Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Walking Tranquility Vineyard and Tasting 8 Chains North Wines with Ben Renshaw, Virginia, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Ben Renshaw

TasteCamp 2012 brought some 40 bloggers and writers - including me - from all over the United States and Canada to Northern Virginia on May 4-6, 2012. The concept for TasteCamp, created in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, executive editor of the New York Cork Report, is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them, to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.

This posting is about the 3 hours we spent with Ben Renshaw on Saturday, May 5, when we walked Tranquility Vineyard with him and then tasted his 8 Chains North wines.

This posting is part of a series of postings on TasteCamp 2012. I have already issued the following postings:

TasteCamp 2012 in Virginia, USA – A Tour d’Horizont  

Boxwood Winery in Virginia: Lunch with Wine Makers Rachel Martin and Adam McTaggert in the Chai between the Tanks – TasteCamp 2012 East Kick-Off, USA

North Gate Vineyard in Virginia, USA – A Profile 

More postings will follow over the next couple of months on schiller-wine.

Ben Renshaw

Ben Renshaw is first of all a vintner, who loves to work in the vineyard, but he is also a winemaker, who manages the fermentation and aging process in the wine cellar of his 8 Chains North Winery. “I am at the core a vineyard guy, managing about 75 acres in Loudoun. To that end I am very hands off and old world style in the cellar. I work very hard in the vineyards and think this makes the critical difference in the cellar in both good years and not so good years.” Ben said.

Pictures: Ben Renshaw

His career in the wine industry began in 1998 and began making wine under his 8 Chains North label at Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg in 2007. In 2010, 8 Chains North found a permanent home in Waterford in a renovated barn that now houses the winery and tasting room.

An Air Force brat, born in Nebraska, who lived in Alabama, both Dakotas, in Germany and England and who was stationed in Virginia 3 times, he considers himself  a Virginian, where he has been permanently since 1983.

Vineyards Managed by Ben Renshaw

Here are the vineyards Ben takes care of.

The 8 Chains Vineyard onsite at the winery: This is the vineyard located at the winery in Waterford. It is about 2 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, planted in April of 2010. Ben Renshaw expects to have useable grapes by harvest of 2013.

Furnace Mountain Vineyard: The vineyard was planted in 2006 on Ben Renshaw’s sister Avis' farm on the Potomac River north of Leesburg: 1.5 acres of Merlot, .5 acres of Malbec, .5 acres of Petit Verdot and 3/4 acre of Traminette.

Creek's Edge Winery in Taylorstown: 4.5 acres planted in 2010; Creek's Edge plans to open in 2012.

Tarara Vineyard: Tarara is where Ben Renshaw started his Virginia winery career in 1998 as the Winery Manager. Tarara has 48 acres that began to be planted in 1985.

Goose Creek Farm and Winery: Goose Creek is the home of Otium Cellars. Planted in 2007, this vineyard is home to several German varietals: Lemberger, Dornfelder and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris).

Tranquility Vineyard : Set in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, Tranquility Vineyard is 7 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and Pinot Gris.

Vineyard Walk at Tranquility Vineyard

In the afternoon of Saturday, May 5, the TasteCamp 2012 group visited Tranquility Vineyard, owned by Al and Mary Taylor and managed by Ben Renshaw. The Taylors broke ground on Tranquility Vineyard in 1999 by planting four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by one acre of Tannat in 2005. The Taylor’s expanded Tranquility in 2007 with a planting of just over 1.5 acres Pinot Gris.

Pictures: Ben Renshaw in the Tranquility Vineyard

Ben greeted us at the vineyard’s edge and began to explain his vineyard management methodology. The terroir played into every aspect of the grape varietal selection on the site. Renshaw went on to explain other factors that went into his highly dedicated formula for harvesting the best grape possible.

Ben has managed Tranquility Vineyard since 2005. Tranquility supplies grapes for Ben’s 8 Chains North Winery as well as Tarara Winery, Willowcroft Winery, North Gate Vineyard and Otium Cellars, so Ben is managing not only what he wants from the vineyard but also what the other winemakers want. For example, Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery wants higher brix (sugar content) and darker fruit.

A Very Special Wine: Three2One 

Three2One is a new collaborative wine project of ‘Three Winemakers’ – Jordan Harris from Tarara Winery, Ben Renshaw from 8 Chains North, and Clyde Housel of Hiddencroft Vineyards – who have crafted Virginia’s newest blend from ‘Two Grapes’ – Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat – from ‘One Vineyard’ – Tranquility.

Picture: Three2One

8 Chains North Winery

Ben Renshaw’s 8 Chains North winery is located in Waterford. We did not visit it with the TasteCamp 2012 group, but I have been there before. The renovated barn now houses the winery and tasting room.

Pictures: 8 Chains North Winery

Tasting of 8 Chains North Winery Wines at Otium Cellars

Just opposite of Tranquility Vineyard, Ben Renshaw introduced us in the tasting room of Otium Cellars, owned by my compatriots Gerhard and Max Bauer, to the Otium Cellars wines as well as to the wines of 8 Chains North Winery. The Otium Cellars wines  were also crafted by Ben Renshaw.

Picture: Ben Renshaw Pouring at Otium Cellars

8 Chains North Wines

2011 Sauvignon Blanc: 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, half fermented and aged in neutral French oak and the other half in stainless steel. Once blended together, the result is a wonderful, crisp wine with a supple palate and beautiful acidity. $20

2011 Pink Link: Made with all Merlot, you can't help but notice the large strawberry nose, followed by a lean, very dry and crisp palate. $18

2010 LoCo Vino:   This is a 54/46 blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc. It is a light bodied, fresh white wine with overtones of citrus zest, pear and apple. It is cold fermented in stainless steel $18

2009 Merlot:  Made entirely with grapes from our Furnace Mountain Vineyard on the bluffs above the Potomac River, this is a medium bodied, fruit forward Merlot. Aged 11 months in French and American Oak, this wine in unfined and unfiltered giving a rich, nuanced palate.  $21

2009 Furnace Mountain Red:A blend of all five Bordeaux reds sourced from our Furnace Mountain Vineyard, Tranquility Vineyard, and Hiddencroft Vineyards. This wine is complex and well-rounded offering a firm structure on the palate and a supple, lingering finish.  $22

Picture: 2009 Furnace Mountain Red

schiller-wine: Related Posting

Judging Virginia Wines in Suffolk, Virginia - Virginia Wine Lover Magazine Wine Classic 2012

Boxwood Winery in Virginia: Lunch with Wine Makers Rachel Martin and Adam McTaggert in the Chai between the Tanks – TasteCamp 2012 East Kick-Off, USA

North Gate Vineyard in Virginia, USA – A Profile

TasteCamp 2012 in Virginia, USA – A Tour d’Horizont

The Wines of Veramar, Virginia, US

The 2010 DrinkLocalWine Conference in Virginia, US

Thomas Jefferson, 3. President of the United States, Visited Hochheim, Germany on April 10,1978

Norton and Other Wines of Chrysalis Vineyards in Virginia

Fine Virginia Wines from Corcoran Vineyards

As Close as You Can Get to (French) Champagne at the US East Coast – Claude Thibaut and His Virginia Thibaut Janisson Sparklers at screwtop Wine Bar

Touring Virginia Wineries - Fabbioli Cellars, 8 Chains North and Breaux Vineyards - with Virginia Wine Expert Allan Liska

Visiting Jennifer Breaux Blosser and Breaux Vineyards in Virginia, USA

Visiting Wine Maker Doug Fabbioli and his Fabbioli Cellars in Virginia, USA

Meeting Virginia and Bordeaux Wine Expert and Wine Blogger Allan Liska, USA

An Afternoon with Jordan Harris, Winemaker of Tarara, Virginia, USA

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