Monday, September 27, 2010

Fine Virginia Wines from Corcoran Vineyards

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Lori Corcoran

Fine Virginia Wines from Corcoran Vineyards

I went with the Virginia Wine Meet-Up Group to a tasting at Corcoran Vineyards.


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.

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.

Picture: Virginia

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. 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. The only red French 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. In Germany, a new grape variety, Regent, has been developed as a crossing of Diana and Chambourcin, which is exceptionally fungal-resistant and hailed to be the first “green” grape.

Finally, Virginia sparkling wine from Claude Thibault was served at President Obama’s first state dinner a few months ago. While respectable sparkling wines have been made in Virginia in the past, sparkling wines have been taken to a new level in Virginia by the work of Claude Thibault, a native of Champagne. Thibault now consults for a number other Virginia wineries and produces his own sparkler, NV Thibault-Janisson, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at the state dinner.

Corcoran Vineyards

Corcoran Vineyards is owned and managed by the husband and wife team Jim and Lori Corcoran. It is located in the charming village of Waterford, just northwest of Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Lori graduated from San Jose State University back in 1989 with a degree in Administration of Justice. Her intent was to join the FBI. But she got sidetracked and decided to open a winery and become a winemaker instead. When not making wine, Lori is busy raising four kids on the farm and also volunteers whatever other free time she has to numerous worthy causes.

Pictures: Corcoran Tasting Room and Corky's Farm

The tasting room is housed in a 1750’s log cabin on the family's property . It is separate from the state of the art winery. In nice weather there are also picnic tables and plenty of lawn to throw a blanket.

In 2002, the Corcorans planted their first block of Chardonnay grapes on their farm – which is known as Corky's Farm. Today, Corcoran Vineyards produces 2,000 cases of wine annually.

Lori and Jim are very active in terms of social media: They have 2 twitter accounts (Lori started to tweet in 2008;Corcoran was one of the first Virginia wineries to do so), 2 Facebook accounts (Corcoran Vineyards & Corcoran Wines), both Lori and Jim are on LinkedIn and Lori also blogs (Off the Vine with Lori).

The Corcoran Vineyards Wine Portfolio

Here is Corcoran’s current line-up with winemaker notes.


The Viognier grape is gaining a foothold in Virginia’s vineyards and wineries. Corcoran Vineyard’s 2008 Viognier is characterized by its aroma of honeysuckle blossoms and flavors of crisp white peaches with cantaloupe and honeydew melons. Tank fermentation & aging accentuates the fruit flavors and spicy finish. Our Viognier is 100% dry but is often perceived to have some sweetness because of the intense fruit character of this grape. The classic pairings for this wine are Maryland Crab Cakes or spiced shrimp. SOLD OUT!

2008 Chardonnay

The Chardonnay is a nice balance between stainless-steel and oak. The aroma offers hints of peaches and green apples. Traditional chardonnay lovers will notice the slight oak tannins while those who desire a stainless steel chardonnay will appreciate the crisp, fruit flavors. Perfect for your holiday appetizers and pumpkin pie.

Bottling Date: August 27, 2009
Alcohol Content: 12%
Residual Sugar: .5%

2007 Traminette

Traminette, a relative of Gewurztraminer, has plenty of spice and exotic fruit on the palate. Grapes from La Paz Vineyards produce this semi-sweet white with an unmistakable and intensely aromatic scent of roses. Look for flavors of lychee and mango with sweet honey and nutmeg on the finish. Try this wine on its own or with spicy Thai or Mexican cuisine. SOLD OUT.

Cases Produced: 78
Bottling Date: May 9, 2008
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Residual Sugar: 1.5%

2007 Chambourcin

Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape with deep blue/black skins that produces a lighter bodied wine with a distinctive vibrant purple color. The generous fruit flavors of black cherry and cranberry are the result of an early bottling after being lightly aged in American and French oak. This is the first year we have produced it as 100% Chambourcin. The aromas fill the senses with berries, nutmeg, and oak. This red would be nice with pork, turkey, or smoked salmon.

Alcohol Content: 13%
Residual Sugar: 0%

2007 Cabernet Franc

The Cabernet Franc grape has found a home in Virginia and does especially well in the Piedmont terroir of Northern Virginia. This Bordeaux grape is fruitier and lighter than its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Our 100% Cabernet Franc wine is showing typical dark cherry and raspberry fruit flavors balanced with hints of spicy black pepper. With its mild tannins, this is excellent to pair with grilled beef and stronger tasting vegetables such as roasted eggplant.

Alcohol Content: 13%
Residual Sugar: 0%

2008 Malbec

Malbec is a Bordeaux varietal which usually takes a supporting role to the big Bordeaux reds like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. This nicely aged wine is showing rich aromas full of ripe black cherry jam and coffee with a touch of spice. Well balanced with a medium-body, it offers vanilla, plum, and chocolate flavors with a long, satisfying finish. This wine would be suitable for aging in your wine cellar or can be enjoyed now with full-flavored grilled beef or best paired with chocolate!

Alcohol Content: 13%
Residual Sugar: 0%

2007 Meritage

"Meritage" describes wines that are a strict blend of the grape varietals traditionally grown in the Bordeaux region of France. The blending of wine from this region is said to be the highest form of the winemaker’s art. Our 2007 Meritage is a carefully balanced blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot with prevailing flavors of black cherry. This wine has a velvety smooth mouth feel and is accentuated by a good tannin structure, sufficient oak and a pleasingly long finish.

Alcohol Content: 13%
Residual Sugar: 0%

2007 Seyval Blanc

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid grape with citrus flavors and herbal characteristics on the nose. It has a moderate level of sweetness and flavors of fresh lemons and limes. The grape’s firm acidity balances well with the residual sugar for a tart, satisfying finish. We think you'll find it to be a lovely sipping wine. This wine is packaged in a 375 ml bottle - just enough to share a glass with a friend!

Bottling Date: May 9, 2008
Alcohol Content: 13%
Residual Sugar: 4%

Corcoran Vineyards
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