Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The Wines of Veramar, Virginia, US
Pictures: Map of Virginia and Christian G.E.Schiller with Jim Bogaty
The Wines of Veramar, Virginia, US
Veramar, Social Media and Wine
Taking social media a notch further, Veramar Vineyard of Berryville, Virginia, extended an invitation to wine bloggers to come to their winery for a tasting and a tour of the winery. Veramar Vineyard runs two wine blogs and connects with wine and Web 2.0 enthusiasts, like me, on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. I was a bit disappointed that only 3 wine blogs were represented: Virginia Wine Dogs, Northern Virginia Magazine, Gut Check and me.
We had a wonderful tasting and an exciting tour of the winery, the latter with Jim Bogaty, one of the owners; if nothing else, he is a fantastic story teller. Jim’s son and winemaker Justin Bogaty lead the tasting of excellent wines, providing a wealth of information, including Virginia labeling regulations and distinctions between Veramar and other vineyards during the tasting.
Picture: Thomas Jefferson
Virginia is the fifth largest wine industry in the US, following California, Oregon, Washington State on the west coast and New York State on the east coast, with nearly 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards. Over the past 50 years, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines.
One thing that is not well known in Europe is the struggle in America in the past centuries to find the appropriate grapes for winemaking. In the original charter of the thirteen colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter. Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed. Today, European vinifera grapes dominate wine production.
Picture: Jim Bogaty
As far as white wines are concerned, the European vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading varieties today. Increasingly they are made “naked” or with little oak only, with the objective of retaining natural acidity and freshness. For hybrid varieties, Seyval Blanc is still popular, but resembles now the fresh and crisp wines from France’s South West. Vidal has become the backbone of the artificially frozen ice wine, which I am not a great fan of. This is an approach, which kind of simulates the frost in the vineyard in the wine cellar. It was developed by the French. Instead of waiting for mother nature to produce frosty temperatures in the vineyard, the winemaker subjects the grapes to frosty temperatures in the cellar and presses them while frozen.
As far as red wines are concerned, there was a shift from straight varietal wines to blends. And blends have gone from being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with a significant amount of Petit Verdot. The latter grape may well be Virginia’s future signature style in this category. There is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit, mirroring the evolution of Virginia white wines. Tannat, Uruguay’ signature grape from the South West of France, is showing up in more Virginia wines, usually as a blend.
Finally, Virginia is increasingly impressing with its sparkling wines; the one from Claude Thibault was served at President Obama’s first state dinner a few months ago.
Veramar Vineyards is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, about an hour's drive west of Washington, D.C, tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, from the West Virginia line in the north to the James River in the south. Some of Virginia’s best wineries are there. On the trip from Washington D.C., one can also divert to an historic plantation or Civil War battlefield.
The Virginia Shenandoah AVA is geologically different from other Virginia wine growing regions. Limestone is plentiful in Shenandoah’s west-side hills, where dense clay-based soils combine with relatively plentiful spring rainfall to make it possible for some vines to be dry-farmed without supplemental irrigation. September, October and the first half of November are typically rain-free and warm, giving Virginia Shenandoah AVA vines the advantage of time to produce fully mature fruit, while the overnight cooling keeps the grapes’ acid chemistry in balance.
Picture: Jim Bogaty in the wine cellar
Veramar is a family run winery, founded by Della and husband James Bogaty; their son, Justin Bogaty, is the winemaker. It was established in 1999. The estate is comprised of 100 acres, with 12 acres currently planted with grape vines. Seyval Blanc is the most widely planted varietals, with 5 acres under cultivation. Norton is the next largest planting, with 3 acres, followed by Cabernet Franc (2 acres), Chardonnay (2 acres). The primary soil type consists of loamy clay overlying limestone shale. All wines are aged in American, French or European oak barrels. Production is on average three tons of fruit per acre, which is equivalent to 5000 cases; with this output, Veramar is a mid-size winery in Virginia.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Justin Bogaty
What we Tasted
2008 Seyval Blanc $32
A French hybrid grape well known both for its resistance to cold weather.
Tasting notes: Green hues hint at cool climate, a nose that is markedly fruity with melon and green apple, a full-bodied wine, a delicate and pleasant palate, good acidity, long finish.
2008 Estate Club Chardonnay Shenandoah Valley $35
The grapes are whole clustered pressed, which, justin explained, produces a superior juice. The juice is then settled and racked to Virginia French oak barrels for fermentation. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation and monthly batonage (hand-stirring of the lees). After fermentation, the wine ages in the oak barrels for about 10 to 11 months before bottling.
Tasting notes: An attractive, light straw-yellow color, complex and woody nose, with hints of pineapple, on the palate honey and toasty notes, combines an elegant mouth feel with richness, showing deep layers of ripe fig, honeydew melon and light oak.
NV, Tres Blanc $30
Tasting notes: A lovely blend of Viognier, Riesling, and Vidal Blanc, this fruity wine displays floral and subtle citrus notes on the nose, on the palate rich and mouth-filling, with notes of white peach, the fruit runs in an unbroken line through to the finish.
2008 Estate Club Cabernet Franc Free Run $39
Justin explained that free-run means that the grape juice runs feely with no pressing; the grapes press on their own and by their own weight.
Tasting notes: Deep ruby color; clean, attractive, ripe, subdued blackberry, cherry fruit, with cocoa, some toasty, smoky hints; good flavors, similar to nose, woody; fairly well-balanced; medium body; gripping tannins; long, pleasant finish.
2008 Veramar Estate Club Ameritage $38
Tasting notes: The Ameritage is elegant and stylish, cherry and blackberry notes on the nose that continue on the palate with a touch of toasty oak and vanilla, finishing with fine grain tannins that linger. The blend is extremely complex and bold, much like a French Bordeaux.
2006 Cabernet Franc $32
Unfiltered. There was no process to remove sediments.
Tasting notes: Dark-red in the glass, the nose opens with sweet, dark fruit aromas and rounds out with a hint of vanilla and oak, black cherry, blackberry and touch of cinnamon aromas carry through to the flavors, a full-bodied wine, the palate is full of dark fruit supported by supple tannins that are long and fine.
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