Thursday, May 10, 2012

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

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with (from top to bottom): Linden Vineyards Owner and Winemaker Jim Law and TasteCamp 2012 Organizers Lenn Thompson and Frank Morgan. The Picture with Frank Morgan was taken at the European Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 in Brescia: "Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont"

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 provides a tour d’horizont of the exciting TasteCamp 2012 weekend. More specific postings will follow over the next couple of months on schiller-wine.

Next year, TasteCamp, which has previously been to Long Island, the Finger Lakes, and the Niagara region of both NY and Canada, will be going to Quebec. Dates have yet to be announced.

Wine Producer Virginia

Virginia is the 5th largest wine industry in the US, with nearly 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards.

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.

In 1762, John Carter, who had 1,800 vines growing at Cleve Plantation, sent 12 bottles to the Royal Society of Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in London for their evaluation. Minutes of their meeting on the 20th of October 1762 declared Carter’s wines to be “excellent” and a decision was taken to reward Carter’s efforts with a gold medal for his wines. These were the first internationally recognized fine wines produced in America.

Over the past 30 years or so, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines. Recently, Donald Trump as well as AOL founder Steve Case bought a Virginia winery.

Today, the vitis vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading white varieties.Increasingly they are made without any or with neutral oak, to retain 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 (cryoextraction), ice wine which I am not a great fan of.  Cryoextraction is an approach, developed by the French, which kind of simulates the frost in the vineyard in the wine cellar.

As far as red wines are concerned, there has been a shift from straight varietal wines to blends, with the blends now being dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Mirroring the Virginia white wines, there is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit.

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 resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais.

Finally, Claude Thibault, a native from France, has taken Virginia sparkling wines to a new level. 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. See more: "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"

TasteCamp 2012 - First Day

Lunch and Winery Tour at Boxwood Vineyards

We started out with lunch in the stainless steel tank room at Boxwood Winery, followed by a tour of the wine cave with winemaker Adam McTaggart. Founded by former Washington Redskins’ owner John Kent Cooke, and managed by his daughter Rachel E. Martin, Boxwood Winery produces Bordeaux blends from 100% estate-grown fruit, in collaboration with consulting winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt from Bordeaux.

Pictures: Impressions from Boxwood Vineyards with Owner Rachel E. Martin and Winemaker Adam McTaggart.

Grand Tasting of Virginia Wines at Boxwood Vineyards

We then were treated to a Grand Tasting featuring Ankida Ridge VineyardsAnnefield Vineyards, Barboursville VineyardsBlenheim Vineyards, Boxwood Winery,  Gadino Cellars, Glass House WineryHume Vineyards, Pearmund Cellars/Vint Hill Craft WineryRappahannock CellarsVeritas Vineyards, and White Hall Vineyards.

Pictures: (1) Christian G.E. Schiller with Chris Pearmund from Pearmund Cellars (and Vint Hill and La Grange), (2) General Manager/Winemaker Luca Paschina (with the beard)  and Associate Winemaker Danielo Tessaro from Barboursville Vineyards, and (3) Winemaker/General Manager Kristy Harmon and Assistant Winemaker Greg Hirson from Blenheim Vineyards.

Dinner at Breaux Vineyards

The evening ended with a spectacular dinner in the stainless steel tank room at Breaux Vineyards in Purceville. What began as a small hobby in the carriage house of the original 1750′s Log Cabin on the far side of the property, Breaux Vineyards is now one of the largest wineries in Virginia with 104 acres under vine.

The Friday evening TasteCamp dinner was catered by Tuscarora Mill.

See also: "Visiting Jennifer Breaux Blosser and Breaux Vineyards in Virginia, USA"

Pictures: Impressions from Breaux Vineyards (from top to bottom): Reception - Winemaker David Pagan Castano  and Jennifer Breaux Blosser - Chris Blosser and Christian G.E. Schiller - Dinner Table - Breaux Nebbiolos we tasted - Chef Patrick Dinh of Tuscarora Mill.

TasteCamp 2012 - Second Day

Vineyard Walk and Tasting at Fabbioli Cellars

Vineyard walks – a great opportunity to understand where the wines of a region are coming from – have always been an essential part of TasteCamp. This year’s program featured 4 walks.

On Saturday morning, winemaker Doug Fabbioli, Fabbioli Cellars, showed the group around his vineyards and winery, where he produces Bordeaux varieties, but also Sangiovese and Tannat, as well as a selection of fruit wines.

For more on Fabbioli Cellars see:  Visiting Wine Maker Doug Fabbioli and his Fabbioli Cellars in Virginia, USA

Pictures: Impressions from the Vineyard Walk with Dough Fabbioli and Tasting of his Wines at Fabbioli Cellars.

Vineyard Walk, Lunch and Tasting at Tarara Vineyards

Close to Fabbioli Cellars, Tarara Winery is located in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains on 475 acres along the Potomac River in Leesburg. One of Loudoun County’s oldest wineries, Tarara focuses on single-vineyard wines.

For more on Tarara Vineyards see:  "An Afternoon with Jordan Harris, Winemaker of Tarara, Virginia, USA"

We started out with a vineyard tour guided by winemaker Jason Harris and tasted already some Tarara wines in the vineyard. Later, we tasted more Tarara wines during lunch in the tank room of Tarara.

Pictures: Impressions from the Vineyard Walk and Lunch with Winemaker Jason Harris, Tarara Vineyards

Grand Tasting of Loudoun County Wines at Tarara

In the wine cellar of Tarara, we were treated to a tasting of Loudoun County wines, with the following wineries: Bluemont, Corcoran, Delaplane, General’s Ridge, Horton, Loudoun Valley, Narmada, Philip Carter, Stinson and Zephaniah.

Pictures (from top to bottom): Grand Tasting in the Wine Cellar of Tarara Vineyards - Winemaker/Owner Lori Corcoran from Corcoran Vineyards (see more: Fine Virginia Wines from Corcoran Vineyards) with Paul and Warren from Virginia Wine Time - Owner/Winegrower Jim Dolphin from Delaplane Cellars - Winemaker Jeremy Ligon from Philip Carter Winery - and the Wines of Horton Vineyards.

Vineyard Walk at Tranquility Vineyard

In the afternoon, the group visited Tranquility Vineyard, a 7-acre property in Purcellville that provides fruit for several local producers. Ben Renshaw, who manages Tranquility Vineyard and who also is the winemaker/owner of 8 Chains North Winery, showed us around.

Pictures: With Ben Renshaw in the Tranquility Vineyard, which he manages

Winetasting 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, which Ben Renshaw owns.  All wines at this tasting were crafted by Ben Renshaw.

Pictures: Tasting the Wines of Otium Cellars and 8 Chains North at Otium Cellars with Otium Cellars Owner Gerhard Bauer and 8 Chains North Owner Ben Renshaw owns.  All wines at this tasting were crafted by Ben Renshaw.

BYO Bottle Dinner at North Gate Vineyards

A Saturday night tradition at TasteCamp, the BYO Bottle Dinner took place at North Gate Vineyard, with catering by Smokin Willy, a well-known Virginia BBQ provider. In addition to the wines brought by the TasteCamp 2012 participants, were also treated to the wines of North Gate Vineyard by North Gate Vineyard winemakers/owners Mark and Vicki Fedor.

Pictures: North Gate Vineyard winemakers/owners Mark and Vicki Fedor and their Wines - A Cidre de Glace from Quebec was the Favorite of the BYO Bottle Dinner.

TasteCamp 2012 – Third Day

Vineyard Walk and Tasting at Linden Vineyards

The weekend’s final vineyard visit, on Sunday morning, was almost worth the trip in itself: Linden Vineyards. As Jancis Robinson put it in a recent article in the Financial Times: "A key figure in raising standards in Virginia grape growing... and winemaking has been Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, whose wines have been exceptional almost from when he started in the 1980s." It was a great honor that Jim Law agreed to host the TasteCamp group and provide a true idea of what Virginia is capable of.

Pictures: Jim Law, his Linden Winery, his Hardscrabble Vineyard and his Wines.

schiller-wine: Related Posting

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

Top Virginia Red Wines - Governors Cup 2010

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

Virginia Wine and Lots of Fun: The 30th Annual Vintage Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville

Wining, Dining and Grovin' at the 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville, USA

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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