Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Jennifer Breaux Blosser
I recently visited and tasted the wines of Breaux Vineyards in Virginia. The visit was part of a Virginia winery tour, organized by wine blogger Allan Liska for fellow wine blogger Lindsay Morris.
Allan Liska is well known in the wine world. He runs the wine blog CellarBlog, which focuses on wines from Virginia, where he lives, and on wines from Bordeaux, where he probably would want to live and frequently travels. CellarBlog is among the most influential wine blogs in the United States. Lindsay Morriss came to Virginia to present her MBA thesis and to lead a tasting of Georg Albrecht Schneider wines at the German Wines Society (DC Chapter), which I coordinated. Lindsay runs the wine blog Lindsay du Vin.
The three of us have all reported on the day drip: Lindsay du Vin, Cellarblog and schiller-wine: Touring Virginia Wineries - Fabbioli Cellars, 8 Chains North and Breaux Vineyards - with Virginia Wine Expert Allan Liska.This posting focuses on one of the wineries we visited, Breaux Vineyards.
Wine Producer Virginia
Virginia is the 5th largest wine industry in the US, 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. Recently, Donald Trump bought a Virginia winery and AOL founder Steve Case is in the process of buying one.
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. It appears Viognier is on its way to becoming Virginia’s official “signature grape”.
For French-American 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 (cryoextraction), which I am not a great fan of.
The first ice wine was reportedly produced in Germany in 1794. Today, ice wines are highly prized wines that are made not only in Germany, but also in Austria and Canada as well as other countries, including the United States. Canada has experienced an amazing ice wine boom in the past decades. See about German and Canadian ice wine here. In the context of ice wine, some wine regions, including Virginia, are pushing cryoextraction. 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 in top Virginia reds 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. 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. The only red French American hybrid which has performed consistently well in Virginia is Chambourcin, which, with its bright cherry aromas and flavors, crisp acidity and low tannin, resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais.
Finally, Claude Thibault, a native from France, has now been producing premium sparkling wines in Virginia. While respectable sparkling wines have been made in Virginia in the past, sparkling wines have been taken to a new level in Virginia by Claude Thibault. His NV Thibault-Janisson Brut, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at his first state dinner, is as close as you can get to Champagne outside of France.
Breaux Vineyards is owned by Paul Breaux, who made his money with a real estate company specializing in sales and property management on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and is managed by Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Paul’s daughter, and her husband Christopher M. Blosser. I had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer Breaux Blosser.
What began as a small hobby in the carriage house of the original 1750's Log Cabin on the far side of the property, the winery has grown into what the Washington Post describes as "Loudoun County's most impressive wine undertaking." Featuring the finest of European winemaking equipment, Breaux Vineyards is often credited with standard for winemaking facilities in Virginia.
Today, the 404 acre estate has over 100 acres planted in 18 different grape varieties. Breaux Vineyards produces 10.000 to 12.000 cases per year. 90% of it is sold on the premises.
It was definitely a party-like atmosphere when we arrived, where a good 100+ people were gathered at bistro tables and chairs throughout the property, surrounded by cheese, crackers and bottles of Breaux wine. No wonder that Breaux has for the 4th year in a row been named Virginia’s Favorite Winery. “I wanted to bring Lindsay and Christian to a winery that is as packed as any winery in Napa or Sonoma to show the potential of the wine business in Virginia” said Allan.
Breaux Vineyards is one of the few VA wineries that is represented overseas, with a fairly healthy export market in the U.K. In fact, last year Breaux Vineyards was even awarded three medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
The Breaux Vineyards Portfolio
2010 Sauvignon Blanc - Steel fermented and dry, crips with a bright acidity. $17.00
2010 Viognier – A surprisingly light style wine, yet full of flavor; peaches and cream in a glass. $24.00
2010 Madeleine's Chardonnay - Steel fermented at a cool temperature, robust fruit notes, including banana, pineaplle and red pear. $ 19.00
Equation - A delicate combination of Old World and New World winemaking techniques yield a luscious, balanced expression of fruity Merlot complete with dark red fruit and dried plum. $15.00
2006 Meritage - A superb blend of these 3 major Bordeaux grapes. Excellent ageing potential given proper conditions. 10+ years. $28.00
2008 Lafayette - 100% Cabernet Franc—Named after the hub Cajun city, Lafayette (Louisiana). Medium bodied spicy wine. $19.00
2006 Breaux Soleil - This is a dessert wine. It is made of 100% late harvest Vidal, Viognier, Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc. This bottle is .375ml, which is half of a regular wine bottle size (.750ml). $26.00
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon - Aromas suggestive of smoky cherry & raspberry. On the palate the wine builds complexity & offers rich, earthy flavors & chocolate. $24.00
2006 Merlot $28.00
Picture: Allan Liska, Christian G.E. Schiller and Lindsay Morriss tasting at Breaux Vineyards
2006 Nebbiolo - Expressive aromas contrast floral and tobacco notes, along with pungent spices. Aged in American and French oak for three years, this Nebbiolo offers well integrated, refined tannins with a firm acidity. $38.00
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Touring Virginia Wineries - Fabbioli Cellars, 8 Chains North and Breaux Vineyards - with Virginia Wine Expert Allan Liska