosé of Cabernet Sauvigon 2013.
  • Cinnamon Dusted Seared Duck Breast with Vanilla Scented Stratford Hall Grits and a Cranberry Duck Jus, paired with Barrel Oak Winery Cabernet Franc 2010.
  • Devon Beef Filet and Soft Shell Crab with Tomato Corn Succotash and a Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette, paired with Glass House Winery “One Lane Bridge” (blaufrankisch) 2012.
  • Stratford Hall Honey Pot De Creme with a Ginger Cookie Crumble, paired with Barren Ridge Vineyards “Christof” 2011.

Seating for the 6:30 p.m. dinner is limited and reservations are required. There are two Preview Benefit Dinner packages to choose from:

  • The first package includes a four-course dinner, a wine taster ticket to the Wine & Oyster Festival and a $50 tax-deductible donation to Stratford Hall. The cost is $175 per person (all inclusive).
  • The second package includes a one night stay at the Inn at Stratford Hall, a champagne reception in the historical Great House, a four course dinner, a wine taster ticket to the Wine & Oyster Festival and a $155 tax-deductible donation to Stratford Hall. The cost is $375 per person (all inclusive).

For more information, including the complete menu, and to make reservations visit the Preview Benefit Dinner  event webpage. For any questions, please call Regina Pitts at 804-493-8919. The reservation deadline for the dinner is September 16, 2014.

Gala Wine & Oyster Benefit Dinner 9/19 Will Precede Stratford Hall Wine Festival 9/20

Sep 01

Join Virginia wine author Richard Leahy for a beautiful outdoor dinner in front of the majestic Great House on September 19, 2014, for a gala benefit dinner for the 2014 Stratford Hall Wine & Oyster Festival.

This exciting evening will include an oyster demonstration by celebrated Assistant Chef Pete Woods of Rappahannock River Oysters and Merroir Tasting Room while guests enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and half shells. A four-course gourmet dinner will follow featuring Stratford Hall and Northern Neck sourced ingredients with Virginia wines paired by Virginia wine expert Richard Leahy.

Seating for the 6:30 p.m. dinner is limited and reservations are required. There are two Preview Benefit Dinner packages to choose from:

  • The first package includes a four-course dinner for two, two wine taster tickets to the Wine & Oyster Festival and a $100 tax-deductible donation to Stratford Hall. The cost is $350 per couple.
  • The second package includes a one night stay for two at the Inn at Stratford Hall, a champagne reception in the historical Great House, a four course dinner for two, two wine taster tickets to the Wine & Oyster Festival and a $310 tax-deductible donation to Stratford Hall. The cost is $750 per couple.

For more information, including the complete menu, and to make reservations visit the Preview Benefit Dinner event webpage. For any questions, please call Regina Pitts at 804-493-8919. The reservation deadline for the dinner is September 12, 2014.



“Carolina On My Mind”: a Visit to the Yadkin Valley of NC

Aug 06

Two weeks ago en route to visit a friend in  Boone, NC I made a point to stop at as many Yadkin Valley (and a High Country) wineries as I could, taste wines and report the results to you.

The Grand Estate  The winner for this award, despite North Carolina also being home to both the Biltmore (the most visited winery in the entire nation) and Childress Vineyards, was the elegant Tuscan-style estate and winery of Raffaldini Vineyards, in the Swan Quarter sub-appellation of the Yadkin Valley. Some forty-plus acres of gently sloping vineyards roll north from a the tasteful yet grand winery. The walk to the tasting room wends through gardens with rose bushes, willows and a pond, for maximum effect of the “dolce vita,” with the grand view of the winery and vineyards as the climax. Raffaldini only grows and produces Italian grapes and wines, and all are done with style and elegance, echoing the track record of Barboursville Vineyards some 300 miles northeast in Virginia. Whites include a most excellent pinot grigio, a regular and reserve vermentino (also being grown successfully by Barboursville), an outstanding dry rose (“Girasole”) and a fun fruity moscato (called “La Dolce Vita”). Reds include a sangiovese, sangiovese riserva, montepulciano, and montepulciano riserva, the last made by drying the grapes in the appassimento style to create a high alcohol, richly concentrated but smooth sipping wine.


  • 2013 pinot grigio: Usually a pinot grigio is either correct or not, and there isn’t much else to say since it’s a subtle wine. In this case, it’s not only correct, it’s wonderful, with vibrant apple and citrus on the nose, and the same on a dry but full-bodied palate; a great food wine.
  • 2013 Girasole: Complex nose of strawberry and watermelon with hints of parmesan. On the palate, it is dry with fresh watermelon flavors, finishing with strawberry notes; impossible not to think of prosciutto and mozzerala with basil.
  • 2011 Sangiovese Riserva: includes some malbec and petit verdot, accounting for the dark color. Nose: spicy black fruits with a bit of lift. On the palate, rich black cherry and spice. Fruit-driven, complex.
  • 2011 Montepulciano Riserva: I reported on this wine in my post of Feb. 5th of this year. Since then it has opened up and fleshed out nicely. On the nose, it has dried black fruits and spice. On the palate, alcohol is noticeably high but well-integrated with rich, dense fruit of dried cherries, and a long complex finish. Will age well, a decade or more.

Hidden Gems:

I call McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks “Hidden” because you can (or I did) drive past their road several times because 1) they don’t have the state winery sign with an arrow and 2) their road has the same name as another road 2 miles away that your googlemaps will take you to; don’t believe it! They are on the Thurmond “Post Office” Road, NOT the Thurmond Road. They tell me they’re getting a state road sign, so that should help but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

North Carolina veteran winemaker Sean McRitchie and his wife have been vineyard and winery consultants to many newcomers to the local industry, and their cozy but lovely inlaid wood tasting room is an appropriate set for their eclectic but also consistently high-quality product line.

2012 Fallingwater, inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright house of that name near Ohiopyle, PA is fresh, fruity but surprisingly dry blend of traminette, vidal and chardonnay. Very aromatic on the nose but crisp, dry and with nervy acid on the palate; refreshing and stylish.

2013 muscat blanc has a classic muscat nose; bright fresh floral and citrus. On the palate it is fruity and freshly dry with fine acid balancing the forward fruit.

2011 Ring of Fire is an original blend of merlot, syrah and petit verdot that is stylish and rich but still refreshing. On the nose, there are fun spicy cherry and black fruits. On the palate, the wine is smooth and round then tannins kick in (14 mos. in French oak).Good now, will improve for another year.

Semi-Sweet Cider: Despite the name and 1.5% residual sugar, this fruity and delightfully crisp cider (made from 100% Pink Lady apples) tastes almost completely dry, but has that fun riesling-like flavor that Pink Ladies give.2014-07-26 12.37.24

Banner Elk Winery is high in the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Boone, and the area has the look and feel of Boulder, CO or the Sierra Foothills of California. Banner Elk’s vineyard is at nearly 4,000 ft, and they grow only cold-hardy hybrids like seyval blanc, foch, and steuben. The winery tasting room sits in front of carefully landscaped grounds that include a pond and firepit. The tasting room is an upscale log vacation-style house and is tastefully and elegantly appointed. The wines are in sync with the appearances. Due to its high elevation, the vineyard gives grapes high acidity and fresh, vibrant fruit. They buy in fruit from other NC growers and cabernet sauvignon from Virginia, but all the wines show the same style of clean, fresh, vibrant fruit and minimal oak.

Seyval blanc 2013: loads of green apple, citrus and crisp minerality; a perfect very dry white for a hot Carolina summer and very food-friendly.

High Country Rose 2013: a dark rose from Steuben, also dry but nicely fruity with lots of strawberry and some red cherry, one could either enjoy sipping alone or with food.

Marechal Foch 2012: Light ruby color, nice fragrant red and black cherry on the nose and like flavors on the palate. Short finish typical of the grape but not as tart as most northern versions, with more full fruit. Very much like a light Beaujolais, fresh, juicy, dry and crisp.

Other Wineries Visited:

A few miles from each other are Rag Apple Lassie and Sanders Ridge wineries.

Rag Apple Lassie was running low on product ahead of a bottling of the 2013 vintage later that same week, but the pinot gris and barrel-fermented chardonnay (2012) were both impressive and stylish. the Pinot Gris had a deep gold color, a clean nose with a palate of fine spicy pineapple, racy acidity, a full dry texture and firm acid in the finish. The chardonnay also had rich, spicy pineapple on the palate, and the sur-lie aging gave yeasty hints well-integrated with the fruit and a fine representation of the style.

Sanders Ridge offered two whites and three reds to taste, yet the wine I was most impressed by was the least sustainable for them to grow year to year; the muscat canelli 2013. From nose to finish, the wine is a perfect expression of the grape. The nose gives a zesty orange and citrus aroma, with melon and tangerine on the palate which is juicy and fresh, finishing with well-balanced acid (r.s. 0.5%)

I was impressed with the dedication to fine wine and sustainable agriculture at Carolina Heritage VineyardsThey only farm organically, and so they grow natives, cynthiana (a k a norton), hardy hybrids like traminette, and blueberry bushes. Even so, when I drove in, I noted how healthy and flourishing their vines were, even as so many others had been half-denuded by Japanese beetles. The tasting room is very cute, the wines all clean and honestly made (even vegan-friendly as well as organic!) and the prices are very reasonable.

The wines are also thoughtfully original, with blends of chambourcin and blueberry, chambourcin and cynthiana, and a wonderfully juicy Jimmy Buffet-meets-Dolly Parton blend of red and white muscadine grapes making a natural sangria-like wine that needed nothing but some yukeleles and lampshades for a pretty fun party.

My favorite wine was their Chambourcin-Cynthiana Nose was faint, but the palate  was clean, juicy, fresh and dry, with great finesse of texture and black cherry flavors with long crisp finish.