The 2017 Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival kicked off with the Monticello Cup Awards at The Jefferson Theater on April 13. Prior to the evening, 10 wine industry professionals judged wines from over 30 wineries at the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC. Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery won this year’s Monticello Cup for its 2014 Union. Below (bottom, right), Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery’s Winemaker, Tim Gorman, accepted the Monticello Cup.
Following a day of pairing events, the festival concluded with a tasting event at the Sprint Pavilion on the Historic Downtown Mall. Beautiful weather and the showcasing of over 25 local wineries made this a popular event! The day started with a VIP catered tasting at 12:30 p.m. with the general event starting at 1:30 p.m.
During the tasting event, attendees were able to choose from one of two wines from each winery while learning about the different vineyards and their practices.
The Taste of White Hall dinner prepared by Kitchen Catering and Events started with seated appetizers. The White Hall Vineyards 2014 Gewurztraminer, made in an Alsatian style, was paired with a beggar’s purse of double cream cheese with rosehip jam. Then, a delicious lemon and garlic seared scallop over shaved carrot salad with parsley was served with crisp 2016 Rose from both Stinson Vineyards and Grace Estate Winery.
The talented winemakers helped carefully plan the menu and delighted guests throughout the beautiful evening with details about the wines and interesting anecdotes as they served wines table-side. Pictured below (from left to right) are Winemaker Megan McGuire of White Hall Vineyards, General Manager Lisa Champ of White Hall Vineyards, Winemaker Brad McCarthy of White Hall Vineyards, Winemaker Frantz Ventre of Grace Estate Winery and Winemaker Rachel Stinson Vrooman of Stinson Vineyards.
In western Albemarle County, the village of White Hall rests just at the edge of Sugar Hollow and the George Washington National Forest that lead up into the mountains. The charming century-old White Hall Community Building is the site for regular Ruritan meetings, country dances, the fall Apple Butter Festival and generally serves as a gathering spot for the little community. It was the perfect place for this group of gifted winemakers to celebrate their wines together.
The main courses tipped off with a delicate braised rabbit with Mediterranean white beans, herbs, red onions and arugula. The rabbit was well suited to White Hall Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay. The Chardonnay has subtle well-integrated oak flavors and a beautiful extraction of fruits and a lively acidity.
Paired well with richer dishes, the Grace Estate Winery Petite Manseng, and White Hall Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were served with Mojo ropa vieja with mufungo (beef braised in a garlic citrus sauce), fried plantain and pork cracklings. Cognac barrel aging is used for the Petite Manseng to form a truly unique white wine that can appeal to red wine drinkers. The Cabernet Sauvignon underwent extended maceration giving it a dark cherry color, flavors of plum and fig, and a lengthy blackberry finish with wisps of smoke.
Lamb kabobs on rosemary skewers with saffron, apricot and currant couscous with charred scallion and cucumber cream were then paired with Stinson Vineyards 2014 Meritage, a velvety complex blend of their finest grapes. The Grace Estate Winery 2014 Tannat offered a sultry array of red fruits with early tones of coffee and a significant lingering finish of tannin.
As the meal progressed and the delicious food and wine flowed, new friends were made and each table was chatting and enjoying themselves immensely as is the tradition on our wonderful Monticello Wine Trail. The evening concluded with a sweet treat—pineapple layer cake with mango cream frosting paired with Stinson Vineyards 2014 Petit Manseng, a smooth late harvest wine with an intriguing natural sweetness.
The Taste of White Hall Dinner was truly a delightful community endeavor and a wonderful showcase of the talented winemakers’ work.
On April 13, the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival, a highly-anticipated spring tradition in Charlottesville, will begin. The Festival involves three days of celebrating the Monticello American Viticultural Area’s best wines. (Photo below by Jack Looney)
Along with featuring the coveted Monticello Cup Awards at the Jefferson Theater on Thursday, April 13, the Festival will host delicious food and wine pairing events on Friday, April 14. Friday’s pairing events will showcase the phenomenal food and wine culture in the area with a Sparkling Brunch, Rosé Lunch, barrel tasting, winemaker dinner, and an evening of chocolate, music and wine.
On the final day of the festival, Saturday, April 15, more than 25 regional wineries and vineyards will be featured for the tasting event at the Sprint Pavilion on the Historic Downtown Mall, and there will be plenty of catered food and live entertainment.
Wine-lovers and foodies alike will love this opportunity to experience Charlottesville’s incredibly rich food and wine culture. You can visit monticellowinetrailfestival.com for more information and tickets.
Tuesday night, the Governor’s Cup Gala was held at the Hotel John Marshall in Richmond to celebrate the best of Virginia’s wines. The competition is now in its 35th year, and after being revamped in 2012, it continues to grow as one of the most stringent competitions in the country.
Honored for her work with the Winemakers Research Exchange (WRE) was Winemaker Emily Pelton of Veritas Vineyard & Winery. She received the Wine Person of the Year award. Emily (seen above at left with David King) has lead the effort to promote research and experimentation in the wine industry as a founder of the WRE. Also honored with the Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award for his tireless legislative work on behalf of the vineyard industry was David King, winery and vineyard owner of King Family Vineyards and Virginia Wine Board Chairman.
Governor Terry McAuliffe spoke to the great accomplishments of Virginia’s ever-growing vineyard industry and it’s impact on the state’s robust economy, job growth and tourism. He then awarded the state’s highest wine award to The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards, located in Hamilton, Virginia, for their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon produced by winemaker Michael Shaps of Michael Shaps Wineworks in Charlottesville. The winning Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine with well-balanced acidity, aged in French and American oak and expresses notes of dark cherry and coffee. It is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and is complemented by a soft tannic structure integrated with the fruit along with notes of clove and tobacco for a complexity and extended finish.
Shaps (seen above at the podium) creates wines for many vineyards throughout Virginia. “Our team is especially proud of this wine. It is a classic Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon. It is perfectly balanced and has mature tannins that are ripe but not overly extracted; and it has nice acidity,” says Shaps. “The fruit comes from mostly Carter’s Mountain [Orchard] with some additional fruit from Mount Juliet Vineyards. Carter’s Mountain has southwest exposure, constant breezes, great drainage and a slightly cooler climate to retain nature acidity.”
The evening’s celebration was a true testament to Virginia’s wine industry and it’s extraordinary talent and accomplishments. A big Charlottesville Wine & Country congrats to all!
The 10th Anniversary Virginia Wine Expo is scheduled for March 8-12 in Richmond, Virginia. This four-day event will showcase wines from Virginia and California to Portugal and Spain, and will include delicious artisanal foods as well as other craft beverages, including whiskey and beer.
Leading up to Saturday, attendees can enjoy local and international artisan food, including a six-course wine-paired dinner at Richmond’s new restaurant Shagbark, noodle and dumplings, California tapas, and the Burger Blast™, a presentation of some of Richmond’s best craft burgers.
Saturday, March 11, after a four-course brunch at Belle & James, the much-anticipated Walk-Around Grand Tasting, presented by Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, will begin. Guests will be able to sample and buy cheese, chocolates, nuts, smoked meats and more while they taste some of the over 250 wines available.
Sunday, attendees can attend the second day of the Walk-Around Grand Tasting, an opportunity to experience vendors missed the first day. Throughout the weekend, guests can also choose to attend the various seminars offered about the expo’s wines and the wine industry.
The 10th Anniversary Virginia Wine Expo is sure to be a fabulous time for all wine-enthusiasts and a superb showcasing of regional, national and international wines. It is advised to book your tickets or ticket packages now, as events tend to sell out.
Saturday, CrossKeys Vineyards hosted a Vertical Wine Dinner to showcase the vineyards’ estate grown Merlot. Event and Catering Manager Hannah Cooper designed the affair, preparing the long romantic banquet table and setting each place for the many courses and parings to come. Executive Chef Dexter Burgess and Assistant Winemaker Steve Monson created a five-course plated dinner perfectly paired with Merlots from 2010-2015. The result was an exquisite winter CrossKeys Vineyards dinner.
For the first course, guests enjoyed smoked duck breast with Chinese pancakes and hoisin jicama slaw while savoring the 2010 Merlot.
The second course, paired with 2011 Merlot, incorporated another red meat—flank steak roulade. This delicious steak was served with oven roasted tomatoes and spinach with a mustard chipotle vinaigrette.
Guests were treated to a sweeter third course as blue cheese cheesecake was served with rosemary scented demi. This delicious treat was paired with the 2013 Merlot.
Following an intermezzo of sorbet, with which guests were able to cleanse their palates, beef short rib, roasted root vegetables and pickled asparagus was paired with the 2012 Merlot for the fourth course.
The five-course dinner concluded with a Merlot-poached pear scented with vanilla and cardamon. Served with vanilla bean ice cream and paired with the 2015 Merlot, this final course was the perfect ending to a lovely showcase of CrossKeys Vineyards’ wines.
If you would like to experience CrossKeys Vineyards’ wine pairings yourself, they are hosting a five-course Valentine’s Day Dinner on Saturday, February 11.
As a new year begins, there are countless ways to take advantage of all the Charlottesville area has to offer. We have 17 Must-Dos that are sure to make the new year an unforgettable one.
1. Attend a Winemaker’s Dinner. This year, treat you and your partner to a winemaker’s dinner, where you will enjoy the best of local cuisine paired with the area’s wines. Consider a dinner at Early Mountain Vineyards, like the Winemaker’s Field Supper featured in the most recent book of Charlottesville Wine & Country Living. Or perhaps an upcoming event like the Valentine’s Day Winemaker Dinner at Veritas Vineyard & Winery. (Left photo by Paula Bartosiewicz)
2. Experience Barboursville Vineyards’ Octagon Wine. This age-worthy, award-winning wine, highly distinct in character, is a can’t miss for wine lovers. Join the list of those who have been served Octagon, including Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama.
5. Throw an Outdoor Party. Take advantage of the beautiful mountain views Charlottesville has to offer and throw an outdoor party fitting to the season. Match your décor, refreshments and activities to a theme just as this hostess did with her hunting party in the latest book of Charlottesville Wine & Country Living. (Photos by Rachel May Photography)
6. Indulge in Executive Chef Gary Glaser’s Crab Cakes. You’ll leave raving about these scrumptious crab cakes at The Downtown Grille. Try them at the restaurant or make them yourself! Customers who dine at The Downtown Grille will receive a complementary copy of the latest Charlottesville Wine & Country Living featuring Chef Glaser’s crab cake recipe.
7. Try Gearhart’s Beer or Wine Infused Chocolates. Try a unique delicious twist on your palate with some of Gearhart’s infused chocolates. (Photos on the right by Jen Fariello Photography)
8. Travel Locally with the Inn at Willow Grove. This boutique hotel combines history, charm and luxury for the perfect intimate getaway.
9. Attend the Virginia Wine Expo. This March event is perfect for the wine lover. You’ll spend a weekend exploring an event filled with food, wine and great company. (Photos courtesy of the Virginia Wine Expo)
12. Attend the Montpelier Hunt Races. Gather a group of great friends for a beautiful fall day of tailgating and horse races. Dress in style and participate in the hat contest, or put your focus on your tablescape for the tailgate competition. (Photos by Susan M. Carter Photography)
14. Visit the Blue Ridge Trails. Complete with 500 miles of hiking trails, 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 80,000 acres of designated, back-country wilderness, the Shenandoah National Park is a natural treasure. (Photo by Kelly J. Mihalcoe, LLC, courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation)
15. Visit the Design House. This spring, see the amazing work of the area’s top interior designers and professionals while experiencing the year’s décor trends in the Design House 2017. You’ll also be supporting a great cause—the Shelter for Help in Emergency. Below is the 2016 Design House‘s stunning library designed by Foxchase Design. (Photos by Robert Radifera Photography)
16. Travel Abroad. Take your adventures to France this year and explore Burgundy’s wine region. Indulge in the rich history of the area and learn about the connections that Jefferson had in the town of Beaune, France, also featured in the latest issue of Charlottesville Wine & Country Living.
Established in 1988, Horton Vineyards is one the regions most established wineries, producing thousands of cases of wines per year and dozens of award-winning varietals from Viognier to native grape Norton. Last week Charlottesville Wine & Country Living was there to join in the first of their new Cooking with Wine series of classes.
Held around the Holidays, guests were cheerfully greeted by Shannon Horton, daughter of founder and winemaker, Dennis Horton. Welcoming everyone into the festive tasting room where the dinner table was beautifully set in front of the magnificent stone fireplace, Shannon introduced Chef Terre Sisson, owner of Charlottesville Wine & Culinary.
Chef Sisson’s menu
Spinach Apple Salad with Cinnamon Eden Vinaigrette Nebbiolo Wine Bolognese Sauce with Fresh Local Pasta Pear Cranberry Wine Pie
Chef Sisson began the class with preparing the crust for the Pear Cranberry Wine Pie, giving guests useful tips and inspiring cooking stories along the way. Guests were invited to Sous Chef and participate. Her easy-going, friendly style of teaching put everyone at ease right away, and soon laughter was a key component of the recipes.
The Pear Cranberry Pie filling was made from beautiful fresh ingredients with the addition of Horton’s Cranberry Wine. One of eight fruit wines created by Dennis Horton, the Cranberry Wine is a lovely blend of the highest quality of Cranberry with Cabernet Franc. The Horton fruit wines are a result of, “my hobby gone wild and the long lost dream of Chateau Le Cabin,” writes Winemaker Dennis Horton. “In the early 1980s the great Horton experiment began in my log cabin in Aroda, Virginia. The cabin’s cellar was full of home wine-making gear and very small barrels full of the first tastes of Horton wine. That little cabin was the start of this endeavor, and these fruit wines celebrate that home wine-making spirit.”
As the pie baked, Chef Sisson started the ingredients for the Spinach Apple Salad with Cinnamon Eden Vinaigrette. The salad was paired with the award-winning 2015 Albarino Private Reserve. This lovely white wine paired beautifully with the sweet and tangy salad.
The main course was a hearty Nebbiolo Wine Bolognese pasta sauce that included blanched tomatoes from Chef Sisson’s own vegetable garden with ingredients prepared by the guests on top of fresh locally made pasta from Mona Lisa Pasta. The dish was paired beautifully with Horton’s 2013 Nebbiolo, which has rich wild herb and cherry aromas with sweet plum and smokey flavors and really enhanced the dish’s terrific flavor.
As guests dined together with Chef Sisson, friendships were made around the bond of sharing good food and wine. The dinner ended on a sweet note with the wonderful Pear Cranberry Wine Pie that was served with one of three dessert wines that guests could choose from: the Chateau Le Cabin Cranberry Wine, the fortified Pear Wine, or the Eden Apple Dessert Wine. It was the perfect ending note to an enjoyable evening.
Seen above with Shannon Horton (at left), Chef Terre Sisson was trained at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland, and specializes in achieving gourmet results in a home kitchen. She believes that anyone can become a fine home chef, serving spectacular meals to family and friends and teaches several cooking classes at various locales throughout the area. Horton Vineyards is looking forward to hosting more classes in their new Cooking with Wine series.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, we joined in the Holiday festivities at Early Mountain Vineyards‘ Deck the Halls festival. The tasting room was filled with friends and families enjoying the sumptuous wines and farm-to-table menu.
The event room housed talented local artisans showcasing their work while shoppers found unique and wonderful gifts for their loved ones. From jewelry makers to the Shenandoah Spice Company and Mundy Spoon Works, there was something for everyone. Holiday music from Rick LaRue set the tone as guests browsed the many different vendors.
Outside, couples and families were treated to hot chocolate and a hayride around the stunning property where the holiday festivities could be heartfelt. We thoroughly enjoyed kicking off the season of giving with Early Mountain Vineyards.
Seen above among the ruins of the historic home of Gov. James Barbour (1175-1842) sits the 40th Anniversary limited edition of Barboursville Vineyards’ premiere Octagon wine. This vintage proudly encompasses all the Zonin family set out to achieve when they broke ground in 1976 to establish the world-class vineyard and winery. The historic Barbour home was designed by friend and forefather Thomas Jefferson, and it includes the namesake octagon room. In a region where fine wine had yet to be made, Gianni Zonin (owner of the largest family-owned wine enterprise in Europe) set out to do what Jefferson himself began when he invited Italian native Philip Mazzei to his Monticello home to establish a vineyard and it failed. Some 40 years later, the Zonins gather to celebrate the anniversary of its groundbreaking and the release of its new limited edition Octagon vintage. Octagon is arguably Virginia’s most celebrated wine.
Charlottesville Wine & Country joined in celebrating Barboursville Vineyards’ 40th Anniversary at its beautiful gala. The evening was an elegant black tie affair that began in the Octagon Room, where Barboursville Vineyards’ Bruit Cuvee 1814 sparkling wine was served, and guests mingled in the library enjoying hors d’oeuvres. Charlottesville Wine & Country publishers, Robin Bethke (below, at far left) and Jen Bryerton (below, at far right) congratulated vineyard Owners Gianni and Silvana Zonin (below, left and center) who flew in from Italy to join the festivities and Winemaker Luca Paschina (below at right) by presenting them with a lovely framed photo of the 40th edition of Octagon.
As guests took their seats Sommelier Professionista Alessandro Medici (above) began the evening’s first course of smoked Rappahannock River oysters, scallops with spinach mousseline and blood orange cured Chesapeake Bay rockfish—prepared by Executive Chef Spencer Crawford—with the introduction of the vineyard’s newest wine, Fiano Reserve 2015. The Fiano is an Italian white wine grape grown primarily in the south of Italy that Winemaker Luca Paschina introduced to Barboursville Vineyards’ terroir in 2010. Fiano grapes are believed to be used in ancient Roman wines, and both Medici and Paschina hope it will continue to succeed here in Virginia as Jefferson would no doubt have appreciated.
After a beautiful second course of butternut squash and Caramont Esmontonian “Raviolini del Plin” served in a thyme-scented vegetable broth with black truffles and paired beautifully with Nebbiolo Reserve 1998, owner Gianni Zonin, made a gracious and heartfelt speech. In it, he gave a toast to all those who have helped make Barboursville Vineyards meet the highest standards of excellence in both wine and food. Guests then enjoyed Chef Crawford’s licorice glazed lamb chops, roasted estate grown “Supernova” sunchoke, and fava bean puree with Octagon demi-glace served spectacularly with both the newly released 40th Anniversary limited edition of Octagon 2014 and the beautifully aged Octagon 2010.
As Chef Crawford’s dessert of Sperryville “Black Twig” apple and “Magnus” pear tarte tatin with Governor Barbour black walnuts and Barboursville 2001 Balsamic gelato was served and paired with Malvaxia Passito 2008, the guests applauded Chef Crawford, Sommelier Medici and the staff for a beautiful meal. And, lastly, as a terrific and generous surprise, the Zonins personally gifted each guest a boxed and signed bottle of the limited edition Octagon, concluding the lovely evening with a most gracious send off.
Octagon is considered our region’s finest expression of what Virginia wines have to offer. Created by winemaker Paschina and first introduced in 1996, Octagon’s success has garnered many accolades for Paschina. Among these awards are 20 Most Admired Winemakers in North America by Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, the country’s 20 Leading Food and Wine Professionals by the James Beard Foundation, and his designation by the Italian Republic as a Commendatore in the Order of Merit in industry and culture. Paschina is considered Virginia’s most decorated winemaker. He is from the Piemonte province in Italy, has been the winemaker and general manager of Barboursville Vineyards since 1990 and is now also an American citizen.
Read our interview with Paschina in the upcoming Book 3 of Charlottesville Wine & Country Living.