Tracey Love pairs four Virginia wines with four holiday season meals.
October was Virginia Wine Month, in case you were somehow unaware. The tourism board did an exceptional job this year getting the word out about Virginia wines. The wine distributors were out in full force pushing by-the-glass pours in restaurants, and wines from Virginia were on frontal display in every wine shop and grocery store. I figured I too should pay my respects to our fine wine producing region by picking out a few that I have recently enjoyed. It’s a bit early to be thinking about Thanksgiving (or maybe I have already been dreaming about it for weeks) but these wines would also compliment a home cooked harvest bounty.
Beginning with a rich, luscious white wine, I have selected the 2008 Hardscrabble Chardonnay from Linden Vineyards. Jim Law is the forefather of winemaking in Virginia and more specifically in Fauquier County, near Front Royal. He possesses strong willed beliefs regarding vineyard site, maintenance, and growing practices that follow through to the quality of his wines. He works equally hard tending to the vines as he does throughout the winemaking process and into the cellar. The Hardscrabble Vineyard sits atop The Blue Ridge Mountains at about 1,300 feet and has well drained, rocky soil which helps give this wine great minerality. It has notes of white flowers, hazelnut and green apple acidity while having a heavier viscosity due to stirring the lees (dead yeast cells that sink to the bottom) during 10 months of barrel aging. It also goes through partial malolactic fermentation which also adds to its subtle richness. Malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking where malic acid which is naturally present in grape must is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. This wine would be delightful with roast chicken or other game birds, mushrooms and creamy sauces.
The 2010 King Family Vineyards Viognier is an excellent example of what this varietal is capable of producing in our state. It is aromatic and full bodied with notes of cantaloupe, honeysuckle and apricot, without the overbearing weight of new oak barrel aging as the trend has been with Viognier. It is aged in stainless steel tanks as well as neutral oak barrels and goes through 20% malolactic fermentation which adds a creamy quality. This wine is opulent enough to stand up to rich dishes and would be great alongside stuffings, roasted root vegetables and light meats. It is light enough to be versatile as an aperitif as well as being able to hold its own through an entire meal. It is a good bottle to have on hand for many occasions, or just for everyday drinking.
Moving on to red wines, the 2010 Blenheim Vineyards Syrah is a perfect opener for cooler weather cooking. It is a blend of mostly Seven Oaks Vineyard Syrah, 21% Muse Vineyard Mourvedre, and 4% Muse Vineyard Grenache. It is an ideal match for grilled or smoked meats, sausage, bacon and all things earthy and fatty. It has notes of black raspberry, lilac, hints of black pepper and a burst of cranberry that’s perfect for the holidays. This wine is barrel aged for 10 months and is medium bodied, juicy, and a touch smoky which makes it an easy-drinking yet serious red wine. Blenheim’s wines are also very accessibly priced and I highly recommend making a trip to the winery; the wines, property, and tasting room are equally spectacular.
For the Bordeaux lover, the Pollak Vineyards 2008 Meritage is a good choice. It is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot and is barrel aged using 60% new oak barrels and 40% neutral barrels (barrels that have been used for at least 3 years) and aged additionally in the bottle for another 13 months to soften the tannins. It has characteristics of black currant, leather, and black cherry and would be a good match for red meat, stews, and hearty red wine-based dishes. This wine has a unique quality and character that make it stand out among other Virginia reds. It is well balanced and seamless as a blend of these three varietals.
So, whether you’re in the mood for white wine or red, hopefully these selections are at least a good start to kicking off the holiday season and making every month Virginia Wine Month!