April 10, 2009

The 34th annual Virginia Wine Festival

What a winery country is without a real wine festival? Virginia is all about its annual Virginia Wine Festival.

This year on September 19-20, 2009 the 34th annual Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville, VA will be offering unlimited wine tasting from more than 50 wineries (it was 54 wineries-participants last year), accompanied with great food, music and various activities for adults and kids.

Every year Virginia holds its annual wine festival that draws hundreds and hundreds of people from all around, including wine-lovers from as south as Florida and as north as Quebec City, Canada.

Virginia wineries pride themselves for spending more that 30 years figuring out which grapes work or which don’t in the climate of Virginia State. Through years of trial and error, they figured out that Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Norton usually can ripen without disease or loss of balance from the hot, sticky climate. Other varieties of interest include Petit Verdot, Petit Mensang and the southern French varietal Tannat.

And while reds are still lacking the taste and quality of what Americans are used to get from Europe, Australia or California, the whites are competitive enough to set a new mark on the American wine market – it is not all about California wines anymore. And my recent trip to Napa Valley last March confirmed my doubts – whites are much richer in tastes and varieties in Virginia.

Virginia wineries are where New York's were about five years ago - building a reputation for certain varieties and knocking on every door to get recognition for them. The vintners fight the same battle that plagues all the American wineries outside the West Coast - they aren't on the West Coast, and they don’t have the climate of famous Napa and Sonoma wine valleys. Meaning, less sun and longer winters do make it hard for the wine-makers to make reds up to California’s or Mediterranean Europe’s standards. On the other hand, such Northern American climate allows to produce great whites.

Still, Virginia wine industry is the second most vibrant wine industry in the East after New York.
In 2006 alone more than 107 Virginia wineries entered to compete for Virginia Governor's Cup, the highest award in the state for a Virginia wine, which is more than enough for a population of seven million.

Who will be counting this year when more than 50 wineries will participate at this year’s festival, but it takes more than eight hours to go through all of them and still manage to maintain the “sober” state of mind. Let’s just say that they were very generous with the wine tasting last year, and it does not take long when you feel the need to have a hearty meal to accommodate the tipsiness from the wines.

I’m giving you the rundown of what we managed to see, taste and make our selections at the last year’s 33rd Virginia Wine Festival. Perhaps next time you are at a wine store, you could check it out and let me know what you thought of Virginia wines. (We already know what our friends in New York say – they now expect us to bring Virginia wines every time we visit and we don’t mind it a bit.)

Prince Michel, vineyard and winery
We liked the following wines:
Rapidan River Sweet White Reserve ($14): tremendous aromatics of honeysuckle, jasmine and ripe apple.Prince Michel Merlot ($15): over one year of oak aging gives a soft, silky texture with vanilla bean and ripe blackberry flavors.

Burnley vineyards, the winery that offers more than just wine tasting, they offer bed and breakfast ($125/night)
We liked the following wines: Riesling (13), Moon Mist ($15), Peach Fuzz ($12)
We liked the following wines:
2007 Deer Rock Farm White ($13): a blend of 50 percent chardonnay and 50 percent sauvignon blanc. Aged 7 months in neutral French oak barrels. Bottled in February 2008. Released in April 2008. Sweet tropical aromas convey through the light floral notes and fresh fruit. Tastes – pear and pineapple that integrate nicely with the acidity. The finish is long and rich in an off-dry style. It’s a light crisp summer wine to drink cold as an aperitif or with lighter fare.
We liked the following wines:
2006 Sarah’s Patio Red ($14). This is 100 percent Norton, the real American grape. Tank-fermented and whole cluster pressed, with no skin contact. Named after our ancestral patron, it is fragrant and semi-sweet, with balanced acidity, and concentrated flavors of tart cherries. Serve chilled.
We liked the following wines:
2007 Governor’s White ($9)Offers a romantic stay at their bed & breakfast.

Cardinal Point
We liked the following wines:
2006 Viognier ($18) : tropical and exotic, lightly sweet. GOLD 2007 Virginia Governor’s Cup winner.
We liked the following wine(s): 2007 Vidal Blanc
We liked the following wines:
Meteor Bright White ($17): an aromatic Vidal Blanc. Jasmine and sweet apple nose with a crisp, clean finish. Honey and pear flavors with a touch of sweetness.
Meteor Midnight Red ($16): an intense semi-sweet chambourcin with rich honeysuckle notes and lingering flavors of blackberry and raspberry.
We liked the following out of White Wines:
Pinot Grigio ($14): this crisp and refreshing wine boasts lemon and apple flavors with a touch of almond on a nice lingering finish.Petit Manseng ($16): showcases creamy apricot with rich fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus that rise from the glass in this barrel fermented wine.
Saffire ($12): a harvest medley of Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, and other white wines with slight oak flavors.
We liked the following out of Red Wines:
Ruby ($12): a provocative blend of red and white grapes in a semi-sweet fruity wine.
We liked the following out of Desert Wines:
Purity ($10): the purity of Sauvignon Blanc captures crisp citrus and lively kiwi fruit flavors in this alluring wine.
Innocence ($10): this semi-sweet blend of Vidal Blanc and Viognier brings together the tropical fruit flavors of grapefruit, mango and pineapple with creamy apricot, apple and pear laced with the hints of fine French and American oak.
We liked the following wines:
Sergeant Anderson’s Red ($10): a dry red wine with a pleasant bouquet that is both well balanced and full bodied. Sergeant Anderson’s Red Concord leaves the palate with a nice aftertaste. This wine was named for the Confederate soldier who built the gristmill where the winery is located. Serve with any Italian or Spanish food.
Country Blush ($11): the winemaker’s blend of several varietals to make a delicious light wine for any occasion.
Apple ($13): a sweet fruit wine made from crushed apples. Serve with pork, cheese or desert.
Sweet Concord ($9) is a masterful blend of concord grapes to make a delightful sipping wine. It is a light refreshing addition to any afternoon or evening. This wine also goes well with desert.
We liked the following wines:
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, new release as of August 15, 2008 ($22): harvested in late October, it spends 40 months in barrel before bottling. This dark luscious wine shows dark cherry fruit, cedar, spice in layers with a 60 finish.

Other wineries we tried, which made us even tipsier on last year’s sunny “Indian Summer” day:

For more on Virginia wineries, events and bed & breakfast, visit Your Guide to Everything Virginia Wine.

Each year you can learn about and taste your Virginia and Maryland wines at the annual and semi-annual wine festivals. Last year, the 33rd Annual Virginia Wine Festival took place on Sept. 27-28 in Prince William country Fiagrounds, Manassas, VA.
This year, The Great Wine, Food & Arts Festival with more than 200 wines and 20 Virginia Wineries will take place in Reston Town Center. This festival is becoming one of the largest wine festivals in the region. Learn about participating wineries, wine and cooking demos and live music here.
And if you can’t make it to the wineries and wine festival this time, learn about other Virginia festivals and events here.

More on upcoming Virginia wine festivals:

May 16, 2009
Virginia Wine & Craft Festival
Front Royal, VirginiaWine tastings: from 20+ of the best of Virginia wineries
Estimated attendees: 20,000
Phone: 540-635-3185

July 18 -July 19, 2009
Daylily & Wine Festival
Fishersville, Virginia
Gardens, Wine Tasting, Crafts, Artists, Entertainment, Seminars, Children Activities, Great Food
Estimated attendees: 4,000
Phone: 540-949-8203

August 22, 2009
The Jazz & Wine Festival
Big Island, Virginia
Jazz & Wine in a mountainous setting!
Estimated attendees: 1,000
Phone: 434-299-5080

September 07, 2009
Labor Day Jazz & Wine Fest
Herndon, Virginia
Jazz music, wine tasting, arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, National and regional entertaiment
Estimated attendees: 3,000
Phone: 703-787-7300

Check out the photographs of the last year's Virginia Wine Festival on the right hand side of the site.

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